Kelsie Mae O’Connor is a spontaneous, optimistic Enneagram 7 (aka “The Enthusiast”) who is an event planner extraordinaire and seeker of beauty in all things. The founder of Burn + Bloom and host of Little Folk Club, she specializes in intimate + inspiring gatherings with ambiances that feel nothing short of magical. But when Covid-19 hit earlier this year and many events were put on hold, her focus shifted to family meals and eventually to conjuring up creative social distancing gathering ideas. Read on for how she creates beauty in the everyday, finds opportunities for safe but meaningful connection + community (including how to have a Covid-19 baby shower!), and why the pandemic changed her first year of motherhood for the better.
You’re the queen of creating beautiful + intimate gatherings—but it’s a little tricky with COVID-19 in the mix. What are some workarounds you’ve found for creating connection + meaning in socially distanced gatherings?
Oh, thank you! Gosh what a compliment. It definitely has been a little tricky. When this all first began, I decided to continue setting the table, floralizing, and hosting but obviously just for our immediate quarantine family. Our parents and siblings live close by and it was a beautiful time of intentionality like never before.
I would make flower arrangements thanks to Trader Joe’s selections, and share a meal with family who, over time, became friends. In all honesty, I’ve never been one to kick it with my mom on a Saturday night but when Covid came and we decided to quarantine with our families, we created memories that I truly will cherish for the rest of my life. We pulled out our projector and had outdoor movie nights against the side of our garage, had home church over french toast on our living room floor gathered around our morrocan-style coffee table, celebrated birthdays, promotions, grieved with one another over job losses, closed businesses, and postponed weddings. We protested together, prayed together, ate together and learned to love together.
Once things opened up a bit, I began walking with my fellow mama friends one-on-one. Although larger gatherings were discouraged, it created space for one-on-ones, encouraging and facilitating heart-to-hearts in an organic way. Then as time went on, I felt comfortable hosting intimate dinners of ten and boy was that needed. We cheersed our glasses instead of hugging and dined outside which is my favorite anyhow. I now host Little Folk Club, a musical morning for kiddos, created by Victoria Bailey who is a country singer-songwriter. She plays music for our littles in my great, big backyard while parents + babes sit on their own blankets, socially distanced and with their own instruments, singing and playing along.
It’s been tricky but it’s been fun. More intentional than ever before. Life is what you make it. And we’ve decided to not live in fear, but in fellowship, even if it has to look differently these days.
Many of our Solly mamas won’t be able to have traditional baby showers. Any tips for creating special celebrations at a distance or even virtually?
Yes! First and foremost mamas, the celebrations must continue on! Now more than ever we do need community, connection, love, words of affirmation, intentionality from and for our tribe. Something that I have loved are the staggering celebrations. Still having friends and family swing by for 10-20 minute increments (or whatever works for you) but…staggered. Having a little setup outside your home or apartment or park or parking lot, wherever, and each friend can still come to drop off a gift, an encouraging word, or just to show face, which I find is so necessary. We won’t remember who didn’t show up, but we will remember who did.
There are also, of course, the Zoom showers which are great in their own way. There are the parades when everyone drives by together at the same time, which does take coordination for sure but who wouldn’t want their own personal parade?
Lastly, I know it wasn’t a baby shower, but something I loved was my 30th birthday video. A gift I will have for all my days to come. Max and my sister reached out to every single friend, family member, mentor, that has impacted my life and they all took home videos, sent them in, and Max created a video out of them and they showed it to me on my birthday. I sat on a couch outside as it was projected on the side of our garage while tears streamed down my face. I felt so incredibly seen, known, and loved. Traditional baby showers are obviously preferred, but hey, talk about memory makers!
Since one of your superpowers seems to be creating the perfect ambiance, we’d love to know of any special touches you had during the birth of your son Levi that helped ground + empower you while laboring and delivering?
I was very, very fortunate to be able to have a home birth. It made all the difference in that aspect. The comfort of being in my own home was very grounding and centering as our space is sacred to us. I had meditated with my midwife in the room I was planning to give birth in beforehand and practiced visualizing my labor, delivery and even breastfeeding, numerous times. He was born November 8th and in Southern California that means beautifully, warm days and cool nights. Our birthing tub was in the living room so I envisioned having our french doors wide open to our backyard, a crackling wood fire in our fireplace, my Big Sur Norden candle lit with essential oil blends diffusing, tea lights everywhere, I had a Spotify playlist prepared, hired a doula, the whole sha-bang.
Well, to make an already long story short, I was 13 days late (which means the next day I would have needed to be induced in the hospital and lose the opportunity to have a home birth), so the nervous-excited anticipation slowly turned into sadness as I watched that vision drift further and further away. My midwife broke my water at 7:30 pm that evening and said it could be a bit until labor actually began (anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days) so none of the things we had wanted aesthetically were in place. Active labor started within MINUTES and it was ALL hands on deck! Thankfully my incredible doula was able to bring my vision to life, but honestly I was very much in my internal world that I was very unaware of my surroundings. Birthing takes as much work mentally as it does physically! The mental work of surrender and visualization was most empowering for me. Mind over matter!
You became a first-time mama nearly nine months ago, just a handful of months before Coronavirus shut everything down. What effect has quarantine had on your motherhood experience?
Yes! When the stay-at-home order was implemented Levi had just turned 4 months. I had only really begun venturing out of the house with my new babe a few weeks before everything shut down. Levi and I snuggled at home the first three months of his life—it was lovely. But I was ready to begin working again, traveling, hosting, creating, filming with Max, pick up life per usual. I think the effect quarantine has had on motherhood has been a really beautiful one. And in an odd way, one of the greatest gifts. And very timely.
Since my personality is very social, adventurous, even at times distracted, the global slow down, the life shift, created space for me to steep, soak in, and not miss a moment of Levi’s first year of life. The year they grow the most. Originally, I was determined to not lose my “old” life. I was going to make my baby fit into my life, my routine, instead of orienting my life around my baby. Oh gosh, how much I would have missed had I not been home with him. Levi and I have become infatuated with each other. Singing and swimming, dancing and exploring, crawling through the sprinklers and having slumber parties (or as some people call it “co-sleeping”), nursing heaps, long walks, learning one another, and growing our love. It literally brings tears to my eyes. I thought in March the world was ending but in reality my whole world was just beginning to bloom.
How have you stayed connected to your partner through early parenthood + quarantine?
Great question! It has had its challenges, of course, but honestly we had a two-year head start! We moved to Utah a couple years ago because of a job opportunity that opened up for me and it relocated us to a tiny town of 500 in the Wasatch mountains. We were all we had. The little luxuries of Orange County were far, far away so our home became our favorite specialty coffee shop, cafe, movie theater, bookstore, spa, park, pool, you name it. We do love to be outdoors so thankfully that’s never closed! Obviously adding a little one to the mix was definitely a life shift but the solitude and quarantine solo hangs were what we had just come from. How we’ve remained intentional is date nights, although they are few and far between. Once our sweet son is down for the night, Max will freshen up, I’ll actually put clothes on for the first time that day, and we’ll have a candlelit dinner under our sycamore tree…with the monitor close by. Nothing fancy but special. Intentional.
Communication has connected us through it all. There’s no such thing as over-communication. From personal values to vision for our family, we’ve hit the hard stuff while also acknowledging laughter as the best medicine and keeping the atmosphere light + loving. Assuming the best about the other, saying what we are grateful for in each other, and seeking to serve instead of waiting to be served. Remembering it’s not give-and-take, it’s give-give. Being partners, a team, a friend, with the willingness to grow has been life-giving through early parenthood and quarantine. Oh, and naps! Those are very life-giving.
What do you most look forward to when life returns to “normal”?
Honestly, I am most looking forward to reconnecting with humanity. Smiling at strangers on the sidewalk, in the aisle of the grocery store, at the gas station, to my pediatrician, cashier, barista. I miss seeing the uniqueness of each beautiful face. To experience the kindness of a smile, the connectedness of a handshake, or hug. Oh, to hug all of my friends again. To greet acquaintances with joy rather than hesitation, reaching out my hand for theirs. What has truly saddened me is witnessing, firsthand, people becoming afraid of…people. Of life. Yes, I understand the fragile state we are currently facing. The unknowns and uncertainties are real. Yet I look forward, with great anticipation, to community. Hopeful that we all will receive a refreshed perspective on life, the gift that it is, and our innate need for authentic human connection, physical touch, and a smile.