Three months gone

Time is crawling and flying all at the same time. Big D deployed on Valentine’s Day and if all goes as planned – here’s a first! – he’ll be home soon! Much earlier than expected!

I’m trilled (of course!) and I’m so thankful for great friends that helped me pass the time.

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Deployment day

We’ve been through this routine before – Big D heads to “the sandbox” frequently. But this time feels different since we don’t know when he’ll return, though the Orders say 179 days or less. Of course, Orders can be be amended (his first Afghanistan deployment lasted 18 months instead of a year, and six months in Iraq turned into 12.)

Most Soldiers deploying as individuals go Ft. Bliss, TX to prepare (medical visits, gear issue, etc.) and depart from there. Someone from D’s office worked some magic and he got to come home for a day before taking a commercial flight.

I woke up much earlier than usual – pink light filled our room. I peeked out to this:

Breakfast started out with favorites from Sugar Shack (yes, that’s bacon on a donut!)
Sugar Shack perfection

After some paperwork, we packed.
fine print
strange conversation to have on Valentine’s Day…

Operation Freedom's Sentinel

lucky charm
Guy Smiley – a lucky charm of sorts – has flown with D with since 1999



After a dog walk and some quick errands we had an early dinner and tried to watch a movie, but there was a definite elephant in the room.

dog walk
Dog walk selfie

First course from our @societyfair Date Night Bag - heart shaped Coeur de Bray with preserves. Creamy and delicious.
Fancy cheese before dinner

And when we opened the front door to meet the car service the crazy winter squall arrived!

No lingering long, farewell in this weather – just a quick hug and kiss

At the end of the day, I hang something on the front door knob to remind me the burglar alarm is activated. So when I stuck this glove there after his departure I had to laugh since it accurately represented my feelings:
bugler alarm reminder

This morning, my weary traveler FaceTimed me from our favorite hotel in Germany.

I made it through my first solo night, just like I will make it through all of them. And now, we’re one day closer being back together.

January wrap up

I’m really not interested in taking a rainy dog walk and I’m procrastinating on work stuff. Instead, here’s what happened last month:

January was warm, until it wasn’t.
Unseasonably warm weather really confusing the Cherry Trees on our street.

That Pansy is no pansy.

I saw a great show – Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker – with some new friends.Cracker

Big D and I had a fun time showing Flat James around town:National Mall Reflecting pool

And we got a lot of chores done:
Cobra bath.

Most importantly, I really concentrated on getting healthy in the new year. And I’m happy to report that eating healthy and drinking a lot less now feel routine. It’s actually fun to check my FitBit at the end of each day.








Here’s to February, which promises lots of work, an equal amount of fun, and a 10K run. This month also brings the start yet another deployment – keep those thoughts and prayers coming!

1SED 2014

Here’s one second for (almost) every day of 2014. What a year! Concerts, travel, completion and delivery of Big Ds Cobra, and what looks like way too much BBQing (I wonder what my Cholesterol looks like!?)

And here’s a little Instagram recap (can you tell I’m surfing on the couch all day today?)

Thanks for the memories and Happy New Year!

The Concert for Valor

Staged to boost awareness of veterans’ support groups, raise funds for veterans charities and salute the troops, HBO’s Concert for Valor drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day. HBO, Starbucks, and Chase were the main sponsors, and thanks to a fellow music loving friend, who works at Starbucks HQ, we were lucky to have two “Honored Guest” tickets – landing us in front of the massive crowd.

We arrived at about 2:30, set up camp on our blanket, and started playing cards to pass the time when rehearsals began. A woman walked out, the crowd buzzed and I said, “Should we know who that is?” when I realized the woman was Meryl Streep! Holy cow! We knew we were in for a great night. Meryl Streep

The Black Keys ran trough their entire set! The Black Keys

After a few celebs came out to read their lines and get used to the set up, we figured out how things wold work: A band would perform, a celeb would introduce a video about a military member, the member would be recognized, and the celeb would introduce the next act. Things were slow during the afternoon, but zipped right along at night since while everyone was watching each video, the lazy susan style stage was spinning around to reveal the next act’s set. The technical aspects of the evening were fascinating. And speaking of technical and fascinating: hows about the scaffolding on the Capitol dome? US Capitol Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem and later joined Jessie J for Titanium. Jennifer Hudson & Jessie J

Thanks to the sneak peek in the afternoon, we knew when we saw Meryl that it was time for Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl

My mind was officially blown when The Boss himself joined Dave and The Zac Brown Band for Fortunate Son.

The Boss, Dave Growl, Zac Brown

Big D and I are big John Oliver fans. True Fact: His wife is an Iraq War veteran who was an Army Medic with 1st Cav. And as the saying goes, “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t sh*t !” (which was fun to yell along with him and the crowd!)

John Oliver Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood does not phone it in.

Jack Black had the crowd chant to introduce Metallica. Metallica. Metallica. Metallica! I was surprised they were such the crowd favorite – they were impossible to photograph since arms were flying everywhere.

Jack Black Metallica

From the NY Daily News regarding Springsteen: “…Nuance came from Springsteen’s solo set. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, he didn’t flinch from alluding to the more controversial or gritty elements of war. He offered a stripped and slow version of “Promised Land,” the better to savor lyrics which address America’s possibilities, not necessarily its realities. He went further with a desolate and wounded take on “Born In The U.S.A.,” which critiques the military presence in Viet Nam in the ’60s. Likewise, his somber take on “Dancing In The Dark” emphasized the sadness behind its passion.” Bruce Springsteen

Bryan Cranston used a Heisenberg threat to encourage folks to support the troops saying “There’s still a lot of room in Belize for people…” and mentioned both of his parents who served before he introduced Rihanna.

Bryan Cranston Rihanna

Eminem joined RiRi for Monster and then opened his solo set by shouting “Happy Motherf—ing Veterans Day!” Just as our forefathers intended. Eminem

There are tons more photos over on Flickr including folks I’ve omitted here like Bob Woodruff and Jamie Foxx. Thanks again to my pal AK who helped us with tickets! Finally, here’s a little video recap I put together a few days after the show: 

The People’s Marathon

Holy Guacamole, I’ve been neglecting our little blog! Fear not: The Nicoli have had plenty of adventures – I hope to post about the big ones and be caught up before the end of the year.

Marathon training is a pain in the neck. And legs. And calendar. It’s expensive. I’m a complainer. I promised Big D after last year’s race that I would not go the distance again.

And then: I watched this year’s Boston Marathon. I cried like a baby when Meb won, walked from the TV to my computer to join Team Fisher House, and laced up my shoes…

I trained the same as usual: inconsistently. And thanks to encouragement from a friend, I set a lofty fundraising goal: $2,620 – one hundred dollars per mile. No pressure!

My year in a nutshell:
– Procrastinate
– Run
– Sweat
– Hydrate
– Beg friends for fundraising donations
– Rinse and repeat.

Time sped by when it came to fundraising efforts and draaaaaaaged when it came to awaiting race day.

October eventually arrived, and during the team dinner the evening before the race, I got an e-mail notification that I reached my fundraising goal! Chances are if you’re taking the time to read this, you are one of my many supporters – so, once again: THANK YOU!

I stuck to my usual race routine, like laying out my outfit and writing the names of my donors on my pace chart.
all ready for tomorrow

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines
The early morning view from Charity Village was beautiful.

I had some problems on the course: though well-rested and properly hydrated, I had a headache. I washed a giant Motrin down with too much water and the sloshing made me sick in the stomach, so ate something, which made me more thirsty…you can see where this is going. I started walking at mile 18. My legs were wobbly, I felt weak overall, and just when I was doubting myself: the best cheering squad ever gave me a snack, the gulp of Diet Coke I was craving, and our pal Jym set out to run miles 19 to 23 with me, even though he was hurting since he conquered a Tough Mudder himself just the day before. Good grief, I really owe him!!

Cutest cheering squad!

Jym joined me for a few miles
Pretty sure I’m explaining that I just want to finish, and there’s no need to run – walking is just fine.

thanks, Jym!
My hands were so swollen – check out those sausage fingers!

at mile 23
I was able to run a bit here and there. (Folks in a FaceBook training group I belong to used that Thumbs Up you can see on my back to identify each other. Those “friends” were a such a source of encouragement and help to me throughout the year, even though we’d never met.)

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines I *think* I can...

And after 26 miles, just .2 remained: up hill. That distance and the incline doesn’t seem like much if you’re just out for a stroll, but man, oh man… Thankfully, Team Fisher House has coaches on the course and one (that I do not know) was helping me along when Team Coach Stacy spotted me and took over. She’s fantastic, tireless, and was so calm as she ran and talked me through it. I was out of juice and air – I can still hear her saying, “Breathe. just breathe. you’ve got it…” My lungs were heaving. I was ecstatic. And crying.

I thought of all of the people – some are friends of friends that I don’t personally know! – who donated to my fundraising efforts. I thought of the military families that would benefit from the Team – we raised more than $500,000! I thought of my sweet husband who put up with so much throughout the year (what’s new!?) and of my friends who drove for hours so they could crisscross the city a bunch of times to cheer me on. I am one lucky gal.

And: I was proud. I didn’t participate in sports when I was a kid. I’m not particularly athletic, I’m really uncoordinated, and I didn’t train properly (which isn’t anything new.) Yet somehow, I made it to the finish line, through the chute, and to a Marine, who hung a medal around my neck and saluted me.

2014 MCM 2014 MCM

Best Support Crew EVER
I couldn’t have done it without them!

not too shabby
Pretty consistent, considering.

It took a few days until I was really ready to celebrate, and we had a little retirement party:
retirement party

I’ll keep running (I’ve already registered for another half.) But no more marathons for me. I will be back at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015: as a volunteer.

More photos from MCM2014 are over on Flickr.

Semper Fi!

Foo Fighters RVA

A few months ago, some (awesome) Foo Fighters fans in Richmond, Virginia organized a crowd funded effort aimed at bringing the Foo back to RVA – a city they haven’t played since 1998. Foo Fighters RVA Fans bought $50 tickets for a show that didn’t yet exist. But oh, did we hope… A day or so before the deadline, local businesses Sugar Shack Donuts and Brown’s Volkswagen donated the amounts required to meet the fundraising goal, and then, we all waited…

And soon enough, those that bought into the scheme lost their collective shizz when this appeared in our Twitter feeds:

It worked! Four dudes with a plan, 1,000+ fans, and some local businesses did it! If you pay for it, they will come!

And now, for a blog post that is not like my usual. But I’ve been sitting on this for a week and am about to head out on another adventure. So, please enjoy this bullet list style recap that I jotted on my iPad a day or two after one of the most fantastic concerts I’ve attended (and that’s really saying something.) My BFF Carey joined me (via train from Raleigh, NC!) for a whirlwind, and man. It rocked.

– We paid at box office, my name was highlighted on the donor list, we were shuffled inside the theater lobby to get wristbands (adorned with Pearl Jam looking space creatures) and we were off to lunch at an adorable place called Pasture followed by a tour of the Jefferson Hotel.



– Chillaxed and had a tiny bday celebration w/ Bellini’s and 9:30 Club cupcakes back at the hotel. In a reverse birthday move: Carey gave me a gift! And I love my new bracelet.

Pre @foofighters show / @careyjym birthday celebration! Mmmmm. 9:30 Club Cupcakes (imported from @buzzbakery)

– Carey rocked 9:30 T-shirt like nobody’s business.

– We walked to venue again, checked out the line, got a cool poster, and moved on to Marriott bar.

– I hid the poster in a Marriott lobby bathroom so it wasn’t wrecked during the show.

– Back to club. We didn’t even check the floor and went right to balcony. Found seats in 3rd row, next to the VIP area. My Twitter pal Brian (who tipped me off to the whole show) was in the same row, opposite end.

– Avers opened. They had four (5?) guitarists, and their female musician was great – I was a bit jealous. [note to self: look into Avers!]

– The crowdsourcing guys made an appearance! And the crowd went wild. (Thanks, Dudes!)

Foo Fighters RVA

– I chatted with the guy in front of us who was sporting a VW dealer / Foo winners shirt. He won his tickets by answering trivia: What Guinness Record does Dave Grohl hold?

– The show shirts are decent quality, only $20, and come w/ free download code for new CD. I high fived Brian on my way back to my seat after buying Ts and a hoodie

– And finally: show time! It seemed like the crowd cheered a very long time at the open, which was All My Life.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Dave said, “we’ve played a lot of shows over a lot of years, but never one like this…”

– Later, he thanked the crowd for paying for a show before it was actually booked “Because seriously, thank you!” and he mentioned that it’s expensive for him to pay “the pool boy back at the mansion.”

– Dave gave a brief, sweet explanation that the Virginia mentioned in Arlandria isn’t a reference to his home, but rather, his mom, who he pointed to and introduced.

One of These Days always makes me think of my sister Kara, who I miss so much, every day.

– Overdue bathroom break during Weenie Beenie (I KNOW!) When I heard Monkey Wrench starting I sprinted back, and our whole section was sitting down. WTF!?

– And I realized I was standing at start of the ONE LAST THING BEFORE I QUIT breakdown part, and thought “screw the people behind me!” Because who comes to a show like this and sits down!? I shouted to the (self-proclaimed hard core, yet seated) guy in front of us “Don’t let these f’ers make you sit down!” and he promptly left before the encore. I worried he misheard me and I somehow offended him, but his wife was totally uninterested, so I gave myself a pass.

– Dave asked for house lights two or three times to see crowd singing along.

– And told a story about tiny Richmond venues and seeing Gwar.

– Pat Smear was smiling for just about the entire show.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Taylor followed Dave on stage for what was to be a solo Times Like These. Dave had him stay, so Taylor laid down on his stool with his feet up on the snares and (I hope) took it all in. Dave explained their friendship and explained that after 20 years, if three vans come to an airport to pick them all up, they still just cram into one. And my heart melted a bit.

– The Skin and Bones accordion sections seemed longer than usual to me. I love Rami. Also during S&B, Dave nodded towards his mom while he sang the line “Tell my mom I’m doin’ fine” then shrugged and giggled.

– At end of Hey, Johnny Park, Dave was alone on guitar and asked for house lights off. I was surprised that we were all suddenly in the very dark while Dave jammed a few minutes in an awesome Pearl Jam / Dave Matthews-esque style. I kelt clutching my chest, trying to feel / memorize everything.

-Two and a half hours FLEW by. I felt like there should be a second encore and then realized I was being greedy.

– Just like that, it was over. And I was floating.

– We retrieved the poster from Marriott bathroom. Perfect!


– And the next morning, we went to Sugar Shack, as I felt like I should somehow say thank you. And when we did? They gave us super cool posters! And stickers!

thanks,  Sugar Shack

– Less than 24 short hours later, I dropped Carey off at the train station and drove back to Alexandria. And it all felt like a (super fantastic, hard rocking!) dream.

A few other photos are over on my Flickr page.