Thursday, July 24, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days

March 14 was a fairly big day in my life.  My co-parent had just moved out of the nest into his own place and I was now the sole owner of the house.  After sharing it with him for almost five full years I was ready to make it my own.  But first, there was a whole lot of cleaning to do.  Fifteen years of "stuff" had accumulated.

I looked into many options.  Did you know there are services that will come and just take everything out of your basement?  They just haul it all away.  There are also services that will help you clean, such as Just Simplify Me, a business that will help you clean out your house at whatever level you need. 

I decided that what I really wanted to do was clean out, at least this first round myself.  At that time, lots of people on Facebook were talking about the 40 bags in 40 days concept – commit to filling a garbage bag each day for 40 days.  To me this seemed like a good first step.  Get a handle on the clutter and the extent to which I must clean out. Make a bit of progress, and see what I was in for to getting the whole house completely weeded out.

How did I get it all done?  Well there were times when I would give an hour and see how much I could put into bags.  Other times I just grabbed a bag and started filling.  There were times when I just wanted to clear out one closet.  For instance, when the mood hit me I walked into my closet and bagged anything I had not worn in a year or more.

What went into the 40 bags?  We stuffed them with lots of garbage, old projects that previously could not be parted with (by me or the children), toys, and other chotchkies.  I have a new found respect for those parents who do not allow Happy Meal toys or birthday party favors in their home.  Each of us saying goodbye to our treasures that were important long ago and now helped accomplish a goal. 

Where did the 40 bags go?  I called the Vets, dropped a few things off at Homefront, threw lots away, and gave a few things to friends.  At times we left bigger pieces of furniture out on the street and they were scooped up each day by dinner.

We made substantial progress and still have lots to do.  Next, we move onto the basement…we should putt Hefty on alert and buy their stock – we are going to need a whole lot of bags for that one.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's in Your Envelope?

A few months ago I looked at my calendar and realized a good friend's birthday was fast approaching, I needed to get her a great gift.  I wanted to make her birthday exciting, bring some crazy into her day, and honor our friendship with a memento she could cherish. Suddenly I had the idea.  It would take a bit of coordinating but it was doable.

She came for dinner a few nights before and I handed her an envelope.  I explained she was not to open it until it was requested by another person, at which time the contents could be revealed.  I assured her she knew the person, there would be no surprise (like a ninja jumping out of a tree), and she would feel very comfortable.  She was coming back for dinner two days later, on the night of her birthday, and I did tell her the person would appear before her return to my dining room table.

What I didn't realize when I handed Susan the envelope was I started a near 48 hour period of utter amusement, wonder, and deep contemplation.  What did she think was in the envelope?  What did she need to be in the envelope?  What did she want the envelope to contain?  

When the envelope was actually opened we were all in for quite a surprise as it seemed to unleash an unexpected power that was able to work a magic for which I have been thanked by the many people its contents have impacted.  All I wanted to give to my dear friend was a few days of wonder and reflection - but it turned out to be a force of goodness that could not be restrained.  It was a mighty gift that will live on, the effects possibly forever.  My little surprise born out of unconditional love for my sister grew a bit mightier than both of us.

Now, you may be thinking that I am going to tell you what was in the envelope, the details of how the other person was involved, and how it all played out.  Sorry, but no. What was actually in that envelope as she opened it, the identity of my partner in crime, and what has occurred since are not part of the reason I bring this story to my blog.  

The reason I tell this particular tale is to ask you to consider the question....

if you were given an envelope, what would you want it to contain?

For Susan's actual birthday dinner I had assembled her posse, a cast of characters sat around my table with a spirit of unconditional love I wish could be bottled.  When we got to talking about the envelope I actually posed this question to the group and the collection of responses was as intense and eclectic as our respective personalities.  A new job, untold wealth, an engagement ring, peace, and a motor cycle, the list was varied.  

And so, faithful reader, what is the first idea your gut blurts out? What is it that you truly desire?  If you allow yourself to dip a little deeper into your heart, what is it that you yearn to obtain?  

And then of course this all begs the question,
why don't you just go and get it for yourself?  

Do you really have to wait for someone to give you an envelope contacting exactly what you want?

That answer is a very simple one, and one you already know.  You do not need me, or anyone else to give you an envelope with what you want to bring into your life.  You, and you alone possess the power to bring about your own great change, wealth, happiness, and peace.  No, you can not propose to yourself, well, I guess you could.  You can certainly  put yourself on a path where the end result is whatever you desire. Yes, there may be obstacles including financial barriers, access, or time needed. Deep down you know you can make it all happen.

My friends, imagine I have given you an envelope inside of which is only permission to go and build whatever it is that you desire. The path to your success will be all about the journey and not nearly as exciting as the destination...remember, the fun of Susan's gift was not the contents of the envelope but the few days she spent thinking about it.

This post is dedicated to Logan, a shining star in the world who graduates today from High School.  Logan, remember your strength and many special gifts you possess which are yours alone to share with the world.  Whatever it is you would want an envelope to contain you can give to yourself.  Most importantly, Dr. My Hero is always make good choices...and never stop ringing the doorbell just to say hello.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why You Need a Dating Coach

There are all types of coaches in today's modern world. Coaches can help you prioritize goals, examine where you are stuck, and hold you accountable for making progress in your life. You can surround yourself with a business coach, life coach, social media coach, parenting coach...and even a dating coach. For women in the 40+ dating world who are divorced, I highly recommend you seek the counsel of a dating coach.

I am lucky, right around the time I began dating online a woman crossed my cyberspace path.  We were both writing on the divorce vertical for an online publication.  Her writing was impressive and I started making comments on her work.  Her advice was spot on and really resonated with me.  We had conversations in the comments areas, friended each other on Facebook, and started helping each other on Google+.  We finally decided to talk on the phone after private messaging for quite some time.  You could say I picked up a friend on the internet.  And now, this woman, Sandy Weiner, is a close confidant.  Sandy is also a relationship coach.  

Sandy is the proud owner and founder of Last First Date.  Through her coaching and writing she helps women in several areas of their dating life as they work through the steps of gaining clarity on what they want in a partner, how to get out there and find him, and then walking through the steps of building a relationship.  What is unique about her approach is that she works with clients so they remain true to themselves and never settle.  Her goal is for all your ducks to walk in a line and eventually have "your last first date."  Sandy is herself divorced, dating online, and brings a wealth of personal experience to her coaching practice.

Very quickly we developed a close personal and reciprocal relationship through pm's on FB and long phone conversations.   Just as our friendship was getting off the ground, I found "him." He had the center core of integrity I was looking for, is the phenomenal father I wanted to find, and has matched crazy and energy with me.  But, navigating the waters of this relationship was a bit tricky.   So, as that  relationship took flight Sandy was there for me every step of the way as we also built our own friendship.  I very quickly realized I was not only a guinea pig as she honed her skills but lucky beyond words to have a woman with tremendous insight into the world of dating in your 40's.

Through my friendship with Sandy I realized the tremendous benefits of a dating coach.  Here are a few:  

1.  She made me maintain my status as 'woman of high value."  There has been a whole lot of writing done on what it means to be a woman of high value.  This is a woman who, rather than go insane within a relationship takes time to get to know a man, realizes his many strengths, and most importantly has a life outside of the relationship.  She has friends, a job, and hobbies that fulfill her.  She doesn't need a man to be fulfilled, she wants a romantic relationship.  When getting to know someone Sandy makes you think and question different issues that come up and helps you determine if you are settling or understanding.  Snooping, stalking, and screaming are not allowed.  

2.  You are clear on what you want, present that to the world, and do not settle.  Before you start dating you should have an actual list of what you want in a relationship.  My list went something like:  steel center core of integrity, a phenomenal father, visits the gym regularly, and loves to have a ton of fun.  It was important that his crazy was matched with mine and that he had enough energy to keep up  with me.  Before I met Sandy my list was clear and as I began dating online it became even clearer.  Sandy can help you narrow your list and will let you know when you are being too picky.  

3.  Sandy is going to help you slow things down as your relationship is progressing, but also make sure it is moving along.  If you have a commitment to one another is his profile down?  Introduce him to your friends after a month or two - good!  If you want to move in together after three weeks she is probably going to question that with you and help you examine the motives.  

4.  When issues arise you have someone to talk to.  Your friends might all be married and out of the dating world for quite some time.  Times have changed in the world of dating and those out there in our 40's need help navigating the rules.  When we were dating back in our 20's we did not have technology or kids.  Those two additions to the world of dating make it a complex.  A coach can help you navigate these new waters.  

If you find yourself stumbling around in the world of dating you may want to consider a coach if you aren't lucky enough to have a Sandy in your life.  A coach can help you see all that you bring to a relationship and, when ready, and based on your own values and beliefs find the right person to partner with in life.  And suddenly, just like me, you might sit back and realize that your heart has this funny feeling you have had your Last First Date.  

I wonder what Sandy would say if I called to let her know "I texted him 100 times before lunch and he just won't get back to me!!!!"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Next Trip Around the Sun

I just awoke to a beautiful day here in New Jersey, and lucky for me, it is my birthday. As I start 45, I am a bit stronger, crazier, and abundantly happier.  This past year was about a searching and starting, and maintaining my authentic self at all times.  While there have been lessons learned every single day, even from my garden, a few big ones were themes of this past year.

Lesson 1:  Reach for the stars.  As I graduated from Rutgers and transitioned out of the stay-at-home-mom world, Your Social Media Hour was born.  I saw my grit, determination, multi-tasking and ability to reach for the stars, all in plain site. Networking, writing,  building websites and planning were part of each crazy day.  I have clients I love working for and plans to expand in a few different areas. No idea is to big.  Just go for it.

Lesson 2:  Sometimes you have to get really uncomfortable to find what you want.   I wanted to find an amazing individual to partner with in life, and I knew he was not going to just ring my doorbell.  So I entered the world of online dating.  I was uncomfortable and embarrassed while being thoroughly entertained.  And with a clear intention, great sense of humor, lots of sifting through fish,  and advice and support of my dear friend +Sandy Weiner, well, he entered.  He is matched crazy and energy to me, has a center core of integrity, is a  phenomenal father, and whole and complete...he is my King of Cups.  I had to get "skin crawling" uncomfortable to find him and that discomfort was worth it.

Lesson 3:  When its right, it is right.  During this past year my co-parent and I broke up the nest.  Our children were nesting in a home and we moved in and out based on our parenting schedule.   Moving forward I will maintain the house.  It is big, needs work, is cluttered with stuff and is expensive.  But being here just feels right to me.  Everyone has enough space and my business has space to grow.  No need to move.

Lesson 4:  Be a freakin' parent.  We aren't mean to be friends with our children during their high school years.  They are to go out in the world and develop friendships with peers.  We stand behind the scenes making sure their grades are good, skirts the appropriate length, and digital activity in check.  We provide food, shelter, clothing and a safe haven of security.  But, what our children do not need is pampering, the feeling that a cell phone is a right, or a parent walking on egg shells so the child is our friend.  Most times you just have to swoop in and be the authoritarian.  Our parents didn't care if we liked them or not and they certainly didn't teach us that everyone is a winner.  We were raised to be responsible.  Kids are dying for that direction and structure.

This next trip around the sun is about healing and building on what  I have learned.  According to the tarot my business is going to take off in ways never imagined and planned.  Something is growing, a seed inside of me - lots of ideas are percolating.   A great teacher is coming into my life and then the big opportunity comes my way.  I'm thinking Google (if this seems crazy to you please refer back to lesson #1).  

I also have some healing to do, as there is a dark hole in me that needs mending -  I was rejected, misunderstood, and ousted by those who are suppose to unconditionally love me.  This pain has traveled with me through time and while I have accepted and forgiven the hole in my heart remains. I am the only one who can truly close this gap, but need the support of others to help with the process.

What I love most about my life, and really most important are the people who are around me.  My three daughters who bring an abundance of love and light into my life.  My special person who has given me the comfortable place to sit authentically as myself; Marcus, my King of Wands who provides me with guidance like no other, Susan, my high Priestess of the Universe my sister, Dannielle for protecting my inner hopeless romantic, and Eric, my little brother.

The people, the lessons, the building, the healing...ok, let's get this party started.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lessons from my Garden

For those of you who know me well you are very well aware I have a reputation of absolutely hating yardwork.  Don't get me wrong, I love to be outside...golfing, kayaking, sitting at the beach, hiking, reading a book, heck even working on my blog at the patio table.  Rakes, hoes, hoses, and hedges...well all not my thing.

I have shared that I am now the sole owner of the house where my children previously nested.  A house that needs a lot of TLC and in some spots a whole lot of work.  When purchased this home had an abundance of landscaping, almost too much, and over the years it has become quite overgrown..think Adams Family.  I planned to attack it slowly over the course of this spring and summer.  Much going on elsewhere so the goal was to just start to get it under control.

But recently, my special person has really inspired me to clean up the joint rather quickly.  Not only is his own garden kind of spotless but he has dedicated his own time to cleaning up mine.  Mother's Day morning he surprised me when I heard the buzz of a weed whacker in my front yard.  He had come to take on my yard with power, grit, and marching orders ready keeping my girls, his friend, and the two of us busy for four hours.  Through the sweat (and teenage protests) an amazing amount of progress was made.  His effort was as appreciated as it was inspiring - it really got me moving, now almost every single day, to do something out in there in the garden.  Shocking, I know.

Being that today is Saturday I set a goal of dedicating three hours to the backyard with my girls.  I learned that when gardening there are moments of peace and those can lead to ah-ha moments of life.  I had a few I thought I would share.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Look, I have a mess on my hands.  There are dead bushes to be removed, weeds waist high, and a fence that is falling down in places.  My deck needs to be power washed and stained and there are lots of thorny prickly things. This is not a weekend warrior project, this is a slow steady climb and may never be completed.  But I give an hour several times a week when I can and then a few hours every weekend.  I don't really have more time to give and I would get really cranky if I was out there any longer.   Small baby steps and bites and you can really make a dent (in your head when a tree branch hits you - watch out for those).

Pay attention to low lying fruit.  In the garden low hanging stuff stuff needs to be trimmed as it overgrows onto the deck and can hit you in the face as you walk around the backyard (we trimmed trees today - y'ouch).  I've read about the metaphor as it applies to business and really thought about it out there today.   So many people have asked me when the bigger speeches will come or the fortune 500 company will call me for a consult.  Ya know what?  I have an amazing base of customers who are right in my target market.  When I opened my business my goal was to help small business owners and that is exactly what I am doing.  Working with these clients, some who join my service, and others bring me in for private consults I am able to live out the dream of starting this business.  How many times do we forget that it is that core base, those who just walk in and ask for your help, that really meet you at your purpose (and really pay your bills).  Pay attention to the low lying fruit, that which is easy to bring in or else someone else will come in and grab them as you chase grandeur that may not be fulfilling.

Let the tools do the work.  I am sort of tiny and do not have a ton of power behind me.  Gardening, with the hauling and chopping just always seemed exhausting to me.  Turns out there are a ton of tools to get you through.  Weed whackers, chain saws, hedge trimmers and blowers (teenage daughters to haul stuff) all put a lot of power behind this little person.  In life, especially in business there are plenty of tools that can help us out on a daily basis.  Online resources, a cleaning person, a virtual assistant like my good friend Denise Whiteley, all tools to use when you need more power.  If your business is struggling then automate and/or delegate what you can.  Harness the power you need in some sort of tool to get you moving in the right direction. Whatever chain saw applies let it work the magic.

Sometimes you need to just let people do their thing.  This is a big house and a whole lot for a single mom to take on by herself.  Lucky for me I have three teenage daughters ready, completely unwilling, but very able to help.  They each like and do not like certain things.  While doing yardwork is required it isn't really that hard for me to find things they actually like to do.  For instance, I needed to cut back a bush and  Vicki, my 14 year old was game as long as she could cut it into a V.  The youngest, my little pint of verbal power is a force to be reckoned with when she has a hedge trimmer in her hands.  They were not complaining and stuff was getting done - fantastic.

I have friends, really good friends who feel close to the universal power when they have their hands in the dirt and are planting and pruning.  I get it, communing with nature, really feeling it, can be important.  For me it is certainly important to take care of my property, and, like I said, the place is starting to look amazing.  And if ya think about it, today I took care of my space, thought about my business and life, and then had the honor of sharing it with you.  Win-win-win all around.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Four Keys on My Keyring

After our divorce my co-parent and I decided to nest our children. We maintained a house that our kids lived in full-time and we, the parents, moved in and out.  The situation provided great stability for the kids but requires each parent to have a separate place to go.  In addition to the moving back and forth, this gets tricky.  When I was not with my children I was with a significant other. But in January, 2012 that relationship ended.  At that time an apartment seemed like a waste of money as I only needed something part-time.  So what did I decide to do? I spent fourteen months wandering a bit.  Never lost, always had direction and purpose, but no permanence.The 14 months brought friends and people into my life who have enriched it in ways I never thought possible, the journey was nothing short of phenomenal.  Here is what happened...

First, there was safe haven I found at the home of a dear friend in Suffern, NY.  In fact, she was put on alert weeks before as the relationship spiraled so the call was just a formality.  My space in her home was ready. It was a bit of a distance for me to travel but worth each mile I drove.  I was welcomed with my own space, endless laughter, and the connection of a friend who has known me for so long she is family.  The key to her home gave me entrance to a retreat, and one that I used often.  In a way it was a place to hide, for me to write and dream a bit.  I worked on  my dissertation at the nearby library and wrote my business plan at her kitchen table over a weekend she was not home. I did not suffer in Suffern, this butterfly dried her wings. In fact, the butterfly tea cup she gave me when I moved in remains in her cabinet for my visits.

While the New York retreat was a gem, I also wanted space closer to my children.  So,  I found my way to a friend who was my divorce welcome wagon years ago.  Since she herself was divorced I knew her children would understand and not think my current situation was all that weird.  We committed to communal living without judgement.  In her home I found a place to rest my head and also my heart with three amazing people who became my family. I now consider her my sister and her two boys my nephews.

A few months into this time I found a new special someone.  Not rushing into the relationship I wanted more local time and while my situation had my heart singing it was time for me to start thinking of another option. One afternoon I found myself helping friends pack-up their home as they had just announced they were moving to Kansas.  They needed someone to watch over the house until it sold.  Ureka.  So, the third key is to their five bedroom colonial in town. This one included a hot tub - what a bonus.  While I came to this arrangement through the feminine I am now honored to call both members of this couple dear friends.

And now, I find myself in my own home.  While none of the above mentioned parties have asked for their keys back, I am not offering.  Just because my nomadic days are over doesn't mean I won’t be stopping by to spend the night every now and again.  Also, to me, each key is a reminder of an amazing time in my life, the unconditional support I have found, and the friends I now call family.  They are symbols of security and friendship; of my ability to ask for and put support in my life.

If you are astute, you are asking yourself why this title speaks of four keys.  Well, the fourth is a key to my co-parent's new digs.  We are good friends and know there will be times when one of our children need to pick-up or drop-off something at the other's home.  Oh, and the fifth key in the recently had a trial run on my keychain but was attached to a small Eagles keychain - I think my other cooler New York keys bullied it and it didn't really fit in...just....yet.  We will find a way to integrate it into the set when it is time.  Sort of like how my kids are going to meet his...whhh...huuuttt?  More later dear readers.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

They Nest No More

For the last four years, my children have "nested." When my co-parent and I divorced we kept the kids stable in a home and we moved in and out.  So, during a time of great transition my kids maintained much of their lives including home, neighborhood, friends, schools, and even the bus stop.  While rare, I have heard of a few other nests and actually know of another one starting here in my town.

But now, our nest is coming to an end.  My co-parent is moving into his own space and I will be in the house full-time.

Why did I want to nest my children?  It is no secret that divorce is a great time of transition for children.  Often they believe everything is fine and are shocked to find out their parents are not actually happy.  They also are wondering about new living arrangements, how schedules are going to work, how often they will get to see their parents, as well as a myriad of other concerns.  A nest takes some of that confusion away for them.  While schedules do change there is consistency in their lives.

This consistency also includes having all of their "stuff" in one place.  When we started the nest my middle daughter liked to sleep with her favorite blanket ("woobie").  I didn't ever want woobie to be forgotten, along with swim bags, musical instruments, favorite shoes, or a homework assignment.  My children were young and I saw all of that packing as a bit overwhelming on them.

What are the con's?  Mostly, the cons fall on the parent side of the nest.  As an adult, you are not living in one location all of the time.  My "stuff" had a central location at the nest but when I wasn't with my kids I was packing and going elsewhere.  It was hard to know what I was going to be doing and what I needed each week.  It got  bit cumbersome in the winter with snowboots, sweaters, and such.   Parents  also need another place to stay when they are not with their children - like an apartment, and this can be expensive.  You can live with a significant other, your own parents, or friends.  All options are accompanied with a financial commitment and some awkwardness.

And, as adults, you need to be aware that as you move on with your life, well, to others it will look weird.  Your new significant others will need to understand the nest, and that you may not have a place to share with them.  There is one con on the kids side which I was recently shocked to learn about from my own daughter.  Your kids may feel really awkward about the nest.  In an age with 50% of all children living between two homes, my kids have reported this situation was weird to explain.  A few nosy people would question my kids wondering how it all worked.

So besides a pile of money you also need to be aware that you will be sharing a house with your former significant other.  Someone is going to have to own the house or you will have to have a co-ownership agreement in place.  This could all get fairly awkward considering the fact that your relationship didn't work out when you were a couple.  You will also be seeing each other often.  If you do not get along, this can get awkward as well.  Given that you will have bills to be paid on the nest, a very clear financial agreement is going to have to be in place.

As our time nesting comes to a close I am thrilled we were able to maintain it for so long.  Our daughters are old enough now to start to move back and forth and have told us they are ready.  I think in a way they want their parents settled.