Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

I’m Not Afraid. . . .

Fear

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalimages.net

It’s just a twinge, really.

Those little ripples that hint at something being wrong but are so easy to ignore. I should know. I’ve spent my life doing just that.

On the TV series Once Upon a Time this past Sunday, the character of Elsa—their recent transplant from the silver screen who comes straight from last year’s blockbuster, Frozen—was imprisoned in blocks of ice by this season’s villain, the Snow Queen. Elsa’s inability to break free, the Queen told her, came out of her fear. As long as she was afraid, she would remain trapped. Frozen.

I know how she feels.

Because no matter how many times I tell myself not to be afraid or remind myself of all the places in Scripture where we’re admonished to “Fear not,” I still tremble at the maybes and what ifs of an unknown and uncontrollable future. And each time, I have to push aside those aforementioned twinges that warn me I could lose everything, or never have something, or—the worst fear of all—die alone because I’m single and childless and, as far as I know, always will be.

Forget the ghouls and goblins and gore of Halloween. I’m the spinster-girl who tells herself those scrapes she hears late at night are her cat or the wind whipping tree branches against the side of her house. Except I don’t have any trees close enough to make that noise. But I do have a cat, so he gets blamed for a lot.

It’s not that I let the fear conquer me. I’m not OCD about locking my doors, nor do I cower in a corner of my room, jumping at every noise. Today’s fears are less about someone breaking into my home and more about failing. Failing in work. Failing in relationships. Failing in my faith.

That last one is key. I don’t want to let God down, yet I feel I do so on a regular basis.

Fortunately, the Bible does say, “Fear not,” over and over again. And God knows my flaws and failures and, amazingly, loves me anyway.

So let the wind howl and the cat scratch.

I am not afraid. …

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Does He Still Have His Teeth? – How Old is Too Old?

“Not to be mean, but does he still have all of his teeth?”

Leave it to a friend to come up with something like that. We were sitting at Red Robin having lunch. The Thursday before this a bunch of single friends in their 30s and 40s discussed what age ranges we would date. The consensus seemed to be that about 5 years either way was probably good.

For me, though, I’ve not really wanted to put limitations based on age when it comes to older than me. I mean, I am almost 50 years old. That changes the game a little. I could easily say I don’t think I’d be comfortable dating a guy 15-20 years younger than me. I felt I could just as easily say that 10 years older really wasn’t that big of a deal.

Little did I know that the next week I was going to have that hypothesis tested. You know the story, a friend knows a guy …

She started with asking if I would consider someone 10 years older than me. And my first thought was, “That’s 60 years old!” As she described this godly man who lost his wife to cancer five years ago, I turned the idea over in my mind.

I was still pondering whether I wanted to crack this door open when the conversation at Red Robin took place. Later I decided that I needed to be as brave as I think I am in my brain and so I told my friend that I would be interested in meeting the guy if he was interested in meeting me.

As I considered this situation, I concluded that age shouldn’t be the deciding factor. It really should be more about whether a man and I are compatible. If we have absolutely nothing in common, the 10 year difference could be a relationship killer. On the other hand, if we click and enjoy each other’s company the age wouldn’t really be a big deal. The only way to know for sure would be to say I’d meet him and go from there.

So, I’m curious to hear from our readers. What do you think about dating someone older or younger than yourself?

 

 

Photo courtesy: olovedog/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy: olovedog/freedigitalphotos.net

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The More Things Change

The truth is, I probably shouldn’t say anything. After all, a girl needs to have her secrets. But, hey, it’s not that big of a secret. I’ve mentioned it on Facebook and who doesn’t have access to that? So, here it is:

I like to watch pro football. Honest to truth, I do. I haven’t always been this way. In fact, I grew up in a home where my dad and two brothers watched every Sunday, right through Fall and the holiday season, all the way up to the Super Bowl. And I didn’t get it.

Men in tight pants, running around a field, chasing a ball. And the announcers talking about downs and penalties and wide receivers and stats—boy, do they love stats. All that scampering, up and down the field. What was the point?

Then, I moved to Colorado. Several states away from family. One year, my work team set up a football season game—anyone who wanted to participate came up with a “team” name and, each week, chose which teams would win the upcoming games.

It sounded like fun so I picked the name “Anita Mann” (say it out loud) and made my best guesses (definitely guesses) who the winners might be. Since I didn’t have any stakes personally, I usually went with family teams—the Rams for my Dad, the Vikings for one brother, the Steelers for another and, of course, the Denver Broncos because I was a devoted Colorado girl at the time.

Before long, I was watching the occasionally game on Sunday afternoons, hoping at least one of my teams would win. I especially liked how the sounds reminded me of my childhood.

Then, during a Steelers’ game, Hines Ward caught a pass and ran it for a couple dozen yards before an opposing defensive back plowed him to the ground. The next second, Ward jumped to his feet, a big grin on his face, and that’s when I realized how much fun football could be.

Fall Hammock Anne MemeNow, it’s as much a part of this time of year for me as pumpkin-scented candles, soft lights and fuzzy slippers. I like the clever plays, the big mistakes (from the other team) and, of course, the come-from-behind wins. This week, I enjoyed watching Peyton Manning break the record for most touchdown passes ever and laughed as the Pittsburgh Steelers made 24 points in less than three minutes of game time in the second quarter.

The months of October, November and December are my favorite time of the year and, as far as I can remember, always have been. I often feel like I haven’t changed much over the years, other than getting older and all that comes with that. Then a little thing like football reminds me I have changed. And, Lord willing, I’ve changed for the better in more important ways than just what I enjoy watching on a Sunday afternoon.

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What’s Wrong With Me?

Image courtesy of digital art/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of digital art/freedigitalphotos.net

Recently, the article “I’m 45, Single and Childless. No, There’s Nothing ‘Wrong’ With Me” appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. In the article, the author discusses how, when dating, she often has to overcome men’s assumption that she has a hidden defect that has prevented her from getting married.

My Facebook comment to this article was that I often wonder myself if something is wrong with me, and if that something is what has prevented me from getting married. One of my friends kindly assured me that nothing was wrong with me.

I ruminated about this article for days after I read it. I thought if a man wants to believe that something is wrong with me, then he will, regardless of whether or not it’s true. And it isn’t true, I told myself. Like the author of the article said, nothing is wrong with me. Except, maybe, I am just a little bit afraid of rejection and so I don’t always let my love for a man show like some other women might. And maybe I do tend to hold onto relationships way beyond their expiration date and put blinders on as to other potential relationships. And, okay, it’s true that I do need help managing my finances and sticking to a budget. …

At this point it occurred to me that, as a matter of fact, there IS something wrong with me. Indeed, there are a lot of things wrong with me. I have issues. Big issues and little issues. My issues may not be as debilitating as some people’s, but they may be much more debilitating than some other’s. Something I may not even have a name for yet is wrong with me.

But something is wrong with all of us. Every one of us, especially we Christians, has weaknesses and frailties. This is a feature of our humanity. We are creatures, not the Creator. We have been created with limitations and vulnerabilities.

So if someone wants to know why I am 44 (or whatever age), single and childless, I do not want my answer to include that nothing is wrong with me. Instead I would want to say something like this: “Yes, there are some things in my life that have been problems in the past. God is revealing these things to me and is helping me to work on them. These things likely played a role in my not being married. But I have hope! By the grace of God, I believe that I will yet meet the right man for me at the right time and I will be married.”

I would hope that such an exchange would catapult me and a potential partner past the myth of finding perfection in a mate, and onto the path of genuinely hearing and knowing one another’s unique journey toward becoming the people that we can each become.

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Supporting Each Other

Image courtesy: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy: imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos.net

I recently met a woman who is in a familiar situation. Her father has Alzheimer’s and her mother is his main caregiver. My new friend is single and moved in with her parents to help. As she asked for assistance with a specific request related to her father’s care, her voice broke and tears slipped from the corners of her eyes.

In that moment, memories flooded my mind of the many tears I shed during my mom’s illness. I knew that those few tears she shed were more than sadness for what her parents were going through.

For those of you who have done it, you know that care giving is a heavy burden. When my mom started to have problems related to her dementia, Dad did as much as he could, but he was just one person. There came a time when Mom needed more than Dad could give. I lived close and it was easier for me to be there to help than it was for my married siblings. And I willingly stepped in to lend a hand. It was good, but not without its problems.

You see, as single adults, we are often uniquely situated to help with these family needs. Since it’s often just us, our lives are easier to manipulate to be available than when you have to take a husband or children’s schedule into consideration. But then again, as single adults we don’t have an instant support network waiting for us at home after our time as caregivers.

There was one night in particular that I remember during Mom’s illness. I had worked all day, and then stopped by my parent’s house to make dinner and get Mom ready for bed. Mom was upset that evening and Dad was also since he couldn’t fix whatever it was that was upsetting her. The weariness was evident on Dad’s face. I did what I could to help and then headed home.

The drive was short, but it was long enough for that little voice to rise up in my mind. “It’s not fair that they have to go through this alone.” “I need someone to care for me too, but I’m heading home to an empty house.” “This doesn’t seem like a great plan, God; this would be easier if I had a husband to come home to, someone to tell me it’s going to be okay.” “Why am I fighting this alone?”

As I railed against God, it was more than just the frustration of not being able to make things better for Mom and Dad. It was all the years of singleness and all the things I’ve had to do alone because the plan hasn’t included a husband up to this point. It was easy for me to drop into that abyss of how unfair God was being. But in the midst of my pity party, God dropped a bombshell. My being single was part of the plan for Mom and Dad’s situation. He knew they would need me and he planned my life so that I would be available to them.

Over the years, I have found that there are both blessings and curses in my singleness. I’m sure it’s the same for married folks. The hard part comes when it always seems like we’re alone in this. As I spoke with my new friend the other day and offered my phone number should she need some care giving as she goes through this, I realized again that God provides in different ways. He gave me friends who could help, and now He’s allowing me to help others.

 

 

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Why Shouldn’t I Feel Pain?

Birthday 2014

Blowing out the candles on Birthday Cake #50. Photo by Susie Jarvis of Waterkopf Photography.

On Wednesday, I turned 51. It’s still a little surreal, knowing I’ve spent over half a century on this planet. And, to be honest, it was a rough day. I do not have the life I dreamed of when I was younger. It’s not even the life I imagined when I turned 50. Things haven’t worked out like I’d hoped and, well, I spent much of my birthday weeping and wishing God would give me a break and make things easier.

The day after, I “celebrated” by having some dental work done, including an extraction. A very painful extraction. As the dentist tugged and pushed and worked that poor decayed tooth, sharp pangs shot through my skull. Each time, I tried to pull away and moaned. I’d mumble, “I- hur” (“It hurts” in dental patient dialect), then add, “I- okay,” because I didn’t want more Novocain. But she gave me more anyway, until the numbness seeped right up to my eye.

And it still hurt.

So, as I’m lying there, wondering if I should groan again because it ached so much, the thought hit me: “Why shouldn’t I feel pain?” I didn’t take good enough care of my teeth and now I have to have something that should be permanent yanked from my skull and that’s gonna sting. Maybe I should just pull up my big girl pants and deal with it.

I get it, though. We live in a society where we don’t want to hurt—physically or emotionally. I go to a lot of effort to avoid painful situations. And I kind of expect God to be a part of that. Since He loves me, He should protect me from anything that will injure me. And that includes the injury to my heart over my continued singleness.

I want Him to fix what makes me sad and when He doesn’t, I don’t get it. I want Him to want me to be happy. Or, at least, to show me what I can do to make the hurt go away. This is my first-world mindset at work—wanting my life to be easy and fun and full of flowers and chocolates delivered by TMoMD (The Man of My Dreams) because I’ve managed to convince myself I deserve it.

But why shouldn’t I be sad? Why shouldn’t I go through tough times? Why shouldn’t I feel pain? And why can’t I focus more on all the blessings in my life instead of constantly wanting, even expecting, more?

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Every Good and Perfect Gift

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
                                                                                          ~James 1:17

 

Image courtesy of tiverylucky@freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky@freedigitalphotos.net

A friend said to me the other day that while she was single she often felt like God had put her on the back burner and just left her there. I think this sentiment will resonate with those of us who, as Leasey put it the other day, are perpetually and reluctantly single. We wait and wait and wait, but nothing happens.

As my friend knows, even though it feels like it, God hasn’t put us on the back burner. His Word says He has a plan for our lives, a plan that has been in place even before we were born. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this eternal singleness is really what God has for us. We can slide into a state of frustration about where we are in life. And when that happens, we lose sight of the fact that God knows and has a future for each of us.

This week, I am challenging myself to remember that my life and my singleness are held in God’s hand. He knows and He hasn’t forgotten me on the back burner. Sometimes a little tweak of how we look at our life is needed. I am challenging myself to view this time of life as a gift.

Won’t you join me in remembering that even though it doesn’t always seem like a good and perfect gift, the life God has given us is good and perfect despite our singleness?

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Blood and Tears and Online Dating

And … another excerpt from my nonfiction book as I continue the editing process:

***

I’m saying that the right man for you might be out there right now, and if you don’t grab him, someone else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that someone else is married to your husband.                                                                                                                                                         —When Harry Met Sally

Hunter

Image courtesy of sakhorn38/freedigitalphotos.net

Every year or so, especially during my thirties and forties, I would decide to give Internet dating a try … again. Not one to learn from her mistakes, I tended to repeat them, which means I would sign up, laugh or cry my way through a few bad experiences, wonder what on earth I was thinking, and let my subscription lapse … again.

But time would pass, as it always does, and I would forget the bad and start to think maybe it could work. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time or email all the men I could or say the right things when I did. Maybe I was too—oh, what’s that word? Picky. Right. Maybe I was too picky. So I’d sign up and go through the whole sordid experience … again. Why? Because I could bargain my way into believing just about anything.

The heart is a lonely hunter. And, in my case, one lacking any decent weapon or even an ounce of ammunition.

Now, the various online dating sites will tell you how important it is to stick with it. These things take time and you have to invest in the process if you really want to see results. At least that’s what an eHarmony customer service rep told me. Still, devoting even a year to the, well, ugliness that is Internet matchmaking—and paying for the privilege, to boot—hardly seemed like a life-affirming idea.

On the other hand, it has brought wedded bliss to vast numbers of people. If you’re willing to take the risk that you might be one of them or accept the consequences if it doesn’t work out, why not go for it? This could very well lead you to the man of your dreams! That’s what we want, right? And so it goes.

As good as it sounds, nothing in my series of online dating excursions has led me to believe it is the path God wants me to take toward lifelong love. Oh, the stories I could tell! I wish I could say I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly, but that would be far too optimistic.

What about you? Have you journeyed into the world wide web of dating? If so, how did it go?

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Nun For Me

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/africa

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/africa

Recently, an older single at church told me about the wonderful time that she had at a retreat where Sister Dawn Annette Mills, a Benedictine nun, was the retreat leader. Sister Dawn was colorful, candid about her sexuality, and hilarious, it seems.

Hearing about a nun who was dealing with her sexuality was a first for me. Nuns have sexuality? It made me think of how similar my life is to that of the cloistered. I began to wonder how, exactly, my life was different from the life of a nun. So I Googled it.

This is what I found:

You May Be A Nun If…

You want nothing to do with the idea of being a nun, but yet you find it strangely compelling too. … You know what it’s like to fall in love with a person or a lifework, yet it feels like all the pieces aren’t quite together–something is missing. … Your music mix has mostly Christian music and church hymns. … You de-clutter your life to the bare essentials, giving most of your belongings to the poor. … Your reading list has mostly titles including the words God or saint. … People are afraid to swear in front of you.

And so on.

It hit me for real then. I have ordered my life around devotion to God and service to the church. I prize time for contemplation and value living in intentional community. I am single. I am childless. I am property-less. For all intents and purposes, I am a nun!

The bigger shocker for me, though, is that I am surprisingly OK with the notion that I am a nun.

Maybe it’s all the church history I’ve read (the monastic life used to be a perfectly reasonable alternative to married life), and the feeling of having some context for where I fit in this coupled-up world. Maybe it’s the realization that there are a slew of contemporary women whose commitment to God has consumed their lives–just like it has mine! Maybe it’s because being a nun is a safe plan, since I can’t actually become a nun, non-Catholic that I am.

For whatever reason, I feel decidely content and will embrace this new identification.

At least for now.

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Table for One – Banana Bread

For years whenever there was a potluck at work or we had a family dinner, I was always the one who ended up bringing plates and utensils, or sodas. It was always assumed that as a single person this was the most I could handle. Slowly I’ve been pulling out of that role and have started compiling a repertoire of dishes I can bring when it comes to potlucks or other dinners.

I’ve always loved bananas and almost always have a bunch in my kitchen. The problem is I often end up with a couple that get too ripe since it’s just me eating them. I throw those bananas in the freezer to use for banana bread for those spur-of-the-moment times when I need something yummy to contribute.  Today I’m going to share with you my favorite banana bread recipe. Sometimes I’ll bake this in my Bundt pan to make it a little more interesting.

Banana Bread

Image courtesy of foto76/freedigitalimages.net

Banana Bread

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium) — if you keep them in the freezer like I do, just put them in the microwave for about a minute before using to soften them up

1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of the loaf pan or the whole pan if you use a Bundt pan. Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs and bananas. Stir in dry ingredients. Bake for 55-60 minutes until golden brown and a pick comes out clean.

I also like to add chocolate chips to this recipe sometimes to make it a little more interesting. In fact, I just made this for a potluck at church but, unfortunately, didn’t think ahead to take a picture.

 

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