Prom and pre-engagement photo sessions

Pre-engagement photos? Does that sound silly?  Well, although we haven’t had an engagement session yet, I wanted to get some good pics of Greg and me to use on Save-the-Dates.  Even though we haven’t picked out any Save-the-Dates yet, I didn’t want to be limited to only non-photo options. So, on Friday night we were all going to be at the Botanical Gardens taking pics for Emily’s senior prom group shots.  I figured while we were down there, I’d get Katie to do a little mini session with me and Greg so we’d have a few options when it came time to pick out our save-the-dates.  It helped that Katie and Chuck have already done their engagement session, cause they had a lot of ideas and poses to work with from their experiences.  Katie did an amazing job! And Chuck was such a trooper helping carry props and throwing out ideas.  Greg was a trooper too  🙂

But first things first. Emily is a senior this year, and so it’s the last high-school prom for the Graves family. *Tear*  Her and her boyfriend looked so beautiful and handsome together.  Seriously, all of a sudden Emily went from being the little sister to a gorgeous young lady.  I love her to pieces!  Here’s some shots from the prom pictures.

 
And here’s my other sis. The photographer in training 🙂

And here’s some of her beautiful work…

Can you tell we like working with this open frame 🙂

Calendar project

I’m one of those girls who can’t function without a calendar. If I don’t write something down, I’m likely to forget it.  This year I bought a calendar from a photographer on Etsy.  Her shop is called “The Light Fantastic.”  The one I bought had a photograph for each month with a little calendar on the bottom, and they were each on a 5×7 card.  (Obviously, as you can see, this calendar is purely for looks, not function. I have a different calendar on the fridge for all my writing/appointments).  So I’ve been trying to come up with a way to hang this calendar.  I wanted a way to display all 12 months at one time.  I considered framing each one, but 12 frames took up way too much space. Then I thought about pinning them into a corkboard, but again, that took up way to much room.  Then while I was at Hobby Lobby I decided to get some ribbon and try to hang each month from it, sorta like a clothesline.  I think it turned out great! Oh, and by the way. That card framed in the shadow box is the “birthday” card Greg gave me during his proposal. For Valentine’s Day he had it framed for me. I love it!

I used pushpins on each end of the ribbon to secure it to the wall, and one in the middle of each strand to prevent it from sagging too much.  Then I clipped each month to the ribbon with cute colorful office clips.  Then I bought faux single-stemmed daisies and clipped the stems off. I then safety pinned the flowers to the ends of the ribbon.  Done!

And of course, my favorite month this year! 😉

Also, I got my Easter decor out the other day along with other spring-y items.  Out with the burnt oranges and reds of winter and in with ivory, pinks and yellows.

all in a day’s work…or two

I really wish I had a “before” pic of my yard prior to all the hard work that was put into it Sunday and Monday. You can’t really appreciate the “after” pictures, without the “before,” but oh well. It just didn’t even cross my mind to document the awful site. Unfortunately, my yard is made up of about 70% weeds, 30% grass.  Which means when it gets overgrown, it looks like a total jungle.  I actually had asked Greg if he could mow the grass last Monday cause it was looking so awful.  Well, of course life threw us for a detour, so by the time we got around to doing yard work on Sunday, it was out of control.  I was embarrassed.  So, after a lovely morning at church, a bite to eat at Moe’s, then a quick trip to Lowe’s, Greg and I spent the next 4 hours tidying up my yard.  By the way, I LOVE Lowe’s!!  Especially the garden center. Oh my goodness, I want a big beautiful garden so so bad.  However, we’ve got some poor drainage issues in the back yard to take care of first. See?…

That’s a major project in the works.  
 
Anyways, back to our hard work.  I pulled TONS of weeds, Greg mowed the grass and edged, I planted some new flowers and a few saplings, trimmed the monkey grass that was creeping over the sidewalks, replaced a few bulbs in the sidewalk laterns, and then swept the heck out of the sidewalks and patio. Oh, one more thing!  I forgot to mention the compost bin I started!  A few leaves, old pine-straw, dirt, and worms, and it’s cookin!  I’ll have rich potting mulch in no time 🙂  I’ll post more on that little project this weekend.  Ok, now for the “after” shots! I know my yard is far from glamorous, but slowly we’ll get there. 
 View from the front. Well, part of the front.
New geraniums on the front steps.
Pansies by the mailbox
My little saplings out back. Hopefully these guys will grow good and tall, and be transplanted and used as privacy trees.

a thousand words

I wanted to post some pictures of last week, because despite the pain and sorrow and tears, there were some beautiful moments in it all.  In the midst of losing a loved one, we drew closer to family and friends who are still here with us.  I have some of the greatest friends in my life.  My girl friends came over and cooked me dinner last Wednesday night, and we just sat around the dinner table talking for a good hour.  It was good to spend time with them.  Some of my girl friends who couldn’t be here with me sent flowers and kind words.  It was also a good time spent with my family, and even my future family.  Now that me and Katie are engaged, our future in-laws are counted as family.  Katie’s in-laws came to dinner Thursday night after the service, and Greg was there by my side all week.  My future in-laws sent flowers to the service and called me to give their sympathies.  Then of course we had my aunts (my dad’s sisters) and uncle in town from North Carolina, whom we haven’t seen in many years.  Things get complicated when parents divorce, and although they will always be family, we haven’t really seen them since my parents’ split.  Family get-togethers kind of fall apart at that point.  So it was great seeing them again.  Luckily with 2 weddings coming up we should get to see them again soon.

So, like I said, in the midst of all the pain endured last week, I think these pictures will reflect some peaceful and joyful moments in it all.

we’ll always be Graves girls
sorry Emily, it looked funny cropped. *Shoes optional*
Do you think my friends all know how much I like the color pink?  They are so great.
We buried my dad in Mississippi where his mother’s family plot is.  My great grandfather was a small town doctor in the town of Eupora, MS.  So, in the family plot is my great grandfather Lamb, his wife, my grandmother (Mary Lamb), my grandpapa (Lowell Graves), and now my dad.  Since we decided to do a cremation, we were able to bury dad nestled right between his mother and grandmother.
Funny story:  the last time we were at this cemetery was for my grandpapa’s funeral.  We get there last Friday and noticed someone had ordered a headstone.  Then we got to looking at the dates, and the birth and death dates are correct, EXCEPT the year.  Obviously, my dad’s father was not born in 1824, nor did he die in 1905. He was born in 1924, and died in 2005.  We got a laugh out of it.  My aunt Elizabeth at one point said, “let me go stand over here next to my 181 year old father!”  It’s nice to be able to laugh in rough times.

thoughts

 I originally had this written with my last post, but that post was getting unbelievably long, so I wanted to save this topic for its own moment of thought.  A lot of things have been hard this week, but the heaviest weight on my heart is not knowing where my father’s soul rests.  My father’s death happened exactly the way I knew it would.  Because he lived at home alone, and took such poor care of himself and shut himself off to most people, I feared he would one day be found dead in his home, and that’s exactly what happened.  But I know he was miserable, and he had allowed his quality of life to wither away, so death should have come as a relief from pain.

But my heart is breaking because I fear that my father may not be with our Heavenly Father right now.  And it absolutely breaks my heart.  Not only did he suffer in life, but I’m afraid he is suffering in death.  And I can’t look past that right now.  I know different religions have different beliefs about one’s eternal destiny. Some believe in a waiting place, an opportunity for a second chance, until the final day of judgment when Christ returns. Some believe in Purgatory, which I honestly don’t fully understand, but I think is also a waiting-type period for further purification before one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Some don’t even believe in an eternal destiny, and believe that death on Earth is merely the end. Period.

I was taught that we have one chance, which is our life here on Earth to either choose Christ or not.  I know my dad accepted Christ as his Savior many many years ago.  Both his parents were pastors, who traveled around building and leading churches.  I remember sitting in a church during my grandpapa’s funeral, listening to his life story and just being amazed at the ministry exemplified in his day to day life.  But I’ve always wondered about people who accept Christ as young adults, and then their lives start going down a different path.  I know God is a God of unfailing love and forgiveness, so does that mean that no matter what, we are still children of God?  It seems like such a silly question, because we know we do not get into the Kingdom based on our works, but rather our faith.  But, just a few weeks ago our pastor on Sunday taught from James 2, which lays out that faith without works is dead.  So, yes, your faith saves you, but it is still considered an empty faith if it is not accompanied by works.  Sigh.  And because of this, my heart is heavy for my dad.

I don’t know my father’s fate.  But I do know God forgives his children.  Obviously, we will always fail.  No matter how hard we try, we will always be broken and in need of God’s mercy.  My uncle Jamie led my father’s memorial service yesterday, and it was beautiful.  He spoke of God’s faithfulness and how no matter how imperfect we are, He never let’s go of His children.  We fail time and time again, and even when we lose our way, God takes our hand and guides us if we let him.  And this is my hope that I will hold onto for my dad, because I don’t know the depths of my dad’s heart.  I don’t know if he had a moment of repentance, or how much he wrestled with God during his life.  But regardless of all that, I just hope God truly never let him go, and that on Monday He welcomed my dad into his healing arms where there is no more pain.

Obviously, there’s a lot I don’t know.  But what I DO know, is while I’m here on this Earth, I want to choose Christ, so that there’s no doubt when I leave this Earth, I will be welcomed into His presence.  I want to hear those words, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

God’s all-encompassing peace will surround us if we let it. And I could go back and forth a million times over the course of my life on whether or not I’ll see my dad in Heaven.  But one day I’ll know. And there will be no words to explain the joy I will feel to see his face, free from pain, standing with my Heavenly Father.

Daniel Benjamin Graves
October 18, 1957- March 7, 2011
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

secrets

Every family has one.  The black sheep.  The skeleton in the closet.  I’m going to tell you about ours.  Because until now, I’ve felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. Like I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone.  But it’s a pain that I’ve tried to cover for too long, and at some point you just want people to know what’s really going on.  So here’s my story. 

There’s a handful of people in my life that are fully aware of the family situation involving my dad.  That situation being that he has been an alcoholic for a good portion of my life. I would say it got bad sometime during my high-school years, got pretty bad when I moved away to college, got really bad about 2 years ago, and got completely out of control in the last several months. But let’s start with the good things about my dad first, because that’s how it used to be.  He and my mom met in high-school, and then both attended the University of Alabama. They started dating, and then they got married.  My dad graduated law school, and became a very successful lawyer.  He became the father of three daughters.  He could cook a killer fettuccine alfredo. We used to have family game night every Sunday night playing UNO around the kitchen table.  He loved to play golf, and would take us to the Bruno’s Memorial Classics.  But after a long day at work, he would come home, and pour himself a drink.  Sometimes just one. Then later another.  Then over the years he started distancing himself more and more.

By my high-school years, it had gotten beyond the “occassional drink.”  Too many drunken nights at home, and it was time for help.  But treatment didn’t change anything.  After a few months of being “clean,” the alcohol slowly crept back in, pulling him further and further away from his family. He was never physically abusive, and that I am thankful for.  He just became absent from his family, choosing to close himself off from everyone one by one. He lost interest in his job, and decided to seek private practice, which only allowed him more and more flexibility to escape from the real world and give in to his disease.  My mom is the strongest woman I know, and for years did everything she could to make him sober.  But only an alcoholic can truly make themselves sober. He and my mom separated soon after I went away to college, and were officially divorced by my senior year.  Out of myself and my two sisters, I kept the most in touch with him, but even that only consisted of a phone call every few weeks to chat and then a lunch date here and there to catch up.  My aunt explained it wonderfully to me in an email this week.  She said, “You all loved him as much as he would/could allow you to love him.”  She also said, “alcoholics ‘leave’ us emotionally much earlier than they leave us physically.”  Those words could not be more true.  Yes, my dad loved us. But it was a distorted love. Because the love of alcohol was stronger. So strong that he allowed it to eventually imprison him beyond his control.

Back in January, when the rest of my family and friends got back into town from our Disney World trip, I called him and told him the news of my engagement.  He was very happy for me, and being the emotional guy he was, broke into tears and said he really wanted to get to know Greg more (since he’d only met him once at the time).  So we made plans for the 3 of us to have lunch on a Thursday afternoon.  That morning I couldn’t reach him on his cell phone and never heard back from him to confirm the time I had specified in a voicemail, and he never showed up for the lunch. I found out the next day he had been admitted to the hospital (for the second time).  Alcoholism was taking over his life.  In October he was admitted to the hospital, suffered from severe withdrawals, was on a ventilator for a little while, and by early December was finally released. Then mid- January he went into the hospital again for about a week, and then again in mid-February. He had completely lost control of his life, and was losing his battle to alcoholism, unwilling to seek help to make a change, even though all of his family kept telling him over and over and over, “you are going to die from this.”

    Monday night my mom showed up at my house with the news that my dad had been found dead in his home that morning.  Although he used a walker to get around the house (due to his weakness and frail state), he had fallen in the hallway and eventually died.  His co-worker/friend found him.  Unfortunately, we don’t know if he had a heart attack, a seizure (which he took meds for), a blood clot (which he also took meds to combat), or what.  We don’t know how drunk or sober he was when he fell, or how aware he was of his situation.  I can only hope he was too drunk to really grasp it all, or that it happened so fast he wouldn’t have known the difference.

   Tomorrow we will have a service to remember my dad.  I only wish there were more good and happy memories in my head, rather than the painful ones that have built over the last several years.  As much as we hated the decisions my dad made, and resented him for not being there for us, it’s hard because he was still family. And like my aunt said, I loved him as much as he would allow me to love him.

everything is a blur

How can something you knew was going to happen, hit you so hard when it does?  I can’t even put words to my thoughts and emotions right now, but prayers are greatly appreciated.

who’s gonna hide the baby?

Mardi Gras was a blast!  We had so much fun at the parade, and we got soooo many beads, moon pies and even a few Mardi Gras cups (which is a rare prize from the floats!).  Each float has a theme.  Some of the themes this year included tialgating, Mexican fiesta, holidays, happy birthday, and rock and roll.  Mrs. Marlene and Renee were on the holidays float, and they wore green like St. Patty’s day.

Oh yeah, and see that garter around my arm? I think Renee might have thrown that at me, so I’m thinking I’ll have to make use of it in October! 😉

 Even Mr. Doug got his groove on during the parade!

And ya know the Doozy got some action at Mardi Gras…

After the parade we all went to the Ball.  There are strict attire rules you must abide by to attend the ball, but it just means every looks really nice 🙂  Guys have to wear a tux with tails and white vests and bowties. Girls’ ball gowns must be floor length.  And then of course the ladies of the Maids of Jubilee wear CRAZY costumes. 

 What a good looking group 🙂

We joked that a Mardi Gras Ball is just like Prom…for adults.  And of course, like Prom, every year there is a photo op scene and a photographer takes a professional shot of you and your date or your group. So, I didn’t get the shot of all of us (obviously, cause who would have taken the pic!), but here’s the Nesters’ crew.  That’s Renee and Mrs. Marlene in the center in their costumes.

 Unfortunately I didn’t take many pics inside the Ball. Katie has more on her camera, that I’ll have to post later. But we did LOTS of dancing and eating and drinking. Good, good times.  Then Saturday we spent all day hanging out with our friends at their house and then to dinner, since the weather was pretty awful. We wanted to make a visit to the USS Alabama, and although we did drive by it, we couldn’t take the tour cause of the storms.  So instead we drove to Winn-Dixie and picked up a delicious King Cake to take home for everyone to enjoy.  We had to strategically hide the baby so that no one knew where it was.  And in the end, I took a bite of my piece and ended up with the baby!

It was a great weekend, and I’m so glad Greg was with me this year.  I sure hope he enjoyed it as much as I did 🙂

throw me some moon pies!!!

It’s that time again. MaRdI GrAs!  It’s a shame Birmingham doesn’t celebrate Mardi Gras.  For the first five years of my life we lived in Mobile, AL where Mardi Gras is a major holiday. Schools let out for it, parades are a must, and I can always remember me and my sister and our neighbor’s 2 girls being left with a  babysitter for a night while our parents went the the Ball. Of course, back in the 80’s, I remember my mom wearing dresses with lots of lots of sequins!  I can think of one in particular that was kind of a mauvey pink color, it was fitted, had puffy shoulder cap sleeves, and was completely covered in sequins. Oh, I wish I could show you the picture!  Gotta love the 80’s.

This weekend, Greg and I, along with my sister, mom and their dates, will head down to Mobile and enjoy Mardi Gras with our dear Mobile friends 🙂  These are the friends that we go to Disney World with, and they are like family.  We don’t get to see them very often, but no matter how long it’s been, we just pick up where we left off and good times always follow.  Our parents have been friends since before any of us kids were born, and  now we’re all grown up.  Almost all the kids are married now. Their two girls are married, and me and Katie will be getting married this year. Emily is the only “baby” left of the kids, and if only she was 21 she’d be coming along too.  We’ll all be attending the Maids of Jubilee Mardi Gras Ball in Fairhope, AL.  I love Fairhope. It’s such a cute little old southern town.

Here’s a few pics from last year’s Mardi Gras celebrations.  My good friend DK came with me to celebrate, and I don’t know if you remember, but it was last year that a snow storm hit all of Alabama on Mardi Gras weekend.  It was a bit of a trek getting down to Mobile, but we made it and it was well worth it!

Here’s a peek at the driving conditions on the way to Mobile last year
Here we are at the Ball. Mr. Doug, Stephen (Renee’s fiance at the time) and Renee. Renee rides on the Maids of Jubilee float, so she gets to wear crazy costumes!
And here’s me and DK enjoying the parade. Luckily this year the weather should be warmer, so we won’t have to bundle up in our snow gear!

It should be fun, although we will get hit with some rain this weekend.  Yuck.  Be sure to check back next week for some fun pics! 🙂