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Tips for life

Tips For Learning The Skill Of Small Talk -The Way To Connect With Others

Life’s  upheavals  bring change which may necessitate  finding a new set of friends.  One can have just gotten through a divorce or relocated for a job. Small talk is the way to establishing connections with others.  You may feel like a nine-year old kid again on the first day at a new school.

It can be challenging to make small talk. Individuals have avoided parties and gatherings because the thought of engaging in this is scary. Small talk is an important skill – whether on the social scene or in networking. It enables one to make crucial contacts in their field. Small talk is necessary to establish a relationship which can result in a sale or a regular client.

Small talk starts out on the surface. You are both fishing around initially to discover a common link – an interest or activity. It might be the stage of life you are currently in – getting a divorce, or being parents to a toddler, etc. When the common link is found, then a portal opens to a deeper place of communication. You took the plunge and are now having a fulfilling conversation.

There are ways to make small talk less painful and more spontaneous. Attend an event. You have an instant topic of conversation – the concert, rugby match, school play or whatever it is. A co-worker who loathes small talk joined several groups. The initial conversations are focused on the specific purpose of the group (hiking, books, travel). She can handle talking about the subject and picking up tips from the other members.

At a party, a good ice breaker is to ask how a person knows the hosts. You may find out that you both have things in common. Other sure topics to get things started, is to inquire about pets/children/grandchildren/holidays.

I comment on a person’s unique jewellery or article of clothing. This often leads to “I bought it in India” and we go on from there. Even something as banal as the weather can start an involved conversation on sports. I talk about how weather impacts my running and they may talk about skiing.

An acquaintance feels small talk can be superficial. She does not like it when strangers at a gathering, ask her questions. She feels this is an invasion of her privacy. People may ask questions to loosen your tongue. These individuals are merely trying learn a little bit about Rose. If she would volunteer information first, then it would not seem like an interrogation. Rose could turn the table around and ask them questions, thus not feeling on the spot. People have different levels of what they consider is private. An introvert like Rose, finds it more challenging to open up about their life.

In this digital world, small talk seems to have disappeared. Texting gets right to the point, by-passing the nuances which are picked up when being face-to-face. When in person, if one skips small talk and communicates in the digital style, it would be perceived as too abrupt.

Small talk takes practice, like other things in life. One does not pick up a violin and play it like a virtuoso on the first try. Nor be proficient at getting goals when learning football. Start in little increments. Talk to a person standing in the queue at the grocers. Chat with a sales clerk. Work up to more challenging encounters, such as at a wedding reception or Bar Mitzva celebration. I have made close, life-long friends by starting with small talk.

I am also a dating consultant and release weekly podcasts.

Dealing with Past Regrets

It is easy to fall into the trap of living in regrets. One may regret the distribution of assets in divorce. Another cannot seem to get through a week without saying, “If only I had…” My two sons are pragmatic, and calmly state, “Well that’s in the past – get over it!” when I rue that I did not buy a lifetime pass to United’s Red Carpet Lounge. I did not realize that it was a one-time opportunity, and I had put it off. When asking people about any regrets, the overwhelming answer was what that they regret what they did not do, rather than what they did. It was actions or possibilities not taken, not what they did or had said. Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” stated, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things that I haven’t done.”

I used to be a trauma nurse in a busy surgical intensive care unit. Some patients who felt death was knocking on the door were willing to talk about their past. All were calm and ready to go, but had a common theme about their lives. The universal comment was letting opportunities pass them by or being too afraid to take chances. It was not about what they had done (with the exception of working too many hours and missing out on family life), but instead what they hadn’t done. That regret shaped my attitude of spending as much time possible with my sons. A regret can be a wake-up call that something needs to be changed. It can be a positive stimulus to make an adjustment in your life, such as embarking on a new career path that holds more meaning and passion for you. If you are regretting some life choices, then let this propel you in a new direction. My mother’s only regrets on her deathbed were not getting to Provence, and procrastinating on taking a desired tour to Turkey. That regret pushed me into taking my sons to far flung places so I would not have her same disappointment down the road. I am not putting off travel, and instead am ticking off places from my Bucket List.  – See more at:

Get Rid of Guilt in Divorce and Life

We may live in guilt for what we did or did not do while still married. We might think we could have tried harder to salvage the marriage or feel guilt over not putting it out of its misery earlier. Let the feeling of guilt be a wakeup call that something needs to be changed and use it as an indicator to embark on another course of action. One cannot go back into the past like Dr Who, so being stuck in guilt is a blockade to having a fulfilling life now.

One young man is an example of this and feels guilty that he did not try harder and undergo marital counselling before calling it quits. Guilt is holding him back from committing to his new partner. On a positive note, guilt is pushing him into having a strong relationship with his former spouse as a co-parent. His two children are reaping the benefits of having two parents on the same team.

Sometimes guilt is dumped upon someone although it is their choice whether or not to accept it. Several women said their husbands married them mainly for their looks. After a baby or two, they gained weight and a few wrinkles. At first they felt guilty when spouses insinuated that they were breaking a deal (to look good). After their divorces, they are comfortable with their bodies and increased their self-esteem.

During my hypnotherapy training, our New Age instructor said that the Catholics got it right regarding guilt. They make mistakes (sins), report them (confess) and do reparations (say a Hail Mary or two). They wipe the slate clean and go on their way. He challenged us to come up with our own rituals to banish guilt. First acknowledge its presence and determine what it is telling us. Perhaps we are chronically snapping at the kids or have been ignoring elderly family members. Make amends. Apologize to the youngsters and explain that you are feeling overwhelmed. Then add some fun activities into your schedule with them. Visit or at least call relatives who may be feeling left out of your busy life.

Whatever is troubling you, face it, deal with it and move on. The secret is not to wallow in guilt but view it as a messenger to approach life or people in a different way. Someone may be punishing themselves over guilt when other people did not feel that they were mistreated at all. We can be hard on ourselves and our worst enemy. One friend felt guilty that she did not spend more time with her mother before her death from breast cancer. She was caught up in her wedding plans which her mother understood, and was fine with the situation. My friend was able to let go of this guilt by becoming a mostly stay-at-home mum, cherishing family togetherness.

If you have chronic guilt, consider discussing this with someone. When I am on a guilt trip, my friends set me straight and I readjust my outlook. Guilt keeps one partly living in the past, so apologize, make extra donations to charity, anything to release guilt and move on.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine





Short cuts during Holidays

IMG_1420The holiday season is sneaking up on us again along with endless to-do-lists and frenzied shopping. How to keep your sanity, good mood and stay ahead of the game? The secret is taking short cuts and doing tasks ahead of time. One may have court dates, mediation or collaborative sessions and feel too drained to join in the festivities. Pick the holiday celebrations that bring you the most joy and do not feel obligated to attend every one.

  • If you are usually the one hosting Christmas dinner or the family gathering, then it is time to have a frank discussion. Let others know in advance that you are no longer up to doing this with your divorce and offer some suggestions. The holiday dinner could rotate every year to a different family member’s house. Having it potluck makes it easier on the hosts.

One divorced mum decided that family holiday meals would be at a nice restaurant so no one was chained to the kitchen or on clean up duty.

  • Bundle tasks together to free up some time for relaxation. I write my Christmas cards and letters while enjoying a holiday movie on the telly with my sons. Have a wine party with pals while you each wrap some of your Christmas presents. You get a chore done while partying. Spend time with a godchild while you bake Christmas cookies.
  • Cheating is okay. Not every dish has to be made from scratch. Good Housekeeping magazine for example, has a meal or single product from a variety of stores which is blind tested and then judged. These tasters rate them on most like homemade or best flavours. Take the winner, dump the packaging, place it on your nice china, and wait for the compliments. I buy pre-cooked meat for some holiday meals and heat it up with my homemade herb marinade. My sons enjoy it.

Balancing Work and Family Life as a Single Parent

It is possible to keep one’s sanity and sense of humor, yet still be a single parent in the workforce. The trick is to be extra organized and do as much as possible when the kids are with the co-parent. It is challenging stepping back into a career when being a stay-at-home mom, or changing to full-time. These tips make life a bit easier.

  1. Work more during visitation. I went to my father’s every other weekend and my nurse mother worked at a hospital during that time. She also picked up extra shifts for the two weeks that I was on vacation with my father and at camp. Another woman worked 8-3 without a formal lunch break. She then went into the office for five hours every Saturday while the kids were at visitation. Since the office was closed, it was peaceful enabling her to get ahead with work. See if you can build flexibility into your job. A dad might work extra on the weekend that he is not with the kids.
  2. Make a huge quantity of lasagne or another dish, and freeze single portions (your work lunches) and family size ones. When you are tired – reheat with a prepared salad. Do a cooking marathon when the kids are at visitation. I buy organic, but yummy prepared meals to give to hungry fellows in a hurry. My sons like Trader Joe’s pot pies and their frozen meat which is quick to cook.
  3. Team up with other single parents to have potlucks or share some tasks. Three moms decided to rotate cooking evening meals, each doing one night a week. One cooks enough for the other two families and packs up the complete meals into containers. They are delivered to those houses nearby and for the next two evenings, she is off the hook for providing dinner. These three have been doing this arrangement for years and treasure those blissful cooking-free nights.
  4. Nurture yourself. If you are frazzled, then you are less able to give your full attention to the kids. Pop in for a pedicure or an occasional facial. Indulge in high end, but low cost organic plant based skin care, such as Boot’s Botanic line. My skin is smooth and I feel heavenly. Sitting on the couch reading a magazine with a cat on my lap is so relaxing. Do what rejuvenates you. Some divorced dads got back into sports and enjoy the camaraderie as well as increasing physical well-being.    Please read more …

Anger Keeps You Attached to your Ex

Anger is another way to keep you attached to your ex after divorce. Here are reasons to sever the anger tie that keeps you bound to your ex.

1. Anger can shrink rather than expand your social network. One divorced woman I know was perpetually angry with her ex and his truly awful family. Instead of being pleased that she got out of that mess, got her Master’s degree, and an exciting job, Penny kept harping on her ex. She endlessly kept going back to that subject, even though her friends lost patience eons ago. She drove pals away when they responded “enough is enough” and Penny refused to listen. Anger can turn a friendship from give and take to just being a sounding board for someone’s misery.

2.  Anger is energy that is spent thinking about your ex or plotting various ways of his demise. It may be a two way street with your anger fuelling his, with retaliation. Anger robs people of time and energy that can be used in a more constructive manner. If you are neutral about someone, such as a co-worker or neighbor, there is no specific tie to them. You interact with them, but then go on you merry way about your own business. Anger is a strong emotion – no take it or leave it attitude. Do you really want this attachment to your ex?

3. Anger builds a wall around people. it is like wearing a “No Trespassing” sign around your neck – stay away. One woman who was bitter post-divorce would yell at her daughter over trivial things. Anger towards her ex splashed over into most areas of her life. The girl did not have much of a relationship with her mother until after college when they were more like friends. Be careful that anger is not endangering your relationships with your children and friends.

Please read more…

Lessons Learned from Divorce

Lessons learned from divorce can have a positive impact on life. They can propel us in new directions, such as with careers or help us appreciate what we had taken for granted.

Divorce taught the importance of taking a break and getting out of one’s environment. My sons and I were allowed to go on an already scheduled cruise during my divorce. The other passengers were fabulous and shared their getting through adversity stories. Walking through the souk in Tunis put our divorce situation right out of our minds. Distraction helps alleviate stress.  Our batteries were recharged during this journey.

I discovered how important family is during a crisis like divorce. My cousin loaned me £15000 which I required immediately for part of a down payment on a house I was buying during my divorce. Without that act of kindness, I would have lost the opportunity to purchase it. My divorce split was coming later. I learned who not to count on for assistance.  My wealthy aunt refused the loan.

When I was enduring a bad marriage, I was focused on survival, not bits of joy. Consider thinking of several things a day for which you are thankful. This helps to not take kindnesses for granted. Or pay attention to what increases your happiness and plan these regularly into your schedule. Fun and laughter have health benefits and decrease my headaches. Meeting friends is a necessity and not an indulgence.  This actions help one get through the craziness of life.

One is vulnerable and is prone to put too much weight on other people’s opinions. When I first got divorced most things seemed monumental. I had to learn when to step back and when to charge ahead. I sometimes felt like I was in a fog and relied too much on others. When visitation deteriorated post-divorce, I listened to my mum and other well-meaning people about just letting it go on as scheduled. Instead of filing a motion with the court to suspend it, my younger son was particularly traumatized by going to visitation a year longer than necessary. He has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which may have been less had I heeded his demand not to go anymore. Neither son has contact with their father or his parents. The point is listen to your gut feeling and push for a resolution to a problem sooner than later.

Divorce can be a teacher to slow down.  Instead of reacting, take a pause from the situation to come up with a response.  Reactions are hot-headed and responding is taking in the facts and making an informed decision about what to do. One does not have to make quick decisions in a panic, but can say, “Let me get back to you.” This also applies to family members, work colleagues, or anyone who may try to enlist your time and energy when you are running on empty.

Going through a divorce has increased my social and professional networks. At first the pool of friends shrinks, but then expands as we meet new people. Moving house in divorce  taught me that I do not need so much stuff.  Many people I interviewed, said that possessions became less important and experiences more so. Post-divorce is an adventure with many twists and turns.



Starting Back to Work after a Hiatus or Divorce

It is challenging going back to work during or post-divorce, especially when you have had a hiatus for a decade or two. Your co-workers may be close in age to your children and your boss could be twenty years younger than you.

Before you step foot in the office, do a little homework. My local community college has a free service in writing a resume. The advisor was a magician in writing mine, emphasizing my volunteer experiences along with my paid jobs. They will help write a cover letter if you have a job in mind.

Many places do aptitude testing, guiding one to careers that are in line with strengths and talents. Also check if there is a non-profit helping women to get back into the job market. One in my city even specializes helping women over fifty trying to get back into a career. They have leads and can give advice. One place to call is United Way who has a list of local non-profits who can be of assistance.

1. Brush up on skills and update your computer knowledge. You can pay your kid or a neighbor computer geek to teach you new computer tricks. A company may not expect you to know their specific program, but will want you to be proficient with general computer usage. I took some short non-credit computer courses at my community college. Learn programs such as Quick Books and ask people in your profession for other ones that they recommend. One boss let a woman go on her first day because she could not even insert an attachment to an e-mail.

2. Ask a fashion savvy friend to inspect your wardrobe. You may want to buy a few special work/interview outfits or at least have some contemporary accessories. Larger department stores have a personal shopper to give you advice and put different pieces together to stretch your wardrobe. They are used to working within various budgets and pull clothes from different departments.   Please read more…

Dealing with Empty Nest and How to Thrive

An Empty Nest is especially challenging for parents who face yet another loss after divorce. People may be experiencing the different stages of grief with their divorce, and now also mourn what was and may never be again with their child. One goes through anger and eventually moves on to acceptance in the cycle of grief, as time goes by. This is the period to reinvent yourself and discover long last passions. Having a quiet house seemed to be one of the worst things for me. I brought my stereo system out of hibernation and got some tiny new speakers. I joined the vinyl craze in the states and bought some new records. Listening to old favorites with my cats around, makes loneliness a thing of the past and both of my college age sons enjoy listening to these classics when they are home.

There are ways to make this transition a little easier and reduce the loneliness that may come with the empty nest syndrome:

  • Schedule something fun to do immediately after your child leaves for school. I had a facial a few hours after my youngest son left for uni and required this pampering. The kind therapist let me express my sadness as she massaged lovely aromatherapy oils on my skin. The next morning I had a latte with a pal, and a movie with another one later in the day. I met with friends for the first several days of this transition.
  • Get together with other Empty Nesters for support and fun. My friend Patti formed a group with her son’s classmates’ parents and they meet once a month. It used to be for tears, but now it is for laughter and camaraderie.
  • Delay doing big projects until after your child is gone. This is the time to organize your home office or tackle the mess in your garage. Being focused on a large task, decreases time to dwell on one’s new situation.
  • Expand your social or professional groups. I joined a group and can go out weekly for lattes, lectures or other activities. I joined Toastmasters International to become a more effective speaker.
  • Join some groups and organizations. The Women’s Institute (WI) evolved from traditional activities during WW1, to fencing, DIY classes and teaching other skills now. The WI is having a resurgence of new members with many in their 30’s. There is even a WI goth group in London. I have discovered many new Scandinavian authors from my book club.
  • Go back to school for pleasure classes or to advance your career. I took a computer class after my son left. An acquaintance obtained her teaching degree during her Empty Nest period. She was so busy with these courses that she barely had time to think about her kids that had flown the nest.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and build self-esteem. This is the time to climb up Kilimanjaro or find charity treks around the UK or far flung places. Expand your fitness level as you train for these endeavors or join an exercise class. I started Zumba and Tai Chi during this episode.
  • Consider hosting a foreign exchange student for a few weeks or a school year. You will have a student who needs care and advice in your home. You may end up with a new family member for life as some people have told me. These people enjoyed learning about other cultures and visiting their “kids.”
  • Take a trip to get away and be in a new environment. Visit old friends who may be going through the Empty Nest as well. Go overnight to a nearby spa for some pampering.
  • Volunteer and give something back to others. I love feeling needed with my weekly volunteering at a cat rescue group. The kitties purr with their appreciation. Consider adopting a new pet. If unable to commit, foster a cat or dog short-term.There was a study released in the states that indicated a correlation with getting breast cancer around eighteen months after the last child left home. When I thought about the people I know who had breast cancer, this was the time that they discovered it as well. A woman told me this week that her surgeon said there is a connection between strong sad emotions and the occurrence of some prostate and breast cancer. This research of emotional states increasing the risk for cancer is in its early stages, but I am having as much fun as possible to decrease my chances for it.Originally published in The Divorce Magazine

Wisdom Gained in Divorce

Divorce can be a horrific event to experience or can be the greatest life teacher. While no one I interviewed enjoyed it, many stated that they gained such wisdom from it. As with other transitions, divorce can be a catalyst for a major life change or new career path. Some felt as if they were merely drifting through life and their divorce came as a big wake up call.

Inner strengths

The overwhelming response to my interviews was that people discovered inner strength. Some felt like they would fall apart or have “A nervous breakdown” during divorce proceedings. Post-divorce they are much stronger people. Hidden skills, talents and positive character traits emerged during this calmer period. One woman retrained as florist and opened her own shop. Another women did not learn until her divorce that she is a world class mother. She is proud that she nurtures and passes along her newly found strength to her children.

Patience was another life lesson. Several quoted “This too shall pass” and continue saying it post-divorce when irritations and problems crop up with their exes. Instead of exploding or shutting down, as was done in the past, they face complications more calmly with patience. Ironically, when dealing with someone patiently, the situation is less likely to escalate. It takes two to Tango and two to fight.

Resilience. Some echoed my sentiments, “If I can make it through this divorce, I can make it through anything else that life throws at me.” Instead of feeling like a victim, some are now thriving. When my finances take a nose dive or my ex decides periodically to stop alimony early, I am confident that I will get through these disasters okay. Some reiterated that learning to manage their finances had an impact of being in control of all areas of their lives.

Annette said that divorce gave her the opportunity to learn how to forgive. She has forgiven her ex in order to move on and was surprised how useful forgiveness is in other situations too. When co-workers are catty or family members inconsiderate, she does not dwell on this. Annette does not agree with these actions, but forgives people so she keeps looking forward and not backwards.

Others contemplated their spirituality and turned to their faith or a Higher Power to get through divorce proceedings. Post-divorce, they get their spiritual “batteries” recharged on a regular basis.

Others felt inclined to learn imperative life skills, such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness. They have mentioned how invaluable these are to their lives today. Several became a yoga instructor, Nia teacher, massage therapist and cosmetologist and in other disciplines that were useful to them in this traumatic situation. Now they help so many others while enjoying the well-being from these new careers.

Independence. Being able to make one’s own decisions is liberating and some expressed that they did not realize how oppressed they were while still married. One woman was told by her spouse that visitors (including family) were severely restricted and had to leave by 7:30 pm. She was exhilarated post-divorce to entertain on her own schedule. A few told me as soon as their spouse moved out during the divorce they redecorated or rearranged their bedrooms. Sometimes when we are trying to hang onto a marriage, our preferences go out the door to keep the peace.

Going through an especially dark period enables one to appreciate relationships on a deeper level. Friendships that were taken for granted can blossom. Family members that were supportive are valuable allies when post-divorce complications arise. Many joined groups and expanded their social networks which upped their happiness on a long term basis. Showing compassion for others, such as through volunteering, lessened the focus from them during divorce and enabled these folks to feel better in this turbulent time. Be open to the wisdom and life lessons learned as a result of divorce.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine








Self Growth During Marriage

Sometimes people discover new talents and career paths during  marriages that lead to self-fulfillment. This can be challenging for one’s spouse who may resist this change and can lead to divorce. Others’ spouses are thrilled to witness this metamorphosis and be an observer on this journey. A lot depends upon the partner and if the change seems threatening or unbalancing to them.

Carla was a secretary in a large hospital and enjoyed the atmosphere. She had a  desire to be a nurse which grew stronger as time marched on. When her daughters became teenagers, she decided to take the plunge and go back to school to fulfil this dream. Her husband became more discontent when supper was not on the table by 6 pm and there were other changes to his routine. The girls were proud of their mother and did not require much of her hands on time, like her husband felt he should have. The marriage limped on until Carla filed for divorce once the youngest was almost through with college. Carla was so happy with her career change and the salary increase was helpful post-divorce.

Carla’s example is not the only time where a divorce happened when there was a career change. In a similar case, a women went back to school when there were children at home and her husband refused to pitch in and help. That marriage too ended in divorce. The people that I spoke with that had life changes during marriage and divorced, had very traditional male and female roles. The husband took care of the outside, including vehicle maintenance and the women did child care and “inside”  work. When the roles were suddenly altered then there were hard feelings on both sides. When the roles were more fluid, these were the marriages that I saw adjusted and even thrived when changes occurred.

There are plenty of stories in magazines such as “Women and Home” and “Good Housekeeping UK”  where women started businesses and their husbands not only kept the home fires burning but gave assistance with the new enterprise. A lot depends upon if the spouses are rigid or can bend with the winds of change on how the  marriage will weather.

Gaining Self-Awareness Post-Divorce Before Dating Again

Before jumping back into the dating pool post-divorce, get a clear sense of self. Knowing your values and who you are is paramount for personal growth. It does not make sense getting to know another individual if one is confused about their own desires, needs and interests. Take a break after your divorce for personal introspection. Rediscover your passions & dreams first.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert felt trapped in her Suburban marriage, but was not sure what she wanted out of life. She was cognizant of what she did not care to repeat. Ms. Gilbert went on a yearlong quest to discover herself in the book “Eat, Pray, Love.”  She challenged herself by learning Italian, living on her own in a foreign country, and having new experiences. Next on the agenda was spending time in India for an inner journey of meditation and self-reflection. Ms. Gilbert faced her problems, accepted her part in the marriage’s demise and obtained wisdom. Gaining clarity in Bali boosted her self-esteem and opened her eyes to what she was seeking in a future relationship. With this self-exploration behind her, Ms. Gilbert was ready to recognize a stellar man with values that aligned with hers. She finally moved on with her life and they later got married.

Learn to recognize your problems so you do not carry them into the next relationship. Take an inventory of yourself and see what mistakes have turned into valuable life lessons. Discover your strengths and weaknesses to challenge yourself.  One divorced woman who had been fearful and clingy in her marriage, took a trip to Europe by herself. It got her out of her comfort zone and was life changing. Serena is now independent and self-sufficient, claiming she does not need a partner in order to survive life.

Your answers to these questions can lead to greater self-awareness before dating again:

  • what adds meaning to your life and brings you joy.
  • Could your hobbies and interests lead to a new life path that increases your fulfilment?
  • Did you live up to your potential in your marriage or is it beneficial to explore different areas of opportunity now?
  • Are you clear about your values and expectations with others?
  • How do you nurture yourself and have fun?
  • What have you learned that you do not want to repeat?
  • Are you pursuing your dreams or were they put on the back burner during your past marriage?

Some people feel writing in a journal helps to bring understanding and answers to their issues. Taking up meditation, yoga or other activities has helped others. Some divorcees have taken tours to exotic locales and discovered new insights. If you seem to be losing yourself in relationships and repeating mistakes then see a life coach or therapist to get you unstuck. Hypnotherapy aids in changing faulty self-beliefs and gaining self-awareness.  I have asked friends for brutal honesty and took their comments to heart. The important thing is to truly know yourself before entering into a new relationship post-divorce.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine


Loss of Identity Post-Divorce

When one’s identity was wrapped around the ex, such as being a doctor’s wife, it is especially challenging to reinvent oneself post-divorce. Suddenly the role of being the social director for the office staff and charming sidekick at far flung medical conferences is gone. If you owned a business together, you may lose your job in the divorce, particularly if your wife was the solicitor in the law practice and you had another role. In a divorce, the stay-at-home spouse or one to leave the family business, may get a lump sum for job training. A new trend in collaborative divorce is to bring a career coach on board to determine how much it would cost to get this career training. Or the career coach may assist in determining alimony if one spouse did not work and now has to start over in the job market.

Mary was married to a plastic surgeon and enjoyed the perks that went along with being a doctor’s wife. They entertained, went to extravagant parties and took some nice trips.  She appreciated being able to stay home with their children. Mary was in a devastating car accident and underwent months of rehab therapy. During this time her husband began an affair with his secretary and filed for a divorce before Mary was completely recovered. Mary was blindsided by this and stated that being a doctor’s wife and stay-at-home mum was her whole life. It took a bit of adjusting not to be part of the medical community anymore and have to seek a part-time job. Mary also changed her volunteer venue from the hospital to another one, in order to avoid her ex and was happier with her new choice. It took over a year for Mary to develop a new life. You are more than a job or spouse of a professional.

Tom was a stay-at-home father for their daughter and money became especially tight when she turned nine. There were after school activities and less of a need for one parent to be home. Tom just could not give up his identity of house-husband and this was one factor in his divorce. Much to his family’s dismay, he only held a part-time job for a brief time. He later married a woman who saw herself as the stay-at-home spouse, so this marriage too ended in divorce. Tom is fixated on his house-husband or stay-at-home parent role and still has not adjusted to a change in identity.

Loss of the “Family Man” identity has been difficult for many men when they no longer see their children 24/7. Their work mates change their label from “Married Man” into the category of “Single.” A few men have expressed that they do not see themselves as swinging singles and that their married colleagues have been more distant. Others have indicated that their father role has contracted when they are not hands on every day. Some divorced men in my community have volunteered with Boy Scouts and other youth programs to transform the father role into mentoring others along with their own children.

Several women have expressed anxiety over losing their housewife identity and sense of structure post-divorce. They had a daily and weekly routine of tasks and activities and took great pride in running an efficient household. My older friend was one of these women who felt a bit lost without a schedule, but learned to enjoy having the freedom of not catering to someone else’s needs.

First steps in dealing with loss of identity is to realize that one’s former identity is gone and not coming back. Mourn this change and share these feelings of identity loss with friends. A support system allows you to vent and points out new opportunities on the horizon. Look at other components within your identity, nurturer, events planner, and so forth to develop them for hobbies, jobs or volunteering. See what new tasks you can do for a favorite charity, which is fulfilling and can lead to a paid position. Losing my job in divorce, turned out to be a great thing. Discovered that I had been stuck in a rut, and my job post-divorce is an adventure.

Look at your different roles in life, such as aunt, daughter, and volunteer to expand them. Spend more time with family or become a more involved aunt. When you are losing one identity, seek out new ones, by becoming a member in social, book, religious, political or other groups. The trick is to discover what obstacle is hindering leaving the past behind. Be open to new opportunities and friendships. Getting through an acrimonious divorce made me stronger and more resilient. Find people and activities that support your newly single status. Uncover your hidden interests and talents that will enrich your life.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine




Use Language to Propel You in Right Direction

Language is a powerful tool to enable you to reach goals. Or it can derail you.  Use positive words to point you where you want to go and to achieve your desired outcomes. I f  you want to remember your lunch for work then state it that way, not “I can’t forget my lunch.”  Otherwise you are putting forget and lunch into your brain. Certainly in a divorce situation, you would think, “I have to get the house”  not “Oh, I might lose the house.” Stating what you want is clearer to your divorce attorney. Say what you desire to achieve from asset division or visitation, not what you do not.   With a little practice, it becomes easy. Think where you want to go and phrase words accordingly. Don’t make statements about what you don’t want to happen.

A school district in the US, spent about $40,000.00 writing a conduct code manual which included bullying behavior and consequences. This took months to complete. When the committee went over the final results the whole project had to be scrapped and redone from the beginning. The entire manual contained “don’t” statements, not what students and staff  were to do.  It had behaviors and strategies that were unacceptable, not clear instructions about what was  expected. Using positive language of what is expected is also a more effective way to deal with children.  “Bums in the chair” or “feet on the floor” is clearer than “don’t jump around here.” Even instructions to dogs are positive words for outcomes, “sit” instead of “don’t run around.” Before I used positive language, there was more confusion. I got a call from my  son “where are you?”. I had said that I could NOT pick him up and later he remembered something about picking him up. Stating “walk home from school today” (desired outcome) would have been the way to go. In life, determine your goals and use language in a positive way to help you obtain them. Use upbeat language to help you visualize your dreams.

Buy from a tree farm and help preserve nature

  Think about preserving our open spaces for the wildlife and us to enjoy.  Buy your Christmas tree from a tree farm, particularly smaller family owned ones.  Some people think they are doing their part for the environment by purchasing factory made  Christmas trees and “going green.”  Well, think again.
  Near my house  growing up in the Midwest, was a small, locally owned tree farm.  I would strap on my cross country skis and glide amoung the  firs.  There was a higher concentration of wildlife in this small tree farm and I loved having this bit of nature in the suburbs. It was  in the late  1970’s and artificial trees were in vogue, especially the aluminum ones.  Well you guessed it.  People patronized big box stores instead of this neighborhood oasis of green.  The tree farm couldn’t make it financially without consumers’ support and it closed. It was traumatic seeing it paved over to make a parking lot and several buildings.
  My sons and  I are able to walk down our street and buy trees and wreathes brought in from a small family owned tree farm outside of our city.  The trees are so fresh, that I maybe sweep up 5 pine needles when I take out the live tree in January.  The city recycles these firs for needed  mulch.
  Do you want to support Chinese factories or local families making a living? It’s a no brainer for me.

10 Tips for Getting Through Thanksgiving When Alone

Thanksgiving can be a challenging time especially when going through a divorce or newly widowed.  You may be undecided whether to crawl under your covers or do something more social. If you are experiencing  grief, it compounds the situation. If your children are spending the holiday with your ex, then it can be an extra sad time.  Thanksgiving can be easier if you stay busy.

1. See if there is a singles’ group in your town or church who may be getting together on this day. My local MeetUp. com group is meeting at a fun restaurant for a Thanksgiving Day lunch. This is especially nice when you don’t have the cash or time to travel across the country to be with your family.

2. My sons and I started our new tradition of going to a movie before our feast at home during my divorce. We watch the Macy’s Day Parade, then have a latte near the cinema and see a much anticipated movie. Choose new rituals for this day.  It may be breakfast out and then TV and a hike. New traditions may include  friends.  See what fits for you.

3. Many people volunteer on this day and say they get so much more back than  they give. Classic volunteering is cooking or serving at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. There are other options.  Remember animals still need to be fed, loved and have their cages cleaned at an animal shelter, etc.

4. Go to a restaurant or an upscale grocery store and eat their ready made food at their community table on Thanksgiving. My former  boss goes to Whole Foods and eats turkey while enjoying talking to the others.

5. Shake up your day by having a breakfast feast at a restaurant and  then veg out in front of the  TV. You can do your normal rituals, perhaps in a different order.

6. Have your traditional Thanksgiving Feast, but in a different environment.  If you live in a more tropical area, consider a picnic.

7. Take a trip somewhere, possibly out of the country. If you are on a group tour, there will be camaraderie and a special holiday menu. Or maybe go to a culture that does not celebrate this holiday and do something totally different. This may be the time for your Spa break. I’ve had seafood near the ocean on a Thanksgiving beach vacation.

8. Have an adventure.  Book a trip with Outward Bound or some other outdoor company. Being in nature will recharge your batteries, while distracting you with physical challenges.

9. Remember it is just one day. Get a jump start on writing your Christmas cards or planning your Christmas list.

10. Go through a pile of magazines or save a best-seller book for this day.  If you are staying home, pick up a delectable treat the day before.  Recently read that Thanksgiving as we know it, will be gone in about 5 years, since it is another shopping day already.



Have Laughter & Fun and Live Longer

The health benefits from having fun and laughter are many. Different organizations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to WebMD agree on the same principles that it increases one’s well-being.  I like the following quote from Roald Dahl:

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men.”

When you have fun and laugh, that relaxes your muscles relieving or diminishing chronic pain, by releasing endorphins which are natural pain killers. More oxygen and blood circulate around one’s body increasing blood flow to the heart. The stress hormone, Cortisol is lowered which then aids in improving the quality of sleep.

Norman Cousins wrote the book “Anatomy of an Illness.”  He was incapacitated by a spinal column illness and in great pain. He tried both conventional and more holistic types of remedies without a cure. For one month he closeted himself away and watched comedies and read jokes. After that time period, he presented himself to his stunned doctors who could not find a trace of the disease.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, CTCA, “Laughter Therapy” is an integral part of cancer treatment. Having fun and laughter boosts the Immune System, increasing natural killer cells which destroy tumor cells.   Laughter aids is boosting one’s positive outlook on life, which is important particularly when facing challenges like cancer or life transitions such as divorce. Having fun connects you to others and various studies have shown the positive affect of socialization on longevity.

Go to a comedy, have lattes with friends, go to Disneyland as I did right before my divorce. Think of what you enjoyed in the past and view this as just what the doctor has ordered, to increase your well-being.


10 Ways to Deal with the Empty Nest Syndrome

The Empty Nest Syndrome is especially challenging for single parents who now have a quiet house. When one has recently gone through a divorce or loss of a spouse, it can be traumatic. Expect to mourn for a loss of what was and may never be again. You may go through the anger and eventually moving on to acceptance. This is the time to reinvent yourself and rediscover long lost passions.

1. Start a group up of other Empty Nesters for support and fun.  Tina, a stay-at-home mom, was bereft when her youngest went off to college. This came about when her oldest son was about to get married and possibly move to another city. She called the mothers of her son’s classmates and formed a group that met once a month.  At first it was for tears, but now it is teas and laughter. They claim that getting together is much cheaper than therapy and full of companionship.

2. Wait and do big projects after your kid goes off to school. This is the time to organize and clean out your basement or garage. I bought some bins and shelves and it is easy to find gardening supplies, holiday items plus much more in my garage now.

3.  Expand your social or professional networks. I joined two groups and have coffee or go to events every week. The intelligent women are stimulating and now we are discussing quantum physics over lattes. I am a new member of Toastmasters International to make me a more effective speaker. There are many other groups to choose.

4. Challenge yourself and build self-esteem. Join an Outward Bound Expedition in your own back yard or across the globe.  UK charities in particular have fundraisers in far flung places. One charity had a trek up Mt Kilimanjaro and several women raved how that boosted their self-esteem and independence post-divorce. Other charities have had hikes in Vietnam, Costa Rica, and other exotic locales.

5.  Start back to school for pleasure courses (cooking) or to advance your career. I am currently taking a computer course at our community college. One woman went back to school for her teaching degree just as her youngest was leaving for college.  She claimed that she barely had time to think about having an Empty Nest.

6.  Have a foreign exchange student live with you for a few months or even a year. You have someone there who needs your maternal advice and care. You will learn about their culture and may end up with another family member for life.  One mother said after all of the lunches and laundry, this kid will be in her life forever. She has made several trips to Italy and stayed with his family.

7.  Start an exercise program. The boost in endorphins will be an added benefit to your fit body.

8.  Take a trip with a spouse or your pals.  It could be the European river cruise that you’ve dreamed of or a spa weekend with the girls. This is the time to visit your college roommate or other friends.  They may be facing the same challenge as you.

9.  Schedule something fun for immediately after your child leaves.  I had a pampering facial just hours after mine left. The next morning a friend met me for lattes and another friend for a movie later. It is easier if you have something fun to look forward to at least for a few days.

10. Volunteer and give something back to others. This helps you to be less focused on yourself and your own misery. I started volunteering for a cat rescue group right before my son left for college. On Tuesdays I clean, cuddle and feed the kitties and feel so happy and energized afterwards. Another Empty Nester volunteers at the community garden. You could also foster dogs or cats in your home.

Happiness and Meaning in Life

Viennese Viktor Frankl was sent to a concentration camp with some family members and he wrote about this ordeal in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While imprisoned he discovered that others who had meaning in life were more apt to survive.  Frankl stated the Nazis could not take away one’s attitude, outlook on life.  He met several men who gave up and were waiting to die. Frankl delved into their lives and found out what was important to them, waiting on the outside.  For one it was a family member safely tucked away from harm, and the other had a special project that was left unfinished.  These two men then became determined to live.  The Center for Disease Control said that 4 out of 10 Americans  have not discovered their meaning in life and that negatively affects their health.

What is the difference between just having happiness or having meaning/purpose in life?  You are happy because you have money to buy expensive gadgets and goods.  If something took those away, then happiness fades.  Having meaning in life is more lasting, not the here and now of happiness without a purpose.  Meaning in life is more enduring, things may not be great now, but you are reaching out to others and enlarging your supportive social network. Frankl stated that the more one is focused outside of yourself  – reaching out to others – the more human you are. Most people that I interviewed, claimed that they got more out of volunteering, than the recipients did.

Since happiness is a more transient feeling there are ways to boost its level every day.  Spend your money on having experiences, rather than on more material goods.  Think about travel for example.  You open your eyes and mind to new cultures, sights and ideas which in turn can be life changing.  You can bond with your kids and have forever memories.

Make a list of what you enjoy doing and gives you pleasure.  Then schedule these on a weekly basis in your calendar.  It may be going out for lattes or margaritas with the girls or perhaps a stroll around a museum.  Pick some free activities, such as a picnic or hike in a leafy area.  Just thinking about what you were happy about that day can give you a more positive outlook in life.

Returning to the Workplace During Divorce

The April 11, 2013  New York Times newspaper’s magazine section had an article by Judith Warner that discussed returning to work after a long hiatus raising children. Some of the women were facing divorce and had to jump back into the workplace.  A question was raised, is it better to get a job during the divorce or wait until it has ended. A woman’s divorce attorney told her “Before you do anything, you get a job.  You have to look at the next 30 years of your life, and if you are in control of the situation, and you have a job that’s paying you money, he’s going to be far less powerful over you in the divorce.”

Before my divorce, I was forced out of my job in our jointly owned business. My divorce attorney also insisted that I immediately find employment. Besides earning a little extra cash in this part-time position, it helped keep my sanity intact and gave me more power in my divorce proceedings.  Since it was far less income than co-owning a business, it may have given me more leverage in my alimony amount. One hurdle with determining alimony is that it can be calculated on what you can potentially earn, even if out of the workplace for many years.  It is a toss up  if quickly finding any old job during a divorce helps with increased alimony, but it can boost self-esteem.

The article discussed how women may be able to get back into the job market.  Schools are great places to network with well placed parents who have contacts in one’s field. One woman said that she did not even have to fill out a resume because these parents knew her talents and a job materialized. Warner stated “those who hadn’t been sufficiently strategic in their volunteering often struggled greatly.” Listing volunteer fund-raising efforts at schools and clubs can especially put one in the path of nonprofit organizations.

It would be interesting to hear what divorce attorneys around the country advise clients about getting a job during their divorce.



Bobbi Brown’s tips for life

In Bobbi Brown’s new book,” Beauty Rules”, she has nuggets of wisdom which apply to all of us.

She states to “be nice” and that “you must be kind to others”. Also to “tell the truth”. She said “to take risks”, giving the example of going to NYC, without contacts and making cold calls to people in the beauty industry  .Bobbi  Brown said ” never give up”, even working for free on a trial basis to show your skills.

“Be on time” and “be open” to whatever may be coming your way. Feel your passion and to “care about something”, whether it’s animals, the environment or whatever. She suggests “giving back” by finding a cause and that is special to you. Bobbi Brown advocates “working hard” even if this means starting from the very bottom and working your way up the corporate ladder. “Look people in the eyes” to show your confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it at the moment. Bobbi Brown learned that looking and feeling pretty matters to one’s self esteem.

I am helped by reading of successful people’s struggles and the wisdom that they learned along the way. So many people have nuggets of wisdom that we can incorporate into our own lives, whether they are celebrities or a valued elderly neighbor.

Tips for dealing with Sexual Harassment

If you are dealing with  sexual harassment at work and want to nip it in the bud, here are some suggestions.
1.  Ask around, is it just directed at you, or are there other victims?  Go to the offender’s supervisor, or to HR, enmass.  There is more crediblity with a group complaint.
2.  If you think the offender is just plain stupid , then talk to him and let him know that the line has been crossed. Possibly just educating the clueless one will do the trick.  He may erroneously think that you are “one of the guys”.
3.  Keep meticulous  records with times and dates of what happened.
4.  Use a sense of humor to set the record straight.
5.  Consult an attorney, if all else fails.
I read how an ingenius group of women, who worked in a factory, handled this issue.  The floor supervisor would come around and sexually proposition the female workers individually. They talked amoung themselves and realized that they were all his victims.  They decided to take matters in their own hands and stop the problem once and for all.  Their plan was when the supervisor would come around to talk to someone, all of them would shut off their machines to make it quieter.  The victim would yell, whatever the proposition was, like  ” you want to do what to me?”  They knew it would be especially difficult for the first couple of women.  Soon, the  men also turned off their machines when it happened and laughed whenever the supervisor tried his tricks.  After a short while, the supervisor gave up and mainly stayed in his office overlooking the factory floor. Try being creative to avoid a lengthy lawsuit.