A note of thanks. And a promise.

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So. As my luck would have it, I tore my calf muscle a little over a week ago. Perhaps in 2015 I’ll manage to make it through the year without injury or accidents but this isn’t my year. Once again. But this time it really bums me out. Why, you ask? Because I have been training for my first-ever 10K, which was supposed to happen on September 7 in San Francisco. Sadly, my orthopedic surgeon put the kibosh on my plans last week (and I’ve been in denial).

There is a small detail here that’s somewhat important to note: I am not a runner.

But thanks to this awesome little app called 10K Runner, I’ve learned to love running and have been in training mode for weeks. I went from barely being able to make it through a mile to running just over three miles with ease. I know that I would have been able to run that 10K if I hadn’t suffered this setback. And that totally bums me out.

What bums me out even MORE is that I asked friends and family and colleagues to support me. And they were extraordinarily generous. People who sign up to run in The Giant Race have the option to fundraise as part of the event and I thought it would be cool to do this run for my 42nd birthday while raising money for a really lovely cause, Project Open Hand. This organization helps feed (and take care of) the elderly in San Francisco, a city that’s also near and dear to my heart.

Thanks to the generosity of a bunch of people, I was able to raise $2300 on my own, but as a team we raised $3275. My goal was to raise $4200, and I really really really do not like meeting goals. But to put this into perspective, for every $100 donated, Project Open Hand is able to make 50 life-sustaining meals for their clients. So, to date my generous friends have provided over 1,600 meals to those who need it most. I can’t be mad about that. It is simply amazing. And I cannot thank you guys enough.

But what bums me out EVEN MORE is that I also asked a few friends to run with me. One even joined my team and asked her friends to donate. A few other friends signed up and pledged to run. One recruited his wife! (Hi, Alex & Erin & baby Hank!) I mean, how lucky am I to have people like that in my life? Beyond. But I can’t help feel as though I let them down. It’s not a good feeling, that much I know. I’ll somehow make it up to you guys! I promise.

But rather than boo-hoo for too long, I decided to sign up for a local race here in NYC that happens in late September. It’s also a race with a good cause. Run 10 Feed 10. Just by signing up you provide 10 meals to people in need. And for this race, fundraising is also an option. But, no, I’m not asking for help (well, I won’t turn it down either especially because it goes to such a good cause!). Instead, as a way to thank the people who have been supporting my road to recovery following spine surgery late last year, I’m going to donate the balance of what I wasn’t able to raise for The Giant Race to the Run 10 Feed 10 race.

I am so thankful to have such a generous and supportive network of people in my life. It’s humbling to know that people are so willing to give. And for that I will always be grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And now the countdown to being able to run / train again begins. Wish me luck.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

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I’m amazed by the pace with which life moves. Some days I feel as though there aren’t enough hours in the day. And some days I feel as though the days go on forever. I’m shocked… SHOCKED… that I haven’t taken the time to write this year. THIS YEAR. Wow.

I mean, there has been a lot going on… I played tour guide a couple of times to visitors from out of town, I took trips to Florida, Las Vegas and San Francisco (and I’m currently on a plane heading back to San Francisco). Oh, and also Punta Cana. (Ahhhh. Punta Cunta. Must go back.) Work has been crazy. Work has been crazy. Did I mention work has been crazy? Good crazy, but crazy nonetheless. I’ve managed to go on some dates. Some great, some good, some not so much. CAught some hockey games, live music, and some other shows. And basically just lived it up.

Some days I forget that I was just in surgery a little over three months ago. But the one constant here has been fun. I’ve been trying, and succeeding (hurrah!), to try to have more fun this year. Some days the idea of fun might mean something different than other days but, in the end, it’s life in the moment that matters. And that, dear readers, is how I will continue to roll this year.

Hope you’ve managed to find your fun zone this year, too! xoxo

“Ho ho ho to you all! Hope your bells jingle all day long! Cheers!” — Me

The Joys of Surgery

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Just under two weeks ago I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery. You can look it up. In a nutshell, it means the surgeon will cut your neck open, remove/replace some troublesome discs, and attach a plate and screws so it all fuses together. Fun right? No.

I had the surgery after several non-surgical treatments failed to work. I’m lucky. My surgery was just a couple of levels (C5/6 and C6/7) but the pain before surgery was intense because one of the discs had herniated so badly that it was putting a lot of pressure directly on my spinal cord. Scary stuff when your spinal cord is involved, especially around your neck.

So, off to surgery I went. The third-ish of my life if I leave out the dental implant surgery I’m in the middle of completing. As an adult in my late 20s I had my tonsils removed. Ow. A few years ago I had an emergency appendectomy. That required a couple of nights in the hospital. But I didn’t have time to think about anything which, in hindsight, was not so bad. I had surgery within a few hours of realizing I would need surgery.

My spine surgery was scheduled two weeks out so obviously I scoured the Internet to learn everything I could about ACDF. Bad bad bad bad idea. Terrible really. As I was learning I was also thinking that emergency surgery (my appendectomy) seemed like such a better deal than this planned surgery.

Because: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I WAKE UP AND CAN’T FEEL MY ARMS AND LEGS?!? Oh, that was just one of many questions that kept me up at night. But I was/am lucky in that I have a great medical team – at one of the country’s top hospitals for orthopedic surgery – and they patiently and kindly answered all my questions.

I also heard from friends who had undergone similar surgeries. It all helped. And I was SUPER lucky to have had two great friends take turns staying with me during the first 10 days of recovery. Amazing. But as I’ve recovered I keep thinking about the day of surgery. It was such a weird experience and there were so many things that I didn’t know to ask about in advance once I got started on surgery day.

So, dear readers, if you find yourself heading for surgery, a few things to keep in mind…

1. This may change hospital to hospital, I’m not sure, but it is ENTIRELY possible that you might go under (anesthesia) wearing a completely different (and very strange) hospital gown than you wake up in after surgery. This is really not cool to realize. You will definitely miss those giant paper underwear when you regain consciousness and realize you have no idea who may or may not have seen your booty in all its birthday suit glory.

2. When they tell you to start taking stool softeners in advance of surgery, listen. Pain killers are the worst for your, ahem, system. The. Worst. Ever.

3. When you pack your overnight bag, you should pack something that is WAY too big. I’m talking 3x too big, people. And then just ignore it when you put it on and it fits. Even shoes. Where the swelling comes from is beyond me but… wow. WOW. Just wow. Goodyear Blimp. I’m just now getting back to normal. Crazy.

Overall, recovery has been well. Slow and steady, which is OK with me. Some bumps here and there but even the pain when those bumps happen is OK because I know it’s my body healing. Positive energy and lots of love – both in real life and virtually – help tremendously. I’m lucky in that I’ve had great doses of both.

But all I can keep thinking is… man, I hope the people in the OR focused more on my tattoos than on my toosh. And with that, I’m off to nap.

This face.

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Tales From the Dark Side (aka Online Dating): So Many Assholes, So Little Time

Last night I couldn’t sleep so was checking my various inboxes and reading email at 2-something-am. Joy. One inbox in particular, that’s used only for online dating purposes (so I can easily ignore when I want to), was the source of so much entertainment that I started tweeting out some of the things guys wrote to me.

Maybe I’m as much of an asshole for doing that as the guys are who are sending the emails but I’m just so completely blown away by all of it sometimes that I can’t help myself. I’d never give out any personal details or share pics, for the record. That would for sure be an asshole move. But, I mean, COME ON, it’s insane the things people say to complete strangers who could potentially be someone you’d date.

(OK, I used “someone you’d date” loosely — VERY loosely — as I’d never date a guy who sends some of these nutjob notes but I’m kind of trying to remain somewhat positive about online dating as I’ve heard lots of wonderful stories about people who have lived happily ever after post meeting online.)

As my own online dating luck would have it, this morning I woke up to quite a gem. I have another post brewing in my head about tattoos which makes this particular email all the more fascinating to me. So, here goes.

From: Asshole du jour (who, by the way, lives 3000 miles away — my preference is within 5 miles — and is nowhere even remotely close to the realm of what I’m looking for but that didn’t stop him)

“Just don’t take offense of what I say/comment. I’ve just always hated tats on women. (tramp stamps we called them–I still do). I have 3 but that’s all military (honor, proud, duty, kinship). My ex-wife, FYI, even wanted to tat my name on her body–and I told here, are you effing crazy! Anyways, it all looks “pretty.” How you overly justify it, that’s your business and definitely none of my concern. Take care, and peace.”

Ugh. I almost just can’t even go there. But I will. Something told me this would be a good email as it was a comment on a pic that I posted of myself with many tattoos exposed. And I posted that pic for a reason: so guys who aren’t into tattoos could move along and save me from having to disclose at some point during date one that I’m a walking/talking/breathing/smart/successful canvas. And full of paint.

But, try as I might, I couldn’t fight the urge to respond.

From: Me, to tattoo hating king of typos

“I honestly could care less what you think and frankly have no idea why you reached out to me. If you don’t like tattoos on women, then just move along and find someone who doesn’t have any. To take the time to comment and insult me? That makes me sad for you as you’re obviously a miserable person. Take care.”
 
I wanted to add: “And, while you’re at it, learn how to spell so you at least *appear* to be smart when you’re insulting people.” But that might have been insulting. So instead I blocked him from all further contact.
 
Oh, the insanity of it all.

Kale for Dummies. The only recipe you need. You’re welcome.

I will start off by saying this: I don’t really like kale all that much. But for some weird reason I love eating kale chips. Of the $6.99 (!!) a serving variety. You know, the kind you buy at the local hipster market. And I loved them for a minute. Then I overdosed. And it wasn’t just that I overdosed, it was that they left a weird taste in my mouth. That, my friends, is definitely no bueno.

So, I decided to make my own. And OMG I don’t know what took me so long. Not only do they taste AMAZING fresh out of the oven, but it’s also, oh, about a buck a batch. A steal!

I found many variations from all over the web — and tried a few — but it all felt so complicated, starting with: layer them in a single layer. Yeah. I don’t have time for that. It only took a few experimental batches and I finally mastered the art of making the perfect bowl of kale chips (aka crunchy kale). And I like to pay it forward, so here you go.

Kale for Dummies

1. Buy a bunch of kale. Wash it. Remove the stem things. I fold the leaf in half and cut it lengthwise. Cut the kale into bite size-ish pieces. Or rip it up. Whatever works. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

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2. Throw it in a bowl. Drizzle some olive oil (maybe 2 tablespoons) and use your hands — wash them first, you dirty birds! — to toss the kale.  Make sure it’s evenly coated. Then layer it on a broiler pan. (The broiler pan is important. So you can be lazy and skip turning the kale chips over. I don’t bother with the single layer. It’s more like random layers.) Once it’s all on the pan, sprinkle with sea salt.

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3. Throw it in the oven and let it do its thing for 15-20 minutes (this will depend on your oven and how much kale you use — this batch took 20 mins and there was quite a bit of kale). Take it out and let it sit for a few (it’ll continue to crisp) then toss into a bowl and eat. Or you can just eat it straight off the pan like me. Because: fewer dishes to wash.

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Yum. You’re welcome.

Just your average Saturday morning. If you’re me.

It all started out perfectly normal. Woke up early, took Baxter for a walk, came home and started getting ready to head up to Westchester to visit a friend (Hi, Britt!) who’s in the hospital for a few days (she’s OK and hopefully returning home today or tomorrow). And then…

…I took a cab to the ZipCar location to pick up my car only to find out it wasn’t there. While talking with ZipCar support they realized that the car was cataloged incorrectly and doesn’t actually live at that garage. While they were nice enough to upgrade me for the same price and give me an hour credit, they didn’t have another car at that location available, so…

…Lucky for me, someone was getting out of a cab when I figured this out so I hopped in and gave the driver the directions that I hastily pulled off my phone. The only issue is that I realized the street number was 700 – and not 70! – when we were almost to the destination. If that’s not bad enough, because of my lack of map-reading skills, I realized after I got to the 2nd ZipCar location that it would have taken me ~8 minutes to walk there, bad foot and all.

…The new ZipCar (Audi A5 = pretty awesome ride!) was in a parking garage. I’m assuming the attendant had a bad night because usually they pull the cars out for you. Not this guy. He pointed to the car and said “there it is.” I got in and realized I was wedged between a wall and a pole. Fifteen or so minutes later I was on my way. There’s a reason I don’t park cars in tight spaces for a living. I would starve.

…All was good in the hood thanks to a lovely lady giving me directions through the car’s speakers. (I guess that’s one advantage of getting upgraded to a car with a navigation system, especially considering I couldn’t find a USB plug for my phone.) That is until I ended up on the George Washington Bridge heading to New Jersey. So… yeah. On the bright side, the view when driving back and forth across the GWB (who does that?!) is quite lovely this time of year. Radio now off, I managed to return to the right state in no time flat. Kind of.

…Finally in Bronxville, I parked in the first spot I could find near the hospital. There’s a ton of construction happening on one side of the hospital and I didn’t want to get lost. I sat in the car so I could text Britt to find out her room number and had stopped paying attention to the outside world for a second. Imagine my shock when someone opened my door. I nearly had a heart attack. And I think the same can be said for the sweet lil old lady who mistakenly opened said door. Turns out she has the same exact car. Parked two spots up. She couldn’t stop apologizing even though I told her it was not a problem at all. Then she said “I would have died if that happened to me” and walked away. Yeah.

…After walking almost a FULL BLOCK out of the way (see note above re. construction), I finally figured out where I was going and made my way to floor 5 where I finally (FINALLY!) got to hang out with Britt for a few minutes.

Fortunately, the drive back to Brooklyn wasn’t nearly as eventful. And now I’m left wondering if all the bad luck from this morning means some good luck is coming my way? I’m thinking yes. And I’m hoping for a Tigers win tonight. Until then, I think I’ll stay put in the quiet comfort of my flat.

Peace out homechickens. And may the travel gods be with you today.

7 years, 5 months, 20 days, 4 hours, 25 minutes

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That’s how long ago my brother Lanny died. He was five months shy of 25. It definitely gets a little easier every year. And by a little, I’m talking miniscule amounts of easy. If Lanny was still here, he’d no doubt be watching the Lions play the Bears today. Wearing a Lions jersey (though hopefully not the Harrington jersey he rocked the last time I saw him on Thanksgiving day in 2005). And maybe even throwing back a beer or 10 (we’re part Irish, what can I say?). He’d also likely be celebrating his birthday albeit a few hours early. Tomorrow Lanny would have turned 33. Surreal.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. I’ve experienced no greater pain than the loss of my brother. It is with me every day. It’s always like a punch in the gut when I think about it. And it will always be with me. But these days when I think about him, and usually shed a few tears (let’s be honest, I can cry at the drop of a hat), I try to think about how lucky I am to be where I am in life. And I try to think about how proud Lanny would be of me if he was here. Because his opinion and acceptance of me mattered greatly.

It’s easy to get caught up in grief. I am an expert at this, having suffered too much loss in life. It’s much harder to turn that grief into something positive. But I am always up for a good challenge.

So, today I shall celebrate Lanny. His life. His smile. Him. His love of life. His love of the Lions. His love of me and the rest of our family. And I ask you, my friends, if you’re not a Bears fan, give a little love to the Lions today and join me in cheering them on to victory. For Lanny.

Happy early birthday, sweet brother. xoxo