26.2 Miles of Thoughts

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I’m often asked, “What do you think about for 26 miles?”  First of all, I think about the 0.2, the POINT TWO, because that is the most important, gut wrenching, “I’ve got this”, part of the 26.2 miles.  The 0.2 is when you are at your most tired, your most weary, your most pained, but you dig so deep to run your hardest to finish strong–always finish strong. So what do I think about for 26.2 miles? Recently I completed my 5th marathon, the Marine Corps in DC back on October 25th. I compiled a list of thoughts.

26.2 Miles of Thoughts…

  • Ah here we go, again.  I love this!
  • Announcer at Start: You’ll get the 40th Anniversary sparkly finisher metal at the end.
  • Get your mind wrapped around running for the next four hours Matt.
  • It’s raining, great.
  • I hope my legs don’t cramp.
  • I hope my hamstring and calf strains don’t impact my running.
  • Head. In. Game. Matt.
  • MUST. GET. SPARKLY. METAL.

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  • Hills already?
  • I’m hot.
  • 4 miles down!
  • The rain is letting up, nice.
  • I wonder what it would be like to be in the Marines?
  • Oh, look at those Marines!
  • Hey Boys!
  • That guy is crazy running with no shoes on.
  • Overheard: This is my 92nd marathon.  I want to run 8 more in the next year to make Marine Corps my 100th.  I’m 64 years old. Holy S*** that guy is my hero!  My body could not do 92 marathons.  I think this is my last one.
  • I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 50s when my parents did, like Leave It To Beaver?
  • 7 miles down, ugh, 19.2 miles to go.
  • A dude running in crocks, one red, one blue.  Crazy!
  • Pizza, I want pizza.
  • Oh, and cookies too!
  • 40th Anniversary race–it’s cool this race started in 1976 the year I was born and I’m running the 40th race.
  • I still remember the day I came home from school in September 1994 and got my acceptance letter to Michigan State! I read it twice.
  • My legs hurt.
  • Is this over yet?
  • Cupcakes!

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  • So it’s “Oorah”, not “Oprah.”  Huh?
  • Overheard: This is my 107th marathon. There was barely anything to that guy, skin and bones and he wobbled to the right.
  • Remember that 1983 Olivia Newton John concert on HBO with Magic, Suddenly, Physical, Make a Move On Me and Xanadu? Man, I used to love performing that around the house in my mom’s knee-high winter boots!

  • I used to hate running in high school, now I do it for fun.
  • Is this almost over?
  • I’m not running another marathon.
  • Oh hey, Paul, the guy who retired and I took his position at my high school. (We ran 9 miles together).
  • Paul: If I say I’m running another one of these, slap me. ME TOO!  Hit me right across the face.
  • Man, the 60s, what would it have been like to grow up in the 60s? All those changes?
  • Kurt! Jeremy! Love you guys!!!
  • I can’t wait to have a drink!
  • My legs don’t hurt as bad as I thought they would today. This is a pretty good race.
  • Oh hey Washington Monument!

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  • That guy is running with prosthetic legs. You go guy!
  • That 1990 American Music Awards opening with Paula Abdul singing “The Way That You Love Me”.

  • Remember Martika “Toy Soldiers”?
  • Oh hey Lincoln Memorial!
  • Go Green! Go White! Spartan fans along the way.
  • “Go Matty” some random stranger I’ve now seen twice.
  • Pizza!
  • I need a break!
  • “All at once I’m drifting down a lonely stream, holding on to memories, hurts me, more than you know, oooo, hurts me more than is shows, all at once, all at once…..”  Whitney Houston “All At Once” in concert 1994.
  • I have such a great life!
  • I wonder if I try really hard could I learn the “If” dance?

  • 18 miles down, feeling pretty decent around the Capitol.
  • Yay!  Michele and Jason cheering!!!  Hey!
  • I can’t wait to have a drink!  Did I think that already?
  • What would it have been like if I had been out in college?
  • The Jefferson Memorial.  My favorite memorial.
  • Oh hey Washington Monument again.
  • Run Forest, Run!

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  • 20 miles down, I want to be f***ing done!
  • This is my last marathon.  Why do I like this?
  • I’m going to retire, “like Cher”.
  • My legs hurt.
  • Is this over?
  • The sun is out!
  • Cookies.  Pizza.
  • Remember the 1987 American Music Awards when Whitney won 5 awards?!?

  • Oh hey Spartan fans again, Go Green! Go White!
  • Isn’t it wonderful the Supreme Court ruled in favor of equal marriage rights for all?!!
  • I’m tired.
  • I am only running half marathons from now on.
  • Miles 12, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, I’m not doing this again.
  • 23 miles down, my IT band is starting to act up.  Make it to the end!!
  • My legs hurt, why do I continue to sign up for these things?

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  • Oh hey that stranger who has been cheering me on, thank you again!
  • Cocktails! Cocktails!
  • Pizza!
  • My boyfriend!  Kurt!  He’s running with me in his rain boots and gear and with a backpack of my post-race stuff!  I love you!
  • Oh, he’s playing Britney “Work Bitch” on his phone, “You can do this Matty T, you can do this!!!”
  • Kurt is still running with me!
  • I love my life.
  • I’m almost done!
  • Vodka.  Bourbon!
  • “Cause once you know what love is, you’ll never let it end.”  Whitney “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”
  • I can get under 4 hours!  I can!!!
  • Mile 24 f***ing be over!
  • “Go Matty!”  That stranger one last time!
  • Oh hey fake “marines” in no shirt and really short green shorts.  hey hey!
  • Diva Chant: Whitney!-Britney!-BeYONce-MaRIah-MaDONna-Janet!
  • Mile 25 I’m so close.  I can do this in under 4 (tears, choking up).
  • Mile 26!!!
  • Crowds. People. My head is fuzzy.  My eyes are blurry.
  • Are you f***ing kidding me with this steep hill at 26?
  • You aren’t kidding with this hill.
  • I can do this!

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  • Mile 26.2!  Haul Ass!  YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!  OORAH! OORAH! OORAH!
  • “Can you take me high enough.  Can you fly me over(fly me over) yesterday!” Damn Yankees-Not sure why?
  • I’m done.  I’m done! 3:59:27!!!

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I pushed through there at the end thanks to my boyfriend running with me and playing Britney and Whitney on his phone.  I’m a lucky guy that he loves me so much. Overall, the race went well for someone who was injured and slow throughout the training season. It was wonderful to run the streets of DC and Virginia. That last 0.2 was a bitch, the hardest finish I’ve ever experienced. That is when the mind takes over, your gut kicks in, you run as hard as you can on legs that have been running for 26.2 miles and you finish and all is right in the world!!

  • Ok, maybe I’ll do another one!

There you go, 26.2 miles of thoughts. I don’t know if I’ll ever run another marathon. If I don’t, I think I’m good. If I do, it will surely be a joy….to finish. What I know for sure is that running has taught me physical discipline. Running marathons has taught me that the human body is a machine and it can outlast. Running marathons is mental too and the strength it takes to finish is surely powered by the mind. I have seen so many miles of asphalt as I try to remind myself to “look up” and I’ve seen miles and miles of beautiful sites, smiles, and scenery.  Who knows if I’ll run another marathon, but I surely will keep on running because running brings me joy, pride, and these kick ass toned legs.  Wham!

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Is That Carly Rae?….A Late 80s History Lesson

Ahhhh, the late 80s and pop music, there isn’t much that brings greater joy for me to think about than those days. Life was easy back then. I ranged in age from 10-13. 1986-1989 were the years that some of our pop divas made huge marks on popular music and me. The American Music Awards held in January 1987 saw Whitney, Janet, and Madonna all take home awards AND they were all there to accept.

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All of these late 80s music memories came rushing back recently when I was sitting at my desk pretty much jamming to the new Carly Rae Jepsen album, Emotion, and a student of mine entered my office, sat down, and said, “Is that Carly Rae?”

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“Why yes it is,” I responded. We proceeded to briefly talk about the hot lead single, Run Away With Me and why it isn’t a bigger hit. This song opens with a sax solo straight out of 1987 and a steamy fire escape set video staring Richard Marx. But what ensued, much to my delight and probably much to the dismay of my student, was a late 80s diva history.

First and foremost, The Queen of Pop, Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). It is pop perfection. What I didn’t tell my student in our history lesson was how I used to act it out leaning up against the house like Whitney did when she had the leather jacket on and leopard print scarf in her hair. IWDWS is quintessential late 80s. The horns, the pop beats, the bright colors in the video, the make-up on Whitney. It all goes down in history as one of my favorite songs and definitely a late 80s favorite. It is interesting to note that IWDWS was written by the same duo who wrote How Will I Know, which was originally intended for Janet Jackson, but helped cement Whitney as a pop icon in the making. The duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, of the group Boy Meets Girl fame (another favorite song of mine, Waiting For A Star To Fall) wrote both pop hits for Whitney and actually intended Waiting For A Star To Fall for her but Arista declined so they made a hit out of the song. Whitney received song writing credits for coming up with the ending, “Don’t you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don’t you wanna dance (dance)”.  She won Best Pop Female Vocal at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards for I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).

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My student of course had heard of Whitney, but really only knew her in reference to the recent tragic loss of Bobbi Kristina and the song I Will Always Love You. I couldn’t help myself but to show her a bit of the video and expound upon her the importance of knowing Whitney Houston and I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). Honestly, when students happen into my office and let’s say Whitney is playing, I try to make sure they know who she is and why she is important, for real.

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The second song that really defines the late 80s for me, and if we are keeping to the three top divas of the time, is Madonna’s Open Your Heart. I have heard that Madonna is performing this song on her current Rebel Heart Tour, which makes me happy. There were very few things that my parents forbid my brother and I to do, to watch or to listen to, but Madonna, especially Papa Don’t Preach was on that short list. Somehow Open Your Heart was not on that list and I remember over and over watching that video on MTV. My dad owned a fedora, though it was more of a beach hat, I wore that and danced like Madonna and the little boy all over my house. I do remember thinking less about Madonna’s spiky bustier leotard and way more about how I thought that boy was cute. Remember I was all of 11 at the time. Another thing I never noticed then, or didn’t think about, is that in the opening of the peep show there are two sailors sitting arm and arm together.  Madonna pushing the limits of equality even in 1988!! When Madonna would hang her head way back over the chair and slide off that black wig to reveal her short blonde cut, I died every time!  Still do! Finally, when the boy and Madonna dance shoulder to shoulder at the end of the video, I was so jealous and would fantasize that that was me dancing with Madonna, for real! What a fantastic, fantastic late 80s song that had such a big impact on me and my love of music. It truly is, maybe besides Borderline the first Madonna song that I absolutely loved, oh and Material Girl too. But anyway, it really set a tone for the type of music I would gravitate toward throughout my life. “Open your heart with the key. One is such a lonely number.” Yup, longing, loving, schmaltzy, can’t live without him songs. All of that, and a gay reference in 1988, Way to go Madonna!

Finishing up three of my defining late 80s diva pop hits history, The Pleasure Principle by Janet, “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.”

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This was a 1987 hit and seventh single from her Control album which was a pretty big success for Janet, but nothing like her next two albums would prove to be. The Pleasure Principle was Janet’s first real dance video that I remember. It reminded me so much of Ren McCormick in Footloose dancing in the grain elevator. Don’t get me started on the importance of that movie in my life. HA! Anyway, TPP as you can now imagine, was acted out, many, many times in my basement and in my garage as I would try to recreate Janet’s passion. I’m not much of a technical dancer, so I would go more for the passionate hand to forehead move and throwing my body up against the wall. Oh and the taking off of the jean jacket and swinging that about. That was good too. I loved the part where she danced in front of the wood slats with light shining through and in front of the mirrors. This was a perfect dance hit.

So getting back to the late 80s pop history for my student. It really only included the Whitney portion, but brought back many memories of these other two hits as well. I’m sure my student was thankful for the lesson. We then talked about Carly Rae and her super cool pop album that really should be a much bigger hit.

Stop! Stop right now what you are doing and go listen to these songs from Carly Rae Jepsen’s album Emotion.

Run Away With Me

                                                                             Boy Problems

                           Favourite Colour                   

                                                                                                      Making the Most of the Night

Lets Get Lost

                                                                  Your Type

                                         All That

                                                                                                             LA Hallucinations

                                                                                I Really Like You

Seriously, listen to this album now! It is just as good, if not BETTER than Swizzle’s 1989, also a great pop album, but CRJ can ACTUALLY hold a tune!

I don’t remember where I read or heard this recently, online or NPR, but whatever it was, it said that after the age of 33 we really don’t choose to listen to music that is much different than the music we have always listened to. Thinking about this idea, it really is true for me. I don’t listen to much new music and if I do it really is pop stuff, like Carly Rae’s new album. My music interests and the artists I most listen to now are those from the late 80s and early 90s, for the most part. These were all pivotal influences on my life, especially my life in music. Dick Clark famously said, “Music is the storybook of our lives.” What a true statement. When you think about it, music can take you back to good times, sad times, happy times, bitter times, fun times, really the storybook of our lives. Go enjoy some music from your past and take a walk down memory lane, then listen to Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen!

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Seasons Change 2

Oh my goodness, it has been two months since I last wrote and I’ve missed writing. Just a few days ago I was remembering one of my favorite blog posts from last year, Seasons Change, and it made me want to write.  Luckily I have today off.  As my Jewish friends celebrate Yom Kippur, I took the opportunity to run 20 miles for #marinecorp #marathon #training and to write a new blog post. It’s the first day of fall, so here we are again as seasons change. I got back to yoga last night too after three months off. It was so wonderful to find my mat once again. It’s that time of year to reflect and think about where you are in life and where you have come from.  It’s also that time of year that you start putting #pumpkinspice #psl in your coffee and of course, start wearing your scarves again.

As I reread my blog Seasons Change from last year I was reminded of where I was then and even the year before that. Now September 2015 I’m in a very different place once again. I think we have to always keep in mind that years go by fast, days go by fast and things change. Over the past year my boyfriend and I have moved into a new apartment in Chicago. He still has his place in Cleveland and we’re still traveling back and forth. #stopasking who is moving, we are doing just fine like it is, thank you! Sidenote: Tyra Banks has a new talkshow and they were discussing this new hashtag, #stopasking, for people who are tired of other people nosing into their life and asking, “When are you having a baby?” “When are you moving in together?” “When are you getting married.” But I get it, that it comes from a positive and a well intended place. I’ll let you know when it happens, but for now #stopasking. I digress, it really is amazing to me that another year has gone by. I’m happy in my life and I find joy in the things I can do, the people I can share my time with, and the love I can share with my love.

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Sitting here right now, I have my coffee with #pumpkinspice creamer in it and I’m looking outside at the wind move the tree branches and I’m completely ok, right now. A couple of years ago and even some last year, I struggled with being alone. I did not want to spend time by myself at all and I made sure that I was constantly busy. Recently I’ve noticed that I reserve a night or two to be home by myself. Is it that I’m in a relationship and therefore my mind allows me to be content staying home? Is it that I’m old and exhausted and need to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. in order to survive? What is it? For me, as I’ve reflected on this feeling, I know that when I was newly single and in the throes of emotion and last year when I had just gotten into a new relationship, my mind struggled with “alone time” as if it was the devil. What I know now is that I can be and am happy to be home alone some of the time. Now, my type of personality only needs a couple of hours a week by myself but I’m ok taking that time. Two years ago, forget about it, I would have been in a complete state of anxiety. So is it that my mind allows a sense of contentment when it’s satisfied with it’s life? What I hope I take from this recent reflection is that, I’m ok alone. I hope I don’t, but should I find myself alone again, I will fight my mind telling me I’m not ok alone. I will fight it because I know that I am ok and I can be happy at home on a Tuesday night. Alone time, happiness, pumpkin spice, happiness, whatever the case, alone, I’m ok.

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Where do we go from here? One of the reasons I started this blog was to remark on my choice to “say yes to life” and experience the fun and joy that surrounds all of us, if we allow ourselves to “say yes.” In a few short weeks I will be running my fifth marathon, the Marine Corp in DC. #districtofcolumbia My body has been sort of a mess this training season. I’ve had a hamstring strain, soreness in my calves, the constant battle with my glute med, and the list goes on. My pace time has decreased majorly from the previous two seasons, but I’m still out there. I still ran my 20 mile training run today. I am still saying YES to Life and looking forward to running in DC. I hear it is a very cool race as we run all through the monuments and such. Maybe I can give a shout out to SCOTUS and the #lovewins ruling and get a “holla” from #rbg. That would be cool. Who knows how long this body can continue with these 26.2 mile races, but at least for now, I look forward to this next race.

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So here we are again, it’s fall and the season is changing. I think just for fun and putting life in our years, we should all get a sassy new bob and a smokey eye and run through the streets as the leaves fall to the sidewalk.

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Ok fine, that is television’s way of looking at fall, but for me, well, I’m going to haul out my scarves of many colors and start tszujing them around my neck until they are perfect. I’m going to run this fifth marathon and enjoy it. Of course I’m going to enjoy some #pumpkinspice #psl And most of all, I’m going to enjoy the time I spend with those I love and more conversations like this:

Conversation about the Bible with Sarah over dinner while Patrick shook his head figuring out the bill:
Sarah: Aren’t there animals in the Bible?
Matt: yeah isn’t there a horse/man?
S: Patrick is there a horseman?
M: Oh, the hyenas…no that’s the Lion King.
S: No that’s the Lion King, you’re confusing your stories. Patrick is there a horseman?
M: Flotsam and Jetsam….no that’s the Little Mermaid.
S: Who are the three singing ladies?
M: That’s the Mandrell Sisters!
*laughter and snorting*
S: Who sings to Baby Jesus?
M: Joanne!!

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Equal Dignity — June 26, 2015

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It’s been 25 days since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of equal rights and equal dignity for all Americans. Call it Gay Marriage, call it Marriage, call it what it is, a Human Right that is afforded to Americans based on our Constitution. I’ve been meaning to write about this momentous day for a few weeks, but just haven’t had a chance. I also wanted it to settle in and I wanted to feel it. On June 26, 2015 LOVE did win.

We should never let anyone into our hearts if they don’t enter with love. With all the hatred around the SCOTUS decision and the fight over equal rights, “Love Wins” is one of the truest messages. As the late, great Whitney Houston once sang, “Your love is my love and my love is your love.”  We all love. We all want to love. We all want to feel love. If two men or two women find love, let it be, please! Who’s to say that your love is more right than my love or my love is more right than your love? Life, this journey, is hard enough, why make it harder by fighting over love? Let love be. Let us move forward allowing everyone to love.

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So here’s my perspective as a non-religious gay man, it’s a separation of church and state.  Our forefathers wrote that into the constitution for a reason.  For so many years I have been arguing the point that I’m not asking to get married in your church. I’m not religious, so I would never get married in a church. If you want to that is wonderful, for you. “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is part of the Constitution(state, “government”), and if my happiness means marrying a man, then I get to do that. Marriage comes in two forms.  There is a ceremony(the church if you choose) and there is the license. With the legal part of a marriage license come rights that heterosexual couples have always had. These are the law, not the Bible. These are the state, not the church. No matter what you believe marriage is, one man, one woman…two men or two women…everyone should be given the same legal rights of marriage because we live in America and we all should be afforded the same rights.  Now, because SCOTUS ruled in favor, it is the Law of the Land, as it should be, as it always should have been, as it now will be forever more.

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Ever since President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage, I felt things would pick up speed, and they sure did. People have differing opinions on when and how Obama “evolved” into believing in the right for gay men and women to marry. He is a politician and our country is so divided that of course he didn’t come out and fully support gay marriage until after he successfully won his second term. Say what you choose, but what matters to me is that he did and I always felt he would, once he was a second term President. When President Obama took office two states recognized gay marriage, seven years later, all 50 states recognize it. I believe that when the leader of the free world came out and supported equal rights, the slope slipped in the right direction. Call it political posturing, or whatever, Obama had to do it the right way and he did. Thank you Mr. President!

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Several years ago, my friend’s son wrote a letter to President Obama. He asked the President to pass a law so that I can get married. How wonderful, right? E has known me since the time he was born. He and his sister have grown up in a time that gay men and women have just been part of social media and their personal life. In my opinion, he’s been lucky enough to have several “Guncles” in his life, and we are lucky enough to have him in our lives.  This now middle school boy just accepts love as love, couples as couples, people as people.  My hope is that his generation is growing up knowing that “love is love”. They are going to be the first generation that doesn’t quite remember the time of marriage vs. gay marriage. He and his generation will know only, MARRIAGE.

Speaking of the younger generation, did you see this 7 year-old girl stand up to a homophobic preacher?

It’s quite wonderful that I was home in Michigan visiting my family the day of the SCOTUS decision. My five and six-year-old nieces’ take on the day’s events, “Can we be your flower girls and wear pretty dresses?” Again, this young generation will not remember a time when marriage was talked about separately. They will only know marriage as a celebration of love. How wonderful is that?

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The sidewalk in Bronson Park, Kalamazoo, Michigan-June 26, 2015

So what does this all mean? I think Frank Bruni writes about it best in his article “Our Weddings, Our Worth” from the New York Times. It’s about worth. It’s about EVERY American feeling worthy and feeling noticed and feeling dignified. This blows my mind because it is exactly how I feel when Bruni writes, “And that’s because the Supreme Court’s decision wasn’t simply about weddings. It was about worth. From the highest of this nation’s perches, in the most authoritative of this nation’s voices, a majority of justices told a minority of Americans that they’re normal and that they belong — fully, joyously and with cake.”  So what it means is that our young gay men and women can grow up in a time knowing that they belong and that they are normal and that they matter. And for me it means that I can get married and have cake!!

As all of this settles in, there are still haters, some of whom want to lead our country like Ted Cruz who is calling for states not to follow the law. Um, Ted, it’s the law. You have to follow it. Sorry dude! We must push that nonsense away(and not vote these bigots into office)and forge our path to love!!  LOVE! While we do that, I would like to share some of my favorite moments and images of June 26th, 2015 and the days following via social media.

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The White House

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Our President 🙂

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Our Next President–Please?

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Police raising the Pride flag at City Hall in Chicago

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Niagara Falls

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What a week in US history

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A lot of work yet to accomplish

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This Instagram post from Bey

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That’s right, what makes being American and living in America so wonderful is that we can all have different opinions and we don’t have to agree on any of them. But, we should always be kind to one another and we all deserve the same rights. In the end, it’s about every American knowing that he matters, that she is worthy, and that we are all dignified. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the most beautiful final paragraph in his majority opinion ruling.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

Now we move forward. Let’s call it marriage. Let’s call it celebrations of love. We’re all equal and we’re all deserving of human rights. We are all deserving of the rights afforded to all Americans. So go ahead, you can just call it MARRIAGE now.

Be In Love With Your Life!

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my toiletry bag, a gift from my boyfriend 🙂 and a constant reminder

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For so many reasons, I’m excited about life right now. My 97-year-old grandmother just celebrated her 80th high school reunion. And she’s going to meet my boyfriend, for the first time in my life. I’m about to celebrate my 20th high school reunion. And we’re having lunch with my 4th grade teacher too and that is just amazing. Summer vacation is upon us and that is just exciting because for six weeks I won’t have to pack my lunch, set my alarm, I can drink lots of “summer water” commonly known as rosé, and I can finally watch Jimmy Falon! Annnnnnnnd The Supreme Court of the United States is about to rule on equality, gay marriage, and that is reaaaallllly cool! Life is exciting ya’ll!

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So get this, my grandmother is 97 years old!!! She is truly amazing. Back in the day, she and my grandfather got me my first pair of cowboy boots and my first microphone. They took me to two county fairs to see Barbara Mandrell perform and she introduced me to Regis and Kathie Lee back during a summer visit in 1990. When I was a teen my grandmother and I would sit on the porch in Fostoria, MI, looking at the big red barn and the corn fields and we would talk about her ”story”, Days of Our Lives. I watched too and had a lot to say. Patch and Kayla’s wedding, when Kayla got her hearing back? Forget about it. The “Cruise of Deception,” that was entertaining. Stefano? Marlena? Duke who really wasn’t Duke because he was John Black? Jack and Jennifer? Bo and Hope? All of it and the juicy details were discussed on that porch. I was about 13 and she was about 73. It was a 60-year difference, but we were on the same page. Anyway, the point is, my grandmother is really cool. And why is this exciting? It’s exciting because in a couple of weeks I’m going to introduce my grandmother to my boyfriend!

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You see, several years ago, at a very different time in my life, and for many reasons, I wasn’t allowed to tell my grandfather that I’m gay. Since that time, he passed away. Whether he “knew” I was gay or not probably doesn’t matter. Would he have understood? Would he have thought of me differently, who knows? What I can’t let happen is for my grandmother to not know me as a completely happy man, living a very lovely life. I have led a past of academic challenges that I overcame. Grandma and Grandpa are forever grateful for that. I have led a very successful life living and working in Chicago for 15 years. Grandma is so very happy for that. But ultimately, grandparents want their grandchildren to be happy. I want Grandma Bea to know that I have a great life and that I am very, very happy and that I am loved. I think she’ll be cool with that.

Good lord, where did 20 years go? Is it possible that I graduated from high school TWENTY YEARS ago? I’m excited to see what a 20-year high school reunion looks like. In the small town that my grandmother grew up in, they celebrate reunions yearly at the Alumni Banquet. It is one of my grandmother’s favorite things to do, to attend that banquet yearly. Now she has celebrated EIGHTY of them. EIGHTY people! My 20 years certainly pales in comparison, but I’m still excited. Who is going to be there? Will some of my childhood friends come? Will my high school crush still be as cute as he was back then? Will my boyfriend fall in love with Portage, MI? Ok, ok, let’s not get all crazy here. I do hope that some of the people who were important to me back then are there. I want them to know who I have become and I want to know who they have become. I believe it is an important life event, to celebrate 20 years since graduating high school. At that time, it was the most significant thing that had happened to most of us. Now, 20 years later, most of us, hopefully, have a lot more to share. It’s just exciting to me. Oh, and I can’t wait to take my boyfriend on the tour of Portage. Lake Center Elementary (now demolished and rebuilt), Portage Central Middle School, Portage Central High School (now demolished and rebuilt), Westnedge Ave., TCBY where I spent a lot of time loitering, and of course Lloy St. where I proudly grew up as one of the “Lloy Boys.” There are so many parts of my life back then that were great and should be celebrated. I really can’t wait!

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Did I mention, we are having lunch with my favorite teacher of all time, my 4th grade teacher. How many of you are still in touch with YOUR 4th grade teacher? Mrs. Greene was an amazing inspiration in my life. Here’s the thing, every summer, about a week after school let out we would get our grade report. It was on carbon copy paper and was handwritten. Each year we would wait with excited anticipation with the answer, “Who would be our next teacher?” Moving from 3rd to 4th grade, I have to be honest, everyone wanted Mr. Root. He was the newer, young and fun 4th grade teacher. I remember getting that report card in the mail on a warm, sunny June afternoon in 1986. I didn’t get Mr. Root and I was so disappointed. However, what a shortsighted almost 4th grader didn’t know then, that he knows now, is that he was very lucky because Mrs. Greene would change his life.

Let me start with this bright red skirt suit that Mrs. Greene wore. She was the best dresser I had ever seen. Obviously as I have grown, fashion has become important to me. Well, let’s get real, even back then, my 4th grade picture is of me in suspenders that my Aunt bought for me. But Mrs. Green was always dressed to the nines, as a teacher. She always looked great and honestly, there are days I get dressed, when I don’t necessarily care if I look nice, and I think of her presence in that 4th grade classroom and how it has stuck with me some 28 years later. Mrs. Greene was also just a powerful, strong presence in the classroom. When I was a teacher, I feel that I modeled my classroom presence after her. No-nonsense yet caring, Mrs. Greene had a way of teaching us so many life lessons on a daily basis. One day, I will never forget, is the day Mrs. Greene’s life changed.

Our principal, another strong female role model, came into our classroom. She pulled Mrs. Greene out into the hallway. Soon after they both came back in and Mrs. Greene quickly gathered her things and left the classroom. Our student teacher at the time, Ms. L(I can’t quite remember her last name) took charge of the room. Mrs. Greene’s husband had suffered a heart attack. She was gone for about two weeks as she helped him recover. I remember missing her so much during those two weeks. Back then I probably didn’t quite understand that my teacher also had a life outside of school and that things happen in life. But I distinctively remember her being gone and me missing her as my teacher. Shortly after the two weeks Mrs. Greene was back. Her first day back, what did she wear, the red suit! Over the years I have stayed in touch with Mrs. Greene. In fact, when I was a senior in high school I would go to her classroom and work with her and her students. I always say, “I knew I wanted to be a teacher since 4th grade.” I’m pretty sure it was because I wanted to dress as great as Mrs. Greene.

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As I consider the excitement in the air this June, I can’t help but write about the most important decision the Supreme Court of the United States has ever made, concerning me personally, in my life. This month, SCOTUS will rule on gay marriage and if gay people nation wide should have the right to marry. Certainly, I hope, most of the people in my life believe that I should have the same rights as they do. My home state of Illinois allows me the right to marry, but still, too many other states in the United States do not allow gay people to marry. Some people might argue, just get married in a state that allows it, or move to a state that allows it. Years ago I used to think that State’s Rights was fine and that individual states could make their own decisions. Back then it didn’t matter to me because I lived in a very Democratic state. If I get married in Illinois and live here, it doesn’t matter. But, hold on a second, that isn’t fair. If I get married in Illinois, a state that recognizes gay marriage, but move back to Michigan, a state that doesn’t, it won’t be recognized. That isn’t fair. My straight counterparts in the United States can get married anywhere and move anywhere and it is still recognized. So now, the Supreme Court will rule on this matter by the end of the month. For obvious reasons, this is an important issue to me, but for historical reasons, the fact that the decision will come in June is really exciting.

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I guess it goes without saying that I’m excited because I think the Supreme Court is going to rule on the right side of history. They might not, but fingers crossed, I hope they do. Why it’s exciting that June is the month is because Pride is celebrated across the nation each year the last weekend of June. Back on June 28th, 1969 the gay community of New York City took to the streets in a violent protest against the police raid that took place the early hours of that day. The Stonewall Riots started the slow change that has rapidly picked up speed in the last few years. The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was known to be a place for the most dismissed people of the gay community. On June 28, 1969 the gay community took part in what is considered the most important event leading toward gay liberation and the fight for LGBT rights in the United States. So what will SCOTUS rule? I guess we don’t know, but we can hope that they will rule in favor of equal rights for all people in the United States. I’m excited and hopeful to hear their ruling!

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Excited about life…right now…I am. I’ve certainly learned that life evolves and changes, but what we have to do is enjoy the moment. Life ebbs and flows. There are happy times and sad times, bright times and dark times. Everyone goes through those ups and downs in life, but what I try to remember is that when you’re down, as Oprah has said, “the sun will rise tomorrow.” The sun always rises. And when you are in one of your up cycles, enjoy the hell out of it. Relish those moments. Recognize how it feels to wake up in the morning and get your day started. Soak in those high on life feelings, because inevitably, the down will come back, it will be more difficult to get out of bed and you have to work much harder to choose your attitude. If we can just remember when we are in a down, it will get better.  The sun will rise tomorrow.

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Right now I’m excited and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this feeling. This summer I’m going to enjoy time with friends and family, my 97-year-old grandmother and my 4th grade teacher. I’m going to enjoy the man I love and the life we have together. I’m going to hope for a great ruling on equality from the Supreme Court. I’m going to enjoy sleeping in and not packing my lunch and staying up late. I’m going to enjoy going back home for my 20th reunion and all it has to offer. I’m going to enjoy a bottle or two of rosé. I’m going to enjoy the moments I have in life with those I love. As we know all too well, life is short so we have to seize the moment, enjoy what we love, and who we love and Say YES to Life!

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Thank you for being a friend!

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WOW-it’s been a year since I started my blog, Say Yes To Life!  I really can’t believe that 365+ days have gone by and what a difference 365 days have made in my life. A year ago I was definitely starting to hit my stride again after a very difficult year. I was also about to meet someone who would change my life. What it all comes down to for me, is friendship. The way I got out of the darkness of loss is because of friends. The reason I started this blog is because of friends. The reason I met my love is because of friends. Friendships ebb and flow, but the real ones last forever.

I was recently in London and saw Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  

I didn’t know much about Carole King except that she has written a ton of songs and people love her.  My boyfriend and I went to the show without much expectation.  It did win the star a Tony Award in the USA and the equivalent award in England was recently won by it’s “Carole”.  After two hours I walked away having a greater sense of the massive amounts of hit songs Carole King wrote AND tear filled eyes.  My boyfriend and I were standing on the corner of the street and I just started to sob.  What moved me more than anything in the show was the power of friendship.  Carole King and her husband were a writing team.  Next door in the same music executive office was another writing team, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. This foursome became such amazing friends, which was reflected in the show. Everything about how they met and became friends and supported each other through life’s ups and downs, even though they were competing to get their songs picked up by the record company, was beautiful.  I started to sob because I am so fortunate to have so many friends from over the years who have supported me in big and small ways.  Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil represent the good and bad, happy and sad times in life that all need support.  Friendship is about supporting each other and looking out for one another and truly, moving through life, together. The minute I left the theatre I knew I would write a blog about my friendships and what they mean to me. So here it is….

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Friendship is about time.  We are all so busy.  No matter if your busy is picking the kids up after work and feeding them and putting them to bed or going to yoga, then dinner with friends, everyone is busy with their life.  I am so fortunate to have friends who reach out and say, “Hey, let’s grab dinner. Let’s grab drinks.” Just last night I had dinner with a couple of my running friends.  We haven’t seen each other in months, but it was great to catch up.  Tonight I had a couple beers with a friend of 15 years.  We met at a bar that we used to frequent back in our early teaching days.  We both commented that, “it still smells the same it did in 2001.” Though I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like and our times aren’t as crazy as they used to be, we can always pick up where we left off. The point is, you have to make the effort to keep friendships going because when life is going well and you are “busy”, it can get away from you.

The reason this blog, SAY YES TO LIFE! started is because a high school friend I hadn’t seen since June 1995 reached out on Facebook and said, “Hey, I’m going to be in Chicago, I love your #100Happydays posts, and we should get a glass of wine.” We did and that hour of my life changed my life.  She truly inspired me to share my story and share my life.  What that meant a year ago was to share the pain of the previous year(completely cathartic).  Now it means sharing what I’ve learned about life, by SAYing YES TO LIFE! And where I got the name of the blog was because a friend said, “I can’t believe you are going to meet up with Dana.”  I said, “I’m saying yes to life!” Dana gave me her time, which was a true gift to me. I’m forever grateful

As I mentioned above, tonight I grabbed beers with my friend Amanda.  I posted on Facebook that we were at our old watering hole reminiscing about 2001.  Since I have been writing, the amount of “likes” on that post keeps going up and up from all of our old teaching friends.  Many of those people I haven’t seen in years, but we shared something so special back then. We were all under 30 or right around there. We were all single. We were all fun people and boy did we have fun. What I have learned in life is that things change. No matter how hard you try to not let the changes happen, they do. However, what I can do is go back in my memory bank and remember those amazing, great times. What matters is that we all gave each other our time. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone.  Time. Time is precious and now knowing how life gets so “busy” I truly value the time that my friends give me.  Whether we are making dinner and drinking wine, crying on the phone over boys, laughing on Divvy bikes, dancing our fool heads off, or just chilling, we are giving one another time and that is valuable. Things can change at a moment’s notice, we all know too well, so give time to your friends.  It’s really important.

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Friendship is also about drinking. Face it, this is the truth! There have been different times in the last few years that I have tried to give up alcohol for a month, six weeks, whatever.  What I have noticed is that I like to drink.  I’ve also noticed that my friends are lushes too.  So that is important!  Ha, well, what it has shown me is that a lot of the time I spend with friends being social is centered around food and drinking.  You know what?  I’m ok with that. I should also note that my drinking has evolved over the years.  Back in 2000 when I moved to Chicago it was Captain and Coke.  Good God, if I even smell that these days I gag. I was also typically around a Flip Cup table.  Now I am a refined drinker of rosé, or as it should be called, “Summer Water.”  I like to do this on someone’s deck or on a patio in the summer. If drinking brings me together with my friends, so be it.  What is important, again, is that we are spending time together, the true gift in life.

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Friendship is about taking their hand, walking with them side by side, and letting them know that it is going to be ok. There are so many different times in life that are dark.  Breakups, death, loss…. When I was in that dark place, I had friends who would be with me in a moment’s notice, who would cook dinner, who would be there to take my call in the morning and at night and at noon and at….you get the point.  I had friends who would get drinks with me just so I didn’t have to be alone.  I’m forever grateful for all of my friends who took time out of their busy life to walk by my side and let me know that I would be ok.  I am ok. I’m SO ok now and a much better person because of the struggle. But the best thing that came of that darkness is that I was able to spend time with some amazing people in my life. Look, we’re all trying to make it through this life day by day. Some days are better than others, but I truly believe that friendships help us in those dark times but also in the good times to remind us always that we have a really damn good life. Be a good friend and notice when someone needs you.  Whether it is a shoulder to cry on or a drinking buddy they need, be there, by their side.

From a blog, Positive Outlooks Blog, I follow:

Life is not a race-but indeed a journey. Be honest. Work hard. Be choosy. Say “thank you”. “I love you”, and “great job” to someone each day. Take time for prayer. Be thankful. Love your life and what you’ve been given, it is not accidental. Search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself. Plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you’ve been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment. — Bonnie Mohr

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So to all of my friends, THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND. It’s no secret that gay men and single women often talk about having a “Golden Girls” house when we get older. I mean, we’re going to have to take care of each other, right? Each group of friends has a Rose and a Blanche, a Dorothy and a Sophia.  We all have a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte too. Friendship is special. Friendships evolve over time.  Some are more significant than others and some last longer than others too. What I think is special is that people come into our lives for different reasons and for different lengths of time. But the most significant thing is to realize how each person who has crossed your life, from your first friend at age three to your most recent friend, has impacted you. How have they shared their time with you? How have you shared your time with them. Tomorrow you might not wake up or your friend might not come home from work again. Take the time to reach out and show the love you have for your friends. Spend time with those people who make you happy and who help to make you a better person. Spend your precious time smiling and laughing and enjoying good food and drinks. Life is short so get out there and enjoy it. Life is also beautiful when you stop for a moment and enjoy your friendships.

Tightrope

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Kelly Clarkson released her 7th studio album on Tuesday.  No one loves it and no one hates it. At best, all the reviews are mixed.  As a fan, and a lover of connecting to lyrics, I love it. Kelly doesn’t shy away from expressing her emotions, one of the things I love most about her. It might not be the most personal effort to date for Kelly, but it stays true to what she has always been to me, a fighter, a truth speaker, a feeler of emotion, and a powerhouse singer.  I love Kelly and I love this album.

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Upon first listen, besides the lead off single “Heartbeat Song”, the stand outs were, “Someone”, “Run Run Run” a duet with right now piano man John Legend, “Dance With Me” and “Let Your Tears Fall.”  Then I was driving home yesterday from work and I heard “Good Goes the Bye” and was immediately connected to it.

It’s like we pulled the pin out of a grenade
It just didn’t go off right away
But man did it go off when it finally did
Everything’s suddenly magnified
It’s loud and it’s quiet at the same time
As the echo of it’s all over sets in

The bridge of the song hits you right in the gut.  Anyone who has ever gone through a hard breakup, knowing in your heart that being “friends” is a dumb idea and next to impossible, you think about it and think it is possible because you want nothing more than to be connected to that person in anyway possible.  Then you eventually realize, it’s not a good idea.  You weren’t friends before you dated, so why be friends once it’s over? There is a reason it is over. It’s a gut punch, but you eventually realize it’s for the best.

I can’t go back, we can’t be friends
And we can’t be what we were then
You can’t be mine, and I can’t be yours
And it’s not love anymore

The final blow comes when Kelly gets to the third singing of the chorus. She comes in with backing vocals repeating each line in her upper register.

Slam goes the door
Hush goes the phone
Out goes the flame
And I’m standing here alone
Burn goes the drink
Down go the tears
Drip goes the sink
And I’m missing you like hell
Break goes the heart
Wrong goes the right

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I suppose there isn’t anything extraordinary about he melody of this song, but it is sort of catchy.  What gets to me, always with a song, are the lyrics, especially when I can relate.  I just love “Good Goes the Bye”.  How many times have you been at that point of a relationship ending and the “hush” of the phone is almost unbearable. “Out goes the flame/and I’m standing here alone/burn goes the drink/down go the tears” are some of the most relatable lyrics.  We’ve probably all been there and “break goes the heart” but I hope those of us who have been, can stand on the other side and say, it was for the best.  “Wrong goes the right/Goodbye.”

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I posted on Facebook my favorite songs and wondered what my friends thought.  “Tightrope” was definitely a crowd pleaser. This morning on my way to work I made sure to take a closer listen.  It struck me with the chorus.

And I ain’t seen nothin’ like you
The way you light up every room tonight
So easily
And I have moved mountains, babe
Just a stumble and too long a grace
And I, I still can’t compete

What is this song about?  To me, it’s about putting people up on a pedestal. It could be the person you are in a romantic relationship with, or a family member, or even a celebrity.  Why do we feel less than, then put others above us?  In my past relationship why did I put my ex on a pedestal?  At the time I thought he was everything and I would have done anything not to rock the boat for fear he would end our relationship.  Why do we do this to ourselves in relationships? Back then I was suffocated by wanting a relationship to work so badly with a guy I put up on this pedestal. I wouldn’t bring up wanting more out of our relationship because I feared his reaction.  After months of dating I wouldn’t say “I love you” for fear he would freak and end things. Ultimately, I couldn’t be my full self because I worried this person I put on a pedestal would reject me and our relationship.  Well, he did that anyway, and thank god! I have learned SO much about myself, what I am worth, and that that cannot be compromised in a relationship if we want to continue to grow. I could never have grown in that past relationship.  No one deserves to be on a pedestal.

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Now the rich and famous….famous for what? Why do we put Jennifer Lopez on a pedestal of celebrities?  She can’t sing, can barely dance, and act….you saw Gigli. So what is Jennifer Lopez besides a beautiful 40 something woman? At least Angelina Jolie is adopting the world.  Kelly’s song “Tightrope” made me think, Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we place people on pedestals to stand above us? We should all stand together, not above or below. Jennifer Lopez is beautiful, but what else? In a relationship no partner should be placed above another, ever.  The only way to grow as a partnership and love each other is to be side-by-side, together.

Which brings me to “Heartbeat Song” the lead single off Kelly’s new album, Piece By Piece. This is a pop romp!

You, where the hell did you come from?
You’re a different, different kind of fun
And I’m so used to feeling numb
Now, I got pins and needles on my tongue
Anticipating what’s to come

“You, where the hell did you come from?” The night I met my boyfriend wasn’t just any night, it was the 4th of July, but ok, otherwise, it was a night out with friends. The age old saying goes, “You’ll find him when you aren’t looking.” Oh you can all go fuck yourselves with that saying. And while you’re at it, take with you, “Have fun with it,” in reference to dating. Dating isn’t fun and when you’re single, who isn’t looking? Yet……”You, where the hell did you come from?” On that Friday night I was briefly introduced to this really good looking, smart, well dressed man in pink shorts, who bought me a drink. He gave me his phone number and told me he’d be in town the rest of the weekend. Still under dispute is the question of who pursued who. He gave me his number and bought me a drink, and this is my blog, HE pursued ME!

The rest is really history.  It’s been a “Heartbeat Song” since July 4th! 🙂

Until tonight I only dreamed about you
I can’t believe I ever breathed without you
Baby, you make me feel alive and brand new
Bring it one more time, one more time

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What I can say now, that I couldn’t say two years ago, is that being in a mutually fulfilling relationship makes all the difference.  I love my boyfriend more than anything and we grow every time we’re together.  There are so many “Heartbeat Song” moments I can’t name them.  He’s funny and sassy and classy and loving and generous and loves me for who I am, flaws and all.  He’s not on a pedestal(as he read this I know he shouted, “I’M NOT?”) and neither am I.  We have “opportunities to grow” and we do. We work together to understand each other. I can be who I am, good times and not such good times(I guess even I get moody too) but there is never this fear that I can’t be who I am or he won’t love me. What I’m saying is, trust yourself, value yourself, believe in your worth, and you too will find a guy who will give you a “Heartbeat Song” all the time.

This is my heartbeat song and I’m gonna play it
Been so long I forgot how to turn it up up up up all night long
Oh up up all night long
This is my heartbeat song and I’m gonna play it
Turned it on
But I know you can take it up up up up all night long
Oh up up all night long

Oscar Review 2015

Was something amiss?  I was so excited for Neil Patrick Harris to host the 87th Academy Awards presentation, however, shortly after his fun opening number, I immediately missed the comedy of Ellen!  There was star power, but where were the legends?  Nicholson, Spielberg, Angelina’s leg, Hopkins, Pharrell’s hat, Hans Solo, Benifer, Streisand? Jennifer Lopez found a way to get invited, again.  There was fashion. Adam Levine’s wife was there, Emma Stone looked gorgeous.  Oprah was there. There were movies, but I think the show missed something.   I’ve got it—Adela Dazeem!

The Red Carpet

Miles Teller and Keleigh Sperry, who? Adrien Brody and Carmen Electra?

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I thought I had a Bjork sighting, but far too few feathers to be her.

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America Fererra or Jordan Sparks? Go!

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will.i.am. – The ruling on the field, fumble!

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Shaun Robinson a few award shows too late. Yellow was Golden Globes.

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Meryl Streep dressed to impress at her next job interview.

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Ahhhhhhhhh *RBF* that’s how I feel about you too Scar Jo.

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She finally got rid of that slug of a husband. Just kidding, as long as he is in “Filming Magic Mike” shape.

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Solange Knowles in a straight jacket as to prevent her from going ape shit and beating someone.

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Is Zendaya one of Madonna’s kids or a Jolie-Pitt?

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I want Diane Warren’s jacket. I do!

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Who said stars don’t wash their own dishes?

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Her Kentucky Derby hat fell off, but her shoulder caught it.

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Then things got real weird, especially when Travolta got handsy with Scar Jo and called her, SsssssseeI’mNotAHomo.

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I don’t know, I feel like it’s trying to be Laura Ingalls Wilder goes to the Oscars.

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J. Lo will have her murdered after the show.

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Faith Hill needs to go back to the blonde bob. Her dress isn’t awful but reminds me of a 1980’s Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters dress.

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The Men

David Oyelowo in maroon.

David Oyelowo

Jared Leto in blue.

Jared Leto

Batman in black.

Michael Keaton

Strahan in grey.

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NPH in Light Grey.  David Bertka in white and black

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Best Dressed Man

Eddie Redmayne in navy!

Eddie Redmayne

Other hot men

Bradley Cooper

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Common

Common

Chris Pine

Chris Pine

Chris Evans

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Well hello there Uncle Jesse.

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The Couples

HOT

Kelly and Michael

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Justin Theroux and Jen Aniston

Justin Theroux, Jennifer Aniston

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum

Channing Tatum, Jenna Dewan Tatum

Kevin Hart and his lady.  He may be short, but he’s packin’ – Whoa!!!

Eniko Parrish, Kevin Hart

Chris Pratt and Anna Feris

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Chrissy Teigan and John Legend

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Behati Prinsloo and Adam Levine

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NOT

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman

Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw – Too skinny Tim!  Too matronly Faith.

Faith Hill, Tim McGraw

Who the fu** invited him back?

Kelly Preston, John Travolta

Best Dressed

EMMA STONE

Emma Stone

2. Behati Prinsloo

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3. Chrissy Teigan (and Angelina’s leg)

Chrissy Teigen

4. Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick

5. Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston

6. Rosamund Pike

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7. Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon

8. Cate Blanchet

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9. Kerry Washington

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10. Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie

Honorable Mention – Jennifer Hudson-what a difference 8 years and thousands of dollars and a stylist makes!

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Hated It

Laura Dern – “Full Metal” Strapless

Laura Dern

Marion Cotillard – potato sack couture

Marion Cotillard

Oh shoot, Oprah really cut the budget on Gayle’s dress this year.

Gayle King

Nicole Kidman in Shrinky Dink Chic.

Nicole Kidman

Viola-tion Davis

Viola Davis

It just gets worse.  Have the damn baby already.

Keira Knightley

Nope, not Helena Bonham Carter’s daughter.

Lorelei Linklater

Jessica Chastain usually shows up.  Too much draping.

Jessica Chastain

Felicity, oh Felicity, this is not the remake of a Disney princess movie, it’s the Oscars.

Felicity Jones

The Show

Did anyone else get chills during the opening segment when Anna Kendrick came in and harmonized with NPH? Or did you have a flashback to the 80’s and Rob Lowe’s infamous song and dance with Snow White?

I love that Lupita Nyong’o’s brother is sitting next to Jack Black! Remember him basically boxing his sister out of the famous selfie from last year?

They said there will be more African Americans at this years Oscars than ever. Who thought, “Let’s get Eddie Murphy?”

Documentary Short winner is a cat’s fuzzy ball dream.

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Just when you thought nothing could be worse than the dancing banana in Katie Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, “Everything Is Awesome” happened at the Oscars.

NPH in tighty whiteies? He’s invited back next year!

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Oh look, it’s Patricia Arquette reading from a piece of paper, at a microphone, holding an award…..again.  We all knew you were going to win, including you, memorize, you’re an actress!

Jennifer Hudson’s power number, “Can’t Let Go”, from the tv show SMASH was a little much after the death montage, but he looked stunning!!

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She HATES him!

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“Why are you touching my face?”

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“Why is he still touching my face?”

Idina Menzel, John Travolta

“I hate him.”

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“Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s not only the most awesome name in show business, it’s also the sound you get when you ask John Travolta to announce Ben Affleck.”

Was it me or did Steve Carell have several doppelgängers in the audience? Patricia Arquette’s man, the dude behind John Legend when he won….

The new Ben and Matt…..Common and John.

Bradley Cooper’s mother ain’t got time for that(standing ovation)!

John Legend and Common are hot! That’s all.

Gaga killed it!!  Effortless.  Stunning! Then Maria! Stop it!!!

Oh man, that young man, Graham Moore, wow how personal and inspirational. And yes, thank you Oprah! And then Uncle Jesse standing and clapping with a proud look. Tears. “Stay weird. Stay different.”

John Travolta is still touching Idena Menzel’s face backstage.

The Academy agreed with me, Boyhood was Boring. As. Hell.

Feeling bad for Michael, but excited for Eddie(so genuinely excited and surprised!!) and Julianne(finally! deserving!) and Birdman.  I love NPH, but not his best effort tonight.  I guess I’ll leave it at this because she makes everything better.

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And the Winners of the 2015 Academy Awards

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#100HappyDays ~ The Simple Things

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Gosh, a year ago around this time I was starting my first ever #100happydays post on Instagram.  When I started I thought, this will be something that will keep me occupied, especially through those dark, lonely winter days and nights. I had no idea the impact of taking a photo and posting it on Instragram would have on me.  I had no idea that reflecting about one simple thing each day would actually make me happy.  After consistently doing this practice of highlighting one thing each day that made me happy and doing it for 100 days, I realized that some days were easy and others were difficult to find something.  There were times that it was obvious, dinner with a great friend or a frosted cookie.  Other times I took a picture of a Budda and yoga was my happiness.  One of the most distinctive days, the day that I actually believe I realized that I MAKE my own HAPPINESS, was when I simply opened an avocado for dinner.  It was the most perfect green and yellow color inside with no blemishes; smooth as could be.  You know what I’m talking about if you like avocado.  I found such great happiness looking at that beautiful, simple, perfect fruit.  The practice of looking closely, sometimes at the simplest of things, is what truly makes us happy.

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The Simple Things that make me happy:

Candles

Vanilla Comoro Tea(Harney & Sons)

Baking

Things That Sparkle

Nice, Colorful Underwear

Hazelnut Coffee 

Music

Oreo Cookies

A Coffee Mug From a Travel Destination

Soft, Colorful Socks

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LONG HUGS

A Smile From a Stranger

A Smile From a Friend

Holding Hands

Face Lotion

Frosted Cookies

Chapstick

Sending Goodies to My Nieces

Yummy Smelling Handsoap

Homemade Brownies

Traditions

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Ripe Avocado

Time On My Yoga Mat

Memories

Honeycrisp Apples

Whitney Houston

Sunny Days

Brunch With Friends

Brunch With My Entertainment Weekly and Me

Hazelnut Creamer

Good Wine

ROSÉ

Aged Gouda

My Text Tone(bc someone is thinking of me)

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Crisp Red Grapes

Peanut Butter on a Spoon When I Get Off the Plane

Sleeping In

Deep Breaths

Christmas Cards

Glitter

Friendship

Movies

Sharing

Dinner Parties

Singing

Dancing

Laughing

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Follow my next installment of #100happydays on Instagram @spartyguy99.  Who knows what will make me happy this time. What I know for sure is what a difference a year can make in your life. Happiness truly is a choice, I believe.  Shitty things can happen to us, but we have the choice to find the silver lining and wrap ourselves up with happiness and love from the simple things.  Fantastic things can happen to us too and we still have the choice to acknowledge those things and enjoy them.

What are your happy days?  What are the simple things in your daily life that make you happy?

Sometimes I Wish I Was Gay

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I’ve always tried to be myself throughout my life.  Of course that wasn’t always easy due to that little word, “repression.”  But overall I think I have done a pretty good job at least surviving some of those milestones.  I survived elementary school expressing my love and devotion for Whitney.  I survived middle school.  Lawd, we ALL survived middle school.  I survived high school exploring my interests in musicals and band and hanging out with friends.  I survived college…..lawd sometimes I wonder how I survived college.  I did it mostly staying true to who I was or trying to figure it all out.  I unabashedly loved *NSync and Celine and still, Whitney.  I did it dancing at bars and making mixed tapes and reading Entertainment Weekly and kind of dating girls, but exploring affection for boys too.  And I’ve survived 15 years of adulthood here in Chicago exploring me and trying to figure it all out.

One of the greatest gifts I have given myself is allowing me to live my life.  Although society has certainly played a role in shaping who I am and trying to keep me a “man” by design, I was designed different and thank the LAWD for that.  Last weekend I was at my good friend’s birthday party.  It had a dance floor, 3 gays, and a lot of beautiful women.  There were a lot of moments, like free style dancing to Journey’s “Separate Ways”, two of us boys jumping into the windows during a rendition of “Out Tonight” from RENT(musical people, you get it), and just a lot of fancy, wild, FREEDOM of dance.  While we were all doing that, another friend was at a table and a guy there said, as he looked at the amazing time we were having on the dance floor, “Sometimes I wish I was gay.”  I wonder, is he saying that he wishes he was out there dancing up a storm because there are so many beautiful women?  Or is he saying that because we were just being wild and free and not caring what society says about it?  I tend to believe it is the latter.  Society really sucks sometimes when it teaches men how “real” men should act.  I feel lucky because I have almost always been able to be me.  I’ve always had friends and family who have allowed me to dance like a fool on the dance floor at a wedding or at the bar.  Last spring I was at a bar in Chicago and it was 80s/90s night and right when we walked in Whitney played, then Janet, then Mariah.  It was amazing and we were dancing like no one was watching. I’m pretty much always dancing like no one is watching.  It was SO fun and we were all sweaty fools.  I noticed some twenty somethings laughing, pointing, and taking photos.  Oh, youth! They only wish they could be as free as us thirty somethings who know how to Say YES to Life without feeling bad or ashamed.

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It just speaks to how our society sends messages to our youth.  I wish more men were able to watch some crazy fun gay guys and think, “man I wish I felt comfortable out there.”  More than anything else, I invite them to dance up a storm, get out there. Release a little of that “how a man is supposed to act” feeling and let loose on the dance floor men!  If you are raising boys, let them explore their interests.  Let them know, leading by example, that it’s ok to dance like no one is watching!

I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.

Tonight in yoga my instructor started with an intention, “I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.”  It really resonated with me as I pondered this blog post.  As I mentioned above, I have survived to age 38 fairly unscathed with society’s standards for men and how we should act.  Luckily as a kid, in 1987, my dad introduced the American Music Awards to me.  He saw it listed in the television guide in the paper.  We had just gotten our first VCR.  “You should tape this award show tonight.  You might like it.” It was the night Whitney won award after award after award, 5 total, for her Whitney Houston debut album.  That was the night I fell in love with her.  Of course there were times as a teen I wanted to scream, “I LOVE YOU JORDAN KNIGHT!” but instead I felt I couldn’t, rather I littered my bedroom walls with Paula Abdul BOP Magazine pictures.  There were times in college that I really wanted to cuddle with boys, instead I did what society taught and cuddled with girls(like a few times-don’t get crazy). What comes with age, hopefully, is wisdom and clarity. Finally around age 26 I had the clarity to accept my homosexuality.

Certainly throughout my life I faced challenges that prepared me for this life.  My mom taught me to be courageous at the young age of 8 when it was realized in 2nd grade that I did not know how to read.  Elementary school worked itself out, but when I hit sixth grade it took me hours nightly to complete my homework.  Due to my dad traveling heavily for work, my mother was home alone with my brother and me a lot.  I just remember her picking me up from home after working all day, racing across town to get my allergy shot.  Other nights she had to take my brother to various sports practices.  She always made dinner, cleaned up, and managed to keep my ADD in check as I would spend hours doing my homework, much of the time sitting by my side.  In my line of work I know so many parents who are not willing to take the time to be a PARENT.  Luckily for me, my mother did and through it all, taught me how to be courageous. That certainly has served me academically, professionally, and personally in my life.

I didn’t always feel like I could be myself growing up.  My parents did their best to support me and my varied interests without making me feel guilty or shame.  Though he teased me in many other ways, my brother never made me feel bad about my interests in watching hours of Star Search, award shows, pageants, or taping hours of Whitney Houston coverage on television. But still, I didn’t always feel that I could put my “shows” on in public or in our living room. I always knew I had a safe place at home, but even there I sometimes hid in the basement to create solo dance shows or other acting/performing shenanigans. What I learned growing up in my house, never through direct conversation, mostly just through experience, was that “I can.”  I can watch award shows and Miss Universe and it’s ok.  I can be successful and complete my academic work.  It might have taken me four hours a night, but I could do it.  “I’m clear.  I’m courageous.  I can.”

What I know now is that society has certain rules and standards and roles that it tries to get girls and boys to follow. Depending on where children are raised, how they are raised, and by whom they are raised has an incredible impact on who they are as an adult member of the same society that “raised” them.  It takes courageous parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers, neighbors, and all the rest of society to allow our kids to explore their interests, out in the open, without judgement, ridicule, or expectation.

Learning to Love Yourself

I am profoundly grateful that I am gay.  It has allowed me to not follow the rules and to be different.  It has allowed me to not follow the norms set before my male peers.  Being gay has allowed me to buck society.  It hasn’t always been easy, but growing up isn’t for anyone.  It hasn’t always been accepted, but not everything a child does ever is.  Whether it was the family who raised me or the mostly kind people I grew up with or whether it came from within me, I think I turned out kind of alright. Luckily for me, I have never thought, “Sometimes I wish I was straight.”

Say YES to Life!