Leaving The Nest

I have been living in Florida for over five years now. I wouldn’t say that I live in the country, but I do live in a “country-ish” location.  There is abundant undeveloped land in my community and the surrounding area.  It is certainly more rural than anywhere else I have lived.  I’ve seen more types of wild animals than I can easily count.   I have had numerous opportunities to watch the cycles of nature play out over time.  You’d think I would be used to the aftermath of the circle of life by now.  Not so.  I saw something a few weeks ago that brought me to tears. 

I’d say the wild mascots of our community are the sandhill cranes.  I’ve written about them before on this blog (http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/coping/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/05/cranes-in-my-cranium/.)  If you don’t know what a sandhill crane looks like, you should google it.  You should also read my prior blog to get a sense of how I tend to anthropomorphize them.  They are so much a part of our community; it is hard not to.

Sandhill cranes mate for life.  They have babies once a year and those babies stay with their parents for about 10 months.  The time of the year when we start spotting the baby cranes is noteworthy.  Facebook comes alive with notifications of baby crane sightings.  People pull over on the side of the road to take pictures.  There is one street not too far from here that posts official-looking, professionally printed signs proclaiming “Caution! Baby Sandhill Crane Crossing.” We watch those babies grow from little fuzzballs on stilts to mature cranes that are indistinguishable from their parents. 

What we don’t think about is what happens at the end of that ten-month raising period.  I never thought about it until recently. Sure, I’d noticed that our little trio and quartet families of cranes were back to being couples around Christmas each year.  It happened gradually, so it wasn’t something that signified anything to me. I lived in a little fantasy world where the juveniles had a graduation party and went off to crane college or something.  They literally left the nest.

A few weeks ago, I saw the darker side of the Sandhill crane life benchmarks.  As I drove down the street towards the exit of our community, I saw one of the crane families on the side of the road.  One of the adult cranes was charging the juvenile.  There were furiously flapping wings, hissing noises, and gnashing beaks involved. Clearly, the adult was running the juvenile crane off his territory.  It made me so sad.  How could these creatures who carefully hatched and raised their babies turn their backs so callously on their progeny?  How could the creatures, who mourned and cried when a baby got tangled in a telephone wire and died, now snarl and spit to drive away their remaining offspring? It just broke my heart to think how confused and sad those maturing cranes must feel to see how emphatically mom and dad want them gone.  Where will they go?  Won’t they be lonely and scared?  The entire episode really bummed me out. 

I know that there is a circle of life and that last year’s nestlings must make way for this year’s babies.  I know that the newly emancipated juveniles will likely find their own mates and begin exciting new lives of their own.  I know that the Sandhill cranes likely do not take stock of their emotions as humans do, so probably don’t feel as betrayed as I would feel had my parents decided to cut off all ties with me when I turned eighteen.  The logical, rational side of me understands that there is no tragedy involved in the launching of the juvenile Sandhill cranes.  My heart, however, can’t wrap itself around the idea. 

I know it is important for children to become independent and live their own lives.  It is extremely difficult for each generation to accomplish their own goals and achieve societal evolution if that generation is still occupying the last generation’s nest. Just as the very act of struggling to emerge from a cocoon strengthens a butterfly’s wings and prepares it for life in the great unknown, I’m sure the struggle of leaving the nest strengthens children of all species and prepares  them for life in their own great unknown.  Still, that Sandhill crane approach to launching their children seems unaccountably harsh.

Those chicks did not just leave the nest; they were pushed!

What experiences do you have of “leaving the nest?” When you or your children left the nest, was it as harsh as the Sandhill crane emancipation?  What was the result?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have an exciting day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Love-er-ly

This isn’t my first attempt to write this blog piece.  Twice already, I’ve started the process only to end up chucking the whole thing.  I guess I am still not ready to admit defeat, so I’m taking another shot at it. I’ve decided that, if I can’t produce something this time, I’m giving up.  Three strikes and I’m out. 

My intended premise of this blog post, as Valentine’s Day looms before us, was to talk about how not everyone is lovely, but everyone can be love-er-ly. The trouble is, I always seem to fall down a woeful rabbit hole where I just keep bemoaning the sad truth that I have never been lovely.  Truth be told, I have absolutely nothing to recommend me in the looks department.  I have never been beautiful.  I have never been sexy.  I have never been graceful.  I have never been lovely.  All of these are very un-Valentiney confessions. 

As I cogitated over this sad state of affairs and the impact it was having on my ability to craft a blog post about love-er-li-ness, I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend at church.  My friend is kind and faithful and devoted to doing good in her life.  However, she often runs herself down, dismisses her worth, and undermines her own contributions.  Her words about herself seem harsh and punishing.  One day, I asked her to do me a favor.  I asked her to be kinder to herself.  She is working on it.

It strikes me that I have been doing the same thing each time I try to write this blog.  I don’t want to be so hard on myself.  Instead of sinking into the ooze of my unloveliness, I really want to embrace my love-er-li-ness.  You see, I may not be lovely, but I think I am love-er-ly. 

Long ago, I decided that I probably was not destined to do great things, but I did want to do anything I did with great love.  Although I do not always succeed, the nurturing of love is my main life goal. I sometimes consider building love-er-li-ness to be like becoming an elite athlete. I started at a young age.  I am intentional in my approach.  I hone my love-building skills by subjecting myself to different conditions. I train by practicing and experimenting with different techniques.  I seek out coaches and role models who will show me ways I can be more loving.  I try to be single-minded in the pursuit of excellence.  I sometimes have “off days.”  Let’s face it, even Tom Brady isn’t TOM BRADY every day.  For the most part, though, I think I see growth and enrichment in my love-er-li-ness performance.  I may not be at the “elite” level yet, but I’m trying to at least be an “up and comer.”

I am no saint.  I am aware that all this talk of love and self-denial can come across as a little too Goody-Two-Shoes.  Honestly, though, my motivation for building my love-er-li-ness skills is more selfish.  It just feels good to love. 

I think everyone can hone their love-er-li-ness skills.  It doesn’t have to be difficult. I think, sometimes, we want to build love but get stuck on what to do.  It can also be intimidating to stick one’s neck out too far, especially if we feel shy about getting into someone else’s emotional personal space.   Here are a few suggestions that might help get you started.

It can be something as simple as sending a “thinking of you” card or picking up the phone to check in with someone you haven’t seen in a while.

You don’t have to offer any profound words or even acknowledge anything you think the other person could be feeling. Because people so rarely get anything in their snail mail other than bills and advertising, sometimes a card or note feels more significant to recipients.  However, you don’t have to get caught up in how you touch base- phone, card, email, text, whatever.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

It can be something like offering a specific service, like going to the grocery store or providing airport transportation, to someone who is hurting.

The person who is hurting may not take you up on your offer, but they will appreciate the effort.  They will also appreciate that you have not put the burden of having to think of something you can do on top of whatever load they are already carrying.  People often say, “please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”  It might be more comforting to add, “like go to the grocery store or pick up your daughter at the airport or anything else you might need.” 

Spread a little bit of serendipity.

Let someone else ahead of you online in a department store or post office.

People often do this in grocery stores when the person behind them only has a few items.  It is more striking when it happens other places.  Occasionally, leave all the change in the tip jar when your ice cream cone costs $4.01 and you give the cashier a $5.  If you can afford it, generously over tip a server, especially if you can hear that another diner is giving him or her a hard time.  Let workers and managers know what it meant to you when a service worker does a wonderful job.

Apologize.

In most hurtful situations, there is fault on both sides.  It may not be equal.  It rarely is.  The other person could truly bear 95% of the blame, but there is almost always something you could have done differently to make the situation less painful.  Don’t worry so much about the other person’s blame.  You can’t control that.  You can own your share of the issue and apologize for it.  That doesn’t mean you should put up with poor behavior from other people.  You can choose to love people from a distance without subjecting yourself to their brokenness if that brokenness continues to cause them to abuse you. 

Let someone else take the wheel, even if they are tearing up your highway.

Do you want to win, or do you want to love? I often go into projects or situations with something of an agenda.  I know what I want to have happen and I know how I want them to happen.  I’m sure I sometimes seem committed to “my way or the highway.”  Honestly, in most situations, it really doesn’t make that much difference how a denouement plays out.  In the love building department, very little is about the outcome and much more is about the benefits involved in the getting there.  For instance, when I have a conversation with someone, I may have a goal about what I want the outcome of that conversation to be, but I also have some goals about how I want both of us to feel at the end of that conversation.  Those goals about how I want us to feel are usually more important than the content of the conversation. 

Smile from your heart.

I am a very shy person. It is even hard for me to catch someone’s eye without dissolving into a pile of goo.  It feels like I am imposing on their privacy by my mere existence. I made a discovery, though, that has helped me “let my love shine” and reduce my shyness.  I make it a point to purposely look at people around me and to smile. I let that smile generate from the part of my soul that is busily building all that love. I let it rise to my heart, mouth, and eyes.  I let it be personal, because it is.  It must be genuine for it to work.  You must feel the smile, not just do it.  There is a scene from a movie about the life of St. Therese of Lisieux where she is trying to befriend one of her rather fractious sisters in the convent.  The other nun says to her, “why are you always smiling at me like that?” St. Therese responds, “If I am smiling at you, Sister, it is because I am happy to see you.”  For this heart smile to do its best work, you must be happy to see the person.  Sometimes, you must search a little for the part of you that is happy to see that person, but it is worth it.

Pray.

If there is anything that is the quickest, most sure-fire tool to build love for me, it is prayer.  God is Love, so why not go to the source of it all to multiply and replenish when you are hard at work building love-er-li-ness?

This Valentine’s Day try to embrace your pursuit of love-er-li-ness.  You can do it in whatever way works for you.  You can try some of my suggestions or go your own way.  All I am really advocating is that we all try to increase our love of God, people in general, people who we might find challenging, and the people who matter to us the most.  I’d also encourage one other technique.  Be kind to yourself.  Being love-er-ly to yourself is important, too!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you could leave a love-er-ly valentine message for someone, what would it be? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a love-er-ly day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Stopping The Presses

I am sure that most of you know by now that I published a book almost two years ago.  The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. I published it under my real name, Dorry Curran (for those inquiring minds who want to know what is up with the whole name thing, please see http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/03/the-big-reveal/.)  If you like my blog, you will probably like the book. 

I published the book using an author services company for several reasons.  The main benefit of using the company is that I didn’t have to learn how to do a lot of technical production work that I didn’t want to learn to do.  The whole experience was very educational and enriching.  I was able to produce a book that gives me a lot of satisfaction and pride.  I wanted to learn something about the mechanical/technical/operational world of book publishing and I did.  I did not really want the aggravation involved in learning how to do the mechanical/technical/operational work itself.  I think I made the right choice for me and I do not regret the decision.

The downside of using the author services company, of course, was cost.  It cost me a bit of money to publish and distribute the book.  I didn’t expect to recoup the entire cost and I’m fine with only making back a fraction of the investment.  My mother had a friend who was wildly obsessed with stamping and making cards.  She invested thousands of dollars on stamps, supplies, and a custom designed “stamping room” where she displayed her stamps on handmade shelves.  I think my book is similar.  I spent the money for the love of writing and the desire to create something wonderful and unique to me.  Every time I look at a copy of my book, it makes me happy.  Money well spent, in my opinion. 

The thing is that the money needs to keep getting spent if I want to continue to make the book available.  Each year, I have to pay a chunk of change to the author services company to handle orders and distribution of the book.  Last year, I cut that cost a little bit by discontinuing the “direct-to-reader” author website.  This year, the renewal for the remaining services will come due towards the end of March.  Since sales over the past ten months or so have been virtually non-existent, I have decided not to renew.  Yes, I’ll be stopping the presses.  My book will be out of print by the end of March.  I wanted to give you all a head’s up so that you can order any electronic or paperback copies that you want before the only place to get it is at yard sales and secondhand stores. 

If you would like to buy paperback or electronic versions of Changing My Mind, please visit your favorite online bookseller.  The book is available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and many other online sources. 

Thank you for your support of my work.  I will continue to blog each week until I run out of things to say (yes, I hear you scoffing, those of you who think I ran out of things to say years ago.) I appreciate all of you who come along with me on my musings and adventures.  I am so glad to have you as my traveling companions!

For those of you who have read my book, is there anything you would like to share (positive or negative) that might help others decide whether or not to invest in a copy?  Please share your perspective by leaving a message.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Resolute

The older I get, the more certain I get that it is unwise to be too certain of much of anything. 

Sure, there are a few precepts that I hold very dear and I am certain of my commitment to them.  For instance, I am certain of my faith in Jesus.  I am certain that it is important to be kind.  I am certain that it is critical to have integrity.  I am certain that love is more powerful than hate and both are more powerful than indifference.  I am much less certain of what exactly these abstract precepts will look like in any given set of concrete circumstances.  I’ve given up taking stands about what I should/would/could do in any situation that I have not yet encountered. I just don’t have the imagination or the energy for it. Besides, I think that there are probably enough people in the world who live by absolutes.  I don’t need to be one of them.

I can remember, when I was younger, I used to have a much firmer grasp on the “right thing.” I was often shocked by the actions of people I knew.  I had a picture in my head of how “good” people behaved.  Sadly, I judged people by that warped window into their souls.  I didn’t allow for the possibility that my picture was much narrower than reality. I also didn’t take into consideration that cracks, repairs, scratches, and scars over time can distort the view through the window. 

I find I get more tolerant as I get older.  I have never been sure about this “getting wiser with age” stuff, but I do think there is a certain amount of wisdom in becoming less resolute in what I think I know. 

This year, I am resolving to be even less resolute about things that really don’t matter.  Loving people is way more effective than judging people.  Understanding people is more important than taking a position about people. Acknowledging that who I am and how I live my life may not be the only “good” way to be and live.   Yes, it is important to be discerning about things that could be dangerous to personal physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual safety.  Discerning does not mean certainty, however.  I’m always going to leave room for the Holy Spirit. 

Did you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2020? How are they going for you? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Resolve to have a great day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Catching Up With The Kid

I don’t think I was ever a child, even when I was one.  Sure, I must have been young once.  I am sure I had a toddlerhood.  I have the pictures to prove it.  Somewhere around the age of five, though, I lost the kiddiness.

I think I was always a pretty old soul… serious, hyper-responsible, and perceptive.  Even as a kid, I was not good at living in the moment.  I tended to plan and think about what I would be doing years in advance.  Instead of playing joyfully and discovering the richness of the world, I sort of just waited to grow up.  I can remember being aware, even as a young child, that adults laughed at things children said and did.  Now, I know that when a child causes an adult to laugh, it is often sweet and endearing.  As a child, all I perceived was that I was being laughed at.  And being laughed at seemed to be a very bad thing, indeed.  The end result was that I kept a low profile and avoided doing anything that might provoke what I saw as ridicule.  It is sad, but I feel like I waited out my youth. 

I started saving money to go to Europe when I was eleven.  I began working when I was sixteen, even though there was no economic necessity that I do so.  I married young. I started working at my “career job” within weeks of graduating from college. My friends were all older than I.  I never seemed to fit in with an age-appropriate life, so I cobbled out my version of an adult grown up life long before it made sense.  Once I went down that path, it seemed unlikely that I would ever veer off it.  

When I got divorced, I did start to find the child that I had long ago stuffed inside the deepest recesses of myself.  I remember thinking that I was finally learning to play.  There was one day when I was walking on the beach when it hit me. I had a week off from work.  I let the sun melt the tightness on my shoulders. I locked my inner fussbudget in a closet deep inside my brain.  I heard the breeze whooshing around my ears. I saw the crystalline sunlight fracturing into prisms around me.   I tasted the salt in the air.  I smelled the pungent odor of sunscreen and seaweed.  I felt wet sand crunching and oozing between my toes.  Suddenly, I knew what it meant to live in the moment and slip my leash.  The saturation of the experience did not last long, but it did at least teach me that I had a lot of work to do if I was ever going to learn to play.  The experience stayed with me, but I was already Little Red Riding Hood deep in Grown Up Woods.  My beach experience taught me that there was a wolf inside me trying to devour my childhood, but I was too far gone to really avoid that eventuality.

Once I left my working life behind me, I still had responsibilities.  Certainly, if there is anything that convinces a person that she is a grown up, it is losing a parent.  Still, I have taken time over the past five years of my retirement to get to know that kid I could have been, had I allowed myself to embrace being a child.  It seems the further back in my rearview mirror my career gets, the more riotously childlike (or childish, depending on your perspective) I become. 

Some of you have been following along with some of my adventures- hunting for elves on my shelves, undergoing a bippity boppity Tinker Bell makeover, making proximity to Disney World a criterion for deciding where I would move in retirement, wearing light-up Christmas crocs just about everywhere, spending rather large amounts of money to get up close and personal encounters with adorable wild animals, volunteering to play a part in a reenactment of a colonial courtroom drama when visiting Williamsburg, and plunging headlong into activities for which I have absolutely no aptitude… just for the fun of it. Part of my premature and intense adulthood manifested itself as an impressive talent for worrying.  I won’t say I don’t worry anymore.  That would be absurd.  Certainly, though, I worry a lot less.   I don’t worry so much about what I look like. I don’t worry so much about being good at anything.  I don’t worry so much about doing stuff.  I just do stuff.  As a result, I think I look prettier, have better and more diverse skills, and enjoy life much more. 

People say that we sometimes enter a “second childhood” when we age.  I don’t think I am entering a second childhood.  I am just catching up with the first one. 

How about you?  Have you become more childlike in retirement?  Why do you think that is?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a childish day… just KIDding!

Terri/Dorry 😊

PS If you are wondering why this is early, it is because the child in me got impatient and pushed the “publish” button instead of the “schedule” button.

Mourning Backwards

I thought that grief was supposed to lessen over time. I could swear I missed my mom more this past holiday season than previous Christmases. Despite having an overall holly jolly time, I hit a rough patch the last week or so before Christmas. I felt like I crammed a lot of riotous, rollicking activities into the time between mid-November and mid-December.  Once I found myself past the flurry of events, I realized I had cleared a wide, fresh pathway to feeling sad. One day, I got it into my head to go to a mall and the Christmas Tree decoration store my mother and I frequented several times.  I would normally never consider going shopping so close to Christmas, but I had a few errands that I thought I could knock out quickly.  Of course, I didn’t knock them out quickly.  It was a bit of a hard slog made even harder because of my mother’s absence.

I have many happy memories of my mother associated with Christmas.  Most people would say that they love Christmas.  Why else do songsters keep belting out “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?” To my mother, though, Christmas was an art form.  It wasn’t like she was one of those crazy Christmas light folks on television, but there was something intensely special about the way she threw herself into the season. There are so many holiday moments that she engraved permanently into my brain with love.  It makes me so happy that I have these memories.  Without a doubt, those memories enrich my experience of Christmas, even since her death.  There is also a sadness tied up in those memories that breaks through every year at the holidays. 

Every year since I can remember, my mother used to take me Christmas shopping on a special day.  She did the same for my brother.  Ostensibly, the trip was for each of us to buy a Christmas present for the other sibling.  In truth, there was another agenda that I did not perceive until well into my teen years.  My mom would take us on these outings to buy a present for our sibling… and so she could see what delighted the kid on the shopping expedition with her. She explained to someone once that she would watch what caught my eye and what I “oohed and awed over” as I wandered the stores looking for a present for my brother.  I was never very good at telling anyone what I wanted, so she would watch my reaction to items in the store for ideas about what might enchant me on Christmas morning. She always did great. 

My shopping day with my mother continued until the December before her stroke.  As she aged and became frailer, we had to adapt what we did and for how long, but we always had a wonderful time.  We’d look at Christmas decorations, listen to Christmas music, buy stuff we didn’t need, and revel in being together.  This shared annual experience was so much a part of who we were together, I even tried to arrange a special transport to take her to the tiny mall in our town that last December of her life.  Unfortunately, before I could get the authorization and organize everything, she started to let go of her hold on her “regular” world and began to head down her journey towards the next life. 

My shopping trip right before Christmas this past holiday screamed “mom” at me.  It just felt so much like something she should have shared with me, as she had so many other pre-Christmas shopping trips.  Suddenly, I missed her with a physical fierce coldness that seemed to simultaneously freeze my respiratory system and melt my digestive system.  My knees wobbled alarmingly.  For a few moments, my brain seemed to spin around inside my skull and I thought I might faint.  I was standing in a depressingly long line at JC Penney’s.  I grabbed a shelf on one side of the line and waited for the feeling to pass.  The intensity of the pain did pass, but left some emotional havoc in its wake. 

Someone once told me that one key to managing depression is to HALT.  Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  I realized that I was all four of these “halts.” I couldn’t do much about being hungry or tired while standing in line, unless I called out for pizza and a sleeping bag.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop being lonely for my momma.  I could, however, choose to stop feeling angry and frustrated with the massive line at Penney’s.  I used the rest of my time standing in line observing the shoppers around me and the clerks at the cash registers.  For the most part, the shoppers were pretty disgruntled and the sales clerks were serene and polite.  I decided I would try to flip the script.  When it was my turn to pay, I made a special effort to be pleasant and grateful.

I transacted my business at Penney’s and moved on to Macy’s.  Some weeks ago, I bought a wonderfully warm, fluffy robe at Macy’s.  The weather finally cooled off enough by the middle of December for me to wear it to water aerobics class.  That is when I discovered that the Macy’s sales associate had neglected to remove the security tag.  Macy’s is about 40 miles from my house, so I originally decided to just live with a grey plastic device flopping at the side of my robe.  When people started looking at me funny at the pool, clearly wondering if I had embarked on a life of crime, I thought better of that tactic.  That was my motivation for going to the mall less than a week before Christmas.  I brought the robe to get the Macy’s people to untag me.

When I got to Macy’s, it seemed that people were even nastier than they were at Penney’s.  I purposely let several people go ahead of me because they were unhinged and I thought it would be helpful for the sales clerk if she didn’t have to balance her priorities between Miss Christmas Crazy Person 2019 and me, who had been waiting in line ahead of her (to say nothing of the fact that I would not have had to drive 40 miles and stand in line at all if the first sales clerk had removed the tag in the first place.)  I smiled at the clerks supportively and even suggested that they take care of another timebomb of a shopper before they waited on me.  I found it strangely serene and comforting to engage in these small acts of kindness.  I said a little prayer to thank God for His blessing in helping me find this little coping mechanism.

I was pretty proud of myself until I left the mall and realized I was still very hungry and… lonely.  I drove to a nearby McDonald’s.  McDonald’s was also a holiday tradition in my home.  For some unknown and clearly irrational reason, I didn’t like McDonald’s hamburgers as a child.  I did, however, love the French fries.  On Christmas Eve, my mother would fry hamburgers at home and my father would go to McDonald’s and buy French fries.  When I got older (and over my antipathy to McDonald’s hamburgers), it was a special treat during Christmas vacation for my brother and me to ride our bikes to McDonald’s alone and have lunch.  So, as weird as it sounds, McDonald’s has a sentimental attraction for me. 

At McDonald’s, I found they converted to a customer-driven electronic ordering system.  I stared at the huge monitor and began pushing buttons, trying to follow the directions.  Something about the electronic ordering system baffled me.  I kept getting to a place in the process that thwarted me.   I felt more and more defeated as I kept trying.  I felt confused and despondent.  After trying several times, I surrendered.  I still had enough of my wits about me to know that I should not get back in the car and drive without something to eat.  I went up and tried to explain my dilemma to the nice young lady at the counter.  For some reason, I was also having trouble finding words to explain what was wrong.  I kept apologizing.  She never skipped a beat or appeared impatient.  She was sincerely kind.  Ultimately, we completed the ordering process.  I took my number and went off to find a table, embarrassed at the fuss I was making.  Once I sat down, I even started to cry softly and discreetly. Another employee, who was cleaning up around the lobby, came over to ask if I was okay and if she could do anything for me. 

After I ate my lunch and nourished my psyche with some perspective, I thought about how thankful I was for the kindness of the McDonald’s employees.  A fast food restaurant is about the last place one would expect workers to rise above the madness and inject a little humanity into the day.  Fast food restaurants are loud, crowded, and thrive on doing things quickly and efficiently.  These McDonald’s employees were not only efficient using their hands and heads, they went a step further and used their hearts. 

I wanted to do something to thank them.  They deserved it.  Plus, I had been reminded by my experiences at the department stores that it makes me feel better to do something nice for someone else. I went over to the lobby employee, thanked her, and gave her a hug.  I also thanked the lady at the counter.  They were both over the moon. I also told the manager how grateful I was to both the employees.  I told her that being nice is a superpower.  People don’t always realize how much difference it can make to just be nice. 

When my mother was shrinking through her last year of life, I often found myself being the kind of person I didn’t want to be. I was impatient, snappish, and cranky all too frequently.  I felt like I was losing the best parts of me- the gentleness, the peace, the playfulness, the affection.  I was ashamed.  I blamed myself… and I also blamed the grief.  I believed the mourning was destroying the me I had always been.

In the last year or so, I rejoice because I feel some of those shinier sides of me returning.  I notice myself behaving as I would have behaved years ago. It makes me so happy.  I also notice that, like on my pre-Christmas shopping day, I am finding more tiny ways to nurture happiness in the world. 

For me… and maybe for everybody… mourning is not a linear process.  There is no forward or backward.  There is ebb and flow.  There are zigs and zags.  There are swirls and spirals.  Mourning gains and loses momentum, depending on external circumstances and internal conditions… like hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness.  The most important thing, though, is that mourning does not have to destroy.  Mourning can also create.   

I consider the shot of grief that often accompanies my memories of my mother to be the “price of admission” to being able to re-experience the happy times with her.  I think it is worth it to have the odd meltdown now and then in order to access the sweet memories.  What do you think?  Is it worth being sad sometimes over the death of a loved one to also remember the joyful times and connections?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a sweetly memorable day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

#BestDayEver

I see the slogan #BestDayEver all over the place.  There seems to be a certain amount of disagreement on what exactly constitutes the #BestDayEver.  It comes up in commercials for traveling to exotic lands.  I’ve seen it in conjunction with people who have just gotten married. One friend of mine used it when describing the day she received a job offer from a perspective employer. Another was all about the #BestDayEver when she found a pair of shoes she wanted on sale.  I see it frequently in amusement park marketing.  I even see the slogan accompanied by graphics of mouse-shaped ice cream bars, pretzels, and doughnuts. 

So, what does make the #BestDayEver?

As much as I love amusement parks and the House of Mouse in particular, I have to suggest that a day at Disney, in itself, does not constitute the #BestDayEver.  Shocking, perhaps, but there you have it. 

I think we sometimes confuse fun, happiness, and joy.  To determine the #BestDayEver, it might be useful to explore the differences between the three.

Fun is when you do a pleasurable activity.  It could be traveling to a new vacation spot.  It could be going to Disney World.  It could be writing a blog.  It could even be doing housework, if that is what floats your boat.  Fun is great.  It is still possible to be sad while having fun, however.

Happiness is what happens when you feel satisfied and content and light all over.  Your world seems untroubled for the moment.  The moon is in the seventh house and your planets are aligned.  There is a line from a song from the play Wicked that says, “Happiness is what happens when all your dreams come true.”  Happiness is wonderful.  On the other hand, happiness is extremely fragile.  It is dependent on external circumstances.  The slightest turn of events has the power to turn happiness into grief. 

Joy, on the other hand, is deeper and less transitory.  Joy is about what completes you and fills your soul.  It is all about the internal.  It is the feeling of permanent peace, hope, faith, and love.  It is about knowing that- no matter what is going on in the world around you, no matter what your immediate circumstances- your spirit is soaring, contented, precious, and beautiful.  It is possible to be joyful, even when one is not having fun and even when one is unhappy.  From my perspective, there is only one true source of Joy.  That Joy that fills me and lifts me, even at times when life is neither fun nor happy, is the knowledge that, through Jesus, I am a cherished child of God.

Those of you who have been following along with my blog know that I have my dark moments.  It is easy to see that I am not always having fun and I am not always happy.  It might even seem like I don’t always feel the Joy.  I think that, maybe, none of us will ever experience the completeness of Joy in this life.  However, as I grow in wisdom, age, and favor, I get closer to the Joy.  I get a little taste of what the bliss of Heaven will be.  Maybe we develop our most authentic relationships with God and with our fellow souls by the constant effort to reach for the Joy each day.  As I reach for it more and more, I find it more often. 

I often think about what plans God has for me and what my purpose is in this life.  I’ve talked before about my belief that my mission is to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.  I hope, as I meander through life, that I can shine the light on the Joy for others so they, too, can get a little taste of that Heaven on earth.

So, what makes the #BestDayEver?  Surely, it would be a day when I am having fun, feeling happy, AND experiencing Joy.  Joy is the most important ingredient, though.  A happy day doing something fun without Joy can never be the #BestDayEver. In fact, any day without Joy would be the #WorstDayEver!

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

Have a fun, happy, and joyful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

EXTRA BONUS CONTENT If this blog struck a chord with any of you and you would like to learn more, I have an invitation for you. If you are in the Leesburg, Florida area and would like to explore some of the big faith-based questions of life in an open, non-judgmental, nonthreatening environment, please join us at the Alpha program at St. James Episcopal at 204 Lee Street in Leesburg.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey- some people are just beginning to question if Christianity is what they want, some people have been Christians, some people are agnostically curious, some people are regular churchgoers and just want to feel more grounded, passionate, and connected to their faith.

The program starts Thursday, 1/9/20 at 6:00pm with a dinner. After the dinner, there is a short video about some aspect of Christianity. After the video, we break into small groups where people can ask questions, talk about what they believe, and raise concerns about any aspect of faith or church. You can say anything you want, as long as it is said respectfully. You can also say absolutely nothing, if that is what you want. The program is free, including the dinner.

Santa Claus Got Eaten By An Alligator

Is there something you really wanted that you didn’t get for Christmas?  I think I know why.

The world is weird.  At times, I think my particular parcel of the world is weirder than most.  Some may say that I perceive more peculiarity than is good for me simply because, since retirement, I have more time to notice the weirdness around me. I don’t think that is it.  Even before I retired, people would often remark that I seemed to be a “weird magnet.”  If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “it could only happen to you,” I’d have been able to retire before I ever had a job.

Let me describe the recent weirdness in my world that may explain why that special something, whatsit, or gizmo did not make it under your Christmas tree this year. 

In my development, Christmas decorating is a big deal.  Wonderful volunteers festoon the whole community with beautiful, brilliant, bedazzled ornamentation.  Many individual residents also decorate their houses with light displays, inflatable characters, nativities, and other festive touches.  I am very grateful for the people who do all that because I love to see it.  My idea of outdoor decoration is to stick a few outsized plastic ornaments on the tree next to the garage door and haul out my three-foot plastic polar bear holding the solar lantern.  A good woman has got to know her limitations.  Max and I always go driving around the community on Christmas Eve to enjoy my more energetic neighbors’ handiwork.  This year, we noticed a house decorated with two-dimensional Christmas icons made of strings of lights.  There was also a cut-out of a red sleigh, roughly the size of a Honda Civic, which was also outlined in lights.  I understood the significance of the sleigh.  I also understood the significance of the reindeer, geese, and gift-wrapped present figures.  What was a little more puzzling to me was the traditional Christmas…wait for it….alligator? 

Yes, there was an alligator made of green lights decking the halls of this house, right next to the sleigh and reindeer and geese and presents.  Since the house backed up on a pond, I suppose it made sense.  Still, when we noticed this somewhat bizarre Christmas visitor on our Christmas Eve decoration drive, I couldn’t help but think it would have been nice to put a little Santa hat on him or something.  We got home that evening, chuckling about the weird Florida Christmas.  What would be next?  Eight tiny geckos? An early bird in a palm tree? 

I shouldn’t have been so flippant. 

A couple of evenings later, we were coming home from dinner and noticed the alligator house.  I gasped in horror. THE ALLIGATOR WAS IN THE SLEIGH!!!! The implications of this phenomenon were too gruesome to imagine.  Unfortunately, imagine them I did. I couldn’t get the picture of the alligator picking his teeth out of my head.  What’s worse is that I think I heard that alligator belch to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” 

Last night, the alligator was no longer in the sleigh.  He was back at ground level but appeared to be engaged in a stand-off with one of the Christmas geese figures.  Given that no one has seen Santa Claus lately, my money is on the alligator.  I think that goose is cooked. 

A terrible picture, as the alligator moved again tonight… he seems to be making his move on the goose, which is now just a blur in this picture.

Here’s hoping your new year will be a lot happier than that of this goose! What are your wishes for 2020? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Silent Wednesday

Today is Christmas Day.  All around the world, people are celebrating.  Some people are not celebrating.  All I really wish for this Christmas is that everyone who is lost or lonely or sad or angry or hungry or thirsty or cold or ill… or is suffering in any way… will experience some flicker of the Light that is the Christmas miracle.  I don’t know why some people are so broken and bruised and others seem to have an easier time, but I do know that no one is completely unscathed in life.  We all need something…. And we all have something to give. And sometimes what we need is to give. 

I’ve spent a lot of time this season talking about holiday traditions and my own somewhat kooky ho-ho-hoing.  Today, I’m going to let Christmas just be a Silent Night… and a silent morning and a silent afternoon and a silent evening.     It is more important that you pay attention to what is in your heart today than what is in mine. 

Blessed Christmas to all!  May you find peace, love, and joy in your sacred silence. 

My warmest wishes and prayers to all of you this Christmas Day!  May you be blessed with faith, hope, and love at Christmas and always.  Please feel free to leave a comment, sharing your Christmas wishes. 

Merry Christmas!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Jingle Bell Ro(lli)ck

I have been having a rather rollicking holiday season. 

It started in mid-November when I took a quick trip to California to visit some friends and to spend some quality time with my brother.  I refer to this trip as my Christmas store and comfort food tour of Southern California.  I spent only four full days in California.  During that time, I went to two fancy Christmas garden/decoration stores, perused (and purchased) vast quantities of Christmas merchandise at Disney’s California Adventure, had lunch at the favorite pizza place of my childhood, had bagels at my old bagel stomping ground for two breakfasts, and consumed In and Out Burger fare twice.  I also ate gingerbread from several different sources during my trip.  I had to compare and contrast, didn’t I?

When I got home, Thanksgiving was upon us and I hosted a dinner for a family of Florida friends.  We had a great time.  For grace, I asked each person to offer a prayer of Thanksgiving for some blessing within a specific category… friends, family, health, spiritual gifts, etc.  The prayers were moving and true.  I think we all shared a common bond of gratitude, which was a great foundation for a day of food, fellowship, and fun. 

The next day, I dragged out the Christmas decorations and changed the season from harvest to hark-the-herald-angels.  Promptly on December 1, Max began the daily chore of hiding my mini-elf-on-a-shelf, Kringle.  I search for him each morning.  With the first Sunday of Advent, Max and I have lit candles each evening and shared reading devotionals.

A couple of days later, we went on our Christmas sojourn to the Most Magical Place on Earth.  I immersed myself in Disney Christmas magic… brilliant decorations, an over-the-top Christmas parade, breath-taking Candlelight Processional, and mass quantities of gingerbread.  I laughed, I cried, I fell in love…. Not an advertisement, just my very real reaction.

This week, Max and I went to Celebration, a Disney-inspired town just outside the theme park property.  It is a Victorian town built in 1996.  I realize that Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 through 1901, but Disney can do anything… including building a town 95 years too late.  At Christmas, Celebration is special.  There are huge Christmas trees, an ice rink, a snowfield, and quaint little shops.  There is also a company that offers horse and carriage rides.  We had a nice cozy dinner, wandered around the town, and rode around in a one-horse open sleigh. 

Next week, I’m going Christmas caroling and I’m planning two more parties in the next couple of weeks. 

Soon, we will be celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with faith and friends.  Max and I have some traditions that we share together, including church services.  We provide for time with God, with each other, and with family. 

I’m kind of a goofball, I guess.  I’ve enjoyed the schmaltz.  I wouldn’t give up any of my holiday activities.  I do admit, though, that I sometimes turn the corner off Whimsy Street onto Absurd Avenue.  Here’s the evidence:

I’m a grown woman and I search for my elf on the shelf, Kringle, every morning.  Not only do I search for my little elf, I talk to him.  I have whole conversations with him.  He and I have a relationship that may be a little unhealthy.

I feel relieved because the two Christmas trees that are displayed all year in my house finally make sense for a few weeks.

I erect not one, but two additional Christmas trees for the season… one topped with Tinkerbell and one topped with a bear with angel wings.

I purchased light-up Disney Christmas crocs that I have been wearing steadily since I bought them.  In a rare nod to adulthood, I did get them when I was in California where I could take advantage of my friend’s employee discount. 

I came home from the pool this morning a little chilled and decided to don some warm clothes.  See below.

me in my elf comfy
I’m Christmas crazy, right down to my toes!

I rest my case.  Have a holly jolly, everyone!

PS. Kringle sends his wishes for a merry and bright Christmas, too!

Your turn! Have I gone completely around the bend? Please tell me about any of your “whimsical” Christmas activities. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Terri/Dorry 🙂