Category Archives: Friends

Little Sister in The Big Crapple

I’m 10,999 days old today.

I know this because it is the last day I get to be a younger sister.

He won’t be older than me tomorrow.

He won’t have done life first so I can watch how he does it before I have to.

And there is no way around it; that sucks.

I continue to have no interest in being an only child, and I also have no interest in being an oldest child. But somehow, I am going to be both now.

Turns out I don’t get a choice in the matter.

So I’m spending the weekend New York City, probably the place Shane hated most in the world (he maturely referred to it as “The Big Crapple.”) with my best friend. And we’re spending the long weekend eating a lot of brunch plus going to musicals plus day-drinking plus buying all the Mood fabric plus doing essentially every other stereotypically white-privileged-cliche-girl-in-NYC thing we can think of.

Because we are big fans of said garbage-city (and admittedly, as we discovered today, smells much more like garbage when it’s warm out, wow). And because I have to be the first one to turn 11,001 days old. And because I have to do life without an older brother in every sense of the word now.

I might as well start doing that with a mimosa in-hand.


It’s VBS week. I haven’t done VBS since I was in VBS but for some inexplicable reason I am helping with it this year. And I use the term “helping” loosely because if the crafts leader were being honest she would probably have to admit that she’d be more efficient without me.

See also: I had to count a stack of papers four times today. I am still not quite clear on whether there were 16, 17, or 18 in it. (They only taught us to count to 10 at A&M.)

And of course, the other reason the word “helping” is used loosely is that I may or may not have a moderate fear of groups of children, which as I understand it is a socially unacceptable fear when you’re working with groups of children.


Deep breaths, everyone.

Anyway, there’s me and some other volunteers in the crafts area (because as we have learned, Mandy is crafty!!), including a new friend from my Sunday school class, and then a group of teen helpers too.

So Rachael, said friend from said Sunday school class, jokingly asked one of the teen girls last night whether the kids still say “cool” these days, to which the teen replied “uh, no, not really.”

Rachael and I exchanged that certain incredulous glance that two 30-year-olds exchange when their illusion of youth suddenly comes tumbling down around them.

“Wait, what?” she asked.

“You’re kidding, right?” I chimed in.

The three girls exchanged uncomfortable glances and looked back at us like students who just gave the wrong answer in class.

“Um, no, nobody really says ‘cool’ anymore,” the girl replied.

Within moments, we were both peppering them question after question, all of them some variation of:

“WHAT do you say instead?”

(The answer? “Chill,” “sick,” or maybe “neat.” The internet* later added the words “shiny,” “dope,” “nifty,” “spiffy,” and of course “tizight.” to my new, very uncool list.)

As Rachael and I got more and more intense in our drilling them with questions, they got more and more uncomfortable. (I can’t imagine why.)

By the end of the conversation I had one of the kids by the shoulders, shaking her with wide eyes screaming “JUST TELL ME WHAT DID YOU REPLACE IT WITH AND WHY!?” **

I’m not crazy. I just really need data. In a crazy, crazy, socially unacceptable manner.

When our group leader mercifully excused them from the awkward conversation, me holding Rachael back as she tried to charge and swing at them,** they grabbed their belongings and darted at lightening speed toward the staircase in uncomfortable silence.

As they rounded the corner, we heard all three bust into uncontrollable laughter and immediately begin chattering about the preceding conversation. Rachael’s eyes lit up and she whipped her head around toward me.

“They were totally making fun of us!”

The group leader tried to convince us that that was a good thing because they were bonding! And that the joke’s on them, we can drive and they can’t! Score!

Later, Rachael and I were texting.

“What I usually tell kids when they think I’m uncool is that I eat ice cream for dinner sometimes and that nobody tells me no.” I typed. “I’ll take a grown-up paycheck over being cool. I wasn’t cool before anyway.”

“Man. I’m lactose intolerant and a stay at home mom. Burn,” Rachael responded.




At least she can drive.

Driving is pretty cool.

*YES, OKAY, I spent the evening Googling “Do kids still say cool?” I am a thousand years old.

**That didn’t happen.


Nashville Panorama-small

I visited Nashville this weekend.

My buddy Alece lives there, with her own grown-up house and everything. And my buddy Ellyn lives a distance away that she deemed worth driving to meet us, despite the hours and the gas and oh yeah the HORRIBLY DANGEROUS ICY ROAD CONDITIONS all the way through the two states before “ours.”


So yeah, two of my favorite people were in the same rooms with me for the last three days, is what I am saying. And then I discovered a whole other person in the room, and she became a favorite too.

It’s magical how that happens, connection. Between the ones you already loved or between the ones you just met and somehow already love too.


It felt filling, being with them. Like a really, really good quality meal. And I would know something about that because Nashville is apparently the food capital of the world, as far as I am concerned right now. Honestly after all the places Alece and Tracee introduced us to this weekend, I am baffled at why the show “Nashville” is an ABC show about music and not a Food Network show about the best chefs in the industry.

Or maybe it should be a show on the… Photography channel? Maybe that’s a thing? Because, wow, the light and the architecture and the character of this place, it was made for photographing.

Case in point:






And now I am writing this on a plane back to my own home, with its comfy couch and happy little dog and the boy who sings loudly and the beautiful wood floors that I still can’t believe are mine, and all the ingredients nearby to try my best to re-create that barbecue sauce I had on a brisket taco that I am sure I will obsess over until I either get it right or get back to Nashville for the next Local Taco hit. Or that pork from Husk, oh man, that pork, with the insane mix that included mustard, lime, and onion, among, it seemed like, a hundred other flavors.

(Did I mention Nashville’s food scene is incredible?)

I am flying home full.

And also kind of hungry after writing about all of that, and I didn’t even get in to the handcrafted cocktails or the short ribs or the croissant French toast and oh my goodness I did not stay long enough, did I?

But home is pretty filling too.

(Especially if I can figure out how to recreate that barbecue sauce.)

Tonight I am thankful for both places.


This morning when I got to work, my buddy Cathy was on the phone, so I quietly snuck in behind her and placed the coffee I had picked up for her on the way in on her desk. She turned around and gave me the most adorable look and a big smile, like she was excited that I had finally arrived. I walked away smiling too, knowing she would probably bring that coffee into my office with her after she got off the phone, and we would take a few minutes to catch up and chat, the way we often do when I get to work on slow quiet mornings.

As I walked into my office and logged into my computer for the day, I thought about Cathy and the rest of my friends and family, and how wonderful they are, individually and as a group.

And I thought, “I love my life.”

A split second after that thought began, though, another overlapped it.

“Shane died.”

And instantly I felt guilty. Now, realize, I understand logically that you can both love the life and blessings you have been given without betraying the brother for whom you are still grieving, but logic doesn’t always apply in grief. (Or, ever apply in grief?) It was a betrayal! I don’t love everything about my life! A huge part of it is pretty darn sad right now, and on some days the hole in my heart seems to stretch so big that I can barely feel anything but emptiness.

But even so, both feelings seem to find their way into my heart, the grief and the joy, co-existing and intertwining and awing and confusing me all at once. (And making me feel guilty sometimes too, apparently.)

My brother died, but I am surrounded by friends who love and support me, making me laugh or leaving me alone or wrapping their arms around me, depending in what I need at the moment.

My brother died, but his perfectly-matched wife still seems to want me in her life and I am probably closer to her now than most anyone in the world.

My brother died, but his son is growing and learning and thriving and filling me with love beyond my wildest imagination.

My brother died, but my family still loves and cherishes each other, not fighting over anything. I don’t take that for granted for one second after seeing two different parts of my family fall apart after loved ones died. Despite the years that have passed, many members don’t even speak anymore. That won’t be Shane’s legacy, and for that I am infinitely thankful.

My brother died, but he will be waiting for me in heaven one day, and that thought makes me look forward to it more than I ever thought possible. He made heaven as real for me as a neighboring town that I just haven’t visited yet. He made death 100% not scary. I’m good to go.

I thought maybe this Thanksgiving we might have a hard time finding things to be thankful for after all the hell we jut went through, but it’s just not the case.

Yes, there is grief. And sadness and unfairness and emptiness.

But also so, so much to be thankful for.

Everything will be okay

We feed and bathe the kid, clean up, then watch Project Runway together late into the night. We make snarky comments about the show while drinking wine and we laugh.

And for a moment, or several moments even, it feels like he’s still just in Brazil and this is just another visit. Like nothing horrible went wrong. Like everything will be okay.

And I guess as long as she’s around, it will be.

Thank God for her.

Shane’s Eulogy

Because apparently I just can’t keep it together, here is the text. It should make more sense.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Job said this when everything dear to him was ripped away, and though I still haven’t had to break any pottery, I am starting to understand where he was coming from.

The “takes away” part is really hard, especially when it seems this unfair. But God didn’t promise us fair, and he also doesn’t make mistakes. He did, however, promise to work all things together for His good, even if that doesn’t mean our personal happiness. We are clinging to that, and it’s an easy thing to believe when this much good came from just thirty years of Shane. We all know how the Lord takes away. Today I want to try to capture some of the infinite ways the Lord gave, because He did give so much through Shane.

My brother was barely 30 years old. 30 years, one month, and twelve days, actually. Which, coincidentally, is exactly 11,000 days. (Thanks, Google!)

This calculation reminds me of that song from RENT, Seasons of Love. You know, five hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes? You might not think of Shane when you think of musical theater, but every so often he shocked me by referencing lyrics from some obscure Broadway show. I would stare back at him blankly and think “who ARE you?” Did he just, look up lyrics and memorize them to freak me out because I love musical theater? Of course, this is the same guy who bought every Jay-Z album and yet knew every word of pretty much every Kelly Clarkson song too. Maybe he really did like Broadway. Maybe he just liked his sister.

Growing up I considered myself lucky every time Shane let me play with him (even though I usually ended up tackled on the ground in a football helmet because if I wanted to play with Shane he wasn’t exactly going to play ‘tea party’ with me.), or when he let me tag along with him on trips to Sonic in his red Corsica. Even as an adult, all I really wanted was my brother to think I was cool, and that he would want to hang out with me. Miraculously, he did seem to actually want that. When he decided to go engagement ring shopping for Cassandra, I was the one he asked to go with him. I was elated. The last time I was here visiting him in the ICU, he asked how long I was staying, and I told him I didn’t know. “How long do you want me to stay?” I asked. “New Year’s Eve,” he replied.

Shane would surprise you.

And he was hilariously surprising, especially in conversation. I think that’s what people liked best about him – his quick wit and just-irreverent-enough sense of humor. I have more off-the-wall Amazon gift cards than I can count with notes like “To Mandy, from Jesus and his Elves” attached. One time, Cassandra walked into the kitchen to a handwritten note on the fridge that said “Dear avocados, I wish you were guacamole. Love, Shane.” As she said later, how do you NOT make guacamole after that?

He taught my husband Jack a really fun trick he used when he wanted Cassandra to get up and get him something (usually food). “Just make a really loud, annoying noise over and over and over, until she finally says ‘WHAT!? WHAT can I do to make you STOP making that noise?’”

Shane was kind of a bad influence on Jack over the years. If Shane started a sentence “Hey Jack, you know what’s funny to do?” I knew I was in big trouble. But to see them talking and giggling from across the room was one of my favorite sights. I adored the relationship between Jack and Shane almost as much as I adored my own relationship with Shane.

But he would surprise you in other ways too. When I was accepted to Texas A&M, which he was already attending, he completely decorated his apartment for our visit to College Station, complete with balloons, streamers, and a giant handmade banner. On his door, he taped up a hand-written sign that said “An Aggie’s Brother Lives Here.” I walked in, looked at him, and thought “who ARE you?”

He loved generously.

I have to assume that this room is full of recipients of that generosity in some way or another. He wasn’t touchy-feely about anything, but he would bend over backwards for you if he had the opportunity. My BikeMS accounts over the years have been full of donations he sent after selling more Celtics tickets than I can count and running March Madness brackets with all the proceeds going to the MS Society on behalf of me and my mom. One time when I tweeted a picture of a KitchenAid mixer I was coveting in a store, it showed up on my doorstep two days later with the loving unsigned note “Cram it up your cram hole.” I knew immediately it was from Shane.

What probably isn’t so surprising to anybody in this room is how smart he always was. That had a lot to do with how hard he worked.

When we were kids, he sought out a part time job that combined his love of technology with his love of sports, and was hired by a Chicago company called “Stats Incorporated” to keep live stats for various sports game using the program he wrote specifically for that purpose.

He was 12 years old at the time.

From there, I watched as he worked with his high school and college sports teams, introducing them to technology that they hadn’t even considered yet and improving the way they did everything. After he graduated, he was hired at the Boston Celtics, initially for a simple IT role, but he convinced them to also let him analyze stats, write complicated programs, and run all of their technology. He left six years later and I’m guessing that anybody who worked with him would say that he left the Celtics a better place than he found it.

Most people were surprised to hear that he was leaving his dream job, but Shane had more important things to do. See, Cassandra was pregnant with Devin, and he felt it was essential that he work a schedule that would not take precious time away from his relationship with his wife and kid.

I think he got that from our dad.

“I actually couldn’t be more excited about it,” Shane wrote on Devin’s blog after his move. “Including my four years in college, I’ve had a solid ten years of being selfish, spending money on me, and not worrying much about anyone else. Myself and I had a good run. I’m happy I get to have a little person who depends on me now. I think I’ll enjoy playing with legos on the floor of a messy living room with a two year old instead of shooting a bunch of civilians with an AK47 on the Xbox. I’m sure I won’t mind having to wear headphones while I shoot civilians with an AK47 on the Xbox after my kid goes to bed. I think I’ll enjoy spending some extra time cooking healthier meals so my kid learns good eating habits instead of just grabbing fast food. I might not mind going a couple years without sleep having a baby in the house.

On Monday, I started my new job in Colorado Springs. I left my house at 8:18 AM. I walked in the door to my office at 8:29 AM. I didn’t spend those eleven minutes feeling sorry for myself about not getting to do things that were fun for me that day. I spent them thinking about how awesome it would be to have an extra two hours every single day that I can spend with my family. So maybe I gave up the “dream job” to move to Colorado. That’s fine with me. Colorado in itself is great, but it gives me the best opportunity to make what’s fun for me and what’s fun for my family align themselves. That’s what makes moving to Colorado the perfect thing for us right now. Well, that and the season ski pass to Vail.

Shane loved his kid. Man did he love his kid. It almost surprised me how good he was with Devin immediately because he was never big on babies or kids. But he really did adore Devin. I rarely saw him not on the floor with the kid, or throwing him in the air, or blowing in his face to make him laugh or making crazy noises at him. He was so excited to watch him grow and learn, and every milestone for Devin was a milestone for Shane. Devin and Cassandra were Shane’s dream come true.

And obviously, Cassandra was the only person in the world that Shane loved more than Devin.

The way that Shane and Cassandra were both built individually fit together perfectly. Sometimes I would look at the two of them together and think “Wow. God made that so right.” I don’t really need to elaborate on this since I know everybody here understands exactly what I’m talking about, but I love the way Shane described it in a blog post a few years ago.

“I am pretty sure I’ve said this before, maybe to Cassandra, maybe to other people; I don’t know I haven’t kept track, but I’ve said it. I’m lucky to be with Cassandra, and it’s for this overwhelming fact of nature: Cassandra dislikes a given random stranger more quickly and decisively than most anyone else. They don’t have to speak, they don’t have to do anything, and many times they don’t even have to be within 50 miles of her. I doubt it’s a personality flaw, because most of the time she’s right. The average random person is an idiot. It’s a bit of a fluke in the universe that I got in good with her, but I have a theory on how it happened. We were assigned to work in a group. We both agreed to work together, and then another idiot jumped in and asked to work with us. All of the sudden, I wasn’t the irritating person, and I got temporary immunity as long as we were in a group with someone much dumber than either one of us. By the time we were done with the project, she had decided I wasn’t worthless. So thanks, Computer Science Idiot. I couldn’t have done it without you. Anyway, that brings us back to today. Cassandra got the same look on her face when the girl made the oatmeal “joke” and laughed to herself while her boyfriend rolled his eyes as she got when the Computer Science Idiot invited himself to work with us. The “I’d kill you if it wasn’t illegal” look. The “Are you serious” look. It’s classic. It makes me happy every time I see it. These are the good things about marriage that they don’t tell you ahead of time. I would have loved to have worked “Will you both feel the same utter disdain for idiot-strangers?” into the vows. And, as I found out this morning, after almost two years of being married, I don’t even have to see her face anymore to know it’s coming. I just have to hear an idiot.”

Of course, she is also incredibly kind and capable, and I have no doubt that she’ll raise his kid beautifully. She was good for him. She is good for Devin. She is good for me. She is one of the many, many ways that the Lord gave, and I thank God for her every day.

I know Shane did too. In fact, he told me that one day when we were walking through Target, shopping for essentials at the new house.

“What kind of laundry detergent do you use?” I asked.

“No idea,” Shane replied. “Cassandra does laundry.”

“What kind of dishwasher detergent?”

“No idea. Cassandra does dishes.”

We went through cleaning products and household items and each time he had no idea. Finally, I said “So she just does EVERYTHING for you?”

He looked back at me and exclaimed “Yes! DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW HOW LUCKY I AM!?”

He didn’t want to leave them alone, but at the same time, he was looking forward to what was coming next. From the moment he was diagnosed a month ago, he didn’t seem worried or scared for a moment about death. In his matter-of-fact, straightforward way, Shane was sure about his faith. He knew that his next step would include looking into the face of God in a place we can only imagine. He knew he wouldn’t be the one waiting for us. He knew there were better things in store for him.

And so we are taking comfort in that today, and every day, and every minute, and sometimes every suffocating second. My buddy is gone from this Earth, but I will play and feast and joke with him again. I am sure of it. I will look forward to it every day of my life.

And that’s the very best thing the Lord gave.

Honor her for all that her hands have done.

My jeans are loose.

Which makes me afraid to wash them and find out that they’re just stretched out.

Because, I mean, who washes their jeans all that often?

Everyone? Oh, me too, totally.

Jack and I have been doing this diet thing (which I am NOT a fan of because diets suck and make you feel deprived whereas a healthy lifestyle, while it may not end up giving you as dramatic results, will make you feel good all the time and you won’t have that yo-yo thing going and blah blah blah), because he wanted to try it so I said I’d do it too.

(It’s called the “Advocare 24 Day challenge” and it starts with a cleanse and eww, there is nothing redeeming about that word, and I’m in the “you shouldn’t need supplements if you’re eating real food in the first place” camp, so you can tell I’m SUPER-INTO THIS).

We’re on day… I don’t know. Something toward the end. And we have been cheating. For example, Rosa’s opened nearby yesterday, and there is NO WAY I was going to wait a few days to have a Rosa’s tortilla. No way, dude. Five years is long enough to wait after leaving my beloved College Station Rosa’s.

But, I guess cutting out carbs, dairy, sugar, fried food, and red meat will do something for you, because like I said, my jeans are loose now. Which, along with the year-anniversary of her death, makes me think of my buddy Sara, because,

1) I may have to buy new jeans soon and she always picked out my jeans. ALWAYS. From her house. I texted (tweeted actually) her a picture of every single pair I tried on, butt and all, and she told me which pair to buy. She had a GIFT for choosing flattering jeans.

2) She struggled with the way she felt about her own “jeans size” and body image (though obviously she traded in her jeans for PJ pants after she got sick) her whole life. Her favorite photo of herself was one in which you couldn’t really see her face.

I have been thinking about that lately, especially with the diet thing and Sara’s anniversary date. I use an app called “My Fitness Pal” and have a few friends on there who are SUPER HARD CORE about their dieting and training (Hi Lori!). Which, more power to them, seriously. I use the app to remind myself to think before stuffing ALL THE THINGS in my mouth and to make sure that the calories I choose are worth it, but many people use it differently.

Occasionally, however, I see people updating their status to chastise themselves for eating a cupcake, or going over their calorie goal for the DAY, or something similar. And I always think “I don’t want to live like that.”

I don’t want to live feeling guilty about having eaten way too much of the most ridiculously amazing red velvet cake in the world at Bonnie Ruth’s, because it probably also meant that I was laughing with my husband.

I don’t want to live being a slave to workouts, because it might mean that I’ll have to turn down an invite to go out for a drink (water, obvs) with the girls after work.

I don’t want to live only seeing the flaws in pictures of myself.

I don’t want to live unable to believe my husband when tells me that I’m sexy.

I don’t want to live dreading a day at the beach because it means I will have to wear a swimming suit.

These are all things that we fight all the time (especially us girls, I think), and I’m not always secure or confident about everything, but the more I fall in love with my friends and my God and my LIFE, the more I realize that the way you look is not what makes you matter to them.

(I think Proverbs 31 mentioned that, maybe?)

Sara spent most of her younger years worried about how she looked and how skinny she was. And like anyone, she never completely lost her body image insecurities.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

But we have lived without her for a year now, and people have sure had a lot to say about her beauty during that time. And, though I could never convince her of this (did you SEE those beautiful heart-shaped lips and gorgeous green eyes full of life?), she really was beautiful on the outside.

They have had a lot to say about the other beautiful stuff, too.

Her perseverance.

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.

Her faith.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

Her attitude.

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Her love. Her warmth. Her lovely singing voice. Her sense of humor. Her laugh (and subsequent snort).

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Her kindness. My goodness, her kindness.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Funny. I haven’t heard a single person say a word about her jeans size.

Every time you’re hurt there’s one who has it worse around

I live in a world where I have the kinds of friends I can say anything to without feeling the least bit awkward about it. Because they already know all my secrets.

I live in a world where I can fly across the country and expect to enter my friend’s house feeling completely comfortable together – no adaptation time necessary.

And I live in a world where somebody is waiting for me to come back home to him.

I live in a world where my toes are turquoise and my job is flexible and Dr. Horrible is always available on Netflix and my dog is obedient and I am loved.

It doesn’t matter what else goes on in my world; there is ALWAYS more good than bad.

Being with these people always reminds me of that.

I am not good at typing on a tablet and other tales

I am taking a break from cleaning to blog from my new tablet. Jack surprised me with it yesterday, and it’s all kinds of fancy. It’s a Droid OS, which I’m really liking but it’s taking me forever to type because I don’t really know where things are on this platform. Oh well, no time like the present to learn, I guess.

Speaking of learning, Jack is currently ripping a CD semi-by-himself for the first time. I am walking him through it from across the room but I feel that this is a really important “teach a man to fish” moment. Mostly because I do not want to get up from the couch. Next, I’m going to make him sync his own iPhone. Seriously, this is actually something he has never done on his own before. And the fact that I feeling ridiculously smug about my having not lost it on him yet after answering about a hundred questions about how to install iTunes is a true testimant to just how incredibly, incredibly, incredibly impatient and douchey that I usually am. It’s a really good thing I’m not a teacher.

So, the cleaning. Earlier this evening I was going to tweet how I love it when my OCD friend Brittany comes into town because my house gets really, really clean. And then I thought maybe people would think that I was making her clean my house.

But I don’t make her clean my house. That would be really mean, actually, since anything unsanitary or that she perceives as unsanitary really freaks her out. I learned a few quirks of her OCD when I rudely insisted that I stay in her room for the rest of the trip at my brother’s house after a mouse attacked me in my bed (I would link to that post about the mouse but I do not know how in the Blogger tablet app. I am lost, here [Oh, look, here it is!]). I didn’t realize just how much any dirt, any dirt at all, freaked her out until then.

So, obviously, my house gets really clean before she visits. Ain’t nothin’ like somebody to notice every flaw to turn you into Martha Stewart. I actually kind of like the challenge… I like to think that someday, maybe I’ll get my house so immaculate that Brittany will, at least for a second, consider going barefoot in her bedroom. It’s a tall order, and it will probably never happen, but a girl can dream.

In other news, it was my friend Joel’s last day at work today. This is a terribly depressing blog topic as he is one of my very favorite people in the whole world and I will likely not be seeing him any more ever since he lives far away. So, just forget I said anything about that. We don’t need to talk about it.

I completely realize that this has been quite a boring blog post, but since its main purpose was for me to try typing something longer than a GroupMe message on the tablet and avoiding cleaning (You thought my purpose was to write interesting, witty posts that would entertain you? Well I am not your clown. Move along now. Nothing to see here.) , I think I have accomplished my purpose here.

Check, and check.