My Best Girls. <3

I have something to admit, everyone. And it may surprise you a little bit if you know me... 

Sometimes I can be shy. 

Now I know what you're thinking -- you're thinking "ummm, uh-uh. Not the Mandy that we know. She can get up on stage, pretend to be naked, speak in front of large groups, lead a camp... Not that chick." 

But yes. It's true. We all have both sides in us, and I feel like the older I get, the more my introverted self comes out a little bit. 

Those of you who had the pleasure of knowing chubby little Mandy know that this was pretty much never the case. I was loud, acted loudly, talked loudly, bossed people around loudly, played loudly - you name it, I did it - loudly. My entire childhood was pretty much spent having talent shows and putting on plays on the front lawn. My neighbors heard me learn various musical instruments. Maybe my parents forced me out of the house because of the racket - or maybe I just felt that the wide open lawn was a much more suitable stage for talent such as mine. But no matter what - I was bold and brassy. A tiny little Ethel Merman, if you will. 

But as I have aged, and as I've come into my own and chubby little Mandy has shrunk to pocket-size, I find that my shy side comes out. When I am with my very best friends, I am totally myself - loud, brash, goofy, borderline ridiculous. (We bring that out in each other!) I treasure those times that I can let loose and it all comes pouring out. 

I used to be the type of person, all growing up, and in college, that had a big group of great friends. I had a family of friends that I was surrounded by - never wanted for company, never worried about being alone. I loved it that way. I was cozy, and happy, and content! But as I've grown, I've honed myself down to a special, small, tight-knit group of people in my life that are my go-to's for everything. :) They will always be around - I'm not giving them up! And unless you are those people, I have a hard time letting chubby Mandy's freak flag fly sometimes and find myself observing more. I used to come into a party or group not knowing anyone and then end up with several new friends. Now I am content to come in and be a part of the group for what it is - and leave knowing that they were great people, but I have the best already! 

This blog is going different places than when I started it, but that's kind of where my head is. And I'm a fairly random person, so it seems pretty fitting, doesn't it? :P 

I am realizing this introverted side of me with planning the wedding (4 months from today!!). I am finding that when people who aren't my tight cluster ask me questions, or ask to see my ring, or ask about my feelings or planning, I get really tongue-tied and flustered. It's not that I don't want to talk about any of it - I just get so weirded out about the attention. Who knew something like "how is wedding planning going?" would get me so tripped up, and leave the person asking it looking at me like they just asked me to explain my feelings on universal health care! 

Put me in a room with my best friends, and I can talk about it until they all want to puke from hearing it (which I'm sure they are close to! :P)... Sit me at my desk and have random people ask me about it and I get all weird. Hmm...

Like I said, this is going weird places. But I return to my previous thoughts regarding my tight-knit group of friends.. After 31 years, I feel like my group of best friends has been honed into an amazing team. When it came time to decide who I wanted standing up next to me on my wedding day (did I mention it's 4 months from today? Eek!), it was an easy choice. I feel like everyone needs a friend like one of the ones that I hold dear (but you can't have mine!)... I'm sure you have some of these types of friends as well, but just in case, I want to give some credit where credit is definitely due. I love all of these amazing women for different reasons, and that's why having them by my side on September 28 is going to make the day more amazing than they realize!

1.) Jewel (Maid of Honor) - Jewel is the friend that you've had the longest. The one that you have the stupidest but funniest inside jokes with. The one whose family you know really well, and whose family knows you really well. The one who has secrets about you that other people don't and who (probably) wouldn't use them against you in a court of law. Or on Facebook. This is the friend who will let you just talk and talk and talk and just listen and listen and listen. The one who appreciates your love of Cheezits, cheesy Mexican food, and the Babysitter's Club. The friend who has been there through various trips, conferences, school festivals, classes together, etc. She will help you organize your life when it seems like total chaos (literally and figuratively!) She has seen you at your best and worst. This one isn't going anywhere!

2.) Kristin (Matron of Honor) - This is the friend who can get you to be the goofiest you have ever been! The friend who shows you the good when you're feeling down. This is the friend that will always get a coffee with you when you go places, will have you try things on that you never thought would look good on you (and they always do!), and the one that will encourage you to go outside of your comfort zone. This friend is the type that hasn't been your friend the longest, but will make you feel like you grew up next door to her and ran through the sprinkler together. This is also the friend that will help you expand your limits - whether that is new food, new music, new ways of looking at things, whatever. This friend shines with her passions and inspires you to be as passionate as she is about anything! This one is definitely sticking around. :)

3.) Stacy (Bridesmaid) - This is the surprise bestie. The one that was right under your nose the whole time (like say, maybe, your cousin???) and then you forged an amazing friendship! The one who will give you great advice, even if you feel like a whining brat sometimes... The one who will put things into perspective, who will have patience with you, and who will always offer a good glass of wine. This is the one that will dissect family dynamics with you until the wee hours of the night, and make yearly dates to wrap presents together. This one isn't ever getting out of this friendship -- especially because we are related! (Note - your friend like this may not be related to you. That is totally okay. :P)

4.) Stephanie (Bridesmaid) - This is the long distance friend. But also the one who when you see each other, or talk to each other, it's like you are right down the road from each other. :) This is the one who will understand your weird idiosyncrasies, and also the one who will look back with you on your past together and collectively say "what the heck were we thinking???". This is the one who will be wise beyond her years, and will always have a great idea for saving time. This is the one who you tease about their funny little quirks but who isn't afraid to tease you back about yours. She's a permanent fixture in your life whether she likes it or not! :)

5.) Jennifer (Bridesmaid) - This is your friend who you used to work with, but who has morphed into something so much more. This the friend that will consistently keep it real, and encourage and remind you to do the same. The one who will tease you about things that only she can tease you about, the one that will take you under her wing, the one that will build you up when you are feeling down. This is the friend who will entertain you with stories of her life, and help you see just how interesting and amusing your life can be, even when it feels so mundane. This friend may or may not travel across the country to get away from you - but you will hook line and sinker her back in, no matter how hard she tries. :)

I so wish that all of you had women like this in your life that you called best friends. I so wish that you could feel how I feel, when I picture this day, 4 months in the future, and picture them standing there by my side. The idea of looking at my wedding pictures and seeing them full of these beautiful friends of mine makes my heart melt a little bit. :) If you don't have friends like these, start looking - they are out there, I promise. But again, you can't have mine. Don't even try it. They're spoken for. Back OFF. :P 

And so, chubby little Mandy, singing and putting on plays in the front lawn -- hold out. Friends may come and go in your life right now, and you may have a new "best friend" every 10 seconds, but just you wait. Someday you are going to be luckiest girl in the whole world, and you will get to call Jewel, Kristin, Stacy, Stephanie, and Jennifer your best girls. And you will mean it with every single ounce of your heart and soul. <3

Complete Surrealism.

It has been such a long time since I have posted anything, I realize that. But every time I think I will write a blog, I get swept up in something random and then I forget until the cycle comes around again! So forgive me, dear reader(s???)... :P 

These last few months have been somewhat of a blur. Not in the sense that I look back and am foggy about the events that transpired -- not at all. Just in the sense that I look back at the last few months like I would a painting in a gallery. And as I stare, and it all comes into focus, I realize "whoa. this isn't a painting. it's real!"... :) 

Most of you reading this are well aware of the adventures that I've had lately, but I don't think that most of you realize just how blessed I feel to have had these milestones and events take place. Therefore I use this today as somewhat of a platform (a secret one, like Platform 9 3/4) to explain a little bit more. 

On March 23, something happened to me that, to be honest, I was afraid would never happen. My whole life I have been the chubby, loud girl. I was the one that boys didn't like, but the one that boys were friends with. I hid myself behind my humor because that was a surefire winner. If I was funny, they wouldn't see how chubby I was, or how giant my glasses were. This was not a Hollywood movie, where my glasses would fall off and suddenly the boys would realize my amazing beauty and fall over themselves. On the scale of "The Goonies" to "She's All That", my life seemed to fall somewhere along the lines of "Heavyweights" ("Mother Earth, Father Sky, and dear old Uncle Tony!"). My growing up was a long string of unrequited love, muddled by the ability that I had to become good friends with the boys that I liked. Which made things even more frustrating. 

But then, in April of 2011, I met a boy named David. :) And I knew as soon as we closed a coffee shop down on our first date that something was different here. He was sweet, and funny. And he told me, and will still tell me, that he kicks himself for not walking me to my car that first date. 

Fast forward almost two years, and he's dragging me out for the day. I'm grumpy, I don't want to play, and I'm just a complete joy to be around (sarcasm on that last one.) After almost two years of talking about it, and hoping for it, I am caught completely off guard when he gets down on one knee and asks me to marry him. When I think about that day, I still see it as watching a movie of someone else's life. But then I look down and see this ring on my finger, or see the wedding binder that Erin made for me, and I realize "this truly is real life." 

I'm marrying someone. And not just any someone -- someone who makes me shed all of my insecurities. Someone who I drop all of my walls for. Someone who can make me laugh at the silliest things, who meows back to me when I meow to him, who tolerates my made up words, who builds a garden at our home together, who takes care of Chloe like she is his own... The list goes on and on. The surrealism of this part of my life is still so thick. Sometimes I feel like I will wake up and it will all be a dream... But then I wake up, and see David beside me (usually hogging the entire bed, with Chloe assisting), and realize just how insanely lucky I am. I am so, so blessed. And so, so happy. Chubby Tweetybird wearing shirt Mandy does a little dance inside every time I see him. :) 

The next painting that I come to in the gallery of my life is called "España." :) When I was in high school, and began getting further into the Spanish language, I realized just how amazing Spain sounded. I wanted to go there, to live there, to be a part of that culture. Their schedule sounded ideal, their food sounded great, and the history sounded so rich. So I dreamt  and dreamt, and dreamt about one day going there. Everyone close to me knew that the one place on the tip top of my list to go to was Spain. And then, a few years ago, I made a plan. I formed a team, and we began dreaming and scheming. And then, just this past month or so, we did it -- we went to Spain. :) I spent 2 weeks in the country of my dreams. And guess what? It was all that I expected it to be and more! It's hard for me to talk about a little, which I know sounds really silly. But it was just so amazing. And it's still so surreal to me. I want to be back there so badly! I had dreams while I was there that I was missing stuff, and that I wasn't getting presents for everyone -- here I am, in Spain, having stress dreams ABOUT Spain. Weird, huh? :) But it was just such a big event for me, that I don't think my heart even fully understood until after I got back! I cried when we touched down in Madrid, and as we flew away, my heart felt so sad, but so ready to be home! And now, I'm ready to go back. :) 

It's a strange thing when your dreams come true. It's hard to comprehend, and then now you have to form new dreams to reach for. That's the stage I will be in, after the wedding, that is. For now I'm still trying to get used to calling David my fiance, and saying "for my wedding", or looking at pictures of ME in Spain. :) 

The moral of my story is this: I am happy. And I'm still a little bit shocked that it all is happening/happened to me. So pardon me while I live in a fog for awhile. Because if this was the reality of your life (see below), I think you'd live in a fog also. <3


And so I say to you, past Mandy Denise: Hold out. Because your dreams are coming true. And you are going to be so happy when they do that some days you feel as if you may burst at the seams, and confetti will spill out. This may be a good way to feel a little more confident and a little less upset about your chubbiness - you can say "hey, people, it's just confetti that will explode out when my dreams come true! Watch out, world!"

Yeah. That's not weird at all, is it? Maybe keep that one to yourself. 

-Mandylightfully Yours

Truth be told, I'm eating a Kit-Kat.

Nothing special about that title except for the fact that it's the god-honest truth. And I couldn't come up with anything better, really. That's where I'm at right now. I'm incredibly tired, but I cannot complain at all -- I am not tired because I'm dealing with a sickness, or because I have insomnia, or because I am working two jobs to support my family. I am tired because I have been enjoying my life. :) Yes, you heard me right. I've been filling it with lots of love, and happiness, and adventures, and yummy food. I made it a silent (not so silent anymore, blabbermouthfingers) New Year's awareness, of sorts, to be a little bit more exciting. I was feeling myself settling into the same routines, doing the same things, being a super homebody, and frankly - being a little boring. Don't get me wrong, I love my home, and being there, and relaxing - but I found myself saying no to fun things in favor of doing, well, things that were not as much fun. So I am trying hard to say yes to experiences, and carve out time for adventure (even if it's a small adventure!) 

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to jump into a huge one of these experiences. And like I said to a kid at school a few weeks ago, sometimes the things that I'm both nervous AND excited for at the same time are the things that I end up having the best time doing. Kristin asked me I would want to go to a spa with her and Constance -- one they had been to before, one that they really liked, and one that scared the crap out of me -- they refer to it as the "Naked Lady Spa". And that's what it is. No swimsuits, no jewelry, nothing to protect you from the eyes and elements of the room. I was nervous, scared, intrigued, and excited. They spoke volumes about their experience there, and about how freeing and wonderful it is. And you know what? They were right! I was nervous all day, but then just decided to not let myself be nervous. I embraced the atmosphere, and literally jumped in with both feet (ok, I didn't jump. I gingerly stepped into the pools.)... It was such a relaxing time. And after awhile, I felt myself just not even thinking about it (which Kristin had told me would happen!). It was an amazing evening, and I'm so happy that I got to share it with two wonderful girls, who made me feel so wonderful!

The next day, David and I ventured to Canada for the weekend. And we had a blast! We did lots of things - went to the aquarium, saw sea otters, did a lot of walking, saw a movie, ate a yummy pizza in our hotel room, braved sashimi --- it was jam packed! I had such a great time, and felt so happy to be on that adventure with my adorable boy-toy, who ALSO makes me feel so wonderful. :)

The last few evenings have been filled with dinner with my besties in Seattle, just chatting about everything that we could, drinking yummy drinks and sharing tasty fries, car dancing to Justin TImberlake (it was INTENSE), trivia with my mom, winning a prize on the radio for the first time in my life, and just enjoying my job.

On the flipside of all of this sunshine came a rain cloud, though. A wonderful man in the life of my best friend was lost this last week, one who I have known for a long time as well. He was an institution in Poulsbo, and in her family, and he will be greatly, greatly missed. He leaves behind an amazing family, however -- one that is stronger than most I have ever come across. I've known that since the day I become an adopted part of it! For my dear bestie Jewel, and her family, my heart is saddened. But it is also encouraged by the knowledge that your strong family is getting even stronger! The Stroud/Evenson clan is a force to be reckoned with. And knowing your grandpa for all of these years, I can see where you all get it!

And so, with the awareness that our lives are simply on loan, and we need to soak up our time we have, I embraced this past week fully. And I vow to do that for more weeks this year. In fact, I'm aiming for about 52 of them.