Pizza for Two

S and I didn’t put much thought into Valentine’s Day this year. In the past, we’ve gone out and stayed in, so knowing which direction plans for this day can go each year is always a wildcard.

“Do you think our Valentine’s Day plans are boring?” He asks just nervous enough, but still hungry for my response. “Not really. I like our plans. We’ve both had so much going on at work, so a chill night in sounds perfect to me.” His tone is relaxed now. “I just haven’t really thought about it.” Nor had I.

The truth is we had talked about our plans for Valentine’s Day. A couple weeks back we decided that we’d have a quiet night in – cooking low-carb pizza and having some champagne. We try not to drink during the week, so the fact that this day happened to fall on a Wednesday made it a treat in itself.

We settled on a simple bacon and cheese pizza. The crust consisted of cream cheese, egg, mozzarella cheese, almond flour, and we topped it with a low-sugar pizza sauce. We typically do pepperoni and sausage pizza, but we forgot to put pepperoni on the grocery list. Whoops! Not that this should be considered creative at all, but we decided on bacon when we realized our mistake. There’s always bacon around here though.

 

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I tend to be a big cheeseball, so you could argue that I would expect a surge in romance on this day. Maybe it’s because we’ve been together for going on seven years, maybe it’s because we’re both thirty-one years old now, but this day is hardly considered romantic or important to us. I’ve written about this previously – check out that post here – but what about the other 364 days of the year?! If you’re going to be cute, warm and fuzzy, just surprise me with your heart.

We had some good pizza, crispy champagne, and each other… we’re full.

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A New Kind of Date

Mother Nature gave us a bit of a scare over the weekend. Earlier in the week we’d planned to have a Starbucks date, where we’d both work on personal projects or career focused activities. Indianapolis did get rocked by a little weather, so our Saturday cafe productivity session got moved to Sunday.

 

We’ve been holding ourselves accountable, so far, in 2018. S and I have plans and feel that it’s time for the both of us to take control of our professional and creative futures. Making time for dates during the week can be challenging when you’re fighting the weight of the day’s work, so a weekend dose of productivity with each other felt like a great move for us.

 

The important thing here is finding a way to make time for each other and to support one another. We pinpointed a newer location on our side of town and stuck to our commitment. I got a ton of PR work done and S made some major moves on the career front. I’m hoping we can make this a regular thing.

 

The both of us are so motivated and energized about what’s next right now, and harvesting that continued support of your partner – of each other –  just puts us in overdrive.

 

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Sure, dates are supposed to be sexy and romantic, but the idea of fueling each others’ professional and creative drive is kind of a turn on, right? Even if you’re single and only focusing on you at the moment… find your support system. Parents? Siblings? Your own circle of VIPs? Who is that person that will help you hold yourself accountable at the end of the day?

 

Think outside of the box and get that productive, quality time in 😉

Barbershop Talk

Going to the barbershop is probably one of the most ritualistic acts for a man. A man can give a woman a lot of crap for staying on top of her hair appointments and routine mani-pedis, but deep down, he enjoys these things just as much. As a gay man – and stereotypically speaking, yes – I like my hair to look good. Not only do I like my hair to look good, I prefer to get it cut in a black barbershop.

Ever since my brother and I were young boys, our father took us to get bi-weekly haircuts. 9 o’clock in the morning, every other Saturday, was our designated time and we’d only sit in only one barber’s chair. As I grew older and started to wrangle with my sexuality internally, the “barbershop” talk began to hit a little too close to home.

I was waiting to get my hair touched up over the weekend when one barber – not my barber – began to elaborate more on TV makeup and how he thought men shouldn’t wear makeup at all. Naturally, this snowballed into discussion about gay, black men and those of which who choose to openly wear full faces of makeup. “I don’t care if you’re gay, but I don’t need to know it.” One ignorant gentleman that sat in my barber’s chair even went as far to say gay men are “disrespecting their natural bodies.” What does that even mean?!

I sat quietly and fought the urge to jump in and come out in the middle of the shop. I wanted to say “What makes you think these brave souls care what you think?.. What gives you the right to dictate how we represent ourselves in the world?” Keep in mind the gentlemen spouting off this nonsense didn’t deserve any roses from anyone. I won’t stoop to their level, but I could say more about their appearances – how one didn’t appear the way I imagine a professional barber would, and how the ignorant patron looked as if… yeah, I won’t go there.

I’ll give a couple gentlemen in the shop some credit. They tried to explain how TV makeup works with the camera, but the conversation kept going back to sissy shit. “You should see the shit they get into on Empire! They’re wild on that show.” It’s funny because the gay character on the hit show is named Jamal. Jamal isn’t flamboyant and doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, but I appreciate the fact that the show lets his character express his sexuality and presents him as normal; as human.

In the end I stayed quiet because we as gay men – especially gay black men – argue too much about why we get to express ourselves the way we feel is right within our community and culture. I’m so over that argument and didn’t care to share any of my experiences with them in that moment.

Sure I could go to a more commercial haircut establishment – risking sitting in a chair that doesn’t know how to work with ethnic hair – but why should I have to do that? Nothing against those establishments, but I do value my culture and enjoy going to a black barbershop.

I realized this early, Saturday morning that that’s exactly what this barber and the ignorant patron wanted – for me and my fellow gay men to be commercial. I couldn’t be commercial if I tried. My spice comes out when it wants and it’s something I’ve had to learn to harness growing up in the black community.

STORY TIME:

I’ll never forget growing up and helping my cousin part and braid her dolls’ hair. I’d trot downstairs to show my mom and aunties my work, but had to get past the table filled with very loud, black dads that were busy slamming dominoes. “What’ve you got there, boy?!” My dad would shout where the whole house could hear. I’d simply hold the doll up to display the sharp and detail braids, styled and perfectly placed with my cousin’s approval. “Man, I couldn’t plait no hair like that! Keep up the good work and go show ya mama.” He’d then nudge my buzzed head and I’d hide a smile. Even at a young age, whether I knew I was gay then or not, I understood what the perception of a young boy doing great hair was – a gay boy in the making. My dad was a hard, Army veteran, but it was moments like this that made me view him as a superhero.

In closing – I’d like to share a note with the barber who felt it necessary to force his view upon me, the silent gay customer. You never know who is in your business or who is listening. You have to realize that you’re the face of the business in which you work and that comments like these should be kept to yourself if they’re not productive or being presented for an open discussion. Sure I could have jumped in and floored everyone, but I can only clean up so much ignorance at a time. On this particular morning, I was simply tired.

Keep in mind who and what you’re talking about the next time you speak, and realize they may have a platform where they can share their experience. Maybe you don’t care, and that’s fine, but here a few things I know and that you should as well about me:

  • I’m a black, gay man.
  • I’m married and in a stable relationship.
  • I take great care of my skin and I don’t mind sharing my regimen with you.
  • I’m just as much of a man – just as much as a black man – as you are, if not more.
  • And I’m also a customer service supervisor.

I’ll keep this story off Yelp though… (enter nail-painting emoji here)

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Level With Me

Maybe it’s because I had a long day, but I’m not in the most positive of spirits. I get in these ruts where everything seems to stack and stack and stack up to catastrophic heights, all while floating through the day as if all is well. The stacks never fall.

Deep down I need a change. I know a large part of that is professionally speaking. I don’t like that work energy is so easily brought home. I care too much (most of the time) to fully disengage my brain from the 8am-8pm coverage windows I have to monitor.

I get this from my mother – I am most certain of this fact. We are doers, you see. Helping anyone who needs it and bending over backwards if need be. But what happens when we need a break? Does anyone notice? The answer to that question seems to be a blatant “no” at the moment.

My kitchen confronts me daily with dishes I’ve left undone from the previous night; sometimes two nights. Nothing major but enough to make my skin crawl with annoyance.

I love my dog, but there are times I wish I wasn’t so hands-on with him. He’s my shadow and comes to me for everything – even if S is doing absolutely nothing. It can be overwhelming at times. Just call me super mom.

I was taking my sister and nephew home tonight when I had a concealed panic attack behind the wheel. Driving is something I absolutely hate and I’m not really sure why. I’d just missed our exit and I was surrounded by assholes and semi-trucks.

I don’t think she noticed but I immediately went into a breathing exercise for relaxation and mindfulness. To distract myself, I had to focus on my breathing and veer away from questions about her day. We could catch up later. My only focus was getting the two of them home safely so I could scream in my car and turn the music WAY up.

I feel as though being nice is turning me into an asshole. Does that make sense? I reach a point of “no more” in multiple areas of my life and a shift happens almost too easily for me… and not for the better. I suppose my team could use a more strict environment, but I don’t have go full vicious on anyone.

(This is the part where I read you the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

I got home safe after battling the bright lights and over-sized trucks of the interstate. I could finally sit down, vent and release the weight of the day, and make sure my attitude wasn’t crashing into anyone’s world but mine.

Cleaning always helps me chill the fuck out. S has a holiday party tomorrow – spouses aren’t invited – so that’ll be a good chance to reel in my crazy. I also have a feeling that tomorrow’s morning workout will be a great one…

I’m going to sleep now. Goodnight, everyone.

Getting in the Holi-DIY Spirit

Christmas is around the corner and we couldn’t wait to get our decorations up this year. It’s always been the tradition in my family to throw the Christmas tree and the rest of the decorations up the day after Thanksgiving – ours were up the week before Thanksgiving this year (laughs out loud).

I wanted to do a smidge more this year with the decor without doing too much and decided to check out Michaels for inspiration. “Stairs, lights, this, and that.” I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish in our space that I love so much, but it would be easy to go overboard if I didn’t control myself.

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Garland and lights were on my mind prior to walking through those doors, so I went straight to the faux-pine section of the store. Naturally, there were way too many choices. I spent quite a bit of time pulling the long strands of garland down to check out the various detail that had been added. In the end settled for four strands – running $8.99 per strand – and left the store with twenty-four feet of christmas garland and lights.

Did you notice how I said I settled? I knew I was going to check out Target’s holiday selection before I reached my car. The Target near our place is usually hit or miss when it comes to any item you may  need. I had to chance it because the garland in the craft store bags weren’t going to help me achieve the look I was going for in our living space. Sure, I can drape my ass off, but I didn’t want that.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that Target had bundles of garland on sale – $10 for fifty feet! I placed two bundles in my cart and knew right then the garland from Michaels would not be leaving the glitter-sprayed bags in which they rested.

The garland from Target was plain and did not have any of the extra bells and whistles – fake snow, acorns, berries, etc – but I own a hot glue gun! Any extra pizazz I could surely add. My original thought was to wrap the garland and lights on the banisters so this ended up working out for the better.

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In the end I spent about $30 on Christmas decor this year. Last year I raided the dollar stores and Walmart and put my glue gun to work. I preserved those projects and will continue to use them in the years to come. Our tree is from one of S’s first apartments out of college and it works and looks just fine. Our stockings are from the dollar store and look just as  joyous above our fireplace as the over-priced products that fill most store shelves today.

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The point is to work with what you’ve got and don’t be afraid to get creative. I have this ritual before I decorate a space. I scan the internet for ideas, walk every square inch of the space I wish to transform, and hit the stores for supplies to recreate the looks I stumble upon for about 60% less of what you’d end up spending on more expensive decorations.

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So what do you think?! I think I’ll go ahead and wrap up this post so I can get back to Christmas shopping online and this zinfandel.

The Horses of Burr Oak Farm

We got the chance to help the family shoot some footage of the horses for prospective buyers this Thanksgiving weekend. The buyers are way out in Oregon, so they’re unable to check out the horses in person.

It was my pleasure to step out of my comfort zone and help them with this.

The more I work on creative projects that allow me to explore new realms, the more inspired I become. Now… those of you who know me may be REALLY shocked to see me anywhere near a horse – let alone in my forces, hello! – but I had a blast.

We plan on getting down more often to help mom and dad elevate their customer experience and show off the beautiful horses of Burr Oak Farm.

 

3 Things Keeping us Happy at the Moment

November is here! And with a new month comes new and refreshed interests in our day-to-day activities. One of my favorite podcasts, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, has a weekly segment in which they share what’s making them happy that  particular week. Every week, host Linda Holmes and a few other NPR panelists and guests share tidbits of pop culture that happen to be filling their individual happy tanks with joy. Items shared in the past include music, television shows, literature, video games, and don’t forget that viral video or meme everyone’s discussing. Here are a few things that’re keeping S and I happy at the moment:

Roseanne 

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This show is hilarious, undeniably relatable, and is filled with effortless humor. S and I have been spending a great deal of time with the Conner family in between IU basketball and The Real Housewives of fill-in-the-blank. We started season one at the end of September and found ourselves beginning season seven this afternoon. Every detail from the way the characters dress, down to the snacks the Conner kids eat is similar to how S and I grew up in the 90s. Another aspect of Roseanne that we appreciate is its honesty. This family is nowhere near keeping up with the Joneses and they don’t try to be. Roseanne and Dan Conner do their best to provide for their family and celebrate every victory that comes their way. The show was also way ahead of its time in the way it discussed (current) social issues.

 

Our Immersion Blender

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This nifty little handheld device is usually used to whip up a great tomato bisque soup or keto mayo. With the weather starting to change,  making things a bit more chilly, I’ve been having some fun with blended coffees in the morning. First I pour an 8-12 ounce cup of dark roast coffee in the blending cup, followed by a splash of unsweetened coconut milk, a scoop of Perfect Keto chocolate sea salt exogenous ketone powder, and finally a blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice seasonings. I then blend the mixture for about a minute or so before pouring the finished product in a mug or travel tumbler.  You could easily make this in a shaker, but you’ll find the ingredients come together much better with the help of the immersion blender.

 

The Weather!

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I’m usually ready for summer to be over by the time it actually ends. If it could be fall the months of September through May, and summer for the remaining months, that would be perfect. Does anyone know if a place like this exists? The air is finally feeling a bit more crisp, and the leaves are creating plenty of social-media-worthy opportunities with the gorgeous array of colors falling to the ground. The arrival of fall also means the temperature is sitting just right – completely void of Jack Frost or humidity hell if you’re out for a jog or long walk with the dog. A few other things the current weather has us pumped for include: crockpot meals, fall fashion, basketball (for S), and scarves (for me)! I love good scarf in the wind moment when I’m walking down a breezy pathway.

What’s making you all happy at the moment? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!

J

*Reblog* One Night Dance

Original post here.

I embrace the dark, pulsing, cloud of people that is the dance floor at the bar. Dancing is something I have to be in the mood for, and tonight I would turn up the heat.  Scorpio season’s influence is heavy in the air as I begin to wind up – serving up my best Beyonce – and feel the rhythm of the sounds around me.  It’s not long before my friends and I are in the zone, and wondering eyes find their attention on our group.  I turn around and make instant eye contact with the buzzed and beefy stranger who would become my dance partner for the better part of the following hour. Not moving an inch out of my personal circumference, I watch him approach; his interest growing with every step he takes. I don’t miss a beat as he enters my bubble. “Hi” he speaks over the music, and syncs his movements to mine. “Good evening” I respond as I let his palm meet my chest. Together we move like one of the ocean’s traveling waves, and communicate only with our eyes.  His buzzed head, thick frame, and fitted jeans move in ways I appreciate greatly. The only thing that would send this moment completely over the top would be if S were standing in the corner watching. “You’re good at this” he breathes into my ear, before turning around to offer his backside, and run his hands up and down my thigh. “Well, I did get you to come over here… and thanks.” I allow him to enjoy me for a little while longer before I find his eyes again. “It’s past my bedtime, sir. Thanks for an amazing dance.” “Would you like company?” he offers with eyes both timid and curious. “Not tonight, but thanks.” Using one hand, I pull his belt buckle loose, flash a smile, and exit the bar.

Feeling Great After a 24-Hour Fast

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We fasted today to give our bodies a surge. In a fasted state, I have the most focused and productive workouts and feel a cognitive boost throughout the day. I feel great and wasn’t hungry at all today – probably because I keep my healthy fat intake at 70%-80%, my protein moderate, and my carbs really low.

My workout schedule wasn’t too strong this week, but there’s still time to make up for that. We’ve been really good because we want to look good at this wedding this weekend. Fasting while keto boosts your metabolism and naturally pumps up your muscles; it’s also scientifically proven to fight cancer cells.

I won’t lie though – the longest period I can fast for is 24 hours. It’s tougher when you lift heavy weights, so I generally stick to my #intermittent fasting windows; 16 hour fast. 8 hour feeding window. It’s amazing what the body can do when you fuel it properly and generously. 🐻