Saying Goodbye . . . Again.

The last two years have been a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least.  There have been ups and downs to such extremes that it leaves me wondering how I’ve managed to piece together anything that resembles a normal and happy life.  But, hindsight being what it is, I can look back now and recognize the progress I’ve made as a grieving widower and a single father to an amazing little girl.  These past two years have had no shortage of emotional hurdles to overcome, some small and some large, but none as big as saying goodbye to the home that Ali and I built together.  The home we started our married lives together in.  The home we brought Olivia to after she was born.  The home we turned from a shabby little fixer upper into an award winning showcase property (according to the Price Hill Press!).  In many ways it felt like the last vestige of the life that we set out to build together.  It felt as though leaving that house would be the first step in a new life that Olivia and I would build together. . .without Ali.

We said goodbye to Ali two years ago but her presence has remained undeniable in that house.  Every square inch of it was carefully and thoughtfully decorated by her and it was as if she had never left.   I remember, in the days and weeks after she died, it was impossibly difficult to live there day in and day out with constant reminders of the loss we all suffered.  I walked around the house with blinders on just trying to avoid looking at every little item that she left behind.  And slowly those reminders of the pain turned in to little moments of comfort.  I knew she was gone but I could look at her things, all those untouched little artifacts, and know that she was there with me.   I found comfort in bottles of shampoo and drawers full of socks and jewelry still neatly organized.  But always in the back of my mind I knew I would eventually have to say goodbye to the shrine that I was building up in my mind just like I had to say goodbye to her.

Ali and I bought our house on the day before our wedding and we thought that having some of our wedding photos taken in the empty house would be an appropriate and memorable way to commemorate such a big step in our lives (see the original wedding day session here).  As wedding days go, it all happened in a blur, but those images represent some of the happiest moments in my life.  It was the beginning of what we planned on being a long and happy life together.  And so, when it came time to pack up the house and schedule the movers, I struggled with the thought of saying goodbye and walking away without something to commemorate such a big step in mine and Olivia’s life.  Having world-class photographers in the family is a nice perk that I try not to abuse, but I managed to sneak into Melanie and Adam’s busy schedule and we set out to once again do a photo session in that empty house.  Only this time I would have a different partner, although one just as beautiful.   It was fun and strange and sad and comforting and just about every other emotion you can think of.  And, it wasn’t until I drove away that the significance of what we had just done hit me like a ton of bricks.   These would be the last memories in that house.

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Side by sides from the original photo session on our wedding day.nunerys023 nunerys022nunerys014
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I did it for me.  I did it for us.  I did it so I would have something to show for the love and beauty that occupied that house for a short time in our lives.  I wanted to be able to show Olivia the place where her mother and I started our lives together and dreamed of raising children.  I thought it would be much harder to say goodbye in this way, but as I sat in the driveway, ready to drive away for the last time, I realized that it’s just a house.  The memories of Ali don’t live in that house.  They live with us, in our hearts.  We take them with us wherever we go and they will live with us in our new house too.  A house is just a house.  Yes, I will miss it but I still have the memories of Ali and I still have Olivia, the most precious evidence of the love Ali and I shared and still share.  Since Melanie posted the photos on her blog, many people have asked me how I felt while doing that photo session.  What I want them to know is that this isn’t a story about grief and loss and hurt.  Yes, I’ve gone through those emotions and still do but that’s not what I want people to see in these photos.  This is a story about love.  The pain is nothing compared to the love that I feel for Ali and Olivia and that’s the story I want these pictures to tell to Olivia in the years to come and anyone else that sees them.  The pain will subside little by little but the love never will, no matter where we live.   Our lives will continue down a curvy and uncertain path but Olivia and I will be able to look at these photos and know that for a short time there was a place where I was the luckiest man in the world, even if just for a little while.

– Ben

See the full photo session here


2nd annual Rock Pink Par-tay!

It’s that time of year! Mark your calendars now for a fun memorial for my sister! (If you click the image, you can see it larger.) Share with your friends and join the event on facebook so you can RSVP. We would like to have a pretty accurate head count for ordering the food.

RockPinkFlyIf you are interested in donating additional items (a basket for our raffle, food, drinks, etc) please contact Denise.

Thanks! Hope to see everyone there! Love, Melanie.

Welcome Home.

I have so much to say but words are escaping me lately so I will get out what I can. 6 years ago this month, we bought our first home in Westwood. We poured our hearts, souls and a shit ton of money into making it our own. I loved that home. It was so good to us and we were so thankful to have been gently eased into homeownership.

When we decided to list the house I just knew I would sell in 2 weeks or less. It was priced cheap for a fully renovated house on a great street. In fact almost every single one of the inspectors/contractors/appraisers/whoever else I paid money to that had to come into the house immediately said how perfect and beautiful it was. All were floored at the selling price and THREE of them were mad they didn’t see it listed because they wanted it!  As most of you know, my sister Ali lived with us there. (She’s the real reason the front yard no longer looks like the forest shown below. She insisted we tear it all out and plant new. She was good at spending our money.)  But I was also confident Ali would see to it that the transition from one home to the next would be as easy as possible on me. Sure enough, 2 weeks and a lot of prayers later, we accepted an offer. Packing up began and the (stressful) buying process began.

Now I knew leaving the house would be hard but I had been so anxious to get into the new house that I wasn’t feeling very emotional. And then came moving week. Gah. Ali barely lived with us for a year and a half. That’s not even a long time. But in that short period, loads of memories were formed. Unforgettable ones. When my sister passed, at least I still had our house full of memories. I could close my eyes and see her on the couch next to me. Hear her footsteps above me. Hear her yelling at me from the kitchen that Adam didn’t do his dishes again. See her out the living room window cutting not just mine, but our neighbors grass at a jogging speed (to get exercise) as she crossed through 3 yards back n forth. All of those memories were readily available when I needed them just by looking around.

When I started reorganizing and de-cluttering (like a million diff times) pre listing, I would find things she left behind at my house that I didn’t realize. Mostly just piles of crap in the basement that was once were her super cool goodwill purchases and needing to be taken back, immediately. But then there was the bin full of college photos and other randoms where her smile was ear to ear. I could hear her laughing. Then there was her Michael Jackson memoribilia board with a record, sequin glove, cassette and a printed autograph. My tears turned into laughter and I was able to go back working. On the last night at our house I laid on our mattress on the floor next to boxes and my broken down bedframe just absorbing as much as  I could. It’s so silly to think the memories weren’t coming with us to the new house, but it was the feeling I had over closing my last open chapter to her life, with me.

The second day after we closed, I went alone to a mostly empty house to clean for the new owners. Wouldn’t you know the only things that remained hidden for me to find were Ali’s! I know she did that just for me. Closure I guess? Upstairs I found her round brush wedged between the sink and the wall. The back of her old closet was open to crawlspace. There I found a couple of her (14 thousand) totes. (I actually left them there, just because. And also because they were ugly, which is probably why she originally left them.) As I vacuumed the upstairs one last time, I was not really shocked to see glitter from her over dramatic Christmas tree still stuck in the wooden floor boards. I cried. A lot. I was very thankful the new owners didn’t come to get the keys then, because they may have thought I was a real nut job. And after I finally gained my composure I went to the basement to gather up odds and ends and I caught a glimpse of color wedged behind some old door frames resting against the wall. It was one of her many $2 hula hoop impulse buys. If you know her, you can easily understand why that’s funny. Again my slow falling tears turned to laughter and I called Adam to meet me at the house because I couldn’t walk out the door alone, forever. So just like he carried me through the threshold on our wedding day, he carried me out. And I say that laughing because we aren’t romantic. I actually wanted to gag just writing that sentence.

Here were are 6 years ago. (I’m pretty sure I just finished playing 3 back to back soccer games.) Lilo looks like a baby fox. HA! I really REALLY wanted to get an updated picture of the 5 of us with the sold sign but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Wouldn’t that have been adorbs? BOOO.

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And now we start a new chapter. A very exciting and overwhelming one. Our house is much bigger and has a lot more space for the kids to mess up and for me to clean. Really, just more space to lose them and for them to do bad things that I can’t see. And now we have 3 floors that we use daily. Both Nori and Adam complain about the amount of steps they have to walk, but I’ll tell ya, I’m appreciating the extra exercise. (Sad that I consider that exercise?)

I’m SO happy the buying process is finally over and we are settled in. Shout out and many thanks to Frank at Option Financial for busting his ass to allow us to close on time! I’m pretty sure no other lender lets clients meet til 1030pm on a weeknight and responds to phone calls at any hour of ANY day. Anywho, we love it already. Took a couple weeks but I kinda don’t feel like I’m house sitting anymore.  Bonus is, I’ve known a handful of our neighbors for 10+ years and on top of that, there are kids everrrrrywhere! Over the weekend there were some school age boys hanging out on our retaining wall. I went out to introduce myself and they’re response was, “Hey. We just like to hang out here. It’s our spot. You got kids for us to play with?” I love it. Nori is in kid heaven. Adam and I are back on our old stomping grounds and he picked up his old running route from college. I can’t believe we are those people but we really are, Westsiiiide fo life. 🙂

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I’ve been instagraming bits and pieces of the house interior. Maybe one day when it looks more like what I want, I’ll share here. 🙂

Ps. The old owners told us after closing that the bushes in the back were rose bushes. It was a very pleasant surprise to wake up yesterday and see them full of PINK blooms!! So I guess Ali did find her way here after all.

Heart, Melanie.

Ps. Brittany and Brian are moving too!

pmhs walk 2013

Thanks Purcell Marian for donating some of this years walk proceeds to the library in Ali’s name again! We had fun bringing up the rear AGAIN. 🙂pmhswalkps. Adam is missing because he had to go play golf that day and leave the walk early.

pps. We are still planning on doing an event this year on Ali’s bday weekend (july 20th), we are still talking about what we want it to be like, perhaps not a walk…more of a picnic?

Love, Melanie

Dear Ali

Ali B-

Let’s start with I think about you every day.

It has been a long journey and I knew for a very long time that Scott was the one. And in many ways I know that you had a hand in making sure that he was my future.

It was March of 2011 and you were too sick with the “Flu” to celebrate Birthday Week. I still have a copy of the email that you sent to plan part of the festivities….

“So either we can go out on Friday and act our age (not 21) and go to fine dining brunch the next day
We can do shots, dance on bars, serve behind bars, make out w random boys and puke. And then crave greasy $1 menu food and fountain sodas..

Up to u Lisa, what kind of Bday are u looking for?”

It was after March that we understood the magnitude of your illness. I cherished my weeknights spending time with you and helping Olivia. I would share my crazy weekend adventures and always made you laugh. One Tuesday night it happened to be my night at the Nunery’s.  I told you the story of how I confessed to Scott that “ I liked him more than everyone else, and I am not sure what to do with that…”. And, that I had canceled dinner with him to spend time you. You scolded me for skipping a date to do your dishes. But deep down I knew that with you was exactly where I needed to be.

I knew then how serious this was and spending time with you was the most important thing to me. I cherish every minute.
Scott didn’t understand the magnitude of the situation. I didn’t do a great job of communicating to anyone but the Xavier girls at that time,  and our friendship suffered.

I stood in church where you and Ben were married as we prepared to lay you to rest. As I listened to Ben’s words, I selfishly thought to myself that you would never be here to celebrate in my wedding.

Later that month, Scott and I were able to work on friendship, and that turned into a relationship. The next year we were engaged. On April 12th, I married my best friend.

From the time Scott proposed and everyday of planning I thought…”what would Ali do, what would Ali wear, how would you decorate this?” You class and style have had an influence every step of that way. The church’s pink Easter flowers were a surprise decoration.

Thank you for letting me borrow your bracelet. I know that it was a favorite. The pearls and bling matched my dress perfectly. Shan, Kerry, Mart and Jack thank you too. (You know we had to buy Shan’s shoes for her).

You proved me wrong and I am so very thankful that you were part of Scott and my day in ways we could have never imagined.

With Love~

~aka  Mrs. Holland 🙂



Thanks for writing that, Lisa. So very sweet.:) I just posted Lisa’s wedding pics on my photo blog. You can see them HERE.


PMHS walk again!

Busy this weekend? Purcell is donating a portion of their walk proceeds to their library in Ali’s name again! Click here to register online.

Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 4.25.14 PMI took a screen shot so those links on the image aren’t active but my link above will take you!

Saturday April 13th 9am at Purcell Marian High School.

See you there, and yes, we will be wearing tutu’s again. 🙂 Love, Mel.

So Ali.

I was going through my old Hotmail accountt to find some email addresses. This message popped up. It was an email to Ali’s friend, Martha, regarding Ali’s wedding shower invites referring to a conversation Ali and I had. I laughed and thought others would too. It’s so Ali.


Well it went something like this when I showed her some invite options i found online:

Ali: “i dont like any of these options. im too pretty to have any of these ugly invites. i won’t let you send these to my friends. didn’t you design and print britts baby shower invites amongst everything else you were doing in your life? you can do this for me too.”
mel: “i can?”
ali: “yes. awesome, your hired. i need them designed, printed, addressed and in the mail in one week. lets go shopping tomorrow all afternoon tomorrow and brainstorm! sound like fun? and bring your credit card.”
mel: “grrrreat…”

funny that she thinks she has any, much less so much, say in these invites…and so picky! lol. she cant help herself, she loves decorating and being creative. martha PLEASE hire her to plan your wedding! she needs more to do besides spending my money.



She truly was gifted at spending other people’s money. :0

That is all. Love, Melanie.

oh, hi.

It’s not you, it’s me. I promised myself when Ali left us that I would keep her alive in this blog for a full year. At least one post a week, which I successfully did, plus some. There were many many weeks where I just didn’t feel like writing. I was overwhelmed with life and work and the last thing I needed to be doing was sitting down and stirring up my emotion. But I did and it wasn’t easy. Each time I forced myself to, I could hear her saying, “Why are you pressuring yourself like this? You know how I was always on your case that you worked way too much and never enjoyed life? Well this blog has become too much work for you. Just stop. It’s ok.” Her speaking or my inner voice, dunno. But it was right. The fun was taken out of it for me. I have 2 other blogs to post on multiple times a week. If you are a blogger than you know what’s involved. Material. Write. Rewrite. Images. It’s a lot. It’s definitely not that I don’t have material, because each day I have so many thoughts I could put into words. But that whole writing thing…it’s uhhh…not my strong suit. I write how I talk which makes an easy read, but I wasn’t an journalism major for a reason.

So as if you couldn’t tell by my absence…I’m taking an indefinitely long break. I will still post important stuff, no worries. I just admitted to myself over the stress of the anniversary and holidays that it’s just too much on my shoulders. And that’s that.

I know all you lovelies out there will continue to speak Ali’s name daily. She will never be forgotten. Thanks for that. :-*

Love, Melanie.

This pic seems appropriate since it’s cold as shiz out there today. GAH.