Happy Q2!

Smiling in field of flowersAlthough I am partial to sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes, the second quarter of the year is also a personal favorite of mine. The first week of April brings with it sundresses, wildflowers and clear blue skies. Gloom period is over, and the earth comes to life again as though waking from a long slumber.

I underwent a hibernation of my own during the first quarter of this year – my fast from dating. I’d told myself that, in light of the seemingly endless incoming (and outgoing) line of men in my life, I needed to take a break from dating this year to refocus and center myself; to reinstate God as my First Love.

My hope in so doing was to to rest in my singleness, learning to be content in this season and celebrating all of the unique opportunities afforded to me as an unattached young woman. It’s been a great first quarter. I’ve gotten to invest deeply in some key friendships, taught Sunday school to elementary children, started mentoring a group of high school kids, gotten certified to babysit foster kids, arranged some new a capella mashups, begun fashion illustration (check out my Instagram) and started looking into a few different travel destinations for a girls’ weekend away.

When I started on this journey, I wanted to make the commitment specific and measurable enough that I could be held accountable and not bail when the first cute boy of the year looked my way, so I gave a soft commitment not to go on any dates for 2016. However, I also wanted to give myself flexibility as life circumstances changed and my heart matured; I didn’t want to be legalistic about the commitment or put God in a box as to how He wanted to refine me in this area of my life. I didn’t feel a strong conviction to give a definitive commitment for an entire year, so I gave myself the option to reevaluate at the end of every quarter whether or not I should continue my break from dating.

So as the end of March approached, and with it, the end of Q1 2016, I prayed and asked God what He thought. Then I met with the girls in my bible study and asked for their input as well. In both my personal time of reflection and in the feedback from the group, there was a consensus that I have successfully hit the “reset” button on my dating mentality and could now move forward with starting to date again, this time with a God-honoring perspective on both the physical and emotional aspects of a relationship.

I am not in a hurry to jump back into dating. My days of online dating are behind me. But I am open to the possibility of exploring whether some of my godly male friendships could grow into something deeper. I’ve had seven guys waiting for this moment – the moment I would allow them to pursue a relationship with me.

Just thinking about juggling all of those possibilities had me nearly breaking out in hives, so I’ve already told five of the seven that I am not interested in a romantic relationship with them. Care to guess which of the seven has captured my attention?

Jay – a police officer I met while volunteering for the Passion Conference in January who sends me shirtless photos of himself from time to time

Jordan – the massage therapist and divorcee I met on the Bahamas cruise

Ike – a friend for over ten years with whom I’ve done international mission trips and who is graduating from seminary in May with plans to be a pastor

Hovik – the Armenian auto shop manager who lives in my apartment complex

Grant – the banker I met at church who takes me to a concert every year

Seth – a chemical engineer who volunteers in our church’s kids’ ministry with me

Joe – an A/C mechanic in my bible study who is built like a lumberjack

Authentically Aurora

The Beauty of Specialization

Shaq Emmitt

Specialization is a great concept. It allows economies to grow and thrive, and it allows individuals to dive deeply into a certain area of interest. A lot of us want to spend time with (perhaps even date or marry) those who we view as our intellectual peers, and the idea of specialization allows each of us to feel like a subject matter expert in our area of specialty while leaving room for others to shine in their own brilliance.

For instance, last night I was at a birthday party (Grant‘s birthday party, actually), and while the birthday boy was introducing me around, we stopped for a while to talk with his friend James.

James is a tall glass of water – broad-shouldered and well over six foot – with a messy mop of brown hair. At one point, Grant asked James, “Hey, how’s your hand, man?” James produced his hand with a shrug, saying that it was “healing up alright.”

Grant suddenly looked around the group, excited, and asked us, “Hey, can anyone guess how he got this wound?” A couple of the girls glanced at it and answered with a giggle, “A paper cut!” But I took James’ hand in my own and studied it for a moment.

The deep gash looked like a cut, but it was wide and confined to the length of two fingers on the inside of his palm. I glanced down at James’ attire: jeans, boots and a huge belt buckle. I smiled to myself and declared with confidence, “A rope burn.”

Grant and James both looked at me in surprise, eyes bugging out. “Wow! Yeah… you’re right…” Grant could not seem to wrap his mind around the fact that I had identified the wound so quickly, so I shrugged to James and admitted, “I was an EMT during my college years.”

A little while later, I glanced up at the TV screen mounted on the wall, where sports had been airing all night. I recognized one of the four sportscasters, but I couldn’t but a name to his face. He was a large, black man who looked like a former athlete I used to root for, so I leaned over to James and shouted over the noise, “Hey, who’s that sportscaster on the far left?”

James glanced up to the TV for about half a second and said simply, “Shaq.”

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed, nodding. “I knew I recognized him. I was going to say either Shaq or Emmitt Smith.”

My comment was made in all sincerity; I am really that ignorant of professional athletes, but James thought it was so funny that he yelled across the table to Grant. “HA! Did you hear what she just said?!”

James relayed the story to Grant, who laughed and said, “It’s basketball on the TV! Why would you think it was Emmitt Smith?”

I shrugged meekly. I wasn’t trying to be funny; just displaying my sports ignorance for all to see.

When Grant saw my discomfort, his face transformed immediately to one of warmth and affection. “Don’t ever change, Aurora,” he told me with an intensity to his gaze. And he kissed my forehead.

Authentically Aurora

Three Men & Their Friends

Coffee Shop illustration

I spend entirely too much money on coffee. A year ago, I spent an average of $20/month on coffee. These days, it’s four times that amount. I know this because, in addition to being a voracious coffee drinker, I am also a nerd who maintains a monthly personal expense report.

I am not so basic as to spend all my coffee budget on Starbucks every month. It’s true that many a business meeting takes place over a cup of Starbucks coffee, but as much as I can, I like to get my lattes from Black Gold Coffee, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop with a hipster vibe.

Black Gold is nestled between a couple of boutiques on a tree-lined historic avenue in a run-down part of town in the process of being gentrified. The artwork on the walls of the coffee shop is always changing as local artists take their turns displaying their latest masterpieces for sale.

About a month ago, after placing my order with a Black Gold barista, I perched on a bar stool while waiting for my iced latte. An attractive brunette gentleman sat a couple of seats down, clicking away on his laptop where I could see that he was editing photos. “Are you a Canon or Nikon man?” I asked him, striking up a conversation. Daniel, as he introduced himself, is a Canon photographer as well as an aspiring writer.

Daniel and I spoke for a few minutes while I waited for my coffee. When it arrived in all its caffeinated goodness, I started to bid Daniel adieu, but he stopped me and asked if he could take me on a date sometime. Surprised that this soft-spoken poetic man would also be so courageous, I smiled and thanked him but explained that I am fasting from dating for a while. I left and thought nothing more of the conversation.

A few days later found me back at Black Gold, this time sipping a hot milk-and-honey latte while reading a book. When the sound of laughter permeated my internal movie scene as I lived my book along with its characters, I glanced up from the worn pages to see a Boromir look-alike standing a few tables away. I went back to my book, but as I got up to leave a while later, I stopped by Boromir’s table and asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look just like -”

“Sean Bean,” he finished the sentence for me, naming the actor who played the red-headed friend of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings movies.

“Oh. I guess so,” I laughed, embarrassed. But the doppelganger struck up a friendly conversation with me, and I found out that he was yet another photographer. Boromir (real name Simon) was working on his macro photography, and he invited me to join him shooting butterflies at a local arboretum later that week. I’d been wanting to work on my own macro game, so I enthusiastically agreed.

Simon and I had a great time shooting butterflies that weekend, but it was soon evident that he was romantically interested in me, so when we went out for dinner after the photo shoot, I figured it was time for me to set him straight on my intentions. I let Simon pick the restaurant, and to my relief, he picked a casual burger joint.

Simon and I were laughing when we walked into the mom-and-pop restaurant, but I stopped mid-giggle when I looked up to see Daniel standing behind the cash register. How must this look to Daniel? Just a week ago, I turned down his offer of a date, telling him that I’m not dating right now. And here I am, walking into a restaurant – a restaurant he apparently works at! – laughing with another man. This totally looks like a date. He’s going to think I lied. He’s going to think I made up some excuse. I need to find a way to explain myself!

Simon saw my reaction and asked, “Oh, you know Daniel?”

My eyes widened. “YOU know Daniel?!”

Simon nodded, misreading my expression. “Yeah, we’re really good friends. That’s why I picked this place. I eat here all the time. Daniel and I go shooting together sometimes; then sit and edit our photos together at Black Gold.”

Of course they do. This is my life after all. Two photographers who I met at the same coffee shop? Of course they’re friends. And of course they both asked me out. And of course I managed to get myself into a sticky situation. Why would I expect any different from my life? I am Madame Rom-Com!

Fortunately, I have lots of experience explaining myself and disentangling myself from the ridiculous messes I seem to unintentionally create. So I told Simon I wasn’t interested, that I was fasting from dating, that Daniel had asked me out, and that Daniel was probably misinterpreting our hamburger hangout. Simon was understanding, agreed to set Daniel straight on what was happening, and we’ve all actually managed to stay friends and gone shooting again since then. Victory.

About a week after the photography almost-fiasco, I caught Ashley up on my non-love life. She goes to Black Gold even more often than I do, so she knows all the baristas and frequent patrons. When she heard about Simon, she asked, “Is he the one who sits in the back corner most mornings?”

“No… he’s usually there in the evening.” I showed her a photo of Simon, and she laughed.

“He looks just like the early morning barista!” Ashley and I can be creepy together, embracing the Facebook-stalking culture of our generation, so she pulled up a picture of another man who looked remarkably like Simon, which is weird since Simon is a long-haired red-headed man in a fairly conservative city.

“It’s Boromir #2!!!” we cried together, erupting into laughter.

Ironically (or predictably, since it is my life, after all), Simon sent me a text the very next day asking what I thought of Donny. “Donny? Who is Donny?” I texted back.

Simon sent me a photo of Boromir #2 sitting with his hands wrapped around a latte. Of course. Of course Boromir #1 (Simon) knows Boromir #2 (Donny).

“I don’t know,” I typed back. “I’ve never had a real conversation with him.”

“He says he tried to ask you out one time,” Simon wrote back.

“What?!”

“Yeah, he saw me with you the other day at Black Gold and asked if we were dating. He said one time when you were ordering a drink, he tried to ask you out.”

“Well he must have been very subtle, because I have no recollection of any attempt on his part to ask me out.”

Sweet, poetic Daniel must have gotten all the boldness in this group of friends. He stated his intentions of asking me on a date within five minutes of meeting me. Simon tried a sneak-a-date, and Donny was so shy and subtle that I completely missed his come-on.

I know it’s bad form to date best friends, but what about unintentionally non-dating three guys who you didn’t know were friends?!

Welcome to my life.

Authentically Aurora

Roy? Gee Whiz

Colorful camp counselors.png

The Camp Counselor type: Everybody knows at least one. Loud, colorful, extroverted, crazy, zany, loud, talkative, attention-seeking, loud, animated, effervescent… and did I mention loud?

When I met Roy at church last fall, he’d been out of college for six months but was still unemployed. He spent a lot of time volunteering at various sports camps, which suited him perfectly, since he is one of the aforementioned camp counselor types. A Sports Management major with dreams of being a basketball coach, Roy stands just a couple of inches taller than me at 5’5″.

Roy is actually a very attractive kid – I think of him as a miniature Abercrombie model – but I can’t help but think of him as just that: a kid. The small child, Ashley calls him. So when he expressed interest in dating me, sweet as he is, I just couldn’t get past his age (23), his height (5’5″), his work experience (0 years) and his employment status (unemployed).

Don’t get me wrong; Roy is a very kind-hearted guy, and kindness goes a long way. In fact, my late grandfather told me that what drew him to my grandmother (“well, besides the fact that she had great legs!” he interjected) was her kindness. And my grandmother said the same about my grandfather (about his kindness, not his legs). I know that kindness is important, and I want to end up with a kind-hearted man. But I don’t particularly want to end up with a kind-hearted man-child.

When Roy initially asked me out back in November, I told him I thought he was a sweet, godly man, but I just felt we were in different life stages. Camp counselors are nothing if not persistent though, so he asked again in January. Now he has a job at the YMCA. But I was able to legitimately tell him that, despite his new employment status (employed! woo!), I am still not dating for a while (possibly a year, reevaluating at the end of each quarter, depending on how attractive my perspective dating pool is what God tells me about the state of my heart).

The puppy was not deterred. “So we just have ten and a half months to go,” he told me sincerely, taking me by the hand in the parking lot outside where we’d both been attending a party.

“Roy…” I said in exasperation, pulling my hand away. “Please don’t wait for me. I think you have a lot of great qualities – you’re a sweet, attractive, godly man – but you really should be dating other girls. I am not dating anyone right now, and as much as I admire you, I should not be a love interest of yours.”

Roy refused to try dating other people, insisting that there was something special between us. “Every time I’ve tried going out with another girl, I always end up comparing her to you, and she just doesn’t measure up. You are the standard.” Oh boy.

Just three weeks ago, we had to have the conversation again. Roy really is a sweetheart, and I enjoy his company, plus we’re in the same bible study at church, so I perhaps had been too gentle with him. Besides, my mom was really rooting for him. The little boy, she called him. The small child, Ashley called him. Roy vey, I thought to myself.

My mom liked that he was kind. I liked that he was kind. I knew though, deep down, that Roy and I weren’t a fit. And I needed to make sure he knew that. I didn’t want to hurt him, but after months of apparent lack of clarity on his part as to our status, I decided the time had come to be more direct.

Roy had walked me to my car, given me a hug and kissed my forehead (which required him to take my face in his hands and tilt my chin down). I sighed. I’d really thought I had been clear that we were just friends. Obviously we needed to have yet another DTR (can I just say? “not dating” 23-year-olds is exhausting).

“Roy, do you know why I’m not dating this year?” He nodded, but I continued anyway. “A big part of it is that I want to reinstate God as my First Love. I have allowed men to become idols in my life – a crutch of sorts – that keep me from going to God for comfort, encouragement and guidance. My sense of self worth tends to be tied up in men’s attraction to and opinion of me.”

Roy nodded again, big brown puppy eyes unaware that they were about to have their light dimmed. “I know we’ve said that we’re not dating, but whatever this is? This walking me to my car, texting me all the time, kissing me on the forehead? This pseudo-friendship-dating is a crutch that is completely undoing the purpose for which I set out not to date. You are a crutch. And I need this to stop.”

Suffice it to say that Roy got the message.

There’s a new girl at church, Jess, who I saw sitting alone and who I welcomed into our group about a month ago. Curly black hair, loves sunflowers, hates gluten. Sweet girl. I invited her to join our community group, which she did – so successfully, in fact, that last Saturday, she posted a Facebook photo of her and Roy cheek-to-cheek with the caption: “Successful first date!!! ❤ ” Umm, what?

I was confused. Just two weeks earlier, Roy had been fawning all over me, telling me that no other girls could compare to me. Two weeks was all it took for the puppy dog to pull his tail from between his legs and start wooing some other girl? Two weeks and he’s already posting photos with Jess to social media? I’m the one who invited her into our group! I’m the one who basically introduced them! And who posts first date photos anyway? Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?

Last Sunday they sat together holding hands with their fingers interlaced, and at lunch after church, Jess – apparently oblivious to the history between Roy and myself – plopped down right next to me so that she could gush to me about how amazing Roy is and then tell me all about their plans for their romantic second date.

As Jess giggled and showed me their selfies together, I ordered an alcoholic beverage. It shouldn’t bother me. It shouldn’t. I know this. I could have had him if I wanted him. In fact, I encouraged him to date other girls. And I legitimately think they could be a good match. I am happy for them. She’s a sweet girl, and he’s a sweet guy. They just seem like they’re both rushing into this like they have something to prove.

In the past week, Roy must have let Jess in on the fact that he pursued me for a while, because this Sunday when I walked into the sanctuary, I caught Roy putting his arm protectively around Jess and giving her a comforting hug as I walked by. Really? Am I that girl now? Hours later, they made their relationship “FBO” as Jess tagged it in their latest selfie – Facebook Official, “and I couldn’t be happier!!! ❤ ” Well go poop a rainbow, why don’t ya?

I really hope – for both their sakes – that she is not a rebound. And I really hope I can still be welcoming to her and kind to him. They are my brother and sister in Christ, and I want them to be happy. They are just moving really fast. And it’s hard to watch people move on from you. I’ve discovered as I’ve aged that all too often, even if we don’t want someone, we all still want to be wanted.

Authentically Aurora

Reconciliation

tumblr_m4yrzraMUs1rxxc2wo1_500

I talked with Grant today.

He apologized sincerely. He was afraid to call, unsure how angry I would still be. He didn’t sleep well last night and felt horrible about what he said and did after the concert.

Of his own volition, he acknowledged that he is selfish, immature, and has unrealistic expectations for the woman he dates and ultimately marries. He has never been able to make a relationship last, and he told me that he knows he has some growing up to do.

He wants to seek the Lord and get his life in order so that he can be ready for a legitimate relationship. “I have a lot of growing up to do before I’m ready to be a spiritual leader.” He wants to learn how to date seriously and with intentionality. Not with me; we established that. But with someone. Someday.

And he wanted to affirm me. Admitting that he spoke too harshly, he wanted me to hear that I am:

Encouraging, Supportive, Uplifting

Sweet, Kind, Thoughtful

Honest, Authentic, Real

Smart, Savvy, Successful

My encouraging nature is his favorite thing about me. “You believe in me in ways no one else does. You believe in me more than I believe in myself.” Yes, I do. That’s because I believe you are teachable, self-reflective, and genuinely want to be a godly  man. And when we align our desires with God’s, we can be sure that we have what we have asked of Him (1 John 5).

I’m glad we reconciled. His friendship is one I did not want to lose.

If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. -Matthew 5:23-24

Authentically Aurora

The Aviary

Sleeping Beauty Aurora with Birds

Hurt people hurt people. Those with damaged hearts end up wounding others, sometimes intentionally; sometimes unintentionally. I am trying to remember there is a difference.

My mom has always told me that I am drawn to “the bird with the broken wing.” As I age, I would argue that birds with broken wings are actually drawn to me, hopping over to me in the forest where I dance happily alone, singing softly to myself like a scene from my namesake, Sleeping Beauty. These broken-winged birds are drawn to my voice; a voice calling out in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord – the one true Healer of hearts.

Grant is one of the birds I’ve seen around my proverbial aviary for a while now. We met at church when we both moved to town after college, and I’ve known Grant for nearly seven years. He’s a 31-year-old, six foot tall banker with a quick wit and penchant for playfulness. We share an alma mater and a love of country music, so about once a year, we end up going to a country concert together in the stadium downtown.

Grant is my go-to “plus one” for weddings and such events. And I am his. We unknowingly grew up down the street from one another, went to sister high schools, and he frequently teases me about being on the math club in junior high. We have seen each other through all manner of seasons – better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health; job layoffs, broken relationships, flat tires and the flu. He can be a jerk sometimes (evidencing his XY chromosome set), but I trust him, and I know that, deep down, he’s a good man who has just been wounded. His girl friend – who at the time he’d just looked at rings for – dumped him for his lifelong best friend. It happened three years ago, but he still bears the scars.

This year, Grant and I went to see Chris Young, and the concert was amazing. We went to dinner together beforehand, laughed a lot, got dessert; then walked and talked before entering the concert venue, where we danced and sang along to every song we knew. When Chris Young started singing his platinum “I’m Comin’ Over“, I leaned over to Grant and yelled into his ear over the noise, “This is our song!”

He looked surprised; then embarrassed, and yelled back into my ear, “I don’t know whether to laugh or feel convicted!” It was a fair response. Grant and I have kissed a few times and kind of gone on pseudo-dates over the years, but he has never intentionally pursued a serious relationship with me. We get along well, and there is mutual physical attraction as well as a shared faith, but – although he is turning 32 this month – Grant still lacks the maturity and commitment to lead a meaningful relationship.

I tend to assume that Grant and I are just going to events as friends, but occasionally he surprises me and wants a kiss at the end of the night. This time when tickled my sides and leaned in, I put my hand on his chest and reminded him, “I’m not dating this year, remember?”

“I know,” he said glumly, giving me a hug instead. But as he pulled away, he allowed his hands to linger and wander.

“Grant…” I warned. “We’re not doing this.”

“I have a roommate now,” he told me in a playful tone. “But you don’t. I won’t even kiss you. But if I were to choose between sleeping alone in my bed or just getting to hold you all night, there’s no contest.” He winked at me.

He was inviting himself over. To hold me all night. Just as friends, of course. Because it wasn’t enough for Cory to make me feel like a piece of meat. My friend, companion and brother in Christ had to do it, too. I am not valued for anything other than my body.

“Grant, you are not coming over. We are not going to be friends with benefits.” I paused. “Do you even want to date me? I mean, I know that I’m not dating right now, but if I were, would you be interested? Would tonight have been a date?”

Grant looked uncomfortable with the turn of conversation. He enjoyed flirting with me and getting the occasional kiss, but he didn’t want to talk about his feelings or intentions. “You’re a beautiful girl, Aurora. You’re smart and godly… You’re the kind of girl I should want to date.”

Wow. And with that line, he told me all I needed to know. “So you wouldn’t ever actually date me? You’d rather have all your busty girls in low-cut shirts who are willing to do things I’m not?”

“That’s not it at all. It’s…” he hesitated. “It’s your engineer personality. Sometimes you make math jokes that just aren’t funny.” This from the man who, earlier in the evening, asked me why cows don’t have feet (because they “lactose”).

“Wow, Grant. Wow. You make sports references all the time that I don’t get, and you make lame groaners of jokes that I don’t think are funny, but that’s a part of your charm. I care about you, and man, you’ve got to learn to accept people’s quirks as a part of what makes them who they are.”

“You don’t like my jokes?” he asked. He completely missed the fact that I was trying to point out to him that, to be in relationship with someone, you have to learn to cherish their “faults” as well as their strengths. Or that if he didn’t think he could ever live with my “engineer personality”, he needed to stop flirting with the line between friends and more-than-friends.

I got out of his truck without another word. I had nothing more to say, and I didn’t want him to see me cry. The ones closest to you are the ones with the most power to wound you. If I hadn’t gotten out of his truck as fast as I had, with him calling “Aurora” behind me, this is what I would have said:

Someday there will be a man who will love me just the way that God made me, engineer personality and all. You are not that man, so please never again call me to be your plus one play date. You have repeatedly demonstrated to me that you love my body but not my brain, and if you respected me, you would want better than that for me. As of now, you are too broken and selfish to be bothered by how much you damage those who you falsely convince yourself you care for. So I’m opening the aviary gate and setting you free. Your wing is still broken, but I am not your keeper. I am not your Healer. You are no longer my concern. There are other birds in the sky – ones without broken wings.

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part I

Yankee capI noticed him the moment I stepped from the cab and onto the rain-soaked sidewalk beside the pier. He stood bent over a blue Team USA duffel bag, biceps bulging and baseball cap pulled low over his eyes to shield him from the light drizzle that was already beginning to mist my hair. His sandy brown hair poked out from beneath his cap, and as he righted himself, I saw deep smile lines etched around his eyes and chiseled below his cheekbones.

Marina and Verna made a beeline for the cruise ship so, pulling my gaze away from the tanned athlete, I grabbed the handle of my lavender suitcase and hurried along behind them. Five minutes later, we walked through the metal detectors of security, and I glanced behind me to see Mr. Team USA standing directly behind Verna in line to board the ship.

The two other girls were oblivious to his presence, but as we snaked our way through the line toward the gangway, I glanced in his direction each time we turned a corner to circle back the other direction. The ball cap wearer and I made eye contact a few times, and the third time, he smiled at me. I smiled shyly before ducking my head and scurrying forward in the line, chiding myself. You’re not dating this year. You’re not dating this year.

My younger brother met his wife on a cruise a few years ago, so it was hard not to get the idea in my head, but I kept coaching myself that I am committed to taking this year off dating. It’s a lot easier to keep that mindset when you don’t have two married women – your only travel companions – teasing you, encouraging you and constantly looking to set you up with every young, able-bodied male on the cruise ship.

Long after I’d started making eyes at Mr. Team USA, Verna started complaining about wrist pain from her poor computer set up at the office. I watched in fascination at the various expressions flickering across Mr. Team USA’s face. He was obviously listening, and eventually, he spoke up. “If you wear a rubber band around your wrist, you can do finger and wrist strengthening exercises like this,” he gestured, and we all looked down to where he demonstrated the exercise for us with a rubber band he wore encircling his wrist.

Marina, being a fitness instructor, jumped right into the conversation, asking him what he does for a living. Jordan (as he introduced himself) is an orthopedic massage therapist who studied under the Yankees’ orthopedic physician and also does work on a few guys in the NFL. He is currently studying for his physical trainer certification and has a few patents in the works.

I tried to ignore the winks from Verna and wiggling eyebrows from Marina as we boarded the ship. “Who are you here with?” I asked Jordan nonchalantly. He appeared to be traveling alone.

“One of my orthopedic buddies and his kids,” Jordan answered as – sure enough – a slender man in his late forties approached with five boys and one girl in tow. Only two of the boys turned out to be his sons; the others were friends who’d come along for the vacation.

Our now-huge group was starting to block the gangway, so Marina, Verna and I started moving in the direction of our cabin and, after an only slightly awkward pause, Jordan extended his arm for a handshake, wishing me well with a nod and, “Maybe I’ll see ya around.”

And see me around, he did.

Authentically Aurora