Saying Goodbye to Page 139/Remembering Judge Ira Uhrig


Bellingham Police Department

At times, something long-expected arrives unexpectedly.

I’d been deliberately scaling back on Facebook in May. Partly to manage my writing time better and largely to reduce anxiety, for a while, I embraced the calm.

And then, I had a sick feeling. I’d not heard from my old friend Ira in a couple of weeks, even after writing him twice about his birthday.

I pulled up his Facebook profile, and there it was.

His death announcement.

***

It never occurred to me that my dear friend would not be there to speak with me about the death of my dear  friend. It never dawned on me that I would find out on social media that his non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma he’d fought for years was finally over.

I met Ira Uhrig when I was 19. He was a young lawyer in the town where I first attended college. A friend set us up on a blind date, and while I wasn’t mature enough then to understand that a loyal, humorous, intelligent, artistic, compassionate, and hard-working person could indeed be the catch of a lifetime, we became instant and lifelong friends. (Not too much later, a lovely mutual friend was smart enough to realize what I didn’t, and wisely scooped him up!)

Ira tried to teach me to drive back then. He failed. Ira tried to teach me guitar back then. Again, failure. Ira then searched for my long-lost father. And that was a huge success.

In June of 1985, I met my father and so many more siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins than I knew existed. What a lifelong game-changer. Ira thanked me for the opportunity, and after every family reunion I have attended since then, he’d been so ecstatic to get my family’s updated photos.

Ira had his own chapter in my memoir in its early drafts. By the time the final edits were complete, he was mentioned in a page, a fact he loved to tease about. He couldn’t have been more supportive, buying copies of Pieces of Me for friends and colleagues alike, asking them if they wanted him to autograph his page.

I will miss getting daily Facebook updates on what happened on this day in history. I will miss Ira’s corny jokes and frequent YouTube forwards of old gospel or country music. I will miss his words of encouragement, his genuine interest in all of the people in his world, hearing stories about his work as a judge, and the updates about his large and talented family.

Last year, after a Seattle book reading/signing event at the University, I took a train to see Ira one last time. It felt like a goodbye. But then he bounced back. It seemed as though he was beginning to make gains on his health concerns.

At times, something long-expected arrives unexpectedly. And the hurt inflicted is both dull and sharp.

Ira’s death is sad for his family, the Whatcom County community,  and for all who knew him. 

I read that death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

Thank you, Ira Uhrig, for not only reuniting me with my father, my birth name, and my family, but for decades of memories. I will hold them close, forever.

Is it Verbal Abuse or Basic Rudeness? What is the Difference?

Have you ever asked yourself if your love interest is verbally abusive, or simply experiences bouts of unfortunate humanity?

Often, we issue labels for behavior without looking at the context. I think it’s worth noting that there are differences.

To review the verbal/emotional abuse continuum below.
 
Does your partner
  • Embarrass you with put-downs?
  • Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
  • Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
  • Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Make all of the decisions?
  • Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Prevent you from working or attending school?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
  • Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
  • Force you to try and drop charges?
  • Threaten to commit suicide?
  • Threaten to kill you?

I thought about this recently when one of my adult daughters entered in to a new relationship. When I heard her new beau teased her twice for having “bad grammar” after she’d disclosed she was dyslexic to him, I was ready to mow him over.

“He’s abusive,” I told a male friend with near certainty.

When I gave him the rundown on what little I knew, my friend stopped me. “He’s still a boy. He may be 27 years-old, but he’s still just a kid. He’ll only learn how to behave better if she lets him know her limits and expectations.”

Point well-taken. We’re not born knowing how to relate appropriately. We have to learn how to relate. And it requires feedback.

There are a few ways to determine whether or not the hurtful words spoken by another are emotionally abusive, or just a gaffe.


oneinfour
 
 Domestic violence is when one person intentionally uses a pattern of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse for the purpose of controlling their partner.
 

Here’s what’s key.

The words have to be intentional.

The words must be a part of a pattern.  Repeated, not just one isolated incident.

Their purpose is to intimidate or control the recipient. That control could occur by wearing her down, having her second guess herself and her talents, or making her feel she isn’t capable on her own.


That’s different than just saying something mean, something we have all done at one time or another. And then there are those of us who experience compromised social skills due to a pervasive development disorder, mental health disorder, or other issue.The bottom line?To find out if your sweetheart is emotionally abusive, find the gumption early on to set a limit.

“I’m not stupid.  I don’t have bad grammar, and your saying so hurts my feelings.”

Then gauge the response. An apology is a good start, but it’s worthless if the insult is recurrent.

You deserve to be treated well. We all do. So set your boundaries, and observe how they’re respected by your partner. And if you determine you are experiencing any type of abuse, remember, information and support are available to you. Call 1-800-799-SAFE.

When Online Dating and Reuniting with Lost Siblings Intersect/The story of Erik de Vries and Josephine Egberts

These days, since I’m working on a few different projects, I’m not always certain which direction to focus my blog posts.

I’ve revised my memoir and given it to my editor (yay, me!) for an assessment, and I’m giving my novel a last tweak, now that it’s done. And I wrote the mini-guide for men and women on online dating safety to help with my platform. So do I write on my favorite topics the memoir covers, like domestic violence, finding lost family members, child kidnapping? Or do I focus solely on the novel and explore different ways we find love, like online dating?

lizphoto
1985-Meeting my dad and some of my siblings.

And then I read about long-lost siblings Josephine Egberts and Erik de Vries, who recently reunited in the most peculiar way: through online dating site Tinder. Touche! It’s a perfect blending.

A family divorce had the siblings living in different countries fifteen years ago. And though the two didn’t recognize one another’s profile pictures, their stories mirrored one another as they began getting to know one another and sharing details about their parent’s turbulent divorces

I found my own father in 1985 through my dear friend and attorney Ira Uhrig. Ira dialed the phone number listed to my father in Louisville, Kentucky. The phone had been connected for less than an hour.  Through that call, I learned I have scads of siblings and aunts and uncles that had been missing me.  It all seemed so surreal. Thirty years later, as I prepare to see the family in early June, it still does.

But meeting a long-lost sibling on an online dating site? Now that is truly shocking.  And wonderful.

When you get a chance at love, why not take it? 

Where has your search for love taken you lately?

Thanks always for stopping by.

Love My Kindle Interview about Online Dating Safety: Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Go and Online Dating Horror Stories/ A Man’s Side

I knew that blogging would lead me to other writing projects, and it has. Today, I was interviewed on Love My Kindle. 

Below is part of the interview. Go to http://www.lovemykindle.com/love-these-interviews/interview-with-author-lizbeth-meredith for the whole read.

Interview with author Lizbeth Meredith

This week’s interview is with author Lizbeth Meredith. Lizbeth shares with us a little about her, what inspires her and her book Online Safety: Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Go.

Greetings Lizbeth and welcome to Love My Kindle. We’d love for you to tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a probation officer living in Alaska. I am the mother of two grown daughters that I raised by myself as their sole supporter, and as soon as they were grown, I began tending to the things I love: writing, reading, and budget solo travel. Now I blog at lameredith.com and am a contributor to A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Aloneby Gemma Thompson (on Amazon, too!).

What inspired you to take up writing? (Was it something you always wanted to do or did it creep up on you at some point?)

As a young child, I began writing poems, usually about me and my imagined death on my tire swing.

I gave up writing when I survived the tire swing (probably fifth grade), picking it up again when I found myself traveling the globe to rescue my kidnapped daughters when I was barely off food stamps and still in my twenties.

Is there a particular author or book that influenced you as a child or an adult?

I love reading memoirs of everyday people. I also enjoy fiction by Sherman Alexie and Elizabeth McCracken.

Speaking of books, what are you reading now?

Currently, I’m reading Family Furnishings by Alice Munro, Flip Flops After 50, by Cindy Eastman, and I’m re-reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Time to dish. We’d love to hear about your book. Give us the skinny on what sparked the idea for this book and what it’s about.

I decided to write Online Safety: Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Go after requests by friends and even a local romance writer’s group on tips about how to be protected from online scammers and violent people when dating online. I’d already written about related topics like domestic violence a good bit, but this is different. Different and the same. Men can be victims easily of online dating ploys, and for both genders, being in the write space before embarking is important, so I wrote this bite-sized book that costs less than a cup of coffee.

What project are you working on now?

I’ve nearly completed my re-write of my novel Facing the Odds, One Man at a Time about a middle-aged single mother’s journey to find her perfect match, only to conclude her energies are best spent becoming the woman of her dreams. I continue to plug away at my memoir about recovering my kidnapped children with the help of a developmental editor.

You know what time it is! Tell us where your book is available and how readers can connect with you.

My book is available on Amazon here.

Here’s my Amazon author page.

SO, my venture on Match last spring didn’t produce a love match, but it did produce a mini-book and a few new friends, and a few blog posts like the one below. Not too shabby, I’d say!

Thank you to the staff at Love My Kindle, and thanks for reading faithfully.

I keep plugging along in my efforts to get out of the house and mix it up a bit with Match.com.

unnamedPartly driven by my hope I will meet someone I adore, and mostly driven by my need to get new stories for my novel, I’ve made a firm commitment to have twenty different coffee dates by summer’s end.

One of my favorite moments in every online date is when the hour is wrapping up, and I ask him to tell me about his worst online dating experience so far. (This will become significantly less enjoyable once my date mentions that it’s been his time with me, but so far, so good.)

This weekend’s coffee date was a pleasant-looking Lutheran construction worker who had sole custody of his four children, ages 7 and up. He told me he’d recently injured his heel and had surgery, and his online date met him at a restaurant/bar soon after he was ok’d to drive again.

She told him that she was a social worker, and chatted him up easily. She’s enjoyed an adult beverage  or more before his arrival, and within the first half hour, she planned their future together out loud told him she’d hold off meeting his kids for the first month. He said he was terrified.  “My son needs a ride to soccer soon,” he told her, excusing himself early from the date.

“Do you need help driving, with your foot and all?” she asked sweetly,  looking down at his cast.

“Nope. Thanks. I’m good. “ He said he gave her a quick hug goodbye and left, fast as he could. He’d driven his company car to the date, and as he was about to get in, he felt someone approach him from behind.

It was her.  She put a hand in each of his pockets with her cheek resting on his back. “Need help finding your keys?” She rooted around in a grabby manner that told him she was not actually looking for his keys.

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The following Monday, his dreadful date called him at work. She’d made note of the phone number on the company vehicle, and continued to ring him for a week or more afterwards.

What can be learned by such a dating disaster?

  • Dating isn’t just risky for women. 

Mr. X said he didn’t realize until returning home that his hands were shaking. It was scary. Had the situation happened to me,  I’d be mortified.

  • Coffee is a better bet for the first date when meeting a stranger.  Less of a financial commitment, and coffee or tea never blurs judgment.
  • It’s helpful to park your vehicle away from line of sight when going on a first online date. Though it doesn’t happen often, your new friend can track your address from your driver’s plate number.

I cannot tell a lie; I enjoy the stories I hear of dates gone wrong much more than dating successes. But they’re also why I tell anyone who will listen to exercise universal precautions. It’s better to plan for safety unnecessarily than it is to be caught unprepared.

Do you have an online dating story you’d like to share? Email me at Liza8m@gmail.com.

Have a great week.

The Art of Talking To Strangers/When It’s Time to Throw Caution to the Wind

My daughters with cats
My daughters with cats

This weekend, I had an epiphany.

For the past twenty years, I’ve been talking to my now-grown daughters about things like stranger-danger and picking safe friends, later followed by picking a safe partner. And yes, it’s good to follow a sort of universal precaution about potential mates, given that 1 in 4 women in the United States are abused in an intimate relationship. Still, I may have gone overboard.

How can I tell, exactly?

So this weekend, when we went on a mother-daughter camping weekend, I watched their eyes widened when I began chatting up strangers. The Greek chef at local eatery who told them about life at home, and how. The berry-picker from Australia who’s living with her adult son in an old van for six months while they travel the United States.

I do it all the time when I travel. But at home, I avoid talking to strangers at all costs. I’m too busy, crankily making my way through the never-ending chore list at work and at home.

photo 1
My daughter with her cat.

We have to talk to strangers. To gain and maintain employment. To find love. To make new and interesting friendships that breathe life into our old ones. I find that when I’m vulnerable or relaxed, the better me is there, ready to chat with a stranger, ready to hear and remember their stories, ready to embrace the idea of a new adventure.

My daughters watched incredulously as I accepted the invitation to visit our new friends in their van, and I watched them relax into the conversation, where we learned about the Aussie mom’s solo travels to Iran, Syria, and Laos. Where we heard from the charming son how one travels with their mom in such a tight space without any obvious signs of hostility. We were inspired by our new friends. They’re now our Facebook friends. A travel link to Australia. Our inspiration when we’re elbowing one-another in our thimble-sized bathroom in the morning.

Today, blogger Nina at the Art of Simple Living Writes —

To start, make a point of talking to someone you’re acquainted with but don’t know very well. They’re familiar, but you still have to work to engage with them and build a relationship.

Get out of your environment

Home is cozy. It’s yours and you don’t have to talk unless you want to. But if you want to get out of your shell, you first have to get out of your environment and hang out with … other people. Scary, I know.

No really, I know.

But it’s the only way to meet people. Unless you want to start hosting dinners at your house, then go for it. But you can’t hide in the kitchen all night.

Get passionate

Would you rather talk with Emeril Lagasse about pork fat or Dave Ramsey about debt snowballs? That’s a trick question.

I would say both because of their passion about their respective topics, which draws people in (or repels them, which works out well for you in the end).

Sharing your passion with others, be it travel, cooking or simple living makes it easier for you to open up and more enjoyable for the person talking with you.

Tell a better story

One of my fears was that people would come say hi, then walk away because I was just so boring.

If you have a deep desire to come out of your shell, chances are your story might not be so hot. It’s ok. It’s never too late to change.

Life doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time, but you should definitely start sprinkling in moments of awesomeness where you can.

Take dancing lessons, learn a new language, travel, volunteer, take up a new sport, move into a school bus. Sign up for something that sounds fun but scares your pants off.

Start living your life as the amazing story that it is. Once you feel truly alive, it’s hard to hide it. Relating to others is a natural by-product.”

 Perfectly said, Nina.

Safety is important. But we need one another to allow love and safety to meet.

How Do You Know When You’ve Found the One?

How do you know when you’ve found the one?

I’ve asked my successfully coupled friends and family at various times.

screen1136x1136It’s not like I would know. I haven’t had a relationship that’s lasted more than five years. Ever. And soon I’ll be fifty!

If you’re math challenged like I am, that means that only one quarter of my 32 adult years have been spent coupled.

(¼ of 32= 8.) And those eight years were made up by two relationships. Eek!

And yet?

Over the years, I have learned a lot about me and what I need, and even though I may go long periods without a date, my gut speaks to me immediately when a boundary is violated.

I don’t want to be rushed, crowded, or squashed.

I need to be listened to.

Feeling safe is a must. A potential partner must be in control of his own life. His financial, physical, and emotional fitness cannot be my responsibility, just as mine will never be his responsibility.

I want someone who looks to resolve conflicts, not to win them or be right.

I want someone who is positive and who is a planner. A person who emerges from a crisis with more insight. And who can tell me with ease what plans have been made for retirement. For aging. For the end of life.

photo 2(2)Do I ask too much?

Probably. But I can wait. I’ve waited 24 years since my divorce. After spending a lot of time with a new beau and his friends recently, I had the happy realization that no matter what happens, I do indeed have someone I’ve watched grow and evolve to embody the qualities I seek. Me!

As goofy as it sounds, I spent much of my youth thinking one day I would be rescued by the man of my dreams. I became an adult when I put more energy on becoming the woman of my dreams.

So how do you know you’ve found the one?

I can’t say for sure at the moment. But I do know I won’t torture myself in a search for anything less than what I offer. And I’ll do my best to enjoy the process.

IF I’M SO WONDERFUL, WHY AM I STILL SINGLE? Author Susan Page Answers Your Questions Now

Several months ago, I revived one of my favorite classic self-help books and interviewed its wonderful author, Susan Page. This time, I listened a little better to her advice as I sifted through an assortment of single men, and I’m pleased with how things went.

If you haven’t read one of her books, I encourage you to pick one up.

I am honored to have one of my favorite authors as this week’s guest.

I first read Susan Page’s renowned book If I’m So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?  when I turned forty, just after a dear family member mentioned that the odds of me finding a life partner was shrinking as fast as the Alaskan glaciers. 

 This bestselling relationship book has been published in 18 languages and has sold more than 158,000 copies in the mass market paperback alone. Though Susan Page has been on Oprah and her book has been excerpted in numerous publications, she responded immediately when I requested an interview.

Welcome, Susan Page. Thank you for your time!

Q.You were not yet married when you began writing this book, now published for over 25 years.  Which strategies did you employ that helped you connect with your future husband, or alternatively, which strategies did you develop from your experience in this successful relationship?
 
Perhaps the most important strategy I used is that I was willing to date people who did not seem to be my type. Mayer (my husband) and I would never have been matched up by a computer, and I would never have chosen his profile from a dating site. I am a Methodist minister, and he is Jewish. I had in mind a highly educated, professional person, maybe a university professor for example. He was a college dropout and an artist. The first time I met him, I was sure this could never work, but in accord with my philosophy, I saw him again. Turns out he was a very successful artist and a clever entrepreneur and a totally wonderful man. We decided to get married on our fourth date.
 
Another important strategy for me was, “No more short-term relationships!” As soon as I realized the person I was with was not “the one,” I stopped seeing the person. I wanted to keep my time and my energy clear. When I met Mayer, I was completely unattached and free to proceed with him. — Relationships that are clearly short term — I call them BTN Relationships: Better Than Nothing —  are a drain, not only on your time and your energy, but also on your self esteem. You can’t feel great about yourself when you stay with someone who you know is a compromise for you. It’s often hard to break out of these relationships because they are comfortable and feelings may be hurt. But if you are seeking a life-long partner, it’s important to end your BTN!
 
If_Im_so_wonderful_why_am_I_still_single_book_frontQ. Your book is timeless in its universal themes, helpful for single women and women  who are ambivalent about the future of the relationship they are in. Was it your extensive work with singles that gave you your material? And how much have dating and  relationship issues changed since it’s publication in the 80’s?
 
As soon as I was seized with the idea for the book, I began conducting workshops to test my ideas. I ended up conducting these workshops for singles, and later for couples, for twenty-two years before I retired from that aspect of my work. I have trained others to conduct the workshops for couples that I pioneered. The workshops gave me a great deal of material for the book: ideas and anecdotes from people who were actively using the strategies I suggested.
 
Dating issues have not changed in all the years I’ve been working. People still need to explore their hidden ambivalence, to act in more decisive ways, to be more courageous and more open, to move through their fears. Work on all these issues is simultaneous work on hidden problems with self esteem. For anyone seriously struggling with dating, I highly recommend working with a dating coach who knows how to assist you with all of these issues. The consistency and accountability of a dating coach makes an extraordinary difference, to say nothing of the insights such a person can facilitate. I highly recommend the coaches on my website: susanpage.com.
 
Q. What was the most enjoyable part of writing this book?
 
I began writing it because I saw that my attitudes about dating were different from the attitudes of the singles around me. It was thrilling to see others adopt my strategies and philosophies and then succeed. It’s still enjoyable for me to receive e-mails and letters from grateful readers who “got” the insights in my books and changed their lives.
 
San Miguel Writer’s Conference
Q. Please tell us about the San Miguel International Writer’s Conference? How many people attend on average, and what is the focus of it?

The San Miguel Writers’ Conference and Literary Festival is five days of workshops, keynote addresses, agent pitch sessions, open mic readings, and much more. As a writer, you get to choose eight workshops (our of 56 offered) by world-class writers and teachers. Previous keynote speakers include Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Tom Robbins, Naomi Wolf, and many others. In February 2014, our featured speakers are Pat Conroy (The Great Santini, Prince of Tides); Yann Martel (Life of Pi); Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate); Benjamin Saenz (PEN/Faulkner Award winner); David Whyte (poet), and others. The parties and receptions we put on are world-class also. Our Mexican Fiesta has become legendary! — As the “Creative Crossroads of the Americas,” we draw faculty and participants from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The entire Conference is bilingual. 

Q. If you had to boil it down, what would be the most important quality a woman to possess before she begins pursuing a relationship? 
 
She needs an attitude of openness. I can’t emphasize this enough. Most women are guarded and suspicious of men, making it difficult and scary for a man to approach them. They are quick to be judgmental and to look for reasons to reject a man. An attitude of openness will not get you in trouble. You can still be in control of any situation. 
  
Smile a lot. Let the world know that your heart is open. Learn the “non-demanding smile.” 
Here’s an experiment that could teach you a lot about yourself:
Sit in a popular coffee shop from eight to ten one morning. Have a book or newspaper. Sit near the door. For everyone who walks in, look up, give the person a nice welcoming smile, and go back to your book. Pretend you are on the cosmic greeting committee, and your job is to make everyone feel good and welcome. It’s totally non-demanding, just a gift you are giving each person. The point is to see how this makes you feel. Also try it all day at work. Try smiling at 50 people in one day. — It’s not the actual smiling I’m after here. It’s the attitude that goes with it, the feeling that you are open and warm and easy to approach. — And give a man a chance. Give him a second chance. Unless you encounter a real deal breaker on the first date, if he’s interested, go on at least three dates before you decide.
Q. You’ve written several popular books on relationships now including another title I love, Why Talking Is Not Enough. How can interested readers reach you to work more closely with you on their dating and relationship issues?

 My website is www.susanpage.com 

I have discontinued the workshops I conducted for twenty-two years, but I do train others to conduct them. (I am actually looking for a partner who would enjoy training others to conduct these distinctive workshops.) I highly recommend the brilliant dating and relationship coaches on my staff, whom I have trained, and who can also be reached through my website.

The San Miguel International Writer’s Conference is on February 12-17 this year!  Check out the link. Writer Calvin Trillin is this year’s keynote speaker!

Celebrating the Unexpected: You Can Find Love Online

Courtesy of Alaska Dispatch
Courtesy of Alaska Dispatch

How many times do we envision one outcome and end up with another?

Lately, that’s all I’ve got going on.

There are the little things.  My long awaited Memorial Day weekend went wonky when a wildfire made breathing for all of us Alaskan’s a bit more challenging.

Goodbye, rafting plans. Hello, cable television. Fortunately, there were some great films on, and I know I’m fortunate that my home is not in the line of fire.

My heater broke (frankly, what better time in Alaska to have your heater break than in summer?) and one of my daughter’s relationship ended when her boyfriend’s cat pooped in her shoe.

LuLu and Oliver
LuLu and Oliver

Didn’t see any of that coming.

The bigger news. After two solid months of my modest effort on Match.com, I’m happy to shut down my account and return to my quiet life. Quiet, but not entirely solitary.

I had expected I would get out of the house a bit, and I did. I expected I would meet some characters, and I did. I had hoped to hear some great stories, and I definitely did. But I also did make a worthwhile connection worth looking into.

But who knew it was Craigslist that would provide me with nearly instant and unconditional love? A love safe enough that I would throw caution to the wind and share a ride in the same car on our very first meeting?

I now am a true believer: It is possible to find love online. And I definitely did not see that coming.

Dating in Alaska/Facing the Challenge

It’s been so gorgeous out these past days, I’m behind in writing. I’m sharing a bit from my novel, Facing the Odds, One Man at a Time. Sometimes fiction perfectly mirrors real life.

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Complicating matters on the dating front is the place I live: Alaska.

Arguably one of the prettiest states in the union, Alaska is also one of the most rugged places for a single woman to live. Despite the fact that I live in Anchorage, the largest city in the state with nearly 300,000 residents, it’s not uncommon to have a moose or a bear traipse through my tiny patch of a yard in the summertime. Once in the winter the snow was so deep I got high-centered in my car and had to wait for a neighbor to rescue me. Light all night long in summer and dark all day long in winter (which begins in October and lasts until May), the combination of snow, cold, and darkness here can transform a sunny personality into one miserable human. It’s startling to see how much of my energies are fueled by the sun and sapped by the darkness.

Because it’s the Last Frontier, Alaska seems to attract a unique brand of men. Men who love hunting. Men who love fishing. Killing and carving. Men who mount the heads of their deceased on their walls and call it art.

I once met a Sudanese immigrant at a friend’s house who diagnosed the problem of dating in Alaska with surgical precision. “Alaska attracts strong, educated, and independent women. And it attracts men who fall under the ‘let me hunt and fish, smoke my pot, and beat my wife.’ The two genders don’t combine so well.” He’d laughed at this.

By my estimation, he was spot on.

In rural Alaska, the men have long outnumbered the women by five to one, so Alaskan women can recite the phrase “The odds are good but the goods are odd.”

It’s not an easy place to find a partner, even when you’re young. And I’m not young anymore.

Back in my twenties, I was thrilled when a man offered to take me anywhere. Denny’s? Perfect! Any departure from my established routine of eating the girls’ sandwich crusts while clearing the dishes was welcome, even if it meant I had to stay up all night catching up on my homework.

But somewhere in my mid-thirties, I began to get pickier. Was it because I was layering my full-time work with the girls’ sports and events plus graduate school? No doubt that was part of it. But the other part was based on experience.

My dating habits over the years have mirrored my eating habits. I diet. I diet. I diet. And I binge.

The same is true regarding my social life, I am alone. I’m alone. I’m alone. And by the time I realize that I’m more than alone, I’m painfully lonely, I go full-throttle to try to meet someone. I jump at the first morsel that comes my way, and because my vision has been dimmed by loneliness, at first our together-time seems sweet and full of possibility.

IMG_3714Then it hits me, a familiar feeling of frustration and claustrophobia.   It’s hard to narrow down what exactly pisses me off. Needy men. Aloof men. Pregnant-looking men. Skinny men. Men whose teeth skim their forks as they eat. Men who recite the highlights of all they have learned on Fox News. Humorless men. Men who tell dumb jokes. Men who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet (and yes, I am careful to listen for the water running to make sure it gets done). The list goes on and on.

It’s not like I think I’m such a catch. I know my weaknesses well and there are no shortage of them. I’m intolerant. Disorganized. Occasionally foul-tempered. Claustrophobic. Entirely neurotic.

But I’m also fun. Creative. Loyal. Funny. Practical. Fit. And I’ll just say it: attractive. Eclectic, verging on eccentric. Independent.

And I hold out—believing against all probabilities—that one day I will meet someone who can see fit to love me, in spite of, and maybe even because of it all.

Outsmarting First Date Jitters/A Few Rules to Bring to the Table

Do you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies?

I do. I definitely do.

When I wrote last week about a few reasons I stink at first dates, I mentioned my history with behaving badly on first dates, especially when it comes to answering what should be easy questions like-Tell me about your family? –or Where is your children’s father?- or even Why did your marriage end?

Had my date read my blog? Because on our second meeting, he began the evening with exactly these questions.

I answered the questions head-on, and soon turned into a hot-flashing giggly mess.  I haven’t felt so unsure of who I am or what I want in a very long time. When I left after two hours, I blamed myself entirely for the fiasco, but when I performed the date’s autopsy later, I realized that wasn’t entirely true. I had made a number of efforts to divert the conversation to tamer subjects. “Tell me about your job?” I’d asked. “Really? You want to talk about my business? Why?”When I asked about his family (after dissecting mine at great length)his answers were short and clenched, and I felt like I’d been a very bad date.

Question: What are your must-have’s when you’re meeting someone new?

For me, I try to be conscious of how I feel about myself when I ‘m in their presence. By the end of the evening, I was feeling small and stupid. Do I think my date was to blame? Absolutely not, but I certainly didn’t like the feeling, all the same.

In relationship guru Bobbi Palmer’s blog Date Like a Grown-Up, she works with a client to come up with a list of rules the client would use to govern her dating musts. I love them!

  • I will take my time getting to know a man. I will not allow him to rush me into a relationship, rush me into being sexual or anything else.
  • I will “be present” on dates by listening to what he says, asking questions or commenting on what I hear, and not be afraid to do so.  I will be open about myself (within reason) and my interests.
  • I will not allow a man to snap at me or be judgmental towards me without me calling him on his behavior.
  • I will not retract into my shell if he disagrees with what I have to say or want to do.  I will no longer go along to get along.  I won’t disagree disagreeably but I won’t be silent either.
  • I will think about whether I like him and use that conclusion to decide whether I want to see him again.  I will no longer focus entirely upon whether he likes me and be insecure about him breaking up with me.
  • I will not be afraid of disagreements or feel threatened by the idea that he won’t like me if I don’t do what he says or don’t agree with him.
  • I will no longer be afraid if the relationship does not work out at any stage and I will feel free to end it if I don’t feel it is working for me.

My question to you: How do you respond when you’re asked questions you aren’t ready to answer without getting defensive or seeming untruthful?

I could use your help.  Email me at Liza8m@gmail.com. Thanks for stopping by.