My new dating pre-screening questionnaire

You don’t get to be 38 and single without a few good (or not so good) dating stories, am I right? I’ve had my share of Jerry Springer episode moments and it’s just about led me to quitting altogether. But I do happen to have a few friends/family members with excellent spouses and good marriages so all hope is not lost quite yet. After a particularly eye opening experience recently I went for a good hard run and my creative juices got flowing and this little nugget was born.

This is really just a mental checklist as I’m getting to know someone, not an actual conversation specifically, but who knows, maybe one day it will come to that. It might seem blunt, but here’s to keeping it real.

Connection: How did we meet? Mutual friends? Hobbies? Employer?

Red flags include online/dating apps, no mutual friends or hobbies, co-worker status.

Background:

Employment: Are you employed? How long have you been employed? Have you ever been terminated? Do you have large gaps in your employment?

Red flags include prolonged lack of employment, termination for cause.

Education: Have you completed a post-high-school program? How long did it take you? Did you attend multiple colleges?

Red flags include failure to complete programs started, mid-program switching.

Family: Living relatives? Parents divorced? Previous marriage? Children? Want to marry and/or have children?

Red flags include weak/non-existent family relationships, divorce for adultery or physical violence, no custody/visitation rights, not keen on marriage.

Friends: Do you have them? Can I meet them? Are they married/single/dating?

Red flags for none, secret, all single.

Spirituality – Were you raised in church? Do you attend church regularly? What type/style/brand?

Red flags for lack of moral compass, acceptance, forgiveness, joy, family values.

Finances – Do you have a plan? An advisor?  Have you ever declared bankruptcy? Do you pay taxes? Do you give money to others (charities, not your mooching friends)? Do you talk about money a lot? Do you expect women owe you something because you bought them [fill in the blank]?

Red flags for stability, intelligence, misaligned priorities, chivalry or lack thereof, manipulation, generosity.

Other:

Were/are you in the military or law enforcement? For how long? If left, why? Serve overseas? Active combat?

Red flags for oh so many things.

Have you ever been in a fight – knife, gun, hand to hand combat? Have you been wounded or inflicted wounds requiring medical treatment.

Red flags for violence, PTSD, anger management.

Do you own guns? Conceal carry? Hunt? Maintain gun skills regularly?

Red flags for extreme views, mental instability, unsafe practices.

Hobbies:

Travel – Do you have a passport? Have you left the country? Other than to tropical islands?

Red flags for lack of cultural perspective/world view.

Sports – Team or individual? Competitive or recreational? Obsessed or easy going? Extreme or mainstream? Financial commitment within your means?

Red flags for egomania, inappropriate spending, adultery, strava obsessing, or cross-fitting (sorry friends, personal preference).

Social habits – Do you drink, frequent bars, use recreational or performance enhancing drugs? Are you a foodie? Do you stay home all the time?

Red flags for alcoholism, drugs (obvi), excessive instagram posts, possible hermit/loner.

Living arrangement – Have you ever owned a home? Do you currently? Is it on wheels/water? Is there a housemate? Pets? Is it clean? Does it smell?

Red flags for commitment, responsibility, independence, hygiene.

 

Bonus categories:

Do you have any interesting or unique talents, interests, hobbies?

Extra points for travel, boating, cycling, vegan cooking, foreign languages.

 

End note:

Some of these may seem obvious, some extreme, some not your style. That’s okay. Like I said, it’s born from my experience and my expectations. If you’re reading this and you’ve dated me, don’t try to find yourself in there, or do, personal development is good. Lord knows I need it too! And of course some of my comments are tongue in cheek, no hate mail please.

Monday morning thoughts from 30,000 feet

Sunset in Anacortes WA November 2015
Sunset in Anacortes WA November 2015 – practicing panoramic selfies hehe

A few weeks ago I stood on a rock at sunset looking across Puget Sound at the Olympic Mountains with one of my oldest and dearest friends and felt overwhelmed with relief and hope, having taken a big leap of faith towards a possible future on the west coast. I had accepted a job in Seattle and was ready to really try the city on as a new home. But since the job is seasonal and doesn’t start for 2 months I got busy confirming plans for the meantime and never got around to capturing my thoughts about this blessing that had been shaping up behind the scenes for literally a decade. I was eager to testify to God’s goodness in light of my severe anxiety around jobs and interviews and finances. And I was thrilled to tell my parents because they worry much more than I do about my stability and provision. It was a busy week hosting Karen and playing tour guide then I packed up once more and headed back east to share my news and dig through boxes of winter clothes for a work wardrobe and resort wear for a family “vacation.” (When my day to day life is really a vacation of sorts the term loses its original meaning.)

As I connected with Charlotte friends over the next 5 days I started to spread the word and was further energized by their enthusiasm. I also got a swift kick in the tail in the training department by accompanying them to computrainer classes, hot yoga, group runs, and even chased my coach around on the bike one sunny day. It seemed everyone else had gotten back in the swing of things post-ironman a lot faster than I had and it made me wonder if I’m doing something wrong and how I can build a stronger training network out west to stay in better shape when an A race isn’t looming. But I’ll put that in the 2016 Goals column for now.

Before I knew it I was rushing to the airport for our tropical getaway and despite a comedy of errors I made it to Atlanta where I met up with the whole gang and a few hours later we were toes in the sand, piña coladas in hand. I was proud of myself for keeping the workout mojo going but I’m pretty sure the weekly alcohol intake negated any possible fitness gains and I’m still pretty embarrassed about my current state and grateful its baggy sweater season. After a sunny week of pampering and digging holes in the sand with my niece and nephew, I was back to Atlanta to catch up with old friends. I honestly can’t remember the last time I visited and I hardly recognize it anymore. I spent 3 days catching up with 4 dear girlfriends and couldn’t help but reflect on how we’ve all grown up so much in the 10 years since I left. There’s been love and loss and babies and new houses but I can still sit across the table from each one and laugh like it was yesterday. Women in their 30s are remarkable. They juggle careers and children and aging parents and relationships and homemaking and fitness and you wonder how they find the energy to get up and do it all again the next day with a smile on their face. Consider me impressed and feeling a little unworthy!

En route back to Charlotte I started reaching out to schedule time with friends for what I thought would be my last visit til May. There’s never enough time to see everyone which only makes me realize how incredibly blessed I am in the friend department. I really have an amazing community that loves and supports me and the more I consider not moving back there the harder it is to leave. I am so grateful to everyone who has opened their home to me, especially last minute, and been so generous and understanding of my crazy schedule. I hope one day I can repay all the kindnesses. But even as I sit here 90 minutes from landing back in Seattle, I know I’ll be returning to the Queen City before the end of tax season. I had one super special friend hour this weekend that has really rocked me and I’ve been a sniffly puffy eyed mess since I hugged her goodbye. There are many injustices in the world these days but at least in this moment I can think of none greater than suffering at the merciless hands of incurable disease. No one can escape from it anymore. It seeks out our mothers, our best friends, our heroes, our cheerleaders. It infuriates me and it frightens me. It brings out the worst in some and the best in others. It rips apart families and shatters dreams. It breaks my heart and makes me love in ways I didn’t know I could. We throw billions of dollars and countless hours of brilliant minds’ labor at it and at the end of the day we are still completely mystified and helpless.

There are just some mysteries we will not have answers for this side of eternity. I can’t anticipate the grief that lies in my too near future. The last few months I have felt keenly aware of my emotions and perhaps spent a little too much time being present with them (a downfall of excessive free time). Whether it’s fear and anxiety or confidence and pride, longing and loneliness or gratitude and joy, I have to believe that this is the essence of life. Soaking in the moments and understanding how pieces fit together when something wonderful unfolds offers at least a sliver of solid ground when the winds of confusion and despair start howling. It’s unfathomable to me how some people can be so reckless with their loved ones when others would literally give anything for just one more tomorrow with theirs.

As I said, it is getting harder and harder to leave. But for the very reason that life is fleeting and precious, I have to keep moving forward. My people wouldn’t be my people if they did anything less than hug me and pray for me and send me on my way. And because I’m their people they know I’ll be back when it’s time. I carry them with me as I go and will pray for them as I watch the sun set over my horizon, that it will rise on theirs, bringing hope and strength for the battles of the new day, and peace in the promise of life everlasting.

sunset after a storm, seven mile beach, grand cayman, november 2015
sunset after a storm, seven mile beach, grand cayman, November 2015

 

If you would like to get some skin in the game… join me in supporting my people at the Get Your Rear in Gear Charlotte March 5th or for those of you not near the Queen City, we’ll gladly take your money too! Follow my link to the team page by clicking here:  GYRIG Blue Crew

The Blue Crew celebrating LIFE at VBGB Charlotte NC October 2015
The Blue Crew celebrating LIFE at VBGB Charlotte NC October 2015

on the road again!

I’ve found myself spending a lot of time alone lately, on the bike, on the trails, in the car – and wishing I had a way to record my thoughts. For whatever reason I find myself to be my most poetic (at least by my own accord) when I’m running, but as soon as the run is over, I’m caught back up in life and never take the time to write down (or even remember) what I came up with. Last Saturday I spent two sweat soaked hours on the trails at Lake Norman State Park and it was the perfect time to challenge myself and sort through some emotions. I didn’t sign up for an ironman because I thought it would be easy or fun or a great way to make new friends. I signed up because I knew it would be a huge challenge, physically and mentally. I wanted to (want to) discipline myself, face my deepest fears, overcome my demons, and find out what I’m really made of. In my first three weeks of real training, I’ve already had to recommit myself numerous times. Adjust expectations. Pull myself out of funks. Quit making excuses. I’ve made it harder on myself by taking the show on the road. Being away from all my running and cycling friends in Charlotte means a lot of solo workouts. A lot. And reaching out to strangers to find routes and rides (which so far have eluded me). So I can only hope that all this forced self-motivation will help me on race day. Race day seems really far away when I think about how far I have to go in my training to get ready for it, but it is frighteningly close from a calendar perspective. Then there are days when I just run for time and almost don’t even notice how far I went distance-wise. It is weird to surprise myself at the end of a 4 hour ride with such a great run off and then realize I just rode 70 miles all by myself – a distance i’ve only ever come close to twice, in groups. Part of me worries that if I don’t pause to recognize where I’m at this week, on September 27th I won’t be able to comprehend how I got from a pudgy out of shape world traveler to an ironman in 100 days. For the sake of really wanting to finish in a decent time for my personal gratification, I’m essentially praying to be the Fillnows’ biggest turn around project for 2015. But I have a long ways to go yet – physically and mentally. And I’m just getting started.

Leaving Charlotte was stressful and hectic and emotional for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here. Plus I was delayed because someone ran over my bike rack and I had to wait for a replacement. imageBut it gave me more time to visit with some friends and get organized for another 2 months on the road, this time domestically (well, staying on the continent anyways). I’ve had a good few days visiting with my sister and her babes in Cinci. Tomorrow I’m hoping to drop in on Greatfather for lunch before heading to Michigan to catch the IronCowboy for century ride #2!

Learning to Love

Friday April 10th was the day I left Charlotte. It had been a pretty crazy week of being homeless, disorganized, busy, nervous, overcommitted, and basically overwhelmed. I was offered the opportunity to make some last minute money working on a project for my recent employer which was great but also a bit of a time suck. I was squeezing in visits with some of my favorite friends before I took off for a couple months. I was attempting to downsize my suitcase contents and make wise decisions about what to leave in my friend’s basement. I was calling financial institutions to streamline accounts and figure out the best place to keep the proceeds from selling my home, not knowing when exactly I’ll want to use them to buy something down the road. I was alternating between sleeping at my best friend’s house and sleeping at my boyfriend’s house, which are inconveniently about 30 minutes apart from one another. So needless to say I was thrilled to finally get on the road and head to the beach to relax. And thankfully, we were headed south on I-95 instead of north with all the spring breakers migrating home, stuck in a standstill for miles on end.

However, when we arrived at Jekyll Island at the communicated time of check-in only to be told our villa wasn’t ready yet (by the least customer service oriented receptionist I’ve ever encountered), all the hunger induced crankiness reared its ugly head. Okay, we’ll take the boys for a walk on the beach, this is fine, just 15-20 minutes right? A) the beach was practically non-existent, B) the millions of beetle like critters scampering over the rocks was like a scene from an alien movie, C) 15 minutes turned into almost 2 hours and the barely chilled beer I overpaid for at the trailer park retail center down the road was not sufficient to calm our nerves. Things were not starting off well. I was feeling an I told you so moment coming on and was afraid our first “family” vacation was going to be the end of our relationship.

After we unloaded my clown car of disorganized luggage and cleaned up, we got back in the car (ugh) to try and find dinner (at 7:30, rather late for the kids). There is basically one restaurant on the island. There was an hour and a half wait. Go figure. It would be a 30 minute drive back into Brunswick so we resolved to ordering pizza from the “villa.” Hmm, no one delivers way out here? Shocking. No one was answering at the pizza place on the island so I decided to just drive there and get take out while poor Matt made peanut butter on pretzels snacks for the boys who I set up with a movie on my laptop bc I couldn’t get the apple tv to work. Oh look, as soon as I get back in the car, it starts to rain. Like lightning and thunder scary rain.

I find the weird little pizza joint (at the miniature golf course) and when an employee finally emerges and asks if I’d like a to go order I explained that I called and called but no one was answering despite the recording saying they were open for another 30 minutes. She explained that they stopped answering because they ran out of food. Excuse me? After a lot of back and forth with her and a little Asian lady, I walked out with two pitiful salads and a lot of breadsticks. Lucky for me, 5 and 8 year old boys love breadsticks. Matt was too upset to eat the pitiful salad. Why so upset you ask? Because while I was chasing down food in the lightning storm, they went out to sit on the patio and watch the storm, and were accosted by raccoons.

IMG_2190

Did I mention our “villa” was in a nature preserve? So the proprietors are forbidden from doing anything about all the vermin and varmints creeping us out on the beach and attacking children for their pretzels. I’m still itching all over from whatever was snacking on me for the 15 minutes I sat on the boardwalk the next morning while my sweet boyfriend convinced the manager to refund our money and let us leave.

Yes, sweet boyfriend was horrified and embarrassed about this place he had been told was fabulous by a[n apparently insane] coworker. So he ponied up the cash to relocate us to a much nicer resort on the neighboring island of St. Simon for the rest of the weekend. He also gave me carte blanche to go for a long bike ride to let off some steam while he and the boys relocated to the new digs. God bless him. When I arrived, covered in sweat and bugs from a much needed workout, everyone was in good spirits so we cleaned up and enjoyed some strong drinks and comfort food at the beach front restaurant and finally let ourselves relax. Just to make sure everyone slept well we drug the boys on a second long beach walk of the day, with no creepy crawlies, no invisible biting ninjas, just good old people watching and piggy back rides.

As I sit here on the balcony of the luxury condo my parents rented for two weeks on the exclusive Sea Island, missing him like crazy, reading Daring Greatly (still), I am keenly aware of how the weekend adventure was a lesson in vulnerability, expectations, grace, love, and teamwork. No one hopes for adversity or disappointment and a challenging vacation weekend is certainly not the end of the world. I am a lucky, lucky girl to have the opportunities I do and the wonderful people in my life. I have been completely spoiled by my parents on some world class trips and I know it sets unrealistic expectations. But the weekend was just the beginning of a lot of travel adventures and teachable moments and opportunities to choose my attitude. I feel incredibly selfish sometimes (the kids constantly remind me just how selfish I really am). This whole journey feels incredibly selfish. And I’m not really sure what to do with that emotion just yet. The last time I fell in love my selfishness was, in a way, what rescued me from making a really terrible mistake. But now that I’m falling in love again, I’m recognizing that my selfishness could be a major hazard. So I have some things to sort out and am asking for grace in the mean time.

Running Away is Harder than it Seems

Seriously. The To Do list never ends! Shirking the responsibilities of home ownership is actually quite a challenge. Selling the house was the easy part! Negotiating the repairs requested from the inspection was annoying but the canceling of services and subscriptions and changing my address on EVERYTHING (and then some!) is so time consuming! Scheduling movers was easy but sorting through all my stuff keeps me up at night (literally, compounded by daylight savings time change and I was up separating out my travel clothes at 3am!). I thought the weeks I spent making the To Do list before I actually quit my job would make the process easier but now that list has morphed into a series of lists for pre-sale, post-sale, travel related, financial related, etc. I have to believe that 3 months of insomnia and purging and endless phone calls will all be worth it when I recline those 2 inches in my economy seat crossing the Atlantic for 2 months of international adventures (and whatever comes after that). So I do what I can each day, prioritizing things like new health insurance and an international data plan, and replacing what used to be essential workouts with walks with friends. After gaining some stress weight and driving myself crazy trying to fit it all in, I realized I was missing the point of this whole journey: to enjoy the process, to learn and adjust, to roll with it. Sit down with a cup of hot tea (I’m trying to become a tea person) and a friend or a book or a stranger or a pretty sunset, and just take in the moment, be in the moment. I’m already discovering that plans are meaningless because life happens, things pop up, circumstances change.

Two pretty serious things have come up in the last few weeks that have made me question leaving at all. Or cutting it short. But at least for now, I am trusting that both situations will be fine (in the Lord’s more than capable hands) in my absence and I’ll be a better person when I return and a better partner in those relationships. A big part of why I decided to run off was because I didn’t feel like anything was really keeping me in Charlotte and now there are strong reasons to stay. Life is a series of choices. There are a lot that I’d like do-overs on. But that’s not the way it works. And I have to stop regretting and feeling guilty and just start making better choices. Sometimes those choices feel selfish but I am learning that I cannot be who I’m meant to be or do what I’m meant to do if I don’t spend some time working on myself.

I’m reading Mark Batterson’s All In and this morning I read “The only way to predict the future is to create it. You don’t let it happen. You make it happen… Stop regretting the past and start learning from it. Let go of guilt by leaning into God’s grace… God wants to reconcile your past by redeeming it.”

I certainly can’t be everything to everyone but I can’t be anything to anyone if I don’t follow through on this journey. As as I suspected, it would change a lot along the way. I wanted it to, in response to relationships and circumstances and blessings. I’m super excited about some recent developments and scared $hitless by others. One day at a time is all I can do. Lucky for me, this week has been pretty great. Sunday I finished one of my favorite races feeling good and got to celebrate friends’ accomplishments. Yesterday I got to take a walk in the sunshine with my dear friend who is now thankfully home from the hospital. And today, I got to play with my nephew in his sandbox and read stories to my drool covered niece. Life is good.

Life is very good.