Falling

I’d done this once before: hooked myself up to ropes and carabiners and attempted to scale an indoor rock climbing wall. After that first class I thought perhaps I’d do it again–not for exercise mind you, but for the sculpted arms and flat stomach I’d always dreamed of.

Unfortunately, rock climbing requires two people. And I had nary a soul to join me.

Fast forward ten plus years. My friend Ben, who goes on a regular basis, tells me it would be a great way to meet men. This peaks my interest, as it would any warm-blooded, single, thirty-something heterosexual woman.

“I have no arm strength,” I tell him.

“Doesn’t matter–you use your legs.” I know for a fact that one can’t climb a wall without the use of ones arms. “Your arms just to hold you to the wall.  You don’t pull yourself up with your arms, you push yourself up with your legs.” This was all starting to come back to me. The arms don’t get sculpted because you’re pulling your entire body weight up with them; they get sculpted because your using them to hold on for dear life.

But that’s where the ropes come in. As long as you trust the person you’re climbing with, falling off the wall is not a problem.  Your partner, through some easy moves with the ropes around his own waist (which are the same ones attached to you), can stop you mid-air and lower you gently.

So last Tuesday night, I planned to meet three friends at the indoor rock-climbing place downtown. I signed the paper that outlined the various ways I could be injured or killed. “My boss would be thrilled you actually read it before you signed it,” the guy behind the desk told me. Maybe I shouldn’t have. 

I was the first to show up and while looking around I noticed something odd: no one was using ropes.

I recalled Katie, who would be joining me that night, telling me her least favorite part was falling off the wall. At the time, I was a bit mystified. “I don’t have a problem with that as long as I trust the person spotting me,” I said. I didn’t realize we were talking about two different experiences. The image in my mind included ropes and a person that kept me from free-falling. Her image, I now realized, did not.

Unlike my skydiving adventure, I didn’t have the time to shoot out e-mails to my family telling them how much I loved them. So I guessed I’d just have to survive. 

My three friends showed up and Ben dutifully explained how the place worked. Double arrows next to a “rock” indicated it was the one on which I would place both my hands to start. Then, I’d follow the color-coded arrows up the wall to the red line. “You can’t climb higher than the red line without ropes.” Regardless, that red line was entirely too far above my head for my comfort.

After a few tries, I made it up to the red line. “Now what?” I asked Ben.

“Jump!” he said.

“Uhhh. . . no,” I said, my arms clinging to the wall. I started climbing back down the way I came up, and jumped when I was just a few feet off the ground. I am, after all, the girl that to this day, when I go play on swing sets, does not feel comfortable jumping off until the swing has nearly stopped.

“But you jumped out of a plane!”  you might say.  Well, yes. Yes, I did. But there was a large Russian man strapped to my back. And in his control was not one, but two parachutes. And we had a good few minutes to get them up before we hit the ground.

At one point Ben pointed out some of the men of which he had spoken: glistening chiseled arms, six-pack abs. “That’s what this place does for you,” he said. That’s what this place does for THEM, I thought. Me? I’m going back to banking on my good looks and sparkling personality.

The Matchmakers of Asheville

She came up to me at the end of class, congratulated me on how well I’d done, and then said, “I have a personal question for you.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Are you dating someone? Or married? Or single?”

“I’m single,” I said, realizing where this was going.

“Well, I promise you I was paying attention to what you were teaching, but I couldn’t help thinking the whole time that you would be good for James.  He rents from me. How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking.”

“Thirty-six.”

“Oh, good.  He’s thirty-four. Would you….” She stumbled a bit over what to do next, but I knew how this went.  After all, I’d been in this same position just three weeks before. And told her as much.

I handed her my card and said, “Feel free to give him my contact information, and tell him he’s welcome to call me.”

The next day she called to see if I had plans for Easter, would I want to come to her place? I was sick and had already turned down two other invitations, so declined hers as well. She offered that she’d have me over another time. I wonder if this was her way of making the connection. I imagine not all men would jump at the chance to call a woman they’ve never met before to ask her out, sight unseen.  Though, now that I think about it, the one three weeks ago did just that.

~~~~

Maybe it’s because it’s spring. Or because I look like I’m in need of a good man. Or because my genes are too good not to pass on (yes, someone told me this.  I took it as a compliment). Whatever their reason, I’m fine with good-intentioned people expressing an interest in setting me up. I’ve heard dating is a numbers game. Just how many first dates does one need to go on is a question I wish I knew the answer to. 

Smoking Hot

In the junior high cafeteria, I sat alone every lunch period.  I knew no one and no one seemed interested in getting to know me.  I had braces, no fashion sense, and a body that was all out of proportion.  I ate my lunch as fast as I could without making eye contact, then stuck my face in a book.  A few weeks later I learned we could go to the library during our lunch periods and after I ate, I’d get out of that cafeteria as fast as I could.  The next semester when the guidance counselor asked if I’d mind not having a lunch period so I could take the classes I had to take, I said that was no problem at all.  Inside, I jumped for joy.

Fast forward twenty three years.  As I walked up Merrimon Avenue yesterday, a man at a stop light leaned out his window and said, “Girl, you’re looking good today!”  I smiled.  “Thank you.” There was a time I didn’t appreciate men yelling anything to me in public.  Actually, if it was complimentary I assumed they must not be talking to me anyway.  It’s still not my preferred method of receiving compliments, but at least now I can appreciate some kind words – even if they are tossed out from a car window.  As I continued my walk, I smiled thinking back to those teenage years when I wouldn’t have dreamed anyone would ever tell me I looked good.

High school wasn’t much better than junior high – but at least I had people to sit with at lunch.  My fashion sense may have improved a little (thanks to secretly “borrowing” my little sister Liz’s clothes), but I still had braces all four years and a body I hated.

Now the braces are gone.  I’ve come to have a greater appreciation for this body I’ve been blessed with – it did, after all, get me through a 500 mile walk across Spain.  My fashion sense: well, I know what looks good on me.  That doesn’t stop me from showing up to holiday family gatherings, looking around, and thinking I should hire my three sisters to redo my wardrobe.

~~~~

I walked into a bar a few weeks ago to meet a friend.  He flooded me with compliments on my appearance and over the course of the conversation said some more wonderful things about me to some of the friends to whom he introduced me.  The next day, in a conversation with another friend, I said how this has happened quite a few times since I’ve moved here – men here seem to be pretty good at giving compliments.  (I am still learning how to be good at receiving them.)  “Is it Asheville?” I asked him, wondering if men were just more forthcoming with compliments here.  “Well, you are smoking hot,” he said.  He continued on, but I didn’t hear anything after that.  Smoking hot?  What? I know I’m not the timid, body-conscious kid I was in junior high.  But “smoking hot”?  Me?

I tell my students all the time to give themselves credit for the progress they’ve made before telling me all that they didn’t accomplish.  I often find myself giving the advice I most need to hear .

So today I’m going to give myself some credit.  After trying on seven different tops and four different pairs of jeans, I finally looked in the mirror and told myself I looked good.  But smoking hot?  I think that’s pushing it.

Weddings – Thankfully, Not My Own

I’m not one of those girls who has always imagined what my wedding day would be like.  In fact, I haven’t thought much about it at all.  But I’ve been present for the stress and cost of plenty of weddings – so much so that I’ve told my mother for years that my wedding will be in the backyard.

“At least call it a Garden Party,” she said.

Since then, I added another detail: my wedding will be potluck.

“Potluck?  Really?” my mother asked.

“Yup.  No gifts.  I don’t need anything.  I just want Grandma to make her meatballs, Aunt Lia to bring her Taco salad, Mrs. Repko to bring a pie.”

“Pie?  You’re going to have pie at your wedding?”

“Sure – why not?  No one eats the cake anyway.”

My mother didn’t have too much to worry about – I wasn’t dating anyone.  When people asked me about my future with the last guy I dated I declared, “He’s the kind of guy I’d like to have live next door.”

Well, on Christmas day, my youngest sister got engaged.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself at the kitchen table with her, her fiance, and my mother.  My mother, eager for another family wedding, was asking about guest lists and locations.  “How about the back yard?” my sister asked.

“Hey – I want to get married in the back yard,” I said.  “Her wedding can be a dry run for mine!” My sister enthusiastically agreed.

My father piped in from the living room, reminding us of our slanted back yard.  “The front yard then!” we declared.  “That would be perfect!”  While dad tried to convince us the front yard was too small for 300 people, Mom interrupted.  “We need to stop talking about this,” she said.  “I’m getting sick to my stomach.”

“What? Why?” I asked.  “I always said I wanted my wedding here.”

“Yeah, but now that it’s a real possibility, it’s making me sick.”

As requested, we changed the subject.  My mother got up, poured herself a glass of wine, and returned to the table.  A few sips of wine later, her nerves were calmed enough that she permitted us to again talk about a wedding at the house.

Eight months later, the planning for my youngest sister’s wedding is in full swing.  The reception will not be in the front yard. But I still like the idea myself.

An End and A Beginning

This time last year I took two weeks to drive from Hyde Park, NY to Brasstown, NC.  It was the start of my self-imposed sabbatical year.    My destination was the John C. Campbell Folk School.  There I would spend four months as a Student Host doing a work-exchange program that allowed me to take fifteen classes in everything from writing and cooking to woodworking and blacksmithing.  The drive between my hometown and the Folk School would normally take twelve hours.  But when you decide to visit nearly every friend you have on the East Coast on the way, it takes a little longer.

Today I find myself doing a very-much-abbreviated version of that trip.  I left Wednesday from Hyde Park, NY to head to North Carolina.  However, my destination this time is Asheville.  And it’s not temporary.

Why Asheville?  I like it there.  That’s the simple answer, and enough of a reason if you know me.  I like the people, the culture, the landscape, the community, the feeling I get when I’m there.  Did you ever go to a place and just have a sense that it’s where you belong?  That’s what I get when I’m in Asheville.  Dining there in February a waitress said to me, “Asheville is the kind of place that tells you when to come and when to go.”  It was telling me to come, so here I go answering the call.

I wanted to move to Asheville back in 1999.  I had just completed an internship in nearby Hendersonville and fell in love with the area.    What stopped me from going then?  A friend who lived there.  She said, “If you want to meet a man, you’re not going to do it here.  So if you want to get married, don’t come here yet.  Go meet your husband and then move down with him.”

At the time, meeting my future husband was something I was hoping would happen in short order.  I didn’t want to foul up my chances by moving to a place with a shortage of eligible bachelors.  The advice-giver was knowledgable on this subject.  This was before on-line dating existed and she had tried everything else to meet someone.  From personals to eight-minute-dates to joining hiking clubs and book clubs – she did everything every book advised and still had no luck.

So I moved instead to Boston.  The aforementioned friend came up to visit shortly thereafter and was stunned by the plethora of young single men.  Guess what she did?  Sold her house, quit her job, and moved to Boston.  While there, she met a guy, married him, and now they live happily ever after in Asheville.

I, on the other hand, did not find my husband in Boston.  Nor in Bethesda.  Nor in Hyde Park, Milton, Staatsburg, Italy or Spain.   But just like I never let lack of company keep me from traveling solo, nor am I going to let lack of a husband keep me from moving to Asheville.

So today is the day.  Arrival in Asheville.  Not as a visitor, but as a person discovering the place she’s decided to call home.

On My Way!

I had a purely joyful day cleaning out a closet yesterday.  I know this is not normal.  But neither am I.

As many of you know, I love to declutter.  What do I love more than decluttering my own life?  Helping other people declutter theirs.  But yesterday it was on my home turf.

It all started with a mistake: buying my Christmas tree from Home Depot instead of cutting it down myself.  That poor tree drank hardly any water from the day I brought it home.  So though I usually leave the tree up until the Epiphany, this one was so brittle it just had to come down.  My sister was up the road having breakfast with a friend, and when she offered that I should meet this new guy I said, “Sure – you guys can come over and help me get my tree out of my apartment.”  Men like showing off their manliness.  I like giving them opportunities to do so.  This guy was no exception.  And they’re still in the early dating stages, so of course he would say yes.

The tree was gone, but now I was left with a large pile of needles where the tree once stood and a trail of them out the door and down the stairs.  I lived with the needles for a couple days – cleaning is not my favorite thing.  But yesterday I finally lugged my vacuum out of the closet – only to find it had hardly any suction.  It picked up the needles when I moved it forward, but when I pulled it back it dropped them all down again.  It was one of those temperamental days of mine so this nearly put me over the edge.  Here I was, ready to clean, and my vacuum was useless.  Ugh.  I wished I had a husband or boyfriend who could fix it or run out and buy a new one, but I’m on my own.  I allowed myself a few tears over my inability to attract a mate and then got down to business: I called Grandma.  (Mom and Dad weren’t home – they’re usually my first call for help.)

I got dressed and went to Gram’s to borrow her vacuum.  Then, I came back home and pulled most everything out of the living room so I could vacuum.  And it was then that I decided to deal with the pile of crap I had hidden in the corner behind my recliner chair.  It was crap that had seeped out of the corner closet, so I decided to deal with that too.

This closet is not one I frequent and in helping people declutter I often recommend we start in a place where they don’t have a lot of things they use often as those are easier to recognize as no longer needed and therefore easier to get rid of.

What was in this closet of mine?  Mostly yarn, candles, gift bags, and tissue paper.  I dealt with the yarn first. It was overflowing out of its cardboard box so my first thought was: it needs a bigger box.  Then I thought better of it.  If I’m going to sell or get rid of all my stuff by 7/7/11, I need to get hopping.  How many times had I moved all this yarn from place to place?  Was I really ever going to use it?

So I sorted.  I was easily able to part with most of it – with the exception of a small shopping bag of expensive yarn that I just felt I needed to hang onto for a little longer.   But what to do with it all?  My knitting and crochet group at the library had loved my idea of a yarn swap in January, but now I realized I didn’t want to swap.  I wanted to be rid of this stuff!  So I bundled most of it up and called my schoolteacher friend.  “Oh, the teachers would love it!” she said.  I have found that schools will take a lot of things.  Not just books and arts and crafts supplies, but bookshelves, small furniture, remnant carpets.  Got something you no longer use but not sure where it should go?  Call a local school.

My front hall had become my staging area for items ready to leave my apartment.  Usually it was just a can or bottle to deposit in the recycling bin downstairs.  But today you could hardly get through the space.  When I undecorated, I had also managed to get my Christmas decorations down from five boxes to just two, so I had a couple empty plastic bins to return to Mom and Dad’s.  I won’t get into all the other outgoing stuff.  But let’s just say I wanted that yarn out of there! So I decided to drive the half hour to my schoolteacher friend’s house to give her the yarn.   I also put all my tissue paper and gift bags together and decided I don’t need most of that either. I was going to bring the tissue paper to the new consignment shop – they said they would use it to wrap breakables.  But I told my schoolteacher friend about it and she said the art teachers would love that too.  And the gift bags.

So I’m well on my way to minimizing my belongings.  Appropriately enough, I was listening to Nina Yau’s free e-book Minimalist Freedom while doing some of this work.  Very apropos and inspirational.

Next?  Well, I loved my living room when it had hardly any furniture in it.  So though I’m still six months away from moving out, I think it might be time to get rid of most of it.  Most of it belongs to my mother, so that shouldn’t be so difficult.  Didn’t sell my couch yet – posted it on craigslist, but no real takers.  But am ready to put my favorite recliner chair on there next!

The Eharmony Experiment

NB?  What does that stand for, I thought to myself as I perused my latest eharmony “match.”  Did they seriously try to set me up with someone from New Brunswick?  As is Canada? As in north of Maine?! Yes, they did.  It’s a “flex match” they tell me.  Yes, I’d have to be quite flexible to date a guy living in New Brunswick.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d like to meet someone.  But I’d like to actually meet them.  As in take a short drive and actually see them face-to-face.  That doesn’t happen so easily with a guy who lives in NEW BRUNSWICK!  Did I mention the previous match was from Idaho?  C’mon eharmony.  Yes, I paid only $20 a month for three months.  And yes, there weren’t too many choices close to home.  So yes, I told you I’d take guys 200 miles away.  But that’s as far as I’m going.  There are millions of people in NYC – there’s bound to be someone there for me.  Apparently not, they tell me.  I have yet to get a single match from any of the five boroughs.

To their credit, I have been sent plenty of matches.  According to eharmony, I have a high liklihood of hitting it off with men who have children and like to ride bikes (dirt, motor, apparently I like them all).  You might be saying, “Wait – can’t you specify that you want a guy without children?”  You’d think, but no.  You can specify you don’t want kids.  You can also specify that you don’t want a guy who wants kids.  You can also say you don’t want a guy who has kids living full-time at home.  But this is America.  Most divorced men who have children don’t have them living at home full-time.  So who do I get?  Men who don’t want kids because they already have them.

So though I haven’t been too successful at finding a date, I am getting some good laughs paging through the potentials.

It’s only been two weeks.  I’ll keep plugging along and keep you all posted;)

How many dates does it take to meet your husband?

“Have you read this book yet?” I asked the clerk behind the counter at the used book store.  I held up “Around the World in 80 Dates.”  “No,” she said, “but it looks interesting.”  I thought so, and for three bucks it was mine.  It combined two interests of mine: travel and meeting men.  I’m great at the former, and not so great lately at the latter.

The author had decided her husband was no where to be found in England.  So she e-mailed all her friends around the world (she was a travel writer) and asked them to set her up on dates.  And off she went.  She met him on date #55.  Fifty-five?!  I have to date that many men?  I had a friend who said it was twenty-five.  “Twenty-five from right now, or can I go back and count all the ones I’ve dated up to this point?” I asked.  “Oh – you can definitely count all the ones you’ve had so far.”

So yesterday I finally started my list.  I’m at twenty-three.  Well, twenty-three that I can remember at least.  And by “remember” I don’t mean their names necessarily.  There was the guy who lived on a golf course whose mission was just to impress me with his money.  I can’t for the life of me remember his name.  Nor do I care.  There was the bad kisser guy.  I do remember his name, but he first popped into my head as “bad kisser guy” so that’s what I wrote.  There was the guy with a very Irish name – but I can’t remember what name that was.  Daniel?  Patrick? Michael? Flannery? O’Malley?  Some combination of something like that.

Twenty-three.  So that’s just two dates to go.  Or thirty-two, depending on if I believe my friend or the book.  Two seems much more optimistic.  I’ll start there, and if I don’t find him by date #25, I’ll plan for #55.