Tag Archives: Southern California

Gorgeous, Delicious and Vegan (Really!)

Spinach Mushroom Burgers

Spinach Mushroom Burger on Mixed Greens with Avocado, Sunflower, Pumpkin Seeds and Green Beans

At the Living Yoga Retreat last week, I had the wonderful experience of eating delicious and healthy meals prepared by Megan Curry. Megan is a vegan chef, who owns and operates Curry Girls Kitchen with her mother, Peggy, in Southern California. (Peggy is also quite famous for creating Growing Great, a nonprofit that brings gardens and nutritional education into elementary schools. My son’s school benefited and has amazing gardens! Growing Great is also promoted yearly by none other than Jack Johnson, one of my favs!)

With that said, I was very excited to learn that Megan would be cooking our every meal (and yummy snacks!) during our five day retreat. Megan turned her own health crisis around through an organic, vegan diet and she’s learned how to make her meals, not just healthy, but also incredible! I was a bit skeptical at first, but am now a believer. I encourage you—especially if you have allergies, migraines, immune disorders or stomach issues—to visit her site for menu plans and recipes. Once the kitchen is stocked, which does take a little bit of effort, each dish can be prepared fairly easily. While Megan cooked many yummy meals for us, I’ve chosen to share her spinach, mushroom burgers, as they are a great way to incorporate immune boosting mushrooms and scallions with iron-packed spinach and high fiber. Enjoy!

Spinach Mushroom Patties: serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

1 bunch of spinach washed, chopped

1-2 garlic cloves minced

2 green onions finely chopped

1/2 C finely chopped shitake mushrooms

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 C leftover cooked brown, white basmati, wild rice, or quinoa

1/4 C sunflower & pumpkin seeds, toasted & ground

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper to taste

Coconut or Olive oil

Directions:

1. Saute mushrooms, minced garlic and scallions in 2 tsp. olive or coconut oil.NVmushsaute

2. Add spinach and cover until wilted.
NVspinach

3. Drain and press off excess liquid. Set aside to cool.

4. In medium bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and then add spinach mixture. Mix thoroughly.

NVvegangrainmix

wild rice and quinoa mix to add to spinach, mushroom, onions

5. In the same pan, heat 2 TBLS ghee until hot. Form spinach mixture into patties and saute until browned on both sides, approx. 5 minutes per side.
NVveganburgscooking

Once browned, they will appear like this:

NVveganburgers

Put on top of organic mixed greens with avocado, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and fresh green beans and even your children will dig in! I like to drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. YUM!!

For more incredible recipes and ideas, please visit Megan’s blog: http://currygirlskitchen-blog.tumblr.com/.

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Beauty, Forgiveness in Letting Go, Finally

lantern

I published this post originally in September 2011—a year and a half ago. I learned today, however, that my divorce is final. While I’ve been raising two boys solo for nearly four years now, I’m surprised by how emotional, yet surreal, this final parting, delivered unceremoniously via a curt email, feels. There are just no words to accurately describe it—even for someone like me. So with that said, I’m re-posting this post “Beauty, Forgiveness in Letting Go.” I let go of my imagery paper lantern tonight, to sail across the ocean to my ex, my former best friend, the father of our beautiful boys, with just two words inside: “Thank You.”

***

I can’t stop thinking about The New York Times article “Untying the Knot in Japan” by Paige Ferrari. In fact, ever since reading the article that outlines this new Japanese trend of divorce ceremonies, I can’t stop the steady stream of images from daydreams, clearly inspired by this idea. Obviously, I crave closure. One snippet of my dream keeps popping into my mind—like disjointed, still frame, romantic images. I even sent a message to my soon-to-be Ex about wanting to have a divorce ceremony. Not surprisingly, he didn’t reply.

Perhaps I’ll just have one on my own. Before reading this article, I had thought (once the divorce was final) I’d invite a friend or two to come with me as I throw my wedding band off the end of one of the Southern California piers into the Pacific Ocean. I imagined I’d say a few things before the toss about mixed blessings; becoming stronger; putting my sons first; or living a better life. But now I see what I really want is a ceremony that would honor the 12 years my husband and I spent together. I’d love a ceremony that is like a symbolic blessing to us both—releasing us to move on and inspiring us to be respectful of one another for the sake of our boys.

In Ferrari’s article, a divorce ceremony is outlined where both the ex-husband and ex-wife come together, say a few words in front of a witness, and then both use a hammer to crush their wedding bands. It’s a somber occasion, but one that respects their former union, blesses the two to move on, and confirms the importance of their child’s health and happiness. More ex-couples would benefit from a ceremony such as this, don’t you think? Since I’ll likely never have one with my Ex who lives in London, I will dream of one that allows me to let go and continue on with beauty and hope.

In my recurring dream, a paper lantern floats wobbly in a river—the candle light inside flickering in and out through a heavy layer of fog. It moves with fragility in the water and I am compelled to reach out to it. I have been waiting for it alone on a dock and I stretch to reach it, but can not. I am frightened that the light will burn out, so I stretch my body along the scratchy wood planks of the dock, my upper torso dangling precariously over the water. Finally one long finger touches the side of the lantern and I pull it towards me. I lift it up and put my wedding ring inside. I let myself think for a moment about the beauty of our wedding, the sweetness of our love that day, and the hope we both once had. Inside the other crease of the lantern, I place two folded pieces of paper with messages to my soon-to-be ex-husband.

“Don’t forget your boys,” is written on one note.

“I forgive you,” on the other.

I visualize all the hurt and pain that I have felt over the past two years as a smoke rising from a flame. The wind lifts it up in the crisp night air and allows it to combine with the fog. I place the paper lantern with my ring and messages back into the river and push it gently into the current.

As I watch it drift away, I let go of all anger and bitterness.

I close my eyes, envision my beautiful boys, and allow myself to feel blessed in this parting.

Navigating Autism

Last month I wrote the cover article for Pulse Magazine. It was more than just a look into autism and its causes and behavioral checklists for families—the type of articles I have written for parenting publications in the past. No, this article was an in-depth exploration into how families cope with the disorder and what resources are available to them. I was moved when talking with families who have tried multiple therapies and who have stayed together while sacrificing so much of their lives and personal time and careers to fight for the wellbeing of their children. While this magazine article is tailored for Southern California readers— the stories of the many families I interviewed will inspire you by their sheer determination and positive energy that seems boundless.

And boundless, positive energy is critical today after the American Psychiatric Association has endeavored to “redefine autism,” potentially limiting the numbers of families who will now qualify for assisted therapies. (See this New York Times article to read more on this unfolding development.) Even when facing an uncertain future in terms of assisted therapy and programs—each family I spoke with were determined to find alternative ways to help their children. If you’ve ever thought that one person couldn’t make a difference, I dare you to continue to think that way after hearing Sam Felsenfeld’s story. In honor of his son Jack, Sam ran a marathon each week in 2010—61 marathons and two ultra-marathons—to raise money for autism research and public awareness. He has raised more than $150,000 for Train4Autism and the 39-year-old father of three is still running. (You can read about his daily endeavors on his blog OperationJack.)

Risks:

This morning I was inspired to write and promote my article on autism after watching a CNN brief about how a study determined that the age of sperm carries risk factors for delivering a child with autism. (Read this New York Times article to read more about how the age of the father carries potential risks for autism and Schizophrenia.) It’s certainly compelling. For many years the state of California has been deemed the state with the most autism cases in America. (Surprisingly, Utah just jumped ahead this year…) In fact, the number of children with autism has tripled in California since 2002. I recall attending a panel for Fit Pregnancy magazine (where I freelance often) and a doctor suggested that both environmental and genetic factors were to blame for the disorder’s rise. No one knows for sure, but determining that the age of sperm carries risk factors, is an important step—especially in the age of older parents and the popularity of fertility treatments. A Scientific American study revealed clusters of autism in California’s city centers (twice the national rate), which lends me to believe that there may be some validity in a link between the age of parents and autism risks. (As most people know, older, new parents can be found in larger cities where many delay having children until after pursing careers or higher educational goals.)

What do you think? Perhaps there is NO one risk. Perhaps it’s a whirlwind of factors that, when crashed together, puts your child at high risk. Perhaps it’s part genetic, part environmental and part age of sperm and/or egg. Why some children are on one end of the spectrum and fight just to attain speech—while others are born with less severe symptoms and race forward in therapy and are able to attend college and become independent—is baffling to experts. There is no one autistic child or one autistic experience. If you have a child with any level of this disorder—I’m sure you’re only concern is that of helping your child thrive and attend school and later to navigate social cues and be able to find a job and become independent as an adult. It can seem overwhelming to the outsider, but if it’s your child—it’s your passion and your life. I get it. Here’s hoping Obama’s healthcare endeavors will get more children—regardless of where they fall in the new and developing definition of the disorder—approved for assisted occupational therapies.

And finally, here’s hoping that more of us without autistic children teach our kids to become more accepting of others. Because, at the end of the day, we all need to embrace the wonderful and sometimes whimsical children with this disorder—as often times, they have much to teach us.

May 20, 2012: A Day of Mystery and Beauty

Yesterday was the first solar eclipse in Gemini, the first solar eclipse visible in the United States, in 18 years.

According to http://SpiritualTherapy.wordpress.com, “astrologically speaking, eclipses are powerful events that shake up our usual sense of balance, intensify the energy field, and often bring breakdowns and breakthroughs that allow for change to move through our lives.”

I’m not sure if it was the influence of the solar eclipse in Gemini (with my birthday this week), or if I was just lucky, but yesterday was a good day. In fact, it was one of the best yet with my boys. Here’s how it started:


After much wrangling, I managed to push the boys out of the house for a morning stroll, looking for shells, on the beach. It was beyond wonderful as I walked, free of my boot/cast, feeling the warm sand on my toes. Even though we were having a chilly, over-cast morning, the warm sand, and sweet conversation about shells, felt delicious.
From there, after a lunch playdate, we took a drive south to Palos Verdes while my youngest napped. As we drove, the haze and fog lifted and inspiration hit. After driving south all the way past Trumps Golf Course, we turned around and parked at Abalone Cove. The little one woke up, looking at the yellow flowers and the ocean beyond and exclaimed, “Awesome!” I quite agree.
To get down to the cove, we had to hike down a narrow, winding path, that provides the most amazing views of the famous stretch of waters—now world-known from scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean. Do you recognize it?

Its beauty is so overwhelming that I kept pinching myself and thinking this could be in the South of France, the Caribbean, South Africa, Portugal, Italy…You get the idea. Every time I stopped to snap a picture, I transported myself elsewhere and got the instant JOLT—the feeling of being on vacation. Where else can one get that feeling, then taking a drive or a hike along the coast of California?
JUST another stroll on an average Sunday.
The best part of being in Abalone Cove is that it is literally teeming with life. It’s tidal pools are filled with sea anemones, crabs and snails. Watching my little guys explore, discover and scurry up rocks made me happier than I’ve been in ages. This is what kids are meant to do.
What is it about boys and rocks?
Want to feel like a kid again? There’s nothing better than exploring and discovering life in a tidal pool. My heart soared as I watched and listened to my boys exclaim: “I found one! Look at this!” when pointing to sea anemones, crabs or snails. What a day. So full of life, color, vibrancy.
On the way back up the cove, we discovered a nursery school. Seriously. In this remote cove in Palos Verdes, you can send your children to an open-air classroom where they scurry down to the cove and explore, every day. Can I go back in time and attend?? My inner little girl stomped and screamed, “I want to GO!”
Wouldn’t you like to go to class here too?
Yes, this is in America. Wow, I want to play too.
One last look goodbye before heading back to the car.
May 20, 2012 will not be easily forgotten. Later that evening, while in the car, I shot this amazing picture of the solar eclipse with my phone. What a lucky girl I am!

Laguna Magic

Blissful Laura.

There is nothing like a quick get-a-way with a girlfriend to refresh your soul. And what better place on Earth than Laguna Niguel? Seriously, how lucky am I to be barely an hours drive away from such insane beauty. I’m realizing that it’s critical to take time away from the kids with an old friend—even if just for an afternoon, like we did. My girlfriend from London is in town and I wanted to immerse her in the Laguna magic that is reminiscent of Nice or another Mediterranean seaport towns. Its dramatic cliffs and coves and ever-changing winds, weather and moods, can lift anyone’s spirits. Since she is an artist, I knew she’d love the views and colors by Dana Point.

View of Dana Point

So we drove through town and went to The Ritz where the best views can be had. It’s quite nice to be able to enjoy the view from the patio, and chat over a cup of coffee. I’m not sure if many people realize that even if you can’t afford to stay at The Ritz, you can pay for parking and have lunch, or a drink at one of the hotel’s outside lounges or cafes and soak in the outstanding views.

Life has been incredibly stressful lately, and not being able to exercise has been taking its toll. (I tore a ligament three weeks ago.) But as the clouds finally began to shift, I took off my boot/cast, sat back and watched the sun peak out from under the moody fog and literally felt lightness seep into my being.

Sometimes all you really need in life is a different perspective and a change in venue.

Of course, a bit of drama and a good friend makes it all that much better.

And why is it so magical to breathe in a mix of salty sea air and fragrant tropical flowers?

Putting physical distance between you and your regular routine, helps you see through the entanglements.

As I drove back in the heavy traffic at 4 p.m. I was content, stress-free and couldn’t wait to see my boys and get back to my role as mommy. (But wasn’t it delightful to just be a girlfriend having girl-talk for one lovely afternoon!)

Single Mom’s Wanderlust: A State of Mind

As many of you may know, I used to live in London and traveled quite a bit. I moved back to California in the summer of 2008, when 7 months pregnant. Southern California is a great place to be when you’re sleep deprived and in need of sunshine and fresh air. But lately, I find myself starting to get that twitchy foot. The itch that, in the past, would make want to purchase a last minute rail ticket for a weekend excursion to somewhere in Europe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss my old life at all. I really do believe that I was supposed to go through this mess: this divorce, this single motherhood thing and that it’s all part of a plan. It’s forcing me to grow and realize my inner strength and  I have embraced that better things are yet to come. BUT, that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes need to GET AWAY.

Now that I’m regularly sleeping through the night, (isn’t it marvelous when your child finally lets you??) I’m feeling the urge to hit the open road. I crave getting into my car and driving for long periods at a time with no real destination. I recall reading Ann Tyler’s book Ladder of Years where the main character, a 40-year-old mom, took a walk and just kept walking until she moved to another town altogether. I loved it. (Although I adore all of Ann Tyler’s books.)

Don’t worry, ya’ll. I’m not about to do that. But I realize that I need vistas. I need to explore. It’s always been a part of my DNA. My Ex hated that I rarely planned or structured our trips beyond arranging a house swap or renting a flat or house somewhere. I liked to meander and discover things—to sit at cafes and people watch or talk with a chatty local and get the low-down on where to go that evening. I miss spontaneity. In college, I’d take off and drive from Georgia to Maine with no set stopping places in between. I’d stop where it felt good to do so. I naturally gravitated to journalism as I liked the constant change of scenery or new voices. As a child, I wandered in the woods and horse trails. I love discovering by happenstance. With that said, I’m literally and financially too grounded to take off as a single mom of two kiddos.

But I’m realizing that I can still get a little bit of that flight feeling by opening my eyes wider and exploring closer to home. By being present and taking in my surroundings or taking short excursions with the boys, we can explore. So, I’m rarely without my camera these days. I’m far from a photographer, (and none of my pictures were taken with special lenses or have been touched up in some way) but I find that shooting pictures of the beauty that surrounds me in Southern California reminds me there are things to discover in my own backyard. It helps ease that yearning for an excursion I can’t have right now.

There will be days ahead for faraway travel. But for now, I’m going to keep drinking in my sun-kissed part of the world. When I take pictures and look at them later, I’ll remember to thank God for second chances at a new life. I am grateful to stay put at the moment. I am grateful to have the time to create and discover what beauty surrounds and lies within.

Spring Resolutions

Photo by Chaz James

Easter, like Spring in general, is a time I find myself reflecting on what’s important in my life. Christians obviously are celebrating Christ‘s rebirth; his sacrifice; his transformation; his rising. Clearly, being a Christian isn’t a prerequisite for contemplating your own potential for change and renewal. We really have these opportunities every day don’t we? But at this time of year, especially, I take stock. I find myself asking if I am living each day with the intentions and goals that I hold dear? Sure, I have big aspirations: such as growing this blog and working on another book. But I find the day-to-day goals to live in truth and kindness to be more important to those I love most. Do my boys feel loved unconditionally? Am I in balance as a single mom: juggling life, work, relationships, health, etc.?? Can I manage my three-year-old’s insane, daily temper tantrums with grace and a cool head? Is it possible to navigate divorce proceedings and negotiations with fairness and calm? And, more importantly, can I focus on love, gratitude and light—while letting go of my ego, bitterness and disappointments?

One the best ways to achieve these goals is to try to live in the moment and more consciously. Taking time to appreciate what is beautiful and inspirational is crucial—especially for sleep-deprived, struggling single parents. So, for you, (and for me) I am posting some recent photos that I took when on drives in Southern California. To get my little guy to nap, I still drive. I put on my favorite tunes, grab a mocha, and drive to somewhere with a vista. The views soothe my soul. I am energized when I go to these places and by the time I arrive, my baby has slept and can then get out and wander around a bit. Life is good again. Well, life is good in general, don’t you think? Happy Spring my friends. And I hope you enjoy my favorite vistas. L. x

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens (All Rights Reserved). 

I took this picture when I was extremely sleep-deprived and a bit depressed last month. My youngest had not been sleeping well and had been fighting yet another chest infection and asthma. It had been raining with high winds for two days. We were cooped up all weekend. I put my three-year-old in his car seat and drove south to Palos Verdes. As I drove, the high winds started to calm a bit, the rain stopped, and the clouds lifted. Jamesy fell asleep and I pulled over to take this amazing picture looking north towards Santa Monica and Malibu. By the time I got back into the car, my spirits had lifted and I smiled looking at my angelic boy, who was still sleeping soundly.

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens (All Rights Reserved.)

This is a picture I took after driving to Malibu one Sunday last month to get my youngest to nap. William and I chatted, sang songs and then decided to go to a different canyon in north Malibu than we normally do. After we arrived, Jamesy was refreshed from his nap and we had a fun hike in the bizarre heat. It had risen to 90 degrees, so we kept close to the trees for shade. I took several pictures of the boys, and then looked up and was fascinated by the simple beauty of the old trees. Their elegant, wise, arthritic branches seemed to say to me: “Keep reaching. Keep going. Keep striving to find the light.”

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens (All Rights Reserved.)

Driving back from Santa Barbara last February, I felt compelled to pull to this exact spot on the side of the highway. With the boys still snapped in the car, I pulled to a safe spot on the side of the road and stepped out, taking a picture of this view. Once I got home and uploaded the picture, I noticed the cross on the hill overlooking the Pacific. It made me think that this was a very special location for some family who may have lost someone. Or perhaps someone wanted to be buried here or remembered here. We all find our own places of worship don’t we? There really are little slices of Heaven on Earth—if we open our eyes to them.

Wisdom of Robert Burns

Photo by: Jeremy Dennis

“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!”

Robert BurnsTo a Mouse (Poem, November, 1785)

Time off for me just wasn’t in the cards this past week. If you read my last post than you know how excited I was to have a day off from the kiddos. Something, clearly, was conspiring in the Universe against this plan. My ex emailed me Sunday a.m. that he had missed his flight from London to LA. Well…I don’t always check email first thing on a Sunday, so both my boys were waiting and packed for his 10 a.m. pick up. Around 9:45, I got a nagging feeling, like a pit of doubt, that sometimes settles in my stomach when dealing with my ex. Before checking my email I instinctively knew it was off.

I had a suspicious feeling the overnight visit might not happen for the boys, even before Sunday morning. See, I have this theory about bad things happening in 3s. When I was a crime reporter for a daily newspaper in North Carolina we’d expect a third murder by the next full moon. If there had only been one murder that month, we knew to expect two murders by the morning. And it always worked out that way. Even our EMT friends and emergency room staff would get ready. I still don’t know why that is. … But I digress. My little let-downs are nothing compared to murders obviously, but still, I was on alert.

First there was the poop in the bath Friday night—a sign that relaxing in the jacuzzi sans children might not happen. The second sign happened the next day when I almost wrecked. I was in a hurry to get my son to his soccer game. At a red light I quickly put sunscreen on my face (I’m neurotic now after two skin cancer scares) and then handed it back to my boys. I’m rubbing it in quickly, the light turns green, and as I cross the intersection, I feel an excruciating pain suddenly cut into my eyes and then I can ‘t see. If it wasn’t dangerous it would be hilarious. I start screaming “Mother!” One of my boys starts laughing, the other crying. I pull over after I manage to cross the intersection and tears won’t stop streaming from my eyes. Man, it was so bad, I could barely navigate to the soccer fields and commenced to cry the entire game. I couldn’t see to cheer my little guy on and my two-year-old kept walking up to the other parents saying, “Something’s wrong with my mommy!” Little does he know what a loaded statement that is! LOL

So, I survive the game and start to get excited about Sunday’s impending freedom. As you know, it never happens. Well, I made the best of it. My boys and I actually had a blast. I still don’t know why their dad didn’t call first thing. I called him and asked him to tell the boys via skype why he wouldn’t be there. He promised to squeeze in a five hour visit during his layover the next day on his way to Australia. My oldest held back tears.

So, the lesson learned is that I always need to have a plan B.  I packed them up and we went to a local October fair where we ran into schoolmates and neighbors. It was a great day, even in the scorching heat. That evening I invited a good friend, also a single mom, and her son over for dinner. I made the yummiest salad with heirloom farmer’s market tomatoes and avocados, baked chicken with herbs de Provence and roasted carrots and fingerling potatoes. Even the kiddos loved it! We played puzzles with the youngest and the two oldest boys played with Star Wars legos. I have to say, it ended up being one of the best Sundays I have had in a long time.

And you know what? Their dad did show up the next day during his layover, bearing presents. He met us at school where I volunteer as a creative writing teacher once a week. I was so nervous that his flight might get delayed, or something else might happen to thwart the visit, that I had a backup plan of an ice cream play-date in the works. But, I didn’t need it. As I walk out of the classroom, my ex is leaning against the wall, his suitcase in hand. He has his English blue sweater on—clearly sweating in our Southern California heat—with a smile on his face that I forgotten he owned. It’s a smile the melts hearts. My oldest ran to him. The teacher seemed enamored with him and chatted nervously with him a bit before we three, oddly, walk into town together as if we see each other every day. The youngest, who was with the sitter, got to see his dad later and oh’d and ah’d over his bath toys from Hamley’s. As odd as it was, it ended up being a great, albeit short, visit for the boys. In the end, they are very excited about seeing him next weekend when he’s on another stop over from Australia back to London. I’m confident he won’t let them down this time. But then again, cough, you know what Mr. Burns says about the best laid plans …

Beauty, Forgiveness in Letting Go

I can’t stop thinking about The New York Times article “Untying the Knot in Japan” by Paige Ferrari. In fact, ever since reading the article that outlines this new Japanese trend of divorce ceremonies, I can’t stop the steady stream of images from daydreams, clearly inspired by this idea. Obviously, I crave closure. One snippet of my dream keeps popping into my mind—like disjointed, still frame, romantic images. I even sent a message to my soon-to-be Ex about wanting to have a divorce ceremony. Not surprisingly, he didn’t reply.

Perhaps I’ll just have one on my own. Before reading this article, I had thought (once the divorce was final) I’d invite a friend or two to come with me as I throw my wedding band off the end of one of the Southern California piers into the Pacific Ocean. I imagined I’d say a few things before the toss about mixed blessings; becoming stronger; putting my sons first; or living a better life. But now I see what I really want is a ceremony that would honor the 12 years my husband and I spent together. I’d love a ceremony that is like a symbolic blessing to us both—releasing us to move on and inspiring us to be respectful of one another for the sake of our boys.

In Ferrari’s article, a divorce ceremony is outlined where both the ex-husband and ex-wife come together, say a few words in front of a witness, and then both use a hammer to crush their wedding bands. It’s a somber occasion, but one that respects their former union, blesses the two to move on, and confirms the importance of their child’s health and happiness. More ex-couples would benefit from a ceremony such as this, don’t you think? Since I’ll likely never have one with my Ex who lives in London, I will dream of one that allows me to let go and continue on with beauty and hope.

In my recurring dream, a paper lantern floats wobbly in a river—the candle light inside flickering in and out through a heavy layer of fog. It moves with fragility in the water and I am compelled to reach out to it. I have been waiting for it alone on a dock and I stretch to reach it, but can not. I am frightened that the light will burn out, so I stretch my body along the scratchy wood planks of the dock, my upper torso dangling precariously over the water. Finally one long finger touches the side of the lantern and I pull it towards me. I lift it up and put my wedding ring inside. I let myself think for a moment about the beauty of our wedding, the sweetness of our love that day, and the hope we both once had. Inside the other crease of the lantern, I place two folded pieces of paper with messages to my soon-to-be ex-husband.

“Don’t forget your boys,” is written on one note.

“I forgive you,” on the other.

I visualize all the hurt and pain that I have felt over the past two years as a smoke rising from a flame. The wind lifts it up in the crisp night air and allows it to combine with the fog. I place the paper lantern with my ring and messages back into the river and push it gently into the current.

As I watch it drift away, I let go of all anger and bitterness.

I close my eyes, envision my beautiful boys, and allow myself to feel blessed in this parting.

Rooftop Party or Park with my Boys … Decisions, Decisions!

Last week I was actually invited to a party at The Standard Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. (How I managed that, I’m still not sure!) It was perfect timing as I’d been dying to go out and dance for a long time. I remember going to The Standard years ago and how cool the rooftop bar is, the music, the swinging chairs, the mojitos. Well, as you can imagine, I’m not exactly going to The Standard much anymore. But I could picture it like a siren’s call: a nice warm late summer evening, a sleeveless top, tan shoulders, my sexy jeans, heels, a simmering breeze, some thumping Euro Trash music. I visualized myself there and I mustered up the courage to even call a few babysitters. As the day wore on, however, I wondered if I really wanted to go to this party. None of my girlfriends were free, so I’d have to go solo. And sure, I’d like to meet someone, or just dress up and flirt a bit. But anyone I might meet at The Standard would likely have NO idea that nights out during the week for me are extremely rare. I doubt that I’d meet a man at The Standard who wouldn’t be intimidated by the fact that I have two children at home, or that I need to be back by midnight for the sitter. In fact, the only way I’d go to that party is if one of my girlfriends were available and I could just dance, sip a mojito, and enjoy the view. Besides, I just ended my first relationship since my husband. One year after my husband asked for a divorce, I began to date a man. He was the first person I had kissed besides my husband in over 13 years! It was too intense, too wonderful, at times too horrible, too gut-wrenching, too wonderful again and all-consuming. At the end of the day, sadly, loving him hurt too much. Enough said.

So now, a month later, I’m wondering: should I even try to date again?? My boys have been through a lot and I should focus on them right now. So, with that in mind, I hung up my strappy top, my sexy jeans and put away my heels for a T-shirt, shorts and sneakers. I made a picnic dinner, picked up my boys and one of their friends and headed to a local park for an evening playdate/picnic. It was definitely the best decision! No, there was no flirting, no lights, no dancing or mojitos—but my boys had a blast. (And, if you read my post about being haunted by playgrounds, there’s no reason to be in the evening. It’s chock full of dads and working moms who are getting some intense playtime in with their kids after work.)

We lucked into a pick-up baseball game too. While that may be no-big-deal to some kids, it was a huge deal to my nine-year-old William. William has actually never had a baseball lesson before. I could tell by the way this man positioned William and told him how to hold the bat, place his feet, and swing at a certain angle, that he knew what he was doing. I found out later that he’s the baseball coach for a local high school. William was SO excited when he hit a double and coach Mike encouraged him to take up baseball this year. And I was really happy to see this dad in action. (No, he’s not single!) It’s just refreshing to see a dad play intently with his kids. He didn’t pull out his blackberry or his iphone once. He wasn’t holding a beer and talking with another friend while the kids ran around. And his eyes didn’t glaze over while his children talked to him. (All scenes I see often.) No, this guy was playing with all three of his boys and now with William and Coco too. He was hands-on in helping them with the game and with conflicts. I could tell that he’s like this with his kids all the time. He reminded me a bit of my brother-in-law in North Carolina who’s a teacher, coach and a wonderful father. I always chalked up seeing men like that as rare in Los Angeles. You might even say that watching this man renewed my faith a bit about living in Southern California. Maybe there are a few good men here? It’s clear to me that there are some who put their families and their kids first. But it’s also clear to me that I’m not likely to meet a man such as this on a Wednesday night rooftop deck party at The Standard.