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.)

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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?

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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. 

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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.