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Dear Loch,

All kids, whether they know it or not, need boundaries. Just as society needs rules and laws, you need to know what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not. Boundaries give us a sense of order that allow us the security to know where we stand. It’s also helpful to know what the consequences will be if we step out of line. Though you’ll discover these boundaries by osmosis living with us, I wanted you to know upfront what’s not ok and what it is you’ll get in s*&# for. I have yet to decide on the consequences. I have no real point of reference, as I didn’t really need them growing up. I was, as my friend Jeanette once told Granny and Granddad, “A parent’s wet dream”. That’s not to say I was a church mouse. I had a great time, but I was always honest about what I was doing and who I was doing it with. I followed the rules, did well in school, and didn’t do anything to disrespect the faith or trust my parents had in me.  Your father on the other hand was a delinquent-in-training until high school, so, you could go either way. Though we both agree that taking after me in this department is better for everybody…

From where I stand now, these are your perimeters. You will get in trouble for the following:

Mouthing off and generally being a brat. I expect you to be respectful and polite. You will speak to your father and me with courtesy no matter how much we’re bugging you. I’m not saying you can’t lash out, or ever say things you don’t mean. That’s bound to happen. I’m just saying, that kind of behavior is not acceptable and when, and if, it happens, I want you to know it’s not ok, and you will be expected to apologize. This rule applies to any authority figure (though I would advise you to avoid mouthing off to your peers too). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the world opens for people with manners. Have them, use them, and you’ll not only be liked and respected, you won’t have to hear me lecturing to you on your behavior. You and I have an ongoing conversation right now that goes something like this:

Me: What kind of boy do you want to be?

You: A nice boy.

Me: Not a…

You: Whiney boy.

Me: Or a…

You: Bratty boy.

Bratty is not ok. Bratty, expectant behavior is unacceptable. We, your family, plan to sacrifice a lot to give you all the opportunities we can. Acting like a spoiled, sullen, overindulged child will not be tolerated. Neither will being disrespectful of people or things.

Never destroy anything purposely or for kicks. People work hard for the things they have, and those things have value. Right now if you break something you have a tendency to say “We’ll just get a new one ok, Mommy?” and I have to explain that’s not always the case. You have to respect your things – and most definitely someone else’s – and it’s not as simple as just buying more. Help clean if you made a mess. Listen to the rules as they’re given. Take care of your stuff. Take care of other’s stuff. If a friend says don’t touch something, don’t touch it. If you break it, fix, or when you’re older, offer to pay for, it. Learn that there are consequences to your actions and work within those perimeters.

Bullying. Never be cruel or mean to anyone, ever. Remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I was bullied as a child and it was awful. I remember those days, and feelings clearly, even now. Don’t be part of someone’s bad memories.

Lying. It’s not necessary and not worth it. I love you. Dad loves you. Anything you say, think, or feel is ok. Don’t lie. Don’t feel you have to lie. The truth is always the better choice. Plus, you don’t get confused and caught up in your story. Whatever’s happened we’ll work through it. Just don’t lie about it. The truth always comes out in the end. Don’t mess with the trust we have in you. It’s not worth it. The only time lying is ok is when you do it by omission in order to spare someone’s feelings. This is what is commonly referred to as a “white lie”. “Do you like my dress?” She’s already wearing it and has no chance to change? You say “You look great” . Someone asks, “Did you like the show?” and it was 3 1/2 hours of pertenscious BS, you say, “Yeah, I can’t believe how cohesive the cast was…” or, “The sets were incredible.” or what they really want to hear, “You were amazing in it!” Pick something that is actually true and say that. Just never say something you don’t believe or won’t do. Be someone who’s word means something.

Stealing is unacceptable, and I hope you know that without my saying it. Granddad tells a story of the one and only time he stole. He took a comic book from the General Store, got home and felt so bad about stealing it, he couldn’t read it. He told his parents and had to go back to the store, return the comic and apologize to the shop owner. I can only imagine that feeling. I’m the kind of person that tells waiters they left things off my bill, or if I’ve been given the incorrect change in my favor. Your Dad will tell you a story of how he once got caught shoplifting a Playboy. He panicked and ran, but because he lived on a US Military base in Japan, everybody knew everybody and later that day the MP’s came to his house and took him in. He’ll tell you he was overwhelmed by embarrassment because of what he’d done – and what he’d stolen – but mostly he was scared. Scared of what they’d do, or what the repercussions would be. When all was said and done Grandpa took him home and he went straight to bed. The next morning he felt like he couldn’t leave his room. He was too ashamed. Finally Grandpa came upstairs and instead of grounding him or yelling, he simply said, “If you ever need anything, come to me first. We’ll see what we can do.” He proceeded to tell Dad he loved him and then sent him outside to be with his friends. Dad had learned his lesson, and Grandpa, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t feel the need to rub it in. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d be quite as forgiving, but the point is, you don’t take things that aren’t yours. Good people don’t do that. And you are a good person.

Cheating is tough. More and more kids do it every day. I never would have dreamed of cheating, but I was a goody goody and it was a different time. The thing about cheating, as cliche as it sounds, is you’re truly only cheating yourself. It’s the easy ride. If you don’t learn it, then you get nothing out of it. If you don’t do the work, you don’t deserve the grade, and you’ll only have to cheat again to keep up with what you don’t know. Cheating only leads to more cheating. This goes for sports, games and work too. There is nothing worse than being in a situation where you’re in over your head. If you got there by less than honest means, you don’t deserve to be there, and you know it. No matter how many accolades you get you’ll never feel worthy. It’ll breed insecurity and make you act even less authentic. You’ll eventually lose yourself completely to your own dishonesty. Just buckle down, make the effort and do the work. It takes more time and energy but trust me, it’s worth it.

Doing Drugs. Drugs are illegal. If you get caught with drugs it can screw up your life. If you do the wrong drug it can take your life. Take my advice from The Importance of Safety and really limit, if not avoid, drugs altogether. They are so prevalent for young people now. When I was in high school I knew a couple people who smoked pot, but that was it. I didn’t even try it till University and it made me either neurotic or starving. Both pretty harmless reactions but, you can definitely do too much. One summer I smoked pot pretty regularly as a source of recreation with a boyfriend. We had some very laid back, goofy fun, but by August I was both fatter and dumber. I literally found myself struggling to find the right word for things a LOT. I might not have been stupider, but I was definitely slower, and it was a bad feeling. I stopped right away and didn’t go back. Look, between you and me I think marijuana should be legal, both medicinally and recreationally. I think it is no worse for you than drinking, and if it was monitored and controlled by the government the way alcohol is, I think we’d have way less bogus arrests, court appearances and clogging of jails. Public funds could be allocated to something more serious and we could put more truly “bad guys” behind bars. But that’s just me. The other drugs out there I can’t really speak to, aside from saying don’t do them. Seriously. Don’t. Do. Them. Drugs made in a lab can kill you in a hot second, and nothing is ever as good as the initial high. You can chase that feeling for the rest of your life. Don’t waste your time. Find another vice. Jon W. Howson

I’m not going to get on you for drinking. I’m not saying do it, I’m just saying be responsible with your choices and respectful of your body and situation. But, if that’s what your friends are doing – providing you do it in moderation and a safe environment – you won’t be in trouble for it. Drinking can be fun, but it can also make you do really stupid things, and it can get you really sick. You don’t need booze to have fun. Truly. I hope you’ll learn to respect alcohol in our house so that it won’t be such a big deal when you do start drinking. Being Canadian, with a drinking age of 19 in Ontario and 18 in Quebec, drinking starts a lot earlier than in the US. I personally believe the US drinking age is too high. 21 seems crazy in today’s world. If you can go to war and vote for your leaders by 18, I think you should be able to have a glass of wine.  Most of my pals started drinking in Grade 7. I didn’t start until Grade 9 . In retrospect, both seem a bit young, but it was normal to us. That being said, it took me a while to understand how to properly handle it. Many of my peers weren’t as lucky, and found themselves with serious alcoholic tendencies by the time they were in University – Drinking only to get wasted. Drinking until they blacked out. Not knowing how to function socially without drinking. Turning into a different person when they drank – By my mid-20’s I had at least 3 friends in AA. Drinking can be a good time, but if you abuse it you can find yourself down a rabbit hole you can’t control, and your best possible solution is to stop drinking forever. I admire my friends that said, “no more” to their destructive behavior, but I can’t help but feel it’s kinda sad they can no longer enjoy a glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve, or a cocktail in a bar. Seek to control your drinking lest it control you. I actually think the Europeans have it down. You must be 18 to buy spirits over 16.5% but adults can purchase for minors. Beer at 4.5-8% is fine before you’re 18. Alcohol is simply part of the culture, and I’m of the opinion that learning to drink earlier – in the safety of your home – allows you to better control and maintain yourself when you do turn 18, and can drink anything at any time. I believe when you make things taboo, and force people to do things in secret, it makes it worse. I think that’s why American kids tend to handle drinking so poorly. No one taught them differently, and when they turn 21 they just go crazy. I’m hoping to avoid that. We’ll just pretend our house is France. You don’t often see Parisian kids puking their guts out on the street. I told my parents when my friends started drinking, and then when I did. They chose not to punish me, but  to educate me on how to handle drinking with some sense of decorum. They also gave me taxi chits to get me home from parties and keep me safe. So, aside from a handful nights where I truly over indulged, and there were some blotto nights, for the most part I’ve had a healthy respect for alcohol my whole life. I also have seen what a drinking problem can do to a family and I have no interest in going there.

As a side note on drinking, you will not get out of things you’re expected to do if you are hung over. That is not a legitimate excuse. So if you have something to do the next day, keep that in mind the night before. I’m cool. I’m not that cool.

Finally, no drinking and driving ever. Ever. There is no flexibility on this. Not only can you be arrested and have it on your permanent record, it can KILL YOU, or someone else. Life is truly precious. You don’t F around with life.

Smoking is a big one for me. I know kids smoke and 5 years ago I would have advised you not to get into the habit because it’s expensive and gross and bad for your teeth and lungs. But now, having been diagnosed with a lung disease, and living with compromised lungs, I can’t be more adamant about this. Don’t smoke. Period. You’ve been born with perfect, healthy lungs and to f*@# them up deliberately is to spit on everything I’m dealing with. Having a lung disease is horrendous. Not being able to breathe properly, needing oxygen, not being able to walk up stairs or carry your own child, having to shower with the bathroom door open because the steam makes it too hard to take a deep breath, these are all things you don’t want. I didn’t get PH from smoking. My minimal social smoking – which I never really mastered or liked – was not the cause of my disease. But if I had been a smoker, my diagnosis and response to the disease would be way less rosy. Keep your lungs healthy and I’ll continue to pray that my disease isn’t genetic. Deal?

Being Lazy. I was at Subway the other day getting a sandwich and there was a teenage boy there with his Mom, Granny and sister. They waited in line while he sat like a blob at a table. I’d love to say he was saving seats for his family, but I can’t. There were plenty of tables. He sat there and deep sighed, put his head on the table, and generally acted like everything was just the biggest burden. Answering his family’s questions on type of cheese or bread he wanted was like a horror show for him. Groan, “Provolone!” Sigh. I was one step away from telling him to get his a#@ up and stop being such a tool. I’ve got no time for lazy dude. I’m not talking about sleeping in on the weekends, or bumming around at the cottage in the summer. I’m talking about just not bothering. Not making an effort. One of my biggest pet peeves with you right now is you say “I can’t” a lot. I don’t mind helping you, but most of the time when you say “I can’t”, you really mean, “I don’t want to” or “I won’t”. That’s annoying when your 4 but if you’re 14 or 24, it’s pathetic. You get out what you put in. Right now, you’re always so proud – and a little surprised I think – when you complete something without me. You fight it like hell – say putting away your toys, or getting dressed on your own – but when you finish, you look at me like hey….wow. I think that feeling follows you right through life. There’s pride in a job well done. Pleasure in a sense of completion. Get to the gym. Look for the better job. Do a better job. Work at your relationship or get a new girlfriend. A little more effort adds up to a lot more life. I’ll be all over you if you’re lazy. It’s so lame.

You know what else is lame? Being a Bad Sport. Being a bad loser or a bad winner. The guy who decides not to dress up for the costume party, or refuses to play the game everyone is playing. Play the game. Wear the costume. Put on the tie. Shake the winner’s hand. Buck up. Put a smile on your face and have a good time. Don’t be the putz that’s too cool or the a-hole who rubs his greatness in everyone’s face.

Not Asking. We’ll want you to always ask our permission. We’ll do this not to control your life, but so we can help you navigate it. You want to have a party? Ask. Want to stay out late? Ask. Want to go to someone’s house after school? Just ask. We want to know where you are. We want to know you’re safe. We want you to make smart decisions that won’t mess around with the bigger picture that maybe only we can see right now. We aren’t trying to jack up your fun. Don’t treat us like we are. Just ask.

Be cool. Don’t be a punk. Use your manners and your head when making decisions. Remember, you are building the person you want to be. Start with a good foundation. I want people to say, that Lochlan is a nice kid, let’s have him over again, or honor him with that award, or give him that promotion. A*^holes might sometimes get those things too, but trust me, people wished they didn’t.

I love you baby. Choose wisely.

xo me

President’s Day

My plan was to post about Boundries today, but yesterday was my baby’s 4th Birthday and today is President’s Day and it’s got me to thinking, so I’ve bumped my prepared post for this, my train of thought on politics in America.

When I married Sean I remember being struck with the idea that if we had a child, that child could grow up to be President of the United States. Growing up as a Canadian, that was a trip to me. I’m sure other countries would have cause for debate, but with the power that the United States has wielded for so long as the “leader” of the free world, you could argue that being the President of the United States is, perhaps, THE most important job in the world.

The thing is, where we stand now, it’s a job I wouldn’t want my son to touch with a 50 foot pole. Loch is currently on the “I want to be a policeman” kick, and as much as I hate the idea of him strapping on a gun and doing the honorable, yet hideously dangerous and underpaid, work of a law enforcement officer, I think I’d prefer it to President of the United States. What does that say about our country?

I’m currently awaiting my interview for American citizenship. I’ve been living in the US for 13 years and am only now truly eligible for a passport. I did the work visas. I did the temporary green card after my marriage. I got my permanent green card after Sean and I had been married for 2 years and could prove our marriage wasn’t in fact a scam,and now, after thousands of dollars in legal and processing fees and countless hours of preparing and gathering the right documents and information, I’m finally writing my citizenship test and having my interview in March. I don’t need to do it. I can legally and happily live on my green card indefinitely. The thing is, I want to do it. I love this country. I want to be a part of it. I want to be the same citizenship as my family. But mostly, I want to vote. I want to be part of the democratic discussion. I want to count.

My problem is, will I?

I’ve lived in the country for the past 3 elections, Bush, Bush and Obama, and I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with both the electoral college voting system and American politics in general. From an outside perspective the whole process seems innately flawed. Ignoring idiocies like the “hanging chad” fiasco of the first George W election, I find it perplexing that the person who wins the popular vote (i.e. more people want him/her as President) can lose the general election. The way the states are played against each other, some being worth more than others is, in itself, undemocratic. The way you have to win some particular state to  win the election is, not only confusing, but somehow unfair. I’m sure Republicans in ‘Blue States’ are fed up with feeling like they don’t count, just as Democrats in ‘Red States’ must feel uninspired to get themselves out to a voting booth. It’s kinda like, what’s the point?

Coming from Canada, I used to think America’s 2 party system made it easier to decide. Less dissemination of votes, made for a clearer cut winner. You don’t end up with a leader, as you can in Canada, who only received 30% of the vote. But now that I’ve lived state side for over a decade, I see that, in someways, this isn’t a great system either. There’s no room for middle ground save candidates themselves that are either left leaning conservatives, or fiscally conservative liberals. America’s become, even more so lately, a ‘my way or the highway’ way of  “representing” the people. The parties are so at odds with each other that, again from an outsider perspective, very little is able to be accomplished. If you hold the Presidency and Senate or House, you can, in many ways, bully your policies through with little, to no, viable opposition. If you hold the Presidency but not the majority in the House or Senate, then you’re a lame duck, unable to do anything but watch your potential policies get debated to death and torn to shreds. This isn’t what’s best for the American public. We aren’t thriving under this system. If anything, we’re in the worst position we’ve ever been in both domestically and globally.

I tell Loch, you have to be flexible, you can’t always get your way, let’s make a deal. Politicians could learn a bit from my preschooler in the ways of listening and compromising. It’s like the leaders of America need a mom to come in and say “Enough! Work this s*#@ out!”  The way the government is running now, it’s as if, politicians are disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. Republicans actively and vocally loathe the Obamacare Health Plan, yet there is no other developed country in the world without some form standardized and subsidized health care for all. People dying because they can’t afford health care shouldn’t happen in a country like this, but nor should the few be responsible for the many. In Canada, you don’t worry about getting hurt or sick because you can’t afford it, you worry because it’s awful to get hurt or sick. Yes, Canadian’s pay a lot of taxes but frankly, we pay a lot of taxes here too. The only people that seem to be getting major tax breaks are the very, very rich and the very, very poor, and like I said in my post School: A Diatribe, where does that leave the middle? We need some compromise. We need our representatives working together.

I would skew liberal in today’s politics. Since there is no middle ground, I’d be considered a Democrat. But, I also don’t believe you should have to give away all your hard earned money to the government. I don’t think we need as big a governing body as we have. I think things (and money) easily get lost when there’s too many cooks in the kitchen. I’d like to see less elected officials getting more things done.  I’m pro-a-woman’s-right-to-choose and pro-gay marriage. I’m pro-military AND pro-repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I’m against an open door policy for all illegal immigrants but I’m pro-immigration. I don’t think people should be asked for their papers on the streets like we live in Nazi Germany, but I do believe they should have papers. As an immigrant myself, I’ve had to go through infinite proper channels and jump thorough hundreds of government hoops to work and live in this country. It’s upsetting to me that I can no longer comfortably send my child to the local public school because of overcrowding, underfunding and the fact that over 68% are non-english speaking students. It’s upsetting to me that the statistics say that by 2035 the most spoken language in America will be Spanish. I’m all for learning another language. Canada itself is bilingual. But what other county in the world has had their primary language changed due to their immigration? If I chose to live in Italy, I better learn to speak Italian. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a moderate amount of assimilation.

The bottom line is, I come down right in the middle of American politics and I think what we need is to be flexible and work together. Human rights should be non-negotiable. Fiscal, medical, environmental and immigration policies should be up for debate. Compromises must be made.

I said I wouldn’t want my son to be President, and the way things stand right now, I mean it. Look at Obama. Had I been able to vote in 2008, I would have voted for him. I, like many of my generation, wanted to believe in change. I wanted to believe in hope. I wanted to see a new kind of government. One of transparency and working together, where the will of the people dictates policy and the country is not run by a few back room boys wheeling and dealing in Washington. I wanted more FDR ‘The New Deal’ and less wars for oil. I wanted to feel safer from terrorist attacks not like we were asking for it by acting more and more like the gross infidel we’re made out to be. I wanted to see new jobs and less dependence on foreign debt buyers. I wanted to believe in “Yes We Can”. Has Obama delivered on that hope? No, probably not. Does he deserve another 4 years do try and do so? Yes, he definitely does. And not just because the potential Rebulican Presidential candidates range from rich, bland, nothings to appalling, bigoted freak shows, but because Obama has had about the worst 4 years ever to be President. He inherited 2 unpaid for, unpopular wars, the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression, near a collapse of the housing and job market and the oil spill in the Gulf, all the while being barraged with inane questions about his birth certificate. When I drive around town and see bumper stickers that say ‘Worst President Ever’, with the O of worst begin the Obama symbol I think, really?! Really?! He ended the Iraq war. Killed Osama Bin Laden. Took out over 30 top Al-Queda leaders. Helped topple Qaddafi’s reign of terror. Closed Guantanamo. Put regulations in place so we can’t be F-ed by wall street and the banks again, and helped avoid total catastrophic financial fallout set up by a number of monumentally, greedy and self serving politicians and bankers. And people HATE him? Hate him? I literally don’t get it.

We shouldn’t hate our President. I can tell you I was not a Bush fan, and I didn’t think he was up for the job of President, but since he was President, I felt he deserved my respect and, at the very least, my grudging support. I didn’t agree with his policies but  I believed in the democratic system to work through the issues. But to loathe him with the hatred usually reserved for murders? No. Totally disrespectful and inappropriate. It used to be that a few crazies or zealots might want to kill you if you were President. Now, it’s like half the country. To hate just because. To disagree for the sake of disagreeing. To work against because you simply refuse to work with. These aren’t qualities that made America great and they aren’t qualities that will make America better.

I’m nervous for America’s future. I love it here. It’s the land of opportunity. The land of free and the home of the brave. A country based on the ‘Can Do’ attitude of a frontier people carving their own path. But we didn’t make this country great by working alone. By looking out only for ourselves. Leading this country now is a lesson in negotiating. Negotiating a coming together. The Right has to stop shutting the Left down. The Left has to stop negating the Right.

As the quote goes: In War, is it whose Right or who’s left? This country is at war against itself. As we look back at the Presidents, leaders and history that came before, we have to collaborate to move forward. To become a country, American’s came together. To save our country we’ll have to do it again.

Otherwise we’re looking at a civil war of undereducated citizens in a country owned by China.

Why would I want my son to be a leader of that?

Love and Dating

Dear Loch,

So, this past weekend we hosted your wedding. It wasn’t our intention, but you and your friend Shiloh were so into the idea of getting married that her mother finally called and said, “I think we’re going to have to do this thing.” Once confirming that the bride and groom both understood it was, in fact, a (said in a whisper) “pretend” wedding, the parents got to planning. The thing about me and your Dad (and, as it turns out, the bride’s parents) is that we can’t do something at 70%. A wedding to you guys basically consisted of fancy clothes, an aisle, vows and cake – with cake being the big draw. The adults added flowers, snacks, a decorated venue, ring pop favors and, thanks to Shiloh’s mom’s job, a limo – so guests under 5 could drive around the block for 20 minutes. Ridiculous? Maybe. Super fun playdate with a theme? Definitely. When I asked the flower guy at the grocery store if I could have any roses they were going to throw away, he asked me what they were for. I said I wanted to use the petals to decorate a 4-year-old wedding. He said, “For someone who’s been married 4 years?” and I said, “No, for a wedding of 4-year-olds.” He looked at me like I was cracked. I explained that everyone involved knew it was just for fun. But this morning when you told me that, now that you’re married, you and Shiloh would be “getting an apartment”, I wasn’t so sure. I said, “You’re not getting an apartment. You’re staying here with me. You know you’re not really married right?” You looked at me like, duh… and said, “I knooooow Mommy. But when I really marry Shiloh one day, we’ll get an apartment.” I said, “I hope you get one before that.” 

The thing is, if you grow up and marry Shiloh, that would be fantastic. She’s a darling girl and we love her family. Plus, telling people you got married for the first time at 4, would be pretty hilarious. But, you don’t know who the heck you’re going to marry, and I’d hate you to rush headlong to the finish line of relationships before exploring the whole exciting gamut of love and dating. As I’ve said before, I love being married and I’d love it for you, but there are so many wonderful things to happen between now and then. Don’t miss out by trying to achieve the end result.

Your Dad was a long-term-relationship guy, and judging by your adoration of the female sex – your penchant for complimenting women, and the fact that you notice things like when I’ve had my hair or nails done – you might be too. I, on the other hand, dated a lot, and had only a handful of real relationships before I met your Dad. That was good too. I’d hazard to say I probably had more fun than your Dad, but I also had more heartbreak, so it’s a toss up to which is better. I’d like to see you have a lot of experiences. To date women that aren’t right for you, and women you think are, but turn out not to be. I’d rather you to go all in, and feel the crushing sting of a failed relationship, than hang back and choose the safe or easy path. Love in itself is a risk but it’s a risk worth taking over and over again.

As you start your dating adventures I have a couple words of advice. Keep in mind I was a pretty avid dater in my time and I ended up with a great spouse, so I kind of know what I’m talking about. Plus, I’m a woman, and that gives me some insight you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.

I'm not saying you have to date any of these scarf models from I'm just saying you don't have to stick to only one type of girl.

Try not to have a “type”. I can’t speak to who you should be attracted, that’s just chemistry, but try to avoid limiting yourself to a certain hair color or look. Avoid saying things like, “I don’t date (fill in the blank) type of girls.” You never know where you’ll make a connection, and if you close those doors without finding out what’s behind them, you might be missing out on a great love affair – or at least a great story.

When asking a girl out, be direct. Decide what you want to do- go to a dance, a movie, dinner – and man up and ask.  You can be casual, “We should go out sometime” or “I’d like to take you out this weekend. You interested?” “Are you going the dance?”  Yes? “Great. You want to go with me?”  I’m not sure? “Well you should. Let me take you.” Or something like, “I want to check out this new restaurant/band/movie, you wanna go?”  I can’t promise everyone will say yes. Keep in mind what I said about regrets, the ones that say no often do it for reasons that have nothing to do with you whatsoever, but at the very least she’ll be flattered and impressed by your confidence. Just be sure you’re clear with your intentions. You go further being bold. You don’t want people to say, I think he was asking me out…

Oh, and a smile never hurts.

My first date was with a boy named Andrew Westlake. I was 9 or 10 and he asked me to the movies.  His mother drove us to the theatre and sat behind us with his little brother. I remember his brother teasing us and Andrew freaking out. I remember chocolate covered raisins. I remember his mom trying to give us some privacy by not talking to us. But mostly I remember feeling special.

Make your dates feel special. Pay attention to what they say and act like a gentleman. It’s always nice to start with a sincere compliment. Not random, placating niceties, as they come off as shallow and calculated, but something you believe to be true and say out loud. “You look really pretty”. Or, “Those jeans look awesome”. You want to be candid and genuine. Trust me, girls know the difference. Plus, I guarantee she put some serious energy into how she looks. Acknowledge the result. It’ll make her more confident, which makes her more comfortable, which ultimately makes the date more successful.

A successful date is one where the conversation is easy, the company is good, and the time just flys by. If the physical attraction is there too, then you’re golden. Sometimes you’ll find yourself on a date with someone you found physically attractive, but once you’re out with them, it’s kinda tough. I dated an investment banker in New York once who was handsome, smart, romantic, and had a ridiculously enormous 2 floor apartment that I hosted a number of parties at (trust me, that was a big deal). Sadly, we just didn’t click. "Snowy Park at Night"

One winter night, we were walking through a beautiful, empty, East Village park. The trees had ice on every branch so they sparkled in the lamp light, the ground was lightly dusted with snow, and there was a slight mist, so everything just seemed magical. I commented on the beauty and asked if he had to choose a way to describe it, what way would he choose? When he looked at me with consternation, I elaborated. Take a photo? Write a poem? Draw a picture? His face was blank, and he said something like, “Why would I want to do that?”  I let it go, but in that moment, I knew we were over. Zero. Imagination.

That’s the thing, someone can be good on paper, and not right for you in real life. When I first moved to LA, I met a guy on Halloween. I was, if you can stand it, at the Playboy Party – sadly, not at the Mansion. I met a guy dressed in a full superhero costume. Afro wig. Tights. Mask. The whole deal. He was pretty funny so I gave him my number. We talked a couple of times on the phone and then met for a date. This sounds ridiculous, but when I saw him again, out of costume, I was disappointed.

Rick Eades,

I was disappointed not because he was unattractive, but because he was too attractive. Too chiseled. To generically handsome. I guess I’d gotten it into my head that he was this quirky dude, and this guy was not what I expected. But I thought to myself, Really Leigh? He’s too handsome?! Get a grip! At dinner I found out he was not only an ex-fighter pilot for the air force, but a Harvard Grad who lived at the beach and worked for a Hedge Fund. He had a motorcycle and took weekend trips to Palm Springs and Vegas. On paper he was perfect. In real life, I wasn’t sure if I was attracted to him. For our second date he invited me to a BBQ at a friend’s house. I drove to his place in Manhatten Beach thinking, Ok, this might be something… When I got there his house at the beach turned out to be a glorified frat he shared with multiple buddies. It was the kind of place you’d be afraid to walk barefoot or use the bathroom, not the place of a 30-something man. I was happy to leave it to go grocery shopping, until we got to the store and he was all, “Babe this” and “Hon, that”. “Grab the mustard, kay babe?” When did we become a long term couple? We’d skipped like 15 steps. By the time we got to his friend’s, he was acting like he couldn’t wait for our wedding and I was weirded out. When he got hammered and hit me with a “You can drive, right babe?”, I was done. On paper can be deceiving. I thought I could ignore the lack of chemistry by focusing on his credentials and, subsequently, looking at me on paper, he thought he could just plop me into the girlfriend box. It doesn’t work that way. When he leaned in to kiss me that night, I put my hand in front of my face and high fived him. I think I actually said, “High Five!” It was pretty awkward. I never saw him again.

As a general rule, I think men should pay on a date. I know we’re liberated and all that, but I’d advise you to still pick up the tab. It’s old school, but classy, and chicks dig it. Don’t go broke dating a girl, or try to impress her with expensive places or gifts. Sometimes too fancy/expensive is a turn off in itself. It comes off as needy. Thoughtful gifts almost always trump pricey ones, and if you don’t have the cash don’t pretend you do. Just don’t be stingy with your attention or your  wallet. Cheap is unattractive.

Consider your date’s interests. See what she likes before making plans. Never show up with the thoughtless, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”  Take charge. Just be sure not to push or try too hard. I dated a guy that always had to plan a big thing. A grand gesture. Going to see Rent and then going to the top of the Empire State Building. Tour of the Hudson on a riverboat and then dinner at some swanky place. He was more into showing off than getting to know me. I told him I wasn’t ready to be committed. I was. I just wasn’t ready to be committed to him.

Don’t get wasted on a date. At least not alone. If you’re out having a ball and you’re both buzzed, fine. Just don’t get sloppy (try and avoid this whether you’re on a date or not). Don’t get her wasted to make things easier. It’s obvious and weak. Earn the action you want, don’t try and trick her into it.

Jon Pratt Photo

I went to the movies with a guy in Montreal once who hadn’t bothered to check the times, so we were an hour and a half early. We went to a pub and he proceeded to order 6 shots of tequila. I didn’t want tequila but he didn’t care. I did one shot, to placate him and stop the barrage of “Don’t be a pussy“, and he did the other 5. He proceeded to get in a fight with a guy he claimed owed him money, made me write down the guy’s contact information, and ordered and drank 3 more beers. During the film he kept trying to grope me, and when the movie was over he ended up screaming at me on the street because I’d had the audacity to hold the door for him. His arm was in a sling from a rugby injury and, in his mind, I was trying to emasculate him by treating him like an invalid. I told him he wasn’t an invalid, he was an idiot. I never saw him again either.

Be on time. This is a good rule for life. Promptness is both appreciated and respected. I wasn’t so great with being on time growing up, so I’m putting more emphasis on it now. If you’re going to be late, let the other person know. There is no excuse for not doing it in the cell phone age. And if you are late, for goodness sakes, apologize. I once went on a date with a guy I’d met shooting a deep sea fishing television pilot. (Don’t ask) I was one of the only people that didn’t barf on the very rough sea. For this reason, and this reason alone, I came off as more attractive than my model costar. All 5’10” of her Swedish body was literally green. My future date was a friend of the producer financing the shoot. We made plans to meet for dinner at a little Italian place in the West Village. I ended up sitting at a table in the window for 45 minutes drinking alone. No call. No text. Nothing. I was about to leave when he breezed though the door without the least bit of contrition. Everything in my body said, Get up. Go. Leave him with the bill. I wanted to say something cool like, “Ok, I’m glad you’re alive. I had too Pinot’s. Be sure to pay the man.” But did I do that? No. I let him talk me into staying for dinner where he proceeded to talk about himself for the whole evening. I knew I was better off not to return his calls after that.

If you’re on a date that isn’t working out, see it to the end, and then exit as politely as you can. Don’t extend it. Don’t go for drinks.  Don’t say you’ll call. Be kind and hit the road. If it’s just unbearably terrible – she’s a fall down drunk, or a racist, or crazy – then call a spade a spade and excuse yourself. “This isn’t really working out. I think we should call it a night.”

If you’re ending more than a date, do it with grace and class. Don’t use social media. Don’t have a friend do it. My first boyfriend – and I use the term loosely as I’m not sure if we were ever alone in the same room – had his best friend tell me he wanted to end it. Even as a 12-year-old I knew that was lame. At minimum, make the call yourself. In person’s better, but not without mess. My boyfriend from first year theatre school blindsided me with a a breakup in Central Park and I lost it. I acted like a crazy woman. I stumbled out of the park in a haze of tears. I’m sure the people on the subway thought someone had died. In my defense, I was in a pretty dramatic phase in my life and that breakup was a culmination of many bad breakups, so my reaction was a bit extreme. I was also devastated because he gave me no reason. It was just over.

Always try and give a reason. One she can learn from like “This is just too intense”. You’re basically saying, “You’re too intense” but in a way she can process and maybe learn from. Or give her one she can move on from like, “I don’t want to be in something serious right now” or “I have to concentrate on my work”. She’ll be sad but she can feel it wasn’t her, and she can’t fix it or change your mind because it’s not up for negotiation. Just be compassionate. Being dumped hurts like hell. Do it as nicely as possible, just make sure you do it. I dated a guy for 2 months that literally left my apartment one morning and just stopped talking to me. Nothing had happened. It was just as if we’d never met. At least, by that time in my life, I had the foresight to tell him off when I ran into him on the street months later. I was calm and concise. I told him he handled what had happened with us ‘badly’. I said next time he shouldn’t be such a coward, and just have the balls to tell the girl it’s over instead of just running away. His mouth was hanging open as I walked away. It was a great moment.

If you’re the one getting dumped – and I’m sorry you are – it’s the same thing. Have dignity, class and balls. Never argue or debate their decision. It’s made. Challenging it only makes you look desperate and doesn’t improve your chances of getting back together, if that’s what you want. My first boyfriend in NY dumped me out of the blue after we’d seen each other, at his insistence, every day for 3 months straight. He’d invited me away for the weekend to meet his mom, but I had to work. When he got back he told me he “needed space”. I acted cool, like it was totally normal that he’d asked to go away to meet his mother and now wasn’t sure if we should be together. When we had lunch about a week later, I brought him a postcard of the Grand Canyon. I thought I was being light and funny. That’s space isn’t it? But it was already over. I’m glad I acted cool, but I regret not asking some questions. What had changed? Why was he doing this? It wouldn’t have altered the outcome but I could have saved me months of wondering.

If you’re in a relationship enjoy it. Who cares if your friends ride you for being AWOL for a while. They’ll get you back eventually. Relationships, especially new relationships, are so exciting. Being wrapped up in love is the best. Just remember there’s a whole world out there, and once you surface from the initial haze, broaden your horizons.

If you get to a point in the relationship that you feel like straying, have the courtesy to break up with her first. I only cheated on one boyfriend. I knew it wasn’t going to work out long term, and when I met this other guy, I thought I’d see where it went before I made any changes. Essentially, I hedged my bets. My boyfriend was away most weekends so I started casually dating the other to see if it was something worth breaking up for. The affair imploded – as things tend to do when you’re not being honest – and I stayed with my boyfriend for another 3 months, but it was never the same. I had one foot out the door and should have just ended it when my affections had strayed. It doesn’t work out much better when you’re the “cheatee”. I’ve been the ‘other woman’ a couple of times and it’s sexy for a moment, and then it’s just depressing. One guy’s girlfriend lived across the country and we’d never met. As far as I was concerned she didn’t exist. But it was almost as if he was just filling his time with me till he could be with her. It made me feel used and shi**y. The other time I thought I’d found my soul mate our connection was so strong. I truly believed he’d leave her for me. He did leave her, but for one of the other girls he was fooling around with. I was heartbroken…and stupid. Affairs only lead to pain. In the world of dating if you find yourself about to cheat, hold off. It’s much more fun if you’re both available. Maybe not as sexy, secrets can be hot, but definitely more worthwhile.

One last note on cheating: I’m of the belief that if you cheat, it’s on you. You’re the one who screwed up, so you should be the one to suffer. People confess to alleviate their own guilt, but it only serves to hurt the person who did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve the pain. Don’t rub your dalliance in their face. If you cheat or want to cheat, accept the obvious – the relationship is probably over – and be mature enough to end it. In a long term relationship like a marriage, my opinions on this issue are slightly less cut and dry. But sufficed to say, I’m anti-cheating.

When dating be confident. No girl wants a guy she can push around. Flexible, but not whipped. Girls like puppy dogs but they don’t respect them. Be honest with what you like – food, movies, people, interests – but also about how you feel – regarding issues, behavior, and feelings.  Be yourself. Have, and be proud of, your opinions and if she doesn’t get you, f*$# her. Her loss.

Dating and love are exciting. Sometimes painful, but for the most part pretty awesome. Every new person teaches you something about what you want, and what you don’t want. What you need, and what you like. What works for you, and what doesn’t. When I finally found your Dad, it was easy for me to get married. I’d done single, and I’d done it well. I didn’t need to wonder what else was out there or if I was doing the right thing. I knew. I knew because I’d done the work. I knew the landscape and I could say with all certainty this was a good plan. I believe it can work if you marry young, or marry your high school/college sweetheart, I just think it’s those couples who are more likely to wonder what they missed, or be the ones pining for the things they never got to do. I got to do them. It was fun. It was painful. It was wild, and then it was over. On the first date with your Dad I turned the page and understood that one chapter was closed, and another one was beginning. And I was ready.

Enjoy the ride until you’re ready.

I love you.

xo your mama

The exact moment your Dad proposed. Taken from a video camera your Dad hid in the trees..

Reality versus Positivity

Recently I’ve been getting some emails and responses to the blog that have perturbed me. The basic gist of the feedback – some trying to be helpful, others to be critical – is that by writing this blog I am, in some way, propagating my own demise. That I shouldn’t be giving weight to the fact that I might not be here, but should, in fact, be creating a mantra that leaves no room for any other result but my continued life. It’s the “what the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon” idea.* One person suggested I should write from the perspective of myself at 97. As if I’ve lived a full life and am looking back and reflecting on all the good that happened. Though I think this is an interesting exercise – along the same lines as writing your own obituary in order to reveal what kind of life you’d like to lead or what kind of person you want to be remembered as – it isn’t what I’m doing here. I have not lived a full life. I am not looking back. I am looking forward and can only speak the truth as I know it now, from the perspective of the person I am today. I’m looking to give Lochlan advice on who I want him to be, not muse upon who he has become. Who he’ll be is still a mystery. An exciting mystery and one that I have no interest in speeding along or guessing the outcome of. All I’m hoping is to give him guidance on how to stay grounded, safe and happy on his journey, whether I’m around or not. You don’t have to be sick to worry that you won’t be able to tell or teach your children all you want. I could die tomorrow in a car accident (God forbid) or in 60 years in my bed. It doesn’t change the fact that I want to leave a legacy for my child. Nor do I think it makes me negative.

One woman recently wrote to “reframe my language”. She claimed that people like me get too “attached” to our “labels and stories” and if I wanted to be around for a long time I had to stop using the “sick” and “in case I won’t be here” language. She told me to “live my life from the perspective that things are wonderful, perfect, healthy and happy” and I would be “amazed at what could happen.” Now, after I cried at the criticism – because no matter how positive I feel on most days, I am very sensitive to someone suggesting that I am, in any way, making myself more sick – I got angry. I am a huge believer in the power of positive thinking. I’ve seen The Secret. I’ve done my mantras in the mirror – “I get better and better every day” – and after the mourning period of my diagnosis I brushed myself off and got on with my life. But there’s a big difference between being positive and being in denial. Everything isn’t wonderful and perfect. I’m not perfectly healthy no matter how happy I am, and to suggest that I just have to reframe my thoughts to see the magic happen, is not only naive but slightly insulting.

When Sean and I were first married we got a call about life insurance. Our insurance company suggested that now that we were married we should think seriously about our futures. At the time I couldn’t deal with it. I just got married. I had my whole life ahead of me. Why would I want to sit down and talk about my death.

When Sean turned 30 they called again so he could “lock” in the 20-year-old rate. We just figured it was all about making a buck and frankly, we still weren’t ready to think about it. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have done it before I got married. Now that I have PH I don’t qualify for life insurance. I’m too big a risk. Right after my diagnosis Sean and Loch signed up immediately – the concept of death was now part of our reality, so preparing for it didn’t seem so weird – and I’d advise anyone who asked, to get on it as soon as possible. It’s not depressing to get your affairs in order. It’s responsible. Having life insurance, or a living will, isn’t tempting fate, it’s accepting the inevitable and handling it in a mature way.

What I should have done with my life insurance I’m doing with these letters. The reality of my situation might have prompted the initial step, but at this point it’s less about writing the letters in case I’m gone, and more about writing the letters themselves. They make me happy. They make me feel productive. In doing something proactive for my child, I feel more alive and connected to the world as a whole. To the people who think I make myself weaker – accepting and referring to my reality – I humbly disagree. If anything I’m stronger because I’m less afraid.

I believe in the power of the human mind. In the strength of a positive outlook. In making your own destiny by framing your own reality. But I also believe in Reality. In Truth. In Fact.

The fact is, I’m sick.

The reality is, we don’t know how long I’ve got.

The truth is, no one does.

I’m doing the best with what I’ve been given. As I say in the intro to my blog: I’m just playing the cards I’ve been dealt and still trying to win. Pretending reality is different doesn’t make it so, but having faith and taking steps to ensure the best possible outcome certainly helps.

Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.**

It doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the arc.***

Thanks for reading.

xo leigh

*Denis Waitley  – motivational speaker

** Denis Waitley  – motivational speaker

*** Anonymous