The Duds of Online Dating

Ah, the joys of online dating. I’ve sort of given the whole thing a break. Although, there is still a site that I’ve paid for, where my membership is still good until the end of March, and my profile is still live. I figure, I paid for it, may as well see what pops up. (No pun intended.) I’m nothing if not frugally curious.

As I’ve said before, there are several things in online dating I find quite hilarious. I just can’t help myself. I recently found an article that had a list of online dating etiquette. I thought many of these tips were very common sense. I have yet to see the etiquette for when you run across a profile of someone you actually know. Do you throw the phone? Do you act as if you didn’t see it there? Do you do the absolute, wrong thing and say “Hey, how’s it hangin’?” So as not to cause any misinterpretation, I aim for a polite, “just wanted to say hey and happy hunting.” I mean really it’s just a conversation that no one ever answers, so you may as well be polite.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my more humorous online dating encounters. Let me preface this by saying, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Encounter #1 (and my favorite) was a superhero. BATMAN! I have to tell you, I laughed until I cried. I was so amazed that Batman liked me, I mean wow, it is not every day you get a message from the caped crusader! His profile was the Michael Keaton version of Batman, so I was intrigued. I mean who wouldn’t be? I am a special blend of playful and snarky, so I had to ask questions. His profile said he was from North Carolina. I knew there was a Batcave, NC, so surely this was the real deal. His profile also said he was 5’11” (somehow I thought he would be taller). So, I asked if he wore heels? It said he had kids. I asked if he still counted Robin his ward as a dependent? Was Batgirl also his? I’m not sure I remember the storyline. I also think he lied about his age, he said he was 45. So I asked if he was sure? Little did he know, my first words were “na na na, BATMAN!” when I was 1 in 1966, and Batman at that time was a grown man, so something is not adding up here. Even if he were the Michael Keaton version he would be older than 45, right? Hmmm. He didn’t respond to my questions and he never messaged me again. Oh, well. I guess a superhero was too much to wish for.

Encounter #2 was with Rigger. He worked on an oil rig and loved to cook and CLEAN. Really? I would think that would keep you really busy on a rig. He texted a wonderful game, was sweet and funny and enjoyed witty banter, was somewhat intelligent. Until I started asking personal questions. The oil rig he worked on had security and could only text, no phone calls, no video chats, no photos. Right. Did he miss the part about me being an Army widow? I got skyped from war zones. Let me call bulls**t. The story (after 2 days), he was coming off the rig in a month. He really wanted to come to see me and stay in Knoxville because it sounded so beautiful. Hmmmm. He got really defensive when I said I had Googled him. He didn’t exist anywhere he said he did. When I told him I didn’t want to meet with anyone who couldn’t video chat and at least prove they were who they said they were, things got dicey. And again, my snarky side jumped out and asked for a photo of him holding his driver’s license. How dare I ask for a picture or a background check. Oh dear, there goes another one.

Encounter #3 was the Flying V. His profile photo was of a wild-haired 80s guitarist holding a beautiful classic Gibson blond Flying V guitar. So I complimented him on his guitar (I love music and it was a fine instrument). He liked fluffy girls and thought he should come live with me because Knoxville has such a bitchin’ music scene. Knoxville does. He shouldn’t. He thought I was cool because I knew what he played and he obviously thought that meant he needed to move in with me. He was devastated when I told him I had a roommate. Things when downhill at warp speed, and another one bites the dust.

Encounter #4 was Who’s Your Daddy? A very nice-looking truck driver who thought I was an amazing lady of exceptional caliber. We talked on the phone a few times and the conversation was going fine. Until I asked, “How many kids do you have?” I thought it was a perfectly normal question, right? Until he answered, I’m not sure. Wait, what? You don’t know how many children you have? I’m thinking player or sperm doner, either way, I think I’m out.

Encounter #5 Momma’s Boy – I should have known better than to even respond to this one, but I was flattered. He was 45, so 12 years younger. I thought, maybe he can keep up with me. It seems that the nice fellas I met who were my age all went to be at 8 pm and that’s just not me. So, I was hopeful. I have a co-worker whose hubby is 9 years her junior and they have a wonderful relationship. You never know, right? So I meet the fella for dinner. He was late. He arrives after I already had a table, a drink, and an appetizer. I’m polite, say something about the traffic or road construction. He says, no, he’s helping his mom. Ok, that’s sweet. Then he proceeds to tell me he lives in her basement and is unemployed. She actually gave him money to go out that night because he helped her. Can, I pick them or what?

Now, I know I can be a bit much. I laugh too loud. Sometimes my filter is broken and things just come out of my mouth that should have stayed in my head. I tell the truth to a fault, but I try not to hurt anyone’s feelings. You always know where you stand with me. I am diplomatic. I can’t sit still when music is playing. I’m colorful. I’m creative. I’m overweight. I”m active. I love to dance, especially in my kitchen barefoot. (Lord, knows my kitchen isn’t for cookin’.) My hair color/style changes on a whim. I have never been accused of being boring or sedate. I am fiercely loyal. I have a huge heart for people, animals, and the world. And a whole host of other things. I would definitely say, I am an experience. I’d like to think a positve one. About a week before Andy died, he came into the kitchen, where I was dancing and singing (badly) putting away dishes (remember my kitchen is for dancing) and he whispered in my ear, “life with you is never boring.” That is one of my most treasured memories.

I must say I really try not to be judgy, I think most people who know me would say I’m not. Online dating makes you judgy. I can’t help it. It does. I hope you won’t judge me too harshly and I hope some of my adventures have been a cautionary, fun glimpse into my world. If you have someone to love, love them with all that you have. Appreciation is often overlooked. Live life to the fullest, it can change on a dime.

Thanks for reading.

Beautifully Broken

Thinking about the different twists and turns my life has taken, I sometimes wonder, “How I am still standing?” My life has had so many unbelievable chapters, I am hesitant to talk about them in great detail, or all at once. It seems too hard to believe that so much has happened to just one person.

Yet, it’s just me. All the twists and turns have made me who I am. And I like who I’ve become. I try to be a person of integrity, humor, and a bit of sass. Sure, when I look in the mirror I don’t always like what I see, but I’m a work in progress, as we all are. The cover doesn’t always match the book. There is a song I like by Gov’t Mule called Beautifully Broken, there is a verse that goes something like, “She’s so beautifully broken, shaped by the wind, dangerously twisted…” That’s how I feel sometimes.

Mosaic heart by charmin foth

I have often described Andy’s passing as the event that shattered me. I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to the full-length mirror that was my life. The force of the blow exploded my world into a million sparkling pieces and left them at my feet to figure out what was next.

Amazingly though, this isn’t the first time I’ve been shattered, I’ve been broken so many times that some of the fragments have turned to dust and there is no picking up those pieces. The dust gets swept under the rug. I don’t think a person ever loses the trauma they survived, it comes back from time to time as the dust blows around and you have to sweep it up again.

Each time my life shattered, I bent over and started picking up the pieces and gluing me back together, one piece at a time. I didn’t know what else to do. I have never been a negative person, I truly believe every experience teaches us something. There is a Nelson Mandela quote that says something along the lines of “I never lose, I either win, or I learn.” So, I am learning as I go. Living is about learning.

For the last two years, I have picked up one piece after another and put it back where I felt it fit best. Remembering parts of me that I lost, finding new colorful pieces to add. The thing about shattered mirrors is you see yourself from every possible angle. If I’m honest, I know the parts that need work, the parts that don’t show me in the best light, the parts that are rough and jagged, the parts that are smooth and shiny, there are so many different pieces, but they are all me. All the pieces still fit together, just not in the same way.

I shocked myself. One day I looked up and almost all the broken pieces were put back together. The mosaic of shattered pieces had created a beautiful heart that was ready to beat again and a spirit of resilience I want to share with others. The mirror of my life will never be a mirror again, but by being broken, by God helping me piece it back together I have become something new. My life doesn’t look the same as it did before, truly, I’m not the same person I was before. Each time I have been shattered, and I get it together again, I am different. Life shapes us, the mosaic changes. It is still the same pieces creating a new piece of art. It is hard to understand, but I am the same, yet different.

I like who I am now, I’m not perfect and never will be, but who wants perfect? Perfect is boring. I would much rather be real than perfect, and I think I’m finally comfortable with that concept. I recently told someone, we are all broken, and it doesn’t matter how broken we are, it matters what we do with the pieces. If the pieces of my brokenness can somehow help mend the pieces of your brokenness, I think that’s God at work in His truest form.

A Veterans Day Letter

Ready the Troops

A letter to Sgt. Andrew Foth,

It is hard to grasp that it has been two years since you left your service on this earth for God’s service in heaven.

As I write this it is Veterans Day, 2022. November 11, people around the country are showing gratitude and celebrating with parades and ceremonies, giving honor to those who have served our country. But today, I am honoring your service, not only to our country, for which I am grateful but as a friend, a lover, a husband and so much more that words can’t even describe.

I have so many memories of Veteran’s Days of the past, days during your service, and the days after your 15 years in the Army. I believe that like so many soldiers before, you exited the Army, but the Army never left you. I believe it carried on with you. 

I remember that while you didn’t always agree, you always served with honor. You always cared for those who served under you and served with respect to your superiors, even the difficult ones in ranks above you. 

I remember the countless times TAPS brought tears to your eyes. 

I remember you would talk to and listen to another soldier just because they needed that time, even when you felt you needed to be somewhere else. 

I remember Thanksgiving for soldiers who had no family. 

I remember field exercises where you came home bruised and battered, not because of the training, but because of the wrestling matches or volleyball games that bonded your platoon together. You had everyone’s six. 

I remember your twisted sarcastic sense of humor that lightened the hard times and shed light on things that needed attention. 

I remember the angry, stubborn upset times. Times when it had to be your way, but there were also the soft times when holding my hand made everything better. 

I remember that after exiting the service, you put on a uniform and went to war memorials on Veterans Day to talk with the old-timers in wars before yours.

I remember that whenever you saw someone else who served, you thanked them for their service. I find myself doing this now because of you. 

I remember not so very long ago, visiting the cemetery where your ashes now reside, checking on the graves of those you knew and those you didn’t. And you standing at the flag at half mast and saluting as TAPS played. 

I remember your quiet times when your visions of the past took you to seek peace in a Savior who understood.

I remember. 

I will always remember.

Today, this November 11th, I sit in a cabin overlooking a lake watching it rain. No internet, no cell phone, no TV. Just God and me, talking, listening, writing. Honoring you. Honoring God. Leaning into the still small voice. 

I celebrate your new service because I have no doubt you are serving in God’s Army, readying the troops for what is to come. My vision of Veterans Day forever changed, while I still honor those who serve, I now honor your service with God. 

As I write this I cry cleansing tears. I feel like God is crying along with me as the rain falls on the cabin by the lake. I cry not because I would remove you from your post in heaven, but because I miss you more than words can say. There is no one like you. Your memory and our life together is a part of who I am. The struggles we overcame together made me stronger. Our times apart made me more independent, but also made me appreciate you all the more. The deployments, the permanent changes of station, the packing, the unpacking, the life changes, the friends, the hopes, the dreams, the farewell, they all shaped me. You shaped me. I pray that I can share the memory of you with your daughter and granddaughters and that the memory of you might shape them too. 

God may have another in my future or my time here may require a different focus, I’m not sure. I am ok with that. I am secure in who God created me to be. God’s got me. I am not living in your shadow but remembering the wisdom gained from our lives together. Many won’t understand that. One of the first lessons of our life together, you told me, ”If you had not been through everything in your life, the good, the bad, the heartbreak, the struggles, each decision, each step led you to me.” Now it is time to see where the next step leads. 

God cries with me because He knows my sorrow, He understands my missing you. He understands my anxious heart. He gives me peace, comfort, and amazing joy. He leads my way forward. He sees my future, and even though I am anxious about what may come, He soothes my worries and I am forever thankful for this. 

There is a verse that has been rattling around in my soul and it gives me peace. “Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” John 16:22

So as you ready heavenly troops for what is to come, I know you are where God wants you to be. I know God still has work for me here and I do my best to honor that service. We are working on opposite sides of the line for the same cause, moving forward a step at a time.

Until forever,

Me

Bring Your Own Sunshine

Every Monday morning at work we have devotions. It is an hour that starts the week off right by helping all the staff to grow in our love and knowledge of God, to better serve our community.

During these times we are broken up into small groups. I enjoy these small groups and getting to know my coworkers that work in the many other initiatives that serve alongside ours.

Most Mondays I come away with a nugget of wisdom to use throughout my week and my life, but sometimes, a coworker will say something that strikes a chord deep in my soul.

Our study was on the book of James. We were discussing the darkness that can creep into our daily lives during the daily news. What are the messages we listen to? How do we discern what is right or wrong? How do we combat the darkness?

During these questions, my coworker Omar said something that really spoke to my heart. It was about bringing our sunshine with us into the darkness. While I can’t remember it verbatim, the premise of the conversation created a spinning spiral of thoughts.

I thought about that light that God puts within us, and that Omar reminds the students he works with that they have that light. We all need to be reminded that we have that light. The Spirit Christ put within us. When we rely on the heavenly Father, the light He creates in us grows and others can see it. That special Sonshine can be brighter than the noonday sun when we listen to Him and treat others with love.

Another thing that spoke to my soul was when Omar said to beware of the feelings and emotions of others. Without good boundaries and respect, others can rob you of that light within. You don’t want it to get so dark that it overcomes your Sonshine.

How often do we let others break through our boundaries, rob us of our dignity, and break our souls to steal the Sonshine within us? Why do we give people the power to overcome our Sonshine? How do we prevent it? The enemy tries to extinguish that light every chance he gets.

That’s easier said than done. I know too often in my life I didn’t know how to set boundaries, I didn’t want to upset anyone so I allowed myself to be a doormat. I gave other people the power that should have been mine. Our human nature often gets in the way. We forget that light lives within us. That we were all created in His image.

For me it took a huge shift in knowledge, it took someone being kind, someone willing to pour into me and show me my worth. It took years of two steps forward and three steps back and people who didn’t give up on me. It was people showing me the love of Christ rather than telling me about the love of Christ. That is how I learned “Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world,” (1 John 4:4). He was with every person who poured goodness into me as they walked with me, and He was with me no matter how low I sank. I am thankful every day that God does what I may think is impossible.

Sometimes the simple act of a kind smile, especially to someone who feels unloved and unseen can start a chain reaction. Kindness can be contagious.

I never knew my birth father, but when I was very young my mom told me that when he smiled, he lit up a room. She told me I had his smile and that ability as well. After hearing that, I began to smile more. It made me feel connected to a father I never knew. After I began my walk with a Father who knew me, the smile and the joy grew. I made a conscious decision to find the positive in whatever situation I found myself in.

Believe me, if you know me or have read this blog for a while it’s apparent that there have been many times in my life when smiling seemed impossible. It is my hope that my life shows Joy really does come from the Lord. He has always given me that little ray of Sonshine, just when I needed it most.

So taking Omar’s advice, I am asking you to bring the Sonshine with you wherever you go because there will be times of deep darkness when you need to shine brightly and let others feel the warmth of the Sonshine on their faces.

It is Sonshine that lights up a room with your smile. Spread a little kindness and share it with others. Trust me it makes all the difference in the world.

Finding the Goodness of Grief

It seems impossible to say. It seems impossible to be at this point. It seems impossible that 16 months have passed since Andrew died. The statement, “all things are possible with God,” comes to my mind. Had it not been for my faith these past 16 months I can’t imagine where or how I would be right now.

Grief is a tumultuous turn of emotions, you feel everything and nothing all at once. Pain so deep you don’t think you can stand, fear so sharp it cuts to the bone, your heart and body hurts, your mind spins in the web of memories and sometimes clarity is a fleeting thing you can’t quite grasp. Grief is different for everyone, a wound that never truly heals and always leaves a scar. The healing time is different for everyone as well. You cannot gauge your healing against someone else’s. There is no, “this is how it’s done, and now you are good.” It is not something you can do and check off your list.

I had to wade through all of my feelings, like sloshing through Mississippi mud, which during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. The isolation and the pain were not friends, but they were inseparable. There were days when I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep. There were times I just needed someone to stay with me and hug me and tell me everything would be all right, but no one was there. There were times when friends would stop by or call and encourage me, but not as often as I needed. More often than not, I was alone with my feelings and had to learn how to keep my head up when waves of grief crashed over me.

The valley seemed the deepest six months after his passing. Life had gone back to normal for everyone else, the world was still spinning and time was moving forward. But it was moving forward without him, without us. I had to come to grips that I was no longer part of a we and I couldn’t remember how to be just me.

My church was the hardest place for me. Not because I blamed God, but because that was something we did together. It was our place, our relationship was better there, he was better there. After he was gone, I couldn’t bear, still can’t bear, to be there without him. I still deeply love my church family, but I have never felt so crushed by the weight of being alone as the times I went back through those doors. I still watch online and don’t have that feeling.

I know things have a season and during my prayers, I feel God pulling me to find a space that is mine, where I can explore who I am becoming. Where I can be a Me, and not be under the shadow of the We. My church family still loves me and has supported me through all of this and for that I am thankful. There may be a time to go back, but that time is not yet.

I have to say, the thing that saved me was that my tribe let me tell stories and relive memories that made me laugh and smile at the good life and love I felt when Andy was alive. They let me know it was ok to cry and take a moment when I needed it.

The goodness in my grief was the joy God gave me through the telling of those stories, those treasured memories that not only made me laugh but also made others laugh as well. The laughter healed my soul in a way I couldn’t have imagined. I could feel God’s hand leading me through the hardest moments and my deepest valleys. I leaned deeply on God’s wisdom on how to put one foot in front of the other. He made a way when I saw no way.

My other saving grace during this time is the beautiful relationship with my stepdaughter. She pulled me into a family I never thought I would get to experience. We shared a love for a man we both dearly miss. And her sarcasm and mannerisms remind me of him so very much it touches my heart. She has given me the biggest blessing during this season of grief, I had the honor of being called grandma for the first time and about to be a grandma for the second time. Getting to be a part of their lives is a gift I am so very fortunate to have, it takes my breath away.

Lately, I feel that it is time to say goodbye for now to my beloved, to give him the proper honors he deserves for his service. I know I will see him when my time is done, but for now, God still has work for me here. On May 27th I will have a military service to honor his memory and inter his ashes.

We were married on the Friday before Memorial Day during our lunch hour, so I felt it was appropriate to say goodbye for now in the same fashion. He would find it more than a fitting tribute.

I know he would never want me to stay in a state of sadness, he loved it when we laughed together and he loved making me laugh. I can hear him in my head laughing now, telling me it is time to move forward and have some fun. Those of you who knew him, know the truth in this.

Thank you to my tribe, for loving me and taking care of me. You all matter more than words can say.