Office Politics: How to Play to Win 9 Ways to Increase your Popularity and Influence at the Office

Office Politics: How to Play to Win 9 Ways to Increase your Popularity and Influence at the Office

As we mature we come to understand Life is not always fair. Often the spoils of competition are awarded to the most popular, the most well-connected and most well-funded, regardless of who is more deserving. Putting in the longest hours, being the most qualified or talented does not guarantee success. Those that make it to the top of their industries can owe their ascendance to factors and dynamics that have little to do with merit.

In a perfect world, what we earn would reflect the effort, integrity and intentions we put into our work. But politicking—amassing and asserting one’s influence through social networking to position oneself closer to power—can determine upward mobility as much, or even more, than virtue and value.  Since office politics often play a substantial role in the corporate climb, it’s essential to play to win.

  1. Give credit where credit’s due. Few things will build resentment from your colleagues faster than not acknowledging their contributions. Sharing credit doesn’t cost you a thing, but it will pay off huge dividends in gratitude and respect from your co-workers. Collaboration is critical to success, so learn how to work with others in a way that recognizes the value and effort each member brings to the table.
  1. Be a person of your word. If you say you will do something, be like a mailman…and deliver! Have it done right and on-time. This builds trust and people will reciprocate by having your back when you need them.
  1. Create a win-win when possible. One way to ensure your office mates will be there for you in a pinch is to always aim to make working together mutually beneficial. It may not always be possible, but if you make a sincere effort, people will be receptive to working with you.
  1. Don’t gossip. If someone comes to you with all the dirt keep your mouth shut. They’re doing the same thing about you to everyone else. The best way to stay clean when someone is slinging mud is to change the subject or stay silent and mutter something about needing to finish a report or meet a tight deadline. Whatever you do, avoid taking sides. Choose the wrong side in a civil war and you can end up taking a bullet on the battlefield.
  1. CYA (Cover your @$$). Keep records of emails, voicemails, and other documentation if you are involved in a situation you suspect might come back to bite you.
  1. Neutralize toxic people. A few rules for detoxing from people who force their issues on everyone they come into contact with:  Don’t take things personally, distance yourself, don’t try and rationalize with them because they do things based on illogical motives. Remember, they are playing out their own issues and their behavior has nothing to do with you, so don’t get trapped in their web of craziness by taking the bait. Stay as far away as possible, keep interactions to short small talk and make every excuse to avoid working together on projects or teams.
  1. Be helpful. Reciprocity makes the world go round.  If you have the time and resources, do a favor when you can. But be careful of those that will always receive but never give. Save your time and effort for those that appreciate it and will return the courtesy when you ask for a helping hand.
  1. Show some interest in your co-workers as people. You don’t have to jump on board for every Friday happy hour invite or buy cookies from every parent hocking it at the office so their kid can win a prize, but taking a genuine interest in your co-worker as a real person and not just an “employee” develops a bond. A silly happy birthday email with a singing duck or asking if they want you to bring them back a burrito from lunch since they’re stuck at their desk will build an authentic relationship without requiring you become bffs with everyone at the office.
  1. Be slow to snap and quick to smile. In the workplace some decisions and circumstances will be out of your control, but the three things you will always have control over are: your reactions, your efforts and your attitude. When one of those emails that sends your blood pressure to near stroke levels ends up in your inbox, don’t fire off a reply in  an emotional frenzy fueled by the frustration that they “always do this” or “is such an idiot” or “never gets it”. Wait until you’re relaxed then be emotionally neutral and strategic about your response.On the flip side, be as easy going and approachable as you can. When people feel you genuinely try to understand them when they have an issue or feel comfortable coming to you with a question knowing they won’t be ridiculed with an eye roll or condescending tone; they will be a natural ally. People gravitate to a calming, morale boosting personality in the office since it makes them feel more at ease and confident.Be Courteous of People’s Time

Whether you’re at the bottom trying to locate a foothold to step into or you’re at the top and looking to guarantee you stay there, social diplomacy is key to advancement and longevity. Likability has a part to play in who gets passed over and who gets a push up. HR may call it “cultural fit” or “leadership ability”, but its code for mastering office politics. If you know the rules of the game and how to play, you can maneuver successfully to where you want you want to be without sacrificing your ethics, surrendering your integrity or modifying your values.




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Steps To Becoming A Craft Beer Brew King A New Hobby for the Newly Divorced Man

Steps To Becoming A Craft Beer Brew King A New Hobby for the Newly Divorced Man

Part of the fun of being free and single is being able to submerse yourself in new hobbies and exploring new interests. With the craft brew beer revolution taking hold across the nation, home brewing is enjoying a day in the sun. Playing mad scientist with hops can be pretty easy and fulfilling. Check out the steps becoming the Craft Beer Brew King below.

You will need:

  • Malt extract (liquid or dried)
  • Specialty grains
  • Yeast
  • Hops

All of these ingredients are available in brewing kits, and can be purchased at a variety of retailers, including specialized brewing stores.

There are several viable methods of preparation, but the basic steps are the same across the board. Start by soaking the malted barley in hot water to release the sugars. The solution is boiled with hops for the purpose of seasoning. After the solution has had time to cool, add yeast to begin fermentation. As the yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol, you’re one step closer to being able to bottle your own brew.


  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.  More than half of serious brewers will tell you that the secret to getting the perfect blend is starting off with a clean slate. Make sure that you have cleaned and sanitized everything that will come in contact with your beer. Make it easy on yourself and throw all of the your tools into the dishwasher, wipe down counters and be sure to use a scraper that won’t scratch your counter. Bacteria will attach to the rivets and then it’s practically impossible to sanitize the area. Consider using bleach or iodine solution on the surface and then rinse well.
  • Rinse Cycle. Be sure to rinse bleach off of every surface before using your micro-brewing equipment.
    • Add one ounce (30ml) of bleach to five gallons (4 liters) of cold water, followed by one ounce (30ml) of white vinegar. Don’t mix the two.
    • Anything cleaned with iodine solution can drip dry.
    • Remember, bleach may cause unwanted flavors in your beer, and requires rinsing, which may introduce microorganisms to your sterilized equipment.
    • Try to use food-grade cleanser or sanitizer which requires no rinsing.


  • Keep track. Be sure to write down everything you do from the cleaning process to the type of hops you are using. This makes it easier to reproduce certain brews without trying to recall ingredients and processes from memory.
  • Put any specialty grains into a grain bag and steep them in the large stock pot in three gallons (10 liters) of hot water (around 150°F (66°C) for about 30 minutes. Remove the grains and allow the water to drip out of the grain bag, into the pot.
  • After adding the malt extract, bring everything to a boil. Remember, hops added to early can create a bitter taste.
  • After this liquid, mostly referred to as wort, has reached a boil, you need to help it cool as quickly as possible. Put the entire pot in the sink and bombard it with ice water.
  • Once fermentation has begun, minimize the brew’s exposure to air. Use a strainer to scoop out the hops and add 20 liters of water.
  • You have now reached the stage that brewers refer to as “pitch” which basically means that it’s time to add yeast. Put the lid on your fermenter and in 24 hours, you should notice the air-lock preening a sweet bubbling noise. If you notice nothing after 48 hours, something probably went wrong and you’ll need to start over.


  • Finally, it’s that time. After about a week, activity under your airlock will be nonexistent but you can leave the brew alone for about two weeks before bottling. Your kit will likely include dried malt extract, which is used to carbonate the beer once it’s bottled.
  • Use the sanitized plastic tubing you’ve set up as a siphon to transfer the beer while avoiding aeration—from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. Prevent sediment (trub) from entering the fermenter or the bottling bucket.
  • Store your bottled beer for at least two weeks at room temperature and then it’s ready to go. Enjoy!

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To Smartwatch, Or Not To Smartwatch? Does the new generation of wearable tech fit your style?

To Smartwatch, Or Not To Smartwatch? Does the new generation of wearable tech fit your style?

In September, Apple announced their newest wearable product, the Apple Watch. The Watch functions as a wireless peripheral of an iPhone that allows you to make calls directly from your wrist, see incoming messages, check out maps…a whole slew of crazy new features.

Casio Databank CD-40

This looked super badass with your candy-apple red Walkman headphones and your Reeboks, didn’t it?

Though the Apple Watch is certainly high-profile, it’s not the first smartwatch. You could arguably award that honor to Casio’s Databank watch series, which debuted in 1983; it provided the wearer a calculator, an alarm and a “databank” where you could store phone numbers and the like.

But the current wave of real smartwatches — watches that connect to your smartphone or tablet and serve as more than glorified calculators — really began in 2012 with the Pebble, which was initially produced via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that raised over $10 million. The Pebble linked to your smartphone using Bluetooth, and could display your current email, SMS and calendar notifications, as well as running custom apps that could use the watch’s built-in sensors to track your movement or display a compass.

The Android Wear operating system followed in early 2014, providing a platform for manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung and HTC to create their own smartwatches. And, with the debut of Apple Watch in early 2015, it seems the smartwatch is on the rise.

Smartwatches are definitely cool, but do you really need one? And if so, which one is going to be the best fit for your personal style?

The Contenders

Pebble ($99 for basic model, $199 for Pebble Steel, With a black and white e-ink display and a Pebble-smartwatch-Kickstarterlimited set of styles and colors, the Pebble definitely looks like the Apple Watch’s plain older sibling. But for basic functionality — like vibrating and showing you your phone’s notifications without having to pull it out of your pocket — the Pebble is excellent. I’ve had one since they were first available through retail stores back in July of 2013, and it’s served me well. It’s compatible with the iPhone, but where it really shines is when it’s paired with an Android device, which gives it much more freedom to do cool stuff. With a bit of tweaking, you can make your Pebble vibrate if you walk too far away from your phone, or send an emergency SMS with just a couple of taps of the buttons.The lack of a color touchscreen is a minus, though, and both the original Pebble and the Pebble Steel take their design cues from the low end of the horological spectrum. On the other hand, thanks to the e-ink display, the battery on the Pebble lasts a lot longer than with its contemporaries.


Samsung_Gear_Live Samsung Gear Live ($199, Google Play Store): Out of all of the current Android Wear smartwatches, the Samsung Gear is definitely in the running for the best of the bunch. Featuring a high-resolution color  touchscreen, a microphone for voice commands and a heart rate monitor, the Gear is miles ahead of the Pebble in terms of functionality. It already does Google Maps and integrates with a growing list of existing Android apps. Plus it’s definitely nicer looking than the Pebble.Unfortunately, it appears to suffer from limited battery life: you’re going to be charging your watch every night. And as it’s an Android Wear device, it’s incompatible with iPhones.


Motorola Moto 360 Motorola Moto 360 ($249, The Moto 360 is a round smartwatch, which is deeply strange — we’re used to our digital screens being square or rectangular. It’s definitely prettier than any of the other smartwatches banging around right now, with replaceable bezels and a classic look. But while its battery life is better than the Samsung Gear, you’ll still want to stick it on its inductive charging base every night.


Apple Watch Apple Watch ($349 when available in “early 2015”, The Apple Watch isn’t even available yet, and it’s already the new gold standard for wearables. Available in a variety of styles (including steel/aluminum alloy and gold bodies) and colors, as well as two sizes, there’s probably an Apple Watch for everyone. And in terms of functionality — Siri integration, customizable “touch” patterns that let you virtually draw on someone else’s wrist, the usual heart rate monitor) it’s on par or ahead of every other option out there.Drawbacks? Without having gotten our hands on one, the only thing we can think of is that it’s only compatible with the iPhone. And at $349, it’s more than three times the price of the Pebble. But it seems likely that the Apple Watch will be the fashion accessory of 2015.

…Or Not To Smartwatch

Of course, a smartwatch may simply not be for you, if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t need instant notifications on your wrist, or if you’re more concerned with looking good than the functionality a smartwatch might provide. As nice as the Apple Watch may look, it’s still no match for a Patek Philippe or a good Rolex.

Also, speaking as a Pebble owner, I’ve discovered one interesting wrinkle that arises from wearing one: whenever you get a vibrating notification, it’s very hard not to glance at your watch. Unfortunately, this can lead other people who don’t know you’re wearing a smartwatch to think you keep looking at your watch, as if you’re bored. This can be awkward in social situations…particularly on first dates. (Trust me on this one.)

But if you’re okay with explaining to people that no, you’re not an inconsiderate jackass who’d rather be anywhere than talking to them, a smartwatch might be a great way to keep up with what’s going on in your life without having to go through all that tedious business of actually pulling your phone out of your pocket and looking at it. Though who knows? Maybe pocket smartwatches are the next Next Big Thing. Then you’ll actually have a use for those little pockets on your suit vests again.

Do your hobbies make you smarter, richer or sexier? These man hobbies do. 21 Productive Hobbies for the Divorced Man

Do your hobbies make you smarter, richer or sexier? These man hobbies do. 21 Productive Hobbies for the Divorced Man

The harder we work, the more we need downtime to recharge so we can keep up the pace. Modern life can feel like the Indy 500, forcing us to switch gears at breakneck speeds, trying to avoid the walls  and not get smashed by the racers whizzing by. Constant multitasking, juggling competing responsibilities and managing multiple agendas exact a harsh toll on our mental and physical health. That’s where our hobbies come to the rescue.

What we do with our time when we are off the clock from work and off the grid from social and family obligations can serve a dual purpose. We can sink into the gratifying escapism of TV or Netflix, socialize over happy hour burgers and brews or we can indulge in productive pastimes that add to our bank account, take our sexiness up a notch, decrease our stress or make our lives more gratifying. Do you prefer hobbies that add to your financial bottom line and not your waistline? If so, check these productive hobbies that make the most out of your leisure time.

Hobbies that can make or save you money

When money is tight it can be tough to scrounge for extra cash for pleasurable pursuits. These hobbies can actually pay for themselves with the money you save, or make.

  1. Coaching club sports. Coaching league sports, like volleyball or soccer, can turn your sports fanaticism into a paycheck and a good time. Coach your kid’s team and you get the bonus of some quality bonding time.And if you’re childless, coaching a team of youngsters or teens can remind you why you don’t have any!
  1. Buy, sell, and trade on Craigslist or Ebay. Many sellers make a decent part-time, and even full-time, living by selling items cluttering up the garage and closet or purchasing goods from yard sales, collectors and swap meets and selling directly to consumers online.
  1. Cooking. No, cooking is not a “women’s thing”. Both genders eat at least three times a day, making food preparation a human thing. The majority of celebrity chefs, think Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, are testosterone powerhouses. Cooking saves you money in a few ways: cooking a homemade meal makes a cheap date, you save on all the cash you blow eating out, and eating at home is generally healthier, so you save on buying bigger clothes and blood pressure meds. Extra perk: when you cook you always eat well.
  1. Home Improvement. The DIY movement is exploding for one main reason: when you do your own home improvements you can get customized results and save money. More satisfying results for less dough, that’s a no brainer.
  1. Gardening. Being cooped up in a cubicle like a monkey in a cage all week makes getting outside a breath of fresh air. When you garden you have something tangible, and tasty, to show for the time you spend basking in the sunshine. Save money and eat better, what’s not to like?
  1. Playing an instrument. If music moves you, you can give lessons or play your neighborhood lounge or dive bar in exchange for a drink and food tab. If entertaining gets your endorphins flowing, you can hire yourself out for private events and public performances.

Hobbies that release stress and improve your mood

Stress is a killer, literally (I go into more depth on how to manage stress in this article.) These hobbies do double duty by increasing your overall wellness while you indulge in much needed “me time”.  Heal your body from the abuses of stress and have a kick ass time doing it—talk about a win-win.

  1. Hiking. A cost effective get away, hiking brings an inner calm that can only come from connecting with nature. It’s a great way to bond with friends, get closer with someone special or enjoy some solitude. Check out to find trails in your area.
  1. Martial Arts. Learning self-defense is only one of the benefits of practicing martial arts. Self-discipline, focus, fitness, coordination, self-respect, stress relief, and a Zen-like ability to take on whatever life throws your way with flexibility and finesse are some of the traits martial artists acquire by studying the ancient warrior tradition. If you do some research to find the discipline and instructor that’s right for you, martial arts can transform your body, mind and even your life.
  1. Running or playing a sport. Physical activity boosts your testosterone level, keeps you healthy and strong, staves off depression, and soothes your stress. Whether it’s pick-up basketball games at the gym, the company softball team, soccer with the boys on the weekends, or an evening run, consistent exercise makes you feel good (it’s those endorphins), look better and gives you an outlet for that competitive drive and excess anxiety.
  1. Fishing. For the price of a pole, some bait and maybe a fishing license, you can supply your own dinner while soaking in the freshness and beauty of the Outdoors.  If you’re looking for a way to spend more time with your kids, fishing is a classic American father-son (and father-daughter) tradition. Fishing is one of the most relaxing of productive pastimes—it fosters patience, puts you in tune with the rhythm of Nature and allows you to temporarily escape the pressures of urban living.
  1. PaintballIf you crave a hobby that can channel your aggression and competitive spirit, then paintball might be the answer. You can drop $30 and rent a gun, CO2 cartridge, safety mask, and enough ammo to last you most of the day at a paintball course. After that, it’s only the facility fee and you’re in for a let-loose, go- crazy, time. An exercise for your body, mind and teamwork skills, paintball is a total tactical workout.
  1. Bowling. From Fred Flintstone to Dan Conner to the Dude, bowling is the symbol of the American family man’s weekend hobby.  If sitting down and having a few sips of beer between physical exertions is your speed, than bowling can be an ideal way to get your social needs met, release that pent up stress and work in some physical activity while you do it.
  1. Volunteering. Few things fill your spirit and widen your perspective like giving of yourself to help those plagued by tragedy and hardship. It doesn’t cost anything to volunteer at a local community organization or non-profit, but it often grants riches in the form of wisdom, compassion, gratitude and an increased feeling of happiness with your own life.

Hobbies that make you smarter

A recent study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology suggests time spent enjoying a hobby can dramatically increase career productivity. It seems the cliché “work hard, play hard” has some basis in scientific fact. As humans we require balance to continually operate at peak levels.

Your mind is like a muscle in that to keep it in tip top shape, you have to condition it. Think of these hobbies as sharpeners and your brain as a stainless steel blade; by engaging in these activities you are keeping your mind razor-sharp.

  1. Playing Chess. Chess fine tunes concentration, critical thinking, abstract reasoning, and problem solving skills. If you want to strategize better in life, practice on the chess board. Need an opponent? Try
  1. Watching documentaries. Netflix makes finding the best documentaries affordable and convenient. They even offer your first month free of charge.
  1. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Get informed, be entertained and increase your knowledge while driving, relaxing at home, or just about anywhere.  Score Free ebooks and free audiobooks with these links.
  1. Brain Games. Train your mind with interactive gaming that improves cognitive functioning.  Luminosity, Cambridge Brain Sciences, and Brainworkshop are sites with games that train your brain to process information faster and function at a higher level.

Hobbies that attract women

  1. Anything Physical Fitness. Bottom line: when you are in better shape you look more attractive, exude confidence, have more energy, and are less cranky and irritable. Now that is sexy!
  1. Dancing. Ballroom dancing, (Salsa, tango and swing are three of the most popular) can boost your self-confidence, posture and cardio fitness. It’s also a fun way to increase flexibility, concentration and coordination. And of course, ladies dig a gentleman who knows how to move.
  1. Dogs and other animals. While a pet is more than just a hobby, walking, cuddling and playing with your dog or other furry friend reaps huge returns.  Dog-walking and playing fetch are good ways to get some cardio exercise, connect with other pet-lovers (especially the friendly, female type), lower stress and stave off depression. Bonus: Women swoon when they see cuddly fur balls and when they see a man with a puppy the adorableness factor multiplies! If you don’t have the lifestyle or resources to give a pet a nurturing home, try finding a friend or neighbor who will let you take theirs out and enjoy the perks.
  1. Writing. Writing is an outlet for everyday frustrations and a channel for self-expression and creativity. And we all know that women love a man who can communicate. Write for 20-30 minutes a day in a journal, a blog, a comic book, whatever genre of storytelling suits you. You will begin to more clearly organize your thoughts and communicate your feelings and ideas. There are few things as sexy as a man who knows how to express himself. Looking to make a huge impression? Channel this new found writing skill into a song, poem or love letter and watch her reaction.

When we were younger and time was the only commodity we had to spend, we would sit in front of the TV playing video games, watching hours of mind-numbing content, reading comic books or novels, or riding our bikes around the neighborhood until the street lamps started to glow. There’s nothing wrong with some self-indulgence after a hard day of grinding to pay the bills and handle responsibilities, but as we age, the more careful we become with our time. We have less of it now so we value it so much more. Why not try and blend our leisure time with practical hobbies that can improve our lives?

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Till Time Does Us Part What Is Love, Really?

Till Time Does Us Part What Is Love, Really?

My step-father loved to joke that I had a little neon sign on my forehead that flashed: “Assholes Apply Here”.

I’ve hit a few bumps on the road to True Love – or they hit me. It is humiliating to admit that a woman who prides herself on her intellect couldn’t tell the difference between a prince and a frog; a man and a monster. To describe my first two marriages as “abusive” would be like describing World War II a “minor conflict”. My two epic battles were waged on different fronts: one for my life and one for my sanity. Both blew my self-esteem to smithereens. But, in my defense, both of those men had agendas which had nothing to do with love. One needed a “cover” – a curtain of macho normalcy to hide a gender-confused nature. The other, a former military brat with a brilliant but drug-fried brain, had read manuals on brainwashing techniques he’d stolen from his Air Force father’s files. He wanted a “test subject”. Ironically, years later, I found one of the manual’s contributors listed on another government document: my birth certificate. My birth father. A man so feared by my mother that she denied what few memories I had of him. Maybe my heart was genetically doomed from the start.

How do we know what love is? There is no single answer. We define our idea of it as we grow. I didn’t have a father and my mother had her “career”, so my kid brother and I spent our early years with our maternal grandparents, a quiet, middle-class couple, and a live-in nanny. They showered us with love and attention. Those were the happiest years of my life. Had you asked me when I was nine, I’d have said I wanted a marriage like my ‘Doe’ and Grandaddy’s. From an adult perspective, it has been really, really hard to look at the truth: they were two people who simply lived under the same roof. The only abiding love they shared was for my brother and I. They never spoke to one another unless we were in the room. The abundant affection given so freely and often was never given to one another. As a child, I saw brief glimpses of the reality and either misunderstood or saw and was given an explanation of misdirection. My grandmother was deeply in love with my grandfather in all the ways a woman yearns to be and she adored her daughter but, for reasons lost to time, all that love was unrequited. It was a family of so many secrets, all kept for the sake of my brother and I. Could the truth have made my life any different? Is my idea of love a naive, fairy-tale notion I learned from growing up within a fairy tale? Is it why, at the age she was then, I can recognize my grandmother’s quiet pain? Would I have made different life choices?

We lived with my grandparents until I was nine and my mother came to claim us back. I got my second look at love. Mom had married a man diametrically different from anyone my brother and I had ever been around. We’d never heard a voice or seen a hand raised in anger; swearing, alcohol and “other things” were foreign, too. My little brother once told my grandparents that our new dad was “mean to mommy because he was always grabbing her” but, he added, “Mommy’s brave cuz she just laughs at him.”

Leave It To Beaver meets The Bundy’s.

My step-father was always away working. My former career-minded mother withered into a clinging vine, wrapped around the telephone waiting for his weekly calls. As the jobs took him first out of state and then overseas, my brother and I became the barrier keeping her from a life of travel and adventure. She couldn’t handle it. She pick us up from school with our luggage in the backseat and a pair of bus tickets back to our grandparents. A couple of months and a new school later, we came home to tearful grandparents and Maureen, our beloved nanny, standing by our suitcases, reassigned to a long bus ride to and from wherever Mom was, which was never where my stepfather was. It became a chaotic routine. When one job ended, he’d head for the next one, leaving her in the last town. She’d get lonely and swear she needed us. For awhile. Back and forth, kid-sized yoyo’s bouncing on a string of lies:

“Of course, your mommy loves you, but her husband’s new boss doesn’t allow children to be there.”

“You’re just going to your grandparent’s for the holidays (or the summeror the school year).”

We were with mom when, around my 14th birthday, while walking home late from yet another new school,  I “shamed” my mother by “allowing myself” to be abducted, beaten and raped. Of course, I had to walk! Wasn’t my stepfather due to call any minute?!?

When I was led into the house, she refused to look at me. She would not allow them to take me to a hospital or allow the sheriff’s deputy to file a report.

My dear Lord, no,” she sobbed. “What would the neighbors think of us!!

It was a much more innocent era; I had no idea what had made me so shameful. I understood why my head and face hurt but why did it hurt “down there”?? My mother couldn’t even be in the same room. She relayed instructions and a book through my brother. I was to take a bath, two aspirin, go to bed and not be there in the morning. The book was a thin paperback called “How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex.” Thanks, Mom. Better late than never, I guess.

The next morning, my kid brother stood in the kitchen window watching me leave, his hand pressed against the glass in silent farewell. I don’t know what hurt me more: being allowed to leave or leaving him behind. My backpack felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I wasn’t old enough to drive and I was homeless.

This was how I learned about love.

I’ve been married to my third husband for 22 years now. We met when I was auditioning keyboard players for a band. We were even more different than my mother and stepfather had been. I knew this but it didn’t matter. I had never, ever felt so wanted by anyone. Before the ceremony our minister counseled us that the “honeymoon period” would last probably no more than a couple of years and we should prepare ourselves to then settle in to “wedded love”. Our honeymoon period lasted almost twelve years. My heart still skips a beat sometimes when he walks into the room. He often reminds me that he’s never broken his vows, as if he deserves a medal. I’m often reminded of the difference between “being wanted” and being loved. We’ve been raising his 9 year old granddaughter since she was a baby and in our home there is an abundant showering of love and affection upon this small beacon of light. She fills the empty spaces…

In the small dark hours of the night, as my grandmother surely must have, I ask myself:  “Is this what love becomes?” I’ve come to understand what Henry David Thoreau meant by lives lived in quiet desperation. Children learn what they live. Our experiences shape us. They are the colors that fill in the outlines of who we are. I’d like to believe that at my core, I am a reflection of the deep, unconditional love I experienced as a small child. That small child I may yet be, still in a search to find someone who will love me for me.

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