Friday, February 26, 2010

Sleep Deprivation

I woke up around 4:30 this morning and could not go back to sleep. I tossed and turned; I counted sheep; I prayed; I said the 23 Psalm; I did yoga breathing and nothing helped. I let my thoughts wander and lay awake until the alarm went off at 6:00 and then I had to get up and be ready for work. While my thoughts did wander, I thought about sleep deprivation through one of my streams of consciousness, and decided I need to write about this. You see, for many years I was in the field of education. During my early years, there were many nights I was up late as there just wasn't enough time in the day, so it seemed, to accomplish everything that had to be completed. But the realization finally hit me, that when I didn't get enough sleep, I did not give my best to my family, nor to my students and fellow faculty members and I did not accomplish as much when I was tired. I decided sleep had to become a priority.

Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night according to research and while there are those who sometimes claim to need less, research now shows that these people are sleep deprived and do not perform well on simple tasks. Also, those who sleep less than or more than the prescribed hours on an on going basis, tend to die younger than those who sleep the 7-8 hours. (Information from the Mayo Clinic website.) Additionally, children need much more sleep than we do as adults. I found an easy chart for babies at and the number of hours infants and toddlers need is far more than most children actually get these days.

Because my early morning thoughts turned to lack of sleep I recalled those years before when I so consciously guarded my sleep and since I would be substitute teaching today and didn't want to be grumpy with my students I was concerned about being unable to return to sleep. Which led to me then thinking about choosing happiness. How can anyone choose happiness if they are sleep deprived? And how can you expect your children to be happy if they are sleep deprived? Maybe we could be a kinder nation if we all bothered to get enough sleep each night. We spend a lot of time running around from activity to activity, from chore to chore, and once we are exhausted we collapse into bed after yelling at the kids to go to bed, falling into a fitful sleep from which we know we will be awakened in far too short of time. And if this pattern goes on and on, your effectiveness as a parent, as a friend, worker, etc. will diminish. However, if you make sleep a priority, maybe you will find yourself accomplishing more and your relationships improving. I encourage you to make an all out effort for you and your children. Having troubled bedtimes with the kids? There are many websites which offer lots of effective ideas, but most importantly, remember, you are the parent and you have the final word. The Babycenter website warns against thinking your child does not need as much sleep as recommended. Children who can't fall asleep at night are generally sleep deprived. So take some time in your journal to come up with some new bedtime routines for the family and see if you can't help everyone have a happier day! Choose happiness by giving yourself the chance to be rested.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Southwestern Black Bean Casserole

Thursday is recipe day! This is one of my favorite casseroles of all time. I adapted it from a recipe that appeared in Sage, an insert in the Albuquerque Journal, many years ago. It is an easy dish, and healthy if you follow the suggestions in my notes. I hope you and your family or friends will enjoy it!

1 pound lean ground beef, turkey or chicken breast strips (which is my favorite)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can of black beans (or double and cut back on the meat or add no meat to make this a vegetarian dish)

1 8 ounce can tomato sauce

1 Tbs. chile powder

1 can Ro*tel

2 cups of broken tortilla chips (this uses up the "crumbs" in the bottom of the bag)

1 cup light Daisy Sour Cream

1/2 cup scallions

1 - 2 cups of grated Monterey Jack Cheese

1 cup lettuce, shredded

3/4 cup of grape tomatoes sliced in half

(NOTE: I use baked tortilla chips to cut down on the calories. Choose turkey or chicken to additionally lower the calorie count. I choose Daisy brand sour cream because I know it has no chemicals and is TRUE sour cream. [Compare labels next time you shop!] I use real cheese, but the lower end of the amount listed above so I get the flavor, satisfaction, and richness of cheese without too many calories. I always feel like the low fat cheeses don't satisfy and it takes more to get the "taste" of cheese. )

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Brown the meat in a large skillet; add garlic and saute until tender. Drain off any fat. Stir in beans, tomato sauce, chile powder, and Ro*tel. Heat to boiling. Place broken chips in bottom of casserole. Top with bean and meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 15 mins until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Spread sour cream over top. Sprinkle with scallions. Serve with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I wrote a blog some time ago about laughing clubs. I had read an article, or maybe it was in a book, but it told about these clubs in India that are laughing clubs. The idea is everyone gets together and laughs! Laughter is healing and it really is the "best medicine." One of my readers came across that entry recently and made a comment about starting a club so the topic has been on my mind again. I can think of no better way to spend a little time than laughing.

We recently invited a young single mom to live with us until she finishes her semester of college. Her mother, whom she had been living with, moved away, and she just needed a place to stay until May, we have two empty rooms upstairs and so offered them to her and her 17 month old daughter. This little girl loves to laugh and makes me realize just how contagious laughing really is when you are around it. Laughing is great for the soul.

If you have not felt like laughing much, and can't seem to make yourself laugh, rent some funny movies and get after it. Laughter has actually been proven to heal and what do you need now more than anything? Healing from your pain. You might also try watching some YouTube. There always seems to be plenty there to make a person laugh! In your journal, write about an incident that made you laugh. Also, make a list of funny movies and when you get down, take the time to watch one and cheer up! Or better yet, get a group of friends together and form your own laughing club. It wouldn't hurt and could help you to choose happiness!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poor me!

"Ah, poor pitiful me. My story is so sad, my life is so hard, I am the only one who knows this pain, this despair, or these difficulties. Poor, poor, me."

Could this be you? We have all had moments of self-pity and divorce can certainly make us feel this way, but if a case of feeling sorry for yourself goes on and on and on, you are doing yourself no favors, and will find happiness pretty difficult to come by. When you feel sorry for yourself you cannot see that you are not alone, that others have been where you are and have survived and thrived, because all you can see is how bad you think your life is and the belief entrenches in your head that it can never be better. In other words, if you think your life is terrible, it is terrible and it will be terrible. Feeling sorry for yourself will never allow you to heal or move forward with your life. It will keep you stuck in a sucking quagmire of pity. And you know, it's kind of a selfish mode of being because you want others to feel sorry for you too! None of us know the problems and difficulties others are dealing with and though their difficulties may not be the same as yours, they can be just as burdensome and painful as yours; they just aren't pleading for the sympathy of others. It becomes very difficult to be around someone who can't move on because they suck the life right out of you. And the worst, is when they ask you for solutions and then tell you why the solution won't work for them. That is the ultimate pitiful person. Don't let this be you. Each day take time to look around you and see the difficulties others face. You have your health? Then think about someone who lives in dire pain each day. You have a roof over your head? Then think about someone who lives on the streets. You have food everyday? Think about someone who is starving. Look and listen to those in your circle of friends and consider that what might seem great on the outside, could be hiding some very difficult problems. Listening can be the key here. When you become full of self pity, you often are not listening to others on any level because everything in your mind is about you and your problems. Philippians 2:3 states: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than yourself." When you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you can put empty conceit behind you, (it is conceit to think you are the only one with problems) you can feel empathy for others, and you can begin to feel a burden lift from your shoulders. Write in your journal all you have to be grateful for and how you might begin to stop feeling sorry for yourself. If this has been you for some time, it will take some time to pull yourself out of that pity, and begin to celebrate all the good that life really has to offer you. You may also find yourself enjoying the company of others again, because maybe they aren't ducking for cover when they see you coming! Choosing happiness has to include ending the pity party!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wonder! Wonder! Wonder!

Have you ever noticed a child in wonder at something in the world? Children can become engrossed in something so simple or so small, their excitement evident on their little faces, but as adults, we often have quit enjoying the wonder of the world and miss out on the simple pleasures a child can find incredible. Webster's defines wonder in the verb form as: "1. To feel amazement or admiration. 2. To feel curiosity or uncertainty. 3. To feel inquisitive or uncertain about." When was the last time you felt wonder at anything? A long time? I encourage you then to take time today to be in wonder at something! Anything! Snow still on the ground where you live? Go harvest some flakes and look at them under a magnifying glass! Spring beginning to show signs? Take a moment to consider the bud on a tree or the first bulbs that produce a flower! Turn on your computer this morning? Those of us old enough to remember a typewriter might still wonder at the glory of the invention! And if nothing else, if you turned on a light in your home this morning, isn't electricity wonderful? Our lives are full of wonder if we pause to take a moment and notice. Take some time today, and everyday, to wonder at this amazing world we live in. Write about the small wonders in your life, or write about a time that filled you with wonder, but wonder!!! Yes, I am exclamating all over the place today because wonder makes us do that! Have a wonderful day and choose happiness!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Just a short note today readers! I heard this somewhere recently, "If happiness is what you want, happiness is what you get!" And isn't that the truth? Happiness requires that you want it by taking on the attitude of happiness and though every moment of every day is not going to be happy, if we have a happy attitude it's going to go a long way towards helping you "get" happiness. When we think our life is bad, it is bad. When we think it will never get better, well it won't. Happiness comes when we look at life in a positive manner. Take a negative in your life and turn it around in your head and before you know it, the negative doesn't look so bad. This is where the journal writing can really help you out. Write about something that is really getting you down. Take time to look for the hidden blessing or the "what if it was worse" and find what can make you feel grateful! We live in a country of so much plenty, so many opportunities, that it is well within your reach to take every negative and turn it around. Have a happy day! You are breathing, you are alive! Celebrate! Choose Happiness!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beer Butt Chicken

Here is the second whole chicken recipe as promised. This is beer butt chicken! The picture does not do justice to how crispy and golden the skin on this chicken turned out, but cooking one this way makes for a fully browned and deliciously moist chicken.

Again, for those of you who have never prepared a chicken before, please check out this site for step by step preparation instructions: It is really important that you have that clean work surface and that you clean thoroughly once finished. I always prepare mine in the sink. I clean it well first, then ready the chicken. Once I put it in the crock pot or oven, I then go back and clean the sink again with a bacterial cleanser to be sure I have left no juices behind to contaminate something else.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. After you have prepared your chicken, stuff the seasoning of your choice under the skin. I used garlic on this one and some kosher salt. Open a cheap can of beer, drink 1/3 of the contents (or pour out that much) and then, in an oven proof deep skillet or roasting pan without the rack, slide your chicken onto the beer can and arrange the legs so that you have a tripod effect with the chicken standing up. Rub the skin with a little olive oil, and place in hot oven for 15 mins. Turn temperature to 350 degrees and cook an additional 1 3/4 hours, or about 20 minutes per pound total. That initial 425 degrees is to crisp up the outer skin a bit.

When chicken is done and juices are running clear, remove from the oven being careful not to tip the bird over. Allow chicken to sit for at least ten minutes to settle the juices. Then take either a pot holder or several layers of paper towels in one hand and heavy tongs in the over and while holding the bird with the tongs over the pan, pull the can out from the chicken. There will still be beer in the can so this is a bit messy. This is easiest if you have a helper, but you can do it yourself. If someone is helping me, I usually grab the bird and lift it up as someone pulls out the can.

Place chicken on serving platter and carve. I like to serve this with rice and a vegetable, and you can make a gravy from the drippings in the pan if you like. Use leftovers for sandwiches.

This is a tasty, moist chicken and fun to make. Kids especially like to see the chicken sitting up in the pan so be sure they see the fun!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Problem or an Opportunity

Sometimes a God ordained opportunity comes as a really well disguised problem. (paraphrased from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson.) I wrote this down sometime ago and don't know the page number, but then in my journal wrote how divorce can be just this, a problem with a God opportunity attached. You may feel you are in a pit of despair, but maybe out of that despair will rise a greater opportunity in God that you never knew possible before. When we have problems in our lives, God does not expect us to sit back and lie down, he expects us to use it, to grow and learn, and guess what, that can be exactly what happens after divorce. I take great comfort in this verse: "God sometimes uses sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek eternal life." 2 Corinthians 7:10 (TLB) My own experience tells me this is true. My sorrow has led me to now seek him out.

I was headed down a Godless road in my first marriage. I married someone without the same vision of God in his life as I had in mine, and his vision won out in the end. I did not stick to the path and I was led down a very rocky road for a long time, which at any time I could have stopped, but did not. I stopped believing in God and well, sort of shook my fist at him and said you can't possibly be there or this would not be my life. When things got really bad in the end, and our almost 23 year marriage ended in divorce there was a part of me that was horrified, and a part relieved. I never knew where I stood with my first husband and spent much of those years with knots in my stomach, always on edge, and unsure of myself. I soon realized I wanted to find God again and began to slowly rebuild the relationship I had once had with God, this time into a real and deeper relationship based on more than church attendance, but based on study and devotion to living a spiritual God filled life. And this is now my journey, and will never end. Out of my sorrow has grown a devotion to God and a desire to share with others how you can find your way out of the pit of despair and into the light.

So I ask you to consider this: What will you learn from your experience? Will you be a better person or a bitter person? In your journal, consider which you want to be and how you plan to accomplish the better! Bitter or better? Choose happiness!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Season of Snow!

I heard a report yesterday that there is currently snow in all 50 states! Yes, even Hawaii has snow on it's highest peaks! My facebook page has had numerous comments from friends and family about the snow and we even had a light snow here night before that should have melted the next day, but it is so cold, the snow has not melted and everything is still white. I'm afraid everyone is growing weary of the winter season.  So what does all this talk about snow have to do with happiness? I started thinking about the seasons and how some years a season will be particularly difficult and isn't it the same in our lives. The seasons of our lives vary throughout the span and just as the seasons of a year are varied and sometimes harder than others, so are the seasons of our lives. No matter the season you are in, maintaining hope and making the decision each day to choose happiness can help you weather anything, and being thankful for even the smallest things in your darkest hours can help ease the pain.

As you weather this difficult season in your life, look for the small moments for which to be grateful and celebrate each day by making the decision to move forward. Spend some time writing in your journal those little grateful moments and writing about this season in your life as well. Look for this dark time to only be a "season" and know that life will get better with each step you make if you choose happiness.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Forgiveness is a tough issue no matter your marital circumstances, but forgiveness is the surest path to peace in any one's life and one of the greatest ways to choosing happiness. In a single mom's discussion group I lead, the question recently arose that if she forgave her ex, wasn't she saying what he did to her was okay? Additionally, he is still giving her a hard time, so isn't forgiveness out of the question? The pain was evident in her face, but there was anger there too. So what is the answer?
Forgiveness is not so much about the other person as it is about you. Forgiveness allows you to put the past behind you and to move forward into the future. It does not mean what someone did to you was okay. However, when you don't forgive others you are constantly looking back over your shoulder and cannot move forward in a sure manner. Forgiving others puts you back in control of your life and takes control away from the other person, because he or she is controlling you through your thoughts and actions when you do not forgive. Also, by not forgiving, you are carrying around anger, bitterness and possibly hatred for the other person and this only affects you and your peace of mind. It does not affect the other person.

Are you letting someone off the hook then by forgiving? Absolutely not. You still have the ability to say what you did to me was wrong, but it is over and I'm moving forward. This is where forgetting then comes in. We can forgive someone, but we won't forget. In not forgetting we are setting the boundary we need to be sure we do not allow the person to repeat the action against us, and to also learn how to keep someone else from hurting us in the same way. This is where setting boundaries after divorce, or in any case of forgiveness, is important. If we forgot what happened to us, we would allow the behaviour to repeat against us. We can forgive, but we don't have to forget, because we need to learn from what happened.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NCV) states: "God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you." Likewise, we need to forgive ourselves too when we mess up. Sometimes we do a great job of forgiving others, but walk around with a load of guilt for something we did, but again, moving forward requires forgiveness for yourself and not forgetting so you don't do it again. Forgiveness is never easy, but it is necessary for a happy life. Here's another verse from the Bible on forgiveness: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) If you are having trouble with forgiveness, try writing one or both of these verses down and post them in a place you will view frequently. Forgiveness is a sure way to happiness.

Spend some time writing in your journal how you might begin to forgive someone who has hurt you. Remember, this is about bringing you peace of mind and heart. Write about the lesson you have learned from this hurt and how you might set boundaries to keep it from happening again. This may take some repeated writing to help you clear your mind and heart from the hurt, but it will be well worth your effort! Choose happiness!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

I know, I know, Valentine's Day? Divorced and not feeling the love? Sadly, we seem to think we need this one day to celebrate love. Television ads and store displays certainly shout that message; however, love is something we should be celebrating everyday and not because we have a partner in our lives, but because we have many "love" relationships in our lives. And while it is nice to take a day to emphasize the love, I encourage you to make this a day to emphasize the love you have for all the people in your life. Think how blessed you are by just being alive and being able to hug someone today! There are so many cliches about love, but think about why: love really is all we need; love is the answer; what the world needs now is love sweet love; and you know many more I'm sure! Love is powerful, and when we have love for all our fellow beings love brings a peace to our lives because we are love filled. And consider this, when you are full of love for others, and truly at peace, that is when you are most likely to meet someone else to share that love because if hate or anger are dwelling within you, they will lash out at some point against a new love.

I encourage you to celebrate today the love you have for others! Call a friend, hug a neighbor, play games with the kids or bake cookies together, and love yourself too! Life is too short not to fill it with love!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Routines help!

We all need some routine in our lives to keep things on an even keel. When you are a single parent, having routines in place for many different aspects of your life, may be a life saver. When life is coming at you in all different directions, it may be difficult, but your life, and the lives of your children will be easier to handle, and easier to choose happiness if you set up some routines and stick to them.

We all tend to be caught up in a frenzy of activity, believing that our kids have to be involved in lots of different sports, after school events, or social activities to be the best they can be and as parents, we often think we need to be involved in lots of activities too, to prevent boredom or to stay up with others, etc. All of these activities keep us running at a ridiculous speed and there is no time to set any sort of routine. We are lucky to just make it through the day. However, no one is going to be hurt by slowing down, taking a deep breath, and just enjoying each others company or the company of a good book, or playing a game together, or any number of things that a family can do together around the house. You will be a closer family for the effort and everyone will feel better. And setting some routines will help you slow down.

Routines help everyone in a household. Setting a routine up for getting everyone out the door on time in the mornings can help alleviate the tension, yelling, and hurt feelings that occur when everyone is running late. Routines for an early bedtime can help soothe the children and give mom or dad a break before hitting the bed themselves. Research shows that children need plenty of sleep, up to nine hours, and that unfortunately in our activity crazy society, most children do not get enough sleep most nights of the week. Setting routines for dinner and for other daily activities can help the household run smoother and easier.

Implementing routine may take some time and kids may balk at the change if you have had a "whatever" attitude, but if tensions are flaring and no one is getting along, routines can help. And remember, above all other things, you are the parent and if you do not take on the parent roll your children will suffer. You can say no and you can say this is how it is going to be! Need some help? Try a program like Love and Logic. This may really come in handy if you are struggling. Or take a look at some of the excellent books on raising children and use a few minutes each day to find ideas to implement.

Write up a routine you would like to implement in your home. Go through the steps in logical motion and then you might even post the list on the refrigerator for the kids to read, or you read to them, and begin, one routine at a time, to give you all some time to slow down, enjoy each other, and to choose happiness!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Easy crock pot chicken!

Good morning readers! It's Thursday and this is recipe day. I would like to share two distinct ways in which to cook a whole chicken. Both are easy and result in a really great meal when paired with rice, stuffing or potatoes and a vegetable of some kind. This week I will start with the crock-pot chicken. For those of you who have never prepared a chicken before, please check out this site for step by step preparation instructions:  It is really important that you have that clean work surface and that you clean thoroughly once finished. I always prepare mine in the sink. I clean it well first, then ready the chicken. Once I put it in the crock pot or oven, I then go back and clean the sink again with a bacterial cleanser to be sure I have left no juices behind to contaminate something else.

For crock pot chicken, turn the crock pot on high and place the lid on while you prepare the chicken. After thoroughly preparing the chicken, I stuff salted crushed cloves of garlic under the skin in as many places as possible. I use anywhere from 6-10 cloves, cutting large cloves in half. I also tuck a sprig of fresh rosemary under the skin on each breast and over each side on the back. Look for the edges of the skin and gently pull it up; the garlic and rosemary will slide right in as far as you want it to go! This seasoning seeps into the whole chicken for really great flavor. I also put about a tsp of salt in the cavity of the chicken. I then place the whole chicken breast side down in the crock pot (if you have the crock pot bags, use one; they make clean up super easy). Leave the crock pot on high for the first thirty minutes and then turn to low. Allow to cook a total of 7 hours on low or I have left one as long as 10 hours if away for the day. If you are walking out the door as soon as you put it in the crock pot, it is fine to go ahead and turn the pot to low. I always start out on high to just be sure the crock pot is hot. You can cook the chicken on high if you prefer and it will be ready in four to five hours, but won't be quite as tender. Once the cooking is complete, I take the whole chicken out of the pot and place into a large bowl. Use a very large spatula or spoon to get up under the chicken and lift it out. Sometimes it falls apart in the process, so use a slotted spoon to fish the rest out of the juices. I then use a fork to remove all the meat from the bone, placing the meat in another bowl or platter for serving. The meat will literally just fall off the bones. Throw the bones back into the crock pot, put on the lid, and allow to cool. I usually leave mine overnight and the next morning, just lift the bag out and throw away, or when I don't have a bag, the remains will come out gelled together for easy cleanup. Refrigerate the leftover chicken and use the rest for another meal or for really great sandwiches. I usually cook a chicken like this at least every other week and sometimes more often because it is so tasty and easy; it is also nice to have on hand for many other recipes that call for chicken. Enjoy!

Next week I'll share my other whole chicken recipe. I hope you enjoy this one. For busy parents, this one is the best because it takes little time and can go for so many purposes. Cooking is about creating community. Bring your family together at least three to four nights a week for a meal around the table with the television turned off. Research shows that children who eat as a family at least this many times a week perform better in school and have better relationships with others. Choose happiness!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Three small steps

Guarding our hearts after divorce can be difficult at best, but so important in avoiding making a mistake. Roughly 50% of first marriages in our country end in divorce, 63-67% of second marriages, and 73-75% of third or subsequent marriages end in divorce. To keep yourself from being one of these second marriage and beyond statistics it is going take some time and effort to find the best person to become your partner. Divorce lawyers will tell you, that nine times out of ten, they see their clients marry the same type of person they just divorced and the client ends up back in their office within a few years. Believing that your life will be better if you just have someone else to love is going to get you in over your head with pain because the truth is you have to make your life the best it can be with yourself first before you add another person to the equation. So how do you do this? By taking time and learning who you are and what you want for sure.

Did you ever see the movie Runaway Bride, with Julia Roberts? In this movie she keeps running away from marriage right before reaching the alter. What she finally comes to realize, through the assistance of none other than Richard Gere, is that she doesn't know herself and cannot commit to someone else if she doesn't know who she is first. After taking the time to discover what she wants and why, she of course ends up with Richard Gere, and though I cannot promise you a Richard Gere, I can assure you a better chance of happiness with a partner if you have taken the time to figure a few things out before you remarry.

This is where those journals can really come in handy. First, take the time to write about the qualities you want in a partner. How are they like or different from your first partner. I knew I did not want anyone controlling or jealous in a second partner and because I verbally and physically (by writing about it) acknowledged this it made it much easier to spot this problem when it occurred and did it ever occur! I met a man that I had quite a few phone conversations with, and I told my friend I had this nagging feeling there might be control issues, but maybe I was not giving him the benefit of the doubt. We had a dinner date that was nice, but again, just a hint in my gut there was something lurking below the surface. Over spring break (I was an educator in my former life) my girl friend and I went on a trip together and upon my return this man called and as we were chatting I mentioned something in passing that was funny, and then it happened. A jealous comment came from him and I froze for just a moment before I said to him, "I have done controlling and jealous before; I am not going back there. Please do not call me again." I told him goodbye and hung up. Now, maybe you find this an over reaction, but like I said earlier, my gut was telling me and I was not listening that there was a problem, so when it came to the surface in an obvious manner, I knew I had to stop things right there and then. I would not ever be in that kind of relationship again. I have had enough knots in my stomach to last a life time and even if it meant being alone forever, I would not live that way again. I encourage you to define the characteristics you want and don't want and start identifying them. And consider this, the heartache of divorce is so extreme, do you really want to go there again? Isn't it worth the time and effort it will take to be sure it doesn't happen again?

Second, you have to identify what makes you happy and make yourself happy! No one else can make you happy! NO ONE!!! Not your children, not a new partner, not anyone but you, and once you realize this and put that responsibility on your own shoulders where it belongs, then and only then are you ready to begin seeking someone to share your life with because once you are happy in who you are and with your life, can you find someone equally as whole to be there with you. Additionally, material things cannot make you happy either, so even though a new partner might ease your financial burden in someways, you cannot look to this to bring you happiness. Yes, it might make some aspects of life easier, but is material comfort going to make up for the knots in your stomach (or whatever you are trying to avoid) in a subsequent marriage?

Third, once you are ready to seriously seek someone new, time needs to be a factor. Anyone can be on their best behaviour for a year, but it is in the second year of dating someone that the cracks begin to show and the reality of life with this person can hit you in the face and make you think about whether or not you are a good fit together. And I know, I've heard lots of people say to me, "but two years? How can I wait that long?" Isn't at least two years worth not going through divorce again? I dated an incredibly nice man after my divorce. He really helped heal my heart and opened my eyes to my own self worth, but it was toward the end of that first year when I started really evaluating what I wanted and what I expected that I started realizing that we had nothing in common and what seemed so attractive at the moment, would not sustain a life long relationship. After I broke things off with him, I really began to grow in my personal life, through seeking my own happiness, discovering what I really liked to do and following my dreams! I wrote a lot and read a lot to be the best person I could be and happiest person I could be. I eventually did feel ready to seek a partner and after dating for two years, we were married and are coming up on our fourth anniversary.

I realize, these three little steps, are just that, little steps. There are so many ins and outs to relationships and variables that make things different for everyone, but these three steps can make the difference and keep you from making a painful mistake. I will continue to write about our new relationships and sharing ideas with you. Write, read, dream, think, plan, compare and contrast, and never stop growing! Choose happiness!  

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Perspective, perspective, perspective

Some days I wonder if anyone reads my blog! Hmmm? I always hope there are one or two of you out there! Or maybe hundreds! :) Yesterday we woke up to an unexpected snow fall! What a surprise to open the curtains and see almost four inches of snow! It is just so unusual for this part of Tennessee, but that's fine by me! Having lived in New Mexico most of my adult life, snow was a given at least once during the winter and the last three years I lived in New Mexico, I lived in the south central mountains and snow was a regular occurrence so I miss a good snow fall and was thrilled to see one here! This made me stop and think about how the changes that occur for us after divorce often leave us yearning for how things were instead of enjoying all the new aspects of our lives. Change is tough under the best of circumstances, but throw divorce into the mix and every little change in your life becomes jarring and unnerving. This is where changing perspective can help you during this tough time.

When you begin to feel frustrated due to one of the changes you are dealing with, pause for a moment and see if you can find the positive. After my divorce, when I had to start relying on my self to do all the jobs around the house, at first I wanted to feel sorry for myself and ask the question why me? But I soon started feeling the self confidence that comes from taking the responsibility on for myself and each change became a challenge to meet head on instead of something to dread. When I moved to Tennessee and left behind my beloved New Mexico, I didn't want to recognize many of the changes as good. I missed many things about my home state, but when I applied the change in perspective, I soon noticed how the changes I had to face weren't negative after all.

In your journal, write about the changes that are frustrating you and how you might change your perspective to enjoy the surprise and meet the challenge head on! Take time to think it through when you feel overwhelmed and are asking the question, why me? Change can be exciting and fulfilling when we take the time to change our perspective. Choosing happiness really is about changing perspective and changing attitudes! Hang in there! Choose happiness!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Importance of Friendship and Community

After divorce, one of the toughest aspects is the feeling that you are all alone now. You have lost that person who was there each day and helped in someway to make the day's burden lighter. And even in a marriage where you might have been lonely and didn't receive much assistance in the day to day routine, because this can certainly be the case, there is still a profound sense of loneliness when you find yourself truly living on your own. However, guard yourself from allowing your heart to go in search of someone to fill up that emptiness you may feel at this time because you are not prepared to make that decision at this point. Another partner cannot fix things. So what do you do?

In Ecclesiastes 4: 10-12 Solomon talks about the importance of not being alone. The NLT version states: "If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." I have always loved these verses, but after divorce, who are you going to stand with? Who is going to back you up? Doesn't this mean I should find someone right away? I believe, if you read the entire chapter, what Solomon is saying is don't let your pride get in the way of asking for help. Don't let your pride make you think you can go it all alone, because this is "vanity" in Solomon's words. We need people in our lives and reaching out to friends and family at this most difficult time in your life is important to do and will help hold you up until you are ready to begin searching for another life partner.

One sad aspect of divorce can be the loss of friends and when you just lost your spouse, this is hard to take. Friends leave for lots of different reasons and if yours were all friends based on the marriage, more than likely many of them will dissolve. But please don't despair. This can also be one of the blessings of divorce in opening the door to new friendships, stronger and longer lasting than those from before. My closest friend came after my divorce and I don't think there will be anything that parts us. We both have remarried, and even live all the way across the country from each other, but we are still friends and always will be. We talk on the phone frequently and travel to see each other. She has been one of the greatest blessings to come from my divorce.

I encourage you to lean on others, to seek the friendships and sense of community that will sustain you through this difficult season in life. I had turned away from God during my marriage, a story I will share at another time, but after the divorce, I realized I could not go it alone and turned back to God. It was then that I began to see my friendships blossom with others and once I started attending church again, I found there another group of people to support me with their encouraging words and cheer. My sisters have been an ever present support in my life, but we drew even closer. When I remarried, I was ready because I had filled up the hole in my heart, not with another partner chosen too fast and out of despair, but with God and with the happiness I chose for myself. I moved from New Mexico to Tennessee to be with my new husband. He is my best friend and love of my life, but I know the importance of that third cord too. I have become involved in our church, Hope Presbyterian in Cordova, TN and am now building new friendships as well. In fact, today's blog was inspired by Dr. Eli Morris, one of our pastors who spoke yesterday about relationships. He reminded me of the Ecclesiastes verses, but also said the following:
"Relationships are the place we find...the Challenge we need...the Encouragement we need...the Comfort we need." And isn't this so true? We are not meant to go through life alone.

Take time this week to write in your journal where you might seek out new friendships or how you might reach out to others and ask for help. Don't let your pride keep you from asking when you really need a helping hand. And never doubt the importance of friendship. I will talk about the partner issue again soon, but develop some really great friendships before you go seeking that new partner. Choose Happiness!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


We all love the TGIF and can't wait for the weekend, but I know for many of you, the weekend is hectic with chores just so you can keep up during the week. With laundry and grocery shopping, activities or sports with the kids, by the time Saturday evening comes, you may just want to collapse in bed, having never done anything for yourself.

I want you to consider this today: if you are not taking care of yourself, how long will you manage to take care of everyone else? It is vital that you carve out some time for you. If your children are small, plan on putting them to bed early (yes, you can, you are the parent!) and then watch a movie, maybe have a glass of wine, or take a hot bath. Maybe read something for fun for a change, but find a little bit of time for yourself. If your children are older, there maybe activities you can involve them in to give yourself a break now and then. Look for programs at your church or if you do not attend a church on a regular basis, maybe look for one that offers youth programs and get involved or look into community services in your city. You need alone time or friend time now and then, so spend some time writing down a list of ways you can accomplish this task. It is for your own well being, as well as the kids, because if you are not bringing your best self to every day with your mental batteries recharged, you are not going to be the best parent you can be! Choose to take care of yourself and choose happiness!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nutty, oatty, cinnamon, raisin bread

Happy Friday everyone! I decided to share one more bread recipe before moving on into a different category. This time of year, hot tasty bread is comforting, and the smell can cheer even the saddest soul, especially this nutritious hearty breakfast bread. I also like a slice toasted with honey and peanut butter for lunch. Again, this is in the machine, but as with all bread machine recipes, you can just as easily make it in the traditional manner.

12 ounces water, 80 degrees
2 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups oats (old fashioned, not instant)
2 Tbs. dry milk
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 pkg. yeast or 2 tsps rapid rise bread yeast
2 Tbs. butter

1 cup raisins (do not use the "better for baking" raisins; too much moisture)
1/2 cup nuts of your choice (I used walnuts)

Place ingredients, through butter, in bread machine according to manufacturers instructions. Add raisins and nuts when your machine indicates to add. (Mine makes a buzz sound; if yours has no indicator, you can add them at the beginning, but the raisins will be very finely chopped and not as noticeable. Also, if you add in the beginning, place around the top of the ingredients along the edge. If doing as a timer baked bread, be sure raisins do not sink to the bottom as they will become water logged before the process begins, so again, layer lightly around the upper edges.)

Bake on Whole Wheat setting at medium or light. I think the dark setting will make it tough around the edges.
You will not believe how great your kitchen smells while this bread is busy baking! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The magic of a kind gesture!

I met a taxi driver in New Orleans, about a year ago, who really touched my heart. My husband and I traveled there for our third anniversary. I had never been to New Orleans and so my first introduction was post-Katrina. I fell in love with the city, but what really made me love NO is the resilliancy of so many people who have returned to a devastated city, and hit the ground running to see the rebuilding and rejuvination of their beloved home. We went to Preservation Hall and the music reached down deep in my soul. I was tapping and clapping and dancing in place and when the singer of the band that night came through the audience, he grabbed my hand and pulled me along with him and then had others join in with me till we were doing a little snake dance in and out of the crowd. Magic! We had breakfast at Brennan's and for a foodie like me, the Banana's Foster nearly had me clutching the table and refusing to leave until I had tasted everything on the menu. My husband saved the day though, and bought me the cookbook instead! Magic!
And taking the bus tour of the 9th Ward and seeing first hand how far reaching the devastation hit, and the empty slabs standing silent in the grassy weeds, or the still standing washed out houses with the markings of the searchers still stark and visible on paint peeled homes, made us all pause in solemnity. Then turning down muscians row and seeing the new homes built by Habitat for Humanity, their vibrant colors full of life, hope and promise and then the area with the housing being built by Brad Pitt, all "green" and giving ownership through participation in the build on the part of the new owners, gave a sense to the tenacity of a city built with soul, music, food and incredible life full of HOPE! Magic!

We spent our three days enjoying it all, wandering the streets, stopping here and there and celebrating our fortune in finding each other, as well as making the decision to always celebrate our anniversary in NO. But the culminating moment came when we were picked up by a taxi at our hotel to head to the airport. We entered his van, and as we had done with everyone we met, we asked him how he had weathered Katrina. He shared with us how his family lost everything, but NO had been their home for fifteen years, since he moved to the states from Egypt, and they had to come back because it is home. I noticed a hand symbol hanging from his rear view mirror. I asked him about it, and told him I collect hand art so I'm always curious in the meaning of different symbols that I encounter. I had recently seen an "eye" on a necklace that originated in Turkey, and the eye is to ward off evil, I had been told, and this double thumbed hand had an eye, much similar, in the middle of the palm. My taxi driver said the eye symbol was stolen from the Egyptians, that the Turkish stole all ideas from them, (and he laughed heartily) and then told me that the eye within the palm of the hand symbolized the powers of healing, joy, life, and is hung to ward off evil. People use them on entry doors to protect them from the "evil eye." I told him it was beautiful. We chatted a bit more about their life in NO, how it hadn't been easy, but they are happy and all doing well, and that's what matters. We then pulled up to the curb. As we were getting out of the car, he quickly came around and handed me the hand from his car. He said he wanted me to have it and that he had several at home and would acquire more when he returned to Egypt. I was quite overwhelmed that a stranger would do something so unexpected and so I hugged him and thanked him. Magic!

This morning I sat down at my desk and glanced over at the hand. It hangs from my desk lamp as a reminder of a gesture of kindness from a stranger, and though just a trinket of little monetary value, it is a symbol of people who under the very worst of circumstances have survived and thrived, but most importantly are living happy! I will never forget his cheerfulness and kindness. Each of us has burdens we bear and struggles we face, but are we looking for all we have to be grateful for and celebrating the great things instead of bemoaning the bad? Take time to write in your journal about all you have to be grateful for and celebrate those little gestures of kindness offered by others, but most importantly, celebrate the gestures of kindness you can offer others. I puzzled over why he might have shared this hand with me, and I think possibly it might have been I touched him as well by caring enough to simply ask about how he had survived. We all have the power to reach out to others. Touch someone's life today!