Christmas Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have an injury-free day!

Terri:-)

Ho, Ho, Whoa? No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a very merry day!

Terri 🙂

Belatedly Thankful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a thankful day!

Terri 🙂

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

Saint Dorothy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terri

 

The Turkey Vultures And I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody ever mentioned the turkey vultures, however. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a bizarre day, in the best possible way!

Terri 🙂

A Total Eclipse Of The Brain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a sunshine-y day!

Terri 🙂

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

 

Busy-ness

Reader Neki commented that it sounded like my last year with my mother was extra special. When I read Neki’s comment, it caused me to reflect. While I was living that last year, I don’t know that I would have described it so. Living that year at my mom’s side was the most painful and most arduous thing I’ve done in my entire life. There were many times when I felt like the pressure of the grief and the stress were unbearable. In reality, though, Neki was absolutely right. That time with my mother was extra special.

As difficult as this past year has been, I would not have had it any other way. If my mother’s fate was to suffer a stroke and decline so heartbreakingly towards the end of her life, I wanted to travel that path with her. Whatever support I could give, I wanted to give. Whatever comfort I could provide, I wanted to provide. Whatever shared joy we could find, I wanted to find with her. The time and effort I spent with her in the past year was my gift to her, but it truly was also a gift to me.

Now that my mother is gone, I am a bit disoriented. The time I used to spend with her and taking care of her needs is now empty. I have a new-found and somewhat unwelcome freedom.

I’m not quite sure how to navigate this new life condition. I feel a bit tender and tentative, as if I am dipping my toe into the water of the part of my life that is all about me. In the days since my mother death, I grasp wildly for activity. I’ve started the processes to finalize my mom’s administrative matters. I’ve gone through most of her possessions. I’ve sent thank you notes to people who sent cards and flowers. My house is cleaner than it has ever been. I plunged myself into a new life filled with new events, new people, and new thoughts. I initiated outings with friends. I began accepting every invitation offered me. I signed up to join a women’s group at the church. I began preparations to survive Hurricane Irma in a manic frenzy, despite my absolute certainty that I would die in the storm. Max and I took a trip to Las Vegas. I’ve been planning a trip to New England to see the fall foliage next autumn. I seem to flit from one activity to another without ever stopping to let my feet touch the ground… or to take a breath.

I do want to try new things now that I have some more free time, but I think this busy-ness is more about not wanting to sit still and feel than it is about expanding my horizons.

The truth is that the hole my mother left in my life is so huge that I am afraid of falling into it. If I stop and stare at that hole, I am sure that it will suck me into its emptiness and I will never recover. My mother was all about light and happiness. Her absence leaves darkness and grief. If I am to honor her memory, it is important that I look beyond this present darkness and grief to find the love she left behind. I can use that love to live in a way that would bring her joy. I can and will be her legacy of light.

The thing is… I’m not quite ready to do that yet. I am still too vulnerable to the darkness to risk getting too close to that empty hole. After so much sadness for so long, my strength is depleted and needs rest to be replenished. So I keep moving and doing, propelling myself far away from the emptiness. I’m sure I will eventually be able to find a better balance between activity and introspection. When that happens, I know I’ll find a way to live more beautifully and meaningfully than I ever have because my mother showed me how. I’ll know my mom will be smiling down on me from Heaven.

In the meantime, I think I’ve earned a little distraction!

What do you think?  Does a whirlwind of activity help us heal after losing someone?  Or is it just a whirlwind of activity?  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 🙂

In Praise Of Chocolate Ice Cream

My mother always said that chocolate ice cream can solve pretty much any problem.  Or, if it doesn’t solve the problem, consuming chocolate ice cream will at least make you feel better about failing.  I have an abundance of ample curves in places that should be less curvy and more flat because I have spent a lifetime harkening to this advice. 

My mother was not too proud to offer her children chocolate ice cream to do her bidding. In fact, I first learned the meaning of the word “bribe” in conjunction with chocolate ice cream.  One day, my mother asked if she could bribe me with a fudgsicle to take out the trash.  I asked her what “bribe” meant.  After she explained, I told her I didn’t really want a fudgsicle, but would take the trash out anyway.  I’m sure my refusal of the fudgsicle left her wondering if we did, in fact, share the same DNA or if she had just found me under a cabbage leaf. When we were sick and refusing to eat, she would coax back our appetites by pulling a half-gallon carton of chilly chocolate out of the freezer.  Jimmy Buffett might have had his margaritas, but, in our house, the frozen concoction that helped us hang on was chocolate ice cream.   

Calories and curves aside, it is hard to argue with her position.  Chocolate ice cream is just awesome.  It is creamy and sumptuous and decadent.  It goes down softly and smoothly and with a sultriness that is almost tangible.  I can go up and down the counter at an ice cream parlor touting thirty-one flavors of ice cream, savoring the idea of each of the flashy flavors. Inevitably, I end up ordering chocolate.  I would live on chocolate ice cream if I could. 

Maybe it is possible to live on chocolate ice cream.  When I was a child, we always had waffles with chocolate ice cream for our birthday breakfasts. Don’t they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? 

At any rate, my mother’s chocolate ice cream cure ran into an ironic snag at the end of her life.  I guess she was testing the hypothesis that one can live on chocolate ice cream alone. During her last ten months, all she consumed was food based on chocolate ice cream.  She ate virtually nothing except Wendy’s chocolate frosties and McDonald’s chocolate milkshakes.  Sometimes, just to mix things up, I brought a thermal bag of ingredients and made her chocolate ice cream sodas.  I pulled out a small bottle of club soda, a jigger of half-and-half, a container of chocolate ice cream, a bottle of chocolate syrup and made the ice cream soda at her bedside.   I was the Benihana’s of the ice cream world. Her ice cream soda was dinner and a show.   

It is hard to imagine how it is possible to survive on chocolate ice cream alone, no matter how enamored with it you are. Day after day, I helped her drink her milkshake or ice cream soda.  It was really the only pleasure she could still enjoy. She continued to lose weight and to weaken.  She became more confused and restless.  She often punctuated short periods of wakefulness and connectedness with napping and detachment.   As I watched her fading away, little by little, I realized that it was not possible for her to survive on chocolate ice cream alone. 

I wonder if I will ever think of chocolate ice cream the same way again. 

What is your “guilty pleasure” in food?  What food would you live on if you could? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a sweet day!

Terri 🙂

A Beam Of Love

In the wee hours of the morning on September 2, my mother found her way out of this life.  After over a year of struggling on her path towards the next life, she fell asleep.  When she awoke, I am sure she found herself in God’s dwelling place instead of in the nursing home.

All my mother’s life, she lived joyously and richly. She squeezed every drop of enjoyment and meaning out of every day.  She was almost always happy.  It wasn’t that her life was always wonderful or exciting or fun.  It wasn’t even that she had a particularly exotic or interesting life.  Most people would say that her life was pretty conventional. She was a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a wife and a career woman and a mother and a friend.   What made her so special was not so much what her life was, but how she lived it.

My mother had a gift for satisfaction.  She collected fulfillment and meaning in her every action, even the most mundane experiences. When we were out driving somewhere and got off course, she’d often say, “I never get lost; I just have adventures.”  I think that pretty much summed up how she approached life, way beyond just how she approached a road trip. Wherever she was going in life and whatever she did, she was determined to find happiness and pleasure in the process.

She was the kind of person who attracted other people. She was an interesting and interested person.  She was curious about all kinds of things and embraced opportunities to learn.  She relished good, meaty conversations.  She was an excellent listener. She knew how to make people feel safe.  She heard what you said and what you didn’t say.  She heard what was underneath your words.  I don’t believe there was ever anyone who knew her who did not love her.  She constantly sowed love and harvested relationships as she rollicked through her day-to-day existence.  She valued those relationships and nurtured them.  Even in the nursing home in her very compromised state, she radiated a kindness and joy that attracted people.

On the other hand, she followed her own heart in living her own life.  She did what she believed was right and followed the paths that brought her happiness. She used to say that she liked herself and she liked her own company.  She had a busy mind that was always tooling away happily, creating thought and considering possibilities.  I used to say she was her own occupational therapist because she could figure out alternate ways to do almost everything when her mobility started to desert her.   She owned a home computer before most people did and, even in her eighties, she embraced new technology that added interest to her life.

She had courage of conviction.  She walked her life with God as her guide.  She held firm in her convictions and relied on her relationship with God to support her in her journey. She believed in prayer.  She believed in miracles.

She loved God.  She loved life. She loved other people.  She loved herself.  In short, she was a joyful beam of love, illuminating and warming everyone with whom she came in contact.

Now this beam of love has faded into the next life, leaving this life darker and colder and considerably less sparkling.  The thought of going on with my journey without her physically by my side seems unconscionable.  Considering all the memories we shared, all the things she taught me, and all the gifts she gave me, it is inaccurate to say I will ever be traveling through this life without her.  All that she was is embedded in me and will be with me forever. I want to honor all she was and all that made her beam by carrying on her legacy of loving, joyful living.

It seems that now I will have to grow towards the joy on my own, without her walking in tandem with me. I don’t know yet how I am going to do that.  It helps to know that she has found the greatest Joy of all.

Thanks to all of you for your support as I have walked this difficult path with my mother.  Thanks, in particular, to my friends Louisa and Odete, who encouraged me to write this tribute to my mom.  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a joyful day!

Terri 🙂

Special programming announcement:  I’ll be off the grid next week, but will be back with new content on October 4.  

Tumults Of Terri

This is not so much a post for Terri LaBonte: Reinventing Myself In Retirement as just a message to let you all know that, despite the discombobulations of my life in the past ten days, I am alive and well and still living in central Florida.  I’ll be posting more details in posts over the next few weeks, but, for now, just now that we are safe and all manner of things will be well….. once we regain power.

My beautiful mother passed away early in the morning of September 2.  In my sadness, I began frantically grasping distraction- accepting any and all invitations, volunteering for projects and organizations, planning fun outings for the next year.

Before I got very far into my business mania, we heard that Hurricane Irma was on its way and would likely impact central Florida pretty significantly.  We spent days preparing and I spent lots of brain cells worrying.

Irma hit on Sunday and we hunkered down to wait out the blast.  And blast it was.  Blessedly, we are safe and the house seems to have weathered everything quite nicely. The wind was still bad Monday, but we were obviously past the worst.  Today, we did clean up.

We don’t have power or internet and won’t until the middle of whenever.  Still, we count ourselves lucky and gifted by God.  My cell phone battery has died and so has my laptop battery.  I am charging them both in the community clubhouse, as I type.

Just wanted to let you know that I’ll post again as soon as I can.  Thank you all for your prayers and support.

Terri 🙂