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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Priorities and Running

Happy Easter!

I’ve run four miles in the past 24 hours and I feel great already.

Sadly, I admit shelving running since November. My last real attempt was December 12, at 1.28 miles– which counts. I made one attempt in February but it was less than a mile.  I try to get at least two miles.

I haven’t run a race since Nov. 8– the Hot Chocolate Run 5k in Chicago. I ran it for my birthday with two friends.

It’s been too cold,  I’ve been too tired– I just haven’t been up for it.

And not just that, I committed myself to so many things that running was the first thing to go so I could make time.

And that was my rookie mistake. As much as I enjoy being reliable and involved in my community, I also need to prioritize myself and what makes me feel good.

Now that it’s getting lighter and warmer, the excuses are gone!

I see now that having a race commitment motivates me to keep training between. I remember when I couldn’t even imagine running 3.1 miles in a 5k. I’ve done five now!

My longest runs have been 4.83 miles in July and 5.01 in August. I know it’s in me!

And more than six months ago, a friend invited me to run a FIVE MILE race in May.

I just registered online! It’s called the Cinco de Miler and is in Chicago.

I’ve got a goal. I’m gonna keep running until I can do five miles regularly.

And I’m promising myself that I won’t sacrifice my running again to make time to do things for other people.

Because although those commitments are important, so is my happiness. If I don’t make time for myself, no one else will do it for me.

And even though running is a pain in the calves, the accomplishment?

That makes me smile like a fool.

 

 

A Little Confession

Just had my first Confession in probably a year, after Stations of the Cross.

Usually, my Dad and I go together. It’s something that’s bonded us.

But this year we had different schedules. I went to our local cathedral instead.

I had hoped to get my parish priest, but I saw him leave just before Stations of the Cross began. Though a little bummed, I figured there was someone else meant to hear me today.

I reflected prior, but not a lot.

This year, it was different. I wasn’t berating myself with a list of things I’ve done wrong. I had no list, period.  I didn’t feel ashamed or desperate or angry at myself.

My confession was brief. I listed a few things, but mostly I just talked about those I love, and how I want to do right by them. Where I am in my spiritual life. What I’m seeking. And what I need/want from God.

I talked about wanting to be a better daughter.

About struggling to find a balance in my life with my choir/parish and other events that pop up spontaneously on those allotted times for choir and Mass. Feeling afraid that my parish will close, but continuing to belong/participate because that’s where my heart lies.

About how daunting it feels to be so focused on waiting for a relationship with another Catholic, but that this is something I feel that I both need and *deserve* in my life. I’ve sacrificed to adhere to that. It’s so important to me that if someone is another denomination, that’s a deal-breaker. I’ve endured a lot of criticism for that over the years, but most times I shrug it off. Pretty much everyone on either side of my family is who is married is married to another Catholic–happily. I know it’s possible!

But something I’ve realized is that I can’t stop being myself to accelerate finding a compatible relationship. I don’t smoke anything or drink, I don’t do drugs, I’m a Democrat, I’m Catholic. Those are core tenets of my identity. I’ve ended relationships to preserve those aspects in myself, because it’s essential for my own happiness and mental health.

And to my surprise, Father wasn’t punitive. He was patient. His voice was soft.

There was no recipe for salvation by reciting a certain number of prayers

Instead, we was affirmative. He basically told me to just keep doing what I’m doing– examining myself, pursuing my spiritual life, being aware and sensitive to what’s appropriate in my relationships.

I was given instant absolution. I wasn’t made to feel that my confession hadn’t been sufficient, even though I had completely blanked out on my Act of Contrition.

“I absolve you of your sins,”he said.

I didn’t have as dramatic as a reaction as I had in some other years– I didn’t cry.

I didn’t need to cry.

Confession was just an expression of my faith, a part of my spiritual routine.

And I smiled.

I felt like God was telling me, “You’re doing okay, kiddo.”

My Second 5K: A Hard Lesson

Yesterday morning I ran my second 5K, The Shorewood Scoot.

It was difficult and I lost motivation quickly.

I hadn’t run at all in a week, and I could feel the difference. It was my first slightly cold run and I *did* love that!

What I love about 5K’s is getting up early, meeting friends and taking pictures before– the camaraderie of being with a bunch of people who don’t care about the weather and want to do something healthy for fun.

Everyone seems to be relaxed and people are wearing so many different colors! It’s a wonderful environment.

And I LOVE crossing the finish line.

But yesterday early-on I felt defeated– I was too focused on the outcome– on my rank. On who was behind me.

I slowed to a walk in less than a mile. People– walkers!– from behind me kept passing me up.

Then I began to see elderly people who were running slowly, but still running– they passed me too.

I barely ran this one. I just didn’t have the energy, though not sure why. I did get enough sleep.

One  con about this race was far fewer volunteers– and they didn’t have much enthusiasm. They merely clapped and pointed, but most of them didn’t smile or cheer or even make eye contact. I was surprised how much I missed that enthusiasm from my first 5K.

I also had in a lined rain jacket and it felt too hot over the thermal shirt I had chosen. But my bib was pinned on it and I didn’t want to stop and re-do it. Also, that jacket never stays tied around my waist.

The race actually began on a trail I’ve run several times. I kept seeing entrances off the path to the woods. I had such a strong urge to ditch the race altogether and just explore alone in the woods.

But I kept on. I believe I crossed the finish line in 50:25?? That’s what I remember the clock saying.

I have no idea how I ranked– after several searches online there appears to be no link posted.

But maybe it’s better that way??

After, I had plans to go with a friend and her two dogs to a local arboretum. I was so psyched!

Especially since her little lady, Kaia, sat on my lap most of the way. She enjoyed being hugged, and I loved holding her. It was comforting to have this calm little creature snuggling up to me. Once we arrived, we both walked one of the dogs and marveled at all the pets and vendors! And the threes, of course.

It was a laid-back, beautiful day that felt like fall. We both had long-sleeve shirts on.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long.

Her little dog was pulling me and I couldn’t keep up with walking her. For some reason, my knees were really sore. I had to keep slowing down and stopping.

I felt like the Tin Man with rusty joints. I felt like every bit of 34.

It was confusing, because I’ve run 5 miles without any pain. What’s the difference in running a 5K and then doing some walking? It wasn’t even a large dog!

Regardless, it appears I over-did it by making those plans directly after the race.

A lesson for next time!

And although that race was a hard one, I’m not giving up.

I will simply run more often and continue doing 5K’s until they get easier.

I’m not waiting long to get back out there. Probably tonight!

Because when I do well, I love it!

I’m going to tr y and have the mindset that I’m running to ENJOY it. To take in the beauty of fall. To challenge myself. To have fun with my friends. To visit places I haven’t been.

And yes, to compete. The two 5K’s I’ve run have both been small and local.

I think I would enjoy a big one more. The anonymity would comfort me in a bigger group.

What’s a race that was difficult for you?? How do you motivate yourself when you start to get inside your head and lose heart during a race?  Tell me in the comments!

Choir Pinned!!

Yesterday at Mass, the choir were given pins by Father Ray.

This is my second– the first said “Minister of Care,” when I was bringing Holy Communion to a family. Now I’m serving our parish in the choir instead.

When I saw Father holding them, I went over to claim mine. He pulled his hands back.

A few minutes later, he blessed them all with Holy Water.

They were all the more special for that.

I had to take a picture– you can see the Holy Water droplets on the plastic case holding it inside.

Reminds me of fourth grade, when my class were given a Bible. They were blessed with Holy Water. I still have mine.

Though I admit I don’t read it often.

This little gesture from Father Ray to our choir made me feel so included, part of something special.

Official.

I had someone take a picture of me wearing mine on my shirt. It’s gleaming there– my smile is huge!

I love our white and red choir robes! He asked us to wear our pins with pride each Sunday.

choir pin

I’m delighted to oblige.

The Blessed Hat

I have a cheap black stockingcap for winter that I bought this year.

It’s black with “BLESSED,” written in white block letters.

This hat keeps me humble AND warm.

There are so many gross, aggressive and disrespectful t-shirts and clothing out there… I like wearing something simple and positive. I like identifying myself as someone who is basically grateful.

The best part is how strangers smile at me when I wear it. I smile more. Sometimes they comment.

And it reminds me there’s always something I can count in my life as a blessing.

This little hat breaks up the monotony of winter, and brings warmth to me in the kindness of others.

With a Chipped Smile

I just had a quick conversation with a friend.

He’s an older gentleman. He is always put together– a collared shirt with a sweater over it, nice jeans, cowboy boots. Always wears an American flag pin. He’s a smart ass– his humor can be on the racy side. But beyond that tough exterior, he’s a good listener. He’s someone a lot of people count on. He does so much for other people.

Today, I noticed right away he had a chipped tooth. One of his two front teeth. I didn’t want to ask, in case he already felt mortified by it. But there was such a palpable air of sadness to him. Normally he has a smile, a quick joke. A word of encouragement.

Not today. Instead, I saw him working on a puzzle. Dozens of pieces scattered around.

“I don’t have the patience for those,” I told him– I was impressed.
“You have to develop the patience,” he said.

I told him goodbye and walked away.

But decided to turn back. How many times had he asked how I was doing? Every time. And each time, he cared. It was obvious by the way he listened– never in a hurry.

I had left quickly this time because *I* was uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how to act. I returned and asked him, “Are you okay? You seem sad today.”

He mentioned his chipped tooth, but not how it happened. I didn’t ask. That said a lot about him– he wasn’t interested in sympathy. Many would have told that story– he wasn’t looking for attention. Just giving the facts.

But he deserved to be noticed. Maybe he was hoping someone would ask.

He will be getting dental surgery next week.

“That’s a long time to wait,” I said.

He mentioned money.

I told him I was sorry for his pain, that I hope it goes well. And that I’ll pray for him.

I wish I had stayed longer– but I’ll admit, I just didn’t know what to say.

Certain people are always ready with a smile and joke– we have a hard time seeing them in pain. We are used to them comforting and distracting us.

But they need to be noticed, too. They need someone to listen.

I realized that it *wasn’t* rude to ask about his tooth– the rude thing was avoiding the subject to make it easier for myself.

Please pray for my friend. I’ve never had a chipped tooth, thank goodness.

And in the interim, I hope he finds something to smile about.

At least he has the puzzle to keep him occupied.

Please pray for my friend– so that his tooth doesn’t hurt too much, and he gets a good oral surgeon.

Pray for the man who always has time to listen to others and never asks for himself.