Step 32 - Block Party: Episode 15 - Steph & Ava

Scroll down for Steph & Ava's story!


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Steph's Story

I apologize in advance for the length of this story, feel free to edit out anything you feel is too much.

My story starts at birth, well not really, but as long as I have memories, I was a NKOTB fan. My childhood was filled with camping out in the Sears parking lot at the mall waiting for Ticketmaster to open.  My room was plastered with anything NKOTB money could buy from the walls, to the bedding, to the floor and everything in between.  Jordan was my first love and I can recall vividly the day the rumor hit school that he was gay. I remember locking myself in the pink bathroom stall at school and crying.  My love for them was so real that my 10 year old heart broke learning that he would never be my husband. LOL! I went to every concert.  We sat in the nosebleeds, so high that you couldn't even tell which New Kid was which on the stage, but I didn't care. 

I remember when they reunited, my mom called and said they were on the Today show.  I was like, really mom? Great...I'm not 10 anymore.  I was so busy in my adult world.  Family, children, career, graduate school. It took every waking second to balance it all and complete the daily tasks that revolve around all these responsibilities.  I didn't go to the tours, I still felt I was too grown up and didn't have time for that anymore.  Then my cousin bought me NKOTB/BSB tickets for Christmas.  She was younger than me and Backstreet was her NKOTB.  We laughed and I still wasn't convinced. She said we will dress in the 80sgear and have tons of drinks and it will be a blast. 

I went to Chicago.  It was one of the first times I could remember leaving the kids, my husband, the grocery shopping, the bills behind to go out for a night.  As soon as the New Kids hit the stage, something happened.  All of a sudden it was as if I was transported back in time.  I felt the giddy little girl happiness that I hadn't felt or known since my childhood. I did not think once think of my long list of responsibilities in life. I danced, I sang, and best of all I found myself.  It was so much fun I didn't want it to be over.  We decided that we must do it again, and did, the next night. This time we sprung for the tickets that we knew would be close to where they walk in the audience.  Sure shit... next night... cue the Tonight song and here comes Jordan-right at me! He sang to me..like I held his arm while he was in my face.  And blinded him frantically snapping my camera in his face but I was in such disbelief (how embarrassing!).  In my wildest 10 year dreams, I NEVER would have imagined being this close. I called everyone I knew-my parents, aunts, uncles, grandmas, even sent pictures to all my childhood NK friends. 

The feeling that this band gave me was like a drug.  I knew from that point I was all in.  I didn't know what or when I would see them again, but I knew I would make an effort to figure it out.  We heard them reference twitter which I never had gone on before. 

Looking back, I never imagined how much my life would have changed by hitting the follow button on Donnie's page.  It didn't take many days for me to suddenly become a Donnie fan.  Jordan will still be my first love, but Donnie has my adult heart and always will.  I was super fortunate in that he tweeted me back, a lot.  I remember the day he followed me. I screamed so loud my husband came running thinking there was a spider.  He was like hmm..I guess that's kinda cool...  It was more than cool! There were times when he was really active in the previous years he would tweet me a couple times a week.  Man, I miss those days.  Danny followed me, although it wasn't quite as exciting because he never really replied or tweeted people back much.

I decided I must take my first cruise. I convinced my cousin to come, just once. I said if I get on that boat, I'll meet some friends and in the future wouldn't have to ask her, because it is super pricey.  She agreed.  Once we had the cabin, it sunk in. I was going to get to meet them.  Actually hug each of them and hopefully mutter a word or two.  I tweeted Donnie once saying I couldn't believe I was finally going to meet him, how I felt like I knew him so well. He tweeted back- same here, I can't believe we haven't met yet either.  There were many moments of this that even today feel like...is this real life??

The day finally came, my cousin and I were in NYC.  We got in the taxi that morning and I said my now annual phrase "Take me to Donnie Wahlberg".  We got on the boat and shit got real!! We were maybe on the boat one half hour and we were on the top deck. We were trying to take a selfie which I had never done before of us with the NYC skyline.  Totally oblivious to our surroundings...and Jon walks up to us and says let me show you how.  He was right there...holding my phone...teaching me to take a selfie. I knew at that moment we were in for the time of our life!!  The first night of the cruise, Donnie got down in the crowd. I saw him and he saw me and before I knew it, he was right in front of me. He gave me the biggest hug and kiss. There aren't words to describe the cruise.  You just have to experience it. The energy, the love, the leaving everything behind.  It is truly magic.  My cousin was a Joey girl so she was blessed to be right next to the stage during Cowboy night.  If you haven't seen this...it's a must...youtube it. Needless to say, her night was made. 

During that cruise they offered tickets to the Vegas after dark for the cruisers.  So, at this point there was no turning back, so I went.  I met my best bh friend ever and we went to Vegas for the concerts. We had a great time, went to the after party where I got my first Danny and Donnie selfie. It was all amazing. 

My best bh friend and I agreed we should cruise together. We booked the cruise to Grand Turk.  Then...in November of 2014, my life came to a screeching halt.  At 36, I was diagnosed breast cancer.  My initial diagnosis was Stage 4.  I went home and lost it. I thought about my boys growing up without a mom, thought about what a burden my husband would have to carry, and the pain my parents would feel burying their only child. I can recall exactly where I was sitting on the couch.  I was in the worst pain I had ever felt in my life.  I knew that I wasn't ready to tell my family, I knew that once the words were spoken, you can't take them back and I was about to change the lives of everyone I loved forever.  I needed someone to talk to...(you know where this is going...).  I grabbed my phone and sent a DM to Donnie.  I poured my heart out and asked him what to do.  It felt like  seconds and my phone went off.  He replied, you kick it's ass and I  will keep the positivity coming your way. I am here for you.  I sat there for a moment, gathered myself and said you know what, that's exactly what I'm going to do.  It turns out (thank God!!) I was misdiagnosed. I was still stage 2, but the light at the end of the tunnel was restored.  My initial doctor said there wasn't anything they were going to do. If I didn't send that tweet, I may have died. I may  have let time run it's course. So, I can say that Donnie saved my life.  And he is a man of his word. He was there for me. He tweeted me, he twugged me, and I swear some days his words of wisdom felt like they were speaking right to me.

My friend and I agreed that we would keep the cruise booked because it would be my celebration for finishing surgery, radiation, and the dreaded chemo. Danny immediately reached out and sent me words of encouragement.  Remember Betty was there, thankfully we had the financial means to endure this, nonetheless they sent me a chemo package filled with love.  Abbie, who runs Remember Betty, is a true angel.  Danny messaged me the morning of my first chemo.  When I was done with my last chemo, it was a couple weeks before the Main Event.  Danny gave me a pass to come see him before the show.  My kids love the NK music too and my husband has learned to tolerate it.  We all went to the concert. I met up with Danny ahead of time. He was more than sweet.  My youngest son and I had 2nd row for the concert. We had so much fun. Donnie came over and waved to me and nudged me to get my son's attention as he was stuffing confetti in my purse (atta boy!).  He patiently waited and waved at him.  It was sweet.  Following the concert my friend and I went to the afterparty.  The after party had a photo. Johnny wasn't making girls stick with the groups of 10 so it turned into a free for all.  Thankfully, my friend held a Donnie spot until I got in and went to Joe.  Donnie pulled me in tight. He said that he loved my son's hat during the show (he wore a fedora).  He looked at me and said, I love you.  I was trying to talk but he kept repeating it until I gave in and said it back.  He said he was so proud of me for finishing chemo.  It was such a great night.  We danced and lived it up at the after party.  As we were walking to the hotel, Donnie and Jenny were pulling away and he was  waving out the window.  We sat down at the IHOP to get some post concert food and he tweeted me "you are my hero". It's the cover photo on my twitter page and will be forever! After chemo, I had surgery.  I was scared to death, my husband calmed me as much as he could in the pre op waiting room. Then, all of sudden off goes my phone. Donnie DM'ed me to "beat it, with the prayer hands".  Seriously? Its like he is watching us or something, he is a superhuman. 

Radiation got done and before I knew it was nearing cruise time.  One afternoon my phone rings and it comes up New York City.  Something told me to answer it. It was a producer from Rock this boat.  She explained how they were doing a short segment of Remember Betty for Rock this Boat.  They wanted to know if I would be part of it.  At first, I was like uhh...I don't think so but thanks! They went on and said Danny really wanted me to do this.  Who knows if that was true, but it worked. Needless to say, I agreed. I was so nervous I couldn't even send back the contract to Donnie D productions, my husband had to hit the send button.  The second cruise was great.  We did film parts of it, which turned out to be a blast. However, I was still in my wig phase.  It was a lot. It was hard to be that vulnerable period, let alone on TV.  I wasn't even medically cleared  back to work yet (opps) so I was nervous on essentially going on a booze cruise and having it all documented. But, they were great. There is no better place to celebrate life than on that boat. There were many highlights of that cruise, one was white night.  We got a selfie with Joe, he then grabbed our hands and said "come with me".  Well in our pure hesitation of he said what?!? the mobs of fans got to him and he was gone. However, it has left us with years of jokes (don't ever hesitate!)  It was the first time I went to Donnie's after party.  I remember dancing and Jenny came and tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a big hug.  Really??? Then, I got to dance to Hotline Bling with Donnie..in the club.  My photo group time with Donnie was great.  I told him I beat cancer, thanked him for giving me the strength to do it, and the self esteem to feel comfortable in my own skin. He cried, I cried. He told me I was beautiful. It was a moment I will never forget.  The highlight of the cruise was dancing up on stage with Donnie, Jenny, and my friends. We were on stage dancing as the ship as the sun rose over Miami. 

In between, I've been fortunate enough to go to Solowood and St Charles twice for the Going Home with Donnie.  My husband and I got to fly out to NYC to shoot the green screen for Rock this Boat.  The morning of Donnie tweeted me to have fun.  It was fun! Who doesn't want their hair and makeup done?  It was a once in a lifetime experience.  The night the show premiered my friend and I went down to St Charles and watched it at the Hotel Baker. She got to meet Donnie, which was great.  At this point my family and friends have gone two ways- half think I'm mentally unstable, the very small other percentage support it. So, it was nice having someone with me to show I'm not crazy!! When we walked up to us and hugged us, she was speechless.  Mission accomplished! Haha  My husband and I also went to see Dirty, Sexy Funny so he was able to meet Jenny. He has supported me since that moment when she saw me, screamed my name, picked me up and spun me in a circle.  I love that girl! He was like, yeah...this is all real...you aren't crazy! Our family also loves Wahlburgers, we've eaten at numerous locations. Our highlight was getting to hang out with Paul at Alma Nove.

Last years cruise was a blast...I could go on and on. I will be on that boat every year it sails.  It's like a reunion and therapy all in one.  Haha.  The best part is that I have made friends from all over the world.  There are few places I go these days where I don't know a bh that lives there.  The bonds are like nothing else I've ever experienced.   These five guys have led me to the best friends a girl could ever ask for. Life is hard, so hard.  We wear so many adult hats that it is hard to remember who we are when we take them all off. The New Kids have allowed me to find myself again.  I've learned that it is okay to make myself happy, it only in turn makes those around me happier.  My 10 year old mind couldn't have dreamed this big.  Never, ever would I have imagined in my childhood I would have met them.  Never would I have imagined they would know my first name, that I would go on a yearly vacation with them, or that I would be on a TV show with them.  In our every day life, it's very easy to forget to live. Thanks to what this community has taught me, I now live!  

Hope to meet you girls someday!



Lisa & Ava's Story

Two days before Christmas we were at a restaurant in a local mall and it just so happens that Joey and his family were too . My daughter was completely star struck and had the waitress introduce her to him. He was beyond sweet talking to her and asking about Christmas. She told him all she asked Santa for was NKOTB tickets, and Santa told her he hadn't had that request in over 25 years . He took a selfie with her and wished her a merry Christmas! He asked if I had tickets yet and I said not yet. He told me to write my number down and gave the waitress give it to him. I honestly expected nothing, thought he was just being nice or would maybe send an autograph pic or something. Then just before midnight I received that video text and the best gift ever! It was so hard to not go and wake my daughter at that point, but she was finally asleep and Santa needed to come. It was the best gift she could've received! She was over the moon and still says the concert was the best day if her 10 year old life thus is her Halloween costume.

Joey McIntyre gives Ava and her mom a very special Christmas gift!