This is the first photo ever taken of my wife Nina and I together. It was taken six years ago last night prior to what was at the time referred to as a practice date.
Most people have never been on a practice date, I never had before this one and I’ve never been on one since, but it was our attempt to minimize the risk of going from being friends to dating. We agreed that we would go on a casual risk free date and if it didn’t work we could abort the whole idea and continue being friends.
In retrospect, the fact that I was in her home prior to the date and we were posing for photos should have clued me in on the fact that she might have been leaning towards things working out between us.
Last night my wife was working and I wasn’t feeling well so I went to bed without realizing that on that same evening in the past, seemingly a lifetime ago, we posed for this photo and then left the house with no idea what we were starting.
Note: That thing behind us is Daisy J. Dog’s crate.
Secondary Note: She paid for the practice date, I paid for the first real date.
As you already know it is Election Day here in the US.; if you can vote, I hope that you have. I’m not here to say anything about politics. I’ve already had my say and cast my ballot. Like the rest of America I am now awaiting the results. Instead of adding to the political noise I’d like to share something that is important to me.
You may not know this, but my wife Nina and I met for the very first time on Election Day in 2006. I was a different person then but thankfully she was the same wonderful person than that she is today. I was in the process of rebuilding a broken life when we met but I must have done something right because we obviously saw each other again.
Here are four facts about that first meeting:
1. It was a planned meeting and I gave myself an hour to drive 6 miles to meet her. I did not want to get caught in any Election Day traffic jams.
2. Because Election Day traffic is not a thing I was very early, a fact that made me very self conscious, so…in a moment of questionable thinking I decided to hide in the bathroom until after scheduled meeting time. This means I made a fashionably late dramatic appearance…from the bathroom. Nothing says this guys a keeper quite like “I was just hanging out in the bathroom for 20 minutes.”
3. We had fun but she made it 100% clear that we were not on a date. I knew this and was fine with this fact.
4. We got engaged 53 days later.
This morning we celebrated our first meeting by going on a voting date.
So remember a few weeks ago when i said i was going to be blogging regularly again? I meant that but out in the world events conspired against me, in a positive way. Basically my side project A Year of Billy Joel blew up, in a good way, and it’s been taking up all of my spare time.
Last night I was on WGN Radio discussing that project and you can listen to what I had to say here.
Thanks to host Bill Leff, his producer Dan and WGN for having me on. More to come here soon.
P.S. – My wife has something to say about what happened after the show.
For the last five days I’ve been on my own. Nina has been in Chicago leaving Daisy and I home alone to fend for ourselves.
Since late last week, without any help, I’ve managed to eat like a grown up, follow my normal workout schedule and more importantly not fall into terrible depression when left alone. Basically I’ve been getting work done and spending quality time with my dog.
For those of you who have known me for a while this is a nice change of pace compared to the way I used to fall apart when left alone. This feels like a nice, like I’ve accidentally stumbled into not feeling or acting like a dope. I’m not sure exactly how this happened but I’ve been trying to enjoy it.
On Monday afternoon I went to the gym at lunch because that’s the kind of thing I do now. There was a time, a decade actually, when the only exercise I got at lunchtime was walking across the street to buy candy.* Every once in a while I’d manage to eat so much at lunch that I’d start to sweat but I don’t think that counts as working out. Anyway, I go to the gym in the middle of the day now because sometimes I don’t want to get up before dawn or wait until after work to do the things I have to do to keep myself from going back to being a physical wreck.
*One day while buying candy I ran into the CEO of the company I was working for. They were buying a healthy lunch, I was waiting in line behind them to pay for a Snickers bar and a chocolate milk. I decided that I’d wait for another day to pitch my big ideas.
Going to the gym in the afternoon means coming home with gym bag filled with my sweaty workout gear. The clothes go into the laundry and my sneakers go somewhere away from things that we don’t want to smell like my sweaty running sneakers, today that place was the front porch.
Shortly after I arrived home Nina had to leave for a work function, on the way out she told me not to forget that my sneakers were outside. I’m sure I wouldn’t have forgotten but it’s nice that she cares enough to worry that I might need a reminder. There are many ways in which she has enriched and bettered my life, some of them are big and obvious but it’s the small ones that happen in between the big things that remind me that I have found the right person. We may not be perfect but I’ll never be walking the streets of Hollywood barefoot which is a start.
One time at a Thai restaurant I got a fortune cookie that advised: “Keep your expectations reasonable.” At the time I made a joke about it but I’ve eaten hundreds of fortune cookies and that is the only fortune I remember because it is only one that ever made me mad. I drove home from that dinner very angry with the cookie who reminded me that I already was keeping my expectations ridiculously reasonable, to the point that I was content with getting by: I had a job that was good enough, an apartment where the best feature was its price and if I ever dreamed of bigger and better things I certainly kept it to myself. The cookie said to stay reasonable and I took that to mean I should aim low and try to not get hurt. By the standards I had set I was successful and safe but never very happy.
Several years ago I examined my standards for success and I wasn’t pleased with what I saw. I was being held back by my own low expectations for myself and what I was capable of. I began to make changes, tentatively at first, but slowly I began moving forward, gaining confidence and finally expecting more of myself. I began want more out of life and more importantly doing the work to get it. While this change was happening I was mostly keeping it to myself, sure I had dreams but nobody had to know it.
The first big test of my new and improved life happened when I met a girl named Nina. I knew right away that Nina was special and I wanted her to be a part of my life but had no expectation they would feel the same way. Still, I was so committed to doing things differently that I took a chance and if you know me you know how things turned out (if you don’t know me I’ll fill you in at the end).
Since that time I’ve pushed myself even harder to live a life beyond reasonable expectations and in every way my life is better today than it was when I got that stupid fortune cookie. As a result I’m doing things I never expected to be doing and I’m happier today than I’ve ever been in my life. I plan to keep reaching and working for more but for this particular day I’m treating myself to something special. On the table beside me there is a passport and a boarding pass for a flight to Sweden with my name on them. For the first time in my life I am taking a trip overseas. I’m very excited because this is something I used to think I could never do.
Of course I won’t be traveling alone, Nina is coming with me. At some point over the Atlantic Ocean the clock will strike midnight and the date will be May 10th. When this happens Nina and I will have been married for four years. Of all of the ways my life has changed, the best part of my life today is having someone I can live out my dreams with.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I have a flight to catch. See you soon.
When my doctor told me I was showing early indicators future heart problems I started making changes. I began eating better and exercising and as a result I’m getting healthier and losing weight. Here’s proof:
This is me with my wife in June of 2010:
This is me last night:
As you can see, I’m thinner and I’m raiding the late Dale Evan’s wardrobe for clothes because none of my old stuff fits anymore.
Because all of my old clothes are too big for me I have been updating my wardrobe with things that actually fit so today I went through my closet to remove all of the old stuff so I can donate it to someone who can use it. While I was going through clothes and boxes I found a card:
(click to see full size)
This was given to me by my wife Nina about 2 months after we met. Those of you who know us and our story will remember this by the time we had known each other for two months we had already gotten engaged. She gave me this card just before heading home to visit her family. Here’s the inside:
(click to see full size)
Without a doubt, this is the best thing anyone has ever said to me. All I can add to this is that now that I’m healthier I hope to live long enough to say something half as good as this card.