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.

The Lost Art of Communication

In this world of dry texting, monosyllabic chat, and single emojis that drop into our social media comments, text messages, DMs, and even video chats, does true communication even exist anymore? When the most you can hope for is short terse answers to questions that run through your mind, answers with no tone, and plenty of room for supposition, how do you get to truly know someone? Have we lost the art of communication?

It’s even more of a disaster in the dating world at my age, as people think answering a like, DM, text or even a phone call should be immediate. If a message isn’t responded to in a timely manner of a day or two, I understand, maybe that person doesn’t want to talk to you.

However, the number of people my age, who think a message should be replied to instantaneously stunned me. People, let’s play nice and work on our patience.

The number of fellas who have liked my dating profile in the last two months, only to ignore me because I didn’t respond immediately, 24. Twenty-four, hopefully, nice guys didn’t have the patience for me to reply to a text until after I got off work. They couldn’t wait 8 hours, not even a whole day. And it wasn’t even a real conversation. I do not get it. I don’t mean to sound crass, but it’s their loss. And really would I want to be with someone who has the attention span of a gnat? Probably not.

Being a creative type adds another layer of complication to communication altogether. When inspiration strikes you must strike with it, otherwise it just disappears, like dust in the wind. I’m not saying I’m losing it or anything, just some days the creative process can be like a squirrel on crack, I can be all over the place at once. I know it is that way for a lot of creative people.

Usually, when I feel something resonate with me and the gears start to spin, I will have a vision in my head of what something could be and I can’t let it go until I do something with it. It can be pen to paper, graphic design, paint to canvas, fire to wood, or thread to material, it’s a motivating force. An artist friend told me, he couldn’t get the noise in his head to stop until he created what he was thinking. I wish I had approached my art that way more often when I was younger.

Creativity can also be an isolating force. Most people don’t understand the sudden lack of attention (I am generally a detail-oriented person) or see the shift in focus when an idea is spinning in the creative process. That alone can make a relationship hard to maintain and this is where communication is key, I had to learn to tell people that I was going to be unavailable.

Most people say they understand the creative process until I don’t answer the text, the phone, or the email because the music is up and I am dancing around barefoot with a paintbrush in my hand, or humming along while I sew, or building something with power tools. They don’t understand that I have to get the vision out into the world, or like grapes, it dies on the vine and becomes a thorn in my side.

All they see is me ignoring them when that’s not the case at all. Eventually, I have to come up for air and focus back on the real world. I once again long for real connection and communication. My love languages are Quality Time, Touch, and Words of Affirmation, but those are hard to give or to get when no one can communicate. It’s like the 80s song by the Buggies, Video Killed the Radio Star, except I think, Text Messaging has Killed the Conversation.

I would like to think that in my years as a graphic designer listening to a customer’s vision and creating it, or my time in the newspaper business listening to an interview to get the story I’ve become a better communicator. Or maybe it is just me getting older and I call it as I see it. I try to say what I mean, let people know what I need, and clarify if needed. Someone told me I was intimidating and I couldn’t help but laugh, the last thing I wanted to do is intimidate anyone. Still, I am amazed at the people who don’t know how to ask for what they need, or even say what they really mean. In the long run, aren’t they just hurting themselves?

The art of conversation is a rare gift. When you have it treasure it. Good conversation is a balm to the soul. It creates a connection and is the building block for any type of good relationship. Connection isn’t just about the words, it’s when you can sit across the table and look into someone’s eyes and see if they are sincere in what they are saying, or see their eyes smile even when their face doesn’t, and read their body language, there is subtext and nuance no text message will ever have. A good conversation invites you in, gets you comfortable, and puts you at ease, there is give and take, it’s a two-way street. And when it’s done, both people walk away feeling understood, like someone actually heard what they had to say. That’s a beautiful thing.

You would think that post-pandemic, we would all be longing for real conversations, not ones related to the screens in our hands, but I just don’t see that happening and it breaks my heart a little.

As far as the online dating world is concerned, it’s a hot mess out there. The men who want to sext you up and haven’t even met you, aren’t worth your time, ladies. If I’m going to engage with someone, I at least want to look them in the eye, is that too much to ask? Personally, I find that I am a sapiosexual, and find intelligence sexy, so give me great conversations that make me think and get my gears turning any day.

Thanks for reading and stay safe out there, it’s a crazy, wild world.

Early Traveling Memories

1997 Snow in our little Neon, trekking around Germany

In November of 2021, I traveled to Germany to meet my granddaughter for the first time. It was a beautiful trip. Even in the midst of COVID where regulations kept us from doing the things my stepdaughter had planned for us. We were unable to go to the zoo, the Christmas markets were all closed down. We had to wear FFP2 masks, show our vaccination cards every time we ate out, and take COVID tests before meeting with others, but none of those things curbed my enthusiasm at getting to be a part of a family I never thought I’d have.

While I would love to share a million photos of my sweet little girl and the budding relationship we have, I won’t be doing that in this post. Instead, I am going to share a memory of the grandfather she wasn’t able to meet. It is my prayer that as she grows up she will have a little glimpse of the good things about her Opa.

The first time I traveled to Germany was in October 1997. Andy was a Seargent in the Army and had just been assigned to HHC 141st Signal Battalion in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. He arrived a month before I did to secure housing.

We had only been married a little over a year, and much of our first year married, we spent apart as he was going through military training for a new job in Fort Gordon, Georgia. During that first year we spent a lot of time making the trip from Fort Campbell to Fort Gordon, and long weekends were the things we looked forward to the most.

Originally he was supposed to be sent to Korea, but luckily, his orders were changed and we were set for Germany. He was so excited to go back, his first tour was in Germany and his daughter was there.

Once he got his orders, I was left in charge of packing up the house stateside, while he got housing in Germany. This was before cell phones and international calling was not an easy thing. There was no instant messaging or social media. The phones were still wired to the walls (if you can believe it?)! There was email, but the internet was not easily accessed and if someone called while you were trying to send an email, your internet connection was lost. So communication was not a daily thing once he was in Germany, and the time difference caused a few difficulties.

Once I got the house packed up, I had two weeks to wait before my flight to Germany. A dear work friend let Snow our white Siberian husky and I stay with them until our flight.

A few days before my flight I thought I should give Snow a bath so he would be travel-ready, but being in an unfamiliar place in a new neighborhood, bathtime soon went wrong. Huskies are escape artists, and Snow got away from me. I just knew that when the next phone call came from Andy he was going to divorce me because I lost his dog. I was beside myself, spinning the worst-case scenario, I nearly lost my mind.

When I finally spoke with Andy, he was much calmer than I expected and told me he just wanted me to get to Germany safe and sound. He said he would meet me in Frankfurt and pick me up, everything would be ok.

Thankfully we found Snow, who was covered in red clay mud, two days later, just a day before the flight, thanks to the persistence of my boss, David, who drove around searching for the dog for hours on end. I was so thankful and excited that I was finally making my way there, with the dog.

I don’t sleep while traveling, between being anxious and being excited, I just can’t shut down. I flew from Nashville to Atlanta, to Frankfurt, Germany. By the time I hit the ground in Germany, I had been awake for 24 hours. The flight, a contracted military flight, was horrible. The seat didn’t recline, the headphones didn’t work, they seated me in between two huge guys with shoulders so wide they were a third of the way into my seat. I couldn’t move much at all. Snow was in the belly of the plane, on Benedryl to keep him calm. I was the one who needed something to keep calm. This was only my second flight, ever. But I made it with a sigh of relief when the plane touched down at Frankfurt.

Once we touched down and deplaned at Rhein-Main Air Base in Frankfurt. I got my luggage and the dog, (who post officials wouldn’t let me take out of the crate!) we made our way to the area where everyone was being picked up either by their units or by their significant others. While I waited, I saw numerous exuberant reunions, people meeting up with hugs and kisses. I waited, and I waited and I waited until I was the only person left from the plane. My anxiety rose and my calm deteriorated. I sat outside on a park bench with the dog, near tears, looking at the entrance where everyone else came and went.

Charmin and Andrew in Hohenschwangau near Füssen, Germany

After about 2 hours a Lieutenant came out and brought me a cup of coffee and asked me what unit my husband was with and what post I was going to? I had no idea. I hadn’t written it down and I was so out of sorts I couldn’t remember. Poor Lt., I broke into tears and he had no idea what to do to help me, so he went back into the airport. It was then that our little green Plymouth Neon made its way into the parking lot.

I have never been so relieved and pissed off at the same time. I remember being there with the dog crate and the dog crying and me crying and jumping up on the park bench waving and cussing at being left so long. Andy jumped out of the car before it came to a complete stop and gave me a huge bear hug, the whole time I am crying and fussing. He apologized because he was so excited that he didn’t sleep the night before, he said he must have fallen asleep about two hours before he was supposed to leave. He didn’t hear the alarm clock, so he overslept. He was as distraught as I was, he couldn’t stop apologizing as he broke down the dog crate. Snow had to sit on my lap on the drive back to Bad Kreuznach in order to get the dog crate and the luggage in the little car.

Andy was so disappointed in himself, he was so excited to show me the new apartment and to take me around the little town. Whenever things didn’t go the way he envisioned he would get stubborn, and irritated with himself, but then he would come around to being understanding. It took a minute before we could both laugh about the situation and I always felt his disappointment at disappointing me. That was never a feeling he was comfortable with and the disappointments of his life bothered him.

I know that he would be disappointed that I had to make this latest trip without him and that breaks my heart just a little. But I also know that he would be overjoyed to see the person his daughter is, the family she has surrounding her, and the beautiful little girl that has his stubborn streak. Maybe the next little girl will have his sense of humor.

I am thankful his daughter has his wit, humor, and love, and even more thankful that she does not have her father’s timing. She and her husband were at the airport waiting on me as soon as I made my way onto the concourse. I think Opa was smiling in heaven as I made this trip. I am already looking forward to the next one.

The Space Between

Have you ever had to wait for something? I don’t know about you, but for me waiting is hard.

We are not creatures of change, we like to stay in our comfortable space of knowing what’s next. Especially if you are a planner, you know the steps that will lead you from this to that, but what about when you have no control over those steps? Someone else has to make the decision to take those steps and you have to wait on them, on the process. The space between what we know and what comes next is uncomfortable, at times unbearably so. Uncertainty has a way of filling our hearts with things that are not warm and fuzzy. Things like worry, anxiety, and fear can paralyze us if we let those feelings run rampant. But there is hope.

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That’s where I feel the rubber hits the road. God does some of His best work right there, in that space between this and that. Of course, it is hard to see it while you are in between, when the emotions run away with every possible scenario and your mind is trying to make sense of the chaos your emotions are churning around like butter.

In this in-between space, faith is tested and God does incredible things. My husband will tell you I am terrible at waiting, patience is an area where God is constantly at work with me. When I look back and see how I have struggled in those spaces between this and that, the times when I didn’t rely on my faith, on God, I clearly see how I made things much worse than the times when I opened myself to the possibilities of God had in store for me.

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I know God is at work right now, I am in the space between, even as I type this message.  Sometimes when you hear something, it strikes a cord that wakes up your Spirit and compels you to act, to read, to pray, to listen, to write. Today my pastor said, “my hope is alive in the midst of the storm.” Immediately the verse below came to mind.

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Look at the Israelites, Moses brought them out of captivity, God told them where to go, they were in the process of going and spent 40 years between this and that because they weren’t obedient and open to what God had in store for them. I don’t want to be out of God’s will for me, I want to be obedient. My prayer right now is, “Thank you Lord for this gentle prompting in my Spirit to stay calm, lead me, show me Your path, I am here waiting in the between and I am at peace, help me to keep that peace no matter where the path goes.

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My mantra for the last month has been ” I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future.” God is doing a new thing, and while I don’t know what that may be, I know I am to be content no matter how long the between lasts.

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What is Community to You?

Dictionary.com defines Community as: 
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2.  a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists(usually preceded by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
These were the top 3 definitions, as you can see, a community can look different depending on your vantage point. Consider your community, is it a neighborhood, sports team, church, school, work? The list could go on and on.
Recently my church moved into a new community. We have been there a few months and are not familiar with the neighborhood. This move has me pondering how to engage with those around us? I find myself going back to a book we read as a staff at work last year. This little book called The Art of Neighboring really had some practical insights and I highly recommend it.  Why study a book on neighbors? Shouldn’t we love our neighbor as ourselves?
The Art of Neighboring Book

Ask yourself, how often do you intentionally reach out to your actual neighbors? Do you care about what goes on in your neighbors’ lives? Most of us don’t even know our neighbors anymore. So maybe we need this book more than we realize. We come home, through the garage, close the door, retire to our dens or backyard without even seeing those around us. No kind words or even happy waves happen. We are in and we are out.

I believe so many times we alienate ourselves from our neighbors because they don’t look, act, or talk like we do. We are afraid to step out and introduce ourselves or afraid to make a social faux pas because we don’t know the person. But how can you get to know someone unless you step out on faith?
When we were stationed overseas, no matter the country we visited, I always tried to learn, at the very least, how to say “please” and “thank you.” Americans are notorious for expecting you to speak English no matter what, but the ones who at least try to speak the language are blessed with helpful people and forgiveness for butchering their language. My point is, most people are more forgiving if they know you are trying.
I am a strong believer in the power of diversity. As a child, I colored with every crayon in the box. Too often in this world, we tend to gravitate toward sameness,  what we know and where we are comfortable. There is a wealth of richness and beauty in relationships with people who are not the same as you.  You don’t have to agree with someone to care about them. Genuine, loving, long-term relationships with our neighbors requires us to be present, get to know someone by listening to their story. Stories bring us together and allow us to relate on a level we might miss if we don’t have time to listen.
Too often we feel we need to fix people’s problems or tell them what they should do. Most of the time, people just want to be heard, to feel like someone really cares and is there if they need to share.
Matthew 5:43-45
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; 
So my thought for the day is…What is “community” to you?  How do you live that out? How do you connect with those around you? What can you do differently to truly be a good neighbor?