Tag Archives: resources

Tight Budget Holiday

You are newly divorced and this is your first post-divorce holiday season. You may find yourself on a very tight budget – there is money for the basics but not much else. How do you get through this time and still maintain some semblance of happiness?

First of all, happiness should not be an externally motivated emotion. You choose to be happy. Sit down and do an inventory of all that you have. I can think of several things I had my first post-divorce holiday season: family, friends, my dogs, and a roof over my head, a car (or the bus) that got me to work. I did not have much, but I was thankful for what I did have.

Second, who says you need a great deal of money at the holidays? Be creative!

Centerpieces: Granted, a table centerpiece is the usually the last thing one thinks about when one is on a tight budget, but sometimes a little festive decoration can do wonders for one’s spirits. And a little goes a long way. A simple Christmas centerpiece: 3 apples, 2 red or white pillar candles, sprigs of greenery. Make a ‘bed’ from the greenery, add the apples, and then arrange the candles in and among the other pieces. Use small pieces of ribbon as accents. (Do not use the apples as candle holders – don’t waste food – you may want to eat them later.) Reuse taper candles (the long, thin ones). Cut off the used part, making sure not to entirely cut through the wick. Once you light the candles, no one will notice they’ve been “recycled”.

Gifts: Can you sew? Do you bake? Do you paint? Can you walk? Use your skills to make low-cost Christmas gifts. Cut out two circles from a piece of felt, whip stitch them together, hot glue buttons on the felt, and add a piece of ribbon (or red or green embroidery floss) for the hanger. Whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When cool, dip one end of the cookie into melted chocolate (dark, milk or white). Simple, yet elegant. Paint three palm-sized rocks – one green, one white, one red. Use the green, white and red paint to paint dots, speckles, zigzags, etc. on the rocks. Give them together as a unique Christmas decoration. (You can also sprinkle glitter on the paint while it is still wet to add a little extra pizzazz.) Take a walk and collect some pine cones. Paint them white and add a little glitter, the attach some red ribbon. Simple Christmas decoration!

Attitude: It’s very easy to have a poor attitude during the first post-divorce holiday season. Sit down and have a self-pep-talk instead of a pity party. Did you wake up this morning? Good. Is there a roof over your head? Good. Did you have a warm shower? Good. Do you have least one friend? Good. Don’t expect this holiday season to be like all the rest. You are headed for something better! Now is the time to start some new traditions. Now is the time to step outside of yourself and give to others. Now is the time to enjoy the peace and quiet. Reflect on the God Who gave. Or, if you are not religious, reflect on how vast the universe is and how you are part of something that big! Have a thankful heart this holiday season – big budget or not. Stay tuned. . . .

 

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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. . .

Get Rid of It!

The only reason I would post twice in one day is because I read something that I MUST share! During lunch today, I tapped into the internet to get an update from my favorite news station. The screen that appears before I access my ‘favorites’ is the ISP’s news page. I followed a headline entitled, “Removing These 31 Things From Your Life Will Make You Happier and More Successful” (Credit: Mary Cate Williams).

My top 10 from this piece (in no particular order) are: comparing yourself to others, creating unrealistic expectations for yourself, bad spending habits, fear of the unknown, living in the past, unhealthy relationships, the need to be in control of everything, your need to have the best things, feeling sorry for yourself, and grudges. Five bonus things to get rid of: jealousy, blaming others for your mistakes, resisting change, holding on to stuff you don’t need and your social media obsession.

I see a couple of themes here: be responsible for yourself, be yourself, forgive others, stick to a budget, and it’s okay to let life happen. Your only responsibility is to and for yourself – that includes your time, your money, your resources. Forgive others – your grudges only hurt you. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping the other person will die. Forgive and move on! And for goodness sake, ditch the social media! Is anyone ever who they really are on social media? Do you really need someone else’s life issues to brood over when you have your own?

Don’t spend beyond your means – you really don’t need the latest and greatest of everything. Like the saying goes, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”. Stuff begets stuff and you can’t take it with you. Cycle Dude and I have been on a minimalist kick for a few months. Nothing is as liberating as taking a car full of your old stuff to Goodwill. A constant theme I see at estate sales is the amount of stuff people collected and thought they needed to live a good life.

It’s okay to let life happen. Life is an adventure- live it! If you live the rest of your life cooped up in yourself without ever venturing out to learn something new, go somewhere you’ve been dreaming of or are afraid to love again, you will die a sad, angry person. Live the adventure called ‘life’. If you happen to find someone along the way to live it with, that’s a bonus. Get rid of the negativity, anger and bitterness. Look at the good things in life – nature, friends, grandchildren – and resolve to live a good life. Don’t be the old Ebenezer Scrooge. Be the Ebenezer Scrooge who found a wonderful new life, resolving to keep Christmas in his heart each day of the year. Stay tuned!. . .

 

Being Resourceful

Eighteen months after I got divorced, ex stopped paying court-ordered spousal support. He felt he was above the law and able to make that decision. I tried legal means to get him to pay the remainder of the money, but he just ignored my attorney and his attorney when they tried to contact him. I didn’t have the money to pursue him any further. He said it was his job to “make (me) stand on (my) own two feet”. We weren’t even married anymore! How could he think he still had power over my life?!

I guess I could be grateful for that time in my life because it taught me how to be resourceful. I had a lot of debt and not a lot of money. I had to get creative with meals, bill paying, Christmas and birthday gifts, etc.

1. Keep a change jar: My change jar was often my lifesaver, even it was just $5 in my gas tank. Change adds up quickly.

2. Grocery shop for items that will last a while: Frozen fruits and veggies instead of fresh, rice and pasta, tea bags to make your own iced tea, etc. I remember making a rice dish with whatever was in my refrigerator. I had that for lunch and dinner for one week. Yes, it got boring, but it filled my tummy. Eat oatmeal and eggs – not just for breakfast but for other meals as well. Both will fill you up.

3. Make gifts with what you have on hand: My siblings and I exchange Christmas ornaments every year. One year, My Christmas ornament was a laminated maple leaf from the tree beside my house. The leaves were a deep shade of crimson.

4. Be creative – use your talents: Another year for a Christmas ornament, I knitted Christmas trees and attached small buttons as ornaments. If you sew, use your material scraps to make “hodge-podge” ornaments. If you like to take pictures, frame your favorites and give them as gifts.

5. Turn down the heat, turn up the air conditioning: Turn the heat down a few degrees in winter (68) and turn the air up a few degrees in the summer (75). Invest in a fan and open your windows. Conserve water by running your dishwasher only when it’s full. Shower and do laundry at night when the energy demand is less.

6. Use public transportation (if possible): I would often park my car and take the bus from my apartment to work. Granted, I had to walk a mile and a half, but I didn’t have to worry about gas or wear and tear on my car.

7. Exercise self-control: There were so many times I had to tell myself ‘no’ – and I hated it! No to ice cream bars, no to new clothes and shoes, no to eating out. Once you learn how to have self-control, saying ‘no’ to yourself is not so bad.

I learned a great deal during those lean years – about me, about my ability to be resourceful and about others who love me. I knew I’d never go homeless or without food, but it was up to me to do whatever I could to take care of myself and be responsible for my financial obligations. I know now that I am a better person for enduring those lean years, even though they were so hard at the time.

If you are in the midst of some lean years, be encouraged, dear one. You will make it through this. Keep your chin up! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Organizing My Thoughts

It’s usually around this time of the year that I start to write my annual Christmas letter. I keep it to one page. I remember getting Christmas letters from distant cousins that were pages long of bragging. Ick! I dedicate a paragraph to each of my children, one to me and Cycle Dude and one to my dogs. Five paragraphs are plenty long enough for a Christmas letter! I stopped writing the paragraphs a couple of years ago about my children and let them write their own to include in my Christmas letter. Not only does that make their news more personal, but it helps me to organize my thoughts.

I remember the days immediately before, during and after my divorce. I was so scatter-brained, I was surprised I could think at all! I was still in school at the time, and was preparing to graduate five months later. I couldn’t afford to be scatter-brained! By the grace of God, I was able to hold it all together enough to graduate with a 3.3 GPA.

I employed several different tools during that time that helped me a great deal!

1. I used a paper calendar: I kept the calendar with me so I remember appointments, when papers were due, when I had exams, etc. I filled the calendar in every two weeks and let it do my thinking for me!

2. I made dozens of lists: From what I had to accomplish that day, to my grocery list, and my housecleaning list, etc. Even if the task was trivial, I put it on the list. I didn’t want to forget anything, especially since I was in school.

3. I’d prepare for tomorrow the night before: I’d make sure I had all the schoolbooks I needed, the papers that were due, my lunch, and anything else I needed for the day. I would also lay out my clothes the night before. If I took time the night before to prepare for the next day, then the next day wasn’t as crazy!

4. I’d take some time to seriously veg: Sometimes, you just need to have an afternoon of not doing much of anything. Those were the days I’d clear the cobwebs from my brain and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

5. I’d map out my route: The year I was divorced was my daughter’s first year of college – four hours away I another state. I attended all of her volleyball tournaments. I always made sure I knew in advance how to get to where her game was. Of course, my laptop and schoolbooks came along as well.

It’s easy to become scatter-brained when you’re going through a hard time. Take the time to make sure you have the tools to help you not be so scatter-brained. And above all, give yourself grace. 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. . . .

Life is Not Pinterest Perfect

Every now and then, I run across articles on the internet about ‘Pinterest fails’. You know the kind. Pinterest makes everything look so nice and easy, all wrapped up in the perfect little bow. However, life is far from Pinterest perfect, as the Pinterest fail photos will attest to. Some folks, try as they might to follow directions and attempt that perfect little clown’s head cupcake, just aren’t fated to be Pinterest success stories.

And that’s okay. Life is not Pinterest Perfect. What you don’t see on Pinterest is the many times Suzy tried that certain thing and failed, until the planets aligned just right and the 103rd time was the charm for that little clown head cupcake. How many times do we hear of success, but not the failure that led to that success?

We ought not be fooled that every success is achieved on the very first try. I would have liked to have met Thomas Edison. His attempt at the incandescent light bulb failed nearly 1,000 times. When asked about his ‘failures’, he stated that they were not failures, but ideas that didn’t work. He had the right attitude. He kept going until he got it right. I’m sure there were times when Thomas Edison was frustrated, but he didn’t let that frustration define him, or thwart his efforts. He had a vision and he kept the goal in sight.

As women who have been divorced mid-life, we may hear of other women’s successes – in marriage, in business, in romance, in life. We may look at their lives as ‘Pinterest perfect’. But they aren’t. No one’s life is perfect. You are on the path you are on for a reason. When I was going through a divorce, I heard of women who had amicable divorces, whose husbands paid alimony on time and who were “still friends” with their ex. I thought, “No way! That’s impossible!!” But did I know all the details? Did I know what their marriage had been like? No. Like Shakespeare said, “Appearances can be deceiving.”

Go ahead and set goals, and put your energy toward achieving them. Don’t put your energy toward the Pinterest Perfect Life – it’s a myth. BTW? The ‘Pinterest Fails’ serve one purpose – to show us that no one is perfect! Stay tuned. . . .