Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, and Always.

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

Here are my rubber bands...

Yesterday...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow...

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, Always...

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

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

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

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

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

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

<3

...penny for my thoughts...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feels like Home...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes it's a bit of a blur...

I have a confession to make... Sometimes I get myself worked up. Big shocker here if you know me, I'm sure. But sometimes I just get so wound up about something that I cannot just let go like a normal person. I know that lots of people struggle with this, but sometimes it just gets in the way of my life and it's so frustrating. Some of you know that I have struggled with anxiety and depression the last few years. I have taken medication, I've done counseling, and it hasn't been incredibly bad in the grand scheme of things. I have learned a lot about myself through this process. But still, little and strange things get me worked up.

This weekend was a classic example. I had planned a small get together with some friends at my house to celebrate my birthday. Other than my family and my best friends, I hadn't really had anyone over to my house. And I have found that as the years go by, my hosting anxiety gets worse and worse! I don't know how much to buy, I don't know what people will want to drink, what if this happens? What if I run out of this? It's ridiculous the scenarios I come up with. And numerous people will tell me not to panic - that it's my friends, that they love me, and they will love whatever we have and do.

But still, I found myself getting more and more panicked and nervous about it. David was amazing and did so much to make sure the party went well, and I found myself snapping at him about completely dumb things in the hours leading up to the party. I worked myself into a sweat about the smallest things. And then when my friends started to arrive, I was so happy to see them! But still I found myself asking every few seconds if everyone was okay, or if they needed anything. I wasn't sure about when to put things out for our next course, and hemmed and hawed so much about that. I felt like I looked like a trainwreck. I sure felt like one.

Lily (who is almost 3) commandeered my phone at some point and took some pictures, which I feel like totally captured what I felt like for most of the evening. See below for the first half of the party through Lily's eyes, and subsequently, Mandy's brain:

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About an hour or so before everyone left, I felt my worries slip away. I was surrounded by amazing friends, people I care about so deeply, and who I cherish with all of my heart. They were all in my living room, eating ice cream happily, and laughing hysterically at the game we were playing. And I just soaked it all up and felt great.

After everyone left, and things were cleaned up, and I stopped and slowed down, my emotions hit me like an anvil in an old-timey cartoon. Out of nowhere, I got so teary-eyed and sad. And as David was reassuring me about the party and about how loved I am, I tried to explain that I realized all of that. But I was just so anxious and weird that I didn't really start to settle until right before people left. I just didn't feel fully present for most of the time.

And this is my take-away from that whole experience. I want to be present for all of the moments in my life. I want to be here, fully and whole-heartedly.  And that means making some changes in my life physically and emotionally. I think I am on the right track, and it feels good to know that the path ahead may not be easy, but it will be so, so worth it. I'm in a great place now, but with a little elbow grease and perseverance, I can be in a magnificent place. Even with all of those crazy emotions that I pack around with me. :) (I've always been a bit of an over-packer.)