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?