Leah: The more I grow and develop into my own, the more I understand that I truly owe it to my parents and sister for the person I am.
My dad for my stubborn personality, the urge to say the things no one else will, my urge to go against the current.
My mom for her compassion and her undying love and support that has never wavered through all of my tragic failures.
My sister for cheering my on every step of the way (literally jumping up and down yelling my name), my biggest fan. She fills me with motivation and inspiration.
Without these three people who rock my world everyday, I don't know if I would have had the strength to divorce my husband, to not fall into an addiction or to be brave enough to embrace my free spirit. Being a Manning means strength, individuality, freedom, self-love, because that is what they gave to me.
Recently, my family came to visit me in Denver, which really felt like getting to hang out with my homies for a week. The older Manda and I get, the better our dynamic becomes with our parents. The older I get, the better I can understand why they raised us the way they did and how hard they worked to give us the lives we have. Manda and I were fortunate enough to grow up as together as best friends. We still sit for hours laughing uncontrollably when we look back on the memories from our childhood. I think that makes our relationship even more special, the fact we have been each other's ride or die since birth. As kids, we would fight like cats and dogs and then go right back to giggling and holding hands minutes later.
Not much has really changed since then, and this brings me to my first story. After dinner one night, we sent our parents home in an Uber and set out on the town to see what trouble we could get into. After hitting a few bars, we went for a "pizza n' beer" pit stop. We ordered a slice and a beer to share, and not much later, we found ourselves in a very familiar argument. It always starts from the frustration we both experience from missing each other madly and having to deal with living in different states. We've had a difficult time adjusting, to say the least. Mid-argument, though, Manda points out how absurdly we're behaving - here we are in the middle of the bar, fighting while still managing to share a piece of pizza, tossing it back and forth, and grabbing the beer out of each other's hands when the other person takes a breath to talk. We ended up laughing at ourselves, hugging it out, and then we paid our tab and bounced on to the next bar. Like I said, not much has changed.
In the days leading up to my family's trip, I kept bragging on the beautiful weather Denver was having. But of course, the day my parents flew in it started snowing, and the day they flew out it stopped snowing. *eye roll* Typical. They were pretty high-key annoyed about the weather, but Manda and I did our best to keep their minds off of it. We took them to do a Coors Brewery tour, thinking it would be a fun indoor Colorado activity for them. Welp, we ended up having to wait in the freezing wet snow for 30 minutes just to get on a dumb bus to take us to the tour. Again, high-key annoyed. Manda and I did a Heineken Brewery Tour in Amsterdam during our Europe trip last year, which turned out to totally be a tourist trap. We rushed past all of the tourists who insisted on reading every sign and moving as slowly as possible through the world's lamest tour. We literally finished the tour in record-breaking time, only stopping to take some ridiculous pictures and chug a free beer. Anyways, we were pretty convinced that this was going to be just as lame, but we ended up having a great time. Our dad made friends along the way, per usual, and chatted up the people giving out free samples to get a few extra beers. ;)
We ended our trip with a memorable dinner at one of my favorite spots. There is something so special about seeing our parents be able to relax and enjoy themselves. We treasure them more than anything, so being able to give back to them is so important to us. We were able to share our future plans, gain insight from their wisdom and celebrate our future successes!
Manda: I cherish these trips with my “happy little family,” as my mom refers to us, and the time we have together to simply enjoy each other's company. My mom and dad are honestly two of my best friends.
This trip was particularly fun because 1. it's Denver, 2. weed is legal and 3. it was our first family vacation since Leah and I had moved out west and we were all going through withdrawals because we had gone from living together, seeing probably too much of each other, to living on opposite sides of the country. Leah and I and my parents are now at this age where we can all share our mutual appreciation for music, travel, entrepreneurship, great food, pre-dinner cocktails (save for my saint of a mom who is 20+ years sober -- go mom!) and post-dinner spliffs (kidding! kind of... I'll explain later.).
God bless Denver. What's not to love about that place? Framed by the Rockies and glorious blue skies, with the most down-to-earth people who are actually into things besides materialism. It's pretty ideal except for the snow. Oh, right, did I mention it snowed every single day my and parents and I were in Denver? Yeah. Whatever, though. You can't snow on the Manning parade.
I think Denver is also a special place to be together as a family because Leah and I were both born in Gunnison, Colorado, where my parents spent some of their prime years discovering themselves and growing together in an area of the country that they felt embraced by. Leah has also had a similar experience during her time living there. She found freedom in Colorado, and being there together as a family, that sense of freedom resonates within all of us.
2. Legal marijuana
One night when Leah was at dinner with my parents before I got there, she texted me, “Dad wants to go to a dispensary lol.” I immediately replied, “WAIT FOR ME.” During the following few days after I arrived, we had “take Dad to a ‘reefer shop,”’ as he called it, on our agenda. For one reason or another, though, we ended up running out of time in the day to actually make it. More important things kept coming up, like a Voodoo Doughnuts stop.
Finally, one night after an incredible dinner at Leah’s favorite sushi restaurant, we decided this was the time. We Googled “dispensary” and set off to the nearest shop. As soon as we pull into the parking lot, Leah begins scrambling in the backseat and then exclaims, “DID SOMEONE GRAB MY WALLET?” … “No, Leah. Why would that be our responsibility?” Everyone starts ragging on her and she begins panicking. Me, being the big sister, immediately defend her. “It’s okay, let’s cut her some slack. She literally never does this. Usually it’s me in this situation,” I say, thinking of the time I lost my phone in the Amsterdam train station. Leah agrees, “I know, right? Well, so, I’ve been trying this new thing where I wear…” and then my mom, usually the quiet, forgiving one, quickly shoots back before she can even finish, “Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be out very well for you, does it?” OKAY MOM, I SEE YOU WITH THE SASSY ON LEVEL 100.
Meanwhile, my dad is beginning to get cold feet about going into the dispensary. He’s using Leah’s wallet as an excuse, and I’m like, “Listen, the restaurant has Leah’s wallet and it isn’t going anywhere. She can stay inside, and I’ll go in with you.” After ten minutes of attempting to convince him, we finally give up and and go back to get her wallet. On our way back, he laughs, “Hey, at least this will make for a funny story – ‘You guys remember that time we tried to take Dad to the reefer store and Leah lost her wallet? Guess you had to be there.’” Yeah, I think he’s right. You had to be there.
3. The withdrawals
Like I said earlier, my sister and my parents are my best friends.
I really envy the people who are fortunate enough to live in close proximity of their family. While living at home, I tried to remind myself of the homesickness I knew I was going to feel for my family when I moved away again. But it's never real until you've left.
Leah and I shared with our dad some of our ideas for the empire we want to eventually build. We explained our vision for a “restaurant concept design boutique,” our plans to create our own brand, our vision for our blog, future travel plans, etc. I like to bounce ideas off of my dad because he always has some insightful feedback and he never fails to ask the really tough questions. He’ll challenge every idea, but it pushes us to flesh out the fantasy from reality.
Some of the best advice he gave us during this conversation was to take advantage of the time in our lives right now where we can “learn on someone else’s dime.” Before we ultimately take the leap in investing our own money into our own endeavors one day, why not pursue every opportunity to gain more experience while working for other people’s ventures? As eager as we are to start our own business one day, it is a lot less painful to learn from your mistakes when it’s not your business that’s on the line at the end of the day.
Our dad also took the opportunity to share some of his recent goals and inspirations with us. He has the most admirable work ethic I’ve ever seen in a person, but he also has a hard time taking time off work and relaxing. My mom has been trying to convince him for the past couple of years to retire with her at the end of the year, and he’s finally getting around to accepting and even embracing the idea. He told us how he wants to make a trip on his motorcycle out to Baja and go on a sailing trip with his best friend from Colorado.
Leah and I don’t always get a lot of quality time with our dad, so this was a really memorable moment for me and Leah. I’ll never forget how he got so excited sharing his future adventures with us that he paused for a moment and then said, “Aw hell, call the Uber. Let’s get another round!”