Monday, May 31, 2010

'Mental Vitamins Mondays': Memorial Day

As we express our gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -JFK

Today is Memorial Day...a day in which we remember and honor the fallen soldiers who bravely served our country and sacrificed their lives so that we may freely live our own. This day reminds us that freedom is not free at all...but it comes with the highest of costs. The cost of blood. This day commemorates the soldiers and families that bleed for our rights and for the very principles this country was built upon. These noble men and women fought for and continue to fight for the preservation of not just ourselves but of our children and for our entire country's liberty. They fight for justice, for law and order and most importantly, for hope. A hope for a future of continued freedom.

No one likes war. Peace is always the desired option, but we live in an imperfect world where there is tragedy and evil and there are unfortunate times where we are called to defend. You can be against war and still support our troops. You can  disagree with the fight we are fighting but you can still raise a glass to those men and women who defend your right to disagree and protect your daily freedoms.

I'm certain we all know someone who has served or is currently serving our country in the military. Take the time to thank them today. If they have regretfully passed on, honor them today by giving back to your country in some way. Here is a photograph of my late grandfather, Vincent Leo Werling who served in World War II. He is one of the greatest men I have ever had the honor of knowing. We love and miss you, Pappy! <3

I have not seen this film but the trailer itself is touching and seemed fitting for today. Hope that you enjoy.

Thank you heroes! May God bless you and your families!

Friday, May 28, 2010

'Feature Friday': Goodbyes

Jared and I will be moving in with my parents at the end of June because our lease is up and we don't move to Switzerland until the fall. We're looking forward to being with family before we head overseas but we're not looking forward to the packing up and moving part. But because of us moving next month and so much going on between now and then (a family wedding, a family cruise, family photos, packing, etc.) last day of work was this week.

So this week was full of goodbyes. I HATE goodbyes! There is nothing more sad or more awkward than goodbyes. I have had to say goodbye to a lot of people lately but by far the hardest to say goodbye to was my sweet elderly folks. I have been the leader of an elderly support group for the last 2 years and have grown attached to these sweet people I call friends.

We went out to a local restaurant for lunch together and then they planned a going away party with dessert, music and gifts. They each wrote individual cards with sweet words of love and encouragement to me along with a necklace from the blown glass studio we visited together as a group a few weeks back. So sentimental and so thoughtful! My boss announced that it was my last day and that her daughter would be replacing me and one gentleman stood up and said "Now, I don't think Leah can be replaced!" and that was when I lost it. I started crying instantly. I was barely able to thank them and tell them how much they all meant to me because I was in tears. I wish I could take them all with me...but I know that in a way I will. They will forever be in my hearts and because of that...they will be with me wherever I go.

I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had during my time here. I have been blessed to have made friendships with truly wonderful people. Irreplaceable people.

I don't know how I'm going to be when I have to say goodbye to my family when we actually move to Switzerland this fall. I mean if I got this worked up over people who aren't blood relatives...I'll be a ball of tears, no doubt. But I'm not going to think about that now. I'm just going to enjoy every moment we have together! Starting tomorrow. We are having our family photos taken by my wonderful and talented friends, Brandon and Katie of Bungalow Photography. I am beyond excited! I will be sure to post those pictures! :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It's hard to believe it's nearly June already! We still have SO much to do before the big move but I know everything will fall into place. This was my last week at work so I will have more time to focus on getting things organized and packed now. June is a busy month, not only are we moving in with my parents for a few months before the BIG move but Jared's dad is getting married, we are going on a family cruise and I have a few photoshoots scheduled in there. Lots happening in the next few weeks so if I seem to be lacking on my updating between now and then you will know why.

Thank you for all of your kind words and loving support! We appreciate all of the wonderful people in our lives who have inspired us along the way and who continue to inspire! You all are awesome and we love you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Mental Vitamin Mondays" - Mi Familia

"The love of a family is life's greatest blessing."

Family is not only a huge part of my life, they are at the center of my life. When I'm with my family, I am at my happiest and when I cannot be with them, I am missing them and also remembering happy times together. They strengthen me, encourage me, inspire me and I can never seem to get enough time with them. This upcoming move to Switzerland is going to be tough in that respect. I know I will have homesick days but thankfully with today's technology we will be able to connect in ways we would not have thought possible a few years ago - like Skype - a type of video correspondence.

Family is on my mind today more than usual because my Mom came to visit me today from Indiana. I love it when I get to spend the whole day with my Mom. She truly is my best friend. We always have such a good time when we get together! So much laughter and smiles are shared between us! We went on a shopping "mission" for something to wear to our family photoshoot this weekend. When we first learned that we were moving overseas I immediately thought about getting family photos taken before our departure. I knew that so much would change and happen in the next two years ahead and I wanted to capture these moments before they are gone. We haven't had a professional family photo taken of all of us....ever. At our wedding, but Elliott was not born yet and it was a formal event...this will be more us...casual and fun.

My friends and monumentally talented photographers, Brandon & Katie of Bungalow Photography will be taking the photos. Needless to say...they are guaranteed to be AWESOME!! If you have not checked out their should. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and check out their fantastic photos! I'll definitely blog about the experience and share the photos with you once we receive them. I am beyond excited! 

To my family: I love you more than I could ever put into words. Thanks for being awesome!

Friday, May 21, 2010

'Feature Friday': Prairie Fire Glass Studio & Gallery

I am the Program Director  for an elderly group that meets weekly. All of the elderly people in this group are still living in the community, many of them still live at home and are quite independent. All of them, however have been diagnosed with mild or moderate memory loss. The purpose of the group is to maintain their current level of functioning and in some cases improve it. I feel very blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group. I'm not only helping people maintain their independence and improve their overall functioning, but I get to have so much fun while doing it! We have experienced so many great things together as a group. This week, I arranged for our group to go to a Blown Glass studio in a small town just 30 minutes from here in Monticello, Illinois. I'd heard wonderful things about it and was thrilled with how the day trip turned out!

The owner gave our group a complete demonstration from start to finish on how the art of glass blowing is done. It truly is an art and requires so much talent and experience. There are many stages in the glass blowing process, many of which you literally have a matter of seconds to work with and if you don't use the right technique with the right timing, your project is trashed and you have to start all over again. The Blower has a great personality for this line of work. He had all of us completely engaged in what he was doing with his humor and wealth of knowledge. It really was a great experience and I know that everyone really enjoyed it. I only wish I had some money to spend. He has so many beautiful pieces of work - all unique, all hand made and all were signed by him. So if you are ever in Monticello, Illinois, definitely check out the Prairie Fire Glass Studio and Gallery! You won't be disappointed!

Here are a few images I took from the studio and gallery. Hope you enjoy! :)

I wanted this necklace sooooooo bad! Isn't it absolutely stunning?? I think I may have literally drooled over this piece! LOVE IT! OK, so I loved everything....but this seemed to have really stood out to me. As you can see....he has some truly fantastic creations so support local artists and check it out! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Things I Love Thursdays': Poppies

I love all flowers and have many favourites but if I had to narrow it down to one, I would say that Poppies are my favourite flower. I love everything about them. I love their name, the fact that they come in nearly every color imaginable, the way they tend to grow in fields as far as the eye can see and I also love their symbolism.

Of all the colors poppies come in, I have to say I favor the red ones. Something about vibrant red poppies just makes me happy! I think my love for poppies began after a trip to Portugal. My family and I went to a restaurant there called "Poppies At The Park" and from the window at our dinner table we could look out and see a field of endless red poppies. I can still remember that view vividly in my head and how breathtaking it was.

Since falling in love with this flower, I have found countless art pieces, decor, jewelry, handbags, etc. that are poppy inspired and hope to one day have a room decorated with the poppy theme in mind. I already have a few things but always have my eye out for unique poppy inspired items.

In Greco-Roman history the symbolism of the bright scarlet colour signifies the promise of resurrection after death. Being a woman of faith, this symbolism is just one more reason why I love poppies. It is also the featured flower for Puerto Rican weddings and with my family heritage being of Puerto Rican decent, it gives me a cultural connection to the flower as well.

So needless to say...I LOVE POPPIES! :) I hope after sharing this, you have a greater appreciation for this beautiful flower too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Optimistic

Jared and I went on an ice cream date tonight and while we were enjoying our sweet treat he asked me "What has been your favorite moments in the last three years?" Of course our wedding day and honeymoon were at the top of the list and then shortly following that was the birth of our nephew, Elliott, I also reminisced about picking up our kitties and bringing them home for the first time. Other memories we both added to the list were the many shows we went to - including our favorite band Radiohead, buying our first car together, our trip to Colorado, our first visit to Switzerland, all of the elderly people and the wonderful friends I have met here. The list kept growing and I stopped and said "we really have had a lot of good times over the last three years."

It's been no secret that I have loathed this town since I moved here and I really did give it an honest try but the list of terrible things that we have encountered while living in Illinois is pretty long. But when I stop to think about it....while yes, I think this town is terrible, our life during our time here has not been terrible. In fact, it has been pretty wonderful. I've been married to my best friend for nearly three years, I've had endless love and support from our amazing family and friends, and even when we we had less than a dollar to our name we still never wanted for anything. We have been and continue to be so blessed.

So while I'm glad to be moving on from this place, I honestly can look back and say the first few years of our lives together were good and that the rough spots in the road truly did bring us closer together and I believe strengthened us not only as individuals but as a couple. It hasn't all been perfect or easy, but it sure has been memorable and worth it.

I am confident that our future years are full of the same ups and downs we have faced in our first few years together but I'm optimistic the good will continue to outweigh the bad. After all, we have each other and nothing can trump that kind of goodness! :)

Stay optimistic. Life is what you make of it.

And now....for a video of our favorite band singing their song 'Optimistic'. Fitting right? :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

'Q&A's Tuesdays': Musical Memories

I get asked all the time "What kind of music are you in to?" So for this 'Q&A Tuesday' I decided to dedicate this entire post to this one question. Because I have such an eclectic taste and so many artist that I love, my list would be endless so I tried to come up with a way to narrow it down. I love different songs for different reasons and like to listen to certain artists when I'm in different moods. What I love about music is not only the freedom it provides, but also how a single song can be directly connected to certain memories or moments in time.

 A single song can awaken those memories and seem to take you back to that moment so that you can relive it all over again. Here are a few of my music memories...

1. At Last by Etta James is quite possibly my all time favorite love song. I remember hearing this song when I was driving in my car at age 16 and saying to myself "I will one day dance to this song on my wedding day with my husband because I know this is exactly how I'm going to feel." It was our first dance as husband and wife and it was magical.

2. How To Disappear Completely by Radiohead has an instant calming effect on my soul.

3. Ben Kweller makes me want to put on a sundress and cowgirl boots and dance where the grass grows knee high.

4. My husband taught me that techno can and should be listened to in broad daylight.

5. Billie Holiday has a legendary voice that makes me wish I grew up in her era.

6. Tom Petty was my very first concert. Lawn seats. Summer of 1999. Those were the days.

7. I remember vividly the first time I heard Sigur Rós...I was sitting in my hotel room in Italy when I was 18 and the music video for Svefn-g-englar came on the television. I remember being glued to the set. I'd never heard anything so awe-inspiring. I was instantly a fan.

8. Listening to Blessed by Brett Dennen is such a great way to start the day.

9. No matter what is going on or what mood I'm in, I can't help but feel happy and full of life when I listen to Bob Marley.

10. When I hear any sort of latin or salsa music, I have to dance. It's intrinsically necessary.

11. The Flaming Lips have an intergalactic/hippie/whimsical sound that I just can't get enough of.

12. The sounds of Jeff Buckley are hauntingly beautiful. I can get completely lost in his music.

13.The first time I heard Radiohead I remember thinking "I want more of this!" I can honestly say that they have changed my life.

14. Iron and Wine is meant to be heard while driving down country roads in the afternoon with the windows down.

15. Coldplay's album, Parachutes, will always double as a tribute to the summer I met my husband.

16. My recent musical addictions: Jónsi, Tinashé, Late Night Alumni, Taylor Swift, Sleeping At Last

17. Josh Wilson electrifies my spirit and strengthens my soul.

18. I fondly remember the days of mixed tapes.

19. I grew up during the "boy band" phenomenon and can proudly say I didn't buy into it.

20. The world would not be the same without The Beatles. It would be hard to imagine for me anyway.

I'd love to hear some of your music memories.....leave them in the comments below or shoot me an email!

Monday, May 17, 2010

'Mental Vitamin Mondays': Life Lessons

"The difference between school and life - In school you are taught a lesson and then given a test - In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson."

My husband graduated yesterday with his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Illinois. (I couldn't be more proud of him!!!) Now, when most people hear that he is a Chemist and now, that he holds a PhD in chemistry their first reaction is always the same "Wow! He must be smart!" And the truth is: he's more wise than he will give his own self credit for - but he's not just book smart or simply well-educated in a specific field - he is such a knowledgeable man in general. He loves to be intellectually challenged and that is what drives him to learn more and why he has such a wide range of knowledge. Although, he is also a very humble man and probably hates when I brag on him like this, but I can't help it - I'm just a very proud wifey! :)

I, on the other hand, am NOT book smart - I survived college and made it out with a bachelor's degree. I was more of an average student - not at all a stand out student like some. But I've always felt like what I lacked in the realm of textbook knowledge, I made up for in my knowledge of people. I am a pretty good judge of character, I can read people fairly well and I'm good with people - in other words I can interact with people of all types of backgrounds, education levels and personalities. My social skills, I guess you could say are at a PhD level. :)

But no matter how educated you are there is nothing that can prepare you for some of the things life will throw at you! Whether it is losing a loved one, being let go from your job unexpectedly, an unplanned pregnancy, a difficult person's attitude...whatever the situation you may be facing, you may not feel prepared to deal with it but know that you always have the answers to life's tests - the answer to all of life's questions is to seek God first. He has all the answers so wouldn't it be wise for us to ask for His guidance in our everyday lives and for every difficult situation we encounter? It's not as easy as it sounds - we want answers NOW, we don't like to wait on God and we don't want just any answer we usually want Him to confirm our own answer. Our plan does not always match up with God's plan but remember His own words: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

I recommend we stick to His may not make sense right away but eventually we see that He works the all together for good!

Friday, May 14, 2010

'Feature Friday': The Greatest Generation

I went to an Alzheimer's Disease conference this week in Springfield, Illinois and while it was very interesting and informative,  it was also very sad. We still don't have any concrete answers on how to prevent or cure the disease. There is so much research and yet so few answers. There are so many people I care about, including my own grandpa who have the disease and very little hope of a cure in their lifetime.

My passion for the elderly, more specifically, the elderly with memory loss began when I was 19. My sister-in-law worked in a nursing home on the dementia unit and invited me to volunteer there with her. I'll admit, before interacting with the elderly, my initial thought of people with Alzheimer's was that they were scary people who had conversations with those who they could see and no one else could. But when I got there I realized that they were some of the sweetest people I had ever met and I really enjoyed them a lot! I fell in love with their population so much that I decided that was the population I wanted to work with as a career. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Recreation Therapy with my focus being in geriatric care.

I have been volunteering and working in various older adult care settings for about 7 years now and still have a great passion for the elderly. Their generation has such a wonderfully unique perspective because they have lived through so much history in their lifetime and have a higher moral standard than other generations since. I have learned so much from them. Life lessons that are priceless.

I have said this before but it is will be a very sad day when the last of this beautiful generation are gone because they have been inspiring for decades and they are a unique breed of people that unfortunately will one day reach obsolescence. The phrase "they don't make 'em like they used to" could never be more true in this case. I admire every last one of these sweet elderly folks and will appreciate them as much and as often as I can.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

'Things I Love Thursdays' - Sundresses

I looooove sundresses! I absolutely hate shorts so to keep cool and stylish in the summer I opt for sundresses! There are so many different styles out there and just I love the feminine feel of a simple summer dress. I guess you could say they bring out the girly side in me because I'm typically a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl but give me a sundress and I start doing up my makeup, accessorizing and can even be caught skipping while in a cute dress! :)

Also: Check out the song 'Sundress' by Ben Kweller - good summertime tunes! :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Helpful Hubby

So the 'World's Greatest Husband Ever Award' goes to my husband this week. Sorry to all you wives out there...but the trophy is taken! I was out of town all last week for various volunteer and work related reasons and when I returned home I found that my husband had done every last bit of laundry, folded it and put it away, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, had the bed all made up, cleaned the litter box, emptied the trash and had even begun organizing and packing for our upcoming move. And it gets even more remarkable....he did it all without being asked! He is always really good about helping out around the house but this exceeded my expectations. It was so nice to come home to a clean place. Instant stress reliever. I'm so thankful for such a thoughtful husband who seems to always surprise me with simple acts of kindness and creative ways of showing me how much he loves me. Whether it's a quick email from work saying he is thinking of me, or what I like to call "no reason roses" when he buys me flowers when there is no special occasion for them, or by doing spontaneous cleaning so that life for me that week is a little less stressful and little more happy. It's the little things that make a HUGE difference sometimes. And he certainly had a huge role in making my week start off great!

Wives - don't forget to shower your hubby with thanks after he does something wonderful like this. He is more likely to do it again in the future if you show him how much you appreciated it. And might I suggest that you do something a little extraordinary for him this week, something that will make his life easier and his week a little brighter - and do it without being asked. You have to give love to get love and if you ask me, the giving is the best part, especially when you do something nice without expecting anything in return and then you actually get a huge smile and maybe a hug and kiss in return! :) Smiles are the hearts greatest reward.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

'Q&A's Tuesdays': Ask Me Anything!

Tuesdays I answer questions that you, the reader, have for me and they can be about anything! If you have a question you would like to ask me - you can either comment below (there is a "comment anonymously" option if you don't want to reveal your identity) or you can email me by clicking on the small envelope icon below. Don't be shy...this is your opportunity to find out all you've ever wanted to know about me! :)

Here are a few questions I received this week....

1. Did you go to college or are you currently in school? Yes. I attended Indiana State University where I graduated in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Recreation Therapy. OK, cheesy story time....I was watching "A Wedding Story" on t.v. one day and this particular bride had cerebral palsy with her greatest wish being that she wanted to walk down the aisle on her wedding day without her walker. It showed her going through various physical therapy training and on her wedding day, she walked down the aisle without her walker and the look on the groom's face was priceless. She was beaming, and he was tearful. It was beautiful. And right then I decided that I wanted to help people overcome life's obstacles and reach their goals through becoming a physical therapist. ISU didn't offer a PT program but they offered a degree in therapeutic recreation and after learning more about it, I knew that it was for me. So in a sense, I kind of stumbled into it...but I love helping people so it is a perfect fit for me!

2. How did you get into photography? I have always had a love for photography but I guess when I started really taking it seriously was around 2005 when I received my very first digital camera. Ever since then, I always have a camera with me. Always. I love the freedom and possibilities of photography and that we have the ability to capture a moment in time that can be cherished for generations to come. So awesome!

3. What are a few things you want to do before you die?
Have children - preferably boy/girl twins :)
Travel to as many countries as possible
Leave the world in better shape than how I found it

Monday, May 10, 2010

'Mental Vitamins Mondays' : That Sync-ing Feeling

"Love is at the center of the universe and I am out of sync when I am not loving." -Morton Kelsey

Last week I was apart from my husband for 5 days. Now, I realize that 5 days doesn't sound like a long time...but to those who are in love, you will understand that this is an eternity. I had various volunteer and work opportunities that required me to be in a different state than my husband for those 5 days and each day seemed longer and more difficult than the last. This above quote summarizes exactly how I felt during those few days. I just felt like I was out of sync...that life as I knew it was not as it should be, things felt off...and I just didn't feel right the entire time. I missed him an incredible amount. I talked to him every night but I still found myself unable to sleep well, I had a sincere lack of motivation to do things and my dad even pointed out that it was more difficult to get me to laugh -- I'm usually a VERY happy, easygoing person. But when you are in love and you are married, it truly is as if you have found your other half so when that part of me (my husband) is gone...naturally I don't feel all put together. 

When we were reunited, it was though everything was put back into alignment. I felt whole again, at peace, happy. I could enjoy the creases next to his eyes when he smiled, I inhaled his scent with each hug, I could appreciate the sweetness of his kisses. These are things I never want to be without and certainly don't take for granted! Being back in his arms I was again, in sync with the universe. I love that sync-ing feeling! :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

'Feature Friday': Life Passion

I have a real passion for people. I love all ages, from kids to teens, to older adults. I just truly LOVE people! I love the diversity there is in our world. I, myself,  have friends and loved ones from all corners of the earth, with a wide range of backgrounds and I can appreciate so many different things about each and every one of them. I love meeting new people and most of all, I love helping people. I get a sincere joy from knowing I have made a positive difference in someone's life and believe that a simple smile is the heart's greatest reward. I have many passions...I am passionate about my family, my faith, and many other things and I really have a great love for Life. My heart's desire is to leave this world in better shape than how I found it. I want to do my part, even if it may seem like a very small part, I still want to dedicate my life to helping and loving others.

I have been involved in various aspects of the pro-life community for several years but really felt like there was more I needed to do and more I wanted to do to help build a culture of life in our communities and our country. So late last year I created my own non-for-profit organization called Life Inspired Love with the goal, and purpose being to reach the hearts and minds of men and women across the nation by educating them about the value of each individual, encouraging healthy relationships and promoting positive life-affirming choices.

I started by creating a blog where I could post facts and information about life and making healthy, positive choices and then created a Facebook page in order to expand my social outreach and I hope to, one day soon, develop a website to help spread the truth with love. I also began speaking at high schools about self value and healthy relationships and sharing my own personal testimony in hopes that our youth will be encouraged to enjoy a life filled with happiness and success as a direct result of their own personal commitment to self-respect and making positive choices. (you can view my presentation and personal testimony *here*)

I spoke at South Vermillion High School in Indiana today and was encouraged by the youth in those classes. I really felt like they not only listened to the message but they HEARD it. I believe in my heart that at least one teen in there walked away with a new positive perspective on sex and relationships. They were so respectful and so attentive and were asking questions that showed they did care, and they did want more knowledge about how to enjoy healthy relationships. They were all so down to earth and down right fun to be around too! :)

The teacher of this particular class actually came up to me afterward and said "You are a breath of fresh air, these teens need to hear a positive message like yours from a hero like you" And while I was flattered by his comment I really don't see myself as a hero at all!! I just want to see our young people succeed, I don't want them to go through the heartache of failed relationships and consequences of poor choices, that's why I have a sincere passion for speaking at these schools. I wish someone had stood in front of me when I was in high school and shared the truth with me before I made some of the mistakes I did growing up and that is why I feel a calling to be that person for our future generation.

I am so grateful for the loving support of my husband, my family and my friends. I would not have had the courage and strength to do what I'm doing without you. Thank you for standing with me and standing behind me on this. It means the world to me!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'Things I Love' - I Heart Pandas!

I heart pandas! My love for panda bears goes beyond just loving those cute, cuddly faces. There is a sentimental significance behind my love for this adorable black and white bear and why I now collect all things panda related!

Not long after my husband and I were engaged, I read somewhere that pandas often have one mate for life so I told him that "we may not be panda's but we're for life" and ever since that we have affectionately given each other the nickname "Panda Bear" - he is Mr. Panda and I of course, am Mrs. Panda. :) Cheezy? maybe. but I don't care...I love it! In fact, if he calls me by anything other than "Panda Bear" or "Bear" it feels weird...same goes for him, it feels awkward to say Jared when I'm talking to him instead of calling him "Bear". We're dorks like that! I now also affectionately call my parents Mama Bear and Papa Bear because of the panda inspiration.

So there you go...that's why I LOVE PANDAS! (one in particular!) ;)

Here are a few cute panda images that I love and wanted to pass along to you! Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Memory Lane

I had lunch today with my mom and a friend of ours and somewhere during the conversation the story of how my husband and I met came up and since today is "We Wednesday" I thought that re-telling our love story here in my blog was perfectly appropriate today! I never get tired of telling it...I get to relive all of those special moments and emotions all over again so it makes my heart happy to share our story with others.

We met in the middle of the ocean...more specifically, we met on a cruise ship named the "Enchantment of the Seas" in July 2003. We were both on vacation with our families and for those who have never been on a cruise, you are assigned a dinner table that you eat at each night of the cruise. Jared and I sat at tables right next to each other the entire week. We both admit that we noticed each other day 1 but neither one of us had the courage to talk to one another. The very last night of the cruise, my mom had noticed I was "checking out" this guy all week and said to me "Leah, just ask him to go to the show with you later, the worst he can do is say no and then you'll probably never see him again so go for it." Back then I was somewhat shy so I had the waiter go over to his table and ask him if he would like to go to the show with me later that night. To my surprise and excitement, he agreed to meet up with me at the show. He and his brother met me and my friend at the theater show they put on every night of the cruise. Looking back there are several instances where I can see that God had hand-picked this man for me and had every detail worked out to bring us together. The first being that out of all the thousands of people on that cruise, he happened to sit next to me...I mean what are the chances when you think about it?? Another detail that at the time seemed small but now seems very significant is that he had a brother with him that night who was just a few years younger than Jared, and I was with my friend who was slightly older than I was. Before meeting up with Jared and his brother, my friend made the comment  that whoever was the older of the two would be who she "pursued" since she was, in fact, older than I was. But within moments of meeting, Jared spilled his drink on me and at the time it just seemed like an accident but we can now look back and see that it was no accident and that God was setting the foundation for see, had he not spilled his drink on me, he and I may not have been able to connect because that wouldn't have followed the "rule" my friend had...Jared was older and if we had gone with her request, Jared would have been her date that night as opposed to mine but he and I were able to inadvertently hit it off thanks to a seemingly clumsy moment.

After the show we walked around the ship talking and sharing about ourselves and through conversation discovered that he lived in Kentucky at the time and I lived in Indiana. He had the best sense of humor and seemed so easy to talk to....I remember laughing a better part of the evening. We found out that we really had a lot in common. At the end of the night we exchanged numbers and said goodnight without so much as a hug.
I don't think either of us thought we would see each other again, but that following week was his birthday and I thought "what a perfect excuse to call him!" After attempting to dial his number at least 20 times I finally stirred up the courage to dial his number...and actually let it ring. :) He sounded shocked that I had called but was in the middle of celebrating his birthday with family and promised to call me back later that night. I thought to myself "He was just saying that and probably won't ever call me back....he probably thinks I'm some crazy stalker girl from the cruise" Well, to my surprise, he did call back. We ended up talking for three hours on the phone that night and it became routine for the next 3 months. He drove the 6 hours to see me and we had our first official date at the Indianapolis Zoo. He brought with him a stuffed white tiger (my favourite animal at the time) After the zoo we had dinner, then walked the canal downtown and just talked and laughed together. We had a really great time but he had to drive back to Kentucky so with a hug, he left. Still no kiss. He would visit again and this time after he left, I remember crying my eyes out to my mom. She asked what was wrong and what had happened and my response was "I don't know" I thought he was the sweetest guy, and funny, and we had a lot in common but it just didn't feel like it was right timing. I was just starting college, gotten out of a really bad relationship and didn't know what I wanted from life and didn't think it was fair to bring someone into my life when I really didn't have my life together. So I was honest with him and told him I thought we should just be friends. He was so understanding (of course...because he's amazing)

I didn't date anyone for about 2 years after the decision to just be friends. I really just needed that time to sort my life out, figure out what I wanted and needed without complicating things with a relationship. Jared and I were not just friends, he became my best friend and we would go to concerts together, talked frequently to each other on the phone and through various social networks but never resurfaced our romantic relationship.

Then, on 11/11/06 I went to Illinois where he was going to graduate school and attended a concert with him, again, as friends. After the show he took me to a few places to take pictures (he knows I love photography)and then to a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. On our way to dinner he made a subtle comment about me being beautiful and I replied that I didn't want to ruin the friendship we have. And I meant it. I felt safe as friends and feared that starting a relationship would somehow change what we had as friends. He then replied "If I'm not the guy that you're supposed to end up with, well then that sucks for me, but ultimately I just want to see you happy because you deserve to be happy". And thought "this man is willing to be JUST my friend for life...and is totally sincere when he says that!" We get to the restaurant and I remember at one point, stopping in mid sentence, looking across the table at him, and he was looking at me with this look that I can now only describe as "the look of love" because I had never had anyone look at me the way he looked at me that night. I can still see his eyes so vividly in my mind and I said to myself right then "I am in love with this man". I took the time during my car ride home to Indiana to think about my revelation and said out loud to myself over and over "I'm going to marry this man" So as soon as I got home I told him that I would be crazy if I said I didn't want to be with him. He embraced the idea of "us" with open arms and we were inseparable ever since.

We took turns driving the 2 hours to see each other every weekend for  about 3 months and one night while at my apartment he was talking about his plans for after he graduated and I asked if I could come with him to which he replied "I'd be devastated if you didn't" That's when I knew that we both felt the same for each other...we were in love. On Groundhog's Day, 2007 he proposed. He had rose petal trails throughout my apartment leading to pictures and note cards with memories we had shared together on them. There were 11 total(my favorite number) and the last card he held next to his chest that read "The most important of them all" He got down on one knee and said "We've made a lot of wonderful memories together and I wanted to spend forever with you so we can make a lifetime more...will you marry me?" Through tears of joy I exclaimed: "A thousand times yes!"

He then told me he had made reservations at a downtown restaurant to celebrate. The restaurant overlooks the city and slowly rotates so you can see the entire city at sunset. When we get to the restaurant, to my surprise, he had invited my mom and dad to celebrate with us. He had asked them in advance for their blessing which really meant a lot to me. It was a perfect end to a perfect proposal.

We were married on 11/11/07...a year exactly from the day I realized he was the one. It was and is to this day the best day of my life! He is my best friend, my soul mate, my everything. He sees me the way I wish I could see myself. I couldn't have dreamed together a more wonderful, loving, intelligent, handsome man. He has made me the luckiest and I'm so proud to be his wife!

Blog Overhaul

I'm trying to become a better blogger and to do that I feel I need a little more structure to my blog.  So I am going to start having a specific topic or theme designated for each day of the week. I think this will not only help me to start blogging more often, but having a general idea of what I want to talk about each day will help me organize my thoughts. I love to blog, but sometimes I have several things I want to talk about and don't want to ramble or overload my posts with information. So if I stick to a topic I think it will be better for not only me, but for you, the reader. I am not writing to gain "followers" - I have always enjoyed writing and simply find it relaxing, therapeutic and fun. Having said that, I do, however, realize this is a public blog and that anyone can read it so I want my entries to be something that people enjoy reading. I don't claim to be an exciting person and really am flattered that there is anyone who reads my blog! :)

Up to this point I have been writing about my own personal struggles, victories and everything in between and will continue to write about my everyday life in my blogs but with more structure and a chance for interaction.

So in the future, this is what you can expect to see on my blog:

Mondays - Mental Vitamins - life lessons or valuable quotes and phrases
Tuesdays - Review -I review different things I think are worth talking about
Wednesdays  - What's New Wednesdays -pretty self explanatory I think....
Thursdays - Things I Love - anything from music, books, movies, recipes, crafts, fashion, etc. that I love enough to pass along
Friday - Feature - things from the week I want to highlight

To elaborate on the Q&A's Tuesdays: if there is something you've been dying to ask me, or are just curious about - comment or email me, I will not use your name in any of my posts, I will just answer your questions in my blog, each Tuesday, so that you and others can read the question and the answer.

So check back for daily updates or subscribe to get updates sent to your email. And THANK YOU for taking the time to read my blog. I hope that you are able to take away something from my writings.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Mental Vitamins

I love "words of wisdom" or inspirational quotes -- particularly those memorable phrases that help you grow spiritually. My Mom and I went to an antique shop today and a book entitled "God's Little Rule Book - Simple Rules To Bring Joy And Happiness To Your Life" caught my eye. I read a few pages from the book and found myself smiling at the brilliant lessons on each page. It was only $3.00 so I thought, "I've gotta get this!!" Here is the phrase that stood out most to me today from this little book: "Love the unlovable - every day someone benefits from your compassionate attempt to show God's love."

Sometimes it is really hard to even consider the idea of loving someone who is nothing but mean to you, let alone actually loving them. But what stuck out to me was the part where it says "your compassionate ATTEMPT" One person in my life came to mind as I read this. This person is extremely difficult to deal with - they are just an all-around negative person and frustrates me on an almost daily basis and I have done everything I can to be nice to this person, to show this person kindness only to have this person continuously be mean to me no matter what I do. But I'm not supposed to show love and kindness to someone simply to get a positive reaction from them or to be liked. I am supposed to show others love because God first loved me. My role is to share God's love with everyone, not to share God's love only with those who will receive it well. And while they may seem "unlovable" in our eyes...they are not seen that way to God, because God loves each and everyone of us - no matter if we love Him or not. Something else I noticed about this quote was where it says: "SOMEONE benefits from your compassionate attempt to show God's love" -- the person you are attempting to love may not show any positive signs that you are making a difference in their life, but maybe someone else IS. You never know who you may be positively impacting, if it's not who's life you meant to touch, it could be someone else and you may never know it. You'd be amazed by how many people will recall something you have said or done when you didn't think they were around or even listening and your words can have a direct impact on that person whether you realize it or not. Point is, someone can and will always benefit from kindness, so keep being kind even if you THINK it's not doing any good.

For me, I don't like just repeating quotes, I like applying them to my everyday life. I'm sure you all can relate to having being told something and a few weeks, months or even years later -- you find yourself in a situation where that phrase someone said or that life lesson you were given, almost like a flashback, resurfaces in a time of need. You are faced with a difficult decision or struggling with how to react to something and/or someone and those words of wisdom pop in your head.

A personal example of this: My mom told me several years ago that "Life is 10% the situation you are given & 90% of how you react to it" and ever since hearing this, I remember my Mom's words when I'm given a situation that I would not choose to be in (one that is very challenging or difficult) and try to react positively as opposed to just reacting without thinking. Because while yes, I was given that difficult situation I have also been given the choice and the power to turn that situation into something good as opposed to something bad simply by how I react to it. I'm sure we've all encountered at least one individual in our life that has been what I like to call "splinters" -- those that get under your skin and just irritate the heck out of you -- but I have found that if you respond with kindness to those types of people, they are more likely to show kindness back, and often times, they don't know how to react when you DON'T respond in a negative way like they are expecting. I'm not saying be a push-over, but always speak and act with love. 

Here is a clip from the movie "The War", starring Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood, that is a prime example of what I have been talking about -- where I feel this approach was clearly applied. I just love this scene. (I also recommend you watch the entire film.)

I want to start having more of a structure to my blogging as opposed to random entries each day (we'll see how this goes) so I'm going to start dedicating Mondays to blogging about these little words of wisdom I pick up along the way. You know, life lessons that I have personally experienced and want to pass along to my readers. I like to call them "Mental Vitamins" so from now on -- expect Mental Vitamin Mondays! :) Please leave your own personal life lessons or quotes you love as a comment below or email me. I know you have words of wisdom you can pass along to me too and I would love to hear those!