Giving Thanks After A Split

One of my friends sent me this link this morning and I thought it worthy to share.   Although not all co-parents are in a place where they can share a meal together, I think that seeing that the possibility is even there can help bring hope to a tough situation.  My aunt and uncle divorced when I was little, but my uncle came to Thanksgiving and Christmas with us for years.  I never really understood that as a child, but now I see how kind that was of him to bring my cousin to celebrate with OUR FAMILY when it was his year to have her.  That is amazing…

As   said in her blog, “When exes bring good intentions to the table, it’s the perfect occasion to open the door to a healthier relationship. It gives parents, and their kids, more to be thankful for all year round.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2013/11/celebrating_thanksgiving_with_divorced_parents.html

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I Googled Myself

On occasion I get disheartened when I feel like someone questions my motives on writing about the topic of co-parenting.  I decided to Google myself tonight while writing my newest blog.  It makes me feel so good when I see posts on the internet where people recognize me for my genuine intentions.  If I can continue to make many small differences in the lives of others, then I will feel like a success.  Below is a nice commendation from the National Parents Organization.

https://nationalparentsorganization.org/recent-articles?id=21378

Thank you to all of my readers for continuing to stroke my ego by re-posting my blog and emailing me kind words.

 

 

 

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

581982_10152083989349879_68966653_nA couple of years ago, while visiting the beautiful city of Charleston, I toured some of the old graveyards that are sporadically located throughout downtown.  As I slowly wandered around and read all of the epitaphs, I wondered how I will be remembered someday.  What are the things that I do that my friends and family will miss most?  How do I want to be remembered?

My friends can vouch for me when I say that I am a firecracker.  Yes, I have heard that more than a few times in my life.  I often speak without a filter, I have been known to have one too many drinks on occasion, I am passionate (and vocal) about everything important to me, and my laugh can be heard from rooms away.  And I laugh a LOT.  My famous last words are usually, “Can we have just one more?”  I don’t like a party to end.

Did I mention I am loud?  I can yell in our 5,000 square foot house and everyone in the entire house can hear that it’s dinnertime… even with doors shut.  (I don’t think my husband would remember that part of me fondly!)  I am also a very loud church singer.  I have always said that God and my kids (and my nieces) are the only people who love to hear me sing.  So I make sure He can hear me!

I change my appearance on a whim with different hair colors and styles.  Some days I wear glasses and some days I wear contacts.  I was complaining to a friend last week about a mutual acquaintance who never recognizes me and my friend said, “In her defense, you DO change your look a lot.”  I even went through a stage at 35 where I put a purple streak in my hair for a couple of months just for fun and had to bleach it out when I went to law school.

My passion is food.  Bacon in particular.  I also love pasta and seafood.  Even more, I love them together.  With bacon.  I love Reese’s peanut butter cups, but I always break them in half while eating them to check for worms (yeah, that’s a memory from childhood I will never forget).  I have an unhealthy addiction to gummy bears and Bottle Caps.  I keep all of my favorite recipes in a program on my laptop and I share them with anyone who asks.  I rarely drink sodas, but I truly think a fountain Mountain Dew is a nectar of the gods.

I am obsessive about timeliness and organization, but I can’t remember anything unless I have it written down.  I need a checklist each day just to accomplish anything.  I should own stock in sticky notes.  I sometimes worry my sweet husband will grow weary of repeating things.  I have to say someone’s name at least four times before I can actually remember it, then I will probably get them confused with someone else anyway.

My husband says I both hum and whistle through my nose while I sleep and I often wake myself up snoring.  I can’t sleep without a fan on because I need the white noise and I like to sleep in nightgowns no matter how cold it is.  I can’t stand getting hot in the middle of the night.  Oh, and I LOVE TO SLEEP.  If given the chance, I will sleep ten hours straight with no problem.  And even after ten hours of sleep, I could take an afternoon nap.  That apparent addiction to sleep runs in my family.

I don’t like to talk about unpleasant things or have unpleasant things talked about in my presence.  I have no poker face whatsoever and if I am thinking it, then you can see it in my eyes.  My husband and my children say I also have a glazed over look when I withdraw completely if I am in an uncomfortable fight or flight situation.  My ten year old daughter told me last month, “You have that look that you get when you try not to hear what someone is saying.”

I love to drink wine and dance to music while cooking.  Even more, I love to be surrounded by loved ones.  My favorite night ever would be sitting around a fire with a big group of friends and family – drinking wine and laughing and telling stories and watching SEC football.  GO GAMECOCKS!  My friends and my family are my world and I am as dangerous as a mama bear when it comes to fiercely protecting them.  I have a sharp tongue.

Being nice to anyone and everyone is what brings me happiness.  My kids complain that I make friends wherever we go.  If I talk to a random person at the grocery store, the kids will say, “How do you know her?” I’ll say, “I don’t.  I was just talking.”  And they will walk away while smiling and shaking their heads.  I have been told by friends that I am intimidating at first because I tend to reach out a lot to people, which apparently can make introverts uncomfortable (who knew?).  I admittedly stole the first kiss from my husband while sitting on a sofa on the patio at World of Beer on April 20, 2012.  We were married May 11, 2013.

I’ve never had a speeding ticket in my life nor have I ever been charged with any kind of criminal offense.  Although I have THOUGHT plenty of thoughts that if they had been carried out would have changed the previous sentence.  My father put a fear of drugs in me that I pray I can pass along to my children.  I admit I did plenty of things I shouldn’t do, but I was always one of those kids who the adults liked because I never got caught.

I dream of waking up on the water and can’t wait to move to the river as soon as my kids all graduate from high school.   At the same time, the thought of my kids leaving the nest scares me more than anything else in this world.  Well, and cancer.  Cancer is pretty high up there.  And losing my parents.  I am glazing over just at the mention of that.

Some people care about cars, but I don’t even know what kind of cars my best friends drive.  Cars are insignificant to me. I don’t care about being remembered for my job or for how big my house was.  I want people to think back and remember me for how kind I was and how I made them feel better about themselves.  I want to be remembered for inspiring people to be the best they can be and for making people laugh.  If I am remembered like that, then I will feel like a success.  If I am remembered for my servant’s heart, then I will have accomplished my lifelong goal.

All of that being said, I read a quote recently by Steve Maraboli, “She is delightfully chaotic; a beautiful mess. Loving her is a splendid adventure.”  I think that is the perfect epitomization of how I want people to see me.   That would be what I would want my epitaph to read.

To love and be loved is all that really matters.

Scholarship Opportunity for Single Mothers

The Law Offices of Curiel & Runion in Phoeniz, AZ understand how important education is for everyone, especially single mothers. It can be an uphill battle going back to school while also caring for a child, but the rewards far outweigh the obstacles.

They want to support single mothers who are going back to school by offering two $1000 scholarships.

After going to law school at 35, I know firsthand how hard it is to go back to school as a single mom.  I also know how incredibly expensive it is.  My student loans are now just a part of my life.  Every little bit can help when taking the plunge back into the school waters!

Go to their website and write an essay to qualify.  All submissions must be received by June 5, 2014.

Thank you to this law firm for offering this opportunity to single mothers!

 

Reviews

I do not thank my readers enough for all of your kind words.  I have been keeping your messages and finally decided to add a “Reviews” section.  Your support is what keeps me writing…

This comment epitomizes why I do what I do:

“You have a God given talent and life experiences that you can’t stop sharing with others.  Your writings give others hope and knowing that you’re helping others whether it be 1 or 100, you are doing a great thing and making a significant difference in people’s lives.” – Susan

Thank you for helping me make my dream of helping others come true!!!!

Bless you all, Valerie

Essential Organizational Skills for the Single Mom

Published originally today on the Huffington Post:

I sat down to write the outline for this blog and it was absolutely the easiest topic on which I have ever brainstormed. After being a single mom for almost nine years, I have plenty of tips and ideas on how to improve the quality of life for not only you, but the people around you.

1) Don’t Put Off What You Can Do Today

That is very self explanatory, but essential when you are a single mom. If you put one thing off, then with certainty there will be four more things piled on the list before tomorrow. So as soon as a permission slip comes in, fill it out and have your child put it right back into their folder and write the field trip in your calendar.

2) Make Your Calendar Your Best Friend

My ex, his wife, my husband and our kids all have access to the same Google Calendar, so I always enter dates into the Google Calendar so my ex can stay on top of events even when the kids are not with him. Early in my tenure as a single mom, I was not very good with being on time and keeping track of appointments. Honestly, my ex had spent so many years staying on top of me about where I needed to be and when that I don’t think I was really prepared for having to keep everything in order alone. It was tough, but once I realized the importance of organization, it made life much easier on all of us. And once I learned the stress it caused my kids to be late for school or their activities, it made my children much happier.

3) Don’t Commit to Something Just Because it Sounds Good

This is actually a big deal. It may not sound like it, but it is. Unless you know that you are going to do something, even something as small as going to the park on Saturday, then don’t commit. It is disappointing to the kids and it will be the death of you while the kids attack you with a barrage of questions on when you might go and where and how and with whom.

What works best for me now that my kids are older is to say, “I will think about it, but I cannot possibly commit to that right now.” My kids know that if I say that, then there is a possibility, but only if they back off. Because they know that if it’s a no, then I will say no.

4) Learn to Say NO!

Let’s practice that right now… “NO!” I don’t just mean to your kids… I mean to ANYONE and EVERYONE who want more from you than you have to give. It’s hard enough to be a mom, but throw a full-time job (where you are the only source of income for your household) and there are just not enough hours of the day to be Super Mom and volunteer nonstop. Learn to say no and focus on your kids in other ways. Quality time is the most important way we can say yes to our kids.

5) Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

I have always been terrible at asking for help. It was like asking for help was admitting some perceived shortcoming. I learned over the years that there are so many people out there who are willing to help you if you allow them. Being afraid to ask or feeling like you are needy is completely in your brain and you need to figure out how to deal with it. I don’t know how I would have survived the years as a single mom without the help of my parents, my friends and even my ex and his wife. Another important form of delegation is getting the kids to carry more weight around the house. Moms often resist this because of the mother’s guilt they carry due to the divorce.

6) Take Care of Yourself

This is the biggie of all biggies because it’s nearly impossible, but it must be done if you are to have any sanity. There are plenty of ways you can be good to yourself so that you can be the best you that you can be — physically and emotionally.

It seems that most of my friends who have gone through divorces follow the textbook divorce routine. They try to do what they can to improve their physical appearance — lose weight, change their hairstyle, wear more make-up, get plastic surgery. All of this is just part of the rite of passage and is probably needed by women as a way to build self-esteem during a time of very low self-esteem.

The truth is that if you cannot take care of yourself, then you are of no use to anyone else. Including your children. So do what you can to take care of you, including seeking professional help if you are having trouble moving past the anger. Focusing on the future rather than the past will allow you to stay positive and hopeful.

And who can’t benefit from a little hope?

Remove Emotions From Co-Parenting

Published originally today on the Huffington Post:

English: A metaphorical visualization of the w...

English: A metaphorical visualization of the word Anger. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Co-parenting following divorce can be very challenging to say the least. You feel like you have finally broken the ties of marriage, but you find yourself having to deal daily with the one person you want nothing to do with. As soon as you are able, you need to do everything in your power to remove emotions from the co-parenting equation. Do not enter this new role with preconceived ideas. Try to focus on the fact that the marital relationship is over, so this is your new role as co-parents. For the kids, you must remove emotion and start fresh. Let the old ghosts go.

Sure, I get that your ex was irresponsible with your finances. That’s awful. Yeah, so maybe she was having an affair with your next door neighbor. Despicable! But what do those past transgressions have to do with raising your children NOW? Nothing. The marital relationship is over and the co-parenting relationship has begun. And this relationship will last for the rest of your lives.

Just like in a business partnership, you must remain professional in this new role. It seems that the parents who focus on their own agenda or refuse to cooperate with the other parent are the ones who are still harboring a great deal of resentment or anger over the divorce. As a result of this anger, they are only hindering the children’s healing.

From my experience, I have learned that who initiated the divorce is not predictive of who harbors the most anger. I think that the pendulum can swing based on certain life changes. The pendulum can also swing based on the passion each side feels about a certain topic — for example, educational or medical decisions.

The problem with allowing emotion in is that when emotion is involved, logic isn’t. You cannot have a reasonable discussion or think logically when you are caught up in your own internal emotional battle. How can you possibly agree on any major issues when you are being ruled strictly by your emotions? The anger you may feel toward your ex will only cloud your judgment and cause you to make decisions based on revenge rather than focusing on the best interests of your children.

Sure, you can claim to be unemotional, but if you resort to name calling or hanging up on your ex or refusing to respond to emails/texts, then you are clearly working on emotions rather than focusing on your shared vision for the children.

In order to put the kids first, you first have to release your anger. You may feel anger over the events that led up to the divorce. You may feel anger over your ex getting remarried. You may feel anger about how your ex treats you. All of this anger is valid and is a natural part of the grieving process, but just like grieving, you have to work through the feelings to move on with your life. And your children NEED you to move on with your life.

Playing the victim card doesn’t work in this new role as a co-parent either. If you find yourself playing the victim role, then you are basically declaring that you are not strong enough to move forward. If you repeat the story about how you were wronged in your marriage over and over to anyone who will listen, then you are stuck. It may be time to seek professional help. Why are you allowing him/her that much power over your emotions? You need to gain control of your emotions so that you can be a good parent.

Letting go of your anger and emotions all starts with your thoughts. Turning those thoughts around is something that only you can change. Changing your ex is out of your control, so take control of YOU and start the process of healing.

For your children, you need to make it your priority to do whatever is necessary to be able to have a positive co-parenting relationship with your ex. So remove the emotion and embrace this new role as a co-parent. Your children will notice the change in your interactions with your ex and EVERYONE will be more relaxed as a result. You will be surprised when you find yourself able to discuss situations with your ex without raising your voice. Disagreements are inevitable, but with emotions removed, you will be able to handle them together as business partners invested in the future of your kids.

Grilled Chicken Pasta

This is probably our most favorite “go-to” recipe.  I can make this and store it in the refrigerator for days.  I love to take it to lunch and my daughter will even take it to school in her lunchbox.  Sadly, we are on a no-dairy trial with my daughter right now, so I wouldn’t dream of torturing her by making this.   So rather than MAKE IT, I will SHARE IT!!!

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Our Favorite Chicken Pasta!!!!!!!

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

Marinade: 1/2 c. Olive Oil; 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped; 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce; 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce

Combine all marinade ingredients in a glass dish.  Dip 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in marinade and turn to coat; sprinkle with black pepper.  Marinate at least an hour.   Grill chicken and cut into bite-size pieces.

Cook 1 lb. of rotini and drain.

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Add 2 cups of Parmesan Cheese and 1 cup of Olive Oil.

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Add 1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half.

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Add chicken breast and as much chopped basil as you like.  I personally like to add a big handful!

One of my favorite things...

One of my favorite things…

This tastes even better if refrigerated for the day or overnight.  Joe likes to heat it up a little, but I like it cold.

Finished Product!!!!

Finished Product!!!!

Also, if you don’t have time for grilling chicken, we have found that a cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will do in a pinch (and we do it this way A LOT).

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Variation – Chopped rotisserie chicken instead of grilled chicken breast

You can play around with the recipe since I know some people may prefer less olive oil and some may even like to add a small can of black olives.

I hope you enjoy this as much as my party of six does!!!

 

Our Marriage is More Important Than The Number…

Life in a blended family can sometimes get quite chaotic.  As always, last week we had a revolving door of children.  With two pre-teen girls and two teen boys, everyone had their own agenda for Halloween and it did not include hanging out with us.  After letting everyone do their own thing for a while – stepkids went trick-or-treating at their mom’s house, my daughter went with friends in our neighborhood and my son went to a Halloween party – we reconvened and ended the night as a family.  Our first Halloween as a blended family ended up being a success!  Touch and go at points due to insanity caused by overload of sugar on the brain in the teen boys, but we made it.

And I was exhausted.

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Answer to my prayers…

My amazingly handsome husband always knows me better than I know myself and he knows that my writing has had to be last on my priority list lately, so he surprised me with a weekend in a cabin at Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia.  He claimed it was my “writer’s retreat.”  It was so much more than that.

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My writing corner in the cabin

Marriage in and of itself is challenging.  You must be proactive to keep the marriage healthy.  This can be even more challenging in a second marriage because there are so many divisive elements between mine, his, ours and theirs.  As I have said before, there are plenty of people who are somehow invested in your family and some of them are pulling against you.  Because of this, the divorce rate is even higher than in first marriages.  You have to be committed to your marriage and to making it work… and sometimes a trip away is the perfect catalyst for a happy couple.

It’s the first weekend that I can remember when we had no kids and no kids’ activities – no piano recitals or soccer tournaments or races.  And as always, God’s timing was perfect.  Right here before our six month mark of marriage, we were able to renew our relationship by just focusing on us.

Joe planned everything perfectly... all the way down to bring his own dish detergent!

Joe planned everything perfectly… all the way down to bringing his own dish detergent!

While we love our children more than anything, it was nice to be in a cabin without having to worry about where the kids were.  No arguments over which bedroom is for the boys and which is for the girls.  No one saying, “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored” every twenty minutes throughout the day.

Well, maybe he didn't think of EVERYTHING, but I enjoyed drinking wine from a plastic gravy boat! :)

Well, maybe he didn’t think of EVERYTHING, but I enjoyed drinking wine from a plastic gravy boat! 🙂

There are some times more than others when I am exceptionally aware of how lucky I am to have Joe.  Last weekend was one of those times.  He planned it all out and truly did everything in his power to make sure I was able to relax and write.  God knew what he was doing when he kept me single for eight years before reconnecting me with Joe – I was waiting for him.  And there is one thing last weekend has proven to me with absolute certainty… I can’t wait to grow old with this man.

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Can it get any better?

I am an extrovert who thrives on being surrounded by laughter and excitement, so the fact that I can spend an entire weekend with no television, no cell service, and no other human being and love him even more than I did before we left, says a LOT.  It helps support the fact that I have married the man I am supposed to spend the remainder of my days with.  We can enjoy each other in every moment – dancing in front of the fire, walking in the woods, cooking steaks on the grill, rocking on the front porch, napping in the afternoon – just because we can.

Of course we got home to about 10 tons of laundry that needed to be done (including 20 towels… yes, 20 TOWELS) and today I have gotten the call from school that my daughter has a fever and then I got a text from my son telling me that he has a horrific headache.  So it’s back to reality.

I am thankful for the renewal weekend though and it has proven to me the importance of us taking the time to focus on ourselves every once in a while.  We are committed to not be one of the statistics, no matter who is pulling against us.  Our children will see what a real marriage looks like when they look at us and for that I am proud.  It may be a “second marriage,” but it’s our “forever marriage,” which is much more important than any number.