This post is not about the bear species (even though panda bears are precious and beautiful creatures).  This post is also not about the rap song by Desiigner (which is not about panda bears, sadly, but apparently about cars).  This post is about a friend who holds a special place in my life.

Today, my friend Amanda turns 30.  Amanda and I have a long history going all the way back to our early teens when, we first met.  Now, I cannot remember the way that we actually met (then again, I don’t remember the first meetings I had with other close friends over the years), but I believe we were about 13 years old and likely met in the cafeteria of our middle school.  It wasn’t until high school, though, that our friendship became stronger.  It took a while, but we eventually bonded over a shared interest in American Idol and a mutual admiration for Clay Aiken.  (Well, she had more of a celebrity crush on him…I just liked his singing.  We both had bad gaydar.).  We were sort of yin and yang: she was the calm, yet stubborn and steadfast Taurus to my impulsive and occasionally off-the-cuff Aries, she was the voice of reason when I had no clue what I was saying or doing, and she was the one to bring me down to earth if I got way too full of myself.  There were times when we had our differences, but we always somehow found our way back to each other.

When her family threw her a very formal Sweet Sixteen party (basically a quinceañera and a Sweet Sixteen all rolled into one), she invited me and my mother, and for her having me there provided an element of fun in a super-formal environment.  I remember her wearing a pink ball gown (and knowing her as well as I do, pink was not really at the top of her list of favorite colors…she was more into purple at that time), and my mom and I had to wear evening gowns; Mom wore a sequined dark blue dress, and mine was a black, flamenco-style number with prints of pink roses on it.  (I actually still have that dress.  I do not currently fit into it, but I keep it in the hopes that I will someday lose enough weight to fit into it.  It was a beautiful dress.).

We talked about the latest music stars together.  I very vividly remember her having a celebrity crush on Adam Levine.  We made our attempts at writing fan fiction together.  Most importantly, we learned about the value of true friendship together.  Around our junior year, the girl who would later become The Lady Bryan entered our circle.  (I could do a whole post about my history with her, too.  But today’s post is all about Panda.  I’ll say that I’ve known Z since long before she got the “Bryan”.).  With her in the mix, our bonds grew even stronger.  We all brought things out of each other’s personalities that really helped to shape who we all are today.  We also had another friend in our group, a younger boy nicknamed “Meatloaf” who I originally met on a bus during a field trip to Disney World after I had a kind of upsetting day.  The four of us ended up thick as thieves.  Then Amanda, Z, and I graduated.  Life happened, and we’ve all drifted apart physically.  Z moved back up to Georgia and eventually married and had a child, although we still try to keep in contact when possible.  I’ve stayed in this same part of Central Florida, being a homemaker and helping to keep things running smoothly around here.  And Amanda and her family moved to a different part of Central Florida that is a considerable distance away from me.  She has her own job, her own friends, and her own life there.  From what I’ve gathered from her social media, she is happy and confident and enjoying life.  I haven’t been able to reach her directly, but overall I’m glad that she’s thriving.  I miss her a lot, but I’ve never forgotten about her.

She and I had no sisters growing up, only brothers.  We were basically each other’s surrogate sister, a source of female companionship in our own age group, someone who each of us could relate to.  I don’t know if she’ll see this post, but the fact that I’m leaving it out here and paying tribute to her and the effect she’s had on me I think should say that she is appreciated.  I do hope she eventually reads this.

Finally, the explanation behind the nickname “Panda”.  Amanda has never cared much for the nickname “Mandy”.  She always preferred the nickname “Manda”.  “Manda”, naturally, turned into the rhyme “Manda-Panda”, which she eventually shortened to “Panda”.

Manda-Panda, wherever you are, I hope your 30th birthday is a great one, and may the year ahead be an incredible one.

You Might Be a Floridian

Knitting on La vie en rose et violet is going pretty nicely.  I have gotten the both of the adjoining sides to the length that I want them at (18 small squares by 18 small squares), and now comes the tedious task of slowly filling in the rest of the blanket, piece by piece, until I have finally completed a giant square afghan.  I promise that I will share more pictures as more and more of the blanket is knit.

Today, though, is one of those random life posts.  I’ve had a pretty good last couple of days.  Friday, I got to see my niece, who is approaching 11 months and will be turning 1 in June.  She is currently at the stage where she can walk while holding on to things, but can only walk 3 or 4 steps unassisted before going back into a crawl.  She is also doing some simple baby talk, but has not spoken simple words yet.  I sincerely hope we are able to attend her first birthday party; it has been such a joy to watch her grow so much in her first year on this planet.

Yesterday, we went down to Orlando to meet up with my mom’s best friend from high school, her boyfriend, her daughter, and her daughter’s family.  Mom’s friend and company were getting ready to head back to New England after spending the winter in South Florida.  The parents and I had lunch at a restaurant on the property we went to (I don’t want to name the location as my dad works for one of this company’s competitors).  Mom and Dad had steak dishes, while I had seafood, including some shrimp and salmon.  We met up with mom’s friend and company at another restaurant they like to frequent when they come to this place, and we spent about an hour or so talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company, but eventually came the time when mom’s friend had to get back on the road so that they could get back to New Hampshire; they were planning on stopping in Georgia for the night and heading on from there (and this is six people all heading in the same direction).  I hope they have a safe trip home, for sure.  The downside of all of this is that the temperature in Orlando was well over 90°F and shade at the place we went to was at a premium.  I ended up with a sunburn on my face, neck, and shoulders, although thankfully it was not a severe sunburn.  I’ll probably be just a little bit more on the pink side for the next few days.  We certainly were glad to get back into the air-conditioned pickup truck after all was said and done.

Our excursion to Orlando yesterday got me thinking.

I am a native Floridian, born in Orlando and raised not too far away from there.  I’d prefer not to share my exact location, but I was raised, and still live, in a somewhat small town within 50 miles north of Orlando.  Though both of my parents were born outside of Florida, both of them have lived here over 40 years (Dad came down as a kid in the late 1960s; Mom arrived after graduating from high school in the early 1970s).  I like to call them “naturalized Floridians”.  When you’ve lived in Florida for as long as we have, you kind of notice things.  Now, I know Florida gets a lot of flack from people (especially the rest of the South, who seemed to have disowned us from the rest of the region), but I’ve been here so long that I’ve grown to love the quirks of this place that I happened to be born into.  With that in mind, I would like to follow in the spirit of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, but instead of “You Might Be a Redneck”, I would like to call this…

“You Might Be a Floridian”

  • If you find yourself wearing flip-flops for 11 out of the 12 months of the year, you might be a Floridian.
  • If the very thought of wearing closed-toe shoes gives you blisters, you might be a Floridian.
  • If the grand prize on a game show is a trip to Florida, and you just say “meh”, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you find a temperature of 50°F downright cold, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you can remember when the local Macy’s used to be a Burdine’s, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you drive by the theme parks in Orlando and you just say “meh”, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you think The Golden Girls is a documentary, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you can tell a tourist by their wardrobe, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you attach your memories to a specific hurricane, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you think there are only two seasons in a given year — wet and dry — you might be a Floridian.

And finally:

  • If you refer to people from up North who move down here as snowbirds, you are definitely a Floridian.

I welcome any other suggestions from fellow Floridians, just post them in the comments for this post.

I hope you have a wonderful day!