BFF

Communion Day

As you are all well aware, I am getting married in December. I don’t think I’ve let anyone forget that. But, before I take the biggest step of my life, a very special person is going to do it first.

My best friend’s name is Alexis. Alexis and I say we met when we were babies. Obviously, we don’t actually recall that, but, for the sake of time, let’s say we were babies when we met. Fun fact, we were delivered at the same hospital by the same doctor. My oldest brother was in school with her oldest brother. We were each the only girls in our families, so naturally, we became friends.

Growing up was fun. We were in school together from pre-school until 8th grade. In those days, we ran around and shouted a lot. I don’t know why that seemed fun, but it was. I can remember when Alexis came over, my dad would say, “Can you get new friends?” Yes, my dad was a comedian even back then. Alexis became part of the family. My brothers treated her like a sister and my parents treated her like a daughter. She was my sister from another mister.

You would think after spending a full day of school together, two people wouldn’t have anything to talk about when they got home … that’s not true for us. We’d spend hours on the phone chatting about major worldwide topics such as N’Sync and Backstreet Boys. In fifth grade, we started using AOL instant messenger, or AIM. On AOL, we were known as crazyk987 and lex964. I think you can guess who was who.

We went to different high schools and different colleges, but our friendship never wavered. There were times when we didn’t speak for weeks, but as soon as one of us sent a text or called, we’d go right back to where we left off.

We’ve been friends for approximately twenty-five years. Alexis, if you’re reading this…Dude, where the hell did twenty-five years ago? I have no idea. We’ve been through ups, downs, twists, and turns…happiness, sadness, frustration, everything life has to offer.

Alexis has always been one step ahead of me with things. I am seven months older than her. I loved pointing that out to her when we were younger, back when it was cool to be older. Now that we are older and we want to be younger, she gets me with, “You realize when you’re 30, I’ll still be 29…” I don’t like the sounds of that. Even though I constantly stressed how I was older, Alexis was always leading the way with life experiences. She was often one step ahead of me. She has a self-confidence about her that allows her to face the world unafraid of what life will throw at her. I tried to emulate that confidence growing up. I was often the shy one, but seeing her be outgoing helped me step out of my shell. I don’t know if she realizes she did that for me.

One of the great things about our friendship is it’s a two-way street. If we get angry at each other, we are able to step outside of ourselves and see where the other is coming from. There is no blaming. And, when good things happen, we are able to be happy for each other. There is never jealousy or anger towards the other one’s success.

Alexis got engaged the last week of November. She texted me and said she had something to tell me. Call it friend intuition, but I knew what she was going to tell me. I didn’t get the text until the morning. I called her when I was getting ready for work and she told me. The excitement and happiness in her voice was electrifying. I could not have been happier that my best friend was getting married. I texted all of my family and I texted some mutual friends. It felt like it was happening to me.

A week later, I had the chance to give her the same call. Other than my mom, Alexis was the first person I called. I can remember saying to Zach, “I have to call Alexis!” When we spoke on the phone, she said she had a feeling this was going to happen too.

A few weeks after our engagements, I asked Alexis to be my maid of honor and she asked me to be hers. When I tell people that I am my best friend’s maid of honor and she is mine and we are getting married three months apart, they say, “Oh, wow. So you’re planning your own wedding and doing maid of honor stuff for your friend? That must be insane.” And, you know what, it is. But it is such fun, wonderful insanity.

Being engaged and being in the same phase of life has brought us a lot closer. Being able to bounce ideas off each other has been invaluable. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this process. I have my mom and my sisters-in-law who have all been so wonderful and I am grateful to have them by my side. But having my best friend go through this at the same time is a little different. We are able to talk about our hopes, dreams, and even our fears. We are experiencing all of these feelings together. It’s great when I say something that I think is silly that I’m feeling and Alexis says she feels the same way.

Texts with Maid of Honor:

“We are going to be starting our own families!! So cool!!” – Me

“Yeah…and completely nerve wracking too. I. Don’t. Want. To. Mess. Up.” – Alexis

“Same. I keep saying to Zach, I get afraid that I’m not going to be good at this.” – Me

“I SAY THAT ALL THE TIME.” – Alexis

Last weekend, I threw a shower and bachelorette party for Alexis. It was a ton of fun and we had a great night out in center city. The first bar we went to was Morgan’s Pier. We got out of the cab and a school bus full of Irish men pulls up. Turns out, they were out for a bachelor party. Alexis said, “Kate, is this for me? Did you plan this?” This night was a testament to the fact that sometimes it’s best to go with the flow and see where a night takes you. We became friends with the Irish guys and got a free ride to the next bar. It was hilarious.

Alexis stayed until Tuesday morning, so we were able to hang out and talk. We talked, and we talked, and we talked. We really needed that time together. She lives in Chicago and I’m still here in Philly, so we don’t see each other in person all that much. I can’t wait until she throws me my bachelorette party. She told me her goal is to embarrass me, make me laugh, and make me have a good time. She also told me to be a little afraid and to have a bag packed because she isn’t telling me when it is. Can’t wait to blog about that weekend.

It’s four weeks until Alexis makes the trek down the aisle. I am excited to stand by her side as she takes the biggest leap of her life. We had promised each other when were children that we would be each other’s maids-of-honor. Oh, actually, Alexis will be married by the time I get married, so she will be my MATRON-of-honor. Who sounds old now, dude?

How many friends do you know keep a promise they made when they were six? Not many. There have been times when each of us may have had some doubts about our friendship, but neither of us ever gave up. Life can get in the way, and it has in many ways, but time and time again we have forged forward.

It’s humbling to know someone who has known you from the beginning. A person who knows you so well that they can remind you of who you truly are when you lose yourself, a person who can remind you where you came from and to never forget your roots.

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For my nephew

lil j

Five years ago my first nephew was born. July 29th, 2010, John David Sprandio III came into the world. I had just graduated college a few months before. At a time where I was unsure of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, the birth of this little guy made one thing certain for me, no matter what I did, I wanted to make him proud. The first time I looked at him, the first time I held him, I had this feeling of responsibility to be the best I could be. I know I’ve mentioned this in earlier posts, (I’m being repetitive, what a surprise), but becoming an aunt has been one of the greatest roles I’ve taken on in my life.

The first two years of lil John’s life, I was doing freelance work and in graduate school. I was fortunate enough to be able to help my mom babysit him. I was with him at least once a week. I had been around babies before when I was younger, but this was different. I was more of a grown up. I was the first of most of my friends to have a nephew. Some nights I had a decision to make, do I want to go out with my friends or do I want to help babysit. I almost always chose babysitting over going out a lot! I was surprised at myself. I’m often one who is game to go out on the town. But spending even two hours with that little guy was better than anything.

Watching him grow has been an awesome journey. It amazes me how much he has learned during his short time here, but it amazes me even more the things I have learned from him. He’s taught me to have fun with life and to enjoy the simple things. He’s retaught me the importance of family. I’ve always believed family is of the utmost importance. But we all have phases in our lives when we think it’s uncool to hang out with family or you think you have better things to do. I was in my early twenties when he was born, so I was still in that phase of “I’m too cool” and I’d rather go out to the bars with my girl friends. But being with him made me realize, being with family was still cool. He helped me start to grow up.

When I would meet new people, one of the first things I would tell them is, “I have a nephew named John.” I would immediately whip out my phone and show photos.

John was just over a year old when I met Zach. He has grown up knowing him and he loves him. That was a plus. I told Zach, if little John doesn’t approve then I don’t approve. Zach is really good with all three of them and it’s very sweet to see.

Five years has flown by so fast. And in that time two more intelligent, hilarious, beautiful kids have come around. Grace and Leo amaze me just as much as John does. They each have unique personalities and I have developed a unique relationship with each one of them. These are relationships I greatly cherish. These kids mean the world to me. I am so fortunate I am to be able to be around them so much.

If you have kids in your life, nieces and nephews, your own children, or children of your friends, spend time with them, play with them, and listen to them. They say the funniest stuff. And as much as we teach them, they teach us so much more without even trying.

Come September, my other older brother and his wife will have a baby. There will be another little Sprandio running around and once again I am starting to feel that feeling of a new responsibility emerge. I am already feeling that I want to make this new one proud. I want to develop a unique relationship with them, and hope that they will get to know me the way the other three do.

Dad, You’re Like a Father to Me

This is a shout out to Dr. J.

My father is Dr. John D. Sprandio Sr. Born in Bristol, Dr. Sprandio is the youngest son to Rose and Joseph Sprandio, and youngest brother to Barbara and Franny. He went to LaSalle College and majored in Biology. He attended Temple Medical School and began his career at Temple University Hospital. There, he met my mother. After his medical training, Dr. Sprandio founded his own medical practice Consultants in Medical Oncology and Hematology, a private practice located in Drexel Hill, PA. For over thirty years, he has dedicated his life to his family and his practice. His children are well-educated members of society and his practice has garnered much attention in recent years. Dr. Sprandio is a strong, intelligent, kind, hard-working, determined man. He can be a quiet man, but when he speaks others listen. He has a snarky sense of humor and he treasures his time with his family. He is a son, a brother, a husband, a grand-dad, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a doctor, a businessman, a friend. He is my dad and I am his only daughter.

I think the card I gave my dad for father’s day this year sums up our relationship.

(Front cover) Dad, you’re like a father to me.

(Inside) No, really, I mean it.

My dad and I have a great relationship. I know I can count him for anything. It is also a hilarious relationship. At least, I think we are hilarious. One of my favorite things my dad says to me is, “Kate, always remember, you are my favorite daughter.”

Often times, when I am with my brothers and dad, I feel like I have 5 brothers. My dad and I tease each other and can always make each other smile. On the serious side, my dad is a constant source of guidance and support for me, my brothers, my in-laws, and many other members of my family. If I ever have a problem or a big decision to make, I never hesitate to call my dad to consult him. Similar to my mom, my dad is approachable and easy to talk to. He doesn’t judge and he will tell you upfront what he believes is best. If my thoughts differ from his, he still gives me the room to make the ultimate decision on my own.

I may have noted this before in another blog, but the night I got engaged, my dad had a smile on his face that was serene. He seemed content and excited for me. It made me feel like he approved. Recently, Zach and I have been looking at apartments. I have consulted my dad many times for advice on location etc. We found a place yesterday that we really liked. The first thing I did after we toured was call my dad to discuss it with him. He sounded excited for us and said, “This sounds great, Kate.” When I hung up the phone, I said to Zach, “I don’t want you to think I don’t trust us to make the right decision for ourselves, but my dad knows a lot about this kind of stuff, so if he says it’s good and seems like a good idea, then I feel a little more confident in my decision.” Zach is so understanding with me and understands how highly I hold my dad’s opinion. Whatever age I am, there will be a part of me that will want to make sure he approves and is proud of my decision. I think I’ve done pretty well so far making him proud….I hope!

My dad is not only my dad, but also my boss. Working for my dad has been quite a learning experience. I wear many hats in the office, which makes each day interesting. I am able to jump into any position to help, which I love. I want to be as useful as I can be in the office because I feel like I am representing my dad. Seeing my dad in a work setting has been an eye opener. To me, he seriously is THE hardest working man in the world. Watching him manage all of his duties is inspirational. Meeting his patients has also been a nice experience. When I tell them I am Dr. Sprandio’s daughter, they have the greatest remarks about him. “Oh, your father is a great man.” “Your father is so kind.” “Your father has saved my life…many times.”

My oldest brother John works for my dad as well. So, now, I not only hear about how great my dad is, but I hear how great my big brother is. I am so proud to go to work every day and know that I am working to help them help others.

I would say I am pretty professional at work with my dad, but we do have our one liners that keep the office laughing. They seem to enjoy some of the banter between us:

Dad walks in with a bowtie. One person says, “Oh, Dr. Sprandio, we like the bowtie!” I look at him and say, “What are you doing here? Are you here to make us some balloon animals?”

Dad walks in and sees me at my desk, “Oh, you decided to show up today?”

Dad calls me from his office at lunch time, “I’m starving. Feed me.” I respond, “You’re an animal.”

Dad calls me at my desk. I answer, “What’s up?” He responds, “Why do you answer the phone like that? Why do you answer like you’re a gangster?”

Working for him has been fun, challenging, and rewarding. I am happy I am able to help out and work for a company that he has built.

Being his daughter, his only one at that, has been the best life anyone could ever ask for. I get overwhelmed sometimes with how lucky I am. I truly am living a charmed life and that is all thanks to my dad and mom.

Dad, (if you are reading, which you should be because I probably made you) thanks for everything you do for me, our family, and the human race. You are truly an exceptional person. Also, here’s a preemptive thank you for all your help with what I know will be one insanely awesome wedding day. I know I don’t act like it sometimes, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for you!

And now, I leave you with some of my favorite texts with dad.

TEXTS WITH DAD:

ME: What do you think of this as a title of my thesis…”The Other Voices in My Head: A collection of Short Stories by Kate Sprandio.”
DAD: I like it – it discloses the fact that you are psychotic and continuously hear voices!

—–

ME: I meant to tell you, I woke up today dizzy and disoriented. I walked into the wall a couple times. It was weird.
DAD: Why am I not surprised?
ME: Why can you never take me seriously fool?

ME: We should get a picture of me and you pretending to work.
DAD: Or a picture of you and me pretending to be related.

DAD: You are techno idiot. Don’t know how you hold a steady job.
ME: You are the reason for my existence. My boss is a butt thread.
DAD: Yeah. Good come back. Exactly.
ME: Damn, I meant butt head!

ME: You never ask me how I am.
DAD: That’s because I don’t care.

ME: I might wear a dress. What does a girl wear to the opening of her father’s hotel?
DAD: Two dresses.
ME: I just want to make sure I don’t wear the same dress as you.
DAD: Not a problem – I’m wearing a business skirt.

ME: I just had a dream that we took a family trip to outer space & our space shuttle was the shore house. Coolest dream ever.
DAD: How old are you?
ME: Age doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.
DAD: Or a wine.
ME: True

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6 months

Well, it’s six months until I vaKate the name Sprandio. I’ll be going from the end of the alphabet to the beginning, from an eight letter last name to a four letter last name. Plus side is, my signature will be shorter.

The name change is one thing I’m looking forward to, but I also feel weird about it. I’ll obviously still be me. I won’t change as a person. Strangely enough, one of the reasons my lovely significant other wants to marry me is because I can be myself. But I won’t be known as Kate Sprandio anymore. I’ll be Kate Ells. Hopefully I can rock Kate Ells the way I rocked Kate Sprandio. The name change is one thing, but I’ll also be taking on yet another new title.

As we grow up, we take on so many different titles. Daughter, son, brother, sister, friend, cousin, etc. Personally, I’ve taken on many titles: daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, girlfriend, coworker, writer, runner, student, and the list continues.

On December 4th, I’ll be adding a title I’ve never held and, honestly, one I used to be unsure I would ever have. I’ll be taking on the title of wife.

Wife sounds so grown up and real. I’ve been thinking a lot about what being a wife actually means. The obvious things: I’ll be living with a man that isn’t one of my brothers. I’ve lived my entire life with my brothers. Even when I moved out of my parents’ house for a few years, I lived with my brothers. I’ll be taking on more responsibilities such as: laundry, keeping a clean house, cooking. My mom has told me recently that one important thing I need to learn before getting married is how to clean a toilet. Apparently, I’m not all that good at it. So I’ll practice on some toilets before December. When it comes to cooking, I have a few signature dishes that I’ve made but my knowledge is limited. My dad often will say, “Come here Kathryn, and let me introduce you to the kitchen. This is a stove.” I’m really not that bad. But these are the essential “wifely duties” that I’ll be taking on. My fiancé is pretty good about helping with things, so I really can’t say I’ll be doing these types of things myself. He’s a good cook too, so I’ll be able to learn a few things. I already do my own laundry so that’s not a problem. I do know my fiancé and I fold shirts differently, so that’ll be interesting.

The bigger more serious responsibilities of being a wife are the ones I am concentrating on being awesome at. Loving my husband unconditionally, being there to support him in every endeavor and situation, even if I don’t feel strong enough to do so. Allowing him to support me, which I think is a big one. I can sometimes be the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help. I have learned while being in a relationship, one needs to learn to lean on the other.

Compromise. From what I have heard from my parents and other married couples, compromise is a big one. To be a good wife, I need to be able to discuss issues with my husband and if we don’t agree, we need to work it out to come to a consensus. I’ve learned this through the three years that we’ve been together, but I think I could still learn more about how to be more open.

Communication. I hope to be able to communicate my feelings and concerns, even if it’s hard or I know he won’t agree with what I have to say. A good wife or any sort of companion needs to feel comfortable to express how they are feeling. I’m big on feelings. I love talking about feelings. Ask my fiancé. I’ve said a few times before, “let’s talk about our feelings.” I mostly do it to make him feel awkward. I guess that’s a mean wife thing to do.

One interesting thing about my situation is, my fiancé isn’t from Pennsylvania. I am the only one in my family who is marrying a person from out of state. I love this fact. I’ve always tried to be a little different than my brothers. Being the only girl, I try to stand out among the boys. And I’m the only one with an out of state mate. When you get married, you need to learn to welcome your spouse’s family and accommodate them. I have different responsibilities than my brothers because Zach and I will need to travel to our family events. We both need to make an effort to support each other and our families. Family is very important to us both, which is awesome. I hope, as a wife, I can be successful in accommodating everyone.

It’s been an interesting journey falling in love. When we first met, I just thought I met a nice adorable guy who seemed fun. I didn’t think at the time, this is going to be my husband. But I do say though that when we first met it was a different feeling than other boys I had met. I truly had this feeling that I needed to get to know him. And here I am. Six months away from becoming Mrs. Zachary Ells. Sometimes I want to shout holy shit I’m getting married, but that’s inappropriate. (sorry for cursing mom).

The decision to say yes to spend the rest of my life with Zach is pretty much the biggest decision I’ve ever made. I see it as only the beginning of many more big decisions. I’ve discovered love is a wonderful, scary, on going decision-making process. Zach and I wake up every day and make the decision to continue loving each other and we will do so every day forever. It’s the best decision I make all day. While some days we might not like each other or we really tick each other off, those days happen to everyone, we will always love each other. It’s really cool. I know cool sounds like a small word to describe it, but I can’t even begin to come up with another word. It’s just really, really cool.

As with all things in life, this will be an exciting, challenging learning experience. And it already has been. It’s a fun feeling, wanting to be the best I can be for him. He incites in me this desire to be the ultimate Kate I can be. Even when we first started dating, anything we did, I wanted to be the best for him. I wanted to be unlike any person he has ever met. I think I’ve done a good job at that. Interesting question, is it still called dating when you’re engaged? I guess so. The logical thing to me would be to call it engaging. We were dating, now we’re engaging, but that just sounds awkward.

Those are only a few of my ideas on what I hope to accomplish as I first start out as a wife. I want to be the best at it. Obviously, there will be times when I am unsure of what to say or do, but I look forward to those times as well. I look forward to learning my new title in life. I so very much look forward to simply being a wife to my husband.

Kate Sprandio: daughter, sister, aunt, niece, friend, girlfriend, fiance….

Kate Ells: everything Kate Sprandio was + WIFE.

As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be

This post is a shout out to the one and only Denise Sprandio.

Mom and I

This one is a few weeks late (should have been posted on Mother’s Day and then on my mom’s birthday), but I’m never on time so it’s fitting it’s late.

Denise Sprandio is the 5th of a family of 7. She is a former nurse, the wife of John Sprandio, the mother of five kids, grandmother to 3 (soon to be 4 and probably many more) and good friend to many. She is a beautiful, strong, hilarious woman. She is loyal and honest. She has a bigger heart than anyone you will ever meet. She is extraordinarily generous. She’s the kind of person who makes you feel like you’ve known her for years after just meeting her. She is welcoming and happy to open her home to anyone for a warm meal and a good laugh.

The older I have gotten, the more I understand the saying, “Your mother is always right.” My mom is always right. Although I may not act like it sometimes, I do listen and take everything she says into consideration. While I might not always agree, I do understand where she is coming from and I respect her opinion. Obviously, I don’t understand completely, and I probably won’t fully comprehend it until I have my own children one day, but I know in my heart she is coming from a place of love.

My mom and I have a close relationship. I am her only girl. She is not only my mother, but one of my best friends. I feel comfortable asking her anything and we talk about a range of topics, from the Kardashians, to my most recent decision to get married. Our conversations never cease to amuse me, enlighten me, and inspire me.

I love when she tells stories of us growing up and how happy she was to be a mother. It sounds like it was a complete madhouse at times. Before I was born, she had three little boys in diapers while my dad was still going through medical training. I don’t know how she did it, but the way she looks when she talks about it is inspiring. When I came along all hell broke loose! I loved my childhood and the time I was able to spend with both of my parents and with my brothers. We are a very close family. I am so lucky to be able to call them not only my family, but also my friends. My brothers were my first friends. I can thank my mom for that. Family is very important to her and she has shared that with all of us.

Recently, she was talking to my younger brother and me. We were talking about her brother, Robert, who passed away a year ago this May. She told us how hard it has been to deal with the reality that she no longer has her big brother. He was the only boy of the family. She got filled up, but she stayed strong and she stressed to us how important it is to stay close with family. “They are your first friends and they are the ones who will always be there for you no matter what.” She said she knows we are all developing our own lives, but to never forget where we came from and never forget those who have been there from the start. This is invaluable advice considering her children have started and are beginning to start their own lives. I can’t wait to have my family and Zach’s family over for holidays and birthday parties etc, just like my mom has done. I can’t wait to create my own welcoming environment where people can come to reminisce and laugh together. I can only hope I can create the type of environment she has created for my family and our friends.

It has been a hard year for my mom with the loss of her brother and with many other changes occurring in our family. Her strength and determination to continue on and help us through times like this is amazing. I don’t know where she finds this inner strength, but she finds it and, like everything, she shares it with us.

Even though conversations like that are hard to have, I appreciate her being vulnerable in front of us. I now know my mom not just as my mom, but as a real, fellow human being. That sounds strange when I reread it, but when I was young, I saw my parents as these invincible people. I believed they could do anything and nothing could ever harm them. While I still believe they are both invincible, I have come to see a vulnerability in them that I wasn’t aware they had.

As I have grown, I have begun to see my mom and dad in a different light. They need us just as we need them. I’m very grateful that I can be a shoulder for my mom to cry on, just as she has been a shoulder for me for so many years. And I have shed many a tear over the years, mostly unnecessary ones. I can be a bit dramatic. Not many know that, but my mom could tell you it’s the truth. We have had our fair share of bickering and exaggerated arguments. But all we need is a few hours of thinking on our own, and before long we are back together again gossiping about my brothers, celebrities, and planning my future.

Before she created a family, my mom was a dedicated, talented nurse at Temple Hospital. So, she has not only raised five children, but she spent many years before that caring for strangers. Nursing is an admirable profession and I admire her greatly for the work she did. She has literally spent her whole life caring for others. She is seriously a super hero.

The time and energy she spent with my brothers and me has made us who we are today. I think we are a pretty good crew. We are all doing our own thing and creating our own lives. Between the five of us we have 11 degrees: 5 bachelor’s degrees, two MD degrees, 4 masters degrees, and my youngest brother is just beginning school for his PhD (sorry just a little bragging moment). We wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without our parents. Literally, we wouldn’t even be in existence. But let’s not talk about how we all actually came into existence. This isn’t that kind of post.

Preparing for my wedding with my mom has taken us to a new level of our relationship. When Zach and I got engaged, my mom was the first person I called. She knew it was going to happen because Zach had spoken to her and my dad two days before. We were walking back from the art museum when I called her. I hadn’t cried yet, which I thought I would cry right away when I got engaged. She answered and I said mom, I’m engaged. She said, “Oh, Kate! My baby girl!” I totally lost it. I could hear her crying and I started crying right away.

She was thrilled for me. At that moment, I felt like a grown up and I felt like everything I’ve done so far in life was right. Not that I feel like I’ve done wrong things, but of any decision I’ve made, I wanted approval for this one. And the one person in the world whose opinion I value the most was happy and proud of the biggest decision I have ever made in my life. It was an overwhelming moment for me, as I’m sure it was for her too.

When we went back to my parents’ house that night, both my mom and dad had smiles on their faces that I’ll never forget. They were smiles of not only happiness, but of contentment. I know I have made them proud with everything I’ve accomplished in my life, but this was a different type of proud I think. That whole night was surreal and my experience thus far with planning has been relatively easy thanks to my parents.

The other night my mom and I talked for a couple hours. We hadn’t really been alone to talk in the last couple months because both of our lives have been so busy. We talked about marriage and she told me how proud she was of me and how she thinks Zach is a good man. It was nice to talk with her and share my thoughts on this whole experience. She also said what she has been saying since I met Zach, “You make sure he knows how special you are. Don’t keep saying you are lucky to have him. You make sure he knows how lucky he is!”

I’m sure I could write a whole book about my mom, but I’ll just keep it to this. I know she is reading, because she reads everything I write. I don’t think people realize what that means to someone who writes, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. To have someone who cares enough to read the words you write, makes it worth spending the time putting the words down.

So here’s to Denise Sprandio, a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, mother-in-law, friend, the list goes on.

This is a thank you, a happy birthday, and a happy anniversary to the best woman I know.

I love you mom.

Mom and I 2  Mom and Dad

Mom, me, lil JMom, me, Dad

Mom and me - silly     Mom and the kids

IMG_4851 185593_3726593411625_640356389_n IMG_7894Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 11.04.43 PM IMG_808610422065_10203777930436946_1027183791462739851_n 10176044_10203446408349101_6456080996575412701_nIMG_6440 IMG_6355

Whirlwind

Hello planet earth, it’s been a while. Life has been a whirlwind lately, which is why I haven’t sat down to blab to you in a while. I’m in the throws of wedding planning. I’m still sort of in shock that a handsome, relatively normal, well-educated man wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I don’t know how long it will take for that to settle in!

It’s been a fun experience going to different places with my mom. We got my dress about two months ago. Some dresses that I saw, were just, wow. I really don’t know how some women can even move in some of these dresses. There are some intense, complex dresses out there. I won’t say what my dress looks like because my fiancé may be reading this, but I will tell you it’s awesome. It is true what they say, when you try on THE dress you just know. It’s like finding the man you want to marry. When you fall in love, you just know. Yes, I realize I just compared finding the right wedding dress to finding the right man to marry. But really, both are very big life altering decisions.

When I tried on the dress I wanted everything started to feel real. The bridal shop attendant put the veil on me and I looked like a bride. I looked at my mom and she had a different smile on her face. My mom is often smiling and laughing, but this smile was something I had never seen before. She looked as if her eyes were watery. “Kate,” she said, “I think this is the one.” I smiled at her. “I think so too.” It was a special moment for the two of us, especially since I’m the only girl. It’s so fun to talk be able to go through all of this with her by my side. It can be an overwhelming process, but she’s made it easier. Each time we visit a vendor, we tell them, “we don’t really know what we’re doing.” But, I still have eight months to go and we have a good amount of stuff done already. Looks like we do know what we are doing!

Between May and December I’ll be attending 5 weddings….and I am participating in 3! I never saw this coming. It’s been an avalanche of weddings. I’m in my own wedding, obviously. My future sister-in-law Sarah, Zach’s sister, is getting married in June and I am one of her bridesmaids. My best friend Alexis is getting married Labor Day weekend and I am her maid of honor. I’m so excited for both of them and so happy to be part of their celebrations.

I can’t believe my best friend and I are getting married in the same year. She got engaged about a week before me. We’ve known each other since pre-school. It reminds me of that movie Bride Wars with Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson. Although our story is slightly different, because we didn’t book the same venue and we haven’t gotten in a bride war…..yet, haha.

Not only am I joining a new family and adding Zach to my family, but the Sprandios have another new addition who will be arriving in September. My older brother Brian and his wife Shannon are expecting a baby! By the time I get married, I will not only be a bride, but I’ll be an aunt again. I can’t wait to see if it’ll be a boy or girl. I’m thinking boy. I am so excited another one of my big brothers will be a father. It’s so neat being able to watch my siblings’ families grow! We are all beyond excited and grateful for the many good things to come.

Until next time planet earth…….

My Thoughts Undo Me

In the words of Josh Groban, “It’s always this time of year that my thoughts undo me.”

I was listening to Groban’s album “Illuminations.” If you’ve never heard it, I highly recommend it. The line is from his song “The Bells of New York City.” This particular line resonated with me this holiday season. I was listening to this album just before I embarked on my annual trek to Stone Harbor, New Jersey for my family’s biggest holiday extravaganza, Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, for my family, has become bigger than Christmas, both figuratively and literally. My mom’s side of the family travels down for a 3-4 day family fest. Dinner consists of 3 turkeys, numerous side dishes, and countless pies. The total head count usually comes to around 30+. My favorite part of the holiday, other than the food and family fun, is when we go around the tables and we each express what we are thankful for. The age range of attendees is from 12-68, but each message is the same. Everyone was thankful for each other.

This Thanksgiving was a hard one for all of us. This was the first family holiday without my Uncle Robert, my mother’s only brother. Everyone felt his absence, most especially his two daughters and my aunt. Each one of us mentioned him in our thankful speeches. We all expressed how even though he is not with us, we were thankful for him and for those who could be with us. We sat and reminisced about him. We cried, we laughed, we comforted each other in the way only family can. I was able to spend a lot of time with cousins, which I cherish. I cherish any time I get to spend with them. Cousins are some of your first friends in life and some of the longest lasting friends. But this time that I spent with them involved a lot of reflection. It made me realize how grown up we all are. We are all experiencing the hardships of life, but we get to experience it together. Nobody wants to have to experience death, but when you have such a big support system it makes the hardest life experiences just a little bit easier. I hope I was able to provide a little bit of comfort to my two cousins who were missing their father on our first big event. It’s not easy to know what to say or do, but, I think I have said this before, sometimes all you need to do is listen.

After listening to the Josh Groban song numerous times this holiday season,  I kept the line “my thoughts undo me” in the back of my head. I realized, HOW COULD ANOTHER SET OF LYRICS BE MORE PERFECT FOR ME. The last time a lyric hit me like this must have been back in the 90s when TLC crooned they didn’t want “no scrubs.” I’m thankfully well past my scrub days.

The holidays never fail to make me think and reflect on life. There’s something in the air that makes me feel a little more sentimental and grateful this time of year. My thoughts were all over the place during Thanksgiving. I was happy, sad, confused, and even angry. Life’s not easy and unfortunately does not abide by your schedule. Things will happen and we have to get back up, take the next step, and continue to move on.

I feel like I’ve been learning this lesson more often than not since I’ve started writing this blog. Just a couple weeks ago, a very close friend of my father’s passed away, his name was Father George Moore. Father Moore was the closest to a saint that my family will ever meet. My father was an altar server for him when he was a boy and stayed close with him over the years. Father Moore married my parents, baptized my brothers and me, married my three older brothers, and baptized my nephews and niece. Not to mention, he presided over my Uncle Robert’s funeral and many other family funerals. He was the spiritual leader for some of the biggest events in our lives.

The day after Zach and I got engaged, we went to visit Father Moore at the nursing home. We shared our engagement news, which of course he already knew. News travels fast in my family. He knew before most, but he swore to me he kept it a secret! He was so sweet and excited when he saw us, even though it was evident he was in pain. In the weeks leading up to the engagement, Father Moore would often say, “How’s our girl? Any news yet? Everything going well with Zach? When do we get to start planning the big event?” I would blush and say, “Woah, woah. Let’s wait and see.” It was sweet how he knew how much Zach and I cared for one another.

Zach and I sat with him for about a half hour that night, talking of our wedding plans. I had asked him if he would bless us. He blessed my ring and blessed the two of us. We sat in a circle holding hands and praying. Even though we were supposed to have our heads down in prayer, I put my head up and snuck a peek. I looked over at Zach, he was holding my hand tight, his eyes were closed and his head bowed in prayer. I looked at Father Moore. His head was bowed and he was holding both of our hands tight and the words he spoke were so meaningful. It was a beautiful moment for us. After we said our goodbyes, Zach and I walked down the hall to the elevator. We didn’t say much. I began to cry and Zach held me close. It’s a moment I will never forget. We were blessed by a saint.

Father Moore passed away December 20th. His funeral was a wonderful commemoration of a great life. When The Saints Go Marching In was played as the attendees processed out, just as he wanted. There were tears, but there was singing, and dancing. Love was surging through the pews. Even though he will not physically be at our wedding, I know he will be there in spirit.

Like I said above, life does not abide by your schedule. The passing of Father Moore right around Christmas wasn’t the easiest for my family, particularly my dad. But we do what we do best, and we rally together.

There was another change this Christmas, I was not home for it. You might remember in my engagement post, I wrote that I would be going home with Zach for Christmas. It was a wonderful holiday! Of course I missed my family, but it was such an enjoyable time to be with my soon to be second family. I sat in the living room on Christmas morning and looked around me, everyone smiling and opening presents. It felt like home. I am so very grateful to be joining a family who is very similar to my own. No matter who Zach and I spend the holidays with, we will be surrounded by those who love and support us. And no matter the changes we encounter, which will be many, we will make it through just fine with everyone by our side.

The Next Step

BLOG NOTE: I had another post in the works about Thanksgiving that I will post at a later date. Something very big occurred in my life last week and I have finally been able to wrap my mind around it enough to tell the tale.

As with all stories, I’ll start from the beginning….

Last Monday morning, I arose for yet another manic Monday. I completed my morning routine and went to work. Monday I came home, walked the dog, ate dinner and talked to my boyfriend, Zach, on the phone. We firmed up plans for me to go home with him for Christmas. He had asked over the weekend. BIG STEP. Little did I know, it was one of two big questions he would ask me that week. I was very excited, but I went all Kate Sprandio on myself and thought, “Oh, my gosh this is a big step. Am I ready to go to the Ells family Christmas?”  Of course, I was ready, more than ready. But, in my frantic chaotic mind, I overthought it.

I told my parents.

“Zach invited me to Christmas. What do you think about this?”

“That’s great. We’ll miss you, but that should be really fun. Are you ready for that?”

I responded quickly, “Of course I’m ready for it. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll have a lot of fun. I was hoping he would ask. I just wanted to check with you guys.”

“Do what you want,” they said. I wondered why they were so bland about the whole thing, but I shook it off.

Tuesday I woke up with a cold. Zach and I had started a new running routine on Tuesdays a few weeks prior. This Tuesday it was raining. I texted Zach and told him I didn’t want to run in the rain. I also said that I was not feeling well. He responded, “Oh no! I’ll come and make you soup!” He came over after work, we ate dinner, and watched TV. When it came time for him to leave, he grabbed his coat, kissed me, and ran out the door.

“Bye, I love you,” he said to me.

“What are you doing? Its raining! Put your coat on,” I shouted at him.

From under his coat, he pulled a package. “I came right from work. I had a package delivered there and don’t want to get it wet. I’m fine, see ya tomorrow!”

He disappeared down the street to the train station. I thought it strange that he had a secret package under his arm, but figured it was a Christmas present for someone. And boys are always weird, so it didn’t bother me.

The next day was Wednesday, my writing day. I arose at 7:30am and took some medicine …. only to fall right back asleep until 11:30. I was still feeling sick, but the extra sleep aided in my improvement. I made some soup and tried to do some work.

Zach texted me asking me if the plans we had made to see each other were still a go. I said yeah, even though I was thinking of possibly bailing again. Around 3pm, he texted me again asking if our plans were a go. I told him yes, again. I knew I couldn’t cancel, he really wanted to see me. I thought it was sweet. I told him I didn’t want to go for a run though.

He responded, “That’s fine. I was actually gonna suggest we check out the Art Museum? We had talked about that for a while now and never do it. See ya at 5?”

I thought that was a great idea! I was often suggesting we go there and we always make it to the steps but never go in. I pulled myself together at 3:45 and thought I should spruce myself up a bit for my boyfriend. No matter how long I know him, I always try to look cute before I see him.

I arrived at his apartment at 4:55 and we walked to the Art Museum. It was a normal walk for us. I talked the entire time and he laughed at me and chimed in when he was able. We approached the steps and he suggested that we run up them. I of course jumped at the chance to race him. We began running, I noticed he was behind me. This was rare. Zach does not let me win. I have to win on my own. “It makes you work harder,” he says. Oh, the weird things I love about him.

I shouted, “Come on, run faster. Why are you behind me?”

I made it to the last step and turned. He stood there with a smile that will never leave my memory. His eyes were big and bright. His smile gleamed, like the moonlight above him. He looked like the happiest man in the world.

“I love you,” he said. Hearing him say I love you never gets old.

“I know, I love you too,” I said smiling, thinking it was one of his random I love yous. We hugged and I took a step towards the building.

But then, it happened, a moment many women dream of.

Zach began to lower himself to one knee. He pulled a tiny, shiny black box out of his jacket pocket. My body stiffened. We had been talking about our future for many months. I knew this was coming, but I was still shocked. I knew in my heart and soul that this was the man I wanted to spend my life with. I had dreamed about how he would ask and how I would react. I was stunned by excitement. I became shaky. I stared at him.

“Kate Sprandio,” he said, “I love you so much. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

His face was priceless. It was a look of excitement, nervousness, happiness, but mostly a look of complete certainty. He looked so confident and ready. It was a moment that seemed to go in slow motion, but high speed all at the same time.

“Of course. That’s not even a question! Yes!”

I went to hug him before he opened the box. I didn’t need to see the ring. It could have been from a Cracker Jack Box and I would have said yes. The fact that it is the most beautiful diamond ring I’ve ever seen is just a plus.

He put the ring on my finger.

“Oh my God! Zach, this is beautiful!”

He picked me up and spun me around. A passerby took a few photos of us. Just like that, I went from being a girlfriend to a fiancé.

MIND. BLOWN.

YES!   Happy  Surprise

I began pacing along the steps. Zach laughed with a look of relief on his handsome face.

“We’re engaged! Engaged! Dude, we’re getting married!” I kept saying it out loud as if to convince myself it was real.

On our walk to my car, Zach told me how he took my parents out to dinner on Monday, that’s why they were strange with me on the phone. They had been with Zach just before I called them. When I spoke with him Monday night, he had just told my parents he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and I had no idea any of it was occurring! He bought the ring in Boston when he was home for Thanksgiving. The reason he ran out of my house Tuesday was because the ring was shipped to him from the place he bought it because it wasn’t ready when he left to come back to Philly. He had the ring in my kitchen while we watched TV! He had planned on proposing Tuesday, but decided not to since I was sick!

Engagement  Got Him

It’s a week later. I still can’t believe how much has happened. We set a date, got a venue, and a band. I’m thankful I’ve seen three siblings get married ahead of me. Zach and I will have plenty of wedding planning guidance. We are well on our way to planning an epic event.

December 4, 2015 I will stand before my family and friends and say I do to the love of my life, my best friend, the greatest, craziest, most handsome man I have ever met. I will abandon the name of Sprandio and become Kathryn Ells. Wow, Kathryn Ells. Let’s not talk about that yet, that’s a whole other post. Parting with Sprandio will be hard! Wait a minute, does this mean I should change my website. KateElls.com? Oh, boy.

I don’t know what I’ve done in my life to deserve this happiness, but I do know that I am forever grateful. I just wrote a long blog post, but I don’t think I accurately described how all of this makes me feel. Maybe I’ll try again in a few more weeks, when this settles in a bit more!

Shout out to my talented cousin Michaela, a fellow blog writer, for her shout out to us in her recent post! She created a celeb couple name for us, Zathryn. I like it. Check out her blog as well: http://nottheearlyone.wordpress.com/

And now, to my fiancé, Zachary Morris Ells. Zach, you swept me off my feet three years ago and you continue to do so every day. I am so ready to take the next step with you and tackle any other steps we will encounter in life. I love you like crazy my man! I can’t wait to spend forever with you!

On Wednesdays, I Write

Wednesday has become my writing day. As you all know by now, I work for my Dad. I work for him four days a week. On Wednesdays, I take time to nurture my writing career. I feel as though I should say “career.” When people ask me what I do, I often say I work for my Dad. I hesitate a little bit and follow it up with, “I’m also trying to be a writer.”

I was at the Apple store a few weeks ago purchasing a new charger for my computer. I love the Apple store. It’s like walking into paradise. Wall to wall electronics and electronic accessories. It’s glorious to me. One of my favorite things about going there is I have a talent for getting in and out rather quickly. I often go in and know exactly what I want. I cannot be suckered into purchasing extra things that I don’t need like most shoppers. A lot of people who go in don’t know much about the products they are purchasing, so they can easily be persuaded to buy more.

So I go in, I find my way to the section with chargers. A man spotted me and immediately asked if he could help. I said I need a charger for a 13inch macbook pro, it’s about four years old.

He grabbed the charger I needed.

“Okay then, here you go, that was easy!” He said with a large smile. “Do you need anything else today?”

“Nope, just this,” I said. My tone was a little short. I wanted to get in and out. I didn’t feel much like participating in small talk.

As he was ringing me up, he said, “So what are you doing out on a Wednesday afternoon? Do you have off today?”

I shifted my feet. “Yes,” I said. I smiled and hesitated. “Actually, I work in an office four days a week. I’m trying to be a writer, so on Wednesdays I write.”

“Wow,” he said as he swiped my credit card. Another $80 to Apple. You’re welcome Apple.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve had a couple stories published and I’ve done some freelance journalism.”

“You’re published? Then you aren’t ‘trying,’ you ARE a writer! I am talking to a famous published author,” he shouted.

I smiled, thinking the Apple sales-people really know how to sell. I felt so good about myself I almost wanted to say I actually do have a few more things I need, just to make his day better.

“I guess I am an author, yeah.” I laughed.

He put my purchase in the bag and smiled at me.

“Well, good luck with everything and keep writing,” he said.

“Thanks a lot,” I said.

I walked out of there feeling different. Since that innocent, mundane conversation, I have encountered a few people who have asked me what I do and my answer has changed.

“I’m a writer. I work for my Dad in his office a few days a week and I’m a writer.”

It’s funny how a complete stranger’s view can change your view of yourself. You never know how what you say can affect those around you.

Aging. What is this sorcery?

I am 27 years old. Hard to believe, right?

To those older than me, is there any point in life when you stop saying, “I can’t believe I am (insert age here)!” Because every year since I’ve turned 20, I consistently cannot believe my age. I was 20 seven years ago. SEVEN. I can’t comprehend this. I know 27 isn’t old by any means, but it sounds old. When I was a little girl, I would imagine what I would be like when I was in my 20s. I really haven’t changed all that much, even in size.

My 20s seemed like such a desirable period. I’m not really sure why. In my mind, your 20s were when you get out of college and join the ever wonderful “real world,” and you still get to have fun while learning to be more serious about your life. Once you hit your late 20s the big stuff happens and you begin to grow up in preparation for your serious and daunting 30s.

I’m in my late 20s and I wouldn’t call myself 100% grown up. But then there’s the question, what exactly makes you a grown up? Paying bills? Living on your own? Making something for dinner that requires more than a push of a microwave button? I do all of those things, so I am a grown up. I don’t feel it though, I still feel young at heart. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For years, I kept waiting for that moment, that moment when it all slapped me in the face YOU’RE A GROWN UP. But that moment didn’t happen all at once. It’s been gradually happening and I didn’t realize it. I’ve been known to be an unobservant person because I’m constantly lost in my own mind. Ask my mom. It drives her nuts. And my boyfriend. If anyone knows how insane I am, it’s him.

That’s one of the funny things about life. As I have said many a time on this redundant blog, we all get caught up in things that we don’t realize life is moving on. I’ve caught myself saying, “When is my life going to begin.” Duh, Kate, it’s already in motion. The older I get, it feels like it’s going faster. On the VCR of life, somebody clicked fast forward. Remember VCR’s? Talk about old. Those babies are relics.

Reflecting back, I can pin-point when life seemed to fast forward. It was when my oldest brother got married seven years ago. I don’t know why, but when he got married it seemed like everyone started to grow up.

John & Mary

Three months after he got married, I turned 21. Which may not have been the best thing to happen to my liver….or my dignity.

21  21st bday  Me & Ash 21 bday

I survived being 21 and I graduated college at the ripe age of 22. Just two months after graduation, I got a nephew! As I’ve said before, gaining a nephew made me feel more grown up, made me feel like I had a responsibility to make him proud.

Grad        Lil J

A year and a few months after that I started grad school. Two months after that, I met a really great guy who I can’t imagine life without!

Me & Z

Six months after that, I got a niece. Funniest, cutest little girl I have ever known. Definitely takes after her Aunt Kate.

Me & G      Me & G 2

About a year after that, I graduated grad school AND got another sister-in-law (my second oldest brother got married).

Grad School GradLesley    Lesley & Mike

Six months after that, I got another nephew!

Me & Leo

And FINALLY, 10 months after my new nephew…..

I GOT ANOTHER SISTER-IN-LAW.

Me & Shannon   Me and Brian

My 3rd oldest brother got married on October 10th. I know it must be emotional and hard for my mom to watch her boys get married, but it’s not so easy for a little sister to give her big brothers away! Life is changing once again, and while it is very exciting, it’s also a little bittersweet. But I honestly could not be happier for my big brothers and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for their lives.

All of these life altering events began when I was 20. Yes, I’m reeling it back in and making it all about myself now. Let’s refocus here.

I can’t imagine what is going to happen by the time I turn 30. I have a feeling a lot more good things will happen in the next 3 years. I have one more brother to give away and I’m sure I’m going to have a lot more nieces and nephews!

It’s safe to say, my 20s have been one of the best decades thus far.

SIDE NOTE: Part of the title of this blog “What is this sorcery?” is a quote from the movie Frozen. If anyone figured that out before the end, come see me and I’ll give you a high five.

Yeah, I’m a grown up.

OH, AND ONE MORE THING BEFORE I GO. I can’t end this aging post without thanking everyone who humored me and attended my birthday party this year. I had a blast. I thought about not doing it because I thought maybe I’m getting too old for it, but I never listen to myself. THANK YOU ALL. I only have these parties because I love nothing more than being surrounded by the people I care about the most, friends and family. Here’s a recap of all the parties I’ve had.

24 hit the floor

24 Hit The Floor

25 I Will Survive

25 I Will Survive

26 In My Pumped Up Kicks

26 In My Pumped Up Kicks

27: The Roaring 20s

27: The Roaring 20s

Here’s to 28……The Year of Kate.