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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Natalie Leon doesn’t like to keep things bottled up.
The wine lover from Miami doesn’t just pour a nice glass of merlot, she also pours her heart out on her blog “Wine with Nat”.
“The blog was more of a self-journal for myself,” Natalie said.
The blog, which consists of videos coupled with text, is where she went to share her own story of family betrayal, loss, forgiveness, and ultimately, her life as a survivor.
“It all started in ’99. My mother was murdered by my father,” Natalie explained.
She was just 14 years old when her father, Leonel Leon, killed her mother, Maria Molina.
“It was really hard to digest when he did what he did,” Natalie said through tears. “Why didn’t he think about my brother and I and everything that would come after that?”
What came after was a life with extended family she said was far from ideal.
“A lot of challenges. Issues with family. It was never the same. It never felt like you were part of a family,” she said.
Natalie said she worked through high school to pay for all of her basic necessities. By the time she turned 18, she was really on her own.
She went to the University of Central Florida in Orlando to earn her Associate’s Degree and eventually came back to South Florida, where she graduated from the University of Miami, thanks to scholarships, students loans and her own hard-earned money.
At one point, she even took guardianship of her younger brother and started her own public relations firm.
In 2013 she got married, on her mother’s birthday.
“I know you will be by my side to guide me in this new phase of my life,” Natalie wrote in a letter to her mother she now has mounted on a canvas to commemorate her wedding day.
Her father didn’t get to witness the wedding, either.
Leonel Leon remains in prison for his wife’s murder.
The past summer, Natalie took the brave step of visiting him in prison for the first time. While she admits their relationship will never be the same, she says forgiving him has helped her heal.
“The anger was just not good for me,” she said. “You don’t forgive people for their actions. You forgive them to find inner peace.”
Natalie loves the phrase “A person should not be defined by the worst day of their life.”
And while her darkest day changed her forever, she hasn’t let it stop her from living a life full of joy, hope and wine.
“I would consider myself a survivor because of all the adversities I’ve been through in my life. But again, I always say, with as many adversities as I’ve been through, I’ve also been blessed,” she said. “You look back and there were many dark moments, but our life ahead looks beautiful.”
Natalie’s original blog was called “The Purple Voice”, a nod to the color for domestic violence awareness.
She hopes to use her new blog, WineWithNat.net to inspire more stories of survival.