Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Proposal

One day.

The countdown is down to ONE DAY.

Tomorrow is our wedding day. What in the world. If it feels like it came up fast, that's because it really has. We only found out the whole Vegas wedding situation was going to work out a few months ago -- just before the summer. It's been a whirlwind ever since.

Once we knew it was going to happen, we figured we should get engaged. Emily and I have been together for three years and lived together for two of them. We'd discussed the topic in general terms, saying things like, "Well of course we're going to get married eventually." But we never got into specifics.

But when the possibility of Vegas came up, we were kind of pushed into a higher gear, and we said, "If we're going to get married, we might as well get engaged first!"

Emily is a Craigslist addict. Even when she's not actively shopping for something, she'll check in daily to see if there's anything that looks good.

When we decided it was time to ring shop, she started glancing around the jewelry section. After a couple of days of browsing, she found a beautiful pear-shaped stone.

Some concerns, obviously:
  • Karma -- It's hard to feel good about buying someone else's engagement diamond. Why is it being sold? Did they get divorced and now they don't want the ring anymore? What's going on here?
  • Being ripped off -- Is it actually a diamond? Is it as good as they claim it is?
We met with the woman selling the stone and learned she's been married to her high school sweetheart for more than 30 years (she just wanted to upgrade her ring). Then we took the stone to a few different jewelers, who all verified the quality. Good to go!

We used a jeweler downtown called Boone & Sons to build the setting. Here's the challenge: how do you make the proposal a surprise when you shop for the ring together and know the delivery date?

Well, you enlist the help of the jeweler from the start. 

God love Kay, who was in to help out as soon as I gave her the idea. Here was the plan:
  • Since they were building us a setting from scratch, we were going to have the opportunity to approve the rough build to make sure it was going in the right direction.
  • Kay and I were emailing to exchange information about the GIA certification for the ring appraisal, so I mentioned the idea of telling Emily the ring would take a week or two longer than it actually would. 
  • When we went to approve the rough setting, Kay told Emily three weeks. Emily went to the restroom while we were there, and Kay confirmed it would be ready in 10 days. 
  • Kay added an extra layer about the actual jeweler being out of town to take his daughter to college, so he wouldn't have a chance to work on it for a while. That wrinkle was the brilliance in the plan. If she had said he was just really busy, Emily could have been tempted to ask me to call and check on it. But now, what could I do? He's out of town!
I successfully picked up the ring without Emily realizing and, even better, she thought it wouldn't be done for another two weeks. I had a two-week window where the proposal would be a surprise.

With the two of us knowing the engagement was coming, I brought up the idea of going out on a date as a non-engaged couple one more time. I suggested going back to The Front Page, the site of our very first date. 

The day arrived and Emily was feeling sick because of course she was. We needed to go out because the date was approaching when Emily would know I had the ring. She didn't yet. 

I pushed and pushed and eventually, she decided to go to the doctor to check on things. Naturally, I said I'd go along and we could just go to dinner afterward. I cannot imagine why she agreed.

We had dinner and a few drinks and walked a few blocks south to get frozen yogurt. Throughout the entire date, I had the engagement ring in my shirt pocket. 

As we sat outside the yogurt store, Emily turned to me and said, "You know, I'm really excited about the whole Vegas thing, and I don't regret a minute of it. But I'm kind of sad we won't have a proposal story because we had to shop for the ring together, and I know we're picking it up next week."

All I could say was, "Well there's still time; you never know what I might pull off."

All the while I was thinking, "I have a ring in my pocket. I have a ring in my pocket. I have a ring in my pocket."

It was a cool night for mid-June, so we walked a few blocks north to get back to Dupont Circle, where I thought we could just sit around the fountain and enjoy the night. I figured the Circle would make for a good proposal location.

As we walked up, I noticed a few hundred of my closest friends crowding around several large screens that had been set up. Ah ha. Of course. The Women's World Cup. A giant watch party set up right in the middle of where I'd hoped to propose. 

OK. Time to adapt!

We found a quiet spot around the outer ring of the Circle and sat for a while, just talking about the upcoming planning and engagement. Knowing the impending storm of wedding planning that was upon us, it was nice to sit and enjoy each other's company for a few quiet moments.

That's when I slid the ring from my pocket and got down on one knee to ask Emily to marry me. Spoiler alert: she said yes. 

As we pulled out our phones to take photos of the moment, a family walked by and saw us. The woman immediately stopped and shouted, "Oh my god, did you just get engaged?!"

She then grabbed my phone to take a picture for us, while demanding I get back on my knee to reenact the moment. Obviously I did. 

And now, just one day to go before the wedding. 

What a ride! 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dating Espionage

Timing is everything – whether it's delivering the perfect joke or having two people's priorities line up to join together.

The timing wasn't right for Emily and me then, and we temporarily went our separate ways. But over the course of the next five months, I couldn't shake her from my mind.

I found myself paying extra close attention when my Metro train stopped at her station. I'd drive a couple miles per hour slower if I happened to be driving through the neighborhood where she lived. My heart would skip a beat when I saw her name pop up on my Facebook timeline or my Gchat buddy list.

I never reached out though.

After a while, I realized how silly that was. Several months had passed, and we always had a good time together. I knew if I didn't try it again, I'd always wonder what could have been. After close consultation with Jon and Mike, two of my closest friends, we collectively decided to go for it. If nothing else, I wanted to leave a Brian-sized hole in the wall, and I'd know where things stood.

Emily had recently returned from a long trip to India, and I figured I could use that as an icebreaker. I then sent the following text:

"Typhoid Mary! You've been popping up on my FB news feed lately. What would you think about meeting for a drink to catch up? I'd love to hear about the trip! :-)"

I'd done my part. I put it out into the universe, and it was time to wait. Every time my phone buzzed, my heart stopped. Work emails, man. Hated 'em.

Luckily, a few hours later, my phone buzzed, and this time, it was her. She responded. And what's more, she said it would be nice to catch up. We were back in business!

Our second first date took place at a bar called Buffalo Billiards, just across the street from Front Page, the site of our first first date.

We had a few drinks, we played skeeball and shuffleboard and we danced. As I walked her home, I knew I had to do whatever it took to make it work at whatever pace it needed to work.

So when Emily turned to me and said, "I had a really great time, but I have to be honest with you. I don't want a boyfriend, and I'm not ready to date anyone," I did what anyone would do.

I lied. Happily.

"Oh absolutely. I don't want to date anyone either. Did you have fun? Because I had fun."
"I did have fun," she replied. "I had a lot of fun."
"OK then. What more do you need to know? If you had fun, and I had fun, then we'll just hang out and have fun."

And so we did.

When her friends had to break the news to her two months later that she and I were dating, she didn't want to believe them.

"That's ridiculous," Emily said. "We're not dating. I told him I didn't want to date anyone, and he agreed."

"OK," her friends replied. "But you're doing fun things together often? And you plan them together? Yeah, you're dating."

And a few weeks after that, Emily asked me if I wanted to be exclusive. It was the most masterful piece of dating espionage strategy I could have imagined.

Three years later, it's paid off well.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Unconventional Internet Research

Our first date was a bar at Dupont Circle in downtown D.C. called The Front Page. It's not the classiest of locales, but it's right next to a Metro station, it's well-lit and very public and they have good Manhattans.

The well-lit and very public is the key to any good first date. Nonthreatening and unpretentious – that's all I wanted. Get her to feel safe enough to show up, and I think I can take it from there.

I was late, but it wasn't my fault. At the time, I lived in a suburb of D.C. called Gaithersburg, Md. It's the last stop on Metro's red line. I raced home from work to take care of the dog and jetted over to the station to head downtown.

Midway through the trip, the train stopped moving – and stayed stationary for several minutes. That's when the police boarded the train car in front of me.

The texts started flying.

"I'm so sorry I'm running late. You literally won't believe this, but there is police activity on the car in front of mine. The train is stopped. Someone is being led off the train in handcuffs."

"It's no problem!" she said. Though she surely thought, At least his excuses are creative.

I raced up the escalator to where she was waiting, and she smiled and hugged me. The date went well.

As we started planning a second date, we decided it would be a good idea to make a dinner reservation at a restaurant near her office. Then, I could swing by and pick her up after work and head straight to dinner.

She told me she worked at Freed Photography in Bethesda. What she didn't know then was I already knew that.

With online dating, there's always a risk. When you "meet" someone new online, you just want some verification she's a real person. What better way than through social media? As I've mentioned before, Emily fancies herself a woman of mystery. She didn't want to be found on Facebook. Previously, I only knew her first name and where she went to school. Normally that's enough. Even when I knew her full name, she was unsearchable.

Although I knew by now she was who she said she was, and I didn't need to verify her identify on Facebook, it was a matter of pride. No one was unsearchable for me. I could find anyone. Except her.

It was time to get creative.

I recalled a conversation where she said she worked at a photography studio in Bethesda. OK. That's something.

I google-mapped Bethesda and searched for photography studios. Luckily, there were only a couple of options in the portion of the map I had open. Armed with the names of a couple of studios, I headed to their websites to see if they listed a staff directory.

My first search? Freed Photography.

Sure enough, listed on the staff page, was a pretty girl named Emily Lampe.

My luck continued when I searched for Freed on Facebook. Lots of photos. People tagged in nearly all of them. And then, boom. A staff party. Hey, she looks familiar. Tagged in the photo: Emily Lampe.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Whole Meal of Food

In the brisk autumn air of October 2011, I was planning yet another trip to Raleigh to engage in varying degrees of idiocy with Mike, Nick and many, many others. We were planning an extensive agenda of football on TV, football in person, tailgating, Bojangles, drinking and dancing.

As the Raleigh excursion drew closer, I'd begun exchanging messages on eHarmony with a delightful young woman named Emily. Our messages were fun and witty, and I hadn't been that excited about meeting someone in quite some time.

By the time I got to Raleigh, we'd exchanged phone numbers so we could text. She fancies herself a woman of mystery and had made her Facebook profile unsearchable by conventional means. But I'm anything but a conventional researcher.

With any budding eHarmony relationship, very little is typically shared in the way of personal information. I knew she lived in Washington, D.C., but I didn't know where she was from, I didn't know where she worked, I didn't know where she went to school and I didn't know her last name.

On the Saturday night of my Raleigh trip, we were texting as I watched football with my friends, and she mentioned she was at a bar to watch a football game with her friend Holly. I asked her how it was going, and she told the score of her game and that her team was winning. Armed with the score of the game and the clue that her team was winning, Mike and I immediately began scouring the college football scoreboard to figure out what game she was watching.

That's how I learned she went to Oklahoma State.

The drive from Raleigh to D.C. can be tedious – especially as you get closer and the traffic picks up. Emily and I had continued to text throughout the weekend, and I felt like it had gone well. I then made the stunningly poor decision not to prepare my thoughts before I called her.

I can do this, I thought. I've been witty so far; I'll just keep it up and be funny again! Oh okay.

The phone rang and rang. OK, I said to myself. Voicemail isn't a bad outcome. I can leave a funny voicemail. She'll play it over and over again and giggle and marvel!

Voicemail picks up, "Hi, you've reached Emily Lampe..." (LAMPE! I now know her last name!)

Here's my chance, I said to myself. Make it count!

"Hi Emily, it's Brian. Grossman. So I was wondering if maybe you'd like to go out sometime. For like some frozen yogurt. Or maybe even a whole meal of food..."

It's a rocky start, but we're still in the game. Going with the 10-year-old movie reference was a bold choice. I did not, however, stick the landing.

"Ha…you know, from Old School? Jokes? Oh God. Anyway, call me back!"

The "Oh God" is the highlight for me.

As I sat in the car for the remainder of the drive home, I gave myself as much of a pep talk as I could, telling myself she'd find it charming. We'll see!

A few hours later, my phone started to ring. Oh boy. It's Emily. Here we go!


And then I heard nothing but laughter on the other end, and I knew it would work out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Accountability and Affirmation, Baby Version 2.0

Oh. Hello.

You know, I've missed the blog. I spent some time the other night reading old posts and reliving some of those memories. Pretty nuts.

So I guess the most obvious question would be, "Why haven't you written if you missed it? Couldn't you just write and then not miss it?"

To which I say, that's a fair point.

I guess the most obvious answer is the dramatic lack of conflict from my life in the months since I last wrote. I typically like to write to exorcise, you know, feelings. And I mean, the desire to exorcise good feelings just isn't that strong, you know?

I'm 30 (I know right? What the fuck.), and I'm more content than I've ever been -- for a lot of reasons. The lovely Lola (aka Emily haha) re-entered my life last spring, and it's been a whirlwind of awesome since. The friends with whom I debauched previously are more settled, too.

In short (LULZ, yeah right, BG), writing things like, "Today I felt good," over and over wasn't as appealing.

And so I guess the second most obvious question would, "Why write now then?"

To which I say, suck on it and like it. I don't know! I just felt like it. Whatevs!

OK there's sort of a reason. One of the main things I wrote about was my weight-loss odyssey. Well, I'd like to restart it. When you're in a happy relationship, and you're content and satisfied, I think the natural tendency is to slide a little. You eat out a little more. You eat a few more cupcakes than you should. Etc. Etc.

Did I undo everything I worked so hard for two years ago? No, no, no. I put back a few pounds though, like you do, and I'd like to unput them back on. So I figured, why the eff not. It helped last time. Let's give it another go.

So what's the plan?

Well, I have a new job (HEY OH), and my office building has a full gym in it with treadmills, free weights, weight machines, etc. Free access to a full gym? Sold. I'm planning on three days of weights and three days of running. I'll stick to the treadmill for now because it's the dead of winter and PASS on running outside when it's colder than 50.

Sound good? Good.

And of course I'm hoping for plenty of pithy posts, containing too many sentences begun with conjunctions. Because that's how I roll.

Who knows -- maybe I'll even write something some of you find entertaining from time to time. But don't hold your breath, AMIRITE. I'm so rite.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? You know where to find me.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Racing and Pacing and Plotting the Course

The end of this week marks the midpoint of training for the half-marathon. Feels like a good time to look at how it's been going.

If you don't already know, I'm running the Rock 'n Roll Half-Marathon in D.C. on March 17.

This is week 6 of training, and if I'm being honest, I haven't really been great about it. I didn't really keep to the mid-week runs during the first four weeks. Look, no excuses. I shouldn't have been so nonchalant about it, but here was my thinking: waking up at 5 a.m. to run was just so unappealing. Plus, the long runs were two four-mile runs and two five-mile runs. Well, I ran four and five miles, like, four times a week all summer and fall.

The point is this: I knew I could get out and run four and five miles without a problem. So I didn't feel the urgency to get after it as hard as I should have. And I did. I finished the first few long runs without an issue.

Well on Saturday, I ran six miles -- the longest distance since the first half-marathon nearly two and a half years ago. I knew the six-mile run was going to be the most challenging of training so far, so I knew I had to get my ass in gear and do the mid-week morning runs leading up to it.

See, the thing about training is it's not all about getting up to the distance and running further. Of course that's a large part of it. Another large part of it is getting your body accustomed to the wear-and-tear.

I was running between 15 and 20 miles a week between July and October, and I never experienced any injuries (that weren't related to softball haha). Once I started my job at the end of October, I really fell off the running wagon.

So you could say I was a little concerned about the six-mile run. It was entirely my own fault, but it is what it is. On a few of the earlier training runs, I experienced a little tightness in my right hamstring. That's a problem because that's what I injured during the summer of 2010 when I tried to train for a half-marathon.

The pain hasn't been nearly as bad, and I've been obsessive about stretching. And the pain has subsided as soon as I stop running or stretch it out, which tells me it isn't necessarily an injury -- it's just a little tightness that will hopefully work itself out as I continue to stretch properly and run more often. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

Well, I woke up on Saturday, walked Allie and stretched for the run. I mapped out a three-mile path so I could run to the turn-around point and come back, totaling six miles. I made it about a mile and a half when I felt the first twinge in my hamstring. I immediately stopped and stretched it out for a good minute or so. The next two and a half miles passed by pain-free, which is significant because almost the entirety of the path from mile marker 2 to mile marker 3 was the most ridiculous uphill stretch I've ever done.

That I was able to run the entire way up that hill without experiencing any hamstring pain is a huge reason why I'm so hopeful it's nothing terribly serious. At the top of the hill, mile 3, I paused again for another minute or two to stretch. I stopped to stretch once more at mile 4.5.

All told, I walked barely a quarter-mile of the six mile path and stopped to stretch for a total of maybe six or seven minutes. And I still finished the six miles in just more than 62 minutes.

Let's GO. That tells me my pace is pretty solid, and as long as I keep up with stretching and don't miss anymore mid-week runs I'm going to be just fine. What a relief. I'm really excited about not experiencing any lingering pain in the hamstring.

A year and a half ago, it hurt constantly -- walking, running (obviously), standing, whatevs. And the pain lasted for almost a solid YEAR. It was terrible. So that's why I'm concluding it'll work itself out if I'm responsible about the rest of training.

I really can't wait. I've been thinking about the first half-marathon more lately. What a fucking adrenaline rush. As I got closer to the finish line, with maybe three-quarters of a mile or half a mile to go, I could hear the crowd cheering. And let me tell you, that's exactly when you need to hear the cheers.

My legs felt like jelly. Well, I don't know that because I couldn't really feel them anyway. I'm honestly pretty surprised I didn't fall down because I tried to run a bit harder down the homestretch. And that's not really feasible when your legs are bordering on numbness.

Anyway. We're almost to the midpoint of training, and while I haven't been as on-the-ball as I should have been so far, I think I'm still on track. I can get it back quickly, and there's still plenty of time left to make the gains I need to make. CAN'T WAIT.

Let's go!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Lighting the Fuse

A couple of brief notes before I really get to writing:

I feel like I need to share my dream from Friday night. Two friends from work joined me in helping a third co-worker friend move. We were all really excited because one of the co-workers brought her friends.

The band from the awesomely 90s TV show California Dreams. The characters, not the actors.

They helped us with the moving, and then they let me jam with them. Like you do. Oh, and it was the original lead singer, Matt, who was there -- not Jake, the later guy with the leather jacket. You know, FYI.

Don't wake me up if I'm dreeeaaammin'. And they didn't! So that happened.

And this happened, too. File this under "Reasons I Sometimes Wonder How I Survived to 29."

If you read this space in the Fall, you may remember me talking about the movie 50/50 and how I really wanted to see it. Well it came out on Bluray/DVD last week, so I wanted to rent it.

I stopped by the Redbox at the grocery store across the street. I'd never used Redbox before, and I was surprised you can only pay by credit card. So anyway, I went through the menus, and I found 50/50. I paid my $1.27 and looked at the movie. It's a DVD. Dammit I wanted to get the Bluray. Watching anything NOT in HD on my TV is very distracting because of the size of the TV. #firstworldproblems

But it was only $1.27, right? I'll just return it and pay another $1.27 (for a total of $2.54) and still be getting a pretty solid deal. Well. I returned it and went through the screens again only to discover the Bluray version of the movie was out of stock.

So I paid $1.27 to hold the DVD ever so briefly. And I had to rent it from OnDemand for $6. And I have to say, it's now one of my favorite movies. It was so, so good. Naturally, it reminded me of Erik, which I was expecting, so there was definitely some sadness. But it brought a lot of happy memories back, too, and the movie was just great. Go see it. Immediately.

Also, I may or may not be (but definitely AM) completely in love with Anna Kendrick now. I'll have to check out some of her other work -- most notably, the George Clooney movie Up in the Air, which I did not see when it came out.

Anyway. I want to write very briefly about Saturday. I don't intend for this to be a really long post, but we all know what usually happens when I start rolling.

Saturday was Jan. 28. It marked one year since I relatively unexpectedly became unemployed. As I was getting out of the shower on Saturday and dancing to "I Want You Back" in the bathroom, it struck me what that meant. And I felt compelled to write.

I will never forget that day. It had snowed a few days earlier, and my car experienced a near catastrophe when a large tree branch fell directly on it. Luckily, because there was nearly a foot of snow blanketing the entirety of the car, the branch had a nice cushion when it hit. There was no damage.

I managed to dig out over the next day or so, and I headed to work that Friday morning. Two of the partners called me into one of their offices early that morning and explained what was happening. I packed up my things and headed home, unemployed.

As I sat on the metro that morning, it started to snow again. I felt like I was sitting outside my body, watching the scene unfold. I had no idea what I was going to do. The ex-girl and I signed a lease to move into a townhouse the previous night.

I called my parents and told them what happened. I didn't want to bother the ex-girl at work because she likely couldn't have answered the phone anyway, and, in the first of a series of related bad decisions, I didn't want to burden her with it right away.

We went to dinner that night, and I told her in the car. It was exactly as devastating as I expected it would be. The next day, I explained the situation to the guy who would have been our landlord, and he let us out of the lease. Tough few days, really.

And here's something that seems incredible today: I didn't tell Mike until March 17. Almost two months went by before I told him. Ridonk. It's funny because if something similar were to happen now (God forbid, geez), I feel like I'd probably call him during the meeting. Lulz.

I'm not going to go into the rest. I already wrote it this month in my year in review (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

It's just that when I realized what the date was, I knew I needed to write something about it. It was the day that lit the fuse, man. It set off a chain reaction of events that led me inexorably to where I am today.

So in a lot of ways, I am thankful for it because I am so thankful for where I am now. If it hadn't happened, I might not have hit the rock bottom I needed to hit to turn things around; I might not have lost all that weight; I might not have joined the softball team; I obviously wouldn't have found the job I have now; I might not have met all the wonderful people I've met since then; I might not have had the opportunity to figure myself out to the degree I have; and so on and so on.

It certainly is hard to dispute I am better off in every way now than I was then. It's funny how things that seem so terrible at the time end up being the catalyst for incredibly positive changes, actions and behaviors.

So there you go. January 28, and I am so much better off than I was a year ago. Pretty crazy how things work out.


Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 Part 3: Livin' Life for a Living

First of all, sorry for the incredible delay in getting this written. Last week was one of the most ridiculous weeks of work I've ever experienced. Don't get me wrong! It was awesome. I had a lot of fun being that busy, but I was just that: very, very busy.

Anyway, here we go!

So here's the thing about me. I've never had terribly high self-esteem. I don't have low self-esteem either. I don't know. I'm perfectly happy with most of me, and I think I'm fine. But I very, very rarely look in the mirror and think, "Damn, son. Nice."

Well. When I woke up on the morning of April 17, I weighed almost 230 pounds. When I woke up on the morning of Sept. 3, I weighed 188. Needless to say, I was feeling it. I walked Allie early that morning to get the blood flowing, and I got myself ready to go. I had a 5K to run!

I got my running gear on, and I was ready. And for the first time in, well, maybe ever, I looked in the mirror and thought, "Now you're talking. I am looking good today." And then I killed the race -- improved on my time from the previous year by more than five minutes. It was an unbelievable feeling. Such a great day.

And really, thus began what continues to be the most ridiculous time of my life.

The last third of the year turned 2011 from one of the most difficult years of my life into one of the most fun, rewarding and fulfilling years of my life. It all started with that 5K. I blew my goal out of the water, which sent my self-confidence skyrocketing. Shortly thereafter, I hit my lowest weight in more than six years, clocking in at 186 pounds.

It had been years since I felt that good. And oh boy did the good times keep rolling.

Two weeks later, I made plans to visit Raleigh for the first time in a year. I coordinated with Mike and Nick and a few others to get tickets to the N.C. State football game that weekend, and we were going to make a big deal of me being in town. I got a hotel that allowed dogs, and Allie and I made the trek to Raleigh.

That weekend was to be the first time Mike and I hung out in person since we became best friends. It did not disappoint.

I don't need to rehash the weekend. I already wrote about it, so feel free to check out those stories (Part 1, Part 2). Suffice it to say, it was the first of many experiences where Mike and I could only look at each other and exclaim, "That just happened." It was the origin of the desire for the anonymous blog.

That weekend had everything. Old friends I hadn't seen in a while, new friends, lots of dancing, football, Lilly's Pizza. It was the perfect outlet for everything I'd been building toward all summer in terms of getting into better shape and blowing up my energy level. So great.

It helped me to realize I was getting things in order. My life was starting to line up in ways it never had before -- in ways that were really exciting to me. I still didn't have a job, but I felt good. There were promising leads.

Within a few weeks, I decided to try to start dating again. For several months, I dedicated myself to focusing on improving me, and I had done a better job than even I ever believed I could. I'm not saying I was perfect, but I was incredibly excited about the progress and positive changes I made. It was time to meet girls again. And that really picked up in October.

To my everlasting surprise, the dating game has been pretty good to me. I've met some really cool people -- some more interesting than others haha. But it's been a lot of fun. I've never really done this before, and I've always kind of felt like I missed out because of my, you know, serial monogamist tendencies.

Getting back on that horse was something I really wanted to do, but I was actually kind of nervous about it. After all, I didn't have a job, so I had no idea how that whole conversation would go. And even though I almost definitely looked better than I ever had before, I was still anxious because that's just how I roll haha.

All of that has proven to be unfounded though. First of all, mid-way through October, I received a job offer. That was a hell of a week.

I had my final job interview on a Wednesday morning (Oct. 12). That Saturday, Kirk and Liz were getting married in Charlotte. My plan was to drive to Charlotte on Wednesday to get the terrible seven-hour drive out of the way. On Friday morning, I was going to drive to Raleigh because Mike and Laura both had birthdays on the following Monday. We were going to go be ridiculous on Friday. I mean. Sign me up. Obviously. Then I'd wake up early on Saturday morning and head back to Charlotte for the wedding. It was a lot of driving, I'll admit, but it seemed doable. Plus, it was all going to be a lot of fun, so it seemed worth it.


That plan went to shit almost immediately. It rained most of the day before I left. By the time I was done with my interview around lunch time, it was a very gray day. The dog and I hit the road around 3 p.m., which was going to put us in Charlotte around 10 or 11 p.m., while hopefully missing most of the traffic.

Around 8 p.m., I was on I-85 in Virginia, approximately 20 miles before the North Carolina border. It finally stopped raining, and there were no other cars around, so I put on the cruise control and relaxed.

I saw something in the road up ahead, but it didn't look like anything at first. Then, because I was finally driving at full speed, it came up quick. I swerved, but it was too big to avoid completely.

It was a huge tree branch, and it busted both tires and wheels on the passenger side of my car. Thankfully, I somehow managed to retain control of the vehicle and moved over to the shoulder. I called my parents to tell them what happened. I called AAA to get a tow truck out, and then I was stumped. I did the only thing I knew to do. I called Mike. Long story short, I ended up stranded in Raleigh from Wednesday night until my mom could drive to Raleigh on Saturday morning to get me.

A brief aside about Allie. That dog, man. I've never known a dog more laid-back than her. She will roll with ANYTHING. She was a little concerned at first when we had to pull over, but for the most part, she just hung out in the backseat. Then the tow truck came, and she was totally fine in the backseat of my car on the back of the flatbed. The cab of the truck was too small for the driver, the dog AND me. So she just chilled in the back. I opened the windows for her, and she eventually just went to sleep.

Anyway, Mike was nice enough to let me use his car while I went back and forth to the mechanic. It ended up taking days longer than it should have because they did not put the car on the lift to determine exactly what was wrong before they ordered parts. They ordered one wheel and two tires. When they went to put those on, they found out the rear passenger wheel was also busted. The problem was it was already Friday afternoon, so it was going to be at least Monday before the car was ready. No problem. I'll hang out in Charlotte until it's done. I didn't have anywhere to be.

And then I got the call that changed my life. A job offer!

See what I mean? The final third of the year was extraordinarily kind to me. I'd been waiting for that phone call for months. Somehow, it lived up to every expectation I had. Every hope I'd built up for that moment -- wow. I screamed. I sobbed. I ran around the house and did cartwheels. I love everybody.

Finally, the one thing that still stressed me at all -- it was done. The offer came 14 days before I needed to vacate my apartment. Thankfully, the leasing office hadn't rented out my apartment yet, so I was able to sign a new lease. I wasn't going to be homeless!

I'm getting the chills just thinking about that day again. That was the best.

This job, man. It is excellent. In my life, I've never been this busy. I work more now than I ever have before. And I truly love every second of it. I love my coworkers so much. We work so hard together, and we play just as hard together. Haha gah I am SO happy.

Tough to beat October, right? November was pretty ridiculous though. I went to Raleigh again for the UNC game, and we did what we do, man. Dancing every night. Football all day. We tailgated early on Saturday morning for the game. We grilled pancakes and bacon, and one of Mike's friends made spiced wine on the grill, too.

State beat Carolina for the fifth year in a row, and that made going out Saturday night particularly sweet (even though we couldn't leave until we watched that lame-ass Alabama/LSU game haha). P.S. Mike, you all right, man? I mean, really. You OK? Lulz.

We all crashed at Mike's apartment after a ridiculous night of dancing and 4 a.m. McDonald's. It looked like a refugee camp. Mike and Nick shared his bed. Four people slept on the floor, with bags and clothing strewn about. I was asleep on half of a loveseat. Why half? Because Allie was asleep on the other half. Like you do.

It was so, so awesome haha. It may not sound awesome, but I can't even begin to explain how much fun I'm having right now.

That Sunday was Bark for Life! Allie and I went out and met Adam, Danielle, Danielle's sister and Erik's parents. We raised a solid amount of money to fight cancer, so thank you to everyone who donated for that. Team VIVA LA DUCK ended up raising the third-most money of any team at the event. We'll be back again next year, too.

Just two weeks later, I headed to Boston (Part 1, Part 2). Scorpion bowls -- yikes. I don't need to write about all that again. Check out those stories, though. And then what happened. Whew.

October and November were also filled with flag football and softball! Softball was particularly awesome. Almost all the same people (plus a few new ones) from the CAN spring/summer league joined up to play in the D.C. Fall recreational league. We figured we'd get some experience playing together to prepare us for the next CAN season.

Then we went 9-1, winning the regular season league championship. HEY OH. And we have awesome trophies to prove it. Damn that was fun haha. I finally found a spot on the field I really enjoy playing, too. I was always an outfielder growing up. I used to be pretty good, too. But not throwing a baseball for damn near 10 years got to me, and I don't have the arm strength I did in high school and college.

It's really not THAT bad, but there are some guys on the team with legit cannons for arms, so it felt like poor strategy to continue putting myself out there when there were people who could do it better. Don't get me wrong. No one tracks and catches fly balls better than I can. But there's more to it than that, you know? So I tried out playing first base. Oh man. Love it. A lot. I have some room to improve, but wow I loved playing first base.

I can't wait to get out there and play again. The next CAN season is only a couple of months away. I told Dale I'd be one of the coaches with him, so that's going to be really awesome. Legit pumped doesn't even begin to describe it.

So anyway, the holiday season kicked off with Thanksgiving, and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. I have absolutely no problem admitting how lucky I feel on a daily basis. I work hard for what I have, that's true, but I am also truly, truly blessed. Especially after the first two-thirds of 2011 -- for me to emerge on the other side with my sanity and happiness not only intact, but at all-time highs? Wow. Thank you to everyone who played a part in that.

November and December are always nice because I get to see my family more often than usual. Plus, my sister comes home for Christmas, and I only see her like twice a year MAX now because she lives in south Florida.

Plus, the dating game continued to be pretty good to me in November and December. I'll say this, thank God I lost 40 pounds. That confidence and energy boost has just done wonders for me. Let's GO.

The week between Christmas and New Year's at work was slow, comparatively, haha. It was still as busy as I ever was anywhere else I worked, but compared to how busy we usually are here, it was laid-back and relaxed haha. I really can't say enough about how much fun I have with my coworkers. So great.

New Year's Eve! My plan all along was NOT to do anything. I was exhausted from all the travels of the previous several weeks and from working, and I loved the idea of a quiet night at home to ring in the new year.

Well, Carnell gchatted me around mid-day to let me know he was going to head to Evan's apartment downtown and that I should come. I'm so glad he gave me such advanced notice so I could plan my night haha.

The great thing about New Year's is you start drinking at like 6 or 7 p.m., right? By the time midnight rolls around, every one is already feeling really good, and it's almost time for bed haha. We started the night at Evan's apartment and then moved to Local 16, a bar downtown on U St.

Surrounded by a few of my closest new friends, I said goodbye to one of the most ridiculous, challenging and, in the end, incredible years of my life.

I'm so excited I decided to document the last half of the year here. This blog was so much fun these past few months. I have truly loved sharing my stories with you, and I am so blown away by the response. People actually read my bullshit. And not only that, they're excited to read my bullshit. I actually had a lot of people actively badger me about writing this post because they couldn't wait to read it. Do what now. Thank you so, so much to everyone who stops by to read my words. This blog is nothing without you.

Here's a brief list of my favorite blog posts this year:

Beware: Lots of Words Ahead, June 3 -- This is the post that started it all. I held everything in for too long, and I needed an outlet. I needed some accountability. Boom.

Break-ups, (500) Days of Summer and the Art of Moving On, July 6 -- This one is my favorite post that I've written. It is honest and thoughtful, and it's written just a few weeks after a break-up. Plus, I love that movie, and some of the things I wrote have proven to be stunningly prescient.

The Single Life, Sept. 26 -- I finally realized things were coming together for me. And being single was actually really good for me. Who knew, right?

Another Summer's Gone, Oct. 3 -- I always have connected Fall with love. Always. I really enjoyed writing this one because of the happy memories it brought up. Also, foreshadowing like whoa haha.

Employed, Oct. 17 -- Everything I'd been building toward and anticipating in this space, week to week, culminated in that post. For the WIN.

Hey. Thanks., Dec. 7 -- So many people helped me in so many ways. I had to give some thanks for that.

And that's a wrap on 2011. I left out some things, I know. Some of them I left out because this is not an anonymous blog. If it was, whew haha. Some things, I'm sure I just forgot to include unintentionally. It happens. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. It was a lot of fun for me to go back and relive this year.

I am so lucky, you know? So many wonderful things happen to me, and I can't imagine why I deserve it. I am so thankful though. I am overwhelmed with joy at the promise 2012 holds.

I was talking to Mike and Nick on the phone (at separate times haha) a few weeks ago, and I remember saying to them, "You know, the past couple of months has been the first time in my life where I really felt like I truly lived like I was in my 20s."

Does that make sense? I'm finally taking advantage of my relative youth and energy, and it feels so good. I can't imagine that's going to be stopping anytime soon either. Life is so, so good.

Let. Us. Go.


Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Part 2: Bouncing Back

Sorry that part 1 was so down and depressing. I can promise you this: the next two parts are much better!

I had a few people tell me, "wow that was a downer." Well, yeah haha. It was. Imagine living it. It's all good NOW, of course. But you know. It happened.

I was down as far as I've ever been down, and I needed a wake-up call. As I said before, when you're stuck in such a downward spiral, such a pattern of negativity -- it was just so hard to see what was happening. I didn't realize what I was doing.

Then, three things happened. One day, some time in mid-April, the ex-girl came to me and said she was unhappy with how things had been going. Between you and me, in hindsight, it's easy to see I had been taking things for granted. Well when she said what she said, I mean. Wow.

Talk about shaking things up, you know? Something I had never even considered doubting was thrust into question and was no longer certain. You could say I was awake.

I immediately looked at myself, and I saw a few things that unquestionably needed to change if I were ever going to be happy again:
  • I had to change my eating habits.
  • I had to get the fuck UP and out of my apartment.
  • I needed to make local friends.
  • I needed to start working out for real.
I am extraordinarily proud to say I got my ass the fuck in gear and DID WORK, SON.

I tracked what I ate obsessively. I mean, it had to be an obsession with how bad it was, you know? Every calorie, every gram of fat, every gram of protein, every carbohydrate that entered my body was recorded and tracked to make sure it stayed within an acceptable range.

I began walking Allie two miles twice a day instead of just once. Every two-mile walk burned another 200 calories, so why not do it twice a day? I hit the gym six days a week. I couldn't run just yet because of a hamstring that was still sore from a few months earlier, but I found I could use the stationary bike.

The second thing that happened was Jon's girlfriend contacting me to see if I wanted to fly back to Charlotte for Jon's birthday. Oh absolutely. The three of us went out for a great dinner with his parents, and then we hit a bar where I got more inebriated than I'd been in months. It was the first of many times I'd be able to say that over the coming months, but it had to start somewhere.

It was my first taste of actually going out and having fun in, embarrassingly, too long. But it is what it is. When I got back after that awesome weekend, I felt fundamentally changed inside. I felt a fire inside I hadn't felt in years.

So I kept doin' work. Tracking what I ate, making smarter decisions about what I ate, walking the dog four miles every day and forcing myself into the gym six days a week. The biggest lesson I learned was NOT to deprive myself of all the foods I loved the most. Some things had to go, of course. But Chipotle, Jersey Mike's -- things like that stayed as long as I made the necessary adjustments elsewhere in the day.

Progress was extraordinarily slow at first. It took nearly five weeks of kicking my own ass every day before I saw the first glimmer of success. By the end of the May, I'd lost 10 pounds. I knew then I could never go back. I was completely consumed with just doing better for myself.

The third thing that happened was maybe the best decision I've made in a long, long time. I joined the N.C. State softball team in CAN. I've written over and over about how awesome my experience was with the team, and how much I absolutely LOVED playing softball. Throughout May and June, I played softball downtown and hung out with the team for hours and hours afterward. It was exactly what I needed.

By the time the end of May/beginning of June rolled around, the ex-girl and I officially ended things.

But I had my obsession to keep me busy. I'd worked running on the treadmill back into the picture, and the weight kept falling off. By mid-June, I'd lost more than 20 pounds.

Remember in part 1 how I said I needed to get away? Well, in early June I did. My cousin Jeb had been trying to get me to go to Savannah with him and a few others for a while, but I just figured I wouldn't be able to because of dog logistics and money logistics, etc.

Once the break-up happened, I needed some debauchery, understandably I would think. I'm not going to go into everything that happened again, but feel free to check out my three-part Savannah story (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). It was the best weekend I'd had in a long time at that point.

Aside from a cracked rib at the CAN softball tournament in August, the summer was so awesome. I ran. I worked out. I lost weight and got in SUCH better shape. I played softball, drank way too much several times a week with my friends downtown. I was happier than I'd been in as long as I can remember.

The cracked rib sidelined me for a few weeks, but around the time Hurricane Irene rolled through D.C. in late August, I decided it was time to run outside for the first time since I pulled my hamstring the previous summer. I stuck to the treadmill because it's easier on the legs -- less wear and tear and such. But I'd registered for a 5K at the beginning of September, so I figured I should at least run outside for a few weeks beforehand.

And what happened was I rediscovered how much I loved running. Like whoa. I tolerated it on the treadmill because I wanted to get in shape, but when I started running outside, it was a ridiculous adrenaline rush. SO great.

I began to see the 5K as a milestone for me in terms of where I was in my weight-loss and how I was improving my overall fitness. The beginning of September marked around five months since I started trying to change my life and where I'd been going. It also marked the beginning of the most ridiculous four months of my life.

I mean, my life got ridiculous in so many awesome ways I can't even begin to explain. Sometimes, I really do wish I had an anonymous blog so I could share all the stories without anyone finding out it was me.

But more on that in part 3.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Part 1: The Descent

What a year.

I mean, shit. I remember New Year's Eve 2010 very vividly. The dog and I were at the ex-girl's house with a couple of friends. It was a really, really great night. Here we are, a year later. Almost nothing is as it was that night.

And almost everything was entirely unexpected and unforeseen. HOWEVAH. Almost all of it has been ridonk awesome and for the better. Almost haha.

I've actually been looking forward to writing this year-in-review for a while. If nothing else, this year has given me a LOT of time for reflection. I've thought a lot about this year and what it's meant for me on a lot of levels.

Geez, where to begin?

Overall, I honestly and genuinely believe 2011 turned out to be pretty excellent. And when you consider the extraordinarily inauspicious start, I think that says a hell of a lot about the final third of the year. So as you're reading this first part, keep in mind how, well, awesome I am now haha. It's incredible this is where I started. Parts 2 and 3 will be much more fun and happy, but in order to understand how excellent that was, I have to look at this part, too.

I was so excited about 2011 back in December of last year. There was so much promise, so much to be excited about, really.

A lot of things really seemed to be lining up well and falling into place. The ex-girl and I were thinking about renting a townhouse together. I had a job downtown I enjoyed. In hindsight, though, it's incredibly obvious to me now. I was very unhappy; I just didn't know it at the time.

Then a few things happened that really shook me.

First, the ex-girl and I found a townhouse to rent. Signed the lease and everything. Exciting, right? The next day, my job situation suddenly changed. Obviously, the townhouse couldn't happen anymore. I was devastated. For a lot of reasons.

Honestly, unemployment is pretty embarrassing. It just is. It shouldn't be. It happens. But you know. There you go. And in an effort to put on a strong face and try to force the idea that everything was fine, I internalized a lot of the stress and depression I was feeling at the time.

Well, that's not very productive, now is it? It's not. So what happened? I trapped myself in a downward spiral. Some other things were going on at the time that I clearly did not realize either, and naturally, that did not help matters. Allow me to explain.

I've never been a big guy. I was always very small growing up. At some point over the past two years -- after my half-marathon -- I don't really know what happened. I was complacent, I guess. I stopped taking care of myself the way I should have been. Last Halloween, I went to a party with the ex-girl. At this party, one of my old roommates took a picture of us. We were having a good time, so sure let's take a photo.

Then I saw the photo a few weeks later. Whoa. Who's the fat dude with my girlfriend? Oh shit. That's me.

Then I went home for Christmas. As we do every year, we took photos of Christmas morning. Then I saw the photos. Once again, whoa. When did I get so huge? No, I wasn't morbidly obese or anything. Of course not. But I'm only, like, 5'10". I was nearly 230 pounds. That's not a good look, my friends.

So add those feelings to the increasing feelings of stress, worry, depression, shame and embarrassment, which I was, unwisely, holding inside. Exactly. Nothing good was going to come from that.

I was trying so hard to "be strong" or whatever. It was a poor decision. All I ended up doing was shutting out the people who cared about me. I lost interest in doing anything. I watched a lot of TV. I applied to jobs. And not much else.

I can't even emphasize this enough: that is SO not me, you know? It's incredible to look back on that time now with the benefit of hindsight. Holy hell was I unhappy. How could I let it get so bad and so bleak?

Well, for me, the answer is when you're stuck in a pattern of negative behavior and feelings, it's not always easy to see it. I found a boring routine that suited me, and I stuck to it because it was comfortable. I had blinders on, and I didn't see what was going on around me. Not good times.

It's so strange to think back to a year ago. I seriously cannot even imagine feeling that way now. What in the world. It's just the opposite of everything I know to be, you know, me.

January through, I'd say, mid-April was so incredibly trying. I had a few job interviews. I was a finalist for a position and narrowly missed out. It was a heart-breaking experience -- to get so close to a new job on practically my first try only to be sent back to the beginning. That was in March. Whew. Tough day. It did not help my mindset at all.

I spent my days lying on the couch. I watched the entire series of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. And I didn't do much else. I woke up, fed the dog, went back to sleep, woke up again, applied to a few jobs and hit the couch for the remainder of the day. It was a terrible way to live, and it was a completely unsustainable situation for long-term health and happiness.

Something needed to change. Well, a lot of things needed to change. The only problem was I was stuck in my own head -- so deep into the world of semi-depression I'd created for myself. Not only that, but I did not really tell anyone else I was feeling that way, so I had no idea how those feelings were affecting the people around me, who loved me and who I loved.

I needed a wake-up call. Badly. And I needed to get away.