Water

When I last posted, I’d decided I was going to take a break from dating for a while. Naturally, since then, it’s been raining men.

raining-men

Shortly after thinking that I needed this latest break, I’d come across a page in a book I’m rereading (Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser), where she compares life to a river and asks herself each day whether she wants to fight the current… or let go and flow with it. When I read that, I realized online dating had felt like I was forcing something–going out of my way to meet people I would most likely never have come across in the natural course of my life (in addition to all the other downsides of online dating). Like fighting against a current. A day or two after reading this, my pastor gave a homily about how sometimes doors are closed to us because we’re trying to open the wrong ones. We have to listen to our own, inner voice, he said, to find the unique path God has set for each of us, and then the right doors will open. Hmmm, I thought, like trying to go against the current, versus letting go and flowing with it. Then, when I put the key in the ignition to drive home from Mass, the song on the radio was “Hold Back the River,” by James Bay. Coincidence, or…!?

heres-your-sign

Okay, Universe, I get it already!

I was done fighting the Universe. I resolved to stop trying to slog my way upstream, and to just let go and ride the flow of the river. To that end, during the following week, I cancelled both my Match and Zoosk memberships and “hid” my (free) PoF profile. I was done dating. D-U-N, stick a fork in me, finito.

There were still a few conversations I’d been in the middle of from the dating sites. I extricated myself from most, but agreed to meet one guy who was willing to drive all the way from Evergreen to Aurora one night. (I have friends in a band, and their gig was at a dive bar in Aurora. That’s why I was all the way down there, myself.) The guy showed up. He was cute, charming, intelligent, slightly snarky, taller than me, fit, gainfully employed, plus he’s a writer… and I felt nothing. No spark. Omigosh, what is wrong with me?!!? On the advice of my gf, who was there, I confessed this to him halfway through the evening. Being the unbelievably, cool, charmer that he is, he still wanted to hang out, as friends, and we actually had a nice time talking. (Plus, my friends’ band is pretty decent.) But I was listening to the Universe, going with my own river-currents.

That same night I also randomly ran into a guy I’d previously dated from OkCupid. We said hi, chatted, he said he’d email me, and went on our ways. I thought that was that. But the next day he sent me a nice email, saying he’d like to see me again. Hmmm…. He’s a good-looking writer (who actually makes a living at it), he’s witty, insightful, fun-as-heck to text with, but at this point I was listening to the Universe, bowing to the water-gods. I responded, explaining that I was done dating, but wouldn’t mind hanging out as friends. Then I went to go lay out at my apartment pool.

While I was down at the pool, catching the last tanning rays of the season, a guy I’d never met before, who was the only other person there, started talking to me. We chatted, it was friendly, and he said we should hang out and have a drink some night. Sure, I said. (Um, this is friendly, right? Like, because we’re neighbors, right?) So I gave pool-guy my number. Later that evening he texted me and I began to get the idea that he was thinking more-than-friends. Oh, dear: this is starting to not feel like “floating down the river.”

That same weekend (this was all 2 weekends ago), another guy, who I’d gone out with once a year and a half ago, started texting me out of the blue. And then two other guys I know (one from chatting with him on Match over the summer, but we’d never met, the other one I know from speed-dating, months ago, but I hadn’t heard from him in quite a while) also texted me. I had six guys messaging/texting me that weekend, after I’d decided I no longer wanted to date anyone.

Nope, this is definitely not "floating" down the river anymore! [Photo credit: http://www.darinmcquoid.com/blog205.html]

Nope, this is definitely not “floating” down the river anymore!     [Photo credit: http://www.darinmcquoid.com/blog205.html%5D

I told myself the problems were: (a) I was being too nice. I didn’t want to be mean and say “go away” to other human beings, so while I didn’t encourage them, I also didn’t discourage them; I just maintained nice, neutral, friend-zone conversation, (b) I was trying to not-date, but I was also trying to go-with-the-flow, and it was very confusing, with the Universe now deciding to send me all these men–all of whom were nice guys–all at once, and (c) I felt zip, zilch, nada in the romantic interest category towards any of them. Don’t get me wrong: my libido is alive and well. (I know this, for instance, because I’m reading a romantic suspense right now, and I can totally feel the spark in the characters’ storyline.) So, like I said, I told myself these other things were the problem.

Then the Universe took a break. The following week I had an issue with my ex come to a head, in a bad way. It was so bad I was in tears at times at work that Tuesday, and in PTSD-meltdown status for most of the remainder of the week, though, except for Tuesday, I kept the rest of it contained to the privacy of home. (This never happens this badly; it was an extreme situation.) I felt powerless, worthless, and scared. It was a vicious contrast, courtesy of the reality-check department of my life: I went from having a bunch of nice guys pay positive attention to me one week, to being bullied and treated like dirt by the father of my children the next. Message: they’re only being nice to you because they don’t know you. But when they get to know you, when you let them in, they will kick you and throw you away. The situation is resolved, for now; my ex has eased-off, for the time-being.

regular-programmingThis week, the Universe has gone back to its previous games. This week alone, I’ve had 3 “non-dates.” (Because I’m not dating, of course.) But I’m committed to going with the flow, so I had to follow through with these guys who were on my path. Rather than go home from work and hide in my hole, I made myself meet them: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I tried to be open to receiving each of their unique personalities and getting to know them as human beings. That part of it was pleasant, and something I’ve always tried to do, anyway. I’m good at the “friends” thing. But I realized my defense-walls are up,  hard-core. I think I’ve figured it out now, though.

Over the course of the week, I “watched” myself meet with all these nice, good-looking guys. But then the only physical contact I allowed was a friend-zone hug goodnight. It wasn’t even a choice; there was a voice in my head saying “No, no, no!” and the walls went up. I think the reason the Universe has been putting this male-deluge on my path is because I need to address my fear. Of men. Of rejection. Of the very deep-seeded, shame-based idea I have that I don’t deserve to be loved, just for who I am, as a person. I think that’s why I’m stopping myself from feeling any sparks. Interesting, that after all the inner-work I’ve done, and as far as I’ve come, that I still regress to this place so easily. See? This is what happens when fire lands in water. 😛

sagittarius___the_fire_archer_by_midnight_designed-d8zlfij

Sagittarius – The Fire Archer      [http://midnight-designed.deviantart.com/art/Sagittarius-The-Fire-Archer-543515851}

Online Dating Tips for Guys (from the girl’s perspective)

Gentlemen,

I’ve been trying the online dating thing, and I’ve come to realize that a few of you need some extra help. Here are my best thoughts, based on what I’ve encountered in my past month on Match (and my previous foray onto OkCupid):

serial killers

I’m afraid…!

Your profile photo. First of all, for the love of God, do not post profile photos that make you look like a serial killer. If I’m afraid of you, I’m not going to be thinking, Oh, here’s a guy I want to get to know better. Nope, I’m thinking, Yikes! I hope if I ignore him he’ll go away. But just in case, maybe I ought to start dating that MMA instructor/former Bama defensive tackle, from a few profiles back….

Also, do not post “car selfies” – you know, the ones where it’s like you couldn’t think of a good place to get a private pic (because maybe you have something to hide?), so you snapped a quick one in the driver’s seat before you went inside your house. Those rarely turn out looking flattering for anyone (just fyi).

Your profile photo is your first line of advertising. It’s your main marketing tool. Think of it this way: How would you go into a job interview, knowing that this is the first time your potential boss is going to see you? According to a Forbes article, people make up their minds in the first seven seconds of meeting you. They spend the rest of the time trying to justify their initial reaction. The same is true with online dating. Get your profile photo vetted by another female – preferably one who will give you honest feedback. (If you seriously don’t have a female in your life of whom you can ask this favor, send it to me – mousessoapbox@gmail.com – and I will tell you how bad it is. 😉 )

Her profile parameters (and yours). I’m tired of guys from New Jersey, Utah, Wyoming, and the Bahamas messaging me, despite the fact that I’ve set my dating range to “within 15 miles of Westminster, Colorado.” I’m also tired of chat requests from 35 and 60 year-olds, since I’ve given careful consideration to my target age-range, which is 47-53 year-olds.

I'm not into this...

I’m not into this…

I know it’s tough to match up to all of a person’s exact parameters, but if you are wildly-off from what a woman has indicated, there’s just no point. (And if you still try to date, chances are it’s going to be frustrating for at least one of you.) Similarly, when I see that a guy has checked “slender,” “athletic,” and/or “toned,”

...or this. (Clearly, they had different online profile-parameters from me.)

…or this. (Clearly, they had different online profile-parameters from me.)

as his desired female body type — and nothing else (like “curvy,” “average,” or “a few extra pounds”) — then I will immediately discount him, as I am not what he is looking for. Although I stay reasonably fit in general, I don’t see my body-type as being “slender,” “athletic,” or “toned.” So pay careful attention to both what you say you want, and what she says she wants. This will help you eliminate bad match-ups and instant shoot-downs.

Your conversational skills. The story goes like this: a guy messages me: “Hey – Nice photo.” I assume this means he’s interested. I go check out his profile. He’s cute, he matches up to a lot of my parameters – distance, age, height, pets, the fact that he’s actually single(!), etc. – so I message him back. “Thanks. You’re not so bad, yourself.” Him: “How’s your summer going?” Okay, yes, I can reasonably assume, at this point, that he’s interested.

So I tell him a bit about my summer… and ask about his.

He tells me about his summer. And that’s all he says. Okay…?

So I respond back, asking about one of the things he’s mentioned that caught my attention.

He responds back, telling me more about himself.

I ask another question about him.

He tells me even more… about himself… and that’s all he says.

Come on, throw me a bone - I've got nothing to work with, here!

Come on, throw me a bone – I’ve got nothing to work with, here!

At this point he’s ceased asking about me, and he’s giving me nothing to go on, so I assume he’s not really interested, and I stop responding. If you want to keep a conversation going, you have to be interested in the other person. A good way to find things to talk about is to come up with a list of questions — fun things you’d want to know about a woman — ahead of time. (There are loads of excellent “icebreaker” and dating questions on Google, if you need ideas.)

Guys, these are my best starter-tips to help you out in the world of online dating. There’s more – like when it comes to the actual date – but for those of you who are struggling, this is how you get past the first hurdle. I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Mouse   xo

Life is Short

It’s been a long time since my last post. (I know, I know!) It’s not like I haven’t been writing – I’ve written a few posts. I just haven’t posted them. There hasn’t been too much to say. I haven’t been doing much. I’ve been acutely aware that “I have no life,” for the past 2 months. I had a lot going on with my kids in May, and then I just kind of got overwhelmed and disappeared into myself. For the entire month of June. It was fear-based, though, so not entirely healthy. But healing came out of it.

I went through a lot of “internal work” (that sounds so Hollywood :P). But, while reading a book my therapist loaned me, I had an epiphany, and I hit a place where I literally felt a load lift off my chest. That same day I bought a new laptop. The next day (July 4) I joined Match.com.

Match wound up being very similar to OkCupid, except you have to pay money. You can’t control the metric, and you get guys from New York messaging you, even though you said you only wanted guys from within 15 miles of your Colorado zip code. (And even though I’d only put up kinda-crappy pics of me. Apparently, if you’re female, it’s a dogpile on Match, same as OkCupid.) Before I’d even finished filling out my profile I had two messages, which took me a half-hour to figure out how to access, by which time I had even more messages. But I figured I was ready: I’d reached a place where I was okay with “just me,” but I wanted to see if I had to do this alone – or if I could maybe find someone to hang with on this life-journey thing.

There will be more on my internet dating insights, but that will take another post. (Free Tip #1 for Guys: Don’t post a profile pic that makes you look like a serial killer. Unless you actually are one. Then, by all means, do. Seriously more to follow. I might be in therapy, but you guys need help!)

Anyway, I chatted with a few nice guys, went out with one who turned out to be super-cool…. Then everything went upside-down.

On Sunday night, I’d just gotten my kids back for the beginning of the week, and within 20 minutes I was in the ER with my 14 y.o. who’d sliced the tip of his pinky off with a mandolin slicer, while helping me prep dinner. I held it all together, of course (and, tbh, the kid was a super-trooper, himself), but it drained me. I had all of these emotions I’d held in check, because I was being strong for him, because that’s what you do, as a parent. Then, when we finally got home, I wanted to chill for a few minutes on the patio with a glass of wine, but I had a constant influx of kids — my 9 y.o., my 11 y.o., my 14 y.o. (the ER patient), and again my 9 y.o. — who needed my attention. They got it, of course.  Because that’s what you do, as a parent. I got to bed at 10:30. Got up at 5. Monday. Went to work.

The next night, after work, it was one of those emotionally-trying days with my kids. In addition to four of them needing my attention, there was also a subtle emotional “battle” at play. I don’t think the instigator (external to my family) realized they had done anything wrong, but my 9 y.o. daughter was being affected, and I went all “mama bear” and over-reacted — to the unfortunate detriment of my 9 y.o. My wholehearted, righteous, failed/futile/misdirected(?) attempts to defend my daughter’s independent emotions sapped all I had left. And on top of it I felt guilty, because I’d hurt my baby in the process. I was a basket case. I knew then that my attempts to date were stupid and irrelevant. What business did I have investing energy into relationships when I couldn’t even keep up with my existing life?

Today I cancelled with the two guys I was supposed to meet with from Match, on the two free days I had open. What was I thinking? It was something I knew I had to do.

But it helped solidify everything when, at around 11 am, the president of my company called everyone together for an impromptu company meeting. Those of us in the office, about 20 of us — a lot of people were out, in the field — were nervous. A small handful of people were already upset, like they knew. What was this about? Then he announced that one of our office-coworkers had passed away unexpectedly last night.

It took a few minutes for it to sink in. It wasn’t someone I’d known super-well, but still. She was a coworker. And now she was… dead. As I’m typing this, it’s getting to me — the tears I couldn’t let fall in the office. I didn’t even know her that well.

I went back to my computer and worked for another hour, until lunch. Then I went out to my car and cancelled my two Match meetups for the week — and permanently. (There might be more on one of those stories. We’ll see.) Between my son’s pinky-trauma, the overload-emotion night, and now my coworker’s death… I’m just overwhelmed. I’m glad I cancelled my date for tonight, because it’s wound up that I needed tonight to cry.

But one thought has occurred to me, and it’s stuck; it has teeth.

I’ve been hurt so much. I’ve been through trauma — bad trauma. I can’t handle any more. And I don’t want to put my trauma on anyone else. I won’t. This is mine to carry. (That might be a whole, other post.) And that’s okay. Mostly. (Again, a whole, other post.) But I didn’t know my coworker who passed away that well. And today I gave serious weight to the question of what would happen if I died. Would my coworkers mourn? Would they go on with work, like I did? Like most of us did? Would I be okay with that?

I decided the answer was no.

I want my coworkers to be upset — so much so that many of them have to take the rest of the day off. I want my friends, with whom I’ve been awful at connecting, to be devastated. I don’t want to fade into the woodwork, like I’ve been doing for the past 2 months. I want to live. I want to live so much that I matter. To a lot of people — I want to create a large “family.” I want to make an impression, I want to leave a mark, and I want it to be on people’s hearts. I want to connect with people in a true and lasting way. I want the people I come in contact with to know — really know — that they genuinely mattered to me. That I valued each and every person who came across my path as a unique individual.

Because I do.

YOU matter to me.

And I want to matter to you. I want you to be affected when I die. Because we will have had a real and true human connection. Because you are super-cool, just because you are you, and I knew that.

And I know it now. You RAWK. 🙂

Request For Qualifications (RFQ) for Design-Build Services for Long-Term Relationship

(*updated 3/16/2017)

The Mouse, of The Mouse’s Soapbox (or, the Soapbox), is currently seeking a partner in a Design-Build relationship, of the “soulmate” variety of relationships. This is an RFQ – Request for Qualifications – only. An RFP (Request for Proposals) is not being sought at this time; no definitive date has been set for release of an RFP. The Mouse reserves the right to rescind this RFQ at any time, and there are no guarantees an RFP will ever be released by the Soapbox. However, interested parties are encouraged to respond – all responses that meet qualifying criteria will be given serious consideration.

Background

The Mouse is a 48 year-old single mom in Westminster, Colorado. Previously married for 22 years, divorced in June 2014. Eight children, three of whom are still non-adults (ages 10-15). Stay-at-home mom for fifteen years; re-entered the workforce in January 2014. Currently works for an awesome general contractor in Longmont. (Marketing coordinator — in case you couldn’t tell, from the fact that she’s trying to date, via an RFQ. 😉 ) Nearly impossible to cook for, as she is gluten-free and dairy-free. Enjoys hiking, reading, dancing, and playing trivia games. Practices yoga and Catholicism daily; is very imperfect at both (falls down a lot). Sagittarius, B.A. in Philosophy, aspiring writer — fiction: romantic suspense, thrillers.

Having tried unsuccessfully, through various means, to meet a partner qualified to engage in a Design-Build relationship  (i.e. speed dating, OkCupid, and “by accident” — all of which lack the ability to control intake-metrics), The Mouse has decided to take matters into her own, picky hands. (Schematic Design (SD) follows, at the end of this RFQ.)

Preliminary Qualifying Criteria

  • Male.
  • Between the ages of 48-53. (As adorable as the young guys were, who approached me on OkCupid, the only thing I could think was, Gee, you’re closer to my older kids’ ages than mine. And since I’m now equating you with my kids, the thought of dating you makes me want to throw up. Literally. Sorry.)
  • Single.
  • Lives in Colorado as a primary residence, north of I-70, west of I-25. Ideal range is Arvada to Longmont; Northglenn to Boulder.
  • Non-smoker (occasional cigars okay, outdoors).
  • Pets: dogs okay (maybe better than okay); no cats; fish – meh.

Response Format

Please keep answers brief and succinct. Photos are encouraged, though responses containing inappropriate materials will be automatically disqualified. (No dick-pics. Even though we’re sure yours is lovely.) Please submit one (1) response in .pdf format to mousessoapbox@gmail.com. There is no deadline on responses; please keep in mind that RFQ may be rescinded at any time, without prior warning.

  1. Executive Statement – Give a brief (2 page, max – can be shorter) cover letter and Statement of Differentiation, highlighting your strengths and greatest assets.
  2. Profile – Statistical (1 page, max)
    a. Legal – Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Have you been involved in any litigation in the past 5 years? (Include divorce in your response, if applicable.) Are you currently involved in any pending litigation? (If yes to any of these questions, please explain.)
    b. Financial – Are you gainfully employed? Please elaborate. (As this is not an RFP, you will not be required to furnish bank statements at this time. However, if shortlisted on this RFQ, you must be prepared during the Interview-stage to provide proof of employment, such as introduction of coworkers, etc.)
    c. Education – What is your highest degree of education and field of study?
    d. Military – Have you ever served in the military? (If yes, please list country of service, branch, dates of service, and highest rank achieved.)
  3. Profile – Relationship(s) – Give your background and relationship history. (No page limit.) Include in your response answers to the following questions:
    a. Have you ever been married? If yes: For how long? Why did that relationship fail? If no: Why not?
    b. Are you currently: in a relationship, separated, legally separated, married, or “it’s complicated?”
    c. Is there currently, or has there ever been, anyone you refer to as “the love of your life?” If yes: Explain/describe.
  4. Q & A – (3 pages, max) Please answer the following:
    a. List up to 20 attributes/qualities you are seeking in a potential mate.
    b. List up to 10 songs that describe or define your ideal relationship.
    c. Briefly describe an ideal first date.
    d. Briefly describe an ideal fifth date.
  5. Background/Personal Assessment – (No page limit.) Explain what you think is most important for the Soapbox panel to know about you that is not covered in your Executive Statement or in Items 2-4.

Scoring Criteria

Please note: All below criteria will eventually hold equal weight. However, since physical chemistry is the most difficult to assess without an in-person meeting, only partial points will be awarded in the Physical Chemistry Potential category, thus giving greater weight to the other two categories.

Friendship potential – 40 pts. The Mouse has many friends, but the person who would ultimately fill this category must be of best-friend-worthy status. This status is difficult to attain, and this category will not be fully scored until shortlist interviews are complete. However, partial points of varying degrees will be awarded on the basis of applicant’s potential to be a Mouse-friend, for the purpose of developing a shortlist. (The best way to do this is to prove you are an open-minded, awesome geek.)

Lifestyle compatibility potential – 40 pts. This category will answer questions such as working hours and how respondent interacts with children/teens/young adults. The Soapbox panel is looking for someone who is not only comfortable in a one-on-one dating situation, but who is also comfortable in a family setting, with the Mouse’s kids. Further, the Mouse is seeking someone who is reasonably geographically nearby, and who keeps similar wake/sleep hours, and who can come over and hold her on rough nights. Like when the wind is scary. (Geography, work-hours, and kid-friendliness aside, what do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?)

Physical chemistry potential – 20 pts. This category will be scored based on accompanying photos (minimum of 3), which should be recent (within the past 2 years), and which should demonstrate respondent’s fashion aesthetic and paint a picture of overall lifestyle. (You don’t have to wear Armani, drive an Aston Martin, or be in Thor-shape (*grins* totally okay if you are). As previously stated, “that X factor” of chemistry is hard to assess from photos. What we’re looking for here is potential that wouldn’t deter from the lifestyle compatibility category. In other words, do you care about your appearance?)

Submissions

Please submit one (1) RFQ response, per respondent, in .pdf format to mousessoapbox@gmail.com. Please include responses to Response Format questions, plus accompanying photos (minimum of 3), keeping in mind Preliminary Qualifying Criteria and Scoring Criteria. Please include name and email address, at minimum, at front of submission. References may be included with submission.

Schematic Design

Here’s what you will be working with:

WP_20150514_10_23_15_Pro

At work (my previous job), spring 2015.

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On a ride with my monkeys, summer 2015.

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Poolside, summer 2015

 

Howl at the moon - cropped

Dancing at Howl at the Moon, fall 2015

Denver Escape Room

Winning! (Denver Escape Room, with 6 of my monkeys, winter 2016)

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Atop Flatiron 2, March 2016.

The Wisdom of the Elderly (RFQ forthcoming)

cloudy skies - b&w

A few months ago I was on the phone, explaining my foray onto OkCupid to my 89 year-old aunt. Back in the day, Auntie had been one of the first female doctors in her neck of the woods. She’d also been married twice, and she’d always been a savvy investor — the woman is a self-made millionaire. Now, she’s in an assisted living facility with a deteriorating hip, her husbands are long-gone, and she’s essentially, if not all-the-way, blind.

But the woman is still sharp as a tack.

So I’m talking to her about my attempt to start dating again. My aunt expressed concern for my safety, that I was meeting strangers online. I reassured her, explaining that I didn’t use my real name online, and prior to meeting anyone I “talked” with them, via the site, enough to learn whether they were a “real” person. And then, of the ones I met with, I always did so in a public place. My aunt was a bit assuaged, but not quite.

“Do they have jobs?” she asked.

I chuckled. “Yes, auntie, the ones I’ve met with all seem to be gainfully employed.”

“Well,” she said, her tone still conveying doubt, “you should ask to see their bank statements.”

I burst out laughing — from delight at her protectiveness over me, combined with the ludicrous idea of actually doing something like that. Could you imagine asking for someone’s bank statements, just to date them? LOL! But even as my giggles subsided, I felt a “click” of truth inside me.

Um, what is it you do for a living, again? I respond to RFPs and RFQs for my construction firm. And how often do you get asked for your firm’s financials from other companies who want to consider hiring you? Um… all the time…? Yes: all the time — and you give it to them, no questions, in the line of professionalism! Meanwhile, have you ever dated a guy who, it turned out, hadn’t actually had a job? Okay…, yeah. Maybe Auntie’s on to something.

I began thinking about how funny it would be to write my own RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for guys who wanted to date me. If I treated dating like a business, I could ask would-be daters to answer the same types of questions that other companies asked of my firm. (Tell us about your legal history. Explain your experience with this type of project.) It was kind of a joke in my head, until I mentioned the story of my aunt and “my dating-RFQ” to my boss, one day at work.

“Ha!” he said. “You should totally do that!”

Whaaaa…?

Was my boss serious? I asked him. He said he thought the idea was fun, but yes, it was not a bad idea. Suddenly the joke took on a bit more substance. I began working on it.

I’m almost done with my RFQ. I’m not 100% sure yet whether or not I’ll publish it (I’m 90% sure that I will), but it’s been an interesting exercise. Due to the volume of RFQs and RFPs I’ve seen, it was actually pretty easy to write — especially the part that excludes the type of person I’m not looking for. The hardest part, though, is coming up with a list of qualities that I am looking for in a potential mate. But I’m getting there.

One day I’ll get this whole dating-thing nailed down correctly. I’ll figure out why I’ve been attracted to the “wrong” type of guy, and I’ll figure out what the right one is. In the meantime, I’ve got a new-found respect for the perspective that comes with age.

Especially when it comes in the form of advice from an aunt who loves me.

cloudy skies - color, cropped