Pixie Dusted

Well, after months of deliberation, I did it. I got bippity-boppitied. I realize that sounds faintly salacious, but if you have been journeying with me, you’ll know that it is kind of the opposite of salacious.  If you haven’t been reading along, you might want to check out  http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/08/bippity-bop-or-not/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/09/bopworthy/.  

My pixie posse and I set off to the Grand Floridian Resort, ready for a glitterific adventure.  My friends were going to watch while I transformed into Tinker Bell right before their very eyes.  After my tinkifying, we planned to monorail our way over to the Magic Kingdom to visit the Princess of Pixie Hollow herself, then have a nice lunch.  When we pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Floridian, we knew we were in for a good day.  We encountered the Cinderella pumpkin wedding carriage, with its six white horses, carrying a beautiful Disney bride towards the wedding chapel. Sparkle alert, already!  How can that not be a great omen? 

When we entered the salon, I felt my blood pressure rise a bit.  I bleed sparkle and I think my circulatory system was leaping in joy from all the glitter in the atmosphere. My giddiness level increased.  I was excited from the top of my short, flat brunette hair to the white pom poms on my green fairy slippers.  For someone who struggled so long and hard about whether or not this bippity-boppetying was a good idea, I was all in. I’m not sure how I managed to sit still and not flitter fly all over the salon.   

Andrea was my own personal Purveyor of Pixie Dust.  She was sparkling so much, she didn’t need a magic wand to complete my makeover!  She made me feel special and magical and adorable every minute I was with her.  What is even more interesting is that she made me feel like she was having every bit as good a time as I was having.  I mean, I realize this is her job and she wasn’t making me a Tinker Bell twin for the sheer fun of it.  Still, she certainly acted like having me as a client absolutely made her day.  I think I am, by and large, a pretty pleasant person, but I can’t think that there is anything that special about me to inspire such delight.  Maybe we were all smoking the pixie dust!   

Andrea started with my hair.  I was concerned because my hair is pretty short and I couldn’t imagine a Tinker Bell makeover without the Tinker topknot.  Andrea brushed aside my worries.  All she needed was faith, trust, and pixie dust.  However, Andrea didn’t stop with the bun.  She had an idea that I could look like Tinker Bell, but with some special Terri pizzazz.  Using lots and lots of hairspray, she changed my hair to sculpting material.  I ended up with my topknot, but also with curls and tiny Tinker Bell bows all over my head. I can’t even explain all the interesting special effects Andrea crafted from my hair. I said I looked like a combination of Tinker Bell, Cindy Lou Who, and myself.  I know such an odd mutation is hard to picture (which is why I am including photos), but trust me when I say it was very effective and fetching.  It was exactly what I wanted, but didn’t know it.  The final step for my hair was a liberal dusting of glittering pixie dust.  For those of you who know the whole Tinker legend, you’ll understand that I was very pleased to see that the sparkle was BLUE pixie dust.  For those of you who don’t understand the implication, you can go watch the movie Tinker Bell and The Lost Treasure.  Let’s just say that, without blue pixie dust, the world would be a very different place!  Or at least my world would.   

After the hair came make-up.  Andrea turned me away from the mirror, so I could not see what was happening.  My pixie posse watched, fascinated, cell phone cameras in hand, as I squirmed in anticipation.  They cheered me on, but I wondered if they were just being nice.  I heard them cooing all kinds of amazed noises, but “amazed” can be good or bad.  People coming to the salon to ask questions, make appointments, or check in for their own treatments stared at me.  I kind of stopped conversation.  There was one lady at the counter who was so transfixed by what was happening on my face, the receptionist had to keep asking the same questions over and over again before she answered.   

There was one debate during the make-up process.  Should I have false eyelashes or not?  Before coming to the salon, I thought I would skip the eyelashes.  I thought they might be a bit over the top (yes, apparently I did think there was such a thing as “over the top” when having a Tinker Bell makeover) and, for some reason, they kind of read “villain” to me.  Andrea also seemed to be on the “no eyelash” side of the aisle, as she thought the lashes they had were pretty extreme.  However, my pixie posse believed that I might as well do the eyelashes.  One pixie partner said they would look good in the pictures.  Another reminded me that I probably wasn’t ever going to do this experience again so I should just go the full Monty, as it were. The girl staring at me at the reception desk was also on Team Eyelash.  She kept mouthing, “do the lashes” at me.  I finally succumbed to peer pressure and I am very glad I did.  Andrea found some mid-length lashes for me, which were plenty long enough, believe me.  In fact, when I put my glasses on much later in the day, the lashes were pushing them down my nose.   

I never knew I had such big eyes.  Andrea was able to fit at least four colors on my eyelids.  All of the colors sparkled, of course.  She picked from a huge palette of eye shadow colors, all of which were brighter than anything ever witnessed in nature.  Of course, the highlight of my lids was the sparkly Tinker green that might as well have my name on it from this day forward.   

When Andrea turned me around, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was amazed…. In the best possible way.   I have never, ever looked that good.  Yes, I looked like I belonged in Pixie Hollow.  Yes, I looked like I was Tink-inspired.  But I also looked like some version of me… a me completely liberated from expectations, care, and responsibility.  It was like I was channeling Tinker Bell, as well as looking like her.  Yet, I was still very clearly myself.   

When we went to visit the original Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom, she and I had a wonderful pixie meet-up.  I’ve been to see Tinker Bell many times in my life, but I believe we bonded in a new way on the day of my tinkification.  Part of me is still with her in Pixie Hollow.  My friends and I took pictures with Tink.  We enjoyed being childlike, living in the magic.   

I loved having this experience.  I loved having my friends with me.  I can’t imagine doing it without my pixie posse.  They encouraged me to immerse myself in the experience and celebrate. We celebrated together.   We celebrated our lives, our love of Disney, and friendship.  These are some wonderful things to celebrate.   

When I went home that night, my heart was still smiling.  When I removed the remnants of Tinker Bell, I was a little bit sad… but not too much.  Even without the make-up, I still had the pixie dust… on my scalp, on the floor of my bathroom, and, most importantly… in my spirit! 

Thanks to Andrea, my pixie duster, for Tinkifying me in a way I never expected.  Thanks to my wonderful pixie posse partners, Nancy and Kathy, for being my fairy godmothers.

Pre-tinkification

Tinkification in process!

Those eyelashes

!

Andrea, the Purveyor of Pixie Dust

The finished product- my Pixie Sister and me!

The pixie posse!

So what do you think of the new me? Do I look like I belong in Pixie Hollow?  Should I just grow up?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative,  you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a glitterific day!

Terri/Dorry

 

Changing Leaves

It is not a coincidence that fall foliage is the same color as the sunset.   

I learned something about the changing leaves during my recent trip to New England.  Autumn leaves are simply breath-taking.  We describe them ubiquitously as “vibrant.”  Merriam-Webster’s first definition of “vibrant” is “pulsating with life.” Despite that perception of vitality, the changing leaves are more about death than life.  The process by which leaves change colors is not as much about creating something as it is about destroying something.  Time’s weathering strips the tree of the chlorophyll that allows the life-giving green color to flow into the leaves. It is scarring that robs these trees of green… of life. The colors we see during the autumn are the “real” colors of the trees.   The fall leaves are the essence of the tree, all that is left visible and beautiful in the aging process.   

Before my mother’s illness and death, I never used to think much about my own mortality, nor, by extension, my own aging.  I never felt terms like “old” or “elderly’ or “senior citizen” applied to me.  Even when I retired, which is probably our cultural definition of “aging,” I never felt myself to be “aged.”  I saw my retirement as simply compensation for fulfilling a contract. I knew that there was an age qualifier on that contract.  I simply chose to concentrate on the fulfillment of 30+ years of hard work that I promised to complete for the government as opposed to the number of years in my age.   

After my mother died, I think that changed.  Suddenly, the idea that I will die within the foreseeable future came sharply into focus for me.  I began to lose interest in dreams because it seemed like nothing really mattered- I was going to die anyway.  My gut turned over and threatened to escape whenever I contemplated life events and opportunities that I will likely never get to experience or experience again.  I will never be a parent.  I will never get to live in an environment, like New England, completely different from anything I have ever known.  I will likely never see some of the places I have visualized going.  When I start thinking about major purchases, like cars and computers, and vacation trips, it disturbs me greatly that I can see the “lasts” in my future.  I am getting nauseous just writing this.  It feels really terrifying.   

I am only 59. I am sure some of you are wondering what right I have to be so morbid at such a comparatively young age.  I don’t know, but my mother’s death seems to have been the catalyst that reminded me that my life, like every other life, is limited. I still feel some futility and impossibility when I look at the future. 

I think this is the scarring talking.  I am a Christian.  I believe this life is fleeting for all of us, regardless of our age.  I believe that the life to come will be eternal and eternally joyful.  There should be no terror in contemplating that future.  Still, it saddens me to think of what I will be missing.  When I was younger, it always seemed like there was plenty of time to start again.  There was plenty of time to pursue my dreams.  There was plenty of time to travel the world.  There was plenty of time for new experiences.  It saddens me that I now see that there is not plenty of time.  As the song from The Lion King says, “There is more to see than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done.”  

I am pretty happy with the priorities I have set in my life.  I’ve had wonderful experiences and beautiful relationships.  I always have joy somewhere in my heart. The problem now is learning to accept that I won’t have everything and to believe once more that whatever life I have left is valuable and meaningful and rampant with possibilities…. even though that life is going to come to an end.   

Just as the trees are losing their green, I am losing my youth in this autumn of my life.  Still, autumn is pretty wonderful.  The mosaic of reds and oranges and golds and browns is certainly more interesting and more eye-catching than the landscape of green.  My own landscape is more colorful, more interesting, and warmer than it was in my youth.  I don’t have to concentrate on the fact that my snapshot of the world is fading.  I can concentrate on the beauty that snapshot captures. My activities and dreams are not moot because the chlorophyll is dimming.  They are still precious and wonderful because they are made up of the stripped-down, primal essence of the beauty that is me.   

I’m trying hard to avoid dismissing the joy of my life because the day will come when that joy will cease to exist. First of all, I may not know what joy will look like in God’s kingdom, but I know it will be there. Secondly, I think we were meant to experience our lives fully, not ration some happiness “for later.” Thirdly, gifts are gifts, no matter when they arrive in our lives.  An awareness that those gifts are finite can increase our appreciation and enjoyment of them.  Also, the timing of those gifts can make them even more precious to us.  After all, we do not mourn the loss of the green when we gain the beauty of the fall foliage.   

Yes, the colors of the autumn foliage are the same colors as the sunset.  They do represent a loss. However, they are also brilliant and joyful and lovely.  They beckon me to immerse myself in life and create joy.  Fall is a time when I can experience some things I can experience in no other time of the year… or of my life.  

You know, the colors of the autumn foliage are the same colors as the sunrise, too.  And that is not a coincidence either.

How do you think about death?  Have you experienced any losses that have also helped you gain a richer perspective about life?  Are you living a sunset or a sunrise? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a colorful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

 

 

 

Trick Or Treat

I went trick-or-treating.  Yes, I am 59 years old.  Yes, I thought it was appropriate.

Some friends and I went to Disney World to participate in Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.  This is an extra admission (of course, because why wouldn’t we pay another 75 bucks for the privilege of spending a few hours at a park to which we have already laid out hundreds of dollars to buy annual passes?) event that celebrates the holiday most people observe on October 31.  Disney celebrates that holiday on numerous select evenings in the Fall… starting in August.  In Florida

Let’s just be clear.  There is nothing like a crisp autumn evening creeping into a spooky, chilly night when the sun goes down early and the harvest moon spreads an icy hand over the earth.  And this was nothing like it.  We went in mid-September. The sun didn’t go down until nigh on eight o’clock.  “Crisp” doesn’t really exist in Central Florida.  In September, the weather is more accurately described as “limp.”  There is enough humidity in the air to drown a goldfish.  Disney has to pipe pumpkin fragrance into the crowded streets because real pumpkins would rot on contact with the atmosphere.

When a friend called to ask if I wanted to go to the event, I hesitated.  I’m not much of a night owl.  I rarely go out after dark.  My bedtime, forged by years of rising at zero dark yesterday for work, is ridiculously early.  I don’t get up super early anymore, but I also don’t seem to go to bed any later than I did when I was working.  I just don’t seem to have any endurance for more than twelve hours or so of activity each day.  I also don’t like driving late at night.  When my friend said she would drive, I decided my stick was stuck way too firmly in the mud for my own good and I agreed to go.

I’m kind of glad I did not look the event up on the internet until after I committed to attending. When I did look at the website, I noticed that the party went from 7:00pm until midnight.  For a “not so scary Halloween party,” that seemed pretty scary to me. If I had known the witching hour for the party actually was midnight, I might not have gone.

I am a grown woman.  It really shouldn’t be a problem to stay up past the end of prime time.  Since I had committed to go, I tried to let the whole “I can’t stay up too late” thing go and just chillax.  I didn’t quite succeed.  About a week before, I broke down and texted my friends to see how late they intended to stay.  I was relieved when they shared that they planned to stay until after the fireworks, which I figured would be over by about 10:30.  That would mean getting home around midnight, which is still later than I’ve stayed out in years.  However, somehow leaving at 10:30 seemed MUCH more doable than staying until midnight and I was able to manage my irrational anxiety about actually seeing the moon in the sky.

The evening of the party was…. SURPRISE… hot. And humid.  I was wearing a black polyester t-shirt with orange witch-hat-wearing Mickey Mouse heads all over it.  Given the weather, I fully expected that the pattern would infuse my skin and I would have Halloween Mickey Mouse heads more or less permanently tattooed on my body when I peeled the shirt off at the end of the night.  The park was also pretty crowded.  I thought that the idea of paying the extra event admission was, at least in part, to minimize crowds.  I thought wrong.  The other thing I noticed throughout the evening was that there were a lot of people in those crowds who weren’t behaving very nicely.   I go to Disney fairly often, so it isn’t like I have no experience with theme park manners meltdowns.  I have to say, though, that I have never heard so many impatient, rude remarks as I did that evening.  I think a lot of people had been park-haunting in the heat all day before the party even began and desperately needed a nap, preferably one in an air-conditioned room.

The trick-or-treating portion of the evening was pretty fun.  There were candy stations all over the park.  I have heard tell of people collecting enough candy in a single evening to stock a small store.  I’ve seen pictures on line showing serious hauls of five pounds of candy per trick-or-treater.  My friends and I can go to Walmart and buy candy, so we were not that interested in schlepping around the sweet equivalent of a five-pound free weight the entire evening.  We just visited the first candy station.  We were pleasantly surprised to find out that our treat package of candy was…, CHOCOLATE!  It was even more impressive that the chocolate remained formed into bars and had not melted into chocolate goo.  I had figured that hard candy and jolly ranchers would be the order of the evening, as I just didn’t see chocolate holding up to the weather.  Go figure.  Must have been a little pixie dust magic!

The lines for rides and character meet-and-greets were not shorter than regular Disney waits.  In fact, I’d say they were longer.  We went on the Haunted Mansion because, well, we were celebrating Halloween… and there was some pretty cool entertainment outside in front of it.  We also went on Pirates of the Caribbean, which was a fantastic surprise because Disney had changed some of the ride details and had incorporated some live pirates into the mix.  We tried to watch the show and the parade and the fireworks and we saw a little bit of all three events.  The crowds were so large, it wasn’t really possible to really see anything.  I fancy it was a bit like being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  You aren’t going to really see anything more than a few inches away from you, but you still have an exciting, electrifying experience.

In fact, the entire evening was sort of like that.  We had a really fun time, but not because of any particular entertainment.  It wasn’t about the rides or the shows or any of the normal Disney daily delectables.   The event is called “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” and the emphasis is on the party.  There was music and people and energy.  It isn’t so much an evening at the Magic Kingdom as it is a happening.  The most fun was watching the people in costumes, getting carried away by the mood, and enjoying the fine art of play.  And doing it all with friends.

So, thanks to my friends Babs and Kathy for pushing me out of my comfort zone and into the shadows for a not so scary evening!

Have a boo-tiful Halloween!

What do you have planned for Halloween?  Is your celebration different now than in an earlier time in your life?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Terri/Dorry 😊

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

The Power Of Passion

This week, I am going to write about passion.

Calm down. I’m not talking about that kind of passion.

I’m talking about the passion that fires the engine of positive change. I’m talking about the kind of passion that motivates people to reimagine and push beyond the societal boundaries that no longer serve the society. I am talking about the Robert F. Kennedy kind of passion that doesn’t look at the world as it is and ask why but imagines the world as it could be and asks why not.

It was my book club that recently started me thinking about this kind of passion. Two of our books in the last cycle were stories of real life women whose passion forced dramatic and painful metamorphosis. The changes were ultimately creative and necessary, but the passionate lives that inspired those changes could certainly have been seen as destructive and dangerous in their time. The books were Desert Queen by Janet Wallach and Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.

Desert Queen told the story of Gertrude Bell. Bell grew into adulthood in the first part of the twentieth century. Despite the suspicion with which polite English society viewed education and independence in women at the time, Bell fought for an education. She spent her adult life collecting new experiences. She became a renowned archeologist and prominent field researcher in the Middle East. She was instrumental in trying to forge and maintain a delicate balance of power and competing interests in that volatile region after the first World War. Historians sometimes refer to her as the female Lawrence of Arabia.

Testament of Youth is Vera Brittain’s memoir of her education, experience as a field nurse in World War I, and, ultimately, her crusade for pacifism. It chronicles her romance with the young man she loved and admired more than anything else in the world. He left a life of study, achievement, and potential to become soldier. Like many young men of the WWI generation, he died before he had a chance to build a life.

While the two books focused on two different themes (the development of the Middle East in the case of Gertrude Bell and the achievement of lasting world peace for Vera Brittain), both books demonstrated the passion with which the respective women pursued their causes. They lived and worked in roughly the same time period. It was a time period during which the world granted little respect for women who lived with the type of passion that is a combustible fuel for change. Both had to snarl and claw and outwit their way to their achievements. Both had lasting impact in the development of women’s rights. In some ways, the books are less about the Middle East and pacifism than they are about the power of independent, intelligent, strong women…  and the richness and wonder the world deliberately refused for centuries in resisting the contribution of such women.

Despite my admiration for both Bell and Brittain, I have to say that I didn’t particularly “like” either book. I found myself feeling distinctly uncomfortable while reading the books. It took some reflection to figure out that it wasn’t the books I disliked,  but the characters.

That’s right. I didn’t like Gertrude Bell and Vera Brittain. While I respected their accomplishments and admired their strength of character, I just didn’t like them. They came across as strong to the point of being strident, confident to the point of being arrogant, brave to the point of being foolhardy, and single-minded about their beliefs to the point of exclusion of all else… including personal relationships. I am happy that they helped create the world I enjoy today.  I just didn’t find them all that appealing to be around, even in the pages of a book.

The stories of Gertrude Bell and Vera Brittain caused me to wonder if it is possible to be an agent of positive change with a gentler, defter, less corrosive… maybe less passionate… touch. Maybe the answer is no, especially for a woman and especially for a woman of their time. Maybe the only way to get the status quo’s attention is to bash instead of tap.

I’ve wondered about this before. I think about some of the women I’ve known whose achievements I admire. The women that I see as remarkable in what they have accomplished are filled with passion. Honestly, I usually don’t find them all that pleasant to be around. I wouldn’t say that they believe the ends justify the means, but I do think they are okay with some collateral damage in pursuit of what they believe is the common good. They are able to accomplish great things, but people tend to get hurt by the shrapnel. They do value the people around them (or, frankly, they wouldn’t have those people around them), but believe that everyone has the same burning passion towards the goal and forgives any incidental relationship damage. I think they almost believe that the relationships are stronger because of the drama they undergo in the pursuit of the goal.

Part of passion is swinging wildly on the branches of unimaginable highs and crashing to the depths of unbelievable lows. Me, I like being part of the pursuit and working with others to achieve a goal…. but, at a certain point, I like to return home from the jungle.

That may be the nib of it. People are just different for a reason. Even back in the middle ages, physicians believed people were governed by their different “humors.” They believed that a person’s health and disposition were comprised of blood (sanguine), yellow bile (choleric), black bile (melancholic), and phlegm (phlegmatic, of course). They assigned an element to each of these humors. The choleric humor was fire. People with an overabundance of the choleric yellow bile were thought to be filled with fire, heat, and aggressiveness. The phlegmatic humor element was water. People with an overabundance of the phlegmatic humor were thought to be cold and staid and predictable. Maybe the passionate change agents of the world, filled with fire and bile, do have to have a certain edge and single-mindedness that phlegmatics like me lack.

On the other hand, one of my personal heroines is St. Therese of Lisieux. I think anyone would say that St. Therese was passionate about her faith. She said that she could not do great things but could do small things with great love. Perhaps she did not do great things in her lifetime. However, in the centuries since, her life has touched the hearts and changed the souls of millions.

Perhaps there are different paths to passion and perhaps that is why we are all different. Our world needs all of our passion- no matter what that passion looks like- to focus on creating something wonderful. We can all contribute to that “something wonderful” in whatever way God leads us. In my case, I think that He has made me phlegmatically passionate!

What do you think? Who are your personal heroines and what does passion look like in their lives? How has passion motivated you to be the person you are? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a passionate day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Twenty-Two-And-A-Half Winks

I have a friend who routinely sleeps her way through flights from Honolulu to Washington DC.  I am in awe of her.

It isn’t that I get nervous flying or anything like that.  It is just that I’ve always been a terrible sleeper.  For as long as I can remember, sleep was hard work.  For something that is supposed to be an automatic physiological process, it certainly alludes me. Even when I was a little girl, I couldn’t just close my eyes and sail sleepily off to the Land of Nod. My mother used to dose me with Tylenol the night before the first day of school on a regular basis.  I am not aware that Tylenol has any anti-anxiety or sleep-inducing properties, but she swore by it.  I never had the heart to tell her that it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.   

What my mother did get right, though, was her intuition that I had trouble sleeping because my brain just wouldn’t shut off.  My mind often manufactured strange sights and sounds emanating from my closet.  I reran the activities, anxieties, and mistakes of the day until the soundtrack screamed inside my head.  Even when I did sleep, my brain tended to stay half alert.  That half alert portion of my mind would entertain itself by telling itself stories… usually not very pleasant stories.  Hence, it was common for me to wake from any slumber I did get, completely convinced that the dreams I had been dreaming were real.  As a child, I sometimes had night terrors. I would awake screaming and crying hysterically without knowing why.  Once in a while, I would even sleep walk.  Even when I grew up, I would sometimes wake to find myself curled up on the floor with no memory of how I got there.   

Understandably, the night terrors started training me to not sleep.  I would be awake all night with some regularity. As anyone with even occasional insomnia knows, the worst possible thing you can do is to lie there in the dark thinking.  I knew that instinctively, even as a child.  I tried counting sheep like in the cartoons, but those sheep always seemed to live more interesting lives than I did.  My imaginary sheep, instead of just leaping the imaginary fence as I counted them, would talk and wander off on adventures.  I tried praying, but this would often end up with me thinking a great deal more than was conducive to sleep.   I tried reading with a flashlight under the covers until my parents confiscated the flashlight.   

Neither of my parents ever had a difficult time with sleep, so they were a bit perplexed when I tried to explain what I experienced.  My mother employed two strategies when she found me awake at some inappropriate hour.  First, she would simply tell me to “stop thinking and go to sleep.”  When that didn’t work, she would haul out the Tylenol.  At least dosing me with acetaminophen made my mother feel better, even if it didn’t get me any more shut-eye.  

As an adult, my sleep never really improved.  I came to accept that there were no monsters in my closet, but the real-life monsters in my head were still there.  In times of particular stress, I stopped sleeping completely.  I remember once, after my ex-husband left me, I didn’t sleep for five nights in a row.  After some persuasion, I allowed my doctor to prescribe some sleeping medication.  I then accused her of giving me placebos because the sleeping pills didn’t seem to help.  Sleep deprivation does tend to make one a bit irrational. She swore up and down that the medication was real, but I still am not sure I believe her.   

I did eventually start sleeping again, of course.  The overall problem continued, however.  When an interaction with a customer did not go well at work, I could pretty much count on spending the night trying to retool the conversation instead of sleeping.  There were lots of times when a simple phone message from a difficult person was enough to bar the door to Zzzzville for me.  When my mother was ill, it was rare that I ever slept more than 3 or 4 hours a night.  I tried all the home remedies.  I tried to go to bed and get up at the same time each night. I tried turning my clock around so I couldn’t see the time.  I tried relaxation exercises.  I tried getting up and doing something calming for awhile when I did not fall asleep after twenty minutes or so.  Given that criteria, I was up doing “something calming” for most of the night.  I took over-the-counter sleeping pills.  What I didn’t do was put my phone in another room so it wouldn’t have been as easy for me to maniacally google every thought that came to my mind, in a vain attempt to find the answers to unanswerable problems.  Again, sleep deprivation does tend to make one a bit irrational. 

Since my mother’s death, my sleep and lack thereof has pretty much returned to my “normal.” Towards the end of my mom’s illness, my doctor prescribed a new kind of sleep medication.   Its formula is designed specifically to shut down the “awakeness” of the brain.  It is wildly expensive.  Also, the pharmacist acted like I was asking him for heroin when he filled the prescription.  I took the hint and only take it when I have gone several nights in a row with no sleep.  It helps a lot. I am also finding that my recent journey of self-happiness is helping.  As my brain gets more practice at living in the moment and saying “yes” to things I want to try even if they are outside my comfort zone, I seem to be able to say “yes” to sleep a little better. 

I will probably never be a talented sleeper.  When most people get their forty winks, I only get twenty-two-and-a-half.  But I’m trying not to let that fact keep me up at night!

What helps you sleep?  What techniques can you share that may help me increase my wink production?  Did you notice a change in your sleeping patterns when you retired? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@@gmail.com.  

Have a restful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

And Now… A Word From Our Sponsor

I’ve wandered off the grid this week, so there won’t be any new Terri Tales today. I know you are disappointed, but I’m sure you can withstand the loss. I have faith in you.

To help you cope with a week without me, I wanted to leave you with a little public service announcement to ponder while I am gone.

I’m sure most of you know by now that I have written a book based on this blog. The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I’ve published it under my “real” name, Dorry Curran. The book has been out for about six months now and has been well reviewed by those who have read it. For those of you who have not read it, why haven’t you?

I’d like to help remedy that sad state of affairs by reminding you how to purchase the book. I’d also like to suggest that the book (besides being entertaining, helpful, and thought-provoking) is pretty darn nifty-looking. You probably don’t want to hear this, but we are entering the Christmas shopping season. Also, many people retire at the end of the year and it is sometimes hard to think of a retirement present on top of all those Christmas presents you have to select. Changing My Mind is a suitable gift for every occasion.

You can order as many copies of the book as you like by visiting my direct-to-reader page at: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 If you use the promo code terri, you will get a 15% discount on paperback copies. You can also get the book in electronic form, compatible with either Kindle or Nook.

If you prefer, you can also get the book at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com in both paperback and electronic formats. The discount code will not apply to those order sites, however.

So, please consider buying a copy or several copies of Changing My Mind. If you enjoy the blog, I know you will enjoy the book. Remember…. I have faith in you!

So, for those of you who have read the book, what can you say about it that might help someone else decide whether or not to buy a copy? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. Sending me an email might not really have the desired effect of tempting others to buy the book. Still, if you aren’t comfortable leaving a comment and would still like to say something about the book, I’m happy to get your feedback by email.

Change Your Mind today!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

September 30th

I had an aunt who was born on New Year’s Day. One day, my mother and I were talking about her birthday and my mother commented that she thought it was sad that my aunt’s birthday always got a bit lost in all the holiday hoopla.  I replied that I thought it would be neat to be a New Year’s baby.  My mother looked at me strangely and said, “You kind of were.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.

“Do the math,” she replied.

I was born on September 30, 1959.  Apparently, my conception was the result of my parents’ private party to ring in the new year.  Knowing this seems like too much information.

My birthday is pretty special to me.  It is the one day of the year that I give myself license to let things be all about me.  For people who see birthdays as a reminder that they are aging, I can see how it can be tempting to forget the whole thing.  I psyche myself out of the birthday/aging correlation by scrambling my thinking.  I’m celebrating my 30th anniversary of turning 29 this year. Anyway, I don’t really think birthdays are about marking the number of years in my life.  They are about celebrating the unique (all right, weird) conglomeration of attributes, accomplishments, and activities that makes up the wonder that is me.  After all, when we celebrate George Washington’s birthday, we aren’t celebrating how old he is.  We are celebrating his existence and contribution.  I may not be the founder of a nation, but I am the founder of my life.  I’m pretty proud of that life.

Last year, my birthday was marked by disorientation and distraction.  Coming a few short weeks after my mother’s death, I was still oversaturated with emotion.  I was just starting to learn to live in a new world without my mother.  I had not really even begun to craft a life that did not include being with her, caring for her, and being mothered by her.  I was definitely living gingerly on the fringes of a life, trying to avoid the cracks in the landscape that fractured my old existence during her long illness.  I had not begun to repair those cracks.  I had not yet patched over the cracks so I could transverse them in the journey of my own life.  I was just trying to stay away from the edges so I did not fall into them.

For the first time in my life, I dreaded my birthday last year.  I was sure it was going to be a difficult reminder of the other person who was around when I was born 58 years earlier.  Instead, it turned out to be a pretty good day.  Max made it his mission to indulge me.  Even though he always does what he can to make me happy, he made a concerted effort to kick it up a notch on my first birthday after my mother died.  He took me to Disney Springs.  We shopped and walked and enjoyed a beautiful day.  As we wandered around, a beautiful pair of earrings caught my eye in a store window. Max bought them for me, as a spontaneous birthday surprise.  “Spontaneous” and “surprise” are not words that typically describe Max, but he was trying everything he could think of to delight me.  We had dinner at one of the restaurants specializing in comfort food.  We didn’t forget my mother, certainly, but I have to say that the plan for the day was to distract myself from my grief.  The plan was pretty successful, all in all.

My strategy of distraction didn’t end with my birthday.  For months after my mother’s death, I seemed to be engaging in an endless stream of activity.  I joined clubs, volunteered, published a book, began seeing friends regularly, and kept myself busy, busy, busy.  Part of my busy-ness stemmed from a genuine desire to expand my life, but I’m sure that a lot of my motivation came from my need to fill the space in my heart that my mother left when she passed.  It wasn’t necessarily intentional, but I know I was trying to not feel the ugly disorder of my grief.

My super-sized activity schedule was not necessarily satisfying at first.  I was happy to fill my time with something other than sadness, but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the activities.  I went through the motions and ticked off the time without grief.  I felt pretty triumphant that I kept functioning and wasn’t falling apart.  Some of the new endeavors felt successful and others did not.  I purposely tried not to make any commitments beyond a few weeks because I felt so alien to everything I was doing and nothing felt momentum-producing.  Everything was just something to do to occupy my brain for the moment.

At some point in the months that followed, I noticed that all the activities began to feel more cohesive.  They were starting to feel like a part of my life, rather than some life I was just visiting to escape from reality.  At some point, activity matured into meaning.  I had built a bigger life without even realizing I was doing it. I was still sad, of course, but I could allow myself to feel sad without worrying that I was going to sink into a dark place from which I would not be able to recover.  I felt less bereft of a mother and much more aware that I still had a mother living in me and encouraging me from Heaven to grow towards my joy.

I don’t know how it happened.  I can’t describe the process or technique of learning to live with grief and joy simultaneously.  I am pretty certain I have not yet mastered the skill completely, but I know that I feel calmer and more peaceful. My busyness did turn out to be an instrument of healing, although I was not the one using the instrument.  God used my distraction to lead me to where I needed to be. It seems that the distractions I employed to deal with my disorientation primed some part of my personal mechanics to ignite my brain, open my heart, and send my soul searching for a more sumptuous sense of spirituality.  All that disconnection and hollowness in my busyness of last year has ripened into a richer, fuller, life.

If my birthday last year was marked by distraction, I think the watchword this year is engagement.  I’m reveling in all the new activities and situations I’ve experienced over the past year.  I’m celebrating the journey of life instead of being afraid of it.  I’m also doing something I’ve always wanted to do for my birthday this year.  Max and I are going on a bus tour to New England.  I’ve always wanted to go see that part of the country and peep at the autumn leaves.

So I think I’ve turned a corner in my grief.  Well, maybe not anything as sharp and definitive as a corner…. But I have definitely made a “slight right turn,” as the GPS calls it when you are approaching a gentle fork in the road and need to veer one way or another.  I do believe I am veering right.  And I think my mother is happy about it.

What will you be celebrating on your next birthday?  What life achievements, personal progress, or happy events will you remember with joy?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

She Who Sings Prays Twice

Music and I have always been trapped in an abusive relationship. The thing is, I never know which of us is the abuser and which is the victim.

I used to say my singing prowess, or lack thereof, was God’s joke. I love to sing, but am not very good at it. In fact, it is fair to say that I am bad at it. The last time I can remember singing in public (before going Christmas caroling in the community last year) was when I was about seven. The choir director at church was putting together a children’s choir to entertain at the annual St. Joseph’s Day Table festivities. The presentation included making hand motions to accompany our rousing rendition of “Do, Re, Mi.” I wasn’t particularly good at the actual singing part, but I could wiggle my fingers on the sides of my head to make “doe, a deer” ears with great gusto.

A few years later, upon entering the fourth grade, I wanted to join the elementary school glee club. They wouldn’t take me. Let that sink in for a moment. I failed the audition for the public elementary school glee club. I mean, it wasn’t like I was trying out for American Idol or anything. All I wanted was to sing with the other, adequately voiced, 9-11-olds in the Jonas E. Salk Elementary School choir. How bad must I have been? And don’t you think that it was kind of cruel to reject such an enthusiastic child? The experience scarred me for life. I am always secretly wanting to sing, but I’m fearful that the sound of my voice will cause permanent trauma, or at least permanent hearing damage, to anyone who can hear me.

I’ve been tempted to join church choirs a few times in the past. St. Augustine is attributed with saying that “he who sings prays twice” and I think that is true. Singing adds another dimension to prayer for me. I don’t know whether it is because more of my body is engaged when I am singing rather than when I am simply speaking. I do know that my mind and heart and soul are usually more engaged. I seem to focus more on the experience of praying when I sing.

I enjoy singing at church. After years of repetition, I was familiar enough with most of the regular hymns I heard in the Catholic church to follow the melody without drawing pained looks from my neighbors. Sometimes, I’ll visit my current church on a weekday. There is a sign on the door that says, “Come in, rest, and pray.” That’s exactly what I do. I pray and, alone where I cannot endanger anyone’s ears, I sing. God never seems to mind.

In keeping with my resolve to try things I always wanted to do, I finally decided to try singing with the choir at my new church. During the choir’s “off season” in the summer, an informal group of folks would meet with the choir director right before the service to learn a song to sing during the liturgy. I enjoyed that. The problem, if there was one, was that everyone was too nice. I may not be able to sing very well, but I can hear and I know I was bad. I was fine as long as the melody was familiar and I could follow along with the tune. When it came to harmonizing, I reverted to that fourth grader who couldn’t make the glee club. I could not follow either the soprano or alto part consistently. I tended to wander all over the staff, hitting whichever notes my voice tripped over. I didn’t sing melody. I didn’t sing harmony. I sung cacophony. Still, the choir members were all way too nice to allow my lack of singing talent get in the way of my joining the choir. They were so warm and welcoming and encouraging, I decided to give it a try.

I loved the people in the choir and I loved the culture of the choir. It did feel very prayerful. I am sure we were “praying twice.” On the other hand, I was still not good. After a few practices, I was slightly better, but still bad. Basically, I advanced from very bad to just bad. Every time I mentioned it, the choir director and other members told me I was getting better and I was doing fine and I was loved and wanted. It made it kind of hard to disentangle myself from the choir. There is a lot of incentive in acceptance.

On the other hand, I realized that I would not be able to attend Sunday school if I continued with the choir. Our rector leads a Sunday school session between the two services every week and I’ve been attending fairly regularly. I get a lot out of that class and I think I contribute something to it, as well. I feel like God is calling me more to participate in the Sunday school class rather than the choir, so I am going to part ways with the choir for now.

In reality, the gifts God gave me are truly more suited to participating in Sunday school discussions. I’ve always loved discussing spiritual ideas. I think I can use the perspectives we explore in the class to help me with my blog posts and with church programs I might present. I read once that the best ministry is that activity where the thing that brings a person joy intersects with the needs of the people of God. I enjoy the singing, but I don’t think it brings me the kind of joy that drives the passion of ministry. As for intersecting with the needs of the people of God…. well, nobody needs to hear me sing!

One of the roles of a church choir is to lead the musical worship of the congregation. Leaders need followers. I can be a follower. Followers also pray twice!

One of the best things about retirement is having the time and energy to explore new activities.  What new pursuits did you embrace (or want to embrace) in retirement?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a pleasantly busy day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Bopworthy

As I agonize over whether or not I should do the “character couture” experience at Disney World, my friends have been egging me on. As I mentioned in my prior post, “Bippity Bop or Not”, they are downright giddy over having a designated dufus to play dress-up at our happy place. They are looking forward to seeing a real-life pixie duster magically transform me into Tinker Bell before their very eyes. If I do it, I will provide them with all the entertainment of the experience without the strange looks from the passersby on Main Street, USA.

In an effort to push me over the top and persuade me to commit to the activity, a friend sent me a video published by an internationally-known sophisticated magazine that is named after a cocktail (I’m looking at you, Helen Gurley Brown.) The video described the “Bippity Boppity Boutique for adults” available at some Disney World resort salons. The video showed several “everyday” (if you live in The Valley Of The Dolls) twenty-somethings morphing into princesses at a highly improbable rate of speed.

I responded to my friend that it did look life fun, but asked if she noticed that none of the adult princesses-in-the-making appeared to need their gray roots touched up as part of the makeover. I knew I was getting perilously close to cresting the summit of my indecision and was about to succumb to the magic of the pixie dust. I told my friend that, to push myself over the top of the mountain of my angst, I needed reassurance that I haven’t completely lost touch with reality. Clearly, I don’t mind living in Fantasyland, but I like to at least keep one foot in the real world.

My friend responded by pointing out that one almost never sees a 3X-sized model. I agreed and also pointed out that the magazine in question is especially keen to showcase the beautiful people of the world. I pointed out that the Cocktail Magazine target audience probably thinks every woman self-destructs on her thirty-fifth birthday, if she has the bad manners to live that long. There are some exceptions, of course. Jennifer Aniston and Hallie Berry probably get a pass. Then there is Meryl Streep. She might be granted a 35-and-older dispensation. After all, everyone wants to be her…. granddaughter.

My friend is right that far too few businesses use people remotely resembling an average person to display their wares. Most models need the XS size altered to prevent the garment from slipping off their hipbones. I am always excited and impressed when I see a company, like television shopping channel QVC, use models of all shapes, sizes, and ages. It is an interesting turn of events to be able to visualize what an article of clothing might look like on MY body, not the body of a woman in dire need of a cheeseburger. It is also incredibly heartening to see these multi-dimensional models portrayed as beautiful, desirable, and successful. The shorter…older… plumper… whatever… models seem to be comfortable and happy. They don’t apologize for breathing air or occupying space. They don’t try to hide themselves, hoping nobody notices them. They engage boldly with the world. Their lives seem more than, not less than. They are excellent models.

My friend asserted that everyone is in Fantasyland in their heads and everyone wants to look like a model. She is probably right, but I hope we are beginning to create a culture where the word “model” has a broader (pun intended) connotation than it has traditionally held. The truth is, we are all beautiful. We become even more beautiful when we live in the world believing that we are all beautiful and worthy of creating something wonderful in our lives.

So, despite my age and despite my pudge and despite my short stature, I think I am Bopworthy. It doesn’t even have to be Fantasyland.

I just scheduled my date to be pixie dusted. I’ll let you know how I make out!

What attributes do you think a good “model” should have?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a model day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Good Grief

It has now been a year since my mother died. I’ve tried to be healthy in my mourning.  I’ve seen a bereavement counselor a few times.  I’ve tried to focus on the wonderful gift that my mother was. In general, I’ve done very well.  I’ve been sad, but functional.  I’ve been mournful, but also hopeful.  I feel that I honor and celebrate my mother every day by the way I live my life.  Still, there is a facet of my grief has been stubborn and uncooperative.  It holds on relentlessly.  On the other hand, the grief isn’t nearly as sharp or as devastating as I thought it would be.

During the months of my mother’s illness, part of my daily terror had to do with how I could possibly withstand the shattering blow that I would doubtlessly experience when she died.  I was so sad and in so much pain while she was still alive, I couldn’t see how I would be able to handle her death.  I read the hospice information about anticipatory grief.  I think I might have been the poster child for the condition.  The research said that many people traveling with a loved one during a long illness do experience the grief of loss long before the final ending.  They may experience the exact same grief cycle as most people do when a loved one actually dies.  I absolutely understood that and I knew I was experiencing it.  The bitch of the matter, though, is that experiencing anticipatory grief in no way guarantees that the mourner will be any less shattered when the death does occur. I dreaded and resented having to experience the rawness of grief in duplicate.

When it finally happened, I found that my grief, though profound and prominent, did not feel as raw and septic as I feared it would. I think there are many reasons for that.

At first, I thought the reason that my mom’s death did not devastate me more was because of the long road we traveled together during her illness.  I started grieving long before she left me alone in this world.  After her stroke, her decline was so treacherous and unforgiving, I lost her step by step and piece by piece. As her brain gradually crumbled in the last year of her life, my heart crumbled along with it.  By the time she died, my heart wasn’t shattered because there was nothing left of it to shatter.

It was also hard not to feel some relief that my mother was finally whole and healthy and happy again in God’s dwelling place.  The foundation of my life is a belief system that encourages me to rejoice that my mother is living more abundantly in Heaven and is waiting there for me to join her.  I do find some joy in that notion.  That belief does take some of the pain out of the grief now, but it still does not prevent me from missing my mom every day in this life.

I think I also came to understand, in my mother’s last days, that I wasn’t losing everything I thought I was losing.  A blog reader once left a comment that said, during the end of life, everything burns away except love.  This was absolutely my experience.  In my mother’s illness, there were many times when she would look past me or away from me as if I wasn’t there. There were also occasions, though, when she would look into my eyes with such intensity and meaning that I could feel her loving me to my very soul.  That love, maybe the biggest and best part of her, will never die.  She loved me with a love that I can never lose.

I am sure that all of these reasons played a part in my milder mourning experience.  There is something else, though.  I had a model for grieving.  My mother gave me that.

When my father died, everyone worried about my mother.  She was always an emotional person who loved extravagantly.  She felt with the people she loved.  She rejoiced easily and cried easily.  People sometimes took that heart on her sleeve as a mark of fragility.  Not so.  When my father died, she did everything she could to mourn in a healthy way.  She cherished her memories of my father. She continued doing activities they enjoyed together.  She helped herself and her children heal by loving us and letting us love her.   She joined an online support group for widows and widowers.  She kept working at a job she enjoyed with people who uplifted her.  She mourned him deeply and permanently. I don’t think there was a Thanksgiving after his death when my mother didn’t cry when we gave thanks for the people we loved who were no longer with us. Still, in the midst of that mourning, there was a renaissance.  My mother moved towards a life of her own crafting. She set her own priorities.  She pursued her own interests. She indulged her gift for happiness. She set out on a path of continual learning and grew in every way.  She reveled in her independence.   She turned her grief into something good.

In my mourning for my mother, I think I have been experiencing my own renaissance- almost without even realizing it.  Without thinking too much about it, I find that my experience with my mother’s end of life journey has prompted me to nurture my own life.  I’ve identified several attributes in my own personality that may be holding me back from experiencing as much joy as possible in life.  Almost unconsciously, I’ve been examining those personal barriers and experimenting with strategies for knocking them out of my way.

Good grief may be the last gift my mom gave me.

What have you learned through the process of grieving a loved one?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have a blessed day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂