Friday, December 26, 2014

Ready For Africa

One night, when I was younger, my mom let me stay up past my bedtime to watch a special on TV that documented a celebrity (possibly Orpah, this part I can't remember) as they started a school in Africa for girls. I remember watching the TV transfixed by these young girls in uniforms - like me - as they excitedly attended school for the first time. I had always loved school. Typically, at night, I spent my time playing memory games with my Mom or practicing math excessively on my chalk board easel.  These girls were attending a school that was simple in compared to what I was accustomed to. For the first time, there were multiple classrooms but no Library or Computer Lab. No Art Room. No Music Room. I was baffled by the disparity yet felt a connection to these young girls and our similar passions for our educations. After watching the program, I asked my mom if I could go to Africa to visit these girls and see their school. She said that was unlikely but possibly one day I could visit Africa. I went to bed thinking about this possibility and decided that one day, I would go to Africa and I too would start my own school. The next day, I started collecting coins in my piggy bank to save for my school in Africa.


Over the years, I slowly added coins and bills into my "Little Princess" piggy bank. I'm not sure if the picture really does her justice. She's a big pig. (Yes, I still have her and yes, she is full!) One day during my junior year of high school, a travel abroad program had an information station set up in our lunch room. I thought, this was it. This is going to my chance to go to Africa. I eagerly spoke with them and took home every brochure they offered. Once home, I realized how quickly this dream was going fizzle. Unless my piggy was holding about $5,000, I was not going to Africa. I continued flipping through their book hoping to find a more affordable program, and I did, Fiji. After much deliberation, I decided to speak to my parents about going on a trip to Fiji instead of Africa since it would only cost about $3,000. (Only - HA!) Since I was already going to Europe that summer with my school, my lofty request was denied. However, my parents said that if I could come up with half of the cost on my own, they would fund the other half. I am sure they found this all to be highly unlikely because how would I at seventeen come up with $1,500 while going to school? Well, I did. Through countless hours of babysitting and handwriting fundraising requests (pre email familiarity) I successfully raised the funds I needed to embark on my travel experience to Fiji. 


At seventeen, I packed up my superwoman cape and flew to the other side of the world by myself. After meeting up with the group, we arrived in Fiji and rode in the bed of a truck, with our luggage, to the village where we would stay for the next two weeks. At the time, I was unaware of voluntourism and was eager to start saving lives. I met my "family" from the village and spent time trying to understand their customs and culture - all the while with my digital camera in their faces like a paparazzi. My project while I was there - the one that was going to change their lives- was to repaint the school and construct a concrete walkway from the village to the school. I quickly donned my cape and was eager to work. Retrospectively, I am sure the school was repainted three times that summer and the concrete path I was so proud of, probably didn't survive one rainy reason. Despite my naive superwoman thoughts, I was still touched by the people and the changed by the experience. I remained in contact with my Fijian family for the next year through letters until eventually their village was developed by a resort and we lost touch. 


Not too long later, during my freshman year of college, I signed up to go on the FCA Spring Break Mission Trip to New Orleans. While still pretty far from Africa, I was excited about the opportunity to give back and eager to have a meaningful spring break. Unfortunately, the trip left from Clemson on the Saturday morning of Spring Break. Which meant, that I spent Friday watching everyone leave to go home to their families. So despite the fact that I already dropped off my luggage for my paid trip and had spent weeks preparing spiritually, I called my Dad crying about homesick I was and he let me come home instead. 

A few years later, I thought it was finally my time. I had made an agreement with my parents that I would graduate early from Clemson and they would fund the volunteer trip I've always wanted to go anywhere in the world. I was so overwhelmed with possibility. Thailand? China? Back to Fiji? South America? The possibilities were endless but my mind kept going back to the idea of Africa. I started reaching out to organizations I knew and had connections as through my work with FeelGood, I had become invested in idea of empowerment and sustainability and didn't want to be another white girl who had put on her superwoman cape to come help the poorer people. 

My mom put me in contact with one of my second cousins (I think, I honestly am not too sure of how we are related) who had recently started an orphanage in Uganda. I was hopeful. This was it. I was finally going to go to Africa. I eagerly sent him a lengthy Facebook message and we set up a time to chat. I had already started to tell all of my friends that I was going to be in Africa next spring. It was happening. Once we got on the phone, he mentioned that they didn't really have a need in Africa and I wouldn't be able to go alone. However, they recently opened a foster care home in Montana and they really needed a woman to go live in the house so that little girls could come to the house and they could take in more children. HA! I can go anywhere in the world and he wants me to go to Montana? I pretended to be interested on the phone but was already thinking in my head of ways for me to get to Africa. 

Despite my searches, I kept coming back to Montana. I've never had that experience before of something weighing so heavily on my heart and really feeling compelled to go somewhere. After much thought and prayer, I decided, I would go to Montana. I could have gone anywhere in the world and I chose to go to Montana during the coldest months of the year. 


Montana ended up being the most difficult journey I had ever taken. Overnight, I went from recent college graduate to being Mom to an eighteen month old baby girl and four boys ranging from four to sixteen. It was difficult. It was tiring. The kids would get sick. They would misbehave. The house was a mess. They didn't like their dinner. I didn't like the dinner. I didn't sleep through the night for over a month straight. To say it was freezing, was an understatement. I felt like I had been pushed to every possible limit I had. Then, one day at the park while trying to hide from one of the boys, the youngest boy grabbed my tightly and said "Mom, protect me!" From that moment, my heart changed. I don't think I've ever loved anyone as much as I loved that sweet little boy. In my perfect world, I would have stayed in Montana forever. I would have found a way to adopt him and be his mom permanently. But God had a greater plan and anticipated this event so He had already committed me to being in Charlotte that summer to start Teach For America. While leaving that house was heartbreaking, I have thought of and prayed for that little boy every day since. 


Once I started teaching, it seemed my dreams of Africa were farther away than ever. I could barely pay all of my bills and I wasn't quite understanding the concept of my credit card just yet, how was I going to afford a trip to Africa? This past Spring, after one of my former campers interned with Sozo, the same organization I was with in Montana, in Africa, I decided I had put this dream off for too long. I was going to go to Africa. Specifically, Uganda. 

I started saving this past summer and made my commitment to go to Uganda. Despite the Ebola outbreak, vaccinations, allergic reactions to said vaccinations, bacterial infections from the vaccinations, very few supporters of this trip, and the need to purchase an entire new wardrobe for the trip (yoga pants are sadly not allowed), I am going to Africa. Tomorrow. 

I will fly from Charlotte to Detroit to Amsterdam to Rwanda to Uganda. I've had friends, family, and strangers criticize and say, just give money. You aren't going to change anyone's life while you are there. This, I know. This time, I am not packing my superwoman cape and I realize that I am not going to be changing the trajectory of anyone's life during my eight days in Uganda. 

I am excited that this dream of mine, to go to Africa, is finally coming true. Probably twenty years after watching that television program with my mom. I don't know what to expect and I don't know what is expected of me. I do know, I will do my best. While I may not change their lives, I will be able to build a connection with my brothers and sisters in this global community in which we all live. I will be able to love on the children who truly need love. And I am sure, my life will be positively impacted. 

If you know me, you know that I am extremely anxious so I have been praying in preparation for this trip for so long. Despite my uncertainties, I have faith that He will take care of me while I am there and allow me to serve Him to the best of my ability. 

While, I will have occasional access to the internet, I am going to use this time to unplug and be present in Uganda. I want to focus on my trip and my time there and not the temptations of social media, emails, and iMessage. If you would like to check in on my trip, check out the Sozo Children Facebook page for occasional updates. 

Please pray for safe travels of our team and I promise a lengthy post recapping the trip upon my return. 

Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

With love, 

Danielle


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Home For The Holidays



As I become older, there is something so sweet about coming home for the holidays. Yes, I went a bit overboard on my decor in my apartment in Charlotte. With the amount of pine in my apartment currently, I am considering naming it a national forest. Even if I outsourced the decor to Buddy the Elf, nothing quite beats coming home to Florida for the holidays.

While I don't expect to wake up to a snow covered lawn and the only yule log I'll see will be from On Demand, I am happy to be here for Christmas. Something happens to me as I cross the bridge over the St Johns River to my home. I revert back to a former childlike state and become incompetent. I can't do anything without my Mom and Dads help. Mom irons my clothes (this is something I can't do even on my own so its really the only time things are pressed without being singed), straightens my hair, and becomes my own personal nurse for whatever ailment I seem to be experiencing. I suddenly become dependent on my Dad and am unable to figure anything without his assistance.

I love the time I get to spend with some of my oldest friends. I have a few friend's I've known for more than fifteen years (kind of crazy to think about) but so incredibly special. We've all taken different paths but I am so thankful to have remained close to each of them. I love getting together and catching up on their husbands, boyfriends, dogs, and babies. I'm still in awe that the little girl I used to play dolls with is now a mother to two beautiful children. I have videos of us in middle school  dressed up in old communion dresses and our Dad's blazers to play wedding and now some of them are married. In real life. This is the rare time of the year when I am able to see each of them and I am so happy to have each of them in my life.

My family is pretty small (Leach, party of 3) which is pretty nice. Less chaos. Less travel. We have plans to drink a nice bottle of wine I picked up for my Dad while in Napa and I am really looking forward to drinking it.

While the presents under the tree are pilled high and I certainly sent out a few requests for my Christmas list, this time at home with my family, friends, and pups means more to me than any gift under the tree. I hope everyone enjoys their presents and that each of you find exactly what you asked for wrapped in a big bow. But more importantly, I hope you value this time where the world seems to slow. Stores close. There's no work. As you go outside, take in the calmness and quiet of the air.  The hustle and bustle of our ordinary lives ceases for this one day. Take the time to unplug. Spend less time on social media and enjoy the company that surrounds you. I know I will certainly be doing my best.

I want to wish each of you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

xoxo,

Danielle



Monday, December 22, 2014

14 Best Moments of 2014

2014 was a good year! While there were many exciting moments, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my favorite 14 moments from 2014. Cheers!

1. Had a $100,000 Month
In January, I had my first $100,000 month with Search Solution Group which means I brought in over $100,000 to the company through placement fees. Pretty exciting moment professionally for me!


2. Visited Paris
In February, I took a spontaneous trip to Paris to visit a friend. By spontaneous, I meant less than a month of planning but it was well worth the lack of planning. I had been to Paris in high school but it was the last stop of a three week trip and I took a nap in The Louvre and spent way too much time in Louis Vuitton. This trip was all about spending time with my friend and seeing life the way Parisians do.


3. Ran the NYC Half Marathon
Ok, I am not entirely sure this one should make the "best moments" list but stopping traffic in Times Square for a half marathon with my mom was pretty exciting!


4. Bought My First Car
This is one I had been longing to do for years but finally worked up the courage to  make the investment this past April.



5. Launched Elle Paige & Henry 
I had been debating this one for quite some time but this past June, I did it and launched my own blog! I've loved connecting with readers along the way and have made some new friends in the process. So far this year, I've hosted two giveaways and done a bit of guest blogging. I've been loving it so far and can't wait to see what lies ahead for my little corner of the internet. While I have remained humble, the fame has gone to Henry's head a bit.


6. Celebrated Weddings
This year, I was lucky enough to celebrate with four friends as they said "I Do!"




7. Visited Chicago 
I was in town for a wedding in June but I was able to spend time touring Chicago with my sweet friend, Lauren. If I didn't know about the winters, I would consider Chicago a great place to call home!



8. Met Holly & Geoff
In June, I decided to take control of my health and fitness and enlisted the help of these two animals.



9. Visited Napa
Another trip planned for a wedding, but I fell in love with Napa over Labor Day weekend. I really think this place was made for me. Unlimited wine. Trilling. Delicious Food. Beautiful weather.



10. Charleston Trips
I took a quick weekend trip down to Charleston in August to see my friend Lauren and then I went on another longer trip with Search Solution Group in September. Despite living three hours away, I've only been to Charleston three times.



11. Momofuku Birthday Cake
My office surprised me with a Momofuku Birthday Cake for my 26th Birthday.



12. Forbes Under 30 Summit
I was invited to attend the inaugural Forbes Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia in October which included a Rocky Run through the city in addition to food festivals, music, and panel discussions from some of the most inspiring people in our generation.



13. Ivy Tour Trip With Ana
I've been on many college tours this year with my girls and they have all been fun, but I really enjoyed this one with Ana to tour Harvard, Brown, and Yale. As exciting as it was for her, it was equally as exciting for me to experience this opportunity with her.



14. The Everygirl
I may have saved the best for last, but as a long time reader of The Everygirl, having my Career Profile featured on their was the highlight of my year!



Oh what a year! It seems the older I get, the more quickly time passes. Yes, these major moments of 2014 made this year stand out but there were so many other tiny moments that I am just as equally grateful for.

Cheers to lovely 2014 and even better 2015!

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. I know it may be a bit early for the 2014 recap posts, but since I will be traveling next week, I thought I would share now!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Adventures of Henry in Uptown Charlotte

Search Solution Group recently won a digital billboard giveaway to be featured in uptown Charlotte. As an added bonus, The Charlotte Observer asked to do a feature on us which included a photograph with the billboard of the entire office and the dogs. I was a little hesitant to bring Henry along but since his presence was requested, I thought "how bad could it be?" So last Thursday, around 12:00 (prime lunchtime in case you were wondering) we loaded up my car and headed uptown. After barking at bikes and jumping around during the climb through the five levels of the parking garage, I thought about just sitting in the car and skipping out on the company photo but mustered the courage to walk the city streets. 


Ok, so maybe I was over reacting. Look at Hens casually sitting on the corner patiently waiting to cross at the cross walk. 


Here we are mid cross walk, all smiles. City pup.  


But Mom, I just love the crosswalk. I can see that we are out of time, but I am not ready to fully cross yet. Oh horns are honking, that sounds fun? Should I bark back? 


People! Everywhere. You seem nice. Hi, let me lick you. Hi, let me rummage through your bag really quickly. Oh, what did you get for lunch? I like that. Kisses for everyone!


Seafood? Steaks? Let me run!!

While we survived the adventure, I don't think we will be going back uptown anytime soon. At least the company photo turned out great and the feature is definitely worth a read!



xoxo,

Danielle

Monday, December 15, 2014

Building A Single Life


I had a conversation recently with one of my few remaining single girl friends. (By few, I mean possibility the only remaining one.) Anyways, we were discussing the inevitable topic of relationships and the lack of their existence in our lives. Not that we don't necessarily get asked out on dates, but on the occasion that we do, we've built a single life for ourselves making it almost impossible to accept the offer. Recently, I was asked out to dinner and I checked my calendar and responded that I was available on Tuesday in two weeks after 8:30 PM and could maybe do something for an hour (hour and a half max) because I had to get up at 5:15 AM the next day for a run. Seriously? Who wants to date that? He agreed to the date but with my consistent scheduling of dates at odd times with time constraints, it fizzled.

I've always thought of myself as the single girl. Sure I've dated somewhat consistently but I've only had two boyfriends. One was long distance, the other lasted a month. Both were over five years ago. Not that I am complaining as I realize most of this is my own doing. I have extremely high expectations of my next boyfriend and usually stick with a couple month dating process that ultimately ends things if he ever sees me.

My other single friend and myself have built what I like to call our single lives. I've built a life for myself between my career, college program, fitness schedule, church class, blog and Henry that doesn't permit much time for the dating scene. If its one of the few weekends where I've remained in Charlotte without a visitor, my to do list is so lengthy that I don't find myself worrying about a date on Saturday night and am usually looking forward to a restful night in with Henry.  Because of this overly planned schedule and single life, I make for a very difficult dating contendor.

I know the rebuttal and I've heard it before, when it's with someone you enjoy and care about, you don't feel the need to schedule and you find a way to make time. My issue with that is, one you have to first spend enough time with someone during the hour and a half of free time I have available every other week and be charming enough to do it consistently that you get to that point and two, I'm not sure I really have the time. Should I become unreliable on my commitments? Am I supposed to sacrifice on my eight hours of sleep per night and become Miss Cranky?  Tell the girls, sorry can't help you apply to college tonight, I've got a date, good luck! Forget it first graders, no time for Jesus this week. Holly and Geoff, I will just stop working out. Stop writing blog posts?

I look to my friends who have consistently had boyfriends and are now seriously dating, engaged, or married and I compare their to life to ours (me and my long single friend) and I realize that difference lies in all of the other activities we involve ourselves in. (Not that my paired up friends don't do things with their lives. I love you.) We have unknowingly built this life that does't allow for dating. Should the right man come into my life, I don't have time to see him. I barely spend enough time with Henry during the week. (Side note: Not enough times with Henry results in pillows on the floor, unmade beds, and eaten books. Something I try to avoid.)

I don't really have a conclusion for this post. More just sharing my musings on the topic. I hope that one day, someone will come into my life who will find my busy scheduling and tendency to over commit myself endearing and be ever so willing to bear with me while I make time for them.  For now, I will just keep living my single life that I've established for myself. If it's ok for Taylor Swift, I think I can swing it too.



xoxo,

Danielle

Friday, December 12, 2014

Britt Ryan for the Holidays

I certainly have my fair share of holiday dresses but couldn't resist this one from Britt Ryan. I absolutely love her dresses (remember this playful one and this pink one ?) This black lace dress is perfect for holiday parties. I absolutely adore the silk ruffles for the sleeves. Black is such a timeless color that I know I will want to wear it again year after year. There are few other pieces in this collection that I love such as the long sleeve lace and the peplum top. So many perfect holiday options! 




Fortunately for you, Britt Ryan has agreed to give away this dress* to one lucky reader. To enter, simply follow @daniellepleach and @brittryancollection on Instagram and tag one of your friends in the giveaway photo. Winner will be announced on Monday December 15th at noon est. Good Luck!

xoxo,

Danielle

PS. Britt Ryan is currently hosting their Fall Sample Sale! Dresses are $65, Tops $45, and Skirts $40! Sale lasts until Sunday, shop while you can! 

*With limited availability during the holidays, we will be giving away a Size 6 in this dress! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Guest Post: The Best Thing You Can Do When You Don't Get the Job

Elena and I connect through Instagram and since we both share career advice regularly, I thought she would be  the perfect blogger to feature for my first guest poster. She lives in the lovely NYC and shares on point career advice, features career profiles, guides to visiting New York, and she eats way healthier than I do. 

The Secrets to Getting Hired: The Best Thing You Can Do When You Don't Get the Job by Elana Lyn of Preppy Post Grad 
Being on the other side of the hiring process is difficult. You meet so many talented, smart, and ambitious people but, unfortunately, you can’t hire everyone. My least favorite thing to do was to write to people to tell them they didn’t get an offer. I sent a lot of emails with no reply but one person did reply and it stood out to me. It showed her character and I thought that it was very mature. When another opening opened up a few months later, I reached out to her and offered her the internship.  She accepted and when I switched companies I reached out to her when they had an opening. We work together again now.
 Your email doesn’t have to be a monologue it can be short and simple. Write something like, “Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be considered for the position. I enjoyed learning more about the position and your experience at [X company]. I was so impressed by the company culture and the client work you showed me. I will continue to check for future openingsThank you again for your time and consideration. I wish you the best of luck with the rest of the hiring process.” In a lot of states hiring managers have to keep all the resumes they receive on file for a year – hopefully they’ll reference yours again for future openings! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Event: Modern Calligraphy Workshop

I've officially hosted my first event as a blogger and it could not have gone more perfectly! If you remember, I posted the invite to the Modern Calligraphy Workshop back in November. I spent months collaborating with Lydia, the talented calligrapher, Samantha who so graciously set us up at Cottage Chic, Jessica who offered to share her incredible photography skills, and MK from Hey Sugar Shop who made the most delicious cookies for us all to enjoy.  It was exciting to plan such a festive event and definitely kicked me into holiday spirit (not that I needed any help.) 

My friend Emily spent Saturday hustling around Charlotte with me collecting garland, ribbon, champagne, signs, and all of the other fun stuff to make the event beautiful! Cottage Chic is effortlessly beautiful already so we didn't need to do much to spruce up the space. 

I've never taken a calligraphy class myself but Lydia and the girls made it look so easy! Seriously, these girls were ready for wedding invites after their first session. I was so impressed! Everyone enjoyed sipping some champagne and snacking on the life changing sugar cookies and cake truffles. I may have tasted one too many before the guests even arrived. 

Henry joined the ladies for the day and had a great time hosting everyone at Cottage Chic. He helped a few ladies with their shopping, prayed for a cookie to be dropped on the floor, had his ears rubbed more than he could possibly need, sang his favorite song as a siren passed by, and posed for as many photos as he could for Jessica. Check out some of her beautiful photos below and more posted on her personal blog



My pretend home for the day!


Seriously, can I live here? 



Lydia sent all of the participants home with more than they could possibly need! 




It's exhausting being Henry. 





Natural calligraphers! 



I promise, these are the best cookies. Ever. 


Henry helping the ladies with some shopping. 






"Mom, I'm not in the mood."  


One of the bestest friends a girl could ask for! 

Thank you to everyone who made this event so fun and everyone for attending! I loved meeting each of you and hope to see you around Charlotte soon!

xoxo,

Danielle