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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Race to Ravenswood: Crypt 5K 2016

Last night I ran a 5K through Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago! But I had an entire adventure before crossing the start line. To me that was better than any haunted house– a truly authentic Halloween experience.

Traffic for the Cubs game and Chicago Marathon was horrendous– I arrived in my designed SpotHero parking garage with only 15 minutes to start time. There were no cabs.

And so I took off running! I had 1.6 miles to traverse, relying on Google Maps’ walking. My route was not unfamiliar– I had driven that way myriad times over the years visiting friends in Evanston. From N. Sheridan to Bryn Mawr to N. Ridge to W. Hollywood and on… finally to Rosehill Dr. and N Ravenswood Ave.

I’ve been alone in Chicago plenty. But on foot at night I’ve never usually walked more than a few blocks, from my parking spot to whoever I was visiting or wherever I was going.

And here I was, running alone in the dark through it! I alternated walking.

I felt no fear. There was something wonderful about hoofing it alone on the way– a warm-up. AND I saved money. Plus, Edgewater is one of the safer areas of the city.

I had asked several people to do the race with me, and about five were interested– but all ended up backing out. I am so glad I didn’t allow that to stop my own plans.

On the way I used the bathroom at a gas station, and walked too far and had to turn around a couple times. I was about 22 minutes late starting– my first time ever being late for a race.

It took me about 40 minutes to arrive, and when I saw that start banner I was excited! The crowd had dispersed and no one was cheering. But I was proud of myself.  But I got myself psyched up, yelling as I continued on and soon was entering the graveyard! There were purple and green flashing lights, smoke. Quite the spooky atmosphere.

Many were in costumes but I kept it simple, sporting a normal race outfit with the event t-shirt and a thermal underneath.

Most were just walking along, so it was easy to pass people. I had brought a small flashlight for safety– the path was easy to follow. Little orange electric candles on both sides of the path did the job, plus orange traffic cones with arrow signs taped on. Certain enormous tombstones and memorials were lit up.

I stopped to admire a few of the graves. I asked a pair of female friends to take a picture of me by one of them.

But mostly I just ran! I didn’t feel jealous of the couples or families or people with friends.

It was awesome doing this solo. It was peaceful and breathtaking. I was safe and happy.

I have never felt like such a bad ass! Running a 5K alone in a Chicago graveyard at night! I think it was my first-ever race totally alone, where I wasn’t meeting up with someone after, at least.

And my time was great! I shaved off about four minutes of my usual per-mile pace.

Crossing the finish line, I was ready to head home. There was a post-race party at a bar closeby, but a friend of mine in Plainfield was celebrating his birthday. My phone was at less than half battery capacity, and I wasn’t up for another trek back to my parking garage. So I asked a woman about the closest intersection to find a cab, and followed her advice. A cabbie in the drive-thru for White Castle waved at me.

Pretty hilarious! He pulled up a few minutes later and I gave him my parking garage address. He was friendly, making conversation. He asked how often I come to Chicago and I found myself answering that these days it’s mostly for races, which is true!

He couldn’t believe I hadn’t found anyone to race with, saying “You’re a charming lady.”

Well! Thanks. ūüôā He was impressed I had walked there, as well. “It’s a long walk,” he said.

After my car was brought around, I tipped the valet and drove to the party! Not bad at all.

Cinco de Miler: crying at the finish!!

Today I broke my seven-month hiatus with racing by running the Cinco de Miler 2016.

And finished FIVE MILES!! Along Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.

It was my friend Lisa’s idea, and this morning she picked me up and we made it happen!! She invited me around January, but I was ambivalent about committing for quite awhile. First, I wasn’t sure I was up to two extra miles beyond my standard 5k. Second, the race shirts were hideous and I didn’t want to pay for one!

But she was so excited about it and we motivated each other. She was waffling herself not too long ago, and I encouraged her. We both decided to wear something of our own rather than those ugly shirts. This is our second race together!

We took a ton of silly selfies– one of the best parts of a race! I’m so glad we did this.

In the parking garage, I noticed the women parked next to us had a Joliet sticker on their vehicle. I introduced myself and we got a long great! She was with a few of her friends and it seemed a few of their daughters. Her name was Kim.

All the festivity– flowers in women’s hair, men running with Mexican wrestling masks, children wearing fake black mustaches that curl, some women with traditional cotton tops embroidered with flowers. Salsa blasting on the speakers as we lined up in our corrals!

Yesterday I mostly walked four miles, to warm up after months of nothing. I was shocked how easy it was. How natural I felt returning to this exercise.

In past races, I always felt insecure; I needed someone by me. If my friends ran ahead, I felt abandoned. Especially if they disappeared into the crowd.  As long as I could see them, I felt a little

I was so much in my own head that all I could think about were all the people passing me by– I was always glancing behind to reassure myself that I wasn’t last. ¬†That *I* was ahead of others.

Or I was so fixated on the miles ahead— counting down, worried about my time. There was a part of me who never fully relaxed.

I was hard on myself if I had to slow down and walk. Always comparing.

Today, I broke free of all that.

I didn’t try to keep up with Lisa– I let her go and decided to do my own thing. And I felt calm, steady.

Maybe because this is my sixth race now– I knew I would find her afterward. I wasn’t worried about getting separated or lost.

I trust her more. I trust *myself* more.

I chose to run my own slow, steady pace– right down the yellow line of the streets blocked off for this event.

Proud to say I ran the first 1.5 miles at around 13 minutes!! I had set my Pandora on my phone to Selena and that driving Latino beat was perfect for the occasion.

But after that, I was conscious of the two added miles and felt I’d slow down and walk a bit. And then first my right knee and then both knees began to hurt. And I had to acknowledge it.

I ¬†tried running sporadically after but had to accept that with the added miles I couldn’t push it or I might not finish.

But oh, running along Lake Shore Drive!!! Since I began running it’s been a fantasy of mine. I always thought I’d drive up and park somewhere and be one of those cool people you always see while in traffic, inbound to the city North on 41.

Until Lisa mentioned it last night, I had no idea this was part of the course route.

God arranged my dream to come true.

And thank Him that I wore pants, not shorts– and brought two long-sleeved shirts. Since it was a 9 a.m. race and I tend to get cold, I brought an extra hoodie in case it rained or was cold by the lake.

Talk about The Windy City!! Once we hit the third mile and were right next to the lake on our right, both those shirts felt like a joke!! But I felt badly for those wearing only tank tops or shorts, or even t-shirts. Had I been otherwise attired, I might have quit.

Between my knees, which seemed to get worse– and the serrating chill lakeside, I was beyond tempted.

But I saw racers returning, wearing medals. That energized me.

And each mile marker surprised me. I had learned to just ENJOY the race.

I was always moving except when I stopped to take a few pictures– a tree in front of the lake, the MARIACHI band performing!

I loved the man around mile 2– a tall old man with white hair waving maracas. “Everybody’s gonna finish,” he said with a smile.

And I believed him. When I felt weak, I thought of him.

Not long before mile 4, one of the women also from Joliet in the parking garage¬†before the race appeared next to me. She tapped my shoulder and smiled. I slowed down and we commiserated about our knees. She gave me a vital tip: she takes Ipubprofen before a race. I prefer Tylenol– but I’ll remember that next time.

Maybe start taking a supplement to help my joints. Loosen them up by running regularly.

Rather than accept my joint pain and give up running– I’ll learn to take better care of myself to prevent it.

Even the Tin Man couldn’t walk the Yellow Brick Road with un-oiled joints! Oil is needed.

God was showing me that we’re never alone in the race. This race called life.

I allowed her to pass me, and felt at peace.

I had told Lisa to text me when she finished– and when she did, I was happy for her! Glad she did her thing and I did mine. For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t feel envy.

What a blessing!

I felt stronger than I thought capable once I saw the FINISH around the corner!!

I started running again: it was important to finish RUNNING.

Volunteers were standing in a cluster, handing out finisher’s medals.

When I arrived I was shocked to feel emotional– tears started to well up.

I almost cried– but I didn’t allow myself. I admit at that moment I did feel self-conscious.

I suppose I associate crying with loss– grief.

When was the last time I cried with RELIEF?? I don’t remember.

I couldn’t totally let go. But I teared up again, gulped deep breaths.

And vowed to start training again. My time is 1:36: 05

Lisa and I are already planning our next race! We talked non-stop on the way home.

I know I can do it. I’m already getting better.

And one day, I will let go enough to ACTUALLY cry with joy at the finish line.

 

 

 

 

An Errand, a Run and a Rainbow– In Chicago

Today I had an errand in Chicago, off Belmont Ave.

I stopped to gas up and got some Gatorade and a banana.

Took 2.5 hours of traffic to make it– I got there with 15 minutes to spare!

I had dressed in running clothes hoping I could squeeze in a run– the day was gorgeous. Traveling north up Lake Shore Drive, I enjoyed seeing all the runners. The traffic was horrid, but the sight of all those people calmed me. I felt connected to them. And most, I noticed, were running solo. Some people biking, some riding Segways.

One day, I want to run on Lake Shore Drive. But that’ll be another adventure! That would take some planning.

I parked next to a meter and paid for two hours. The errand just took a few minutes. And then I turned on my Nike running app, set it for 2.5 miles, and off I went!

This was my first complete run on concrete sidewalk. But soon I loved it– getting around all the people on the sidewalk was like an instant obstacle course. And there were so many others running– and the wind was fantastic!

I started with my phone in my pouch but soon took it out to monitor my progress. It was easy to hold it and seeing the numbers change kept me going. I still had to slow down and walk a few times. I haven’t yet run for an entire 30 minutes uninterrupted, but I’m working on it slowly!

There was something invigorating about being in midst of so many other fitness-minded people. I can only imagine what a buzz it would be to do a 5k, a mud obstacle course, or a marathon!!

As I ran, I loved the knowledge that I looked like just another Chicago runner– no one would know I’m a suburban gal. I had called up a city friend to see if she wanted to meet up, and was surprised that I could answer a phone call whilst running. Of course I slowed down to talk and my run paused. She was overworked after a long day and we decided another time would be best.

I passed by places I’ve been in the city and smiled at the memory. Again, sweating was glorious.

I started near Belmont and Clark and ran to Ashland and then back as far as Roscoe.

I almost stopped in a few restaurants to refuel, but wanted to finish my 2.5 miles first. And I did!

It said that was my fastest mile yet. God bless technology!!

Then I celebrated at a place called Yoshi’s Cafe, on Halsted Street. Right where my 2.5 miles ended.

I was initially outside, but then it began misting a bit of rain. They moved me inside.

Watching the sidewalk, a boy walking with his father and younger brother stopped and pointed:
“THERE’S A RAINBOW!!”

My server along with one of the owners came outside to admire it. Everyone there was kind and smiling.

I had asked the server to bring the check with my meal, because I had to eat fast to make it back to my parking spot on time. Also, dark was falling. She did, I tipped her well, and I made it back 15 minutes early.

A perfect spring eve in Chicago.

I still can’t believe I don’t have any leg cramps and my feet don’t hurt!

My life is pretty fantastic right now. I’m in a choir at church, I’ve got a friend to run with, and I’m learning to even discipline myself enough to not just run on my off-days, but enjoy it.

I feel young and healthy and excited to see what’s next!

A Sunday Whim and St. Teresa of Avila, Chicago

Last night when I was trying to sleep, I thought about where I have an opportunity to explore in my life, and I realized it’s within my faith. Right now, I have Sundays off. I know I’m Catholic– that’s not changing.

Truthfully, if I could do anything I’d be a missionary. But to do that you need a lot of freedom. You need to have the money and the health. I’m not there yet. But it’s a good motivator.

But I don’t have to limit myself to my current parish.

As much as I enjoy bringing Holy Communion to the family I bring it to, it limits me.

I’m grateful for this family, because they brought me deeper into my faith. They made me commit to Mass, because I had someone else counting on me. But It’s also hard because Mass has become goal-oriented for me. It’s about making sure I remember to bring my pix and get the hosts, so that I won’t let them down.

And not every parish will give Holy Communion to a stranger with a pix– some priests need to know who you are and what your intentions are. I’ve been denied for that reason. Once I explained after Mass, he took me inside and did give me the hosts.

Lately I’m feeling restless in this parish. Not as connected as I was in the beginning.

I realized that I want to see some other parishes. Other liberal Catholic parishes that celebrate diversity.

In this town, Joliet, there are plenty of Catholic parishes. You can find a Mass all day long. But they’re mostly the same. Conservative. Mostly white parishioners who are upper-middle class, well-dressed, mostly families.

And I’m always looking for more Catholic friends. I’d like to meet some more people my age. I’d like to explore Chicago!

I realized too late that I hadn’t brought my pix when I got on the road. I almost turned around and resigned myself to the 7 p.m. Mass at a local church.

But I needed to see a new side of the Catholic church– for my own faith. There’s so much bad press out there. I had made this promise to myself last night, and I wanted to honor that.

Hopefully I can make the 9 a.m. Mass at my local parish, usually held in the rectory, so I can bring Holy Communion as scheduled tomorrow. But I’m not sure that Mass will be held as scheduled, since a few times I’ve showed up and waited and no one’s answered the door. The schedule isn’t rock solid.

Tonight I went to the 6 p.m. Mass of St. Teresa of Avila in Chicago. And I loved it!

It was under construction, and they met in the parish hall. Which is ORANGE inside!! I liked the bulletins and the heavy read Gather missal books, arranged on a shelf. I walked around taking pictures of the art, details I liked, and the building, because I just got a new camera app for my iPhone and I’m photographing everything. I think because of that, people noticed me. A few parishioners approached me and all were very nice. I asked if it was okay that I park in the parking lot– there was a sign about towing. Twice, I’ve had bad experiences with being towed in Chicago! They assured me it was legal and thankfully, my car was still there afterward.

Sister Sandra Ann Silva spoke about her missionary work, and her voice was gentle. She had a quiet, smiling manner. She talked about the harsh conditions these families live under–without shaming. She was seated near me, and her presence reminded me of the nuns I grew up around, the Sisters of St. Joseph.

It was more like being in a Non-Denominational church, because everyone sat in folding chairs. After the Mass, everyone quickly picked up their chairs and put them away. It was the fastest Nicene Creed ever! I couldn’t even remember it fast enough to keep up, so just prayed silently most of it. I really liked that Fr. Frank has his own blog. There were copies of a Catholic magazine, Extension, freely available. There was a good mix of people– families, singles, different ages and racially diverse. I perused the plans for the new church being built, and it looks wonderful. It’s designed around being transparent, so people on the street can see inside. Big windows.

I asked Fr. Frank why St. Teresa was their chosen patron– he said because the original church broke ground on her Feast Day.

Fr. Frank is leaving tomorrow to participate in the Catamino De Santiago. A blogging priest. That’s pretty rad. Check out his blog here! http://frfrankscamino.com/, and his previous blog, at http://www.frfrankscamino.blogspot.com/. I just followed his newest! Also, he’s short. I like short people.

He had brought the backpack he’ll be wearing. I took a picture of him in it, and told him I’m a blogger, too! I told him my address and he said,

“Are you unrelenting?” I laughed and confirmed so. He said when he gets back, he’d follow my blog. It was amazing to feel connected to a priest because we both have a blog about our faith. Mine was started during Lent in 2011, and is still going!

So I am unrelenting. An unrelenting Catholic and an unrelenting blogger.

Leaving the Door Ajar, not Closed

So I quit the poetry workshop, letting the instructor know by e-mail. I thanked her for everything, but explained that as much as I enjoy the classes, they cannot be my priority right now.

It’s been wonderful, but I can’t commit to those time slots any longer, or the gas money. I need to focus on more practical things. Especially saving money, and making more of it. That includes cutting back on driving to Chicago. This year has been hard because I used to go up there a lot– at least twice a month, sometimes more. Two of my best friends live up there, and I enjoyed getting out of the suburbs to see them. They made trips to J-town too, but let’s face it– the city is more exciting. This year I’ve mostly talked to those friends on the phone– but they make a point to call me too. We’ve adapted as good friendships do. I’ve made a lot of practical changes this year, and it’s been wonderful. It’s brought me simplicity, tranquility, and more stability. I’m on a roll with the “ility,” words!

And her reaction was wonderful. She couldn’t have been more professional. She invited me to any future workshops, and promised to let me know the dates in case I could make it. She offered to send me a copy of their chapbook publication, even though I had declined to submit this time. She said she really enjoyed my writing, and was glad that I had attended. Consummate professional. Any reasonable adult understands when work and budgeting comes first. It’s good to know she’s not holding my decision against me, and respects that the timing is not right at this time.

And maybe I can make an adjustment myself about going to Chicago this year. Maybe I can start taking the train more often instead. I’ve always avoided it except for a few times, preferring to not be limited about when I can arrive and leave. I also prefer parking hassles to having to switch trains and traverse around the city on foot, especially in the cold– alone. I’ve grown to be an excellent Chicago driver, and even parallel parking. I can maneuver into almost any spot now, like a local!

But maybe it’s time that I start learning ¬†to get around the city like a TRUE Chicagoan– on the “L.”

Challenges, challenges.

Open Heart, Healing Energy

Lately it seems as if my mind is just opening in tandem with my heart.

I’m feeling an inviting, giving energy.

There is so much more to life beyond Christianity. Beyond Catholicism. Beyond the confines of what defines religion.

Spirituality is a gift, anyway you find it.

We don’t have to choose a side.

We can coexist. I hate this tradition of one belief having to nullify others.

I’m re-connecting with my artistic friends, inviting truth and positivity into my life. Forgiveness, reconciliation.

I don’t want to judge. I think about that ASTROLOGER I criticized, and she’s just a woman trying to make a living.

She’s a small business owner. She lives in Chicago, and it’s a tough world there. She pays rent to work there.

That IS an honest living. Maybe she does possess some power, and has tried making a living “the regular way.”

What caused me to judge was my knee-jerk reaction, knowing that Christianity labels her business as dangerous.