Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Now What?

Rule #57 - Revisit. Reflect. Recommit.

     Wow – already it’s the end of March. Where has the time gone? What’s been happening in life at this time? We are in the middle of Holy Week, in my religion, and nearing the Lenten finish line. I have a duty to look back and see what I’ve done, how I may have changed, and what more I can do to improve the world around me.
     These are tough questions. It may seem that this whole change thing is narcissistic. I mean, gotta change me, be a better me, do things better, accomplish more… whole lotta self, right? Then I think of the words of the song “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me,” and I think, “Self, are you spreading peace?”
     That’s a judgment I’m not sure I can make.
      Let’s revisit what’s been happening in the past few months. The biggest item is a break-up with a man who I thought would be a forever friend. I haven’t heard a word from him – kind or otherwise – in over two months. I’ve been working hard to forgive him for his rude and selfish behavior. And I’ve been working on forgiving myself for falling so quickly in love again. I know I have to learn to trust others in relationships. But I also need to trust myself too, to know when things are right. I need to tap back into my “Inner Dude” – the guy in my head that tells me to think twice and be hesitant. I need to allow time to work its magic on my heart.
     We’ve also been deep into planning for my daughter’s wedding. There’s been lots of talk about missing Hub on a day like that. I’m feeling his loss more and more with each wedding item checked off the planning list. I’m anticipating a rough, but happy day.
     It’s been easy to stay cocooned up this winter. The cold and snow, and no place to go at times, can be so depressing. Now with spring technically here (someone forgot to tell the weatherman some days), I am starting to feel more alive and energetic. Here’s a big thank-you to those who moved daylight savings time to earlier in the month. 
     With the time change, and weather changes, come sports changes. My Lady Terrapins are heading to the Final Four. The men’s team did exceptionally well for their first year in the Big 10 conference. Spring training is almost over for baseball.
     I did get back to Sarasota for some baseball and friend-visiting this year. I brought a widowed friend of mine (her loss is very recent) who needed the break from all the legal and financial paperwork that happens after a spouse passes. We both let loose and had a great time. I am still recovering from the sinus infection I picked up on the trip.
      Plans changed for the Easter feast. I was supposed to visit my son in Massachusetts. If I thought I got too much snow this winter, they got more. Schools are making up lost snow days this week.  Sports events are doing the same. Jobs – same thing. Yes, I am disappointed I can’t see everyone up north. But I’ll get up there soon – perhaps over Memorial Day weekend.
     I did attend another writer’s conference with my local SCBWI chapter. This past weekend had me hobnobbing with so many published writers that I was in awe of the talent. I met EB Lewis, an artistrator, whose watercolor illustrations are artwork in their own right. His ability to draw me into the pictures with the blends of colors, and attention to detail is mesmerizing. I can look at his work and find something new every minute. I also met Fred Bowen, from the Washington Post. He is writing in the area that I want to write – chapter books aimed at boys ages 8-12. He uses sports themes to teach life lessons. I am compelled to read him! I want to know more about his work.
     The barbershop chorus I sing with also had a dress rehearsal performance. We are getting ready for our contest weekend in April. I now believe that I am participating in the ultimate team sport. Yes, I sing a specific part – specific set of notes, words and timing. But I am one of several to blend and make one complete sound. Sorry, sports purists, there is no ball in this sport, but it is a sport nonetheless. Singing is fun, emotionally purging, and physically satisfying. I want to do it well. I hope I am doing it well. I am committing to being better at singing.
     I’ve gotten a chance to revisit a lot of things from the past few months. Been reflecting on them too. My writing is one thing that is top priority for me, even going forward into the spring and summer. It’s not just about the adventures. It’s about how I tell the story of those adventures, about what I’ve learned from them. I noticed that I haven’t been using the Gibbs Rules for a while. I think I’ll go back to using them, but only where it’s appropriate. If the piece is journalistic, I won’t use them. If the piece is reflective, I will. Does that make sense?
     With extra time on my hands at home, I’ve noticed that the house has been a bit neglected. Yes, basic cleaning occurred. Don’t want the health department at my door. But now it’s time to get busy doing other things. Heavy housecleaning of the upstairs needs to happen this spring. It’s time to clean out closets and all that other spring cleaning stuff. And I can’t forget the outside. I ordered lots of flower plants for the yard. I need to get outside and finish the spring clean up. Time for me to plot this out on my to-do list and get it all ta-done. Time, too, for Ma Nature to give us some warm, dry days – several in a row would be nice.
     Commitment – something a lot of people fear. Why? Because then, you are accountable. If you say you are going to do something, or commit to a relationship or task, you have do show that you mean business with your actions. Too often we say we commit and don’t follow through. What do I want to be held accountable for? I want to be there for my family and my friends. I want to be able to help them as best as I can, when I can. I want to work for the greater good through my worship community at church. I want to expand my social network to include singles of my own age. I want to write, and be a published author someday. I want to enjoy the process of writing success (and the “failures” that go with it). I want to enjoy my life as it is, and as it will be, with God’s grace.
     There… I said it. Now to do it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Match-less Experience - What Happened

 “You hope to be smart enough to choose right… I had to kiss a lot of frogs to get there.”
                        Mark Harmon to Larry King on a successful marriage,
                        “Larry King Now”, Season 2, Episode 154, May 2014,

    On to my personal experiences in this dating swamp…
      Let’s take a look at my matches. The first fellow billed himself as a foreigner living in the Baltimore area. We went back and forth on e-mail. He professed his love for me having never met me. I called him on it several times and tried to get a public meet-up. It never happened. I don’t miss him at all, but I was matched later on with a fellow with similar credentials and different pictures. I called him on it, saying that all of his information sounded very familiar. His profile came down really fast. Creeped out yet? So much for frog number 1. 
      I got a chat request from a fellow who billed himself as a retired Marine. The conversation denigrated to sexual content within five minutes. I told him he was a disgrace to the Marine uniform for showing such disrespect to a female. I swore off using the chat feature after that. Frog number 2…
      I did get e-mails from other gentlemen. I posted that my match choices were to be in an age range close to my own. I also required that the matches be local, or at least on the East Coast. What happened to that idea? It proved to me that many do not read the profiles they are sent. I was “favorited” by fellows on the West Coast, Midwest, or who are 25 (eeewwww) or younger. What part of “this is what I want” do you not understand, guys?
      I sent some e-mails too. Some fellows looked really interesting in their profile. So I wrote to ask about specific things they listed. Yes, I did get responses from many very nice gentlemen thanking me for my interest. But mostly my e-mails were ignored.
      My luck seemed to change with one gentleman, however. He approached me first and we communicated for a while by e-mail. He suggested we talk on the phone. We did. We met in a public place and had dinner. We talked for over three hours. We both thought we had a good match and agreed to stay in contact.
      Then came what my mother called the “Bum’s Rush”. Several phone calls and dates followed, along with his helping me around my yard with leaf raking. He wanted to try everything I usually did. We shared activities except for golf – too cold to play and I don’t play.  He asked to join me at church. I went with him to his church. We started celebrating the Christmas holidays with a barbershop choral concert. I met some of his children and grandchildren. He met my family members and friends. There were flowers, moonlight walks holding hands, movie dates, dinners out, dancing on New Year’s Eve, concerts and ….then nothing. It was like I fell off the face of the earth to him. He rudely refused to respond to my e-mails and phone calls. There was no explanation or excuse – no contact whatsoever. He who I thought was a prince turned out to be just another frog in the pond. This one hurt badly, because I didn’t see any of it coming and it happened so suddenly. I console myself with the knowledge that he is a total idiot (my kids’ assessment) and this is all his loss, not mine.
      So what’s next for me on Match? My six months are up and I’m considering packing it in. I am ready to date again, but I need to meet normal gentlemen my own age. The old fashioned face-to-face meetings are the best. But as I understand the site policy, my profile will be archived for one year, just in case I decide to venture to Match again. And true to my personal policy of learning something from every adventure, I want to share what I learned as an online dating service customer.

  1. I learned that I’m braver than I thought.
  2. I learned that I deserve a lot better than I got – from any of the men.
  3. I learned that men think a 42-inch waistline and a beer belly is “about average” body type.
  4. I learned that most men want to date women at least 10 years younger than they are. For some reason, they are uncomfortable about their own age. What’s up with that? Some of you are lucky you lasted this long (can we say “I lived through the 60’s and 70’s?”)
  5. Men really need to get rid of baseball caps in photos. So what if you are going bald? If it was good enough for your father and grandfather, it should be good enough for you. Wear bald proudly.
  6. Most men want women with colored hair and no grey. Guys, news flash, there is no woman around over a certain age with natural colored hair that does not have some grey in it. Women, here’s to you who let yourself show your greys. Fire Lady Clairol and be yourself.
  7. Please smile in your pictures. Smiling makes the face more attractive. And it uses fewer wrinkle muscles.
  8. Speaking of pictures, how about pictures of YOU? Not places you’ve visited, or your “daughter” or you and your last girlfriend. It’s ok for action shots of you doing the things you like to do. When there are a lot of irrelevant pictures, it makes me wonder who is really behind the profile.
  9. I learned that I can love again, and I want to be in love again. That makes me vulnerable, I know. But I was so happy for a very brief time over the holidays. I liked the feeling and want it back again.
  10. I deserve to be romanced, to have a man do activities that I want to do with me (not to only do things he wants to do and my things I do on my own), to be wooed. I deserve flowers – just because. No, I am not high maintenance at all.
  11. I deserve respect and true, open communication. If there is something you don’t like, I expect you to tell me. Don’t feed me the line that you don’t want to make me angry or hurt me. Just saying those words makes me angry enough to go postal on you, because you think you have the right to control how I feel about a situation. Man up, speak your piece, and take the lumps if they come.
  12. I know what is very important to me in a relationship, and what I am willing to compromise on with a date. Yes, I have standards. And, fellows, they are high and they will be met. (which also means I may be alone for a while, but that’s ok too)
     I’m sure the men out there have their own lists for the women they date. Let’s hear them. We can finally get a dialog going on this subject. We women can’t know what you want unless you speak up. We really are not mind readers. Men, I triple dog dare you!
      So with this writing, it’s Adios Match.com. Archive me if you want. Maybe I’ll try a different site… maybe I won’t.
      Vent over… for now.

The opinions expressed in this piece are my own, based on personal experience. Your experiences may be different – and I hope lots better.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Match-less experience - the set-up

     It’s time… to rethink a few things. It’s time to report on successes and failures. It’s time to come to terms with that age-old nightmare of running down the middle of the street buck naked… like Will Ferrell did in “Old School”.
     Last summer, I cleaned out all of Hub’s clothes. Most of them were donated to charity and a lot was able to be consigned to the resale shop at the hospital where he received his treatments. I looked at the process this way – I had to clear out the old to make way for the new. It’s a good strategy for mental health, for sure. But it was necessary if I was going to possibly find someone to share my life – what might be left of it.
     One major problem is that I haven’t dated since the 1960’s. Now, that was a decade of Peace and Love, and many of us of a certain age remember grasping at the freedoms we thought we had at the time. Now in 2014, I want to start dating again? Am I crazy? What has changed? How do I get back into the dating pool? I sucked at dating in the 1960’s so what makes me think I’ll be any more successful at it now?
     Armed with these questions - and a nagging vision of Hub, the security nut, in my head saying “Hmmmm…”- I signed up on Match.com to try my luck in the new world of online dating. I’m well aware of the Internet’s history of screwed up anonymity and predatory personalities. There are people with no life who just love to become others in an online dating community. (I think many live in “gated communities” and not the upscale kind)
     Now, to be fair and honest, I do know several couples who are together because of Match.com. They seem very happy and content in their relationships. And I am very happy for them.
     Guess my problem is that I miss that couplehood. But before I go swan diving into this pool, I need to know just what I want – and what would be considered “settling for”. At this point in my life, I refuse to just settle for anyone. As a teen, I would go out with someone so I didn’t have to stay home on Friday or Saturday evening. Now, no! I’ll stay home before I go out with just anyone.
     Match has a profile set up that allows you to put in as much or as little information as you want. Of course, they say the more information the better. You are also to put recent pictures up. You are also to write a description of your likes and dislikes in a date. You are supposed to sell yourself as if the date was a job interview. I never looked at dating as an interview process before, but, looking back, yes, I was searching for someone special with whom I could share my life. But now it seems like I’m asking for romance by microchip.
     Not totally sure what to expect from this process, I spoke to some of my friends who used this particular site. Women can be brutally honest when discussing their dating experiences. To sum up, my women friends said they had a range of nice guys looking for a sugar momma to keep them well into their old age to total creeps looking for a quick roll in the hay. They found the men who were legends in their own minds. For some reason, the consensus was that men using the site were not interested in a real woman with real ambitions and abilities. They agreed that the men they met thought the women were desperate and would do anything to get a man.My friends suggested that I be ready to just get a few free dinners out of the experience and be happy with that.
     Once your profile goes “live” you get shopped around – like a piece of meat. The site delivers to your inbox a selection of potential matches based on some algorithm that predicts relationship happiness and longevity. I guess this is no different from the teen dances, where the girls are on the floor and the guys hug the walls, until a slow dance comes along, with groping possibilities.But now I'm working with a few pictures (maybe), and a few words and a whole lot of guessing.

And you wonder why I think dating sucks?

To be continued....

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Take me out to the Ball game.... Please!

     We made it through Febbbbrrrrrrrr-uary and one of the coldest winters on record – so far. Many of us went out of our way to get a taste of summer warmth during this last cold blast. Whether you were the host of indoor luaus or making plans for your summer garden or going to the boat and RV shows, everyone up and down the East Coast is looking for that elusive butterfly called spring.
     As for me… yes, I went to an indoor luau. I’ve made plans for my summer garden and ordered some plants. I’ve located the seeds from last year’s plants and am getting them ready to start. No, I didn’t go to the boat show or RV show. That’s not my thing. But Orioles FanFest definitely was.
     On a bright, sunny day, with a low temperature and lower wind chill number and surprisingly no snow on the ground, I joined 16,000 of my closest friends of an Oriole orange feather in search of some semblance of summer. Baltimore’s Convention Center was ready for all of us. There were three floors festooned in orange and black. Stations were set up all over the ground floor. 

Baltimore’s Convention Center hosts Oriole Fan Fest
Joined 16000 of my closest friends for the festivities
     The first station you hit was the season ticket booth. You could ask questions about your tickets or purchase a plan for the 2015 season.
Orioles - best fans in Major League baseball
     There’s a big advantage to a season ticket plan. You get two free tickets to FanFest (next year’s if you are just buying into the plan), the same seats all season, the chance to trade your tickets for other games (got vacations?), and first dibs on any postseason tickets that may go on sale. You get to know the people in your section. You get to know your usher. They get to know you – and they miss you when you don’t make a game. You grow another social bonding network, and now, in these times of social media, we can’t have enough face to face time with real people. 
     The broadcast network MASN had a booth in the middle of the floor. There, you could sit on the MASN couch and get your picture taken with different players and broadcasters. The station had some giveaways, too… and a long line of people waiting patiently to get up to the cameras.
     All over the first floor were autograph stations. These were not free, especially to adults. When you got your tickets, you had to pre-purchase autograph vouchers for specific stations. You were also limited to two vouchers per person. The lines at all the stations were very long, but moving reasonably. Each station had three players signing autographs and those in line met all three. There were some adults, I’m sure, that were stocking up for E-Bay sales. I talked to one mom outside one of the stations who vented about the process. She was upset about the E-Bay adults and the fact that only 250 vouchers were put up for sale. She figured that, with a crowd the size of January 31st’s, they would have more vouchers and/or more autograph stations. Well, O’s, there is something to consider… especially since all the voucher money goes to your Orioles Reach charity.
Pitcher Chris Tillman, sporting off-season facial growth, signs autographs for young fan
Pitching hopeful Dylan Bundy
Center fielder Adam Jones
     Stroll along the main floor and find the first signs of spring – Sarasota’s Spring Training booth. Here a baseball snowbird could check out spring training games, buy tickets, find hotels near Ed Smith Stadium, and lots more. From experience, Sarasota is a fun town and there’s lots of baseball to be had in that small stretch of the Gulf Coast.
Ballpark dog and kettle chips... ignore the diet soda
     We can’t forget the ballpark food! There was several food stations scattered all over the main floor. We got a chance to have a taste of summer with hot dogs, beer, sodas, fries, salads, pretzels and lots of other items featured at Oriole Park concession stands.
Batting cages and pitching cages all over the place

Minor league Aberdeen Ironbirds mascot - Ferrous
      Kids ruled at FanFest. Everywhere you turned you found batting cages, pitching cages, and mascots – major and minor league. The Coca-Cola Field gave kids of all abilities the chance to hit and run the bases. Staffed by Mt. St. Joseph’s school baseball team, the teens pitched, caught and encouraged all young players. Some of the little kids of both genders were really talented. And I thought I saw the Mt. St. Joe’s coach taking notes. Dave Johnson and Wayne Kirby hosted a number of clinics for the kids. They also stuck around to help out the teens.
Coca-Cola “Field of Dreams” for young players

Dave Johnson and Wayne Kirby instruct during the fielding clinic

Dave and Wayne giving great advice to young players
     The most popular event was the Fan Forums. Here, you got a chance to ask questions of your favorite players or broadcasters. Buck Showalter was on hand for many of the question sessions. There were a few sessions that were just for giggles. The players used the “Newly-Wed Game” format to play “Know Your Teammate”. Some of the answers from these sessions might be on YouTube – they were that funny. Adam Jones pied a few fans and answered questions from the audience. He did his best to stick to his personal rule not to pie kids at all – only adults. And then there was the one fellow with a full-on, ZZTop-style beard who volunteered from the audience to get pied. Adam had a good time giving him a pie in the face. Now there was a picture!
MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter introducing players for the Q & A session
First baseman Chris Davis on the hot seat about injuries from last year
Adam Jones plants a pie on the kisser of a fan-volunteer

     The two-and three-hundred levels of the Convention Center had a lot of smaller rooms with activities designed for kids. They were a bit quieter than the sensory overloaded first level of the main hall. Well thought out, Orioles! It was on the third floor that young kids could interview a player and get their autograph for free.
     The only aspect of FanFest that we didn’t get to this year was the ballpark tour. Free tours were available and next year we plan to take full advantage of the whole day.
     Baseball – Spring Training – it’s a sure sign that the weather will get warm soon. That can’t happen soon enough for this O’s fan.
     And now to get ready to watch the first telecast spring training game on March 4! It will have to do until the Birds are back in town in April… or until I get down there to Sarasota to see them in action.
     Ok, winter weary people, spring is almost here… really it is… I promise!

 Photos are the property of Marge McGugan. No copying or reuse without permission. Portions reprinted from "A View from the Passenger's Seat" by Marge McGugan, published in the March 2015 Arden on the Severn "NewsBuoy"