If we could only bottle this…


You know those moments in life when everything is just working? When everything feels so right? I think I finally discovered the key ingredient…and I knew it all along, without actually SEEING it.

Gratitude. Overwhelming, unbelievable amounts of pure unadulterated gratitude!

Last night was one of those nights. Many of you know, I am the Youth Program Director for SunServe, a non-profit social services agency that focuses on serving the LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and straight allies) community here in South Florida.

At quarter to six last night a steady stream of queer youth began filtering into the youth room to be part of our Triple Power Party. What is the Triple Power Party you might ask? Well, it was the Ribbon Cutting and Launch event for our new Youth Drop In and Cyber Center “The Rainbow Room,” a going away party for our long standing youth/adult advisor (6yrs with us) and staff member (1year) Andrew Frosch. As well as an acknowledgement of  Valentines day week with hearts, lots of love and pink cupcakes.

At six thirty we gathered the youth, parents, family, friends, adult advisors, volunteers and staff for the ribbon cutting. With the snip of the ribbon we open the doors to unveil everything we worked so long and hard for that was FINALLY complete!

I stood by and watched dozens of youth walk around oohing and ahhing, exclaiming “wow” and “cool.”  It was overwhelming, and I was flooded with gratitude.

I really ‘effin LOVE what I do! I love creating a safe space for our queer youth to be themselves, I love when they come talk to me about what’s going on in their life. I love being able to be a mentor and a steadfast adult in their lives.

I looked over to see my partner Ian laughing with on of our youth and again I was filled with gratitude. I have a truly amazing life partner; we have such beautiful communication and unconditional love. She was with me 100% during the youth space renovation journey that consumed (quite literally) the last 2 months of my life. She was painting walls, installing cabinets, mirrors, pictures, making countless home depot runs (you name it); if we needed it, she was there.

Then I see two of my very best friends Tabatha and Jaime. They were standing right in front for the ribbon cutting. Forgiving me for virtually disappearing for the last two months. Tabatha tells me “I had the launch booked from the very first eblast announcement.”

I am surrounded by an unbelievable new staff, alongside my life changing old staff (one moving away for love and another took a promotion within the company) my boss who is beaming, youth who are in awe, friends who are proud, our incredible adult advisors and parents of youth. Last night was just an all around wow, awwww, yessss night!

It’s hard to maintain an emotional high like that for long…and that’s okay. Life is meant to be ups and downs… It often takes a great amount of suffering to awaken you to a glorious moment. But the good news is you can always generate gratitude, even in the darkest moments, there is always something to be grateful for.

When have you had moments like this?

What are you grateful for?









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The “C” Word

FurFam-IMG_0157I was 14 years old and living in South Florida with my father and step-mom. One night we got in a really bad fight, there was screaming and things got physical. What we were fighting about I cannot remember but I know the last stinging words I uttered were “I hate you.” That night I packed my bags and moved to live in Texas with my mom.  I did not talk with my step-mom or father for over a year.

After almost 2 years I got an urgent phone call from my aunt. With a shaky voice she shared that my step-mom had lung cancer and had been admitted to the intensive care unit in the hospital. I was in shock; I had no idea that she was sick, my entire family kept that from me.

With the help of my mom I booked the soonest flight possible and I was on my way back to South Florida. As my flight landed and cell phones could be turned on again, I frantically called my aunt to find out where I was going to meet them. With a deep sigh and a barely audible whisper she let me know that my step-mom had just passed; I didn’t even get to say goodbye or that I was sorry, or that I really did love her. I collapsed in one of the airport chairs and cried for what felt like hours.

For years this pain tortured me, I felt guilty for never being able to apologize and I blamed myself endlessly. I was a total wreck, taking Tylenol PM to fall asleep and NoDoz to function in the morning. I refused counseling, pretended I was fine, stuffed my pain deep down and held a strong front because “big girls don’t cry.”

It was not until my early 20’s that I began to work on healing. But as you know when you don’t heal from something painful it has a way of recreating itself over and over until you do.

I found myself in a long-term relationship with my first girlfriend. After about a year together she was diagnosed with what doctors called an “incurable disease”. Crushed and with a hopeless desperation I tried to push her towards every holistic healing method I could find.  When nothing was working I pushed her away because I could not bear her being sick.  We had a messy breakup and even now we still have a difficult relationship. For years I have held onto this guilt and pain.

It’s been about 3 years and here we are; the same pain has been coming back up again, asking to be healed. My grandpa has been suffering with cancer and my best canine friend Arya has been diagnosed with Lymphoma and was given at most a few months to live.

During the last few weeks our family has watched as Arya slowly got worse and worse.

On Christmas Eve this year she took a rapid turn for the worse, she wasn’t able to breathe and could hardly walk. We made an emergency call to our mobile vet.

As we sat together I told Arya how much I loved her. I thanked her for her unconditional love, friendship and joy she shared.  I told her how grateful I was for her being there for me during every broken heart and emotional time I had. She kissed my face and with her eyes told me she was ready. She laid her head down on my leg and peacefully drifted off.

I finally healed a part of me that was so afraid of death, so afraid of sickness. This time I overcame; I loved her till the end without pushing her away.

I still hurt, but I know everything is going to be all right – I still feel her presence and am grateful she is no longer suffering.

To everyone suffering with pain and loss: Hold strong, there is a gift in the beginning and ending of life.

Arya taught me that







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A Hopeful Beginning

humanitylogo-242x300A recent blog I wrote for The Humanity Project

(Editor’s Note: Mandi Hawke is Program Coordinator of Youth Services at SunServe, an agency committed to improving life for the LGBT community in South Florida. She also is the author of “PROUD: emPOWERment for LGBTQA Youth.” Ms. Hawke wrote this blog especially for the Humanity Project.)

By Mandi Hawke

As you know, there has been a great deal of discussion about 2012 being the end of time. We’ve all heard about the Mayan calendar ending, seen the Hollywood blockbuster movies or perhaps overheard the evening newscasters sharing some fear-based theories. It feels very similar to the Y2K insanity, remember that? The fear bug is so dangerous and contagious that it spreads like wildfire, but you don’t have to accept it into your consciousness. Along with many spiritual folks and light seekers, I believe that 2012 represents the tipping point of a global consciousness shift. Not to say that we’re going to have a sudden complete change in human behavior overnight, but that it’s coming.

To read the rest of the article click here

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Tying it Together

photo-on-12-2-12-at-11-57-am-2 Thank you South Florida Gay News (SFGN) for the wonderful 2 page article: chronicling my childhood up until my current work at SunServe, Drag it OUT and the release of my newest book PROUD emPOWERment for LGBTQA Youth. If you have not read the SFGN article yet check it out here.

This is the first time I have openly talked to press about my upbringing, feelings of suicide, bullying and the internal conflict I went through in my teenage years. The entire process has really been so personally powerful, in a two fold way. In some ways it was healing to talk openly, get it out there and share it with the world in a big way. On the other hand it was really scary and has  brought it all back up again for me to look at.

The last few days I have been going through a lot of deep emotional feelings, waves of sadness, frustration, anger and depression. I find I’ve been rough on myself; judging myself for not being strong enough. I feel my purpose here is to inspire others to overcome these feelings and here I am stuck inside them again myself. As I’ve been going through this, I have not written anything for the blog, worked on promoting my book or anything else. I have been taking each day as it comes and really asking the universe to show me what i need to learn here. Then it hit me….

I subscribe to The Daily Love and a few other personal growth blogs… today the email from The Daily Love really hit hard and woke something up inside me.

Todays blog is called If you want to be seen – SHOW yourself! :o) in the article Mastin talks about experiencing great sadness recently, and not understanding the reasons behind it. Through quiet introspection he realized his sadness was feelings coming up from the past, feelings of being invisible, unseen and unheard. Some of the memories where he was most sad had to do with a time in his life when things were really rough, drug use etc. He was hoping inside that his parents would know he was in trouble and come to help him, but he never told them about what was going on, never shared his pain. So all while he was suffering in silence, internally screaming for help. Right now, something in his life triggered these feelings to resurface and he had to deal with them again.

How often do we do this? Suffer silently, wishing someone would come to our rescue.

I realized after reading his blog, and reflecting on the childhood stories I shared with SFGN – all through high school and even into college I suffered. I had deep pain, internal confusion, self-hate and feelings of abandonment…but I talked to nobody about it. I shared with nobody what I was going through, and I was so hurt when nobody came to my rescue. For awhile I blamed others, I was angry – because as many of you know, being angry is easier than being sad. When you’re sad, you’re vulnerable…when your angry, you put the walls up and keep people out, which is what we sometimes perceive as a safer option.

Looking back I wish I had reached out, I wish I had looked for an LGBTQ Community Center, a Inclusive Church, a Therapist who was Affirming. I wish I had the courage to be really open and honest with some of my friends and family to ask for help. As Mastin said, nobody can SEE YOU if you don’t SHOW YOURSELF.

Today I challenge you to SHOW YOURSELF, be honest, be open and TALK TO SOMEONE.

To find an LGBTQA Center or Affirming Counselor near you search at GLBT Near Me.

To talk to someone RIGHT NOW Call Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386

If you want a friend, I’m here for you as well – YOU’RE NEVER ALONE!


Mandi Hawke


Filed under Published Articles, Youth Empowerment

Mandi Hawke Raises Awareness for LGBT Youth with Her Life Story

Mandi Hawke was in the fifth grade writing “I love Stephen” in her notes, only to casually drop them off her desk for her classmates to find.

Mandi Hawke

He was the one person in the classroom that every girl liked,” she remembers. “I thought it was a safe name to write.” In a small private school classroom of about 24 kids, playground crushes grew and Hawke was suddenly accused of not dating anyone.

It wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that Hawke came out to her friends and family, only to be told it was a phase and a trend. But she didn’t know that then.

via Mandi Hawke Raises Awareness for LGBT Youth with Her Life Story.

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Thoughts about PROUD – Hil Says

“Incredible, awesome, in a class of it’s own! I would absolutely recommend PROUD as it offers all humans an opportunity to learn how to accept and love themselves and others. The author has written this book in a way that can benefit youth and adults and the worksheets are so helpful in aiding understanding.” She keeps each section short enough to keep the reader interested in all the wisdom and suggestions she offers. She doesn’t drone on about “methods”, “steps”,etc., as do so many authors of self-help books.”

~ Hil Laguna
PROUD parent of a gay son.
Therapist and
LGBTQA Youth Group Facilitator

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Giving back can SAVE your life!

Giving back to our commUNITY feels great but sometimes we don’t know what we could do that might make a difference!

I shared about some seriously amazing allies is last week’s article We all need commUNITY. They GAVE BACK in a big way – the value they gave to Drag it OUT and SunServe as youth serving organizations was PRICELESS and to them, it probably was not a huge weight. They donated what they were good at, with equipment they already had and gave us their time and passion. YOU can do that too. If you haven’t read that article yet – check it out!

Through much struggle I learned this valuable gem… My life is FAR RICHER by consistently giving selflessly to others. Volunteering helped me create my life as it is today and saved me from a deep and dark depression.

I regularly give back through volunteer time, donating unneeded items a few times a year and giving monetary donations to organizations who are really making a difference. Usually, a few dollars is more possible then we allow ourselves to believe – Did you enjoy that Starbucks coffee? Go out to eat with friends? New video game? YOU too could donate, at least a little bit.

I’m not the only person who believes in the power of giving back. Check out some of these famous quotes:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Muhammad Ali

“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” ~ Albert Einstein

Speaking of Giving Back…some of you already gave up your Starbucks Coffee to make sure PROUD emPOWERment for LGBTQA Youth got published and I want to THANK YOU!!!!!!  With the money raised from the Indiegogo campaign a few months ago I was able to complete the graphic design, business cards, website, book editing, proofing and purchase the first batch of books to be donated.

Many copies of PROUD emPOWERment have been donated to both organizations and individual youth involved with:

  • SunServe Youth Group
  • Drag it OUT Inc.
  • University School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • South Broward High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Plantation High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Pompano Beach High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club
  • Florida Atlantic University (FAU) LGBTQA Resource Center Library

As I have more speaking engagements scheduled during the year I always bring copies of the book. If a school, library or resource center is unable to purchase because of lack of funds, I provide them with a copy of the book. I am able to do this because of YOUR HELP! Thank you!

If you’re involved in a high school, university, non-profit youth organization or LGBT group and would like a copy of PROUD emPOWERment and the group workbook, but are unable to purchase please contact me here to request a free book. In your message please provide me with the best contact information and address to ship the book.

This is PROUD’s way of GIVING BACK!

What can YOU do with the talents you already have to GIVE BACK? I’m happy to help you brainstorm ideas, just comment below!

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Filed under Book Release, PROUD Workbook, Youth Empowerment