A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Once upon a time (on the heels of a mistake turn on my romantic journey), Karen Anderson issued a challenge to me:
I want you to write a post about the man of your dreams. I want you to write every detail about this guy. I want you to write about the good men out there...the ones that don't come with any warnings. Don't hold back...write as if your life depended on it. The only catch is, it all has to be written in glowingly positive terms and phrases.

Do you accept??
I will start my answer by roughly quoting my friend Jorge, who said "All women are like ticking time bombs, it's just a matter of finding what sets them off. "

So the simple answer, using Jorge's metaphor, would be that the right man for me (or any woman) is the one that can disarm me.

Rather, he is not a charmer (same as what one does to snakes) but rather the enzyme to my substrate, the key to my lock, the MacGuyver to my sticks of dynamite mounted to a clock. The right man will allow me to let down my defenses and will not dishonor that trust.

But Karen wanted specifics, right? I will use Patti Stanger's help with this. In her book "Become Your Own Matchmaker" she suggests making a few lists, but in particular (on page 140 of the paperback), (1) Ten Must Haves; and (2) Five Non-Negotiables. The five non-negotiables are the first five entries on the ten must haves list. I figured that is a good a place as any to start (and i will try my best to put it in positive terms):

1. He must live with integrity. For me, this means a man who values honesty, treats all people with kindness and respect, values his reputation as a good and kind man (a gentleman), and who lives by a deeply-engrained moral compass of his own formation. He sees himself as the sum of all his thoughts and actions, not just his best ones. He honors his commitments and stands by his word.

2. He must be healthy. For me, this means someone who takes care of himself in all aspects of his life. He might not be perfect all the time (none of us are), or "in progress," but he seeks to be: balanced psychologically; curious intellectually/mentally; active physically; and, responsible fiscally. If these are the case, he seeks no woman to be his cure, but be his bounty. He also knows grass fed steaks are better than corn fed. He is a non-smoker and has no substance addictions. (And I promise to never view him as a "fixer upper" if he can see my progress in return.)

3. He must see the joy and possibilities of life with humor in his heart and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. For me, this means someone who defines himself not by what he does to make money, but by the friends he makes, the lives he enriches, the wonders he sees. He is more of an optimist and sees brick walls as challenges, not boundaries. He sees the world as his playground and I his willing playmate.

4. He is strong enough to protect me and vulnerable enough to let me protect him. Physically I would like to find my big spoon (someone taller and stronger than me), but emotionally/mentally I would like someone who can be my fortress, my comfort, my relief, my counterbalance, and my hero. I will be those things to him in return. This depends entirely on honesty, trust, compassion, friendship, and fidelity.

5. He must love animals. Hopefully I don't need to explain this one.

6. He is romantic. I don't mean the cheesy/predictable type. And I don't expect him to be a mindreader. I just mean the kind of guy that pays attention/notices. He sees romance not as a means to get sex, but as the outward expression of his feelings. He is also communicative and flirty with me. He smiles when he sees me walk in a room.

7. He is generous. Not in terms of money or gifts, but in terms of time and thought. He will debate, but rarely argue or fight. He volunteers somewhere that means a great deal to him. He is the guy his friends know they can call in the middle of the night. He is driven more by the common good than personal enrichment. He thinks the best of people until they prove otherwise, and still can forgive.

8. He doesn't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes details are important, sometimes they are not. He knows the difference. When they are important, he is deliberate and thoughtful. When they are not, he knows when to let go.

9. He knows how to be silly. He knows how to laugh at himself. He knows how to get others to laugh. He is not a punchline or a buffoon, but someone whose pride is not fragile.

10. He knows how to cook, is handy with tools, and/or enjoys cleaning. I am not looking for a slave or to be one either. Nesting is best when done as a collaborative effort. He is interested in trying new recipes, learning how things work, etc.

Reading back on what I wrote, my list is mainly about my perfect man's character and his outlook on life. However, Karen asked for a comprehensive description, so I assume that means also describing my "type." I must admit that any time I have dreamed about my perfect man, the above list never came with a face or body. To that extent, I hope that means I am flexible regarding the superficial traits below:

Nathan Fillion is dreamy.

My dream guy ....
--is over 5'10 (the taller the better), and between 175 and 230lbs, with a generally fit physique, but not rock solid or on the juice.
--smells good (combination of laundry detergent, soap and/or cologne)
--practices good oral hygiene (yes, he flosses)
--can equally appreciate a well-tailored suit/tux, the right pair of jeans, as well as dry-fit technology (he also has disdain for all things Ed Hardy-esque, and would never be confused for a hipster)
--maybe has dark hair and light blue/green/grey eyes, full lips, and a nice tush
--is cool with me eating meat even if he doesn't
--is educated, but not an insufferable snob about it
--has full command of the English language and its grammar, and he opts to use it
--is someone my dad would to be proud to call "son" without wanting to run a criminal background check on him
--knows that the way to my heart is winning over my cats and respecting my teddy bear's place on my bed
--can draw a solid line between work and life
--can socialize sober
--is as happy living in the city as he is vacationing on the beach or in the middle of nowhere
--has musical talent and/or an appreciation for music
--is willing to dance badly with me, or well for me
--is a voracious reader of more than just cereal boxes
--has diverse interests and unlimited curiosity
--is witty (humor + smarts + timing)
--would rather play outside than on a gaming system, and is maybe on a sports team
--is atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, quasi buddhist
--likes to travel and is as comfortable camping as he is in a hotel
--is experienced sexually, but not a manslut, has no STDs or dangerous fetishes
--is a generous, creative, and patient lover and loves kissing
--doesn't steal all the covers or snore loudly
--either wants kids or is indecisive
--never calls an ex-girlfriend a bitch
--can see himself in a monogamous/committed relationship
--will never throw the kitchen sink at me (dredge up the past)
--is not violent/controlling to me, kids, animals, etc., and does not have a temper
--risks hurting me with the truth, rather than hurting me with lies

(okay... Gonna stop as i see the list is long and veering towards negative traits)
so I'll end with what I want above all else...

My dream guy says he loves me (sincerely without cause or prompting), acts like he loves me (in public and in private, and never makes me doubt that he loves me (even if we are fighting). He disarms me and lets me be the best version of myself while loving him.

Disney's Cinderella told her little bird and mouse friends that she wasn't going to tell them her dreams for fear they wouldn't come true (that telling would jinx her). I am a little nervous about hitting "post" for the same reason. But in the same scene, she sings "no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true." I know that is Karen's intent, for me to announce my intentions to the universe.

Who knows... Maybe the next dating post I write will be simply to tell you this worked and I am madly in love.

Here goes...

Show, Don't Tell

I was a creative writing minor in college.  The #1 rule I lived by was "Show, Don't Tell."   For example, a book would be quite boring if it was all telling.  "She was in a church.  It was old.  It was night. She said "I'm cold and scared."  Versus "She darted into the sanctuary of the cathedral with only a sliver of moonlight to guide her.  The winter wind whipped around the joints of the building, finding a crevice to permeate the safety she thought she had found."  Get the picture?

It's the guiding principle behind most art -- to involve the reader or beholder as an active participant in the story or painting, instead of a passive one.  Trust that the reader or beholder is smart enough to make the connections and follow you.

What does this have to do with my FGvW mission statement?  Two things that are almost related, but not quite: 

1.  I think it's a cheap literary mechanism that so often if someone is overweight that they're assumed to be miserable, lonely, unloved, and own 39 cats.  If a person is overweight and 100% happy or 100% normal, the author has to work against that stereotype to say "but really, s/he loves his/her life!"  Though, I fully admit that I'm not the most well-read person out there, especially when it comes to fiction.  Does anyone know an example of a piece of fiction where a character never blames their body fat for their unhappiness at one point or another or that it's mentioned that the person is fat, and never brought up again?  It just seems that with fat people, their weight is almost a character (antagonist) onto its own.

2.  Magazines.  Ugh.  If you've been with FGvW for a while you know that I have a love/hate relationship with magazines.  The girly side of me enjoys looking at new makeup, fashions, or human interest stories.  The FGvW side of me abhors when they give out diet advice.  Why?  Because they so often tell, and not show.

Case in point:  How often have you seen an article for the 1,400 Calorie Diet! or the 1,600 Calorie Diet! or any similar article variation without a disclaimer about how to calculate your daily caloric needs.  Why 1400 calories?  I think that's how many calories the average coma patient burns.  Some doctors say it's the threshold between starvation and proper nutrition, but even then, it greatly varies for people.

Is it because *twirls hair* girls are dumb and math is hard?  OR is it because the average magazine reader searching for a miracle diet would rather remain blissfully unaware of the basic rule behind all weight loss success, that is, the number of calories consumed must be less than the number of calories expended.  Eat less, exercise more.  BUT, there is a caveat that they never really mention -- that if you restrict your caloric intake too far, and burn too many calories, a body (especially a woman's because we're genetically programmed to hold on to fat/calories in the chance we become pregnant) will start to resist burning calories (on top of all the other psychological and physiological effects of the starvation/malnutrition).

Ask any dietitian or doctor -- in order to lose weight, one must eat.  One must eat in a manner that fuels their weight loss (a diverse range of nutritious and unprocessed/minimally processed food).  That's a hard headline to sell on a magazine, eh?  The general magazine reader would balk at a headline that said "The 1,800 Calorie Weight Loss Diet."  But for me, that's my sweetspot.  That's what I need to eat in order to grant my body the permission to burn calories.  It's different for each person, and this is why I suggest working with a dietitian or a doctor.  This is also why I don't publish my food log or diet on my blog because I don't want anyone blindly following my path without knowing what is best for their body.

I highly recommend using a BodyMediaFit device that measures (not approximates) your activity.  There are also devices like the FitBit that don't measure (i.e. they do not measure the heat coming off your body), but rather approximate calorie burn.  Some people love them, but I'm a bit dubious.  If you cannot afford one of these devices, I recommend doing the math -- (Basal Metibolic Rate) x (Harris Beneditct Factor) = Caloric Expenditure.  Or if you are afraid of math, use a handy dandy web calculator like this one, or like this one. 

And then just DO THE MATH.

1 lb = 3500 Calories

If you're dieting for 7 days a week (i.e. no "cheat days," which I think are a bad mentality), you need to average a 500 calorie deficit a day to lose 1 lb a week, average a 750 calorie deficit a day to lose 1.5 lbs a week, and average a 1000 calorie deficit a day to lose 2 lbs a week.  The CDC claims that people who lose between 1-2 lbs a week are most likely to keep the weight off in the long haul.  (Flip the "deficit" to a "surplus" to gain weight.)

So next time you see an article like that, please don't rush to follow it (especially if it's called a "detox" or a "cleanse") without knowing what works for you.  Take the ideas, take the recipes, but don't take it as a diet tailored for your individual needs.

So... what will magazines have left to sell once an educated public is reading them?

Just wanted to share this...

Life is messy.  Sometimes it stinks.

But you keep on going.


You're going to do what with a what in my where?

Fancy needle work
Fluoroscopically-guided epidural injection
So.. I have a herniated disc between C5-6, a bulge in C6-7, and three bulges with annular tears (degenerating discs) from L3 to S1. Not only does the bulge/herniation put pressure on my spinal cord, but it affects other nerves. The neck is causing pain mainly down my left shoulder/arm. The lower back affects nerves that control my lower half of my body (if I sneeze I fear losing control of my bladder).

In late July, I went to my orthopedist because of neck pain.  An x-ray was taken but as it didn't show bone issues he conservatively diagnosed me with cervical radiculitis. As I had some success with epidural steroids for my back (2 injections back in 2007), we decided to first try oral steroids and rehab along with rest from boxing. I felt okay until late November, when I started feeling weakness and numbness in my left arm when exercising (such as when doing pushups, planks, or even when boxing).  I went back for the MRI in early December and the MRI showed a herniation. The next conservative step was to try epidural steroids again (not an epidural nerve block).

They inject the steroids into the epidural fat that
surrounds the disc as well as the spine

I booked my epidural at the Sibley Pain Center (same place as my two epis for my lower back) with Dr. Heckman. Below is a rough idea of the procedure:

After administrative intake, a nurse and I did the medical intake.  She took some baseline stats for blood pressure and temperature. She gave me discharge information and then we went over the procedure orally. Dr. Heckman and I then met. He reviewed the CD of my MRI to confirm the radiologist report, we discussed the procedure, and he fielded a few questions.

They would put in an IV with saline in the small chance I of a seizure from Lidocaine injections into neck (miniscule risks are still risks), that way they'd be able to deliver anti-seizure medication without having to look for a vein.

Then they did 2-3 Lidocaine injections around the epidural injection site to numb the skin/muscles and help prevent pain. Next, they use a fluoroscope to guide the epidural needle into the intralaminar space near the affected disc to deliver the steroids (the fat in this area would help draw the medicine to the affected area). I would feel a poke and then some pressure as the steroids are injected. As it is so close to my spinal cord, I cannot move or talk when this is happening.

So that is how the procedure is supposed to go.  What follows was my experience of how it went:
I handled the IV without freaking out, but then started feeling very warm and started sweating. We slowed down until I felt better. Between the Lidocaine shots and epidural, my blood pressure dropped out twice and I was starting to have trouble talking. This is a vasovagal response (which sounds way cooler than saying "I started to faint").  As a matter of protocol, they would not do the epidural while I'm unconscious.

The doctor suggested we stop but I told him to continue once my blood pressure stabilized (I told him i didn't come here for nothing and that I would "power through this" and that I had my "big girl panties on"). He re-sterilized the injection site and did 2 more Lidocaine shots, then he proceeded with the epidural. Once he was done, I was fine. My blood pressure stabilized and I was then allowed to have my applesauce and crackers.

my awesome blood
pressure post-epidural
I never lost consciousness. The nurse talking to me the whole time was very soothing and I was able to let them know how i was doing. They knew ahead of time that I was needle phobic and had a history of fainting. It helped them that I kept a dialogue going about my reactions -- so they could help me get through things. Next time i am wearing shorts though. I was too hot.

The whole process (intake, consult with the doctor, prep, injection, recovery took about 1.25 hours. During the ride home I felt every bump and deceleration in my neck and felt a little woozy. Once I was outside in the cool air I was fine. (This happened when i got the epis in my lower back 2 years ago--drove home with the windows open).

The rest of the day I iced the injection site and was able to move around. Steroids worked for a week and then wore off (this is to be expected as one often needs more than one shot (and up to 3 in a 6 month period) to experience consistent relief).

Rehab is lonely and taking care of my responsibilities is hard (I hate losing my independence, and thus am stubborn to a fault). I cannot take pain meds before work as they make me spacey. I have headaches almost every day on top of the tinnitus (a common symptom of cervical herniations) that is driving me nuts (you know that ringing in your ears you feel for 20 minutes after a loud concert... imagine that all the time). I come home and nap instead of eating dinner, cleaning my apt, or socializing. I wake up in the middle of the night and start cursing because my sleep schedule is so out of whack.  My bosses are supportive but I hate not being 100% (sleep deprived, spacey, and otherwise "not all there") while at work.

Emotionally the injury can be worse than the physical aspects. I feel broken and useless when I am in pain. Exercise is not recommended for me right now and that robs me of one of my coping mechanisms. I cringe anytime someone tries to hug me. And so many people have unknowingly hurt me by greeting me and slapping my back between my shoulders. I can't imagine dating when I can't bend my head to kiss a guy, and hate having to explain why I am in pain, and that I don't want pity (but often can't avoid the topic).   

Nurse Jack and Dr. Spike

Getting a checkup by Nurse Jack


The cats keep me company on days like this when I am in bed, propped up, and can't do much except use my phone (TV and computer are at weird angles to my head). Again it isn't the pain of the disc and how it is affecting my arm that is keeping me in bed, but the known side effects of cervical hernias: headaches and the tinnitus. It is my hope that a second epidural (and a third if I need it) will alleviate this.

I totally understand why my mom drank to deal with the pain/take the edge off and why she spent so many days in bed. I just don't want to be like that. I am fighting this with all I've got. I'm trying to avoid the medications, lest I get hooked (considering the history of addiction that runs rampant in my family). I am trying to allow my friends in on this, but I still feel it is a lot to ask (in terms of understanding or helping me), and harder to return the favor. I am trying to take things one step at a time and try not to get freaked out by the eventualities of degenerative disc disease.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't exhausted by and scared of all of this.

Next epidural scheduled January 25.

The #GoTheDist Head Fake

Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was, for all intents and purposes, a death sentence.  Carnegie Mellon tasked Randy Pausch with the honor of being the speaker during their "Last Lecture" series shortly after his diagnosis and instead of being morose about his prognosis, he decided to call it "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." The Youtube video of The Last Lecture is worth the time (1 hr 16 minutes) to watch, as is the book worth the time to read.

I don't want to spoil the video or the book for anyone, but I want to introduce what Randy Pausch calls the "head fake." The example he gives is when a kid learns to play football, he not only learns the game, but the deeper lessons of camaraderie, sportsmanship, dedication, rule following, etc.  They are life's little lessons in disguise.

I posted on Facebook, asking if anyone knew what the #GoTheDist head fake was and, as of the time that I am writing this, there have been no replies.  I attribute that more to it being the weekend and everyone logging some activity.  [Edit:  as of Monday morning, there was one reply from Sue Ward:  I think it has to do with the way we psych ourselves into believing that we can't possibly do or achieve something. I'm beginning to learn that it works both ways - I'm learning to psych myself into believing that I can #GoTheDist!]

I bill #GoTheDist as a challenge that logs effort and consistency (% completion) instead of results (inches/lbs).  While this is true, there is also a few head fakes working as well. 

#GoTheDist is about: 

  • learning how to not underestimate your capabilities or sell yourself short while setting achieveable goals
  • learning how to plan, prepare, and track so that you create your success, rather than just stumbling upon it;
  • learning how to celebrate each milestone as an indication of how capable you, your mind and your body truly are;
  • learning that life-long healthgain isnt about weightloss, but rather doing the hard work to change behaviors and mindsets;
  • learning that you can lean on a community of similarly-minded people instead of going it alone when the road is uphill;
  • learning that you still achieve even if you fall short of a goal, so long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other (or just keep swimming);
  • learning how to enjoy the journey
BUT even those are a head fake to the greater lesson at play here (see Randy Pausch's book to learn the trick he played on all of us):

#GoTheDist is about deciding to go on an epic journey in the first place.

In the end it isnt about the miles logged, minutes spent exercising, sweat expended, or sore muscles.  It isn't about whether you are at 100% of your goal or even 80%.  It is really about the choice you made on the day you made your pledge to see yourself as someone who strives, as someone worthy of a goal.  Each day you are able to put down a number (or even the intentional rest days) is a day you reaffirm this pledge to yourself -- that you are capable of becoming and living as the person you see yourself to be.

It is my greatest hope that on December 31, 2012, we will all be able to thank the person that on January 1 said "I will #GoTheDist" and believed it was possible.

Douchelord Drunkface McManTits

I was at my local bar on Sunday watching my NY Giants kick the Dallas Cowlosers' collective butts.
Eventually my friend joined me so I could help her celebrate her birthday (that began at midnight). 

This was the same friend who took care of me after my epidural appointment, and so I especially wanted to make it a fun time with lots of fun drinks because.  This is the same friend that I met in college and is also a coworker.  She has been excellent to me during this whole neck ordeal, making sure I don't get too mopey and that hospital would release me.  Though it was her birthday, she was every bit as protective of me/my back as she had been coming home from the hospital.

Enter Douchelord Drunkface McManTits -- some 6'2" inebriated Weeble whose pecs were almost as large as Pam Anderson's head and whose hair could solve the energy crisis for the next 10 years.  He drunkedly swaggered over to us and started moving his arm to put around my shoulders/neck. My friend launched herself inbetween Douchelord Drunkface McManTits and said "No!! No touching!!" Yep. all 5'2" of her protected all 5'9" of me.

Two of my problems were solved in one fell swoop:
(1) my problem of stupidly not allowing my friends to help me/care for me out of pride/desire for independence; and

(2) my fear of people carelessly causing further injury to me (like the manager of the bar who 20 minutes later surprised both of us by saying goodbye to me and slapping me on the back right over the injection site).

The lesson is that if you are vulnerable and let the right people in your life, they don't abuse the vulnerability, but protect you from those who might.  Friends are good people to have in a crisis.  Especially 5'2 bulldogs/bodyguards. 

Dear friends
You are angels and drunks
You are magi

Old friends
You stuck a pin in a map I was in
And you are the stars I navigate home by

Douchelord Drunkface McManTits soon so in awe of my friend's San Francisco 49rs ring that he went into an awkward 3-point stance, stood up and put his beer on the bar, then continued the 3-point stance into being bent on one knee and kissed her ring.  Douchelord Drunkface McManTits was thrown out of the bar an hour later.  

We walked out together, each under her own power.
I was thankful to have a friend that stick with me on my best days and my worst.
I believe she was thankful to have greasy breakfast meat in her fridge to counteract the whiskey.


intransitive verb

1: to be fruitful or productive : bear, produce
2: to give up and cease resistance or contention : submit, succumb
3: to give way to pressure or influence : submit to urging, persuasion, or entreaty
4: to give way under physical force (as bending, stretching, or breaking)

I've been sitting here looking at the sign, and definition for many minutes now.  Part of me just wants to post it as is, as a stand-alone post because it says everything I have been feeling.  But in the spirit of sharing/behing honest and not cryptic, here goes:

((several minutes elapse))

So... the neck thing...

((more minutes elapse))
Ever just get the feeling that the universe wants to slow you down and/or see just how much you can bear?
There's no use getting huffy puffy about it because logically I know that the "universe" (the fates, the gods, whatever) really doesn't have any control or influence over my day-to-day life.  But emotionally, sometimes it's just easier feeling that there's some dark humor at work here, setting me up and knocking me down.
I know that's the universe isn't limiting me, but my body is.
The word yield feels appropriate for what I am feeling.  I feel trapped by my injury and forced to slow down my entire body and life to the healing schedule of my neck. According to the definitions, I feel (1) that I'm not productive regarding my pursuit of over-all health, (2) that I've been forced to sit on the sidelines of my life, that (3) the injury is a dictatorial menace on the rest of my life and (4) that the pain is able to bring me to my knees.
I am yielding to the diagnosis. I am abiding by its needs.
But I refuse to succumb to it.

The great thing about yield signs or yellow lights is that eventually you do get to proceed on your journey.