Dear Friend,

Now before I begin talking about the joys and woes of this day of love, let me give you a little update on where I was and what I was doing last week, yes, I realize that this could have been mentioned BEFORE my most recent boys post, but things take shape in my head when they do and there really isn’t anything to do about it now is there? You may recall that when I told you that I was, once again attending CADCA, that someone who I had assumed would go, didn’t get to go. This, however, changed and I am glad to say that the one and only, Michael (to be honest I know multiple Michaels, but that isn’t really important right now,) WAS in fact in attendance at this years CADCA for the 3rd year in a row (his essay really was quite spectacular I must say.) I won’t go into every detail of what it is we did every minute of every day but here’s an outline. On Monday, at lunch, Michael and I left EMHS to meet up with the rest of the group and we began our journey toward the Gaylord National in National Harbor, Maryland (go look it up, it’s impressive.) We stopped at a Subway along the way for a late lunch and I got one of my favorites: toasted chicken breast and provolone on flatbread with lettuce, southwest sauce and either tomatoes or olives (together they would be odd, but individually they help make an awesome sandwich.) When we arrived at the Gaylord we grabbed our stuff and eagerly found our way inside and to our rooms. That evening we ate at a place called Elevation Burger, which believes that “ingredients matter.” They try to be “100% USDA certified-organic, 100% grass-fed, 100% free-range beef, 100% ground-on-premises, and 100% hear-healthy olive oil.” Pretty awesome if you ask me. The next day (Tuesday) is when CADCA really began. CADCA stands for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (although CADCA, the organization, is beginning to work with international coalitions through the UN.) The point of having a National Leadership Forum is to gather people who believe in the fight to prevent substance abuse/addiction to share ideas, strategies, and enthusiasm. Well, that being said, back to my activities. Throughout the day we attended workshops, plenary sessions, and even took a lunch break to the one and only Potbelly’s (look them up too while you’re at it because they’ve got a “random button” on their home page, absolutely hilarious.) For dinner we headed over to the Cadillac Ranch (home of the best mechanical bull EVER.) Unfortunately after waiting for about 45 minutes, the staff informed us that we couldn’t ride the bull because they couldn’t find the key that was needed to run it. 😦 (That is, by the way, the LAST time I will be using smiley faces…unless I am in dire need, which I hope I am not) However that didn’t really matter, at least not to me, because while there a few of us had an amazing conversation about faith and what we believe…it’s utterly astounding to me how powerful conversations like this can happen when you don’t expect them, I love that. Wednesday was Capitol Hill Day. On Capital Hill Day Sue Thau (no one seems to be able to agree on how to say her name, so don’t worry about the pronunciation) gets everyone pumped up with her full body nods, fist pumping, excited bouncing, etc, invites various important people to speak (one of my favorites this year was The Honorable Danny Davis, and no, I don’t know why “The Honorable” is before his name) and reminds us that speaking to our representatives is an integral piece of our work. Then we all load up on buses and ride the 15 minutes into DC where we have a rally, talk to our representatives, etc. All of the attendees from Virginia met with Representative Rob Wittman who is the house representative for Virginia’s 1st district. We told him about what we were doing, asked him to continue to support our efforts, and then listened to him tell us about why he appreciates us and our work. After that we ate at the old Post Office before heading to the Spy Museum! We had a spy adventure, complete with our own case (top secret, of course) and discovered that we would all fail as real spies (actually I refuse to believe this, I will be/am a shinobi/secret agent. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.) That night we “kids” ate at Ketchup (a high end burger place) while the “adults” went out for seafood. Ketchup is cool because of the different kinds of ketchup they give you (Ranch, Chipotle, Habanero, Wasabi, and Root beer.) Thursday was the final day of CADCA and was very similar to Tuesday, except we also had the awards luncheon. One of the workshops on Thursday was especially good. It was on Marijuana legalization issues and was presented by a DEA agent who knew what he was talking about and had very good speaking presence. Then we packed back into the van and headed back. I will admit that the ride back was rather boring and I found myself just thinking silently to myself, but other than that the week was rather splendid, exciting, and informational (who knew those words could go together?)

Valentine’s Day. You knew it was coming, my thoughts on Valentine’s day. Well, to be completely honest I always expect to love Valentine’s Day. But when the day is over, I’m just frustrated with how it went. You’d think that I’d tire of being excited for it, but I’ve found that life is just better when you expect good things, so I will continue to love Valentine’s for the mere joy that comes with seeing people happy (and the music, I LOVE love songs!) Well, to be frank, this is rather disappointing, I thought I had more to say about Valentine’s Day and how much it drives me insane, but I guess I just realized, in trying to express myself, that I don’t have much to say except this: Enjoy Valentine’s Day for what IS and for what MAY BE.

Love, Mandi Jo