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Monday, May 20, 2019

replenishment and a fresh flower wreath.



Good morning friends.

I'm starting this week off sharing a simple fresh wreath I made for my front door. But as my fingers click on my laptop keys I keep thinking about the word "replenish," and how important it is to recognize whenever we're feeling this way. I even love the definition. 

Replenish: to fill something up again. To build up. 

Don't those seem like such uplifting words?

It's a topic on my mind because I felt so content while I worked on this wreath. Quietly engrossed in cutting each stem, touching the smooth leaves with my fingertips and tucking each purple flower head into the green wire.






I wanted to keep it simple and quick so I started with a flower bouquet from Target and wire wreath I bought at Joann's Craft store.






Olive branches from my tree.
















Recently I was listening to an interview with Rick Hansen a psychologist and author who specializes in emotional resiliency and he says that we can actually re-wire our brains to be happier.

It's called neuroplasticity. And it happens when we stop and acknowledge those moments when we're experiencing something that feels truly authentic and good to us. 

He calls this "focused attention," when you stop in the middle of feeling replenished. Take a few breaths. Notice what feels good about this moment and then try to feel it in your body.

This 'focused attention' allows your brain to recognize what's rewarding about this experience and then your brain 'flags' these moments as keepers.

Science confirms that we can build up a positive reservoir of emotional skills and inner resiliency this way. 

But it means that we must accept this powerful truth: we are the "Choosers" in our life. 

You are the ONE person who gets to act on your behalf at any moment and even when your circumstances are hard and painful, you can still try to become more aware of where you rest your attention.

Are you reaching for the light or are you marinating in a dark, painful thought at this moment?


It doesn't mean suppressing your feelings it means experiencing them in a space of awareness, but then allowing these darker emotions to pass.

It's a process I'm trying to be aware of right now, especially because I'm still struggling with traumatic images and thoughts related to Patrick's accident and I won't lie, it always takes real effort to stop the flow of these kind of thoughts. They happen mostly at night. 



This past weekend I was so grateful to spend a beautiful afternoon with Heidi and Rob and we were even joined by Chris--one of Patrick's closest buddies. And we drank Margaritas and beer while foamy waves lapped against the crusty pier underneath us, and we laughed and talked for hours.

Afterwards I felt so incredibly blessed.





What things are replenishing you today?


Thursday, May 16, 2019

I never want to forget this.





I was talking to the beautiful and kind-hearted Sophia.

We were halfway through our four-hour visit, sipping our purified water in wine glasses with lemon and strawberries, and I was talking about those early months when I would be walking through the grocery store pushing a cart and crying softly throughout the aisles.

I never want to forget that feeling, I told Sophia, of feeling so alone with my grief and later even confused that no matter how many times I cried under the bright florescent lights inside a bustling store, not once did anyone seem to see me. To look twice at my crying. To ask me if I was ok.

Of-course to me this was perfectly fine. 
When you lose your child your once-powerful ego instantly dissolves into harmless dust and you suddenly experience a strange liberation from the regular world, and all your previous wonderings about who is watching and what other people might be thinking about you.

What did Eckhart Tolle say in his recent talk in Pasadena? It’s all such useless thinking.

But I tell sweet Sophia about my grocery store experiences and that I want to remember how it felt to be so unseen during those moments of my despair. I guess it’s because it was so stunning to me. And so shocking that not once did anyone ever come up to me and inquire about my obvious pain. Or even acknowledge my red eyes in the grocery line.

Apparently tears in a grocery aisle do not register a single blip on the public radar.

Sophia says that she was sobbing in a crowded public place in Newport Beach when she found out about Patrick-and she had the same experience. People just keep walking past you. She says most people don’t want to feel things, and I guess that kind of intense emotion would be uncomfortable for your average rushing-to-somewhere person.

 And I totally understand.

The reason I want to remember how raw I felt is so that I can forever keep my eyes open for that one woman or man that I see standing in the ketchup aisle. 
And maybe like me, they’re suddenly hearing their son who is no longer alive ask, “Hey Mama is there any ketchup for my eggs?” Because of course you’re remembering that he always had ketchup with his eggs. And as his mother you’re also seeing all his favorite foods on every aisle and having flashbacks of your joy as you watched him devour your food because he loved every-single thing-you-ever-cooked-for-him—which opens the door to so many other tender moments.

And soon your heart is breaking so loudly in your ears that you can no longer hear that irritating soundtrack playing overhead. All you feel is that horrific realization that he’s gone. And then the thud in your chest of missing him so much you could literally collapse from pain if you weren’t clinging to your cart.

I wonder if other mothers who have lost their hunky, big, healthy sons have these foodie flashbacks inside grocery stores.

Because I’m ready if I see them.

I already know. If I see someone crying in the grocery store, wandering through aisles looking broken and sad, I dream about going up to them and asking them if there is anything I can do to help.

Can I reach this box of cereal for you?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just nod and whisper how sorry I am about their sadness.

 Lord knows there are no magic answers in odd, public moments like that but my own grief journey is making me so excruciatingly sensitive to people who are hurting. I personally know how we notice each tiny speck of kindness that floats into our throbbing universe.

And I’m learning that there is always space for compassion, even if it’s a quick meeting of the eyes. A silent flash of human contact when you look at someone and let them know, I see your pain.  

I dream of meeting that person in the grocery store someday.

Now that I know that this alternative universe exists where there are people crying in public because it hurts so much and they can’t help it, I want to stay aware.

Even if the relief only lasts a few seconds, I want them to know  they’re not alone in their darkness.



Yesterday was the dreaded 15th of the month and for the first time it was different.

I noticed that I felt lighter and I’m sure it was because of my visit with Sophia, a close friend of Patrick’s who reached out to me recently with a beautiful letter and followed it up with a visit from LA.

Sophia teaches meditation classes. And we had so much to talk about. She walked inside with a bouquet of yellow sunflowers and instantly noticed the Cleo Wade’s poetry book on my table and said, “I know her!” Turns out we were both at her book signing in Los Angeles, sitting upstairs in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble, listening to Cleo and Nicole Ritchie chat, and only several feet away from each other.

Who would have guessed that the Universe would bring us together this way?

Also, I finally solved the mystery of the tender note I had found tucked in the flowers and random candles that marked Patrick's fallen spot. 
Now I know it was Sophia, and that she was also back at the site on the six-month anniversary because she saw the IPA bottle that we left after we had toasted to Patrick and talked to him.

Sophia is an incredibly talented songwriter and singer and she sent me a song she wrote that was inspired in part—by Patrick. Her voice is stunning. But the best part of her story were the incredible signs she felt from Patrick, as she was talking with her producer “about Pat.”

I love hearing about these inexplicable signs because I’ve had some stunning ones too.

We spent hours together and afterwards I felt myself enveloped in a bubble of pure love and healing that seemed to carry me through the entire dreaded day of the 15th of the month.

This is how we do it, dear person who-might-be-reading-this-and-feeling-down.

We have an option.

We can be a Light for others, that’s a wonderful distraction.

In fact Anne Lamott says that when people come to her and tell her they’re depressed she tells them to go flirt with the old people in the health food store. Or take some waters to the nearest shelter. She’s using humor but her point is, sometimes we ‘need to get out of ourselves’, and service to others helps us do that.

But. 
When you can’t be a Light because you’re hurting too much, you must be willing to stay open to the delicate signs that the Universe will send your way. A chance meeting. A simple conversation.

Pay attention to synchronicities in your life because they are there, waiting to be seen. And waiting to point you gently toward your path.

I said “Yes” to a spontaneous meeting because whoever loved Patrick, I love.

And it was the best thing I could have done for my healing.

We have to be willing to be surprised if we’re going to get through our darkest days.



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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

my dark little laundry room transformation!






Remember when I went into Home Depot and saw those thin cedar strips in the lumber aisle? 

I instantly knew they should go on this ceiling despite how low it is(7' 5 inch). And maybe I should have been nervous, but I admit---I tend to make design decisions with my gut. 
And lucky for me this time it worked.





new view from the bathroom

Turns out that putting cedar on the ceiling draws the eye up and combined with the horizontal planks that I slathered in white paint, this small space feels much more spacious.



We actually got used to looking for clothes with the lights from our IPhones for awhile because of wiring issues. And now with two light fixtures it's so bright and happy looking! 






Here's a few more changes that made this space work for us.

1. Changed our stacked washer/dryer and re-routed water and electrical lines for this.
2. Added countertop
3. Added industrial rods to hang clothes





 After the plumber and electrician were done I could finish installing the planks. The ceiling was already done. And I was ready to decide on the countertop.




When it came to the countertop I originally planned using the butcher block from Lowes, but I couldn't get the depth of 33 inches without it being an expensive special order.

So I went to the lumberyard and picked some smooth pine pieces and made my own with my Dad's help.






Oh yeah. And one funny confession I have to make. 

When discussing the two industrial style rods I wanted add on the side walls, my Dad happened to ask me one crucial question,
 "You did nail your planks into studs right?"

Me: Gulp

I know. What the heck was I thinking? But in my defense it had been awhile since I installed planks. The good news is that I got lucky and hit the studs on most of them. But to make sure I went back and with my Dad's help, located the studs and I completed the job.



If you follow me on Instagram you already know about this black door. 


When I went to sand it for some touch-up paint, strips of black literally peeled away. 


Since I had to re-paint the entire door anyway, I decided to paint it with the same Behr Pure White as the walls. This is the door to the garage so I felt ok about changing it even though the rest of my interior doors are black.

The bathroom is directly off this little laundry room and since this door is black, I didn't like having both black doors so close. This white door enlarges the space.



In this picture you get an idea of how many cuts I had to make when installing these planks. Not only did I install all the ceiling strips but every plank in this room. Then I had fill the nail holes and paint everything.
If you're ever in need of a helpful distraction from your grief, this is a good one.



I was standing in the aisle with all the cabinet hardware (Home Depot again) when this woman asked me for my opinion about these pretty glass knobs.








 Not only did I encourage her to use them on her shabby chic dresser but I bought them myself for this storage cabinet in here. And no, I didn't have to build it, it was already here it just needed some fresh paint.
















I'm so glad I found this vintage oil painting in the consignment store. Nobody wanted her so I got her for half off and the colors and the vibe---along with the cedar strips became the inspiration for this entire project. 

One little thing leads to another. 

Have you noticed that too?



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Monday, April 29, 2019

mysterious strangers, rippples and life lately





“Who would do that?”

I was sitting inside the white sterile examination room at the cardiologist’s office and I kept thinking about the mysterious stranger, and the tiny, incredulous act of kindness I had just witnessed at Patrick’s accident site.

And I kept thinking, “Who would do that?!”

I mean really. How many times do we even notice those wilted flowers, or religious candles or those poignant pictures of someone’s loved one posted at a street corner or on a telephone pole as a tender tribute for someone’s death?

Most of us drive by with a fleeting glance if at all, or maybe we wince for a second, but we keep moving, relieved to get away from this tragic spot. And I can understand why.

And yet someone had stopped. And even now I can’t believe how much this has touched me.

I had been running late for my appointment when I stopped by the accident site to water the flowers.

Did I tell you?

In those early days when we were still walking around in shock, and numb from devastation, Jim and I had gone to the spot that had been marked with yellow police tape where Patrick had passed away, and we planted rainbow-colored flowers there.

Neighbors had already begun to drop off bouquets and a few candles, so the idea of planting these flowers at this dry, dirt-filled lot had seemed like the right thing to do, especially after the many unusual (dare-I-say-mystical) experiences we had here.

Seven months later these flowers have exploded into a little island of vibrant color, and it’s become a place that Patrick’s friends and family can visit whenever they stop into town.

But I won’t lie. Some days it’s torture to go there and I have to work hard to keep the agonizing details of that night from taking over my thoughts, but most days I’m Ok. I clip and water and tidy up and I do it with the same loving energy that I once tied Patrick’s little shoelaces, and I feel very motherly and focused and efficient while I’m there.

Every 2-3 days I’ll lug several jugs of water and my clippers to this empty lot to tend to these flowers as inconspicuously as possible, because the property owner was reportedly irritated when he saw them and even threatened to have them removed.

But that was a while ago now, and the woman from the apartment complex tells me that our mound of flowers is now respectfully ignored by the hired gardeners. But honestly, who knows?

These flowers have become another reminder to me that loss can strike at any moment and every time I drive up, I prepare myself in case I should see all my carefully selected sun-happy flowers gone. And each time when I see them still there, I’m so relieved, which I guess is the lesson I’m meant to keep learning.

Be grateful for the littlest things, Leslie.


heart-stuff





On this particular morning I had an appointment with a cardiologist because my physician thinks the prolonged heaviness and pain in my chest needs to be taken seriously, and so I shrug and agree, but I’m not concerned. 

Nothing about my death scares me anymore, although apparently there is such a thing as “heartbroken syndrome,” a condition in when the powerful effects of intense grief can trigger a heart attack. The cardiologist explains this to me and I must look surprised because he tells me to google it.

Which I don’t. But then I remember what Chaplain Joseph from my hospice program told us, when he met us in our living room following our visit to the funeral home. 

Jim, Michael and I were still stunned from the gut-wrenching trauma of crying over Patrick’s beautiful body that we had just seen covered under a bronze-colored sheet, hard and cold, and smelling like harsh chemicals.

“You’ll need to treat yourself as if you had just had open-heart surgery” he said about our traumatic loss. “You’ll have to go really slow and be gentle with yourself. And remember that others won’t be able to see your condition from the outside.” 

Remembering Joseph’s words reassures me.

And it also helps that my cardiologist doesn’t think my symptoms fit this dire condition, although he still wants to rule it out. And so there I am, sitting across from him explaining my chronic chest pain, which of course means telling him about Patrick and the accident and the horrific trauma of seeing the sheriff and coroner show up at our front door at 7:30 in the morning and so on. 

Only I can’t tell this story without crying, so he listens with extraordinary quietness and then tells me to come back for a treadmill test. 

Then suddenly before he leaves, he stops at the door of his pristine office in Newport Beach, and he looks so sorrowful.

“I can’t possibly imagine the pain you’re going through,” he says, “And I don’t want to even think about it because I have kids you know, and…”
And I interrupt him and tell him what I tell every parent who says this. Please. I don’t want you to even think about it (because) believe me, it’s the worst suffering imaginable. 

But his gentle sensitivity feels so comforting and it reminds me of the stranger. Back at the accident site.

Two weeks ago, Jim had placed a purple pot of daisies at the brown telephone pole that is now the home of a collage of Patrick’s smiling pictures. Jim takes care of this pole. He rotates the pictures and is quietly pleased when he sees people stop to look at it, and sometimes he’ll attach a balloon and flowers to the pole. 

But when I saw the ceramic pot of daisies he bought at the grocery store, I warned him. Jim, I told him. That pot is so small it will need to be watered constantly in that direct sun. It’s probably going to die before we can get back there.

But he wanted it and so he bought it and placed it on the sunny sidewalk and ten days later when I poke my finger into the pot of healthy daises, I’m shocked to feel freshly watered soil.

Someone was helping us keep this little pot of flowers alive!

I stand there for a minute on the edge of the sidewalk while traffic hurls past me and I wonder who. 

Who does this? 

What person would take time out of their busy day to water flowers for someone they don’t even know? A pot so small at the bottom of a mountainous telephone pole, that it’s barely visible to a fast-moving car. 
Was it one of the neighbors who watch us make our visits here?
Was it one of the women who had kneeled next to Patrick on that dark night and whispered loving words to him, believing that he was still alive?

For a long moment I allow myself to feel the stunning impact of this singular act of kindness. 


Do you recognize the moments that resurrect you?



Even though the Easter holiday has come and gone, I’m still deeply aware that I am living out this year’s celebration of death and resurrection in a way I never imagined before Patrick’s loss.

On our first warm, sunny Easter Sunday without Patrick I found myself huddled under the covers and overwhelmed with despair. I had wanted to go to the youth-filled church that Michael took us to in the weeks after Patrick’s accident, with the great music, but when Jim came upstairs to check on me, I couldn’t get up.

“I miss him so much.” I kept repeating. “I can’t stand it. It hurts so much.” 

“I know.” He says and I realize he feels the same but he is so kind when I’m like this.

On his second trip he says, “You need to come down now, everyone’s up.” 

And afterwards Michael enters my room and says, “Come here Mom, let me give you a hug.” 

Then he tells me—the former queen of holiday tablescapes and homemade Easter baskets and basically any reason to celebrate at all--that holidays are going to be hard now. And we need to get though them whatever way we can. But we’ll get through them together. 

And honestly, I’m just so amazed by him.
Of course-I-trot downstairs. It was never in question.

 Only the idea of being swept up in the joyful celebration of the resurrection of Christ leaves me strangely disconnected. It’s like the equivalent of trying to go to a jubilant party when you’re still wearing your funeral clothes. 

Or to use a spiritual metaphor, it feels as if I’m still deep inside the dark tomb with Jesus. A place, Franciscan Richard Rohr calls the “liminal space between the waking and the unknown,” before the rising happens.

And I get it. I know the end of the story. I know the sun always rises after a dark night and that healing will follow even the most profound loss. But I’m not there yet. And so, I find comfort in Marianne Williamson’s belief that suffering and grief are a normal, human experience. And that one of the neuroses of modern life is to rush what should not be rushed.

Or in the words of my feisty 81-year-old Buddhist friend, this is the way it is right now, and that’s ok. 

Also, my parents were visiting at the time. And it’s not long before I’m smiling and making coffee and running to Home Depot with my Dad so we can build my laundry room counter. And later, we all eat seafood and laugh and talk inside the crowded bar at the Blue Wave Restaurant, where I can smell the salty ocean air.

On the outside, I look perfectly normal.


The important part


In fact, you would never guess that every day I wake up with a 50- pound weight on my chest. The cardiologist wants to know when I feel it. Oh, mornings are definitely the worst, I guess. 

And night-time too. Those are the quiet times when my mind is open to all my Patrick images and Patrick thoughts and I’ll see his face so clearly in front of me. And I’ll instantly long to see him and to hear his voice. And to be with him again. And the longing is so powerful that I can feel it inside my heart, like a loud, agonizing scream. 

Only I don’t tell this part to the cardiologist. Nor do I tell him that some days I wonder how I can possibly live my life this way. With these waves of pain. 

But here’s the important part.

Right when I think I can’t bear it one second longer, something will happen.

Usually it’s something very tiny. 

But it will feel like relief, a refreshing sip of water in the middle of the blistering desert. And I’ll think, wow, this is a miracle. Whether it’s a loving text message or a quick conversation or an intriguing line I hear from a Ted Talk or someone’s unexpected kindness that’s so wispy and modest to anyone who isn’t living in this darkness with Jesus’s body, that you would probably miss it. 

Hopefully you would be laughing. Or maybe just happily engrossed in your busy day because you haven’t just lost someone precious whom-you-just-can’t-live-without. 

I think it’s perfectly understandable that you might not see these tiny miracles. 

But they are there. Happening all the time.

And I’m so grateful for each ray of light that comes my way. 

In fact. I wish I could tell the mysterious stranger how much their incredibly sweet gesture lifted me up on a day when my heart was being examined because it hurts me so much.
 Boy, I wish I could thank them.

Does profound suffering offer us some inexplicable insight into the transcendent world beyond this one?

I don’t know. 

But I do know there are things I’m learning right now that I never want to forget.

Like this one; I never want to forget the astonishing truth I learned about the power and reach of a simple, unseen act of kindness. It’s the anonymous part that blows me away and makes me think of ripples in the water.

Yeah, ripples.

Could this be the simple truth of why we’re all here?

Because at any given moment, we’re each sending ripples out into this world. 

But what powerful ripples we can be.








(mom's b-day dinner)

 sending love to all my dear readers,
please know I read each word of every one of your comments and sometimes I respond and sometimes everything feels like it takes so much energy now that even while I mean to, I might not. Please know that I value the precious time you take to stop here and read my words and share yourself
with the me and the world. 
You are an amazing light.



xo
Leslie


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Friday, March 15, 2019

Surrender


People ask me how I’m doing and I never know how to answer.

I do know that on most mornings I wake up and I’m surprised that I’m still here. Stunned really, how I am enduring the most devastating and unrelenting pain I could have ever have imagined—every second of every hour of every day, and that somehow, I’m still breathing.

But more than anything I'm just shocked that Patrick is not here.
I'm aghast. Astounded every time I allow the sheer horror of the accident to seep into my awareness, and to realize in that split second that I am still living ---but my precious, extraordinary son is not. 

I am still here and my child is not. 

This is a peek into my quiet mind where this one sickening thought pops into my head at random moments, like the mumblings of a trauma victim trying to grasp the enormity of their experience; although honestly I still cannot believe it. 

If you were lucky enough to have traveled in Patrick's orbit you know what I mean. He was such a force of exuberant energy and light in this world, you can't believe he's gone. He was the kind of person you gravitated to in a crowd. Even in his most absurd and funniest moments he exuded a raw goodness from every cell of his body. And Lord help you if you ever heard him laugh--in his husky, loud voice-- because you were instantly captivated. 

There are no words in a mother's language that can explain how perverse and wrong and shattering this new world feels without him in it, no way to describe how it feels when everything you thought you knew about life --is now annihilated in pieces at your feet.
 
I don't say this to make you feel bad for me, it's just a statement of fact.

Because one thing I’m learning about surviving the most devastating trauma of my life, is that truthfulness is everything. Not just honesty with others—but honesty first and foremost with my Self. 

I've learned. When you're standing in the middle of a black tunnel with no end in sight, truth becomes that flicker of light that shows you where to place your next wobbly step. And unless you make space for all those staggering emotions --without judging or hiding or pretending--you'll remain in darkness.

This is why I write...some of which I share here. Writing for me is a way of scavenging through these numb-minding moments. I pick them up. I examine them. As I try to make it through to the next moment. Although strangely, it's this ragged commitment to showing up and being present for whatever is coming at me--that seems to offer me some skeletal roadmap.

One foot in front of the other. One breath. Then another. This is how I live right now.

And I guess I have some flimsy hope that if you can see me  surviving this---a loss I once thought would kill me-- that maybe it might help you someday.

Today, on the six-month date of Patrick’s accident—six agonizingly long months of not hearing his voice or seeing him in person—I thought I would tell you about this in-between place I find myself.


I had been chatting with a woman for several minutes before she mentioned that she had tried to kill herself in the early months following her 23-year-old son’s death.

This is the messy, raw world I live in now and honestly, it feels relieving. When you’re a mother who has lost a child, you walk around completely stripped to your barest core. No more glossy ego and silly worries about what others think of you. 

In fact, you crave realness. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as running into someone else whose life has also included some profound tragedy. Only instead of the typical awkward moment that others might feel in that conversation, you edge closer. And you feel right at home.

 In fact, you welcome the details of their story, if only to be in the midst of that mystical hint of hope dangling in front of you. 

You survived this unbearable thing too? You silently think.

And even though you can’t possibly imagine clawing your way to that emotional ledge they now rest on, you want to bow your head and have them touch it with some magical energy. 

You want them to look into your eyes and tell you forcefully: Yes, you will survive all this horrendous pain. At least that's how I feel.

The interesting thing about this woman—whose name I didn’t know—is that I was instantly drawn to her warm smile and her upbeat energy. 

I would never have guessed that she had once swallowed too many sleeping pills and awoke hours later vomiting, and with her son’s voice in her head telling her, “No mama—it’s not your time yet.” 

But suffering brings mysterious powers. One minute you're talking about your child and the next second all those polite boundaries that separate one mother from another, have melted away.

Of course I felt a thunderous kinship with her.
And-- no, not because I’ve thought about killing myself.
But because I could relate to the unbearable pain this mother had felt on that one night, when she couldn’t imagine living in a world one second longer without her son. 



Of all the books I’ve received since Patrick’s accident, one of the most comforting books to me has been a memoir by an author named Mirabai Starr. 

On the day that Starr’s first book was published--a translation of the Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross ---her teenage daughter Jenny was killed in a car accident. And despite her decades of living a life of contemplative prayer and meditation. And decades of studying the lives of religious mystics and saints, and years of giving international talks about her well-traveled life, she plummeted into darkness.
She could no longer pray. She could no longer sit through a simple meditation. And she couldn’t stop her outrage and anger at God for this inexplicable loss of her youngest child.
She was in fact, like any other mother after losing her child, completely devastated and inconsolable. 

Yet the reason I kept coming back to her memoir, was because she was the first person to talk with cringing honesty about her despair, and things no one else talked about.

 On page 234 she wrote:

"I have never met a bereaved mother who did not, at some point anyway--maybe in a place so secret that it is even a secret from herself— crave death."



And no.
She doesn't mean that every mother literally struggles with suicidal ideation, she means that when you lose your child your entire world is cracked wide open and one of the most dramatic changes is this sudden and new allure you have with the Other World.

Heaven.
The unseen dimension.
The luminous spirit world.
The Afterlife.

Whatever you call it, it is now where your missing child lives.

And tell me. What loving mother doesn’t want to visit her child? What loving mother doesn’t feel the urgency to check on her child herself?  Make sure they are truly ok and (please-dear-Lord) confirm that they are in that promised light of peace and happiness.

This is the reason I've noticed a strange detachment to my physical body right now.

This is why for months after the accident--every time I got on my yoga mat in a gentle child’s pose, with my forehead resting deep in the earth,  loud, piercing sobs would pour from my chest. 

This is why I have not gone to a single yoga class since Patrick’s accident.

This is why I struggle to sit through the silence of meditation.

This is why I have not returned to the gym again.

The reason is simple. All of these actions involve my singular attention to my breath.


All of these actions require my awareness of life’s vibrant energy flowing through my physical body and it’s this stunning awareness that I should be inhaling and exhaling precious air when my son is not---that feels utterly unbearable to me.





To me it makes perfect sense.
Do you remember that feeling of oneness that existed between you and your baby? That would allow you to hear the subtle differences between your baby's cry of hunger vs tiredness?
Do you remember wanting to feed your baby before yourself when time was an issue? 

These are deep, primal instincts that simply don't disappear with chronological age.

Or with Death. 

And I wonder why nobody talks about this inner struggle I feel as Patrick's mother. It is an agonizing dilemma, to make that pivot toward Life when every guttural impulse in my body is pulling me toward my missing child.

And so what do I do, Mirabai?
How do I choose to move forward without Patrick?


And I found comfort in her words:

  "It’s just unbearable anguish" became my mantra which I uttered silently and with an ironic smile whenever the pain came at me like a freight train. Then I lay down in its tracks and investigated what it felt like be run over.
And.... a realization began to grow in me:
You are shattered, said my inner voice. Do not be in a rush to put the pieces back together. Go ahead and be nobody for as long as you can."


And so here I am. Surrendering to it all.

Six months into our catastrophic loss of Patrick and I have no idea how I've survived 182 days without him. Nor can I imagine how I will endure living the rest of my life without him.
It's simply too unbearable to contemplate.
But I do know this.
I know that I can survive this one moment. 

And today, that's enough.


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Imparting Grace

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Modern Cottage staircase. How to.



Well friends. I offer this humble staircase makeover as proof that if you keep moving along--even in slow, torturous baby steps--eventually things get done.

The week before Patrick's accident we hired a stair contractor to finally begin work on our new staircase. He had torn it apart that week, and needless to say it stayed that way for a long time.

Despite my usual DIY chutzpah this was one project I had no intention of trying; I had a clear idea of what I wanted and I knew if I wanted it done before 2025 I had to hire a pro.


Here is the staircase that comes with our 1964 circa neighborhood. 

Clearly enough room between the metal spindles to practice sky-diving. Here's Stella showing you that this staircase was definitely not up to current codes.
Thankfully German Shepherds are so darn smart. And unlike small, curious children we never had problems with Stella getting too close to the edge. I had to call her a few times to get her to take this shot.


I say this to all my friends who dread the million-little-decisions involved with house renovations: Find some great inspiration photos that capture your look! And the more the better.

I found this photo from one of designer Lauren Liess's homes and although hers was completely custom--(translation outside-my-budget) it helped me define the clean, simple look I wanted for my stairs.



After the stairs were taken down to the bare bones we discovered a pin-hole leak in the pipes underneath. Which meant a call to the plumber and additional time for the wood to dry.

During this interlude we were walking around in shock and as you can imagine everything came to a standstill.

Slowly. After weeks of postponing and shaky phone calls that happened during foggy periods I barely remember, the stair contractor came back to our house. 

This is the part that might help you.
If you're interested in having a stair runner with a surged edging but don't want to pay additional costs of having new wood treads installed on each stair, listen closely.

As you can see I went with the more affordable choice: partial treads (means, only on the ends). And I kept the plywood in the middle where the runner would cover anyway.


Here's one of my inspiration photos showing a runner with the added edging on it. I was undecided about a black canvas edge or a surged edging in a darker shade of the runner. Eventually I decided against the black canvas because of the dirt.

But here's what you should know.

Because I wanted that darker edging on the runner, I would need to elevate the middle plywood area so that it was the same level with the end tread pieces. 

Are you following? I had to explain this to the stair guy.



Eventually he attached pieces of MDF (if I was in my right mind I would've asked for real wood) to the center plywood with wood glue and nails but he had to come back to re-do it, because he didn't line up the edge of the middle wood with the edge of the outside treads. 
Yes, it was awkward.


But according to the rug installer this was a key mistake.


Finally it got done. 
I think white paint on the risers and the treads lighten the look.





Here's a close-up of the newel post I had made




Close up of the surged edging and the pattern of my runner.

I toyed with the idea of an herringbone pattern because it's a classic, but frankly I was seeing it everywhere on Pinterest so I opted for this miniature diamond.





I chose a semi-gloss finish in black along with white shaker spindles and I'm happy with the contrast.

 Yes those are smudges on the rail, evidence of real life. :)




I hope this post helps you with your own design decisions if you're considering re-doing your stairs.

I try not to get too obsessed with each little decision, in the end the creative process should be a joyful one. For me especially now...I realize that using your right side of the brain and tapping into one's creative energies can provide a comforting distraction when you're going through an agonizing time. 

Enjoy each moment of your renovations. And realize that if you're able to do anything to your home--big or small-- consider yourself blessed.


love to you all,

Leslie
(p.s. sorry about the weird font changes. Blogger is behaving poorly this morning)


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