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Life is good

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Life is good, folks.

Still counting down to 50.

42. I was downstairs talking to a now-former neighbor about a month ago, telling her about my pending move to a condo a little up the street. I’d been in the apartment above hers for seven years, and she and her extended family had just moved in within the last year.

My excitement about the new place was evident, and I’d invited her to stop in some time and sit out on my deck. Then she said something that caught me completely off-guard.

“Molly, I’m so envious of you. You really have it all together.”

Tears welled in my eyes almost instantly. I was touched by her honesty, but also by the fact that since my divorce 15 years prior, I’d hardly lived the life anyone would envy.

“It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure,” I told her. “It hasn’t been easy.”

We talked a little more, then I retreated to my apartment and continued packing.

50 for molly3I’ve thought a lot about that conversation since. This woman isn’t much older than me, but lives with her 30-year-old son, his girlfriend and their two small children. The younger woman is expecting a third child in the fall. In the six or so months I’ve known them, the three adults have been in various stages of employment, sharing one car. I’ve given rides and been asked for small “loans” I know will never be repaid. They struggle, but they’re decent people (aside from the constant pot smoking by the son – which is only annoying because the smell is rank and filtered into my apartment).

I think that conversation best illustrates why I’m so looking forward to 50.

Life is good.

I’ve always tried to be positive and enjoy the life I have – no matter what the situation was at the time. But in the 15 years since my divorce, it’s been tough. I’ve filed for bankruptcy twice – the first time because my soon-to-be-ex-husband was going to file and my attorney said it would be in my best interest, the second because a new bank had taken over my mortgage and was threatening an impossible refinance and I had to walk away.

For the first 10 years post-divorce, the kids and I lived on what I made, day-to-day. No credit cards to help in a pinch, if we didn’t have the money we didn’t get whatever was wanted. It meant the kids were on reduced-price lunches for a couple years in elementary school. It meant our gas was shut off one summer because I fell behind in the payments – then earned a real estate commission check big enough to catch up, just in time for fall. It meant being upside-down in cars I didn’t like because my credit score was horrible and I allowed myself to be bullied by a salesperson who convinced me “this is the only car you qualify for.”

It meant we didn’t do vacations, seldom went out to eat or to the movies. New clothes were a luxury saved mostly for back-to-school, holidays and special occasions.

But it was still good. I said – often – that I loved my 40s, it was the best decade ever. And, really, it was. I had great people in my life, and things always seemed to work out – mostly because of the great people I had in my life. We were never homeless, there was always food to eat, my relationship with my kids has always been strong.

For the last three or four years, though, things have slowly started turning around. Life was still good, but life was getting good, too. My credit score was improving and I was able to get a credit card. My daughter and I went on a Colorado vacation with my then-boyfriend and some of his family. I could go out with friends more.

In the last year, things have really turned around. I was able to get rid of the car I didn’t like and get the car I really wanted. I went on vacation to Phoenix to visit a cousin/friend. I’ve realized what I really want in a relationship and have stopped accepting less – which led to my telling a man who’s been in and out of my life for several years how I really felt about him (it didn’t end like it does in the movies – sigh).

And now the move. I have my first “me” place, a grown-up apartment/condo with all of the amenities I’d want.

This is why I’m looking forward to my 50s. I’m a more grounded “me” than I’ve ever been, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Life is good.

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The Year of Me

Wow. That sounds kind of narcissi20160520_143643-1stic, now that I see it in front of me. “The Year of Me.” Who does that?

Well, I do. Or I will, soon.

It’s not what you think – I’m not going to go all self-absorbed on the world, caring only about MY wants and MY needs and MY chocolate. This is something different.

A few years ago, a friend and former coworker had the “Year of Chris.” She has two daughters, and twin grandchildren, and a husband, but she spent the year doing things that made her happy – or being happy doing the things she was doing. It was awesome. And I was jealous.

Having been a single mom since 2002 (you have no idea how much I HATE playing that card, seriously), there had been relatively few “Days of Me,” so the idea of taking a full year? That was amazing. That’s what dreams were made of.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a bitter, angry person. In fact, I’m actually quite happy. I laugh a lot, I smile a lot more, I enjoy the “todays” because they’re so fleeting. I enjoy life – I truly do, and I am honestly happy doing the things I’m doing. Do I wish I had more money to enjoy it more? Sure. It would be nice to have extra to be able to go more places and do more things. But do I let it get in the way of enjoying today? Not in the least.

But this year is going to be different. Kind of.

My big dream has always been to go to Ireland. I’m third generation Irish-American, and there are still some distant relatives I’d like to go meet. And let’s be honest – Ireland. It’s beautiful. Flights aren’t horribly expensive, and if I (and however many friends and family members care to join me) stay in an Airbnb place, lodging won’t be too bad, at all. So, I thought, set it up. Make a plan. Do it.

In 2017, right smack almost perfectly in the middle of the year, I turn 50. It’s not a frightening number to me – 20 years ago I was terrified of 30, but 50 sounds almost exciting – but it’s a milestone and I want to mark it as such. So, sometime in the Year of 50, I’m going to Ireland.

But what about the year leading up to it? I don’t really want to spend a year in wait, saving every penny (though I’ll be saving several), waiting for the calendar to turn the right amount of pages so I can go on my adventure. Plus, I’ve loved my 40s, absolutely loved them. This has been the most fun decade by far – even with scraping to get by, failed relationships (which made for some pretty funny stories, I gotta tell ya’), and the loss of my favorite canine companions. My 40s have been great, I can’t just let them end on a whimper.

No, what I’m going to do in the year between 49 and 50 is allow myself to do the things I haven’t made time for/didn’t save for/made excuses for over the last several years.

I’m going to Phoenix to stay with a cousin I don’t get to see very often. I’m going to go to one of my college football games and try to connect with some college roommates and friends. I plan to go to Chicago. I’m going to go see an Iowa Cubs game. I’m going to go to the movies. I’m going to go sit on a friend’s balcony and have drinks. I’m going to do things for me.

I think we all need to take a year for ourselves. Just not this year – this one’s mine.

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Mars and Venus collide yet again

As if we needed further proof, I was hit with yet another sign that men and women really do come from different planets.

I got a phone call Monday from a friend — a male friend — who wanted some advice. He and I are both single and have recently decided to kind of “help each other out” when it comes to finding someone (we’re a mess when it comes to dating each other, but are finding out that the friend thing really does work for us).

This friend had met a woman and went out on a date on Sunday, then met for lunch or some such thing Monday. During the lunch this woman apparently threw up some pretty strong “red flags” which made my friend decide he’s not interested in pursuing the relationship any longer.

He initially asked my opinion on one of the red flags, and I agreed with his decision. But the advice came to be about an invitation to the woman’s birthday celebration with friends, to which he was invited. He said he planned to go, then let her down easy.

I said, “Bad idea.”

His thought was that he didn’t want to ruin her birthday and would go and “be nice.” My thoughts were that birthdays were special days and, since all of her friends would be there, he would be kind of “meeting the family” and implying that he was happy to share her special day with her.

He wasn’t convinced – not nearly as much as he’s convinced my take on relationships can sometimes be neurotic and angst-ridden.

So, without his knowledge, I conducted a short poll among my female friends. What advice would they give? I sent an e-mail out to 25 friends of all ages, walks of life, marital status, etc. Of the 12 responses I got back ALL of them were against his going to the party.

Then I told him of the poll and emailed him a copy of the answers – with everyone’s name removed. His response? “Thanks for the poll. I get the message!”

It’s just another insight, really, in why relationships can be so difficult – his thoughts on the party were valid and understandable, but as women, we knew how we would interpret his presence. And the two opinions had completely opposite outcomes.

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The virtual world of online dating

I’m a people person. I like to have real conversations that involve using my voice, making eye contact and reading expressions. I enjoy the sound of authentic laughter and the wispy aroma of a nice cologne.

I am so not cut out for digital dating.

My first attempts at online dating went reasonably well. I tried the site www.udate.com at the advice of a friend just a few weeks into my divorce. The thought was, from her, that it would get me used to talking about myself and being “out there.” Neither of us really expected anything to happen, certainly not right away.

Something did happen right away — I met a man from Eastern Iowa (I was still on the other side of the state) and we started what would become a three-year relationship that included moving my kids and I near Cedar Rapids.

I didn’t blame the digital age for the relationship’s downfall; that was due to something more controllable on a personal level (No, it really isn’t a good idea for him to date more than one woman at a time — that’s kind of a sticking point for me). Instead I waited a few months and tried again.

I tried them all: Match.com, Yahoo Personals, eHarmony. And that’s where the horror begins.

* Kevin* and I had great online and telephone conversations, and decided to meet for dinner when he got off work. Unfortunately, he was working the 3-11 p.m. shift and forgot to ask to get off early — so my phone rang at 6, at 7, and at 8 with promises of “being right out.” I should have hung it up there, but he kept telling me how much he’d been looking forward to going out so finally, at 8:45, he called to tell me he was off work. I followed him to the restaurant where he left me while he went home to shower. When he left, so did I.

* Robert and I actually got along pretty well. He was great fun, made me laugh and had a lot of the same thoughts and beliefs I did. There were two things that went wrong with Robert: a) I met him about a year too soon, just after my three-year relationship ended and I wasn’t really ready to date; and b) Robert was too interested too fast — he sang me karaoke love songs and told me he meant every word. On  our second date.

* Larry was another who seemed perfectly nice and normal on the telephone. We met for dinner after a few weeks and had a great conversation, so great that he suggested we go to a movie. I tried putting it off — you can’ t really talk during a movie — but was eventually persuaded. He went to buy the tickets and his debit card wasn’t working and would I mind paying for the movie?

The list goes on; lost of first dates, very, very few second.  The phone calls always go great but when it comes to the face-to-face meeting something just falls short. At least in “the old days” the physical assessment was done before you even took the time to talk to a person, let alone get their number.

I know we have gone digital for much of our ordinary lives: we pay bills, rent movies, arrange flights and book hotels sitting in our pajamas at our computers.

It just seems that something as personal as dating should be … well, done in person.

(*Names have been changed to protect the lame …)

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