Sugar, butter, BROADWAY!

When Covid hit, New York gradually started to shut down some of the biggest staples that kept the heart beating in our Big Apple. Landmark after landmark went down, but when Broadway went dark I knew that this pandemic was serious. I took the loss of the great white way harder than I wanted to admit. Theater was a part of the magic that my younger self found in New York City. It was my own oasis of a glittery escape in my own backyard. I pictured the normally lit signs dim as the streets lay deserted with no usual foot traffic and life to pound the pavement. Sad wasn’t the word, I was devastated with no control of what was to come and it was the scariest feeling to watch my city slowly go dim.

I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. The threat still remains real but we are figuring out every day a little more pieces to the puzzle. Science is working double time and the lights are coming back to my beautiful hometown.

The last time we saw a show was November 25, 2019. Katharine McPhee was back on Broadway reprising her role as Jenna Hunterson in Waitress. We’d seen the show twice by then but couldn’t resist going back to see our girl tear the roof off the place again. We were 13 days into our new marriage already kicked in the teeth by the thoroughs of life. We needed an escape desperately and Waitress more than delivered. Our mutual love for the arts is one of the many things my wife and I share and this show was no different. Life was good in that evening, there was no reality, no stress, we were having a date we both needed.

Today after 650 days since our last show and 555 days into the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, I can happily and gratefully say that we made our return to Broadway and back to the diner. I felt like a kid on Christmas. A bundle of nerves being exposed to crowds again (we were all masked and vaccinated or tested) but excited to be back in the theater. It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve seen Times Square and today I took it all in like I was seeing it for the first time. Waitress was revived and brought to the Barrymore Theatre directly across the street from its original home at Brook Atkinsons. I’ve dreamed about this day, I’ve mourned the idea that lights would never come on again and I cannot explain how happy I am to have spent time inside of a Broadway show again. The world has a ways to go but these gifts of what was once reminds me to never take advantage of what you have in front of you because it can be gone in an instant. I am thankful, humbled. Thanks for taking to me to the moon, Waitress. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed my city more than I could explain.

Wife heading to the theater.

Covid Summer Vs. 2021 Summer

Last year feels like it’s blended into this present year but there’s been some vast differences in my Summers. Last year, we spent vigilant and on guard. There was little to no eating out, no going places indoors, and nothing was truly certain. Truthfully, I was miserable if I’m honest. I’ve always thrived being near people and being in the thick of mental health struggles, I needed people more than ever. However, despite the struggle I was in best shape of my life. It is amazing when you’re limited with things to do just how creative someone can become. I spent more time outside, I walked the poor stumps off of my dog and I was more connected to nature (or as connected as I could be in a city) than ever before. There was a few silver linings that came out of the quarantine and my time outside was a massive one. I was able to find some sort of comfort in moving my body and embracing any fresh air I could get my hands on. It was a quiet time of learning and finding out just how creative one could get in hard times.

This year the world is waking back up again. While the Delta variant is still a danger, I find myself getting to do much more than I did last year. I’m able to see people in most settings, I’m able to go to dinner like we used to, I’m still working from home which sucks and makes the days really long but the weekends are filled with busy activities again. The world feels more awake and normal but I find myself lethargic at times. I miss being forced to do things that made me move more, I miss being outside on a constant basis. I know all of that is still attainable but the distractions are back and I’m struggling to find that necessary balance for both. Covid Summer gave me a lot to realize and I’m glad I did and this Summer gave me my time with family and friends back, who I missed more than ever.

Once Upon a Penny

I got my first dog at age 7 because I was terrified of dogs. My parents were on a mission to break this fear in the only way that they knew how, which was exposure to having an animal in the house. For about a month I was terrified until eventually I picked up the dog’s toy and we started playing together. From there we became the best of friends and all fears were gone. He was with my family until I was 20 years old. After him, I wasn’t sure if loving another pet was an option because my heart hurt so badly from his loss then I met my wife and her family, and their zoo of animals and I was hooked. I knew eventually I would want an animal of my own again, but I never really could settle on when or what type of dog I would want.

The internet introduced me to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed. I was instantly in love. Everything about the breed was easy to love, their tiny bodies, their little legs, but most importantly their personality. I have never seen a dog with that much personality in a tiny body. From what I saw online, Corgis are so expressive and great companions to all their owners and their families. I knew this would be the breed for me, but it always felt out of reach because of the cost to get one from a reputable breeder. The average cost of a Corgi in the USA ranges from $1,200 – $3,300. This cost was always out of my price range and I never imagined becoming a Corgi owner because of that.

Fast forward to November 2020 and I was hit by the most unlikely of news. My wife follows Long Island animal shelters to browse for a new member of our home. The timing was never right, the breed was never what we wanted. There was always some reason not to get an animal. Until one night when she showed me a listing for a 2 year old female Pembroke Welsh Corgi. It was like seeing a shooting star! Most Corgis are surrendered to rescues as adults and younger ones are incredibly hard to come by in a rescue setting. While adopting older dogs and senior dogs are just as beautiful to do, I was desperate to bond with a dog from a young age so when I saw this, I immediately sprang into action. The next day came and I called the shelter to submit paperwork for adoption. This was too unlikely of a circumstance to overthink the possibilities of life after our quarantine. This was my dream breed that needed rescuing. Once our applications and references checked out, we arranged a meeting for the next weekend.

This was the first picture we ever saw of Penny.

The anticipation of the meeting was like waiting for Christmas morning. My wife and I were over the moon with excitement and it just carried into our meeting with our potential new dog and the rescue team. We all chatted for about 30 minutes and we were given the information that due to her being picked up with a chip (despite her previous owners not answering). The dog was legally obligated to stay within the shelter for 14 days in case the previous owners wanted to claim her. We weren’t thrilled with the idea but followed the rules and waited what felt like a lifetime of 14 days until we received the confirmation phone call that she was officially ours. She would be spayed before she was given to us and we could pick her up directly after the surgery. We began rushing around like new dog parents and getting all the supplies before the pickup day.

Pick up day arrived, and we bolted to the shelter to pick up our new dog. She was surrendered with the name football, but the shelter renamed her Penelope, and we kept the name. Little Penny Lane was the newest member of our family and it couldn’t have come at a better of a time. I was going through some of my worst times mentally and getting a companion like a Corgi felt like just what I needed. Once she recovered from her surgery, her personality shined through making the heaviness in our house a little bit lighter, giving me a daily purpose to fuss after something other than myself, and completing the dream of mine in being a Corgi owner. She saved me in ways I’ll never be able to thank her for, but I will spend the rest of her life doing my best to try to show her just how much she means. A dog is without a doubt a big responsibility but one I’ll never regret because she came into my life when I needed her the most. She’s the perfect addition to our growing family and one of the biggest highlights of the shitstorm that was 2020.

Our first picture together as a duo.

Self-Discovery in a digital age [My coming out story]

It baffles me when I hear some of the stories from people who bravely declare their truths only to lose everything they’ve ever known. Parents disown them, relatives not speaking to them, their churches turning them away; all because they had the courage to live as who they really are. To anyone who has had such a horrible loss, I am sorry but I am also incredibly proud of you for loving yourself in a way that no one ever could. I stand with you always.

My personal story of coming out was an exceptionally lucky one when it came to sharing my identity with my family and friends.

I was 17 years old when I first started to realize that I didn’t identify as a straight woman. At the time, I was heavily into on-line roleplaying on Myspace and began writing characters that were romantically connected to both males and females. My attraction was matched for both of the sexes which was a new thought to me. Experimenting on-line was my quiet way of figuring things out that didn’t require me actively going out anywhere or talking to anyone in person. I lived a very sheltered childhood so my ability to go out to different places to explore this idea in person would have been difficult. Being online was my own private world where I could be whoever I wanted without the need for anyone’s approval. After a few months of writing relationships with both sexes, I found myself needing to tell someone in my personal life. The first person I came out to was my-then boyfriend. He was understanding for the most part but quickly grew jealous at the potential of my leaving him for a female or him not being included in the scenario should I ever decide to try it. It was a hard thing to manage because at the time I was still very much in love with him but his jealousy was so prudent it was hard not to want to remove myself from the relationship in the search for more. We eventually split up. Young love wasn’t meant to last for me this time.

The majority of my experimenting remained on-line until the story jumped off the page and I met my now wife in person in January 2009. We went on our first date and I had my first experience formally dating a girl. It was nice for the most part but the date wasn’t much to write home about. She was still figuring herself out just as much as I was and we ended up parting ways as friends for the time being. Her on and off again relationship with a woman prevented anything from flourishing until she decided it could, when she finally broke up with the woman she was seeing. We started seeing each other more that summer and that’s when I knew that it was time to tell my family my true feelings because I could no longer pass her off as the girl, I met at college in an Anthropology class.

The first person in my family that I came out to was my mother. My Mom and I had a rocky relationship in my teens and early 20s. She was trying to mold me into what she thought was a girl and I was everything but the mold she had set up. My coming out only furthered that. I was never going to be the mold she set up for me and she was going to have to accept it. Despite, being in shock her love never faltered. We may not have always seen eye to eye but I’ve always known that there is no fiercer a protector than my mother. She is the living example of lifting a car off of her children if she needed to. Her protection and good intentions knew no bounds for us growing up. My new found bi-sexuality would be a challenge for us because she would continue to challenge my feelings and call them a phase but eventually, she realized my wife wasn’t going anywhere no matter how uncomfortable she was in the new found thought of my romantic relationship with a woman.  My mother grew into the idea of the possibility that I would marry a woman and ended up being one of my biggest supporters of my relationship always providing guidance wherever she could.

I’m forever grateful that we didn’t have the tragic ending which could have cost us our relationship. She loved me fiercely through it all and I’ll always be thankful.

My father was next for me to tell my truth to. My Dad has never been one for big ordeals or a scene to be made. We were driving in the car and Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl came on so I just went for it and told him. His reaction was minimal as expected but loving regardless. The only thing he wanted to know was if I was happy and I promised that I was. He went onto to continue to enforce that anyone I dated needed to love me half as much as he did and continue to treat me with the same respect I deserved regardless if it was a man or a woman. I was told that just because I had changed the rules didn’t mean any exceptions would be made for any of my partners. They still wouldn’t be allowed in my bedroom with an opened door. It’s a funny story to look back on but it proves the consistency that my Dad posessed. All romantic interests would be viewed with the same scrunity and watchful eye for his baby girl. It was a sweet notion and my bi-sexuality was something he never challenged despite genuinely not understanding the concept of it at times.

After I told my parents which were the most important people at the time, I moved onto my brother and eventually my best friends. My brother never cared about who I was dating as long as they treated me well. He also confessed he had already known about it and was glad that I had finally come to terms with telling other people. It was a relief to not feel like I had to go through a whole explanation of my new found thought. I just was his sister and there was nothing else to say. My best friends all welcomed the new idea and they all offered their reassurance that nothing would change between us and they were eager to meet my newest potential girlfriend whenever I was ready.

I realize how lucky I am that my story doesn’t have a tragic loss involved. My family and friends never once changed the tempo of our relationship because of my identity and never stopped trying to be as present in my life as they could.

I wasn’t shunned or turned away, I was given the floor to have open dialogue about what I was embarking on and loved just as much as I was before they all knew who I was growing up to be.

Acceptance is the foundation of our pride. Love is our bravery, even when it challenges what is considered to be the norm. Your family are the people who should accept you with condition. I am so thankful to have all of this in my family and friends as my strongest allies who supported me from the very beginning of my journey to my true self.

Feelin’ 32.

On Sunday, May 23rd, I enter my 32nd trip around the sun. I love my birthday to begin with, but this year has me particularly reflective. Life inside of a pandemic has been a tricky one. My mental health has flopped around like a fish out of water, my time with family and friends was grossly limited and life in general was just uncertain overall. I celebrated my birthday last year in a very limited way and it bummed out. While I appreciated the absolute best efforts of my wife and my brother and my sister in law, I found myself with a serious case of the blues. I love people, that’s something that this pandemic confirmed for me so being without all my people on my special day made things a little heavier than I would have hoped they would be.

This time last year, I had already been away from my parents for three months, there wasn’t really a direction to when this pandemic would end, and no one really knew how to continue a daily life. Were we supposed to hunker down and stay totally inside? Could we see people we knew were safe? Should we see people at all? There were so many questions with very few answers. The end looked like it would never come but here I am a year later and there has been glimmers of hope that have left me grateful for time and perspective. While we are far from out of the woods, we now have vaccines available and much better testing protocols. My entire immediate family has been completely vaccinated, which provides me with the ability and utmost happiness to say that I will be spending my 32nd birthday with all my people once more! Huzzah!

I enter this upcoming weekend with much gratitude for the ability to do this and sheer excitement to have plans to look forward to. There have been a lot of growing pains in the last year and there are still more to come but I am learning to love myself in ways I never thought were possible. Compassion and patience have not been my strongest suits but I hope to approach everyday in my 32nd year with those two things in mind and a grateful heart to have the time back that was lost in the hellish year of the global pandemic.