the cat story.


Hi there! I need a laugh. Do you need a laugh?


(Quick sidenote: I’m giving you a name because I need a visual. It’s part of my process. So, shh. No more questions, Matilda.)

I digress.

(Another sidenote: It truly bothers me that I tend to write quick, quirky sentences rather than paragraphs. But like…THERE REALLY AREN’T ANY OTHER WORDS. I CANNOT DEAL. My old English teachers are dropping like flies over these life decisions. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that I dependent clause the heck out of everything I do–WHY THE MADNESS. IT’S BEYOND EVEN AN ARTISTIC STRETCH AT THIS POINT. When is enough enough? I know these were the questions you had, Beatrice, so have no fear–I’ve asked them. Rest your soul.)

So story time. Once upon a time, there was a little teeny-bopper named Mandie. And let’s face it, she was an idiot. An overbearing, crazy, pee-your-pants-laughing sort of 20-year old. (Yes, she was 20 at the time of this story–a fact not overlooked by the MUCH OLDER/WISER version of the 20-year-old-in-a-onesie. This current 24-year-old is merely a name-bearer–a new and improved version of the crazy child– who has gone to extreme PR measures to leave all traces of 20-year-old Mandie in 2013 WHERE THEY BELONG. We don’t need that kind of negativity here, 2017.)

So the NEWLY turned–might I add–20 year old had this onesie. It had sock monkeys for feet and SOMEHOW WE ALL THOUGHT IT WOULD TURN OUT OKAY. One cold January night the girl was in a homework-evading mood and thought it would be fun to shove, quite literally, her cat into the onesie and zip her in. You know how 8 year olds shove baby dolls up their shirts and walk around like, “MAMA, I’m having a baaaaby.” Yep. That’s what was occurring at much higher levels of creativity, hyper-activity, and pure stupidity.

Poor Marshmallow.


Her life has never been easy.

Unfortunately, the 20-year-old onesie-loving, cat-loving freak didn’t think about slippage. Yep. The cat began to slip slowly down the leg of the onesie, which the 20-year-old thought was HILARIOUS. So the 20-year-old, cat in semi-tow, hobbled out to the living room where her parents were casually watching the news and started laughing so hard, trying to tell them what the sitch was that all they knew to do was stare in confusion and start counting regrets like WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME, CHILD, AND WHAT IS THE BULGE IN YOUR PANT LEG. AND ALSO, IS THAT A ONESIE.

(Before I go any further, I must admit that this 20-year-old had experienced small issues with bladder control in situations where laughter is present…yeah…she’d peed in almost every house of every friend she’d ever had…because…yeah…this one was a laugher. And EVERYTHING was funny.)

Before any coherent sentence could be formed, the 20-year-old–who had been laughing UNBELIEVABLY hard about such an UNBELIEVABLY stupid situation that she couldn’t even stop the urge–there was NOTHING to be done. The floodgates were unleashed.

And Marshmallow, still in the leg of the onesie, was absolutely DRENCHED. In…you know.

YET SOMEHOW THE LAUGHTER CONTINUED. And the girl now is hobbling to the bathroom, drenched cat in tow, leaving a trail of YOU KNOW WHAT behind. Marshmallow was wiped down with a bunch of Wet Ones and the zipper on the sock monkey onesie soon-after came into a little accident, which I’m pretty sure was God’s nice way of saying, “Girl…no. I do this with love.”

And now, I tell this story to friends who are having bad days or to prove to people who THINK they’re awkward that uhm…I’VE HAD THIS TERRITORY DOWN FOR YEARS. Don’t even mess with me. I came to play.

(Final sidenote: Yes, the cat is fine. The trauma wore off years ago and she even now lets me pet her sometimes, but any move toward torso-level AND SHE IS GONE.)

So to all you kids out there, it’s all fun and games with your sock monkey onesie until someone throws a cat in and zips it up. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, DROP EVERYTHING AND RUN TO A SAFE SPACE.


Hey, Coffee Date: If it was you.


“Hi, I’m Ted Mosby and exactly 45 days from now you and I are gonna meet and we’re gonna fall in love and we’re gonna get married and we’re gonna have two kids and we’re gonna love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away but I am here now, I guess, because I want those extra 45 days with you. I want each one of them.” -How I Met Your Mother

“Hey Mandie,” she’s 17 and I’m 24, looking back, “What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?”

I’m wiping down a blender, listening. Mid-wipe, I pause. It strikes me as odd that I’m being asked because it’s such an old dream by this time that I don’t know I’d recognize it if it was standing right in front of me. It’s like taking an old clock that’s been paused off a shelf, dusting it off and setting the time right all over again, strange how it surges to life. Somehow you forget it even stopped. And somehow I forgot that I’m even in the running to be loved. It’s strange how foreign it feels–that someday someone might hug me tight and want to know all the thoughts locked up in my head. I thought I’d closed all that with 2014 and pixie cuts and picking myself back up.

“Uh…” I’m Amanda  Russell for a minute, no longer in manager mode, “Working, I guess…”

I was going to write a normal coffee date blog post, followed by an empowering Valentine’s Day post for all the singles out there, but somehow I needed to write to you–the person out there who may or may not be looking for me, the person I’m going to need to be there someday. Tomorrow I’ll write my post about being rooted and strong, but tonight is for you and for all the lonely people and wanderers who feel like a piece is missing.

So here’s to you, loves. You’re not the only one alone tonight. You’re not the only one waking up to no one tomorrow morning. And your value is non-transferable, not dependent on relationship status whatsoever.

And to you, whoever you are. If I were to have a coffee date with you, here’s what would go down.

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. It’s 15 minutes after  the agreed-upon time by the time I actually get to our table. We probably have a table by this point. We probably have a usual. We probably have a barista who eyes us while we sip coffee and we probably have an inside joke about her. You’re sitting there, scrolling through your phone and I’ve already sent you 3 “two minutes” texts because I’m stressing about being late. And you’re smiling because you know I took a backroad, last minute, and I thought I had it in the bag. You knew I didn’t have it in the bag. And you know I’m flying down Wade Hampton, all but flipping off old ladies because I get SO. MAD.

Maybe I’m in uniform and just getting off a shift. Maybe I’m headed to a girls’ night out and maybe you’re headed to a guys’ night out. Maybe we’re on the same page or maybe we’re just floundering through whatever this is. Maybe there’s a ring or maybe there’s nothing but empty spaces.

But the beautiful thing about coffee dates are that the details aren’t deal-breakers. Coffee dates are all about heart. And so…

  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you that I went to this incredible Beach Boys concert three weeks ago and it shook me to my core. I sat there, speechless and awed. It wasn’t because it was a spectacular show or the excitement in the room moved me or anything like that. It was the passion that made me grin like an idiot in a dark arena, an hour away from my hometown. I was sitting there watching men in their 70’s absolutely rock it and it wasn’t because the crowd was the same as it’d always been or because they were trying to stay relevant. It was this deep love for music that moved those guys forward and it ingrained in me this mission to be like that when I’m 70. I don’t want to be rocking on a porch and I don’t want Bingo night with the girls to be the only thing I look forward to. When I’m 70, I want to still be moved by passion and love for people. I don’t want to be lifeless while I’m living. I really, really don’t.
  • Also…I’d ask you if you’ve heard God Only Knows yet for the umpteenth time and I’d beg you to watch Love and Mercy with me. I’m fascinated.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you I was rejected within the past week and it stung so bad. I’d tell you all about the faith wounds this rejection poked at and I’d say, “I know it sounds stupid…” about a million and one times because these faith wounds are the kind that I don’t know what to do with. I’ve combed over the details and asked questions. I’ve relived the details. I’ve dug deep. But I come up short every time. I’d leave the conversation hanging by a thread, uncertain if you really understand where I’m coming from. And, God knows this is what I wish for…if it was you, you’d pry. You wouldn’t let the conversation go without making me dig deep.
  • If we were on a coffee date…We’d talk 50 Shades Darker. I’d want to know your true opinion, not the popular opinion from the community we were raised in. And I wouldn’t toss your opinion aside because you’re a man, so you MUST have a porn problem and OBVIOUSLY you’re wrong about all things sex.  I’d want to know your thoughts. We’d talk fiction–we’d talk about the rallying cries and you’d hear ALL about how every time I hear the rallying cries against something, I have this tendency to peek around the corner to see what the root of the hubbub is. Thus, I currently have a Hillary Clinton book waiting on me. We’d talk fact versus speculation. You’d probably roll your eyes heavenward because I’m on that thing where I don’t stop talking because I HAVE SO MANY ARGUMENTS, TWISTS, AND PERSPECTIVES.
  • If we were on a coffee date…you’d be annoyed.You’re probably the type to think a lot before saying anything and I’m the type who just blurts out all the thought processes and curiosities. I’d study your expressions and hold my tongue when I really want to shake you and say, “WHAT DID THAT MEAN.” To be honest, when I think about finding you…I think a lot about how patient you’d need to be. LORD KNOWS.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your family. Tell me all about them. Tell me all about your childhood. Tell me your favorite spots and your favorite traditions and what you did for birthdays. Tell me what you liked and what you hated–about everything. I want to hear all the things you. Tell me if you read books or played with Legos or were more outdoorsy than anything. Tell me about your friends from way back then and if you still know any of them. Fill me in–I’ve been waiting 20 years to fill all the spaces.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d ask you about your goals. Not in your career, but in your life. There’s a big difference. Where do you find happiness or are you still looking? If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why don’t you go? What’s your bucket list? I’d want to know about all the walled-in, abandoned corners of your heart. I’m nosy–I’m a pryer. Unapologetic, man.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d talk about summer 2017 with you and make plans. Summer 2017 is going to be a thing, man. 24 is so beautiful and so golden and I want to soak as much beauty in as I can. Tell me we can learn how to skateboard and go kayaking. Tell me you’ll go fishing with me and learn how to crab just because.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d want to know what you did tonight. I want to know how you spent the night before the world wakes up to magic.Were you alone in the world or did you find a friend who feels the same way you do? Did you have someone you thought was the one or were you at the point where you found out she was only a chapter in the story? Or has she been long gone, but the scars are still fresh? How’s your heart doing? Is that even allowed to be said or did I just break bro code? …and for the love of God, is that still a thing? <—Literally what would be said.
  • If we were on a coffee date…I’d tell you about my night. It was spent with a single friend and we talked Valentine’s Day hype and sipped on coffee. We laughed a lot tonight and watched ridiculous movies and ate Pinterest recipes that turned out way better than planned. W
  • And lastly…if we were on a coffee date… I wouldn’t want to leave. I’d want to stay as long as possible. But one thing I’d tell you before I left, no matter what:

           Your life and my life may become one beautiful life one day, but just because we’re not in it yet doesn’t mean our lives aren’t simultaneously and individually beautiful. It doesn’t mean we lack value and it doesn’t mean we’re going nowhere. It just means we’re in separate chapters. It just means we’re human. It just means the best is on its way.  So hang on, kid. You’ll be in it before you know it.