Tag Archives: romance

How to make the first move

I went out to lunch with a coworker today. She’s someone I have known for years, and have always thought she was just a wonderful person. As long as I’ve known her, she’s been bubbly and upbeat, cheering others on around her in their endeavors, and just an inspiration on how to be a decent person. But being a natural introvert, I’ve never been one to make the first move to get to know her better – or anyone at work, for that matter. I’ve always left it up to others to try and get to know me better because it’s just easier that way, you know? There’s less risk involved. Naturally that must mean I have tons of friends, right?

You’d think, huh.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t work that way. But regardless, this coworker and I connected recently and came to the mutual decision that we should really have lunch. We ended up having over an hour of fantastic conversation as we discussed everything from our kids to our faith, and everything in between. When we got back to our desks, she emailed me the kindest note. In it, she mentioned that while it might not seem like it, she’s actually a very shy person.

“I’m not one to socialize much,” she wrote, “but you make it very easy. Let’s do it again!”

When it’s hard to make friends, maybe we just need a reminder we’re not the only ones who are shy. Somewhere out there is another human being who is longing for a friend and not sure how to go about it. It’s not just us who are afraid to make the first move. Others are too. But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

This truth is currently being illustrated by my stepson, Frizz, as he agonizes how to ask out the girl he has liked for the better part of the school year. As a senior, he is closing in on the end of his high school years. He is also closing in on the last chance he has to even talk to the girl he likes – let alone ask her out on a date, and perhaps even ask her to be his girlfriend. But just making that first step is terrifying enough, let alone any of the steps that follow after that.

Not sure how to advise my stepson, I asked my daughter, DQ, how she has been asked out in the past. She shared her most recent experience with me. The boy got to know her by asking a lot of questions about her, keeping his attention focused on her. The attraction proved to be mutual, and both of them dropped hints about their interest in each other. And when this boy was able to see that DQ was into him, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

“I guess what Frizz should do is just really try to get to know this girl better, then get her number, and when the moment seems right, tell her how he feels and see if she feels the same way,” DQ advised. “If he does it right, he might even know that she likes him back when he gets to that point.”

Of course, she makes it sound so easy. And truthfully, if you put your nerves aside, it really is that easy. But for someone as shy as Frizz, as shy as my coworker, as shy as ME, taking that first step can feel like preparing to jump off a cliff.

But if no one makes the first move, then no one will go forward.

I guess this could be a lesson in anything. We never know what will happen unless we make that first move – whether it be making a new friend, expressing a feeling of adoration, publishing a book, taking a stand for yourself, risking it all…. If we live a life so full of caution that it keeps us from living life to the fullest, we can’t claim we know the bad that will happen. We also will never know the good that will happen.

Being social for an introvert might feel totally unnatural. But while painful at first, barreling through that shyness isn’t lethal. It might seem that way, but taking that first step won’t strike you down dead. The worst that can happen is that you might get turned down. Sucky, sure. But you’ll be able to move beyond it rather than getting stuck in the unknown. And the best that can happen? You’ll get exactly what you wanted in the first place. A new friend. That special someone who likes you just as much as you like her. Or a published book (only a few more weeks left until A Symphony of Cicadas is officially published).

We’ll never know until we’ve made the first move.

Dating your spouse

This article will publish in the Press Democrat on Friday, September 21.

In a few weeks I will be getting married to Mr. W. The last year of our engagement has passed rapidly, but the last few months have been a whirlwind as we’ve crossed things off our list of things to do before the big day. I’ve had to shut down my social calendar in favor of freeing up my time, and have learned the fine art of saying “no” to obligations that might take me away from all I need to do. It’s been a very busy season for both Mr. W and me!

One of our to-dos was to attend premarital counseling with our pastor before he performs our ceremony. During our final session, the pastor asked us a very pointed question.

“What do you two like to do together?”

Here we were, planning our wedding and a lifetime together, and I was totally stumped for an answer. Needless to say, I was pretty embarrassed. Eventually I was able to think of a few things we’d enjoyed over the years we’d been dating. But the truth was, in the last year we’d been so consumed with conserving money (weddings are expensive!) and utilizing free time to plan the celebration that we had forgotten to schedule in time to reconnect and build our relationship – just the two of us away from the kids and all wedding commitments.

Remember the beginning of your own relationship? If you’re like Mr. W and me, you spent the majority of your time with this other person, discovering new things about each other while finding out all the interests you shared together. You made time for each other, moving things aside to make your other half your highest priority. It’s probably safe to say that you focused on little else than each other in those early days.

Of course, relationships can’t continue in this red-hot, passionate, can’t-get-enough-of-each-other phase forever. There’s a career to tend to, friends you don’t want to lose, and interests you both have that are separate from each other.

And then there are kids who enter the picture and have this tendency to make everything about them. Am I right?

As life adds many chapters to your already busy life, it’s so easy to take your spouse for granted. After all, it’s not like you don’t see them every day. But, as my pastor reminded us in our counseling session, it’s just as important now to date your spouse as it was when everything was fresh and new. It helps to build that connection the two of you have, the one you started way back when you signed up for this life together. Getting to know each other again can even help to repair any of the broken steps you may have swept aside along the way.

However, money and time aren’t exactly falling out of thin air these days. So here are some inexpensive, no-excuses tips for enjoying some one-on-one time with your spouse.

Swap or share babysitting with a friend. One of the main reasons couples don’t go out after kids is the high cost of babysitting. Some date nights can cost an extra $40 on top of going out to dinner and a movie. But if you share a babysitter with another couple before heading out on a double date, the cost can be cut in half. Another option is for your friends to watch your children in exchange for babysitting their children on a different night out. Third option, and my all-time favorite standby is to package watching your kids to your own parents as some all-important bonding time with their grandkids. For added measure, point out they can undo all the ways you’ve screwed them up in your failed parenting skills.

Go on a cheap date. Going out doesn’t mean you have to spend tons of money to have a great time. Eat dinner at home before checking out what’s playing in the movie theaters. Enjoy a play at one of our local theaters. Consider a lunch time date when prices for food are usually a bit lower than they are at night. Even simply going out to coffee sans kids can be a great way to catch up. Free dates can include perusing the bookstore together or enjoying a hike in your favorite state park. And don’t underestimate the date that includes a little community service. Bagging groceries at the food bank or participating in a beach clean-up day is not only time well spent together, but doubles your warmed heart efforts as you do good for others.

Enjoy a night in. One of my favorite suggestions I’ve some across for dating while the kids are young is to date after they go to bed. Once they’re tucked in, enjoy a candlelit dinner with your sweetheart followed by a cozy evening of movies under a blanket on the couch. A tip for timing is to prepare most of the dinner ahead of time. Prep it to go in the oven while you’re tucking the kids in, or have it already cooked and ready to reheat once their heads hit the pillow. Share a glass of wine or your favorite sparkling cider over unhurried conversation. And before you start the movie and snuggle up, you may want to ensure they’re really asleep. After all, you never know what might happen during all this free time together (wink wink).

Most important – make sure your time together allows for communication. Uninterrupted talking time without kids and other concerns barging in can be rare. So take advantage of this prime time of conversation by turning off the cell phone in favor of talking, listening, and staying connected with your partner in crime.

Being sexy, raising kids

Keeping the romance alive in your marriage is difficult when you’re raising children.  At times, it can be an almost romance killer.  This only makes it that much more important when you become a parent to continue working at romance to keep the love alive and steamy hot….even when it feels like you have to go to extraordinary lengths to get there.

How do YOU keep the romance alive when little ones are underfoot?

Peg Melnik and Leslie Kaplan, authors of Make Love Whenever Possible When Married With Children, are advocates of keeping romance a huge part of marriage while raising children.  Their book is dedicated to little ways you can seduce your spouse, and feel sexy while doing it.  Today I am turning my blog over to them with a story shared about a recent escape from parenthood to a day of pure romance.

The Make Love Mindset

by Peg Melnik & Leslie Kaplan

We are drinking Bloody Marys at high noon and my husband is romancing me with music.

Clearly this is not your typical Thursday. We are in Pismo Beach celebrating our anniversary and we’re listening to “I Can See Clearly Now” with Johnny Nash reaching for the high notes.

Stealing away like this was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I had to make seven calls to set up kid coverage, another two to get a dog sitter, and three emails just to make sure my garden wouldn’t turn into potpourri while we’re gone.

Getting away takes stamina, persistence, an indomitable spirit.

It feels cruel to leave babies because the umbilical cord is never truly cut until they’re five-plus. And yet, babies do survive at home even when we aren’t the primary caregiver 24/7.

One tip: An antidote for guilt is a stiff drink.

Soon I am feeling at ease, relaxed, decidedly off duty.

We listen to “Every Step You Take” by the Police and it takes me back to the time that I first realized I was in love with this man. I was driving home after spending the night with him and I had a frank talk with myself. “He’s the guy. He’s the one.” Amazing. Time travel is possible if you have the right music.

I decide I never want to have my husband stop romancing me with music – even when we go back to the loud house. What to do?
Maybe we could listen to music when we sit outside every night for a glass of wine.

It’s true. We can’t drink Bloody Marys at high noon every day, but there is hope in that crazy-making house. We still can try to romance each other with music on vacation-less days.

To learn tips and read inspirational stories on keeping the romance alive in a marriage with kids, visit Peg and Leslie’s website at www.newmarriagesecrets.com.

Conquering the divided front

I was shopping a few weeks back when a commotion took my attention from what I was doing and towards the sound. A mother was struggling with her tantrumming child. It was hard to decipher who was having the bigger tantrum between the two. No judgment from me – I have all too often known what it’s like to console a cranky child when they are inconsolable. But then she ordered her husband to take the child, then what he needed to do with the child. And her tone was less than that of a wife and more like that of a mother to her husband.

Marriage is a union of two equal partners.

From the scene I witnessed, I saw two faults being committed. One was a husband who had tuned out the unfolding scene of his wife and son who were going downhill fast in a chaotic battle. And the other was a wife who had forgotten how to ask for help from the person that she loves the most.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practice. When kids enter the marriage, the whole dynamics of that marriage partnership change. Suddenly there are these little beings that tie up all of our time and attention, and it is too easy to forget about the routine that was in place before kids came into the picture. Remember when your spouse was the biggest person in your life? Remember when you would do anything for them, and make any kind of time from them?

Remember when you heard them? I mean, really heard them?

The romance in marriage doesn’t have to end when kids come into the picture. In fact, that’s when it is needed the most. Kind words, spontaneous gestures of love, a stolen kiss now and then, a phone call just to let them know you are thinking of them… All these things and more are necessary to ensure that the love that brought the two of you together is still there even when you are too tired to even form a complete sentence. And most important of all is thinking of your spouse so highly that you wouldn’t dare to disparage him in front of public eyes or completely overlook her need for some assistance.

I think it was described accurately in the book, Make Love Whenever Possible When Married with Children, by Leslie Kaplan and Peg Melnik:

“I made a mistake early on in our marriage when I decided that since my husband is a big person, he could fend for himself. I made my daughter my first priority and focused on her needs.
“Now I see that this thinking is flawed. It’s not a question of priorities. It’s a question of energy. A paradigm shift in parenting comes when a person realizes that families run on energy, not priorities. If you put all your energy into your children, you won’t have the energy reserves for your spouse, no matter how deeply you care for him/her.
“So if you have a policy of “Children First” at your house, you should rethink it. When parents are too devoted to their kids, a space can grow between couples, and if unattended, it can become a chasm.”

So reclaim that love that you had with your spouse before the kids came barreling into your lives. Raise them together as a united front. Ensure that your marriage is the foundation that holds your family together. Make it a point to really see your wife. Ensure that you speak to your husband with care as the man that you created these children with. And know that life will be easier to handle when the harder battles come along from testing children, that your children will have a positive example to model their own future relationships by, and that your mate will still be your best friend long after the kids are grown and creating families of their own.

Texting Queen

My daughter sat on the couch, her phone never leaving her side. Every now and then it would vibrate. Like clockwork, she would flip it open, read it, then send back a quick reply. This wasn’t just going on for a short time, this had been going on all day long. I asked her who she was texting, and after many retorts of how little business it was of mine, she finally told me it was a boy at her school. The fact that she was texting a boy was not alarming. Most of her friends are guys, and she and one of her longest known guy friends texted each other often. Most of their texts consisted of “Sup”, or “LOL”, or “My brother’s a dweeb”. Nothing to write home about. And definitely nothing that raised my eyebrows (except to roll my eyes at how lame it was). But this was different, this was a boy I had never heard of. And with the way they were texting each other for hours on end, it was obvious that this was not just some friend.

This had to be a boyfriend.

Of course, she denied it. Nevermind that she had been hunched over the keypad of that phone all night. Nevermind that she had been guarding it so that no one saw what she had been texting. Nevermind the silly grin that was escaping from her usually blank stare when nothing that amusing was going on in real life.

“Come on DQ,” I said. “Admit it. He’s your boyfriend.”

“He’s not my boyfriend!” she exclaimed.

“Why don’t you just call him?” Mr. W asked her as she furiously typed in some letters and hit send.

“Talking on the phone is so old-fashioned,” she explained to us ignorant old fogies. “Besides, you can’t take back words when you say them, but you can always hit delete before you send a text.”

My daughter has played the love game before.  The experimentation with adult things like love is a common game in the elementary years. Two kids decide they like each other. They decide to “go out”. They might talk occasionally while at school, but more likely than not they’ll avoid each other like the plague. The relationship might last a long two or three days, or go for even longer by lasting a couple weeks. Then one member of this coupledom will decide that they actually have a crush on someone else they hadn’t really noticed before (usually after the crushee expresses interest), and the relationship ends.

“DQ” has had boyfriends, but somehow, now it’s different. She’s 12, almost in Jr. High.  Having a boyfriend is getting closer and closer (if it’s not here already) to extending past ignoring each other and the occasional awkward glances.  It’s a little nervewracking to even think about.  Not only that, kids are more available to each other now, and DQ is no different.  Why?  Because now she has a phone.

Giving her a phone was not a choice I took lightly. I had been hemming and hawing over it for well over a year. It was true that many of her classmates were now getting phones, but I was not about to let that be my deciding factor. If her classmates were all getting Shetland Ponies, our imaginary corral would still be empty. The decision was solely based on how available I needed her to be. And because she was old enough to be staying home alone, and because I needed to be able to reach her when she was waiting to be picked up or over at her father’s house, I finally came to the decision that a phone was a necessity.

When she got her phone, ground rules were set up. Phone curfew was at 9 pm sharp. (Side note here. This was a rule my parents set up for my sisters and me when we were kids regarding the old-fashioned rotary telephone. Of course, it was lame. I mean, who goes to bed at 9 pm? Now I know. What parent wants their phone ringing at all hours of the night? 9 pm is a PERFECT cut off point.) At 9 pm, the phone is to be turned off and plugged in to charge. During school hours, the phone stays off. Talking time on the phone was ordered to be kept to a minimum, since I was not about to raise my minutes on our shared plan. And there was not to be any internet access at all on the phone (something I made sure of with my nerdish technical capabilities of disarming them). If she broke any of these rules, the phone would be confiscated – no questions asked. But to be realistic, I was allowing her unlimited texting (before 9 pm, of course). After all, she was a tween.

DQ has been really good about following these rules. Every night she plugs in the phone, and every morning she goes through it to see what she’s missed. The phone has basically become an extension of herself, and the best way for her to keep in touch with her friends outside of school. But best of all, it has made it incredibly convenient for me to be able to locate her when she texts me from a friend’s house, or when I’m searching through a crowd of students when picking her up at school.

On the day in question, the phone never left her lap. We watched some Survivor, and she glanced at the TV in between a fast typing conversation. The show ended and I instructed her to plug it in before bed. I went to kiss her goodnight, and she was being a little jumpy.

“Where’s your phone?” I asked her.

“It’s downstairs, plugged in, just like you asked me to do,” she answered matter-of-factly.

I wasn’t buying it.

“Alright, where? I’m going to go check,” I said, looking her straight in the eye.

“Go ahead,” she countered, challenging my threat, her gaze never leaving mine.  (Seriously, cue some Good, Bad, and the Ugly music here)

“Alright,” I said, and started to leave the room.

“Wait Mom!” she called. I turned and smiled, holding out my hand. She sheepishly went into her backpack and pulled out the lime green instrument.

“Good thing you caught me,” I told her. “You almost lost your phone.”

The next day I wouldn’t let her have her phone back until after church. I admit it, it was to torture her. I knew that she was waiting to get that phone back with baited breath to find out if her “just a friend” had texted her back. She finally did get it back, and away she went to leave the real world and enter the land of “LOLs” and “BRBs”. We were leaving the grocery store and on our way home when I drilled her again.

“I don’t know why you don’t just admit it,” I said. “Obviously he’s your boyfriend. I wasn’t just born yesterday.”

“Mom, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s just a friend.” And she hunched back over her keypad. We were just entering our complex when my phone dinged. I checked to see who had sent me a text. It was from DQ.

“I’m pretty sure my mom figured it out.”

With the advances of technology, you can send a friend a note in seconds flat. You can tell them you’ll be late meeting them. You can let them know you are thinking of them. You can find out what they are wearing to the latest party, or if that person you were avoiding happens to be there. Or you can hit the wrong button and send a text that was meant for your BOYFRIEND accidentally to your own mother.

Yes folks, the jig is up. And the only thing I can do with this little snafu is place it in the giant book of AWESOME.