Category Archives: Parenting

Single mom, sexuality, dating, two-year-olds, infidelity, divorce

Looking Into My Mother’s Eyes

momnW

I walk into the Alzheimer’s facility with a somewhat brave face. After being buzzed in, I force a smile, force small talk, to yet another new administrator, before making my way into the cafeteria. The small tan room with light tan round tables, is before me. Everything is neutral, as if bright colors might offend those with memory impairment. I behave like this is just another day, no big deal. I haven’t seen Mom in a year, but pretend I am prepared. Mom is hunched over her wheelchair. A nurse is trying to feed her. I sit down and introduce myself to a new nurse whose name I forget instantly. She says this is her first week on the job. Mom strains to turn her head and eyes me, but doesn’t smile. She turns away in slow motion, moving as if under water, as if I am not there. The nurse tells me that Mom loves music. I tell her that she used to play piano by ear, up until a few years ago. She promises to play more music for Mom tomorrow, classical instead of country.

The nurse places a small piece of salmon on a fork and touches Mom’s lower lip with it over and over again until she licks the spot, but closes her mouth reflexively. This goes on until Mom finally manages to open her mouth, even if just barely. The nurse then pushes the food inside. As I watch, I wonder when the day will come when Mom can’t chew, when she can’t swallow.

In between bites, Mom grinds her teeth like a delayed response, a late synapse connection telling her mouth to chew at the wrong time. How frustrating that it happens when nothing is in her mouth! How frustrating and terrifying this whole damn disease is. I try hard not to imagine Mom waking in the middle of the night confused, not knowing where she is, not knowing  who anyone else is around her.

But, that’s not likely to happen anymore. She no longer appears anxious or frightened. She’s in the late stage of the disease.

The nurse leaves and I begin chattering on, showing Mom pictures of the boys from my phone. Pictures of my life in California. Of course, she doesn’t look at the pictures, but at me. Mom sort of chuckles as I try to feed her. I bribe her with a small piece of a warm chocolate chip cookie. It takes three touches on her bottom lip before Mom can open her mouth. I gently push it in. Only half makes it inside. But she smiles. Mom still loves chocolate. She can’t move her hand, but her eyes look down at it briefly, so I place it up on the table and put mine on top. She smiles again briefly, then stops.

And then she begins to stare.

Mom stares deeply into my eyes. I lean forward, forcing myself not to look away. I continue to gaze back just as deeply into those eyes of hers that are a shade of blue I’ve never seen before in anyone else. They are as blue as western corn flowers or a Tiffany’s box. Who knew a color could break my heart.

As I am staring back, I fight tears and remind myself that she is in an infantile place now. She is in a beautiful state of purity, innocence, trust. Looking into Mom’s eyes, I can remember exactly how it felt to stare deeply into my sons’ eyes when they were both newborns. I’d lie with them and stare so deeply that I’d ache. I’d tremble with how remarkable the knowing is. How raw, how powerful it is to be so open, so pure, so trusting.

We are all born in this perfect state. And that’s why I believe in oneness. We divide, distrust, judge, criticize, separate, as we age.

But when we are born, we have this ability to love with abandon. We don’t judge. We love who we love and it has nothing to do with what they look like or wear or own. We aren’t ashamed of our feelings, we embrace them. We scream when hungry, cry when we need to be held—we know we deserve love and deserve to be taken care of. Somewhere along the line, maybe in elementary school, we start to lose that knowledge.

We lose touch with so much as we layer on fears, doubts, judgements, anxiety, hurts, grudges. And it’s hard to be happy, to be at peace, to be creative, to be playful, to give love, to receive love, with all those layers weighing us down.

I adore how toddlers and preschoolers live unabashedly too. They embrace who they are and what they want! A tutu with cowboy boots and a martian mask—hell yes! No toddler cares what another person thinks of them. They’ll grab a jar of paint and just stick their hands inside and relish in the gooey feeling and then paint their arms and legs because it just looks cool. They’ll dance, spin, rock it out, screaming to their favorite Barney tune.

They also trust that the Universe has their back. Have you ever seen a toddler just fall backwards on purpose and giggle as adults scramble and run across the room to literally have their back, break their fall? Those little munchkins know that the Universe will care for them, that the Universe has their back.

We are all born knowing these truths, until sadly, some adult doesn’t show up or doesn’t care for us, or other people hurt us and then we build walls. As I said, we pile on judgement, hurts, guilt, anxiety, fears, grudges, criticism, doubt until there is no room for joy, for trust. It’s like wearing 10 coats on a summer day and wondering why we can’t run freely in the surf.

These thoughts, or some version of them, race through my mind as I am looking into my mother’s robin’s egg blue eyes. So I allow myself to try to channel my inner preschooler. I allow myself to enter into a staring contest like the ones I used to have with my sisters or my childhood bff when I was little. I lean in and tell myself to just go there. Who’s going to blink first? I think, so I won’t cry.

After we stare for what feels like five minutes, although I’m sure it is only two, she smiles. I can see kindness, inquisitiveness behind her blue blue eyes. She doesn’t know who I am, but she still feels, she still tries to connect. Someday I will just get a blank stare in return. So today, I am grateful and I am heartbroken at the same time. But mainly, I am grateful. The same eyes that used to be filled with so much fear, so much anxiety, so much stress, that they would dart around a room, are now at peace. They calmly stare deeply into mine. She is smiling. She is trusting. She is peaceful.

Last year when we did this, our foreheads touched and she said I love you. This year, she can hardly speak. She doesn’t know who I am, but wants to. I ache with the purity, the openness, the trust I see in her eyes that won’t look away.

The Power of Sound: And How it Can Heal Families

Water exposed to the word Ubuntu: Zulu for human kindness.

Water exposed to the word Ubuntu: Zulu for human kindness.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Remember that little saying? Well, I just don’t buy it. I’d rather break my arm any day than to go through another episode of raw, explosive, uncontrolled anger. Why am I talking about this? Well, recently I overheard a parent yelling at his children. I became suddenly overwhelmed. My heart raced, tears sprang to my eyes and a deep, sinking, sick feeling overcame my body. The child had not done something right. Whatever he didn’t do, clearly didn’t merit this explosive, uncontrolled reaction. Nothing. Ever. Does. Intellectually, I’d guess that most of us agree. But this type of situation doesn’t stem from making a rational choice for peace. It is something that explodes, out of control, like a monster that breaks free in the heat of the moment  This dad screamed at the top of his lungs with such hatred that all I wanted to do was grab this child, hug him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault. Well, maybe he didn’t do something right, but he didn’t deserve to have his soul crushed or to feel unlovable, to feel worthless. I’ve experienced a few outbursts like this in my lifetime from abusive people who at their core, are kind, scared children who have been abused in the past—just reacting like their parents did.  It’s always a surprising flash that catches a child completely by surprise. Uncontrollable anger is terrifying. And when it ends, that angry person may act as if it never happened, but the effects on the target of rage lingers for weeks, sometimes years. It’s as if the words, and vibration of hatred, wounds in a physical way, to those unseen places—on a cellular level.

My hunch is on the mark. Now there’s scientific proof that sound heals—or kills. A few years ago I discovered Dr. Masaru Emoto a Japanese scientist, who played classical music and folk songs through speakers placed near water. He later experimented with heavy metal music as well as words of hatred taped to the sides of glass with water. He would then freeze the water to make crystals which he would then compare with crystalline structures of different samples.

watersick

When different musical pieces were exposed to the water sample, it formed unique beautiful geometric crystals. If he then played heavy metal music or taped words such as demon, Hitler, or “you make me sick” to the side of the glass, the crystal basic shape would break apart.

One of my absolute favorites is how the water responded to John Lennon’s song “Imagine”:

Water exposed to John Lennon's song Imagine.

Water exposed to John Lennon’s song Imagine.

Since our bodies are approximately 60 % water, it’s hard to argue that words and anger doesn’t hurt us physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. Dr. Oz recently did a show about uncontrolled anger that proved how it also hurts the person who can’t control their outbursts. A working mom of 5 children kept finding moments of road rage, of “being set-off” over little things. (To see a clip of this show, click HERE.) It was shown that she had no “me-time,” little sleep, lack of help and was basically a ticking time bomb. Her heart would race, her blood pressure would soar and she’d explode. Later, she’d be overwhelmed by guilt and communication broke down, making it impossible to teach life lessons, or help her children navigate mistakes or choices. It was compelling, as the woman was bravely honest and I’m sure she helped many parents as the person who has outbursts isn’t necessarily evil. He or she needs help. Dr. Oz suggested more sleep, exercise, carving out one hour a day for me time. YES. (And I’d say YOGA!! My life has changed forever because of it…)

And I’d also suggest introducing music. Let sound heal. We know that anger and outbursts hurt, so use sound to your advantage. Play music all the time in the house and in the car. Tune into frequencies of love, joy, silliness, beauty through music. Mix it up. Country, Reggae, Pop, Classical, Folk, it’s all good. And if you have the ability to let your children learn how to play an instrument, even better. I stumbled upon this TED X video called “This is Your Brain on Music”. Wow, so powerful. It showed how all areas of the brain, including joy, light up when playing music. Many light up when listening, but almost ALL areas of the brain— from problem solving, to logic and critical thinking—light up when playing music. Check it out: This is Your Brain on Music: 

We all have the ability to lower our stress, let go of unresolved anger, soften our voices, raise our vibrations—no matter where we’ve come from. Last Valentine’s Day I wrote an article about finding a Vibration of Love.  I had just been exploring sound and vibration and had read some of Dr. Emoto’s books. I recall thinking instead of looking for love outside of ourselves, create it inside and let it flow with every soft, compassionate sound voiced to friends, to our children, our loved ones. This sound heals and attracts those on a similar frequency. Clearly, we aren’t perfect and don’t behave in a zen way ALL the time. But we can become more aware, take care of ourselves, limit our triggers and alcohol, apologize when necessary, rebound, begin again…I’ll leave you with a simple line from that Valentine’s Day article I wrote last year, that seemed to resonate truth:

“I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”

~ With Peace,

L.

Queen Latifah, My Matchmaker? You Decide!

QueenLatifahshow

This Valentine’s Day I will likely be celebrating with two handsome loves of my life. No, I’m not seeing two men simultaneously! I’ll be having an indulgent meal: pasta, chocolates and gelato with my two boys before they go ski with Dad. So, I won’t be sad this Valentine’s Day—but I have to admit, it wouldn’t suck to have a bit of romance in my life, either!

So, with that in mind, I agreed to be a guest on The Queen Latifah show when her show directer and friend called. If you want someone to laugh AT, tune in! It airs February 12 and March 26th. (Go to her website to find local times/channels.)

Queen Latifah resurrected the Dating Game show that was on TV from 1965-1986, in order to level the playing field for some of her celebrity friends. According to my friend and director Gene Bernard, Queen Latifah was successful with previous Dating Game segments on her show helping celebrities meet “non-biz” people. (You can see clips from her segments with Sheryl Underwood, Florence Henderson and Lamorne Morris here.)

The idea, according to Gene, was to help celebrities meet potential dates in a way that allows them to genuinely find out if they have anything in common and assess real chemistry. Queen Latifah thought the original Dating Game show set-up—with a bachelor or bachelorette behind a curtain, with three contestants on the other side who don’t know anything about the bachelor or bachelorette—did this. Blind dates with her friends might not go as well, as some people might not be as authentic in their conversation once they know someone is in the biz.

I have to admit, the show was so much fun to do and silly and I’m glad I did it! At first, however, I wasn’t sure I should do it, I mean, my boys would likely watch it. But then I thought, why not? How bad could it be? Gene reassured me it would be harmless. A few months earlier I had turned down a NBC producer who asked me and my Ex to be on a reality TV show for 6 weeks. (How that happened or how they found me, I still don’t know!…) While the potential money sounded great, and I knew that my EX and I would be fine together as we’re still friends, we both thought the idea of being dropped into a jungle with 7 or 8 other divorced couples who might actually tear us down, or act dramatically, or bring up touchy topics within our divorce—that our boys might see … Well, there isn’t enough money on the planet to make that pain worthwhile.

Gene insisted that this harmless dating game wouldn’t get me in trouble with my boys. So with the hopes of jumpstarting a little romance, I said ok—with one caveat—I wouldn’t be too flirty or sexually suggestive in my answers as I knew my boys would later watch. :-) 

The Queen Latifah Show Season 2

Well, so much for good intentions!

Watch the show to see how Queen Latifah twisted my answers into suggestive innuendo! And, the audience roared with every embarrassed face I made!

What can you do? :-) I can’t say a love connection was made, but it was silly, light-hearted fun—something this single mom doesn’t get enough of these days. And, I got to meet some amazingly talented people. In the green room, during hair and makeup, I sat next to Sheila E. Hello! How amazing is she?

So, perhaps I didn’t meet my soulmate, but the producers gave me a very cool gift. Before they chose me as Bachelorette Number 3, they asked me to shoot a video to explain what I am looking for in the love of my life. I had never done that before! I’m so busy writing my novel, teaching yoga and raising two boys solo, that I hadn’t given it much thought. Isn’t that sad? The only quality in a man that I knew I absolutely had to have is respect. As a single mom, I can’t respond to last minute invites, late night texts/calls, etc. as I often have to hire a sitter ahead of time. But really, isn’t that a given? I mean, shouldn’t ALL women expect that?! It’s not exactly soulmate material to call ahead and set up a date. Sigh, my standards after living in Los Angeles, must have been lowered! So, to make this video, I dug deep, and came up with a great list of qualities in the person I’d like to meet. Qualities such as a good sense of humor, a good listener, positive, NOT A GOSSIP, a music lover, affectionate, likes kids, creative, balanced (doesn’t drink too much, work too much, exercise to extreme, but has his own interests and respects that I have mine) outdoorsy, spiritual, open heart, open mind, yin and yang personality: so can camp and hike and appreciate my bohemian heart, but also will consider traveling to Europe with me, going to a museum or dining out. Or, in the very least, be a bit amused/accepting of  my Gemini multi-faced personality. So, in the end, making this list has helped me be a lot more discerning with who I might let into my life. Maybe he’s out there? And, in the end, I had a fun time on the show!

I hope all of you get warm Valentine’s hugs & kisses—even if they come from kiddos and/or furry friends. It’s all love. ((<3))

Love & Light ~

Laura, xo

Finding Courage to Stay on Course

Take-control-of-Your-Life

I recently read an inspiring quote from a friend, (I’ll paraphrase): “All the shit, drama and pain you’ve dealt with in life has prepared you for this present moment, this present action, this present course.”

It’s so true, right? Well, sometimes. It’s only true if each painful experience propels growth. As long as I can see that each time someone has hurt me, hasn’t seen, or heard me, or said something cruel, or treated me without respect—it was exactly what I needed in order to find my boundaries, my self-respect, my strength, my confidence, my kindness, my direction. And even when I hurt others, or typically myself, if I can learn to forgive, have more compassion and ‘own’ my issues, I’ll become stronger and closer to the person I want to be.

All of this sounds groovy now, but when I’m in the thick of it with someone, it’s hard to keep in mind. But I’m learning that that’s ok too—maybe I’m letting myself feel more now, and not dismiss things so quickly in order to avoid confrontation. I don’t know. Here’s an example:

Someone recently hurt me by saying I needed to give up writing—that it would never work out and that I needed to move out of California or I’d be destitute within 3 years. Ow.

Ok, that was really negative. My eyes welled up with tears and my stomach felt like it had been kicked as I listened. (It didn’t help that this conversation came a week after I had been heart broken. But that’s not for this venue.) This judgmental tirade came after I said, happily, that I had finished polishing 150 pages of my novel…I was in shock as I listened to the negative rant. The old me, the me before daily yoga and meditation, would have likely not said anything, took more abuse, felt horrible, internalized this, doubted myself, and then finally complained to a few friends in order to try to garner some sort of support. The new me just looked at this person, felt the pain that was welling inside my stomach and said quietly that the conversation wasn’t kind. The conversation didn’t end, sadly, with more justifications as to why I would never get published and was living beyond my means…but in my mind, I knew I responded authentically and calmly—in the moment–(a big deal for me) and was able to mentally button up the judgement as unsupportive, fearful, negative.

I’ve been a journalist and writer for 15 + years and this person hadn’t read anything of mine or even a chapter of my current book or my first novel. And, of course, I won’t be destitute within 3 years!

Honestly.

But for some reason, over the past two weeks, I’ve come back to this conversation in my mind to see what I can learn from it. I’ve decided to dismiss the negativity of it. What you think is what you can manifest right?

But it struck a chord. I have half my novel finished and the rest outlined. I’m very excited and a few friends have read a bit of it to give me feedback. But since this summer, I have found so many distractions. I am to blame for allowing each and every one them. Between soccer games, homework, sickness, volunteer demands, friend demands, work, trainings, it can get hairy. But, at the end of the day, I am in control of my schedule. I am in control of my time. I am in control of my thoughts, my actions and who I choose to let into my life.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided that the reason why I keep floating back to this conversation is that I realize that I’m out of balance. It can seem almost insurmountable with kid demands, but there really is at least 2 hours a day to work on my book. And I can fit in yoga and mediation for my sanity. (All you single parents know just what I mean!) So, if that means that dishes pile up in the sink or that my kiddos don’t have rooms made or the perfectly-kept house, who cares?

I’m taking the steps I need to get published. I spent more money today (Egads! One more step toward destitution! ha ha) and signed up for the La Jolla Writers Conference next weekend. Yup, there are soccer games, a bar mitzvah, and my son’s birthday party to prep for. But I’ve decided that I have to put my writing goal on my to-do list each week. If it means missing a soccer game, or having a birthday party that isn’t perfect. So be it.

I’m so excited (and nervous) to go as many agents and authors attend this conference where they give feedback on work, have writer jam sessions, as well as listen to “7 minute pitches”.  So now I have to hone my 7 minute pitch for Uriel’s Mask—as well as polish my one page synopsis. But it’s what I need to do. If I expect an agent, who likely works 50+ hour weeks in this field to take me seriously, I have to push aside distractions and take my writing just as seriously. I even ordered new business cards.

So, I’m officially taking the plunge. And you know what? I’m actually thankful for the hard knocks this month…they are helping me to focus on my path, my journey and GET IN CONTROL OF MY LIFE.

I’d really love to hear from any of you out there who have had similar experiences where either fear or distractions kept you from finishing a project or keeping you from your art. How do you stay on course? Any single parents out there trying to carve out a regular schedule for an artistic project? PLEASE reach out. I’d love to share motivational strategies. Some days, I feel like I’ve run a marathon before 10 a.m. Lets share strategies to keep a daily schedule or to stay on track.  Thanks so much for reading! XO

Blindsided by Wanderlust: Tips to Get By

ThelmandLouise

I’ve got that twitchy foot again. And this time it’s bad. I mean REAL BAD. I feel boxed in and just want to get on a plane or get in my car and GO. Of course, I can’t do that. But lately, the feeling is becoming overwhelming. It’s been building for months. I periodically go through this every year since becoming a full-time single mommy of two boys. It usually starts in February. (Here’s a photo montage on how I tried to cure my wanderlust through local trips last year: A Single Mom’s Wanderlust: A State of Mind.)

The aching wanderlust hit full tilt earlier this week when I had an ichat with my ex. He was in a taxi with this amazing light flashing in an out of the window and wind blowing lightly in his hair. He was driving through Brussels at sunset and smiling at me and James, our five-year-old who was sitting in my lap waving. My ex looked so happy. He looked so free. And suddenly, all I could think was “I’ve got to get out of here.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that my ex is living his dream and that he seems so happy. Truly I am. (I know some of you don’t believe me!) We’ve been through a lot over the past five years since he’s moved back to Europe. We are now friends again. But even if we weren’t, I’d still be happy for him. It’s just the way I choose to be. My wanderlust isn’t about him. I’ve always had it. And now that I’m boxed in, I start going crazy after two months without a weekend off. Waiting until August is going to be tough…although it can’t be helped. So, it’s only natural that I start to miss some aspects of my old life. There, I said it. Six years ago, when living in London, I was able take advantage of a lastminute.com sales promotion or a craigslist house swap and with a few clicks I’d purchase rail tickets and we’d be off to Paris for the weekend.

My life is clearly, completely different now. I love this small beach town. I do. Really. I love watching dolphins every day. I love biking and watching surfers. I’m obsessed with sunsets and sunrises over my stretch of the Pacific Ocean. I love looking for treasures on the beach with my little guy. But…I appreciate this small town and my two boys SO much more when I get a chance to refuel, get away and come back. So, while I LOVE these boys more than anything, I’m starting to go LOCO. Here’s a list of what I’m calling survival tips for wanderlust. If you are someone who is also afflicted with a periodic need to see new vistas, meander in new distant cities, sit in cafes and people watch, sans children, or crave the freedom of getting in your car with the windows down and driving AWAY, to ANYWHERE…sigh…these survival tips are for you:

  • Detach. Detach. Detach.
    One of the biggest perks to traveling is that it lets you leave your little world, your little community and any worries within it, behind. My first taste of freedom happened when I was 16 and went to Russia and Europe for the summer with the People to People Student Ambassador Program. This was before cell phones and Facebook. Two months were spent in Russia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, England, Ireland—I was off the grid. I didn’t speak to my parents, my boyfriend or any friends (all good for me to distance myself from at the time!) the entire summer. I was out of all the gossip and petty concerns. I didn’t have to worry about that boyfriend who was doing drugs and cheating on me. Yup. I didn’t have to worry about my parent’s marriage that was falling apart. I didn’t have to worry about trying to be a good dancer even though I have flat feet. … I got away from all the concerns in my North Carolina town and immersed myself in drastically different worlds and lives. I saw poverty, beauty and kindness in Russia. I met the most charming and entertaining people in Ireland. I could see the contrast from the proper and inhibited English and all the nakedness in Denmark—two nude beaches and nude hikers, go figure! It was a great experience and later fueled my desire to keep traveling. Which I did, to abandon. When wanderlust hits, I try to remember how it feels to be away. I meditate. I remember what I did in certain locales, or people I met and how little they may have had materially, but how much richer their lives seemed to be. I meditate and imagine exotic sounds or smells, like when I was shopping in Jaipur, India. I imagine the marketplace, the incense, the spices, the colors, the dirt, the broken teeth, the hooka tents, the cows, the tattered Bangladeshi children, etc. I put myself there. I drop into that place. If that doesn’t work, I meditate with a guided CD (my favorite being David Ji) which usually forces my thoughts to still. And finally, after 15 minutes, I’ve detached from this place and am able to garner a better perspective.
  • Unplug.
    My new habit during the week is to cut off the TV, turn off my phone and shut down the computer every night after the kids go to bed. If there are dishes to do, I leave them for the morning. I then go downstairs into my room where I have photos that I shot in Sweden, Denmark and Italy, and I turn on my little clock radio. Yup. The one that crackles. I play the public station and listen to opera, or classical or jazz. I open the window slightly, so I can hear the ocean. Then, I either start writing or editing my novel, or I read one of my favorite authors. I instantly feel like I’m away. I feel like I did when visiting Eastern European cities like Prague or Budapest or small coastal towns in Spain or Portugal. For some reason, there was never good wifi and few modern conveniences. So crackling music, sometimes in another language, feels just right. This is my time to feel like I’m completely away.
  • Find creative, inexpensive ways to get away!
    I am a BIG fan of Airbnb.com, VRBO and SabbaticalHomes.org. Here’s an article where I outline affordable ways to get away. Single Mom’s Budget Travel Tips. Just planning the next adventure can be a bit of cure for what ails ya. This May, for my birthday, I’m either taking the boys to New York, or to Yosemite. I’m trying to figure it out. In August, I plan to go to Paris or Barcelona for two weeks while the boys are with their dad. I want to put the finishing touches on my novel in a far-a-way venue. I’m listing my home and reaching out to friends for home swaps. It may not happen, but I’m trying and putting it out there!
  • Find a partner-in-crime.
    Thelma had Louise. Find your Louise. Find another single mom to swap babysitting with. Whether you get an overnite or a night out once as month, just make sure that it’s an equitable swap. So mom’s of three, don’t swap with a mom of one. It may take some time to find the perfect partner-in-crime, but SO worth the effort!
  • Be Grateful.
    Every night I make my boys say their “gratefuls”. James says 5 things he is grateful for, since he is 5. William says 12, since he is 12. (They both always go over!) We’ve done this since they were old enough to understand how. I used to do this as a child and find that now, more than ever, I need to do it. I tend to write down my grateful lists and I’m amazed at how long they’ve become! On especially challenging days, I’ll even stop what I’m doing mid-day, and start one. Thinking of what you are thankful for is the best pick-me-up on the planet. I can never find fear when I’m living in gratitude. Try it.
  • STOP comparing yourself to others.
    The minute I notice that my thoughts are veering down this path, I imagine the sound of an old fashioned record getting ripped by a needle: RRIIPPP!! And I stop. My path and my journey is just that. And I’m on a very unique one. I’m embracing my writing and my yoga teaching—both very creative and low-paying venues. But I decided a few years back that when I stopped doing these things and focussed solely on work that paid well with little flexibility, I wasn’t happy. So, I have to stop comparing myself to those who have more, do more, and maybe do what I want to do better than me. There will always be someone out there smarter, more flexible, more creative, etc. ENOUGH.
    Since I’ve shut down my computer every evening, I’m clearly not on Facebook as much as I was. (This is really helpful.) Do I really need to know what my crush is doing, or not doing? Honestly. It’s not with me, so time to move on! I also don’t need to know how many ‘friends’ are traveling to far away places or going out on weekends that I can’t. I used to get so jealous of all my ‘single parent’ friends who could still get away or go out on weekends because their exes or parents took the kiddos. My life is very different from theirs and I just need to not think about it. This life of mine must have been chosen for a reason. I’m much stronger now than I’ve ever been. I have a novel that’s pretty awesome and nearly finished. I have totally wonderful boys. I live my life on my terms. I need to focus on the positive.
  • STOP pining for the past or an unattainable future.
    Enough said. Being present is a gift. There’s a reason why it’s called present. If I live in the past I can’t move forward. Ironically, if I focus on what’s ahead, I miss what’s right here; right now. Try to focus on what your children say. Try not to check email or text when with your children. Just try to be. As much as possible.
  • Find ways to make your life work, just as it is.
    A good friend and intuitive life coach, Louise Hauck, wrote in her book Streaming Consciousness, that one has to strive to make the present work, even if it isn’t exactly what you want, to open up space for something better. I’m paraphrasing, but Louise wrote about one situation in her book where she coached a woman who was miserable in her job. Louise suggested that she work hard at making things better in her current position before quitting. So, that meant, communicating better with co-workers who annoyed her. Trying to be more patient with those who offended her, etc. When she felt much better in her job, ironically, her dream job offer appeared. Making the here and now livable, workable, enjoyable, helps you to be grateful and then opens up space for something better. For me, that means, getting rid of junk in my garage. Organizing this small condo so it’s more functional for my boys. Clearing out closets, old toys and inboxes on my desk to Fung shui. Planning for fun excursions with the boys. All of this makes the here and now better. It helps me to be more appreciative and opens up space for whatever it is that I’m trying to manifest. As Louise taught me to say and/or think, “Lord, thank you for this wonderful life. This— OR—better, please!”

Single Moms ARE Sexy: A Man’s Perspective

kissingmom

This past Sunday, as I was packing up the car for my son’s 3rd soccer game of the weekend, a neighbor popped over. He’s single, younger and been a friend since I moved in the hood five years ago. The conversation began about him, as he’s trying to decide if he could get married or survive having kids with his girlfriend. He knew that this weekend was hectic for me, as we saw each other earlier in the week and when he shared his fun weekend plans, I shared mine: attending a yoga workshop and working on a magazine article and a PR project. But I also had to squeeze in long road trips Saturday and Sunday afternoons for a soccer conference an hour away. He laughed as I struggled with a soccer ball and a folding chair and said: “See, dogs are SO much easier than kids!”

I just chuckled thinking how I hadn’t showered after my 8 a.m. yoga class and probably looked like the poster child for contraception. I replied, “Well, parenting is a club that requires insanity to join. Kids ARE terrorists, but they’re worth it!”

I figured the conversation was over, as we typically banter as I’m shuffling kids in and out of my house, or am parking my car, or on my bike returning from the strand. We never have terribly long talks, although we’ve been neighbors and friends a while.

He then surprised me by walking over and beginning a very serious conversation, that, not only made my day—but helped to renew my faith in dating, and in men in Southern California, in general.

First of all, I have ideas about what men who have never married and are without children would want—and I just don’t imagine that I’m on their list. AT ALL.

My friend gave me a gift that day of a perspective I hadn’t considered. And, he helped me see that by pursuing balance: by attending to my boys’ needs, as well as my own dreams and my own needs, I was on the right path.

It was just what I needed to hear, as I venture into my first attempt at dating in almost 15 years.  I hate to say it, but I’m a complete dating albatross from the 90’s. I met my husband in 1997, fresh out of a very serious relationship. I met him the day I moved to Atlanta from New York for an editor position. Even though I didn’t date him for 3 months, and stayed ‘just friends,’ he was the first date I had when I was ready. We were engaged shortly afterwards. Flash forward 10 years later. He has his mid-life crisis, finally leaving for good when our youngest is eight months old and staying permanently in Europe. Shellshocked from an international move, still breastfeeding and worried sick about my other son, the idea of dating, was just ridiculous. For nearly two years, I just kept my focus on taking care of the boys, staying positive and treading water. My first date, was actually a job interview, as I wanted to be an editor with his publishing house. Instead, we ventured into a very serious relationship that mirrored a marriage. So, as you can see, I have NO experience in casual dating—especially in a cool, Southern California beach town.

My neighbor, in his attempt to talk about his fears, ended up giving me an amazing gift from his perspective—which really touched my heart. I hope it does yours, too, especially if you’re a full-time single mom, like me.

The gist of his message was this: single men who have never married, want to know what their girlfriends will be like as mothers. They want crystal balls. They are terrified that their girlfriends, who were so cool and fun as singletons, will become obsessed and possessive with the children and never allow anyone to babysit. They have seen friends who rarely go out or go on vacation sans children. They have witnessed fun and intimacy drain out of their friends’ marriages after children arrive. They want to know that the future will hold moments of intimacy, excitement, travel and calm. They also want to know how their girlfriends will interact with their future children—but of course there is no way of knowing. So, when they see a single mom who has found ways to incorporate balance her life—it’s inspiring, hopeful and attractive. In fact, a woman who raises her kids solo, while also hiring sitters regularly, pursuing her passions and taking care of herself—while still finding time to be present with her children—is very attractive. It’s proof that fun, intimacy and individual pursuits won’t be forgotten once kids enter the picture.

Wow. Really?!

Here’s how the conversation began. Initially, he kept getting interrupted, as I was encouraging my 5-year-old to put on his shoes by himself (in the house) AND  to go up to his room to get his jacket. As I kept yelling through the garage doors: “I Can Hear You! Don’t worry!” to my 5-year-old, who is scared to run up to the 2nd floor alone without hearing my voice, my friend said: “My brother was just like that-scared of monsters. My mom used to yell at him. She yelled at all of us, all the time. You talk with your boys, not at them. You also don’t negotiate. It’s pretty cool.”

I was speechless. Who knew he had time to observe my parenting style?

He then told me how terrified he is of having kids. As I mentioned, he’s seen so many friends become miserable and disconnected after becoming parents.

When he touched on the reality of parenting being a struggle for intact couples who also have family nearby, I began to feel uneasy. I don’t like harping on my ‘story’ as I know that I am more than this story and it doesn’t define me. But the reality is, I have no family here and with an ex in Europe, I don’t get weekends off, like most divorced parents. I’m still a bit insecure about this, and imagine that I’m insanely unattractive to most men.

He then reiterated that he’s known me for five years and how cool it is that I hire my nanny and trust her. The reality is, I’m lucky that I can afford her. I spent much of my mother’s inheritance on sitter fees, but felt like it was an insurance policy for sanity. When my youngest was only 3, I spent a month in Italy. It was insanely expensive, but I’m glad I did and my boys were fine. It had been six months without a break, all of us needed separation. I had felt that it looked poorly on me as a mother. This sweet person was telling me that it, in fact, was the opposite.

He reiterated that single moms who are balanced, in shape, patient mothers, and still find time for fun, are incredibly attractive to single men. He encouraged me to not just date divorced dads who may be much older, a bit scared and emotionally unavailable from their divorces, and, perhaps, secretly want women to help them care for their children. Without saying it explicitly, he encouraged me to not sell myself short and to open myself up to more possibilities.

I’m not sure what the future holds, but isn’t that wonderful to hear?

So, my fellow single moms. Take heart. Focus on yourself, as much as your children. Be patient and present with your children when you are with them—as I’m sure most of you are—but pursue your dreams and your needs too. It’s not being selfish, it’s being loving to yourself. And as single moms, it’s rare that anyone asks us how we are, or what we need, isn’t it? So maybe we need to be our own advocates. And when we focus on these things, and making a better life on our own—and NOT on finding a significant other—maybe that is the right path towards more laughter, love, light and a compassionate circle of friends.

L. 

xo

Season to be ‘Kindful’

photo-77

My five-year-old son yelled for me to come upstairs this morning yet again. He was really excited while listening to the “ta dum da dum dum” Christmas song.

“Hurry, mommy! You’re going to miss it!”

So, I stopped brushing my teeth and slowly climbed the stairs back up to the den for the third time that morning. Every time I tried to get ready for the day, he’d yell for me to come back up. He’s beside himself about Christmas this year.

“Do you know what Christmas is really about, mommy?” he asked with an infectious smile. Since he’s going to a Catholic preschool, I answered, “The baby Jesus?”

“Nope. Well, maybe. But that’s not really it. Know it?” His eyes widened and he had this ‘I one-upped you’ look on his face. “Hmmm, what is it about?” I answered.

“Well, it’s not about the presents and stuff. It’s kindful. You know, being kindful.”

I just love that. All my aggravation about our slow-moving morning faded as I kissed his forehead and thought about his new word. James has inherited my inclination to create words. My whole childhood was filled with merged words or dyslectic sayings that only I or one of my sisters could understand. But isn’t ‘kindful’ just wonderful? To me, it’s kindness married with being mindful and joyful at the same time.

And it’s such a good reminder for me right now, too. (My best teachers always surprise me.) It’s only December 2nd and I’m already finding myself stressed with an over-stretched schedule. There are at least five violin concerts, soccer practices, games and parties for me and both boys. There are Christmas travel plans to be made, (or not) and of course the biggies for me: my final two weeks of yoga teacher training and the book I’m writing. Phew—The book I’m writing—When do I find the time to squeeze in a bit more work on the sixth chapter? My most emotionally draining and engaging chapter so far. Dropping in feels like landing on the moon and after an hour or so of writing, I feel dazed and unfocussed on immediate needs and scheduling, as I think on heavy topics and characters filled with angst.

So…as I typically ramble on before getting to a proper point… I’d like to encourage all of us to take moments out of each day this month to be kindful. We can only do so much. I, especially, need to be kindful to myself. I’ve been through a lot lately. And, like many of you, I may not get as much done as I’d like. But if I can be kind, mindful and listen to my children, maybe throw in a few giggles, that will infinitely mean more to them than having the perfectly decorated house or perfectly orchestrated holiday. Right?

Isn’t it amazing that my five-year-old has become such an insightful teacher for me? What if I had stayed focussed on not being late for preschool and refused to go upstairs this morning? Think of what I would have lost. Later this morning, as I was getting James dressed, he looked at me squarely in the eye and asked, “Ok, who are you?” I answered my little buddhist boy by saying: “I’m your mommy filled with love.” Since he’s entered the age of being afraid of transforming monsters, I knew where this was coming from. He asked again, “Really, that’s who you are?”

And as I answered him again, that I was his mommy filled with love, I realized that in each moment I have the opportunity to answer him and my older son, by my actions. Each time I yell, or refuse to listen, or get frustrated and snap while in the car, I’ll be telling them that I’m a different version. So, it’s my time to stop, breathe and be the version of me they deserve.

You know, sometimes when we stop, breathe and stay in the moment—even if it means being late for an appointment—we open ourselves up to possible moments of joy and insight, that may stay with us a lifetime.

I may not write again in this blog before the holidays, as I’m working feverishly on my book Uriel’s Mask. So, I’ll take this moment to wish all of you ‘kindful’ moments. Next time you’re stuck in aggressive or slow-moving traffic, rushing to a party or an appointment, or frantically shopping, I hope you think of this post. Take a breath (like I will be doing) and think about the big picture. What sort of moments are you cultivating? Are your children in the back seat? Are they listening? Are you listening to them? What really matters in the end? Is it all of the presents under the tree? Or is it our presence? Is it what money can buy? Is it what neighbors think? Is it trying to meet expectations that others or family have set for you? Or is it trailing your own, mindful path?

Here’s hoping that we all take babysteps toward kindfulness this season.

Happy Holidays! x

How’s Your PMA….

So important today! Thank you Tracie! x

Yoga in the West Bank

Laura Roe Stevens:

How beautiful and inspiring are these women?! To find inner peace when living with extreme stress is a strength only found from within. I am in awe. Thanks for sharing Andrea!

Originally posted on Yoga & Joyful Living:

What would you do, living in an unstable country, your daily routine marked by either lack of food and resources, lack of security, an ongoing conflict about control of land – or even all of the above?

These Palestinian women have turned their gaze inwards, towards the only stability they know they can rely on. They do yoga to connect to what lies deep within, to cope with the stress of their everyday existence.

And, let’s be honest: Don’t we all say we do yoga (at least to a certain degree) to cope with stress? Now in light of these women, I wonder if my so-called stress really is stress.

The fantastic article (read on here) reminded me of a workshop I once took. The teacher said: “We all talk about stress. But really, we don’t experience stress. Most of us don’t even know…

View original 66 more words

Don’t Run From Who You Are: Writing Advice From George Saunders & Cheryl Strayed

Laura Roe Stevens:

I LOVE the sentiment here. And I am especially in need of hearing this as I take two steps forward and one fearful step back with each page I do—or don’t write! Thank you Wes Janisen.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

I don’t know who said you should never meet your heroes, but I can’t help but feel that whoever it was probably spent too much time worshiping rap stars or professional athletes (I know they’re not ALL douches, but I’m extrapolating). Having had the great pleasure and privilege of meeting both George Saunders and Cheryl Strayed this year, two of my biggest literary heroes, I know that meeting people you admire isn’t always a letdown. Walking away from both experiences, I could not have been more delighted, or inspired.

In the unfortunate instance you aren’t already familiar, George Saunders is a renowned short story writer, whose recent book Tenth of December was hailed as “The Best Book You’ll Read This Year” by the New York Times. I look up to Saunders for his wholly original style and his unparalleled ability for mixing wit and imagination with piercing social commentary. For…

View original 1,234 more words