Divorce and the Holiday Season

Q. “The holiday season is coming up and I’m recently separated. I have two school-age boys. My stomach feels like a knot thinking how different the holidays are going to be now for them. Is there some way to make it easier?”

A. Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but often they aren’t. Planning family holidays is a particular challenge for the millions of divorced families out there. In fact, one out of three Americans is part of a blended family (and I suspect the statistics are similar for Canadians).

Divorced families face an even bigger challenge with holiday planning with children shuttling back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. There are all those logistical questions. Whose turn is it to have the children for Christmas morning? What if both parents are having a turkey dinner on the same day? How do you handle summer break? What do you do if you end up solo on a major family celebration day?

The key for separated families, like yours, is to doing some advance planning and preparation. Without that, holidays can end up being a time for stress and re-opening of old wounds instead of a time to relax and unwind, both for divorced parents and their children. There are some tips I can offer to make it a bit easier. First of all, instead of planning your holidays one at a time, … Continue reading

Change and Transition: 5 Brilliant Year in Review Questions

In a world that is fast-moving and filled with challenge, something we can always count on is change. What’s different about the state of change in the world these days is the rate and volume of change. Our world and the issues we navigate in our families, our businesses and our communities are increasingly complex and fast-moving.

One of my favorite authors, Neale Donald Walsh, wrote a wonderful book called When Everything Changes, Change Everything. As he observes, “You’re not going to stop change from happening simply by not making any changes yourself. All you’ll do is stop change from happening the way you want it to happen.”

The good news about change, transition and learning to cope with the unknown is that it is a process that draws out the best in each of us. Getting outside your comfort zone requires you to dig deep inside yourself, and we often discover reserves of wisdom, strength and resilience we may not have known we had before.

As we prepare to ring in a New Year, it’s a time to look back to see what worked well, and what didn’t. It’s a time to harvest the wisdom from the experiences and choices we made so we can apply them to make 2011 the best and most brilliant year yet. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite Brilliant questions I’ll be using myself to welcome in the New Year.

To create your brilliant 2010, I’d like to offer these 5 Brilliant questions.

1. What Do I Really Want?

What are your core needs and desires? If you could wave a magic wand, what three things would you want to see showing up differently in your life 12 months from now. Look over the major areas of your life, like relationship, finances, health, career, recreation and community. Make it as clear as you can. For example, “I want to travel more” is nice but vague. Define it even more. For example, you could say “I want to visit Greece this summer and take an extra long weekend off every quarter.”

2. Does This Bring Me Joy?

Every gardener knows that a key to a healthy plant is to prune it back at appropriate times. If you’re feeling spread thin and approaching things with a sense of dread, chances are you have got some major commitment pruning to do Is what you’re doing bringing you an experience of joy and expansion? Or do you feel a sense of drudgery and heaviness? Become selective about what you put on your plate and look for how you can bring more joy into your life.

3. Does this Fulfill My Purpose?

Is what you’re doing an expression of your deepest gifts? Do you have a secret hankering to do something, but you keep holding yourself back? Write you’re your deepest desires and find one way you can give that an outlet in 2011. Use delivering your unique purpose and brilliance as a key criteria for determining where you spend your time and energy. Once you step into your purpose, you’ll be astonished at how quickly you opportunities will come you way that will support you in doing that more and more.

4. Where Are My Blind Spots?

When you drive a car, you need the sideview mirror to check your blind spot. I see its message that “Objects may appear larger than they are” as really cosmic. Until we clearly see any disempowering behaviors we have, they have a huge energetic pull on us until we get them handled. Is what you eat, procrastination about paying bills, or being a committed conflict avoider a potential blind spot? Write out a list of your blind spots, or interview someone you know and trust to give you the truth to help you round out your list. Keep that list handy so you can navigate your way out of them and refocus your energy in a constructive way.

5. What Do I Need to Release?

The Universe loves a vacuum and will come rushing in to fill it with something new. And so it works with our life force as well. What have you said “Yes” to that you now need to say “No” to so you can create space for what is to come? This may mean releasing limiting beliefs, physical clutter or relationships. Make a list of at least 5 things you know that you need to release in order to open up room for new opportunities to come your way.

© 2010 Carolyn B. Ellis

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it:

Success Strategist, coach and best-selling author, Carolyn B. Ellis, is the founder of ThrivePrinciples.com, empowering you to thrive no matter what your outside circumstances are. To get free tips on turning adversity into opportunity in order to improve your relationships, increase your self-confidence and reach your highest potential, visit www.ThrivePrinciples.com.

Stressed out? 5 Self-care Survival Strategies

Are you feeling stressed out? Isn’t this time of year when families and friends come together to celebrate special holidays and connect supposed to be a time of joy and peace? Then why are so many people out there feeling stressed out, short-tempered and run down?

A key ingredient for success is to make an unwavering commitment to your own self-care. Practicing meaningful self-care can be a hard challenge, especially for those of us who get so much joy and passion from offering our services and wisdom in a desire to make a difference in the world somehow.

I remember learning the lesson of taking self-care seriously when I was going through my divorce years ago. I realized that ignoring my needs and pushing myself to my limits wasn’t helping me make clear decisions for my future and for being the mom I wanted to be for my three children. In my award-winning book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce, I coined this phenomenon “going for the martyr medal.” You get so preoccupied and consumed with making sure everyone else is taken care of first, that your own needs fall by the wayside.

If you are trying to capture a medal for being a self-sacrificing martyr, I have some news for you. There are no medals for martyrs. The International Olympic Committee is not adding it to their event list anytime soon. Nobody, particularly your children, will come to you at some point in the future and say, “I appreciate how much you sacrificed your own health and well-being for us – and how you let us know about it all along the way!”

Your commitment to self-care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself – and your children. Here are some strategies to get you started.

1. Give Yourself Five Minutes a Day
Self-care doesn’t have to be big, fancy, expensive or time-consuming. Carve out at least 5 minutes a day to breathe, become still, let yourself daydream or sing along to your favorite tune. Imagine that each breath you take is refueling and grounding you.

2. Find Emotional Support
It’s always great to ensure you have the support of like-minded and like-spirited friends. If you hit a bump in the road, draw upon your support network. If the challenge you face is particularly tough, like going through a divorce, a downsizing or health issue, tap into people who have specialized experience in that area. Getting strong emotional support structures in place upfront will save you time and heartache in your healing journey.

3. Delegate as Much as Possible
When you’re feeling stress, stop and assess everything you have piled on your plate. Are there any responsibilities you have now that you can delegate or defer to someone else so you can give yourself some time off? Bulk up your babysitters and repair person lists. Make progress, not perfection, your goal.

4. Appreciate Yourself
A big reason people become self-sacrificing martyrs is because they are really seeking acknowledgement and appreciation. There is a much more reliable way to get that 24/7 which is by acknowledging yourself. Celebrate each and every accomplishment, new insight and decision you make. Writing them down in a self-appreciation journal will help make your progress more tangible and clear.

5. Be a Role Model for Your Children
Parents under stress often make the mistake of trying to keep a stiff upper lip around their children. Yet parents are powerful role models for their children. Children experience stress too. Remember, they will do what you do, not what you say.

Help build some healthy habits by teaching your children how to manage their own stress. You can start by naming the feelings you’re having. Share that “Mommy is feeling overloaded right now.” Next, ask yourself what you need to do in that moment to take care of yourself. Demonstrate this with your children by saying “Daddy needs to take a five minute break to collect my thoughts.” Taking responsibility for your feelings and your self-care is a powerful legacy to leave your children.

© 2010 Carolyn B. Ellis

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it:

Success Strategist, coach and best-selling author, Carolyn B. Ellis, is the founder of ThrivePrinciples.com, empowering you to thrive no matter what your outside circumstances are. To get free tips on turning adversity into opportunity in order to improve your relationships, increase your self-confidence and reach your highest potential, visit www.ThrivePrinciples.com.

Gratitude: A Life Preserver in a Sea of Change

So many of my American friends and clients are swept up in Thanksgiving season. Although I am Canadian and we celebrated this holiday last month, I enjoy riding the wave of connection and gratitude this particular holiday invokes. The year is quickly winding down and it is a perfect time for reflection on what has been and let gratitude infuse your heart and guide your actions. When times are challenging and you feel tossed about in a sea of change, grabbing onto what you are truly grateful for in your life exactly as it is can be like a life preserver. Living in gratitude guides you to find a way to thrive so you come out the other side stronger and wiser than ever before.

Here’s what I would like to give THANKS for this year and offer you some Thanksgiving morsels of reflection to help inspire you to see how you can thrive and some questions of reflection for you to consider.

T – Teachers

We are surrounded by teachers. There are teacher we hire to teach us of course. But there are teachers we marry, teachers we divorce, teachers we give birth to and raise from diapers to college graduation, teachers whose books we read, and even teachers we bump into on a plane ride and never see again in this lifetime. Every teacher offers us some lesson that contributes to our wisdom, self-expression and self-acceptance.

What teachers have been the most instrumental for you this past year?

H – Heart

Too often when people are faced with a challenge, they try to “figure it all out” and lead from their head. (I know – I’ve done that many times myself!) Adopting a strictly rational approach and minimizing or denying our feelings is ultimately a recipe for disaster. This has been a year when so many people are waking up and feeling the call of their hearts to lead lives of more passion and deeper meaning. Letting yourself lead from your heart creates powerful connection to others. I am grateful for discovering how to tap into and trust my heart’s wisdom.

What could be possible for you if you could let your heart’s wisdom and strength guide you even more powerfully this year? What might be different in your relationships or your professional life?

A – Acceptance

Acceptance is a key ingredient to living with more peace and ease. Of course there are situations where wrongs must be righted, boundaries set or expectation clarified. But I see everything as part of a spiritual curriculum that we have created for ourselves. I accept that some wonderful people have come into my life, and some wonderful people have left. I accept that I must choose each day to live with as much heart and consciousness as I am able. Some days are easier than others to do that! I accept that heartaches, victories and quiet moments all contribute to the fabric of who I have become today, and I am grateful for it all.

Where have you been in resistance to something and how can you find a greater level of acceptance?

N – Now

I am grateful for the ability to start each day, each hour, each moment as a new beginning. In the present “Now” moment is where my power and presence lie. Releasing fears from the past and dissolving limiting beliefs that cloud my brilliance, I celebrate the opportunity to begin again with an open heart and a beginner’s mind.

What thought or belief would you need to release so you could start each day with a beginner’s mind, free to express your greatest desires and dreams?

K – Kindness

I’ve always tried to demonstrate kindness to others, but to be honest it’s only been in the last few years I’ve realized how stingy with kindness I’ve been to myself. Over the decades, my inner critic has developed quite the repertoire of nasty thoughts and doubts it uses to lash out at me! I use my labradoodle, Sandy, as my daily reminder to treat myself as kindly as I treat her. I am grateful to experience the enormous emotional freedom that comes with practicing kindness, patience and forgiveness with oneself.

How can you break free from your inner critic and practice kindness and patience with yourself?

S – Service

I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service. Campers are familiar with the “no trace” camping policy, where you leave an environment exactly how you found it. I’ve always had the perspective of leaving an environment a little better than when I found it. Even when I was working in a bullpen office on Wall Street putting together municipal bond deals, I was looking from the lens of “How can I make this process a bit better? How can I empower others to work together more effectively?” I am grateful that my articles and teacher offer a service to others to see new possibilities and inspire them in concrete ways to realize their dreams.

How can you be of service – to others and to yourself – so that you leave the world at least a little better off than how you found it today?

© 2009-2010 Carolyn B. Ellis

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it:

Success Strategist, coach and best-selling author, Carolyn B. Ellis, is the founder of ThrivePrinciples.com, empowering you to thrive no matter what your outside circumstances are. To get free tips on turning adversity into opportunity in order to improve your relationships, increase your self-confidence and reach your highest potential, visit www.ThrivePrinciples.com.

The Year of….

Setting a theme for your year can be fun and a very useful strategy to your success this year. Each holiday season for at least the past 20 years, I’ve carefully selected my theme, and this year was no exception. In a minute, I’ll share it with you. (I’m so excited about it I can barely keep myself from spilling it to you now!)

But first, here are a few pointers to selecting a good theme and then some examples from my own life about how to make a theme work for you.

Your theme:

• Will serve you best when it comes from your big picture and vision
• Should excite or inspire you
• Should stretch you
• Should be kept to a simple, memorable phrase

Continue reading

My Favorite Holiday Cookie Recipe

As we wind down the year, one of the things that says “Aaah, the holidays are here!” to me the most is the smell of yummy, fresh baked cookies. With time being short, I’m always on the lookout for a great cookie recipe that’s not only delicious, but time-effective in the kitchen too.

A friend of mine gave me this awesome recipe for Chewy Spice Cookies a few years ago — and it has quickly become a family favorite and staple. Fits the sweet tooth bill any time of year, actually! So while you might not typically find a cookie recipe here on this blog, I thought I’d use it to share with you a great find that my family and I so enjoy. And I hope you will too!

Happy Holidays and all the best for 2010!

Bonnie Stern’s Chewy Spice Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

1 1/2 tbsp. coffee

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup chopped candied ginger (sounds odd, but easy to find in the grocery’s baking aisle)

2 tbsp. sugar

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter with sugar until light. Beat in egg, molasses and coffee, mixing well between additions.

3. Mix or sift dry ingredients together. Stir into batter. Mix in fruit.

4. Knead batter into a ball and divide into 8 equal pieces.

5. Roll each piece into a log about 1 “/2.5 cm in diameter and about 12 ” long. Place on cookie sheet and press flat.

6. Bake 9-10 minutes — cookies should still be soft. Spring with granulated sugar. Cut about 1 “/2.5 cm wide slices on the diagonal. You will get about 8 cookies per strip.

Transition to a Brilliant New Year: 5 Brilliant Questions to Ask

In a world that is fast-moving and filled with challenge, something we can always count on is change. It seems that most people are in a state of transition nowadays. I see this with my clients, with my colleagues and with myself as well. There is a transition in my business, as I shift the kinds of programs I’m offering and the clients I serve. There’s a transition in my family too. With my daughter away at university, there’s been a big shift in the landscape on the homefront for me and the boys.

Equipping yourself for transition is something that deserves your time and attention. To get where you want to go and thrive in life, you’ve got to be in the driver’s seat of your life – hands on the wheel, eyes open and looking forward. It’s a time to review and see what worked well, and what didn’t. What have you said “Yes” to that you now need to say “No” to so you can create space for what is to come? It’s a time to identify and implement any mid-course corrections you need.

To create your brilliant 2010, I’d like to offer these 5 Brilliant questions.

1. What Do I Need?

What are your core needs? As Maslow articulated in his “Hierarchy of Needs”, until we address our basic survival and security needs, we won’t be able to …. Continue reading

Thanks – Counting Our Blessings

It’s always a good time of year to count one’s blessings. Of course, at this point in the calendar we get extra reminders of that from Hallmark cards and turkey farmers. Having experienced some family and friends living with serious health challenges this past year, I am more committed than ever to make it a practice to wake up every morning with a declaration of gratitude.

Here’s what I would like to give THANKS for this year and some questions of reflection for you to consider.

T – Teachers

We are surrounded by teachers. There are teachers we hire to teach us of course. But there are teachers we marry, teachers we divorce, teachers we give birth to and raise from diapers to college graduation, teachers whose books we read, and even teachers we bump into on a plane ride and never see again in this lifetime. Every teacher offers us some lesson that contributes to our wisdom, …… Continue reading

Valentine’s Day with my Mastermind Group

Honest, I’m not always in Los Angeles on the weekends, but it just seems like it this past month! I had a great two-day meeting with my mastermind group, facilitated by David Neagle. He’s a master at the mindset and I highly recommend his work. Check him out and you can get his powerful Art of Success when you join his ezine list. We met at the Ritz Carlton in LA. I’ve really been seeing the power of being a part of a mastermind group and will share some of the principles of how they work, and why everyone should be in one, in future Thrive Guide articles!

Sexy Mom Expert, Allana Pratt, and I in a clinch after a morning of shooting some videos for my web sites

Sexy Mom Expert, Allana Pratt, and I in a clinch after a morning of shooting some videos for my web sites

What a great group! Here I am (can you spot me in the back row) with my David Neagle mastermind group.

What a great group! Here I am (can you spot me in the back row) with my David Neagle mastermind group.

Holiday Survival Strategies Contest – We have a Winner!

It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to one winner from the dozens of entries we received on the blog and in our email, but David from Alberta, Canada is the winner of the Holiday Survival Strategies contest! Thank you to everyone for your great ideas and sharing your stories with us!

Holding the contest highlighted the value of finding like-minded people who have a common interest – to thrive after divorce and thrive in life. I think Sue said it best when she posted on the blog “The sharing of our stories is important because we gather strength from each other. Thank you for sharing!

David is separated and has 4 children. He and his estranged wife will be spending some time together as a family over the holidays, but he knows his wife wants to file for divorce in the New Year.  As you can imagine, it’s an emotionally challenging time, and I’m sure many of you can relate with the issue of realizing your holiday may be the “last one” as a family with mom and dad under the same roof.

David is going to receive a copy of The Divorce Resource Kit, my latest educational resource. From handling your finances to your next relationship, and from parenting to dealing with your ex, it’s all here in The Divorce Resource Kit. Stay tuned for more information in the New Year when it gets launched to the public!

So congratulations to David and thanks to all of you for playing with me in the Holiday Survival Strategies contest!

I wish each of you a happy holiday season!