Mabel’s House: Thoughts on Cocoons and an “Old Life”

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Over ten years ago I started a blog called Mabel’s House. It was my reason to wake up in the morning. I took photos, and decorated my house, and wrote. I had an outlet, a place I could be happy and funnel all my creative energy into one spot. I had a dog I adored. Her name was Mabel. She was a schnauzer-mix, a pushy, loving, hilarious, loud-barking, stranger-hating, couch-squishing baby. She was the queen of the house, so it was only fitting that she was queen of my blog as well.

But when major pieces of your life are not right, things tend to erode and fall apart, no matter how much you may immerse yourself in your “happy place.” This is what happened to me, and my old life, and to Mabel’s House. It finally fell apart. And it was sad. And I was sad.

But now, when I look back, I see parts of my “old life” for the cocoons they were. All the writing, decorating, house-living, and dog-loving – those things took care of me. It was a safe place when I wasn’t brave enough to face up to the hard choices that needed to be made in my life. And then, like all good cocoons, it released me into a new life.

It died back so something new could be born.

For reasons that baffle me, there are still a few people from the “Mabel’s House” days who have following me to this place. I took most of the “old life” blog down, and then went MIA, and yet some folks are still here reading, and to you, I say thank you. I feel especially close to so many of you, because as I’ve moved on to this new life, there aren’t a lot of folks around me who remember the “old” one. So it’s comforting to know that Mabel’s House doesn’t just exist in my memories alone.

Many of you have asked what happened to Mabel. She passed away, a year ago last summer. Leaving my old life behind, and Mabel, was complicated and heart breaking. But I’ve come to view my old life, old blog, and Mabel as cocoons that took care of me when I wasn’t yet brave and authentic enough to take care of myself.  They cared for me, and then sent me out into the world.

I’ve encountered people in my life who have those “old lives.” They have in their histories those things that ended, or crumbled, or died. And those “old lives” become this kind of specter hanging back in the shadows. Those “old lives” become something they can’t seem to recover from.  The “old life” becomes larger than their actual real life. They shut those “old lives” in attic boxes, or computer thumb drives, or burn piles, but they don’t move on. They don’t see the “old life” for what it was… a step to a “new life.” One step in a hundred steps we take while moving toward being and becoming something else, something new, something fresh, something brave, something… different. And you cannot have the “new life” without the “old life.”

I know people like this, and I have BEEN people like this. I did not instantly move on from the “old life.” I avoided the pictures. I cried. I missed Mabel more than anyone will ever know. I could not write. I missed who I thought I was, and the life I thought I was building.

But today, I am able to smile at my Mabel’s House photos. They no longer make me sad. I am grateful I was blessed with that beautiful cocoon. Because of that cocoon, I was gifted a new life, and a new opportunity to emerge into a more authentic and honest existence. And like all necessary things, it was painful.

Mabel’s House, and Mabel, they were my cocoon.

I loved them.

But they are gone.

This is one of the truest facts I have learned: you have to grieve the “old life” and then, if you are to transform, you have to move on. You must open your arms as wide as you can and embrace the “new life.” Because if you don’t, that old life, that cocoon, was wasted.

And one must never, ever, waste a miraculous cocoon.

 

 

 

77 thoughts on “Mabel’s House: Thoughts on Cocoons and an “Old Life”

  1. I’m one of the ones who has followed you to this new place and am so glad to be hearing your voice again.

    I did want to tell you that something you wrote many years ago has stuck with me. Once you said something along the lines about how easy it would be to fill our walls with Target and IKEA purchases but how you prefer to wait with empty walls and let time fill those with special purchases (this is a total paraphrase). I just wanted you to know how much that has impacted me and my home and my heart.

    Much love on this Monday!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve been reading since Jane was born. I’m so honored to Have seen your journey. You are true and honest and have so much integrity. I’m so happy you have found a beautiful new space. Your happiness shows in your writing.
    Can’t wait to see what great things you share soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am one of those who found you at Mabel’s House and have stayed with you. I have always enjoyed your blog. You have touched me today with your words as I continue to find the “new” me after my husband’s passing 9 months ago. I think too many people are afraid that letting go of the old, the past, means forgetting and losing what was. I choose to move forward into this new life, this new me and your words just help to push me forward a little more. I am so happy that you have been able to find happiness!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so very sorry for the loss of your husband. I’m cheering as you press forward into your new life. It is so very hard to do, and it’s not straight forward. But the only way is ahead. All my hugs to you!

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  4. I, too, followed you here. I’ve mainly been a lurker since there never seemed to be anything I could really add to the conversation, but I’ve loved seeing your photos and loved reading your writing. I’m very happy for you and Jane and Fayed that you all have each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I started following you BECAUSE of your journey. Our family was in the midst of finding some “new” space to exist and I found hope and kindred feeling in your blog. Thank you for being a beacon to those that are trying to survive and thrive with big changes.

    and also…dogs are just the best! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Liz

    I am one of your readers from the Mable’s House days. I also, have a copy of your book! I loved your writing style then and continue to love it today.

    I always wondered what happened to Mable, thank you for the update!

    Changes is never easy, there are a lot of steps forward and then steps back. I am glad to read you are living the life you were meant to live. It is a process…

    Thanks for continuing to share your journey!

    Susan

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Long time reader with so many old lives behind me. Lives full of grace and struggle, and I’m so thankful for all the things that have come together to make me myself. When I see that happening in the lives of other beautiful people like you it helps me through those rough days. I never would have guessed how hard life could be, or how wonderful. XOXOX from Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You know I’m a follower, too. I know exactly what you mean about breaking down, embracing the cocoons, loosing your writing voice…basically breaking back down to a skeleton of a person and building yourself back up again. I’m on year two of that journey and although mine were different causes, I think very many of us need to break in order to form the person we are supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh friend. I know and you know and WE KNOW how hard it is to get back up again. It doesn’t happen quickly, that’s for sure. I’ve been really inspired by you, and I’m thankful we’re friends.

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  9. I have been reading what you write ever since the old blog, too, and I really admire you. You are a wonderful writer, and I am so happy you are now in a good place. The journey IS our life, and sometimes the experiences are not pleasant, but we will arrive safely home, someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Liz, I am one of your old followers and have cried along with you and cheered you on each step of the way. Thank you so much for the update and as always the “truth” that you speak about life. Best wishes to you, your love, and Jane.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Aw, me too, me too! I’ve been around since the Mabel’s House days. So sorry to hear that sweet little fur-ball has passed (my beloved Schnauzer passed several years ago, and I still miss her dearly), but I love your cocoon analogy and your insightful perspective. Beautifully said — as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I too have followed you even before Jane was born. I’ve always enjoyed your writing style, short stories and I even have a copy of your book. I keep hoping you will release more. Thank you for sharing your journey!

    Erin

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Liz, a friend turned me on to Mabel’s House years and years ago. I don’t know exactly when. Before Jane. Before your book. I read it because I love your style, your photos, and your voice. Those have come through the metamorphosis stronger and truer. I was sad when you left blogging for a while. I was so happy when you returned. And I’ve been pleased to see what God is doing in your life, marriage, and family.

    Today I was reading in Romans and came across these words from Paul: “Let love be genuine.” Our love can never be genuine if we ourselves are not, can it? I am glad you are genuine. Genuinely you. You remind us to be ourselves–even when it’s messy.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I echo so many of the sentiments above. I have no pithy comments or reasons why I stuck around, except that I love your ability to paint a visual story, whether it’s a description of a train ride with Jane, or giving feelings/personalities to inanimate objects. I think, as humans, we are inherently drawn to the people whose stories resonate with us. Whether they resonate because they are similar to us or we want to be similar to them is irrelevant. The resonance draws us, and keeps us returning to hear more of their story.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for this. I always wondered what happened to Mable also. I loved your old blog and bought your book. You are a wonderful writer. Glad to see you and your family thriving in NJ!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, dear Liz. It’s hard to describe how thrilled my heart is for you that you have moved on in journey to a place that isn’t haunted by old ghosts. The past, as historians know, is but prologue to the present. It lays foundations and shapes it — but it only becomes a shackle when we don’t deal with those issues (this applies to nations as well as people). I too know those who went through great turmoil, but too many of them shed the wrong things and kept parts that should have been shed. I’m glad you can see the beauty and joy of those photos and the sadness is in perspective.
    Gaining a wise perspective is a journey unto itself. Historians say we need thirty years to be able to evaluate something. In personal journeys, some don’t get there ever, but I am thankful you have — and it hasn’t taken thirty years in therapy!
    Seriously, I’m also thankful for your gift of writing. It blesses you and all those who read — from Mabel’s house to Sliding Cheese to Purple walls. BTW — I need to send you a picture of my purple living room. Walls, carpet, and flowers. Stay purple, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you SO much. I’m thankful for so much these days, and part of that thankfulness is the longevity of some of my most prized relationships. I’m thankful I took your classes in college, and grateful to call you a friend in my adult life. PLEASE do send those purple abode pics. 🙂

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  17. I’m with you for the long haul and many cocoons. I have been wondering about Mabel off and on. So the update on her, while sad, was nice for me.

    I travel infrequently and was hoping to make another trip to NYC while you were there. But, alas, you moved. NYC again is still on my list, but as it will NEVER be on my husband’s list, it will be a while before I get there again.

    My daughter just found your book on my bookshelf over the weekend. She swiped it and will return it once she’s read it.

    May your day be filled with purple sparkles!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve been following you since the beginning of Mabel’s House, and long ago we bonded over our schnauzer mixes (our little girl was a shih tzu schnauzer named KissyBelle). We just had to put her down on January 13th, so thank you for sharing about Mabel. It helps to fill the hole in my heart a little, to know that KissyBelle and Mabel have finally met, and are waiting for us at the rainbow bridge together! Much love to you, Fayez and Jane 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pam. I am so, so sorry to hear that KissyBelle passed away. I remember finding you online and thinking “a kindred schnauzer person!” It makes me smile to think of them in that place where all dogs go, they made our worlds so much better. Thank you for letting me know, and big cyber hugs to you.

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  19. Awww, Hi Liz. I think you were one of the first blogs I found so many years ago. And, I’ve loved you ever since…from Mabel… and the Weasley cabinet…to Jane…and scary times…and now, your new life. What an honor. And, if I remember correctly, back in those early years, when my little sister was ill and dying, you reached out to me, with a story of your friend. I never forgot it. Much love to you….

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m another reader who followed you from the Mabel’s House days. I think I originally found and followed you because I related to your love of thrifting, but continued to follow because I truly enjoyed your narrative voice. I left my own cocoon (my home in Jacksonville, Florida) to travel the Northwest with my new husband almost 7 years ago. We will be making our permanent home in WA later this summer and I sometimes find myself looking back on that old life with disdain (I wasn’t the biggest fan of FL, even though it was my home & I was born there– mountains and cool air were always what I longed for). But as I’ve been preparing for an art show back in FL in a few months and then reading this, I realize that I have FL to thank for so many good things in my life, not the least of which is my husband and the life we now lead. So, thank you, from a fellow displaced Southerner!

    Like

    • How exciting! I love the pacific northwest so much, and I too am not a fan of the sticky southern state of Florida (although I’ve got a lot of people I love there). I was excited to leave Arkansas, but since leaving I’ve realized how much that state gave me. The friendships, the family, the career opportunities. I think I appreciate it far more now than I did when I lived there. I’m excited for your new journey, and thank you for stopping in to say hello!

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  21. I have been following you since Mabel’s House….before Jane. The years pass by so quickly. I have to say, I check your blog all the time and get so excited when there is a new post!!! So glad you have found such happiness. You deserve it.

    Like

  22. I am one of your followers from Mabel’s House. And I have your book (loved it!). I always look forward to your blog posts. I’m so happy that you and Jane are in a good, happy place 🙂

    Like

  23. I’m also one of your readers from the “old life” days, and I’ve really loved seeing your transformation into this current life. Funny you ended up in the NJ suburbs, where I grew up and long to return to, so it’s so nice to see your photos and posts now. Anyway, this is a beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing, and for being so honest. It’s refreshing to have been able to read ina social media “perfection” driven world. Wishing you all the best. And Rest In Peace, Little Mabel. 🐶❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Well, another “Mabel’s House” original here! Thank you so much for sharing about Mabel although it is heartbreaking to lose one’s beloved furry friend it was so appreciated that you let us know. I think you were expecting Jane when I found Mabel’s House and was so taken with your writing style-and I am STILL taken with it although I am probably old enough to be your…..older aunt!!!
    You speak to what is my truth on so many issues (such as people we knew from church, and the current political climate etc etc and you do it in the most delightful and honest way and to have you talking again about decorating and PURPLE makes my heart happy!
    Thank you for letting us be part of your journey as you come out of your cocoon and move forward in your new life.
    Wishing you so much love and joy and peace for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marilyn. I agree that the internet is an amazing thing when we can find kindred spirits (especially on important issues like church and politics, when we may not have friends in every day life we can agree or share with). And thanks for all your encouragement!

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  25. Hi! I was there, too! I don’t know how I found your blog, maybe yours was listed on someone else’s blog roll. But I think I found you early on. Was having some growing pains myself and finding the thrifters and creative people online was a Godsend for me. I remember
    that you loved decorating, hot springs, vintage plates on the wall, when you had Jane, wrote your book, moved, Mabel, your sisters. You shared a lot and I enjoyed reading. I wasn’t much of a commenter then. I’m glad you seem to have found peace in your life. I can’t believe how your daughter has grown! I love your purple walls and your colorful esthetic! Be happy!💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! Thank goodness for creative people and thrifters who share on the internets! I’m the same, I find so much inspiration and encouragement from people who share! And I love your name, Mary was my grandmother’s name and it’s such a beautiful one!

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  26. I too followed you from the “old life”. I too have an old life and it was difficult to move on and it took me a while but I am so much healthier and happier so all is good.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hi Liz,
    I’m a follower from Mabel’s House, mostly as a reader and maybe an email or comment every now and then. Thank you for your posts. I truly enjoy your writing. You definitely have a way with words and I always take inspiration from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Liz. . .I, too, followed you! And still do! Life is about learning and, prayerfully, changing and growing beyond its difficulties! I have learned, and so have you, to look back and smile at those things that, at one time, felt like they would hold us back forever! Your honesty, love and incredible talent I pray that with us you will never sever! XO

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I “found” you right before you stopped writing before. And, I was sad. Your writing resonates with me for a reason I can’t pinpoint exactly. This post today stirs me because I am with someone who hasn’t finished grieving for the past and that makes me extremely sad. I am glad you are back at it, stirring and reasonating, and Writing to strangers on the Internet. It means something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gina. Thank you. It’s nice to think that what you write and say “means something.” I guess that’s why people create… they want to make things that mean something. To themselves. To someone else. It’s hard to explain.

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  30. I have been reading your blog since the early Mable’s House days. I loved all your thrifting and decorating adventures as well as Mable. I was very glad to see you blogging again and enjoy the snippets you show of your new life. Life is a journey and some parts are just plain hard. Glad you got thru the difficult time and are happy with where you are today. Cannot believe how much Jane has grown!

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  31. Hey! I also have followed you from Mabel’s house. I lived in London at the time and loved everything you did. And we were the same age (still are in fact) so I saw similarities. My daughter is slightly younger than Jane… keep on keeping on!
    (From your English counterpart) x

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  32. Liz, I echo what so many have said: I read Mabel’s House for years and was going through similar tough times at home. All these years later, it has been so gratifying and validating to watch you throwing open your arms after emerging from the miraculous cocoons. Here’s to cocoons, and to knowing when it’s time to let them go. xo from the Midwest! Lesley

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  33. I’ve been reading since Apartment Therapy featured you and that awesome quilt. 🙂 You and I had and raised baby girls together, and now I’m realizing we lost a dog together. I’ve enjoyed seeing you escape that cocoon. I lost you for awhile, but I’m back.

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  34. Oh, this is such a beautiful and heart-breaking post, and absolutely something I needed to read today. I’m also from the Mabel days (but under a completely different name myself, so, here’s to new online spaces *clinks glass) and it has been so inspiring to see your regular, every-day life evolve from a place of sadness to what looks like genuine happiness and joy now.

    Thank you for sharing.
    xox

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  35. I followed you too. I enjoy your conversational style of writing and your style. I’m so sorry about Mabel… and all the other things that made life extra hard and sad. I really feel your attitude and perspective are the keys to healing. I especially like your point that you can’t have a new life without having an old life. You’re right. These different cocoons have led to your metamorphosis!

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  36. This is why I’m one of those that have followed you from Mabel’s House. I’ve been in a cocoon, grieving an old life and then embracing the new… it’s always nice to know there’s a fellow traveler, not necessarily on the same path but a similar one.

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  37. I too am a Mabel’s House reader that has followed you to your new site… I enjoy reading your blog and love your writing … keep up the good work. Mabel the dog was always a favorite part for me .

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  38. I was a Mabel House reader and lived in Lakewood as well. Every so often you pop into my head and I search out the new site to see what you’re up to. It happened today, as I walked down the hall at work. What a perfect day to read about old lives and cocoons! You’ve turned a sad day into a thoughtful one… and I’m eyeing two things on your etsy shop 🙂 Thanks for the beautiful words!

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