The date that wasn't

He was cute. He was a cyclist. His OkCupid profile stated that he was interested in mindfulness.  His emails were thoughtful and had correct punctuation. 

Within 2 emails he suggested that he'd like to meet me.  
I replied that I'm not smooth and would probably giggle a lot (I do that out of nervousness on dates sometimes).  He replied "I'm actually quite funny, so it's very likely you will not be able to stop giggling until the end and good bye kiss. What is your availability?"  Okay, Mr. Flirty McFlirterson.  Game on. 

Turned out that he was going to be 2 blocks away at an event for his cycling group.  He invited me to join the group.  Okay, casual introductions.  I asked if I could meet him outside the bar -- just to have a chance to do introductions without having to scream (at night the bar is a cross between a club and karaoke).

We met a few blocks away, and already I knew that he wasn't interested.  He didn't maintain eye contact when greeting me and all the chattiness in the emails became one or two word answers.  And then he said it -- something to the effect of "this is not a date."  Um. Okay. Sure.  My second clue was when we got to the bar -- he didn't even hold the door for me (granted, it's not necessary, but if a guy is interested he usually pulls out all the stops).

Two of his friends were at the bar.  He introduces me to one, and then pulls out his chair.  If you were looking at us from the back it was (me) (him) (friend) (friend).  He sits down, puts his left elbow on the bar and turns to talk to his friends. He completely turned his back to me.  I get it, we're not on a date, but I found that to be terribly rude.

Five minutes later more of his friends show up and I just decided to turn on the charm.  I introduced myself to everyone, complimented the ladies on their outfits, their hair, their smiles.  They decided to go upstairs to the dancing/karaoke and I thought it was the perfect time to just slip away because he clearly didn't want me there.  But one of his friends stopped me as I was about to leave and started chatting with me.  He was charming, handsome, and funny.   He knew a bit of ASL.  I taught him some naughty phrases.  I told him my predicament.  He laughed and said "come upstairs anyways."

And it was okay.  His friends were much nicer to me than he was, especially after he disappeared for about an hour.  I had a few great conversations, had a dance party, and even did a karaoke duet with one of them (I killed it, of course).  At some point in the night he ended up standing next to me and I said something to him.  He leaned over to say something to me (including reiterating that it wasn't a date) and put his hand on my butt (which he claims he does to everyone) and I said "Sorry, butt is for dates only."

As the night ended, many of his friends said things to the tune of "I hope to see you out again." Well, considering I'm not an avid cyclist, I doubt that I belong in a cycling meetup group.  But it was just proof that sometimes good things come out of bad situations. I'm a firm believer that you can learn something from even bad dates, can still be gracious and kind even if there's no chemistry, and can even have some fun.
Salty Pirate Face!
I didn't let the dude off the hook.  I don't know about the rest of y'all, but it always feels good to stand up for myself when someone has treated me unkindly.

Huge pet peeve:  apologies that are NOT apologies.  I'm a firm believer that apologies need to recognize that an action caused another person's suffering (taking ownership of one's actions).  "I'm sorry that I turned my back to you and made you feel unwelcome." Don't apologize for how I feel.
And as a friend noted -- this is the guy who wrote "Over the years, I have learned to be quite outgoing and great in social settings."  Padawan, you still have much to learn. 

The Bullet

So... in July 2014, I got an email from an Associate Producer at ZoCo -- Dr. Oz's production company, and an affiliate of Harpo, Oprah's company -- asking me if I wanted to be considered for an "upcoming segment on the show" regarding their "new life change" shows:  "The show would be based around one guest who wants to get on  the right track to changing their life for the better. This will be a great opportunity for someone like yourself who has been on a weight loss journey."  The Associate Producer then listed a bunch of questions IN ALL CAPS (wtf?).  

At the time, I thought about all of my friends who had been published in books, featured in magazines, on local or nation-wide news, or who had achieved international recognition.  I wondered: Was this my time in the sun?

After 30 seconds of due consideration, I penned my response:
[Associate Producer]:
Thanks for reaching out to me -- but I feel that DrOz's promotion of weight loss pills doesn't fit with my mission statement or branding.
The more and more I read about Dr. Oz, the more I think that I dodged a bullet.  Earlier in the year the FTC investigated the "doctor" that Dr. Oz backed in regards to the green coffee bean extract diet – Lindsey Duncan – and they've just this week ruled that his claims were deceptive, fining Duncan's companies $9 million.

Does Dr. Oz say some good things? Sure.  But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

More fun links:
Have you ever been courted by a person, site, or product that you have passed on because you don't want your name/reputation tied to it? 


Let's face it:  I'm a nerd.
I'm a nerd in touch with her emotions and can express them.
But I'm still a nerd.

So when I was up the other night (unable to find a comfortable position in which to sleep + mind preoccupied), I started researching lower back artificial disc replacement studies: the efficacy of multi-level disc replacement; post-op follow-ups in the 2-10 year ranges; comparison of different studies, etc.

A term kept on coming up — ODI — the Oswestry Disability Index.  The short questionnaire is designed to help doctors and researchers gauge where a person is in terms of their pain and how their pain affects their life.  The idea is that a doctor or researcher can ask these questions at various stages in a person's care (prior to surgery and at various post-op intervals) and compare as to whether there was an improvement.

There are 10 sections to the ODI questionnaire, with 6 possible answers in each section. Point values are assigned from 0 to 5 for each question depending on how the patient responds.  The sections are (1) Pain Intensity (2) Personal Care (3) Lifting (4) Walking (5) Sitting (6) Standing (7) Sleeping (8) Sex Life (if applicable) (9) Social Life (10) Traveling.  (Notice "Exercise" is not a category??)

The answers are then converted to a score and the score then determines the percent disability:
0% to 20% (minimal disability): Patients can cope with most activities of daily living. No treatment may be indicated except for suggestions on lifting, posture, physical fitness and diet. Patients with sedentary occupations (ex. secretaries) may experience more problems than others.
21%-40% (moderate disability): Patients may experience more pain and problems with sitting, lifting and standing. Travel and social life are more difficult. Patients may be off work. Personal care, sleeping and sexual activity may not be grossly affected. Conservative treatment may be sufficient. 
41%-60% (severe disability): Pain is a primary problem for these patients, but they may also be experiencing significant problems in travel, personal care, social life, sexual activity and sleep. A detailed evaluation is appropriate. 
61%-80% (crippled): Back pain has an impact on all aspects of daily living and work. Active treatment is required. 
81%-100%: These patients may be bed bound or exaggerating their symptoms. Careful evaluation is recommended.
If I were to take the test today, I would score a 46%.  This makes me sad.  I also realized when doing the test how much I've either had to give up (like playing softball/volleyball or volunteering at the animal shelter) or how much I avoid (dating) cause of my back. It makes me think of all the times I've turned down doing something I want to do (like going to museums) because I know how it'll affect me (walking on marble is the worst).

The questions also made me think of some stories that I've never told.  For instance, the travel section:
  •  I can travel anywhere without pain [0]
  •  I can travel anywhere but it gives me extra pain [1]
  •  Pain is bad but I manage journeys over two hours [2]
  •  Pain restricts me to journeys of less than one hour [3]
  •  Pain restricts me to short necessary journeys under 30 minutes [4]
  •  Pain prevents me from travelling except to receive treatment [5]
Since I have one of those "but you don't look sick/injured" injuries, I don't always get offered a seat on the bus or on the metro (I also feel weird asking for them).  The unexpected acceleration/deceleration of mass transit vehicles as well as their bad suspension often makes me clench my teeth in pain/discomfort.

In 2000, right after going to the ER for the first time for my back (and then being referred to an orthopedist who asked if I had too much rough sex), I went on Spring Break to Hawaii to visit my cousins.  On the leg from LAX to Hawaii, the flight attendant noticed that I kept shifting in my chair and asked me if I was comfortable.  I told her about my lower back pain.  She let me lie down in the bulkhead row.  What an angel. 

I wrote last week that this is "Not the Life I Want To Live" — it took doing this little exercise to actually see the day-to-day impact of my back injury versus feeling hopeless for the future.  This affects me now.   I'm glad I'm going to my doctor tomorrow morning.

Sipping The Kool Aid

"Oh, you're a weight loss blogger?  Have you tried __________________?" 

The minute you tell someone that you're a weight loss/health gain blogger it's like the gates open for the flood of suggestions ("Juice fasting is the BEST! Your body is a toxic wasteland!" "Paleo/Whole30 really gets to the roots of what it means to be human" "Go gluten free! Who cares if you don't have Celiac, an intolerance, or an allergy? Who cares about sugar/fat content? Wheat is EVIL" "YOU MUST GO TO THE CHURCH OF CROSSFIT **froth at the mouth**!!").  Of all the diets people have asked if I've tried I get asked most about Weight Watchers.  

Well... my very first official weigh in was today at lunch:  214.4 lbs (eek!)  
My 5 % goal is 11 lbs. My 10% goal is 21 lbs.  I would personally like to see what 175 lbs (39 lb loss) would look like.

Okay -- so why now?  My office has a pretty robust wellness program -- we have on-site yoga once a week, onsite kettlebells once a week, an in-house gym, various race sponsorship opportunities, etc. This year they offered an incentive:  if we attend more than 50% of the meetings they'll pay for half of the employee's enrollment.  My payroll company also offers up to a $200/year reimbursement for any health/wellness related expense.  Essentially, my 12-week Weight Watchers at Work program is free.  Not bad, right?

So I took the plunge and got myself a fancy schmancy Weight Watchers account (let's be friends!?). I've been allocated 34 daily points along with my 49 flex points.  It's still messing with my mind that certain fruits/veggies are zero points, even if they are high on the glycemic index. But I'm just going to go with it and see what happens.

At the very least it will help me address a few issues that I've pretty much always had, but that are especially important because I can't offset it with exercise as I have done in the past (see back issues): 
  1. meal planning;
  2. portion sizes;
  3. consistency; and
  4. accountability.
So... my new Weight Watchers friends -- have any favorite low-point/power food recipes? 

Not The Life That I Want To Live

Yesterday I awoke to terrible back pain in my mid-back (lower thoracic spine, upper lumbar spine) (yay! new injury?!) that made it hard to turn over in bed, get out of bed, stand up straight, bend down to put on underwear/pants, twist to put on a bra, etc.

In my frustration, I posted a status update to my FGvW Facebook (yes, I have a personal one and a FGvW one, please don't be offended if I don't accept your request to my personal FB):

It's not that I wanted to sulk and have pity for myself;  It's just that it requires so much energy to be optimistic, to keep fighting.  It took all of my energy yesterday to just cover the basics of taking care of myself.  Any leftover energy was put towards consoling myself with snuggles from Jack.

On days like these, sometimes the most compassionate and graceful thing that I can do is to just allow myself to feel the pain, the frustration, the fear, the sadness, the grief.  All of those negative emotions need a safe place to exist and be felt or else they become toxic.  The more I ignore those feelings the more disconnected I feel from my body and the injury.  The disconnection is where suffering lives.

Spending a day staring at the ceiling over your bed is a good time to ponder how to reconnect and end suffering.  I realized that I'm not living the life that I want to live.  I want to be active and be joyful.  Instead, I'm either living in fear of re-injury or I'm recovering from aches and pains that make me feel older than I am (physically, emotionally).  That fear has isolated me and handicapped me in many ways.

I remember a conversation that I had with my former spine doctor where he said that he wouldn't operate on my back until the day I was wheeled into his office.  It's hard trying to live in the shadow of that comment – it's like playing Russian Roulette.  "The Big One" (i.e., the incident that puts me in a wheelchair) could be from doing some crazy activity or from sneezing and anything in-between.  That thought has not liberated me to go balls to the wall; it has paralyzed me to the point that I might as well be in a wheelchair.

With that in mind, I made an appointment next week with my current orthopedic surgeon.  He understands that I want to be proactive when it comes to my spine health.  He understands that I don't want to wait for the day when my bulging discs fail (herniate), and/or that I don't want to push my luck with killing nerves (for instance, did Peyton Manning wait too long to have his surgeries?) Dr. O'Brien performed my cervical disc artificial disc implant at the intersection between the right technology and the right time for me (when I was strong and motivated to recover).

I have a courageous and adventurous heart.  I just want a body that matches.
This is how I end my suffering and begin to live the life I am meant to live.

Suck it up, buttercup.

Confession:  I ate a ginormous everything bagel that I had brought back from Brooklyn and kept in my freezer.  The world tells me that I should hate carbs, but how could I hate anything so perfect?

Can we still be friends if I eat carbs?  Great. Okay, now that I got that out of the way...

I wanted to write a post about how people think that obese/fat people are lazy yet don't realize just how hard many of us work to suck in our guts all day long.  Then I realized I had already written that post four years ago.  (I wonder how many of my followers are fellow gut suckers as well.)

Have I really run out of things to say, or is it just that some things never change?

Sadly, due to a power outage at my office the first Weight Watchers at Work meeting was postponed to later this month.  I think this is good and bad -- I was excited to get started, but I've had the respiratory ick for a while now. I also just finished a round of antibiotics that is knocking my on my ass.  The ZPak is killing every bacteria in my body, good and bad.  I will hit the ground running with Weight Watchers on January 20th.