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Bad Things Happen

There’s nothing like a minor fender bender to remind us that in an instant, bad things can happen. We’re going about our merry way, and then at the most inconvenient times, we’re forced to stop our lives and deal with something completely unexpected. In some cases it can be life altering.

My family has experienced several of these events of late, some of which have caused their fare share of stress. My mother, who’s 87, took a bad spill and injured her neck. The event will alter the very existence of both my parents as both she and my father (92) will have to face the reality that they are unable to fully and properly take care of themselves without risk of further injury.caution

Each of these events are stark reminders that our lives are not immune from negatives. Some greater than others. Some of these events force us to adjust our daily lives often without our consent. We are reminded time and time again how little control we actually have at times and when faced with these issues it can be a remarkably difficult pill to swallow.

Watching my father have his very existence altered to the point of losing control of just about every aspect of his daily life is difficult to watch. He was an entrepreneur, accustomed to being the man in charge. The past several years, bit by bit, he’s come face to face with mother nature who has taken a little more of his control away each year. As difficult as that’s been to witness, watching how he handles it at times can be even more difficult. Watching him fight it tooth and nail, has at times only made it more stressful. It’s understandable, but the more we fight change, quite often we deprive ourselves of potential happiness, dwelling on the negatives we’ve been faced with.

Which brings me to the point of this particular post: acceptance. We can fight these events and live in denial. We can do everything in our power to ignore them or attempt to erase them. But as difficult as it is, sometimes the best thing we can do is accept them and do our best to adjust accordingly.

Divorce very likely caught you by surprise. In the instant that the word divorced came to define your future, everything changed. You most likely fought it and may very well still be fighting it. We can allow our anger to dictate how we move forward. As with my fender bender, I was pretty shaken. It took a while for me to get my whits about me again. And even then, reflecting on it is difficult at times as I attempt to go back in my head and change to course of those few seconds. But I can’t change them. They are now a part of my history as is my divorce. Unlike my Jeep, I can’t replace the dinged up parts of my marriage. I simply have to lick my wounds and let them heal as best they can. Basically, I can either accept this reality and make the best of it or I can attempt to prove something by fighting it.

But honestly, if I’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that there is an art to moving forward. And frankly, standing your ground leaves you doing just that. Standing without making any forward progress.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in Divorce

 

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How We View The Divorced Parent

How many of you have seen a divorced parent and immediately proceeded to create an opinion about them based solely on the fact that you knew they were divorced. Maybe you went so far as to make assumptions about why they were divorced or how they messed things up.

Well, being divorced isn’t unlike being a parent. Unless you’ve experienced it, you simply have no clue of any aspect of it. None. It is not uncommon for those without kids to be quick to let us know how to raise our children or point out what we’re doing wrong. They’ve read all of the articles and seem to know what’s best for our kids and what they “need.” With divorce it’s probably not quite as harsh, but everyone is quick to let us know how we should handle our ex, what’s best for our kids, why we should do this or not do that etc. They tell us how much better off we are, that we need to get back on the saddle and that they wish they had our freedom.

But unless you’ve lived it and ARE living it, you have …  no … idea. It can be a constant battle to stay positive; to hold your tongue; to be599800_10152015305377908_614640456_n supportive; to put the kids first; to not over react; to not be resentful; to not blame; to not crash and burn. It can take all of your energy and then some. And unless you’re in the trenches immersed in the negative thoughts that are continually fighting their way through the positives, it’s impossible to truly understand what a unique experience it is and how challenging it can be.

If you see someone who’s divorced, man or woman, know that they’re doing their best with the hand they’ve been dealt; even if they were the one who dealt it in the first place. Chances are they themselves had no idea what they were getting into or what it would be like despite their best intentions. Regardless, divorced people have experienced a pain like no other. Some self inflicted and some completely undeserved. It is not an easy road. And all you can do is keep moving. For to stop is death. If you don’t keep your mind busy, it will sink into a muck of self torture. If you don’t keep your body busy, it will not only cause your muscles to fail you, but your mind as well.

If you see a divorced dad, and you see him loving his kids, getting groceries, coaching a basketball game, or even just sitting having a cup of coffee; take a moment to recognize that he is changing the definition of a dad. He is involved. He is trying and quite possibly even more involved now as a divorced dad than he was as a married one. Believe it or not, dads can multi-task, cook, clean, dress their kids and coddle them when they’re sick. We can organize a birthday party and get them where they need to be on time. We check home work and actually want to be on the school’s e-mail list. But for some reason, too often, assumptions are made and divorced dads are seen as the weekend babysitter. As someone with 50/50 custody I can assure you that’s not always the case any more. The landscape is changing.

So whatever you do, don’t judge him. I promise you, divorced parents are pretty good at doing plenty of that to themselves; virtually all day. I get it. Not all dads, divorced or otherwise are gems. But we don’t all personify the stereotype of the cheating deadbeat. We hate that we ended up here and work hard not to focus on the fact that this isn’t what we planned. There are plenty of aspects about divorce that we disdain. But they come with the territory and all you can do is carry on and attempt to do better.

So please. If you have a friend who’s a divorced parent; know that there’s a lot going on under the surface. Probably not unlike your own life, but a lot more intense as there’s likely an additional layer of guilt spread over it. But aside from the occasional jerk, which let’s face it exist both in divorce and marriage, there are more and more divorced dads doing the best they can and they’re doing everything in their power to make it better for themselves and their children. There are indeed a growing number of them who are stepping up their game and doing their part to change the way single dads are viewed.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Divorce

 

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The Weight of Unresolved Issues

Does this sound familiar? I have found myself remarkably overwhelmed of late. Stress and worry have consumed me at times to the point where I just shut down. It’s not like me. I mean, like anyone, I stress over things and worry. But not to the extent that I have been lately. You would think that after continually finding ways to make it all work, a person would learn to trust the cosmos a little more. But that’s hard, especially when you envision scenarios where it all goes wrong and everything comes crashing down.

Recently, while mulling over it in my head, I began to notice a pattern. While my life as a divorced dad and all that it entails; ie. juggling joint custody with three kids, maintaining a home that once required dual income, a full time job, freelance projects, schedules, groceries, dinners, lunches, laundry, etc., can be overwhelming; there’s one constant I began to notice. I seem to stress the most when I stop for too long and don’t take action on outstanding issues. I then focus so much on my outstanding negatives, I just lie there and stop dreaming, stop planning and stop acting.

I’ve continually written about the need to stop once in a while and breathe. To get rest when your body tells you it needs it. To give yourself a break once in a while. And I maintain that all of that is an essential part of maintaining your sanity. But like everything else, it’s about balance. It’s about giving yourself a break and then getting back up on your feet and moving again.

Where I’ve found my stress and anxiety becomes unbearable is when I’m not tackling issues. When I leave too many things hanging over my head. Those times when I simply stop checking 2012-12-22 13.47.03things off the list and become one with the couch for way too long. Unfinished business that needs to be finished begins to pile up and it all gets messy and complicated and if I go too long without attacking the issues, they can tend to get bigger than I can handle. And it’s simple stuff like when I put off paying a doctor bill to ensure I’ll have enough for groceries. When I let the house get too out of sorts. When I allow the “to do list” to get too long. When I start sitting waiting for life to happen, at some point my calm river becomes a series of rapids and I start to lose control of the boat.

That’s when I panic.

The problem is, it’s true; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Getting up and taking off that first bite of the elephant can be excruciatingly difficult. But that’s really the only way to get going. Get up and start with one simple task. Then another. And another. And another.

I tend to do well when I’ve got momentum. Once I get going I almost hate to stop because I know how difficult it is to get going again once you sit down. The feeling of “gettin’ it done” is so empowering. But at some point I need to stop to recharge. Then I can’t get going again. It’s a never ending cycle. One that takes practice, faith, effort and a continued belief in your ability to keep it rockin’.

So if you’re lying there with thoughts about projects, finances, kids, schedules; all causing you to freeze up and shut down; pick yourself up and maybe go for a quick walk. Get a cup of coffee. Make the bed. Pay a small bill that has been sitting there for a while but won’t break the bank. Meet your challenges head on, but start slow and give yourself a chance to pick up steam again.

Life will continue to pile it on. It just works that way. And at times it will appear as though you can’t pick it up as fast as it’s puttin’ it down. It can be exhausting. And that’s OK. There will come times when you’re knee deep, times where you’re struggling to keep your head above water and yet other times where you’ll feel completely on top of it all. It’s never the same game twice. The secret is finding the balance and recognizing that no trend is absolute. Bad weeks will come and go as will the good ones.

Each issue in our life carries some weight. Combined it can cripple you and force you to your knees. When it gets too heavy, just start with the little items and work your way up. Eventually you’ll find yourself tackling the bigger items with more confidence and strength. But never, and this is the important part, NEVER stop dreaming.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go on Zillow and look for a 75 acre farm with horses, a pond, and a 4 bedroom house . Then I think I’ll start another load of laundry.

Peace!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in full schedule, Staying Positive, stress

 

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Wait! I’ve Got a Coupon!

Quick tip for those of you grappling with finances and looking for ways to stretch every dollar as you figure out how to afford life as a divorced dad. I’ve written before about the need to write out a monthly budget and the power of just knowing what it’s costing you to live.copon One thing I’ve learned is there are little secrets here and there that can save you a buck or two which can really add up month to month. It may be buying sporting gear for little league, buying shoes or even something as innate as buying eyeglasses on-line. Well recently, I became aware of an amazing tool for shoppers; on-line coupons and coupon apps.

Example: One day my kids and I walked into Michael’s (an arts/crafts chain). We spent around twenty minutes looking around and after each kid picked out their project of choice, we headed for the check out. My eldest tapped me on the shoulder and handed me her phone. “What?” I asked her. She just said, “Here.” Again, trying to focus on the transaction I asked, “What, can’t it wait?” She pointed out that on her phone was a coupon. Being in the midst of herding cats I was a little indifferent and responded with a quick, “whatever” and moved on. So she handed her phone to the cashier who proceeded to scan her phone. “DING.” The total for child number one’s project suddenly went down by 50%. Sure enough. There on her phone was a coupon for 50% off one item at check out. Amazing.

After proclaiming her my new favorite I asked her  what other coupons she had on her phone. I quickly learned from my daughter, as well as searching on-line, that a lot of stores have apps that allow you to collect instant savings at checkout. Who knew? Target for example has their Cartwheel. This one’s great for those of you with tween or teen daughters who continually find that “one” sweater they don’t have. 30% off adds up over time and all it takes is a quick look before you check out to see if an item has a coupon.

“What about you? Do you have a favorite app generated means of saving money at checkout? Here’s the place to share it!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in budgets, coupons, Divorce, Shopping

 

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Find The Good

During any school break, let alone anything over ten days, you get to know your kids on a WHOLE new level. During this recent time together I had noticed that my kids had fallen into the trap of finding everything wrong with each other along with everything around them. Just a constant bemoaning about every little detail. This then became combined with chronic bickering back and forth about every minute detail about every moment of their day. Eventually each became focused on what they disliked about the others. This then started to seep into their daily lives and I started to hear negativity regarding all kinds of things ranging from clothes to friends to the weather. “It’s blue!” “NO it’s GREEN!” “You’re dumb!” “You’re stupid!”

When you go through a divorce, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. It takes a lot of energy to retrain your brain to focus on thefindthegoodladdpositives and to recognize that the world isn’t in fact out to get you despite all evidence to the contrary. Once you do, negativity begins to take on the same attributes of fingernails on a chalk board and you begin to take steps to avoid it at all costs. So when I became surrounded by this never ending centrifuge of hostility toward the cosmos, I did what any calm, rational, reasonable father would do; I yelled and sent everyone to their rooms.

As I sat in the kitchen contemplating a month long grounding with all three kids subject to nothing but bread and water twice a day and no contact with the outside world until they came to their senses, I noticed the big black chalk wall we’d created this past summer. We had just cleared all of the Christmas messages and imagery that had been created over the past couple of months and it was staring at me like a giant blank canvas. I walked over toward it and picked up a piece of chalk and began to write:

“FIND THE GOOD!”

A simple and direct objective. Find the good. It exists in every person, place, situation, event, environment and circumstance. Sometimes we need to look a little harder to see it, but it’s always there to build on. And it’s up to us to train our brain to seek it out. I am by no means a master at this, but I saw this as an opportunity to offer the kids one simple task and see if I couldn’t get them to recognize that it’s their choice to focus on the positive. Throughout the day, simply find the good. Hone in on it. And then build on it.

We’ll see how it works. But it’s there in big bold letters for all (including myself) to see throughout the day. “FIND THE GOOD.” A gentle reminder that positive is so much more productive and fun than negative. I’ll likely start putting up a new task every week or every month. But for now all I want is for the kids to help each other find the good in their day, in their family, and in their world. Because despite what the world tells us sometimes, there’s a lot of it to be found if we’ll simply look a little harder.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Divorce, kids, negative

 

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