Letters from Me, Day 40: Nate Monroe, Fort Edward, NY

Dear Nate,

You are a wild and crazy, untamed and unapologetic, majestic beast of a man.

I have known you almost half my life, as long as you've been the main squeeze of my main squeeze, my dear friend, Tate. When you blew into our lives, you were the way cool, way mature "older man" in Tate's life. You swept her off her feet instantaneously and I knew that day you invited me to be the surprise at her surprise birthday party that you were the one for her. 

You have always cared so deeply for her, and no matter what the world has thrown at you, your love remains steadfast. 

I felt so honored to be a part of your big day, almost 10 years ago - can you believe it? The sun shone down on Crandall Park as we marched down the aisle - the bridge to the island in the duck pond - and you two said your vows, as serious as two crazy kids could be. I couldn't believe how grown up you guys were - tying the knot when I was still parading around Boston like a maniac, figuring out (or not caring) what the heck to do with the rest of my life or even the rest of the year. I loved dancing the night away with you and your big families and all of your friends at the Queensbury Hotel. How fitting and perfect that I was escorted in the ceremony and into the reception by your dear friend, Cherith. That night was one of many to come that we would party and act crazy together – for we were all just young ones looking to have fun. Another particular night that sticks out in my mind is the night we spent together when you guys stopped in Boston on your honeymoon. The four of us - with Bob - were a recipe for insanity. How many bars did we visit that night? I lost count.

As time passed, as it does, you guys continued to grow as a couple...and eventually Tate really began to grow! She was carrying your child, and then it turned out - TWO of your children. I remember how wild it was to find out you guys were expecting twins. Getting married was big, but this was REALLY big! You supported her through a tough pregnancy and a scary birth, but you both came out of it stronger, and with two little nuggets to call your own. I remember meeting them in your apartment right off Glen Street, with the tapestries and drapes and posters and rocking chair with cozy blankets. They were both so small, so similar, yet so different and both so perfect. It was a miracle before my eyes that you two created such amazing little beings.

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I moved to Philadelphia not long after the girls were born, but made sure to get in visits with you guys almost every time I journeyed back north. I have great memories of you and Tate and the girls at brunch, at dinner, at your house playing games and watching movies or at my parents, doing activities and crafts in the backyard, starting (and crushing) games of badminton and horseshoes and eating BBQ around the long tables. Or in the winter, when you guys would come and get the girls sugared up on frosting and candy, and you'd spend half the afternoon playing chess with my dad in the living room. My parents (and Josh and Kristi) have come to love you just as I have - you have always been so kind to them, spent time with them when we're all together and made time to ask them how they are. And most recently, you have befriended Dylan too - the love of my life who reminds me of you in more than a few ways. 

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You are such an important part of our lives, and someone that I admire as a man, a husband and a parent. Watching you with Chloë and Leigha, you are patient, kind, invoking their curiosity and wonder, and asking all the right questions. I love being with you and your family - it is such an inspiration to me.

I wish you four all of the best things in life in the years to come. We hope to be there in some way, shape or form, checking in and sending our love in all of the big moments. You've got some great days ahead of you, with the wonderful home you've built (and keep building), the loving family surrounding you and the joy that you bring to everyone you're with. I realize how sappy this whole letter has been - I know you'd expect nothing less - but let me end it on this note:

Never stop being that badass mudda that you are.

Love,

Amanda

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 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 31: Jessica L. Bien, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Jess,

On the quest to write 365 letters, I've started a letter to you several times.

I kept stopping and starting again, because I wanted to be sure of what I was going to say. We have such a history together and have had so many amazing times, that it's hard to know where to start. 

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I will start with this: I've always looked up to you for your strength of character, honesty and intelligence. You have a distinct and not often found wit and candor that make you a fantastic dinner or road trip companion, and have carried us through many a 2 hour phone call. Through all of the years we've known each other, I've treasured the time we’ve spent, and I am lucky to be called your friend.

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Our story started about 15 years ago, when I befriended a boy named Bob Thomsen. You and he had done theater and music together, and had been hanging out for years, and I was just a 16 year old kid who wanted to hang out with the cool older group. I had met you the year prior when we were both in Bye Bye Birdie, but you were a senior then and I couldn't bring myself to go that high up on the food chain. 

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But when we started hanging out, I quickly learned I could come to you with life's questions - big and small. You knew everything there was to know about things like makeup and hair, decorating and shopping, friendships and communication - your life experience, though you were just a few years older, seemed light years ahead of me. I learned so much from you those couple of years we spent together in Queensbury while I finished school. I loved the group we formed, all of the friends we had and the late nights at the diner and adventures we went on.

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When I went on the biggest adventure of my life - moving to Boston for school (where you had already lived!) - you went onto your next journey as well. You moved to start a new life in Philadelphia, a place I had never been and didn't know much about, but couldn't wait to visit. I think the first time I set foot in the city was on a rowing trip. We came to practice for spring break in 2003 at Villanova and I felt so worldly when my cool Philly friend swung by to pick me up at the hotel for a night on the town. 

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Over the years we lived hours apart, we'd come back together in Queensbury for holidays and parties. We talked on the phone to catch up on each other's lives and I loved that you were just making it happen in a city you'd never lived before, all on your own. A few years later, I was back in upstate New York, having taken a job in Glens Falls as an editor, which didn't pay well and didn't challenge me. I remember sitting with you - I think it was at a bar - and you said, "You don't seem happy here. What would you think about moving to Philadelphia?" That was Thanksgiving. I saved and scrimped for a few weeks and then broke the news to the world on New Year’s Eve 2008. I was moving to Philly.

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I sent you a blank check and you worked on finding us our new place - a 3 bedroom house in Bryn Mawr, just a few blocks from the train station, with parking and laundry and a deck and a tiny backyard which came in so handy when you adopted a new dog right before we moved in. I arrived in the end of March, and embarked on one of the most fun years of my life, filled with life and laughter and hard work, making this new house a new home, starting a new job, cooking, decorating, shopping, hanging out with new friends, exploring the city and the suburbs and just living my days to the fullest. You helped me break out of my funk, and embrace life in Philadelphia. I was so grateful to you for the push outside of my comfort zone and for the days spent together in sunny Bryn Mawr.

It was bittersweet when you moved on to your next place, but I got to experience living alone for the first time - ever! - and we worked on staying connected, even though we lived much further apart. We kept making memories - nights out on the town, still exploring, still laughing together, swapping stories about our friends and pets and coworkers. I was so proud to watch you graduate from Temple - the degree you'd given up your job for and started life anew once again. I remember buying your graduation card 2.5 years early, because I was so excited for you.

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It really is astounding to think back on how much living we've done together. Our trips - both near (Produce Junction! Ocean City!) and far (Las Vegas! Ireland!) - our toasts, our celebrations with friends, our great times and our heartbreaks, our life lessons and little wins. I look ahead to the next 15 years of our lives, when things will continue to evolve for us both. I wish you wonderful things to come - in your career, your home and your heart. Thank you for being one of my best friends of all time. You're awesome.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 13: Stephanie A. Peterson West, Uncasville, CT

Dear Stephanie,

Girl, I have loved seeing you get brighter and brighter each and every day.

You've always been lovely. You were genuine and happy when we were growing up, albeit with a sarcastic side, which was very endearing. And as we grew, graduated college and started our lives, you still knew how to have fun and cared deeply for those around you.

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But lately, your joy and sweetness has just skyrocketed to new heights. And it is truly marvelous. Your light shines so bright these days, and it's refreshing to get a taste of that whenever we connect, via Facebook, phone call or in person.

And I couldn't be happier for you. 

You've found, fallen in love with and married a man who loves you very much. He cares for you in new ways all of the time, and you two have kept the romance alive for years, through two kids and new jobs and transitions galore. You seem so happy together. I love seeing your date night pictures, where you indulge in wonderful food and craft beer together. I love seeing your family photos, and the way he looks at you. I can tell you two have come into your own. I remember your wedding so fondly. What a lovely setting for a November wedding. And what a beautiful party it was. Dinner and dancing and cake that made our mouths water. It was a night to remember.

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Now, almost 6 years later, you're the proud mother of not one, but TWO perfect little people: William and Audrey, your prides and joy, for the rest of your life. It brings me such joy to watch them grow, even though the world has us so far apart and circumstances don't always bring us together as often as we'd like. I'm so excited for this fall, when we will all be in one place, once again, to celebrate and dance and eat and drink and laugh and play for a night, a weekend, a few days. I hope to spend many hours with you and your family, soaking in all of the moments and personalities and quirks that I don't know and can't get from keeping up with the Wests online.

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I wish you all the best on your journey, Stephanie. Your journey as a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a woman - and all of the paths and ups and downs that come along and between those things. You are learning to put yourself first, because you know that is how you can take care of your family the best. You are giving your body and mind the attention they deserve, and you are doing so with the enthusiasm of a young person. 

It reminds me that that's what we are - we're still young people...young people who are coming into the prime of our lives, when we are the smartest, have the most energy, are the most fit because we are treating ourselves right and being the best we can be. 

You inspire me. 

You inspire me to get out and run, to cook healthy dinners for Dylan and myself, to plan my week with my health in mind. You inspire me to smile. You inspire me to be great, to work hard and to pay attention to the things I need. I may not have seen you for many months, but you inspire me each and everyday.

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I wish you good health. I wish you success in your career. I wish you fortune in your pursuits. I wish you happiness and joy, from your family, your friends, your children, your pets. I wish you great love your whole life long. I wish you peace of mind and heart. And most of all, I wish you the knowledge that you are exactly where you are and exactly who you need to be, this day and everyday. 

Love,

Amanda