It’s the Future. What’s to Fear?

In the dauntless world of 2017, I’m facing down the future. I mean, it’s not even here, so how can it scare me?

Because the thing we don’t know is the one we fear the most.

Right?

I had complete confidence in my doctor when I had my surgery a few weeks ago. But I was a little uneasy about the whole idea of being put to sleep and waking up when it was all over.

Isn’t there a fine line between trust and stupidity?

Really, I was nervous because I’d never been under general anesthesia before. It was an unknown. Everyone could tell me all about how it happened for them (and believe me, none of them remember anything either. How do we know something crazy didn’t happen in that OR?), but I still wasn’t completely reassured.

Until I was prying open my eyelids and begging for ice chips in the recovery room.

Everything was over. It went according to plan. Nothing untoward was discovered.

Who was nervous? It wasn’t me.

Plans

I’m one of those people who makes plans. I outline the projects I’m going to work on and the vacations I want to take.

This makes me feel more comfortable about the future. I’ve got a handle on it now that there’s an inkling about what to expect.

Other people don’t want to plan because it raises their expectations. And then if things don’t turn out the way they planned, they get depressed or disillusioned.

Whatever floats your boat.

But if you know winter is coming and you don’t buy a heavy coat, who do you have to blame when you freeze your rear off at the bus stop?

Ignorance

Not everyone is all about planning for the future and setting goals. Maybe doing that makes them even more anxious.

But don’t swath yourself in garments of ignorance, as if tomorrow won’t come if you don’t think about it.

It’s coming. Time flows forward.

Isn’t it better to be prepared than caught unaware?

Do you fear the future? What about it makes you craziest?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

When having dinner with strangers isn’t strange

Don’t talk to strangers. We’ve heard it all our lives. So having dinner with strangers would be even an even bigger faux pas.

Wouldn’t it?

Not if you’re on a cruise ship. In fact, the fancy dining room setup using cozy tables for six or eight added the perfect touch to our cruising experience.

By the end of the trip, these dinners marked in the top three of things I enjoyed most about the cruise overall.

Top three? She must be crazy!

The Company

I talked about the dining room seatings in an earlier post. For a refresher, click here.

Sunday night (the first night of the cruise), my husband and I were both feeling a little nauseous, and I had a headache. I didn’t feel up to making polite conversation. In fact, I only went to dinner because I hoped putting some food into my stomach might convince it to behave.

(Side note: we both took Dramamine after setting sail. After taking it, I felt WORSE than I did before. We didn’t take it the rest of the trip and felt no ill effects from the motion of the sea.)

But I had built the dining experience up to incredible levels in my mind and since I wasn’t feeling especially pleased with everything else (it’s hard to be happy when you feel sick), I wanted to experience the high class dining environment.

Before dessert on the last night, all of our servers serenaded us
Before dessert on the last night, all of our servers serenaded us

I wasn’t disappointed.

Your table number is on your sea pass (the card that works as room key, passport aboard ship and credit card). We had scoped out the location earlier when we’d been exploring the ship.

sea pass

It was a round table set for six people. We arrived first (every night except for one).

A pair of ladies, petite and older than we are, joined us. We introduced ourselves with handshakes.

Catherine had a lovely British accent. So I was quick to point that out and ask where she was from.

“Houston.”

My eyes widened. For a second I thought maybe she was mispronouncing our last name (had we mentioned it?), but then she laughed and waved her hand.

“I live there now. I’m originally from England.”

Obviously.

She was a dear woman who wasn’t shy about expressing her opinions about everything from the indecorous comments of people at a nearby table to inappropriate sanitation. (It’s dinnertime, so I won’t elaborate on how THAT subject came up.)

She was a seasoned cruiser, but her companion was a newbie (like us). Apparently, Catherine and her mother were scheduled to take the cruise but since her mam’s health wasn’t cooperating, she invited her sister-in-law.

Margaret reminded me of a silver-speckled sparrow. She was tiny and thin with doe eyes. Her home was in Ohio, but she’d been spending the winter with her brother (Catherine’s husband) and sister-in-law to escape the cold.

I could go on and on with tales about these two lovelies. But that’s not the point. The point is at that moment at 8:05 pm on the first night of a week-long cruise, they were strangers.

And we were being forced to have dinner with them.

The Service

I mentioned the amazing service we received in Isaac’s Dining Room in an earlier post. I’m sure I gushed about our servers, Shirlynn and Tyronne.

Our amazing servers: Shirlynn and Tyronne
Our amazing servers: Shirlynn and Tyronne

As soon as they handed us the menu that first night, Catherine began to expound on her earlier cruises. We discussed each of the starter items and entrees listed on the lovely, custom list of offerings.

I chose the chicken, a standard dish that was on the menu every night. I didn’t want to tempt my uneasy stomach to rebel in a violent manner.

Conversation ranged abroad. What were our the plans for the cruise? How we had settled on this ship with these destinations. It was all very surface, stranger-friendly conversation.

By the time dessert and coffee (decaf for me, I wanted to sleep) came, we were laughing, everyone much more relaxed and open.

I’d like to say it was my bubbly persona that won them over, but I think Catherine is the type of person who’s never met a stranger.

In retrospect, I think the fine service -and how we all noticed and complimented it-played the largest part. Our servers treated us like family and friends, so it was easy to step into those roles.

From Stranger to Friend

Margaret, Catherine and us at our table aboard Freedom of the Seas
Margaret, Catherine and us at our table aboard Freedom of the Seas

No, we didn’t exchange personal information. These two lovely ladies who enjoy reading as much as I do took my business card. They claimed a desire to read my books.

We’ll see.

Whether or not they become a fan of my writing, they will be considered friends.

Why not? There are a multitude of people I’ve never even met face-to-face on my Facebook “friends” list. Shouldn’t someone I spent quality time with during a week-long vacation earn the same status?

The word friend is loosely defined these days. I would say a friend is someone you know and enjoy talking with about some subjects. In this case, whether social media or socializing on a cruise, my list of friends has grown longer.

The fact: Catherine and Margaret are no longer strangers. If they aren’t strangers, they must be acquaintances. Having shared a unique experience with them, I promote them to the level above acquaintance-ship.

Having dinner with strangers is only strange if you don’t convert them into friends by the time dessert is served.

Thanks for making me your friend, Catherine and Margaret.

Have you ever shared a unique experience with a person you only met that one time and yet you consider them a friend?

Since when did traditions become the standard?

With all this talk about weddings, the idea of having a “traditional” wedding (whatever that means) is bound to enter the conversation. This begs the question: Are traditions the same as expectations?

My sister remarried two weekends ago. It was a small, fun ceremony. I helped her find her wedding dress (I’m practically a professional *rolls eyes*).

This is the "offensive" white dress I wore to my sister's wedding.
This is the “offensive” white dress I wore to my sister’s wedding.

My future daughter asked what I was wearing. She was off-screen during a Skype call, so I didn’t see her face when I told her.

However, since she asked if I knew of any other traditions besides “I know you aren’t supposed to wear white to another person’s wedding,” I think I can imagine her stunned expression. This comment was probably a hint. She wanted to save me from committing a terrible faux pas.

Her remark did, in fact, make me reconsider my wardrobe choice. Here’s my quandary: all my other dresses are either black, summery or too flashy to be appropriate for a simple, family wedding.

What’s wrong with black? Good question. The dress I considered (white bodice, thick line of teal separating from a black skirt) was what I wore to my mother’s funeral.

What sort of statement does wearing a funeral dress to a wedding make?

Apparently, the same sort wearing white does. I guess. For some people. It certainly didn’t matter to my sister – who hadn’t planned to wear white until she found the perfect dress, which happened to be – gasp – white.

I began wondering about the idea of traditions dictating to us, robbing us of choice. I felt fine in my dress until someone commented on how wearing it demonstrated disrespect. (This in response to my remark that I would have had to give someone a hard time if they showed up at the wedding in pajamas.)

Huh?

What if there were traditions I was blissfully unaware of? Am I held accountable? Is ignorance of wedding traditions an excuse in those cases?

I admit. I didn’t handle the confrontation with grace or aplomb. I blame the high emotions of the occasion (the fact it was all family and my mother’s absence was noticeable). But it made me reflect on this idea that traditions hold some sort of power over our ability to make choices independently of expectations.

Sure, there are traditions in every aspect of life. However, weddings have taken a central spot in my life (and on this blog) in recent weeks, so let’s focus in on those.

The article here gives the history behind ten traditions that we still mainly follow in our era. Tossing the bouquet, giving away the bride, the wedding ring, the best man and more.

Did you know the tradition of giving away the bride was an actual representation of property transfer? Yep, that girl was chattel and now her husband “owned” her. Sure, today it’s considered a symbol of the father’s blessing, but should it be mandatory? If the father doesn’t walk the bride to the altar, does it mean he is withholding his blessing?

And the bride standing on the groom’s left is a tradition, too. This one started so the groom could easily access his sword (hanging from his right hip because everyone was right-handed, you know) and protect her in the event of an attack. That’s a huge concern these days. Should the tradition be discarded since its purpose is extinct?

I didn’t wear a veil at my wedding. Thus, veil-wearing tradition screams I was neither young, modest nor a virgin. According to tradition, those are the three things the veil symbolizes. Oh, and it wards off evil.

The fact that I’m not crazy about veils means nothing, apparently. Not if we are going to let traditions rule us.

I love the “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” tradition. Did I know it also included “and a sixpence in your shoe”? No. And here I thought I was following tradition by including the first four items in my wedding attire.

Do you even know what those things symbolize? If you care to learn, click here.

The saleslady at the bridal store told us ivory is the most popular color for wedding gowns these days. How can people break tradition this way? White dresses are a statement of innocence and purity, right? To go further afield, many designers also offer pink and silver in many of their designs.

You mean my pink wedding dress is now en vogue? Go figure.

Are we letting wedding traditions rule our choices? Should these traditions hold sway over situations like weddings, funerals and family gatherings? Should we be able to “judge” an event based on its adherence to these archaic customs?

How the Street of Dreams Mirrors Life

5,185 square feet, $1,325,000
5,185 square feet, $1,325,000

“I live on the street of my dreams.”

Do you? Does your daily life take you through your dream landscape?

Since I wasn’t being wowed by the uniqueness of the homes on the Street of Dreams, my writer brain went to town to make a life connection. It doesn’t take much to wind up my creativity.

I found three parallels between my experience with the million-dollar homes and my pursuit of a writing career.

Expectations

When someone tells me about a million-dollar home, I’m expecting either an enormous lot or unique features.

If you read my post last week, you know I didn’t find either of these at the Street of Dreams. I found million-dollar homes with fantastic fountains and more floor space than I ever want to be responsible for cleaning.

Lot size? Not much considering how big the homes were. In fact, I could see clearly into all the neighbors’ yards from the second story balcony of one of the homes. Not much in the way of a private setting.

I’ll be honest about the writing career. I knew I needed to pen a million words before I could expect to begin to perfect the craft of novel writing. I have penned more than 750,000 (yes, I keep track) in the past two years. I’m still pre-published.

In fact, this writing gig is much harder work than I expected. Some days all the words I write sound trite or infantile. Other days getting the words out feels like an exorcism (not that I know what that feels like, but seeing one thanks to Hollywood – uh, similar screaming and pain quotients).

Comparison: Expectations while traveling the street of your dreams are never met. Bag them.

Awe Factor

Staring at the amazing great room, kitchen, dining and outdoor living area of the dream home we most loved dropped my jaw. I could visualize it teeming with the people I love – some of them aren’t even born yet.

An ooey-gooey swell of deliciousness warmed me from the inside out. A stuffed turkey roasted in the professional-grade natural gas oven. Trays of appetizers lined the granite-covered buffet along the wall of the dining room. A fire crackled in the great room and outside on the covered patio.

I wish you could see what I did and feel the emotions swelling like a tidal wave inside me. That’s the awe factor we expect from our dreams.

Writing, the dream of my heart, parallels this experience.

Fingers flying over the keyboard. Words, sentences and paragraphs become pages, scenes and chapters. Characters are born on those pages. Lives explode with love, fear, anger and adventure.

Hours pass and only the movement of the sun from my front window to my back deck signifies it. I’m engulfed in the fantasy of my creativity.

This exceeds what I imagined pursuing my dream and being a full-time writer would be like on a daily basis. No paycheck? That’s what you think. Contentment in the dream feeds a hungry soul and clothes lagging confidence.

Epiphany: Living the dream is like having Thanksgiving dinner every day.

Visualization

Imagination is the bedrock of my chosen path. If I can’t visualize, I’m not going to be able to write a story that comes to life either.

My vision of a million-dollar home includes elevators, stoves that cook entire meals without me and a private setting in the middle of the woods.

The Street of Dreams in reality? Stairs I had to climb, even though some of the homes had three levels. Professional quality gas stoves but no automation that would prepare meals at the touch of a button (don’t get sassy about a microwave here, either).

Worst of all, I could see acres of trees in the distance along the ridge of Mt. Scott. Below that were fields of homes, too many to number. So much for tranquility in my million-dollar sanctuary.

Creating a story from nothing but my imagination is what I visualized when I pictured me as a professional writer. I have done that – seven separate times in the past year.

Of course, what I’ve done to take that first novel (well, actually the third; the first two had to be thrown away. They were me writing to find the real story) to a place where it’s ready for public eyes is hardly that glamorous – or enjoyable.

Weeks spent rewriting after reading through the first draft almost felt creative. Revising every sentence to make it sound literary – creative but pushing tedium. Rewriting a third time based on the comments and criticism from my beta readers required a firm hand.

“You will write today. I don’t care if you’re sick of this story. You have a goal to meet.”

You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?
You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?

Revising the 300 pages to smooth the cadence and perfect the prose rivaled a marathon. I was unsure if there would be enough chocolate to see me through to the end.

Still…not…done. Now, comb over every sentence, looking for grammar, usage and typographical errors. Gladly send the thing to someone else for proofreading.

Time to query agents. Time to fix the dull beginning. Time to rewrite the first fifty pages because a professional finds them flawed beyond redemption – almost.

Nothing like I visualized.

Truth to be learned: real life is nothing like the dream. It can be better, if you’re willing to work on reality conforming it to the reality you want.

My allusions might not resonate with you. Or maybe they do.

How has your dream measured up to your expectations and visualizations? Or how has the awe factor kept you moving forward?

Banning Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations about body image

In a society where expectations rule decision-making processes, it’s past time to understand the difference between those that are realistic and unrealistic. We owe it to ourselves and our families to put a ban on setting unreachable standards.

Beginning on March 10, a series of posts about expectations has been featured on this blog. The links will be provided here, but for those of you joining discussion today, let’s recap.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize unrealistic expectations are dangerous. They derail dreams and avalanche over hopes. Not just for young people either, but the danger to them is greater because they are still forming their values and personalities.

One expectation that seems to be gaining momentum is the idea that everyone needs to go to college. Even human resources department feed this fiery craze by making a college degree required for an entry-level position. Nothing is more damaging to a person than to have a boatload of student loans for a costly degree that doesn’t net a career placement.

A high school diploma is essential. Unfortunately, bureaucrats making exit exams a requirement to attain one have boarded the crazy train. Too many courses required for a high school diploma have no practical value. It’s time to return to the basics of education rather than making high school all about preparing for college (see previous paragraph about college expectations).

Another thing that discourages many teenagers is the push toward knowing what they want to do as an adult. Some high schools build four years of education around what a 14-year-old says he wants to be after he graduates.

How old were you when you knew what you wanted to do for a living? Are you doing that thing you first dreamed was so awesome? It took me right at 40 years to finally follow my dream.

Along with all these unrealistic expectations, I wrote a post about things we should expect. None of these have to do with the economy; all have to do with character. Every human on earth should be expected to work hard, be responsible and accountable for their choices and actions, and show respect to others.

Unfortunately in our world, decisions about graduation requirements and acquiring a college degree to sort mail are above our pay-grade. In our push to have everything handed to us, we’ve handed the control to government and industry.

If we really want to keep unrealistic expectations from ruling our lives, we need to take back control. I’m not talking about a revolution. Let’s start small, bucking the system by becoming involved.

Maybe attending a school board meeting to share your views about ridiculous standards is a start. Everyone pushes you to write or call your congressman. How many do it? How many have well-constructed, reasonable arguments to present?

If you’re a parent, you can start by teaching your kids about responsibility. Theirs. Don’t perpetuate the fallacy that government will fix all their problems. Those bozos on Capitol Hill have demonstrated how to make mountains out of molehills and accomplish very little that benefits the average citizen.

Don’t let the media convince you to look a certain way, buy certain clothes, or drive a certain car. Check out those Hollywood icons and athletic superstars. An unhappier bunch of people you may never find. These are the trendsetters we want marking the path for us to follow?

 Can we ban unrealistic expectations in our world? Share your thoughts. Let’s talk it over.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

When I first started school I wanted to be a teacher. Who wouldn’t want to boss everyone around? By fourth grade, I loved making up stories, so I decided I wanted to be a novelist. Later…solving mysteries seemed exciting, so how about becoming an FBI agent?

Like most kids, my thoughts about the future vacillated from one end of the realistic spectrum to the other end of unrealistic. Dreams are grand. Dreams inspire us to reach higher.

Dreams are dreams. Expectations are a 1000-pound weight on a tired swimmers back. Throw them into the sea of swarming high school students who think they know everything. Is it any wonder kids drown?

When you know your purpose

I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. I filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories, longer stories, poetry and general musings from that time until after I graduated from high school.

Writing has always helped me express my emotions and sort out my problems. It’s safer to bleed your secrets on a sheet of paper than divulge them to people. A pen ranting on notebook paper gets a person in much less trouble than a verbal confrontation.

My yearning has always been to write. I used that yearning to write copy for a non-profit newsletter, lessons for classes I taught at church, and plays and skits for the youth group to perform.

I submitted a few stories to contests when I was younger. Tried my hand at writing articles and even wrote a novel. Rejection letters deterred me. My family needed me to be present in the moment rather than rattling around my make-believe worlds.

Most people don’t know what they want to do until they’re at least in high school. Some people don’t discover their “calling” until the age of 40, 50 or beyond.

If you’re 18 and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, big deal. Don’t decide you won’t grow up until you do know. Follow a path. Experiment with different things. Purposelessness has a purpose when you’re using it as a barometer.

How to find your purpose

Some people volunteer at the animal shelter and they know they want to be a veterinarian. Others volunteer at the veterinarian office and decide they love animals, but doctoring the four-legged creatures isn’t how to express it.

The only way to find your niche is by doing. Try sports. Try theater. Try writing for the school newspaper (I did). Sing in the choir. Play in the band. Sell lemonade and deliver newspapers.

My oldest son found out he didn’t want a manual labor job after he worked at one for the summer. It inspired him to work hard in school so he could go to college. How did he know he wanted to be a computer programmer? You’ll have to ask him. His dad is and he always wanted to follow that path. Go figure.

My husband went to college to be an electrician. Yep and he ended up as a computer engineer. Electrical engineer or computer engineer. Slight difference, right? He’s been happy with the choice.

Some people like to do many different things. That could mean they would be happy in multiple fields. It might involve tons of experimentation before they find the right fit. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

You never know until you try. Words to live by – just saying.

What stands in the way

Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, plenty of things stand in the way of finding out your genuine heart’s calling.

A short list:

  • Teachers: you know the one’s I’m talking about “You’re the best artist I’ve had in years”
  • Parents: “Writing? But what will your day job be?” “You’re going to take over the family business, right?”
  • Friends: “You should go to Western because I’m going there.”
  • Money: You either have it or you don’t. Don’t let that limit your vision.
  • Locale: If you live a million miles from nowhere, it’s hard to know if you’d like a career in the city or some other more urbanized setting.
  • Other nay-sayers: “What can you do with a degree in history?” “If you don’t go to college, you’ll never amount to anything.”

What other things have you heard that made it difficult to find your true calling? If you have advice or experience, please share it in the comments.

Expecting Your Kid to Go to College could be the Wrong Idea

Image from caveviews.blogs.com
Image from caveviews.blogs.com

College. Everyone needs to go to college. This is what the media, the president, and most teachers tell young people.

In grade school, they start talking to you about college. What college are you considering? What do you want to be when you grow up? Yes, you need a college degree to be a fireman. Yes, you need a college degree to be a doctor.

Everyone should want to go to college. Wrong. False expectation. All America is doing by putting this expectation on their children is damaging them. Especially at a super-young (pre-teen) age.

Do I think it’s wrong to talk about college to seventh and eighth grade students? Of course not! It’s time for them to think about it. They are old enough and mature enough (sometimes) to consider the future.

When you get to high school, you have some control over your class schedule. Knowing what  you think you want to do later in life will help you make decisions about that.

Know what? A huge percentage of high school students have no idea what they want to be when they grow up or what they’re going to do after high school. Some forty-year-olds have neither grown up nor figured out their future plans.

Yet, this pressure for them to make a decision exists. Don’t they have enough stress? Give them a few years to figure it out. This expectation that young people need to know what they’re going to do with their lives by the time they’re 12 so they can be shaped into that pathway often defeats the underlying purpose.

When we force this issue, here’s what happens: Kid: “I like skateboarding. I like riding my bike and doing tricks. I’m going to be the next Tony Hawk.” (I have actually heard seventh-grade boys say this.) Adult: “No, you’re not. Less than one percent of people can go pro in that field.” (Kid effectively discouraged from dreaming but not even a millimeter closer to discovering the true ambition for his future.) Continue reading “Expecting Your Kid to Go to College could be the Wrong Idea”

Expectations: Drowning our Young People’s Dreams

Image courtesy of sodahead.com

Expectations. They’re like a ball and a chain around our neck pulling us to the abyss beneath the sea. Why do we put so much emphasis on to me?

This is an especially important topic for young adults who are the audience for the books I write. They are in a phase of their life where they are searching for their own personal identity and all these expectations are flooded.

For the next several weeks I want to post once a week about a different expectation that we place on our young people. We’ll discuss why it exists, what is good about it, any bad sides to it, and if there’s a solution to placing such an expectation on the backs of our children.

Expectations have validity. I worked in education for years and data proved that when you expect your class to achieve certain standards, they work to meet those expectations. Not 100 percent of the students, but overall, young people want to rise to the challenge.

They want to accomplish. They want to be validated by adults even if they snarl at them and pretend that they are the dumbest people in the world. That is all part and parcel of being a teenager, but in the back of their minds, they know that you have something that they don’t: life experience.

They want to meet your expectations. Problems arise when we throw too many expectations on them. Suddenly, there’s no way on earth they can ever meet them. If we place such high expectations that even a genius could never attain them, why are we disappointed when the seventh and eighth and ninth graders can’t reach that mark?

The benchmark. The state benchmark is a lie. Can you tell I’m not a fan of standardized testing? I personally find this expectation that you aren’t deserving of a high school diploma if you cannot pass a series of standardized tests (most of which are based on tons of information that you will – let’s see – never again need to know in your life) is ridiculous.

Why do we want to set our kids up to fail? Why are the bureaucrats deciding what information is important for kids to know? I’ll tell you why. Because in Japan and China, kids go to school 10 hours a day six days a week and they turn out to be incredibly gifted in science and mathematics. They come up with all sorts of innovations and Americans feel like they’re falling behind.

So let’s raise the standards for the average kid. You can bet that’s going to make the people who are gifted rise to the top. Not at all. It is guaranteed to discourage the guy in the middle, our average citizen.

You know the guy who is going to be a worker. Guess what? Society needs worker bees. Society needs someone who is willing to ring up your groceries at the store or stock the shelves. Who will assemble that car (you need a new one every five years) if someone isn’t willing to work on the line?

Before I go off on a rant about this issue, I will stop. I plan to discuss this whole “everyone needs a college degree” expectation in a future post.

What I’m looking for here today: commenters to tell me some expectations that they see heaped onto our young people. I’ll be happy to discuss your suggestions in the later blog posts. They can be positive expectations or expectations with negative consequences.

Please join my discussion. Parents, grandparents, teenagers (if you’re out there reading my blog), young adults: what are some expectations that were placed on you as a teenager? Did they help you succeed? Did they discourage you? Were they reasonable or unreasonable?

Your input is invaluable to me on this most important topic.

Reflections of an Open House

Welcome to our Open House
Welcome to our Open House

For a week before the big day, I deep-cleaned some room or focused on brightening the appearance of another room. My son got enlisted to scrub floors (in addition to toilets) and dust off the ceiling fans.

I’m not saying I own too many pairs of shoes (an impossibility in my world), but I had to remove all of my boots so the floor of my closet was visible. Apparently, anything that looks like clutter has to go!

In the hours leading up to the event, every floor got cleaned and every surface was set to sparkling. Lit candles added wonderful atmosphere. Fresh-baked peanut butter chocolate chip cookies invited people in to stay.

Time to Start

My husband agreed to be the guide of the upstairs and I would be the official greeter. He put a movie in the DVD player – something that seems to be happening in every house we’ve walked through – and settled in.

Hubby's Vantage Point
Hubby’s Vantage Point

I parked myself with my iPad in a chair facing the front door. Breathing deeply, I practiced my casual, welcoming smile and greeting.

We’re ready. Let the games begin!

After 1 Hour

My husband comes down and snags a couple cookies. He gives me an encouraging grin.

I decide to read a collection of short stories on my Kindle application. This way, it should be easy to set things aside when people show up.

Ready, set…Begin – anytime now. May the odds be ever in our favor!

After 2 Hours

I’m reading the encouraging comments from my friends on Facebook. I’ve moved to the kitchen counter so I can visit blogs and post comments. After all, I have a platform to build.

My Perch in the Kitchen
My Perch in the Kitchen

Apparently, things started happening in The Avengers because I didn’t see my husband for quite some time. Later, I learn he has fallen asleep.

Must be rough.

After 3 Hours

I’m pacing to the front windows every few minutes. I stare out at the Open House sign and mentally will people to pull up. Apparently, this is not one of my super powers.

Every sound outside perks up my ears, and I think someone is finally coming to see all this work I’ve done. All this cleaning and straightening won’t be for nothing after all.

My husband comes downstairs and reminds me that most people will come later. Any time now, they’ll start showing up.

After 4 Hours

I must have been insane to dedicate five hours on the second day of National Novel Writing Month to something like this. Who knew it would be a total waste of time?

Even real estate agents plan to get paperwork done or catch up on reading when they host an Open House. Why did I expect anything different?

Okay, I didn’t. I did hope someone would come to see the house, though, even if they were just out for a drive and saw the sign.

Instead, I wasted hours cleaning, straightening and fretting about every little piece of lint in my house. Further, I didn’t get to meet my writing goal of 3,000 words for the day because I knew I would be a bear if interrupted during my writing time.

When someone asks if we’re having another Open House, I don’t feel like slapping them anymore. I laugh. Sure, if I want to waste a week of my life. Why not?

Do you have any experiences with trying to sell a house? Maybe you’ve experienced another time when you’ve gone overboard preparing for some event and then it failed to meet your expectations.

Of course, I’ve talked about that whole expectations thing before. What was I thinking?

Date Night

Or Not

Spritzing on the body spray, I take one last look in the full-length mirror. Oh, forgot earrings. Back a few steps and locate the perfect pair to complement my outfit.

Dressing up for a night on the town happens rather rarely in the life of this lady. After 25 years of marriage, what’s the point?

First of all, I like to dress up and go out. Yes, even if it’s just dinner and a movie, I’ll still put on something special and dedicate extra attention to my hair and makeup.

Rewind 30 years. What was all the hype about dates back then? If you say it was about catching a guy, I’m sad for you.

It was an opportunity to get to know each other. Maybe we just wanted to have fun.

In my mind, those dates were an opportunity for a guy to show me that I was valued. He spent time deciding where to go, maybe making reservations. Over dinner, conversation about mutual interests flowed (or if it was all about him, there was no second date).

On the flip side, I showed my appreciation for his efforts by complimenting him. Nerves and expectations juxtaposed to make every moment like skating on thin ice. Who knows what will make it crack? The freeze follows.

I suppose the men don’t want to date us once we’re married because they don’t want the hassle. They ask what we want to do and we say, “Whatever you want is fine with me.”

Thin ice.

I know my husband values me. He washes and vacuums my car and makes sure it’s in perfect running condition. Planning a date night – not so much.

I think we should take the pressure off.  How? Get rid of expectations.

Recently, my husband took me to dinner at a restaurant about 30 minutes from home. I spent 30 minutes or so choosing an outfit, flat-ironing my hair and putting on makeup. Yes, I even added a spritz – or four – of Heavenly and a pair of corresponding earrings.

He threw out two options. I told him to choose. I didn’t bring up the subject again. No expectations. How can he make the wrong choice? Of course, if either of the options were less than appealing, I should have made the decision. If I leave it up to him, I have no recourse. Translation: sit down and shut up.

I suggested a walk around the mall across the street after dinner. It was mostly deserted. We bought two things. The dinner was three times as much as the mall purchases.

After driving home, I threw my sweats on and we watched a movie in our bonus room. I say it was a successful date night. Why? Because we relaxed our expectations for the good of the outing.

We’ve been married for too long for him to have experienced any nervousness. He probably didn’t even consider a good night kiss. Until he was next to me in bed, that is.

Are you a proponent of date nights for committed couples? What suggestions do you have to make them more effortless (without seeming devalued)?