Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Story - pt 3


During their time together in Europe, Karena and Drew had come up with the idea of meeting in six months for another grand adventure. The original idea was to road trip with friends to Key West, Fl. But because of work schedules the trip was canceled and their reunion pushed back until February. Secretly, Drew had been dreaming about sailing with Karena and sharing the joy of emerald seas and white sand beaches. So when his parents offered to take him and Karena sailing in Belize they jumped on board. Karena's only hesitation was having to by new swimwear. During their ten days at sea, Drew was continually impressed by how eagerly and excitedly Karena dove into every new activity, including but not limited to: snorkeling, surface diving, navigation, sail trimming, cooking, and eating lion fish.

Working Together

Most couples do not have the opportunity to work side-by-side. Drew and Karena got to do just that for 3 months during the summer of 2014. While working as a camp counselor and videographer respectively, Karena and Drew were able to put into practice many of the ideals they had talked about long distance. In the fast paced, stressful, and exhausting camp environment Drew learned how to support and encourage Karena as she jumped off cliffs, rappelled down waterfalls, and worked outside her comfort zone. Karena was in her element as she was able to listen and care for young teens, helping them push outside their own comfort zones. Drew and Karena were able to make friends together with the other staff members. Some the best parts of that summer where the days between camps eating, hiking, playing games, and making lifelong friends.


On the morning of June 19th, 2014, Drew kept pressing Karena to hurry up so they could get going on their short vacation in Barcelona. Having just arrived the day before and a little
jet lagged, Karena did not feel the same pressure. Trying to appease Drew, she offered to just go without doing her make up. His out of character response of, "No you should go ahead and do it" seemed odd to her but didn't tip her off that this day was special. They picked up a few ingredients for a picnic lunch and agreed to find a nice park to enjoy their meal. They happened upon the beautiful Parc d' Municipal. Each time Karena spotted a place to sit, Drew would object that it was too close to the lawnmower, other tourists, didn't have enough shade, or basically wasn't perfect. Eventually, they found the right spot, and started to unpack their lunch. Drew said he wanted a "feet" picture. So he reached into his bag for his camera. When he brought out the ring box and asked her to marry him, Karena was so shocked she almost forgot to say yes.

Our Story - pt 2

Via Ferrata 

Fear shone in Karena’s eyes as she stared up at the metal rungs fastened into the cliff known as the Tour d’Ai - Via Ferrata. After a 45 minute hike to the base of the climb,
her fatigued mind was trying to figure out the safety system and harness.  She stared up at the route, which ended at 7,650 ft elevation, took a deep breath and with Drew’s encouragement, started to climb.  With every rung her exhilaration increased.  Drew followed and took in the awe-inspiring journey while enjoying Karena’s contagious excitement.  After completing the last segment of the climb they took a few minutes to enjoy the view of the Alps and Lake Geneva from above the clouds. then the storms started rolling in. Their run down the mountain was an exciting finish to their grand adventure.


Even though their meeting and first date had gone so well, Drew was still hesitant about how the relationship would grow while he was traveling in Africa. They exchanged a few emails over the course of the next two weeks and then planned their first "Skype Date." That first call lasted over 4 hours and would become the norm for the rest of their long distance dating. Over the next year, they spent thousands of hours connecting through
conversation games such as “second thought” and “ask a question.” They would end every conversation by praying for each other, their families, friends and particularly their relationship. Bad internet connections, dropped calls, power outages, inconvenient time differences, and opposing work schedules were just a few of the hurdles overcome by Drew and Karena with help from their new and sometimes annoying friend Skype.


Karena was on the verge of tears as she sat in the middle of LaGuardia airport looking at the departures board flashing canceled. An ice storm in the south and an impending blizzard in NewYork was canceling thousands of flights. After 8 months apart, Drew and Karena had planned to meet in Charleston for Valentine’s Day. Now it seemed impossible. While talking with her Dad, he said, “Hang up the phone and go find Drew at JFK.” Wearing a sundress and jacket, she braved sub-zero windchills and the NewYork bus system to transfer to JFK. As she arrived she realized she had no information about Drew'sflight or where in the airport he would be. As she walked through the doors she stopped and saw Drew sitting on his suitcases. Shocked and confused, Drew was unsure whether to scream with delight, tackle her in hugs or just stare at the beautiful sight. Thanks to some friends of Drew's, they were able to find housing and spend the evening sight seeing. Sometimes un-expected delays end in a perfect Valentine’s Day date.

Meeting the Parents

The flat plains of Kansas rolled by as Karena and Drew sat on the Amtrak train back from Kansas. In three weeks, they had traveled from Charleston to Louisville to St Louis to Garden City and were now heading back. Along the way they visited family and friends.
It was the first time they spent time together with their families. It was a time of growth and learning as they played games, laughed, heard stories, and occasionally slipped away for a few quiet moments together. Hand-in-hand, they talked about how different each of their families were. Drew's family with their plans and 
questions countered by their competitive card games. Karena's family with their laid-back, play-it-by-ear attitude and constant playful joking. Though their families operated very differently, they both noted how grateful they were for their upbringings. Because of their families, they had developed personalities and viewpoints that made them fit together so well.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Our Story - pt 1


If you missed the news, I'm married. On October 19th, Karena and I were married overlooking the beautiful Red River Gorge area of Kentucky. Pictures from that beautiful day are still on there way so in the mean time I thought I would share another part of this wedding celebration. Instead of table numbers and assigned seating, Karena and I wrote short stories of our relationship over the past year. We encouraged our friends and family to go to each table and read the stories that have become part of our story.

How We Met
Ashley and Stephen were getting married.  Their chosen ‘maid-of-honor’ and ‘best man’ were both single (and quite content) at the time.  However, Stephen and Ashley saw an opportunity, one that every engaged couple wants:  a chance to play matchmaker.  So they started dropping hints and putting devious schemes into action.  Drew and Karena found this slightly annoying but decided to be nice to their friends and go with it.  After a week of running errands, escaping to the gym together, and cleaning up the Speer’s wedding, sparks started to fly, much to Ashley and Stephen's delight.

First Date 
On a whim Drew had invited Karena to come rock climbing with his brother Ryan the week after Stephen and Ashley's wedding. She had impressed him with her natural skill during a visit to a gym in Louisville to de-stress during the chaos of the wedding prep. But nothing prepared him for seeing her climb routes with determination, courage, and a little bit of stubbornness. After a long day of climbing, they sat down to Miguel’s Pizza and Ale81. Instead of paying for flowers on this first date, Drew paid for Karena’s shower after two days of camping. When he had invited Karena to come, he thought she would be there for only a day. Four days later they were saying goodbye and remembering all the adventures climbing, hiking, dancing under the stars, and the occasional drive through the tranquil beauty that is the Red River Gorge. As Karena drove away, Drew's brother Ryan said, “Cool girl, but next time you want to go on a date with her don't invite me.”

Drew offhandedly mentioned that Karena should fulfill her dreams of travel and visit him in Europe.  Karena dismissed this idea but it came up in conversations with her good friend, Kersten.  Kersten’s reply of ‘you need to be spontaneous and do this. Here is some money to start your travel fund’ shocked her.  As did the response of the Marra family.  Pete Marra offered airline points which covered the cost of the flight.  As a result, Karena landed in Madrid, Spain one month later.  The following days were Drew and Karena’s second date exploring the ancient coastal city of Malaga, Spain, the third date in Montreux, Switzerland, and a week spent together in the Swiss Alps.  After that there was no looking back.