I'm baaaack...for now. Boy has it been a long winter, hasn't it? Am I the only one that feels like the snow would never stop falling and I would never be able to bare my cute little toes again in shoes that weren't big, clunky and waterproof? In an effort to stick with the warm and sunshiny theme of the weather, I thought I'd pop in and give you a little update on the goings-on in my world lately. It has been a while. Get excited!

Do you guys remember my friend Jamie that went out with that guy who sent her the ridiculous I just want to have sex text? Since then, I have seen her focus more on work than she has on dating, and she has stopped hiding the look of disappointment when I tell her that I'm going to see a movie with my boyfriend on a Friday night, instead of going out to a club with her. Although she would never admit it, I think she was starting to really feel the desire to settle down. So being the great friend that I (think I) am, I decided to push her into the dating pool head first, without a flotation device and hope for the best.

I may or may not have signed her up for a profile without her knowledge to see the type of bites she would receive. Since I like to consider myself the expert of all things dating, especially online, I didn't see how this could possibly turn out bad for her. I wrote the profile from her point of view and with her voice in mind, which was easy since I know her so well. Then I picked out an array of pictures of her that I stole off of her Facebook page ,and we were open for business! Within the first hour she received a handful of winks and a few emails from men who could barely speak English, let alone type it. The next few hours were better and she had a few decent emails from a handful of eligible bachelors. I went to work emailing back and forth with these potential suitors and set up a few dates for her in the process. Piece of cake. Ghostwriting -- it's not just for celebrities anymore! Now came the hard part. How was I going to break the news to Jamie that I had set up this profile and secured her a handful of dates later in the week without her head exploding? Why, the best way that I know how of course... flattery and chocolate treats.

I walked into Jamie's office (we work together now) and sat down with a giant bag of pretzel M&M's (her favorite) and told her how pretty she looked in green. The minute her face lit up from the compliment, I hit her like a Mack Truck with the news of what I had done. To my surprise, she just laughed at me and rolled her eyes and said, "Ok, show me this website and you should probably also let me know when I'm supposed to have these dates." Humph. That went better than I had thought. With Jamie on board, we let the dating ensue and what followed were a string of crazy dates that should have ended up on my blog. Sigh.

It started to make me wonder if it was me? Was it the image that I projected in my profile that got me all of the crazy dates I have had and then the same subsequently for Jamie? Or are we just surrounded by weirdos here in Chicago? I decided to admit defeat and enlist some help from a real dating professional. I sat down at my computer and Googled the hell out of dating tips, coaches and professionals. To say that most of the websites I came across were cheesy is an understatement, that is, until one website, for Smart Dating Academy, caught my eye. When I read the first few lines on her website, "Smart Dating Academy helps busy, successful professionals jump-start their dating lives" I thought to myself, that's Jamie!! Done and done. I sent Jamie the link and with a little light (read: heavy) persuasion, I got her to email Bela.

I'm going to spare you with the details of the process, because if you're curious, which I know that you all are, you can go ahead and take a look at her website (there are extensive questionnaires, photo shoots, rewrites of your dating profile, books to read, email writing training and even something they call, "exit interviews"). What I can tell you is that I tagged along with Jamie to meet Bela and to see what all of the hype was about and she didn't disappoint. She was one of the most amazing, warm, bright and sweetest people that I have ever met. She immediately put us at ease, and I watched Jamie open up to a complete stranger within 20 minutes of meeting her in a way that she never has to me, her best friend.

Jamie's personal hurdle wasn't that she hated dating necessarily; it was more that she needed to get over the fear of putting herself out there and being rejected. She has worked so hard her entire life to be as successful as she is in her career, but never really focused on dating as much. At 29, she still considered herself a dating newbie. Her fears seemed to melt away after she was able to take a long hard look at her dating life via the questionnaire Bela had asked her to fill out. It forced her to look at her strengths, weaknesses and fears in black and white, which can be really eye opening! After which, Bela supplied Jamie with a dating profile/personality of sorts, that she had compiled from those questionnaires and patiently answered the million questions that Jamie had fired at her in rapid succession. Jamie and I left our meeting with Bela, our heads drowning in information and margaritas (we met her at Blue Agave. Mmm). Since that meeting, Jamie's outlook on dating has done a complete 180. I can't even imagine what she would have been like if she had participated in Bela's entire program from start to finish! Side note: I dug a little deeper into the Exit Interviews and apparently she reaches out to your past failed dates (with your permission, of course) and has them tell you their side of how they think the date went and how you could have performed better. She then gently provides you with the tough love feedback, so that moving forward you can correct those mistakes and become successful in love.

I had the privilege to speak with a handful of Bela's clients and it seems as if she has helped a lot of people become successful in love and lasting relationships. Let's be clear here, she's not a matchmaker. She's a dating coach. There is a big difference. Although she might be inclined to introduce you to a single friend if she thought you would be a good fit, she would rather coach people and provide them with the tools to be successful in dating/relationships so that when she's not around, they can continue to use those tools to become successful boyfriends/girlfriends, and if they are really lucky, husbands and wives.

I think what sets Bela apart from the rest of the people I found on my Google search is that she truly cares about every single person she works with and supports them every step of the way from start (setting up your online dating profile) to finish (finding a mate). She's like the Fairy Godmother of dating! She all but waved her magical wand and transformed Jamie into a completely different dater! All you single men and women out there, you might want to give her a ring, because if she can help jaded Jamie (Sorry J- you know I love you!), she can certainly help you! I'd really like to know where she was when I was single!? Then again, if I had known about her then, I guess we wouldn't have had this blog, would we?