Tag Archives: Love

Gratitude Saved My Life

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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

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100+ Follows!

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WOOHOO!! I received word a few weeks ago that I reached a milestone of 100 followers…I believe it’s 104 today. Isn’t that amazing? I’m so grateful to all of you who read my musings and who are on this journey with me as I evolve into a more conscious human being and navigate this world of mine as a single mom, yoga teacher, writer and budding novelist. Phew! That’s a lot isn’t it? Geez. And that doesn’t even touch my day to day life juggling needs as a FT mom and being single: striving to stay positive, focussed, motivated and find time to eek in a little fun, love, travel, adventure. You know, what we all seek—the spice in our rice, the music that makes us want to dance, or the moment our heart races when we recognize a person as a dear friend or potential ‘one’ that makes life so much more than just life. You know?

 

So, thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you—new and old followers—of NavigatingVita. Since I started this blog August 26, 2011 a lot has changed in my life. My divorce became official. I broke up with a man that I thought I might marry. (The first man I had kissed in 15 years since my husband, so maybe I needed more experience dating too…) I joined a support group. I began and finished 4 yoga trainings. I now teach yoga. I wrote a novel. Yup, after taking a 15 year hiatus from creative writing after I completed my first novel in grad school, well, I jumped back in. I wrote a novel that was inspired by a true story uncovered when I was a newspaper reporter in the North Carolina mountains, moons ago. And, I started writing another novel. (See excerpt here.) I’ve travelled a lot: England, Italy (3 x), Spain, Czech, Hawaii (3x) Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico…And stumbled upon some cool experiences, such as being on the Queen Latifah show as a Contestant # 3 for her Dating Game Show. A well-intentioned neighbor, who happened to be a producer for her, decided I needed help finding a date since I rarely get out except to take or do yoga. It was a hilarious experience! And even with the help of Queen Latifah, her bachelor chose the grandmother out of the three contestants because she was the one who talked dirty and promised sex on the first date. (Men, is that all that it takes? Maybe for another blog post, but seriously?! My kids were watching too, could NOT go there. Hmmm.) Here I am last Feb. embarrassed after Queen Latifah tried to insinuate that I was a southern good girl, but not that good. Go figure. Still didn’t get the date! Probably a good thing. 🙂
The Queen Latifah Show Season 2

So, what can I say? Life is good. Life is challenging. Life can be upsetting and then suddenly delicious. It can become overwhelming and tedious and boring and then suddenly beautiful without words sufficient to express that beauty or the enormous amount of gratitude felt. Throughout it all: throughout the disappointments of agents not accepting my work, and then the high of one who does— or the boy who breaks my heart so completely that I can barely function … And of course my boys who are my anchor and mean everything to me. Throughout it all, I write as a means to seek, to find my center, to garner a balance, catch my breath and to embrace compassion, patience and forgiveness. And…still find time to dance and travel—at least once a  year! This is what motivates all my blog posts in one way or another. Even if indirectly as I am somewhat private. If I write about how to discover your worth and uncover hidden, sabotaging beliefs, trust me, it’s because I need to write about that topic due to poor or impulsive choices. If I write about how yoga enhances creativity and helps bash self-doubt, it’s likely because I’m teaching too much, not practicing daily yoga and therefore, finding it hard to carve out time every day to feel entitled to write that novel. Who do I think I am, right? So, I often write about what I need to learn. It’s the same when I teach yoga as each week there is a theme to my classes: forgiveness, acceptance, surrender, strength, combating anger, staying open, trust, faith, etc. You get the idea. I teach and write about what I need to learn. And if any of this has resonated with you, I’m truly honored.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

I’m sending so much love & light & laughter to you all. Life is a trip—and one only worth navigating with dear friends. Thank you for the support.

With gratitude,

Laura x

What my mother told me after she died.

rainbowsmimi

 

That title may alarm some people. But the fact is, our loved ones communicate with us all the time after they die. It’s as simple as one thought away. And it’s the most beautiful aspect of grief and death. So many people are distracted and numb and out of alignment so the idea of magic and eternal love and light isn’t a reality in their every day life. Yet it is. They are just not aware of it. When someone you love dearly dies, for weeks afterwards, you can feel them, dream about them, sometimes even hear their voice. It’s remarkable and it brings so much hope to those who have forgotten that there is life after death. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. But life drones on. Responsibilities, work, routines can keep us from day dreaming, noticing beauty, magic. Hurts and regrets and pain can compound our vibration so that our hearts are heavy and we can barely muster hope when we see a beautiful sunset. We become out of sync with our divine selves. We are out of the frequency to hear or see the messages our loved ones send us.

When someone dies, however, we are forced to stop everything. We stop our daily routine. We stop work. We focus. We remember. We pray. We become grateful for what this person gave to us. We open up to the magic of life. And in this grateful, open, vulnerable state, we notice, or hear the messages. That is the gift when someone dies.

My mother died May 20th of this year. I flew to North Carolina on the 21st and on the 22nd (a dear friend will love that number, you know who you are!) I saw this double rainbow forming over the highway. I was driving with one of my sisters two hours to her house as she had the best picture of my mother that we all decided must be enlarged and placed at the entrance of her memorial service. So, we drove the two hours to my sister’s house. As we were driving the two hours back to Chapel Hill, this amazing rainbow started forming. Another formed on top. I took a video of it that I can’t upload for some reason…But right after I videoed the rainbow and was still watching it form, my dad called. I am not close with my dad. Well, that’s an understatement. I have forgiven him for the many disrespectful choices and things he did to my mother. I’ve forgiven him for things I still can’t mention, toward me and to my oldest sister, but I keep a boundary up for my own health. Yet I could feel my mother present with us and I could feel her forgiveness. I could feel her urging me and so I answered my sister’s phone and I spoke kindly to my father and even agreed to pick him up from the airport and take him to his hotel. He wanted to come to my mom’s funeral. He likely doesn’t even remember half of what happened during our childhood or even forgot some events with mom later—that’s what is so puzzling and hurtful and insane about alcoholism, and whatever else came into play. But I decided to let it go. He is old. He was sad. And clearly, my mother forgave him years ago.

On May 25th, the day of my mother’s funeral, the minister surprised the family by asking everyone to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Us four siblings had put together the program and we all agreed upon speaking. I was the one who spoke about the power of music, as my mom played piano  by ear and communicated through music. I even provided her top song list as I kept it after we moved her into an Alzheimer’s facility. Somewhere Over the Rainbow wasn’t on it, nor was it mentioned. Perhaps one of my sisters suddenly asked the minister to add this? I don’t know. But my oldest sister and I began crying as we remembered the rainbow forming in the car just a few days earlier. It wasn’t a coincidence. Mom was telling us everything would be ok. Listen to the lyrics. My two sisters aren’t physically well. They both have autoimmune disorders and serious stress and I wish so much I could take away their pain. My big brother even admitted to losing his faith in God after my mom developed early-onset Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t fair. She was a social worker with a huge, kind heart, and helped so many without ever asking for anything in return. He felt it was cruel. It was hard on him to see her, and he lived so close to her facility. It was hard on all of us to lose her. My mom was sending us all a message of hope. To not harden or become cynical in life. To stay aware of the magic that is subtle, but always there.

That evening, as I was coming home to my brother’s house, after walking around with my childhood best friend, we saw this little lime green frog on my brother’s door.

friendfrog

Frogs like this just don’t appear on doors in North Carolina. I know a lot about frogs. As a little girl I collected them. In fact, I would sit by a pond in the woods surrounding the horse trails and watch for hours waiting for the tadpoles to finally leap out of the water onto the Earth as precious little frogs. I’d put them in containers and take care of them until they were big enough (or so I thought) to ward off predators. Some kids had imaginary friends, I had friend frogs. Neighbors would capture rare red ones or orange ones and bring them to me for my collection. Yup, I was that kind of kid. To this day, my siblings still buy me frog paraphernalia for birthday or Christmas gifts. So to see this frog on the evening of my mom’s funeral was just a little reminder that I was loved, watched after, and was special. I was teased a lot as a child for being stupid. Not by my mom, but by my dad and siblings. I barely spoke until I was 11 and daydreamed constantly. I guess you could say I have always been partly in another dimension or watching for what was happening underneath the surface. I could sit outside watching birds fight for territory for hours. I would get mesmerized by the way light sparkles on dust particles. Listening to the wind through the pines I’d imagine someone whispering to me. Inside the house, I sometimes wrote invisible words or names on the ceiling and imagined them dancing or fighting over me. When sitting at the table for dinner, I paid attention to how words were spoken and whether a person’s eyes were sad or angry, or whether arms were crossed—and often didn’t hear or listen to what was actually being said.

Mom was telling me that was my gift. That’s why I can still hear her. For weeks she’s come to me in my dreams. I see her in her garden. I see her playing her piano. Talking with me about boys in her blue kitchen. One dream was funny, with her and her friends laughing over her fridge magnet of Nixon with the words: “Thank God he kept our boys out of Northern Ireland.” She was suggesting a similar one about Trump. It was funny. She was engaging. I loved talking politics with her. When I became a journalist, I had ground my day dreaming wire, but I still watched body language, especially when covering murder trials or interviewing politicians. I’m glad I’m not in that world anymore, but I remember how much fun it was to talk with my mom about it all.

My dreams showed me her quirky side before her mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s or before she was stressed and heart broken. And I could feel that she’s returned to her quirky, beautiful, poetic, funny, musical self.

Over the past two months, through signs and messages and songs and dreams, these are the things she has told me:

There is no way to sum up the entire life of another person with a quick comment, so don’t read gossip crappy news or watch any of it. Don’t participate in judgmental gossip.

Strive to be happy now, with your life exactly as it is.

Forgive everyone. We have to let go of our judgements against others based on one or two things that they may have done. That doesn’t mean we become door mats and let in every person who hurts us over and over again—but let go of resentment.

You are enough, exactly as you are.

You are special.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone.

Those who hurt us the most are expressing their own internal pain. They are bleeding inside from issues and scars we may know nothing about it. So ignore whatever hurtful words they say to you.

Follow your heart.

Get out in nature every day if possible.

Don’t Let In anyone go who is negative or who stirs up drama in any way.

Have fun. Be silly. Laugh more. Let the dishes stay in the sink every now and then.

Don’t try to fit in. Be nice and polite when needed, but show your true feelings whenever you can.

Take risks. True love exists for every person at any age.

Stay true to yourself.

Take care of yourself: your body is your temple.

You are deserving—remember that, but don’t forget to give back.

Be grateful.

Be humble.

Own up to your mistakes, but don’t punish yourself for them.

If you’re ever on an ego trip, pause and give to someone else.

If you give too much of yourself or try to control others, step back and allow others the dignity to make their own mistakes and choices.

Trust your gut, not your ego.

Don’t worry so much about pleasing others. Please yourself and be yourself and those who float into your life will be divinely orchestrated to be with you.

~ Thanks for reading this long post! My wish is that it brings a little ray of hope into your day.

Make it a beautiful one.

Laura XO

 

Being Worth the Effort

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WORTH.

It’s a loaded word. And people write A LOT about it. Here are some quotes swirling around social media these days:

“When you know your worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”

“The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away.”

“Your Value Doesn’t Decrease Based on Someone’s Inability to See Your Worth.” (My favorite.)

“Never force yourself to have a space in anyone’s life. If they know your worth, they will surely create one for you.”

“Know your worth. It makes no sense to be second in someone’s life when you can be first in someone else’s.”

“Make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth, even if they don’t.”

###

Ok, here’s what I think about all of this short tough love worth advice:

Knowing intellectually that you are worthy of love and deserving of being treated respectfully is one thing. It’s on an intellectual level. But truly feeling your worth on a cellular level—and living your life based on that deep knowing—is a different matter entirely.

Think about it.

There are a lot of factors in why we allow others to treat us badly. Some have been abused as children or watched neglect or abuse between their parents and on some subconscious level, don’t feel worthy of anything different. I’ve known wonderful, extremely talented and kind people who say they want to be treated well, but keep taking back neglectful, hurtful, toxic, or abusive boyfriends or spouses or girlfriends.

Some in this world appear to have enslaved themselves within dead or abusive marriages, too. From the outside it’s hard to understand.

Having lived on both sides of the spectrum: the side that watched abuse and neglect as a child and who allowed neglect and abuse in my relationships—to the person who owns her worth, is on her own, and who will no longer tolerate the abuse, neglect drama cycle…I know compliance to ANY type of abuse: emotional, physical or psychological, boils down to deep-rooted fears.

Intellectually I’ve always felt worthy—even when I stayed with someone who belittled, neglected and disrespected me. Even when I was with someone who never accepted me for who I am and tried to change me, while comparing me to others. I still felt worthy. I’ve been with a few people like that. And shame on me. Intellectually I knew I deserved better.But maybe this type of behavior ebbed and flowed? Maybe it was what I knew—what I grew up with. What I was comfortable living within the parameters of. EVEN though I would never, ever admit it. And, with girlfriends, would complain and always say I deserved better, bla bla. Perhaps I thought things would change? Perhaps I thought therapy, or my own inner work would make things different? Perhaps I bought into the other person’s viewpoint and tried to change until I no longer knew who I was? I mean, the love was there, right? Or was it? I was stuck in a drama rut. That’s what I now call it. And it’s insane. And it’s disrespectful to both parties as it always spirals into a destructive dynamic based on unmet and dashed expectations, hurt feelings and perhaps depression or an inability to communicate. It’s soul crushing. But many of us live in the lows and the highs and get used to this turbulent and distracting ride. It distracts us from reaching our highest potential. It distracts us from truly living, loving, growing and having authentic relationships filled with gratitude, respect and open communication.

I imagine that 99.5% of us would agree with every quote that I listed above. We agree intellectually. But less than half of us likely take the steps necessary to get out of bad relationships until they are beyond destructive and our health and wellbeing is tanking.

It’s due to fears. The biggies? A fear that there will be no one else out there better for us. Or the fear that it’ll be too hard or impossible to survive financially solo. Or maybe the fear is about being too old to start over? Another biggie: the fear of judgement. What will  family and friends think? Oh, there are so many fears.

Knowing your worth, therefore, is intrinsically linked with trusting the Universe. More people would leave a person who belittled, abused, cheated  or neglected them—if they trusted that life would be OK after walking out the door. Fear is debilitating.

Think about it. If you trusted more and feared less, what would you still put up with? And if you’d decide to keep trying, how long would you put up with it? After one year of therapy wtihout any change? Two years? Would you finally settle back into the status quo?  

What if  your guardian angel whispered in your ear tonight that you would definitely win the $10 million lottery jackpot and lose 15 pounds this year, how would you feel? Would you change anything in your life right now? Think about it. Would you be more confident? Would you want to keep the current relationships you now have—exactly as they are? Would you wait to see if others were sincere and were willing to make an effort before letting them into your now valuable and desirable life?

Read those two paragraphs again. Maybe journal on it. It’s powerful.

What’s even more powerful, is if you lived ‘as if’ all of the above is true.

Because it is.

Your life is already valuable and desirable because it is yours. YOU, (and I) are valuable and desirable and deserving of love and deserving of others making an effort for. But maybe you need more proof before making any changes or standing up for yourself or your needs?

It takes a leap of faith—especially for those of us who weren’t validated as children or by spouses or who were raised to give and give and expect nothing in return. You are worth someone making an effort for. And you are worth making more of your own effort for … like taking a step in a positive direction.

It takes faith. It takes trust. It’s a powerful combination. Put together, they form a kind of mental pixie dust that starts to erode your fears, letting you take baby steps toward your best life.

Thanks for reading my musings.

Love & Light XO

 

 

 

A New Perspective on Love

I wrote this post two years ago and looking back on it, it seems more important today, for my daily life, than it did then. I love ah-hah moments, but only when they resonate so loudly they alter my vibration permanently. I don’t always act lovingly or say loving things when I am frustrated. My thoughts aren’t always loving and forgiving toward myself or others when I’m hurt…but I am aware. I do take deep breaths and I do say I’m sorry when necessary, lol! On Valentine’s Day, I’m reposting this as a Valentine to you, my friends, and hope your day is filled with moments of authentic love for yourself, your friends, your pets, your children, your family … and life. 🙂

***

This I know for sure: Love isn’t defined by what someone can do for me or give to me. And it certainly isn’t a prize for being pretty, or smart or playful or wealthy. Love can’t be measured by how selfless I become either. Giving till it hurts, or putting someone else’s needs always above my own, isn’t necessarily a good marker of true love. (Maybe we have no choice with our children, though :-)!) But in romantic love, we have to remember to love and respect ourselves too, right?

Initially love may just spring from a feeling. A spark. Maybe even just from a look, a touch, a kiss. But to sustain love, there has to be more than attraction and chemistry, don’t you think?

Lately my mind has been wandering into existential waters. As I prepare to teach my first Valentine’s heart-opening Hatha yoga class, I find myself grappling with what love is and what love isn’t. I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”

I also believe that love is tied to how gently and compassionately we live—more than by any grand gestures we make. Therefore, I’m leaning toward the definition of love as a type of vibration—a frequency—that effects how we sound and move and treat each other. It also controls how and who we attract into our lives.

So as I focus on what to address in my first Valentine’s yoga class—I realize that I don’t want to just talk about and teach poses to keep our hearts open. Yes, it’s important to trust and be open to new experiences—but without a good dose of self respect and inner core strength, we may just keep staying open to all the wrong people and opportunities. Maybe it stems back to our programming as a child, or by us feeding off of the energy of people who are the closest to us.

Maybe a lot of us may have fallen into lower vibrations due to negative childhood programming—which, if not released, feed and spiral into critical thoughts. These critical thoughts about ourselves and others just end up attracting toxic friends or partners who keep us in this status quo of a negative environment. If it sounds a bit heavy, bear with me and just think about it. How many of us as children have heard conversations from adults like: “For once, can you just listen to me?!” “Why do you always do this?” “Honestly, you look ridiculous.” “If you make it on time, it will be a miracle.” “NOT NOW! Jesus. You always nag me right when I’m on deadline.”

You get the idea. Comments such as these hurt. They place us on a lower frequency of thoughts filled with shame, low self esteem, insecurity, fear, anger, lack of respect—and these ripple into adulthood. Think about the couple who bicker constantly over such trivial things as too much hair in the sink … (Yeah, we’ve probably all been there at some point.)

So my ever-evolving definition of love starts within. How we treat each other—or allow others to treat us—triggers negative frequencies where love can’t live or last. What we mirror, or think, we attract.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts as I wrestle with my definition of love this Valentine’s day:

Love expands. Love elevates. Love enlightens. Love embraces growth. Love accepts. None of this can happen in a sea of critical or belittling comments or thoughts.

Clearly, I haven’t figured it all out. (Who has?!) But I do know that attracting someone kind, healthy and gentle requires that I be kind, healthy and gentle in my words and my thoughts—which includes how I treat and think about myself! This actually requires strength and a trust in my inner voice—as much as an open heart.

So, this Valentine’s week, I am defining love as a vibration—a frequency—that I have to tune into. Just like a violinist tunes his instrument in order to play heavenly music, I have to tune my inner strings—my inner awareness—to hear the right chords that allow me to play in a key that allows for a loving and conscious life. Do I speak lovingly and kindly to my loved ones? Do I speak lovingly and kindly to myself? Am I accepting of others? Am I accepting of myself? Am I truly forgiving? These are questions that will help me get in tune—so that I can live in a frequency of love.

What do you think? Does this resonate with you? If not, how do you define love?

How do You Define Love?

vibratingheart

This I know for sure: Love isn’t defined by what someone can do for me or give to me. And it certainly isn’t a prize for being pretty, or smart or playful or wealthy. Love can’t be measured by how selfless I become either. Giving till it hurts, or putting someone else’s needs always above my own, isn’t necessarily a good marker of true love. (Maybe we have no choice with our children, though :-)!) But in romantic love, we have to remember to love and respect ourselves too, right?

Initially love may just spring from a feeling. A spark. Maybe even just from a look, a touch, a kiss. But to sustain love, there has to be more than attraction and chemistry, don’t you think?

Lately my mind has been wandering into existential waters. As I prepare to teach my first Valentine’s heart-opening Hatha yoga class, I find myself grappling with what love is and what love isn’t. I’ve come to believe that sustained love lies in the subtlety of how we speak to one another—much more than what we actually say. It’s about speaking kindly and respectfully, at all times, even when voicing concerns. I’ve always loved the James Taylor lyric: “It isn’t what she’s got to say, or how she thinks or where she’s been. To me the words are nice the way they sound.”

I also believe that love is tied to how gently and compassionately we live—more than by any grand gestures we make. Therefore, I’m leaning toward the definition of love as a type of vibration—a frequency—that effects how we sound and move and treat each other. It also controls how and who we attract into our lives.

So as I focus on what to address in my first Valentine’s yoga class—I realize that I don’t want to just talk about and teach poses to keep our hearts open. Yes, it’s important to trust and be open to new experiences—but without a good dose of self respect and inner core strength, we may just keep staying open to all the wrong people and opportunities. Maybe it stems back to our programming as a child, or by us feeding off of the energy of people who are the closest to us.

Maybe a lot of us may have fallen into lower vibrations due to negative childhood programming—which, if not released, feed and spiral into critical thoughts. These critical thoughts about ourselves and others just end up attracting toxic friends or partners who keep us in this status quo of a negative environment. If it sounds a bit heavy, bear with me and just think about it. How many of us as children have heard conversations from adults like: “For once, can you just listen to me?!” “Why do you always do this?” “Honestly, you look ridiculous.” “If you make it on time, it will be a miracle.” “NOT NOW! Jesus. You always nag me right when I’m on deadline.”

You get the idea. Comments such as these hurt. They place us on a lower frequency of thoughts filled with shame, low self esteem, insecurity, fear, anger, lack of respect—and these ripple into adulthood. Think about the couple who bicker constantly over such trivial things as too much hair in the sink … (Yeah, we’ve probably all been there at some point.)

So my ever-evolving definition of love starts within. How we treat each other—or allow others to treat us—triggers negative frequencies where love can’t live or last. What we mirror, or think, we attract.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts as I wrestle with my definition of love this Valentine’s day:

Love expands. Love elevates. Love enlightens. Love embraces growth. Love accepts. None of this can happen in a sea of critical or belittling comments or thoughts.

Clearly, I haven’t figured it all out. (Who has?!) But I do know that attracting someone kind, healthy and gentle requires that I be kind, healthy and gentle in my words and my thoughts—which includes how I treat and think about myself! This actually requires strength and a trust in my inner voice—as much as an open heart.

So, this Valentine’s week, I am defining love as a vibration—a frequency—that I have to tune into. Just like a violinist tunes his instrument in order to play heavenly music, I have to tune my inner strings—my inner awareness—to hear the right chords that allow me to play in a key that allows for a loving and conscious life. Do I speak lovingly and kindly to my loved ones? Do I speak lovingly and kindly to myself? Am I accepting of others? Am I accepting of myself? Am I truly forgiving? These are questions that will help me get in tune—so that I can live in a frequency of love.

What do you think? Does this resonate with you? If not, how do you define love?

Men ARE Rats: There’s Scientific Proof!

Scientists who examine rodent sexual behavior have found that male rats and human men have similar behavioral characteristics when it comes to sex and the need for variety. But to be completely fair, at least one study implies that some women have much in common with their female rodent counterparts as well—and that’s a good thing.

I’ll explain. Eight months ago I read the Scientific American article “A Tale of Two Rodents”. Interestingly, over the past eight months, the studies reported in this article keep popping into my mind when interviewing experts on human sexual behavior. This was especially true during my recent interview with Eric Anderson, Ph.D.—whose research and book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love and the Reality of Cheating, shows that men crave variety in the bedroom to the point of having extreme difficulty with monogamy. During my interviews with Pat Allen, Ph.D., I thought of the rodent article yet again when the leading relationships expert and best selling author pointed out, that while men aren’t built for monogamy, women repeatedly fall for dishonest and selfish guys after they have sex prematurely, and are blindly bonded due to a rush of oxytocin. (See an interview with her here.)

Here’s why the Scientific American article keeps percolating in my mind. One study in the article revealed that when a male rat and his mate were put into a cell together, the male rat was extremely amorous in the beginning and initiated sex multiple times a day. In fact, the male rat often sang during sex and seemed to keep going for a long time. (The results of this study were shown to college students that apparently became very interested during this period!) After a while with the same female rat, the love making  sessions became shorter and less frequent. After one particularly short love making session, with the male rat becoming listless afterwards, the researchers put a new female rat in the room. Suddenly, as one might imagine, the dynamic shifted and the once tired rat transformed into a sexual dynamo—but with his new love interest.

Another provocative study reported in the article was of female rats (presumably with gps locators on them) who would walk many city blocks thwarting the advances of male rats. In fact, Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., concluded: “Rodent females are choosy, traveling up to seven city blocks—a long way for a rat—to find a male who meets her standards. She sniffs out his biological germ-fighting arsenal.” Basically, she’s looking for a male with the “right” smell. (Old Darwin obviously knew a thing or two about this type of selection.) Females in this study waited to mate until they found a male that smelled healthy enough to give her healthy children.

I remember reading this article in the waiting room of my son’s therapist’s office and just busting out laughing. Basically, it proves what a lot of cynical people already espouse: men, at their most base (rodent) level, will take sex any way they can get it and variety is the spice of life. Women, however, know they can get pregnant and need to be sure their man is healthy and kind. He has to have the attributes she’s looking for to give her healthy children if she gets pregnant, and be kind enough not run away and help take care of the children when they arrive.

Why, then, aren’t all of us females as strong-willed and as savvy as that female rat who hiked seven city blocks? Why can’t we all thwart the advances of those smelly bad boys?

Of course, we humans have complicated the issue a bit, haven’t we? We’re all looking for our soul mates—well, some of us anyway—and think we’ll find them on the internet or at bars. And we just might. But the key for women to be successful with our rat-sniffing abilities, according to some experts, is to keep alcohol and drugs out of the picture and NOT to have sex too soon. Dr. Allen explained to me during private sessions, when I was grappling with my ex’s infidelity, that men and women are just built differently. Not all men will cheat—but they want to. Finding the men who actually won’t disrespect their wives, takes a bit of effort. Women, however, have built-in radar called intuition that lets us know when a man is kind at his core. We also know instinctively when they aren’t. We lose this radar, however, when we drink or have sex too soon in a relationship—blinding us from acknowledging blatant red flags and putting us in line for future heartache.

I imagine that Dr. Anderson might look at these rodent studies as further proof that human beings need to re-evaluate how we perceive relationships and our expectations for monogamy. What do you think? Are we really just rats at the core? At the end of the day, will you, as a single mom, walk the metaphoric seven city blocks until you find a man that sniffs of kindness who will love you AND your children? I’m sure many of you are nodding saying, you bet. But years down the line, once you have the right man, will you be willing to let another female into the room to give your kind, nice-smelling man a bit of the variety that he craves? That’s a hard one to even consider isn’t it? I think I’ll leave that scenario to the rats for now.

EndNote:
“despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage
tell me I’m the only one
tell me there’s no other one
despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage”
~ Smashing Pumpkins

Sleep Training Update: Almost There!

Remember Love and Calmness When Sleep Training

Oh my love will fly to you each night on

A n g e l’ s wings 

Godspeed Little Man

Sweet Dreams Little Man

And I … L o v e … You.

~ Dixie Chicks

Two and three-year-olds are unrelenting trouble and unconditional love rolled up into one. They are monkey business, laughter, sticky fingers and gooey love one minute—then temper tantrums and hell-on-wheels screaming the next. By the end of the day, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our children are blessings. They believe in magic, have open hearts close to angel’s and are innocent—even when screaming. Single moms close to exhaustion can easily forget this when their cherubs just won’t sleep at the end of the day. I know. I’ve been there.

In fact, my situation was so bad, I sought expert counsel and Jill Spivack of Sleepeasy Solution came to help via the Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers show (watch the clip shown on TV here.) Jill is amazingly thoughtful and takes her work seriously. Even after the show taping, she called many times to see how I was doing. I can’t recommend her and her company enough! Her advice did help, tremendously, but in ways that she may not realize. As a former parenting editor and journalist, I had read many tactics to sleep-train babies and toddlers. My situation was unique because I have my nine-year-old in the same room as my almost three-year-old. I didn’t sleep-train Jamesy when he was a baby, as I was breastfeeding him in my bed. And to be honest, I was a bit depressed as I was (and still am) going through a divorce with little family help, and their dad living abroad. Back then, I was always exhausted and let the baby sleep with me to make breastfeeding easier and allow his older brother the chance to get much-needed sleep for school.

But by the time the baby was a year and a half, I started trying to sleep-train him. He hated his nursery on the first floor and would run upstairs where my and his older brother’s bedrooms are located. Jamesy would be shaking while screaming and I’d give in and let him sleep with me. Later, to remedy the situation, I put bunk beds in the master bedroom and moved both boys in there this summer. Since Jamesy hates to be alone, I thought he’d be more comfortable with his big brother and I had the summer to sleep-train him.

Surprise, surprise, it didn’t work. Jamesy still wanted to sleep with me, and to be fair, I wasn’t consistent in my attempts to get him to sleep on his own. When I got completely exhausted, I’d give in. For instance, after three days of sleep-training—when I’d gently nudge the toddler back into the room and say “night-night”, over and over and over again—I’d find myself dragging for days afterwards. Most nights I didn’t fall asleep until midnight, but was still up at 6 a.m. My little guy just napped more during the day to catch up, but I was working. By the end of the week, I felt like I was broken. Jamesy is very stubborn: he’d scream and scream and then get himself jacked up and excited instead of tired. At that point, his older brother would start yelling at him, taking an authoritative role like a drill sergeant, which never works. The minute I’d start raising my voice to quiet both of them, I knew it was over. By the fourth day, I’d give in and sleep with my little guy to make peace and let his big brother sleep too. After days of falling asleep in the bunk bed with my clothes on and not brushing my teeth or washing my face, I’d start to get resentful. (I mean, who wouldn’t?) Of course this situation couldn’t go on forever. But it feels that way when you’re in it—especially when you’re in it alone.

What I learned with Jill is that the whole process has to come from a place of love. If the older brother is inserting corporal punishment or yelling and adding more stress to the situation, he needs to be removed. So while I trained Jamesy, William slept in another room. The other brilliant tactic of Jill’s is her book. All toddlers love books where they are the main character and it preps them for how the process will begin and end. Jill and I created a book together called “Jamesy Goes Nite Nite.” In this book, with stick figures, I tell Jamesy that I love him SO much, I want him to get a good night’s sleep. We explained why this is so important for him and why it’s a matter of loving him so much—it’s not about me needing sleep or needing time alone. Two and three-year-olds don’t care about your needs, remember?

Finally, Jill reminded me that sleep-training doesn’t need to terrify a little guy. Leaving Jamesy in the room to “cry-it-out” really isn’t fair or nice, especially at this age. I had considered locking the door, as some other moms had suggested to me, “in order to break him.” Jill reminded me that when a child approaches three, they start to believe in all sorts of things—such as monsters, dragons or evil witches, etc. He may be having legitimate fears. And just after I saw Jill, sure enough, Jamesy started expressing them. Which is why I waited until after Halloween to start in ernest and I limited trick-or-treating to a neighborhood that wasn’t too scary.

Even still, Halloween got under his skin a bit.

“Monsters, mommy! Monsters under the bed!” he said one night, running into my room. “Spider came up through the bed and ate me!” he said another night.

So, after putting William in my room for two nights as I “trained” Jamesy, I’m having much more success. Not every night is smooth sailing, but it’s getting easier. I also came up with a few additional solutions of my own, that may help other moms with multiple kids or single moms who lack additional hands for help:

  1. Create a way to tackle fears.
    For me, it was monster spray. I made a huge deal out of buying monster spray and I showed it to my son. It is a spray bottle with water of course, but I said I bought it at a magic store and I sprayed it all around his room and bed…so now NO monsters can come near him! For the spiders, I told him that all spiders were terrified of geckos and guppies. Since we have a fish tank and a huge gecko in his room, he’s safe. In fact, the safest spot in the WHOLE house is his room.
  2. Reward the older sibling for helping.
    One night when we were saying our prayers, which consist of listing the 9 and 3 things the boys are thankful for (9 things for a 9-year-old, 3 for a 3-year-old) I said what I was thankful for: “I am super thankful that Jamesy has a big brother who would do anything for him, loves him and protects him.” William laughed, but it made a big difference. In the morning, I found the two of them sleeping together in the top bunk. (I’ve also added “being nice to your little brother” on his board of chores for his allowance. Might be bribery, but it’s starting to work!)
  3. Be flexible with bedtime.
    Since my kids are far apart in age, their bedtimes differ. I used to spend hours on bedtimes—trying to enforce on earlier time for the baby, then going through another routine with the older. Of course, finding it hard to find time to finish whatever I need to do later, such as dishes, lunch, my own editing, before bed, etc. I was spinning my wheels for hours, as the baby wouldn’t sleep until big brother was down. Why fight it? I’m now taking a more European approach. I let the younger stay up later with big brother, as I wash dishes and get myself ready for bed. Then I put them both down at the same time: 8:30. The older son gets a flashlight and can read in the top bunk for 30 minutes as I help Jamesy fall asleep. For now, it’s working.
  4. Stay Calm.
    Even if Jamesy doesn’t want to sleep on his own, I gently nudge him back into his room over and over again calmly. I never raise my voice. In fact, by the third nudge, I say nothing and just pat his back and walk him back to his room. For a week it was tough, but now, it takes about 3 nudges and he’s on his own.
  5. Tell them where you’ll be.
    I think just knowing that I’m right next door, reassures him. I used to think it would inspire him to follow me, but it does the exact opposite.
  6. Allow middle of the night snuggles.
    If your kiddo sneaks into your room in the middle of the night, let it slide. In fact, enjoy it. They grow up so fast, you’ll miss snuggle time later. I find that if my little guy goes to bed on his own, but sneaks into my room at 3 a.m. scared by something, I’m better off letting him stay there and not making a big deal out of it.

I hope these additional tips are helpful. If you’re a single parent of a little one like me, just remember that this phase of your life won’t last forever. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t think about other couples who take turns with the kiddos. Don’t allow yourself to sink into doubt or self pity. Call a friend in the morning and thank God for your little angels. Remember that they want to feel safe and if you can help them feel safe now, it will last a lifetime. In fact, helping them feel safe, may be more important than getting them to bed at a specific time, so keep your cool.

Hope my story helps. Email if you’d like to chat, or let me know what is working for you!

~ L.