Tag Archives: New York City

Boldness Has NO Expiration Date

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

Photo by: Laura Roe Stevens

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

This quote, widely attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an 18th & early 19th century German author, was attached to my first computer via sticky note, for many, many years. It compelled and inspired me to write, dream, and put myself through graduate school in New York City in my mid-twenties.

I thought about it today, as I was talking with a friend, when I said, ‘put it out there,’ in reference to her dreams. What I meant was, if you have a dream, a vision, a goal, put it out there to the Universe. Don’t poo-poo it. Don’t discard it. Don’t just think about it alone, or when you run or bike, but then tell no one. Instead, tell a trusted and supportive friend about your dream(s). Meditate on it. Ruminate on it. Visualize what it looks like. And just for fun, visualize that you already have it as you go to bed. What does it feel like? How would your day be structured?

Sounds crazy, but Why not?!

I stumbled upon an interesting tidbit about Goethe tonight, while looking up information about his life and this quote. I found that some translators of Faust, his famous play where the main character makes a deal with the devil, varied a bit. For instance, one person translated it as:

“Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting over lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Another translation I found was:

“Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin it, and the work will be completed.”

Why, you may ask, am I bringing all this up? I know what it’s like to lose a dream. I know what it’s like to push a dream aside in order to support someone else’s dreams, and then later to support children. I know how reality can settle in and dreams can be procrastinated or pushed aside. Single parents working long hours and taking care of children solo, especially, know how easy it is to push aside dreams. Disappointments, distractions, work—all can make long, lost dreams seem impractical or silly. And if you ever had a family member or unsupportive spouse or friend chastise you for having a particular dream, I don’t need to tell you about how those voices in your head can really do a number on you.

But here’s the thing. There’s nothing silly about dreams. There are the stuff life is made of. They are what we are here for. They are why our earliest childhood friends, who we might have laid underneath stars with, while drinking bad beer and talking, are so special. Remember that time in your life when you spoke of your dreams and talked about how each of you would achieve them? That time is so special because of the excitement and potential crackling in the air.

Sure, we may be weathered now. Wiser too. But many of us are also anchored down with a bit of cynicism and fear.

Maybe I’m immature at heart, but I don’t think boldness has an expiration date.

I wish I could remember the name of the head of the English department at NC State years ago. I remember him telling me about a book he started writing 20 some years earlier and how pain-stakeningly he visited every city and even oil drilling towns in order to create a believable novel. He didn’t finish it and lost many pages. When I told him to go back and start again, I’ll never forget his reply.

“It’s too late. The moment is lost. If I tried to resurrect it now, it wouldn’t have the same essence.”

I didn’t say anything to the wiser, older, professor and writer. Who was I, but a young, student getting a master’s degree? But deep inside, I didn’t believe him. Maybe it wouldn’t be the same novel, but he might discover another one. He might have a great time. He might create an even better one. Think about it.

According to some historians, Goethe wrote the first draft of his play Faust, known then as the Urfaust, between 1772 and 1775. Goethe finally finished writing Faust Part Two in 1831.

I know, not all of you are striving to be playwrights or novelists, but you get the idea.

Maybe you can’t achieve your dreams over night. But who’s to say you can’t take one step toward them each day? Maybe you need to start looking into schools or training courses? Maybe you need to just let go of some added-on responsibilities in order to carve out 30 minutes a day for some needed dream-time? Think about what you may need to do to inch towards a goal. I know there’s a lot I need to do in order to push aside procrastination or fear to move forward.

Boldness may take action—even the smallest amount—but luckily, there’s no time-limit on movement … except the one you place on yourself.

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Avoiding Gossip and Other Survival Strategies for Single Moms

A year ago, just after launching this blog, I wrote the post “Adjusting My Attitude”. The title itself is misleading, but I was new to blogging and often picked titles back then that didn’t accurately convey the real subject-matter at hand. Yes, I was adjusting my attitude—but the post really outlines survival tips to help us single moms keep our sanity and our families intact. Last weekend at one of my son’s soccer games, I was reminded of how easy it is—just after a few careless remarks and questions from an insensitive mom—to sink into self-doubt or pity or fear. The mother of another child, who has known me for four years, says loudly (after watching me run after my 3-year-old and not watch my 10-year-old play): “You clearly need your husband.”

I smiled and looked at her, with my huge, wiggly three-year-old in my arms, and saw a few moms and dads of the other players whom I didn’t know well, look up at me—and I took a deep breath. Here we go again, I thought.

Talking about the divorce with strangers is never a good idea. It not only sets you up to be the subject of gossip, but it also re-hashes old issues that may really not bother you anymore—even if it bothers others. This woman did not have my best interests at heart, but I felt I had to respond when she continued with her questions by asking why he didn’t come to the games.

“He lives in London and I’m divorced,” I say to her. (I figure it’s better to say I’m divorced than I’m still separated as I’ve been separated for more than 3 years with a lengthy, drawn-out divorce process.)

She begins tisking and sighing and I literally block her out  as she starts asking question after question very loudly and I can sense the other parents intently listening: “Does he see the boys?!” “How can you deal with this?” and “OMG, I’d just DIE!” I somehow pretend I see someone I know and walk back to the playground with my little guy. I swear I told this woman about the divorce 3 years ago at a playdate at her house when she inquired about my husband and where he was, etc. I think that she’s doing this on purpose—or that she’s incredibly dense—or just socially inept and insensitive in the very least—but I decide to shake it off. I don’t need a husband at the games. My boys are loved and they both know that I’d do anything for them. I’m juggling just fine and we ARE a complete family, I think as I clap loudly for my older son—whom I’m watching from a distance away from the chatty Cathy, gossipy mom.

I’ve learned a long time ago to block out the noise and the opinions of others and to focus solely on the health of my family: my boys. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to re-publish the majority of one of my first posts. It’s a great reminder to me, (and likely other single moms) as I prepare for many more soccer games with this woman and the others who may dig up the past for me with a barrage of questions and/or gossip—that I am strong. I am focussed. I am happy. Their self-projecting pity, gossip, or wonder over my situation is not my problem and I’m not obligated to talk about anything with them. Talking about the divorce doesn’t do me or my boys any good. I’m focussed on the future—and it’s already becoming a better one every day.

Single Mom Survival Tips:

1. Think of your divorce as a springboard for positive change.

Instead of thinking of myself as a victim, I have to think of myself as a champion for change. This is our opportunity to live a better life. I thank God every day that I have this chance to build a better life and a better self for my children.

2. Your family is complete if you are.
Another well-meaning friend came over for dinner one night. I made a roast chicken, roasted vegetables and a salad. As we sat at the table with my two boys she seemed really sad. Later after the kiddos were asleep (which was a miracle!), she admitted to me, “I feel so sad for your boys. The family just doesn’t seem complete” (meaning without their father.) I know she meant well, but I told her that it has almost always been just me and the boys or just me and William, my oldest, as my ex hardly ever made it home before dinner time. I still think it’s important to have dinner and sit around a table and chat. She apologized profusely, but I still had her thought in my head.  To clear it out, I remind myself that we are complete. I take an even more concerted effort to plan dinner. As we sit around the table and chat, giggle or make fun of the two-year-old who wears more food than he eats, I say a silent thanks for my complete family as I watch them eat healthy food. (See my Cooking section for more inspiration.)

3. Be thankful.
Every night for the past 9 years I have made William, my oldest, say a list of what he is thankful for. Because he’s ten, he says the nine things he’s thankful for. Jamesy says the three that he’s “tinkful” for. It’s a great way to remind us to focus on what’s good and what’s working in our lives. Since I’m a bit in denial of my increasing age … cough … just know that I now have a long list to come up with each evening of what I’m thankful for—and what a great way to end the evening!

4. Become a planner.

I’m trying hard on this one as it’s not my strong suit. Every weekend seems to spring upon me and I end up a bit lonely as I shuffle to find things for me and the boys to do. (Most of our married friends are enjoying family time and there are few playdates to be had for my little ones on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay busy!) If I don’t plan something ahead of time, I end up a bit blue with bored kids on my hands. Now, I plan day-trips and museum outings and am reaching out to other single moms who may want to get together for dinner, brunch etc, in order to stay busy and survive the weekend! (Read this post of my two-day unconventional Thanksgiving escape with the boys: “Wide Open Spaces.”)

5. Continue with or make family rituals. 

Who says I have to have a husband to have family night with the kids? I love long dinners and board games. There, I said it. I am definitely not very hip. I love playing games of monopoly, charades, trivial pursuit, checkers, scrabble, etc. My oldest does too. Since I’ve been separated, I barely manage to do these things as the then baby, now three-year-old, usually grabs game pieces or makes it a bit tricky. I’ve decided to re-institute family game night slowly this time. It may be hard at first, but we’re going to try to do games the youngest can master too: big puzzles, for instance. We’ll see. It may end up as family movie night until Jamesy is at least four. But we’ll get there!

6. Stop talking about the divorce.

This is difficult, but I’ve learned the hard way over the past three years that it’s better not to talk about the impending divorce with anyone other than your therapist, trusted friend or sister who remains positive, or your support group. I find that when I do respond to well-intentioned questions from neighbors or friends, that I end up feeling badly when I might have been feeling great before I started talking with them. It’s weird isn’t it? Maybe it’s just that I start to see their pity. Or maybe they may say things like “He’s such a jerk!” or “How the Hell do you do it? If I were you I’d have slit my wrists by now. Your two-year-old is such a handful!” These are just two comments I’ve received from well-meaning friends over the past few months. Ok, they aren’t helping. So what I can do in response to a well-meaning question is just smile and say, “I’m really doing well. Do you mind if we talk about something else right now?” It’s a better way to go. It also limits your exposure to being the focus of gossip. Even on my bad days when I’m actually not doing well. Fake it till you make it, isn’t such a bad way to go sometimes!

7. Limit Drinking.

I’ve never really drank much. But I find that when I do have a glass of vino with friends on the rare occasions that I go out now, I start to feel worse, rather than better.   And, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning. Enough said.

8. Work out!

Think of this time in your life as parenting boot camp. I take out all of my frustrations with the impending divorce and parenting solo during yoga class or on a bike ride. I’m lucky enough to live near the beach, so I run, walk or bike every day during the week. It’s the best way to clear my head and get the endorphins soaring!

9. Learn to Meditate.

I’m new at this, but over the past year, meditating has helped me tremendously. Even if you can just focus on your breath for 5 minutes, do it. My good friend and wonderful therapist Lisa Nastasi, Ph.D., outlines a great mindfulness meditation technique in her guest post: “The Power of NOT Holding It All )together).” 

Did any of these tips help you? What ideas do you have? Please chime in!

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Dating and the Wisdom of a Dog

Libby in Malibu, 1999

Last night I had a marvelous dream. Charles Kuralt  was interviewing me for a Sunday Morning feature about my dog Libby. Now Libby has been dead four years, but she came back to life last night in my dreams. My sweet Weimaraner was licking my face and charming Mr. Kuralt who was asking me how rescuing Libby from the TN mountains eventually rescued me. And it’s true. I was restless and lost before Libby grounded me. Of course, you may be wondering right now how my story about my sweet dog has anything to do with venturing into the dating world as a newly single mom—but just hang in there. I’ll get to that connection in a minute.

In my dream, I am standing in a field with Mr. Kuralt in the early morning dawn as we watch Libby run majestically after balls. I tell him my story  about moving from New York City to edit a small magazine in Atlanta and how I had to leave the full-bred Weimaraner I adopted with my ex-boyfriend, back in the city. Against the wishes of family members who had witnessed me moving from town to town for newspaper jobs and graduate school—and who didn’t think I had the ability to care for an animal or the stamina to stay in one place long enough to care for another creature—I put in my application to adopt a rescue dog with the Southeastern Weimaraner Society. Within a week, I was introduced to Libby: a petite Weim who had been beaten and left in a snow bank in the Tennessee mountains—most likely by hunters disappointed in her lack of hunting skills and skittish manner. I walked into the rescue society, sat down on a chair, and within moments, a shy Libby tentatively walked over and put her head on my knee. With all of the hyper and happy Weimaraners jumping around in the back yard and some in the house, I looked at this wounded animal, who was so skinny you could see her ribs, and that was it. She had claimed my heart. A few weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, (the same holiday, coincidentally, that both my sons were later conceived) I adopted my first child in 1997.

Libby was extremely skittish and frightened of loud noises. I had to earn her trust and to work with several trainers just to get her to go to the park with me. She would walk down the street with her tail tucked under, ears back, legs crouched low, as if she was just waiting for another loud blast or skate boarder to send her running back home.

As you can imagine, the first year with her was quite challenging. Just when she seemed to be getting better, something would happen that would send her into a tailspin and she’d break free from her lead and run full speed—sometimes into the street towards on-coming traffic—with me screaming and running after her. And the things that really sent her off were usually just big men, wearing hats and boots, who naively walked over to pat her. She was incredibly beautiful and everyone wanted to meet her when we were out on a walk. Sadly, she was terrified of a certain type of man, which I began to think must remind her of of the hunters who had abused her. The type of man that scared her most were tall, big, boisterous, and usually wearing boots and hats. I began to stay clear of men like this too, just out of habit from our walks.

So, when I entered the dating world back in 1997, after my move from Manhattan, it became clear, early on, that certain men just wouldn’t do. As I mentioned, if a large boisterous man who clomped when he walked, even tried to approach my door, she would run in circles barking with her tail under until I finally put her into her crate to calm down. But it was always the same. The men who threw their keys down loudly or didn’t take their shoes off or who came into the house talking loudly and who didn’t make an effort to help calm her down: didn’t last very long. And the ones that would later make fun of her when she was put into her crate, who would agonize her and tease her by stomping loudly or banging on the crate while laughing, were the worst. I knew instantly they HAD TO GO.  Can you even imagine doing that to an abused animal? That’s the type of boy who would bully awkward or disabled children on the playground in elementary school. And you would be surprised by just how many men did that sort of thing to Libby while laughing and then later saying to me: “How in the world can you put up with such a crazy dog?”

I’d be thinking, “How can I put up with You?!”

I mean think about it. Sure, I had a special needs dog who had been abused and required much TLC, but she turned out to be the most loyal and kind friend I’ve ever known. (Read this article I published about how Libby literally saved my life.)

After a few months of watching her, that first year, it was clear that she had a six sense about men. Libby could smell kindness or cruelty in a person—which is a critical ability to have when you are venturing into the dating world. I wish more single moms had her keen sense. She was insanely smart. She wasn’t a Lab you could bribe with a dog biscuit. No, you had to BE a certain kind of person for Libby to love you.

I remember learning much about the character of family friends over the years by watching how they interacted with Libby.

For instance, on the day that I was throwing a party, a new friend won me over by laying down under my desk for almost an hour so that Libby would come over and lay down beside him. He kept rubbing her ears and calming her down as I rushed around the apartment putting things together for the party.

Another friend of a friend completely surprised me by his kindness. Every time he’d see Libby, he’d lie down on the floor near her and put a tennis ball under his chin. He’d smile and giggle as Libby would shake all over and inch closer and closer to him, as she so desperately wanted the tennis ball. After a few times of this, with her timidly taking the ball out from under his chin and running away, the two became fast friends.

It became a joke with me and my girlfriends: Want to know if you have a nice guy? Put him through the Libby Test. (Looking back, I can see how single moms, especially, could really have benefitted from this.) Since Libby is no longer here with us, here’s a condensed list of what I have learned from her.  To find a kind man, who has a chance of developing love for your children, as well as you, stay clear of men who:

  • are boisterous.
  • are aggressive.
  • wear baseball hats indoors.
  • interrupt you.
  • are impatient.
  • make fun of, or taunt, anyone who has been abused or is disabled.
  • hunt birds.
  • clomp loudly when they walk.
  • make sudden and unexpected moves.
  • yell or shout commands.
  • hit you (or children) when you (or they) misbehave and are already scared.
  • drink too much.
  • are very tall and/or very big. (hmmm…maybe there could be an exception here!)
  • break things or bump into furniture often.
  • have an anxious temperament.
  • whose legs bob up and down impatiently when they sit at a dinner table.
  • run their hands through their hair over and over again.
  • often clear their throats in a passive aggressive and loud way.
  • listen to rap or metal rock at loud volume.
  • wear large pinky rings that bang against table tops.
  • drive recklessly or approach turns quickly—causing anyone in the back to slam against a window.
  • have dramatic mood swings.
  • don’t play ball.
  • don’t give belly rubs or back scratches.
  • are always on the computer or iphone, so one hand isn’t free for those belly rubs or back scratches.
  • don’t cook or share home-cooked meals (especially those including bacon).
  • don’t bring home or play with toys.
  • don’t ever go on morning or early evening strolls.
  • don’t understand the value of long, slow car rides with the windows down.
  • don’t like to snuggle while watching movies.

What do you think? Was Libby on the right tract?

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Relationship Guru Dr. Pat Allen Sets Me Straight!

Photo by: Monkey Wrench Collective

So you want to find Mr. Right? It’s simple: stop doing all the wrong (albeit fun) things when you first meet, says Dr. Pat Allen, Ph.D., relationship and communication therapist in Los Angeles. Allen is also the author of several best-selling books including: Getting To I-Do and The Truth About Men Will Set You Free, (But First It Will Piss You Off!) You may be more familiar with her, however, from her multiple TV interviews or her work on the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker where her blunt talk about sex and relationship blunders borders on the comical. Here’s a clip to see what I mean. (It’s ok, go ahead and watch it, I’ll wait!)

I met Dr. Allen in 2009 when I was desperately trying to keep my marriage together. Through a friend’s psychic vision (yeah, I know, but it really happened), I discovered that my husband started an affair when working abroad while I was at home with our six month old baby and his older brother. I try not to focus on all the details of this sordid time, and the time that followed of yo-yo-ing back and forth in this cycle of forgiveness and betrayal again and again. My life had become the car wreck that friends and family couldn’t stop themselves from slowing down to look at. When I think back to that period when I was still breastfeeding and down to 92 lbs from sheer sorrow, I just die inside. So, like a race car driver who refuses to look at the wall when he races, I’m keeping my eyes on the better road ahead.

Just know that three months of therapy with Dr. Allen helped me let go of an impossible situation. She taught me about the male brain and the drug-like effects of dopamine on men who are ascending into places of power. And, I learned that I was too nice, codependent, and had lost my power and my ability to say no in relationships that resulted in mistreatment.

I turned to Dr. Allen to advise all of us single moms who are venturing out into the dating world as newbies. Her books will teach you many things, including how right-handed men think (very interesting, but for another blog) and how you have to negotiate commitment with men and never assume they can be monogamous…which is a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it? So my first question to her on the night we met at her office in West Los Angeles was this:

“What is the biggest tip you can give women entering the dating world again?”

Without hesitation, she replied: “Stop drinking. Pure and simple.”

She speaks in a quintessentially blunt, staccato voice. I’m listening, expecting a more elaborate explanation. When she doesn’t continue I push her for information on this topic as how many women like to have a glass of wine on a first date to take the edge off? The relationship expert explains that a woman can’t size up a man correctly if she even has one drink on the first date or before commitment.

“Wine (on the first date, first meeting) knocks out instincts for her and knocks out intelligence and intuition for him. They go home, have sex and wake up with strangers. The chemistry is all wrong,” Dr. Allen explains.

The relationship guru continues that “you need to be sober to feel chemistry.”

Sexual attraction that builds over drinks isn’t true chemistry, she reminds me.

Ok, I can do that. I don’t drink that much anymore anyway. The other tip for finding Mr. Right might be a bit trickier: NO sex.

And I don’t just mean on the first date, which isn’t an issue for many of us. Dr. Allen says a woman shouldn’t “consummate a relationship” before commitment.

“Don’t have sex without a commitment and don’t make a commitment under the influence,” she explains.

Before having sex with a man, women need to have at least “a gut feeling of the goodness of the person we are with.” That can’t happen under the influence and women bond too quickly with a man after sex—but clearly, it’s often with the wrong man.

This is science at work. If a woman is attracted to a man, the hormone oxytocin is released into her body, which heightens the sense of touch and orgasm. If she drinks and then has sex with a man that she knows little about, she can become addicted to him. This makes her disregard any red flags that she would have normally picked up on—such as drug use, a history of infidelity, sexual addiction, mental illness, anger issues, financial instability, etc.

“The problem with oxytocin-based addictive bonding to an inappropriate man is that the intellect is relegated to a secondary status in choice and judgment. The good counsel of parents, friends, religious leaders and psychotherapists is of no benefit. Addiction to oxytocin as a pleasure takes over,” Dr. Allen says.

Ok, Dr. Allen’s advice makes sense to me. But, like a lot of things in life, it might be harder to put all of it into practice. I always wait to have sex with a man until I feel a bit of goodness about him, and never on the first date. I remember hearing about the “3 Date Rule” when living in New York. Do you guys know of that one? Well, waiting until the third date to have sex is complete rubbish, according to Dr. Allen, unless you just want to have fun and don’t care whether you end up abused or in a long-term relationship.

What do you think single moms (and single women in general!) out there? I ran across a couple of great single mom blogs recently where this debate is raging. MsSingleMama.com, (who rocks, btw!) often writes about her dating adventures and chats with other single moms about the importance of having sex. In a forum asking how long it had been for her single mom readers some moms wrote in that it had been 18 months or even 2 years! Wait, these are gorgeous, smart, savvy, young women. What’s going on here? Well, most of us just won’t bring a man home to the kiddos. And, many of us are completely gun-shy after the heartbreak of our divorces. Dr. Allen says we all need to know that “No man is monogamous.” (Why this should be reassuring is hard to get right away!) A line from our interview that is so apropo for this is: “The man you’re afraid of is THE MAN.”

All men want to cheat, but not all do, she says. In order to find the good guys, the ones who will cherish and love you and feel horribly if they hurt you, you need to weed out the bad.

As a recap, here are Dr. Allen’s top tips to successfully find a good guy:

  1. Don’t drink on the first date, even one glass of vino, so you can determine chemistry and listen to your intuition.
  2. Don’t have sex on the first date, ever.
  3. Don’t have sex until a firm commitment, so you don’t bond with the wrong fella.
  4. Don’t drink with your new man until you have a commitment.

Why does she insist on these rules? Because you have to have true chemistry, compatibility and great communication to make a relationship work. “You will know in three minutes whether you have great chemistry with a man,” Dr. Allen insists.

Ok, I think I have three minutes.

And, she says give a potential good guy at least three dates in order to realize whether your intellect is disregarding him prematurely. But don’t drink on these dates!

Well, I’ve got three minutes and three evenings to spare. … Maybe I can tip-toe back out there after all. How about you? Do you think you can follow her rules? Do you even want to? Please chime in!!

Adjusting My Attitude

 It’s about Survival. Keeping a positive outlook is important for us all, but especially for us single moms. And who knew that there are now 9.9 million of us in America? Robert Bernstein of the U.S. Census Bureau gave me this figure for 2010 and said single moms had risen at a staggering pace since 1973 when there were only 3 million of us. There are now more single mothers than the entire population of New York City. Wow. At least we have each other for support, right? And, more thankfully, at least some of us have gotten out of bad marriages in search of a better life. Experts agree that divorce was less socially acceptable in the 70s, so perhaps a few million women from the 1970s wished they were single moms!

But seriously, even if this single mom gig is by your choice, it’s still a hard job. If you don’t have family nearby to help and your ex isn’t, or is rarely around, to assist with the childrearing, it’s especially critical to not let your thoughts sink into self pity or doubt. Trust me. I have been battling with my conflicting thoughts every week for two years now. Sunday, or family day, can be especially lonely for us, but I tell myself that this is our time—my opportunity to create a better life for myself and my boys and just get on with it. Otherwise, I’ll likely sink into a funk that my children will get exposed to. I really don’t have the time or the luxury to crawl under the covers and not come out right now. And this might be a good thing. Raising two children alone is exhausting, wonderful and challenging—especially when the two-year-old temper tantrums heat up to mach speed—but this is my choice. When it comes right down to it, I could have taken my ex back, but after multiple betrayals, I decided that I wanted a better life for myself. I’m grateful for this opportunity and if that means that I have to endure some lonely days to get there, than so be it.

All things in due time. I choose to focus on the fact that I get to live with two adorable boys (even when they’re naughty!) and it’s my chance to do something amazing: to help raise two wonderful men. (Nevermind that last night I gave myself a timeout from my two-year-old!) So, with that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of tips and some positive spins on some negative thoughts—you know the ones that can become your reality if you let them. I’ve been thinking a  lot about this lately. It all boils down to attitude and I’m working on adjusting mine every day. Thank God we get a new day, a new beginning, to try to get this stuff right. It’s sure not easy though. Here are some positive spins and tips that I’m currently incorporating into my life, that I hope will inspire you too:

Think of your divorce as a springboard for positive change.
A friend said to me the other day (after I called venting …), “He abandoned you guys. That’s the reality.” Well, that’s not entirely true, and even if it was, I don’t need to focus on it. Instead of thinking of myself as a victim, I have to think of myself as a champion for change. This is our opportunity to live a better life. I thank God every day that I have this chance to build a better life and a better self for my children.

Your family is complete if you are.
Another well-meaning friend came over for dinner one night. I made a roast chicken, roasted vegetables and a salad. As we sat at the table with my two boys she seemed really sad. Later after the kiddos were asleep (which was a miracle!), she admitted to me, “I feel so sad for your boys. The family just doesn’t seem complete” (meaning without their father.) I know she meant well, but I told her that it has almost always been just me and the boys or just me and William, my oldest, as my ex hardly ever made it home before dinner time. I still think it’s important to have dinner and sit around a table and chat. She apologized profusely, but I still had her thought in my head.  To clear it out, I remind myself that we are complete. I take an even more concerted effort to plan dinner. As we sit around the table and chat, giggle or make fun of the two-year-old who wears more food than he eats, I say a silent thanks for my complete family as I watch them eat healthy food. (See my Cooking section for more inspiration.)

Be thankful.
Every night for the past 8 years I have made William, my oldest, say a list of what he is thankful for. Because he’s nine, he says the nine things he’s thankful for. Jamesy says the two that he’s “tinkful” for. It’s a great way to remind us to focus on what’s good and what’s working in our lives. Since I’m a bit in denial of my increasing age … cough … just know that I now have a long list to come up with each evening of what I’m thankful for—and what a great way to end the evening!

Become a planner.

I’m trying hard on this one as it’s not my strong suit. Every weekend seems to spring upon me and I end up a bit lonely as I shuffle to find things for me and the boys to do. (Most of our married friends are enjoying family time and there are few playdates to be had for my little ones on the weekend, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay busy!) If I don’t plan something ahead of time, I end up a bit blue with bored kids on my hands. Now, I plan day-trips and museum outings and am reaching out to other single moms who may want to get together for dinner, brunch etc, in order to stay busy and survive the weekend!

Continue with or make family rituals. 

Who says I have to have a husband to have family night with the kids? I love long dinners and board games. There, I said it. I am definitely not very hip. I love playing games of monopoly, charades, trivial pursuit, checkers, scrabble, etc. My oldest does too. Since I’ve been separated, I barely manage to do these things as the then baby, now two-year-old, usually grabs game pieces or makes it a bit tricky. I’ve decided to re-institute family game night slowly this time. It may be hard at first, but we’re going to try to do games the youngest can master too: big puzzles, for instance. We’ll see. It may end up as family movie night until Jamesy is at least four. But we’ll get there!

Stop talking about the divorce.

This is difficult, but I’ve learned the hard way over the past two years that it’s better not to talk about the impending divorce with anyone other than your therapist, trusted friend or sister who remains positive, or your support group. I find that when I do respond to well-intentioned questions from neighbors or friends, that I end up feeling badly when I might have been feeling great before I started talking with them. It’s weird isn’t it? Maybe it’s just that I start to see their pity. Or maybe they may say things like “He’s such a jerk!” or “How the Hell do you do it? If I were you I’d have slit my wrists by now. Your two-year-old is such a handful!” These are just two comments I’ve received from well-meaning friends over the past few months. Ok, they aren’t helping. So what I can do in response to a well-meaning question is just smile and say, “I’m really doing well. Do you mind if we talk about something else right now?” It’s a better way to go. Even on my bad days when I’m actually not doing well. Fake it till you make it, isn’t such a bad way to go sometimes!

Limit Drinking.

I’ve never really drank much. But I find that when I do have a glass of vino with friends on the rare occasions that I go out now, I start to feel worse, rather than better.   And, I still have to get up at 6:30 a.m. every morning. Enough said.

Work out!

Think of this time in your life as parenting boot camp. I take out all of my frustrations with the impending divorce and parenting solo on the strand. I’m lucky enough to live near the beach, so I run, walk or bike every day during the week. It’s the best way to clear my head and get the endorphins soaring!

Did any of these tips help you? What ideas do you have? Please chime in!

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

A wise friend told me this and I’ve repeated it to several women recently. I’ve had so many conversations over the past three weeks with a variety of new and old girlfriends who seem be to stuck or tempted by the grass is greener ideology. For instance, one married woman lamented to me that she was a bit jealous of my single status. “I miss getting butterflies while getting ready for a new date! I miss the first kiss, the romance. You’re so lucky.”

Another married woman said to me that she was tempted to cheat. “I can’t stand the monotony. I get criticized for not making a stellar dinner. He points out if I’ve gained a pound, but just sits and watches football and drinks too much. Where’s the fun in that?”

I understand. Really.

Interestingly, it’s not always rosy for the separated and divorced women out in the dating world. Some of my divorced and separated friends seem to be on collision courses. In their frantic search for a new man, they are with people who have addictions or just treat them poorly because that’s who they are. I can’t quite get it.

“I just can’t be without a man,” said one woman who is with the wrong person and knows it. (A person addicted, mentally unstable and unable to NOT hurt her.)

“But maybe he’s treating me this way because he’s confused,” said another who is putting up with so much cruelty from a man that it’s unbelievable and too painful for me to watch anymore.

So I told these women in my life two things (not that I’m a savant, but taking time off from men can really clear your head!)

One: “The Grass is Greener Where You Water It.”

Two: (aka Gloria Steinem): “A Woman Without a Man, is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” Think about it. (By the way, I was reading Steinem’s book Revolution From Within in the kitchen of a newspaper where I was reporter in Maryland back in 1992/93 when the publisher walked in, looked at me, and said, “Shit.” He spit out his tobacco in a nearby trash can and continued, “I knew you were smart, but now you’re going to start asking for a raise. Put that Steinem crap away and get back to work.” KID YOU NOT!)

I know I can’t help my friends with their serious issues. (And I understand them as I recognize them in myself.) I can’t make them see that they are lovable. I can’t make them see that they are beautiful. I can’t make them understand that instead of quickly demanding a man commit to them, they might want to take a breather and decide whether or not that new man is worthy of their commitment. How do I help them realize that they are wonderful and deserve love that doesn’t hurt?

I guess I can’t do that. I can only take care of myself. So, I’ve decided to take a time out from men. Why not? This past month four married men propositioned me. (Seriously? What is UP with that?!)

Anyone who knows me well knows that even the most chiseled man couldn’t get my number if he has a wedding ring on. And there lies another problem … many men nowadays just take them off.

But this isn’t the main reason why I’m taking a time out. I’m not as jaded as I could be! No, I’m just exhausted. So thank you to the friends who want to set me up on dates, but no thanks for now. Taking care of two kiddos solo 24/7 is tiring. I love them dearly and thank God for my boys every day. But there’s only so much space in my life. I’m giving it to them (and me) right now.

Secondly, I’m the personality type (cough, can you say co-dependent?!) that puts another person’s needs WAY before my own. I’ve done it my whole life. Maybe you can relate to that one? I tend to wrap myself around the important person in my life and cater to their needs and put my own very far down the list. It’s time to get re-introduced to myself. I had no idea how bad it was until I was on the phone with one of my best friends, whom I’ve known for 25 years. Here’s how the conversation went:

“I’m SO excited! I’ve decided to hire the nanny and go away for a weekend.” I say to her six weeks ago. (She knew I had been brave and broken up with my first boyfriend since my ex-husband. It’s hard to walk away, but I’m learning to take care of myself.)

Great, where are you going dare devil,” she replies.

“I have no idea.”

“Wow.”

“I know. I’m stumped. I can’t even think of what I want to do or where I want to go.”

There’s a brief pause.

“Is this the same girl who traveled nonstop solo, taking new reporter jobs in random places just to travel. The girl I’d have to track down constantly, who moved to New York on a whim to write and who has at least 25 addresses in my address book?”

“Um, I think so. It’s just been so long you know. I’ve been in lockdown with the kids for two years, I can’t think straight.”

“Yeah. It’s crazy. You don’t even know what you like anymore. But I know who you are and what you like. Wow, you are so lost. Go somewhere, hole up and write.”

I hung up with her and thought about that.

Wow. I really couldn’t think of where I should go or what I should do with any time off. It’s like I had become the caged bird in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea.

At the last minute, I decided to cancel the solo trip for financial reasons, but it got me thinking, I really need to get back to the basics. Instead of taking what little time I have to go out on dates and to search for another someone in my life, I’m better off writing, working out, going to Al-Anon (long story) and getting to know who I am again.  You can’t build up strength on a shaky platform.

So, I’ve decided not to heed the warning of one man whose argument to begin an affair with him started with the fact that I wouldn’t be this attractive forever—presumably to be able to attract the likes of him … How sweet right? Be still my heart.

No, I’m going to take the risk of mother time creeping up on me and adding a few more wrinkles and thwarting hot prospects from entering my life in order to focus on … well … me. For once.

If you’re one of those single mommas who are spinning like a top in the dating world, what do you think? Can you try a time out for sanity’s sake too? Let me know how it goes and please share your tips of survival if you are still venturing out in this crazy dating world. Lots of love and luck to you if you are! x