Thursday, February 7, 2019

on being a Soul instead of a Role

The other day I picked up a book by Richard Rohr and opened it up to some random page about Jonah.

This is the way my life seems now. I stumble on real life moments and random words that somehow make me feel like I’m a character in some cryptic mystery. That’s odd, I’ll think later when I reflect on the synchronicities at work; the weird timing, my own openness, and the curious message that ends up in my head.

On this day I scanned the two pages that tell me that I’m living in the belly of beast.

And since I don’t know anything anymore, I keep reading.

According to spiritual teachers the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a whale and taken to places he never wanted to go — is a biblical metaphor. A way to understand those dark, traumatic periods in our lives and a way for me to make sense of this bottomless pit of motherly despair that I live with now.

The tale of Jonah surviving inside the black pit of a whale’s stomach is supposed to be a story of death and rebirth. A reminder to all of us, that Death sneaks into our lives in the many forms that include the disappointments and endings and letting go that we all experience. And that these terribly lonely, depressing, overwhelming times in our lives are actually our teachers in disguise, waving us down a pathway towards transformation.

I don’t know.


What I do know is that when your heart has been cracked wide open and you’re walking around under a fallen sky in a world that no longer makes any sense— anything seems possible.

Maybe someday I’ll be like Jonah. Spit out on to a new shore, spiritually awakened and no longer upset with the Blessed Mother, or wanting answers from the Holy Spirit about why my son—with his extraordinary Light and Goodness-- is not here and I still am.

Maybe someday I will be living a life without Patrick here, and the thought of not hearing the sound of his voice when he says, “Hey Mama,” or watching him throw his head back and laugh while he flashes his amazing smile, won’t make me crumble under the weight of my broken heart.

But truthfully? I can’t imagine that time. That’s how dark this part of my journey is right now.

Although in the words of my eighty-two-year-old Buddhist friend Gale, who lost her son to suicide forty years ago, this is the way it is right now and that’s OK.

Maybe that’s why I keep writing.

I’m like a blindfolded traveler at the edge of a harrowing cliff, sensing that there is something for me here. Something to record. Some precious learning to be found when there is nowhere else to go. When there’s no last-minute escape or way to avoid this horrific reality that I’m faced with each day:

I open my eyes and my son is gone.

I close my eyes and my son is still gone.

Recently I was listening to a beautiful story by Frank Ostaseski, an American Buddhist who has spent over 30 years working with hospice patients. He was helping a mother tend to the body of her seven-year-old son who had just died from cancer. She was bathing him tenderly as part of their goodbye ritual, counting his toes to him and talking to him lovingly and every so often she would look over at Frank with beseeching eyes as if to say, “Can I survive this?! Can any mother survive this?!”

“And my job,” Frank says, “was simply to hand her another washcloth. And direct her back to her son, because that’s where the healing is always found, in the heart of the suffering.”

Somewhere deep in my soul I know this is true.

But like this mother, I’m still grappling with shock. I’m still wrapped in that mystical connection I’ve felt with my son the moment he left my body. It is powerful and otherworldly, this bond with him. And my mind simply cannot comprehend the idea of a permanent separation from Patrick. His body, his face, the sound of his voice. It’s all so unfathomable.

When I heard Frank’s story I felt like those mother’s words were my words. Her anguish is my anguish. Because I too, know how it feels to suffer over your son’s lifeless body. I know how it feels to wake up each morning with a pain in my chest so unbearable, I wonder how I can still be alive.

Yet here I am, still breathing.

And looking pretty normal on the outside despite the changes I feel within.

Grief strips you down to your most unguarded self. It’s a wall of pain that washes over you and leaves you wrinkled and raw and gasping for air. And then it repeats itself. Grief from the loss of your child will leave you stunned and walking around feeling strangely unprotected, in a universe you no longer trust.

This is the person I was on that sunny, October afternoon--only weeks after Patrick’s tragic accident—when I told the lady at the cleaners about Patrick.

And this is what I learned about miracles.

I had gone there to pick up some clothes; it had been the next robotic errand that had emerged out of the thick soup that was now my mind. Clouded by shock and grief, my ability to think at that point consisted of piecing together questions in order to figure out what I needed to get done. And with the Memorial Services approaching, I heard myself asking.

Could Michael fit in Patrick’s jacket? Did I have anything red to wear? Was Jim’s suit in the cleaners?

So-to-the-cleaners I headed.

The woman who always waited on me was also the co-owner of this busy shop, along with her shy husband.

I liked her. With her ebony colored hair and powdery skin, she reminded me of a middle-aged geisha, dressed in sensible slacks and polyester blouses. Only instead of warm tea, she offered chatty, kind words to her customers.

“Tell him good luck on his job interview,” she had said one March day when I picked up Patrick’s black suit, and in that brief moment we had forged a bond. One mother seeing another mother’s hopes and blessing them with optimism.

The woman had barely walked up and greeted me when I knew I couldn’t pretend. After all, she had touched Patrick’s clothes; this act alone felt like a kinship. But I hesitated. It was the first time I’d be sharing my catastrophic loss with a stranger, and the delivery of these words out into the open air felt like another layer of trauma.

 “My son. I wanted to tell you.” My voice was a whisper and she leaned forward to hear me. “He was in a terrible accident. I wanted you to know. He…he didn’t make it.”

I don’t remember how she came through that wall of counter. Or how her arms got around me so fast.
But she was holding me so tight I had to inhale. Was it seconds or minutes? That I stood there smelling the waft of white gardenia, and feeling the intimate scratch of hair on my face that wasn’t mine. This alone should have jolted me back into my role of polite customer, but I didn’t move.

The world had stopped, the other customers had vanished.

And then something happened inside our frozen hug because we both began to cry. I felt our bodies soften into muffled sobs. And afterwards—with quick precision, she scooped my clothes off the metal rack, took my hand and led me toward my car.

Out in the bright parking lot I could have been a ragged, lost child, squinting in the noonday sun and being led to a shelter, that’s how fragile I felt. Too broken to revert into my typical Miss Capable role, I watched with curious detachment as this soft-spoken woman took my keys, unlocked my door and hung my clothes carefully in the back.

Afterwards she took both my hands and asked me how to find the accident site, only minutes away. She seemed hesitant to let me go, promising me prayers and insisting that I keep my faith. “God will get you through this,” she assured me.

Then she was gone.


In the few months that have passed, I’ve had time to think about this powerful experience. And what I will never forget is how it felt to be out in the world so broken and vulnerable, and so unlike my usual Self. And how miraculous it felt to have a stranger—react without a second’s hesitation to my pain.

Only she didn’t simply observe my pain, she risked doing something. This shop owner –whose name I still don’t know—saw me the way that I truly felt, as a crumpled body on the floor with a shattered heart, barely getting by. And she literally held me, long enough to shine a light into my darkness and remind me that I was not alone.

Marianne Williamson calls this woman a “miracle-worker,” and says that at any moment we can choose to either judge someone or bless someone, it’s that simple.

We also can be this force of light in the world.

But it does require that we "see" outside our comfort zone.

It means being aware that the same roles that give us our sense of identity and help us feel safe-- whether it's a job title, our neighborhoods or our politics, are the same roles that create illusions of separateness. That help us erect an US and a THEM, that closes us off from the pain of others.

When the truth is, that we’re all a part of larger whole.

I think about that hug with the shop owner, and how it would never have happened if I had been operating from my stronger self. Or if the shop owner had been more logical and reserved about maintaining her profession boundaries.

And the farther I got away from this experience the more holy and miraculous it appeared.

It’s seems ironic. Here I am at the darkest time of my life, and it’s my grief that is opening my eyes to the way that grace and love suddenly appear out of nowhere, when I’m most in need.

It’s like Anne Lamott said about our really bad days. “There’s no magic cure and God is not a cosmic bellhop,” but if you’re spiritually awake and paying attention, you’ll see HIM in the eyes of some kind stranger, holding your hand in the middle of a sunny parking lot.

They’re always happening, these little miracles.

Today, I hope you see yours.

seen on the sidewalk
on my way from the beach when I was really sad

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

When a Diva slams the door on your face. A true story.

Have you ever had the worst interaction with someone-- only to realize later it was the most perfect gift you could’ve asked for?

Lately I’ve been noticing the strangest phenomena going on in my life, maybe because I’m walking around so raw and opened up. Maybe because I’m living these days on the edge of the unknown, so fresh into my grief that I’m unguarded and too broken and vulnerable to have an ego anymore.

But all of a sudden I'm aware of these interesting moments that the Universe has been delivering to me. Or maybe the truth is, we’re all receiving these little invitations to go deeper in our daily lives… and we’re just missing them.

I don’t know. But I thought I’d share this in case you need to recognize how this happens in your life too.

It all started with my “great idea.”

And it ended on one of those balmy, 69-degree afternoons in January that Southern Californians take for granted, with me standing underneath a white trellis overgrown with leafy clematis, and watching a screaming blonde in skin-tight yoga pants slam her front door in my face.

Although to be fair, she did have to stomp-up-three-steps to get to her door first, so it wasn’t exactly a ferocious whoosh in my kisser, but loud enough for the mailman on the corner to look over.

Also, to be honest I don’t generally use words like ‘diva,’ because I find them so emotionally-loaded they keep us from seeing the real person inside.

But after my brief run-in with this woman, this word literally popped into my head.

So ok, I’m going with it.

The most surprising part of being the focus of this Diva’s loud yelling, bulging eyeballs and intense finger-pointing was my astonishing lack of a reaction.

I didn’t scan the street afterwards, pink-faced and mortified by this public outburst.

Nor did I feel my typical “how-dare-you-I’m-just-trying-to-help” outrage.

I just left.

Although later I did see the warning signs from the minute I tapped on her glossy black door, and heard an irritated ‘Wait a minute!’ coming from inside.

Suddenly, the door had swung open. And I had a quick glimpse of an interior designer’s room before a full-figured woman filled the space. Her body was squeezed into black yoga clothes that hugged her tiny waist and her giant boobs. Her blonde-tinted hair that was frizzed and grey at her temples, was shooting from her head into a tall ponytail.

I smiled but she didn’t say a word.

In fact, she just stood there, her dark eyes, blinking rapidly. And for a quick second I remember something strange and milky about her face. The carefully drawn eyebrows, the taut skin around her eyelids and her puffy Angelina Jolie lips, frozen and half open.

“Hi, I just want to introduce myself. I’m Leslie. I used to visit the 80-year-old woman who lives behind you. And well, it’s a long story. But she just got evicted and left before she could get her two beloved cats.”

She was still staring.  “So, I’ve been checking back, trying to feed them and catch them for her. Ah. Do you know the cats I’m talking about?”

Wham-bam. She came to life. A flaming, wild-eyed Medusa right in front of me.

 “Yes! I knooow those cats!! Those people should not be allowed to have animals! I should’ve reported them a long time ago. Those cats have been coming into my yard, leaving their hair and their shit and I am sick-sick-sick of it.”

Gulp.  I tried to reassure her. “Well, the woman lost her husband (sympathy maybe?) and she’s moved now. And so have the people in the front of that duplex. And I heard the owner is renovating the whole place now….”

“Don’t you DARE tell me about that owner! You know nothing about him. That man has been letting that property go for years!! I won the 2018 Newport Beach Landscaping Award do you know that?! And I know a thing-or-two about property. And that man has been letting that place go for ages! And wait-a-minute. Are those the people that left their trash out front?

She stepped outside and her face was red.

This was not going well.

The funny thing is, Jim had warned me when I told him about my idea. I had been making two trips a day trying to catch Tiger and Smoky Joe before the weather got bad or the coyotes got them. As an animal lover I couldn’t stand the idea of them being out in the cold all night when they were used to being inside.

But with my fatigue and grief, the whole situation was starting to drain me.

I knew that Smoky Joe was too old to jump but Tiger was always hanging out on the roof behind his yard. Because it was impossible to see from the street—I had a great idea.

I told Jim. I think I’m going to ask the neighbor to let me put a little cat shelter on top the flat portion of their garage. Just in case it rains until I can catch Tiger.

He gave me a weird look.

Leslie. Not everyone feels the way you do about animals.

I was honestly shocked. What? I didn’t understand why he was sounding so negative.

Turns out that The Diva is the owner of Tiger’s favorite hang-out spot, and apparently not only does she have a hatred for cats, she happens to have one of the most immaculately landscaped yards in the area.

All of a sudden, she was eyeing me suspiciously.

“Wait. What do you want from me? Why are you here?!”

I swear I had visions of the green-faced witch waving her crooked fingernail in Dorothy’s face. Only I was Dorothy.

Maybe Jim was right. A cat shelter on her garage roof wasn’t a good idea.

I remember mumbling something about property lines that made no sense at all as I walked towards the gate.

In fact, the mention of property lines antagonized her.

“Property lines? Don’t you even think about catching those animals on my property! I’m ready to call animal control right now and have them picked up.”

I was already under the trellis when I turned around to see her jabbing her finger in the air.

“I don’t need this shit! Do you know that?! I just lost my husband at Thanksgiving!”

And Ka-BOOM. That was it.

In that second my heart softened. So she had lost someone too. Ignoring her shrill voice, my mind flashed over the days since Patrick’s loss in September and how excruciatingly fresh it all still felt for me. And I thought of how painfully recent a Thanksgiving death would feel.

 I waited for the next pause and I said in a quiet voice, “I am so sorry about your husband.”

But she looked back at me with disdain.

 “No, you’re NOT!!! You don’t even know me!” Then she turned toward her front door and yelled over her shoulder, “Get those animals off my property. NOW!”

And there it was.

The moment that American Buddhist, Pema Chodron calls the perfect teacher.

I knew something vitally important had just happened before I turned the key in my ignition and pulled away from the prettiest house on the street, with the screaming lady now inside. Only I had to see all the ugliness for myself, for the message to crystalize into these precise words:

I will never let grief destroy my life. Ever
And I will never let grief do that to my family.

I realize now that meeting the Diva that afternoon—like a lot of blow-ups that happen with others—had nothing really to do with the topic we were talking about. Instead, it was my eye-opening lesson about grief and suffering.

At the most tragic time in my life when all my certainties have melted away, and as I struggle to cope with the catastrophic effects of Patrick’s passing, I needed to be reminded of the most important choice in my life right now.

It’s a choice we all face every day. But I think heartbreak knocks us down long enough to glimpse the truth.

The reality is that life is always presenting us with opportunities to either open up or shut down in the face of scary, aching, uncomfortable situations.

I have a choice to be open and real and experience the fullness of my heartbreak even though it’s a suffering that feels completely unbearable at times. Or I can choose to shut down. Collapse. Over-medicate, deny the feelings inside me. Or hurl anger and blame at others without ever looking deeper.

Becoming bitter instead of a better person.

Thank you poor, suffering Diva for the gift of reminding me of who I plan on becoming.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My first post after Patrick's accident.

The other day I told Michael I was thinking of returning to my blog, but whenever I think about hitting the 'publish' button on a post now I feel insecure.

He looked curious so I kept talking.

I said what I really need is to be completely truthful and raw and unafraid with my words because I realize this kind of writing will help me heal. But what I mean specifically, is that I need to write about the accident. 

I need to write about the knock on our door at 7:30 that morning. And the horrific feeling in my gut when I threw open the door and saw a female officer and man in a brown tie and wrinkled shirt, standing there holding a clipboard, looking grim. Asking us to verify if we were Patrick's parents. Please. Please tell me he's OK I remember pleading. But instead of an answer the dark-haired officer asked to come inside.

I need to write about these moments because they happened. They are real and heart wrenching but I know that telling the truth will  mend my brokenness. And god knows I need mending. Even with the strange disconnection I feel with my body lately, I know there is trauma lodged inside every cell in my physical self. I see the signs of trauma inside my mind and in my heart spilling out in my ragged sleep and in the graphic images that invade my thoughts.

In case you don't know yet

The worst thing that-could-ever-happen-to-Me, happened.
And now, every second of the day I'm just trying to keep moving. Putting one foot in front of the other. Trying to string coherent thoughts together. Using distraction to ease the pain. But it's always there, this whirling vortex of disbelief and despair that's ready to suck me out of the present moment. And when I'm least expecting it, hurl me into a devastating new reality I just can't believe. 

Honestly, we're all still stunned.

I used to believe that God would never allow anything to ever happen to one of my kids because He knew I would never survive it. I think I actually uttered these words out loud, even allowed my Mama's tender heart to feel comforted by this sweet logic--so much that not once, ever-ever-ever did I prepare for the possibility of losing my child.

Anything else dear Lord, I'd quietly whisper.

I can handle anything but THAT.

And then it happened. 

On September 15, 2018--not even four months ago-- the unfathomable loss I said I could never survive happened and now my beautiful son Patrick is gone. Our brightest light. The most completely irreplaceable-bigger-than-Life person I've ever known, the one person I thought I could never live without.  Gone.

Taken in an accident that was so profoundly, deeply unfair.

Maybe you already know this. If you follow me on IG, I've slowly dripped out this shattering news in an effort to keep myself grounded in reality.

But even now as I tap out these words on my laptop they appear bizarre on my screen.

Even though I see the basket on our dining room overflowing with condolence cards that I've carefully read and cried over, Patrick's absence from our lives is still so achingly raw, so emotionally unbearable that I can't fully grasp the realness of it.
Patrick gone from our lives?

I just can't believe it.

Sometimes when I'm driving alone or walking to my car in the grocery store parking lot, I hear myself repeating those words.
Probably out loud, who knows? The odd thing about a heart that's been ripped wide open is that the boundaries between your inner life and outer life become blurred.

Was I sleeping or am I awake?
Was I talking to myself or talking out loud?

Either way it doesn't seem to change the words that spill from my heart. "Oh my God. I just can't believe it."

But then I feel Jim nudge me in the dark. Les, his voice tells me. You're moaning in your sleep again.

This is where I am right now and it's a surreal experience. One minute I'm trying to endure the worst kind of suffering my motherly-self can imagine. Being in a world without my son. Trying to justify my own breathing when I know Patrick's has stopped.

And the next minute I'm having an amazing conversation with Michael, and I'm being flooded with the kind of gratitude that shakes me softly by the shoulders and penetrates my pain just long enough to remind me of my blessings.

We were sitting on the sectional in the living room--Michael and I-- right next to the Christmas tree that had surprised Basha, my grief counselor. On that afternoon, bright sunshine had been pouring through the branches, saturating the ornaments in a yellow glow and Basha had blurted out,

"Leslie I don't think you realize how good you're doing. Just so you know. There are some mothers who wouldn't be able to get out of their beds at this point."

I think I offered a weak smile. I tried to appreciate what she was saying but since I know I am one of those mothers who could easily be in a dense pile on the floor--just not today--I say nothing.

This is something I've learned from these darkest days following Patrick's accident, and it's what Anne Lamott says about grace.

She says "grace meets you exactly where you are, at your most pathetic and hopeless, and grace carefully loads you into its wheelbarrow and tips you out somewhere else. In ever so slightly better shape."

I like this humble description of grace.

I have no other explanation for how I'm functioning besides being lugged around in a mystical wheelbarrow, leaving behind a trail of simple tasks. Christmas decorating. Visiting my 80-year-old friend. Going to the office even-when-I-cry. Writing these words.

It's a mystery I can only explain by Love. As hokey and clique as that sounds it's been the one consistent truth through all this crazy grief, all those unsolicited acts of caring and compassion--gifts of grace--that keep coming from everywhere, our families and friends, and Patrick's friends. People that Patrick touched from so many places. People that loved him and want to share stories of him. In person, by text messages, by mail.

This is how we've been surviving. How we made it through our toughest Christmas ever, swaddled in the love of Patrick's tribe. Now ours.

I always knew that love was powerful, I just never knew it could sweep you up and carry you along on those days when your feet can no longer hold you up. 

I never realized that love--in the form of an early morning text--from hundreds of miles away at the exact moment you're being flooded with heartache, could have the power to get you out of bed.

It's amazing really. So many inexplicable happenings that I consider to be small miracles since Patrick's accident.

I tell Michael I'm thinking of writing about these things on my blog but then I think about the kind of blog titles going through my feed and I start to feel doubt.

I stare at the fashion and beauty tips. The how-to style-your-home-after-Christmas tips that I used to care about, and I realize the absolute last topic that any woman especially mothers, want to hear about is the D-word.

And I don't blame you if you're one of those people.

I totally understand if you want to get as faraway as possible from the idea of losing a child.

In fact, I remember that feeling.

The overwhelming agony you feel for the mother in that situation and the relief and gratitude you feel about your own kids, and then the guilt about feeling so relieved that this horrific thing that happened to this mother didn't-happen-to-you-thank-god. And before you know it, you're texting your kid again just to exhale that relief all over again.

You can only be where you are 

The conversation with Michael that day helped me shed a layer of my self-consciousness. It's so crazy how we do that. How we look around at others for some kind of confirmation. Do I fit in here or do I fit in there?

Well I've decided that the real lesson I'm supposed to be learning has nothing to do with what to share and where to share it. On this blog or on another platform. 

The deeper lesson I'm supposed to be learning is that we can only be where we are. Right now.
Without any apologies, or denial or shame for whatever might be causing us pain. We have to keep living from an honest place and that's how we find our way through uncertainty and darkness.

I think that's why comparing ourselves with others can be so wounding, because we can end up feeling like where we are right-at-this-moment-in-our-lives is not good enough.

I don't know if you can relate to anything I'm writing about in this post, but maybe something I say here might help you feel less alone. That's my simple hope.

Because I don't know if I have anything to offer you. 

I used to think I had some meager wisdom to share, but after watching my big, handsome son walk out the front door on a sunny Friday in September, never to see him again, I feel the full weight of Socrates' words:

"I know I know nothing."

This is me. I know nothing now. I'm not saying this to put myself down or to make you feel a certain reaction, I'm just trying to express how outrageously upside-down and completely shattered my entire life appears to me as I write these words.

I used to think I knew what my future looked like. How my life would be. I once thought I had some control. I once was afraid of death.

Now none of those things are true anymore.

For Me, a woman who used to say to her friends over a nice glass of Cab, "as long as my kids are OK, my life is great," there is nothing more traumatic that could have happened in my life.

Do you wonder how you would go on living in the face of such an unbearable loss? 

Well, I do too. 

This is where I am right now. This is my journey.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

a post about your voice

"You are the first person you speak to in the morning."

I don't know why I find this idea so darn appealing, but the minute I heard Cleo Wade utter these words from the front of the room, I scribbled them down.

And I really thought about it.


When I open my eyes in the's my voice that pops into my head. First.

Which makes me the most powerful mood setter of my day.

Personally, I think this is the equivalent of an intense, 6 am work-out followed by a nutrient-packed smoothie for my body. Except it's self-care directed at my soul.

So of course, I find myself searching for my morning voice.

Is it tinged with hurriedness, a little anxiety?

Or is it light and encouraging?

And instead, be still.

Be curious about your voice.

How does it make you feel?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

White and Yellow Easter Table with Peeps Place Cards

Hello friends.
Today I thought I'd show you another way to use those  terracotta pots I made the other day using sod and Peeps bunnies.

If you missed it, you can see the project here.

I turned these into individual place cards by using a miniature clothespin to hold the handwritten names.
Very quick and easy.
I bought these tiny clothespins at Target. 

There's something so cheerful about a yellow and white themed table for Easter. 

I wish I could remember where I got these bunny-ear napkin rings. I would love to get a few more.

Do you like jelly beans on your Easter table too?
All you do is stick the taper candle inside a little jar and the jelly beans keep it straight.

Remember this old teapot?
It's filled with mostly garden rocks and I added dirt and fresh sod at the top. You can get so creative with your sod.
Then I added a fake egg, another Target purchase... and it looks so fancy too.

As you can see it's all very simple. I'm using gold silverware, stemware and plates I already had. Nothing fancy over here.
But I do hope I gave you some inspiration for your own table.

I just found out my friend Carla will be hosting a garden party for a group of people with Dementia later in the summer and she might use these little pots of sod for her table d├ęcor.
It sounds perfect for a garden party, don't you think? 
I love that idea. And thank you Carla for sharing that with me. I just wish I lived closer, I would love to join you guys on that day. What a wonderful thing to do.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Easter, surrounded by people you love. 
Thank you so much for stopping by,

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Monday, March 26, 2018

A Simple DIY Centerpiece for your Easter Table

Hello Friends.

It's been awhile since I shared a DIY centerpiece with you so I thought I would pop in and share this non-floral idea for your Easter table. 

Here's all I did.

As you can see I brought out some old terracotta pots and a thrift store teapot I already had.

I bought a small roll of sod for six bucks at Home Depot.
(I used the rest to fill in some dead spots in our yard)

I turned each pot upside down and with an old steak knife I cut around the pot.

Once I turned it right side-up I trimmed the edges until it fit snug into the pot.
 I filled each pot with garden soil leaving about an inch from the top.
 I gave the piece of sod a good soaking, wetting bottom and top.
Then I plopped it into the pot.

I stuck a toothpick into a Peeps bunny

And stuck the bunny into the sod.

So easy, right?
You can add small vases filled with a single flower down the center of your table or place flowers in clumps  around the pedestal.

I'll be back tomorrow to show you how I used these individual pots on my own table.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A conversation about aging gracefully; two things

Yesterday I was lying on the soft mat at my gym, when I looked down at my black leggings and realized they were inside out.
Yep. There it was, two mountainous seams running down both my inner legs and god knows if there was one on my backside.
Oh crap. How did I not see this?
For a whole second, I debated about heading to the locker room and immediately fixing this embarrassing fitness-faux pas. Only the vision of me hobbling on one leg at a time, leaning against the wall while I yanked and stretched myself back to respectability popped into my mind.

 Forget it, too much work.

Afterwards I made another surprising choice (for me); I didn’t rush home, pink faced and self-conscious.  Instead, I ended up doing a bunch of errands still wearing my leggings down the bright aisles of the grocery store, into Macy’s to pick up my new glasses, and back into the sunny parking lot, every bit aware of the women walking behind me.

 La de da de da… feeling exposed but oh-well.

Only each time I thought about my seams, I started giggling. I felt like Dudley Moore in that limo scene in the movie Arthur, when he bursts out laughing hysterically for no apparent reason and explains to the prostitute,
“Sometimes I just think funny things.”
Don’t you love that scene?
The idea of expressing your insanely, goofy self with a brazen freedom, without a care about who is around or who even gets the joke?

As I’ve gotten older something radical has been happening inside me. And I’m convinced it’s the je ne sais quoi of good aging, the equivalent of hitting the beauty jackpot only instead of gold coins spilling out at your feet, there’s a new perspective.
I notice it in the little moments.

Like when I walk into a room of strangers and I’m more focused on how the other person is feeling, instead of me. 

 I no longer worry if I’m dressed Ok.
(If I feel good, that’s my answer)

 I’ve stopped pretending I care which hairstyles are best for my age group.
(see above reason)

 And when I occasionally dress without my glasses and show up in public with my clothing inside-out, I’m the first person to laugh at myself.

I’m not sure when these internal shifts began, but I do believe aging with grace involves a transformation of our soul, mind and heart as much as our physical bodies. It means opening ourselves up to a new way of being in the world, and this requires us to be real and honest and brave about the person we want to be.
I'm still figuring it out.
But for me, aging means being empowered in two specific ways.

1. Myths about our Self

2. Other-ness

1. Letting go of old myths about YOU

Take my example with my leggings.
At first glance I know it looks like a silly thing.
But not long ago I would have been cringing at my mistake, convinced that everyone’s eyes were riveted on my protruding seams and that of course, they were snickering as I walked away.
The Younger Me would have rushed home to change, unable to tolerate the embarrassment of having my defective self on full display.

And there’s the key word. Defective.

Without realizing it, I would’ve attached meaning to this experience based on some outdated and hurtful myth about myself I still carry around.  
Old beliefs about who I am-- that when triggered, --evoke a rush of cobwebby feelings to the surface again.

You know that feeling when you finally talk in person to someone you’ve only heard stories about, only to find out that they are nothing like the impression you had of them?

Well, we can walk around with distorted views about our Self too.

Aging with grace is teaching me about letting go, period. Not only in how I deal with my relationships and valuable objects but even old critical ways of seeing myself.

This means facing some of our earliest experiences, when you didn’t have your wise, adult perspective to explain how it wasn’t really your fault because you were only a child.
And how as a child, you were only trying to do your best and by-the-way, you shouldn’t have felt so alone.
P.S. You were always enough.

Holding on to an old narrative about yourself keeps you from growing. 
And it prevents you from loving your most tender parts: remember the You that spoke from your small, petty self and said mean things to someone you love?
The You with the jealous feelings, and the You that made that bad decision?

Luckily aging makes us smarter.
We know that disowning our messy, flawed parts doesn’t make them go away. It just keeps us from feeling whole and lovable and we deserve more from ourselves.

Finding our kinder voice

The reason I’m sharing my "inside-out" story is not because it’s special or unique. Its value is only as a little nudge. Something to make you think about how kindly you treat your own awkward mistakes.
And maybe you can relate.
Because here's the truth, 
I still felt that old twinge of self-consciousness while I was walking around in my leggings.
But here’s what’s different now.

Those feelings are no longer ME. 

Now I’m able to create enough space between myself and my emotions to view them from the eyes of an observer.
I am not my feelings and I am not my thoughts.
I know this sounds basic, but that’s a monumental step towards being happy.

My kinder voice sounds like this:

Oh look. It’s that old feeling of ‘being different’ again. Of thinking that I’m the only one who does something like this and this wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t something deficient and lacking about me.

Cleo Wade the poet and writer, gave a beautiful example of this type of mindful awareness at her recent book signing.

Instead of investing in our negative emotions we can choose to acknowledge them in a way that doesn’t cling or overwhelm us.
Instead of telling myself, “Oh my god I am so embarrassed,”
I can say, “I feel embarrassment passing through my body right now.”
I can resist over-identifying with negative emotion.
I will feel it.
I will respect that this feeling is telling me something interesting,
but I will let it move through me without judging.
Because this emotion is not Me.

This is the kind of self-love that is better than any miraculous skin creams you can buy.

2. Freedom from Other-ness.

I explain Other-ness like this.

  • When you’re in grade school you look at the prettiest girl in your class and you admire her and you desperately want to be included at her birthday party.
  • When you’re 15, walking with your best friend on a crowded sidewalk from school, you gaze longingly at the 16-year old’s driving their own cars around town.
  • When you’re 19, without a boyfriend, you sigh and wish you were 21 so you could hit the bars and be included in a world that looks populated by new and imagined friends.
  • When you’re 35, you start to miss your 20-year old body.
  • When you’re 40, you wish you were more like the friend at your child’s school, who appears to be balancing motherhood and career in a way you’re not.

 You get the idea.

We are profoundly aware of the Other Person.
Only it’s not the awareness of the Other Person that’s the problem, it is the silent comparisons we’re making inside our heads.
As I get older I’ve decided to be like the suspicious Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, right before she yanks back the velvet curtain exposing the Wizard.
No more wide-eyed girl believing the illusion that some Admired Other has all my power.
The mysterious thing I’m seeking.

 Instead of looking at someone we admire
and asking,

·  Why am I not more like her?

· Why is my life not like that life?

I think we should start with the truth.

You feel like something is missing.

That’s ok.

But instead of going toward the empty place inside you for answers,
you project your dreamy ideals on to someone you admire. Someone who seems to possess what you’re missing.
Only one problem.
This kind of gazing outward for your happiness continues at every stage of your life unless you deal with what’s really missing inside you.

It’s ok to gaze over and see what someone else is doing, but when you end up feeling bad about yourself or dissatisfied with your own life afterwards, it’s time to look deeper.

Rejecting smallness

Energetically, each time we compare ourselves with another person we are choosing to keep our world small and compacted.
This feels like ‘stuck-ness.’
Either we end up feeling inferior in some way, or we end up feeling superior which means that we’ve been judging some poor, unsuspecting person’s lifestyle or their face, or their weight in secret.

It’s the opposite of living a big-hearted life.

Let me give you a personal example.

I was at a wedding recently, standing in a group of women I hadn’t seen in a while and after several minutes of cheerful conversation one of the women left the group.
Within seconds, the remaining friends began whispering.
The comments weren’t meant as negative, these were nice women. But the topic was whether this woman had any “face work” done because she apparently looked great.

I stood there feeling confused.
First, because I hadn’t noticed anything different about her, but mostly because this conversation happened only seconds after she left the group.

 And I couldn’t explain why, but I felt yucky.

Since then, I’ve thought about this situation. And I realize that even “positive” judgments can be a slippery slope, because we’re still judging someone. Maybe even comparing ourselves in the process.
I’m not saying I never do this kind of thing, but I’m aware that it feels wounding to my soul.
And while I don’t always realize ‘smallness’ in the moment,
I do know when someone’s words feel like the opposite, inclusive and loving.

I realized this recently.
I follow a yoga teacher on Instagram and a while back she addressed some “haters” who made hurtful comments about (of all things) her feet.
Instead of lashing back, she pointed out that we are all mirrors to one another and she said,

 “What hurts me is knowing that you can never say hurtful things to another if there wasn’t some part of you that’s being hurtful to yourself.”

She continued to speak from a place of forgiveness by asking the haters to meditate on the negativity they directed at her and ask themselves this question,

“What is it that you dislike about who you are?”
I felt so impressed by her lack of ego.
Maybe because I spent too much of my 20s and 30s being worried about what others thought of me.
But I recognized this as sign of a generous spirit.

This is what I believe aging gracefully looks like in real life;
I see it in the words of this thirty-something year old yoga teacher.
It’s not about being a specific age, it’s not about having a firm body, and it's not about looking like some version of a fashionable Diane Keaton.

It’s about being a certain kind of woman.

Maybe for me this means walking around on a sunny day wearing my black leggings inside-out as a statement of defiance: I am not my latest goof-ball mistake nor am I my latest success.

I am so much more than what you see on the outside.

And so are you.

I'm sharing this post with these friends:
Amaze Me Monday #257
Life on Lakshore Drive Party
The Scoop
Inspire Me Monday
Home and Garden Thursday

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