Archive | September, 2011

And the Universe Answers Again . . .

30 Sep

I have admitted to many of my friends that I feel that my life is incomplete.  I have so much in my life and I am very busy enjoying every aspect of it but I feel like something is missing.   I have admitted that what I really want now is someone to share my life with – someone to share my son and all of the amazing things he says and does.  I want someone to enjoy the meals that I love to cook – I want someone to share my happiness.

In all honesty,  I feel really weird about this strong desire for a relationship, for a boyfriend.   I have a socially full life and I am so very independent – so why does an independent woman like me desire a man in her life to complete her? Isn’t this the very antithesis of why women have become so independent – to free us from being bound by an unfulfilling relationship?

Growing up, my mom, who did not have a higher education or a career told me almost everyday that I will go to college and get a degree so I do not ever have to rely on  a man.  Little did she know at the time (30+ years ago) that her daily mantra influenced me to have a career and was one of the most important gifts that she gave me – my economic freedom.  She prepared me for my freedom to walk away from an abusive husband.  Now that I have this freedom from a relationship that nearly destroyed me – why the heck these several years later would I want to seek  another relationship where my freedom could be jeopardized?  If I have such a full life, why is finding a boyfriend such a strong focus of my inner life?

I’ve been struggling with this thought for weeks now – but I have concluded that  it is human nature to want to be a part of something greater, to be attracted to another person and to spend time with that person.  To want to evetually form a tribe with that person (a family with that person).  I’ve accepted that I’m okay with this focus and that it is an important focus.

I have been using an on-line dating tool and I was griping the other day to a friend that I feel like the on-line dating tool isn’t as romantic as meeting someone at a party or through a friend or any other spontaneous way people meet in their life.  AND I am starved for romance and I want to meet someone in a romantic way.

Ask and it Shall be Given.  The very next day after griping to my friend – I met a man in a very spontaneous and extraordinary way! I met a man in the elevator of my office building!  We both walked onto the elevator in the lobby of the building.  There are 35 floors of my office building.  I work on the 19th floor and he works on the 9th floor.  We do not work for the same company but we have the same degree.  By the time the 9th floor doors opened, this gentleman asked me my full name!  Within an hour – he had located my information on Linkedin and through my company’s main operator.  He called and left a message for me at my office and sent me a message on LinkedIn.   I have a date with him next week!

All I did was ask the Universe to have me meet someone in a romantic way – and the universe once again delivered.  I am a believer in the power of prayer.  I’m also a believer that every opportunity comes with a lesson.   I am ready to learn from this  lesson the universe is about to teach me (and excited about it too!).

Monkey Bars

28 Sep

In NYC, there are many options for elementary school. I know that my son will be attending a public school and I thought it would be the one located two blocks from our apartment – part of the reason we moved to this building earlier this year! 

 I recently learned that there are free schools and programs for “gifted” children that my son can test into (if he scores high enough on some standardized test). I know that my son is pretty special (what parent doesn’t think their kid is pretty special)  so  I decided to apply to some of these programs. Since I made the decision to apply to these programs, I noticed that I have become very anxious! So anxious that I had to stop and remind  myself  that these tests are for KINDGERGARTEN – not Harvard (although you would think they were by some of the applications).

I then tried to think about why I am anxious about this process and the more I thought about it, I realized it was because I have been recalling my experience in a program for “gifted” children. I was very stressed in the program, I felt very insecure and I was very nervous — all of the time. I projected that experience onto my son – even before he was tested for these “gifted” programs – which by the way, are very different than the program I attended in 1988! In projecting my experience onto my son, I also assumed that my son is just like me.  This is the first thing I was wrong about.  My son is his own person and comprised differently than I am (well not genetically, since we look alike and both love books).  My son helped me correct this misinterpretation on Saturday during an experience in the playground and by observing him during swimming lessons.

1. He has a competitive edge – in swimming class he rushed to be the first person to reach the other side of the pool during the class warm up – I could tell he was looking around to make sure he beat everyone. (I would never think that the warm up was a competition)
2. He is confident. He raises his hand in swim class to give an answer and volunteers to be the first person to try a new move. ( I was always shy about volunteering to be the first one (and still am so today!)
3. He doesn’t give up – even if something is difficult – he will try again. 

After swimming class we went to the playground and I noticed my son was climbing the monkey bars (I was about to tell him he was too small to reach for them but when I got to him he fell down!). I was so frightened that he might have broken a bone – it’s a long fall for a little guy!  He was crying hysterically. I picked him up and brought him to my lap and he continued to cry; however, I could not locate even one bruise! When I asked him what was wrong – he just continued to cry. So, I asked him if he wanted to climb the monkey bars  again – he said yes and stopped crying! He immediately went to try climb to the top and when it was time to reach for the bars – he asked me to help him. He didn’t want to give up. Even though he fell, he got right back up again and tried it again.

This observation made me aware that I should not project my anxiety and experience in the “gifted” program onto my son. He is a different person than I am (and was) and he has different strengths and weaknesses. My job as his parent is to identify those strengths and weaknesses and to nurture them so he may grow to his fullest potential as a man.

I am grateful that my son taught me that lesson on the Monkey Bars and that I was wise enough to listen. I’m also grateful that my son learned his lesson from the Monkey Bars and asked for my help as he tried to make it across after taking a pretty hard fall.

The Day I Lost My Identity

27 Sep

I couldn’t sleep this past weekend.  My mind was a whirl with all of the things I have to do over the next few weeks (I am feeling overwhelmed with trying to find a balance between my responsibilities at work, at home and to my self care).

 At about 3 am on Saturday night I decided to watch a movie – I ended up selecting “Everybody’s Fine.”  Strong celebrities are featured in it including Robert DeNiro.  I found the movie to be incredibly sad on two counts (1) Robert DeNiro’s character reminded me very much of my dad and (2) I could identify with Robert DeNiro’s desire to see his children and make sure they were happy.

One of the things that his daughter, played by Drew Barrymore, asked Robert DeNiro’s character was what did he want to be when he grew up.  He responded with I didn’t really have a dream – I just wanted my children to have one.  This made me think very much of my parents.  My parents, I believe, made many sacrifices for my sister and I (and continue to do so) at their expense.   I know they did it because they loved us so much but part of me thinks that being a parent became their identity.  I think that in many cases their sense of self is entirely or largely derived from being a parent.

I will never forget the day I thought my identity was lost.  It was at my son’s daycare center where one of the parents referred to me as “son’s” mommy.  This made me feel like I had lost my identity and the essence of who I was.  It felt to me that I was no longer an individual but insead identified as my child’s mother. 

In order to preserve my identity as a mommy, I have done several diffeerent things including running, reading and decorating our apartment to be a more contempory home.  Sometimes, I think I am selfish for wanting to explore my interests (outside of my son) because I believe any time away from him is selfish and at his detriment.   Nonetheless, I think that if i did not have the little free time I have come to enjoy as a result of my son’s visitation schedule, I may have truly lost my identity (in my inner life) and would not have an identity outside of being my son’s mother, my husband’s wife.  I felt like I lost myself during my marriage.  Now that I have had an opportunity to explore my interests on my free time I’ve learned that I don’t want to lose myself in my child.  I want us to grow together.   I don’t want to use my parental role to become more complete.  I want to be complete as a person and as my son’s mother. I find that the time away and my outside interests have enhanced all of the relationships around me and I believe that it will enhance my relationship with my son as he learns to appreciate my “outside” interests.

Relationships after Divorce

23 Sep

I’ve been divorced for over 1 year now and separated from my ex-husband for almost three years. In that time I have had experiences dating two very different men – both obviously were not the right people for me.  Now I’m trying the on-line dating thing and also keeping a look-out for a quality person in my day-to -day life (as many single women know a difficult task – where are all the good men?).   During all of this, I keep asking myself – what is the end game for me? 

Before I was married  the end game was MARRIAGE – FAMILY.    I’m still rebuilding myself after my attempt at a marriage nearly destroyed my spirit. I have a child from my prior marriage who I absolutely adore and love – So, I keep asking myself what is the end game for me in seeking out a relationship with a man at this point? Is it really marriage and building of a family?

While I was dating the prior gentleman he had hinted several times that he was interested in a future with me and my son.  I couldn’t picture having him join our life and our home in such a definitive way.  My son and I have been by ourselves  since he was an infant and allowing someone to join our family is a very serious decision for me.  Maybe this gentleman wasn’t the right person for me and that is why I couldn’t see building a life with him – but that experience has left me questioning myself as to what I’m seeking from another person.

I’ve known several people who were able to move on to another serious relationship (or even get ready to be married again) before their divorce was even final.  They even join their children together and have more children together. I think this is a beautiful and natural experience but I wonder – is this the experience for me?  

What I do know is that what I really want to experience before I could even consider another union with a man is to experience the ability to trust a man with my whole true self, with my emotional self and with my son. I want to be confident that when this man says he’ll take care of me – he means it and will be there for me in everyway a man should be there for a woman in his life.

The ability to trust a man is a start of a relationship for me – and that’s really all I know I want right now.

Best Advice for A Single Mom (or any Mom, really) – Be Efficient

20 Sep

I made a decision to move to New York City from the suburbs last year because I knew that I would be able to manage my life a bit better without having to depend on my family too much.  When I moved to the city I found an apartment close to my office and a daycare center right near my office.  As a result, my son and I spend a lot more time together than we did when I was living in the suburbs.

As Moms we need to multitask so many things in order to take care of our family and our home.  We need to shop for food, cook meals, keep the home clean, do laundry, prepare our children for school, prepare lunches, give baths, read bedtime stories and take care of children when they  wake up scared at night or when they fall ill.  If you work outside the home, you need to add another level of “things to do” to this list of things to do – an 8 to 10 hour job.   After the job and the childcare, if you want to remain sane, you need to add things for yourself to the list, like watch a movie, read a book, or go to the gym.

Many people ask me how I manage to do everything I do in a day for myself, my job and my family without a partner.  Here are the things I found that work for me:

1.  Embrace Technology: Almost all aspects of my life are now intertwined with technology (besides this blog).  I do most of my shopping on-line and have everything delivered to my home (www.amazon.com and www.oldnavy.com are very convenient shopping websites).  I take advantage of free shipping options on almost every order.  I even have my groceries delivered to my home (www.freshdirect.com).  I also use my computer as an online tool to keep a behavior chart for my son (see www.goalforit.com).   I monitor my running progress via my garmin forerunner watch and load them up to a website which keeps track of my progress for me automatically.  I keep an electronic calendar on my handheld device – so I keep track of all of the things I have to do. 

2.  Organized/Keep to a Schedule.   My home is very organized.  Everything has its place.  My son is also aware of this rule and he puts his things away (after prompting and a little help from CityMama).  I keep him to a consistent schedule and routine which always allows me to have  few minutes in the evening to myself.  I also keep an electronic shopping list and update it before I go shopping so I don’t have to repeat making my list each time (this has been a life saver).  I also keep a list on my refrigerator door and  in my purse so I can write down what I need to do or things to pick up as the week goes by (thinking about converting this list to my handheld device as well).

3.  Keep up with My passion.  My passion is running and fitness.  In order to fit these things into my life, I wake up before my son does and I workout to some pretty good dvds in my bedroom (approximately 28 minute workouts) two – three times a week.  My favorite workouts are by Jillian Michaels – Ripped in 30.  I get a full body challenging workout and work up a nice sweat in less than a half hour.  I find the time to run at any day (as I always have my running stuff with me).  In addition, when I’m feeling like I need some Zen, I turn to ExerciseTV’s Yoga videos (I either watch them on Demand on my telelvision for free or I run them from www.exercisetv.com).  Running is my true passion and I try to fit in a run twice a week in Central Park for about 30-40 minutes at the end of the workday before I pick up my son.  I also fit in a longer run on the weekends – wherever I am.  Finding time to exercise is very important to me and I try my best to fit exercise in almost everyday and carry my running shoes with me so if there is time for a run – I can get it in.

4.  Cook/Plan Meals on Sunday.  On Sunday and Monday, I prepare a few meals for the week.  These meals are usually healthy meals for my son and I to bring for lunch and have for dinner during the work week.  For example, this week I prepared the following dishes: macaroni and cheese (made mainly of pureed winter squash); lentil soup; quinoa with rainbow swisschard, carrots and onions in a parsley hazelnut pesto.  I also make hummus cucumber sandwiches on a moment’s notice!  Coordinating cooking with online food shopping is really helpful so you can review the recipes that you want to cook for the week and place the order.

5. Stay Focused.  When at the office, I am focused on the office.  When I’m home, I do my best to stay focused on my son and our home life (difficult with a blackberry but manageable if you are  enlightened and only look at the blackberry occasionally – still working on this).

What are the helpful hints that other mom’s could use in order to manage their time more efficiently?  If you have some great tips – please do share!

Placing My Focus to Be More Positive

17 Sep

Have you ever noticed that if you focus your thoughts on something, no matter how minor, like, let’s say an itchy spot on your body and bring your attention to it, it becomes even more itchy?  I find that my emotions are like that too.  If I place my focus on the feeling of loneliness, sadness and hopelessness  – each of these emotions grows in my inner life more than such emotions probably deserve or would normally exist if I didn’t give it that focus.

I have been trying to watch when my focus turns to these negative emotions and address them daily – but it is so difficult! 34+ years of thinking  a certain way makes me feel, at times, like it is impossible to change!  I was a raised in a household where the motto was “Expect the worse, hope for the best”… As a result of this daily mantra in my home, I lived my entire life expecting something bad was going to happen to me and hoping that it wouldn’t.  No wonder I was such an anxious child and adult!

I realized several years ago that this mantra is part of the reason I am so practiced in thinking negatively and I have been working for many years on trying to be a more positive person.  As a result, I try not to place my focus on negative thoughts about my life’s journey but instead I try to ascribe more positive meaning to the facts of my life.  This has been a very difficult practice – especially since negative expectations were ingrained in my consciouness since childhood.  I know that anxious edge I constantly felt in my core has lifted since I stopped thinking that I should “expect the worse”; however, ascribing more positive thoughts to my life’s reality has truly been a challenge. 

In observing my thoughts and practicing positive thinking, I noticed that I am have become satisfied with almost all aspects of my life now except one – my thoughts continue to be focused on my failure to find that special someone to enjoy my life with, wondering why I am unable to connect with that special someone, why have I failed in choosing the right person to spend my time with.   

I am curious as to why I have allowed this one small aspect (but maybe it is not so small) to impact me so greatly.  Why have I allowed this one aspect to take over my daily mood, my daily thoughts, my entire essence? Why is my focus placed on this one void – when I am so fulfilled in every other aspect?

Are we meant, as humans, to be partnered up with someone? Is this the only way we can feel totally fullfilled? Is there really such thing as a being “made” for someone – or is this just where we place our focus?  When I was married I used to tell myself I didn’t believe in any of those romantic notions – but now that I’ve been single for a long time – I think I only said that because I was disappointed in who I had chosen to be linked to for my entire life.  Now that I’m single – my focus is placed on wanting that romantic love and of feeling unfulfilled without it. 

In order to feel positive about being single and taking my focus away from the hopeless thoughts that I should “expect the worst” , i.e that I will never meet anyone special, that I will be single for the rest of my life, that I may never feel that love and emotional safety that I want so badly to feel from a partner – I have been working on focusing my thoughts on how great it is that this is the first time in my life that I am taking care of myself, working on building my self-confidence and working on finding the things in life that fulfill me (outside of a partner).  Most people aren’t given this opportunity and I was given it – I need to view this time as life’s gift to me.  I hope that placing my focus on these positive thoughts will quiet the feelings of loneliness and hopelessness and allow for a more positive view of this time in my life to take growth – just like that itchy spot.

The Working Poor

16 Sep

The Census Bureau released the results of the 2010 census this week and the statistics are staggering.  It has been reported that almost 1 in 6 Americans are living below the poverty line.  The actual number of Americans living below the poverty line is “46.2 million people and was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it” (see the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/us/14census.html).   Poverty in the United States is measured by comparing the annual income with the federal poverty standard which the federal government updates annually for inflation.  In 2010, the official poverty guidelines were $10,830 for an individual, $14,570 for a family of 2, $22,050 for a family of 4.

What we haven’t seen in the news is the demographics of the 46.2 million Americans living below the poverty line.  We must be curious  – who does this number include? women? children? men? elderly? and what are the percentages of each demographic included in that number?  I know that poverty transcends gender, age and in this economic climate, even education levels.  Nonetheless, a study of these statistics reveals that this economic crisis has impacted women more than men.

Today, I learned that the poverty rates for single mothers was 40.7% in 2010 as compared to single dads which was 24.2%.  That means that there was a 68% greater rate for single mother families to be living below the poverty line than single father families.  Many of the women included in the 40.7% number are working mothers trying to make ends meet and finding it virtually impossible in this economic climate.

This statistics are unacceptable.  We live in the richest country in the world and we have 46.2 million Americans earning less than $22,000 a year for their family.  I urge you to think about this when you vote in the coming elections, I urge you to think about the organizations that you donate your charitable dollars and to focus your attention on organizations that have plans to help get Americans, single moms, back to work.

I volunteer with an organization whose mission is to “achieve sustained economic security and justice for women and girls” right here in New York City.  They achieve their mission by granting funds that they have raised to organizations in New York City that provide resources and services to transform the conditions of poverty for women and girls. 

There is no time like now to support not for profits with mission statements similar to this one in your communities.  Support them with your dollars, with your time, with your talents.  If you’d like to learn more about the organization I volunteer with – I would be happy to share that information with you.  I read once that the fastest way to make change in the world is to empower woman.  If we want to see change in our community, in our country – we need to empower woman and help them find gainful employment so that they may support their families.

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