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 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.

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 30: Caitlyn Novak, Tempe, AZ

Dear Caitlyn, 

You, my love, are fabulous. I am so lucky that I've gotten to know you these past few years. Not only have you been a great friend to Dylan, you quickly became one of my favorite people in Philly - and now, in Arizona!

My first memories of hanging out with you were in your Philadelphia apartment. Low to the ground and filled with girl treasures, it was a haven for cooking breakfast for dinner, drinking whiskey cocktails, watching comedy and horror and dishing until the wee hours, when we'd sail home on 95 beneath the stars. I loved coming to visit you, since your house was filled with kitty art - but no actual kitties which make you sniffle - unlike our house! 

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We of course, loved when you'd come visit us in the city too. We made memories all over Philadelphia - the Evil Dead musical at the Prince Theater (no splash zone!), mulled wine at Frankford Hall in the dead of winter, the quest to find the perfect Philly burger, margaritas at Copabana with the West Philly crowd, beers all over town - in Philly and up and down MacDade Blvd. 

It was really my luck that you lived here when I first met Dylan, since you were one of the first friends of his that I met. It's so gratifying to be dating someone you really like, meet a good friend of theirs and like them just as much and think to yourself - yes, this person keeps good company. I think he can stay.

When we heard that you were making the journey back to Tempe, we were a bit heartbroken. No more jumping on the highway for 15 minutes to hang out with Caitlyn to watch a movie or sip drinks at happy hour. But you moving south and west meant that you would now be back where you and Dylan met - amongst old friends for both of you. It wasn't until your going away party that we (along with our dear friend Callan) started plotting a girls’ trip in Arizona for the following year.

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To be honest, I didn't know if we'd have it in us to travel all of the way across the country. But god willing, we made it happen.

And boy, I'm glad we did!

From the moment we arrived, you made us feel so at home - you and Danthy! - and we loved every moment of exploring the cities, towns and the desert with you. I still feel bad that we got you dizzy on that trip up 69A to Jerome, but my, did you dazzle us with you beautiful state that day. Seeing the red rocks and blue sunny skies of Sedona, it fully sunk in why so many people flock to the area and call it their home. 

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Climbing South Mountain felt amazing - to be able to look down on all of Phoenix and the country around us felt like an accomplishment - and I couldn't have asked for better hiking partners.

I learned on that trip that you're not just a wonderful friend to Dylan and me, as a couple - you're a true blue friend to me, too. You are an incredible host, an adventurous tour guide, a lively conversationalist, a kind, caring and compassionate shoulder, ear and helping hand, a gorgeous soul - with a gorgeous outside, killer style and attitude to match! 

I honestly am so happy the universe brought us together - and thank Snapchat and Facebook for making us feel not so far apart these days. 

Willow is SnapChat famous!

Willow is SnapChat famous!

I will forever look forward to hearing from you, seeing you - no matter how briefly - and spending time together whenever we get it. I can't wait to plan our next journey, to see your new house someday, to soak in more of your lovely town and best of all - to have lots of uninterrupted quality Caitlyn Novak time.

Thank you for being your awesome self. Be well.

Love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 28: Michelle Cryder, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Michelle,

It was a fateful day almost 2 years ago when we were both on the beach at a Yelp event. I saw a young woman with a striking profile in her floppy beach hat, reading a novel, out of the fray of over-eager NJ and NY Yelpers who were trying to make friends with everyone. I thought, "she's not obsessed with meeting a thousand people. Clearly, that means she's way cooler than all of them. And clearly, she must be my friend." It didn't take long for us to make it so.

I soon learned that we were neighbors, both of the south side of West Philly. I had total apartment envy, once I visited you at home. TWO BEDROOMS? For one person? A mantle?! Your abode was so cute, warm and inviting. The proximity of our places made hanging out real convenient, and we proceeded to meander our neighborhoods in search of the best late night snacks, whiskey cocktails or craft beers.

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Speaking of late night snacks, whiskey cocktails and craft beers, I am deeply in awe and have great admiration for your culinary tastes. I tend to take friends' word very seriously when it comes to new restaurants or recipes, but also with a grain of salt, tempered by how much they may love bad Chinese food or think Yuengling is a great beer. With you, there's no grain of salt necessary. Michelle Cryder restaurant reviews can be taken as gospel. And if you're cooking it, I want to cook it next. I remember fondly the day you gave me a Ziploc full of chopped pumpkin, because you're basically a squash wizard.

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And on the note of wizardry, let it be known you are also a wizard of words. I was delighted to learn you were also a copywriter, and have on many occasions, picked your brain or commiserated about the world of writing - especially on the internet. You know all of the faults and foibles committed by our fellow marketers when it comes to using words. You share my deep passion for impeccable grammar, and your writing extends far beyond the confines of your 9-5 job and college career. You've made a home for your words all over the web, from your amazing blog Whiskey and Watercress to Geekadelphia to guest posts here there and everywhere. You inspire me to write more - to write well - in fact, you were part of the inspiration for this letter writing project after we talked 750words.com together. I wanted to write with purpose, to write for an impact, and this was the direction I chose. We'll see what the next year brings for us both, but I know you have great things in store for your writing...and I can't wait to be along for the ride.

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With all we have in common - ridiculous cats, bearded techy boyfriends, a penchant for quirky jewelry - it's crazy to think how we could *not* be friends. But I still consider myself to be one of the lucky ones who has gotten a view into your world, for it is a lovely one to behold. You are a truly remarkable woman, who has accomplished so much in your young life, and soared to great heights with brilliance and creativity, a mighty willpower, an unflappable sense of who you are and who you want to be and a powerful purpose of being. I so admire you for your strength of character through life's ups and downs. You carry yourself with a grace I only wish I had at 27.

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I am so happy for you and all you've grown and gained (and lost) since we met. You're embarking on some amazing changes - new house, new projects, a soon to be completed degree, a lifetime of awesome to look forward to. I am excited to see what life has in store for you, and what you have in store for all of us.

I am grateful to be your friend and hope we can continue to sip drinks, crack up, commiserate, chill out, lounge, shop, indulge, cook, concoct, collaborate and connect for years to come. You're one of the reasons #whyilovephilly so much!

Love,

Amanda