Tag Archives: Home

Editor & Yoga Teacher: Like Peas & Carrots

813A7911-XL

Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

I’m up for two editor jobs. Two really interesting editor jobs. And both can be done mostly from home. Amazing. I’ve gone through one round of interviews that were both positive. I put it out to the Universe that I’d begin work with a magazine or webzine full time by September if there wasn’t movement on my book getting published. Alimony ends Sept 1st. I have two boys to take care of full-time. And I’m a writer. It’s what I do—and have been doing as a journalist, blogger, editor, most of my life. I used to say that writing was how I communicate best. I’m not completely sure that’s entirely true anymore. It may be how I relay my thoughts, interviews, stories, figure out my viewpoint. But it isn’t a two-way conversation. It isn’t heart-felt, healing connection with others. Not like yoga. Which is why I plan to continue teaching at least 3 classes a week after I start my job. Maybe that sounds nuts to some who are thinking she’s a full-time single mom too! But I can’t imagine my life without these classes right now. Five years ago I would never have believed that I’d be writing this, but maybe I communicate authentically in a healing and very real and present way through my yoga classes.

All I know is that the past two years of teaching has taught me incredible things about myself. My life may even be more stressful on some levels, but I am less stressed, more confident, more grateful, more open to love, new experiences, and much more trusting of what comes. So  those that I help, are actually helping me. I learn so much from my yogi friends about what it truly means to be brave.

I teach therapeutic & restorative yoga and meditation at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Each class begins with a lot of pranayama so stress can be lowered and energies centered. Then I always ask what’s up. It’s a bit group therapy. Some have fallen. Some have lymphedema flareups. Some have other injuries related to hip or knee replacement surgeries, or the need for them. Others are going through the real pain and severe anxiety of caring for a dying spouse or family member. It manifests in severe headaches, spasms, major muscle cramps in the neck, back, shoulders, gut. I’ve devised flows that include modified yoga poses, balancing postures, T’ai Chi, visualization, acupressure holds, chakra alignment breathing… to help each issue. It’s part yoga, part physical therapy, part group therapy. The cool thing is that I keep learning. For instance, what I’ve learned about what the hamstring, IT band, iliopsoas & rhomboid muscles do to an aging, stressed out individual is just cruel. They work in tandem like rusted rubber band bullies gripping on the hips and back. And those who are swelling due to chemo and radiation from years ago, are still dealing with its feisty unpredictable, lymphedema flares. Finding a way to allow the lymph system to flow just gets me juiced. No pun intended. During one class, I watched the arm of a sweet yogi reduce its swelling size by half after we kept opening up the muscles of the sternum and collarbone and upper arm over and over like we were all doing synchronized swimming circles with deep breaths.

It’s transformative—and mostly for me. I see every week how important deep breathing, meditation, stretching, finding space to re-align body and attitude are. And while that may sound depressing to some—to work with this demographic instead of with the youthful in yoga studios—it is the exact opposite. I couldn’t find more inspiring, uplifting friends on the planet to hang out with 5 hours a week. Honestly. They are like family.

A dear yogi has been in the hospital for 25 days, staying by her husband’s bedside. Her husband had a quadruple bypass-and spine surgery. She finally took her first break and came to my Monday night class. I shared something that a yoga teacher told me in a class earlier that week: that tension is temporary, change is constant,  but bliss is possible. Ananda, bliss: a state we can achieve from deep breathing, stretching, re-aligning heart, body, muscles, soul—trusting the Universe with gratitude—is so attainable, even during stressful times. I received a text from her today saying that she told her husband and the nurses in the ICU, who then posted: “Tension is temporary, Change is constant, but Bliss is possible” on the nurses station wall. Wow, I love the ripple of the positive vibration!

See what I mean? My students teach me about the power of a positive attitude, the courage to take care of oneself, and the ability to reach out to others in a positive community for support. There is nothing like deep Ujjayi breathing for an hour to lower stress, cortisol levels, and boost serotonin release from the gut. Add a lavender oil temple massage during savasana, meditation, and we all leave class feeling blissful, grateful, cared-for, trusting, and just a little be happier than when we walked in. That vibration carries over and lifts others around us. All yoga does this. But for me, my regular hospital yogis, make me feel amazing. I’ve seen such a change in all of them for the past two years. Most had never done yoga before. The seniors clearly aren’t doing handstands or vinyasa power flow. But, like after any restorative class, they walk straighter and with more balance when they leave. They are in better alignment. And they all seem to be dealing with their anxiety so much better. I love the love I feel when I walk into the rooms. It’s hard to describe. I love these people dearly. And every time I quote someone important about why we keep our hearts open, or why we focus on what’s working, or why we can start again with each breath, I’m reminding myself of these things too—usually at exactly the right moment. When we feel good—mind, body and spirit—it’s empowering. Yes brain-washed terrorists may still strike. Yes, a driver may cut you off. Yes, our loved ones die. We can’t control everything in life. But we can breathe deeply. We can force ourselves to stay vulnerable and to break through resistance, breath through our fears, make intentions and do so with loving supportive people who remind us, just by their presence, that there are more kind, considerate, caring people in this world, than there are nasty, vengeful, violent folk.

This is powerful. Positive thoughts are so much more powerful than negative or fearful ones. And they help us to be calmer, more present, caring and in tune with one another.

After I teach,  I go home, relieve the sitter and am a much better mom. And usually, on the nights I teach, I stay uplifted and grateful, even while I’m writing or working late into the night. I feel like the luckiest woman alive. And it all started with the sweet yoga teachers who kept reminding me six years ago to breathe deeply, know it’s all going to be ok, and to relax into and accept the space of NOW.

Have a beautiful day. Ironically, by my next post I may be back in the news full-time as an editor, but I’m advising you, just for a few days, to turn off daily news. Lets not focus on the tragedies we can’t control. Take deep breaths. Light a candle. Say a prayer if that helps you feel more at peace. If you can, put a drop of lavender oil into your hands, rub them, place your fingers on your temples and lightly make circles while thinking: Life is Good. All is Well. I am taken care of. I am So Blessed.

Be well,

Laura, xo

 

 

Advertisements

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/.

Mom in the Picture

My sister Sarah and her son Elijah

I took a hard week off to visit my family in North Carolina. My mother, who is most likely in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, probably didn’t even know who I was. But, it felt important to see her, to hold her hand, to smile at her. Plus, I was able to visit my sisters and brother and their children who I haven’t seen in over a year. While I was gone, I read Lisa Belkin’s HuffPost column: Moms Explain Why They’re Getting Back In the Picture.  Take a moment to read this column. I was touched by it. The column inspires moms to get back in the picture with their families and children. I know that my own mom never liked to “be in the picture” and my two sisters, who are wonderful moms, also shy from the camera.

It’s clear that their sons adore them and could care less if stress and health issues have added pounds or grey hair. Our children adore us just the way we are. Single moms out there—I know so many of you can relate to this. Perhaps the financial stress, emotional stress and the exhaustion of working long hours makes you feel less attractive than you’d like. But your children love you and want photos with you in the picture to remember wonderful moments. If they love you unconditionally—it’s time to start loving yourself the same way.

With that in mind, I’m posting two pictures in this post. The first is of my sister Sarah and her 6-year-old son Elijah. Sarah is a wonderful mother who struggles with auto-immune disorders and migraines, while working full-time as a social worker. She has fought hard to find the right therapies and programs for her son who is thriving, although living with Autism. This past weekend, I loved watching Elijah build ingenious towers and rockets with angry bird dolls peaking out of windows. Both his creativity and love seem boundless—and much of that is because of her dedication.

The second picture is of my other big sister Elizabeth and her son CJ.

Elizabeth has always shied away from the camera since I’ve known her—but especially during the past 18 years that she’s been fighting Lupus and arthritis. An amazingly giving teacher who focusses 100% of her energy on her family—I know her son CJ could care less that steroids and painful, aching hips (which she’s having replaced soon) make her feel tired and less attractive. Yet she still works every day at her school and takes most of the family pictures. There aren’t two less beautiful mothers, than my two sisters. (So, if you two get mad at me after this post…bear with me!) After spending four days visiting my sweet mother whose mind is ravaged by Alzheimer’s, I wish I had more pictures of she and I together, but it’s too late.

I strongly urge you to read Lisa Belkin’s column—one of my favorite parenting bloggers and columnists—as you’ll be surrounded by voices of other mothers who are bravely stepping in front of the camera for their children and families. It’s such a wonderful idea and a step in the right direction of easing up on ourselves and our frailties.

Gratitude, Courage and The Single Mom

Yesterday morning I was hit with a vivid memory that soccer-punched the air out of me and left me with a longing and nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time.  I had just driven past the Madonna Del Rifugio (ancient convent near our villa dedicated to the Madonna and child) on Via dei Frati (our dirt road, translated to “The Brothers”)  in Sinalunga, Italy. I was on my way to buy pastries to take back to the villa. We were leaving for Rome (where I am today) and my man was at home packing up all the many bags and machines he needs to keep his 80-year-old father alive—who is the reason for our trip this summer, back to his grandfather’s homeland.

As I navigate through the narrow dei Frati, past olive groves down into town, the soulful tune “Oh, What a Lucky Man, He Was” starts to play on the radio.  Tears of recognition sting my eyes. The Emerson Lake and Palmer song was playing 3.5 years ago as doctors performed a C-section to deliver James. The memory came rushing back as the song played, and I could literally see the hospital room at UCLA and the doctors and nurses and my ex sitting at my head looking down at me.  I pulled up to the coffee bar, smiled at my new friend Eva serving cappuccinos, and sat listening to the words. I raised one finger and nodded, letting her know I’d be inside soon, put my sunglasses on to hide my eyes, and felt a knot form deep within.

My OBGYN, who I consider a friend, played the mix tape he had made for his wife when she was delivering their son 20+ years earlier, at my delivery. I was insanely honored. I’ve known this man for 11 years and he is the reason why we moved back from London, in order to let him over-see the birth and my bed-rest. His first name is William and his brother’s James—the names of my two children coincidentally. He saw me through the chicken pox, then the premature contractions that landed me on bedrest for two months, and then this emergency C-section. October 24, 2008 was such a special day and hearing that song slammed me back to a time when I was filled with hope.

It’s a little ironic that our street in Italy is named the brothers. Little James always refers to his big brother and his best friends as “the brothers.” He often says, “I want to stay up and play with the brothers!” when William has a friend over to spend the night. It’s adorable and always makes me think that he was in a brotherhood of some sort in another life. This month we’ve also stayed down the road from an ancient, but working, convent that celebrates the Madonna and child. Our villa is on the hill above the village of Sinalunga, which is also dedicated to the Madonna. (Probably many villages throughout Italy are!) But everywhere you look, above door ways, bars, restaurants, churches and even offices, you can find paintings or sculptures of the Madonna and child, like the one in the picture above that I took.

Everywhere I’ve looked throughout my month away, I have been reminded of how important and revered motherhood is. There is no higher calling in Italy. It’s renewed my strength and filled me with more gratitude.

Life rarely works out the way we plan, does it? Who would have thought 3.5 years ago, after I delivered an adorable baby boy with crazy, spiked red hair like a British punk rocker, that I’d be separated and raising the boys solo 8 months later. It was too painful for words, so I won’t bother. But hearing that song again yesterday haunted me and felt like a wake-up call.

I am the lucky one.

Life has crazy twists and turns and so much is out of our control. But what is in our control is the power to see what is good and what is important in our lives. Flash forward 3.5 years and who would have thunk that I’d be spending a month in Italy with a boyfriend and his 80-year-old father who I adore. I’m seeing how vulnerable and tenuous every moment is through their eyes. And although some in America may not value motherhood as much as the Italians—you and I should never take their viewpoint seriously.

No one could argue with a woman who puts her children first, while no longer being a doormat. However you need to take care of them—if you are putting their needs first—you have your head and your heart in the right place.

Keep reminding yourself that you do have a job, you are competent, and that you are important. You are more than important—you are your children’s emotional security and source of love—that provides a roadmap for them to love themselves and others as adults.

So next time you find yourself having to defend what you do, or defend the needs of your children, or stand up for yourself, do what I plan to do: take a deep breath and focus on your children’s faces. They’ll inspire you to do what you need to do. And I, for one, intend to remember to always show gratitude. If your ex is taking good care of the kids, like mine is this week, say thank you. If your ex takes pains to call the children, tell him you appreciate it. It’s a little step towards a peaceful future.

Slowing Down in Tuscany

View from my bedroom in Sinalunga, Tuscany

Tuscany reminds me,  in some ways, of my summers in the South. I know, there are no olive tree orchards (like you see here) or cypress tress or fields of sunflowers or lavender and rosemary bushes the size of small trees. But, with that said, one has to slow down here. It’s so hot, for instance, that you really do need a siesta in the afternoon. Stores and restaurants shut down from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and it’s completely understandable. There is no air conditioning, anywhere.  So you close all the shutters and windows during the day, walk very slowly when out, seek lemonade and gelato and try to find spots in the shade.

Lavender bushes outside our kitchen in our villa. The smell is amazing!

Everyone slows down here, especially the cats! (And there are so many wild cats!) This sweet gal hides in our rosemary bushes outside our kitchen with her babies. Of course, we are feeding her…how could we not?

Look closely. Do you see her?

What I love most about Tuscany, is that the minute you arrive, your spirits begin to lift. How could they not? On the drive from Rome, you see fields of sunflowers, or a castle up on a hill, or a Romanesque, walled town off to your left. As we pulled into our villa, I smiled ear-to-ear. How can one not be affected by such picturesque beauty?

Our closest neighbor on a nearby hill.

View from my other bedroom window. The owners of this villa owns the working olive tree orchard and makes their own olive oil. I’m sure we’ll take home a few bottles!

More lavender behind the house. My absolute favorite scent at the moment!

Why Can’t I Embrace Time Off?

In my own way, I really do know why the caged bird sings. And I know why the bird stays too—even when the cage door is open. It seems selfish to take more than a quick flight around the room. No, the bird comes back to where she’s comfortable and finds beauty in her surroundings and in how happy her singing makes those in the house. Even when those in the house barely notice her and come and go as they please—she knows her role and knows that, somehow, the beauty of her singing and her reliable presence is helpful to those she loves.

I read that in Vietnam (and probably elsewhere) Buddhist worshippers release caged birds to improve their karma. In theory, this sounds wonderful. But I doubt that it’s a wonderful feeling for the birds. A picture I saw of a Buddhist releasing three birds spoke louder than words. Instead of flying away, the three birds crashed into one another with their wings barely opening widely enough for flight. It’s not easy to just take flight away from all that you have known, is it?

Now that my cage door has been blown apart, I see how ridiculous living for others all the time truly is. It’s okay (and healthy) to do things for yourself. It’s okay to take flight once in a while just because it makes you happy. Taking flight is scary for some of us. Doing things for ourselves can seem selfish. Especially if we are the person who fixes things, who kisses booboos, who makes sandwiches, checks homework, listens to woes and gives advice, and who lives daily for the crazy schedules of playdates and homework and dinners, and sports events and mommy-and-me classes. That’s the good stuff, right? It seems to give most of us (I’m talking the co-dependent us) more pleasure than our work—if we work outside the house. And it’s tougher than most work too—at least the two- and three-year-old tantrums are. When you’re the person who supports others, it’s hard to support yourself. (You know who you are: you’re the one who remembers birthdays, writes thank you notes, sends presents, plans parties, playdates, activities, camps, Dr. visits—all between other work duties you master. You’re the one who feels guilty taking time for yourself to exercise or get a rare manicure—as your goal is to make others happy and pleased and not to think about yourself, right?) So where do you exist when all of that is cut off? Where are you when that fades to black? Sound familiar?

I wrestled with all of that after my husband left at the end of 2009. But since he lives in Europe and I care for the boys pretty much 24/7, they kept me insanely busy and not able to focus too much on this question. Back then, I was just making it day by day and trying for force myself to eat and keep going. That’s how it was in the beginning with a baby and an 7-year-old to take care of. Flash forward two years and you’d think that I’d have overcome this crazy guilt I have about taking time for myself. To be fair, I have really been taking strides that started with baby steps and I’m getting there. At first, I felt insanely guilty about putting the baby in daycare so I could write (I’m a freelance writer) and get a break. After a year of separation, with me weighing in at 90 lbs and getting little to no sleep due to my insanely sleepless toddler, a good friend urged me to put my little guy in a small, family-run daycare so I could pursue my work and get a break. I did and within a few months landed some great freelance writing gigs. I was able to grocery shop without drama. I wan’t driving for an hour to let the baby sleep since he doesn’t nap at home. I was able to take a run and eventually joined a gym. Taking a pilates or a yoga class felt crazily selfish—even though I went months without a day off to sleep in. Why I felt this way is such a long story including a family history of co-dependency and an upbringing in the South where ladies who do-it-all and support their man are still highly admired.

But all of this is part of why the rare, cherished time-off from the kiddos, can be extra-ordinarily and oddly, hard for me to adjust to. The summer holiday for my kids with their dad should be a time for joyous celebration, right?

I should be thinking: Hurray! I’m finally going to have some time to myself!

And I am excited about that. I’m so looking forward to being me, traveling, writing and reading and just being a woman and not always a mommy. But a large part of myself is also wondering if my kids will put on sunblock or whether they’ll remember to say their prayers/gratitude lists at night or whether they’ll have fights that I can’t help them with, or if a tantrum might push someone over the edge, etc. Seriously, it’s so sad. Even as I write this, I wonder about my sanity. I am the quintessential co-dependant woman. There, I said it. So now, I guess I’ve become the co-dependant single mom who is having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she’s going to be away from her boys for a full MONTH. I haven’t had a week off since last Christmas and I think the last two days off was three months ago. So, yeah, I guess I’m due.

Why, then, am I not jumping up and down with glee!? It’s scary to take flight. It’s frightening to venture out and try to reclaim life outside of motherhood. I’m grateful for the chance, but hesitate at the door.

Any advice out there, my soul-sister, single moms? Seriously, any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated this week as I say goodbye to my little guys.

Lots of love,

L. x

Shut Your Mouth!

How many of you out there are still fighting daily or weekly with your exes? How many of you are insanely frustrated over late or missing child support payments, or looming court dates, or missed visitations—among the myriad of abusive scenarios that some divorced parents face when one parent puts ego and/or selfish agendas above children’s needs? I’m sure many of you may be nodding your heads about now. But, sadly, even if your ex is a convict or a sociopath who deserted you and your children and doesn’t visit with the kids or pay child support—YOU (yes, even you my devoted single mommy friends)—may be accidentally causing more emotional harm to your children, say experts.

What?? (Insert record rip sound now.)

As hard as it is to believe, single parents are guilty of consistently doing one thing wrong. There are plenty of things divorced parents stumble on and I interviewed a UCLA expert earlier this year who helped define “The Top 5 Mistakes Divorcing Parents Make”. Going through a divorce is insanely painful and no one is expected to handle it perfectly. But experts say if there is one thing you need to remember for your children’s sake, it’s this: SHUT  YOUR MOUTH.

Think about it. We are ALL guilty of saying disagreeable things about our exes at some point (even if it’s just reporting the truth). Some single parents have certainly lived through their share of horror stories. And even if you think you are vigilant about not talking about your ex in front of the children—be honest—it slips sometimes doesn’t it? And these slips usually happen during the most stressful times and can be reactions that we later regret. For example, imagine this scenario:

You are at home with your children waiting for the ex to pick them up for a scheduled weekend visit. You did laundry, you packed their bags, you got them hair cuts the day before and you even carefully picked out their favorite books and toys and DVDs for the visit. The kids are excited and you’re hiding your fears about the weekend—especially if your ex drinks too much or has a new girlfriend or if he takes them to inappropriate venues, like bars. You keep yourself busy in the kitchen while the clock ticks. One hour after he is supposed to arrive, the kids get anxious and keep asking, “Where IS he?” in exasperated tones. You text the ex. He doesn’t reply. Finally, two hours after he is supposed to pick them up, he calls.

“Sorry! I got held up at the office and my boss wants me to fly out tomorrow on business. Can’t get them this weekend.” You are infuriated and before you can stop yourself you scream in response: “What the hell? You’re doing this again?You haven’t seen them in three months! This is NOT OK!”

Your heart is thumping so loud in your chest you can barely hear anything else, until a sob, from the corner of the room stills you. You look up and your six-year-old has a tear sliding down her little face.

Yes, this is your ex’s fault. No, you shouldn’t cover for him. But you don’t want to have fights in front of the kids either, explains Joshua Coleman, Ph.D., an award-winning author and family and marriage therapist.

Coleman, who I interviewed this month, says parents need to remember that they are pouring salt on their children’s wounds when they fight in front of the children or talk poorly about the ex in front of them. The better way to handle the outlined scenario is to hold in your anger and respond calmly to your ex: ‘That’s too bad. The kids were really looking forward to it. I’m handing the phone to them so you can explain, ok?’ Allowing him to talk with the kids, and likely promise to make it up to them later, is a better solution than yelling and putting their father down in front of the kids.

If the children cry after they hang up, Coleman warns against adding more drama and hurt to the situation.

“You then don’t want to say something like, ‘Your father always does this kind of thing at the last minute! It’s unforgivable!’ Instead, you want to just give them comfort, by saying something like, ‘You’re really sad aren’t you? I’m so sorry that you’re hurt.’ This lets your children know that you are there for them without adding more pain,” Coleman explains.

If you’ve experienced a similar situation to this, than I don’t need to tell you about the flash of anger that sparks and the mixed feelings that emerge about wanting to protect your kids, but also being angry about your own inconvenience. It may have been months since you’ve had a proper break or a morning to sleep in. With that said, experts say it’s critical to try to hide your disappointment and anger as your children will be highly sensitive and bruised after their father stands them up. They don’t need to feel like a bourdon to you, as well. It’s so tempting to call a friend the minute the kids settle down after such an experience. How many of us are guilty of calling a girlfriend to vent after such a scenario? What if you made plans for that evening and now they are blown? You’re still better off texting your friend to cancel. The last thing you want to do is grab a glass of wine and call a girlfriend lamenting about how you now can’t go out, and what a jerk your ex is. Your children, even if planted in front of a TV show, have amazing listening abilities. They want to know what is going on and they likely will hear your conversation, or the tone of your conversation at the very least.

I know it isn’t fair. I know that if your ex repeatedly lets you and your children down, you need to vent. But this is our test in life. (I’m right there with you.) In times like this, try to take a deep breath, and dig deep for grace. Remember that you can email or call a friend once the children are asleep—or that you can go online and chat with other single moms in support groups, such as AloneTogether. It’s so important to have the support you need—but there is a time and a place for everything. I don’t know why we’re in the situation we are in. But I’ve decided that I no longer care about figuring out why. It’s hard to let go of that, but it serves very little purpose. If you can remember anything from this story, I hope it’s this:

“Children learn to love themselves by being able to love their parents,” Coleman says.

They can’t feel free to love their father (or mother) if either parent consistently puts the other down. Sure, your ex may not be the parent you want him (or her) to be. But you can be the parent your children can model. You can be the example for them. And they can learn to love themselves by watching you.

A New Species: The Rare “Dadzilla”

I had so much fun writing a June/July cover article, “Is Your Dude a Dadzilla?” for FitPregnancy magazine. I can’t provide a link to it, as it’s only available in print on newsstands, currently. I’ve been freelance writing for Fit Pregnancy magazine for more than 10 years now, as I pitched my first article when pregnant with my first child. Back then, I was writing fast and furious about business and careers for many magazines and newspapers and could barely find time to breathe, let alone research about pregnancy. I decided in my 5th month to start researching and pitching pregnancy topics that I was suddenly, very, concerned about. I met a wonderful FitPregnancy editor who patiently read all of my pitches and, encouraged me to keep researching topics and sending more, until she finally gave me an assignment. Little did she know, through all the research I did for her, she helped me to get ready for birth and parenthood!

I’m really excited about my latest article because it is so unique. In the 10 years that I’ve been writing about pregnancy and parenting, I have never written an article that delved into the topic of “Dadzillas.” In fact, I’d never heard of such a thing: a dad who is TOO involved? The idea actually made me laugh as I hadn’t encountered such a being in my world. But what I learned, as I spoke with expectant parents and experts across the country, is that overly involved dads may really just be dads with a need for control.

Ah, now that’s something that many of single mom friends might be able to relate to: power struggles with the ex over control. And I’d venture to guess that the control issues may have had their burgeoning beginnings during the early days of marriage and even in pregnancy. (That’s just a hunch.)

For the article, I interviewed several expectant moms who shared stories of their controlling husbands. Some were trying to monitor every morsel of food their wives ate—refusing to cater to their partner’s junk food or ice cream cravings and reminding them that they shouldn’t gain too much weight during pregnancy. Others were reading everything they could about birth and insisting their wives not have an epidural or pain medication during delivery. The story provides expert advice on how best to reign these type of men in—while also appreciating and acknowledging their efforts. Because, at the end of the day, everyone wants an involved dad for their children, right?

While this story may not be extremely helpful for my main audience of single moms, upon re-reading it, I found kernels of wisdom that may apply when relating to any controlling parent. I had a particularly insightful interview with Will Courtenay, Ph.D., a psychotherapist specializing in men’s issues in Oakland, Calif. and author of best selling book: Dying to Be Men. He explained that anxiety and loss of control can make men “spring into action.” Their tendencies to want to do something, or fix things immediately, can often mean that they do rash things that can seem callous. (Like the man who reminds a 7 month pregnant woman that she doesn’t want to gain too much weight…) Unless your ex is completely sociopathic, I think there’s a good chance that the advice from our experts can also help you better co-parent. For instance, all experts interviewed say men need to feel included, appreciated and listened to. At the same token, you may want to channel their energies with lists of things to do to help, but you also always need to stand your ground when things go awry.

I’m mulling over this advice and think the best one for many of my separated mommies with young children is to “wait before responding.” This advice is great for any couple: whether separated, divorced and co-parenting, or together. Think about it. If your partner or ex suggests something that you’re not particularly excited about, if you get defensive, yell, or disregard him, he’s likely to get angry and be less likely to suggest anything in the future, or become less involved with the kids. But if you tell him you heard him, but just need a day or two to think it over, and then make an appointment to talk about it later—it can defuse the moment and give you both time to digest the information, cool down, and be respectful.

There is so much more great advice in this article. I love when my work adds so much to my life. I hope you get a chance to pick up this issue, (now in grocery aisles and newsstands) that also has fabulous farmer’s market recipes and advice on how to lose the dreaded and lingering post-birth jelly belly.

Have a great day everyone!

Laura x

A Mom’s Legacy: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Photo by: Barb Hale

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

From the Kitchen of MaryAnn Roe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2  tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups cut rhubarb
  • 1 pie crust mix
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Courtesy of: PublicPhoto.org

Directions:

Combine sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, orange juice and rhubarb. Place in 9 inch pie pan, lined with pastry. Top with strawberries/rhubarb mix and dot with butter. Cover with remaining pastry (pie crust).

Photo courtesy of Coconut Recipes

“I prefer rolling pastry, cutting stripes and making a lattice top.  If you cover fruit completely with pastry, make air vents,” wrote my mother on her recipe card. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

This is my absolute favorite summer dessert that my mom used to make. There’s something wonderful about the sour mixed with the sweetness. ENJOY!!!

Single Mom’s Budget Travel Tips

Photo by: Sam Squansh

Summer is around the corner. As a single parent, instead of getting giddy about your well-deserved time off, or some family fun, you may likely be getting depressed. Are you looking at your check book and thinking there’s NO WAY you can afford a vacation? If you are newly separated or divorced, you may feel like you will never travel again. I mean, it’s hard enough to even drive to see the grandparents with kiddos of a certain age, right? Even if you could afford a European or Hawaiian vacation, would you want to fly alone with the little ones? (I’ve done this many times,  as I used to live in Europe and my Ex still does, so I transport the kiddos to him. I’ve learned many tricks to entertain and distract the one, two, and three-year-old minds on transAtlantic flights. Even so, it’s extremely taxing. For tips on how to survive flights with your children read my article Survival Tips for European Travel with Children .)

But, back to reality…How can you afford a holiday with the little ones this year? If you’re creative, flexible, open-minded and resourceful, you’ll be amazed at the many ways to subsidize travel expenses. I’m going to share a few of my favorites. There’s NO reason why you can’t figure out a way to get away—even if for a weekend. If your Ex has the kiddos for a week or two over the summer, that might be the perfect chance to escape solo. If you are traveling with them, however, there are ways to lower costs, make new friends, and find affordable babysitting or camps so you can rest. I hope these ideas inspire you and if you have more, PLEASE chime in!

Top Travel Tips for the Single Mom: 

Try a House Swap: My favorite site is Sabbatical Homes. This site was founded by Nadege Conger when she realized that there was a need, predominately in the academic community. Her husband, who is a professor, travels a bit for work. Like many of his colleagues, he can take sabbaticals or visiting professor gigs at other universities. From this idea—to cater to academia—her site has grown to a larger audience. It is still much smaller than the main home exchange sites and feels more manageable—as it’s easy to identify and conduct background checks on the people who respond to your ads. If you’re thinking, “who would want to swap houses with me since I don’t live in California or Florida?” this site is for you. Academics often want to get away to work on a proposal or book—or need to teach at another university—expanding the typical search requests and making your house more viable. Since Nadege is French and travels a lot, there is large audience on this site from Europe. After posting my house, I had requests for house swaps in Italy, France, Spain and Hawaii. You can also rent your house via this site. If you are interested in an adventure and are flexible about where you go, this could be a great option. Plus, house swaps provide a great way to really enjoy your holiday with a local’s perspective. I’ve house swapped via craigslist (before learning of this site) and had amazing trips to Paris, Venice and London. (Which I will write about later, since they were all amazing holidays with local flare.)
Another great site to rent homes for your next vacation, or perhaps to list your own is: Vacation Homes and Villas.

Take a short cruise:
Lisa Van Riette, a single mom of three from Orange County, Calif., took a three night/four day excursion with Carnival Cruise Line this year for just under $1,000. Yup, you read that right. This included meals and kids camps and activities for her kids, ages 7, 11 and 13. “They had so much fun together! There were so many activities, like a build-a-bear (camp), a scavenger hunt for my 13-year-old and an all-you-can-eat (ice-cream) sunday party. I had time off and then we’d all get together for dinner. And, the food was good! You can’t beat it!” says Lisa.  This mom has taken many cruises with Carnival, but experts also rank Disney Cruise Line high for families as it has nursery staff for infants.

Explore Single Parent Holidays:
Organizations like Single Parent Travel offer group-discounted vacations for single parents and their children. A current package includes a a five day/four night Harry Potter excursion at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Other trips include Telluride and the beaches off the Turkish coast. I can’t say the vacations are extremely cheap (Harry Potter costs between $850 and $1,300 for rooms alone), but they offer a group discount on rooms and a built-in community of other families with children, so your kiddos will make friends and play, while you can enjoy adult conversations with other single parents. It’s a brilliant idea.

Find Travel Deals:  
There are plenty of agencies out there to sign up with, but my favorite is Sherman’s Travel Deals . Highlighted on his site right now is a great article entitled Fifteen Summer Trips on Half a Tank outlining great weekend get-a-ways. Sign up and you’ll receive his weekly email of travel tips and the latest deals. For instance, BookIt.com has a hot deal for discounts on summer vacations, ending May 1st.

Rack Up Miles.
If you have credit card debt and a decent credit rating, transfer your account to  a credit card that is offering you airline miles. For instance, some credit cards will give you 25,000 miles for opening an account and then offers miles for each dollar you spend or transfer over. To compare credit cards offering miles, go here.