Dear Dawn: “I don’t know what to do with the hurt…”

Honor their memory, while moving forward as best you can. Here is my cousin's late husband's wedding ring, which hangs on a necklace that he gave her for their anniversary

Honor their memory, while moving forward as best you can. Here is my cousin’s late husband’s wedding ring, which hangs on a necklace that he gave her for their anniversary

Dear Dawn,

I love your Instagram posts, and faithfully read your blog, so I’m hoping you can give me some of that inspiration you offer. Three weeks ago, I lost my husband of 12 years, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what to do with the hurt. You always inspire me, so I thought I’d take a chance and ask you if you have any inspiring words for me now. 

Thank you,


Dear Beatrice,
Thank you so much for your kind words, and thank you for writing in!

Mostly, I have this to tell you: Be gentle with yourself.

You’re going to be tired. You are. You’re going to cry. You should. You’re going to feel lost. You will find yourself again – a new, different (maybe even better) version of yourself. You’re going to feel defeated. You’re not.

Do these things: Rest. Eat well. Do things that make you happy. Watch your favorite movies. Read your favorite books over again – even the ones from your childhood. ESPECIALLY the ones from your childhood. Take long baths, get massages.  Let people take care of you. Let people hug you. Let yourself be pampered.

And, don’t rush this time.

To properly heal, you need to sit – and be present in the moment, and feel the pain of the past – before you can walk forward into your future.

Most of all, know this: You WILL be okay.

Recently, my friend lost her mother. I think we know how both comforting (yet overwhelming) all those Facebook “I’m sorry for your loss” messages can be, and what she did instead, that follows below, channeled all of the sad energy into a more positive direction.

In a post on her personal page, she thanked everyone for their comments, along with this: “One way you can help is to leave your favorite memory of my mom in the comments below.” It was an instant way for her to turn Facebook from a very sad reminder of loss into a sweet memory-sharing experience of someone she loved. Someone she loves. The best part is that no memory shared will be the same, so you’ll end up with an arsenal of positive memories about your husband to refer to when you need a little reminder of the person you knew, and loved.

I saw another unique way of dealing with loss when I saw my cousin over the holidays, and she told me of her sweet husband’s quick decline due to a brain tumor. I asked questions, but mostly I listened. That’s what I’ve found, most of all, is that  people just want to talk and be heard in times of loss, because there is nothing you can say that is going to heal their heart. There won’t ever be that a-ha moment of total healing, because that particular part of them is broken, never to be completely repaired again. But, while they can’t repair, they can remember. And, they can honor that memory.

As my cousin left to go home, I noticed she was driving a huge truck – her husband’s truck. I also noticed a ring hanging around her neck on a necklace. I asked her what it was. She said, “It’s his wedding ring, hung on the necklace he gave me for our anniversary right before he passed away. That way, he’s always close to my heart.”

It’s a way for her to keep him close, to remember him and to honor him, right next to her heart, where he already lives.

I would urge you to find ways to celebrate your late husband in your own daily life. Some people might say to try to start anew, but I don’t believe that’s really possible for you right now. It’s too soon. And, your heart has some healing to do. So, try one or both of these suggestions above, or create one of your own, that’s special to you and him. It will help. And, by focusing your energy and heart on positive memories, rather than the sadness and despair that the loss brings, you will eventually feel better, and you will start to heal.

And, again, be gentle with yourself.

You will be okay.

You are okay.

Sending you so much love…


*Readers: If you have a “Dear Dawn” question, please send it to While I can’t promise I’ll give you the answer you want, I CAN promise that I will answer you.

*NOTE: I am NOT a doctor. I am simply a person, who is navigating this world and life, right alongside everybody else. 


An Empty Stool At The Counter: Johnny McNabb


Johnny McNabb. Photo by Richard Reens

As I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling, being grateful for the night I’d just had last Tuesday, I received some very sad news from my brother. He had sent me an article from our local paper,  Death of the cool: Farewell to Johnny McNabb, the Dallas rocker who became a big part of New York City’s fashion world by Robert Wilonski. I knew immediately what it meant but I really didn’t want to believe it.

I always say that whenever I hear someone has passed, I can literally feel a vacancy. As if a stool at the counter of life that was reserved for them is now empty and is just swiveling about. But it was a little more than that, in this case. See, I was Facebook friends with Johnny McNabb but that was pretty much the extent of it. I didn’t go to school with him because he was 7 years older than me and he was in my big brother’s class. I never knew him in New York, never played music with him, never saw him when he played with Ryan Adams and never worked with him on a shoot. So why, when I heard he had passed away, did I feel such a deep sadness?

Maybe It was because of all of the personal stories that his friends and family were sharing on his Facebook page or Matt Hillyer’s words in the Wilonski article or the fact that his fellow Episcopal School of Dallas classmates had just celebrated their milestone 25th high school reunion or that I couldn’t help but recall that about a year ago, a mutual friend of ours in LA said they wanted to set us up.

Or maybe it was because I remember my big brother showing me pics of his middle school trip to England when I was 5 and seeing this super cool guy with the most rockin’ hair and punk clothes, wearing a cutoff, sleeveless Def Leppard shirt. My brother and I recalled this memory the other day when we talked about his death. However, he also recounted that, at the time, he was trying to be as cool as Johnny but didn’t quite make the cut as he opted to wear his Def Leppard shirt over his polo. Maybe it’s simply because there are a rare few who are so innately cool that all we can do is aspire to be as cool as them…oftentimes, falling short.

I only knew him as a kid sister looking up to her big brother’s too-cool-for-school classmate but I am not ashamed to say that I’m already feeling his absence in the world.
I knew him in that way you know someone when you’re an always-watching little sister who has a kid crush on a cat way cooler than you’ll ever be. The kind of guy who could actually use the word “cat” to describe someone and not be laughed at…unlike some of us.

He symbolized a timeless rebel of the likes that our school had never known. He was dashing, a tad bit dangerous looking, with crazy talent and, I’m told, the most loving heart and generous of spirit. He was the most threatening kind of Texan to be unleashed upon the world and yet, from all that I have gleaned through the friends we share, he was the kindest of men.

When I got my first glimpse of Johnny McNabb in that photo all those years ago, I stared. I had never seen a kid look that cool. To this day, I still don’t think I have. I think he was so cool that the world can’t help but feel a little colder now.

To Johnny’s family and friends,  I am so sorry for your loss. If it wasn’t before, heaven sure is gonna be a rockin’ place, now.




High-Low 4/7/14: Wrecking Ball & Sick For A Day

HIGH: Friends who just know you-and give you the best gift of all

High: Meeting Emmylou Harris & Daniel Lanois on their Wrecking Ball tour

When I was 18 – and a senior in high school – I lost my beloved grandmother whom we lovingly called, “Nanny.” Nanny was the heart of our family and her heart was in the kitchen. I think that’s why I always feel so at peace when I’m in the kitchen now.

When we lost her, music became even more important to me – and it was already very important. I would listen to Mancini’s “Moon River” on the Breakfast at Tiffany’s soundtrack incessantly. This only stopped when my big brother, Davy, introduced me to a record by Emmylou Harris – which was produced by Daniel Lanois – called Wrecking Ball.

One vivid memory I recall – among the many I have of that record  – is sitting in the sunroom of my brother’s ex-girlfriend’s-stepmother’s house for which he was housesitting that summer. This room was the “truth” room in that it coaxed us into sharing memories, complaining about – and to – one another, and was a place where secrets had a way of coming out that would change us forever.

The one common thread – amongst all of the drama – that I remember that summer is that record. Wrecking Ball. And what an apropos title it had! Good music has the most magical way of doing that – sitting in your memory like a lover lost that you just can’t ever forget.

Now, I have another magical memory of that record – thanks to one of my dear best friends, Lindsey Vaerst. This girl is one of the most considerate, thoughtful and giving people I know. She told me about Dan and Emmylou going on a Wrecking Ball 20-year reunion (really, that long??!) tour and I’m pretty sure that when she did, I turned into a giddy-faced, glee-filled 18-year-old again.


But she went above and beyond. See, she knows Dan and Emmylou and ended up getting us all-access passes. Well, shoot, y’all! I don’t get too impressed by many celebs – but Emmylou??!! Holy heck. I got to meet her and Dan and tell them the profound heart-filling effect that they had on my family with that record. It was SO special.

It meant the world to me. And I met the most magical people.

Magical folks - LA meets Nashville

Magic just seems to follow Lindsey Vaerst around – even when she can’t see it – and sometimes, I’m lucky enough to have it spill over into mine.
Thank you, my precious friend.  This is a lifetime pass gift  – meaning that you can’t give me anything ever again. What a memorable – and magical – night! I thank you.

LOW: Oh, just sick…for a day 

Sick. But so much healthier after.

I’ll keep this simple. I got sick. I got sick because I was going non-stop and my body rebelled and declared, “I NEED A BREAK!!” So I rested Friday and most of Saturday and (as Gomer Pyle used to say), “Surprise, surprise!” I felt better. I stayed in bed and read the rest of Mindy Kaling’s book (GOD, IT’S GOOD!!!), and ended up working on my book. Oh, what’s that, you say? You didn’t know I had a book? Well, I’m 1794 words in so I do now, folks! It was an important reminder to both listen to my body and take a little bit more me-time every week to see what creative magic might be stirred up. As always, the lesson of the low outweighed the low itself.


BF Asks:


High-Low 12/2/13: Birthday Bliss & A Boy Named Paul I Used To Know…

This week was a reminder in how precious life is, how much we should celebrate our life & health every day…and how quickly it can be taken away.


My high would have to be my birthday on Saturday.

Midnight cake, champagne & wishes. The best birthdays always begin at midnight. And so it begins...


It was a day filled with friends, food and fun! It started with a morning hike at Runyon Canyon…

A morning hike at Runyon Canyon to make me feel all 36 years alive!


Then there was a brunch with good friends & bottomless mimosas (the perfect marriage if you ask me) at Chic Wine Bar in my hood…

First, second and third apparent rules of bdays? 1) You must brunch with good friends and, well, 2) there must be bottomless mimosas and, of course, 3) you MUST wear sequins. Yep. It's a thing.

A manicure & pedicure at Polish Couture…

Now, THIS is what I call a birthday mani

And dinner and dancing with friends at The Village Idiot followed by Fubar.

Nothin' better than dinner & dancing with friends on your birthday!



Low: Remembering Paul...

As I was getting ready to leave for my birthday evening out on the town, I heard about the death of Paul Walker. I knew Paul Walker. He was one of the first people I met in Los Angeles and he dated my first roommate out here for years. I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in over a decade but those memories of that first year in LA came flooding back to me. Two Texas girls in the big city of LA ready to take on the world. And there was Paul Walker…a moviestar being a frequent face in our apartment on Holt. Eating pizza with us on our red couch. So this was LA.

I remember Paul hanging things in our new apartment when we first moved in and my mom making a joke that “If that acting thing doesn’t work out, you could be a handyman.” I wanted to die. At this point, Paul had been in Varsity Blues and had The Fast and The Furious franchise going on. This “acting thing” was workin’ out just fine for him. My mom knew this and thought it was good to keep people down to earth.

But Paul didn’t need that reminder. He was a born-and-bred Cali boy with a beautiful little daughter named Meadow who used to play at our apartment. I remember starting a diet on a Sunday and him telling me to eat some chinese food because “No one starts a diet on a Sunday. Everyone knows you start on a Monday.” I remember that I would get super annoyed that he wouldn’t buy toilet paper when he was basically living with us.  I remember that he had a very cool car – and I had no idea what it was, of course – and people used to stop in front our yellow 4-plex to look at it. Cars were a passion of his. So it seems even more tragic that they led to his premature demise.

Whenever someone passes, I always say that you feel an absence whether you really knew them or not. I would never profess that Paul was a good friend or anything like that. But Paul was basically my 3rd roommate my first year in LA and I feel the loss of that memory. He was a presence in that new chapter I started in LA all those years ago and I am so sad that his story has ended much too early. My thoughts, prayers and love go out to Meadow, his family and my former roommate who loved him very much for a chapter in her life. I’m happy he was a small part of mine for the brief time he was.


BF Asks: What was your High-Low this week? 

High-Low 10/28/13, Dallas Moments (5 out of 10) and Laughing Stars

HIGH: My Trip Home to Dallas, Part 1

Well, my trip home to Dallas was just one big High, really. So here are the first 5 of my Top 10 Dallas moments.

10) Arriving to find out that my big brother, David – a.k.a. Sueño – is now playing golf. I seriously couldn’t stop laughing.

Apparently Brother has taken up golf.


9) Fresh off the plane, we immediately hit our family favorite – Mi Cocina. We always end up there for about 80% or more of my visit- this time, we were there 5 out of 9 nights. It’s our happy place.

My favorite pic ever of my Mom, brother and I at our family mecca - Mi Cocina Preston Forest


8) I’m such an avid nightswimmer that it’s always sad for me to come home in the fall & winter months because it’s too cool for my nightly jam session-swims. But that didn’t stop me from sitting by the pool, having a glass of champ and reflecting on my summer and fall. What seasons they have been! (p.s. I had just bought that Cynthia Rowley cardigan sweater at Marshall’s!)

A cool, fall night by the pool reflecting....


7) I was SUPER excited to get to go to the State Fair of Texas while I was home. Between the fried food (corndogs, fried oreos, fried snickers & more), the carousel, the Love Bug and the swings, I felt like a kid again. And the fact that I got to enjoy it with my big brother and new friends only made the day even more nostalgic and sweet!

The State Fair of Texas - the best fair in all the land!!


6) Now, this was just too much fun. Getting to go to Homecoming at our high school, Episcopal School of Dallas with my brother and some of our friends? Priceless. And Brother had gotten his 3 dates corsages. I felt like a teenager! See a theme here when I’m in Dallas?

Brother putting on my corsage before we headed to Homecoming!


I’ll have the other 5 for ya tomorrow!!

LOW: Laughing Stars – A new little angel is born.

I had a few lows over the past week but none was as low as this. A dear college friend who is always so full of light – and a loyal & loving BeautyFrosting reader – unexpectedly lost her little daughter. These are the things that we just can’t make sense of. Our hearts and minds cannot make sense of pain this profound. So all we can do is try to comfort one another, love one another, remember the good times, honor the memory and pray that in time we heal. I don’t have any words that can comfort as much as I would like but these words from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (from The Little Prince) always give me a pinch of peace when I’m most lost due to loss. I am sending as much love and light to this sweet family as I can muster. To laughing stars…




BF Asks: What was your High-Low this week? And what words comfort you in times of loss?

*So what exactly is a High-Low, you ask? High-Low is the BEST & WORST part of your day, week, month, etc. I started this tradition with friends & family after I discovered it through a movie decades ago. Not only is it useful for reflection sake but it is also an excellent way to communicate with your spouse, kids or friends over the dinner table. By introducing this tradition to folks, parents have told me that their kids have opened up more and friends have told me that their spouses have become more communicative. Try it for yourself and let me know what your experience is!