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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Love Letters

Love Letter: To Those With Hometown Roots and Wandering Souls

To those with hometown roots and wandering souls, this love letter is for you.

At my family’s cabin “The Diggins” in the Blue Mountains near Sumpter, OR. This post has a sign for every town that each of our family members are from. Mine is by far the furthest.

It’s been 8 years since I packed up my 18-year-old self and left Eastern Oregon for college in Kansas. And its been a little over 2.5 years since I packed up again and moved to Washington D.C.

I was visiting home last week and spent a little time with some family friends who have a daughter interested in attending K-State next year, so I answered all of their questions and shared a lot about my (awesome) experience. Toward the end, the mother asked if there was anything that I regretted. I said that I regretted never going on a study abroad trip and that I should have gotten season football tickets my freshman year, but no, overall I did not regret anything (well maybe a few nights in Aggieville that I wouldn’t mind forgetting.)

But leaving Eastern Oregon to attend Kansas State was the best decision I ever made.

Maybe it was because of our conversation, or maybe it was because I was home at my county fair, but it really made me reflect a bit on that decision and where it has led me. Over the years I have always had a small army of steadfast support, but there are still things I wrestle with. I hang on to a bit of guilt that there things that I inevitably miss out on and that maintaining relationships from a far takes a bit of extra work. It’s hard to be in an unfamiliar place where you don’t know anyone and constantly have to put yourself out there. And I still get questions from people who innocently just don’t get it.

It also made me think about other small town kids with the itch to wander.

I want them to know that having hometown roots and a wandering soul is possible.

I love my hometown. It’s a place where family businesses still reign and people give you the 2-finger steering wheel wave when you pass them on the road. It’s a place where teachers have taught multiple generations of students and where the community revolves around the high school sports schedule.  No matter how long I am away, there are Eastern Oregon sights, sounds, tastes and smells that are ingrained in my memory. Of course I miss it. It’s where my family is and will always be my home. But the world is a big, exciting place and if you are naturally curious like me, to not explore and experience it would be a crime. It’s hard to imagine that some of the people closest to me and some of my best memories wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.

So to those with hometown roots and wandering souls, I want you to know…

You will cry more than you ever want to admit and you will want to give up many times. But you will eventually learn that that’s all OK. You are lucky to have people and places to miss and there is no shame in feeling sad or defeated from time to time. It reminds you that you are human.

Sometimes saying yes or no to things that come your way will be as easy as breathing and other times you will feel overwhelmed and challenged. Sometimes you are going to make the wrong decision, which you can always learn from, and sometimes it will take much longer than expected to reap the rewards of making the right decisions. And sometimes there is no right or wrong decision, so just choose one path and give it your honest best.

You are much braver and more resilient than you think.

You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people. Some of your people will be unexpected and some of your people will let you down. This is where you learn the art of giving and receiving grace. But I truly believe that you can meet great people wherever you go and that the further you wander the more interesting characters will fill your story and expose you to new things.

Sometimes you will embrace change and sometimes you’ll approach it kicking and screaming. Either way, it is inevitable, so rub some dirt on it and and figure out how you can respect the memories you have and find the positive in what is to come, because in my mind, the best is always yet to come.

As Logan Mize sings below, “You can lose a lot of things, but it’s hard to lose a hometown. Some things are bound to change but the sun still goes down just the same…”

Trust me, he’s right.

You will learn that you need to be more intentional and mindful of your words and time. You will also learn that a home and happiness are a state of mind that ultimately are up to you. Remember to respect that everyone is moving at their own pace and in their own direction, so what works you, might not work for them.

You will have a blast. I’m not saying that you can’t build an awesome life without ever wandering but exploring the world opens you up to new sights, sounds, tastes and smells that you can add alongside the hometown ones in your memory bank.

And most importantly, you can always come back home and the people who love you unconditionally will be there waiting for you.

Love, Amanda

katy

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, Love Letters

Livin’ on Love for 25 Years

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Today is my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary.

I’m living out here in D.C. and my sister is currently in Utah at a college golf tournament.
It’s the middle of the school week, so Dad was at work before the sun comes up and it’s also Tuesday, so Mom might be prepping the weekly shipment of roses to go into the cooler at the shop.
Life will probably go on as any other day, and I know my parents wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it’s important for them to know how important this is to Janci and I.
Words might be a strange gift, but it’s the best kind that I know how to give.

Mr & Mrs Tom Spoo    Cake

You know when you are growing up, you don’t really think much about love, marriage and your parents as a couple. They’re Mom and Dad. They’ve always been a part of your story, there to do what parents are supposed to do.

It wasn’t until I left for college that I started to see who they were from a different perspective. As I met new people, I saw different family dynamics, examples of love, marriage and ways to raise a family. And while I have a lot of respect for those differences and families, I began to realize the significance of what I had and how much it had impacted who I was.

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It’s hard to summarize who my parents are in one blog post.
You know my dad as Tom, the ag teacher turned principal, who enjoys cooking for people and wears a flat brimmed cowboy hat. And you know my Mom as Julie, who owns our family’s 3rd generation flower shop and drinks endless amounts of Diet Coke.

But together, they are our parents. Dad is our superhero and Mom is our very own Gilmore Girl. They certainly are not perfect, and thats what makes what our family has, so special.
Our parents have never really sheltered us. The world is big, scary, confusing and unfair. But they’ve shown us that it is also bold, beautiful, forgiving, kind and full of opportunity.
We’ve seen them yell, struggle to communicate and both be stubborn to a fault. But we’ve also seen what it means to work as a team, to trust and forgive, be patient and to always, always give each other grace.

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Over the years, I’ve gotten some weird looks and rolled eyes when I tell people that my parents truly are two of my best friends. But to be honest, I don’t really think that was their true intention, it just sort of happened that way. Janci and I practically grew up at the flower shop and when we weren’t there, we were in Dad’s classroom or riding along in the truck on his endless errands. No, we didn’t have a lot of fancy vacations or structured cookie cutter family time – what we had was better. Our parents shared themselves with us. Their careers, passions, habits and interests.  There is a reason Janci and I have creative minds and can’t sit down during basketball games. It’s for the same reason that we listen to Kris Kristofferson and eat tacos when we are homesick.

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In return, our parents also invested themselves in the things that made their kids happy. We became curious about the world around us because we all talked, shared and listened to each other. Dad learned to enjoy jamming to Kelly Clarkson and Mom fought through her late summer allergies to spend the week at the county fair. They made sure we knew that they were always in our corner, no matter what.

My parents have built their marriage and our family on laughter. So much so that I’ve found that elsewhere in life, the people I can laugh with are the people that I trust and respect the most. Laughter should be easy, cheesy and shared. In our family you have to be witty, onery and willing to laugh at yourself, if you are going to keep up.

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Above all though, the most important thing that they’ve taught us through their 25 years of marriage, is what it means to live on love. They taught us to believe in it, value it and to live for it.  There may still be lot that Janci and I both have left to learn about love, but in my mind we have the best teachers because theirs is mushy, steadfast and shared.

Love is my Dad not turning in for the night before grabbing a cold Diet Coke for Mom, who has already gone upstairs. But in return, she will be expected to be able to hold a conversation with him at 5 a.m. when he’s up and getting ready for work.

It is the way my Dad giggles when Mom gets really irritated with him and uses “Thomas Spoo” like he’s a four year old in trouble. And its how she knows exactly what volume to talk at so that he can’t hear her because he refuses to wear his hearing aids at home.

Love is the fact that my Mom will never stop blaming Dad for saving the dog before her when the truck caught on fire. And it’s also why she took Janci to get her ears pierced as a toddler just to spite him.

It is the reason I get a phone call every year on her birthday or Christmas when he is clothes shopping for her, because he thinks that magically through the phone I am going to be able to tell him that yes it will fit and yes, I think she will like it. I am not sure why he does that, because it is always perfect.

Love tastes like chicken and dumplings, sour dough cinnamon rolls and taco soup. It’s the sound of the truck pulling in the drive, the way Mom always smells like a bouquet of flowers and the feel of crisp, newly ironed button up shirts.

It is the reason my Mom has not had a real garage in 10 years, and Dad faithfully hauls in the mass amount of Christmas decorations each year.

Love is the reason that our living room doesn’t get used much. Because no matter how many times they said “no more,” the four of us are always most at home sprawled across their bedroom in the evenings to watch a movie or TV. It’s a good thing that as we grew up, their master bedroom got bigger.

 It’s 25 years of  a lot of big, proud moments and even more little ones everyday. It is all of the stories that Janci and I do know, and the ones that we don’t.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Because of you, we believe in every cheesy country love song that we hear on the radio.
Someday Janci and I hope that we can have 25 years that look like yours.
We love being your baby girls.

Happy Anniversary.
– Mandy and Jancz

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Love Letters, Washington D.C.

Welcome to D.C.

Welcome to D.C.

Yes, I’m referencing Taylor Swift.
I have no shame.

And yes, I realize that D.C. “lifers” would be quick to inform me that New York and D.C. are extremely different. I get it. But this song has been stuck in my head ever since I moved here and it just seems fitting.

Any who…

I have been here in Arlington/D.C. now, for almost a month.
It is loud, busy, overwhelming and impatient.
And I love it.

I love that there is always something going on. Just yesterday I decided to go into the District with no plan in mind other than to explore, and stumbled across the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall. Don’t get me wrong, I am always missing my Oregon mountains and now the wide open spaces in Kansas, but right now in my life, this energy is what I want to be around.

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I love the people it draws here. Everyday I am surrounded by active, passionate, quick-witted people who are here to make things happen. It’s a contagious environment, that is already forcing me to stay on my toes.

I love that I’m living in my history books. American history was always my favorite and I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the fact that there is so much to see, do and learn in just a few square miles. I plan on becoming a resident tourist here.

There is so much more to share from just the short time that I have been here so far.
I love my new job and am so glad that I took this risk.
As expected, the learning curve is steep, but I’ve really started to find my place in the office and have so much already on the calendar that it is hard to keep it all straight. Most importantly, I am continuing to do what I love for the industry and people that I believe in.
My second week at work I spent most of my time in the District celebrating National Ag Day.
It was great to see the few familiar faces that I do already know here and catch up with people in know that were in town for the festivities.

Other than that, I am settling in well. There are plenty of little quirks and differences that living in a city is teaching me, and I would say so far I have only drawn minimal embarrassing attention to myself.

Except for when this happened…
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Looking forward I am really going to make a good effort at continuing to blog and share some of the fun highlights of my life here. This is a fast-paced, exciting new chapter and I definitely want to document it. I also want to make a quick note again about how thankful I am for all of the support that I had in making this move and life change. Whether it was the grunt work in Kansas on moving day, helping me find a place site unseen here in Arlington or the magnitude of encouragement and kind words, I am eternally grateful. So many people that I never would have expected, showed up in someway.

My grandparents though, are the true rockstars. They cut their anniversary vacation short to fly to Kansas to help me finish packing and make the trek across the country with my Escape and a U-Haul. There was really bad weather, missing keys, pushed buttons and a couch that barely fit in the door. I was stressed, overwhelmed and just plain cranky through a lot of it, and they laughed and loved me through it all.

Here is some quick shots of the move and my time here so far.

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Cheers! Have a wonderful week friends!

Kansas, Love Letters

A Love Letter to Manhattan, Kansas

There is one thing I remember from the second time I drove into Manhattan, Kansas. I remember quite a bit about the first time too, but at that time I was a high school senior, and even though I knew that this was where I wanted to go to college, it all seemed so surreal and far away.

But my second time it wasn’t to visit, it was to stay. Manhattan was going to be my home, and I was terrified. I had no idea what I had committed too, and still wasn’t above begging my dad to take me back to Oregon with him. But the single thing I remember from that drive in from the airport was the sound. The sun was starting to go down in my beloved west, and what should have been a beautiful evening, was ruined by what sounded like a surround sound generator. When we pulled up to Smurthwaite Scholarship House, the very first thing my dad says to the girl welcoming me in is, “What the hell is that sound out there?”

They were cicadas and at that point I was pretty sure there was no way I could live in Manhattan, Kansas.

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Fast forward 5.5 years later, not only did I stay and graduate from Kansas State University, but I chose to stay in Manhattan for my first job. Now I’m looking at a new job and adventure in Washington D.C., and with two days before my move, I keep thinking back to those stupid cicadas. I couldn’t tell you when it happened, but at some point they became a normal part of life, and then I didn’t notice them at all.

I think it would be easier to leave a place if you were running from it. But while my life seems to have always moved at a full sprint, I never felt like I was running away from anything. I’ve said this a million and one times, but I never could have known what the choice of a stubborn eighteen year old would become. The phrase “Home is where the heart is” is a common one, but I think it needs to be taken a step further. Home is a feeling, and the strongest, truest, best feelings are the ones that you can’t quite describe. Those are feelings of love. And somewhere between those cicadas driving me insane and now, I fell in love with Manhattan, Kansas, and it became my home.

So here’s my love letter to you, because these are that kind of feelings that should be shared.

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I love you at 7:00pm in the summer. The day’s temperature might have been unbearable, but when the humidity evaporates a little and the harsh sun splashes itself across the western horizon, everything else seems to wake up. Your smell, your color, your people and the promise of a little relief and time to enjoy being outside always got me through until the end of the day. As a K-State alumna I always loved the heartbeat of our campus, but in the summer you slow down and become almost peaceful. I love that you could be both and that the college and the community were a part of each other. I don’t know if you could have one without the other and still fall in love.

But my favorite season has always been fall, and that will always be my favorite time of year here. An oasis amongst the Konza Prairie, I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at the palette of fall leaves against your traditional limestone buildings. Fall also meant the city came alive again and while I quickly became a townie after graduation, K-State is what brought me here in the first place. And when my last day on earth comes, a seat in Bill Snyder Family Stadium with a roaring crowd is a strong contender for how I want to spend it.

I love your culture and your quirky personality. Often, when you say you are from Manhattan, people don’t know that The Big Apple has a little sister settled out in the Midwest. But invest a little time here and give it a chance and you’ll find you don’t need those big city lights. I’ll miss lazy days out at Pillsbury and Tuttle creek, and eating ice cream up on Manhattan Hill. Every time I thought I had finally ate at all of the unique places, there was always on more to try. And man, I’m sure going to miss Nancy’s and raspberry chipotle bean dip at So Long’s.

I’ve seen Aggieville packed with purple, packed with green and just plain packed. Every time I hear red dirt music I’ll be taken back to taken back to sticky floors, neon lights and two-stepping in Longhorns, back when it was in its country prime. She brought me new friends, great memories and terrible stories to laugh about later. And sure it’s great to reminisce about a time when my roommates and I knew its sidewalks better at last call, but I fell in love all over again each time I discovered it’s daytime personality. I loved getting lost in the Dusty Bookshelf, bacon maple donuts at Varsity and cheering on the Wildcats and Royals from the seats of whichever bar wasn’t “cursed” at the time.

You know, I could have written this letter to K-State specifically to reminisce about college but I’ve had time to do that since I graduated, and as much as I miss it, I’m okay with those four years being memories. Really great memories. And like college has, you’ll soon become a part of my past. But you see people pass through with their eyes on the future year after year, and you should be pretty darn proud at the role you’ve played in the success of so many of those futures.

Most people agree that it’s the simplest things in life to enjoy and surround yourself with. Well Manhattan, you sure do simple well. It’s ordering the Blackhole at Bluestem Bistro, exploring the Konza and waking up to see the sunrise on “Top of the World.” It’s driving “the city loop” at midnight with the windows down and blaring your favorite playlist. It’s the fact that you could meet someone new everyday, then see five people you knew at the grocery store. It’s all of your silly traditions. It’s tailgating on Gameday and fighting back the tears when they open the game with “Proud of the House We Built.” It’s showing you off to my family every time they visited. It’s forgetting how many times you’ve seen Logan Mize live and the crowd singing along to “Never Gonna Change.”

I love you for the people you brought into my life. Some were temporary and only shared a short part of their lives with me and others I’ll be connected to for the rest of my life. These people changed me. They became my best friends, partners in crime and soul sisters. They taught me to love Kansas.They welcomed me into their families. I’ve always believed that you will find good, kind people wherever you go, but I’m pretty convinced that the best ones have lived in Kansas at some point in their life.

This was a long love letter, not short and snappy like a blog post should be, but I needed to write it. For others, because I want you to know how much it hurts my heart to leave. My life here was full in every way. I feel selfish to think that maybe, just maybe I can find what I had here in another place. But if I don’t, I know that I lived more in these 6 years, then some ever do.

I mostly wrote this though, for myself. It’s a strange feeling, when you’re about to leave a place. I know that I’m not only going to miss the people I love, and this town, but I’m going to miss the person I am at this very moment and place, because I know I’ll never be this way ever again. But I am so very thankful for that person you made me become.  You taught her to laugh louder, write better and think for herself. She learned to love and she learned that as long as you kept moving forward, it was all worth it. You showed her what life could be when you embraced the crazy. She finished growing up here, became independent and passionate about the world around her. If it wasn’t for you, she might have never been brave to take another risk and make a move like this.

To Manhappiness, this purple little town that I’ve called home,
I’m so thankful those cicadas became a normal, welcomed part of life.
I can’t wait to come back and visit.

Love,
Amanda

Click HERE to Watch My Farewell Video