Category Archives: practical advice

Lawn Mower

I recently read about the new trend in parenting, the “Lawn Mower Parent”. These folks seem far worse than the “Helicopter Parent”. The Lawn Mower Parent mows down every obstacle in their child’s life so the child doesn’t have to overcome adversity, etc. Needless to say, this kind of parenting will produce very weak, pampered and entitled people – even more so that the Helicopter Parent.

A child is like a butterfly. If you help the butterfly out of its cocoon, it will die. the butterfly needs to struggle out of the cocoon to gain strength. It needs to let its wings unfold slowly so they will dry and also be strong. We do our children no favors when we mow down the obstacles for them. The obstacles are what causes strength and resiliency in a person’s life. Are they fun? Heck, no! But they are needed to allow us to grow into strong, healthy people.

One cannot live one’s life without some pain and adversity. I know of people who try to avoid pain at all costs – their lives are dull and they are dull. Getting out of bed in the morning is inviting pain and adversity. My divorce was one of the most painful things I had ever been through. I would much rather had gone through natural childbirth again! But I have come out of it a much stronger and more compassionate person.

We can spend so much time mowing down pain and adversity that we have little time for anything else. We may be mowing down flowers or insects – the little things that make life special. Weeds continue to pop up in different parts of the yard. As we go after one weed, another pops up and at the end of the day we are exhausted from mowing. Put the lawn mower away. A few weeds are good.

Yes, pain and adversity are not pleasant. That’s a ‘duhism’. But pain and adversity help us to become stronger. We grow and change in ways we never thought possible. And through that growth and change, we are able to be more empathetic toward others as they face pain and diversity in their lives. Isn’t that part of what life is about – helping one another along on this journey? Life is an adventure, live it! Stay tuned. . . .

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It’s Your Decision

I had a job interview yesterday. I was excited about it and thought I was prepared. However, when I got to the interview, the three people in the room all seemed to be in a sour mood. No one smiled and it seemed like I was just a token interview that no one wanted to do. I almost got up and walked out. But I thought, “Well, I’m here – stick it out.”

I was quite upset when I left the interview and I was on the verge of tears. Luckily, I had planned dinner with my best buddy. She was disappointed that I did not feel good about the interview. I thought, “You know – this is my decision: am I going to feel bad about myself because the interview didn’t go like I thought it would? Am I going to feel bad because my friend is disappointed?” I talked with Cycle Dude about it a little bit, then I decided that I did what I could do and it’s in the past.

I have blogged before about giving other people the power to make you feel bad. Short story – DON’T! I decided not to let those three people or my friend cause me to feel bad about myself. I know my abilities, I know my skills and I know what I do on a daily basis that contributes to my job. Last week I received a phone call from someone at my job. She said she had been to three different departments before she was told to call me. I asked her, “You were told to call this department?” She said, “No, I was told to call YOU, that you would know how to help me.” That made me feel great! (And, of course, I did help her and followed up to make sure she had gotten what she needed.)

Each day we are faced with what a friend calls “life-giving” or “non-life-giving” decisions. Are we going to make the decision to let others speak negatively into our lives? Are we going to allow bad experiences to ruin our day? Each day is a gift and each decision should be life-giving. Sometimes we make bad decisions and things don’t go the way we anticipated. Stand up, brush yourself off and move on. It’s your decision. Stay tuned. . .

 

Sorting It Out

When I was getting ready to move in with Cycle Dude, I realized I had boxes and boxes of stuff I needed to sort through. I sorted and sorted and threw away and gave away stuff until I was blue in the face! Yet, I still moved into Cycle Dude’s house with what seemed like a million boxes! Now, eighteen months later, there are far fewer boxes and bins and I am still sorting and giving away stuff!

When I first started dating Cycle Dude, I was very conscious of the baggage I carried from my divorce. I did not want to take that baggage into a relationship. I was in counseling for a long time to unpack that baggage and finally get rid of it.

I held on to a lot of junk for a long time – both in the boxes and bins I carried with me every time I moved and in the emotional place in my heart. It took a while to sort it all out – to determine what stuff is worth keeping and what stuff is worth getting rid of.

What do I keep? I keep items that have sentimental or monetary value – family photos, gifts from my children, etc., and items that are part of the better me. I keep the strength I developed though the adversity of my marriage, I keep the ability to make wise decisions from the time I spent on my own.

What do I get rid of? I get rid of anything regarding ex, anything that has not or will not change my life for the better, anything I won’t use in the next 3 months. I get rid of the anger, the bitterness and the desire for vengeance. I get rid of anything that is not the better me.

It takes a while to sort it all out after a divorce – physically and emotionally. If you have been married for any length of time, it will take a while to untangle the tentacles of anger and bitterness. Give yourself grace. If you’re not quite ready to sort through that box, or talk about your experience, it’s okay. Healing and sorting take time. Learn to become a better you. Stay tuned. . .

Isolation is the Opposite of Community

My mom always says, “There is safety in numbers”. This principle is seen time and again  in nature – schools of fish, herds of zebras, flocks of birds, forests of trees, fields of sunflowers, colonies of ants. Individuals are often weak and vulnerable. The strength of the community gives strength to the individual.

I have several coworkers with whom I pray and share my daily life. There have been times recently that life has been rather challenging. We can turn to one another to share the burden of what we are going through. Galatians 6:2 says, “Share one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is ‘the law of Christ’? To love one another as you love yourself and to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. By bearing one another’s burdens, we love one another as Christ loved us.

One does not have to believe in God to be part of a community. I am a woman of faith, so my community is one of faith as well. Cycle Dude belongs to a group of ‘free thinkers’ who get together weekly. There have been times that I have seen “bear one another’s burdens” in action in this group as well. Caring for one another and bearing one another’s burdens is a human thing, not just a Christian thing.

It is easy to want to isolate ourselves when we experience difficult times. We may feel like we are the only one going through this and that no one else would understand. We may feel that our situation is such that no one would want to understand or want to walk with us through the trial. That is a lie. We experience healing and support in community. We are weak and vulnerable when we decide to isolate ourselves from others. Dear one, seek out friends to walk with you through your difficult time. Do not walk alone – let others share your burden. 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 Love Yourself Again

Valentine’s Day is approaching, or as some folks refer to it, Singles’ Awareness Day. I am fortunate to have an incredible man in my life and I am keenly aware that not every divorced woman has the same. After a divorce, it is difficult to love and to find someone to love. But that is the perfect time to concentrate on learning to love yourself.

After we’ve been through the shipwreck of divorce, we often feel beat up, unworthy, ashamed, etc. It’s as though we ourselves have been bashed against the rocks and there’s just flotsam and jetsam left. May I suggest the following as you learn to love yourself again:

1. Don’t make any hasty decisions: You’ve made enough life-changing decisions during the divorce proceedings, paperwork, etc. Give yourself a break and don’t make any life-changing decisions, like dating, purchasing a new car or home, moving from on side end of the country to the other, etc. Give yourself a little time to begin to settle into the new normal.

2. Don’t rebound date: Very bad idea. You just got out of one possibly abusive relationship and you want to get into another? But how do you fill that void, that need for human companionship? Volunteer, find a new hobby, foster a cat or a dog, plant a garden – do something that uses your time and talents for good.

3. Get your finances in order: Your bank is more than happy to help you balance your checkbook, work out a budget, etc. If you have a good bank, they value your business and they will assist you in any way they can in order to keep your business. A good business knows that word of mouth speaks far louder than any advertising dollar.

4. Reward yourself: Divorce is a long, hard struggle. You feel battle weary. You probably don’t have a great deal of money. Reward yourself for enduring the storm: Have a movie night with yourself – watching something you have always wanted to watch or want to watch again (the two movies I watch over and over again are Princess Bride and The Muppets Christmas Carol), take a long walk in the park, visit your local arboretum, have a glass of wine on your deck at sunset or a cup of coffee on your deck at sunrise, buy yourself some flowers or a good book (good books can always be found at your second-hand bookstore for cheap!), buy a quarter of a yard of pretty fabric and use it as a table runner. There are all sorts of ways you can reward yourself without having to spend a great deal of money.

5. Live the adventure! Each day is a new day full of new adventures. Thank God when you wake up in the morning and take your first steps out of bed. Praise God for the warm shower. Be thankful for food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Look in the mirror and tell that lovely lady, “You got this, girl!”

Sometimes, it takes a while to learn to love ourselves again, especially if we have been the victim of an abusive or addicted spouse. There will be people in our lives who will feel free to voice their opinions about the divorce. Don’t listen to them. This is a new start, a new normal, a new life that will get better with each passing day. Trust God and trust yourself as you learn to love yourself again. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

Ghosts of the Past

I recently watched a movie entitled, “The Awakening’. Released in 2011, it is a period piece (1921) set in England and billed as a horror movie. I found it be the furthest thing from horror. Movie summary: ‘In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.’ What Florence eventually sees are the ghosts of her past.

 It is my experience that many women, and men as well, tend to dwell on the past when they experience a divorce. I did that, too. It is easy to second guess ourselves and the decisions we made surrounding the divorce. It is easy to give in to the ‘horror’ of the past, to spend our time chasing the ghosts of choice, ignorance, and fear. In the middle of the night, we may be visited upon by the dark specter of regret who leaves us wailing in the terror of disappointment and disgust. We may tremble as we explore the dark recesses of our own motives and shriek when we discover our own hard hearts.

 We cannot dwell in that creaking house of horrors of our past and expect to heal and move forward after a divorce or other traumatic incident in our lives. We must face that which we fear the most – loneliness, guilt, bitterness, victimization – and resolve to break the chains of our fears. There is no monster in the closet or under the bed. There is no evil lurking in the shadows. The monster and the evil is our own fears, our own unwillingness to resolve the past and move forward.

 A counselor I once saw had this statement written on the whiteboard in her office; “The past is the present until it’s resolved.” We will always be haunted by the ghosts of the past unless we determine to resolve that past. It may be painful, terrifying, and heart-stopping – but the past must be resolved in order to move forward.

 At the end of the movie, Florence seems lighter and happier. She has resolved her fears and conquered her ghosts. She is free to move forward and live her life unafraid. It can be difficult to conquer those ghosts of the past. But once we are free of them, we are free indeed. Stay tuned. . . .