I’m thrilled to share my recent article published in MindBodyGreen.
This stems from our Easter trip to Honolulu when I was able to visit an organic farm that also provides college scholarships and training to Hawaiian youth. I was conducting research for my next novel (Not a book about the Hawaiian region, which the MBG editor incorrectly inserted into this article, lol! But another novel (fiction) that happens to have a huge chunk of the story occurring in the Western Hawaiian mountains and on a co-op farm.) The boys and I spent a day on the farm that is backed by Michele Obama and Jack Johnson for its efforts to help impoverished youth garner education and to boast the health and wellbeing of all Hawaiians.
Here’s a link to my article that is the beginning of MBG’s summer series about travel with a purpose. Click the link below. Mahalo. L xo
I love Hawaii. I think everyone knows that by now, lol! Three weeks ago I took the boys back to Honolulu for our sixth visit. Who would think there was more to do and see? There was SO much more. It was a magical trip for this single mom. It was partly a working trip for me, as I’m writing my fourth novel which occurs mainly on a farm in Hawaii (Read about Orbiting Jupiter HERE.). I also sold a story to MindBodyGreen (to be published in May, so I can’t go into too much detail here) about an organic farm in poverty-ridden Wai’anae, on the western side of Oahu, that also provides scholarships to teens and internships to college students.
William picking mangos at the farm.
What I can tell you, is that the boys and I got to farm with a youth-leader there, mulching in the heat and learning, not just about organic farming in a dry region, but about the struggles most Hawaiian teens growing up in this poor area of Oahu, go through. My boys who live in a bubble of wealth in Hermosa Beach, learned what it’s like when most friends drop out of school, get mixed up in drugs, have high rates of pregnancy, can’t eat lunch, can’t go to college because they can’t afford it, etc. We learned how diabetes and heart disease is the highest in this region, than any where else in Hawaii. Once abundant, we now also discovered that quality fruit and vegetables are scarce, mainly because the military cut off the west side’s main water source, diverting it for their needs, so growing is a struggle. The boys loved gardening and creating their own organic lunch later and the connections made were priceless.
Just down the mountain road from the farm is this amazing, deserted beach. Can you just say WOW?
Other highlights of this trip include hanging with a friend who now lives in Honolulu, her kiddos playing with mine. The coach for the Honolulu Bulls, met us in Vegas during a soccer tournament earlier, so invited my William and his best friend to practice with them on a steamy night for two hours in Honolulu. What a work out! The coach was so kind and most of the boys on the team gave William their info so they can follow each other on insta. None of them had ever been to California and asked my son SO many questions about girls and celebrities. 🙂 It was eye-opening for William as these boys, unlike the ones he plays with in LA, are super hungry and motivated to move up—as for some, it may be their only ticket to college. At the practice, there were adults and a few college players who were ‘mixing it up’ by playing with the teens, making it more challenging for them. The practice, also unlike the amazing facilities in LA, was held in an over-grown small field near tents of homeless. There had to be at least 25 homeless families camping just near the edge of the field. Just part of life in Honolulu.
What else? We hiked the Koko Crater! It’s a steep hike up an abandoned rail way, at points near the top, hikers see hundreds of feet below them, as they step on wooden planks. My 9-year-old was so scared that he shook and cried at points! But his big brother and I coaxed him on, helping him get over his fears. He was not a happy camper when he finally made it up to the top, but after he finished, he was ecstatic and beyond proud of himself, telling others they can do it, if he could. I’m proud of him too! 🙂
post-crater hike wipe out!
This trip was really the perfect trip. It allowed us to meet with more locals, make new friends, explore little-known areas, even going to a Buddhist center downtown and a little known hole-in-the-wall eatery for yummy fish. I met with a realtor, got a few apartment tours for a possible move too, and even got asked to be a teacher at a yoga studio in Waikiki. How cool is that? And since I invited one of my oldest son’s friends, I had make shift babysitters one afternoon and escaped to relaxation: getting a massage (how I love groupon!), with time for day-dreaming at the spa pool after. What more can a mom ask for?
We’re off to Hawaii again! It’s my sixth trip back and this time, I’ll be re-visiting all the spots where magic occurs in my novel Between Thoughts of You. The boys and I are are exploring moving to Honolulu too. The freedom of being a full-time mom, means 100% custody and the ability to live wherever I feel the tug of my life pulse, where mana can be felt and built. So we’ll see. In this pic, the three of us are snorkeling in the gorgeous aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. We arrived just after the sun rose, before tourists could scare away the fish and turtles. I can’t wait to go back!
Here’s a short excerpt of my novel when Lulu recalls her first kiss with Akoni as they swam in Waimanalo Bay. She is remembering this after Akoni, her husband, has left her. After he left her for her best friend—a mere three months after their baby girl Healani died mysteriously. Lulu is remembering this from Tuscany, where she escaped her sadness in order to care for a dying old man. She needed to leave reminders of her life in Oahu behind, yet she can’t. As the old man’s remorse engulfs him in a rabid lust for the love of his life, whom he abandoned after the War, sweet memories of Akoni flood back into Lulu’s consciousness. She must find a way to resolve her broken heart around the fact that a pure love can, and did exist, regardless of how it was destroyed.
CH 6: Between Thoughts of You
ko’u Pu’uwai : My Heart
The first time Akoni kissed Lulu, 15 years earlier, he had laughed afterward and said: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”
They had been swimming in the clear, aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. Lulu and Akoni were splashing around in Pahonu Pond, the ancient fish pond built hundreds of years earlier to trap turtles for the kings of Hawaii. Only royalty had been allowed to eat the turtles, others would have be killed for doing so. The wall, although weathered, enclosed a perfect place for keikis to swim safely. Lulu’s favorite spot in Kaiona Beach Park was just a 15 minute walk from Nan and Rusty’s farm in Waimanalo. Rusty had taught her how to swim there by getting her to ‘chase’ the fish in the clear waters. Out of breath, little Lulu had risen up with her over-sized goggles on, and through water droplets, had seen Rusty laughing and clapping for her. She had always felt happy there. She had never felt more safe and more loved, as Rusty’s uhane had surrounded the two of them like a warm blanket when they were together.
Of course, she would have her first kiss with a Hawaiian prince in that same spot! Rusty, who had been called this because of the strawberry hues in his hair, practically had predicted it. He had pointed off to Rabbit Island one time as he gave Lulu a lesson and had said: ‘Princes are buried there. Their spirits are smiling on you, little one, and will bring you your own prince some day.”
Akoni and Lulu had both been working on Nan’s farm that summer day. Rusty had died four years earlier and had been a close childhood friend of Akoni’s grandfather. They both had loved outrigger canoes. Rusty had become famous for carving traditional Hawaiian ones resembling what ancient royalty had been transported in hundreds of years earlier. He sold them humbly out of his barn by word-of-mouth referrals. Those in the know happily referred customers his way—as Rusty had been someone on the island people were proud to call a friend and to ride with. When Rusty died, Akoni’s grandfather made a solemn promise to Lulu’s Nan that he would always help to support her family. So, every summer after Rusty’s death, Akoni and his brothers and sisters worked on Nan’s farm. When Rusty had been living, the farm had grown corn and Nalo greens. Over time, however, the farm, called Rusty Patch, had become a popular tourist attraction. Set just at the base of the Ko’olau mountains and near the crystal waters of Kaiona, Nan decided to listen to friends’ advice who insisted it was perfectly located to attract tourists. So she started advertising the year after Rusty’s death and Rusty Patch suddenly exploded—selling tickets year-round to various events: a petting zoo, a pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn field maze games, watermelon races, even cooking classes.
That August morning, Akoni and Lulu had decided to take a break from selling mango and strawberry “nalo” lemonade to tourists and walked down to the turquoise waters. Splashing around in the keiki pond, Akoni suddenly began to talk. A boy of few words, Lulu stilled herself and paid attention.
“This pond was created for my ancestors,” he told her, raising an eyebrow.
Lulu smiled in response and teased, “So I’ve heard.”
“You think I’m being arrogant?”
Lulu shrugged. She had heard on the playground that Akoni’s family was related to KingKamehamoa I, who had reigned Hawaii until 1819. But how many Hawaiians would have loved to have claimed the same? Besides, she had read in history books that King Kamehamoa had married more than 30 wives! So who documented all the children born from the 30 wives—and probably mistresses—200 years ago? Lulu decided that it would be hard to prove, or disprove, whether a Hawaiian family had actually been related to that King’s family today. But Akoni was handsome. And charming. He had grown into his chest. His skin was the color of cinnamon and smooth to the touch. She noticed that his eyes were soft chocolate with flecks of yellow. His cheek bones were broad giving his round face a distinct definition to go with his cleft-dented chin that Lulu suddenly wanted to bite that day. Lulu had known Akoni most of her life. She didn’t understand why that moment she felt such an urge to smell his neck or touch the place just between his collar bones. But she wanted to. Desperately. So she said nothing about his ridiculous claims of royal blood. And smiled silently back at him.
Akoni began to swim around Lulu and continued with his story.
“So, this pond was created to keep turtles for the Wakea or the ali’inui.”
“So Rusty told me,” Lulu replied.
“What if I told you that one of my great grandmothers was King Kamehamoha’s keopuolani?”
Lulu raised an eyebrow at him.
“We have artifacts at my house to prove it, but my mom and dad say it is arrogant to speak of it. They say it will cause others to not respect me if I boast.”
Akoni dipped beneath the waters surface, and emerged very close to Lulu’s chest. It had been a bit chilly that day. The clouds had come in and it started to rain lightly. She sunk down into the water to stay warm; just her chin peaked above its grey green surface. Akoni was down on his knees in order to look into her eyes. Her green eyes.
“Your eyes are now the same color of the water. I think you are a witch,” he said laughing. “You have put a spell on me,” he added.
And then he kissed her. Lightly. Sweetly. Lulu started to tremble. When he pulled his lips from hers, Akoni wrapped his arms around her saying, “You’re freezing!”
She responded, “No. I’m scared.”
Akoni laughed hard, before saying the infamous line Lulu would tell all their friends for years to come: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”
For more excerpts of Between Thoughts of Me, or Uriel’s Mask, please click Words in the Categories side bar.
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?
For the next seven weeks, as I dive deep into my creative writing and finish my next novel, Between Thoughts of You, I won’t be posting articles on this blog. Instead, I’ll publish photos from my multiple trips to Italy and Hawaii, as my novel occurs mainly in Tuscany and in Honolulu. One agent describes the premise of my book as: “Think of it as The Descendants meets The English Patient.” Well, sort of, not really. Flash backs for the characters also occur in Northern California and Japan and New York. I used to live in New York, so will drum up some photos, but have never been to Japan. My son travelled there with his father, so if I’m able, will post a few of his pictures. 🙂 Every day that I am writing and editing my novel, that I intend to finish at the conclusion of my Yoga For Writers Workshop I’m hosting, I’ll post a photograph. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂
As always, I am so grateful for all who follow or read this blog. <3
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com