Thank You, MyKayla Skinner

Last week, I was bemoaning the lack of inspirational stories associated with this season of Olympic games. Everything seemed to be depressing. From the opening ceremonies with their emphasis on the pandemic to the lack of spectators in stands seemed to scream “joy void” and I was not having it. I was missing the infusion of powerful human spirit that the Olympics usually provides. I, like the rest of the world, have been hopefully waiting through the past year, for the Olympics to finally begin. I felt a little cheated. I am sure one could say that I have no cause to feel cheated when I have no real skin in the game. The athletes, their families, the economy of Japan, and many other stakeholders have much more standing to complain. You will get no dispute from me. That does not mean that I will not complain… because it all makes me sad.

I asked you all to help me out last week with some inspirational Olympic stories you were hearing. Some of you came through and told me about special moments I missed. That helped. What really turned me around the corner, though, is the story of silver medalist MyKayla Skinner. MyKayla’s story reminds me to never give up on joy, even when it seems that it is long past time to give up on joy.

This is especially important to me, as we seem to be losing ground in our return to pre-COVID normalcy. I have been feeling like I’m done hoping and waiting. I feel like this strange, disconnected world is going to go on forever. I am tired of mourning. I am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of refraining from hugging people. I am tired of navigating the etiquette of COVID. I just feel deflated. It feels long past the time to give up on joy.

MyKayla Skinner’s story would refute that hypothesis, however.

I remember the Olympic trials for the 2016 USA women’s gymnastics team. I remember pulling for MyKayla Skinner, as the decisions about the team were being made. There was something coming through the television screen that connected me to her energy. There was such a longing and such a powerful hope. When she was named “only” the alternate on the most dominating women’s gymnastic team of all time, my heart broke for her. I was sitting in my living room, crying for a young woman I had never met.

I am sure MyKayla cried, as well. I know, based on what I have read, that the road that took her away from the world of elite athletics was difficult for her. How could it not be? However, while I was thinking that it must be the worst feeling to be so close, yet so far away, from an Olympic experience, MyKayla was not giving up the dream. She ultimately decided to try for the 2020 Olympics. Then, the 2020 Olympics were postponed a year. Then she sustained what could have been a career-ending injury. Then she battled COVID. She made it onto the USA gymnastics Olympic team, however. Then, once she got to the Olympics, she was excluded from the event finals because only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete for medals and she had the third highest score of the US women on the vault.

Stuff can always happen, though. I might have given up on joy, but MyKayla did not. She was booked to fly home when she learned that her teammate Simone Biles was withdrawing from the vault competition. MyKayla ended up competing in the vault final and coming home with the silver medal.

Let’s hear it for MyKayla Skinner, generator of joy and poster child for hope!

Have a spirited day!

Terri/Dorry

What reminds you that there is power and joy in the world when times seem dark? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

The Anti-Post

I’m sorry. I did not have time to write a new blog post this week. I have been far too busy watching Olympics and ugly crying.

I am crying sentimental tears for the athletes who are realizing their brightest dreams.

I am crying for the shattered hearts of the athletes who compete, but disappoint themselves and wonder what might have been.

I am crying for the proud parents, spouses, siblings, children, and everyone who should have been at Tokyo in the stands watching their loved ones compete because they can only send support from the other side of a television screen.

I am crying for those athletes who are sitting home, missing their Olympic opportunity because their golden moment would have been a year ago.

I am crying because the opening ceremonies, though stunning, reminded me of the isolation and brokeness the worldwide pandemic continues to force down our collective throats, even now.

I am crying for the people who have suffered and died too soon.

I am crying because I am tired of grief, after seventeen months of mourning.

I am crying for the beauty of the spirit- challenge, endurance, selflessness, love, creativity, inspiration.

I am crying because I feel my own spirit eroding. The Olympics usually fill me with warmth and hope and belief in miracles. I was looking forward to these games as an infusion of positivity at a time when the rock of COVID seems to be sliding down the hill again, negating all the strides we were making towards getting back to our communal life. It isn’t working.

Have an inspiring day, even if I am not!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Okay, throw a girl a bone, please! What Olympic moments have touched your heart with joy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Brains

If there was a word to describe 2020 (besides the unprintable ones, of course), I think it would be “pivot.”

The human brain is a strange and wondrous thing to behold.  Especially during the pandemic, we have seen how adaptable and creative it can be.  I marvel at how nimbly many people resculpted their brains to accommodate the changing times. There are many examples.  

After a brief period of discombobulation, the world figured out new ways of doing old activities. Disney World scrambled their approach to queue management and replaced parades with cavalcades- single floats that wandered through an entire park to prevent people bunching together to watch a parade.  Churches have employed various online platforms and “drive-in” methods to continue to engage congregants.  Doctors have developed “telehealth” to handle medical visits that do not require “hands on” examinations or treatments.  People who never thought they could work effectively from home and collaborate with their teams are running efficient, effective businesses from inside their Zoom accounts.  In times of plummeting sales, many retailers have expanded their product lines to include snazzy face masks and hand sanitizer.

It is also true that the strain on our collective brains has caused many people to temporarily throw in the towel on “normal” activities.  They started spending their time doing new things that they never would have explored before the pandemic.  I hear a lot of people talk about completing big home projects, catching up with old friends with whom they have not communicated in ages, taking up new creative pursuits, learning new skills, and finding more time to settle into God’s arms.

The more deeply we delve into the COVID19 world, the easier retooling our lifelong routines, thoughts, activities, and perspectives seems to become.  I hope we have not become so comfortable with our new circumstances that we permanently discard some of the activities and traditions that used to give us joy.  I can see people thinking that there is no longer a need for in-person continuing education conferences because, while it was pleasant to get together and share ideas, “we’ve been doing the same thing on Zoom for a year, and it is so much cheaper.”  I can see people thinking that they miss traveling, but it does take a lot of work and planning to implement a vacation.  I can see people thinking that they used to like going to church services, but it has turned out to be so easy to simply watch YouTube in their pajamas.  I can see people thinking that they enjoyed all the clubs and activities they had pre-COVID19, but that it has turned out to be quite restful not to have to juggle such a full calendar.  I can see people abandoning hugging, shaking hands, and touching each other because it now feels awkward. 

I have been worried about the slow degradation of communal life since we began the “two week” stay-at-home order.  Our experimentation and discoveries about alternate ways of doing things have been wonderful.  I love that the pandemic has forced us to re-examine the way we live and relate to one another.  I love that some of the strategies we are forced to employ to promote social distancing have allowed us to be more inclusive.  For instance, my Alpha course is meeting online, which has allowed guests from all over the country to attend.  Entertainment has become more interactive, in some ways.  I am thinking of the Disney Sing-along television specials that popped up during quarantine.  In the past, most television entertainment was extremely passive.  The action focused on the performers while the audience just sat at home, staring at a screen.  Because performers could not be on stage together during the pandemic, Disney changed the emphasis to creating strategies to allow the audience to provide their own entertainment.  The place where I get my nails done now has a plexiglass wall between my face and the technician’s face.  I put my hands through a small opening at the bottom of that barrier.  Surely, this is a better procedure, COVID19 or no COVID19.  The technicians really do not need to have client after client breathing their germs of any kind into their faces all day long. 

All the positive changes aside, I still believe there is a more sinister downside to month after month and year after year COVID precautions.  As people’s acceptance, tolerance, and lethargy about our “new normal” grows, so does the danger that we will never regain the things we have lost.  I do not want to lose the warmth of hugs, the excitement of traveling, and the rich connectedness of gathering with people in person.  All the restrictions and adaptations have been necessary over the past year.  I am glad we did them.  I just do not know how long we can continue without permanently losing some of the emotional and social richness of living communally in the world. 

I do have some hope.  A friend and I have been stubbornly supporting our community’s book club over the past year.  Before the pandemic, our club was extremely well-attended.  In fact, it was starting to get a bit unwieldy, with 20 members often attending the discussions.  We discontinued meetings for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic.  We discussed going to Zoom, but most of our participants were not ready to enter the Zoom-asphere at that time.  As soon as our community center opened, we went back to scheduled meetings.  For several months now, our attendance has ranged from 4-6.  Well, things are changing.  Many of the people in our community have now been vaccinated.  At our March meeting, we had 10 participants.  Clearly, people are emerging to start searching for the good things we left behind in the pre-pivot world. 

What’s next?  Hugging? 

Have you seen any indications that the world is starting to get back to its pre-pandemic state? What are you observing? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a normal day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Christmask

The other day, I received a package from a dear friend of mine in California.  I opened it to find a Santa Claus Christmas ornaments.  Nothing unusual or noteworthy about that, you say.  The world is rife with Santa Claus ornaments.  What was unusual and noteworthy was the fact that Santa Claus was wearing a mask. 

We have been constantly figuring out new ways of living due to the pandemic for almost a year now.  As a society, I guess we are becoming adept enough at it to celebrate the festive season of the year despite danger of contagion.  After all, if Santa Claus is going to visit all the good little boys and girls all over the world, damn straight he better be wearing a mask.

It beats the Santa I saw in the mall the other day.  Instead of a mask, he was wearing a clear plastic face shield.  The thing was, it was fitted so close to his face that the curvature of the plastic and the reflection of the lights caused a lot of distortion.  It created an overall effect that was pretty disturbing.  I am certain that Santa terrified a lot of small children.  Sadly, children have become used to friendly faces partially concealed by masks.  I don’t think that any of us will ever get used to a Santa who looks like a malevolent alien. 

It isn’t just Santa.  I am going Christmas caroling tonight.  We will be singing through masks.  Rather than gathering cozily in doorways, we will be spreading out on front lawns like blow-up ornaments.  I am sure that many, many neighbors will be hearing us.  Even if they don’t want to. A friend was saying the other day that she always bakes Christmas cookies for her grandchildren, and this is the first year she has to mail them.  She is earnestly seeking packing solutions to ensure the cookies arrive as cookies and not as boxes of crumbs.  I guess, when you are in a pandemic, that is the way the cookie crumbles.  A cast member at Disney was telling me that she is shopping for her niece, who lives locally, but her sister insists that she mail the presents.  She must also send them at least a week early so her sister can quarantine them for a few days before putting them under the tree.  Even Kringle, my miniature elf on the shelf, has been more socially distant this year.  This morning, Max had to give me clues that narrowed down his position with the pinpoint accuracy of laser surgery before I could find him. 

People are more isolated this year.  Most folks will not be traveling or even seeing all the family and friends with whom they usually celebrate.  Some people who find comfort and joy in attending church services with others will be sitting at home in front of the television or computer, passing the virtual peace to their fellow congregants. 

I am tired of masks.  I am tired of distance.  I am tired of not hugging.  I am tired of having to rethink everything I do to try to safely retain some semblance of my humanity. The Christmas season sort of accentuates the issues.  On the other hand, it is also exciting and hopeful to see how far we have come.  Many of us are coming up with ways of continuing to live a normal life in a safe manner.  The COVID-19 numbers are not decreasing.  In fact, they are spiking significantly where I live. However, treatments seem to be improving and fewer people seem to be getting very sick.  We can see a suite of approved vaccines on the horizon, even though it may be several months before most of us can obtain one.   All of this is hopeful news, during a season when hope is a hallmark. So, we try to do our best to rejoice in what we have, look forward to a better future, and give thanks for all our blessings…. From a distance. 

It is also important to remember the true meaning of Christmas and that the future is not just tomorrow or next year.  For those of us who believe in God’s promises, we have an eternity of joy before us. I am pretty sure there will be no masks in heaven. The real hope in a Christmas season filled with masks and distances and touch prohibitions is that God is never socially distant.  The baby who was born in Bethlehem so many centuries ago reaches out to touch our hearts and souls every day.  It is okay to hug back!

christmas decoration on tree
Doesn’t the blue mask make his handsome eyes pop?

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are all doing well and enjoying the season, in whatever way brings you satisfaction, safety, and delight! What are you doing differently this year? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at www.terrilabonte.com.

Have a holly jolly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

A Turkey Of A Year

As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be a little hard to get our thankful on this year.  With a worldwide pandemic dogging us since the end of 2019, civil unrest, economic crisis, a hurricane season that appears to be never-ending, fires and other natural disasters scorching the earth, and all the accompanying tragedies, it might seem tempting to cut our losses and just forget about the holiday this year.  Giving thanks might take a little more grace than usual this Thanksgiving.

Undoubtedly, the holiday will be different for many people this year.  Many people will not be gathering with family face-to-face, as they usually do.  Many traditional venues for holiday celebrating may be closed or operating much differently.  Many families who have suffered financial hardships this year may be struggling to provide peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, much less turkey dinners with all the trimmings.  Many people have lost beloved family members and friends to the coronavirus.  Others have lost good health.  We have all lost a certain measure of stability and security about what our world looks like and how we should live in it. 

While it may seem more natural to question the dismal state of the world than to give thanks, it may be that living through a period of crisis actually increases our need to give thanks.  I do not suggest that the coronavirus or any of the deeply troubling events of the past year are good or necessary.  I do not believe that there is an intrinsic goodness in hardship.  I do not subscribe to a “Pollyanna” school of thought, believing that people who are suffering should just “try to see the bright side.” I believe that hardships, gut-wrenching grief, and brokenness are real.  It is disingenuous to suggest a person can just “positive” them away.  These difficulties occur for a variety of reasons in the natural world.  Sometimes, these painful events are the consequences of the actions of people.  Sometimes, they are normal experiences that are natural processes happening in the circle of life.  I do not think we will ever understand the reasons for all the hard times we must face.  I do believe, however, that God takes the hardships of our lives and brings some good from them.  Without these momentary flutters of divine grace in the midst of our pain, we might not be able to bear the most fractured moments of this life. 

I have seen some divine grace moments over the past months.  They are like fleeting twinkles of stars in a dark, gloomy sky.  This year has sometimes felt like we were each all alone in the dark.  Having even a momentary twinkle is enough to keep me hoping for morning. 

Here are some of my twinkles this Thanksgiving:

  • I am thankful for the creativity, innovation, and hard work many people exhibit to help us live more comfortably and communally in a world that closed up shop.
  • I am thankful that people have used the time of separation to touch base with others.  It may be that some of the people we have been nurturing during the quarantine may be people who are often lonely and sad, even before the virus threat.  It is counterintuitive, but it is possible that the coronavirus connected us more than it separated us.
  • I am thankful for the generosity of people to those who have suffered financially during this past year.
  • I am thankful that the need to stay home gave me the time to publish a new book.
  • I am thankful for the quiet and comfort of my home. 
  • I am thankful that I was able to clean out all my closets and drawers.
  • I am thankful that the treatment protocols for COVID-19 have improved and that vaccine progress is hopeful.
  • I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in faith who hold me close to their hearts and inspire me with their journeys.
  • I am thankful for the internet, Zoom, email, texting, Facebook, and other virtual communication methods.
  • I am thankful that I will have a Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is not exactly like previous years.
  • I am thankful that God gave me blessings to share with others.  I am so much more aware of how much fun it is and how happy it makes me to sow God’s grace. 
  • Most of all, I am thankful that I am a beloved child of God. I can rely on his all-consuming love to comfort me in the heartbreaks of this life and to lead me to eternal joy in His presence when I am finished with the work He has for me to do. 

It certainly may be that giving thanks will take a little more grace this year.  The good news is that God always has more grace to provide.  Anyone want a second helping?

I don’t know if you caught that I was thankful that I had the opportunity to publish a book this year. If television commercials are to be believed, it seems the entire month of November is “black Friday” this year. In that spirit, I respectfully suggest you go to Amazon.com and buy many copies of Random (A)Musings by Dorry Curran to give as holiday gifts!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Welcome To My Pity Party

I am well and truly sick of the coronavirus.  I have resisted succumbing for many months, but I now suffer from a severe case of covid fatigue.  A couple of days ago, I was feeling especially restless and frustrated.  I made the mistake of googling “will the coronavirus ever end?” If you are struggling to keep your head above the cooties, I do not recommend googling this question.  The articles that estimated the duration of the pandemic uniformly suggested that we will not hear the end of the virus until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.  In other words… ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR!!!

I have been depressed ever since I read this prediction.  I do not know if I can handle another year of this half-assed version of normal the world is simulating.

  • I am sick of breathing through a mask.
  • I am sick of muffled communication.  It is so difficult to hear people and to speak intelligibly through a mask, it often seems easier to just not talk at all.
  • I am sick of having bad hair days every day.  The mask is 2020’s version of a hat… once you put one on, you had better keep it on because removing a mask that has been plastered to your head leaves your hair flattened and bent at all kinds of unnatural and unflattering angles .
  • I am sick of events being cancelled… the butterfly release at my church, my trip to New York, the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom, the Royal Canin dog show spectator activities, and the list goes on.
  • I am sick of not hugging people.
  • I am sick of looking for logical consistency in circumstances that are not conducive to logical consistency.
  • I am sick of constantly having to rethink routines and old ways of accomplishing things.
  • I am sick of feeling like everyone I love is so far away from me.  I feel isolated from even those who are nearby.
  • I am sick of researching coronavirus statistics in search of definitive good news and trying to be satisfied with small, sporadic victories.

This is just a partial list of things I am sick of.  (Yes, I know that you should not end a sentence with a preposition, but I am too sick and tired to care!) Truthfully, the list is endless.  Just as I think I have reconciled myself to one kick in the gut, something I never even thought about rises to the surface of my reality.

I think I have always been a grateful person and I think that I still am, even in the midst of corona crazy.  I know how blessed I am in every way.  I know that God uses even the worst situation to build and create wonderful results, so I trust that this time of challenge will yield some positive outcomes. I have been stalwart in trying to keep people engaged and connected.  Every time a challenge has presented itself, I have endeavored to be part of the solution instead of just whining about the problem. 

Now, however, I seem to be a bit stuck in the slog.  I do not seem to be able to get myself out of it.  I desperately want a break from challenge, but I have not been able to find a place to really accomplish that.

I may have found an answer last Sunday at worship service.  As I listened to the readings, one particular passage, Philippians 4:7-9, punched me in the soul.  It says:

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

During the sermon, the rector talked about how difficult and antagonistic the world can be.  He suggested that there is no real place in which to take a break from challenge in this world.  However, in allowing my mind to focus on whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy rather than the anxieties and difficulties of the world, the God of peace will be with me.  I do not think God wants me to avoid challenges at this difficult time. I think His will for me is to meet those challenges with an approach that is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  In that way, I can give glory to His name, benefit His people, and grow my own relationship with Him.  I must not only remember all I have learned of God and focus on sacred excellence.  I must also put it into practice.

So, I am still sick and tired of the aspects of the world that are not pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  I do not understand the way the world is turning just now.  I do not understand why things cannot go back to normal.  I cannot understand why everything must be so hard.  However, Philippians 4:7-9 tells me that I do not need to understand because the peace of God is much more powerful than understanding.  Perhaps the answer to my “sick and tired of being sick and tired” tirade is to dump the anxiety and exhaustion of the world and let God carry it alone for a little bit while I focus on the pure and lovely!

What do you do when you get sick and tired of covid challenges?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative,  you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a pure and lovely day!

Terri/Dorry 😊