I am not a purveyor of the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy, and long ago, I abandoned the notion that God never gives us more than we can handle, but I do see something positive resulting from Robin Williams’ tragic death yesterday: people are talking about mental illness and suicide. In status updates, in blog posts, in twitter feeds, people are sharing personal stories about how depression and suicide has affected them or people they love, and I think it’s time for me to share mine.

My father committed suicide almost 28 years ago. He died three weeks after my 17th birthday. I was a senior in high school. On Thursday, I will be the same age as my mother when she was widowed.  When the shocking headline flashed on my computer screen yesterday afternoon, it took my breath away. I gasped, shook my head, and burst into tears – not Robin Williams! Not another brilliant, gifted person gone too soon!

It is hard to describe the devastation I felt when I realized my mother had just discovered my father, dead, in our garage. When I woke up the morning of September 8, 1986, something felt “off.” It was dark, and it felt like the air had been sucked out of the house. I showered and started getting ready for school – I remember putting hot rollers in my hair – and watched my mother walk down the hall, past the guest bedroom where my father had slept the night before. The next thing I remember, my mother was running into the kitchen and dialing 911. There was no screaming or crying – my mother went preternaturally calm in times of crisis – but I instantly knew that my father was gone, and there was nothing any of us could do about it.

The rest of the day comes back to me in bits and pieces: me, telling my sister our father was dead (I wish I had done it with more gentleness and compassion;) my aunt and uncle coming over to our house and then going with me to my maternal grandmother’s and telling her Daddy was gone; waiting outside as friends and family gathered to support and comfort us; our friends, the Glazers, removing my dad’s car from our garage and parking it in front of their house so we didn’t have to see it; our minister, Bill Forbes, coming over and praying with my mom, sister, and me in my parents’ bedroom.

I helped my mother make funeral arrangements and write my father’s obituary. I was sitting with her at our kitchen table when she put her head down and sobbed, knowing her life was irrevocably changed by one solitary act. The night before the funeral, my mom, sister, and I lay awake in the king-sized bed my parents had shared; we got up the next morning, and moved like zombies through the burial, memorial service, and reception, which we had at our house because we couldn’t bear to greet attendees standing in a long line outside the church.

Cards and flowers flooded our house. The doorbell rang incessantly, with neighbors and friends coming to sit with us and mourn the death of someone who was, truly, a stalwart in the community. Everyone shook their heads – how could he do this? Why didn’t he reach out to someone? How could God allow this to happen? I am grateful that the people in our faith community didn’t give us pat answers to these complex questions. We don’t know why he did it – he didn’t leave a note – and we were angry he didn’t ask for help, and though God didn’t mean for this to happen, we knew God wept with us for the loss of a good man.

My friend, Michael Kirby, a Presbyterian minister in Chicago, posted this on Facebook last night:

None of us can know the demons others face. None of us can know how a mind as brilliant as his could not find sufficient light to step into another day.

So instead of knowing…

We will remember the laughter and the tears…we will stand on our desks and declare our dreams…we will pretend to be Scottish nannies to stay near those we love…we will laugh…and we will be light for one another…and we will covenant anew to hold one another in the darkness until the slivers of dawn appear.

In deep sadness, in useless anger, in a troubled compassion…we pray for this genius who is lost to the world far too soon and lift prayers particularly for those whose mourning is not for a distant icon, but a beloved friend, father, husband and family member.

RIP Robin Williams.

Instead of knowing why my dad took his own life, I will remember the laughter and the tears…I will stand on a beach with my niece and nephew and listen to the waves crashing on the shore…I will plant flowers in my garden and see musicals on Broadway…I will pretend to love gin and tonics and make creamed chip beef on Christmas morning…I will appreciate art and music and food and books and reach out to those who are hurting and need someone to walk with them in the darkness…I will pour all the love he would have given me into his two precious grandchildren and hope that is enough to span a 28-year gap.

The next few months will be difficult for Robin Williams’ friends and family. They will ask themselves why they weren’t enough for Robin to overcome the depression that made life unbearable. They will think about the times when something was not quite right and wish they had taken more notice of it. They will wonder what they could have done to ease his pain and ordain a different outcome.

I hope they feel the love and sympathy from Robin’s fans all over the world. I hope they understand that Robin did the best he could until he just couldn’t do it anymore. I know they will get through this, as my family and I did, and someday, the grief won’t be as raw, and they’ll remember him without regrets and recriminations.

I will miss him.

The Nutcracker Suite

Nothing says “Christmas” to me like The Nutcracker. The music, the costumes, the enormous Christmas tree – the season comes alive for me the moment the orchestra plays the Petite Overture and the guests arrive for Clara and Fritz’s family’s annual Christmas party. From the Dance of the Snowflakes to the Waltz of the Flowers, the ballet’s magic permeates the theatre and ushers in the most wonderful time of the year.

I went to the Houston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker yesterday. My friends’ daughter, Claire, was a party child in the first scene. She was darling in her yellow dress and white petticoats – I am so glad she got to perform on stage with a world-class company.

This video of the Royal Ballet’s Waltz of the Flowers is gorgeous, but I must say I preferred yesterday’s performance!

This is a picture from Houston Ballet – the costumes were ethereal and captured the spirit of the waltz:

Waltz of the Flowers

Dancers: Aria Alekzander, Natalie Varnum, Artists of Houston Ballet. Ballet: The Nutcracker. Choreographer: Ben Stevenson. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

What says “Christmas” to you? Is there something you just can’t live without during the holidays? Please share in the comments!


Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday 2013 Sign

I have been a small business owner since 2010. As an Independent Stylist for Stella & Dot, I am able to give my customers and hostesses a personal styling experience at a time and place that is convenient for them. I can work my business around my other activities – teaching, traveling, blogging, and spending time with friends and family. I absolutely love being my own boss and setting my own schedule, and nothing makes me happier than a customer who is delighted with her new jewelry and accessories!

Today I will be supporting one of my favorite small, local businesses, Marlo Miller Boutique. Marlo has the most fabulous collection of dresses, jackets, tops, and tunics in Houston, Texas. I have been shopping her boutique for about six months, and I love everything I’ve bought from her. She carefully curates each collection in her store, from my favorite tummy-control leggings to the cutest tops evah from a company called Ivy Jane, making each shopping experience unique. I have ascended to a whole new level of cuteness since I started shopping MMB!

I hope you will think about shopping small businesses today, whether in-person or online. Behind each small business is a person who loves what she does and enjoys providing exceptional service to her customers. When you shop a small business, you get personal service from someone who is an expert in his industry and who offers clients something they can’t get anywhere else – a relationship that goes beyond the purchase of a particular product or service.

If you would like to support my small business, please visit my personal Stella & Dot website here. We have an amazing Black Friday Sale going on through midnight tomorrow. I am grateful for each person who buys jewelry and accessories from me – you allow me to share my best self with the world, and that is truly what being a small business owner is all about.

Disclosure: I am an Independent Stylist with Stella & Dot. This post contains a link to my personal Stella & Dot website. I earn commission on orders placed on my website.

Ready, set, gift!

Looking for an easy, inexpensive gift idea? Buy 2 of these and get the 3rd at 50% off. Perfect for everyone on your gift list! Fill the poufs with other little items (kinda like a stocking stuffer) or a Starbucks/Target/Amazon gift card and wrap it up with a pretty bow. Or gift your besties with friendship bracelets…or both!

ReadySetGift stella & dot

Click here to shop, then navigate to GIFTS and select Stock up and save on gifts! You will thank me later! ;)

Here are some suggestions for what you can put in a pouf – so cute!

Pouf with goodies stella & dot

Disclosure: I am an Independent Stylist for Stella & Dot. This post contains a link to my personal Stella & Dot website. I receive commission on orders placed on my website.

Day to night in a snap!

Here are three pieces you need to take your outfit from daytime chic to evening glam!

Click here for more gorgeous options.

Disclosure: I am an Independent Stylist for Stella & Dot. This post contains a link to my personal Stella & Dot website. I earn commission on orders placed on my website.

Going, going, (almost) gone!

It may be November, but we’re thinking about spring at Stella & Dot. We are retiring some of our best-selling bracelets to make room for our Spring Collection 2014, which debuts in January. These beauties are low in stock and will soon be gone. Priced under $50, these bracelets would make great gifts. Everything ships directly to you within 3-5 business days in adorable boxes, ready for gifting!

Pyramid Wrap

Liberty Bracelet

Spirit BraceletPyramid Double Wrap Bracelet $44.25

Liberty Bracelet $36

Spirit Bracelet $29

Disclosure: I am an Independent Stylist for Stella & Dot. This post contains links to my personal Stella & Dot website. I make commission on orders placed on my website.