Category Archives: practical advice

What is There to Celebrate?

The first holiday season after a loss can be especially difficult – whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died. My mom and I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in another state. After Thanksgiving Mass, we all three just stood there and cried because we missed my dad so much.

It’s so easy to fall into a funk during the holidays – sadness, anger, depression, and bitterness. Cycle Dude said his deceased wife is the one who made the holidays joyful for him and his children. There just doesn’t seem to be any spark in his holidays. I am determined to change that this year (since I am living in his house, too).

I decorated his house for fall because it’s my favorite time of the year and I always decorated my home for fall. I have tons of Christmas decorations that I will set out as well. I have discovered that there is something to celebrate after my divorce – peace, stability and joy. Those things were dreadfully lacking in my marriage. I celebrate a life of gratitude – for Cycle Dude, my children and soon-to-arrive granddaughter, my pups, my friends, etc.

My life is not perfect – whose is? Yet, there is so much in my life to celebrate. There is so much to be grateful for. If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, it doesn’t have to be depressing. Take time for yourself – what do you like to do? Go out for ice skating and hot chocolate with a friend. Volunteer at your local homeless mission. Bake cookies with your adult children, or for your neighbors or the children at church.

But most of all, have a grateful heart. There is always something to be thankful for. What is there to celebrate? Life! Take the time this holiday season to enjoy life. Stay tuned. . . .

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Holiday Grace

The holidays were always a crazy, chaotic time for me growing up. I am one of six children, so we always had a crowd at the dinner table. I remember going to visit my grandparents in Chicago. My mom’s parents and my dad’s parents didn’t live that far away from one another, so we had to visit both sets of grandparents.

My mom’s parents had this wonderful, magic expanding kitchen table. It was a little round thing that somehow expanded to ten times its size in order to accommodate all the relatives that were there for the holiday. My grandma, mom and aunt would be in the kitchen the day before the holiday and all day the day of the holiday, baking, cooking, tasting, basting, etc. Grandma’s house smelled sooo good! I have wonderful memories of the holidays from when I was a child (except the Christmas when I learned there was no Santa – but that’s another topic for another time).

I often tried to duplicate the same holiday traditions, smells, etc. so my children could experience the wonderful holidays I experienced. Sometimes that didn’t quite work out like I wanted it to. Ex would throw tantrums and stomp off into the bedroom. I was glad for some holiday peace and quiet after I divorced.

If this is your first holiday after a separation or divorce, take it easy on yourself. This year, my local adult children and I are combining Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday gathering in early December. This is the first time we’ve done this and we may be creating a new tradition. Since the divorce, my holidays have been different. For one thing, they have been more peaceful! I am not caught in the throes of burdensome holiday traditions and schedules, I am not at the mercy of someone else’s family, and I am not having to make excuses for anyone’s behavior.

My first post-divorce holiday season was a mere eight days after my divorce. I had not lived with ex for a year, so the holiday without him wasn’t much of a shock. However, I learned a few things: make time for yourself; it’s okay to decline holiday parties you don’t want to go to; if an activity is a stressor, either do less of it or don’t do it at all (example, curb your holiday baking by a good 90%); relax your holiday expectations. Give yourself grace this holiday season. Jesus wasn’t born in the midst of all the holiday hubbub. He was born on a quiet night, in a barn with the animals as His only attendants. Be at peace this holiday season. Stay tuned . . . .

 

Going Through Hell? Keep Moving!

I just read about a gentleman who received the Medal of Honor today from President Trump. Army Captain (Ret.), Gary “Mike” Rose was a medic on a covert operation during the Vietnam War. Even though he himself was injured, he kept tending to his wounded comrades. Reporter Lucia I. Suarez Sang, Fox News, writes: “In spite of his own injuries, he didn’t sleep for days to make sure all 16 American soldiers deployed with him made it home. They did.” Captain Rose was going through hell, pinned down by enemy gunfire, but he kept on going.

When I was in the midst of the divorce, my sister reminded me of what Winston Churchill once said: “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” When you go through a rough time in your life, keep moving forward, because eventually, there is a way out. Don’t turn around and go back, even though what’s behind you may be familiar. Don’t dwell in or on your past. Move forward – put your head down, grit your teeth and move!

I know it’s hard to move forward. At times, you may feel paralyzed, abandoned, unable to think through the ‘brain fog’ or numbness that has set in. Just put one foot in front of the other, even if all you can manage today is one step forward. Did you get out of bed today? Good! Did you have breakfast or fix breakfast for your children? Even better! Did you change out of your pajamas (don’t worry about taking a shower!)? Many kudos! Life will get better.

Things will never be ‘normal’ again and you will have to find your ‘new normal’. Sometimes, that takes a while. It’s okay. And it’s okay to move at your own pace while you move forward. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We all heal at different times and in different ways. Word of warning: Don’t be destructive. If you think you are facing depression, go get help. It’s okay to be on medication until you get back on your feet.

Find a support group – one that encourages its members to move forward at their own pace. Ask a good friend or two to walk with you while you go through this time. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself abundant grace. Look at that lady in the mirror and smile at her because, even though she is going through hell, she is moving forward. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

The Song That Gets Stuck in Your Head

We’ve all had this happen at one time or another. You hear a song, or someone mentions a song, and before you know it, that song is stuck in your head. No matter what you do, you can’t get that song out of your head. I’ve had the experience as a parent where children’s songs would get stuck in my head. That’s annoying!

There are other things that can get stuck in our heads, too – painful memories, regrets, words we’ve said to our children that we shouldn’t have said, stupid things we’ve done. Words are often the things that get stuck the most – verbal abuse from a parent, mean words from grade school bullies, abrasive words from a spouse. It’s bad enough when a song gets stuck in your head, but when the painful words and memories start taking up residence, it gets worse. How do we get rid of the painful things that get stuck in our head?

  • Face it – head on: A counselor told me one time: “To feel is to heal.” As painful as that memory or those words are, if we let them come back again and again, they will continue to inflict damage. Facing that memory or those words takes courage. Journal about the memory or words and how it/they made you feel. Go into as much depth as you feel necessary to finally beat the wind out of the thing! This may take some professional help, but once you’ve beaten it (the memory, the words), let it go.
  • Share it: Talk to a trusted friend, a clergy member or seek out professional help. Don’t let the thing get so deeply embedded in your soul that it begins to fester. To share the thing is to bring it out into the open. Letting others know about the thing tends to loosen its grip on you.
  • Say it out loud: The deep dark recesses of our minds are fertile ground for stuff to rot, fester and grow putrid tentacles. Give words to the memory or the painful words. Speak out your pain – either alone, with a friend or in a support group. Tell it out loud how it makes you feel and how you are done with it! There is something about confronting the thing out loud that also lessens its grip on you.
  • Use it: There are so many people who harbor deep painful memories, whose ears ring with painful words. Once you’ve let the thing out, use it – write about it, paint it, dance about it, sing about it, take a very long walk, run up and down the stairs in your office building or at the local high school football stadium. Do not allow the thing to regain entrance into your psyche. Work it out of you.
  • Leave it alone: Don’t keep going back to that memory or those words. Look at that thing like a gross pile of feces, because that’s what it is. It doesn’t give you life or bring you joy. Don’t go back into the dark corner with it and allow its tentacles to wrap around you again. It’s something that should make you want to vomit – leave it alone!

Conquering these things in our lives takes time and willpower. Some people can get these words and memories out of their head relatively easily. For others, it takes time and professional help. Don’t berate yourself if it takes you longer to move past these painful words and memories. You know yourself and you know how much time you need to heal. However, I would caution you – don’t dwell in these dark places. Give yourself permission to move into the light and closer to healing. Stay tuned. . . .

Going Gray

I colored my hair for years – blonde, auburn, dark brown. My natural hair color is a dirty dishwater blonde. Several years ago, I started going gray. In fact, I found my first gray hairs when my second son was in high school, as I knew I would. I thought I was too young to be gray. Then I met Cycle Dude. His natural hair color is a dark brown. He started going gray when he was in his late 40s. He is now 60 with a very attractive salt and pepper hair color. I thought, “If he’s not dying his hair, I won’t dye mine.” So, I didn’t.

Now, I have this dirty dishwater blonde hair with beautiful (gray) highlights. I’ve had several people ask me who does my hair color and highlights. I tell them it’s all natural. This morning when I looked in the mirror and saw my gray streaks, I thought, “My gray hair is like battle scars – I’ve earned every one of them and I am proud!”

Accepting my graying hair is accepting who I am. My hair is graying, I have scoliosis and I could stand to lose a few pounds. That’s who I am. I love Dove chocolate. If you’ve ever had Dove chocolate, you know they put little sayings inside the candy wrappers. One of my favorite sayings (that I have posted on my office bulletin board) is “Be proud of your age.” I am proud. I just turned 55. I have a good job, a man who loves me, three wonderful children and children-in law, my first grandbaby on the way, amazing siblings and mom, great friends and I live in a beautiful part of the country.

I accept that I am not perfect. I accept that I am not 25 anymore. I am looking forward to the rest of my life being who I am. I want to be a great Nonnie to my grandchildren. I want to be a wonderful companion to Cycle Dude. I want to be a loving mom to my adult children. I want to be a good daughter to my mom and a good sibling to my brothers and sisters. I want to be my best . . .  just the way I am!

Accept who you are. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are loved. . . . just the way you are! Stay tuned. . . .

Be Prepared

I walked into work Tuesday morning to find that a survey team from a national  healthcare accrediting organization was on campus. The people at Myjob have been preparing for this organization’s visit for the better part of a year. The organization comes every 2-3 years to inspect the hospital for re-accreditation. Even though we expected the survey team in the fall, my boss said they could come as early as late spring or early summer. My boss has been preparing his team for this visit since October.

I am glad we have been preparing for this event. I have learned a great deal more about healthcare and what it takes to run a hospital. I have learned that it is better to be proactive than not. It is better to anticipate possible scenarios than to sit back and “let it slide”.

One thing I have learned, especially through my divorce, is to be prepared. I can honestly say, I was not prepared to divorce and then to deal with all the emotional, physical and financial flotsam and jetsam that accompanied it. Sure, I knew it was coming – I knew that several years before it actually happened. But I was still not prepared.

I wrote about this subject in a post entitled, “Storm Warnings”. However, I’d like to apply a little of what I have learned in preparation for this healthcare accreditation organization visit.

1.  Categories: Organize your divorce preparations into categories – financial, household, relational, work-related, etc. Sit down and make a list of these categories, then add the following: under financial – income, budget, savings, retirement, emergency fund (even though you may get alimony, don’t count it as income because it’s not going to be around forever and you don’t want to become overly dependent on it); under household – will you sell your home? Move into a new home/apartment? Need to have a yard sale? Need to replace household items? (hint: estate sales are good places to get household items – furniture, dishes, etc. if you need to set up a home.); under relational – How soon will you tell people of your (impending) divorce? Who will you tell? How do you break the news to important people in your life (children, parents, siblings, etc.)?

2. Rank: Once you have your categories and have broken them down into sub categories, give each sub category a ranking from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) in order of priority. What things will you take care of first? What things can wait? Work on the #5’s first and cross them off your list when done. Number fives should be things like income (how are you going to support yourself?), housing (where are you going to live?), and debt (pay off old debts and don’t create any new ones until your are financially stable).

3. Finish: Once you have finished an item, cross it off your list. If you are really good and make a spreadsheet, hide that column/row when you’ve completed it. Once it’s done, it’s done.

4. Document, document, document: Keep a copy of all your records. Keep a phone log of your conversations with ex or of any electronic communication with ex. You may have to produce this information if it comes down to “he said – she said” in court. Be aware that unless you inform someone you are recording the conversation with them, that communication may be against the law. A good rule of thumb regarding keeping records and documents is 10 years. Instead of tons of boxes full of paper crowding up your spare bedroom, scan documents and store them on a flash drive, backup hard drive or on the ‘cloud’.

Everything we experience in our lives in a learning experience. We can take what we learn in one aspect of our lives (ex. work) and apply it to other aspects of our lives (personal). The thing is we should never stop growing and learning. And, yes, we can even learn from an unpleasant experience like a divorce. Stay tuned. . . .

The Daily Grind

My boss and I have frequently discussed why so many people love Fridays. His assertion is that too many people hate their jobs and cannot wait to get away from them. I say that we all need that downtime from the job. People may not hate their jobs, they just need the down time that the weekend provides. We all need time away from the ‘daily grind’ in order to recharge, refresh and relax with family and friends.

For some people, however, the ‘daily grind’ is a welcome distraction from other issues in their lives. I remember when I was married how I hated the weekends because it meant I had to be home with ex. I looked forward to my job, going to school and going to my children’s school events because they provided time away from ex.

After my divorce, I looked forward to the weekends again because it meant I spent more time with Cycle Dude. Now that we live together, I look forward to every day because I get to spend more time with my amazing, wonderful man. But, I digress.

How do you survive the daily grind? How do you not go crazy whacko from the 8 plus hours you spend at your job?

1. Take a break: By law, if you work 4 or more hours but less than 8 hours, you are entitled to a 15 minute break. If you work 8 or more hours, you are entitled to an hour meal break. Use that time! Don’t take the break or meal at your desk, but walk around. Go outside and walk around the building or find somewhere quiet to process your thoughts.

2. Move around: Stand up and stretch at least once an hour. Your shoulders, neck and legs will thank you. Take a five-minute walk down the hall or outside. Do 10 jumping jacks at your desk!

3. Keep something pleasant at your desk: Many times, desk areas are shared or are in public view and you cannot have things on your desk. Keep at least one small, portable thing at your desk that makes you happy – a small frame with a photograph of people you love, a seashell from a trip to the beach, a small plant, etc. The idea is to inject some happiness into your surroundings. My desk is not shared, neither is it public, so there are lots of things on my desk that make me happy – plants, photos, cards, etc.

4. Drink lots of water: Studies have shown that dehydration leads to increased irritability. Drink more water. At least the increased trips to the restroom will keep you moving!

5. Leave work at work: Once you step away from your work area for the day, that’s it. Work stays at work. Life is too short to stress over work issues when you’re not there! Silence your cell phone. Take advantage of your time away from work to rest, relax and refuel.

Sometimes, the daily grind is a drudgery due to work conditions, personality conflicts, bad bosses, etc. That’s why it’s all the more important to take advantage of the time you are not at work. Fill that time with things that make you happy – reading, tending houseplants, baking, etc. You will thank yourself in the long run! Stay tuned. . . .