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Taking on Tinder

There comes a moment when you are newly single where everyone in the world seems to ask you the question “when are you going to start dating?”  During “fake divorce” no one asked this question because we all thought we knew the situation.  After “real divorce” took hold, the inquiry took on a new life.  People seemed to forget I started dating my ex-husband when I was 18 and even before that I only had a couple boyfriends.  This was a completely new area for me where I had no experience.   In fact, I didn’t even know where to start.

It seemed unlikely to meet someone substantial trolling bars on weekends in a drunken haze, not that I snubbed my nose at the fun downtown experience.  Although, I do see it probably doesn’t have the responsible intellect I’m looking to have in my life.  I also could never go the route like Ex by picking up a 30 year old love-of-my-life at the  workplace.  The phrase “never shit where you eat” is burned into my brain for that kind of non-sense and it really leads to too many ethical dilemmas for my taste.  A couple girlfriends suggested Tinder and Bumble for the jump off point.  Tinder was for hook ups and Bumble was if I wanted something real.  Since I wasn’t sure of what I wanted, I decided to enlist in both.

Let me first tell you, the idea there are more respectable dating potentials on Bumble is false.  Both sites are relatively the same in how they present and what people expect.  One guy I met on Bumble said he “swiped right” on every woman with the hopes someone would message him so he could score a quickie when passing through new towns.  He did get points for honesty even though I left our conversation a little horrified.

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Here’s a glimpse at pictures I used for my profile.  While I tried to pick realistic selfies, I also wanted body shots so these dudes knew they were getting a plus size girl.  Also, no filters. Why false advertise?

The first time I opened a Tinder profile, I didn’t know which way to swipe.  I ended up liking all sorts of dudes I didn’t want.  In a panic, I deleted the app immediately and hid my phone for a few hours like they had a tracker on it.  When I gave it another go, I didn’t really know what to look for in searching for a potential date.  It didn’t take long to pick up things I liked (a well written bio) and things I didn’t (naked chest selfies in the bathroom mirror.)  Here are a few things I learned along the way that will hopefully make your first experience with on line dating apps a little easier.

Ready to Scroll:

While on-line dating apps may seem like an easy concept, you quickly learn it’s quite overwhelming and complex.  For one, the apps only pull profiles from the area you are in at that moment.  So if you’re traveling and located 1000 miles away from home, you are only going to see potentials in that town you will probably never visit again.  I’ve been burned several times by men who were traveling through So. Oregon.  They were cool with looking in this area, engaging in a chatting relationship, but then it fizzled when dates were few and far between.

Another thing to remember is some key differences between how the two programs are set up.  To view a Bumble profile, you scroll up.  But be careful  because swiping up in Tinder creates a “Super Like.”  I can’t tell you how many times I screamed “No, no, no!” after Super Liking someone I wouldn’t even like a little.

Weeding through Profiles:

My Cool Cousin (CC) gave me some great tips about profiles and I’m going share her wisdom with you in a shortened version.

  • No picture/Body shot with no head/pictures of inanimate objects/memes = Married.  Sometimes they will say in the profiles they’re looking for an affair, but even if not, know they are hiding their identity for a reason.  CC made an excellent point of “Don’t you think their wife recognizes the bathroom she probably cleans all the time in the background of their mirror body shot?” Obviously strong critical thinking skills are not these men’s strengths.
  • Self-Employed/School of Hard Knocks= Unemployed/No education.  They may try to jazz it up with something fancy but it comes down to the same thing.  They have nothing to back up the category.  If job or education matters to you, just go ahead and pass on these.
  • Keep the message simple = if you want sex, say it.  There’s no reason to beat around the bush (literally…ha!)  If you’re only on the site for hook ups, put it in your bio.  When CC utilized Tinder, she even got down in the nitty-gritty by setting expectations of how many times a week for sexual encounters.  So many people write “looking for someone to have a good time with” which really gives a false impression.  They’re looking for someone to have a good time with that night.  Clearer communication will make the experience less disappointing and frustrating in the long run.

Swipe Away:

Tinder and Bumble are both set up with the format of swiping the picture to the right if a “yes” and to the left if a “no.”  If the other party has also liked your profile, when you swipe to the right you will get this affirming message of “It’s a Match!”  Be warned, this is where this process starts to wear on your self-worth.  You can match with someone and they may never write you back.  Or you could think “Hey, this cute guy is attracted to me” and then his opening line is “Do you like to suck big dick?”  Since people usually scan through profiles when bored or lonely, you can quickly become addicted to needing the “match” validation.  Remember to keep focused on what you want, not what you can get.

Ready to Message:

At first, I didn’t understand why men would say “I want to meet right away to see if there’s a connection” or “no pen pals.”  I thought it was so rude to say you didn’t have time to chat a little before meeting in person.  After talking with a few potentials I swiped on, I realized exactly why this happens.  People want to fill their boredom or loneliness by talking to someone who is interested in them.  It fulfills a need for intimacy without any real effort.   You can be sexting in no time.  Just know, in the end, it’s a huge time waster.  If you’re really trying to find a connection with someone, set up the date to meet like normal people once did.

Extra Motherly Warnings to Remember (that I most likely didn’t follow):

  • People lie
  • Meet in a public place
  • They’re putting their best foot forward
  • They want to have sex with you immediately
  • They will say anything to have sex with you immediately
  • People use people
  • Don’t rush into trusting
  • If not great, move on quickly

Those things may seem obvious, but dating changes a person.  It can increase confidence when you find several people are interested or decrease it when you can’t even get a nibble on the line.  You may be wondering what kind of people did I meet.   Do you?  Are you wondering?   Never fear, those highlights are coming up in the nex bloge and they may even include a date showing up in a sloth onesie. (True story.)  As for now, happy hunting, I mean swiping and good luck finding a fantastic match.

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In the weeks following the collapse of what I thought was my world, I received the sage advice of “to get over someone, you have to get under someone.” People drop this saying like it’s so easy to have sex with someone new after getting out of a long time relationship.  For me, this was one of the scariest things about “real divorce.”

Fun fact about Susan — I had only had sex with one man in my life.  This revelation always brought gasps from my girlfriends, so I kept this piece of knowledge as my dirty little secret.  “Don’t you wonder what it’s like to have sex with someone else?” they would say.  And the answer was no, I really didn’t.  When I found out Ex had been physical with his new girlfriend, I knew our sex life was over.  Fear struck me with the very real concern and possibility no one else would ever want to have sex with me.  While some of you may laugh that off as ridiculous, I’m sure some can relate.  With my insecurity about body issues, who would find me attractive?  Especially naked?!?

The anxiety is only made worse with the desperate need to be wanted after facing such a serious rejection.  In my situation, the man who said he would love me forever was now touching a thinner body and 14 years younger than the one who bore his children.  He didn’t want me. And this was a time I desperately needed to be wanted.

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Selfies become profile pictures and on-line dating previews.

I chose an on-line path.  There’s a feeling of safety with a screen in between. If you don’t want to share your body, you log off.  I didn’t go the typical thing with Tinder or Bumble. (That comes later.)  Instead, I went to Twitter where I had a community who cared for me.  In fact on a day where I was heartbroken and drunk, people I have never met reached out to me to check if my vague emo tweets represented something deeper.  From there, I fed on attention from men who had never seen me in real life, but gushed compliments over selfies I sent.  They oooh’d and ahhh’d to fill the gaping hole rejection made. They declared they wanted to live in my small town so we could have passionate sex any time because they wanted me AND my body. Their huge statements eased my lonliness.  Bestie started calling it Twinder since I could meet men easily there.  It jump-started me to believe maybe my fear of a celibate life wasn’t reality at all.

I desired their attention.  I dabble in sexting to fill my need for sensuality.  It was a new thing I had never really done.  I used to think it seemed stupid. Color me surprised (and flushed) when I realized how erotic it turned out to be. You can compare it to a “choose you own adventure” romance novel style. I felt some power in being able to decide when I wanted sexual attention and the ability to get it immediately.  The no strings and the lack of real connection was a bonus.  I wanted nothing to do with a boyfriend. Or feelings. Or anything where my heart could be hurt more.  I only wanted sex.

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Grab your pearls! Shocking, I know. Women can enjoy sex and want it a lot.

I allowed this to go on for a few months.  Interesting discoveries were made.  The first was men were not repulsed by seeing parts of my body.  True, I was able to angle cleavage and control headless risque shots, but there were still compliments and requests for more.  Second, I saw dicks.  All sorts of different ones. This was a new world for me and I was as curious as a 16 year old girl.  Some of you might hate the idea, but for me it was an education.  It allowed me to feel more empowered and less fearful. What was big? Are they.really all that different? I embraced my sexuality. No apologies for being sexually driven and seeing it as a prioroty in my life. Third, even with the screen, it didn’t stop complex feelings from happening. I had a friend with benefits where we had open and honest conversations about sex.  Usually it’s me asking him all sorts of sex questions since I don’t have to worry about inappropriate now.  We’re respectful of each other we’ve continued to build our friendship. Another man said he loved me after 2 weeks, which was ridiculous.  But I didn’t stop it.  (Shocking, he immediately fell out of love with me when another on-line lady asked him to visit her.  He never left and we’ve never spoken again.) Then there was one I cared for even though we weren’t healthy for each other.  With him, I wondered what real life would look like together even though there was little chance. Our conversations ended suddenly when his mental health suffered.  I still miss him.

The reality of on-line relationships is the fact they are built with fantasy.  These men don’t see when I lose my temper or wake up with a swollen face from crying.  They only see what I allow them and they fill it in with what they want. While there’s potential to meet someone special, without the actual face to face contact, you’ll never know if it’s possible.

Some people would say on-line relationships are not real and that’s where I 100% disagree.  These men gave me something no one else could at those very dark days.  Their lust gave me hope.  And while that might seem sad, it’s the most real thing I’ve said in a long time.  Their words made me feel desirable and attractive.  Things I needed more than anything after hours of relentless self-loathing.  My thoughts about how my Ex was kissing and penetrating someone else consumed every moment there was silence in my head.  These men offered more than compliments, they gave me some peace.

What I discovered is there is some truth to the advice I was given.  It wasn’t that I had to literally get under someone to help ease the pain, but having a distraction sure saved my life.  I tell you all this because there should be no shame in how we try to heal.  Divorce and rejection damage you to the core and anything that offers some relief should be embraced.  You should welcome whatever you need to feel good.  Women shouldn’t judge each other for these choices and my friends didn’t.  They listened, encouraged, and shared in the experience.  They understood there was power in me making decisions of what I wanted in that moment.  I won’t hide the steps I took.  Because each one is in the right direction to becoming human again.  And no matter what you chose to do, the courage to move forward should always be supported and applauded.

Reality Check

I’ve gone back and forth about writing this blog.  Obviously, I’ve decided it’s best for me to do this blog series and this is the starting point.  That doesn’t mean it’s best for you to read it.  I’ve chosen to open up about my personal life a bit to reveal what’s really been going on in my world for the last couple years.  I want to give a disclaimer before I start: this blog is my perception.  Other people may have different views or experiences and I’m not here to say they’re wrong.  With my own biases, emotions, and agendas, this is my version of my life.

Two years ago my husband of 17 years and best friend of 25 years asked me for a divorce.  I limped back with the asking to go to counseling, but only after two sessions, he remained resolved in his decision and we divorced.  But we really didn’t.  While we lived in separate homes, we really changed nothing of our relationship.  The only difference was we didn’t have to ask each other permission to make choices with time and money.  I see now that I was in complete denial I was actually divorced.  I should’ve had a good sign when it took me a year to take off my wedding ring while he had his off the day he asked for the divorce.

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A friend made this meme for me at the time and I’ve waited fo finally get to show this amazong piece of gold.

We grocery shopped every weekend together, ate dinner as a family regularly, and we never ended our physical relationship.  I still imagined us growing old together as we always had talked about.  I called it “fake divorce.”  I referred to him as my husband/ex-husband.  People asked why we even did it and I really felt it was because he was trying to prove the point that I wasn’t listening to him at the time.

After the first ten months, I decided if there was any chance for us to get back together, I would need to fix some things in my head I felt led to him ending our marriage.  I started therapy and worked for months to get to root causes.  After each session, I shared with my ex-husband all the progress I was making in finding myself again.  He occasionally would find new female friends where they had innocent outings, but nothing serious.  We agreed he would tell me because our on-going physical relationship.  I never even had an interest in dating since I knew we were working to find our way back to each other.

In October 2018, after being divorced for 18 months, tragedy rocked my world.  My father was dying.  In a devastated state, we flew to California to say our good-byes.  My ex listened as I told my dad not to worry because we were still working as a team.  The trip to California actually cancelled a trip Ex and I had planned to take to Portland together.  When we returned, he asked if I wanted to join his trip to Portland the next weekend.  We packed up the kids and made a family vacation out of it.  I even put back on my wedding rings after telling him I missed them and he said “then you should wear them.”

As I drove on the way home, I noticed he was checking his phone a little more often than he usually does, but he was four months into a new job and expectations were high.  We returned to our separate homes and that night I had a nightmare he was dating someone else.  When I woke up at 4am in terror, I considered calling him.  I waited until 6am without sleeping another wink and shot of a text asking if he was.  He wrote back “that’s ridiculous.”

Two days later, I asked Ex to come over for a cocktail and appetizers on his way home from work.  He declined, saying he’d had a long day and needed to fix dinner for our children.  I texted him later to ask if he wanted to come over for coffee for a break, but I didn’t receive a response.  After a few hours, I called my daughter to ask why he wasn’t checking his phone.  She said he wasn’t home.  He had to go out for a work function.  Although I thought it was odd he hadn’t told me, I didn’t think much about it.  Later that night when he returned, he only sent back a one line text of “it was a long day.”

The next morning was when the bomb dropped.  Ex sent me a text admitting he had actually gone out on a date the previous night.  My stomach dropped.  It couldn’t be possible.  The day before his date he used the word “ridiculous” when I asked.  Then he said he kissed her. Physical contact.  The one thing he knew would break the relationship we had shared for the last 18 months.  He told me he liked her and didn’t know what it meant.

We now experienced real divorce.  I lost my mind.  Really.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  I left work, got ripped drunk the entire day, and sobbed.  I took an occasional break to yell at him when he called. Screaming the most hurtful things I could imagine so he could feel an ounce of the pain that I was.  The following days continued to spiral.  I told myself it was a fluke. He would stop seeing her, tell me he was sorry, and we could go on even though I kept yelling at him how much I hated him for being a fucking liar.  He continued to see her and my anger continued to rage.

Two weeks later my dad died.  I wondered how my life had hit rock bottom in the one month of October.  The two men who had watched me grow up and influenced the woman I had become were gone.  Ex came to the funeral and brought my children.  In our conversations, I learned not only was his relationship with his new girlfriend increasing quickly, but that she’s 16 years younger than him.  A child in my mind.  He had gladly thrown away our lives for an immature thirty year old.  When I thought things couldn’t get worse after a long funeral day, we sat on the couch and I told him how I thought the day went as best it could.  My mom was happy, as much as one can be when your heart is broken.  Ex took the moment to tell me he had invited his new girlfriend over earlier that week to meet the children.  I lost my mind…again.

We repeated this process for the next couple months as I learned they slept together, he wined and dined her with expensive dates, such as flying her to Seattle for dinner. They regularly took out of town trips together while I struggled with a new business.  Then came the worst news.  After only two short months, he admitted he was in love with her.

Each time, I lost my mind.  I’ve never seen myself get so ugly with rage.  Even though I’ve continued with my therapy, I can’t process this idea.  I scream terrible things at my once best friend and love.  He can hardly be part of conversations with me where I don’t talk about how much I hate his girlfriend for ruining my family.  (Yes, I’m working on this.)

I needed distractions.  I thought dating might help, so I checked that out. Wow, that’s an adventure all in itself.  Maybe burying myself in work since I have just taken the big leap of opening a new business was just the thing to keep my mind occupied? Check.  Until I realized baking is a solitary thing and leaves you a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts.  So now, I have decided I need this sweet blog.  Maybe if I share the things I’ve learned in going through this betrayal, divorce, and trying to establish a new life, I will be able to feel like there was a point to it.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m going to share MY experiences since my “real divorce.”  I’m going to try to stay out of what my Ex is doing because that doesn’t help anyone.  He made his choice.  This blog is about how I’m living now and what I’ve learned along the way. It will incorporate starting my own business all by myself and maneuvering through the complicated world of dating when your over 40. Some of them are humorous and some are heartbreaking.  And as I have always done, I will be transparent, which may be more cringe-worthy than all those concert fails totaled up.  Here’s the place where my mom should really hit the “unfollow” button and anyone else who doesn’t want to know about my sex life.  (Yes, the horror, I am going to talk about that.)

I hope this will be good for all of us in the end.  I have no idea where I’m going, but I do know I’m going to be one bad ass muthafucka when I get there.  This is all about what it’s like to work towards being the person you were always meant to be, even when it’s nothing like you imagined. Wish me luck.  I’m gonna need it.

My Father’s Perfect Lawn

Ever since I can remember, my dad has kept an amazing lawn.  This isn’t your typical “keep it mowed and free from weeds” lawn.  Oh no!  We’re talking about the most perfect lawn to where other people may have wondered if it was actually a fine green carpet spread out in front of our home.

I didn’t really notice how great the lawn was when I was a kid.  In our first house, we had a what seemed like a steep hill for a front yard.  The short, fine grass was reminiscent of a perfect buzz cut on a marine’s head.  Dense and close to the dirt made it easy for friends and me to roll from the top to the bottom until we were dizzy.  We would run around, play tag, and occasionally fall to our knees and inevitably leave a giant dent.

Every Saturday morning, my dad would pull out the lawn mower and draw it across the yard in perfect lines.  Next came the edger.  He slowly walked the perimeter making sure the whipping string caught every rogue blade that dared to go out of the lines.  When he was done, divots were gone, lawn was perfect again, and we were back to playing.

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We moved to our next home when I was in fifth grade.  This front yard had only a slight incline.  In the back yard, there was a small space of grass next to the swimming pool we were so excited to have.  This only increased my father’s dedication to make the yard shine.  He brought out special fertilizers, shoveled manure twice a year, and even had custom curbing made to line all the flower beds.  The yard  shined a vibrant green and a lush feel under my bare feet.  My dad took such care that if a weed even thought about popping up, he was out there to uproot it.

When I asked to lay a Slip ‘n Slides across his grass, I think he gasped.  After a long lecture about how the excess water would kill the grass, he pointed to the pool and said, “That’s why we have that.”

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It was in that house, my parents finally hired a gardener to help tend to the yard.  My dad’s genetic disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, made it more difficult for him to walk as he aged.  Why risk an unnecessary fall when rolling the mower?  He still took the painstaking care of all the additional maintenance, but took the additional help for the basic chore.

After I moved out, my parents moved to a golf course community.  And just like my dad’s other houses, his backyard rivaled the putting greens on the course. With time and grandchildren, he softened a bit.  There were many mini pools and even a Slip ‘n Slide across that stellar lawn.

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When I finally purchased my own home,  I appreciated how difficult it was to maintain such a perfect lawn while balancing the needs of a growing family.  I begged Hubs for the exact same yard as my father created.  He told me the climates were different and we could never recreate the same grass.  He was right.  We never did.  Nothing in our yard ever looked anything like my father’s.

Last weekend, I returned to my hometown to visit my father for the last time.  His disease has finally taken over his body and he’s tired.  He was placed on hospice and is at peace with having only a short time left with us.  When I walked into the backyard I could see his health’s deterioration as clearly as I did on his gaunt face.  Yellowed patches and bare spot spread across his once vivacious lawn.  Tears ran down my face as I saw what had become of his perfect yard in the last few months.  The colors weren’t what I knew they could be.  Time passed.  Things changed.  It would never be same again.

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My dad’s gorgeous lawns are one of the things I will always remember about him.  Those spectacular landscapes weren’t just grass.  They were always so much more.  They embodied his best lessons: always work hard, put all your effort into what’s important, and there’s nothing more precious than home.

I’m not sure what tomorrow will hold. I guess none of us ever do. We hope for the best. That we’ve nurtured our lawn, shown it all the care we have in our heart, and hope it will produce something beautiful. Something no one will ever forget no matter how far  they are. Or keep it an image they can always carry in their heart.  Like how a legacy should be.

When Fantasy Meets Reality

I finally did it!  I went to Paris.  After a lifetime of dreaming about walking around the Parisian streets, eating croissants, and writing a novel on a cafe tabletop with the Eiffel Tower in the background, this year I finally pulled the trigger.  Actually, it’s more like I finally dropped the coin and flew across the world to visit the place I fantasized about since I was a little girl.

Fantasy is a fickle thing.  It’s pretty much your mind telling you what you want to believe.  Once you see it in your imagination, you defend a made up perception like there is no other truth.  My work desk is decorated with a gorgeous hand stitched Eiffel Tower card on crisp linen paper.  So precious I won’t even take it out of the plastic wrapper it was displayed in the store.  On the other side of my monitor is a glass cube with a small square of a Paris street map on one side and a fancy font spelling out the city’s name on the other side.  Daily reminders to keep my high fashion, culinary masterpiece, and magazine cover landscape notion locked in my mind.

Paris was the second city visited on my vacation.  After being WOW’d by London, I knew pulling into France my heart would burst with gushing love.  Instead, after riding the super cool train that went under the London channel I was met with graffiti lined concrete instead of idealistic poppy-covered countrysides.  Ten minutes after getting off the train and waiting for my Uber, I watched a crazy couple holding up traffic because they were fighting in the middle of the street.  After yelling at each other for a few minutes, the woman wrapped herself around the man and kissed him like none of us were staring.  I clutched my purse with the first time feeling of fear this might be one of those pick pocket schemes everyone warned me about.

How could this be my initial feeling about the city I’d loved without question for so long?  I told myself it must have been a fluke.  Everyone has a bad day, so couldn’t a city have that, too?  I ditched my luggage at the hotel and headed to the streets.  That’s where I would see the real city with freshly baked baguettes, windows lined with gorgeous pastries and cafe diners laughing with friends.  The next hour was filled with cigarette smoke, a confusing transit line, and a waitress snubbing my broken high school french.  Determined to make my Paris fantasy a reality, I barreled down to a classic tourist attraction, L’Arc de Triumph and I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s massive size in the middle of a roundabout left me in the awe I was desperately seeking.  As I got closer, I smiled at the intricate detail cut into the stone.  THIS was the Paris I knew was waiting for me to fall into her arms and deeply in love.  She was starting to seduce me again by matching what I wanted her to be.

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Those little dots at the top are people. That’s how big this place is.

Ten minutes later, my emoji heart eyes stung with the gallons of sweat pouring from my forehead in trying to get to the top of the Arc.  They really should have a sign at the ticket booth that says “NO elevator. Prepare for an ungodly amount of stairs.”

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This is Ladyfriend’s picture because I was still gasping for air.

Many times circling those stairs I actually questioned if I was going to make it to the top.  When I fell out of the doorway onto the bench, I watched others gasping for breath and repeating my question to their friends, “Did you know it was all stairs?”  As I sucked in all the oxygen I could in a single breath, I realized I wasn’t tasting fresh air from outside.  That’s when it hit me like a ton of stairs, “Oh my god…we’re not at the top.”  Nope, only halfway.

How could my Paris do this to me?  She wasn’t tempting me with romanticism.  Her lack of an elevator in a national monument was inconvenient.  Her acceptance of smokers five feet from diners and leaving butts all over the city was confusing.  And the realness of being like any other big city was crushing.

I slowly carried myself up the next half of stairs in a mix of exhaustion and disappointment.  I wanted Paris to be so much more.  Not just a place to check off landmarks from my bucket list, but an experience that would revitalize my heart.  Explain to me what love means and confirm romance really is alive.

When I broke through the final threshold to open air, a wind gust blew across my wet face and brought my temperature down to a non-heat stroke level.  My hair whipped around and I made my way to the edge.  People lined on all sides and I had to squeeze in to catch my first glimpse.  I say “first” because that’s when I felt I really saw Paris.

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The gorgeous city spread out in all directions.  Streets cutting in all directions and with beautiful architecture colored with age.  Off in the distance were high rises of a the modern times and on the other side stood Notre Dame.  In the moment when I finally took in the iconic Eiffel Tower, she stole my breath.  My emotion overwhelmed me in realizing I was truly in the place I had only seen in pictures.  I lavished the view.  Then, I looked down at the street below — gridlocked traffic, horns honking, and crowds of people.

On my way down the tons of stairs I asked myself why I hadn’t been so hard on London. That was a city as much as Paris.  I had to admit I didn’t fantasize about London.  I’d built Paris into perfection in my mind.  A place right outside the gates of Heaven.  The reality clashed with what I wanted to accept.

It’s confusing seeing something for what it truly is and having to acknowledge what will never be. While I wanted to love Paris deeply, in this trip she kind of let me down.  Her flaws glared when I needed her beauty most.  We struggled to understand each other in the following days and it hurt my soul more than I thought it would.  I left a little less than how I arrived.  Even though I appreciated all she gave me, I mourned what I also lost.

After I got home, I looked through my pictures and saw Paris a little different in hindsight.  The disappointment wasn’t as strong.  In fact, she taught me a little something about myself.  When reality conflicts with the fantasy I want to believe, it does no good to fight.  Instead, it’s much better and more fulfilling to accept since it’s those little details that make it a little different than every other place in the world.

I hope there will be a chance to see Paris again. Life is long and maybe one day when the timing is right, we will reintroduce ourselves to each other.  And when we do, I’ll accept her for all she really is, as I hope she will of me, and we will find a way to love each other unconditionally.

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(At the top of the the Arc!)  Even though I’m a hot mess, we earned this picture!

 

 

 

 

CoMo Cookie Monster

A couple months ago when Coast Modern announced their 2018 Spring Tour was going to be themed Haunted House party, they put out a request for fans to bring their talents and lights to the show.  Both were going to be highlighted and produce a more interactive experience.  Having no talent I could parade on stage, I started to think about what kind of lamp would best represent me.

Bringing any old light doesn’t seem to capture the creative genius behind this idea.  From the first day, I was excited to see what light-art fans would create throughout the country.  It’s a little taste of people from all over.  It seemed the best way to rep my Oregon #CoMo love was to give it my all.  I mean how else can I convince them to take a chance on So. Oregon?

My first thought was a strand of lights in the shape of cookies.  A quick Amazon search and I came up bust.  I did find cookie cutter light strings.  It was cute and charming, but didn’t have the real pop I wanted.  One thing about me is I like there to be real thought and effort if you’re going to create something.  Art is a piece of your heart.  If you’re gonna do it, you better show it.

I threw around the idea in my head of making a cookie lantern.  Build it together like a gingerbread house, even though I’ve never done one.  I wanted to use my sugar dough recipe instead of stale gingerbread just in case someone wanted to eat the thing. I hoped the royal icing would give a firm and more stable shell to the soft sugar dough.  Maybe it could work?

The weekend before the show, I got down to business.  Go big or go home, right?  I wanted something substantial to hold its own next to the other lights on the stage.  I cut out the side panels 6 inches wide and 9.5 inches tall. I cut a top and a base before cutting out the decorative pieces.  I knew I was going to make a stained glass look with crushed sugar candies.  I was feeling pretty confident this lantern was going to be awesome.  (Narrator: This is the foreshadowing that it did not go awesome.)

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I iced all the panels and let them dry solid before thinking about starting the build.

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I thought about how I could support that panels when piecing together.  With the first two walls done, I was still feeling pretty confident. (Narrator: She shouldn’t have been confident.)

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It was when I went to put on the third panel and the edging from the first two cracked at the seam, I knew I was going to have some problems.  Then it got worse.  I edged up the 3rd panel and I hit me like a ton of bricks — cookies spread when they bake and these lines are not square.  So I loaded up the thick, firm frosting and started spackling the thing together.  While it wasn’t looking pretty, I still had hope I might have structure at the end.

When I had the four sides pieced together I went to set it on the base only to find out these no square edges and frosting filled gaps had made the thing too big to sit on the base.  Back to the oven I went and baked a larger base.  The top however was a different story.  I filled in the cracks with more frosting, tried to smooth it out, and hoped this wasn’t going to fall apart on the five hour car ride to Portland.

Once I had the whole structure together, I hated it.  It looked nothing like how I imagined.  My visions of smooth sides seamlessly blending into the other instead had spatula streaks and sharp frosting edges.  After a day of drying, some of the candies started to leak down the side.  These are the moments when I start thinking about chucking the whole thing in the trash.  Bestie and Hubs did their best to be reassuring that I was being much too critical.  All I saw were the flaws.  How could I give this to one of my fave bands as a representation of me?

I decided to cover the flaws with edible pictures of them and their single covers. Even that didn’t go smoothly!  The papers bubbled up and pulled away.  My imagination wanted it to look like those buses wrapped in pictures.  Instead, the cookie lantern looked like an elementary school art project.

It was done and no matter what, I was taking it.  Bestie and I checked it every stop on our way up.  We coddled it until it was safely resting in our hotel room in one piece.  She continuously reassured me it was cool.  “It’s a lamp made out of cookie! Most people don’t even know how to bake.  Who’s not going to love it?”

Show time came and we walked through those doors with giant cookie lantern in hand.  It happened to be we saw Luke of Coast Modern at the entrance too.  I presented it with pride. (That’s a Pogs and Slammers song lyric. Buy their album here if you haven’t already. SO good.)  “It’s a lamp all made out of cookie,” I said.  I held my tongue from following up with “Don’t look too close. I know it’s a mess” and just watched Luke look over the monstrous cookie art.  He smiled and said something nice about how that was cool.  He walked downstairs with us and let me put the lights in it so we could see the thing in it’s full glory.  In that moment, the cookie monster was exactly what it needed to be.  And I was happy.

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It’ll only got better with great positioning on the stage in front of the drums and even a super special shout out during the show.  (Thanks to Bestie for catching some of it on video because I think I’m turning the beginning into my ring tone.)  I am forever grateful for their fan appreciation and remind everyone again THIS is why I love them so much.  They are nice people.  Genuine and kind. Thoughtful and considerate.

So what happened to the monster cookie you ask?  This did:

Before you get all upset, this is what I asked them to do.  And they did it perfect.  I even got to watch it happen, which was an even bigger thrill.  I’ve had several people gasp and ask how could I watch that many hours of work be destroyed.  Easy…they made something even better with it.  They were so thoughtful in setting up the shot, taking a great picture of it beforehand and really taking their time to make sure they captured the moment Luke stomped his foot on it.

In the end, I have to admit the monster cookie was a very good representation of me.  It had odd sides to deal with, needed a little more support than originally thought , and maybe became a little more than what I bargained for.  It also was made completely with love to show my appreciation for a hard working band who has shown me kindness. I wanted to bring my best effort as a thank you for them always bringing theirs.  I think it did exactly that.

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Of course I was gonna throw in a cookie selfie. Are you crazy?

Out in the Universe

The other day, a co-worker said into the hushed air, “If anyone wants to bring in some cupcakes, that would be okay with me.”  Everyone paused from their duties for a moment and looked at her to try to find the reason.  She didn’t say another word, and so everyone went back to work as if nothing had happened at all.  A moment later, the woman sitting next to her said “If not cupcakes, I’d sure like bagels.”

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For a couple of seconds, I thought about making cupcakes even though I had a lot of other work to do that night.  Different cake flavors cycled through my mind and I considered what would be the quickest to fit into my busy schedule.  After resigning I couldn’t get it done, I moved onto “why did she say it in the first place?”

“I guess you’re putting that out in the universe to see if it comes back to you?” I asked.

“I’m just sayin’,” she said.

“Good to know.”

The next day, no cupcakes arrived.  Bagels either.  There was slight disappointment, but co-worker still wore a smile on her face.  “It’s okay, I’m getting Chinese food for lunch so that makes up for no cupcakes,” she said.

When lunchtime rolled around I came back to my desk expecting to smell some Orange Chicken in the air.  Instead, she was flustered.

“The universe is against me,” she said. “Not only did no cupcakes show up, but now the Chinese restaurant’s phone is broken so I don’t get that either.”  Her disappointment caught me.  The situation felt more important with the weight of the universe on that lunch order.  I couldn’t let it stand with such disappointment heavy on her heart.

“How about I’ll drop off your order on my way to lunch?” I said.

“You’re going that way?” she said.

“No, but I will for you.”

<Insert collective “awwww” from everyone in a four cubicle radius.>

Since that day I’ve thought about this putting things out in the universe to see if they’ll come back.  Why don’t we do that more?  Maybe because it feels kinda silly saying your wants into the open air?  Is it a sense of vulnerability  that you will be judged in wanting such a thing?  Or is there a guilt at the thought you are somehow asking those around you to supply it?

The interesting part was my co-worker felt none of that. There was nothing self-conscious about her request.  She moved along with her merry day as quickly as she stopped to say her piece.  She didn’t expect anyone to fill it and didn’t look disappointed when no one jumped up to cater to her needs.  She simply stated a simple fact of what she wanted.  It was in this fearlessness that something good did come back her way.  If she had kept all that to herself, I wouldn’t have been swayed when she couldn’t get the lunch she’d waited for all week.  Speaking her mind about her wants resulted in the universe answering it.

I’ve decided to try this out.  I’m going to put out positive vibes, thoughts, and sometimes wishes into the world.  Not only telling people the things I want, but sharing the great things I see in them.  With this we’ll see what kind of things the universe brings back.  It could be a sweet smile from a friend, a thank you for helping someone in need, or maybe even the contest win for those Matt and Kim concert tickets they’re giving away that I really want.  Whatever it may be, I’m ready to keep my eyes open and live a little more fearless so we can all be in a better place.

And in case you were wondering, the other co-worker got her bagels a few days later.  Bestie heard the story and brought in a batch to brighten my day and theirs. Sometimes the universe doesn’t work in mysterious ways, it works in fantastic ones because it’s filled with some pretty damn great people.