30 Day Challenge – Day #9

Day 9- A picture of your friends

I have truly been blessed with some of the most amazing people as my closest friends.  I’m a pretty social person,so the list of my acquaintances seems pretty endless when I sit here and think about it, but the closest people in my life, the friends that have somehow become family, are very few.

The Swipples – A History
swipples

I was dating this women named Iris who I met while I was working in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, hosting an open mic. She kept insisting that she wanted me to meet her friends, and so the following week, she invited them all to the open mic. We met near the turnstiles of the subway, and introductions were pretty general.  We walked over to the show, and had a GREAT time during the 1 hour open bar.  Too great of a time, because I have to admit that after about 20 minutes, we were completely wrecked!  I honestly don’t really remember most of that night, with the exception of maybe singing a song a capella, wrongly introducing one of the artists, and going on and on about how hilarious Spongebob was as I proceeded to recite my favorite episode word for word.  Truly ridiculous, I know!  But I also remember talking about the gay beach that they would go to pretty often, and inviting them to stay the night at my house that coming weekend so we could head out there all together and make the best of the humid NY July weather.  And that was how it started!  That was the beginning of the longest relationships I have ever had.  There was initially one more person who was an integral part of our now “new and improved” quartet, but she cut us off for reasons that we still don’t know, just like that, after over 10 years of friendship.  I won’t lie and say I don’t miss her sometimes, but her disconnecting from our group without a word as to why, helped the rest of us to understand why we are so important to each other and allows us to really be honest and gentle with each other.

After that fateful Tuesday night at the open mic, which led to the slumber party and beach escape, came a month of living at Marco’s house.  That was one of the best summers of my life!  We did nothing all day but play games, and watch the Olympics, listen to music, and well, in my case, fall in love!  I began dating Tee at that time (which lasted for a little over a year before both of us decided that we were better off as friends, and we are!).  These past 13 years, with them in my life, have been filled with camping, boating, Breast Cancer walks, weddings, babies, beach trips, BBQ’s, engagements, losses, new jobs and promotions, broken hearts, suicide attempts, hospital visits, graduations, fire pits, wine…you name it, as friends, we have been through it all, rejoiced, cried, hurt, and gotten over it! I couldn’t have asked for better people in my life.  Honestly, I have no idea why, but I’m choking up thinking about the love that I have for my friends as I write this.

MARCO
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I don’t even know where to start when it comes to Marco.   There are many times in my life when I felt like, I just couldn’t go on. That taking my life was way better than having to deal with some of the issues that have plagued me.  I don’t even know how many times he has saved my life.  Literally and figuratively saved. my. life…Our friendship is the type that you write hallmark cards about.  Marco and I, we’re kindred spirits.  Easy going, carefree, lovers of nature and learning new things. We have the same temperament, similar likes and dislikes, and we complement each other pretty well.  He’s kind, generous with his time and money and efforts, compassionate, gentle.  He’s a hot mess, and not afraid to show it.  He’s brave, and intelligent, and affectionate.  He’s the light at the end of the tunnel most days.  He’s all the adjectives in the world, but at the same time, not a single one fits him well enough.  He’s the best man in my life, and I’m pretty sure, hell, I’m certain, he always will be…

TEE

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My relationship with Tee started out romantic, but after living together for a while (we totally U-Hauled) we knew it would just be better to be friends.  Our friendship has truly flourished over the years.  We started out strong, and then things got a little rocky after our break up, but somewhere in the aftermath of that, she has become the realist friend I could have ever asked for.   Whenever I’m having a serious dilemma, I talk to Tee because she’s never gonna sugar coat things.  She’s going to present the problem and the solution from a ton of different angles.  She’s gonna question my choices, why I made them, and what the benefit and detrement is.  She’s honesty, and energy, and spirit.  She’s like an ice cream sundae on a hot summer day.  She’s cool, and calm, and collected. She’s  a shoulder to lean on, and an attentive listener, and unconditional love, and I’m so lucky to be on the receiving end of that.

NIKKI

  

  

Nikki and I met a few days after that night at the open mic.  She was the friend who had a young son (3 at the time) and had a little more difficulty getting out on a week night like the rest of us.  If I remember correctly, we met at Marco’s house, and became close pretty quickly.   She’s the friend that will clear out a room in her house for you when you have nowhere else to go.  The one that will send her girlfriend to pick you up after your ex wife kicks you out because she’s still at work and can’t do it herself.  She’s a true señorita and puts her son, fiancé, and the three of us pretty much before anything else.  She’s our early-to-bed-so-quick-write-on-her-face-with-makeup entertainment.  She’s an awesome Pampered Chef.  She’s laughter, and warm sweaters right out of the dryer, and an awesome ROTC Cadet Super Mom.  She’s supportive, and helpful, and unselfish. She’s a good sport (when we get her with makeup EVERY SINGLE TIME!), and a breath of fresh air, and a hopeless romantic.  I’m blessed to have her vibrant and shiny light in my life.

There really is a solid group of about 10 of us, when you include everyone’s significant other. And each one has such a special place in my heart.  They are my chosen family, the people I turn to when the world on my shoulders gets too heavy to bear on my own. They are my protectors, my sunny day, and the best aunts and uncles my kids could have ever asked for. And when we’re all together, we’re effing hilarious! And I think we’d all agree, the laughter makes it special and magical and ours.  Only ours…

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30 Day Challenge – Day #8

Day 8 – A place you’ve traveled to

I’ve done my fair share of traveling in life pre children.  Whenever an adventure presented itself to get out of my hometown or out of NYC, this guy right here, was always up for it. I usually still am, but my wife has to gently (and sometimes not so gently) remind me that a) we have 3 children now b) we don’t have the funds and c) Mary can’t leave the state without permission from mom, making our time for travel really limited, and usually pretty local.

Of all of the places that I’ve traveled to, there are two favorites.  I’ll leave my favorite favorite favorite trip for Day #23 of this challenge.  My second favorite place that I’ve traveled to is a small island off the coast of Haiti called Labadee.  It is a port privately owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises.  Callie won an award at work (She was in the top 1% of revenue for the company winning her “The Diamond Director” Award in 2010, which means that she made over 1 million dollars worth of revenue for the year) and her prize was a 5 night Caribbean cruise for two, with an extra $600 spending money for excursions or whatever else we wanted to do on the trip.  We had only been dating about a month and a half when she asked me if I wanted to go with her.  I thought to myself, well, if I can live with her for 6 days and she hasn’t thrown me overboard yet, I’m pretty sure we can make it work!

labadi

When we saw the ships itinerary, we had no idea where the hell Labadee was, and decided to do a bit of research in order to make better decisions about what we wanted to do there.  Turns out, the month that we were traveling, there was a Cholera outbreak in Haiti, so we were a little concerned that it may make it’s way to the island, where about labadi3200 of the mainlanders pay a small fee to work at the outdoor flea market.  But we went anyway, because, free trip.  And I’m so glad that we did, because I have never been on an island as beautiful, and I’ve been on a few pretty bad ass islands.  The water was so clear that in 5+ feet of water I could still see the black nail polish on my toes.  Where almost every 2 trees had some type of hammock or swing hanging from it’s trunk or branches so you could laze about the island all day if you so pleased.  Where the locals were so friendly and so talented that you could have a reggae band serenading you while braiding you hair, fixing you a cocktail inside of a coconut and making you a string bracelet simultaneously!  Where you could hold hands with your girlfriend and that gesture would be greeted with “awwws” and “so cute” and “isn’t that just lovely!”  (No seriously, the locals were incredible!)  So many times (even on this same cruise) we have been treated not so great, especially that one time we went to Jamaica and a guy helping me off the boat, told me that he would give my girlfriend “a big bamboo!” because that’s what she needed!  First of all, do they even have bamboo in Jamaica? And second, AS IF!!!

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Labadee is a place where I realized that Callie and I make a great team. There was this adult water playground that was IMPOSSIBLE to navigate.  If you weigh more than 140lbs, can’t do a pull up, have weak abs, or any type of general “wimpyness”, DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY!  Despite the fact that the only thing on our side was a great ability to swim, we spent most of the afternoon doing our best to hoist each other up onto these inflated slides.  We were climbing over each other, feet on shoulders and ears and foreheads, kicking furiously trying to keep our heads above the 25 ft of water that we were floating in.  Lots of ass pushing and hand holding.  Tons of choking on sea water and finally, FINALLY, success!!! One slide down and we were done.  But we had done it, and worked together, and struggled and were victorious and in sync.

I TRULY HATED THAT DAMN SLIDE!

I TRULY HATED THAT DAMN SLIDE!

That trip really cemented what we already knew…that we were made for each other, and that nothing, not even a ridiculously over priced, seemingly impossible to conquer, adult inflatable water playground would tear us apart.  In fact, the harder it got to beat, the harder we worked together to crush it!

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30 Day Challenge – Day #6 & Day #7

Day 6- A picture of something that makes you happy

THE SHAWANGUNNK RIDGE

THE SHAWANGUNK RIDGE

The Shawangunk Ridge…oh, how I love that place.  The Gunks is hands down, my all time favorite place to hike.  With all the crevices and fissures in the rocks to crawl and climb through, this place is an adult playground.  Marco and I have hiked miles and miles of the trails on the ridge, and every time we go, I find just a few more reasons to love this place.  Our first “real” hike, when we decided that hiking was our thing, was at Minnewaska State Park.  I had gone there with a friend and her family when I was about 12, and I loved it even then.  We lost contact over the years, but thanks to reconnecting on FB, I asked her randomly one day, what the name of the park was that she hated and I loved where we hiked for what seemed like hours.  When she got back to me, after asking her father, Marco and I made plans to go that following weekend.  I have to say, it was just as incredible as I remember it being when I was young.  The white rocks, jumping over cracks, viewing the most impressive waterfalls, experiencing all the changes in foliage as we walked from the lake up to the Sam’s Peak, with it’s breathtaking view.   We hiked the Labyrinth, an intricate ladder system that weaves it’s way through rocks, and lets you out at the Lemon Sqeezer where you climb a 30 foot ladder through a 2×2 fissure to get to the summit. Claustrophobia is real there! We’ve hiked the Ice Caves, where it’s so cold, that even at the end of the summer in late August and early September, you can still find areas covered in ice.  We made our way to Verkeerderkill Falls, where you can get so close to the edge of the falls that you’re almost tempted to jump, just because you can.  Awostig Falls, where the leaves at the bottom of the falls make the water look like tea.  Blueberry Run, where you can pick blueberries as you walk to the highest elevation in the Gunks, but be mindful of the snakes and the bears and the deer (we’ve never encountered any, but it’s very likely that you would, especially in the warm summer months).  This place has become such a staple in my life, that when I die, I want my family and friends to take the hour and a half drive, and scatter my ashes there, so I can forever be connected to this place where I find my sanity on days where it feels like I don’t have any.  This place, where no matter what curveballs life throws at me, I collect them and throw them over the edge of the crevices.  This place, where after 12 years of friendship, I continue to get to know Marco and our relationship continues to grow and flourish.  This place, where when even looking at a picture of it, causes immense joy and a dire need to Google more trails and see where they take me.  The Shawangunks, with its white rock, cracks, blueberries, and bears, will always be my favorite place…

Day 7-Favorite movies

I have to admit, I’m not really a movie person.  I’m much more interested in binge watching some really great shows.  Movies tend to just bore me to death, unless of course it’s a documentary (I have been known to watch documentaries that I like over and over and over again!) because those teach me things.  I’m always on either end of the extremes.  I love to watch things that will teach me something, or mind numbing TV that will just rot my brain.  Like the Real Housewives of Atlanta!  Talk about a guilty pleasure!  When it comes to movies though, I DO have a very definitive Top 5, and those movies I have watched at least 3-4 times a year for as long as I can remember.  In no particular order, my Top 5, and why I can’t get enough of these movies.

1. Life in A Day – Documentary
This documentary is INCREDIBLE!  If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure that you do that when you get some free time.  It really puts life into perspective, and you get to see what every one in the world is doing at any given time on the same day, July 24th, 2010.  This made me cry, made me smile, made me laugh, and even at times made me question my own existence and what life and happiness and being connected to the world really means to me.  It’s heavy and light all the same time.

2. Forest Gump – Drama, Romance
This movies doesn’t even need words.  If you don’t love Forest Gump, well, then I don’t really know what to say to that!  The first time I saw this movie I was 11 years old, and didn’t understand half of the references in the movie, but I sure did believe that he did all of that stuff! There is one thing that I understood, and no matter what you think of this movie, I think we can all agree, Forest loved that DAMN JENNY, and he was willing to go to the ends of the earth for her, and if you have ever experience a love remotely similar to that, then you feel for him, so much, through this whole film.  I mean, seriously though, what goes better with peas than carrots? That is an official love!

3.  Gia – Biography, Drama
When I was 16 and really started talking to girls and hanging out with the “gay” kids in school (even though no one knew it just then) we would get together on weekends and find all the LGBT movies we could get our hands on, and binge watch.  Gia was one of those movies that I ended up buying (the unedited version! That’s right!) and lived in my DVD player.  I would turn it on just for background noise sometimes.  It was the first real time I had seen a sex scene between two women, and I can’t even begin to tell you how fierce the Angelina Jolie obsession became after that.  I think I spent $100 that summer at Blockbuster renting everything I could find with her in it, but this one will always be my favorite.  Especially the unrated unedited version…mmmmm unrated….

4. The Little Mermaid – Animation
I know every single word to this movie.  From beginning to end.  So much so, that it’s kinda been banned in our house, because no matter how many times I promise not to sing along and not to recite EVERY. SINGLE. WORD, I fail miserable every time.  This is the first movie I remember seeing at the movie theater with my mother when I was young.  Just her and I. Holding hands.  I remember how awesome I thought the poster was, and the opening scene.  I remember the way my moms perfume smelled, and sometimes, when I’m sitting at home sneaking in a quick few minutes of TLM, I get a whiff of it.  It’s the weirdest thing.  I’ll always remember that day…

5. 300 – Action
There is something about this movie that really gets me super HYPE!!! Maybe it’s all the blood (which normally makes me queasy), or the hot bodies that I wish I had!  No matter how many time I see it, I never get tired of it.  Callie has vowed that if she has to see it one more time, she is gonna jump into the screen, grab one of their spears, and spear herself to death! She’s so freaking dramatic!  But 300, amazing!  And the amount of times that I have hilariously substituted “Sparta” with something else, you have no idea! Even when the babies start crying really loud, “THIS. IS. QUITE TIME!!!”  Or the occasional, “THIS. IS. DINNER TIME!” or even “THIS. IS. MY ASS ON YOUR LEG!”  Yup, that totally happened….

30 Day Challenge- Day #4 & Day #5

Day 4-Your parents

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I always get really excited when I get to tell a story about my wonderful parents! Although I didn’t realize it growing up, they have always been the epitome of fair and loving. Even now, when all of their children are grown, out of the house, and living their own lives, they still manage to take us away on family vacations, weekends getaways, and our favorite, Sunday Funday family dinners. They still treat us all the same and no one gets any special privileges.  It’s like Mami always says, “Todos en el piso, o todos en la cama!”  Everyone on the floor or everyone in the bed, and that’s how it’s always been.

My Mom – There really aren’t any words to describe the amazing woman that she truly is, mombut I will admit, that our relationship for most of my life has been quite strained.  There was even a point where we barely spoke to each other for the better part of 2 years.  We fought pretty often when I was a teenager, and when I left home at 18, I did it in a very sneaky way that caused an even bigger rift between us.  The phone calls were rare, I hardly showed up at home for family functions, and when I did, I rarely spoke to her.  As the years passed, I realized that all of the things she did, how strict she was, how she constantly challenged me, were only done to make me a better person.  It took me until I was 25 (and lots of therapy and my moms breast cancer diagnosis), to really understand that it was all done in my best interest.  We began to mend our relationship that year, and now, I can honestly sit here and say that my mother is one of my best friends.  She always gives the best advice, and recognizes the struggle.  She’s been through so much in her short almost 50 years of life, and her experience and advice have been invaluable, both to myself and Callie.  My mom is just awesome, and a party animal. She’s a “5K every morning at 5am” runner. She’s a “hot yoga” fanatic.  She loves her Ugg Riding Boots, and a glass of wine in her hand.  She is the life of the party, and gives the BEST hugs when your having the WORST day.  She’s the greatest cook on the planet, and the best grandmother any kid could have.  She’s a multi-tasker who loves BBQ’s and a perfectly manicured yard.  My mom, she’s amazing!

My Dad – I’m glad that I was never given the opportunity to chose my father, because I don’t think I would have made as marvelous of a decision as the Universe did.  My Papi, he dadchose me.  He was young (18) and he took me in as his own.  Barely out of high school, he was working 3 jobs to support my mom and her two children, two children that he could have very well had nothing to do with.  But he didn’t choose that path at all, he chose us, and for that I will be forever grateful.  Lots of my attributes, I inherited from my dad.  He has this incredible ability to see the positive and good in everyone and every situation.  He is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and we are usually greeted with some ridiculous joke when we get together.  We all have his sense of humor.  He has a thirst for knowledge that had us watching Discovery and History channels most of our lives, and reading encyclopedias for fun.  Thanks to my dad, we can watch an episode of Jeopardy and answer just about 3/4 of the questions correctly.  He’s a magnificent grandfather with a wealth of knowledge to offer all of his grandkids.  He’s an inventor and an artist.  The walls of our childhood bedroom were adorned with hand drawn pictures of Mickey Mouse, and Roger Rabbit.  He’s an athlete, who taught us to play a ton of different sports, and never let us quit, which led us all to being state record holders and all league/county/state athletes.  He’s rarely missed one of our games.  My dad is a Renaissance Man, who knows a lot about a lot and he’s managed to instill that in each one of his 5 children.

I’m lucky to have such incredible parents.  I’m glad that they took us on camping trips instead of holidays on some far off island.  I’m grateful for the 6+ hour car rides where they forced us to listen to New Age music from the 80’s.  I’m appreciative of the 1 Game Boy that they bought for 5 kids to share.  It didn’t make sense to me then, but now, as a parent, I get it!  I totally understand.  I hope to be with my kids, the way my parents were with me; Strict, kind, supportive, affectionate, challenging, consistent, and loving…always very loving…but also, ridiculous…just…ridiculous…

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Day 5 – Your Siblings

I have been very blessed with having a crapload of siblings!  My parents started their family very young, and by the time my parents were 25, they had 5 kids under the age of 8.  We were in a cramped space, with not a lot of material things, so we were forced to play together.  My first best friends were my siblings.  My first fight – siblings!  My first crack at parenting – siblings.  I will admit, I was tough on them, my youngest brother getting it the worst.  I was left with them on my own lots of times, because my parents worked full time but also went together in the evening to work a part time job from 6-9pm cleaning a clinic on weeknights.  At 12 years old, I was responsible for my younger siblings getting their homework done, chores done, brushing their teeth, and getting to bed before my parents got home. It wasn’t easy, but the connection and the bond that it helped to create with my them is one that I cherish every day.  We talk on the phone often, and never hang up without saying “I love you”.  We vacation together, even without our parents, raise our kids together, and continue a lot of the things we did when we were younger, like encouraging each other to be better people.  We party together, we grieve together, we care for each other when we are sick, we make each other laugh with random meme’s in group text, and we always, always remember that “family first”.

Raquel – She is a year younger than I am, and growing up I wasn’t allowed to do anything without her tagging along.  “Ma, I wanna play outside!” “Take your sister!”  “Ma, I’m going to the movies!” “Not without your sister!”  “Mom, prom is in 3 weeks” “Do any of your friends need a date so your sister can go with you?!!”  Seriously!?!  Raquel asked me to be the officiant at her wedding this August.  She doesn’t have a wedding party, so she asked if I would do what a Maid of Honor usually does. I can’t wait!  My sister and I, we are close.  Although she is younger than I am, I have always admired her and wished I could be more like her.  She is a marathon runner, a lover of life, a world traveler, an amazing and trustworthy friend, a maker of time for all things family, and above anything else, she is infectious.  Her smile is contagious, her laughter is toxic and will have everyone doubled over in stitches within seconds, and her love, well that can be felt without her even saying it.  Raquel is one of a kind.

Leo – My brother Leo is from a relationship before my mom and dad met.  He came to the US when he was 8 years old, and quickly made his way into our hearts as a very important and loved member of our family.  Growing up, my Dad always had his pictures up in our house.  When Leo got to the states, he and I instantly formed a special bond.  We were big soccer kids, and practiced together until the sun set.  We were obsessed with playing video games.  We loved watching Yu-Gi-Oh and Sailor Moon.  He was my favorite playmate, and we spend lots of time, leaning over each others shoulders looking into the one Game Boy that we all shared.  Tetris masters?!  That’s us!  We don’t talk as often as we used to be, but every once in a while, outta the blue, I’ll receive or send an “I miss you” message, and it makes my week…every time!

Natasha – My baby sister.  We have always had a very co-dependent relationship.  Ever since Natasha was sleeping in her own bed, it has been a shared bed with me.  We slept in the same bed until pretty much the day I moved out, not because of any reason besides we wanted to. She was my “buddy” growing up, and it was my responsibility to take care of her when we were getting ready in the morning, or when we were on family outings. Nata and I were inseparable growing up.  She was my shadow, doing everything I did.  We slept holding hands, and I would give her licks from my ice cream.  I would take the lollipop out of my mouth and hand it to her without question.  I would even give her the rest of my sweet plantains when their weren’t anymore because I knew how much she loved them.  I would do her chores because I felt that she shouldn’t have to, and I would cry when my parents would yell at her and spank her.  Our relationship has evolved through the years, even switching roles sometimes.  But my little sister will always have a special place in my heart, and lots of times, when I look at her, I still see the chubby little brown skinned infant, crawling towards me under the flat sheet parachute, drolly smile and beautiful brown eyes.  I see it often in the faces of my 2 gorgeous nieces , and it takes me all the way back….

Pudge – My little brother, who actually ended up being the biggest one in our family.  My  handsome, brave, intelligent, hard working, gay little brother.  He and I have quite the history.  We didn’t get on very well growing up.  To me, he was an annoying, entitled, spoiled little brat, and to him, I was just a glorified babysitter.  He spent most of his time in front of the television watching his beloved Power Ranger in his tighty whiteys, leaving me cleaning up behind him and getting in trouble for not making sure that he had done his homework (although he had lied to me about not having any!) But that all changed when my brother turned 18.  He was nervous and scared about letting everyone know who he really was.  My brother came out to me, and thanked me for opening the door for him to be his true self.  Since then, my brother has been a staple in the gathering of my closest friends.  He has made a place for himself in my life, and lots of times when my friends and I plan a weekend trip away , my brother is one of the first ones on the email list.  He knows all things NYC, where the best Sunday unlimited brunches are, and most of my gay lingo comes from my flamboyant brother.  He gives me life in the worst way, and he is completely SICKENING!  My baby brother?! He’s pretty awesome…

Harry – I didn’t grow up with my brother Harry.  I didn’t even know he existed until I was 25 years old.  I missed out on his life, and he missed out on mine, but since we met, we have been trying our best to make up for lost time.  In the past few years, I have witnessed my brother and his girlfriend have 2 beautiful children, exchange wedding vows, go through hardships and also overcome them.  I have shared birthdays with the 4 of them, exchanged gifts, and just enjoyed each others time over a few brews, a BBQ grill, and a few beach chairs.  I have been so lucky to have my life enriched by this new relationship, and continue to enjoy every moment that I spend with the newest member of my immediate family.  Only time will tell how our relationship will continue to grow, and now that we get to raise children together, I look forward to those shared moment even more…

Along with my siblings come a whole slew of in-loves (in-laws for you out there that don’t really dig them as much as I do).  I call them my in-loves because really, that’s what they are!  All of my brothers and sisters in love, really help to round out our family and create the dynamic that makes it incredible to be a part of this family.  Hopefully, soon, we’ll have so many nieces and nephews that we won’t be able to count them on my two hands.  More wedding bells will be chiming this year.  More family vacations to document and laugh about later on.  More babies being born.  More inside jokes and happy hours.  More sleep overs at Wita and Wito’s.  More backyard fire pit follies, and more memories created to carry us for a while.  More love to go around…famwater

TOP ROW - (L TO R) RAQUEL, MYSELF, NATASHA BOTTOM ROW (L TO R) PUDGE, MAMI, YZZY, PAPI, AND LEO

TOP ROW – (L TO R) RAQUEL, MYSELF, NATASHA
BOTTOM ROW (L TO R) PUDGE, MAMI, YZZY, PAPI, AND LEO

30 Day Challenge – Day #3

Day 3-Your first love

Ah, first love. I remember my first love so vividly.  From the day we met to the day that we separated.  It was young love at it’s finest.  Spring was in the air.  The days were just starting to get longer, and the nights warmer.  I had been out to my family since I was 14, but I wasn’t out publicly (except to my closest, mostly closeted friends) until I was 16.  I was ready to start dating some ladies. .

I had a boyfriend at the time named Aidan who was a year older than me and had his own car.  Aidan’s uncle was my uncles best friend. We had know each other since we were little when he had just moved to the states from Ecuador, and had spent a good deal of time together growing up.  Aidan and I had been dating for a few months, since the previous summer, when we rekindled our friendship over intimate conversation around a campfire on that years family camping trip, and to me he was the coolest guy I had ever met.  We took walks around the campgrounds at 2am, and shared smooches in the lifeguard chair at the edge of a moonlit lake.  We found an abandoned shack in the woods where we told each other some of our deepest secrets, and hugged so hard when it was time to leave that it felt like it would literally kill me if I never saw him again. Good thing he was moving to my hometown, even though he would be going to a different high school.   He came to take me out to lunch everyday for the next few months.  He really was the sweetest guy, always surprising me with flowers and gifts, and taking me to movies and teen clubs and never letting me put my hand in my pocket to pay for anything.  He was a gentleman, and I was head over heels for him.  Until, Leila…Leila changed everything

Leila..I thought I had known love before her, but I had no idea.  I didn’t now what it was like to want to lay your life on the line for someone.  I didn’t know what it meant to be so completely engulfed by love that at times it felt you would suffocate if you didn’t see them right away.  She changed the way I look at love now.  She set the standard for what I wanted in someone and in a relationship.  She was the bomb!

We met on a warm spring Saturday just like any other.  It was 1999.  My next door neighbor and best friend Manny had moved to the town next door, in a tiny district that had about 300 students and faculty combined.  He met Leila and her “best friend” Kristen and two months later after getting to know them better, he decided that we should meet because they were bisexual but didn’t have any other LGBT friends.  Since I was going to an LGBTQ youth group my mom had found for me, he thought it would be cool if we all met and I could introduce them to the program.  So I agreed!  He picked me up at 3pm on a Saturday, and then we went over to pick them up.  First Kristen stepped out of the house, and I thought, “WOW!  Look at her!  Almost 6 feet tall, hourglass figure, long beautiful shiny black hair, and a face to die for.  She’s hot!!!”  and then Leila walked out, and it was like something you see in the movies.  Time slowed down.  Birds were suspended in air mid flight.  My heart started to race and my mouth suddenly became very dry.  She had on fitted jeans, a tight black shirt, and her hair in an African head wrap that made her beautiful bone structure all the more prominent.  Her green eyes were piercing, and her caramel mocha skin was taunting me, because I knew that I would never be able to touch her.  She already seemed out of my league and way out of my reach.  After all, even though they would never admit it, I knew that her heart belonged to Kristen, and Kristen’s heart was hers.  But in those 43 seconds that it took for them to walk from the house to the door of Manny’s Jeep, I was already in love…

I was jolted back to reality when my pager went off and Aidan’s code, 888, showed up.  He’d have to wait!  I was admiring the most gorgeous woman I had every seen.  They get in the car, there were quick introductions and a trip to the mall.  We have lunch together, buy a few things, hit up a photo booth and try and squeeze the 4 of us in (I still have those photos actually), and then head over to a local park.  We stopped at CVS for candy and soda.  At the park, we share stories about school, love, and life.  We get along well.  We share lots of laughs.  She keeps looking at me when she thinks Kristen and I aren’t looking.  She seems to caress my back when she pushes me on the tire swing.  She looks me in the eyes when she talks to me and it’s intimidating and unnerving.  I look at her perfectly sculpted lips and I want to kiss her.  I refrain, mainly because I don’t want to get punched in the face, but also because I just met her and that would be beyond awkward. The day escapes us and night creeps in.  We see a shooting star.  We’re hungry and we go to McDonald’s.  Kristen goes to the restroom.  Leila asks for my number and offers to buy me ice cream.  I freeze, but not from said ice cream.  I give her my home number and pager number.  She gives me both of hers and tells me I better call her tonight. What time?  After 9.  I can’t wait to go home.

That night, we drop them off at home, and Manny takes me to my house.  On the car ride home, he tells me thinks something will happen between us.  I tell him he’s crazy.  We have sex (number 8 remember!) and I got upstairs, showered and waited for 9pm.  I don’t wanna seem too eager so I call at 9:05.
“I said 9!”
“Hi to you too!  I’m sorry!  I had to shower”
“MMM hmmm!”
“what!?! ::giggle giggle::”
“You’re so cute!”
“No you are”…and it went on like this for 5 hours.  I didn’t realize she was hiding in the bathroom while Kristen slept in her bed.

We didn’t see each other again until a few months later, once school was out for summer, but we spoke every day, for hours.  I made her mix tapes, because if that wasn’t a sign that you loved someone, I don’t know what was!  I wrote her letters.  I took some pre-selfie selfies for her.  I wrote on the back of them, with lots of hearts and cursive.  I couldn’t wait to give them to her. I was still with Aidan, and a night at the teen club when I had invited Leila and Kristen, turned into a hot freaking mess.  Lots of things were said, people were angry and crying, and I ended up walking home because Aidan just left me there.  It had ended, but something between Leila and I had officially begun.  We spent every day together that summer.  We would go to the lake, the amusement park, spend hours at the mall, but mostly my favorite part was hanging out in her basement, listening to music and the sounds of the oscillating fan, laying on the futon mattress on the floor, immersed in the orangey-pink glow that was radiating from the sun shining in through the drawn curtains.  We would roll around for hours.  When school started, my senioritis kicked in big time!  I would take the bus to school, and use a friends cell phone (the old school nextels!) to call a cab and escape to Leila’s house just to cuddle and watch TV, before even setting foot on the property.  We got after school jobs together.  She went to my soccer games so often that the coach asked her if she wanted to be our team manager and was allowed to ride the bus with us even though she didn’t even go to my school.  That summer, when I turned 18 and graduated high school on the same day, I went home, packed a bag, went to Leila’s and never came back.  That is the second most memorable summer of my life (second to the one that I spent wooing Callie).  Lot’s of it is a blur, but I remember driving around in a friends drop top and singing Jason Mraz and the Moulin Rouge soundtrack at the top of our lungs while we held hands driving towards the setting sun.

We broke up a year and a half later, on a dreary October day.  We worked for a national service organization.  We were broken up into teams of 10. Those teams of 10 were broken up into pairs of two.  And we were not on the same team, so now we were broken, because her partner now became her partner, and even though I didn’t want to believe it, I saw Karma, and Karma’s name was Tammy.  And Tammy from Michigan stole her heart, and I was left sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom, because I knew.  I knew we were over.  I could tell from a couple of days after starting work, when she didn’t rest her head on my shoulder anymore on the ride home, but instead leaned into the window.  I knew, when at 2am, I would roll over in bed and the chasm that was forming between us was ice cold, because she wasn’t there, so I would creep into the hallway, sit on the floor curled up into a ball, and press my ear to the door and listen to her tell someone else how much she loved them.  I was aware that when she told me she had to stay the night at Tammy’s because there was a huge service project her team was leading and she wouldn’t get there on time if she came all the way home, that she was lying.  When she stayed there that night, I packed my things and left.  We had words a few times after that because we worked together, but really, we haven’t spoken since.

Leila was my first love and my first heartbreak.  There are things that I am so blessed she taught me about love, but also things that I wish I never would have learned. She was the first woman to ever break my heart and take a piece of it with her.  Loving her and losing her put me on the path to find my real love, my best girl and my soul mate.  It led me to the city, that led me to my friends, who led me to my ex-wife (another day, another post), who broke my heart so badly that it literally almost killed me, that sent me back home to live with my parents, and led to the revival of old hometown friendships after a 10+ year hiatus, that led me right into the arms of the woman I love.  Life’s funny like that..and for that I am forever grateful to my first love…

30 Day Challenge – Day #2

Day 2-Meaning behind your blog name

When I started stalking blogs about a year before I decided to actually create my own, I never really paid too much attention to blog names.  Alls I knew was, “These lesbians are making babies all over the world and that’s gonna be us one day!”  When I decided to take the leap and stop silently stalking and make my presence known and my voice heard, it took me a good two weeks to think of a name for my blog.  It took me a while to take that first post out of the “draft” section and into the “published” portion.  Mainly because I was petrified that someone I didn’t want reading my blog would find it (basically, my uncle’s crazy psychopath of a wife) but also because I felt the need to think of a name that was creative and something that really symbolized what my blog was about.

I toyed with things like, “Who’s Your Mama!?” which I thought was freaking hilarious, but then realized, well, we’re lesbians, and lots of times the question really IS “Who’s your Mama?” and aside from being the. most. annoying. question, I thought people might get offended and not want to read.  There was also, “And Then There Were Three” but with Clomid, it could have been “And Then There Were Four/Five/Six” and that kinda freaked me out knowing that I would have to look at that every day and see the reality that is my very crazy life.  There was also, “WTF is Happening!?!” (no, I’m so serious! Like #1 contender status!) and “A Day in The Life of Your Master”  (again offensive, but a funny back story…hear me out!)  When I first met my group of friends, we all ended up basically living at Marco’s for a month while his dad visited Marco’s sister in Texas.  We spent countless hours playing Spades, Rummy, Sing Star, God of War, and watching the Olympics.  Whenever I won, I would say in the most ANNOYING and ratchet voice you could possibly imagine, “Wanna know why I won?!  Cuz I’m your mutha-f*ucking MASTER!”  Laughter would ensue, and after that, whenever they would call me or email me, I would simply answer my phone, “This is your master speaking…how may I address your call!?” And we would all chuckle. Or I would sign all of emails “Sincerely, Ya MASTER!”…and it stuck!  My IG name is Ya Master, my NY Giants jersey is personalized with Ya Master, and even my mom will occasionally say, “Masteh!!” when I don’t answer to my given name. Funny, right? No? Guess you had to be there…  But either way, I figured, noooooot the best choice of blog name.

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So finally, in a last ditch attempt to try and get this blog started, I decided on the fact that even though I was writing a blog about my life in general, most of it, at least initially, would be centered around the fact that I as about to become the other mother in a two mom household, where I was not the gestational carrier. I also noticed that in my year of stalking, I had only stumbled across a handful of blogs about other moms who didn’t carry, and lots of times, they were so inconsistent with their blogs that it seemed like months passed before they posted again.  So I was stuck in limbo thinking most of the time thinking, “Well, what the hell happens next Lady?!?!?!”  So, “The Life of a Non-Belly Mamá” was born, but that just didn’t have a cool enough ring to it.  So I substituted “Life” for “Journal” but Callie thought it was too blah…so I pulled out my trusty thesaurus (which I have in the drawer of my bedside table along with a pocket dictionary for some inspiration or looking up of words I don’t know), and sure enough, the last word that was just vaguely synonymous with “journal” was “Chronicle” and I liked the way that sounded after saying it in my head a few times and then speaking it out loud.  I looked up chronicle in the thesaurus and lo and behold, words like records, archives, diary, story , history, came up. And that’s exactly what it was. That’s exactly what I wanted.  But hands down, narration was the one that struck me.  Because no matter what my blog is called, I am narrating MY story, documenting MY journey, and Chronicling MY life as a Non-Belly Mamá….

30 Day Challenge – Day #1

I just found this really awesome (and funny) blog about another 2 mom family, which of course I love to read about.  As I’m catching up on 6 years worth of blog (super slow day at work), I came across this post and was like, “OH hell yeah!!!  So here goes my 30 day challenge…

Day 1-Introduce, recent picture, 15 interesting facts
Day 2-Meaning behind your blog name
Day 3-Your first love
Day 4-Your parents
Day 5-Your siblings
Day 6-A picture of something that makes you happy
Day 7-Favorite movies
Day 8-A place you’ve traveled to
Day 9-A picture of your friends
Day 10-Something you’re afraid of
Day 11-Favorite TV shows
Day 12-What you believe
Day 13-Goals
Day 14-A picture you love
Day 15-Bible verse
Day 16-Dream house
Day 17-Something you’re looking forward to
Day 18-Something you regret
Day 19-Something you miss
Day 20-Nicknames
Day 21-Picture of yourself
Day 22-Favorite city
Day 23-Favorite vacation
Day 24-Something you’ve learned
Day 25-Favorite memory
Day 26-Picture of your family
Day 27-Pets
Day 28-Something that stresses you out
Day 29-3 Wishes
Day 30-a picture


DAY#1

Many of you that have been reading my blog already probably know waaaayyy to much about me. There’s also the about me section you can check out too for a quick glimpse into who I am.  In case there are any new readers who haven’t caught up on my blog, here are some things about me that you may want to know in “15 Interesting Facts” form…

1.  I’m Sammy and I’m 31 years old.  I feel old…very old.
2.  My name isn’t really Sammie, but thanks to American Girl books (Samantha being my favorite growing up) I always wanted that to be my name, mainly so people could call me Sam…
3.  I am the oldest of 5 siblings (well 6 really, but I met my biological half brother a few years ago, and still have a hard time remembering to add him to my immediate siblings that I grew up with), and I take birth order very seriously.  My youngest brother may be taller than me, but he better KNOW his role! I’ll still kick his ass!
4.  I have always been overweight, or at least I thought as much, until I look back at pictures of myself when I was younger, and I’m all like, “What the hell was I thinking! I look AMAZING in 9th grade!”…but back then, not so much compared to my 00 sized friends when I was in a “very large” size 7 ::gasp::
5.  I have a cat, a rabbit, and I used to have 3 birds, but I pretty much hate birds so that flew out the window (not really though…we gave them away to a lady that has a room in her home reserved for like 1.6 million birds…just so weird!)
6.  I have lots of different talents…I sing, I crochet, I can juggle, I can balance pretty much ANYTHING on my chin (except a person on a chair, but a chair is all good as long as it’s a plastic fold up one), I’m a writer/storyteller, I’m a spoken word artist, performer and poet,  I am funny as f*ck, and I make a mean Arroz y Habichuelas (rice and beans) among other things!
7.  I love to blog and have found so much comfort, strength, joy, and amazing friends on here.
8.  I have always had ridiculously large tonsils, and every time I go for a doctors appointment, the doctor always says how he has never seen them so big.  They ask me why I have never had them out, and the answer is that when I was younger, every time we would set up an appointment to remove them, I would come down with some type of throat infection and it would have to be pushed back.  Finally at 21 years old, I’d lived with the problem for so long, that I just figured, what do I need surgery for?  My dr. never has to use a tongue depressor, and basically, I have no gag reflex…do with that information what you will.
9.  Of all of my siblings (all 5 this time), I am the only one to never have been arrested.  I don’t know how I managed that considering all of the illegal activities I partook in during my late teens and early twenties.
10.  I have had 1 too many one night stands…this in no way means to reference #8 I have repented…
11.  My favorite color is Aqua…it makes me happy.
12.  As long as it is over 55 degrees, I will wear shorts.  I’m in shorts pretty much from March – November.  Shorts and Crocs or Adidas slides with socks.  My wife hates it and thinks I’m crazy…I think I’m comfortable and this should be the standard uniform at my place of employment.  HR would be much better without long pants that need to be pressed everyday.  Do I wear shorts on Easter every year for the past 7 years, you ask? Why yes, yes I do!
13.  I had my first kiss on the 4th of July when I was 10 years old.  Like real, mucking out, in the shed, during a really intense hide and seek game with all the kids from the neighborhood, with this boy Jack, who lived downstairs from us.  He was 11, played soccer, had the straightest teeth I had ever seen, had Devan Sawa hair circa 1995, and I was absolutely smitten.  Basically, throughout elementary school and high school, we fooled around…a lot.  Too much…so much so that lots of our school projects barely got done, since we always chose to be partners because we knew we could get away with a few heavy make out sessions every day since our parents trusted us together.  Ah, puberty.
14.  I had this weird obsession with the Spice Girls all through high school.  Every inch of the walls in the bedroom I shared with my 2 sisters was covered in posters.  My uncle, who managed a movie theater, gave me the official movie poster when SpiceWorld finished playing in theaters and I damn near peed myself! I can do every dance to every song, mainly because I watched their 3 different concerts on DVD incessantly.  Don’t let “Spice Up Your Life” come on because IT’S A WRAP!
15.  I have 12 tattoos.  Only 2 are visible when fully clothed, but they are on my wrists, so if I’m wearing long sleeves and a watch, you would have no idea.  2 involve names of ex’s (I know, I Know!!  Let’s not shame the hopeless romantic, okay?!)  One is a massive peacock feather on my left arm which I absolutely hate and can’t wait to cover up when I complete/start my sleeve!  One on each ankle, a few on my back, and the tramp stamp that I got on the day of my 18th birthday when I was supposed to be getting my hair done for my high school graduation.  I also got a labret when I turned 21, and a navel piercing that I got during spring break with some friends when I was 14, when we told our parents we were going to a local park, and jumped instead on the Metro with a 40oz of malt liquor to split between the 4 of us and went into NYC to have an awesome adventure in the dark smelly bathroom at the back of a T-Shirt store.  When my parents found out at 16 (because my sister had a meltdown after I punched her in the face for ripping one of my Spice Girl posters off of the wall and snitched on me), my father made my mom pull me into the bathroom and strip me naked to make sure that I didn’t have any more piercings or and tattoos.  I didn’t, but told my mother I would take it out if she gave me back my $45.  She did not, so I did not!  I can’t bear to take it out, even though it looks ridiculous (especially when I lose the ball and I end up wearing one of Callie’s hanging cherry ones)!

So anyone that wants to join this little challenge, It’ll encourage you to blog everyday AND we in Bloglandia will get to know you better, and I will probably love you guys EVEN more! And now, a picture of me, sitting ay my desk, since I came in at 8:30 this morning and had all of my work done by 8:55am, and I was bored outta my mind…You’re welcome!

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FET For Me

Callie and I have always known that we wanted a big family.  5 children is our ideal.  She always knew that she wanted to carry, and even after having to be on bed rest for a little less than half of her pregnancy, she can’t wait to feel a baby moving around inside of her again.  I, on the other hand, didn’t really feel that maternal need to carry until I was probably 25 or 26.  It was all cool and dandy to have babies, but only if my partner was having them.  I was more than prepared to be the other parent, and not giving birth to them was just fine by me!

I have always struggled with my gender identity and gender expression.  There are many times in my life (like when I was in my late teens and early 20’s) when I tried my hardest to pass as a boy.  I would bind my chest (2 ace bandages and a compression shirt, tight undershirt and then whatever I was wearing), got short haircuts or my hair braided, and tried to find “casual encounters” on Craigslist where I would post ads in “W4W” but explain that I was to be seen as a “boi” and would act like one (read: I would bring my favorite “attachment”).  I never wanted to be pregnant, mainly because I didn’t want people to see me as any less masculine.  Lots of the time I don’t even tell people my real name (which is super pretty and feminine) for fear that it just sounded weird and didn’t go well with my personality or appearance.  During the two years that I worked really hard on myself, I realized that I had to let go of some of those things that were plaguing me.  That there were things in my life that I would be really sad about if I didn’t get to experience them myself, no matter what gender I felt that I associated with.  One of those things was pregnancy.  I don’t know where my life is going to take me a few years from now, or what will happen in the future, but I do know, that I would be really sad if I weren’t able to carry at least one child.  PCOS, Uterine Fibroids, and Breast Cancer are things that are very common with the women in my family.  My mother had both a hysterectomy when she was in her late 30’s from fibroids so bad that they NEEDED to remove everything as there was no saving anything, and a double mastectomy from the cancer.  Thank goodness that she is very well now, but the fact that 2 of my mothers 3 sisters also experienced the same fate within a few months of each other, makes me fearful that it’s now or never.

After much talking, assessing our financial situation, considering how Mary’s adoption would/could play out and affect our family, age, potential medical issues, our ideal age gap between children, and if emotionally we were both ready to take on any other challenges, we decided that, YES!  We are going to have another baby!!!  We’re crazy, I know!!!! After having spent almost $25,000 trying to get pregnant the first time, having our savings account dwindle almost down to nothing since Callie has been home for almost 7 months now, two infants and a 7 year old, you would think that having more children would be the last thing that we wanted to do, but no! It’s not.  It keeps sneaking to the forefront of all of our thoughts, conversations and other decisions.  Planning our vacation, “Put what if we’re pregnant then?”  Making plans for a friends wedding in May 2016, “But what if we’re pregnant then?” Making sushi dinner plans with friends, “BUt what if we’re pregnant then?!?!”  It doesn’t go away! We’re gonna get a lot of shit from our parents, for sure.  And we might be making a not-so-smart choice, but we can’t help but feel like this is the right thing for us to do. The right thing for our family.  So on Monday afternoon, we will go for a consultation with our RE to find out what the next steps would be for me to do a Frozen Embryo Transfer with one of Callie’s frozen embies.  Not sure how PCOS plays a role in transfers, so I’ll be googling my life away at work this week.

I have to admit, I’m scared outta my mind, but so excited about what could potentially happen in a months time.  Hopefully, by my birthday on the first day of summer, I’ll be able to share some good news…it’s not often a lesbian gets to say, “I’m pregnant with my wife’s baby!”  Can’t wait!

Sun Babies…

What a great weekend!  Beautiful gorgeous weather and tons of FREE Earth Day celebrations.  We took a trip to a local park on Saturday with another foster family, and Sunday we went to our local Nature Center and let the kids explore the grounds and check out some of the native NY wildlife…a great time was had by all, and even better was the sleep that followed a busy weekend.  Mary was in bed and knocked out snoring by 7:30pm, and the boys were down at 8:30 and didn’t get up until 5:30am!  That friends, makes for a great Monday morning (despite this horrible rain!)

NOAH LOVES HIS NEW SUNGLASSES

NOAH LOVES HIS NEW SUNGLASSES

LEVI IS TOO COOL WITH HIS "MICO"

LEVI IS TOO COOL WITH HIS “MICO”

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MARY IS NEVER AFRAID TO TOUCH ANIMALS...I HAD TO ZOOM IN FOR THIS SHOT AS THAT SNAKE WAS WAAAAYYYYYY TO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

MARY IS NEVER AFRAID TO TOUCH ANIMALS…I HAD TO ZOOM IN FOR THIS SHOT AS THAT SNAKE WAS WAAAAYYYYYY TO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

GOT A LITTLE CHILLY SO WITA MADE LEVI LOOK LIKE SLIMER FROM GHOSTBUSTERS

GOT A LITTLE CHILLY SO WITA MADE LEVI LOOK LIKE SLIMER FROM GHOSTBUSTERS

THE BOYS KEEPING IT CLASSY THIS MONDAY MORNING

THE BOYS KEEPING IT CLASSY THIS MONDAY MORNING

Also, a password protected post will follow in a little bit….