Older And Wiser

Now that we have welcomed 2018, it seems a good time to reflect on the old year and think about how I will use those experiences going forward in my life. They say that anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and that, as we age, we gain additional wisdom.  I certainly hope so.  It would be very sad to think that I could go through the joy and grief of fiftysome years of life experience without learning a thing or two. This year, partly because the recent circumstances of my life created an emotional crucible, I think it is worth capturing some of the particular lessons I’ve grown to understand.

Just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean I am wrong.

I take my world view pretty seriously.  I spend a lot of time on introspection.  I very rarely form a definite opinion about something unless I have thought about it thirty-three ways to Sunday.  In fact, I usually overthink things.  Still, it doesn’t take much to shake my confidence in my opinion or feeling if someone else questions it.  Something inside me starts to feel vaguely unsettled until I either convince the other person of the rightness of my position or I capitulate to the other point of view.  The truth is, I don’t have to convince anyone of anything in order to justify my own point of view for my own life.  I certainly don’t have to convince anyone of the “correctness” of my own feelings. Despite that “unsettleness” I feel, it is in no way a catastrophe if my take on something is not the same as someone else’s perspective.  The reality is that it is fine- even desirable- for people to have different opinions, feel differently about things, to BE different.  That differentness is not a reflection of a lack of love or respect.  It just makes us who we are and precious.

Everybody can only do what he or she can do in a crisis.

Everyone has different strengths, capabilities, and weaknesses.  For the most part, I think everyone does the best they can.  Dealing with the decline of a parent is incredibly stressful and difficult in so many different ways. All I could do was try to be the best version of myself and make my best effort to do all I could to support my parent. Nobody can do everything.  It is important to be gentle with yourself and others.  It is counter-productive to feel guilty or resent other family members because I wished things were different.  First of all, no matter what, there was nothing anybody could do that was likely to change the outcome of the situation.  Secondly, there are all kinds of valid, true reasons why people just can’t do things.

It can be self-destructive AND selfish not to accept help from people I trust.

I’ve never been good at asking for help or even accepting when other people offer.  I never wanted to impose on anyone or be any trouble to anyone.  It is as if I think that just taking up space and breathing in the air is all I deserve.  Years ago, a colleague was giving me feedback at work.  She invited me to think about how I feel when I do something for someone else.  When I told her how good it made me feel, she nodded.  She told me that I was always doing kind deeds, taking on extra work, and sharing what I had, but I was actually being pretty selfish because I did not allow others to have the same pleasure in giving to me in return.  At the time, I thought it was a pretty profound lesson, but I don’t think it really took.

I still have a hard time not thinking I am being a bother when I ask for or accept help.  This past year, I often hit the point where I could not keep putting one foot in front of the other without the help of wonderful people.  Local friends took me on outings to give me a break from overwhelm.  My faraway friends listened endlessly to me while I aired out the conflicting emotions churning around in that crucible.  Hospice employees shouldered my tears and insecurities over and over again, taking on enough of my pain so that I could bear what I had to bear.  I went to the doctor for my pap smear and left with a prescription for an anti-depressant when I could not stop crying in response to the innocent question, “How are you?”

All of these gifts meant so much to me.  Of course they did.  However, I worried that I was asking too much of people in my neediness.  Honestly, I don’t think the folks who gave them thought of them as a bother.  My friends were happy to be able to help in any way, as I would be happy if I could be of any comfort if the situation was reversed.  The hospice workers told me that my discussions with them made them feel empowered and valuable.  The doctor was simply glad no one had to mop up my tears from the floor on my follow up visit.

I have a partner who will run with me and not from me when things are difficult.

Even though Max and I have been together for over 20 years, some part of me still wondered, deep down, how he would react if something really bad happened to me or in my life.  We are not married.  He has no legal responsibility towards me.  He spent many years on his own, protecting his own lifestyle and protecting himself from the physical and emotional dangers of life. His psyche has always been just sort of fine-tuned to danger.  I wasn’t absolutely sure he would follow me if I ran into dangers in my life.  I liked to think he would, but part of me wasn’t at all sure.

We have been through many things together, of course, but nothing like the trauma of dealing with my mother’s illness and ultimate death.  Max never stopped trying to support me.  He didn’t always hit the right note, of course.  No one could always hit the right note.  I couldn’t even always tell you what the right note would be.  More often than not, though, he did exactly the right thing.  Even more important, it was always obvious to me that he was there with me in the storm and was trying to hold me up even when the wind was in his face.  There are so many small things he has done over the past year that I know were stretches for him- actions that would never be things he would do on his own but he was doing because he thought they might help me.  I was more difficult to be around than I have ever been in my life.  I was needier than I have ever been in my life.  I was less capable in nearly every facet of everyday existence than I have ever been in my life.  It didn’t matter.  Max was still there and still holding me tight, even when I struggled against him.

So, these are my lessons learned from 2017.  My resolution for 2018 is to try to remember them and to apply them when life again pushes my back against the wall.  It might be harder than it seems.  I may be getting wiser as I age, but I’m pretty sure my memory is getting worse!

What are your takeaways from 2017?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a wonderfully wise day!

Terri 🙂

The Skin I’m In

My body is beginning to betray me as I age.  Oh, we all know that our bodies do tend to get less dependable as we get older.  We see enough television commercials to convince us that our bones are brittle, our eyes are squinty, and our sex lives are lukewarm.  On the other hand, I didn’t really think about the little things that decline as the years advance.  For me, my body seems to have become a bit testy about substances it formerly tolerated with no complaint. 

About ten days ago, I purchased one of those cute little angel pins at the Hallmark store that come attached to a little romance card that shares some sweet, sentimental message.  I bought the angel because the message involved missing a loved one who has passed.  Also, the body of the little angel was made of a tiny white rose. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember that white roses at Christmas were a “thing” for my mother (for those of you who are newer cyberfriends or would just like a refresher, please visit http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/05/the-white-white-rose-of-home/). Anyhow, I happily shelled out my six bucks for the white angel rose.  

The next day, I fastened the little pin to the top of a dark burgundy velour blouse.  Even though it was tiny, it was quite noticeable on the dark background.  Several people at church noticed and commented on it.  It gave me the opportunity to tell them about what a wonderful person my mother was and how the pin reminds me that I am lucky to have her love forever.   

Unfortunately, within a couple of days of wearing the pin, my skin exploded into a red, angry, itchy, hivey, whealy rash that covered my whole chest.   Any part of my body that came into even the slightest contact with the pin revolted.  Apparently, the pin triggered some sort of metal allergy that I didn’t even know I had.  As I scratched, I think the rash started taking on a life of its own, independent of the pin.   I started sprouting red bumps from my breasts to my chin line.  It wasn’t particularly painful, but it was pretty obvious that my skin was throwing a temper tantrum.  

I considered having a contest on this blog to name the rash.  However, I was hoping that I would be able to lose the rash before I could organize a contest, so I decided to do the honors myself. Given the season and the fact that my chest was the color of neon infused tomatoes, I decided to name my pet rash Rudolph. For a few days, I spread hydrocortisone cream on my chest.  Rudolph’s color didn’t change much.  The itch might have been marginally less uncomfortable…. for a little while until I thought about it again.  I kept thinking Rudolph was getting a little smaller, but Max looked at me in alarm every time he I wore a blouse that wasn’t a turtleneck so my “improving” assessment might have been wishful thinking.  

Yesterday, I noticed that the cream I was slathering all over my chest was 15 years old.  That may have something to do with the fact that it didn’t seem to be working very well.  I treated myself to a new tube of hydrocortisone cream.  Almost immediately, Rudolph is retreating.  The itch is not as compelling.  Rudolph’s color is more like under ripe tomatoes without the neon now.  Rudolph is occupying much less square footage on my chest.   

So, my rash is almost gone.  However, as I was inspecting my skin in the mirror this morning, I noticed that there was a hidden Mickey formed by three of the remaining hives.  Do you think it might be a Christmas miracle?

Have you noticed small, unexpected changes in your body that have come with age?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Happy New Year!

Terri 🙂

A Corny (But Heartfelt) Christmas Poem

C is for the Christ Child who came to bring us Light,

To lead us to eternal joy in His mercy and His might.

H is for the holly hanging on the walls

Green and red festooning, decking all the halls.

R is for reindeer that bring Santa’s sleigh,

Hauling all the presents that we open Christmas Day.

I is for icicles on the tree’s limbs

Sparkling even when all the light dims.

S is for Santa who brings treats and toys

To delight all good little girls and boys.

T is for trimming- trees, gifts, or halls

With tinsel and garland and bright Christmas balls.

M is for mistletoe and kisses we steal

With love and affection and special Yule zeal.

A is for angel on top of the tree,

Glittering, sparkling… as bright as can be.

S is for salvation-  Christ’s mission on earth.

The way to the cross began on the day of His birth.


Christmas is a big concept.  I think there is plenty of room in Christmas for secular tradition and festivity.  I enjoy the ho ho ho and the fa la la.  For me, though, Christmas begins and ends with Jesus.

Have a happy and holy Christmas!  Yuletide blessings to you and yours.

Merry Christmas!  Please join my cyberspace Christmas party.  Feel free to leave a comment to share your Christmas good wishes and memories.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Oh, and by the way, please help yourself to some virtual gingerbread!!!!

Terri :-0  Holy Night!


Christmas Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I also love grizzly bears, but I don’t necessarily think it is safe to engage with them.

There are numerous holiday-related injuries that can detract from the fun and frivolity of the Christmas season.  I’m going to mention a few of them so you can be on the lookout, if you insist on tempting fate and celebrating a holly jolly season this year.

The other day, I was innocently decorating my Christmas trees (yes, I do have more than one… what’s it to ya?) and happened to look down.  There was a stream of blood running down my arm, apparently the result of some tree assembly mishap.  I’m not sure how it happened.  My trees are not huge.  In fact, it occurred to me that, even if one of them should come tumbling down directly on my head, they did not weigh enough to render me concussed.  Still, I somehow managed to stab myself with fake pine needles and break the skin.  You’ll be happy to know I avoided stitches.  I did, however, need a band-aid.

I threw several strings of battery-operated lights around the holly trees in front of my house.  I wasn’t interested in appearing on The Great Christmas Light Fight or anything.  I just didn’t want to be the only neighbor without holiday illumination. Since I didn’t really care how the lights looked, it was not necessary to balance on a ladder.  I’ve seen a lot of people in the community perching precariously on ladders, stapling lights to their roofs.  I’m sorry, but I think if you live in an over-55 community, you are just tempting fate the minute you step on a ladder.  The lights in my holly trees are battery-operated and have timers, so I am now free to ignore them until it is time to put them away in January.  I do have two faceted green disco-ball kind of things that project moving green polka dots onto the face of the house.  These, alas, have neither batteries or timers.  I had to get extension cords, which seemed relatively hazard-free.  However, every evening I have to plug the lights in and unplug them when I go to bed.  Max is certain that I will be attacked by lizards, frogs, and snakes when I prowl around the yard unplugging cords.

I also think I may have developed a tinsel allergy at some point.  Every time I’ve decorated a tree in the past few years, I’ve ended up with a cold or other respiratory ailment of some such ilk.  I end up spending several days sneezing and coughing and feeling like I’ve swallowed spiders.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine who reported that just about everyone has that reaction.  She said she thought it was from the dust that collects on the Christmas tree and decorations while they languish in the garage from January until November.  That may sound reasonable to some of you, but I believe it is more nefarious and personal than that.  I’ve decided that I must be allergic to sparkle.  Unless I’m allergic to Christmas in general.  I’m not willing to go that far, however.

There are also the health issues surrounding the consumption of special holiday treats.  We’ve all heard horror stories of people who have ended up in the emergency room with food poisoning on Christmas because somebody thought cooking a turkey overnight at 150 degrees was a great idea.  I personally know several people who have been injured when falling fruitcake hit their feet.  Just saying.  Then there is my own personal vulnerability.  People who jog can get shin splints.  People who play tennis can get tennis elbow.  People who eat gingerbread as a hobby are susceptible to ginger-pudge.  This is a serious condition that causes a thickened waist and a pair of bloated hips.  Yes, it is only a season disorder, but its effects can be cumulative year after year.

Yes, Christmas can be dangerous.  Maybe we should avoid seasonal celebration the way we avoid smoking, drinking, extreme sports, and taking toddlers on long airplane trips.

But then…. there is the Christmas Star that brings Light to the World.  There is the good news of salvation.  There is the joyful promise of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Forget what I said.  Some dangers are worth the risk.  We need a little Christmas!

Have you ever suffered any Christmas-related injuries?  Do tell.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have an injury-free day!


Ho, Ho, Whoa? No.

Some people have been complaining about Christmas creep for years. They object to the subliminal messages compelling us to be merry, freewheeling, and free spending that assault society earlier every year.  I am not one of those people.

I love Christmas. Many people who deal with loss and grief find the holidays particularly difficult.  I tend to take the opposite tact.  In the past, when my life was crumbling and my spirits were low, I seemed to be able to take a break from my sadness to focus on Christmas activities.  The sacred and secular Christmas joys gave me permission to lay my burdens aside and rest from my struggle. It was something like the famous Christmas truce in World War I.  For a brief, blessed time, I could call a ceasefire in my war with my own emotions.  The truce might only last long enough to sing Silent Night, but it has always been enough to heal a few cracks in my heart.

This year, with my mind buzzing with busy-ness and unquenchable desire for distraction since my mother’s death, I am finding the Christmas truce even more soothing than usual.  It isn’t that I don’t miss my mother.  My heart still dips down to my ankles, scrambling my stomach on its way, when I hit the sudden patches of sad turbulence that anyone who has experienced a loss understands.  Still, Christmas activities help me keep my balance when I hit those patches.

I get the concern, though.  Folks begin to suspect that the extended subliminal marketing of Christmas shifts the emphasis away from the holiday’s true meaning and specialness. When you start to panic about not being done with your Christmas shopping in October, it isn’t a good thing.  When you realize that you have been humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” along with the elevator music in October, you may start to feel a little manipulated.  When you can no longer buy Christmas wrapping paper at Costco in November because they started selling it in August and ran out by the end of September, it can take a little holly out of your jolly.

On the other hand, the Christmas season does provide more opportunities for people to spread a little goodwill.  Of course, it is possible and desirable for people to give to charity, cherish their loved ones, and embrace kindness throughout the whole year.  Sometimes, though, our day-to-day hustle and bustle takes our focus away from the loving way we truly want to live.  Special holiday charity projects, dedicated time with family, Christmas shows and pageants, and even presents can be the catalyst that help us to remember and, at least for a time, shift our focus back to where we truly want it to be.  Even the advertising that can seem manipulative can actually be motivating. Yes, the people who make the commercials that show a child inviting a curmudgeonly neighbor to Christmas dinner are hoping that you will buy more greeting cards or groceries or whatever they are advertising.  That doesn’t mean the commercials don’t also help us remember the goodness and light that should come with Christmas.

Also, Christmas reminds us of the coming of Jesus into the world.  More people attend religious services than at most times of the year.  People who consider themselves “culturally Christian” may participate in church events at Christmas, even if they do not attend the rest of the year.  I believe you never know when that participation might foment into a more vibrant relationship with God.   Even people who are not believers celebrate a secular sort of Christmas.  They understand, in at least some tangential way, that the genesis of their celebration is the story of a Baby born to bring all the world’s people eternal life, love, peace, and joy.  In any celebration of Christmas, there must be some germ of Christianity.  Whenever people let their minds come close to Christ, they open themselves, at least a little bit, to the possibility of feeling God’s love for them.

So, it is a question of emphasis.  If we dread the early onset of Christmas because of the commercialism, stress, and coveting, Christmas creep is a bad thing.  On the other hand, if we focus on the true meaning of Christmas and try to use that message to improve the way we live in this world, Christmas can start creeping on December 26th, as far as I am concerned!

What do you think?  Does Christmas creep bother you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a very merry day!

Terri 🙂

Belatedly Thankful

After my mother suffered her stroke, I subscribed to all kinds of forums and discussion boards aimed at caregivers.  It was definitely helpful to hear other people’s perspectives on the issues I was encountering.  I learned some valuable, practical information.  Knowing that other people struggled with the same feelings helped me tolerate the conflicting emotions I had misfiring all throughout my sympathetic nervous system.  

There was one recurring theme that kept coming up in different posts that I just couldn’t get behind, however.  So often a participant would write to encourage someone in the throes of caregiving by saying that the day would come when the caregiver would be grateful for the experience.  While I was living it, I don’t know that I could ever really say I was grateful for the experience.  It wasn’t that I thought the well-intentioned commenters on the discussion boards were lying.  The term “Pollyanna” might have come to mind.  On the whole, I accepted that those people were being honest about their own experiences and their feelings of gratitude, but their experiences just didn’t seem to apply to me.  

People said that caregivers end up triumphing over the drudgery, exhaustion, and sadness.  They said that it is common to transcend the difficulties of the long struggle so that providing care becomes easier.  I didn’t see how that could happen with me, as inept as I was.  They said that the difficulties of caregiving take a backseat to the benefits the caregiver receives, like the satisfaction of providing for a parent’s comfort.  I didn’t see myself really providing for my mother’s comfort, just witnessing her decline.  They said that a caregiver can consider any additional time with the dying parent to be a gift.  I often felt like this gift came at too high a cost to both my mother and me. They said that, no matter how painful and difficult it is to walk with a parent on this final journey, the caregiver is rewarded by a closer, more intimate and loving relationship with the parent.  I didn’t see how this could be possible with my mother and me.  Our relationship has always been closer than that of any other mother and daughter I know.   

So, all in all, I could not find much for which to be grateful while slogging through the tragedy of my mother’s last thirteen months of life.  I admit that I found the folks who posted about the “gift” of being a caregiver to be somewhat suspect.  When I read those posts, I remembered the saying, “If you can keep your head while everyone around you is losing theirs, perhaps you don’t understand the situation.”  In other words, if the posters who were touting the joys and benefits of being a caregiver were sincere, perhaps they didn’t really understand the situation.  I admit that this was probably a bit of misplaced anger on my part.  Still, I also knew that I was not finding caregiving to be a gift.  I felt that I was somehow fundamentally flawed because I couldn’t get past the pain to grasp the joy. 

Now that my mother is gone, I am beginning to understand a little better. I can look back and be grateful for the time we had together at the end of her life.  I was not a very talented caregiver, but I did learn a lot of the skills necessary.  I see that my mother did derive substantial comfort from my presence.  Yes, it was very difficult for me to observe my mother’s decline, but I do now appreciate the time I had with her in the last months.  Even though we have always been exceptionally close and our ability to communicate verbally all but disappeared in my mother’s last months, I feel our intimacy grew richer and stronger and more honest as we took this journey.  No, I never did get completely past the drudgery and exhaustion and sadness, but I do now see the gift.  The gift was loving my mother through it all and letting her love me.  Now I am thankful for it. 

Gratitude deferred is not gratitude denied.  Gratitude deferred is growth.

Have you ever had an experience that you hated while going through it, but came to appreciate it after it was over? Please join the conversation and tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a thankful day!

Terri 🙂

P.S. Special programming announcement…. I am going to be on a trip around the world (Disneyworld, that is) for a few days next week.  I’ll be posting on Thursday evening instead of Wednesday morning.  

Thanks To You

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to post a special shout-out to all of you readers and cyberfriends.  Friendship in any form should be cherished and I cherish you all.  You have helped me realize a lifelong dream.  I always wanted to write, but was always too scared of failing to translate the dream into reality.  Thanks in large part to your energy and validation, I have found the courage.  I have been writing this blog for nearly two years now.  

When I was teaching leadership classes, I used to tell my students, “Leaders have followers.  If you turn around and no one is following you, you aren’t leading.  You are just taking a walk.”  I think it might be kind of similar for writing.  I can write, but I’m kind of missing a key component of the process if no one is reading. I’m not communicating; I’m just recording my mutterings to myself.  I’m just memorializing the voices inside my head for my own posterity.   

I thank you for listening to my mutterings. I thank you for the confidence you gave me when I saw that people truly seemed to be reading.  I thank you for not thinking I was ridiculous for believing anything I have to say could possibly be meaningful to anyone else.   I thank you for helping me grow my little circle of blog besties by sharing my writing with others.  I thank you for your thoughtful comments. I thank you for your suggestions.  I thank you for the kind words of encouragement.  I thank you for turning my one-sided blogging into a rich, interesting conversation.  I thank you for the support and sympathy you showered on me while I was my mother’s traveling companion on her journey towards the end of life.  I thank you for your understanding and empathy when the blog became grief-heavy as I watched my mother struggle and die.   

All too often in life, we get caught up in our day-to-day existence and forget the miracles that bring joy to our lives. We are inclined to bemoan our struggles because they demand our attention.   It is hard to ignore the difficulties.  They always seem to be in our faces, commanding us to do something to halt the pain they cause us.  Even when we try to push them into the darkest corner of our minds and hope they stay there, the effort is time and energy consuming.  And, by the way, “hope” is not a strategy.  Those difficulties rarely stay put when we push them into the darkest corner of our minds, so we have to spend even more time and energy on them.   

On Thanksgiving, at least, we get the chance to stop and smell the miracles.  We take one beautiful day to be honestly, truly, deeply grateful for our blessings.   

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving celebrations, please know I am thinking of you and thanking you for the joy you have brought me.  Happy Thanksgiving!  You are a blessing in my life. 

What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirment@gmail.com.  

Have a blessed day!

Terri 🙂

Saint Dorothy

I scattered some of my mother’s ashes in my backyard on All-Saints Day.  My mother hated funerals. She didn’t get the whole “closure” and “gathering together” thing.  She thought of them as rather tacky and unnecessarily burdensome to the family.  

When my father died, we took the ashes out to an Indian casino after the requiem mass.  We left my mother on a seat at a slot machine because watching us scatter my father’s ashes was the last thing in the world she wanted to do.  My brother and a couple of cousins and I drove out into the desert a ways to scatter the ashes.  My father loved the desert.  He also maintained, throughout his life, that he was part Native American despite the complete absence of any confirming evidence.  It was a nice idea, but we were clearly inept at scattering ashes.  It is harder than you think.  It is windy in the desert.  There are kind of a lot of ashes.  As I tried to release my father, body and soul, to the Great Spirit, my brother kept yelling that I was getting dad all over me.  None of the attendees was sure how I was going to go back and face my mother at the casino with a thin veneer of my father’s cremains all over me.  Let’s just say that event did nothing to change my mom’s opinion of funerals.   

Even though she didn’t like funerals, I knew my mother would have had no objection to her family having a service for her if we felt it would be helpful for us.  I always thought I didn’t care whether we had a service or not.  My brother didn’t want a service.  I figured that I would take her ashes back to California and we could scatter them near where we scattered my father’s ashes.  Still, after she died, I did ask the cremation services company to divide her ashes into several smaller quantities on the off chance that I decided to do something different.  A few weeks later, it suddenly, for no discernable reason, seemed important to me to scatter a portion of her ashes behind my house.  Theologically and symbolically, I believe my mother is a saint in Heaven now, so I decided to do it on the evening of All Saints Day. 

I picked out a passage from The Book of Wisdom in the Bible.  If you have never heard of The Book of Wisdom and can’t find it in your Bible, please don’t think I made it up.  It is one of those books that appear in Catholic and Episcopal Bibles, but is not part of the canon in many Protestant churches.  It struck me as strange that, as I am exploring a change in church, I found the very words I wanted in a version of the Bible that a lot of Christians don’t even include.  Still, I found comfort in Wisdom:3, which refers to everlasting life.  The passage I picked reminded me that it is foolish to think my mother is really dead.  She lives in joy in Heaven and I will see her again one day.  As I walked up and down the back yard scattering the ashes, I sang the Irish Blessing.  I sang that song to her every day for the last two weeks of her life.  It sort of became “our song” during that last season of good-bye.  When I got to the last line of the song, “And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand,” I began sobbing.  It was the first time I have really broken down since before her death. I feel like I’ve been remarkably calm and composed, especially for me. 

I think I know why the blessing song triggered this outpouring of emotion.  The song works both ways. The song told my mother that I knew God was holding her in the hollow of His hand in Heaven now. The song also was also telling me that my mother is waiting for me.  She is trusting in God to hold me in the hollow of His hand until the day we are reunited forever.   

I feel kind of empty since my impromptu funeral.  I think some of the grief that poured out of me with the tears left a space inside me that isn’t quite filled up with acceptance and contentment yet.  I don’t really feel like me, but I can’t say what I do feel.  What is kind of weird is that, maybe for the first time in my whole life, I feel okay living in whatever is.  As odd and uncharacteristic as it seems, I am content to float along and experience the life that I am living without feeling a mad compulsion to make that life what I think it should be.   

Maybe Saint Dorothy is pushing me into the hollow of God’s hand.

Different people have different thoughts and traditions around death and funerals.  Have you ever experienced a ritual that brought you a little “good grief,” as my song to my mother brought me?  Please tell us about it.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

May God hold YOU in the hollow of His hand today!



The Turkey Vultures And I

I used to have a secretary who believed I lived under a sky-blue-pink cloud of oddness and absurdity.  She swore that there was no one else on earth who could end up in the weird and strange situations I perpetually encountered.   

For instance, one Monday morning she asked me about my weekend.  I told her about my Sunday morning.  I was taking my dog out for her early morning walk.  Since I had just rolled out of bed, I was shuffling along in a bit of haze. I was not wearing my glasses.  As my dog snuffled around, I happened to look up and noticed a man running towards me.  The first thing that went through my brain was not, oddly enough, that he was stark naked… which he was.  Without my glasses, what I first noticed was that he appeared to sporting long, grey dreadlocks.  As he came closer, I realized he had a grey sweatshirt on his head and the “dreadlocks” were actually sleeves flopping over his shoulders. 

It was only then that I realized that the sweatshirt on his head was the only article of clothing the man was wearing.  There was something besides the sweatshirt sleeves flopping around.  Again oddly enough, it didn’t register with me that naked running guy was heading directly towards me and that he could be dangerous.  Instead, my inexplicable initial reaction was to think, “isn’t it cold for him to be running around naked?” 

When I told my tale, my secretary looked at me with way less amazement than I believed my story warranted.  Her response?  “Naked running guy?  Terri, it had to be you.  It could only happen to you.”   

My secretary was not amazed because odd things have always tended to happen to me. When I went on my “if-it’s-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belgium” package tour of Europe, the tour company paired me with a roommate who brought chocolate bars to distribute to the children of Rome and refused to come out of the hotel room the entire time we were in Paris because she knew French people hated Americans.   I lived with my parents and two basset hounds in a twenty-seven-foot travel trailer for a year.   When I reported the theft of my car’s license plate, the DMV told me it was my own fault because TINKRBL was just too cute to put on a personalized license plate.  The vet once selected my dog as “pet of the month” when he removed a bladder stone the size of a softball and the dog lived. There is just no way around it.  In my world “normal” equates to “weird” in most people’s dictionaries.   

Something happened recently that reminded me that I am still a weird magnet.  Our satellite television feed became possessed. 

Now, I do realize that there are many reasons satellite television signals can wobble.  Rain, falling branches, and even sun spots can all cause signal loss.  In fact, I have always listened smugly when sellers of other delivery methods warn about the unreliability of satellite.  Despite living through three Florida summers, with accompanying wackadoodle weather, we’ve experienced very little interruption. The satellite dish even survived the ravages of Hurricane Irma.  It seemed to me that satellite tv technology had progressed enough to mitigate the problems caused by weather. 

Nobody ever mentioned the turkey vultures, however. 

Some weeks ago, we began to notice signal interruption and problems connecting to high definition. Since we were experiencing thunderwowers just about every day, I didn’t think too much about it except to think I might have been wrong in my assessment of satellite tv’s progress on the reliability front.   

However, we soon realized that the television problems were not limited to stormy weather.  Our signals seemed really weak, corruptible, and just fouled up pretty much all the time, even on the exceedingly rare occasions when the sun was shining. In thinking about when the issue started, Max reminded me of the flock of turkey vultures on our roof a few weeks ago. We were in the car, getting ready to leave the house when we noticed about eight of them congregating up there.  They were obviously gorging themselves on some sort of revolting dead animal meal. The whole idea was just too disgusting to contemplate, so we backed the car out of the driveway and hoped they would be gone when we returned.   

Indeed, upon our return, we observed that the turkey vultures had vacated the property. We sighed with relief, pulled the car into the garage, and continued our uneventful, carrion-free existence. 

Now, I’m pretty sure those turkey vultures were practicing karate kicks on the satellite dish while they dined on their roof service.   

When I called the satellite company, the nice man tried all the normal things that customer service tries in order to restore service. I was pretty sure those things were going to fail.  They did. During our conversation, the nice man discovered that our satellite dish was badly mis-dithered, meaning that it wasn’t aligned properly to receive signals from key satellite feeds from satellite space.   

Suddenly spontaneously mis-dithered, after years of properly receiving signals? Color me skeptical. I blame the turkey vultures.  The nice man set up an appointment for a technician to come lay hands on our satellite dish and heal our reception.   

I told the nice man about the turkey vultures.  At least he had the good grace to be amazed.

Now it’s your turn!  Convince me that I am not the only person on earth who attracts weirdness.  What is your best “weird and strange” experience? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a bizarre day, in the best possible way!

Terri 🙂

A Total Eclipse Of The Brain

The media reported for weeks that a total eclipse of the sun was due to trip the light fantastic across the central Florida sky in the midafternoon on August 21, 2017.  There was a lot of hype.  Apparently, it was a big deal.  I didn’t pay much attention at first.  I had plans to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom that day with my cousin and his family who were vacationing from New York.  That had way more priority on my excitement agenda than some freak natural phenomenon.

Then, a friend mentioned that she had gone to Lowe’s to buy special eclipse-viewing, sun-filtering protective glasses.  I decided I should get in on the action.  I hauled myself to Lowe’s, only to find that there were no more oxymoronic sun-watching, sun-blocking glasses to be had.  The long-suffering Lowe’s employees must have tired of answering plaintive questions about them because someone had made a small cardboard sign, proclaiming “Glasses All Sold Out” scrawled in pencil. When I told my friend about my failure to obtain the all-important glasses, she looked pensive and then said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney actually has something for the eclipse.” I promised that, if Disney did not provide specially themed protective glasses, I would not stare into the sun and burn out my retinas.

When I got to Animal Kingdom, it turned out that Disney did, indeed, have something for the eclipse.  The “something” consisted of large signs posted throughout the park that said, in effect, “don’t look up.”

I’m not sure if the eclipse really had much of an effect.  For one thing, clouds are pretty much of an eclipse buzzkill.  Cloud-free afternoons in August in central Florida are about as rare as a solar eclipse itself.  August 21st was no exception.  The sun was pretty much eclipsed… by threatening rain clouds.  Between the clouds, the signs, and my own good sense, I did not scrutinize the sky to see if the sun looked any different.  On the other hand, the world under the sky may have looked somewhat different.  Usually, when the sun is obscured by clouds, the sky is dark, but I wouldn’t say the world looks particularly dark when I look around me.  My surroundings maybe don’t seem so bright and iridescent, but I think everything still looks sharp and clear.  During the eclipse, the world around me may have seemed a bit more beige and grainy.  It felt sort of like I was looking at the world through a really dirty window.

Notice I say “may” have looked somewhat different and “may” have seemed a bit more beige and grainy.  It is hard for me to be definitive about the whole thing.  While I was pondering the effects of the eclipse, it struck me that I am truly not that certain if the look of the world changes in the same way when there are just clouds and shadows.  I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped to observe and consider the idea on a normal, cloudy day.  I’m not sure if the differences I noticed were truly effects of the eclipse or if it was just that I was being more attentive and noticing things that are always there, eclipse or not.  It may be simply that there was no discernable difference.  The eclipse may just have jolted me from my tedium and blotted out what I think I know about the world around me.  The condition and event of the eclipse just forced me to stop and take mindful notice of my surroundings.  Maybe the clouds always make it look like there is a veil of grime swathing the world and I just never stopped to notice.

I think most of us go through life with a pretty firm belief that we have a sound empirical and sensory knowledge of our surroundings, but I also think that we would be surprised at how we might change or supplement that knowledge if we challenged ourselves to observe with fresh eyes.  People say that it is important to stop and smell the roses.  I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of fascinating, poetic details in our world that go unnoticed every day until some major event like an eclipse motivates us to truly experience our natural world.  Maybe the eclipse changed nothing but my perception.

Maybe there were changes related to the total eclipse of the sun itself, but maybe there were more changes related to the total eclipse of the brain.

My apologies that this post is pretty much “old news” by now.  I wrote it in late August, but my mom’s death and Hurricane Irma pushed it to the back burner.  For those of you who actually still remember the solar eclipse, what do you think?  Did anything truly look different?  Or did you just notice details that are probably there all the time but we just don’t notice them?

Have a sunshine-y day!

Terri 🙂

P.S.  But wait, there’s more!  No, I am not selling ginzu knives.  I just wanted to let you know that you can have an extra helping of Terri this week.  The nice people at www.retirementandgoodliving.com asked me to guest post on their site.  You can go to www.retirementandgoodliving.com and hit the blog button if you want to check it out.