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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My first post after Patrick's accident.




The other day I told Michael I was thinking of returning to my blog, but whenever I think about hitting the 'publish' button on a post now I feel insecure.

He looked curious so I kept talking.

I said what I really need is to be completely truthful and raw and unafraid with my words because I realize this kind of writing will help me heal. But what I mean specifically, is that I need to write about the accident. 

I need to write about the knock on our door at 7:30 that morning. And the horrific feeling in my gut when I threw open the door and saw a female officer and man in a brown tie and wrinkled shirt, standing there holding a clipboard, looking grim. Asking us to verify if we were Patrick's parents. Please. Please tell me he's OK I remember pleading. But instead of an answer the dark-haired officer asked to come inside.

I need to write about these moments because they happened. They are real and heart wrenching but I know that telling the truth will  mend my brokenness. And god knows I need mending. Even with the strange disconnection I feel with my body lately, I know there is trauma lodged inside every cell in my physical self. I see the signs of trauma inside my mind and in my heart spilling out in my ragged sleep and in the graphic images that invade my thoughts.

In case you don't know yet

The worst thing that-could-ever-happen-to-Me, happened.
And now, every second of the day I'm just trying to keep moving. Putting one foot in front of the other. Trying to string coherent thoughts together. Using distraction to ease the pain. But it's always there, this whirling vortex of disbelief and despair that's ready to suck me out of the present moment. And when I'm least expecting it, hurl me into a devastating new reality I just can't believe. 

Honestly, we're all still stunned.

I used to believe that God would never allow anything to ever happen to one of my kids because He knew I would never survive it. I think I actually uttered these words out loud, even allowed my Mama's tender heart to feel comforted by this sweet logic--so much that not once, ever-ever-ever did I prepare for the possibility of losing my child.

Anything else dear Lord, I'd quietly whisper.

I can handle anything but THAT.

And then it happened. 

On September 15, 2018--not even four months ago-- the unfathomable loss I said I could never survive happened and now my beautiful son Patrick is gone. Our brightest light. The most completely irreplaceable-bigger-than-Life person I've ever known, the one person I thought I could never live without.  Gone.

Taken in an accident that was so profoundly, deeply unfair.

Maybe you already know this. If you follow me on IG, I've slowly dripped out this shattering news in an effort to keep myself grounded in reality.

But even now as I tap out these words on my laptop they appear bizarre on my screen.

Even though I see the basket on our dining room overflowing with condolence cards that I've carefully read and cried over, Patrick's absence from our lives is still so achingly raw, so emotionally unbearable that I can't fully grasp the realness of it.
Patrick gone from our lives?

I just can't believe it.

Sometimes when I'm driving alone or walking to my car in the grocery store parking lot, I hear myself repeating those words.
Probably out loud, who knows? The odd thing about a heart that's been ripped wide open is that the boundaries between your inner life and outer life become blurred.


Was I sleeping or am I awake?
Was I talking to myself or talking out loud?

Either way it doesn't seem to change the words that spill from my heart. "Oh my God. I just can't believe it."

But then I feel Jim nudge me in the dark. Les, his voice tells me. You're moaning in your sleep again.

This is where I am right now and it's a surreal experience. One minute I'm trying to endure the worst kind of suffering my motherly-self can imagine. Being in a world without my son. Trying to justify my own breathing when I know Patrick's has stopped.

And the next minute I'm having an amazing conversation with Michael, and I'm being flooded with the kind of gratitude that shakes me softly by the shoulders and penetrates my pain just long enough to remind me of my blessings.




We were sitting on the sectional in the living room--Michael and I-- right next to the Christmas tree that had surprised Basha, my grief counselor. On that afternoon, bright sunshine had been pouring through the branches, saturating the ornaments in a yellow glow and Basha had blurted out,

"Leslie I don't think you realize how good you're doing. Just so you know. There are some mothers who wouldn't be able to get out of their beds at this point."

I think I offered a weak smile. I tried to appreciate what she was saying but since I know I am one of those mothers who could easily be in a dense pile on the floor--just not today--I say nothing.

This is something I've learned from these darkest days following Patrick's accident, and it's what Anne Lamott says about grace.

She says "grace meets you exactly where you are, at your most pathetic and hopeless, and grace carefully loads you into its wheelbarrow and tips you out somewhere else. In ever so slightly better shape."

I like this humble description of grace.

I have no other explanation for how I'm functioning besides being lugged around in a mystical wheelbarrow, leaving behind a trail of simple tasks. Christmas decorating. Visiting my 80-year-old friend. Going to the office even-when-I-cry. Writing these words.

It's a mystery I can only explain by Love. As hokey and clique as that sounds it's been the one consistent truth through all this crazy grief, all those unsolicited acts of caring and compassion--gifts of grace--that keep coming from everywhere, our families and friends, and Patrick's friends. People that Patrick touched from so many places. People that loved him and want to share stories of him. In person, by text messages, by mail.

This is how we've been surviving. How we made it through our toughest Christmas ever, swaddled in the love of Patrick's tribe. Now ours.

I always knew that love was powerful, I just never knew it could sweep you up and carry you along on those days when your feet can no longer hold you up. 

I never realized that love--in the form of an early morning text--from hundreds of miles away at the exact moment you're being flooded with heartache, could have the power to get you out of bed.

It's amazing really. So many inexplicable happenings that I consider to be small miracles since Patrick's accident.

I tell Michael I'm thinking of writing about these things on my blog but then I think about the kind of blog titles going through my feed and I start to feel doubt.

I stare at the fashion and beauty tips. The how-to style-your-home-after-Christmas tips that I used to care about, and I realize the absolute last topic that any woman especially mothers, want to hear about is the D-word.

And I don't blame you if you're one of those people.

I totally understand if you want to get as faraway as possible from the idea of losing a child.

In fact, I remember that feeling.

The overwhelming agony you feel for the mother in that situation and the relief and gratitude you feel about your own kids, and then the guilt about feeling so relieved that this horrific thing that happened to this mother didn't-happen-to-you-thank-god. And before you know it, you're texting your kid again just to exhale that relief all over again.

You can only be where you are 

The conversation with Michael that day helped me shed a layer of my self-consciousness. It's so crazy how we do that. How we look around at others for some kind of confirmation. Do I fit in here or do I fit in there?

Well I've decided that the real lesson I'm supposed to be learning has nothing to do with what to share and where to share it. On this blog or on another platform. 

The deeper lesson I'm supposed to be learning is that we can only be where we are. Right now.
Without any apologies, or denial or shame for whatever might be causing us pain. We have to keep living from an honest place and that's how we find our way through uncertainty and darkness.

I think that's why comparing ourselves with others can be so wounding, because we can end up feeling like where we are right-at-this-moment-in-our-lives is not good enough.

I don't know if you can relate to anything I'm writing about in this post, but maybe something I say here might help you feel less alone. That's my simple hope.

Because I don't know if I have anything to offer you. 

I used to think I had some meager wisdom to share, but after watching my big, handsome son walk out the front door on a sunny Friday in September, never to see him again, I feel the full weight of Socrates' words:

"I know I know nothing."

This is me. I know nothing now. I'm not saying this to put myself down or to make you feel a certain reaction, I'm just trying to express how outrageously upside-down and completely shattered my entire life appears to me as I write these words.

I used to think I knew what my future looked like. How my life would be. I once thought I had some control. I once was afraid of death.

Now none of those things are true anymore.

For Me, a woman who used to say to her friends over a nice glass of Cab, "as long as my kids are OK, my life is great," there is nothing more traumatic that could have happened in my life.

Do you wonder how you would go on living in the face of such an unbearable loss? 

Well, I do too. 

This is where I am right now. This is my journey.


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Friday, April 6, 2018

a post about your voice





"You are the first person you speak to in the morning."

I don't know why I find this idea so darn appealing, but the minute I heard Cleo Wade utter these words from the front of the room, I scribbled them down.

And I really thought about it.

Hmm...

When I open my eyes in the morning...it's my voice that pops into my head. First.

Which makes me the most powerful mood setter of my day.

Personally, I think this is the equivalent of an intense, 6 am work-out followed by a nutrient-packed smoothie for my body. Except it's self-care directed at my soul.

So of course, I find myself searching for my morning voice.

Is it tinged with hurriedness, a little anxiety?

Or is it light and encouraging?




And instead, be still.

Be curious about your voice.

How does it make you feel?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

White and Yellow Easter Table with Peeps Place Cards


Hello friends.
Today I thought I'd show you another way to use those  terracotta pots I made the other day using sod and Peeps bunnies.

If you missed it, you can see the project here.


I turned these into individual place cards by using a miniature clothespin to hold the handwritten names.
Very quick and easy.
I bought these tiny clothespins at Target. 

There's something so cheerful about a yellow and white themed table for Easter. 

I wish I could remember where I got these bunny-ear napkin rings. I would love to get a few more.


Do you like jelly beans on your Easter table too?
All you do is stick the taper candle inside a little jar and the jelly beans keep it straight.


Remember this old teapot?
It's filled with mostly garden rocks and I added dirt and fresh sod at the top. You can get so creative with your sod.
Then I added a fake egg, another Target purchase... and it looks so fancy too.








As you can see it's all very simple. I'm using gold silverware, stemware and plates I already had. Nothing fancy over here.
But I do hope I gave you some inspiration for your own table.

I just found out my friend Carla will be hosting a garden party for a group of people with Dementia later in the summer and she might use these little pots of sod for her table d├ęcor.
It sounds perfect for a garden party, don't you think? 
I love that idea. And thank you Carla for sharing that with me. I just wish I lived closer, I would love to join you guys on that day. What a wonderful thing to do.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Easter, surrounded by people you love. 
Thank you so much for stopping by,
xo
Leslie


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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Simple DIY Centerpiece for your Easter Table


Hello Friends.

It's been awhile since I shared a DIY centerpiece with you so I thought I would pop in and share this non-floral idea for your Easter table. 

Here's all I did.

As you can see I brought out some old terracotta pots and a thrift store teapot I already had.

I bought a small roll of sod for six bucks at Home Depot.
(I used the rest to fill in some dead spots in our yard)

I turned each pot upside down and with an old steak knife I cut around the pot.


Once I turned it right side-up I trimmed the edges until it fit snug into the pot.
 I filled each pot with garden soil leaving about an inch from the top.
 I gave the piece of sod a good soaking, wetting bottom and top.
Then I plopped it into the pot.

I stuck a toothpick into a Peeps bunny


And stuck the bunny into the sod.


So easy, right?
You can add small vases filled with a single flower down the center of your table or place flowers in clumps  around the pedestal.

I'll be back tomorrow to show you how I used these individual pots on my own table.

Happy Monday!
Leslie



Saturday, March 17, 2018

A conversation about aging gracefully; two things





Yesterday I was lying on the soft mat at my gym, when I looked down at my black leggings and realized they were inside out.
Yep. There it was, two mountainous seams running down both my inner legs and god knows if there was one on my backside.
Oh crap. How did I not see this?
For a whole second, I debated about heading to the locker room and immediately fixing this embarrassing fitness-faux pas. Only the vision of me hobbling on one leg at a time, leaning against the wall while I yanked and stretched myself back to respectability popped into my mind.


 Forget it, too much work.


Afterwards I made another surprising choice (for me); I didn’t rush home, pink faced and self-conscious.  Instead, I ended up doing a bunch of errands still wearing my leggings down the bright aisles of the grocery store, into Macy’s to pick up my new glasses, and back into the sunny parking lot, every bit aware of the women walking behind me.


 La de da de da… feeling exposed but oh-well.


Only each time I thought about my seams, I started giggling. I felt like Dudley Moore in that limo scene in the movie Arthur, when he bursts out laughing hysterically for no apparent reason and explains to the prostitute,
“Sometimes I just think funny things.”
Don’t you love that scene?
The idea of expressing your insanely, goofy self with a brazen freedom, without a care about who is around or who even gets the joke?


As I’ve gotten older something radical has been happening inside me. And I’m convinced it’s the je ne sais quoi of good aging, the equivalent of hitting the beauty jackpot only instead of gold coins spilling out at your feet, there’s a new perspective.
I notice it in the little moments.


Like when I walk into a room of strangers and I’m more focused on how the other person is feeling, instead of me. 

 I no longer worry if I’m dressed Ok.
(If I feel good, that’s my answer)

 I’ve stopped pretending I care which hairstyles are best for my age group.
(see above reason)

 And when I occasionally dress without my glasses and show up in public with my clothing inside-out, I’m the first person to laugh at myself.



I’m not sure when these internal shifts began, but I do believe aging with grace involves a transformation of our soul, mind and heart as much as our physical bodies. It means opening ourselves up to a new way of being in the world, and this requires us to be real and honest and brave about the person we want to be.
I'm still figuring it out.
But for me, aging means being empowered in two specific ways.

1. Myths about our Self

2. Other-ness


1. Letting go of old myths about YOU


Take my example with my leggings.
At first glance I know it looks like a silly thing.
But not long ago I would have been cringing at my mistake, convinced that everyone’s eyes were riveted on my protruding seams and that of course, they were snickering as I walked away.
The Younger Me would have rushed home to change, unable to tolerate the embarrassment of having my defective self on full display.


And there’s the key word. Defective.


Without realizing it, I would’ve attached meaning to this experience based on some outdated and hurtful myth about myself I still carry around.  
Old beliefs about who I am-- that when triggered, --evoke a rush of cobwebby feelings to the surface again.


You know that feeling when you finally talk in person to someone you’ve only heard stories about, only to find out that they are nothing like the impression you had of them?


Well, we can walk around with distorted views about our Self too.

Aging with grace is teaching me about letting go, period. Not only in how I deal with my relationships and valuable objects but even old critical ways of seeing myself.


This means facing some of our earliest experiences, when you didn’t have your wise, adult perspective to explain how it wasn’t really your fault because you were only a child.
And how as a child, you were only trying to do your best and by-the-way, you shouldn’t have felt so alone.
P.S. You were always enough.


Holding on to an old narrative about yourself keeps you from growing. 
And it prevents you from loving your most tender parts: remember the You that spoke from your small, petty self and said mean things to someone you love?
The You with the jealous feelings, and the You that made that bad decision?


Luckily aging makes us smarter.
We know that disowning our messy, flawed parts doesn’t make them go away. It just keeps us from feeling whole and lovable and we deserve more from ourselves.

Finding our kinder voice

The reason I’m sharing my "inside-out" story is not because it’s special or unique. Its value is only as a little nudge. Something to make you think about how kindly you treat your own awkward mistakes.
And maybe you can relate.
Because here's the truth, 
I still felt that old twinge of self-consciousness while I was walking around in my leggings.
But here’s what’s different now.


Those feelings are no longer ME. 


Now I’m able to create enough space between myself and my emotions to view them from the eyes of an observer.
I am not my feelings and I am not my thoughts.
I know this sounds basic, but that’s a monumental step towards being happy.


My kinder voice sounds like this:


Oh look. It’s that old feeling of ‘being different’ again. Of thinking that I’m the only one who does something like this and this wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t something deficient and lacking about me.


Cleo Wade the poet and writer, gave a beautiful example of this type of mindful awareness at her recent book signing.


Instead of investing in our negative emotions we can choose to acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t cling or overwhelm us.
Instead of telling myself, “Oh my god I am so embarrassed,”
I can say, “I feel embarrassment passing through my body right now.”
I can resist over-identifying with negative emotion.
I will feel it.
I will respect that this feeling is telling me something interesting,
but I will let it move through me without judging.
Because this emotion is not Me.


This is the kind of self-love that is better than any miraculous skin creams you can buy.



2. Freedom from Other-ness.


I explain Other-ness like this.

  • When you’re in grade school you look at the prettiest girl in your class and you admire her and you desperately want to be included at her birthday party.
  • When you’re 15, walking with your best friend on a crowded sidewalk from school, you gaze longingly at the 16-year old’s driving their own cars around town.
  • When you’re 19, without a boyfriend, you sigh and wish you were 21 so you could hit the bars and be included in a world that looks populated by new and imagined friends.
  • When you’re 35, you start to miss your 20-year old body.
  • When you’re 40, you wish you were more like the friend at your child’s school, who appears to be balancing motherhood and career in a way you’re not.


 You get the idea.


We are profoundly aware of the Other Person.
Only it’s not the awareness of the Other Person that’s the problem, it is the silent comparisons we’re making inside our heads.
As I get older I’ve decided to be like the suspicious Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, right before she yanks back the velvet curtain exposing the Wizard.
No more wide-eyed girl believing the illusion that some Admired Other has all my power.
The mysterious thing I’m seeking.


 Instead of looking at someone we admire
and asking,

·  Why am I not more like her?

· Why is my life not like that life?


I think we should start with the truth.


You feel like something is missing.


That’s ok.


But instead of going toward the empty place inside you for answers,
you project your dreamy ideals on to someone you admire. Someone who seems to possess what you’re missing.
Only one problem.
This kind of gazing outward for your happiness continues at every stage of your life unless you deal with what’s really missing inside you.


It’s ok to gaze over and see what someone else is doing, but when you end up feeling bad about yourself or dissatisfied with your own life afterwards, it’s time to look deeper.

Rejecting smallness


Energetically, each time we compare ourselves with another person we are choosing to keep our world small and compacted.
This feels like ‘stuck-ness.’
Either we end up feeling inferior in some way, or we end up feeling superior which means that we’ve been judging some poor, unsuspecting person’s lifestyle or their face, or their weight in secret.


It’s the opposite of living a big-hearted life.


Let me give you a personal example.


I was at a wedding recently, standing in a group of women I hadn’t seen in a while and after several minutes of cheerful conversation one of the women left the group.
Within seconds, the remaining friends began whispering.
The comments weren’t meant as negative, these were nice women. But the topic was whether this woman had any “face work” done because she apparently looked great.


I stood there feeling confused.
First, because I hadn’t noticed anything different about her, but mostly because this conversation happened only seconds after she left the group.


 And I couldn’t explain why, but I felt yucky.


Since then, I’ve thought about this situation. And I realize that even “positive” judgments can be a slippery slope, because we’re still judging someone. Maybe even comparing ourselves in the process.
I’m not saying I never do this kind of thing, but I’m aware that it feels wounding to my soul.
And while I don’t always realize ‘smallness’ in the moment,
I do know when someone’s words feel like the opposite, inclusive and loving.


I realized this recently.
I follow a yoga teacher on Instagram and a while back she addressed some “haters” who made hurtful comments about (of all things) her feet.
Instead of lashing back, she pointed out that we are all mirrors to one another and she said,


 “What hurts me is knowing that you can never say hurtful things to another if there wasn’t some part of you that’s being hurtful to yourself.”


She continued to speak from a place of forgiveness by asking the haters to meditate on the negativity they directed at her and ask themselves this question,

“What is it that you dislike about who you are?”
Wow.
I felt so impressed by her lack of ego.
Maybe because I spent too much of my 20s and 30s being worried about what others thought of me.
But I recognized this as sign of a generous spirit.


This is what I believe aging gracefully looks like in real life;
I see it in the words of this thirty-something year old yoga teacher.
It’s not about being a specific age, it’s not about having a firm body, and it's not about looking like some version of a fashionable Diane Keaton.


It’s about being a certain kind of woman.

Maybe for me this means walking around on a sunny day wearing my black leggings inside-out as a statement of defiance: I am not my latest goof-ball mistake nor am I my latest success.


I am so much more than what you see on the outside.


And so are you.



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