You Could Call This The Worst Anniversary Dinner Ever

You Could Call This The Worst Anniversary Dinner Ever

You could’ve called it the worst anniversary dinner ever.

This week, Husband and I were excited to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.

Yes, can you believe it?

It’s already been three years since this forever-single lady found a perfectly imperfect man who wanted to spend his life with me.

phto
Getting hitched at Silver Run Falls, NC. July 2012.

We had reservations at a fancy, new restaurant in town. And sure, we could’ve gone there and had the latest “farm-to-table” dishes.

But at the last minute, we looked at each other with a shared streak of rebellion. “Let’s ditch this predictable Popsicle stand and head for an adventure.”

We pulled up an article featuring a list of authentic, ethnic restaurants we’ve been wanting to try.

That’s how we ended up at a little hole-in-the-wall Mom n’Pop Korean restaurant about a half-hour away.

Things went goofy from the start.

As soon as we were seated, the server ran up to our table. “You should try the seafood pancake!” she insisted, pointing to the item on the menu written mainly inKorean. “A man ordered wrong pancake. Doesn’t want it. You should eat it.”

Before we knew what was happening the steaming, previously untouched, unwanted pancake was sitting in front of us with side dishes known as “banchan.”

It was delicious.

anni dinner

Meanwhile, we ordered the special chicken dish mentioned in article that alerted us to this restaurant.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

“So sorry,” the server apologized when she came back a half hour later. “Chef cooked your food. I gave it to someone else. We make you another one!”

And with that, she was off giving us no chance to protest.

So we waited again.

While we were waiting, I took the chance to ask Husband, “So how has the first three years of marriage gone for you?”

I asked knowing he could call this the worst marriage ever.

There’s my old stinky dog, raising teenagers, my obsession with finishing my first novel, my ailing elderly mother on the other side of the country. All things that often get my attention ahead of him.

“This marriage has far exceeded my wildest expectations,” he smiled, taking my hand.

Does he not see all my flaws and our challenges?

Because let me assure you, they are on full display every day.

He says he sees a wife who doesn’t nag, who is a great mom, who travels the world with him, and laughs at about a third of his really bad puns.

I see a man who is incredibly generous with what he chooses to see.

Which brings me back to that darn chicken.

It finally came.

A huge mound of steaming chicken, rice noodles, chiles and spices.

I have to say it far exceeded our wildest expectations.

So yes, you could call it the worst anniversary dinner ever.

I’d call it perfect.

A reminder and celebration of life.

So often you can’t control what you get served up or when it arrives.

And a crazy chicken dish, like the right wonderfully imperfect man, sure is worth waiting for.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Going Solo: Are You Willing To Do THIS Alone In Public?

Going Solo: Are You Willing To Do THIS Alone In Public?

My husband is still laughing at this.

Well, laughing at me.

Story goes back to a few years ago when we were dating, snuggled up on the couch watching “Dancing With The Stars.”  He sweetly asked me, “Would you ever want to take ballroom dance lessons?”

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I thought about it a second and said, “You mean, together?”

He still howls at this because, as he points out, how else do you take ballroom dance lessons? Who takes ballroom dance lessons alone?

Uh, that would be me.

When you’re single as long as I was, when you constantly picked guys who didn’t do more than toss a few cookie crumbs of their time your way, you learn to do a lot of stuff by yourself.

Yes, including sign up for ballroom dance lessons.

I got thinking about this the other day when I came across this study which confirms Husband’s theory that he married a different bird. A business professor at the University of Maryland says Americans are not going out, if that means having to go out alone.

Does this sound like you, Dear Reader?

Where do you draw your line in the comfort zone sand?

Would you go out to a restaurant by yourself?

dien alone

To a movie?

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Take dance lessons?

According to this study, most of you won’t if it means going solo.

The reason?

You’re too worried about what other people would think when they see you out by yourself.

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Here’s the punch line on that one—

Another study shows people aren’t watching you. They’re not judging you, probably because they’re too busy being self-conscious about what people are thinking about them!

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Seems to me, we all have some kind of challenge to overcome to live our lives more fully.

For me, it has been getting used to a whole cookie kind of guy. A man who wants to spend a lot of time with me and go do stuff.

Yes, together.

We haven't made it to those dance lessons yet, but have done tons of fun stuff like learning to fly fish.
We haven’t made it to those dance lessons yet, but have done tons of fun stuff like learning to fly fish.

They really do make guys like that. Who knew? Certainly not me until well into my 40’s.

And you?

You need to get over yourself and those imaginary people who, I promise, will not be judging you if you get out there by yourself for dinner, a movie, or even dance lessons.

And then there’s this—

When that hottie instructor is twirling you across the dance floor as the music makes a symphony in your heart, the last thing you will be thinking about is being alone.

dance instructor

I know because I’ve certainly danced that dance.

The last laugh is going to be all yours.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Social Media Peer Pressure: I’m Gagging. The Thing I’ll Say That I Bet You’re Thinking

Social Media Peer Pressure: I’m Gagging. The Thing I’ll Say That I Bet You’re Thinking

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I’m slow.

Hopelessly behind.

Out of the loop.

How about that for some fine negative catty self-talk?

I figure it’s not catty, if it’s true.

Simply reporting.

I don’t have to go far to confirm and reinforce my theory.  It’s a close as my computer.

My computer, where years ago I joined Facebook.

Facebook, where I post pictures of my life, links that I love, stay connected with “friends,” most of whom I don’t really know.

Sounds like a huge time investment.

It is.

Sometimes sucks time out of my day like an airplane door opening at 35,000.

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And is often about as useful as that, too.

No matter, for I came to find out simply being on Facebook wasn’t enough.

So, I signed up for Twitter.

More, they said.

Okay, I added a second public Facebook page.

“More! More! More!” the media experts yelled like an over caffeinated toddler on the merry go round. “Spin me faster, faster, faster!”

Okay, okay, okay!

I can do this!

I can be hip, modern, connected!

I have my website, DarynKagan.com, my blog page on WordPress.

Go visual! Sign up for Instagram!

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Go crafty! Pin on Pinterest!

Go professional! Make sure you’re LinkedIn.

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What about the young people? You’ll find them on SnapChat.

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Is it just me, or does it seem the more you sign up for, the more they tell you you’re not with it?

And don’t get me started on passwords.

Surely, somewhere deep in Silicon Valley there is a convention of evil Password Police snickering and conspiring to come up with rules that make you have a different password formula for each website, insuring only one thing—that you can’t remember any of them!

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My question is, with all this social media I’m supposed to be on, how am I supposed to have time to be, uh, social?

Are you as equally unhip, behind, and frustrated, Dear Reader?

Figuring there has to be a better way, off I went last week to a two day seminar on Word Press, the blogging site.

“Word Camp” was my chance to find online peace, to consolidate, to get this thing down.

I have to say that I did learn a ton.

The price, besides the screaming deal of $40, was learning I’m also supposed to posting video from my iPad every day and if I was a really good blogger, my site would’ve made $60,000 last month.

It didn’t.

Shameful, I know.

Oh, had I considered rebuilding my website on WordPress.org instead of .com?

There’s a difference?

Oh yes.

As big a divide as the popular and unpopular kids in my 7th grade lunchroom.

A divide I never did conquer, yet still turned out kinda okay.

So, this is me, throwing in the towel on trying to keep up with the popular online kids.

I’ll post what’ll I’ll post, when and where I choose to make time to post.

Otherwise, you’ll find me doing that thing.

I think they used to call it—

Living life.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Your Friend Picker–Three Lessons That Fine Tuned Mine

Your Friend Picker–Three Lessons That Fine Tuned Mine

“How do you pick your friends?”

What an awesome question I was thrilled to get recently from a certain young person in my life.

Let’s talk “The Picker.”

The one that selects the friends you choose to have in your life.

My own Picker has been shaped and modified for the better by three wonderful friends over the years.

Thank you, Gina, for explaining it all boils down to fruit.

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“Picking good friends is like walking through the produce aisles at the grocery store,” she told me. “There’s plenty that looks good at first glance, but you have to pick up each piece. Does it feel right? Smell good? Seem like it is a good thing to put in your body? Will they nourish you? Or bring you pain? There will be some friends that seem like a good choice at first, but upon closer inspection, you find they should be put back on the shelf and left behind.”

Thank you, Tricia, for teaching me that those good friends are the baseline for picking a good man.

The oh-so-wise, Tricia, on the far left, along with the equally wonderful friend and teacher, Lori, in the middle.
The oh-so-wise, Tricia, on the far left, along with the equally wonderful friend and teacher, Lori, in the middle.

“What kind of girlfriends do you have?” she once asked me.

“The best!” I declared, thinking the sweetest cherries and berries. Not a mushy apple in the bunch.

“Perfect. Now you should expect the same standards in a romantic relationship that you get from your girlfriends,” she spelled out.

This might sound like Obvious 101 to you, Dear Reader.

Me?

It was a big clonk over the head.

One that I wasn’t ready to hear until my 40’s.

I looked at the magnificent group of women friends who surrounded me and enriched my life. Then I looked at the stupidly long list of junk I’d accepted from various men over the years.   Things I wouldn’t have stuck around for with a female friend.

Not

A

Chance.

That rotten fruit would’ve been back on the shelf faster than you could say, “Squished banana.”

That one nugget changed my focus on the kind of man I was looking for.

Don’t give me too much credit.

It took Sandra to put on the final polish.

Been amazingly lucky to be friends with the wonderful SanDra since we were freshman roommates at Stanford.
Been amazingly lucky to be friends with the wonderful SanDra since we were freshman roommates at Stanford.

“You want to pick a ‘Hand Over Heart,’ kind of guy,” she counseled me after a big break up she was not-so-secretly happy to see come to pass.

“Hand over heart?”

“Yes,” she said. “The kind man who would lay down his life for you, who is such a good solid person that you find yourself actually putting your hand over your heart when you describe him.”

You can bet that Gina, Tricia, and Sandra were all there a couple of years ago when I married my Mr. SummerFest.

I caught a glimpse of Sandra as I walked down the aisle.

Yep, she had her hand over her heart.

“Good pickin’, my friend,” she said.

Talk about the ultimate fruit salad kind of day.

SanDra toasting us at our wedding. The "Dra" Seal of Approval--sought by brides the world over for their selection of groom. Granted to only a special few.
SanDra toasting us at our wedding. The “Dra” Seal of Approval–sought by brides the world over for their selection of groom. Granted to only a special few.

So there you have it, Young Friend.

That’s how I pick.

How about you, Reader Friend?

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Cindy Crawford’s Most Beautiful Body Part

Cindy Crawford’s Most Beautiful Body Part

Did you see The Photo?

Jaws are dropping around the world!

It’s a supposedly unaltered photo of Supermodel Cindy Crawford wearing her bra and panties.

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“Unaltered” as in no Photoshop enhancement to add shading or erase of imperfections.

Of course, I had to look.

And when I did, I saw two things.

One, I was staring at body I’d love to have.  “This is without retouching?” I marveled doing the math wondering how many zillions of stomach crunches it takes to get abs with ridges like that.

Then, I looked a little closer where I really stood in awe.

It’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a super model.

Slightly, and by slightly, I mean squint your eyes and tilt your computer screen to see what I see, slightly wrinkly skin on the upper part of her tummy.

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This has to be from one thing and one thing only—the two pregnancies that created her children.

This is what I want to know, Dear Reader–

Why is something so incredible not celebrated on the cover of a magazine?

Why do we women live in our bodies, punishing ourselves on a daily basis trying to shove them back into a package that looks like we’re 14?

And let’s be honest–Unless you’re Cindy Crawford, you probably didn’t look like that when you were 14, either.

Is it possible for us women to bear our battle scars with pride?

A woman could boast, “See here? These are the stretch marks from carrying twins for nine months. Do that math—this body knew how to make two human brains, four eyeballs, and twenty perfect toes.”

Take that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition!

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Another would shout, “See these eye crinkle lines? Those are from pulling all nighters to get through that impossible statistics course in college, which I paid for myself, by the way.”

You want to talk beauty?

A gal brags, “This somewhat saggy muscle sits next to the incision where my chemotherapy port when in during my treatment for breast cancer.”

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High Five!

A lady adds, “I earned these bags under my eyes when I spent the night caring for my ailing mother.”

It’s not such a foreign concept, this idea of boasting about body battle scars that show a life well-lived.

Just look at, well,

Men.

The man who says, “Here’s the scar through my eyebrow where I took 12 stitches in college.”

Or the man we admire for his limp. “Wounded in the last war,” he explains.

How about the striking gray hair that catches your eye? “Shows his wisdom, experience and maturity,” you decide.

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Can you and I take on some of this?

I say, “Yes!” to Photoshopping.

Photoshopping our attitudes.

Changing our focus.

How about enhancing our flaws?

Talk them up big!

How about erasing our imperfect appreciation for our bodies well-lived?

How would that change how you see your body?

Me? My jaw would truly drop and my heart would soar.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

So, I Broke Up With The ‘What If?’s’

So, I Broke Up With The ‘What If?’s’

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We had a crisis in our house this week.

As are most crises with teenagers—

This one was astronomical.

Huge.

Tragic.

It involved,

Get ready.

It’s big.

Our daughter losing her cell phone.

Yes, I know.

International relief funds have been started over tragedies smaller than this.

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“I think I left it behind at school,” she explained in a panic while using someone else’s phone. “I couldn’t go back and check or I’d miss the bus home.”

You can imagine how this crisis set the table for dinner conversation.

“Surely someone stole it,” she and my husband believed.

“Maybe a good person picked it up and is holding it for you for tomorrow,” I offered.

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Multiple eye rolls were my only payment for offering the possibility of well,

Hope.

As my daughter’s stress level continued to rise, I detected teachable moment.

The question is “What do you do with The Wait?

Dear Reader, what do you do with your Wait?

That time between now and seeing how something turns out.

Before you get the medical tests back?

Before you find out if you got the job?

Before you know if he will call for a second date?

“I’m going to believe in the good person theory,” I told my daughter.

“But, how do you know?” she doubted my optimism.

“I don’t,” I admitted. “But I also don’t know that your phone was stolen. Once you’ve done everything you can, the only thing you can control is how much time you spend looping the bad possibilities over and over again in your head.”

She shrugged her doubting shoulders.

Within the hour of dropping her off at the school bus the next day, I felt my cell phone buzzing in the pocket of my worn sweatpants.

I couldn’t help but smile at the caller ID.

My daughter’s name was flashing on the screen.

“I got my phone back!” she screamed. “You were right! One of the security guards locked it up for the night. That’s why no one answered when I tried to call it or use the tracking app!”

Score one for the good guys.

I can only hope Daughter took note.

Sure, I know the news won’t always be good at the end of an anticipated wait.

And I’ve certainly tortured myself enough times with dreadful “What If’s.”

You, too?

These days, the ‘What If’s’ and I are broken up.

I’m not some evolved spiritual being.

More like a little worn down, broken in.

The journalist in me likes to do an inventory of the facts I actually know.

It’s usually not much.

There’s usually more “What If’s” trying to bang around my head than actual facts.

So what if good guys won’t always win?

There’s plenty of time to deal with muck once I know an actual outcome.

Meanwhile, it sure is nicer to hang out with hope in my head.

That is how I wait.

How about you?

Better to leave me a comment here.

Y’know, just in case I lose my phone.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

What’s There To Be Thankful For Anyway?

What’s There To Be Thankful For Anyway?

Some days I struggle with that sign.

The one that hangs on the wall just inside our front door.

“In Everything Give Thanks” it reads, painted on a simple wood plank.

My friend, Dana, gave me that sign about six years ago, a reminder of a time when things weren’t feeling so thank-y around here.

A reminder of a time when something that seemed bad at first, turned out to be rather awesome, something indeed to be thankful for.

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader. Maybe you came out of the womb wise and grateful, but I’ve had to do a lot of learning on my end.

There was that time in my 20’s when a long-term boyfriend dumped me for another girl.

My friend’s mom, Lee, piped in with “Won’t it be interesting to see how this all turns out?”

Interesting?

How dare she minimize my pain?

How dare she root for any outcome besides the one I decided was best?

Alas, the end of that relationship gave me the courage and energy to propel my career forward, which is what took me to CNN.

And if you really want to fast-forward, to my husband and kids.

Score one for now 83-year-old, Lee. Turns out the way that chapter worked out was indeed interesting, to say the least. Something to be very thankful for.

And score one for the sign.

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

Not that it’s not taking a lifetime of lessons for a simple truth to sink in.

I walked in the house the other day and looked up at the sign.

Less you think I’m a complete, zen being, I will tell you this—I cursed that sign.

My challenge this Thanksgiving season is not to be thankful for the easy stuff—husband, kids, home, pets, good health.

I got that one down.

It’s the hard stuff.

Thank you for the book agent who told me this week he hated my first novel so much he didn’t even offer up any suggestions or revisions?

I’m working on that “Thank you” note.

Even bigger—thank you for the test results that seem to show my mom will be facing some big health challenges?

Honestly, the gratitude for that news is stuck in my throat.

I can tell you this–I’m thankful for you, Dear Reader.

You, who will give thanks for your easy blessings this week.

You, who are also trying to make sense of news and outcomes you would’ve never picked.

You who in your own way are trying to grow into the sign.

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

I know because of the email you send to me each week sharing your own challenges and triumphs.

The way you let me share my life on this page each week.

For each and every one of you, I do indeed give thanks.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.