And they’re all made out of ticky tacky, And they all look just the same.

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

 “Never change who you are so that other people will like you. Just be yourself and the right people will love you just for being you.” –Unknown

For years now, I have been criticized for being too blunt… although mostly by my mom. (She will want me to include that this is partially due to a few of my sailor-like habits.) But, recently I have noticed more and more people commending and thanking me for my honesty. While I am still surprised/concerned that this is praise worthy, I am going to take full advantage of this opportunity to express myself. Most people think the more struggles you admit to, the weaker you are. To be represented as strong, you must hide all of your inner struggle truths. I have a few problems with this. Mainly, I don’t hide anything well and the phrase, “Shut up and look pretty,” never really worked for me. But, in order to be honest about yourself and your struggles, you have to be 100% vulnerable, 100% of the time.
So here’s my truth.
Up until last night when I had an epiphany, (FINE. An ugly cry melt down that rivals the likes of Kim K), the idea of planning a wedding made me nauseous, agitated, sad, mad, angry and CRAZY. “But, wait,” you say, “Didn’t you like JUST get engaged?!.” YEAH, sister, I did. And immediately following the BEST proposal night EVER, I was overcome with this variety of emotions I did not want to deal with. I’ve struggled for the last month to even want to talk about my future wedding. Every negative thought I had just made me feel more and more guilty. I truly WANTED to be happy. I WANTED wedding planning to be fun. BUT, I have spent my whole life in the wedding industry and I know all too well some of the ups and DOWNS that come with wedding planning.
And you want to know the hardest truth to stomach?!
I DIDN’T/ DON’T WANT A WEDDING!
I don’t want to drain my closest family and friends of money and energy.
I don’t want to spend the next year and a half fighting with my mom.
I DON’T want to become “THAT” person.
…You know what I do want?
I want to wake up every day for the rest of my life staring at my best friend.
I want to build a future and family with him.
I want to spend every day honoring this man that I love. Because he is THE greatest person I have ever known.
I want to wake up in 50 years, griping with that same old man, arguing about why some of us STILL feel the need to shop in bulk. (.0001 savings per use does NOT constitute a year’s supply of toilet paper)
I want to fight, cry, grow, learn and LIVE with this man EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. For the rest of my life.
And now that I’ve decided this, and accepted the fact that my toilet seat will forever be upright, I want to
CELEBRATE!!!

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Got swept up by a Cowboy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So why is this such a problem?
I’ll tell you why: EXPECTATIONS. If I have to hear, “OMG, I cannot wait to see what your wedding is going to be like after growing up in the bridal world!!” or “I can just imagine, you are going to have the most picturesque wedding ever,” one more time, I might full blown HONESTLY lose it. I know people mean well, I really really do, but a BIG ornate “drain Rodney Calvert of every penny he has left after raising me” wedding, AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN! A bunch of you probably just sighed, feeling bad for me, because my daddy won’t buy me the biggest pink pony. Guess what?! That man would buy me an entire rainbow pony farm, (and then live in a box), if he knew I wanted it. So then why?
BECAUSE THAT ISN’T ME.
I spent the last month trying to wrap my mind around all of these expectations, and judgements. I was trying to find a way to conform to these preconceived “Wedding Must” Notions.
You know what I finally realized?
No matter how many flowers my daddy buys me, they will die the next day.
If someone brings me a filet mignon on my wedding day, I’m going to wish it was mac n’ cheese.
If I wake up the day after my wedding with perfect makeup, I’m going to wish I had sweated it all off on the dance floor to Rhianna.
I don’t even like cake, but I will gladly get it smacked into my face.
Even after I design, build and make my own wedding dress, I’ll bet you $100 right now you can find me at Jack ‘N the Box, barefoot, dancing in the parking lot, drowning in Cat Nip Tacos, after my wedding.
So go on and hate, and go on and act all “BOUGIE.” BUT, a big fancy wedding? That just isn’t me.

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But, prancing around in a ‘stache and this shameless shirt last year for my Birthday, yeah this is me 100%.
(P.S. I turn old enough to round up to 30 in one week. CRYING.)

I hope and pray that when this is all over I walk away with torn up feet, sore muscles, sweaty hair, a dirty dress (SORRY MOM!), an epic video of me singing Celine Dion, and a lifetime of MEMORIES, as strong as the bond I have with the man who helped make them.
From here on out, I am going to be blogging my unique way through wedding planning. All of the DIY projects I will attempt, and inevitably fail a few (I will post those fails too!). My new healthy lifestyle…… ***Month Long Crash Diet because, CHERRY PIE.*** I hope you will join and support me in this adventure, but I warn you it may involve me in a wedding dress, eating mac n’ cheese out of a solo cup.
Because in the real world, Jell-O always trumps Crème Brule.
Adios,
Nina Esclava
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.” –St. Catherine of Sienna

This Blog is dedicated to my parents, because they ALWAYS pushed me to think different, act different, and BE different. They taught me to view life as a giant puzzle that ALWAYS has a possible outcome. And (even when I would fight/cry this one) they taught me my first idea was just a rough draft to spark a bigger and brighter idea. If they would not have criticized (FINE. “Coached” as they always say) me to be a smarter, stronger, more creative person; I wouldn’t have the confidence to go out in the world as a uniquely thriving creative weirdo.
Thanks for inspiring me to be weird guys. I love you for it, really.
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BEST Examples of what Marriage is all about right here!!
Both my parents (on the right) ROD “Money Banks” Calvert and Momma and my future in-laws (on the left) Angie and Mark Halfmann. Both couples have been married for over 30 years. They have both had there fair share of trials, but this crew is tough, hardworking, compassionate, and determined. If we are half of what these peeps are, we will be WAY ahead of the curve.
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And of course, I couldn’t leave out our BOMB siblings. I FINALLY get two AMAZING sisters. (You both are better than the ones I pretended I had when I was younger) and J gets two baby brothers!  

Wink, Smile & A Tiny Little Laugh

“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”- Laura Ingalls Wilder

As I grow older, certain memories have stayed with me lingering as questions. I replay them over in my head, wondering why something that seems so ordinary, has somehow snuck into my mind as a meaningful memory.

One of these memories involves a very special little girl named DeLeigh. DeLeigh belonged to the same church as me as a child. She was two years older than me, and had been diagnosed with MPS III or Sandfilippo Syndrome, at a very young age. Due to this, DeLeigh needed someone to be with her at all times. While I have no memory of how many times DeLeigh sat by side while her mom was in church service, or how many times we wandered the halls together both unable to sit still for a full two hours (or longer/ louder if the Spirit was EXTRA strong in Brother Rigdon’s coffee that morning). I have never been able to describe the kinship I felt to DeLeigh during those days. I felt like we had a secret language no one else knew. I truly believe she heard EVERY word I said, and I hope she knew that our friendship was true.

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DeLeigh has remained in my heart and in my mind since those early days. I replay the walks through the halls and I can still see her face beaming back at me laughing and smiling with Joy.

One day not too long ago, my mind went to wandering, as it often does. This was around the time I was feeling a little lost and overwhelmed in life. (See: Today, I Quit My Job) I was searching for reassurance that I had chosen the right path for my life, and that I was living in a way one should be proud of.

All of the sudden, my mind stopped cold. Amongst the slur of thoughts and confusion, I saw one face smiling back at me; laughing like I had asked a stupid question, and reassuring me that I too was special. There was nothing ordinary about that memory, because there was nothing ordinary about that little girl.

Special people, start with special parents. Darla Corzine, is one EXTRA SPECIAL mom. She raised the most innocent, compassionate and special human I have ever come in contact with. I immediately got back in contact with Darla unsure of what I had to offer, but certain that I wanted her apart of my life.

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Since that day, Darla has become a part of our beautiful staff here at Altered for the Altar. And every day, she is given the opportunity to “mother” our brides. Though she will never get the chance to walk her little girl down the aisle, she is thrilled to get the chance to be a part of every clients big day. DeLeigh was built by the most selfless person I have ever met, and there is no one else I would rather be surrounded by day-to-day.

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Like Mother, Like Daughter. 

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So Dear Darla, THANK YOU! Thank You, for your daily “Darla Hugs” not just to me, but the entire staff as you enter the door. Thank You, for genuinely asking how I am doing every single day, and taking great interest in the answer. Thank You, for raising one of the greatest friends, I have ever known. And, THANK YOU, for looking at me every day like I am anything BUT ordinary. We may not share DNA, but you have treated me as your own since day one. And, Darla Corzine, I have nothing but a daughters love for you.

This Blog is dedicated to the memory of one SPECIAL LITTLE GIRL. DeLeigh lived to see her 26 Birthday, the same one I will soon celebrate in June. Never take anything for granted, and always remember the ones who got you to where you are. Behind every great daughter, stands a selfless, even better MOTHER!

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On behalf of everyone at Altered for the Altar, HAPPY MOTHERS DAY Darla, and to all the other special Moms out there!!

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**Wink, smile, and a tiny little laugh** I love you, dear friend.

Adios,

Niña Esclava

Finding THE Dress in a Sea of Hopelessness

Amongst the sea of wedding dresses, sometimes it seems hard to believe you will find the right catch. Even though, there is a sea of endless wedding gowns out there; sometimes, the fact is, your dress isn’t out there.

WAIT, WHAT?!

Yes, you heard me correctly. Sometimes your PERFECT dress is not out there. But, no worries at all, that’s why you have us! Sometimes what stands between you and THE dress, are a few customizations to make it just right!

 

This was the case for our sweet bride Jill. Jill found what she felt was her dress, but it wasn’t quit yet, THE dress. In her mind she had always envisioned a beautiful lace sleeved gown for her Fall Wedding. Well, the designer, Maggie Sottero, agreed to sell some of the beautiful lace off of Jill’s gown and POOF! We were able to structure a custom lace sleeve to Jill’s gown and all of the sudden it went from a dress Jill had bought to, THE dress Jill was going to begin her Happily Ever After in!

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The original gown purchased.

(Picture from Maggie Sottero website. Gown: Maggie Sottero Style: Melanie)

Now presenting, Jill, and her custom sleeved version!

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Happily Ever After!

Photo Credit: Michaels Photography

Gown Designer: Maggie Sottero Style: Melanie

Gown Purchased at: Lulu’s Bridal Boutique

So, while you may not always find exactly what you are looking for when shopping, there may still be other options. The key is to keep a creative mind, leave all options open and ALWAYS ask lots of questions to your stylist.

 

So this Valentine’s Day when you are desperately searching to find the perfect dress in a sea of hopelessness, remember sometimes in order to fall in love with the perfect one, you may need to make a few creative adjustments!

 

***DISCLAIMER: This practice is specifically designed for Wedding Gowns, Please do NOT go home and attempt this on your boyfriend/ significant other.***

Adios,

Nina Esclava

What does it mean to be Thankful?

A Blog Dedicated to Gabby Annunziato 

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

-William Arthur Ward

#Thankful. #Blessed. #Giving. #Thanksgiving. In a society that has become dominated by social media, sometimes its hard to not get stuck in the “Hallmark” of it all. You know what I mean… perfectly staged family photos. Spending hours trying to get just the right angle on your baked goodies. Deliberating humorous, punny, intelligent hashtags, for weeks in advance. Preparing to have the maximum likes on EVERY social media platform like, ever. We spend so much time perfecting these visions that the picture becomes empty. Sure you see people in them, or food, or cats, or babies, or babies eating cupcakes while petting a cat and wearing a Santa hat… But, most of the time, we spend so much time on that picture we lose the actual time. We lose the memories.

So this got me thinking. Social media aside, what does it actually mean to be thankful?

To me, it means appreciation even when things are bad. It means being able to see past the, “this only happens to me” or “#firstworldproblems.” It means looking at life and understanding that you are not promised ANYTHING, which the results in you appreciating EVERYTHING. So what am I thankful for? I am thankful that I woke up today. I am thankful that I have a job of my choosing. I am thankful for a family and boyfriend who never tell me, “You can’t do that” and always push me to be more than I was yesterday, even on the days when I don’t want to hear it. I’m thankful for my 100lb Labrador “lapdog” (YES, this is a thing.) I’m thankful that I have a strong friend base. I’m thankful that, in a moment of crisis and despair, this friend base (really more of a community) banded around one person when they needed it the most. I’m thankful for these selfless, dependable, passionate friends, who over the last 20 years have grown into a HUGE family community of constant love and support.

In the last few weeks, with word that a dear friends little sister got sick, I think about my brother. My brother is the exact same age, ONLY 19 years old. It’s hard not to think “what if this was me.” I still remember the day I was leaving for college. At the time, my little brother, Reece, was only 12. I still remember at the very last minute before I walked out the door, he came running to me holding his favorite stuffed animal from his childhood — a fluffy, tan, little dog. At that time it was one of his most prized possessions, and he knowingly went and found what was MOST important to him, and gave it to me. He then proceeded to latch onto me and cry incessantly. I remember feeling like I was leaving home empty. Even amongst all of the excitement for college, I felt like I was leaving a piece of me behind. And, you know what? I did leave a piece of me behind. This is what it’s like to have a sibling; someone who has been there with you, through the good and the bad. They’re the only other people on this planet that fully understand how absolutely weird your parents can be. And to be an older sibling, is to have a constant attachment, responsibility, and connection to another person. I have a deep since of pride for both of my babies brothers. I feel like if they hurt, I hurt. If someone picks on them, you best believe I am coming for them… (this has actually been proven on multiple occasions, resulting in trips to the principals office… NOT sorry). So when I learned my dear friend Geno’s little sister Gabby was diagnosed with cancer, my heart broke into a million pieces.

Gabby is a 19 your old college student. She is the youngest and only daughter, having two older brothers. Gabby is shy at first, but anyone who knows her will tell you she is absolutely the sweetest person. Having two older brothers, she has developed a love for basketball and, more importantly, the New York Knicks. And a couple weeks ago, Gabby was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer, but she has been nothing but optimistic and positive. Gabby has a tough fight ahead of her, but I KNOW she will make it through this! She has been nothing but optimistic and positive.

Gabby, I know this is going to be a testing time in your life. I know there will good days and bad, but I also know you are not alone.

You can follow along with Gabby in her journey on her Caring Bridge account www.caringbridge.org/visit/gabbyannunziato. Here is a recent excerpt from her account.

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In Gabby’s Words:

“Not every 19-year-old expects to hear the words “You have cancer”, but then again, I’ve never been like most other 19-year-olds. I have stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and this will be the fight of my life, no doubt. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my life will forever be shaped by this journey. It will be hard, but I know that I will come out on top. Everyone always says how strong I am and I think what you need more than strength sometimes is resilience, and an awesome support system. I deeply appreciate every single person who has sent positive thoughts and words my way; you are all a part of this fight as well, and I can’t thank you enough for that. This is our journey, and I aim to keep you all informed of the process, through the good and the bad. Now let’s do this.” -Gabby

So this thanksgiving, I am asking you to help this sweet girl. I am thankful for a friend group that has banded around her already, without hesitation. But, this is going to be a very expensive fight. This is something we can HELP with. With everything that Gabby and her family will go through in the next few months, we can make sure that the financial aspect is not one of them. I want Gabby and her family to spend time appreciated one another and fighting this battle, not fighting to make ends meet. This girl deserves YOUR help. So this year, instead of indulging in Black Friday, I am challenging you instead to donate to Gabby’s Fight https://www.gofundme.com/Gabby19 and spend Black Friday APPRECIATING the ones around you. I will be forgoing any shopping on Black Friday and I truly hope you will too! So friends, lets all band together and #FightforGabby!

This Thanksgiving, I feel extremely #Blessed and #Thankful for the ones around me. Today when you sit down at the table and go to take a food selfie, put down your phone. Look across the table. You weren’t promised tomorrow, but you still have today. Appreciate today, and spend time building memories, not likes.

#FightforGabby

For more information on how to help this sweet girl and her family please contact me at rylee.l.calvert@gmail.com!

Thank you ALL in advance for your support and love! All we have is each other and with each other we have all we need.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adios,

Nina Esclava

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