Sunday, September 4

Designing on the side.....of real life

From time to time, I stray from talking about design on this blog. It's usually when something major happens in my life and I need a place to vent. I have always found solace in writing and so after a few days of feeling really lonely and lost...I am turning again to writing with the hope that it will help me find a way forward.

OH MY GOSH...that sounds dramatic doesn't it? Seriously? Where is the funny, fluffy girl who talks about paint colors and perfect houses? She's here. Trust me. And she'll be back soon, I promise. But tonight, I want to talk about something tough.


Wait? What? Holy crap! You were pregnant? You were PREGNANT? Aren't you over 40? Yep. Don't you a soon to be teenager? Uh huh! Were you guys trying? Heck no! Did you want it? Oh yeah. With all our hearts.

Here's the scoop. Frankly, it's been a crappy summer. My father in law is literally fighting for his life. A brilliant, faithful and young 68 year old otherwise healthy man is in a battling lung cancer and it has been truly devastating for our entire family. Mostly for him and for my mother in law who has been at his side for 47 years, but also for my husband and his sister who are navigating this awful journey with incredible strength. We all went to the beach together to try to get past the initial shock of his diagnosis and soaked our sorrows in a gorgeous ocean front hot tub (see previous post!) and more jalapeno margaritas than I can count. It was a great trip full of beautiful memories.

When we got back, I was late. I was pretty sure it was early menopause but I bought a pregnancy test at Target anyway and laughed at myself all the way home. Let's just say when the two little pink lines showed up on the test, I said my fair share of curse words and ran several laps around my house before I burst into tears and then hopped in the car to go buy five more tests. There was no question...I was preggers.

In total shock and denial and fear, I called my husband at work and waited for him to freak out. But he didn't. He was giddy and soon I was too. We couldn't wait for our kids to come home to tell them. Being the impulsive, passionate and trusting person that I am, it never occurred to me to wait. We had no problems with our first two pregnancies and I had no fear of issues this time. I had cute shirts made letting them know they were going to have a baby brother or sister (a bunch of you reading this just said Of course you did!). We recorded their reaction. We told our families and our close friends. The joy and genuine surprise was palpable. We started making plans.

And then this Tuesday at almost 11 weeks, in dramatic fashion that included a trip to the ER and a middle of the night surgery, it was over. No more pregnancy. No more baby. No more joy. A miscarriage. It was awful.

My biggest fear when I woke up from the anesthesia is what long term effect the news would have on our kids and everyone we told. I instantly regretted telling anyone. Why didn't I wait? Why do I always have to tell everyone EVERYTHING? Why am I even writing this dumb blog? Good question.

Despite the flowers, texts, calls, and all the comforting words I have heard this week, I have never felt so alone. And yet, here's the thing...since it happened, I have learned that at least five friends have gone through this exact thing. How on earth did I not know that? Why is miscarriage seemingly a secret? Why do we suffer alone?

If I'm guessing, it's because, like me, women who go through this feel a deep sense of guilt. Is there something else I could have done? Did I cause this to happen? Should I not have told anyone? For me personally, I wonder if I have made the situation in our family worse by telling them before we were sure it was going to be ok. Will my kids ever recover? And then there is this sense of weakness and failure which is especially hard for me.

I pride myself on being a tough chick. I keep saying I am ok. I keep telling myself that so many others have had to deal with this, and so much worse, that I just need to get over it. It doesn't seem like a totally legitimate reason to grieve. We never even heard the heartbeat. We weren't even trying to have a baby. We have two gorgeous, smart, healthy, athletic kids and a great life. Our marriage has never been stronger. We both have successful careers that we love. We have an incredible support system of family and friends who love us. I am ok. I must be ok. It's not that big of a deal.

And yet, I'm not. I am in a lot of physical pain and even more emotional. I woke up in the middle of the night last night sobbing and promptly got mad at myself for doing so. It's your hormones stupid....get over it. You have a soccer tournament to watch tomorrow. And I sat through that tournament in a ton of pain and misery, pretending like everything was fine. Catching up with friends I haven't seen all summer, repeating the line "Our summer was great! How was yours?"

And so, dear bloggy friends, here I am writing this tonight to put it out into the universe hoping that maybe by doing so, I will figure out how to stop faking it and really be ok. To give myself permission to be sad and in real pain a little longer. To reinforce what the doctor told me - that there's nothing I did to cause this. And to reiterate to myself what I already know, that my kids are resilient and amazing beings who will indeed recover. And I am putting it out there for all the other people who will go through this too one day. You are not alone. I have been where you are and it just plain sucks. Miscarriage should not require quiet suffering.

Life is a story and this is just one chapter for us. I know that I'll be able to look back and find a reason for this to have happened. And soon I'll be posting about finally finishing our dining room (yay!) and our plans for turning the basement into a man cave. Until then, I'm gonna keep letting the tears flow. I think I've earned it.

- Me

Tuesday, August 2

Beach House Dreaming

Oh much of a slacker am I? I mean FOR's been almost a year since I posted. That is unacceptable but perhaps just proof of how hard it is to be a working mom. Can I get an AMEN on that? Frankly, I'm impressed that my kids have regular (somewhat) healthy meals and not regular enough showers. But I have missed posting. I love decor. I love writing. I love procrastinating.....apparently.

This summer's theme has been making very detailed travel plans and then having to change them. A big trip to Italy was unfortunately not possible due to a family member's health, and since we were all bummed not to be able to go, I quickly searched for a beach house rental near to my in-laws home in New Jersey that would allow us all to be together. And boy...did I find one!

With the owners permission (who btw, was one of the nicest people I have ever met and who I tried hard not to hate for owning my dream house) I took lots of pictures so you too could oogle their gorgeous home. Ta daaaaa....

The house is located on Long Beach Island in NJ, which where I grew up going to the beach and where we have taken our kids every summer since they were born. Thanks to a ridiculous MTV show, the Jersey Shore has a bad rap and yes, there are places on the Shore where there is a lot of fist pumping and loud music but not at LBI. It's a quiet island full of families and many, many gorgeous homes.

This six bedroom home is ocean front and has stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The owners clearly wanted to take advantage of the location so the view is a main feature throughout. And the outside areas are designed to maximize the view too. Check out the pool, hot tub and outdoor kitchen. In-cred-ible! As my niece said all week "Aunt Allie...there is a pool in the deck. In. The. Deck!"

Moving inside, it was easy to see that the owner and his lovely wife worked hard to focus on the tiny details. From the bead board ceiling to the gorgeous plank flooring, they didn't miss a trick. Every light fixture was stunning and unique and even the ceiling fans were pretty. Who knew that was even possible? The top floor of the house was the living room, kitchen, master suite and a nursery. Let's start in the living room...

It's minimal in terms of decorating but also cozy and warm. How did they do that? Light colors, details on the ceiling and perhaps the most gorgeous living room chandelier I've ever seen. Absolutely perfect for the space. 

Next up was the master bedroom which was easily accessible from the ground floor from an elevator, which may have been the highlight of the vacation for my son. This room was also elegant and well appointed with a four-poster bed and high-end linens and its own fireplace. Swivel chairs in the bay window were the perfect spot for my in-laws to sit and enjoy the view. 

And as if the room couldn't get any better....there was the master bath. The stand alone tub, the river rock shower floor, the teak details, the built ins around the sink...ahhhhh! It was truly like a spa. Just needs someone to bring you a cucumber water and some slippers and you are all set. 

The main floor of the house had a common area that leads directly to the pool. This was a favorite spot for the kids to hang out in. And check out the cute whale wall art. 

Speaking of kids, three of them shared this adorable, nautical themed bunk room and at least two of them are hoping we can transform their home bedrooms into this space (they are dreaming..) but it was really sweet. 

My husband and I snagged a gorgeous room decorated in corals and sea grass. I didn't get a good picture of them but the window treatments alone in this room where stunning. You'll have to take my word for it. The adjoining bathroom was light blueish-green and very pretty. 

This level of the house had three more bedrooms - all decorated uniquely. The one below was my favorite. So cool and calming even without a view of the ocean. 

The lowest level of the house was primarily a garage and storage space for the owners that also included an industrial strength set of washer and dryer to supplement the prettier version on the main floor of the house. Listen up future beach house owners....a second, powerful laundry set is KEY! Made it so easy to keep beach towels and therefore sand out of the main washer dryer. Also on that level were two huge outdoor showers and a cabana filled with beach toys, chairs, boogie and surf boards and everything else you can imagine for a beach week. by now you are probably wondering...did it have a kitchen? Oh yes my fellow design fans, it most certainly did. I have saved the best for last. You know how most beach rentals have small, outdated and grimy kitchens? Well not when you are a professional foodie/chef like the owner of this house is. Lucky us that we got to cook in this beauty for a whole week. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Two ovens, three dishwashers, a walk in pantry, that amazing wood island...sigh...truly a dream kitchen. And this was the daily view of the sunset from the deck just above the kitchen. 

So there you have it! A dream beach house that lifted all of our spirits for a week. Thank you to the owners who made this happen for us and for sharing their beautiful home with our family. We will never forget it. Until next time LBI!

Thursday, September 10

Fall 2015 Home Tour

Hi there and welcome to Designing on the Side! If you have just joined us from the last stop on the 2015 Fall Home Tours, I hope you enjoyed seeing the great decor at designPostinteriors. I am obsessed with her style and her blog. Love everything about it!

I was so glad when Marty from A Stroll Thru Life asked me to once again be a part of her home tours. In case you missed it, here was our Summer Home Tour. Summer has come and gone, and even though I am sad to see the lazy days go, I am NOT sad to say goodbye to the heat and humidity of a Washington, DC summer. It's been brutal and I am ready for cool, crisp days.

Halloween is my fav! Our community goes all out with a huge bonfire in the local park, a neighborhood parade and costume contest, and more than a few house/porch parties for the adults to enjoy while out trick or treating with the kiddos.

I've found a lot of cute stuff at different stores that make the house festive without being tacky - a little tricky when it comes to this particular holiday. Don't get me wrong...we have plenty of weird and creepy outdoor decor but I try to keep the inside a little more tasteful. Here's how it looks. 

Great Room


Advent (?) calendar in the kitchen. 


Ornaments in the living room

Tiny haunted houses on the piano

Last year's dining table decor

While I loved last year's dining table decor, for this early Fall time period I decided to go in a different direction. I thought a transitional look would be fun to try. First I started by making this centerpiece using flowers, as well as artichokes, plums and limes. I really love how it turned out!

The dining room is still very much a work in process. I don't love the black chairs and hutch but I am on an unfortunate spending hiatus while we save money for our front porch (more on that below). So they will have to do for now. I do LOVE this reclaimed wood trestle table found at the Restoration Hardware outlet which normally sells for more than $3,500 and I got for $900! A total steal!

Here's a shot looking into the dining room from the pantry. The wallpaper is Thibaut Downing Gate and the curtains are from none other than Target (my favorite place on earth). 

When I can finally afford to buy new chairs, I am seriously considering these plum ones - to add some color to the room. They are from World Market and I really love them. Hoping they are still available and on sale when it's time to buy. 

Oh..and here is a painting our builder did of what the house will look like when the front porch is done. I cannot wait. Halloween porch party 2016 here we come!!!

Hope you enjoyed Fall..Designing on the Side style. Next up on the tour is Life Love Larson and you will DIE for her style. Visit now and enjoy!!! 

~ Allie 

Friday, August 28

We Are All Ok

Dear Laura -

It's been almost six months since I heard your voice. Or got a new text. Or had a conversation about fucking cancer (a word not many people ever heard you say). Six months. And even though I come and see you frequently and we have plenty of one sided, somewhat awkward conversations, I thought you might appreciate a little update on how life is going without you.

Most importantly, I want you to know that the girls are ok. There have been many smiles in the last six months to go along with the tears and I know that would make you happy. They are surrounded by love and watched over carefully. You worried about who would brush and braid their hair and you should know that part in particular is going swimmingly. They will never be whole without you and there are no doubt some terrible, awful times ahead, but I want you to know they are ok.

Your husband has proven to be one of the strongest people I've ever met. A total and complete pain in the ass to me personally, but an incredible father who is truly kicking the shit out of option B. (That won't make sense to you. Ask around up there for a guy named Dave. He'll explain.) He misses you so much and it hurts to see him hurt, but he won't let any of us wallow and so we spend a lot of time laughing. Mostly at him. And Mike makes him fancy drinks. A lot of fancy drinks. He is ok too.

I am happy to tell you that your family has not fallen apart but instead has bonded together and pulled each other through. I watch them from a distance and think of how I'd feel if I lost my sister or my daughter and I can't breathe. They could have laid down but they haven't. Your mom even rode the zip line at your sister's house on Easter. Not kidding. There's a video. They are all ok.

Your house looks amazing (mostly thanks to me)! It's painted the darker shade of grey (sorry but the lighter one looked beige), the office is almost done (not at all like you and I discussed but still awesome), we ordered a cushion for that window seat that bugged you, and Jeremy bought you a piano. It's gorgeous and your girls will learn to play it so you can listen. The house is more than ok.

There are too many friends to update you on but safe to say your leaving hasn't been easy on any of them. They have provided meals and rides and after school care and support in too many ways to describe. And they post on your Facebook wall all the time and tell you they miss you. I often wonder if you knew how many people really loved you. I hope so. It reminds me to tell others how much I love them, which weirds people out I am sure. But that's ok.

I guess that just leaves an update on how I am. I miss you my friend. I really, really do. The change of seasons is particularly crappy. Fall is almost here and instead of dealing with carpool or heading to a Labor Day soccer tourney like last year or discussing the Halloween parade that you refused to help me plan, I came to visit yesterday and left flowers on your grave. I am still sad but I am ok.

Every once in a while I re-read our old texts. Remember that conversation we had about your 25th anniversary and how you had a vision of being there, dancing with Jer and the girls were watching? You were 100% convinced that you would get to see that day. I think about that a lot and about your unwavering belief that you'd get better and that makes me sad and angry at how unfair life can be. But there are good memories too like when you put a baby bow on your big old bald head and we sat in your kitchen at 11 o'clock on a Tuesday night laughing hysterically. I'd post that picture here but I know you'd literally haunt me which would be ok.

Life is changing in some good ways and some hard ones. The soccer season starts tomorrow and our girls aren't on the same team. I know that would have made you sad. Bobby and Claire both made travel which means we bought a bigger car and I can hear you laughing about that. School starts in ten days and I know it will be a hard day - as all firsts have and will be this year. And Jer found someone lovely to help with the girls and I know that would give you a sense of peace. Life is different now, but that is ok.

The thing about death is that it leaves a wide path of destruction in its wake. Yours is no different and there have been a lot of painful days for those you loved, and for those who loved you the most. But what amazes me is that you have left us all with the strength to move forward and to thrive in your absence. And that is the truest testament of who you are as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend that there can ever be. You made sure we'd all be ok.

Thank you for trusting me and my little family to be there for yours. It has not been an easy journey and damn, I wish you were here to do it yourself, but I consider it a gift nonetheless. Rest well, my friend. We are all ok.

Love, Allie

PS...I thought you'd like to see some pics of the kids and our goofball husbands from the past six months. I know they will make you smile.