The If Only Girl
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Me Too

Me too. Not once, not twice, not dozens of times.

Thousands of times.

If you haven’t been on social media in a few days, there is a flurry of women coming forward with the words “Me too.” The call to action was a post that said in part-

If all the women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed wrote “Me Too” as their status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

I’ve read so many posts from my friends, some brief and some heart-wrenchingly long, and I felt called to share my story as well.

When I was six years old my cousin and I who both had super short hair were physically pushed aside by a couple of older women so they could get to my younger sister with her curly blonde hair so they could rave about how beautiful she was. Ah. Girls need to have long hair and they need to be beautiful.

When the boys in middle school snapped my bra strap this fueled my suspicion that my body and my feelings about my body were not my own.

When a man tried to rape me at nineteen I blamed myself. I shouldn’t have worn that outfit, and I shouldn’t have gone into a room alone with him.

When the men in the Army National Guard who didn’t want women in the military disparaged me within hearing distance and laughed raucously I simply pretended I couldn’t hear them. I was on their turf. I had to be careful.

When a man who is in a position of authority over me said a couple of months ago when I didn’t immediately voice an opinion on something when he asked- “Just like a woman. (You) don’t know what to say. Just like a woman.”

When ALL the men (and women) over the years have said some version of- “You’d be so much more attractive if you just smiled.” I’ve thought, Oh. I need to be nicer. That’s right. Women need to be NICE.

And so much more.

I learned young that in order to make it in our society I had to steel myself before I left the house every day. To watch where I went and when. To temper my voice and my opinions so I wouldn’t offend not just the men in the room but the women who were trying to make it in a man’s world. I learned how to pretend not to hear. Not because it was the right thing to do but because it was… easier. It was easier than getting in a fight, than defending myself, than standing up for what I knew was right. It will blow over. This too shall pass. They don’t really mean it. Boys will be boys.

I agree that bringing awareness to the magnitude of this problem is a step in the right direction.

And I could end this post here and I might have friends leave a Heart Icon in the comment section or even a {{{{{{{HUG}}}}}}}

But my story doesn’t stop there.

Yes. I have been the victim of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

But if you were to ask me if I’ve ever been the perpetrator of sexual harassment I would have to say, “Yes.”

Me Too.

In my past I admit that I have gossiped and called other women a B**ch or a Sl*t . In doing so I was not only harassing the woman I was talking about but I was also influencing whoever I was talking to, man or woman.

I’ve seen other women being harassed and I’ve said nothing.

I have been part of the problem.

And, then there’s one of my biggest secrets and deepest regret-

When I was in sixth grade my family moved to a new town. There was a girl in my new class who was physically fully developed and the other girls used to make fun of her. I remember so clearly being in a group of girls surrounding her on the playground chanting terrible things at her about her body while she stood there sullenly, shoulders slumped, hearing our cruel words in her soul.

I knew what I was doing was wrong. I felt it in my blood. But I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be liked. I wasn’t the instigator, I was just a follower.

Years later I ran into this girl and felt my face flush with shame. To my great surprise she lit up with joy when she saw me. I wanted to apologize, to assuage my own guilt, but I didn’t want to make her revisit something that she may have forgotten or released. So, I smiled and made small talk with her.

A few years ago, I earned a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology. I’ve forgiven myself for my actions in sixth grade. The truth is that I was doing the best I knew how to do at the time.

But, as Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Now I know better. I can’t change the past but what I can do is take responsibility for my actions in the future.

I can take ownership of the way I speak about other women. I can speak up when I am the victim of harassment or when I witness harassment of another woman.

I have a voice. I will use it.

Me too.

Christmas on a Fire Truck

In the spirit of the holidays, here's a post from the archives- 20131219-091942.jpg

For the last five years or so my department at work has come together at Christmas to support families in a small trailer park by our office. We found out about these families through our local fire chief so every year he arranges a fire truck and a Santa to deliver the gifts we collect to the children in this park. We can usually coerce six or seven people to leave our busy office to ride on the truck and help Santa pass out the gifts to the children. Let me tell you, riding on top of a fire truck is pretty fun. Seeing the faces of the children when a fire truck drives up their driveway with Santa on top is fantastically fun.

This year we decided to try to help this small community beyond supplying gifts to the children. Everyone brought in little luxuries to make gift bags for the families. Luxuries like chocolates and Christmas cookies and handmade fleece blankets. In addition to providing gift bags for the families with children we decided to make gift bags for the trailers without children as well. Year after year the people in those trailers have come out to watch us take care of the families with children and been happy that they were getting support. Everyone in our department came together to put the gift bags together. We were all excited to know that this would be a complete surprise for absolutely everyone in the trailer park.

We also took up a collection to provide gift cards for a local grocery store so that the families could buy supplies for a nice holiday meal. We’ve done this in the past but we wanted to make a bigger impact this year so we set a pretty high monetary goal for the department.

I was particularly struck by the generosity of a woman I work with. She didn’t bring me money for the collection until the very last day. She apologized and explained that she thought she was going to have to tell me that she just wasn’t in a position to contribute this year but at the very last second miraculously the money appeared. She gave me more than we requested so I offered her change. She insisted that we use it all for the gift cards. She was honored to give more than her share.

A few of us rode on the fire truck today with Santa to deliver everything to the trailer park. It is always incredible to see the children accept their gifts from Santa. For many of them, the gift we give them will be their only gift for Christmas so we all know that it is very special to them. The parents always hang back, taking photos and letting their children have their moment in the sun. Today, however, the parents were all called forward and presented with a gift bag and a gift card for food. They were surprised and grateful.

After all the families with children had received their gifts we started calling forward the homes without children. The first house number we called was that of an elderly couple standing in the background. They couldn’t believe that their names were being called. They slowly came to the fire truck to receive their own gift bag and gift card. At first they were shy and trepidatious, but when Santa handed them the gift bag I saw in their eyes that in that moment they too, felt that they were special. They understood that other people in the world took the time to make sure that they were cared for. It was stunningly beautiful.

Every single person that we gave gift bags and gifts to in that little trailer park on the side of a major city street accepted their gifts with grace and honor. I’ve seen children tear through a dozen gifts on Christmas morning and barely realize what they’ve received. Today I know that every gift was special. Every gift was appreciated. And every recipient felt valued.

This, for me, is the true nature of the holiday spirit. It’s not in what we get this holiday season. The real joy is in what we give.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Jealousy vs. Inspiration

Last week I went to a book panel discussion in Santa Monica. One of my writing teachers was the moderator for the event and I was intrigued enough to make the long drive across the whole of Los Angeles in rush hour traffic. At the event my teacher asked how many people in the audience were writing a memoir. Half the audience, including myself, raised their hands. I was in good company.

I didn't research either of the other two writers on the panel so I was surprised to witness one of them, a twenty-five-year-old woman, speak about how she went from publishing one essay in The New York Times to having editors and agents fight for the right to publish the book she hadn't written yet.

It was the second time that week that I'd been in a situation where I had seen a young woman being celebrated for her accomplishments. A few days before the book panel I went to a gallery opening and watched a twenty-four-year-old woman field compliments and accolades for her solo photography show.

Both times I watched myself to see how I would feel and how I would react.

Both times I noticed an old story coming forward. A story about how these women were too young to accomplish so much so early. A story about how their economic backgrounds must have contributed to their early success. A story about how I deserve to publish a book and show my photography. A story based on my own judgments and insecurities. A story based on comparison, them against me. I'm not at all sure what I was doing at twenty-four but I'm pretty sure it involved working in a mediocre Mexican restaurant and a lot of haphazard plans that I would get to "one day."

On both occasions, rather than succumbing to feelings of inadequacy and lack, I realized that I had a choice in both how I viewed these women and in how I viewed myself. I no longer believe that there is a limited amount of success in the world. I no longer believe that someone else has to fail so that I can succeed. I'm all in with what Stephen Covey references in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I believe in Win-Win. I believe there is enough for all of us. I believe that there is enough for me- enough attention, enough money, and enough love.

Something happened when I shifted my thoughts about this in the presence of these young women. In understanding that their success didn't dim my light, something magical happened. That twinge of jealousy shifted to inspiration. I saw each of them in a new light. I saw beauty and grace in the way they were both sharing their gifts with the world.

Yes! I could do that. I could focus on polishing the essay I've been working on for The New York Times. I could put some of my photos together and have a show somewhere. Neither one of them has done something that is impossible for me. They have shown me that having an art show and publishing a book are both entirely possible.

I came home and immediately downloaded the young woman's book. Here's the thing- it's good. It's really good. She deserves every success. I am grateful that she shared her story with the world, and in doing so she's inspired me to do the same.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Big Tipper

Diner I guess you could call me a big tipper. A few months ago I tipped a waitress in the desert near Joshua Tree, CA a hundred-dollar bill on a twenty-five dollar tab.

Three years ago I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. Chris Guillebeau, who puts on this conference for four thousand "unconventional people doing remarkable things", runs it as a non-profit so when he found that he had money left over at the end of the conference he decided to give each and every attendee a crisp hundred-dollar bill with the caveat- go out and make a difference in the world. I'd been sitting on that hundred-dollar bill for three years.

A year ago I stopped for breakfast at a Denny's in that same area on my way back from an all night gong concert in the desert at the magical Integraton. My server was distracted and overwhelmed but I felt called to show her she was seen and valued. I didn't have enough cash in my wallet to tip her a hundred dollars so I gave her a twenty and set the intention to bring that hundred-dollar bill with me on my next trip to the desert.

My first job waiting tables was at a truck stop in Jamestown, North Dakota. I used to bring home a Styrofoam cup full of change on Sunday afternoons, all the while envious of the far more experienced blonde waitress whose cup always seemed to be filled with dollar bills instead of change. Our Styrofoam cups sat right next to each other on the counter by the coffee machine. I wasn't jealous. I was inspired. I hoped that one day I would also be worthy of dollar bills instead of change.

As I packed for another gong concert a few months ago I found that hundred-dollar bill languishing in an old Moleskine notebook. I put it in my wallet, excited to finally allow this money to fulfill its destiny of making a difference in my little part of the world.

I coerced a friend into having breakfast with me this time. We stopped at a diner I'd never been to before. It was textbook Americana, with red vinyl booths and a black and white checkerboard floor. We slid into a booth. I was in all black yoga apparel, and my friend, who is far more serious about yogic tradition, was dressed in all white with a turban.

Our waitress was prompt and thorough, blonde, polite, and attentive. She was young and eager. She reminded me so much of myself at that truck stop in North Dakota. As my friend and I discussed the prevalence and future of sound healing and Kundalini yoga she filled our coffee cups and made sure we had enough jam.

After we paid the check I called the waitress over and told her the story of how I had been charged with the responsibility of giving away this hundred-dollar bill. As I passed it to her I explained that I felt called to give it to a server in the desert and that I had chosen her.

Tears immediately came to her eyes. She asked, "Do I need to give this to someone else?"

My friend said, "No, you don't have to pay it forward. It's for you."

"You can use it for anything you like," I said, "Buy yourself a little treat, use it to pay a bill, it's totally up to you."

She looked from side to side, weighing her options. She was crying. She hesitated and finally said, "I feel like I shouldn't take it."

I could see how conflicted she was in that moment. I imagined what kinds of things were going through her head- What do they want? Is this a trick? Is there a hidden camera somewhere? Can I trust this?

I thought about all the ways I've been resistant to receiving in my life. From letting a friend buy me dinner to accepting praise, I have tended to push all gifts away, as if doing so makes me stronger or more accomplished. It doesn't. What it does is create distance and alienate me from the people I love.

"Look," I said, "For me this is an exercise in giving. For you this is an exercise in learning to receive. Can you receive this?"

I saw her shift when she decided to take the money. She softened. Her shoulders relaxed and she looked up and said, "Thank you."

In seeing her accept and appreciate such a simple act of generosity I see that I too can learn to receive, whether it's in the form of an unexpected gift from a stranger or a compliment from the checker at the grocery store.

Lover's Lobster for Two

I worked in a beautiful restaurant in Maui in my late twenties. It was one of the most expensive restaurants on the island but we were full every night because the chef was a genius. I'm not at all sure how I got a job there in the first place, the restaurant itself was way out of my league at the time, but the chef was also from Montana and he decided to take a chance on me. Fresh Lobster

He always created special menus for holidays and on Valentine's Day one year he did a very extravagant menu that featured, among other things, a dish he called Lover's Lobster for Two. It was the most expensive dish on the menu that night and it included 2 glasses of champagne and 2 fresh lobster tails which were surely nestled together to form a heart, expertly designed to delight wives and girlfriends.

Valentines' day is one of the busiest nights in any restaurant and that night was no exception. I had a table of newlyweds who, after waiting patiently for their table long past their reservation time, sat in my section, holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other. They ordered the lover's lobster for two. I brought them their champagne. The kitchen was crazy busy that night. I watched these two wait almost an hour and a half for their meal. I'd check with them every so often to see how they were doing and apologize for the kitchen, they were perfectly happy just to sit and nurse their glasses of champagne and wait for this mythical lobster to arrive. They were careful not to finish either glass; they just took tiny little sips ensuring that when the lobster arrived that they would finally be able to enjoy the fantastic food pairing of champagne and lobster.

Because of the chaos of the evening the kitchen ran out of fresh lobster before their order was even started. The chef pulled frozen lobster tails from the freezer and I realized that this lovely patient couple would not get the lobster they deserved, but this substandard replacement. My heart sank but I knew there really wasn't anything I could do.

When their plate showed up in the window, two small lobster tails sliding around in a broken butter sauce, I had no option but to take it out to them, head slouched in shame. They didn't deserve second place, they didn't deserve to have lobster that had been in the restaurant freezer for months instead of the lobster that had been flown in fresh that morning. They received the plate with delight and savored every single bite, raving about how delicious it was. They still had a little champagne left in each glass to enjoy the lovely pairing of frozen lobster tail and warm champagne.

I was embarrassed, but I certainly couldn't tell them that their meal wasn't exactly what they expected. I had to allow them to believe that they were enjoying perfectly fresh lobster. I don't know how long they saved for that meal, it was clear to me that they didn't indulge in expensive restaurants often. Not because of the way they spoke or acted, but because I saw the reverence that they attached to the evening. Every detail was special for them; they didn't take any of it for granted. I brought them a chocolate soufflé for desert on the house, I told them it was to thank them for their patience in waiting so long for their meal. I couldn't tell them it was because they didn't have the experience I thought they deserved to have. They were pleasantly surprised by the soufflé, once again, savoring and enjoying each and every bite.

I've been keeping notes on scraps of paper my entire life, preparing for the book I am finally writing and this story has always stood out as being significant to me. I've wondered just what was so memorable about that night and that couple. It wasn't just about the fact that they unwittingly settled for second best, because they had no idea that the lobster they received wasn't the best possible quality.

It was really about the grace I saw in these two people. All around them diners were tapping their watches and making demands- it was a busy night, the kitchen was slow. If anyone in the restaurant had a reason to complain that night it was this couple. But they didn't complain. In fact, they did exactly the opposite. I can only imagine that they had been looking forward to having an incredible experience that night. At any point during the evening they could have chosen to view their experience differently, they could have seen the situation as upsetting or disappointing. Instead, they held hands and sipped their champagne and chose to have the night that they dreamed of having. I don't know if it would have mattered if I brought them a plate of ham sandwiches, they probably would have been pleased. They were predisposed to have a good time no matter what. Even as a twenty-something waitress I saw the beauty and the power in their behavior.

I know now that I can also choose in each moment how I perceive what is happening. Frozen lobster can be magnificent or it can be tragic. The choice is entirely up to me.

The choice is also, entirely up to you. How are you viewing your world today?

UncategorizedLaura Comment
Lessons from Pain

I've always prided myself on my ridiculously high pain threshold. I broke my ankle in sixth grade gym class and walked home afterwards. A couple of years ago I broke my little toe just before I left the house to do an entire Bikram yoga class, balancing poses and all. In Army basic training I marched with a 50-pound rucksack on my back until my brain shut off all feeling in my feet. I thought I understood pain. I've had my fair share of medical conditions in my life. In every circumstance the intake nurse always asks the question- "What's your pain level?" There is usually a poster nearby with an array of illustrated faces on it to show the different levels of pain. From a happy smiley face at 0 to an angry crying monstrous face with lightning shooting out of its head at 10.

No matter what, I had never claimed to be anywhere above a 6.

A few weeks ago I looked a nurse square in the eye and told her I was at a 9. I had never experienced pain at that level before. Eventually I found out I have shingles and a problem in my lower back that affects a nerve in my leg. Nobody could tell me which issue was causing the pain. Really, it didn't matter where it came from; my primary focus in life became how to make it stop. My priorities quickly shifted from my frustration with not being able to do spin classes for a few weeks to wondering how I could possibly climb up the stairs to my house without falling over and crying. The pain moved beyond just distracting to pervasive and all encompassing.

I've had a number of medical issues in my life and rather than just get through this I decided to learn as much as I could from this pain. I vowed to be brave enough to look at what this pain had to teach me.

The lessons I learned from this weren't at all what I would have expected. Being in that kind of pain broke me open in a way that nothing else ever has. I was stripped of everything I usually rely on to protect me in this world. My intelligence, my wit, my charm- none of these things served me in this situation. I had no control over my emotions. I cried in front of absolute strangers- nurses, doctors, Uber drivers. I didn't care. I put myself in situations with doctors I didn't know and I simply trusted that they would help me.

Here's the thing- these doctors and nurses and receptionists did help me. But it wasn't because I stood up for myself and DEMANDED that they help me. It wasn't because I cocked my head to the side and batted my eyes at them to CHARM them into helping me. It wasn't because I had done my research and interviewed 4 different surgeons and CONVINCED them why and how they should help me. It wasn't even because I was crying in front of them because for the most part I wasn't. They didn't help me out of pity.

They helped me out of compassion. They helped me because I was wide open and bare in front of them. The mask I usually wear to protect myself from the world was completely gone. I was just raw, primal, thoroughly and absolutely my true self. They saw ME, the real ME. The Laura within Laura. And they moved heaven and earth to help that part of me. Not because of anything I did, but because they saw the honesty and the humanity of my true self. They saw and were moved to help the part of me I've fought my whole life to hide, to protect from the world.

I went from an MRI to 8 steroid injections in my spine in less than 3 days. That process usually takes weeks. Thankfully the shots initially released most of the pain. I've had more pain creep back in and I'm doing my best to manage it. Carefully. Respectfully. Knowing that pain is a difficult teacher but there are great lessons to be learned.

I AM grateful for the lessons I am learning from this pain.

I AM grateful for the compassion and generosity I was and continue to be shown by all the medical professionals involved in my care.

I AM grateful to the support I've received from the friends and family I reached out to for help.

More than anything, I AM grateful for seeing the gifts that can come from sharing my true self with the world.

Pesto 101

There was a boy in college who decided that he was going to date me. This was long before cell phones so his plan of approach was to show up at my apartment occasionally to charm me. I was generally not home, so he often ended up chatting with my younger sister about how fabulous I was. When he finally actually caught me at home I was rather short when I asked him what he wanted. He mustered up his courage and said that he wanted to make me dinner. I took pity on him and agreed.

Basil

The afternoon of our dinner date he showed up at my apartment again. He was making pesto and didn't have enough money left to buy a crucial ingredient. He asked to borrow $3 so he could get fresh basil. I was surprised and somewhat annoyed but I gave him the $3.

I had never had a man cook for me before. My father, on the rare occasion when he had to make dinner, was certainly capable of heating up a can of soup or making a sandwich, but not much more.

I went to his rather fabulous but incredibly small studio apartment at the specified time to find him mincing garlic and boiling water in his kitchen. He had gone all out. He plied me first with a bottle of good white wine as he laid out a simple tray of appetizers- a few cheeses with some salami and good crusty bread drizzled with olive oil. Even though I had been working in restaurants for a couple of years, I didn't know much about food or how it is really prepared. I was intrigued when he pulled out a mortar and pestle and began crushing the garlic with the fresh basil and toasted pine nuts for the pesto. I had never seen anything like it. He was careful and methodical in the way he prepared everything. He took pride in the little things, the way he sliced the bread, the way he slid the spaghetti noodles into a large pot of boiling water, the way he uncorked a second bottle of wine. It was clear that he had been preparing for this evening for some time.

The spaghetti pesto, when we finally sat down to eat it, was perfect. I had never tasted anything that earthy and fragrant. I realized how very much I had to learn about good food.

As my fork swirled bite after bite of the perfect pesto I looked up and saw this boy in a different light. He was no longer just the boy who had been harassing me. I saw passion in him, a passion for food and a passion for life. I wanted some of what he had. I wanted to find my pesto.

I look back now and marvel at the courage it must have taken for him to come to my house and ask for $3 to buy basil. I wonder how he ate for the rest of the week. I wonder if he had to walk to school in North Dakota in the winter instead of taking the bus. At the time I was so self-absorbed that none of these considerations came into my head. I can't tell you how the evening ended. There may have been an innocent kiss by the end of the night, but I am sure there wasn't more.

After that night I didn't have the courage to tell him that I wasn't interested so my sister ended up having to explain that I didn't want to see him again. From what I understand there was some crying and some shots of tequila involved while she consoled him about his loss. It didn't matter to me.

I realize now the gift he gave me that night, in showing me the passion that can be associated with food. I went on to work in some of the finest restaurants in the country and learn a lot about food. I've also had the great fortune of having a number of fabulous men cook for me.

I see now that I owe that boy a great debt. Not for the attention that he paid to me, there were plenty of boys at the time to do that, but for taking the time to show me what true passion looked like. By showing me his passion for food he opened me up to believing that I could and I would find that kind of passion for myself.

UncategorizedLauraComment
"Someone Like You"

When I lived in San Francisco one of my restaurant friends vehemently loved Van Morrison. We'd go to her house after work and open bottles of wine and increasingly become less and less intelligible as we sang along. I didn't understand her fascination with him, I thought the music was a little folksy but I was so happy to spend time with her that I would have listened to anything. It was in San Francisco that my dreams of becoming a fashion designer started to come true. I landed a job with an accessories company as a production assistant and worked my way up into the design room as a coordinator between design and production. Fashion is a very stressful business and eventually the head designer decided he wanted to cut back and focus just on the women's line so I was given the opportunity to design for our kid's division. I was so excited that I would often go into the office at night after they gym to work on my collections. I remember clearly the joy of strategizing and reworking each piece over and over again alone in the office on those nights. Our office was fabulous. It was in an old warehouse south of market with exotically big windows and a spectacular view of the bay bridge.

I had a mixed CD in the stereo at the office, a compilation with Van Morrison's version of "Someone Like You" on it. I used to put this song on repeat and look out of those windows at the lights of downtown San Francisco and the bay bridge and feel in my heart that my dreams were finally starting to come true. I'd wanted to be a fashion designer since I was a little girl. I started making clothes for my dolls as soon as my mother taught me how to sew. I realize that part of my satisfaction was in knowing that I had worked really, really hard for that job. I started design school in Maui in my late twenties. I worked 2 and 3 jobs on the side for my first 5 years in the industry. There was definitely a sense of joy in finally accomplishing something that hadn't been easy.

I felt like I was starting to make it. I was designing my first collection. Yes, it was a line of hats and bags for little girls with Santa appliques but it was a collection and I was the designer and someone was paying me to do it.

Even though I didn't have a passport and I'd never been out of the country I just knew that my fashion career and my future were both going to be amazing.

Most people see this as a love song. This song has never been about that for me. Oh, I've had my fair share of "IF ONLY my prince would come" moments, but not surrounding this song. Somehow it became associated with wistful optimism in my mind. I assume it's because when I used to listen to it with my restaurant friend we would stay up most of the night dreaming and strategizing about our fabulous futures.

I'm in a graduate program in Spiritual Psychology. At the end of every class weekend we all practice a ritual similar to speed dating where we grasp hands and look into each other's eyes for a few seconds before a bell rings and we move onto the next person. A lot of people cry during this process. It's very powerful not just to fully see someone else, but also to be truly and absolutely seen. After 5 minutes of so everyone stops and they play an inspirational song. Last month that song was "Someone Like You." They referenced the first line; "I've been searching a long time for someone like you." We were told; maybe the one you've been searching for is you.

I felt the tears bubble up from my soul. I went right back to that warehouse in San Francisco. I was reminded of the hope and the optimism that I felt during that time. Nobody gave me the power to be optimistic then, I gave that power to myself. My future was completely and absolutely up to me.

After over 20 years in the fashion industry I have a well-used passport and I'm grateful to have traveled all over the world. I realize that I can approach my future today the same way I approached it then, with a feeling of hope and optimism, with the belief that anything is possible and that I alone am in charge of my destiny.

It seems appropriate to quote one of the last lines of "Someone Like You" here-

The best is yet to come.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Waiting for the SUN

It's not what it sounds like. I do not live at the North Pole. I live in Southern California where I see the sun almost each and every day. I waited almost 9 months for a large gong named after the Sun. The best gong manufacturer is a German company named Paiste. About 30 years ago they started making gongs associated with the planets. The Sun is one of the largest (and most spectacular) gongs they make.

The Sun

I started training with a gongmaster in Orange County a couple of years ago. The Sun is the very first gong I ever played. I fell in love with it right then and right there. After about a year I played it safe and ordered the much smaller and more reasonable Venus gong. But I wasn't satisfied. As I was waiting for Venus I kept telling a friend of mine how much I really wanted the Sun. Finally, he said,

 Are you going to spend the rest of your life settling for second best? If the Sun is what you want then get the Sun.

His comment stunned me. He was right. I thought about the ways I settle for second best in my life. There are so many situations where I just compromise because it's easier or it's cheaper or I don't want to have to explain myself.

So I decided that this time I would do exactly what I really wanted to do. I ordered the Sun. I ordered through my teacher because it seemed like the respectful thing to do. Even though the Sun was in stock online (at 20% off with free shipping) I decided that my life isn't just about searching for the best deal. My teacher suggested I order through him so I did. He told me to practice patience.

I waited. Month after month I pictured the brothers in Germany who make these gongs chanting mantras and hand hammering my gong. I practiced patience. I got irritated and then angry and then I practiced patience again. I set up the stand for it in my living room, a daily reminder that this time I was not settling for second best. I was willing to wait for what I really wanted.

Every once in awhile when I saw my gong teacher I'd cautiously and optimistically ask about the Sun. Every time there was a calm rational explanation. Gongs are becoming so popular. Each and every one is hand made. It takes time. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ship into Los Angeles harbor; they may have the ship to the east coast and put it on a train.

Then one day, the news came. The Sun was in California. After waiting for almost 9 months the Sun was mine at last.

Finally, I sat in front of it in my living room and prepared to play. I wondered if it could possibly meet the expectations that had built up in the months that I'd been waiting. In our culture of instant gratification I realize that I haven't waited for something like this in a really long time.

I wanted the Sun. I went after the Sun. I waited and waited and waited and I got the Sun. At any step of the way I could have changed my mind, I could have said that it was taking too long, I could have demanded my money back, I could have tried to switch to a smaller gong that may have been easier to get. I could have settled for second best. I didn't. I held out for what I really wanted.

The moment I finally played it I knew for sure, some things are absolutely worth waiting for.

Shopping in the Season of Joy

I work as a fashion designer. So, for better or worse, shopping the stores is part of my job. A few weeks ago I spent a day at South Coast Plaza, the biggest, most prestigious shopping mall in Orange County. It wasn't close enough to Christmas to be crazy on a weekday but there were a fair number of shoppers in the stores. I realize that you might not have empathy for me, but after walking all day I finally sat down in the Tory Burch store to lounge on their fabulous couches and rest for a moment. Tory Burch is one of the hottest brands out there today and their stores are always crowded. This day was no exception. Next to me on the sofa were several women trying on pair after pair of the newest boots contemplating and debating every detail. There were a few men, obviously on a mission for their wives, and several women "just looking" but what really struck me was a woman slumped across from me in a plush overstuffed chair. At this location they process all payments in the back of the store. This allows their customers to sit down for a few moments to wait for their (beautifully) wrapped packages to be delivered to them. I could see that she was waiting for her purchase.

She looked completely defeated. Her shoulders were slumped, she had another shopping bag at her feet and she seemed miserable. She didn't have a lovely glass of champagne in her hand or one of the tiny little bottles of water that they bring for anyone who asks. She seemed isolated and alone, waiting with resignation for something I'm not at all sure that she even wanted.

What I was witnessing was the opposite of Joy. I realized in looking back on the day that I had seen this on face after face in the mall that day. When did this happen? When did the joy go out of shopping? When did shopping become a chore?

I thought about the way shopping, especially shopping for clothing, has transformed for myself. I used to get excited about each and every purchase. I would save for things, lust after things, watch for sales and be delighted when I finally brought something I had desperately wanted home. I realize that I don't do that anymore. If I really want something and I love it I will usually just buy it. Truthfully though, I don't buy much anymore. One of the reasons, certainly, is that I have several closets full of clothes I don't wear but beyond that I find that I don't yearn for THINGS the way I used to.

When I was fifteen all I wanted was a pair of Hash jeans. In my little town in North Dakota Hash jeans were the epitome of high fashion. Popular girls had multiple pairs. I just wanted one. They were outrageously expensive for the time. Now most of us are desensitized to the price of denim, many people don't blink at jeans that cost $200 and up. At the time my mother still bought Plain Pockets jeans from JC Penney. I don't know what those Hash jeans cost, but they were the equivalent of many pairs of Plain Pockets. No matter how hard I pleaded with my mother she wouldn't budge. Plain Pockets were good enough for me.

So I dreamed and I strategized and I saved until I finally had enough money to purchase my own pair of Hash jeans. I clearly remember the day I actually went into the store to buy them. What distinguished Hash jeans from every other brand at the time was the fact that they had different embroidered designs on one of the back pockets. I easily spent over an hour in the store debating between the different options before deciding on a pair with an EAGLE on the back pocket. I was happy to hand over my hard-earned money in exchange for this fantastic symbol of lavish luxury. I wore them as often as I dared with pride. Acquiring those jeans was an accomplishment for me. They meant something.

Today I have a drawer with a dozen pairs of expensive jeans that I never wear. None of them are special. None of them have an eagle on the back pocket.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about the future of retail, about how brick and mortar stores can differentiate themselves from all the online options available today. I think the key lies in changing the shopping experience for the consumer. It lies in finding a way to allow that shopper in the Tory Burch store to find JOY again in the shopping process. It lies in educating consumers about the everyday choices they make between quality and quantity and how these decisions affect us all. It lies in each of us taking responsibility for how and why we buy things and what they mean to us.

As we round the bend towards the end of this holiday shopping season may we all keep this in mind. Whether you are still buying gifts for others or buying things for yourself, what is special to you? What is really valuable to you? What will bring you or your friends and family JOY?

How has the shopping experience changed for you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

UncategorizedLauraComment
My Sister is a Rock Star

My sister lives in North Dakota. She teaches high school and has coached the girl's volleyball team there for 20 years. I know that every year her team makes it to the state finals and that she often not only wins the state tournaments, but has also many times been named coach of the year for North Dakota. 500 wins

Now, I am not an athlete and I've never understood much about her world and what she does. She was always great at sports, I struck out each and every time I got to bat in the one year I spent in softball.

I went to her house last week for Thanksgiving. She was gracious enough to host our entire family. My brother in law called me a few days before I left to tell me that some of her players and their parents were planning a surprise celebration for her because she had just won her 500th game. Even I know that winning 500 games must be a pretty big deal but I had no idea what kind of an impact she has made on her players and her community.

I am so incredibly grateful that my flights were on time so that I could witness this celebration first hand. We arrived at her school to find over a hundred people waiting to honor her. There were tearful speeches. There was cake. The local news station sent out a camera and a reporter.

What stuck me though, was not the number of people in the room or the fact that she'd be on the news that night. I realized that for the first time in my life I was seeing my sister as she really is, at her best, in her element.

I saw the reverence that each and every current and former player brought to her as they waited patiently in line to shake her hand and congratulate her. I saw the tears in their eyes as they told my sister how she had impacted them and their lives. I saw my sister accepting these words with grace and elegance. I saw her not as the younger sibling I used to boss around, but as an accomplished woman who each and every day brought the best of herself to the work that she does. I saw how much she's invested in all the girls she's coached; I saw the generosity she's shown to her entire community.

I saw her as the rock star that she is in her world. I'd never thought of her like that before. I think of another sister as a rock star, she's a world-class mountaineer. I know that some people see me as a rock star simply because I've had a certain amount of success in my fashion career but seeing my sister this way made me stop to think- maybe everyone is a rock star in their own way. None of us can know, just by looking at someone else, how they’ve impacted the people in their lives.

Beyond the quantifiable markers of my sisters success, the 500 wins or the number of times she's won Coach of the Year, I see now that the way she worked with the hundreds of girls who played for her is the real reason I see her as a rock star. In addition to being incredibly proud of her, I'm grateful that I finally was able to see her as she really is.

I am inspired by her grace and her humility and her honor.

What a gift, to discover the true nature of someone I thought I knew.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Safe

When I think about the word SAFE I first think about baseball, with a player sliding into one of the bases and an umpire in a striped uniform spreading his arms wide and yelling, "SAFE". But the word SAFE has so many different meanings and connotations for everyone. A few weeks ago I was asked to think about a time in my past where I felt isolated and alone. I wasn't asked to think about a time where I didn't feel safe but the incident that came up for me was certainly linked to a lack of safety.

I went back to my late twenties when I was living in Maui with a man I knew I didn't love. I spent two years with him hoping that I could learn to love him but I eventually came to the painful realization that it just wouldn't work between us. I broke up with him and made plans to move back to the mainland. I had to move out of the condo we shared right on the ocean and I moved in with a girl for a few months to ease my transition. She had a bird that lived in the bathroom and attacked me almost every day in the shower. She also did laundry in my bedroom and would come in at all hours of the night to put her clothes in the dryer. I realize now, of course, that all of this was ridiculous but at twenty-something I didn't know how to stand up for myself. I worked in a restaurant at the time so I had many restaurant friends who would drink with me until all hours of the night and commiserate about how difficult my situation was, but I knew when I left the island I wouldn't keep in touch with any of them.

Then a specific incident came up for me. Halfway through my time in Maui my mother shipped my sewing machine to me so I could start fashion school at Maui Community College. I came home after a shift at the restaurant to find the box torn apart in the middle of the living room floor and I woke the boyfriend up to have a fit because he ruined my box. I knew, of course, that I would be shipping that sewing machine again and that I would need a box to do that. I am sure he didn't even consider the concept that I would ever need that box again. I was angry. He was tired. We fought. He threw me against a wall to shut me up. My blood went cold. I had never felt so isolated or alone in my life. I spent the entire night pacing the floor and trying to find a justification not to immediately leave him. I had principles. I had standards. Being thrown against a wall was a deal breaker for me. I felt like I was in danger. What would be next? I didn't sleep. In the morning I called my family and told them I had to leave. My sister offered to fly out to pack me up and get me out of there.

Here's the thing- it took me another year to actually leave. He never did actually hit me, and he didn't throw me against a wall again but I began to notice the subtle violence in the way he would talk to me. I agonized over the fact that I didn't immediately leave. I violated my personal code of ethics with myself. I felt like I made the decision to stay with him out of weakness and fear.

It is only in revisiting this incident much later, in thinking about what that isolation and that fear meant to me that I had a powerful realization. Throughout my entire body I felt the warmth and the confidence of safety. I fully know that I AM SAFE.

I have always been safe. I was safe in that moment and I am safe now. I am safe inside myself, I am safe in my heart, my soul, the essence of me is safe. Regardless of what happens on the outside, the fingers and the toes, the me within me is safe.

I grew up believing that the world is fraught with danger. Don't talk to strangers. Be careful. There is danger around every corner.

What if instead there is safety everywhere? What if I start living my life believing that I am inherently safe rather than constantly in danger? How can my life be different?

I'm ready to find out.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Cancerversary

It's my cancerversary. 7 years ago today I was diagnosed with cancer. My sister sent me a message this afternoon reminding me of this fact. This took my by surprise. I don't automatically recognize the date as being significant anymore. I took a moment when I saw the message from her to reflect.

I thought about how different my life is now than it was before my diagnosis. Before my diagnosis I was sure that I had to do everything myself. I knew that people were unreliable; if I trusted anyone I was sure I would be let down.

Cancer forced me to re-examine this principle. First of all, hospitals don't let patients go to chemo by themselves. I had to step outside my comfort zone and not only ask the people in my life for help, but also to actually accept help when it was offered.

I don't write about this very much, but today, on my cancerversary, I do want to share a few things that 7 years later I know that I am grateful for-

I AM GRATEFUL for the casual friends who were with me on the beach in Maui the day I was diagnosed. They are no longer casual friends; they are, unequivocally, family.

I AM GRATEFUL for my friend from another state who showed up in the waiting room after my surgery, he knew that I needed support but that I didn't have the courage to ask for it.

I AM GRATEFUL for my work friend who held my hand when they put the needle in my arm during my first chemo treatment.

I AM GRATEFUL for my beauty school drop-out friend who shaved my head and took me wig shopping the day my hair started falling out by the handful.

I AM GRATEFUL for my friend the photographer who took portraits of me and my bald head with respect and grace. It may seem like a small gesture, but he helped me take my power back, he helped me to feel in control of my situation.

I AM GRATEFUL that my best friends are no longer Ativan and Ambien, but Grace and Ease.

I AM GRATEFUL for the spin instructors who stood at the front of my bike and pushed me just like any other rider, skull cap and all.

I AM GRATEFUL for the doctors and the nurses who took the time to connect with me as a human being and cared for me with compassion and kindness.

I AM GRATEFUL for my family who came to my rescue each and every day of treatment and beyond.

I AM GRATEFUL that cancer, rather than taking my life, taught me what it looks like and feels like to really live.

I realize that the lessons I learned from cancer are simple- I learned that relationships and connections with human beings are more powerful and significant than any other marker of success that I could have.

So, happy cancerversary to me. Here's to another year.

UncategorizedLauraComment
Grace and Ease

One of my yoga teachers often uses the phrase- "with Grace and Ease". He's passionate about guiding his students to add this phrase whenever they speak about something they want. For instance, someone can wish for a certain amount of money but if they don't add- "with Grace and Ease", they could be involved in an accident and be awarded a large sum of money but be disabled for life. I've listened to him speak about this with stars in my eyes. Yes! I want that! I want more Grace and Ease in my life! IF ONLY- I knew how to get it.

I'm happy to say that in the last month I've seen Grace and Ease in action. However, it didn't look at all like I thought it would. Let me explain.

Car

I was in a small car accident about a month ago. I pulled out into the street in front of my house and ran right into another car. I just didn't see them. It was loud. It was disruptive. It was shocking and unnatural and upsetting. Immediately after our cars settled I ran over to the couple in the other car and started apologizing profusely.

They were calm. They wanted to be sure that I was OK. They were OK. We were all OK.

They had just bought a new car. They had much more damage than I had. They could have been furious. They could have screamed and yelled and waved their hands around in the air. They didn't do any of that. Their main concern is that I wasn't injured. Most of the cars that drove by stopped to make sure that we were all OK. People walking down the street stopped to check on us. I realized that I have an entire community in my own neighborhood, in the neighborhood I drive in and out of without stopping to talk to anyone expect the occasional next-door neighbor. As surreal and uncomfortable as the situation was, it was eye opening for me to see the opportunity I have for connection in my own backyard.

More than anything, I was blown away by the incredible kindness and generosity of the couple in the car I hit. A situation that had the potential for ugliness was filled with Grace and Ease because of the way they reacted.

We both called our insurance companies, mine sent a tow truck and arranged a rental car and promised me that they would take good care of the people in the other car. I was overwhelmed with gratitude when they said that, I chose wisely, my insurance company is honorable and the people who had been so nice to me would be treated in kind.

When their tow truck came we all said an awkward farewell in the middle of the street. I wanted more than anything to hug both of them, to make sure they knew that I was truly sorry and that their kindness had touched me in a profound and beautiful way. I didn't hug them, we waved and they were gone.

It took a month for the body shop to fix my car. Every couple of days they would call and promise to be done by that afternoon but something would come up and they would need to fix something else. Eventually I was turned over to the manager of the shop because he felt so terrible that they couldn't manage to finish my car. I went in last week to pick it up and waited for an hour before they told me they needed more time and put me back in a rental for the weekend.

The manager of the body shop was astounded that I didn't have a fit. He praised me over and over again for my patience. He offered to waive the majority of my deductible. He offered to rent a Mercedes for me for the weekend. He insisted that I give him a hug before I left. He couldn't believe that I was not upset.

I thought about this, I know that most people would have yelled and screamed and made demands. Certainly it was inconvenient for me to not know day by day when my car would be done. I live in South Pasadena, where I had to go every couple of days and pay $2.00 a night to park in front of my house. I spent an inordinate amount of time at gas stations doing the math to determine how much gas I needed to put in the car to make it a few more days so I wouldn’t be charged refueling charges by the rental company. But none of it was terrible. Certainly it was inconvenient but terrible? No.

I finally picked up my car yesterday. Unfortunately it's not as glamorous and new as the cars I've been driving for the last month, but it's mine and it's fixed and I only had to pay a little portion of my deductible.

So, what's this all about, this sudden influx of Grace and Ease that I'm witnessing in my life? Should I attribute it to the fact that I've recommitted myself to my morning yoga and meditation? Or is this the way the universe is rewarding me for all the good things I've done, is this karma coming back to me?

Or is it about something else entirely? I realize that I didn't play the victim in either circumstance. Did the car accident HAPPEN TO ME? Was the body shop delaying my car because these kinds of things always HAPPEN TO ME?

No.

I immediately saw my role and responsibility in the car accident. I accepted that I made a mistake and was grateful for the kindness and compassion I received from the couple in the other car. I understood that the people at the body shop were doing the best they could do. I, in turn, treated them with the kindness and respect that I have been shown in so many instances in my life. I didn't give my power away by attributing any of these situations to an outside force manipulating my life. I saw my role in both situations and reacted in a way that was honest and true for me in both cases.

My reward has been to dance with my new best friends Grace and Ease. I welcome my new friends. Take your shoes off, Grace and Ease. Stay awhile.

Gratuitous Tipping

I worked as a server in restaurants for almost 20 years. I started in a coffee shop in the middle of North Dakota and ended in one of the highest profile fine dining restaurants in the fabulously sophisticated food-centric San Francisco. A few months ago I stopped for breakfast at a diner in Landers, CA on my way back from an all night gong concert in the desert. (Yes- I regularly attend all-night gong concerts in the desert.) I went to the type of place that has endless breakfast variations, most of which include multiple types of breakfast meat.

Sunday mornings in any restaurant are a swirl of activity- from families in their Sunday best going out after church to groups of college students wearing dark sunglasses gleefully consuming large quantities of grease and caffeine to assuage their hangovers. In addition to the usual Sunday morning suspects I noticed a man on a scooter and his wife treating their pastor to a plate of eggs. It was delightful and exciting to be so far outside of my comfortable bubble in Los Angeles. Needless to say, fresh cold-pressed green juice was not on the menu.

It took almost 15 minutes for my waitress to approach my table. In that time a busboy brought me coffee and a hostess took my order. I could see that my waitress was harried. One table wanted ketchup, another table was missing their French fries and everyone wanted more coffee. When she finally reached me I told her someone else had taken my order and she seemed relieved. She called me hon. I love it when women call me hon. It's familiar in a small town kind of way without seeming condescending or confrontational.

My breakfast came without her, the busboy dutifully filled up my coffee, and the hostess checked in to make sure I was enjoying my mediocre hash browns and slightly overcooked eggs. I didn't see my waitress until she dropped the check after the busboy cleared my plate.

I knew her situation. I've been in her situation. I remember my first waitress job in a truck stop in Jamestown, North Dakota. I used to bring home a Styrofoam cup full of change at the end of a shift, all the while envious of the far more experienced blonde waitress who raked in dollar bills instead of change. It took years for the restaurant nightmares to end after I left the restaurant business. Waiting tables is one of the most stressful jobs in America. Even though the waitress this day hardly engaged with me I identified with her in a very real way. I saw her.

As I was going to the cashier to pay the check I found her by the coffee station and slipped her a 20-dollar bill. I said simply,

Thank you for your service.

I wanted her to know that the work she does every day is seen and appreciated. Without looking at the money I handed her she smiled and said, "Thank you."

As I was paying the cashier she found me again with tears in her eyes. She touched me and looked into my eyes and thanked me again. I know this wasn't about the money. I sincerely doubt that a 20-dollar bill could or would change her life. I think this was about the fact that she truly felt like she was seen. For the bargain basement price of 20 dollars I had given another human being proof that she had value. Proof that the work she does every day is significant. When I looked up at her to acknowledge her thanks I felt like I could see into her soul. For a brief moment she wasn't a waitress and I wasn't a city girl with extra cash in her wallet, for a couple of seconds we were two souls seeing the essence of each other and the grace and generosity of the universe.

It has been said that the greatest gift you can impart to anyone is the gift of showing them that they are seen and that whey they say and do matters. For the bargain basement price of 20 dollars I saw this powerful truth in action. Worth every penny.

Spirituality vs. My Mechanic

A few days ago I posted about how lucky I am. The "Check Transmission" light came on in my car 7 miles before my maintenance package expired. What incredibly good fortune, to know that whatever was wrong with my car would be taken care of. So why then, yesterday, did I find myself at the dealership in the service manager's office crying? Not loud uncontrollable crying, but soft little tears as I tried to tell him how I didn't feel like I had been taken care of by his staff.

I'm working on practicing gratitude this year and part of this process is being grateful for the big fantastic things and being grateful for the small difficult lessons that come into my life as well. I could have walked out of the service manager's office embarrassed and immediately forced the entire incident out of my mind but I know that this is an opportunity for me to get beneath the surface and figure out why I had so much sadness surrounding the way I was handled.

My usual contact at the dealership was out of the office when I brought my car into the shop the other night so I ended up working with someone else. The next day there were several phone calls back and forth and it seemed to me that he wasn't really trying to address any underlying problems with the car. He was flippant and kept telling me that the car was fine and that I should come pick it up. I confronted him in a calm manner. I used full sentences. I asked what I thought were reasonable and insightful questions.

Finally he said, "I can't find anything wrong with your car and I can't be responsible for what happens to the transmission when you drive it off our lot. Look, you have a good car. "

I was dumbfounded. This man was patting me on the head telling me that I shouldn’t be so difficult; I should just blindly accept his opinion that my car is a good car. How could I have the audacity to question his judgment?

All my life I've had men patronize me in this way- especially around "man" things they think I don't know a lot about- Cars, the Army, Mathematics. Well, I don't know anything about cars but I spent 6 years in the Army National Guard and I have a college degree in Mathematics.

I was irritated but not sad. There were no tears. I was frustrated that I would have to prepare myself to play hardball, that I would have to get forceful, that I shouldn't have to be put in a position where I have to be bitchy to get not just what I want, but what is fair. I told him to check it again.

The next day I called the service contact I usually deal with to talk with him about the situation. I've been working with him for 4 years. He's earned my trust. After researching my situation he assured me that they would do everything they could to take care of me and explained exactly what was going on with my car. It was then that the tears came. I was able to let my guard down and accept help from someone I trusted. He didn't condescend to me. He was fair and honest and graceful.

I made sure that the manager would be available to talk to me when I picked up the car. I knew that I had two choices when I talked to him. I could work myself up and use my anger to get him to admit that I wasn't treated well. Or I could go in and just let him know that I was disappointed in their service. I knew that if I picked the second option that it was highly likely that I would cry.

I decided to be honest and show up as myself. I also promised myself that if I did cry that I wouldn't fall all over myself apologizing for showing emotion. Being treated with such condescension was emotional for me. I decided that he would just have to deal with it. And he did. He calmly sat there and listened to me with his hands clasped in his lap. He didn't cover up what I was saying. He didn't tell me to calm down. He didn't diminish my feelings. He just listened. He acknowledged everything I said, apologized for the way I was spoken to and explained in detail every issue surrounding my car. He assured me that the dealership would do everything within their power to make sure I was taken care of if there are any further issues.

The fact that he just sat and held the space, that he had the elegance to let me have my feelings in a way that was necessary for me allowed me to calm down and hear everything he had to say.

This is really all I wanted, to be apprised of the actual details of what went wrong with my car and to be assured that they will do everything they can in the future to take care of me.

So, I cried at the Acura dealer. So what.

At least it was honest. I'm learning to not automatically see tears as a sign of weakness. Tears really are just a sign of being human. Sometimes being human is hard and messy and uncomfortable. In really listening to me yesterday that service manager gave me a tremendous gift. For that I am grateful.

Lucky Girl

IMG_4472The Check Transmission light came on in my car yesterday in the middle of Hollywood. My odometer reading was 99,993. My extended maintenance package expires at 100,000 miles. If this had happened to me 5 years ago I would probably have started hyperventilating and crying. I may or may not have called my father hysterically, hoping that he would be able to tell me over the phone that everything would be OK. I would have thought over and over again in my mind, "How could this happen to ME?"

Instead I pulled over and thought a few minutes about my situation. First I had to let go of the fact that I wasn't going to make it to my favorite weekly spin class. I didn't have enough miles left to do that. I called my dealer and explained the situation. The service manager just kept saying, "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy." Which I think indicated that he was impressed with my unique and rare situation.

I checked the mileage to the dealer- 4.7 miles. I had just enough time to make it there in traffic before they closed. I drove to the dealer, suspiciously eyeing the odometer the entire time. I pulled in just as the odometer passed 99,997.

Those 3 remaining miles could literally save me thousands of dollars. Lucky.

I live in the sleepy little town of South Pasadena, CA. They do everything possible to keep any and all cars from parking on their wide beautiful streets. Overnight parking requires a permit. Since my permit is in my car and they aren't hip or progressive enough to issue guest permits (which has instigated quite a few jokes among people who visit about putting permit machines in the one and only bar we have in South Pasadena) I had to stop at the police station to get a permit for my rental car. I took a photo of the license plate in case I needed it to buy a permit and left my phone sitting on top of the permit machine.

I realized a couple of hours later that I didn't have my phone. Thankfully someone had turned it in at the police station and it was a simple matter to go pick it up the moment I realized it was gone. Someone was honorable enough to turn in a total stranger's phone. Lucky.

Last night there was a blood moon- a total eclipse of the full moon that caused it to appear red. A friend texted me as it was happening or I would have totally forgotten about it. My youngest sister is staying with me so we ran outside and stood in the middle of the street peering through palm trees to see a rare and unique moon. It was nice to share such a beautiful moment with someone I love. Lucky.

So, 3 lucky things happened on the same day.

As a student of the University of Santa Monica I had to write an affirmation for myself for the year. Mine is this-

I am GRATEFUL for the gifts of ABUNDANCE that come into my life with grace and ease; I wholeheartedly share these gifts with others.

I've added this affirmation to the end of my (slightly inconsistent) morning meditation.

So yesterday I really thought about these three lucky things that happened to me on the same day. Was this karma- did the universe reward me for being a good person? Or was this totally random- these lucky things coming all at once?

OR is this the way life works? By consciously focusing on the relationship between abundance and gratitude have I pulled luck into my life? Is it possible that by changing my attitude with my words and my intention that I am altering my own destiny? Are we all capable of "making our own luck"? I certainly plan on finding out.

Stage Fright

Stage Fright Last weekend I got up in front of 200 people and led a guided meditation that I created as part of my final exam for the graduate program I'm in at the University of Santa Monica.

I consider myself a seasoned presenter. I'm a fashion designer and in my job I have to present to literally hundreds of people every couple of months. However, I only present to 20 or so at a time. I realized that it's a whole different experience to present to 200 people at once.

At first I was only scheduled to present to 20 of my fellow classmates. Even this seemed a little daunting for me. I can talk for hours about handbags and fashion, where I consider myself an expert, but leading a guided meditation that I wrote myself was outside my comfort zone. I did well enough in my small group that they nominated me to represent them to the whole class.

I've wanted for some time to challenge myself and speak to a large crowd. I offered to speak at the World Domination Summit last year about my experiences in Africa with my non-profit but they politely declined. I knew that even though this really scared me that I needed to do it for myself. I needed to challenge myself, to step outside my comfort zone, and to take a chance.

13 of us were chosen to present to the whole class, I was scheduled to be 12th. Second to last. So I watched 11 other people get up in front of the class and give everything they had to entertain and delight their fellow students. As my time got closer and closer I realized that I was really nervous. I adjusted my scarf over and over again. Surely if my scarf was perfectly arranged I would be fine on stage.

Finally I was handed a microphone and gently pushed on stage. My name was announced and the class started uproariously clapping for me. I hesitated before stepping towards my chair. I had a small moment of clarity. I had asked for this, for this moment, for this opportunity to present itself to me. It had arrived. It was my time.

I took my seat, made a small joke, and had them all close their eyes to begin the meditation. I wasn't reading from a script, I was reading from my heart, I had rehearsed this multiple times but every time was a little bit different. The words flowed easily from me. I felt the support and love of everyone in the room. I saw tears in the audience as I led them through my material. I saw a few of my friends in the room open their eyes at different times and look at me. I realized that they were sending me their support but I also saw that they were seeing me in a different light, in a different way.

I ended quietly in a space of grace and peace. Then, just as they had done for all the other presenters, the entire room leaped to their feet to enthusiastically applaud. When faced with his situation in the past, I have bowed my head and dismissed applause; I've never been comfortable associating myself with this kind of appreciation. But I had the intention when I went on stage that I would stand there as myself and accept with grace that applause, that appreciation, that gratitude. So I stood there for a couple of seconds and looked out at the crowd and really received the applause. It shook me to the core in that moment, to be seen and appreciated by so many as my true self.

On my way out of the room after all the presentations were over a classmate grabbed my arm to talk to me. She told me that I probably didn't realize that I have an incredible gift. I stammered something about how I talked too fast and that it was really next to impossible to do a guided meditation in such a limited amount of time. She agreed that I had gone too fast but looked me dead in the eye and again reiterated that I have a gift. She could see it, she knew.

Throughout the rest of the day I had so many people come up to me to touch my arm and tell me how much they enjoyed the meditation. People told me how they had cried, how deeply they were touched. 3 or 4 people emphasized how they thought I have a gift. I had people wanting to know where I teach, offering to be my first followers.

I realize now that the reason the day felt so foreign to me, the reason that all the praise was uncomfortable and surreal was because this may have been the first time in my life that I received such outrageous praise for really truly being myself. Just me. Just Laura. I didn't pretend to be anyone else on that stage. I went up on that stage and opened up the most vulnerable part of myself and shared it with everyone in the room. And instead of the ridicule or the embarrassment I'd always assumed I would receive if I dared to do something so reckless as show my true self to hundreds of people, I received nothing but praise and appreciation.

Is it really this easy? Do I really just have to be myself to be truly seen and accepted by other people? Right now, today, I'm going to believe that it is.

My Precarious Hipster Status

Chemex A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco for less than 24 hours. In that time I ordered coffee from two of the hippest coffee houses in the entire bay area, Blue Bottle Coffee and Sightglass coffee. Neither had drip coffee served from a large carafe as the mainstream coffee shops like Starbucks. Ordering a drip coffee meant that they handcrafted your coffee to order with a glass vial and a filter painstakingly pouring hot water from a gooseneck teapot. Both places had a line of hipsters out the door and carefully curated open industrial décor.

Of course, we have plenty of fancy coffee shops in LA that do the same thing but going to one of them would require finding parking and having time to wait behind a long line of agents and actors and app developers who have 45 minutes to invest in a great cup of coffee. It was much less of a commitment just to wander in on foot to both trendy coffee shops in San Francisco.

When I got home I sadly noticed my limited coffee brewing options. The first time I used a French press I made freshly ground Kona macadamia nut coffee in a fine dining restaurant in Hawaii. I thought the French press must be the ultimate in luxury. In a busy restaurant anything that takes more than 60 seconds to execute for a server can seem like an extreme indulgence. I'm no longer a big fan of macadamia nut coffee and I realize that I really hate my French press. I don't like silt in my coffee and it makes such a mess. I also own a drip coffee maker but I never use it because I am a bit of a clean freak and after I've seen the water reservoir stained brown I just don't believe that it can ever be sanitary again.

I've been understandably reticent to buy into a pod system because I like fresh beans and I don't like the idea of being chained to any coffee company and their individual expensive tiny canisters of coffee. Plus the whole pod system, which once was exotic and cool now seems really mainstream and generic. I find that when I see anything at Target that isn't a collaboration with a hot young designer it immediately seems overdone and dated.

So I diligently researched and purchased a Chemex coffee maker for myself. It is beautiful and I find that it makes an incredible cup of coffee. I've posted before about my fascination with being a member of the Cool Club, about being seen as having a modicum of hipster status. Did acquiring the latest greatest coffee brewing system buy me a little hipster currency? It may have but sadly it didn't last long. I'm pretty sure the powers that be in the Cool Club revoked my hipster status yesterday based on the fact that I spent last night in the desert at an all night gong concert. It was good while it lasted.

To CrossFit or Not to CrossFit?

I have been reticent to try this whole CrossFit phenomenon. I am a self-confessed cardio junkie. I've been spinning for almost 20 years. Before spinning it was step aerobics and before step aerobics it was something called high impact aerobics. Before that I was content to laze around on weekends eating chips and drinking full calorie sodas. Clearly the chips and soda option is no longer on the table. A year ago I stopped making time to lift weights at the gym. I reasoned that the yoga pushups I do in class a couple of times a week would make up for any and all bicep curls. Sadly this has not been the case. I moved a few months ago and haven't been able to drag myself down to the local YMCA to become a member so that I have a new place to meander from machine to machine to make myself feel like I'm doing everything I possibly can to take charge of my fitness level.

Tonight I found myself in my first of 6 intro classes to CrossFit. I have different sets of friends who LOVE CrossFit. They get very animated when they talk about their "Box" and their "Olympic Lifts" and their "Pull-up Clinics". So a couple of weeks ago when I caught a glimpse of my now non-existent biceps in the mirror in yoga I decided it might be worth just trying it to see if I might like it enough to avoid joining the YMCA 6 blocks from my house.

Last week I went to a free session to see what it's all about. I showed up at 8 am on a Saturday apprehensive but optimistic. There ended up being a dozen 20-somethings, a couple of kids still in high school, and me. I felt a little out of my element, but I know that I'm in pretty good shape so I jumped right in with everyone else

Now, I assume that I'm in fantastic shape. I do 5 spin classes a week. I am really, really close to perfecting a yoga pushup. Half a block into a warm-up jog I realized that I was in trouble. I don't do well running and this was pretty difficult for me. All the spinning in the world didn't prepare me for a simple 15-minute jog. Half a block in I started wheezing. I was floundering. It wasn't pretty. I did finish and I did sort-of run the whole way thanks to an incredibly kind trainer who jogged along beside me the entire time so I wasn't bringing up the rear all by myself. I am especially grateful because he pretended that he was still running even though I know he could have started walking and kept pace with me at any time.

After that they took us through a workout routine that included jumping rope, deep squats, sit-ups, and pushups. That's it. It really is just basic high school P.E. I did OK with the squats and the sit-ups, and they let us do the push-ups on our knees, but the jumping rope threw me over the edge. I haven’t held a jump rope in my hands since grade school. It wasn't just that I had to figure out how to use a jump rope all over again, the really horrifying thing is that when I was using said jump rope I discovered that my stomach seemed to move independently of the rest of my body. I have no idea when or how that happened but that alone was a big bold sign that I need to switch up my fitness routine.

The good news is that I was a rock-star tonight in my newbie Cross-fit training class. There is a timed section where everyone does 3 sets of the same exercises and I came in second. In fact, I was only 10 seconds behind a pretty fit 20-something boy. To be fair, though, the 20-something girls tonight didn't look like they'd EVER exercised, and the 20-something boy took a break to get water from his car.

The bad news is that I'm not sure I'll be able to walk tomorrow. I also had to cancel the spin class I thought I could go to after CrossFit as I was sure there wouldn't be enough cardio tonight for me.

I AM open to the fact that when it comes to exercise I still have a lot to learn.