Priorities

Okay, I am a pathetic creature. 

I have 15 minutes until my ride arrives to take me to the Friday Night Social Events. 

I am going with work friends to a nearby town (cool place, lots of character and ambiance) to listen to a band that these folks like.  I’ve never heard the band, but I’m great fun apparently so they invited me…

…but I’m not ready and, funny, I’d rather sit here and blow my own smoke to an invisible audience rather than get ready.  It’s not that I don’t care about the folks I’m going to be with, it is just that I do care about this a bit more. 

I’m a sad sack. 

Here I am blogging in curlers and people will be showing up in less than 10 minutes and I still have to pull clothes out of the laundry (brush my teeth because I just inhaled a Vodka Cranberry) and touch up the make up so I don’t look like I just walked out of the classroom. 

I’d better go.

Further Tales From The Friendship Files

One of my friends spent her Winter Break in Mexico.  I’m already jealous, aren’t you?  While most of us in the Pacific Northwest were slogging away through some  extreme form of precipitation, my friend was sunning herself in her size 2 bikini, blonde hair down to her butt, no, wait, past her butt and sipping dangerous concoctions oceanside near Porta Vai Somewhere In Mexico.  She didn’t care.  She wasn’t having to drive home. 

This is her annual treat to herself and her family.  Yes, I did say family.  She and her husband and their two children go to Mexico every year at this time.   Usually, the vacations are pretty standard, as vacations go.  Four star luxury resort accomodations, sun, sand, surf,  sex (I’m guessing, though she didn’t go into it with me, particularly. Ah, just as well).  This year, things became a bit more exciting when said sexual exploits were rudely interrupted and her husband got in a fight.

Now, whereas my friend is small, her husband is quite tall and he’s not the skinny, shrimpy tall either.  He’s  a big, strong man.  He is not, however, prone to fighting, nor is he what I’d call, a bruiser.  He’s an easy going fun guy with a ready smile and a quick wit.  He’s a very kind, considerate, friendly person, except when his wife is upset, then he gets upset because, as he says, “If she’s upset, I’m going to hear about it.”

 When my friend mentioned that her husband got in a fight, I was all ears.

It turns out that they’d been on the go most of the vacation.  You know, entertaining the kids and all. It was their first night  there and both the kids crashed early, the place was quiet and they were feeling quite amorous.  Do you blame them?  For married couples on vacation with kids, it’s not often that both kids fall asleep while parents still have any energy left.  Just as things started heating up, the phone rings.  Annoyed, my friend’s husband answers the phone.  A voice on the other end asks, “Is Mike there?”  My friend’s husband’s name is not Mike, so he said, “No.”  The voice on the other end laughed abrasively and hung up.  My friends shrugged and resumed their activities.  As things once again began heating up, the phone again interrupted the holiday celebration.  The same conversation transpired.  This intrusive caller continued to several other times, before finally leaving my two friends alone for the evening. 

The next morning, very, very, very  early before anyone was awake, my two friends were again enjoying the quiet before the children woke up when there came a knock on the door.  Mexico Friend’s husband goes to the door, there is no one there.  He shuts the door.  A few minutes later they hear another knock.  He answers the door.  There is no one there.  Now, it is very early in the morning. My friends are on vacation in paradise, the kids are out cold and they are being disturbed at ungodly hours by some prankster at the most inopportune times.  They were both getting really annoyed.  Apparently, Husband Of Mexico Friend was more than a bit annoyed. 

This time he waited right by the door and the minute he heard the next knock he lunged out the door.  He was just in time to see a big burly kid probably about middle school age go hightailing it around the edge of the building.  Husband took off with Mexico Friend right behind him. 

Husband, being the larger and faster of the two was able to catch up with the kid but not  whithout slipping and sliding on the tile floors.  The kid  very nearly made it into his own room and had the door almost shut but Husband stopped the door with his foot breaking his toe in the process.  This did nothing to diffuse Husband’s temper or lift his mood.  Husband instead lifted the kid right out of his 4-star room and drug him back out into the hallway.  Husband verbally taking the prankster to task.  As I mentioned before, Mexico Friend’s Husband is a big man.  While he appears fun loving and gentle anytime I’ve ever seen him, I certainly wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.  He could be somewhat intimidating when provoked, I think.  I’m thinking the middle school student thought so too.  He was shaking like a leaf and white as a ghost. 

Well, the tonguelashing  caused quite a disturbance and it wasn’t long before others in the vicinity peeked out of their rooms to see what was going on.  Soon a bit of a  crowd had gathered. Apparently,  the parents of said teen were out partying and had left him on his own.  Out of boredom he decided to have some fun.   Mexico Friend had followed her husband because she thought he might need some support.  I have no idea what she thought she might do to help. 

Soon, things calmed down a bit and Mexico Friend’s husband ended his tirade. Relatives of the punk showed up, promised they’d address the behavior with the kid and just as everyone was beginning to disperse, Husband looked over at his wife and couldn’t believe what he saw.  In the wee hours of the morning, with very little time to plan, they’d both bolted out the door with little thought as to their appearance.  There stood his beautiful wife surrounded by a crowd of gawking onlookers, long blonde hair tousled and all 100 pounds of her (if she’s even that) clad only in a thin see through tank top and panties. White and transparent to be exact.  Knowing my friend as I do, I’m most certain these were not the grandma type briefs that my mother used to wear (sorry, mom) nor were they even boy shorts. I’m thinking her attire left little to the imagination and my friend is not, at least as far as I know, an exhibitionist.  She must have been mortified.

Mexico Friend and her husband made it back to the states safely.  Fortunately, there was no Mexican jail time for either of them.  She told me this story in person today as she gave me a beautiful hand-crafted Mexican poinsettia Christmas ornament as a souvenir.   Each year as I pull this lovely ornament out of it’s tissue and place it on my tree I will remember this humorous tale of what must have been a very embarrassing but humorous moment for Mexico Friend.  I will chuckle,  smile and think fondly of my friend and her family and wish them many more wonderful  and far less eventful vacations in the future.

Big Gifts!

Prerequisite reading:  Go to my  earlier post titled, “Sleepovers and ReGifting: Fundamentals of a Good Marriage”, read it then come back here. 

This just in from ReGifting Friend and her husband who have been married a long, long time.  Apparently they were discussing when they’d exchange gifts over the holidays. 

He:  Hey!  Do you want me to give you my big gift now?

She:  (smiling sweetly) Oh, I’ve been waiting for your “big gift” for a long, long time now.

He:  (shakes head and walks away).

That’s two for Regifting Friend.           

Her husband?  Well,  he seems to have lots of gifts and, after all, they are still married and happily so, it seems. 

I’m thinking she enjoyed all her gifts this holiday season.

My 2009 Off To A Great Start

My year is off to a great start.  Already, I’ve renewed what once was a valuable friendship to me. Yesterday, I met up with a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in almost a decade.  In a previous life, our husbands worked together for the same big church in my area.  She is still married to the same husband she was married to then (yay for them!) and my husband from that former life is now my ex.  He still works for the same big church.  Things changed, my marriage and my life erupted like the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima as failing marriages of staff people in  large conservative fundamentalist churches have a way of doing. My friend and her husband moved away to Portland, Oregon, went to school and well, though I’ve thought of them over the years often, we just lost contact.  But our daughters, who were born about the same time nearly 15 years ago, stayed in touch.  Earlier this week I received a surprising phone call from Portland Friend with the request that our daughters get together since Portland Friend and her family were in town for the holidays. 

I have to say I was a bit nervous about this.  I felt the shame of my past come rushing up as it sometimes still does when I come into contact with folks who were in on the front lines of the action when that whole nightmare went down. I needn’t have troubled myself.  When Portland Friend walked in the door, it was like time had never passed.  Her first words to me were, “You know, Cat, one of these days you’re going to start aging!”  I laughed at her.  I was thinking the exact thing about her.  “You look great!”  I fumbled.

We spent some time getting caught up on each other’s lives and just talking about bigger things.  Like God. Like Church.  Like life, dreams, goals and purpose.  Like how we’ll probably neither of us do the organized church ministry again and how that entire experience changed our lives. Like how we really take issue at some points with organized religion…at a lot of points.  Portland Friend and her husband are now working with people in crisis, homeless people, drug addicts, those most people would call the dregs of society.  Church image, attendance, activity and rules are no longer the focus of their lives.  She relayed to me how her husband was noted as saying, “If given the option to spend an hour with heroin addicts or the church board, I’ll choose heroin addicts.  They are the ones who know they need to change.”   

I found as we talked that though our lives had gone different directions over the years our perspectives continued to be as congruent as they’d ever been.  We’d ended up in the same place on many issues though our roads to get there diverged greatly.  It was a fascinating almost revelatory conversation for me in some ways.  I told her of my feelings of restlessness here and that I felt I was nearing a bit of a crossroads.  I’m not exactly at the place where I can make the choice to go one direction or another but I see something like that appearing on the horizon. 

“I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if it meant I moved away from this area”, I told her, “But right now the liklihood of that seems so remote.”  

“It sounds like you smell a change coming.  It will be interesting to see what happens to you.  Let’s keep in better touch from now on.  And I want you to come up, stay with us for a weekend and explore the possibilities in our area,”  she smiled.  I knew she was not just offering that invite out of courtesy either. I know this about Portland Friend, she doesn’t have a false bone in her body.

Eventually we both realized that though we could have talked all night, we had to get back to reality. We exchanged phone numbers and emails, said our goodbyes and off Portland Friend and her daughter went.

I don’t believe people enter our lives or leave them on accident.  I don’t believe Portland Friend’s re-entrance in my life at this particular time was inconsequential.  What does it mean?  I have no idea. What will come of it?  I may not see the significance of that particular event for years to come.  It is nice to know, that if I should ever want to consider relocating to Portland, there is someone there who could help me navigate what could be an overwhelming transition were I to go it alone.  That reality alone is significant.  I’m reminded again how life turns on a dime and sometimes the little things turn out to be really big things.  I’m wondering if this little conversation might be one such little thing.

I can tell you this: Because of that conversation I’m anticipating an interesting year.

How To Ask A Woman Out

A friend of mine told me of an experience she recently had at a Christmas party. 

She’d been invited by a colleague from work.  The party was held at her friends house in a rather upscale neighborhood of a nearby town.  My friend knew that some people from work would probably be there. Since this party was an invitation only kind of deal and she didn’t know who’d been invited she didn’t ask around at work to see who else was going to attend.  She also knew there would be other people from the city and neighborhood there.  She was apprehensive about going to a party by herself, at Christmas.  You guessed it.  She’s in her 40’s and single and feeling a bit lost about it all. She was dreading going.  In fact, she told me, she wanted so badly to stay home, curl up in her pj’s by the fire and veg out in front of the TV with her dogs.  As she was contemplating whether she should attend or not, the thought occurred to her that she’d have plenty of time to sit alone by the fire and veg out in front of the TV in later years, but she might not always be invited to Christmas parties like this one.  It was after all a fairly prestigious annual thing and a fundraiser to boot.  None of that impressed her so much but the idea of having plenty of time to sit around later was the tipping point for her.  She decided to go.

She drove in the rain and snow without directions, to an address she didn’t know and a house she only vaguely remembered from the year before.  As she parked her vehicle she thought, “What if I’ve got the wrong place?  What will I say?”  Well, fortunately, my friend is incredibly good with directions and she got the right place.  Her colleague’s husband answered the door, recognized her instantly and welcomed her in. 

Then the most interesting thing happened.  She met someone.  Well, it was someone that was a colleague of her friend’s husband.  The two began chatting, it seemed things were clicking between the two of them and just as their conversation was really getting going another person came along and took over the conversation.  You know.  You’ve been there, so have I.  Someone joins the conversational circle and completely takes over.  Well, the first guy’s drink went dry, my friend’s drink was still full.  He left to go refill his drink and she was left talking to the one who took the conversation hostage.   The man she was originally talking to ended up meeting up with some of his other work colleagues and she ultimately left the conversation with the hostage-taker and found conversations with colleagues and friends she knew.   She was enjoying herself, wished she could figure out a way to resume the conversation with the man she was originally talking to because he seemed interesting.  After “working the room” a bit, stopping off to grab tidbits to eat, she realized it was going to be rather intimidating breaking into a crowd of complete strangers mid-converstation.  And he was surrounded by men she didn’t know and had never met.  His crowd from work apparently.

She decided eventually to call it an evening.  It was early really, only about 9:30, but with a 30 minute drive and snow on the roads it was probably late enough she figured. She said her good-byes to the people she was talking to, to the host and hostess and headed for the door.  She collected her purse and as she was getting her keys he appeared and said, “Where are you parked? If you don’t mind, I’d be glad to walk you to your car.  It is awfully slippery out.”  Surprised and pleased, she smiled and indicated her appreciation of his thoughtful gesture.  As they walked to her car the gentleman expressed his regret that they didn’t get a chance to finish their conversation.  He asked her for the opportunity to continue the conversation at a later time to which she agreed.  He asked if it would be okay to request her number from the hostess of the party (I mean who does this anymore?) and well, because the hostess didn’t have her current phone number she gave him her cell number.  He said he’d call her.  As she drove off, he turned as he walked up the steps to the house and waved at her.  It was all very sweet.

She told me how he sort of fumbled through it just ever so slightly, but he still put himself out there. He’d noticed she was leaving and made a point to be at the door when she left.  He offered to walk her down a very, very steep icy hill to her car in the dark and in the snow. He was courteous, kind and clear about his intent. He wanted to get together again. He asked for her number.  He didn’t just give her his number and expect her to do the work.  It was, according to my friend, refreshingly nice.  

All I can say to all of that is, “And that, my dear friends, is how you ask a woman out”.

Sleepovers and Re-Gifting: Fundamentals of a Good Marriage

My friend was in the kitchen last night finishing the last preparations for her kids’ lunches the next day.  Her husband walked in, smiled mischievously and asked, “Want to have a sleepover?”

“A sleepover?”  After 20 years of marriage and three children, she knew enough to be wary when he approached her in the kitchen. 

“Yeah, a sleepover,” he grinned, “You know.  You sleep over on my side of the bed.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes at him.

“I even have a gift for you,” he continued with his devilish grin.

Without missing a beat, she zinged this next comment his direction, “Oh, I’ve had that gift before!”  She paused for effect, looked at him in the eyes and said, “I think that’s called re-gifting.” 

Stunned at her smooth return of his banter and somewhat crestfallen he shrugged, “Well, okay then.” 

It’s just too bad we weren’t there to see the look on his face as his wife of twenty years lobbed the creative flirty serve back to him without missing a beat. She did that in style.  She put him in his place without insult or recrimination.  She stepped it up to his level, and matched him stride for stride in his fun antics.  I’m guessing they sleptover and regifted and enjoyed every minute of it.  She didn’t tell me that…but she didn’t have to…I’m smart that way you know.

 

Ahhh, tis the season!  Sleepovers and re-gifting.  The stuff marriages are made of.

 

As I watched this same friend interact with her husband last week when they stopped by my classroom during conference, I was struck with the same impression after hearing this story: these two have a great marriage.  They’ve been through some stuff, it hasn’t always been easy, they don’t always get along, sometimes they can’t stand to be in the same room together and they have all the experiences of married people who’ve been together since youth, built careers, birthed and brought up children together and are now in their 40’s.  The new, giddy fairy tale honeymoon bliss is long gone from their relationship or at least it has dimmed signifcantly.  But they have a great marriage. They have a marriage I dreamed of having when I was a girl but somehow wasn’t able to experience yet as an adult. They still laugh and joke together, they still communicate, they still respect each other, they are still working shoulder to shoulder together in the thing they are building called their family, their marriage and their home.  In her own words she says, “After all the garbage and stress of life is done, when we can finally be alone, we really like it.  We still really enjoy being together.”

 

Now that’s a fairy tale ending that doesn’t get any better. I am envious.  In a good way.  I am so happy for them and their children.  I long for that for myself.  And I am ever so grateful to know these two people because they crystallize for me certain aspects of what I am looking for in a long term committed (yes, it is insane) relationship. They remind me never to settle…never…ever!  I love having these two in my life, because in the very short time I’ve known them, they’ve showed me that what I suspected could happen between a man and a woman in love, does happen, it does last and it is not simply wishful thinking on my part.  They inspire me.  In all their middle aged responsible duties to each other, the kids the community, the new house, they just simply inspire me.  They give me hope.  

 

If I were to say what I think makes their marriage so good, it is that they still enjoy being together and they enjoy being together…alone.  They probably still enjoy it because they still make time for each other.  They haven’t ditched out on each other emotionally nor have they chosen any number of escapes that people can and often do choose when they grow apart from each other.  They are both still in it, working on it and respecting each other for their part in the project.  They can play and laugh and flirt in the kitchen during the most mundane tasks.  They still have fun on a “connection” level not merely on an activity level.  I think this is probably a vital element in the success of their marriage.  They have the “happily ever after”.  Not the perfectly ever after, but the happily ever after.  There’s a difference and these two get it.  

They keep their marriage fun by having sleepovers and re-gifting. 

 

Someday, someday…I will eagerly accept the invitation to sleepover on my man’s side of the bed and I will just love whatever regifting he has to offer.  Until then, it is so encouraging to know, in this day and age where over 50% of marriages fail and even more remarriages fail, that happily ever after does exist.

Negotiating a Divorce And Trying To Read The Crystal Ball

Today I tasked my students with attempting to begin their personal narratives in an interesting and creative way.  Now, it’s my turn and I am stuck.  How to begin? 

It was a dark and stormy night….na…taken, overused.

On Wednesday I was talking to a friend of mine….boring.

Hmmm, it is easier said than done.  It’s always easier to tell others how to do something and to give examples, but when it comes down to doing it yourself, it can be a much more challenging task.

This is how it is for me when I talk to my friends who are going through divorce.  I’ve been through divorce twice myself, but I also went through a custody trial on behalf of my second ex before he was my ex.  That means three times, I’ve needed to retain attorneys to resolve affairs of the heart that went bad and involved children and houses.  Once I settled out of court, once I experienced a two day, very tense and humiliating trial at the end of which I had no solutions and $30,000 less to my name.  The third time, the opposition never showed up so the judge ruled in my favor and  my attorney still stuck me with the bills.  None of these experiences was what I’d consider fun.  I never want to go there again. 

I hate to see my friends go through the pain, the anxiety, the fear, the tension, the complete range of unhappy emotions that come with negotiating anything in the legal realm, especially in family law.  It is so agonizing to stand by and listen and watch my friends knowing that I didn’t like what they are experiencing when I went through it.  It is painful to care for my friends and to see them experience such doubt, uncertainty, and angst.  It is hard to not be able to help in any way other than to sit by and listen.  Giving advice based on my experiences wouldn’t even be relevant because every situation is different.  The stakes are always high, as are the emotions but the nuances and possible consequences of all the negotiations are never just a simple black and white.

Even so, there are some things I’ve learned that I wish I would have known before going into the process and while enduring the process.  These are the things that are on my mind right now.  I’m airing them as much for me to revisit and clarify what I’ve learned and where I’ve travelled and why as much as to put it out there for anyone who might benefit from it.

I am not an attorney and none of this is intended to in any way replace the counsel of a good attorney. I am not a psychologist and I cannot give that kind of advice either.  All I’m really doing here is sharing what happened to me, what I wish I’d known or done differently.  Maybe it will help others maybe it won’t.  I’m really not all that concerned about that.  I just need to sort out for myself the jumble so I can be clear about the paths I chose and where they are now leading me.

One thing I wish I would have done in every case is wait and not panic.  This is not always possible.  When you are in the legal battle with someone you used to be very intimate with but with whom you cannot bear to be allied for a moment longer, waiting is especially hard.  Waiting is especially difficult if the person is abusive, dangerous or volatile.  Until you have that signed document you are still linked to that individual to some degree. It makes waiting nearly impossible, especially when the longer you still have the married label the further and more thoroughly the other person can destroy you financially, emotionally, maybe even physically.  When this is the situation, and you must wait, panic can eat you alive and prompt you to make decisions you may later regret. In my case, I made many good decisions, but there are some that I wish I’d waited on.  I wish I’d asked more questions of my attorney.  I wish I would have considered negotiating some other areas more thoroughly.  It might not have made a difference, but then again, it might have.

I also wish I could have seen more clearly how the deal I was negotiating then would affect my future which has become my present.  I think I did a very good job of this when considering the children.  I think I should have thought through it all a little more on the financial end.  I wish I could have seen a little more clearly then how it all would impact my future in post-divorce life.  How closely will I be connected and for how long will I be linked to this individual in the years to come? How much communication will be required between the two adults in question and is the amount required even going to be possible given the nature of the relationship?  As long as there are kids and money involved the chains still linking me to my past relationships are there even if they are invisible most of the time.  This sometimes negatively affects my present peace of mind.  Sometimes I wish I would have done this differently, though I’m not sure even now what that “differently” would be. 

 And this is the trouble with divorce, especially if there is a huge breakdown in communication, which it seems there usually is.  Because there are so many unknowns, so many possible and probable different outcomes, trying to see how my present decisions will impact my future life was a lot like gazing into a crystal ball and seeing nothing but formless shapes and figures among the misty haze. It simply isn’t possible to anticipate the future in every instance.  I think the people who are really good at computer programming could come up with a program to identify all the potential variables, courses of action and potential outcomes, but who has time or patience for that?

The best thing I did (and maybe the best any of us can do) is to  listen carefully to my attorney (get a second or third opinion if we need to) and try not to let our emotions rule.  The best we can do is to do the best we know how to do at the time.  In the end, I just had to move forward in confidence, knowing that I couldn’t know all the possible outcomes.  I had to forge ahead making decisions based only on the pieces of the puzzle that I could see and that my attorney could see. I forced myself to believe that it would all turn out okay, even when I was plagued with fears of the “what if’s”.  What if I lose the house?  What if I can’t make it financially?  What if, what if, what if…. There were nights I tossed and turned with the angst.

As it turned out, as most things turn out I’ve learned, most of what I feared never came to pass.  It ended up in some ways, in most ways, far better than I could have asked.  It ended up in a few ways more difficult than I imagined.  I simply did the best I knew how to do at the time.  It has to be good enough. This is the biggest lesson I take with me as I move forward into each day: I will be okay if I just do the best I can at the time.  When I get down and discouraged and starting thinking “I wish I would have” this is always the place I end up.  I did the best I could.  If I’d have known better, I’d have done better.  I just wasn’t able to read that crystal ball clearly enough, but it’s all turned out okay anyway.

Love at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving morning, 2008.  It’s a foggy, misty morning.  I’m writing early because I might not have time later today, and I might not be inspired. I was planning to write some creative thing about being thankful in reverse…or “Things I’m Thankful I Don’t Have”, but being one of those undiagnosed ADD types, I went wandering around Wordpress instead. In my wanderings, I bumped into a couple of blog posts this morning that I thought were very good.  I thought I’d share them.  I always like it when people tell others about something that I’ve written that they found value in, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to return the favor.

The first is a new blog to me.  She writes about love, a huge, unfathomable topic and she barely scratches the surface as you can expect.  She does make some great thought-provoking points and I like the way she writes.  She also gave me much to think about and possibly blog for myself on the topic.  Her post’s title was fairly creative and I love creative.  You can read this blog post, “Love Shouldn’t Feel Like Getting Run Over By a Train” here. Now that I go back and reread the post, I notice that this particular article was written way back in 2006.  I need to get better at noticing things like that.  Even so, I liked it.  Maybe her comments will spark your thinking about the topic of love and family and your kids, if you have them.  I wonder if she’s still writing or if she’s abandoned her blog?  Hmmmm.  Whatever the case may be with her, I do agree with her title.  Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.  Wore it out.  That’s why I clicked on her link.

The next post is more recently written by someone who is still writing.  His post’s topic is about doing the things you love and making money (or not) at them.  I’m pointing you to Jim’s blog, because he really is a fabulous writer.  Check out his complete post titled, The Money Will Follow (or Not), here. He also made me think…especially about this writing thing and making money at it.  His points reminded me of one of the reasons, beyond complete fear of rejection, that I haven’t yet published:  if I do what I love for a living, which in this case is writing, am I a.) good enough to make money at it? b.) is there a market for my kind of writing (and I don’t even really know for sure what that is yet, thus this blog) and c.) will it become a duty under deadlines instead of a creative outlet and intellectual passion?  (Jim didn’t so much mention that last point in his blog but the first two points were his.  They made me think of the last one.)

Anyway.  With all the talk about love this almost sounds like it could pass for a Valentine’s Day post.

I hope whatever you are doing today, that it is filled with peace, gratitude, good food, good company and some relaxation.  Anyone out there playing mud football today?

Men Are Like Dogs….

Okay, really…I did not say that.  Those are not my words.  Honestly…I am not kidding.  Those words, whatever emotions they might evoke for you, those words are not mine.  They were written by a man.  Now, before you go railing this individual as a traitor to the male gender, you have to read his comment in its entirety.  He commented on my post about Cowardice, written last summer. You can read his comment here. But for those of you who are lazy or just don’t want to open another window, I’ll paraphrase the comment.  My friend, said this:  Men are like getting a new dog…you never know what you’re going to get until you get him home”.  (my paraphrase)

This is first, a humorous comment.  It is also a frightening comment.  I think it is frightening simply because it is so true.  The implications here are significant for those wanting to consider romance, dating, shacking up, maybe even the idea of making it legal. And….hear this one…my dear male friends…it goes both ways.  By that I mean, you could say the same thing about those beautiful Venus bombshells you cannot live without or that you don’t want to live without supposedly.

You simply never can get the real picture about someone until you live up close and personal with them. 

And, if you are in the 35+ category for age, have children, a thinking mind and goals that resemble something more than I want to be rich and famous and will marry anyone to do it, then you must realize that what I’m saying here is of significance to you. 

Especially if you have children. 

You must be ultra careful about who and what you allow into your home. 

Disclaimer:  While the title of my post implies that men are the gender we are talking about, I think I’ve made it sufficiently clear that what I’m saying here applies to both genders.  My opinions definitely side with the “both genders are guilty” approach.  I just used that title because it was really cool and thought it might be a great way to entice more of you to my blog or to that article or to read Jeff’s great comment.  In any event…I am now not just picking on the guys.  I recognize that we women can be just as vile in our own ways. 

You must, must be careful about who and what you allow into your home.

I learned this lesson the hard way. 

In general all my growing up years I was the textbook firstborn eager-to-please driven kid.  I was a good little girl.  Well, so most people would have told you, but on the inside only I knew how rotten I could be at points.  But I played the “good little girl” role for so long and I did it so well for so long.  The problem was I was not dealing with and being authentically me.  So, as you might guess, this all spun out of control about 16 years into my first marriage.

I’d like to say that’s when I started making the bad choices, but the reality is, the bad choices I made started probably when I was 16.  The choice, have a boyfriend. Use him as your ticket out of the house.  Well, this thinking self-destructed down the road and after ending my first marriage…I jumped into a second one which was an absolute living nightmare. 

But it wasn’t a total loss.  It was during this marriage that I learned you must be very careful about the influences you allow into your home.  I was not careful.  I paid for it dearly during the marriage.  My children paid for it and are paying for it now.  I will not make those mistakes again…at least…I hope I won’t.

But here is the question that a statement like this raises:

I you can’t really tell what the “dog” is like till you bring him/her home, how can you be sure that he/she is the dog for you before you bring him/her home?

Because I guarantee you this…once you bring him/her home if she/he’s the wrong dog, it’s already too late and there will be damage done.  And who wants to bring a dog home with the idea that it’s okay to get rid of it if he/she “doesn’t work out”?  I mean, in spite of two failed marriages, that is sooooo not what I’m about. 

I still believe in long term commitment. I still believe in the institution of marriage.  I still believe that a good quality relationship is possible and that this deep, meaningful connection can last “till death do us part” (and not because one or the other of us hires a hit man either).

So, I’m going to ask it again and I do hope you’ll take time out of your busy schedule (I know it must be) to help me clarify my thoughts on this and to help any other lurking readers out there who might not know, but who would like to.  Here’s my question again:

I you can’t really tell what the “dog” is like till you bring him/her home, how can you be sure that he/she is the dog for you before you bring him/her home?

Inquiring Wild Minds want to know.

Confessions of an Internet Dating Junkie

I admit it.  I was an Internet Dating Junkie.  Well, okay, I wasn’t that bad.  I mean, I have a friend who recounts periods of her life where she spent time at an awful lot of Starbuck’s in our area and sipped numerous expensive coffee drinks in her quest for love or at least her Prince Charming. She told me of days when she’d meet with person after person after person.  I never went quite that far with the Internet thing. 

Here’s my story.

First some background.  You might be interested to know that I obtained my graduate degree online.  Now, for some, this is considered a joke.  For those of us who have been there, we know that online is not easier or less credible.  I am convinced after talking to those who obtained their degrees in face-to-face world that I worked harder and put in more effort online than I ever would have otherwise.  It’s a bit like choosing to cook for yourself instead of being spoon fed your meals.  There are pro’s and con’s both ways, but cooking your own meals (online learning) is not the easier route.  Anyway, it worked for me.  As a  single mother of four children, there was no way I could leave the kids alone several nights a week to go to classes at the University thirty minutes away.  I was able to get my degree and am now enjoying the measly, but nice, increase that my job rewarded me with as a result.  Enough said about all this.  The point is, I am not averse to meeting people online.  Networking in the digital realm was something I became quite used to during my degree program.  I met many people from around the world.  It was a fascinating and valuable experience to me and put me well ahead of the colleagues I work with day to day. Online dating, at least conceptually, was not a big adjustment for me. 

Here’s how it happened for me.

About this time last year, I was awaiting the final hearing for my divorce. My, at that time, soon to be ex (STBX), had completely shut down and gone AWOL.  I had not heard from him at all.  He’d completely discontinued any discussion or negotiation with me since our preliminary hearing in July when I’d been awarded the house and full custody of our daughter who was then six. Any attempts at communication by my attorney were met with silence.  He showed up at the designated parenting times but said nothing to me.  But, this was not alarming to me, as this was exactly how he treated me for most of the time we were married.  Indeed, it was this very unwillingness to negotiate the differences that ultimately broke the marriage. But, I digress.  The Internet Dating thing simply began as a distraction.

I was two weeks out, maybe three, from my divorce trial.  Clearly, my STBX was not going to settle out of court and save me court fees and attorney court costs.  After all, he was representing himself, what did he care?  So, as we waited, my little family and I wondering how our fate would be decided in court just after Thanksgiving, my oldest daughter said, “Mom, you need to put a profile up on Cupid.com and get your mind off all this.  Just try it.  See what happens.”  I simply laughed at her. But as I laughed she wrote my profile and posted my picture.  That’s how it all started.

I changed what she originally wrote…after a bit…but not before I checked out what other women and men were writing.  Yep, did you catch that?  I checked out what other women wrote, which means I went incognito as a man and searched for women in my age range to see what they were writing.  Personally, I wasn’t impressed. I had more fun reading what the guys wrote…because they used humor much more effectively…if they used it at all. If a guy used the intellectual approach, he usually did it very well.  The rest I didn’t care about.

So, with new profile, decent and recent and accurate picture of me posted I began my Internet Dating journey.  A year later, I can tell you, I’ve learned a lot.  I haven’t gotten married and I’m not officially in a relationship, though there is one digital beau that has captured my imagination far more than any others, but, he is still in the digital category and that can only take one so far for just so long. Since he’s over 1100 miles away, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but that’s not the point of this post, because he could disappear tomorrow for all I know…that is one thing I learned about online dating.  It is, until made otherwise, simply online. I’ve learned that over the year.

But I’ve also learned so much more.

Through this online venue, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some really interesting people that I would never have crossed paths with in my daily routine.  I’ve met some amazing people from all over this country…and I’ve learned something from all of them.  I’m a big believer that every encounter is valuable.  I’ve met many wonderful men.  They do exist…all the good ones are not taken. Strong men, intelligent men, sensitive men, thoughtful caring men who desire to provide, protect and love a soulmate.  Men who have given all to their wife and family  and been tossed aside like last week’s People magazine (and women complain about being thrown aside for newer models?).  And while none of these wonderful men would be the best match for me, this doesn’t negate the fact that each one of them has taught me something and usually that something enlightens me further so that when my Mr. Perfect (well, perfect in that he fits me and I him) Match comes along, I will recognize him.

In the end, I’ve learned more about me, who I am, what I can tolerate, what I can’t, where I want to head in relationship and where I don’t than I ever would have by just going to work and coming home every day. 

One  year later, with divorce final, and lots of dates that didn’t work out for a lasting partnership under my belt, I know what I’m about.  This is a good thing.  It means this:  I know what I have to offer a relationship.  I know not only what I want out of a long term relationship, but I also know what I have to bring to the table and to offer in relationship.  That’s no small thing.

So, for that reason alone I think online dating is a great thing.  I mean, it worked for me.  No, I didn’t meet Mr. Soul Mate on any of the dating sites and I’ve taken my profile off any site that it was on (except eHarmony…they don’t pull your profile down after you stop your membership…deceptive!).  I know what I’m about…I know I’ll know him when I meet him, whether it is in digital or real time and I know that he’ll somehow find me as I go about my business of being the best me I can be…because after all that is what I bring to him: me.  I loved the online dating days…and I may return to it…but for now, I am content knowing that I am who I am and the best thing I can do for any relationship I might eventually have is just be the best me I can be…and that means…at least for now…that I must write…I must teach…I must read…I must be a great (though exhausted) mommy and I must live life to the fullest every possible moment.  And it means that online dating for me has probably run its course…at least for now. I simply can’t spend my time, like my friend did meeting contact after contact and drinking coffee after coffee.  There is simply too much of life to be experienced…and as I’m experiencing it…I know Mr. Soul Mate and I will bump into each other somehow, unsuspectingly, and it will take us both by surprise….

At, least…that is what I hope.