Category Archives: empowerment

Where Are Your Eyes?

I was the Queen of the Pity Party when I was a child. I was always upset that my older sister (by 10 months) got to do things before me. I was upset when life didn’t go my way and I had a strong tendency to wallow in self-pity. My mom would often tell me, “Get your eyes off yourself and go do something for someone else!” Why are moms always so wise?

I remembered that advice when I first got divorced and tended to muck around in the mud puddle of self-pity. I looked for ways to “do something for someone else”. I eventually volunteered with a local refugee resettlement service in teaching those refugees English.

Where are your eyes? Are they on yourself? Are you stuck in the muck of the mud puddle of self-pity? Get your eyes off yourself!

1. Volunteer: There are so many opportunities in one’s community to volunteer – at the local humane society, at the Boys and Girls Club, at a local after school program, etc. Go to https://www.volunteermatch.org to see what’s going on in your community and how you can get involved.

2. Join a local philanthropic organization: There are plenty of philanthropic organizations in your community – Lions Club, Rotary, etc. Google those in your area. Volunteer your time and talents for a cause you believe in.

3. Give: Being newly divorced will most likely leave you with fewer financial resources. That’s okay. Do you sew? Can you teach others a new skill (music, etc.)? Use your talents to help others. There are many people in your community who can benefit from your talents and experience.

It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. After all, divorce is a painful situation to have to endure. However, it is not okay to stay in that place of self-pity! Stand up, dust yourself off and move on! Getting your eyes off yourself and giving to others is one step in your healing journey. One step at a time! Stay tuned. . .

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How to Be a Successful Non-Trad

I returned to the college campus when I was forty-five and my youngest child was sixteen. I worked full-time, went to school full time, and was a full-time mom as well. Eventually, I quit my full-time job to concentrate on getting my degree.

At the time I returned to school, I didn’t know there was a name for ‘older’ students like me. I soon discovered that I was a ‘non-traditional’ student, meaning I was older than 25, returning to school, and bringing a great deal of life experience with me.

My college career began in 1980 as a wide-eyed college freshman right out of high school. I had just turned 18 and it was my first experience living away from my parents and five siblings. The freedom was exhilarating at first, but soon became overwhelming. I ended up flunking out of college my freshman year, having to move home and finish my education at the local community college. I got my AA degree in Secondary Education because of the minimal math requirement for the degree. In the meantime, I met a young man, fell in love, got married and started a family. Twenty-one years later I decided it was time to go back  to school and get my bachelor’s degree.

I live in a college town so my choice of where to go to get my degree was a no-brainer. I learned a great deal along the way – tips for being a successful non-trad.

  1. Do Your Homework: Investigate the different programs you may be interested in, who offers them, how much it costs, what sort of job placement the school offers and what resources the school has to offer its alumni. One of the advantages of being a non-trad is that, hopefully, one has learned something and is a little bit older and wiser than the traditional college student.
  2. Recruit the Recruiter: Make an appointment to speak to the recruiter for the program you are interested in. They will give you a good overview of the program, the faculty, tuition and other resources available to you. Their job is to get you to enroll in their program, so they will be happy to answer questions and give you as much information as you can digest.
  3. Read the Reviews: Whether it’s “Rate my Professor”, Google reviews or other feedback venues, you will want to get a basic feel for the institution, the program, and the faculty before you sink your hard-earned dollars into pursuing your degree.
  4. Start Small: Not quite ready for the intensity of a four-year college or the non-stop hours of a specialized program? Then start small at the community college. Start by getting your feet wet, by learning how to study, take exams and write papers again. Most community colleges have evening classes that cater to working adults. Take one class a semester – it won’t cost as much, and it will expose you to valuable classroom experience.
  5. Be Fearless: As with any new experience, deciding to return to school as an older student can be somewhat daunting. You may ask yourself – Can I still write a research paper? Do I have good study skills? Will I be able to relate to students or professors who are 20-30 years younger than me? Do I have the technical savvy to keep up with my younger classmates?

There is a large community of non-traditional students that is growing annually. The most important thing to remember as a non-traditional student is that you are not alone. Yes, it can be frightening to be back in the classroom as an ‘older’ student, but it is also an adventure. You will learn a great deal about many things, but you will learn the most about yourself. Stay tuned. . .

 

Medals

One of my siblings lives in San Antonio, TX. Every April, the city celebrates Fiesta San Antonio. Each year, new commemorative medals are issued as part of the festival. There are some people who have been collecting commemorative medals for years. Collecting the medals is like collecting pins from different places and events.

I have my own medals – they are known as wrinkles and gray hair. Yesterday, I went to get my hair trimmed. As the stylist was showing me how much she had trimmed off, she showed me the back of my head. I gasped! There, buried under several strands of dirty dishwater blonde hair was a streak of gray hair! I have gray hairs here and there, but I did not know I had such a big streak. I began to laugh!

I have earned every single one of those gray hairs – three terrible two-year-olds, three teenaged drivers, three children away at college, three weddings, one hard-earned Bachelor’s degree, one $%@# ex, four moves in less than two years and four jobs. Those wrinkles around my eyes and mouth? Laughing with my children and friends, smiling at my grand baby, singing in choirs and praise bands, and loving Cycle Dude with my whole heart.

Am I afraid or ashamed of my gray hair and wrinkles? Heck no! They are reminders that the life I have lived thus far has not be easy and has not always been happy. But I am grateful for these visual reminders that I have not stopped living life, that I am not afraid to share that life with others and that I am grateful to God for this amazing life He has given me. (And yes, I do use sunscreen and always wear a hat when I am outside.)

My wrinkles and gray hair remind me that my life has not been perfect, but I would not trade my ‘medals’ for anything in the world! Stay tuned. . . .

Dogwood Winter

Here in Mytown, we are in the throes of Dogwood Winter. Before June 1 rolls around, we’ll have also gone through Blackberry Winter and several others. What that mean is that it will start to warm up and we’ll all think winter is over. Then, we’ll get into the lower 30’s again for the nighttime lows and not make it out of the 40’s or 50’s for the daytime highs. Eventually, though, winter will finally leave and we’ll enjoy a short spring and a long, humid summer.

Healing after a divorce or other traumatic life event can be like Dogwood Winter. You may find that you are well on your healing journey and may be filling pretty good about life. Then you experience a temporary setback – finances, ex drags you into court again, etc. Life may be blooming all round you, but in your particular neck of the woods, it seems like winter will not let go. What do you do?

1. Don’t put away your winter clothes: In other words, be ready for anything. You know how when the doctor will say of someone, “They’re not out of the woods yet”? Well, you’re not out of the woods yet. Be prepared for anything.

2. Keep your eyes on the forecast: What’s the long-term outlook? Are you in a place where you need to begin to establish your own credit? Do you have a 401K and how much/how often do you contribute to it? Get help in getting a hold of your finances. The long-term forecast is that you need to be in control of your own finances.

3. Adjust your thermostat accordingly: Even though it may be cold for a few more days or weeks, it will eventually warm up and spring will really, truly be here. You may be going through a rough time at the moment. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. More and more companies have EAPs – Employee Assistance Plans. These plans include mental health and financial services. If your employer has an EAP, take advantage of it! Your employer pays into the services so that you can take advantage of them for free.

4. Protect your tender plants: You’ve made a great deal of headway over the past few months and years. Don’t let a temporary setback freeze out those tender advances you’ve made in your healing journey. If you don’t already, journal so that you can see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Journal the progress you’ve made in your healing journey. Remind yourself of where you were several weeks ago, several months ago and look where you are now.

Blackberry winter will most likely hit Mytown sometime in mid-May. We’re ready – it happens almost every year. Be prepared for setback in your healing journey. Sometimes, they are the best way to gauge where you are and how strong you’ve become. Stay tuned . . . .

Learning to Walk

I am so excited that I get to see my grandbaby over Easter. I am flying to where my son lives and will spend Easter weekend with him, my daughter-in-law and my grandbaby. My sister also lives in the area, so I will spend time with her and her family as well. The fun thing about having a grandbaby is watching her grow and watching my son and his wife marvel as she reaches her developmental milestones. One of these days, my grandbaby will learn to walk. (Not quite yet, though. She was born in at the end of 2017.)

Learning to walk is a huge milestone for a child. There is so much involved – balance, gross motor skills, muscular and skeletal development, hand-eye coordination, etc. Learning to walk is no small feet (misspelling and pun intended!). Many adults have had to learn to walk again, too. They have had to progress from that infant-like state as well. One must learn to stand before one can walk. And one must learn to walk before one can run. There’s no skipping the proper physiological progression.

Life can  be difficult after a traumatic experience – divorce, an accident, etc. It is tempting to want to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. We all know that’s not practical. In order to move forward in our lives, to heal and become stronger, we must learn to walk again. What does that look like?

1. Don’t be afraid: When a child is afraid to walk, she will sit down and cry. A child who is eager to walk will pull herself up and walk around the coffee table, then walk as you hold her hands, then she’ll walk to you and then with you. Yes, she will fall, but she keeps trying. Fear kills dreams, adventure and even life. Fear not. Move forward.

2. Don’t look back: The past is the past for a reason – because it’s done and over with. Look forward. Set and achieve goals. Dream big dreams. Laugh at your own silly jokes. Experience the freedom that comes with moving forward.

3. Don’t dwell on it: Whatever “it” is – a divorce, an accident, a death – let it go. We will grieve for that which is lost, but the grief cannot and should not last forever. Grief, despair, depression, anger and bitterness – these are all soul-destroyers. Don’t let the negative emotions and thoughts destroy you. If you are stuck here, seek out professional help.

4. Do stop and take a deep breath: Trauma – whatever it is – saps your energy. From days spent in court to days spent in the hospital or in counseling – you feel drained. Stop. Take a deep breath and know that you will be okay. Give yourself the grace and the time to heal – to renew your energy.

5. Do have a grateful heart: There is always something to be grateful for. Your support group, the medical personnel, your friends – these are all the ‘scaffolding’, if you will, who held you together during the trauma. Be grateful for them. Be grateful for your life.

Sometimes, it hurts to walk. Your muscles may be sore. You may have a misshapen limb. You may have fallen and bruised your knee. Walking is a milestone in your healing journey. It represents months of hard work. Soon, you will be running and will never look back. Life is an adventure! Live it! Stay tuned. . . .

 

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Before I was divorced, I remember waking up in the morning, dreading the day and thinking, “What am I going to find out about today?” It seemed that each day brought a discovery of yet another thing ex had done. I was worn out. Then came the decision to divorce. That was not a difficult decision at all. The hard part was getting ex to do anything – sign papers, pay alimony (of which he still has not completed, 7 years later), etc. I guess he thought that if he ignored me, I’d go away.

Life immediately following the divorce was almost as bad as life prior to the divorce. The worst thing was not ex (although he was pretty bad), but the emotional untangling of myself from him. I felt as if I was being ripped apart. His actions didn’t make it any easier. Many days, I just wanted to go hide under my bed until it all went away. But I couldn’t do that.

I knew that I had to keep going, to keep living my life. My daughter was still at home, so I had to keep going for her sake. One day, I read the quote that said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I felt beat down, knowing that my journey had just begun and it was going to be much longer than a thousand miles. Yet, I knew I had to move forward. I knew I had to stand up, take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. I could do this journey one step at a time. I didn’t need to worry about the next 999 plus steps.

My mom often told me to take it one day at a time. There were days when I had to take it one hour at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we see the big picture, when we see the long road ahead. It feels like we have to cross Death Valley in the middle of July! The journey doesn’t seem to bad if we take it one step at a time. Stay tuned. . . .

 

Do Nothing

From December 28 to February 2, I seemed to do nothing but cough. Three weeks into whatever I had I was finally diagnosed with a sinus infection. However, the cough is still lingering. I coughed so hard for a month that I pulled muscles I never knew I had. For six weeks I basically did nothing when I got home from work. My weekends were spent vegging on the couch. I didn’t feel like doing anything, so I did nothing. It took that long for my body to heal from that nasty virus. (And yes, I was taking vitamins, getting plenty of rest and eating healthy.) For some reason, that virus took hold and didn’t want to let go!

Sometimes, it’s okay to just do nothing. When you’re sick, the best thing is rest and fluids. God created our bodies (if they are relatively healthy) to heal themselves. Those Green Beret white blood cells are truly strong little soldiers! Rest does incredible things for our bodies. Sleep allows healing to occur. I am not a scientist, but I observe.

We can also become mentally sick – depressed. I was depressed for a long time before, during and after my divorce. I went to see my doctor and was prescribed antidepressants. It’s okay to be on medication in order to feel better. If you have pneumonia, you get antibiotics to make you feel better, to heal. Antidepressants help in the same way – they allow you to heal.

I’ve had days when I did absolutely nothing. I was depressed, or tired, or battle weary from the divorce. I felt alone, abandoned, and sad. It was okay to do nothing.  When I rested, I healed. The peace and quiet I found after my divorce helped me to heal.

One cannot expect to be healthy, to be up and running full speed when one has just experienced a traumatic event like a divorce. Give yourself permission to veg, to do nothing. Allow yourself to heal. If you don’t take care of yourself, who else will? Be kind to yourself. Stay tuned. . . .