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Monday, December 14, 2020

Reflections about my real life Covid experience (and what I didn't realize)




*our 2019 Christmas trip to Utah for our bank's annual festivities. Another cancelled event.



On the first Tuesday in December, I was in the car talking to a close friend in a moment of panic, wondering what we should do about my Dad’s sudden decline in his battle with COVID-19. 

From my moving car on Beach Boulevard, the distant view of the ocean was already dark, and Michael was due home from his six-hour drive from Sacramento at any moment, when my brother Mike called to report that my Dad’s breathing had taken a turn for the worse.

Turns out that both my parents—despite their hyper-vigilance with mask-wearing and social distancing—had gotten Covid during Thanksgiving week. By the time Jim drove up to Sacramento with a U-Haul to move Michael back to Huntington Beach to begin his new job, my brother, who met them at Michael’s apartment to help load his heavier belongings, already had Covid too, but didn’t know it.

The following day, after their brief U-Haul meeting, Jim and Michael got a call from Uncle Mike telling them he had tested positive for Covid, so they both promptly went and got tested themselves.

Welcome to life during a global pandemic.

Thankfully, both Michael and Jim tested negative.

But several days into his own Covid experience- my Dad—age 79, with a pacemaker and with a compromised respiratory system—was in a precarious condition and we found ourselves experiencing the frightening reality of this highly contagious virus.  

Even after consulting with his physician, the answers left us struggling.

I remember Michael sitting at the kitchen table after his long drive, looking tired and unshaven, his car still loaded with boxes from his relocation, offering to turn right around and help us drive the 394 miles back to Sacramento, if Papa was admitted to the hospital. Jim had just walked in from work and I was on the kitchen stool, all of us fresh off a conference call with my brother. Under the bright lights of our kitchen, and six hours away from my siblings, we were facing a dilemma that every family affected by Covid could face.

At what tipping point do we take my Dad to the hospital, where he gets the benefit of professional care but faces complete isolation from all family, and risks constant exposure in a hospital setting already overwhelmed with the current spike in Covid-patients?

Do we—Jim, Michael and I--make the six- hour drive knowing we wouldn't be able to see my Dad or any of my Covid-positive family?

Talking earlier with Tracy had helped me process the situation and get my emotions back in check.

And like a lot of other family members across the country right now, we took a vote, put the emphasis on my Dad’s gut reaction (he did not want to go to the hospital)--and we decided to keep him home where he was watched and cared for primarily by my Covid-positive brother and mother.

I guess we were the fortunate ones. My brother who was already positive for Covid—opted to spend nights at my parent’s home where he could monitor Dad's medication and oximeter readings. My mother, who tested positive too, was sleeping a lot. But it was my brother who had my Dad—with his vulnerable lungs--get up and move around regularly, and kept him from sleeping on his back too long. Meanwhile Jim and I were reading the latest trends for Covid treatment, and sharing the info in quick calls.

 

But we all learned the hard truth 

when my Dad was most vulnerable and here it is: there is no clear medical protocol for anyone at home with Covid. 

There is no hovering physician who will swoop in and admit a Covid patient at the mere hint of worsening symptoms and blast their weakening bodies with Remdesivir or dexamethasone in those scary early days--- when my Dad described his breathing as a 1 or 2 on a scale of ten.

No, my Dad's struggle to breath was a crisis moment that could easily have turned worse, requiring an urgent drive to the hospital. Because until then, you're basically on your own.

Although if you do get admitted to a hospital at this point---you should be informed that your chances of  getting the same experimental Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail drug that was given to President Trump, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani during his recent stay---are slim to none.

That’s because the drug Regeneron is still not readily available to ordinary citizens yet. These are the kind of facts you don’t learn until someone you love gets Covid.

In a recent interview on WABC, Rudy Giuliani is quoted explaining it this way, “If it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in a hospital frankly. Sometimes when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you, so they’re going to examine it more carefully, and do everything right.”


Fortunately at the time of this writing, our non-celebrity family is beginning to slowly exhale. And it looks like my Dad will survive this virus—although not before teaching us firsthand-- of the scary unpredictability about this condition. In this next week he’ll see his doctor to rule out the possibility of pneumonia.

In the meantime, my neighbor got out of her car on Thursday after an exhausting day at the hospital, still dressed in her hospital garb and appeared on the verge of tears. She described the ambulances now forced to wait outside with potential patients because of the spike in Covid cases. And she sounded stressed and upset about the continual protests in our local Orange County. Before she went inside her home she warned, if you need to go to the hospital, don’t go to ours.

Some time later on social media, another neighbor only a few houses down who keeps a Trump sign up in her yard, posted photos of her beautifully decorated Hanukkah party, filled with sweet children and their mothers smiling in their special Christmas dresses, with not a mask in sight. And with a message underneath that said: “Fuck Newsom.” A reference to California's governor.

 Sigh. Welcome to life during a global pandemic.


last year at Hotel Monaco



Tell me.

What have you been learning about yourself as you live through these unprecedented months of a global pandemic?

The interesting thing about writing blog posts is that you can look back and see what you didn’t know.

In April I wrote about my belief that COVID-19 might unify us as a country because we would all be experiencing the same vulnerability and fears and sadness, as we moved through our individual situations.

I even asked:

Can you think of another time when we will be able to look into the eyes of strangers and recognize our Selves?


Things I didn't realize


Was I na├»ve? I don’t know. But 'unify' is about as far away from the truth as you can get.

At the time, I don’t think any of us imagined the eventual impact Covid would have on our daily lives, the way mask-wearing would become politicized and contribute to the spread of Covid. The repeated closure of businesses. And the perilous impact on whole industries of workers who are losing their jobs and paychecks. 

And here’s a big one. I didn’t fully understand the extent to which it’s now possible in the year 2020, to live inside an information bubble where certain facts and relevant information never penetrates, and where conspiracy theories and hoaxes are lurking everywhere.

I didn’t realize how much easier it is---when something difficult happens in your life—to look out at the world for someone or something to blame for what you’re having to endure. Because god knows, there will always be someone we can shift our blame to, in order to avoid the deeper feelings inside us. The real feelings of being afraid. And sad. And the uncomfortable truth that no one ever wants to hear: maybe there is no quick and easy fix-it for our distressing predicament. Maybe we might have to just sit with our feelings...and feel them.

And finally, I never realized how easy it is when you’re walking around feeling outraged, to find other big groups of angry people to unite with online--and how fast fear can spread like wildfire, remaining mostly invisible to the very people who are inside its powerful grip.

 


 Apparently I don’t know very much.

It is possible that the altered state I've been living in following our traumatic loss of Patrick, has made me more accepting of this wet cloud of uncertainty that’s settled over us in 2020. And that the staggering pain from losing a child has opened me up to the suffering of other people in a way that's dulled my ability to care about loud protests over our individual “rights,” especially when the trade-off might mean the death of the most vulnerable people.

Maybe my perspective has changed in ways I don't even know.

But once you’ve lost the most important person in your life in a split-second, there is nothing worse. And when the possibility of losing my Dad became a close reality, I realized I was already nested inside that incredulous universe where bad things happen suddenly to good people--and no amount of rebelling and blaming others and carrying signs of protest will be able to expunge one horror-stricken second from my life. And yet, I will never be a 'victim' because I will choose love over anger every time.

I think that’s it, in a nutshell.

But I have my moments like anyone else. When I’m worn and tired of this post-Covid scale of measuring risks with social distancing, when I'll simply throw up my hands and say, what the fuck.

I remember one moment recently.

I had pulled over and parked my car so I could reach the man who stands at Warner and Magnolia with a sign every day. His name is Mike and he told me he got laid off from his job months ago and lives out of his van and I told him about Patrick as I handed him the kindness card with money. Suddenly. Before I could react, this sweet, homeless man yanked down the blue bandana that was covering his toothless smile, told me how sorry he was and reached across the sidewalk and hugged me.

Before I knew what happened it was over. I could feel the people sitting in traffic next to the sidewalk watching us, and I didn’t react. 

I just smiled and finished our conversation.

Afterwards, in one of those exasperated, head-shaking moments, I remember doing a quick mental review of my risk, and thinking, ‘Jesus Christ-if-I-get-Covid-from-that-situation, so be it.”

I mean. How much of our humanity are we supposed to give-up to be safe? 

Right?

Sometimes all we can do is take a deep breath and let go.


photo taken on our walk Sunday

 


 Sending love and light your way,

Leslie

 

 


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Finding your Super Power in my Christmas living room



                     

Hello dear friends.

How are you all holding up as this strange, turbulent year of Covid winds down? 

Thank you for stopping by my living room today. I'm so happy with how I feel when I walk into our little cramped entrance. This year I decided to take my cue from real life and with everything feeling so different, I went off my typical grid and did whatever felt right at the moment. Like a lot of you, I have to find something to inspire me visually, and I fell in love with the words on this candle I found at a Home Goods store, and that's where I got my blue and green color theme. 

There's been a lot happening in my personal life lately, and I'll share more later. But I do feel acutely aware of all the losses--little and big--that we've all been experiencing as a collective people. And I want to acknowledge those of you who are struggling with illness or worried about a family member that's sick, I know personally how that feels. 

Even though my home doesn't reflect it, it's been a very stressful period. 

Please know you're not alone. That's so important to say right now. Especially during this time of the year when it's so easy to look around at all these beautiful homes in blogland, where everyone can seem so 'happy' and 'merry.' And the worst thing that you can do, is compare yourself and feel bad. 

Please don't do that.

Here's the lens that I'm choosing to view life through right now:

Yes.

It's been a year of heartache for too many people and it hurts my heart thinking about all the loss happening in the world. And yet --when I walk outside at night I can't help but be stunned at all the Christmas lights on my street and in my neighborhood this year. Why do all the lights suddenly look so much more brilliant this year? Are you stopping to stare too? 

It's almost as if those of us who don't have to divert their energies to the urgent worries of un-paid bills and hunger and sickness-- are coming out in droves to say, "it's going to be Ok friends, we're almost through this." 

I truly see the flood of Christmas lights as a beautiful metaphor for humanity. And no, this doesn't diminish the problems we face as a country filled with so much division and anger.

But our super power is that we get to choose where we place our focus, friends. 

And at this moment let's choose to look around and be amazed by all the human energy being expended in creating a warm Christmas inside our homes and lugging out tangled strands of Christmas lights and standing on ladders and sweating in the cold air as you hook up the final lights. Not even realizing that this is your little contribution to spreading light out into our weary world.

I pray you hear my twinkling Christmas lights speaking directly to you my friends. Because they are saying, 

I see you. And you are a luminous light, even if you don't feel that way right now. Please share my light if you need it.

Because we're all in this together. 


                        

                  














               







                    






















Sending love and light,
Leslie




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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How to take care of your Self during difficult times (hello Covid Thanksgiving)



                      



                      


Today I decided to post a few shots of past Thanksgiving tablescapes in all their luscious fall beauty, but not for the reason you think.

Yes, I do like to share my ideas in case you might need some inspiration for your own tables.








But I also wanted to use these photos as a lesson about perfect-looking images and how they can camouflage really tough days. I’ve always thought the best thing about these wonderfully staged images is that they can inspire our creative energies, and the worst thing about them is they can set us up for disillusionment when we’re back in the real world with all its variegated imperfections.  

Here’s the truth.

I haven’t given any thought yet to my Thanksgiving table and here it is, the day before. That doesn’t mean much unless you know me. And while some of my delayed reaction might be lumped under the heading of ‘another bizarre COVID-19-related experience.’ That’s not completely truthful.

Yesterday, I had a really hard day. Just so hard. If you’re trudging through the holidays after a recent loss of a loved one you know what this means.

I haven’t had one of these days in a while. It began with an insidious headache, mild but lingering in my soft temples all day, that was my first sign. And of course, somewhere in my head I heard the voice of Cheryl, my colleague from-my-old-therapist-days of the past telling me, “Leslie, did you know that Gestalt therapists believe a headache is really pent-up tears?”

Yeah, Cheryl thanks for sharing this, and by-the-way do you know that thirty years later-- every time I have a nagging headache I cannot get this bit of body-mind wisdom out of my head?

Because yes, for me, ‘the headache thing’ is generally true. Yesterday was a day when I couldn’t shake the low-grade headache that was accompanied by a sorrow, so dense and heavy in the center of my chest that it hurt. That’s where I feel my heartache in my body, and in the beginning this chest pain was so bad my doctor sent me to the sweetest cardiologist, who did inform me that yes, you can actually die of heartbreak and there’s a name for that which I choose not to remember.

My heart, it hurts so much. It hurts.. oh God.

In the beginning I would say this out loud to Jim the way a sick child does, because I have to name what’s happening to me as a way of getting through it. I’ve learned that now. And so when the headache came yesterday morning with my coffee, I was also aware of a slow, wave of pain and longing for my boy, beginning to roll over me. What is that word that describes missing someone so intensely that it physical hurts? I don’t know it yet in alphabetical letters, but when I feel it---these bodily sensations and emotions take me to the edge of tears all day. 

I'd describe it as a state of being held together by wispy threads of fragility that feel almost otherworldly. Maybe this is what Father Greg meant when he told me that God is always holding you in the palm of his hand, even when you can’t feel this.

I don’t know.

But at the end of the day –after going to two stores to find a turkey small enough --I walked into the house with my Whole Foods turkey, promptly took two ibuprofen, called Jim to tell him I was going to take a nap, something I never do. And I flopped on my bed.

I don’t know how long I lay awake before my uneasy sleep, but I watched the light from my upstairs window move through shades of musky gray. At some point it was dark and instead of jumping up and cleaning the morning dishes and throwing a quick dinner together, I stayed on top my fluffy comforter and watched videos of Patrick on my IPhone, smiling and even laughing at his silliness. Remembering how funny he was and loving his voice

Jim came home and I cried some more and we made a salad and salmon together, watched some more of Queen’s Gambit, and afterwards we walked Stella under a cold blue sky. And because the hurt in my chest still felt red and raw, I became that patient who has gingerly left her hospital bed, and is shuffling her feet down the cold linoleum hallway in order to regain her strength.

 Baby steps. One at a time.

Yes, it had been a tough day.

In addition to learning how to move through the holidays without Patrick—Jim and I decided to follow CDC recommendations against travel, so we’re staying cozy and safe at home, which means a stunning reversal of traditional Thanksgivings past, and for the first time in our lives we won’t be home with extended family and friends. Nope, it will be just us three bodies and one beautiful spirit.

And yes, while we can acknowledge our personal choice in the matter, if you’re like me, it’s been a long, tiring road of looking on the bright side of this COVID-19 period. And it’s ok to recognize that there’s been a substantial amount of letting-go experiences that so many of us are having to accept right now. What that means is, that we’re all carrying around a lot of small, stinging losses and grief. And it’s ok to sit with that.

On this day it didn’t help that my mother called me and threw one of her fits, another one of her dramas. That’s another tangible loss during the holidays that’s important to acknowledge. The very real experience of loss that comes in the form of people that cannot show up for us when we need them.

During regular life when we’re feeling strong and intact, dealing with these family members is easier than during a year like this one.

Just saying. Stay aware or your expectations, it’s ultimately the thing that protects us.


After my hard day I woke up to brilliant sunshine pouring through the clouds and even though it didn’t stay around long, it showed up like a beaming smile of redemption.

Today. Hooray! I had no trace of a headache. I got my grocery shopping done by 8:30 am, where I had fun in the flower section picking out pale pink roses and shiny orange mandarins for my table. Michael called and said, “Love you Mom.” And I couldn’t help but want to write this post for anyone out there who might be coming into these holidays with a tiredness or feeling glum or nursing some disappointment and maybe you don’t even know why.

Here’s my advice. Be gentle with yourself. Stay aware. Drink lots of water for physical and symbolic cleansing. Take intentional ‘breathing’ breaks. Listen to your body and notice where your body stores tension or sadness. And when all else fails, take a damn nap even if it means leaving the kitchen a mess or postponing a trip to the grocery store.

Last night when I was crying on the kitchen stool, I told Jim, “I’ll feel better in the morning. This is just a hard day.”

And do you know what?

 I did feel better.

Because You and I are going to be just fine. No matter what life brings us.

And your Thanksgiving this year—no matter how small and different and odd it might seem as a result—will be beautifully imperfect.

Remember, we're all in this together my friends.


Sending all my love to you,
Leslie

Monday, November 16, 2020

A special care package for You: 8 goodies




  


Alright.
Here's my question.
How do I make a personal care package for each and every one of you who are reading these words?
Because it's really been gnawing at me. Especially after I posted my last IG picture and felt such a flood of kindness coming my way. It's been so hard to find words that capture my gratitude, but more than you know, your empathy and comments over these months have felt like a strong hand reaching out to me and pulling me back on my feet. 

And I keep wanting to give you something in return, the way I could if we were neighbors, you know, like a care package filled with little goodies that might make you smile. 
If we lived closer...

#1



I would probably make something for you. Maybe using a candle and a pumpkin and a few sprigs of baby's breath








Or maybe I would take you a copy of this book, Ordinary Grace, the latest fiction I've read. I don't read much fiction and so when I do I like to choose my authors carefully. 

#2



This book transported me into another world which is all we can ask from a good author. It's not a beach read, so be warned. No, this story touched that place inside me where I keep my tears and my giddiness for a deep, layered story. And if you read it, you'll have to let me know who you think the 'hero' of this story is, because I'm telling you, there's a powerful scene inside a church that brought me to my knees, in sheer admiration for this character's steely faith.



Lately I've been busy collecting what I call--- small moments of awe. Those mental snapshots during my day that have lifted me up, even for a few breaths. It's a habit you can cultivate--this stopping and noticing beautiful moments in real time-- and although it started for me as a survival tool, it's now become an intentional act that's helping me move through my grief. Especially on hard days.

And I'd like to include a few of these goodies too.

#3

One interview I recently found utterly delightful was with a young poet by the name of Jacqueline Suskin; Everyday is a Poem on Sounds True podcast. You have to listen to it. Jacqueline has been a poet since childhood and eventually got her degree in poetry but it wasn't until she found an old typewriter at the Rose Bowl Flea market that her entire life changed. Her creativity is almost mystical. She literally writes a poem on-the-street for anyone who asks her, and she does this by entering into a creative trance with this typewriter. It's really a fascinating process of "being in the flow." 





But there was one kernel of wisdom that Jacqueline mentioned that really stayed with me, and as I was listening to her, I instantly wanted to share this with my readers. It was on the topic of gratitude and she rightfully mentioned how saturated and yes, over-used the word gratitude is in our culture these days. 

Do you feel that too?

Because I totally get it. Especially if you're struggling emotionally and in a dark place, gratitude can be a word that can make you wince. But Jacqueline has this wonderful habit of making "I Like" lists, and it's a different path but it still gets you there... to that expansive inhale of gratefulness.

She's made these lists for years and I immediately loved this idea because you can practice it in your head. At any time. You just have to become fully present in the moment, look around and notice what you like! It's that easy. It can be the way the light is coming through the window. Or the smell of your hot chai tea that you just poured. Or the black and white Aztec pattern painted on the back of the wooden chair at the coffee shop you're sitting in (one of mine).

Walking around generating these "I like..." statements in your day are the essence of real-life gratefulness only using different language, and I've been noticing the impact when I'm doing this. But honestly, this entire Sounds True podcast is worth listening to for these kind of positive insights. 

 #4

Ok. Now here's a little DIY replenishment.


BEFORE 


This is my latest project, in my office.
But I honestly debated on showing you this because it's so different. I mean. I like it, but I don't know if it's something other people would like.....because I haven't really seen one of these.
 
It's a bulletin board-memory board. Nothing unique that way. But I made it using some leftover fence pieces I was originally going to use on the ceiling of my master bathroom. Jim wanted all the boards out of the garage so I had to think of some way to use them quick, because he was literally loading stuff up for a dump run.

(The area behind the planks got painted black)

Honestly friends. I had NO idea how it was going to look. But you know me. What-the-heck-it's-just-a-wall, right? So I measured and decided the bigger the better so I could pile on my photos and memorabilia. This is where I meditate so I really want to be surrounded by all the things I love. 


After staring at this big black blob on my wall, I decided I needed a frame around it--and because of the size--I knew I would need to make one so I went to Home Depot and found some molding. The ornate pieces were made of a plastic composite, but I also used-one inch wood trim pieces, to make it look chunkier. 


Next, I decided that all that rustic wood should have an 'old world frame' around it so I purchased some gold and dark brown spray paint and at this point, I took a picture because I had no idea what I was doing. The gold coming out-of-the can had this harsh yellow look and I ended up buying four little bottles of craft paint in different shades to get the darker, rich gold I wanted. 


I know this sounds like a nightmare not having the right paint color, but this is when I'm in my version of a creative trance and I loved it. I wish I could make you some of this gilt color, because I just fell in love with this shade. 


step one out of maybe six steps hahaha



Another gulp moment when the first plank went into the still-unfinished frame. See the corners? 
Honestly, I still wasn't feeling it. 



AFTER

But now I love it. 
And I promise to share some photos of the whole office when I finish reorganizing and purging some picture frames I no longer need.

#5



A few weeks back I got an email from Ruthie Lindsey about a free weekly webinar she's calling the Soul Currency Camp starting on Nov. 9th and I signed up. I liked some of the guests she mentioned.  
  

and she describes the conversations this way: 

"We will have conversations around what non-dualistic thinking is and how we can integrate it into our daily lives. We will also have practices to come back home to our bodies through breath work, meditation, non-linear dance, journaling exercises, etc. and we will have beautiful, expansive conversations on what it looks like practically to heal ourselves so that we can bring healing to the collective.

In case you're interested:



#6


Here's a non-fiction writing course I'm taking this month

you can click HERE to learn more

#7


This is my latest Etsy purchase that made me happy.
It's from Wall Buddy


Kinda different. 
But I decided on a large-scale typography for our renovated master bath. I just liked the vibes.

#8

And here's a little goody that's closer to my heart.

If you've been with me for awhile you know that last Thanksgiving we had a Live Like Patrick team that participated in Sacramento's annual Run to Feed the Hungry held on Thanksgiving Day. 


(Our Christmas card last year)

The event is a pretty big deal in Sacramento and we actually got on TV because our team was one of the bigger ones. 


That's me looking like a red, dwarf-sized polar bear on TV. 
Apparently I have no ego when it comes to cold weather. 




I'm sure Patrick would've been embarrassed as heck but we were so touched by the response. 

Well. This year with Covid, the food bank needs help more than ever. But because the race is now a 'virtual' event the organization has been worried about participation and emailed me to ask if we could still get a team together.  And for some reason, it's been emotionally hard for me to get this going. 

Understandably, a lot of the enthusiasm for a 'virtual' event has dropped. I know Patrick's friends are planning to get-together in person. And that warms my heart too.


But if you'd like to join us in honoring Patrick in this way, you can join the Live Like Patrick team and get a nice team shirt to wear on your walks. Since there's no actual event, it's really a $35 donation to a good cause. Although there's an additional $7 fee for mailing the shirt. You can find out more info at the: 


You would register for a team by following these directions


Before I go I wanted to share this photo of Heather from Curated Travel blog 

Last year Heather was one of many dear friends from the blogworld who asked for the Random Act of Kindness Card in Patrick's honor, and shared their kindness with the world. 

This heartwarming story was posted on her @stylemindchic instagram account.





Pretty amazing, right?

Well dear friends, today I hope there's something in this post that inspired you or lifted your spirits. These have been such exhausting and stressful days with the election in the background, and this pandemic still in the forefront of our lives. Pace yourself my dears. Watch carefully where you place your attention because that's where your energy goes.

 When you're feeling worried or stressed, stop and ask yourself: 

What narrative was running through my mind at that moment? And be alert to those thoughts that move you toward stress or sadness.

This is how we get through those hard days. When we choose to be fully present, we can make kinder choices for ourselves.






(Thank you Heidi and @dagirldt for my beautiful flowers)




And yes everyone, I'm still blogging here for now and I'll keep you posted when changes are coming. Let me know if you have problems with these links, this blogger site is still wacky with issues.

Sending you love,
xo
Leslie



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