Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The Unfolding

When someone you love passes away the fragility of life gets pushed to the forefront. Suddenly you become more aware of how quickly time passes and how fleeting your most precious moments. When Rick, my significant other of twenty years, died of cancer last year this was true for me. When diagnosed, his prognosis was six weeks. Forty-two days, forty-two days for him to get a lifetime in order, say his goodbyes, memorize the rich colors of blue decorating the sky, see the stars come out at night and watch the sun rise in the morning. Chemotherapy and radiation allowed us an extra three months, a gift I will always treasure. There are never enough hours to spare, but each extra day gave us another chance to wipe the slate clean before he left on his journey.

Rick’s passing has heightened my awareness, if you will. Before I may have taken life a little for granted as many of us do. One day folds into the next, we plug in our coffee maker, put on our makeup and muscle through our existence. Often our lives are incredibly busy. With each hour fully accounted for, there is little time left over to pause and admire the new rose blooming on the bush by the front door or to catch the hint of sadness in your teenager’s eyes. Even stopping to breathe deeply and be present in the moment can seem an impossible task while a pile of laundry beckons or a client waits to close an important deal. Yet in the end whether the socks get sorted or the product gets shipped is rendered unimportant when you are faced with writing the final chapter of your book.

Immediately following the death of a family member along with dealing with the overwhelming grief, end of life arrangements, and friends and family coming and going, survivors are expected to take care of all the details involved in day to day living. All this is complicated by coping with what is termed “grief brain” making concentration difficult to achieve and scattered behavior more common than not. I actually came out of the store after doing some grocery shopping and after storing my bags in the trunk I seated myself in the back seat of the car. As I was there alone, this probably would appear odd behavior to the casual observer. Not wanting to confirm myself a complete idiot I looked around as if waiting for someone and waited for the area to clear before hopping into the driver’s seat.

To help me cope with everything swirling around me, I began compiling to-do lists. Some lists were compiled by priority of things that had to be done, while others held ideas for things I hoped to do in the future. Many items on my “have to be done” list I have already accomplished. With Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, at my side I have sold my house and moved to a new rental home. Check. Slowly, I have established new routines revolving around living alone rather than sharing space with someone. Check. This week I joined a gym, something not on my list of favorites but a healthy decision, and begin water aerobics tomorrow. Check, check and check. With each step I have moved a little further away from the life I knew and grown closer to the new life I am creating for myself. I have to say it is game changing.

As this year has unfolded I have found myself searching for the path I want to follow. Standing at a crossroads in my life with so many options possible which way do I go? Certainly I must go forward, but do I veer to the right or to the left?

This period of new growth and exploration I refer to as the “unfolding”. For the person going through it may feel as if they have shed their skin leaving their nerves exposed and raw. Life, as it once was completely changes the moment a loved one ceases to be in it. To expound here, the person passing away ceases to be in it in a physical sense. In my case, I feel Rick will be walking along next to me in spirit always.

For a while, and each person experiences this time frame individually, it seems as though there would never be a day when you will feel “normal” again. As time passes, like all wounds, the rough edges begin to smooth and the sun once again will begin to feel warm and welcoming on your face. Hope returns for a future on some level and unless deeply depressed you begin to explore this new life you are left with.

During this period I began to think about my own life. Though I am definitely looking at the downhill slope there are still, God willing and I don’t get run over by the garbage truck, many years to fill. The choice here would be to sit and feel sorry for myself or find a way to live the most rewarding and happy life I can. I chose the latter. I began to think about what I would like to do with myself. If I have been the one to remain behind it stands to reason this in a way is a gift and I did not want to consider it frivolously.

Again I went to my lists. On my list of exciting adventures I hope yet to do visiting the Grand Canyon, for example, is right up there towards the top. Always I have wanted to see this natural wonder. In spite of numerous trips by car across the U.S. the chance to do so has continued to escape me. Definitely I want to try zip lining, and after a recent trip to Lake Tahoe I have added river rafting down the Truckee River as a must do when next summer rolls around. My son recently went parachuting while on vacation in Santa Cruz. Although this sounds intriguing to me on the surface, I have a feeling if faced with an open door and 15,000 feet of open air space below me I might rethink my enthusiasm, most likely shortly after I wet my pants. We shall see. Though included, jumping out of a plane is definitely hovering (if you will) towards the bottom of the line.

Finding myself heading into my golden years with less gold on hand than loose change, traveling extensively is not in the stars for the moment. If my bank account was representative of my desire to see the world I would be floating lazily across the Mediterranean in a private yacht or dining on trays of succulent meats and cheeses at the Rodostamo Hotel in glorious Corfu. Unfortunately, my budget leans more towards a Motel 6 in Barstow and Taco Bell, but one never knows what the next bend in the road will uncover. Perhaps that pesky winning lottery ticket I never purchase will miraculously come floating through the window? One thing I have learned about my years spent on this earth, is you can never discount anything because life, as most of us are aware, is a capricious host serving up surprises with each passing day.

From each experience good or bad we take with us lessons. It is our choice whether or not to draw from these lessons. No matter what the experience there is something slightly life altering we add to our bag after having lived through both the difficult and the soul elevating times. From this experience I have learned to value today for that is what we have. I have learned to remember to say “I love you” every time I leave someone I care about, to make that phone call to a friend even if you’re busy, and to give when and where you can without hesitation. Make it a great and meaningful day.

Advertisements

Coupling 101

is-full-of-sweet-surprises.jpg

Sometimes I find myself studying couples and wondering what on earth brought the two of them together. I’m talking about those couples who outwardly appear so completely mismatched you wonder how they ever found a common path. We’ve all seen such unlikely pairs. He may be very tall with lanky dimensions, slightly balding, with a quiet, almost shy demeanor. She, a diminutive woman of generous proportions with masses of wild ginger hair and vibrantly colored lips which never stop moving. Yet, somehow like the smooth ocean waves caressing the rough edges off coarse grains of sand they pair together in a perfect dance.

480a56ac2e43e86014ba9e6e6251fc71

The mating dance in some form or another occurs in all creatures on earth except those who produce asexually such as starfish and sea anemones. Thankfully, with humans, it takes two to tango. And, whether we tango or foxtrot, in nearly every species it is the male tasked with making the first move. For some creatures, such as the male black widow spider, this privilege may come with questionable rewards. Once the deal is consummated, the object of his affection then kills and eats him. To my mind not much incentive to be in a hurry to fill a spot on Saturday night.

For me, one of the more magical of these mating displays are fireflies. I saw my first firefly in the backyard of my home in St. Albans, West Virginia in 1991. Spring had merged into summer in the Mountain State. Humid in that part of the country, the new season brought with it hot sultry days followed by restless sweat filled nights. The ceiling fan pushed the hot air around in the kitchen while I finished cleaning up after dinner. Thankfully there was a window over the sink allowing a breeze to sift in through the screen. The kitchen was situated towards the rear of the building facing the back yard. Beyond the house the lawn faded into an alleyway where a line of scruffy shrubs separated the alley from the railroad tracks. Fascinated I watched as a sea of  twinkling lights began to flicker above the shrubbery like a thousand Tinkerbells signalling for Peter Pan.  I called my husband. Growing up in Texas he was somewhat amused at my reaction because because fireflies were a familiar sight for him. This lovely display, he explained, was the male insects signalling they had their tap shoes on and were ready to dance should a so inclined female be in the area. Absolutely one of the most enchanting natural phenomena I have witnessed. Never, in the three years I lived there did I tire of seeing these tiny beacons as the sun settled down for the evening.

As I said in the first paragraph, the interesting part for me is not that we pick partners. We are, after all, programmed to procreate. Rather I am fascinated by the partners we pick. Sometimes in the logical scheme of things on the surface our partnering seems to make perfect sense. Beautiful runway model marries equally beautiful football quarterback, or a doctor elopes with his nurse. You’d think when like meets like, it should create a perfect pairing. However, look how many of these perfect pairings end up seated next to their high priced lawyers arguing over who is going to get the Lamborghini in their property settlement? Perhaps our need to mate coupled with our inability to delineate the right person from the wrong one has to do with the high divorce rate in this country? Most of us spend more time researching the best vehicle for our needs before driving it off the lot then we do choosing people we are planning to commit a lifetime to. Certainly I am guilty of this. You don’t get married four times if you’ve chosen well the first time.

ht_UnlikelyAnimalFriends4_090924_main

My last relationship, undeniably my best and longest, was with a man I had little in common with. Rick and I met on Matchmaker.com. My profile was number 227 on his list of compatible ladies. After attempting several meetings with the more probable candidates that lit no fires for the parties concerned, he told me he kept returning to look at my profile again.  After our first date which was a hockey game and video arcade we were rarely apart. During our twenty years together we looked forward to seeing each other every day, enjoyed lively conversations about everything, laughed often, and rarely shared a harsh word.

Conversely, sometimes a pairing that outwardly seems not to be working, might actually be moving along swimmingly for those involved. Take the couple married forty years who haven’t agreed on anything since they said “I do”. Some people communicate best when bickering with one another. For me, I enjoy a little spirited debate though constant arguing would have me running for the door. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

Rick and I were as unalike as Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, while I was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Rick’s palate leaned toward heady exotic foreign flavors whereas I was weaned on orange marmalade, New England style boiled dinners, and poached salmon. Over the years each of us bent toward the other, learning to embrace what each brought to the table. One night a month we celebrated “eeewwee night”, a night where each of us cooked our own meals featuring something the other didn’t enjoy eating. For Rick it was usually organ meat such as liver or kidneys which I prefer to pass on. For me scallops or a fat juicy hamburger which weren’t on his list of favorites.

Food issues can easily be compromised. However, there are some key areas that absolutely need to be discussed before prior to booking a venue for the nuptials. Areas like children, yes or no?  If one player wants a big family where the other prefers living life footloose and fancy free this can create huge roadblocks down the road. Making a decision on whether or not to have offspring is not like saying one prefers abstract paintings in the living room while the other is partial to country chic. Deciding whether or not to have children affects your life now and in the years to come. For the partner who wants children but denies themselves the opportunity, this could build resentment, as it may as well for the partner who has children without having the desire to do so.

Religious preferences could possibly also be a touchy area, as well as political differences. Politics can be difficult if you sit on opposite sides of the fence because it often reflects an ideology that is totally different from the other person. I have even heard of couples breaking up over which football team they supported.

It always makes my heart sad to see couples probably together for many years, seated across from one another in a restaurant not exchanging a single word. Being a communicator myself, this lack of sharing would drive me over the edge of boredom and far far away. I often wonder if they simply have run out of things to say to one another, though God knows the world offers up a vast array of things to discover together, or if at some point they simply stopped caring enough to try. At that point I believe I would either do something proactive to change the dynamics, or throw in the towel and go down to the local shelter and adopt a kitten. I would most certainly prefer my own company and an occasional lonely moment. Nothing more miserable than being lonely together.

cranky

So I continue to explore the coupling experience. At this stage of my life I find I am very clear on what I want and what I do not. Rick, who passed away last September, will always be in heart and memories and for now that is enough. Each person who touches your life leaves a bit of their story with you and you with them. Should someone come along as I continue along my way then we shall see then how my story ends.

Table for One

Having lost Rick, my partner for twenty years to cancer last September, I am adjusting to being “single” once again. One of the first things I noticed when finding myself on my own was the sensation of “uncoupling”. Essentially, being single in a world originally designed for couples, (even the ark only offered accommodations for two). Being on one’s own offers up it’s unique set of challenges. Uncomfortable moments specifically reserved for the unattached. For example, walking into a nice restaurant to have a meal. Before your eyes have adjusted you are greeted by the hostess inquiring, “How many in your party”? Looking around you lean in towards her ear and whisper, “I am the party”. When it has been established no one is with you, nor anyone expected, you are guided to an available table almost always in the center of the room. Once seated, the bus staff swoops in to remove any extra place settings so guests at adjacent tables are fully aware you are bereft of partner and only to be pitied. Since it might be considered rude in nice surroundings to retrieve the book in your purse, you instead sit there memorizing the pattern on the tablecloth or examining your silverware for spots until something arrives on a plate you can devote your full attention to. I have friends, some single for many years, who do eat out regularly without feeling awkward. As you might have sensed, I am not there yet.

Another difficult situation for me is a party populated solely by couples. When you arrive to discover yourself the only “one”, the hosts toss you about like a hot potato at a barbecue. People just don’t know what to do with you. Tables are often set up for pairs so you end up being part of a threesome who would really prefer to be a twosome, or an extra chair is added at the head of the table so it is patently obvious no one has accompanied you. Worse, if you strike up a conversation with someone’s husband you could be considered poaching on their territory. The last barbecue I went to where I was the only one among twos I ended up having a stimulating  conversation about the state of our union with the schnauzer lying by the fireplace who also appeared to have shown up for the evening stag. Sigh.

Couples suddenly seem to emerge from every nook and cranny. You see them cuddling in the theater, taking turns tossing things in the grocery cart at the market, and walking along chatting and laughing everywhere you go. Friends and family begin to ask what you are doing to encourage a new relationship in your life. Please, let me grieve the old one first.  I am sure at some point I may welcome someone new into my life, but I am not ready for romance at this stage of the game. I have, however, picked up some tips along the way for ladies who are actively searching for a mate. Go to the grocery store around dinner time. Secure a place in the line forming around the hot food kiosks. Single men seem to gravitate in this area like ants around a sugar cube. I have to admit I have found myself there on more than one occasion, not casting my line but rather filling one of the boxes with something to take home for dinner. While standing there you might toss about a couple of compelling opening lines like, “my fried chicken certainly puts this to shame”, or “thank God my parents sent me to culinary school”.

Another testosterone filled event, at least in our town, is held the local K-Mart parking lot on Saturday mornings. From 8 to 11 the shopping center is bustling with men washing down bear claws with steaming cups of coffee while showing off souped up muscle cars from their salad days. They huddle together avidly discussing the pros and cons of this engine or that piston brand, kicking tires and admiring one another’s sparkling engines. So if you’re single and looking ladies, it wouldn’t hurt to bone up on manifolds and cam belts and take a walk over and wander around looking fascinated should such an event be happening near you.

Cooking for one has far less allure than preparing a meal for two or more. Again, packaging is done with couples or families in mind. Costco becomes a less attractive shopping venue. What am I going to do with a five pound chub of Jarlsberg? By the time I’ve celebrated the half way mark and consumed cheese on everything from corn flakes to banana pudding the other half looks like a science experiment. Also, having downsized my living quarters, I don’t have enough freezer space to store large packages of food.

Eating alone at home also takes a bit of getting used to. When you dine with someone you exchange your day with them, or talk about what’s going on in the world (at the moment a topic more likely to give you indigestion) but when you are left to your own devices it is often the TV anchorman for company or sorting through that pile of unopened mail you’ve been systematically avoiding.

On the plus side, being on my own allows me to eat what I want to when I want to. Should I choose to have Lucky Charms with bananas with a side of cookies and cream topped with chocolate syrup at three in the afternoon and call it dinner, so be it. When Rick and I shared meals, dinner was an event. Exceptions were Sunday’s during football season where KFC catered our meals, or on super busy days when a burger or tacos from a local fast food restaurant might suffice, but most nights something healthy and appealing appeared on our plates.

So, there are things to learn and take from every life situation, at least this has been true in my lifetime. The path you are on does not always continue in the direction it originally was headed. Change is part of being and you either adapt or end up frustrated and unhappy, neither a state of being I find I enjoy.

Flush at Last

This will be my second month in my new house. Getting used to the new house and the new area at the same time has proved interesting.  I left behind 1,600 plus square feet and a block full of friends and great neighbors. I don’t miss the house so much, but the people were really a support system for me. Not that we’re far apart, twenty five minutes by car, but just far enough to make visiting more of a plan than a spur of the moment idea.

Rick died in September and the house went on the market early spring. You don’t realize how much you’ve amassed over twenty years until you start going through cupboards, retrieving boxes from the rafters in the garage, and sorting through closets. Half of my house was packed for four months without me even noticing it was gone.

The new house is 1,200 square feet and has no garage. Getting everything to fit was like trying to squeeze an elephant into a dollhouse.  Even the movers who do this for a living were scratching their heads when they saw the space I expected all my things to reside in. Sigh.

Two weekends ago I finally unpacked my last box. Many things I’ve either shuttled to my daughter’s house to prepare for a huge garage sale we have on the calendar for September, donated, or given away.  At that, the house still has every available nook and cranny packed tightly and a storage shed is going to have to be built on the patio to house Christmas containers, tools, and whatever else couldn’t find a home.

With the diminished square footage I also lost a bedroom. I decided to purchase a hide-a-bed for the living room to use when company came and convert the second bedroom into a sewing room and office. After several weeks of arranging and rearranging it was finally coming together making me feel more settled. Feeling comfortable (I should know better considering my life up to this point) I decided it would be safe to have my mother over for the weekend.

As I have mentioned my mother is well into her golden years. The ladies on my family tree have a history of enjoying long lives.  Mother is no exception. Blessedly the genes also carry with them good health so other than the dementia now plaguing her memory she is in miraculous shape considering the number of candles on her birthday cake.

The first night was uneventful. Being an early riser I was up first. The bed, a California king, is oversized for the bedroom. That being said, the only way to get it in the oddly shaped master bedroom (this is an old house) was to push one side against the wall. For me this presented no problem because I sleep on the opposite side. However, sharing space with my mother lest she get up and get confused I took the inside position.  This necessitated climbing up over the footboard and crawling along the hope chest to get to the bathroom. I know.

Not quite fully in the moment yet, I padded into the bathroom and did what people usually do there first thing in the morning. Flushing the toilet I realized quickly water was swirling under my nether region. Oh-oh. Pushing the dimmer switch to fully on I realized not only was I standing in water but the bathtub was half full and it didn’t look to be water from the tap. OMG.

Glancing at the clock it read 6:30. Naturally, it was Saturday. Nothing disastrous ever happens on a weekday. Where’s the fun in that? To add to the excitement the weatherman had predicted it was shaping up to be the hottest day of the summer. Why not? I waited until 7:00 to put in a call to my landlady.  The week prior she had put in a new stove after the old one tried to gas me.  Neither of us voiced it but I know I was starting to wonder if the house was trying to kill me off. First gas now a flood. What’s next locusts?

Calling me back she said to expect a plumber in an hour. Thank God. Meanwhile back at the ranch mother is awake and guess what? You win the stuffed elephant. Both toilets being unusable I got her dressed quickly as she was saying the situation demanded it. Mother, vanity one of her downfalls, was trying to fuss with her hair. Please. As quickly as one can with an elderly lady with a cane I propelled her to the car. The only place close I could think of was a CVS around the corner open twenty-four hours.  Guiding my mom through the front door I followed the sign at the back of the store with an arrow saying Restrooms. Yay. Mother, hair askew looking more like a big ball of cotton candy sitting on top of her head than a hair do, hustled along beside me. Pushing through the doors I realized it was half way across the warehouse to the bathroom area. Finally getting to the doors I found another elderly woman standing by one door doing what I would call if my five year old grandson was doing it, the potty dance. She asked if I had the key. Key? This is where the belief I have a very mischeivious guardian angel comes into play. Come on. So leaving the two ladies to fend for themselves I sprinted across the warehouse, through the doors, up to the cashier and breathlessly asked for the key to the loo where I was informed it was in the camera department. My eyes glazed over. Finally, key in hand I retraced my steps and got both women in and busy while I tried to slow my heartbeat down to some kind of acceptable rythym. Really?

By the time we got home the plumber’s truck was in the driveway. Two hours later he had determined a tree root had caused the problem. Both toilets working the landlady assured me she’d have someone out on Monday to clean the carpet and sanitize the bathroom. Sounded good to me….. oh, not so fast.

Turns out this is some sort of Hazmat situation. Reminded me of that scene from ET. Floors were ripped out, carpets pulled, and walls removed. One team sanitized and another was called to take samples to make sure no bacteria remained. The bathroom vanity is residing in my recently organized spare room along with most of my clothes, shoes, and the remainder of what was in the bathroom. Today they are sheet rocking and tomorrow they are coming to move all the furniture out of the master bedroom and replace the carpet. Where they are putting the furniture should prove to be an act of pure magic. Life, as they say, is rarely dull. At least, mine isn’t.

And the beat goes on…………………

quotes-of-grief

Sitting here I find it hard to believe nearly a year has passed since Rick passed away. Time seems to be whizzing by my face like a moving sidewalk cranked up to mega warp speed. Over the past months I have sold my house, packed up my household goods, found a new place to live in a new area, and moved. Whew. This on top of grieving the loss of my spouse of twenty years and trying to figure out who this strange new person is facing me in the mirror each morning. Sometimes it feels as though my feet are made of cement and can’t or won’t move forward. Miraculously, each day they do somehow pick themselves up propelling me further down this unexplored path.

I stopped writing in my blog when this saga began, or when it ended, depending on your point of view. Writing about grief then following up with a recipe for tangy barbecued ribs seemed to me a poor pairing at best. To be honest writing, though probably therapeutic, seemed a daunting task when dealing with so many other more pressing issues.

So, here I am not whole, but rather slowly piecing myself back together, inviting you to come in once again and get reacquainted.

As usual even in the middle of chaos the universe has introduced a little extra spice to the pot to make my days interesting. Often I wonder if I have a guardian angel blessed with a rather twisted sense of humor who, though eventually cleaning up the messes she creates, enjoys watching as I fall into one catastrophe after another somehow climbing back up out of the fray.

Let’s catch up. As I said I sold my house in the tall trees. This was done quickly for a myriad of reasons. the first and foremost financial. Money concerns were closely followed by the ever present fire danger, too much square footage for one small woman and a fat cat, and a pinch of needing to make a new start in a place without a memory floating by in every dust mote. Moving is not suggested in the first year following such a loss as moving as well as losing a love one both rank a 10 on the stress level scale. However sometimes, such as in my case, life doesn’t offer you a Plan B.

Everyone approaches grieving the loss of a loved one in their own individual way.  A doer by nature, I allowed the sadness to have its way with me until I got up one day and found I needed to get out and feel the sun on my face. Tentatively I have reentered the world around me. In the beginning, I found a grief group that fit me to a tee. Not just a place with sad gut wrenching stories, though there were those to be told, but more a safe haven offering unconditional support with some smiles and laughter thrown in to balance the scales.  Being in a room with other people on a similar journey somehow allowed me to feel less alone. Certainly those dealing with such a loss themselves made me feel more understood, and less like I was floating along in the rapids out of control and floundering. Therapy was another tool I used to buoy myself.  For those of you going through this, having gone through it, or find yourself going through it in the future these groups and a good therapist are so beneficial in helping you find your way through the pain associated with having your life rearranged in such an upending and unrelenting fashion.

So many things I’ve learned as one month faded into the next. You have to face the hurt and sadness full on and move through it. Avoiding it will only allow it to show up perhaps more intensely later on along the way. Friends and family are essential, or were for me. If you don’t have any, find a group and make some. Reaching out when the fear, anger and sadness showed up saved me on days when I felt as though I couldn’t take it anymore.

Eating and hydrating even when the thought of doing either makes you want to hang your head over the toilet is another essential piece of the puzzle. If, like in my case, you were a caregiver the same body which gave you license to push it far beyond normal parameters to take care of someone very ill, will now call in the loan if you don’t return the favor for yourself.

I share this post because someone at one point made the comment “every marriage ends one of two ways, death or divorce”. This means many of us who have chosen to take a chance on love will deal with loss. Many times I have questioned whether it is worse to go first or be the one left behind.

Grief comes in many forms and can manifest itself in many ways beyond human loss. Loss of a job, a beloved home, or loss of financial security, for example, all create a recipe for experiencing the symptoms of grief. As my counselor will say, “grief carves you out” leaving room for you to fill the hole remaining with new experiences. Sometimes I actually feel as if I have shed my skin becoming an entirely different being since that day last September. Who this being is is still blurry in my minds eye but every day I do the work to help her show up and make herself known.

So I begin to find myself again among the ashes of my previous life. A blank book on which chapters are to be written and pages filled with new words and images. At first there won’t be recipes because I’m not cooking a lot but I’m sure the stove will beckon me one of these days soon when my footing feels a little stronger.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1487

Just heard an incredible statistic. Today, one out of three marriages is between couples meeting on a dating site. Thinking about it, I don’t know why I find this incredible. The average adult spends a lot of time on-line. If you are single and looking for the perfect match, such a huge marketplace makes narrowing the search easier. Definitely it narrows the chances of finding someone with the specific traits you are looking for in a life partner.  Was I in a room and the question asked “who here met their mate on a dating site”, my hand would be enthusiastically waving in the air.

Eighteen years ago Rick left me a message on one of the more famous dating websites. Truth be told we are an unlikely match. I believe I was number 221 on his list of suitable matches and he didn’t even show up on mine.  At the time I was working insane hours at a dot.com startup in the Bay Area leaving little time for socializing. Often I would leave work after logging in hours of overtime only to be called back into the office in the wee hours to edit a file or create a new one. Exhausting.

Originally I posted my profile during a winey night spent with a dear friend of mine long single and looking for love. After uncorking our second bottle of chardonnay, we made the decision to get her on a dating site. This is one of those questionable decisions associated with too much alcohol intake often leading to disaster. However, in this case it turned out quite well. For me at least. The first step began by creating the usual inane profiles for ourselves. You know, “I like dogs, walks on the beach, and candlelight dinners”. Then we uploaded a couple of flattering recent pictures, and promptly put the whole thing out of our minds. Recent is highlighted in the last sentence because some people put pictures up taken after they graduated from middle school rather than what they actually look like at the time they post their profile. In the end if you meet the cat, as they say, will be out of the bag unless you have a particularly clever plastic surgeon on the payroll. About two weeks later we found ourselves again together and decided to look up the site and see what the results of our efforts were. Amazing. It was like panning for gold. You dip your pan in water once only to find a huge nugget nestled among the sand and gravel. Wow. Now, all these prospects are certainly not going to be either people you are interested in or necessarily even people seriously looking for a real relationship. Like everything in life you have to sift through the chaff in order to find the wheat.

Even though I was a novice at this type of dating, this was not my first rodeo. Through trial and error I’d hopefully picked up a few pointers along the way about the do’s and don’t of looking for a mate. Heavy emphasis on the hopefully. Dating to my mind is always a mine field. Aside from the benefits of finding a partner among such a wide selection of candidates there is, as always, a darker side to the picture. Predators feed on such a readily available population like sharks circling an area replete with an abundant food source. Discretion and good sense are the words of the day when taking on such an endeavor. Don’t meet anyone alone in a non-public environment. Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Lastly, someone gave me some great advice once. “It’s not what people say that’s important, it’s what people do.” You can say you’re the C.E.O. of Ebay or that you are not married. This does not make either statement based on any semblance of fact.

At that time I was not looking for a serious relationship. Rather I was hoping to find several different people with whom I could perhaps share an interest like hiking, or someone who enjoyed the theater or visiting art museums. I adjusted my walks on the beach profile (actually my favorite pastime) to include other activities I also sincerely enjoyed. As the months progressed I met an interesting person here and a not so interesting one there but no one who felt like a good match. Though I became acquainted with some really great people no one enticed me to turn around for a second look.

When Rick popped up he was most unexpected. Though in the right age group and appealing according to his photograph, on scratching below the surface his profile indicated that might be where the commonalities came to an end. After he made several knocks at my on-site door I decided to open it a crack and see who was standing on the other side. Our first “date” if you will was just to meet and see if any fires were lit. From the moment he sat down across from me our conversation flowed easily. Still does. Always having a fascination with Egypt I was enthralled with his stories of growing up near Cairo and having access to all the wonders I had only been able to read about.

Soon we became regular companions and eighteen years later we still look forward to seeing one another across the table every morning (even before coffee).

So, if you are contemplating giving on-line dating a try I would. Perhaps you’ll be lucky like we were, perhaps you won’t. However shake the dice. Like playing the Lotto if you don’t buy a ticket you’ll never know if you might have been a winner.

This salad is just sooooo good. If you added chicken it would be a perfect light meal for those warm summer nights.

Vegetable Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

2 1/2 cups Napa cabbage shredded
6 oz. Mung bean sprouts
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 hard boiled eggs cubed
4 radishes thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 English cucumber sliced thin
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
Salt and pepper

Serves 4-6

Sesame Seed Dressing

2 cloves garlic
2 green onion finely chopped
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/3 cup EV olive oil
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour in cruet and shake well. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Toss with salad just before serving.

1

Three days at the coast last week turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for Rick and I. “Vacation” has not been written on our calendar for six years. We were more than ready for a break. Reservations for a stay at the beach in Mendocino County were in place, bags packed, and a pet sitter hired. Life, as they say, was good. This was to be our first time staying at the Beachcomber resort in Fort Bragg.  Our room was a well-appointed lower unit towards the southern end of the building offering up a panoramic view of the ocean beyond the sliding glass doors. I would have found it an idyllic location had the staff pitched us a tent and handed us a Coleman lantern. Ideal for me at least.  Rick’s idea of camping is staying at a hotel without room service.

19

39

IMG_1391

The first two days were made to order for beach exploring. Temps hung in the low 70’s cooled by a light sea breeze. Spring made itself visible with hillsides decorated in colorful bursts of wildflowers. I spent a good deal of time walking along the sand. Sticking my toes in the frigid water and inhaling the glorious smells one associates with the ocean my mind kept whispering “home”. Still off-season, the beach was nearly deserted save an occasional tourist or local. Nothing like the crowds you might expect to see once Memorial Day is ticked off the calendar.

4

On our second day there Rick saw whales. Naturally I missed them. I was inside showering the sand off. Really chapped my hide (missing the whales not the sand). When I came out he told me our neighbors pointed them out to him from the upper deck bar. He had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the pair before they breached and disappeared below the surface. Awwwww, darn, darn, darn.

Not as exciting, I did see a lot of ground squirrels. The comical little rodents shared space with hotel inhabitants. Not inside, no. Inside they might have been less endearing. From the patio, however, their little furry heads could be seen peering up over the hills or running along the paths behind the rooms. Funny little creatures, surprisingly unafraid of humans. Several times while walking one came right up next to me looking for a handout.

IMG_1355Taking a respite from all things household, it was great to have someone cook for me. Dining out Rick encountered his usual pitfalls. If something disastrous is going to happen to a meal it generally will happen to his. Definitely the man has bad dining karma. Typically I will be digging into a delicious entrée while Rick’s is late, they are out of whatever he selected, they brought the wrong item, or it wasn’t cooked as requested.

Our second night there we ate at a well-known seafood restaurant situated on the fishing harbor. I had the fish tacos. Though I wouldn’t you recommend pack a bag and rush right down to Fort Bragg to get some for yourselves, they were quite good. Rick ordered prime rib. Now, I see you shaking your heads. Prime rib in a seafood restaurant? Who am I to say anything? Ordered medium rare, the meat arrived at the table looking like he’d ordered off the side of the menu entitled “Our Road Kill Selections”. That meat had been rode hard and put up wet. When the waiter was alerted, he offered to get Rick a cut showing more pink. Shortly he returned from the kitchen to inform us that was as rare as that piece of beef was going to get. A rib eye was suggested as a replacement. According to Rick the rib eye was actually IMG_1411.JPGworse. He said he wouldn’t have believed this was possible but somehow the chef pulled it off. Fatty and full of gristle the steak was smothered  with gravy and canned mushrooms. The gravy, according to Rick, was put there to hide a poor cut of meat. Ewwwwww. I know. I remained mute just nodding and grimacing where appropriate. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Our last night, thankfully, we located a wonderful Italian restaurant in Fort Bragg proper. Told there was music in the main dining room we chose to sit in there over being seated in the very lively bar. An eclectic trio was playing Celtic music. The musicians were composed of a flutist, a gentleman on guitar, and a lady easily having celebrated her 80th birthday playing mini-guitar and fiddle. The waitress was friendly as well as full of information about the area succeeding in making a great meal that much better. Cucina Verona is the name of the place should you find yourself visiting Fort Bragg.

Leaving the restaurant the strong wind persisting throughout the day had intensified. But for the fact I’d consumed half a loaf of bread plus dessert I might have taken flight like Dorothy and Toto. On the bright side, pushing my way to the car against the onslaught of air I probably burned off most of the tiramisu I’d finished my meal off with. At the car we literally couldn’t get the passenger door to stay open long enough for me to hop in. I rode to the hotel in the back seat telling Rick if he wanted a nice tip he better stick to the shortest route.

Returning to the hotel room exhausted and stuffed I crawled into bed. Despite the wind whistling outside rattling the doors sleep came easily. Around 1 a.m. I woke up needing to use the facilities. Opening my eyes, total darkness swirled around me. Still half asleep, my mind couldn’t process what was happening. Not one shard of light could be detected anywhere in the room. Pitch dark closed in around me. Feeling my way blindly around the less than familiar surroundings my sleepy mind determined somewhere in the night I had been rendered totally blind. A bit of panic gripped me as I fumbled and moved my hands along the walls. Finally panic began to drive the bus rather than just occupy a seat and I called out for Rick. Rick, so it appeared, was busy fighting his own battle with his C-Pap machine. Somehow the machine had switched off making it difficult for him to breathe. “Turn on the light” I called out. Hearing him switch the nightstand light on and off and the inky blackness remaining in place a light switched on in my fuzzy brain. “The electricity was out”. Duh. No flies on us. Thank God. I had begun to imagine the worst. Those blackout curtains in hotel rooms really work I am here to say. Groping my way to the counter I turned on my cell phone……and then there was light.

Driving home we said goodbye to the ocean as we turned inland. In my mind’s eye I can still see the waves rolling in and hear the gulls calling overhead. My only regret about not winning the lottery or being born with any significant marketable talent is that I do not have the wherewithal to wake up to the sound of the sea every day of my life. Ah well, happy people do not lament what they don’t have but are grateful for what they do so I will leave it there.

I was served this soup (or a version of it) at a luncheon recently. I loved it so I thought I’d see if I could come up with one I might share with you.

(Shchi) Russian Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

1 lb. stew meat
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
8 oz. demi-glace*
2 cups water
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 cups of water
1 Tbsp. beef bouillon
1 head cabbage cut in wedges

Heat oil over med-high heat in skillet. Generously salt and pepper meat and brown on all sides. (Note: If you want to do a quick version of the above use leftover pieces of steak or roast in place of stew meat. Reduce initial cooking time to 35 mins. Continue the remaining part of the recipe as indicated.)

When meat is browned put in stockpot. Add all remaining ingredients through cardamom. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add 2 cups water and bouillon to pot. Bring to boil. Add cabbage and reduce heat to actively simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 8

%d bloggers like this: