31 First Dates

Hello Hitchhikers!  Sorry I’ve left you hanging by the side of the road for so long.  There’s a story behind it, but it would mostly sound like excuses if I tried to tell it, so let’s just forget about the fact that it’s been over a year since I last wrote anything, and carry on as though hardly any time has passed at all.  How does that sound?  I think it sounds brilliant.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may be wondering how my dating experiment is going.  If you know me in my personal life, you probably already know.  I’m a little behind in my blogging.  Although, not as far as you might think given the immense passage of time.

The theme of this date was ESCAPE!  But not like the first first date.  I still have nightmares.

My 19th first date was a lot of fun.  It was a group date.  By group date, I mean that there was a group of people… not everyone was on a date.  One couple was married, another couple was not a couple at all (I think they were married – just not to each other, but it’s not as scandalous as it sounds; they were just friends of  one of my friends or something and their spouses were otherwise indisposed.  I think.  It’s been a long time.  Details are fuzzy.  To be honest, I don’t know if they knew each other before that night, but I think they did.)  And then there was my date and me.  I think that’s right.  I might be missing someone else, too.

Nope, I’m not.  I went back to look at pictures, and I remembered everyone.  Go me! (Sorry, you don’t get to see the pictures because I have not received permission from the participants to post said photographs – truth be told, I didn’t ask).

This was my first Escape Room experience.  If you’ve never tried one, they can be a lot of fun – especially with the right group of people.  We had the right people.  Not only did we finish with time to spare, but it was a lot of fun while we were trapped.

Can You Escape? Tampa. They aren’t paying me for the endorsement, but I really wouldn’t mind if they did.

My date and I met up in the parking lot.  I was early.  I’m never early.  I hate being early almost as much as I hate being late.  I mean, do you sit in your car like a creeper until your date shows up?  Do you walk inside by yourself and explain five times to the staff that you’re “meeting someone”? Fortunately, I wasn’t that early, and I didn’t have to wait too long for my date to arrive.  I think I played it off like I’d just pulled in a few seconds before he did.  We both knew at least a few of the people in our group, so it wasn’t super-awkward for either of us… at least no more so than it is for me in a social situation anyway.

There wasn’t a lot of time for much more than the standard, “Hey, how was work?” conversation before our entire team arrived, and we found ourselves racing against the clock to try to find our way out of a locked room.  Stressful environments are a great way to learn how someone operates.  Also, it is really difficult to hide OCD tendencies – especially if it involves solving riddles and crooked frames on the wall.

The design of the room was a little cheesy. In my mind, I think I’d pictured a medieval castle with torches on the walls – like those awesome puzzle apps you can get on the iPad.  Then again, our room was “office” themed, so really, how much design acumen is really necessary?

All in all, it was a fun first experience and a low-threat first date.  It helps when you are already somewhat acquainted with the person you are first-dating.

After the escape room, we all went to dinner.  I was ready to gnaw my own arm off, and I think I ordered enough food to prove that.  We went to Lee Roy Selmons.  I don’t actually remember what I ordered (pulled pork or steak, I’m guessing – I really like their variety of sauces), but I’m sure I ate a half dozen of their rolls with barbecue butter (it’s a strange flavor combo, but somehow it works).  One of the others in our group ordered meatloaf.  That’s what I remember.  She let me try some.  Wow.  It was good.  It would never have eliminated a meatloaf craving for me (because it didn’t taste like my mother’s version), but it was a whole new meatloaf experience that I still occasionally crave.

Speaking of meatloaf… my sister and I were talking the other day about the word meatloaf.  What are your thoughts?  A loaf of meat… amazing concept or aptly named, but completely unappetizing.  I’ll give you one guess where I align on the scale of awesome to unappetizing.  That’s right.  I’m fully onboard with the awesomeness that is an entire loaf of red meat.

When I got home, my dogs were so excited to see me that they nearly ran right past me and out the front door.  And then I realized they weren’t that excited to see me.  They were trying to run right past me and out the front door.  And then saw it:

My boys had chewed through the frame by the front door.  They had chewed through the blinds of three of my windows.  The entire time I had been trying to escape a locked room, my puppies had been at home doing the same thing!

It was very out of the ordinary behavior.  I mean, I’ve had much longer lasting first dates, and I’ve never come home to destruction.  About thirty seconds later it was clear to me.  The smoke alarm chirped to let me know the battery was dying.  I took them both for a walk, and then climbed up to change the battery.  For the next two days, neither dog would go in the room with the smoke detector.  Poor guys.

Guess they couldn’t solve the puzzle.




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Do Something!

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions for a lot of reasons.  One major reason is that I’m not much of a goal setter.  I guess that’s not entirely true.  I have things I want to accomplish,  and when they become sufficiently urgent or interesting to me, I do them.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.  Setting actual goals requires a level of thought organization that I just don’t have.  Like outlining a paper.  Give me an outline, and I will fill it in like a construction worker with a backhoe.  Give me a checklist and I will complete it like I’m a Russian playwright named Anton.*  But ask me to compose either from scratch, and I’m going to stare at a blinking cursor, listening to crickets, for a very long time.  Probably longer than accomplishing the actual stated goal would take.

Another reason is that they just aren’t that effective for me.  I like the idea of starting over.  And I really like the idea of starting something new at the beginning of the month.  On the 1st day.  But… I also know that I’m 35 years old, and I still struggle to make my bed every day.  It takes 21 days to make a habit.  It’s true for typicals and it’s true for ADHD. But did you know that for the person with ADHD, it takes exactly one day to destroy that habit?  It’s true.  That means I start at Day 1/21 a lot.  I can make my bed for 118 days in a row, and then sleep somewhere else for a night, and when I return home, I’ve completely lost the bed-making habit.  That makes habit-forming and goal-setting, and resolution-ing really frustrating.  That’s a lot of ing-ings.

I used to be a lot harder on myself for my lack of stick-to-itiveness.  Now I know better.  I try not to set myself up for failure, and I try very hard to celebrate the wins, however small they may be.

A couple of years ago, I decided to just set resolutions after completion:


And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.


This year I am doing something different.  This year I picked a mantra.  My mantra is “Do Something.”

It was partly inspired by this Sylvia Duckworth cartoon that one of my awesome friends posted on Facebook:


As 2015 came to a close, I thought a lot about things done and things undone.  I thought about all the blog posts I never finished.  I thought about projects started and projects finished.  I thought about life and the things that make me happy every day.  And then I made a list of ways I could “Do Something” every day in 2016.

  • Create Something
  • Learn Something
  • Read Something
  • Write Something
  • Play Something
  • Clean Something
  • Start Something
  • Finish Something
  • Move Something**

At first I loftily planned on checking something off for each category every single day.  I mean, the topics are broad enough that I can define nearly anything to fit.  But one of my biggest challenges in life is perfectionism and trying to do EVERYTHING, and then beating myself up when I fall short.  I don’t want this year to be a “Do Everything” year; it’s a “Do Something” year.  I’m not going to intentionally stop myself from doing something from each category, but it’s also not going to be a measure of my success this year.  Something is quite good enough for me.

What are your plans this year?  Do you have a mantra?  If not, you can borrow mine.

*Chekhov.  Get it?  Check off.  Never mind.

**This refers to moving my muscles in some manner.

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32 First Dates

This post marks my 19th first date wherein I accidentally attract a cougar cub and am on quite possibly my worst first date behavior.

I recently traveled to Alaska to attend a friend’s wedding.  It was absolutely amazing.  I think I’d move there tomorrow if I could do so reasonably and without much effort.  By “without much effort” I mean if I could go to bed at my house in Florida tonight and wake up tomorrow morning in a big, beautiful cabin somewhere in the mountains near Anchorage with my dogs and all my stuff.  My friend’s new husband (and my brother from another mother) gave Alaska the best description I think I’ve ever heard when he called it “aggressively beautiful.”  It really is.  You can’t help but comment on it constantly.  It’s like the mountains scream at you, “COMMENT ON MY BEAUTY!”  and “DO IT AGAIN!” and  “TELL EVERYONE [AGAIN] HOW GREAT I LOOK!”

Pictures do not do it justice.  At all.  See?

No Justice to be Found
No Justice to be Found
You're As Cold As Ice
You’re As Cold As Ice..

[Glaciers are] Cold as Ice, I Know.
I Know; I’m a Glacier.  I’m supposed to be. As. Cold. As. Ice.   Image used with permission.
Still, it was amazing.  You’ll just have to take my word for it or travel to Alaska and find out for yourself.

The wedding took place over Memorial Day weekend, which is, as those of you who have followed TST for a while know, a very difficult time for me to be social.  But I wasn’t about to miss out on my friend’s wedding, either.  Besides, this year Memorial Day fell pretty early in the month, and I would still have the opportunity to quietly observe the angel anniversary of my teammates the following weekend.  There is one tradition I have on Memorial Day itself; however, that I do not miss no matter who got married the day before.  I go to the nearest National Cemetery and spend a few moments among the graves of the fallen.  Fortunately, there were people who worked hard to make sure that could happen for me… and that brings me to the story of my first date.

The groom’s mother worked very hard all weekend to try to set me up.  First it was one of the men working on the boat.  Then, when that didn’t work out, she turned her efforts toward one of the groom’s attendants.  She claims that all she did was point him in my direction, but I’m not 100% convinced.  Either way, whatever happened seems to have been effective, as part way through the reception/after party, I found myself the recipient of attention from the aforementioned individual.  It was a bit flattering, I’ll admit, because I’m no spring chicken anymore, and he definitely is.  Not that there’s anything wrong with aging – I’m quite comfortable in my own skin – it’s more that I don’t make a habit of cruising high schools looking for potential first dates.  [Oh weird!  This isn’t the first wedding where this sort of thing has happened… there was another friend’s wedding where I inadvertently attracted the attention of a not-yet-legal cub.  I totally forgot about that.  It never actually culminated in a date of any kind, even after he turned 18, so I kind of forgot.  Hmm… go me!  Maybe I need to start attending high school graduations.]

This wedding cougar cub has actually graduated high school and been legal for a few years.  A very few.  But still…

Monday wound up being busier than expected, and as my flight was scheduled for later that evening, I found myself extremely short on time.  Those of us who were still in town planned to meet for dinner, but those plans changed six or seven hundred times as the afternoon sped by.  The groom invited Cougar Cub to dinner with us, and we kind of voluntold him to plan on taking me to the airport by way of the National Cemetery.  Fortunately for me, he was on board with the idea.  Unfortunately, time was against us and things did not go exactly according to plan.

I wound up at the restaurant with part of our group about an hour before my date arrived.  I also knew that if I didn’t order and eat immediately that I would not have a chance to do so before my flight.  Since we’d been hiking and loading and unloading vehicles, my blood sugar was low and I was on the verge of feeling hangry.   Our group ordered food, and my “date” showed up as I was paying my check.  I still had some garlic cilantro fries on my plate, so he helped himself to a few (with my permission).  I was a bit out of sorts and panicked about the time, while still cognizant of the fact that he was doing me a huge favor.  I explained the shortage of time to him, and he very graciously said, “That’s okay, I’ll just order a water to go, and we can leave.”  He wound up placing an order for fries as well since we had to wait for the rest of the group to arrive with my luggage* before I could leave.

*It didn’t make it home with me anyway, though, so I’m not really sure why I bothered.

We left the restaurant and drove to the cemetery.  I was very impressed by his demeanor during this whole chaotic ordeal.  We chatted a bit on the drive, and he made sure he kept track of the time.  At the cemetery he walked with me for a little while, and then was courteous enough to give me a little bit of space so I could have a few moments to myself.  There really wasn’t time to waste, so I only sat for a moment before it was time to go.

On the way to the airport we talked about first dating and my previous inability to trick anyone into marriage.  We laughed a lot.  We talked about Star Wars and I told him that I didn’t want my hypothetical future children to know that Episodes I-III even exist.  And then he said something that made me realize he was wise well beyond his years.  He asked me if I didn’t trust my hypothetical children to make wise decisions.  It gave me pause for thought, and the conversation changed.

Of course I would prefer it if my children could grow up in a world where Star Wars Episodes I-III didn’t happen, and Christopher Nolan didn’t try his very best to ruin the DC universe, and Indiana Jones didn’t make a parody of itself with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  What loving parent wouldn’t?  But pretending they don’t exist, and shielding my children from them isn’t doing them any favors.  No, he was right.  I need to talk to my children about these things because if I don’t, who will?  I want my children to feel comfortable talking to me about these things so that when they feel pressured by their friends or peers to watch them, they know it’s safe to call me.  I will gladly come pick them up.  Sure, I hope their friends are better influences than that, but when the tearful phone call comes in late at night, “Mom, someone brought The Phantom Menace to the party,”  I want them to know that I am on their side and ready to come rescue them.  Or maybe the conversation is fueled by regret the next morning because they made a poor choice and now they cannot unsee what they’ve seen?  I’d rather they feel comfortable talking to me about it than that they try to hide it.  Will I be disappointed?  Yes.  But just because I know how damaging it is for them to be exposed to such things.  I’d much rather keep them from that kind of pain.  But at some point, they are going to have to choose for themselves.

That was the gist of our conversation.  Before I knew it we were standing on the curb of the airport saying our awkward goodbyes [that’s how I end all my dates].  I probably wouldn’t have counted this as a first date except that he called it one and gave me permission to do so as well.

To recap:  Our first date consisted of him playing the role of chauffeur and shuttle driver.  I ate dinner with other people and insisted we leave immediately after the rest of the group arrived.  He never did get a chance to eat his fries, and I can’t imagine they would have been any good cold.  Our date activity consisted of something I did largely by myself.  We spent fewer than two hours together, and I hardly gave him a chance to speak.  Through it all he was the perfect gentleman, though, while I stared at the clock, nervous that I would miss my flight.  I made my flight, which was later delayed on the tarmac for an hour, after I received a lecture from the gate agent for my fewer-than-45-minutes-before-takeoff airport arrival.  He also had his eye on the clock, but didn’t make it his focus.  In fact, I’d say he made getting to know me, even in my agitated state, the focus, and he still managed to deposit me at the airport on time(ish).

I’m starting to think my sister and my friend, who both married considerably younger men, might be on to something.  It’s refreshing to go on a date with someone who is not yet jaded by life’s more brutal experiences.

I think I still have a lot to learn.


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33 First Dates

Hitchhikers!  I’m so sorry for my lack of progress on the dating (and blogging) front.  It’s been a challenging first [and now second] quarter this year… lots of happenings… well… um… happening.  My favorite bloggers have all disappeared at one time or another, and  all came back later with the exciting news that they finished writing a book.

Well, guess what?!

I didn’t!  In fact, I don’t even have exciting news of any kind.  I do, however, have a write-up of a first date that happened in December.  Or was it January?  What I have is a write-up of a first date that happened this winter.

This date was awesome!  You know that’s true because I wouldn’t be able to write about it several months after the fact if it wasn’t.  My date was someone I’ve known for a number of years.  We ran in the same social circles for a while when I first moved here.  He’s incredibly smart about all things science-y and engineering-y… which could definitely come in handy for one of my next projects because I am not.

He picked me up and we drove to the Big Cat Rescue, which, as the name implies, is a sanctuary for big cats.  Not big as in fat house cats who would tear your head off if they could, but big as in could totally tear your head off, and would if given the opportunity.

Does not qualify. Image credit here.
Qualifies. In spades. Image credit here.

We took a tour of the facility, which is quietly located in the middle of suburban Tampa.  Seriously.  If you aren’t looking for it, you probably won’t see it.  You might spot a sign or two if you are paying attention, but somehow they’ve managed to camouflage 67 acres in the middle of suburbia.  It’s pretty impressive.  We saw lions, and tigers, and… bobcats, oh my!  Nope, we did not see bears.  Because bears are not cats.  And as the name of the refuge implies, it’s just for cats.  Bears are not welcome in these parts.  There were also servals, and ocelots, and lynx, and cougars, and probably more, but it was a long time ago and I can’t really remember everything we saw.

I learned that if you neuter a male lion (that’s a little redundant), he loses his mane.  But Cameron (a neutered lion at BCR)’s lady lion companion – which is actually a white tiger named Zabu – doesn’t seem to be bothered by his lack of locks; that wasn’t the mane attraction (see what I did there?) for her.  She likes him for his personality.

Many of the cats come from private owners who think owning an exotic pet is a good idea until they own an exotic pet.

PSA:  Cougars make better girlfriends than pets

Others are retired or rescued performers.

Fun fact:  Tigers eat 10-25 pounds of meat a day.

Funner fact:  Based on that fun fact, I would not feed a tiger for very long.

Funnest fact:  It costs a buttload of money to feed and care for all these large animals.  BCR does a great job with them, and is mostly staffed by volunteers.  If you are so inclined to donate, they are a highly-rated animal rescue charitable organization.  They are also not in any way involved in this blog post.  Except for the part they played in hosting this date.

Looking for lunch in all the wrong places
Looking for lunch in all the wrong places

Most of the cats have their own private cages where they can see one another, but not interact.  That’s just because most cats hate each other and start fighting if they are together.  They aren’t really known for team spirit and happy families.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.
My dogs look just like this during their afternoon naps.
My dogs look just like this during their afternoon naps.


Look!  Spotted one!
Look! Spotted one! (See what I did there?)

After our tour, we went to dinner.  It was yummy and I was really hungry.  Conversation didn’t lag, but that might be a direct result of the fact that I have no filter and never stop talking.

We drove to the movie theatre following dinner, where we saw Big Hero 6, because this was a mega-date and packed full of activities.  What is it with Disney and its obsession with killing characters’ families [and sometimes friends]?

When the date ended, he deposited me back at my home and helped me walk my dogs, a gesture that I very much appreciated.

And that makes 17 (which is only a couple of digits below the age of my next first date).



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What I Meant to Say Was

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately.  I have noticed a few things about myself as I’ve experienced life and grown a little older.  I suspect I am a naturally poor communicator most of the time, and saying what I actually mean can be really difficult.  [Incidentally, I am also not the person you want riding shotgun if you need a navigator; I have the worst timing.  We will miss the exit at least once.]

I know I’m not alone in the realm of poor communication.  Observation of others has helped me think a bit more about how clearly (or not) I communicate.  I was always taught that communication is three parts:  the transmitter, the message, and the receiver.  I wonder sometimes if it isn’t four:  The transmitter, the intended message, the receiver, and the actual message.

I am fascinated when I observe two separate conversations between people at the same time, and I wonder how often it happens to me.

Recently, my friend’s son had surgery, and I was at the hospital with her.  It was a long, stressful day [several days, really, but this was the first day].  After surgery, when he was finally settled into his room in the PICU, she and I decided to grab a bite to eat.  Already tired of the smell of antiseptic, and knowing we had a few more days in front of us, we decided to leave the hospital campus to get a late lunch at an outdoor cafe.  During lunch, she checked her phone and saw that in the she’d missed a call from the hospital.  Concerned that something was wrong, she excused herself to return the call.  After four or five transfers, the PICU nurse who originally placed the call picked up:

  • Friend:  This is Zordona the Magnificent*, mother of Prince Jacobin of Asteroth.  Someone just called me, is everything okay?
  • Nurse:  Yes, I was just calling to let you know that Lord Asteroth is a little fussy, and didn’t know if you wanted him to have a bottle.
  • Friend (confused):  Yes, of course.  Do you need me to come back right away, or do I have time to finish lunch?
  • Nurse:  No, no, you have a few minutes.
  • Friend:  Okay, I’ll be there soon.

*Names have been slightly altered

I thought about what I heard, and wondered if the little guy was going to get fed, or if he’d still be waiting for his mom to return.  After she hung up, we talked about the conversation.  She expected that a phone call from the hospital would be some sort of urgent news, emergency, or complication.  Of course, we were both relieved that it wasn’t.   She was a bit flummoxed that the nursing staff would phone her to get permission to feed her child.  I mentioned that the nursing staff had probably assumed we were in the hospital cafeteria, since we didn’t tell them differently, and were probably just courtesy calling to see if she wanted them to wait so she could feed him herself.

From my perspective, it seemed like two very different conversations happened simultaneously, and lent themselves to a bit of confusion on both sides.

Conversation 1 [My Friend’s Perspective]:

  • Nurse:  His Royal Highness is fussy.  And probably hungry. Do you want him fed?
  • Friend:  Of course I want him fed!  Just to clarify again:  He is alive, right?  Is my immediate physical presence required to ensure he remains so?
  • Nurse:  Yes, he’s alive.  No, you don’t have to be here.  I just wanted to tell you he was hungry.  And fussy.
  • Friend: OMGosh!  I’m so relieved to hear he’s alive!  I nearly had a heart attack when I saw you called so I’ll be there soon and probably never leave his side again.

Takeaway:  Did that nurse really just call me to ask if it was okay to feed a hungry baby?

Conversation 2 [The Nurse’s Perspective]:

  • Friend:  You rang?
  • Nurse:  Your baby is hungry.  Do you want me to give him a bottle or would you prefer to do it yourself when you come back upstairs?
  • Friend:  Yes.  Do I need to return immediately?
  • Nurse:  Well, he’s definitely hungry, but I’m sure he’ll survive until you return.
  • Friend:  I’ll be right there.

Takeaway:  I wonder if I should feed him, or wait until she gets back from the cafeteria.

I’m not exactly sure when I started my quest to use words more deliberately and accurately.  I think it probably started in Writing 1010 (during my second attempt at college).   That’s when my grad student instructor pointed out [to me specifically] that, while it is a useful tool, a thesaurus is not always the best resource for word selection.  Similar meanings are not identical meanings.  I use the dictionary a lot more frequently now.

About a year and half ago, I started trying to drop the word “should” from my vocabulary.  Mostly I was guilty of “shoulding” on myself, which wasn’t actually helpful or kind and didn’t make me feel motivated to do better.  It just made me feel guilty for everything I wasn’t doing, or everything I was doing wrong.  I started catching myself “shoulding” on others… usually when I was dispensing unsolicited advice.  The reality is that I have no idea what someone else should or shouldn’t do most of the time.  And that word is just full of judgment, so no one ever feels good when they’ve been should on.  Now I usually only use it when I am encouraging someone to follow through with an idea (mine or theirs), and it’s usually spoken with great excitement,  “OMGoodness!  We should totally do that!”**

**Please note, if I am that enthusiastic about something, it probably isn’t actually a great idea; please don’t ever trust my judgment.  Ever.  Really.

I had a conversation with a friend one day about my avoidance of the word “should” and she told me that she had a list of ten words on her fridge to avoid.  I don’t recall what all of them were, but included among them – in addition to should – is the word “need.”  I thought that was a little odd at first, and wondered what was wrong with it.  But I started paying closer attention to when I use the word need (and how often), and how inaccurate it usually is.  There really are few things I need on a daily basis.  I need food.  I do not need to go to Lowe’s to buy more project components.  It would be helpful/nice/beneficial/expensive to go to Lowe’s to buy components.  Heck, most of the time I don’t even need to go to the grocery store; there’s almost always something in my cupboard, and if I hadn’t given up cooking for Lent, I could probably whip something up.  Like should, need also tends to induce a sense of guilt for things one does [or does not accomplish].

There.  That’s done.  Now maybe my inner monologue will quit saying, “You need to write a blog post.  You should be ashamed of yourself for how long it’s been.”

Also… sorry if this post was long and boring.  Sometimes I am just exorcising thought demons.  Here is a picture of a stuffed whale to break up the monotony:

Toy Whale



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