Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Margaret + Beau

And...I'm back with a love story! I'm SO HAPPY that this is my first story back because it's a great friend celebrating a sweet engagement. Margaret and I grew up together in a small town and went to rival high schools. Then, she headed south to the University of Alabama. This die hard Alabama fan never imagined she'd be marrying a UT Vol! Their long distance love story is one that will send you chills and leave you believing in the power of love! I'm so excited for Margaret and Beau, and I think you'll love their story as much as I do! :) 

Beau was raised in Franklin, TN and graduated from Fred J. Page High School. I was raised in Chapel Hill, TN and graduated from Forrest High School. What’s funny about this is that we grew up 15 minutes from each other, but we didn’t meet until we were both in college – about 6 hours apart! I attended The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Beau attended The University of Tennessee – Knoxville. We were both home on Christmas break when a few of our mutual friends decided we should meet each other. We went on a “group date” with some of our friends, and after the date, one of our mutual friends gave Beau my phone number. I remembered getting a text message from him a few days later that read “Hey, this is Beau.” I responded with “Beau who?” I know…not my best moment! The next text read “Anna’s friend Beau.” Then I made the connection! Ha! We instantly hit it off and for the next two years, Beau and I talked on the phone almost every day. We rarely hung out because we lived so far apart and we were never at home at the same time. However, in that time we formed a special bond and friendship.

After we both graduated from college, we knew that it was our chance. If we were ever going to date each other, now was the time! So, we started dating in May of 2013. Beau lived in Nashville at the time and I lived in Birmingham, so we were doing the long-distance thing for over a year. In July of 2014, Beau moved to Birmingham and after almost 4 years of being apart, we were finally in the same city!

After dating for over two years, we both knew we wanted to get married. I knew Beau was the perfect man for me. He is sweet, compassionate, fun, friendly and most importantly, he truly cares about me and loves me. He puts my feelings first and that is something that makes me feel so special.

We got engaged on June 8, 2015, in Birmingham, Alabama. It was your normal Monday night. I had worked all day and had on shorts, a tank top and a 3-day-old ponytail (ladies, you know what I’m talking about) and Beau and I had just finished dinner at Sumo. Nothing out of the ordinary for us! On our drive home, Beau said “Why don’t we go check out that park?” A new park and walking trail had opened about a mile from our house on the Cahaba River. We had been wanting to go there and take our dog/fur child Dave Woodis to check out the trails. So, we drove to the park and started walking the trail. A few minutes later, we came upon these gorgeous stone steps that led down to the river. Beau walked me down the steps and then asked me to sit on a large rock at the bottom. I was still clueless until this point. I knew when he asked me to randomly sit down what would happen next!

Beau is a very laid-back, sweet guy, and I can assure you that our engagement was 100% Beau style: very laid back and sweet! There were no cameras, no candles, no Pinterest-inspired decorations. It was just Beau, me, a beautiful Alabama sunset, and lots of love. It was absolutely perfect!

Our wedding will take place on April 30, 2016, almost 3 years after we started dating and after more than 5 years of friendship. I can’t wait for our big day because I truly feel that I am getting to marry my best friend!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Traditional vs. Millennial

Should I say anymore? Well, I am. We, the Millennials, have a bad reputation; I'm fully aware that my job hopping doesn't help my case. As I've been bouncing around in the workforce, I've noticed that the divide between the "new" workday and traditional workday are perceived very differently. The "new" way seems to have left quite a bad taste in the Traditionalists' mouths. I was interviewed a few weeks ago that triggered this post.

I have used all of my editing tricks to fill in any and all gaps that may appear on my resume. Just by reviewing it, you don't even see a gap. For whatever reason, I  have cracked in all of my most recent interviews and just spilled the beans on what was happening at whatever job I was trying to leave. I did it to myself. Some interviewers understood and applauded me not settling (millennials looking to hire millennials); however, this particular interview didn't go that way. 

The CEO's part in the interview was very brief, but he had just enough time to say this, "What's with your generation? You think you can jump from job to job. What are your expectations when you take a job? Jobs require work wherever you go. I guess Millennials would be okay with hiring someone who's been job hopping." Now, this wasn't exact wording, but this is pretty close.

I was not offended or bothered by his statement, and I was still super interested in the position within his company. Not only because that job would've been great, but also so I could show him that Millennials do work hard. We want to work hard for the right organization, with great people, all while fulfilling our passion. 

The Times cover didn't do us justice by using such negative terms like lazy and narcissistic, but they did get it right by saying we may be able to make a change in the world.  While some of the Millennials have truly lived up to the laziness and narcissism unfairly used to describe a large mass of people, there's a group of us that are working our asses off. In fact, there are studies that say that this generation is willing to accept lower compensation if the job gives back and is fulfilling a greater purpose than to hit quotas. Ask me. I took a $10k pay cut to work for two small companies. That statistic is true. Is it a challenge to be paid less? Sure. But being a happy, productive human being is worth the difference. 

Now, for you Traditionalists reading, I completely value a serious work ethic. My parents and grandparents are the ones who instilled that in me. While you were/are a shining example of hard work and did/do more than your share to provide for your family, we also see how unhappy you were/are. You spend 40+ hours each week at a job you hate with people you consider obnoxious for well over half of your lifetime...all to come home each day with no energy, no motivation, and a bad attitude while spending evenings with your family? It doesn't add up, and I can sincerely say that our generation wishes you had been able to do life differently. We wish you could've enjoyed/enjoy your work so you could enjoy everything else that comes with it. There are traditionalists that love their jobs, but according to Forbes "...the majority of Americans - 52.3%- are unhappy at work..."

This is all to say that hiring a Millennial may seem risky, and that's because it is; but, it could be very rewarding. We may have different ways, perceptions, and challenge the average workday, but that doesn't mean we don't value and demonstrate hard work. We excel at working hard for a good purpose. Together, this generation can make a difference and live happier, more fulfilling lives while also promoting positive change. This world needs more happy people. 

Read up! If you are ANY business owner, please do yourself and your company a favor by reading Dale Partridge's "People Over Profit." 

Please support these local Millennials making a difference! 

Sevenly (L.A. based) 
Love Your Melon (Minnesota based) 
Warby Parker (NYC based)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I'm Calling a DO OVER...and a 10K Pay Cut.

Love Struck?...more like life struck.

Call it a quarter life crisis, but I refuse to think of this as a crisis. What is "this" you may ask? Well, it's been me job hopping for the past 8 months. I'm going to be transparent and tell you that 2015 has kicked my ass: personally and professionally. Here I am; the girl dubbed "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school spending almost an entire year living pay-check-to-pay-check adding gaps in her resume? Yes. I'm your girl!

My last post was just the beginning. I thought it was a new permanent beginning; however, that beginning ended after three eye-opening months. Another few months went by, and I landed what I thought was THE golden career opportunity. Well, it wasn't. Both companies are amazing and successful, and I'm so grateful for having those experiences and opportunities; however, they left me feeling stressed, stuck, panicked...and bored.

Panicked? Yep. If you know me, then you know planning is in my blood. I live for a five year plan. Right now, as I type this, I have no plan. I don't know what my purpose is. I don't know what I want to do as a career. My time at both of those jobs made me realize that I have no clue what I want to do with my life. All I knew at the time was that it wasn't working.

Neither jobs were unbearable, and I could have stuck them out and ruined relationships in their wake. But, as soon as a job starts causing unwanted stress and negatively effects relationships, then it's time to move on. I used to think this was such a cliche', but it's true that you can't put a price tag on happiness. And that, my friends, is why I took over a $10,000 pay cut.

A few doors have been shut, but I'm about to crawl through a few windows that have been cracked open. I'm going to make margaritas with the lemons I've been given. (The margaritas will contain the cheap tequila due to my new employment status).

At this point, some of you may be praying for me. Don't worry; I'm like a cat. Every time I fall I land on my pretty little paws and try to climb the next tree.

I'm lucky to have amazing friends, family, and mentors to lean on during times like these. Times of transition, unpredictability, and uncertainty. When I'm doubting myself, I have the constant love and support of others encouraging me.

Not only do I have THE BEST support system, but I have my hustle, killer work ethic, desire to learn and grown, and determination to create something good. I may be a little nervous and overwhelmed, but I'm far from fearful.

I'm going back to basics and focusing on the things I have versus the things I think I want. Things are only good to fill voids. Memories, laughing, smiling, building a sense of community, and enjoying what you do every single day with people you love is what creates a happy, meaningful life. It's also super free to invest in all of those things.

I'll get back to spreading the love with Love Struck as soon as I get my groove back. Until then, I should probably change the title of this blog to, "Ashley's Quarter Life Diary."

I must thank sir Jon Acuff for writing the book, Do Over. It has helped me redefine and refine my Career Savings Account and given me the encouragement to punch fear in the face.

(Note written by Jon Acuff as found on his Pinterest)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Blair + Daniel

This is one of the sweetest stories I've shared! It's so sweet that they coined the phrase, " I yeah you" because they felt it was too soon to say love! ha! Also note the presence of God's magic in this story. The last thing Blair was looking for was a love interest, and then Daniel walked into her Sunday school class one random morning...

From Blair: I have always heard the saying, "Love will find you when you least expect it."  That is very true in our story.  Daniel and I actually met when the last thing I was looking for was love.

In January 2009 I had just gotten out of a long relationship.  I had been attending a very small church with my previous boyfriend so it was time for a change.  My parents invited me to their church, but before I agreed I asked to look at the church directory.  I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anyone at their church that I would be attracted to or could be interested in.  I needed to go to focus on my relationship with God, not another boy.  I looked though the directory carefully making sure there would be no distractions at my new place of worship.

After a month of regularly attending, on a rainy February night Daniel walked into Wednesday night Bible study.  I hadn’t met him yet and assumed he was already with the girl he was sitting next to, so I didn’t take much notice of him.  But he sure noticed me!  The very next day, February 19, I got a friend request and a message through Facebook.  He apologized for not introducing himself the night before.  I was excited to be making a new friend but noticed that he was in a relationship on Facebook so I didn’t push it.  We exchanged friendly messages back and forth about how long I had been attending and that his work schedule had prevented him from being a regular attender but that he had gone to the church since high school.  Also, realizing that we had spent our whole lives living just 15 minutes from each other and attending many of the same youth events in high school.  He mentioned in one message that his schedule allowed him to be at church for both Sunday School and church that week.  I was so excited to have made a friend at my new church, (who I was kinda crushing on but wasn’t going to do anything about it because Facebook said he was in a relationship; however, he never mentioned a girlfriend).  I couldn’t wait to get to church the next morning.  Only problem was that it had snowed over night and the roads were ice.  However I was determined to get there!   I was not going to let a little snow get in my way. Halfway there, I felt so silly thinking he might not even show up and how crazy I was. But, he made it to Sunday School too! He was amazed that I made it too, since I lived further away.  Together we helped break up ice on the sidewalk and were the only students in class.  We ended up sitting together during the church service and he introduced me around (many church members assuming we were already a couple).  Miraculously, after church I checked Facebook and he wasn’t in a relationship anymore!

That was my cue!  I sent him my Instant Message screenname and we chatted even more that week.  He explained that things had been over with his ex for a while but he just needed a push to make it official (me being the push!).  He asked me out to lunch with some friends the next Sunday.  Our first date was on Sunday, March 8 we went to lunch with some friends and then just the two of us went for a hike Bowie Nature Park.  Our first date lasted 8 hours!  I didn’t want to leave.  When I finally got home and was gushing about Daniel, my mom reminded me of a plaque I have on my wall, it says "Do not worry, the Lord will provide."  And boy did He!

We both fell fast and hard for each other!  Coining the term “I yeah you” after just a few dates because we both thought it was too early to say ‘love.’  That didn’t last long.    We talked multiple times a day and saw each other as often as we could.  Even though it had only been just a few months I felt like I had known him my entire life.  He was so easy to talk to and made me smile and laugh more than I ever had before.

In May, Daniel picked me up for what I thought was just another afternoon hike.  It turned out to be much more!  Halfway though the hike I was talking about the song “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and how funny I thought it was that prostrate and prostate are so similar.  At that moment we stepped on a bridge I had never hiked to before, only seen from another trail.  We took a minute to just look around,  when I turned around to look at Daniel he was on one knee!  I’m sure he said some lovely words about just being together for three short months but knowing that I was the one the night he met me.  But honestly, I have no recollection because I was beyond surprised and out of my mind excited!  However, my exact words after saying ‘yes’ were, “Is it real?”  To this day Daniel and I debate whether or not I was talking about the ring.  I stand firm that I was talking about the situation.  I was making sure it was a real moment and he wasn’t joking, since one week before I told him if he asked me to marry him I wouldn’t say yes because we hadn’t been dating long enough. :)

We raced back down the trail to find my sister and a photographer waiting to capture the moment and my parents waiting with our first wedding present... an egg slicer.

Nine months later on February 6, 2010 (less than one year from the day we met) we were married. Four years later, I am still the happiest I have ever been and so glad Daniel’s directory picture did not do him justice.  He makes me smile and laugh everyday.  The verse engraved inside our wedding rings is Mark 10:9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  Because it was truly the Lord that brought our hearts together.

We now have a house and a dog and are living out our happily ever after!

Friday, October 3, 2014

My 10 Commandments for Wedding Planning

My final blog for Wedding 101 was my favorite to write. I didn't have to write about a certain company. I didn't have to write about anything generic or "typical" for a wedding blog. After spending 4 years talking to brides, I have learned a lot about how a wedding proposal and the planning process can consume a woman...and the relationship. Being that I have never been engaged or been through the process as I bride, I can't imagine the stress one would be under. But, what I do know is what kind of bride I would be because I know what type of person I am.

 Truth is, you don't have to be wedding planning to follow these 10 commandments.

1. Be Nice- While you should be nice all the time,  make sure to be extra nice to all of the people helping you with your wedding planning, especially whoever is paying. No one has to help you, but people do because they are excited and happy for you! Don't snap on people during times of frustration. Take a deep breath, smile, and be a sweet Southern lady.

2. Be Thankful- Not everyone gets to have the wedding of their dreams. Be thankful for the amazing man you call your fiancee, your supportive family and friends, and this moment in your life.

3. Don't Bend to Pressure- You will be getting pressure from everyone about your wedding; family, friends, wedding professionals, and yourself. The process can be difficult and challenging, but have the wedding that's perfect for you and your groom. Include what's important to you, your fiancee, and both of your families.

4. Don't Make an Impulse Buy- Ladies, you don't have to book a vendor at a bride show because they are offering an amazing deal. If you book on the spot, you are making an impulse buy. I once bought a hair straightener from a woman off the street because it was a "great product at an affordable price." It was terrible. I'm not saying that those vendors are terrible...I'm saying sleep on it before you make a final decision.

5. Love Your Body- Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT decide to start dieting during your engagement (which happens to be an emotionally and physically stressful time). It will not work, and you will be so disappointed and hard on yourself. You are beautiful, and your wedding dress will be beautiful...both of those together makes you a beautiful bride. Love yourself and your body. In fact, shake what your momma gave ya.

6. Don't Worry About Crowd Pleasing - News flash! You are planning one of the biggest parties of your life. There will be music, drinks, food, your friends, and YOU! That is pleasing. Your guests will have a blast. It's not about pleasing them. You are inviting your friends and loved ones to a free date night. Don't put your focus on that. Your guests will have a blast.

7. Mandatory Date Nights- Make sure you and your beau have regular date nights during the engagement...and do NOT talk about the wedding. Couples can lose themselves in the process, so this is very important. The wedding doesn't define your life or relationship. It defines one day that starts the rest of your life. So keep up with those date nights where ya'll can relax and unwind!

8. Consider Your Groom- While he may pretend not to care, he really does. He wants to see you happy. Be open and keep him in the loop of the planning. Ask him for his opinion and input on  He is your partner...share the planning details, but also share how you are feeling. He will be able to help you take on the stress.

9. Laugh- Whenever you feel like crying about how stressed out you are, find something that makes you giggle. Get on Pinterest and look up "funny baby animals" or "wedding planning ecards." You'll laugh. Don't let this get you down. Keep on smiling and laughing, and remember, things could be worse!

10. Remember Why You Are Doing This- Ladies, remember the reason you are doing this. It's not about the wedding. The wedding is a symbol for the bigger picture, which is a marriage of two people and their families. You are doing this because you have found the one you want to share your life with. Not just share your life, but you want to create a life with him. It's hard to find that these days, ladies. You are about to embark on one of the happiest and most difficult challenges of your life.

While I targeted brides for this article, these are commandments that I try to live by on a daily basis. I should've called these " My 10 Commandments For Being A Nice Person." I needed a reminder of the type of person I want to be and continue to attempt to be each day. Thank you, Wedding 101 for the love, lessons, experiences, and amazing opportunities over the past several years.

Now, cheers to moving onto the next chapter carrying these lessons and aspirations with me! :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Trust The Timing Of Your Life.

I can't remember the last time I blogged, but I'm back with an exciting, yet bittersweet, announcement! I am leaving the wedding world and Wedding 101 Nashville. Will this make it hard for me to collect love stories? Well, kinda. But, this is just another challenge and motivator for me to get out there and talk to people. Not just talk, but engage with them in a real, meaningful conversation.

Why am I leaving the wedding industry...after working for free for one year, after giving up all free time and weekends to work weddings (while in college), after finally landing an awesome position in the wedding world where I didn't have to work weekends? 

The answer is messy, but it's spilt milk that's already spoiled. So instead of explaining, I'm moving on. The one majorly critical reason for my decision was that there was no room for me to grow professionally or personally unless I wanted to open my own company. Which, I certainly do not. I learned so much, helped amazing couples, and made so many dear friends during my time in the wedding industry. I will carry all of those lessons with me into my new adventure.  

I am moving into the optical world, my glasses wearing friends. I was offered a position on the founding team of Warby Parker's corporate Nashville office. I will be working alongside 14 other awesome people to launch the customer experience branch! I'm so excited to start this new journey with such an amazing company. I am very blessed and thankful for the opportunity, and I can't wait for the new people, lessons, and experiences ahead! 

(Blurry to Clear)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm Back!!! With A Very Special Love Story!

It has been several weeks since I've had anything new. June was beyond busy, and I have been quite distracted with my own love story! To be horribly and embarrassingly honest, LoveStruck was very low on my priority list until just last week. What better way to end my hiatus than to get things started back up with my brother's love story....with his now FIANCE'! 

Like many love stories, their's doesn't start out very pretty. But it is real. It is full of emotion. It's beautiful to see someone grow and heal with love. I'll let Shannon tell the rest...

Most every love story begins with them emphasizing that “this isn’t your usual fairy tale”. Well that’s the case for me as well; our story was definitely not Disney worthy at first.

 Jonathan and I met when we both worked at the Murfreesboro Athletic Club. I should tell you that when I say met I mean I would walk by him with googly eyes and drool coming out of the side of my mouth. I worked in the childcare while he worked the smoothie bar. I didn’t know much about him other than he was older, was the quiet type and was freaking gorgeous. All the childcare girls and I would refer to him as the hot smoothie guy. I would suggest we all get smoothies all the time just so I could go out there and see him (not talk, just stare). My shy side was definitely apparent at that age in front of good looking men. I never considered making any kind of move because in my mind there was no chance. He was older and would never go for a 17-year-old with braces and an awkward personality.

He eventually left, the childcare had to find new boys to talk about and his Facebook status changed to in a relationship. As was mine; I continued a relationship with another boy. This went on for a few years until one day I received a Facebook message Christmas Eve from Mr. Jonathan telling me it’s been awhile and he wanted to know how I was doing. I wish you could have seen the look on my face when I opened that. HOT SMOOTHIE GUY RETURNS. We started having small talk and began talking regularly. When the time came for him to ask me out on a date I reply with….” I have a boyfriend.” Yes, I was still in a relationship. We had been on and off for about three years. Honestly, the relationship should have ended a lot sooner but I was stuck. I kept telling myself that he would change and be what I needed if I just stayed around (but that’s a whole other story). So you understand my eagerness to talk to a boy who was kind and heck, actually talked to me! My current boyfriend at the time came and went as he pleased. He would talk to me when his phone wasn’t “lost” or he was bored at his house. So when Jonathan heard this he was rather shocked, of course! We decided to grab some food together, but ditch the term “date”. We met at Nachos here in Murfreesboro. I ordered food but barely touched it because I was so nervous. I just kept thinking…holy crap he’s gorgeous. Please stop smiling, it’s too much to handle. Haha. We talked about our families, his career, me being in school and anything else we could think of. We had to get kicked out of the place because we stayed until after they closed. I was thankful my mom motivated me to go meet him, because I was too indecisive and nervous to go without a push.

After that things just kind of started rolling; I left my boyfriend and got more serious with Jonathan. I was experiencing things I didn’t know were possible; a boy actually intimately talking to me daily, about my thoughts, plans, goals, etc. I hadn’t experienced that in … awhile. He cared, he listened, he came to visit me at work, he engaged with my family and so much more. I was blown away by this boy and so in shock that men like him actually existed.

And then…

Walls came up; many walls. I didn’t want to be touched. When he would try and cuddle, I’d cringe and try to move away. I was rude, cruel and hurtful. I started telling him we weren’t compatible, that we had nothing in common and this wasn’t going to work. But I stayed; I continued to talk to him every day. I continued to miss him and eagerly await his text messages. So why was I being such a (pardon my French) bitch? I was hurt so badly from my past relationship, that I didn’t even give Jonathan a chance. I was used to having to be on my own in a relationship and being manipulated. I was pushing away. This is the part in movies and books the audience is always exclaiming “NO you idiot! He loves you, let him in!” His friends and family were asking him why he was putting himself through this. He was getting hurt on a daily basis. I would tell him he deserves better and to just leave me be. But he didn’t. He kept telling me he saw something in us and he would do whatever it takes, and that’s exactly what he did. He tried and tried and eventually those walls started to disappear. He began to teach me what he looked for in a girlfriend. Because for the past 3 years I wasn’t one; I was basically single with a boy that would randomly enter my life. Jonathan showed me what love was coming from a boyfriend and just… changed everything. I told him I’d be his girlfriend and told him I loved him within a matter of months. We started building a life together and learning about each other.

A year and some months later, we moved in together. A week ago, we got engaged.

We still have our struggles; not being on the same page, not communicating like we need to and other little things of the sort. But we are so closely connected it is unreal. I’ve never felt a connection like it. He sees me, like really sees me. He knows what makes me tick, what to do to make me happy and even what I want to eat. (I make him order for me quite often). I have been in love before, but this is a whole other experience. The engagement wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows, because I’ve known I was going to marry him. Now I just have a ring and a Facebook status to show it. Don’t get me wrong, I am freaking excited. But I have been, every day since I received that text message Christmas Eve.

So my message to everyone would be: don’t let one relationship change your outlook on every relationship you have. Don’t let your past effect your present. Be open-minded and willing to change, because from that comes happiness and new experiences—like marrying the hot smoothie bar guy. ;]

Shannon, we love you and can't wait to have you as an official member of the family. I also am beyond excited to attempt to micromanage your wedding planning!