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‘How He Handled Me That Day … I Felt Overwhelmed With Love’

BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY

Particular to the Birmingham Occasions

“You Had Me at Hey” highlights married {couples} and the love that binds them. If you need to be thought-about for a future “Hey” column, or know somebody, please ship nominations to Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Embrace the couple’s identify, contact quantity(s) and what makes their love story distinctive.

LEONARD AND ASHLEI STEPHENS

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married: August 6, 2016

met: August 1996, Ashlei and Leonard have been in the identical kindergarten class at Avondale Elementary. Nevertheless, in August 2002, they met once more at Huffman Center Faculty in PE class and realized they knew one another from kindergarten.

“Bianca Lewis, [a classmate] informed me that Ashlei had a crush on me and that is the way it began,” Leonard mentioned. “I used to be slightly nervous to speak to her, I believed she was cute.”

“…we ended up calling one another boyfriend and girlfriend,” Ashlei recalled. “…however he left the varsity after [6th grade] and completed center and highschool [at Daniel Payne Middle School and Hueytown High School]. It is like we met up once more each 5 years. In 2009, on the finish of my senior yr [at Huffman High School] I used to be on Fb and he got here up in my [friend suggestions] and I mentioned ‘oh, I keep in mind him, that is Leonard Stephens from Huffman Center Faculty’, and I DM’d [direct messaged] him and we chatted forwards and backwards slightly bit, exchanged numbers and began having principally textual content conversations.”

Leonard mentioned the conversations went from textual content messages to cellphone conversations and “that is once I requested her to return to my commencement.”

First date: Could 2009, after Ashlei accepted the invitation to observe him cross the stage.

“That was the primary time we noticed one another because the sixth grade, and the primary time she met my mother’s household… I requested my mom if she might include us to dinner, and she or he went with us to [now closed] High Of The River restaurant in Hoover,” Leonard mentioned.

“I keep in mind it being date, I keep in mind being so nervous. He was sitting subsequent to me and he was so cute. We had fun, he was placing his arm round me. We talked, we laughed, and he was a gentleman. When he drove me again to my automobile downtown [at the Boutwell Auditorium], my automobile would not crank, and he made positive I used to be good. I do not know what he did to make it crank up however he received it to begin, and I used to be considering he was like a ‘manly man,’” she laughed. “How he handled me that day, holding my hand, opening up my door, he would not depart me at my automobile till he received it began, I might inform he was any person I might really feel secure with.”

The flip: For Leonard, it was the belief of their kismet timing. “It is one thing in regards to the five-year factor, each 5 years we might run into one another and that did not seem to be a coincidence to me, and that is what made our relationship so intriguing and one thing we wished to dive into.,” Leonard mentioned.

“…and the way we coincidentally ended up going to the identical school [Jacksonville State University],” Ashlei added, “we did not plan that.” The school admissions/acceptance interval had already handed by the point the 2 met again up.

For Ashlei, it was the summer season of 2009. “We had made it official on July 27, and from there we have been critical ever since.,” she mentioned. “We just about helped one another navigate freshmen yr, it was each of our first occasions being out on our personal and having to care for ourselves. We helped one another navigate funds, and transportation and held one another accountable for staying on monitor with our targets.”

A mile marker for Leonard was in 2011 after he had surgical procedure on his ACL. “My coronary heart truly stopped twice and so they needed to deliver me again [to life] and once I awakened I keep in mind seeing Ashlei sitting on the fringe of the mattress with my mom and grandfather. [Ashlei] was working at Publix on the time, and she or he slept subsequent to me on the sofa in her Publix uniform each night time. That is once I knew she had my again from her,” Leonard mentioned.

The proposal: Summer time 2015, at their house in Roebuck. “We have been at house and Ashlei’s finest pal, Shvonne, was there and I informed her that I used to be going to suggest to Ashlei … and when Ashlei walked off for a second I received down on one knee and when she got here again she walked proper previous me, and I simply stayed there [on bended knee] with the ring in my hand trying loopy,” Leonard laughed. “So Shvonne was like ‘Ashlei, woman, look, look!’ and when [Ashlei] checked out me all of us began laughing, and [Ashlei] was like what’s going on, and I mentioned ‘woman, will you marry me?’ and she or he mentioned ‘sure’.

“I used to be excited, and I used to be truly unhappy that I did not see him on his knee, so I kinda did not get the total expertise of [getting proposed to]however I used to be excited that it occurred, and we have been engaged,” Ashlei mentioned.

The marriage: In Bessemer, on the Bessemer Civic Middle, officiated by Leonard’s finest pal’s father, Pastor Donald Sq. Sr. of I Care Christian Ministries in Birmingham. Their colours have been child pink and navy blue.

Most memorable for the bride was a shock second throughout their vow change. “We did not agree to put in writing our personal vows, so when he stunned me with the gorgeous poem throughout our nuptials, I believed it was so candy,” Ashlei mentioned. “It was

about us, our relationship, our ups and downs, and the way we grew collectively and the poem summed us up completely. I cried, and I felt so overwhelmed with love.”

Most memorable for the groom was their entrance at their wedding ceremony reception.

“After we walked into our reception and so they reintroduced us as husband and spouse [the disk jockey was playing] ‘I Bought The Key’s, by Jay Z, that includes Dj Khalid, and we danced all the way in which to the stage, and that was bizarre as a result of neither one in all us had ever danced in entrance of such a big crowd,” Leonard mentioned. “We had enjoyable doing it, and we truly did not have any nerves as a result of we felt like we have been alone in that second collectively.”

They honeymooned in Panama Metropolis, Florida. “We had a apartment for every week, and we loved the peace and quiet alone as a result of it was uncommon with having a [then] 4-year-old are again house,” Leonard mentioned.

Phrases of knowledge: “Know the best way to do life collectively. Generally life will get onerous, and understanding the best way to lean on one another and work as a staff as an alternative of letting life cut up you aside is necessary,” Ashlei mentioned. “When issues get tough, it’s a must to assault it collectively since you’re a staff; work it collectively as an alternative of individually.”

“It is necessary for {couples} to make use of emotional intelligence. Perceive that you need to develop together with your associate, it ought to be recent and thrilling. Perceive that [your partners’] likes and dislikes will change, and it’s a must to discover ways to evolve with them and never towards them.

Fortunately ever after: The Stephens have three kids, sons Lathen, 11, and Lelan Jay, 4, and daughter, Alaya, 5.

Ashlei, 31, is an East Birmingham native, and Huffman Excessive Faculty grad. She attended Jacksonville (AL) State College the place she earned a bachelor’s diploma in human useful resource administration. Ashlei is the executive assistant at their family-owned fitness center, Step by Step Sports activities Coaching, in Birmingham’s Crestwood space, and serves because the Director for his or her non-profit group, the Step by Step Basis.

Leonard, 32, is a Pratt Metropolis native, a Hueytown Excessive Faculty grad, and attended Jacksonville State College, the place he studied kinesiology and performed on their soccer, and is presently finishing his bachelor’s diploma on the similar institute. Leonard is the proprietor/founding father of Step by Step Sports activities Coaching and their non-profit, Step by Step Basis in Birmingham’s Crestwood space.

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