Sunday, June 25, 2017

31 Flavors - The Greener Grass Of Online Dating

Have you ever been at a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream counter pacing back and forth in front of the display trying to decide on a flavor? That one has cookie dough, but the next one has real pieces of brownies, and then there’s the one with walnuts or the one with pistachios, and of course, there are the fruit varieties, the cheesecake varieties and 15 separate options with chocolate! How in the world can you possibly pick just one (or two) flavors for your ice cream cone?  

That is exactly how it feels when you venture into the world of online dating! Setting up your profile is exciting and you are filled with anticipation for the new and fun people soon to be filling up your inbox. Whether you are looking for a serious relationship, or just casually dating, you are anxious to check out the options. What you may not be prepared for is the sheer volume of options. That’s a good thing, right? Right?? Well, of course, having variety is nice. It means feeling you do not have to settle or compromise on what you really want. The downside is the anxiety involved in deciding which ‘flavor’ to try.

There’s the solid guy/gal with a good job and 1.5 dogs; the meet-your-family type. All the right boxes are checked with this one and in theory, your search could be over. However…then you notice the exciting world traveler. This person could expand your horizons; literally. You begin to think about all the experiences and amazing places to explore. Theirs is a free spirit without true roots, just waiting on the next exotic trek. Wait, though, the next one looks super fun; a night owl making the rounds of all the best hot spots in town and friends with all the ‘right’ people. How fascinating to be in the inner circle of that world. The next one presents themselves as a serious-minded intellectual. That’s impressive; to be with an individual who is smart, has their act together and can maybe help with yours. Then again, the great looking quintessential bad boy/girl is so very hard to resist. Everything about them is intoxicating and inviting. Oh dear, what to do now?

The reality here is that it is ok to talk to whoever strikes your fancy. You can opt for someone with similar interests, who would be relaxing and easy to get to know. Or you could go the other way, find someone outside your normal comfort zone that would excite and challenge. There really isn’t a wrong way, yet many fall into one of two traps when faced with these many options. Some refuse to pick at all for fear of the wrong choice. They get caught up in the ‘what ifs’ and find something negative about each one before ever meeting. They become overwhelmed and check out of the process entirely, missing the forest for the trees so to speak. They miss the opportunity to find someone because they are distracted by all the ones.

Even worse, are the people who actually decide on someone then quickly lose interest and drop them for the next pick-of-the-day; a rolodex of dates if you will. They never put in the time and energy to really learn about the other person. The temptation to see if the next one might just be a little bit better is too hard to resist. The greener grass syndrome is never more prevalent than in online dating. It can hurt our chances to find the right fit when we never stay with anyone long enough to determine their values, goals and lifestyle compatibility. I am not suggesting you stop at the first person you meet and jump into a serious relationship. This is the perfect opportunity to take your time and explore the next steps towards your future, but it is not a good idea to randomly play leap frog with people’s emotions. We are wise to keep in mind that behind that screen is a real person who is making the best of their single status just as we are. They, nor we, are disposable markers meant to calm a temporary fear or need and then be replaced. The term is player or even serial dater; and both mean the same thing, too many choices, not enough sincerity. This isn’t a gender issue either, both sides participate. I understand the variety can be enticing, especially if you are just coming out of a long relationship/marriage. The urge is there to leave no dating stone unturned, but just remember there is truth to the lesson on quality over quantity. While I am a huge fan of being open to new experiences and expanding your circle, I do always recommend using caution and respect when dating. Be honest about your intentions and realistic about what you hope to accomplish.

This can be an exciting and fun-filled chapter of your life. Starting over fresh with new goals and a greater understanding of what you want is a huge step. If part of what you want is to sample several of those flavors in the bin, try not to go too fast and get a heart freeze. Take your time and savor each moment.  There is a big world out there full of wonderful and amazing people. Pay attention and choose those who will inspire and delight you; then actually get to know them to find out if you are right. There may be hundreds of flavors at your fingertips, and while all of them may be good, only a few of them will truly be great. 

Pick great.  

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out

Friday, June 16, 2017

For All The Step-Dads Who Stepped Up......Happy Fathers Day

There are approximately 60 million children under the age of 13 in the US, and 50% of them currently live with a step-parent. This is a reality in today’s world of divorce and one that is not often talked about. As adults, especially after a bad relationship has ended, we tend to focus on our happiness and the love we believe we deserve, and my friends, I’m with you on that. But what we also need to understand is the trauma that our children have gone through and be very cautious about the next person we allow into their lives. You do not have to look hard to find a step-parent story gone wrong. It is extremely difficult to walk into three-quarters of a family and fit right in seamlessly, but today I do not want to talk about the ones who failed.  No, today with Father’s Day just around the corner, I want to shine a bright light on all the loving, supportive, patient men who have come into our lives, embraced us and our children and made our world a better place.

I do not have any research to back this up, but I’m going out on a limb here and say that I believe it is a little easier for women to integrate themselves into a stepfamily environment. I say this only because of the maternal/nurturing component that is natural for us. I know there are horror step-mom experiences out there too, but I still hold to my position that for men, it is a bit more challenging. Men (the good ones) walk into a situation and want to fix things; physically and emotionally. They see the scars and the aftermath of the pain and it sets them on a course to provide healing and restoration. Of course, his main objective is to win the love and devotion of the woman, but he also sees the children and their situation. It is a wise man who practices patience and sensitivity when it comes to these children. Depending on their age, they may resent another man with their mom and absolutely do not want someone else telling them what to do. The step-dad has little authority and his basic disciplinary role is to back up the mom. All that being said, a loving step-dad can make an amazing difference and impact on the family; and I know this first hand.

My first daughter was born out of a hasty and ill-fated relationship. I was young, impulsive and did not consider the impact of my actions. This beautiful red-headed baby girl had no one to call Daddy; until she did. I met a man when she was barely a year old and while I was thrilled with his interest in me, I was forever touched at how much he was also smitten with my daughter. He immediately brought her into his life and I truly believe with all my heart he loved her as his own. From Day One he included her in our plans and never asked me to choose or divide my time or love. He is the only man she ever considered to be her dad and even when she connected with her biological father years later, until the day her ‘step-dad’ passed away, she loved him fiercely and called him Daddy.

Brad Paisley released a song in 2009 titled “He Didn’t Have To Be”. The chorus goes…

Lookin' back all I can say about all the things he did for me
Is I hope I'm at least half the dad that he didn't have to be
'Cause he didn't have to be 

In a very few words, this speaks volumes to what it means to a child to be loved unconditionally, even by someone introduced later in their lives.

Now, not all step-dads/families are dealing with absentee fathers. Many divorced dads try very hard to be a part of their kids’ lives and do not appreciate another man around. Unfortunately, these are choppy waters to navigate, but if everyone can just keep in mind the best outcome for the children’s well-being, then boundaries and acceptance can be agreed upon. Another wrinkle comes into play when the step-dad has children of his own and has to balance his time with them. As you can see, all of these factors create a very challenging situation, and it is for the men who accept this challenge and work diligently to provide a stable and loving home for everyone that I have high regard and appreciation.

So on this Father’s Day, I want to give a big shout out to the men who stepped up, accepted, loved and stood in the gap for children they did not bring into this world, but cherish as if they did. Who handled any resistance with grace and maintained outstanding character even when things were rocky. Who accepted the children at whatever level they could handle and promised to always be there for them. For the men who came in and taught our sons to be respectful and our daughters to be respected, being everything you didn’t have to be, but still chose to be!

To the Step-Dads who hate that word and just want to be called Dad!

Happy Father’s Day

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out!

Friday, June 9, 2017

First Date Fridays - Part 3 - The Conversation

You mean, we have to talk?
I am one of those people that can talk, a lot. I have been told more than once that it is easy to have a conversation with me. That makes me smile. The danger in talking too much though is revealing things about yourself sooner than you should. Or the flip side to that is learning things about your date that forever stay stuck in your head. Like the guy who talked about government listening devices in our light bulbs and believing in aliens. Hey, if you don’t look like Tommy Lee Jones, don’t talk Men In Black stuff to me. Ok?

I guess there is a fine line between talking too much about random stuff and making at least the first few conversations count in regards to the exchange of information.

Here are some tips for the first date conversations.

  1. Start simple. Some of this information you may already know from emailing or talking before the date, but find out basic information. What kind of job do they have? Do they enjoy it? If they hate their job, will they complain and be miserable every work day? What is their living arrangement? With today’s economic environment, living accommodations are more creative. Roommates; living with family; sometimes even still living with an ex. It may not be a requirement that they live alone, but it should be a requirement that their ex has a different address.
  2. It is ok to ask about their family. You don’t need a genealogy report, but it is quite helpful to understand their family dynamic. Are the close (emotionally and literally). Most people don’t mind talking about their family. If your date hasn’t spoken with their mom for years or is estranged for all their kids that might be a sign you need to move forward slowly to eliminate any red flag concerns.
  3. Have some fun! You absolutely should talk about what the two of you enjoy doing. If one of you enjoys hiking in the mountains and the other is afraid of heights that might be an issue. If one of you is an avid gardener and eats only organic food, and the other has Dominoes on speed dial, your lifestyle heath choices will not line up. Don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to be twins. Some variety and being open to new experiences is a good thing. Just make sure your differences are not at opposite ends of the continuum.
  4. Finally, what are your relationship goals? Now this is a sensitive question, and I would never recommend asking if they are looking for someone to marry at this point, but, it is a good idea to know what their end game is. Do they just want to date casually? Are they interested, if they meet the right person, in being in a committed relationship? If they are divorced, do they ever see themselves married again in the future? One of the worse mistakes people make is assuming they know what the other wants out of the dating process. So many individuals, especially women, stay with someone hoping the ‘dating’ will turn into a ‘relationship’, when the guy never wanted that from the beginning. There is no wrong answer; everyone has the right to their own path. But you deserve to know the truth about their expectations.

Now these are just suggestions and are not meant to be printed and checked off one by one. They are in no certain order and please do not write down any answers. And for every question you ask, you should be willing to answer back in kind, plus any more they may ask of you. No one person should dominate the conversation. The idea is for information to flow evenly. Be respectful in your responses and be respectful in your reactions to their responses. One word of caution, be careful if the conversation starts heading in a sexual direction. I am not here to judge, and what two consenting adults choose to do is on them, but it is my opinion and advice that introducing this topic at this stage is asking for things to unravel quickly. I have an entire chapter waiting down the road to discuss how sex plays into our SIM lives, and there is definitely a place for it, but not on the first date. Ladies, if you open that door, most men will walk through it. I know it is fun to flirt and if there is chemistry, it may seem all in good fun, but I still believe it is a bad idea.  Guys, don’t go there. One of two things will happen. Either the girl will believe that sex is the only reason you asked her out or she will call your bluff leaving you decide what kind of girl/date you really want to have.  

How Did It Go?

There are dates where both parties click and know immediately there is mutual attraction. Those dates often end with the planning of the second date. If that were the norm however, there would be no need for this book! Most of the time each one is trying to decipher what the other is thinking and trying to determine themselves what they want. Body language is a big key here. Did they look you in the eyes when you were talking? Were they hunched over/turned away, or fully open and engaged, facing you? While walking, did they touch your shoulder or back, or walk a few steps ahead or behind. I met a guy once to walk through downtown and grab a bite to eat. I was anticipating a leisurely stroll taking in the sights and sounds of my beautiful city. He proceeded to do a power walk down the sidewalk, weaving in and around people like he was heading to a finish line. Maybe he was just hungry and we should have eaten first, but after chasing him around town I got the vibe he just wanted it to be over; so it was.

Saying good-byes at the end of the first date ranks pretty high in stressful, awkward moments. Each person is calculating their interest level while simultaneously trying to get a feel for what the other person is feeling. There is the “It was great meeting you” closing sentence that oftentimes can seem obligatory whether you mean it or not. Then there is that split second when a decision has to be made on whether to end with a handshake (ugh), lean in sideways for a half-hug, or go for that mystical first date/first kiss. I have no rules here as each scenario is unique. If you decide to go the cautious route and wait on that first kiss, that’s perfectly fine, but if the chemistry if sparking on both sides and it feels like the right thing to do, go for it! I will only caution you to be respectful of each other and not let things get too heated or carried away. Having a little mystery at the end of this first date is a good thing.

First Dates are a combination of nerves, excitement and caution. I hope I have provided some guidelines and hints to make sure the nerves are at a minimum and the excitement is at a maximum. I am always happy to talk to people who are out there braving these waters and learn of their experiences and successes. Keep Trying! Stay Positive!

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out  


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Un-Tether Your Soul (Lessons From A Baby Elephant)

Have you ever been to the circus? The elephants are always a top draw, and in fact, the retirement of the elephant show by Ringling Brothers was cited as a primary reason for declining sales that eventually ended their 146-year run. It is both terrifying and breathtaking to watch these massive and extremely strong animals being led and doing tricks at the will of the trainer. And further still, to walk around the grounds and see they are tethered to a small, unassuming peg in the ground. How is that even possible? We all know they possess the power to snatch that rope in an instant! What stops these impressive beasts from breaking free of their shackles and going wherever they choose to go? Their minds!

It is a common practice in training baby elephants to secure them to a stake in the ground with a rope. They will pull and resist the bondage but do not have the strength at this stage to get away. Day after day as this continues to be the result of their efforts, at some point, before they are fully grown, they just stop trying. This creates an adult elephant, with immense power over their own freedom, who believes they are still bound. It is not the stake that stops them, but the fear (sight) of the rope.

Can you identify with that elephant? Are there insecurities or circumstances that you do not feel strong enough to get away from? I would like to suggest that the issues holding us back in our lives are absolutely in our control, and we simply need to re-focus our attention away from the traps of the past and recognize the power and strength we have TODAY!

This can be difficult when the mind replays things we heard growing up. If someone in your younger years was belittling, demeaning, or used intimidation as an ill-guided attempt at motivation, you may struggle with feeling worthy and capable. You might still be living with that critical inner voice giving convincing arguments why there is no reason to even try. “You will fail. You are weak. You are stupid.” That is being bound. We must all stop those recurring recordings in our minds. In fact, not only stop, but erase and completely eject the tape. It is extremely profound the impact of the words we received from our parents and those in authority. (And a wise reminder for us, as parents, to choose our words carefully.) But we are not forever chained to their thoughts or opinions. Parents, teachers, coaches; they all make mistakes and some were just wrong or even cruel. There comes a time when we all have to believe in ourselves even if nobody else does.

The reverse side to this is when children are taught they can do no wrong, are never allowed to lose and taught the sky is the limit. They grow into adults shackled with an unrealistic world view who believe the universe owes them a grand existence just because they occupy a space in it. We absolutely should encourage and enrich our children with possibilities and dreams, but just a dream is not enough. There is hard work, determination and many disappointments and setbacks along the way. We cannot cease to pull when the rope is tense and the ground is hard around us. It takes grit and backbone to persevere until the release comes; that moment of conquering the mountain and the rush of joy.

Dear friends, my hope at this moment is for you to recognize the emotional constraints in your life. Maybe you have settled for an unhealthy relationship to keep from being alone. Do not allow another person’s inner pain keep you from living a full and beautiful life. Or you could be stuck in a thankless job afraid to take a chance on your passion or calling. We are not always able to have our dream job, but we should find an outlet for our gifts and look for ways to give positively back into this world. Sometimes people are tied down by family dynamics they feel obligated to maintain because of a DNA thread. Trust me, I am all for family and strongly believe in sticking together, but a shared bloodline does not give anyone the right to offend, mistreat or abuse you. Do not stand for this in your life. I trust that I am getting through and shining a spotlight on the shackles to your soul along with the motivation to break them.  

My point is to live in the here and now. We are only as strong, loving, kind, giving, resourceful and happy as we are TODAY! We cannot be tethered to the pain and disappointments of yesterday or stuck in fear for the worries of a day not yet dawned. We have to possess and own the moments we have right in front of us. I understand this is very easy for me to say while sitting in front of a computer screen and not truly understanding or knowing your situation. I will not pretend we can just snap our fingers and everything is magical and perfect. But I do sincerely believe that we all have the gifts and the power within us to shine and be joyous and fulfilled. You do not have to live one more day tied to a stake of defeat and fear. You must realize that rope is an illusion and there is nothing 
holding you down.

You are Free!

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out