Family, Oregon

Home for the Holidays 2017

Originally, I had every intention of spending my holiday vacation time getting ahead on some blogging for the new year. But I ended up sort of naturally taking somewhat of a break from all things technology-related, and I am not one bit mad about it. Obviously my subconscious knew I needed it. But I am back to the regular grind, and now that I spent my first week in the new year getting myself organized for 2018, I want to jump back into a few posts to wrap up 2017.

This year I was able to go home to Oregon for Christmas for 9 days (plus 2 travel days) and overall I’d say it was a great, relaxing time with my family and friends. I saw the new Star Wars movie with my Uncle Josh (our yearly holiday tradition), as well as The Greatest Showman with my mom, sister and Grammy. Both were great movies and, as expected, I loved Hugh Jackman! Its just fun when you can tell that an actor put so much into a role. So yes, if you were to check my Spotify lately, the movie’s soundtrack is what is playing. I caught up with a few old friends, including Richole, who had just welcomed her new daughter Callie, earlier in the month on December 13. As usual, I spent some time at my family’s flower shop, helping out a little bit here and there, but mostly just distracting everyone from doing their work. I also traveled to Portland for a long day trip with my Grampy to watch my Uncle Jay coach his high school girl’s basketball team in a tournament and then over to the Moda Center to watch the Blazers beat the 76ers. I also spent time with dad feeding cows (a separate post on that later this week!) and shopping with my mom and sister. But most of our evenings were spent just the four of us by the fireplace watching a movie.

Of course, the main highlight was spending as much time as I could with my cousin Sawyer. She is just such a fun, sweet baby and definitely has the spotlight in my family right now.

Here’s just a few snapshots of my break.

On this particular day, I had Sawyer ALL DAY while her parents spent a day in Portland. All things considered we had a pretty good day together, except that I contributed to the demise of her napping schedule and she wouldn’t let me put her down for one second to put on my makeup. #parentingcrashcourse

It’s amazing what an adorable 5 month old baby will convince you to do.

Ego cousins!

Christmas morning with this babe.



Our Grampy is crazy, I’ve tried to warn her 🙂

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Cheers!

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, 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!

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

Agriculture, Oregon, Photography

Feeding Cows with Dad

There are fewer things that I love more than being home with my family in Oregon doing everyday things, and there are even fewer things that I love more than seeing my family happy.

My parents have always dreamed of having property and cows, and of a farmhouse that they could call their forever home.

Once they found what they wanted there were a few frustrating years before it all came together, so when it finally happened it was that much sweeter.

It was a bit overwhelming at first when I came home. I was walking into a completely different place than where I grew up, but with every room and little detail that they showed me, it became more and more clear to me. This home is perfect for them.

I might take pictures someday of the house, maybe even on this trip.

But I knew even before I came home, that the first thing my camera lens would focus on were my dad and those beloved cows.

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In case you are wondering, these “Oreo” cows are the breed “Bue Lingo.”

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Breakfast time.

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I am only slightly upset that my family finally got cows AFTER I left home…

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This barn cat came with the property. My dad has renamed it “Talks a Lot.” It follows him EVERYWHERE, and well, never stops talking.

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This is what a very happy, new farmer looks like.

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 16

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

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1. Baltimore Weekend

Wrapping up a bit of catching up I needed to do here on the blog — one of my college friends, Kyle, had informed me and our mutual friend Katie, who lives in Baltimore, that he was going to be starting a family East Coast vacation early by coming to visit us. This was the DAY AFTER my 3 weeks of crazy traveling, working, moving/mom visiting…aka I was exhausted.

But despite that, it ended up being a great weekend and it was great to see one of my best friends from college who I hadn’t seen in a year. Katie took us to a Maryland Wine Festival outside of Baltimore and then we headed to an Orioles game, where I tried VERY hard not to fall asleep. #sorrynotsorry

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2. Life

I posted this on social media right before I began this really busy couple of months. It pretty accurately describes my view on how I try to live, or in the case of the “weird” part, how my life ends up going. It’s fair to say I’m accomplishing all of this lately 🙂

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3. Gorgeous Timelapse of Washington DC

If you click on anything in the blog post, please click on this. This city is just so beautiful.

4. Columbia Basin Student Homebuilder Program

My little hometown and high school in Eastern Oregon got quite the shoutout the other day over on the Hill by Senator Wyden.

Growing up as an ag teacher’s kid I saw so many examples of the incredible value and true impact career and technical education programs have on individuals and the community as a whole. Without that focus on intra-curricular career development, I don’t think I would have pursued the dreams and goals I had, or be doing what I do now.

I always felt so supported by my community and so many wonderful teachers. Happy to see this new HHS program get this attention, and proud to say “that’s my hometown!”

5. A Letter to My Younger Self

http://allisonfallon.com/letter-to-my-younger-self/

I don’t reshare articles on Facebook too often, but this I had too. I read A LOT, and this is one of the better reads of its kind that I’ve seen make the rounds. Really, especially if you are a 20-something, check it out. This quote below from the article has been speaking to me in leaps and bounds lately.

Do what you

6. Titus

I was sad to hear that my Uncle Joe and Aunt Susan’s big ol’ pup Titus passed away. He was such a sweet dog and I loved having him around during our trips up to the family cabin.

Titus.
Titus.

7. Harry Potter Hater

So glad I have friends that are watching out for me…

(click here read about Grant’s HP hatred)

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8. Star Wars

The original Stars Wars trilogy is returning to theaters this summer.

And one of those theaters in here in Washington D.C.
#THISISNOTADRILL
Since I can’t convince my uncle who raised me on these to make a special trip out here for them I need to find like-minded friends immediately…. stay tuned.

9. Wheat Harvest

I could seriously look at wheat harvest photos all day… good thing I kind of get paid to do that anyway. Check out is gorgeous photo story by Elliot Ross in the Washington Post and follow #wheatharvest16 on social media for updates and pictures from this year’s ongoing harvest.

Photo by my friend Greg Peterson (@gregpeterson33) near Assaria, KS.
Photo by my friend Greg Peterson (@gregpeterson33) near Assaria, KS.

10. Random Picture Roundup

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Not a fan of cats, but kittens make any day better. Also, yes that is Olaf chilliin out underneath my work desk…

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Our girl Ellie, my family’s dog back home, had a health scare, but with some new meds and lots of love she is going to be fine! She is seriously the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet.

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, my am in love with the rooftop deck at my new apartment building.

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Wesley Ray – 3 ish months
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Robin Michele – 2 ish months

My two favorite babies, Wesley and Robin in clothes that their Aunt Mandy got them. #babystyle #ohmyovaries

So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Family

Get It? Got It… Good.

I meant to write this post a few weeks ago, but it got away from me and so I thought I would save it for today.

Yesterday was my Grampy’s birthday, but this post is about so much more than that.

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Photo by Josh Ego.

I was talking about March Madness the other day with someone, and after a few of my comments they said, “Wow, you know a lot about basketball, and love sports. What did you play?”

I responded, and then followed by saying, “But I never was very talented, so that’s not really where the love comes from.”

———-

My Grampy is truly one of a kind.
He’s witty, ornery and loves to push everyone’s buttons.
Last year when I moved to D.C., my grandparents flew to Kansas to help me pack up and drive my car and the U-Haul. Obviously I was pretty stressed about the quick move, and we hadn’t even left Kansas before my Mom called to ask how I was handling my Grampy…
I’m pretty sure I had at least three things to roll my eyes at and rant to her about.
But he also gives us quite a bit to laugh at.
We’re talking about a guy who has ran out of gas and been stranded more times than anyone in our family cares to count, and has knack for accidentally leaving and losing spendy items in public places.

But for as ornery as he is, my Grampy is also thoughtful and kind. When my mom was little, my grandparents were in charge a girls group home for a while, and over the years I have seen that kindness extended to so many people. He’s always there to help in any way he can.

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Photo by Shannon Boettcher, Fotonovella

My Grampy is adventurous and is always on the go.
He served in the army and is a world traveler.
When he was finishing up his degree after they had moved from Portland to Hermiston, he would hitch hike up and down the Gorge to attend class.
For many years he and my Grammy were known for their beautiful yard and rose garden, a labor of love that filled up the summer months between his job as a counselor and then high school principal. That focus eventually transferred to the family flower shop business after he retired from education, and now it has shifted to the family cabin. He can’t sit still, and has more energy than anyone I know.

———-

But what do any of these things have to do with sports?

Everything.

My Grampy grew up playing sports and has done some radio announcing for a variety of high sports over the years. Early on he coached high school boys’ basketball in Portland, before moving to Hermiston and becoming the head coach for many years. I know that he also spent time coaching youth teams that traveled overseas and assisted in other high school sports, like baseball. Then this past season, my Grampy had the unique opportunity to step back on the court as the head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Hermiston High School, for an interim season.

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Newspaper clipping saved by my Grammy.

That influence sifted down to my uncles Jay and Josh, who were both college athletes and then became high school coaches in their respective sports, girls’ basketball and cross country.

But for my Grampy, I know that it has never the actual sport itself.
It’s about what sports can mean for people.

It is about practicing and teaching discipline, commitment and hard work. In a lot of small towns sports are often the key to keeping kids out of trouble and a stepping stone for them to see their potential to apply themselves. He wholeheartedly believes in the value of investing time and heart into students. I have always heard so many stories about his coaching days, and am so thankful that I was able to see that part of him come alive again for these kids.

(This post title comes from the question and response that he ends each huddle with.)

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Newspaper clipping saved by my Grammy.

It is about chasing the science — studying the game and strengthening your sports IQ. Growing up, he called the high school football and basketball games on the local radio for a few years, and I loved to take stats for him because his live analysis and color comments helped me better understand the mechanics of the game. There is a thrill in the chase, countering strategy and risk, and the feeling of pay off when you succeed. My Grampy would tell you that you do not have to be into sports to understand that feeling, just replace sports with something that you are really passionate about, to fill your life with things that you make feel alive and that are worth chasing.

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Newspaper clipping saved by my Grammy.

But most of all, it is about family and community.
Between my sister and me, we played quite a few different sports growing up, and our Grampy was always there to cheer us on and prepared to tell us afterward what we could do to improve next time. Even at our dance performances, he wanted to know the ins and outs of how everything worked. When my Uncle Josh stopped playing basketball in high school to focus on cross country and long distance track, something he continued into college, that became my Grampy’s new focus and he would run back and forth across the course shouting times. Similarly, when my Uncle Jay became a head basketball coach himself, my Grampy traveled to so many of his games that he might as well of become a (not so silent) extra coach in the stands. And of course, that support and interest extended past our family to our friends growing up.

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Newspaper clipping saved by my Grammy.

I have always known that it is about investing time and finding things that he could do with us. Ever since my sister started taking golf seriously (she is finishing up her senior year at Lewis Clark State College), he was there every step of the way in whatever way she needed him. Because of that, they have played some awesome courses together and even attended the U.S. Open. For me, the past few years have been all about K-State sports for us. When I became a student at Kansas State University, he almost instantly became fan, taking the time to learn about its history and studying up on player’s stats, new recruits and more. He bought my season football and basketball passes each year so that I was always able to go and my friends knew that he was the only person that I would take the time to text while the games were still going on, or he was going to ask for a full summary afterward. Even with me being a news junkie, he would often find out about news before I did. Some of my favorite memories will always be the two football games he came to in Manhattan and going to watch K-State play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

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At the K-State vs. Miami game in 2012.
Grampy and I at the Auburn game.
Grampy and I at the K-State vs. Auburn game in 2013.
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Grampy and I at the K-State vs. Auburn game in 2013.
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Grampy golfing with my sister Janci in Cabo in 2012.
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With Grampy, Mom and Dad at the K-State vs. Miami game in 2012.
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With Janci, Grammy and Grampy at the Fiesta Bowl watching K-State play Oregon in 2013.

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I love sports because of how much I love my Grampy, and the memories and things I have learned about other things in life because of his own love for sports.

I know this was a long post, but when I lay it all out like this I hope you can see what special guy he is. He truly embodies the phrase, “for the love of the game,” in every way.

Happy Birthday old man!
And let me casually brag that my bracket definitely outdid yours this year.

Love,
Mandy

With my grandparents at my high school graduation in 2009.
With my grandparents at my high school graduation in 2009.
With my grandparents at my college graduation in2013.