Welcome to Another New Year

As we enter 2014, I took a look back at the things I've learned this past year as a single parent. Every month produced different feelings and adventures but for the most part I have truly enjoyed the growth that happened this year.

Every year on New Year's Eve, I made it a habit to gather around family and friends to watch the 10 second countdown for another year full of opportunity.  This past year was the first New Years without my son.  I spent the evening in Denver, ate at a French restaurant, and bought Apple Cider to pour and toast.  It was a very full night and very enjoyable. The new year rang in however with snores on the couch as I fell asleep waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square.  I woke up about an hour too late and was pretty bothered that I missed this traditional event.  That less than normal experience marked what was going to become the year of many changes for me. 

I did what any other person does at the mark of a new year; I made resolutions. I was going to lose some weight, exercise more, read more, travel to a new place and most of all, I was going to keep my resolutions! Well, as many experience, I did not keep my resolutions to the full extent they were made.  I did however achieve some other pretty great things that can only leave me feeling full of joy with what 2013 has brought.

I forgave myself.  I know big statement, right?  I came to terms with everything in my past that led up to my divorce and I actually forgave myself for the part I played in the scenarios and situations that I had found myself in.  I acknowledged my short comings and set new goals of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish. 

I signed up for college.  I decided enough was enough and I wanted to finish the degree that I started over 15 years ago.  I am now pretty far into my studies and although it is very difficult to find time for homework, it really has granted me further independence and self confidence.

I progressed in my career.  Although my position title at Family Talk has changed a few times over with the various roles needing TLC, I have really enjoyed the team I work with and the progress that my career has taken here. 

I made an effort to get to know people intimately. The more I know of others and how to serve them, the better I feel about God's calling on my life.  He has called me to serve and I am only finding true contentment by staying in His will.

Those were my top reports for this past year but as you can imagine there were many experiences that God used to teach me life lessons or mold me into the person that I am to be.  Through the ups and the downs, it has been apparent that even though my personal resolutions weren't accomplished in the way I'd imagined they would have been, God still used goals, people and circumstances for His purpose in my life.  Through those I feel I've grown into a better single mom.

Here's to another 10 second countdown!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Christmas on a Budget

I don't know about you, but for me funds are really tight this year for Christmas! I am a person who enjoys giving much more than receiving but this year has been full of unexpected expenses that have really put a crunch in my pocket book.  The worst part of having a little to nothing budget for the extras in life is that the little perks of Christmas time are really hard to make happen.

Traditionally, my son and I love to bake cookies and other desserts and pass them around to friends.  We also love to think of nice things to do for other people and bless them.  Most of all we just enjoy walking around the mall and enjoying the ambiance of the Christmas lights and season but a trip to the mall typically means, purchases.  He wills see things he would like to buy for others, we will have a special lunch or we will buy that festive hot cocoa.  These things are great but when you are on a very little budget these nice things suddenly come with mixed feelings.  That extra purchase, lunch or hot cocoa suddenly become a thing to be feared.  Those "extras" might spread you so thin financially that you are not sure how you'll buy all the groceries you need or how you will clear your mortgage/rent check.

These feelings are terrible to encounter any time of the year but tend to take a harder hit to us emotionally during the Christmas season.  I decided to do a little digging online to find some low to no budget activities that you can do with your children to keep the Christmas spirit engaged and alive in them as well as within your peace of mind.

Here are some of the things I found:

1) First and foremost, read the Christmas story in the Bible.  At no cost to you, you are instilling the greatest story every told into your children's lives.  All other things are just for fun but this is the foundation for the Christmas holiday.

2) Go on a Christmas scavenger hunt around your house.  Challenge your kids to find items that they can make an ornament out of, a wreath out of or even just something to string up for a silly Christmas decoration.

3) If you live where it snows, go sledding or have a snowball fight outside.

4) Make a Christmas masterpiece with ice cubes and food coloring.  Freeze colored water cubes and then let your kids paint with them outside on thick paper.  It's safe if they put the ice cubes in their mouth and makes a pretty art piece.  They can wear plastic gloves if you are not wanting them to dye their hands.

5) Make paper snowflakes and string them up around the house or their room.  To do this, fold up a paper into a square or a circle and begin cutting randomly.  When you open the paper you will have a unique snowflake.  This is a great teaching lesson too of how each person is different just like each snowflake.

6) Go to local and free events.  Typically your city will have an events calendar and there are activities that will not cost anything to attend except the gas to get there.

7) Have a holiday movie night.  Make this a big deal and pop some popcorn.  You can even invite their friends over to make this more of a holiday party that they'll enjoy.

8) Make Christmas gifts.  Typically family and even friends will love to receive a homemade present from you and your kids.  The sentiment is far more valuable than the gift.  Chances are they will be relieved that you didn't dig deep your budget to bless them.   For homemade gift ideas click here!

9) Drive around town looking at Christmas lights.  As you drive pick your favorites and leave a Merry Christmas card or note on their doorstep.  It can read, "We drove by and enjoy your lights which are the result of your hard work.  Thank you for blessing us and Merry Christmas!"

10)  Make ornaments for your tree.  You can do this by using card-stock paper, markers, crayons, glue, glitter and other accessories you choose.  Trace your children's hand or have them draw whatever they wish.  Punch a whole and string with a ribbon.  After they are finished drying place them on the tree.

My favorite ornaments are from a recipe my Aunt gave to me.

4 oz. can (1 c.) cinnamon

1 tbsp. cloves
1 tbsp. nutmeg
3/4 c. applesauce
2 tbsp. white glue

Combine cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add applesauce and glue. Stir 2-3 minutes until smooth. Divide into 4 portions. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into festive shapes. Use straw to make hole on top of ornament.
Place on wire rack to dry. Thread with ribbon. More glue and applesauce may need to be added to obtain desired consistency to roll out.

These keep your house smelling great all season long.  Each year if the smell needs refreshing, simply use a little sandpaper on the back and they are good as new.  I still use these from over 10 years ago!

I hope that you find these tips and budget-friendly ideas useful!  Have a very, Merry Christmas!

Alone for the Holiday

This Christmas is the my tenth one with my son.  He was born just in time for the holidays in 2004 and through that time we have developed traditions and special inside stories that only he and I share.  After my divorce those traditions lived on and we continued to do those things that we cherish every year because despite our circumstances, I have full custody and it was never an issue of where he'd spend his holidays. 

This year my son asked me if I thought it would be okay for him to experience Christmas with his dad.  My heart sank but I know how hard that must have been for him to even bring it up.  I put on my supportive face and gulped as I said, "You are old enough to decide where you would like to spend your Christmas.  If you want to be at your dad's house, we can ask him about that."  That was a very hard statement to get out.  I stumbled over my words after that because an instant feeling of sorrow for myself and the traditions that were now going to be obsolete this year were too much to handle.  My selfishness went into overdrive as I thought of every reason why it wasn't fair to me that I was left in my marriage which left my family broken on holidays and now it is resulting in my son spending an important holiday away from me. 

It is interesting how the feelings of my divorce and frustration over an undeserving situation came flooding back to me.  I went through the cycle of denial and that he would change his mind, then to depression when he sounded sure of his decision.  This changed into anger at my ex-husband again for putting me in another lonely place by his actions many years ago, and finally acceptance. 

Through much prayer and love for my son, I realize that while this is hard on me it is even harder on him.  He has to struggle through every holiday, birthday and day-to-day living feeling torn between two people.  He will always wonder if choosing one parent over the other has caused hurt feelings or frustration. He may not always get to be with his dad when he wants to or with me when he wants to because bottom line, our divorce has caused him to feel in the middle.  It is my job to make his desire to experience a Christmas that he remembers with his dad a special one for him and that he sees support from me and not a guilt trip or sadness. 

God will teach us powerful things when we experience the hurts and frustrations in this life but we choose to listen and act in love.  I look forward to what God continues to teach me throughout this journey as a single parent.

What is God teaching you?


Families Helping Families

My divorce was final right as I rolled into the holiday season four years ago.  I remember wondering how I was going to pay all of my bills, let alone have gifts under the tree specifically from me to my son and how I would serve him any sort of traditional meal.  My entire family was in another state and it looked like that Christmas would be a true test of my inner joy of Christ.  Would I truly praise Him through the holidays despite my uncertain circumstances?  Would I be able to praise Him even if I was serving my son macaroni and cheese on Christmas?  I will admit that it was very difficult to find joy everyday considering I was still grieving for the breakup of my family unit, but God blessed me that Christmas more than I could have imagined.

I made a decision for joy despite any circumstance.  I truly believe that even if the plan for us that Christmas was indeed macaroni and cheese, that God would be glorified through Thanksgiving and through Christmas.  That year however was a true testament of how people help other people confirm the joy that we have in Christ.  Through invitations to gatherings, presents from relatives and a visit from a very close friend, my son and I had a great Christmas.  It wasn't because of anything I did or didn't do, but it was because that despite everything I chose, joy.

Here we are again in another holiday season.  Hard to believe that Christmas is right around the corner, but in that same thought I exclaim, "Christmas is right around the corner!" This time of year is my absolute favorite.  The joyous carols, lights and gatherings are all very dear things to my heart as an expression of the greatest gift ever given to us, Jesus.  A very large reason that I love this time of year is specifically because it is a time for GIVING.  A time to bless others with gifts out of love, gifts for happiness or even gifts that are tangible.

I have been very blessed to be a part of an initiative put on by Family Talk called, Families Helping Families.  During the Christmas season we ask for individuals who are hurting or in need of help this Christmas to write in with their story and what gift someone could give to them to help confirm their joy in Christ.  Not all submissions are able to be met with a donor, but all of them are prayed over extensively. Our prayers include that the individuals who write in will find joy even if our program could not help in the way they had hoped.  We place all of the stories anonymously on our website and as gracious donors step forward, we connect the two parties and rejoice in an answered prayer.

Will you join us this season?

If you are finding yourself in a situation where you could really use some help,  consider writing to us with your story and how someone could give your family a special blessing.

Or maybe you have been blessed this past year and you are in a position to help others this season. We pray earnestly for people like you who will step forward in faith and bless someone in need.

The stories we hear are truly amazing of how families are uniting to help one another.  God bless you and God bless your families!

For more information on Families Helping Families please visit http://www.drjamesdobson.org
*Families Helping Families is a December initiative.

Got Wind?

This morning God blessed me with a message from a friend here at Family Talk.  She asked the questions, "What do you do when you feel you have lost the wind in your sail?" and "What do you do when you feel there is too much wind?"  Those questions struck me to the core because lately it has been exactly those questions leading my days.  Some days I feel as if there is no wind moving me along and motivating me to do the next right thing whereas other days there is too much wind and I struggle to keep up.

So what do you do when you feel you have lost the wind in your sail and you just can't find a reason to keep on going?  Surely the feeling will not last and you will more than likely find yourself okay again...right?  Well for some, yes this is the case.  For some it may not go away that simply.  So what do I do?  Well, unfortunately I do not have a grand testimony of my fervent prayer life or that my instinct is to run to God.  Truthfully my instinct is to hide my head under the covers and try to forget that the feeling is even occurring. What keeps me going in those times?  I can undoubtedly say that my son keeps me going.  He gives me the motivation to get up and move along day-to-day.  Is that a healthy reason? I can't say for sure if it's healthy because I do believe God will use people as instruments for motivation, however I know that my son should not be my sole or even first reason.  It is in these times that I need to reconnect with the Lord even if every ounce of me wants to hide under my covers.  Playing praise music, reading the scriptures, and praying even if I just sit silent are the ways that I find a healthy recovery from these times of feeling like I can't take one more step.  In those times God helps me to refocus on my priorities and the true meaning of everything I am engaged in.

How about the times when you have too much wind in your sail?  As a single parent there are many hats that you wear.  For me, the busyness of my career as well as handling a full time school schedule and being the primary parent in my son's life has quite exhausted me by the end of my day.  Some days I can say that I literally never stopped once to even take a deep breath.  In these times I find that I do typically turn to God.  In those moments I am required to make a decision. Either I will let the situations take hold of me, or I will give them to God and do the best I can.  I find that when I turn them over to God and take a deep breath, He blesses me in confirming ways. Just this morning, I had to make that choice on my way into work.  Running late and taking a different route could be a deal breaker for a good start to my day.  I handed it over to the Lord and was blessed by the visions in my unplanned route and reminders of how big my God really is but yet, He cares for me and my situations.

How do you find the happy medium? Sometimes the size of the wind is in your control and it's a matter of downsizing the load you bear.  Most of the times however the power of the gusts in your sails have nothing to do with your decisions.  This is simply, life.  Learning how to cope in both situations and how to rise above them are key.

How do you adjust your sails when the winds change? 

Seeking Opportunity in Halloween

There is a lot of controversy among people of various beliefs as to why this night should or should not be celebrated.  I am among those individuals who enjoy the festivities of this night and as long as it remains a clean and fun night for my son, I plan to continue the traditions we have begun. My son loves the idea of dressing up in a fun character costume and pretending to be someone else for a short time.  He enjoys attending pumpkin patches, Fall Festivals at churches and playing games to win candy.  We have made many great memories and have pictures to support the annual pumpkin carving and the mess that we create while doing so.

Halloween is a great opportunity for me to establish healthy boundaries with my son using education on what the history of this night is and why we choose not to partake in the evil things that this night could represent.  My belief is that the good times surrounding this night are okay to enjoy and be a part of.  The origin of the Halloween night is not why many people celebrate Halloween. Most people simply choose to use this night as a fun dress up time with their kids and keep it innocent. My job as a parent is to guard this night for innocence and joy .

This year we are embarking on a new endeavor with our church family.  We have an outreach of an event called, Trunk-or-Treat.  It is a great way to reach out to the neighborhoods and to people who normally would not step foot on church grounds.  We are offering free games, free food and free fun! Each car will be decorated in something fun and non-scary.  We will pass out candy and simply offer an alternative to the spooky, evil celebrations otherwise available to these families.  

My son is all over this idea.  The artist in him has created a theme for our "trunk" of Super Mario Brothers.  He is dressing up as Luigi and I will be wearing a Mario hat. He has created images that we will display of a video game layout and we are even playing corresponding music while we pass out candy.  We are both very excited for this night of not just reaching out to the community, but also a night of memories we are building together! He thinks his mom is pretty cool to allow him the creative licensing to just go wild with his theme and bless others with his talent.  I am enjoying watching his artistic juices flowing.

Bottom line for me is that when my son and I dress up and enjoy this time together, it is a memory builder that has nothing to do with any form of evil.

How do you use this time to connect with your kids and create memories?

Be Blessed and Be Bonded

Life as a single parent for me is busy, mostly organized and even fun. I enjoy the bond that my son and I share and I especially like the times where it is just him and I and we are sharing in memories together that are specific to our situation.

He often comes to work part days with me and while I work, he is right there beside me drawing, creating a video game on the computer, reading and even finishing up his homework.  We share in commentary, laughs and stories. He loves being there and loves feeling a part of my work day.

That bonding time for us is something that only came out of our situation.  I love that being a single parent has not stopped the bonding process or the special memories from happening with my son. We are creating memories that we would not have in a different circumstance.

At night it is just him and I at home.  We have extreme moments of closeness that are personal to us.  My son knows without a shadow of a doubt that he is loved and adored by me.  The truth is that despite our situation not being in God's ideal plan for families, He is blessing us abundantly through memories that can only be made in a single parent home. For that, it is kind of a neat bond that a two-parent home cannot know of in the same light.  I am grateful for my son and grateful for each day that God provides.  Absolutely none of it is taken for granted or ignored.

What special times are had with your kids because of your single parent home? Have you given it much thought? What blessings do you experience because of your current path in life?  God is good in all situations and even if you are flying solo you are experiencing His goodness too.

Learning to say, "No".

Learning to say, "No".

Learning how to say no to people does not come easily for me until I find myself in a whirlwind of feeling overwhelmed and over-committed.  There are many activities I enjoy and as I go through this journey, I am learning what can be done now and what needs to be placed on hold for another day.

Let me give you a little taste of one of my days before I decided to cut some things out of the "to do" list.

One day out of the week I was at work by 8am and I did not leave until 5pm to pick up my son from daycare, then it was off to a "yes" commitment while grabbing fast food on the way since there was no time for a sit down family dinner.  I then came home about 8pm, got my son into bed and started on my school work.  I typically would not lay my head on the pillow until about 1 or 2 am.  I'd be up by 5:45am and ready to do another day.

Now, that was one of my busiest days but each day was full of commitment and time sucking things I'd said, "yes" to.  After writing each day down, I realized that the day I outlined in particular was not caring for the needs of my son at all.   My poor little boy was at daycare by 7:30 a.m., school soon after that for most of the day, then back in daycare until I picked him up at 5:30pm.  He was rushed through a fairly unhealthy dinner in the car just to be placed in another classroom for 1.5 hours while I helped out in my area of commitment.  Then, he was rushed home and into bed. By that time he was utterly exhausted!

When I realized this and had enough, I decided that instead of this anxious, overwhelming feeling I was having and the schedule I was allowing my son to endure, that I would take back my life and my time with my son and simply start to say "no".

It is amazing what happens when you start to set your boundaries and follow through with them.  My days have begun to feel calmer and I have had time to cook dinner most days of the week and enjoy time with my son.  It's great to experience the conversations and for him to know that I've set aside that time just for him.  He is also resting better at night since he has the opportunity to wind down before bed.

My eyes have been opened and I feel so much better since I've lightened the schedule for him and a little for myself.  I am happy to say we have down time and he is in bed at a decent time each night consistently.

What is in your life that you can say "no" to?

Are you feeling overwhelmed and unable to grasp extra time in your day for yourself and your kids?

The first step for me was making a list of all my commitments and then analyzing what was needed and what could be put on hold for another time.  When you do this you might surprise yourself with how much is on your plate. I wish you luck in finding your balance.

Effective in the Workplace

You are a single parent and more than likely you hold down a job or two in order to provide for your children.  Sometimes you have a really great employer who recognizes your situation and works with your scheduling needs.  Unfortunately, many of us find ourselves in work situations that are inflexible to the needs in a single parent home.  In fact, if you reveal yourself as a single parent in the interview process chances are that you could be passed up for the position simply because you have a situation that needs flexibility.  It's harder to travel, work long hours and show up to the last minute client dinners.  I've even heard people say that hiring single parents is less than ideal.

I, for one can understand that side of employers who feel that way and are firstly concerned with efficiency, availability and dedication.  Being a single parent does not mean that you are unreliable or flaky.  In fact, most single parents that I know are very strong individuals who are out to prove something to themselves and society that we can handle the same situations as others.  Our past and present situations do not define us but they make us stronger.

I did a little research on this topic online and found some really great resources of how single parents can remain good solid employees in the eyes of an employer.  Sure we need flexibility but doesn't everyone at some point? The key is how we ask for that flexibility and that we do not abuse it.

1) Even though it may be detrimental during an interview, it is important to be upfront about your situation and the needs you may have with a potential employer.  If we remain faithful to be truthful the right doors will open up for us and enable provision for your family.

2) Remain honest with your boss and about the situations and trials that come up.  Trust is a huge factor in your employer knowing when you really need their help.  A lying tongue will get no sympathy or flexibility.

3) Give your best all the time.  Your employer will be able to tell when things come up yet you are giving it everything you have.  Likewise they will be able to tell if you are allowing your situations to overtake your workplace commitment.

4) Have an outlet for stress.  Being a single parent can be stressful and overwhelming.  Avoid relieving your personal stress at work through complaining and venting sessions.  Other employees have stress too and hearing about how hard your life is, day in and day out might be just too much for them to want to be around. 

5) Try your best to ensure you have a track record that has more giving rather than taking.  Constantly asking for time off or flex time will show an employer that you are unreliable and that they may need to look elsewhere. If possible schedule things outside work hours, but if not make sure you save the most important reasons for asking for time off.  Having a bad day is not a reason to go home early.

It is difficult to maintain a steady household as well as work full time outside the home but it is possible and doable.  Just be honest with what you can handle and what you need. 

Daddy's Day

I ran across this story on Facebook and although I cannot trace if it is real or created, it does serve as a great reminder of the varied reasons people become single parents.

Her hair was up in a ponytail, her favorite dress tied with a bow. Today was Daddy's Day at school, and she couldn't wait to go. But her mommy tried to tell her, that she probably should stay home. Why the kids might not understand, if she went to school alone. But she was not afraid; she knew just what to say. What to tell her classmates of why he wasn't there today. But still her mother worried, for her to face this day alone. And that was why once again, she tried to keep her daughter home. But the little girl went to school eager to tell them all, about a dad she never sees, a dad who never calls. There were daddies along the wall in back, for everyone to meet. Children squirming impatiently, anxious in their seats. One by one the teacher called a student from the class, to introduce their daddy, as seconds slowly passed. At last the teacher called her name, every child turned to stare, each of them was searching, a man who wasn't there. 'Where's her daddy at?' she heard a boy call out. 'She probably doesn't have one,' another student dared to shout. And from somewhere near the back, she heard a daddy say, 'Looks like another deadbeat dad, too busy to waste his day.' The words did not offend her, as she smiled up at her Mom, and looked back at her teacher, who told her to go on. And with hands behind her back, slowly she began to speak. And out from the mouth of a child, came words incredibly unique. 'My Daddy couldn't be here, because he lives so far away. But I know he wishes he could be, since this is such a special day. And though you cannot meet him, I wanted you to know, all about my daddy, and how much he loves me so. He loved to tell me stories, he taught me to ride my bike, and he surprised me with pink roses, and taught me to fly a kite. We used to share fudge sundaes, and ice cream in a cone, and though you cannot see him, I'm not standing here alone. 'Cause my daddy's always with me, even though we are apart, I know because he told me, he'll forever be in my heart. ‘With that, her little hand reached up, and lay across her chest, feeling her own heartbeat, beneath her favorite dress. And from somewhere here in the crowd of dads, her mother stood in tears, proudly watching her daughter, who was wise beyond her years. She stood up for the love of a man not in her life, doing what was best for her, doing what was right. And when she dropped her hand back down, staring straight into the crowd, she finished with a voice so soft, but its message clear and loud. 'I love my daddy very much, he's my shining star, and if he could, he'd be here, but heaven's just too far. You see he is a soldier and died just this past year, when a roadside bomb hit his convoy and taught the world to fear. But sometimes when I close my eyes, it's like he never went away.' And then she closed her eyes, and saw him there that day. And to her mother’s amazement, she witnessed with surprise. A room full of daddies and children, all starting to close their eyes. Who knows what they saw before them, who knows what they felt inside. Perhaps for merely a second, they saw him at her side. 'I know you're with me Daddy,' to the silence she called out. And what happened next made believers, of those once filled with doubt. Not one in that room could explain it, for each of their eyes had been closed. But there on the desk beside her, was a fragrant long-stemmed rose. And a child was blessed, if only for a moment, by the love of her shining star. And given the gift of believing, that heaven is never too far.

Got Time?

I am tired.  I feel like I am always tired.  Can anyone relate?  If you were to create a list of your weekly activities do you feel it would become a published novel of the itinerary of a super human? Well it may not, but it sure does feel like a very heavy load to bear at times, especially on your own.  

Let’s take a minute to do something you probably haven’t done yet today.

Breathe in deeply.

Now breathe out. 

Feel better?  For a split second you probably did but let’s be honest, now your mind is racing to all of the tasks that have yet to be accomplished today.  Let us not forget the guilt that might also be weighing on your mind with regards to all that should get done however those things will likely be on hold until that magic moment when you have something people like to call “time”. 

Have you ever had anyone tell you, “What you need is time alone” or “Take time to discover who you are now that you are single”?  Well those are definitely things that are great for anyone in our situation to do, however both of those phrases contain the word “time”; a commodity that more than likely you do not possess and I know that I do not have much of.

When you do have time how do you use it?  Are you concentrated on tasks throughout the day and using all of your extra time to accomplish more and more? If you are like me, you get overwhelmed at the thought of everything you have to do that you find yourself running in circles trying to keep up.  I call this the “I gotta attitude”.  I gotta be the PTA Mom, House Cleaner, Cook, Co-worker, Financial Guru, Sunday School Teacher, Taxi Driver...you name it!  You want to be involved and you want to shine so that you can feel that you are doing the best parental job possible for your children. I have some news for those of you who feel as I do sometimes or even all the time, the cycle will never stop as long as you feed it.

It is great to use extra time for involvement in things that are beneficial for your children but just as you would recommend for your children to not burn themselves out, you need to listen to your own advice!  It is difficult; trust me I know! How you use your extra time is very important but what if you really don’t see a way to have any time?

I have asked a few single parents that I know and below are the compiled suggestions.

1)   Enjoy the downtime in carpool.
2)   Wake up 15 minutes before your kids typically do.
3)   Take a different route to the office while your favorite music is playing.
4)   Actually take your lunch break at work and leave the office.
5)   Decide what needs to go on your “to do” list and remove what doesn't need to be there.
6)   Practice saying “no” to things that are not of utmost importance.
7)   If able to, get a babysitter one night per month.

Coping With The Pain of Divorce

The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that approximately fifty-percent of marriages end in divorce.  Thirty-percent of those end in the first five years when young families are forming.  The statistics are startling and very alarming.  I do not have to list all of the ways that divorce can affect children because I'm sure you can imagine but with this alarming number the amount of children affected is very high!  So, what is a parent to do to encourage the healing process?

Avoid Arguing with your ex around your children.  Young kids do not understand all of the surrounding factors within your arguments.  What they hear is that you and their other parent do not get along and they feel stuck in the middle.  They do not understand why their world has turned upside down and will be very confused at the anger between both parents.

Help instill a relationship with their other parent.  It is crucial that you help to forge a relationship with your children and their other parent because they cannot do this for themselves. They need you to go to battle for the longing they have to be around the other parent.  They love both of you and long to have healthy relationships with you.   Putting them in the middle to decide who they will be with and when is just simply wrong.  Your marriage may have ended but your parental responsibility to your child's well-being in body and mind did not.  Guide them into a schedule that you and the ex have decided on.

Keep routine.  Children thrive in routine and consistent discipline.  They are looking to you to create boundaries and schedules for them which help them to feel secure and stable.  If you eat dinner as a family at a certain time each night, maintain that time consistently.  If you give them a bath before bed, continue that as well.  Each family is different in routines, but each family should have a routine.

Keep visitation simple.  Make sure that your ex has all of the children's information like doctor's names and phone numbers as well as access to the records should something arise.  Provide information such as work numbers and exact times that the transfer of children will take place.  I suggest meeting at a non-threatening location that the children like such as a playground, restaurant, or park.  This way the exchange from one parent to the other is not related to a child's home.

Keep other caregivers the same.  Switching a daycare or babysitter all of the time will cause the children to feel unsettled.  Try to avoid this and stay consistent with who watches your children.  The children will be able to develop a bond with someone that will keep their expectations level.

Do not rush into a new relationship.  The tendency for parents who are coping with divorce is to jump into another serious relationship without allowing themselves time to heal. Remember that you are not the only one jumping into this relationship but you have brought your children into it as well.  Are they ready? Are you really ready? If you are dating someone, avoid introducing them to your children until they become a serious love interest and potential life mate.  Begin with short trips for pizza or a meeting at the park for playtime.  Do not bring this person into "family" things such as dinner at home, bedtime routines, holidays, school events, etc until you are serious enough to marry this person.  Children will get attached to your love interest and if the relationship ends, they will encounter the feelings of separation that they have felt throughout your divorce.  Make sure you and the other person are completely ready for the possibility of marriage before you introduce your children. Being careless in this area has lasting effects on your children.  You only get one chance to raise them right. 

Listen to your children.  Your children will be honest about how they are coping with divorce and their feelings.  It is important to let them talk, cry and miss the other parent.  Their feelings are real, just like yours.  Let them have them openly.  Your children will also be very honest about any relationships you pursue.  Children are a great judge of character. If they do not like your potential mate, that might be a warning sign to pay attention to.  The best thing you can do for your children is to be available for their feelings to be heard and cared about.

What "NOT" to Say to a Single Parent

This blog post is two-fold.  For the reader who is a single parent, please read this with the intent to realize that people do not always know how to question or support a single parent.  We need to recognize the intent from the spoken words and not take everything so heavily.

For the person who is not a single parent, please read this post to acknowledge how things are worded when speaking to a single parent. Remember that they more than likely did not choose to parent alone and your questions can come across, "loaded" or uncaring.


"Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there.  You'll find each other some day and then you won't have to be alone."
Not every single parent is looking for a significant other.  Sometimes the pain is so deep that cultivating another relationship would be detrimental to the children involved.  This statement can make the single parent feel inadequate and that they should be with someone to live up to societal standards.  This simply is not the case.

"You look exhausted! Where do you find your energy?"
To a single parent, this is the last thing they want to hear. Typically they do not have energy so finding it would be amazing, but telling someone they look exhausted is nothing short of an insult.

"This must be really hard on your kids"
People assume that single parented kids are damaged. The single parent strives with every ounce of their effort to ensure that their kids are taken care of and have the best life possible.  Confirming their fears that their kids are not okay and that they as a parent may not be doing "enough", is hurtful.

"You should be proud of yourself!"
This can be very demeaning.  You wouldn't walk around telling this to married parents, so why the single parent?

"I don't know how you do it!"
The simple answer is because we have to and we want to.  Circumstances aren't always as bad as they seem and we enjoy being parents too.  The load is just different.

"What do your kids do while you work all day?"
Again, you typically wouldn't ask this of a married parent, so why the single parent? Their kids do what your kids do; they are busy being kids.  Answer is simple.  The kids are most likely in daycare situation or are being watched by a relative.
You might say: "What kinds of activities have you planned for your kids while you are at work?"

"You need alone time."
The urge to say this is understandable because everyone needs alone time.  Problem is that single parenting can be very lonely at times.  Even with kids running around, the lack of adult communication can be isolating. 
You might say: "When can I babysit for you?" or "Do you need time without the kids; how can I help?"

"Where is your kid's father/mother?"
A question you really shouldn't ask anyone.  This is very personal and you'll know if the single parent wishes to confide in you.
You might say: "If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to know how to pray for your children's father/mother."

"You must be so lonely!"
This statement is really rude and makes it sound as if anyone without a significant other is lonely.  Some single parents are perfectly happy and for those that are lonely, this is a painful exploitation of their feelings.
You might say: "I'd love to hang out with you sometime."

"My husband/wife was out of town for a couple days and so I know how you feel!"
OR "My husband/wife was sick over the weekend and I had to care for the kids alone.  It's exhausting and my heart just goes out to you!"
The single parent day in and day out experiences parenting alone.  There are great days and not so great days. Spending a few hours or days without the other parent is absolutely not the same.  When this is said to a single parent, it belittles the world they live in.  No one can imagine what they have not experienced.  Spouses spending a short time away is not equivalent to single parenting.
You might say: "I have had a taste of what it could be like to be a single parent. Let me know how I can come alongside you!"


Most people mean well with what they say and ask and it can be difficult to know how to relate to anyone in another life circumstance than yourself.  The key is to think before you speak.  In most cases, the single parent if they know you well enough, will recognize your true intentions in these questions and statements and will not or should not take offense. 

Co-Parenting Alone

I remember the struggles of co-parenting when I was married to my son's father.  He and I were not on the same page when it came to discipline, expectations and the overall parenting structure.  Now that we are divorced it seems that has just amplified the pains of co-parenting.   

At the very least when you are married to your children's father or mother, you are in a position of commitment and respect for your spouse that centers around compromise. (well that is how it is supposed to be anyway)  Parenting is very difficult to do with someone whom you may be struggling to respect or trust with your child's future.  Each person has different opinions and convictions on what is right, healthy, "normal" and what is not. This can make for some pretty heated debates about the passion both people feel for their side of spectrum. 

I have heard many stories of hurting men and women who are struggling to do what is right for their children with little or no help from the child's other parent.  This is very difficult but almost a blessing in comparison to the other side of the coin.  The worst stories I have to say however, are in those where one parent is road blocking every effort from the other parent to set a stable and healthy foundation.

How are you expected to support the child's parent being a part of their life when they are standing against every grain of your efforts to raise a healthy child?  How do you handle these situations when your kids think of you as the "bad guy" for taking a stand for righteousness and discipline? You aren't the "fun" parent to them and that hurts you.  Feeling at a loss for answers? Sure, we all do at different times.  

Bottom line is that you are only going to answer on judgement day of how you handled yourself when these situations arose.  You will have to answer to how you have trained up your children regardless of how the other parent is influencing their lives in an unhealthy way and standing against you.   Being that this is the case, we have to do everything in our power to show God through our actions at all times.

My mom once told me, that one day my son will know that I acted with his best interest in mind at all times.  It may take years and he may be a grown man with kids of his own when he realizes this statement of truth, however it will happen.  This statement alone keeps me going when I feel I can't anymore.  My hope is that it inspires you to do the same.


The other parent to your children plays a very important role even if your kids are not expressing the desire for relationship to you.  It is difficult to be responsible for the daily care and discipline and to watch your children go off and have fun.  Here are some tips when dealing with visitation.

1) Children want to love and care for the other parent without feeling guilty.  It will make a huge difference if you show enjoyment in their connection with the other parent.

2) Make hand-offs of your children to the other parent as pleasant and relaxed as possible.  This is not the time to bring up sore topics or to criticize each other for bad decisions.  If disagreement ensues, take it away from all earshot and visuals of the children.  Sometimes bringing a friend or relative with you helps to relieve the desire to pursue such conversations.  There are also centers that have been designed to help with the exchange without either parent having to see each other.  In my opinion, this is a last resort as the children need to see that their parents can act like mature adults.  If one of you cannot then this center is a great option.

3) Allow your child time to adjust to being back home with you.  They may act out or become emotional over leaving the other parent and feeling guilt about feeling disloyal to you.  If their visit wasn't enjoyable, they may feel upset. Allow them to talk about all feelings with you in a safe environment and never badmouth the other parent.  Be sure to seek professional help if your child is not adjusting to being home after a few days.

4) Do not for any reason use your children to spy on your ex.  I cannot stress this enough.  Children already feel guilt for living with one parent and visiting another.  They feel guilt for not being able to share all of their great moments with both parents.  Your child is not a sounding board for what your ex is doing. 

5) Understand that your children may misbehave when they come back or while they are gone.  It is important to be on the same page with the other parent on disciplinary actions and consequences so that there is a common ground on what is expected.  I realize that in my situation as in many others, parents rarely see eye-to-eye on this topic.  It is important that you uphold all of your standards without giving in to the guilt that comes with a child moving from parent to parent.  It may feel like an endless battle, but it will pay off in the end. Your child feels secure within boundaries and by giving them these boundaries you are showing them how much you care for them.

If there is little or no contact with the other parent it is your responsibility to educate your children on how the other parent fits into their lives.  You only get one chance to do this right.  Make it count.

Lonely Without You

Do you struggle emotionally when your children are away? Do you miss them like crazy and long for the moment you get to wrap your arms around them again? This is a very normal feeling for all parents and a common occurrence to single parents. Whether your children reside with you or not, the time away from them can feel very painful. You understand that time alone is necessary for you.  You understand that it is unhealthy to depend on your children to cure your loneliness.  And you may even have the understanding as far as to recognize that one day they will be away from your constant care as adults.  This is prep time!  Actually, all of those facts are correct however missing your children immensely is also a fact, a real feeling, and okay. 

I remember when I first went through my divorce, my son saw his dad very little.  When he did go to be with his dad, I felt like my entire being was living in another home, eating meals with another family, and hugging someone else before bed. I was heartbroken and completely paralyzed to any other thoughts or actions until my son was back home "where he belonged".  It took words of wisdom from a very close and honest friend who told me that missing him was okay.  Paralyzing myself and the deep depression and anxiety were not.  The hardest thing I did was to take the step into normality and life while my son was with his dad.  It took practice to learn that life still goes on and that I should use this time away wisely.  Most people call it a "break" but in reality it shouldn't be a break from yourself, just your normal responsibilities.  In fact, when I took time to really focus on what I wanted to do that I normally couldn't do, it was a sense of freedom and fulfillment that gave me more energy for when my son returned.  It was like taking the car to the mechanic and getting maintenance done so that the car (me) would be in better working condition for many days ahead.

While he is gone, he is growing and bonding with his dad and I am growing and bonding with myself. 

Reducing Stress

 Single parenting can be one of the most stressful situations that you will ever find yourself in.  Juggling finances, finding day-to-day care for your children, dealing with fatigue and discipline are just a few areas to mention. You may even be feeling guilt for your situation and are worrying about the lack of a female/male role model in your daughter/son's life.  These stresses compiled in your life can create more challenges to you mentally and physically than you think.  It is important to reduce as much stress as possible in the areas you are able to for not only your well-being, but your kids as well.

Be Positive.  Your mood can set the tone for how your day will be, how your conversations will go, and will affect you and your child more than you can imagine.  It is okay to be honest with your child when you are frustrated or having a difficult time but it is important to remind them that things will get better.  You have to first believe that yourself.

Take Care of Yourself.   Exercise, drink plenty of water, eat healthy and do things to stimulate your mind.  If the pilot of your airplane cannot fly the plane it will inevitably crash.  Single parents tend to put our children before ourselves at all times but this is not healthy.  You are important too and are needed in good health and mental well-being if you are going to be a successful parent. What this looks like for you will differ from others, but do what you can to make sure you are taken care of.

Ask For Help.  It may seem like there is no one available to help you but that simply is not true. Even if you live far from family and feel like you have no friends, there are organizations and people available to help you if you reach out. Join a mom's group or a church and be proactive in addressing your need for assistance.  It's easy to get in a rut of going to work, then staying home because of the load you carry, but meeting people will only happen if you get yourself out into your community.

Fight the Guilt.  Whatever brought you to your single parent situation, guilt is a poison to your well-being.  Fight the urge to let guilty feelings dictate how you parent your children.  Guilt spending and leisurely discipline do not "make it up" to your kids for having a single parent household.  Single parent homes can raise great kids too!

Set Attainable Limits and Goals.  Know your capabilities and time availability.  Don't stretch yourself too thin. For example, the older your children get, the more responsibilities around the house you should give them.  Teach them responsibility with their things and why it's important to pick up after themselves. Create chore lists and celebrate when accomplished. Start slowly and ease into a productive routine.  Do not be their house servant.  That doesn't do them any favors for them when they are out on their own.  The more they do on their own, the less burden you will feel for things around your house.  My son is 8 and he is fully responsible for his bedroom, taking out the trash, putting away his clothes, dusting, sweeping the patio and front porch, and picking up around the house.  Those are 6 things that are off my list.  It's a good feeling also knowing that he has learned those housekeeping techniques.

Create a Routine. Keeping things on a schedule will eliminate stress for you and for your kids.  Knowing what to expect gives security.

In Everything Show Love.  Doing all things in love keeps the ill feelings away and resentment at bay.  Tell your kids how much you love them often and show them with little notes or special treats.  Teach them what is looks like to love another person.  This not only will teach them how to love in future relationships, but can come back to you ten-fold when they start to do those things towards you. Set aside special time with each child and focus 100% on them during that time.  Taking the focus off of life and yourself for a short time to just get to know your child is sure to reduce the stress you feel.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

Father's Day

Father's Day is just around the corner and while everyone is scrambling to buy the perfect gift and card for their dad, most single parents are struggling with another difficult holiday. We celebrate dads for the great fathers they have been to their sons or daughters and we exclaim to the highest mountain, our love for them and thankfulness for who they are.  In my situation, my son's dad hasn't been anything incredible for his son and quite frankly has not really been around.  What is a parent to do with a holiday like Father's Day when the father hasn't really even grasped the enormity of such a title?

God has really grabbed my heart regarding situations such as these.  He reminds me over and over that it is not to my comfort that I do things, but to my son's comfort.  My son has gone through the death of my marriage as well and he grieves for his dad.  It is for my son that I must come alongside him and do things to help him feel a parental bond.  Help him buy or make a card, bake some cookies, or do a video message...  etc. The most important thing to your child is to know that you hear the aches of his/her heart.  Helping him/her in celebrating their dad, despite how difficult this may be for you, will bless your children.  They are, after all, most important.

What if Dad is not around at all?  There are many dads around your kids that you could collaborate ideas to celebrate those individuals. Maybe you know of a single dad who could use a blessing this Sunday.  If your child is young enough you might be able to just breeze by this day, however if they are not too young to understand what this day means, you can spin this day to bless them and it will be of utmost importance. I have no doubt that although it may be a difficult day for you, Mom, you will be blessed.

To all of the single fathers out there, do something special for yourself on Sunday or let someone do something special for you.  You deserve it!  I salute you and all of your determination to raise great kids! 

All of our situations are different! I would love to hear from you, how your family celebrates, Father's Day!  Comment below...

Summer Break!

Do you remember the feeling you had on the last day of school when the anticipation of a summer filled with fun, friends, sleeping in and no homework, loomed over your head like a bubble about to explode?  I do; very distinctly.  There was almost a smell in the air that was different as I walked home on that last day with the full knowledge that responsibilities were a thing of the past and I was going to have carefree days ahead.  Accomplishment of another year completed was intoxicating.

I am a memory maker. I wholeheartedly believe that good memories are food for the soul and that they are what you can hold onto as the goodness in life when life isn't feeling so good.  I have a lot of these from my childhood because I was very blessed with a wonderful family.  The world wasn't as scary and I remember days of playing outside with my brother and our friends and coming home only after the street light turned on.  Those were the days! I wish that my son could encounter days like that but unfortunately our situation, although still blessed is different.   Kids nowadays cannot just play outside til the street light comes on because our world is a lot more dangerous.  Typically what summer means for a single parent home, is daycare and lots of it.  This causes increased expense and increased guilt that we are not able to be home with our children so they can experience the carefree days of summer like other children.  They still get up early with us, are rushed out the door to daycare, and spend the day in a routine with others in their situation then come home to a hurried dinner and finally get the relaxing moments before bed.  Vacations?  That isn't even an option most times with the added expense of full-day daycare.

Well all of that sounds pretty depressing but summer really doesn't have to be the day in and day out routine that we envision and presume will occur.  Here are some ideas to make your summer with your children special.

1) The night before you have a day off of work, have a sleepover party where they are allowed to invite one friend over for junk food, movies, and fun.

2) Create themed days with younger children.  For example, Monday's we will both wear blue.  Tuesdays, we will both eat the same lunch.  etc.

3) Text your older kids throughout the day letting them know how much you are thinking about them.  Tell jokes over text and give them motivation for having a great day.

4) Set aside one night a week to put all responsibility aside and have a dinner party.  The kids get to pick what is served and play word games throughout dinner.  (example: I spy something purple)

5) Leave notes to your kids throughout the entire house.  Pin them up on the mirrors, put them in pockets, back packs and lunches.  This will help them know that you are thinking of them.  I've even gone the extreme of decorating the house to liven up things.

6) If possible take a day off of work and make a big deal about it being "Family Fun Day".  Spend it with a picnic at the park, hiking, pool day, sprinkler fun...etc.  Do not be tempted to clean or do anything outside of FUN this day.  Keep the cell phone off.

7) Call them while they are at daycare to let them know you will have a special present for them when you pick them up.  Stop by the local dollar store and find something they will like that is inexpensive.

8) Play outside together when they are home.  Take a nature walk, or simply just enjoy time outside fully focused on them.

9) Make goals with them such as: "This summer we are going to read 1 book per (week) together." Build a chart to track the books read and celebrate in accomplishing those goals!

10) Finally and what I think is most important is to have one on one time with each of your kids every night.  Spend 10 minutes a piece at least and fully give them your attention for them to share how their day was (one good and one bad) and if they have anything that they wanted you to know about during their day.  Let them know at least one thing that came to your mind about them during your day so they are aware that you are thinking of them too.

School is out and summertime is here! Great memories are to be made!

We Are Not A Broken Home

I despise the phrase "Broken Home".  It just simply causes a stir in my soul.  It is common for people to use this phrase when referring to a single parent home, however this causes pain.  For the child who clearly is not at fault for their living situation, whether divorce, death, or an unwed mother, these kids pay a price already.  Using that phrase confirms to them that they are indeed broken.  Broken home?  Why can't it be "different" yet remain unbroken?

Raising kids today is an enormous task whether you are in a two parent home or a single parent home.  Single parents can raise great kids too and if adults would realize that and change our attitudes, we can show compassion and sensitivity to those in a different situation. 

My home was much more "broken" while we lived in a two parent household. I believe that there are many two-parent households that are like mine was.  They are very broken and yet are not called broken because they remain together visually.  The ideal situation of course is two parents who love each other and are healthy individuals raising their children together.  Unfortunately, without choice some of us do not live in that ideal.  We do not have to succumb to the term "broken".  Now, my son reads scripture, is thriving, and has blossomed into a great kid!  My son's dad is growing into a positive father-figure slowly but surely.  He was a lousy husband and without going into detail on our marital issues, he chose to leave our marriage.  I want my son to feel that his life can be complete no matter what the living situation because he finds his completeness in Christ.  He should not be finding his completeness in someone saying that he is not in a broken home.  How much harder do we make it for our kids when we keep reiterating that their situation is broken?

In a way, aren't we all broken to some degree.  What makes a single parent home any more broken from sin than another living situation?

Have Yourself a Mother's Day!

"Good morning Mom! Happy Mother's Day!" my son exclaims in his sweet little 3-year-old voice as he wakes me from my sound sleep.  I am greeted with a plate full of mostly burnt toast, a scrambled egg, and an Elmo cup of orange juice.  My son made me breakfast with the help of his dad.  Such a sweet start to my day.  He bounces onto my bed and hands me a card purchased at the store which reads "To my Mommy.  You are my #1" signed in scribble.  He gives me a big kiss and then quickly departs from my room to play with his toys.  That was about it.  Not sure he really knew the meaning of Mother's Day but he was sure to learn in the years to come.  Time to enjoy my day with what my husband has planned in my honor.

That was my last year waking up to breakfast in bed from my son with the help of his dad on Mother's Day- 5 years ago.  The following year, I spent Mother's Day weekend moving into an apartment separated from my now ex-husband.  The year after that I spent the day unpacking boxes again into the condo that I now live in.  Then in 2011, I finally decided that I was tired of the past 2 years of self-pity over the fact that I did not have anyone who came alongside my son to help him make me a card, make me breakfast, or shower me with extra love.  I decided that Mother's Day was going to be like any other day.  If you do not celebrate it, then  you don't feel that sting of what used to be, right? Wrong.  As the day crept closer and closer, I found myself depressed over the upcoming day and that I just didn't want that day to go unnoticed.  It seemed silly to require so much of simply another day of the calendar year but I just remembered that feeling of being so loved and I craved it. 

Well, Mother's Day 2011 came and I found myself waking up to my son already awake.  He was busy playing in his room quietly, or so I thought.  I took a deep sigh and started to get out of bed.  Before I could sit up, in he came bouncing and full of energy.  He plopped on my bed and asked, "Mommmmmmm, do you know what day today is?"  I said, "Yep I do, but what day do you think it is?"  He said, "It's Mother's Day!" and with that excitement he tossed an envelope to me and I quickly realized that he, himself had made me a card.  I could hardly control the tears as I opened the card that I still have to this day and it reads, "Hi Mom.  I'm glad you are my mom. I love you!" You can imagine that I realized in that moment, that God had heard the desires of my heart.  That through my son, he confirmed what Mother's Day was really about.  It's not about the flowers, candy, breakfast in bed, or even the fun outings.  Mother's Day is about confirmation that you make a difference; that you are loved. 

Hallmark has done a disservice to this day of remembering moms and has made it into so much of a show that when there is no one in the house to shower you with Mother's Day love it can be discouraging. I am here to remind you if you are missing that feeling for this day, that you remember that you are loved and that you make a difference.  This Mother's Day will be what you make of it.  Enjoy!

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I sure enjoy seeing parents who have a strong bond even though they have decided to part ways for one reason or another but have still maintained a friendship to where they can co-parent their children together in unity.  It seems that this is very rare, but how great would it be to still be on the same page with the person who fathers or mothers your children?

Whether we have a great relationship with our children's parent or not, we can rest in the fact that these children are lent to us for a short time, but are in actuality, God's children.  God knew them before they were born.  God knows who they will grow up to be.  We are never parenting alone and we can only do what we can do.  Yes, stand in as a voice for your child to ensure safety and well-being, but we cannot take the responsibility of others and what they do or say to our children.  If we have done everything we can on our end, it is in that moment that all we can do is to continue to lift our children up to God and pray for protection and guidance of the individuals who influence them.

I choose to be the solid foundation that my son knows he can come back to when feelings are hurt, or he goes through tough times with his father.  Without badmouthing his father, I can simply love and uplift him in Christ.  I can teach him to find his worth in Christ alone. 

Pray for the other parent and try to show them Jesus in every situation while also keeping your child's best interest in the forefront of your decisions. You have been given an amazing yet difficult opportunity as a parent.  I applaud you for not taking that responsibility lightly.

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,  "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

Mark 9:36-37

Changing Regret to Reward

My dad is one of my heroes and I am definitely a "Daddy's Girl".  One of the biggest regrets in my life is that I never finished college like my dad.  I had high hopes in high school of attending Michigan State University like my father and carrying on the legacy of alumni into my own family.  I never made it to an out of state school because I was so very infatuated with my ex-husband (then boyfriend) who wanted us to stay in California.  I just couldn't see into the future to know that one day I would regret this decision and carry the burden for that disappointment with me into my 30's.

I initially attended a city college and my desire was to become a family therapist, however through many personal decisions and submissions, I ended my college career just short of obtaining my Associates degree with the famous phrase, "I will go back after a short break".  Well 13 years later, I am still mortified to write in my biography, resume, or any sort of paperwork that I never completed that degree.  It is bad enough that I feel I let my dad down by not finishing college, but to have to write it on everything that judges my intelligence?  That feeling and burden weighed heavily within my heart.  There were always excuses as to why I couldn't go back.  I wouldn't be able to handle the burden.  I would fail because it's been so long.  It's been too long for any of my credits to transfer over, so I'd have to start from the beginning and there would be 2 years down the toilet.  My son is too little.  The list goes on and on as to the excuses I gave myself for the inability to attend school again.

March 4, 2013 I made a decision.  I decided to quit making excuses and just dive in.  If there is one thing I am learning in this journey of single parenthood, it is that I have to take care of myself just like I am taking care of my son or else we both run the risk of failure.  In order for me to accomplish this personal goal, I needed motivation.  Motivation when you are 20 is completely different than when you are 33 and a parent.  My motivation now is to accomplish what I set out to do 15 years ago, as well as to be a role model for my son.  I want him to have the fullest life possible and with that comes attending college and building his self confidence and readiness for a work life.  I want him to see that I find it important for me so hopefully he can see it important for himself as well. So here I am in my third week of school and I am giving all praise to God for bringing me to the point of saying, "I can do this!" I hope that through my transparency, you will feel motivated to accomplish the goal that you never had the chance to finish.  Give yourself motivation to do something for you that will make you feel accomplished.  What does that goal look like for you?

Listening to Your GPS

If you are anything like me, your GPS is your best friend.  When I first moved to Colorado Springs, the change from straight grid-like roads in California to the winding and twisting roads had me almost in tears feeling lost.  I was so sure that the folks who plan the routes throughout Colorado Springs sat back day after day and figured out the most humorous ways to get from one place to the other.  There is usually one way in and out of shopping centers, one-way streets that turn into two-way streets as well as the fact that if you are driving on a street long enough, you will eventually come to an identical intersection you had passed, miles back.  Same streets that meet two times.

Being from California, I am a very good driver (tongue in cheek) and you can bet that I figured I could get around town on my own.  Well after literally just one day of living here I began taking my GPS with me everywhere I went.  I call my GPS, "Tom" and he became my best friend whom I even had very interesting one-sided conversations with along the way.  Inevitably I would miss my turn or turn too soon.  Instead of "Tom" getting upset, he would very matter-of-factually say, "Make a u-turn when possible."  I found myself apologizing to "Tom" saying something like, "sorry Tom, I missed it again!"  I would turn around and "Tom" would help me find my way by instructing me on the next move to make.

This journey of single parenting is kind of like getting dumped in a new city without a clue of how the roads intertwine or how they will get us from point A to point B.  Whether you are encountering single parenting for the first time recently, or you have been on this journey for awhile, the roads can be crazy to drive on.  Some full of amazing beauty and ease, and others with storms and twists and turns.  How are you driving on this journey? Are you alone in the driver's seat or do you have your GPS, better known as God, with you?

Like my GPS, I find that God gives it to me straight.  His instructions in the bible and my daily interactions with Him through prayer and study reveal the paths on which I should take.  My job is to stay on course and not miss my turns.  But if I do, there will always be a u-turn allowed and the instructions on the journey ahead, available.

Thank you God for all that you do for me.  I'd be lost on this journey without you.

Top Ten Ways to be the Best Single Parent

I recently read an article and it was a great find! I thought for this blog entry that I would simply forward these top ten steps to you from another great source.

Adults and children do better when single parenthood is perceived as a viable option and not as a pathological situation. Start with a positive attitude and focus on the benefits of single parenting, such as less conflict and tension in the home. Many single parents treasure their new-found autonomy and independence and feel hopeful about the future.

Establish firm, clear boundaries that leave no doubt that you are the boss In the home. Single parents (and two parent households) often make the mistake of allowing children to become equal partners or peers, and too many children are running the show. This loads to serious individual and family problems. Children need limits. Use consistent discipline that provides clear expectations and guidelines for behavior and rely on natural and logical consequences. Learn to say, "I love you enough to say NO to you.

The single parent frequently feels overwhelmed by the responsibility, tasks, and emotional overload associated with raising children alone. It is extremely important to manage time wisely and to ask for help when necessary. Assign children appropriate chores and tasks. Arrange car pools when possible, and ask other parents for help when needed. My children would not have been able to continue in club soccer were it not for the kindness of other parents providing rides to practices and games.

No matter how loving and competent you are, you are still only one person and you are doing a job most agree Is meant for two people. Do not allow your children to manipulate you by making you feel guilty about the situation. Remind children that you are a team and have to work together. Give yourself credit for a job well done. You may have to wait until your kids are grown before you get any credit from them. This is where a sense of humor comes in handy!

Nurturing is a high priority, but children also crave stability and security. While this is important for all children, it is especially crucial for children who have suffered 8 loss of stability due to divorce or death of a parent. Children need to feel secure and protected, and it Is our Job as parents to create a nurturing environment where they can thrive. Your children need to hear how much you love them and how proud you are. Some children may require more affection and attention than others, so know your child, and take your cue from him/her.

Part of creating stability and security in the home involves establishing predictable schedules and routines for your children. Of course, we must not be rigid and inflexible, because children need to learn that life is not always predictable. Find a healthy balance.

It is critical for your children's well being for you to take care of yourself. There are times when you feel like you need a break. Ask other single parents to trade babysitting or hire a mother's helper. Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management, and getting a good night's sleep. Learn relaxation, yoga, meditation, visualization, or whatever healthy coping skill allows you to relieve stress and tension. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, take a nap (my personal favorite). A stressed out parent results in stressed out kids.

Develop a wide network of people who can provide you with emotional support, companionship, help in emergencies, child- care, reality checks, etc. Be selective and choose caring, reliable, trustworthy people who will be there for you in times of need. Single parents with healthy support systems usually feel better mentally and physically and demonstrate to their children that it is OK to ask for help. Support groups for single parents offer an excellent opportunity to socialize and share with others in similar circumstances.

Do not confide in your child as though he/she is your peer, regardless of how mature the child appears to be. This is a common mistake made unintentionally by many single parents who turn to their child for emotional support and don't realize they are hurting the child until after the tact. Allow children to be children, and find other adults for companionship and support.

Focus on success and not on failure. Set realistic goals as a family and work together to accomplish these goals. Decide what is important and prioritize accordingly. Have family meetings on a regular basis and allow children to have In put. Learn to effectively communicate and solve family problems together while still demonstrating that you are the boss. Give your kids credit and give yourself credit.

 Written by: Shellee Moore, M.F.T.

Strength to Discipline

There is a reason that Dr. Dobson entitled one of his books, "Parenting Isn't For Cowards".  Life can get so busy and crazy that we really have to focus on what matters most in shaping our kid's futures.   Everything can't and shouldn't be a battle, but once in awhile the lines have to be drawn and remaining consistent with expectations and authority becomes extremely important.

My son is a wonderful child and has a great gift of character.   As he grows in age (8) we struggle every so often with his growing independence and his desire to cross the boundaries of respect and obedience.  He is very strong-willed but usually is a quiet spirit that says, "yes ma'am" and obeys without much of an ordeal.  Last night we had one of those nights where his attitude was asking, "What are you going to do if I defy your request?"  I had a really long day and wasn't feeling very well and it would have been easy for me to simply ignore the bad behavior and hope for a better result next time but I knew full well that if not addressed, "next time" could be worse.   Instead I had to push aside the fatigue and face this defiance head on.  I stood my ground as calmly as I could and I explained amongst the frustration and tried patience as to "why" it was important to comply with my request and why his reaction and behavior will not be tolerated.  He screamed and cried and threw a couple tantrums and I'm sure my poor neighbors were quite bothered by the noise, but when all was said and done, he laid in his bed and fell asleep having accomplished the task he was asked to do.  Exhaustion has never felt so victorious. 

As I collapsed into bed, the thought occurred to me; how often do I do that to God? How often does he ask me to comply with his request for obedience and I either outright defy Him, or I throw an internal screaming tantrum.  He continues to love me and speak gently to me through my fits until I finally comply and then rest in the safe feeling of his love.

Parenting is teaching our kids how we are to obey God.   God is loving but firm in his commands.  Sometimes he's a gentle whisper and sometimes he speaks loud and clear.  The only difference is that God does not collapse into bed from exhaustion afterwards.  I am thankful for that!