Free Advice: On Falling in Love - Part Three

Friday

 
It was 1996 and my life was sounding a lot like the lyrics of a country song. My dear friend, Rob died in February, then out of the blue, I lost Betsy, my sweet three year old Australian Shepherd (her vet said it was a brain aneurysm) and my heart felt as though it had been run over by a freight train. I was as lost as I had ever been.
Betsy & Rob

After losing Rob, I cried, reflected, journaled and visited him at the cemetary.

Then, a few weeks later, just when I allowed myself to laugh again,  Betsy died.

I curled up in a ball on the sofa in the dark ignoring the phone and doorbell. Neighborhood kids left flowers from their garden on my doorstep. I was inconsolable and for the first time in my adult life that I can recall, I was vulnerable.

vul-ner-a-ble / adjective: 1. exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Little did I know that the missing link in my search for love was...vulnerability? Love: Part 4

Free Advice: On Falling in Love-Part Two

Wednesday


Do I love you because you're beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?
~Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cinderella

Do you see a young woman or an old hag?

I had a teacher once, who could easily be described as "unattractive". Her stringy, dishwater blond hair and acne-scarred skin was what I saw when we first met. As I got to know her as the patient, interested, compassionate and caring individual she was, I became aware of how beautiful her blue eyes and broad smile were. She was lovable. Not for what she looked like but for the very essence of who she was.

It seems to me that being lovable has very little to do with how one views themselves but rather how one views others.

I'm no doctor and I'm sure any shrink out there would have issues with my free advice, but at the risk of sounding harsh, we all carry around emotional baggage. That was then. This is now. Recognize that we all have faults, accept them and get over them.

Now is the time to be lovable by nurturing your very own essence.

Being More Lovable
  1. Be nice to people
  2. Apologize sincerely if you hurt someone's feelings
  3. Accept your intrinsic flaws - they're really not going anywhere.
  4. Recognize your strengths - exercise them - who knows what could happen?
  5. Listen...to people, music, stories, the wind
  6. Laugh a lot
  7. Relax. Believe me, you're not going to self-destruct if your cupcakes look like hell.
  8. Strive to create a home environment of peace and harmony
  9. Appreciate your blessings in life
  10. Accept your body and beauty as precious. It could be worse.
Leo Buscaglia, PhD was a popular professor, author and lecturer known as "Dr Love". Back in the eighties, I heard a quote of his that continues to resonate with me. It goes (sort of) like this..."So, you've got fat thighs. So what? Chances are, there is a fat thigh lover out there just waiting to meet you."  True enough.  Love: Part 3

Free Advice: On Falling in Love - Part One

Monday


Damn you Mary Richards.
I, along with tons of other "Mary Tyler Moore Show" devotees of my generation aspired to be you. Independent, childless, career-minded and self sufficient. Great qualities in anyone. But as I was busy being independent, childless,  career-minded and self sufficient, I was also, alone.

Oh, I had great friends, family and pets so I can't really say I was totally alone but at 38 years of age, I yearned to have a "significant other" in my life and that didn't look like it was going to happen any time soon. I attracted married men and gay guys like a moth to a flame.

Married Men: 

I learned that married men liked the fact that I was independent, childless, career-minded and self sufficient. Who knew?

I do not judge. The heart is fragile and the human psyche is complex. There are times in life where emotions take precedence and relationships flourish despite all odds.
That being said, I was not interested in dating married men. It was just too stressful. This is what I have learned...

When a married man was honest about his marital status, rebuffing his invitation for a date was easy. "I'm flattered you would ask, but I'm not ready to get into anything complicated." It worked well. No feelings hurt. He wasn't thinking with the head above his shoulders anyway.

When the married man in question was dishonest about his marital status, cutting him loose was as simple as "You have deceived me". Those words worked well, summed it up nicely and were positioned directly towards his jugular vein. I'm not saying it was easy, but as painful as it was, I knew that choosing a deceitful man as a partner would be a mistake for me. 

My Top Five Signs that he's married...
  1. He gives you his work or cell number only.
  2. He prefers weekday "lunch" dates. Friday and Saturday night dates are rare. Sundays? No way.
  3. He is vague about where he lives and you have never been invited there.
  4. He doesn't use a credit card when you see each other.
  5. He rubs his ring finger on his left hand.
Bottom line: If you think he's married, he probably is. Trust your gut. Be direct. Ask him.


Gay Guys
I love gay guys. Always have. Always will.

Fashion, The Academy Awards, decorating, food and current events are common topics of conversation and the conversation never seems to end. They are like having "girlfriends with a twist".

The gay guys that I have loved, loved me back. Platonic hugs and kisses on the cheek, phone calls to "make sure you were OK", remembering me on special occasions. My cup runneth over. But sadly, having  gay guys feature predominantly in my life was not conducive to developing the heterosexual relationship of my dreams.

It was clear that in order to be a healthier me, I needed to create a little "hetero-time" for myself. My gay friends were all I wanted and then some, but I knew in my heart that if I ever wanted to be in a romantic relationship with a man, I would have to (reluctantly) nurture non-gay relationships.


In 1995, my best gay-friend, Rob and I discussed my dilemma and decided to work on it together. The first step was redecorating my bedroom. "Early Teenager" was what he had dubbed it and now it was time for a change. "If you build it, they will come" he said, quoting the famous line in Field of Dreams. Our "break-up" came much sooner than I had anticipated. Three months after my "fabulous" bedroom make-over, Rob died. He was only 33. One day I will write all about Rob and the indelible mark he made on my life but for now it remains "too soon".

It was Rob who taught me that I was lovable and knowing that became my first step to falling in love. Love: Part 2

What's Your Sign?

Friday

Throughout my life, I have been admittedly smug about the fact that I was considered a meticulous, reliable, practical, diligent, intelligent, analytical, perfectionistic, detail-oriented Virgo. Now, it comes to my attention that I am actually a bossy Leo. My charismatic, witty Gemini husband is actually a stubborn Taurus and my  trustworthy, understanding Pisces friends are really unpredictable Aquarians.What's up with that?

Brace yourselves people.

In the past decade we have had to familiarize ourselves with climate change, airport security changes, Islam and now.... the new astrological zodiac chart.

C'mon. I mean ... seriously?

According to Parke Kunkle, a well-respected astronomer from Minnesota, a new Zodiac Chart needed to be released. Based on his research into the earth's rotation (or whatever), there are 13 signs of the zodiac now. 'Ophiuchus' is the newbie. So, if you just happen to be born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 you are S.O.L. when it comes to pronouncing your sign's name and/or determining your sign's personality traits. I don't think he's gotten that far yet.


Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13V
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17 ?
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20

Tiger Parenting?

Tuesday


I know 'squat' about parenting. There you have it. But what I have observed is that many middle-class American kids are OK with getting a C, are praised ad nauseum, win awards for just 'being there', and have developed few coping skills for managing life's basic disappointments. To me, this makes for stressed-out, frustrated adults, but again, I know 'squat' about parenting.

According to Amy Chua, Yale Law School professor and author of  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, there is a very good reason why Asian children stereotypically excel in mathematics and music. It's all in the way they were raised. Recently, The Wall Street Journal published Ms. Chua's essay, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior . I'll bet the mere title of that article ruffled a few feathers at the playground..
None-the-less, a few of Ms. Chua's key tiger-parenting points...
  • schoolwork always comes first
  • A-minus is a bad grade
  • your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math.
  • you must never compliment your children in public
  • if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach.
  • the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and that medal must be gold.
Ms. Chua's children did not...
  • attend sleepovers
  • participate in school plays
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • go on playdates
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin
Hmmmm. No TV?  No sleepovers? What do you think?

Annslee's 1st Birthday

It's been a year since Miss Annslee Mae Spotswood made her early debut and helped to illustrate the true meaning of the word "vulnerable".

But she was soon home with a very proud and loving Mom & Dad...
Of course, there was a 'glitch'. At four weeks old, an unexpected emergency ambulance ride to Children's Medical Center in Dallas...
But then a healthy year at home...
"Bad Girl" - The blame goes to her father for this one.
9 months


10 months
11 months

Annslee loves the outdoors, airplanes and animals. A very bright and strong-willed little girl, one of her favorite past-times is looking at pictures and video of herself. Self-confidence does not seem to be an issue. 

Storytelling

Sunday

I love to tell a good story. Always have. Maybe my affinity for storytelling is genetic (see:Genealogy ) but I'm thinking it just started out of necessity.

I was a Canadian kid being raised in the 60's and that meant having really poor TV reception.
My entertainment options amounted to reading, singing along to the radio, riding my bike and 'playing pretend'.

I'm not sure what 'playing pretend' amounts to today but as a six or seven year old, I required a decent background story in order to get the most out of my make believe experiences. My captive, loyal (and only) participants were my little sister, Bobbie and my cat.
Bobbie and I - circa 1962-63
I suppose I should apologize to my sister now (I'm sorry) for putting her through the trials of ... "Two poor, abandoned refugee children and a cat lost in the backyard jungle, foraging for berries in order to survive" or "Two dedicated nurses and a cat taking care of our many sick dolls patients in a crowded hospital ward" or "Two busy housewives and a cat preparing enough mud pies supper to feed a family of six" or "Two innocent children and a cat being stalked by crazed kidnappers". You get the idea.  We had a lot of time on our hands.

And so, my stories that began quite simply would end up making interesting twists and turns in order to maintain the attention of a four year old. The cat was a lost cause from the beginning. 

Several years later, at the urging of friends who had endured hours of my own storytelling, I attended The Texas Storytelling Festival in Denton Texas. It's a festival that showcases professional storytellers. Who knew? It was there that I learned 'storytelling' is one word and is considered an art form. The storytellers were a little larger than life but I guess you would have to be when telling a story to a large auditorium full of people.

Since then, I've tuned into The Moth.
It's more of my style. The stories are short, sweet and focused on a specific subject. According to The Moth,  "Every mainstage show has a theme and features five or six storytellers who tell a ten-minute story. The stories are true stories from the storytellers' lives and they must be told live, without notes. Past themes have included "Call of the Wild: Tales of the Untamed," "Nuclear Meltdown: Families in Fission," "Last or less Stories about Endings," "Art Attack: Stories About Wrestling the Muse," "Gotta Have It: Stories about Compulsions," and hundreds more."

The stories on The Moth's website include Podcasts and RSS feeds where you can listen to some of the featured storytellers online.

Check it out.

Paranoid in South America

Anticipating travel to South America was both exciting and scary. Admittedly, reports of muggings, kidnappings and police corruption go...