Online dating – what I learned on Lavalife

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I’ve done my fair share of online dating. I’ve met some great guys who are sincerely looking for love and companionship and I’ve also met some cads who’ve lied about
everything from their marital status to their sexual preferences and relationship goals.

Online dating isn’t that much different from more traditional dating except for a few things.

Online dating compresses the time frame for meeting potential dating partners. Join a dating site and suddenly you’ll meet dozens of potential dating partners in an evening rather than over the span of months. The result can be thrilling and sometimes discouraging. Sure there are crazy people on the dating sites. But they’re out there in real life too. They just come at you faster through online dating. And remember, you are someone’s crazy person too, so stay humble.

Online dating makes it much easier to deceive yourself and potential dating partners. I can almost guarantee that if a man’s profile says he’s 5’6” he will be 5’3” or shorter. I don’t care how tall a man is. I do care that he’s lying, especially about something so trivial and easy to spot. What else is he lying about?

If you’re going to put up an online dating profile, be impeccable with the facts. You want to attract people for who you really are and not be left squirming when you have to magically lose 30 pounds or grow three inches overnight before that first meeting.

Use the Internet to meet people, not to get to know them. It’s waaaaaay too easy to fill in the gaps between reality and how you want reality to be, and become attached to a fantasy. So don’t spend too much time online getting to know a potential dating partner. A few emails exchanged will do. If you are interested in someone you’ve met online, arrange to meet. Only once you actually meet someone in real life will you know if there’s chemistry for you both. Trust me – if he/she smells like your sibling, it will be a turn off!

Last thing. It’s dating. It’s supposed to be fun. So go forth, be you and let the world love ya!

 

Death does not end a relationship…

… It only changes it. And that holds true whether you believe in life after death or not.

Obviously you’re not going to have the same sorts of interactions with the deceased that you had with them when they were alive.

But the feelings you had for a person in life will not magically vanish just because that person is no longer physically present.

If you had a positive and loving relationship, you will still have those feelings. Things you see and do will remind you of the deceased and make you smile. You may still talk to them either in your mind or even aloud. You might even get a response.

Not required.

Conversely, if you have a difficult or negative relationship with someone while they are alive, the strife isn’t over when that person dies, as many people seem to think or perhaps hope.

The changes that death brings to these relationships may cause frustration or open a door to forgiveness.

If you have unfinished business with a person who has died, you might be frustrated that you can’t get an explanation or receive an apology.

However, death can also level the playing field.

In life, my father was a difficult person to be around and even more difficult to know. He was a severe alcoholic, morose, bitter and sharp tongued. My father’s death finally gave me a chance to say many of the things I wanted to say to him without being rebuffed, denied or interrupted. It also allowed me to love my father without fear. I could see him as human – mortal, vulnerable, flawed, someone’s child – just like me.

I feel closer and more loving to him now than I ever could when he was alive. That is the transformative power of death. What changes it brings for you are your choice.

How has death transformed your relationships with others?

Eating the milkman’s horse and other Thanksgiving tales

It’s Thanksgiving weekend. This holiday, more than any other, makes me think of and miss my mom. She was born in 1930 in Germany. The deprivations and horrors of Hitler’s regime and the Second World War filled her childhood and teenage years. For good and for ill, those experiences shaped my mother.

Although we were a poor family, my mother always managed to put on a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. Every inch of the table would be covered with dish after delicious dish of turkey, stuffing, vegetables, potatoes, sauces and gravies followed by at least three desserts.

My mother would sit beaming at the head of the table and survey everything that was on offer. And then she would say, “We have so much to be thankful for. During the war, we never had enough to eat. I remember serving my father horsemeat once. He didn’t ask where I had gotten the meat and I didn’t tell him. The milkman’s horse had died and I was there to get some.”

At that point in her story, she’d stop and stare off into the distance, remembering the serendipitous moment when she got a portion of a dead horse. And then she would resume, “Now look at all that we have. We have enough food. We have a roof over our heads. We are safe in our beds at night. We are so lucky.”

And we are.thankful.png

Here’s a list of some of the very simple things in life I’m thankful for. Perhaps some of these will resonate with you or spur you to consider your own list of gratitudes.

  • A shower after a hot, dirty, sweaty day
  • Bright winter days so cold the snow squeaks
  • Travelling – all the new places, faces, smells, sights, foods and sounds that challenge, delight, intrigue and excite
  • Those first green shoots in the garden. After months of Canadian winter, they are a thrill and a promise.
  • Ringing church bells
  • Reading poetry. Here’s my favourite poem.
  • The smell of tomato plants in the sun
  • Philosophical debates
  • Ghost stories
  • Pine trees – the way they smell, their wooden, fractal-inspired cones and their deep moan on windy nights
  • Songs from the ’80s. I was a teenager then and no music is more evocative for me.
  • The first cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Skeletons and skulls… they’re always grinning!
  • Really good shoes – especially red ones.
  • No alarm clocks. I love a morning where I don’t have to be up by a certain time even if I rarely sleep in.
  • Nuzzling the warm little nape of a baby’s neck and smelling that baby smell.
  • Kindness – more and more this is the trait I respect and admire and want to emulate.
  • The full moon
  • A big cozy chair, a drink, a great book, likely a kitty snuggled in my lap and time to read.
  • Thunderstorms
  • Cooking and baking – it’s like magical alchemy right in my kitchen
  • Fancy soaps, especially handmade soaps
  • Animals. They amaze me with their sheer variety, beauty, Zenlike purpose, abilities and authenticity.
  • Champagne cocktails
  • Dawn – still and stirring, promising a fresh start
  • Frogs singing on a hot summer night
  • Getting into a freshly made bed – the sheets crisp and clean. Ahhhh!

So how about you? What are you thankful for?

Cauliflower Chickpea Curry with Coconut and Sweet Potatoes

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Here’s a fragrant, flavourful curry that is just as delicious in summer as it is in winter. For winter cooking, I use frozen cauliflower, which is both affordable and appealing to lazy cooks like me.

There’s a little bit of chopping, a few cans to open and then all you have to do is let the curry cook itself. Easy!

Ingredients

1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil

1 onion diced

1-2 cloves garlic minced

1 red chili minced – see TIP below

1 Tbsp grated ginger root OR 1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 Tbsp garam masala

½ Tbsp curry powder

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (that’s one 15 oz can drained and rinsed)

2 cups canned or boxed tomatoes (If you have any leftovers, just freeze them in a freezer bag).

1 sweet potato peeled and diced

2 cups cauliflower cut into florets

1 can coconut milk (397 ml or 13 oz)

1/3 cup vegetable broth (optional)

1-2 teaspoon salt (depending on your tomatoes and tastes)

1 cinnamon stick

1 lime leaf – see TIP below

1-2 cups chopped spinach – see TIP below

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the garlic, chili, onion and grated ginger, if using. Sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garam masala and curry and powdered ginger if using and stir to coat the onion/garlic mix and let the spices heat through.

Add all the other ingredients except the spinach and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 40 minutes. Add the spinach in the last few minutes of cooking.

Fish out the lime leaf and cinnamon stick.

I love this dish served over rice, especially jasmine rice. Enjoy!

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TIP – This recipe is a study in foods you can keep in your freezer so you always have them handy.

I buy my red chilies in bulk and then freeze them in a freezer bag. They’ll last for months in the freezer and are much easier to mince or grate frozen than they are to chop fresh.

If you have leftover fresh spinach or kale, throw it into a freezer bag and store it in the freezer. When I need a cup or two of spinach/kale for a cooked recipe like this, I just crush the greens before adding them to my recipe. There’s no chopping involved and I always have greens on hand for soups, stews, even omelettes.

I buy my lime leaves at an Asian grocery. They come in a bag with a couple dozen leaves in them – far more than is ever needed for any one recipe. The grocer told me to freeze the leftover leaves and use them as needed. Works perfectly!

You can always store other leftover fresh herbs (Do you ever use a whole bunch of cilantro because I don’t!) in freezer bags and then use the frozen herbs as you would fresh ones in stews and sauces and even salad dressings. As with the spinach or kale, you won’t even need to chop – just crumble the frozen herbs. Frozen herbs do not work well as garnishes.

Weirdmaste – the weirdness in me honours the weirdness in you

weird

adjective \ˈwird\

Simple definition of weird

  • : unusual or strange

Full definition of weird

  1. of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural: magical
  2. of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary

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A few weeks ago I was served a scalding hot cup of contempt liberally laced with scorn. My crime? I had “gone all weird” and that was “uncool and unacceptable”. Hmmm….

Why all the hostility? What’s so wrong with being weird? Not a thing. And weirdness is plenty of things that are oh-so-very right.

Weirdness – being strange or extraordinary – as the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition defines it, is the very thing that has pushed individuals and society forward.

Weirdness challenges the status quo. That of course is scary for people like my contempt-pouring barista from hell. But challenging the status quo also means pushing boundaries, taking risks and asking difficult questions. Those activities are the wellspring of innovation and I for one am very grateful for all the mod cons that innovation has brought me.

Weirdness is a bold leader. So many of the most fundamental ideas and values we espouse today were introduced to society by so-called weirdos. A round earth that circles the sun? Crazy talk! Women’s suffrage? Those were some pretty strange ladies chaining themselves to the railings. Smallpox vaccine? Riiiiight. What kind of kook could convince people to be injected with dead viruses? We need our weirdness to fling the door of progress open and shout “Hey, follow me!”

Weirdness gives us the audacity to be authentic. Sure, sometimes authentic people are a little frightening. Their honesty and integrity can cast too bright a light and therefore too long a shadow on individuals or groups who prefer a less candid existence. But authentic people are also honest, respectful of themselves and others, and nonjudgmental. Works for me.

Weirdness is your touch of divine madness. Audacious, authentic and daring, weird people are willing to explore their passions and creativity and give them a voice. Name me an artist or thought leader from any society or era who wasn’t considered weird for his or her time. I don’t think you can. Weirdness pushes us past conventional thinking to embrace new ideas and new modes of being. Whether you love their ideas or works or not, isn’t the world richer, more diverse and simply more intelligent for having had the likes of the Buddha, Hildegard von Bingen, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Elizabeth I, Newton, Wordsworth, Kandinsky and John Lennon and all their weirdness?

Am I weird? You bet! It’s one of the most beautiful things about me. Your weirdness is one of the most beautiful things about you too. It’s your authenticity. It’s your originality. It’s your unbounded joy. So you be weird. Wave your freak flag and shine your weird light so I can find you in the dark.

 

COMMo11 – Social media as done by a wonder pig

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Move over Kim Kardashian. Esther the Wonder Pig is on the verge of breaking the Internet.

Esther is a real pig and she is indeed a social media superstar with almost 900,000 followers on Facebook and a burgeoning following on Twitter and Instagram. Her private chef (not kidding!) has her own Facebook page called Esther’s Kitchen and Esther’s website is the home to the Esther store full of hog couture.

How did this oh-so-fecund madness start?

Three years ago Esther was just a tiny piglet who somehow escaped the horrific factory farm system and made her way, presented as a mini-pig, to Steve and Derek, two men with a soft spot for animals.

Steve and Derek quickly realized a few things:

1) Esther was no family-pet-style mini-pig. She was a commercial pig, bred to grow quickly and become food.

2) Esther was not food. She was family, part of the brood of pets in Steve and Derek’s Toronto home.

3) Esther was a forbidden creature – literally a municipal violation who had to be kept secret.

It’s a gross understatement to say that it’s not easy to keep a 700-pound house pig secret.

At first Steve and Derek started a Facebook page that allowed them to keep friends up-to-date on the porcine doings in their home without making Esther literally visible to the prying eyes of neighbours. Their goal was simply to share their experience with their intimate circle.

But, as Steve and Derek grew to love Esther, they also came to realize that it was madness that they didn’t eat Esther the commercial pig, nor did they eat their cats or dogs, but they were still eating other pigs and cows and chickens.

Within months of adopting Esther, Steve and Derek became vegan and Esther became the “spokes pig” for their message of veganism and kindness to all creatures on earth. They began to publically share photos of their giant house pig along with witty, heartwarming and engaging comments on social media.

And with their secret out, Steve and Derek again turned to social media to help them deepen their commitment to Esther and to animal activism. They crowdfunded the purchase of a farm and raised far more than the $400,000 they were asking for – all from strangers – and opened the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary.

Today, Esther and her dads have been in the news and on the news all over the world. Celebrities have come to visit her. People from all over the world flock to see her, make donations and passionately share her story. Just last night The Dixie Chicks invited Steve and Derek to be in their show in Buffalo. David Suzuki and the Nature of Things will be airing a show on Esther this Fall and Esther’s book made the New York Times’ bestseller list.

This is the power of social media done right. I have wondered at what “done right” means in the case of Esther. I have theories about that, which I hope will be born out through this course. Here’s what I’ve see:

  • She’s an outrageous story
  • She’s funny, sweet and sassy
  • Her messages are always consistent
  • She is online several times a day in different formats (people need their Esther fix!)
  • She replies to comments and alters her offerings based on what people ask for
  • She makes herself available to private chats
  • People can literally now purchase a piece of her mystique or even come visit her at farm tour days.

What do you think? What makes some social media content more popular and viral than others?