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.

Lucky Race #15– Running Rockdale

Today I took a step toward restitution with myself for the race I missed.

I signed up last-minute for a 5k in the same town, Rockdale. And lucky for me, part of the course was the same– a few streets. The weather was also similar- chilly and windy, but no rain. A little warmer, I think.

I began on Meadow Ave. and then up Morris St., just as I would have last time. But this time, I was healthy, rested, and ready. I had slept great the night before, I’ve been cooking vegetables and eating better.

I gave myself a full three weeks to get over my cold and recover. I ran twice this week at 5:30 a.m. with a friend from work. I rested on Friday. Those runs were slow, but today I felt great. NO KNEE PAIN! No pain at all.

It was a small race. I parked at a Catholic church two blocks away and got there in just enough time to drink a little coffee first. I stretched, and a race photographer took a picture of me.

I was slow and steady– and did actually run the majority. My estimated pace is 14:33 according to my Nike Run app, though I find it’s usually a little different than what official race times record. But I saw the clock– I finished at 45:43!! Within the 45 minute range. I hit my goal– pace under 15!!

The race was honestly pretty easy. I enjoyed the course– the hills and the space. I was confident in my outfit, too. Just 3/4 running pants and one base layer zip-up, a hat. Some light gloves, wool socks.

Near the last mile, I dropped one of my gloves. A woman who seemed close to my age was running behind me, and she stopped to pick it up. I thanked her. She brought it up to me, and then began walking. We were at the same pace for awhile– though opposite sides of the road. I tried encouraging her to run, “Come on, you can do it!” and “Let’s pick it up!”

But she was winded, really struggling. How many times have I been her? Many. She knows the limits of her body and how much rest she needs in a race. So I wished her well and passed her up.

When I saw the finish line, I went for it!! I feel like I finished strong. Volunteers were handing out medals for everyone– I was so grateful! We also were given a bottle of water.

I asked someone to take my picture! Posing triumphantly.

There was a variety of food in the tent.

I got a free sports massage, which I’ve always wanted to do at a race! He worked on my calves, it felt great.

I didn’t stick around– it was too cold! But all day, I felt wonderful.

Then I went and signed up for a three-month membership to my local athletic club. Tomorrow I get re-fitted for my new running shoes.

I can *FEEL my life getting better.

Now I’m a runner, but come tomorrow, I will also be taking some classes, hopefully swimming, and learning to cross-train.

I’m so glad I didn’t let the loss of missing that race break my resolve to run.

As I’m learning, I’m actually pretty good at it.

Lucky # 13: My First Shamrock Shuffle 8k!

I’m floating!

On endorphins. On CRUSHING the race goal I set for myself.

On the joy of new running friends. On knowing that I am indisputably more fit.

This was my lucky 13th race, and a phenomenal PR all-around.

To give some context, the only other race with a comparable distance was the Cinco de Miler last year– a five mile, not an 8k. It was May 7, 2016, also in Chicago. At that point I had neglected running for seven brutal months– and then only did that race because my friend Lisa invited me to push past 5ks and try it with her. Like the naive casual runner I was, I ran four miles the night before– rather than resting. My race suffered immensely for it– I had to walk/hobble three full miles due to intense knee pain. I had to stop and sit and massage my knee. Three separate times, I desperately wanted to quit– there was also horrid wind and rain along the Lake Shore Drive. I ended up with a “pace” of 18:18 for 5.15 miles at 1:34:26. I was just happy to finish, period!

Today, my time is ONE HOUR, FOUR MINUTES, and SEVEN SECONDS!! My Nike Running app said my pace is 12:12, but the official race time reports 12:54. Whichever, I’m ECSTATIC either way!! In about 10 months time, I shaved nearly SIX minutes off my pace and nearly 30 full minutes off my finishing time!

Twinges of light knee pain a couple times, but otherwise felt like a gazelle. No knee pain post-race or hours later. I’m getting more fit!!

Today was the first time I’ve felt truly confident in all aspects of a race!

Last night I felt the beginning of a blister on my instep and put a Band-Aid on it. No problem today!

I knew to rest yesterday, save for walking around the expo to pick up my packet. I knew to eat a good dinner and a light breakfast. I drank water and avoided coffee. For the first time in a race, I feel like I finally knew how to DRESS! I had a real base layer and wasn’t cold once all morning. I had a race shirt that was exactly the right size. My race bib wasn’t on crooked. I was even okay doing a gear check without worrying about it. I’m more relaxed in general with the racing scene. And my bag had everything in it– band-aids, Bengay, Tylenol– though I didn’t need any of it.

Probably my biggest accomplishment?

I DID NOT NEED ONE BATHROOM BREAK THE ENTIRE RACE! I truly feel like a bad ass.

A few times I felt the urge to pee, but just told myself to hold it and shortly it subsided. I also only took the first cup of water, but only drank about half in sips and threw the rest out.

I ran only forward the whole time– not even considering what was behind me. I ran mostly in the middle of the road, at my own steady pace. Thanks to the official race results, I know I finished ahead of 2,885 people. BAM.

I saw one woman give another an extra ponytail holder as she passed by. I saw a woman in blue and white run to hug what seemed to be family members briefly, then keep on going. I saw signs of encouragement. I saw people shedding their hats and layers.

I was surprised by how warm *I felt– but I kept my racing stocking hat on because I didn’t want to carry it as I have in past races. And also because yeah, it looked cool!

Crossing the finish line, I was so calm. As I passed into the chute, I reached the volunteers handing out medals. I stepped forward so a man could put it around my neck. I grabbed my banana, water and chips from the boxes.

I asked someone to take a picture of me, sweaty and glorious– brandishing my medal.

I went to gear check, then easily found my running crew peeps.

Everything today went amazing. I was so warm after the race I changed out of my base layer in a porta-john and just wore the race day t-shirt.  People were excited to hear about how I did and so supportive! I got to meet and chat with several people.

I loved picking everyone’s brains about their own racing goals and bucket lists.

Runners are my tribe.

I’m smitten with racing. It’s my happy place.

Now onto my next race goal: the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run on April 29th!

I’ll be learning hill work and building up to 6.2 miles– my first 10k.

Cannot wait for the next adventure!!

 

 

 

 

I Did It!! This Runt is a Self-Defense Bad Ass Today!!

My arms are sore, my voice is raw, and my heart is thumping.

I can’t stop smiling.

I GRADUATED my self-defense class tonight!!

And to think I almost didn’t go. I couldn’t find my book, I couldn’t find anyone to practice with, and I was worried that I wouldn’t remember what I’d learned. I was worried I was too weak. Happy to say, I WAS WRONG!

Reminds me of being in school, the anxiety I used to have over tests. I would study like crazy and not get any sleep, and sometimes miss class. In the past I would find all the worst-case scenarios about why I would fail.

But instead of worrying, I decided to believe. Since there was nothing for me to study with, I had no choice. I decided to have faith in my own muscle memory, my instincts, my adrenaline.

I realized I wanted to see my classmates. I wanted to be there for and with them. We were all being tested. It wasn’t just about me. And I wanted to prove to MYSELF that I can do it.

There was just one condition: Don’t quit.

I told myself, “You are going to do it!” I shut out fear and focused on being positive.

I didn’t do anything physical to prepare. I did get a good night’s rest. I asked for some prayers, and I prayed myself. And I met up with one of my best friends, Catt, for pie beforehand. We caught up, we laughed, we ate pie, we hugged. I went to our final class in a great mood.

I watched a few people go before me. We were all rooting for each other. It was hard to watch the other women struggle and I could see when they were losing strength and wanted to quit. But we all yelling, “You can do it!” and our instructor would be right there, encouraging us too. And they triumphed! I could see I wasn’t alone– it was just as hard for them as it was for me.

When he called me up, I was ready. It was nice, again, to be called, “Miss Amee.”

To be respected.

The test was designed to make us tired, to catch us by surprise, to test our endurance. It was scary, and real.

I got through the push-ups, punches, blocks, and surprise attacks.

But mainly, I USED MY VOICE. That’s what he taught us the first day. My VOICE is my biggest weapon!

I can say this for myself, I screamed the loudest! It felt good, too. I feel like A LION!

It’s amazing to know I’m capable of it.

Our instructor said afterwards that using your voice provides a burst of energy, and it’s true.

The adrenaline DOES work. I used some of the techniques, but I was good at blocking punches and getting out.

I learned that it’s not easy to knock me down. I have more energy and instinct than I realized.

He asked us all how we felt afterwards. I told him I felt PROUD.

He had us line up and receive our certificate of graduation, and he gave us our t-shirts in a traditional way, then shook our hands.

The last time I got an award for something was my sales, at work. And I was happy about that!

But this was so much MORE exciting.

In this class I learned that it does not MATTER that I’m small. I am still a FORCE! I had someone take a picture of me with it, and also my classmates and our teacher.

I feel happy, confident. Strong. Like a total bad ass.

I’m glad our instructor didn’t take it easy on us in that last test.

I had been worried I might fail– I had thought before, “Who is this guy to pass or fail me?!”

But he had our certificates waiting, printed up. AND MY NAME WAS SPELLED RIGHT! My whole name! So many times, it’s been bungled. That’s the price of having two unique names.

He believed in us all along. He knew we would graduate. It was just up to us to go forward and claim it!

He did his job, we did ours. Everybody won. It wasn’t a competition.

And I’ll tell ya one thing: I am FRAMING that certificate!! And I already put on the-shirt, it fits perfect.

That’s Aight With Me

It seems as I’m posting in a more confident voice, I’m losing some readers.

My subscription numbers fluctuate slightly. Gain one, lose one.

I’m talking less about God, and focusing more on me.

I’m not as humble. But to be a good Catholic or Christian, you don’t need to put yourself down.

It’s okay to like yourself!

I feel like a common trap with our faith is to become so meek, we compromise ourselves. I’m outgrowing that.

And maybe that’s not something everyone can relate with, but that’s fine.

Because this blog is for me. It’s to validate what I feel. It’s a reflection of my journey and growth and the epiphanies along the way, simple and profound.

But I’m not letting the fear of the unknown dictate what I’m going to write. The right readers will find, and appreciate, what I’m sharing. They’ll stick with me. They’ll “like” and comment, or not.

I’m realizing that I’m not speaking to anyone in particular, it’s not about the reaction I get anymore.

I’m thinking out loud.

By being myself, I can’t lose!

Summer Blogcation? And Intelligence, Humor, and Phone Calls.

Column deadline this week, and summer is almost over.

I haven’t been posting much at all this summer– and I don’t have a concrete answer about why. I’d say off-hand it’s mostly because I’ve taken so many pictures instead. Currently I’ve got 871 pictures in my iPhone, via the Camera+ app.

I’ve been having a blast with my friends.  I’ve been doing things spontaneously. And it seems rather than blogging about it, I’ve been capturing it via pictures. If I had more money, I’d go out and buy myself a really nice Nikon and some good lenses, and maybe take some photography classes. Because honestly, I have a good eye and a knack for candid portraits. I like watching people interact, and catching those little moments. When I’m doing this, I’m rarely in the pictures, because I’m busy taking them.

But I’m by no means shy, and love to have my picture taken as well. People tease me about the way I pose sometimes– and I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. I would see a camera, and BAM! Pose. Smile. I can’t help it! Hee. Unless I’m really having a bad hair day or skin day or HATE my outfit, you’ll rarely see me refuse a picture. I love taking pictures with my friends, or if I’m dating someone. I love documenting a friendship or relationship with pictures, and I think taking a bunch of silly pictures is a dandy way to pass the time when you’re both having fun! But photography isn’t my passion, and math is a HUGE part of that business. Ratios for shutter-speeds, f-stops, lighting, sizing, everything. Configuring pricing packages, how much you’ll charge for prints. Ugh. I am terrible at math. I don’t want to get involved in the business end of photography– I just like to it for fun, and sometimes I enjoy modeling for my friends who are shutterbugs or photographers.

My passion is words and literature. I think that maybe this summer, I just have been on a bit of “summer vacation,” if you will– from blogging. Who knows when the urge to blog frequently again will return, if it does. I also blog a lot less now I think because I want to save my best ideas for my column  or free-lance ideas involving money. And if I blog something first impulsively, then I obviously can’t use it for my column or a feature story. Sometimes I think I’m going to write a column about something, so I hold off on blogging about it– but later find a better topic, or too much time has passed. It’s not timely anymore, or I lose the urge to write about it.

Some days, I might write three posts– and sometimes I may go three weeks without posting at all.

But tonight, I feel like saying something.

I’ve noticed a trend in the type of man which attracts me— a smart one. That’s one common denominator in everyone I’ve had a relationship or even just five or six dates with– intelligence. That’s been manifested differently– from business managers to computer tech guys, to military, academic, to tradesmen, or creative intelligence. Not all had a college degree, and that’s still not an issue for me.

I like men who are confident, and have a deep base of knowledge in some area. Often, their interests may be opposite of mine– I think that’s because I find it more intriguing to learn something different. I want someone who likes to learn, who broadens my world.

I need a strong mental connection. But I’ve found, that isn’t guaranteed just because someone is intelligent. And I think there’s a big difference between being intelligent and being overly-intellectual. Some people of high intelligence are not very social, or lack much emotion. It’s all facts, all the time. I don’t want to be narrated to– I want to talk!

I need someone I can talk WITH, who enjoys exchanging ideas and conversation.

And I realized that although intelligence is a requirement for me and definitely attractive, that I need humor and empathy as well. Intelligence can keep me hooked on someone  for quite awhile if I’m in awe of their brain– but if the emotional compatibility never materializes, I move on. I need both.

The best things I’ve found that I like in a man is humor and imagination. Being a writer, I need to be serious to come up with anything of merit.  I like hearing totally different perspectives, because they challenge me and enrich my own.  I really appreciate a man who can surprise me with a comment that throws a mental curve ball.  Who can flirt a bit and remind me not to take myself so seriously!! NOTHING is a bigger turn-off than a Debbie Downer attitude, or being too caustic or negative.

And lastly, I like talking on the phone.  There are men out there who prefer to call rather than text. They are the exception, not the rule. But they exist. I’m not anti-texting, I text just like everyone else. But I can’t subsist on that alone, even in a friendship. I need to have audio conversations too, where I can hear the person’s voice and enjoy the natural rhythm of conversation. Texting is so different, and stunted at times. It’s okay in short doses, but not all the time.

Texting is fine as a supplement to spending time together and phone calls, but I just can’t feel connected to someone who ONLY wants to communicate electronically via texting, facebook, e-mail or Google chat. At the end of the day, it’s just words on a screen. You could be anywhere, doing anything. You could be on a date with someone else,  at a bar with your friends, bored at work, or even driving.

A phone call means that the guy cares enough to focus his attention on me for the time being. And both of you can still get things done– you could be washing dishes, doing laundry,  walking your dog, cooking dinner, reading an e-mail, or whatever else people do while having phone conversations. But the best kind of phone call is the kind where you’re both enjoying talking, and maybe not even doing anything else.  It doesn’t get more romantic than that.

I was in a long-distance relationship once, and I’ll tell you why I chose that over dating local guys.  We had 2,000 miles between us, and saw each other only a handful of times in just over 1.5 years– but were both phone people.  We were already friends for years, but happened to be living in different states. We didn’t Skype at all. It was just the phone, and there was something old-fashioned and sweet about it. We didn’t write letters. We texted and e-mailed too, but that was not the bulk of our communication.  Even a 15 minute phone call made me feel special.  And two or three hours was like Heaven! To me, that was more fulfilling that going on a four-hour date with a local guy, who would probably just text me or want to talk on facebook chat instead.

These days, the best way for a guy to impress me is to pick up the phone and ask me out, the old-fashioned way.