Love is all around

There is a reason we haven’t gotten around to writing a post in the past year.  Kevin took a new job and I was busy bouncing around Virginia and North Carolina completing my clinical rotations for my Physician Assistant degree.  Because of the craziness of the past year, this post is dedicated to those who played a large role in my life while on the road.

As I moved around each month to participate in different clinicals, I was given the task to find my own housing as our program did not provide it for us.  Sometimes I was living with people I knew and sometimes I was living with people I had never met before in my life.  Regardless of the type of relationship we had, one thing remained constant: an unremitting generosity.  They housed me, fed me, and made sure I was comfortable.  Most of all, they believed in what I was working so hard for and gave me an opportunity to pursue this portion of my degree with support, faith, and love.

Some people housed me for free.  Some made home cooked meals for me.  Some included me as part of the family outings.  One person gave me some of her hotel points so that I could spend time with Kevin exploring a new city as we only got to see each other every few weeks.  One person came to my rescue as my alternator died in the middle of a highway in North Carolina and loaned me their car as mine got fixed.  Needless to say, each and every one of them made my life easier.

I always racked my brain to figure out how I would ever repay these people for their kindness.  One of my new friends from this past year recounted to me how he had been given so much from others in the past and he was glad to finally be in a position to pay it forward.                                                                                                                                   His request: do the same.

How have you paid forward an act of kindness?


Kevin and me at my white coat ceremony for graduation. There are so many people to thank for this accomplishment, and Kevin and I look forward to sharing your generosity with others!



having things in common is not common

…so they should be treated that way.

There’s something that link you and a loved one. Something that you share only between yourselves. Something that bridges over all the things that seem to matter so much so frequently. You have something “in common.”

The term is thrown around so often that is loses its viscosity or substance. You may both have the same taste for music, food, books, sports. It may be that you met while studying towards the same career, or you both share a witty sense of humor, love the beach, or you both hate Nicholas Cage as an actor.

Whatever it is, you cannot let these things go to the wayside. Highlight them, cherish them, exploit them. These are the things that uniquely bind you together. You cannot deny the word unique even the slightest bit. Of all the fish in the sea, your similarities swam to meet each other, and they cannot be washed away. It’s not something that you run out of, and it cannot be taken from you. It is a link that forever binds you. This cannot ever be forgotten, because it makes you two individuals one couple.

Now if it ever comes that it is something such as sharing the exact same birthday, and in the same hospital, you begin to wonder the true parameters of life’s destiny…

Same birthday

“Same Birthday” Kevin & Erin. Photo by Kevin’s uncle who he was named after, P. Kevin Morley. Taken at St. Mary’s Hospital, Richmond, VA. Oct. 5th many years ago. Edited later by Kevin Groat.

Happy Birthday, My Love.

So you think you’re ready for marriage?

A response to a friend:

Dear friend,

You asked me over the summer how someone knows they’re ready to get married.  I still think over this question and wonder if my response was good enough for you.  I mean, I’m only newly married and even having been with Kevin for 5 years prior to our engagement and 6.5 years before our wedding, I’m not sure you ever truly know if you’re ready for marriage because you don’t even know what it means until you’re actually married.  Well, at least I didn’t, and we’re still figuring it out as we go along.  Believe me, the engagement and saying “I do” are the easy parts: it’s following through with that promise that can be difficult.  I think the most important thing is to realize that this person is someone you’re willing to comfort, listen to (and not necessarily always have a solution to their problems, just be a true listener), support, and love no matter what because not every minute or every day or every week is going to be bliss.  It’s realizing what it really means to compromise, communicate, and collaborate in order to keep moving forward, loving each other, and growing individually and as a couple.  Your love today will not be the same love in a few years, but hopefully that’s in a good way because it means you’re evolving your love to fit your relationship as it grows.  Anywho, hope this helps better clarify my real thoughts, but again, I’m still new at all of this myself.




Navigating our way together through this rollercoaster of life and marriage. A smile, hug, and words of encouragement go a long way for us!


Re-cultivating love: 14 days of love celebration

Near the end of January, a friend of mine posted a link to a CNN article titled, 10 things you might not know about love.  The article focused on research taking place at UNC Chapel Hill which led to the writing of the book “Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become” authored by Barbara Fredrickson.  In this article, Fredrickson states,

“Writing this book has profoundly changed my personal view of love. I used to uphold love as that constant, steady force that all but defines my marriage. While that constant, steady force still exists, I now see our bond as a product of the many micro-moments of positivity resonance that my husband and I have shared over the years. This shakes me out of any complacency that tempts me to take our love for granted. Love is something we should re-cultivate every single day.”

The last line definitely got my attention and made me think back to my favorite marriage advice given by a friend at our wedding who said, “Never stop trying to figure out what makes your marriage work.”  My wheels started spinning and with February right around the corner, I set out to start out 14 days of love challenge as a way to re-cultivate our love.

There are many ways people carry out 14 days of love in February, so I wanted to make sure we did something that not only fit our budget but also creatively fit our personalities.  As you saw in a previous post on card making, Kevin & I love to create notes to others, and I thought this would be a perfect time to send each other love notes.  It was super simple to use old scrapbook paper scraps, food, drinks, and some creativity to put all of these together!


First day of love! Kevin didn’t know I was planning this, so I made sure to leave the notes out where he would find them in the morning. His response was a card left on the front door for me to find when I got home from class.


Day 2. Part of the fun was finding the notes in unexpected places!


Day 3. Kevin’s says, “Nobody is perfect….until you fall in love with them.” With an image of our nursery name tag.


Day 4. My note on the left and Kevin’s on the right combined with a peach and whipped cream dessert.


Day 5. What can I say, I love chocolate and he knows that means a lot to be called the chocolate of my eye!


Day 6. Kevin is definitely the reason (on many levels) I’m learning patience 🙂


Day 7. Our wall of notes is starting to fill up!


Day 8. We love to do the pretzel dance moves any chance we get.


Day 9. Kevin got creative with some magnetic poetry.


Day 10.


Day 11.


Day 12. A McDonald’s sweet tea for Kevin’s Sweet T (he knows the way to my heart!). This day also coincided with Fat Tuesday, so we celebrated with a hurricane and Mardi Gras donuts.


Day 13. Kevin got SUPER creative this day. He took a flower and wrote, “He loves me” on each petal and left it with a note that said, “Not a chance otherwise.” Too cute!


Day 14. Valentine’s Day! I had class all day so woke up early to make him some goat shaped pancakes and came home to his surprise of treats by candlelight.

Since re-cultivating love shouldn’t be strictly reserved for significant others, I knew I needed to make those around me also feel the love on this holiday.  On February 14th, my classmates and I were set to have three classes over the span of 10:15am until 9:30pm, which meant a long day on campus far away from the traditional lovey emotions and fancy dinners associated with Valentine’s Day.  I wanted to bring a smile to the faces of my classmates despite the future of long lectures that awaited us and decided to give out flowers with personal notes which was a special tradition with my old athletic training classmates on Valentine’s day.  I left them on each person’s desk as a surprise when they came to class that morning.


Valentine’s Day flower gifts for my classmates with individual notes.

A few years ago, Kevin and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a evening at a local bowling alley.  We had such a great time together that we vowed to make it a tradition (personal traditions between two people are quite the unique bond). We like the thought of bowling for Valentine’s Day because it gives the day a more informal and less cliche approach, kind of takes the seriousness out of it without taking the fun out. While it still can be a great date just for two, OR can include many!
Because I had class all day on actual Valentine’s day (I know, I know, I’ve mentioned this 1423 times already), we had our date night the following night and enjoyed 2 hours of bowling with wonderful memories!  Kevin won all the games this year, but there’s always 2014!


Flyer Kevin made with the purpose of sharing with anyone that wanted to get people together for Vday, maybe to involve a charity to donate proceeds to, or maybe just to make it a tradition like the two us of did =)

How will you re-cultivate love with those in your life?


Valentine’s Day Tradition: bowling! I still remind Kevin that I have beat him once in the past 😉


Even after all these years…

just a little recognition in the form of a self-made card goes a long way.


And then we grabbed a free college soccer game & some icecream together later  =)

I am so lucky that Erin gave me a chance to make our dating official that weekend day and let me stop by her JMU apartment on my way back from dropping friends off at Dulles Airport. No, it was not the facebook request for us to be “in a relationship” that sealed it. Since then, there were many visits, surprise visits, trips, and dreams between the both of us. Now, no matter our situation, no matter how cheap we may make a “date”, after 8 years, we’re all smiles.


It’s the thought that matters.
Be gracious of your benchmarks, and every day you have together!
Happy Anniversary!

Sprinkling love

What better way to condition love than to celebrate the birth of little ones!  My sister and I jumped at the chance to honor my cousin and her family as they were about to add 2, yes 2, new babies to the group.  Because it was her third pregnancy, we didn’t need to throw a full on baby shower, but we opted for the smaller scale baby sprinkle to rejoice about her pregnancy with twins and make sure mom and dad were covered for the essentials like diapers and pacifiers.  We used some inspiration from Pinterest for the “Sprinkled With Love” theme and added in owls and colors that would be decorating the twins’ nursery in order to create an afternoon dedicated to celebrating the growth of their family from 4 to 6!  Kevin helped me design the invitations, which included a poem I found online and changed the wording around to fit the family.  Check it out:


Kevin’s design handywork with my love of rhyming can make a great card! Click on this picture to see the poem & design work up close.

Here are a few photos from the sprinkle with the simple and easy personal decor touches:


Sprinkled With Love garland. Made from scrapbook paper using a die-cut machine!



Goody bag treats with lots of sprinkles! Sugar cookies with sprinkles and donut bites with sprinkles placed in owl sandwich bags from Target.


Sprinkling the family with our fingerprint “rain drops” as a guest book. Kevin designed the art work.


The food spread. Hors d’oeuvres complete with an ice cream sundae bar to “sprinkle” on your favorite toppings!

We wanted to do at least one activity, so Lauren and I created a personalized “Mad Libs” game for everyone to fill out before we got to the gifts.  Following the sprinkle, we made a small scrapbook for Sarah & Matt with the fingerprint sheet, everyone’s Mad Libs games, the die cut circles that spelled out “Sprinkled with love”, and some photos from the event.  Using the smaller die cut circles on strings that we hung from the chandelier (the end of them are seen in the above picture hanging over the flowers), we created a mobile for the twins’ nursery.  Because we were able to re-purpose all the decor, the only things we had left over were wonderful memories and fully bellies 🙂


Gift baskets of gratitude

As we mentioned in our post Conditioning new friendship Kevin & I are trying to have each of my new classmates over for dinner as a way to get to know them better one on one.  Our first dinner took place about a week after the end of my first semester in December with my classmate Courtney.  Even with the short notice (we’re talking a few hours), she wholeheartedly agreed to join us for fish tacos AND showed up with the cutest basket of goodies as a thank you.  She included a bottle of her favorite beer, Long Trail Double White Ale, a potted house plant, a container of homemade granola, and a tiny knit Santa in a beautifully decorated basket.  We couldn’t get over the thought she put into this basket and wondered why we didn’t do this type of thing more often.  Well, we got our chance to return the favor when Courtney invited us over for a dinner a few weeks afterwards.  Using the basket she brought for us, we put together a bunch of our favorite things: an Oskar Blues G’Knight beer, Kevin’s homemade granola and his amazing garlic and rosemary bread, and a bunch of flowers.  Since we already had the granola and the items to make Kevin’s bread, all we ended up spending on this treasure was $5!  The basket was a hit, and we all enjoyed the bread with Courtney’s extravagantly delicious dinner.


Courtney’s treasures on the left. She even decorated the basket with fresh pine needles and berries! My handsome husband on the right with our basket for Courtney’s dinner.

We’re so glad Courtney brought this tradition back into our lives!  Having people over for dinner can be a great way to foster genuine conversation and friendships, so why not express your gratitude by bringing a special homemade treat to thank them?  The mere thought put into this is sure to make your friends feel loved.

Side note: the plant she gave us is enjoying life on our kitchen window sill but the granola and Long Trail ale are long devoured 🙂

The joy of simple reminders

As most people and couples, life’s speed bumps come along and try to throw Kevin & I off into moments of frustration.  School, money, work, and maintaining a house are just a few of the things that love to try and rile us up!  Last week was one of those such days that put both of us into a funk for a bit on top of trying to manage our schedules and my school work.  I woke up early and drove to campus to give myself a good few hours to focus on studying for my pharmacology exam that morning.  As I checked my phone after the exam, I noticed a text from my sister-in-law saying, “We each picked someone we wanted to make happy today. Cathryn picked you.” Immediately tears began to well in my eyes and it only got better: there was a video attached showing Cathryn, our almost 3-year-old niece, and Avery, our almost 4-year-old niece, simply saying, “Hi Aunt Erin. I love you.”  Needless to say, after I watched the video tears were pouring down my face as I walked to my car.

The enormous power of those words but more importantly the fact they thought of me skyrocketed my day.  It made me step back and realize how easy it is to improve someone’s experience, moment, or even life.  A thought, a smile, a wave, a hug, an “I love you” – you never know how much it could mean to someone.  I wish our nieces fully understood the depth of what their kindness and love did for me that day.

How will you brighten someone’s life?


Yea, our nieces are pretty great 🙂


Sometimes these reminders come in the most unexpected ways!

Just a little snail mail

For our wedding, Kevin & I had purchased packages of blank cardstock with corresponding envelopes in hopes of using them to print the invitations Kevin designed and send those out to our guests. Well, a few explicit words and hours later, we realized our printer wasn’t going to cooperate with the cardstock size so we scrapped the idea and were left with about 150 blank cards & envelopes.  After we moved to Harrisonburg following our wedding, we agreed to use these to make cards for our families and friends for everything ranging from birthdays and new babies to a quick note for a smile.  This has been an awesome chance for us to get in touch with our creativity and design personalized cards for all the wonderful people in our lives.  Not only that, the real reason we wanted to do this was to make people happy by receiving a tangible note in the mail and give them a break from all the boring bills and ads they normally find.  The packages of cards & envelopes were around $5 for 50 at Michael’s, and we use scrapbook paper scraps from other projects and markers to dress them up a bit.  Since Kevin’s more of an artist than moi, he likes to sketch great pictures onto his cards.


Some of Kevin’s designs for his sister and our friend Matt who happen to share the same birthday 🙂

In addition to these cards, I came across a whole stack of old blank thank you cards I’ve had forever that my mom gave me when I was younger.  Guess I didn’t do a good job of using them then :-/ but at the start of the new year, we vowed to thank people more often and show them their thoughtfulness does not go unappreciated.  That began as simply sending out thank you notes for the holiday gifts we received from people, and we hope to continue this by thanking people for everything from gifts to time spent with us.  Speaking of weddings yet again (yea, it’s still fresh on our minds), we are still amazed at how grateful we are to receive a personal thank you from the bride & groom.  It definitely makes us feel as though we weren’t simply at their wedding to provide a gift but rather to support them as they journey into marriage together.  We acted on those feelings with our own wedding, and since we didn’t register or ask for gifts, we sent thank you’s out to all of our loved ones who shared that day with us just to say it meant the world to us to have them there.  

People say to us, “You’re so good at sending cards. I just don’t get around to it” or “I wish I was better about sending cards.”  Well, here’s the reality in how EASY sending a card can be:

Pack of 8-10 blank decorated cards: $1 at Target or Michael’s

Pack of 20 stamps: $9-10

Time spent writing a personal note: 10-15 minutes

That comes out to be about $0.60/card and 10-15 minutes of your time and can bring about a priceless moment of happiness in someone else’s life.  10-15 minutes is the same amount of time you spend watching commercials during an hour long TV show, so you can utilize that time for something more productive and engage with your loved ones.  Like Randy Pausch stated in The Last Lecture “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other. Despite all that is now going on in my life and with my medical care, I still try to hand write notes when it’s important to do so.  It’s just the nice thing to do.  And you never know what magic might happen after it arrives in someone’s mailbox.”

Sixty cents to create some magic in someone’s life? Yea, it’s actually easier done than said!

Breaking tradition: creating meaningful wedding gifts

Kevin & I are now at the time of our lives where we get to experience many of our friends’ most meaningful time of their lives: their moment of lifelong commitment to a spouse.  Having been in the position of both a guest and the bride and groom at all these weddings, our approach to gift giving has evolved from simply grabbing something off of a registry to creating a memory.  The most recent of which occurred last fall at an awesome college friend of mine’s wedding (I have to give credit to one of my best friends for it was her idea to create this gift – thanks Kari!).  Now that I am back in school at our old stomping grounds and with Kari’s encouraging I set forth one afternoon on a cool, fall day to find pictures of structures around campus to spell out my friend’s new last name.  I spent over two hours roaming our beautiful campus and reveling in the peace it brought me in the midst of a busy time in my first semester.  This idea is one of growing popularity, so Kevin and I added our own twist on it by taking the pictures ourselves and using his Photoshop and design expertise to put it all together.  Our hope was to create a gift that touched on our friends’ personalities as well as show them how much we care for them and their marriage by taking time and love to design this gift ourselves.  Let’s be honest, most couples today have lived together before they marry and are often registering for wedding gifts out of tradition.  Believe me, some people tried to bully us into registering as well, but I think they realized they had more fun when they got the chance to think about something that will speak to us as a couple.  Along with the multiple donations our guests gave to our charity registry, some of the most wonderful gifts we received were soccer ball donations to a school in Africa and a hand-decorated blank journal for us to document all things Kevin & Erin.  Why not give your loved ones something more meaningful than a set of kitchen utensils or towels?  I think you’ll be surprised at their reaction!  

Check out Kevin’s blog to see the final product: