Flutterbies

I went on an outing with the community garden club awhile back.  Among other things, we went to a natural history museum to visit a butterfly rainforest.  It was sensational.  The rainforest consisted of a room about the size of a fairly large movie theater.  It was filled with beautiful, lush, colorful plants.  There were butterfly feeding stations sprinkled throughout the room.  Innumerable wisps of gorgeous butterfly bits flitted randomly around the space- color and grace gone wild.  The museum’s butterfly whisperer gave a short educational presentation and released a newborn batch of flutterby beauty while we watched. 

One of the first things I noticed about the butterfly rainforest was that the air was weighty with delight.  Despite the fact that there were a sizable number of visitors in the area, the butterfly rainforest felt peaceful and mesmerizing.  Everywhere you looked, there was something gorgeous and enchanting to see.  I think butterflies must have some special endorphin that they secrete into the atmosphere because all the visitors stood around with huge, unrestrained grins on their faces.  Those butterflies generated joy.  Every now and then, a butterfly would light on a visitor. It happened to me once. It was kind of awe-inspiring…. as if the butterfly was God touching me with a tiny glimpse of the miraculous.   

As we looked around the rainforest, my friends and I talked about the different butterflies and which ones we liked the best.  Initially, all of us settled on a species of large, electric blue butterfly that almost glittered in its flight.  The color was so eye-catching and fantastical.  As we spent more time in the butterfly sanctuary, though, we started noticing other beautiful specimens.  I changed my mind about which I thought was most beautiful.  There was one species that was smaller in size and pure white in color.  When I looked closely at the wings, I saw that they showcased an intricate, delicate white-on-white pattern. The pattern on the wings looked like the most exquisite handmade artisan lace.   But you had to look closely to see it. 

Exploring further, we noticed a large species of butterfly with brown wings resting on a plant.  Again, looking closely at the wings, we saw a pattern of swirls and dots and curlicues in shades of brown.  The wings looked like soft, suedey hand-tooled leather.  Again, beautiful craftsmanship, but not necessarily flashy and eye-catching.  Then, the brown butterfly spread its wings and took off in flight.  We discovered that this “brown” butterfly was actually one of the striking electric blue butterflies.  When at rest, with wings folded up, the butterfly appeared to be brown.  When the butterfly opened up and showed the other side of its wings, it revealed a spectacular, sparkling surprise. 

So here’s what I learned from my day with the flutterbies: 

1.    The beauty of butterflies can touch you and give you a sense of God’s miraculousness.

2.    Sometimes, butterfly beauty is more than flashiness and you have to look closely to find it.

3.    No matter what you see on the outside of a butterfly, there may be another whole layer of beauty on the inside. 

I guess butterflies are a lot like people. 

Have you ever been to a butterfly rainforest?  Did you see any similarities between butterflies and people?  Please tell us what you learned!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a fluttery day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Vacationing To Versus Vacationing From

Some time back, I posted a blog piece discussing the concept of vacationing after retirement.  You can review it at http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/vacations/.  I asked whether you can still call it a vacation when you no longer have a job from which to vacate.  After considering the routine of my post-employment life and the activities I enjoyed on a couple of trips Max and I took after retirement, I concluded that the word “vacation” is still appropriate.

Recently, we visited Williamsburg, Virginia. There is something about the whole vibe of Williamsburg that relaxes me, reduces my physical and mental pace, and delights me.  Max and I have been there together three times now. Each time, we have highlighted different sights and experiences.  We repeat some activities, but, for the most part, each visit has been different. This time, we experienced a rather impressive number of new adventures.

If I had to put a label on the theme of this trip that made it different from prior visits, I’d probably say that this trip focused on “immersive” experiences.

We went to a reenactment of an actual colonial trial.  We’ve done that in the past. This time, though, I volunteered to play the part of the plaintiff. As wild and madcap and uncharacteristic as it was for me to willingly put myself at the center of attention, I actually enjoyed myself.  And I did a really good job.  Just ask my new agent.

In the colonial city, we also participated in three “nation-builder” talks.  Three fantastically smart and incredibly brave historic interpreters channeled George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.  These gentlemen spent some time “introducing themselves” to explain who they were and into which specific time period we present day tourists had stumbled. Then, unbelievably, they took questions- any random questions from anyone in the audience (I know because I raised my hand and asked one).  It was mindboggling how much these guys knew.  What was even more incredible was how deftly they molded the massive quantities of data that must be filed away in their brains into coherent, conversational, and seamless answers to questions they didn’t know the audience would ask.  I was in awe.

Not only were these presentations impressive exhibitions of historical prowess, they were damned entertaining.  It was more than a mite chizzly in Williamsburg when we were there. The temperatures were in the upper 40s during the nation-building presentations and there was a less-than-gentle “brrrrr…eeze.” We sat in the cold and wind for 45 minutes for each of the talks. We were so mesmerized, we barely felt the blood freeze in our veins.

We ate dinner in one of the colonial taverns for the first time on this trip. We went to Christina Campbell’s, which is a restoration of George Washington’s favorite restaurant in Williamsburg.  I say that I have the eating habits of your typical four-year-old.  If a four-year-old won’t eat it, I probably won’t either.  At Christina Campbell’s, I even pushed the boundaries of my non-adventurous eating.  I tried the spoonbread.  I didn’t like it, but I got into the spirit of the thing and tried it.

Our “immersive experiences” did not stop at the colonial city.  We also visited Busch Gardens.  Our main objective for this excursion was to go on two special animal tours. During those tours, we interacted with Clydesdales, border collies, sheep, and wolves. What made the tours even more special was the fact that Max and I were apparently the only two people in the park more interested in animals than roller coasters.  On both tours, we were the only two participants.  We had private Clydesdale, collie, sheep, and wolf training lessons.  I got to pet a Clydesdale, shake hands with a border collie, feed a sheep, and play tetherball with a wolf.  It was all pretty terrific, but I have to admit that asking a wolf to jump for her ball and throwing her hot dogs when she did so was over-the-top cool.

This trip really was very different from our other trips.  When I think about it, I realize it wasn’t different only because of the activities we enjoyed.  The concept of “immersion” went deeper than that. I felt more engaged and connected with the entire experience.

I think my “immersion” experience had to do with the whole work versus retirement thing.  When I was working, I looked forward to vacations with almost the same intensity of a dialysis patient waiting for a kidney. The fun of a vacation generated at least as much from what I was escaping as it did from the trip itself. I had to spend a sizeable portion of the vacation bailing work-related stress out of my saturated brain before I could notice the delights of what was actually going on around me during the vacation.  Then, there was the period at the end of the vacation when I was reigniting to go back to work.  Those periods at the beginning and end of the vacation were not unpleasant.  They were helpful and regenerating.  It was a personal and professional advantage to take that time to reset my brain.  The thing is, though, that it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing when engaged in those “decompress and regenerate” cycles.  My focus was on the process of resetting my brain, not on the process of experiencing new places, people, and activities.  Those new places, people, and activities were really just a backdrop to my own attempts to renew my brain.

Even after I retired, I think I still had the “vacationing from” mentality rather than the “vacationing to” mentality.  Taking care of my mother, even before she suffered the stroke, replaced my “regular” job.  I didn’t work as many hours at this “new job,” but I invested all my love and energy to create as beautiful an experience as I could for her.  In creating that beautiful experience for my mother, I also created one for myself, but doing so required energy and focus.  When I went on vacation during the time I was caring for my mother, I had as much need to concentrate on renewing myself as I did when I had a paying job.

I think this trip to Williamsburg might have been my first vacation that was really about the vacation itself.  It is kind of ironic that, after grappling with whether a pleasure trip is still a vacation after you retire, I should come to the conclusion that post-work vacations may be more pure vacation than those trips during career life.

Now that I no longer have to focus on renewing my worn-out brain during vacations, I find myself much more able to throw myself into the experience of the vacation itself. A vacation is now an event instead of a respite from events.   I can immerse myself in the novelty of the experience.  I can participate more fully in the “only on vacation” moments- the activities, the sightseeing, the food, the environment, etc.  Everything about the vacation seems somehow more “in focus” than when I took a vacation while I was working.  It feels like I was experiencing vacations in 2D when I was still working and now I can perceive the vacation third dimension because the part of my brain that shut down to destress while I vacationed from work is now available to process a richer, more complete experience.

I don’t know whether I would say that vacationing after retirement is “better” or “more fun” than vacationing while one is still working, but it certainly feels different to me.

What do you think?  Are vacations different after you retire?  What has your experience been?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  Please also email me if you would like to join the launch party for my book,  Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In RetirementThere are still lines available for the conference call.  

Also, if you would like to get an early copy of the book, you can go to https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2076  to order.  If you use the promo code terri, you will receive a 15% discount.  Those of you who are attending the launch party, either virtually or in real life, may want to wait as I will be offering a larger discount for party participants.

Finally, Happy Mothers’ Day! I’ve been working on a Mothers’ Day post, but it just wasn’t coming together as quickly as I had hoped.  I decided I would rather do it just-ice rather than just-in time, so terrilabonte.com will be celebrating Mothers’ Day at some future date.  For those of you living in the real world, though…. have a warm, wonderful celebration of motherhood whether your mom is in this world with you or not.

Phew!!!!! Hope I haven’t exhausted any of you.  Please try to get some rest today, after reading this marathon!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

Hide And Seek

This week, I’ve run away from home. I’ve left behind my day-to-day routine and am bending my reality. I didn’t want you all to think I’d forgotten you, so I figured I’d stop in at the blogsite and say “tag…you’re it!”

Yes, I thought we’d play a game this week. Let’s see if you can figure out where I am. I’ll give you a couple of clues. I spy with my little eye….

A palace
A pillory
A part-Percheron

Where do you think I am wandering? Please take a guess! Everyone who gets it right will win a virtual “prize.” I use the quotation marks purposely. Don’t expect anything of any real value. Let’s not get carried away. This is for just for the fun part of “for fun and profit!”

Where oh where has Terri LaBonte gone? Please share your guess by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an playful day!  I’ll be back next week with news about how you can get in on the Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement  book launch celebration!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

I’m baaaaaack!  I saw:

Governor's palaceme in a pillorytwo percheron mix horses

 

Okay, I’ve been working on this for more time than I wanted to invest and have still not been able to get the pictures to stand up straight.  Heavy sigh.  Anyway, I saw the Governor’s Palace, a pillory, and a pair of Percheron mix horses in Colonial Williamsburg!!!!

 

 

 

Writer’s High

I previously told you that I’ve written a book. I call it Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. The book is based on this blog, but there is some new information and I’ve structured the content in a new, more effective way. The bottom line is that the book chronicles my observations about navigating the transition from work life to retirement. I poke fun at the comical moments. I vivisect the sad moments. I offer practical tips for thriving during reinvention. I think it will be available for purchase by May 19, 2018. I’ll keep you posted and give you more information when we get closer to launch date.

The reason I am not certain about timetables and purchase sources at this point is that this is all very new to me. I am learning the process as I go through it. The folks at the author services company have been helpful, but there are numerous steps to climb to reach the point where the book will be completed and available for purchase. Each step has its own estimated timeframes, so the total time is going to be highly variable depending on how well each step goes. I am just starting the marketing and distribution piece of this project. The people at the author services company tell me that everything should be done before May 19. Still, I’m not sure I completely believe that. Either I can’t quite conceive that this is really happening after dreaming about it my whole life or I just have trust issues.

I’m not really writing this to educate you on the publishing process. Nor am I writing it to get you revved up to buy a book when they become available (although it would be great if you did get revved up to buy a book when they become available.) I am writing this to report on a momentous milestone.

Throughout the production portion of the book project, I have been making numerous design and stylistic decisions. I’ve also had several rounds of proofreading and editing. I’ve read the typeset version of the book many times and approved the final copy to send to the printer. I’ve worked with the cover designers to select front cover art and produce a compelling back cover. I was incredibly psyched when I signed off on each step. It felt so real and important, somehow. Then the realest and most important thing ever happened. I received the first actual copy of my book to approve for distribution.

When I opened the box and saw my book, I think I discovered a new form of exercise. I wasn’t aware of moving any part of my body, but my physiology sure seemed convinced that I was. I think my pulse rate increased. I immediately felt endorphins explode inside me. I’m sure I was actually burning calories just looking at the book. There is no way that my body was behaving remotely like my usual “at rest” condition. I’m sure I was exceeding the maximum daily allowance of giddiness. My body could barely contain itself. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t concentrate on anything beyond the fact that I was actually holding MY book in my hands!!!. Two weeks  later, I am still having a hard time trying to keep my overheated psyche stuffed inside my skin. My excitement and energy just push out from inside me so firmly, my face cracks open into a ragged tear of a grin, even when I don’t know I’m even thinking about it.

Changing My Mind is beautiful. I love it. I hope other people will love it, too. On the other hand, even if no one else loves it, I have to say that I feel something kind of miraculous just knowing that I’ve created this lovely little bit of me. I always say I am an expert at nothing except examining my own navel. The thing is, everyone has a navel and I guess one navel looks very much like another. Hopefully, my navel-gazing musings ring true for other people as well.

So, what do you think?  Do I need to just chill out or is this as exciting as I think it is?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a creative day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

 

The Half-Circle Of Life

My blog post about how my life has been very different than what I imagined in my misspent youth inspired a lot of conversation.  I’m glad that so many of you could relate to my observations and commented on them.  It made me feel like a less of an oddball. Not that there is anything wrong with being an oddball, but sometimes it is nice to know I am not the only ball rolling around at a different angle than everybody else.

I think most of the conversation generated from my musings about my childless state.  Many of you seem to contemplate what your life would have been with children, without children, with more children, or with less children.  I guess that is just one of those things about which we all wonder.  In general, it doesn’t bother me too much.  I think of my lack of children to be part of my overall existence.  I don’t know what my existence would have been like if I had children, but I do know it would have been different…. And I’m pretty happy with the life I have.

One aspect of not having children that I think still does bother me has to do with my mother’s death.  I wonder if people who are not parents generally grieve differently when they lose a parent. I did some googling to see if I could find any studies or research to suggest that this is an actual “thing,” but came up empty.  Still, just because no one ever studied something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Truthfully, just because I may be the only one to feel it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I’ve talked to some other women about it.  I asked women with children and women without children.  No one seemed to have experienced what I described.  Many offered the perspective that perhaps women with children have a more difficult time with mourning in some ways than women without children.  Women with children often have to put the needs of their children over their own need to grieve in their own way.  Women with children are often much busier than women without children.  Women with children may not be able to spend as much energy on their relationships with their own mothers at the end of life, which may lead to more regrets after the fact.  I think all those points are valid and true.  I’m not saying women with children grieve in less pain.  I’m just saying that the grief may be different.

Being without a next generation myself, I sometimes feel I lost not only my mother, but the entire mother-child dynamic.  I’m sure the women who have children often feel a huge change in the shape and balance of the mother-child dynamic when they lose their own mothers, but that dynamic still exists.  I remember, very clearly, the day my mother’s mother died.  I was six years old.  When I came home from school, my mother told me that Nana had died. She sat in the rocking chair my father bought her when I was born. She pulled me into her lap.  In the same way as she must have done when I was a baby, she folded me into herself and rocked me as I cried.  I remember that rhythmic rocking and the soothing sensation.  I also remembered that, on the day my grandmother died, my mother and I were crying together for the first time in my young memory.  Even at that young age, I could feel the transfer of emotion in that rocking.  I could feel her being comforted by comforting me.

When my mother died, I had no daughter to take on my lap and rock.  There was no little person to drain off some of my sadness and to remind me that life goes on and motherly love goes on.  Even seven months later, it is difficult to face the reality that my mother-child relationship in this world is gone.  It is also difficult to face the fact that, when it is my turn to leave this world, there will be no daughter loving me through that transition.

They say that a parent’s death is part of the natural order of things.  Of course, that is true.  The implication is that one generation passes and another rises. They call it the circle of life.  My circle is incomplete though.  Instead of a circle, my life is simply a curved line.

I try not too be too sad about that curved line.  Even though I don’t have any little circle-makers of my own, I still know that life really does go on and motherly love is forever. And I am lucky to have had it abundantly.

What do you think?  Do people without children grieve differently when they lose a parent than people with children?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry  🙂

The Wild Life

A few weeks ago, I was driving down the main artery of my housing subdivision and noticed a flock of spectators standing at the side of the road.  They were staring into one of the many large heritage oak trees that grace our community property. I have to say these oaks are pretty impressive, but I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a crowd gathering just to stare at one before.  The people must have come from far and wide to view this spectacle, whatever it was, because the crowd included pedestrians and bicyclists.  Many stood motionless, cell phones in hand, breathlessly ready to snap photos. 

As I approached the band of sightseers, I slowed my car and peered at the tree as I passed.  Then I saw what was captivating the crowd.  There were three fuzzy, feathery faces peeking from a messy nest in the fork of the tree.  These little puffballs with eyes were baby owls. Obviously, a worthy tourist attraction.  I made several trips back and forth over the next couple of days.  It was pretty easy to tell when the baby owls were making a personal appearance by the throngs of admirers gathered beneath the oak branches. The owlet view never got old. To be honest, I was gurgling and chortling with the best of them every time I drove by and saw…  WHO? The young ‘uns, of course! 

Once, I saw the mama and daddy owls.  I’m not sure if an owl can actually be self-satisfied, but the avian parents sure seemed to be gloating over their breeding prowess.  They stared out of the nest, languidly eyeing the fans below.  I guess they deserved to exhibit a smidgeon of smugness.  Those babies are quite an accomplishment!   

Some days, all I saw was the nest. Before I saw the baby owls, I probably would have been excited just to see the nest. Now a collection of twigs and leaves woven into a bird condominium fails to impress me.  I crave the whole baby owl experience.   

About a week ago, I drove by and noticed that someone had secured an area around the owl-occupied oak tree with yellow police tape.  Apparently, the hordes of admiring fans and cell phone paparazzi freaked out the baby owls.  In the interest of wildlife conservation, someone decided to give them a little space.  Not privacy exactly, because crowds still gather regularly to gape at the nestful of adorableness. Owl baby pictures are splashed all over the covers of Facebook.  Still, now the owl aficionados have to maintain a respectful distance from the owl nursery.  The cordoned off perimeter is sort of like an ecological restraining order.  The owls are able to get their forty winks (and don’t owls just seem like they wink a lot anyway?) without worrying about a crazed birdwatcher committing some manner of nest invasion crime against them.   

I like living in a community where yellow police tape means “please don’t disturb the owls” instead of “please don’t disturb the evidence!”

With the coming of the owlets, I guess spring is officially here!  What makes spring official for you?  Please share your perspective by adding a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Sorry about the early post this week.  I have to be out and about early tomorrow morning, so thought I’d post tonight.

Have a hoot of a day! 🙂

Terri/Dorry

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t take this picture.  A kind soul shared it on Facebook.

Christmas Pancakes

Last December, I went Christmas caroling. In my community, there is an activity group that sings carols and brings holiday cookies to neighbors who are housebound or experiencing some sort of crisis during the festive season. I’ve wanted to join the group since the very first year we moved to Florida, but something got in the way every year. Last year, I finally donned my bedazzled holiday t-shirt and fa-la-la-la-la-ed with the best of them.
The Christmas caroling was a hoot (random owl reference alert- please tune in next week for an explanation of why I have owls on the brain.)

We had about 30 houses on our list of people to serenade. The mission required more tactical coordination than simply gathering and walking door-to-door. To make sure we covered the entire development and visited all our planned neighbors some time before the break of dawn, we divided into three separate groups of eight golf carts. Yes, golf carts. Decorated golf carts. If Santa Claus lived in central Florida and not at the North Pole, he would have 86ed that sleigh years ago and repurposed a golf cart into a holly-jolly jalopy. We had golf carts festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells and Christmas tree lights. Heck, it wasn’t just the golf carts… WE were festooned with wreaths, reindeer ears, jingle bells, and Christmas tree lights. When our golf cart parades set off on their assigned routes, it was quite the holiday spectacle. I think we might end up on one of those television shows on the Discovery Channel about strange and unusual Christmas traditions around the world. You know… Christmas gone wild in the rare and exotic central Florida senior citizen culture.

Not only were we a sight for sore eyes, we were a sound for sore ears. Contributing to the general wackiness of our traveling Christmas concert was the fact that there was no requirement that the singers actually be able to… well…. sing. Let me point out that I tried out for the fourth-grade glee club and was rejected. How bad does a kid have to suck to be banned from the fourth-grade glee club? The experience scarred me for life. I consider it to be one of God’s biggest jokes that I love to sing but have a voice that apparently scares young children… or at least the teachers of young children. I continue to taunt the Jonas E. Salk Elementary School Glee Club by going through life singing whenever I darn well please. I make a joyful noise unto the Lord on a regular basis, but I never have any delusions that I am actually any good at it. The holiday carolers embraced me and my crummy voice into their fold. I am sure I was not the only one in our merry band of carolers who brought joy and enthusiasm to the experience, if not an abundance of musical talent.

As it turned out, our outrageous spectacle and our less-than-fourth-grade-glee-club-worthy vocal ability made no difference at all. We had fun and, more importantly, the people we visited had fun as well. We were pretty good at stirring up the ho-ho-holiday spirit. When we deposited our cookies and finished our caroling, I felt like everybody’s hearts were a little more merry and bright than when we started.

Now, this is a pretty inexpensive activity. It doesn’t require a lot of money to pull off an evening of Christmas caroling. For the price of some cookies, some platters and cellophane, and forty photocopies of the words to a few a Christmas carols, we can make a little Christmas miracle. Sweet volunteers provide cookies, but there is still a small amount of expense for the accoutrements.

Which brings us to the pancakes.

In our community, there is a big pancake breakfast once a month. A group of volunteers does a terrific job of organizing the breakfasts. They prepare food and coordinate supplies. They sell tickets. They have a wonderfully orchestrated master plan for presenting the event, which usually draws 70-120 hungry breakfasters each month. The breakfast group solicits other activity groups in the community to help throughout the year. The group that assists on a given month makes some money to supplement their activity. The assisting group also gets the opportunity to introduce the larger community to their mission and projects. The volunteers from the activity group of the month act as servers and help with setting up the auditorium and cleaning up after the event. Last month, it was our turn to help. We crazy Christmas carolers hauled out the holiday t-shirts and prepared to get our pancake on.

I have never been a waitress in my life. It wasn’t a career I thought I would start in my fifties. Still, I was game. After all, if my lack of singing skill did not disqualify me from being a caroler, surely my lack of waitressing skill wouldn’t disqualify me from helping to serve breakfast to 100 hungry people.

Little did I know. In actuality, the breakfast group lady in charge of us temporary volunteers had her eyes on me. As I mentioned, the breakfast club folks have a tried- and-true, finely-oiled master plan for producing this event. That plan has a lot of rules and contingencies and fine points. I have no doubt it works very well and I tried very hard to follow it, but I still kept making errors. Luckily, the breakfast group lady was there to correct me. Often. In fact, I think I did more things wrong in the two hours I was there than I have in the past two weeks put together.

At first, I felt kind of bad about myself and my serving incompetence. Then, I realized something. Just like singing badly during Christmas caroling, making mistakes in the serving procedure made no difference. The people I served were happy and content. They were having fun. We were laughing and enjoying each other’s company. I even tried using my high school Spanish to communicate…badly… with a couple who just moved to the community from Peru. This motivated another gentleman at the table to start speaking in Hawaiian pidgin English to see what I would do.

At the end of the breakfast, we caroling servers thanked everyone and concluded the event with a Christmas carol. I tell you, there is nothing like a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells to get you in the holiday spirit. In March. Oh well, only eight more months till Christmas!

In the meantime, Marchy Christmas to all and to all a Good Spring!

Have you ever celebrated Christmas when it wasn’t Christmas?  Tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

In the meantime, have a very merry in-Christmas!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Presents

I kind of suck at living in the moment. I am much more talented at rerunning the past in my brain and worrying about the future. I realize it would be much healthier to live with the “what is” instead of trying to change the past or control the future, but I just don’t seem to have the skills.

The toxicity of my general approach hit me square in the face during my mother’s illness. I spent so much energy thinking about the “what ifs” in the past and the future, I pretty much went down for the ten-count on a regular basis. Getting up off the mat became more and more difficult as time went on. Not only was I giving myself an emotional concussion, I wasn’t doing my mother any favors either. It is hard to be present and attentive and loving for someone who only has the now when your heart is so unpracticed at living in the moment. I realized pretty quickly that the quagmire I created in my mind out of “if onlys” and “what will I dos” was nearly as debilitating as the actuality of the situation.

I knew I was making things more difficult for myself by dragging my feet through the past as I rushed to the future. I tried very hard to rewire my neurological synapses. I worked at concentrating on the present that was in front of me. Sometimes I was able to redirect my brain and keep it from straying into the unhealthy paths, but I usually failed. It isn’t any big surprise that I fared so poorly. Over fifty years of conditioned brain activity doesn’t change easily, even when one makes a concerted effort to learn a different way. After all, one does not go directly from Drivers’ Ed classes to whooshing around the track in the Indy 500. I was learning the most elementary lessons in the art of living in the present. Yet, I was challenging myself to do so in the most difficult situation of my life. The circumstances pretty much doomed me to failure. I decided to find other contexts in which I might practice my ability to live in the now.

As a result, I decided to make a deliberate effort to live in the present as I explored the idea of joining the Episcopal Church. I thought, if there ever was a situation suited to releasing control and luxuriating in the moment, surely it must be a spiritual journey. I gave myself the gift of not justifying or creating a situation but simply living one. I didn’t force myself to commit or engage. I didn’t obsess about saying or doing something wrong. I took advantage of learning opportunities that occurred organically, without trying to tick off boxes to complete an established process. I observed and learned at my own pace…. My pace and God’s pace for me, I suppose. The whole process was about pace in many ways. It was restful… and beautiful…. not to have to make things happen.

When the time came for the bishop to visit our parish and perform the ceremony to accept me into the Episcopal Church, I was out of town. I was fine with waiting. I felt very peaceful about the whole thing. I was perfectly okay with being received a year or more later the next time the bishop visited the parish, but our parish priest arranged for me to go to a service at the diocesan office. At first, I was a little wistful that I wasn’t going to celebrate the service with the members of the parish community I had come to know, but I firmly and gently redirected my brain to the peace of the present. I know there would have been certain blessings to have had the service with the parish community, but I experienced different blessings by going to the diocese office. My first friends in the church were also away the day of the bishop’s visit to the parish. Because of my delay, I was able to have them as sponsors to present me to the bishop at the diocesan office. We spent the day together and, through this shared experience, became friend-family for one another. I met the staff at the diocese office. They showed me the heart of the greater Episcopal Church beyond the doors of my parish.

Clearly, my decision to let things be and live in the moment as I explored my spiritual path reaped manifold benefits that I might not have appreciated had I not allowed myself to stay in the now. A success in living in the present. It was a small, safe success. But it was still a success and a success is a better foundation for future growth than failure.

The present is a present. Yes, it can be the type of present that you want to regift or return to the store. On the other hand, if we take the time to really appreciate it, the present can be a beautiful surprise we never knew we wanted until we live it.

Have you ever experienced a time when you encountered a special “present” because you were living in the moment that you might not have noticed had you been focusing on the past or the future? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

May you be gifted with a beautiful present today!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The Big Reveal

I’ve watched too many makeover shows on television. Between home renovation, fashion faux paus interventions, and Dr. Phil prestidigitation, I expect there to be some major overhaul after 30 to 60 minutes of sweat equity and personal introspection. I’m hoping that you are also primed for the startling “after” picture, because today I am presenting you with the Terri LaBonte Big Reveal.

The Terri LaBonte Big Reveal is that…. I am not really Terri LaBonte. Well, I kinda am. Let me explain.

My parents named me Dorothea Therese Goodness. That name sounds more like a pseudonym than Terri LaBonte, doesn’t it? My mother initially planned to name me Penny. She probably should have. Dorothea Therese was kind of a mouthful for such an itsy-bitsy baby. I can’t imagine my parents ever referring to me as “Dorothea.” It just seems absurd. That may be why they started calling me Tinker Bell. At any rate, before any rendition of the name Dorothea had time to stick, my brother was born. His name was Ernest Anthony Goodness. My grandmother took one look at him and declared, “he looks like an Irishman; you should have named him Timothy Patrick.” The family immediately started calling him “Timmy.”

This kind of solved the whole name thing for me. “Timmy and Terri” sounded so cute, my extended family decided to ignore my first name altogether and focus on the Therese part. I was Terri for several years as a little girl.

This was fine until I started school. When the teacher called roll on the first day and got to the end of the list without little Terri responding, she was flummoxed. Apparently, Dorothea Goodness was absent, but this random child Terri had shown up. Given that I didn’t know my own name, the teacher questioned my kindergarten readiness. When she called my mother in to discuss my apparent backwardness, my mother realized I could not continue to live a double life. She promptly returned home, taught me to answer when someone called me Dorothea, and sent me back to school the next day. To the outside world, I was Dorothea from that day forward.

The name Dorothea was still way too long for me. I was always an impatient kid, hurrying from one activity to another with no time to form eight whole letters each time I had to write my name. I shortened it to Dorry when I was about ten. I made peace with my non-Terri existence and enjoyed being Dorry through adulthood. I married and acquired the Curran family name. When I divorced, it seemed like too much trouble to change it back to my maiden name. Besides, when you change your name to Goodness, everyone notices and I was too ashamed of getting divorced to want to call attention to the fact.

When I started writing the blog, I debated what to do about my name. I legitimately wanted to retain some anonymity and privacy on the internet. I was cracking open my life on cyberspace. It seemed wise to erect some sort of security wall between me and random strangers who might decide to get a little too up close and personal. Also, I have to admit to some desire to stave off too much vulnerability. I was going to write about some pretty personal stuff and I wasn’t quite ready to completely own it by acknowledging it with my real name. I decided I wasn’t brave enough to use my real name and would use a “creative name.”

I resurrected Terri from my childhood name. LaBonte is the French version of “Goodness.” Family folklore says that my first ancestor to come to the United States was a French-speaking Swiss national who entered Ellis Island as Monsieur LaBonte. He left Ellis Island with the more “American” name of Mr. Goodness, courtesy of the good civil servants in charge of Immigration Inspection who did not speak French. I am not sure if this is true or not, but it makes a good legend.

You may wonder why I am disclosing all this now. I’m excited to tell you that my book, Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement will be released within the next couple of months. I decided to publish my book under my real name, Dorry Curran. I want all my dear cyberfriends to be able to find it, which would be difficult if you think Terri LaBonte is the author.

There are other reasons why I thought it was time to come out of the Terri LaBonte closet. I have been writing the blog under the name Terri LaBonte for over two years now. Soon after starting this project, I felt like it would have been better to use my “real” name right from the beginning. It was sometimes confusing when I had to explain who Terri LaBonte was when talking to potential readers who knew me by my real name. Besides, using the name Terri LaBonte felt sort of like using the cyberspace equivalent of a fake ID to buy beer. It had its advantages, but there was also a downside. Yes, it is wise to be cautious about giving too much identifying information on the internet. On the other hand, it felt sort of deceptive and cowardly to hide myself behind a fictitious name. I try to write from a place of courage and honesty. It felt incongruous to deny the value of my truth by denying the name of the person who wrote it.

I’ve thought about sharing this story with you before now. The thing was…. by the time I realized it would have been better to use my real name, I had become kind of attached to Terri LaBonte and didn’t want to give her up.

You see, my legal name may be Dorry Curran, but Terri LaBonte is still very much a part of who I am. In fact, I may be more Terri LaBonte than Dorry Curran at this point in my life. Some time ago, a reader commented that, even though he had known me for many years as Dorry Curran, he found it interesting that he had absolutely no trouble at all thinking of me as Terri LaBonte. Terri LaBonte has always lived inside my soul. She just didn’t get much playing time in my younger days. Maybe people around me recognized her more than I did.

Terri LaBonte is confident enough to dance to her own music throughout her own life, whether anyone is looking or not. Terri LaBonte is visionary enough to make a reality from the blueprint of a dream. Terri LaBonte is brave enough to create something wonderful.

Terri LaBonte is also generous of spirit. When it came time to publish the book, she abdicated authorship to Dorry Curran. After all, it was Dorry’s dream first.

Quick, somebody say something! Now that I’ve revealed this big secret, I find myself feeling extremely wobbly and nervous. My stomach is somersaulting its way all over my innards, like some sort of demented pinball. Please, leave a comment to help me put on the brakes before my ricocheting guts do internal damage!!!

Seriously, I hope no one feels deceived or misled. I humbly ask your forgiveness for any offense or discomfort I caused because of the “fake” name.

Please share your perspective by leaving a comment (please, please, pretty please!!!). In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry (seriously, I don’t even know how to sign my name now…. Maybe Derri?) 🙂

The Scenic Route To Easter

Years ago, I used to give up chocolate for Lent. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on the same day as Valentine’s Day. I ask you: is it reasonable to not eat chocolate on Valentine’s Day? I am glad I reconsidered my approach to Lent a long time ago.

The idea behind Lent is to engage in some form of sacrifice to enrich our souls and deepen our faith. It is a time for us to spiritually prepare ourselves to better celebrate Easter. Lent reminds us of Jesus’ forty days of hardship and temptation in the desert when he strengthened himself for His mission.

Growing up as a Catholic, I tended to observe Lent in two ways. I gave up some pleasurable activity (like eating chocolate) for forty days and I did not eat meat on Fridays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. I’m not sure that either ritual had much of a positive impact on my spiritual development or my ability to joyfully commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

First of all, avoiding meat on Fridays is not that tough to do. Let’s see…. I can’t eat meat, but I can eat lobster, shrimp, grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetarian pizza, and peanut butter. That doesn’t seem all that sacrificial to me, unless I have to eat all those things at one sitting. That might be pretty penitential, but I don’t think anyone advocates stuffing the body with a feast of nonmeat products as a means of spiritual enrichment.

As far as giving up something goes, I do think there is some intrinsic value in sacrificing something we enjoy as a spiritual exercise to remind ourselves of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It reminds us to be grateful for what we have and to remember that the greatest gift is salvation. I do tend to feel, though, that a sacrifice is more meaningful if it also generates a positive impact. I don’t think giving up chocolate had any impact on me at all except possibly to make me a teensy bit cranky. Maybe my sacrifice would have been more meaningful if I had saved the money I didn’t spend on chocolate ice cream and donated it to a food bank or something. Instead, I am ashamed to admit that I just spent the money on vanilla instead. I never thought about the second piece of the Lenten observance equation. I understood the “I’m going to give up” part but never addressed the “so I can do X” part.

A friend of mine is doing something this Lent that I think perfectly illustrates the point. She decided to give up television for Lent. It wasn’t that she gave up TV simply to make herself suffer. In fact, she says she is actually enjoying the break from television. In deciding on her Lenten observance, she didn’t focus on what she was losing. She focused on what she was gaining. She gave up television to give herself the time to read and study and pray. She believes that, in this period of focus and reflection, God is teaching her all kinds of valuable lessons.

I have not always been great at following through on Lenten observances that require me to do something overt rather than simply stop doing something. Some years, I tell myself that I am going to read a spiritual book or go to additional worship services or step out of my own internal world and mend relationships with others. Then, suddenly, Holy Week is upon me and I have done nothing out of the ordinary. Some years, though, I have found rich and beautiful observances that I still remember with gratitude. Last year, I began reading the entirety of the New Testament in order. One year, I subscribed to a program of daily Lenten emails and worked on implementing their challenges in my everyday life. A few years back, I wrote a letter to a different person every day during Lent to thank him or her for the richness he or she brought to my life. All of these Lenten “penitential” activities brought me more joy than I can describe.

This year, I didn’t give up anything. I continue to walk my way through the Bible. Last Advent, I started in on the chapters of the Old Testament and I expect I will be at that for some time to come. I am also working through a book about developing a deeper relationship with Jesus and journaling about how I see the author’s message impacting my life experience. I also gave a presentation at a church women’s’ group.

I struggle with wanting to contribute whatever talents I have to support the church and nurture the people of God, yet I am not confident that I have the talents necessary. I am an extremely introverted, shy person. The idea of giving a presentation of any kind is daunting. When I was working, I did a lot of teaching and presentations. I was a popular speaker. People were kind to me. I enjoyed the activity, even though I was always very nervous beforehand. Soon after I finished a successful presentation, I was always consumed with the certainty that the success was a “one off” event that I would never be able to replicate in the future. In addition to my general insecurity about speaking to a group, I have only been to a few of these women’s group presentations in the past. I was not completely certain of what my audience would want or expect from me.

As the day of the presentation got closer, I felt the anxiety level in my gut increase. All the preparation I had done felt inadequate and I felt confused about how to proceed. I had several, ill-formed ideas for the general approach I could take to present the information I had gathered. In speaking to a friend, she suggested that I ask God how to proceed. We agreed that I should try to relax and let the Holy Spirit take over my anxiety about the presentation. I followed her advice and, of course, everything went fine.

I said that I didn’t give up anything for Lent this year. I guess I actually did. I gave up anxiety about the presentation. I gave up the feeling of stagnant comfort when I agreed to be the speaker for the women’s program rather than simply a member of the audience. I gave up a small amount of time and frenetic energy to focus on reflection each evening.

My experience this Lent has not been a journey through a desolate desert. Instead, Jesus has taken me on the scenic route to Easter and I am enjoying a beautiful view!

What do you think?  Do you give up anything for Lent or do anything special?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a meaningful day!

Terri 🙂

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT COMING NEXT WEEK!!!! PLEASE TUNE IN NEXT WEDNESDAY FOR SOME BIG NEWS!!!