Sleep is a Beautiful Thing

One of the best pieces of advice my grandfather ever gave me was to “always invest in the things that separate you from the ground: wear quality shoes, always have good tires on your car, and make sure to have a great mattress”. When Chris and I moved into our house two years ago we bought a new mattress from a local company and were very happy with it for the first few months. Not long after we got it, we noticed that the sides of the bed were sinking in and a ridge was developing down the middle of the mattress. We struggled with sleepless nights, sore backs, and never fully feeling comfortable because we had spent quite a bit of money and didn’t want to drop even more money buying a new one. We contacted the company and were told we would have to pay for them to pick it up for repair, we would not have a mattress for approximately a week, and then have to pay for them to bring it back. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a big load of BS!

So we were stuck with a “new” mattress we hated, out a couple thousand dollars, and not looking to spend a fortune on another mattress that could possibly do the same thing. We researched all the big names in the mattress game, and just didn’t find one that was right for us. First of all, can someone please explain to me why mattresses cost so much money?!?! The prospect of spending thousands of dollars on a mattress from an online store, without even having tried the mattress out seemed like a bad idea to me.

After searching for weeks, I came across an awesome company that is trying to change the mattress game. We partnered with OkiOki and they are such an awesome company that, first and foremost, has taken out all the hyperbole about “space age materials” and “cutting edge” technology that the other companies boast about. In my experience, the more adjectives used to describe a product, the more and more the price goes up. Well, OkiOki wants to let you all in on a big secret…… All the memory and adaptive foams are THE SAME! The companies use clever marketing and buzz words to charge more for their products.

One of our favorite things about OKiOki is their Sleep Quiz, which will help you find the perfect mattress for your sleep preferences. FULL DISCLOSURE: we actually didn’t take the sleep quiz because we thought we knew which mattress we wanted… don’t make the same mistake we did, take the quiz! After placing our first order, which was a super simple process, we had our new mattress in just a few days!

Because we hadn’t taken the Sleep Quiz, we actually ordered a mattress that was too firm for us (completely our fault) but the best thing about OkiOki is that they have a 365 night, simple return policy! Knowing we could simply return our mattress if it didn’t work for us was one of the highest selling points for us. We reached out to them about the mattress not being the perfect fit for us, and they quickly got someone to our house to pick it up and shipped us a new mattress within just a few days! (Before we ordered the replacement we took the sleep quiz, and lo and behold, it recommended a much softer mattress for us than the one we ordered!)

At the end of the day, the most important question on everyone’s mind is COST. Because OkiOki has removed all the deceptive marketing, middlemen, and gimmicks of traditional mattress companies, their prices are extremely affordable! Their mattresses start at $300 and go up to around $750 for a California King! PLUS if you use code ChrisandNateOkiOki50 you will get $50 off your purchase and they offer FREE SHIPPING on all purchases with no minimum required!

We have been sleeping on the OkiSoft for almost a month and it has been INCREDIBLE! Not only have we been sleeping soundly, we have also been spending much more time in bed watching movies binge watching T.V. shows! We used to be so ready to get out of bed because we were never comfortable and now we never want to leave our room! One of our favorite things about our mattress is the cooling layer on the top, we both sleep hot and have been pleasantly surprised by how well the cooling layer regulates our temperature.

If you are in the market for a new mattress for yourself, or looking for affordable mattresses for your guest bedrooms, we highly recommend checking them out! Every step of the process from beginning to end was a breeze and we are thrilled with how amazing the product is! Don’t forget to use our code to get $50 off your order and tag us in your posts/photos if you order one! We would love to hear about your experience!

Our Dream Honeymoon!

57170335823__C0A11618-1E37-4AE0-B0B0-F98FEFA27923.jpg

When Chris and I started thinking of places to go for our honeymoon, a cruise was definitely nowhere on that list. Neither of us had ever been on one, and we had definitely heard horror stories from friends and family. As we had been told multiple times, “You’re either a cruise person and will love it, or not, and you’ll hate it.” We didn’t want to find out if we were “cruise people” or not while we were on our honeymoon. We had also heard that cruises are catered for older crowds, have tiny staterooms, and are not always the most inclusive places for LGBT+ couples. 


So, and I mean this with no exaggeration, Chris and I went through at least 20 different options for trips but we couldn’t come up with a trip that felt right for us. We looked into everything from Costa Rica to Ireland to Australia to Phuket, and everything in-between. It actually got to the point that we had almost decided to just scrap the whole thing and not even go on a honeymoon at all! We knew we wanted to do something unique, but the pressure of the trip being our HONEYMOON just got to us and we couldn’t pull the trigger on anything. 


We literally got so fed up with trying to decide, we almost just booked an all inclusive trip to Mexico, despite the fact that it wasn’t what we really wanted, simply just to be able to take a reasonably priced trip, and not have to worry about food and drinks and mountains of planning. Literally the night before we were going to finalize those plans, we got in contact with Celebrity Cruises about working with them for their #SweetHeartsAtSea campaign. They invited us on a weeklong cruise to the Eastern Caribbean aboard their newest ship, the Celebrity Edge. After months of failed planning, exasperation and stress, this opportunity felt like it was destiny and we put all our inhibition about cruise ships aside and quickly agreed. 


Chris and I have both been following the keto diet for the past 7-8 months and have lost 35 and 25 pounds respectively, which is AMAZING, BUT it meant that neither of us had a single piece of warm clothing that fit us. So we found ourselves three weeks out from a Caribbean cruise with absolutely nothing to wear! Let me just tell you, finding a summer wardrobe in early February is not an easy feat. But between multiple trips to the mall, online orders (and returns) and a few more trips to the mall, we scrounged up enough clothes for a week long vacation and ANXIOUSLY awaited our departure. 


As anyone else would have, I started researching all I could about the Celebrity Edge ship and was BLOWN AWAY at how incredible it looked! The Celebrity Edge is the first of a new fleet of ships that are set to come out over the next few years. The ship took its maiden voyage on December 9th, 2018. It currently sails to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, but is set to add destinations around Europe and the Mediterranean this summer. 

10803810048_IMG_5407.jpg

We Marie Kondo’d the shiz out of our suitcases, kissed our pups and daughter goodbye and were off on, what would become, the most incredible trips of our lives. Upon landing in Fort Lauderdale we were whisked away to the ship for check in. We were absolutely floored by the sheer size and grandeur of the beautiful Edge ship. Celebrity was so generous and hooked us up with a Sky Suite on board, which meant we were lead to a beautiful lounge just outside the ship, where we were greeted with refreshments and comfortable chairs to wait in until an attendant came to us and got all of our information entered in. The level of customer service provided by the crew of the ship was unparalleled. Every single crew member was kind, generous and went above and beyond to help us in any way possible. We made our way onto the ship and the first thing to strike us was how stunning the decor was. It is a beautiful blend of “Great Gatsby” style opulence but blended seamlessly with a modern, simplistic design aesthetic that made it feel incredibly chic and understated. 

10796241936_IMG_5297.jpg


The moment we opened the door to our suite, our jaws dropped to the floor and we both looked at each other and started squealing and jumping around like little girls. The suite was so much bigger and more beautiful than we expected. There was a king size bed, a sofa, dresser and desk, two closets! As soon as we recovered from our prepubescent squealing over our room, we discovered the bathroom and literally started the whole process over again! The bathroom had a massive his and his sink, a separate vanity and mirror, and a bath tub that comfortably fit both Chris and I! As if an amazing room and bathroom wasn’t enough, the cherry on our sundae suite was the balcony! The balcony was very generous in size and had two lounge chairs and a small table and offered stunning views of the ocean and ports we went to. 


Our first day or so was spent at sea, which gave us an opportunity to see some shows in the GORGEOUS theater on the ship. We went to as many shows as we possibly could and were genuinely impressed and entertained at every single one. Marucs Terell and the Serenades put on a wonderful show of classic Motown hits, there were aerial acrobatic and dancing shows, a magic show, and an immersive dinner experience show that was located in an area of the ship known as “Eden”. (One of our favorite nights on the ship!) 


The first stop we made on our trip was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We spent the day exploring the beautiful city and learning about the cultural and historical significance of the area. Chris and I are both history nerds, and getting to see the forts, the light house, and learn about the rich culture of the area definitely made San Juan our favorite stop of the trip. 


After San Juan we had two full days at sea, which we mostly spent eating and lounging by the pool in “The Retreat” which is an area reserved for suite guests that was a little more quiet and low key than the main pool area. We sipped Pina Coladas like they were going out of style and fully immersed ourselves into relaxation mode. (Oh…. We also ate A LOT of food)


The Oceanview cafe offered a full buffet of delicious foods throughout the day, which we fully took advantage of for breakfast and lunch, but we spent our evenings in the various specialty dining restaurants on board. Every single meal we had was wonderful. Our dinner experience in Eden was one of the most unique experiences we had on our trip. The whole experience felt like we were transported to the garden of Eden, from the lighting and decor and menu to the dancers, actors, and singers mingling among the dinning tables. Dinner in Eden led to a full production show that told the tale of Eden and how it came to be, complete with stunning vocal performances, aerial acrobats, and dancers. We left dinner that night transfixed by the whole experience and we talked about it for the rest of the trip. 

IMG_0741.jpg


Another unique dining experience we had was our night at Le Grand Bistro. The entire dinner was “prepared” by tiny chefs (think Pixar style) projected onto the table from above. The chefs each made one of the dinner courses and were competing to be the best chef of the night. We had so much fun seeing the animation on our entire table and the actual food that was prepared matched what the little chef had made for us!


Our last two stops on our dream honeymoon were at Tortola, BVI and St. Maarten. We opted to just do some light shopping and enjoy the gorgeous beaches and crystal blue water instead of going on any excursions, but there were definitely some awesome ones available. 


We couldn’t have asked for a more romantic trip, but getting to spend our first Valentine’s Day, as a married couple, on the ocean was so special. Celebrity Cruises hosted the largest vow renewal ceremony at sea on Valentine’s Day.  Since we had just gotten married, we didn’t think a renewal was necessary, but we thought it would be fun to watch at least. I have to say, seeing all those couples, some of whom had been married for 50-60 plus years, standing before each other and renewing their vows was such a special moment. Chris and I both were in tears and there was a palpable sense of love in the air. It was such a magical experience to be part of. 

One of our concerns about being on the cruise was how accepting the other passengers would be of Chris and I as a couple. A couple’s honeymoon is supposed to be a romantic and relaxing experience and we didn’t want to have to hold back our affection for one another or feel worried about any intolerant people. I am proud, and a little surprised, to say that we didn’t experience a single issue in that regard. We didn’t get any odd looks or ever feel like we were anything less than welcome. We danced the night away at the silent discos, held hands on the ship (isn’t it sad that being able to freely hold hands with my husband on our honeymoon is viewed as a triumph?! That’s a rant for another post maybe! Haha) and we never felt out of place. In fact, I was surprised by the number of LGBT couples on the ship, and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were all fairly open and comfortable showing affection! 

I could literally write pages and pages about how amazing this trip was. We cannot thank Celebrity Cruises enough for partnering with us and sending us on this dream honeymoon. It was the perfect beginning to the rest of our lives as husbands and we couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect trip. We ate, we drank, we made great friends, we danced, we relaxed, and most importantly we loved. We loved each other, we loved the trip, and we loved getting to share it with you all. 

If you are looking for an amazing vacation/cruise we highly recommend the Celebrity Edge! For the next couple of days they are offering cruises for $20 down and 20% off flights so its the perfect time to book! Click here to go to the Celebrity Cruises website!

Happy Holidays??

The holiday season is the best time of year right?!

The stretch of time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is one of my favorite times of the year. I absolutely love Fall weather, breaking out sweaters and jeans, decorating for the holidays, and going to parties. It is the time of year where we are all supposed to come together and be thankful for all the positive things going on in our lives and support each other. It’s when we specifically carve time out of our busy lives to see our family and friends and share in the joy of the holiday season…..at least that’s how its supposed to be, right? We see commercial after commercial of people greeting family at the door, big hugs for everyone, a feast at the table, and images of people who truly look happy to be together. While this portrayal of the way things are supposed to be was very representative of my life for the better part of 25 years, I have to admit that the Hallmark version of the holiday season that I once knew is no longer a representation of my life today.

Before I go much further, I need to make it very clear that I absolutely love my life. I am a newlywed, have an incredible husband and daughter, the best friends a person could ask for, and quite a few extended family members who are truly wonderful. I don’t want to discount how much they all mean to me and how much happiness they all bring into my life.

A very interesting thing happened in my life when I came out to my family and friends…. I would imagine it is a similar story for a lot of people who society forces to “come out” as if making a proclamation about the gender of the person I find sexually attractive is anyone else’s business or somehow a requirement because that person happens to be the same gender I am. (But thats a post for another time.) So I was faced with a couple of different reactions: First, and most importantly, complete and total love and support. This particular reaction took a number of variations, but in time, the majority of my friends and family came to this reaction.

The second reaction I faced was a mixture of denial and anger. (let’s call them the disbelievers) While disheartening, this particular reaction is, in some ways, expected to happen. People simply can’t believe the person they know and love has “lied” to them for all this time, they feel angry about their perception of a “betrayal” of trust. The disbelievers are the group that inevitably resorts to the classic “Are you sure this isn’t just a phase or an identity crisis of some sort?” line that we all know too well. Those with this particular reaction then fall into the aforementioned group, by coming to terms with their emotions and realizing they were wrong; or they simply fade out of your life or reject you completely.

The third reaction, and perhaps the hardest for me to deal with personally, was the “I love you no matter what, BUT……..” group. (Lets call them the “conditional love” group) This is the group that will break your heart the most. It is almost like when you have a big crush on someone, and they give you just enough attention to keep you around, but refuse to give you what you truly want from them: to be loved. I’m talking about truly loved, not with the added “BUT” attached. This reaction only happened, for me, with a handful of people. I’m not here to call anyone out by name, but I honestly feel like this group of people needs to understand the damage of their CONDITIONAL love, because for me, this reaction has been far more painful than outright rejection.

Here is how it has played out: I came out, the conditional love group, for the most part, started out in the disbelievers group. They got mad, felt betrayed, we argued, yelled, and they make it very clear that they will never be supportive of my “choice” to be gay. I don’t wanna bring religion into it, because I have quite a few friends and family who are religious and supportive. So this is in no way a rant against religion. My issues is when religion is used as a weapon, or an excuse to be a shitty person. So we come to an impasse. I am gay, always have been, always will be, its how I was made and I have known it since the moment I knew what attraction felt like. The conditional love people take a “moral” stance. They “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

This situation manifested for me in the form of carrying on for the last 5 years as if I wasn’t gay in order to allow them to pretend nothing had changed. I never talked about it, they never talked about it, and we just carried on as if the GIANT elephant in the room didn’t exist. As much as I am ashamed to say it, I enabled this behavior by going to holidays and family events and left Chris at home. Of course, because he is amazing, Chris never once made a single complaint, in fact, he encouraged me to try and maintain as much of a relationship as possible, regardless of the fact that he was being specifically excluded. You guys…. I let this go on for over FIVE YEARS…. and for what?! To carry on a superficial relationship for the sake of what someone else wants me to be? Chris and I got married and aside from my daughter, he is the single most important person in my life. I have enabled certain people to literally pretend that the love of my life doesn’t even exist. The rare occasions when they crossed paths were exceedingly awkward and in essence he was treated as if he wasn’t even there. I HATE that I let that happen. The only benefactor of that relationship is the conditional love group. They get everything they want; they get to pretend I’m not gay, they get to continue to feel they are morally superior, they get to treat my husband like a sub-human being, and yet are rewarded with my love and presence. It is a relationship that is one sided, with me giving and them taking and after all this time I am fully depleted and can no longer allow it to continue. I have sat by at holidays, watching everyone else get to be with their husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, wishing that I was home with MY PERSON and spending time with people who love me UNCONDITIONALLY. I finally put my foot down this year and let the conditional love people know that I was no longer willing to meet their conditions. I am standing up for myself. I am standing up for my husband and my daughter. I am standing up for what is right and what is good. If I am not accepted fully and unconditionally, then I am no longer willing to pretend to be someone else just to be allowed to be present.

I am gay.

I am proud to be gay.

I am proud to be married to Chris.

I am proud to raise my daughter to love unconditionally.

I am proud to be who I am and I will no longer allow anyone to ask me to be someone else.

Holidays may look different from now on. We may not have the Hallmark commercial holiday, but I couldn’t care less. What we will have is a crazy, mixed bag of people who love us no matter what. And I will take that over a Hallmark commercial any day of the week. Don’t make the mistake I did for so long. Stand up and be yourself and demand to be treated with respect, dignity, and unconditional love, because anything short of that isn’t fair to you. If you are alone this holiday season just know that there are resources available and people who will be there for you. Look into your local GLAAD/PFLAG/HRC chapters and spend this time around people who want you for you, not for who they think you should be. HAPPY HOLIGAYS my friends!

The Big Day: 11.03.18

Hire a wedding planner?? No thanks!

From the moment we decided to scrap our plans for a courthouse ceremony and have an actual wedding, I knew I wanted to take the reins and do all the planning myself. While this may sound crazy, I had a couple of reasons: First of all, wedding planners are EXPENSIVE… at least in my opinion, and we wanted to keep everything simple and budget friendly. Secondly, (and yes, I can admit it) I am a bit of a control freak. I hate the phrase “control freak” by the way, its a negative connotation, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with knowing what you want and doing whatever it takes to make it happen, but I digress. So, knowing my personality, I was absolutely certain I would not be able to trust a stranger to make sure the wedding went perfectly. My creative process generally involves me sitting quietly for a few minutes with my eyes closed, visualizing what I want, then after running through a few options something usually pops up and I run with it. Does it always work out well? Absolutely not, but I do try to keep to the initial vision as much as I can.

My beautiful friend, Darby, owns the fitness studio that I teach barre classes at, and she very generously offered the space to us for our wedding. The venue is located in downtown Springfield, and is in a gorgeous, historic building. The ceilings are over 20 feet tall, the floors are beautifully worn hardwoods, and there are exposed brick walls and iron beams throughout. The challenge we faced was turning a boutique barre studio with mirrored walls and ballet barres into a wedding venue. (P.S. if you are ever in Springfield, MO and looking for an incredible workout, make sure to stop by Physique Fitness. I promise you won’t regret it.)

IMG_3727.JPG

Time to bring the vision to life

Challenge number one was how to hide the mirrors and barres. I had a grand idea of using hanging curtains but quickly realized that buying curtains for 15-20 ft ceilings and running spans of 25 ft was definitely cost prohibitive! So I did like any other determined person would do…. I bought a bunch of wholesale fabric, a sewing machine from Amazon, and watched some YouTube videos to learn how to sew the curtains myself! It took me a couple of months to get them all done, but I sewed over 250 yards of fabric into curtains! Were they perfect? NOPE! But they turned out great and I feel justified in patting myself on the back because that saved us THOUSANDS of dollars!

In addition to making the curtains myself, I also knew I wanted to make the floral arrangements as well because we wanted to stick to greenery and keep things simple. Darby and I set up an account at a local wholesale floral warehouse and got all the greenery for a STEAL!

The second challenge was the logistics of moving all the workout equipment out and figuring out how to fit our burgeoning number of guests into the relatively small space. After hours and hours of talking it out, 5-6 arguments with Chris (some of which required us walking away and giving each other some space) it was all WORTH IT! We had family and friends there the day before the wedding moving things, cleaning things, hanging curtains, and just being genuinely amazing, helpful people and we cannot thank them enough for everything they did. Over the course of about 7 hours we COMPLETELY transformed a fitness studio into a wedding venue and it was such a beautiful experience.

The Big Day!

After setting up some last minute things at the venue, Chris and I checked into our hotel room downtown at Hotel Vandivort (also a must when visiting Springfield) and took some time to relax together and just soak up the quiet moments before the ceremony. We took our time getting ready, just laughing together and being silly. We were honored to have Lucas Winkelmann take some pictures of us getting ready in our hotel room, and more photos outside with downtown Springfield as our backdrop.

Once we got to the venue, we finalized everything and made our way down to the basement of the studio to wait while all the guests were arriving. The 20-30 minutes we spent together right before the ceremony started were spent with Sydnee. We all were pacing around, nerves building as we heard all the footsteps and laughter of our friends and family above us. We were anxious about everyone having enough room and anxious to walk down the aisle and be up in front of everyone. There is something about being so open and vulnerable, and sharing such an intimate moment with your partner in front of all of your friends and family that is somewhat nerve wracking. At one point we all three looked at each other, hands shaking, nerves at their highest point right before going out, and decided that we needed to dance our nerves out. We blasted Taylor Swift and danced out all of our nervous energy and it was one of my favorite moments from the entire day.

After everyone got settled, the lights were dimmed, “Die With You” by Beyonce started playing and I immediately started crying while I watched Sydnee make her way down the aisle, then Chris, then me. Our dear friend, Dusty, (who got ordained just to marry us) looked down at Sydnee and asked “Who gives their permission for these two to be married?” and with a big smile on her face, Sydnee proclaimed “I do!”

To be absolutely honest, everything from that moment, until the moment we got back to the hotel at 2 am was a complete blur. But not a blur in a bad way, like I missed it all, but more of a blur of crying, laughing, drinking, dancing, celebrating, and just sharing the most amazing day with our closest friends and family. I remember every detail of the ceremony and reception (well maybe not toward the end… #vodka) but there were so many wonderful emotions and memories made, that it all just passed in this magical blur that I felt like I was experiencing in third person, almost like I was hovering above it all, watching everything happen in fast forward. I could write for hours about our big day, but as they say… a picture is worth a thousand words so here are some of our favorite shots from the wedding!

The best best-friend speech EVER

So for weeks leading up to the wedding Barb had been working on a speech and she kept very mum about it. I obviously trust her implicitly, but when your best friend, mother of your child, and former wife wants to give a speech at your wedding…. I was a little nervous. Not because I thought she wouldn’t do a wonderful job, but because she has so much dirt on me that nobody else knows! Well, needless to say, her speech was absolutely beautiful, and one of the most touching moments of the entire wedding. With her permission of course, I wanted to share it with you all.

Sam Smith: Best Man at our Wedding?!

The Thrill of it All....

Chris and I have both been HUGE fans of Sam Smith, and when we found out his tour would be making a stop in KC, we did what any superfan does, and had multiple computers/phones/tablets out to try and snag the best seats possible right when they went on sale. We were fortunate to get floor seats, but we had NO IDEA how amazing our seats were until we got to the Sprint Center and were ushered to our seats...... It is the closest we have ever been at a concert and it made the experience so intimate and wonderful. We should take a moment to recognize that, despite being a major celeb singer, the ticket price for Sam's show was so reasonable, and after paying a mint for Beyonce (multiple times).... which WAS WORTH IT, it was refreshing to not have buyers guilt. 

Sam Smith KCMO 8/18/18

During the weeks leading up to the show I found myself watching youtube clips of his tour and the excitement level steadily got higher and higher.... I also cried almost every single time I watched a clip and was FULLY prepared to cry for most of the show. I'm an unashamed cryer and I think people who can cry without shame are emotionally advanced and we should all embrace a good cry from time to time. To say I was THRILLED for this concert is a vast understatement; so much so that I didn't even care to be in the car for the 3 hour drive to KC (anyone who knows me knows this is a BIG DEAL because I HATE being in the car). 

It was our first time at The Hilton Presidential and it was a GORGEOUS hotel

Musical Mile Markers....

Have you ever heard someone talk about how a certain smell can take them back to a memory or important event in their life? I definitely experience that from time to time, but by and large it is music that has the power to pull me back to a memory. The timeline of my relationship with Chris is marked with various songs from "#Beautiful" by Mariah Carey, "Still Into You" by Paramore, "ILYSB" by Lany, and "Die With You" by Beyonce (just to name a few). When it comes to Sam Smith, we have always listened to his music, but Chris actually had been a fan for longer than I had. Early in our relationship Chris was in the shower at my house, and he was blaring a song from his phone and singing his heart out in the shower..... this moment was significant for a couple of reasons; it was the first time I had ever heard him really singing (he actually has a very nice voice) and I remember thinking that it was so sweet because it signified to me that he was settling into our relationship and was comfortable enough to sing like that while I was around... Side Note: I'm likely reading more into the situation than was really there, but that's just who I am and even if he told me it was no big deal to sing in front of me, it still meant a lot to me and I will always smile to myself when I think of that moment because it's such a sweet memory for me. It was also significant because it is the first time I had heard Sam Smith's song "Lay Me Down" and to this day when that song comes up on a Spotify playlist I am taken right back to that moment. Now, as I consider myself to have a more diverse musical taste than Chris ( a contention he will likely deny) I didn't want him to know I had never heard that song, so I casually pretended like I needed to brush my teeth so I could peek at his phone to see who the artist was. I swear I listened to that song on repeat for weeks and it turned me from a casual Sam Smith listener to an avid fan of his. 

Another song that holds a special place in my heart by Sam is the acoustic version of "Latch". Chris had taken a class at the fitness studio I teach at, and during cool-down one of my instructor friends (Love you Murr!) played that song and he hadn't heard the acoustic version before. As soon as the class was over he sent me the link to the song and told me that he was thinking of me the entire time the song played. I'm also an unapologetic romantic, and I LOVE getting those kinds of messages from him. I immediately listened to the song, and the acoustic version took on such a new meaning as compared to the original, and it instantly became one of "our songs". 

 

 

I will be the first to admit that I can be a little immature from time to time, but I had a really strong feeling that if I made a sign for the concert that asked Sam to come to our wedding that he would see it and like.... maybe want to come! Yes thats childish and the chances are practically zero, but I just had a vibe that he would see the sign. Chris rolled his eyes and gave me the "whatever you want babe" response. So after we checked into the hotel we went down to the business center and printed the sign in the boldest font we could find. I wanted to go to a store and get actual poster board and glitter, but we compromised on something smaller for the sake of time..... I'm still convinced glitter would have been better, but then again I always think glitter makes everything better. I knew I wanted to wait to hold the sign up until he started to play either "Latch" or "Lay Me Down" because I imagined the stars aligning, Sam seeing my sign, calling us up to the stage to talk to us and I planned to tell him how much we love the song and yadda yadda....

Anywho, there I was, teary eyed because I cried through most of the concert, and Sam asks everyone to get out their phones and turn on their flashlights.... those first few piano notes of "Latch" start playing, the arena lights up from everyones phones... MY MOMENT HAD ARRIVED!

 

So, it didn't go EXACTLY like I planned it, but it was still so exciting that he saw the sign and responded! That little childish voice in my head still holds out hope that he will see this and want to come to the wedding, but I am beyond thrilled that he even made eye contact with me and responded! (So if you know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows Sam or someone in his band please feel free to share! lol) Now the song has even more significance for us and I will never forget the magical night we had during his show. If you have the opportunity to see him I can promise you won't be disappointed. The love he has for his fans, his music, and the LGBT community just exudes from him through the whole show and the energy in the arena was so amazing. I am still on cloud nine, and have had Sam on repeat since the show. 

 

Breaking up is hard to do.... but sometimes it's for the best?

chrisandnate.jpg

I think sometimes, especially on social media outlets, we present ourselves in the best way possible, and sort of skip over some of the darker moments that happen to EVERYONE. I'm not saying you'll ever see me on Instagram looking a hot mess or wallowing in self pity, but I do think it's important to be honest with ourselves, and those who are kind enough to follow along with our story. 

Right guy... wrong time?

Chris and I started dating very shortly after I started Physician Assistant school, which is an all-consuming, rigorous program. I was no stranger to academia and hard work, but PA school was like needing a sip of water and putting your face in front of a fire hydrant... way too much, way too fast, and I felt like I was on the verge of drowning ALL THE TIME. Add to that the fact that I had recently come out of the closet, was figuring out a new life with Barbara, and trying to be a good dad.  In many ways meeting Chris was the best thing that could have happened to me because he truly kept me alive during that time... like literally kept me fed, made me get sleep once in a while, and was always willing to take care of any responsibilities I had that were outside of school and Sydnee (and then eventually he became an integral part of Sydnee's life.) 

Right before PA school the guy that I was dating (the first ever guy I dated) moved away and wasn't very interested in a long distance relationship... which honestly was for the best, but it pissed me off at the time. I don't know what everyone else's experience was, but my "first" after coming out was a HUGE deal to me and I genuinely thought I would be with him forever..... until he left obviously. So just to do a quick recap/analysis of my state of mind: 

Separated from my wife, out of the closet, dumped by the man I loved, starting PA school, trying to be a good dad..... oh, and also having like ZERO money. 

Chris swept me off my feet and was my stable foundation, which allowed me to fully try to figure myself out and manage everything I had going on. I'm definitely not a relationship expert, but those ingredients made for a real shit sundae... especially for Chris because the relationship was VERY one sided.... I got the stability and support I needed, and he basically got an adult version of a toddler with an anxiety disorder. 

IMG_0407.jpg

The inevitable outcome of our relationship was to break up at some point. There just was no way to sustain that kind of a relationship. I had continual guilt for all the things Chris was doing for me, and I literally offered him nothing in return because I just didn't have anything to give him. Deep down I was still torn up over my ex and hadn't processed that whole situation in any way, and I eventually came to the conclusion that I had to break up with Chris. I loved him and wanted to be with him, but I just couldn't be the kind of boyfriend he deserved and it was just a really unfair situation for him to be in. 

Up for seconds?

I have to pause here to explain this picture... My roommate and best friend in PA school (and since) is Whitney. She is the type of friend who hears her roommate sobbing in the bath tub after breaking up with an amazing guy and decides that the best way to help is to fold and put up all his laundry and then listen to him go on about said amazing guy for endless hours. She's the absolute best and really was integral in Chris and I ending up where we are today. 

So the first break up lasted a couple of months.... Chris was still around some, mostly because Sydnee had met and come to love him and I didn't want him to just disappear, and probably also because I couldn't fully let him go. One day during and early class I posted a status update on Facebook about being exhausted and needing red bull to get through the day and literally 10 minutes later I get a text from Chris to come down to the parking lot... and there he was with the biggest red bull available.... and boom, we were basically back together. Its a silly thing to say, but that red bull was symbolic for EVERYTHING I needed in my life, and Chris was there to give it to me. After the first semester, things in school leveled out to a more manageable pace and I was able to be a better boyfriend. 

Here we go again....

Things went pretty smoothly for quite a while after we got back together, but I think Chris held a little bit of resentment toward me for breaking up with him, and also wanted to protect himself from getting hurt again. Chris grew up without having a relationship with his dad, he knew who his dad was, and that he had an entire life and family that Chris was not a part of. I felt that he had a sort of perpetual chip on his shoulder and felt like he didn't exactly know who he was and where he fit in his life. We began arguing more, resenting each other more, and we found ourselves in a relationship rut and I didn't see any way out of it. I broke things off again (I know.. I know.... how could I do that?!) and my one request of Chris was that he see a therapist and try to resolve any issues he had developed due to his situation with his father. 

I knew I didn't have a right to make him do anything, but I am really glad I pushed him to see a professional and am so proud of him for actually going because the result of his therapy was that he has developed a truly beautiful relationship with his dad, three sisters, and his step-mom. The night Chris met up with his dad we were broken up, but on his way home from having a life changing conversation with his dad, he called me and told me every detail of their talk. I had never heard him so excited and emotional and talk so fast, and when he finally finished telling me everything, he said to me "I couldn't think of a single person in the world I wanted to tell everything to than you." To this day that may be the single sweetest thing he has ever said to me and I knew in that moment that he was the person I am meant to be with. 

Third times a charm

I guess the point here is that we had two really tough break ups and I couldn't be more thankful that they both happened. We weren't what we needed to be for each other, and our first break up allowed me to work through my issues, and the second break up allowed Chris to work through his. Are we the perfect couple now with absolutely no problems?? Ummmmm.... no. But we are both in it for the long haul, and any issues we have now we work out together because we both know we are stronger together than we are apart. People rolled their eyes, and told us that we couldn't recover from breaking up twice, but here we are! Engaged, so happy, and ready to take on the rest of this journey side by side. Moral of the story.... You might find the right person at the wrong time and you might be the wrong person at the right time for someone else. But that doesn't mean there is no chance. Keep working and if you're meant to be together then eventually the stars will align, and you'll both be the right person for each other at the exact time you need each other the most. 

A Little Sunday DIY Project

Happy Sunday everyone! We have had such a fun weekend, Chris's sister, Grace, came to town for a few nights to stay with us! Generally when we have company we end up eating too much, drinking a bit too much, and spending more money than we planned to! Surely we aren't the only ones.... right?! 

Ever since we moved into our new house, we have been wanting to do a big gallery wall! The biggest problems we had were A.) Getting updated family pictures, B.) Finding the time to start the project, and  C.) Biting the bullet and spending (what we thought would be) a lot of money on frames of various sizes. 

Getting our engagement photos back and falling absolutely in love with them was the catalyst we needed to finally start this project! Elise Abigail Photography did such an amazing job on our pictures we had to get them up ASAP!

The solution to our second problem, finding time, was a pretty simple one.... we basically just ignored our normal Sunday laundry ritual and worked on the wall! Will we regret this decision this entire week?! Most likely... but also the final product is SO WORTH IT!

While shopping this weekend with Grace, we decided to stop by Michaels to browse around for Fall decor because the weather here was INCREDIBLE this weekend. Mid to upper 70's during the day and balmy in the night. Perfection. Anywho, while we were there we discovered that their frames were all half off! And not just like half off super expensive prices to begin with, their collection of Studio Decor Belmont frames are super affordable even at full price! We had no idea what pictures we would use, how many frames to get or what sizes we needed, so we just bought as many as we could fit in the cart and worked from there! (I'm sure the super organized, pre-planning DIY people would cringe at the process, but hey... it works for us, usually.)

 

 

Once we got the frames home we measured our wall, marked off the space on the floor, then started shuffling things around until they looked how we wanted! We tried to be super thorough and take a picture of the layout for when we actually started to hang the pictures... yay us! What we forgot to do was take a final picture after we did some last minute shuffling... boo us! It made us have to do some improvisation later on. So make sure you know where things are going to be once you start moving them to the wall!

Once we had a layout, we got online to order the pictures we needed to match the size/orientation of the gallery. We went with Sam's Club because they could have the prints ready in an hour AND while we were looking to find a place to print the 24X36 picture we discovered that almost everywhere we looked was $150+. Sam's has an option online to print posters in larger sizes for ONLY $12! We figured if it didn't work that well it wasn't a huge loss. Let me just tell you... it turned out AMAZING and saved us so much money. 

My handyman

My handyman

While we waited for the pics to be printed, we started transferring the frames to the wall. It didn't go perfectly, but once we realized our mistake of not taking an updated picture, we just started to roll with it and make things fit where they could. We got a few small prints and other things at Hobby Lobby to add some dimension and texture to the wall also. 

ACS_0038.JPG

Once they were all up, we used some 3M velcro adhesives to keep the frames from shifting and becoming crooked. (I would lose my mind having to see crooked pictures on a daily basis.... it makes me insane) After everything was all leveled out and where we wanted it we got the mess picked up and then obviously had to take a bunch of pictures! The whole process probably cost around $250 and it genuinely has transformed our house into a home. We love our house so much but once we got furniture and necessities in, we hadn't done a lot of the personal touches that makes a place feel like home, and seeing all these wonderful pictures finally hanging makes my heart so happy!!

Single to Stepdad: My side of the story....

SydPrincess.jpg

If you had told me a little over five years ago that I’d meet an incredible person, fall in love with both he and his daughter, build a home with him and get married – I wouldn’t have believed it. Nathan gave a brief introduction to our relationship, but I wanted to share how my life became interwoven with Nathan, Barbara and Sydnee.

After Nathan and I met, we were just with/around each other constantly. It sounds cliché, but there was truly such a connection between the two of us – we were meant to find one another. I knew he was recently out of not just a relationship, but a marriage, and that he had a daughter. Neither of those things were “scary” for me, but he was the only person I’d ever been interested in who was divorced and a parent, so we were both in unfamiliar territory. In true fashion, we just hung out for a couple of months without labeling it and then, one night on our way to Nathan’s house he nonchalantly says, “I called you my boyfriend tonight. I hope you’re okay with that.”

“Sure,” I said. And that was that.

We proceeded to date and get to know one another for a couple of months before he asked if I wanted to meet Barbara – which was rightfully a prerequisite for meeting Sydnee. Nathan wasn’t a big talker about his feelings, but in his own way, let me know how important Barbara was to him from day one. We made plans to grab drinks with her at a local bar – in my head I knew that meeting this person was going to be make or break for Nathan and I, and I really, really liked him…

 

SydChrisHalloween.jpg

I went to the mall and picked up a coral-colored polo, which I still have in my closet. (I recently told Syd that it was the shirt I was wearing when I first met her mom – she thought it was pretty cool.) Barbara was an incredibly kind, warm person and I’ll never forget Nathan getting up to go to the restroom and immediately after Barb and I were exchanging phone numbers and talking and laughing. She is the epitome of an amazing, strong person. Not many ex-wives could, or would, sit at a table with their ex-husband’s boyfriend and laugh. Needless to say, I got one – maybe two – thumbs up from her.

Fast forward a few weeks after meeting Barb, Nathan made plans for us to meet she and Sydnee at a local “farm” in the middle of Springfield where we could feed some ducks. I. WAS. NERVOUS. At this time, Sydnee was just two-and-a-half years old. For being so young, she was so smart and funny and had the shortest, curliest blonde hair. We played and had a great time. After we left the farm to go get lunch, Barb text Nathan to say that Sydnee told her I was “Cute!” Thinking back on that day, meeting her, playing with she and Nathan, feeding the ducks – it’s in the top three of my favorite memories ever.

ChrisSydNate.jpg

I was never opposed to having a child in my life, but biologically, it wasn’t a probability. I think most LGBT individuals feel that way. Five years later, I don’t know what my life would be like without Sydnee. After the farm, Nathan, Sydnee and I began spending more time together and we built a strong bond. She doesn’t say it as often as she used to, but when she was younger and introduced me to people or talked about me, she referred to me as, “My Chris.” There are so many cute stories I could share, but my favorite is from a day when Barb, Zach and Syd were discussing eye color – Sydnee has beautiful blue eyes – and she was trying to figure out who she got her blue eyes from… guess who else in her family has blue eyes? Me. So, guess who she reasoned must have given her blue eyes? Me. I may not be one of her biological parents, but I love that child like she is my own – she is one of my great loves.

Five years later, she’s still so smart and funny, and her curly blonde hair is finally getting longer. I know how to make her favorite tacos because I know what foods she “likes but doesn’t love.” I’ve turned her into a tiny politician who is obsessed with the idea of voting. I’ve watched her get taller, become a ballerina, lose teeth, master lyrics to T-Swift songs, learn how to swim, start preschool, kindergarten and first grade – and I can’t wait to officially be her stepdad in 99 days!

Engagement Photos!

Finding an amazing photographer can be really difficult. There is a lot of personal style that goes into photography and its super important to find someone that can match their style and artistic eye to the vision you have for your photos. In addition to that, unfortunately we live in a world where there is an added stress for LGBTQ+ couples to find that amazing photographer and also hope that they are an ally and will actually be willing to shoot for them. I hate it. It is infuriating on so many levels, but alas, its where we are and we all have to strive for better, regardless of what the supreme court rules. ***steps off soap box*** Chris and I were so fortunate to find not only an amazingly talented photographer and ally, but also a wonderful friend. (Her husband is also just as amazing and wonderful and will give you the best hug you will ever get in your life) You won't find a kinder, more accepting couple than Elise and Ethan. Check out her website and follow her on instagram to check out more of her amazing work!

Elise Instagram

Elise Abigail Photo

These are just a few of our favorites!

The Story So Far......

Remember when you were young and knew that you were going to spend the rest of your life with your high school sweetheart?!

Well, I was no different than all the other high school kids who planned their entire life around one single person, the person I just absolutely knew I would be with for the rest of my life.... Little did I know how completely wrong, and yet so absolutely right I was at the same time. 

I met Barbara when I was in 5th grade in Neosho, MO. We were both the kids who were "cool" enough to have friends and a relatively enjoyable experience in middle school (Is that even possible?) anyway.... what really bonded us was that we were like old souls trapped in young bodies. We didn't like to get wild and crazy, we found most of the various dramas of our friends to be pretty dumb, and we just wanted to listen to Fiona Apple and try to come up with plans to get out of Smalltown, USA. 

Before we get too far into things, I need to make a couple of disclaimers: 

1. I am definitely not a professional writer, and tend to write things as they pop into my head, which presents a couple of challenges for you, dear reader. What's happening inside my head makes absolute sense to me, however, I do realize that I tend to wander from the beaten path from time to time, so please just let me know if anything I write makes no sense. This leads to the even bigger challenge for you:

2. I HAVE NO MEMORIES OF MY OWN LIFE FOR SOME REASON. Having said that, I do have the main plot points stored away, but aside from the lyrics to the songs Teenage Dirtbag and Flag Pole Sitta, and basically any other 90s jam, I really don't remember the finer details of my own story without someone reminding me. Which, thankfully for me, hasn't been a problem so far, because Barb has been my living wikipedia page and really keeps me on track.

Back to the story: 

High school was the best/worst, most awesome/lamest time ever.

the Crew.jpg

Barb and I basically navigated the choppy waters of high school joined at the hip with the other members of our BFF group, Liz (left) and Casey (2nd left). The four of us did absolutely everything together including countless hours of music, passing notes, playing The Sims, sleeping over at my house or Liz's, drinking cheap vodka, smirnoff or Boone's farm wine and just generally being overall pretty awesome kids. 

Jump ahead to Senior year, and Barb and I start slowly changing from best friends to "more than best friends". We already knew we wanted to go off to the same college and live together, so when we finally decided to be a couple, we basically started things off by living in the same apartment in Springfield. Some might say that deciding to be a couple and moving in together like 2 months later seems insane, but it honestly didn't even cross our minds that we wouldn't live together and it felt like the most natural next step to take. ( I also need to add that Casey also ended up living in the same apartment complex and our balconies were directly across the parking lot from each other, which was literally so primo I can't even explain how much fun we had).  The next few years flew by and we ended up buying a house and both graduated with degrees in teaching. 

NateBarbWedding.jpg

First comes love, then comes.....

Marriage! I proposed to Barb not long after our friend Casey got engaged. We planned for a year, had a truly incredible wedding and reception (people still bring it up to this day how much fun the reception was). There was no other option than for us to get married, not because we had to or felt pressured, but because its like there wasn't even another option that could ever be considered. We were supposed to get married and it was as natural for us as breathing to be a married couple. There were rings and legal documents, but we just kept on living our lives like we had been; experiencing the transition into adulthood together, and I think we did a kick-ass job at it if I do say so. 

Natebabysyd.jpg

Then comes......

A baby! We figured we could also be kick-ass parents, so we decided to make a kid together. Sydnee popped onto the scene on February 17, 2011 and we stepped into parenting roles just about as easily as we did marriage. Was it always super cool and easy? ABSOLUTELY NOT, but at the end of the day we had each other's backs and figured things out as we went. To this day, and every day from now until I die, making a child with Barb is the single most proud achievement of my life and has made all the ups and downs of our story worth every laugh and every tear we have shed along the way. 

 

 

Then comes....... 

Coming out?? Now this is where the story starts to sound less like a fairy tale, and more like the untold story of millions of men/women that find themselves in a hetero marriage, parents, living seemingly happy lives, but dealing with a growing doubt. That doubt starts small, like something you are aware of your whole life, but a doubt that you just kind of push to the side because it doesn't have a face or a name and it doesn't really make sense because.....

 OBVIOUSLY I CAN'T BE GAY.

I love my wife. I have sex with my wife and honestly I really enjoy it. She is beautiful and funny and she is my soul mate. I'm definitely not gay... We have a child together! We have a child together. We have a child together. We have a child together. I have a child. I'm a dad. I'm responsible for another human being on this planet. I want my daughter to be anything she wants to be in her life. I want her to be happy, fulfilled, complete, her own true self. What I don't want is for my beautiful baby girl to grow up with a doubt about herself. I don't want her to have to explain to herself that a core trait of who she is as a human being is wrong in some way, or unnatural or a "sin". Let me just pause here and tell you that having a child REALLY MESSES WITH YOUR HEAD. All of the sudden you are half of a duo that will be the role model, and largest influence on shaping a new life on this planet.  That is A HUGE RESPONSIBILITY. It makes you question things, question yourself, your life, your choices. And eventually I just couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day, and even worse; lying to my soul mate and the mother of my child. 

Yep.... then comes COMING OUT

So, heres the blessing and curse of being married to the person that knows you better than you know yourself...... THEY KNOW YOU. Not the you that you present to the world, they know the real you, even when you don't want to admit who the real you even is. After months of depression, not being myself, and taking a back seat in my own life, one night Barb just finally asked me. She kept asking me what the hell was wrong, and eventually she asked me if I just wasn't attracted to her anymore.... to which I bravely (cough, cough) said "I don't know" She then calmly said "Are you attracted to women?" to which I replied "I don't think so". 

At this point any other person in the entire world that I could have been married to would have started yelling and screaming and possibly throwing things at me. But, I married my best friend. My best fucking friend in this entire universe..... and you know what she said to me as I had tears rolling down my face?? She looked me dead in the eye and simply said "Ok...... Are you okay?" ARE. YOU. OK.? Thats what my wife of nearly 5 years and the mother to my 1 year old daughter said when I came out to her.... "Are YOU ok?" I'm not sure if I have ever even specifically told her this, but that single moment of unconditional love is probably the single reason I have been able to cope with the guilt that I have for putting her through all of this. 

I'm gay.... NOW WHAT?!

In an effort to keep this post from being 5 million pages long, and to save some content for future posts, I am going to skip ahead a year and introduce the next big character in the story of my life, Chris. I will say that Barb and I went through some very dark times in the months following my coming out, but at the end of the day we were always there for each other and our love hasn't faded or diminished in any way, it just morphed into its own unique, beautiful creature. 

Coming out at 27/28 is not easy... I missed out on all the wild "slutty years" of college and had only been with one person sexually in my entire life. Enter the seedy world of gay hook up apps and the gay club scene. I didn't fit in... I wasn't sure how to act, I didn't want to hook up with random strangers, I wasn't looking to have a new relationship, but I also didn't have a single openly gay friend to turn to for advice. Needless to say I went to a very dark place in my mind and all the partying and drinking couldn't fix it. 

My two dates for our 10 year High School Reunion

My two dates for our 10 year High School Reunion

ENTER STAGE LEFT: My other great love, Chris. He came into my life like the calm in the eye of the storm in a hurricane. All around me things were spinning: PA school was all consuming and overwhelming, I was raising a child with the person who's world I had just turned upside down, I was flailing and didn't have anything stable to cling to until he came along. He grounded me and kept me safe from the storm. Not only did he save my life, he seamlessly transitioned from fling to boyfriend, to best friend, to life partner in the most natural way. He respects my relationship with Barb and has never felt threatened or left out when she and I go off together and disappear for half a day on some random (usually drunken) adventure. He loves Sydnee like she is his own and would willingly give up his life to save hers. Fate brought me the perfect man when I needed him the most.... when we needed him the most... and his mere presence in my life made me a better man and a better dad. I can't sing his praises enough, but be prepared for lots of sappy posts about how much I love him. 

Well.... Here we are

Barb & I got matching #altlife tattoos

Barb & I got matching #altlife tattoos

AltFamPic.jpg

Today we are a proud #altlife family. We may not be your conventional or normal family, but I think we are pretty bad ass. We all raise our daughter together, we hang out all the time, we rarely fight, and Barb and I will undoubtedly spend the rest of our lives together.... maybe not how I envisioned it as a know-it-all high school kid, but its turned out better than I could have ever hoped for and I wouldn't change anything about my journey to this point and I cannot wait to see what our future holds.