Sunflowers, surprises, and Shel Silverstein.

A friend is a gift.

I’m not sure if I read them somewhere along the line, or if I’ve just felt their meaning over time, but I’ve always believed those words. At a time in my life when I’ve struggled with the confusing end to some relationships, I’m savoring time with true friends. There’s no question that Amanda falls into that category. Since the day we met in 1984 (gulp), it’s been GAME ON. Living in different states makes our time together positively precious. So about a month ago, while I watched the never-ending snow falling outside of my window and contemplated what to send her for her birthday, a little light bulb went on in my head.

Maybe I could be the present.

There was a series of secret Facebook messages with Amanda’s amazing hubby, Marco, and some giggly brainstorming with another old friend, Erinn. I lamented the frigid late spring weather to Amanda on the phone while clicking “purchase” on a flight to LAX. Suddenly, I was standing on her front porch, hiding behind a huge bouquet of sunflowers. She was expecting to see Erinn, until I poked my head out from behind the flowers. Shock turned to joy turned to tears (from us both). There was a moment where we held hands, laughing in each other’s faces, jumping up and down like we’d just won the lottery. It would have been hard to find something more valuable to either of us right then than each other.


That was the dramatic start to a fabulous 4 days.

There was plenty of time with Amanda’s girls. They’d wake me up by piling into my bed (before daylight) with stacks of books. We baked cookies. We twirled in the kitchen. We enjoyed elaborate tea parties. We went duck-watching. We got silly for the camera. And we laughed A LOT at Shel Silverstein and his crazy poems.


There were fun family dinners, either out for giant margaritas and birthday flan at Sabor, awesome sushi for lunch at Kabuki, or home for a Cali-style BBQ. Over the weekend, we munched delectable beer can chicken, steaks, salmon, baked parmesan broccoli, a cheesy potato casserole, and fresh-baked cookies. We sampled more than one Blackberry Burner (muddled blackberries, rosemary, simple syrup, and tequila) and clinked glasses of our favorite wine.


I spent lots of time admiring the sunshine, Amanda’s green yard, and the stunning flowers that were everywhere. Spring envy!


We snuck away for a ridiculous brunch with Ame and Erinn, which included 6 meals (for 4 of us) and extra spicy bloody maries. What a lovely day, strolling Main Street near the restaurant and popping into shops and even stopping to do a little wine-tasting.


And then, of course, there was the day we went to The Gentle Barn. It’s an animal sanctuary near where I grew up, filled with rescued barn animals like llamas, cows, goats, horses, and pigs. BIG pigs. We wandered around, feeding carrots to the horses, brushing the soft coat of a cow named Buttercup, and evacuating a stall rather quickly when the biggest pig I’d ever seen “stepped on a frog” (Elise’s words for passing gas).


Every second of family time was fun for me, but it was special to get away to the spa with Amanda on her birthday for a massage and a facial, followed by pretty feet. She deserves to be spoiled! Afterward, we sat at a restaurant, sipping wine and munching on spinach dip, and just enjoyed being together. We both knew it would end soon, so we lingered there until the older (than us) “early bird” crowd started wandering in. Flowers and cards were waiting for Amanda at home, and we celebrated at dinner with chocolate cake and creme brulee.


On my last day, we dropped Isabella off at school. Elise gave me a drawing of her family, which included Aunt Amber and (adorable) a bearded Uncle Johnny. We stopped into Starbucks for the last few moments before Amanda had to go to work. I looked over at one point, and her eyes were filled with tears.


It’s hard to remember how fabulous a weekend together was when you have to say goodbye to your other half at the end of it.


At the airport, after being slightly detained because of a wine key I forgot about in my purse, I discovered a message in the ladies room. “Go to the beach,” it said. No- not this time. This time was about being home with my sister and her family. About her real life and being part of it. About laughing and cooking and crying and being together. About adding to our big pile of “Amber and Amanda” memories. I missed my own family tremendously, but I’m already thinking about another visit this fall.


A true friend is really a gift. 


  1. Loving your post – great captures – love that you were the SURPRISE:) The 2 little girls look like a lot of fun to hang with too. Nothing better than TRUE Friends that get your kind of crazy!!! Happy Friday – Happy Weekend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s