Firebirdlifecoach's Blog

Pursuing a Passionate Life

Lessons from Flowers March 18, 2014

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Hanging Flowers (I promise that someday soon – I will once again post a blog, that is just that… a blog. But since lately I have been pre-occupied with various other projects – I thought I would once again share an article that I wrote a while ago for the The Divorce Support Center about resilience, personal agency and self-care which has just been published and featured on their home page. It is relevant for all of us, I think – no matter what our marital status is!)

About an hour ago, I stepped out onto my porch to see two very sad looking hanging baskets. Vines drooping, flower heads sadly bent toward the ground and leaves folding in on themselves – all combined in one plaintive and unmistakable plea, “Water, please!” So, I obliged, as I always do, except for on the days that I forget, like yesterday, apparently… An hour or so later, when I went back outside to add an empty bottle to the recycling bin, I looked up to see my floral friends: refreshed and rejuvenated. This got me to thinking… Wouldn’t it be nice if people could “perk up” as quickly and easily as a freshly watered flower?

Life is hard. Stress abounds. And that is especially true when you are going through a divorce. There simply is so much to deal with on top of the needs and responsibilities of just regular old everyday life – that it is no wonder that some days we just end up feeling wilted and defeated. While it would be nice to wish for days of endless sunshine, plentiful water and the proper nutrients needed for continual and blissful growth, the reality is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine, the rain doesn’t fall and the nutrients become depleted. So what’s a plant or a person to do?

Luckily, unlike plants whose personal agency is severely limited by nature and the sometimes faulty memories of our caretakers – as people we have much greater control. So the question is what can you put in your own metaphorical watering can on those days when you are feeling a little wilted? Each of us will answer that question differently, wouldn’t we? For some it could be an extra hour in bed, while others might choose to awaken early to have enough time for the gym or a brisk walk before work. Some might pick-up the phone and call a friend while others might take out their journal, pour a cup of tea and snuggle up in a comfy chair to work through their thoughts and feelings on paper. Maybe you want to do a little meditation to clear your mind or head out to hear some live music and dance so much that your negative feelings are left somewhere underfoot on the dance floor. The options are as infinite as each of us is unique. But the common denominator, is taking the time to reflect on what we need a bit and to give ourselves the nurturing that’s required.

The solutions may not be as simple as sunshine, water and nutrients – but that’s really more of a blessing than a curse. So fill that watering can and keep it close because, “You in full bloom – is a beautiful thing!”

 

Make a Wish… March 13, 2014

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birthday cakeHere’s an article of mine which was just featured on the Divorce Support Center website. http://divorcesupportcenter.com/

My sons aren’t “little” anymore, though they were when their father and I got divorced. And that was scary! I think the single biggest issue for their father and I

when we decided that our marriage was simply not going to work, was how to end it in such a way that the impact did not negatively affect our children. It wasn’t easy.

Because truly, with the exception of possibly ending an abusive, volatile relationship – how could a divorce negatively affect the kids? The very nature of the beast requires significant changes at the very core of our lives for all of the parties involved, and the importance of stability at home is probably felt most acutely by those who have the least control and resources with which to understand it – the children.

In fact, it is probably true that many couples, stay together “for the children,” despite their own personal needs and desires to separate. Not too long ago, that was probably “the norm,” but not so much anymore. And I am not going to digress here into the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a couple’s decision to remain married or not, there are enough eager voices out there who are willing to judge the life choices of others, mine is not one of them. But I will say this, if you are a parent whether you choose to divorce or stay together – you absolutely have a responsibility to do your best to give your children what they need to grow up into confident, healthy and well-adjusted members of society.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, in the case of divorce, it means keeping your children out of the emotional fray, letting them know how much they are loved, providing as stable and consistent a home life as possible, fostering healthy relationships with both of their parents, being there to support their emotions, and finding other outlets to deal with your own: for starters.

And you may not want to hear this but if you thought that parenting was challenging before, you better brace yourself for the challenges of single-parenthood, which is not to say that it won’t at some point become easier and more normative. But if the situation allows it, the reality is, they still have another parent and is your best option. It isn’t always easy; after all your emotions are running high, too.

But you are the grown-up, and your children need you now more than ever to act like one. Agreeing with your spouse to put the needs of your kids first – is the first step. And you may need to remind yourselves, over and over, and in countless ways, what this actually means on a day-to-day basis – but you will be rewarded in the long run.

Last week was my son’s nineteenth birthday. It was his tenth birthday since his father and I separated. And I was a bit surprised when about a week earlier he had asked me if his dad could join us for dinner. I said, “Yes.” And though clearly it wasn’t the “nuclear family” of yester-year, it was a pleasant evening. I made his favorite dinner and his dad made his favorite cake. I don’t think any of us, for even a moment were fooled by the guest list into thinking that we were the same family that we had been years before, and yet we were still a family inextricably and forever bound to one another.

It was awkward and fine. But most importantly, my sons were both happy, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

Forward Footsteps February 28, 2014

FeetHere’s an article of mine which was just featured on the Divorce Support Center website. http://divorcesupportcenter.com/

“Baby Steps” – we all know what that means, right? The small forward movements we make in our life to get us closer to where we want to be. They are as important to acknowledge as they are to take. After all, if you are making forward movement in your life but are discounting or failing to recognize those steps, how will they impact you?
You don’t need me to tell you how difficult going through the divorce process can be, if you are reading this likely you are experiencing it, firsthand. So many areas of your life are in flux – that it can be harder to recognize: “what stayed the same?” than “what has changed?” And along the way, as these changes unfold you are right in there, making adjustments, alterations and compromises as your new life is unfolding in front of you. And how do you get there? One little step at a time. Today, you unpack the clothes from your closet, tomorrow you open a new checking account, the next day you speak to your child’s teacher, and on and on and on.
Sometimes it feels like the process will never end. You’re six months, one year, two years or even more into the process, but the divorce still isn’t finalized. The reality is that even when it is – you still aren’t done, because the adjustments to your newly “single again” life are going to keep coming one after the other, too. You spend your first night alone in your home for the first time in years, your toilet needs to be fixed, you don’t know how to do it and your former spouse isn’t there to help you, your kids are adjusting to their new routine in a two household family, and you find yourself with a free night to do whatever you want to do – but have no idea what that even means anymore! But day after day you will face these changes, make decisions about what to do and not do, cry into your pillow and smile at your progress even if at times it feels like a pretty meager victory.
It takes a lot of strength and a lot of courage to get a divorce. It’s heart-wrenching and liberating, painful and affirming – and you will make it through, one step at a time. Because that’s what we do – we adapt, we evolve, we move forward – there is no other choice in the constantly changing landscape of our lives. So while you are at it – take a moment, lift your head and look around at how far you have come. Give credit where credit is due, as they say… Sometimes the best we can do on any given day is to just “show-up” for ourselves. And that can be enough, the “new normal” is just down the road a piece, and when we get there, that will change too! Life is change, and we move forward into our futures one moment and one step at a time. Envision your future, acknowledge your past and step forward into this new life – it is waiting for you.

 

Through the Eyes of a Child December 13, 2013

eyes
(As some of you may know, I am a regular, contributing expert on divorce for several online publications. The below post, is actually a copy of my most recent submission, so the “voice” of the article may sound a little different than what you are used to here. That said, I think it’s an important topic, particularly at this time of year, so I thought I would share it here, too.)

“Sorry I couldn’t give you that game console you asked for, if your dad paid his child support on time, maybe I would have been able to afford it.”
“It looks like it’s just you and me for the holidays this year, your mom is so wrapped up in her new family, she doesn’t have time for us.”
“Is your father going to do anything at all for the holidays, or does he just expect that I will do everything, just like I always did when we were married?”

When you read words like that, you may think, “I would never say such a thing in front of my children, even if I was thinking it” and if that’s the case and it never happens – then great! You are doing well, with something that is often very difficult to “master” in the wake of a divorce, particularly, if it was a contentious one. But for many it is hard to not let your feelings and frustrations bubble over, particularly at this time of year, when added responsibilities and financial pressures can make you feel squeezed beyond your normal tolerance level. It’s hard, it’s really hard and sometimes even with the best of intentions, we may vent in front of our kids often in an effort to explain away what we are a experiencing as some sort of inability to create the holiday memories for our children that we had wanted to. But clearly, allowing ourselves to let these sort of comments, slip out can be a lot worse for our kids than whatever it was we were trying to justify or explain away in the first place.

Have you ever really thought about what your child hears and feels when you say something like this? Chances are, it is not what you intended.

It doesn’t give them a better understanding of why there are less presents under the tree. It doesn’t prove to them that you are the parent who has their best interest in mind. And it doesn’t benefit anyone to have them “choose a side”. All it really does is – hurt.

This is their mother or their father that you are talking about. Children need to know that their parents love and care about them and undermining that, doesn’t really just undermine your ex, it undermines the very foundation of a child’s self-worth and self-confidence. It is true in some circumstances, the other parent may be disengaged, non-supportive or even abusive – but driving that home isn’t really the best message you could be giving your child; not at the holidays and frankly, not anytime.

If you need to vent, write in your journal, give out a scream when you are driving alone in your car, talk to your family, friends, therapist, coach or support group – but leave your kids out of it. The best gift you can give your kids this holiday is: yourself. Let them know, you are there, that you love them, are proud of them and a grateful to have them in your life. We can all go without “stuff”. One more video game left on the store shelf due to lack of funds, pales in comparison to the warmth and confidence of a child who knows they are valued and cared for. Do not let your disappointments become theirs. It’s not about the stuff, it never has been. Look through the eyes of your child, take a moment to see the world as they see it – and then give them what they really need. It doesn’t and will never come in a box.

 

Writer – Unblocked May 19, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt has been an extraordinarily beautiful spring here in New England. Mostly clear and sunny days, comfortable temperatures and the beauty of budding trees, blooming flowers and singing birds – have made this really one of the nicest Springs I can ever remember. So nice… And as the lovely days roll by – I have at many times longed to sit down at this computer to write a blog entry. But alas, it has just not been happening. And while I regret it – I have welcomed all of the things that have prevented me from making the time. There has been a lot going on – and much of it is writing related.

At the end of January, my first article was published on the Huffington Post! http://huff.to/14tXjrN It was very exciting for me and a wonderful reminder – that pushing the limits of your comfort zone is (almost always) worth the risk – which in fact was the subject of the article itself. Yay! About a month or so later I became a regular contributing expert for a group of other websites, focused on divorce. Here are a couple of those articles: http://bit.ly/15P03Aw (The Values and the Message – is an article about connecting with your inner self and using that knowledge as the compass to guide you through the divorce process) and http://bit.ly/YZVItf (A Little Help Along the Way – is an article about accessing external, professional help while you navigate through the murky waters of getting a divorce). If you are interested, links to most, but not all of these articles can be found on my website: http://bit.ly/19QmC84. (I am trying to keep up with updating my site – but I always seem to be lagging a bit behind.)

Besides the article writing – I have also been working on sending out a more regular and consistent newsletter – which includes its own original writing tasks – so there’s that too. http://conta.cc/13z2STe So… all this to say – that I have not been slacking in the writing department – just otherwise focused. And while this is true – I do miss my WordPress blog! But I have learned a lot about myself as a writer over these last couple of months and for that I am most heartily grateful. Here’s just a bit of what I have realized.

* I can write for submission deadlines – not just when the muse visits me.
* My writing is not always, and or does not always have to be “stream-of-consciousness”, which was how I wrote most of my blog entries. I haven’t had to write on a specific topics since being in school, many years ago, and thought I had “grown out of it” in a way.
* When given one main topic – such as “divorce” has been for me recently, there are many, many things that I have to say. I am not afraid of exhausting the sub-topics.
* I truly do love to write! I knew this before, but now that my writing is taking on such a myriad of faces, I find that I get an extreme sense of pleasure and accomplishment from all of them.

So that’s it for today. I have another project to move on to now. But as I sit happily tapping away on my computer, which I set up out on the porch to enjoy the beautiful day, I feel good. Good because I wrote a “regular blog post” and good to have so many excuses to write – particularly if I can enjoy the birds, too. Peace out…

 

Lemonade, anyone? September 25, 2011

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Sometimes a “negative” event can have a positive outcome. We all are familiar with the old adage about “learning from our mistakes”, making “lemons into lemonade”, and “making the best of a bad situation”. We experience it and see the net effect of such phenomenon all the time on both personal and societal levels. “Amber alerts”, air bags and bicycle helmets, are some examples of societal and cultural attempts to learn from our “mistakes”. On a personal level, a divorce from the “wrong person in and unhappy marriage” can lead to meeting the love of your life, being laid off from a job you are not happy in can give you the time and ability to grow the business you have always dreamed of, and quitting smoking after one too many a round of bronchitis,  are all examples of how we personally can make positive changes in our life based on difficult life events.

But in order to move forward in a positive way we are required to have at the very least two essential ingredients; goals and aspirations, and plans and action. If you have always dreamed of having your own organic, hydroponic vegetable farm but lack the ability to develop a plan and the persistence to do the work needed to get it going –  then it’s never going to happen. Similarly, if you have the innate ability to become a brilliant writer but lack the confidence and drive required to both get your words onto paper and get that paper disseminated to the audience then you will never experience the joy of connecting with and reaching others in that way.

In order to turn a bad situation into a positive one you have to recognize what needs to change, envision what you want to happen and take the steps necessary to make it happen. Though a little bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time doesn’t hurt, nothing will change unless you have what it takes to seize the moment and take action. It’s not easy all the time. Life circumstances are often outside of our control – but how we react to those challenges and what we decide to do about them – is. You don’t need a negative catalyst to get the ball rolling, though often they do provide some added motivation.

As a coach – this is where I come in. My job is to ally with my clients and support them in the discovery and articulation of their dreams and goals and then to help them take those aspirations into action; to create the personal and professional lives of their dreams. It’s a pretty sweet place to be, after all one of my passions is helping others discover and live theirs, becoming the best selves they can possibly be.  The work is yours – my job is to help support you in the articulation of your vision. It’s a beautiful thing to do what you love – isn’t it time you treat yourself to a nice tall glass of lemonade?

 

Evolving Traditions April 5, 2010

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Holidays and traditions, I grew-up with a strong dose of them. In my family, each holiday brought with it a very definite set of rituals and traditions, largely focused around various ethnic foods and familial gatherings. It was good stuff, and I liked the predictability and specialness that each occasion brought with it (often because we would eat really good foods that we would never have at other times of the year – what can I say, I am Italian-American and that’s just the way we rolled.) As an adult and a parent, I have the opportunity to make, carry-on and/or create traditions with my sons that hopefully will have their own magic for them similar to what I experienced as a child, and though some things hearken back to the traditions of my childhood, many do not. One of the biggest differences is that their father and I are divorced and so holidays are now spent with one or the other parent and each carries with it its own meaning, meals and memories.

So one of the biggest differences each year is that holidays don’t always mean family anymore, at least not the way it used to. The way it works out for our family is that some holidays are always spent with one particular parent, the boys are with me for Christmas Eve and Christmas and with their dad for New Year’s Eve and New Years. Thanksgiving is a swap off holiday – the boys spending every other year with the other parent and holidays like Easter, are determined by the regular weekly rotation. It’s a bit of a smorgasbord for all four of us (there’s an Italian saying which would be perfectly interjected here, roughly translating to: “A little of this, a little of that, a little of the other thing”.) It works for us for the most part and the boys seem to feel comfortable with the mixture of familiarity and fluctuation that are our new “traditions” if you will.

For me, this year Easter was spent with my friends since my boys were with their dad. I had given them their “Easter baskets” in the middle of last week, since I wasn’t sure that would be a part of his plans for them and what kid doesn’t look forward to the chocolate and jelly beans? I had a lovely day, great weather, good food, stimulating conversation, a lovely walk, laughter, warmth and appreciation for the people in my life. Yes, I did miss my boys, but it did not distract me from enjoying my day. Growing-up I would have never guessed that my holiday would be spent with all friends and no family, with ham and macaroni and cheese instead of frittata and Easter bread, with a lovely walk instead of an Easter egg hunt, but my enjoyment of the day was there just the same.

I think sometimes we make assumptions, that life is a certain way, some things are a given and a constant and will always be the same, but the reality is that this is of course an impossibility. Even those members of my family who gathered for the traditional brunch found themselves sitting around a table with a family constellation that looked different from how it did the year before. And this to me is not a bad thing. There may be times when I “wax nostalgic” for the memories of years passed, but I still appreciate the new. The fact is things change, continuously, allowing yourself to move and change with it expands the possibilities. Hopefully my sons will bring forward into their adulthood a mixture of tradition with flexibility; an appreciation for the old and an embrace of the new, and a sense that the outer trappings are less important than the internal spirit that they bring to the special moments in their lives, the confidence to know that traditions carry a sense of history and familiarity but are not so rigid that they cannot be changed to incorporate new circumstances.