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Monday, August 14, 2017

A strong woman can change the world.


My walk on the beach at dawn.... 

(Warning: a real-life post ahead)



This morning I woke up to an overcast, hazy mist in the sky that somehow felt right, sort of a mirror of the heaviness I was feeling in my heart. It's so painful to see the country I love in such a broken state; six months of a Trump presidency and we're closer to a nuclear war with North Korea than ever before, we have Nazis and KKK marching in the streets and we're floundering as a nation without real moral leadership in our White House. 


This isn't about Democrats vs. Republicans or conservatives vs. liberals...blah blah blah.

I'm so sick of all the labeling and finger-pointing.

We are Americans first.

Yet without a unifying President that reaches across party lines and instead bullies and labels his adversaries as enemies....we're more divided as a people than ever.

It's really pretty basic. Every person who has parented kids knows that setting standards of behaviors and values all starts at the top. You want kids that communicate constructively and treat each other well? You have to role model those behaviors, be that person. It works the same at a company. Most of us know the power of a boss in creating a healthy environment among employees.

Our political world is not much different. 

Now we have all this anger spilling over at the drop of a hat when regular, nice people try to talk about politics or issues, have you noticed this?  

Suddenly there are real rifts between family members and friends and every day it feels like a new "hot" topic emerges that you can't talk about in mixed company. 

 I mean ...come on.

We have a President that has to be pressured into strongly disavowing violent white supremacy and Nazi groups?! 

Sorry to state the obvious but you cannot be a Proud American and a Nazi at the same time, and yes, I do wish we had a President that would blast this fact out instantly, no Teleprompter needed. 

Oh well.

Strong women don't require any mansplaining before we call a spade a spade.

What hurts my heart is this. 

The United States of America was once a beacon of light in the world representing core democratic values. Yes we're flawed, but we always aspired to stand for freedom and hope and equality for all people no matter their color or race. Yet today right in front of our eyes there's an insidious erosion of these core values happening, and most alarming is the undermining of our free press which is crucial to any true democracy.

Do you want to make a difference?


My point is, let's be informed by our history.

Let's value real facts.

Because I believe there is strength in being knowledgeable. Following current events and news is not an option for me, but I'll admit these days I regulate how much news I watch because frankly, it's pretty depressing.


(See? Every town has a Main Street and they all should matter)


I won't sugarcoat things. As a former mental health professional 
I recognize emotional instability in our current President and it's scary. I'm deeply disturbed by the direction of my beloved country.

So yes.

There are times I post pretty pictures and get lost in creative projects and happily distracted from politics. But I never stop coming back. Because no matter whom are leaders are, it's on us to be informed citizens.

Our democracy exists because of us, we have to care.

Today I honor Heather Heyer, a young woman who had the guts to go out and protest against real evil and tragically lost her life in the most violent way. My heart aches for her mother and everyone who knew her. 

But I figure, maybe I can keep Heather's courage alive in my own little way by striving to be the kind of woman who will stand up for what is morally right. Be the kind of woman who really listens to others and if needed, speaks respectfully about my own views even in the company of those who may disagree strongly. 

Like this blog post for instance. Oh I'm sure I'll lose followers as a result.

It's crazy how divisive our culture is right now.

But I think we have to stop worrying so much about what others think of us and instead, we need to care more about doing the right thing. 

Now more than ever, the truth really matters.


Let me know what you think.

xo
Leslie




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Sunday, April 16, 2017

This is Easter

*This post got over 80K shares when I first published it on another blog. I thought I would share it today in the spirit of gratitude. 


Last night I had the sweetest conversation with the grocery clerk who was bagging my groceries.

Funny, I had never seen him before.

At first glance he might have been a college age surfer juggling a part-time job, but the terse movements of his arms and the deep lines in his tanned forehead suggested a seriousness about his years. And when I smiled at him I recognized the hardened face of someone who had been struggling for a while, so I couldn’t read his age when I asked if he had any plans for Easter.

But that was the magic question. The prodding that gave me an instant peek into his heart because his appearance immediately changed. His no-nonsense, working-for-a-living expression softened, his eyes turned misty and with a shy smile he told me he’d have to be up early to hide the Easter eggs.

“Oh you’ve got little ones?” I cooed. Because there’s nothing that melts my heart more than the idea of chubby little fingers wrapped tightly around an Easter basket. With all those high pitched squeals and wild romps through the damp grass in search of those bright, rainbow-colored eggs.

Ah, Easter eggs, the gems of childhood innocence.

The young grocery man told me he’d just moved his family from the South area in search of a steady job and he was relieved when he got hired at this store. He’d be getting health benefits soon and he was promised more hours. Recently, he’d gone in to ask his manager for the holiday off and was informed that it was against company policy to ask, but when the schedule came out she’d given him Easter off with his young family.

The whole day, so he was pleased. Yeah, things were looking up, he said.

As he transferred the bags from the grocery cart into my car, I asked him about his girls. A one year old and a seven year old. All ready for Easter with their brand new bonnets and spring-colored dresses. He’d gone out that very afternoon to buy them with his wife.

“It’s the one year old’s first Easter.” he announced, shaking his head with a smile. “That’s the exciting thing.”

And I smiled back, because I remembered the gloriousness of a one year old so well, even though it had been a long time.

This is what I love about Easter; this is what the life and death of Jesus gave us.

Easter is a day that offers us the promise of hope and new beginnings no matter what our stage of life. 

And Hope is a powerful thing.


It can save us.

Wishing you the comfort of hope and faith
today and always,
Leslie

Friday, March 31, 2017

Installing Vertical Planks: ONE important thing i learned!


Well I'm finally putting together a post to tell you about our bedroom-turned-family room with the vertical planked walls that I installed. 

And yes, I'm sharing the one important thing I learned from my experience.

But I have a little confession to make. 
This post is not for experienced carpenters unless of course you're in the mood to grab a cold drink while you sit back, shake your head with pity, and repeat the phrase,

 "Lady! Why didn't ya just use sheets of beadboard?!"


That my friends, is the question I asked myself more than once when I was working with the 6-inch-wide strips of plywood that the Home Depot guys had ripped for me on their saw. 


Although to be honest I always have one of those what-did-I-get myself-into-moments when I'm working without my Dad. 

And even though I eventually finished this room, believe me, there was a lot exasperation about getting my vertical lines straight. 

When my Dad visits next month, I know he'll be smiling and really supportive of my job, but he'll definitely see my little mistakes.

After

 Here's the one mistake that bugs me the most although chances are, you might not notice it. I had to point it out to Jim.

1. Horiozontal vs Vertical Planks?

OK, so back to the topic of vertical planks. 

I don't see as many vertical plank projects, do you?  At least compared to the shiplap ala-Joanna-Gaines-Fixer-Upper look that's so popular these days. If you're still on the fence about shiplap here's an interesting article on whether it fits with your home.

 Me? I've been collecting pictures like this one forever:


And I find the look quite charming, especially for our home which is near the ocean. Still, I'm not sure I would've deviated from the horizontal planks which I've already installed in certain parts of my home, --if it wasn't for our low ceilings in this one bedroom. 

2. The Room

Here's the original Before 
(from the real estate pictures)

A dark room ....with little natural light and low (less that 8 ft) ceilings that made it feel claustrophobic.

The previous owners lowered the ceilings in this room to accommodate the can lighting, and according to our electrician, it's not uncommon around here. 

But since changing the ceiling height is entirely dependent on winning the lottery which I never play--installing vertical planks were my answer to adding to the illusion of height in this bedroom.

In the months before the planks were added, we began with a few basic changes to this bedroom:



The next stage was transforming this bedroom into a casual living space for everyone.

3. Choosing the vertical plank look: 
beadboard sheets or individual planks? 

For me the answer was easy. Because I was working alone I ruled out sheets of beadboard because of the sheer hassle of lifting and moving them myself, and no I didn't want to wait for weekends when the hubby could help me. I know that might seem like a weak reason to rule out beadboard but that's how I roll. 

Also there were two other factors on why I went with faux planks: first I prefer a wider plank beadboard which our lumber yard didn't carry and second, I didn't want to pay for the pricier tongue and groove planks. Since I already knew our local Home Depot would rip my plywood sheets for me I went that way.
...And (little naive Me),
 thought the "faux' vertical planks would be similar to the horizontal planks. 

4. To cut or not to cut my own sheets of plywood?

When using the 'faux' planks ripped from plywood sheets most of us choose to have our local Home Depot or Lowe's do it. Even though I've got a table saw, the thought of ripping all my own wood felt too time consuming. Although in hindsight, the time I saved cutting my planks, I probably wasted in added installation work.

After measuring the room I collected my planks over a week, by dropping into two different Home Depot stores and asking whoever happened to be at their saw. One of my helpers was the manager who was absolutely fastidious about his cuts. Those were the straight ones. The rest of the cuts were pretty irregular which wouldn't have been that noticable if I were laying them horizontally. But once I got started it was obvious that I would have to make a choice.


5. Deciding on the look:

Either I had to keep my vertical lines straight and give up the equal distance between each plank,
or I could use the spacers to guarantee uniform space between the planks, however the vertical lines would not be straight. 

I chose to keep the vertical lines all straight.

6. Confessions from a non-perfectionist carpenter

To further add to my novice carpenter woes, one of the Home Depot guys had pulled out a plywood sheet that was thicker than my others and I didn't catch it. And yep, it got mixed in with the planks on the wall. 

OK. So this is how I know I'm not truly a perfectionist, because if my Dad had noticed the slight difference between the planks on the wall he would've walked over to the flawed plank and yanked it off. Just like that, because it was the wrong size plain and simple. 

That of course, would've led to a few more planks being pulled off because of the newly open space that would have to be re-measured for the new plank to look an equal distance from the others. 

Are you seeing how one thing leads to another when it comes to measuring?

So this is what I did. I sat and stared at the thick plank with my mouth open, took a deep sigh, had a sip from my water bottle, cringed a little more and kept going. 

At that point the mere thought of going back to a crowded and under-staffed Home Depot and bringing back more wood made me want to jump head-first into shark-infested waters. 
(which is basically how I view swimming in the ocean).

This photo shows how each plank needed to be cut down to the size of the wall. Then new trim and new baseboards followed.

7. The finished walls

And so I'm left with what I jokingly call my rustic walls, in the style of a quaint cottage from the rural countryside.


What's wrong with a few odd planks here and there right? 


 Just add some white paint and voila!
  



I brought the rug from the dining room in here to warm up all the white.


I plan on sharing some photos of the REVEAL for this room shortly. Since we splurged on a new sectional in here, everything else in this room is either re-purposed from our old home or bought at a consignment or thrift store. 

Which makes decorating a fun challenge. 

Thanks so much for stopping by friends,

xo

Leslie

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Selfies, Jewelry, and feeling ridiculous (oh yeah-and-this-is-Me)





Hello friends.

Well, I certainly didn’t plan on writing a post about Selfies today but if you’re a regular here you already know I love to talk about things in life that baffle me-excite me-or challenge me.  So today’s topic pretty much covers all three of those.

First—here’s the excitement part:  




When was the last time someone sent you a gift in the mail for absolutely no reason?

Not your birthday. Not a holiday.

Nada. Nothing. Just because.

Well that’s what happened to me recently when Vannessa from Luxuria sent me an elegant set of hammered multi-toned bangles from her jewelry collection…totally out of the blue, as a little token of blogger love.

Honestly, this is one of the amazing parts of being a blogger---you end up becoming friends with people from all over the world, following them through their ups and downs, knowing the names of their family, offering support from a distance when you see them struggling. Funny, the little details I end up knowing about my blog friends. They may be women I’ve never met in person--- yet I have this distinct feeling that I “know” them.

So let me tell you about Vannessa.

She’s got an inspiring fashion blog —and a gorgeous line of jewelry. She lives in a 300 year old cottage in London and regularly writes posts about all things related to being a smart woman with a sharp sense of style. I can’t even remember how long I’ve known Vannessa but based on my memories of her life, it feels like it’s been a long time.

Okay, here’s the selfie part of the post—baffling and challenging me all at once.

Do you want to know how much I like Vannessa?

Well.

I like her SOOOOOOO much that I actually agreed to take a few pictures so I could share my new bangles and do a little shout-out for her jewelry business. And this is no small thing for me.

If you’re a regular here you might have noticed I don’t post pictures of myself much. Well actually never.

 (Except for this one little yoga pose)


After several years of blogging, this is actually my first picture I've ever posted of myself. 

Wow. That's hard to believe... even for me.

But truthfully, I may be the last official woman on earth who doesn’t take Selfies.

I know. Call me a dinosaur. 

But I admit, I'm totally mystified by that urge to pause-in-the-middle-of-whatever I’m doing, to take pictures of myself. I literally never do this.

Although I loooove to see your Selfies, I absolutely do! 

I so admire those women like my friends Tamera and Elizabeth who are refreshingly unabashed about sharing their self-portraits with the world, and whom inspire women of all ages to do the same. 

Express your own version of beauty and humor and self-confidence, they say to all of us, and do it through the art of taking Selfies. If you visit their blogs, you’ll see for yourself how easy it is to get caught up in their exhilarating freedom of expression.

But Moi?

I admit it; I’m not a convert yet.

Does this make me an old fuddy-duddy?

Honestly I just don’t get that 'Empowered-This-Is-Me-Being-Totally-Me-Feeling, as I struggle to figure out how far to hold my phone away from the gigantic-looking face I see in that screen.

Do you know what I mean?

Because sometimes I feel like I'm the only one with this view.

Those rare times when I’ve tried to take a Selfie it brings out my absurd side; that part of me that laughed out loud when Jim and I walked into an “Ugly Xmas Sweater” corporate party dressed in formal-wear because we literally missed the memo.

The Me that trips in public because I misplace my glasses and can’t see the curb.

It's the posing part that makes me feel a tad ridiculous. That suddenly brings out my "Tom-Boy"side ....the Me that prefers old jeans and t-shirts and who never finds time to get my nails done, because there’s literally 1000 things I’d rather be doing than sitting still long enough for someone to paint my nails. 

I jokingly call it my 'Dude' side;  it's the Me that recently got my first tattoo at age 57 with my 22 year old son after we met for a cold beer at a bar in Newport Beach and had a great talk about Life.

I guess my point with all this blathering ….is to say, please don’t let my geeky posing as a jewelry- model keep you from visiting Vannessa’s blog and introducing yourself. It would be so kind of you to visit her at Luxuria-Jewellery and tell her I sent you!

She was so sweet to send me these beautiful bracelets.


Let's see. If I lift my hair up would it draw attention to the bangles? Opps...too blurry.


Maybe if I hold my hand up...but wait, the bangles keep separating that doesn't look right.....


What if I hold my arm up... balancing it on my other arm? At least the bangles all fall together, but what's with that plastic smile? 

I could keep going but you'd be bored silly. I know I am.

But you should know that these bangles really do look great with everything! And I sure hope you have fun checking out Vannessa's jewelry. 

Oh and before you go...please tell me, how do you feel when you take Selfies?

xo
Leslie

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

What you are seeking is seeking You.



The first time I ever met Anne she politely asked me to leave.
“Goodbye!” She said in a strong, matriarch voice. “Good-bye!” she repeated just in case I didn’t get the message.
I had sat frozen in my seat for an extra minute, feeling like a pink-faced candy striper who had just walked in on a naked patient. But. But...I’ve only been here ten minutes I remember thinking. Ten minutes into our one hour visit.
Oh well, I gave her a weak smile and walked out thinking,
...well I guess not all hospice patients want visitors.
Especially when they’re in the Alzheimer-Dementia unit and rarely able to recognize you; although this little insight took a while to sink in.
In the following weeks my visits with Anne have settled into a comfortable pattern of unpredictability where I walk into the room with a big, happy greeting and silently wait to see signs of alertness in Anne’s eyes.

For me these moments have a fuzzy similarity with a scene out of Groundhog Day; except I am Bill Murray’s softer version, gently repeating our first introduction each time we meet.
Sometimes I’ve been excited by the occasional flash of connection that happens during an ordinary visit. Those are good days. Like the time I was standing at the foot of the bed when Anne suddenly lost control of her bowels. I felt sure that something emotionally real had passed between us in those intimate moments before the nurse arrived.
I was the one who saw the flash of horror on her face and heard her repeatedly mumble,
 “What …what happened?! I’ve never had this happen before!”
In that split-second I felt myself catapulted from a quasi-stranger into that of intimate confidante, if only for those moments when she seemed comforted by my words.
And it made me wonder, would things be different from now?
You can imagine how giddy I felt the next week when Anne was totally alert and smiling, even asked me to push her around in her wheelchair, into the garden and through the hallways until we eventually ended up singing in front of the Karaoke machine. Around us was a small huddle of fellow patients that Anne typically avoids, and even they seemed a bit surprised to see her roll up next to them.

We sang together.
And I can still hear her wobbly voice surprising me with these verses she clearly recalled from her past:
“Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so”
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but He is strong.”







Naive me. I actually thought we had some kind of break-through that could last.

But the next week I found Anne in a darkened room when I arrived. Her mouth was open and her face was relaxed in the throes of a deep sleep. While I stood there, her eyelids suddenly flickered, she saw me and told me to go.

Taking my cues from previous weeks when she often woke up ready to talk, I pulled out a book and sat next to her bed.

And several minutes later she opened her eyes again.

“Why are you still here?” she demanded, her voice suddenly becoming a razor sharp knife cutting through the quietness, “If you don’t leave right now I’m gonna call the lady!”

And that was that.

Later after I sent my report, the hospice chaplain was concerned about my feelings. Had I been ‘traumatized” by Anne’s treatment, he asked.

It was a sensitive question on his part, but traumatized?  Definitely not.

It’s true that I felt the sting from her harsh words, let's face it, being tossed out of someone’s room is a jolt to the heart. But what had lingered afterwards was something else; it was the shock of the complete disappearance of my sweet, vulnerable singing partner of the previous week. It was the dramatic switch in her mood and tone that threw me. Not only was I not recognized, but I hadn't recognized her.

A few days later while I was practicing on my yoga mat, I had this clear insight into how my ego causes me to slip up in real life. It was a lesson on how "egoism,"--what yoga teacher Patanjali refers to as "asmita" blurs the truth. 

In my case, my instant reaction of hurt had been solely focused on me, pure and simple. Even though I had good intentions, I lacked the ability to pause. To create a little space before my own feelings of woundedness enveloped me. Here was a clear-cut example of how easy it is to misread a difficult person in my daily life. My ego had literally obscured the fact that these harsh words were being uttered from someone barely clinging to reality.
The fact that I would take her outburst as personal would be the epitome of ego.

And while Anne's dementia-tinged outburst may seem an extreme example, it comes with a message. It lifts the curtain on those people who go around lashing out at others. 

Do you have one of these in your life? Because it begs the question. Before we react to their words, can we pause long enough to ‘see” how badly they must be struggling?

This is what the hospice director doesn’t know.

 Anne is my teacher.

Anne is teaching me what it’s like to take my yoga practice off the mat and into the real world.

She is reminding me every time I see her that all we truly have is the Present Moment. And whether we’re a hospice patient or not, we should take nothing for granted. There are absolutely no guarantees that what we have today will be here tomorrow.

Anne is teaching me about impermanence. Reminding me—every time I say good-bye—that time is a gift. And that we should never wait to tell the people in our lives, I love you. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Anne is teaching me about how to care deeply about someone without attachment, how to give freely without having any expectations. Even the expectation that she remember me.

 Anne is teaching me about my own annoying flaws and unfinished work and reminding me in the words of our hospice director, “that most of us die the same way we lived,” which simply means there are no magical transformations on the deathbed. Not really. Angry people die with their anger. Selfish people die afraid. It’s up to us --- in the words of Maya Angelou, to “go out and grab the world by the lapels.” It’s up to us to have a clear intention of the person we what to be, and to begin today to put that “ideal” into practice.

Anne is reminding me to keep growing. To keep facing my anxieties. To deal honestly with my underlying fears that make it so hard for me to “let go” of certain situations and worries.

She is teaching me that if I truly want to become a wise, peaceful person by the end of  my life--it won’t happen without mindful choices and effort.

I can keep this list going, but I’ll end it this way.

Every single time I walk out of the beige, brick building where Anne has a room, I am blown away by the fact that I can walk outside and breathe in fresh air.

I have a laser beam awareness that I’m standing on two strong legs that can carry me anywhere I want to go. And that I can look up and see the color of the sky whenever I get the urge.

I can’t explain how simple and radiant and beautiful my life seems at this one moment.

But this is what I do every time I leave Anne's dark carpeted room with it's hospital bed.

I stand on the concrete sideway. I take a deep breath and I feel utterly grateful.




Tell me.

Who is your teacher these days?

I'd love to know.

Namaste,
Leslie

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