love stories

14 Years After Receiving Christmas Shoebox Gift, Woman Marries The Stranger Who Sent It

By | Food for thought, heartwarming, love stories, relationships, romantic, stories, uplifting news

A gift from worlds away

Most love stories don’t begin with two kids on opposite sides of the globe, but this tale is in a class of its own.

It all began in Christmas 2000, when 7-year-old Tyrel Wolfe was helping his parents pack Christmas shoebox gifts for children in the Philippines. The project, headed by Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse, consisted of packing school supplies, toiletries and small toys.

Each shoebox-packer was asked to include a photo of themself with their gift. And so, the boy sent a picture of himself decked in Western cowboy gear, and then was off into the sunset.

A random friend request

Over a decade later, at 21, Wolfe received a Facebook friend request from a Joanna Marchan. Thinking nothing of it, he ignored it.

Then two years, up popped another friend request from Marchan. With curiosity getting the best of him, Wolfe replied this time, asking how she knew him. Nothing could prepare him for her reply.

Marchan told him that she received Wolfe’s shoebox gift and picture, and how much she cherished it all those years. She added that she sent a thank-you note, however it got lost in the mail.

With that, the two began chatting and were drawn together like magnets. It was only a matter of time before the pull was too strong.

And so, after saving up enough money from work, Wolfe took bought a ticket to the Philippines for 10 days to meet Marchan.

He told PEOPLE that it was a leap of faith.

I knew I was taking a big risk. I had never traveled alone, let alone to a foreign country before and I was meeting people I didn’t know or even knew really existed.

– Tyrel Wolfe

A leap of faith

That was quickly put to rest when he laid eyes on her.

“When I finally got there and saw her, I had to punch myself a couple times because I thought it was a dream,” he recalled.

The chemistry was reciprocal. However, in respecting Marchan’s family tradition, the two couldn’t officially be a couple until receiveing her father’s blessing. When Wolfe finally had to return home, it was heartbreaking but only fueled his resolve.

It was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say because we didn’t know the next time we’d see each other. I told her I’m going to do whatever it takes to come back to her.

– Tyrel Wolfe

It wouldn’t be long. The two kept in close touch, planning their reunion. Finally, on a return trip to Manila a few months later — this time accompanied by his father Ivan — Tyrel got papa bear’s blessing to marry Marchan.

Have an open heart

The couple settled down in the United States because of Wolfe’s job, which also lets him help Marchan’s family back home.

As for Marchan, it’s all been alot to take in but she’s enjoying the ride with her beau.

“It was a big change and adjustment for me,” Marchan says. “I was raised in the city and now I’m living in the country with much less people and more space, but it’s a beautiful place.”

Wolfe and Marchan are keeping another commitment: Packing a shoebox every holiday season, including a note with their story.

We don t want to give them some fantasy, but we do want to show that we care and want to share our love.

– Tyrel Wolfe

Far from a fantasy, this incredible story teaches us that with an open heart and a little faith, there’s love and magic all around us.

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Be courageous enough to love

“To love is to recognize yourself in another.” — Eckhart Tolle

39 Years Ago, Her Father Forbade Her From Being With a Black Man – Today, They Finally Tied The Knot

By | Food for thought, love stories, marriage, racism, stories, uplifting news

In the late 1970s, Penny Umbers and Mark Bethel met at a private school in Nottingham, England — and the two teenagers fell in love.

They continued to keep in touch after Bethel returned home to the Bahamas by exchanging love letters, poems, and paintings.

When it was time to attend university, Bethel went to study in London and Umbers got into a polytechnic college nearby so they could be close to each other.

But their relationship ended, seemingly out of the blue.

Umbers was devastated. She dropped out of college and even attempted suicide, according to Birmingham Mail.

He was everything to me, he made me feel so loved, and so to not see or hear from him was unbelievable.

Penny Umbers

Parents broke up their relationship

After their break-up, Umbers and Bethel went on with their lives. Umbers got married and divorced twice, while Bethel also had a serious relationship that didn’t work out.

But in 2019, Bethel managed to track Umbers down on Facebook and revealed the truth of why he broke up with her.

“When we spoke in 2019, Mark told me, for the first time, what had happened at school,” said Umbers.

He had been talking to my father in the garden and I remember thinking they had so much in common because they both liked sports. But in actual fact, my father had said to him ‘you’ve had your fun, now move on boy.’ It absolutely shattered him, he was such a sweet lovely boy and he was really in love with me.

Penny Umbers

Umbers’ father’s threats escalated to the point where he called Bethel out of class to the vice principal’s office for a stern warning.

“My father told him he knew people in high places and would have his scholarship revoked if he didn’t stop seeing me and that I must know nothing about this,” Umbers added.

Bethel’s parents were against their relationship too, due to the fact that he is Black and Umbers is white.

Making up for lost time

Bethel admitted that the decision to break up with Umbers was extremely difficult for him.

“When we first met, I fell for her and it was magic. When her father spoke to me, I couldn’t believe I was in that situation,” he explained, according to Birmingham Mail. “I had to make the hardest decision of my life and I had to make it in isolation. I had no support mechanism, no friends or family, I couldn’t explain to her why I just wanted it to end. It was heartbreaking.”

Over the years, Bethel searched for Umbers, but couldn’t track her down.

“Then one day I found a photo of her in a black outfit outside Windsor Castle,” he said. “Thirty-nine years on, I wasn’t sure if it was her. I sent her repeated messages but she wasn’t really a Facebook user so it was a couple of months before she saw it. I just said ‘Is this Penny?’ and then it was! I felt nervous, apprehensive, happy, and giddy.”

The couple — now aged 60 and 61 — finally reunited in June 2021 when Umbers flew to see Bethel in the Bahamas.

She returned home after a few months, but when she flew back in October, Bethel proposed to her then and there.

“I’ve never loved anyone the way I love Mark,” said Umbers.

I feel like a whole new person.

Penny Umbers

My confidence has come back,” she added. “I had a defeatist attitude whereas I stand up tall now knowing he did love me after all. It was so difficult to think the man I loved didn’t love me. I thought if he had discussed it with me, maybe we could have done something about it but he was far more accepting of authority and less rebellious than me. He wanted to fit in and do well, and he has done it in life. But he had to make sacrifices to do that.”

Love triumphs

Even though you’ve probably read it here on this website many times, it’s worth mentioning again: love has no color, gender, sex, etc. It’s awful that these two lovebirds’ parents broke them up. But in the end, their connection triumphed, proving its never too late to find your person.

More uplifting stories:

True love always find its way

Regardless of the circumstances, true love is always worth fighting for.

Pre-K Sweethearts Get a Second Chance at Love When They Unknowingly Find Each Other on Dating App

By | dating, Food for thought, love stories, marriage, stories, uplifting news

When Amy Giberson and Justin Pounders were in pre-kindergarten in St. Petersburg, Florida, they’d play tag and build blocks together. They say that a “shy” romance developed when they were 3 years old, but they attended different schools growing up and drifted apart.

Then 30 years later, the two matched on an online dating site.

Fate had other plans

Justin said he felt an instant connection to Amy when he first saw her profile on the dating site.

“I saw her photo and for whatever reason, was instantly drawn to her,” he told People in a 2015 story. “She just had this great energy, you could tell. I can’t explain it, but I knew I had to get to know this girl.”

The couple went on their first date to a restaurant and sparks flew.

“Of course, at that point, we still didn’t know we had been pre-K sweethearts, but when we met up and we hugged, it was like I had known him my whole life,” Giberson said.

“When I first saw him, I felt that I was staring at the man I was going to marry.”

Amy Giberson

They didn’t realize they knew each other

A year into dating, Justin joked that he had a crush on a girl in preschool named Amy.

Then, Amy joked back, “Well, it’s not me, so I don’t want to hear about her!”

But it wasn’t a joke. The two had actually been in the same pre-kindergarten class and their parents dug up the photos to prove it.

“Justin’s mom found a photo of the two of us together and I just started crying, I was ecstatic,” Amy told People. “I was the Amy he had liked all those years ago! It was definitely meant to be.”

A dream love story

Shortly after the improbable modern love story came out online, the couple appeared on The View and Justin recruited kids at their former pre-school to pop the question for him.

In unison, the toddlers said, “Amy, will you marry me?”

She said yes, of course.

“I truly feel it was fate!” Amy told People in a 2016 story. “Our hearts met at the age of 3 and we had our own journeys to go through for 30 years, but ultimately our hearts were meant to love each other.

“Everyone wants a dream love story, and somehow it happened to us!”

Amy Giberson

Grateful for her love story, Giberson had a message for others looking for their match.

“Always keep your heart open to love, because you never know when you’ll find it,” she said.

Love will find a way

Sometimes even the best romances don’t work out because their lives are on different trajectories. And that’s what nearly happened in this story. But incredibly, they found each other again, proving that love will always find a way if it’s meant to be.

More uplifting stories:

True love always finds a way

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” – Emily Brontë

She Can’t Form New Memories, So He Shows Her Pics Of Their Wedding Every Day

By | Food for thought, heartwarming, love stories, marriage, relationships, stories, uplifting news

Some Hollywood stories were made for real life.

Filmed in Hawaii, Peter Segal’s 2004 rom-com hit 50 First Dates tells the story of Henry (played by Adam Sandler), who falls for amnesia-stricken Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore). Henry vows to win over her love anew every day.

Thousands of miles away in Spalding, Lincolnshire, lives the real-life couple — a wife who won’t give up and a husband whose patience and love have no limits.

Lost memories

I don’t know who you are, Henry… but I dream about you almost every night. Why?

Lucy to Harry in ’50 First Dates’

In the movie, we discover that Barrymore’s character, Lucy Whitmore, lost her memory from a recent car accident.

She wakes up every morning having forgotten anything about the day before. That includes her affection for Henry, a vacationing veterinarian who’s smitten with her.

Like Lucy, Michelle Philpots’ memory was also affected due to a vehicle accident. Doctors ultimately diagnosed her with anterograde amnesia.

It’s defined as “a loss of the ability to create new memories after the event that caused amnesia, leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past, while long-term memories from before the event remain intact.”

For Michelle, that means waking up every day thinking it’s 1994, when Ace of Base sat atop the music charts and ‘Forest Gump’ was the year’s blockbuster film.

I wanted to be back to the normal me and not this shell of a person. I want my career back. I want to be able to say, ‘I remember when’ again — but knowing [that’s] the life you’ve lost, you can’t do it.

– Michelle Philpots on TODAY

Michelle uses hundreds of Post-It notes and keeps reminders on her phone’s calendar to avoid forgetting the small tasks most of us take for granted. She also has to log every interaction for future reference.

Even more troubling is that although Michelle met her husband Ian in 1985, they only got married in 1997. Meaning every day she wakes up with no recollection of their wedding day.

Her leading man

In the movie, Henry courts Lucy every day as if it was their first time together. His surprise “Good morning Lucy” tape reminds her of their wedding day.

And just like Sandler’s character, Ian is determined to make his wife fall in love with him every day. Each morning, he shows her pictures of their wedding day, sharing those moments to jog her memory and bring a smile to her face.

Can I have one last first kiss?

– Lucy, ’50 First Dates’

Although it can be trying at times, Ian never gets daunted, determined to rekindle their memories as a couple.

It can be very frustrating for me but I have to be patient and understand. I have to keep calm because I love her

– Ian Philpots to Daily Mail

Love is worth fighting for

Michelle works constantly to try to improve her condition. She can now recall up to six numbers by punching them into a telephone keypad.

Although it has been a struggle, her husband Ian has been by her side, recreating the moments that her accident has erased.

When Ian looks at Michelle, he sees the woman he loves. Just like Adam Sandler’s character, he’ll do anything to make sure that Michelle reconnects with the man she married.

More uplifting news:

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen Had to Fail at Marriage to Find True Love

By | Food for thought, love stories, marriage, profile, relationships, romantic

Ted Danson has had an unbelievable career in comedy. Despite the occasional miss, his roles on Cheers and The Good Place alone have solidified his status as a Hollywood legend. Similarly, his personal life has been a smash hit for the past 20-plus years. But that wasn’t always the case.

As Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s bumpy love story proves, sometimes you have to deal with your fair share of drama and heartbreak before being rewarded with unconditional love. 

Here’s what we can learn from Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s marriage:

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen have enjoyed over two decades of wedded bliss, but when the pair first met on the set of Pontiac Moon in 1993, the outlook was anything but promising. That’s because they had both sworn off love for good.

Steenburgen had gotten divorced in 1990 and Danson was having zero luck in the romance department. Not only was he twice divorced, but his second marriage ended in scandal and a historic $30 million settlement

Everyone changes…

Ted Danson’s first shot at love came at a young age. In 1970, at the age of 23, he married actress Randy Gosch whom he had met at Carnegie Mellon University. As their respective careers began taking off, however, they found themselves on different paths and separated in 1975. 

People change with every experience they have and don’t always remain compatible.

It’s a lesson Danson would soon learn for a second time. Unphased by his divorce, Danson said “I do” to producer Cassandra Coates just two years later. Sadly, a major health scare would soon drive a wedge between them. 

And tragedy can change your relationship

The year was 1979 and Coates was giving birth to their first child, Kate, when she suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side. Recovery was slow and painful, but Danson remained by her side, even sleeping on the hospital room floor for the first three weeks. Unfortunately, the trauma soon took its toll. 

Speaking candidly about their experience, Coates told People in 1982:

For the first month, I did nothing but cry. I gave Ted permission to leave me. I thought I was going to be a wipe-out the rest of my life.

Cassandra Coates, People Magazine

As she noted, they were still “adjusting to the fact that we aren’t the same people we were before this happened.” 

Not only was their intimacy gone — “You don’t think about your sex life when you’re paralyzed,” she told the outlet — but as they tried to find their new “normal,” tensions grew.

As Danson admitted, “There was a huge rift between us — a massive lack of trust” accompanied by a major “sense of sacrifice” on his part.

Sometimes you have to lose everything to find joy 

Despite all of the challenges they faced, Danson and Coates remained a team for the next decade, but their foundation would crumble in the early ‘90s.

Danson was accused of having an affair with co-star Whoopi Goldberg on the set of 1993’s Made in America and the media just couldn’t get enough. That’s when the actor’s life began spiraling out of control. 

His marriage fell apart, he was hit with a history-making $30 million divorce settlement, Cheers was officially over, Made in America was a flop and, when all was said and done, his new relationship with Goldberg just couldn’t withstand the pressure. The couple called it quits after only 18 months of dating, shortly after an embarrassing comedy routine in which Danson dressed up in blackface to roast his girlfriend.

“I was a mess-and-a-half,” Danson told AARP Magazine of that time in his life.

I thought, I’m incapable of being in a relationship. But I was working on myself.

Ted Danson, AARP Magazine

And that’s when the unexpected happened. As he noted, it’s “ironic how life works in those moments. Once you throw your arms up and surrender, a lot of times things come your way.”

True love comes when you least expect it…  

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
3/7/99 Los Angeles, CA. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen at the 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award.

When Danson met Steenburgen on the set of Pontiac Moon in 1993, she was in a similar headspace to his. She was a newly single mother of two, having divorced Malcolm McDowell in 1990, and, like her co-star, she had all but given up on love.

“I announced to all my friends — not dramatically, but very seriously — that I was done with relationships,” she told Closer

That all changed one fateful day. The actors, who were tasked with playing a married couple, spent five hours shooting a canoe scene that would alter their lives forever. As Danson told the magazine, “We went out as friends and by the time we came back, we were in love.”

The timing of their encounter, which may have seemed odd at first, was actually perfect, as the pair had similar experiences to bond over.

As Danson explained, “We found each other when I was 45 and she was 40 — we had lived a bit.”

Both of us stared down some demons within ourselves, and it was lucky that we met then.

Ted Danson, Closer Weekly

They soon restored each other’s faith in love and were married in 1995.

True love gets stronger with age 

While Danson experienced his first three relationships crumble over time, with Steenburgen he learned a valuable lesson: True love gets stronger with age.

When faced with hardships, personal growth, and changing outlooks on life, true love doesn’t dissolve. Rather, it’s able to withstand anything you throw at it.

Which explains why the couple is as crazy in love today as they were when they first met. 

“I’m madly in love with Mary,” Danson proclaimed in 2017, gushing, “She’s a remarkable human being so I’m just incredibly blessed. It feels like heaven on Earth,” he continued. “If I were to die, I can say, I know what it’s like to be loved and to love.”

The feeling is mutual. “I’m ridiculously in love with him,” Steenburgen proclaimed in 2018. “I find him endlessly fascinating. He surprises me all the time and most of all he makes me laugh.” 

Ted and Mary’s biggest lesson:

It’s easy to have regrets or second-guess your choices in life, especially when the outcome isn’t the one you’d hoped for, but consider this: If you were to change even a single element of your past, your present might look very different.

This is a truth Danson is acutely aware of. As he told AARP Magazine, “If I corrected my mistakes — which are cringers — would I take them away if it were to alter anything about where I am now? No. Life is messy. The older I get, the more I realize it’s okay to be imperfect,” he noted. “Because you can still grow and make changes in your life.” 

Rather than pondering the what-ifs, use every experience, both good and bad, as an opportunity to learn. Treat failure as a chance to grow and better yourself and remember that your present is the result of everything that came before it, so there’s no time for regret. Instead, trust that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or, at least, that you’re headed there.

More inspiring love stories:

How Oprah’s Advice Led Serena Williams To Alexis Ohanian, Her Perfect Match

By | Food for thought, inspiring, Inspiring Celebrities, love stories, marriage, stories

I’ve always seen Serena Williams as an inimitable, dominating force in the world of tennis. After all, she’s won 23 major singles titles—more than any man or woman in the Open Era of the sport–four Olympic gold medals, and the Women’s Tennis Association ranked her world No. 1 in singles eight times. 

It’s no wonder that love and romance haven’t always come easy to her. In case you’ve never noticed, those among us with the brightest lights tend to wane in our power when paired off.

Which is all the more reason to have a look at how she came to meet her husband, internet entrepreneur and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. My theory: when you find someone who also shines a light, they’re more apt to love and respect yours.

Serena Williams faced many obstacles

As anyone who pays attention knows, Serena Williams has faced consistent (and deeply problematic) body shaming throughout the years from those who feel her muscles and her power make her look masculine.

She’s addressed these upsetting comments many a time, ultimately choosing to stay empowered and ignore the haters, but not without difficulty. “It was hard for me,” she said to Harper’s Bazaar.

People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different to Venus [her sister]: She was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular—and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.

Serena Williams to Harper’s Bazaar

This is the sad truth in the way the world currently views women who deviate from the norm either in looks or in personality traits. Strong may be sexy, but if a woman gets too strong (or shines too bright), her femininity is in question.

Serena’s strength is both physical but also an integral part of her personality, which has made her a source of inspiration to many. And no, it does not make her any less of a woman.

Another reason to listen to Oprah

There was a time when Williams believed she would never have both a successful career and a relationship. Before she met Ohanian, Williams is known to have dated Common, Drake, Grigor Dimitrov, and Brett Ratner among others, which she told Allure were “mostly great relationships.”

Yet—apparently not the relationship, am I right?

It’s a good thing she found a wise, fairy godmother figure in Oprah. The latter gave her a valuable piece of relationship advice.

Oprah said, ‘Never let anyone dim your light. That really stuck with me. It always was something that I could see in some relationships—my light would be dimmer.

Serena is indeed one of those people whose light shines very bright–even Beyonce cast her for the video of her famous song, “Sorry,” which is coincidentally about being unapologetic about leaving an undeserving partner.

“Now I feel like I can shine really bright and still do everything that I want to do,” Serena said. This is the kind of relationship everyone should strive for.

How Serena met Alexis

Serena and Alexis first met in 2015 at the Rome Cavalieri hotel where they were both staying. Alexis was hung over and sat down at a table next to Williams and her friends, oblivious to the fact that this annoyed her.

After trying and failing to provoke him into sitting elsewhere, Serena told her future husband, “We just don’t want you sitting there. We’re going to use that table.”

Yet somehow, in the course of the conversation that followed, Alexis was invited to sit with them. It was only then that he realized who Williams was. The rest, as they say, is history. 

They got engaged in 2016, and welcomed their baby girl Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in 2017. Fun fact: Williams, whose incredible list of accomplishments obviously precedes her, often says that her greatest achievement of all is being a mom. The couple got married later in 2017, and these days, Williams says she feels supported—both on and off the court.

The couple’s beautiful daughter, Olympia, reportedly has her mother’s arms, something Williams is happy about. “I knew I was having a girl, because when I was playing tennis in the [2017 Australia Open], I didn’t have one day of morning sickness, no symptoms. Australia is really hot, some days can be over 40 degrees [Celsius], which is insane, but she never complained. I said to Alexis, ‘This is a girl. Only a woman can be this strong.” 

They both break boundaries together

Alexis, the one man who has been confident enough not to dim our protagonist’s brilliant light, began campaigning for paternity leave after Williams was bedridden due to birth complications.

He had to seriously step up and take care of his new family for several months. “To get to gender equality,” he says, “It’s essential that men take as much parental leave as women.” Fittingly, Alexis, like his wife Serena, continues to make his mark by flouting traditional standards whenever the occasion calls for it.

Look for someone who doesn’t dim your light

“Alexis doesn’t dim my light,” Williams says. “He doesn’t try to dim my light. He puts me in the light, even if I don’t want to be. He pushes me to further points I never thought about.”

The moral of the story: take Oprah’s advice. To be fair, it’s probably advice that’s you must already know intuitively. Judge a partner based on how they make you feel. Look for people who don’t dim your light, or who even bolster and strengthen you more. These are the relationships that will ultimately help you to grow and thrive as an ever-evolving human being.

More inspiring stories:

How Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton Navigated Divorce and Falling In Love As Coworkers

By | Food for thought, inspiring, love stories, stories

Sometimes, you meet a person at a time in your life where romance is the farthest thing from your mind. But then, before you know it, an undeniable bond has blossomed — organically. 

That’s exactly what happened when work brought Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani together. It was back in 2015 when they were both struggling in their personal lives and experiencing major heartbreak. They became friends and helped each other through the rough period . And soon enough, things began to change. Rather than questioning the unusual circumstances and imperfect timing, they rolled with the punches.

Here’s what we can learn from Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s relationship:  

When Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani first met back in 2014 on the set the The Voice, dating was not on their minds. That’s because Shelton was married to fellow country star Miranda Lambert and Stefani had just given birth to her third son, Apollo. As Shelton later told Billboard, he “never really got to know her, other than small talk.” 

The “Nobody but You” songstress skipped out on season 8 and Shelton was sure that would mark the end of their acquaintance. Boy, was he wrong!

Stefani returned for season 9, right in time to hear Shelton make a difficult announcement to his colleagues: he was calling it quits with Miranda Lambert after four years of marriage. 

I won’t forget that day. I looked over at Gwen — who I didn’t really know — and she had these huge tears in her eyes. I thought, ‘Wow, she feels super bad for me!’

Blake Shelton to Billboard

That wasn’t entirely true. Rather, it made her think of what she herself was secretly going through–she was getting ready to split from her husband of 13 years, Gavin Rossdale. Later that day, she asked to speak to her co-star privately.

“I thought it was going to be another one of those things-are-going-to-be-OK talks,” he recalled. “She didn’t tell me much, because we didn’t know each other at the time, but she said, ‘I’m going through something very similar to what you’re going through. I understand. And I hate it.’ That’s kind of how our friendship and bond started,” he continued. 

Soon enough, their shared experience turned into a solid foundation that has led to trust and an unshakeable bond. As Shelton recalled, “It went from that, to checking in on each other once a week through email — ‘This shit happened to me, what happened to you?’ — to maybe three times a week, then every day, to ‘Hey, here’s my phone number if you ever want to text.’ Next thing I know, I wake up and she’s all I care about, and I’m ­wondering if she feels the same about me.”

Seeking personal happiness is not selfish 

It wasn’t easy, but both Shelton and Stefani realized that sacrificing personal happiness for the sake of a relationship was not sustainable. Stefani opened up about her fear of failure and the embarrassment she felt before making one of the toughest decisions of her life. She told Glamour.

I had to work really hard at marriage, all the time, like everybody, but ours was extra hard, when you add that we’re from different countries, both of us being in music, and celebrity.[Marriage] was the one thing I didn’t want to fail at.

Even so, the No Doubt frontwoman decided to follow her heart and file for divorce in August 2015, just one month after Shelton and Lambert publicly announced their split. The couple said in a joint statement, “This is not the future we envisioned. And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately.” Marriage is supposed to be forever and divorce can feel like the biggest blow, but from failure comes strength.

It’s okay to reinvent yourself 

After months that felt like “hell” and “torture”, Stefani decided to stop dwelling on the past and start focusing on the future. “Sometimes to be woken up again in life, you need to go through some really bad, hard times,” she told Glamour. “I’m in such a new place. It’s all about the future for me. Not really just the future — but the moment right now.”

As she revealed, it was Shelton who played an integral role in changing her outlook. “Finding somebody who was going through the exact same experience? That was an inspiration,” she told the magazine.

He was a friend to me when I needed a friend. An unexpected gift. And that became an inspiration in the songwriting.

Gwen Stefani to Glamour

The feeling was mutual. “Gwen saved my life,” Blake told Billboard. “Who else on earth could understand going through a high-profile divorce from another musician? You can’t even imagine the similarities in our divorces.” 

Tune out the skeptics 

After months of speculation, the pair officially announced they were dating in November 2015 and almost immediately, they were faced with backlash and skepticism over whether their connection was genuine or not. Rather than letting the negativity impact their budding romance, they tuned out the world and focused on themselves. 

For those closest to the couple (the folks who really mattered), there was never any doubt about the authenticity of their love. And fellow The Voice judge Adam Levine can testify to it. “They found each other at really interesting times in their lives”, Adam told Howard Stern in 2017.

“It’s really beautiful,” Adam continued. “Because it’s in the public eye, a lot of people want to have their own bullsh*t opinions about it, but I’m there. I see it every day. I have a pretty unique perspective on it and it’s real, man.”

Embrace your differences 

In addition to helping build each other up when they were at their lowest, Shelton and Stefani were also able to build a strong connection by embracing their differences. As Shelton himself acknowledged, they “could not be, on paper, any more different.”

If you had told me that that’s who I’m gonna end up with, I would have thought you were crazy. But she became my closest ally.

Blake Shelton to Rolling Stone

Stefani’s not oblivious to the differences either. “It’s definitely two different cultures,” she told Glamour. “But there are many similarities, in things that we love and our ­morals. But it’s really fun when you can learn about so many new things and share those differences.”

They also have plenty in common, like their love of music. In fact, they’ve started working together in the studio. In 2016, the pair co-wrote and recorded “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” and in 2017, they followed that up with “You Make it Feel Like Christmas.” 

The other thing that unites them? Family. Although Shelton doesn’t have any children of his own, he’s fully embraced Stefani’s three sons (Kingston, Zuma, and Apollo) while remaining respectful of their father.

Stefani has called him “a good dad.” As Gwen told The Today’s Show. “He is a good dad, actually. He’s been helping me out a lot.” She added, “I literally get to the point where I’m like, ‘You gotta get home, I need some help.’ It’s hard. I’ve got three boys.”

What is next in their future? Well, marriage! The pair is ready to walk down the aisle and in March 2019 began the legal process to get Stefani’s first marriage annulled because “she very much wants the marriage to be recognized by the church.” 

In November 2019, the lovebirds proved critics wrong again, as they celebrated their four-year anniversary. “It’s kind of a blur. It still feels like it’s pretty new to me,” Shelton told People. “Four years isn’t forever, but man, it seems like it just happened in no time.” 

The importance of keeping an open mind

Things don’t always happen the way you expect them to, and that’s totally fine. Just because an outcome is different from the one you had envisioned or hoped for, it doesn’t mean that the experience attached to it was a failure.

Rather, it should be treated as an opportunity to grow and discover a strength you might not even have known you had. Strength that can be channeled into reaching for the stars and searching for your new happiness.

We can only do that if we keep an open mind going forward, instead of worrying about people’s perceptions and what

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Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves’ 14-Year Romance Started With One-Sided Love

By | Food for thought, inspiring, love stories, marriage, stories

Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves are one of Hollywood’s happiest (and most beautiful) couples and, rather fittingly, their love story reads like a rom-com script. 

While the Oscar winner was instantly smitten, the Brazilian model didn’t even recognize him at first. Alves wasn’t impressed by his movie star status and McConaughey had to put in some work to prove his worth.

As their attraction strengthened, it eventually gave way to a lifelong connection. But none of that would have ever happened, had they not been at the right place at the right time one fateful night in 2006… 

What we can learn from Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves’ relationship?

There are two sides to every story  

If there’s one thing that Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves’ first encounter proves, it’s that love at first sight can be one-sided. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

It was 2006 when McConaughey, who’s adamant that he’s “not a club guy,” was enjoying a guys’ night out at “Joan’s, a club on Sunset Boulevard.” He was “making margaritas at the table” when he first set eyes on her. And the way Matthew describes his first impression is nothing short of cinematic.

Out of the corner of my eye, this aqua green figure went sort of floating across the frame about 20 feet in front of me.

Matthew McConaughey to PeopleTV

As he tried to get the mystery figure’s attention by waving, it hit him: “This is not the kind of woman you call over across the room.” Making the wise decision to walk over instead, the actor invited the Brazilian beauty and her friends to join his table.

She eventually did, but it was clear she wasn’t starstruck. Deciding to keep it real, she spoke her native tongue, Portuguese, and immediately put him to the test.

McConaughey didn’t miss a beat. He responded in both Portuguese and Spanish and, as he joked with PeopleTV, “I understood Portuguese better than I’ve ever understood her in our nine years of dating!”

However, when you ask Camilla about that night, her take of their first meeting is completely different. As she recalled, “We met at Hyde, of all places. We had two interactions at the bar. The first interaction, I did not know who he was. At the time he had a really long beard, and he had this rasta hat. He was all covered up, and I didn’t really realize who he was,” she confessed.

It didn’t click until McConaughey’s pal, Lance Armstrong, intervened, albeit with an undesirable effect. “Lance came to talk to me,” she continued. “You knew they were always together, so I’m like, ‘OK, I’m outta here. I’m going to the other side of the room!’”

Timing is everything

As perfect as the couple’s love story may seem, it wasn’t their connection that made it a success. Rather, it was all about timing. As McConaughey explained in 2017, “It’s gotta be the right person but it has to be the right time.”

How many people in your past have you met where you go, ‘Ooh, if I would have actually been hanging out with them at the time I was ready, would they have been right?’ I don’t know the answer.

What he does know is that “it was the right time for [him].”

Part of that certainty came from the fact that he was itching to start a family, but he was by no means searching for love. A distinction he made clear during an interview with Cigar Aficionado: “The clock was ticking — I was about to be 40 and my plan was to be married and have kids by that age. But I didn’t want to play the game of starting to feel anxious because, with too much anxiety, you can’t find a mate. And then you make a hasty decision.”

Matthew assured PeopleTV that he was in no way unhappy with being single, which proves that love manages to find you when you are not looking.

“I was not looking,” he said. “I was very happily single. And healthily single, so I was not looking. I was sleeping well, I was spiritually sound, I was good with hanging with me.”

When you know, you know

That was certainly the case for Matthew McConaughey. As the actor told PeopleTV: “We went out on our first date three nights [after meeting at the club] and I knew then that the next night after that I wanted to go on another date. And the next night after that, I wanted to go on another date. And I’ve been wanting to go on a date with her for the last nine years. And not with anybody else.” 

Reminiscing about what made him feel so certain, he revealed it was “the self-respect she had for herself” and “the way [he] understood her and her relationship with family” and “the way she respected [him] but never took anything for granted.”

The feeling was mutual and, in July 2008, the lovebird had their first child, son Levi, then welcomed daughter Vida in January 2010. Son Livingston followed in December 2012.

They grew into marriage 

Deciding to do things their own way, McConaughey and Alves had two children before getting engaged on Christmas Day 2011 and saying “I do” the following June in a secret at-home ceremony in Austin. It wasn’t the conventional order of things, but there was a very specific reason for it. 

During an interview with People in 2012, Alves admitted to being surprised they got married at all.

I think it’s something that we evolved to,” she told the magazine. “I was never the girl that grew up saying I want to get married. I actually told my parents to not expect me to get married.

Camila continued, revealing how she was proven wrong: “The main thing for me is to make sure our home is peaceful, that it’s healthy, that the kids are good. I didn’t know how important [the wedding] was, and how really truly special it was, until I went through the ceremony.”

McConaughey further explained their thought process to GQ in 2014: “I had to get to the point where I saw it as more than just the thing to do. I wanted to really want to.”

He revealed that they “did a lot of reading and talked to a lot of people that had been divorced, a lot of people that had been happily married.”

They also spoke to their pastor, before finally reaching an understanding that marriage was “not a destination” but “the beginning of an adventure that [they] are taking together.”

They’re a team on all fronts 

Whether it’s something as simple as decorating or something as life-changing as raising kids, McConaughey and Alves are a team on all fronts.

For example, when they first got together, the actor decided to sell his home so they could buy a property together. Noting that they could have simply moved into his place, he told Esquire the reason behind his reasoning.

I thought, ‘I found the woman I want to do it with, the woman I want to make a family with, hopefully live our life out together, [so] she needs to have 50 percent of that’. I mean, it’s a lot easier for me to be at 100 percent. I’d always been 100 percent. It’s braver for me at 50 percent.

They’re also 50-50 when it comes to parenting and their outlook on life. As the actor once told People, “The main thing is that my wife and I, Camila, we have a similar moral bottom line.”

It’s the little things

Over the years, both McConaughey and Alves have repeatedly been asked about their secret to a successful union and, as it turns out, it’s the little things that really count. As Alves told Us Weekly, they do “a lot of staying at home, cooking together or getting a hotel room that is 10 minutes away from the house.”

It’s also imperative to love and appreciate one another for who you really are. As he told InStyle, Matthew elaborated, “neither one of us have really tried to change the other one…If anything, she pushes me to be more of myself and I hope I do the same for her.”

Yes, timing is everything but their relationship teaches us more

Matthew and Camila are proof that timing is an integral part to the success of any relationship. Once you feel ready for love, you need to be open to the possibilities. This does not mean that you need to be frantically searching.

When someone special does present themselves, remember to be true to yourself. Because when you find your perfect match, they’ll love the real you, without any question or doubt. So yes, timing is important but so is being true to yourself.

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From Opposite Sides of WWII, Their Love Defied All Odds

By | Food for thought, inspiring, love stories, stories

Dominic Clark always knew his grandparents had lived a full life, but he never knew the true extent of their love story. That is, until his wife Jenn surprised him with a published account of their love as a birthday present for his fortieth birthday. He then learned how truly magical and incredible their story was, and continued to be.

He was from the opposite side

His grandparents’ love story began only about a month after the war ended. His grandmother, Annaliese was swimming in the river near the German village where she was staying, and met his grandfather, Stanley.

It wasn’t love at first sight though! Stanley was a British soldier and she did not hesitate to give them a piece of her mind. After all, as an effect of the war, her home had just been requisitioned by British forces and her family had been left without food.

Anneliese had suffered a lot during the war. Her fiancé, a pilot in the Luftwaffe, had been shot down; another boyfriend was killed in 1944. She and her family lived through tons of bombings and death. It is no wonder that she had some reservations about the British soldier.

Regardless of the horrors of Nazi Germany, Annaliese had never been one to keep her mouth shut. She stood up to the authorities and made the best of a terrible situation by “decorating rooms with wild flowers or concocting novel meals from scant rations.”

Their love brought her old self back

Stanley instantly fell in love with Annaliese and as they spent day after day together, it was not long before the feelings were mutual. Before the trauma of the war, Annaliese had been a fun-loving and happy woman. Her relationship with Stanley brought her back to her old self.

On one of their first dates, Annaliese snuck out of her parents’ home against their wishes to change into a silky party dress. “I have always, ever since that night, liked to dress nicely for Stanley,” she remembered.

After Stanley’s regiment left in 1945 to make way for Russian occupiers, Annaliese had to decide if she would stay with her parents, or follow Stanley. He begged her to leave with him, but she could not leave her family. Annaliese begged her family to escape, but they wouldn’t leave their home.

In the end I chose to go without them.


She made a bold move for love

Annaliese left with nothing and headed for the British-controlled zone. Shortly after, she reconnected with Stanley and they soon got engaged. However, marriage between English and German citizens was not legal at that time, so they decided to settle in Lewisham after a small English ceremony. Both went on to have a happy life, building a successful business and raising two daughters.

“The sheer scale of their life does blow me away,” said grandson Dominic, who named his first daughter after Annaliese. He realized that the historical context and the war had taught valuable lessons to his grandparents.

They were wonderful grandparents. When you read everything they went through, I understand how much they made the most of their lives. I hadn’t realized what a deep love story theirs was. The war formed who they were.

Dominic Clarke to The Telegraph

We need to make the most of our lives and love

While we may not have lived through the same terrifying events that both Annaliese and Stanley experienced in their lifetime, we can still learn much from their resolution to make “the most of their lives.” That includes looking past their differences in order to appreciate each other as human beings rather than former enemies.

Dominic’s story reminds us that love is made up of grand, terrifying and courageous gestures, like Anneliese’s fearless decision to leave with Stanley, and also smaller, but no less significant ones.

The latter includes Dominic’s birthday present– a record of his grandparents’ incredible story. His wife Jenn “had dug out photos, spoken to family, found old tape recordings of his grandparents discussing their experiences, and sent them to family biographers Story Terrace.”

Dominic declared it to be the best day of his life. By commemorating his grandparents’ story, Jenn celebrated her own husband, and love, in the most thoughtful way possible.

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Why Whitney Houston’s Secret Bond With Robyn Crawford Was More Powerful Than Fame

By | Food for thought, heartwarming, love stories, stories

Over 7 years have passed since Whitney Houston’s tragic death. What has since been said about the once unstoppable star has mostly focused on her drug use, her abusive marriage to Bobby Brown, and perhaps most tragically, her 22-year-old daughter’s remarkably similar drug-induced death only three years following hers.

To Whitney’s longtime friend and personal assistant Robyn Crawford, it became increasingly important to paint a fuller, truer picture of the late pop diva. In November 2019, she finally broke her decades-long silence with the publication of her memoir, A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston.

“I’d come to the point where I felt the need to stand up for our friendship. And I felt an urgency to stand up and share the woman behind the incredible talent,” she told People. In her introduction to the memoir, Crawford further explains the motivations behind her decision to write their story.

In the nineteen years since I left Whitney’s company I have been pursued relentlessly to share my story. And since her death and that of her daughter, I have been saddened and frustrated by the way she and her legacy have been misrepresented.

The book has received a lot of attention for its many revelations, especially its disclosing of the romantic relationship between the two women, who met all the way back in 1980, when Houston was barely 17 years old and Crawford 19.

Robyn and Whitney refused to label their relationship

While many have gasped at the reveal of this romantic/sexual relationship between Crawford and Houston, it is but one element in a far more complex story. Robyn’s account is the story of two women who hid the original nature of their relationship for Houston’s entire life, often despite intense speculation.

Robyn details how she was harassed and even threatened with violence by Whitney’s family. Whitney went along with it, while in private, she would tell her, “Robyn, you know I love you immensely.”

Before you start resenting Whitney, it is important to understand that both women were raised in ‘God-fearing’ households, back when, as Robyn puts it, “you were either this, or you were that.”

Even in private, they resisted acknowledging what was really going on:

We never talked labels, like lesbian and gay. We just lived our lives, and I hoped it could go on that way for ever.

Robyn Crawford to People

Ultimately, their sexual relationship was short-lived, when, at the age of 19, Houston signed her first contract with Arista Records. In her book, Robyn describes how her friend handed her a Bible and told her they had to quit having sex, because “if they found out – because her career was taking off – they’d use it against us.”

Robyn went along with this, and the women’s friendship went on to span another two decades, largely because Whitney hired her as her assistant as soon as she could and the two moved in together. 

A story of romantic survival

Robyn admits it was incredibly challenging when Whitney started dating Jermaine Jackson in the mid-80s, then Eddie Murphy, and later Bobby Brown, whom she married.

According to Robyn, Brown would sometimes yell at her, and Whitney would take his side. “A lot of the physical stuff that Bobby did [to Whitney] was when I wasn’t there,” she reveals. She finally realized her friend’s public support of Brown was a survival mechanism.

Behind closed doors, she knew how he could behave. So if he’s out in the open creating a scene, you want to defuse it. And she didn’t like to embarrass people.

Robyn Crawford

Surprisingly, in 2016, Brown himself confirmed Whitney’s relationship with Robyn, alleging his former wife’s bisexuality in his own memoir, a label Houston denied throughout her lifetime.

He went on to say that her death could have been avoided with Robyn’s help: “I really feel that if Robyn was accepted into Whitney’s life, Whitney would still be alive today … She didn’t have close friends with her anymore.”

A terrible chapter in their life

Robyn Crawford’s memoir is an account of the larger than life story of an extraordinarily talented artist who found herself in the middle of an increasingly negative whirlwind of personalities and interests as she grew more successful. 

According to Crawford, when they met as teenagers, Houston had already used drugs and confided in her new friend about trying cocaine at 14-years-old. The two actually often did drugs together, but Robyn eventually tried to talk her into quitting.

In 1988, Robyn told Whitney’s mother, Cissy, that her daughter needed help for her drug addiction. She was ignored, probably due to the family’s hostility regarding her closeness with Houston.

“Whitney knew she needed to help herself and wanted to do that,” Crawford told BBC.

In 2001 she called a doctor to discuss rehab … And she said she was not someone who wanted to die. She was someone who wanted to live. She meant that.

Robyn Crawford to BBC

Unwavering friendship or one-sided love?

Despite Robyn’s overarching account of her and Whitney’s reciprocated and unshakeable bond—one in which they looked out for one another—the Houston family’s hostility towards her eventually saw her barred from business meetings.

In 1997, after years of touring with Whitney, she was shut out of a 10-date tour. Eventually, 20 years after the women’s first meeting, Robyn finally quit. When Whitney Houston passed away in 2012, Crawford was living in rural New Jersey with her wife, Lisa Hintlemann, and their two adopted children. She had not spoken to Houston in years. Her wife had encouraged her to seek therapy, which she did.

However, long after she got married and had children, Crawford still felt at times that she could get sucked back in. Part of her stated purpose in writing her memoir was to celebrate the original energy between her and her closest friend.

We were young, and fearless, and free. … I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame, and in that, to embrace our friendship.

Robyn Crawford to People

Her book also includes little anecdotes that provide true Whitney-lovers with a rare glimpse of the way the star used to navigate the world. For instance, the superstar was a homebody, liked to sleep late, loved cereal, and was a sucker for swimming at the beach.

An authentic connection never really dies

While Robyn Crawford’s memoir is a step towards healing from the loss of her late friend and lover, it is also a celebration of their authentic connection that was unfortunately not allowed to flourish. Circumstances and individuals prevented the two women from living their truth and helping each other on their path.

This is why it is important to cherish the authentic relationships we have in our lives, the ones that are not based on superficial things like money or benefits. When we make space for people who genuinely want the best for us, we can only protect ourselves from the type of people who can be detrimental to our wellbeing.

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