Golden Hearts

Last Friday, the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad were supposed to open in Tokyo, Japan.  As everyone who has not been living on some COVID-free planet for the past five months knows, these summer games have been postponed until July 23, 2021 because of our worldwide pandemic.

I’m sad.

I have always been an Olympics fan.  I enjoy the pageantry and the passion.  I enjoy the patriotism. I enjoy watching the sports, even the ones with which I am entirely unfamiliar.  I watch sports I do not understand during the Olympics simply because it is the Olympics.  For two weeks in the summer every four years, the world celebrates excellence.  I have always wanted to attend an Olympics and never have.  Gluing myself to the television screen every waking hour of the day is likely the closest I will ever get.  This Olympic year, I am not going to even get that. 

I know the Olympic games and the Olympic spirit is not cancelled, simply postponed.  I know that my mourning for the vicarious Olympic community experience is selfish considering what is going on around us right now.  It is especially selfish because I am sure that the athletes who intended to be in Tokyo competing right now are having it much worse than I am.  For many of them, I am sure Tokyo was to be the shining zenith of their athletic careers.  A year’s postponement will be the same as a cancellation for some of these athletes.  The “sweet spot” of athletic achievement opportunity will not always linger for another year.  For the people who worked so hard all their lives to achieve a dream, a postponement may crush the dream.  All I can do is pray that they can take that commitment and passion and channel it into another dream.

To me, the most excellent thing about the Olympics is not the sports.  It is the people and the stories.  I love meeting individuals who rise above poverty, obscurity, and hardship to become the best in the world at something.  I love hearing the stories of competitors who purposely slow their own progress to help another athlete.  My heart expands when the commentators tell us about love stories that grow between participants.  I even love the commercials- the ones that introduce us to the relationships between parents and children, coaches and athletes, country and competitor.  The Olympics are games, but they are also a movement, a spirit, and a flame.

As much as I love the games, my real passion is the movement, spirit, and flame.  That flame could ignite all of hearts.  It could ignite our hearts with peace, excellence, performance, and perseverance.  Even those of us, like me, who will never become the best in the world at anything in particular, can use that flame to fuel our efforts to be the best people we can be.  I don’t want to wait another whole year to feel that fire. 

So even if the games of the XXXIII will not be gracing my television screen this year, I am going to use this time to research the golden hearts of these postponed Olympics.  I am going to search for the people, the passion, and the stories that would have been woven into this summer’s games.  Those people deserve for us to know their stories. I need to know those stories to build my own golden heart. 

The good Lord willing, I will be watching the athletes of 2021 next July.  I know the delayed Olympics will still move and inspire me.  However, it is good remember that there are always golden hearts out there if we look!

Do you watch the Olympics? What is your favorite part about it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirment@gmail.com.

Have an excellent day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

AARGH!!

Some friends and I recently took a road trip to Amelia Island on Northern Florida’s “Treasure Coast.”  It was delightful.  There was fresh air and sunshine and salty sea.  Who would have believed that President James Monroe once called it a “festering fleshpot of immorality?”

To be fair, President Monroe’s assessment was based, in large part, on the population of pirates who were plundering this luscious piece of real estate booty at the time. I did not see any pirates during my stay.  Well, not any real pirates, anyway.  I did buy a Christmas tree ornament that depicts Santa Claus with an eyepatch and gold earring, but I don’t think that counts. 

Our visit in Amelia Island included visiting some pretty awesome restaurants, splashing around in the ocean, admiring the adorable little cottages and adorable larger mansions, trawling the quaint retail shopping area, eating a crumb bun, and cruising around Cumberland Island on a tourist boat.  I do not think there was much immorality involved, except for maybe the crumb bun.  It was really, really good, though. 

There was one aspect of our trip that did have a faint whiff of pirate panache. Given the COVID-19 lockdown over the past few months, it felt distinctly rebellious to be out wandering in the world.  It was surprising how many people were visiting the island. Granted, the incidence of the virus has been much lower in Nassau County, where Amelia Island is located, than in the central and southern counties of Florida.  The community of Fernandina Beach, the crown jewel of Amelia Island, has a population of about 13,000 people.  Most of the activity in Fernandina Beach is outside, which means those 13,000 people are not congregating indoors in close quarters.  These are just some of the differences between life in Lake County, where I live, and Amelia Island.   It was surprising to see how those differences manifested themselves in real life practical terms. 

At first glance, it almost seemed as if the COVID-19 pandemic had never happened on Amelia Island.  Few people were wearing masks.  Just about all establishments were open for business.  You could try on clothes before buying them.  It was a brave new old world.  When one sailed further into the Amelia Island life, though, there were some indicators of safety precautions.  There were social distancing measures in place.  Most of the workers wore masks, especially in restaurants.  Our hotel offered a free breakfast, which is usually a buffet.  In consideration of the need to minimize contact, the hotel staff packed a bag with each guest’s choices instead of letting everyone get their own food from a buffet.  I felt like the community was being smart about things, but there was much less evidence of a world shut down by disease on Amelia Island than there is where I live my daily life.  There were protocols in place.  However, those protocols were not so “in your face,” constantly reminding people at every turn that living is a risk factor.  It was wonderful to ride this temporary wave of wildness. 

It is amazing how far my standards of “normal” have fallen.  To think I found it reassuringly normal to have a masked waiter serve me at a restaurant and to consider if having two people on an elevator was an acceptable risk! To think that I felt like a rebel because I was out in the world, where I could hear the sounds of people and commerce and entertainment! 

It is not that I think that we should take a page from the Amelia Island book.  As I said, the circumstances there are different from the circumstances where I live and the circumstances where I live are likely different from the circumstances where you live.  I do not pretend to know the “right” thing to do.  So, even though I am not advocating that we take a page from Amelia Island, it was very pleasant to read their book for a couple of days.  It even gave me hope that maybe we can all regain some of our freedom and lightheartedness at some point.

In the meantime, I will remember my pirate days on Amelia Island fondly.  Aaargh!

What makes you feel footloose and fancy free during this time of separation?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Ahoy!

Terri/Dorry 😊

A Mighty Fortress

I’m working through my second Lenten season after resolving to become a better pray-er last year.  Please see my post http://www.terrilabonte.com/2020/05/i-say-a-little-prayer-for-you/  for additional background.  Of course, I just published this piece, even though I wrote it almost a year ago.  I get really nervous if I don’t have several weeks’ worth of blog posts in reserve.  Perish the thought that I might have nothing ready to go some Wednesday morning!  I would have to write something on the fly without proper planning and scheduling.  The very possibility makes me nauseous.  Sometimes my pre-recorded pieces get a little stale sitting on the shelf waiting for their moment, but I don’t think prayer ever gets stale.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with two helpings of prayer in short succession.  In fact, in these uncertain times, maybe two helpings of prayer are exactly what we need to keep us off the ledge. 

I wanted to give you all an update on how my efforts to improve my prayer life were going.  Last Lent, I began a Bible In One Year app project, which guided me towards dedicated Bible study and prayer each evening.  After that experience, I served as the chaplain for our parish Episcopal Church Women group.  My sole job in that capacity is to pray and lead other members toward prayer.  I love it.  I actually feel my soul expanding as I help channel our group’s powerhouse of prayer and search for creative, experiential, thoughtful ways to spur closer intimacy with God.  I’ve been leading a small group in our Alpha program.  This leads me to even deeper levels and stronger intensity of prayer.  This past Lent, I chose a short passage of Scripture to capture and copy into my prayer journal each day. This helped me feel more confident and more grounded in my prayer. 

 I’ve learned a number of lessons about prayer and the results of dedicating time to improved communication with God.

Sometimes, external things happen when I pray.

There have been several instances when my prayer seems to have resulted in at least a small shift in circumstances.  Maybe I have not witnessed anything super dramatic yet (although I believe something extremely dramatic HAS happened and we just don’t know it yet.) Still, I see mini-miracles tied to my prayer all the time.  In the challenges presented by the COVID-19 physical distancing protocols, I see wonderful things happening.  In one example, my small Episcopal Church has not missed a single Sunday service.  After the CDC recommended that no one gather in groups of 10 or more, we didn’t gather together in the church building.  However, the very first week without physical community services, our rector and a team of wonderful, talented, Spirit-filled people figured out a way to organize, produce, and market a Sunday service on YouTube.  This might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people.  Our community, however, is not exactly modern.  It is not on the cutting edge of technology.  It was like going from 0 to 100 in electronic communication/distance learning in just a few days.  I am sure that was only achievable by hard working faith-filled, prayerful people.  Another example is the way neighbors and community members are looking out for each other.  I know there is hoarding and the grocery store shelves are pretty pitiful.  At the same time, though, people are calling each other to check in on people who might be feeling isolated, running errands for those who are more at risk, being creative in constructing a way to help the world feel “normal,” and finding ways to ease the economic cataclysm that the lockdowns will cause for the most vulnerable among us.

I know there are many secular organizations and many non-Christians who are also working to do these things.  I do think there is a difference with prayer, though. While we are all temporarily stopped from the busy-ness of our lives, some of us are spending more time in prayer and remembering our faith.  In some ways, I see us coming closer together rather than further apart, as we deliberately and mindfully find ways to protect our relationships and spiritual journeys from isolation.  Normally, when people are “stuck” inside their homes for a few days because of something like an oncoming hurricane, there is an overall atmosphere of resentment and dread.  This time, there is almost a feeling of empowerment and joy within my circle of praying friends.  It feels good for us to mobilize to deal with this challenge.  It feels good to support efforts to remain connected.  It feels good for us to remember who God calls us to be. 

Sometimes, the changes I see are less tangible.  I pray frequently for the guests in our church’s Alpha group.  I have seen that prayer lighten their hearts, as God has brought them closer to His love.  Of course, God could do that without my help. Jesus is the one that draws these folks to Him, not me.  I think it is awesome and exciting that God gives me the opportunity to participate in the process, through prayer and agape. 

Sometimes, prayer doesn’t change anything… except me.

During the past year, I’ve changed so much.  My service, confidence, thoughtfulness, creativity, emotional and intellectual intelligence, relationship-building skills, and love have increased exponentially.  My natural talents and strengths are expanding.  I am forgiving myself more readily for my weaknesses and failures, secure that God has already done so.  I often pray in thanksgiving for the paths where God chooses to lead me and the lessons he is teaching me.  I am absolutely convinced that the point of life is to grow into the person God wants each of us to be.  I feel like that is happening to me more now than at any time in my life.  It may seem strange that this is happening as I enter my golden years rather than in my youth or middle age, but I guess everyone has his or her own script. 

I think the reason I have been able to blossom, especially in the last year, is directly related to the increase in quantity and quality of my prayer life.  I feel like my prayer life is a mighty fortress that God and I have built together.  It protects me and allows me to live as genuinely and authentically as I can.  Within the walls of this fortress, I can grow the garden of my life and build my serving ministry without fear.  It is a godly kind of fortress.  It doesn’t keep anyone out; it just protects what is inside it.  The walls are permeable to anyone of good intent. 

All in all, the most important thing I have learned is just this:  Prayer works.  It may not work the way you think it will, but it works!

Has your spiritual life changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?  In what way?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a prayerful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Normal

Normal is a tricky concept these days.  Now that states are starting to reopen after the coronavirus quarantine, it is hard to know how to view life.  Reopening commerce is not a free-for-all for freedom.  Wisely, reopening processes are gradual and tentative.  As the process plays out, it does so on a social canvas that is chippy and uneven.  Some people are declaring victory over the virus and bustling to be the first one in line to regain “real life.”  Others are certain that everything is happening too quickly, with public health being thrown to the wind in the name of economic health.  Everyone is sure that their position is the reasonable one.  Many people are also trying to validate that their perspective is the reasonable one by advocating for their position on social media.  It can feel a little judgy and a little self-righteous.  It is hard to know what to do.  I struggle with the questions of legality, safety, and risk/benefit.  I also struggle with the question of what is socially acceptable. 

It is particularly difficult because one of my great fears about this whole quarantine thing is happening.  I have lost my grip on social interaction and how to do it.  As I explained in my post Social Distancing  ( http://www.terrilabonte.com/2020/03/social-distancing/ ), I had a tenuous hold on that skill at the best of times.  Now, I just feel weird. The energy required to maintain social connection in new and different ways during the quarantine has been a bit draining.  I have worked hard to mold my social interaction needs and skills to fit a virtual world, but it has felt awkward like learning to write with your non-preferred hand. Now, I just want to return to writing with my dominant hand, but it feels rusty from disuse.  It does feel good to go out and about a little bit.  It is not that eating in the dining room of a restaurant or looking at clothes in person inside a store is that big a deal. The giddy feeling of normalcy is a big deal, however.  On the other hand, that normalcy is clearly just pretending.

“Normal” has not started in today’s world.  “Normal” is sputtering.  As with an old car in need of a tune-up, I am never quite sure what will happen when I turn the key of “normal.” I may be delighted and pleasantly surprised to see that Outback Steakhouse is open.  I may be jumping out of my skin at the chance to go to Disney Springs.  I felt like a real thrill seeker visiting a fancy home décor specialty shop in a cute little local downtown area.  Truthfully, though, the experiences are still far from normal.  The “normal” car started, but I still have that nagging sensation that there are things going on under the hood that may portend disaster.

There are the big, visible abnormal differences. We wear our masks, sucking in trapped humidity with every breath.  We avoid hugging and shaking hands. We project our voices when we speak to friends across a six-foot barrier.  Fitting rooms, jewelry counters, and other more “hands on” experiences in stores are still unavailable.  Starbucks, along with some other big chain dining and retail establishments, are still closed to walk-in business.  Church services are still coming to us via the Internet instead of face-to-face fellowship. There is still a wistful stillness and vacancy in places that are open.

There are also the less concrete barriers to normalcy. I have said from the beginning that I was not too worried for my physical health or safety.  It is not that I think the virus is not dangerous or that we should just go about our everyday routines without employing safety precautions.  I just had a feeling that I, personally, would be okay no matter what happened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  Given that perspective, it makes sense that I have a little less trepidation about returning to normal life than some other people do.  Just as I have been careful to adhere to the public health guidelines and limitations in place out of respect and compassion to other people, I want to be respectful and compassionate to other people as we climb over the other side of the quarantine curve.

Reading people’s posts on social media, it is hard to get a good take on what the socially acceptable level of comfort is. I’m okay starting to patronize the physical world again now, but I suspect many other people are not.  I do not want to be insensitive to other people’s feelings. I also do not want to be thought reckless and irresponsible. I do not want to endanger other people’s physical or emotional health.  I also want to spend time having fun and improving mental health with friends who are also comfortable venturing into the great unknown of public dining rooms, stores, and theme parks.  I have been enjoying small gatherings of friends at outdoor picnics for the past couple of months, sitting more than six feet from each other.  When is it okay to move those gatherings into enclosed spaces without risking the health of those I love or freaking anybody out?  A couple of friends and I have an overnight girls’ trip planned in a couple of weeks.  Are we all comfortable riding together in the same car for three hours?  What precautions should we employ to be respectful and polite? 

I guess the answer to all of these dilemmas is communication- communication about comfort levels that has nothing to do with judgment, trying to convince other people of how they “should” feel, or vilifying people who feel differently.  The goal of communication is to preserve relationships and stay close, not erect dividing walls based on “comfort” level. 

How “normal” do you feel at this point?  How are you transitioning back to real life?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a better-than-normal day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Reality Of Fake

A few weeks ago, I lamented the fate of my acrylic fingernails during the COVID-19 lockdown. When I wrote that I had been wearing the nails for over 30 years, something inside me blushed in embarrassment. How could I have been wearing fake fingernails for so long?  Time has been marching on over my lifetime. And it seems it has been marching past me with acrylic fingernails.

This epiphany started me thinking about what motivated me to pay someone to paint artificial material mixed with toxic chemicals on my hands every few weeks over the past 30 years. Arguably, the whole acrylic fingernail thing is a ridiculous notion. I have been embracing it for over half my life. How is this possible?

My journey towards three decades of acrylic nails started long before anyone ever even heard of acrylic nails.  I was a terrible nail-biter as a child. It started with thumb-sucking and escalated.  I could not seem to keep my fingers out of my mouth, no matter how hard I tried.  My parents didn’t make a big deal about it, but they tried to help me overcome the habit in every way they could.  They tried manicures.  They tried bribes.  They tried coating my fingers with various solutions designed to discourage me from putting my fingers in my mouth.  They put a rubber band on my wrist to snap when I caught myself biting my nails.  It was so bad that I often left myself with only nibs of nails.  Sometimes, I had to go to the doctor to be treated for infections because of the nail-biting. 

Most kids outgrow nail-biting.  I was not most kids.  As I grew older, I did lose the thumb-sucking habit, but was never able to control the nail-chewing urge.  I picked and broke and bit my nails well into adulthood.  My hands were always in shambles. I can’t count the number of times I tried to stop, but I always failed. 

Fast forward to 1989.  My ex-husband left me in 1988 and I was just starting to think about dating again.  This was long before internet dating sites (it was long before the internet, period). In those olden dates, the pre-cursor to match.com was the newspaper personal ads. I had no idea how to meet people. I think everyone I knew socially was married.  No one seemed to have any suitable gentleman friends with whom to set me up. I eventually met the first man I dated after my divorce through a personal ad. After a few phone conversations, we agreed to meet in person.

I was terrified. In retrospect, I probably had no business dating at that point.  I was still too broken from a bad marriage and divorce. Besides, I was almost 30 years old and had not been on a first date since I was 17.

The day we were to meet, my nervous system was in armed revolt.  To soothe my squirrely spirit, I went to the mall. Shopping is kind of my drug of choice when I need a little artificial serotonin.  As I wandered through the stores, every stress response in my brain pushed me to buy something.  I ended up buying some pretty underwear.  That didn’t really do the trick for me.  After all, I told myself, I had no intention of letting anyone see my underwear that evening so what difference did it make if it was new?  I kept wandering and looking for something I could buy.  I had already told my date what I was going to wear and, since that was the only way he would recognize me at the bar where we were meeting, changing that particular horse didn’t seem like a good idea.  As I walked past the beauty salon, I noticed a sign for acrylic nails.  That’s it, I thought, I can buy new nails!

Acrylic nails were just starting to become the rage at that time.  I didn’t know anyone who had them.  I just saw them as a quick and easy way to gain some confidence for the evening.  I knew that my date was likely going to be disappointed in my looks, so I thought that I could at least buy myself some pretty hands.  Honestly, if I’d known at the time that you had to come back every few weeks to have more acrylic applied to your fingers, I doubt I would have done it. 

I guess ignorance was a good thing in this case because I did like my new nails.  I guess I liked them a lot since I’ve been maintaining them ever since. 

My hands were nice.  They were way nicer than the guy I wanted to impress deserved, as it turned out. I dated him for about a year before realizing he was kind of a jerk and way more trouble than he was worth.  I broke up with him, but I did not break up with the acrylic fingernails.

Speaking of breaking up… or, rather… not breaking up… one of the benefits to the acrylics was durability. I can’t say that I completely stopped biting my nails when I got the acrylics.  However, the consequences of biting my nails were much more limited. They were so strong, I didn’t demolish them every time they got near my mouth. It was like there was more intervention time.  When I put my fingers to my mouth, I had enough time to realize what I was doing and remove them before I did any damage.                                                                                             

 All in all, once I had the acrylic nails, I couldn’t imagine not having them.  My hands, another shameful secret in my repoirte of unattractive qualities, were no longer a source of embarrassment.  I guess, overall, acrylic nails and I have had a decent partnership.  But 30 plus years?  That just doesn’t seem reasonable.  Still, I had every intention of starting over again once the salons reopen.   I figured, with the acrylic-related damage incurred by my natural nails and my uncontrollable nail-biting, I’d be lucky to have fingernails at all by the time we are released from lockdown. 

Surprisingly, though, my natural nails are doing fairly well after four weeks of freedom from acrylics. They are not in great shape and I’d love to have a manicure, but I don’t seem to be destroying them. The nail atrophy that I expected was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.  The nails are flimsy and rough but seem to be holding up against normal wear and tear and many, many hand-washings. Even more surprisingly, I don’t think I’m biting them.  I smooth the edges each day with a manicure block because they do seem to fray a bit, which also seems to help.

Maybe that the reality of fake is that I don’t need the fake after all!

What is the most fake thing about you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a real day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS:  EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT! My latest book, Random (A)Musings will be released on Amazon.com on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.  Please look for it and consider buying a copy… or several dozen!  The book will be available in paperback and kindle editions.

Random Observations From Quarantine

Over the past several weeks of “safer at home” lockdown, I’ve had plenty of time to observe the world and think great thoughts.  Well, maybe not great thoughts, but thoughts, nonetheless. Here are a few of the notions that are percolating in what is left of my mind:

  • At some point, my hair’s ability to grow wider, wavier, and wilder exceeds my ability to wield a flat iron. I reached that point a couple of weeks ago.  Now, not only do I have a gray streak running down the center of my head at the roots, I am also sporting a hair style reminiscent of a terrifying Bozo The Clown.
  • It’s okay that I can’t flatten my hair because the flatter my hair is, the more obvious the gray stripe running down my roots is.
  • I don’t recommend watching a Zombieland flick when you are sheltering-in-place to avoid contagion. We just watched Zombieland Double Tap the other night.  A movie about the brain-eating “survivors” in a world decimated by a mutant virus probably wasn’t the best choice.  Maybe a little too close to home right now.  What’s worse is that I found it laugh-out-loud funny at some points.  I felt really crummy about that.  My soul is dark and evil. 
  • Going to the grocery store is now like foraging.  I play hunter and gatherer for myself and several immune-compromised friends. It is interesting that it is difficult to buy milk, eggs, meat, peanut butter, canned soups, and other protein sources, but there is no shortage of potato chips, ice cream, candy, and cookies on the supermarket shelves.  I should be fine. 
  • If my work colleagues who tried so hard to shove me into the 21st century of technology and distance learning could see me now, they would be laughing hysterically.  I was using paper and pen long after every rational person opted for word processing programs.  Now, I’m experimenting with conference calls and zoom.com like I invented the whole idea. 
  • It is helpful to keep a handwritten food diary when in isolation.  You’ll probably stop eating when the writer’s cramp gets bad enough.  No guarantees, though.  For people who are hoarding food as if we were awaiting the zombie apocalypse (ooops… there’s that zombie thing again), we certainly are consuming it like there is no tomorrow.
  • My bedroom floor will never be uncluttered again.  I often have bags and boxes of things I need for my various organizations arranged carefully on the bedroom floor.  Typically, by May, all my pending projects for these organizations are completed and I regain the real estate in my boudoir.  This year, however, all bets are off.  I prepared for several large interactive presentations for my church groups before we went under house arrest, including buying supplies and equipment. I thought that stuff would be off the floor of my bedroom by now.  These presentations don’t lend themselves to the virtual environment. I have an interesting collection of paper goods, decorations, pamphlets, outlines, art supplies, and bed sheets stacked against the wall of my room.  Looks like those things, like me, are not going anywhere for a while. 
  • I wonder if my fingers will ever recover from the pruney wrinkles caused by excessive handwashing. It may require plastic surgery. When I was a little girl, I remember my frustrated mother’s response to misbehavior.  She’d say, “go take a bath and don’t come out until you are pruney.”  I wonder what I did bad this time. 
  • It’s okay to be sad about “selfish” stuff.  Over the past few weeks, many people have had to cancel huge, once-in-a-lifetime celebrations.  Graduations, weddings, funeral services, high school reunions, and many other similar events have been postponed or cancelled. People feel bad about feeling bad because they know that, compared to worldwide death and disease, their events are not that big a deal.  It is a big deal, though, and I feel for those people. I encourage them to mourn those disappointments.  I, fortunately, have not had to deal with anything like that.  There have been several “next tier” kind of cancellations that have hit me, though.  My planned vacation to New York City to see both Hamilton and Come From Away on Broadway is not happening. I miss my weekly trips to Disney and other fun places.  I think I am saddest about missing my annual retreat to Discovery Cove.  I’m sure I’ll reschedule, but, with the wackadoodle Florida weather, the ideal window of opportunity for this excursion is limited.  I think it is okay to mourn these things, as long as I keep everything in perspective.
  • I think I may have discovered the antidote for quarantined-induced frumpiness.  Two words.  Video conference.

What have you observed during this challenging time?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.   In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Keeping Up Appearances. Or Not.

For the first time in over 30 years, I don’t have acrylic fingernails.  Which pretty much means I don’t have nails at all. After so many years of hiding under layers of acrylic, my natural nails are significantly atrophied.  At this point, a harsh word can chip, splinter, and crack them. 

My nails are not the only aspect of my appearance that has suffered after weeks of limited contact with other people.  I am trying to be a responsible citizen of the world and stem the spread of the COVID-19 contagion.  I am not making the huge sacrifices that our medical professionals, truck drivers, grocery workers, first responders, and other essential personnel are making.  I do not want to complain. 

It might be time for an intervention, though. I am in a downward spiral. 

My hair is growing thicker and bushier.  I am growing into the oh-so-attractive skunk look as my roots become more pronounced.  Some of you know that I have been flirting with the idea of allowing my natural gray hair color to grow out.  It has been a difficult decision. I got my hair genetics from my father, who I do not recall ever seeing without gray hair.  I started going gray at age 16. I have been coloring my hair since I was in my mid-twenties.  Heaven only knows how much gray has encroached since then.  The prospect is scary.  I have been loathe to suck it up and see.  I may have no choice in the matter now.  Although I believe my hair salon is still open, I just can’t think that touching people all day is the smartest way to manage a pandemic.  I think I’ll just have to weather the gray skies (and gray hair!) and see how I feel if it is ever safe to go back to the hairdresser again.

I haven’t applied make-up in a month. Before the outside world closed up shop and we all went under house arrest, I wore make-up most days.  It made me feel good to show a little effort.  I had more confidence when I knew I was looking brighter than I was feeling.  I seem to recall that make-up made my face look brighter and made my complexion look less like cream of wheat.  It has been so long that I could be wrong.  Nostalgia always makes everything seem better.  They say distance lends enchantment to the view and my memories of make-up are pretty distant at this point.  Actually, the only way a view of me would be even remotely enchanting right now is if it was VERY distant. 

For the past several weeks, I have been dressing in loose, floaty dresses that are cool and comfortable. They make me feel faintly nymph-like.  Let’s face it, though; they are one step above a nightgown.  Maybe half a step on the days I forgo a bra.  However, I am not sure they are doing me any favors.  I think I am going to have to start trying on something a little more form-fitting once a week or so to make sure my form is still fitting.  After weeks of grazing my way from one room in my house to another, I have a sneaking suspicion that, while I may be flattening the contagion curve, I am not flattening any of my curves.  I could be carting around enough curves to build an entire roller under my floaty trapeze dresses. 

I’m not sporting any jewelry, either.  I have quite the collection of earrings and rings and bracelets and necklaces and watches.  Most of them have some sentimental attachment.  They delight me and make me smile when I wear them.  Since I never seem to go anywhere anymore, it seems like a waste to put them on in the morning.  I just have to take them off for the numerous times each day that I wash my hands.

For someone who wrote a blog piece called The Anti-Frump (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/11/the-anti-frump/), I have certainly fallen far from grace.  Looking in the mirror this morning, I had to wonder where the anti-frump has gone.

I’m pretty sure she is in quarantine. 

What is left of my fingernails…. heavy sigh

Have you found yourself following the frump during our days of isolation? How do you motivate yourself to keep on keeping on? Or do you just not bother? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a frump-free day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Lentiest Lent

I saw a picture of a church on Facebook.  Outside the church, the message board read, “Had Not Planned On Giving Up Quite This Much For Lent.”  Ain’t that the truth? Since the world closed up shop in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it does seem like this Lent is laying the whole fasting thing on a bit thick.  No restaurants.  No amusement parks.  No shopping malls.  No live performances. No group activities.  No vacations. No hugs.  And I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone giving up buying toilet paper and disinfectant wipes for lent before. This has to be the lentiest lent that ever lent.

Some people say that this pandemic is an omen.  They believe the contagion is God’s judgment on a wicked world. They see our current times as the end of times.  Maybe they are right.  It is hard not to feel some sense of doom in this time of disease and quarantine.  The television and internet feeds us, minute-by-minute, on the number of new cases and the number of dead.  The curve is growing, not flattening.  This is to be expected in the short term, as we test more potential victims.  There has not been time yet for people who were initially infected to get well, so the curve is still climbing.  Even though this analysis makes sense, it is easy to get caught up in a Doomsday feeling.  For those of us who believe that God is all-powerful, it can be an easy logical leap to conclude that God caused the pandemic. 

I don’t put any limits on God.  It is possible that there is something to the Doomsday theory. I don’t really think God works like that, though.  I don’t think He caused the pandemic to eliminate evil and destroy the wicked.  I do think, however, that He uses the pandemic to help transform us into the people He wants us to be. Now that we are forced to fast from many of our favorite leisure activities, we have more time to spend in prayer, Scripture-reading, and thoughtful consideration of our life’s purpose and goals. Now that we must forgo human touch, communal church services, receiving the Eucharist, and sharing a meal, we may not take these blessings for granted in the future.  Now that the most fun thing we do all week long is zip through the Starbuck’s drive-through (while trying not to breathe), we will be more grateful for those trips to Disney and other more exciting places.  Now that we cannot meet with people face-to-face, we are developing our community-building and care-taking skills in more creative ways. 

I am one of those people who do tend to get stir crazy and bored when I stay at home for more than a day or two.  Weirdly, I am neither right now.  I’ve been productive in my weeks of isolation.  I’ve overcome some of my social anxiety tics and am staying connected with people.  Some of my relationships are even growing richer and closer.  I’ve focused my pent-up energy on projects like figuring out a system for conference call and video meetings.  I’m writing more.  I’ve tackled a few big chores that I have been deferring for months.  I’m thinking more than reacting.  My mind is not as busy or bustling, but I am thinking clearer. I’ve spent more time with God.  I’m working on several prayer projects- praying deliberately and intensely for certain people multiple times a day. 

So, while I did not intend to give up so much for Lent, I think God is using my enforced mega-fast to do exactly what Lent is supposed to do.  He allows me to partner with Him to cleanse, grow, and ripen my soul.  I delight in the paths He shows me during this time.  I am trying to follow them because I believe that God has a purpose for each of us and that purpose is unique to each of us.  I’ve tried to find that purpose all my life, in every job and relationship I’ve had.  The trail hasn’t always been as clearly marked as it is this Lent.  Still, I believe God is teaching me in everything I do, so I try to be patient and trust.  As the Bible says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This coronavirus lent has been good for my spiritual development. Still, like everyone else, I look forward to the day when it is over.  I am excited to face a resurrection of activities and contacts.  The sun will shine brighter, and our emotional muscles will be able to take a little rest.  We will be able to mourn the losses we sustain, but we’ll also be able to move towards healing in a different way- perhaps with more kindness and care-taking of each other.  All this time we’ve spent in isolation prepares us for that day.

But let’s not forget that we have a more immediate, even more beautiful Resurrection to celebrate. We’ve spent the last forty days preparing to rejoice anew that Christ is risen. Sunday is Easter, the most triumphant day in the Christian year.  God will remind us again that what we thought we had lost is not lost at all… in fact, it is more brilliant and more wonderful than we can possibly understand.  Jesus- through His life, suffering, and death- brought us back to at-one-ment with God.  Because of Him, we are God’s adopted children.  We are part of a loving, connected, holy family which can never be destroyed. We are never in isolation or quarantine when we follow the risen Lord! 

What has lent been like for you this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?  Do you feel that you have transformed in some way, as we approach Easter?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Happy Resurrection!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Social Distancing

I’ve been socially distant most of my life.  It wasn’t due to any fear of contagion, but simply because of my anxiety, shyness, and general awkwardness. You might say that, now that social distancing is all the rage, I am on trend for the first time in my life.  I’m very good at it. 

On the other hand, I’m changing in my old age.  I’m beginning to see what I’ve been missing.  It took me almost 60 years to fight my way out of my fear and find my way into warmth, support, and connection with loving social families- both in my community and in my church.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! I feel like I’ve discovered chocolate for the first time ever. 

I keep saying that I don’t feel any particular fear about the COVID-19 virus.  That is absolutely true from a medical perspective.  I still don’t feel scared that I’m going to catch it or that there will be massive deaths of otherwise healthy people.  I am very scared about a couple of things, though.

I am scared about the economic effect that will result from the standstill of face-to-face commerce.  I am especially scared for the people who will lose jobs or won’t be able to provide basic necessities because there is little or no business happening while the world is in lockdown.  I am glad to see that many organizations and individuals are mobilizing to help and I will be supporting them.  There will still likely be financial tragedies.  I will do whatever I can to help.  I believe, as a Christian, God calls me to lead from love and generosity, not from fear and panic. 

For me personally, my biggest fear is that I will lose the social connection that I didn’t have so many years.  It wasn’t like I became extroverted or without anxiety.  It wasn’t like I made the shift to social connection suddenly or without discomfort.  It took me a lot of maturity, courage, awkwardness, grace, sense of service, and encouragement to get there.  The whole thing is relatively new to me.  I am not sure it is firmly rooted or integrated enough into my psyche to survive being uprooted by a period of relative isolation.  One of my biggest “leftover” anxieties is phone contact.  It is still very hard for me to connect to people over the phone.  I think it is because I am fairly intuitive and I pick up lots of cues about what a person if feeling and thinking by his or her body language.  When I am without those cues because I am on the phone, I feel more anxious.  Now that I must use the phone to reinforce a sense of community, companionship, and affection, I guess God is saying it is time to tackle that particular dragon of mine. 

It isn’t just the fear of losing connection while the world lockdown is going on.  I am also scared that we won’t be able to go back to “normal” once we are able to walk amongst each other again.  Will people have become so lethargic and isolated that they will just hang back and forget how much richer we are with touch and face-to-face contact?  Will the whole world be social awkward?  Will I lose all the progress I’ve made in developing genuine, intimate, personal and communal relationships?  The possibility makes me very, very sad.  Once you’ve tasted chocolate, the idea of never having it again is pretty terrible.  I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it is not comfortable for me.  I was brave enough to break my own patterns once.  I am confident that I can do it again, with God’s help.  Maybe I’ll be even better because the whole world seems to be in a more deliberate, mindful communication mode.  It seems like a lot of people are expanding their connection skills to try to retain community, companionship, and affection.  I guess I am not the only one who is fighting social distance.

You know how the Star Trek folks have that motto, “Live Long and Prosper?”  I have a new motto.  My motto is “This is temporary.  Stay close in heart and soul while we ride it out.” 

Are you seeing any “silver linings” to the challenge of COVID-19 isolation?  Do you need a virtual hug or some electronic reassurance that you do have genuine connections with people?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Going Viral

The other day, I went to the supermarket to do my weekly grocery shopping.  I learned that I could easily buy a lottery ticket, which could be worth millions, and exotic vegetables with names I don’t know how to pronounce.  However, purchasing a container of antibacterial cleaning wipes was another matter.  The cupboard was bare in that department.  I wasn’t trying to buy the wipes because of COVID-19.  I always use them to clean surfaces in my house and I used my last one.  Today, I tried to find them in several more stores and on the internet, with no success.  I am going to have to muddle through with all-purpose cleaning spray, like we did back in the day. 

I do not want to be flip or dismiss the concerns of reasonable people.  First, a global pandemic is not funny.  Second, pragmatically concerned people who stay on the rational side of panic are likely more realistic and certainly more helpful than I am with my somewhat laissez faire attitude about the whole coronavirus thing. 

The weird thing is that I haven’t felt all that scared or anxious about the situation.  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that one of my few talents in life is worrying.  If they had an Olympics for worrying, I’d win a gold medal.  Except they would probably cancel the Worrying Olympics in an attempt to slow the spread of contagion.  I am a world class worrier. For some reason, though, the coronavirus outbreak has barely been a blip on my radar.  I took very little notice until the World Health Organization started calling it a pandemic and Disney closed all its parks.  At that point, I started thinking about it.  I still don’t feel worried. This is a great comfort to my friends who understand my overactive nervous system.  They figure if I, of all people, am not worried, things must not be so hopeless. 

I am glad that people are having conversations about the best ways to handle potential danger. This gives us a chance to look at all options from a variety of perspectives, including how realistic it is for a society to follow a possible protocol. Having many reasonable, educated, analytical minds discuss a situation increases the possibility that all relevant factors and options will be considered.  Having widespread mass communication increases the possibility of public awareness and education, even if it also increases the opportunity for misinformation and panic.  It is important for individuals, families, and organizations start assessing risks and adopting practices to minimize opportunities for infection.  I also think it is important for charitable, service, and religious organizations to mobilize to meet the health, financial, and spiritual needs that will certainly arise from the coronavirus.  It is also important that people operate from a place of practical caution and generosity rather than fear and panic.

Even though I am not racked by worry and fear, I do support efforts to be smart and careful in an uncertain environment. 

There is still a lot that I find ironic and illogical about the reaction to the pandemic.  Trying to reconcile the actions people are taking makes my brain hurt sometimes.  For instance, my community cancelled our chorale concert a month from now, but we hosted a pancake breakfast for 100 the day after the WHO announced it was classifying the coronavirus situation a “pandemic.”  Disney and Universal announced they were closing to the public but continued to operate for two more weekend days.  The movie theater in my town stayed open but decided to sell only half the tickets to each show.   Max and I went to see a movie advertised at a theater about 10 miles from our town. When we got to the movie theater, we found they had decided to close completely until further notice.  However, across the parking lot from the theater, there was a well-populated bar.  A couple participants in my Alpha group at church (which usually has about 20 attendees) decided to stay away from the class because of fear of contagion.  Two other participants were absent last week because they were on a cruise.  A friend of mine’s husband just went from the hospital to an in-patient physical therapy rehabilitation facility. The hospital allowed visitors, but the rehab facility locked down to prevent spread of disease.

I had one of those decisions of my own to make recently.  I am the leader of my Episcopal Church Women small group.   We meet the third Monday of every month.  I didn’t plan to cancel the meeting.  As news became clearer that the risk is not just a personal risk, but also a risk to our public health and safety organizations, I decided to reconsider my position.  I still did not feel any real personal risk (I mention this to reassure the friends that use me as their personal barometer for panic).  I am just now considering another factor in my decision-making.  I don’t want to contribute to overstressing our hospitals and health care personnel to the breaking point.  Lots of people could seem perfectly well and still be carrying the virus.  For most people, catching the virus will likely be inconvenient but not necessarily dangerous.  However, if the hospitals cannot accommodate all the people who are in danger, the result may not be pretty. 

My decision to cobble together a rough virtual meeting instead of having our normal face-to-face meeting involved considering many interests.  I did not consider just the health and public safety interests, although that was part of the equation.  I also considered the spiritual needs of the group, the fellowship advantages, the need to present a faithful and loving example of Christianity to the world, and the interest in making sure that a short-term decision does not become a permanent answer.  My decision was based partly on the fact that our group has a strong relational foundation, that we can and will change our course if the problem continues or we see people fraying around the edges, and that we will still invest face time with people who have needs that we cannot meet over the phone or with electronic communication. 

Another interesting thing about my decision is that it seems inconsistent with a decision I’ve made for myself about another group in my church.  I don’t have the authority to make the decision for the other group, but, unless directed otherwise, I still plan on meeting with them.  I am putting myself in the middle of the exact ironic, apparently illogical conundrum that gives me a brainache.  In the other group, there are some different factors to consider that make me believe, under my set of priorities, that the benefits outweigh the risks.

I guess I’ve found the answer to my quandary.  For every decision we make, especially in the time of COVID-19, there are many factors to weigh.  Everyone will have his or her own matrix of risks, benefits, and priorities for each situation they encounter.  Likely, all those matrices will be different.  I’m going to stop trying to force everything to make sense.  It’s not my job.  My job is just to analyze my own matrix for my own situations and do the best I can. 

How are you fostering a sense of community, companionship, and affection in a world of COVID-19?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a healthy day!  Stay well, my friends… physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Terri/Dorry