Thursday, July 29, 2010

100 Things

Dating is easy. Relationships are hard.

I have been in a handful of serious relationships since I divorced from my husband of 19 years in May 2001. For various reasons, each ended rather badly. I haven't completely written off the man I have been with the past few months, but he is newly divorced and, at least for now, unable or unwilling to give me what I need. So I guess that means I am still looking.

Or, at least, I'm not NOT looking.

* * *

From a recent issue of Oprah magazine:

"Jackie Scheller, now 46, was 'divorced and content with being single' when she read about a woman who wrote down 100 things she wanted in a man and five years later found her dream guy. Jackie decided to do the same thing... Nine months later, she met Chris Gilliam, now 40, at a senior citizens' dance, of all places... 'Chris has every quality I wanted but is much more,' says Jackie. The couple married last December."

So I decided to come up with my own list of things I want in a man. It took several attempts, but I finally came up with 100. You may laugh at some of them, but I no longer take ANYTHING for granted.

Here they are, in no particular order.

My ideal partner:

1. Has a great sense of humor, but know when to be serious.
2. Has a nice smile.
3. Makes eye contact.
4. Eats healthy/is not a picky eater.
5. Exercises regularly, but not fanatically.
6. Has steady employment.
7. Likes animals.
8. Expresses affection easily.
9. Likes travel (especially cruising).
10. Likes to try new things (food, places, experiences).
11. Enjoys reading.
12. Appreciates good music.
13. Is college educated.
14. Likes to dance.
15. Is a non-smoker.
16. Drinks responsibly.
17. Has good communication skills.
18. Knows how to dress for the occasion.
19. Has good personal hygiene.
20. Likes children, especially MY children.
21. Is emotionally mature, present and stable.
22. Is financially secure.
23. Is capable of making a commitment.
24. Has a variety of interests.
25. Is open-minded and non-judgmental of others: not a racist, a bigot, or homophobic.
26. Is faithful to me.
27. Takes an active interest in the well-being of the planet.
28. Treats others with respect.
29. Tips generously.
30. Does not do illegal drugs.
31. Is not jealous of the time I spend with girlfriends.
32. Is tall.
33. Is confident and self-assured.
34. Is not vain, arrogant or conceited.
35. Asks me how I'm doing and sincerely listens to my answer.
36. Compliments me generously, especially when I have made a special effort to look nice.
37. Has goals and dreams and the drive to achieve them.
38. Knows how to do basic household chores.
39. Is interested in culture.
40. Doesn't keep me awake snoring.
41. Believes in doing the right thing.
42. Tells the truth.
43. Enjoys spending time with me.
44. Surprises me and likes being surprised.
45. Does not have a hot temper.
46. Does not think it's okay to hit someone - ever.
47. Is not verbally abusive.
48. Has developed a personal philosophy.
49. Understands that my children come first.
50. Gets more satisfaction than dissatisfaction from his job.
51. Is intelligent.
52. Is street smart.
53. Does not have friends of the opposite sex who are more than friends.
54. Has never been convicted of a felony.
55. Trusts me.
56. Does not withhold affection when he is upset.
57. Is okay with my independence as well as my occasional neediness.
58. Brings me flowers and candy for no reason.
59. Stands up for me when I am maligned and asks questions later.
60. Understands the value of play.
61. Smells good.
62. Misses me when we are apart.
63. Has a great speaking voice.
64. Tells me he loves me. Often.
65. Has his own group of friends.
66. Has his own interests that don't have to be the same as mine.
67. Is aware of pop culture and understands pop culture references.
68. Is young enough to keep up with me but old enough to have acquired some wisdom.
69. Is not condescending or patronizing.
70. Knows how to cook.
71. Is not argumentative, but is capable of healthy discussion/debate when we disagree on things.
72. Gets along with my friends and family.
73. Welcomes me into his family.
74. Has good table manners.
75. Has a good grasp of grammar.
76. Sees his glass as half-full.
77. Picks up after himself.
78. Knows more about cars than I do.
79. Can fix things.
80. Enjoys yard work.
81. Does not have a serious mental illness.
82. Is capable of sharing his feelings.
83. Is quick to forgive.
84. Is quick to sincerely apologize.
85. Is proud of me in public.
86. Can handle idiosyncratic behavior (for example, I am a pescetarian for the most part, but I love hot wings. And bacon.)
87. Is not overly materialistic but takes care of his physical needs.
88. Is independent as opposed to tied to a group of friends; is comfortable being alone or just with me a good deal of the time.
89. Enjoys going out with a group of people sometimes.
90. Is a good listener.
91. Thinks I am beautiful on the outside.
92. Thinks I am beautiful on the inside.
93. Understands that most things are not a big deal.
94. Is a safe driver.
95. Doesn't take unnecessary risks.
96. Understands the value of social networking.
97. Knows how to use a cell phone.
98. Is willing to make plans.
99. Is capable of being flexible when the circumstances warrant it.
100. Takes care of me when I am sick.

* * *

There are actually nine more, but since this blog is rated for general audiences, I am not including them on this list. If you are over 21, feel free to email me and I will share them with you. Unless you are my mom or dad. Or my brother.

What do you think? Am I asking for too much?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime and the livin' is easy...

Apparently, it wasn't my destiny to serve on a jury this summer. The first two weeks of July came and went; I called the Atlanta District Court jury hotline faithfully every day at five o'clock sharp, and did the happy dance - would you like to see a video? - every time I received instructions not to report the next morning. Finally, on Thursday, July 15th, I was officially excused from the jury pool.

So it turns out I could have offered summer piano lessons this year. But my students claimed they needed a break. And, truth be told, so did I. I have gotten some much needed rest. And I have had time to tackle a few projects that I never seem to get around to when I am teaching.

I have made some progress on my brother's afghan. Intended to be his Christmas present last year, it wasn't ready for Valentine's Day delivery, either. But I have been knitting four rows every morning for the past couple of weeks, and it is starting to shape up. Four rows doesn't sound like a lot. But each row consists of 107 stitches worked on size 17 circular needles - they are HUGE - using TWO strands of worsted weight yarn. Four rows is about all my hands can manage; after that, they need a break. And, as we all know, slow but steady wins the race. At this rate, the afghan will be finished well before cold weather hits.

"Comfy" from Leisure Arts' Big Book of Quick Knit Afghans

I love the "checkerboard" pattern

I am also back to work on my novel. I spent several weeks stuck; I couldn't decide how my story was going to end. Would my heroine meet Prince Charming, get married and live happily ever after? Or would she find herself old and alone, on her deathbed, contemplating a lifetime of terrible choices? Finally, I have worked it all out in my head - wouldn't YOU like to know? - and as I approach the final two or three chapters, the writing is going faster. My goal is to have the first draft completely finished before I resume teaching August 9th; that will give me a couple of months to revise and polish before the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference October 1-3. Honestly? That may not be enough time. The more I learn about writing, the more I understand just how rough this first draft really is. But right now, this is my plan.

And I have completed a dozen or so pieces of jewelry - bracelets, necklaces and earrings - and will announce the grand opening of my Etsy store very, very soon. Here is a picture of one item I will offer: a silver and crystal mother or grandmother bracelet, customizable with one to six names and birthstones on one to three beaded strands. I love wearing mine.

Finally, I have been on a mission to get rid of some of the excess stuff that has been cluttering my home and cluttering my mind. My chief target areas were the kitchen and my bedroom. I wish I had taken "before" pictures. Every horizontal area of the kitchen, including the tops of the cabinets and the top of the refrigerator, was covered with something; my bedroom was filled to bursting with my beading and scrapbooking supplies (even though I haven't done any scrapbooking in seven or eight months), two racks of CD's that I never listen to (because they are all loaded on my computer and on my iPhone), a tiny bookshelf piled sky high with unread books, and a rocking chair (but not enough space to actually sit in it and rock). It took me a couple of days to figure out what to do with everything, but now the scrapbooking supplies are in the hall closet and the CD's are in a large plastic bin under my bed; the rocking chair is in the corner of the living room, where there is plenty of space for sitting and rocking; and the bookshelf and several hundred books from the collection in my music studio will be featured items in my garage sale this weekend. Now there is actually room to walk around my bed - and room to breathe. The atmosphere is so much more calm and peaceful.

Karma loves sleeping under my bed now.
(Okay, he has ALWAYS loved sleeping under my bed.)

The garage is the last frontier, and I have to get through it today, as I have already advertised the dates and hours of my garage sale - Friday and Saturday, 9AM-2PM - and I am determined to make it happen. Whatever doesn't sell is going IMMEDIATELY to Goodwill. Of course, this is a never ending process; there are drawers and closets waiting for me that I won't be able to get to today. But the hardest decisions are behind me and, hopefully, I have at least eliminated the possibility of ending up on "Hoarders."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Seafaring Tale, Part 2

After reading A Seafaring Tale, Part 1, in which I described taking on some physical challenges during my cruise on the Carnival Legend - swimming with stingrays, ziplining through a canopy - a good friend pointed out that she sees me trying to grow by pushing myself to do things that are uncomfortable for me. I found that interesting, because I feel that I am going through an intense period of personal growth right now, and it all started on the cruise. I will share more about that in a future post.

But I conquered a social challenge on the trip, too - the fear of traveling alone. This was the first time I went on a vacation without the benefit of an adult companion. Of course, Nathan was with me, but his cruise ship agenda is very different from mine. He likes to sleep late and roam the decks with the abundant supply of teenagers on board, and he has never been one for deck parties or Las Vegas style shows. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed having time to myself. I wrote in my journal; I read; I lounged in the sun; I listened to music. When I felt like being sociable, there were plenty of opportunities for that - at dinner, on the pool deck, on shore excursions, and in the disco. All I had to to was introduce myself and offer my hand; folks generally responded warmly, and on the infrequent occasions when I experienced rejection, I chose not to take it personally. I met so many interesting people: a male nurse, a dance instructor, a truck driver, a soldier on leave from Iraq. I danced with a lounge musician while he sang to me during a performance (twice!); I had my picture taken with the cruise director (he said I was "lovely"); I shared an evening with one of the junior officers in the disco. The truth is, if I hadn't been by myself, I probably wouldn't have gotten to know any of them. I loved hearing their stories, and I am keeping in touch with a few - online and on Facebook. (I even discussed the possibility of doing online piano lessons with two of the women I met.)

Now, I don't want to leave you with the impression that Nathan and I didn't see each other. We were together for lunch most days and we dined together every night. And, in addition to our shore excursions in Grand Cayman and Belize, we toured the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins in Cozumel, ending our day at Playa Azul;


and we interacted with monkeys and macaws at Gumbalimba Park in Roatan, and spent some time at a beautiful beach there.

Isla Roatan

Nathan even surprised me by participating in the "Red Team" activities and rocking out at the deck party near the end of the cruise.

Ooh! Ah! You wish you were on the Red Team!

So now you know why I say this was the best cruise ever.

I can't wait to go again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Seafaring Tale, Part 1

It's old news now. But Nathan and I cruised on the Carnival Legend May 30-June 6. It was a great vacation. I took some chances. And I learned a lot about myself.

We visited four ports: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Isla Roatan, and Belize. They were all spectacular. But I will save Cozumel and Roatan for my next post. Because today I want to talk about high adventure. And it was in Grand Cayman and Belize that I took some real risks. At least for me.

I always book our shore excursions through the cruise line. I know, I know: you can save a few bucks if you book independently. But if you book through the cruise line, your ship isn't going to leave port without you, no matter what happens on your shore excursion. And anything can happen. For example, once when I was in the Bahamas, I took a shore excursion to a private beach, and our return ferry experienced mechanical problems. The tour operator had to send for another vessel, and we were actually late returning to the ship. We almost missed dinner - and it was formal night, lobster tail and baked Alaska. It would have been terrible to miss that dinner. But it would have been even worse to miss the ship.

But I digress. In Grand Cayman, our first port, I booked us on the "Discover Cayman - Stingrays, Hell & Turtle Farm" tour.

First, we rode a bus down Seven Mile Beach and went to "Hell."

Me with the devil

Next, we visited Boatswain's Turtle Farm.

Nathan holding a young sea turtle

Finally, we rode a ferry out to Stingray City Sandbar.


We were told we would anchor in waist-deep water and be able to wade out for an encounter with stingrays. But for some reason I never understood, our captain was unable to get the ferry up as close to the sandbar as he was supposed to. So the only way I was going to be able to have this adventure was to swim for it.

Where our boat was SUPPOSED to dock

Unfortunately, I DON'T SWIM - although, theoretically, I know HOW to swim. I took swimming lessons as a child, but I am hydrophobic. So I took a water phobia class as an adult. My instructor taught me how to tread water, and I did just fine as long as I knew I could put my feet on the ground when I was finished. But when I get in water over my head, I panic. Then I sink. This is not logical. I have always had the notion that if I had regular access to a pool or a lake, I would be able to overcome this fear. But I have never had that luxury.

So there I was, on a ferry in Grand Cayman, terribly sad that I was going to miss this opportunity. But Nathan saved the day. He encouraged me to put on a life vest and go for it. He assured me that the safety apparel would keep me afloat. He promised he would help me if I needed it. Another gentleman, who had no intention of getting in the water himself, encouraged me. He even offered to push me off the boat. (I told him I would prosecute him if he did.)

In the end, I chose to trust Nathan. I climbed down the ladder into the water; Nathan grabbed my hand and helped me "swim" all the way out to the sandbar. I was exhausted by the time we got there, but I had the time of my life. I actually got to pet a stingray; I saw several up close and personal, and almost stepped on a couple. Nathan even wore a stingray like a blanket. I was wishing I owned an underwater camera, so I could take a picture of that. But the images are forever engraved in my memory.

* * *
Our final port was Belize. We rode a tender from the ship to Belize City, where we met our tour bus into the rain forest. Our tour guide was named Elvis Usher (really!) and he talked us through the one and a half hour bus ride, filling us in on Belize facts, history and culture. I have never met anyone so proud of his country as Elvis was of Belize.

Elvis Usher

We made one brief stop for water, and nine miles off the main highway, at the end of a very bumpy road, we arrived at our destination, the "Lost World Canopy Tour."

Not only am I afraid of water; I am afraid of heights. But I was determined to have this experience. So Nathan and I were outfitted with harnesses and helmets, given some brief instructions, and led up a steep pathway. Then the fun began.

There were five traverses and two rappels. The traverses were absolutely thrilling.

I thought I would scream but I didn't. I was filled with wonder.

On the other hand, the rappels were terrifying.

I had to close my eyes.

But when it was all over, I was so glad I had done it.

Yes, I was proud of myself! And our tour guide was proud of me, too!

* * *

I tackled some serious fears on that cruise ship. Now that I have swum with stingrays and swung through the canopy of a rainforest (and knocked item #61 off my Amazing Life List), I am hungering for further adventure. I think I will tackle item #59 next. I am looking at Skydive Monroe and Skydive Georgia.

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It was a fabulous fourth!

On New Year's Eve, Nathan and I joined Fitness 19 and agreed we would do the Peachtree Road Race together. A 6.2 mile run, the Peachtree is the traditional kickoff for Atlanta's fourth of July celebration. Matter of fact, we decided to make a weekend of it. I booked us a room in my favorite downtown hotel, the Ellis, and we started training.

I was doing great until I got sick. Since our cruise, I have done little besides teach piano and sleep. It just didn't seem wise to work out while I was coughing and wheezing. Then Nathan got sick, too. We weren't sure whether or not we would be able to follow through with our plans.

But we were feeling a little bit better by the weekend, and we decided we could be miserable in a luxury hotel as easily as we could be miserable at home. And since first night was already paid for, on Saturday afternoon we loaded up the Honda, drove downtown, and checked into our lovely room at the Ellis.

Unfortunately, although I had booked a room with two double beds, the room we were shown to had only one. The sweet receptionist, Michelle, had no explanation for this; my confirmation, dated December 31, 2009, clearly showed that I had reserved two double beds. Unfortunately, there was little she could do to remedy the situation, as the hotel was completely booked for the night, and there were no other rooms available. But since I wasn't willing to settle for an apology, she offered to let us stay in the room for half price. Two nights for the price of one. I was delighted.

The Ellis is located just one block down from the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, and it has long been a dream of mine to dine in the revolving Sundial Restaurant and take in the view of the city from 723 feet. So we made our way to the hostess station in the lobby of the hotel. We didn't have a reservation, and it turned out we we weren't wearing the appropriate attire, either. Instead, the hostess gave us the option of having a light bite and a drink in the Sundial Lounge above the restaurant. A perfect compromise.

The scenic glass elevator is still being repaired following tornado damage in March 2008, so we had to content ourselves with riding up to the 72nd floor in a regular elevator. Believe it or not, our ears popped! When we reached the top, we took a seat; Nathan ordered a Coke and I sipped a Georgia Peach martini (vodka, peach schapps, and orange juice). The day was clear and it was a lot of fun to look out the windows and identify city landmarks and outlying residential areas. Naturally, I embarrassed Nathan by whipping out my iPhone and taking lots of pictures.

About an hour later, after completing one entire revolution, we left the Sundial and made our way down the street to Mama Ninfa's Mexican restaurant.

Like good little athletes, we loaded up on carbs; then, with full tummies and sleepy heads, we retired to our room, climbed into our soft bed and drifted off to sleep.

Morning came early. We got up at 6:30, changed into our running gear, walked across the street and boarded the MARTA train, and rode to Lenox Station in Buckhead. We followed the crowds and figured out where to go. Our wave started shortly before 9AM. We were off!

I don't run; I walk, so it wasn't long before Nathan left me in his dust. But it is impossible to feel lonely surrounded by 55,000 other participants. The streets were lined with volunteers,
radio station vans, live musicians, local business people, politicians, and well-wishers, ready with hydration and encouragement. There were sprinklers and hoses and fire hydrants open, too - along with a handful of youngsters armed with Super Soakers and an Episcopal priest sprinkling willing runners with "holy water."

You have to see it to believe it.

Halfway there!

I took my time; I stopped once in a vain attempt to score a free t-shirt from Moe's Mexican restaurant, and once to use the potty. But slow and steady finishes the race, too; a little more than an hour and a half after I started, I crossed the finish line.

Only those who finish the race receive a t-shirt. I am very proud of mine.

After the race, we indulged in free fruit donated by Publix and free ice cream and popsicles donated by Blue Bell. Then we made the long hike to the Midtown MARTA station and rode the train back to our hotel. Refreshed following a shower and a change of clothes, we felt inspired to go back to Lenox Mall and have a light lunch in the food court and do a bit of window shopping. Eventually, we made our way back to the Ellis Hotel and our soft bed and indulged in a well-deserved nap.

We started our evening with dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, just across the street from the Westin, and then headed to Centennial Olympic Park for the fourth of July celebration there.

Waiting for the fireworks

There was live music and refreshments. We arrived just in time to hear the headliner band, Smithereens. I grooved to the music and people-watched. I should have taken my notebook with me. There was a lot to see.

Finally, darkness fell and the show began - arguably the BEST fireworks display I have ever seen, with rockets coming from three directions and a semi-patriotic soundtrack. Then, just when we thought it was all over, we were surprised with the REAL grand finale.


As it does every July 4th, the night ended too soon. I was grateful not to have to fight the crowds and traffic to get home; instead, we made the short walk back to the hotel and our comfy quarters. We were asleep in no time.

We slept quite late, and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that I could barely walk when I first woke up yesterday morning. My legs were wobbly and my back was sore. The pain was a little less this morning; determined to keep up the momentum, I dragged myself to the gym this afternoon. But I didn't kill myself; I did just 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. It felt good.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I knocked items 27 and 51 of my Amazing Life List, and made some wonderful memories with Nathan. Who could ask for more?

I am on call for jury duty for the next two weeks. Thankfully, I didn't have to report yesterday nor do I have to report tomorrow. Will my luck hold out? Time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to ease back into my daily routines - morning pages, exercise, writing - and to finish up some beading projects and get a few items for sale in my Etsy shop by week's end.

And stay healthy.

I would love to hear how you celebrated Independence Day. Hope you are having a wonderful summer!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Best Laid Schemes

It's been one thing after another around here. I'm still not well, and Nathan has been sick all week, too. Casey spent Sunday night in the Newark airport, was delayed again in Charlotte on Monday evening, and Nathan and I were so close to being in an auto accident Monday morning that I still tremble when I think about it. But I'm not complaining.

Indeed, I am feeling very thankful right about now. Because Nathan and I are arguably on the mend, and we WEREN'T in an accident, and Casey eventually made it home safely. Also, because a longtime friend/piano student offered to prepay for her and her daughters' piano lessons for the months of August through December, meaning I will have the cash to pay my bills in the month of July, despite my jury summons.

Yes, things are looking up.

* * *

After reading my Amazing Life List, a longtime friend of mine suggested we start a Jane Austen Book Club in response to Item #30. Two other friends eagerly jumped on board, and we were on our way. We kicked things off June 11th at Jennifer's house with Mexican food and a viewing of the movie The Jane Austen Book Club.

Our first official meeting was this morning at Denise's house. We discussed Pride & Prejudice, which I finished reading about 10:30 last night. I LOVED IT. Having never even seen a film version of the story, it took me a few chapters to get all the names straight and to immerse myself into the language, but once I got started, I had a hard time putting the book down. I was especially surprised at how FUNNY it was.

"What are men to rocks and mountains?"

I think that's a brilliant question.

My friends are intelligent, witty, and insightful; our conversation was entertaining and thought-provoking. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we made the spontaneous decision to resume our meeting this evening with quiche, a salad, and a marathon viewing of the BBC version of the novel. Our next book is Sense & Sensibility; I plan to start reading it tomorrow.

And now I must take my brownies out of the oven and head back over to Jennifer's.

I am having SO much fun.