a rare and spectacular treasure

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman. There are obviously lots of reasons for this, and although most of the things that are kicking up this dust for me aren't particularly positive, it truly has asked me to dig deeper into what it means for me. One of the things I keep noticing and really looking for is my place among other females. And one thing that I continue to circle back on is my strong and powerful female friendships. One in particular is at the crux of my heart and mind pretty constantly... and that is the friendship with these two beautiful women:

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I am beyond lucky to find myself in a best friendship that is a rare and spectacular treasure - with two of the most amazing and strong women on the face of this earth. Our friendship is well in to its second decade and is going strong. It is the friendship that I hold other friendships up to for comparison, which really isn't fair because what we have is exceptional.  

I look to these women for so much, and am given so much more than I seek every time. They are both incredibly accomplished and passionate women who have achieved so much in their lives already. From changing the lives of so many children who needed a chance, to changing the lives of student workers and the entire department that they oversee - they do it all. They both either have gotten, or are in the process of, getting masters degrees in their fields, and are bettering themselves to go even further than they have already gone.

With this friendship I receive their passion and zest for life. I receive their grace for me and for others. I envelope myself in their wisdom that I am lucky enough to have available. I rest more easily than in almost any other situation, and find myself completely myself with these two. It's one of the safest places that I have. With this friendship I receive a hunger to be a better version of myself, and follow in their footsteps. 

Their strength, both as my best friends, and as women, astounds me. We have all gone through periods of intense sadness and heartache, and have been with each other. We have seen each other's joys and celebrated each other's accomplishments. We have lived minutes away from each other, and hours away from each other. I have watched these two beautiful souls transform in the 14+ years that we have been connected, and I'm beyond floored (but not surprised!) with the women that they have become. I have laughed so hard that I have cried with these women multiple times, and often about things that other people would probably stare blankly at. They are both incredibly share and wickedly funny and talented in multiples areas of life. 

My strength, as a woman, is drawn from these two. I know that when I am running low, they have some for me - whatever it is that I am needing. They are making this world an incredible place for all of us, and for the women to come. I rest easy in knowing that should I be blessed to have a daughter one day, not only will she have these amazing women as aunties, but they will have changed this place for the better for her to be able to be a strong women as well. 

I could go on for days if my time would allow, but alas, that's not the case. Instead, I will wrap this up with a wish for all of you: 

I wish for you to find those people in your life that are the first you want to call when times are wonderful, and the first that you need to call when times are hard. The women that make you shine - and only because they shine so brightly that you are lucky enough for it to reflect off of you. The women whose loved ones that you hold as dearly as your own, and who in turn hold yours the same. The friends who you don't have to work for, because you are yourself and nothing but in the presence of them.

And then you will feel like a strong and powerful woman, standing arm and arm with these beautiful creatures, and you will call yourself blessed.  

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One of my all time favorites... at the place where it all started!  

a different view...

For the past two weeks or so, my mind has been stuck on this idea of perspective. The word is tumbling around inside of my head like a shoe in a dryer - bouncing off of the sides and making a clunk every once in awhile. What I can't seem to figure out, though, is how to tackle such a huge subject. And what specifically do I want to focus on? I guess I'll just start writing and see what comes out... :) That seems fair to you, right??

It seems fairly obvious that our nation is going through a huge upheaval right now. There is so much hurt, and confusion, and fear - on all sides - that it's hard to wade through to see the forest through the trees. And it's shockingly unfair to always be told to focus on the forest instead of those trees. It's so easy to get stuck in our view and not stretch ourselves any further for fear of being uncomfortable. But I guess this is where the concept of shifting perspectives comes in to play... I'm almost 35 years old, and I feel so naive about the things that are going on in our world. I'll be the first to admit that I have previously been of the mind that I don't want to know all of the terrible or hurtful things that are happening because it just feels like too much. But what kind of mindset is that? Not the kind of mindset that a young and educated person in the United States of America should have right now - or anytime! I can't sit in my comfortable bubble. Like I said to someone yesterday, now is the time to be uncomfortable for the sake of other people's comfort. And now is the time for me, and for so many others in our world, to shift our view. I'm trying. I'm trying so hard. And it's stretching me a lot -- which is a great thing for this creature of habit. 

I'm trying to show love instead of anger. I'm trying to embrace everybody where they are at, and gently nudge when they need a nudge to the side of right. I'm trying to find my own voice in a world full of so many loud voices, about subjects that I've previously been mute on. I wake up every day full of love for the people in my life and the blessings that I have, and I am hoping that I am able to help protect those for other people who feel threatened and scared in our current world climate. I am doing what I can at this moment in time, but I anticipate that with more knowledge and more awareness, that my abilities with continue to grow. I don't say hope - I say anticipate because I know it will grow. 

It's just funny to me how things can look so differently from the exact same spot, you know? I'm the same person I've always been, just evolving and changing constantly. But from my perspective, things are starting to shift. And it feels good. In a world right now where so much feels bad, it feels good to know that I'm digging in and trying to understand. 

I will continue to treat others with kindness, and be a friend to those who are afraid. I will continue to spread love and joy in my world as I am able, no matter who you voted for or where you stand. And I encourage you all to do that same. Because even though I am trying to be vocal against what I believe is wrong, I am choosing to stand on the side of love as I do it. The two are not exclusive - they can go hand in hand. Because as Jackie DeShannon once sweetly sang, "what the world needs now, is love, sweet love. it's the only thing, that there's just too little of."

From where I sit, it's always changing.... Always morphing and moving. 

From where I sit, it's always changing.... Always morphing and moving. 

...impatience is a new virtue?...

Yesterday at a stop light, I had a moment that was so completely insignificant in the greater scheme of the world - but it weirdly, deeply resonated with me. I was at the light, kind of humming to myself, and the light turned green so I could turn left. Only I didn't turn left right away, I noticed the light about 2 seconds after it turned, and I noticed it because the guy behind me (in a truck bigger than anyone needs a truck to be) honked his horn twice rapidly and yelled out the window "let's go!" I quickly hustled in gear and turned and was on my merry way... the guy behind me still wasn't so merry, though, and my tiny car felt like a bug beneath his foot as he tailed me all the way down the road. It was just a blip in time, a nothing moment really, but then it got me thinking...

...what are we all in such a hurry for?

We all fall prey to it. I go through the drive-through to get my coffee and then get upset when it takes too long... I hate waiting on hold for more than a few minutes... I get angry at myself when I feel like I'm taking too long to complete a task -- all for the sake of moving on to the next moment in time. With smart phones, and the ability to do so much on something so little, we are a community of people who desire rapid, smooth transitions from one thing to the next. And our brains seem to need as many of those transitions as possible. Sometimes at the end of the day, when I stop and just sit at home, I find myself feeling like a movie that has buffered and frozen -- quickly fast-forwarding to get to real time. I can literally feel myself slowing down... and it's usually a really great feeling, but I can oftentimes feel like I'm wasting time. 

But I have to stop and ask myself, how am I wasting time? Why so speedy, everyone? What are we hustling for, really... And I'm not saying this as part of a "what's the point" and "what does it all mean, man?" agenda -- I'm saying this because I constantly find myself remarking on how time has flown by.  When school started again, it was "I can't believe it's September and another school year!" Soon it will be "wow, it's Christmas already??" or "another new year?" And I will find myself uttering a phrase that I have uttered countless times as I've grown older:

Where
Has
The
Time
Gone?

5 words. 5 words that we say as we see kids grow up, as we reunite with old friends, as we think back to memories short or long passed.... 

And yet we fly through life. We hurry to get from one place to another, to move on to the next and the next and the next. We are consumed with saving time, and not just for efficiency of life. I understand the urge to pack in as much in as possible, to live every moment to its fullest, and to not look back and say that we wish we had done this and that. But I am starting to realize, as I really think about it, that I feel like it's better to savor and enjoy the moments that we have so that we are not looking back and wondering where the time all went... 

This is not a revolutionary thought, and I am not proposing a monumental lifestyle shift. I know that these things are hard to do. And time is a tricky thing, that can mess with our minds, and toy with our hearts as it ticks by. There are things that I want right this moment, and I feel myself rushing to try to obtain. But I know that I need to wait. If I just wait, things will be so much better and so much smoother. And I know that I will look back and not think "where has the time gone?" I will think to myself how lovely it was to wait, and to enjoy the time as it moved like what felt like molasses... because in the end, it was so much more than I had ever dreamed. 

Let's slow down. Let's all slow down together, even just a step or two, and see what happens. Maybe we will still feel pulled to rush. Maybe we will still pack as much in as we can. But maybe, just maybe, when we find ourselves thinking "where has the time gone?," we can recall exactly where, and with exactly who. We can pinpoint the moments in time that we were able to afford, and to savor, because we took that extra pause, and marched a beat slower than usual. 

And before we rush off to the next thing, or grow inpatient when something slows down a fraction of a second, we can treat ourselves to a breath of fresh air and know that we may not remember this exact moment in time a year or five down the road, but we will be better for taking it for ourselves. 

We can't stop it, but we can enjoy it while we've got it. 

We can't stop it, but we can enjoy it while we've got it. 

First Days! (are here again!)

Who loves lists? This girl! Who needs to blog more? This girl!

For now, it's the first day of school, and I have lots of happy thoughts. :) What are your happy thoughts today?

It should also be noted that when I was young, I had Raven-Symone's breakout album on tape, and I played the crap out of it. So every year, when I wake up on the first day of school, this song runs through my head nonstop -- so here you are. Crank it up, and dance around like I want to right now (but have to wait until the end of the day for):

Sun's Out, Guns Out....

Is it weird that as I woke up this morning, I had this dumb phrase running through my head? The answer is yes. Yes it is. It's a weird phrase, and I don't have any "guns" to show off in my new muscle tee. That I know of. 

But it has me thinking... What are some of your current mottos/phrases that you are choosing to live by? I am currently working with this one:

Lettering courtesy of yours truly. :) 

Lettering courtesy of yours truly. :) 

But perhaps I am thinking of "sun's out, guns out" because it's weirdly sunny here this week. It's beautiful. While other people are out living up their spring breaks in Mexico and Hawaii and California, I'm here in Washington, but not complaining too hard -- it's totally gorgeous, and I'll take it. 

Tell me your current mantras and mottos that you are living by! I need inspiration!

The view from down here is spectacular!

The view from down here is spectacular!

Soaking it in!

Soaking it in!

Contemplating the rain...

It's the first time I've blogged from my phone, and I'm doing it on the road home... Which makes this a lot of firsts! Cue the confetti and trophy! ..... Waiting, waiting.... Nothing? Ok fine. :)

This is just a quick check in... I'm going to start doing more of these as they pop in to my brain, just giving you little glimpses into my crazy brain! Beware! :P

I use so many emojis. I need an intervention obviously. 

Anyhoo - I'm riding shotgun in David's truck on the way home from a day filled with helping friends move some things to storage/playing a marathon game of Uno with a 5 year old, and having dinner with David's dad. And the dang rain just hasn't let up for more than ten minutes. As I grumbled about it, I realized that it was kind of an empty grumble... Because I don't hate the rain. Gasp! I know. I have lived in Washington my whole life, people. I know the nature of the beast that is the weather. And although it can be annoying and inconvenient (like, say, when you are getting married..........), it's really beautiful. There is something so calming and refreshing about the rain, and I feel lucky to be able to experience it. Yes, I don't love it all of the time... But I do love the feeling of being safe and cozy inside as the rain pounds against the window. I love cozy, and it doesn't really get much more cozy than that.

So here I sit, in the passenger seat, and I think about putting on my comfy clothes as soon as I get home and making some tea... And maybe reading, maybe making some banners, maybe watching Netflix. Just trying to embrace this cozy and content feeling before it turns into grouching at the rain again... :)

Hope that you are all enjoying your Sunday too! Leave a comment and tell me what you like about the rain.... :) (Emoji again. Oh well. #sorrynotsorry)

 

Riding shotgun. 

Riding shotgun. 

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, and Always.

Sometimes you know that you want to write but you don't know how to get the words started. So you turn to a beloved friend, and she hands you a small metaphorical rubber band ball, and a handful of colorful rubber bands, and encourages you to just keep building. And so you do.

Here are my rubber bands...

Yesterday...

Yesterday... I performed talent shows and musicals on my front lawn...

Yesterday... I took for granted the time that I had with the people who created me...

Yesterday... I worked a job that, while fulfilling and equipping me with incredible skills and empathy, was not where my heart lay...

Yesterday... I feared that, although my name literally means this, that I was not very worth of love in the romantic sense, and that I would never find someone who loves me exactly for me...

Yesterday... The idea of spending a lot of time with my brother was not my idea of fun...

Yesterday... I had the attention span for a hobby or an activity like a hummingbird - flitting around from here to there (I now realize that my dad and I had that in common.)  and never truly landing on something that felt just right... 

Today...

Today... I wake up every day next to the person who I found that compliments me. The man that I will be with for the rest of my life, and who loves me beyond a shadow of a doubt for everything that I am, and all of the things that I strive to be...

Today... I have the most solid and fierce group of friends in my life. They are all so unique, and wonderful, and totally mine - and for that my heart literally bursts when I think about how lucky I am to have them... 

Today... I am finding a new passion in myself for using my words and my lettering skills to celebrate moments in people's lives - big or small. It is bringing me all kinds of joy, and I'm hoping to share that joy with others more as I get deeper in...

Today... I have a job that allows me to shine my light in so many ways that are rewarding and appealing to me. I am so lucky to sit in this chair and share the lives of over 200 kids every single day...

Today... I face certain tasks, like looking through things at my Dad's house, and feel afraid and sad, but know that it's okay to feel that way, and allow myself to be gentle with myself. My brother will be by my side as I do it, and having him with me through all of this has been huge... 

Today... David and I make grown-up decisions that will better our lives in the future, while we try to also be mindful that we are young and need to have fun together while it's just the two of us... 

Tomorrow...

Tomorrow... I plan to harness my creativity and turn that in to helping people celebrate their life's moments, and also make some money doing something that I love... 

Tomorrow... I'm sleeping in, and getting breakfast made for me by my sweet husband... 

Tomorrow... We embark upon a new chapter in our lives together that will make David so much happier, and will make our future selves so much happier and more secure... 

Tomorrow... I find more time to sit and be still, and listen to what my heart is telling me. To just listen instead of filling space with TV and music and chatting. Just listen listen listen... 

Tomorrow... I celebrate the ordinary in the every day, and recognize the people in my life for their personal greatness, as well as the greatness they bring to my life... 

Tomorrow... I find a way to get improv back in to my life on a regular basis, because I feel like I am wilting without it around...

And finally, Always...

Always... I will keep laughing, and will delight in making others laugh...

Always... I will remember the sing-song way my dad said "LOVE yooouuu" right before he hung up the phone... 

Always... I will thank my lucky stars for the amazing family, husband, and friends that I have been blessed with, and will strive to share my joy to have them more frequently...

Always... I will complain about my brother and his antics but will secretly love those things about him, because he's the opposite of me and so many things that I wish I could be...

Always... I will keep creating, no matter what the end goal is...

Always... I will be thankful... always I will be thankful... always I will be thankful...

<3

...penny for my thoughts...

On a cold day in December, the 19th to be exact, I literally ran through a parking lot at my full speed. As I ran, something shiny caught my eye and I stopped, for a brief second, to pick up the penny that lay heads up on the cement. David grabbed my hand and urged me along and I said "I just grabbed this penny, it was heads up and good luck." and I tucked it in to my pocket, gripping it tight. The door that we ran through was to the emergency room, and what lay behind those doors was my father - in a state that was a complete mystery to me. I had been on a frantic call with his husband a few minutes earlier, and we got in the car as fast we we could go. I was supposed to be at a concert in Tacoma, and David was supposed to be working but was sick. It was not just a coincidence that we were both home when I got that call, I'm sure of that. We drove the 5 minutes across town not having any clue what we would find. I speculated aloud, and David just squeezed my hand and told me to think positive thoughts. As we drove to the hospital, I couldn't stop thinking over and over again that this could be really, really bad. So it seemed only natural to grab on to any shred of hope and luck that I could possibly find as I ran in to the complete unknown. Less than one hour later, I found the penny in my pocket and angrily gave it to David, declaring "take this stupid thing, it was not even close to being good luck." Words had been said to us that even now I'm having a hard time typing... A strange person had walked in to the room that we were waiting in, on the edges of our seats, and told us "I'm sorry, he's gone." It was numbing, and I felt the walls and the reality come crashing down on me. And when I found the penny awhile later, I felt my anger flare up at the sight of it, and tossing it aside for letting me down was the obvious solution.

Fast forward to two weeks later. Christmas and New Years had come and gone, and we had all gathered to say goodbye to my father. One of the hardest days of my life had gone by in a sort of blur, but I'd been surrounded by more love than I'd ever experienced. My family and best friends took such good care of me throughout those two weeks, making sure that I was safe, and comfortable, and reminding me just how loved I was. They let me cry when I needed to, helped me laugh when I needed to -- did everything perfectly. I could not have asked for more. After the dust had settled on my house and I was sitting down to write some cards, I felt reality and the quiet heavy on my shoulders. David was cleaning up, and he approached me at the table with something in his hand -- the penny. He told me that he knew that I was angry, and that the penny had not done what I had hoped, but that he was holding on to give back to me so I could have it. I took it from him, and sat holding it, reflecting on how much my life had changed in just under 3 weeks. I cried and cried and cried, which I'd come to realize was going to happen a lot (and had happened a lot already) and sat in the living room to think.

It was then, looking at that penny, that I thought about my dad and his connections to this coin in my hand (besides the obvious that I've already mentioned). My mind drifted to a story that my dad had told me often... when he was young, he had a Cocker Spaniel named Penny. He adored Penny, and told us frequently growing up that Penny had saved his life once. He had gotten lost in the woods and it was Penny that got him home. The way that he spoke about Penny was always so tender and loving. I loved that story.

One of my favorite things that I liked to tease my dad about throughout his life was about candy. He had told me once that the only thing that he had ever stolen was a piece of penny candy from a candy store near his house in California. He had said that he felt so guilty about it, and that if he could go back to that store and give them a penny, he would. I always teased him about that, joking that they closed down because of that one piece of candy.  It was one of my favorite things to needle him about.

Not to mention the fact that he went through a huge faze of decorating with copper. There are lots of copper decorations and whirly-gigs hanging in his house. He fell in love with them years ago and went through one of his phases, and ended up getting a bunch to put around the house.

So as I sat there and cried thinking about what I had lost, and holding that "stupid penny" tight, I realized that things don't always present themselves for the obvious reasons. And that even though that penny did not bring me the luck that I thought it would, it reconnected me to parts of my dad that I hadn't thought about in a long time, and I'm sure will resurface many more times throughout my life. And it's these little memories that I'm so, so lucky to have gathered and held on to for when things get hard, and when I can't hold back the tears any longer. Memories like these will pull me through anything.

I'm holding on tight to this and all of the memories that it brings.
I'm holding on tight to this and all of the memories that it brings.

Hasta la vista, 33.

Hi friends! I was reminded this morning via TimeHop that this very day last year, I wrote a post that wrapped up 32 great things about being 32. And since I am the creator of my own destiny, and a grown ass woman who is in charge of herself, I'm doing the same thing this year. I have so many things that I could blog about currently - my mind and heart are very full and have a lot of things that they want to say. But it's not time yet. I'm not ready for that. For now, I'm holding those things close until I feel ready to put them all down. Partially because I'm in a fog of "did that really happen?" and partially because I just am being selfish with my thoughts and memories. But I know they will come out eventually. So for now, you guys get to read along as I recap some of my great memories and insights from this last year, the day before my 34th birthday! 1.) Like I always say, birthdays when you work in a school are awesome. It's so wonderful to be loved by people who aren't required to love you.

2.) I've learned (again) that a grown person must ALWAYS brush their hair. Even if they don't feel like it. Especially when you have hair like mine. It HAS to happen, or you have to chop it off. Which I did.

3.) Even if your dog "graduates" from Doggy School, it doesn't mean she necessarily EARNED her diploma. It turns out that if you look cute, wag your tail, and weigh 10 pounds, you can get that certificate no matter what. She totally trumped us.

4.) Celebrating your bestie's birthdays is equally as fun as celebrating your own! Especially when there are good drinks, shuffleboard, and a hippie corner in their booty basement. And dance routines. :)

5.) The people in your life will constantly surprise you. This includes amazing parents at your school that will give you the chance to have a wonderful weekend in Canada with your hubby!

6.) My best friend moved away to San Francisco, and that has been a TOTAL shift. Not a bad one, just different. I am so happy that we talk all of the time, and that I've gotten to see her so much. I need to get my butt down there ASAP, that's for sure. Having her away but still so close, and happy where she is, makes me happy also. I just love her so much, and seeing her go was hard to do!!!

7.) Starting a new hobby with David has been awesome. We discovered the Center for Wooden Boats, and are volunteers there. David is taking sailing lessons (when it warms up again!), and I just love being there by the water and seeing how happy he is. It's a great place and I'm so happy that we have a "thing" together now!

8.) Having a puppy is awesome. And challenging. And she's not a puppy anymore. But she will always act like it, I'm sure, until she's 90. Because knowing her, she's going to live to be 90 - which makes no sense for a dog who puts anything she finds in her mouth.

9.) All it takes is a backpack and shorts to make the best outfit ever to an Oscars party.

10.) Don't hesitate to go to Vegas with your best friends. Ever.

11.) Cirque de Soleil is insane. Amazing and insane. And sometimes you will go see them perform Beatles music and your bestie will cry while the other one is stalked by a creepy demon man, and it will be so, so perfect.

12.) I developed love for: fried pickles, poutine, happy hours at new places, my new KitchenAid mixer, good smelly candles, self-timer on the iPhone, coloring, journaling, Washi tape, going to Mariner's games (but only when I'm in a suite and barely paying attention to the actual game!),

13.) I got surprise slumber party'd, and it was awesome! It was perfect and wonderful to catch up with old, great friends, and feel super comfortable knowing that our house wasn't in perfect shape and that was ok.

14.) Having electricity is amazing. I pray to the power gods to never take it away from me again!

15.) I'm learning that I have to start taking better care of my self. Eating healthy and exercising is key. I know that most of you knew that already and were thinking "duh, Mandy -- you just discovered this??" but I've been a little stubborn about it. Things are changing now.

16.) I've learned both through things that have occurred for me and myself, that when your best friends need you, you just go. Don't hesitate. Go. Be there. Even if you are just there with them, not talking.

17.) My brother moved in with us for what we thought was a few months and still is continuing... The upsides outweigh the downsides, and my brother and I have developed a really close relationship. It has come in especially handy these last two weeks. Don't tell anyone, but I love that guy like crazy and I'm so happy that we have each other.

18.) Getting a grown-up bed is life changing! Who knew?

19.) Be open to new friends that will come in to your lives quietly and unassuming, and then will end up being a friend that you couldn't imagine your life without in a very short time. I developed that kind of friendship this year, and it's the best. She is supportive, and so loving and kind, and I am so lucky to have her! Friend pickles. :P

20.) Say yes to creating!!! I am constantly having ideas for "the next thing" that i'm going to be working on to satisfy my creativity, and I think that this year I have found a few that are going to stick around and could someday be a thing -- who knows? Hand lettering is something that I've always been good at but want to really develop and hone... I started making candles, and I love doing that, and have been able to make them for said above friend for her business. I feel great when I create (trademark it! Ha!), and I'm so excited to have a space now in our den that I can do that, and am so thankful for having the time to be able to play!

21.) Sometimes, you just have to worry about your dog enough that you end up making her a geriatric ramp to get up the outside back steps. And then she masters it in about 4 tries and become Ramp Champ 2015. She's the coolest ever.

22.) Hold your family close. Don't be a brat. Make the calls when you think that you should. Show your love.

23.) I learned this year that it's ok to push yourself, but it's also ok to say that you need to sit out of something. I always suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), but when I took a field trip with my 3rd graders and had to sit a few of the strenuous things out, I felt really badly at first. But the more that I reflected, the better I felt -- I TRIED! I gave it my all, and had to back off. That's not the same as failure. I need to remember this constantly.

24.) There is always time and room for ice cream. It's always appropriate to have ice cream on your lunch break. Although I'm not eating sweets right now, it still holds true. Ice cream makes things happier.

25.) Making up a holiday and then celebrating it is particularly thrilling - especially when you are celebrating someone! This year we created a School Lunch Person day, and it was SO fun. The entire school knew about it but managed to keep it a secret until that day. It was so great to celebrate our awesome lunch staff and spoil them!

26.) Throwing a BBQ at your house is not as scary as I'd always thought it would be. In fact, we celebrated David's 30th birthday at our house full of family and friends and it was a BLAST!!! Everyone had a great time. :)

27.) Dressing up your brother's dog and taking her photo without his consent gives me a thrill that probably isn't normal! Haha! But she's so cuuuuuute!

28.) Losing dogs that you love and that the people in your lives love sucks. There's no other way to say it that won't make this blog a Terentino movie. It is just plain heartbreaking to watch someone go through, and my heart still hurts for the people in my life who dealt with this during this last year. You never get over that. They are a part of your family forever.

29.) I have the world's best boss. Hands down. A boss who is there for you no matter what, is so understanding, who gives the best gifts, who lifts you up when you are down, who comes to your wedding and your father's service and cries through both. I am so lucky to have her.

30.) There's something to wonderful about having milk and eggs appear at your doorstep in your cute milk box every week! I love it. Best decision I've made in awhile.

31.) Call your parents. Email them. Text them. Visit them. Talk the talk and walk the walk. You will have regrets if you don't, I promise you.

32.) It's okay to cry. I don't meant to end on a sad one, but it's not always sad. It's ok to cry. People will not laugh at you for crying. They will not shame you. Everyone does it, and needs it, and you can't stop it sometimes. Just know that there is always someone there ready to hug you and allow you time and space to let it out. I've been learning this lately, and while I used to be super embarrassed to cry in front of people, it's gotten easier. Because I'm a human person, surrounded by other human people, and I'm so, so happy to know that.

33.) I have lived through the worst thing that has ever happened to me so far in my life. I'm still living through it. I can handle anything with the family and friends that I have by my side. Never underestimate the impact of your text, call, email, food that you drop off, flowers, cards, etc. Always know that even when you reach out, if you don't get a response, you've been seen and heard. And know that it means so, so much. I feel so supported and loved and cared for -- so much so that it hurts sometimes to know how love I am. But in a good way. It's been hard. Every day is different, and will be different forever, and that's okay.

I am so lucky. I am so blessed. It's not cliche, it's true. I can't write more for fear that #32 will happen -- and it's a very good chance that it will definitely happen. But know this - I am so in love with everyone in my life. And I'm feeling pretty strong at this exact moment in time, and I know it's no coincidence that I am surrounded by an amazing village.

Here's to 2016, and 34 year old Mandy Marcellis. I hope you all like her, because I have a feeling already that I adore her.

Wishing you all love and light this year. I'm hoping to be 34 with tons of it!
Wishing you all love and light this year. I'm hoping to be 34 with tons of it!

A (tiny) friend(ly) reminder...

Things are slowly transitioning into adorable around here. It's that time of year when the holidays are coming, and more and more special days are popping up in our daily school calendar. The days are getting shorter, it's getting colder, and it's starting to feel like Christmas is just around the corner (although this could be since it exploded on to the commercial scene the day after Halloween -- sorry, Thanksgiving!).  With that, comes the feeling that my heart is basically consistently wrapped up in a soft fuzzy blanket. Everything makes me go "awwww" or swoon a little bit, and a lot of things tug at my heart strings so quickly that tears spring to my eyes. DISCLAIMER: Not pregnant, before that even comes out of someone's mouth or gets typed!!  With all of this being said, you will understand completely when I tell you about a moment that I was part of yesterday when reading to the JrK kiddos that completely melted my heart into a little puddle... We were reading a story that was beautifully illustrated, a Native American legend story about the Sun Arrow. We turned a page and there was a drawing of a mama cradling a baby. I pointed it out to the class and one kiddo (who may or not be a favorite of mine if I was picking favorites but I'm not supposed to be I'm just saying he is the sweetest but again I don't have favorites) breathed "oh, I just looooove that!" To which my heart soared a bit.

But wait -- there's more....

There was a quiet conversation between kids after that, and I suddenly heard the same above-named (but totally not one of my favorites because I shouldn't have those right????) say strongly "Don't say that you don't like that. It's beautiful. It's LOVELY!"

You guys. My heart just about burst open right there. I walked away with the warmest feeling in my heart, and I could not wait to share it with my boss, and his parents. Every time I even think about what he said, my hand flies to my heart instinctively as if to say "you're going to hear it again, heart of mine -- prepare yourself so that you don't explode right now."  But I also think I do it because it's my way of containing myself a little bit. If I let myself, every time I thought of that story I could possibly burst in to tears at the sheer sweetness of it.

We can complain left and right, up and down, backwards and forwards all day long. But the beauty of knowing that some of those things that we are complaining about are things that someone else finds beautiful and lovely? To me, it's just plain magical. They say that one man's junk is another man's treasure, and that's so true. That bold reminder from my little friend yesterday jump started my brain into overdrive and has me thinking pretty deeply about the idea of not being so indifferent. And also about seeing the beauty and lovely in everything around us -- even if it's just a drawing on a page. We also must be bold and alert each other of this fact whenever possible. Not to be smug, or to shame, but just like my friend did yesterday -- to simply remind them about the beauty in things that others are so quick to dismiss. 

And so I'm making it my charge to embrace this notion, that there is beauty in everything for someone, even if it isn't me. And I'm also remembering to grant grace when someone doesn't find something lovely like I do. But never being afraid to be the one that loudly breathes "awww, I just love that" when I cannot possibly contain myself.

It's beautiful.
It's beautiful.

It all make sense (memories) to me...

The days are getting shorter and colder, and the wind and rain are creeping back in to our lives. As I write this, I'm watching the wind whip all of the trees and bushes around outside and thinking to myself that I'm surprised the power hasn't been knocked out yet (but I'm eternally grateful that it hasn't, and I'm knocking on wood right now!). With this blustery weather comes the nudge to make a cup of hot tea most afternoons as I sit here at work, and hunker down in my cozy chair... And the other day, while making my daily cup of earl gray (obsessed!), I had a flashback in the faculty room. (<-- That sounds like a cheesy movie title. Coming 2016.)

I have taken this entire box down, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
I have taken this entire box down, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Suddenly I was 7 years old, sitting at my Gram's house, at her kitchen table. I can see it, feel it, and smell it all so vividly. Gram is our old neighbor, who I adopted (or who adopted me, rather!) as a grandma from day 1. Her bright yellow house with the cement sidewalk stood right next to us, on the corner of Eliason and Ness Place. I got stung by a bee for the very first time on that sidewalk, and spent countless hours watching Poppa, her husband, clean fish in the yard and leave behind the shimmery scales all over the yard. My shoes constantly had shiny scales on them from the grass, and I didn't hate it at all. I would go over at least once a week for tea -- sometimes with my mom, and sometimes by myself. Plain, Lipton tea bags, with milk (not cream!), and lots of sugar, just the way I liked it. My cup of tea road that temperature line between lukewarm and hot, exactly the way it should be for a 7 year old girl. We would sit at her table and talk and talk and talk. There were usually always cookies to be had (my favorite were her homemade thumbprint cookies with the slightly chewy jelly center. Oh man.) Sometimes Poppa would stop and visit for a minute after working on lawnmowers, but only if his hearing aids were in and he wasn't feeling grumpy. :P When I close my eyes, as I type this, I'm sitting right back there on the wooden chairs, in their tiny kitchen, drinking my tea. Sometimes when I've made that perfect cup, now at 33 years old, I will be transported right back to that memory that completely envelopes me, and wraps its arms around me, just like Gram used to. I feel warm and cozy inside of it, and I let it linger for awhile while I stir in my cream and sugar packets, and it usually fades away a few sips in. But it's there still, tucked away for the next time...

I am not addicted to coffee, and I'm not a person who needs caffeine to stay awake. It takes a lot of caffeine to do much of anything to me, but I definitely enjoy a good latte or a loaded up cup of drip regularly.

But first, coffee.
But first, coffee.
Some of us are a bit more dependent on it.
Some of us are a bit more dependent on it.

For me, so much of what I love about coffee is rooted in connection. It's not about the actual coffee, it's about the company I have while drinking it. 

I started drinking coffee in college. I had tried a latte here and there, but had always kind of despised that bitter coffee taste. But one day, driving through the D&M coffee drive-thru in good old Ellensburg with my friends Mark and Randy, it all changed. I tried Randy's Almond Roca mocha and had found the holy grail of coffee. This should alert you to how a weenie like me likes her coffee drinks - sweet. :) But my tastes have changed as I've grown, and I can now tolerate the taste of coffee more than before, but I do still require cream and something sweet inside. After that, for me, it really started to be about the quality time during coffee. "Going to get a coffee" for me was almost always about talking with a friend or colleague, and spending time together. Sometimes playing games, sometimes doing work together, sometimes reading a good book... I can distinctly remember several "coffee dates" with multiple people-- not because something spectacular happened that was out of the ordinary, but because it was just a great time to be with that person.

I can quickly access a memory of a night in Starbucks, located in the parking lot of campus at Central. I remember a table filled with with Kristin and Eric and I, all working on something different around the holiday season. It was the time of Peppermint Mochas and Starbucks totally decorated for the holidays... I can picture us sitting at the table we sat it, and how cold it was outside (probably snowing), having trekked across the parking lot to work on stuff for hours and get out of our rooms. I remember the conversations and some of the things that we were working on, and I feel so comfortable inside of that memory. There are many times when I'm at a Starbucks and I flash right back to that evening. It's the same kind of feeling when I think about meeting with Jon to discuss him being the officiant for our wedding ceremony, or meeting David for the first time at Starbucks in Federal Way. I will always be able to recall those moments.

I could live inside of these memories forever. And on days when things are really hard, or I feel on the edge of tipping, I can slip right back in to any of these moments and feel a little bit better. I can sit holding my latte warming my hands and smile about the feeling that it gives me right in my core. In that moment, I'm happy and content. And all it takes is some hot water and a few other ingredients to get me there.

Feels like Home...

It's here! Rejoice! The first day of fall! Cue the sweaters, and cozy candles, and yummy fall drinks... Gaze in wonder upon the cool, crisp air and bright sunny skies. I, like most people who are smart and know what's good for them, adore this season...I've been laying out my leggings, oversized shirts, and Ugg boots for months just waiting for the right moment. Scratch that - I don't really own any of those things. Unless you count the leggings that have a huge hole in them. Those aren't fit for public consumption - obviously only to display my total sexiness.

I know that to say that I love fall is a bit cliche by this point, but it's more than just all of the things I stated above for me. To me, fall is such a great time of renewal. It's also a wonderful period of waiting and settling. To me, fall feels like home.

I struggle a little bit in the summer. With the heat (and this summer was exceptional. #fansweremynumberonefan), with the constant need/feeling like I should be outside doing something, and just trying to "fit everything in." When the fall starts to gather its cool cloak around everything, I feel myself sigh with relief. I can hunker down into my proverbial bunker and gear up for what is to come. A new school year comes, with new faces to meet and learn. I have always been a creature of comfort and habit, and the fall allows me to slip back into the routines and feelings that I love and adore - and find that I need in order to maintain balance. The shorter the days become, the more excited I get for what is to come! The holidays, a new year, my birthday (today I said "I'm 33, almost 34" and just about did a spit take. Whoa. How did THAT happen???) It's all right around the corner, and I'm just tingly with anticipation for what is going to happen.

This fall, I'm trying to stretch my wings. I'm feeling a change in the things that I want and am striving for, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how things flesh themselves out. I want to write more. I want to use my creative brain a lot more. I want to have amazing conversations over delicious food or yummy coffee, or ice cream. I want to have great phone conversations, and also just phone conversations with my bestie about what she is looking at as she scans the aisle of Target. This is the kind of stuff I want to do. I want to collect memories and moments like the leaves that fall from trees, and make them in to something beautiful. I want to live in the moment of "yes, this is really happening!", and not in the moment of "I wish...." ... And this may not always end up being a positive thing. I know that life is full of hiccups and random left turns, and all that I can do is prepare myself for these in the sense that I have a great net to fall back on to. And I do have that, and then some. My net may be a little bit more spread out, but it's there.

I can reflect back on my life, in the last month or so, and see the moments when I would have liked to freeze frame and move things around a little bit before resuming. Maybe then it could have gone differently. But then it wouldn't have given me the insights that I needed. It wouldn't have given me that spectacular advice from my friends, or that cry that I just needed to get out. I'm not saying I wouldn't change things, I'm just saying that I had to sit with the "yes, this is happening....", and it wasn't all sunshine and roses. It was life. It was real. It was my reality.

And on the other end of my reality is this.... big windows and bright blue skies, crisp cool weather, smiling babies that visit me during the day, being tagged in photos on instagram, watching cable with my besties, just. being. myself.

Collecting those moments and breaths and memories all in a box and keeping it close to me to pull out when the fall goes away and I'm left waiting for next year when I can hunker down again. Even though I will be different, I know that I will still feel like I'm coming home as soon as fall comes back again... So for now, I snuggle in and delight in the comfort.

Maintaining three (four) points of contact...

Last night, I did something that I haven't done in a long time. I had a small panic attack. I had said goodbye to those years ago, I thought, but I found myself knee deep in jagged shallow breathing, shaking, and tears that wouldn't stop... Why then? What was happening, you may ask... My husband had forced (but not really) me in to a small boat.

I have never liked boats, I've always told myself. I know that we have a boat, but it's a motor boat, and even then, it took me awhile to not white knuckle it every time I sat in it. And it has nothing to do with anything that you feel like it would -- it's not the speed, it's not the danger, it's nothing like that. I've just always felt like no matter the size of the boat, I am an elephant daring it to capsize. My whole life I'd stayed away from boats like this. All of the years being at camp, I just simply said "I don't like boats", "I don't do boats." But in all actuality, I had no idea if I liked boats. I liked the idea of them, gliding across the water, feeling the wind on my face. But the idea that I would sink or tip just based on my sheer size paralyzed me from even attempting.

(I'm not fishing for reassurance when I say this (fishing! HA!), I am merely explaining what has held me back from boats for my entire life.)

David so badly wanted to take me out on one, to float the lake that I had grown up in, to let me bask in the stillness and sunshine with him, because for him, boats are calming and relaxing and fun. And because I had put him off for so long, and because it was a perfect night for it, I let him talk me in to it. I struggled to get in to the row boat, feeling it tip back and forth forcefully as I tried to find the perfect spot to put myself. The whole time, David's gentle voice was coaching me, guiding me, and his hands were placed firmly on the boat, keeping it steady. He kept telling me, as I felt the panic welling up inside of me and spilling out (as we stood in one foot of water, mind you), that he wasn't going to let me go, he would never let me go. I knew that he wouldn't. He told me to maintain three points of contact as I settled in (a classic David boat reminder), and in my heart I knew that I would always have FOUR points of contact -- the fourth being my heart to David. I was so scared that I would sink the boat, that we would go tumbling in, even though I am an ok swimmer and would be able to handle myself if it happened. I was just so scared of all of the thoughts that I'd had growing up about being in a boat, and sinking it, and tipping it, would come to fruition and I would be devastated.

My breathing came back to normal, and the shaking subsided, but my fingers were still locked on the bench below me.  David slowly rowed me out to the middle of the lake, reassuring me the entire time as I faced forward, back to him as he rowed. I still had tears coming from before, but they kept going as I realized, and said out loud to him "I've never been out this far before. I've never seen the lake or any of this from this angle." It floored me. The fact that I had been going to that lake since I was a little girl, and had spent every summer out there since, and had never seen any of those places from that perspective on the water was crazy to me. And it was all because of my fear. I had let my fear hold me back from all of it. The longer we were out there, the more comfortable I felt (even though David had to remind me that I could move my head for the first few minutes...), and I began to really look around, and take it all in. I watched the glassy water underneath us, broken by David's oar. I watched fish swim by, and the trees tower over us, and felt the sun shine on my face as I floated closer to places I'd only seen on opposite shores. It was there, in that tin boat with my sweet husband rowing me around and showing me a world I'd been afraid to open up and see before, that I had the realization that I don't want to live life ruled by fear.

Not ever. Well, only in situations where healthy fear is required. But I'm talking about instances like the boat... Will I go out on the boat again? Of course. Now that I know how safe I felt, and how relaxing and calming it was, you bet I will.  And I will not be scared anymore because I know that I have my three points of contact on anything that I do (and one more with my David). I won't be afraid of taking new steps, having new adventures, saying yes to moments that I would shied away from before, of what people think of me, of feeling left behind because I'm too afraid to keep up... I won't. I don't want to be an old woman who is finally stepping into a boat and floating out to see things a new way. I want to live in the moment, say yes to the moment, and never fear the moment. And I know that I can do this with my sweet husband and amazing friends by myself, and with the strength that I have, that has been in me all along. I want to embrace the joy inside of me, and let it explode out of me in everything that I do. I want to view life from all angles, and when I find myself delighted by a new view before me, I want to stand in awe of it and know that I've let myself go all sorts of places, and take joy in the fact that I can still be surprised. <3

This is me. Letting the joy out, and leaving fear behind.
This is me. Letting the joy out, and leaving fear behind.