Letters from Me, Day 41: Megan S., Newburgh, NY

Dear Megan,

You are a bright, brilliant and beautiful woman - and you have been since we've met.

It's been almost 13 years since we started rowing together at BU, leaving together from 575 Commonwealth Avenue - the HoJo - at 4:20am to make it to the boathouse at sunrise. 

We were fast friends back then, and I always looked up to you as a rower, a student and a friend. You always seemed to be a step ahead of us, to always have your game together a bit more, even if we were all figuring it out as we went along - you had a bit more figured out.

While we all lived in the dorms sophomore year, you had that cool apartment off campus. I loved coming over for cocktails, parties, to watch games or movies or just to chill out, tell stories and be ridiculous, sprawled all over your living room.

We had some amazing times in school, making Boston our playground and our testing ground for being grown ups who dined out, danced and drank fancy drinks.  We were planning our lives and our futures, while having fun and staying young and in the moment. After graduation, we all went our own ways...but made promises to stay in touch.

And we've kept those promises! Luckily, you were right down the highway from my parents' house, and a few hours north of NYC, so we've had more adventures since we parted ways. I remember meeting you in Bryant Park for just a few hours one time, where our timetables just barely crossed. Another time, you saw our post that we were caught in a snowstorm at a hotel near your house, and we spontaneously met up for breakfast the next day before we continued north. And then there was the weekend we all spent together in Chicago three years ago - a raucous and beautiful and elegant and hilarious few days where it felt like we were all back in school....except we all had jobs and lives and brand new stories to swap!

Spending time with you is always a joy, and we definitely could use more of it in our lives. This summer, there are more adventures to come in the Poconos! I can't wait to talk all night, sip drinks all afternoon, be in the beauty of the mountains together and just create a new favorite moment in our shared experiences.

Here's to friendship, to living well, to staying friends and spending time together for the next 13 years, and beyond! Thank you for being my friend, Meegs. You are truly awesome.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 39: Rachel Wolf, New Orleans, LA

Dear Rachel,

Or Wolf, Wolfy, Wolferino, as I've called you as long as I've known you...a time that is tipping the hourglass at almost 10 years these days. When we met, you were a freshman at BU and our worlds collided through a capella. 

I immediately loved you for your voice, your style and before long, how you were just as wacky as I was. Your brain works quickly to make jokes, some overt, some subtle, but rarely lost on me. Your humor was, to me, the things that solidified our friendship.

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Over the next year and a half, we danced, recorded songs, walked and talked, made plans, had parties, dined and drank through West Campus and Brookline, laughed our faces off, singing and harmonizing with each other every step of the way. Time and space brought us apart as you spent time in Boston, New York, eventually New Orleans, and I found my way to Philly.

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We were reunited last year at Raven's wedding, a glorious, magical weekend in the sweet Boston summer with it's share of joy, laughter, hilarity (which included jokes, new and old, and some minor mishaps,) and of course - harmony. 

You were the same. But somehow even more yourself than you'd ever been. Hearing about your life in New Orleans, I felt the adventure you sought, the days full of new experiences, the parades and costumes and sunrises and pedicab rides and performances and late nights full of laughter and spontaneity. 

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You were the Rachel Wolf I had known so long ago, but with even more stories, even more life in your eyes and energy in your spirit.

I can't wait until our paths cross again. Perhaps a Chords reunion, perhaps another wedding, perhaps a roadtrip down south will take the road into New Orleans. 

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Until that day comes, I hope this letter finds you well. I wish you the joy to live with your whole heart. I wish that good things come your way. I wish you strength in the hard times. I wish you perfect mornings when you wake up and know you're exactly where you're meant to be. And if you're not, I wish you wings to get yourself there.

All the best from Philadelphia, my dear.

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 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