In the Blink of an Eye

Three years ago today, I started my current job. It was a very bittersweet day for me, so now, as I’m on the precipice of new ventures, I thought I’d reflect a bit on these past few years—they’ve been a whirlwind!


The backstory

In May 2014, I left my job managing a small coffeeshop in a neighboring town. It wasn’t the most amicable of partings. Things had been going downhill there for a while—I’d been hired right around my 21st birthday and swiftly promoted to store manager. Unfortunately, it was a brand new business and a new venture for the owners, so we were never able to generate enough traction (or make any sort of profit, really). It has since closed down and reopened as a tapas bar that, by all accounts, is doing phenomenally! I’m so proud that the owners and the team were able to turn it around into something awesome!

i was a literal BABY back then!

Basically, long story short, it was too much responsibility for me at the time. I had just resumed college full-time, and in the two years I worked there I broke up with my ex (twice, yikes), met my (now) husband, and moved to a different town. My personal life was chaotic—but what 21-year-old has it all figured out? I really did my best to devote time and effort into the business (I was handling scheduling, food prep, customer service, the website, social media, health inspections, inventory and ordering—looking back I’m surprised I managed for as long as I did!) but ultimately, I had to prioritize school and my new relationship. It was the best decision I could have made—it led to a marriage and graduate school only a few years later!

making signs was one of the BEST parts of the job

I’m still in contact with a lot of people that worked with me, and it has been so special to watch them all grow over the past few years. There have been quite a few new babies, new houses, new touring bands! Although that job really did a number on me, time has softened a lot of the hurt feelings, and I look back on it all fondly.

***

After leaving that gig, I was unemployed for a month. I know that doesn’t seem like a long time, but trust me, when you’re 22 and broke, living on your own for the first time, it is super stressful. My (now) husband and parents really stepped up to help support me, and in that brief window, I became extremely close with my husband’s family, a bond I cherish now. I was in a unique, challenging spot: not only was I a full-time student with a restrictive schedule, but I was a bit overqualified for typical retail and food jobs because of my years of experience. I couldn’t start over at minimum wage—there was too much at stake. I needed a job that was super-flexible and paid really well. Pipe dreams.

My (now) father-in-law’s close friend and coworker’s wife, Linda, was a manager at a local retail spot that everybody in the Eastern MA area knows about. He kept telling me to apply, but I was skeptical—I’d had a terrible, if brief, retail experience years before at a very large corporation that shall remain nameless. After weeks and weeks of applying everywhere and getting no responses (summertime is an impossible time to job-hunt because everyone’s home from college!) I finally called Linda and chatted with her about the store and the opportunities there. She was so kind to me then, and remains one of my favorite people in my life. I applied, got hired, and started shortly after the 4th of July.

 

first day of work selfie (7.12.14)

 

The plan was to support myself working there until I found something better. Hilarious in retrospect.

My first (real) day was awful. Orientation had been fine, but my first full day of work fell on a Tuesday. The store is closed on Tuesdays to restock, so only a limited staff works, marking down goods and creating new displays. I had no idea what to do and almost no direction. I didn’t bring a lunch because I wasn’t sure if I got a break. I worked 11-5, cried the whole way home, and drank an entire bottle of wine that night (do not recommend). I was panicked: I needed a job, but this didn’t feel like a good fit. I convinced myself to give it another try since that first day was a bit of an anomaly, and it gradually got better and better until I genuinely started to like it. Within three months of starting, I was promoted and given a raise. I was still about $2/hour shy of what I’d been making at my previous job, but the hours were super flexible, and I got to work with a great group of people. The following summer I was promoted again and given more responsibilities.

an early handbag display i put together

Before I knew it, I was engaged, then married, then graduated! Things were in motion! And through all of that, I had my work family rooting for me.

buying my wedding dress with my best friend and my mother-in-law

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***

There have been great moments and truly challenging moments with my current job. Most of the time, there’s a smile on my face when I walk in the door. I really like what I do. But seeing acquaintances from high school, serving them as customers, has been really tough. I turned 23, 24, 25, and still, I hadn’t completed undergrad. I felt very stuck. Finally, last December, I hammered the final nail into the coffin of undergrad and was forced to think—what’s next? I sought career counseling, but looking at job postings, I felt deeply unqualified. I started to flirt with the idea of grad school, which ushered me into one of the most challenging periods of my life.

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Waiting to hear about my acceptance into grad school meant I couldn’t apply for new, full-time jobs, because my schedule was so uncertain. But as a college grad, the retail grind was getting demoralizing. I was so depressed for so long. I was drinking too much, gaining weight, crying all the time. I felt like I’d wasted my life and that I’d never advance. Everyone could tell that something was wrong with me. There are definitely a few things about the past few months that fill me with regret.

But little by little, things started to get better. I got into grad school and started summer classes. I went back on anti-depressants which are truly a gift—I can’t wait to start counseling in the fall! (Taking care of your mental health is important!!) I started hosting bar trivia, which has helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. I scored a Graduate Assistantship job for next year, which will pay my tuition. And, most importantly, I started to get real about what I actually wanted out of life. I have always wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing stories and creating little worlds. I let myself get discouraged and quit, but it’s time to own up to my desires. In my bio, it says that I’m an aspiring Conan O’Brien—it sounds like a joke, but it’s true. Writing, and one day performing, is the dream. And I’m way too young to give up on that.

***

So, even though at times I’ve felt that my job has held me back, it has been the one constant through so much change. Come September, I’m going to have to scale back tremendously and focus on my new responsibilities, which is equal parts exciting and sad. It has been a terrible, wonderful three years. I’m so grateful for them. For all of it.

with the work fam on paint night! (2015)

halloween 2015

I’ll share more about my upcoming ventures when I have more details! Bye for now—I have a lot of Jane Austen to read for my seminar!

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Aging Out

Well, it had to happen eventually. Me turning 26 next month, I mean. Twenty-six. Finally, I’ve crossed to the other side of what my imagination was capable of imagining. As a kid or a teen, 25 seemed so adult. That was the age I’d always planned to get married (I did) and start thinking about having kids (I haven’t). But that was it. Everything after 25 was blank and dark. I didn’t, don’t, have a plan.

President Obama was elected President during my senior year of high school, which means the ACA-related mandate that kids can stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 was just a fact of my teens and twenties. I got to make my way through college without worrying about healthcare. Sure, I haven’t had dental for a while, but I take excellent care of my teeth and hope to go for a cleaning/checkup soon. I got to experience inexpensive preventative and emergency care, thanks to a decision that allowed me to benefit from the health insurance my father’s company provides us. I have gotten antibiotics to stave off sinus infections and UTIs. I’ve gotten my regular paps. I’ve even been tested for STIs/HIV—something monogamous people rarely feel they need to do. I have a wrist and back brace for when hard work turns into aches and pains.

I rarely visit doctors, because I’m rarely sick. The above list is a compilation of nearly a decade of experiences. I’m the queen of holistic remedies. It’s not unheard of for me to drink raw apple cider, or eat a whole garlic clove. I diffuse essential oils and apply them topically. I truly believe in my heart of hearts that local honey can help with seasonal allergies. I have been very lucky in my life. Not everyone I know has been so lucky.

Several people in my life whom I love dearly have suffered from seizures, Type I diabetes, cancer—things that herbal tea and meditation won’t cure. So, as I’m panicking, approaching my 26th birthday worried about my own access to care, I can’t stop thinking about them. That list of pre-existing conditions? I have exactly one: history of depression. Pretty much every person I know has more—just one of my family members has four on this partial list alone. This list is ableist, transphobic, misogynist, and cruel.

So, I’m turning 26. I finally have to cut the last remaining cord to my parents and get my own insurance. As stressful as it all is, I know, again, that I’m lucky. I’m a privileged, married, white woman, a born citizen of the U.S. I’m employed and educated, living in a blue state where care options are plentiful. I won’t be bankrupted trying to care for myself. But I am such a minuscule sliver of the population. The health insurance I pay for, I’ll rarely need or use.

Speaker Ryan said something, when talking a few months ago about the AHCA: “Why should healthy people pay for sick people to have healthcare?”

I paraphrase, but that sentence is the distillation of the expressed sentiments.

I don’t know, Speaker Ryan. Why should safe drivers pay for reckless ones? Why should financially responsible people pay for over-spenders’ overdraft fees?

We are one people. Every citizen, born, naturalized, and aspiring, is valuable. Their lives are valuable.

The same hypocrites who are pro-life and #AllLivesMatter are plotting to take healthcare away from millions of Americans, which will kill thousands. This is murder—it is a premeditated assault on the poor and disadvantaged, the disabled, the sick.

I am so lucky. I will probably escape from this nightmare unscathed. But because I’m unaffected, at least for now, I’m strong and healthy enough to fight for those that can’t fight for themselves. #Slacktivism is easy—real activism is really hard. I’m not even there yet. I just contacted my rep for the first time on July 4th. I’m a monthly donor to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, but I can’t afford to send them as much as I’d like.

Luckily, my best friend is a woke bae who has marched and prioritized civic engagement like a boss. She has alerted me to a few dope resources that are the perfect intro to doing your part.

***

WTF Just Happened Today – This is a daily briefing on what the government is up to. If North Korea is testing missiles, you can read about it here. If the GOP is still whining about Hillary’s e-mails, it’ll be on here. It’s so hard to keep every crazy thing that’s happened straight!

5calls – 5calls is a site that provides call scripts and contact information for State Reps, Senators, AGs, etc. Reps work for us—make sure they’re legislating your values by calling them.

Countable – Countable provides summaries of past and present bills, plus the information on how your reps have voted. It helps you make those calls armed with the facts. For instance, my rep, whom I voted for and who I feel represents most of my values, recently voted for an extremely shitty, xenophobic bill. Hell no.

Democratic Socialists of America – I still haven’t taken the plunge and joined the DSA, but it’s only a matter of time. Yes, we need to buck the 2-party system (France and Britain’s recent elections are compelling evidence as to why), but I’m hoping my beloved Dems can get it together and swerve left. The DSA is doing super important work at the local level though, so check them out. Just don’t put a rose emoji in your Twitter display name, or I’ll disown you.

***

Well, that post took an unexpected turn. What started as a personal reflection about getting older somehow turned into a call for political action. Lately, it’s been hard not to think in the plural. As the rights of other Americans are stripped away, WE supersedes ME. Grammatically-questionable platitude aside, we’ve got to get to work. 2018 is coming up fast. I’ll be 27 by the midterms—maybe I’ll have some of this figured out by then.

Who has two thumbs…

…speaks limited French, and just got into graduate school?

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This moi!

I still have a long road ahead of me. I have to figure out finances, funding, and assistantships. It may not ultimately be the full-time occupation I’m looking to make it, but either way, I did it. It took me seven endless, painful, dreary years, but I got dat B.A. and I’m on to the next.

Neither of my parents went to college. In fact, most people in my family didn’t. As I start graduate school, my youngest brother will be starting undergrad. The circle of freaking life. This is a step I never thought I’d take.

Thank you to the handful of folks that read this blog. You guys are amazing, supportive, and are part of what keeps the dream of being a full-time writer alive. This blog started as a creative outlet for me to post my recipes and outfits when I was a bored 23-year-old college student working in retail, but it has turned into a place where I can share my deepest desires and silliest thoughts. I mean, you guys read a thing I wrote about icon and perfect human, Céline Dion. You’ve watched my attempt to review cheap rosés with zero real knowledge about wine. You know all my favorite podcasts. You’ve dealt with the fact that I accidentally deleted almost all of the photos on this blog and have to start from scratch. You are all my heroes. Someday, when I’m the next Tina Fey or Tracey Wigfield (A GIRL CAN DREAM, OKAY), I will think about this little passion project with such fondness.

Holy f***ing sh*t, you guys! I’m going back to school! I never thought I’d sing this song again, but here I am!

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P.S. Watch Tracey Wigfield’s new showGreat News, you filthy animals. It’s the second coming of 30 Rock. Well, the third coming, because Difficult People is actually a perfect show.

 

Eggy Brekkie Tacos

If you’re anything like me, you often find yourself wondering, “How can I incorporate more tacos into my every day life?” Soft or hard, veggie or bean, I love all tacos indiscriminately (get your mind out of the gutter).

Breakfast tacos aren’t exactly a stunning innovation. The breakfast burrito is a restaurant menu staple for good reason—Tex-Mex and breakfast foods are a beautiful marriage of flavors. But it is my life’s mission to eat (specifically cruciferous) vegetables at every meal, and damn it, I will accomplish it!

These tacos are endlessly customizable, and a great way to pack some serious nutrition into your morning. Plus, everything tastes better in a taco shell. It’s literally science.

Cauliflower is my favorite here, but other veggie options include broccoli, sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, or zucchini!

Eggy Brekkie Tacos

  • soft corn tortillas, taco size
  • 1-2 eggs (per person), scrambled
  • leftover roasted veggies (I recommend cauliflower)
  • salsa

Optional toppings might include: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, bean dip, hot sauce, sauerkraut—if you can dream it, you can do it!

If you don’t have any leftover veggies (I seem to always have something in my fridge), toss your chopped veggie of choice in olive oil, salt, and black pepper, and roast until soft and slightly browned.

Scrambled your eggs and heat up as many tortillas as you plan to eat. I like to heat my tortillas over the open flame on the stove, but the microwave or the oven on a very low setting will work just as well. As soon as everything is piping hot, assemble your tacos by dividing the scrambled eggs and vegetables amongst the tortillas. For the less adventurous (read: messy) eaters among us, combine all desired ingredients into a bowl and top with the corn tortillas, chopped. Dig in!

There you have it: every food group before 10 am. Brb—gonna go whip up some more breakfast tacos!

 

This morning’s variation: spinach, black bean dip, salsa, scrambled eggs, beet & red cabbage sauerkraut, hot sauce

 

Oil Vey


I’ve been trying to incorporate more essential oils into my daily life. There are so many amazing, creative ways to make them a part of your routine! I regularly oil-pull with a peppermint essential oil & coconut oil blend, and I use a tea tree & coconut oil blend every night to moisturize and cleanse my face. But I have bunch of bright, spring scents left over from my (ill-fated) idea to make homemade candles for my wedding that I needed to put to good use! Pro-tip: don’t try to make 50 homemade essential oil/ soy candles as wedding favors—planning a wedding is stressful enough! 

After I saw this post last year, I was inspired to make my own linen spray with the lovely scents I had just lying around in my cabinets. But, after an incident involving me lifting this plant mister by the plunger, breaking the mister and spilling oily water all over my bedroom, I briefly set aside my goal of perpetually gorgeous-smelling sheets and pillows.

Well, no more! I was helping a friend shop for an upcoming trip yesterday, and in the travel section of Target I found a cute little pink spray bottle, which reminded me of this awesome DIY! I can’t take any credit for the idea or the basic recipe, but the essential oil blend is something I concocted, based on the amazing cocktail, the Paloma! The Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail with grapefruit and lime—delicious, refreshing, and reminiscent of warm summer nights. I’d found my muse.


“Paloma” Room & Linen Spray

  • water
  • witch hazel
  • grapefruit essential oil
  • eucalyptus essential oil
  • lime essential oil
  • small funnel
  • small spray bottle


Combine 1 part water to one part witch hazel in the small spray bottle of your choosing. My witch hazel has a slight odor, so next time I make this, I’ll use more water than witch hazel. In a 12 oz bottle I used about 30 drops grapefruit, 20 drops eucalyptus, 20 drops lime. How strong you want your scent to be is up to you! Give the bottle a shake and spritz anywhere that needs freshening!* I added a handwritten label with gold Sharpie—paint pens or chalk pens will also do the trick!

*The oil and water will separate, so shake the bottle before each use for best results.

The grapefruit is bright and refreshing, the lime is fruity and mellow, and the eucalyptus adds an almost minty sharpness reminiscent of the fragrance of tequila. All the cocktail love with none of the calories.

Happy spring, happy Passover, and happy Easter! Oh, and blanket apology for the title pun.

—DellaBites

Kool Things IV

Another week for the books! It literally snowed yesterday, because April Fool’s Day is real. I needed my escape, and I found it in memoirs and comedy, by which no one is surprised. These are the things that got me through the hail/sleet/snow hellscape that was this week.

This Show

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Crashing, Pete Holmes

I cannot even believe that I haven’t written about Crashing yet! Crashing, the semi-autobiographical brainchild of brilliant comedian and beautiful human being, Pete Holmes, is HBO’s newest Sunday night series. It tells the (dramatized) story of Pete’s divorce and entry into the New York City stand-up scene. Guest stars have (thus far) included comedy powerhouses like Sarah Silverman, Artie Lang, and TJ Miller, as well as one of my personal favorites, Aparna Nancherla.

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If you don’t yet know the delightful Pete Holmes, well, you should. He briefly hosted his own talk show that aired weeknights after Conan, The Pete Holmes Show, hosts an interview podcast called You Made It Weird that never fails to get spiritual, and landed an HBO special called Faces and Sounds that dropped in December. He’s a hometown hero, hailing, like myself, from Metro Boston (I think Somerville or thereabouts). Pete Holmes truly has one of the most unique voices in comedy—his relentless optimism and winning smile make jokes like calling himself “Lesbian Val Kilmer” all the more powerful. Crashing chronicles Pete’s days as a fresh-faced comedy newbie; now, though, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

*Crashing airs Sunday nights at 10:30 on HBO.

This Book

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Real Artists Have Day Jobs, Sara Benincasa

This week I’ve been devouring this amazing book of essays by comedian and author Sara Benincasa, and it’s been an emotional journey. I finished it on my lunch break today and it took everything I had not to publicly sob. I hesitate to call this book “self-help,” but if you read it, you will help yo’ self. For real. The words of wisdom in this book range from “brush your damn teeth” to “treat your vagina like the magical temple that it is.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get it. Benincasa gets very frank about her own struggles with mental illness but never fails to be disarmingly hilarious. As someone who aspires to a reasonable facsimile of this incredible woman’s career, it is inspiring beyond belief to read of someone rising from the ashes of her own self-destruction and kicking major ass purely through hard work and talent. 10/10, read this f***ing book.

I’ve already ordered one of her other books, Agorafabulous!, which I can’t wait to start reading!

Check out her short film, The Focus Group, on Vimeo.

*The kindle version of Real Artists Have Day Jobs is only $1.99 right now, my dudes! Go forth and read!

This Special

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Pizza Mind, Sasheer Zamata

SNL cast member and jumpsuit messiah Sasheer Zamata just dropped her very first stand-up special on the incredible comedy streaming service, Seeso. The stunning and brilliant Ms. Zamata tackles race, feminism, and being named after Star Trek like a gotdamn professional. Topics of discussion include “resting bitch face,” her brief employment at Disney world, and the (very f***ing true) fact that white girls are constantly shedding hair all over the place. The special is hilarious, but it’s also a thoughtful, educational experience. Sasheer Zamata does not care if her material on race makes you uncomfortable. That’s on you.

Pizza Mind is must-see TV. If you have a spare hour, give it a watch. You will be rewarded with a magical cartoon adventure and a show-stopping finale number #nospoilers.

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DID I GODDAMN MENTION THE JUMPSUIT, THOUGH? My ladies who art in comedy are KILLING it in the wardrobe game lately.

Watch her bit about her tricky-to-pronounce first name here.

Watch her in “Black Jeopardy”, one of SNL’s finest skits. Here she is with Drake, Tom Hanks, Louis CK, and Elizabeth Banks.

*Pizza Mind is now streaming on SeeSo!

Dis Phone

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I upgraded early and got an iPhone 7 this week! I almost went Plus, but I tried out my husband’s 6+ for a little while, and the damn thing’s just too big! I like being able to rock the one-handed text. But don’t text and drive! Do as I say, not as I do! The transition from iPhone 6 to 7 has been like night and day! It’s faster, there are two speakers, and it’s PINK. I know I’m predictable and basic, but the more pink I can get in my life, the better! I also got the 128G model (4 times the storage of my last phone!) so that I could combine the functions of iPhone and iPod (I’ve been using my iPhone 4 from many years ago as an iPod—the thing was begging to be sent to a farm upstate, it was dead and buried). Despite the foolish amount of music I’ve put on it, I still only seem to listen to Hamilton…

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We got a shipment of phone cases from The Casery to my work, so I also treated myself to this amazing case. Kendrick Lamar fans, unite! This isn’t a sales pitch for my work or anything, since y’all don’t know where I work, nor is it an ad for The Casery, but seriously, you guys, these cases are the absolute best. The designs are the cutest I’ve ever seen (donuts! sushi! cacti!) and the cases are super well made. I’m obsessed…I might need to get this one next, in honor of the little cat that started it all—Della!

This Game

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Stump! Trivia

I’ve been playing Stump! Trivia for ten whole years, since way before it was appropriate for me to be hanging out at a bar on a weeknight. I’m not actually sure it’s even appropriate now. But alas, such is my addiction to trivia and other brain puzzles—every Wednesday night for the past year (and many Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in years past), my father and I have ordered a round of drinks and a basket of french fries and challenged ourselves to a battle of wits in the quest for a restaurant gift card.

Stump! is arguably the best trivia game in the Boston area (it was started in Marshfield), but it’s now a nationwide company that offers fun, challenging trivia and Questionnairey (a Family Feud-style game) at bars and private events. Long story short, I am a huge, huge fangirl, and a frequent player. So, the other night, after a particularly exciting win at our local pub, I applied to be a host.

I had applied years and years ago, but was likely much too young to be considered. Doesn’t super make sense to hire an underage girl to work in a bar—I don’t hold the lack of response against them. But this time, I heard back via email almost immediately and set up an audition!

I wasn’t looking for a second job, and the extra few bucks a week won’t make a huge difference to me financially, but the public speaking experience is priceless! The whole gig is essentially an improv performance—something I’ve been anxious about for years! I recently admitted to myself that my dream is actually to be Conan O’Brien (or a reasonable lady approximation)—writer, performer, icon. Okay, I’m joking about the icon part, but in order to achieve even a tiny sliver of my dream, I’m going to need to get better in front of a crowd.

If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area, come support me here!

***

Thanks for letting me blab about my obsessions for a month straight! What are you obsessed with lately?

—DellaBites

*as usual, all of the images via google or the sites linked in each description!

 

But for real, though, we got married.

all photos by Melissa Washburn Photography

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Dapper AF.

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Harpers/Faheys/MacFarlands/Baumhauers/Rufos/Figueiredos/my fam
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Brothers left to right: 17 & 23
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Brothers left to right: gordo 1 & gordo 2
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Buddies.

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My dad is actually Bryan Cranston, though.

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Of course I wore sneakers.

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As you can tell, we tried really hard to make this a thing.

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Date.

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The most me. Hot sauce favors in my bag, swag.
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Portuguese AF. Biscoitos for life.

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Godmother.

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All four Mrs. Figs.

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Pai/sogro/favorite person.

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A huge thank you to everyone who came to our wedding and supported our journey. It was…unusual to say the least. I am humbled by these photos—the evidence of so much love, family, and friendship.

Bit of a day.

 

—Chelsea, DellaBites