What does provocative dating with respect and a pure passion look like?

I was privileged to belong to a good singles group at Bayside Church-Granite Bay for a few years. We met on a campuse located in a glitzy, vibrant and friendly suburb of Sacramento. It’s about an hour from San Francisco if you keep your foot hard on the gas. We explored the topic of healthy dating and relationships a lot. Many singles married out of that big and the most actively serving group in the Church. Singles ministry is highly marginalized and under-rated by the greater Church. The guidelines below are not from that group. They are from City Church in San Francisco. Another pioneering Church I belonged to for a season. Ha!

Today a lot of relationships are all about ownership and control. Years ago one could get to know girls or guys and have fun doing it. People were more natural, real and vulnerable. There was more honest communication without manipulation. I invite you to consider these guidelines. Try them on in your relationships before you judge them. They’re designed to protect us, not restrict us, in the long run.

1. If you are a woman who generally pursues men first , stop and allow men to pursue you. If you are a man who waits for women to ask you out, take the first step and ask them out instead. A woman pursuing a man sets up an uncomfortable power dynamic that is difficult to change later.

2. Stay away from verbal foreplay early on in the relationship. Engage in sexual-type talk only after you know each other well, at least a few months into the relationship. These types of conversations can become the central focus of your interactions, making it harder to experience other parts of your relationship.

3. Don’t have a sexual relationship until you are committed to and love each other. Some take this a step further and say until you are married. Having sex with someone you are not married to can make you open to extreme vulnerabilities, physical and emotional abuse. This may seem old fashioned; however, relationships are partnerships. Although sexuality is a part of a relationship, it is not a good for foundation on which to build a relationship. If you build your relationship on sex, it will most likely fall like a house of cards.

4. Limit your time together in the beginning. See or be on the phone with each other in moderation. How is a house built? Brick by brick. How have you developed friendships? Over time. Does an intimate relationship deserve any less?

5. Spend more time courting in person rather than by email or phone. Electronic communication has an aspect of anonymity and safety. It allows for a false sense of closeness. If this is your primary mode of communication, you may feel awkward with each other in person.

6. Be yourself at all times in the dating process. Doing so allows both of you to clearly see if the relationship will work. If you are compatible, you will discover more things to like about each other. If you are not compatible, you will be able to find out sooner rather than later.

7. Be clear from the start about how you want and don’t want to be treated. It’s better to know how your new partner responds or doesn’t respond to your boundaries and standards.

8. Be aware of who your new partner is. At the same time, don’t automatically assume he will disappoint you in the same ways you’ve been disappointed before. Give him a chance to treat you well rather than testing to see if he will cause you pain.

9. Accept your new partner as she/he is or don’t engage in the relationship. If the behavior bothers you but doesn’t bother her/him you can be sure that this behavior will continue. Accept how your new partner is now, rather than hoping for change , or get out.

10. Enjoy. Have fun. Connect. Learn. Dating is wonderful! It’s a chance to meet new and interesting people and do fun activities. It’s an opportunity for growth. If you do it gently, without jeopardizing your emotional well-being, it will add sparkle not sinister ism to your life 🙂


Celebrating 100 years of the Royal Air Force and inspiring the next generation in Portrush

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
Winston Churchill.

On September 2nd I had the great privilege and honor of watching The Royal Air Force mark its 100th anniversary in spectacular style at Air Waves Portrush. History and heritage came alive for me in my favorite place in the world, East Strand, Portrush, as the Lancaster Hurricane and Spitfire came together in the Battle of Britain Memorial flight.

The Red Arrows, the Typhoon jet, the Tutor and the Falcons parachute display pulled out all the stops to showcase for us a variety of skills, stunts and daredevil action.

About 150,000 people gathered to enjoy the fabulous flying program. The Swiss Classic Formation made it’s debut over the 2 day event. The vintage trio entertained the crowds with the Beech 18 and DC-3 aircraft. I didn’t get to see everything but I heard the event also featured the Global Stars aerobatic team, the Catalina sea plane, the Sea Fury and the Calidus Autogyro.

I had to be out of the water and Arcadia beach head earlier than usual on my Sunday morning swim. But boy was it worth it to welcome the world’s most amazing, skilled and inspiring air force who are famous for defeating the seemingly unstoppable Luftwaffe.

Pivotal moments on the pathway of life in Ireland

“If the only prayer you say in your life is, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart.

The yellow and white stripes on the tall cement posts at the petrol station in Lurgan drew my attention. The official colors of the Vatican. I stared out at the rain from the comfort of my car. I was early and headed for an all-day gratitude meeting in The Hub in Craigavon. I was also about to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years. The picture below is of me and said friend, Barbara, taken a few days later, standing outside The House of Mc Donnell in Ballycastle. What a fun time we had at The Auld Lammas Fair which is the oldest Fair in Ireland. The pub behind us is 260 year’s old.

me and barbara

Back to Lurgan petrol station. A radio broadcast in my car was highlighting the celebratory and diplomatic nature of the papal visit. I’m aware of the grace, goodness and encouragement his visit will bring to the many Catholics in Ireland. I’m also aware of the protests and silent vigils taking place around the country; particularly in Tuam (mass babies grave) and parts of Dublin for (clerical abuse, Magdalene Laundries and religious institution survivors). My mother was a religious industrial survivor from Cork so I was both triggered and intrigued by the visit.

The depth of betrayal of the Church and the massive failure of ecclesiastical authorities to address the problems of the severe clerical child abuse was discussed. It seems all the Churches in Ireland are struggling so the question, will his visit spark a spiritual revival, or is The Church in terminal decline was put forward. The Pope’s visit to Ireland has raised many fascinating big questions for me. Too many to include here. If you’d like to start a dialogue about that please free to comment below.

I told a friend I was going to blog about his visit. She said “don’t write about the pope, they’ll come after you.” Not sure who they were. I haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer to why it’s taken the pope 39 years to come to Ireland. I jokingly asked another friend why the pope didn’t arrange a meeting with me, and he said, “maybe he knows you don’t like the taste of holy communion,”

A second pivotal moment was passing in the United States. My second home. Senator John Mc Cain died. He was an American war hero who sacrificed and suffered much for his country (he overcame torture and genuinely put the greater good of his country above himself). Some wondered if his death might cause GOP members of Congress to find the courage and backbone to speak the truth in the face of the peril and public deceit of the President. Maybe Obama was right when he said “he was the greatest president we never had.”

A third pivotal moment occurred at my Families of Alanon gratitude meeting. I bumped into my first boyfriend who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. He still lives in New York, in the same Irish and Jewish beach community where I first lived too. He thanked me for a few things. One thing was, he wouldn’t be living in New York now if I hadn’t gone there first in 1986.

It’s such a small world when you’re from Ireland.

me and Paul.jpg

Is there a perfect recipe for Irish brown soda bread a.k.a cake?

For my friends who requested the recipe:

Makes 1 Loaf:
450 g/1lb/3-3/4 US cups of wholemeal wheat flour
175 g/6oz/1-1/2 cups plain white flour
1 teasp (generous) bicarbonate of soda
1 teasp salt
About 450 ml/15 fl oz (scant) 2 US cups buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 200 C/400F or Gas 6
Mix flours, salt and soda in a bowl
Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough
Flour your hands and work surface and knead lightly by hand, until the dough is smooth. Don’t use a machine
Shape into a circle about 4cm/1-1/2 inches deep
Take sharp, well-floured knife and cut a deep cross in the top
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes
To see if it is fully cooked test it by tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound
Cool on a rack or, if you like a soft crust, wrapped in a linen or cotton tea-cloth
Eat the same day


20 Developing Reconcilers after the worst atrocity of The Troubles?

“Reconciliation does not remove the injuries and wounds of the past. A love of reconciliation is not weakness or cowardice. It demands courage, nobility and generosity.”
Stanislaus Kennedy.

I’ve never taken a seat at a negotiating table but I was challenged to be a peacemaker in the heart of a beautiful community that suffered one of the worst atrocities of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The 20 year anniversary of the Omagh car bomb attack that indiscriminately killed 29 men, women and children and injured hundreds more was marked throughout Ireland this week.

I was living in San Francisco when the attack occurred yet the news shook me to the core. I was helping southeast Asian women who had fled The Killing Fields in Cambodia, land jobs. My female boss was completing her PHD in Peace Studies at Berkeley. I returned to Northern Ireland shortly thereafter and Women Together for Peace, in Belfast, asked me to develop Peace and Reconciliation courses for women in three communities in Northern Ireland.

In Omagh I worked with Ireland’s Center for Reconciliation Studies, Omagh District Council, and Omagh Churches Forum to develop a course with a team that provided women from the different Christian Churches with an opportunity to develop themselves as Reconcilers.

Through listening and dialoguing with a range of speakers from different fields of expertise, who were committed to the reconciliation process, participants were encouraged to explore the relational nature of reconciliation in personal, social, political and religious contexts. The course was well attended and received great feedback. It was open to anyone interested in the subject matter and in improving understanding between the churches in the area.

This is not a statement of theology or a political statement. I write for my own emotional well being, healing, liberation and freedom.  I also write to resolve issues from a politically turbulent past. Facing and learning from the past is freeing. I hope these questions help us to do that;

1. What does it mean to you to be a peacemaker in your school, workplace, family or community?

2. Does Omagh still need more therapeutic resources/money/funding/tools for groups on the quarry face (the forgotten nurses, doctors, emergency response teams on that fateful day AND the relatives of those killed)?

3. What is preventing the government of Northern Ireland from giving the people of Omagh the tools/resources they still need to heal from the trauma of the Omagh bomb?


Meeting masters of camouflage

On Monday morning Linda joined me for an open sea swim at The Arcadia Bathing Place. It use to be The “Ladies Only” Bathing Place. The scene was idyllic as I looked out onto The Skerries. We agreed to swim a little out of our depth, passed the Harbor master’s house and slipway towards what use to be The Blue Pool, and “Gentleman Only” Bathing Place.

Me and Linda

I lead but made a quick course correction after Linda touched a big jellyfish. A fuzzy shape floated close to me which prompted a second shriek. We swam as quick as quick as sharks to the shore’s edge, where we were happy to “see the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.” As I swam a purple jellyfish encounter prompted a third shriek.

Onlookers from The Arcadia balcony, including ABC veterans, thought a rescue might be in order. They were confused. The seemingly idyllic sea-scape scene did not warrant our hysteria!

Even though the sea looks idyllic there are powerful forces at work moving along our beaches. Jellyfish is one such force. Usually harmless but not always. Rip currents are another force. The RNLI lifeguards have had a number of rescues this year directly caused by people getting caught in Rips.

These forces can appear without warning and turn any beach setting into a scene of chaos and panic. Don’t be fooled or minimize their impact. They disappear as quickly as they appear.  They’re masters of camouflage. The majority of beachgoers can’t recognize their danger so each year they claim more lives than all our natural disasters combined.

Cute, interesting and slow moving forces also visit the Port beaches. Look at Sammy the Seal below and how far up the beach he has come on Portrush East Strand. He’s another example of a master of camouflage. He looks harmless and even playful but he can snap, bite and bark if you get too close!

Sammy The Seal


Swimming in stunning sea-scapes on the west coast of Ireland

During the July heatwave I went west in search of stunning sea-scapes on the west coast of Ireland. There is so much natural beauty; particularly in County Mayo! The cultural heritage in this region of Ireland is fascinating too.

I swam a lot. Sometimes alone. Sometimes others joined in. I’m grateful for the new friends I made in each place. Swimming along The Wild Atlantic Way, in the open sea has become an invigorating pilgrimage in honour of a woman who had an incredible beauty of spirit, my mum.

Margaret Helen Dean.

mum yosemite

Since my mum died last April on Easter Sunday open sea swimming has given me a place to put the pain. I am giving it back to Ireland, naturally.  As Rilke says; “to the heaviness of the oceans from which ultimately comes the saltwater which makes up our tears. Our tears connect us still to the oceans that spawned us.

Dog Head 2

One day in a pure unspoiled area of special importance, in Mayo, my car got stuck in the sand. I was on a beach classified as the third finest beach in Europe. I had to drive to get to the water’s edge. Okay, I disobeyed the don’t drive beyond this point rules and maybe  I have lived in America too long. After knocking on a few doors in a rural area I found a farmer on a roof. He graciously agreed to tractor pull my car out of the sand. I’ve always wanted a ride in a red tractor.

Here’s a few sea-scapes I was compelled to swim in. Stunning Joe (1st picture) and I had a great day swimming in the lovely harbor and another beach at An Spideal in Galway !