Going For The Gold

I love the Olympics.  I start looking forward to the Games a year before they start.   I glue myself to the television, load up the DVR, and go to great lengths to avoid any sports news to make sure I don’t accidentally hear any results before I see the competition on one of the plethora of Olympic broadcasts on my DVR. 

My fascination with the Olympics isn’t really about the sports, although I do find most of them pretty entertaining.  My obsession is really about the stories.  The people who aspire to compete in the Olympics amaze and humble me.  Their stories touch my heart. They expand my understanding of human nature.  I rarely make it through a single broadcast without being moved to tears. 

I’ve been watching the Olympic trials for various sports over the past few weeks. I am getting excited for the beginning of the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.  I discovered, completely by accident, that I could find one Olympic trial for some random sport and set the recorder to capture ANY new Olympic trial broadcast of any sport on any channel.  It is like magic. What a bonanza! The Olympic stories are already unfolding in front of me through the wonder of television. These are the stories of athletes who are already celebrities, the stories of the athletes who may be the next legends of sport, and the stories of the athletes who may never be household names. 

Almost everyone has heard of swimmer Michael Phelps.  He has more Olympic hardware around his neck than any other athlete in history.  He has competed for Team USA in four Olympic Games.  He was 15 years old when he went to his first Olympics.  He basically grew up in the pool… and in the fishbowl.  Because his star shone so brightly, he attracted the camera.  The media covered all his escapades.  Those escapades included stunning athletic achievements.  They also included less impressive personal conduct, as a young man tried to figure out who he wanted to be.  He struggled with questionable judgment, turbulent relationships, and substance abuse.  During the 2012 Olympics in London, he continued to achieve.  At least, he continued to achieve Olympic medals… but one sensed that he was no longer achieving personal peace and satisfaction.

In recent years, Phelps sought treatment for his substance abuse issues.  He solidified healthy relationships.  He got engaged. He became a proud father. He reaffirmed his personal and professional commitment to his long-time coach.  The Olympic swimming trials show us a man who seems to have come out of the dark place in his personal journey.  Long ago, Michael Phelps came into his own as a swimmer.  As he earned a place on his fifth Olympic team and won his last race on American soil, he seemed to show us all that he has come into his own as a person, as well. 

John Orozco did not perform as he wanted to at the London Olympics in 2012.  He had a disastrous performance that may have cost the USA men’s gymnastics team a medal.  I am sure this disappointment both haunted and motivated him as he fought his way through four more years of preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.  He worked and competed hard.  He earned the right to be considered for this year’s Olympic team, despite those people who said he couldn’t come back or couldn’t be relied on not to fold under the pressure. 

In the sixteen months prior to the Olympic team competitive selection process, his beloved mother died suddenly.  He also sustained what would have been a career-ending injury for most people.  Doctors told him he wouldn’t be able to compete until at least June.  Before the end of June, he powered his way through the Olympic selection events.  When the selection committee announced his place on the men’s gymnastics team, his face shone with the absolute joy and blessedness of the moment. Uncontrollable tears streamed down his face.  You have to believe he will banish the London demons while competing in Rio.

In women’s gymnastics, Laurie Hernandez, just sixteen years old, competed in her first senior tournament at this year’s US Championships.  She finished in third place. More importantly, she proved to the selection committee that though she be but little, she is fierce.  She fairly crackles with carefully controlled kinetic energy.  She is such a cute young lady, with her bubbly personality, huge sparkly eyes, and curls as springy as the rest of her body, that it is tempting to refer to her as a “little girl.”  This is no little girl, however.  No child could be so skilled, mature, disciplined, poised, and motivated.

In addition to her athletic ability, she demonstrated her value as a teammate.  When one gymnast had a rough performance that seemed likely to torpedo her chances of making the Olympic team, the other competitors rushed to give her quick hugs of support.  Laurie did the same.  However, I noticed her embrace lasted a fraction of a moment longer and seemed to offer connection just a layer or two deeper than the others.  Even through the television, I could feel authentic empathy- a transfer of warmth and comfort to a teammate.  Again, this is no little girl.  As Laurie Hernandez blossomed onto the international stage, the television media captured her unfurling.  I felt like I was watching a young woman discover the depth and breadth of her personal power on her road to Rio.

Vashti Cunningham is going to her first Olympics as part of the United States women’s track and field team.  She is eighteen years old and high jumps on the international stage.  She finished second in the US Olympic Trials, earning her the right to march into the Olympic stadium in Rio and compete with the world.  Her coach is her father, Randall Cunningham.  He was an NFL pro-bowl quarterback- and a high school high jumper himself.  Vashti Cunningham bookends the women’s high jump team with Chaunte Howard Lowe, who is now on her way to her fourth Olympic games.  In addition to competing as an elite athlete, Ms. Lowe has dabbled in a few other endeavors.  She has spent her time between jumps getting married, raising three children, and pursuing a graduate education.

Both of these women are incredible athletes with incredible stories, but I think what moves me most about them is how they represent eternal cycles of excellence.  The legacy of achievement passes from father to daughter, from veteran to newcomer.  In return, the father and the veteran grow and build even richer lives because of their interaction with the daughter and newcomer.  These cycles of excellence prove to me that mediocrity truly is not the measuring stick for our world.  It gives me hope for the future.

I think my favorite story of the Olympic trials, though, is one about a man who will not be competing in Rio.  Troy Dumais has been part of USA Diving for 20 years and competed in three Olympic games. During the diving Trials, he fell just short of making the 2016 team.  As he stood on the springboard for his last dive of the Trials, he knew that it was mathematically impossible for him to secure an Olympic berth.  As he readied himself for that last dive of his long career, the crowd acknowledged his substantial contribution to the sport. The diving community and fans stood and applauded, in appreciation for his skill, inspiration, and mentorship.  His eyes welled up as he took in this moment of love, admiration, and awe.  It was obvious that this outpouring of emotion genuinely surprised, humbled, and moved him.  He steadied himself, took a breath, and finished the competition.  He didn’t succeed in getting a place on this Olympic team, but I think he achieved something much greater without even knowing he was trying for it. 

The Olympics start on August 5th.  I can’t wait to hear the other stories- the stories of American athletes I haven’t heard yet and the stories from the rest of the world.  I will be rooting for the Team USA athletes to go for the gold, but I will be rooting even harder for all the people behind the stories. 

What are you looking forward to most about the Rio Olympics?  We’ve read so many stories about the operational difficulties, it is easy to worry.  Let’s hope for a smooth, inspirational Games.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Have a gold-medal winning day!

Terri 🙂

 

And the Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down

Summer in the American southeast!   The snowbirds have gone home and I don’t have to arrive at church half an hour early to get a seat.  I don’t have to plan on eating dinner at 4:00pm in order to avoid waiting in a restaurant for several hours. 

 On the other hand, the summer weather has hit.  The temperature and the humidity are the same number on an almost daily basis.  And that number starts with a “9.”  As Max says, we live in God’s hot tub.  You don’t so much breathe the air as drink it.  They say ladies don’t sweat.  Horses sweat.  Men perspire.  Ladies glow.  If that is so, I believe I glow brightly enough to be seen from space. 

 We eat dinner to the dulcet tones of the weather alarm radio, squawking dire warnings at us about the damage that can be done by winds over 50 miles per hour.  I wondered if there would be lightning bugs in this area.  I haven’t seen any lightning bugs, but I have certainly seen lightning.  In fact, the thunder and lightning regularly convince me that someone finally invented the Way-Back Machine and we’ve landed in World War I France. 

 As someone who grew up in a place where we barely knew what rain was, it is interesting to live in a place where rain- in fact an abundance of rain- is just the way things are.  No one seems to have an ark in the driveway, but it certainly feels like one will be necessary at any time.  The thing about this state is that it CAN rain any time and, sometimes, it does. 

 Now that the summer is here, those “sometimes” are much more frequent.  We have a thunderstorm or two in our general vicinity almost every day.  They last from five minutes to an hour or so.  The other day, I went out to get my nails done.  As I left the nail shop, I got caught in a cloudburst.  In the time it took me to get to the car, I was so soaked that the dye from my blue suede shoes had steeped into my feet.  Not only did this deluge ruin my shoes, I looked like a smurf from the ankles down for the next two days.  I remember the first time I was out when I actually felt unsafe driving because of the weather.  I would have pulled over, except I couldn’t see anything in any direction.  I felt it was only slightly less likely I would run into something directly ahead of me than that I would run into something if I moved to the side.  When it isn’t actually raining, I often think of the weather as “oozing.”  The air can’t hold all the moisture and dampness seems to be literally seeping from the atmosphere. 

 Where I came from, people called in absent from work at the first sign of a raindrop.  Here, people do arduous outdoor work, soaked in rain and sweat.  If they stopped for weather, nothing would ever get done.  When there is lightning, the workers cover what they are doing, sit in their vehicles for a while, and are back at it immediately as soon as the sky is quiet again.  Supermarkets keep a supply of loaner umbrellas so people won’t get wet if a shower starts while they are in the store.  I believe the region’s economy would come to a standstill if rain stopped anyone from buying groceries at any time.

 When it rains, people don disposable ponchos and continue whatever recreational activity they are doing.  They consider it an imposition to get out of the pool or off a lake, despite the desperate warnings of that weather alarm radio screeching about lightning strikes.  Here are some famous potentially last words I heard at the pool earlier this week- “That isn’t really thunder.  It isn’t loud enough.”  I was listening to the news one day and the weather guy cautioned that there was going to be thunderstorms on the Fourth of July.  He went on to inform us that the rain might be over by fireworks time, so people should go ahead with their plans and just bring an umbrella.  Great…. A bunch of people sitting in a central Florida storm holding their own personal lightning rods. Fireworks might not be the only thing lighting up those displays.

 We are in “hurricane season” (not the most comforting of monikers, admittedly).  We live pretty far from any coast, so actual hurricanes are rather rare in our community.  However, whether you call it a hurricane, tropical storm, thunder warning, or just precipitation, it is more rain than I’ve seen in forever. 

 I have to admit the thunder is a bit unnerving.  It can actually rattle our very solid little house, even without a hurricane.  I remember parents telling frightened children that the thunder and lightning were “just the angels having a party up in heaven.” 

 I beg to differ.

 Those angels are pissed off. 

What do you think?  Is summer where you live a nightly light show?  Or do you have other impressions of the seasons?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a great day.  Stay dry!

Terri 🙂

The Great Snake Chase

Max was worried about lizards.  Little did we know!

Yesterday, I was on the phone with the girl from the radiology lab and went out to the garage to get something from my car.  As soon as I entered the garage, I saw a snake between our two cars.  I yelped into the phone, “There’s a snake in my garage, I’ll have to call you back.”  The girl from the radiology lab was suitably impressed and agreed that dealing with the snake took precedence over retrieving my mother’s Medicare number.  During this exchange, the snake was quickly slithering to a hiding place beneath Max’s car.  I yelled for Max to get his car keys and come help me.  He came, but without his keys, to see what the problem was.  He didn’t seem too keen to get into his car with the snake underneath it.  I opened the garage door, in the hopes that the sweet smell of freedom would entice the snake out of my living space.  I grabbed a broom and tried to roust the snake from its position.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t see beneath the car and move the broom at the same time, so all I succeeded in doing was chasing the snake back towards the door to the house instead of towards the garage door.

 The snake was huge and menacing.  Well, at least to me, he was huge and menacing.  To be clear, it was a tiny little garter snake and no real danger to anyone or anything.  Still, it freaked me out to have it in my garage. 

 After fleeing from beneath the car, he coiled in a corner behind a bookshelf.  We tried spraying him with a number of substances and trying to push him closer to the garage door, but he pretty much stayed put in a fairly inaccessible corner behind the heavy bookshelf.  We’d get him to move down a few inches and then he’d pop back into the corner.  Then, he disappeared.  I have no idea where he went.  It was eerie.  Now you see him; now you don’t. 

 Since we had proven to be inept at snake removal, I decided to call in a professional.  Never having needed a critter exclusion company (yes, that is what they are called) before, I was at a loss.  I tried calling our pest control company.  Their definition of “pest” was fairly limited.  Apparently, in their lexicon, a snake is not a pest.  Who knew?  They explained that snakes are so fast and furtive, it is usually impossible to find them if you don’t have eyes on them all the time.  They did recommend another company whose technicians apparently sit by the phone waiting for critter calls and drop everything to save the day when someone calls for service.  In my mind, the whole operation sounds like a scene from Ghostbusters.  At any rate, they rush to your home because they, too, believe that there is little or no chance of finding the snake after about an hour or so.  News flash… you pay whether they find the snake or not.  Color me not surprised. 

 The technician came and he was very nice.   There were a lot of “yes ma’am’s” going on.  He carried a long, heavy pair of tongs (which I am sure would have been overkill if he had, in fact, actually found the snake).   He did pretty much what we had already done, except for the panicking part.  He kicked around everything in the garage.  He peered behind things with a flashlight.  No snake.  Our technician could not even theorize about where the snake could have gone.  He refuted all the possibilities I mentioned.   He was marginally reassuring in that he confirmed that it had to be just a little garter snake and would find its way out when it was hungry or thirsty, if he had not already vacated the premises.  The technician looked at the garage door and identified a couple of places where the door didn’t absolutely reach the floor of the garage.  They were tiny, itsy bitsy holes, but he theorized that the snake might have entered through these points.  He suggested we get a garage door guy to come in and fix the seal and he put down some sticky snake traps. 

 That night, I did not sleep much.  I left the light on because I could not rid my mind of the idea that the garter snake was going to somehow get into the house, wind his way back to my bedroom, and wiggle up onto my bed.  The technician assured us that the snake could not climb more than about four inches, but I’m a skeptic. 

 The next morning, when I tentatively entered the garage to get into my car, I saw that there was a “mass o’ snake” on one of the traps.  Truth be told, it didn’t look exactly like the snake I saw the day before, but I rationalized that it might be just that this snake seemed to be upside down and the belly might have been a different color than the topside I saw as it slithered around.  Seeing the snake on the trap, I assumed it was an ex-snake, dead from the combination of stuff we sprayed on him and the trauma of being unable to extricate itself from the trap.  Later, though, Max went out and saw that there were actually two snakes on the trap and they were alive and kicking.  He tried to dispose of them with a rake, but they headed in different directions.  He was able to kill one and the other dispatched into the front lawn.

 Many of you are probably horrified that we were trying to kill the snakes.  I know, I know.  They are harmless.  They are good for the environment.  They were there before people were.  I get all that.  I just don’t want to live with them.  Once they encroach into my living space, it is war!  First, anyone living in my home except me should be paying rent.  Secondly, I have a finely tuned startle reflex.  I can barely handle the phone ringing unexpectedly without jumping.  The random sight of wiggling snakes does nothing good for my blood pressure.  Those snakes creep me out. 

The garage door guy came yesterday and fixed the door.  It would seem that there are no more access points. I prayed vigorously for the intervention of St. Patrick, who I am assuming must be the patron saint of snake removal.   We have had no more snake sightings since then.  However, I still can’t let it go.  I’m hoping that a few more snakeless days will reduce the adrenaline and cortisol rushing continuously through my body.  In the meantime, I’m sleeping with a rolled up towel under my bedroom door!

Anyone else have any critter exclusion stories to share?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  In the meantime, here’s hoping for a reptile-free day for all of us!

Terri 🙂

Didn’t I Used To Be Smarter?

I never claimed to be the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I think I could pass for fairly intelligent when I was still working.

At work, I usually knew the answer when someone asked me a question. If I didn’t know the answer, I could reason through the possible options and choose a response that would work.  I could think analytically and figure out creative solutions to problems.  I could distill complex tax processes and ideas into concepts that the average person with or without technical background could understand.  I could communicate interactively, changing my approach when I saw that I wasn’t getting through to my audience.  In short, most people thought I was pretty smart.  Maybe not Einstein smart, but fit-for-use smart.

Then there is Jeopardy!  I love Jeopardy!  One of my earliest memories is watching television with my Nana in the early sixties, happily listening to Art Fleming read out the answers and field the question responses from the contestants.  Ever since I was a little girl, I could play along with the contestants. I might not have known all the right responses or even understood all the questions, but I was able to respond enthusiastically and confidently in a lot of categories.   Even when I was a child, most of the answers I called out were correct.  When there was a “kiddie lit” category, I usually smoked the participants on tv. I once tried out to be on Jeopardy!, but, sadly, did not make the cut.  For a long time after that, I kept a running tally of how much money I would have won if I was on the show. My total was always pretty darn respectable.  I followed Ken Jennings’ run of 74 wins with the same kind of obsession that hypochondriacs track their blood pressure.

I realize this passion for Jeopardy! probably automatically qualifies me for the Dork-of-the-Month club, but I can’t help it.  Through the years, I have learned a lot from Jeopardy!  Also, Jeopardy! increased my confidence about my level of smarts.  Watching Jeopardy!, I could almost feel my brain building IQ points.  On the other hand, Jeopardy! is also what leads me to ask if something might have gone wrong with my thinker.

I have noticed, over the past few years, that I seem to be getting more responses wrong when I play along at home.  I comforted myself with the idea that maybe my mistakes were about new technology, pop culture, or global politics.  After all, the world keeps amassing more and more information and maybe I just wasn’t paying close attention.  Unfortunately, that theory exploded yesterday when I missed a question about the integration of schools in Little Rock. I incorrectly identified Little Rock as being in Alabama.   I am pretty sure nobody moved the capital of Arkansas to Alabama in the last few years.  Somehow, I find the fact that I have misplaced Little Rock to be very disconcerting.

On the other hand, maybe Jeopardy! prowess isn’t the best barometer of intelligence.  Even though my game show skills might have taken something of a nosedive, I’ve recently acquired a bunch of new knowledge.

Ever since I can remember, I have struggled with all things mechanical.  It really goes even beyond that.  It is more that I have dismally poor visual reasoning skills.  Asking me to do anything that requires me to imagine what the finished product is going to look like or makes me look at a picture and recreate the action in the picture is enough to drive me to despair.  I can’t look at furniture and have any idea of what it will look like in a room.  I can’t lay a pattern out on fabric.  I can’t assemble the most basic “some assembly required” product in the world.  At least I can’t do any of those things without hyperventilating.  In my new life, I have had to face my fear and learn how to do some of these visual reasoning tasks.   Here is a partial list of tasks I’ve accomplished using my new knowledge:

  • Transplanted a rose bush
  • Decorated a home (and, despite my terror to the contrary, all $14,000 worth of furniture I purchased actually fit!)
  • Hooked up a computer, monitor, and printer
  • Assembled mass quantities of wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats, and other adaptive equipment
  • Rigged up extensions for the ceiling fan chains
  • Set and adjusted the timer to the irrigation system
  • Established a website (when I first saw television commercials for GoDaddy, I couldn’t even understand what it was that they were selling and now I’m a client- go figure!)
  • Added a riser to a toilet seat
  • Filled gaps around the garage with steel wool to thwart reptilian invaders
  • Hung a series of nightlights down a mobile home hall (all right, I did it with Command, but STILL!!!)

I’ve also learned how to treat and maintain my mother’s legs and feet to keep her various dermatological and circulatory problems under control.  I think I’ll be qualified to be a Vietnamese nail technician before the year is out.

So, although I may no longer be able to make it into Final Jeopardy with a positive score, maybe I’m not getting any less smart.  Instead of storing an impressive warehouse of largely useless facts, maybe my grey matter is applying itself to learning something practical for a change.  And I’m still smart enough to know how to Google.  So I guess I’m good.

So what do you think?  Is your brain just so full that you have to let some things go to make room for anything new?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at www.terriretirement.com.  Have a wonderful day! Go learn how to do something new!

Terri 🙂

A Thousand Points of Light

Many people look forward to volunteering in a rather vague, non-committal way when they retire from employment.  When you ask people what they are going to do when they retire, you pretty much expect to hear them say “travel” and/or “volunteer.”  If you push the matter a little further and ask specifically what they plan to volunteer to do, you might be met with blank stares.  The truth is that it is much easier to talk about volunteering than to do it.

Volunteerism is a wonderful thing.  Volunteers provide priceless service to the community.  A lot of the good that happens in our world would not get done without volunteers.  In addition, doing volunteer work can help a bored retiree by providing interesting, purposeful activity.  Volunteering can also provide the volunteer with a community of like-minded friends.

Some people are passionate about particular organizations or needs or have specific skills that translate well into the volunteer world.  Typically, these wonderful people already have a robust volunteering life, even while working. When they retire, they simply expand their involvement to fill some of the hours they used to spend on the job.  If you are starting from scratch, though, it can be hard to find volunteer work that is a good fit for your skills, interests, lifestyle, and number of hours you want to devote.  It is also important to be a good steward of your resources and it can be surprisingly hard to find sturdy organizations that are operating in an ethical, upright way.

One of the best ways to embark or continue on a volunteering career is to look to organizations you already support financially or know about through friends, family, and community contacts.  If you attend a specific church, is there some outreach program that calls to you?  Have you been impressed with some organization that provided help in an awesome way to someone you know?  When you were working for a living, did you interact with any charitable organization that did great work?  Have you seen an organization on the news or other local source that sponsored some event or project that speaks to you?  These are all great places to start in your search for volunteer involvement.  Usually, a charitable organization will have a place on its website to explain how to volunteer.

You can also try websites that match potential volunteers with opportunities based on areas of interest and location.  Two websites to check are www.volunteermatch.org and www.createthegood.org.  Both sites let you specify what kind of organization speaks to your passion.  They also both give you a way of filtering by how far away from your location you are willing to travel.

Before committing to volunteer at a specific organization, you might want to do some research.  Google the name of the organization.  Read their website to see if their mission and general vibe seems compatible with your own thoughts and feelings.  Also look for other chatter about the organization on your internet search.  Are there any reviews anywhere?  Is there a hit showing someone mentioning them on a blog or comment?  Are there any news stories about events concerning the organization?  Of course, as with any other internet research, it is important to be discerning.  Whether the hits you find cast the organization in a positive or negative light, you will ultimately have to be the one to decide how much weight to put on the perspective you get from your internet search.

You can also check out the organization’s tax exempt status with the IRS.  This may give you a general idea that it did meet some standard of charitable intent and financial accountability.  You can check the status of most organizations by going to www.irs.gov and typing EO Select Check into the search bar.  You will land on a page with a button that will take you to a form where you can request information on an organization based on name or Employer Identification Number (EIN.)  Some organizations, such as churches, do not need to have a specific exempt organization determination from the IRS.  These organizations may not be listed on this database, but are still considered bona fide charities.  If you have doubts, you can ask the organization to show you a copy of their tax exempt determination letter.

You may also want to visit the organization’s offices and/or the location where you would be working.  Is it a reasonable drive?  Is it an area where you feel comfortable?  Is there parking?  If you have special needs, are you going to be able to manage the parking lot and office?  Most places are handicapped accessible in this day and age, but it pays to check.  For instance, maybe you need a handicapped accessible parking place and the organization has one or two spots, but they are nearly always filled.  You might want to either see if the organization can make arrangements for you or you might want to consider another charity.

I think it is important to cut yourself some slack, too.  I know I used to say I would probably volunteer when I retired.  After I retired, however, my enthusiasm sort of paled.  I just felt like I wanted to rest and decompress.  For quite some time, the only thing I volunteered to do was write a check.  Contributing money to worthy causes is fantastic.  On the other hand, it is kind of like asking someone who says they like to cook what they like to make and have them respond, “reservations.”

My community is largely resident-operated.  We have a small paid staff of employees to take care of administration, but much of the amenities and services are provided by residents who volunteer their time and talent.  We have many residents who bring with them experiences and expertise from their working lives that they generously share to help the rest of us.  Max and I have taken advantage of the benefits provided by these volunteers.  The couple who coordinates the volunteers who staff our community’s gate guardhouse used to work in law enforcement.  We attended a hurricane preparedness seminar led by a gentleman whose employment career had been with the Red Cross.  A gentleman who used to work for some city agency performed our mandatory annual irrigation system backflow testing (don’t even ask me what that is because I haven’t a clue but that guy basically used to do it for a living!).   I go to water aerobics classes taught by a lady who has been a certified instructor for over 30 years.

After about six months of living in the community, I was feeling pretty guilty that I availed myself of these benefits but didn’t do anything.  It was eating away at me, but my natural shyness, the amount of time I was spending with my mom, and my reluctance to jump too quickly into committing to something I might regret was leaving me stuck in a no man’s land.  I was wallowing in guilt, but not really motivated to do anything to propel me out of the mire.

Finally, an opportunity presented itself.  The community contracted a photography company to produce a pictorial directory for the residents. This is a pretty common practice for communities, churches, schools, large clubs, etc.   The photographer does photo sessions with all residents who agree to be photographed and produces the directory for the community.  The photographer pays a fee to the community for each person who participates. Each resident who agrees to participate gets a free 8X10 photo and a free copy of the directory.  The photographer makes money by selling prints and other products to the participants in a discussion after each photo session.  It is a reasonable partnership between the photographer and community.  The community also contributes volunteer labor to set appointments and check people in for their sessions.

I figured I could safely volunteer to help with this project.  It didn’t sound like it would be too taxing or require any particular skill.  The main selling point to me was that it seemed like a self-limiting condition.  In volunteering for a self-contained project like this, I could offer some service, but would not be committing myself for an undefined amount of time over some indefinite period. It also might be a good way to meet people and maybe make some friends.   I signed up to greet people when they came for their photos and complete the forms that the photographer needed.  I even used my real name and phone number when I signed up!

The coordinator called a few days later to invite me to attend the orientation meeting.  When I got to the house, I was surprised to find a living room and kitchen crammed full of people…. And food.  Apparently, one of the fringe benefits of volunteering in the community is free snacks.  I found the number of new people a bit overwhelming.  I could feel myself start to retreat into my shell.  Then I remembered one of my goals in volunteering was to meet people so I pulled out some of my “forced extroversion” skills from my working life.  I listened carefully to conversations around me and was even able to manage some small talk, thus integrating into one of the little group chats that was buzzing around before the meeting.

 

One of my new-found acquaintances introduced me to the coordinator.  My new-found acquaintance began to list all the activities and events included in the coordinator’s volunteering portfolio.  I don’t think I could have listed them all without index cards.

“Wow,” I said to the coordinator when my new-found acquaintance came up for air, “You are a busy lady.”

“Yes,” replied the coordinator.  “It started really small.  I volunteered to do one thing and it kind of just grew.  They really keep you hopping here.”

“I don’t know if I really want to hop,” I said doubtfully, beginning to wonder if I had made a dreadful error in judgment. “I think I’d prefer to amble.”

The coordinator gave me an odd look and wandered off.

I staffed several shifts of greeting people on picture days.  It was definitely not a difficult job.  Let’s face it- it also wasn’t a huge, noble sacrifice to improve the state of the universe.  Still, I know that the money that the photography company paid to the community will benefit others and I felt good about contributing. Maybe it will motivate me to amble into something a little more substantial sometime soon.

Have any of you volunteered in retirement?  What was your experience like?  Any suggestions for folks just starting out on a volunteering career?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Happy Birthday, USA!

A lot of people start to scorn birthdays as they get older.  Not me.  I love my birthday.  I don’t see a birthday as an acknowledgement that I’m another year older (although, of course, I am).  Instead, I see my birthday as a momentary pause in the regular programming of life- a sort of public service announcement about the wonder that is me.  It is the one day of the year when I can feel justified making it all about me.  It is the one day a year when it feels right to sit back and reflect on who I am and what I have built and what I would like to accomplish in whatever time I have left in the world.   My birthday is an opportunity to celebrate me.

I bring the same notion to Independence Day.  The Fourth of July is a time to cherish our nation.  It is a time to think about how the country got where we are today.  It is time to allow our hearts to dream big for the future.

We live in a huge, beautiful, awe-inspiring country.  We ourselves elect the leaders who govern us.  We enjoy freedoms that much of the world would find almost anarchistic.  Despite the messiness that often ensues, our nation continues to work and to impress 240 years after its inception.  I am humbled when I think about the people in the past who helped frame what we now enjoy.  I wish I could say I have even a fraction of the vision, wisdom, and courage of the great leaders and beacons that came before us.

I celebrate George Washington leading a battle to liberty when the only evidence he had to suggest he would succeed was what his own heart told him. I am ashamed that I have dismissed beautiful ideas because they seem impractical.

I celebrate Abraham Lincoln demolishing obstacles to garner enough support to pass the 13th amendment.   He constitutionally abolished slavery while also maintaining a fragile balance in Congress to keep the nation from fracturing still further.  I realize that persistence and process do work if I just invest a little patience.

I celebrate Dorothea Dix standing up to a masculine monolith that insisted decent women had no place in medicine.  She created a professional nursing corps during the Civil War.  These nurses faced hardship and derision, but still provided invaluable service to their patients. I know I must be brave enough to offer my passion and talents to help others.

I celebrate Henry Ford creating an assembly line that ultimately made it possible for all classes of people to have tools and goods that otherwise would have been available only to the rich.  By questioning the way things had always been done and looking for just one way to improve his operation, he introduced a concept that would ultimately make it possible for millions to achieve their way out of poverty.  I realize that contributing just one idea to change one seemingly self-contained aspect of life sometimes results in changing the world.

I celebrate Teddy Roosevelt championing the creation of national parks. Even in a time when most Americans never saw the country outside their hometowns, he knew that the day would come when we would need to protect our geographic wonders.  From his example, I understand that we must conserve and preserve the natural and historic beauty of the United States.

I celebrate that later Roosevelt- Franklin- who navigated the nation through the dangerous waters of the Great Depression and World War II.  He helped create programs that would give many worthwhile Americans a hand up when they thought their lives were worthless.  He provided practical assistance and hope for the heart of the nation.  He did all this from a wheelchair. He proved that the power of patriotism and personal will can overcome the frailties of the physical.

I celebrate Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus after a hard day’s work.  She taught the whole world a lesson about value and equality in one simple, routine moment.   She reminds me of the power of dignity and integrity.

I celebrate Jaime Escalante coming to the United States as an immigrant and overcoming obstacles.  He taught a generation of young adults that learning is the most effective tool we have to improve ourselves and the world in which we live.  He taught students from low income, disenfranchised families.  They came to him believing that they could not achieve.  He proved to them that they were better than they thought they were.  His message was so powerful, it burst out beyond his immediate sphere of influence.  Because of his success, popular media shared his story.  His vision spoke to many people, who also learned that, through education, they could create something wonderful of their lives. I pray that all young people have someone in their lives to convince them of their possibilities.

As a child and as a young adult, I think I kind of thought everyone was sort of like me.  I knew that people were different on the outside because I could see that. However, I thought that everyone pretty much thought and believed and felt as I did once you got beneath the skin.  I left some room for some standard deviation level differences, but I thought most people would react to life in pretty much the same way I did.  As I matured, I realized this was not the case.  Everyone’s backgrounds and unique sets of circumstances will color how they see the world and what they can contribute to the common good.

I grew up in a time when society at large was just beginning to realize that patriotism didn’t necessarily mean supporting the status quo.  For a long time, a lot of people thought that loving the country meant not only appreciating what it was but guarding it against change. We feared that change would destroy.  In my childhood, innovative thinkers were beginning to remind us that the nation’s motto is not “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In each generation, there have been challenges and experimentation and triumphs.  Changes have sometimes been difficult to manage and may have brought some negative aftermath. However, our country is not so fragile that change can destroy it.  Going forward, some proposed changes will bring about wonderful results.  Other ideas might address some needs, but bring about another set of unintended negative consequences. It is important to listen to all voices respectfully and curiously.  This is how we discern whether or not a new approach is going to help our nation thrive or not.  We will not all agree on whether some aspect of our national consciousness should change or how it should change.  Wisdom has many voices.  The chorus and harmony of those voices will eventually decide what our national song will sound like in every generation.

When I was a child, my parents taught me tolerance.  I learned that I should judge people, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  One of the positives of my generation was that we did begin with “tolerance”- but we opened the door for more.  As I experienced more of life, and reflected on what I experienced, I realized that the differences that we prided ourselves on “tolerating” are actually cause for celebration.  We can all bring the different talents and perspectives we possess to the common table of America.  We can use them to enhance our American experience and continuously use them to build an even better United States.

I think great Americans are sort of like saints.  Some of them are well-known and celebrated, their names printed in boldface type in the canon of history.  Others are anonymous, known only to those who love them.  We can and should count anyone who has shaped our country in a positive, evolutionary way on our list of great Americans.  I hope that list includes all of us.

So who do you think of as American “saints?”  There are so many.  Who are your favorites and why?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Celebrate today!

Terri 🙂

The Late Hatcher

There was big news at the pool today.  We have a brand new baby Sandhill Crane. 

The first litters of baby Sandhill Cranes, born in March, are growing fast.  People say you can almost see them grow in front of you if you watch them for any length of time.  After only about eight weeks, the little hatchlings are now almost indistinguishable from their mommies and daddies.  Sandhill Cranes apparently stay with their parents for about ten months after birth, but they cease to look like babies very quickly.  All of us human types have been watching this year’s crop of babies with keen interest.  Last year, we had three chicks. Sadly, only one made it to launch time ten months after birth. 

So it was a very big deal when Mommy and Daddy Crane strutted by the clubhouse this morning, proudly showing off their little late spring miracle.  As they paraded by, we all made cooing noises, expressing our delight in their achievement.  We have high hopes for our new little late hatcher. 

I think I am a bit of a late hatcher myself. I was a prissy, nerdy, know-it-all little kid.  I was an abysmal failure at being a teenager.  I married the first man who asked me, certain it would be my only chance.  I spent that marriage isolated and ashamed of whoever it was that I was.  I took a multi-part exam for a civil service position.  Although I scored extraordinarily well on almost every part test, I focused on the fact that I scored only one point above the minimum passing score on one part of the exam. I considered myself lucky to be offered any job at all.  I didn’t really consider whether the job I was offered was something that I would find interesting or satisfying.  I just took it and breathed a sigh of relief that the selecting officials had not noticed my ineptitude at that pesky Visual Reasoning portion of the exam. 

It wasn’t until several years into my career that I realized I actually had a number of attributes that were a perfect fit for success at the job.  I was an intelligent, quick learner.  I was kind and compassionate towards people.  I was an exceptionally hard worker.  In the absence of any real talent, I used these attributes to craft a successful career. 

As I became more competent, I felt like I had value and I gained confidence to try new things.  I became a collaborator and a teacher and a mentor to others.  I began to see some uniqueness in my contribution.  People began to respect me and, then, as they grew to know me, to like me.  I used to say people liked me because I was completely inoffensive.  It wasn’t that people gravitated naturally to me or that I had some special charisma or that I could offer others any particular benefit.  It was simply that there wasn’t anything to really not like about me- I was easy-going and would tend to go along with what others wanted to do.  I hated conflict and avoided disagreeing with anyone.  While people did often express appreciation to me for help I provided over the years and tried to reassure me of my unique value, I think I believed they were mostly just being kind.

I was quite shocked by the outpouring of genuine affection and appreciation when I retired.  It was a revelation I wish I had realized much earlier in life.   Somewhere along the way, I stopped being just someone who didn’t piss people off and became someone with actual talent and positive influence.  I’m not sure when it happened, but I am so glad it did.

Now that I’ve stopped working and have taken some time to reflect, the revelation is even clearer to me.  I realize that, somewhere rather late in the game, I started hatching and becoming the person I was actually always meant to be.  Now, in retirement, I am trying to break out of the shell that still remains.  Without the distraction of work, there is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with who I want to be.  As disorienting as transitioning into retirement can be, it is so worth it.  I never realized how big my world could be when I was struggling so hard to break through the shell.

So let’s hear it for the late hatchers! Maybe there is a little late spring miracle in all of us.  I’d like to think so.  Nobody should peak at 30!  Since the average lifespan for a person living in the United States is nearly 79 years, that would mean most of us would be looking at an awfully long downhill slide.  Once we think we’ve peaked, it might just mean it is time to start looking for another mountain to climb.  Or another layer of shell from which to hatch!

So what do you think?  Have you found new ways to hatch in your later years?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative,  you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Have a wonderful, wondering day!

Terri 🙂

The First Man I Remember

I have many warm memories of my father.  Most of them are as vivid and dimensional as if they happened just yesterday.

I remember waiting in line to go on the Matterhorn at Disneyland with my father when I was a little girl.  I was the only one who would join him on this first Disney thrill ride.  Thinking back, I can almost feel the anticipation and adrenaline building as we got closer and closer to the front of the line.  I usually had enough time to get good and scared by the time it was our turn.  I always came very close to backing out at the last minute, but I always boarded the ride… and loved it.  I knew, if I was with my Daddy, it was going to be okay.  The ride was always wild and frenetic and absolutely entrancing to my young self…. partly because it was an experience that was special for just the two of us to share.  My father was brave.

I remember my brother and I waiting in the car with my father while my mother visited my dying grandmother in the hospital.  It seemed like we were in that parking lot for hours and hours at a time, night after night.  I’m not sure what all we did during that time, but I have a very clear memory of my father entertaining us by singing navy drinking singing songs.  My father was funny.

I remember visiting the Kern River when I was about nine or ten.  I was a little fish as a child and loved being in the water.  Little fish can get carried away with the current and survive.  Little girls, not so much. I have a picture of my father sitting on a flat rock on the river’s edge.  He is holding three lengths of rope.   One is attached to me, one is attached to my brother, and one is attached to Baron, our dachshund-ish puppy, as our squirmy little bodies whooshed down the river with the current.  It still gives my mother fits that all that stood between her little darlings and certain death were the ropes my father tied around our tummies.  Since I lived to tell the tale, it is proof that my father passed basic seamanship.  He could tie sound knots and haul small bodies out of the brink.  I’m not sure anyone in the navy quite envisioned him using these skills to keep his children and dog from meeting a brutal end crashing against the rocky banks of the Kern River.    My father was innovative. 

I remember camping out in the backyard in a teepee my father made out of bedsheets he dyed the color of buckskin.  He decorated it by having each member of the family make a handprint with a different color paint on the fabric.  My father, for some completely unknown reason, just decided he was part Native American sometime in the late 1960s.  There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this assertion was true, but my father willed it so.  I think he felt his interest and passion for Native American culture should have been enough to entitle him to at least some connection.  Even if there was no true bloodline connection, he loved his way into the tribe.  He and my little brother became extremely active in Indian Guides.  My father tooled leather and created war bonnets with feathered trains longer than he was.  He did intricate beadwork designs on moccasins.  He read everything he could find about Native American history and culture.  Long into his retirement, he and my mother rarely took a vacation that did not involve travel to some ancient Native American tribal location.  When my brother “aged out” of Indian Guides, my parents actually came very, very close to adopting or fostering another child so my father could continue.  When they decided that action might be a little too extreme, my father just continued his exploration of Native American lore, culture, craft, and history on his own…. a sort of independent study version of Indian Guides.  My father was passionate. 

I remember being honored at an academic awards ceremony in high school.  In my time, mothers were usually the ones who attended these kind of things.  By the time high school rolled around, it was even rare to glimpse a mother watching the principal award her offspring with yet another certificate indicating “big fish in a small pond” excellence in something or other.  In my family, my mother and father both held jobs outside the home by the time I was in high school.  My father had more vacation time.  My father was the one who always came to school to watch me receive awards.  He was always freshly showered and shaved and wearing his “good” clothes.  I remember the lime green velour pullover shirt with thin violet and turquoise pinstripes (remember, it was the 70s!) that he wore to “dress up.”  I wore that shirt for years after he abandoned it.  My father was never a demonstrative man or lavish with praise.  In fact, some would say that he was too critical.  However, I knew how proud he was and how happy he was with his family, especially on those award ceremony days.  I could see the huge smile that came from the very core of his being.  It was one of the moments that occurred from time to time that made me certain that my father believed that the best and most important touchpoints about his whole life were his wife and children.  It defined him.  My father was loving. 

I remember moving into the condo I purchased on my own.  My father came and stayed with me for about a week when I first moved in.  While I was at work during the day, my father painted things and replaced things and fixed things in the condo.  When I came home, I could hear him whistling and humming as I came up the stairs.  He was busy and active, truly shaping the home where I would live for the next 23 years.  At night, we would go out to dinner, talk about things that we had never talked about, laugh together, and watch television.  My father was a fixer. 

I remember standing by my father’s bed in intensive care as he was dying twenty years ago.  He was only 72 years old.  He had been fine when my mother went to work in the morning.  He was fine when she came home at lunch.  He was laying on the floor in pain from a sudden heart attack when she got home in the early evening.  At the time, I lived about 70 miles away from my parents.  By the time I arrived to say good-bye, he had been unconscious for some time and I don’t know if he knew I was there.  My mother said that he was waiting for the priest and for me before he left us.  When I got to the hospital, the priest was in his room.  I went in and told him I loved him and didn’t want him to go.  While I was there, he passed away.  My father was gone.

I’ve always said that my father could fix anything.  I believe that, had he been conscious enough to open his own chest and wrestle his heart from his body, he could have jerry-rigged some way of keeping it going.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. 

When my father died, my life changed forever.  That was one of the pivotal moments of my life when I could literally see my world transforming as it happened.  It was the end of being a child.  I was in my thirties.  One could certainly argue that I had not really been a child for a long time.  I had graduated college, married, supported myself, advanced significantly in a career, gotten divorced, and bought a home on my own.  Still, as long as my father was alive, part of me was his little girl.  My parents were a safe place to land if things did not go well.  They were the safe haven to protect me when being a grown-up got too difficult.  Once my father was gone, I not only lost his protection, but I also became the one who had to protect.  My mother has always been a strong, capable person.  Still, her loss of her life’s partner was even greater than my loss of my father.  It was now my role in the parent/child relationship to let her feel her loss, absorb as much of it as I could, and provide her with the safe haven she and my father always provided me. 

It has been a lifetime since my father’s lifetime ended.  I have continued to grow and change.  The way I look at life and death and joy and grief and protection and support continues to evolve.  That is as it should be.  Still, some part of me still mourns for that last bit of childhood I lost the day my father died.  I hope, even in Heaven, Daddy sees a part of me that is still his little girl.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the fathers out there!  This Sunday is a dedicated time for us to thank “the first men we remember” for being our dads.  What are your best memories of your father?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful day!

Terri 🙂

 

Lunch With The Lemurs

One of the benefits of turning your whole world upside down is that you have the opportunity to try new entertainment experiences.  One of the most unique and entrancing new entertainment opportunities we’ve explored is the Giraffe Ranch in Dade City, Florida.

As odd as it sounds, before we moved, I goggle-searched to see if there was any place in central Florida where one could feed giraffes.  I was moving from a location close enough to visit the world famous San Diego Zoo often.   I’ve fed giraffes in a number of zoos and parks all over the country.  I’ve always felt feeding giraffes was kind of high on the “coolness factor” scale.  Don’t judge.  We all take our endorphins where we can get them.

The Giraffe Ranch is a little different.  It isn’t really a zoo or a theme park.  It is more like a sanctuary for exotic animals, operated by spouses Lex Salsibury and Elena Sheppa.  Lex is the former director of the Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa.  The grounds are on an abandoned cattle farm, adapted to create a home for dozens of species of animals.  Lex and Elena run tours of their facilities for no more than 20 people at a time.  They use their experience with African safaris as a model for their operation.

There are a number of options for touring the ranch, all of which include the opportunity to feed their giraffes.  The tour is a bit expensive, although not as costly as a day at an Orlando theme park.  It isn’t a whole day activity, but I think it is still worth every cent because of the uniqueness and exclusivity of the experience.  No crowds, no noise, no lines…. Just you and about 19 other people hanging out with the animals and discussing them.  And feeding them.  I’ve been there twice now.  It is way, way cool.

In addition to the basic giraffe tour, there are a number of optional extras that you can add for additional charges.  One of those extras is feeding lemurs.  Those of you who have seen the Madagascar movies may remember King Julien the lemur.  For those of you who don’t know what a lemur is, it may help if I tell you that they are about the size of a housecat and sort of resemble what might happen if a monkey and a raccoon could have a baby.  A baby with REALLY big eyes. There are many varieties of lemurs, all of which are endangered.  There are a couple of different types at the giraffe ranch.  I elected to participate in the lemur feeding, which involved interacting with ring-tailed lemurs.

There were basically four parts to the experience at the ranch.  The first part was a briefing when Elena told us about the history of the ranch and shared some basic information about the animals we would see.  The briefing came with visual aids- in the form of giraffe and zebra bones.  Next, we took a walk around the habitats close to the office.  We saw animals like gibbons and servals and kangaroos and pigs.  The third part was the feeding extras.  Finally, the fourth part was the safari tour in a 20-seat jeep type vehicle.

I really enjoyed everything the experience had to offer, but I was most excited about the lemur feeding.  After all, as much as I love feeding giraffes (and I love it a lot), I have done that often before coming to the Giraffe Ranch.  The lemurs were new to my animal-feeding repertoire.

When we got to the lemur enclosure, it was clear that those critters knew the drill.  It obviously wasn’t their first rodeo.   The lemurs attached themselves to the inner enclosure like peanut butter on bread.  They stared at us as we congregated in the little caged vestibule area that served as an anteroom to keep the lemurs from escaping as we entered their digs.  Elena gave us grapes (which seem to be the catnip of the lemur world, given their response) and instructions.  One of the most important things she told us was that we were not supposed to feed the lemurs near the door to the enclosure.  We were supposed to go over to a shelter at the center of the enclosure and only then offer the grapes.  This procedure was supposed to teach the lemurs not to congregate at the door. The idea was that, if the lemurs learned they only got the grapes well within the enclosure, they would not gather at the front door where they could tumble out into freedom (and, probably, certain death if the giraffe ranchers were not able to wrangle them pretty quickly.) It didn’t work.  I think there might have been one of three different reasons for its failure:

1)    There were sufficient people as impatient to feed the lemurs as the lemurs were impatient to be fed so the lesson was not consistently taught.

2)    Lemurs just aren’t that smart.

3)    Even in the lemur world, hope springs eternal and, hey, to a lemur, it’s worth a shot.

As the lemurs hung off the inside of the enclosure, they stared at us with their goo-goo-googly eyes, begging us to ignore the nice giraffe lady and hand over the grapes.  I’m sure those pitiful looks can be pretty effective motivation for early grape-feeding.  I, however, used to have a dog that employed the same technique, so it didn’t bother me.

Given the obvious enthusiasm the lemurs seemed to have for the possibility of grapes, you would have thought that we would have been trampled by dozens of tiny feet when we entered the inner enclosure.  I’ve been to petting zoos and have the goat hoof prints on my chest to prove it.  These lemurs were the politest creatures I have ever met, however.  Despite the emotional blackmail they employed unsuccessfully to get us to give up the grapes at the door, they amiably trotted behind us to the feeding shelter with no hard feelings.

I made my way into the shelter with the grapes hidden behind my back- another of Elena’s tips to make sure that the lemurs concentrated on one grape at a time.  These creatures are seriously charming.  Again, they produced the same pleading looks.  They exuded sweetness.  I was completely smitten.  In fact, I was momentarily enchanted into paralysis by the sheer cuteness of the animals.  That enchantment was detracting from valuable grape-gobbling time, in the lemurs’ humble opinions.  It wasn’t that they screeched or jumped or did anything obnoxious to jolt me out of cuteness overload and convince me to offer the grapes.  Just as I was struggling to come out of my adorableness-induced fog to offer a grape, one of the lemurs, with extreme courtesy, reached out with his soft little hand and patted me on the wrist!  Just a soft, sweet, momentary pat to remind me that he was there and waiting as patiently as his little lemur heart could wait for me to share a grape.  It felt just like a little human baby grasping your finger or patting your cheek.  And it happened over and over again.  With their pathetic looks and pleading pats, it felt like the lemurs were a bunch of furry Oliver Twists asking, “please ma’am, can I have some more?”

I offered grape after grape throughout this lemur happy hour.  When I found myself grapeless, Elena gave me more.  I could not stop smiling and cooing over the little creatures who took the grapes so daintily and licked my hands to make sure they consumed every drop of juice.  Adorbs.  Just adorbs.

When we finished the lemur feeding, we moved on to the vehicle safari.  As we bounded over the abandoned cattle ranch, Elena and Lex shared fascinating and entertaining animal information with us.  Among other critters, we viewed ostriches, rhinos, and zebras.  And, of course, the main headliner- the giraffes.

As much fun as feeding the lemurs had been, I was also really looking forward to feeding the giraffes.  It was awesome.  As I looked up into those huge dark, gentle eyes, I felt like those giraffes could feel me thinking.  And what I was thinking was, “you are just the most beautiful thing in the world.”  I am pretty sure the giraffes didn’t care what I was thinking as long as I kept the cabbage coming, but it made me feel good to think the giraffes and I were sharing a telepathic lovefest.  I was delighted by their warm smiles, lazy eyes the color of chocolate kisses, and the dexterity of the long tongues they employed to tangle my cabbage into their mouths.  I was lucky to be sitting in a front seat and Elena offered me a slice of juicy mango to feed one of the giraffes.    I’m not sure what is slimier- mushy mango or giraffe spit.  It doesn’t really matter.  They both wash off easily.

It was a great day.  After about three hours, I left proudly bearing my newly-purchased “I Fed The Lemurs” t-shirt.  On the way home, I thought about how lucky I am.  There aren’t many people in this world that get to lunch with the lemurs.

For more information about the Giraffe Ranch, you can visit www.girafferanch.com

So what are your thoughts?  What activities have you done that rank pretty high on the “coolness factor” scale?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wonderful day!  Lemurs rock!

Terri 🙂