My Birthday Gift To Me

Samantha Hess

Hello All,

Thank you for being here. Today is my 33rd birthday, and this is giving me an opportunity to look back on things to figure out who I am and where I’m going in my life.

This last week has humbled me a few times, and the last few months have had some challenges that I have not yet shared with many of you. In the spirit of being true to myself I wanted to take the time today to do the last thing in the world I want to do, which is tell you about all these struggles. Vulnerability is a beast. It’s also something I always want to have in my life.

Please be warned that this part gets very personal and has some medical stuff that you may want to skip if you are someone who will be very saddened by hearing more of these struggles in my world. If you don’t want the TMI part please skip to the paragraph that starts in bold. That being said, I’m fine. No major catastrophes at hand, but more pain. About 6 months ago I started getting sporadic and very painful cramps low in my belly. They come and go usually lasting a few seconds to a few hours. This began happening often enough that I finally decided to go to the doctor maybe 2 months ago. They referred me to get an ultrasound, and it turns out I have some ovarian cysts. I then got referred to a specialist whom I finally got to see about 2 weeks ago. They replaced my IUD early as part of the treatment and they put me on birth control pills as well for the next 3 months because estrogen is supposed to help diminish these. I left the DR with a prescription for birth control and knowledge that if this doesn’t fix it I may need surgery or worst case scenario emergency surgery if one of them explodes in my body causing internal hemorrhaging that could kill me (along with the worst pain of my life). Ok. Great. Awesome. Deep breath. Ok. Putting that last part aside as much as possible I started taking the pills about 10 days ago now. The thing I forgot about birth control pills is mostly the part where my body goes through the teen girl phase of emotional roller coaster. Within 12 hours of this being in my system I began to weep for no reason a few times a day. I was irritable and miserable for no good reason.  Ok, if I’m being completely honest, I am still feeling that way. The other thing I forget is that my boobs hurt pretty much all the time. it’s starting to get better finally, but my goodness, I’m super over all of these symptoms. I wish my body would agree. On top of this, the 2nd ultrasound I had with the specialist showed more cysts than the first one, and I don’t yet have a follow up appointment scheduled, so I’m nervous about the outcome. The pain from these things feels like I’m being punched in the stomach, but for a lot more than just a moment typically. Often it’s waking me up at night and keeping me up for an hour or more. I am experiencing these attacks by my body at least a few times a day and on average they last maybe 45 minutes. Good thing I’ve got my meditation practice on point. I have yet to take any pain medication (which would be ibuprofen for me) as I’m not a fan of these. Hopefully I won’t have to resort to medication for pain. The other issue with this is that because my body is fighting this I am dealing with inflammation that is causing my chronic back pain to significantly increase. Now I’m crying for no reason and sometime because it hurts so much that tears just fall out of my eyes. Wuf. I’m not sure when this will get better, and I really hope it won’t require surgery. Right now though, I’m in the middle of having to sit with the uncertainty, the pain, and the stress of regular life on top of all these new dilemmas. For those of you who know me in person please note that this in no way means you need to change anything you do to make me comfortable. I hope all of you are well aware of me holding my boundaries and keeping myself as comfortable as possible proactively. If I need to change anything I will let you know. I am not broken. I am not fragile. If I say anything that comes across out of character, I apologize. I am doing my best to be a good person with these new struggles.

Moving on…

The other big challenge in my world is being humbled by a lot of folks in a very short time. Let me explain in a sort of convoluted way…

Recently I had a conversation where confidence and arrogance were better defined for me in the context of my world. For me, confidence is a space that is nonjudgmental and a space where someone is open to learning/growing/changing their opinion with new information. Arrogance is more the stubborn, elitist, know it all, judgemental space where someone is unwilling to consider changing their position. It has recently been brought to my attention that I have acted in an arrogant way toward other people and businesses in my industry. Instead of only working to build my own brand I have recently discovered that I do have arrogance I portray around feeling like my way is the right way for others to view what I do. This is not acceptable, and I have some apologies to make. I have been treated horribly. I have been disrespected, torn apart, and walked all over. This is no excuse to attack others or consider other perspectives to be worth less than my own though, and I do need to correct this. It’s not an easy thing being a very young leader in a very new industry working with many others who have a decade or more experience in learning humility, diplomacy, and grace. I am, however, held to the standard of the folks around me regardless of age, experience, or wisdom in any of us. This means that no matter where I am at in my life, I have no excuse to treat people poorly ever. It means that I have the accountability and responsibility to apologize when others have harmed me as well. I have the right to forgive without receiving apologies when people treat me with disrespect, and I have the honor and vulnerability to correct my mistakes.

I find it very important that my work be seen for what it is, but my mistake was in believing that how others use the name of my profession for other purposes diminishes the work I am doing. I don’t need to worry about what others are doing, except when I see people being mistreated. I will always stand up for myself. I will always stand up for what I believe is right, fair, and just. And I will always be open to considering I am wrong.

Right now I am in a place where I am realizing that the vision I had for my business needs to shift. My hope to be a leader in this industry is one that no longer helps me or others. My goal instead needs to be scaled back and focused on providing the one on one unconditional love and acceptance so my confidence stays very clear from the arrogance it has drifted to. Yes, I have done very important work and I will continue to do so. Yes, there will be leaders in this industry. No, I do not want to be one of them anymore. I want to make space in my heart for all healing modalities, and I want to avoid the pitfall of thinking that I can be defined by words when what I do is spoken only in the language of love.

Moving forward I will do my best to make amends to those I have hurt, and I will spend time reevaluating my world, my place, and my future while continuing to provide the space for healing and thriving on a one on one and community level. I will continue to offer training to others who seek to follow my path, but I no longer want to be the leader of this industry. I no longer want to be the one who says my concepts are the best way to be. Everyone deserves to honor what is true to them, and I want to honor each of us who are caring for others, regardless of how I have been hurt.

I realize this is all very vague, but that is only for respect of those I have not yet attempted amends with. I want to thank you for being here with me in my journey. I want to thank you for caring about yourself and those around you. I want to thank myself for having the courage to admit when I’m wrong and the ability to get back up no matter how many times I get knocked down. Today I celebrate myself through vulnerability and through a fresh perspective that feels a lot closer to the true me.

With love and gratitude,

Samantha Hess

No Thank You

Hi All!

As we get this group cuddle thing up and running I wanted to take a minute to share a little more about one of the workshop exercises as there’s not much time to explain at the events. 

The first exercise we do is called the “No Thank You Exercise.” This happens after we:

1) Each introduce ourselves by whatever appropriate name we prefer to go by for the evening, how we are feeling right then, and anything the group should know about us (i.e. trauma, triggers, intentions, hopes, etc.).

2) Go over 8 rules for the evening: arrive and stay sober, confidentiality, no touch required ever, you are always welcome to change your mind, respect boundaries of ourselves and others, keep all touch G rated, if you get aroused please switch poses or change activities, and utilize the Ask and Wait Method which is just like it sounds with the addition of using neutral body language when asking and waiting for a response. 

We then put you with a partner with the premise that no touch is allowed. If it’s a large group we will have you state your name again to your partner (without touching) and then take turns asking for a hug. The partner then says “No thank you.” regardless of if they want a hug or not for the time being. It is then the asker’s turn to say something kind and accepting to the person who said “No thank you.” We have you reverse roles, and practice this with a few more people so everyone has at least a few opportunities to practice this method. 

This concept of respecting boundaries with enthusiasm does many things: 

  1. It shows us that this person knows their boundaries and is willing to say no when something doesn’t work for them. 
  2. It helps us understand that every “Yes” we get is a true yes and not given out of obligation or pressure.
  3.  It takes the pressure/obligation off of each of us to say “yes” when we are actually a “no” because in this space we know people are respecting themselves and each other. There is no pressure here to give what we perceive as the social normative response. 
  4. It gives us the right to say no when we don’t want to do something. (btw- I’m driving myself crazy trying to figure out where I should be putting quotes and knowing how awful my grammar is in this post. I also am deciding to accept that I don’t know all the things and that you all will correct me if if bothers you enough and I can update it as needed. Thank you for this.) 
  5. It helps us deal with rejection by practicing hearing it and responding in a kind way. 
  6. It gives us an opportunity to praise those who are giving only true consent and following their heart. 
  7. It helps us learn how to be ok with a “no” by putting value in the “yes.”
  8. It teaches us to respect ourselves by saying no even when it’s hard. 
  9. It gives us an opportunity to learn new ways to praise others for being true to themselves. 
  10. It reminds us that we aren’t always on the same page with those around us, and it gives us that time to consider the feelings of ourselves and others. 

I’m certain you all can come up with even more, but that seems clear for now. 

I also wanted to throw out some options we can use in our day to day lives to help take the sting out of a no when we hear it: 

  • Thank you for taking care of yourself. 
  • You knowing your boundaries and sticking up for what’s right for you makes me feel safe. 
  • I appreciate you knowing what’s right for you. 
  • Thank you for being real with me. 
  • I hear you and I accept where you are at. 
  • Your honesty makes me feel trusted, and I appreciate that.  
  • Thank you for knowing you are safe to give a real answer with me.
  • You respecting your boundaries makes me feel safe to respect my own. 

Rejection is hard, and it sucks. This i know from personal experience. I spent a decade being rejected thousands of times by the one person who was supposed to love me more than anyone else. I know how it feels to ask, and I know how it feels to go months and years without my own needs being met. One thing I have learned is that for me, rejection is simply fear of abandonment. It’s vulnerable, and it hurts to feel alone. To feel like no one understands me or cares for me is tragic. Living this way is debilitating. After going through that whole mess at the end of 2015 and seeing a therapist I have learned that I can no longer be abandoned because wherever I go, there I am (even when I don’t want me to be). haha. But for serious, I always have me, and therefor I can never be alone. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to everyone, but to me it means that rejection is something I can deal with because now when I ask for something that someone doesn’t have to give I know that I can and will find a way to meet that need for myself. 

That doesn’t mean that I don’t need other people. Quite the contrary.  It does mean that if someone I ask something of cannot/will not fill that role for me, I have the ability to hear and accept that. I recognize that I wouldn’t want to accept a yes from someone who truly didn’t want to give it. By taking responsibility for hearing and accepting the no from others, I have been giving the right and responsibility to do so from myself as well.  Learning this lesson means that I  will no longer say yes to things when I don’t have them to give.

As a people pleaser I still have some guilt that comes up when I say no to things, but I say it anyway now. I don’t agree to things anymore that I don’t want to or that I don’t truly feel I am capable of giving freely. This is a work in progress for me, and I am certain it will take a lifetime to master. I am grateful to have this work to do though. Hopefully knowing a bit about my journey, and a little about the context behind the yeses and no’s in my world and environments will help you on this journey as well. 

Peace, Love, and Cuddles, 

Samantha Hess (:

It’s OK to Not be OK

“It just has to be ok for me to not be ok sometimes” I said as I lie next to my beau a few nights ago before bed.

If you know anything about me by this point it’s likely that you know I try to be superhuman often. The last few months have been pretty roller coastery for me even with a lifetime of practicing as an overachiever. Moving, selling my house, recreating my in person certification program to work for a group coming in on different days and also to work for visibly impaired folks, running the business, trying to keep up with about 40 new online certification folks, trying to find new people to hire, trying to figure out what we’re going to do when our lease runs out on the studio, having 2 employees leave, having another take a 2 week vacation (putting all the pressure of making enough to get the biz through Dec squarely on my shoulders), holidays, family birthdays, and all the little humaning tasks associated with all these things too.

For the past 7ish weeks I’ve been living with a lot of my stuff in boxes in the garage mostly because I’ve been too busy/overwhelmed with life stuff to deal with it. The other part is that the stuff that’s in boxes in the garage are the final fragments of my life before I was this. It’s all the leftover memories of a life lived in shame, fear, and endless self-doubt. It’s like looking at the ghost of a person who no longer exists, and I suppose some part of me hasn’t found full closure on all of this still.

The “stuff” haunts me sometimes as I have watched my mom’s hoarding tendencies create a world where everything is so important that there can never truly be room for anything. I don’t want to live that way, but I also recognize that dealing the the stuff, looking at it, holding it, feeling the feelings, and ultimately, letting it go is what will bring me clarity and the productivity I need to keep moving forward.

Lately I have felt entirely unmotivated. I have had days where I haven’t worked at all (ok, very few but still). I’ve had days where I was too tired, too sad, too whatever to do anything but lie in bed and wait and hope that with rest I will feel better and more capable of being me.

“It just has to be ok for me to not be ok sometimes.”

When we laid there and cuddled up after another long day that was not as productive as I would have liked my beau started out hesitantly “There’s something I’ve noticed lately that I feel we need to talk about, but I don’t want to pile on…” I told him I’d rather we talk about it as I would pretty much always rather talk about whatever it is than not. He tells me that I’ve been a slob and leaving my things everywhere and it’s been so much of this that it’s now affecting his world and he’d like it to change. In all fairness he was completely right. I had been leaving my stuff everywhere, getting home and throwing my clothes wherever I changed and putting my bag down wherever and even leaving old dishes lying around. Not who I am. Not who I want to be. Where I am at right now…

In typical “overly emotional sam” style I cry as I start to explain myself and try to justify why I’ve been terrible at humaning lately. Telling him all the things about how uncomfortable I am in this new space. How I feel like I so much to do that it’s overwhelming and then I not only don’t make it better, but I actively make it worse by being self destructive and leaving my shit everywhere as my little rebellion to myself for pushing too damn hard. How I feel like I don’t have the help I need. And finally how all the stuff in the garage is hard to deal with because of all the things I said above and how sometimes it needs to be ok for me to not be ok. Sometimes I have to break too. Sometimes I need to be a lazy asshole who’s self destructive and has no fucks to give because I. HAVE. NO. FUCKS. TO. GIVE. and I need that to be ok (and of course I say all of this while crying in this poor, sweet man’s arms).

Somehow he understood and didn’t take offense. He gave me permission to not be ok. He told me how he wants to continue to be a support person for me, and how he understands that he doesn’t need to fix it. Thank goodness for this man who gets me.

Yesterday he stayed home after a rough night of sleep and spent the whole day helping pick up, move the stuff that he knew he could, and do 8,000 little things to help make my life a little easier. When I got home yesterday our room was still a mess. There were still boxes in the garage. There was still a million tasks I hadn’t finished (as will likely always be the case for me). But there was less.  It was better. I had been allowed to not be ok, and somehow that made me more ok. The acceptance of the “not ok” is so heart opening for me. Being able to sit in that space and hold that feeling. Being allowed to feel less than human. It somehow has this magic feeling for me of giving me permission to be me.

I realized when I got home that I hadn’t eaten lunch yet…it was about 5pm. haha. 3rd time this week I forgot to eat lunch. I grabbed a snack after thanking my beau for all the things he had done to help, and I laid down and watched an episode of The Dick Van Dyke show. I then got up, and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to clean and put order into my life again, and so I did. By the time I went to bed the room was beautiful. It was as it should be, and so was I.

Today has been a little easier living again in the context of being allowed to be human. There’s still boxes in the garage, still unopened boxes (there’s a blog post about this in the archives if you want to read it btw), and there’s still a million things I’m super far behind on. But today, right now, I get to human, and I get to feel good about going home to a beautiful clean room, a man who loves and supports me more than anyone (besides my family) ever has, and I get to be ok.

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,
Samantha Hess

Future Favors

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but you guys know me, there’s never enough time…so that’s why I’m doing myself a future favor and doing it now (instead of being stressed about the 1,080 emails I haven’t responded to yet). 😀 

Future favors is a concept that I stole from How I Met Your Mother where Ted and Marshall left an important decision up to their future selves with terrible results. haha. I love that show. Of course, me being an optimist and all I choose to use this is the opposite way. For me, future favors are the big or little things I do right meow because tomorrow or next week or 12 years from now I’m going to need something but I’m not going to have the time/money/energy/etc to make it happen. Hence future favors. This is something I encourage all of you to do too. 

This is the little moment where I have the extra minute in the morning that I could spend on Facebook but instead I make my bed. Or the 12 seconds I take to leave myself a positive message and stick it to my bathroom mirror so I remember that “I’m a rad panda!” This is when I buy a condo at the age of 20 so that instead of wasting my money and paying someone else’s rent for 12 years when I turn 32 and have lived in debt for way too long I can cash out and be so grateful that past me had the sense that someday I might need an extra hand. 

What happens for me is that I get to feel good twice instead of lazy once and overwhelmed later. This means I get to send my future self a life line and know that even if the world drags me down, I’ve got me. Thanks past me! You’re welcome future me! 

Because at the end of a 19 hour day when I have -142 fucks left to give I get to stumble my way into my bedroom not to discover that I have clothes everywhere and my bed looks like a tornado but instead I get to see a perfectly made bed with a full glass of water and order in my physical world even when my brain and my body feel like chaos. It’s that moment that I get to smile and take a deep breath. I get to be ok rather than having one more fucking thing to do when I really don’t have it in me to do. 

Here is a list of my most common future favors: 

  • Make my bed
  • Fill my water glass
  • Fold and put away my laundry
  • Make my lunch for the next day the night before
  • Write myself a reminder note on my phone and set a notification so I don’t have to remember the thing
  • Keep a log of the exercise I did so i don’t have to keep track mentally
  • Stretch before bed so I’ll actually sleep
  • Take valerian root if I’ve had caffeine so I’ll actually sleep
  • Lay out clothes for the next day so I don’t have to think when my brain hasn’t turned on (ok- if you know me in person you know that on work days I don’t care at all what I look like, but on days where I have to person I do this)
  • Put earplugs in my purse before a concert
  • Keep a little cash in surprise places like my purse/phone case/pockets
  • Make a few pot edibles to keep on hand for when my back pain is out of control
  • Schedule “Sam time” for lunch/self care/family time/etc
  • Turn off my ringer before bed
  • Meditate
  • Make extra food so I don’t have to cook as often
  • Buy extra household supplies so I don’t run out 
  • Bring snacks with me so I don’t get hangry! 

For me it’s not just about doing the thing, but it’s about doing the thing with the intention of saving my future self some hassle. It’s delayed gratification at its finest. This is how I survive my crazy, hectic life. Future favors are my way of being grateful to myself because I’m worth the time and effort I give to everyone else too. Who’s with me? 

“Should”

In a session today we had a very intriguing conversation around the word “should” that I would like to share: It’s a fascinating word that is nothing more than a signifier of guilt, shame, and judgment. Think about it with me. When we say we “should” [fill in the blank] we are often saying that what we did was not socially accepted/responsible, appropriate, or bad. In terms of things others “should” do it is often (if not always) a judgment. It is an expression of a lost expectation. It is us saying that what was or will be is not good enough or not right. Should is us avoiding ownership of what is. 

What I would like to do is ask that any of you who want to work on this with me (as I am at least an occasional user of this word) follow some of these suggestions and report back how we’re doing with it in month or two. Who’s with me? Here is what we talked about today, and I hope you will help me add more to the list: 

Instead of using “should” I will try to rephrase it with I: 

  • want
  • would like
  • wish
  • hope
  • enjoy
  • feel
  • need
  • let
  • allow
  • feel good about
  • grant
  • adore
  • admire
  • own
  • award
  • give

That’s all for today folks. I’m off to get ready for my next session. Happy New Year! I hope to write more soon! 

Peace, Love, and Cuddles,

Samantha Hess

Guide to Snuggle Parties and Random Life Updates

Hello All!

I’m partially using this post to give you a life update, and partially to tell you about my experience with snuggle parties. Here’s the life updates. Skip to the bold section to bypass and get to the snuggly stuff 🙂

Last night I cancelled girl’s night with the few remaining friends I have. I was saddened to do so, but I also really am finding a need to listen to my intuition on my self care. This week has been nuts. The last month…oh gosh, you have heard this from me a thousand times by now. My life is B. A. N. A. N. A. S. You get it. I get it. Let’s just move on shall we? The current craziness:

Had someone I was super excited about hiring at the studio basically tell me that me paying for the rent, insurance, training, laundry, power, phone, wifi, etc (all the business expenses) does not justify paying her so little and she refused to come on board. I have problems with this on many levels: 1) If you are so financially driven that you don’t see the value in providing this service for the very fair wage we pay, you aren’t the right person for this industry. 2) Having someone question how valuable they find themselves over myself, my employees, and my business puts that little fear of shame and guilt in me about how maybe what I think this is worth isn’t valid (I got over this quickly, but it still happened and I want to acknowledge that). 3) One of the very first things I list on the application is the amount we pay our employees as to avoid wasting anyone’s time. This woman claimed she agreed to this when she applied. She then wasted hours of my time and received a free session as part of the process only to tell me that we don’t pay enough so she’s backing out. This makes me feel used and disrespected. 5) After telling me how I don’t pay enough and she deserves much more she also casually mentioned that she hopes that I not let this interfere with any future business relationships we may have which sounded to me an awful lot like “I am currently too good to work for you, but if that changes please hire me later.” Wuf.

My roommate is moving out. He is 2/3′s of my income every month, and now I get to stress about how I’m going to pay property taxes on my condo, cover my basic living expenses, and have a week or more without the income I need to pay my mortgage. I’m considering selling my condo again for this and many other reasons. I’m struggling with how to figure all this out before I lose my house to foreclosure anyway. Wuf again.

A couple weeks back I was being a dingus and not paying attention. I had one of those moments where my concept of reality didn’t match actual reality (or what I perceive as this, we’ll get into that more another day haha), and I missed the last step leaving my house and twisted my ankle pretty good. It swelled and bruised and was being a jerk…scratch that, is continuing to be a jerk and I am now having to wear an ankle support which is super awkward in sessions, but it is helping so run on sentence for the win. Or something that makes more sense. I’m exhausted at this point. Wuffedy-wuf.  

I received a lovely email yesterday from someone who is threatening to sue me. Can’t share details on this one, but the claim is absurd, so I’m trying not to worry too much…it is another thing that adds to my stress though, so wuf.

I just got back from 6 days in LA where Fei and Jean from Cuddle Sanctuary flew me out and put me up while graciously allowing me to attend their group cuddle workshop facilitation training as a student. These are amazing humans, and I highly recommend you join one of their events or sign up for a one on one session with either of them if you are ever in LA.  

SNUGGLE PARTIES! 

My first experience with a group cuddle was through an event facilitated by a well known Cuddle Party facilitator, Betty Martin. I was honored to be invited as a guest, and excited to try out this weird group dynamic cuddle thing which I had never quite understood. 

I got an email with the details very nicely explaining how the event was platonic and what to expect. Little did I know that platonic means different things to different people. This became very evident for me when I learned in the opening exercises that someone could ask me for a kiss. I stayed because even though I knew I would say no to that no matter what, it was clear that I would be asked first and encouraged to say no if I didn’t want whatever request was made. We did some basic trust building exercises and learned the rules which included clearly stating exactly the kind of request we wanted and to wait for a response and to continue asking every time anything changed with the request on either the giving or receiving side. 

As the free cuddle portion of the evening began everything seemed fine for awhile. Then after maybe 30 minutes I, and many of the other participants started to notice a man and a woman maybe 3 feet from me who were basically dry humping and engaging in highly sexualized intentions (even though the rules were followed from what I could remember). This totally creeped me out and made me feel all icky. This was not what I signed up for, nor something I felt I had consented to. I also noticed throughout the night how often me or others forgot to do the verbal consent and by the time I left we had mostly stopped asking altogether. 

After maybe an hour and a half at the event I couldn’t take it anymore. I was too uncomfortable. I was shocked by what this version of “platonic” was defined as, and I said a few goodbyes to the folks I had felt ok with. I got the heck outta dodge and went home to take 7 showers. Gross. 

Needless to say I never went to another Cuddle Party event. I figured that would be the end of these group events. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that events like this exist, and for those who want that, I highly encourage participation with events you feel comfortable with. There is nothing shameful about sexuality, and I feel very lucky to live in a community where we have just about any sort of group that anyone might be interested in. That being said, I felt like I had been in a bait and switch when the information I received and the event itself seemed to have very contrasting concepts. I was sort of traumatized by this. Yikes. 

Fast forward to a few months ago. I came to this moment of clarity with the business where I understood how important it was for me to help initiate a global concept of standard practices and ethics for this budding industry I belong to. No one in my mind was better suited to cast this net. I met with Cuddlist and learned very quickly that our ethics are VERY far apart. I was a bit disheartened as I had already given so much time to so many companies who do this work in what I see as not only unethical but downright dangerous.

After a week or so of debating of whether or not I should continue my search for other likeminded businesses I soldiered on. I reached out to Cuddle Sanctuary in LA (who had apparently done the same to me weeks earlier that I somehow missed). We chatted over Skype and instantly I fell in love with this woman. They became my family. I could tell that I had finally found other people who were in this for the same reasons as me and who took it just as seriously. These girls get it! 

As a gesture of good faith I offered to give them access to my online certification program and later allowed them to  utilize some of my work in the creation of their own Pro Cuddler certification program. In return they offered to train me as a group facilitator through their own version of the group dynamic. I was certainly nervous about taking this on after my previous experience, but something in me confirmed that I should trust these humans. 

I got on a plane and Fei met me at the airport. We stopped for a quick bite, and headed directly to my 2nd ever group cuddle. Needless to say I was anxious. Very quickly though, all my fears and insecurities around this dissipated as Fei seamlessly lead us through a series of  concepts, questions, and techniques to build rapport, trust, and security for all of us. Within 10 minutes this new group had become a family, and the ease in which even the newbies like me joined into this awkward situation was incredible to watch unfold. 

Cuddle Sanctuary does a few things very differently than the other event I went to: 

  1. They create a circle of trust right from the beginning that makes everyone feel welcome and fully in control of themselves and their surroundings. 
  2. They have designated spaces you can go to for both connection and alone time (meaning you can see the group, but no one will aproach of pity you while you chill). 
  3. The facilitators do an amazing job of not only making it easy for everyone to feel comfortable asking for what they want and only agreeing to want they want, but also to get everyone to do so consistently throughout the event without it feeling like a chore. Bellissimo! 

If you are considering going to a group cuddle event here is what you might want to know: 

  1. Get a full understanding of what platonic means to that group and whether sexual intention is allowed
  2. Determine if the event is gender balanced (which I highly discourage as discrimination is gross to me). 
  3. Figure out appropriate attire (based on temperature of space expected, comfort/appropriateness, if there’s a place to change)
  4. Will you need to eat before hand or is food provided? 
  5. Basic details like where/when/how long/etc.
  6. What are the rules and guidelines? 
  7. What type of consent is used and is it consistent? 
  8. Are there people who can vouch for the group and share more information about their personal experience? 
  9. What and why are you own concerns/questions/hesitancies? 
  10. Are walk-in’s allowed, and if so when? 
  11. Do you need to bring anything like your own pillow/blanket, water, or change of clothes? 
  12. What is the hygiene policy? Will I need to show up scent free? 
  13. Are there rules against attending under the influence of drugs/alcohol? 

Here are my personal notes and observations around the Cuddle Sanctuary events: 

  1. Everyone should experience this at least once whether or not they participate. 
  2. Gender balancing doesn’t matter at all. This is a place where it feels like family, and it honestly won’t be an issue at all for almost everyone. 
  3. Most events get a bit warm, so layers are nice. 
  4. Bring a water bottle; you’ll want it. 
  5. Touch is ALWAYS an option, never a requirement
  6. This is a place for you to be you regardless of what that means
  7. This is a safe space for everyone in attendance. Respect, consent, and transparency of intentions are required by all. 
  8. Anonymity is allowed and contained 
  9. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have
  10. Learning to ask for what I want is WAY harder than saying no to what I don’t want. 

I’ll leave it there for now, but I’d love to keep an open dialog rolling about this. Please comment below or on my Facebook note (click the word note for a link to the note) about this topic. I look forward to hearing what you all think about this.

Peace, Love, and Cuddles, 
Samantha Hess

Reverence to the Stage Builder

Today my grandfather passed away. He was in his late 80’s, and he had dementia for years. Honestly, it’s for the best. For a long time he hadn’t known who any of us were. At least now his pain is over. 

In putting together his final tribute my family asked everyone to contribute a memory of him. I sat for a long time with this. Eventually it dawned on me that when looking back at an often sad and miserable childhood every memory I had of my grandpa was, at least in hindsight, is a positive one. The problem I discovered though, was that I could not find one single memory where my grandfather was the shining light.  

I was saddened by the fact that I had no memory to contribute and, I was disappointed in myself for caring so little that I couldn’t find even one moment where my grandpa mattered enough for me to have a clear memory of. It’s not that I didn’t care or even that my grandpa wasn’t memorable. He was a delightful man. A good man. A kind man. He was the kind of man any partner, friend, or family member would be ecstatic to have.

In order to tell you the story of my grandfather I have to first tell you a little about my grandmother. The two of them had been married something like 65 years, and it was a storybook sort of love they shared. They were the perfect match. My grandmother is this bright, beautiful, shining light who, like myself, adores the spotlight. She loves to create magic little moments where no matter who you are, you feel like the most important person in the universe when my grandma gives you her time and attention. She makes you feel like a star. Somehow she creates this glowing energy of love, trust, and inspiration that opens up even the most cynical soul a world of elation, delight, and belonging. In her spotlight, everyone shines.

But here’s the thing about that. People like my grandma (and myself) only succeed when we have our production team; those people who proactively offer us everything we need to thrive. My grandpa happily wore all the hats. As if by magic, he made every incredible spotlight moment spark into life. In my grandmother’s life he was the producer, lighting team, stage manager, technical director, photographer, personal assistant, finance backer, and set builder.

Whatever grandma needed, he made it happen. He worked so she could raise and support her family. He drove her all over the country to allow her to connect with her adoring fans (very often my family or my cousins). No matter where they went, what they did, or who they were with my grandfather worked diligently to ensure that the stage was set for her. His love for her was endless. His patience ever bearing.  With a positive attitude, a sharp wit, and a deviation from the spotlight himself, his life’s goal was to love, support, and cherish his Audrey Hepburn with a capacity that I’m not certain this world shall see again.

From garage sale to estate sale. From Peter Pan to Doris Day. From chess to poetry. From letters to story time. No matter what the moment, my grandfather was there, faithfully creating the endless series of tiny life plays that made everyone around him a star.

My grandfather was the type of person who thrived on creating the spotlight for others. He was the type of man who kept his word, was unquestionably faithful, always ready, and with the mind to solve all the little problems before any of us knew they even existed.

Until today I had not realized how lucky we all were to have this incredible man lifting us up. I am so grateful and so humbled by this man and the love for his wife, his family, and his ability to spark those millions of tiny moments that become the feelings we remember rather than the memories we forget. Thank you for all you have done. Thank you for all that you are. I love you grandpa. Thank you. Until we meet again.

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.” Humphry Davy

The Ins and Outs of Chronic Pain In My Life

As many of you know I have dealt with chronic back pain most of my life. It’s something that has impacted my world, my daily life, my thoughts, and even my ability to function on a basic level from time to time. For those of you who deal with chronic pain you know the struggles. You know that trying to describe your pain to people who don’t suffer from chronic pain is about as useful as describing quantum physics to a three year old. I’ve learned to not talk about it to people because they begin to treat me like I am fragile; broken. Yes, it affects my life. No it doesn’t mean I will fall to pieces if you touch me wrong (at least not usually). Today is another step in allowing myself to be seen in my truest and most vulnerable sense in order to show others that, I, just like everyone, else struggles. Follow me as I take you through a little bit more of who I really am and what my life is really like underneath it all.

My first memory in life is a car accident. Honestly, it’s sort of nice to have my first memory be one where my parents are rushing to my aid because so many of my childhood memories are so dark (a story for another day). I was maybe 3. I was sitting behind my dad who was driving, Tashy was in a car seat and still very much a baby, and Rosie was behind my mom. There was a big white van in front of us, and I remember my parents rushing out of the car to check on us with the care and consideration that some kids only dream about. 

By the time I was 24 I had been in 7 more car accidents with the last one being the worst I could remember. Pain has a funny way of discounting itself over the years. Physical therapy for the pain happened at least once that I can recall…or at least what they called physical therapy back when I was a wee one. I remember the hospital nurse finding us cute little train printed pajamas to wear instead of the horrible white gowns the grown ups got. They put us on these uncomfortable beds and switched between ice and heat. That’s the extent of what I remember from “physical therapy.” 

Over the years my pain ebbed and flowed. Some days being so debilitated by it I couldn’t get out of bed, and other days being a crazy happy go lucky kid who only felt the minor twinge of an ache while running on the beach chasing whatever waves we could find. 

The pain worsened as I hit my late teens. My metabolism took a dive, and I gained a lot of weight between the ages of 18-20. By the time I got my first gym membership I was horrified to discover I was at 38% body fat.  For someone who had never been more than a size 2 this was horrifying to me. I dealt with the pain in whatever ways I could which was really very limited considering I had no idea how to fix the problem besides stretching when I couldn’t bare it and numbing it with crazy amounts of Icy Hot. Because my mom struggled with addiction most of my life (she is now more than a decade sober btw!), I was super against taking anything that I might get addicted to. I would take an ibuprofen maybe a few times a year because I was so afraid that I had this addiction issue built into me too. Icy Hot was my go to for pain, and I smelled like menthol for years. I would go through a tube a month at least. Somehow the feeling nothing was better than feeling the pain all the time. 

I wrestled with a lack of sleep that left me feeling much more than irritable. From the time I moved out at 18 through the age of 20 I cannot recall a single time where I slept more than 30 minutes before the pain was so bad it would wake me up. It drove me sort of mad, this lack of sleep. I was bitter and angry and just plain mean. Me, you ask? Yes. I was a terrible person. I like to think that my poor behavior stemmed from a lack of sleep, but honestly, it was more likely just that I hadn’t yet been humbled by life in the right ways. I was reproachful at best towards my father for these deep seeded feelings of abandonment that guided my world at the time (more to come on that another day). I 

had a self righteous attitude that not even Jesus could pull off. I am ashamed of it looking back. 

By the age of 22 I had lost 20% body fat and I looked and felt better than I ever had before. My back pain was still at the very least a constant annoyance. After losing so much weight I did finally start to sleep 2 maybe 3 hours straight, and falling back asleep became easier too. 

By 25 I was doing 4-6 sets of 20 reps on the leg press with 450 pounds. I was a beast! I did one leg Romanian dead lifts on an upside down bosu with 25 lb dumbbells in each hand. In college for fitness, I was working out about 25 hours a week between classes, internships and my own workouts. 

When my ex-husband had me move to North Carolina with him after I finished my degree I remember waking up for the first time in my adult life, maybe 2 months into living there, after finally sleeping on a real bed (the truck took forever to bring our stuff over!) and actually sleeping straight through the night. I didn’t wake up once. I slept 8 solid, glorious, hours, and the world was new again! I could breathe better. I could see better. I could think better. I had energy. What? It was like someone had refocused the camera lens to my life, and I remember realizing “oh, this is what it’s like for everyone else all the time….fuck.” haha. I couldn’t believe I how different the world was with a full night of sleep. It was like magic! 

I went through a few years around this time where I had very few really bad days with my back pain. I had a hard time going to the movies, and if I did I had to be ready to deal with 3 nights of poor sleep and an active pain level of 5-8 for those next few days. Other than movies and long car rides I was basically fine. My pain was back burner stuff generally. 

That leads us to today I suppose. Since starting my business a little over 3 years ago my pain has certainly gotten worse again. My life is very sedentary. If I’m not in cuddle sessions I’m on the computer keeping records, doing payroll, trying to keep up with email, social media, interviews, creating certification programs, writing books, writing blog posts, reading, meditating, watching television or playing a game on phone because I just need 5 minutes to let my brain not be such a clusterfuck. You get it. On top of the very sedentary lifestyle I lead, I also deal with an incredible amount of stress. I often feel like my body is failing me. I get sick more now than any other time in my life. I deal with an average pain level of 4-5 with moments and sometimes days where I have hit 9 even in the past year. 

After dealing with all the big emotional black holes I could find, I recently, finally, felt stable enough emotionally to go to the doctor about my back pain. This is one the scariest things in my life because I’ve always wondered if I’ll eventually lose my ability to walk. The pain is pretty bad sometimes, and after so many car accidents that went basically untreated I was very worried that my spine was not ok. With the encouragement of my Beau I made an appointment, explained the situation and how I refuse to take pain medication for a chronic problem and how I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me. My doc was great and ordered x-rays, physical therapy and acupuncture to start. 

The x-rays came back a few days ago, and I am glad to report that other than some abnormal curvature in my neck and mid back I am fine. Thank goodness. They told me the physical therapy should be able to resolve the pain. I have yet to make an appointment for that. Don’t judge me. I’ve got a lot to get done right now. haha. But really, the online certification takes precedence because I believe this is the step that will make it so I can finally take a salary and not live on credit cards anymore. That’s worth it. The financial stress makes my chest hurt now. I have to solve that first. I just do. 

Ok, so obviously I write really long blog posts. I apologize. I get really into this kind of stuff. I am an over-communicator if anything at all. The whole reason I wanted to write this blog post was to explain my chronic pain because I know so many of you have questions about this and I rarely talk about it (or even let anyone know it’s an issue), so here’s the heart of this little post: 

My pain scale: 

1-no active thoughts, but minor irritation in the back of my mind a few times throughout a day

2-several slight irritation thoughts in the back of my mind throughout a day, but still no active pain

3-most of the day I feel/notice discomfort in my back, but it’s not really bothering me much

4-discomfort basically always in the back of my mind for a day. Usually a dull achiness, but sometimes more of a radiating pain, stiffness, or slightly off putting nausea pain feeling

5-this is the point where it becomes an active thought that I cannot ignore and must actually do something about. The pain is strong enough that I have to move, stretch, walk around, something immediately if I’m going to avoid worse pain. This level will usually dissipate quickly if I listen and respond to my body. It hurts, but it’s not going to derail my day. 

6-by this point I might be able to regain control of my thoughts for a moment or two if I need to, but it’s hurting enough that I have to be actively dealing with it. i can answer questions and hold a conversation (as long as you don’t mind me being in a funny stretch while we talk). This pain feels usually squeezy, pokey, slightly stabby or sort of hot flushings of pain that radiates from my mid to low spine and up/out

7-I’m in enough pain that I’ll only hear about 50% of what you say to me. The thoughts are so intense with the pain that it’s controlling me pretty fully. I am actively attempting to repair it. I am likely going to shed a tear or two, taking slow, deep breaths while I move or stretch or do whatever I can because this is not ok. I am not ok. I’m still not to the point where I want to take pain medication (except for maybe a pot edible if I’m home and don’t have to work anymore that day). This pain usually lasts a few minutes to a few hours and takes over my active thought process most of that time. 

8-the intensity of the pain here is to the point where I can’t take normal breaths. I am crying; actively. My back muscles feel like they are made of bricks or steel. I can’t stand or walk. Sometimes as it reaches closer to a 9 I actually will cry with tears streaming down my face but without any body movement because that makes it worse. There is a heavy pressure in my head at this point and the world becomes a tunnel vision view for me if I can see anything at all. I might be able to get out a couple words which will likely be to tell you that I’m at an 8. This pain typically lasts a few minutes up to maybe 20 minutes. If it last more than a few minutes I am taking pain medication. I have to. 

9-this is a paralyzing pain. It’s so intense that my vision goes black. It feels like my spine might actually rip out of my body, pulling me into a million little pieces. My breath might be held for up to a full minute in the worst of it because the movement of taking a breath is excruciating. I don’t feel the rest of my body at all. All that is is torturous pain. I likely will have made it to the floor prior to hitting this stage and I need to be left alone. I can’t talk. I can’t tell you how bad it is. I can’t think. I can’t do anything. I have to wait it out. I will likely cry for a good 10-15 minutes after hitting this pain level because it’s physically and emotionally draining on me. I will be exhausted for hours afterward. I will hurt for days and not sleep well for at least that long. Luckily this pain level usually lasts no more than 30 minutes and recovery can begin. 

10-this has only happened once that I can think of. It was after the last car accident. The EMT thought I was faking it and pretended to give me morphine on the way to the hospital. We were going at least 45 when we hit the car in front of us (I’ve never been the driver in a car accident btw). I was in an incredible amount of pain. The ride took 15 minutes or so. After about 10, they asked me if I felt any better from “what they gave me.” I said there was zero change and I was still having a hard time breathing. The guy said that he hadn’t been sure if I was faking and so he hadn’t actually given me any, but he did then. It still didn’t seem to make any difference. The worst pain of my life happened in the hospital. They forced me to do this x-ray machine or something to take a picture of my chest (which I still have scar tissue on my rib cage from btw), and the machine they put me in squeezed my back and rib cage. I screamed so loud and so intensely that they actually kicked us out of the hospital…ok, not technically, but they rushed me the heck outta there immediately after that with a prescription for 2 muscle relaxers and the doctor version of heroin. I didn’t pass out. It wasn’t that kind of pain. I wish it had been that kind. It was so much worse than that. I do not have the words to do it justice, but I also don’t anticipate reaching this level again (as I don’t plan on having children) so I suppose it doesn’t matter much. 

Knowing how pain works for me, you might be wondering how you can respond the best way when I experience pain. Here’s what you need to know. 

1) I have had one moment in the last umm…well really ever that I can remember where my pain level would be considered a zero. It was weird. (this does not count when I’ve had drugs though because obviously I can’t feel pain when I numb my body to it). I’m always in pain. For me that’s normal. It doesn’t usually merit a response. It’s as much a part of me as my brown eyes or bright smile. 

2) If I have a pain level that you requires immediate attention and I am with you I will tell you where I’m at and what’s going on. 

3) You don’t need to treat me any different than anyone else. Maybe don’t hug me so tight you crack a rib, but you shouldn’t be doing that to anyone. Bear hugs are still fine. I am a tiny human. Use common sense and squeeze accordingly. You won’t break me. 

4) If I tell you that I have a pain level of 5 or higher please do not touch my back. When I am actively dealing with the pain touch is actually distracting and concerning because it’s another thing I have to keep track of and try maintain control over to avoid the pain getting worse. This usually takes just a few moments and is not a big deal. 

5) If i cry because of the pain please don’t pity me. Don’t look at me like I’m broken. Honestly, it’s best if you just pretend it’s not happening or didn’t happen. It’s embarrassing. I get that that is silly, but it is. You treating me like I’m broken or fragile or different than you makes me feel broken or fragile or different and that sucks. Please give me my dignity, allow me to deal with what I have to, and let me be just a normal person. Please. 

6) If you have questions about my pain, my back, my history, or literally anything at all please just ask. Be direct. Do not be ashamed. I am an open book. Ask me anything you want. I am happy to give you the appropriate and honest answer. If I do not want to answer your question I will tell you that. I will never be offended by a question though. 

7) Sometimes I can predict the pain, and other times I can’t. Please know that if I have to adjust or change plans on a bad day it’s not personal. I adore you. I just sometimes have to prioritize pain. Sometimes it wins. 

8) Suggestions are great, but I likely have done whatever the thing is you’re going to tell me to do already. Don’t be offended if I roll my eyes or get irritated. When the 500th person tells me I should do xyz it gets hard to pretend like it’s new information. I mean no offense. I do this to people too. I love when people tell me things to try, but sometimes it does get frustrating. 

9) I am the same person I was before you knew what I deal with. Nothing has changed. If you have people in your life or if you are the one who deals with chronic pain I urge you to have open conversations about it. Ask them or offer to describe the pain scale and what they want/need when things are tough pain wise. “What do you need right now (or when xyz happens)? or How can I best support you?” are both great questions to ask if you have someone who’s dealing with pain. 

Lastly I want to thank you for taking the time to learn my stories. I am grateful and humbled by the support and stories of all you amazing people around me. I want you all to know that I am doing good. I’m stressed out, but I am making progress. I’m in a lot of pain today, but like most days, I’m ignoring it when I can and dealing with it when I have to. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for being you. 

Peace, Love, and Cuddles, 
Samantha Hess

Dear Online Daters:

In my role as a professional cuddler I am often asked for life advice. Usually I am quite generic and try my best to simply be encouraging without actually giving advice (It’s not about the nail after all ha!). When it comes to online dating though, this is a topic I feel I can actually be of assistance. As you may know from a previous post I have done a fair amount of online dating. 

Obviously anything I say will be generic and from my subjective opinion. In other words “my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience” (gotta love Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen), so please take what makes sense to you, leave the rest and edit where appropriate for you. 

Before I dive in, here is a basic understanding of my point of view:

I am a 32 year old divorced woman. My longest relationship was just under 13 years, my shortest just under a year. I have been on probably 120 first dates in the last 4 years. I am straight and am currently in a monogamous relationship (that technically started from Tinder) which I am quite happy with. 

With all this said here we go: 

Dear Online Daters,

Let’s be real. Online dating sucks. It’s often more trouble than it’s worth. It requires a thick skin, an open heart, and enough optimism to fill the Grand Canyon. By the time we answer the 8,000 questions and try and scour through every photo ever taken to find even one that we don’t look creepy or weird in, and actually put in enough effort to post our profile, we then have to worry about things like this: 

  1. Will anyone like me?
  2. What do I rate on the hot scale? 
  3. How much does personality really count?
  4. What is my competition and how do I find out? 
  5. What if the thing I said about this comes across this way? 
  6. What if I said too much?
  7. What if I didn’t say enough? 
  8. Why does everyone have a beard???/ What’s with this duck face thing? 
  9. What if I don’t get any messages? 
  10. What if I get so many messages that it’s even harder to deal with than getting none?
  11. What if I run into someone I know on here!?!
  12. What if I never find anyone and I die alone surrounded by empty pints of Chunky Monkey and 3 dozen cats who eat my toes?  (Yes, I made it weird- you’re welcome haha)

*cough, cough….moving on

Let’s say you manage to set up a profile that you feel good-ish about and you start to browse…for me this leads to 1 of 2 thoughts:

  • REALLY? These people, yay! 😀  
  • Really? THESE people, boo? :’( 

I will either find a bunch of interesting people to browse through or feel like I’ve somehow found the algorithm for unfathomable people which will lead to me 1. sending a bunch of messages or 2. shutting down the page/app, shutting off the electronic device, and finding my way to the kitchen. Why whine when I could wine? 😉 

Here are the things that I have found to be gender neutral guidelines for myself that I hope might be useful to you as well: 

  • Main profile pics should be a closeup of just my face, and should match what my hair/face/etc. looks like generally without anything covering my face like sunglasses, masks, etc.. 
  • All pictures should be from the last 6 months unless otherwise stated
  • If all my pics are selfies I should have enough decency to at least use the timer on my phone to make it look like I have friends that are casually taking pictures of me doing fun and amazing things like eating lunch at a restaurant 
  • None of my photos should have anyone else in them unless they are a pet I currently own or include my own children (obviously I don’t have any kids myself, but I’m assuming at this point if you are reading this you are also in the same boat and will apply what is relevant to you)
  • I should have one full body photo, one close up I like, and at least one other that shows a hobby or interest that I have.
  • If I do have anyone else in a photo I should explain who they are and make sure I have their permission to use this picture in my profile (it’s the worst to see a picture of 3 people because 9 out of 10 times the hot one is not whose profile I’ve just discovered-it’s like starting off with a lie)
  • All information in my profile should be open and honest. 
  • The amount of effort I put into my profile should be equal to the amount of effort I’m willing and able to put into a relationship/dating situation. 
  • If I send a first message to someone it should be personal, brief, and indicate a common interest. I should also ask one open ended question and state my first name. 
  • Grammar matters. Know the difference between your, you’re, there, their, they’re, to, too and two. Punctuation shows effort. We don’t have to be perfect, but let’s try. Please. Pretty please. 
  • If I want to send a message that just says “Sex?” I should just not. 
  • Compliments are nice and appreciated but can also make me one of the crowd. If I send a generic compliment and nothing else I should not expect to hear back from the person. 
  • If I send a one line message with something generic like “How was your day?” or “Hey Beautiful!” or the ever so clever “Hey” I should be aware that my chances of getting a response have a fairly direct correlation to the hot vs douchey scale. 
  • If I don’t take the time to read the profile, I’m wasting both of our time to send a message. 
  • It’s ok to send the first message. Man, woman or somewhere in between- you, yes you, should send messages to people. Otherwise I am asking for the universe to decide for me who I like and the universe may have different ideas than me as to what I like. 
  • If at all possible avoid negative self talk in your profile and your messages. 
  • Write something in your profile that I can relate to. Give me a reason to message you. 
  • If your dog, your lunch, your car, etc. is more interesting than you as a first impression you are wasting my time. 
  • Blurry pictures are never a good idea
  • If I am looking to just hook up, I should say so  up front. Why waste time? 
  • Deal breakers should be listed and I should spend the time to figure out what they are for me (personally mine include extremely religious ppl, vegans, hard drugs, kids and anti-cuddlers)
  • My age, height, weight, etc. should be up to date and accurate. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that “everybody exaggerates or every guy adds 2 inches to their height…blah, blah, blah.” I call bullshit. Never once did I lie about anything in a dating profile. If I don’t respect you enough to be honest, I don’t deserve your time, energy or effort. And I won’t put up with those who don’t respect me enough to do the same. The little things absolutely matter. 
  • If there is no chance of anything coming from a conversation, no reply is necessary. Our social contract includes in the fine print that ghosting is better than written rejection on the first message. 
  • If I send 3 messages without a reply I am cut off. Any more and I am creepy.
  • If I see a profile with a ridiculous and/or terrible picture or read something that’s super douchey I will take a screenshot and share it with my friends and/or Instagram. I encourage you to do the same as it’s super fun. 
  • Sexy time is great, but please respect your partner and yourself enough to get tested for STD’s. Preferably together as these can be faked pretty easily. If nothing else, don’t be silly, wrap your willie. And ladies, we are the ones who have to deal with childbirth, so it’s our responsibility to ensure we have whatever outcome we want on this front. 

Dear men who do online dating: 

You are amazing, and I am so glad you are putting yourself out there. Thank you for being brave and being willing to go after what you want. In my opinion you have it much more difficult when it comes to online dating. That being said, it might be easier on all of us if you follow these simple guidelines: 

  • Please have your main picture be one of just you and one where you are happy if at all possible…unless you want to find only miserable people, then you can probably get away with angsty face, sunglasses, or other pictures of random shit. 
  • You don’t pull of the “smoldering” look. This is the equivalent of duck face. Just stop it. 
  • Shirtless selfies are only allowed if you are under 30 and look like you could be on the cover of an ab workout video. Otherwise it’s not helping you. 
  • Yes, please post photos that show your personality and hobbies, but remember that the main image on your profile is tiny and if I can’t see your face I better really like what else is in your picture if I’m going to consider looking at your profile. 
  • If you look miserable in your photo you will not be hearing from me 
  • Take the 30 seconds to crop your main image so it’s centered, shows your face and is right side up. 
  • If I can see your phone in your hand and it’s covering your face I think you are lazy and kind of dumb. 
  • If you have a boat, nice car, puppy etc. in your photos they should be yours. 
  • If your main profile picture includes fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, sports, etc. please be aware that I will only read your profile if those are things I REALLY like also. This means you may be limiting your market by having too big of an emphasis on a hobby that may not relate to a potential relationship in a big way. 
  • If you think you are sharing too much, it’s probably still not enough. 
  • Please don’t get upset with us if we take awhile to reply. When I do online dating I get 30-40 messages a day. I once got as many as 400 messages in a day. It’s overwhelming and not personal. 

Dear women who do online dating: 

This isn’t easy for anybody. While we have different challenges than men in this realm, we have challenges nonetheless. We have all become a bit jaded by our mid 20′s, and while yes, you will be subjecting yourself to a barrage of strange messages online dating is efficient (while at least sometimes being effective). Here’s what has been important to me with online dating:  

  • I need to be upfront. If I have children/pets/requirements/reservations I should say so in my profile. 
  • Men have it rough in the dating world. Let’s cut them some slack. We often sit back and wait for them to do all the work and then we judge them on superficial bullshit before moving on. Yes, we will likely get a lot of creepy guys being pervs, but a lot of guys are just shy, anxious, nervous or simply not great at online conversation. Heck, none of us were given a book on how to do this. If they are trying and there is even a tiny chance you might get along, give them a chance. 
  • We are more beautiful than we know. Also, guys generally have much lower standards for how they perceive us than we do, so stop worrying so much. We are awesome!  
  • Be quirky. Be weird. Be me! Show them who I are when no one is around. Be my true self and I will find them flocking to me. Generic is boring. I are not boring. 
  • If my profile is generic or doesn’t include many options for connection points it will be quite difficult for men to send personalized messages to me. Let’s give ‘em something to talk about 😉
  • If I have pics in lingerie or sexy pics of any kind, I can’t get mad at dudes commenting on them. 
  • I never expect my date to pick up the tab. This is 2016 and I am a strong, independent woman who is just as capable as any man. Unless my lifelong ambition is to be June Cleaver, I need to let go of the 50′s mentality and buy my own damn drink. If my date does offer to pay for me, I must be gracious and say thank you, genuinely. 
  • Every sexy pic, discussion or sultry comment uttered prior to our first meeting decreases the chance of a meaningful, long term relationship. If I’m looking for Mr. Right Now, send away. If not, I need to make them wait until we get to know each other. 
  • I need to remember whatever stage a “relationship” is in when we have sex, it likely won’t raise above that. Meaning that if I give it up on the first or 2nd date, I can expect no more effort than what it took to get me in bed the first time from then on out. 
  • If I don’t know what I want, that’s ok, but as soon as I figure it out, I need to  communicate openly and honestly with my potential partner. 
  • Don’t be afraid to make the first move, and if it doesn’t work out that’s ok too. Guys deal with that all the time. If I’m not getting what I want, seek it out. 
  • If I send a first message it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. Just about anything will do. Guys are generally just happy to get a message. Make their day! 
  • I have an 8 date minimum rule. I post this on my profile. Those who are unwilling to wait aren’t worth my time. Setting up rules for myself prior to going out on dates makes it much less likely that I will need a day of cuddling and ice cream while I cry about my bad choices yet again to my dear, sweet, understanding bff. 

I know this is a super long post, but I apparently have a lot to say on the subject. Once again, these are all personal opinions and not be mistaken for facts. I think for now the only other things I can think to add are where to try for online dating. Here are the ones I am familiar with: 

OkCupid: This is great for those who like to waste time on endless quizzes. This can be a dangerous time suck in the long run. I recommend not filling out too many of these because you will be judged by EVERY SINGLE ANSWER. 

POF: I have had good luck here, and while I hear all the time this is the “bottom of the barrel” I really like it. It combines the basic Tinder swipe feature with full profiles. I also find that people are more real/upfront/honest on this site which I love. 

Tinder: This one forces you to connect with Facebook and requires a ton of permissions. This used to be the hookup site, but it’s changing. If you are on Tinder, you are welcome to write that you only want hook ups, but everyone else is likely there for some kind of dating. Space to put in details is short, so make it count. Height, weight, deal breakers and something about your hobbies/interests/work/what you are looking for/etc. is perfect. 

Bumble: This one is like Tinder, short profiles, but on here the woman HAVE to message first. Genius! I have not used this myself, but I’ve heard that the quality of people on here is top notch. 

I hope this has been helpful. If y’all have any other topics you’d like to hear me ramble about please leave a comment. I had a lot of fun writing this (even if it did take me like 4 months to finish haha). One last thing I’d like to mention is that even though dating generally sucks, it only has to work once. 

Peace, Love and Cuddles, 
Samantha Hess

Balance

Today I’m sitting here at work in the dark drinking coffee and feeling the stiffness in my back and the fog in my brain.

As you probably know my life has been a chaotic and messy roller coaster ride since October, well really since I started the business. 

I feel grateful even in the challenging moments because I get to know all of you. I get to do work that matters to me, and most importantly, I get to feel like what I do in each day is true to who I am. I am tired. I am utterly exhausted to be quite honest. In the last 6 weeks I have pushed myself past the balance point where I get to be both person and persona. My life belongs to my business, and it belongs to all of you. That being said, I am also coming to the realization that I have not done a good job of taking care of myself these past few weeks like I have tried to do for those around me. Long days, skipped meals, endless thoughts about how to grow, expand and continue my mission through the challenges ahead. 

After the breaking point in October I vowed to take better care of myself. To do all the little things that are vital to my ability to thrive. Yet, here I am recognizing I have let myself put my self care on the back burner again in order to accommodate as many requests as possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It’s likely a universal struggle. I’ve still been doing my meditations, but my diet and exercise habits have become quite poor again. 

The tough part for me is that I have to weigh every decision about self care based on my ability to make money for the business so we can keep going. It’s quite difficult to turn down a session request when I know that the weight of keeping this going is on my shoulders. When I know that the only way I will ever actually be able to take a salary is by continuing to push ahead. 

Balancing a new relationship, the very few friendships I have been able to hold onto, self care, running the business, growing the business and running my own household all at once seems all but impossible. I take a deep breath. I take another. I feel the pain and stiffness in my bones. I want to cry. I hold back knowing that there will be time for that later, but later doesn’t always come. 

This is the point where I start to wonder if it’s all worth it. The personal debt, the lack of stability, the endless challenges of doing this so long without seeing the progress I’ve hoped for…my best friend Melon tells me in these moments that I’m being fatalist, and she’s right. It’s silly for me to put all this weight on my shoulders. It’s silly to hold everything in one moment. Things are moving forward. I am making progress. I am helping people in safe and productive ways. I am surrounded by people who love and appreciate me, and darn it, I love and appreciate me too. 

Today I choose me. I choose to make time to person again. I choose to find balance. I will make better choices. I will take better care of myself. I will not feel guilty for saying no. I will ask for help. 

Honestly, what will help me the most is knowing I have people with me. If you have read through this and want to be part of my support team I am going to ask you to take this journey with me. Send me an email or a facebook message and tell me your challenges and your successes. Tell me what works and what doesn’t in your world. Tell me how you have been working to better yourself and the world around you. I will respond with this simple message so you know that I have heard you: “I appreciate you. Thank you for doing this with me.” 

I will do an update as soon as I can to tell you all what I have been doing to find a better balance in my life. Just taking the time to write this out helps me a lot. Today will be a good day. I am so grateful for your time and your ear. Thank you for being here for me. 

Peavce, Love and Cuddles, 
Sam