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 point 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 was not 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 to, and still was not 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 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 fairly sure there was no way I could live in Manhattan, Kansas.

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Fast forward 5.5 years later, and not only did I stay and graduate from Kansas State University, but I chose to stay in Manhattan for my first job. Now I am 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 have 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 cannot 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 is my love letter to you, because these are that kind of feelings that should be shared.

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I love you at 7:00 PM 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 do not know if you could have one without the other and still fall in love.

But my favorite season has always been fall, and it will always be my favorite time of year here. An oasis amongst the Konza Prairie, I do not 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 do not 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 will find you do not need those big city lights. I will miss lazy days out at Pillsbury and Tuttle Creek, and eating ice cream up on Manhattan Hill. Every time I thought I had finally eaten at all of the unique places, there was always one more to try. And man, I am sure going to miss having a Nancy and raspberry chipotle bean dip at So Long’s or Lucha.

I have seen Aggieville packed with purple, packed with green and just plain packed. Every time I hear red dirt music I will be 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 is 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 its 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 was not “cursed” at the time.

You know, I could have written this letter to K-State to specifically to reminisce about college, but I have had time to do that since I graduated, and as much as I miss it, I am okay with those four years being memories. Really great memories. And like college has, you will 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 have played in the success of so many of those futures.

Most people agree that it is the simplest things in life to enjoy and surround yourself with. Well Manhattan, you sure do simple well. It is ordering the Blackhole at Bluestem Bistro, exploring the Konza and waking up to see the sunrise on “Top of the World.” It is driving “the city loop” at midnight with the windows down and blaring your favorite playlist. It is the fact that you could meet someone new every day, then see five people you knew at the grocery store. It is all your silly traditions. It is tailgating on Gameday and fighting back the tears when they open the game with “Proud of the House We Built.” It is showing you off to my family every time they visited. It is forgetting how many times you have 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 will 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 have always believed that you will find good, kind people wherever you go, but I am 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 I can find what I had here in another place. But if I do not, I know that I lived more in these 6 years, then some ever do.

I mostly wrote this though, for myself. It is a strange feeling, when you’re about to leave a place. I know that I am not only going to miss the people I love, and this town, but I am going to miss the person I am at this very moment and place, because I know I will 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 to always keep moving forward. She finished growing up here, became independent and passionate about the world around her. If it was not 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 have called home,
I am so thankful those cicadas became a normal, welcomed part of life.
I cannot wait to come back and visit.

Love,
Amanda