Project Toad: Letters from a Toad – An Online Dating Confessional

Not for the faint of heart…

Never – when I asked our dear Toad, Jake, to tell me his Lessons Learned so far about Online Dating – did I anticipate the depth of spirit he would share with us. He wrote us a letter, and he intends to write to us often as he experiences Online Dating. I won’t take anymore of your reading attention with my words. Instead, I give you Jake…

Dear Heidi Lee,

When I came to you with the idea of personally joining to find a relationship, I was thrilled that you offered your help. I also really enjoy seeing my adventures immortalized in your blog. I thought it would be fun and I trusted your instincts. I’ve seen your relationship with your own Prince Charming (aka PC) first hand, and I’d hoped your guidance would help me find that same magic.

Yet I have to acknowledge upfront that this project has spiraled into something I never imagined. Had I known what I was faced with, I would have never volunteered.  However, you’re my friend. Now that I’ve made the commitment to this endeavor and to you, my personal code of conduct mandates that I follow through.  But, Heidi Lee, it’s hard. I’m looking at myself and the man I feel like I have been. I see now that I have to become…

So let’s begin with what I’ve learned from you about myself. My only stipulation is that you do not judge me too harshly or see me shrouded in a perpetual cloak of ignorance. You are my friend, and that would hurt.

I never actually had a successful relationship in any capacity.  I’ve gone from one micro-relationship to another (or should I say I’ve been a Toad-Hopping from bed to bed?) I’ve done this all my life.  I prided myself in the belief that I held a keen understanding of what women want only to learn at 41 that I couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

I have dated, and yes, I use that term carelessly, women who were between 18 and 25.  I’ve always told you that I dated these younger women because I lived in a college town with limited options. Now I confess that this is not entirely true.

I never understood that my geographic location wasn’t the only reason for my perpetually young, ever changing, flock of female companions. Funny thing is you did, you called me on it, and I’m grateful that you forced me to open my eyes to reality.  I guess on some level, buried deep within, I couldn’t deny that I was (and still am) incapable of having an adult relationship.  Hence, Lesson #1:

  • Women don’t date boys, and boys aren’t capable of dating women.

Despite a list of what others may consider to be my sexual conquests, I’ve never felt good about the ease at which I leaped from one bedroom to the next. It secretly sickened me.  What I never realized was that I wasn’t just hurting myself. I was actually hurting these women as well. Although I never intended to do harm, my collateral damage remains in the aftermath.  I hid from the ugliness of my behavior and the reality of my actions behind a pretense of self-righteousness, anchored in a pool of arrogance and vanity.  I was actually pompous enough to believe – to hold as concrete – that I was doing these women a favor by sleeping with them. Hence, Lesson #2:

  • What women deserve from men comes from North of the equator!

Heidi Lee, it’s been said that “the truth hurts”. To be quite honest with you I don’t know how much more truth I’ll be able to handle.  In this short time I’ve already seen enough to know that this journey will be a painful education into self-discovery…which leads me to the lesson that keeps me engaged in this process:

  • I owe this to myself, to my sons, and to all the women in my past, present and future.

In light of my confession, I’ll take this next step with you, Heidi Lee. I want to begin this process in earnest by apologizing to all those that I’ve hurt and by forgiving myself for leading a less than respectable life.


BD – Jake

P.S. As instructed, I will be dining out this evening with just me, myself, and a good book – so that I can learn that my own skin can be a happy place to live.


A Single Dad’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner: Part One

Dear Friends,

Do you ever wonder how single dads and bachelors survive if they can’t cook? I’m sometimes amazed at what can be found in their cupboards. So as a Thanksgiving treat, our endearing Jake from Project Toad has invited us into his kitchen.

Jake has full custody of his 2 teenaged sons. He has never really given them a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that didn’t involve cutting a slit in the top to vent and removing the film from over the dessert. With both boys growing up, he wants them to have a warm memory before they are out of the house.

Jake and I were catching up a little earlier today when he asked me what time on Thursday he should take the turkey out to thaw. Uhm, gee… how about now?

OK, so this guy needs more help than just in online dating. Our subject requires hand-holding to turn out an edible Thanksgiving Feast. Game On! I’m always up for a Turkey-Day challenge. And as we continue with the care and feeding of Heidi Lee, I won’t be preparing my own Thanksgiving feast. Mom is doing that, so I can baste my turkey vicariously through Jake.

Today’s tasks for Jake’s Norman Rockwell table:

  • Thaw the turkey
  • Prepare the menu
  • Shop for ingredients

As we were going down the grocery list, I mentioned that he would need green onions for the stuffing. His reply; “That’s a problem. What the hell is a green onion?”

“Jake, write this down. Find the produce section of the grocery store, and look around for a cute woman. Turn on the charm and ask her to help you find the scallions so you can make a turkey dinner for your sons.”

Jake, “What the hell is a scallion? Hold on….did you say cute woman? Can I sleep with her?”

Really, Jake? Seriously? Moving on….

For my readers who may have culinary challenges, scallion is another word for green onion.  I suppose I could have just said green onion again, but I have so much fun messing with him. LOL

Back to the prep work – something I didn’t understand upfront was that Jake’s kitchen tools include a skillet, a pasta kettle, a sauce pan and a few random utensils that have probably gotten more action swatting flies than cooking dinner.

Oh wait! He does have a George Foreman Grill. I believe that this grill is a staple kitchen appliance that can be found in most bachelor pads. Likely purchased while cleaning up beer cans at 2:00 AM from Poker night, men are drawn to this machine by the magic that happens when meat is put over heat in and cooks to perfection in a 2.38 minute infommercial.

Jake also doesn’t have a mixer to make mashed potatoes, so he will be making Mashed Baby Reds with the potato masher. No worries, I’ve texted him a picture so he can find one in the Utensil Aisle at the grocery store while he is also hunting down a turkey baster.

Here’s where I fess up. PC’s mother makes really good instant mashed potatoes, and my instant potatoes suck. Therefore…I make homemade. I’d love to teach Jake the easy way out, but PC says not to teach him how to make something that could be found in a glue factory. Believe you me; Colonel Sanders can’t make mashed potatoes like PC’s mother. She’s made Idaho Spuds an art form.

Jake is at the grocery store as we speak, so for now I will say good night. He has promised, though in return for the advice, to share every dirty detail and to photograph his victory dinner for us. Tune back later in the week to see how Dinner with Dad turns out…

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

Love through Vicodin Colored Glasses

Hey there! Please let me beg your forgiveness today and possibly for the next few days. My wonderful doctor just performed surgery on my poor little arthritic foot so that one day I can get back into my Stilettos and Slingbacks. While I am comfortably recovering, that’s because I’m simply doped-up, my friends. God forbid this Vicodin wears off and I actually feel my mangled, rheumatic limb.

Yesterday afternoon in the recovery room, I had quite the Epiphany about love and my Prince Charming. Having recently read Deanna Fry’s love-related-tales, a stunning lady with similar romantic challenges (and a new favorite blog) helped me to firm up my  analysis. As a result, I’m even more excited about the man who I chose to share my life with – my handsome, witty, and considerate Prince Charming.

The truth is, I was frightened about the looming surgical redesign of my slowly deforming foot. Not only was I freaking out about potentially crippling long-term complications from my Rheumatoid A.,I was also fixating on Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) from poor aseptic technique. (Fact: Over 50% of hospital related illnesses are preventable when a health care worker properly washes his or her hands the Right way – but that is a whole other blogging experience.)

Needless to say, taking care and keeping me calm was no picnic. My PC mastered it with graceful aplomb.

To explain, let me take you back to 2006. I spent the majority of my 30’s dating and eventually being engaged to The Wrong Man. We’ll call him Tom. Tom was a divorced dad who had both of his teenage girls living with him (and eventually with us).

He had established his beliefs, behaviors, and bad habits – I certainly wasn’t going to change him. His daughters were his princesses, and I, as their stepmother, did the work of Cinderella – backwards did you say? Where is that Fairy Godmother when you need her?

These girls got to stay home from school for 3 days a month when they had their periods, and he would stay home from work with them to bring them chicken soup. Sweet girls, but they clearly played their best Daddy-take-care-of-me Card when they didn’t want to take a test.

When I was 36, my loving doctors finally decided that I should stop suffering from one of my many ailments – my feminine curse. I’d had several surgeries over the years for cysts and for endometriosis – in short, my reproductive system was the Devil incarnate and Lucifer saw to it that I suffered regularly. In the worst of my monthly demonic sufferings, Tom would find me curled into the fetal position, perhaps weeping with a glass of red to ease the affliction.

When Tom saw me this way, he saw me only as a burden: He had to do the dishes and cook dinner. He couldn’t understand why I would cry while folding laundry when my feminine cramps or my Rheumatoid or other medical challenges acted up.

Momma always said I was a walking Medical Dictionary. I always said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother <wink>.” Love ya, Ma!

I felt like a burden even asking for a glass of water. You can imagine, then, the trouble that brewed when my doctors advised me to undergo a total hysterectomy. Not only would I lose the works that the Good Lord gave me, but I would also be thrown into menopausal trauma far too early in my ongoing battle against sanity.

I was to be laid up for 6 – 8 weeks. I begged Tom to stay with me and my son, Cole (age 8 at the time), while his daughters stayed with their mother. He agreed but … only …after … a … lot … of … hesitation. He finally admitted that didn’t want the extra drive time to work – roughly 20 minutes more one way. And, he didn’t want to do “your housework.” He thought that if I was able to walk, well,  I should be just fine to carry the laundry up 2 flights of stairs.

What a burden you are, Heidi Lee, I told myself. But I was his burden, and he was going to marry this burden – and I carried a kingdom of guilt. My health has never been stellar, but I am ambitious, motivated, and active in spite of it. I don’t let my physical challenges own me. Occasionally, it would have been nice to feel supported by the man in my life, but something even better happened, dear reader. Tom did me the favor of dumping me for an Online Affair when I was 38. Talk about the other glass slipper dropping! Wow.

Yesterday, many of those old Tom-like feelings resurfaced as I waited with my Prince Charming in the hospital room. I was a basket case by the time the nurse wheeled me away to the OR, and I hesitantly looked to PC for an unfamiliar hint of moral support. He squeezed my hand and leaned in for a kiss.

“Will you be here when I wake up?” I managed to whisper.

“Of course, Dear. I’m right where I am supposed to be today.”

“I’m sorry that you have to go through this, PC.”

“Heidi Lee, will you get into that room and get your foot fixed already? I want to take
ballroom dancing.”

After I woke up, he was waiting in my post-op room to dress me and carry me home.He never left my side, and he’s still home with me today – helping me to shower and bringing me soup and cookies. His only complaint last night: “Heidi Lee, you’re not in your spot tonight. Hurry up and heal up so I can sleep with my arms around you again.”

Now that we’ve got a bit of background, it’s time to share my Relationship Epiphany. Is there only one person, a Soul-Mate for each of us? I think we need to break this
question down more accurately. Can we be happy with more than one man or woman
for the rest of our lives? I think some of us can. Does this mean that he or she is the person we are meant to be with? No – that’s  something more special, and we can’t know It unless we are lucky enough to find It.

I think I could have been happy with Tom for several reasons. Although I’ve described him as being an insensitive and unsupportive jerk, he did have many good qualities. We were friends. And we could have been relatively happy – but I would have been
settling for less than I deserved.

Do I think that many happy marriages /relationships exist without the head-over-heels love factor? You bet! Do I think it’s possible to marry your best friend and be content? Of course.

But … Do I think optimistically that there’s another level of love that transcends so many of us? Do I believe that we miss out on It because we lose patience or settle for what is quite clearly not in our best interest? Absolutely! Do I think that certain marriages are bad or doomed because of this? Not at all.

Picture by Sara Hendrix

I believe now, as I miss my “spot” curled up in the nook of PC’s arms feeling cherished and protected, that there is one perfect person. I am simply very lucky to have found mine. I witness PC’s parents as they grow old together – and they are perfect together. They laugh together, play football pools, and they sneak away to gamble at the Casinos nearby. They know each other’s best and worst, and they love each other more for their eccentricities. They are what I call Legacy Toad Kissers.

Flipping through the news channels, I see this same sort of love in the eyes of #MarkKelly as he watches the graceful and formidable #GabrielleGifford come back stronger than ever. I envy their love story, and I admire them both personally as well as a couple. She is not, and never will be, his burden. His love helped her through, and he was right where he was supposed to be – with her. When you are truly with the one you are meant to find, you know you are in your “spot.”

Wow, this Love-Drug retelling of yesterday makes me feel like I don’t need another Vicodin – well, almost. PC, Honey – will you please bring me my medication?

He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me – oh look, a Vicodin. He loves me. Time to sleep.

Warm Regards,

Heidi Lee

Wedding Wisdom – From a Teenaged Boy – Seriously

“I’m supposed to give tips on how to have a long and happy marriage – but honestly I’m too young to know what marriage really is. All I can say is: If my Dad turns out to be as loving and supportive a husband to Pam as he is a father to me, then we will all live a very blessed life” the under-aged Best Man lifted his glass of champagne as a tear welled up in the groom’s eye. The bride stood, stunningly sweet in her exquisitely laced soft pink gown and moved toward her 15 year old new step-son. They hugged. And the wedding guests applauded with sincerity and warmth.

Wow – what a weekend I’ve had. My own Prince Charming and I traveled to New York City this past weekend to attend a wedding of his former submarine buddy. While I did have to bring a little of my day job with me, we still managed to cram in three days full of love and excitement. And the Best Man toast was the most memorable 90 seconds of the trip.

I am so excited to share more of the details of the trip – the Sunday afternoon wedding reception rescheduled after the hurricane; the cab dash to find a Broadway Show; the reunion dinner of sailors who sailed Russian waters during the Cold War; and the hand in hand stroll through New York in the fall.

Can I beg for your patience as I catch up on life? I promise to share a piece of this adventure one NYC sized bite at a time. But today, I have a boss back home nagging to me to close a big deal.

For today, though, pay attention to the kids. They are smarter than we were – of this I am quite certain. I’m beginning to think if we took a little bit more time out of our busy lives to hear them, they may just share a couple of pearls of youthful hope that otherwise is overshadowed by the traditional arrogance found in teenage angst.

And thank you, Jim & Pam Mattiello, for letting us share a moment in time with you and your family.

Loving Regards,


On the Particular subject of Toads – I give you the incurable, “Boy-Dumb”

Good morning, Dear friends, and Happy Story Day, Wednesday.

As I get ready this morning for a day in my office, my mind is screaming with a newly realized wisdom on the incurable disease that is prominent in the masculine gender – Boy Dumb.

Yes, friends, boy-dumb is most likely incurable; we have only seen this disease grow into an epidemic. This morning, I share a case study with you all. My goal is that through the work of mine and others, we can finally put an end to this epidemic.

The Subject: The Afflicted, My Friend Jake

The Hypothesis: Jake is Boy Dumb

The Supporting Evidence: Jake is a sweet, if somewhat jar-headed boy with many good qualities. Jake is loyal and funny, animated and sincere. Yet Jake is dumb. You see, friends, Jake is stuck as an Apprentice in the Art of Toad Kissing, and he could even likely be a slightly wart-infested toad himself. While he knows he wants a relationship and a family and a friendship – he doesn’t know how to explain what he wants to an intelligent woman.

I’ve met the lady who Jake is seeking a forever with – she is statuesque, intelligent, supportive, stunning. In short – she is the woman we all strive to emulate – and Jake has her heart. Way to go, buddy!

But Jake, as most boys, has not learned the art of candor as it relates to his relationships. He openly shares with me as we are friends, but he would rather treat this strong woman with kid gloves than to tell her what he wants.

Now, friends, we’ve all dated or known this guy with one name or the next. I’ll explain this specific challenge to highlight one of the most common symptoms to diagnose the affliction. Jake is physically fit, and he enjoys spending a great deal of time in the gym and maintaining his BMI. Awesome job, Jake!

However, his lady Cindy has not yet shared his love of sweat and protein powders. Jake told me a couple of weeks ago, “Heidi, I am crazy about this woman, but I don’t know that I can commit to a forever with her”

“Why, Jake, what’s wrong? What happened? She seems perfect for you.”

“Well, Heidi, she is. But I have always been attracted to athletes, and she doesn’t work out”.

Seriously??!!! She doesn’t work out? I’m thinking by this point, this woman is a high powered director in a major corporation. She is gorgeous and genuine, and she thinks she is so lucky that Jake is into her – humble. Don’t get me wrong, Jake I’m sure is quite the catch, and they are both lucky. But Cindy wows me.

“Jake, have you ever talked to Cindy about joining you at the gym? I mean, she is slender and looks as if she takes immaculate care to maintain herself. Have you invited her into this world of yours? Does she know she is even welcome?”

“Uhm, no. I wouldn’t want to upset her with her thinking I am not happy with her body.”

“So, you would consider that this woman is not The One for you simply because you are wimping out and not talking to her? Crap, I’m even insulted. Go home tonight (did I mention they live together?) and ask her to go for a walk with you. Ask her to come to the gym. Talk to her about your fitness goals, and ask her if she will support you with them. Jeez, dummy, she has a brain. In fact, most women do.”

<eyes widened as if 2000 years of suppression had just been lifted as he witnessed the growth of an opposable thumb – witness Jake evolve into the upright species of homo sapien>

Jake asked my advice on talking to Cindy about joining the gym. We came up with a strategy, and he was all set to deploy. The next day, he called me to discuss an unrelated topic, and I asked, “How’d it go with Cindy last night?”

He seemed to perk up at the question and started to giggle like a chimpanzee – happy from just eaten the lice out of his buddy’s fur coat. “Well, the cool thing is that I really thought last night about what you said.” (R&D: subject responds to reasoning)

“Heidi, I’m realizing so many amazing things about her, I don’t know if the workouts really matter that much. I mean, se’s smart, funny and loves me and my kids. I look forward to the things she has to say just as much as to sitting down at the end of the night with her after a rough day at work. I’ll invite her to get a gym membership with me because I think that is a great idea. But I love who she is now, and I think I’m happy”.


Jake, while once suffering from severe and chronic Boy-Dumb, seems to be responding to treatment. While I cannot fully diagnose remission, I can say that I’ve witnessed progress in his protocols. I am quite certain that we will witness an acute onset in the future and often, but I believe we have the disease under control at this point.

The therapy – Truth, candor, and respect that woman are not gentle, delicate petals any longer. We are strong, ambitious and beautiful. We will not break at a suggestion towards self-improvement. We will not fall because some afflicted boy tells us we aren’t meeting all of his needs. No, dear friends. We, quite frankly, are tough broads these days. I’d honestly be more worried about our somewhat fragile male counterparts.

Jake, here’s to your evolution

Friends, I’d love to hear other cases of the incurable disease. Calling for other diagnoses, please