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.

ea8ba5bba6de20e584e0c41a3e48e582

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.

My-Frst-Love

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.

1042-06-03-2014

 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.

06bc15ab73d2bd5265d6558d11a2df7a--johnny-depp-quotes-eyes

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!”

8a548ff758bc4d3e75c9c9678d158579

I Have a Crush & His Name Is Adam Rippon

maxresdefault

Don’t get all excited.  My crush isn’t romantic at all, more I’m crushing on Adam Rippon because of the role model status he now has as the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics.  What a joy it is to know that there are so many people out their for our young, questioning LGBTQ+ youth to look up to.  When I was young I didn’t really have anyone.  Gay men were not in the media except Liberace and eventually Elton John but I didn’t relate to them.  Now, just within the last few years and especially right now there are so many different examples of real and fictional people who are role models and what a breath of fresh air!

“I always felt like it was really important for me to share my story ’cause like when I came out, I did that because when I was young,  I didn’t really like have any role models and um, I wanted to share my story and kind of normalize it a little bit.  And I think it is really important especially in this day and age to share who you are; share your story, especially as a gay athlete.”  ~Adam Rippon

And there you have it, my crush because he is unabashedly himself.  He is snarky and flamboyant and talented and athletic and full of heart.  Adam Rippon is out there setting an example and being himself and sharing his confidence and love and spreading joy.  I will admit, my first encounter with Adam was back in January at the National Skating competition.  I felt he came off confident and charming, but almost arrogant.  That all changed a couple of weeks ago when I started watching the Olympics, watching his interviews, and following him @adaripp and @NBCOlymics on Instagram.

And then there is this one!

IMG_0883

Let’s be honest here, as a young boy growing up there were not role models.  I mean, I loved Whitney and pageants, but I couldn’t talk about that but I didn’t feel safe really talking about that and there wasn’t someone older out there, gay, saying he was interested in the same stuff.  I watched the “Battle of the Carmens”, Katarina Witt vs. Debbie Thomas, and the “Battle of the Brians” Brian Orser vs. Brian Boitano, at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.  I loved it.  Those were the first Winter Olympics I remember.  The red and black sparkles of the ladies’ outfits and the military spandex of the men.

But it wasn’t until 1992 in Albertville that I really fell in love with skating.  Kristi Yamaguchi was everything in my world at that moment.  I had articles and photos taped to my bedroom walls.  I remember the night of the short program I had a band concert and I was so upset that I was going to miss her performance.  Luckily I taped it on the VCR.  I was 15 at the time.  After that Winter Olympics I got rollerblades and I created programs in the street and at the neighbor’s house.  Of course I couldn’t jump, but I was doing triple toe loops in my head with music blaring from my boombox.

Figure Skating - Kristi Yamaguchi

A few weeks ago, when Adam Rippon hit the Olympics and landed an expert program to help the USA bring home a team bronze, there was so much buzz.  I read this article from Vanity Fair and basically I could have written it myself.  It is everything I think and feel from back in those days and coming full circle today.

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon

How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now–or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life. 

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/02/adam-rippon-gay-olympic-athletes

The subtitle says it all.  It could read, “A 41-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life” and that would be me.  So here I am thinking how wonderful a time it is to live, minus all the news out of Washington D.C., for many of our LGBTQ+ youth.  Yes, there are still attacks on transgender rights and that has to stop, but for a brief moment in time, Adam Rippon captured the conversation of a nation.  Everyone was talking about Adam.  And because of that and all the media coverage, some little boy in Nebraska, who hasn’t quite figured himself out, but now knows that there are people out there like him and Adam and me, who might now feel just a little bit more confident that, everything will be ok.    

mayaangelou1-2x

Recently, Oprah made headlines with a speech she gave at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.  It was a very powerful speech for many reasons.  She spoke about the #METOO campaign and she talked about living your truth.  When we live our truth we put out there positive energy that not only helps us, but undoubtedly helps someone else who might be watching and we just don’t know it.  When you live your truth you live with power.  You live with the power to make choices and to take roads less traveled and to blaze a path that perhaps has never been blazed before.  When you live your truth you empower not only yourself but you empower other people.  Living our truth is the greatest gift we can give.

IMG_5773

What is so wonderful about Adam Rippon is that he lives his truth.  Maybe if there was an Adam Rippon back in 1988 or 1992 I would have started living my truth much sooner.  Maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows, but what I know for sure is that we might not all identify with him on the surface, but we all can relate to the power he brings to the conversation about just being you, just being the person you were born to be, just living with the freedom to be who YOU are supposed to be.

27867307_10101617950321856_7681250676188423511_n

So that brings me to the now.  Besides Adam, there is so much GAY out there and it is wonderful.  We have the reboot of WILL & GRACE and QUEER EYE!  I cry at every single episode of the new Queer Eye.

These are two shows that changed the conversation back in the late 90s and early 2000s.  Our country is in such a different place of acceptance and tolerance now.  We do have a long, long way to go but we’re getting there and perhaps these shows helped just a little bit.

You remember this and what a shock it was and then what an, ah ha moment!?!

img2.thejournal

And at the Oscars on Sunday, Call Me By Your Name is up for several awards including Best Picture and Best Actor.  It’s a movie about love, finding love, and losing love.  Yes, the title characters are gay, but they could be anyone really.  These are two men who are trying to live their truth while needing to hide it as well.  What a beautiful story about love and lust and the agony of loss.  These are the normal emotions we all feel.

Finally, on March 16, the move Love, Simon will be released in theatres nationwide.  What is that you say, a nationwide released movie about a teenager coming out and finding love?  YES, yes it is indeed!  This is AMERICA and in 2018 we have movies about Amer-I-CANs living their truth.  I wonder what it would have been like if ALL of these amazing, heartwarming, wonderful things in the media and pop culture would have been around in say 1990?  How would my life and so many gay American’s lives be different?

“Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it’s a little more complicated. He hasn’t told his family or friends that he’s gay, and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing. ~Love, Simon

59de56d04dfe8

What I know for sure (I love you Oprah) is that I was gay as hell back then and I’m gay as hell now.  Almost everything about my interests as a kid and teen SCREAMED, “YOU’RE GAY MATT” but I didn’t have an Adam Rippon to look up to.  I didn’t have shows and movies that portrayed anything other than heteronormative families.  I was different, and I knew it, but I never felt I could express it to anyone.  Sure I played dress up in my house and watched pageants on television and I loved figure skating and thought boys were cute and the list goes on and on.  One of these days I should write a blog titled, “The 1000 Signs Matt Was Gay As A Kid”.  I mean, honestly, there might be more.  I digress, what I love about right now is that Adam Rippon is the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, compete in them and WIN a medal.  Way to Go Adam!  Thank you for living your truth, being gay as hell, and sharing it all with us.  We owe you, all of us, big time!!

6a00d83451c50069e201538f320b0b970b-400wi

 

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

An Ode to Jon

img_3324

Last week I got to meet my absolute favorite living artist and see him perform in concert twice. Of course you all know my unwavering love for Whitney Houston, but aside from her, Jon McLaughlin is the man! What he does with lyrics comes straight from the heart. He is so funny and down to earth and it was an honor to meet him.

fullsizerender-2

Here is a signed Polaroid of our moment

I have been following Jon’s career since 2007 when I saw him open for Kelly Clarkson at the Chicago Theatre.  Back in the spring I actually met him at House of Blues by his merch tale when he opened for Parachute.  It was a brief meeting and after it was over I was kicking myself for not telling him what his music means to me. In those brief star struck moments it’s hard to remember every emotion you have felt when listening to someone’s music.

This night I stood just feet from him as Jon introduced a new song.  He asked, “Is this good?  I figure you’re a safe crowd to ask.”  Yes Jon, yes it is good!

When an artist writes a song they have a certain story they are trying to tell. Every listener interprets the lyrics in a different way. I wanted to tell Jon how much his music has gotten me through the hard times and the happy, but he self-admittedly writes mostly about break-ups. All of you who have read my blog know that I love hard and deep and was really hurt a few years ago. At that time I really got into Jon’s music and pretty much downloaded everything I could get my hands on. When I had 60 seconds with Jon last week it was really important for me to tell him how a particular song, “Questions” had impacted me.

And how can a man/Be all that they say/When all that I know/Is men run away/I think I lose just a little bit of me/In every man that I see

I absolutely had to take this opportunity to tell Jon that his lyrics helped me get through the hardest emotional time of my life. I know that how I interpreted the song wasn’t exactly how he wrote the lyrics, but I told him, “I know the story you wrote wasn’t exactly mine, but your lyrics connected to me and helped me see the truth in my situation and the light at the end of the long emotional tunnel.” He thanked me and said, “Yeah, that is one of my oldest songs. I think that was about the fourth song I wrote years ago.  Thank you for telling me.”

I came for your questions/Of what you don’t know/But you can’t see the answers/Unless I go

When I listened to “Questions” back in 2013 I would just cry and cry and sing it at the top of my lungs while driving to work and driving home from work. Those were the hardest moments for me being alone in my car. What allowed me to cry was that he left me but what gave me strength was that he came for my questions and took the answers with him because he wasn’t going to be able to give me what I truly wanted out of life and deserved to have. Now I am happy in love and getting married to a guy who can answer my questions and can live the life that we want to live together. It meant a great deal for me to be able to have that moment with Jon and to let him know how his lyrics helped me heal.

A quote I always read back in the day

IMG_4380.JPG

So when the show started we were sitting a mere 5 feet from Jon.

img_3303-2

“Anybody Else”

He opened the show with one of my favorite songs, “Anybody Else”. I always imagined this song if I ever ran into my ex again. Basically that I was waiting around for him to change his mind. I did this for far, far too long.  I think in those moments of despair you cling to anything, any hope that it might not be over.  So again this was one of those emotional songs I used to sing and cry to in my car.

How long has it been?/I think about you every now and then/It’s good to see you doing so well/Oh no, right now I’m not with anybody else

***

And I’ve got oceans of time/Oceans of time to sink/And I’ve got oceans of memories

***

Sometimes a word or a line from a song/Can send me back to when we had it all/But in the end, you play the cards you’re dealt/And I’m not ending up with anybody else

I thought my life was over because he left me. In those moments, days, weeks after he left I never thought I’d find anybody else. That didn’t happened and luckily so for me since I met and fell in love with such a wonderful, kind, and loving man. But more than anything now-a-days, it is just one of Jon’s most beautiful songs. He really is such an amazing lyricist. Take a listen to this song below — the harmony, the lyrics, Jon’s emotion.  It is just the best. And I love how the song ends so soft. It’s a wonderful 5 minutes of emotion.

human

“Human”

Three songs in Jon sang “Human”, a song off his first album Indiana. The best part of this is when he sang “Fast Car” in the middle of the song. It is one of my all time favorite songs. Admittedly, I went to see both of Jon’s shows, so I knew the second night that my fiancé was going to be overjoyed when he heard “Fast Car” and he was. I just wish Jon sang more of it. Maybe one day he’ll do a cover for an album. Maybe he’ll do a duet with Tracey Chapman. Now that would be amazing.

beautifuldisaster

“Before You”

Screaming at the top of my lungs/Finally I found someone/Never knew what love could do/Before you

***

Guns out blazing/My heart is racing/And even the ordinaries amazing

***

Blasts of color bounce off each other/And you’re the reason why I’m/Screaming at the top of my lungs/Finally I found someone/Never knew what love could do/Before you

“Before You” is the opening song off Jon’s latest album Like Us and it is one of my absolute favorites.  It speaks to the love and excitement I have for my fiancé.  I’ve certainly dated men in the past who I really liked, but honestly, the ease of loving my fiancé is something I never felt before.  There have never been those insecure wonderings if he liked me or if he was interested or if he would stick around or if he … You know what I’m talking about.  From the get go it has just been easy and consistent and loving and all the things that for years I longed for from other people.  Now I have it from him and I’ll “scream at the top of my lungs” about it!

“You & I”

This is our song.

I got a funny feeling everything’s going to be okay/All of my worries suddenly fading away/And I just can’t stop smiling/Ever since I heard the news/That you love me and I love you

***

But one thing’s for certain/I’m one happy, lucky fool/’Cause you love me, and I … I love you

You already know I went to see both of Jon’s shows at City Winery last week.  The first night my fiancé was not with me and Jon did not play this song.  When I met Jon I meant to tell him the full story, that “Questions” was my breakup, get over it song and “You & I” is now my song with my fiancé.  We’re thinking it will be our first dance together when we get married.  It is all full circle JON!  The second night he played “You & I”.  At the first chords of the song my fiancé and I looked at each other with joy.

So this is my Ode to Jon.  I first heard him open for Kelly and I knew he was special.  Then one of his biggest successes was singing “So Close” from the movie Enchanted.  I too love that song, but Jon is so much more than that(and he didn’t actually write that song).  He is a singer/songwriter and a master at writing lyrics.  For a lover of sappy songs, Jon’s my guy.  He loves to write a good breakup song or a good healing song.  He loves to jam on the piano.  In a way I’m happy he is still playing places like City Winery because it means we get to have those intimate venue vibes.  It means that he’s still super accessible to his fans.  Jon really has been with me on a journey.  His lyrics have helped to mend a broken heart and to heal and to see the light again.  Thank you Jon.  Thank you.

fullsizerender-3

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

Be Daring

BeDaringIt’s 2015-Yes it is!  I try to take the opportunity every January to think about the upcoming year.  The hopes I have.  The dreams I have.  The opportunities I have.  I picked up this candle from Bath and Body Works over the holidays.  Three things drew me to it.  First, the scent of saffron and redwood.  Second, the glitter and sparkles.  Most importantly, the saying, “Be Daring.” How can I live my life in 2015 by being Daring?

Adventure seeker is certainly a proper description for me.  I’ve bungee jumped off a bridge in Zimbabwe.

1039

IMG_0225

Is 2015 the year I skydive?

As I’ve been thinking about the upcoming year my focus has been more on daring to hope more, love more, and live more fully. I am blessed to live pretty large right now, but there has to be more.  I never really expected to start my blog in 2014, but it just sort of came together one fateful day in May.  Falling in love was not something I expected to happen in 2014, but I certainly hoped for it.  Running my fourth marathon in 2014 isn’t something I expected…ok, I did expect to do that.  But I didn’t expect to have the amazing cheer crew chasing me all 26.2 miles.  I certainly did not expect to participate in the Gay Games 9 in Cleveland, but I met a boy, he suggested I participate, so I did.  That was daring.  That was risky.  That was one of the best, unexpected times of 2014 and of my life.

d5dfd28d1907da74e23a66a67530d22c

What unexpected things do you HOPE happen in 2015?  There is that word that I love so much.  HOPE.  There have been so many times in my life that hope got me through, but I had to dare to hope.  Granted, I’m typically a glass half full type of thinker, but there have moments and times when I’ve thought, “Screw hope, it doesn’t work.”  Yet, if that is my attitude, where does that get me?

FindingHope

The past is behind you.  You cannot change that.  What are you going to hope for in 2015?

Dare to love more in 2015.  Can I tell you something?  Love is awesome.  Being in love is awesome.  Love can also suck, but when you find yourself in the sucky part of love, what I know for sure is that you’ve got to love more.  Promise me, if you haven’t found love in your heart, keep going; keep loving more until you do.  Share more love with your friends.  Share more love with your family.  And always, always love yourself more.  I dare to love waking up at 5:30 a.m.  Ok, that’s never going to happen, but one can always hope, right?

tumblr_lvcsdnRbX41qzx5i0o1_500

Live your best life in 2015.  It’s the beginning of a new year with new opportunities.  What does living life mean to you?  To me, most importantly, is to live my best life on a daily basis.  I think I’m typically successful which means getting up, working, working out, yoga, and spending time with my friends and my boyfriend over dinner, good wine, and conversation and laughs.  That is a full day and I am blessed to spend most of my days that way.  I dare to live more in 2015 and not wish away time.  Time is precious. Although here in Chicago winter is typically cold and snowy, I’m going to try not to wish away winter, and time, until Spring.  I dare to live more.  In 2014 my friend Sarah and I dared to live more by organizing monthly happy hours to get people out of their routines and neighborhoods.  Weekly slow cooker suppers with friends?  Dinner parties to get everyone out of the house in January, February, and March?  Game nights?  More Happy Hours?  TRAVEL!  I am blessed to travel as much as I can and I plan on exploring new places in 2015!  How are you going to dare to live more in 2015?

AlwaysBelieve

So what is all of this hope, love, live, dare stuff?  It is all choice.  Man, each and every one of us has the opportunity each day to hope and love and live and dare to dream, all we have to do is make the choice to DO IT!  Get out there and seek something that is important to you, something that is new or maybe it’s something that you have longed for, just find the hope to continue your journey.

subconscious-space

I feel blessed that I can wake up each day and make the choice to make it a good day or a bad day.  Now as an adult, one of my favorite memories of growing up with my dad is when he used to drop me off at school in 6th – 8th grade.  He would always say, as I was getting out of the car, “Make it a good day, son.”  I would roll my eyes, slam the door and run into school.  What I know now, that I did not understand then, is that I do have a choice each day to make it a good day.  Sure, major unexpected things can happen like bad hair or minor, a stressful phone call, but how we choose to react is within our power.  So I try not to think in terms of “have a good day” rather, “make it a good day.”  And that, I guess, is what this life is all about.  Choosing to hope when you just can’t seem to find faith.  And choosing to love even though love has hurt you before.  Choosing to live each day even when it is zero degrees out and the alarm is blaring at 5:30 a.m.  And most of all, choosing to Be Daring when sometimes your mind thinks you’re foolish.  Get out there to Ride Your Wave In 2015 and seek what you dream of and what you hope for in life.  Be Daring and Say YES to Life!

RIDEYOURWAVE