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This Is My Life. A Photoshoot in Phnom Penh.

January 5, 2012


When looking at this photo, a few things come to mind…

this is Cambodia! A gaggle of men hanging around, watching, listening, & trying to be helpful. They graciously moved some tuk-tuks out of the way and let us borrow a moto for the photo shoot. Then, they happily had their own photo snapped.

Oh shit, we did it! Gorgeous EJ is modeling a new style (messenger bag!) from our Highlands collection, which will be in stores in August of 2012. {Since it’s not available to the public yet, I went all sneaky and made the pic sepia-colored.} Still, it’s amazing to see the fruits of our labors and to know that our third collection has been designed. Fingers crossed it will be sold & delivered very shortly!

 xo, L

>> I recently trashed Juicy Explosive Possibility and launched tenaciousLEIGH, which will be my new web-home for philosophizing, taking action, and being a possibility evangelist. This here space is intended to keep family & friends in the loop on my expat life. Stick around if that interests you. If not, I understand. 


This Is It. I’ll Never See You Again. I Pray Those Words Aren’t True.

December 9, 2011

Two years ago, I excitedly told my grandfather about a job opportunity in Cambodia. His response was two-fold:

“I would never go there, but if that’s what you want to do, I’ll support you,” which was quickly followed by, “If you go, I’ll never see you again.”

Pop was 84 at the time. He had been certain of his impending death for close to a decade. While the last sentence saddened me, I didn’t take it seriously.

Seven months after I moved overseas, my Mom called to tell me Pop had been losing weight drastically and suddenly. Even though I wasn’t scheduled to visit home for another five months, she recommended I move my trip up. Just in case.

So, I went home. I was terribly homesick and eager to spend a month with my family. I went to the movies with Pop, and was home to celebrate his 85th birthday. We had a blast, as usual. Even though he was thin, I knew I’d see him again. I told him, I’d be home in six months, packed my bags, and went back to Cambodia.

Earlier this year, I once again went home. Pop was thriving. He wasn’t driving anymore, but he had a bachelor pad in a senior apartment building and was still bowling once a week. Again, we went to the movies, dined out, gossiped, and hung out. Once again, I told Pop I’d see him in six months, packed my bags, and traveled to the other side of the world.

Five weeks ago, my mother called me panicked. I was scheduled to go home for Thanksgiving. Pop was in the ICU, things looked grim. She asked me to think about coming home early. I did. One of my biggest fears is being on the other side of the world, unable to get home, during a family emergency. When I boarded the plane, Pop was deteriorating. I said a prayer and hoped to land in time to see him.

When I arrived, Pop had been moved out of ICU and was doing better. We stopped at the hospital on my way home from the airport. His face lit up as he saw me walk through the door, bedraggled and exhausted after 24 hours of travel.

I have spent the last 5 weeks with my beloved grandfather as he adjusts to living with my parents and hospice care. He is the energizer bunny. Despite his frailties and heart conditions, he is a fighter. For a long time, the family has been convinced he’ll outlive us all.

Pop & I celebrated all of our old rituals. We went to the movies. We conspired to get rides out of my mother. We made inappropriate jokes. We ate dinners out. We laughed. We watched a lot of television. And, we played cards.

Last night, I had to say goodbye to my Pop. For the first time, when he said, “This is it. I’ll never see you again,” I believed him. This terrifies me. I sobbed. I understand all of the reasons why I have to go back to Cambodia, but my heart is aching. I’m sitting at the boarding gate with tears in my eyes.

Here’s hoping that Pop is the energizer bunny and he’ll be waiting for me in six months time.

Soulstirring Reads: Embers To Set Your Soul On Fire

October 6, 2011

“There’s a fire starting in my heart
Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.”
— Adele

I experience depression and anxiety as cold. Overwhelming cold, despite living in a tropical clime, that makes me want to pile on the blankets and languish in bed. The kind of cold that forces hibernation; I give in to my animalistic urges and rock gently to sleep.

After a time, predestined and proportionate to the hurts I’m trying to heal, I start to yearn for heat. A slow burn begins in my belly and travels up to my heart then throat, and down to my feet.

I ache to rejoin the living through feeling. Simmering, I crave to be afire. 

Read below to see what has recently set my heart and soul ablaze: 

You chose your challenges. And you chose right. “It’s not a disaster– it’s the soul-stretch you selected.” So empowering. via Alexandra Franzen.

Believe This. “In every difficult situation is potential value.” Seek the value despite the anguish. via Kind Over Matter.

101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy. A badass, whip-smart movement.

Ever say I’m too… loud pushy, nosy, bossy, quiet, fragile? Shine a light on the things that make you, well, you. Embrace ‘em instead of ducking ‘em. Use those qualities to your advantage. via Dyana Valentine.

I Am Not Alone. You Are Not Alone. Even When It Feels That Way.

October 2, 2011

Three recent events, too connected to be called coincidences, have reminded me that I’m never really alone.

Event A:

 “One of the hardest things as a small business owner is sometimes the feeling of isolation.” {An email from a friend back home who owns a lovely brick & mortar shop.}

I’ve been feeling very alone and very responsible lately. I have great friends, near and far, but I still feel terribly removed.

The last two months have been rife with transition (new employees and relocating our headquarters to Phnom Penh), uncertainty (debuting our brand at our first trade show), and difficult expectations (near-impossible deadlines).

There have been numerous unexpected obstacles and many decisions to be made. The weight of navigating our course has been heavy.

Somewhere, somehow, to relieve myself of the burden, I began to emotionally disengage from my support system. I withdrew from the very people who would make me feel less alone.


Event B:

What do you call the phase when you are emotionally raw, green with envy, and ready to completely give in and wallow in self-doubt? Nicole Antoinette calls this a sad cocoon.

I am a connoisseur of the sad cocoon. Have a new project to launch but instead, you want to spend a weekend in bed eating nothing but cereal and watching a marathon of the old Bravo show Step It Up And Dance? Don’t worry; I’ve done that already.

Yes, I’ve given in to the sad cocoon many times. But, I’ve never analyzed why.

Good thing Nicole has, “I also think, annoyingly enough, that we feel this way when we’re tip-toeing around the edges of doing something scary. It’s almost a test of how serious we are about taking the leap from our comfortable, well-worn lives and flinging ourselves toward what’s next.

So the sad cocoon is a response to fear. If I paid more attention in maths, I could probably write a proof using the transitive property to show that fear causes isolation.


Event C:

I received an email today from a reader who felt like it was finally time to connect after she finished, Soul-stirring Reads & Recommendations to Provide Safe Harbour During Challenging Voyages.

Turns out she’s experienced the darkness too and the subsequent desire to surrender. For her, surrender takes the form of periodically neglecting her blog.

The parting words of her email, “I just wanted to say you’re not alone and this darkness means our light will shine even brighter.


In the last week, I’ve received the same message three times – “You are not alone.”

I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed or isolated.

I am not alone in falling into spells of sadness, experiencing jealousy, or of periodically surrendering to darkness.

I am not alone in feeling scared of new possibilities.

I am not alone. Not ever. Neither are you.

You are not alone.

Regardless of what you’re feeling, you are not alone. 

Soul-Stirring Reads & Recommendations To Provide Safe Harbour During Challenging Voyages

September 28, 2011

As I’ve been moving through fear, immense obstacles, and heightened vulnerability, I’ve found it extremely important to take care of myself.

So, I’ve been bolstering my heart and nourishing my soul. Setting myself awash with heartwarming and heartbreaking stories that remind me what it means to be achingly alive.

Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea by Julie (JC) Peters. An article on the Hindu goddess of never not broken, Akhilandeshvari. Take comfort in your brokenness and know that it is the seat of your strength.

Defy The Lie. “Take a day to heal from the lies you’ve told yourself and the ones that have been told to you.” -Maya Angelou

— The previous article is from Roots of She. The entire site is spectacular. Go and breathe in the wise words of that magnificent tribe.

Wild Sister Magazine. Each issue has made me wild with the desire to write. I feel evermore connected to this great global sisterhood of women who live and work on their own terms.

Kind Over Matter. Regiving because it made me smile, cry, and laugh in turn. Spin Your Story (200 Emotionally Charged Writing Prompts) because my voice has been caught and my body and hands ache to write again.

Write Your Way Home. Because writing is my home; it makes me feel vital.

** Some of these are affiliate links. All have been invaluable.

Further Proof That The Impossible Is Often Possible

September 25, 2011

French street artist, JR, travels to conflict-ridden countries to take portraits of communities in order to show the world its true face. This year, JR received the TED Prize and gave a talk with his wish big enough to change the world.

The question he posed prior to naming his wish, “Can art change the world?” Through his canon of work, JR’s discovered that art informs our perceptions. “What we see changes who we are.” Art may not alter politics or the climate, but it transforms us.

If you are reading this via email or rss, then please click here in order to see the video of JR’s TED talk.

About one third of the way through his talk, he discusses a project everyone told him was impossible. His goal? To just keep pushing as long and as close to completion as he could. Turns out he was able to finish the project, which led to this observation, “we proved the impossible is possible.”

That’s my kind of guy. The impossible is often possible if we are willing to stay the course. 

Brushing Up Against Impossible

September 21, 2011
Beautiful Caribbean Wave

Beautiful Caribbean Wave by The Sean & Lauren Spectacular

The last two months have been hard. Like so difficult that I didn’t even know how to talk about the struggles, except in short and panicked emails to dear friends.

In the darkest moments I felt like no one was respecting my voice. I felt like I was throwing myself against a mountain in a limp and useless effort to try and move it.

I felt like I was struggling against a strong current. I had flashbacks of dreams of tidal waves that haunted my sleeping hours earlier this year. I was flooded by the sense memory of diving under waves only to emerge within seconds of another rolling, tumbling, massive wave. I felt trapped in a cycle of duck, surface, duck, surface, duck, surface and never quite able to catch my breath.

And that terrified me. Feeling so wildly out of control and unable to meet expectations made me feel broken.

Truth? I haven’t really exited this stage. I’m still terrified. I still feel broken. I still fear failure.

But, in the quiet moments of an early morning tuk-tuk ride I had a small breakthrough. I have expounded so much energy trying to catch myself before I hit the mountain; attempting to save myself right before I fail or I crash. And, this is wasted effort.

I am beginning to think that if I just commit to the collision (& to possible failure), that I might be increasing the odds of success. That if I just fall into this process, wholly, I could save myself.

Now I am trying to push myself to go all in, despite the overwhelming terror.

The Moments Before You Leap

July 6, 2011

Every creative and entrepreneurial act requires a leap. Of faith and trust. We often talk about the leap itself – how freeing it feels. How magnificent it is.

But we rarely talk about the moments just before the leap. The minutes, hours, or days when you are scared shitless and have to decide whether or not you’re going to jump.

Fear and uncertainty will be as present as vision and enthusiasm. Your inner landscape will contain both permission and denial. An internal tug-of-war will rage inside of you.

Blind terror requires blind faith. There is no safety net, just a need. The realization that you must… create, speak, write, make, or do.

The flashes you have moments before you catapult are pure insight. Juicy, explosive, and wise. Tune in and use them as fuel for the jump.

Stretch those hamstrings. Give the knees a little bounce. Make sure you have a running start… I’ll see you on the other side of the abyss.

Radical Support. Community That Strengthens, Sustains & Mobilizes.

July 5, 2011

What does radical support look like? That is the question I can’t get out of my head.

For me, radical support is being thoroughly, extremely, fundamentally sustained. In that cocoon of endorsement is safety, which engenders the courage to act.

Let me be clear: I am not talking about codependence. I am not encouraging the idea that there is one person in this world who will make you whole. This is not a fairy-tale notion of romantic love that saves. Oh no.

‘Cause in my world, no woman is an island. We are interconnected and in communion with each other – our sisters and menfolk. I don’t think it’s fair to rely on one person – your mama, papa, sister, or lover – to be your everything.

What is possible and probable is to rely on a community. A group of people, who get each other and who, in concert with one another, can uphold and nurture their members completely. Lovingly. Undeniably.

Radical support is collaboration. It’s both nourishing and challenging. It is the freedom of knowing someone’s got your back paired with the wise trainer who pushes you to the very ends of your capacity.

It’s the stretch and snap of a rubber band; your outer limits and safe harbor.

If you want radical support, then you need to be in a community that is rooted. Connected gut to gut, heart to heart, and soul to soul. Thread together palm to palm and smile to smile.

And you have to offer support in return for that which you receive. In other words, you gotta give for what you take. Oh yes, George Michael.

This is why you need to be oh-so-intentional about who receives your faith. Are they worthy of your wild and unstoppable support? Will they reciprocate?

I am enchanted by the idea of radical support. Illuminated and hungry, I want in on this kind of community.

Want to help create it with me? Tweet me your ideas, comment below, or e-mail me about where you’ve found radical support in your life. xoxo.

I Want An Explosion. Of Possibility. Of Creativity. Of Action.

June 30, 2011

Anne Bogart wrote, I want an artistic explosion.”

Here’s the thing: I want that too. In fact, that quote was my email signature for years back when I was a theater director hot in the pursuit of live performances that could stir souls and open hearts.

My path has veered a bit since then –perhaps, more than a bit– I’m a social entrepreneur in Cambodia designing a range of fashion accessories and home décor made out of our own handwoven couture Ikat textiles.

Journeys are long, winding and made to amble.

And yet, even in my new career in Cambodia, I still find myself wanting an explosion. I yearn for an eruption of creativity, vulnerability, passion, possibility and action.

Think of…

outbursts of creative energy that fuel & sustain you

blasts of evangelical enthusiasm in the form of community — Folks living, breathing, dreaming & ACTUALIZING their obsession while supporting one another

 shattering the myth of impossible by diving into difficult, which is where juicy explosive possibility lives

showers of design, music, writing and art that is heartbreakingly & heartwarmingly good

permission to access and harness the wise, intuitive, & creative soul living within you

If these ideas reverberate, then get ready.

Are you lit up? Let me know‘Cause soon it’ll be time. Time for cracks, splits, bangs + echoes.

Time to rupture all that is comfortable in order to pursue what is possible.