The Adventure of Our First Night in Ocean City 2019

I start this story from the the table at our suite at the Flanders Hotel. This trip had me kind of worried, and with some anxiety and trepidation about being with family for the weekend, worried that there would ensue some sort of drama or fights (from experiences in years past). But - it's proven - even with what could be considered "great incident" or "hardship" - to be a very fun time so far. All 15 and a half hours of it.

The Leaving

Dylan came home last night around 4:30. He had told me he could leave work early, so I hustled and bustled around the house all day, cleaning and packing and prepping us to leave on time. I tried to be ready right when he got home (of course I wasn't), but I also hoped when he got home, he'd be ready to SPRING into action, doing his 2 chores that he had to do before we left - cat litter and garbage/recycle. He didn't feel up to that, having just drove an hour back from work, which was understandable, though a bit disheartening. I chose to give him 15 minutes to sit and rest, as I hurried about the house, packing up the food and drink and ice, hauling his massive duffel crammed with acid-reflux-pillow-contraption (dubbed "The Foam Tower"), getting the cats ready to go. I basically did as much as I could before I got exasperated as his inaction as I felt like a mini tornado circling him - the unmovable mountain - content to sit and be circled and not do any of the work of collecting the leaves and sticks and weakened trees and depositing them in their new home - the tornado's job, obviously. But why can't the mountain help?

So, in the spirit of couples therapy and openness, I said to him, "Hey babe, I wanted to let you know that I am feeling kind of unsupported right now. I have been busting butt all day so that we'd be ready to leave when you got home, and I'd appreciate some help. I'm telling you this to express my feelings in the moment, so they don't bottle up and come out in an unproductive way later." He responded that he was sorry I was feeling that way, but couldn't I just chill for a while? I then explained WHY I wanted to head out earlier rather than later - I wanted to get there in time to unpack, relax and have a nice dinner - NOT get there at 9pm like we have in the past and stay up late and then I'd have a bad morning the next day. Putting it that way, he understood more where I was coming from and agreed. But I had to drive. (Which, for the record, I hadn't done a ton of lately, since the week he had been sick, so it was good to get a refresher on highway driving.)

We packed the car, got gas, stopped at Target for some last minute rations (lettuce, croutons and a "pouf" for the shower), and then off we went.

The Arrival

We arrived before Pat and Abbi and Tom. Just a few minutes. We loaded up our gear onto a cart and hung in the lobby until they arrived, considering the front desk woman, Maggie (who was very nice, and will reappear later in this story) wasn't allowed to check us in without Pat.

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Pat swooped in - fresh off of her 14+ hours of travel leaving Phoenix, where she had gone to help Virgil move, then had her flight to Philly canceled, rebooked to JFK, taken the LIR to Penn, the Amtrak to 30th St and SEPTA to the airport to get her car (whew) - and checked us in. We got our old suite - 906 - one we had loved in the past, and whose quirks I had documented for years, noting how to work the odd oven, where the thermostats were, and all of the items we may want to bring because the haphazard collection of kitchen bric-a-brac did not contain everything we'd need for 2.5 days of meal prep.

We unpacked fully. I mean FULLY. Food, drinks, cookware, cleaning supplies, clothes, toiletries, chargers - all out of the suitcase and into their spots. We posted up with some veggies and hummus when the job was over, and went through the Ocean City book to see if there was anything we wanted to add to my newly minted Trip Spreadsheet - what I am doing for all of my trips now to keep my brain organized! Abbi was soon cajoled into starting her dinner of burgers and fries (bun-less on salad and no fries for our low-carb-ers.)

Dinner: The First Try

We pre-heated the oven (a journey in itself), and then popped the fries in when it was time. Then Abbi started to sautee some onions for the burgers and THAT'S when we started to smell smoke. Not onion smoke. Not fry smoke. No, not even "something was left in the oven" smoke. This was plastic burning. The smoke was wafting from the drawer next to the oven, which we promptly pulled out to investigate. What oh what could it be? We shut everything off and called the front desk to summon maintenance.

He arrived - a large, old, fatherly Greek man who told us his name was Gus, but when Pat heard his hesitance at sharing his name, pressed him for what she believed had to be a "more complicated" real name, which was learned was Costas. Costas was not an electrician by trade, but more a jack of all trades, in charge of doing evening maintenance around the Flanders. He checked out the stove, the back of the cabinet, the little breaker box - all of which had been turned off for at least 5 minutes, with no smoke in sight. He told us, "There must have been moisture on the wires. Maybe it's gone now? Just finish your cooking." If it comes back, I'll come back.

Dinner: The Second Try

We looked at each other and shook our heads. Did he not SMELL the plastic burning that had caused us to need to open every window in the suite? Well, alright. Guess we'll do this again. And on went the burner and on went the oven (with it's little pins that functioned as buttons, all of which had gone missing since we were here 2 summers ago, so you had to move the pins from hole to hole to turn it on and remember what setting was on each button - it was like a mini strategy game or one of those puzzles you get at Denny's with the pegs and holes. I was proud I cracked the code and could get it - now TWO times - onto Bake at 425F.)

We cooked for a while longer - JUST long enough for the awful chemical tinged smoke to start pouring out again. Now this time, we were determined the keep the burner and oven going until Costas returned - he HAD to see what was going on. So we stepped away, as Pat called the front desk, held our nose and waited, as Dylan claimed he was grabbing his Nintendo DS and Foam Tower if there was suddenly a fire. I of course told him I would only be concerned with grabbing HIM. But if pressed, I'd say I'd take my backpack w/ laptop and phone. Maybe our cute underwear too. Sandals? The cooler. No matter. There was no fire.

We ended up not being able to take it, and turned things off before he arrived, but he did - after a more thorough investigation - decide that, as he stated later, "whoever installed this stove should be put in jail." Because the new four burner stove had been installed on what had been a 2 burner stove breaker box, the stove and oven being on had essentially put too much strain on the breaker, causing it to literally start going into overdrive and melting the wires.

The solution - was there another nearby room where we could cook our food?

And then carry it through the halls or god forbid, up the elevator, to be eaten in 906? If the room was empty, with stove in working condition, was there a reason we couldn't simply MOVE to this other room, and avoid the possibility of tripping on decades old brocade carpet and sending flying into the glichee paintings a platter of 8 burgers and our only hope of dinner that night?

Our Savior: Maggie from the Front Desk

Maggie arrived to save the day. "We have another suite - it's down on 2 - it's got a working oven and stove - would you like to see it? You could move down there right now." We all followed her down to 2, through the fancy trappings of the cocktail reception area and past the ballrooms. Floor 2 is used as their event space, and overlooks the reception room that's part of the first floor, via windows right across from our new room.

We entered the room and it was BEAUTIFUL. Not the white walls and beach-y art of 906, it was tastefully appointed in warm tons of brown, beige, with rich dark wood chairs and beautiful rugs topping hardwood floors. The kitchen - well, it was a site for sore eyes. A full size fridge and stove beckoned us to cook all weekend, and we could not say no. YES OF COURSE WE'LL MOVE.

The Great 10pm Move

So up we went to the 9th floor again, with 2 carts in hand, to re-pack every food item, every bottle and can, every towel and knife and frying pan, every piece of clothing, every bottle in the shower - back onto the carts, and then down 7 floors into the elevator, then across the cocktail reception area and onto a wheelchair lift to go up the 8 stairs that led to the promenade rooms. (Another adventure!)

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Then, at 10:15pm - the unpacking began again. I tackled the kitchen, which we tried to simultaneously align with Abbi's cooking of burgers since at this point we were all quite hungry. Dylan, bless his heart, unpacked some of the bedroom stuff. I had no interest or need to unpack and hang clothes at this juncture, but I'd be damned if the living and eating area wasn't going to be ready for us to FINALLY eat dinner at 10:45. And - with a few tense moments concerning the heating of Teflon - eat we did.

The Happy Ending

The burger salad was one of the best I'd ever had. Because I hadn't eaten in 8 or 9 hours and also because it was born of teamwork, problem solving and determination.

We slept well last night. The room was cold and our bedroom has no windows. I dreamt Dylan and I were on vacation in a faraway land, and our room looked onto a bar and casino floor, and he loved it, and we got to lie in bed AND people watch at the same time - the marriage of two things we each love, combined at last.

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And this morning, I made Pat and I coffee. I returned to 906 to retrieve our dish soap - the one forgotten item (I left the dish rag Pat had brought, good riddance, we have real sponges now.) And here we are. It's 10:24, all the others are still asleep and we have the next 12 hours to make whatever we want out of this glorious day.

BarCamp 10: The perfect intersection of community and chaos

Wow. So much wow. It's BarCamp day! It's Saturday, of course, but a Saturday in October, and that is new and strange and different for a BarCamp day.

The day has gone...swimmingly. I wouldn't say that it has gone perfectly. But what is perfection, really? Perfect things - are they really perfect, or do they just have a visage, a sheen of beauty and order? And underneath they may be chaotic or broken or sad.

But BarCamp...well, it's a disorder for sure, but also a harmony, a rhythm of the day, a chorus of voices, a bouncing back and forth of random occurrences and chance meetings and networks colliding and intersecting.

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It is the perfect intersection of community and chaos, and that's why I love it so much. We sold out last night - over and out actually, with 511 tickets sold. As of this morning at 9:45am, the room was mostly full of people wearing grey BarCamp shirts and drinking coffee and eating bacon and I got to look out over it all and soak it in and make my sponsor announcements and relish the fact that this day was made by us.

The six of us worked for months to make today a reality, and I am so thankful to be a part of that. It's so joyful and beautiful to wake up before dawn on this fall day to truck to Wharton to setup tables and then floor stands and whiteboards and paper signs and food and coffee and the Board and the schedule, and this year, the mic and speakers and the BCP10 crafting room in the drum.

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And then, just before we're ACTUALLY ready, the steady flow of people entering the forum, with energy and excitement, figuring out what they're going to talk about, seeing people they haven't seen in a long time, hugging, talking, catching up, eating breakfast.

It's energizing and thrilling and even though I spend most of the morning running around, fixing things, it's wonderful to just be here., to be surrounded by all of this positivity.

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I was at lunch today with Dylan, sitting next to a group of BarCamp attendees. We had introduced ourselves in the beginning when we sat down, but we were definitely having our own conversation and were kind of in our own little world. But of course, half my ear was eavesdropping on their conversation about movies and TV, and then eventually, turning back to BarCamp sessions in the afternoon.

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I heard them talking about the schedule online not matching up with the physical board and I was about to jump in to tell them that was being updated, but to go with the physical board when in doubt - but they told each other.

And as I heard them explaining what "they" (us) had said earlier today, I knew that is why BarCamp is a success every year. Because the attendees pay attention, they speak up, they inform each other and themselves, they share information and welcome each other into the fold.

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As organizers, we just have to set up the right conditions for a BarCamp to happen - make sure the shirts and the food and the name badges arrive. But the volunteers and attendees - they're who makes BarCamp happen in reality. And for them, I am so thankful today.

I am going to spend this afternoon and after party taking it all in. Taking deep breaths, eating a little, drinking a little and talking to all of the people who have made an impact on my time in Philly and here at BarCamp. I am going to embrace this wonderful group of people (figuratively, and probably, as the night goes on, quite literally.)

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And I am going to count my lucky stars that I found my way here back in 2013, when I was brand new to living in Philly and the tech/meetup scene.

Thanks Michelle for bringing me to my first BarCamp way back when. Thanks to Dave for inviting me the following year to be an organizer. Thanks to Mo, Joe and Brian for bringing me into the fold and entrusting me with something as important as sponsorships and email communications and every little things I've gotten to do in my time here. Thanks to Briana for joining us to save the day with gifs and all kinds of support. Thanks to all of the amazing volunteers who make this day run like clockwork. And thank you - all of you - who have attended BarCamp this year and for the past 10 years. You are what makes this day the best day of the year.

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My Reminders for Who I Want to Be in 2016

Every year in my teens and early twenties, New Year's Day would bring lots of declarations of losing weight and getting more done and doing things everyday. I didn't really understand how to create good habits, and while I was filled with optimism, I had no follow-through. 

In the past few years, I've tried instead to write a list of reminders from the past year - some things I've learned that I would like to remember as I embark on this fresh start, this new year full of days that are mine to spend how I choose. 

So here are my reminders for 2016. Let's spend this year building upon good habits we already have and cultivating a new one, if we can carve out the time. It's going to be a great year, I just know it.


1. Drink water like it’s going out of style.

It is literally the most important thing you can put into your body. It will keep you healthy, keep your skin intact, keep your organs clean, help you digest your food, keep you fuller longer after you eat, replenish every cell in your body after a tough workout or a long night. It is more energizing than coffee and will make you feel better than alcohol. Drink water at every occasion this year. Don't be afraid to ask for refills at restaurants. Fill up frequently at work. Bring it in the car on trips - long ones and short ones. 12-15 cups, everyday.

2. Believe in your power, smarts and beauty.

You honestly have a good thing going with what you've done already, and you keep up the habits, schedule and goals to keep it going. This is a big one, as it encompasses many of your insecurities. It's hard to believe in yourself in everything you do, but part of it is not being afraid to appear less powerful, less smart or less beautiful. It's knowing that overall, you are those three things and everyone that knows you knows it too.

3. Don’t skimp on sleep.

You seem to think that going to bed at midnight and crawling out of bed at 6:30 is the way to do it. You get mad at yourself for not succeeding at that everyday (or most days). You're made at yourself for being late, for feeling rushed in the morning, for not going for runs before work, for not having time to meditate in the morning. But the answer is not getting less sleep or taking less medicine or putting your alarm clock two rooms away or getting a sun lamp. It's about going to bed earlier. Like you used to. Try to get into bed at 9:30. I know that feels weird now, and you won't always be able to do it. But you will feel 1000x better in the morning when your alarm goes off at 6:30, if you've already drifted off to sleep by 10:30.

4. Trust your instincts.

There are literally thousands of decisions to make everyday. You jump from thing to thing mostly on instinct, but the truth is when it comes to those bigger choices, instinct usually directs you where to go, too. There is something to be said about research and talking it through, but your heart knows what's best for it, and that should be good enough for you, too.

5. Remember you will never regret working out.

Seriously, when you go back and forth about it, and talk yourself out of it, you may reap small benefits like getting a little more work done, but what is 30 minutes more tasks in a day, when you could get 30 minutes of sweat in, make your heart healthier, have more energy, make your muscles stronger, increase your endurance, get better skin, sleep better at night, have less anxiety and just generally feel like a badass because you chose YES? It isn't much compared to all of that, so just do it.

6. Wear flattering clothes and take pride in your appearance.

When you look nice, you feel better. That is a fact. Losing weight is great, but there is no reason not to look fabulous today, at today's size and with today's shape. Pick out new clothes that flatter your shape today - not two years ago or 4 months from now. Select outfits that make you happy and feel good, but also make you look like the woman you want to be. Brush your hair, curl it up, blow it out. Do your makeup - spend a couple extra minutes on the foundation and eyebrows to really look polished. Pick out accessories each and every day - at least earrings. Sit up straight. Walk tall. Smile. 

7. Save money.

No, really, I mean it. This is something you have gotten better at, but where there is so much opportunity for growth. You and Dylan make more money combined than you have ever had in your entire life, but you have also gotten really, really good at spending it. Try sticking to a budget for a month. Then do it again. Create systems in place that save $5 here or $10 there. Cut out the things that don't matter. Making eating out or takeout a special occasion. Don't go overboard on groceries you don't need. Make food everyday. Ask friends over instead of going out. Don't drink alcohol in restaurants. There are 1000 little ways to save money, and if you can double or triple your savings by the end of next year, you will be in a far better position to have a wedding, buy a house or get ready to have some babies than you are now.

8. Read a lot of books.

You love to learn. You love to engage, be absorbed in a subject. Take this year - and those 30 or 45 minutes in bed every night, to get a few chapters of a book in. See if you can beat Mark Zuckerberg and his 26 books in a year. Read the books you have, borrow ones from friends, get recommendations, learn new things, go outside your comfort zone.

9. Say yes a lot, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to.

Some of the best nights of your life have been ones you could have said no to. Some of the best experiences you've had have been things you said yes to because you were curious or excited or full of optimism. Not every experience is a great one, but you thrive on living in the moment and being busy. But all that being said, saying no is still ok too. Give yourself time and space to get things done, to stay on top of your life and your work.

10. Be grateful each and every day for what you have.

You have so much in your life, more than you have ever had before. Take time each day to appreciate it all and remember you are lucky, you have earned it and you will do everything you can to honor and respect all that there is for which to be grateful.

Toast to Jill Clark on her 60th Birthday

Jill Patricia Beckwith Clark is my mother. She's also a wife, a sister, a friend, a coworker, a chef, a carpenter, a gardener, a landscaper, a baker, a crafter, a creator, a therapist, a dog sitter, a confidante, an advocate, a career counselor, a party planner, a list-maker and maybe a few hundred other things.

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I grew up thinking my mom was the best. She was able to guide me into building the most creative, cool projects like board games about dolphins and an inverted family tree shaped like a conifer. She took me to craft fairs where she'd sell her own amazing creations - woven baskets and multicolored broaches - but she'd encourage me to make my own little crafts to sell - like earrings made out of cereal. She upheld traditions in our family that hold strong to this day. Decorating the Christmas tree together, building gingerbread houses from scratch, celebrating the summer together with a big picnic, big family pancake breakfasts - with 2 kinds of pancakes! 

But it wasn't until I was an adult that I truly understood how amazing she really was. She made our lives so happy and full of joy, growing up. Even when things were hard, she looked on the bright side and helped us do the same. She supported us through everything we tried, everything we succeeded at - she was cheering on the sidelines. Everything we failed at - she was there with a hug and a smile. She helped us build our own lives as adults - find our wings and soar. And she celebrated us every step of the way. She made us feel as loved as when we were kids, even when I moved 300 miles away.

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We are all so lucky to have her in our lives. She makes our occasions brighter, our days sweeter, our lives happier. She cooks for us, buys us creative gifts, tells us stories, laughs with us, asks us questions about our lives, shares our joy with us. She makes time for us all, and makes us feel loved, whether we're her child, husband, friend, brother, sister, niece, nephew, cousin.

She will always be my mom. But she is also one of my very best friends, my favorite person to confide in, to bounce ideas off of, to get excited about the future with. And she is my inspiration to be the kind of woman, wife and mother she has always been and I hope to be.

Mom, you are so many things to so many of us. You are strong and beautiful and kind and generous and creative and positive and brilliant. Today, we're gathering to celebrate you. But in our everyday, in our smiles and our little kindnesses to each other, we celebrate you everyday. Thank you for being you. 

To Jill!

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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

10 Things I've Learned while Working from Home

I get a little stir crazy when I work from home.

Working from home is much more interesting with pets.

Working from home is much more interesting with pets.

Recently, I was laid up with a hip injury (What? I'm 31.) and worked from home for just 2 days. After a weekend doing freelance and volunteer work from home, I felt compelled to come at this the right way, so that I would have a better chance of keeping up with a tight schedule and lots of deliverables. I'd worked from home when I was at a startup last year, and know I had some pitfalls like distractions, eating too many snacks or never shutting my computer off and stepping away from work.

The good news is, I was able to streamline things and may have actually gotten more solo work at home than I do at the office. Working from home cuts out much of the day-to-day office minutes I usually spend; communting is #1, also chatting, going to the coffee shop, getting lunch, running errands, hitting up the farmers market. I do try to make a little time for work pleasantries - each time I talk to someone new that day, asking how they are, chatting briefly about non-work.

Part of the joy of working from home is flexibility - being able to run an errand or head to a doctor's appointment at the drop of a hat. Or being able to wake up at 8:15 and work in your PJs for 2 hours. But it's all about achieving a balance between flexibility and structure that will help you shine. A few things I gleaned from working from home this time, and over the past 8 years. 

1. Don't check all of your email all of the time. Make time for it throughout the day. Don't react each time one comes in.
2. Keep calls short and sweet. Unless you're brainstorming. No one wants to be on the phone for 30 minutes at a time each time you talk.
3. Sit in a comfy chair. Get up and walk (at least around the room) a few times an hour.
4. Headphones are great for conference calls, but only if they work. Keep a spare pair of headphones around for instances that they fail.
5. Hydrate!! If you're drinking tons of water, you'll be less likely to snack on all of the delicious things in your kitchen.
6. Don't forget to have delicious things in your kitchen. It is an awesome thing to be able to take 15 minutes and make yourself a scrumptious homemade lunch, vs. running out everytime and getting whatever is closest/fastest/cheapest. (For us, that would mean tacos and Korean, but who needs to drop the cash everyday?)
7. Be available. Relentlessly available. If you're not at your computer because you're making cocoa or running an errand, check in on all channels when you return. 
8. Know thyself. Know thy distractions, thy strengths and thy weaknesses. Build a routine that is flexible, but gives structure to your day. Stick to routine (when you can.) 
9. Keep your workspace clean. Nothing worse than feeling like your home life is encroaching on your work life. Piles of papers and yesterday's mail shouldn't take prime real estate in your desk area.
10. Pets love when you're home. They just love it.

I'd love to know about your experience working from home. Do you jive on a particular playlist? Do you work on your kitchen floor? How do you make yourself the most productive version of yourself at home?

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