Family, Love Letters, Oregon

Love Letter: To My Family’s Flower Shop on its 30th Anniversary

When I was in high school, we hosted a young woman who was serving as an Oregon State FFA Officer at our house and she asked my Mom a lot of questions about our family-owned flower shop. To one of the questions, my Mom explained that outside of the holiday season, Valentine’s Day and the week of Mother’s Day, it was weddings and funerals that led the core of our floral business. At the time I remembered feeling a bit embarrassed and uncomfortable that my Mom said that, but the guest saw a bit of humor in my Mom’s matter-of-fact answer, and a few days later we received a thank you card that was signed off with “Wishing you many weddings and funerals.”

Looking back, now it makes me laugh and for some reason that story has always stuck with me. When you think about it, owning and working in a flower shop, really means that you get a front row seat to helping people commemorate and celebrate the milestones and memories that make up their story. From new babies, sweet sixteen’s, get well soon’s, high school proms, graduations, holidays, job promotions, break-ups — and yes, weddings and funerals — we get to be a part of it all. And in a small town, where we have generations of families, that carries even more significance.

This year we are celebrating my family’s flower and gift shop, Cottage Flowers, which my grandparents bought 30 years ago and now my Mom owns. I’ve always told people that I grew up in my family’s flower shop — that it was our home base more than any house we lived in ever was. Sure, that might be a bit of an unconventional way to grow up but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. If anything, “the flower shop,” which is how we refer to it, is another member of our family.

So, to the flower shop, this love letter is for you:

I didn’t know the very first location on Main Street, but I do remember the location at the Plaza very well. I remember playing in the “silk garden” around the indoor gazebo where we were allowed to make a bit more of a mess. I remember holding tea parties with the glassware and stuffed animals, making Italian sodas when we had a cafe counter and the taste of the carbonated water when you accidentally chose it instead of regular water or Sprite. I remember “making arrangements” with the leftover stems in the trash, my hands going numb from filling water picks and when people camped outside the store for the newest Beanie Babies to arrive. I remember my mom’s back office where I spent every sick day away from school and that the dim back room where we cleaned flowers was scary.

I remember when we moved the store across town to the old armory when I was 10 (I think?) and the true labor of love it was to flip. I will forever remember having to climb along the rafters in the ceiling to thread some wiring for Grampy and being told to “pretend the spiders aren’t there.” I both loved and hated the Event Center that we opened for many years. I loved the big open space to play when it was empty and seeing so many weddings and parties come together there, but I also hated setting up tables that were much bigger than me and being woken up early on Saturday mornings because the wedding from the night before didn’t properly clean up and there would be anxious people waiting to set up for the next one. I can almost remember the exact amount of steps it took to get from the front counter to the back loading dock and can vividly remember the well-crafted process I had for washing hundreds of folding chairs with the pressure washer machine.

As I got older and officially started earning a paycheck, it’s where I learned how to count back change, talk professionally on the phone and that the customer is always right. It taught me how to problem solve, plan a project and manage my time. I remember the exact smell of Comet from cleaning buckets, the sound of the wire service when an order was coming through, the fastest way to clean roses without getting poked by a thorn, being pulled out of school to work on Valentine’s Day and judging people’s ribbon color choices for their prom corsage and boutonniere. Though after you’ve made a few dozen boring ones in a single day, the crazy ones are a welcome change.

The flower shop grew my curiosity and love for telling stories. Every time I wrote a card for someone who’s order I took over the phone, I wandered, how did the woman receiving flowers on her 50th wedding anniversary first meet her husband? Who will this new baby girl that is receiving balloons grow up to be? Why is he sending her an arrangement with a card that says he’s sorry?

It fueled my creativity in a way you couldn’t bottle up and recreate. Yes, I probably inherited the creative gene from my Mom and Grammy, but it also comes from countless hours of watching them work, criticize their own work and somehow make the customer happy on those Sunday afternoons when all that was left in the cooler is three colors of carnations.

It showed me what it means to be a part of a community and the reward of pouring back into your local economy. I mean, I understood the impact of “shopping local” before the hipsters even made a big deal about it.

It gave me examples of what strong, entrepreneurial women can be. I’ve seen them both succeed and take the loss, embrace change, make hard decisions and challenge themselves to see goals through to fruition. Even with their own careers, the men in my family have certainly always played an important role, but celebrating this anniversary is also a celebration of the two women who have put their heart and soul into building a successful business. 

There have been many characters over the years that have played a big part in the flower shop’s story. Whether they only worked for us for a short while or for over a decade, so many of our employees have become a part of our extended family. And to our customers who trust us with their memories, thank you for sharing your lives, challenging our creativity and of course, keeping our doors open.

Most importantly, I truly believe the flower shop is why my family is so close. Sure, mixing business with family can be challenging and definitely not for everyone, but for us it somehow works.

Thank you for the random skills I hardly use like making bows, and the practical lessons I use everyday in my own chosen career. Thank you for showing me what hard work and empathy look like. Thank you for teaching me that love, heartbreak, hope and kindness come in all shapes and sizes.

And thank you, for the privilege of that front row seat.

Love, Mandy

P.S. I found a folder of photos from the flower shop I took my first Christmas home after I got my DSLR camera in 2015, and I don’t think I’ve ever shared until now. So here is a little behind the scenes!

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Family, Washington D.C.

My Favorite Traveling Duo Visit D.C.

Today I am backtracking to a couple of weeks ago to when my grandparents made the trek out to visit me here in  Washington DC! If you know me, or have been reading along here long enough, then these two should be far from strangers. They dropped everything, (seriously they switched their flight to cut a vacation short) to fly to Kansas to help me move here about 2.5 years ago, when I decided to uproot my life in a manner of weeks. I call them my favorite traveling duo because they are either always on a trip somewhere or planning out their next one (more like multiple at a time.)

Earlier this year they met up with me Thailand for a vacation after I finished up with a work trip there, and it is hands down one of my favorite memories and experiences to date. If you are thinking that traveling with grandparents is boring or slow, trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth with these two. They have SO MUCH ENERGY and a natural curiosity for adventure. Without a doubt, I was always the most worn out person at the end of everyday.

Other than the move, this was my Grammy’s first visit to DC and my Grampy’s second (he came in the early 2000’s for work). My pictures from their visit are sort of random… I only carried around my nice camera to Mount Vernon (because I was hoping to catch the fall colors but it was still a bit early) and because I’ve taken and posted lots of pictures of the DC area before, I more just focused on my time and experience with them. However, I laugh now because looking at the pictures that I do have, it looks like I took on the role of the parent. Every so often I’d say, “here, let me take your guys’ picture,” so most of what I have is just the two of them.

They flew in late on a Thursday afternoon and I met up with them at the hotel after I got off of work. They were able to get a hotel just two blocks from the White House, which is pretty centrally located to everything, so I ended up staying with them throughout the trip. We had a quick dinner and then we went on a night walk to the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial.

On Friday, we had a Capitol tour scheduled at 2pm, so we started out the day at the popular Old Ebbitt Grill and then walked along to the Mall to the U.S. Botanical Gardens, which sits just below the West Lawn of the Capitol. I knew from when I brought my mom here that my grandparents would also need ample to walk through. (Fun fact: My family’s flower shop, which my Grammy started, is celebrating 30 years this year!) Afterward we stopped for a quick break at a nearby pub to kill some time before our appointment. I scheduled our tour through Congressman Walden’s office, which is my home district in Oregon. Our tour was probably one of the better ones that I have been on at the Capitol (please don’t ask me how many times I’ve done one) and I know that was one of the highlights of their trip. At the end, we were also able to catch up with Walden’s Chief of Staff, who is from our hometown and actually graduated high school with my mom.  After wandering about the Capitol a bit more, we quickly went over to the Library of Congress nearby to check it out for the last 30 minutes it was open. The Library is actually one of the few places in DC that I have never been too yet… and now I am kicking myself for taking so long! For dinner I took them to my FAVORITE restaurant in DC, Cafe Berlin. Afterward we walked back down to the West Lawn of the Capitol to see it at night and then I insisted that we take an Uber back to the hotel because my feet were DONE.


At the Library of Congress.

On Saturday, we got up a bit earlier to go get my car in Arlington and head out to Mount Vernon. You should all know that this is my FAVORITE tourist place to visit in the area and I never get tired of taking people there. We did the typical house tour and then I also signed us up for the extra “Gardens and Groves” tour. If you ever visit Mount Vernon I would really recommend adding on this tour. It was only an extra $6 (approx.) per person, and SO worth it. It was a little over an hour and a half, but it really gave us a different in depth perspective of the history, past just the gardening. We spent a large part of our day here, before returning back to DC. Once back in the District we visited Eastern Market and Capitol Hill Books (I was so excited to take my Grammy here!) and enjoyed some gelato while we waited for the K-State football game to start at our designated bar nearby. The game was a bit of a heartbreaker and left us exhausted by going into double overtime, but regardless, I always love when I get the chance to watch a game with my Grampy. (And kudos to Grammy for hanging in there past midnight with us!)

At Mount Vernon.

On Sunday, we slept in a bit and woke up to an expected day of rain, so we headed over to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History for a few hours. The rain started to lift so we took the chance to walk to the rest of the memorials, including the Vietnam War, Lincoln, Korean War, Roosevelt, MLK and Jefferson.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Vietnam War Memorial, because we took the time to look up a few names of their classmates and a relative of my great uncle Joe (their brother-in-law). I’ve been past the wall a few times, but this was the first time I had names to lookup and find, which made it a bit more real to me.

If you’ve been to DC then you know the walk I just laid out for you is a bit of a trek so once again I insisted that we Uber to our Italian dinner in Chinatown.

At the Lincoln Memorial.
In the President’s exhibit at the National Museum of American History.

Our final full day was Monday and also the day I forgot to take any pictures. It was still a bit overcast and raining, but we headed across the river to visit Arlington National Cemetery for most of the day. I have been to the cemetery many times, but it never ceases to amaze me just how big it is. Afterward we headed back into DC and over to the National Gallery of Art, which was my Grammy’s last request to fit in on this trip. We rounded out the day with a great dinner at Founding Farmers, where we were joined by a certain guy named Sam… which up to that point I’m pretty sure my family really thought I might be making him up 🙂

On Tuesday, I had to head back to work, but their flight wasn’t until the late afternoon, so they spent the morning at the Holocaust Museum and then visited me at work for a quick lunch before heading home.

I am so happy that I finally got to share my home with them, and now that they’ve been here once, we already have much of the itinerary for next time all planned out after they realized just how much there is to see and do. I certainly don’t take for granted that we have such a great relationship and the chance to experience so many things together… even if my Grampy does drive me near crazy with all of his constant questions about every single building and random fact that I couldn’t possible know 🙂

Thank you so much for visiting!

Family, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 2: The Cabin

Earlier this month, I traveled to Oregon for a much needed vacation and visit home.

As I shared in my Part 1 recap last week, my best friend Megan (from Kansas) tagged along so I could FINALLY share my home with her.

My previous post shared about the time we spent in my hometown of Hermiston, and today I’m sharing all about taking her up to my family’s cabin “The Diggins” (my happy place) near Sumpter, OR.

We did a lot of relaxing, went on walks, played with my pup Jack, took the kayaks out on Philips Lake and Megan kept up with her daily yoga pose challenge. We explored nearby Sumpter, where Megan learned all about gold mining, and had dinner at the historical Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City. We also hung out with my grandparents, who were also up for the weekend.

And of course, we took a LOT of pictures.











Megan, I am so happy that I finally got to share my home and my happy place with you. And if you weren’t considered part of the family before, you definitely are now.

And to The Diggins, thanks for always being exactly what I need.

Cheers!

Family, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 1: Hermiston

Last week I traveled home to Eastern Oregon for a long-awaited vacation and this time around I had a tag along join me.

If you’ve read my blog before (or know me in real life), chances are you know or have at least heard about my best friend Megan. We met on the first day I arrived at the scholarship house at K-State, quickly became inseparable, and went on to live together for 4.5 years. Friendships as an adult when you live across the country from each other can be rough, but we’ve managed pretty darn well.

Since we met I have always wanted to share Eastern Oregon with her, so about a year ago I basically told her that she was expected to come with me the following summer.

The first part of our week was spent up at my family’s cabin, but we took a ton of pictures up there on both our phones and my DSLR that still need a bit of sorting, so we are going to jump around on this  Part 1 post 🙂

Reunited! Megan’s hair has always been pretty short, but I just cut my hair shorter than its been since I was a kid, so this picture kind of looks strange to me.

Our first night in Hermiston, my sister took us out to a new-ish local winery nearby. Echo Ridge Winery has been around a few years, but this was the first chance that I have had to try it! I will always love small towns, but I also love seeing how Eastern Oregon is growing in fun ways that highlight what it has to offer, while maintaining its small town culture. We did a tasting, and after agreeing that the Syrah was our favorite, we bought a bottle to take up to the cabin with us the next day.




We packed a lot into the week, especially since Megan was leaving a few days earlier than I was. I showed her the high school and the flower shop, since those are basically the main places where I grew up. Of course we grabbed food at my favorite taco truck for lunch and we drove out to the house I grew up in (my parents moved a little less than a year ago.) We also spent an evening with my childhood best friend Richole, (and saw her beautiful new house!) I love that my favorite people from different stages of my life know each other. Richole’s little boy Wesley (who is a regular “guest” on my So There’s That posts), is officially in the toddler stage and is just as shy and cute, as his mama was when she were little. I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures that night!


Didn’t take any pictures with the grandparents throughout the week, but this Snapchat that my sister sent me definitely made me smile.


On Megan’s last day I took her to the Umatilla County Fair and the Farm City Pro Rodeo. These are two of the things that she has heard me chat about endlessly over the years so it was fun to share that with her. We had a blast with my sister to round out the end of her visit.

Megan and I are definitely “soul sisters” in every way, and a large part of that is that she has also become friends with my family. My family is VERY close, so they have always made the effort to get to know and invest in the other important people in my life. Believe me when I say that I know that combination is really special.





Visiting home during the country fair and rodeo has its ups and downs. It’s great because I get to see a lot of people in one location. But there are drawbacks when your family is still involved in many ways behind the scenes. I love that we were able to round out each of the nights during the second half of the trip by going to the rodeo together.


But the star of the trip was definitely Miss Sawyer June (sorry Megan). She was just 3 weeks old when I arrived and I really could have spent the majority of my time snuggling with her. As I mentioned in a post soon after she was born, it’s been 23 years since there was a baby in this part of my family, so basically she’s the shiny new toy that no one can get enough of.


Even her Uncle Tom and Uncle Jay slowed down for some Sawyer time.

So that’s Part 1! I will be back soon with Part 2 and an overload of pictures from the cabin!

Cheers!

Family, Love Letters

Love Letter: Dear Sawyer June

Sawyer June Ego
7.13.17 at 2:09 p.m.
6 lbs 10 oz

Dear Sawyer June,

We’ve been waiting for you for a long time. No, not just these last 9 months, but 23-ish years to be exact. That’s how long its been since there has been a new baby in this part of the family, so Janci and I have been waiting all of that time to have an Ego cousin. And to be honest, Janci was long overdue to give up the “baby of the family” title.

Don’t get me wrong, having our grandparents all to ourselves while growing up down the street from them was actually pretty great. As far as grandparents go, our Grammy and Grampy are one of a kind and now it’s your turn to get spoiled by them. And trust me, they are pretty great at that too.

This family you were born into is kind of crazy. It’s been said that we should have our own sitcom. We are a bit loud and a bit sarcastic, so you’ll need some thick skin to survive. But our love for one another is just as big so it balances out at the end of the day.

Your daddy was like a big brother to me, instead of an uncle. He let me annoyingly tag along and my Barbies to co-exist with his Legos. He taught me to geek out over movies and to have a sense of adventure. I’m pretty sure you will have seen Star Wars no less than 100 times by the time you are 5. I hope that someday you will let my own kids tag along without too much fuss. And your mama, well she has been the perfect balance to all our chaos and I was so happy when she became a part of our family.

You are already so loved little girl and the fact that I don’t get to hold you for another 3 weeks is making me more homesick than I ever have been before.

You’ll learn quickly that family is the most important thing we have and we are so glad that you joined ours.

Love, Mandy

Family, Love Letters

Love Letter: Ellie

To our beautiful “lead-butt”, attention craving, fetch loving sweetheart and the best dog-cousin a girl could have.

Ellie girl, I would argue with anyone that you were the sweetest, most gentle and loyal dog that I ever met and am likely to ever meet.

You were a true “family” dog because for so much of your life it was hard to say exactly whose dog you actually were. And that’s OK. You had more than enough love in you to share with everyone.

Thanks for the cuddles and making us laugh because of your need to be impossibly close to someone at all times. I am glad that you aren’t suffering anymore, but your boy Jack and the rest of us are going to miss you a whole lot.


Ellie on the left and Jack on the right.

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Friends, here it is.

My LAST travel journal post about my AMAZING trip to Thailand! It has been just short of two months since I returned and I hope that you have enjoyed hearing and seeing my trip as much as I have enjoyed reliving it through these posts. Even after looking back, it is really hard for me to pick a favorite part, but overall I am so happy that I got to share this experience with my grandparents and Aunt Diane.

Overall my only complaints are my really bad sunburn (somewhat my fault) and that I got really sick when I came back from a virus we think I got over there.

(Side note: I mentioned in my very first post that for the sake on journaling I would circle back to this. Basically, a week after I returned I became really sick with a fever, headache, body ache, extreme fatigue and rash. Except for one experience in college, it might be the most sick I’ve ever been. It landed me in the emergency room, which then led me on a trail of different doctor’s visits because I had low platelets. They could never quite tell me what I had but after about three weeks I was finally back to normal.)

ANY WAY.

For my last post I am pulling together the rest of the pictures from the trip that are more candid and didn’t fit into any particular other post very well. This also includes pictures from our dinner cruise in Bangkok.

See below to see the rest of my posts from my entire trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Dinner Cruise

On one evening in Bangkok, we did a dinner cruise on the “Grand Pearl” on the Chao Phraya River, which included a full meal. The food was good, but not great. After we ate we moved to the top deck for a better view. Overall we had a good time, but we weren’t raving about it. I liked the music and atmosphere up on the top deck, but my family would probably say that the music was a little too loud and didn’t fit with the beautiful scenes we were taking in.

Our ship.

I bought the ceremonial picture they took before we boarded the ship. So this is a picture of that picture, which is why it is a little lest sharp.

View of the Grand Palace from the river.

View of the Wat Arun temple from the river.

Misc in Bangkok

My Grammy’s name is Gloria Jean…

This was a piece of artwork that I was in LOVE with and want to recreate someday. All of those books are different kinds of dictionaries in different languages and some for specific subjects.

Everyday while we were in Bangkok we would return to the hotel in the late afternoon and relax with a Diet Coke (or on this day for me, a Corona) before we headed upstairs to freshen up and head to dinner.

On a plaza outside one hotel we passed was probably a dozen or so fun, motivating phrases engraved into the sidewalks. I took pictures of almost all of them, but this one was my favorite.

Aunt Diane

These brooms were used to street sweeping.

Sisters.

Misc in Phuket


In Phuket, my Aunt Diane and I went parasailing on Karon Beach. When I was a kid I went parasailing at Wallowa Lake (in Oregon) and we both launched and landed on the back of the boat. Here things were much less formal, so after we were all strapped in we just started running on the beach (which was pretty comical because my Aunt is even shorter than me) and were eventually lifted up. What was crazy was that one of the guys in the picture road with us…just hanging out on the ropes not connected to anything, and would sometimes lightly push his foot into my back and ropes to steer us. It was so much fun to see that view and relax up there. And it was really cheap.

While we were out doing some shopping we stumbled across this place that gave fish pedicures. So as you can see in the pictures, you sit with your feet in the water while little fish nibble away at your dead skin. And the reason there is no picture of me? Because while I am all about trying new experiences, there was no way you could have paid me to do that. I am WAY TOO ticklish. My Aunt Diane thought it was the best thing ever, while my Grammy liked the results, but couldn’t stand to watch it happening.

Definitely watch this video for a good laugh!

Since I traveled to Guatemala almost two years ago and bought two small pieces of local paintings off the street, I have decided that I want to do that in every country I visit. In Thailand it was a bit harder to find something I liked, but I finally found a group of brothers selling their paintings on our last day. It was definitely worth the wait. When I finally get the canvas restretched I will probably share it on Instagram.

Well, there you go.

Thailand is a beautiful country with such a rich culture and traveling there with three people that I love so very much was an experience unlike any other.

Thank you to my Grampy, Grammy and Aunt Diane for sharing this experience with me.

I would definitely recommend it for vacation and have already had a few people ask me for advice on traveling there, so I would be more than happy to chat with anyone more!

**********

Cheers!