Challenge Accepted

Given all the upheaval and turmoil/change in my life recently, I have vowed to attempt DO the following:

ugly day

I have to admit, many days since 28 August this goal has been all-but-impossible to achieve. That admission aside, things ARE gradually getting better and each day IS actually getting less ugly and more beautiful. Thanks, Universe!

Revelations About Grammy and Pop-pop

On Sunday, I began the task of organizing and clearing out my parents’ house, readying it for sale after my father’s recent death. My Mom passed away six years ago and my Dad (Pop-pop) pretty-much left the house intact since – I mean, my Mom’s cigarette case is still on the coffee table and a pack of Kool 100’s is in the freezer (now six years old). Anyway, today was the first few hours in what I can see will be a lengthy process.

My goal today was to organize my parents’ living room, making it look as though they still lived there – not for any creepy reason but out of respect to their memories, and the house they loved. My father spent his final few weeks at home before he passed away there. Since the hospital bed got picked up, there has been a “hole” in the living room and the coffee table became the unofficial sponge bath staging area, holding towels and bedding. It was important to me that the room be returned to its former semi-glorious state, more or less as an homage to my parents and the house I grew up in.

As my project got underway, the first thing I noticed was that, in the final few months of his life, it appears Pop-pop replaced household cleaning products with household disinfecting products, as if Clorox Wipes and Dow Scrubbing Bubbles would make his cancer disappear. I wound up dusting the furniture with a damp cloth (goodness knows, my Mom accumulated 1000+ dish towels in her life, LOL!) Then I began the “clearing-and-straightening-up” process. I immediately determined three things:

1. My Mom never met a silk flower she didn’t like. Or a candle ring. Or a garland of silk ivy…

candle ring

I must have tossed three or four candle rings (all seasons, BTW), more than a few garlands of silk ivy (my Mom had taken to wrapping them around curtain rods; it is a look for sure) and two silk arrangements from her OWN funeral – saved by my father after – now all dusty and faded. Don’t get me wrong – my LOVE for my parents is boundless BUT my Mother definitely had her own ideas when it came to “home accessorizing.” Which leads into revelation two…

2. Grammy had an addition to burgundy key tassels. A serious addiction.

tassel

I must have “liberated” about eighteen of these today from my parents’ living room, They were on door knobs and cabinet pulls, hanging off the dining room chandelier (not even kidding!) and pinned to curtain edges. Again, I love Grammy, but Mom, please – enough with the key tassels already. And finally, Pop-pop’s answer to key tassels?

3. The Yellow Pages. My Dad was a phone book “hoarder.” I cleared 2005 thru 2013 out of the house today.

phone booksMy father’s attraction to phone books is odd – he hated talking on the phone. I suppose he just always wanted to ensure he could find a number when he needed one.

So anyway, when I left, I was quite pleased with how the living room “looked” – it was neat, organized and clean. I was not happy, however, with how the room “felt.” Sad thing is, in my efforts to make it look like someone “lived there.” I made it look like a model apartment: stacks of books here, strategically-placed pillows on every piece of upholstery and – forgive me, Grammy, forgive me Pop-pop – I also re-arranged the lamps.

I know – I am a horrible son (and anal retentive/ mild OCD, too!) And, know what was REALLY missing from the living room, the one thing I cannot “fix” or glam up? My parents are gone.

I’d stack those phone books, re-hang all those tassels AND wind faux ivy around any length of chain, rod or rail if I could only have my parents back. I missed them today, BIG TIME. And while I relished pitching those excessive things out, I’d be the happiest child on earth if I could hear my Dad ask for a phone book, or have my Mom ask me which candle ring I liked better.

I miss you Mom, I miss you Dad. Please look after each other, OK and, if you could, give me a glance every now and again, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

Monday Memes 21 (Black)

Years ago, when I moved to Cleveland, for a short time I managed an indie coffee shop – LONG before the meteoric rise of Peet’s and Starbucks and Caribou and the like. The coffee shop  was called Arabica and it was in a trendy-cool little mall called Coventryard (yes, it IS spelled that way). The year was probably like 1984 or 1985 – I was in my mid-twenties, a fresh-faced farm boy from Shelby, Ohio, now living in Cleveland – a HUGE city compared to where I had come from. Anyway, for about six months, I managed this coffee house and it was here that I met my first openly gay man (Wade) and my first self-proclaimed bisexual man (Douglas). I adored them instantly and we became fast friends…

Wade and Douglas were a colorful pair – at one time they had been lovers (briefly) but – in a moment of sincere love for one another and logical thinking – decided they would be better best friends than boyfriends (plus Douglas had that whole “bi” thing happening). Anyway, they were great to me, nurturing and patient, loving and paternal, and helped me really get comfortable with my own sexuality.

They had a zillion ridiculous stories but this is one of my favorites:

One day, without any preface, Douglas looks at me and says, “Wade and I wore all black for six months. I mean, black EVERYTHING – shirts, shoes, pants, socks, underwear, everything. I even bought some black condoms.” (Remarkably, there was a condom store in our trendy little neighborhood called, appropriately enough, “Condom-nation”).

I was intrigued.

wearing black

“Why?” I asked, seeking to gain some enlightenment or understanding that the experience had imparted to Wade and Douglas. “Why? Why all black for six months?”

Without missing a beat, Wade – who was standing behind the counter with us, making an iced coffee, sashayed past me and announced, “Just to see if we could do it.”

Design-Quote-until-something-darker-comes-out-copy

That was it – a 180 day trial of endurance, just to see if they could “do it.” I asked what happened on the the 181st day.

“Nothing,” said Douglas. “I just started wearing other colors of clothes again.”

At the time it made me smile, and it still does. I guess this story popped into my head recently because I ran across these memes. all relating to black, wearing black or seeking out black. As a designer, my life is full of color and yet I still find myself oddly and irresistibly drawn to black. Maybe Douglas and Wade had some insight they never shared with me…

black

I think about those days from time to time, and wonder what ever became of those two. I had heard that Wade passed away in the early 90’s, a casualty of HIV; I saw Douglas once, a few years after our work experience together, walking hand in hand with a knock-out woman at our local “high-end” mall. I didn’t speak, and I kinda’ regret that.

I hope those two somehow know/knew what a positive and important impact they had on my life and personal development. And how – in addition to everything else – they instilled in me a love and respect for black. Not brown, not orange, not navy blue – black will ALWAYS be black.

A Dream Redefined

As a young gay boy growing up in the middle of nowhere (Shelby, Ohio), I always had a vision of what my “grown-up” life would be: I’d have a fabulous job, have fabulous friends, live in a fabulous city, wear fabulous clothes, take the train to work (I’d be too fabulous to drive) and – well, I think you get the picture. An experience-hungry gay teen in a town of, like, 8000 people (most of them my cousins), dreaming of a fantasy life in a major metropolitan area. I always thought my life would look like this:

Commuters on a TrainYeah, that handsome guy on the left would have been me (like I EVER looked like that), taking the train into “the city” to my job (no doubt in advertising or public relations), stealing a peek at the uptight lady-in-a-power-suit’s New York Times. These didn’t even exist when I was fifteen but I am SO sure I would have had a kale smoothie – with an energy boost – for breakfast, I would have “worked out” at lunch (maybe racquetball for 45 minutes?) and then I would have taken the train home to my handsome “boyfriend” in the tony suburb we lived in outside the city – I’m thinking it would have been like a 40 minute commute, each way. Once home, I would have popped some great-but-not-overly-pretentious wine and my love and I would have watched the shows we taped on the VCR the night before. Bliss.

Fast forward thirty years into reality…

I do have a job I enjoy – two jobs, really – but to be honest, I am making about the same dough I made when I was twenty-five. Instead of a smartly-cut suit, I wear a logo’d polo shirt and khakis to work every day, and my sleek attache case has been replaced with my brown bag lunch. I did make it to a “big city” – well, actually, I live in Cleveland, Ohio, the 45th largest city in America. I love smoothies, but the kind made with peanut butter, honey and bananas. Exercise? YUK! And I do not live with my boyfriend – I actually live with my legally-married HUSBAND (although we prefer the term spouse) and my commute from work is a seventeen minute bus ride to a mildly tony suburb of Cleveland. There is no wine; I quit drinking more than a decade ago. And the VHS has been replaced by On Demand/a VCR.rtabus

Is my life what I imagined/hoped it would be? No – it’s even better!

I have a man that completes me in every way, after a lifetime of false-starts and failed relationships. Today I left my job at one of our city’s most-revered public institutions, walked past our world-class art museum as well as the permanent home of our world famous orchestra, thru the campus of a prestigious private college and waited at the bus stop outside the campus cathedral. While I didn’t get to “steal” a Wall Street Journal or Times read, I sat next to a lovely lady that was chatty, obviously an immigrant and just super delightful and polite. No one did any break dancing on the bus, and no one gave me a card that said s/he was (insert disability here) and selling these cards to make a living. I stepped on the bus at 5:38P; at 6:05P, I was in my PJ’s, missing my Beloved (he works tonight 5-10P). I called a couple of friends and then made a cup of instant coffee with “fancy” flavored creamer. I am now waiting for my Beloved to get home from work. It’s been a great day.

Dreams are great but seldom turn out to be all we imagined them to be. If, like me, you get lucky – your life will be even better than you imagined! I had a rough draft for my life in my head, one which I thought was perfection. The reality is, my life is honestly more perfect now than I could have ever dreamed.

Would I like to “hit” The Powerball for $160 million dollars? You bet but, all in all, I am pretty blessed. Thanks, Universe! I appreciate it!

Friday Was Great

All in all, my Friday was great:

1. Today was my six-year anniversary with my beloved Martin, and it was a beautiful day.

gay anniversary

2. I was offered a small promotion at work today, the next step in my plan for total domination  (the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?)

èäàÞ

3. My Dad had a good day, well, after an early AM trip to the emergency room. Sigh, but YEAH, too…

2_thumbs-up

 

4. I lost a total of 3.8 pounds over the last two weeks on my “Journey to Release the Thinner, Inner Me.” Thanks, Weight Watchers!

one-size-fits-all

I’ve had an awesome day, and have a great weekend planned up ahead. I am a lucky guy, all ’round!

And So It Begins

I am now about two weeks into my second job. I am working part-time at one of the celebrated institutions here in my hometown, in the gift shop, to both learn about how the business operates “from the inside” and – to be honest – to make some extra “scratch.”

So far, I love it. My new boss is great, my fellow employees are diverse, colorful and fun and working with the public at an institution is oddly rewarding; I mean, the gratitude you see on someone’s face when you tell them where the restrooms are? Priceless.

It has been years – YEARS – since I’ve held an “hourly” job. Frankly, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to do it but, today? I knew it was going to be OK. See, today this happened:

untucked shirtUh huh, that’s correct – I worked my entire shift with my shirt “untucked.” We are issued uniform shirts – cute, embroidered-logo polo shorts that we pair with “our own khaki pants and comfortable shoes” that is the uniform for the gift store. During my first two weeks, I dutifully “tucked” my shirt in every day, enduring the tugging and pulling of a shirt trapped by a belt, sometimes roasting in the luxurious “60/40 cotton/poly blend” that is the fabric of the shirt. I watched daily as female store associates sometimes wore the shirts, sometimes not (ladies are allowed “appropriate business casual attire while at work”) and the gents I worked with – all younger then me – never tucked their shirts in. I mean – in their/my defense – the polo does have a square bottom hem, suggesting it is to be worn out. So today was my day to go “untucked.” I figured if anyone called me on it, I would bluff and flubber around and go tuck the shirt in, right? No one said anything. I worked all day in breezy, casual comfort, my shirt hem skimming below my middle-aged paunch…

It has begun. Today, untucked shirt. I mean, what’s next? Can “forgetting to clock out for lunch” be very far behind? My descent into rebellious hourly employee-ness has begun…  😉

Happy BD To Me, 2014 Edition

Today is my birthday. I am 56 year’s old today. Five-Six. Wow… That seems like the half-life of carbon or something, LOL! As I reflect over the past 365, a lot has happened, mostly good, some OK and some, frankly, a little challenging…

cupcake

Last June, about two weeks after my birthday, Section 3 of DOMA was repealed. As a result, I was able to marry the man of my dreams in August 2013. Like that event wasn’t great enough in and of itself, that marriage license allowed me to sponsor my spouse for permanent, lawful immigration to America. In January of 2014, MSW received his green card. And in a little over two weeks, he will be traveling back to Europe for the first time in over three years to see his family – and I will, for the first time ever will be sending him off on a plane and not worrying if he will be able to get back in the country. For that I am forever thankful.

plane-at-night

I woke up beside that guy today – and for that love and caring, devotion and commitment, I will also be forever grateful. Plus, he made me a kick-ass birthday cake. He is so good to me.

My family has been OK over the past year. My Dad has been having an ongoing health issue but he is battling like a trooper and I think he is finally on the right treatment path. I love that old curmudgeon and know he will be fine. All my siblings and nieces and nephews are well, although my niece Erin FASTB (First and Still the Best!) has her OWN child now, my great nephew Emmitt, and there is nothing like watching someone you held as a baby hand you THEIR baby to remind you that time does indeed march on. I am blessed with many children in my life – nine nieces, nephews and a great nephew, from 30 years old to 14 months, and I love them all.

HAPPY-CHILDREN

Work? Now that is a mixed bag for sure. While the interior design component of our business continues to grow, our retail “division” might as well be closed. It is hard for independent retailers in the present economy, to be sure. My business partner and I are examining who we are today compared to who we were almost seven years ago, when we started. I can foresee some future changes/re-shaping coming – not necessarily bad, but you know me: change is never easy.

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My personal health? Well, my Beloved has me eating better and healthier than ever before (I told you – he is so good for me). I am now two+ year’s out of treatment for prostate cancer and, so far, so good. I have to share that I am slightly embarrassed; when I started this blog in January of 2013, one of my goals was to lose 55 pounds (check out my original post and that will make more sense). The embarrassing part? Since that post I think I MAY have lost about 10 pounds, totes, but as long as I am going DOWN I guess I need to stay the course.

spuds

My Angel is almost done with school, and I am thinking about going back to finally finish my degree/s. Or maybe I will just take a foreign language – perhaps German, and get in touch with my “roots?” Who knows?

German Flag

Our local friend circle is great, and we also have a national network of friends from east to west. I am blessed with much love and support in this area – in fact, not to boast, but when I last checked, I had over 225 “Birthday Wishes” on Facebook (I may not get to personally respond to all of you, so know that your thoughts and wishes are really appreciated!)

coast to coast

Ridiculous thing that just happened? I got a free lunch for my birthday from our local Jimmie John’s. Sandwich, Thinny Chips AND a large drink. Matt and his crew are fantastic!

jimmyjohns-logo

In the challenging category is the fact that – much as I resist (resent?) it – I am in my “Second Fifty.” I think I need glasses, readers at least. My Sweetie – and a few others – have commented recently that I am talking louder and louder. My God, am I losing my hearing? And as a “youthful-minded” fifties-ish person, I am challenged by fashion. I am not ready for Ban-Lon “slacks” with non-roll, elastic waistbands yet, but me and Banana Republic are not friends, either. And I think people over fifty should never wear “graphic tees.” Sigh…

glasses_628

All in all, however, my life is pretty sweet. I am blessed. So, “Welcome, 56!” I am looking forward to 57…

Happy-Birthday

Eurovision 2014

So tonight, after yet another annoying few days at the J-O-B, I plan on couch-crashing with my Sweetie and enjoying the second, semi-final round of Eurovision 2014.

What is Eurovision, you ask?

Eurovision-2014

According to Wikipedia, the Eurovision Song Contest is “…an annual song competition held among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) since 1956. Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.” So, yeah, take that American Idol, The Voice and every version of The X Factor. Before any of you, there was Eurovision.

I was introduced to Eurovision via Martin, and it was amazing to watch. The variety of acts and the differences between countries is astounding. I am pretty excited to watch Round Two of the Semi-Finals tonight with my Sweetie. I caught a few of the acts from Round One earlier this week – amazing…

The Eurovison 2014 stage and venue are ridiculous, as in ree-dick-yoo-lus…

stage-of-Eurovision-

To give you some idea of what the stage “does,” here is a video clip of Austrian contestant Conchita Wurst‘s second rehearsal – Conchita’s song entry is titled “Rise Like a Phoenix”: 

Conchita is an interesting contestant – s/he presents as a woman (beautiful woman) with a full beard. Here she is:

Conchita-Wurst

Conchita has a sort of Kim-Kardashian-meets-immaculately-groomed-Arabic-prince-meets-Shirley-Bassey presence. I personally really, really like her song, and I think the lyrics have personal significance to the performer. I know Conchita is a polarizing personality but, beyond all else, Eurovision IS a vocal competition so I hope the BEST vocalist wins, regardless of how he or she looks…

Check out Eurovision 2014 online here – and enjoy! http://www.eurovision.tv/page/timeline

Fashion Statement: Doll Clothing for Men

I have never considered myself a clothes horse. Not even close. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about fashion and/or being fashionable (I mean, c’mon – I wear “Dad jeans,” LOL!) I blame that on a lot of things – a less-than-affluent childhood (I wore a lot of hand-me-downs from my cousin Eddie), a lifetime plagued by poor body/self image, a genetically-predestined “sturdy, big-boned” frame (I am of German descent – we are a solid stock) and, quite honestly, just a lack of interest in men’s fashion. I tend to think most men’s fashion is a bit boring and pedestrian. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think well-dressed guys are sharp and handsome but being fashionable has always been second to being comfortable for me. Which brings me to today’s blog question:

Who the HELL decided fashionably-dressed men should look like PeeWee Herman? And if that isn’t bad enough, who decided men should all buy clothing two sizes too small, like The Grinch’s heart? The male models I see everywhere today are wearing clothing that would probably (barely) “fit” a Ken doll. I mean, what is this?

Outfit tweedOutfit Navy

I would like to quickly point out that the images of both men above were taken from fashion blog “Look Books” (click the images to be re-directed to the original sites) and that I think both these guys are current and pleasant-looking, if somewhat “pinched.” They are also in outfits that look two sizes too small or, even worse, look like adults wearing suits they got in eighth grade. Is there a world-wide shortage of suiting fabric I am unaware of? I don’t get it…

Neither of these guys are “big” – I’d guess each of them to be like 5’8″ or so and a lean, mean maybe 155 pounds. So how in the world can they even FIND clothes that look so small and tight? I mean, c’mon… The gentleman at top is in what I assume could be called a business casual suit, yet his pants look like they barely graze his pubes, his pants are too short (and no socks? don’t get me started!), his sleeves are too short, his shirt looks constrictive and his jacket is so tight it literally pulls across that toned pigeon chest of his in the “relaxed” pose at left. And the navy blue blazer guy fairs only slightly better…

Navy blue blazer’s jacket is so tight it cinches in at the waist, creating – at least in my mind, – a very feminine silhouette. The dress shirt is one button too unbuttoned for me (can you say Reek-oh Swah-vay?) And are we STILL doing distressed denim (hole-y jeans)? At least this guy’s pant hems touch his shoe tops.

I know I probably sound like some old, chubby fashion-hater but I question why – in a world constantly battling eating disorders in boys and girls, men and women – why do we aspire to be “spindle thin” mean wearing clothes that fit like bandages?

God love you fashionista’s – you keep squeezing into those mini-pants and I will keep wearing baggy polo style shirts.

Flirt Therapy?

Today, as I was making a quick retail purchase, I think the sweet woman at the register actually “hit” on me. I think. Moments like that never really happen to me, or else I’m kinda’ “thick” about it. It was charming and awkward, all at the same time, for a couple of reasons:

1. I am happily married to the MAN of my dreams already. I love that guy…

Gay Cake Topper2. My sexuality aside, while she is an attractive lady, even if I were straight, she is probably young enough to be my daughter… Eewww…

Anna Nicole and HubbyIt was kinda’ cute, kinda’ awkward and, mercifully, over quickly. Don’t get me wrong – I am flattered for sure, but a big “THANKS BUT NO THANKS,” please.

Thanks but no thanksI guess I have never even been all that comfortable with the notion of possibly being “attractive” – I mean, I feel awful even typing that phrase. Yuk. At best, I consider myself slightly above average-looking: I don’t scare babies and old people but no one ever mistakes me for Chris Evans, either. My Sweetie tells me every day how handsome and beautiful I am (and I love him for that) but, after 5+ years of near-daily affirmations, it stills feel strange and a little uncomfortable..

As weird as it sounds, I never struggled with being gay but have always struggled with body image and self-acceptance. Even in my early 20’s, when I had a 32″ waist – a size L-O-N-G gone from my closet, BTW – I still wasn’t happy with how I looked. I have been in therapy for almost two decades and been blessed with the most loving, supportive and affirming partner EVER for going on six years now, so I AM making progress. Who knows? Maybe one day, I will be an arrogant, conceited A-hole (but I doubt it).

So, nice counter lady, thank you for the real-or-perceived-to-be-real coyness. We will never – and I mean, NEVER – be together but you definitely helped boost my self-esteem a bit today and reminded me how lucky I am to be with the man I have always wished for… Thanks!