NKOTB– FINALLY!!!! At 36, the Dream.

Just got home from my VERY FIRST NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK concert, in Chicago.

I AM WIRED!!! Two friends from work, Cindy and Bonnie, invited me. We bought these tickets the day they went on sale– MONTHS ago. Floor seats!!

It should really be named the Magical Abs Tour, because all FIVE ARE RIPPED! My beautiful Catholic boys from Boston.

Somehow in their mid-40’s they are sexier than they were 30 years ago. And the timing finally worked out so that I could go and see them– I’ve been wanting to since 1988 when my then- best friend introduced me to New Kids Mania.

I literally heard every single song I wanted to hear tonight. I am flabbergasted, they covered material from every single album, including their first one in 1986 and their CHRISTMAS album. I’d say there were maybe five songs out of likely 30ish that I didn’t know. And bless them, for every single note it seemed there was a coordinating dance step– that’s a lot to remember!

Back in the day I was ALL ABOUT Jordan and Joey.

But now? HELLO DONNIE WAHLBERG!!! His gregarious personality is so obvious in the way the moves and dances– always with his arms open, waving to the fans– smiling and joking. Jordan is more of an introvert– he puts himself out there, but he’s more focused on his performance and his dancing, which is still INSANE. Joey has grown into a confident man who knows every woman there wants him and is highly enjoying it. Danny’s athleticism and goofiness; his ABS TATTOO that proclaims, “Elizabeth,” that lucky woman! Jonathan’s smile sneaks up on you; I always liked the that he was the responsible older brother figure of the group.

Boys II Men opened and although it was wonderful to see Nathan and Wanya Morris and Sean Stockman were indeed impressive– they just weren’t on the level of NKOTB. They are missing Michael McCary, the bass who retired from the group because of a MS diagnosis. And they sounded good, but the three of them combined are no Jordan Knight!! They kept their shirts on. They haven’t aged as flawlessly. They’re not as confident. The bottom line is just lack the same strong nostalgic emotional attachment to these three that I’ve had since day one for the New Kids. Although I (still have!) one Boys II Men album which I play regularly, I had five NKOTB albums at one point. From their debut self-titled album, the that tragic “Face the Music,” and even the Christmas album– one of my favorites. Although I didn’t get the one in 2008. Now I will! “Single,” “Remix (I LIke The)” and “Summertime” stand up well 9 years later! Tonight I bought the latest album, “Grateful,” with only five songs on it.

The two best moments: JOEY MCINTYRE passing by me on the right, walking the perimeter on what might have been the shoulders of body guards. Somehow he was above the fans but also right in the thick of us!! I rushed over and strained to reach him– I ALMOST TOUCHED HIM. His leg or his shoulder. I wish I had just given it a good LUNGE, I probably could have made it!! And then shortly later, 10-15 minutes, ALL FIVE NEW KIDS migrated to a proscenium stage directly to our LEFT– we all RUSHED over and I could see their expressions, their sweat, their exact dance moves. And I have so many pictures and videos to prove it!

It was exhilarating and simultaneously reassuring. I’ve always felt uncool for loving NKOTB so much– but being there felt like family. Others spent the ’90s wallowing in grunge, and I embraced the saccharine melodies of pop instead. I still liked rock. But there’s something so refreshing about seeing these guys. Instead of grizzled rockers who look 20 years older and are writing books about their addictions, the New Kids are just regular guys. They have families. They have an obvious affection for not just each other, but the fans. They wanted to give us a show of our dreams, and they did!

I’ve never felt anything like it at another concert. I hope this is just the first of other NKOTB adventures!

Highlights: Cover Girl, My Favorite Girl, Valentine Girl, Tonight, You Got It (The Right Stuff), Step by Step, I’ll Be Loving You, Stop It Girl, This One’s for the Children, Happy Birthday, Popsicle, Call It What You Want, Please Don’t Go Girl, Games, Hangin’ Tough, and of course, STEP BY STEP!!

What I loved most about tonight was the JOY these five men exuded. They were humble. They were excited. They were dedicated. They were GORGEOUS! There was no shred of a feeling of routine or obligation– they were in on the joke with us. And even though unlike several of my friends, I didn’t get to see them as a child, I felt like it didn’t matter. I’ve never experienced such a feeling of unity as a fan at a concert.

Even better, I went with two sisters– Cindy and Bonnie– who are also lifelong fans and were singing and screaming every single word, fan-girling out just as hard and obsessively snapping photos and trying to get video of all the best moments. We kept looking at each other in utter ecstasy, jumping up and down and squeeing away during each song. Even though I only met them two years ago at my current job, through our mutual obsession, we were all three sisters tonight in Allstate Arena.

I jumped, sang and screamed myself hoarse. Two hours later, sober, I’m still aghast at realizing a 30-year-dream.

I work at 7:30– it’s it’s almost 2 a.m.! Time for sleep.

Thank you, Lord, for New Kids on the Block. And thank you for making me a fan.

Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed.  It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste  of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.

Winter Running + Country Music = Heaven

Yesterday was my first run since late October. I made it 3.26 miles!

Usually when I go a while between runs, I try to start out softer, with just a mile or two.

Creating a Pinterest board for running inspiration actually motivated me! Silly to admit. The more I pinned, the more I believed I could. And yes, missed it. I typically take the season off.

Yesterday it was 55 degrees and I knew I had to go for it.  My last race was the Hot Chocolate on October 30 in Chicago. I don’t have any planned yet for 2017.

Today I felt a MAJOR burn in my thighs– not a place I usually have pain after a run. Usually my calves or heels. And instead of taking the day off to recover, I decided to get out there again and go with it.

And I loved myself for that decision! Especially since today it was 10 degrees colder. Another reason I haven’t run this winter is that I was getting sick a lot– it didn’t seem worth the exposure. But I’ve been healthy for awhile now without any colds, so I felt confident.

And you know what I discovered? It wasn’t so bad. It was empowering. Cathartic.

I could feel my muscles working in a new, different way than I do when it’s warmer.

Today I only made it a mile before my phone died and I probably had .25 miles to go before I made it back to my car and finished. I’m stubborn in that I want my runs memorialized on my Nike Running app.

Yesterday I put on my Chris Stapleton Pandora station, and was amazed by the cathartic power of country music to keep me going.  Suffering is a major theme in most genres of music but something about country makes it particularly inspiring when you are trying to overcome the protest of your body whilst running.

I’ve been avoiding Mass lately, not sure why. I still enjoy it when I go, but have been choosing to sleep in, even if I’m not that tired.

Maybe for awhile I should try making running my routine. It’ll get me out of bed earlier!

Maybe a little self-care for me this Valentine’s Day will be new running clothes?

Proper layers will allow me more freedom. And I’ll make sure my phone is charged!

During Superbowl 51 : Self-acceptance, Gaga and mother/daughter bonding

I had some great moments with my family this Superbowl Sunday, as we gathered at my parents’ home.

Waiting for the game to start, we were chatting in the kitchen. My aunt, who I adore, was talking with my step-mother, Diane.  My aunt is a generous, hilarious, devoted woman– but also quite conservative.

Her reaction to a story Diane was telling about a woman she knows  was to interject, “Without a HUSBAND?”

“You don’t need a husband to be happy,” Diane said in her calm way.

A bit later, my aunt referenced a man I had been texting as I was celebrating Christmas Day at her home. I updated her, announcing that I ended it and have moved on. And that currently, I’m not seeing anyone.

And I’m happy.

She laughed and said “You are a woman chauvinist!” and that I date a lot.

I won’t deny it, I did. Currently I’m off dating, and feeling relieved. I’m no chauvinist.

In stark contrast, anyone who knows me would correctly name me a strong Feminist.

I then sang a few bars: “Oohhhh, here she comes. Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up! She’s a MMMAAAAAAAAAAAN-eater!”

They laughed, I laughed. Finally, I had the perfect clap back! The conversation moved on.

Mission accomplished.

After dating that last guy, I realized I’d rather just focus on my own life– truly. There was a part of me who felt I *should be dating someone, just because I’m 36. And that’s bollocks. I even took the plunge and deleted the dating profile I was using. I don’t need the comfort of having “a line in the water.” The moment it was gone, I felt free.

I only watched the game for Gaga’s half-time show– with was magnificent, for “A Million Reasons.” She was courageous, flawless, mesmerizing.

Gaga is single and she’s having the time of her life! Her career is sky-rocketing.

On Friday, my friend Heather and I dressed up as Wayne and Garth for a 25th Anniversary showing of “Wayne’s World,” at a local theatre. I’m a brunette, she’s a blonde, we put on some ripped jeans and I bought a hat from Amazon for authenticity. She ratted up her hair and donned a flannel. We met Tia Carrere (Cassandra,) who was impressed with our female cosplay and said upon meeting us, “I love your work!” We took selfies and had more fun together than I think we’ve ever had.

I’m becoming more interested in my friends, my family. I’ve been really connecting with my girlfriends in a new way since then– and it’s energizing!

I’m asking more questions of them, listening better to the details. I’m not feeling wistful for a man in my life. I’m grounded in the present- not ruminating on my past exes, not dreaming of a future man.

Rather, I resolved to pursue my friendships and make plans with them the way I used to pursue dating. And you know what? I feel a whole lot better. I’m in more frequent contact with these ladies. I’m less stressed.

At 36, people consider it either tragic or a joke if you’re single.  You can’t just be a woman living her life– you must be either desperate, bitter, or a resigned spinster. I used to feel offended by these inquisitions.

I’m just Amee.

Tonight, I could laugh it off and change the subject with aplomb! What a milestone for my self-esteem.

As we watched the game, I was sitting on the couch on the right of my step-mom, Diane. She then scooted next to me and put her arm around me– which she’s never done before. She’s a wonderful woman but not very touchy-feely or physically affectionate.

I relaxed and leaned back against her arm, into her shoulder. She was sticking up for me. She and her sister are best friends, but she certainly understands being criticized by her. And Diane didn’t marry my Dad (her only marriage) until she was 53. We had a great little conversation. Eventually we sat up and moved apart a little and returned to watching the game, but it was something I’ll cherish forever.

That moment happened because I’m single and she’s proud of me.

She obviously remembers what this feels like, to be judged on a no-relationship status.

And she ended up with my Dad, who is both perfect for her and perfectly devoted to her.

I’m finally at a point where I am at peace.

My thirties continue to become better and better.

Out of the Darkness: into Andi’s Light

Leta remembered.

When I arrived in Kankakee today, she led me to a shady area by a tree and gave me a small plastic bag with a white envelope bearing my name.

Enclosed was a little flyer explaining the significance of our team shirt designs, and thanking us for participating in memory of her daughter, Amanda Blank.

The colors were black and red– as Andi would have loved. On the front they said, “;ust breathe,” — the first symbol of course a semicolon standing in for a “j”, in tribute to Project Semicolon. On the back it said Team Andi, the number 15, and a graphic of a beanie hat– one of Andi’s favorite accessories. Her older sister, Danyell, designed them.

Though a morose reason to gather, I loved being included. And I thought we had the best shirts!  We came together for an Out of the Darkness walk, which raises awareness for suicide prevention. Registration was free.

Andi has  been gone over two years– since April 8, 2014. A beautiful spark of life for 24 years. To me she was like a zany little sister, since we had a 10-year age gap. Her Gemini mind was so bedazzling.

I was invited last year also, but not ready. Even so, Leta had sent me the beanie with a sewn-on patch that she had made for everyone. Sadly, it never made it in the mail. But she had an extra, and it was included in my little bag as well. That small gesture of unexpected kindness fit right into my heart.

As if I needed another reason to cry! Just walking up to event, I had already started bawling.  It was overwhelming seeing so many people gathered for a cause usually stuffed down and ignored– hugging, laughing, wearing bright colors.

I also got to see my friends Georgia and Jen, who I had met at Andi’s funeral. I had added them on facebook and we’d kept in touch. I just attended Georgia’s big Greek wedding  recently! But Jen and had our first chance to really talk beyond facebook discussion, which I cherished.

I got to behold four-year-old Maddie,  daughter of Danyell and Andi’s  niece – and witness what a calm, good mother Danyell is to her daughter. Maddie had a little baby buggy and walked the whole way with us (it seemed!) I saw the joy whenever Leta held her grand-daughter.

Jen put her arm around me as I cried– I felt so vulnerable. But also relieved– the catharsis was amazing. My Aunt Rosie just died this weekend of natural causes– she was 88. I hadn’t seen her in three years– since just before her husband, my Uncle Jim, had died.

She was a true country woman, who lived on the same farm for 64 years in Zenda, KS.

I was hoping to be traveling home to Kansas today to be with our family, but it just wasn’t possible. Flights were too expensive last-minute and I’ve never driven that far alone and wasn’t up to a 13-hour trek. My Dad had just visited Kansas and returned a few weeks ago, and he’s 74. He wasn’t up to it either.

I was crying for Amanda, but also for my Aunt Rosie.

I was crying for the wonder of receiving such an enormous blessing in being there today.

“It feels good to cry,” I had told Jen.

“It feels good to cry with people who understand why you’re crying,” she said.

Somehow three miles truly passed effortlessly.

But on the way, there were activities. My favorite was a rainbow chalk bucket.

Jen wrote her name– “Andi.” Georgia and I took a picture by it.

We traded stories, but also just talked nonchalantly.

We took a big group picture once we reached the end to turn around.

Afterward we went to Monical’s Pizza together– again, Leta’s treat.

And I met and talked with man who had been in the cemetery, seen Amanda’s picture graveside, and wondered how someone so pretty could have ended up there. He Googled her and found my blog about her — commented and introduced himself.

His name is Richard, and he was walking with his twin brother. They are about the same age as Leta and now the three of them hang out! The Internet, man. Whoa.

At pizza after, I sat next to Georgia and her husband, Mike. We ordered a pitcher of plain ice tea, no sugar.

And I had to laugh– because my Aunt Rosie was famous for her Kansas sun tea!! I felt like she was telling me she knows I love her– that she was there with us.

 

Flickering Lanterns and Pride: A Memorial to Orlando

By Amee Bohrer

Twice, my flame flickered out tonight.

I was attending a local memorial service in honor of the Orlando massacre victims in Minooka, IL. A small town just outside of Joliet, where I live. I saw on Facebook a friend was attending and drove out there myself, wanting to gather with others in solidarity.

There were people gathered and three posters on a wooden table if anyone wanted to sign and write a message of hope and encouragement. I signed a couple– it felt good.

I saw a baseball cap that made me laugh: it said, “Make America Gay Again,” a navy and yellow parody hat of the red and white “Make America Great Again” caps touted by the Trump campaign and his supporters.

“I like your hat!” I told the young woman wearing it with pride, “Where’d you get it?”

“The Human Rights Campaign website,” she said with a smile.

The last speaker was the most powerful: Beric J. Wessely, a man with a Master of Social Work from University of St. Francis in Joliet who has accomplished much in the academic world for the LGBT community and in the business world as well. But he was brave enough to be vulnerable and admit that despite being an out gay man for years, he still must remain vigilant about how others around him seem to react to his presence, especially if he has a date.

He called for ACTIVE allies who speak up and fight for gun control and acceptance of the LGBT community. He challenged us to do more than post on social media or engage in moments of silence. He invited us to join the crusade toward not just equality, but basic safety for the LGBT community. He recounted how far we have come in terms of legal gay rights, and yet, how far we must continue to go. He ended on a message of hope: tonight, with us, he felt safe.

To conclude after three powerful speakers, a man said a beautiful prayer about how all those who died or were wounded that night at Pulse had grown up and learned to ride bikes. They had danced, they had been loved, and now mourned– they mattered.

It was windy, getting dark.

The lanterns were simply constructed:a wooden base, four wooden cylinders that fit into the corners of the square, a circle indented into the base where a tea light fit, and green tissue paper wrapped around to shelter the tea lights. But as I noticed, there were gaps between the paper and the base. The wind was getting through, increasingly stronger.

Two women alternated reading the list of names, those lives lost forever and those wounded still healing– some of which may not make it. We stood holding our lanterns.

After, between them they set alight a larger paper lantern, propelled into the sky by several candles.

All of stood in silence, watching it fly away.

It was the best moment of the night– something positive to remind us it’ll get better. Together, we can be the rainbow of allies and hope for this cause we all support: love.

Just simply, love.

Many of our candles flickered out, but that larger paper lantern never faltered. It floated away swiftly- free. Like the souls lost who must now be at rest, whether you believe in Heaven or not. I do.

Watching until it was just a glimmer and finally, nothing– I smiled.

Tonight we stood witness, we listened, we shared our outrage, sadness, and hope.

We dared to overcome hate.

From Illinois, we opened our hearts and mourned WITH Orlando.

Pretty in(tegrity) : Andie’s Choice

Since “Pretty in Pink,” is showing at my local mall, I took myself for Valentine’s Day. It’s the 30th anniversary– I went to the first of two showings.

If I’m single, I might as well be around a love story. It’s been years since I’ve watched this movie, though I played the soundtrack until the CD broke in my trunk one day. Neglected to put it back in the case.

I’m more impressed with Andie’s character than I’ve ever been. Girl’s got class.

Her life was rough, if you consider the big picture. Not only does she live in the bad side of town, but her depressed, creepy father only works part-time and mostly wears a short bathrobe around the house. Her mother deserted them both three years ago and Andie has clearly become her father’s care-taker. Their relationship is co-dependent and haunting.

In the first scene she is making him breakfast, waking him up, and encouraging him to just get out of bed for the day. Then she drives herself to school for a full day. Not only does he refuse to function as an adult, but his entire appearance seems resigned. Lots of wrinkles on his face, dark stubble. He always seems exhausted.

There’s something stony and untouchable in Andie. Edgy, even. She may dress in an openly romantic fashion, full of florals, skirts, and of course– pink. But she does not mask her hostility when it’s earned. She works after school. She has her own funky pink ride.

At school she encounters three men: Steff, Duckie, Blane. Steff is the hot, fashionable guy who is incapable of talking to her without a sneer and is hitting on her in a passive-aggressive way. Duckie is straight-up obsessed with her, to the point of fawning. He is her only male friend, and she appears to be his only friend, period. He’s cute, but annoying.

And then Blane enters the picture. He visits her at work and buys a record to talk to her. He’s clearly interested but ambivalent. Steff notices the flirtation with Andie and does his best to quash it. Steff puts her down and gives Blane the ultimatum of dating her or losing his friendship. Under peer pressure, Blane retreats– though he does sincerely like her.

I commend the film for a level of sophistication I missed previously. Andie and Blane have no time to casually date and enjoy what may be a burgeoning connection. This may be a high school film, but it’s a very real predicament that continues to translate 30 years later.

When beginning any new relationship, you are forced to choose sides. It may be your peer group or your family that has misgivings. At times we have a strong attraction to someone but no idea if it has a real future. The timing may be off, or you may seem too different.

Clearly, Andie chooses to be single. Both Steff and Duckie like her, even if they are awkward about it. She spotlights Blane’s cowardice.

Best of all, I like the scene where Blane ignores Andie’s phone calls over the weekend. Rather than trying to be the detached, laid-back girl, she waits by his locker and confronts him. Not only that, but first thing, before classes! And although she didn’t need to yell and did seem a bit crazy– she doesn’t hide her disappointment or humiliation. She lets him know that she cared about him.

“What about Prom, Blane?”

He can’t even look at her. He makes up an excuse– he asked another girl and forgot about it. Incensed, she walks away. She accepts the rejection.

The sad thing is, this type of awkwardness doesn’t end in high school. In adulthood, this kind of skittishness still persists. You either tango with it, or you recognize it and stride forward. You know that’s a sign that someone is insecure or not available, and that you demand more from the beginning of a relationship.

And goes to Prom anyway. Alone. She makes her own damn dress!

“I just want them to know they didn’t break me,” she tells her Dad. And by the end of the film, he does right by her. He gives her a dress. He knows it’s ugly but tells her he knows that she can make it something beautiful with her imagination and sewing skills

And of course, Duckie and Blane are attending solo as well.

But she didn’t require their support. She went to prove to herself that she could.

Andie has more guts than all three of her would-be suitors put together.

Like most others, I’m not particularly fond of the ending– she forgives Blane.

But at least he does step up and own his mistake, which takes character.

This year I’m single, and that’s okay. I found a beautiful red poet’s blouse with ruffles, even if it’s not my design. I bought it and wore it today. Red is a color I rarely wear, but I should!

It’s energizing.

It takes guts to stand single. To march forward into the unknown, not knowing when you’ll find a relationship but believing it will happen again.

And that it will surpass anything in your history.

Happy Valentine’s Day!