“In Search of Love Update” On-line Dating!

Objective: Find Mr. Perfect..
Way back in January I made some lofty goals when I announced that I was ready for a new relationship in my life. I had my laundry list of key items. Someone who can make me smile, who appreciates my interests, my dog Monty and my children. To be swept off my feet by a handsome man who appreciates me, and who appreciates life. Likes my friends, I’m looking for a partner who can turn off his thoughts about work and simply focus on the joy of being together. Someone who is truly “present” for me. Who appreciates life and wants to embrace it as much as I do.  I want a man who is comfortable in his own skin and truly able to connect, to let down his “Berlin wall” when it comes to his emotions.  A man like that is able to express and experience love, and understands the importance of commitment. Also, I love music and I love to dance, and I want a partner who shares those pleasures too.

I was well aware that relationships don’t happen overnight, of course. My friends told me how hard to find someone. I needed to lower my expectations. I was prepared.  Let’s “get real” when you reach this point in life if you don’t have any baggage — previous marriages or relationships, children, and so on — then you haven’t lived much of a life. I heard too many horror stories.  I knew a large percentage of the men were looking for a good time, a physical relationship with no strings attached. I really didn’t want to do it. Was convinced that it would not be a good experience. I was NOT going to meet any one.

On-line Dating the New Blind Date! Why not?

First profile pictureMy first step was to sign up with Match.com for only one month and Jdate.com 6-months – it was the best bang for my dollar. Set up a profile on OkCupid, which is a free dating site. I didn’t devote attention to that site, I wanted to get the full value out of the sites I paid for. All my profiles and pictures were the same. I had no idea how it worked.  (Important tip for first timers: make sure you check the unsubscribe box.  If you don’t you are locked in at the price you paid for a year.)

Can people see my profile?

How I thought it would work is that guys would do the “department store” thing” and reach out asking me for my number. Duck soup from there it would be like back to the old fashion traditional way. Didn’t think I would have a problem. How wrong was I? That month my conversion rate Match.com 28% and JDate.com 23%. To calculate conversion, add all contacts like Emails, Winks, IM’s favorites divided by the total number of views. Match.com site boys appeared to like me more.  All of those contacts were not Jewish. That didn’t surprise me because I was never a big hit with the Jewish boys. Some things never change I guess.

What amazed me was the quality of the contacts on both sites. I was not prepared for an over alarming number of “Yummy”, “I know, I know, I’m too young. Still can’t help but stop by to say that you are absolutely gorgeous.” Please it baffled me why someone similar in age to my children would be remotely interested in someone my age. “How would you like to come to PHL for lunch say Thurs? I love the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons. After lunch it will be easy”. For the first time, I felt like a piece of meat. I thought that was not acceptable behavior; I didn’t like the way it made me feel.

So this is where I discovered I’m not popular on-line!

The first month on on-line dating sites was an eye opener. Everyone I knew on the dating sites was doing much better than me. They were getting nice emails from boys and actually talking on the phone. Getting asked out on dates. I came to the conclusion that I was just not popular or the type of girl you wanted to take out based on on-line dating standards.  I needed help. With my BFF’s support and encouragement I took a different approach. Only having to focus on one site JDate.com was less overwhelming. 5 months to go. Back in high school my friends and me would take out the yearbook and pick out the boy we liked. The new updated grown up 2012 version “dinner and a bottle of wine” going on-line and check out boys on JDate.com with your friends. I have nothing to say and failed at flirting. My BFF became my Cyrano de Bergerac emailing the cute boys. Everyone I knew had luck doing this. None of those boys respond to my emails. Who cared we had blast doing it!

My profile is not working. Why not stretch the truth?

A year, 2, ok 4!

I changed my profile description several times. Boys don’t like to Moving the tree from Harlem to UWSread too much – less is more is a much better approach. Changed the pictures and added a few. You need to be on the site all the time, be an active participate. I couldn’t and did not do that. Discovered my age was a problem too. NO one is looking for someone my age 55. Except the young boys that think women my age are interested. It did not matter how good I presented myself they were not looking for me. I lowered my age to 51 to see if that helped. Come to find out everyone does it. Don’t be surprised if the guy you are dating is actually 6 years older than he says he is.  Pictures are never as current as they say. Wish the whole on-line experience was more honest and real.  Think the actually success rate would be greater. Michael Buble “Haven’t met you yet” became my theme song.

To my surprise I developed some email friendships with a few nice boys: all geographically undesirable not romantic just flirtatious friends. I started to enjoy talking to boys again via email. I never was good at it and needed to not let my shyness get in the way. I’ve been married with children so long I guess I stopped having funny silly flirtatious conversations. I learned to talk about simple things like movies or favorite food, to exercise schedules, and baseball. Their emails made me smile and blush in a good way.  Like when I was a teenager.  That is when I started to notice the change in me.

I fell in love with ME………

I was clueless and understood something was missing in me. What was missing? More important can I get it back?  I wanted it back! I asked all my dearest friends to help. I had a village… The past few summers I spent in Europe. I really never embraced New York. I have been hiding, afraid, delaying re-entering the world as long as I could. My world was safe, I was protected from being hurt. I was so busy focusing on work and finding me. Yes, healing too. I needed to start being single in New York City. I was so ready to have fun. Life is too short, fun and happiness are just too important. This summer I promised myself that I would stay in New York and look for romance.  Making New York City home my priority. I started playing a lot of tennis at Central Park actively expanded the people I play tennis with. I started playing doubles, which I had not done since I starting playing back in June of 2010. Biking, hanging with friends. Working hard to have a nice healthy balanced life. Laughing a lot. Started dressing like I did in Europe. We always wore sundresses. Even got heals! Dressing like a girl again. I made Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” my new theme song. Boy! It gave me courage. I started to have fun! I made sure I took pictures everywhere I went. You could see me transform. Finally, I had the perfect profile picture. From the instant I posted that picture I became much more popular. The perfect profile picture!Regretfully, the contacts are still discouraging but I have met some nice, interesting boys.  Yes, I have even had some really great dates.

Advice from one on-line dater to another….

I have come to the end of the JDate.com subscription. I will not be renewing my subscription. Why? It’s not for me. I learned a lot in the last 6 months.  I have changed.  What was missing was my “groove”.  That something special inside that makes me sparkle.

Glad I did it though.  It was a very positive experience.  I recommend that others try online dating too.  It takes 6 plus months. Don’t get discouraged. Do it with someone if you can.  Share because it makes it fun! When you give them your number, like in the old days, they don’t always call. It has nothing to do with you. Don’t worry, there are some really nice guys too.

“No sex before the third date,” Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, a great rule about not rushing into anything. I agree never rush into anything. Dating at this stage of my life is completely different. Recently, a male friend talked to me about how men envision the natural stages of dating.
Meet…. Get to Know…. Do you like?…. Pleasure…. Key love each other do or dead..  Guess that means you’re going to see where it goes..

On-line dating was a huge help in understanding the male perspective, I realized there is a miscommunication between men and women. This miscommunication causes unease in the beginning of relationships. With the women I know the order of the natural stages of dating is different. Pleasure is last… Pleasure for most women is for committed relationships only.

It’s important for you to remember the man sitting next to you at that moment may not have your best interest at heart. Especially when you’re not together. The only thing they really want is physical relationship. You really don’t know him.  DO NOT EVER do anything that you would not be able to look your self in the mirror the next day.  Nothing is worth that.

Be prepared to go on a lot of first dates. There is nothing wrong in ending a date early if it’s not working for you.  Be nice and kind but if doesn’t work don’t try. Go with your gut instincts it’s always right.  Have fun! No expectations.

Who will be the next Mr. Perfect?

My friends were right it hard to find someone. No never lower your expectations. That laundry list of key items is “must”. I like to believe that there is special someone. I’m going to continue enjoying my adventure; now open to trust and believe in falling in love. Romance … Happy ever after… Mr. Perfect will make sure I notice him.. I have a feeling he will be able to swept me off my feet… it’s still all about that special chemistry between two people that make it perfect magic….. A bonus, like the icing on the cake.
At this stage of my life that would be amazing!

!

“My M.B.A. in Life” Part III Pride

In the first two installments of this three-part article, I described how the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life turned out to be extremely useful in the business world.  I discovered that it’s all about people – connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them.  As you’ll see in the final part of this article looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business challenges we face today.

The quality of pride is essential to a successful business — customers taking pride in the fact that they are important and being listened to, and employees taking pride in the products and services they produce.  When customers know that their satisfaction matters to a company, they’ll tell everyone they know – and this word of mouth is more valuable than any expensive advertising and marketing campaign.  It works that way in small and midsize businesses, too, of course.  When I was helping my late husband Sid with his dental practice here in New York, I saw that each and every person that a patient comes in contact with makes a powerful impression — from the receptionist to the dental hygienist.  Each of these interactions is a “touch point,” and together they form the experience that each patient has of the dental practice.  When a patient feels insignificant and like they don’t count, they’re not likely to remain loyal to that dentist or doctor.  It works this way in any kind of business.  American business overall needs to recapture this level of pride and care.

Every industry and business sector needs to remember that the pride employees take in their work is very important.  The turnaround of America’s auto industry is the latest high-profile example of what’s possible when we encourage employees to take (or reclaim) pride in their work.  When I first moved to the U.S. from Canada, whether you were “buying America” was a frequent topic of conversation.  It’s time to emphasize this once again.  We need to revive the kind of thinking that was dominant when our parents and grandparents were working hard to make America great.  The pride that everyone took in the quality of their work was something to be admired, and it’s a quality that’s far too rare these days.

Many senior level executives and CEOs seem to be excited about the innovation and new ideas they’re implementing in their companies, but let’s not forget to let this enthusiasm “trickle down” to the rest of the team.  Let’s make sure that all employees who contribute to a company’s success are recognized and appreciated.  And remember, enthusiasm and new ideas cost a company nothing — but they can be priceless when it comes to growth, increased revenue and creating more jobs.  Keeping each customer in mind every step of the way, as I mentioned earlier, is another essential ingredient in this recipe for growth.

In coming up with a road map for the future, we must be sure to include our young people, of course.  I’m a big believer in the value of small business, and I encouraged both of my children to pursue their dreams in terms of the work they choose to do.  Now, it’s up to us to create a business climate that’s receptive to their ideas and gives them an opportunity to contribute.  An alarming number of recent college graduates not only have to struggle with astronomical student loans bills that must now be repaid, but are also having trouble finding a place where they can put their knowledge and skills to work.  The idea of owning their own home — the dream that motivated earlier generations — now seems completely out of reach to most young people.

I also see the great talent and potential in the high school students I work with each week at Freedom Academy in Brooklyn.  We must create opportunities for these young people and millions of others just like them to put their talent to work.  Those of us who have been engaged in the work force for the past few decades have the wisdom and perspective that’s needed in order to create opportunities for these talented young people.  This challenge causes us all a lot of stress, of course, and there are no easy answers — but as the NASA ground control team is rumored to have said during the Apollo 13 crisis, “failure is not an option.”

Until we create a more receptive business environment for our young people, who can blame them for believing that loyalty — to customers and to their company — is an antiquated and irrelevant concept.  I’m honored to have an opportunity to offer high school students encouragement and inspiration, but until we can create a business environment that will welcome their contributions, the likelihood that these bright and enthusiastic young people will hit a dead end as they try to put themselves to work remains a serious problem.

Although it may sound like I’m ending this essay on a rather bleak note, the fact is that I really believe there is enormous creativity and ingenuity out there, which can result in some much needed changes in our nation’s business sector.  As you can tell, I’m a firm believer that the human spirit is capable of great things and able to solve any problem.  Just as people helped me overcome a wide range of challenges in my life, I’m confident that together we can create a business environment in which each individual is valued and one that generates enormous prosperity and opportunity for all of us.

 

 

Part II “My M.B.A. in Life” Appreciation

In Part I of this three-part article, I described how the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life turned out to be extremely useful in the business world.  I discovered that it’s all about people – connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them.  As you’ll see in part two of this article, looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business challenges we face today.

The respect that business leaders have for each individual member of their team can also make a huge difference internally, especially when challenges arise.  In my work with the U.S. Tennis Association, for example, I not only ran the organization’s membership department but I was also asked to assist in the delicate process of closing one of their Departments.  In mergers and consolidations, employees often feel shortchanged and mistreated, and I was determine to do everything possible to treat the employees in this department humanely and support them in finding fulfilling jobs outside the company.  In a department of 24 people, the organization was only planning to retain three of those employees following the consolidation.  Over an 18-month period, I retrained all two dozen of these employees so that they each had a strong and competitive resume and were better equipped to find a new job once they were let go.

Another thing I’ve learned in working with people for so many years is that we all need stimulation and variety.  It’s important to have a change in our routine every once in awhile, especially in jobs that are very repetitive.  Without breaking things up a bit and giving hard-working people a chance to catch their breath, there’s a greater chance for mistakes — and employee “burn out” is almost inevitable.  In addition, the most fulfilling jobs are those that allow an employee to be “a constant learner.”  We all need to grow and evolve.  (I certainly never thought that I’d be a writer, yet that’s the role I find myself in today!)  Also, when you give employees a chance to grow and learn new skills, it lets them know that you have faith in them and that they’re appreciated, and we all flourish when someone believes in us.

Just as everyone likes to be appreciated, no one likes to feel inferior — that they’re less important than the executives they report to.  In my work with the call centers at various companies, I made it a point to really get involved in the work that was being done at each center.  I’d handle customer calls myself, and join the employees in the lunchroom and in their training classes.  This sent the signal that we’re all on the same team and lets them know that their work is respected and appreciated.  Also, when the employees see that you can be flexible, they’re more willing to be flexible too — and accommodate changes that allow the company to grow and succeed.

Growth and flexibility are essential if a company is to remain successful, of course — especially when it comes to customer service.  The decline of the once mighty Kodak Corporation is a great example of what can happen to a company when it fails to evolve with the times, and fails to keep in tune with customer needs and desires.

We all need to evolve on an individual level too, not just as a department or as a company.  When I began working with the companies I mentioned earlier, the emphasis was on catalogs that were sent out to the customers on a mailing list.  Now, of course, that information is handled by computer.

The importance of caring about the individuals on that mailing list hasn’t changed, just the way that we handle that information.  The goal is still effective communication and a rapport that results in sales.  It’s still just as important to let each and every customer know that they matter, and that they haven’t been lost in the shuffle.

In Part III – the final part of this article — I’ll explain why it’s so important to remember that each and every person who comes in contact with a customer or client shapes that experience, for better or worse.  I’ll also discuss why it’s essential that we create opportunities for young people where they have a chance to bring their unique talents to the table and have a voice in the work that they do. 

 

“My M.B.A. in Life” – Part 1

Many people have heard the expression “the business of life” and wondered exactly what it meant.  For me, that phrase has a great deal of meaning.  It’s how I forged a successful career in the corporate world based on the lessons I’d learned overcoming a variety of personal challenges.  Those challenges included learning how to hide so that people didn’t notice the enormous “port wine stain” birthmark that covered half my face until laser surgery gave me “a new life” decades later, finding a way to support my two young children as a single mother when my husband left me, and – most recently – creating a new life following the untimely passing of my third husband a little over a year ago.

Having challenges of various kinds thrust upon me over the years gave me a chance to learn a number of key insights regarding people.  I’ve learned a lot about the importance of appreciating people, the way we connect with one another, and the value of each individual’s contribution to a group effort.  Perhaps not surprisingly, these lessons and insights have not only helped me with personal struggles but they can also be directly applied to the workplace, as I discovered during my career in the business world.  Now, I’m enjoying sharing those lessons with others, to spare them some of the pain that I’ve experienced over the years – and also to provide a few “short-cuts” to the success they envision.

One of my first jobs in the business world was that of a list broker assistant.  Even at that early stage of the game, it was all about people – buying names of potential customers, learning how to target the best prospects, and how all this information fits together in a database.  From the very beginning, I learned the value of “streamlining” – a skill that I had been using when educating my children and supporting their school, long before I ever traded my role as a homemaker for that of a businesswoman.

I wanted to make sure that my children and their fellow students had the very best when it came to education, and this meant doing some fundraising and connecting with the administrators who handled enrichment programs. The best way to get anything done on a large scale, of course, is to “aggregate” – bring everything together – and that meant reaching out to other schools in the district who shared our goals and concerns.

A computer database is the best way to handle large amounts of information like this – and the more details you have about your customers, the better.  When you have a detailed understanding of exactly who your customer is, you have the key to success – but you also have to know how to talk to your customer.  Together, this knowledge and this talent for rapport combine to make outstanding customer service possible.

The customer service scripts I’ve written for Qwest, Bell South and Verizon emphasize both of these ingredients — factual information about the customers and products, combined with effective communication strategies.  The members of the customer service team should know all about the company’s products and their benefits, of course — and they should be able to anticipate the questions that may arise in any conversation with a customer.  Being prepared — both in terms of background knowledge and communication skills — is essential for establishing a genuine connection with each customer, which is the only way to attract loyal and long-lasting customers.  Not surprisingly, it’s also essential that every member of a company’s customer service staff genuinely like people, because that smile comes through in their conversation — whether that conversation is face to face or by phone.

Having learned how wonderful it feels when a fellow human being genuinely cares, it’s easy for me to see how important qualities like compassion, curiosity and respect play in a business situation.  With this in mind, I quickly became very successful at coaching customer service teams, and this lead to my work with ABI and Database America, which in turn, brought me into contact with an even larger number of companies. Often my challenge was to figure out a way for two very different companies to work together most effectively, a challenge that – once again – is all about people. My work teaching sales teams how to talk about various products was really a kind of problem solving. As I mentioned, by that time in my life, I had a lot of experience in solving problems — especially in terms of getting people to work together for a common goal.

I loved my work with customer service teams because it was very easy to measure success, and I discovered that I’m a bit of a numbers junkie.  For some unknown reason, many of these companies – some of the largest in the world – often were not able to recognize overlapping markets of customers and other people-related problems that were quite obvious to me.  For example, I told the marketing team at Microsoft that by buying customer information from eight different companies, there was a huge amount of overlapping information, which they somehow failed to recognize.  I pointed out that if they ever wanted to succeed they’d have to expand their market and eliminate this problem of overlapping databases.  I helped them map out steps to overcome this problem, and then I moved on to other assignments.

In Part II of this essay, I’ll share my thoughts on why it’s important to recognize and appreciation employees at all levels of a company, and why loyalty is such an essential quality. In Part III, I’ll stress the urgency of creating new opportunities for young men and women eager to put their talent and creativity to work.

 

“Why I’ll Be Celebrating Every Day!”

As I celebrate my birthday today, it’s a time to look back, enjoy all that today has to offer, and appreciate the fact that I’m truly excited about the future.  On this day of joy and reflection, it’s most of all a day to be grateful for the wonderful people in my life — my family, my friends and also those who touch my life and continue to inspire me to dive into each day in search of fun, excitement and the pleasure of connecting with others.  As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  I couldn’t agree more!

Happy Birthday Monty

Happy Birthday to you!

I’m truly blessed to be surrounded by so many loving friends and family members, and it’s always a treat to get together with them on this special day.  When I look back and reflect on how far we’ve all come over the years, I think my greatest joy comes from the fact that my children are doing so well.  Being a mom has not always been easy, and I know that life hasn’t always been easy for my children either, but I’m so proud of them and I think they’ll permit me to take some vicarious pride in their accomplishments too.  I’m also thrilled that my father is doing so well right now, having bounced back from a scary bout with cancer.  He’s busily engaged in life and extremely happy, and that makes me happy too.

The great poet Walt Whitman once wrote, “I celebrate myself and sing myself.”  And if there’s ever a day when we can each do this without appearing too self-indulgent, it’s on our birthday.  (Actually, I think we should appreciate ourselves each and every day.)  I had been dreaming for years of becoming a writer, and over the past year I’m thrilled that I really made it happen!  I believe that having goals and dreams — and taking action on them — gives me an enormous amount of energy.  I’ve never felt healthier, and I’m eagerly awaiting the day that the tennis courts in Central Park open once again for the season.

Love cupcakes!!

Just as I’m so grateful to be sharing my birthday with my family and friends, I’m also happy about another new set of friends who have come into my life recently — the wonderful young students at Freedom Academy, where I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few months.  When one of the students recently asked me how old I am, he simply couldn’t believe that I’m a few years past fifty.  He was shocked, and said “You look fantastic!”  That made me feel good.

A birthday is also a time for looking ahead, and I’m very excited about the future.  I feel that this is a special time of my life, and I know that this is just the beginning of what will be a wonderful and exciting journey.  In fact, I’ve resolved to celebrate not just today but each and every day.  I hope that you’ll come celebrate with me!

“In Search of Love”

It has been said that sharing your life with a partner magnifies the highs and lows, and I really believe that’s true.  After my husband Sid’s passing, I spent a lot of time reflecting and mourning the loss of this extraordinary man, and I now realize that I’m ready for a new relationship in my life.  I’m sure that the last thing Sid would want is for me to be by myself, and I miss that feeling of sharing and togetherness.  Having had two bad marriages and finally a wonderful one, at this point I know a thing or two about relationships.

Keeping those lessons in mind, I’m now looking for a man who’s not afraid of commitment.  I want to feel secure that my partner has my best interest at heart even when we’re not together, and I want to feel the same way about  him.  I know that a relationship like this doesn’t happen overnight, of course.

Over the years, I’ve come to see the importance of having some specific qualities in mind when I’m looking for a relationship.  I’ve tried it the other way — getting into a relationship without much thought — and I’ve suffered the consequences.  I know there are plenty of men out there who are just looking for a good time, a physical relationship with no strings attached, and that’s fine — but that’s not what I’m looking for this time around.  I’m looking for someone who can make me smile, who appreciates my interests, my dog Monty and my children.  They’re grown now, with lives of their own, but this is still important to me. I’d love to be swept off my feet by a handsome man who appreciates me, and who appreciates life.  Life is too short, and fun and happiness are important.  I’m also keeping in mind what I don’t want.  I don’t want a man who doesn’t like my friends, because they’re so precious to me and I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include them.  I also don’t want someone who wants to change me.  I like who I am, at long last, and I’m not interested in making any changes.

Love biking along the West Side

Love biking along the West Side

I’m also ready to have fun — and that doesn’t mean in big, spectacular and expensive ways, but in comfortable, day-to-day ways.  I like going to the grocery store together and planning a meal, simply enjoying one another’s company.  Also, with so much stress in our lives these days, I’m looking for a partner who can turn off his thoughts about work and simply focus on the joy of being together.  Having overcome so many challenges over the past few decades, I want to be with someone who is truly “present” for me, someone who appreciates life and wants to embrace it as much as I do.  I want a man who is comfortable in his own skin and truly able to connect, to let down his “Berlin wall” when it comes to his emotions.  A man like that is able to express and experience love, and understands the importance of commitment. Also, I love music and I love to dance, and I want a partner who shares those pleasures too.

I hate to say it, but the list of qualities I’m looking for has become rather long.  I want to share my life with a good listener, who’s kind, and takes care of himself.  I’m looking for a man who is cultured and polite, and — most importantly — who appreciates me for who I am and who loves me as much as Sid did.  If I can find someone who loves me that much, it would be like winning the lottery.  Imagine that!  Some friends have told me that I’m limiting myself by being so particular, and that my long list reminds them of that joke about “the department store where women shop for a man.”  The punch line to that joke, of course, is that by “moving from floor to floor,” and being more and more particular about the qualities the ideal man must have, you ultimately reach a floor that’s empty — because there’s no “perfect” man out there.  I believe the man who’s perfect for me is out there, however, and I’ve decided not to settle for less.

This may sound odd coming from a blogger, but I love old-fashioned courtship.  Back in high school, a boy would approach a girl to ask for a date — never the other way around.  As much as I enjoy social networking here on the Internet, I’m not really interested in an “e-courtship.”  I like getting together in person.  Although the way that men and women interact has changed so much over the years — mostly for the better — I think that most men still prefer to be the one asking for a date, and that’s comfortable for me too.

At this point, you may be thinking that I really have my act together, but I must confess that the “dating scene” scares me a bit.  My friends are often telling me how hard it is to find someone they really care about.  They’ve also told me to lower my expectations because a man isn’t going to want a woman who brings “baggage” to the relationship.  My belief, however, is that if you’ve reached this point in life and you don’t have any baggage — previous marriages or relationships, children, and so on — then you haven’t lived much of a life.  A first date is not the right time to talk about my past, of course, and I certainly don’t plan on doing that.  Besides, I’m looking for fun and the joy that comes with getting to know a new friend for the first time.  If we hit it off, and we start spending more time together, there will be plenty of time to talk about all that later.  I don’t want to compare notes on our past relationships, at least not on the first date.  I want to take things slowly, so the relationship has a chance to develop naturally.  Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, had a great rule about not rushing into anything.  She said, “no sex before the third date,” and I agree.  As for the baggage, I think you should leave it alone until the fifth date.  If you make it to the fifth date, and you’ve found someone you still want to continue seeing, then I think you can start talking about your past in more detail.  For the time being, all of my baggage is in storage.

If you see the man I’m looking for out there, please let me know.  I’m not anxiously and desperately looking for him, however — and after all these years, I’ve decided not to change who I am in order to accommodate a relationship that’s not quite right.  As much as I’m looking for a new relationship, I’m not willing to make any changes.  In some sense, I think of myself as “starting from zero,” and it’s an exciting feeling!

frog in hand –

I know that there are a lot of women out there looking for a man, and I realize that I’m not the young, sexy girl I once was.  Still, I’m proud of all that I have to offer — including the wisdom I’ve gained from countless challenges, and a determination to make each and every day something special.  I also know that if I don’t find that man I’m looking for, I’ll be okay.  For me to share my life, I need a partner who is just as enthusiastic about engaging with life as I am.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At this point, finding love would be a bonus, like the icing on the cake.  I’ve finally come to a point my life where I appreciate myself, and I’m enjoying the experiences and people who come into my life every day.  One day, perhaps one of those people will be the man of my dreams!

“New People in the New Year”

I’m fortunate to have a long list of hopes and dreams and things I’m looking forward to in the New Year.  I’m eager for the kids at Freedom Academy to start their internship program, and I’m looking forward to watching them develop and grow.  I’m excited to continue my blog and to have readers who like my work, and I look forward to seeing my work in magazines and publishing my book. I’m dedicated to taking care of myself in every way – eating right, exercising, keeping my mind stimulated, and finding the balance between working hard and playing harder.  Most importantly – and most challenging for me – I’m putting myself out there like never before in hopes of bringing new and wonderful people into my life.  I spent much of my past hiding scared, but in 2012 I’m ready to confidently become a part of the world.  And it’s exciting.

Fireworks!

I started 2012 with fireworks and friends. Having never hosted a New Year’s Eve party before, I decided to kick off the year by inviting neighbors, loved ones, and acquaintances old and new to share sweets at my apartment and celebrate as the ball dropped.  My number one goal this year is to start socializing and meeting new people and dating again, so what better way to begin than by inviting everyone I know to a New Year’s bash?  This is my opportunity to shine, and I’m hopeful that I’ll find fun and romance along the way.

To even think of myself dating is a scary thought.  My life right now isn’t complicated, and dating is going to add a whole new wrinkle.  I love people, of course, but I still find that meeting new people is a bit out of my comfort zone.  It makes me feel vulnerable and anxious that I might be hurt again.  Like most people, the last thing I want is to feel rejected.  But that risk of rejection is also why dating is a rush.  Yes, there will be negative experiences, but I am ready to take them on, because otherwise I’d have to shut myself out and miss all the good that comes along with the bad. Feeling joy is an essential part of life, but we wouldn’t appreciate joy if we never felt any pain.

So I’m putting myself out there in 2012.  I’m bracing myself for the worst, but I’m really hoping for the best.  How wonderful it would be to have someone nice in my life, someone to share life’s joys and sorrows with.  At the same time, I’ll never allow myself to settle.  Instead, I will be resilient and remember what means the most to me: being free to be who I am and surrounding myself with people who respect me for it.  I’m going to give myself a chance to make this dream a reality, by going out and meeting people and creating opportunities for the right people to wander into my life, whether it’s two people or ten or twenty. Maybe I’ll fall in love with one of these people, or maybe we’ll just have coffee and watch a football game. Either way, I will know I made the effort to connect.

Creating a new life is not easy, of course.  The most difficult part is getting to know yourself and learning what makes you happy.  This is also the best part.  When we believe in ourselves and make the changes in our lives that we know we need to make, we make ourselves happy, and we make everyone around us happy too. When I feel good about myself and my life is balanced, the people I love feel that calmness too.  It brings calm to their lives because they know that I’m okay, and as long as I’m okay, they’re okay too.  And that’s a very special place to be.

Yes, meeting new people can be scary and uncomfortable, and I’d much rather sit at home with my dog, but I’m starting this New Year off by taking that first step towards putting myself out there.  My plan is to take it one baby step at a time.  Hopefully by March, I’ll have an even wider circle of friends and all kinds of new activities to enjoy, and an even better beginning of my new life. I’m going to stand tall and open myself up to the possibility of being liked, of being a new friend, and also of being a better friend.  I’m opening the door to happiness and success.  Yes, in this New Year, I’m going to do things a bit differently.

“Minute By Minute”

I painted my kitchen. It’s still gray, but it’s a different shade of gray.  It may not have been a huge change, but it took me a long time to work up to this.  My house needs repainting, but to paint the rest of the house will mean I have to get rid of things, and what I have to get rid of all the things that belonged to my husband before he passed.  I wasn’t quite ready to do that, but after I finished painting the kitchen, I felt cleansed.  It made me feel different and made me smile, and suddenly I was ready to start painting the rest of my house.  I love my husband, but I realized it’s time for him to move out.

Change is really difficult.  And scary. Moving my husband’s things out is very frightening.  I still live at the same address and I haven’t changed the apartment since he died, because I think somewhere inside I know that if I change our home, it will be permanent.  He will really be gone, and it will just be me and this new life that I’m living on my own, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for that change.

Before I started painting, my house felt safe.  It was familiar and I could live the same way for years and years, and Sid would still be around me through his things.  But I’d also never grow, never move on, never life my life the way he would want me to live it.  I realized I had to take that leap, make the next step.  And so I started with the kitchen.

Was it easy? No. Does changing my apartment make me nervous?  Yes.  Is it sad?  Absolutely.  It’s not easy to box away good things, like what I had with Sid.  It may be even harder to box away the bad things.  But I guess the best way of looking at change is that at one time or another, whether it’s physically or emotionally, you’re going to need to box things up and seal them away. Those things will always be there, and you need to deal with that fact, but they do not need to be by your side as you move forward.  Change is when we stop letting our baggage move with us.  And we need to do this, because otherwise we can’t feel free and we aren’t able to enjoy the possibilities.  So we need to put our old things in boxes and store them in an appropriate place that allows us to move forward unencumbered.

Change is hard. Taking care of yourself and living life should be your top priority, but sometimes you can only deal with doing one thing at a time, minute-by-minute. After I lost Sid, I needed to live each minute on its own.  I had obligations, but I couldn’t look a week ahead and imagine doing them. So I started with ten minutes. I gave myself ten minutes a day to just go outside and breathe the air and let myself feel good.  Then my walks turned into 30 minutes, then an hour, and then one day I woke up to find that I was excited.  And I’ve just been working on it from there.

So Sid’s stuff is moving to storage.  I think storage is a good place for those boxes, because I know there might come a time when I just need a moment to be amongst his things, to sit there and feel comfortable because I’m in a place that’s familiar.  I made the arrangements and all I have to do now is take the boxes out of the closets and stack them up and someone’s going to come and store them away.  Then I get to start fresh.

Change is always a work in progress, and it’s always hard.  The scariest part is knowing that I can’t go back.  Change only works in one direction, and I can’t change what’s in the past, can’t undo what’s already done.  I can only look forward to the future.

“Small Town New York”

My hood

My small town

I live in a very small town.  Just like everyone else who lives in a small town, I wave to my neighbors on the street, I know the owners of the shops I frequent, and I’m up on the gossip about who’s getting married and who’s done what since high school and who’s newly single.  I meet my friends for tennis in the park and bring my dog for walks. Overall, it’s a very safe and happy little town. The only difference is that my small town happens to be located in the center of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world.  Welcome to New York’s Upper West Side.

View from my deck - roof top deck....

View from my deck

New York can be overwhelming.  But before you say, “Not for me,” you have to remember that I’m a girl from the country.  My dream was a 3,000-plus square foot house with a three-car garage and two acres of property.  Living in an apartment is never where I thought my life would go.  I love gardening, I love to grill, and I love to walk in big open spaces. To live in New York City, I had to learn to look at this city a little differently, to see my neighborhood – or more specifically, the 8-block radius around my house – as my own small town. And as soon as I learned to do that, all of a sudden I felt comfortable and at home.

Just like a suburban neighborhood, my apartment building has subdivisions.  They’re just vertical instead of horizontal. And just like I would wave “Hi!” to my neighbors from the car, now I say “Hi!” in the elevator.  I have a mall with all my favorite stores, but their storefronts are on a street instead of in a building.  I have beautiful parks and some fabulous grocery stores and great local restaurants, only now I walk to them instead of drive.  I hang out regularly with a group at the local bar.  I go to poetry readings and sometimes even brave “open mic night” with my latest blog entry.  I go for sushi with my best buddy and take walks and do those everyday things that small town people do — even though I live in New York, one of the biggest cities in the world.

Lincoln Center

 

Central Park

Central Park on my way to Mid Town

 

 

 

66th Subway Station

 

 

 

After getting lost on the subway or paying too much for dinner downtown, people get discouraged about New York, and then they give up.  But like anything else, New York is open to you as long as you give it an honest opportunity.  Doing the same things and living the same life is comfortable and safe, but it’s also boring.  If you live in the same home and work the same job and visit the same friends and go the same places and you’re unhappy, nothing is going to improve until you change.  New York, for me, was a great way to get out of a rut, and has proven time and again to be a great place to keep me from getting into a rut.  Yes, a city this size can be intimidating, but it’s all about perspective.  If you set the expectation that you’re going to start by learning your own neighborhood – your own small town within this vast city – you’ll soon see that it’s just like living anywhere else.

TRACT 187 CULTURE CLATCH Poetry readings

That’s not to say that New York doesn’t have its own special perks.  You can get practically anything you want at any time, even if it’s an ice cream sundae delivered to your door at 3 o’clock in the morning.  (This is especially fun if you’re hosting a sleepover for your kids.)  Where else can you walk eight blocks and find everything you need, from the everyday basics (grocery store, cleaners, pet store) to the delightful (theater, concerts, and world-class museums)?  And did I mention that I regularly walk my dog alongside legendary rock stars and Oscar winning actors?

I love New York, but when other New Yorkers ask me where I’m from, I inevitably mutter some version of, “Oh, I’m not from here.”  Over the years, however, I’ve noticed that they always reply the same thing: “I’m not from here, either.”  In reality, it doesn’t matter that very few of us were actually born here. What matters is that this is our home now, that this is where our families are and where our hearts belong.  New York is our small town, but it’s also much more than that.  New York is our new beginning.