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Pace Yourself

Those who stop by here regularly likely know that I’m an avid runner. It’s been a part of my regimen since I was probably seven. I think what started it was my sister telling me I should be a runner because runners have small butts. But whatever the reason, it stuck and now nearing fifty, it has helped keep me relatively healthy and mentally stable.

One thing I learned from running was the value of pacing myself. I remember one particular track meet my freshman year of college where this point was very well illustrated. We were running the 1500 meter on an indoor track which adds up to about 7 1/2 laps. When the gun went off one runner from a visiting school just took off at full speed. I mean the rest12038670_10154254531642908_511981866436531684_o of us looked at each other and were like, “He knows it’s a mile right?” By the end of the first lap he was sailing off well in front of the pack. By the fourth lap, he was on the infield holding his hamstring screaming in agony.

I pictured that guy this morning as I was making school lunches. If you think of each year like a mile of a marathon, I’m on mile five. And let me tell you, some days I think I may have come out of the gate a bit too fast because I’m already suckin’ wind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the run and for the most part the pace feels pretty good. But man, every once in a while I get a parenting cramp.

As divorced dads, we all pat ourselves on the back from time to time. We make dinners, do laundry, help a kid through a school project, coach a soccer game, make it to every recital, have good heart to heart talks, drive kids all over kingdom come for school events and
playdates, make dinners, do laundry; wait I lost myself for a second. What was I talking about? Oh yeah. “GO DAD!” Parents know it’s a lot. And some days just getting the kids to school on time feels like a victory lap is in order. But know this; it’s a long, freaking, run.

If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know those first few miles you’re like, “This is EASY! Not sure what all the fuss was about!” Then at mile 21 you’re on the curb puking your guts out while your left calf muscle keeps involuntarily flexing. That’s parenting. Every mile the breathing becomes more labored. The hills get steeper. The sun beats down a little harder. And your legs get a little heavier.

So pace yourself. Stop at every gatorade station you can find. And hell, walk a few hundred yards from time to time if you need to. It’s OK if your pace fluctuates from mile to mile. Not every lunch has to include all five food groups. Not every breakfast has to be eggs, sausage, toast and juice. Sometimes a pop-tart is OK. Trust me, they’ll live even if every once in a while their socks don’t match.

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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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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Surviving Mile 21

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I’m an avid runner. Those who don’t read my blog on a regular basis, well, now you know too. Because of this fact I often correlate life to running and visa versa. From pacing yourself, to pushing yourself to the affects of stress, I find countless times when my life and my running regiment seem to go hand in hand. So it should have come as no surprise when a recent conversation with a dear friend of mine who’s been walking this journey with me for a while helped me discover yet another example of how life emulates running and it goes a little something like this:

When you run you’re first marathon, the first couple of miles feel pretty good. You’re pumped. You’re full of energy, a little scared and nervous, but confidence is high and you’re ready to roll. You aren’t really sure what to expect having heard stories from other runners. You know there will be difficulties to encounter, but you’re positive and prepared to meet the challenge head on. People around you are very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “If anyone can do this you can,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc. All in all, despite the knowledge that this is going to be a tough road ahead, you’re full of piss and vinegar and brimming with confidence. The same holds true of the divorced dad. Despite a feeling of complete and utter fear of what’s to come, you’re prepared to meet the challenge head on. Everyone around you is very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “You’re a great dad,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc.

At mile 5 you’re like, “I got this! Look at me, I’m running a marathon! Holy Crap!” You wave to people along the course, there’s a spring in your step and you’re beaming with pride because YOU are a marathoner. For a divorced dad with kids, the feeling is the same. You’re past the initial shock and starting to recognize that the world isn’t completely falling apart. You’re getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being a single parent and are proud of yourself for managing to figure out how to get the kids fed, clothed and off to school without a need to take them to the emergency room. You haven’t missed a softball game or recital yet. All in all, you’re rockin’ it.

Around mile 10 the honeymoon isn’t quite over yet and you’re actually feeling yourself getting into a good rhythm. You’re determined and feeling good. You think to yourself, “I can do this. I feel alright. Not sure what all the fuss was about.” It’s also a point where you start talking to yourself more. You find yourself giving yourself little thoughts of encouragement, telling yourself to “Keep it up!” and, “You’re doing great!” and “Just ignore that nagging stabbing feeling in your little toe, it’ll go away. Probably just my toe nail falling off.” For the divorced dad, your confidence grows every day as you figure out more and more and get more comfortable managing the kids, work, the house, the yard and everything that goes along with it. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Can you believe what I accomplished today?!” It’s all still kind of fresh and you’re feeling a rhythm that has you starting to think “Father of the Year” award and do your best to ignore the nagging pain in your lower back.

Around mile 12 you start to go over numbers. A lot of numbers. Things like, number of miles, average mile, splits, how much further, etc. You start to calculate in your head nonstop and begin attempting to count the number of steps you take in each mile. It starts to become a mental game as the monotony of stride after stride after stride starts to take its toll. It’s similar in a divorce with kids, only the numbers are more like, how much is in the bank account today, how much will be in the account tomorrow, how many cereal bars are left in the pantry, how many lunches have you made for school in the past month, how much money is in the bank account, how much will be in the account when the mortgage is due, was your daughter’s game on field six at seven or on field seven at six? Can you believe gas is almost $4.00 a gallon? That’s just crazy. Do I have enough money in the account for gas? These are all tactics used by your mind to help you avoid the fact that it’s starting to hurt.

At mile 15 you’re like, “I’ve run fifteen miles and I’m still going! I am AWESOME! Look what a great runner I am!” A divorced dad is like, “I just finished three loads of laundry, we had dinner at the table, all the dishes are clean and put away, the kids’ homework is finished, they’re bathed and we still had time to watch an episode of Good Luck Charlie before bedtime. I am an AWESOME DAD!”

At mile 15.25 miles you suddenly realize you aren’t finished, get a cramp and have a sudden craving for beer. For dad the cramp is replaced by a kid who has a bad dream at 3 am and crawls into bed with you placing their foot directly in your face for most of the night.

Then around mile 20 or 21 it happens. You hit a wall. You’re cussing at yourself for signing up for this experience convinced you will die before mile 22. It hurts and you’re noticing pain in places you didn’t even realize you had. People around you are too busy dealing with their own crap to be encouraging and don’t even bother to acknowledge you as they basically walk past you. You start convincing yourself it’s ok if you quit. I mean, come on, look how good you did. You went pretty damn far. No one would blame you for giving up. The numbers in your head are overwhelming and never come to the same total twice. You’re freaking out convinced you won’t have enough to finish and immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium. Divorced dad is in a similar place. The exuberance you once felt for having a handle on everything is waining. It’s now a matter of survival. You’re tired, overwhelmed and spent convinced you won’t have enough money for Christmas. The routine is old and the energy it takes to keep up with work, three kids, the house, the yard and your blog is taking its toll. This is where you’ve determined, and will say with conviction, that you meant to leave your shoes lying in the middle of the kitchen and that the clutter gives the house an appealing “Lived In” look. You’ve decided that the kids will get peanut butter sandwiches and a slice of cheese for lunch and like it. Making the bed equals cleaning the house. You secretly hope it rains to avoid driving 45 minutes to a softball game and start to wonder what you’ll look like selling newspapers on the corner when you’re homeless. One of the kids comes down with a fever and you immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium.

But the marathon runner and the divorced dad have an innate inner strength that few will ever understand. Both recognize that all of these negative thoughts are the antithesis of what they truly feel. They love to feel the burn. They crave the aches and pains because those pains make them feel alive. They love the 45 minute drives to softball games because it means some serious one on one time with their kid. And a fire from within pushes them to keep going.

I wrote once that there really is no grand finish line when you’re a parent. But I’ve discovered that honestly that’s not true. Like the marathoner, you eventually cross a finish line you never thought you’d be able to reach. Somehow you reach deep within and find the strength to get past mile 21 and muster through mile 22, mile 23 and eventually mile 26.2. You recognize mile 21 was just a moment and you got past it. You revel in your ability to overcome the negatives and the adversity. It’s hear that you determine how much you love running. Or, how much you LOVE being a divorced dad. There is something special about it. It has its own unique hurdles and it’s own unique victories that only others who have traveled this path will ever truly understand.

The reality is, we’ll all live through many mile 21’s. And some will be harder than others. But you’ll make it. And you’ll revel in crossing the finish line every time. Then you’ll start to prepare for the next marathon and be a little more prepared for the next mile 21.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in dealing with stress, Divorce, pacing yourself

 

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Your Own Private Idaho

If you don’t already do it, I highly recommend you find both the place and the time to step away once in a while from the craziness of your life, the pressures of your world and chaos that can overwhelm you. I personally believe this to be a necessity not a luxury. When you’re immersed in your life, it’s very difficult to gain a proper perspective of the big picture. Over time you’ll likely become drained and unable to think clearly as you’re continually bombarded with calls, e-mails, demands, needs, wants etc., making it virtually impossible to give a plan of action the proper attention and consideration. That leads to falling into survival mode rather than thinking strategy and making plans to get yourself into a better position. When you’re simple flying by the seat of your pants to survive, it’s impossible to think clearly and consider options beyond tomorrow let alone next month or next10339327_10152417504572908_8563728598664062419_o year.

For me it’s the finger lakes and whether I can afford it or not, the kids and I go every year to kick off the summer. We spend a week away from responsibilities and make every effort to focus on us, our lives and our future. The kids deserve your undivided attention when possible and this is a great way to do it. And you’ll be surprised at how clearly you can think, even when they’re with you, when the demands of your life aren’t dragging you down or pulling you away.

But whether the kids are with you or not, I believe it’s important that you discover the power of stepping back and giving yourself a chance to recharge, regroup and make a plan. Make some difficult decisions that can set you on a better course for you and your family. These should be choices that you can execute when you get back. Choices that will feel empowering as you start to build a new tomorrow that makes more sense for your new direction. Letting go of the world you built isn’t always easy, but once you can visualize where you want to see yourself a year from now, you’ll be able to recognize what steps need to be taken to get there. These calculated decisions can be made knowing there’s a purpose to each that leads to a more fitting environment for your new life. The craziness of your current life will be waiting for you as soon as you walk back in the front door, but you should be better equipped to juggle the madness again knowing you have a plan and a purpose. Yes, there will still be elements of survival to your current state, but it should be more manageable if you know in your head it’s a temporary situation, not the foundation of the rest of your life.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in balance, beginnings, Divorce

 

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Sick of It!

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of being a single parent, is the fact that you are not allowed to get sick. It’s actually in the bi-laws. Chapter VII, Section IV, Paragraph III, Line II clearly states, “a temperature of 102, severe chills, cold sweats and vomiting, shall not relieve said parent of the duty of making school lunches,
sick-guyfeeding and dressing the children, ensuring teeth and hair are brushed, school field trip permission slips are
signed and everybody is out the door in time to ride the school bus.”

Forget the fact that there’s no one around to take care of you either. And as a guy, I loath doctors. Part of it is the fact that I just love paying $100 to $200 out of my pocket to have someone tell me, “you really should get some rest.”

When you’re basically the sole proprietor of your family, there’s rarely room for even a “day” of stopping. Work, kids, soccer practices, laundry, shopping, meals, all keep coming up on the schedule. E-mails keep coming, phones keep ringing, clients keep asking, bills keep arriving, kids keep needing. You were overwhelmed when you were healthy. Now what? All problems and challenges appear 15 times larger when you’re sick and have no energy.

If you’re like me, your tendency is to fight through it. As my ex used to say, “you can be miserable at home or
miserable at work.” And typically it works. I take some DayQuil, eat an orange, hydrate, get a run or two in to images-13sweat it out, and in a couple of days I’m good to go. OK, and maybe I throw some donuts and coffee in there. But as much as I try to fight it, if after a week I’m still wheezing and dragging my ass, I’ll bee line it for the Kroger clinic in hopes of getting a z-pack. It’s the only way to ensure you’re going to have the energy and the ability to forge through long term.

As a single parent you’ve grown accustomed to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” But obviously; if after a week you’re still sick, your body is telling you it just isn’t able to recoup on its own and needs some help. Try to recognize when you need to stop and shut down for a day and act accordingly. If you have a kid free day coming up. Cancel your plans that you’ve been waiting two weeks for and take care of yourself. If you have the kids, get them on the bus and take a day off – from everything! When they get home, let them make you tea and tuck you in on the couch. They’ll love it and usually their behavior improves at the same time. You’ll be amazed at how just 24 hours of rest and taking care of yourself can turn things around for you. Your boss will thank you, you’ll thank you and your kids will thank you.

So: single parents who are sick and goin’ it alone: High Five! I feel ya. You’re doing great and your family is better for your efforts. I’m personally cyberly patting you on the back. Hopefully it’ll help break up that cough.

 

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