I will fake it until I make it!

All about the escapades and thoughts of a girl who thinks WAY too much for her own good!

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Comment on Cheating

On Thursday, February 11, 2010 I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek blog entitled, 95% of Italian Men Cheat.  I wrote the blog after having several conversations with Italian men on how socially acceptable (and almost expected) it is for Italian men to have affairs.

Without a doubt this blog topic has inspired myriad comments both blasting my over generalization and commisserating the title.  Today, however,  I recieved a comment that was more focused on the psychological affects of being the other woman.  It was wonderfully written and I wanted to share it with you today because I think the writer has great points on what it means to accept this role as the mistress.
I have copied the blog exactly as written and posted below.

"In this day and age it's socially acceptable to have 'open' relationships if that's what you choose - we're all grown-ups. Personally I have never been in one, nor would I choose to.

I think what is deeply distasteful in all of these tales of Misogyny - let's call it what it is - is that Misrepresenting reality to a person who shares intimacy with you is not only an unfair exchange - it is mental cruelty.

Only a masochist would sign-up to be a Mistress, reduced to the status of sex provider, and not having any of their human needs for love and respect met. But to get a woman to this point where she accepts to be treated so badly, Italian men misrepresent reality to the victim as if this was a talent or a virtue - they claim to love them (they don't or they would not be Using them) - they claim they are the centre of the universe (and then go home to their wife and children) - they elevate their 'right' to sex above the rights of another human being to not be abused. If it was happening to a child we would call it Grooming. The tacit message to the Mistress - Be weak, be vulnerable, be an object, you are not safe, women are not safe, life has nothing to offer you, so you may as well take what you can get from me.

It is emotionally disorientating to be loving someone, and believe yourself loved in return, only to find that they misrepresented reality to you; that they have a Wife. What do you do then? Renege on your own (valid and real) love and all the energy of life you have invested? Or hang in there hoping that the person who inflicted this Deep-as-Life pain, will make it all better again, and love you back for real?
They think they are clever, getting something for nothing. It is not cleverness it is sociopathy and results in an entire society where no-one really takes ownership or responsibility for deeper emotions. What is going on in the head of the child who knows his father cheats? Who sees his daddy going after the waitress? It teaches them that their whole world is an artifice; their mother and father are not united but opportunists using each other to create a facade or a veneer of respectability. It is an infantilized society as a result, I have honestly met more emotionally amputated Italians than any other nationality; by that I mean they do not forge the connection between emotional love and physical demonstrativeness. I would not choose to live in a culture where the women are so beaten down that the grandmothers are telling their children it is just part of life. It does not have to be - and it is NOT OK to treat the feelings of others - and your own - with such Levity."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It’s Not You, It’s Me

After my last post, my cousin emailed to ask me how one politely blows someone off. It was a great question and one I think a lot of us wrestle with in the online dating world.

The reality is that most people don't take the time to write a note to tell you they are not interested. It’s not such a horrible thing if you’ve never met the person, they email you out of the blue, and they clearly have not read your profile because if they had, they’d know they didn’t fit what you’re looking for. But for those with whom you’ve met and spent some time with (even just a quick first date) I think it’s important to provide some closure. After all, no one likes to be left hanging.

So back to my cousin’s original question about how I tell someone thanks, but no thanks. Well, generally if it is someone who has taken the time to write me (although we’ve never met) I will send something back that says a variation of this:

1. “Thanks for your email. I actually just met someone with whom I’m interested in getting serious, so I’m not meeting any new people right now. Best of luck in your search. I’m sure you’ll find someone soon.”

I send the above response even if there is NO ONE I am interested in dating. I have always felt it’s a nice way to say no thanks, but lately lots of guys have been noticing that I am still active on my profile and are asking me if I’ve changed my mind and if I’m actively dating again. That presents a bit of a challenge so I’ve been reverting to my old way of saying I’m not interested which is honest, but not as nice.

2. “Thanks for your email. I know how hard it is to put yourself out there to a complete stranger. I’m not sure why, but I’m just not feeling that you and I would be a good match. I wish you the best of luck in your search.”

No matter which response I use, I sign the email with my middle name. That way if they ever email me back and refer to me as Anne I know they were rejected by me in the past. That little trick has been a time saver for sure!

The other day I was SUPER proud of myself because I actually mustered up the strength to tell someone the truth to their face at the end of the date. Usually I just say, “Yeah, this was fun.” And then send an email the next day with some over thought or made up reason that I don't want to see them again. But this guy was cute. He had a good job. He seemed nice enough. Yadda, yadda, yadda - He was BORING, BORING, BORING! And I was NOT up for the charade at the end of the night. So when he told me he had a nice time and asked if I wanted to go out again, I said, “Umm yeah, no I really don't think so.”

He was confused as hell and looked as if he didn’t know what to say. I filled in the silence, “There’s nothing wrong with you. I’m just not feeling the connection that I want to feel with someone.” This could have been a very awkward situation because we were splitting the check and the bar tender was not picking up our check to close it out, so I had no idea how much longer we would have to sit there and wait to get our credit cards back. But I was resolute. I just kept a smile on my face and made small talk. He asked me again if I was sure that I didn’t want to at least try a second date. I said, “No. Thanks. I’m sure.”

When our cards FINALLY came back we walked to the corner, said nice meeting you, and went our separate ways. I was so proud of myself I almost skipped to my car but thought that might be a tad bit insensitive if he looked back and saw me so I didn’t do it.

Of course I’ve also been the recipient of the, “it’s not you, it’s me” blow off. I can’t complain though. It is a nice way to end things, but the reality is that the person who says it would rather be without you than with you. That reality is easy to brush off when you’ve only met the person once or twice, but it cuts a little deeper when it comes after you’ve gotten to know someone. Oh well, onward and upward right?

My next experiment in Internet dating will be to see if I can muster the strength to politely excuse myself right away, or very soon into the date if there is no connection or if the person has misrepresented themselves in their profile. Like the one time I met someone who strongly resembled Gargamel from the Smurfs. I desperately wanted to leave before even saying hello to him, but instead I got stuck spending 2 hours with an unattractive AND arrogant man who kept licking his lips while looking me up and down, and then tried to stick me with the check by asking for the bill and immediately leaving for the bathroom. YUCK!

So that’s how I let people know I’m not interested. In the end I think it comes down to the golden rule: Treat people the way you would want to be treated.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bad Dating Karma

Let’s face it; it’s easy to blow people off and to be blown off when you’re dating online. The medium itself provides an easy venue to treat someone as if they are disposable. Don't think a guy is cute in his profile picture? Just don't reply to the introductory email he sent you. Meet for the first date, have a good time, but know he’s not Mr. Right? Don't respond to the text he sent saying he’d like to see you again. Does the guy eat his peas in the most annoying way possible? Don't sweat it, there are 10 new guys waiting in the online queue.

Here's one example of what I mean.  A little while back I met a guy for lunch on a Thursday. I thought he was cute and interesting. He thought I was cute and interesting. We met for dinner the following Monday.  Dinner was great. He walked me home. We made out like the plane was going down.  At his suggestion, we made plans for the following Monday. He left a message for me over the weekend. I returned the message but didn't actually talk to him.  I texted him on Monday morning confirming the date for that night.  He texted me back at 5 PM.  Here's how the text coversation went:

Me: "Good morning. Just confirming for tonight. Looking forward to it."
Him (8 hours later): "Didn't hear from you so I made other plans."
Me: "Huh? I returned your message on Saturday."
Him: "I didn't get it. Frownie face." (He actually spelled out frownie face)
Me: "I'm bummed. I was looking forward to seeing you."
Him: "Yeah, me too"
Me: "Okay, well just let me know if you want to get together again."
Him: ...

By the way, dot, dot, dot means I never heard from him again.  Umm, okay. I guess he didn't think I was so cute or interesting!

Have we become so jaded that we’ve completely forgotten our manners? Have we’ve forgotten there’s a person on the other end of that (insert mobile communication device here). My friend Sherrie calls this “bad dating karma” and is convinced it comes back ten-fold when you treat someone poorly.

Over the years I’ve been both the victimizer and the victim of bad online dating manners, but this time I’ve been diligent about remembering there’s a human on the other side of the equation so hopefully I'm building up some good karma for the future!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Statistics and Internet Dating: It's All In The Numbers!

This is my third attempt at dating on the Internet. I’ve come so far over the years that I’m not even embarrassed to admit it’s my third time. Okay, I’m slightly embarrassed but only because I can still hear the words said to me by well intentioned albeit misguided people, “... Only losers date online!” Ouch! But I digress.

In 2005, when friends first suggested the idea of Internet dating I was a little reluctant. NOT IN A MILLION YEARS might have been my first reaction, but that's so long ago now, who can really remember!

I had not been single for 15 years, and much had changed in the dating world. Plus I had never really "dated" before. I was a serial monogamist who went from high school boyfriend, to college boyfriend, to husband with very little dating in between.

It took me about 3 months to warm up to the idea. And that was only after a friend pointed out that the Internet might be my best option since I worked two time-consuming jobs, never had time to go out, and when I did go out I only went with my guy friends. (Apparently guys will never approach you at a bar if you're already surrounded by guys. Go figure!) And, after my divorce, I had a list longer than my arm of prerequisites for what this next guy must have if I was to date him. Yeah, Match.com's sort capability alone sold the idea for me! 

I started by logging on to do some data gathering and analysis. I first looked at my competition, the women who were my age, to see what types of pictures they posted and what types of profiles they wrote. And what I found was a sea of similarity.  Apparently all of the women in the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan Area feel as comfortable in a pair of jeans as they do a black cocktail dress. They all have cats- some with the personality of dogs- and they all LOVE to laugh. I’m sorry but have you ever met anyone who actually HATED to laugh? 

Despite a witty profile and some decent profile pictures, I was a nervous nellie when first hitting the send button to pay and activate my account. Would anyone write me? I had visions of opening my profile to see an urgent blinking message, “You have no messages… AND YOU NEVER WILL! AND YOU NEVER WILL! AND YOU NEVER WILL!”

Ahh, looking back now, I was such a neophyte. I wrote back to everyone who wrote me. It didn’t matter if he was short or tall; skinny or fat; too old, or too young. If a guy put himself out there and contacted me, he got an email response back. At first I was appreciative that people even wrote! But after a while, when it seemed that only really old, really fat, or really well… ugly men were reaching out, I started to wonder, “Am I so hideous that this guy really thinks he has a shot with me?”

A friend of mine (I’ll call her Trisha even though that's not her real name) who was well versed in Internet dating explained that it wasn’t that I was hideous, it was all about the numbers. The more women these men wrote to, the more chance they had at getting a response. It's basic sales training really. The more numbers you cold call, the more times you get hung up on, the closer you are to the one person who will say, “Yes, I WOULD like to buy that timeshare in Boca Raton!”

This time, on my third attempt at Internet dating, I was prepared. I had the rules down and I was armed with a healthy dose of self confidence and statistical understanding; It’s all about the numbers! This time I knew not to take things personally. I signed up for a longer membership than before understanding that it could take longer than a month or two to find a guy with whom I really click. I've kept an optimistic and open mind. I’ve dated a wider variety of men than I ever did before (all within what I want in a partner – just more variety in the types of men). And this time I am enjoying every minute of this experience (well, almost every minute).

Throughout all my attempts at Internet dating I have met some really great guys who have helped teach me a little something about myself. One man broke my heart, but showed me how capable I was of truly loving another. One man helped me define the balance of characteristics I want in a guy. And this time… well, who knows what I will learn, but I am not afraid to find out!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Internet Dating: A Guy's Perspective

An introduction:  Today's guest blogger is Dave.  I went to high school with Dave and even though we were friends, I had a HUGE crush on him pretty much throughout high school.  Dave was smart and an athlete.  He had curley black hair with a quarter size patch of grey hair on the back of his head.  I used to sit behind him in French class and focus on him rather than my French lesson.  We had a chance to reconnect during the preparation for our 20 year high school reunion and we've been keeping in touch ever since. He is still very goodlooking by the way!

I was VERY surprised at some of the things he wrote. His comment about not including pictures of where you've traveled because guys think you are high maintenance was an eye opener!

I also felt pangs of, "OH NO! Do guys really think this way?" when I was reading what he wrote.  I sometimes dread how shallow men can be, but then I think about my horror stories of online dating and I become more sympathetic.  There is nothing like getting super excited for a date only to find the guy had posted pictures from 10 years ago, put on 20 lbs and is now challenged in the hair department. 

In the end, most of Dave's sentiment is the same as mine.  Know who you are and what you really want.  Be honest.  Show who you really are.  Believe in yourself as you really are and you will find someone who likes you for you.  So without further ado... HERE'S DAVE!


Okay, let’s be completely honest, size, ummm…I mean looks matter! We all need to feel attracted to our partners and for most of us that begins with appearance, or in the case of online dating the dreaded profile pictures. This week let’s talk about these pictures in terms of what not to do and what a guy (that’s me, Dave) REALLY sees in pictures.

To begin, if you don’t have at least one profile picture, don’t expect much activity. Oh, I’m sure you are a wonderful person and have much to offer, but if I can’t see you, you won’t hear from me. Call me superficial, but I’m not alone on this. If I’m going to put myself out there for the entire world to see, so can you. I will always seek the profiles with photos.

Alright, you are willing to post photos with your profile. I commend you on the excellent choice. Now you are faced with the next task, deciding not only which photos to post, but also which one will be your main profile pic; the one that will entice a guy like me to read on or look deeper into profile. First you must truly decide if you have a recent enough picture with which to represent yourself. I know retro is in, and while posting your high school cheerleading or catholic school uniform-wearing picture will certainly bring many responses, with the exception of a certain mid-western girl that had hers shortened and Velcro put in to make for easier access, most of you don’t still have those outfits. But I digress…and she deserves a whole, spectacular chapter all to herself…oh, yes she does.

If you can’t find a decent and recent pic, don’t just throw one up there. Find a friend and have them take a few for you. If you are willing to post and few and want the greatest amount of good connections, be honest with us (guys) and yourself and post at least two pictures. One should clearly show you face and the other should show your entire figure. Better to have a guy that is looking for an extremely thin gal pass you over than be disappointed or surprised when the two of you meet. If you don’t buy into this logic, that is fine and you probably haven’t read my thoughts on “Body Types” yet. Oh and also, you’d be wrong.

So, take a couple pictures with simple backgrounds and/or at places that are nice but not too extravagant. It may seem like a great idea to post a bunch of pictures of you in exotic locations but this can have quite the opposite affect. You see, we are men! We view things differently from our pragmatic, problem-solving, not just wanting to listen, Martian viewpoint. So while you think you look amazing atop the Eiffel Tower, swooshing the slopes of the Swiss Alps, dinning al fresco in Rome or lounging on some Carribean beach (side note: bikini pictures should only be posted by those that can really pull that look off, or are willing to accept the consequences), we see nothing but the bills for those expensive trips. We imagine you will expect us to take you around the world on our dime just to have any chance to possibly make or keep you happy. Unless you can afford to do these things on your own, and please figure out a way to slide that into your profile, leave those pictures out for now. Remember, it can be a lot of fun to have a handful of such pictures available to send when you start to communicate as opposed to having had “played all your cards” already.

Next let’s look at who is in these pictures with you. First, I recommend that you use pictures that only have you in them and I do this for several reasons. Remember, we are interested in seeing you not others. But, if you do choose to include others in your pictures, think about what you are doing and mind the following.

The obvious faux paus is to include the ex-anything (boyfriend or husband) in a picture. Also the photo-shopped or crudely cut out/smeared out face should be avoided. Come on girls! You have to have another picture you can use…it can’t be that good that you must use it. On this line, if you have a guy friend or relative in a picture you are using, make sure you can put a caption on the photo that explains that the dude is you brother, gay friend or co-worker. And don’t lie about it, if a real relationship develops and then you have to go back and explain that the dude in the Speedo with you in Jamaica was your ex-boyfriend we will only be left wondering about what else you might have fibbed. Hmmm…maybe they’re not real and spectacular???

This may seem hard to fathom but I promise it’s true. I’ve actually looked through profiles of ladies with a half-dozen or more pictures and not known which woman’s profile it was. Don’t make me have to load up all your pictures in an effort to find who is the common denominator in all of them, thus determining whose profile I am viewing. This also ties back into using recent pictures. I’ve had ones labeled (second from left) where I would never have been able to determine it was you! In a ten picture profile, I’ve seen four hair styles, two different lengths and three hair colors! If I wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a police line-up, I’m most likely not going to want to meet you in person.

Fine, you have disregarded my advice on posing solo in your pics and have included others in your profile photos. Luckily you have heard my other pleas and you have not included any exes and you have clearly labeled who is who in each and every picture. I know who you are in each picture and I’d ID you in a hot second in any line-up presented. Think you are all set? Not quite yet my dear. If I want to sell you something, I wouldn’t display it next to better items that I’m not trying to sell. In that vein, quite simply, be the hottest one in your pictures. My biggest laugh came from a makeup artist that posed with the runway models with whom she works…true story! We can be pigs and you don’t want us looking at your profile trying to figure out if there’s an appropriate way to message you and ask: “Hey, is the girl on your left your second picture available, the one in the black dress?

Lastly let’s talk for a moment about animals, your pet or pets. Sure, post a picture walking your dog or holding your cat. Great. List pets in your profile if you’re able as well so those poor folks with allergic reactions to our four-legged friends can be warned off or take their meds before arriving at your doorstep. But beyond that, let it go! Viewing a profile where 9 of 10 pictures show only your pet is a big turnoff. I love fluffy as much as the next guy, but I am there to look at you not them.

Well I hope that gives you a little insight into your profile pictures and how us guys view them. As always every scenario mentioned here is based on an actual interaction I’ve personally had while online dating. I never mean nor intend any hurtful feelings or ill will towards the women that were involved or women in general. I love women…and just want us to better understand one another and perhaps, just maybe, a few more of us will find our other halfs. Best wishes finding yours…he/she is out there.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Anniversaries are a time when we are reminded to reflect – A time to look back and see what has happened, where we have been, and where we are now.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my former husband's death.  I miss him.  I miss not being able to call him and share a memory, or tell him a story that only he and I would understand.  But this anniversary I am not overwhelmed with sadness about his death. Instead I know I am closer to making my peace with it.

As I was reminded today by a remarkable friend, Steve's time here helped shape me into the person I have become.  Without him I would not be as strong, I would not be as centered, and I would not have grown as much as I have over the last six and a half years.  

That is what I hold on to now – the incredible lesson he taught me.  As hard as it was to learn, it was exactly what I needed and is what keeps me moving forward in life.  Thank you Stevie.  My heart is always with you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Picture Says 1000 Words

Today’s Internet dating topic is the essential profile picture. For those of you not in the know, the profile picture is the number one thing that'll get you noticed online.  Shallow as it sounds a picture really can speak a thousand words... words like, "Don't do it, you'll never get those 2 hours back."  Or "Ya know what, I'm secretly gay so don't get too excited!"

Together with your profile headline, your profile picture can make quite an impression.  In this installment of my Internet dating bliss, I’d like to share some of the profile pictures that have left the greatest “impression” on me.
The people at Match give some tips on how to make good use of photos. Their suggestions are below.
1) Use photos that feature you.
2) Show your best smile.
3) Verify photos are in focus.
4) Use recent photos.
Allow me to add a few more in the interest of helping…
1) How about you don't wear sunglasses and a hat in every picture. I'd like to see your googly eyes and beautiful bald head before we meet!

2) Include a body shot (and may I be as bold as to request a recent body shot). You may have a cute face but I'd like to see if you are either:
A) a midget
B) a fatty.
No body shot = you’ve got something to hide.

3) For the love of Pete, don't post a picture of yourself shirtless (or in your underwear) that you've taken by pointing your camera phone at yourself!  How about we save some things for later!  I'm sorry, but pictures like this give me a serious case of the heebie jeebies.

4) Don't lie about your age. My favorites are the people who lie by 10+ years. For instance this man says he’s 29. Okay maybe he didn’t say 29 but he was definitely off by a couple of years.

So that's it really; just a few tips to help the guys out there meet the woman of their dreams.  Good luck guys.  Hope this helps.

Tune in some time this week to catch my friend Dave's guest blog where he shares his insights on the same topic from a guys perspective.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What's in a Name?

Because I’ve been feeling so happy and normal again I’ve decided to jump back in to the wonderful world of dating. So where does a busy woman who has practically no more single friends find men these days? Trolling the bars on her own, you ask? No silly, hopefully I have at least 10 more years before that seems like a viable option! Why, it’s in the not-at-all-humiliating world of online dating, of course! And in true Val fashion it seems fitting that my next series of blogs will focus on my thoughts, critiques, and experiences while Internet dating.

Let me start this series with a discussion on screen names. It’s important to note that the site I’m on makes members select a screen name that is unique so that no two names can be exactly alike and they encourage members not to use any part of their real name. This leaves members in a real quandary as to what name to select. I mean, the screen name and the ever-so-critical profile picture is what can differentiate you from the droves of other people on the site vying for attention. For me, this name can truly make the difference as to whether I will even bother to open a profile or not.  Listed below are a few of my favorites.

• Creamypassion - This one made me throw up in my mouth a little.

• SpiceeItalian4U – Nope, noooooooo, no, no, no!

• Wanttoclimbitall – Ummm, I sure hope you’re into rock climbing because otherwise I wouldn’t touch you with a 10 foot condom!

• godsgreatgift- Dude you have seriously just set yourself up for failure.

• Dred2date – Actually I give him kudos on his creativity on this one because he had a some BIG dreadlocks on his profile picture.

• Mrs73 – I’m sorry, why are you - a GUY - calling yourself “Mrs" anything???

• Butterflymagic – Really... really...

• Lil_tiger – I’m not sure which one I like more – Butterflymagic or lil_tiger?

And your favorite is?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Espirate (Exhale)

That’s how I feel, like I just let out a long, cleansing, hard-earned exhale! Quite simply, I FEEL GOOD! The kinda good you feel down to your core. I feel like me again, but better; more grounded, more secure, more balanced. Best of all it feels true. And I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this feeling; that I am in this place in my life.

One of my biggest fears after my divorce and subsequent breakups with love interests and friends was that I would come away from it a lesser person; that I would be filled with bitterness and resentment, so jaded that I would be unable to see anyone for who they really were. And although I have undeniably had these moments in recent years, that is not me. It is not who I have become.

The truth is I am still able to connect with people on a deeply personal level. I am thrilled to know that not only can I put down the invisible wall that keeps people out so they don't hurt me; I am learning the appropriate times to put that wall up.

I’ve been working hard these days on acceptance and forgiveness. These are traditionally tough things for me. My personal practice in acceptance has been focused on seeing people for who they really are without the filter I usually place on them, and then accepting who that person really is. Acceptance doesn’t mean I let everyone in my inner circle of trusted friends. It simply means I stop filling in the blanks for people. I let them be who they are and in doing so, I let me be me.

Doing this has helped me reduce my resistance to some friendships and raise my barriers to others. And although this practice does not come without growing pains, it has been an exceptionally good thing for me to do, as it has helped me understand and accept the imperfection of others and myself. It also has helped me accept that my feelings are legitimate no matter what anyone else thinks.

I accept with less judgement that I have many different types of people in my life; those who might seriously consider giving up their lives for mine; those who are fun to hang out with every now and again; and those who I can talk to every five years and it’s like we saw each other yesterday.

I am truly grateful for all the lessons I’ve been given over these last few years because they are helping me grow in ways I never imagined. There is so much good in this world and I have so much good in my life that I am truly grateful for. And I am happy, right here -- right now, living in this imperfect moment.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Conversations with my Dead Ex-Husband

It was August 2010. I had been back in the United States for two weeks and was moving into my darling condo which I had rented out for the past year while living abroad. Other than some furniture, wall art, and odds and ends that were sentimental to me I kept almost nothing from my life before Italy. I didn’t mind parting with these things. After all, they were just things and it felt liberating to purge!

I knowingly planned a month-long reentry in the U.S. so I could adjust before starting in my new position at my old firm. I had a lot to do to get my place ready to move back in. First I had to clean, and then fresh paint had to be applied, and then the movers had to bring my boxes, and then I had to unpack said boxes, and then I had to organize the unpacked said boxes, and then I had to buy new stuff to replace the stuff I didn’t have any more. Oh yes! There was a lot to be done.

I was in the middle of unpacking boxes, with my trusty iPod shuffling songs in the background, when the pangs of hunger hit me and I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out some food I had brought with me that morning. When I placed the food on the counter and moved toward the silverware drawer, it hit me. I had no eating utensils! I gave them all away the year before. I quickly remembered, however, unpacking my silver cabinet, a beautiful 9 inch by 15 inch cherry stained box that housed my fancy wedding silver and protected it from the tarnishing affects of the air. I hadn’t used my silver in years. Actually the last person to use it was my former husband who borrowed it over the Thanksgiving Holiday of 2008.

I retrieved the cabinet from the storage closet where I had moved it earlier that day; placed it on the kitchen counter; and lifted the top of the box. I was surprised to find a folded piece of notebook paper placed on top of the silver forks. I lifted it from where it was placed and unfolded it. It was something penned in the hand of Steve, my former husband. My body started to shake. What was this? Had I seen this before? Did Steve put this here? As I started to read the note, I realized it was a poem and my breath quickened.

“To Val,

You took me in
At a time I needed someone to take me in
You rescued me
From a life of inevitable lies and sin.

You made me laugh
At a time when I needed the most to laugh.

You made me smile
An expression I hadn’t seen for a while.

Thank you for saving me
You turned the tides.”

When I finished reading, tears poured from my eyes and my body shook uncontrollably. My mind was racing trying to figure out what had just happened. Had I put this note in the silver cabinet before I moved? Why would I do that? Why would I torture myself like that? Had I seen this poem before? Steve had written me a few poems or songs when we were together, but this one I could not recall. Did I block it out? Was I not ready to hear this message until now? Is it possible that Steve placed this note in the silver cabinet three weeks before he died? Does stuff like that ever REALLY happen? I simply could not make sense of it.

After calming myself down I went back into the kitchen to try to figure out what to do next. Eating didn’t seem much of a priority any more so I went back to unpacking boxes when the REM song, Night Swimming started to play. REM was Steve and my favorite band. Night Swimming is one of my favorite of their songs. I used it on the DVD I made to commemorate Steve’s life for his memorial service. To hear REM play on my iPod while on shuffle was rare. It never seemed to play songs I had imported from my disks, it always seemed to favor the songs purchased from the iTunes store. Then, “randomly” another REM song immediately followed. THEN Steve’s absolute favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen came on and I felt a chill down my neck. I had the overwhelming sense that Steve was there - with me - in my kitchen! Knowing that no one else was there and understanding that I am fundamentally not “normal” anyway, I cocked my head to the side, looked up to the ceiling and said out loud, “Are you here?”

Although I did not hear a voice –aloud or in my head– I felt that he was there. Actually, I should say, I knew that he was there. I was not afraid or freaked out. I felt completely safe, but I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I never had a dead guy visit me before, so I just did my thing; unpacking boxes, washing sheets, and organizing my house. I felt like he was following me around the house, which is funny because that’s what he had a tendency to do when we were first married.

Eventually I started asking him questions.

“Are you okay? Are you happier now?” The feeling I got back from him was yes, he was happy.

“Are you in… heaven?” It sounded weird saying it. The response I felt was “Kind of.” Of course I had no idea what that meant and was not about to pursue it.

“Why did you do it Steve? Why did you do this? Did you know you were going to die?” He told me (without saying a word) he was tired. He didn’t realize how much his death would affect everyone.

After the third day of feeling like he was following me around my house I asked him playfully why he was still here. I told him I was okay and after that I no longer felt his presence.

I chuckled at the irony of what was happening. I mean, I was having a conversation with the spirit of the person who would be the LEAST likely to believe that a conversation like this was possible. The man himself would have called me a nutcase!

Since then I‘ve felt Steve’s presence a couple of times over the last year; most recently when I met up with some very good friends of ours that we met before we were married. Again the awareness of his presence was triggered by a song; this time Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen. This was one of Steve’s favorite songs and it was the song we walked into our wedding reception to. I felt him in the restaurant when I got up to walk to the restroom and I just had to smile because I knew why he was there.

Obviously, I’ve heard a ton of Bruce Springsteen (or other sentimental songs) over the years since Steve’s death. These songs occasionally inspire a memory of him, but feeling his presence is very different from a memory.

I know how this all sounds. I am sure that most people would explain this away as something that was manufactured in my mind so that the unfinished business between he and I could be resolved. I understand fully this could be the case; that I so desperately wanted closure with him that my mind played tricks on me. But the thing is I don't care! I don't care if it was real or manufactured in my mind, because it did give me peace.

I don't harbor feelings of resentment against him for dying before we could be friends again. I’m not mad at him for drinking his life away. I don't beat myself up anymore because I didn’t do enough to help him. After all, he wrote me this amazing letter letting me know that was not the case.

I can now remember the best of Steve, not the worst. So to me, it doesn’t matter whether I put that letter in the silver cabinet and have absolutely no memory of doing so, or whether he placed it there three weeks before he died. What matters to me is the peace that I received. Without a doubt I know that Steve forgives me, and I forgive him. But most importantly, I forgive myself.

So, you can call me crazy for having conversations with my dead ex-husband but I will call me fortunate for being in a place in my life where I can accept this gift.