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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Celebrating 40: Dancing, Friendship, and Tea Bags

It’s here. The time has finally arrived. In a few months I will celebrate the 40 year mark in life and oh what a life it has been. Just last weekend this idea for a blog came to my mind. Of course my blog is about life and not letting it pass you by and it’s about celebrating the great things that come our way whether big or small. So I didn’t win the Powerball billions, but I sure feel like I have won in many other ways and parts of my life. “Celebrating 40” is going to be sort of like my version of Oprah’s “What I Know For Sure” at least what I think I know, kind of, at the age of 40.  What I do know for sure is that I’m glad I’m not 23, friendship is awesome, and I have a life Well Traveled.

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Last weekend a couple friends and I jumped in the car and drove to Bloomington, Indiana, because, why not? Two of us had never been there and we had the time and freedom to do it, so why not? A couple of “What I Know For Sure” moments happened very organically which made me want to write this bog.  At the end of the night, we found ourselves at the local Bloomington club/gay bar filled with early 20 somethings dancing and it was definitely the place to dance.  We walked in to Beyonce, which transitioned to “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” which transitioned to other 80s and 90s pop.  None of us even made a move to the bar for a cocktail, we had had enough. All we wanted to do was dance, and dance we did, for 2 hours until 2 a.m. What is so incredible to me is that at first I thought, “these kids weren’t even blips on the reproductive radar when Cyndi was singing ‘Oh daddy dear you know you’re still number one, and girls they want to have fu-uuun, Oh girls just want to have fun,'” but they were out there dancing and so were we. Patrick danced so much it was like he had just walked out of the lake in his clothes. I just kept looking around thinking how fun it was to be dancing, first of all, and then not giving a care in the world what these kids were probably thinking, like, “who are these old people dancing their fool heads off?” #sorrynotsorry #dontcare #im39 #respect I always have been a dancer at a bar with good music, but what is different now is that I don’t have this sense of looking around and wondering what others are thinking(but have I ever really?-Probably not). I was having fun, so it did not matter. Years ago that wouldn’t have been the case. So with age does come some confidence, some assurance, and a sense of not really caring what others think. It was just so much fun. I often do think, more recently, “Thank god I’m not 22.”  I had so much fun back then and I’m sure these kids were having fun too, but man, almost 40 is kind of awesome, I must say.

Earlier in the evening I had the great pleasure of spending time with some of my friend Sarah’s friends from her time at Indiana University. What I know for sure is that, if you have really good, unique, cool, interesting, well traveled, experienced friends, they also have really cool friends who they introduce you to and within minutes you’re having deep, philosophical conversations. Well, that might be because one of the friends is a college professor, regardless, there is an ease to really wonderful conversation. There is something really nice about drinking great wine, eating delicious food and connecting with people you have never met before. I guess I don’t really have anything profound to say, more just reflecting that I’ve spent a great many years meeting and spending time with some pretty cool, fascinating, crazy(in all the good ways), and crazy(in all the bad ways)people who have introduced me to cool, fascinating, crazy and crazy other people. So with time I can for sure say, I’m glad I’m not 23 again because I’ve had 16 amazing years meeting all these crazy cool people.

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Ok, and then there are those moments when you just bust out laughing and you pee in your pants a little because something is so funny.  My mom would say, “That struck me funny.” On Sunday it is safe to say we all needed a few Advil. Whether it was for a headache due to drinking too much or aching muscles due to dancing all night, that doesn’t matter, we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us. When we stopped on the road I got a Starbucks jasmine mint tea. It was delicious. I always use my tea bags twice.  Maybe it is a secret single behavior or I’m living in the depression, regardless, you can get two good uses out of tea bags(all you dirty minded people stop right there!). As we were cleaning out the car I said, “I’ll keep this.” It was my cup with my tea bags. Patrick and Sarah questioned. I said, “I like to use them twice and this was particularly delicious.” Without hesitation Sarah says, “Well Patrick and I can chip in to get you a box of tea bags girl!” We laughed and laughed and laughed in the middle of the street.  Well girl, I’m not poor, so I don’t need you to buy me tea bags, but what I do need you to do is keep being my friend.

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What I know for sure as I Celebrate 40 is that friendships have been the single greatest part of my life. Friendships have gotten me through so many tough times and have made the fun times even better. Good lord who would ever want to be in middle school again? Not me, but having friends made it bearable. Having friends who served you Blue Maui and pineapple juice cocktails freshman year of college, yeah you’re right, that isn’t a friend. I’m lucky that I have friends from as far back as age 4 to new ones as of last weekend who are really incredible, cool people. They make my life experience that much better.

 

I don’t know where this journey will end
Cause the world keeps calling me
At home people embrace me as a friend
And I’m loving all the energy

Happy Days Are Here Again

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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.

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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?!!

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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.

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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!

 

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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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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.

#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?