Online dating: Do I, or don’t I?

Online datingI can’t do it. I just … no.

No, this isn’t me whining about my breakup – I mean, yes, breakups suck, but if you do them right they’re a growing process that doesn’t have to end with bitterness and hate. That’s what I hear, anyway – this is the first one I’ve had that’s following that plan.

What I’m dreading now is entering the whole dating scene again. I’m not looking to jump into another relationship, and who knows if I’m really even looking to date anyone right now. But I have been scoping things out on the digital sites and I’ve gotta tell ya’ – it’s kinda scary out there.

On a whim. when I was mad at my ex-boyfriend (breakups are a huge blow to your ego – there’s going to be some anger, even if it’s fleeting), I filled out a profile for one of the online dating sites I used to be on, added a few pictures and posted it to go live. Then I took a look around at some of the men who were on the site.

The majority of the photos were ones I’d seen before – when I was on the site three years ago. I’m not saying they were the same men – they were the same pictures. One complaint I heard from several men the last time I was “out there” was that women posted old photos, or didn’t look like their photos when doing in-person meetings, so I found it particularly interesting that a lot of men – and I mean a lot of men – are still using the same photos from three or more years ago.

Then came the emails. I swear sometimes there’s a code in something I post – a code even I don’t understand or see – that tells men if they have any kind of odd line or strange way of approaching women, I’m the one they should try it out on, just to see if it works. “You look like you’re nice – we should go out sometime.” “What kinds of things turn you on?” “How do you feel about …?”

Ugh.

I hid my profile, thinking maybe I just wasn’t ready yet – it hasn’t been that long and I’m in no hurry. Then I remembered all the great stories I was able to tell (like this one, and this one, and even this one) and thought, if nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Maybe I should let the profile be public.

But, wow – I’m really not looking forward to it.

 

 

 

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The thing about breakups …

Note: This is not a quest for sympathy or well-wishes. I greatly appreciate your thoughts, but one of the reasons I put this post off for so long is because I made it through the hard part. – Molly

Let’s face it, breakups suck. No matter how amicable, how cordial or how mutual they are, they still suck. Injured heart

Sometimes, as with my recent breakup, the more amicable they are, the more they suck. Rather than having that anger/distrust/rejection/fury that comes with a cheat or a liar, you have … nothing. Hurt and sadness. As we were putting an end to our 2 1/2-year relationship as a couple, we were still telling each other how much we loved each other. We made the obligatory “let’s be friends” promise, but unlike most times those words are spoken, I think we actually meant it. We severed our romantic ties a little more than two weeks ago, but we still chat often.

That’s probably because we really are friends. In the 29 months that we were together, there were no fights – no angry words, no yelling, no arguments. There was one topic on which we disagreed, but conversation – although tears were involved – was just that: conversation. What we did do in that time frame was build a great friendship.

Still, the breakup – like any – still sucks.

Breakups suck because of unfulfilled plans. There are so many little things we were going to do – go to the Quad Cities to see a ball game, go to his favorite breakfast joint before it closed, have the first Christmas in his new place, get all the kids together on Christmas Day to see the final installment of “The Hobbit.” Then there are the bigger things: next summer’s vacation (sadly, the breakup came just two weeks after we had a fabulous vacation in Denver); a “someday” trip to Ireland; trips out east and out west. Many of those I can still do on my own, if I want, and some of them I will. Most, though, I probably won’t.

Breakups suck because, as adults, they’re not just between two people. Two whole families broke up. My daughter created close bonds with his daughters and their children. My son became good friends with the guys in his family. We met and loved each others’ friends. I felt like we were one big family – I loved his kids and grandkids and enjoyed all the time we spent with them. I had a great relationship with his mother, and my parents loved him like they never loved anyone else I’d been with.

Breakups suck because, eventually, you begin to see the holes, the places that the relationship wasn’t as “perfect” as you thought it was. I knew we weren’t perfect, but I honestly thought we’d be riding off into the sunset together.

And breakups suck because the landscape has forever changed. Where once there may have been a clean slate, there is now a “record.” A broken heart mars the playing field.

But breakups are also a time of growth. I don’t regret having given him that chunk of my life – despite the one issue that persisted, it was a very joyous time of my life, where I felt loved and cared for and comfortable. Incredible new people are now a part of my life, in some big or small way, because of him. I learned things and went places I’d never known before. And I pushed myself because of him – not because he asked me to, but because I wanted to be a better person for him, and for me.

And for those things, I will always be grateful.

* * *

Note: Snark will return with the next post. I promise.

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I laugh at your school supplies

20140824_143656You know that Staples commercial, the one with the father pushing his shopping cart down the aisles of the store, skipping and laughing and tossing flower petals along the way?

That’s me this year, only instead of being exorbitantly happy about sending my kids off to school, this year I’m celebrating the relief felt by my wallet.

For the first time in 17 years, I don’t have to buy school supplies. Not a notebook, not a backpack, not even a small rubber eraser.

<insert your own vision of me doing the happy dance here> (You’re welcome.)

My kids, at ages 19 and 22, have made the conscious decision to put off college until they know what they’re really and truly passionate about. Why spend the money, they contend, if they aren’t sure what they want to do? And – since they’re both happily working full-time jobs (albeit at meager wages) – I applaud their logic for now. As every parent does, I want my kids to be happy and successful and to live comfortable lives. That’s my wish for them. The definitions of “happy,” “successful” and “comfortable” are theirs to create.

In the meantime, I’ve been walking blissfully past all of the crayons and notebooks and folders and protractors and too-expensive calculators they’ll likely never use again. I gave a smirk and a nod to the parents scrambling for the school supply lists and hoping they’re not too late to fill it before classes start.

So maybe there’s something to this whole “getting older” thing, after all …

 

 

 

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Still recovering from vacation

20140803_145557I have a vacation hangover.

True, getting away for a week to the beauty of the Rockies and the “newness” of Denver (my first visit to the city that lasted longer than a 2-hour airport layover) was, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. I needed that vacation, more than I even realized. It had been six years since my last vacation, and that was a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix where I stayed with a friend/cousin. There have been overnight getaways but nothing like this, where I actually had the opportunity to unpack things and leave them for several days before rounding them up again.

We’ve been back for a little more than a week now and I still haven’t gotten this blog written or posted. When I’m not at work, sleep always seems to get in the way.

But here it is – a bit more on the wonderful trip to Denver.

Our first full day in Colorado we went to the mountains, driving to Mount Evans. Although I’d spent seven years in Alaska growing up – Dad’s uncle helped built the Alcan Highway and told great stories to his nieces and nephews, making my dad determined to live there one day – I still found myself caught up in the peace and the beauty of everything the mountains had to offer.

Young mountain sheep

Young longhorn sheep

We drove to the summit of Mount Evans – 14 miles up (the highest paved road in North America, according to the website) and 14,000 feet above sea level. On our way we had to stop for young longhorn sheep, and a mountain goat (yes, there’s a difference) met us at the top.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

The drive up was interesting: I remember once we left Alaska my dad would tell stories of the mountain roads we had to take to get to our hiking destinations – long, winding roads barely wide enough for two vehicles, with steep mountain going up on one side and going straight down on the other.

I didn’t remember the roads being as treacherous as he made them seem, and I do my dad is a bit of a storyteller (blarney runs deep in our blood), so I just dismissed it at a bit of an exaggeration.

Then we drove up to the summit parking lot at Mount Evans. Mountains straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and despite the steady speed of about 25 mph, there were many curves on which we slowed down considerably.

Ummm ... don't look down.

Ummm … don’t look down.

I drove us up, Mark (thankfully) drove us down.

Once we got to the top, I found myself experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. I got a little dizzy and had a hard time drawing a deep breath at first. My speech was slurred, almost like I was drunk, and I just fell a little … off. I sat down and took some breaths and started to feel better – until I realized how cold I was. The outside temperature at the base of the mountain was 85 degrees; at the peak, it was 50.

Our second full day, Monday, was a trip to the Denver Zoo. It was hot and there was little breeze, so many of the big animals weren’t out. Mondays must also be the day zoo staff clean the cages, so to speak, so in some exhibits we saw humans instead of the lions or bears we were hoping to see.

The last night in Denver, Tuesday, included a Rockies-Cubs game with club level seats Mark’s daughter and son-in-law had won at an auction. There were a couple of firsts that night: I’d never seen the Cubs play live, and I’ve never sat in club level seating in a baseball stadium.

One of the things that was most striking about our vacation was that we traveled nearly 800 miles from home to learn just what a small world it really is. Either Mark or Nate, his son-in-law, was almost always in some kind of Hawkeye gear and that drew the attention of many people in our hotel and in the places we visited – not because they were interested in learning more about our state but because they were from our state. There were at least a half-dozen families from Iowa staying in our hotel at the same time we were there, most of them from Eastern Iowa. One of the ushers was originally from West Branch and still has family there. The restaurant we went to on game day, Stadium Club, was first opened in Iowa City, and a customer at a nearby table grew up in Iowa and moved to Denver just five years ago. Even the owners of the marijuana shop we visited (we were in Colorado where it’s legal – the curious cat in me had to go in just to see what it was like) were from Iowa – one was a University of Iowa business school graduate.

It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far from home.

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What kind of writer doesn’t take a laptop – or even paper – on vacation??

20140803_111838I really wish I was back in the mountains.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be home. Home is, after all, where the heart is. And where my dogs are. And my job, my bank, my son (since he didn’t go with us) and the rest of the family.

But the mountains … oh, those beautiful mountains.

We – my daughter, boyfriend, and his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter – went for a five-day vacation in Colorado (well, four in Colorado, one in Nebraska) and it was heavenly. Not only because it was the first real “vacation” I’ve had in many years, but because of the locale, the scenery, the company and just the time away.

But those mountains … there was just something magical there.

We spent one entire day leaving Denver proper and heading out to the mountain range – first to Red Rocks Amphitheater (a must see if you head that way) then to the summit of Mount Evans. I spent several years growing up in Alaska, so I’m no stranger to the beauty a mountain view provides – but it’s been 30+ years since we left and I’ve not been up-close and personal with the mountains since.

I had been in the mountain air for mere minutes when I first thought, “I should have brought my computer. I should be blogging this.” Then we climbed to the amphitheater seating at Red Rocks and saw people running the trail, running the seats, doing yoga, jumping from bench to bench doing squat jumps – even football players running the stairs carrying a teammate on their backs. Then came the sound checks for a concert later that evening. Again – “I should be blogging this.”

It was a common theme: The young longhorn sheep that made us stop on our ascent to the summit of Mount Evans. The dizziness I felt from being up 14,000 feet above sea level. The mountain goat that greeted us at the peak. The sometimes-scary 14-mile drive up the mountain. The zoo. The Cubs game (my first-ever time seeing the Cubs live and it was in Denver!). Even the trip to the “weed store” just to say I did.

At one point Mark even said out loud just what I’d been thinking: “What a great place for a writer – sit up in the mountains, write a chapter and then go pour a cup of coffee to get ready for the next.”

Yep.

I couldn't resist getting out of the car and joining them on the hillside - just to see if they'd let me. They did!

I couldn’t resist getting out of the car and joining them on the hillside – just to see if they’d let me. They did!

The blog ideas were flooding my brain, just waiting to get out, and I didn’t even bring a notebook to write them down the old-fashioned way. I went to three different convenience stores to see if they had a small notebook – nope. Not a one.

Once we left Denver and stayed overnight in a hotel in Lincoln, Neb. – we were going to visit the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland the next day – the lady at the front desk loaned me a notebook.

About 15 minutes later, Mark found a notebook in the trunk of my car, under all of the suitcases. Figures.

Now I’m home and am thankful to that lady at the hotel in Lincoln – as much as the blog ideas were flooding my brain in the mountain air, they seem to have dissipated back in the humidity of Iowa. That notebook allowed me to write some of the highlights, so I can still get that one written. Kind of.

But I guarantee it would have been better if I’d had my laptop with me when the thoughts were fresh.

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August 9, 2014 · 6:01 pm

He’s no Prince Charming …

This guy is no Disney prince, that's for sure.

This guy is no Disney prince, that’s for sure.

It’s amazing what you can learn listening to other people’s conversations.

I don’t mean eavesdropping – that would be rude. But if you’re in a place like, say, a bus, and people around you want to talk loudly about things that may or may not be personal, it’s really kinda hard to tune them out. I know because I do ride a bus and I really have – honestly! – tried to tune out conversations, often to no avail.

I’ve learned about women cheating on their husbands, nurses despising their bosses, which med school courses and professors are easier than others, who has the better burgers. People talk about their babysitters, their children, their spouses, their finances, their vacations – everything is open on the bus.

Today, though, I learned something new. Today I actually stopped trying to tune out the conversation I thought I was hearing to actually listen in, just to see if what I was hearing was really happening.

Two guys, in their early to mid-20s, were talking about the best time of year to get married.

Before you get carried away, or decide you’re not really all that surprised (“Oh, sure, they’re trying to find the ideal time in between the seasons – basketball, baseball and football!”), let me explain. They weren’t talking sports, or weather, or even holidays.

They were looking at the things going on in their lives and trying to decide around that.

The funny part of the conversation was that neither of the guys was even engaged – and that became really the point of their conversation. If they could determine what would be the best time to get married, then they’d have a better idea of when they should get engaged.

The one guy seemed to have it all figured out. He had this set of classes coming up this semester, then another set, then residency – and he wanted to have a ring on her finger before he started residency.

The second guy made me laugh – out loud, so I had to look at my phone and pretend I was seeing something funny. As he was contemplating the best time of year to get married, and thus engaged, he decided that “if we’re still together this time next year, I’ll buy her a ring.”

Ummm … what? If you’re still together, you’ll buy her a ring? Because what, there’s nothing better to do? If you’re that unsure about your relationship lasting another year, why in the world are you thinking you’ll buy a ring with the hope that it lasts forever?

I don’t mean to stereotype, I really don’t – I think it’s wonderful that Guy No. 1 has it all set up and knows how to make the most of his time and enjoy his engagement and wedding. But Guy No. 2 … well, he’s kind of the reason wedding planning magazines are targeted to the brides.

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Superman’s got nothing on ‘my girls’

Superman may be the Man of Steel, able to leap tall buildings, blah blah blah … But when it comes to spreading strength and giving power, nothing compares to a woman and her besties.

I’m always amazed at how strong I feel when I’ve spent some time with any of my best friends. I don’t consider myself a “weak” person overall, but like anyone else I have my weak moments – those time when I doubt myself, don’t think I’m good enough for this or that or generally just feel insecure. Whether we admit it or not, we all have those moments.

(Don't judge me - I'm a writer, not an artist.)

(Don’t judge me – I’m a writer, not an artist.)

And sometimes we get caught up in those moments. Sometimes it seems there are more of those moments than any other kind of moments. No matter how much we know we have it good – I’ve got amazing kids, a wonderful extended family, am seeing a great man, have a great job and am, for the most part, really, really happy – those moments can take over and make us feel weak and insignificant.

But just like our body reacts when we’re thirsty or hungry by going after food and drink, my “being” tends to reach out to those I know can fill me with strength, just by being by my side.

This winter gave me a lot of those “weak” moments. I started physical therapy last fall for IT Band Syndrome in my right leg, followed that up with wearing a brace on my right knee because ITBS had pulled my kneecap off-center, then had my right foot in a boot. Christmas just didn’t feel “Christmas-y” enough, and then the snow just kept coming and coming and coming … it seemed winter would never end.

Then about three weeks ago I reached out to one of my girls. A week later, I had dinner with another one on a Friday and went and spent time with yet another that Sunday. The following weekend I met another one at her daughter’s softball tournament, and  later that week I had dinner with yet another one. Three weeks, five of my besties.

There was some chatter about things that might be going wrong in different parts of our lives, but really about 95 percent of the conversation – if not more – was just about life. Kids, work, catching up, laughing (lots and lots of laughing) and promises to do this more often.

And then something happened. Those “moments” began to disappear. The self-doubt went away, and took a heaping handful of insecurity with it. I felt stronger. More confident. Ready to take on the world.

(OK, I meant that kind of not-so-literally, so my health scare and my daughter’s pneumonia almost knocked me off my foundation, but I recovered quickly!)

The point is, my girls make me stronger. Not by saying or doing anything special – just by being “my girls.” Knowing I have that base – and I’m assuming each of them has their own base, as well – and reconnecting to that base does more for me than any energy drink or hour at the gym ever could.

 

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