Letters from Me, Day 38: Erin Coon, Queensbury, NY

Dear Erin,

I have always known you as a bright, brilliant woman since our paths crossed so many years ago.

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We met in 1999. We spent the next few years deep in a world of music and performances, between Madrigals, QHS theater, Youtheatre and community theater. I admired your dedication, your resilience and your raw talent. Your range as an actress was impressive and took the backseat only to your ability to belt a verse - and on pitch, every time. 

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We made so many memories those few years. Late nights at the diner or your apartment, early mornings driving to Lake George, making costumes, throwing parties, playing charades, doing interpretive dances, learning how to carry ourselves into adulthood, making choices, figuring it all out. You taught me so much about living in that world - the world of loud, boisterous, loving, erratic, soulful theater people. I fell in love those years, with a culture that was new to me, one that I've carried with me for half my life now.

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A few years later, I left for Boston. Coming home from exhausting whirlwinds of classes and activities, I'd always fall easily back into our routines and conversations. We'd get together for holidays, summer parties at the lake house, picnics, drinks here, there and everywhere.

When I moved home from Boston, you and I got to hang out more. We frequented Wallabee's for jazz and wine. You introduced me to the bustling Glens Falls theater scene that had grown since I'd left. We drove and drank and dined around town. I got to know your tight knit group of creative and clever friends. And then you met Sean, your other half, your partner in life. Life was always an adventure with you, no matter where we were or what was happening.

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Since I moved to Philly, I have loved our visits - more holidays and long weekends, picnics and parties. You have come to be known for some pretty excellent Christmas gifts - piles of homemade and local goodies, and some of my favorite jewelry of all time. No matter how long passes between our get togethers, I always know we will fall back into conversation and laughter. Being with you feels like being home.

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Through the years we've known each other, your lightness of spirit and love for the people around you has touched me. You are so talented in so many ways, and have been able to do wonderful and powerful things for a town that was ready for a creative revolution. I am so proud to know you, to be a small part of the world you've built, the life you've created for yourself and those around you. You are a true treasure and know no matter where you go and what you do, you will succeed.

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I wish you all the best things in the years to come: love in your heart and your home, fulfillment in your career and your friendships, health in your body and your spirit. Looking forward to the next time we convene and catch up, old friend.

Take care and be well.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 37: Liam Mulshine, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Liam,

It was 10 years ago this summer that our adventures together began. 

We started in Boston while working for the BU Office of Orientation. We spent the summer corralling college pre-frosh and anxious parents around campus and the city by day (sometimes at 6:15am! Thursday mornings at OOCS!) and gathering in cramped on-campus apartments with Trader Joe's wine and snacks at night before venturing to Fenway to dance til the wee hours...and then getting up and doing it all over again. Our energy never waned and I'm not sure when we slept. But we were falling in love with our freedoms, our capabilities, our philosophies, our friends, our lovers, our city, ourselves.

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You and I got "married" that summer, with flowers that might be considered weeds, hair frizzy from humidity and flushed faces from lack of air conditioning. Of all the friends and coworkers I met that year, you and I had a special bond, a balance of over-exuberance and curiosity, expressiveness and thoughtfulness, hand in hand. I felt that though we were quite different, we were spiritually so similar, both living as truthfully as we could, with joy in our hearts. 

Photo courtesy of Liam Mulshine on SnapChat, Original Photo by Boston University Office of Orientation

Photo courtesy of Liam Mulshine on SnapChat, Original Photo by Boston University Office of Orientation

The months that followed my departure from Boston were peppered by postcards sent back and forth, Facebook posts, messages and the occasional phone call.

In the years that passed, I watched you grow, evolve and blossom out in California...and around the country and the world. I watched you trying new things, capturing the beauty around you, becoming more yourself than you'd ever been.

Last year, I was surprised to hear you were coming into Philly. We had a perfect little low key lunch at Hip City Veg near Penn, where both of our boyfriends were in school. What serendipity. We caught up, we laughed and for a moment in time, it seemed like all those years had been but a few months since Boston.

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And then this year, on my 31st birthday, I got the loveliest message. You (and your adorable orange cat) were making the big move back to the east coast...to Philly!

I am so happy to reconnect with you after all of this time, and to be able to welcome you to the city I've come to love, that's been my home for 6 years, that I can't wait for you to fall in love with too. You've said people have been nice here so far, and you like the pop-up beer gardens. I think it's a great start, and there's so many more wonderful things to come, I'm sure of it.

Here's to the next ten years, wherever they take us and whatever they may bring. I wish you adventure in your travels, comfort in your home, fulfillment in your days, laughter in waking, peace in sleeping and love in your heart. You are one of a kind, Liam and I am lucky to know you.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 36: Ashley Raven, Waltham, MA

Dear Raven,

You are such a special person.

We have known each other for almost 10 whole years, since our paths collided my senior year of college at Boston University. You were a freshman, young, yes, but with a powerful presence, an infectious laugh and a drive to make great music. I knew from the moment I met you that we'd be friends. 

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You quickly took Chordially Yours by storm, arranging songs, helping others learn their parts, warming us up and making sure everyone was where they should be. You brought us to new heights in the year and a half I got to sing with you, and I attribute so much of the group's success to you and the wisdom and skills you passed down to the younger classes as each year passed.

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You are talented beyond belief. You have the amazing ability to hear a song, immediately harmonize, capture the melody, the bass line and the beat and create - within hours - a full musical and performance experience out of a simple mp3. You are truly brilliant, too, not just with music, but also with your work and all you do. I love catching up with you every so often about the things you're pursuing and how you're helping people.

You are kind and giving. In your work, your music, your play, your relationships, your interactions with strangers even, you give all you can. You have always had the most generous spirit, which I remember most fondly in tougher moments, when I didn't know how much I needed a friend. It was those times you reminded me one of the best ones was never far. It was hard for me to stay behind in Boston an extra year, after my class had graduated and moved on, but having you helped me keep hope alive.

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It was a few years after I moved away that I planned a trip to visit you and attend the spring Chords concert with a bunch of the grandmas and great grandmas of the group. It was that trip that I met Suzanne and saw the love you two share blossoming before my eyes. I was so happy to celebrate your love, our friends, the music we heard and sang, the memories we kept and the new ones we made. It was a joy to be with you once again, and it felt like time hadn't passed at all.

Then, another few years later, I got one of my most treasured notes of all time. A group of us Chords girls were invited to celebrate your and Suzanne's relationship in the biggest way - at your wedding. And not only were we invited to attend, you were arranging a song for us all to sing for your bride, in front of all of your friends and family. I could not have anticipated the amazing two days we shared, as we rehearsed, hugged, caught up, dined and drank, dressed to the nines. You two looked so beautiful, and it was clear in all of the festivities that you could not have been more perfect for one another. The love was palpable, and the few minutes we stood to sing Ben Folds' The Luckiest were some of the most special I'd ever spent with you ladies. Pure joy, unadulterated.

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You make everyone in your life feel loved. I know you will live a full and happy life. When you lift others up, you stay on the highest ground, free of negativity and pettiness. You bring all of your talents and your brilliance and your kindness to the people around you, and I know you are loved by so many.

I am so lucky to know you, Raven. Thank you for being in my life, for keeping me in yours, for the times we've shared and the memories we've yet to make. Stay joyful, shine on, sing on.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 35: Justin Gray, Queensbury, NY

Dear Justin,

It's been a thousand years, hasn't it?

I mean, we met in junior high and have traversed the halls of QMS and QHS together, before going our separate ways for college and then meeting back up over the years to catch up in both right in our hometown and fairly far from it.

Through the years, I've gotten to know you as a classmate, a partner in harmony, a fellow thespian (and fellow winner of Most Dramatic senior year!), a travel companion, a beer lover, a New Yorker, a fiancè and then groom to your beautiful wife Laura and always, always, a friend. I've treasured our time together, for many reasons.

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You are funny. You have had the uncanny knack for picking apart a situation - no matter how dire...or banal...or seemingly innocuous - and finding the hilarious, the ridiculous, the ironic. I've always admired this trait, and found it has allowed you to easily weave outsiders into conversations seamlessly, as humor can often be the best way to relate to just about anyone. You can talk to everyone, and usually within moments, get a chuckle out of them. 

You are talented. You're multidimensional in your talents, as I have continued to learn over the years I've known you. You can dance, act, sing, speak publicly, write (and write damn well), and even brew beer! You seem to have a knack for picking up anything you try - and that speaks to your capacity for hard work and dedication, as even the most innate talents must be honed and perfected.

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You are smart. Right on the heels of talent, hard work and dedication is your fantastically complex and quick-witted brain. Evident whenever you speak or write, your intelligence draws people to you, makes them value your opinions, helps people trust your judgment of situations and people alike. 

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You are caring and kind. Plenty of people on this planet are funny. Fewer are funny and talented, and fewer still can count themselves as brilliant minds. But to have all of that, and also be a kind and generous soul, is a truly rare find in a friend. Your love for your family has always inspired me to be a better sister and daughter to my own family. The joy you take from caring for and supporting those around you gives me new faith in this crazy world. Those close to you love you most for this quality (I took an informal poll.)

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I'm lucky to call you a friend, Justin Gray. Thank you for sticking by me through thick and thin all of these years, for inviting us to be a part of your big day last summer and for always making the effort to hang out when we pop into town. I look forward to knowing you and celebrating life with you (and the fabulous Gray family) for years to come.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 34: Joe Castiglia, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Joe,

I wanted to tell you again how grateful we were to have your help while we were away last week. Going on vacation right after adopting Gus was very hard for us, but your notes each day put our minds at ease and brought smiles to our faces. 

I am sorry if we startled you coming home a bit early, but seeing you with Gus and seeing how calm they both were, it was clear you have a wonderful way with animals.

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It's people like you that make being a pet owner peaceful, less stressful and easier on the heart. We are so lucky to know you. If you ever need a reference, please don’t hesitate to use us.

Have a great day, Joe!

Thanks again,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 33: Marie Simons, Swarthmore, PA

Dear Marie,

My dearest mamacita, who has always loved and supported me no matter what the occasion or situation...

I so treasure the time we get together, and all the ways we have celebrated and enjoyed ourselves over the years. You have always been such an amazing friend to me, and I hope that I have been able to show you all that you mean to me, for being all that you are.

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It's hard to believe that we met 9 whole years ago. It was Jess' birthday in 2006, and I took a trip to Philadelphia to visit - my 2nd ever trip to the city of Brotherly Love. I spent a couple of days touring the town, eating amazing food and sipping fancy cocktails with some of Jess' cool friends, who all seemed so grown up and sophisticated. It was the night of her birthday dinner that I met you and John, and we connected almost instantaneously. It was one crazy night, filled with laughter and stories, and drunken debauchery. And we were just at a Moroccan restaurant! I remember after I got a little sick, you took me outside and rubbed my back and sang to me, until we were approached by an entire all-male college a capella group, who serenaded us with a couple tunes, before fading back into the night together. I knew that night that you'd always look out for me, even though it was several years before our paths crossed again.

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When I moved to Philly, it was a bright, big world at my fingertips and though I was excited, I was also scared because other than Jess, I basically knew no one. Luckily, I knew you. Right away, we made plans to do dinner at your warm and welcoming house in Swarthmore, and to have drinks out on MacDade Blvd, with your musical crew. I came to CJ's graduation party - I think it was my first year here - and loved the vibe, everyone playing tunes, the drinks flowing, the amazing food, and the love that surrounded us.

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Over the next few years, we made many memories. Karaoke nights DJ'd by Lisa, with Bella on your lap, belting tunes and sipping cocktails with Jess and a collection of various friends. Bowling birthdays. Dinner parties. Jam sessions at Chez Simons. 

And of course, there was our epic trip to Las Vegas. We were roomies! I loved getting ready for fancy nights out with you, dining at fabulous restaurants, touring casinos (where you and Bob would go on to win big!) and seeing the sights all around town. I still remember how you taught us to get on the Southwest flight before anyone else. (And I'll never tell!) You were a phenomenal travel companion, who not only had all the fun there was to have, but looked out for me when I was overwhelmed by the great big world that is Las Vegas. 

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And these days, I have been so blessed to be able to help with your website and reiki practice awareness initiatives. I love spending hours with you figuring things out and working together. Because not only do I get time with you to hang out and laugh together, we get to do something meaningful that will help you help many others. I am so proud with how far you have come in just a few short months since we started working together. And you repay me with such kindness and joy...how could I not love working with you?

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I have loved spending time with you over all of our years together. You have the most lovely, light-filled and positive energy surrounding you, wherever you go. And all who get to bask in that glow are lucky to know you and be around you. There are so many people who love you and are touched by your work, your service, your big heart, your brilliant mind and your sweet soul. Your volunteer work, your life in the theater, your reiki practice, your large circle of friends and family that you surround yourself with - we are blessed to have each one of these parts of you.

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You are truly, wholly and fully yourself, without exception and without apology. You have taught me to be confident in myself as a woman, as a professional and as a partner in a relationship. I look up to you in so many ways and feel so proud to be a part of your circle. I love you forever and always and can't wait for our next adventure.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 32: Liza Garcia, Celebration, FL

Dear Liza, 

Today is your birthday, and I couldn't think of a better day to write you this letter to tell you how special you are to me.

We are in the heart of our Taurus/Aries celebrations, the time of year when you, me, Janire and Dylan all have our birthdays. It has been such a joy to create and uphold our tradition of birthday dinner and drinks together. When I signed on to Facebook this morning, I was reminded of your birthday 2 years ago, at McTullio's in Delaware, when we toasted with jungle juice and ate birthday cake to the sounds of rock music. I'm so happy we've had the chance to party with each other over the years, the tradition we began in 2011, right before Dylan and I met. I feel lucky to celebrate with you, not just on our birthdays, but all year long - toasting tequila or martinis to the ups and downs of life. 

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Liza, my dear, I adore you for so many reasons.

You're kind and compassionate. From your work, to your friendships, to your family, you always look out for other people and make sure they have everything they need and have a smile on their face. I see you with your friends and family, tending to those who need it, helping those who might not know they do. You are also such a loving and caring owner/mama to your pets - first Brandy, now Baileys. You have a nurturing quality that everyone appreciates the world over, animal or human.

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You're smart and hard-working. I look up to you for being so dedicated and diligent to your work, no matter where you are in the country or the world. And I love picking your brain about what's going on in the world. You are informed and intelligent, with a strong opinion, but without forcing your beliefs on others. 

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You are an adventurer. I love following you and Janire as you travel, here, there and everywhere. No matter where you roam, you make the world your home. Because of that, you are comfortable with people of any background or history and you can make friends with just about anyone. 

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You're a truly beautiful soul - inside and out. You carry yourself with a grace and strength that I can only aspire to. I love the time we spend together because I feel like I get to absorb just a little bit of your brilliant shining light each time. 

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I am so lucky to know you, and to have you in my life. You have taught me so much about being a part of this world - about what really matters and what does not. You bring me joy any time we are together, and even when we're not - you pass your kind words and loving thoughts on in every way you can. I look forward to our next adventure, to the next time our paths cross, no matter where we are or where life takes us next.

Love,

Amanda

P.S. I knew it would be hard to write a letter today, but your kindness through everything with Allspice made the words flow onto the page. Your support and love means the world to us. Thank you for being a friend, for being so thoughtful, for being you.