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 Match.com 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.

Respectfully,

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.

 

The Toad-Kisser’s Guide to Wine: Your 5 “S”s of Tasting

Hello, fellow toad-kissers. Over the last couple of years I’ve gotten a bit rusty in my wine tasting knowledge. I used to have a small wine tasting business where hosts would invite me into their home to teach friends about wine and food. While PC and I enjoy wine together, I’ve forgotten many of the fundamentals in the art. Yesterday, my autumn wine club shipment arrived from Paoletti Winery, so I thought I might start brushing up on my wine etiquette. While I do, how about if we learn together. A little bit of wine knowledge comes in handy in the dating scene.

When we taste wine, we enliven our senses. We use the 5 S’s.

See – Wines have vivid colors, but when you see you look for quality. The ideal wine glass is clear instead of tinted for visual clarity. Hold your glass up against your white napkin and take in the color. If the wine appears cloudy or murky, sending the bottle back is appropriate. If you see gorgeous, clear red or gold move on to the next step.

Swirl – Why do we swirl? We swirl to get oxygen moving through the wine that has been corked up tight since bottling. We swirl to awaken the flavors. Have you been intimidated by watching an expert create a beautiful whirlpool by swirling the stem? So have I, so allow me to give you a perfectly appropriate cheater. Holding by the stem, set your glass on the table for stability. Place the stem between your middle and your pointer fingers, and move the glass in a circular motion. Gorgeous whirlpool! This is a great way to start knowing how the rotation feels to get that gorgeous whirlpool effect. In time, you will swirl like the experts too.

Sniff – Don’t be shy – get your nose in the glass. Absorb the aromas of chocolate, tobacco, pear, or berry. Smell is subjective. Finding blackberry in Cabernet doesn’t mean the winemaker added blackberries, and it doesn’t mean you are wrong if someone else smells raspberry. It means that the scent in winemaker’s artistry reminds you of the that fragrance. The earth, the vine and the season brought the berry flavor out of the Cabernet grape, and you were able to recognize the subtleties. This is a great conversation-starter for your date.

Finally, Sip – Hooray! Get a hearty sip. Allow the wine to coat the different areas of your mouth. Is the wine sweet and fruity? How about dry – does the sip leave you thirsty? That is my favorite – a deep, dry red.

Now the final “S”. I’ll bet you think I’m going to say spit., right? Heavens, No. Savor the excitement as the wine awakens your taste buds. Swish it around your mouth. Feel the weight as it lingers. Would you describe the wine as heavy? Bold? Light? Maybe delicate? This is known as the body.

Enjoy the wine’s finish – this is the taste that is left behind for you to enjoy – the aftertaste. How long does the finish linger? This is known as the length. The longer the finish, the higher the quality of wine. If the experience leaves you as soon as you swallow, you might comment that the wine was rather flat.

Most importantly, wine is subjective. You don’t need to know how to choose an expensive label to enjoy the grape. With a few basics, the mysteries of wine become intriguing rather than daunting. And the vulnerability of learning to share wine can be quite appealing to someone who wants to get to know a little more about you.

Cheers,

Heidi Lee

Confidence Booster from Robin Roberts

“When I started I was 19 and scared. Today, I am 44 and….Fierce!”

Photo Credits: ABC John LeMay

Wow! What a statement. The sentiment that has taken me 25 blog posts to try to convey, Faith Hill summed up the story with a Finish this Sentence interview question posed by Robin Roberts.

This dynamic 44-year-old country singer and mega-star has evolved into a person who can feel comfortable in her own skin. To me, that is the most admirable trait about her. Yes, she has sold over a gazillion albums. Sure, she has managed an endearing character or two on the big screen. Definitely, she found her own devastatingly handsome PC. They seem to have a family life that we all would hope to emulate. But, WOW, she is comfortable in her own skin – greatest accomplishment to date.

Photo by Donna Svennevik, courtesy of ABC.

Last night, PC and I watched In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts where she interviewed several of Country Music’s biggest stars. For me, Faith was clearly the one to watch. I wouldn’t normally blog about celebrity gossip – I have no interest in Baby Bieber’s possible baby. But when someone stands up and says something so seemingly honest, I take notice. Faith’s statement took guts, but the words came so naturally to her. I want that feeling for myself, and I wish that type of confidence for each of you as well.

With that being said Ms. Roberts, may I borrow your interview question and ask my friends to complete this sentence? Your interview inspired me. I’d say this particular sentence is a strong Confidence Booster without needing any additional props.

Ladies and gentlemen, please complete this sentence:

When I started I was 19 and scared. Today I am (age) and _________! I’ll start.

When I started, I was 19 and scared. Today I am 41 and Formidable!

Photo courtesy of My Mom! MBA Graduation

Ok, everybody. Your turn! Let’s see what you’ve got.

Kind Regards,

Heidi Lee

Avoiding Warts at Work: How to Kiss an Office Toad

Well hello, and Happy Story Tuesday to all of my Dear Friends.

Yes – You can Order this MousePad 🙂

Today, I hope to introduce to you the Other Heidi Lee who you have not yet met. This Heidi Lee is the ass-kicking dynamo who takes Business and Industry by the horns. She is as comfortable running the show in the Board Room as she is fighting the lady in the shoe store who just grabbed the LAST pair of Sz 7 Red Kitten Heels during the Midnight Madness sale at the local DSW. She can do it all, and what she can’t – she learns. That is how Heidi Lee is seen in her professional life – TODAY.

It took me years of Toad Kissing to earn that badge, so I wear it with pride.

Until now, you’ve seen my romantic yet realistic outlook on happiness within personal relationships. I hope you’ve enjoyed my somewhat purist views on love, dating and romance. I, however, have been described as quite the Dichotomy – sort of a “Touched by an Angel meets Red Shoe Diaries” personality. Today, I write to you as my alter-ego, a Business Sophisticate who happens to be proud to have been called, “One Smart Broad” by more than a couple; A professionally savvy women who has jumped in bed with many amphibious critters to get ahead of the rest of the pack.

Ok, ok…. I know where your sordid minds went right away. You may be thinking, “Oh cool, Office Smut and Sleeping your way to the Top”. Come on, raise your hands if slinked into that gutter….its ok, we all do.

On the contrary, Professional Toad Kissing actually has a very different meaning – one with which we can all relate. We have all worked or reported to people who wanted to hold us back. We’ve been in situations where people with more power than we had actually had control of our destinies. We’ve buried our tears into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Pistachio Pistachio because someone less qualified got the promotion that we felt we deserved. And we’ve had to bend over and smile right through it…without the Toad even having the courtesy of giving us a reach-around.

Sound familiar? I’ve lived each of these scenarios – many times over – so I’ve learned to plant wet, juicy smooches dead center on the Lips of the Toads who I described above. Remember, kissing toads is a necessary learning process that we all go through to find our Happily Ever After. Mastering the Art means that you have become Confident with who you are – that you may be happy on your own or with another person. You don’t rely on another man or woman to complete you. So of course, kissing toads also applies professionally. And professionally, you have to be able to live with the decisions you make.

I’d like to start our journey into the pond of professional toads with an important lesson that I used to guide my communications, my actions and my interactions throughout my career. My professional journey began working in Retail, and I take you back to a time where I worked my way up to the management levels of a retail giant.

Professional Lesson #1: Yes, you CAN learn from every kind of leader – even poor leaders teach lessons.

What? How can I learn anything from a bad leader Heidi Lee? What could he or she possibly teach me? I know the business better, and I know my project like the back of my hand. This person simply doesn’t have a clue. His/Her leadership is taking us down a bad path….. What do you mean by suck it up and learn?

Thank you, I’m glad you asked. Let me share a story…..

Long ago, and far-away, there was a small village where incompetence had overshadowed productivity. There was no longer color or creativity. The villagers had fallen slave to Princess Melissa the Inept, and they were sad.

Princess Melissa was a new Princess who took over our village as a gift from her betrothed. Princess Melissa sat on her throne day after day, and she issued orders on how to sow her land. She never took the time to learn our climate, our growing seasons or our rocky patches. The Princess did not value ideas from her people, and we villagers were often punished for trying to speak up when the tools she gave us did not allow us to produce enough grain to feed her Court.

All of the Kings and Queens watched the young princess, and they thought how pretty she looked sitting in the monarchy. They loved how she was able to control the masses, and they saw that her people did exactly as they were told. They also saw that Melissa had plenty of grain to make cakes and breads and other foods, so they assumed Princess Melissa’s bounty was plentiful.

Meanwhile, in the fields….Heidi Lee of the House of Hood was the most tenured indentured servant in the village. She had seen locals tried, imprisoned and even beheaded for speaking against the Monarchy. Yet somehow, she survived. And while she didn’t prosper, she had enough grain to feed her own family while sometimes giving a hungry neighbor a morsel or two of bread.

Heidi Lee of the Hood was a wise young surf. Cunning and bright, and believed that helping her village meant also helping herself. While not all of her thoughts we pure and right – some maybe even slightly selfish – she seemed to always have the right answers on how to survive.

Heidi Lee of the Hood would often protect the younger, more vulnerable peasants and help them to become more productive. She would teach them ways to grow more grain with less land, and her creative ideas for getting wheat to grow often worked even in barren lands. Our young Hood would figure out how to make the tools work that she was given – teaching herself and others new ways to turn a butter knife into a shovel during the Harvest.

And over time, Heidi Lee of the Hood gained the respect of the feeble-minded Princess Inept. The Princess saw that when Heidi Lee was around, work got done. She even began to allow Heidi Lee into the castle for private meetings about how tilling the land really worked.

Princess Melissa noticed that publicly, Heidi Lee never spoke against the Princess or the Kings and Queens. She noticed that Heidi Lee would speak to her quietly behind the castle walls. With the draw bridge lifted so no one could cross the moat to overhear, Heidi Lee of the Hood would teach Princess Melissa about the land, the seasons, and why the tools that the peasants were forced to use did not deliver the abundance the Kingdom could really have. Heidi Lee helped Princess Melissa learn that her village could be wealthier than All of the other lands if only Princess Melissa would lead her people by listening to their needs and ideas.

And Heidi Lee of the Hood learned from Princess Melissa as well. Heidi Lee learned that Princesses may be put into positions that they aren’t ready to take on – whether from Bedding a Dozen princes or by inheriting Dear Daddy’s kingdom. She understood that just because one is a Monarch does not mean that they understand how to lead a kingdom. Sometimes even, a spoiled princess may be given a village just to stop her whiny and naughty behavior.

And Heidi Lee learned that publicly supporting the Monarchy while showing the peasants how to be successful helped our heroine to earn the respect from above as well as below. She learned that she could build teams around her by earning the respect of the peasants. And she understood that her ability to lead was powerful – strong enough if she needed to lead a revolution.

Most importantly, Heidi Lee learned that she never wanted to be a Leader like Princess Melissa the Inept. Our fine Ms. Hood studied closely what NOT to do so she could learn what should be done. After all, Heidi Lee of the Hood met her friend Cinderella at a local tavern one day and found out that some princes really do fall in love and give kingdoms to slave girls.

Ok, so in this situation, Melissa is the Toad. We had to kiss her. She has the power whether we like it or not. So how did we start to win her over while helping the poor peasants who needed their own Robin Hood? We taught the people who looked up to us how to be good followers while we respectfully and privately helped the inept leader to understand the true possibilities – when finally she was willing to listen.

The most important thing for me was that I kept my dignity and maintained personal integrity. I never sought to hurt people to get ahead, and I tried to speak up for what was right. Sure, that mentality didn’t fast track me by any means, but I like who I have become because of it. And I rose up – slowly but surely – while curiously managing to avoid the raging case of warts I secretly suspect kept Princess Inept so unhappy for so many years.

The rest of the story….

Over time, all of the Kings and Queens envied Princess Melissa and they exhalted her to Queen of all the Land, and Heidi Lee of the Hood was still a peasant………

Ok, so not the Happily Ever After you expected, right? Nope, not yet – still plenty of toads hopping around that need a little tongue…But don’t you worry – I get to visit Cinderella in her castle often over my years. And if you’ve ever seen #EverAfter with Drew Barrymore as Cinderella, you know what kind of kick ass broad our Fairy Tale Princess really was.

Hope you enjoyed story time. I’d love to hear from any of my other peasant friends out here if you’ve ever worked for Princess Inept. What did you learn from her? Post your comments, please.

Your Friend,

Hood!

Ever feel like Ms. Piggy? This might help.

For all of my Toad Kissing Friends – Happy Halloween!

A love song from our favorite little green frog. Thank you, Kermit! I’ve always loved this – maybe that is how I was able to kiss so many toads.   http://youtu.be/Tqj456ImNSY

Enjoy!     Heidi Lee

Catalog Dating, Finding Happily Ever After Online

Friends, Good Saturday Afternoon to you.

I realized and I must apologize for dropping an assumptionin yesterday’s post, “I sometimes find it hard to believe that this typeof man exists – and that I literally picked him out of an Online Dating JCPenneys Catalog.” I suppose I get so cozy when writing to you that I assumed you already knew the beginning of my journey to Happily Ever After. Let me back track just a bit to explain…

PC (Prince Charming) is a critical element to completing my Fairy Tale, but more importantly I found that an inner knowledge and love of myself was essential. I realized after 35 years of life that I had no clue of who I was or who I intended to be. After one too many failed relationships, I hadn’trealized that I’d placed my own needs and self-discovery secondary to those of the men in my life. From boyfriends to husbands and even to my son, I defined myself by my role as it related to a man’s better half:  Jeff’s wife, Tom’s fiance, Cole’s mom – never Heidi Lee.

As I started realizing that I am not a secondary person and definitely not a backseat type of gal, I looked to the Internet to find someone who might complement me a bit better. I spent over a year on Online Dating sites, sampling a myriad of tasty (and, surprise, not so tasty) morsels that helped in the Designing of Me. Thus – the title of my blog, The Art of ToadKissing.

These experiences, along with navigating a successful professional career, are why I have self-appointed myself as a Master ToadKisser – I’ve found Happily Ever After in myself. While PC and I have a loving and strong relationship, he and I both are our own persons. We have many shared interests and goals, but we also have our independent strengths and paths.

My path took me into the world of Online Dating. Admittedly, I’d become curious about what type of person goes digital to find a date. I had listened to others talk about desperation, neediness, or the inability to be alone. And haven’t we all listened to acquaintances over Happy Hour talk about the Pervs and Molesters, or reference the latest news story about the missing person presumably abducted by the Internet Menace? That is the stigma of the Online Dater.

The trouble is, we seem to believe that the Stigma is Reality. And what we believe as Urban Legend – that a sincere, trustworthy romantic companion exists – is really what I found to be Actual Reality. The majority of Internet love-seekers joined for the same reason I did: We all want to connect.

And while, yes, these sites provide literally thousands of choices within their catalogs; a little care and attention to detail paired with a healthy sense of caution can provide for a very rich experience within the registries of #Match.com, #eHarmony, and the like.

So there I was, my friends. A divorced mother, a Project Manager, and a College Student who simply wanted to meet someone nice and who had similar interests. I had trouble finding the time, the energy, or the social outlets to meet these people. I appreciated the ability to meet anonymously and to meet on my own terms. And I learned many lessons that I am happy to share – life lessons, online dating tips, tactics to avoid dating disasters. But for today, I’ll just share the overview to my journey.

I literally opened the catalog and trial-purchased several varieties to find the perfect fit. And through this journey, I found that I am actually a pretty cool chick who appreciates good friends and who loves life and family. At 41, I am starting to appreciate quiet moment as much as exciting adventure, and I can love these moments alone or with somebody special.  I am content and excited to start the rest of my life.

And my hope in sharing with each of you would be that you recognize that you have some pretty spectacular qualities as well. Every one’s fingerprints are unique, and they leave that mark on everything they touch.

Questions about Online Dating?  Post here – or send me a private note.

Warm Regards

Heidi Lee

Lovin the mufas, Lovin my life

Hello, my friends.

I must say that journaling my hurdles and successes is really helping me to appreciate little things around me that I may otherwise take for granted.

That being said, here is my accountability from yesterday.

4 meals? Well, no. But at least I got in 3 quality meals – each with a Mufa and 400 calories. And by the end of the evening, I realized I had 400 calories that I could spend – Wine! 400 calories = 4 (5 oz) glasses of red wine. So I could have had 2 more glasses to meet my calorie count.

Wait – I don’t think that is really in the principles of the Flat Belly. But it sure did make the evening with PC a bit cozier 😉

I’ve mentioned yesterday’s blueberry heaven of a breakfast, and I made a healthy Run for the Border over lunch. Dinner was filled with rich flavors balanced by the crispness in the wine. Sound wonderful? Ok, I’ll share my recipe.

It happens that I collect cookbooks although I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I use them for inspiration rather than instruction. Last night I was thumbing through #RachelRay’s Book of 10 for new twists to put on the every day boneless skinless. I happened across a yummy little number on Page 14 for Mediterranean chicken with Saffron CousCous and decided this was a great place to start. The challenge was the the recipe was too heavy in Mufas – you have to watch your intake because they really do lump on the calories if used in excess. Her version used 2 Mufas; olive oil and kalamata olives. I had to cut back.

In pie plate – mix together 1/2 C flour with a pinch of salt and a whole lot of pepper. Top it off with a sprinkle of Cayenne pepper and you’re all set. Lightly dredge your 4 breasts and give them a little shake. The recipe calls for 2 tbsps of heated olive oil, but I cut it back to 1 tbsp to allow for extra olives. Brown the breasts on each side until golden and crispy, then turn the heat down and cook thru (about 10 minutes). Remove and set aside. (If your guy seems to be sneaking a couple peeks into the kitchen, dab a little flour on your cheek. He’ll appreciate you a little later)

Now comes the fun! And here is how I avoided adding sodium rich powdered chicken broth and water. Deglaze your pan with 1 cup of water and get all that good, rich gunk up off the bottom of the pan. Pour off and set aside.

(Start Couscous – I use a Hodgkin Mill brand for time saving – basil and garlic flavored. I added 1 cup of frozen peas to the water before I followed the package directions. helps cut down on doing dishes)

Add a tad more oil to the pan, and saute 1 chopped red onion and 5 cloves of minced garlic. Sprinkle in 1 tbsp of dried thyme. Like Ms Ray, I also like to use fresh herbs – just didn’t have any.

Hopefully you notice a little bit of sticking to the pan, right? No worries – grab a bottle of white wine, and deglaze again using the wine (just over 1 cup). Wow – smell that? Add the broth back in, and toss in about 20 kalamata olives; halved. Throw in 1 cup of grape tomatoes and return the chicken to the gravy. Heat through (about 5 minutes for the perfect doneness in your tomatoes).

As I finished up dinner prep, I started to set the table. The sounds of Alex Trebec gave way to a light jazz – Huh? PC noticed all of the work I put into dinner, and he decided to set the mood for relaxation with the right background noise. I sometimes find it hard to believe that this type of man exists – and that I literally picked him out of an Online Dating JC Penneys Catalog. But here he is – over a year into our relationship and still bringing the romance and the thought. I truly am lucky.

As a family, PC, Cole and I sat around the table just a little longer than usual last night. Very nice. Then we all moved back into the dining room where the soft music was replaced by a Thursday night favorite – The #BigBangTheory. It seems both PC and Cole find me remarkably similar to Sheldon in my nerd-dom. Wow.

So how did I do yesterday in meeting my goals? I came close on the eating, and I completely missed the mark on the exercise. I did spend more quality time with my family and managed to turn work off for the evening. The good news is – PC decided to help me out with the vigorous activity a little later so I could even up my goals 😉

Cheers!

Heidi Lee