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How These High School Sweethearts Became Lifelong Partners

"Sometimes a closed door leads to a beautiful beginning."

How We Met

This article is in partnership with Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas.

As we move into the year of 2021, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… and a time for some self-reflection. We think about our professional accomplishments, how we have personally grown over time, and even the evolution of our love stories. Whether it was the one that got away, the unexpected soulmate, or even the successful self-love story that took root from heartache. We have all experienced these kinds of moments and it is inevitable to think of "what if" and how our lives would be different. If you have been feeling more reflective lately, what you are about to read next will definitely spark your interest. As a part of Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas, the forthcoming film, Christmas Comes Twice, is all about a time for reflection and learning about the possibilities of how a love story could be.

Christmas Comes Twice premieres this Sunday, December 13 at 8pm/7c. The film stars Tamera Mowry-Housley playing the lead role as Cheryl Jenkins and Michael Xavier playing her love interest, George. Cheryl (Mowry-Housley) is an astrophysicist who has achieved her career dreams but finds herself wishing she made different choices. When the Christmas carnival comes to town, a ride around the carousel takes her magically back in time to the carnival five years earlier, giving her a second chance at a life she didn't know she needed before she must return to Christmas present. Though she didnt' expect to fall for her then-"frenemy" George (Xavier), she finds herself falling for him and finding an unexpected love in the process. We are all the culmination of our choices. This film gives you the chance to travel back in time and answers that "what if" question I mentioned earlier.

I am sure that the "what if" question has popped up for this couple during this holiday season. xoNecole's Social Media Manager, Ashleigh Hardin-Jones, and her partner Adrian Goodman have been staying strong and supportive of one another throughout their 13-year relationship. These high school sweethearts didn't start off with the typical boy meets girl meet-cute, but you could only imagine if things did not happen the way they did, how things would be different for them.

In this installment of xoNecole's How We Met, we were able to talk with our social media manger and her accounting specialist partner on how their love story started and how they have grown more in love with each other over time.

How They Met

Adrian: The courtship happened by accidental purpose. A situation with Ashleigh and another guy, who we both had a class with, went sour. I was asked by the guy to figure out why since me and Ashleigh had classes together. At this time, I had known for a couple years that I liked Ashleigh but she was not interested in me. Even though I felt how I felt, I put my feelings aside to do what was asked of me. We would talk about the situation during school as I played messenger back and forth. Until one day, she gave me her number and told me to call her after school. I called that same day and during our first conversation, it switched from the task at hand to friends talking, then rapidly progressed from every conversation after that point. I think we both mutually initiated and agreed on how our relationship would progress.

Ashleigh: Like Adrian said, it was an accident that I never saw happening. I thank the guy who pissed me off though because there's no way we would be at this point without that situation going wrong. Sometimes a closed door leads to a beautiful beginning.

Courtesy of Ashleigh & Adrian

Making It Official

Ashleigh: My attraction to Adrian developed over the course of a month. So I actually wasn't sure right away. I knew I liked him and I knew we had so much in common. But I was still undecided. But there was an incident where my ex called him cursing him out and telling him things about me that were untrue and I just remember being so scared that he would never talk to me again. I was in tears. That was the moment I knew I really wanted to be with him.

Adrian: After getting to know her better, it was a no-brainer for me to commit to a relationship. We have a lot in common and it made the decision easier. This happened during our 12th grade year in high school.

The "L" Word

Ashleigh: We got into an argument our freshman year of college that caused him to storm out of my dorm room. He was pissed! He's such a nice quiet guy that it's rare to see him really angry like that (I've only seen it two other times in the 13 years I've known him). I sat on my bed contemplating whether or not I cared and out of nowhere I started having what I now know is a panic attack and I burst into tears. I hopped up and ran down five flights of stairs, and out of my dorm building down the street to a bus stop where he was waiting on the bus. I was out of breath and was telling him I was so sorry. After we hugged it out and he apologized too, we realized I had no shoes on. That was love because running outside with no shoes is a no for me.

Adrian: It was this unexplainable feeling that I had never felt before. I was always thinking about her and considering how everything I did may impact her.

"It was this unexplainable feeling that I had never felt before. I was always thinking about her and considering how everything I did may impact her."

Love Lessons

Ashleigh: I've learned how to be self-less. This journey with him has taught me that love does not come with conditions. You have to be willing to compromise, not only for the sake of the other person but for the success of the relationship as a whole. I have also learned that while receiving compliments from your partner is extremely important, the greatest compliment comes from yourself. I spent so much time growing up looking for other people, specifically men, to fill my cup but loving him has taught me that if I don't fill my own cup first — it will always be half-empty.

Adrian: I learned that the way you love is not a one size fits all but more of a unique tailored experience. I had to learn to let go of things that may have worked for my parents that may not work for us and also sometimes to do more than my parents may or may not have done. It's OK to treat yourself and not feel guilty about it. I used to think once we became one that we had to do everything together. It's OK for each of us to have time to ourselves or our own hobbies.

"This journey with him has taught me that love does not come with conditions. You have to be willing to compromise, not only for the sake of the other person but for the success of the relationship as a whole. I spent so much time growing up looking for other people, specifically men, to fill my cup but loving him has taught me that if I don't fill my own cup first — it will always be half-empty."

Love Challenges

Ashleigh: Together, I believe our biggest challenge is overcoming my infidelity. It happened years ago but it still lingers because I broke the trust he had in me. Trying to win back trust is one of the hardest things because it's not an easy fix, there's no guidebook or tips on how to make someone feel secure — so you have to have patience and hope that they will trust you to not break their heart again.

Adrian: My biggest challenge independently is being more emotionally present and available. It has been the hardest thing since I have been programmed for years to not show any emotions. The biggest challenge together has been both having a child a little over a year into our relationship and infidelity not on my part. Having a child that early was not in our plan but we both managed to graduate from college. The infidelity piece is still hard for me because I do not feel that the problems we were having in our relationship at that time warranted this response. I wouldn't have taken this route. I do understand it's not for me to decide how someone will react in certain situations and that is why it has been challenging. We are in a better place and working towards a common goal.

Baggage Claim

Ashleigh: I had a lot of baggage from my past. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time blaming him because of my trauma. I realized that he wasn't my ex and I was being unfair by assuming that all men are the same. My weakness coming into this relationship was bad financial habits. My parents talked about finances but not the bad side of it when it came to bills and debt so I wasn't as knowledgeable as he was. He's truly helped me become less of a spender and more of a saver. As young parents, we struggled financially which helped me realize the difference between wants and needs.

Adrian: I didn't really have any baggage so I had to understand sometimes I triggered things from her past unintentionally. We would have conversations and talk through any baggage issues. One thing I had to unlearn is enough is enough. There is never enough and I can always do more.

Courtesy of Ashleigh & Adrian

"One thing I had to unlearn is enough is enough. There is never enough and I can always do more."

The Sweetest Thing

Ashleigh: I believe our views on family and tradition are in sync. We both have the same ideas when it comes to what those are and what we want them to be. I also love how honest and loyal he is. It's extremely difficult to find a man who will always tell you the truth and stay committed to just you. Adrian's my needle in a haystack.

Adrian: We both value and respect each other's opinions and supporting each other professionally. I love how considerate she is.

Christmas Cheer

Ashleigh: I love decorating Christmas trees and a few years ago we started going to Christmas tree farms to cut our own. I always look forward to it.

Adrian: I really enjoy our new tradition of selecting and cutting down our Christmas tree.

'Tis The Season

Ashleigh: Favorite gift I've received so far from him has been this Caroline Herrera perfume I wanted. I collect perfumes and I'd been eyeing it for a while so I was super excited to receive it. My greatest gift I've given is buying him tickets to the Atlanta Falcons game. He's a ride or die fan so I surprised him a couple of years ago with tickets and a jacket. He was shocked.

Adrian: My favorite gift that I have given has to be a Viktor Rolf Flowerbomb gift set and some Victoria Secret items (I drove all the way to Orlando, FL to get to Savannah, GA from Tallahassee, FL). My favorite gift that I have received was a surprise trip to an Atlanta Falcons game in Atlanta and luckily the Falcons won that day so it made it that much more special.

Follow Ashleigh on Instagram @musiq.leigh.

Don't forget to watch the premiere of Christmas Comes Twice on Hallmark Channel this Sunday 12/13 at 8pm/7c!

Featured image courtesy of Ashleigh and Adrian

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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