Fourth in a week-long series of profiles on moms I know in honor of Mother’s Day 2011.
Though she lives a kind of recycling and is keenly aware of our beautiful world, Lesli DeVito doesn’t talk about conservation or the environment a lot, or make it a huge part of what she’s trying to say. Yet in so many ways she’s the perfect example of the kind of woman who will bring resilience to her family and probably even community as energy decline accelerates.
Not afraid to get messy to get pretty
Mostly this is because Lesli is so darned DIY and so go, go, go. She’s unstoppable!
If there’s a job that needs doing around her home, up go her sleeves and she dives right in. But for her it’s not just about being practical or resourceful. It’s also so very much about beauty. It’s about lifting up her surroundings to bring clarity and invite wonder.
And it’s that spirit, a sanguine kind of rolling with the punches that will hold her and her family in good stead going forward. And it’s an example that her close friends and associates will likely recognize and turn to to get a little of that mojo themselves when energy and economy meet the coming roadblocks. But for Lesli, there will likely be little difference between the past and the future. She’ll just keep being inventive with whatever wants being done…only with a perfectly colored cherry on top.
“I could do that”
I’ve known Lesli for ten years, since my youngest daughter Chloë and her oldest son Tate were going into a Waldorf preschool. The kids were in the same class for six years, enough to make them like family. That gave me a lot of time to see Lesli hatch one plan after another and make them all happen.
Though during that time she worked for a while as a pediatric nurse, and she has a background in acting, for the past several years she’s focused on a combination of homemaking and robust at-home entrepreneurialship, parlaying her many hobbies into workable business models.
A great lover of design, Lesli lights onto an aesthetic that pleases her wide-ranging eye and either transforms her home seemingly overnight, and largely by the sweat of her own brow, or creates a product to mass produce, again through her own labor and at-home manufacturing hub. There seems to be nothing she can’t do, like Maria von Trapp, and she says everything drives her creativity.
I don’t know how to be other than to be creative. I have never not been creative. Everything is a potential painting, a potential photo to be taken, or a potential room to be reconfigured. Everything is beautiful and artistic to me, even a piece of trash…I cannot imagine just watching the world go by without trying to be a part of the creation of beauty or at least trying to capture the beauty in some way, shape or form.
Flying by the seat of her genius more like
Since I’ve known her she’s dived into her passion for interior decorating, sewing, painting furniture, rooms and canvases, reading, writing, photography, teaching, buying at savvy bargain prices and heaven only knows what. The amazing thing is that while she recently told me she’s “flying by the seat of my pants,” you’d never know it.
Almost everything she creates for sale, sells. Girls dresses, designer message boards, hand painted furniture, canvases. She starts a class in sewing or photography to share her knowledge, people sign up. She decides to record life in a blog and she reveals an honest portrayal of herself and her life, what catches her fancy or makes her pause.
And everything she makes for her home, from newly colored walls to completely recovered furniture to a family hub looks like it would grace the pages of Vogue Living.Yet usually it’s some repurposed furniture, yard sale or e-Bay find, or just moving things around to keep the juju fresh.
Do you hate her yet? You shouldn’t. Lesli’s truly got that unassuming, beaming Leo energy that showers people in her particular brand of sunshine. And folks like it.
Though she sounds at first like a woman who is driven to the point of distraction, that’s not the vibe she emits at all. Instead she has such an admirable capacity to be in the moment, visibly appreciative of her relationships and connections to the life experience, that a contended kind of relaxed openness governs both her warm and beautiful face and her graceful ease.
And she actively reflects on this life approach in a very unassuming way. A couple of her recent blog posts about life at her country home Fairview capture this perfectly. She simply remarks on how her favorite times are catching her kids unawares, engaged in their activities, or pausing to do a whole bunch of nothing and loving it.
I am my most content when I am focussed on just “the next thing” what ever that might be. When I look at the BIG GIANT picture, I get overwhelmed, but when I just focus on the next thing…the next photo, the next painting…the next meal, the next kid I need to drive or hug, I am happy, because I know I can do that. And when I successfully do that, anything becomes possible for me. Who can’t just do… the next thing?
Her biggest next thing that’s always a now thing is her family. Lesli’s love for and passion about her family is evident in everything from the gracious spaces she creates and moments she lets unfold to the encyclopedic photo collection she’s managed to catalog over the years.
As a person who has zero photography consciousness (I love photos, but can’t ever remember to break out the camera and so am left with nothing but the memories in my head) I envy all the precious, funny, artistic, oddball, quiet, loud, posed, candid, breathtaking and unique shots she’s gotten over the years. Especially the Christmas card she never forgets to send. I know she’ll treasure all those pictures nearly —but not quite as much— as she treasures the real thing.
My family, which in a sense, I’ve created through my dreams, through my hopes and desires and sheer will, my family is the foundation of me. I am them and they are me. But I also know that children are supposed to grow up and, if I do my job right, fly the nest and set up nests of their own. And so, selfishly, I don’t want to always share them with a neighborhood, with the busy-ness of just getting life done.
Life at Fairview, while at times painfully isolating for me, gives us our time and our very own space, to carve our initials in the landscape. No interruptions, just the mountains peeking in our windows, and neighbors, the ones we do have also incredibly respect of our privacy, perhaps understanding the need themselves. So our space is what I cherish. They will be gone all too soon.
That may be true. But it’s clear that when they do fly the nest Lesli wont be at a loss for what to do until their next visit, or until the grand babies arrive. She’ll always be doing each next thing.
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List