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Top Ten Netlix Recs

Especially during the cold, winter months, Netflix is a favorite source of entertainment in our home. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Netflix series as much as movies. Throughout the heaviness of living during this pandemic, the following series were welcomed escapes and fun to watch.

The first three recommendations are all ones my husband and I watched together and both enjoyed.  We actually watched Schitt’s Creek years ago, and loved it so much, we recently started watching from the beginning again.  This in and of itself says a lot about how much enjoyment we got watching this family because we usually do not watch a series more than one time. It’s just that good. Seriously. After starting from the beginning a second time it is even more apparent how much the characters grow and change throughout the series.  This is an over-the-top family that you can’t help but love, and they provide plenty of laugh out loud moments. (If you finish watching Schitt’s Creek, and love it as much as we did, you will also want to check out the documentary on Netflix about the making of the series: Best Wishes, Warmest Wishes: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell.)

If someone told me I’d be interested in watching a series about chess, I would probably not have believed them.  However, I was easily sucked in to this coming of age story of an orphaned chess prodigy.  While The Queen’s Gambit isn’t as light hearted as some of the others I’m recommending, it is a rich drama filled with moments of hope and triumph.  Whether you like chess or not, you should check it out. And, like Schitt’s Creek, there is also a documentary, Creating The Queen’s Gambit, currently on Netflix about the making of this series.

Kim’s Convenience is another comedy with a family that is easy to grow to love.  The Kims own a Korean Canadian convenience store and have raised two children, now in their twenties. This family provides a great deal or humor as well as depth. If you like Schitt’s Creek, this is another one you will probably enjoy!

The next six recommendations are all series I watched on my own (no husband involved, and if we had children, they would not have been in the room while I was watching as all of them have some risque’ moments!) Grace & Frankie is probably one of my all-time favorite Netflix comedies.   It highlights two women whose husbands leave them to purse a relationship together~which they had been hiding for 20 years. The women are vastly different but slowly become best friends. Grace & Frankie is a show about friendship, family, love, and growing older. It is one that I was truly sad to see come to an end.

Firefly Lane  is the series I am currently watching. It’s another one about women friendships; however, on this one, the two main characters have been friends since their childhood. They come from vastly different families but grew up on the same road: Firefly Lane. This is another one that I know when I finish Season 1, it will feel like too long to wait for Season 2 to arrive in my Netflix queue.

Emily in Paris is a series I would consider a bit goofy and very lighthearted, but sometimes that feels like exactly the entertainment I am seeking. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sights of Paris and the fashion and style on this show as well.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce reminds me of Sex in the City except it is set in L.A. instead of New York, and is about middle aged women going through divorce rather than 20-somethings looking for love. The main character is a writer who is going through a divorce. While divorce is no laughing matter, I found myself cracking up much of the time watching it. This series would easily be in my top five comedy series ever. I felt like I was hanging out with my own group of girlfriends while watching it. It’s so good!

Working’ Moms is hilarious. Even without having children of my own, I loved it. Just watch. You’ll see.

Dead to Me is a bit of a wild ride. I don’t want to say too much here, but it’s about two women who meet in a grief group and build a friendship. They are connected in a way one of the women knows about and the other doesn’t. There are a lot of twists and turns in this one. Like I said, it’s a wild ride.

The final recommendation isn’t a series, but a movie J and I watched last weekend, so it’s fresh in my mind. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a strange and quirky movie, and I highly recommend it! We have a local, small movie theater in town, Rag Tag Cinema, that shows creative and artsy movies, and I kept thinking the entire time we watched this flick that it reminds me of something we would have seen at Rag Tag. (Oh how I long for the days I will feel comfortable watching a movie again outside of my home!) Hunt for the Wilderpeople is described as a New Zealand adventure comedy drama about a boy and his foster father. If you don’t want to commit the time to watching an entire series, this movie is a fun, and shorter, yet adventurous, ride.

I’m curious: what Netflix shows make up some of your top ten favorites?

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

I am by no means a sleep expert, but I can sincerely tell you I have always loved my sleep. Even as far back as my teenage years, I have intuitively known I simply feel better when I’m well rested. And to this day, I highly value and prioritize my sleep. Sleep science is now starting to show us how important our sleep actually is: It is during this time that our brain and body are actively repairing. Sleep is central to good health. Years ago at the Women’s Wellness Conference in CoMO, the keynote speaker, Dr. Sara Gottfried shared about the importance of deep sleep and HRV balance for long-term health and wellness. She showed us her Oura ring she used to track her sleep data. I ended up buying an Oura ring shortly after that conference. (Quick tip: If you get on Youtube and look for reviews on products, you can often find discount codes. Another quick tip: If you buy one, make sure to order the sizer, so you know the correct size to order.)

I love my Oura ring. It is lightweight and easy to wear while sleeping. (I am not one who usually sleeps in jewelry, and I can’t imagine sleeping in my big, bulky Apple watch.) This little ring tracks all kinds of data, but I mainly use it for sleep information. It provides me with information about my total sleep, efficiency, restfulness, REM sleep, deep sleep (always shooting for over 2 hours according to Dr. Gottfried–which is a challenge for me), and latency. It also gives me an overall readiness score for the day which includes information about resting heart rate, HRV balance, body temperature, recovery index, and the previous night’s sleep score. Last night was a particularly good night sleep for me as you can see from the data below.

Prior to Dr. Gottfried’s talk, I had never heard about the importance of HRV balance and sleep. This morning, I got an email from Oura that shared the following information regarding HRV:

“HRV (heart rate variability) is a measure of the variation of time between your heartbeats. It’s a highly personal metric, and one of the key indicators of your recovery status, overall health, and fitness level.

In general, your HRV can range anywhere from below 20 to over 200 milliseconds. What’s important is finding your HRV baseline and identifying what activities or factors make it fluctuate.

Next time you check your Readiness score, keep a closer eye on your HRV. Being in touch with your daily score, and noting any habits that affect your HRV, can help you narrow things down, change things up, and discover which habits work best for your overall health.”

It’s been interesting to pay attention to my behaviors and habits and make connections between how they may be helping or hindering my sleep. I have definitely noticed how eating dinner too close to bed time or having a glass of wine usually negatively impacts my quality of sleep. I appreciate the information my Oura ring provides me; however, after having it for a few years and paying attention, these days I am generally in tune enough with my body, when I wake up in the morning, I have a good sense of what the data will indicate before even seeing it.

Having a day where you feel good in your body starts the night before. How are you sleeping these days? Prioritizing sleep is self-care. Does sleep need to be moved up on your priority list?

***I am not sponsored by Oura, but I wish I was!

Simple Pleasures

We are one month in to 2021, and I’m very much still processing 2020. Anyone with me? The year 2020 was a year of questions: What is true? What is real? What is the purpose of life? What will happen next? What does it mean to be safe? When will there be true equality? Why aren’t we there yet? What actually matters most? Who sincerely cares about me? Who and what do I really care about? This list could go on and on. So many questions. I’m still very much working on answers.

One of the lessons of 2020 for me was the big reminder of the importance of focusing on the simple pleasures in life. It is often focusing on the simple pleasures that get me through my day: clean sheets, sunshine on my face, a hot cup of coffee, a beautiful smelling candle, petting my pups, seeing a bright red cardinal out the window, taking a walk, savoring dark chocolate, deep breaths…my list could go on an on. I’ve become a simple pleasures master. Today, I thought I’d share a few of my simple pleasures with you that bring a bit of extra joy.

One of my favorite simple pleasures these days is taking a hot shower. Prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed showers, but I wouldn’t say I looked forward to them. Now, I do. Sometimes they are the highlight of my day. I purchased a 12 inch rain shower head (which I would highly recommend), and there is truly little that compares to having that hot water shower over my entire body. Showering is an opportunity to get really present in the body–feel the sensations, smell the scents, and relax. One of my favorite parts of showering is savoring the smells of different soaps and oils. My current favorites are L’Occitane’s Almond Shower Oil https://rb.gy/rmvzbe, Zum Bar soap-I enjoy all the scents, but especially love Patchouli (I purchase this from Clover’s or Natural Grocers), and Harry’s Fig Body Wash https://rb.gy/dwna3z. All three are very different scents, but I love them all. I shave every day. I love the feeling of having smooth, shaven skin. Up until a few years ago, I used to purchase the cheapest razors I could find. Then, one time I tried out a 5 blade razor, and there was no going back. It is so much smoother and comfortable on my skin. I am currently using Billie razors because they are just that good, and I appreciate the convenience of them being delivered right to my door. https://rb.gy/yvhekb With my natural curly and somewhat unruly hair, (which BTW I’ve totally embraced my curly girl status during this pandemic) a good deep conditioner is a must. I have been using Matrix Biolage Hydrasource Conditioning Balm for probably over 20 years. It’s a must for my hair. https://rb.gy/kehmzc Nothing makes it softer and healthier. Lastly, after I shower, I always put on body lotion. One of my current favorites is Palmer’s Coconut Body Lotion with Vitamin E https://rb.gy/b7ulxy. If you like the smell of coconut, this lotion smells divine and is good for the budget as well! These are all my current shower loves that spark a little extra joy!

The next simple pleasure is one I discovered a few years ago. For me, living in Missouri during the winter months is hard. The lack of light, sunshine, warm weather, and color definitely takes it’s toll on my state of wellbeing. A few years ago an Aldi went in close to where we live, and I started purchasing small bouquets of flowers from there a few times a month during the wintertime. They are usually only around $4 and definitely worth it to me. I noticed that simply having that little pop of color and life in my home made a big difference in how I felt. During the months of January and February, especially, fresh flowers in my home are a simple pleasure I greatly appreciate.

You may have guessed from all my previous posts with playlists that listening to music is another simple pleasure. I appreciate many different types of music; however, most frequently, in my home, I’m trying to cultivate an ambiance of relaxation and peace, so relaxing music is my go-to. This playlist is one I created last winter (when I actually used playlists in my in person yoga classes). If you have Apple Music and you want a new chill & relax playlist to listen to, here you go: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/yoga-mix-26-winter-flow/pl.u-d2b00PYCMB0RWJ

Once again, it’s the simple pleasures these days that make all the difference. Be intentional about seeking them out, and you’ll find they are everywhere.

***I am not yet sponsored by any of the brands mentioned, but I wish I was!***

The Women Who Wear Them

This past week was a big one for women in the United States. While I hope and pray in my lifetime I will see a woman President, until that time, I’m celebrating the fact I’m now getting to see a woman Vice President. I am celebrating that all the little girls in the United States are getting to see one and because of that, they might be empowered to become that future woman President I hope to see one day.

Photo from https://rb.gy/x7mhfq featuring Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Former First Lady Michelle Obama, & Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

It took our country over 230 years to elect a female Vice President. Over. Two. Hundred. And. Thirty. Years. It took us 100 years after finally getting the right to vote in this country as a women to elect a woman VP. One. Hundred. Years. This week I remembered what hope and promise felt like again. My body was so deeply moved the tears flowed freely while Kamala Harris was being sworn in. All four of the smart, courageous, diverse, and beautiful women leaders above give me hope…hope for a future where all little girls know they can lead.

*I created this Women Rule apple music playlist a while back, and I found myself listening to it over and over again this past week. Enjoy! https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/women-rule/pl.u-e98llD5hzWxA98

Top 5 Winter Nail Polishes

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark with a snowy background

If you know me, you know winter is not my favorite season of the year. It actually comes in dead last. I truly despise being cold, and I don’t enjoy putting on the gazillion of layers required to stay warm. However, I’ve learned this year I can almost actually appreciate winter as long as I don’t have to go outside! Being cozy at home while watching the snow fall is a rather relaxing experience. I also appreciate being able to hibernate, so to speak, as I have so far this winter.

If you know me, you also know at home manis are like a meditative experience for me. I usually give myself one twice a week. I thoroughly enjoy choosing nail colors and painting my nails. I also just love how having a nice manicure makes me feel. So, today I’ll be sharing my top 5 winter nail polish colors that I come back to over and over again. All five of these colors just happen to be OPI. ***I am not sponsored by OPI, but I wish I was–I just truly love these colors!***

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark

OPI Lincoln Part After Dark is definitely a favorite. I’ve worn this polish for many years and purchased multiple bottles of it. I love a short, squared, dark nailed mani in the winter. This one looks almost black, but not quite, and a little purple. It’s winter nail perfection. https://rb.gy/exvupm

OPI Black Cherry Chutney

OPI Black Cherry Chutney is another one that is almost black, but this one has a hint of dark red, cherry shimmer. It’s deep and rich and beautiful. https://rb.gy/653o5d

OPI Russian Navy

OPI Russian Navy is an easy choice for me. It’s another one I come back to every year. The beautiful, deep, rich, shimmery indigo–is it navy?, is it purple?, is it black?-color is fabulous. (The photo of the bottle doesn’t quite do it justice!) https://rb.gy/b0dstj

OPI Big Apple Red

OPI Big Apple Red is a classic red. I cannot use this color without thinking about my late Grandma Nana and her long, oval, red nails. As a child, I remember watching her paint her nails, and I was always in awe because she was able to leave the white moons of her nails not colored. As skilled as I am at manis, I am still not able to do a half moon manicure like my Grandma! https://rb.gy/w7bjnv

OPI Pompeii Purple

OPI Pompeii Purple may be a bit unexpected for winter, but here’s the thing: I desperately miss all the color during the winter months. Everything is so brown or gray or white. Sometimes, I just want a pop of bright color to look at, and this is it. Pompeii Purple is a gorgeous, shimmery hot pink with purple shifts. (Once again, the photo of the bottle doesn’t do it justice.) It is a must-have, in my opinion!https://rb.gy/i84f8e

Those are my top 5 winter manicure picks! Feel free to comment below and let me know which ones make your list!

(If you are wondering more about my manicure process and what remover/topcoat/nail dryer I use, check out this older blog post where I also featured my favorite fall colors for more info: https://lesliekershaliving.com/2020/10/17/favorite-fall-nail-colors-the-perfect-at-home-mani/)

Child of the 80s & 90s: Popculture Reflections & Playlist

I was a child of the 80s and 90s, and you can see from the photo above I had the shoulder pads and big hair to prove it! I’ve been rather nostalgic lately remembering what were seemingly simpler times: The days of the Swatch watch, after school specials, phones with cords, passing notes in class to communicate with friends, a caboodle to store make-up, trapper keepers to stay organized for school, boomboxes and walkmans to listen to music…

I remember all the time and effort it took to create a mixed tape of songs from different albums, and while I appreciate so much about that era, I do love how easy it is now to create a playlist of music I love. So, in honor of the 80s and 90s, I created a child of the 80s and 90s playlist of songs I loved from that time. The music in the 80s and 90s was the best, too, huh? You can check out the full playlist here: https://music.apple.com/us/playlist/leslies-child-of-the-80s-and-90s-playlist/pl.u-aZb0gB6tPVBdgx

Enjoy!

The Ultimate Triumph of the Human Spirit

Today a former student of mine reached out to me to say hi, thank me for introducing him to Steinbeck, and tell me East of Eden is still one of his favorite books. Although it has been over 16 years since I’ve read and taught the book, that correspondence got me thinking about how relevant it is today as one of the main themes of the book is the conflict between good and evil: Light verses Dark.

The book exemplifies that there is darkness in everyone. EVERYONE. I remember reading this book and feeling the darkness within me. It was jarring to say the least. And yet, the book also elicits great hope because human beings have the freedom to overcome evil by their own choices. And, we can always choose differently.

In our coutnry, we’ve been exposed to some major human displays of evil in the past week. I will remind myself that just like everyone else, I have the potential to get sucked into darkness, and just like everyone else, I can also chose to align with light. Because of this, there will always be HOPE. This dichotomy and the ability to choose light is the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

So, the ultimate question is: What will you choose?

New Year Same You

While I love the process of self-reflection and inquiry, intention setting, self-development, and personal growth, I have also come to realize that contrary to all the messages we receive this time of year, a new year does not mean or need to mean a new YOU. It may mean a new and different expression of your personality, but the YOU you are is already whole, and well, nothing missing and nothing lacking. It’s when we forget or become disconnected from our Divine essence that we start to veer off our path. Truly, the only resolution or intention any of us need to make is to be committed to a consistent remembering of who we are: Spirit. Divine. Source energy.

When we embody that which we are, we live in truth and love.

It’s that simple.

And, so very hard.

There are many distractions and messages trying to make us forget.

Today, I want to share some of the tools that help me remember who I AM.

Listening to soul-filled music. I especially love listening to Beautiful Chorus. If you haven’t heard of them, they are a group worth checking out. I listen to them daily. Yesterday before teaching a yoga class with a theme of intention, I turned Beautiful Chorus on shuffle, and the song that came on was “I Am Everything” from their Wheels of Light album. I couldn’t have chosen a more relevant song. (You’ll have to listen to it.) A few other musicians that speak to my heart and soul are Donna De Lory, Jane Winther, Suzanne Sterling, Girish, and Ashana.

Embodiment Practices. Yoga. Yoga. Yoga. It can be life changing. And, once again contrary to how it is portrayed in the west as a feat of physical acrobatics or simply a workout, it is a deeply spiritual practice: a moving meditation and body prayer. It’s never to late to begin or begin again. Meditation and mindfulness practices also help me stay present enough in my body to notice when the ego and thinking mind try to take the lead, so I can consciously return to remembering who I really AM.

Connecting to Nature. To me, nature doesn’t always have to mean going on a long hike (although sometimes it does.) Nature is always accessible to us: Look at the sky, the moon, the clouds, feel the grass underneath your feet, smell the flowers, notice the colors. If we open our eyes we can see and feel creation everywhere.

Reading Spiritual Inspiration. Poets such as Rumi & Hafiz. The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. Books by Marianne Williamson, Echkart Tolle, Michael Singer, Pema Chodron, & Gary Zukav~to name a few. Reading this type of writing, helps me focus my attention on Spirit. It helps rewire my brain to that of spiritual matters rather than human ones.

This being human is quite the ride, huh? And, it’s easy to forget who we really are: Spiritual beings having a human experience. These are just a few ways I intentionally stay connected to Spirit. Divine energy is always with us, in us; however, we decide if our wifi (so to speak) is turned on. It takes focus, effort, intention, and work on our part to be plugged in. My biggest and most consistent prayer is that we all remember who we truly are, and play out our human roles from our higher Selves as often as possible. When we embody that which we truly are, we live in truth and love. So, here’s to a New Year, Same YOU. May you never forget who YOU are.

The whole universe is yours. Now SHINE.

Saying Goodbye to 2020 with a Burning Bowl Ceremony

I’m not yet to the point where I feel like 2020 has been a great favor; however, it does feel like it has been a year of shaking the nonsense out, huh? And, while I don’t believe all of the nonsense is gone just yet, 2020 has, at minimum, brought a lot of it to light. It’s provided an opportunity to re-evaluate what is truly important and of value in life. We were definitely given much to work with this year, weren’t we?–and some much more than others.

I have never been one to celebrate the New Year by going out or partying. To be honest, most years I am not awake at midnight because I highly value my sleep, and I want to feel good on New Year’s Day. With that being said, I appreciate that the New Year gives us an opportunity to be reminded of the fact that we can have a fresh start and can always begin again.

Contrary to how much of the west has portrayed the practice of yoga as only physical, it is actually a deeply spiritual practice with an emphasis on philosophy and self-inquiry. I want to share a New Year’s Burning Bowl Ritual I use with my yoga classes on the last yoga practice of the year that you could try (regardless of if you practice physical yoga or not) if you are looking for something new and different to do this year. It could be especially helpful if you feel like you have a lot you are carrying with you from 2020 that you’d like to let go of.

First, be intentional about taking some time to reflect on 2020. Light a candle, get a cup of tea, blanket, notepad or journal, and pen. Create an environment that is grounding and soothing for you. Maybe play some relaxing music. Remember, as you reflect, you can use tools such as grounding, orienting yourself to the room (by looking around at things), and deep breathing to help you stay present in your body in order to avoid any feelings of overwhelm. I also recommend after you complete the burning bowl ceremony, that you somehow physically move the energy out of your body as well: perhaps a dance party in your living room, some yoga, stretching, or taking a walk. If it feels safe and comfortable for you, perhaps even invite your family to join in on this ritual with you.

In your journal, respond to the following prompts:

What has 2020 taken from you?

What has 2020 given to you?

What did you learn about yourself?

What did you learn about life and the world we live in?

What do you want to remember about this unique year and take with you into the future?

After responding to the prompts above, get a separate piece of paper (that you will burn) and answer these questions with courageous honesty. Let. It. All. Out.

In order to honor your highest Self, what beliefs, thought patterns, and/or energy do you want to release? What behaviors do you want to change or let go of?

Take some time to write, and when you think you are finished, keep going: Allow your stream of consciousness to speak on the pages.

Once you have finished writing, go outside with it, a lighter, and either use a small fire pit (if you have one) or a bowl that is safe to burn in. Bless all that you wrote and acknowledge that it has in some way served you, and acknowledge that you NO LONGER NEED ANY OF IT: That you are committed to moving forward free. You can even state the following out loud:

“I release all thoughts, beliefs, energy, and behaviors that no longer serve me to make room for the abundant blessings that are ready to grace my life. And so it it.”

Then, light your writing on fire and watch it burn. Watch it and sense the fire of transformation happening within you.

And so it is.

Home for the Holidays

Christmas 2020 looked very different this year for many families. My mom and dad both have three siblings, so our family Christmas celebrations have always been large and so much fun: Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side and Christmas Day with my Dad’s. The sadness I felt over not being able to spend time with my extended family this year over the holidays was real~literally made my heart hurt. However, we made the best of it, and I know that the memories we created this year will be cherished. I also know that next year when we can celebrate together again it will be even more special than ever! I set an intention for myself this year to remember that and stay more connected to my HOPE than my sadness.

We kicked off our Christmas festivities by driving through Veterans United Home Loans light show. These photos do not even begin to do it justice. It was truly magical, and I am so grateful that the company shared this amazing and free experience with our community this year!

Jonathan built a fire pit during the summer months that I knew would come in handy this fall and winter, and it definitely has. It allowed us to have a unique socially distanced, outdoor Christmas celebration with my Mom and step-Dad. I took some of my indoor decorations outside, we ate Arris’ Pizza, opened gifts, and had a great time.

For some reason we chose the coldest and windiest night of the year to drive around and look at Christmas lights. There were definitely some impressive ones to see. However, I feel like my small hometown always had the best Christmas lights around. I have so many great memories of going to Christmas Eve communion at our church and then driving around town to look at lights. We finished our light viewing this year at a local church that has an amazing Magic Tree. Although, quite honestly, I didn’t really even have much of a chance to look at it up close this year because we were just trying to get a quick and decent photo in before I ran back to the car. The last thing I said to J before he snapped this pic is, “Please hurry. My teeth are cold.”

Our Christmas Eve celebration consisted of just the two of us and our pups. We ate lots of appetizers, played Score Four and Yahtzee, danced to Christmas music in the kitchen, and opened gifts. It was simple and full of love.

I decided this year would be a good time to begin a few new Christmas traditions since we would be missing some of our old ones. One of those traditions we chose to begin this year was filling our stockings. Christmas morning we woke up, had coffee, and opened our stocking gifts. We followed that with the new tradition of a cinnamon roll and sausage breakfast on Christmas morning. This recipe from Sugar-Free Mom was absolutely delicious! https://rb.gy/8cd0ly Really, I don’t think anyone would know it wasn’t loaded with sugar or carbs. Give it a try! I followed the original recipe exactly except I used a large muffin pan to cook them separately. I recommend doing it this way to keep them nice and soft. I also prepared them the day before, so I only had to make the cream cheese icing and put them in the oven to cook Christmas morning.

Christmas 2020 will definitely be one to remember. My biggest Christmas wish is that we all stay connected to our HOPE for the New Year.