The evening began with my invitees actually showing up (which was great!) but also meant I under booked the table. That didn't stop the restaurant from putting together a table for 20 + in a matter of seconds. After that moment, the restaurant should've been called Missy's Cajun Restaurant because we almost took up the entire space! Filled with good company and great food, conversations about travel and the future streamed the airwaves. The waiters took care of us with adamant detail and attention that I couldn't help but smile.
As we were approaching dessert time, I stood beside the middle of table and motioned that the "Roast" was about to begin (my favorite part). I don't know why self-inflicted embarrassing comments in the distant past entertains me so easily, but maybe that's what life's about: looking back at time through the eyes of dear friends and family and chuckling in contentment.
My childhood friend since 3rd grade, Claudia, spoke about how one night when I was sleeping over that I mistakenly said bye to one of her brother's toy trucks thinking it was her cocker-spaniel, Toby (miss you Toby, hope doggy heaven is filled with lots of bones and green grass). Another dear soul, Beverly, reaffirmed my love for food with her story about eating everyone's food when they're not looking. Joyce recalled one underage experience where we went out and how all the liquor she had that night miraculously flew out the window into my lap and how I jumped into the trunk of the Rav-4 in SpiderMan motion. My good friend Chu brought out my inner-punk when he spoke about one conversation we had in his car after an evening with the youth and how I freaked out every time he would flutter the headlights into the woods (too many Blair Witch Projects memories). I enjoyed how Brian "B-boy" spoke the honest truth that when I'm one or two drinks down, how my filters are down and my vulgarity comes out of the woodworks.
Amongst other great stories, I wanted to end the evening with my own "MVP" speech inspired by Kevin Durant's 2014 MVP speech. Yet the night went about on its own righteous path and now finally, having settled in my new humble abode for the upcoming school year, I have the time to recognize those who came out that night and those who were there in spirit. Each one of you has a special place in this here gullible heart. So here goes:
- Illie- "P-Roach" my dear friend of many athletic teams and moments growing up as an athlete at Stafford America, you are my fellow go-getter and I cannot be more proud to be your friend. You continue to develop into a beautiful young woman (yes, we're still young) as a professional, daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend. Thank you for supporting my visions and living wild and free when I needed it the most. Love you.
- Claudia- "Iv3rsoncutie" wow, what can I say that can even sum up our friendship? We've been through a lot and I am so blessed to have had your family as my second family growing up. You're irreplaceable and your daughters are just a highlight to my life! Ride or die, I would do (almost) anything for you and your family! Lol love you!
- The Manalo Family- Matt, Luke, Monique, Mark and Stella, Sam and kids- cowsins! Family! That's forever! Ya'll are just tons of fun to be around and each and every one of you are so talented and I know are going to greatly contribute positivity to this world. Special shoutout to Luke- my NYC/St. John's buddy! There will never be another KFC drive-thru moment like the one we did with Krishan that night on Parsons. Love to the moon and back.
- Amy, Tep and Ethan: My days back home would have been not as exciting without your presence. Seriously, you were only a call away and down for whatever before Ethan and now that you have a wonderful baby boy in your life, it hasn't changed! And I love that about you! You don't let life take over, you take over life! I am so blessed to have you around even during our high school days and after. Thank you for never giving up and always believing in me. I hope to one day be as awesome as you. As a mother and a friend, I am lucky to watch you do it all. Love to the moon and back.
- Ashley: My cheer sis since forever. My peace of mind and friend for so long, you are like my sister. Your support has never ended and I love when we spend time together because we are either debating about sports or life. You get me. And I can only hope I'm a blessing to you as you've been to me. Love you!
- STAY Family:
- JoAnne: girl, I've known you since you were in diapers. Getting closer to you these past couple of months has been nothing short of a blessing. You're like the little sister I never had! And you understand my brother which just makes you even cooler. You're a great person, beautiful inside and out and God has great plans for you. We're going to party next time I'm down. Well, ok, if you're done studying.
- Joyce: Just like my big sister, one can't judge a book by its cover. It's true! On the inside, you have the heart of a child. That's beautiful because not everyone can claim that. You also can control a room full of raging teenagers by one sentence, so I would say you're pretty talented on that end as well. Plus, you make bangin' cupcakes, so whoever would say anything else, will have to deal with JoAnne and I!
- B-boy: laughter for days on end with your honesty. Never a dull moment with you and the best part about you is your willingness to speak up about your faith courageously. You're truly one of a kind. When you get that big baller mansion when you pay off all your dentist dues, can you hook me up with a free cleaning or wha? JK, luhhh you!
- Gudur: Oh, Ravindra. I love getting into debates with you. Because I always win. And you lose. But you never give up without a fight! Such a blessing to serve alongside a man with such a great heart. Ew, ok that's enough nice things. LOVE!
- Lewis: Lew, Lew! Having served with you, then worked alongside you for my blog has been just a great adventure. You have talent, don't ever forget that! I will support whatever endeavor your creativity leads you to. Especially when you interview one of my favorite artists one day. Keep up the great work!
- Del Sol: Just amazing. That is all.
- Matthew: I'm like your number one fan when you sing, (forget Alyssa), so like can I have your autograph? Just kidding, not really. But seriously, the ministry is so blessed to have you and honestly you're one of the nicest people I know. That helps when Alyssa gets mean. OK, but this is about YOU- and all I can say is thank you, just because.
- Alyssa: Well, well, something nice to say about you. You're the spice to my life back home. If you forget about me, just watch your back is all I'm saying. Because you mean too much to just be gone because you're all a nurse and all too busy saving the world. Love you!!
- Eleanor: you're also like family and serving alongside you has been nothing short of awesome. From the jump, I was super comfortable with you and I know your heart will take you far. Thank you for being awesome!
- Elise: Thank you for saving my life that one time I randomly ended up in San Antonio. I know the value of fellowship because you're an example for many. Keep aiming high! We're super proud of you!
- Beverly- The songbird of our lives!! Your talent and just YOU has blessed so many around you and I know I have a sister in Christ for the long haul. Thank you for taking me in as a friend throughout life's endeavors because I wouldn't want it any other way.
- Chu: I'm pretty sure God knew what he was doing by having you at St. Thomas Aquinas and then having you supervise with Bobby. It was to meet me, clearly! Lol, just kidding. Your presence not only blesses my life but everyone who has the privilege to call you friend. I think we're both bold in our faith and in our fashion sense and it's refreshing. This chapter would be impossible without our pep talks and fellowship. You've got a friend in me. Don't forget that!
- Richelle: I'll never forget how God placed you in my life for all the right reasons and at all the right moments. It's a symbol of his love for his creation and I know you exhibit that each time you interact with people. Now you're going to save lives and that's nothing short of what you were destined to do. Your heart and your words have touched my life and I am forever thankful.
- Robyn: Hey Robs, I just saw you and you were the first visitor to my new "flat." Gosh you're old now. Remember when I used to punk you as a young teenager. Yeah, I'll still do it. I am here for you because you're like a little sister to me. I have been there for your milestones and you continue to do that for me. Thank you, love you!
- TJ: Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeej, I appreciate you! Your spirit and welcome-ness are inspiring. I remember when my friends from New York first met you and they were so impressed by "southern hospitality" that they had a new view on Texas boys. All because of your genuine-ness. No matter if we party in H-town or NY, you're good peeps and I'm thankful for you! Going to represent for our people in this big big world! I'll be cheering you on as well, duh!
- Tayo: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, you're so talented. One of the coolest peeps I know as an adult. Like I said, when I need a photojournalist at so and so publication or network, please believe I will hit you up. Keep sharing your talents with the world and the sky's the limit. See you one day in the V.I. waters!
- Vince, Jeff, Chip, Tate: This moment would have been impossible without your help! Forever grateful for your presence along this journey (Former managers, supervisors, leaders).
- My NY friends, MRW: You know who you are. Also part of the reason I am here and also part of the reason why I will forever love New York! My Queens, Brooklyn connects! Special thanks to Mr. Benjamin, a great coach since forever, you play a big part in my journey. Thank you.
- Lola: You would always buy me books from the book fair when mom or dad wouldn't. Of course, you were a big deal in the Philippines (librarian and aide to the mayor) and as the pillar of our family, we owe you all our successes because you sacrificed so much for your kids and grandkids to make it. I will never forget our conversation and how proud you were about me getting into grad school (and I won't forget our talk on boys hahaha). You are my heart. Love you until infinity.
- Sis and Bro: We're a mess sometimes, but most of the time, we have a great time together. No matter the distance away as we grow older, we won't grow apart. Love you both forever because we have a bond unlike any other. Family over everything!
- And last but not least, Mom and Dad: Thank you for sacrificing so much for our family. Ya'll worked so hard so we could enjoy time together as a family. Mom you instilled a pillar of faith and love in our family and we are forever indebted for your love. I hope to one day be as great a mother as you. We're like peas in a pod, and it's kind of scary. LOVE YOU MOM!
Padramos- I get all your corny jokes, but because it's funny. Ok, not all the time, but Chris and I are definitely crazy because of you! No matter how old I get, I'm always your princess whom you'd do anything for. Our family will always be smiling or laughing because of you and your personality. You're crazy, but you make sure to show love and respect to whomever you meet.
THAT'S ALL SHE WROTE. Now, here are pictures that have a thousand words behind them.