Not your same old New Year’s resolution

太极拳
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Do you ever allow yourself to step back from your life for a little while? I mean really step back. I recall having been on a few retreats in my life—the memories of which are still vivid. But it’s been a very long time. When I heard that friend Leah had been creating her own retreat—without going anywhere—I was intrigued.

I asked her if there were any insights or observations she’d like to share with SWWAN readers about her 3-day hiatus from all electronics and outside communications. Gulp, I started getting a little freaked just thinking about not being able to pick up the phone. Anyway, here’s what Leah Young reports out from her experience:

My 2011 Reboot…
For more than a few years now I have wanted to spend the time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in reflection, on retreat.  Up until this year, that yearning had gone unfulfilled, often overtaken with glittery but forced holiday festivities.

This time I decided to seize the opportunity for solitude.
“RETREAT IN SESSION 12/29-1/1.  NO ENTRY.”  The sign I created declared this truth to all who darkened my doorstep during my three day hiatus time.  A few close friends and family had been forewarned that I would not be available.

This was my “me” time, well me and my little four-legged companion that is.  His Royal Highness Prince Jazz never left my side for long.  I successfully managed to maintain my meditations amidst his trying to engage me in some serious play.  He survived my Chakra Toning with several curious glances and failed attempts to get me to cease disturbing his rest with my, uh, noise.

I allowed myself to flow through the time, journaling periodically and taking consistent breaks to move my body to the rhythmic sounds of Mediterranean & Flamenco influenced music.  I accompanied the movement (my iteration of uninhibited dance) with tapping and Tai Chi routines that I’ve learned from my teacher this past year.

No cell phones, landlines, Internet, or texting for 20-22 hours a day.  I did check in with my mother who is travelling and called a friend on her birthday.  No Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Overall, it was bliss.  I slowed the axis of my world long enough to become clear about my intentions for this newly dawning year and my continued journey of transformation.  No empty resolutions, just clear intention.

  1. I am allowing myself to co-create my life more mindfully.  I will use my words and actions to support my desired end results.  I will waste no time, energy or focus on that which I do not wish to experience.
  2. I forgive myself for all my transgressions & I forgive all others theirs against me.  I move forward open wide to love, joy and peace.
  3. I surrender the how and focus instead on gratitude for all that is mine now.
  4. I will continue to challenge myself to step into and embody the unique gifts divinely bestowed upon me.

In other words, I intend to move forward embracing life with zeal and vigor.  Three short days away from the hustle & bustle allowed me to recharge and reboot.  If you haven’t taken some quiet time for yourself, I encourage you to do so now.  Whether it is an hour, a day, a week or more, YOU are worth every minute.  Happy New Year!

Think about it. What would you do with even one day free of outside “stuff”? Here’s a little retreat checklist from A Woman’s Field Guide on how to craft your  own retreat. Is it harder for a single woman to do this than for a woman in a relationship with a kid or two? What about for single moms? Who knows. There are obstacles for all of us in taking personal time out; it’s a challenge to get past them, perhaps especially the interior, mental barriers we often erect.

I’m scared, but I’m moving this idea up to number one on my to-do list. Thanks, Leah. Happy new year to all.

Leah Young, a relationship expert with more than 20 years experience is the Confidante™ at callaconfidante.com, founder of ClubC4 a community for singles, relationship examiner for the Las Vegas Examiner online and publisher of the LightVision™ Post.  Contact Leah at confidante@callaconfidante.com

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Single moms and their kids battle recession

Mother holds Child
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I was somewhat surprised to read in a Legal Momentum e-newsletter that single mothers have traditionally always had a higher unemployment rate than the general population. Now they say the recession’s having an even greater negative impact. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) say the unemployment rate for single mothers was 13.6% in 2009 compared to 9.3% for the population as a whole.

I know how hard-hit so many two-parent families have been by this recession—several in my family had to have the stay-at-home mom go out and get a job. And having been a single mom myself who fought like hell to pay the bills and find a new job after losing  my employment in two earlier recessions, I find it painful to think about the struggles of the single mother in today’s brutal economy. First, they are women, which means they are already more likely to be paid less than men for similar work—in every type of job, from WalMart greeter to corporate executive. Second, unlike two-parent families there’s no second person to bring in backup income. Third, since a single mom already has an important second job—raising her kids—it may literally not be possible to take on a third job or find money to pay for child care even if she could.

Whether you make $20,000 a year or $100,000, whether you’re a working married mom or a single mom, as a parent your goal is to give your child the best possible life. When I read about how families are supported in other countries such as the private/public partnership to provide child care for all kids in Finland, it makes me sad that we don’t feel more of an obligation to help all of our country’s children receive the care they deserve while their moms work or look for work.

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Who are you now, and what do you really want?

Mothers love
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We women—single, single-again, married, cohabiting—all face unique situations and circumstances. But the ways in which any one woman suffers or feels confused or worries or wonders “what’s next” are not so different from those of other women.

Got a newsletter today from Dr. Karen Gail Lewis. She’s a warm and kind professional therapist who helps couples and families but also specializes in helping women who are single, single-again, or thinking about becoming single-again, or who’ve done all that society expected and just don’t know what they want now—she calls them “Empty Nexters.”

Dr. Karen has an interesting list of questions in her newsletter. They’re directed at women who are questioning “what’s next” about their own lives. I’m directly quoting it here so you can respond—in your head, on paper, or in your heart—if any of these questions resonates with you.

  • Think back to childhood, young adulthood. What were some of your dreams back then that you lost along the way?
  • Read magazines and even want ads. See what topics catch your interest. Don’t apply for anything; just be open to see what draws you.
  • Silence the inner voice that says, “I couldn’t,” or “I’d love to, but….”
  • Finish this sentence, “I would love to….” Don’t think about it, just write it out and see what words come.
  • Whose voice is inside your head saying, “You can’t!”?
  • What would your husband and children say if you were to say whatever came at the end of that sentence above?
  • What would your mother, father, siblings say if you were to do something entirely new and exciting with your life now?
  • Give yourself space to flush out old tears – for lost lovers, lost opportunities.
  • Attend a weekend retreat, just for women like you, Empty Nexters, figuring out what comes next.

Dr. Karen’s weekend retreats are specifically designed for women. Even if you don’t end up going to a retreat, she’s very generous about sharing her wisdom. You can read her inspiring words by visiting and subscribing to her newsletter at Dr. Karen Gail Lewis’s website.

Oh, and PS. There’s a special deal on pricing for the retreat—good only until September 15, so check it out today.

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Chicago real estate and single women

Lincoln Park during the winter.
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Hate the heat. So I thought I’d show you Lincoln Park in the snow.

Growing pains—well, changing pains.  I’m happily settled in my new digs in the busy Lakeview area of Chicago, learning even more about why people love this city.

My condo in Logan Square is on the market. I bought it from a single woman. I owned it as a single woman. And there are two other single-woman-owned units in our beautifully rehabbed building. Chicago—as is the case with most large cities—is a great place to be a single woman. So many job opportunities. So many things to do and places to go and people to meet. Full of adventure, yet not overwhelming. I’ve met and made friends with more single women in the few years since I returned to Chicago than I did in my 33 years in Cleveland.

My granddaughter (she was 3 in July) and I are spending more time together lately while her single-mom Perri is busy working for her real estate customers. How’s the market in your neck of the woods? Perri says it’s still pretty slow in Chicago, except for some precisely circumscribed areas known as “the” hot areas of the city—Lincoln Park and Bucktown being two of them. But even a block or more outside the boundaries of those neighborhoods, she says, sales are still slow.

For more tips about the market, single-mom ideas, fun stuff to do, and ways to make your home more beautiful, subscribe to Perri’s blog, ChicagoLifeandStyleBlog.

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Scholarships for single moms!

It may seem like an impossible dream – to get a degree while raising your kids solo. I was blessed to have found Capital University back when I was trying to finish my degree as a single working mom. At least they only required me to show up in class once in two weeks and allowed me to create portfolios for course content that I’d already learned in my life and business career. They also, bless their hearts, allowed me to use coursework taken many, many years before towards my credits.

But now there’s even a better way for single moms to go back to college. Elearners.com is partnering with several online universities for “Project Working Mom” – offering $2 million in full-ride scholarships. Options for majors can be anything from English lit to business and classes are online.

August 30 is the deadline for applications, so if you’ve been dreaming of getting that degree, log on and sign up.

Meanwhile, I think we ought to think of a new way to evaluate people’s learning. Some of the very smartest people I know never got degrees. Gotta be a way. Suggestions, anyone?

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US not alone in rising number of single-parent households

Even though the tradition to have a regular family with lots of kids has been strong among Jews, times are changing in Israel as well as other countries. The number of single-parent families in Israel has doubled over last decade. At 7% of all families, the single-parent household is a growing minority (90% of those are women-headed).

Here are the rankings of countries in order of their number of single-headed households, according to an NII report:

  • United State ranked in first place with 16%
  • Canada followed with 11%
  • Finland, South Korea, New Zealand and Norway are ranked third with 9%
  • Australia, the UK, Austria and Portugal ranked fourth with 8%
  • Israel is fifth with 7%
  • Denmark, Spain and Switzerland came in at sixth place (6%), and
  • Germany, Greece, Japan and Luxembourg (5%).

The same forces seem to be at work in most countries–better pay and more opportunities for women are leading to fewer marriages and more women choosing to remain single after divorce or become moms on their own.

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How to interview a nanny/babysitter for your child

You’re about to have a baby. If you don’t plan to use a daycare center, you’ll need a reliable child care resource–a person to whose home you will bring your baby, or someone who will come to your home. How do you know if you can trust the person you’re hiring not to lose her temper or turn abusive or mistreat your child? Impossible to say? Well, no one can ever predict anything with 100% accuracy, but there are ways single moms–and every parent–can increase their chances.

This is not an exhaustive list, but asking some of these questions could be helpful in weeding out a potentially dangerous person when you’re hiring a child care person/nanny. The basic information is from the book The Gift of Fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence. The book was written by a guy who grew up in a violent home and eventually started a business in which he became advisor to stars, politicians and the U.S. government on preventing stalking, violence and murder. He says our intuition is very powerful if we just listen to it.

He cautions it’s important to look not for reasons this person might be good, but instead for reasons to DISQUALIFY when interviewing a person to care for your child. I’ve added a few of my own.

  • Don’t rely on the fact that a person acts like s/he likes animals as a sign of anything. Although a dog does react to fear because it knows a creature who’s afraid is more likely to be dangerous, author Gavin deBecker says that if your dog reacts badly to someone, it’s almost certainly your dog reacting to your own intuition. He says your problem as a human being is that you will use something your dog doesn’t have–judgment–to decide not to honor your perceptions…to ignore your intuition. But he still cautions that you not give any weight to how your animals act.
  • Ask about drug use.
  • Ask about use of alcohol.
  • Ask what her family was like when she was little. People who become violent or abusive as adults were invariably abused as children.
  • Ask “Have you ever mistreated a child?” – Even though s/he can lie about any of these questions, the way s/he answers them will give you a big boost in comfort — or discomfort — with that person.
  • Ask a close friend or trusted relative to be in the interview with you–ask them to suspend their judgment, too, and just listen carefully. If you want to eliminate someone, it can help to have a confirming opinion–and it may be that the other person might even have a stronger feeling than you do that this is the wrong candidate. Don’t ignore that.

Suspend your judgment and listen to your instincts. Start early, because it’s better to have to interview 50 people than to hire the wrong person because you’re in a hurry–or worse, because you didn’t want to be rude.

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