Sin City

Recently, I went on vacation to Las Vegas. Many people who know me are baffled at my repeated trips to Sin City for leisure activity. I agree it does seem incongruous on the face of it, especially for people who are not familiar with Las Vegas. There is plenty of extravagant, in-your-face sin opportunities. I would never walk the streets, especially after about 4:00pm, with children. There is too much confusing and bizarre behavior that would certainly lead to conversations I don’t think anybody really wants to have. For adults, though, it is relatively easy for me to ignore the weirdness. I do not even have to try that hard. In fact, I often walk right by tantalizing occasions of sin without even noticing them. Most of the sinsational opportunities don’t interest me. They tend to land on my frontal lobe as “icky.” They do not even sound fun. I might come uncomfortably close to greed and envy now and again, but the more corporal temptations just don’t float my boat.

So if I don’t go to Las Vegas for the sin, what is the attraction? Why do I go? I recently tried to explain this to a friend of mine.

The biggest draw for me is the eye candy. The level of color and sparkle and beautiful décor in the big Las Vegas hotels and casinos is fabulous. Also, many of the hotels have “loss leader” attractions to bring gamblers through their doors (as opposed to the hundred or so other doors that also lead to slot machines and table games.) For instance, Caesar’s Palace has an indoor shopping mall that makes you feel like you are roaming through ancient Rome under a starry Tuscan sky. The shops are all high end, “museum shopping” kind of places. I doubt many of the tourists strolling under said starry Tuscan sky are spending much in those shops. I doubt any of those stores actually make money, but it does not matter. They are there simply to bring people into the property, hoping that those people might drop a few bucks into a slot machine while they are there. There is a phenomenol carousel with flower-covered horses positioned in the Wynn Hotel, just at the entrance to the casino. At the Venetian Hotel, you can take an actual gondola ride through a wonderful, if slightly smaller scale, recreation of the Piazza San Marco.

My very favorite example of this eye candy is the Conservatory at the Bellagio Hotel. The hotel horticulturalists create a new amazing fairy land each season in a space about the size of an airplane hangar. The difference is that the conservatory is light, airy, and uplifting. A hangar is designed to contain a plane. The conservatory is designed to let your spirit soar on wings of fantasy. There are flowers, sculptures, water features that dance over the heads of visitors, and talking trees. Whimsy is the order of the day. I remember I was there one Christmas season and they had floral-covered reindeer about the size of minivans tethered invisibly to the ceiling. On this last trip, the theme had to do with teapots. People have apartments smaller than the elaborately decorated teapots erected in the conservatory. It is hard to explain the experience of walking around the conservatory if you have not seen it in person. Even in person, it is hard for me to form words when I am there. I mostly wander around in a bliss-induced out-of-body experience with my mouth hanging open.

Food is another reason for my trips to Las Vegas. Gluttony is a sin, of course, but I don’t think I descend into the “gluttony” level… especially in light of the 8-9 miles of walking I do each day when I am there. In a lot of ways, I probably eat better when I am in Las Vegas because I do focus on savoring what I am eating. I eat two or three meals a day, with maybe one snack in between. But what meals! I had crab cakes and shrimp cocktail the first night we were there. I had dinner at one of those “celebrity chef” restaurants. I had the world’s best chicken at Ruth Chris Steakhouse, watching the lights of the Strip come on while I ate my dinner. I had In-And-Out Burger, something I only get when I am in California or Nevada. I had part of a Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae for dessert.  Breakfasts, also, were yummy. We rarely go out for breakfast in non-vacation mode. Having fluffy, vanilla-tinged pancakes accompanied with perfectly cooked, crisp bacon is indulgent!

Another lure to Las Vegas is the shows. There are some shows that fit the “ick” category. Many years ago, we went to one of those by accident. The hotel where we were staying threw the tickets in for free when we booked a lodging package. When we saw the show, I was appalled. It was not that I was so prudish. I just couldn’t understand why it was supposed to be entertaining. All it really involved was people strutting around in clothing that would not even qualify as “skimpy.” Truthfully, it might not have even qualified as “clothing.”

The kind of shows I enjoy in Las Vegas are of a different ilk. My idea of fun is behaving like a slightly rebellious teenager. We’ve gone to see tribute shows of the Beatles, Bee Gees, and Neil Diamond. I’ve screamed and clapped and sang along with the rest of the wild crowd of senior citizens. I’ve also seen Donny and Marie, Rod Stewart, and Barry Manilow. In addition to hearing some fantastic music and seeing great choreography, it was wonderful to let the energy of the shows infuse me.  It makes me feel alive and young. I think Rod Stewart is my new role model. When I saw him, he was 77 years old and could still kick his leg over his head. I can barely get up off the kneeler at church without help.

Finally, they say that travel expands the mind and the spirit. While Las Vegas might not be known as a catalyst for personal growth, the opportunity to escape my normal world in such a dramatic way does provide a different path within my brain. It forces me to think differently and see things differently because the normal, default pathways in my brain are so confused and out of kilter. This trip provided a textbook example of this phenomenon. Stay tuned for my next post for the evidence!

What are the important factors you consider when deciding where to go on vacation? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a mind-altering day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut; Sometimes You Don’t- Part One

As you have probably intuited if you are a regular reader of my blog, 2023 has been a pivotal year for me, although stressful. I’ve confronted and battled with some big demons from my past. My last living relative on my mother’s side became critically ill and died, which meant two unplanned trips to Pennsylvania for me. This illness also meant saying good-bye to a much-loved cousin, waiting with her as she finished life in this world, resolving emotionally fraught end-of-life issues, and overseeing her estate. There has also been a rather unsettling shift and expansion of my spiritual life. During the course of this year, I have been working to put the self-discoveries into practice in real life. Change is difficult for most people. For me, it is an uphill slog over a mountain of mud while wearing cement boots. I felt like a vacation was definitely in order.

Recently, Max and I took off on a trip to Vermont and New Hampshire. We took a bus tour of New England about five years ago. That trip was a comedy of errors- so many things went wrong- but I loved, loved, loved New England. I decided that I wanted to go back, without the restrictions of a tour group or the need to constantly bop from one hotel to another. We decided to limit the number of destinations on this trip and to wander in the wind without planning every possible moment. I

In the past, I would have been too scared and nervous to attempt such a bold move. In the past, my anxiety insisted on tidy, carefully planned and scheduled, professionally orchestrated bus tours. I worried I would not be able to find my way around if we went on our own. I worried about directions and driving conditions. I worried that we would miss something critical if I served as the tour guide. I worried that we would “waste time” if I could not articulate a moment-by-moment agenda for the trip before we ever left home. I  worried that selecting hotels or vacation rentals on my own would result in lodging us on Skid Row or similarly sketchy neighborhoods.

I was much more confident of my abilities this year. In the past couple of years, I have driven to Georgia, and South Carolina. I drove all over the state of Pennsylvania and much of Maryland during my trips related to my cousin’s death. I have stayed in a few vacation rentals in the past and all of them have been fine.

I was kind of amazed that I was not more nervous as we embarked on the trip. I was actually feeling pretty sassy. I told myself that all that “putting the self-discoveries into practice in real life” was paying off big time. Take that, crappy self-esteem! Still, I was looking forward to a week of relaxing, irresponsible, reinvigorating vacation.

What happened was not that.

Incidentally, my birthday was the day before we left on the trip. It was fairly low key because we were preparing for the trip and wrapping our heads around the notion of leaving for the airport to fly to Vermont at 0 dark yesterday. I had scheduled an Uber a few days before and I thought we were set to leave at 3:30am. Uber confirmed my reservation so I thought we were good. Luckily, a nagging notion in the back of my mind prepared me when 3:30am proved to be too early for the Uber driver. I drove us to the airport. It was not only too early for the Uber driver, but it was also too early for valet parking at the airport. I left Max at the terminal with the luggage and ventured off to find a parking spot. I left the car and headed back to the terminal, breathing a silent prayer that I would be able to locate the vehicle when we returned in six days.

Our flight to Vermont was uneventful. “Eventful” happened for the first time when we went to pick up the rental car in Burlington. I handed over my credit card and driver’s license, like a good girl. The guy at the counter pointed out that my driver’s license was expired… because my birthday was the day before. I had no idea. We solved that problem by having Max rent the car with his unexpired license. The next step to my “solution” was for me to drive the rental car around all week as an unauthorized driver on the vehicle. When we went to get some lunch, I quickly renewed my driver’s license online, but that still did not address the unauthorized driver problem. Luckily, I was not arrested at any time while I was in New England.

We spent the night in Burlington and had an enjoyable time wandering the shops at the Church Street Marketplace. The vrbo rental, although a little worn around the edges on the outside, was charming and comfortable on the inside. The next day, we drove to Stowe, VT to visit the Trapp Family Lodge. I wanted to break into song the moment we turned the corner into the parking lot. The hills certainly were alive with the sounds of music and the sights of a million leaves turning into God’s autumn oil painting. The scenery was spectacular, and the resort was uncrowded.

I decided I wanted to hike to the chapel Werner Von Trapp built behind the lodge. Max was not a fan of that idea because it involved walking down a trail some ways from the main path. He was, predictably, concerned that monsters would get me. I think he meant humanoid monsters that might be hiding beside the trail to attack me. I decided to pursue the trail anyway. After I walked about ten minutes, I saw the trail offshoot to the chapel. Mountain goats would have had trouble navigating it. I am not a mountain goat. I have the coordination of a seasick sloth. As I turned to make my way back to the trailhead, I found Max hiking up behind me, to make sure I was okay.

After a lovely morning at the Trapp Family Lodge, we made our way to New Hampshire. We had tickets for a trip to the summit of Mount Washington on the COG railway the next day. Finding our way to our vacation rental proved to be quite difficult. We found the condo development with little trouble but were stymied by the numbering system. There were other renters who eyed us suspiciously as we circled around the complex looking for numbers that did not exist. I don’t blame them for being suspicious. We could have been casing the joint. I finally stopped to ask for help from some of the suspicious strangers, not so much because I thought they could really help, but because I wanted to make sure they didn’t call the cops… especially with that expired license thing. After consulting with the suspicious strangers, calling the condo owner twice, and Max getting out of the car and inspecting the doors of about five different condos (which, of course, all looked alike), we had our eureka moment. We found the right condo. We breathed a sigh of relief as we hauled our suitcases up the flight of stairs leading to the unit. Well, maybe it was a sigh of relief. Maybe we were just winded. The flight of stairs was pretty steep.

For dinner, we googled restaurants in the area. There were only a couple of choices within thirty miles, and they had odd hours of operation. We found a place that was actually connected to a nearby campground. It wasn’t great, but it was certainly acceptable. We should have taken the hint that our vision of “vacation dining” was not going to pan out well at this location. I guess we got taken in because we went to the stunning and elegant Mount Washington Hotel the next morning for a delicious, bountiful breakfast. That meal gave us the false hope that food in Bretton Woods was plentiful and accessible.

We enjoyed beautiful weather for our ride to the summit of Mount Washington. It was 78 degrees at the bottom of the mountain. It was 47 degrees at the top of the mountain, with  40 mile per hour wind gusts. The guide assured us it was a mild day. A few days later, the temperature at the top was -7 degrees and the wind gusts were 75 miles per hour. We learned a lot of interesting information from our tour guide on the railroad trip.

The most important thing I learned is that people from New Hampshire are crazy. When they were building the railway, workers used to fashion makeshift toboggans- dubbed “devil’s shingles”- to descend the mountain. Skiers wield velocity down mountainsides that are more perpendicular than my living room walls are to the floor . I have no clue what keeps them attached to the snow. Daredevils engage in government-sanctioned car races on the automobile trail up the mountain. You notice I don’t call it a “road.” This trail was not even fully paved until last year. It is a narrow path with no guard rails. As these drivers varoom up the mountain, they look out their windows to see fairly alarming scenery- an 8,000 foot drop off into oblivion. If you ask me, all of this is just wrong. I know New Hampshire’s motto is “live free or die,” but I do have to wonder how many of them have ended up dying somewhere on Mount Washington.

When we returned from the summit, we checked out the little “restaurant” at the visitor base of the mountain. You know those hot dogs that whirl around a heat lamp in movie theaters? The cuisine was similar at the “restaurant.” Max and I decided to pass. When we went looking for another Google restaurant. The directions took us into a campground and seemed determined to lead us through a tunnel into the woods. Max’s spirit of adventure did not extend to  traveling in a car down a path to nowhere that looked better suited to foot traffic. He asked (well, “asked” might be an understatement) me to give up this folly and get back on the main road. I wasn’t sure how to grant his request, since there was no place really conducive to turning around, I tried, but Max seemed to think I was going to back us off the path into a ravine. Finally, with his direction, I ended up driving the quarter mile or so back to the main road in reverse. At that point, my own sense of adventure was feeling a bit peaked. I was up for driving the 30 miles or so to the next town with a population large enough to warrant a real restaurant that might actually be open at… you know… dinner time. Max, however, was done. He identified a gas station convenience store, and we bought some suspicious looking shrink-wrapped food to stave off cannibalism. I was feeling a bit testy.

Me, without makeup, in front of a tree all dressed up for autumn on the Trapp property
My pictures don’t really do the trees justice
cog railroad

Please tune in next week for the final installment of Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut; Sometimes You Don’t.

Have a nutty day!

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

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!!!!




Where In The World Is Terri LaBonte?

This week, I am haunting one of my mother’s favorite places in the world and scattering her ashes.  I am visiting the spot where we released my father’s remains into the Universe over twenty years ago.  I am bonding with my brother in our grief over our mother’s death and our celebration of our connectedness.  I am taking shelter in the hearts of a couple long time forever friends. I am in California- the state where I grew into an adult and spent most of my life.

I reside in Florida now.  More importantly, I live in Florida now.  My life is there.  My sense of meaning and momentum and satisfaction is there.  I am happy in Florida and with the life I am constantly creating there.  Three years after my move from California (the land of no weather) to Florida (the land of wackadoodle weather), I can finally say unreservedly that relocating and reinventing myself was the absolute right decision for me.  Florida feels like Home.

Still, California still seems to occupy a small corner of the place in my heart called Home.  This week, I am living in that corner and it is very cozy here.

What do you think?  Can “Home” be more than one place?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a sweet day!

Terri 😊

A (Weird And Strange) Sentimental Journey

When Max and I travel, our destinations usually have a wholly “vacation” vibe.  We are always visitors, not residents.  There is no overlay of “real life” on our trips.  There isn’t any consideration of work, chores, obligations, or normal day-to-day routine.  As a result, our usual emotional experience of vacations is fairly one-dimensional- pleasure, relaxation, excitement, fun.

Our recent trip to California was a whole different beast.  Some of what we did on the trip did constitute “vacation vibe.”  We stayed in a hotel with a jacuzzi, took a side trip to Nevada to go to the casinos, and didn’t worry about responsibilities.  On the other hand, we did a lot of things that recalled the time when California was our home- went to favorite restaurants, took a trip to the San Diego Zoo, visited friends.  Being in a place where we spent most of our lives made it impossible to escape the impact of the remnants of our past. Things were pretty much as we remembered, but not quite as we remembered.  Everything seemed too familiar to truly feel like “vacation.”  The rub, though, was that everything also seemed a little too stylized to feel like “home.”  California probably didn’t change.  It is more likely that the different lenses through which we now look- ground by our new lives- are the reason for the differences we sensed. Reconciling those feelings of “home” and how they have changed was a huge theme of this trip.

This nostalgia created by a vacation tangled and snarled up with the memories and associations of “home” produced a much more complex series of emotions.  It was fun and wonderful, but also complicated.  Yes, we originally decided to vacation in California precisely to experience some of our old favorite haunts and activities that we have missed since moving to Florida.  I was just unprepared to still feel so connected and, yet, so ephemerally connected to California.  It was almost as if my old life in California was covered in cobwebs and I had managed to get tangled in some of those silken threads.  I was always aware of the sense of being attached and always equally aware of how easy it would be to pull away from the thread.  Still, I was not sure that I wanted to completely disengage… either from my California connections or the Florida connections that are just starting to form.

It was a very weird sensation that overwhelmed me several times during the trip.  Everywhere I looked, I remembered the best of my times and the worst of my times. I remembered who I was and how I perceived the world during the nearly fifty years I lived in California. I remembered the experiences I had with people who are either gone from my life or who have changed radically. I remembered how satisfying it was to regularly and routinely see my friends in California.   I think I felt more nostalgic and mournful about moving from California during this trip than I did when we actually moved. On the other hand, being in California didn’t feel quite real… or quite right.

The last time I went to California was a little less than a year after we moved.  At that point, I was still somewhat of a stranger in a strange land in Florida.  The brief trip back to California was a welcome, comforting dose of familiarity.  It was really too soon for California to not seem like home any more.  At that time, I had sketched in the outline of a life in Florida, but there was still a lot of blank spaces.  Since then, I’ve grown and expanded my Florida life.   I’ve colored in the blank spaces and the Florida life is more dimensional now.  As familiar as California felt to me on this trip, it also felt weirdly unreal.  It was hard recognizing that I am losing my attachment to my old home, especially when it still all felt so familiar.  Familiar… yet more faded, kind of like the way a copy of a copy of a copy used to look in the days before we had digital images.  Maybe it isn’t really that I am losing the attachment to California, but just redefining that attachment.  California may represent my past life, but it is still my life. Surely that means there is still some kind of attachment.  Besides, people I love are still part of the California life that is unfurling each day.  I think that means that California life is still a present part of my life, too.

When I went to church the Sunday after returning to Florida, a friend asked me how my trip was.  I replied, “It was wonderful, but I am glad to be home.” She looked at me and said, “so, here’s home now for you, is it?”

As soon as she asked the question, I realized it was true.  I had said “home” referring to Florida without thinking, but I knew I meant it.  California still houses a lot of the artifacts of my life- the memories and experiences that brought me to where I am now in my journey.  We revisited many of those memories and experiences during our trip, sort of like the way you might go to a living history museum to discover how people used to live in the “olden days.”  Then, after soaking up a dose of yesteryear, you go home and go on with your own present and future.  That’s what I did. After our trip to California, I went home to my present day real life.

Have you ever gone “home” after moving away?  What was that experience like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Can You Still Call It A Vacation After You’re Retired?

A few months after I retired and we moved across the country, Max and I took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We were looking forward to exploring the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. We would see the remains of the first English settlement in what became the United States of America.  We would watch artisans make glass, silver products, and clothing as it was made in the 1600s.  We would take a carriage ride around the perimeter of the first capital of the Virginian colony and attend a re-enactment of a colonial officer’s treason trial.  We would eat gingerbread made as it was in the early 1700s.  We would stand at the site of the decisive battle of the American Revolution.  Our plans were packed with educational and culturally enriching opportunities.  And shopping.  Besides the numerous gift shops adjacent to the aforementioned educational and culturally enriching opportunities, there was a large outlet mall, a huge Yankee candle megastore, and at least four multi-level shops devoted to selling Christmas decorations.   Scenery, history, and shopping… what more could a girl ask for from a vacation?  Maybe an amusement park?  Oh, there’s a Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, too. 

As we awaited the day of our departure, something was still bothering me, however.  Before we left, Max kept a countdown on the number of days until our “vacation.”  Every time he used the term “vacation,” something just didn’t sit right with me.  I asked him if it was still called a “vacation” since we no longer had jobs and, thus, really, had nothing from which to vacate. 

We tried to think of something else to call this event, but were not successful.  We tried “pleasure trip,” but that seemed too cumbersome.  We tried “getaway,” but thought that didn’t seem completely accurate, as there was no one chasing us.  Besides, there were no criminal activities, machine guns, or speeding cars involved.  Finally, we gave up and stopped calling our impending trip anything at all.

This issue of what to call this trip begged a bigger question.  When we were working, this sort of trip was incredibly fun, partly because all the time spent in this riot of entertainment was time not spent working.  I was worried that the trip would not hold the same appeal and enjoyment as past “vacations” now that the guilty pleasure of playing hooky from our jobs was no longer a component.

On the Sunday we arrived in Virginia, it was drizzling.  We had planned to go to Busch Gardens for part of the day, since I had not realized until a few days before we left (and AFTER I had already purchased online admission tickets) that the amusement park was only open on Saturdays and Sundays at the time of the year we were going.   Something weird happened, though, and I made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision.  I decided that, instead of braving the rain and racing around trying to get to Busch Gardens to use those prepaid admission tickets, we should just let it go.   Max and I have a tendency to overplan things.  I still refer to our first visit to Disney World as the “forced march across central Florida” because of my obsession with planning the heck out of stuff to avoid missing anything good.  This fateful decision to throw Busch Gardens to the winds ended up setting the tone for the whole trip.  Our pacing turned out to be just perfect.  As we pursued our fun, we did not run; we meandered.  Over the next five days, we saw all the sights we intended to see and more.  We walked aimlessly and endlessly through beautiful, tree-lined paths and reconstructed colonial towns. We absorbed the wonderful atmosphere with the very oxygen that we breathed.  We stopped at the College of William and Mary bookstore several times to browse, bask in the energy, and linger over a beverage.  I spent some time each day in the hotel’s indoor pool.  We ate well.  I managed to purchase goods from all four of the Christmas stores.  We both slept soundly and peacefully every night.   Although I was not aware I was feeling any stress before we left for Virginia, I became acutely aware of the complete absence of tension during this trip.  I was completely in the moment and enjoying everything as it happened. 

Maybe it was a vacation after all.

A few months later, we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, which rekindled the whole debate.  This trip would not be the lazy, spontaneous type of trip Williamsburg had been.  We had tickets and dinner reservations and had a pretty strict schedule of touring.  As we bounded through the four days in Las Vegas, our steps were springy and our eyes were wide.  Everywhere we looked, there was something different to see and everywhere we went, there was something different to do.  It was like an unending buffet of activity- even when we started to get full; we gulped and savored one more bite.  Still, I found myself still wrestling with the question of whether or not it is still a vacation when you no longer work for a living.  I was able to resolve the dilemma by asking myself a few simple questions:

  •   Was I cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry?  No.
  •  Was I suffering through some new house-related disaster?  No.
  •  Was I hauling my mother to medical appointments or evaluating health insurance plans for her?  No.
  • Was I evicting less-than-cuddly wild animals from my garage?  No.
  • Was I on vacation?    YES!

So what are your thoughts?  What makes a “trip” a “vacation” for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂