Archive for the ‘Traveling Cantor/Destination Weddings’ Category

Another Destination Wedding has come and gone, and this one went WAY too fast!

I know I say this all of the time, but I am just so fortunate in that every one of my wedding couples is amazing – but truly, Eden and Eduardo were such an amazing couple in so many ways.  It was such a great experience getting to know them, and to be such a special part of their most special day.

Eden & Ed live in Washington, DC, and they were referred to me by Rabbi Lev at http://www.interfaithfamily.com.  As soon as Eden contacted me, we both knew right away we were going to be the most perfect match, and we definitely had that assumption right on all counts!  Eden has one of those personalities that just comes right through the phone and you imagine that girl in junior high school who was just bursting with enthusiasm sitting next to you with a GREAT BIG SMILE on her face, and energy that would last for days.

Well – that’s EXACTLY what you got with Eden!  As I was writing notes about the feelings I had about her and Eduardo as we had our conversations on the phone, I kept thinking “earthy, warm, syrup-y, and sweet”.  Again – I totally had it right!

Getting to the wedding venue wasn’t quite as easy as forming the initial connection, but it was a fun and coversation-sparking adventure nonetheless.  They were married at The Villa Montana, in a small town, in the north-western part of the island, called Isabela.  It was about a 2 hour car ride from the San Juan airport.  Well, I was supposed to depart Fort Lauderdale at 6am (ick), but I just happened to check on my flight the night before, and found out that flight no longer existed.  I was sooooo upset, because they were having the rehearsal dinner that evening and wanted me there.  The flight I was booked on now left at 11am, arriving in SJU at 3.  That should have put me there for the rehearsal around 5:30.  Right.

As I made my way off the plane, I went to the pickup area, expecting to be met by a driver, but nobody was waiting for me.  (what a lonely feeling!!)  I called the hotel, and she began checking, and came back and told me the driver was there – but his van had just been TOWED AWAY, and he was trying to get it back.  After about an hour or more, he finally arrived to pick me up – and we were on our way – in Friday night rush hour traffic.  UGH.

At 6:30, I finally arrived at the beautiful little Villa Montana in Isabela.  Paradise.

This place had the small, intimate feel of a guest house, but was loaded with amenities and beauty.  I was immediately greeted by many of her family members as I was rushed to the rehearsal dinner on the beach, and there was Eden, and I just fell in love with her – as I knew I would.

BBQ at Villa Montana Friday night

That night, I got to know many of her guests, and met her family, as well as Eduardo’s.  Ed’s family is from Puerto Rico, and were the most wonderful, gracious, and appreciative family I have met in a long time.  I just knew the wedding would be amazing.

The next morning, I was able to spend quite a bit of time with Eden and Ed’s family and friends over breakfast on the beach.  We spoke for hours about Eden and Eduardo, their personalities, experiences, and their lives.  They told me incredible stories that really helped paint a perfect picture of my newest favorite couple, and I was able to create a perfectly blended, earthy, universalist-style ceremony that was a perfect match for their personalities.  We even re-wrote the words to The 7 Blessings, taking the religious language down a notch, and focusing on the meaning and appreciation of life.  It was quite beautiful.

Eden and Ed, Sister Sacha and Dad

Watching Eden and Ed before me, as I performed their marriage, was the perfect culimination of the experience.  Standing before me was not only a couple in love, but 2 best friends, laughing, touching, giggling, beaming, and kvelling together.  Knowing their closest friends and family were behind them, being witnesses to this magical moment, you could see the joy in their faces, and their hearts, as they spoke their vows to each other.

Certainly, the dinner party on the beach was also quite fun, and I had the most wonderful time with their friends and family.  To everyone I met at the wedding – thank you for making me feel SO comfortable, and welcomed, and thank you for helping me create another beautiful wedding.  Bob & Carol – thanks for the ride the next day to the airport, you are a wonderful couple!  Paula & Ira – thank you SO much for your hospitality – and Eden & Ed – Mazel Tov and Buena Suerte.  You are a beautiful couple that I will remember forever.  See you in DC in May!

Eden and Ed, married at the beach!




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I guess I should start this blog entry, by clarifying that no event I’ve ever done has resulted in 3 (or more) entries, until now. Somehow I feel that’s important, because usually, as much as many of my events are warm, moving, loving, and well…exceptional, the story of Max’s Bar Mitzvah is more than all of that put together.

As I sit here in the hotel lobby (drinking massive volumes of coffee), I’m trying to figure out what made it SO exceptional. Was it Audrey, whose grounded-ness, sense of humor, red curls, big hug, and joie-de-vivre is so contagious you just want to sit in a room and talk her head off, forever? Was it Rob? Her Non-Jewish husband who was equally as driven to give his son the perfect Bar Mitzvah as she was?

Audrey & Rob

Audrey & Rob

Was it Edith? Audrey’s Holocaust survivor mother – clear – I mean – as CLEAR as a sunny day, whose only dream in her life was to see her grandson Max become a Bar Mitzvah?

Edith, Audrey's Mom

Edith, Audrey's Mom

Or was it Max, himself? My darling Skype student, who calls me a Robo-Rabbi, and with whom I have shared many deep, spiritual, inquisitive, and wondrous moments together – despite headsets and disconnects, from 1500 miles away?

Max, My Robo-Bar Mitzvah!

Max, My Robo-Bar Mitzvah!

Or maybe it was the other cast of characters. Sharon, my soul-sista, the common thread, that brought Audrey and her family and I together. Or, Hal and Sharon’s children, Bess & Hannah, who so beautifully chanted the V’Ahavta at Max’s Bar Mitzvah.

Audrey with Sharon, Bess, & Hannah.  Where was Hal??

Audrey with Sharon, Bess, & Hannah. Where was Hal??

Perhaps, it was Rob’s sister, remember…Non Jewish Rob, his sister, Judy, who so meaningfully read the D’Var Torah last night, explaining the meaning of the Parsha, Bo. Her desire to complete this simcha for Max and his family, was far more important than the fact that she had never even known what a parsha was before this week. Perhaps she didn’t even know the true story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, and the meaning of the story in our lives, but she read with the same passion and conviction I would have expected Edith to read with.

Judy & Doug

Judy & Doug

Or Lara – Audrey’s brother’s wife, with a personality bigger and kinder than anyone I have met in ages. A total rockstar-redhead, with more energy than a whirling dervish. (what is that, anyway?)

Sharon and Edith with Lara (on the right)

Sharon and Edith with Lara (on the right)

Oh wait – it certainly had to have something to do with Rev. Sarah Lammert. I must digress by saying that the Bar Mitzvah was held in the Unitarian Universalist Society, where Edith and Audrey have been attending for quite some time. It is the Society they landed in, when they realized that there were no synagogues that were going to meet their spiritual needs, and whose arms they felt so warm and loved in, when all else, spiritually, had failed them. It was Sarah who opened the Bar Mitzvah last night, and closed – with me – immediately after I led our congregation in Kaddish – and she led with The Lord’s Prayer. (Did you ever know that The Lord’s Prayer is deeply rooted in the words of the Kaddish? Perhaps a separate blog entry for later..) A deeply moving moment, bringing us all of different faiths and walks of life together, harmoniously, in one room, with the feeling that G-d was around each and every one of us.

Gee, maybe it was the amazing New York Klezmer band, who rocked the house in the first couple of hours. As Max and I danced the hora, and led most of the guests around in a hora line, and had an amazing time.

Or Audrey’s friend, husband, and children, who played and sang “I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life”.

Or ultimately, it was Edith’s speech to Max, a moving wish from his grandmother, expressing her deep pride, and a transformed relationship with her G-d, as a result of this night. Or Lara’s moving recount of what a Bar Mitzvah means to her (another non-Jewish family member, expressing her love and hopes for Max).

I think there is way too much to recount, and I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to accurately express just what made last night so incredible. I just know it was, because of what I felt in my heart – before, during, and after the ceremony, including now. I know because of the comments and feedback, and joy and love I received from everyone there, Jewish and non Jewish alike. Even the kids, who sat on the floor, in front of Max and I, were enthralled and participative, a moving experience in itself.

Maybe it was the sum of the parts. Each of those parts brought incredible meaning, connection, spirituality, and unity to the night. It was beshert, I suppose, for Audrey and I to connect, through Sharon, and I will be forever grateful for the experience. It not only brought meaning to my life, but I know it did for Audrey and Rob, Max, Edith, and all of the friends and family that joined together in that room. I’m sad that it is over, but richly rewarded for having been through it. I’m sure the impact has yet to reveal itself to me, but it will be my pleasure to carry these memories with me along the road, and remember how I changed one family’s life. It changed mine, too. Audrey, Rob, Max, Edith, Lara, Judy, Sharon, and Rev. Sarah – you are angels, and I’m so thankful for each of you! Max – you are my Robo-rock-star-Bar Mitzvah. I will be forever proud!

The best time EVER! Love u, Audrey!

The best time EVER! Love u, Audrey!

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It is the eve of Max’s Bar Mitzvah.  I am back in the hotel, after spending the last few hours reading and preparing for tonight, and reflecting on the last 24 hours.  My heart is pounding for some reason, today, like that feeling you get when the police car turns his lights on behind you.  I’m not sure why.  Sometimes this happens, when there is so much inside of me, and things going on that I just can’t see clearly yet, and hours of meditation and thought have to occur to see what this message is.  I consider it a message, I just don’t know what it’s saying, yet.  I’m overwhelmed by my relationship to Audrey, Rob, and Max, and perhaps it is just a sign that a shift is taking place in my world, and that tonight is going to be one of the most moving experiences of my life.

I sat with Max for a couple of hours today.  He practiced his blessings, we read through his D’Var Torah, and his prayer of gratitude.  Wait till I publish this prayer.  I sobbed at his kitchen table, and I promise you – these are his own words.  The child is amazing.  We played guitar in his Mom’s office, and shared more philosophy at his kitchen table.  I walked 2.5 miles to his house from the hotel, and another 2.5 back – in 30 degree weather, and it was the best 5 mile walk I’ve ever had.

Max's House, as it was starting to snow

Sure, I love the beach, and certainly don’t know if I could trade my daily walks at the ocean for the walk I experienced today, but, today was special, nonetheless.  I love being here in New Jersey, in the north, in the cold, and among friends I’ve only known for 24 hours but feel I have known forever.

Last night, Audrey (Max’s Mom) had her family over for dinner, and Sharon, Hal, Hannah and Bess were there.  Sharon is my soul-sista, and I couldn’t wait to see her.  It was SO much fun, and I just don’t want this time to end.  Tonight, Hannah and Bess are chanting the V’Ahavta, while Max reads the prayer in English.  It will be beautiful.

Tomorrow, I set out on my journey to see my brides – past and future, and hopefully somewhere along the line, I will get a chance to meet Rabbi Andrea, my friend, in person.  (some technical difficulties this morning prohibited that, but I’m sure going to try to catch up!)  Andrea was responsible for connecting me to Yelena, who connected me to Sharon, who connected me to Audrey, and on and on we go…I know I’ve said all this before, but it’s all so divine, it’s worth repeating.

Thank You, G-d, for this blessing.  I am, once again, the luckiest girl on earth.



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I’m so excited.  This is a divine weekend, for sure, and I have been so looking forward to its arrival.  There is such an amazing story about how I got here, which I will tell later, but, for now, the beauty of the fact that I am here is enough.

So, tonight begins Max’s Bar Mitzvah experience.  I’m in Montvale, New Jersey, and we are holding the ceremony tomorrow evening at the Unitarian Church.  Who’d-a-thought?  Audrey, Max’s Mom and I have only seen each other a few times through a unique video-chat setup in their home, so Audrey wasn’t sure we would find each other as I arrived in baggage claim, in Newark, but as soon as I stepped one foot into baggage, we knew immediately who each other was.

Have you ever had one of those times, where you met someone for the first time, but felt sure you had known them all your life?  Well, this is Audrey.  But, it shouldn’t surprise me, because we must not forget that I am connected to Audrey, because of Sharon, my soul-sista from Yelena’s wedding in the DR.  And, there’s a whole story about how I got connected to Yelena, (through Rabbi Andrea in New York) so this whole thing is one big insane Law-of-Attraction story that nobody will really ever believe.

But what’s important, is that I’m here.  I’m here to keep a boy connected to Judaism, whose family has left 4 synagogues, because they never felt welcome, in fact, quite the opposite.  I’m here to let a boy know that his Jewish heritage will never let him down, as long as he stays connected to it, and that the effort he makes is worth way more than the quality he performs with.  I’m here to bring a Jewish and Non-Jewish family together, to help them see the richness of our faith, and the blessings we receive when we embrace it.  I’m here, because G-d brought me here, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Max, I can’t wait to share this moment with you tomorrow.  Audrey, thank you for dinner tonight, and for making me part of your family.  Sharon – I adore you.  You are more my soul-sista tonight than ever.  Rob – you’re an amazing father and husband, and I’m honored to be part of this simcha.  Stay tuned…Max’s Bar Mitzvah, live, Friday night!

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I have been sooooo tired of hearing all the bad economic news lately, that I have almost stopped listening to the news, or reading the paper.  But, today I stumbled upon good news, and it was so exciting, especially because it directly relates to what I do.  I’ve considered myself so fortunate this year, that while everyone has been lamenting about their economic conditions, times are good for me.  I have felt that my business is fairly recession-proof, as long as you provide value for what you do, and I think I work very hard at keeping my prices reasonable, especially for the service that I offer.

That being said, I was happy to read an article today, about brides continuing to book Destination Weddings in the Caribbean.  I have often said that the weddings I officiate in the Caribbean and Mexico are so worthwhile, and way more fun than a 4 hour soiree that costs a fortune, just because it has the word “wedding” attached to it!  When my clients get married at an All Inclusive resort in the islands, their guests get to enjoy a 3 day (or longer!) vacation together, rather than a 4 hour hustle-bustle with mediocre filet and lobster tail, and a dried out potato.

The families get the most amazing bonding time, and the experience can’t be beat.  The wedding planners I have worked with are proven professionals, and the whole experience brings the best memories I could ever imagine.  My clients are relaxed, their families and friends are having FUN, and best of all – they’re spending less than half of what they would spend in the U.S.

I’m so happy to hear that my brides in 2009 and 2010 are still going to be booking Destination Weddings, and that I might be fortunate enough to continue sharing the most amazing experiences with them and their families for the coming years ahead.  I can’t recommend the experience highly enough – and if you are just beginning to think about where you can take your family for your special day – be sure to ask me, because I’ve really had a world of experience the last couple of years.

Looking forward to discussing performing your Destination Wedding in the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, and beyond!  Be sure to check out my Facebook page, as well as my blog, for photos, and writeups on my most recent destinations.  What a great job I have!  See you in the islands!


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What an amazing, heartwarming experience I had tonight.  I cannot wait to share this awesome story.

When I performed Yelena’s wedding in the DR last month, she couldn’t wait for me to meet her friend, Sharon, who I wrote about in a previous blog entry.  Sometimes, you meet someone, and you know the connection is soooo strong, but you just don’t know how or why, and that was the story with Sharon.  We truly were like soul sisters, and we both knew that had 1000 miles not been between us, we would be best friends forever.

Well, last month, Sharon asked if she could refer me to someone, and of course I said “YES”!  Her intention was to connect me with a family who had a young, Bar Mitzvah-aged boy, without previous Hebrew education.  The Mom also had a Holocaust-survivor mother, who had been ailing, and wasn’t sure exactly how long she would have the privilege of enjoying time with, and wondered if there was anything that could be done to give her son a Bar Mitzvah in time for the grandmother to celebrate with him.

Normally, I would consider this a request for a drive-through service – an excuse to throw an audacious party, and would generally not oblige – but Audrey’s family was different.  Last night was proof.

There is no big party involved.  There is no other purpose- other than for Max to share his Bar Mitzvah with his Grandmother, and have the memory of a moving, Jewish experience, in spite of his lack of traditional Hebrew education.  This will be an interactive family experience, and Max will absolutely recite the Maftir blessings, write a D’Var Torah, and know clearly what it means to be a good Jew in the eyes of G-d.

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting Max, Audrey, Rob, and Grandma.  It was 14 degrees outside their home, 75 outside mine.  I was sitting on my living room couch, they were sitting in their den.  We put our headsets on, dialed through Skype, and were connected in an instant.

But, that’s not the beautiful thing.

Max and I had an opportunity to share with each other, talk about what it meant to become a Bar Mitzvah, and get to know each other a little better.  He’s a precious, outgoing, happy young man, eager to have this special experience with his Grandmother.

I met Grandma, who couldn’t have been sweeter, herself.  She was so excited that we would all have this connection, and couldn’t wait to meet me.  The feeling is mutual. She is a Holocaust survivor, an Eastern European Jew, and a beautiful woman.  I cannot express how excited I am to be able to share this experience with her.

But that was not the beautiful part, either.

While we were on video chat, enjoying each other, Audrey and Rob brought out the Hanukkah Menorah, and 4 candles.  They placed the candles in the Menorah, Max lit the candles, and together we said the blessing over the Hanukkah lights.  Then, we sang Maoz Tzur, the Hebrew song titled Rock of Ages, and we truly shared an incredibly profound moment together, 1000 miles apart.

THAT was the beautiful thing.

I’ve never done this before, and I was moved beyond belief.  Words just cannot describe this experience, but the memory will last in my heart forever.  Technology is amazing.  It connects us in incredible ways, if we use it properly.  (That’s a whole other blog entry – I think it’s definitely overdone) But when it can be used to enhance our connection with people, to deepen our relationship by bringing personal moments together such as last night, when distance separates us, it is an amazing tool.  And, it changed my outlook on life, just a little…

I’m not sure what I’m more excited for – the actual Bar Mitzvah, or getting the chance to see Sharon and celebrate another simcha with her, and meet her family, but, I think the combination of the two is so exciting, I can hardly wait.  Max, I can’t wait to get to know you better, and share an incredibly meaningful simcha in your life, and your family’s lives.  Welcome to my world!  I’m so happy to be part of yours!

See you in Jersey!!


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I tried all the way home to write my blog entry about this past weekend, but I have come to the definite conclusion that some feelings simply cannot be put into words.  Such is the case for my experience in St. Maarten this past weekend, with Keith & Faith, their families, and friends.  And, if I wrote about every bit of the weekend that I felt was memorable – you would be here reading for another hour, and there was just no way I could cut it down, so I’m going to try to stick to the highlights – just know that there was so much more than what you will find here, and what happened in those moments will be memories I cherish forever.

Keith emailed me a couple months ago, and I knew immediately he was a mensch.  Just from the way he spoke about Faith, the wedding, and their lives, I knew I had to work with this couple.  And after my conversation with Faith, we all knew it was going to be amazing.  Looking back, this couple brought as much, if not more joy to my life, as I hope I brought to theirs, and once again, I fell in love.

At the villa

At the villa

Keith & Faith were married at La Salamandre, on the French side of St. Maarten.   It was the most beautiful villa on an amazing piece of property on the island, about 20 minutes from the hotel many of us stayed at – The Royal Sonesta on Maho Beach.  I have to say, the Villa was definitely the highlight of the weekend – other than the wedding itself.  But, what seems to rank my wedding experiences right up in the top 4 (as this one is definitely ranked up there!) is the people.  From Doug and Monica in St. Croix, to Dan & Rita in Mexico, to Felix & Evelina in Aruba, and now Keith and Faith in St. Maarten, it is absolutely the people I fall in love with.  And this wedding was no exception.



The weekend was full of casual, laid back celebration.  Keith and Faith were smart enough to realize that everyone was going to have a different idea of fun.  This was a very large crowd – 75 people, and many were friends of Keith’s Mom and Dad – Marge & Ken, and some were friends of Faith’s Mom – Vicky, and the rest were friends of Keith & Faith’s, so the crowd was diverse.  But, they managed to keep it interesting and fun, while being so easy going.  Friday night, we went to Pineapple Pete’s for dinner, but before, I met a lot of Marge & Ken’s closest friends at a little before party in their room.  My favorites of their friends were Mike & Jane, Linda & Barry, and Steve & Barbara, because they were such amazing and FUN people.

On Saturday – something terrible happened – I lost my voice.  Yes, I had gone to St. Maarten with a bit of a cold, and the cold/damp air conditioning went right into my lungs, and my voice was history.  Quite a panic when you’re the Cantor.  But, with laryngitis and all – this group of 75 made me feel so awesome, because it was clear that we were all so connected, that it just didn’t matter.  And then, to make matters worse – Vicky, Faith’s mom, fell and sprained her ankle, so there was quite a bit of irony in the whole situation!

Saturday night was a riot!!  We went to Cheri’s Cafe, right across from the hotel, a great open air restaurant with the most hysterical live entertainment!!  I can’t even begin to describe this night, but some pics just might give you an idea of how much fun we had!   It was a highly interactive evening, to say the least!!

The men - or - um - the women

The men - or - um - the women

I was very lucky to have found another “soul sister” on this trip – Dionne, who is Faith’s sister.

At the party

At the party

We were joined at the hip, from the moment we were checking in at the hotel – and realized who each other was.  I had so much fun with Dionne, and I don’t know what I would have done without her!  On Saturday and Sunday,  I had some very meaningful opportunities to connect with Faith & Dionne’s Mom, Vicky.  Sometimes, I get a very strong feeling that there is a greater purpose for why I end up in certain places, and my relationship with Vicky was one of those moments.  Vicky and I each had highly noteworthy disabilities this weekend – I lost my voice, and she sprained her foot.  Can you imagine?  A wedding where the Cantor has no voice, and the Mother of the Bride can’t walk her daughter down the aisle?  You might think it would be a disaster, right?  No way, it was amazing.

The wedding itself was magnificent.  From the caterers, to the steel drum band, to the dj, the bartenders, and the photographers (they were incredible – I can’t wait to link to them and see their photos!) this wedding was one of the most unique I have ever attended.  It was so private, and personal, and so much of Keith and Faith went into planning this wedding.  Faith has an very interesting story about her background, but suffice to say that she did not have a Hebrew name, so it was very important to her that before signing the Ketubah, she had a Hebrew name.  So, just before the ceremony, we gathered in the big living room, and I blessed Faith with the Hebrew name of Ruth – her grandmother’s name, with whom she is incredibly close.  We signed the Ketubah, took a few more pics, and then proceeded to the wedding ceremony.

It was here, on this dock, as Keith and Faith stood in front of me, that I had the most profound, meaningful experience in my career as an officiant.  But, it is one of those spots that words cannot describe.  As Keith and Faith stood in front of me, their loving gestures and care and sensitivity for each other overwhelmed me.  Now, you might think that the fact that I do weddings all the time, and see brides and grooms in love together, but Keith and Faith – they were different.  There was one moment in particular (I can’t wait till Judy sends me this photo because she captured it) that they just both instinctively leaned their heads in to rest on each other, while they were wrapped in my tallit, and the look on both of their faces brought me to my own tears – they were so hard to hold back.  It was a truly moving experience, and I am so thankful that we were brought together.

Now – the party – It was just so much fun, and I’ve never seen everyone have such an amazing time together.  The older crowd got down and dirty like the younger crowd, and everyone was having a ball.  On each table at dinner, Faith and Keith put the most unique flavored rums that everyone was taking shots of – which obviously contributed to a wild and crazy night – again – some things just don’t need to be repeated – but a good time was had by all!

The weekend review would not be complete without mentioning Keith’s brother Brian.  Brian – you are one of the MOST personable, bright, and fun people I have ever met.  Love you!

Dionne, Brian and me

In the end, I received two of the most amazing compliments of my career.  Marge, Keith’s mom came up to me, and shared her thoughts with me that were the most moving I have ever heard.

At Pineapple Pete's

At Pineapple Pete's

Marge- I can’t wait to be your friend, and I’m coming to Woodstock to visit!!  Steve, one of Marge & Ken’s friends, is an Orthodox man, a Chabad-nik, and he sat down next to me to tell me that while he disagreed in general with marriage outside a synagogue, he recognized that there was a need, and that he was so happy I was there for Keith and Faith, and he truly made me feel like I am accomplishing my goal.

Rabbi Lipson told me one day…”You can’t change the world”.  I know I can’t.  But, I can be different.  And if I can help one couple avoid being married by the Rabbi that married me, I’ve made enough of a difference in the world.

When I left the party, to return to the hotel, Faith hugged me and told me she loved me.  Keith and Faith – I love you both, so incredibly much!  I can’t wait to share more moments of joy with your family.  Thank you for bringing me into your lives, opening up and sharing your most intimate thoughts, and bringing so much joy to the world.  I miss you all!



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