Waving Through a Window

“On the outside always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass. I’m waving through a window.”

Two really important things, at least to me, are happening right now.  I’m planning a wedding with my fiancé AND the Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording has been released to Spotify.  IMPORTANT THINGS I SAY! Over the last week, if I’m at my desk, the songs from Dear Evan Hansen are on repeat, over and over again. I’ve also been, like I said, planning a wedding so if anyone asks, I’ll talk about it. Planning a wedding was never something I ever really thought about as a kid. Do boys think about their wedding day? Do gay boys think about their wedding day? The answer for me is, no, I never really thought about a wedding. The perfect day and setting and person was never really something on my mind growing up.  Geez, my life was filled just trying to figure out if it was going to be a woman or a man for crying out loud. I didn’t have time to think about an actual wedding until recently.

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 So while I was figuring all of that stuff out my friends were dating and getting engaged and getting married. Oh did I attend a lot of weddings in my 20s and 30s. That was a lot of cake and alcohol and dancing. It was fun, so much fun. However, it wasn’t for me. Somehow I didn’t fit in that societal norm of finding someone, getting engaged and planning a wedding. I didn’t really spend too much time thinking about it, rather I went about my life and enjoyed those people around me who were in love and getting married and getting all those gifts and inviting all those people to celebrate with them. On June 26, 2015 our societal norm changed. The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in favor of equal dignity and marriage for all citizens of the United States. Then, lucky me, on June 26, 2016, exactly one year later the man of my dreams asked ME to marry HIM!

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Well now this whole marriage thing got really real and really fast. My fiancé said he would be fine just going to the courthouse and getting married.  I said, “Do you know who you just asked to marry you?”  Haha, wait, I hadn’t ever really thought about a wedding, that is true, but now that I have the chance, I’m taking it.  People have said, “You’ve gone to your share of weddings over the years, now it is time for those people to buy you gifts!” Sure, I guess that is part of the celebration, but that’s not all it is for me.  I told my fiancé that the reason I want a wedding is because as I sat at all those weddings in the past I thought to myself, “I wonder if it will ever be legal for me to get married?” “Sure we have ‘civil unions’ in my state but that isn’t the same. That isn’t equal.” The reason I want to have a wedding is to celebrate with those people who have loved me for me. It is now my time to step inside and stop “waving through a window.”

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That brings me back to Dear Evan Hansen the new musical on Broadway. It’s about a boy who watches life pass him by due to severe social anxiety.  But why, to me, isn’t he point. Have you ever spent a portion of your life “looking in from the outside?” That is why I connected to this music and that is why I want to celebrate my love and my marriage because after June 26, 2015 I no longer had to look in from the outside.

“While I’m watch watch watching people pass I’m waving through a window, oh can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”

Unlike Evan Hansen, I have never been socially isolated or lonely, luckily. But I have waved through the window while people who are accepted pass by. I’ve tried really hard not to get political in my blog, as far as this past election, but just briefly I have to. It really frustrates me when people say, “I support gay marriage and equal rights”, but that person voted for the Republican platform, one that does not promote equality. They might say, “Well gay marriage is a done deal.” Sure it is the law of the land, but depending on who the new Supreme Court justice is, that ruling could be overturned years down the road. Likely or unlikely, why chance it? And it isn’t all about equal marriage. It is about equal rights for all people. It is about accepting refugees and immigrants into our country. It is about accepting and loving others no matter their gender, sex, race, sexual orientation or other. Why make people in America wave through the window and hope that one day their difference will be just as accepted as someone else? Why? Why not share love and spread love and think about all those people who are waving through a window?

In this clip, Cynthia Erivo Tony Award winner from The Color Purple sings “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen.

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

Why don’t we work on loving each other, all of us, and helping each other out. You are not alone I wish was the mantra of our country because far too many people don’t have the same power, privilege, and acceptance. Don’t wait until it is your time to suffer to “get it” and start thinking about others. Let’s help each other now.  Let’s share and care, just a little more. Let’s notice each other more. Let each other know, we all matter.

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So that brings me back to why I want to have a wedding; a celebration of our love, an acknowledgment that our love matters and our love is important too. It’s not about the gifts (but I’ll take them, I guess) it’s about being surrounded by the people who love us; the people who have lifted us up when we were down; the people who, no matter what, have been with us throughout life to say, “hey, hey you, you matter.” 

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An Ode to Jon

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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.

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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

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

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“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

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

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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.

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“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.

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“Before You”

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

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

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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

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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.

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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!

 

You Are Not Alone

I was recently in a training and I have no idea why, but the phrase You Are Not Alone came to mind.  It’s a mystery where this came from.  You might instantly think about the Michael Jackson song from HIStory or that creepy video with then wife, Lisa Marie Presley.  Or more seriously, you might think about times you are alone or feel alone.  Feeling alone, loneliness, are they the same?  Different?  I myself am someone who needs very little alone time.  An hour or two a week is fine by me.  I don’t often feel the need of taking a break from others.  This might be why, during a break-up, I felt so lonely.  Or did I feel alone?  What I did then for myself and what I see now, well over a year later, is that we are never alone.  You Are NOT Alone.

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By the encouragement of my friend Jeremy, during the summer of 2013, I started taking myself to brunch after Saturday morning long runs.  This turned into an almost weekly venture during last year’s horrendous winter.  During those times, going home and being at home was not a happy place for me.  I did not want to be there, so I would take my Entertainment Weekly magazine to one of my favorite brunch spots, typically Taste of Heaven or Nookies, and I would boldly say, “Table for one” or “Just me today” and I would sit, by myself.  However, I was never alone.  I had my magazine and my coffee, things that bring happiness to me.  I had the wait staff who grew to recognize me.  One time my waiter even bought me breakfast.  Taste of Heaven became my place, “where everybody knows your name.”  Most of all, I had all the other people in the restaurant with me.  Some would be laughing with friends and others, like me, were simply enjoying something they loved: food, coffee, reading, etc.  I learned that being “alone” does not mean you are alone or lonely.  I grew to love those Saturday morning dates with myself, my coffee, my magazine, and my other brunch lovers.  It was something that put me out into the Universe to say, here I am.  It’s me, Matty, and I’m living my life.  If someone wants to join me, that would be lovely, but I can do this on my own too.  I am not alone.

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All during this enlightening time of my life I also started a daily event, meditation.  Deepak Chopra and Oprah have a meditation series that is free for 21 days, then you can buy it.  I believe they have about five in their series.  On my birthday in 2013 the first of these meditation series began.  I fell in love with the practice of meditation.  Getting up at 5:30 a.m. weekdays was an all new experience.  Some of the meditations were great and super meaningful, while others did not connect with me as much.  But I loved the routine and the waking to about 30 minutes of quiet time before I would get out of bed.  To this day I still try to meditate, though I do not do it nearly as often as I would like.  It is another one of those things that I believe awakened me to the spirituality of the Universe.  Here I am.  It’s me, Matty, and I’m living my life.  Recently in this series of meditations, Energy of Attraction, Oprah said, “Like attracts like.  You attract who you are.  Change your energy and you can change your entire experience of the world.  Change your intention and you change your path.”  I honestly believe that during that dark period of my life, finding something like meditation to connect me with the Universe was a changing force in my life.  It gave me structure, which I desperately needed in order to put one foot in front of the other.  It also gave me hope; hope that the Universe would see me out there trying and would feel my energy.

“You always have a place here, on your mat.”

On a particularly rough day last fall I remember getting the text from my friend Sarah that said, “You always have a place here, on your mat.”  Her yoga instructor said that quote at the end of practice.  It now always means something to me.  I picked up the practice of yoga about a year and a half ago.  Some nights, during the hellish winter of 2014, I would take a 4:30 Sculpt class and a 6:00 CorePower 2 class.  Part of the reason was that it was always 80 or more degrees warmer in the studio than outside.  The other part was that I did not want to be home.  I did everything in my power to not be home alone.  If I wasn’t out with friends for dinner I would go to yoga and just stay.  My yoga mat is such a safe place for me.  I am now in a much different place in life, but I keep my yoga practice going.  I actually missed yoga during the 2014 marathon training season.  I love that I am back to nearly daily practice.  For me, yoga is an intense workout, but it is also spiritual, a time for me to find strength in myself.  It is a time to find space between me and my day, me and the outside world.  It is a time for me on my mat.  I never feel alone with yoga because in my mind it connects me with the Universe.  It puts my energy out there for all to feel.  Here I am.  It’s me, Matty, and I’m living my life.  Just remember that your time on your mat is for you.  You are never alone because you have yourself!

 

“And I’ve learned

That we must look inside our hearts

To find a world full of love”

What does lonely feel like?  What does feeling alone feel like?  How does feeling alone in an empty room differ from feeling alone in a room full of people?  What I know for sure is that it feels all different for all of us.  I am grateful to have learned even a little bit about looking inside my heart and knowing the difference for me between feeling alone and feeling lonely.  However you are feeling, take the steps to get out there.  Say YES! to Life.  Do things that make you happy like yoga or meditation or taking yourself to brunch.  Watch Whitney Houston videos, like me.  Go watch a great film.  Go sit at a bar, grab a drink and chat with the bartender or chat with other people sitting there.  You are not alone.  You are never alone, but you might have to take a risk once and a while to put yourself out there.  Put your energy out in the Universe and I promise you this, it will come back in return.  That I know for sure!

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You might also like my blog post, “Single? You Don’t Have to Be Alone”:

https://sayyestolifeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/single-you-dont-have-to-be-alone/

What Chicago Means to Me

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Heading into 15 years living, learning, and loving in Chicago.  I moved to Chicago July 19, 2000, what?  Where did time go?  What have the last 14 years meant to me?  When I graduated from Michigan State it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I was moving here.  Though I did not know anyone in the city, my parents helped me pack up the van and leave 10330 Lloy St. for the last time.  What I know for sure is that I was raised in Portage, Michigan, but I GREW UP in Chicago.

I can only imagine the horror my mother, in particular, must have felt dropping me off at my apartment on Kenmore and Montrose, in “North” Wrigleyville as I called it.  I’ve been mocked for years about that one, but who wanted to live in Uptown?  I was a 24-year-old, Wrigleyville should have been my home.  Haha.  Though the neighborhood is way more cleaned up now, it still needs more and back then, it needed a lot.  There were homeless guys lying around and certainly the Target, et al. were not there to spruce up the streets.  I didn’t want to display my fear, so I stayed as strong as a 24-year-old boy could, shaking in his boots.  I knew no one and I didn’t know what to do with my time.  My second day some drugged up woman got into my building and came to my door asking for money or drugs.  I had to shove her out and lock the door.  I stayed for 4 days and called my mom crying.  She told me to come home for a few days, which turned into two or three weeks.  What I know now, 14 years later, is that I could have gone to a bar and sat there for dinner and drinks.  I could have gotten out of the apartment and gone for a roller blade down the lake(yes, I still had roller blades then).  However, I didn’t have the confidence.  What do you do when you are alone, in a city where you know no one, and you have four weeks until work starts?  Ah, to do it all over again, I would have stayed.  Speaking of staying, I told my mother I would stay in Chicago for a year and see how things go.  I have a sneaking suspicion she knew I wouldn’t return to Michigan.  The big city is for me.  Chicago is where I grew up!

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Here’s to 15 years in Chicago with 15 classic, not necessarily classy, times.

TOBs (The OB’s) sorority we created and follow-up initiation ceremony of our ‘Lils.

THE Friendsgiving at Amanda, Jess and Shayna’s – making friends, losing friends, and Sure-Thing Schuering’s bedroom conversations – oh you remember, THAT one!

“Youhoo” dinner at Lucia’s with 15+ bottles of wine, Cary, Charlie, Carrie, Diane and Patty.  “Youhoo” who’s taking me home tonight?”

Leaving Starlight Express at intermission to race home to Lesley’s apartment for the show Paradise Hotel.  “Yahtzee game on!”

The “Pretty Woman” moment waking up in a hotel room downtown, by myself, opening the curtains and realizing I was at the Swissotel.

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Wicked Keggers dancing out of closets (and from under tables) to “Last Dance”, keg stands, and flip cup!

The NSync concert and stalking Joey Fatone –  I think I lived in my new Lincoln Park apartment for only a few days.  I’d just met my roommate Laura. The night started by going to Soldier Field for the NSync concert with Amanda, Jess, and Deana.  Following, we got “word” where the boys would be hanging out.  One of the places, Kustom Night Club, was mere feet away from our apartment.  We (Laura, neighbor Julie, and I)loaded into Julie’s car and we went on a hunt.  Zipping through the streets, on Armitage, off Armitage.  On Clybourn, off, Clybourn.  We parked the car, then drove again.  We sat in an ally until we saw the black SUV pull up.  This is it!  It seemed after all the twists, turns, and alleys that we were a distance away from our apartment.  Julie parked the car again and we hustled to the club.  It’s weird to me that we got right in, but we did.  We got drinks and waited, waited some more, ordered more drinks and waited longer.  Finally, AHHHHHHHHHHH, they arrived, at least that was the buzz in the bar.  “OMG, I’m going to meet Justin.  OMG!”   Imagine all of our dismay when Joey Fatone walked by to the VIP lounge and brushed up against Laura arm.  She was sort of excited and pissed at the same time.  “OMG, he graced my arm.  Why did it have to be Joey?  Who likes Joey?”  As we left, someone said, “I feel like we are right around the corner from our apartment.”  Shortly thereafter, we got to the car and drove approximately 1000 feet back to our apartment.

Market Days 2009 positioning ourselves at Mini Bar both Saturday and Sunday (wash, rinse, repeat) for hours drinking vodka lemonades, meeting the boys from Atlanta, and yes, dancing the night away at Charlie’s.

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My Hollywood Night!  The Scene:  August night, post kickball game, Kit Kat Club, “Dreamgirls” playing, drag queen performing – Dennis and me in our super cute “After School Specials” short red shorts uniforms and a few martinis deep….we enter Kit Kat and as if the spotlight of a Broadway show turned to us we immediately go into Dreamgirls performance mode.  We sashayed up and down the bar, full crowd cheering us on as the drag queen was in the back room performing her heart out.  The song ends, Dennis and I take a Dreamgirls pose (I’m obviously Beyoncé), and the crowd of people at the tables roar with cheers, they are on their feet yelling and screaming and clapping.  The drag queen is on her way back up to the front ready to claw our eyes out.  The bartender jumps over the bar and pushed Dennis and me out of the bar, “Get outta here, SHE PISSED!”  Best, best, best moment EVER!

My 30th Birthday/Coming Out Party!  The amazing, “Is It Gay In Here or Is It Just Me?” night ended with Dennis and me trying to find Charlie’s dance club, which we had been to countless times.  “Dennis?”

“Yes, Matty.”

“Are we at Lake Shore Drive?”

“Yes Matty, we are.  How did that happen?”

This Night!

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The Running of the Bulls Halloween!  Hands down, the best!

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My first night ever out in Boystown, the “ah ha” moment of being in a bar with all men-what a “right” feeling and what a debaucherous night.

Completing my first Chicago Marathon in 2011.  Truly the best day of my life!

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Hitting on myself at Charlie’s at 4 a.m.  I blame the sangria from Ba Ba Reeba.  So what happened is that we  had to wait close to two hours for our table.  As we proceeded to drink more and more, the night got fuzzy.  Some of us ended up at Charlie’s dance club around 2 a.m.  In hindsight I should have left with my friends, but I stayed.  Good thing I did because I met a guy that night.  The scene:  hot sultry August night, smoky dance floor, 4 a.m., boys sweating and dancing everywhere, and I saw him.  We made eye contact from across the dance floor, through the smoke, and started to approach each other in slow motion.  As I got closer to him, he got closer to me.  As I smiled, he smiled.  “This is it,” I thought.  As I reached for his hand, he reached for me……then I ran into the mirror!  I RAN INTO THE FUCKING MIRROR!  I hit on MYSELF!  MYSELF!!!!

What I Know For Sure

The last 14 years have flown by like a flash and mostly been one hell of a ride.  When I moved to Chicago at age 24 to start my career, I did not know what to expect, and actually thought I might move back to Michigan.  Right!  After meeting friends of a lifetime, living into the gay man I am, falling in love with this city, and growing up, I now call Chicago home.  What I know for sure is that life is a roller coaster, friends come and go, but they are always in my heart. Relationships start and end and new ones begin, but if we make it to the end of each day, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.”  We are all dealing with our own stuff on a daily basis, but as friends and humans, we are here to support each other.  Some days are great and some not as great, but when I sit back and reflect, I know, I have a damn good life filled with amazing accomplishments, amazing adventures, and amazing relationships.  In this moment, right now, 15 years after moving to Chicago, I couldn’t be happier.  Thank you Chicago for helping me grow up and Say YES to LIFE!

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