Category Archives: Health/Wellbeing

5 Reasons To Do Hot Yoga

sweaty, woven  bodyLast month I graduated from hot yoga teacher training at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, and am now teaching 60 minute Bikram and Hot Fusion classes—a big shift from my Vinyasa and restorative background. The owner Tiffany, who I admire greatly, casually suggested that I’d ‘like it.’ Taking two 105 degree classes a day throughout training, and now teaching, I am simply amazed at how my life is shifting in powerful ways. I was intimidated at first by the 105 degree temps and the little clothing. In hot yoga, with sweat pouring down and mirrors, there is no where to hide stretch marks or imperfection. It is remarkably honest, challenging, strengthening and humbling. And it will get you out of your head, razor focussed on the moment and on surviving, like nothing else. This training, this studio, came into my life after tragedy hit my family. Other forms of yoga that I taught and practiced wasn’t quite getting me through the stress. Without this intense focus, I may have slipped into a dark place, bad habits, and a spiraling outlook. Hot yoga forces me to stay strong, healthy and channel my passion, frustrations, stress in positive ways, like no other form of yoga. But there is so much more to it.

Here are the top five benefits of a hot yoga practice:

  1. Strength: If you can handle hot yoga, you can do anything! Twisting, balancing, stretching in 105 degrees, while keeping calm and breathing deeply, shows you are stronger than you know. You have the ability to handle extreme situations calmly and with determination.
  2. Confidence: Wearing next to nothing in a hot room full of people and mirrors is intimidating at first, and then liberating. There is no way to hide flaws. Traditional yoga clothing weighs you down. Heavy make up will run in your eyes. You may feel extremely self conscious and vulnerable in your first class (I did!), but the more you look in the mirror, noticing stretch marks or scars as you move, the more you accept them—as you feel the love and support and acceptance from others who are practicing boldly, flaws and all, in front of you. It is raw honesty, acceptance, and a path to self respect and love.
  3. Grace: Balancing in extreme heat is like a delicate dance. When mastered, it reflects elegance and an inner grace that you embrace within.
  4. Healing: Heat opens up the connective tissues and allows our muscles to stretch more easily. This aides in injury recovery. Anyone with a torn hamstring or rotator cuff, for instance, will feel immediate benefits of increased mobility and flexibility from the heat. Inner healing comes as well, as a heated flow is a moving meditation that requires fierce concentration, placing the yogi in the moment.
  5. Healthy Habits: To practice hot yoga regularly, one is nearly forced to reduce or quit bad nutritional habits. The body doesn’t handle the heat well when dehydrated or filled with carbs, sugar or fatty foods. It’s nearly impossible to drink a lot of caffeine, smoke or drink alcohol heavily, for instance, and work out without nausea or dizziness. (Clearly, people with high or low blood pressure, or heart conditions, should be cautious. Studios like Haute Yogi are key to maintaining optimal health as all teachers are trained well and encourage breaks and hydration.) What happens off the mat, however, is where the nutritional magic happens. Hot yogis often change their habits to perform better in the heat. It’s so beneficial when people reduce consuming fatty, fried foods, meat, sugar or alcohol because their body just feels better, performs better, without it. Another perk? Hot yogis sleep well and are more relaxed the days they practice.

 

Advertisements

The Definition of Kindness

teabag

This teabag wisdom is perfect for me right now. Perhaps for you too? So many women are taught to ‘be kind’ and put others first. ‘To understand before being understood’ is a great concept for people who tend to be self-centered. But those of us who give till it hurts, by putting others’ needs before our own, don’t need this mantra.

Co-dependency is a sickness. It’s learned, usually from a very early age, within a family dynamic. But society as a whole (especially in the South) can push women to support, volunteer, and basically put way too many others’ needs first, at the detriment of their own dreams and sometimes their own basic needs. So many women and yoga teachers (lol) are co-dependent or are people-pleasing helpers. It’s great to be compassionate, but it’s not great to be taken advantage of, is it? So the Universe will keep sending the exact experiences we need to learn important lessons to help us grow into stronger more self- compassionate people who stop letting in, or doing bidding for, pushy or selfish takers.

Breaking old habits is hard. Finding strength to calmly voice myself, set boundaries, or walk away when I am de-valued—no matter what my timing may be—puts me on the right path to self compassion. Most often, in a situation that arises when a person goes back on their word, in work or in friendship, I don’t speak my mind directly due to a fear of confrontation, or maybe an underlying feeling of not being worthy. It’s irrational. It’s likely linked to how I was raised where direct confrontation wasn’t allowed without some sort of punishment. So I often don’t respond immediately when I should, and a few days or a week later, when I have time to think about it, I re-group and find the courage to address a situation. Often that’s in writing. Maybe because I hate fighting and shut down. And maybe because some manipulative or dramatic people might start crying or complaining or making excuses for their bad behavior and I might not finish saying what needs to be said. Other times, I have this knee-jerk fear of being yelled at or hit, which is also irrational. (I’m working on it.) And the Universe keeps sending me situations and people where my ‘kindness is taken for weakness’ like the Rihanna song.

But I’m determined to work on my throat chakra and speak more clearly and directly the moment things go awry, as it shows that I value my time and myself and even the person causing me anxiety if I speak boldly and give them a chance to respond. So, the moment a client says he will not pay me for services rendered and agreed upon and accepted, for instance, I need to speak up and invoice again. The minute an agreement isn’t honored, or a contract not adhered to, I need to speak up clearly and calmly. When someone doesn’t follow through with a promise or lies to me, in friendship, I need to speak up. And if that isn’t received kindly or respectfully, I need to walk away. It’s as simple as that.

Walking away can be so hard when strong feelings are there, but I was reminded today during a conversation with a good friend at the studio, that we lean towards what we are comfortable with. I’ll explain. My friend lamented that so many women still seek bad boys, just like in high school. But I thought about it and said, “No, they seek what they are used to, what feels familiar. When they realize that what feels like home isn’t always good for them, they change.”

Think about it. The man whose mother was overly critical will likely feel at home with, and date, a critical, bossy woman. It’s the same as the gal who might have been verbally abused, or witnessed abuse in the home. She might become attracted to a difficult man who is hot and cold and not always kind. She may become focussed on changing him, understanding him, or earning his love—reflecting unmet childhood needs.

But once people ‘get it,’ they really get it. Maybe the Universe gives us experiences so we can feel those unmet childhood needs and then release them by ‘getting it.’ Once I ‘get’ that someone’s proclaimed love isn’t healthy if their love is neglectful, controlling, confusing, dishonest, shut off, or whatever the case may be, I allow myself to ‘get’ what true kindness is—what ultimately I believe we are all attracted to on a deep soul level.

True kindness is priceless. It gives space to those in your life to be themselves. It gives space to yourself to explore your dreams, speak your mind, be seen and heard and accepted, exactly as you are. True kindness is about strong action, not words. A person that shows up for you, is there for you, who listens without trying to fix, or control or manipulate, is a gift from the Universe. When we value ourselves, we value the uniqueness of others more, honor agreements, are more respectful, and are more accepting and open.

Kindness starts inside. And I’m realizing that it may not look like what was shown to me in my youth. It’s not about volunteering all the time at my child’s school or outside appearances. It’s about modeling self-worth, self-discipline, mindfulness and closeness at home. It may mean I have to say no, and remit invoices and stop someone mid-sentence when they go back on an agreement in the future. (And hopefully, less of those experiences will be drawn my way.) It may also mean walking away, yet again, from someone I love whose love isn’t loving or kind. Because if I’m loving and kind to myself, I won’t accept being with someone whose behavior is neglectful or hyper critical or controlling—all making me feel bad about myself. Staying with someone who hurts me, is just a form of procrastination, as it thwarts me from stepping into my dreams and into the highest version of myself.

What I’ve come to believe is that any thing, situation, or person, who constricts another’s heart, is there to teach a hard lesson. When a person keeps returning to those things or situations or people, it’s soul-crushing. The action of returning to abusive situations or people says more than words ever could. It says I’m not worthy of better and I’m going to waste time with this pain and not be able to reach my dreams or live a peaceful life, being authentically me. It is self-sabotaging—even when the intention is one of ‘rescuing’ or ‘helping’ a loved one. Especially then. Even if it’s rooted in fear of the unknown, because that isn’t trusting the Universe to provide or feeling worthy of receiving healthy loving situations and people in our lives. We are all deserving of love, joy, friendship, support and respect, just for being alive.

 

I’m grateful for the lessons that I’m learning. I’m grateful even for feeling and seeing the pain of staying in bad situations and comparing that to the pain of setting boundaries and walking away from them. I can try to work with someone and cringe when I set boundaries and ask for them to honor agreements, or my time, but in the end, it’s what is necessary for me to respect myself and my family. And it’s the same with love. I can love someone dearly and still walk away. I can see their goodness and potential, but realize that they will continue to hurt me because of where they are in life. Walking away is actually harder to do when you still care, but in the end, no one can ‘fix’ another. We can only love each other and love ourselves. Walking away from who hurts (or bad boys, as my friend likes to judge) allows me to make space for someone and for situations that feel good, uplift, is respectful and where I’m valued.

I’m grateful for all of my mistakes and blunders as I try to find my way to a stronger, authentic, self-compassionate space. And thank GOD for the women in my life who are showing me what strong kindness is. You know who you are!

 

Here’s to Love, Light & Bad-Ass Kindness

 

Digging into Roots to Clear the Throat Chakra

exhale

Who knew I’d need to dig deeper into my roots, my past, in order to clear the throat chakra? I naively thought that I’d “let go” of my upbringing and relationship baggage. I mean, I did part of the Course in Miracles. I prayed for 21 days for those who had hurt, neglected, ignored, betrayed, disrespected me, etc. I lit a candle and imagined their higher selves healing and vibrant and I said ‘I forgive you’ for 21 days. So, I thought that I had cleared my root chakra, let go of the past, and was daily clearing all chakras through my yoga practice, while speaking my truth, clearing my throat chakra, through my writing. Not quite. I had more digging to do.

Many say the past is the past, stop obsessing. I get it. And it is. Except when it isn’t. When we zoom forward in warp speed, ignoring our past, acting as if it’s all good and we don’t deal with it, clear it, truly forgive, find courage to move past fears to manifest a healthier future, then the Universe has a way of putting people and events in front of us to relive the feelings of whatever we need to feel and work through, (similar to what we experienced before), in order to truly step up, face it, confront it and move beyond it.

Does that make sense? I’ll be more clear. If someone was rarely heard or seen or allowed to have their feelings as a child, they will likely grow up into an adult with blockages in their throat chakra. This fifth chakra is about truth: speaking your truth clearly, succinctly with kindness, feeling safe to be seen and heard at all times, and knowing that it is safe to feel what you feel, to need what you need, and to set healthy boundaries with those aren’t supportive or uplifting. A child who was scolded when trying to express feelings, or who was made fun of when speaking up, or yelled at when trying to speak up, will develop a throat chakra imbalance as an adult. (And it’s worse for those who experienced physical abuse as a child and then weren’t allowed to express sorrow/anger openly, or distance themselves from abusive adults afterwards.) These imbalances can manifest in different ways in adults. Experts say typically most men may not express their emotions easily, may steer clear from confrontation or may not be able to comfort loved ones in need or be truly intimate. Women may go through periods where they don’t talk, only to find their voice, but talk on an on about things that don’t get to the heart of the matter. They can become passive aggressive and rarely find courage to tell others how they feel, what they need succinctly, or ask for that raise, or the help they need. Their issue isn’t always from a sense of not feeling worthy, it can be lingering PTSD,  literally a knee-jerk withdrawl, from fear of speaking up due to irrational fear of abusive consequences. Women with throat chakra blockages typically gossip instead of being forthcoming or direct with individuals. Men may shy away from all communication and find means to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Both men and women may seek habits or addictions to ‘not feel’ emotions, or they try to avoid any situations that aren’t superficially happy. When confronted, they may lash out, say cruel things, or worse, become physically abusive, mirroring their childhood. Men, especially, shy away from true intimacy, even though they crave it and need it. Women may disregard healthy men for those who are emotionally unavailable—triggering their need to make that man love them, see them, hear them—subconsciously trying to heal their childhood unmet need. Most with throat chakra imbalances pretend everything is ok. They lie to themselves or others. It’s all good. They may stay in stale or abusive relationships for fear of speaking up. They may volunteer too much, exhausting themselves. They may snap at their children too much, not respecting their children’s individuality as it threatens their lack of individuality. They may stay in jobs that don’t pay well or provide advancement, for fear of asking for more. All pictures on Facebook are positive and bubbly and happy. Both men and women who need to clear their throat chakras avoid situations or people who are living their truth, because it mirrors that they are not.

Phew, that’s a lot. And it manifests in a host of dis-eases from thyroid imbalances, fatigue, sleep deprivation, adrenal stress, asthma, addiction and depression, according to experts. The good news is that it can be cleared. Yoga; deep breathing; guided meditation on forgiveness and letting go; writing to confront those in the past; chanting; diet changes, therapy are all ways.

I discovered my lingering imbalance over this past month that I’ve been in an intense hot yoga teacher training that has required me taking two classes a day, while also training, and teaching my other classes. The heat is a metaphor for all that is uncomfortable in life. Breathing deeply to stay calm and out of panic is crucial for enduring hot yoga. The mirrors force embracing the truth and acceptance for yourself, exactly as you are. The sweat is the manifestation of letting go all that doesn’t serve you. Hot yoga changes a person from the inside out, unlike all other forms of yoga. It is impossible to drink alcohol heavily, chug coffee, eat heavy foods or abuse any substances and withstand 105 degree classes successfully. The body no longer craves comfort food either. And a community builds with others who are not perfect physically, yet come together to burn off stress and find stillness. From the beginning of time, cultures have sought out heated dens or saunas for healing, burning off demons and shedding what doesn’t serve. There is no ability to pretend. There is no where to hide. Sweat falls down faces with no make up and the body can no longer be covered by much clothing as it weighs you down in the heat.

During the past 5 weeks, many things have bubbled up into my throat chakra, especially during camel poses and other back bends, in the heat. I’ve realized that it’s hard for me to let go of those who trigger my upbringing. For instance, I’ve dated someone off an on for years who says he loves me, but then goes through periods where he ignores me or disregards my feelings. It’s as if the Universe put this person in front of me, like a soul mate to force growth, so that I can speak up, since I wasn’t able to speak up as a child. And perhaps this person has an imbalance, or a fear of intimacy or a hard time dealing with uncomfortable feelings, or just isn’t available for a deeper, fulfilling relationship? Regardless of why it isn’t working, instead of letting go, my inclination has been to understand before being understood and to reach out—only to relive a passionate connection that is followed with distance and neglect. It results in time and time again of feeling unworthy, small and unloved. Now I see it as a way for me to speak my truth, state my needs to feel safe, loved and comforted during hard times—not just loved during happy, fun times—and to LET GO with love. There is no reason to hold on, to struggle, to try to force being seen or heard. Letting go, allows space for reflection and  space for the right person to float in. It sounds easy, but throat chakra imbalances from childhood neglect, makes it psychologically hard to do. The balanced throat chakra knows when to speak up and when to stay silent and let go. But it requires diving back into the roots, feeling to heal the pain, so the cycle can stop.

The power of yoga. The power of breath. The power of meditation. The awesome power of heat. The power of writing. The power of speaking and living truth.

We are all spiritual beings living this physical existence. Everyone in our life is meant to be there. Some karmically choose us, with so much love, to propel us further. It’s a trip to embrace that idea: that those who hurt us in this lifetime, may actually be the ones who love us the most and push us closer to our truth and purpose.

Love & Light  ~

Laura x

Laura

Gratitude Saved My Life

photo-138

Every sun salutation series I teach in my yoga classes reflects my lifeline: gratitude. We end each sun salutation reaching up with our hands together, arms straight, stretching, reaching past imagery clouds to find light, inspiration, that we then bring into our heart space as we bow our heads and pause. We breathe in what has brought us joy, peace or even just a smile that day. We do this over and over until we have put together a list that is nearly 12 long of moments, people, projects, things, pets, events that we are grateful for that day. At the end of the series we pause longer, with our hands over our hearts, heads bowed, as we shift our vibration by thinking about what works. We focus on what is good, positive, flowing, beautiful, inspiring, supportive, comforting in our lives. It’s a powerful choice. And it has saved my life.

I can recall a time when what didn’t work would drive me crazy. And I’d focus on that one nasty comment or the inconsiderate actions done, or the hurt from real sorrow. But instead of finding the lesson in that pain and letting it ALL go, I became filled with resentments and a need to fix, control, make it better, understand, or be understood—which is another way of focussing on what isn’t working, instead of just allowing, accepting and letting go of what doesn’t serve and focussing on where the love is, the light is, the support is, the friendship is, the compassion is. These beautiful things and souls are in everyone’s life. It takes mindful effort to focus on them and not obsess on the negative, the toxic, the unhealthy, unloving people or environments. But once I do focus, and give thanks for, and give more time to the people, events, jobs, activities that fill me up with joy, acceptance, love, support, I suddenly find more of that in my life. And then giving feels like receiving, because I want to give to those who bring me happiness.

I’m welling up with tears by the sweet texts and notes from my dear yoga students this past week. Happy Mother’s Day wishes, thank you’s for classes they enjoyed and meditations that moved them, etc. My work feels like play. I’m in another yoga training right now with such an inspiring teacher and women. The focus is making me stronger, too, at a time that could tip me out of gratitude and into sadness or anxiety if I let it.  But how cool is it that instead, I have to take two hot classes a day (that kick my tush), attend training and teach to my teacher. At night I memorize dialogue, in between all my mommy demands, and I love every minute. Sometimes I need to have a distraction in order not to worry about what I can’t control. Can you relate? I can’t control disease. I can’t control violent events. I can’t control the president, geez. I can’t control what will or won’t happen to people very close to me who are fighting for their lives. I can only love them. And when I take care of myself, I can love them better. I can be more mindful after yoga, and be present with them without letting fears race. I can trust the Universe more, and trust their journeys and my own. I’m so grateful for the calm and trust and strength that yoga and meditation brings. I can love and accept others and even let go with so much love, trusting that we are all on our own paths, our own journeys, that are exactly as they are meant to be, for our highest expansion.

My heart is full this week. Yes I miss my mom who passed away this week last year. And yes I’m scared to lose anyone else close to me. I know death is an illusion, but damn, you can’t really talk with, smell, hug easily from the other side can you? It’s still a painful loss anyway you look at it. Choking away the fear is hard. Hot yoga classes, meditation, sweat, no alcohol, makes it so much easier for me to float back into a space of gratitude.

And having the best boys on the planet doesn’t hurt either! This Mother’s Day my 15-year-old got up at 5 a.m. (he thought I was taking a 6 a.m. class) and walked into town, bought me a mocha with coconut milk and a huge bouquet of flowers. My 8-year-old gave me an adorable picture and hand-delivered a chocolate cupcake and a juice box to my bed for breakfast. And you know what else? My ex-husband texted and offered to buy us brunch. How lucky am I?

So lucky. When I think about going to Hawaii this June to finish my next book—AND my yoga & writers retreat I’m leading in Greece this August—I’m BEYOND grateful. It’s amazing where life can lead me if I let it. If I’m open to allowing my dreams, and the right people, to float into focus, and then focus on them, the miraculous bubbles to the surface.

Here’s to letting in—breathing in—more: peace, calm, light, love, compassion, joy, adventure, strength, patience, friendship, acceptance—and a little wiggle room for fun.

Namaste,

Laura xo

Happy Place

happyhawaiiface

Oahu, overlooking where From Here to Eternity was filmed.

Is it possible to actually BE happier someplace else? Is happiness found within a destination? Certainly, it can be argued that some locations, cities, countries, just exude a culture or an energy that resonates, inspires, or relaxes, don’t you think? In my mid-20s, I LOVED New York City. I thrived on the vibrant energy, the fun, and being able to see concerts, plays or opera in the park in the summer—or using my student discount ID to see amazing musicians. I loved the food, the multi-cultural vibe and all the writers and dreamers and artists I met in school. Today? I don’t love NYC so much. It’s too noisy. It’s too far away from the ocean. It’s filled with too many rude people who yell at old people if they are too slow in grocery store lines paying their bills. I know. I lived there. And I’ve lived in London, Atlanta, Maryland, and had small stints in Florida & Maine. I grew up in North Carolina. I’ve travelled throughout most of the States, as well as nearly all of Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and have twice been to India as well as vacationed in Peru and Mexico and Costa Rica. I’m a lucky traveller. None of these places, however, I would consider moving to. Not any more. At one point, I considered moving to Barcelona. Two years ago I even stayed in a central apartment with a roof deck where I slept many summer nights. I visited the International school too. I had thought, intellectually, that being closer to my ex-husband in London, would be good for the boys and we could all learn Spanish, and still be in a warm climate. I had loved visiting before and even had a girlfriend living there with her family. That was the intellectual viewpoint. After living there for two weeks, however, I realized that while I loved all the artists and the liberal vibe and being near the sea, I didn’t quite mesh with the culture. I adored the big dinners and how everyone seemed to love spending time together. There were no snapping at children, for instance. None of that rushed American anxious energy. BUT, and it’s a bit BUT, smoking was everywhere. Meat was in every meal. Loads of drinking. And it was expensive. I wasn’t sure I could start over again there. Visit again? Yes. Live there? No.  And to be fair, I wasn’t always ‘happy’ there, or visioned a way to be.

Why am I sharing all this? Because after my 4th vacation in Honolulu, I’m starting to see Oahu as my 2nd home. It just feels right. Like a good relationship that defies intellectual reasoning, it just feels good—and I feel good—when there.  After I landed yesterday at LAX, I felt some stress immediately. Some may laugh, as I live right on the beach in Hermosa. I decided to go for a walk on the strand. It was 4:30 p.m. and sunny, warmish for here. I grabbed some water and took off. The walk to the pier was met with loads of drunk beach goers and a few cat calls from decks from guys who likely cat call any gal walking by in shorts or a bathing suit. Why did this cause me anxiety? Because I’m not a partier. When in this environment, I get a little anxious. I’ve always been like that. A small group having a picnic, no problem. But crowds and cat calling, no thanks. When I got home, a friend going through a divorce came by. The anxiety was high. She’s going through a lot. He has another girlfriend immediately, they are going through all their assets, it’s fear, anger, abandonment. She isn’t taking care of herself and having a very hard time staying positive. She won’t do yoga or walk regularly or eat well. She is overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to see as I feel helpless. I am helpless. Thank God I am no longer triggered to what I went through when my ex left me with a baby. I’ve literally worked though it all with yoga and forgiveness. I can see that it was the best thing for me as God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself and I’m now teaching yoga and writing creatively. My friend will find the blessing in her situation, eventually. But not now.  And her situation mirrors the southern California culture or energy, or accepted requirement to always stay young, to always be beautiful. It can be a competitive and insecure environment to live in as a woman. After said friend left, a neighbor came by, a wonderful soul, who loves to party, but has a good heart. We’re very good friends. He wanted me to meet his new girlfriend. It was awkward immediately as she gave me a ‘stank’ face after assessing me and complained to him that she didn’t want to meet me. She was loud about it, as she was tipsy and holding her glass of vino as she was getting into the car. I agreed to drive them to a party. It was now 6 p.m. The vibe was competitive and definitely not peaceful. He was trying to be cool, but she wasn’t comfortable and had too much to drink. They were off to a party where likely some of our mutual friends would be. I had no interest in going, as I wanted to get up early, unpack, make an Easter brunch for the boys and do some writing, NOT hung over. Does that make me not fun? Does that make me boring? And why did I get a ‘stank’ face when I was nicely driving them somewhere? And why won’t my dear friend breathe and take care of herself better so she can get through this time? Why do I feel anxious within minutes of being home? Why do these situations make me uncomfortable? These are the thoughts and feelings that flood in, based on outside factors or energy or events. Clearly, I don’t totally feel at home living here. Last night I had nightmares too.

I had no nightmares in Hawaii. The sliding glass doors to the patio were open every night, with warm, reassuring breezes and ocean lapping sounds filling our apartment. Sometimes distant luau dancers could be heard, or the local musician singing at a Waikiki beach bistro. Sure there was partying, but nothing bothered me. There were no cat calls from out of control drunk boys. There were no stank looks from insecure women. It was chill on the beaches, we met cool people hiking and in town at local restaurants. It felt creative and the vibe, wherever I went, was chill. There is a deep reverence for nature and the sea and culture. Sure there are partiers, but there are just as many chill people relaxing side by side with them.

I always feel happy there. Last week, whether I was writing my 9th chapter of Between Thoughts of You, (my next novel), or whether I was in Waikiki or a North Shore beach, or wandering through a remote ranch or hiking in the woods, or up to a volcano. Yes, I was on vacation, but this is my 4th vacation. After coming back home and feeling the pressure and the anxious vibe that is LA, I booked two more weeks in Honolulu via airbnb for late June & early July while the boys are with their dad in France. I have a hard time blocking out the noise and the energy and the fears here. It makes it harder to write. For instance, as I was putting my youngest to bed last night, I worried about him growing up here. I worried about how expensive it is here and how I can’t buy a home. I worried about the quality of men who ask me out. There’s only been one in the past 4 years here that I’d ever want to really be in a relationship with. I’m picky. And it’s because of the boys. This world in LA can be extremely focussed on the external and how things appear, not how they feel. I want to be with people who feel good. People who like to just hang with their kids, be with them, enjoy simple things.

So, while experts, yogis & psychologists all claim (understandably) that happiness is “an inside job,” where you live matters. I understand that To BE happy, one needs to find strength, worth, inspiration, trust, safety, balance, joy, forgiveness, etc. all within. I’m a yoga teacher and a writer and I talk about this stuff every week. (For good reason, I teach what I need to learn, lol!) I love chakra trainings and chakra classes and often my students don’t even realize how I change the class last minute based on the discussions and energy I hear and fell before class. If there are a lot of anxious people who have been dealing with change or illness or relationship stress, we definitely do grounding poses. I talk about the first chakra: being safe, grounded, rooted, supported, trusting, etc. You get the idea. So I’m a firm believer that happiness—and our health—is our own responsibility. But shouldn’t we, or I, notice when I ‘feel’ off in a certain location? Who we surround ourselves with and where we live—what energy and culture and norms exist there—can directly affect our core, our balance, our center.

I feel better in Oahu. I feel at home. I don’t feel pressure to BE anything other than I am. I can write there. I can relax there. I could easily teach yoga there. I meet sweet, gentle, people every time I’ve gone.  So while I can’t move for the next 4 years, as my oldest is thriving in high school here, that doesn’t mean that I can’t go back and forth as often as I can afford to. So here’s to manifesting my next book deal and buying a little cottage by the sea to write my next book! In June, I’ll be staying at a cottage in Ewa Beach, checking out a different location, far from tourists, and writing every day, editing my first draft of my next novel. To say I can’t wait, is an understatement!

As always, Mahalo for reading my meandering prose.

Chime in: Where is your happy place? Do you have one?

Love,

Laura xo

Finding Light Within Loss

light

Photo by RickyLesser.com

It’s nearly impossible to find the light, any light, when lost and in pain. Any platitude will ring untrue, like a well-intentioned stranger who says, “It’s God’s plan, dear,” or “Let Go & Let God.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is really mis-understood. What a person ‘intellectually’ and ‘spiritually’ understands, is not felt within the body of someone who has been traumatized. Ask any veteran. Ask any survivor of horrific abuse. It leaves a water mark that I believe melts into our muscles and settles into the deep subconscious within our bones that whispers in another language—but one that triggers our insecurity, our doubt, our sense of not belonging, our sense of not being enough. One yoga class, one therapy session, one confession, one psychic healer isn’t going to fix it. Post traumatic stress is something triggered by the body, from something buried deep within. And sometimes, we aren’t even cognizant of what that is, if it’s been blocked out.

Think of the person who ducks every time she hears a car backfire because she was a young child in a war-torn area where her parents were shot. Her heart is racing, palms sweating, and she might manically race to get away from the noise—to the point of running into the line of cars. She isn’t conscious of why she is fleeing, but the noise has triggered a buried memory that she never processed fully and her body is forcing her to feel the fear, feel the anxiety, feel the terror. The problem with PTSD is that, if not treated, this flight or fight mechanism repeats over and over until a sane person is no longer sane. The woman who has been attacked, for instance, may try to shake it off. Years later, she may have a full-blown panic attack in a parking garage when her car door won’t open. Her body, reliving a time when someone grabbed her, will start an internal revolt until she is bent over, throwing up, or passes out. This same woman may begin to suddenly leave restaurants or night clubs if her friends don’t return from the bathrooms on time because her heart is racing and she can’t look other men in the eyes. Her body is forcing her to feel—but it isn’t from a healthy sense of intuition. It’s from blocked pain that has nothing to do with the reality of the present moment.

No one likes to feel pain, or relive pain. Some people may have even disassociated with what they were going through, like a child who was abused, in order to survive. Years later, she may not understand why she won’t allow men to touch her. Again, it’s the body’s memory. It’s the body echoing out through our senses to force us to feel, in order to heal. But feeling sudden panic and reactivity, spurs insanity.

That person becomes paranoid, makes bad decisions, is untrusting and desperately seeks a way to end the torture—which can make alcohol, or any escape, alluring. When trying to kick the escape habits, that person can start to isolate, become severely depressed or even suicidal.

When we can grow compassion for someone suffering from PTSD, then we can foster forgiveness for whatever escapes that person sought out—even those that caused our own suffering. Because it isn’t personal. He or she was in severe pain they couldn’t endure anymore. Period. End of story.  It wasn’t about you or me. And they didn’t mean to hurt us.

For 5 months I’ve lived every day wondering if my sister was still alive. It’s been excruciating. We both lost our mother last May and one of the last things I remember her saying at our mother’s funeral is how mom always reminded her: “there’s someone for everyone dear.” The someone my sister found hurt her badly, beyond comprehension. And she just got lost in the trauma. I won’t go into the details.

Two weeks ago I was convinced my sister had died. I grieved the loss. I cried so hard. But I also remembered her light. It’s so bright. It shines all over my house in every room with some bizarre trinket, picture or perfect gift, (usually an exotic frog of some sort, long story) that she has given me over the years. I recalled the way she played piano and sang. How rebellious and creative and genius she was. How compassionate she was: always rescuing animals and strays of any kind, lol. After two days of grieving, I found out she was alive! And I spoke with her for the first time in nearly 5 months too. She’s now getting the treatment she desperately needs.

She may think that she’s lost everything, but she hasn’t. Her eternal light is burning so bright. Her future can actually be strengthened from this, if she lets it. As a therapist, she’ll be able to help even more people, especially those going through PTSD, because she’s been there. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Those who blame, shame, or ridicule anyone who has lost their way, due to PTSD, are heartless bullies. Compassion requires that we all take a moment to think about what someone else has gone through—to imagine their pain, their anxiety, their stress—and to think about ways to extend a hand, lighten their load, lessen their pain. Once we do this, even if it is a prayer we say, a candle we light, or a note we send saying we are thinking of that person, we return to love.

Compassion always returns me back to the amazing power of love. I can no longer stay mad at you, if I love you. If I love you, and realize that nothing you did was intentional to hurt me, than I can forgive you and fill my heart with love and acknowledge your light. Whenever we are back in that space of love, that space of light, there is no room for the ego or blaming or shaming or criticizing or ridiculing. And in that light, we are one, we are equal.

This experience, like others when I’ve lost loved ones or friends from sudden tragedies, reminds me of how fragile we all are. Even so, we all have an eternal light with lifetimes of knowledge and grace within us. If we allow ourselves to feel the pain, bless it, acknowledge it, enter stillness, and risk asking for help when we need it, we can actually feel our light as bright as the sun.

May we all find our way to loving each other, as the sun loves the Earth, without asking for anything in return, except for the blossoming of our potential, like wild flowers on a hillside.

With so much love and gratitude,

Laura x

GREECE BABEEE!

greece

So I have been dreaming of going to this villa in Greece for F O U R years. I decided to plan a yoga & writer’s retreat here for 2018 and then got the surprise of my life: this villa estate on Evia, which is usually booked a year in advance, had a cancellation and opening THIS AUGUST. After calling a few of my yoga & writer friends who said hell yes, I booked it.

WHAAT?!

Kinda crazy. But hey, life is meant to be lived. And when I get the road signs, the green lights, the serendipitous moments, I pay attention. In last night’s yoga class with beautiful yogis I’ve been teaching for 3 years, two more signed on. One sent me this beautiful text saying:

“After my mother died, I vowed I would travel more but can’t seem to ever get away from work. I’m BEYOND excited and feel so blessed to have this trip of a lifetime! I cried last night with joy.”

Isn’t that amazing? It seems that there are quite a few of us going on this trip who have dealt with the pain of grief or health issues this year and need some FUN and PEACE.

This villa is quirky, unique, gorgeous and hand-crafted. It is a living story, and you know how much I love stories. Once I heard how it came to existence, I was hooked. The owner’s father was a British shipping executive with a hobby in building and carpentry. He discovered this island, that is an hour ferry ride from Athens, and literally bought a huge chunk of it. Then he built three buildings that have adjoining outside spaces with long tables for his friends to come and spend weeks together.

Greeceoutside

The man loved food and entertaining and children. His daughter almost had to parcel up the estate or sell it outright once the economy started to tank. Instead, she decided to rent it out to keep it in the family. I’m so happy she did! It’s perfect for entertaining and large dinners and then wandering solo, exploring and time alone. If kids, or big kids come, there is a lot to do! There is a basketball & tennis court, rope swing, kayaks and hiking trails down to the ocean. Every room has its own entrance, bathroom and view of the sea. Of course there is an infinity pool, jacuzzi and Turkish steam bath.
Greecepool

And because it is so remote, the estate comes with a driver and a cook.

Greeceestate

The driver can take people to the other side of the island that has bars and populated beaches, or to the ferry to go to Athens for sight seeing. The cook will make amazing, authentic Greek dishes every evening. And the price is right. With the Greek economy the way it is, this villa retreat is much cheaper than going to Palm Springs—well, without the airfare! (but that’s not bad right now either!) So come join us. Send me a note and I’ll give you the full details as we only have 4 spots left. There will be yin & beginner flow yoga daily, 3 writer workshops that you can attend, or not. Every thing is optional so there is plenty of time for writing, hiking, swimming, reading, doing nothing, or perhaps sinking into a tub with a view that helps you dream BIG dreams. 🙂

Greecetub

Love & Light ~

Laura

How Does IT Feel?

A few weeks ago a friend explained to me why she no longer modeled. She simply said: “I just don’t feel good when I do it.”

It was such a simple statement, yet  has stayed with me. How often do any of us ask ourselves how we feel about what we do, until we are bursting with negative feelings? Even then, I bet half of my female friends reading this typically just push aside the bad feelings due to obligation or fear. We stay in dead-end jobs with negative energy or abusive bosses, for instance, because we need the pay check and are afraid there won’t be something else out there. I get it. Or, we sometimes put up with abusive and disrespectful partners because we don’t want to be alone, or be that ‘single mom’ that we see rushing around and struggling financially.

 

Fear and anxiety, obligation and childhood programming can really get in the way of just knowing how we feel and then doing something to move away from a negative experience and towards a more positive one. What we focus on expands. It’s taken me a long time to trust the Universe enough to move towards what feels good. Maybe I didn’t think I deserved to feel good or to be treated with respect or to be nurtured? Maybe I just didn’t think I was allowed to ‘do what feels good’ for a living? It takes time to shift out of fear and into awareness—and even more time to shift into action. Yoga and meditation is what has helped me the most. I’ve written about that a lot. Here’s one story about the process of shedding trauma that leaves a watermark of crippling fear. ( The Science Behind Sanskara )

After shedding some fear and embracing who I am and what I have been through, I’ve been able to shift into allowing myself to ‘feel good’ and not just ‘do good’ & ‘be good’ & please everyone else. It’s hard to make this shift, especially as a southern woman and a mother. I think many of us women are programmed to be good moms, good wives, good friends and daughters and to serve, serve, serve to the point that we no longer even know what feels good because we are so busy helping others. Balance is key. Knowing I, and you, are worthy, allows us to seek that balance. Yoga has helped to release super heavy memories and scars and to lighten up. I’m still in that process of recognizing what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. So here is a list of some of what I’ve been processing and what the Universe is sending me through ‘teachers.’ The Italics are how I am responding or not responding, yet shifting mentally.  I share to be of service.

Someone being disrespectful. I lean away. No need to even explain myself or engage. I Float toward those who UPLIFT & SUPPORT.

When someone ignores me or is neglectful. I no longer try to reach out & am not available the second they are demanding & ‘need me.’.

When someone makes fun of what really matters to me. Next. Don’t even engage. 

When someone lies to me. No time for more of that in my life. That phase is OVER.

When someone is abusing substances & is no longer a safe, reliable or loving friend. I don’t own their issue and I don’t need to fix them or even be there for them. 

When someone is pushy and tries to force me to do something that clearly benefits them, that I don’t want to do. Sorry, it’s just not for me.

When someone is being manipulative and trying to make me feel sorry for them so I will continue to ‘help’ them, even though they know I’m strapped for time as a full time single mother who is working:  Instead of being resentful I just mentally drop this person and explain to them:  “I hear you, but I’m really swamped right now. “

When what someone says isn’t backed up by their actions—like a man who says he loves me & is my boyfriend, and then disappears for weeks at a time, not even texting or responding to a text; or the friend or family member who says they are always there for me, but never has time to chat or call me back when I finally muster up the courage to call—Your actions matter. I send you all love and wish you well, but this doesn’t feel good. I deserve to be treated with kindness and with respect. I love you. I know you’re wounded. I see your closed heart. I feel your fear. But these things I do not own. You own these. I’ve worked through my own. I wish things were different, but they aren’t. Good bye. Be well. I now float towards what feels good. 

When someone doesn’t want to listen to me. Ever: I stop trying. I recognize that this is what I grew up with. This is what I felt in my marriage. This is a pattern that must stop by letting go. If I can always find time to listen & ‘try to understand before being understood,’ the right friends, lovers, family,  will emerge who can find time to do the same. The Universe responds when I visualize supportive, nurturing people flowing in and stop expecting those to  give, who just can’t.

When someone is judgmental and makes assumptions about me and pushes their ‘religion’ or assumes I ‘do’ or ‘believe’ something harmful: My GOD is LOVE. I love you enough to respect your choices, please respect mine. If this doesn’t work, I drift away with love for this learning experience as I must be authentically and unapologetically myself.

 

If you liked this post, check out these!
Manifesting B A L A N C E = More Play

YOU are the PATH: Loving from the Inside OUT

Struggling to Surrender to What IS

Navigating Joy & Sorrow in the Labyrinth

maninmaze

Last night I had a gold thread dream. It’s this lucid dream that sometimes happens with me. I let it. I’m aware, yet the gold thread keeps creating a scene for me. I am not in control and I can ask questions as it keeps moving, sending me a message. Bare with me. I’m not on drugs or was drunk! 🙂  So, this enormous maze or labyrinth was being formed. As it was being formed, it was like I was in it.  Then we rose high above it, reminding me of the labyrinths I saw in Peru, except this one was much larger. I could see the formation that was intricate. I could also see a bus or large image enter it. This image just kept moving and trying to navigate its way through. We were watching, like spirit guides, hoping for the best.

The night before I had dreamed of a friend who just stopped, he decided to check out. Literally, a cash register drawer opened and closed shut as he faded away. He was going to talk with me, then walked away, like walking away from life. I woke up at 4 a.m. frightened for him.

In the labyrinth dream last night, I realized that this symbol was for all of us. It is the quintessential image for life. How we all must navigate our way through dark times to the light and how these times will continue to fluctuate. It’s our ability to keep going, to keep taking baby steps forward—even when we are lost or alone or without any encouragement or faith—that matters in the end. Who musters up the courage to keep going? Who asks for help or reaches out? Who sinks into despair or hides under a mask of false pretenses in fear of letting others know they are struggling too, until their ‘hidden’ struggles manifests in addiction or illness or some other outlet to fill the gaping hole? I know, I’ve been there.

As the gold thread dream started to move, I began to wonder if the person, or persons, in the maze or intricate labyrinth would get stuck? Like Harry Potter’s maze, once inside the high dark hedgerows, without the perspective above to see how it would end, would the person just sink in despair? Taking baby steps forward with blind faith and no real indication that I’m on the right path, is hard for me. Mostly on weekends, after a long work week and without breaks from kiddos, I can sink a bit. Even with the tools that I’ve found, such as mediation and yoga, just the months on with the kiddos and long work demands can leave me drained and a bit blue. Loneliness can sink in on weekends too, even when I’m enjoying hanging with the kids. I admit that I miss the husband best friend thing, of hanging out after the boys go to bed. I don’t miss the ex, just the feeling of having that best friend to chat with. But if I focus on what I don’t have, I tend to lose grip of what I DO have. And I know that. That’s when I have to be ever mindful to just rise out of my little maze of looping thoughts to garner perspective. To realize that my situation won’t last forever. That I’ll find the me-time again, that I’ll find the time to finish my book, that I’m just in a hectic full-time solo parenting and working period in my life with little time for a social life. But it won’t last forever. And I do have beautiful yogis and friends at work who I adore. I am lucky that where I work and what I do is so enjoyable and fills me with purpose. So I mentally need to take a break through 10 to 15 minutes of mediation daily in order to rise up above the dark corridors of my daily looping thoughts or dark lonely moments, to garner perspective.

harrys-maze

Once I have perspective, I can then re-engage and start taking those baby-steps to navigate my way through those pathways again. The lucid dream, like the native indian myth of the hopi man in the maze, was a reminder to me that life is meant to be a challenge. All lives have turbulence. Most people experience sorrow, loss, disappointment, frustrations, and sometimes senseless violence. It’s hard to just keep going in dark times. Isn’t it easier to just sink and say ‘I give up,” get cynical and start thinking ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘why bother?’ But that’s exactly what I have to fight against and picture a positive end result, like a professional athlete visualizes the win. Maybe my end result is just big picture items, like more joy, more love, more time to write, more time to travel…so I just keep going, visualizing that they all start flowing in and getting on my path. And when I’m back in that faithful zone, synchronicity begins: I meet that new friend who is on the same path as me, or that creative opportunity opens up, or that person who supports my vision gives me support that lifts my mood for weeks. It happens and is happening. I remind myself of these amazing synchronicities when I feel blue.

Keep the faith people. (I say this to myself too.) And to my friend, you know who you are, what did Khalil Gibran say? “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” I’m here for you.

L. x

Seven Year Anniversary

I received this notice today that seven years ago I registered this blog on WordPress. SEVEN years. Wow. How much have I learned since that day? How much more do I still have to learn, might be the better question, lol! Seven years ago, January 2010. Wow, what a mess. I was the epitome of the southern mantra: ‘fake it till you make it.’ I was sleep-walking through life with an often-sick baby and an 8 year old solo. My husband and I separated October of 2009, but honestly, he had been flying back and forth to Europe since our baby was 5 months old and gone 2 weeks a month anyway. He had been gone long before his physical, permanent presence. I was just catching up to that fact. And, I was trying as hard as I could to not fall apart or fall into despair and bitterness. I found out in October of 2009 he had a double life and a girlfriend in Europe who had been traveling with him to exotic locales across the globe while I was at home with a colicky baby and another son to raise. Enter months of therapy and going back and forth between trying to stay married and rediscovering he still had this girlfriend when he was away—I landed smack into the realization that I was a door mat and just kept clicking a rewind button that propelled me into yet another betrayal heartbreak moment. After three of those events that landed me at 90 pounds and barely functional, our therapist demanded that my ex finally stop swinging between two women and ‘killing’ me. So he left Dec. 26, 2009, after a pretend family Christmas with a lot of phone calls from the girlfriend. Because I’ve been a journalist since I was 18, and writing has always helped me find clarity, I started this blog. But I didn’t actually post a public post until much later. My first post was when my youngest was 2, so I had been a FT single mom for over a year with maybe three weeks off. The post wasn’t very personal, as perhaps I was afraid to BE personal during the middle of a divorce, but it was accurate. It was about mental fatigue and inspired by a New York Times article. I re-read it today and it’s still very current for me. Here it is: BrainDrain.

Seven years later, I still have many moments of brain drain. I needed to re-read the advice list in this old post, as I still do not follow all of it. Brain drain is very real for single parents, as it stems from making too many decisions. Do any of you feel it? I notice that being the sole care-taker and the sole-decision maker for two humans without a break, is exhausting. EVEN when I teach yoga and do yoga. EVEN when I get a good night’s sleep. Things slip. EVEN when I input as many items into my calendar as possible, emergencies pop up and I’m the only one to handle them. (sickness, someone forgetting their lunch, a game getting cancelled, so I have to leave work early to pick up…)

And don’t get me started on dating. The woman who has her kids full time is treated very differently by men. EVEN by the men who fall in love. Yes, even them. They run away or try to completely control me and change me or my parenting style.  (Example of disrespecting family time with the boys, by calling during dinner, or before bedtime and trying to get me to leave them home alone, yet again, to come over at the last minute.) Some are just not for me, they party too much, drink too much and are not good for my boys, so I don’t go out with them. And some don’t want the ‘responsibility’ that dating someone like me seems to imply, so they try to get me open to booty calls, friends with benefits kind of deal so there’s no obligation or need to truly try to connect. I walk away.  Or they don’t want to compete for my limited amount of time, as the ones I’ve known want me, and only me, and nothing to do with the children. It’s exhausting. I’ve finally stopped trying. I’ve stopped dating altogether. I’m focussed on my yoga, writing my next book and my boys. My boys have only met one man in seven years and that was after we were very serious. My boys come first. They are not a liability. They are the best people I know and I adore them. They have probably saved me from disastrous men. Anyone who would be a bad influence on them, is a no bueno for me. So, dating is easier and harder post divorce. It’s easier because the boys come first and I can quickly see who isn’t a good fit. It gets harder because I just don’t have the time or resources to hire sitters and go out on many blind dates. I’m opting out for now. And that’s okay.

So when a friend, who has only been separated one year, asked me this question a few weeks ago: “When does it get easier?” I didn’t know how to respond. Here’s my attempt:

It gets easier and it gets harder.

It gets easier when the love you had for your ex mutates into a distant brotherly kind of love created out of forgiveness and a willingness to move forward with friendship and gratitude for what is working in whatever type of co-parenting role that evolves.

It gets easier when you start to get to know yourself better and start to explore exactly what interests you. (This is especially true for those givers who try and try to be what their partner wants for years.) So now I unapologetically follow my heart: my yoga, meditation classes, my writing, my photography, my love for music and traveling the way I want to with no need to justify why I’m just not the party girl who loves Vegas, you know? I’m the gal who went to Peru & Spain & Italy & Prague solo. I hiked. I went to ballets, I went to museums, I toured, I lived on a rooftop for a week. I camped. I wrote. I did yoga. That’s more my speed.

It gets easier when you learn to respect yourself and your needs. But this is where it can get harder for the full-time, sole custody parents too. Once you realize your needs, your wants, trying to find acceptance in not getting them met on a weekly basis, is a challenge. With only 4 weeks off a year, every weekend I can fall into a pity-party if I don’t do something for myself. So, I find strategies to give back to me, like hiring a sitter so I can veg and write or go for a run, or get a drink with a friend…I also plan vacations for the few weeks off I get each year. Even if I decide to take them solo, I always meet amazing people on tours and I’m blessed to do exactly what it is I want to do and explore on holiday.

It gets easier when you begin to trust your inner voice, your inner guide, your abilities. I now know that I can juggle parenting, finances, dinners & my work & vacation planning & all that life throws at me while raising two kiddos solo. It’s not easy, but when married, I doubted just about all of my abilities. Now I have more confidence.

It’s gets easier because I’m too busy to engage in drama. I just don’t have time or interest in anything that doesn’t lift another person up. It’s that simple. Anyone who is rude to a waiter, yells at or about another human being, lies, cheats, constantly points out the negative in others, gets hysterical and rants, abuses substances,  etc.  is just not what I want to engage into my life. Of course, drama happens, even within our closest circles, so I try to be kind to myself when it happens, detach, pause, reflect first before responding and then connect to Source for guidance in what I need.

It gets easier because I now value my time more and have learned to set boundaries. Givers attract takers. It’s a universal law. So all the requests of my time, when I’m already drained, are no longer a struggle for me. I only have so much to give. If I don’t give to myself, I’m not valuing myself. I no longer feel the need to give or be there for everyone who calls hysterically or ‘needs’ me instantly. I have to take care of myself, and I still don’t always do it. I’m a work in progress. I work too hard. I do too much. I don’t always remember to eat or take my vitamins, for instance. I have no business trying to help everyone else if the oxygen mask isn’t on me first. So, I’ve learned a lot about how I used to be too giving. Too forgiving. Too easily swayed to volunteer or give more of my time than was good for my health. I’m trying to strike a balance now.

So I’ll end with this final thought for my friend venturing into divorce. Having the rug pulled out from under you with a sudden separation or betrayal may land you on your ass, that’s for sure, but it’s a position with nothing left to lose. You can only look up from there, right? Why not write that novel? Why bother with someone negative or controlling? Why not hike Machu Picchu? It’s also a spot where it becomes easier to let go of expectations and to challenge yourself to become a better you: more mindful, more present, more patient, more joyful, more playful, ever-evolving.  And that’s something to celebrate.

As always, thanks for reading my meandering prose.

With gratitude,

Laura