The Social Experiment

I started writing this post over a month ago and just never got around to finishing it. In the meantime, I have shared this story with many of my friends and I have found the reaction to be exactly the same. I have mentioned my tribe and how fabulous they all are, but what I’m not sure I have said, is that all of them are about as different as night and day,  a merry tribe of odd ducks as they were once referred to. The common theme being they have good hearts. I say this because I’m interested to see if the reaction remains the same across the board…so here we go, let me know what you think.

I had reluctantly stuck my foot in to the cesspool of online dating again. I tried Bumble. Stupid site that breaks all the rules and makes the girl make the first move. That’s not how its supposed to work but I gave in. I was back to swiping right and left, leaving love to a few well angled selfies and 60 characters to describe yourself.

I match with a dude named Cole. We exchange numbers and start the texting. We do the usual exchange of what kind of work do you do, what part of town do you live in, what do you like to do on the weekends. All very generic and benign, almost boring, conversation.

Then he asks, “Are you a Trump supporter?”

Part of my hesitation in writing this, is that I don’t want to turn this political, because its not. I have friends that run the spectrum on where they stand politically and I can honestly say, I’m pretty sure I haven’t lost any friends due to my beliefs. I voted for Trump and I would again, but I don’t make it my life’s work to convince anyone to change their opinion on that issue. But back to the story….

I do what any girl on a swiping dating site does…I send a selfie with a message that says “This will make or break me.”

I had no idea where this guy was going with that question.

His response was, “I sort of got that vibe, best of luck to you.”

Well, ok then. Clearly this was a big deal to him and in my mind all he did was save me some time and make up. I now didn’t have to get dressed up, do my hair, use the good mascara only to find out that we would have very little in common. I sent him a smiley face and then curiosity got the best of me. This is a screen shot of what took place….

Imagine my surprise to look over at my phone and see pigs flying all over the screen. (Which ironically is about when this guy would ever get a response from me.)

I have also taken my foot out of the cesspool of online dating….

The day that changed it all….

One month ago, my world got turned upside down. I’m finally ready to get on with it, as they say.

I’ve written several blog posts about restarting my fitness journey and what my next step was going to be. I did a damn Ironman, why couldn’t I get back in to it? I was having back pain. My hip would hurt when I ran. I was constantly fatigued. I did what any of us do, I blamed training. I would back off for bit or switch to the elliptical. Things would get better and then they would get worse.

I was frustrated and annoyed. I couldn’t find my motivation. I became the master of excuses for that, too. Work was stressing me out. The scale wouldn’t budge. My relationship was falling apart. I spent a year immersed in training, I wanted to go out with friends and enjoy food and drinks yet I was struggling to find connection with my friends. It was a vicious cycle. A funk of all funks.

On November 1, I was meeting a friend for dinner and we changed the location at the last minute. Bahama Breeze in Altamonte. I got out of my jeep and reached for her birthday present (side note…she’s a super understanding friend, her birthday is in July), every vertebra in my back popped. My arms went numb and I was pretty sure I was going to pass out. I managed to walk in to the restaurant and squirmed uncomfortably through most of dinner. (Did I mention she is a super understanding friend?)

Due to the location change of our dinner, I was right next to the hospital and I was in enough pain that I decided to go.

I get checked in, they tell me my blood pressure is high, and I’m still uncomfortably squirming about. A CT was ordered. I hesitantly called my mom and asked her to come by in an hour to pick me up. I had been given a lovely cocktail of pain meds and muscle relaxers and would need a ride home. She, of course, shows up 15 minutes later and begins to talk my ear off. I will admit I was annoyed and may have threatened to take an Uber home (at which point I received a lecture on how Uber drivers could be terrorists….but I digress).

As the PA walked in and said the words “aggressive osteolytic lesion on C7,” I was glad I was not alone.

I will save you the blow by blow of the next 24 hours and the sheer amount of scans that were done, but on November 2, I heard words that I was never prepared to hear. I was prepared to hear, “take muscle relaxers, stretch some, and stop being a weenie.” The words I heard were “you have stage 4 breast cancer with metastasis to your spine and sacrum.”

I stayed in the hospital for 6 days while they figured out what came next. In those 6 days, I learned how it feels to be a patient, scared out of your mind. I learned that my friends are the most amazing tribe of people one could ever be privileged enough to know. The running joke about your “home team” that you call at 2 am, its not a joke. They answer, no matter the time. Thursday morning, when all I knew was there were multiple lesions on my spine and in my sacrum, the Commish was there in 15 minutes. She stood by me as I called my mom. She was there as the diagnosis was made, forever linking us in this terrible club. In tears, I made a call late on Thursday to my best friend. It had been months but I just needed to hear her. She was on a plane the next morning. No questions asked and she will never know exactly how much that meant to me. Tinkerbell doesn’t hug people and I got a hug. Her husband brought me yellow roses because…they’re yellow. The man that coached me through an ironman and has a tendency to always when know when I’m on ledge, answered a text at 4 am and has been a great source of comfort, whether he knows it or not. He plays the tough guy and his wife brings donuts and cozy blankets. Crazy ass Princess Leia shows up to make everyone cry and boss me into figuring out insurance and benefits when all I wanted to do was sleep (so I could wake up from this nightmare).

And my girls that showed up with everything a girl could need, sushi bowls, lip balm, face stuff, lotion, robes, a poop necklace (don’t ask), coloring books, razors (thank goodness), clean socks, cute little girls who wanted to share their finger licking good chips, and even a friend to braid my hair cause rumor had it a boy was coming to visit…I am beyond blessed. Friends truly are the family you choose.

My work family pulled together and made it easy for the one slacker PA. I promise next time, to be less dramatic when I need a week off. And the office staff, that puts up with my snarkiness and constant schedule adjustments…all wore scarfs to show support when I returned. I’m not sure how to pay them back for making me cry at work…but I will.

And the prayers….my pray warriors. I love you all and I will just leave that there.

My parents…my mom and dad. I don’t pretend to know how this makes them feel but I do know that they love me, faults and all, and I am thankful that I have them, even if they are crazy. I also know that one of them doesn’t read this and the other knows I call her crazy all time.

I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. I do know that year 39 will not look like I planned. 39 miles for 39 years has been officially cancelled and I’ve been put in bike time out as well, and that has to be ok. I do know that it will look like what God has planned and that I will dive head first into whatever that may be. I will say yes to more adventures. I will spend time with the people I love. I will finally write that damn book. I will live my life. This is just a speed bump….


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Office Space

 

All of the self help, or live your best life books as they are called now say you must be inspired by the spaces around you. I can honestly say I haven’t been inspired by any of the things around me. The end of summer was too hot and I was lulled back into a funk. I didn’t feel like writing, I didn’t feel like working out, and most days I didn’t even really feel like getting out of bed.

But here we are. It’s fall and its time to get it together. Time to get out of bed, put myself together and do the things that need to be done. Mostly so that I’ll have something interesting to write about besides my half assed attempts to make #year38  as interesting as #year37.

Step one. Make my office space pretty. Anyone who knows me, knows I love all things pen and paper. Nothing makes me happier than a cool pen and fresh notebook.

I’ve been writing a lot the last few days with this fun pen and with my newly organized office, hopefully there will more of that….

Bake Me a Cake

Being new to the blogging community, I was super excited to be invited to Cake and Cocktails hosted by Emily Ellyn and Mercedes Strachwshy several nights ago. My dear friend and blogging mentor, Anna-Marie was sure I would have a wonderful time and she did not disappoint.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the plan was to have a hands-on experience with fondant and drink some cocktails. While I am crafty, I’m more of the scrapbook and quilting and using straight lines and rulers type than the delicate, let’s make flowers type. But Emily handed me her signature pineapple upside down cake beverage and all bets were off. Let’s make flowers!

Satin Ice artist and Bake Me a Cake owner Mercedes Strachwshy was giving the demonstration. She spoke of cake decorating and her love for it while she molded a ball of fondant into an almost life like rose with ease and grace like I’ve never seen. Literally like it was nothing.



No problem, I thought, as I took a sip. I got this.

I, anything but had this. My bull in a china shop mentality did not lend it self to the easy, carefree pedals that were taking place all around me.

I was simply amazed at what these women could do. I had fun none the less and with a little help, managed to create a great looking cupcake.

All of this leading up to The Americas Cake Fair. The Americas Cake Fair is the largest trade and consumer show in North and South America dedicated to cake, chocolate, sugar arts and more, coming to the Orange County Convention Center on October 13-15, 2017.

More than 10,000 baking professionals, industry buyers, pastry chefs, cake artists, retail bakers, hobbyists and everyday foodies from around the world are expected to attend the three-day celebration, which held its inaugural show in 2015.

I was generously given tickets to attend this show myself as well as a pair to give away. I may have taken a cookie decorating class in college and anyone who knows me knows that my mom (@projectnikismom) can bake like nobody’s business. We will be in attendance. Who is joining us? Enter via Rafflecopter below.




*Contest opens at 5pm EST on September 29, 2017 and closes at 11:59pm on October 5, 2017. No purchase neccessary. Winner must be 18 years or older. Winner will recieve two (2) tickets to attend The Americas Cake Fair 2017 being held on October 13-15, 2017 at the Orange County convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Entires may be submitted once per day through the duration of the contest. Good luck!*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“I am a Digital Ambassador for The Americas Cake Fair, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending the show and reporting my opinion within this blog, The Americas Cake Fair has provided me with complimentary tickets and other exclusive opportunities.”

 

145 Days.

145 days left.

That’s all. That’s no time at all.

That’s how many days til I turn 39 and coincidently, the same amount of days til I run a marathon the day after I complete my 32nd half marathon, in the Disney Goofy Challenge  (http://projectniki.com/thirty-nine-for-39/)

I haven’t started training. I thought writing some cute blog posts about my intentions would help inspire me but it didn’t. I thought that posting it on Facebook would help, but it didn’t. I thought telling all my friends that it was my plan would help, but it didn’t.

I will head out to run and get about 10 minutes in and quit. I can’t wrap my head around the long runs. I start having flash backs to Ironman training and I stop. Dead in my tracks. I start walking and thinking and freaking out.

I was reminded by a friend yesterday, it’s not likely to get better the longer I wait. It’s not likely my fitness will magically return. It’s not likely that I will just fall in love with running. What I need to remember is what I do love. I love the way I feel when the long run is over. I love the feeling of spending Saturday morning with my running buddies. I love the feeling of being so tired at night I can go to sleep without being consumed by my thoughts.

I love being able to finish something I started. So I started, 2 miles done tonight. A whole bunch more to go.

 

Taco Tuesday

This guy took two dates to screw it up but I still think it counts and it actually happened on Tuesday.

We met at the Ale house. This was becoming the typical meet up spot. Casual, lots of options, TV’s with sports in case he got boring. Plus, it was close to home.

We met at the bar, ordered a beer and chatted. I honestly don’t even remember about what, I know that I was amused and liked his sense of humor. We ordered some snack to split. He was already a step up from the other guy (http://projectniki.com/on-a-thursday-night/). We continued chatting and ordered another drink.

The bill came, 2 beers each and loaded French fries…I’m guessing less than $30 and he graciously offered to pay. We hugged and went our separate ways.

He texted the next day and throughout the rest of the weekend. He said we should have dinner the following weekend. I whole heartedly agreed.

This is where he almost stole the show…he called me on Tuesday night as I was driving home from work. I was tired, hungry and stuck in traffic. He said that he had been thinking of me and couldn’t possibly wait till Friday to see me and asked if I wanted to meet him for dinner. Then he said those magical words that every girl dreams of. “It’s taco Tuesday, I’ll see you at Tijuana flats in thirty minutes.”

A sweet phone call and tacos, how could this get better? I pondered this in the massive amount of traffic I was sitting in.

I was about 5 minutes from the agreed upon taco place when my phone rang again. Apparently, everyone wanted tacos that night and it was packed. He didn’t want to deal with the crowd and could we meet at Outback instead. Strike one. Don’t tease me with tacos.

I get to the Outback and he has already finished his first whiskey. I order a glass of wine, he orders his second along with a bloomin’ onion and some sort of shrimp dish. I am slowly getting over my disappointment of the tacos that almost were while we enjoy our appetizers. We order another round of drinks and he begins ordering his dinner. Strike 2. Let me order first, its only polite.

His steak comes out medium rare and my fish was cooked to perfection. He orders another whiskey. That’s 4, in case you lost track. He’s starting to slur his words and wondering where I’d like to go after dinner. Ummm….home? Alone. Its Tuesday night. I work in the morning.

He continues to tease me and call me a party pooper and the check comes out.

“I paid last time, so it’s your turn,” and slides the $100 check to my side of the table.

Strike three. Next.

 

Thirty nine for 39

Terrible date Tuesday is taking a break (and no, I haven’t run out of stories). I felt like I needed to do a training update (and no, not because I have an insanely productive training schedule and want to give you the break down).

I have continued to be less than motivated to get back out there and train. I did this huge thing last year and now I can’t seem to get out of my own way. I signed up for at least 7 half marathons since in the past 9 months and they have been less than inspiring. I no showed on 3 of them. I forgot to sign up for Pittsburgh Half Marathon (http://projectniki.com/devineintervention/). I did the Donna Challenge and the Gasparilla Challenge but only because I wanted the medals. I clocked my worst time (clock-wise, but it was a good time, really, if you know what I mean) ever at the Las Vegas Rock’nRoll half marathon. I ran some 5ks and I’ve half-heartedly shown up for some bike rides.

Its summer time in Florida and I’m convinced people shouldn’t live in this climate, let alone train in it. Yet every day, my Facebook memories reminds that not only did I train in it, I survived and I did a really cool thing at the end. I had a goal and I achieved it.

So, I’ve done the only thing I know how to do to motivate myself. I signed up for something stupid. I put it on the internet. I make a cool hashtag and pray that I don’t humiliate myself.

So here it is. #Thirtyninefor39

I signed up for the Disney Goofy Challenge. I will run the half marathon on Saturday and then on Sunday, January 7th, I will run a marathon. My first standalone marathon and hopefully with a slightly better showing than my first marathon in Chattanooga. At the end, I will have run 39.3 miles on my 39th birthday.

So here goes nothing, because, you know, I love running. Running is my favorite.

 

Bad Boy

E card with man praying and quote "Lord, where do you find them and why do you keep sending them to me"

Several years ago on a cold and rainy January night, ever the optimist, I show up to the dive bar expecting so much.

I was in the bad boy stage. The grown up bad boy stage. I wanted tattoos and muscles but nice and with a job.

We start with the usual chit chat. He tells me he’s in hospitality management but that his dream is to write books. He actually has one self published and is working on the next. He asks what it is I do for a living. So, I let him know I was a healthcare provider. I’m not sure what it is about telling someone you work in medicine that suddenly makes them want to tell you all their business but this guy just lets it all out. I think it was the only question he asked me all night.

He gives me a list of medications that was more detailed than some of my patients at an office visit. Medication names, dosages, scheduling. This guy was in his late 20’s, how was this much medication necessary? He hadn’t listed any antipsychotics so I kept listening and asking questions. The date was officially over, but I was fascinated at this point. Plus, he kept answering.

He listed a serious anti-seizure medication and I had to know why.

“I used to be fighter, like cage fighting.” Now I’m thinking of a Friends reference and giggling. He’s still talking about fighting moves.

“I got hit in the head a lot. The doctors weren’t sure if was the multiple concussions that caused the seizure or because I used to do a lot of drugs.”

What? And I’m sure the look on my face matched this sentiment because he felt the need to explain to me that I didn’t need to worry, that was a long time ago and he’s cleaned up his act. When you’re in your 20’s, nothing was “a long time ago.”

But here I am, 2 drinks in and fascinated by this story. I just had to know what event happened that caused him to change so drastically. A cage fighter on drugs to an aspiring author working in hospitality management.

So, he and his ex-girlfriend decided to get together for one more night of what I can only assume was a steamy, passionate romantic evening and she ended up with his child. They weren’t getting back together, but he had to clean up his act.

And I know you’re thinking “wow, he told you all this on the first date, what’s left for the second date.”

I didn’t find out. He did ask for a second date, you know, because I’m so sweet and such a great listener.

“Why don’t you pick me up tomorrow after work and I’ll come to your place and cook you dinner?” he asks.

That was never going to happen but just to play along, I ask, “Why not your place?”

30 minutes of back and forth questioning, turns out hospitality management meant that he lived on site at his job, with no car. The hotel he managed was more like a Super 8 and he didn’t want to make me mac and cheese on hot plate.

Thank you for curing me of my “bad boy” stage.

E card with man praying and quote "Lord, where do you find them and why do you keep sending them to me"

 

What about dinner?

I decided that I was no longer interested in love. I wanted a guy to take me places and buy me things. I was no longer accepting the “let’s hang out” offers and I was sticking to the rules. Two-day notice for dates and some place nice.

I spent a lot of time at home. These rules were crap and men just weren’t getting it.

This guy got points for persistence. It was Thursday. He asked me out for Friday. Sorry, I had plans.

He called at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was awake and had already been out for a run. We had a lovely conversation. We had things in common. The conversation flowed nicely. Did I want to go to the farmers market in a few hours? Sorry, I had plans.

Finally, on Tuesday, after 3 more days of casual text flirting, he asked to take me out to dinner and drinks on Park Avenue on Friday. Holy crap. An actual date and plans made in advance.

I will admit, I was excited. This guy had a great voice, we had good banter, his profile picture was nice. I studied his profile carefully, looking for the red flag. He had no kids, he had a job, no bathroom selfies, good hair, nice smile….what was the catch??

I bought a new top. I put on the nice jeans and a pair of heels. I had my hair done. Spent time on the makeup, more than just mascara and lip gloss. I even put on bangle bracelets and dangly earrings.

I walked into the restaurant and met him at the bar as agreed upon. He was sitting at the corner of the bar, drinking a scotch or whiskey or something fancy like that. He smiled and gestured for me to sit down. He didn’t stand and give me the awkward hug. Just a simple introduction and what would you like to drink.

The bartender walked over and told me about their jalapeno infused tequila. Interesting…. let’s try this.

Things were going quite well. Two tequilas later, I was less cynical about men and enjoying the date.

“Let’s get some dinner,” he says. He paid the bill and hopped off his high-top bar stool.

Now, I know I was wearing heels and at 5’9” that put me a little shy of 6 feet tall.

He hopped down because I’m guessing that while his profile said 5’8”,  a more accurate measurement would have been 5’5″.

We awkwardly walked out of the bar. He was literally eyelevel with my cleavage.

“I didn’t realize you’d be so tall…”

His tiny little t-rex arm shot out for the awkward one arm hug and he turned and all but ran away.

What about dinner?

On a Thursday night…

I had reached a point where I had just really low expectations. I didn’t even waste time with the awkward first phone call anymore. That’s how I ended up on this date.

I think it was a plenty of fish date. He was a bit younger than me and fairly good looking. He texted me the plan. Thursday night at Buffalo Wild Wings. He had a plan and I liked this.

I did the usual get ready, change clothes, put on the lip gloss, change clothes again, pick shoes and head out the door.

He is at the bar as promised. I get the half stand, one arm hug and join him. The bartender walks by and asks for my order. “It’s $2 beer night. What can I get you?” With my low expectations, came the lowering of my standards and a $2 beer it was. Truth be told, I’m not that picky and as I recall, the cold beer went nice with the outside bar.

The beer arrives as he’s telling me about how his roommate’s girlfriend moved in. He was upset because she brought her 2 cats as well and the cats didn’t get along with his other roommate’s dog and it was causing him to lose sleep. He did something at a TV or radio station and had to be up early. He had a job and apparently, this was cancelling out the red flags of having more than one roommate and what sounded like more animals than should be in one apartment.

We finish beer one and he orders us the next round. The conversation is flowing. He’s laughing at my tales of travelling, getting married in Vegas, and the other nonsense of my life. He’s convincing me to stay for a third. I laugh and say, sure but let’s order some food.

“Nah, I’m good. So, what’s your favorite football team?” I mean, we were at sports bar so it sports were bound to come up but I was still stuck on the “Nah, I’m good.” How do we not get chips with our beers?

Round 3 shows up and conversation starts slowing. Turned out he was a Philly fan. Eagles, Flyers, the whole town. Ew.

I finish my beer and tell him I need to get going…like to the drive thru, for food, but that’s neither here nor there.

The check arrives.

“Hey. Can we split this? I don’t get paid til Friday.”

$6.

I figured out why he didn’t want to get food but I couldn’t figure out why he asked me out on Thursday.