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Category Archives: state of mind

Your Loss Is Your Gain

Thought I’d stop and check in on you. How’s your holiday been so far? It can be a tough time for a lot of people and divorced parents are no exception. There’s something about the season that can make us focus on what we’ve lost rather than what we may have gained. Whether or not you have a good relationship with your ex, the
griefholidays have a way of reminding you of the un-whole aspect of your family and then unceremoniously throwing it in your face. It may be because you’re not with your kids during the holiday. It may be because you are. It may be because you’re all together but in a very different dynamic than you were a few years ago. It may even be a very positive and happy time. But it’s still a reminder of what used to be and that things may be patched, but in some ways they’re still broken.

Believe me I get it. The hard part is that there really is no “fix.” As with the loss of a loved one, all you can do is that which fate allows, which is to acknowledge and move on. Be strong. Lick your wounds, stand up straight and use your experience to your advantage. In many ways the hurt strengthens us. There’s a grit to it that allows us to know we’ve been there and made it through. It doesn’t erase the negative or fill the emptiness, but there’s something about having lived through adversity that humbles us and reminds us that we’re human.

Look, I could sit here and do my best to pump you up with words of encouragement; telling you not to focus on the pain. But honestly, I think sometimes we need to morn our losses. We need to give our souls a chance to heal. To ignore the pain is no more healthy than it is to dwell on it. If you’re sad, that’s OK. Give yourself an opportunity to grieve. It’s a part of who you are and to ignore it would be to ignore an important element of the whole “you.” So embrace it. Accept it. Carry it with you. Hold it dear rather than bury it deep where it can do
the-only-cure-for-grief-is-actionmore damage. I believe that in each of our defeats there is a victory. In every mistake a lesson to be learned. The new year represents a new dawn and an opportunity to take the sum of our experiences and build on them. To create new goals and new aspirations. To find renewed determination to make it better. And in order to do that we need to remember the hurt as much as the pleasure. Let it inspire you. Let it motivate you.

Recognize that life is a mixed bag. Too much sugar isn’t healthy for the body. We need a proper balance of emotions to feel complete. So shed a tear for the losses, share a smile for the gains and look to tomorrow for new opportunities to sore higher than you’ve ever flown. And use these moments of emptiness to remind you of where you’ve been and how amazing it will feel to be full again. Then when you’ve given yourself a chance to take it all in and come to terms with it, it’ll be time to take action and put it all behind you.

Take advantage of this time to reflect on the past year, both good and bad. A new year is right around the corner and anxious to take you on new adventures. Let’s be ready to go and see where we end up!

 

 

 

 

 

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Life Is An Icy Highway!

Traveling home from Buffalo with the kids a couple of weeks ago, we encountered a weather mass that was heading northeast from Texas. With it came an onslaught of snow and ice. As we headed south on I-71 and approached Cincinnati, the snow became increasingly heavy. The interstate eventually narrowed down to one lane going 25 mph as everyone followed a salt truck that was doing its best to keep the road open. During a span of an hour we witnessed no fewer than fifty cars, pickups and semi’s that had gone off the road and into the median or into a ditch. It was at that point that I had pretty much given up on attempting to make it all the way home to Nashville and began planning on stopping at Florence, KY for the night.

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Photo by my daughter Alex

Despite the storm, there were a surprising number of cars on the road and thanks to their treads maintaining a lane or two, we made our way through downtown Cincinnati. As we drove over the Ohio river, the snow suddenly let up and the roads appeared relatively clear. There was still a thin layer of snow on the roads, but there were three to four lanes open and things seemed to be picking up. With renewed faith I decided to forge forward while the kids slept.

There are moments in your life when you are thrust into a mode of intense focus and anxiety. During these moments our ability to maintain calm and reason are truly tested and we’re forced into a state of survival. As we approached the I-71 / I-75 split, we all encountered one such moment. Without any notice our Jeep began to slowly spin. As we became close to going horizontal in relation to the interstate, we began to slide over from the far right lane toward the center median eventually crossing all four lanes. The screams of the kids became muffled as I found myself immensely focused on the fact that I was slowly losing control of the Jeep. As I shifted down I recognized we were now traveling on a sheet of black ice which had been covered by a half inch layer of snow. Having lived a good deal of my life up north, I had a good sense of how to steer out of a spin in snow, but knew that when you’re on ice, nothing is guaranteed.

By the grace of God I was able to keep the Jeep from completely spinning out of control. I then slowly redirected us into a forward path and continued on doing my best to keep an eye out for other cars. Despite the rows of slushy yuck that divided the lanes, we were able to make our way back over toward the right hand lane. By the time I got to the third lane over, another car to our immediate left spun out of control and slid directly in front of us. As it glided by, I Our Jeep while visiting family near Rochester, NY.couldn’t help but think how much it resembled a figure skater eloquently making her way across the ice. It then careened off the right hand shoulder and into a field at which point I proclaimed, “Who’s up for a night in a hotel?!”

Once the kids got a hold of themselves and realized we were safe, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and headed for the nearest Holiday Inn.

Life can sometimes feel like a highway with an occasional sheet of ice. We’re traveling on at a nice little pace when suddenly we lose control and start to spin out. Like most drivers, we panic and overcompensate for the misdirection which only make things worse. Not unlike the steps you take to regain control of your vehicle, the best course of action is to not panic and keep yourself focused on where you want to go, slowly regaining traction until you’re back on a solid path. No matter how hard we work to have everything neatly planned out, we’re all going to hit an ice patch from time to time that sends us into a state of anxiety and panic. This is true whether you’re divorced, married, a veteran of life or just striking out on your own. Rarely if ever is overreacting the right thing to do. Slow, steady adjustments can typically help you regain traction and get back on track. It’s not always easy when you’ve got kids screaming in the background (whether in a car or a restaurant), but after navigating through a few patches of ice, you start to get the hang of it.

Easier said than done I know, but the reality is that life was never meant to be a smooth ride start to finish. We need to learn how to navigate through the ice, rain, mud, gravel and washouts. And the only way to do that is to just keep moving forward with a strong sense of direction and an ability to not overcompensate when we start to spin out of control.

So whether on the road home or the road of life, may the road always rise to meet you and may you find safe travels ahead!

 

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If You Only Knew What Your Kids Think

I recently discovered a growing number of kids who are reading and sharing LAADD and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s mind blowing. In most cases they are children whose parents are divorced or split, and as I read their own blogs, at times, quite frankly, I’m brought to tears. Their stories, their perspectives, their lives are, in some cases, rocked to the core by what they are witnessing. Their views of their parents and how they perceive the reasoning behind the choices their parents have made are at times down right chilling.

As a divorced parent, you need to know your children are watching. EVERYTHING. And they understand more than you often give them credit for. At the same time, they see things through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with the pain that you’ve encountered. All they see is selfishness on the part of their parents. Theyimages don’t know the hurt you or your ex are experiencing. Nor could they comprehend it. They’ve never been married. They’ve never experienced some of the things you or I have. They can only judge what they see by what they can relate to and because of that their views can be somewhat skewed. But it is still their perception and it is their reality. What I’ve gathered from reading their own blog entries is that in many cases, they’re not impressed. And more often than not, they are hurting.

Their hurt is deep and shaping the way they view the world and the people around them. Whether or not they see themselves as a reason for the divorce, they still feel abandoned and unimportant. They consider themselves an afterthought. They view themselves as very much on their own. My guess is that part of the reason for this perception is that as single parents we have to be everywhere at once and often turn them away when they are trying to connect. Part of it may be because they see us worried more about our own emotional needs than theirs. In being passed back and forth they likely feel like a hot potato. Even if it isn’t true, in their heads they likely interpret us as saying, “OK, it’s your turn to deal with them.” They feel less like part of the team and more like the ball being tossed back and forth. Regardless of the why, what I’m reading in many cases is an internal emptiness. A dark void that has surrounded them. This void has made them cynical, cold and lost.

I share this with you as a reminder that we need to constantly renew our focus on the emotional and psychological needs of our kids. They didn’t ask to be brought into this scenario. We thrust it upon them. Regardless of who walked out, cheated, abused or initiated the separation, on some level our own choices in life are now directly affecting them. Even if one or both parents are a huge positive, any negative is going to be taken personally. No matter how many times we tell them we love them or want them around, in many cases they see regret in our eyes and ask themselves if bigstock_depression_184004181part of that regret is having had them. They ask themselves if they are your baggage first and your kid second.

I am so thankful for what I have learned through this journey. Some of it has been gratifying and other parts difficult to swallow. All of it has shaken me to the core. There is so much hurt to go around. So much pain, much of which bubbles under the surface, hidden from public view. It’s all the more reason to do everything we can to stay focused on the positive. To balance the negative and hurt with compassion and understanding. To view ourselves as part of the solution not part of the problem. To put our egos aside and take the high road. To hold our tongues and be aware of the big picture. We choose every day how to react to those around us. Our ex’s, our friends, neighbors, family and yes, our kids. And we have the power to set the tone. It’s not always easy and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, misinformed assumptions, and overreactions. Just stop when you’re at your limit or feel yourself on the verge of completely losing it. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day that you are the foundation your kids so desperately need. Know that they need to have a strong sense of belonging to a family. You have so much power to establish the energy of the room and build a healthy, encouraging, environment for their fragile, still developing egos. They want you to be there for them regardless of what they may say. And if you’re not, they will find somewhere else to turn. And often that place can be dark and and incredibly destructive.

There is so much our kids don’t share with us. Perhaps sometimes we purposefully turn a blind eye to it simply because we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we prefer to live in ignorant bliss. But it’s important for us to be aware of their reality. Ignoring it is not the answer. Get it out and address it head on. Some of the conversations are going to be difficult. Some of the things you hear are going to hurt. But remember, you’re the adult. Teach your kid to face the negative head on by constantly being there for them. As a parent, by definition, you’re often the enforcer of rules and bearer of bad news. But let them know you can also provide them with an open forum free from judgement. There are things they’ll want to keep to themselves, but there are things they want to and need to share. But they’ll only do it if you’ll let them and they feel safe in doing it. Do your best to let them know that when needed they can come to you to discuss things. And above all let them know they are the single most important thing in the world to you. They need to know that fact down to their very core.

 

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Does It Add Up?

How often have you said to your kid(s), “That’s a lot of money for a pair of sneakers?” Or, “That’s way too expensive.” Or “We don’t have the budget for that right now?” My question is, do you know for sure? Do you discuss budgets with your kids? Do you even have one?

My ex-wife was all about budgets. She wanted to know exactly where we stood financially and what we could afford at any given moment. My father was the same way. I … was not. As a freelance editor, director I knew my earning potential was in many ways based on howImage much I wanted to work, and I’d always done fairly well so I didn’t worry. Drove my ex crazy. When we first got married, I didn’t look at price tags. I got the one I wanted. I felt, what’s the point of getting one you don’t really like? After the divorce that changed. I was forced to take a harder look at finances and that reality continues to evolve.

I initially flushed out a basic spending spreadsheet that outlined the house monthly expenses. Basically what we had to have to stay afloat. That worked for a while, but then my kids started wanting to go to Target and Justice on a regular basis. They started demanding Nike sneakers, and Abercrombie clothing. I quickly learned that just saying, “That’s really not in the budget,” didn’t register because they had no point of reference. And frankly they didn’t care. They wanted what their friends had, and honestly I wanted them to have it too.

And so, I expanded my budget spreadsheet and went back through the bank statements and added tables that showed how much we spent on clothing each month and how much we ate out. I started to look at how much we spent beyond the necessities and how it fluctuated month to month. These were variables that we could control and I thought it may help the kids have a better grasp of how balancing a budget works.

You can say a million times, “twenty bucks here and thirty dollars here really adds up.” But when you actually “add it up” it raises an eyebrow or two; even when you’re eight. To recognize that the more we spend in one place the less we have to spend somewhere else is a lesson I think every kid should have put in front of them. I will say, my kids are pretty good bargain hunters. And I think their mom and I have done a relatively good job of helping them grow to appreciate the value of a dollar. But this post is more than just about teaching the kids. It’s about having a grasp of your world. Again, as I often write, it’s about awareness.

As a divorced dad, you’re likely going to freak out about money a lot; especially early on. There’s no more chance of dual incomes or working together. It’s all on your shoulders and you likely pay child support and / or alimony along with everything else. To not have a clear vision of what that looks like on paper is to me a great way to fuel your high blood pressure and anxiety. And let’s face it, you have enough variables providing those opportunities. Here’s one you can control simply by forcing yourself to write it down. It leads to figuring out ways to pay $30 for medications you otherwise would have spent $300 on if you didn’t care. It’s about getting budgetcalculatorbetter deals on high speed internet because you suddenly realize you really don’t have a choice. It’s about eating at home more so you can afford a weekend trip with the kids or new sneakers when they need them.

They say there’s power in knowledge. So, educate yourself and if applicable, educate your children as well. It can lead to less stress and a stronger financial foundation for you and your family. So how do you do it? Well, there are a lot of simple programs that can help you do this. Like excel, numbers, quickbooks etc. Or start by writing it all down on paper the old fashioned way. Just listing it out is a start as you can begin to see where your money is going.

The point is, you need to be gaining ground for the future. Like most people, you’re going to have ups and downs. So, do your best to at least know where you stand so you can plan or act accordingly. You’ll make choices based on this knowledge. The divorce in and of itself likely set you back and can make it difficult to make ends meet. Having a good overview of where you stand financially every day may create some initial stress when you see where you really are, but it can be the first step toward plugging up holes and establishing a healthier world for you and the kids. I may even be a great motivator for taking steps to improve the situation. One thing I can assure you, it will likely cause you to feel more in control and less like life is moving forward without you. And I promise, it can also lead to much more enjoyable trips to the mall when everyone is on the same page!

 

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Bad Taste In Your Mouth

We all talk a lot about being around people who “get” you. And what a drag it can be when you’re around people who don’t “get” you. Even when talking about your divorce, you’re more than likely to say at some point, “we just didn’t get each other.” I did that. I put the onus on the fact that we just didn’t “get” each other. But then I Unknownstarted to look at the bigger picture and recognized that there were a lot of people in my life who just didn’t “get” me. And so I turned to the mirror.

The truth is that we likely have traits that create the same outcome in many aspects of our lives and a broken marriage is a great opportunity to take a closer look at ourselves. The problem is, life and societal interaction is a bit more complex than that. To believe that we alone are the soul contributor to the outcome of any relationship is ignoring the fact that, for lack of a better term, “it takes two to tango.” Perhaps the reason for our discontent isn’t always in how we interact with the world, but more, what world we choose to interact WITH.

Consider for a second that the world is your local grocery store and personalities are ingredients to a recipe. Pick any two ingredients and you’re going to get a different outcome. Some will compliment each other very well; such as peanut butter and jelly. While others, like the same peanut butter with pickles, will for most anyway, leave you with a bad taste in their mouth. So it stands to reason that if peanut butter only hangs out with different pickles I would imagine he’d start to think he didn’t taste very good. But what if peanut butter started hanging out with jellies more often?

Perhaps for some reason we keep hanging out in the wrong aisle, constantly trying to team up with the wrong ingredients. In turn we constantly find ourselves trying to blend with other personalities that clash with, more than compliment our own flavor. We’re then left with the feeling that no one likes peanut butter, I mean, us. Let’s face it, pickles just don’t “get” peanut butter. But jelly sure as hell does.

As I enter my third year of divorce and forty-seventh on this earth, I’ve come to realize that as much as we 24PEANUT-articleLargeneed to take a good hard look at ourselves and who we are as individuals, we also need to take an equal if not deeper look at the recipes we keep trying to get mixed into. In essence we need to figure out what kind of ingredient we are and then look for a. other ingredients we’ll compliment and then b. make sure we’re served to people who have a stomach for the dish we become a part of. If you’re like me, you spent a good part of your life constantly hanging out with ingredients who were anything but the pork chop to your apple sauce.

True enough, sometimes wild combinations can work. For example, I recently had some ghost pepper jelly that was mind blowing. And there are pickles who create some serious magic with peanut butter. But for the most part, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s nothing anyone can do to a ribeye steak that will make it appealing to you. Nothing. So if you’re the steak, you’ll probably find yourself feeling more appreciated if you start hanging out with steak lovers instead of vegans.

I truly do believe we need to know who we are as ingredients. We also need to recognize that not everyone is going to have a taste for what we bring to the table. And that’s OK. Just know who you are. Be happy with who you are and then find other ingredients who “get” you and appreciate you. Hopefully in doing so, you’ll have a better chance of people asking for seconds rather than throwing you in the garbage.

 

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