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Thursday, May 21, 2020

what really matters






.
Can we both just take a few minutes and acknowledge how weirdly surreal life has felt these last few months?

In the words of Krista Tippett, “something has literally happened to all of us at once,” which is astonishing in itself, but once the dust settles, I don’t think it’s this new strain of virus running rampant over the globe—that will be what triggers our most potent memories.

No, I think what’s been most impactful on our hearts, on our minds, and on our bodies will have been this period of self-isolation

Call it what you want. Self-quarantine, lock-down or social distancing, it’s been this experience of shutting ourselves off from human contact at the exact time we’re emotionally reeling from the effects of so many losses happening in our lives, that’s the jarring reality we’ll remember. 

Each of us hunkering down into this personal no-man’s land. 

Daily routines we took for granted--that had anything to do with others--were gone overnight. Schools and businesses closed. Loss of incomes and jobs dominating the news. And looming in the background was this mysterious Covid-19 with its ever-expanding symptoms and potential targets. 

Any one of these changes we could have managed.

But they came like pounding waves with no time to grieve. These drastic changes-big and small- each one peeling back those paper-thin layers that protect our core during normal times. And then, having to endure all of it--- without the warmth of human touch. Without the reassurance of a big hug, and the closeness of face to face empathy. 

This is what’s been so bizarre.

Whether you’re physically vulnerable to the virus yourself, or worried about your loved ones who are; whether you’ve got kids at home and you’re tired and stressed; or you’ve been separated from your loved ones and struggling with loneliness. Whether you’ve been touched by the virus personally, or you know others who have.

Whether it’s all of these or a mix of more.

My heart is with you. 

I know it's been hard.



Acknowledging our liminal space

The other day I stumbled on an interesting word that describes my strange new world after losing Patrick.  

But I think you’ll want to hear it.

If you’ve ever experienced a catastrophic loss, then you’ll remember that slow-moving avalanche of shock and anguish that dismantles every aspect of your life, and how afterwards, your “future” feels suspended in time. 

It’s a disorienting period. When the life you thought you were living is gone and you’re staring at a world you longer recognize. 

I talk about my experiences with you, mostly because I never believed I could ever survive the loss of one of my kids, and so even I’m amazed. My life now feels like one deep exploratory dive into a new way of being. And whenever I think there’s crossover—some shared struggle we both know—I feel compelled to talk about it here.

Obviously Covid-19 is one of those experiences on a global level.

Since this virus, our entire world has been going through a collective chaos that’s triggering a mass reaction of anxiety and fears. And I’m not even addressing the catastrophic human loss and grief that’s in our collective awareness—this means that whether we’re conscious of these deaths or not, these losses are still affecting us because of our interconnectedness as humans. 

If you’re been noticing how different our lives feel right now it’s because we’re in state of transition referred to as liminal space.

When I read Richard Rohr's post, I instantly wanted to share this idea here. 




Starting to sound familiar?

Because this liminal space describes the world of uncertainty we’ve been living in during this entire global pandemic. Behind us is the life we called ‘normal,’ and in front of us is a way of life that’s still being determined, largely by the science and health research that will guide the process. 

Learning to tolerate this feeling of ‘not knowing’ is hard. Our biological wiring makes us quick to react with fear. I think this is why we’re seeing so many people in the news turning to anger, blaming others, and expressing defiance. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to feeling afraid (on a deeper level) and having a loss of control. 

When things are falling apart around you—I’ve learned it’s crucial I stay alert to where I put my attention and energy. My biggest lesson has been this: We don’t have to follow every anxious thought down the rabbit hole. (more about this here)

Although the other option takes real effort. It means acknowledging yeah, this in-between place is hard. But if we work to stay conscious--and surrender to our vulnerability-- with the intent to watch the narratives we’re telling ourselves

Even your most painful feelings will pass if you learn to let them go.

When I feel my worries starting to take over, I’ll actually ‘check’ my thoughts.


  • Am I moving toward my fears?
  • Am I moving toward the Light?


You’ll always know the answer.



When little things become the big things

On Mother’s Day I wrapped a black and cream French ribbon around a vase of fresh lavender and placed it on the door mat of the young woman who lives across the street from me. On the card I told her she was a wonderful mother and I wished her a beautiful day. 

She is a radiologist at a local hospital and a few weeks ago, she shared her fears with me of being exposed to Covid-19, especially in the early days when she lacked proper PPE.

In normal times I would have knocked on her door and seen her look of surprise and her happy smile when I handed her the flowers. I miss seeing that reaction.

I would’ve talked a bit and she probably would have told me what she wrote on the thank you card she placed in my mail slot later---that her last few weeks had been hard ones. Most likely she would’ve told me why. I miss that random sharing.

And I would’ve listened and most important, I would have seen her vulnerability and responded to it. I like to think I would’ve said something that made her feel a bit lighter and hopefully, appreciated. I miss that kind of giving.

She happens to be a mother of three active boys, and each morning when I open my wicker blinds, her car is already gone. She leaves at 5:30 each morning and when she comes home, she usually has a load of groceries in her car, because she does all the shopping and cooking in the family, in addition to working full-time.

Because my living room window looks out to her house, it’s easy to notice her coming home in her hospital garb, but these days when we talk, she stays on her side of the street. 

Which means that our conversations right now remain polite and as emotionally hollow as the physical space now separating us.

Do you know what I mean?

Lately when I’m waving at a neighbor on the street or reading a text on my phone, or even after a phone call, I sense there’s so much being left unsaid. 

And am I the only one who felt a twinge of disappointment on Zoom after a virtual happy-hour with friends?

Yes, it was filled with smiles and talking that gleaned over the surface. But afterwards, I longed for the warmth and intimacy of a real get-together, the spilling out of words and the talking over each other that typically leads to a deeper stash of feelings. I missed these, and I wondered how hard is it to penetrate a screen full of pixels?

Sometimes, during this social isolating I want to yell back.

I see you. 

I know there’s more. 

What’s really going on with you?


Noticing

Ah. I think we can agree.

This physical separation from others has been taken an emotional toll on all of us. 

Only now as we begin the next step of re-opening our businesses and our personal lives again, I admit I feel ambivalent.

I’m aware that this liminal space is also a time when personal transformations happen. Yes, everyone loves the analogy of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. But no one talks about the agonizing experience of the poor caterpillar, how it literally releases enzymes that digest and liquefy it while its alive, a process too painful to imagine that the caterpillar endures for the end result.

Anytime we go through tumultuous change and loss, there is space created in that empty void.

What we choose to do with that new spaciousness is our choice and not everyone becomes an awakened butterfly after a dark period in their lives, but the possibilities are there.

And I don’t want to give up my humble little insights I’ve been having during this isolation. All because of these months of lunacy and sickness and death and anxiety and fears and the lack of being able to give a neighbor a small gift face-to-face.

Those little things that you’ve been missing are telling you about what you value. They’re calling you home, back to your center. 



Here’s a few little things I’ve been missing: 


  • I miss bumping into someone in public and having random conversations without thinking about the virus
  • I miss giving hugs when I greet someone
  • I miss hearing the low hum of voices inside a crowded restaurant
  • I miss being close enough to whisper without a mask
  • I miss smiling at people in the grocery store and having them know I’m smiling (behind my face mask)
  • I miss cooking for others and having guests over




Please tell me in the comments section what you’ve been noticing during your isolation.

I can’t wait to hear.

Sending love and light to you,
Leslie

sharing this post here:  Grace at Home

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

You're invited to a Virtual Dinner Party!




Hello friends.

Well.

After all these long weeks sheltering down... can we all just release a big deep exhale, pop those corks off some bottles of wine and have a little pretend break?

Because.

I don't know bout you. But I'm seriously beyond ready for a good old-fashioned dinner party with loud voices and a bright, crowded kitchen and lots of good conversation going on...

Oh. And-of-course we have to have some delicious food, right? 

Well, this is the fun part. 
Because You are invited to participate in a Virtual Progressive Dinner Party organized by none other than everyone's favorite blogger-party-planners, Annie of Most Lovely Things, Cindy of Rough Luxe and MaryAnn of Classic Casual Home. And the best part is that you don't need to bring anything! Just yourself. We've got the food handled. 

This is the menu:


So welcome-and-please-come-in.
I'm just finishing up a few more items for my Cheese board. And this is where I should probably tell you that this course is going to be light on the 'charcuterie' because honestly, I'm not really a meat eater and since I like to pretend that everyone likes what I like, I decided at the grocery store to pick up mostly cheese and fruit. 

If you're curious, this is what I have on my platter:



Grocery list

Fresh Medool Dates

Goat Cheese

Croutons
organic baby tomatoes
fresh basil and garlic
Fresh fruit: grapes and strawberries, cantaloupe
Stilton Blue Cheese
Marinated Fresh Mozzarella Balls-Trader Joes
french baquette
Crackers and Nuts: Roasted and Salted Truffle Marcona Almonds and Walnuts
Olive Tapenade
a few slices of prosciutto
Fig Jelly & honey



And here's what I made for you:



It's not your typical cheeseboard.



But I decided to make a different version since--to be honest--it's only Jim and I here right now, and let's see--how should I say this nicely...neither of us needs a lot of decadent cheese leftover in the fridge...so here's what I did:




I brought home a fresh baguette with the idea of having brushetta on the board ...because it's a favorite of mine. 

(Ok, are you starting to see how I made my cheeseboard selections?)



I sliced it, rubbed it down with fresh garlic and baked one side in the oven. Turned it over and rubbed other side with garlic and finished baking on this side until it was nice and slightly toasted.
And that smell! Yum....



There's a cute little vegetable stand near my house where I buy the sweetest organic tomatoes.


At the last minute I saw this interesting video  
on Half Baked Harvest and I decided to switch from fresh tomatoes to roasted, so I popped this into the oven.



Roasted tomatoes, fresh garlic and basil drenched in olive oil and served next to marinated mozzarella balls and bread slices.
Olive tapenade on the side because it's so easy and yummy.


These fresh marinated mozzarella balls from Trader Joes, marinated in basil, herbs and olive oil are ranked in PopSugar's best cheeses from Trader Joes.

I'm a big fan of Caprese salad, made with great olive oil, and I'll often order one for my dinner, nothing better to me--than these flavors together.

Is this more of a California thing?


Side note: If you have to have toothpicks on the table I think putting them inside a vintage cordial glass is a cute touch.

Crispy prosciutto and cantaloupe
...my touch of charcuterie on the board :)


Oh-here's a delicious old William Sonoma recipe that's always a hit with guests. And it's so simple to make.
 Stuffed Medjool dates with goat cheese.


Put a slit in each date. Remove pits. Fill with goat cheese.


Heat a small pan with a generous amount of olive oil and brown the bread crumbs. I prefer to use my favorite seasoned croutons (crushed of course) instead of plain bread crumbs for added flavor. 
When cool, dip each top of date into crumbs. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. 

Place dates on lightly oil baking dish, for 10-12 min until warmed through. Soooo decadent!




Is there anything better than fig jelly and Stilton blue cheese on warm slices of French bread?

Don't worry if you're not a fan there's some honey too, for a light drizzle.



I'm also happy making this my whole dinner. With my glass of wine of course. Are you a sweet and salty person too?




Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit here and I truly wish I could open my front door and have you standing right there. I'd just love to do this in person. 

But hopefully, I gave you a few ideas for your own cheese board.

And now it's time to check out all the delicious courses ahead:

Sheri Silver -White Bean Salad in Radicchio Leaves
Rough Luxe - Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad
Most Lovely Things- Caramelized Shallot Pasta
Stone Gable - Asparagus in Puff Pastry with Brie
Classic Casual Home- Lemon Tart w/Shortbread Crust and Berries

Thank you Cindy and MaryAnn and Annie for inviting me to host this party--it was such a fun idea.

And thank you everyone for stopping by today,

xoxo
Leslie

Friday, April 17, 2020

being a witness to your life





I've been wanting to ask you, "How are you doing?"

And no, I don't mean, Hi! how ya doing?---like in the old days. Before Covid-19.

I mean How-are-you....really

And specifically,

How are you handling all this uncertainty?

The other day I heard Bill Gates say that every morning he wakes up, he wonders if this is some kind of nightmare. Yes, Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world is watching the same heartbreaking stories unfolding all over the globe, and experiencing the same isolation from others as we are.

And despite being insulated from the daily worries of the average person, he admits to waking up with the same kind of disbelief we all have, at how swiftly we lost the busy lives we were all living only a few months ago.






The other day Jim and I walked to the beach and we both felt a bit stunned by the quiet solitude; on a popular SoCal beach during a April weekend that would typically be flooded with tanners and bikers and volleyball players, it was mostly empty. And we were astonished to have this majestic lushness all to ourselves.

But in that same moment, we felt the strangeness of these times.

Suddenly in the blue-green expansiveness of the ocean, we could see for miles, the gray distinct outlines of distant ships and the Catalina Island emerging like a crusty sea creature against a clean blue sky.

And it hit me. Is anyone else seeing the irony in this surprising windfall of glorious pollution-free air, as a result of this deadly virus? 

I don't know why this seems so profound to me.

But suddenly, courtesy of Mother Nature, we each have the chance to see what's right in front of us with a renewed clarity --both literally as a result of the lack of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere but also metaphorically--because of the sudden PAUSE we're all experiencing together.



A deep, collective pause. An interruption from our frenetic-paced lives in order to save ourselves and our fellow man. But like the sudden lifting of the smoggy clouds, we've also been offered a clearer, unobstructed view of ourselves too, and this life we've been busy creating.

Are you feeling it too? That layer of uncertainty that's settled over our days like a global fog, connecting us to distant lands. 

Do you feel that strangeness in the air when you go outside? 

I keep thinking it has something to do with living without the skin-to-skin contact with other humans. It's surreal, this kind of detachment. Don't you agree?

Yes, these are unprecedented times. But I also see what appears to be a unifying time in our history--certainly in our own lives--because we're all experiencing the same kinds of losses right now. 

Think about that.

We're all having the same worries and questions about our jobs and finances and our plans for the future. 

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

Recently, I was listening to a spiritual discussion about the layer of fear that is covering the globe right now and I see that fear when I look down the grocery store aisle and find empty shelves where the paper towels, toilet paper and canned goods usually are, and I can feel how afraid people were in that moment, the way they grabbed their goods and turned away, and how having a perspective that sees things in scarcity as opposed to abundance, might intensify these worries even more.

And it makes me feel compassion. Being a type-A control person is a common mask for our fears and anxieties and I know both those worlds well. But that's a post for another day.

During this global pandemic I prefer to see the possibilities for what the inherently-wise grade-schooler calls, a do-over.




I like to think of it has Humanity having a chance for a fresh start. Only this time, without so many fuck-ups  crazy distractions from what really matters, like how we care for our planet and our animals and people who may look different from us. 

Except of course, humanity is Me. And you. And everyone else. And any transformation has to involve all of us collectively becoming more self-aware. 

And I believe that comes from slowing down. And noticing things. 




The other evening Jim and I were walking Stella when we saw a big, burly man come out of the dark branches of a tree and cross the street toward us. He was talking but we couldn't hear him, and our first reaction was caution. 

Then as he moved closer we heard him joke about Stella and the dog barking inside the house we had just passed. 

"Yeah. I gotta go help Mary'" he said, pointing to her house as he walked by us, "she's not getting around too good and her dog might need to go outside." 

As we waved and said a few friendly words to him, we heard him yell back from the sidewalk and lift his shoulders, with both palms out, 

 "Hey. Gotta help our neighbors, right?"

I don't know why. Maybe my insides are more raw and exposed after losing Patrick. But I found something so endearing about his clumsy approach to us in the dark and his kindhearted intentions that I got tears in my eyes. It was a moment out of dystopian novel when the bad guy is really the hero all along.

These are the moments that make me realize, I never want to forget certain parts of this self-quarantine, not because it's a good thing of course-- but because there's truth and love being exposed amid all this fear and sickness.

I know you're seeing it too.

It's the reason I flinch at some of the blog posts on my feed lately. 

Look, if I'm lucky enough to remain healthy, I'm all about expressing creativity.  But one thing I don't want is for this sheltering period to be remembered only as some manic rush to fill up every waking moment with incessant cleaning projects or organizing every room in my house, or going from one project to another as if there's some deadline to be met. 

For me, that feels like a version of distracting myself from important feelings.

But hey, just my opinion. Catastrophic loss has taught me I know nothing. Although I will say this. 

The older I get, the one thing I'm learning is that life is a constant balance of Being and Doing. And the only way I know how to get through difficult times in my life is by being fully present. 

Which is the opposite of running away from pain, right? 

Does it sound crazy? Because since September 2018, I've never experienced more suffering and heartache. But this is my life and I don't want to miss out on any of it, you know what I'm saying? I like to think of it as being a witness to my whole life. And that means--not just the good parts. 

Consider this. If we don't care enough to value what we're going through, who else will? Right?

So. 

Back to you my friend.

How are you doing?


  • How are you handling all of these questions and loss of control?
  • What layers are you shedding lately?
  • Have you lost anyone to Covid-19?
  • Did you know that losses--even little ones--can bring about mourning?


Whatever you're feeling, please know that your emotions are valid and normal and don't judge yourself. If you don't have anyone to share your thoughts with, send me an email and I'll be happy to respond.

Remember, we're all in this together.



(I find this so helpful)




xo

Leslie








Thursday, April 2, 2020

Blue and White Linen Closet: My latest DIY






Hello my friend. Can I tell you something personal?

I had a hard time typing out the title for this post. 

I worry that it sounds shallow and that it conveys a staggering insensitivity about all the deaths happening right now around the world. Especially after I got an email from a dear friend in Italy who let me know that Italy has been going through hell.

Can we all agree that there is profound strangeness about life right now?

Even if Covid-19 hasn't reached your life in a personal way yet, I think we all feel connected to this crisis by the ominous drip of daily news that's reminding us of our humanity. Our connection to each other as loving citizens, irregardless of race or political party or any of the other labels that separate us in normal times. 

Personally, when I see all these health care professionals on the front lines overworked and risking their lives on our behalf, it's hard. There's a feeling of being stuck on the sidelines, of wanting to help them is some way. 

And yet--at least right now--the biggest impact we can have is to stay home and isolate ourselves which is the opposite of what we do in times of crisis which is, seek out people who make us feel safe and connected and yes, useful.


See what I mean? 
It's a strange--but very serious time. As of this morning--- experts are telling us the next few weeks are critical. What we do today will literally have a direct effect on how many people die out there in our community. 

It's hard to fathom, right?


But then I got this email that reminded me of something else that's also important right now. Taking care of our spirit. Making time for those things that replenish us, for the sake our emotional health. And for me--- this means tapping into my creative side to find peaceful distractions. 



This was from Hometalk, reminding me of a long ago DIY post that had apparently gotten some views. And I thought--hey, maybe it's time to share another DIY post, you know...as a way of spreading a few cheerful vibes out into the world. 

Don't we all love a good Before and After? So here it goes.

This is a project I started in January when I was really struggling and lucky I remembered to take a few pictures for you.


So here's the BEFORE picture of my linen closet.




Michael says I should have taken a 'real' BEFORE picture when the floor was full of plastic bins and you could barely get inside 
(ah..maybe because a certain hoarder of unmatched towels and old bed linens was in charge)

But she's better now.

And here it is dark and empty.
.





Odd wires coming from the walls. No baseboards but we did have the wood flooring extended inside here when we moved in.






Wallpaper vs. Stencil




My first plan was to try a peel and stick wallpaper mostly because I wasn't in the mood to paint, but also because I was seeing some great choices out there. 

But in the end I was worried about the stucco finish on our walls being a problem. And I didn't want to go through all that work, only to have it drooping in spots.




So I ordered this very cool Batik stencil and decided to use two shades of blue on the pattern, and another shade of blue on the shelves.







I repainted the whole space a bright white. Installed baseboards. And painted the shelves this sapphire blue.


 At this point Jim popped his head in and thought I was done.
(Silly man)





Once I got started I didn't want to stop for pictures. But stenciling is pretty basic. Once you line the pattern up, taping it in place is the key. After that you just dab dab dab that paint on.




The part of the project when you think,
 "it's all in the details"

I ordered some gold French style upholstery nails from Amazon. 


Finally on the second trip to Home Depot I found a drill bit that was the right teeny-weeny size for the nail.


If you're curious, here's the drill gun I use.


I drilled holes into the front of the shelves.


Then I used a hammer to pop them gently into the holes.


Ta daaaaa






Because the pattern was so busy I stopped at the ceiling.


 And yes, I decided to purge all my colored towels and go with white from here out.




I ordered this quilted floral ironing board cover from Etsy (#StandWithSmall) and Jim hung it on the wall.
And as you can see, I still haven't repainted the closet doors and put them back on yet. So that's a peek at my bathroom.

Drum roll please. One last time...

Before



After


And that's it.

I sure hope you enjoyed seeing my little closet project and most importantly, that it got your mind off the sober reality we're all facing now. 

We're all in this together friends. 

But we have to stay home for awhile. That's all. And it's such an easy sacrifice compared to all those health workers who are risking their lives for us every day.

We got this.


Sending you a virtual hug glass of wine right now,

xoxo

Leslie

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