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Thursday, August 27, 2020

the face you see in the mirror




In the beginning it felt like I was groping in the dark.

Nights were the worst. I had to take half a blue pill from the over-the-counter-bottle on my nightstand to make sure I was deep in sleep, before the clock crept into the vicinity of Patrick’s car crash. Breaking the blue pill in two was my nightly ritual. It was my protection, in case I happened to wake up anytime near the hour of the accident--- and my mind would become hostage to a relentless cycle of horror-gazing, as I played out the final details of my son’s life, all the while being brutalized by my imagined scenes of the accident.

I consider it the mental version of hell, and depending on my sleepiness, I could be suspended there for hours.

I didn’t get much relief in the mornings either.

In those months I would wake with the pressing weight of an elephant on my chest, struggling to breathe while those first anguished thoughts of the morning, which were always about Patrick, rolled over me like a Mack truck. 

Turns out, when you’re lying in bed staring at the ceiling, and your heart is being pulverized from within, the worst part isn’t even the pain. It’s the realization that there is absolutely no where you can go for relief. Nowhere to escape this new and horrifying reality that cannot be changed.

Did I mumble prayers? Did I drag myself into therapy sessions? Did my survival brain help me with numbness? Yes, yes and yes.

But this was a free-fall into a no-man’s land that I had never encountered before, because I had never felt so deeply traumatized.

I think that’s why I kept writing, too exhausted to open my laptop, I would simply jot down fragments of thoughts into my iPhone at all hours, day or night. If I felt lost and shivering inside a black forest these harried notes to myself were the tiny bread crumbs I left behind, in the hopes that someday I would find my way out of this unbelievable nightmare.
Of course, back then I had never heard of Gabor Mate, the international expert on trauma, who eventually helped me put words to my experience, albeit after the fact.

  • Trauma is not what happens to you.
  • Trauma is what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you. 
  • Trauma results in a disconnection of the Self.

It’s only now can I look back at those post-traumatic months and recognize the ways that this disconnect with my physical body showed up in my life. 
 
One evening Jim, Michael and I met an old family friend, with his wife and daughters at a loud, crowded pizza joint, and I remember how excited the wife was about the results of her recent plastic surgery. We sat together and talked. And although I had never noticed them before, I complimented her new eyelids.

I smiled and sipped my diet coke and I told her how great she looked because she did. Trim waist, a boob job from years ago, that still looked natural. Cute outfit. She was as sweet as ever but suddenly I remembered I had no mascara on (I’d stopped wearing it because of my crying) and oh yeah, I honestly could give a shit about what I was wearing.  As the evening wore on—amid the laughter and conversation at the table, I began to feel miles away from this kind, pretty wife, who seemed to be living a life I used to have.

I felt sure she noticed this new hollowed-out version of me and later that night in the parking lot saying our goodbyes, I remember it distinctly. That moment I first began to suspect that I was becoming unrecognizable to others. Yes, I mean physically and I know that sounds weird, but now I understand ---it emerged out of this strange disconnect I was feeling with my body. I guess I thought if I didn’t recognize myself, why would anyone else?

Soon after this evening--and only several months after we lost Patrick--I somehow mustered enough energy to make an appointment with a cosmetic dermatologist in Newport Beach. Nagged by the dryness around my eyes and my apathy about my disappearing looks— (shouldn’t I care that people won’t recognize me? Answer: not really)-- I had hopes that this physician would miraculously restore me back to normal. 
 
While I sat in the waiting room flipping through the pages of beautifully, photoshopped women inside the Vogue magazines, strewn over a glass coffee table, I searched for the dates of each edition. Before September 2018 meant Patrick was still here. And I could close my eyes and pretend I was back in time. After September 2018 signaled tragedy. A shocking turn of events I still couldn’t believe.

Inside the exam room I was pleasantly surprised to meet a fresh-faced dermatologist with little make-up, except for lipstick. When she asked me why I was there, I didn’t see how I could avoid telling her about Patrick, but I dreaded it. In those days my tears would spill out uncontrollably. This was my new normal. One minute I’d be talking mid-sentence—and then crying, then I’d stop, and continue talking.

I was always amazed that the person I was talking to at the time, rarely showed a reaction.
As I told her my story, I watched her move across the room and grab a box of Kleenex, keeping a few for her own tears before handing me the box.

Next, she held the biggest magnifying mirror I had ever seen up to my face and said, 
“Tell me what you see.”
Boom, just like that, it was the mirror and me under the brash lights.
And wow. I didn’t expect to feel so exposed. I lifted my eyes to the mirror in slow motion, afraid that all I would see was my broken heart and this made me feel like crying again. My god, I was so fragile.
She moved the mirror closer to my face, her dark eyes watching me, but once I looked at my reflection it got easier. Focus on the enemy. The puffy lids. The dry patches around my eyes. Oh. What about my lines? Once I got started, I kept going until I finished with a vague accusation of, “I just look so old.” 

She responded instantly.

“No, that’s not what I see. All I see is the natural result of daily tears.” 
She went on to explain about tear ducts, and composition of tears and the effects on skin but I was only half listening. I was waiting for my miracle cream.

“Ok. Now show me where you look so old. What wrinkles are you talking about?” She was waiting.

Whoa. I don’t know what I expected, but this wasn’t it. And this second look into the mirror was much harder. All I saw when I looked at my face was skin, brittle from shock and sorrow— in full display. My eyes were deep pools of grief. Whatever beauty I might have had once, was gone. And at that moment I truly believed that I would never look the same again. 

She watched me point to different parts of my face and then she put the mirror down and shook her head. 

“You don’t even need fillers,” she said, while she opened a white cabinet and began scouring through samples of creams in the drawer. 

“You just need to heal.” 

She handed me a prescription for a cream I never used, gave me a hug and walked out of the room.


Well. That was seventeen months ago. And sometimes you have to look back—to see how far you’ve come. 

I’ve learned a lot about healing since that afternoon appointment in Newport Beach. But when I think about that experience, what stands out to me, was how powerful it felt to look into the mirror in the presence of an observer--and have my reality challenged.

That image of us we see in the mirror? It's always going to be affected by the emotions and thoughts streaming through us at that moment.
But this is what I know. 
We are all beautiful souls living our lives inside these human bodies. 
Aspire to remember this truth when you go looking for yourself inside a one-dimensional mirror.
Surround yourself with people—like this female physician-- who insist on seeing the beautiful and eternal You that’s always there beneath the surface—even during those painful times when you can’t see her.
It will feel like love.


xo
Leslie




Friday, July 10, 2020

my guest bathroom reveal





Hello there friends.

Well.

I wish I could hear your voice through this screen because I really would like to know how you're doing. It's been a while since I've been here and to tell you the truth, even though today's post is about my guest bathroom, the real renovation has been taking place inside me.

But that's a whole other post.

In the meantime it occurred to me that the last update you got on my guest bathroom was when the plumber accidentally cracked my tub -the second tub to get damaged on this project. 

I know, after all that delay and work and I forget the REVEAL part. What kind of DIY-blogger does that, right?

So today I thought I'd get my act together and show you some photos. I'll start with THE inspiration piece that motivated this entire bathroom renovation.

Here it is:


I found this corner cabinet (seen in two pieces here) in an antique store, buried under piles of Indian blankets and dusty magazines. I had no idea if it would fit into my bathroom corner but I lugged it home and spent hours sanding down the black mahogany stain.


Here I am, in pre-pandemic days already with a mask and my palm sander. 
(I sure miss those glasses, do you lose your glasses a lot too?)



After hours of sanding the outside AND inside, I discovered  a really beautiful wood underneath, and I was so excited. Although I still didn't know if it would fit because the bathroom hadn't been demo'd yet. 

But I just "felt" like it would all work out. 



Here's the BEFORE

As you can see there's nothing wrong with this bathroom. 
 Just dark and dated. 


I kept the floor plan and original window to stay in budget, but I traded the miniature tub for a deep soaker that would fit into the space. I think this was tub no. 3. 

If you're interested in that whole story-warning, it's long- you can go HERE.


BEFORE


AFTER



In the end I went with the classic white subway tile and marble floors. And I mixed my metals on my lighting fixtures and faucets--a brushed gold and polished chrome


The only work I did in here was install the wood ceiling, the baseboards, the trim and paint. I found this rustic-looking wood product for the ceiling from Lowe's-- that was so light and easy to work with. And I loved the warmth it brought to all that white.



How do you like my cut in the baseboard...?
I'm getting better with my jigsaw.



When Claudio my electrician came by to mark the spots for my lighting he told me the bad news, the light switch I thought could be moved to make some space for my cabinet could NOT be moved. 

So here's the bottom part of the cabinet shoved into corner as far as possible. It was going to be tight but.. I still felt positive. 


Once the pedestal sink got installed I was finally able to bring the two cabinet pieces into place. 





And although it was a tight fit, I was happy. 

But I had another problem.

Once the cabinet was under the wood ceiling it took me two seconds to realize the shades of wood clashed terribly. I was so bummed. As much as I loved the wood on the ceiling I knew it needed to be white so my cabinet would stand out.


Believe me. After all that time installing this ceiling and loving the look, that first brush of white paint was SO hard. But I've learned the key to that first nervous coat of paint, is don't hesitate. 
Just do it. That's my painting motto. 


Afterwards I knew it was the right decision.



It's hard to see in this shot but I ordered and installed a shower tract into the ceiling, I thought it was a cool touch.


I let Jim pick the mirror out for the fun of it and he picked this "rustic" white one from Houzz, which is actually not wood at all. But I like it. There are those rare moments when I do want his opinion, wink. 











This is very UN-designer-of me. Because I know the first thing to be replaced on old furniture is the hardware (usually with those trendy, long handles) but I didn't have the heart to remove these primitive little wood thing-ees. They're so cute.



Another BEFORE shot


AFTER

Honestly, when you're inside the bathroom it looks like it fits perfectly. And there's a remarkable amount of storage.


BEFORE

AFTER

I just love seeing before and after pictures and if you do too, we're starting renovations on our Master bath on the 20th and I'll share my pictures with you soon. It's small for a Master bath, so I've made some selections that will make it feel larger. At least that's my hope.

Sending blessings of love and health to you,
(don't forget to wear your mask)

xoxo
Leslie




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Thursday, May 21, 2020

what really matters






.
Can we both just take a few minutes and acknowledge how weirdly surreal life has felt these last few months?

In the words of Krista Tippett, “something has literally happened to all of us at once,” which is astonishing in itself, but once the dust settles, I don’t think it’s this new strain of virus running rampant over the globe—that will be what triggers our most potent memories.

No, I think what’s been most impactful on our hearts, on our minds, and on our bodies will have been this period of self-isolation

Call it what you want. Self-quarantine, lock-down or social distancing, it’s been this experience of shutting ourselves off from human contact at the exact time we’re emotionally reeling from the effects of so many losses happening in our lives, that’s the jarring reality we’ll remember. 

Each of us hunkering down into this personal no-man’s land. 

Daily routines we took for granted--that had anything to do with others--were gone overnight. Schools and businesses closed. Loss of incomes and jobs dominating the news. And looming in the background was this mysterious Covid-19 with its ever-expanding symptoms and potential targets. 

Any one of these changes we could have managed.

But they came like pounding waves with no time to grieve. These drastic changes-big and small- each one peeling back those paper-thin layers that protect our core during normal times. And then, having to endure all of it--- without the warmth of human touch. Without the reassurance of a big hug, and the closeness of face to face empathy. 

This is what’s been so bizarre.

Whether you’re physically vulnerable to the virus yourself, or worried about your loved ones who are; whether you’ve got kids at home and you’re tired and stressed; or you’ve been separated from your loved ones and struggling with loneliness. Whether you’ve been touched by the virus personally, or you know others who have.

Whether it’s all of these or a mix of more.

My heart is with you. 

I know it's been hard.



Acknowledging our liminal space

The other day I stumbled on an interesting word that describes my strange new world after losing Patrick.  

But I think you’ll want to hear it.

If you’ve ever experienced a catastrophic loss, then you’ll remember that slow-moving avalanche of shock and anguish that dismantles every aspect of your life, and how afterwards, your “future” feels suspended in time. 

It’s a disorienting period. When the life you thought you were living is gone and you’re staring at a world you longer recognize. 

I talk about my experiences with you, mostly because I never believed I could ever survive the loss of one of my kids, and so even I’m amazed. My life now feels like one deep exploratory dive into a new way of being. And whenever I think there’s crossover—some shared struggle we both know—I feel compelled to talk about it here.

Obviously Covid-19 is one of those experiences on a global level.

Since this virus, our entire world has been going through a collective chaos that’s triggering a mass reaction of anxiety and fears. And I’m not even addressing the catastrophic human loss and grief that’s in our collective awareness—this means that whether we’re conscious of these deaths or not, these losses are still affecting us because of our interconnectedness as humans. 

If you’re been noticing how different our lives feel right now it’s because we’re in state of transition referred to as liminal space.

When I read Richard Rohr's post, I instantly wanted to share this idea here. 




Starting to sound familiar?

Because this liminal space describes the world of uncertainty we’ve been living in during this entire global pandemic. Behind us is the life we called ‘normal,’ and in front of us is a way of life that’s still being determined, largely by the science and health research that will guide the process. 

Learning to tolerate this feeling of ‘not knowing’ is hard. Our biological wiring makes us quick to react with fear. I think this is why we’re seeing so many people in the news turning to anger, blaming others, and expressing defiance. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to feeling afraid (on a deeper level) and having a loss of control. 

When things are falling apart around you—I’ve learned it’s crucial I stay alert to where I put my attention and energy. My biggest lesson has been this: We don’t have to follow every anxious thought down the rabbit hole. (more about this here)

Although the other option takes real effort. It means acknowledging yeah, this in-between place is hard. But if we work to stay conscious--and surrender to our vulnerability-- with the intent to watch the narratives we’re telling ourselves

Even your most painful feelings will pass if you learn to let them go.

When I feel my worries starting to take over, I’ll actually ‘check’ my thoughts.


  • Am I moving toward my fears?
  • Am I moving toward the Light?


You’ll always know the answer.



When little things become the big things

On Mother’s Day I wrapped a black and cream French ribbon around a vase of fresh lavender and placed it on the door mat of the young woman who lives across the street from me. On the card I told her she was a wonderful mother and I wished her a beautiful day. 

She is a radiologist at a local hospital and a few weeks ago, she shared her fears with me of being exposed to Covid-19, especially in the early days when she lacked proper PPE.

In normal times I would have knocked on her door and seen her look of surprise and her happy smile when I handed her the flowers. I miss seeing that reaction.

I would’ve talked a bit and she probably would have told me what she wrote on the thank you card she placed in my mail slot later---that her last few weeks had been hard ones. Most likely she would’ve told me why. I miss that random sharing.

And I would’ve listened and most important, I would have seen her vulnerability and responded to it. I like to think I would’ve said something that made her feel a bit lighter and hopefully, appreciated. I miss that kind of giving.

She happens to be a mother of three active boys, and each morning when I open my wicker blinds, her car is already gone. She leaves at 5:30 each morning and when she comes home, she usually has a load of groceries in her car, because she does all the shopping and cooking in the family, in addition to working full-time.

Because my living room window looks out to her house, it’s easy to notice her coming home in her hospital garb, but these days when we talk, she stays on her side of the street. 

Which means that our conversations right now remain polite and as emotionally hollow as the physical space now separating us.

Do you know what I mean?

Lately when I’m waving at a neighbor on the street or reading a text on my phone, or even after a phone call, I sense there’s so much being left unsaid. 

And am I the only one who felt a twinge of disappointment on Zoom after a virtual happy-hour with friends?

Yes, it was filled with smiles and talking that gleaned over the surface. But afterwards, I longed for the warmth and intimacy of a real get-together, the spilling out of words and the talking over each other that typically leads to a deeper stash of feelings. I missed these, and I wondered how hard is it to penetrate a screen full of pixels?

Sometimes, during this social isolating I want to yell back.

I see you. 

I know there’s more. 

What’s really going on with you?


Noticing

Ah. I think we can agree.

This physical separation from others has been taken an emotional toll on all of us. 

Only now as we begin the next step of re-opening our businesses and our personal lives again, I admit I feel ambivalent.

I’m aware that this liminal space is also a time when personal transformations happen. Yes, everyone loves the analogy of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. But no one talks about the agonizing experience of the poor caterpillar, how it literally releases enzymes that digest and liquefy it while its alive, a process too painful to imagine that the caterpillar endures for the end result.

Anytime we go through tumultuous change and loss, there is space created in that empty void.

What we choose to do with that new spaciousness is our choice and not everyone becomes an awakened butterfly after a dark period in their lives, but the possibilities are there.

And I don’t want to give up my humble little insights I’ve been having during this isolation. All because of these months of lunacy and sickness and death and anxiety and fears and the lack of being able to give a neighbor a small gift face-to-face.

Those little things that you’ve been missing are telling you about what you value. They’re calling you home, back to your center. 



Here’s a few little things I’ve been missing: 


  • I miss bumping into someone in public and having random conversations without thinking about the virus
  • I miss giving hugs when I greet someone
  • I miss hearing the low hum of voices inside a crowded restaurant
  • I miss being close enough to whisper without a mask
  • I miss smiling at people in the grocery store and having them know I’m smiling (behind my face mask)
  • I miss cooking for others and having guests over




Please tell me in the comments section what you’ve been noticing during your isolation.

I can’t wait to hear.

Sending love and light to you,
Leslie

sharing this post here:  Grace at Home

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

You're invited to a Virtual Dinner Party!




Hello friends.

Well.

After all these long weeks sheltering down... can we all just release a big deep exhale, pop those corks off some bottles of wine and have a little pretend break?

Because.

I don't know bout you. But I'm seriously beyond ready for a good old-fashioned dinner party with loud voices and a bright, crowded kitchen and lots of good conversation going on...

Oh. And-of-course we have to have some delicious food, right? 

Well, this is the fun part. 
Because You are invited to participate in a Virtual Progressive Dinner Party organized by none other than everyone's favorite blogger-party-planners, Annie of Most Lovely Things, Cindy of Rough Luxe and MaryAnn of Classic Casual Home. And the best part is that you don't need to bring anything! Just yourself. We've got the food handled. 

This is the menu:


So welcome-and-please-come-in.
I'm just finishing up a few more items for my Cheese board. And this is where I should probably tell you that this course is going to be light on the 'charcuterie' because honestly, I'm not really a meat eater and since I like to pretend that everyone likes what I like, I decided at the grocery store to pick up mostly cheese and fruit. 

If you're curious, this is what I have on my platter:



Grocery list

Fresh Medool Dates

Goat Cheese

Croutons
organic baby tomatoes
fresh basil and garlic
Fresh fruit: grapes and strawberries, cantaloupe
Stilton Blue Cheese
Marinated Fresh Mozzarella Balls-Trader Joes
french baquette
Crackers and Nuts: Roasted and Salted Truffle Marcona Almonds and Walnuts
Olive Tapenade
a few slices of prosciutto
Fig Jelly & honey



And here's what I made for you:



It's not your typical cheeseboard.



But I decided to make a different version since--to be honest--it's only Jim and I here right now, and let's see--how should I say this nicely...neither of us needs a lot of decadent cheese leftover in the fridge...so here's what I did:




I brought home a fresh baguette with the idea of having brushetta on the board ...because it's a favorite of mine. 

(Ok, are you starting to see how I made my cheeseboard selections?)



I sliced it, rubbed it down with fresh garlic and baked one side in the oven. Turned it over and rubbed other side with garlic and finished baking on this side until it was nice and slightly toasted.
And that smell! Yum....



There's a cute little vegetable stand near my house where I buy the sweetest organic tomatoes.


At the last minute I saw this interesting video  
on Half Baked Harvest and I decided to switch from fresh tomatoes to roasted, so I popped this into the oven.



Roasted tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil drenched in olive oil and served next to marinated mozzarella balls and bread slices.
Olive tapenade on the side because it's so easy and yummy.


These fresh marinated mozzarella balls from Trader Joes, marinated in basil, herbs and olive oil are ranked in PopSugar's best cheeses from Trader Joes.

I'm a big fan of Caprese salad, made with great olive oil, and I'll often order one for my dinner, nothing better to me--than these flavors together.

Is this more of a California thing?


Side note: If you have to have toothpicks on the table I think putting them inside a vintage cordial glass is a cute touch.

Crispy prosciutto and cantaloupe
...my touch of charcuterie on the board :)


Oh-here's a delicious old William Sonoma recipe that's always a hit with guests. And it's so simple to make.
 Stuffed Medjool dates with goat cheese.


Put a slit in each date. Remove pits. Fill with goat cheese.


Heat a small pan with a generous amount of olive oil and brown the bread crumbs. I prefer to use my favorite seasoned croutons (crushed of course) instead of plain bread crumbs for added flavor. 
When cool, dip each top of date into crumbs. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. 

Place dates on lightly oil baking dish, for 10-12 min until warmed through. Soooo decadent!




Is there anything better than fig jelly and Stilton blue cheese on warm slices of French bread?

Don't worry if you're not a fan there's some honey too, for a light drizzle.



I'm also happy making this my whole dinner. With my glass of wine of course. Are you a sweet and salty person too?




Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit here and I truly wish I could open my front door and have you standing right there. I'd just love to do this in person. 

But hopefully, I gave you a few ideas for your own cheese board.

And now it's time to check out all the delicious courses ahead:

Sheri Silver -White Bean Salad in Radicchio Leaves
Rough Luxe - Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad
Most Lovely Things- Caramelized Shallot Pasta
Stone Gable - Asparagus in Puff Pastry with Brie
Classic Casual Home- Lemon Tart w/Shortbread Crust and Berries

Thank you Cindy and MaryAnn and Annie for inviting me to host this party--it was such a fun idea.

And thank you everyone for stopping by today,

xoxo
Leslie

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