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Online Dating Reality #1: You Will Probably Cry

March 30, 2014 1:02 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

I've written a bit about my dating experiences here and on Facebook. I'm usually quite open about my life and always hope that what I'm going through is relatable, that maybe it can benefit someone else to share my story. As it turns out, I've had quite a lot of interest in my dating experiences. Many of my friends, mostly female, have told me they like hearing an inside view of the dating scene. I've had people ask me questions and share their own stories with me. So I've decided to delve into the topic even further here with a series of posts. Some posts will be lighthearted. Some will be serious. Some may be a bit TMI, but I figure if I'm going to share, I might as well truly share. 

So right off the bat, I'm going to start with a harsh reality of dating, online or otherwise: Yes, you will probably cry. You will likely get hurt. You'll feel overwhelming frustration. People will make you mad. They will hurt your feelings. You will be forced to examine yourself, your motivations and your emotions. It's not always pretty, so let's just get this grim truth out of the way. 

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

If You Don't Even Meet Them

Something you should know right now is that despite the fact that I joke on Facebook and here on the blog about some of the ridiculous things men have said to me online, it can be profoundly frustrating. Okay, you may not cry over the frustration, but you'll probably want to. Truth be told, on a bad day, I'm sure I've cried in exasperation over the sheer pitifulness of the entire male species at that very moment. Yes, I said, "that very moment." Please don't think I'm anti-male or a man hater. If I were, would I even bother? Nope, I don't think so. But some days...

For instance, I just signed back into one of my online dating profiles. I know I said I was quitting them, but this is kind of an experiment. Here are the results of that experiment. Not even ten minutes after reactivating my account, I received a message saying, "Gm, beautiful how are u" Yes, it was written just like that. There are so many things wrong with this that it merits its own blog post. A post which I intend to write. But for now, let's just deconstruct this one message and why it's so frustrating to me. 

#1 - I'm a writer. Had he actually looked at my profile, he would have known that. Does this guy really think it's a good idea to approach a writer with text-ese such as, "Gm" and "how are u"? We won't even go into the lack of punctuation or capitlization. 

#2 - Our match rate. Another indication that he hadn't actually bothered to really look at my profile is that we are a 64% match. Okay, I'll admit it's not the lowest, but it isn't good. 

#3 - He called me, "beautiful." Yes, that may seem like a nice thing, a compliment even. But when you don't know someone and are interacting for the first time? Please. Don't. 

So when you receive message after message of this caliber or worse, it can bring you to tears without even having to meet the person. Remind me to tell you about the time a guy approached me with, "You into BDSM, Goddess?" Yep. True story. Oh, I almost forgot the time I was thisclose to actually going out with a guy when he asked me what I'd be wearing, following up that question with the suggestion that maybe I could go without panties because it'd be fun. Yep. Another true fucking story. 

After You've Met Them

So you've had your first date. It went well. Yay! You've set up a second date, a third. You know where this is going, right? We've all been in relationships before, and we know the possible outcomes. Yet we keep going back for more. So buck up and face the fact that it's possible that guy you click with will be the source of some tears. I don't mean to be negative or harsh. I really don't. I do, however, feel a duty to remind you that the euphoria of a new romantic connection is often fleeting. It's part of the process. No one reminded me of that. 

I've been through a number of hurts with regard to my relationships with men over the past several months. There was the man who was separated and decided to go back to his wife, breaking off all contact. Through an email, no less. Please no lectures. I know. Not the smartest move on my part to get involved in the first place. It was a rather casual relationship, and the tears were mostly because of the fact that I'd lost my friend. Then there was the only actual relationship of real substance I've had since my separation and divorce. Things with that one ended due to some differences in the ways we approached life, as well as the fact that it seemed he was not willing to go out of his way for me. The second part hurt. Quite a bit. 

Then there was the guy who, I believe, decided he no longer wished to be involved with me and turned the entire breakdown of our "romantic partnership" around as being my fault, accepting no responsibility whatsoever and playing a huge mindfuck on me. Yes, I'm still bitter over that one. "Mindfuck" is a great word, by the way. Thank you to my older and wiser female friend for introducing me to it, as it so aptly and succinctly describes the manipulation involved in that entire experience. And, finally, there was the man who didn't think sex should be a negotiation. What? I don't even know. That one still baffles me. I believe there was some mindfucking going on in that situation, as well. Thus, my next online dating reality post will probably surround the need for women to be secure in themselves, with a strong understanding of who they are, prior to dating. It's very easy to lose yourself and to allow others to define your truth if you aren't aware of and secure in who you are. I know I had to take a few steps back to examine what may have been true in these situations and what was merely projected upon me as a defense mechanism or way of escaping a difficult situation. 

  photo credit: ♥KatB Photography♥ via photopin cc   

When They're Gone

If you're like me, there may even be instances where you cry long after they're gone from your life. There may be regret, things you wish you'd said or a longing for the times that were good. There are likely to be times you look back on mistakes and feel sorry that you allowed yourself to make them. You may miss someone you dated with a genuine fierceness. Ladies, I will warn you that these emotions can come on hard, strong, suddenly and absolutely without warning. Most often during PMS, but they are real. I advise taking the time to honor and acknowledge them. Don't, however, allow yourself to dwell on them or to get stuck in them. Doing so will only hold you back. And don't allow them to take over your life. I've heard people say, "I no longer trust anyone." I can honestly tell you I've felt that very same thing. I simply do not wish to live that way. Maybe I'm just too stubborn to give up, but I still believe a genuine,loving, equitable connection can be found.

Plus, I just really don't want to end up a crazy cat lady, which has been suggested as one possibility for my future. Don't ask.

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Be My Neighbor Day in Pittsburgh March 22nd

March 21, 2014 2:07 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

I am totally thrilled to be sharing information with you all about a local event happening tomorrow, March 22nd, at four YMCA locaitons in Pittsburgh. It's in conjunction with WQED and The Fred Rogers Company and is set to be a day of fun, family-friendly activities. Plus, it's free! Here's the official scoop:

What: United Way of Allegheny County, in partnership with The Fred Rogers Company and WQED, presents “Be My Neighbor Day.”  OnMarch 22, 2014, four YMCA locations across the Pittsburgh area will host a variety of fun, free, family-friendly activities to give children the opportunity to practice being neighborly. Daniel Tiger of the PBS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood will make his first Pittsburgh appearance as part of the event.
“’Be My Neighbor Day’ builds on the indomitable legacy of Fred Rogers, who for more than 40 years taught kindness, generosity and respect to thousands of children and families,” said William Isler, president, The Fred Rogers Company. “Like our new series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, this event embodies the values Fred stood for and carries his timeless message to a new generation of children.”
Inspired by an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, “Be My Neighbor Day” encourages neighbors to come together to help one another. Families will learn about acts of kindness, work together on craft projects to benefit their local communities, participate in YMCA Healthy Kids activities, and have the opportunity to meet Daniel Tiger.  
Additionally, in honor of Rogers’ favorite attire, families are encouraged to bring a new or gently worn sweater to the event. Sweater donations will be distributed to needy families throughout the region.
When: March 22, 2014 (times vary by location)
Where: Those interested in participating are encouraged to visit www.bemyneighborday.org for more information and to register at one of four locations: Baierl Family YMCA (Sewickley), Western Area YMCA (Coraopolis), Penn Hills YMCA, or Thelma Lovett YMCA (Centre Avenue).  There is no cost to attend.
Hashtag: #BeMyNeighborDay

A chance to meet Daniel Tiger? Very cool! I wish I could go, but I don't have any kids with me this weekend. However, the kids do know the importance I place on being a good neighbor, being friendly and helping others. I feel good that I've instilled in them that it's absolutely imperative to consider the feelings of those around them. All three of my kids have shared instances with me in which they were nice to a classmate who may have been having a rough day or who was not being treated well by someone else. I'm proud that they're so sensitive and caring.

We recently moved to a new neighborhood and haven't gotten the chance to really know our neighbors yet. I look forward to that, as our last neighborhood was quite friendly, and there were several neighbors we could count on for help and whom we assisted often. My kids would shovel snow for the older neighbors without asking for any kind of payment. We would pick up our neighbor's mail when she was on vacation, and we even responded once to a scary medical issue. Thankfully, it ended up being okay, but we were so glad to be able to help. I miss that sense of neighborhood closeness and hope to be able to establish that here. 

Here are some tips from Daniel Tiger for being neighborly:

To help encourage neighborliness with your little ones at home, here are some tips inspired by the “Neighbor Day” episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that will help show your children that doing something nice for their neighbors can be a rewarding experience that makes them feel good about themselves!  
  • Volunteer!:  Check out your local food bank, library or neighborhood park for opportunities for your family to contribute, whether it is going through your house with your preschooler and donating extra canned goods or old books  or helping plant brand-new trees!
  • Play outside and meet new people!:  Bring your young children for a fun visit at the neighborhood playground, so they can make new friends and interact with old friends, too!
  • Ask to help!:  When your family sees someone who might need a hand, offer it!  Work together with an elderly neighbor who needs extra assistance in their yard or even have your preschooler help take care of a friend’s pet while they’re away on an end-of-summer trip.  You can also just talk with your child about times when you helped someone in need.
  • Smile and say, hello!:  Sometimes the littlest things makes the biggest difference!  When you are walking through your own neighborhood with your kids, greet passing neighbors with a friendly smile and a “hello” – you might just brighten someone’s day!
  • Make Coupons for Giving: Help your child create homemade paper coupons for kind and helpful acts, like “a hug,” “help with household chores” or “reading a book to a younger sibling.”

So please let me know if you're going to be attending Be a Good Neighbor Day. And take lots of pictures for me since I can't be there!

*sponsored post, all opinions my own

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Why I'm Dumping the Dating Sites

March 9, 2014 7:21 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

Everyone who knows me in real life and through social networking knows that I have been engaged in online dating for several months now. As a newly single mom, who works from home, the idea of getting out there and meeting interesting people was very appealing. I made specific effort to reach out to men who were very different from those I would come across here in my town on a day to day basis. I wanted to expand my work-from-home horizons, to gain new insight and exposure to people with more variety to offer than I would find in my everyday life. As I wrote in a blog post shortly after the New Year, I was rather successful in my goals. I met an incredibly diverse array of men, who possessed some absolutely wonderful qualities. And, for that, I will be always grateful. What I haven't shared with many is the emotional downside and stress that can come from playing the dating game. If you're ready to hear it, I think I'm ready to tell it. Here goes. 

photo credit: tankgirlrs via photopin cc

It Can Be Intimidating

Letting your guard down enough to present what you hope is your best self to another person can be a very raw, intimidating experience. Especially if you haven't done it in a while, and you're an introverrt by nature. It's scary as hell putting yourself out there. I was, and still am, petrified. Every time I meet someone new, I get butterflies in my stomach from the nervousness involved in that first meeting. I've heard friends tell me that they feel this way even in online interactions before meeting in person. Because I've been networking as a blogger online for years, I actually feel rather comfortable behind the computer screen. It's the whole in-person thing that sometimes makes me want to run and hide. However, I've managed to push through it and remind myself that there could be an amazing encounter just waiting to be had. It also helps to remember that the worst-case scenario is that we don't like each other and we call it a night. Meh. No big deal.

Sometimes It's an Emotional Roller Coaster

Except sometimes it can become a big deal. When you get along quite well and think you've got something good going that you enjoy, and then something happens to make you realize that maybe things aren't as good as you'd hoped. Let's be realistic. We're human, and that can happen. People naturally want to make connections, and when we make them, it can be really awesome. However, should the time come when disagreements occur, personalities clash or there's simply a realization that values are not in alignment, deciding that things aren't working out can really take an emotional toll. The idea of setting yourself up for that kind of letdown is also, quite frankly, scary as hell, and your emotions can totally be thrown out of whack. 

It's Exhausting

It just is. Absolutely fucking exhausting. You receive that notification in your inbox saying you've gotten a message. You're excited because this could be the beginning of a real, legitimate experience with someone nice. Then you head over to the dating site to read... "Hi." Hi? What the hell is that? That is a huge letdown. That's what that is. "Hi." That tells me absolutely nothing. I don't have time to even deal with that. So I don't. The whole "hi" phenomena is nothing compared with the raunch, the hostility and the degradation faced regularly in online dating encounters. I've been known to share some of the more interesting interactions on Facebook, and my friends tend to think they're humorous. They can be rather funny. They can also be tiring, and even frightening. To have to be bombarded with, "Hey, sexy." And then, "I said hey to you. Why don't you respond? You're a fucking bitch for not responding," on a regular basis really makes you begin to question just what is out there and if it's worth considering meeting up with any of these assholes in person, even on that rare occasion when you get a thoughtful message or interaction. And then? You get to start the dance all over again with the next interaction, hoping it may lead to a positive outcome with a decent and interesting human being. So tiring. 

These are just a few of the realities I've faced in my online dating experience. Because it has become a bit overwhelming, I've decided to take a break from the online dating world and have deactivated all of my accounts. My intention is to focus on family, work and home pursuits for a while because I think that's what is best for me right now. Again, I don't have any regrets about my dating experiences. I needed to have them when I did. It made sense for me at the time. Some people take a relationship break first, then dive in. I'm not like most people, and I've come to accept and embrace that. Dating right off the bat helped me to get away from my tendency to be reclusive. It pushed me to expand my horizons and gave me the opportunity to see what I like and don't like about different kinds of people. Now, however, I need a break. So, dear dating sites, I'm breaking up with you. For now. xoxo

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Hot or Not! App Review

January 30, 2014 3:55 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

I was recently asked to try out a new app called Hot or Not! that helps you meet people in your area. Since most of you know that I've been using dating sites for a number of months now since my separation and now divorce, it only made sense to give this one a go. Hot or Not! is a matchmaking sort of app for both mobile and Facebook use. I took some time to play with it and check it out, and I have to say it was kind of fun!

I will admit that I haven't had a lot of time to use the app, but so far I've set up my profile and rated guys in my area as to whether their apearance and profile are appealing to me. Setting up my initial profile was easy. I just filled in an About Me secton and added a photo. 

After a little more exploring, I discovered you could add your interests to your profile. The list of possible interests is extensive. That's good because you can be thorough and maybe discover that someone who has a quirky interest similar to yours. It can be a bit overwhelming and time consuming to wade through, though.

After setting up my profile, it was time to play Hot or Not! My best friend and I had a ball looking at photos of local guys and choosing a heart for those I thought were "hot" or an X for any who just were "not." At first, I was confused about whether I could do anything more than view the photographs, but I did soon find the icon that allowed me to read the profiles of those I found attractive. It really was fun to do. Now, it seems, that if someone I thought was hot also chooses hot for me, I'll get a notification. Then we can decide from there whether to reach out and make a connection.

You can also find Facebook friends with the app or even use it on Facebook. Check out the Hot or Not! Facebook page to learn more. There's also a contest going on right now from Hot or Not! where the winner will be awarded a $1000 gift card from a retailer of their choice. Head on over to the sweepstakes and sign up for a chanceto win. It's easy! 

So if you're looking for a fun way to connect with or meet dates in your area, I'd recommend trying the Hot or Not! app.

Filed under: dating, Review Tagged with: Hot or Not!, app, dating, review
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The Dangers of Asbestos in Homes and Appliances

January 23, 2014 6:47 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

Although asbestos hasn’t been used in decades to build homes and in the construction of most major appliances, the unfortunate fact is that millions of families in the United States live in older homes that was constructed during a time in which asbestos was heavily used. Years of research and studies performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral, was the direct cause of extremely dangerous diseases such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. Many asbestos victims have filed lawsuits against asbestos companies due to the devastating effects of asbestos on their health.

If you and your family live in an older home and/or have older appliances in the home, it’s important to understand just how hazardous asbestos is and what you can do to protect yourself and loved ones.

What is Asbestos and Why Was it Used?:

According to the National Cancer Institute, asbestos is a group of six minerals that’s found naturally in mines and under large boulders. It has a strong resistance to heat and fire, and therefore was once used extensively in products, equipment, and buildings. In the late 1970s, after many upheavals, the EPA regulated asbestos after it was found that the mineral’s fine fibers can easily be inhaled. Once ingested, these fibers will eventually wreak havoc inside the body and they are almost impossible to remove. When asbestos fibers stay in the body for too long, people risk developing life-threatening diseases.

Even though asbestos was banned from most job sites and products, anything previously built with asbestos, such as homes and appliances, were not demolished. As a result, there are arrays of older homes, built with asbestos, that are still occupied to this day, as well as a multitude of appliances.

Before Your Repair or Renovate Your Home

If you live in a home that was built prior to the early 1980s, do not do any repairs until a state-certified, qualified asbestos technician can inspect your home. Asbestos is not visible to the naked eye, and most states require a thorough inspection by a qualified technician before you can make any renovations on a home that contains asbestos.

For older appliances, be certain that children never play anywhere near the area. Asbestos is typically safe unless it’s disturbed. Even doing small repairs on appliances that contain asbestos may disturb the fibers. This also goes for old shed and/or abandoned buildings. Make sure your kids know to never play around these structures as there is a chance they may ingest airborne asbestos fibers. 

Remember, if you have any doubts at all as to whether your home or any appliances contain asbestos, it’s best to not take the chances of disturbing the fibers. Instead, seek qualified help in order to ensure that your family stays safe. 

Filed under: health Tagged with: dangers, asbestos, Health
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Eat Clean, Eat Simple With Good Food Made Simple

January 15, 2014 4:26 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

Do you even know what's in your food? Really, really know? Yeah, neither do I. I've been rather complacent for most of my adult life when it comes to the food I put in my body. I have friends in real life and in the blogging world who are very cognizant of the ingredients in their food, and I'm learning through them the benefits of eating more natural ingredients. 

Real, Convenient Food

Good Food Made Simple, a pre-packaged food company that only uses real foods grown on farms, wants to help in the pursuit of eating better and more naturally. They just launched their Eat Clean, Eat Simple campaign to challenge consumers to read the ingredient lists of the pre-packaged foods they eat. That's definitely a goal I can get behind. As a single, work-at-home mom, I must admit that I serve pre-packaged and frozen foods quite a bit. With Good Food Made Simple, I don't have to be ashamed to make that admission. Their food is all-natural; it doesn't contain preservatives, artificial flavors or other harmful additives. Good Food Made Simple is also convenient. Their meals can be ready and on your table in minutes. Can I tell you what that means to me? It's huge because I don't have to feel guiltyl for not feeding my kids something healthy on those days when I just can't take the time to prepare a meal ahead of time. Did I mention there tend to be a lot of those days lately? 

Here's what Good Food Made Simple sent me:

Variety

Check out the variety! My children love the mac n' cheese, made especially for kids. My favorite was the Mac & Jack. It's made with Cabot cheese. Yum! And the breakfast burritos? Loved them all. I'm not usually real big on the idea of egg whites. They just don't usually do it for me, but the egg white burritos contained enough other flavorful, real ingredients that I didn't even notice I was missing the yolks. 

Educating Consumers

With the Eat Clean, Eat Simple campaign, Good Food Made Simple is working to educate consumers and to help them understand what to look for when reading food labels. They've set up a website that features an unacceptable ingredients glossary, food myth of the week, ingredient quiz, valuable coupons and a sweepstakes opportunity to win a shopping spree with a food expert to explain smart label reading and clean food purchasing. I'd love to win that. 

Survey Says...

Good Food Made Simple conducted a survey to find out who's reading food labels and whether those who do are really understanding them. Turns out only about 35% of Americans always read the ingredient lists of packaged foods, and only half of those people make sure the ingredients are all clean. That was really surprising to me! The survey also found that 50% of respondents actually expect to find additives in their food. That really paints a vivid picture of our society's view of our food consumption and standards. I found it to be an alarming statistic. 

I'm so glad I had the chance to take part in sharing this campaign. it was an eye opener for me, and I now have a better idea of just how tasty and convenient real, clean food can be. I urge you to take a look at the Eat Clean, Eat Simple website to learn more about Good Food Made Simple and the ways you can make better, healthier choices when reading the labels on your food. 

* I was chosen to participate in the promotion of the Eat Clean, Eat Simple campaign and was compensated for my efforts. All opinions are my own. 

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My Latest Dating Site Encounter

January 6, 2014 1:01 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

My last post gave some insight into my dating experiences following my separation and divorce this past year. In case you missed it, it was about the lessons learned from the key men I met and focused on the positive. It was quite well received, and for that, I thank you. However, I know that some of my friends were hoping for a more humorous glimpse into some of the crazy I've encountered through the world of online dating. We all hear stories, but you can never have a true understanding of just what is out there until you've experienced it firsthand. Thankfully, I haven't personally had any horrible dates gone wrong. As I mentioned in my prior post, I do think I'm selective about the kinds of men I meet in person. However, the online interactions are amusing and plentiful enough to fill a book. 

photo credit: Kris Krug via photopin cc

In the beginning, I replied to every one. Just the sheer entertainment value was payoff enough for me, even if I never went out on one single successful date. It was fun to challenge them and to mess with their little minds. Except it soon got old. There are only so many ways you can reply to, "Hey, sexy," or, "You into BDSM, Goddess?" Though I must admit that last one was original. That was a fun conversation. Anyway, I soon began ignoring approaches from men who gave me nothing to work with or who simply gave me the creeps. But then, a 24 year-old local man contacted me at six o'something this morning after a sleepless night, and I just couldn't hold my tongue. Here's our exchange.

Him: Hookup?

Me: How about you give me a reason why I would want to. What the hell kind of approach is this? I'm not impressed. To give a woman an intro like that, you'd better be able to back it up and make her think you're worth her time. I'm not seeing it.

Him: It's a straight, to the point intro. What will help convince you?

Him: I mean are you interested at all? 

Him: I mean I can talk about how big I am or what I can do or how attractive I am. Would that help? 

Well, bless his heart. At least he's asking for help. Having actually taken the time to interact with him, I do feel a bit of a responsibility to help him out a bit and provide some pointers on his, um, technique. So it's likely this young man will be getting a response from me, as soon as I've had some more coffee. Lots more coffee. What would you tell him? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!

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A Sincere Thank You to the Men I Dated in 2013

January 2, 2014 12:33 pm · Posted by marybabysteps

This past year was a whirlwind of change and new experiences for me, many of which were brought about by my divorce. It was most definitely an emotional time. I felt a full range of emotions, everything from pure elation to the deepest of fears. I also learned a lot, mostly about myself. As odd as it may sound, I have the world of online dating to thank for much of my introspection and personal growth this year. 

Yes, I really did just type that last sentence without laughing. It's true. While this list isn't comprehensive, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some of the men who played pivotal roles in the life lessons that shaped me in 2013. After having been out of the dating scene for about 18 years, I can tell you that it's a completely different world from what I remember. Add the variety and immediacy of the online sites, and you've got a potentially overwhelming situation. I know I made some missteps and probably could've handled various situations differently, but I have to say that I was always very selective about which men I actually chose to meet with in person. This selectivity is what's led me to walk away from my foray into the dating world this year with an overall positive experience and a wealth of lessons learned. 

Sincere thanks to:

The Ivy League PhD

I thought I'd hit the jackpot with one of my very first online connections. Anyone who knows me well knows that intelligence is my primary criteria for a partner. I appreciate being able to hold stimulating conversations with someone who has a deep understanding of the world. Also? A big brain is a huge turn on for me. Huge. When I met him in person, it became immediately apparent that the connection with "Harvard" was genuine on many levels. That man showed me what it could be to truly dream. We had many conversations about the kinds of things we ultimately wanted in life. He encouraged me to look beyond my current situation and that the things I wanted for myself were within my reach. Before meeting him, it had been a very long time since I had allowed myself to be open to all the possibilities life has to offer and to know that I have what it takes to actually attain them. 

The Man Who's Stronger Than He Knows

Around the very same time I met "Harvard," I was also getting to know a man with more internal strength and fortitude than anyone I've ever met. You see, this man has certain physical limitations that would cause many to give up. Once I started to know him, I took the time to do some research. I learned from the personal stories of others that this man has accomplished what a number of them weren't able to do. He pushed himself to live independently, and that's a bigger achievement than many of us realize. I'm pretty sure it's a bigger accomplishment than he even realizes himself. This guy is not only strong, he's incredibly sweet. That's the word that always comes to mind when I think of him, so I will refer to him as, "Sweet Man" from here on out. This "Sweet Man" and I have so many things in common. Most prevalent are our core beliefs. Connecting with him allowed me to be myself and to speak freely on so many of the issues that are important to me. Ultimately, we found that there were some key differences in the ways in which we approach the world; however, I'll always love him and still hope to be able to maintain a friendship with him in the future. Thank you, "Sweet Man," for showing me what it means to genuinely  connect with someone again, as well as reminding me just how strong can truly be. 

The Sensual Literature Professor

In every woman's dating life, there is that one person who is just hot. At least, in my opinion, there should be. Otherwise, what's the point in dating? For me, "The Lit Professor" was that guy. I met him on a dating site. We got together in person very soon after we started talking. Let's just say I didn't approach this relationship from a practical perspective. There wasn't a lot of thought about whether this guy and I had a lot in common or even whether we had much to talk about! He was beautiful and sensual. Being a professor of literature and writing also meant he had a way with words. Did I mention he was beautiful? Um, yeah, what I was saying? Right. Thank you to "The Lit Professor" for reminding me to focus on my sexy side, as well. Having held the roles of "wife" and "mother" for so long, it's easy for a woman to let that part of her fade away. I am happy to say I'm quite confident this is no longer the case for me.

The Sexy Guy Who's Seen Celebrities Naked

Uh huh, I said, "seen celebrities naked." He works behind the scenes in television and film and was in Pittsburgh for a short while doing a show. I came across his profile on a dating site and had originally thought there'd be no point in contacting him. He was only going to be in the area for anther month, and he was from Los Angeles with this incredibly glamorous seeming job and lifestyle. The beauty of online dating, however, is that it really doesn't take any courage to contact someone. There's no worry about facing a personal rejection. I've made it my rule to contact anyone whose profile speaks to me in some way. So, because this guy's profile was so interesting and we matched highly, I dropped him a line. Boy, he sure took his time in replying. But when he did, it was apparent he'd be a fun person to know. When I got together with "The Southerner," as he's indicated he'd like to be called, I knew right away there was something there. Despite the fact that he'd be going home to LA soon, I had no reservations about just going with the flow and seeing where things took us. "The Southerner" taught me to really be in the moment. Above all else, he reminded me of what I wanted in any future interactions with men. He was my "a-ha moment." Being with him made me see what it was like not to settle in any way. When I was with him, there was no little voice in the back of my mind telling me that something didn't feel right or that I could do better. There was no nagging instinct reminding me that things with this person were headed nowhere or that I was only here because I felt lonely or because I was looking for the validation of another to feel worthy. Sure, part of that may have been because I knew my "Sexy Face," as I like to call him, was leaving soon. But, overall, I believe it was because of the honest connection we had. Despite the short time he was in the area, this one really stepped up to show he's one of the good ones and has given me every indication to believe I have a true friend. Honestly, that's the epitome of what I hope for in any of my dating interactions. 

The One Who Proves Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Finally, I'd like to round out this list with the most recent man I've met through online dating. This man contacted me not long ago, knowing full well there was a criteria of mine he did not meet. The fact that he reached out to me anyway, along with the confident way in which he presented himself, went a long way toward my accepting a date with him. And am I ever glad I did. "Coach," as he tells me he'd like to be referred to in any blog posts, definitely proves that appearances can be deceiving. He's adorable, don't get me wrong. But his look doesn't give any indication of the depth that lies beneath. This man has made me think more than any other. He's given me reason and encouragement to explore my boundaries. He's very communicative. I always know where I stand with him, and that is definitely something that's been missing in my previous relatonships. I'm beyond excited to see where this one goes, but I'm also very content to just enjoy the ride. So, "Coach," thank you for instilling confidence in me to know that it's safe to push myself and to let go of my need for control, while at the same time providing a certain stability I've been missing. 

So there they are - my dating highlights of 2013. Overall, I'd say I did a pretty damn good job, having jumped into the dating pool after all these years. I definitely accomplished my goal of meeting new and interesting people that enhanced my life and helped to make me an overall better person. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings!

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You Could Win a Home Theater System and a Year's Supply of Hostess Treats in the Twinkie Minion Makeover Sweepstakes!

December 23, 2013 2:08 am · Posted by marybabysteps

We are big Hostess fans around here. My kids definitely inherited their mom's sweet tooth. So, of course, when I was given a chance to pass along news of a contest whose prize includes a year's supply of Hostess treats, I didn't hesitate to jump on board. What also appealed to me about this contest is that it requires a bit of creativity on the part of those who enter, and it looks like a lot of fun! Here are the details:

HOSTESS INVITES FANS TO GIVE TWINKIES A MINION MAKEOVER! Hostess and Universal Studios Celebrate the Despicable Me 2 release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD with The Twinkie Minion Makeover Sweepstakes! The Limited Edition Minion Makeover Packaging hits shelves as the holiday season gets underway. Hostess is inviting fans across the country to kick up their creativity and dress up their favorite golden, crème-filled treats and “Minion-ize” their Twinkies for the chance to win great prizes. Now through January 5, 2014, Hostess lovers can make the season a little brighter by visiting https://www.facebook.com/Hostess and https://www.Facebook.com/Hostess/app_170621563134175 to download a collection of Minion accessories, and make their own Twinkie Minion. Fans can then upload pictures of their creations to enter to win a daily instant prize, which includes a Despicable Me 2 Blu-ray™ and special offers from Hostess, or the grand prize, which includes a Home Theater System, a collection of 30 Blu-rays and a year’s supply of Hostess treats.

So am I right? It does look like a fun contest. Plus, it's an excuse to buy Twinkies. Not to mention, it gives you an activity to work on with the kids over the holiday break. What are you waiting for? Go on. Get started on making your own Twinkie Minion! And when you win that year's supply of Hostees treats, don't forget who told you about the contest, okay? I know you'll be happy to share with me, right? Thanks, and good luck!

* Sponsored Post - I will receive compensation for this post, though all opinions are my own. Anyone who has known me for any length of time whatsoever knows I am a true fan of the Twinkie. Yum.

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What to do When Your Life Insurance Application is Declined

December 4, 2013 12:33 am · Posted by marybabysteps

Just because your life insurance application has been declined does not mean you have to give up on life insurance. Some people apply several times before getting their application approved. It has been estimated that 75% of declined life insurance applications can be turned into approvals – it’s just a matter of finding out why it was declined, and then fixing the problem.

There are various reasons why a life insurance application may be declined. The applicant may have a pre-existing medical condition, they may have a high risk job or hobby, they may be overweight, or have used drugs in the past. Or there could be something missing or erroneous in the application. The GIO life insurance page is designed to help you make the right decision, get all your questions answered today.

If you have had your life insurance application declined, here are the steps to follow.

Think about who declined your application

Many life insurance providers will not take on a life insurance applicant if even one part of the application has failed. This may be a pre-existing medical condition such as Type 1 diabetes, or a history of mental health issues. The key to solving this issue is finding a life insurance provider that is willing to overlook whatever other providers do not.

Find out why your application was declined

This is the most important step in the process. It’s important to find out exactly why the application was declined. Contact the insurance provider or underwriter to ask them for the exact reason.

Some providers may say it was declined due to the information on your medical records, or because of lab test results. If this is the case, you need to dig deeper. You need to try to find out the exact reason for the decline.

To get this information, you may need to give your insurer authorisation to send the details of why the application was declined to your medical provider. These steps will vary according to the country and state you live in, so check locally for more information on this one.

Check Your Medical Records

If you are unable to find out anything more specific than the application was declined due to information in your medical records, you will need to scour your medical records for more clues. Medical records are not always correct, and it’s up to you to find that error and get it corrected.

Check your medical records for instances where your doctor asked you to get a second opinion and you never did. Where you stopped taking medication before your doctor advised it. For life insurance providers and underwriters, your doctor’s opinion is ‘law’. If there is something in your medical records that they don’t like, it’s up to you to prove it’s not an issue with a second opinion.

Reapply With the Right Insurer

Once you have sorted out the issue that caused your application to be declined in the past, it’s time to reapply. Find an insurer that offers you the policy you need, and make sure the cost of the policy is competitive.

If you have found out the reason behind your declined application, and there is nothing you can do about it, it’s time to look for an insurer that will offer you life insurance despite that reason. Do your homework and find the right insurer for you.

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