What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Let’s get this out of the way, Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday that we give so much power to, yet we’re all ok on February 15 whether we got a box of chocolates or a dozen roses or nothing at all.  The sun still rises and our lives go on.  Believe me, BELIEVE me, there have been times in my life where I was sad not to have a Valentine.  Let’s say for about 36 years I never had one, but I was ok.  I had the love of friends and when I became an adult I had the love of red wine.  Now I’m a married man and EVERYTHING has changed…..or not much at all.  I’m at home, alone, writing this blog.  My husband and I live in two different cities so being together is not possible.  And honestly, we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day much anyway because, remember, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow whether you have that dozen roses or not.  Just go get a glass of wine and sit back to read my blog.

SunAlwaysRises

Like I said, for about 36 years I never had a Valentine and I dealt with it and I was fine.  Of course I wanted the chocolates and the roses and all of that.  I did.  Society has told me over the years that I need that to make myself whole, but in reality, I do not.  Then at age 37 I got them.  It was great.  I was excited.  I was fulfilled and everything was just perfect.  Then three months later my heart was broken and I was devastated as evidenced in my blog post “For Now”.  Then for the next year I did some really hard personal work.  I survived my next Valentine’s Day while dating a new guy, then a few weeks later that ended.  Was it wonderful to have these Valentines flowers and candies and candles?  Of course it was but what I learned was that someone can give you all that stuff and not truly love you and so then, what does it matter?

“Didn’t see it coming.  No kind of warning.  I can’t work out what I’ve done wrong.  His clothes are missing.  But his keys still here.  Please somebody tell me whats going on.”

I recently heard the song “Suitcase” by Emeli Sandé which was in heavy rotation the summer of 2013.  I had such a broken heart and I did everything possible not to be alone, ever. After work I would go to yoga practice two classes in a row and come home and go straight to bed.  But what saved me from myself were friends.  Friends are really incredible people.  No matter what, they love you.  Friends are there to go to dinner and talk and hate on the ex and just be there with you.  I have so many friends who helped pull me through.  I also did so much for myself like yoga and meditation and blogging and finding the little things in each day that made me happy with #100happydays.  I found the joy in a fresh, ripe avocado.  I found the joy in friendship.  I found the joy, as hard as it was, in being on my own.  Although I had lived so many years single, the year I spent in between my heartache and finding the love of my life was really hard.  I had a taste of what I longed for for so long, not being alone.  But in reality, what I know for sure, is that whether I’m alone or with someone, I’m going to be ok.

roalddahl_quote1

The reality is that we all want to be loved by that special person.  We learn about it and see it growing up and we long for it as adults.  BUT, “somebody” can be family, friends, or YOURSELF, too!  How wonderful it is to find the love of yourself?  Let me tell you after a year of really hard personal work, it is wonderful.  Had I not done the hard, personal work after being dumped and having a broken heart, I would not have been ready to find the love I have with my husband now.

A6095D56-26AC-4B16-B174-D477732EF27A-376-00000031DBE6EC5E

“Even when the dark comes crashing through.  When you need a friend to carry you.
When you’re broken on the ground.  You will be found.”

Dear Evan Hansen the Tony Award winning Broadway sensation has a song “You Will Be Found” with the lyrics above.  What I can tell you about Valentine’s Days past and love and friendship is that you will be found because your friends will never let you crash down without picking you up and dusting you off and pushing you out there into life to live again.  Check out my post called “Waving Through A Window” and you will read about the joy that love has brought me.  However, had it not been for the love of friends and family, and a lot of personal work “Single Season” I would not have been ready for the love of my life.

Single

So whether you are single or partnered on this Valentine’s Day, find the joy in your life.  Look for the simple things that make you smile.  Look for your family and friends.  Look for the wine!  Whether you are alone or with someone right now, I can tell you that loving your life and taking a deep breath and just embracing it all is what you can do today.  And to all of you Valentine-less people out there, enjoy it.  You get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want.  There is something beautiful about that.

happiness-family-quotes-Lhqy

Celebrating 40: Iconic Album Covers

MusicSoundtrack

A few weeks ago I was gathering songs for the “poolside” playlist on my 40th Birthday Celebration trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. My friend Cary and I were messaging back and forth about songs. He sent me a list of every #1 song on my birthday over the past 39 years. There was only one song that I wrote back and said, “I can’t have “The Macarena” on my playlist.” He suggested I use the #2 song from my birthday in 1996, “You’re Makin’ Me High” by Toni Braxton. I said, “Oh, is that the ‘red’ album cover?”  “No, that was later in the 2000s.” At that moment, a new blog post started to be created.

412-d24wLoL._SY355_

2000

I heard Dick Clark tell Oprah once, “Music is the soundtrack of our life.” For me and many of you, music is just that for you too. I’m a pretty nostalgic person. I get that from my dad. There are so many memories that I have that are related to music. “Drive” by the Cars takes me back to a moment when I was driving home for curfew back in high school. It was summer and my windows were down. I think it was probably 11:45p.m. I will always remember that drive down Westnedge Avenue past Portage Central High School, on my way home. Album cover art also can take us back to times in our lives in an instant. There are many album covers that are on lists of “the best ever”. Perhaps some of my “iconic” covers are the same, but probably not most. My iconic album covers take me back to childhood, the teen years, college, and even the more recent past. Join me down my memory lane.

***

1980

 One of the first influential artists for me was Barbara Mandrell. I was four or five years old and used to dress up and perform alongside her and her sisters on Saturday nights during their show. A wooden spoon was my microphone, the fireplace hearth was my stage, and the light above was my spotlight. My grandparents took me to two county fairs to see her in concert. I had several of her albums. My favorite was the vinyl of her live concert which she ended with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But it was this album that always has stayed in my mind. I LOVED the hot pick and I LOOOOOVED her high heels on the back cover. She was fierce!

***

35906f-1

1983

My mom had this cassette tape. I remember getting a new station wagon in 1984 with a tape player in it. It was so exciting to go for rides in that car and get to play this tape. It had so many hits, “Penny Lover”, “Running With the Night”, “All Night Long”, “Hello”, “Stuck On You,”and my absolute favorite, “The Only One.” So many hit songs. Albums don’t produce this many hits now. This is a classic album and I will always remember the white and blue.

***

olivia-newton-john-greatest-hits-vol-142346

1982

Another early classic in my life, the cassette tape of Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits Volume 2. This WAS basically her 1983 HBO concert that I was obsessed with. Again, I used to find my mother’s clothes and dress up as close as I could to her four costume changes and I would perform over and over again as I watched this concert. “Make a Move On Me”, “Magic”, “Suddenly”, “Physical”, “A Little More Love”, “Heart Attack” and of course, “Xanadu”. You can’t even find this album on iTunes or Spotify.  It’s a real shame. I love this entire album! It is too bad that Olivia never had much after about 1984. Could that be because Madonna hit it big?

***

madonna-true-blue-1986-album

1986

Speaking of Madonna, True Blue, is her most iconic album cover to me. The short blonde hair is everything and those thick eyebrows! “Open Your Heart”, “La Isla Bonita”, “Live To Tell”, and “Papa Don’t Preach” are such iconic songs to me. I remember when “Open Your Heart” came out I was 10 years old, roughly the same age as that boy in the video. He was so cute and I definitely noted that in my head.  Hmmmm…. I loved that he got to dance around with Madonna too. This was also the album that sparked conversations with my parents about what I was listening to. My parents never made much fuss over my music choices. I guess probably because I was listening to Lionel, Olivia, and Whitney. However, “Papa Don’t Preach” sparked conversations and a somewhat ban on me listening to that song. I don’t think the “ban” stuck very long, I guess a battle they didn’t want to fight. Mostly this album was about “Open Your Heart” for me. It really was my jam as a young gay boy!

***

rio

1982

RIO by Duran Duran was totally 80s pop art. This cover WAS 1982 at it’s best and is what I think about when I think about the early 80s.  One of my second cousins had this album. He was a bit older than me. His hair style and clothes matched that of the early 80’s Duran Duran. I was so jealous of his style. I love the 80s!

***

IMG_2053

1982

Another early 80s gem is Vacation by the Go-Go’s. This makes me remember spending long summer days over at the Anderson’s house. I would play dress up and pageants with Melanie and her cousin Pam. I would also get to play with Mel’s Barbie dolls. She was a bit older and so over playing with Barbie, but it was everything to me because I wanted a Barbie so badly. Haha. Anyway, listening to the Go-Go’s and Tears For Fears and watching General Hospital filled those summer days in 1984-85. What great memories!

***

michael-jackson-thriller-official-album-cover-art

1984

1984 was all about Michael Jackson. I think my brother had this cassette tape. The thing I remember most was the baby tiger and Michael on the inside cover. While “Thriller” scared me(Vincent Price laughing), “Billie Jean”, Human Nature” and “PYT” were my favorites. I think Bad was more my time, but this album cover was Michael’s big push away as an iconic solo artist.

***

4c61d4a15e78164dc9ce5fe53750e28f6d4c9ec6

1984

Also in 1984 my brother had this Van Halen album, 1984. I just remember thinking that baby was so naughty and I couldn’t believe my parents let my brother have this tape. However, I’m glad they did because….”Panama”, “Jump”, and “Hot For Teacher”.

***

6359945600851595711559662241_born in the usa

1984

Isn’t it funny and interesting what speaks to people? What stands out to one person is totally different than another person. When I’m asked the age old question, “When did you know you were gay?” I often think about 6th grade as that pivotal time of noticing boys and thinking they were cute. But then I think about this album cover for Born In The USA by Bruce Springsteen. We didn’t have this album in our house but I remember seeing it and thinking, “his butt!” Obviously there is more to this album, “Born in the USA”, “Glory Days”, “I’m On Fire” and “Dancing in the Dark”, but really, it’s that butt!!

***

41WTCVlhZqL

1987

While most people think very fondly of this album, and I admit now, it’s a great album. “Where the Streets Have No Name, “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” stand the test of time. I love those songs. Yet, on March 2, 1988 at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards, The Joshua Tree beat Whitney Houston’s Whitney album for Album of the Year and I was SO MAD!  Haha, oh to be an outraged 11 year old! Anyway, this is iconic for me because it beat Whitney.  How dare they!

***

whitney-55554777933ee

1987

That smile! That hair! This album was and will forever be everything to me! Many people think about Whitney’s debut album with her slicked back hair and that peach toga on, but I really think this fun, bright 80s album cover is an 80s classic. My cousin Tammy got this cassette tape for me for my birthday in 1987. Whitney was 23 years old when she recorded this hit making album. With the release of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody(Who Loves Me)”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”, “So Emotional”, and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” along with three hits from her debut album, Whitney hit a record which still stands today-Seven Consecutive Number One Hits. Mick Jagger was in a studio next to Whitney the day she recorded “So Emotional”.  On his way out of the studio he knocked on her door so he could meet the person behind that voice. Mick told Whitney she had an instant hit with “So Emotional” and he was right. It might be some of the non-released songs that are my favorite. The sultry, r&b burner “Just the Lonely Talking Again” and “Where You Are” probably my favorite Whitney song ever. It’s simple with classic 80s saxophone and just her pure 23 year old voice. This is Whitney’s pop sensation and the cover is pure pop perfection!

***

54d5334e383370af73f96e889d883d7b

1992

That dancing bee!

***

maxresdefault

1999

I don’t really know why this cover sticks out to me?  You? Haha! This IS the TRL Generation for sure. We had boy bands and Britney, but we also had Blink 182 and “What’s My Age Again”.

***

A1Y+v9doJML._SL1500_

1995

Tragic Kingdom and No Doubt was my freshman year at Michigan State. There were a ton of other albums that year too, but for some reason this one sticks in my mind. “Spiderwebs”, “Don’t Speak”, but mostly “The Climb” played over and over again in A416 Bryan Hall. There is so much going on on this cover. The flies, the fruit that looks like chocolate chip cookies, but mostly Gwen!

***

tlc-crazysexycool.jpg

1994

“Waterfalls” was everything and this album was everything also my freshman year of college. CrazySexyCool spoke to each of their personas but it’s the red color, the eyes that stand out. “Creep”, “Diggin’ On You”, “Waterfalls” and “Red Light Special” were the hits, but “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes” was on repeat. CrazySexyCool propelled TLC into the r&b stratosphere!

***

bey-album-cover

2013

I have a love/hate relationship with this album cover. It’s iconic because there are very few people who are known by just their first name. Beyoncé is one of those artists. This album was a surprise release and it is one of her best. Yet, is she a little lazy by just making it black and pink? Why so lazy Bey? Or did she do it simply because she can? Regardless, it stands out to me and I remember it because it came at a time in my life that was rocky. I remember going over to my friend Dennis’s apartment and drinking martinis and listening to this album over and over again one cold February night. It was one of those times that you just needed a friend and music.

***

proxy

1993

May 1993, “That’s the Way Love Goes” was everything to me. I know I use the word “everything” a lot in this post because depending on the time in my life, these albums were everything to me. Janet. came at a time that I was really trying to figure things out about life and high school and all of that stuff. My brother was off to college and his high school relationship had ended. I remember thinking during “Again” that maybe they would get back together. They didn’t and as we know now, that is how life works, but I really thought and hoped they would get back together because of the words in “Again.” Haha, oh youth! This was the controversial album that had a man holding Janet’s breasts on the cover of Rolling Stone. Regardless of that, I absolutely LOVED her short ringlets.  I loved them.  I loved the sepia tone and the burnt siena “Janet.” This album exudes sex and sexiness – “Throb” and “Any Time Any Place” for a teenager just starting to take note of all of that stuff. And of course, there is the video that every girl and gay man still wants to recreate, “IF”. This album will go down in my history as one of the best.

***

So there they are, the album covers that are iconic to me and some of the music that goes along with them. Is it just me or have album covers and album art become less relevant over the years? With iTunes and Apple Music and Spotify, are we really that concerned with the cover art? Do we look at it the same? Do we need it like we used to? Remember walking into the music store and going straight to the poster section? I would always go in and hope for a new Whitney Houston promotional poster. I missed out on her first posters for the Whitney Houston album, and finally this one came out and the Anderson’s got it for me for my birthday. I still have it!

s-l225

Yet I do wonder, do we view album art like we used to? I don’t think we do because everything is so quick on the internet. Rarely are we going to the music store to buy albums. We used to need to see that artwork and get excited over it. Now we just buy things on the internet in an instant and it’s done. I love that all of these album covers mean something to me and derive memories over time.

As I turn 40 and reflect back on music and the memories it produces I am able to see that for me music is really my spiritual connection with life. Listening to artists interpret songs is nothing short of transformative for me. Music does take me back to times in my life that I want to remember, whether happy or sad, simply because it helps me understand my life better and helps me see how far I have come in the last 40 years.

MusicMemories

Celebrating 40: Friendship, Love, and All That Makes Me Happy

06971f03ccc83abf85df467b07a8950a

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of love and excitement. As we were all saying goodbye after five amazing days together, I was so sad. But I had to remind myself to “Smile because it happened.” For over a year I had planned for a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to celebrate my upcoming 40th birthday. When I started planning in June 2015 I said to myself, “I want 5 days with some of the most important people in my life.” I was blown away when 15 people said, “YES!” I know that it is no small order to plan for childcare and to put down the money for such a trip.  Just to celebrate me? Everyone is busy with life, whatever “busy” is to us, we are all busy. I have learned over my 40 years that the best gift you can give someone is the gift of your time. We are not guaranteed tomorrow so choosing to spend time with those you love is a blessing, and I am very blessed.

58f194d4a54b3cea4d0d66179659804f

I wrote in my blog post Thank You For Being a Friend in May 2015, “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 often think about how people come in and out of our lives sometimes for just a season, but there is always a reason. When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta it definitely felt special.  These are the ones who are in my life for more than a season. Some I have known for more than 20 years and some for just about two years, but the time of friendship didn’t matter, this was a special trip. I knew that everyone there could hang and chat in the pool or on the lounge chairs, of course with a cocktail in hand. These are the people who love me so they will all love each other. I was pretty spot-on.

Funny-Friendship-Quotes-1

It is so important to wrap yourself in love, as I wrote about in October 2014, Wrapped In Love. We all go through times of happiness and pain, but surrounding yourself with love is the only way I see out of those painful times and we find that love in the happy times. I am blessed to have a huge support network.  Frankly I’m not sure why so many of them have stuck around so long, haha, but I’m thankful that they have and I’m thankful they chose to spend time with me to celebrate my birthday milestone. I am also grateful to my #squad, did I just write that, for helping me through confusing and painful times in my life. They held my hand and walked with me. I did the personal emotional work and they walked with me.  Had that not happened, my heart would not have been open to let someone great into my life.

Cause once you know what love is, you never let it end.

So I’m feeling all this love celebrating with my friends. See the love and fun!

On this trip, business ventures were created, phone apps were created, caftans were worn, #swan became a friend of all, water was splashed, champagne bottles popped every 15 minutes, and such amazing times were had by all of us. Seriously, just as one drink was finished another one was in your hand and just as the thought of, “man I could use some guac” came across your mind, there was a plate full with accompanying quesadillas poolside! What a dream come true to spend such a special and amazing time with my favorite people in the world!

happiness-family-quotes-Lhqy

What happened at the White Party was probably the most special moment of my life. To celebrate Amanda’s actual birthday and my upcoming one, I thought a White Party was in order.  Everyone came through like rock stars!  I am fortunate that everyone played along with my request, even the husbands!  Thank you. All of a sudden people were dancing and my family was on the computer.  The words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” were displayed by all of my friends. I leaned down to say something to my family on Skype and then I heard the opening notes of Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need” and I thought, “Here we go.” As I turned to face my friends, many were crying as they flipped the signs to now read, “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” and holding the question mark at the end of the line was the love of my life.  YES, YES OF COURSE I’LL MARRY YOU!!!

WOW, what a night of love and celebration! My fianceé outdid himself and my friends are one of a kind for keeping the secret and helping him execute the most special memory I have. Turning around to see the words “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” held by my best friends, some of them crying with joy(they’ve been on this journey of life with me), my family on Skype, my boyfriend holding the ? and the ring, and Whitney Houston playing in the background…..what could be better? I will get chills thinking of that moment forever.

IMG_2740

We must Be In Love With Our Life. Sometimes that is easier said than done. What I know for sure is that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, its a gift to be here. There are sad times and happy times but those sad ones are meant to lead us down the road to discovering something more happy. Over my almost 40 years I have learned a lot about life and people. These people who just spent five days celebrating with me are so special and so wonderful. As Heather Headley(AIDA fame, now in The Color Purple on Broadway) sings in her song “My Wish”, “I wish you rainy days so you can see the beauty of the clear blue sky…. I pray you’ll always see the forest through the trees…. and I wish you nights of love and days of joy and shoulders when you cry. And just enough hellos to get you through goodbye.”  These are the wishes of friends over the years whose eyes were just a bit clearer than mine. What a gift!

It has been a life’s journey so far and I am lucky to have been on it with so many wonderful and caring people.  Thank you for journeying with me and taking the time to be part of this special trip and our special day. And now, as we do, “Happy birthday day to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Amanda. Happy birthday to you!” (This will bring smiles to 15 people’s faces I know for sure!) Memories to last a lifetime, that I know for sure!

IMG_2679

Celebrating 40: Authentic You

fridgedoor_2266_882972258

When I think about how I have gotten to where I am I think about hard work, perseverance, tenacity, and a lot of luck, but I have never thought about safety.  Today at work was a morning professional development presentation on LGBTQ students and what we can do to make them feel safe. A news report from a doctor who studies transgender issues was shown and it was said, “with safety comes confidence.” Tears filled my eyes today as I experienced something I once never thought would happen. Public schools are talking about gay students, lesbian students, transgender students and how to best support them. Wow, we have come a long way.

Every person who is part of the LGBTQ community has a journey, a process, a story to tell about coming out. Some people have long, quiet, and painful journeys while others come shooting out of the womb in a cloud of glitter holding a rainbow flag. I think most people fall somewhere in between. My journey was quite long in today’s standards, but not all that painful, luckily. As I have reflected over the years and again today, the word safety makes so much sense. Growing up in a town of less than 50,000 people, we didn’t have much exposure to gay people. My parents did have a family friend, my “Uncle” Ed who we were close with over the years. I definitely felt like my parents would support me with coming out, but I still hesitated for years. Ultimately what pushed me over the edge, at age 26, was two close college friends also coming out at the same time. Safety in numbers, right?

img-thing

I was briefly dating a girl up until weeks before I came out. Once I knew I had support of two friends, that was all I needed.  I had to know that I wasn’t in it alone, that I would have people to go out to the gay bars with and who understood what I was going through. When I finally came out it was still quite a process.  I told a few close friends and my immediate family. It would be a long time before I told anyone connected with work. I played a game of smoke and mirrors. On Monday mornings, “What did you do this weekend?” a colleague would innocently ask.  “Oh nothing, low key.”  Um no, I was dancing in boystown until 5 a.m. Saturday night. Or, I was on a date…with a boy. I just did not feel safe at work talking about it. I was a teacher. I worked with kids. What would people think of me if they knew I was gay? The night I came out to my parents, one of the first things my mother said to me was, “You can’t tell work. They could fire you.” That stuck with me for years and years. It was no fault of my mothers. She was working with the information she had in the society that we lived in at the time. In 2002 when I came out, it still could have been a reality that I could get fired. Actually in some states it STILL is possible to get fired. It wasn’t until 2012, ten years later, that I finally felt that I could be myself at work. I finally felt safe.

fridgedoor_2266_81424367

In 2008 I was hired by a suburban district as a counselor. There were so many changes coming that I just couldn’t see. Although I was much more comfortable and confident in myself, I still kept a pretty low profile with regards to my personal life. A few people knew I was gay, but not many. I still carried with me, “You know they can fire you”, always, everyday. Even though there were other gay employees, I still did not feel safe. Have you ever felt unsafe talking about your weekend, going to a movie with your boyfriend or wife, at work? Probably not for most of you, but for gay people, for me, it was a reality of my smoke and mirrors life. After three years my boss left the district. Shortly after that we became Facebook friends. She wasn’t my boss anymore so I didn’t think anything of it. A year later she hired me at my current job. That is when things changed for me and work, finally.

c4a4592f1bad62f614ab44c6a0f17607

It was 2012, I was in a relationship, it was just before Winter Break and at our Holiday Party my boss said to me, “So what are you and *EX* up to for break? Are you going anywhere?” Whoa! Wait a second! Did I just hear THAT? Did she just ask me about my boyfriend? Holy shit! Calmly, “Yes, we’re going to Cancun.” Oh my god, my boss just nonchalantly asked me about my boyfriend, BY NAME, and I answered her. I have actually never shared this story but her simple inquiry into my life, changed my life, forever. We had never spoken about my personal life really, she saw most of it on Facebook. I didn’t really talk about my personal life at work. It was so ingrained in me to keep it on the down low. Honestly though, just that simple taking interest in a matter of fact way made me FINALLY say to myself, “I’m ok. I can be who I am at work. I can do this. I am safe.” Then in May of 2013 my heart was broken by that guy and the day after the break up I was at work. My boss noticed that I was not right. She came over, asked what was wrong and listened to me while I sobbed. What she did for me, again, just proved that she cared. “Do you have anymore meetings today that I need to cover for you? You don’t need to be here. Go home, go for a run and take care of yourself.” It didn’t matter if I was gay, straight or otherwise, she just cared. Ever since all of that, I have just been myself at work. “What did you do this weekend?” Now I say, “[My boyfriend] and I went to a movie.” People know and it is just simple, normal. I don’t have to tell my journey or explain that I’m gay or worry that they care. When I went through the break up colleagues would commiserate with me because most people have gone through that and it didn’t matter if I was gay or straight, break ups just suck. Period. So now unlike anywhere I have ever worked, it is just known and I feel safe with people knowing because of my boss. She truly is the most amazing boss, person, and friend who broke down a very high wall of mine with one, simple, affirming question. If you know her, next time you cross paths please say, “Thank you for caring.”

fridgedoor_2266_518066222

So what is this all about? It’s about safety. It’s about making sure we all feel confident, safe, and like we belong. It’s about saying thank you to those who have helped along the way. It’s about society and how far we have come in such a short time. In 2002 when I came out I knew we’d get here, but I thought it would be much longer. I thought I would be in my 70s when gay marriage would be legal, not 38. When I came out at 26, that was pretty normal for my generation. Now I have boys coming out in high school in much higher numbers. It is a testament to my school district and the support they give. So this is also about the amazing place I get to work at each day. We want all of our kids to feel safe. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Today my principal stood before our entire staff and said that we are going to continue meeting and learning about LGBTQ issues because it is important that ALL of our students and STAFF feel safe.

When GLEE premiered in 2009 it was the absolute right time for our society. That show struck a chord with so many people and reached so many young boys and girls who could finally say, “There is someone like me.” While watching the first couple of seasons I would often end up in tears and think, “Man I wish I could have come out sooner.” Then I think, “Oh man, if I had come out in college, I would have been one distracted boy.” Everything happens when it is supposed to and right now is the time that we need to embrace our young LGBTQ community and let them know that they are safe. On GLEE all of the students knew they were safe in Mr. Schuester class. For me, on my journey, I have needed to feel safe too. I needed to feel safe coming out to people who understood. At work, finally, I felt safe and was able to start being my authentic self. For that, I’m grateful!

JustBeYouHR

Happy Days Are Here Again

url-1

I’ve been in a slump, a writing slump, and it does not make me happy.  On New Years Eve my friend Joanne had us write down something we want to do more of in 2016 and mine was “writing and blogging.”  So here I am, ready to get out of this slump and start writing again.

In 2013 I experienced what for me was a devastating heartbreak.  It took me a good several months to get out of that darkness.  In 2014 I had a calling to start this blog and to write.  I titled my blog, Say YES to Life! because I wanted to say yes to all of life’s opportunities that might meet me and I didn’t want to let them pass me by.  Writing about my heartbreak was extremely cathartic and really helped me look inside and see how I had grown and changed because of it.  Also in 2014 I met this guy, a guy who now is the most special person in my life.  From time to time I have mentioned him in my blog and time has gone on and we have gotten more and more busy with life and I have all but stopped blogging.  While on a plane ride back to Chicago on New Year’s Day I took some time to think about why I hadn’t been writing as much.  Is it because we are out of town so much?  Is it that I don’t have anything to write about unless I’m writing about sadness and heartbreak?  I finally came to a conclusion, although I acknowledge my love and happiness all the time to my boyfriend, my friends, my family, through photos on Facebook and Instagram, there is one thing holding me back from writing about my happiness- my own superstition.

happiness-family-quotes-Lhqy

You could say I’m sort of a superstitious person.  I definitely “knock on wood” and make a wish when the clock hits “11:11” and I have this feeling that talking about bad things like cancer might make someone in my life get it or talking about my happiness might make it go away.  While I realize that this is a bit silly, I’ve realized that not acknowledging things has sometimes left me in the dust.  For example, I would never tell my ex how I felt about him for fear that he would leave me and well, he left me anyway.  I’m happy to say I have come a long way from that feeling and I am in a WAY better, mutually fulfilling, caring relationship now, so love is expressed all the time.  But until now, until New Year’s Day, I had never faced this superstition of not talking about something for fear it would end.  Back during that dark period of my life my co-worker said to me, “But everything can end at anytime.”  She’s right, people do pass away, people do fall out of love and get divorced, people do move away, and so on.  Everything does eventually end, and those endings are going to happen whether I write about the happiness while it is happening or not. So why not celebrate it while you have it, right?!!

de531944023f8a42ffbe178bb7995ee8

Wow do I have a great life!  So many people comment on how happy I look on Facebook and that they wish they had my life.  Listen, you could have my life but y’all chose to have kids.  My dear friend Lesley used to have a doctor who did not have children and would say, “You can have kids or you can have everything else.”  Ha ha ha, I still laugh at that all the time.  I try not to post fake happiness on Facebook.  You all know what I’m talking about.  I like to post real, fun, living life, laughing, joyous moments in my life.  I like to post happiness.

Certainly years ago I thought I wanted to have children and I was bound and determined to do it.  Then I saw my brother and all my friends have kids and as I turned from 34 to 35 to 36 that desire went out the door.  I love your kids, but I’m happy to go home without them 🙂 If you had asked me at 30 what I thought my life would look like at 39, it wouldn’t have been traveling once or twice a month.  I probably would have said, “with a kid or two.”  But my life looks very different than that now and I couldn’t be happier for it.  So if your life isn’t what you think it should be, or what you have hoped it would be, let go of that and celebrate everything that your life is.  If you ask me now what my life will look like in the future, I’m pretty sure it will be loving my nieces and nephews and having “everything else.”

Back in 2013 I did this Instagram challenge called #100happydays.  The gist of it is that you take a photo of what made you happy that day and you do this for 100 days.  What I found is that some days it was really obvious like, I won the lottery, well I didn’t but you know what I mean.  I think my favorite day though was the day I cut into an avocado for dinner and it was the perfect ripeness.

avocado It actually sent some serotonin to my brain.  At that moment I realized that noticing the small things on a daily basis is something that brings you the greatest joy.  Sure, I was happy when I’d get packages in the mail of things I bought or when I’d be out with friends and had a glass of wine.  Those bring happiness too, but there is something about the little things which can pass us by if we don’t make an effort to take notice.  So maybe in 2016 you’d like to do the #100happydays challenge.

images

Two years ago I lost one of my dearest friends at the age of 38.  When I think about my life and I think about her, I just want to experience so much and do what makes me happy.  Lesley lived a very happy life and she was doing what made her happy.  She had just made a huge move to New York City, something that made her very happy.  We had just taken a huge trip the previous summer to Africa with our friends Cary and Charlie, something that made us happy.  Like I said before, things end and they can end at any moment, so in 2016 why don’t you do more of what makes you happy.  Take a moment and write down ten things that make you happy and that you would like to do more of this year.  Writing makes me happy, so I’m charged with doing more of it this year.  Singing makes me happy so you’re going to see more Friday Flashback Songs!  Traveling makes me happy, so when I can, I’m going to explore new places and revisit some old favorites.  I’m going to eat more avocado because it makes me happy.  It’s a goal of mine to make the time to see so many of my loving friends because loving and laughing with them makes me happy.  Whatever it is for you, do more of what makes you happy in 2016!

Right now, I love this song.  It was played in the dressing room on Saturday and again today during yoga.  “Hold My Hand” by Jess Glynne.

I’m ready for this, there’s no denying
I’m ready for this, you stop me falling
I’m ready for this, I need you all in
I’m ready for this, so darling, hold my hand

 

So here it is, 2016 and I’m ready to acknowledge and write about happiness and love and laughter and all the wonderful  opportunities that cross my path this year, without fear that they will end!!!  Everything ends eventually, so we have to capture the moments and cherish the time and experiences we have while we’re all here.  Happy New Year and remember, do more of what makes you happy!

 

26.2 Miles of Thoughts

7d1e874119c54aa58907168ab80f3895

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.

FullSizeRender

  • 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!

IMG_9117

  • 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!

IMG_9301

  • 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!

b086b13ae20c1b3f2e5a949def7f9e78

  • 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?

Pain-Is-Temporary-Pride-Is-Forever

  • 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!

IMG_9349

  • 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!!!

IMG_9143

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!

screen-shot-2012-08-21-at-10-05-28-pm

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.

Happiness_Quote_by_cho_oka

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.

0f915c99e000859e3bba06a5c4e59e84

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.

8c3b8d4fadec0665025e250cb64b025b

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.

CBFall

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!!

20130416-225552