Never the Same Love Twice

“When you least expect it, Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot. Just remember: I am here. Right now you may not want to feel anything. Perhaps you never wished to feel anything. And perhaps it’s not to me that you’ll want to speak about these things. But feel something you obviously did.

You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, to pray that their sons land on their feet. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it. And if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out. Don’t be brutal with it. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!” ~ Call Me By Your Name

The above is a monologue from the 2018 Academy Award nominated movie, Call Me By Your Name. It comes at the most heart-wrenching, pivotal part of the movie when the lead character, 17-year-old Elio is being comforted by his father. The monologue is given by father to son. The pure ache and at the same time the sweetness that it provides is so very real. Elio had a summer love with a male grad student who came to live with his family in Italy.  When summer was over, and time for Oliver to return to the United States, so was their romance. It was Elio’s first love, and for a 17-year-old boy, trying to figure out love and lust and sexuality, it was his most important coming of age moment. We all experience, at least I hope, coming of age, love, loss, and yes, even heartbreak. It changes who we are to the core, and if we do it right, it changes us for the better, for good.

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When the screenwriter for Call Me By Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay he moved me to tears in his speech when he said, “I hope we’ve all experienced first love and come out of it mostly intact.” Quotes like this, songs, moments, memories, have the ability to take me back to a time in my life that was really difficult.  In May of 2013 I had my heart broken.  You can read all about it in my blog post For Now. It goes without saying, I had a rough, rough time getting over him. I remember months later, after a lot of personal work, meditation, therapy, rosé, time with friends, more rosé, and really investing in meI came out of the darkness. I remember the moment with my friend Yuka having the realization that my ex was my first love and that I would never love in the same way again. It wasn’t a crushing thought; it was actually a freeing feeling. A few weeks later I met the man who would become my husband.

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It is SO not a sad thing that I didn’t marry my first love.  Holy Cow, what I learned about myself in my twenties and thirties was invaluable to leading me to the man who I married, the man who loves me unconditionally (RIGHT honey?) the man who makes me better and treats me like gold and is my true partner. I love him so much and I am so thankful that he wasn’t my first love. And honestly, well besides the depression and tears and anxiety and panic and weight loss… actually I’ll take the weight loss… I’m fucking glad I got my heartbroken because it made me do the personal work that I had never had the opportunity to do and it made me a much, much better partner and lover and husband. Heartbreak taught me that shitty things happen but life moves on.  Heartbreak taught me that friends can be your rock and show you so much love. Heartbreak helped me fall in love with rosé more than I already was. Heartbreak brought meditation, yoga, my fastest marathon time, new friends, Saturday morning brunch by myself dates, and so much more into my life. It was hard, really hard, but it taught me so much and had I not taken that time and learned those lessons about life and those things about myself, I wouldn’t have been ready to meet the man of my dreams; the man who brings so much love to my life and treats me better than anyone I know. So to the screenwriter and his quote, yes, I came out mostly intact.

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 I have so many different people in my life who are in so many different places with relationships. If I had a message I could send to them it would be the above. It would also be the opposite,  Choose HOPE when you can’t find the FAITH. Hope and faith.  Faith and hope. Two words, in my opinion, that work together. They both move in and out of our lives so when you are losing one of them, find the other. Don’t stay in something that isn’t meant to be, just to be in something. Don’t worry that when something ends, nothing will come. To the contrary, maybe by freeing yourself up, that is exactly the time that you will meet the man or woman who will be your rock and treat you like gold. Think about it, if the other relationship didn’t end, you wouldn’t be free for something better. In your times of singledom, find your joys, wrap yourself in the love of friends, travel, find the things that make each day better because those things are far more important than a dud of a person. My message for you is, open yourself up to true love and true joy, it might just be around the corner waiting for you.

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So this brings me back to the beauty that was Elio’s first love in Call Me By Your Name. The innocence, the wonder, the lust, the passion, the confusion, the sadness, the true emotions of life are what we feel when we fall in love. And if we never put ourselves out there to get hurt, can we ever really find the true love we are looking for? As Elio’s dad so wisely told him, “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything ― what a waste!”

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My Most Magical Day

It goes without saying, I have lived so many incredible experiences in my life. Traveling the world and experiencing different people and different cultures–Amazing! Running five marathons in five years, four of which I ran under four hours–Thrilling! Living moment to moment on my wedding, with so many friends and family around, and saying “I do” to the man of my dreams–Absolutely Magical! Since September I have tried to sit down and write about our day, but it seemed too fresh and honestly, I think I was still in the euphoria.  Now a few months out and in a new year, it’s time to relish the moments and share the magic.il_fullxfull.685102515_l2jb_original

When you’re getting married everyone gives you advice and relives their wedding.  I really think people love love because it reminds them of their special day and the special time in your life that brings all of your closest friends and family together to celebrate. There was a time in my life, well most of my life, when I never thought I would have a wedding. It isn’t the same for guys as it is for girls, at least I don’t think so. I didn’t grow up dreaming about my wedding, I was wrestling with a few more issues that needed to be figured out before I could, I guess. But once I came out and marriage was legalized for gays in the USA, I did want something. Of course I wanted the celebration, the party to end all parties.  My husband was like, “Let’s just go to the courthouse and get it done, simply.” Those are his famous last words because our wedding was anything but simple. I told him, “No, I want acknowledgement of our love. I want our friends and family to witness our commitment. Too many gay couples never got to get married. Now I want to celebrate our joy and I want the love and the support of everyone around us.” Well, I got just that and it was just perfect.

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The above quote from George Michael struck me so hard the first time I heard it. He was so right that joy comes from being proud of something and for too many years I tried to hide my sexuality in order to “be like everybody else” and I tried to “make it work”, but that wasn’t my story.  My story was to love a man and to celebrate the wonderful joy that we bring to each other just as you do with your husband or wife. When I say our wedding day was pure magic, it just simply was and I think everyone in attendance could feel that magic and that love.

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The photo above is of my about to be husband and me watching guests arrive at our home for our wedding. We wanted a personal day that felt like a big dinner party and having the event at our house was the perfect way to make that happen. As guests arrived they were greeted with a glass of champagne or rosé, of course. We waited upstairs with anticipation.

“I’ve never served this much rosé in my life!” ~ Bar Tender

“Your wedding oozed love, organic, elegant, love-love-love just flowed.” ~ Sherine

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“OMG!!! So much fun and unforgettable wedding full of love and joy!!!!! ~ Joey

“I have such a big smile looking at these pics. So much love that day.” ~ Kristen

“Such a perfect commemoration of that perfect day. We were so happy to celebrate with you!” ~ Shannon

So, I think the love was felt by all. We sure felt it. And what everyone tells you is true, it goes by SO fast. If I could live that day over 100 times, I would. It is once in a lifetime that you gather your closest friends and family. To have it at our home made it even more special and intimate and magical. Speaking of feeling it, we recently met some neighbors at a holiday party and as we were talking one of them said, “Oh that was YOUR party we heard a half mile away. We were walking our dog and heard music. At first we thought it was a block party, but as we got closer we realized it had to be a gay party because that was one amazing playlist. The music was too good for any other party.” In fact, when Whitney Houston and Madonna came on during dinner, a dance party broke out at the tables!

“It was one for the ages…we’ll all remember…top notch all the way…you made US feel special on YOUR special day! Thanks for such an awesome event…we love you two.” ~ Kristen

 

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Now after almost four years together, traveling back and forth in two cities, my husband and I will be together in the same city in 2018!!

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What I know for sure is that I have never felt more loved than on my wedding day. I actually could feel the love oozing out of everyone. I have never felt more joy and honor than on my wedding day. Growing up I didn’t see gay people getting married. I didn’t have role models or ideas to look forward to. I didn’t have an image of the guy I would meet and fall in love with and eventually marry. None of that was even in my head. But the wait was so worth it.  Love is out there. Love is real. Go find it!

This sums up how I felt that day in September and pretty much anytime I think about our wedding and the love and magic.

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Equal Dignity — June 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The White House

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Our President 🙂

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Our Next President–Please?

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Police raising the Pride flag at City Hall in Chicago

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Niagara Falls

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What a week in US history

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A lot of work yet to accomplish

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This Instagram post from Bey

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

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

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

Be In Love With Your Life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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