Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Engagement Story

When you meet someone who…

makes your heart flutter,
makes you a better person,
you can’t live without,

you hold onto that person and you  n e v e r.  l e t.  g o.

When I met Kevin, I knew he was unique. He was unlike any other guy I had ever met.  He was gentle with children, friendly to strangers, respectful to the elderly, but most importantly, he was perfect to me. He was charming, chivalrous and selfless... He put me on a pedestal and treated me like a princess. He had a way of making me feel special and I knew from the start he was the man I wanted to marry.

I had a notion he felt the same, but I had no idea when he would propose, if ever. But then one September day, my life changed forever…

We were on a cruise, vacationing in the Caribbean when it happened.  As the sun was rising and the ship was docking, Kevin kissed my forehead, waking me from a deep slumber. It was Friday and we had finally arrived in Belize.

For months leading up to our trip, Kevin had insisted we book a room with a balcony and soon, I would learn why.

I rolled out of bed and followed him to the wooden railing, overlooking the ocean. With his back facing me, he began pouring his heart out, telling me how much I meant to him. At first, I didn’t think anything of it because he was always expressing his feelings for me. But this time was different. He seemed nervous and I didn’t know why.

He turned around and continued telling me how much he loved me and how happy he was to have met me. He said that he could tell I felt the same because I was constantly showing him, especially when he had deployed.

“There was one gift you sent me while I was in Haiti that was very special… those coupons you made,” he said.

He was referring to a tiny box of coupons made out of pink construction paper.  On each coupon I had written a promise, mostly things I would do for him once he returned.

At this point, he had already been home for three months and still hadn’t used any of his coupons, so of course, I was quick to point that out.

“Yes, but you still haven’t used any of them yet!” I said.

He looked at me with a smile and said,  “But there’s really only one I need.”

Then he handed me a small pink heart, on which I could see three small words written in ink… “My Eternal Love.”

Immediately, my eyes welled up with tears and I told him I would always love him.

It was then he bent down on one knee, pulled out the most beautiful ring and said those five words that melted my heart, “Will you marry me, Kim?”

 Of course, I spontaneously burst into uncontrollable tears. In fact, I was so overwhelmed with emotion I couldn’t even respond!

For at least five minutes, we stood there, kissing and hugging each other tightly. Finally, he pulled back and slipped the sparkly princess cut jewel on my finger. We were engaged! And to make it even more special, it was the 17th day of September--exactly 17 months to the day after we met.

Because we were still on a ship, I had to wait THREE days to inform my friends and family of the news. I later found out that a month before our trip, Kevin had called both my mom and my dad, asking for their blessing to marry me. He also spoke to each of my seven siblings, requesting their approval as well.

So now, exactly two years later, we are (obviously) married and life couldn’t be better! 

Tonight, we celebrated the second anniversary of the proposal with a delicious dinner on the Sunabe Seawall. It was romantic and perfect… just like my husband. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Celebrating Life, One Birthday at a Time.

The older I get, the faster the years seem to fly by. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. This year, I turned 26 and I started thinking, “Wow, my sweet sixteen was a DECADE ago.” Ten years ago this week, I was applying for my driver’s permit and celebrating with a sleepover. Unlike most girls my age, I didn’t have a boyfriend and my best friend and I were obnoxiously joined at the hip. We were the same height, the same weight, the same size, and eventually we drove the same car (matching 1995 Saturns). We were essentially sisters, affectionately known as Kim & Mim.
 {me & Mim @ a school dance} 
December 2002
Age 16
Punxsutawney, PA

Little did I know, over the course of the next few years, I would get accepted to Penn State, pledge a sorority, live a semester abroad, land the job of my dreams, meet the love of my life, get married and move to the opposite side of the world.

It all seems surreal and each day, I thank God for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met along the way… I often find myself getting nostalgic, so the other day, I spent a few hours perusing old photos and decided it would be fun to give you a glimpse into some of my previous birthdays… starting with my fourth!

{me & mom}
September 1990
Punxsutawney, PA

{me, Erika, JC, Danielle}
July 1991
Pittsburgh, PA

Every summer, all the cousins on my mom's side of the family would reunite for an annual birthday party and take turns blowing out the candles. Looking back, it’s absolutely gross to think of nine or ten kids blowing their spit all over a cake…and then eating it. When I “grow up” and have children of my own, I’ll be sure to have an extra cake on hand for the adults! Haha

{me & Danielle}
September 1991
Punxsutawney, PA

{me, Jessica, Danielle}
September 1993
Puxsutawney, PA

As a kid, I always looked forward to my birthday because I always had a party and I always had a sleepover. And for some reason, I always seemed to get Barbie Dolls as gifts.

{me, Deidre, Sarah}
September 1998
Punxsutawney, PA

Okay, this one is a bit embarrassing, but it had to be shared. Somehow I convinced my friends to play with the sheep on my farm during my birthday party. Deidre is holding Lambert, who was the lamb that, while suffering from pneumonia, became delirious, ran into a combine (a piece of farm equipment) and broke his neck. Miraculously, he survived and lived the rest of his life with a lopsided head and a semi-obstructed voicebox (imagine an extremely glottal “Baaaaaa”).

{Megan, Jackie, Theresa, Autumn, Misti, Katie}
September 2004
Indiana, PA

This was the infamous day I became an adult... The photo was taken at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) with some of my best friends from high school. If I remember correctly, we spent the night acquainting ourselves with college life, aka the frat scene.

{Jackie, Me, Theresa, Megan}
September 2005
Niagara Falls, Canada

Anyone who grew up in Pennsylvania or New York knows the legal imbibing age in Canada is 19... So what better way to celebrate my Canadian legality than with wine & waterfalls?

{Jen, Amanda, me, Ashley, Nikki}
September 2007
State College, PA

This was obviously one of the most memorable. First of all, I was the last of all my friends to turn 21… basically the last senior at Penn State to be allowed into a bar. So you can only imagine how enthusiastic I was about this milestone…

The night before, my roommate organized a pregame at our apartment and then at midnight, we proceeded to some karaoke bar where I proudly climbed on stage and pretended I was Mariah Carey.

On my actual birthday, dinner was eaten at Red Lobster and drinks were “sampled” at both the G-Man and the Dark Horse. 

{me & Kevin on the Riverwalk}
 September 2009
Savannah, GA

This was the first time celebrating my birthday with Kevin… I could tell he was a keeper because instead of just taking me out to dinner, he also planned a romantic weekend getaway for us in the charming city of Savannah, Georgia!

 {me & Kevin} 
September 2010
Tuscaloosa, AL

In 2010, fate and football collided with PSU playing Alabama for the first time in twenty years. For those of you who know my husband, he graduated from Alabama, while I graduated from Penn State. When I found out the long-awaited game was on my birthday in Alabama (where I was working at the time), I was ecstatic! Of course, we bought tickets, tailgated all day, watched the game, then left the next morning for a Caribbean cruise.

September 2011
San Angelo, TX

First birthday as a married woman… Kevin and I had just moved to Texas, we were still staying in a hotel, living out of a suitcase hundreds of miles away from home. We spent the day kayaking the Concho River, eating dinner at the Olive Garden and splitting a ginormous Strawberry Cheesequake from Dairy Queen.


First birthday celebrated in Japan!

Wine & Cupcake party with a few of my female friends on the island...
{ladies of the 909th}
September 2012
Okinawa, Japan

{my next door neighbor, Alyssa}

{Ebony, Liberty, me, Alyssa, Cerrin}

Kevin also surprised me with a stunning rose & lily bouquet, cooked me macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup, gave me a gorgeous white & black diamond necklace, then took me out to a fancy schmancy seafood restaurant for dinner.

So, it’s hard to believe I’m 26… 10 years ago, it was an age I associated with being grown up, outdated and old… Haha

But now, not so much… My metabolism may be slower, but I am more motivated, disciplined, and energetic than I’ve ever been. I would say I’m finally in my prime…and embracing it!

Do not regret growing older.  It is a privilege denied to many.  ~Author Unknown

A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  ~John Barrymore

The other day a man asked me what I thought was the best time of life. "Why," I answered without a thought, "now."  ~David Grayson

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Race that Almost Killed Me... (& My Secret to Speed)

Before the race: I look unstoppable, but I actually feel quite distressed.

It was the race that almost killed me… Or rather, the race I almost killed myself. The culmination of two months of training had boiled down to five kilometers and I was bound and determined to give it my best.

This was certainly not my first race, but my nerves were shot. The night before I tossed and turned and barely slept, then woke up with knots twisting in my stomach. Why was I so nervous? I had done this before, countless times… in the hot, beating sun, in the pouring rain, on the treadmill and on the pavement.

But this race was different. It was the first one I had trained for consistently. It was the first time I had developed a training plan and stuck with it faithfully. Interval sprinting one day, pace running another… Each workout was building my endurance, increasing my speed and pushing my limits.

But even with all of that preparation, five minutes before the race, my legs were quivering, my hands were trembling and my heart was pounding. I closed my eyes, drew in a deep breath and bowed my head, asking God to calm my fears and give me strength.
I'm the chick with the pink shoes and the orange sweat band... Yes, the one who looks like a rejected character from the movie Dodgeball.

As the national anthem played, I stood at attention beside dozens of other runners, both young and old, military and civilian, and suddenly decided that this day, I would push myself like I never had before. This would be the race I would test my boundaries. I would not stop. I would not give up.

So as the starter’s pistol cracked, I propelled myself across the starting line and sprinted through the crowd. Within the first half mile, my mouth was parched, my throat was clenched and my mind was telling me to slow down.
Blasting my music, of course.

But I wouldn’t. I continued my pace, lengthened my stride and began picking off the slower runners ahead of me. With each pass, I gained more and more confidence. By mile two, I realized that while I would never beat the fastest man, there were only two women I needed to pass.

As I approached mile 2.5, my legs were aching, my chest was tightening and my lungs were beginning to feel like bursting. I wanted to stop. My body was begging me for a break… But I couldn’t. I was way too close to the end.

At mile 2.85, sweat was pouring down my face, my feet were throbbing and my breaths were turning into audible grunts and moans. At this point, I didn’t care how I looked or sounded; all I wanted was to finish.

A few seconds later, I was trailing just inches behind one of the aforementioned female runners… This was my chance to pass. If I did it now, I knew I would need to dart the entire way to the end to stay ahead.

And that’s exactly what I did. With just two-tenths of a mile to go, I closed my eyes, thrusted one foot in front of the other, and like a rocket, launched myself toward the finish line. Every breath burned my windpipe and each step seared my calves, but I kept pushing forward.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. I saw the silhouettes of spectators, but I drowned out the crowd. This was my moment and all I could focus on was flying over that finish line. Seconds later, I crossed, passing on the proverbial torch to my teammate. My portion of the triathlon relay had ended. At last, I could rest.

My husband rushed towards me with a bottle of water and I nearly collapsed into his arms. Shaking and limping, I made my way to the gym, gasping for icy air. I stumbled through the doors and flopped myself onto the floor. My shins were splintering and my calves were cramping, but it didn’t matter… I was finally finished, running my fastest 5k at 21:49.

Three days later, my legs are still sore and my gait is more like a gimp, but I am smiling from ear to ear. Together, my team finished second in the ladies road bike division of the triathlon, and I also ended up being the second fastest female runner that day. The race nearly killed me, but that feeling of winning made me feel more alive than I have in awhile.
I look terrible, but I thought you'd like to see the trophy.

 BONUS: My Secret to Speed

Want to know what really makes me run fast? 

Just listen to my iTunes... Give me any type of house or dance music and I will shave MINUTES off of my total run time. 

This race, I owe to Swedish House Mafia. ;)