lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the category “engagement”

Making every moment count.

As I lounge on the couch at Luke’s apartment in Columbus listening to him quote random history facts to me that I am halfway listening to, I looked over at him just now and realized just how lucky I truly am. He is proudly sporting his birthday scruff (one of his gifts from me that he didn’t have to shave his face today!) and reading a book about George Washington on this evening of his 23rd birthday and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be at this moment and time. The urge suddenly struck me to write it down, and so here I am, updating this blog. Even though it is nearly midnight, I don’t want to go to sleep because I don’t want this day to end. There is something to be said for being young and in love and being able to visit your fiance at will at long last.

I know I haven’t updated in a while, but like I said today is Luke’s birthday. His golden birthday in fact. Turning 23 on the 23rd isn’t something one does any old day. I really wanted to make this one special for him, but driving down here yesterday, I didn’t really know how I was going to make that happen. His family had wanted to come down to visit as a surprise, but due to scheduling conflicts were unable to make it. We don’t have a ton of friends in Columbus just yet, but I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: It doesn’t matter the number of friends that you have in your life but about the quality of those friends that you do have. My mother once told me that if you have a handful of close friends in your life, you are truly blessed. And by that count, we are indeed among the blessed ones.

Yesterday, I texted Luke’s good friend and groomsman, Aristotle (Ace), and asked him if he could help me throw something together for dinner. Sure enough, he was super helpful and even went out and bought a cake to bring to Luke’s surprise dinner at the Cannon. He also brought a couple of friends to dinner that were visiting him from out of town that Luke also knew from West Point. I then texted Bill Choate, another of Luke’s groomsmen and invited him and his roommate, Ben, to come, and they gladly accepted. I didn’t want to be the only girl in a crowd of guys, so I next invited Kim Freitag, a great girl that we have hung out with a few times now while her husband is at Ranger school. She rounded out the group of 8 that came out to celebrate Luke’s birthday.(Sadly the DeCostas were out of town, but we would have loved for them to be there too!)

Luke birthday at Cannon 12

The Cannon in Columbus

Group for Luke's birthday dinner!

Group for Luke’s birthday dinner!

I love him!

I love him!

Luke birthday at Cannon 10

Make A Wish!

We all sang Happy Birthday and properly embarrassed him of course

We all sang Happy Birthday and properly embarrassed him of course

We truly had a blast at dinner and Luke was extremely surprised. I found myself being so grateful for the closeness of the Army community that night. It was wonderful to bring together a group of friends – both old and new- to celebrate this special time for Luke. The good thing about the Army family is that even when people inevitably leave and move on, there is always the chance you’ll run into them again down the road somewhere! We are enjoying the time we have with these great friends now, because if there is one thing the Army will teach you that’s to enjoy every moment you have been given and to cherish every single friendship that comes your way. You don’t often meet strangers in the Army, which is a blessing; And by the end of the night, we were all laughing and joking like we’d known each other for years. In fact, we were having so much fun that I eventually had to make up the excuse that I wasn’t feeling well to get Luke to leave to find the second part of his surprise for the night.

Surprise Part Dos: My maid of honor, Jess, and her boyfriend Will drove down from Auburn to surprise Luke for drinks and board game night, something that we always enjoy with them. We played Pandemic until the wee hours of the morning and had a wonderful time. He said that it was one of the best birthdays ever, and I am grateful for all of our friends that helped to make it that way for him. It was every bit as special as I’d hoped it would be, new post or not!

Luke and Will taking the mandatory "birthday picture" lol

Luke and Will taking the mandatory “birthday picture” lol

It was a night to remember. In terms of gifts, well that’s another story. I bought Luke tickets to see the Atlanta Braves for his birthday this year, not knowing that he gets free tickets through the military. (I am still claiming I got us better seats anyway though!) In addition to getting him something he technically already has, Luke was looking at my computer last weekend and found the email from TicketMaster, so he already knew about the Braves game. Oh well! He is still excited about his gift, I think. The only surprise I had for him then was a hardback copy of The United States Constitution with gilded pages. Yes, he was genuinely excited about this, as he is as American as apple pie. I think he has already broken open the Constitution and started reading it again (I don’t know how many times he has read through it before, but I know it is several.) I was glad to be able to surprise him with that at least.

Today, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch UNC beat North Carolina State, which was exciting! (I say the Tar Heels pulled it off just for Luke for his birthday!) Then we just hung out for the rest of the day, ate a very late dinner of leftovers, and he is currently sleeping soundly beside me. I should probably get off to bed too now, since the clock struck midnight about ten minutes ago.

I love weekends like this where everything just feels so right, and I loved being able to celebrate his birthday with him on the actual “day of” this year. It will be my last weekend in Georgia for a while because I am throwing a bridal tea for my friend Holly next weekend, so Luke will be coming to visit me, and then the following weekend is my first wedding shower in Tuscaloosa. And then, after that, I am bound for SPAIN! That trip is really creeping up on me..Less than 3 weeks and counting. I am very excited but also extremely overwhelmed with all of the prep work I still have to do before departure. All of that can wait though. For now, I am going to get some sleep and dream happy dreams of September 1, 2013.

More soon.

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19 days!

No, not in our latest countdown until he has to go far away again. 19 days total. Yes, you read that right. Luke and I have just 19 teensy weensy days left in this extremely long distance relationship. Period! We will FINALLY be within driving distance of one another before Christmas! I honestly could not think of a better present for the holidays this year…That cheesy “All I want for Christmas is you” song totally applies right now.

My to-do list is longer than this blog post is going to be since I am winding down to finish out my last two weeks of the semester with finals, exams, projects and presentations galore, but I would be remiss if I did not post an update about our glorious Thanksgiving Break together.
Luke flew into Birmingham on Tuesday night, and we drove up to Huntsville to be with my folks for the holiday. On Wednesday, we got up bright and early to tour wedding venues in Nashville, and we have officially found the place that we are getting married at on September 1, 2013!! We put a deposit down on our beautiful venue, and while it is still going to be a surprise until I launch my wedding website, let’s just say that I am getting my Southern, historical, antebellum wedding that I always dreamed about! The venue could not be more perfect, and Luke and I absolutely fell in love with the mansion and grounds the moment we stepped through the doorway on Wednesday. I have no trouble envisioning our wedding here in September.

Our day of touring wedding venues was soo much fun! Luke was such a good sport about it and we laughed and joked all the way up to Nashville and back. No one can make me laugh like he does, and I could never find a more fun companion for a road trip. (It also helps that he happens to be my best friend too!)

Luke was determined to find BBQ for lunch since he has not been in the South in so long, but unfortunately, my outdated GPS was bound and determined to take us to random sketchy parts of town with BBQ places or to nicer parts of town with no BBQ restaurants in sight. So we settled on subs at Jersey Mike’s, which were surprisingly good. And, as luck would have it, when we got back to town, my dad took us out to dinner and he just so happened to pick a BBQ place, so Luke was happy. All in all, Wed. was such a successful day.

On Thursday, we got up and headed to my Uncle Gary and Aunt Stephanie’s house for Thanksgiving lunch. No words can describe the bountiful feast that was spread out before us, and I may or may not have helped myself to two plates! Nothing beats my favorite Thanksgiving dish though- Aunt Lisa’s famous sweet potato casserole! I look forward to it every year. During lunch, my dad had a surprise in store for us as well. As lunch was winding down, he stood up and made a toast to our engagement! He started it off with something like, “Now I don’t usually do this, but it’s not every day my little girl gets engaged either…” I so wish someone had video taped it for us. It was so sweet, welcoming Luke to the family and congratulating us. It took us really off guard, and I teared up a little, because my dad is usually relatively shy, so this is pretty out of character for him.

Another new “surprise” happened this Thanksgiving, as well. Apparently, we are the family that goes outside and shoots guns after dinner for the first time ever in the history of Sams family Thanksgivings haha. The boys practiced skeet shooting, and I learned how to use a .22 pistol. Ashley and I had a blast destroying a pumpkin target out back! haha (It was a new “tradition” for my family but turned out to be super fun.)

Yes, this is me decimating a pumpkin. haha go figure, right?

Luke and I partook in the Old Black Friday Shopping Tradition this year (my first time ever…can’t say I will be back any year soon), and headed to Old Navy around midnight on Thursday to shop for the kid we are “adopting” for Christmas. We waited in line for 30 minutes when my brother called and told us his car had broken down in a bad part of town. So, Luke left me to brave the masses and went to help Ethan push his car off of a bridge. I shopped around and got some great deals, but I am still not sure if that 2 hour check out line was worth the savings! (it literally wrapped around the entire store!!) We did get all of our child’s Christmas gifts for Make A Wish though, clothes from Old Navy and toys/candy from Wal Mart. And lots of great deals in the process. I hope he enjoys unwrapping his presents.

We slept in a bit Friday and then got up for our engagement photo shoot with the lovely Whitney Pirtle! She and I go wayyy back, and she is one of my oldest and sweetest friends!

This is the two of us in 2nd Grade

She did a FANTASTIC job! She already shared some sneak peak photos with us, so I will post a few of my favorites:

Needless to say, Friday was tons of fun and very eventful! We had so much fun with Whitney and her fiance, Josh, and then we met our friends Christian and Ben for dinner at a local German restaurant. The black forest cake was delicious!

Saturday dawned bright and early, and we watched part of the Iron Bowl with my mom before heading out. We met our friends Jess and Will for dinner in Birmingham at Carrabbas and then called it an early night. Luke flew out early on Sunday for more training, and the next time I see him, it will be time to celebrate the holidays! And the beginning of our life in the same general area!! I am so ready for him to move back to the sunny South. This was longer than promised, and I apologize, for that. If you made it this far, thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to read our little blog.

More soon.

Ramblings from a college senior, new TFA Corps Member and military fiancee

As I sit here in my college apartment on a quiet Friday night in Tuscaloosa (it’s an away game so everyone is gone!) after talking to my sweet fiance on the phone for about an hour, I am in awe of the turn that my life has taken in the past couple of weeks. It’s like a giant whirlwind has swept me up and deposited me somewhere onto Cloud Nine in an alternate universe. It turns out that all of my dreams are swiftly coming true, one-by-one, proving that perseverance and hard work does in fact pay off!

You see tonight was very typical of senior year college life. My younger brother and roommate, Ethan, and I went grocery shopping at Target together and I cooked us a dinner of homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and rolls with Halloween brownies for dessert. As we sat on the couch with his girlfriend Ashley, eating and watching the show that is my new obsession (‘Hart of Dixie’ – a drama starring Rachel Bilson that focuses on a big city doctor moving to take over her father’s practice in the fictitious town of Bluebell, Alabama), the song “It Won’t Be Like This for Long,” by Darius Rucker, entered into my mind. Everything is just happening so quickly, that I can barely catch my breath, and then again, I don’t want to! Within the space of about 12 days, I have become engaged, set a tentative wedding date, scheduled my last semester of classes with plans to graduate from The University of Alabama on May 4th and have been accepted as a 2013 Teach for America Corps Member! Whew…That’s a sentence jam-packed with major life transitions if there ever was one….

The next few months are going to be amazing, wonderful, chaotic and hectic, I do believe!  Ahhh I feel like I am 7 years old again, back on the spinning teacups at Disney World (my favorite ride by far), and that I am just spinning around faster and faster, struggling to stay upright but giggling uncontrollably as the stitch in my side grows with my unadulterated joy at the exhilarating ride.

I would not trade this life that God has blessed me with for anything in the world. I knew this post would be rather rambling and unorganized, but as I am still trying to collect my thoughts about all of this, I thought it might be therapeutic to write down some of the excitement, even if it does come out a bit jumbled and entirely too lengthy for anyone to actually read. So I apologize for the random thoughts thus far, and for brevity and clarity’s sake, I will try to organize this post from here on out into different topics to make sure I cover everything going on in this crazy life of ours at the moment:
1. First and foremost, the latest greatest and exciting news– Teach For America!

On Thursday, November 1st, around 4:10 p.m., I finally got the email I had long awaited– news of whether or not I got into Teach For America, an organization that recruits leaders to commit to teaching in low-income communities for a period of two years to help close the achievement gap, break the cycle of generational poverty and help to create equitable educational opportunities for all students. TFA has a competitive, arduous and lengthy application process, and to be completely honest, I was nervous every step of the way. I read in an article that TFA is the second hardest company to interview for in America, with an acceptance rate of about 10%. I was worried about how I would stack up against the plethora of Ivy League-rs that apply every year like clockwork, and during each step in the process, I questioned and double-checked myself to make sure I was putting my best foot forward in order to have a chance at obtaining my dream job right out of college.

After participating in several mentoring experiences during college helping students in low-income schools in Tuscaloosa, I know that I have a passion for helping children to achieve despite the challenging obstacles that they face every day due to growing up in poverty. I applied to TFA because I want to make a difference for these children, and I know that this unparalleled opportunity is going to give me a chance to do just that. In addition to teaching, I plan to utilize my experiences with my journalism major, the lessons I learned in my “Teaching in Journalism” course, and my role as a leader in SPJ’s weekly partnership with Oakdale Elementary’s student newsletter to establish a yearbook or literary magazine program in the school where I am assigned to teach. I am including an excerpt from my initial TFA application letter, a 500-word letter of intent that describes why I wanted to apply for TFA, what I hope to accomplish and how I will measure my success in the classroom.

I am applying to the 2013-2014 Teach for America Corps because the core mission matches my passion: to make a difference for children growing up in low-income communities, to help those children overcome challenges that go alongside poverty, and to teach them how to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

I was determined to help break the back in the life cycle of poverty after participating in READ Alabama and Blueprints College Access Initiative, programs that connect college mentors with children in under-served schools in Tuscaloosa. Through READ, I mentor elementary-aged students who struggle to read at grade level. Last year, I learned that one student in a group of five had parents that read to her regularly, and none of my mentees had access to a computer at home. When I gave each child a book, their faces lit up like it was Christmas morning, and at that moment, I became invested in fostering children from low-income communities, helping them beat the odds, and providing them with a high-quality education…

If accepted, one of my first goals is to improve upon or begin a school yearbook, newspaper or literary magazine program. School media programs help students to advance their oral and written communication skills, connect students with their peers, and give them a constructive project outside of school, which decreases the likelihood that they will get into trouble….My goal is to make a difference, and my passion is to transform the lives of children. Teach for America is perfect for me.”

After the application processed, I learned that I would find out in a couple of weeks if I was invited to a phone interview with TFA. Somehow, (due to my detailed application I believe– thank goodness that I am such a long-winded writer, right?) I was fortunate to bypass the phone interview step and was funneled straight to the final interview stage. In the meantime, I had to complete an online activity, consisting of a multiple choice test focused on data interpretation and respond to an online role play scenario in a school setting. I spent several hours on my online activity, and in the end I was afraid my responses were too detailed to even be read. Before my final interview, I also visited a Teach for America Corps Member’s classroom for observation and attended a TFA Meet-and-Greet event at Carpe Vino to network with other TFA applicants and current Corps members. Teach for America- University of Alabama does a great job of helping you to feel connected during the lengthy application process, and I would like to give a shout-out to Jasmine Cannon, Tyler Rigdon and Ellie Friedman. You guys rock!
However, next came the hardest part of the whole process– The Final Interview. This all-day interview was divided into parts, and I had to create and organize a five-minute lesson plan to teach to the TFA interviewers and other interviewees, participate in a group interview, and engage in a one-on-one interview with a TFA representative. After much preparation for this interview, I can say nothing helped me more than practicing my lesson on real students. I am so grateful to Professor Meredith Cummings who let me teach my lede-writing lesson plan to her middle school journalism class before my actual interview occurred! Even though Mrs. Cummings was sick and I ended up expanding my five-minute lesson into a 45-minute lesson (and then later shrunk it back down again,) I gained valuable classroom experience and was able to modify my plan based on students’ responses to my activities. I incorporated Willy Wonka’s candy factory into my lesson so that I could create a colorful visual aid AND give students candy for participation, which they all loved and also allowed me to ensure that everyone participated! To maintain the integrity of the TFA interview process, I cannot go into more detail about the Final Interview, but trust me, when I say that if you are applying to this program, you need to know your stuff when you walk in the door. Read and re-read the TFA website a million times, research the 8 qualities TFA looks for in Corps Members and apply them to your life in multiple scenarios, and time your five-minute lesson plan to hit that exact five-minute mark. They will literally cut you off in the middle of a sentence if you exceed the time limit.
So, after a lengthy final interview day, I left the site feeling drained, excited and very emotional. I knew I had given the application/interview process my all, and now all there was to do was wait. And wait. And wait. On November 1st, I was ready to have an answer one way or another. And  I cannot describe the incredible feeling of happiness and pure accomplishment when an email hit my inbox saying, “Congratulations and Welcome to the 2013 Corps.” I logged onto the Applicant Center and learned that my assignment is to teach elementary school and/or secondary political science in Metro Atlanta (my first choice for regional placement!) I quickly scanned through the Regional page for Atlanta, and began to get more and more excited by all of the information presented about the transition, Institute (5-week “boot camp” for TFA members) and living in the Atlanta area. A smile has not left my face since I read those emails, called Luke and my parents to tell them the good news, celebrated with Lauren Killen at El Rincon and then received a phone call from my Metro Atlanta Regional Representative today to officially welcome me to the Corps. I am looking forward to this next step in my life, and while I know that this is going to be the most challenging thing I have ever done in my entire life, I am truly looking forward to doing my part in making a difference and living out my passion for helping children in the classroom. No words could express the joy I feel at being given this opportunity. Come August, I am going to be a real TEACHER, and I am going to have my own class of students with a sign out front that says, “Mrs. Bradshaw’s Classroom.” {Insert major freakout!!!!!}
2. Wedding Planning Update
Well folks, Luke and I have been busy bees, trying to plan from afar, and I must say, I think we have made a bit of progress. We have settled on a wedding date (Sunday, September 1, 2013), I have chosen my colors — hot pink, lime green and turquoise, and I have picked out gifts to give to my bridal party when I ask them to be in the wedding. (This is still a work-in-progress since some of my BM’s live far away and I won’t see them for a while!) But, our next major steps will occur over an extremely busy Thanksgiving Break. We plan to tour the 5 wedding venues that we have narrowed down, and we have an engagement photo shoot scheduled during that four-day break, as well. So in addition to all of the turkey festivities, we will be running around like chickens with our heads cut off in this brief stint together before Luke goes back to Oklahoma for his final phase of training. I am blessed beyond belief to have an incredible best friend who has agreed to go with us to tour venues, and I am so happy to have her help amid all of the madness! Engaged life is pretty fun, I must admit. I have yet to stop staring at my sparkly ring in all different lighting and am still looking at Pinterest and wedding magazines with a kind of addictive obsession.
3. School, A Spontaneous Visit, and Life in General
Since this blog post is quite long enough for most anyone’s standards, I will end with a quick summary of everything else in our lives (excluding TFA and Wedding Planning, we still have a lot of ground to cover! haha) Luke and I bought a spur-of-the-moment plane ticket, so he is coming down to see me for Veteran’s Day next weekend now, and I could not be more thrilled! We will be meeting Jess and Will in Columbus to celebrate her 22nd birthday and also APARTMENT HUNTING for Luke since he is moving to Fort Benning after Christmas! Woohoo! Luke has a major fitness test next week, has to spend a few days on a “mission” in the field the week after that, and then officially graduates from BOLC IN THE TOP OF HIS CLASS on November 20th. For me, school seems to have taken a back seat to all of the craziness, but I am still doing quite well grade-wise. I made an A on my political science midterm and on my last Human Development test, just finished a major project on school lunches for Educational Studies, and am currently conducting a fruit ripening experiment with Granny Smith apples for Interdisciplinary Sciences. We are planning a field trip to the Alabama Power Plant this week in that class, which seems somewhat interesting as far as science class is concerned. In other news, my parents have finally signed their divorce papers, and as soon as the judge signs them, my mom will be moving out and our whole family will be moving on after a 14-month long ordeal (insert huge sigh of relief). And, our friends, who have been BEYOND SUPPORTIVE AND WONDERFUL during this time, have been having quite a few successes of their own! I’d like to give a special shout-out to my sweet friend Laura Metcalf who will be studying in Washington (the state) this Spring in the program of her dreams…She has worked so hard for this and greatly deserves it! My model friend Lauren Killen has  several events coming up including a fashion show and major pageant in addition to a brand new super-sweet boyfriend who treats her well. You can bet I will be there on the sidelines cheering her on in each of her modeling endeavors! Also, my friend Lauren Hendrix (now Sprinkle!) just got married and is enjoying newly wedded life with her husband, Ryan, a UA law student. The list goes on and on. My life would be incredibly boring without all of these people and all of the others who spice it up on a regular basis and make it all worthwhile.
More soon. (I promise not too much more though! haha I have killed my computer keys this evening for sure.)

Our Engagement — Luke’s Perspective (and his one and ONLY blog post!)

I remember the first time I set eyes on Amanda Sams. She was beautiful to say the least and I remember thinking as much when I first saw her. She was confident and very polite which I came to understand that was a shallow disguise to hide a difficult life that had taken its toll on her. Looking back I would have appreciated how tough she was and how incredibly strong she was through it all. But I remember thinking how it didn’t seem plausible that someone could be as good as she was pretending to be. Obviously I was very wrong because she has turned out to be the most wonderful thing that has ever been mine.

My engagement to Amanda Sams was one of complete and utter success…mostly because she said yes. I planned it out for many weeks, approximately six or seven and had the ring about three or four weeks before through a friend who knew a jeweler in Oklahoma City. I feel like an expert in all things engagement rings now. I planned out the location with the help of Jessica Belue and it turned out perfectly a bridge over a pond among the largest collection of azalea bushes in the world. It was beautiful…almost as beautiful as the girl who I proposed too. I wrote out some cards that showed her the route to take down to the bridge, it was only about a quarter mile and I was waiting behind some thick trees and bushes waiting for her to find the last one I placed in the center of the bridge that said simply “Look up” to which I stepped out and walked to the center of the bridge got down on one knee and she said “Of course!” Thus ended more than six weeks of pure nervousness and I could not be a happier man for it. I am going to spend the rest of my life with the girl of my dreams and that makes me the richest man in the world.

We’re Engaged! How We Met & Our Proposal Story :]

(Amanda’s Perspective): How do I begin to write about the most incredible day of my life thus far? I have been debating how to write this blog post, and I figured I will just tell the whole story from the beginning, because every good story has a beginning, middle and end. And I will apologize in advance, because this might get rather lengthy. But, if you are interested in reading it all, here goes nothing. I guess it all started with the way we met. (If you are JUST interested in the proposal, skip to paragraph 9!)

Luke Huntington Bradshaw and I met in May of 2010 on Redstone Arsenal, for those of you who are new to our story. I have worked as a summer intern on the Arsenal since 2007, and I always loved my summer job because I got to work with my best friend, Jessica Belue. She and I met at this job when we were 16, and we have been very close ever since. We go to rival universities though (Bama and Auburn), so I was especially looking forward to going back to work in 2010 because I knew I would get to see her every single day again. Luke and another West Point cadet showed up on our first day back to work that summer, and I actually still remember the first time I saw him because he struck me as extremely handsome. We were all gathered around the round table having our weekly staff meeting, and these two cadets walked into the Concepts Analysis Lab behind our resident AstroPhysicist. This was nothing unusual, because we had various pairs of West Point cadets almost every summer that I worked there, and I was always kind to them and made friends with them, but I had never been attracted to any of them before. I specifically remember that when this pair of cadets walked in though, my eyes were immediately drawn to the tall, blond one whose green eyes matched his ACUs.

They came around the table to sit down, taking the last two chairs, and when one of our female co-workers showed up a minute later, I noticed the way that Luke instantly jumped up and offered her his seat. I thought he was so well-mannered and polite. But, I was about to be proven wrong haha Let’s just say Mr. Bradshaw had a case of the “yuk blues” when he first arrived in Huntsville, meaning that after his second year at West Point, he was very, very bitter about life in general. (He had also wanted to participate in Air Assault during that summer time slot but hurt his knee right before so he was forced to take the AIAD in Huntsville. So he was unhappy about being there to begin with.) I soon learned that he was in the habit of complaining and that he had a tendency to make inappropriate comments and use curse words in almost every sentence because he was so used to being around soldiers all of the time. Honestly, by the end of Day 1 after I had asked him not to curse about 25 times and he continued to slip back into it, I thought he was the biggest jerk to ever exist (not realizing how jaded West Point cadets can be at this time in their careers.) But I did not know all of this yet. After the staff meeting, I went up to these two cadets to introduce myself. They were sitting over in the cubicle across from mine, and I went over to say hello, like I usually did when we got new interns. Luke was reading the newspaper since he did not have a computer yet, so I went up and said, “Hi, I’m Amanda. What’s your name?” Luke glanced up, acted uninterested, pointed at his “Bradshaw” nametape, and went back to reading the newspaper. The other cadet was chattering away, but I was focused on Luke at this point. I said, “OK, Bradshaw, what’s your first name?” He seemed surprised that I asked (probably another West Point habit,) but he finally said, “Luke.” I said, “Nice to meet you” or something, and went back to my desk, and that was the extent of our first interaction. Haha he claims the first time he saw me he tripped over a table or something, but I did not know this yet.

There is never anything to do at work during that lazy first week of summer because the interns don’t have computer access yet, so it is a lot of in-processing and waiting around. Therefore, I had lots of time on my hands to talk (and flirt) with Luke. I soon learned that he was very blunt and honest, and by lunchtime on Day 2, I was absolutely infuriated by some comment he had made. (I actually think it was something like “You seem like a high maintenance girl and I would never want to end up with one of those…Imagine that! ;]) Jess was driving us to lunch somewhere, and I was huffing and puffing around and stomping out to her car, muttering about what a jerk the new cadet was. He had really gotten under my skin. She looked at me and said, “Manda..I don’t understand why you’re this upset. You’re never going to see him again after these three weeks. Why do you care what he thinks?” The problem was, I did care.

After lunch, I was appropriately ignoring him and reading a book when he came over and apologized. He told me that he is from the South too (North Carolina), and he just had not been around girls in a while and did not mean to be so rude earlier. (He told me much, much later that he thought that a girl like me would never want to be with a guy like him so he didn’t want to waste his time…And I told him that was ridiculous, because I am truly the lucky one.) Anyway, as you can tell, I had not exactly fallen in love with his charm at this point haha. But, he continued to sit in my cube and talk to me day after day, and the more we talked, the more I began to like him as a person. He gradually stopped cursing, and he was really very likeable and had the best sense of humor in the world. He could literally make me laugh for hours. He seemed like a Southern gentleman who was just a bit out of practice with the whole manners/etiquette/common courtesy thing. I knew we were very different, of course. He was from the country and appreciated the simple things in life. I was a city girl at heart and truly enjoyed the finer things in life. I was worried about what people thought of me, and he legitimately could not care less. He was the most honest, genuine, person I had ever met. You either liked him for him or you didn’t.  He was not worried about impressing anyone. He liked that I wanted to get to know him as a person, and the fact that I did not seem overly concerned or impressed with the fact that he went to West Point. I really wasn’t, since I had met lots of cadets before, but apparently several girls he had dated had only liked him because of that. And so, the boy and girl from completely different sides of the tracks began to fall in love.

The end of Week 1 approached, and we got a three-day weekend for Memorial Day. I knew that Luke had plans to go up to Tennessee to meet up with his family, and I also knew that his family was bringing along his ex-girlfriend as some sort of joke. As the end of the work day rolled around, and he was packing up his stuff to go, I remember feeling oddly jealous that he was going to be spending the weekend with this girl. The guys left, and I remember being so disappointed that Luke had not asked for my number or anything. After talking for entire week during in-processing, that seemed like the natural thing to do right?  Luckily, my irritation did not last long. Luke had left something behind on purpose so that he could come back in and get my number. We texted constantly throughout the weekend, and I was even able to text him directions up to Tennessee, since he had not thought to print them out beforehand. (He was already lost without me!) Lol. Later, his brother’s girlfriend told me that Luke talked about me constantly over that weekend and was so excited about taking me on a date. He promptly ignored the ex-girlfriend too, which made me feel really good. He even left early on Monday so that he could drive down and pick me up on his way to Birmingham to visit his aunt and uncle. He had invited me on this road trip on Saturday, and I hate to say it, but I was a bit skeptical about a two-hour road trip with a guy I had really just met, and so I ended up cancelling on him, which he later told me upset him greatly. But what’s a girl to do? You can’t just trust any random, gorgeous guy in ACUs now can you?

With the beginning of Week 2, we had computers so we could not talk as much at work, but we made up for it through texting. That Tuesday after work, I was driving home in the rain and he texted me saying it was a perfect day for a movie but he really didn’t want to go alone. I ended up agreeing to go to the movies with him as “friends”, and he let me pick. I chose Shrek III, not knowing he had already seen it! I thought it would be funny and light-hearted, and he agreed to go with me and sat through that whole movie for a second time just for me haha. He was so sweet because apparently he had already gone to see it by himself. But, I was unimpressed that he showed up wearing (I kid you not) a baseball cap, cut-off sleeveless shirt, basketball shorts, SOCKS, and Adidas slides. Now I was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans but he looked like your typical sloppy jock that just rolled out of bed. (I did not mind getting to see those arm muscles though! lol) I forgive him for this because it was not technically a date, but I knew it was going to be a long road ahead haha He gave me a hug when we left, and that was that. We texted all that night though, and despite the sloppy outfit, I had truly had a great time with him.

Fast forward to Saturday, June 5th, and we went on our first “official date” at Bridgestreet, We ate at Dolce (an Italian place that has since closed) and saw the movie ‘Splice.’ (long story, but this was the WORST sci-fi movie ever. Everything else was sold out, and Luke chose to buy tickets to this rather than ending the date early lol)He held my hand for the first time during that movie though, so despite the horrific movie, this date will always hold a special meaning for me.

Anyway, we continued to text, talk and go out together for the next two weeks, and we were crazy about each other by the time he left Huntsville. We continued to talk on the phone for the next 6 weeks while he was back at West Point, and according to the letters I received from his new cadets, he was calling me his girlfriend. (Basically as a punishment, Luke made them write me letters about how wonderful he was haha). I wasn’t seeing anyone else, and neither was he, so we say we started dating on June 5th, although I don’t think we were FB official until late August. He drove back down to see me for a weekend during his summer leave, and that’s when we knew we were going to make this long distance relationship from New York to Alabama work. A lot has changed in the past 2 1/3 years, but one thing hasn’t. I am still just as crazy about him as I was after the first time he left Huntsville to go back to West Point. (Jess says I came in to work the Monday after he left looking like death itself. I hadn’t bothered to put make up on and kept crying every few minutes lol she finally asked what was wrong, and boy was she in for a surprise! I hadn’t told anyone in the office that we were dating, so that sure made for an interesting lunch conversation lol).

During that time, we made sure to see each other at least once a month, sometimes more, but the longest we have ever spent completely apart is 6 weeks, which seems miraculous considering how far apart we lived. We just could not stand to stay away from each other! He graduated from West Point in May, and I was so excited to close that chapter in our lives. While it was a wonderful one and I am so proud of him, it is nice that he will be living much closer to me in Georgia before the year is out. We spent 40 days together this summer before he had to report to Lawton, Oklahoma for his Basic Officer Leader’s Course, and it was really hard to say goodbye after that summer together. I have been out to visit him at Fort Sill twice now (once in August and over Columbus Day,) and he came down to visit me in Tuscaloosa over Labor Day. I left Lawton on October 8th thinking I would not see him again until Thanksgiving, but I was excited that it was our last big countdown before he moves to Georgia. Little did I know, Luke had a surprise up his sleeve for me. Which brings me to the proposal story…

I went to visit Jess at Auburn for my 22nd birthday weekend. I got there on Friday night, and she took me to eat Mexican and bought me fajitas for dinner. We went back to her apartment to bake my birthday cake and to play board games with Luke (on the web cam) and her boyfriend Will. We Skyped Luke, and I KNEW FOR A FACT that he was in his room in Oklahoma. So any visions of a b’day surprise were certainly far from my mind. Anyway, so Saturday rolls around, and she tells me we are getting lunch, going shopping in Columbus (near Fort Benning) and taking pictures in a botanical gardens that she had found. So, we got a late start, had lunch at Friday’s, and then with the time change, we arrived at Callaway Gardens shortly before it closed. (literally 15 mins before it closed.) I kept telling her we should just come back some other time, especially since I was wearing a dress and heels and she was wearing jeans! I was way over dressed for the woods…But she had made me wear that outfit for my birthday. So we decided to hike up this trail to the Azalea Bowl, which I later found out is the largest azalea garden in the world. Luke had hidden clues for me along the path, leading me to this bridge overlooking a small, man-made waterfall.

Reading the first clue

Jess taking a picture of me on the bridge where he later proposed

View from the bridge!

Luke came out from behind a tree while we were taking pictures on this bridge, and I remember seeing him in his suit from a bit of a distance, and I literally looked at Jessica and she says that I said, “Jessica, is that Luke?” She replied, “Manda, I am going to need you to walk toward me,” and so I started walking that way, toward Luke, and we met kind of in the middle of the bridge. I gave him a huge hug, because I thought that he was just there to surprise me for my birthday. The proposal idea had not dawned on me yet. But he grabbed my hand and led me back further toward the center of the bridge. And he said, “Amanda Louise Sams, I love you. But I am going to need to ask you a question.” And then he dropped to one knee.

The proposal speech

“Will you marry me?”

Most of his sweet speech is a bit hazy, and he said he memorized it for weeks and ended up just speaking from the heart after all. We were both so nervous, but I distinctly remember that question, “Will you marry me?” and my reply? “Of course! Yes!” I grabbed him and gave him a big bear hug without even taking the ring, and then he asked me which hand the ring went on again and slid the most beautiful diamond ring onto my finger.

Placing the ring on my finger

Picking me up in a celebratory hug

We were so excited!

It was so perfect and romantic, and I was so glad Jess was there to take pictures of the whole thing. I did not even realize she was there for most of it!

The future Mr. and Mrs. Luke Bradshaw

The ring..He did so well :]

Twirling me around the garden in a celebratory dance!

After Jess left, Luke took me out for a nice dinner with champagne…We were both too excited to eat much so we mainly ended up drinking champagne and eating a complimentary dessert, and then we called all of our close friends and family members to share the good news.

Celebrating in the restaurant at Callaway Gardens, and toasting to “50+”

He was on the ground less than 24 hours because he had gotten special permission to come and surprise me, and we spent about 10 of those together!

Words cannot describe how excited I am to finally become Mrs. Luke Bradshaw. I may not have known it back when we first met in Summer of 2010, but I know it now: This man is truly the love of my life and best friend. We have gone through lots of fire together (much of which would have broken many other couples), but we have come through stronger than ever on the other side. I am fully confident that we will love each other until the end of time and have a long and happy life together. We owe every bit of our happiness to the Lord, and we are just so thankful to have been given the gift of each other. Our relationship is centered on God, and I truly believe that is the key to every bit of joy we have had as a couple. We are truly blessed beyond measure, and we have greatly enjoyed celebrating with all of our wonderful friends and family whose support means the world to us. Here’s to 50+ Mr. Bradshaw, and as my engagement ring says in the inner engraving, “Forever and Always.”
***My mother suggested that I put a disclaimer at the end of this blog post: No I do not usually text or constantly talk to co-workers while at work. This was a one-time, 1-week time period while we were in-processing and waiting for computer access. Besides, we mainly texted after work anyway. :]

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