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,

Monday, November 16, 2020

A special care package for You: 8 goodies


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...


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. 


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.


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. 


Ok. Now here's a little DIY replenishment.


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. 


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.


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:


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

you can click HERE to learn more


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.


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,

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