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 picture...it 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.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

First Time at Bikram Yoga - Hot Sweaty Mess

My professional career is dedicated to supporting small businesses and in my personal life I love a new experience.  So, I decided to give the new Bikram Yoga studio a try.  Some of you might be asking, "What is Bikram Yoga?" and I am happy to explain.  Bikram,  is a yoga practice with two distinctions:  the room is heated to 105 degrees and you progress through 26 poses. You can count on these two standard features in all Bikram yoga classes.  The decision to try Bikram was easy, I love yoga  and I have been freezing my keister off since January.  A bit of heat was welcomed.

I called ahead and reserved a spot then waited with great anticipation for my practice on my mat.  The studio was beautiful and owner delightful.  I registered and for the first time put my special someone as my  emergency contact...awwww, how cute.  For the record, that is where the cuteness of this Bikram yoga experience ended.

They are not kidding, the room is hot.  But for me it is a great hot, humid air.  I set up and was a bit shocked with my surroundings.  In addition to yoga mats everyone had towels and very little clothing on their bodies.  Let's unpack each of these from my experience.

Everyone had towels, both covering their mats and additional hand towels at the ready.  I wondered why and had the sinking feeling I would not like the fate of my lack of preparation.  Approximately 30 minutes into my practice I had my answer, as the River Nile of sweat starting running down my mat.  Soon we were doing poses that required grabbing of body parts.  Normal yoga class, no problem.  Yoga class where every pore of my body was sweating, big slipping problem - a hand towel would be been, well, handy.  Did you know that the backs of your ankles can sweat?  I learned that the tops of my shoulders can sweat.  A woman in front of me, she lifted her leg for tree pose and sweat was pouring out of the bottom of her foot.  I didn't even know that was possible.  Note to self, bring towels.

No one wears a whole lot of clothing to Bikram.  Before class started guys already had their shirts off and women were wearing bikinis. Just for the record if you are thinking "hmmmm...guys without shirts and girls in bikinis - get me to Bikram now!" let me tell you, nothing is sexy in Bikram - read on. I was thrilled to be appropriately dressed.  Very light shorts, sports bra, tank top.  Let's fast forward to the middle of class where I have sweated so much my tank top looks like the Shroud of Turin from wiping my face so often.  And as we approached 60 minutes my tank was so wet I needed to take it off.  For someone who doesn't really like to show off her abs, I whipped off that tank without a care in the world.  My good friend Dannielle Pearson will be thrilled to hear I had on a cute little sports bra that matched my shorts. Shorts that might have also come off is they were not lined, if you get my drift.

I had done a bit of research on the poses of Bikram and I was quite confident as I had previously done them with great success.  However,  Bikram, without a towel, is like extreme yoga as you balance in the River Nile in the rain.  But, certain poses were actually easier because rather than struggle you slip right into them on your own sweat.  For instance, Supta VajraIn is normally a challenge but I slipped right in and went far beyond my normal reach.  The instructor actually commented on how flexible I was, little did he know, my feet slipped out from under me and I landed perfectly in the pose.

However, there was one pose that was particularly disgusting given my commitment to hygiene and  lack of towels.  It was time for Salabhasana and I was lying on my stomach and instructed to put my face down and kiss the mat.  I realized I had just been standing with naked feet in that very spot which was also covered in sweat.  No, I was not kissing that. I was not going to test the power of the universe to protect me from cooties - even my own. We were led into Shivasana several times.  For the record, I do love the practice of death.  The instructor had corrections telling me to keep my feet together or something.  Dude, I am practicing for death in a puddle of sweat and I am pretty sure hallucinating.  Let...me...be...

After class was over I was sure of three things - I had made it through, I could not wear my current attire home as I was drenched, and I had nothing to change into but the sweat pants I had worn in.  I slipped into the bathroom, took off all my clothes, and went home in nothing but that pair of sweat pants and my ski jacket.  Completely commando - a first for Princess.  By the time I got home, yep, I had sweated through the ski jacket.

While a comedy as only I would create, I did feel absolutely amazing.  Mind and body clear and renewed.  With a few towels and well planned sweat management system I will return and enjoy the class even more than I did this first time around.  So thank you to the Bikram Yoga Studio in Doylestown.  A fantastic experience and look forward to joining you again.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Forgiveness

For me, managing forgiveness is a tricky dance. There are moving parts coupled with raging emotions and let's not forget you still have a life to lead on top of it all.  It is no small task to sort through the muck and make clear decisions on how you want to move forward to a  healthy life.  You have been hurt, your psyche and emotional health sometimes severely damaged and all of this is further complicated when you do not receive an apology you truly believe you deserve. 

I speak with great experience (not authority) in this area as in my life I have, in my opinion, been wronged by others.  The pain, anger and disappointment were insurmountable as I was deeply hurt.  Not only was I hurt by words and actions, but I was cast aside, a group decision was made and I was ousted.  The situation continues, and while I am much better off without them in my life, yeah, it still stings.   I don't hold onto the pain, but when it surfaces I work to release it.  I do not want the negative feelings and emotions to ever guide me.  I have learned that you can not stay angry at anyone, that is like "drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."  The  process of releasing the anger was hard and took significant time and is revisited all too often...like at the holidays or when something amazing happens I want to share with people whom I thought would be close to me forever.   However, even though it takes time to process the feelings when they swell, time invested in letting it go is well worth it.   I live with peace guided by love.  And here is how I do it.  

First, I have fully accepted what happened and whatever you are dealing with you can accept that as well.   Yes, I was shocked, and even though a few years have passed it all still seems completely impossible.  Sure, it does seem like a nightmare that individuals can act so recklessly allowing their ego to guide their lives with little regard for the emotional well-being of others.  It is especially hard when  their weapon of choice is passing judgement on your life, telling you what is wrong, or shutting you out because of choices you made that they may not agree are correct.  When they can not see through their own context and blame you for their disapproval.  But yes, it did happen, it is my reality.  And whatever haunts you is your reality as well.  

And the next step, is to feel the pain, in fact you really need to dance in it.  My dear friend Susan would tell you to sit with it.  Many of us have a tendency to run and hide from that which hurts or makes us uncomfortable.  Sometimes we ignore the pain because facing the realization that it has been done to you and by whom is sometimes overwhelming.  I've been there, and can tell you that you must simply face it.  I promise, you will survive the reality check.  Don't shelve the pain.    

One of the hardest parts of this process is accepting the fact that while you may feel you are due an apology, you will probably never receive it.  Typically we receive an apology and then say "I forgive you."  But, in an extreme example, like the one I am facing, the apology never comes and yet I have forgiven.  Most of us want an apology, feel some how we deserve it,  but you may die a slow death waiting.  Sometimes we feel that we can not start to heal until the other person states that they are sorry.  However, you are turning tremendous power over to them by waiting for them to act first.  You and you alone control your thoughts and actions. Accept the apology you will never receive.  

Taking responsibility for you part.  There are two sides to every story and more than likely you pushed back, and like me, you weren't on your best behavior.  If you can, apologize, like I did.  You might not be forgiven, and that is ok.  When I apologized I was told I was not forgiven. Ok, people have free will, they can choose not to forgive you.  When people make a conscious choice to not forgive you, they are showing their true character.  You probably do not want these people in your life anyway.  Ok, so maybe you really do, as I do, just not the version that includes them not being able to forgive...and that they are holding onto anger.  

Surround yourself with support and love. Letting go of those who will not forgive you, and are unwilling to come to an "agree to disagree" arrangement should not be in your life. Their unresolved issues are toxic and you do not want that kind of energy circulating around you.  But, you can walk a lonely path if you do not have a good support system.  It can be hard, and lonely, and possibly never replace those who walked away.  Concentrate on putting individuals in your life who will provide you with unconditional love and support.  This close group should know of the pain, and wrap their arms around you when you need it.  

Most importantly, let go of the anger and live with peace in your heart.  Cycle back through the process when you need to and make sure your support system is there to catch you when you fall.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Daughter is Shaving Her Head - Year IV

Four years ago I had a big decision to make.  My daughter, then a fourth grader wanted to participate in the local St. Baldrick's Day fundraiser.  Participants in this amazing event collect donations and then shave their heads raising money for pediatric cancer research.  Her heart was in the right place, to help others, but I wasn't sure I wanted her head to follow, she would be bald - a bald girl.   After delibrating and debating, her dad and I said yes.  I was questioned by other parents who had great concern, many who had turned down their own daughter's request to join in the fun.  

But for me the decision came down to a simple idea:  her head, her hair, her decision. And she was all in.  So through a coordinated effort of email and social media, we got the word out, raised some cash, and suddenly I found myself, on a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by my close friends, watching my daughter go bald...out of choice.  

That first time she participated as a shavee she sat in that chair like a champ next to her dad and her Kindergarten teacher.  I watched from the sidelines with tears in my eyes.  

It was her strength, her courage, her commitment.  I was in awe.  

I was proud beyond words that my daughter, a child I had raised, could have this unimaginable strength I had never really witnessed before in another person.  Sure, you could argue "what's the big deal, it is just hair." But for a little girl to shave her beautiful blond hair, to help others, was and remains absolutely amazing.  

As time has marched on St. Baldrick's Day has become a holiday for our family.  Three years Vicki has sat next to her father as they participated together, and once our youngest daughter joined the fun as well.   I am always the event treasurer.  We spend all day at the event catching up with friends and celebrating the organizers, Drs Mike and Melissa McCue.   Last year we honored a local teen who himself had just survived cancer.   This event has become a cornerstone of the Lawreceville social seaon (didn't know we have a social season here in L'Ville, well we do).  A get-to-gether at the end of the winter.  And the entire town emerges for the fun.  Ok, so not the entire town, but certainly anybody who is anybody.    

Vicki has been honored for this effort in our local paper and by Rutgers University as a Knight in Shining Honor.  But there have been times when her quest to do good has been met with bullying as cruel children have cruelly told her she looks like a boy.  And to her tween emotional state those comments have stung and caused a little damage. Vicki has always flown her freak flag high and as her mother it has been a struggle as the flag sometimes reaches right up to where the atmosphere is thin.  But we move on allowing her to be her own fabulous self, supporting her at every twist and turn.  

Anywho, we are in the throes of St. Baldrick's Day Season and I find myself so proud and supporting her selfless act with everything I got.  And now the plug:  if you are able to financially support Vicki's effort you can hop on over to her fundraising page and give at a level comfortable to you.  Thanks for considering. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dear Friends, Here is What I Do

I attend many networking events.  It is fun to get out, promote my business, and connect with other small business owners.  I work for myself and often by myself so I seek out support and guidance often.  At many events the organizer arranges a speaker and at a recent event the speaker posed the question "do your friends know what you do?"  And I thought for a minute and quickly came to the conclusion that there is no way my friend have any idea what I really do.  So dear friends, here goes...

At the heart of my business is a subscription service for small business owners.  For $25 per month I send these clients an email every day (Monday - Friday) with a concrete plan on how to promote their small business on social media platforms.  It takes about an hour (hence the company name "Your Social Media Hour"). Most days they get everything done but sometimes they don't, and that is ok. My service is great value for the money and is meant to help small business owners develop a social media strategy without breaking the bank.

In the second part of my business I offer private consultations for highly motivated clients who need a bit of extra help getting started on social media.  I usually spend three hours with them setting up accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.  They always have a list of questions that I organize and attack.  I always stay until all their questions are answered and they know the basics of each platform.  Typcially these clients join my site to stay in touch and they need direction on what to do each day.  

Let's see, the next part of my business is ghost writing.  Again, only working with highly motivated clients I write either all or part of their blog posts.  As a consultant I have learned that it is critical to have a good fit with my clients and so I will only ghost write in areas that are close to my business or heart.  Right now I have a nationally known speaker who has set the goal of empowering professional women.  I also work closely with a marketing firm.  

What my friends do know is my teaching as I am still so honored and proud to maintain my professor status with Rutgers Univeristy Graduate School of Education.  In this sphere I also do a bit of evaluation work helping professors organize and analyze data from research projects.  

Yes, I'm busy.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  I graduated with a masters degree the month after my first daughter was born and gave up a successful career as a fundraiser at Rutgers.  I was thrilled to join the stay-at-home mom ranks and loved my time at playgroups and playgrounds.  Now, I'm back in the workforce building a career, time for me to grab the brass ring on the carousel (I've been told this saying is weird - so am I).   

Writing about this has made me realize that the unending support my friends have given me as I have experienced every single success since opening my business just seven months.  Each time a new subscriber joins my site, I book a consultation appointment or speaking engagement they send notes of congratulations, toast over dinner, and also remind me that more success is coming.  Yet, they probably do not even understand what is happening.  That is unconditional support and love.  I am one lucky chick.   

Monday, January 6, 2014

Not Without My Daughter

I own a business, speak often, teach online.  I have flexibility, call my own shots, and have many titles in the world.  But for me, the greatest benefit I reap are related to my most important title of "mom."  I work from home and am available for my three daughters when they need a ride, help with homework, and honestly, just to supervise their teenage years.  They also get to see me working hard on a business that I love and turning my dream into a reality.  I like that they see my work ethic, dedication, and endless hours.  They are witnessing first hand what hard work really looks like and to follow a dream.  

Which is why it is no surprise that when Vinny Verderosa and Rob Bell of Green Birdie Productions asked me to be a guest on his radio show In the Green Room, I not only jumped at the chance but immediately asked the question "can my daughter's join me?"  
Now, I'm very independent.  I can walk into a room alone and do not always need a buddy.  But, when the opportunity arises for my kids to join me outside of my home office and see me working on my business, yes, I jump at that chance.  Since "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" is every day around here, I want them to see the daily grind, and also join me when fun opportunities arise.

My daughter Stephanie decided to join me on the ride up the studio.  We sat next to each other for the  hour long interview talking about my business, the building of this blog, and being a single mom. This was my first radio appearance and I was so excited to be asked.  But honestly, it was the  little girl sitting next to me, whose feet didn't even touch the floor, who truly made my day.  My daughter chose to spend time with me and support the business and life I have built.  She sat with great confidence and her usual "hey, if my mom is in the room there is always space for me."  And her attitude is spot on to the way that I feel in my heart.

Yes, I am sure it was exciting for her to miss an afternoon of school.  And I am sure she got a kick out of being on the radio, getting the chance to say hi to her dad and enjoyed laughing with co-host Dwayne Dunlevy.  But I hope on some level she realized how special it was for me that she joined me.  I envision many great appearances in my future and have many big plans.  I will not give too much away but will warn Matt Lauer, GMA, and Oprah that when I come to visit please make sure you have three extra chairs.  For as much as I envision spending time on a national stage, my real dream is to always have at least one of my daughters with me.