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.

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Carry On, My Wayward Feet

“THUNDERSTRUCK! YES!”

I felt like a bad ass in a movie montage this morning at circa 5:45 a.m. as my training class headed out into the parking lot on our first group run on the street. Nine of us assembled and I was pumping my fist like John Bender at the end of “The Breakfast Club.”

AC/DC came over my Pandora into my my earbuds and we were warmed up. I was ready.  I had also jogged 1.5 miles to training this morning since my car is in the shop till about 8 a.m. and who am I going to ask for a ride at 5:30 a.m. anyway? I realized my predicament last night after a friend dropped me off, but decided then it didn’t matter. I was GOING!

My alarm went off at 4:15 this morning, I was up by 4:45, and out the door by 5:00 a.m. I gave myself 30 minutes to make it on foot and was still eight minutes early! Which is hilarious because otherwise I’m usually a couple minutes late.

Today was my favorite day in this training. We ran a full three miles and I kept my pace under 15 minutes!! I’ve been feeling anxious about the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle this Sunday, since it’s my first timed race and I need to finish in under 1:15 minutes to qualify as a finisher. I normally need 1:30 to complete five miles.

Now I’m believing I can accomplish this. My first mile was 13 minutes even! I was a straggler, but our trainer Gloria kept an eye on me and made sure I didn’t get left behind. She gave me some pointers– such as committing to using a set run/walk interval time. She said certain apps can help, and to ask my classmates for recommendations.

We ran at a 2 min run/1 mile walk interval. Usually I would think that I had no time for that– just trying not to get left behind would be the priority. But there was no pressure to do that– she would call out to me, “Walk!” I learned that even if you’re slow, the run/walk method is still a benefit. And I can feel a difference– my pace improved substantially today. My overall average was 14:42 miles, which would have me finishing the race with time to spare on Sunday!

And the coolest thing happened on the run– I saw some flashing light packs and sure enough, it was four members of the local running club I just joined. I waved and smiled at them– they run at 5 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. When class is over I plan to transition to running with them to keep fit.

To recognize friends on the route was such an incredible feeling!

On the home stretch back, “Carry On My Wayward Son,” played by Kansas. Hell yeah.

When we ended the run, all of us stretched by the wire fence. I’m learning great dynamic stretches, too.

Best of all, I made a new friend today! I mentioned to someone I had jogged here and another short woman like myself who I had talked to before offered to give me a ride home. Since I’d already gotten in 4.5 miles in, I was happy to accept. Turns out, she’s Catholic, too! I saw the Rosary in her car and asked. She gave me her number for a ride to class anytime. 🙂

Life is extraordinary, if you’re willing to change up your routine a bit.

 

 

Gloria Festiva: I Joined a Choir!

This morning was my first official performance as a choir member of my parish.

I am stoked! Other than a fest high school spring musicals, this is my only choral experience.

And it just makes Mass so much better. For one, I now have the best seats to hear everything I would normally be straining to follow. Father Ray is to my right, and our parish is in front of me. It’s like getting sky box seats to your favorite team!

We’re a small choir, which I also like.

I’m enclosing this Mariah Carey song, “Make It Happen,” because right now in my life, GOOD things are happening! I love this video shot in a church. I love her old-school songs.

Apparently all these years I’ve been wrong: I’m not an alto. (But I can sing Cher!!??)

David, our choir director, said he heard me as a soprano. To step down into the front row. I obeyed.

The first song I learned (and the only one I really know!) is “Gloria Festiva.” Even more perfect, I studied Latin in college. Of course, I’ve since lost it. But it just feels so AUTHENTIC. Every line is beautiful.

I’m learning gospel! I’m learning to harmonize. I’m participating in a new way during Mass.

BEST of all??

We get to wear the most elegant choir robes. White, with a red and white stole with a big red heart underneath the collar. It was Easter when I first thought I really like to join.

I daydreamed a bit, imagining myself wearing one of those robes, rocking out.

This robe makes me feel powerful, special, a little closer to God.

This robe signifies that I belong– first to our parish, and now our choir!!!

At my first rehearsal, they were so welcoming. And I loved that afterward we stood in a small circle and prayed– anyone was able to volunteer an intentions. They prayed for me– thanking God for “our newest member.”

I couldn’t stop smiling.

David gave me a black folder with the music, a phone list, and a rehearsal schedule.

Today was wonderful. Mass started off with us proceeding in singing, “This is the Day,” clapping and with a bit of a bounce in our steps.

We were on our feet during most of Mass. I did my best to follow along with the music, just singing what I could.

My Aunt Pat went with me to see my first performance!! She picked me up and we drove together.

I feel so loved.

It’s not a heavy commitment– rehearsal once a week.

I feel like this is exactly where God wants me. I get to meet great new people and learn Gospel songs.

All day, I’ve been in the best mood!!! Singing for God does that you.

And I Danced

Tonight my friend Nikki invited me out for karaoke, and I said “I’m in!”

My friend Tim was bartending and my fav KJ Katrina was working again. The songs I requested kept getting scrambled or delayed.

“You’re the Queen of Technical Difficulties tonight,” Katrina said. “Sounds like my life!” I replied.

How often did something you planned not work out? But there’s always a good reason.

Tonight was about flexibility despite stymied plans.

My first song, “Speechless,” by Gaga, was a bogus track. The tempo was totally off— then it got stuck on a loop. I got her to switch out for another song, since that track was broken. I did “Come to My Window,” by Melissa Etheridge, and rocked it.

Those strong ballads and raw rock songs are my specialty.

I got Nikki to sing “Eye of the Tiger,” with me, and goofed around. She got into it and soon we were both dancing a little bit. We took pictures and just had fun.

And I noticed something: the way I sing is changing. I used to stand there meekly with my feet crossed in front of me, my water in my other hand. I would cling to the mic and only make eye contact with the screen– even when I knew the words.

Now I’m chancing eye contact– and finding that others are watching with respect. Daring to look around the room a bit, even.

I was hoping to do “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” by Michael Bolton– I was in the mood for some soul. But the track never materialized– it was listed, but always came up as another song. So I substituted “Love is a Battlefield,” by Pat Benatar.

And that’s when I started dancing. I had both hands up, my feet were going, my hips swaying. I was smiling and laughing– I was in my own little world. I didn’t care if anyone was paying attention or not– but I saw they were.

I sound quite a bit like Pat Benatar, and have been told before I resemble her, being petite with a pixie. I don’t harness her total firepower– but I can hold most of those notes and always get the low ones.

But I’m getting her attitude. I love it.

As my confidence grows, I’m taking up space in my performance– and that’s a small step.

Maybe next time, I’ll interact with one of the other patrons.

But I forgot how happy it makes me to just dance around. At work earlier, I got caught by a co-worker dancing in the aisles. She completely cracked up! It helps pass the time!

Karaoke used to be one of my regular activities. I remember why now– it’s just a wonderful stress relief.

Just like stand-up.

Despite being a bit shy otherwise, I like performing.

I like drawing out the shy people and getting them to loosen up and laugh in spite of themselves.

I don’t mind being silly if it helps others relax.

I know I’ll sleep better tonight because I got to belt out out some great songs, hang out with Nikki, and dance it up too. And I did it all drinking just water.

I just gotta get out more.

The Golden Set List

I still can’t believe that I got my FIRST set list on Saturday night.

For STRYPER!

I almost gave it away at the show– I thought about it. But then I thought, “That’s crazy!”

I don’t get out to a lot of shows, but I have plenty of hardcore music fan friends who do. I know a woman who goes out to shows constantly because that’s her passion. The set list is her goal and she often gets it. She has a collection.

And I know that the SET LIST is a prize. It COULD be an adventure. It could be something to fight for!

Now I remember how in high school, the punk kids always had patches with safety pins of the bands they’d seen on their hoodies and back-packs. Usually black hoodies. I was such a goody-two shoes in high school, I didn’t even go to parties. Heck, I wasn’t even INVITED to parties. I was as straight-edge as it gets. Maybe people didn’t think to ask me because they didn’t think I’d want to go. I wish they had! But I made up for that in college.

High school was a very innocent time for me. I’m glad I had that. As I age, I realize some people never did. I had a lot of friends but I never dated anyone seriously. I was very close with my family and my youth group. I had “uncool” friends just like me and we had a blast.

I brought my leather jacket along to the show but kept it in my trunk at first. Usually it’s pretty hot in there! But unfortunately this show wasn’t a bunch of people packed together. It was people sitting at tables, and then the back section was more standing room only. I wished the crowd would get to their feet! I should have set the example. I DID scream a lot, and I’d like to think that’s why they gave me the set list. I have to say, it wasn’t as much fun in that aspect as a regular show.

Nothing beats being smashed up against a stage front-row, guarding your space like a parking spot during Chicago winter. Having to elbow other fans who wants to steal it. Getting there early to claim it. Or even better, fighting your way through the crowd and cutting in front of people and refusing to move. Being small has it’s advantages at shows! Ha ha! I’m not blocking anyone’s view, so it doesn’t usually bother anyone.

The set list is gold, with black duct tape– as per the band’s colors. The back door was open during the show, and the breeze was making me cold. So I dashed out to get my leather jacket. Better.

After the show, I had to tape that set list on my jacket! People thought it was rad.

And then I remembered those high school punk kids, and I understood. They were proud.

They were saying, “This is who I am. These are the bands I love. These are the shows I’ve seen.”

They wanted people to talk to them about it. They wanted to meet other fans, argue about the music.

On my way out, I bought a black hoodie. I paid the $55 bucks because I just really wanted it and decided to splurge for my birthday. Normally I would never pay that much for a hoodie, I’d get one at Old Navy.

But this show was special. And I don’t have any good hoodies anymore! It’s perfect for fall.

I want everyone to know I’ve seen Stryper. I want everyone to know I’m a Christian.

That hoodie isn’t just about advertising the band– it’s about claiming my identity, as well.

I hope I meet some other fans, and get in some great conversations because of it.

I may keep the list on the jacket for awhile to see what conversations it starts– but I’m also afraid some rude person will just rip it off or steal it just to be nasty.

What do I do with it? Put it on my wall? Frame it?

I want to keep it, preserve it. I wonder, how many can I get?

I don’t expect I’ll ever be GIVEN one again. Or maybe so!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a list? Tell me your stories!

What do you do with them?

Michael Sweet Threw a Bible, and I Caught It: My First Christian Rock Show!

I’ve been avoiding music shows lately– I’m tired of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll being championed.

The gold set list on my black leather jacket-- God and rock 'n roll!

The gold set list on my black leather jacket– God and rock ‘n roll!

Tired of hearing rants about how wasted they got on the way to the show, challenging the audience to do shots. I know it’s all part of the image and that partying is what the industry is built upon. But I don’t drink or do drugs and although I go for the music and have a great time, I get tired of being one of the only sober people in the room. Tired of being hit on.

Luckily, my friend Tammie had invited me to see STRYPER last night! And I felt totally at home.

Everyone from the bands to the road crew setting up seemed to be sober. Maybe a few weren’t– but it definitely changed the atmosphere for the better. They played Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook, IL.

People DRANK Coke, rather than bragging about doing it. I saw crosses, not cleavage, everywhere. Mostly, I saw a lot of respect. For the band, for the audience, for the venue.

The show was exactly what I needed after work, especially since a co-worker told me, “You look like a nun.”

She didn’t mean it as a compliment, although nuns ARE awesome. I ran home and dressed up for the first time in months, it seems. I wore a white shirt that I love with golden crosses all over it, and my favorite dangly heart earrings. I put on eye-liner and mascara and actually used hairspray! I searched frantically for the Stryper album I still have on CD, but couldn’t find it. My phone was nowhere to be found so I Facebooked my friend that I was leaving, Googled directions and wrote them down, and got to Tailgator’s within about 25 minutes.

My friend Tammie was waiting for me at the door, bless her. She’s always been a steadfast friend. Even better, she had bought our tickets in advance and we had a table RIGHT by the stage! In the left corner, where Michael Sweet would step out later on a few times.

The two opening bands were wonderful– Ignescent, and Signature. The first was definitely a Christian band, and I don’t think the second was, but I really enjoyed both! As always, I missed a lot that I couldn’t hear– but the musicianship and performances were great. I loved the fact that Ignescent front woman Jennifer Benson was a petite woman about my size. Seeing her up there rocking out– for the Lord!– was so inspiring. I loved that she still locked like a rocker, but modest as well. She had on a black dress, black shredded jeans, and a cute black skirt and black shoes. On the way to the bathroom, I met her! She talked to me for a few minutes and had the best smile. She was really sweet.

When I returned, Signature lead singer Sami Carava walked by me and gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and I grinned.

And as set-up began for STRYPER, I saw the set list being duct-taped down, right in front of us! Black tape.

Bass player Tim Gaines was directly in front of us.

I asked Tammie to use her phone to look-up the verse on the banner behind the drum kit, Isiah 53:5. She had a Bible app! We scrolled down and found it, and I loved it.

Once the set began, I was transported.

Earlier, Tammie had posted a Facebook photo of a BIBLE Stryper had thrown into the crowd Friday night at an acoustic show at the same venue. This was the electric show. As soon as I saw that, I decided my goal would be to GET ONE myself! She also had a yellow guitar pick, given away for their 30th Anniversary tour– they began in 1984.

I saw the tiny hornet-yellow picks set up on each mic with an apparatus that had them lined up for the band members to toss to the crowd.

During, “Call and Respond,” Michael Sweet was throwing Bibles.

I JUMPED out of my chair and waved my hand without shame. “ME!! ME!!”

He looked at me, smiled and tossed one to me. I caught it!! It’s pocket-sized, perfect.

And suddenly, GOD is rock n’ roll. I am so excited to see a legendary band like Stryper endorsing the Bible. Plus, it’s the most genius gimmick ever. It’s the NIV, New Testament. It’s black, with a black band sticker.

They embodied the virtue of charity, throwing out several Bibles and guitar picks.

Sweet was riveting. I loved the Abalone squares on his guitar, and the fact that he wore nice black leather shoes, like a gentleman. Black jeans with yellow crosses down the leg and on his back pocket.

And it was so clearly about the MUSIC, the Lord, and the fans. He talked to us. But unlike every other front man I’ve ever seen, he wasn’t leering or gyrating. He was there to praise, not seduce. To commune with the fans, not challenge them to get wasted. He asked for a show of hands of fans who had been to past shows– smiled in recognition at some of them.

I realized why MUSIC is the booming business it is. It’s healing, on a soul level. And how much pressure Christian bands must face to conform– the gigs they lose and the money the pass up, to adhere to their faith. The pressure they all face to sexualize themselves to sell more albums.

I’m going to look for more Christian bands. Not so say I’m abandoning secular music– but I love the atmosphere of a Christian show and I’ll take the challenge to find more!

During a set break, Tammie showed me the Rosary she had made with rose petals from her mother’s funeral, 15 years ago. I was so happy she let me hold it, it was the most intricate Rosary I’ve ever seen. I’m Catholic and she’s Non-Denominational Christian, but we focus on what we have in common. Earlier this week, we’d talked about attempting to learn to pray the Rosary together. I love that she wants to share that with me, even though she’s not Catholic. What an extraordinary display of friendship.

Whenever I have doubts about this blog, Tammie is there reassure me I should keep going. She’s been a subscriber since she learned about it.

I felt Christ’s presence in that room. Maybe that’s a bold thing to say, but I’m alright with that.

I’ve been looking frantically for His presence– I only thought I could find it in Mass. I’ve been anxious because when my work schedule changes, I won’t likely be able to go to Mass as often, or maybe at all. But now I know you really don’t need to go to a church to find Him.

God, Christ, whoever you identify with– He’s all around us. If you only have the courage to look.

Seek the GOOD– and you will find it.

And I was reassured that I’m not alone in my faith walk. I never wondered what denomination anyone was– it didn’t matter. I felt united under God’s rock concert. We’re all struggling. We’re all trudging forward, best we can.

A man at the table to my immediate left held up two fingers in a cross sign. I saw people closing their eyes, being still- seemingly in prayer.

I loved when he said the band was going to “stop trying to be modern,” (If I heard that right!) and just go back to their roots. This was their last American tour stop before heading out to Brazil. What are the odds that I got to see them!? God’s brought me there for a reason.

I’m an old-fashioned gal, who doesn’t often feel at home in this newfangled world. Hear, hear! I was bummed that earlier I couldn’t find the CD of theirs I had bought in 2005, which still have! I wanted to show it to them, maybe try and get it signed. But look what I got instead!

God’s abundance. Thanks for reading this far– I know I’m a verbose lady!

They closed with an encore performance– “To HELL with the Devil!” That’s the only song I previously knew, and it was absolutely perfect. I was AWED that Sweet’s voice really IS as operatic as it sounded every time I played it in my car.

I bought my first and only Stryper CD in 2005, when I was living in Freeport and working as a news reporter. I interviewed a woman who was selling a bunch of random things in her home– and I snatched up that album.

Now I write on my own terms– with this blog.

The best moment of the night was after they closed with their encore performance, “To Hell with the Devil,” of course!! FINALLY, the audience all got to their feet. I had thought they were a little TOO respectful, all sitting down the whole time.

But it was also just like any other rock show– there were still drunk women lunging at the stage.

Last night was I reminded I’m right where I need to be for me, right now.

Especially when as the road crew packed up, a man HANDED ME the set list with a smile! I screamed and taped it on the back of my leather jacket. I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, and no one did.

Tammie was so happy for me, too.

Robert Sweet fist-bumped me, and Ox Fox shook my hand as they exited the stage. They were so gracious.

We stopped at the merch table on the way out, and I decided to buy myself a birthday present: I’ll be 34 next month. I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I’ve gotten down on myself in the past for not having the markers of “adulthood” yet– not being settled down with a family and mortage.

I’m still renting and I’m single.

But God gave me this FREEDOM for a reason. And I’m grateful. I’ll enjoy it as long as I’ve got it!

I spied a hoodie with– what else?– To hell With the Devil– on the back, in yellow script lettering. I asked if there any smalls?

ONE left.

Most of my money these days goes toward basic expenses: food, bills, gas. Books. I rarely buy clothes.

But I decided I deserved this. And I gave myself permission to splurge and get it. Now I’ve got a perfect new hoodie for fall, and I can’t wait for Stryper fans to stop me and talk to me about it!

I’m sure that’ll inspire some conversations about religion and God, with all sorts of people.

I can’t wait.