A Writer’s Space to Breathe, Create, Inspire & Elevate Consciousness

 

This was my home office in London when I was a Parenting editor working remotely for a San Francisco-based publishing house. I was the first editor there, so helped shape the entire webzine, then became the parenting and pregnancy editor. I was also freelancing for other magazines and newspapers. All I know is this: I produced here. I was inspired here. One of my New York colleagues said she didn’t know how I managed to edit nearly 15 freelancers and columnists, write my own articles, do research, read books to review, attend meetings remotely at various times of the day and night and find time to raise my son and freelance for others. But I did. And it seemed effortless. My days flew by. I was in the zone. The vista, over-looking our garden in Notting Hill, didn’t hurt. I’d see pigeons on the trees, neighbors walking dogs, and sometimes, in winter, without the abundance of leaves on the 200-year-old tress, I’d even see the London Wheel. During times of writers block, I’d just stare out the window and after a bit, (now I know I was meditating) it would elevate my consciousness, spark ideas, and lift my thinking to what is possible—and not that of anxiety and fears.

This office space, married with my strict daily routine, fostered the ability to crank out deadline after deadline. Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, had a baby, got divorced shortly after, I’ve struggled with both my office space and a daily routine. I no longer have a dedicated office space, as I live in a small beach cottage, so the desk is in the den. I still freelance for magazines, companies, and publishing houses. I’ve written two novels. I’m not insane. I’m doing okay. But I haven’t had that dreamy office space and I struggle with a strict daily routine. I’m trying to re-create it as best as I can. But I tend to write in my bed, here. I like the privacy and being away from a frisky kitty, but it’s a horrible place to write! I have papers strewn everywhere. There is no white board or desk calendar. The den desk in Los Angeles is tight and I have to deal with my boys and my hyper kitten. I spent quite a bit of money to turn my one-car garage into an office, but it has termites and black widows and is scary. It’s not my perfect space. Yet, how much does it really matter? Didn’t I create from coffee shops and libraries when in New York?

 

While feeling frustrated about the situation, I recently re-read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (These are must reads if you are a writer!) Both authors have amazing advice. Anne is humorous and I adore her candor and wit. Steven gives staggeringly revealing advice about the physics of fear. With that said, both agree writers over think it. We just need to write, wherever we can, every day. Yup. Create that daily habit and, as Steven said: “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

“If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room. That’s the trick. There’s nothing more to it.”

Although I miss having a designated office to write in, I will get my ass in the chair, not write in bed. (Even on days when I have autoimmune flare-ups). And, I will imagine that I am still a full-time editor at a publishing house, on daily deadlines, only taking breaks for the occasional yoga class that I teach or for a beach walk to garner inspiration from the Pacific.

I may no longer have the vista across London, but I can create that space in my mind— that feeling of expansion—and give thanks for this moment, this reality that flows with my words as I channel gratitude, guides, characters, universal angst onto the keys and into my next novel. And it all starts with simply putting my ass in the chair.

L xo

Embracing the Divine Feminine within a #metoo & Hookup World

athena

Can we as women embrace the divine feminine within, while also demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual equal of strength and character? Most of my female friends will say, “Hell yes.” But I’m not so sure that my male friends will agree (amongst each other). A woman in a bikini who looks sexy, is also a person who may write articles for the New York Times, or creates legal briefs, or who rocks a baby to sleep. She is a person of infinite depth and has found a way to embrace her health, vitality and beauty, without negating her intellect, strength, and roles within family and society. It’s a delicate balancing act. Just because we want to be taken seriously, doesn’t mean we have to hide our beauty. It is not our fault that desire creates a beast within some men. That’s like saying a girl deserved to be raped if she wore a short skirt. Yet, somehow, I still feel that it is our duty, as women, not to feed that beast and to refrain from behavior that spurs affairs and/or abuse.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It is wonderful to feel sexy, healthy, vital, energetic—at any age. I also know that whenever I post a picture in a sexy yoga pose, the men who ‘like’ the picture aren’t necessarily reading the Rumi quote or noting my yoga class schedule below it. Right? Women feed into the objectification that is rampant. We do. But that doesn’t mean we deserve to be lied to, cheated on, manipulated, or God forbid, drugged and date-raped. There’s a huge leap in the male thinking brain from: she’s hot, to: I can, and am entitled, to use her as a physical toy and throw her away after. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that her first date after her divorce resulted in being rooffied. She woke up in her ‘date’s bed, not remembering a thing. She had only had one glass of wine at the restaurant. LORD. She’s in her fifties. This sort of thing happened a lot during my college years and my graduate school years in New York. I heard stories from friends often and I once ended up in the hospital after someone roofied me. Luckily, I wasn’t raped, but I passed out, hit my head in a restaurant bathroom and the cops were called.

I am taking a big sigh as I write this.

Have we not evolved?

I want my nieces to grow up into strong, self-confident, independent women who unabashedly embrace their sense of beauty and vitality. Just because many men want to hook up and treat beautiful women like objects, doesn’t mean we have to hide and cover up either. We just need to be smart, stay alert, and not drink during first dates or put ourselves knowingly into harms way. (See my interview  with Pat Allen, relationship expert, best-selling author of Getting to I DO and expert on Millionaire Matchmaker)

 

Pat, who was actually my therapist during my ex-husband’s affair, has been saying for years, what DeVon Franklin re-iterates in his new book The Truth About Men. That is, that men are not wired for monogamy. They have a lust problem. Not all men cheat, clearly, but all wrestle with desire, even when in love with their wives. Their lust struggle doesn’t go away. DeVon refers to male lust as “the Dog.” And in his book, lust is about power, as much as it is about female conquest. If a man can commit to his profession full-heartedly, he can commit to a woman and family, he explains. Society and the lack of good male or father figure role models, makes is easy for successful men, especially, to not look in the mirror and to continue to indulge the dog, even within committed relationships. An interesting side-note, men who cheat, according to DeVon, are those who were abandoned by fathers or had poor relationships with fathers. Women who cheat, however, typically have put up with too much abuse or neglect and leave a relationship. Men who cheat, are often not in bad relationships at all. Hmmm…So how, as women, do we navigate that one or the fear that it instills when we begin a new relationship?

 

Well, I don’t have an answer. I do know that really good men cheat and feel horrible about it after. But it breaks my heart when women, who have been cheated on, or lied to, ghosted, or made to feel lesser than by a man in their life, take it personally, by thinking they somehow aren’t worthy, deserving, or sexy, etc. And some men, justifying their bad treatment of women, can say horrible things. I know. I heard them, to the point that I believed that I wasn’t sexy or beautiful during my divorce. Yoga and my yoga trainings saved me and helped me to embrace my physicality as well as my spirituality and get back into my writing. I shifted gears and stopped worrying about what was said or done. I’ve since let that shit go. I don’t need to prove anything, but I do want to feel good for myself and remain vital, healthy, so I can be a strong single mom for my boys.

I adore Reese Witherspoon, my fellow southerner, who is strong, and beautiful and calls into question just what a powerful businesswoman is supposed to look like. When I was in college I heard a lot folks saying I was the character from Legally Blond. I covered the legal beat at the Red and Black newspaper at the University of Georgia. I was in a sorority, had long blond hair, wore make up, yet still wrote essays and interviewed supreme court judges for public radio and slept on the streets with the homeless during campaigns to effect change. Why not? What rules in society exist that stipulates that in order to be strong, intelligent and successful as a woman, you can’t wear sundresses, or make up? Or be sexy, and spiritual for that matter. Honestly.

This is what I want to say to my adorable nieces, and to my boys who I pray grow into men of character: respect the light within each person you encounter. If you treat others with dignity—and that means yourself as well—you will hopefully, never be in a situation that makes you feel less then, entitled to take advantage, or used. Communicate honestly, girls, by asking the man in your life what his intentions are. Don’t assume he’s committed. Don’t drink too much and put yourself into sticky situations where others can gain control. And, boys, if you see or hear something, like a fraternity brother bragging about date raping, or drugging a girl, stand up, like a man with character, and turn him in or challenge him. Think of your beautiful cousins and the daughters you may have one day. And don’t drink too much, as that can entitle the dog to bark, as DeVon says.

Friends, chime in. What are your thoughts?

Love & Light,
Laura x

Yoga for Writers Workshops

 

Forgive the ‘you knows’! Clearly, this was a one take job, lol. I’m a writer for a reason. I’ll need to practice before public speaking! California writers, for more information about my yoga for writers workshops held monthly, please send me a note. In these workshops, we do not read from our material, nor do we critique each other’s work. We start with a 30 minute gentle, non-heated flow that incorporates kundalini, hatha, breath work—all at a beginner level—designed to let go of fear and to level our energies so we can talk together more productively. We can then share tips regarding pitch letters, queries, proposals, synopsis writing, contests, agent responses (or rejections, part of life) and strategies to find time to write every day—especially important for those of us who have children and busy day jobs. We come together for support. IF two people connect and want to review each others writing, they can swap emails after. Workshop costs cover the rental fee for the studio, btw, so typically $15/each. Email me for more information: laura.roe.stevens@gmail.com.

 

Have a blessed day! Laura

Jodi Picoult’s Occult Mystery

Occult: adj: “of involving, or relating to supernatural, mystical, or magical powers or phenomena.”

 

Jodi Picoult’s 23rd novel Leaving Time, is surprisingly so much more than a moving saga about grief, loss of a mother, and the wonderful world of elephants. I just finished reading this nearly over-whelming book, even as her next block buster debut’s this week. Leaving Time has haunted me for a week since I completed it. Not just because it confirms what I’ve always considered: that elephants live more dignified, loving lives within families who protect and support one another. Or that love lasts beyond time and space, so when we lose someone we love, the love survives. But what intrigues me most, as a writer, is how Jodi interweaved the occult within the fabric of this mystery in a way that slips the unassuming reader—the reader who would not normally read a book with paranormal aspects—into the thick of the drama. Not until the very end do we learn that two of the main characters are, in fact, dead and were the entire manuscript. We are left questioning the dimension in which they lived, one where the dead continue living a bustling life which contains a world with school, family, binging, boozy nights, dating, money problems, work issues, rent to be paid, etc. It’s a dimension where it’s possible they (and everyone within it) don’t realize they are dead, and they don’t have all the answers, nor the ability to find the people they love. The notion that we die and all the answers are revealed, is turned on its head. The common held belief that our dead loved ones are a thought away, is also dismissed, as 13-year-old Jenna, the main character, searches for her mother Alice Metcalf, a scientist who studies elephant behavior. Jenna hires a broke, formerly-famous psychic named Serenity, and a washed-up, pessimistic, alcoholic detective, Virgil, to help her find Alice. In the end, we learn that Virgil and Jenna are both dead (as well as everyone else they connected with, such as Jenna’s grandmother, a policeman, a lab assistant). Yet, they all seemed to lead vibrant lives with other people in them, bars to go to, cars to drive, policemen to talk with, school teachers, clients, landlords, etc. But apparently their world must lie on another plane of reality, like fine line of ice below the surface of our perception, that somehow, Serenity can see. But even Serenity doesn’t realize Jenna and Virgil aren’t alive, until the very end.

 

Most of Jodi’s interviews about Leaving Time concern the plight of elephants, how they grieve, and how wonderful a metaphor their ability to grieve, is, to her then first empty nest at home. She doesn’t say what motivated her to create such a walloping metaphysical surprise at the end. Stories of the elephants are woven into the book via Alice Metcalf’s notes, that Jenna reads. Alice is a researcher who has lived in Africa, as well as on a New England sanctuary with her husband and then three-year-old daughter Jenna, when she disappeared after a tragic accident leaving one person dead and one mentally insane. Jenna, who was three at the time of the accident, can’t remember what happened and had to be raised by her stoic grandmother. This story alone, is compelling enough to be a best-seller with all the ups and downs of who actually got killed and who slipped away and why. And the glimpse into the world of the elephants and how they are tragically being hurt by poachers, is critical for the world to understand. See this video for example.

What I find ultimately puzzling, is how Jodi manages to pull together so many subplots and themes into one novel, without losing me at any turn. She tackles the occult and afterlife, the plight of elephants, a murder, mental illness, spousal abuse, infidelity, suicide, mother-daughter and grandmother friction, the struggle to follow ones dreams as a mother, and a daughter’s unfailing love for her mother, and the huge emotional and unbearable loss a child endures when a parent abandons them.

It’s a beautiful novel. It’s powerful. It’s unlike any other I have read. Jodi Picoult is only getting better with each novel. You need to read it.

And with a side note to my fellow writers, isn’t it remarkable to think that Jodi Picoult, New York Times best selling author (whose last nine novels debuted number one on this prestigious list) was rejected by 100 agents before one believed in her?

Keep going my friends. And read her book for inspiration!

Kitty CRAZY!

GreeceJames

This picture is what started it all. Last summer, my James fell in love with a calico cat who visited us in our barn in Greece during my yoga & writers retreat. She chased grasshoppers and shooed away spiders and bees and purred and snuggled and was just adorable. But what I failed to realize, is that she was a cat, not a calico kitten. So…seeing that my son was in need of more unconditional love around the house after our move, I adopted a calico kitten that looks much like our beloved Greek cat. A yoga student, who had seen this picture, called me and proclaimed it was destiny, we had to have this look-a-like kitten. While my boys were with their dad this August, I adopted this little one. But the stars weren’t exactly aligned with this one. Just my luck. Who knew something so cute could end up more like the bunny from hell in Monty Python?!

kitty

Don’t let her cuteness fool you. Sweet, adorable Tabitha, my crazed arch-nemesis! Notice her collar? She’s had this for three weeks due to an infected paw that won’t heal. This hyper diaper high energy gal climbs window screens, tearing them and re-infecting her paw, even after two shots of antibiotics, one round of pills and three different lotion medications. She’s managed to find ways to rip mattresses open from underneath, climbing up inside them and clawing at the coils. A master of untangling woven baskets, and a natural at flying directly up to the top of our refrigerator, only to fly out across our kitchen, as if by hang-glider, landing anywhere: on a lit stove burner, countertops with bowls of prepared food, you name it, she lands on it. Yup, she’s certifiable. And it’s not like she doesn’t have toys. So many, my den resembles a pet shop. But she prefers ‘other’ ways to get her energy out. Like tackling and scratching my ankles the moment I walk into my house—biting my calves deeply as I try to shake her off. In rare sleepy moments where she resembles past kittens of mine who like to snuggle, if I make the mistake of picking her up, she often bites my cheek or chin, so deeply, a few of my students wondered if I had had surgery for skin cancer. I’m not kidding.

For the love of my son, I mentally tell myself: “it’s only a flesh wound.” My youngest adores her. Tabitha sleeps in his bunk bed and even when she scratches or bites him, James still loves her and reminds everyone that she doesn’t mean it, it’s just instinctual. Well, I grew up with cats and I know for a fact that not all kittens are like this. But I just nod to him and wonder what I did to adopt a crazed animal like this who injects stress and frustration and high frequency energy into my house. During the day when I write, I lock myself into my room, not allowing her in, and lock all the bedroom doors and bathroom door so she can’t reek havoc.

Just when I’ve had it and am considering giving this expensive kitten away (four visits to the vet already for her damn paw!) James crept up behind me last week, put him arms around my waist and said: “Thank you SO much for Tabitha! She’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I just love her.”

Geez, well I can’t give the devil cat away now, can I? So, what can I do? Every time I scoop her poop or swat her away from our dinner table, after she’s thrust a dirty paw into my meal, I bite my lip and swallow down the strong urge to pick this little urchin up and throw her into the next door neighbor’s yard with a doberman pincher. Lets just pray that I make it sanely to next year, when the Vet insists that she’ll finally “chill out.”

Sigh. What I do for my children.

Creating Powerful Characters

So I’m writing my next novel right now. And it’s what agents would call plot heavy. Anyone who loves a good mystery or action story, doesn’t mind that. Yet all the agents I’ve been talking with say they are seeking that magical character.

“I want to connect deeply with the main characters,” one said. Another said, when describing why she turned down a well-written manuscript: “I loved the detail and plot, but I just didn’t bond with the main characters like I wanted to.”

So, what makes people bond/connect with main characters? Think about the characters that you have fallen in love with over the years. What was it about them? Why did you keep reading and then miss them after the novel was over? I’m on a journey to discover what makes us bond with a character. As I was listening to my 16-year-old get ready for school at 6 a.m. this morning, it dawned on me: we all want to hang out with someone who makes us laugh, is entertaining, lightens us up, yet is still tackling major life issues. My 16-year-old, who happens to be sick, still woke up, like he always does, humming. He puts on a playlist, of a lot of 70s music, country, rap, 80s, you name it, and jammed as he prepared for another day. He always has a girl friend offer to pick him up and take him to school. Why? Because he’s the kind of guy who will make you laugh, says insightful things, is smart without being snarky or stuck up and is charming. He’s the kind of guy that will start your day off well and who puts you in a better frame of mind. And he’s constantly joking around, giving ridiculous birthday gifts to friends, like a bidet (french water spout toilet seat) that he gave to a friend who is anal and part Japanese (as Japanese love bidets). He’s silly, yet insanely smart, confident: plays violin and soccer and could care less what ‘hip’ kids think of that. And he’s stylish in his own way, not following surfer trends here in Southern California, but more dapper, like a Londoner or New Yorker. He stands out. Yet he misses his dad insanely and doesn’t understand why he left nine years ago or why his dad lives abroad and chooses to be out of touch, not engaged in William’s day-to-day life. Yet William chooses to be happy, while also not partying or throwing himself into drugs or alcohol, as he’s determined to get a scholarship to college. Maybe, just maybe, my son would make for a great main character—someone the reader would want to pick up and have ride with them on their way to work, so to speak.

I’m re-reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, such a great writing advice book that is insanely funny and helping me to not take my writing life, and the tedious task of getting published traditionally, so seriously. She compared the creation of a good character to that of picking a good friend. With good friends, you’d “ride with them to the dump just to be with them.” Boring friends, on the other hand, (I’m paraphrasing here) could offer to take you to a show and a five-star restaurant, and you’d rather stay home and wash your cat.

And that’s it. Plot really doesn’t matter so much, which is putting me in a quandary with Orbiting Jupiter, my next novel. It is a mystery and is plot heavy and I’m not sure my main character is someone I would ride to the dump with, just to keep talking to. I mean, she’s going through a lot and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown that any woman who has been cheated on repeatedly can relate with. She’s also lovable and kind and artistic, but these are attributes that feel like labels on a name tag. I mean, can she make me laugh? Does she laugh at herself? Is there some quality about her that is so priceless and unique that her friends would be shattered by a life without her? If I’m honest, not yet. She needs to marinate more.

With the development of compelling characters, Anne Lamott says to look at the closest people in your life, or the ones that draw you in, and observe what it is about them that attracts you or is lovable. For me, someone has to make me laugh, help me not take myself so seriously, (while also not poo-pooing my feelings). A person who is tackling their own demons with dignity, or who, upon closer inspection, is more conscious and aware then people would assume, as he/she is humble and not self righteous, pious, or one of those over-the-top spiritual people who seem like they are trying to impersonate Buddha or Jesus himself.

It’s laughter and the ability to be aware and conscious, yet also see through bullshit that usually pulls me in. I once had a lover look at my new tattoo, for instance, and ask what it meant (It’s Japanese). I said “Don’t give up on Life” in a serious, quiet voice. He replied, “It probably means ‘I shop at Vons’ but you just don’t know it.” I laughed so hard at myself afterwards and wanted to see him again. See what I mean?

My sister Sarah is another person that I love with an intensity that I can’t explain rationally. She is insanely lovable to many people, yet can’t see her own light as she battles many demons. I used to wonder why she always attracts men like flies to honey (I know, a competitive little sister thought) but even now, at 53, she has 25-year-olds asking her out! She always has, even when she finds herself in the darkest of places. I think it’s because of her raw honestly, combined with an ability to laugh at herself and others—and her surprising kindness, that can make a person stop and fall to their knees feeling unworthy or ashamed of their own selfishness. With half moon dimples, crystal blue eyes, a horsish, rough chuckle that erupts into a brook that bubbles over, Sarah is just plain fun to be around. She is humming, singing all the time, even when sad, usually Janis Joplin or older country that only she can land perfectly. She also creates art that is breathtaking with sea shells or tiles, like tile sunflowers that somehow seem to move in the light. And when she’s not laughing, or singing at a club with either or the two bands she is in, or playing piano or creating art, she’s able to listen to a friend in need and convince them to back off the mental ledge they are getting ready to jump off of. Sarah is someone people trust—she sees issues with clarity, calls people on their shit in a funny way, and then will be there for any of her friends anytime. She’s just plain fun to be around. I recently heard her answer her phone, laugh to a young man who comes to her shows, and say: “I’m onto you buddy. Listen, you just want what you want when you want it and are trying to make me feel like I’m lucky to have you because I’m older. But you’re the one calling me. Hey, you want to hear a line from the song I’m writing?”

Once when I was with her, on a particularly hard day, (as she is struggling financially and recovering from addiction and depression), she walked up to a homeless woman who had two children beside her and gave this woman a big hug. “You needed that didn’t you?” she said laughing and looking directly into her eyes before giving this woman $5. Sarah bent down and looked at the art the children were making and asked what they were drawing and if they needed more crayons.

As we walked back to the car Sarah said, “I fucking hate people who walk by homeless women like they are lazy or don’t exist. How can people be so cold?”

That’s Sarah. And that’s why the more you get to know her, the more you want to know her, as she inspires you to be more compassionate, thoughtful, creative, and to be honest about your own bullshit and to laugh a little about it. She’s one of the best people I know on this Earth. If she doesn’t succeed in fighting her demons a part of me will die. And that’s the truth.

None of my characters are as compelling as Sarah or William. I’m not planning on putting them into my novels, but they serve as examples of people/characters readers would follow anywhere—even to the dump.

Now Lucy, my main character of Orbiting Jupiter, the novel I’m working on, is not quite there. I’m on the fence about her, which has me stuck in the process of continuing with the novel. Lucy needs to percolate more. I need to see more of what makes her tick and why I should give a shit that her husband cheated. Sorrow and pain and sympathy aren’t enough reasons to fall in love with a person. And maybe that’s why Lucy snaps and takes on another persona? Her alter ego is someone who can make any man stand up, pay attention, laugh and fawn after. I just need to be sure I can captivate the readers long enough with Lucy, until she turns into the more provocative and entertaining Jupiter. There are a lot of pages to read before she makes this transition, and if readers don’t like Lucy, they won’t want to trudge along with her, even throughout the gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii.

So I’m going back to the drawing board, back to the beginning, to discover and develop any qualities in Lucy that would make her feel like the type of friend I would feel lucky to follow anywhere.

Fellow writers, any of you go through this? I’m on the verge of starting this novel over, or throwing it out! I won’t trash it just yet, but am on the verge, lol.

 

 

The Light We Lost: Cosmic Connection? Or Addiction?

The Light We Lost is a must read for all my girlfriends—single or married. Please, all of you, read this book. Jill Santopolo dives into the age-old question: “Why do I love him so much?” She explores why a woman could love one man passionately, insanely, recklessly—and continue to think of him for more than a decade—granting second chances, friendship and compassion—when he had the potential to crush her. Even after he had left her, broke her heart, called only when depressed, and behaved selfishly for years—she always allowed him back in. WHY?

I adore The Light We Lost for so many reasons. Jill is honest in how she portrays Lucy’s weakness for Gabe, who had, and would always, put his needs before hers—whether that be his career or his work out. Even when they lived together, he had major issues. He was secretive to the point of finding a job and arranging to move without telling her; flirty with other women; and not attentive to her feelings when at parties. He was confusing. Gabe proclaimed Lucy was his light, his muse and professed an undying love for her—yet Lucy never met his mother, whom he adored. You get the idea. But Lucy loved Gabe with an unapologetic intensity that she couldn’t control. She loved him more and more over the years—even while married to her stable, successful, happy and loving husband, whose only real crimes seemed to be planning trips to Paris and buying a dog and a beach house, all as surprises for her. 

One could argue that Jill Santopolo’s debut novel romanticized the obsession many women have with the lovable, yet commitment phobic, unobtainable guy. Others may think she romanticized a woman’s longing for heat, lust, good sex with a bad boy, or an exciting and intriguing man. (Gabe took photos for the Associated Press in war regions.) But that’s not a comprehensive answer. I think Lucy’s inability to let Gabe go was rooted deeply in her need not to become her mother and to be seen, heard and respected. Gabe had his faults, but he also listened to, and encouraged Lucy, in all her dreams and career aspirations. Lucy’s husband Darren referred to her career as “cute” and asked for her to stay home with their baby instead of going back to work, using manipulative phrases like: “Don’t you want to stay home? Who else would take as good care of her?” Gabe would never do that, she had mused. Yet Gabe would also be gone for months on end while on the front lines in wars. He wasn’t the logical man to have a child with. And Lucy knew this. Yet she always picked up the phone when he called, even on her wedding day. She became intimate emotionally within the first breath, focussing on whatever His emergency was, whatever His pain was. She raced to see him whenever he was back in New York, even after she was married. It was a risky choice that put the intimacy with her husband at risk.

This book will snare you in, dear girlfriends, from the moment she and Gabe discuss their dreams during their first college date on 9-11. As you read how interested Gabe is in her need to make a difference, to help children all over the world, you’ll wish you had a man like him to talk with. The scenes of him reading her scripts, or helping her form ideas for her children’s TV show, will make you jealous. He cared, and was involved, committed to supporting her success. He was into her: her dreams, her ideas, her thoughts. The two inspired each other to be more, and to keep striving to make a difference. That’s heady stuff. As life chugs along with adulting choices that often require compromises, many women, especially moms, get lost. Lucy wanted to keep that determined, savvy, creative part of herself that Gabe always saw. She missed being able to talk with him about new show ideas. Her husband didn’t care about her job at all.

The fact that Gabe was also hot, romantic, overly sexual, unavailable for long-term commitments, yet still needed her, and her alone, during every crisis—was like crack to Lucy. Add the detail that Gabe was a wounded soul from an abusive father, and now you’ve combined crack with heroine for just about any woman.

This book will help you, my girlfriends, see your own obsessions, co-dependent tendencies and any man who became like a drug for you. I doubt there are real Gabes on this planet—yet there are men who have some of his alluring qualities: the artist; the romantic; the compassionate; the wounded; the leaver, the commitment phobic, yet emotionally intimate; the secretive; the dynamic; the listener; the supporter; the sexual dynamo; the wanderer; the brave; the Shakespeare quoter, you get the idea. He had so many hooks for Lucy, but think back and notice which similar hook was within the one you couldn’t say no to. The one you betrayed your self respect for by taking back again and again due to your irrational love that you    just    could    NOT      LET      GO.

Maybe you’re still fighting the temptation? Maybe he’s the one you could take back again, because you just don’t understand why you love him so. Even after he has hurt you time and time again and shown an inability to respect, love or be available for you, a part of you wants him back, right? It’s not explainable. The idea of never smelling him again or hearing the sound of his whisper in your ear, or his hand on your low back is excruciating, isn’t it? Maybe it’s romantic. Maybe he’s your soul mate or husband from another life time. I’m sure you think the connection is cosmic.

But maybe, just maybe, he’s an addiction.

Read her book, girlfriends. And tell me what you came up with! 🙂

L. xo

#enough.

My Dear Neighbor:

I do not know you. But I do know one thing. You are NOT physically OK like the police report stated. Not just after what you went through. After your body heals, you are not going to be mentally or spiritually OK for a long time either. My heart goes out to you. The clean-cut, nicely dressed stranger, who brazenly walked into your front door on Sunday afternoon and raped you, is sick. And he may attack others. The sheer audacity of a man to walk into your front door, on a Sunday, and then just walk out the front door after the attack, is terrifying. I imagine that you will re-play that horrific experience over and over again every time you come back home. The violation; the brazen lack of fear; the violence; the planning that likely went into it.

This man may have walked away free, and may not think much about it later—but you, my dear neighbor, will likely never forget it. You are changed forever. I wish I could say that you’ll be fine. I wish I could say that you won’t have nightmares, or that you won’t get up in the middle of the night and check your locks repeatedly. I wish I could say that you’ll soon feel sexy and free and trusting again. But it will take time. And there will be flash backs.

Your friends, who you dare to tell, may not show up for you, as rape is a subject no one is comfortable with. Even the most ‘spiritual’ of your friends may forget about it a few months from now because they don’t want to think about it. You will likely avoid them, or avoid taking ubers home alone, or avoid walking into your house alone for years. Forgive your friends for not checking in six months from now when you become paralyzed and debilitated with fear. No one wants to think about rape, or the world-shattering effects it has on a person’s life.

But we need to think about it. And we need to care more. Rape is an epidemic in our country. Every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted in America, according to RAINN.org. One in every six American women has either been raped, or been a victim of an attempted rape. It’s mind-blowing. It’s shocking. It’s disgusting.

My neighbor, you may feel overwhelmed, angry, helpless and hopeless. Move through all the feelings, get help from a therapist, and then fight your way back to hope again.

All men are not like this man. And even though it can seem like we women are now surrounded by misogynistic and degrading men everywhere we turn— from our president, to our favorite talk show hosts. But not all men hate women. You will feel safe in your house again. Maybe you’ll get a dog who will charge down anyone who tries to enter—like mine did—saving me from a home invasion 15 years ago.

Just know this, dear neighbor: love exists, even in the broken places.

You will laugh again.

You will get stronger.

You will love again.

You will heal.

You will not always be scared.

If you ever read this blog and want to find me, my doors and arms are open, and I will listen to you any day, any time.

Now to the pathetic excuse of a man who attacked you:

Rape is an attack of a person’s soul. In my eyes, what you did is the same as attempted murder. You tried to murder this woman’s life as it once existed.

You may have gotten away with it this time, but Karma is a Bitch. 

Maybe, as Marianne Williamson says, love is the only thing that is real, and all violence is an illusion—but I see you. I see you right now lingering in your dark, shadow vibration that wants to, and feels entitled to, hurt others. And I know deep down that you see your worthless and disgusting behavior for what it is.

You will not get away with this in the long run. No matter how many others you attack. You will get caught. And when you die, I pray that you will have to re-live this moment and any others. I pray that somehow, someway, the angels and spirit guides for all the women you have attacked, will show you just what rape feels like—from the inside out. You will feel and see their fear, their pain, their tears, as your own. Isn’t that what ‘One Love’ is all about? See, I’m one of those southern yogis who believes that the Holy Spirit moves powerfully within the flow of Universal forces that steer us in the direction of love. And love isn’t just an ethereal feeling. To love is to try to understand, and to care, and to be kind, and to empathize and to hold yourself accountable and to make amends when you don’t treat others, as you would have yourself be treated.

You will, one day, truly understand what you have done. You cannot fool God. As you sow, so shall you reap. I pray that you will be personally guided closely toward that conscious light of love. I pray that you will be steered up-close and thrust within its blinding light.

Can you feel it burning?

You will.

Seeking the Write Life

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What a dreamy writing spot I had last year in Greece! This is where I wrote a bulk of my last novel, Between Thoughts of You.  I led a Yoga & Writer’s Retreat in a remote area of Styra, Greece on the Delenia Cliffs—about a 30 minute drive from Nea Styra port and where few cars enter, due to hair-line turns on rocky, unpaved roads. These ancient roads roll past trails leading to ruins called Dragonistas, or pre-historic Dragon Houses of unknown origin mentioned in the Iliad. What an inspiring spot to write! For me. (But it might have been too remote for some of my yogis, lol.) I have a bohemian side from my North Carolina roots where I was raised near horse farms and in what Californians would consider rustic terrain.  I love being close to nature, hiking, listening to crickets—especially when they are competing with crashing waves. Add a night sky filled with stars and you can see why I didn’t mind living in a barn for a week—even if it had bats and huge spiders! I gave the main house to the yogis, who had pool and cliff and Aegean views, as I had my private writing spot every morning and most afternoons.

Greecepool

As the yogis decided to snorkel or sight see or hire drivers to take them to towns with restaurants and bars, I stayed put and wrote. Yes we had sunset yoga & meditation classes daily and three writing workshops, but days were open to explore. I mainly stayed put. Maybe I should have ventured out more, but I was focussed. I did this in Rome the previous spring—writing most of my days in seclusion, and walking around after sunset for inspiration. It helped me craft this novel and finish the first half. I was so close to finishing the whole draft when we were in Greece, that I just had to keep going.  As a full-time single mom, I get so few full days to write. You may say that I fight for the time to write, when most of my friends lament of paralysis and procrastination. I can’t wait until that’s all I’m battling! For me, I juggle school stuff and homework for the boys, cooking, laundry, cleaning and soccer during the week—and I admit that I may not juggle it all that well. The minute I start to visualize where my novel is going, I find a way to sit down and write, whether at school, on the side-lines of a game, or even in bed at 5 a.m. where my black notebook lives in my side drawer. I dream of the days when I live “the write life” —meaning a life where I can devote five hours a day to my writing. I’m not even sure how I’ve managed to write three novels and am starting my fourth as the last nine years have been filled with sorrow, diapers and now a teenager all navigated solo. But it’s my journey. While I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished, I’m not completely. I’m determined to get better at my writing and at managing my time & life with my boys. I sent my last novel to beta readers and friends and must have edited it five times. I dream of the day when I get published traditionally. I love collaboration. I’ve been an editor of magazines, and I dream of working with an editor and agent and having that contract so I can write full-time, while of course teaching 2-3 yoga classes a week for balance and sanity! Until then, I will sneak writing time. I will steal a few moments here, a few moments there, and have a messy home for it and prepare too many frozen dinners.

My boys know that I’m focussed. I spoke with an executive at Random House earlier this year, showing him my synopsis and he said to me: “can you just get an agent so I can help you.” The traditional route demands representation. Self publishing demands marketing and self-promotion savvy. I don’t mind doing some, but I’m already writing my next novel. Who knew it would be harder to get an agent than to write to novel? But I continue to try and I continue to learn. I’m pitching an agent every week, as well as small publishing houses, a few have my novel now for consideration. I’m submitting to writing contests as well. It’s a business and I need not take rejection so personally, as many agents and publishing houses have specific genres/voice they are seeking and it changes constantly due to fluctuations and trends in the market place. I’m keeping an open mind and open heart.

And until that contract manifests, there is always another yoga & writer’s retreat! Next summer I’ll be in Spain watching my 16-year-old perform in opera houses and symphony halls. Isn’t that amazing? I can’t wait to watch him play violin, (and probably cry!) and then set up shop for my yogis. I’m debating between Madrid & Barcelona…I love both. There is power in creating space virtually, emotionally and physically to write while in inspiring get-a-ways. There’s just something magical that happens when taking that plunge—getting on a plane, leaving our bills, our neighbors, our little world behind that can become suffocating or distracting. It allows us to open up to possibilities. In the very least, it allows us to get inspired and talk about our dreams. As adults, it’s easy to shut down and lean into responsibilities, demands and fear. But without a little adventure and a little exploration, life becomes dull and heavy. We all need and deserve an injection of inspiration!

I can’t wait to tell you where the next retreat will be. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to juggle: to seek balance between loving my boys and supporting their needs, while striving to write another captivating novel that hopefully shows the power and survival of love—that always exists, even in the broken places.

Until then, have a beautiful month.

Laura x

Achieving Equality: A PipeDream?

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Pic from ExhaustedWoman.com

 

Did you go into your marriage, pre-children, expecting to have equitable parenting duties with your husband? Did it ever occur to you that your career would be deemed less important, therefore you’d be expected to have more time to shop, clean, care-take? Did you ever imagine that you would have less time off to replenish, while working more than your spouse? If you knew all this going into your marriage, would you feel differently about your husband?

Equitable parenting duties. Equal time off. Mutual respect. In 2018, according to multiple studies, these are still drastically missing within heterosexual couples who have children.

In reality, for most American women, these ideas are mere pipe dreams. It’s just not how our society, and how most fathers, behave. Period. End of story. There is a lot of research to back this up. See the links below for in-depth articles in The Washington Post, Forbes and Time magazines. 

Maybe in the top echelons of society among very young couples who live in democratic, liberal University settings, do you see fathers who are doing more and are behaving with more respect. But for the most part, throughout America, at every age and social and economic demographic, this isn’t the case. A woman’s career can be treated like a hobby and not as important as a man’s, by his behavior—forcing a woman to feel battered into doing the lion’s share of parenting, cleaning, care-taking of in-laws, parents and organizing of family activities.

For example, one mom interviewed said her husband “Just doesn’t get up.” She explained that her young husband will remain drinking his coffee at the kitchen table and checking his phone, while his wife, also a full-time working executive, is racing to put together backpacks, get the children dressed, prepare lunches. It puts her at a disadvantage with work as well as loading her down with stress, anxiety and bitterness—resulting in poor health and marital resentments, lack of sex drive and dissipating connection between mom and dad. And the children notice. They see what we do, much more than what we say—and model our behavior. Which is why many experts say the misogyny behind the #metoo movement, has its roots at home where mom is undervalued, taken for granted and disrespected.

In the Washington Post article Where do Kids Learn to Undervalue Women? From Their Parents, multiple studies showed that: “even progressive spouses don’t divide burdens equitably. The children notice.”

According to university research, conclusions ranged from misogyny budding from modeled parent behavior to malignant gender dynamics being passed down generation to generation.

Sadly, recent studies showed the following, reported by Darcy Lockman:

“Among heterosexual parents, fathers — even the youngest and most theoretically progressive among them — do not partake generously of the workload at home. Employed women partnered with employed men carry 65 percent of the family’s child-care responsibilities, a figure that has held steady since the turn of the century. Women with babies enjoy half as much leisure time on weekends as their husbands. Working mothers with preschool-age children are 2 1/2 times as likely to perform middle-of-the-night care as their husbands. And in hours not so easily tallied, mothers remain almost solely in charge of the endless managerial care that comes with raising children: securing babysitters, filling out school forms, sorting through hand-me-downs.”

Ey ey ey people.

I feel strongly that this lack of respect and “unawareness” among fathers who overburden their wives by not stepping up, is the root of divorce. I’ve seen so many moms become severely bitter, insecure and disconnected without hope they can ever achieve their dreams within this family dynamic. This is likely the reason why so many mothers look forward to their alcohol binging nights out with other moms, highlighted in The Bad Moms movies. And it is also why I, as a full time single mother for the past nine years, feel extremely lucky. At least as a sole parent, I don’t have ANY expectations that a partner will be, or should be, doing ANYTHING for me and my boys within the household on a daily basis. No one will be prepping for schools, buying foods, cooking dinners, planning sports and summer camps, going to parents nights or performances, yard work, etc. It’s just me. Surprisingly, I find peace and liberation with this as I have lost all my bitterness from needing that from someone. I am also never, ever going to live with someone who may be critical of my appearance, or my house’s appearance, my cooking (or lack thereof), or parenting abilities—while also pouting about my lack of sexual desire at the end of the night. I’m tired. Yet, I’m following my dreams again and writing novels and teaching yoga and my boys know that mommy needs help at home and that her dreams are just as important as their own.

When I was married, my older son was learning something different. He was learning that mommy’s dreams don’t count, because they don’t pay as well as daddy’s, and that she needs to do the lion share of parenting and cleaning and deserves less time off than daddy. And I’m to blame for allowing this dynamic. I used to think my ex taking our son to the park on a Saturday afternoon, after he had been gone all week and I had spent late-nights catching up on work, meant that I had an hour to clean the house and race to the grocery store. It didn’t occur to me to get a massage and let him help me do the other stuff later. Yet I was working full time as a magazine editor and taking care of our son solo and staying up late managing deadlines. Where did I get this misconception that I had to work, work, work and never rest? From my parent dynamic of a working full – time mother who did all the parenting. It really does get passed down generation to generation and women (especially those raised in the South) are taught to believe that they are just more compassionate, better organized, better at cooking, more patient and therefore, better at parenting, so it’s easier for us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard friends prepare weeks of food for their husbands before leaving for a work trip because their husbands “just can’t open a can of soup.”

This has to stop. Having a penis doesn’t mean a man can’t cook, tuck a child into bed, read bedtime stories, grocery shop, plan birthday parties, volunteer at schools, design holiday cards, and help with in-law care-taking. None of these activities are exclusively made for humans with vaginas. But I understand why women just do the extra work when they fear that it just won’t get done otherwise.

It took divorce and becoming a full-time single mother for me to realize that I allowed this toxic, old-fashioned inequitable dynamic to exist by not demanding my ex do more. If I had boycotted the home situation, protested, left for an extended amount of time while leaving our child at home, perhaps my ex would have seen what was going on. Or likely, he would have hired a full-time nanny and not fretted about the cost.

I predict there will be a shift in the American family (heterosexual) dynamic within the next 50 years where women just opt out. We’re tired. And we’re worthy of time off and help. It’s time for us to raise our hands, lift our white flags and say ENOUGH. Doing it all and being everything to everyone, enables a toxic old-fashioned view of parenting, and is just not worth ruining our health and forgetting our dreams for.

If this has riled you up, sadly, here are more articles and studies regarding the lack of gender equality in American households and society:

“A stunning chart shows the true cause of the gender wage gap.” 

“From concubine to CEO, how far have women really come?” Forbes, Dec. 20, 2015

“The Parenting Fantasy that holds Women Back” Time, Oct. 2017