Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Make Time, and Enjoy the Moment

Why are kids so happy?  Because they don't dwell on the past or worry about the future.  When they are doing something, they are completely engrossed in the moment, and maybe we should try to take a page from their book and do the same more often.

This year, in my own effort to worry less and enjoy the moment more, I took a page from the "Happiness Project" and began by de-cluttering and simplifying my home life.  In the process, I detached from the past and extricated myself from negative situations.  Then I took to heart what Miguel Angel Ruiz suggested in the Four Agreements:

1. Make no assumptions;
2. Avoid passing judgment;
3. Be honest, and just do your best; and
4. Don't take things personally.

Inspired by those gentle souls that I have crossed paths with over the years, I wound up reading almost a dozen spiritual books by some of the masters, including the Dali Lama and Deepak Chopra, and what is undeniable is the common theme they all promote-- learning to let go of outcomes.  What kids seem to know instinctively, and we seem to forget as adults, is that we should enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the final destination.  

2013 showed me that I cannot control what happens around me, only my reactions.  Rather than dwell on the losses or allow anger to take hold, which is just a waste of energy, I stayed positive believing that that attitude would yield positive results.  The masters were right, and I humbly bow down to Millman for showing me the way with his book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

Being present has allowed me to see that we are all born with different capacities, and there is no point to passing judgment on others. Those of us that have been blessed with many gifts need to be grateful for what we have and show compassion to those less fortunate- because we are all connected, we are all human, and in the end we will all suffer, but together we can ease each other's pain and bring joy to one another.

Embracing life with a much more open mind has reduced a lot of unnecessary stress for me, and taking time to connect with others has enriched my life beyond words.  Here is hoping more will free themselves to enjoy the moment, and take time to be with family and friends. 

Only those that make time to give and receive love will get it, and what is more important than love?  Just remember, we all have choices to make, including how we use our time and who we share it with, and we become defined by the choices we make, so choose wisely.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Making Your NYE Resolutions Count

Three years ago on NYE, I remember racing from an intimate dinner with friends to one of those ridiculous hotel parties in DC to ring in the new year, and once I found myself there surrounded by a bunch of strangers drinking cheap champagne from a can, my resolution came to me right away: not doing this again.  I decided then and there that in 2011, it was time to face the one thing I'd been avoiding for quite some time-- after 20 years, it was time to try and find my dad.

Luckily, I was able to track down my uncle rather quickly in January 2011, and the following month my dad flew to DC.  At rather warped speed, I was able to meet his entire side of the family that year and integrate them into my life.  By the time NYE rolled around, I was exactly where I wanted to be-- surrounded by my family in Miami feeling on top of the world.  But there was still some more repair work to be done,...

2012 was the year to reconcile with my mom, and that was definitely something I could not have accomplished without tremendous encouragement and support from my father, step-mother, aunt and godparents.  They all believed this was critical to my emotional well-being, and although I did not fully see their point at the time, I did trust in their wisdom, and of course it turns out they were 100% correct.  Sadly that year ended with my grandmother in the hospital, and I opted for a low key NYE realizing I needed to draft a eulogy, which I in fact wound up giving in the beginning of this year.

My plan for 2013 was to start fresh-- purging not just things, but all negative energy.  I set some pretty high goals for this year, and although not everything went according to my vision, it all turned out beautifully.  With the help of family and friends, I finally moved into a new home and finished my children's book, while also completing 58 tv episodes, winding up on Good Morning America and making the Washingtonian's top lawyers list in December.   So how will I celebrate NYE?  On top of a mountain, literally, with my favorite person on Earth-- my son.

I have no idea what 2014 has in store for me, but here is one thing I do know-- I'm out to make my NYE resolutions count.  So far, I've got a good streak going-- and no doubt a lot has to do with the fact that I didn't waste my time sweating the little stuff.  I decided 3 years ago to think BIG, and here's hoping you do too.  As the saying goes, reach for the moon-- even if you don't make it, at least you will land among the stars. :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Starting Fresh After a Break-up

Break ups are never easy, especially the longer you've been with someone and the more your lives have become intertwined.  Yet once you get past the unpleasant task of untangling everything, purging crap (including cleaning up your digital life) and establishing new norms, slowly but surely a calm washes over you and soon thereafter a sense of hope begins to build as you find yourself forging a new path, and you realize that what you have in front of you is an amazing opportunity for a new beginning for yourself, and maybe eventually with someone else-- someone better suited to meet your needs and share a life with you.

Personally, what I found after my divorce is that after the dreams of my happily-ever-after came crashing down, a whole new world opened up with very little rules and a heck of a lot of flexibility.  Both professionally and personally I found myself far more willing than ever before to test new limits and challenge preconceived notions of how things "should be done."  The less rigid my mind has become, the more doors just keep opening up-- and maybe this is more than anything else attributable to the fact that before I simply wasn't able to see them from my limited point of view.

To change your way of thinking and the way you view the world does not happen overnight.  Appreciating the complexities of life happens over time, with experience.  But sadly, for many of us the experience that tends to jolt our systematic way of thinking is a catastrophic event, like death or divorce.  Thankfully, this is NOT a person's defining moment, it's just the trigger  for a series of events or a chain reaction that will lead to someone's metamorphosis.

Honestly, a key part to my own metamorphosis was dating-- because it opened me up to seeing the world from varying perspectives.  In the last 8 years, I've dated people ranging from 13 years my senior to 6 years my junior, and some have been richer while others have been poorer, with some being totally non-committal while others were just rushing to walk down that aisle again.  (I highly recommend avoiding the latter.)  Needless to say, there has never really been a dull moment in my own post-divorce journey and by being open to these different opportunities, my own understanding of the world has grown far deeper and richer than I'd ever imagined possible.

For those of you about to embark on this journey, I encourage you to watch last week's episode on MMCTV with New Beginnings, and you really should consider getting a personal guide to help you through the process of rebuilding a new life.  There are also some great books out there, and the one I mentioned on air is a quick read-- and it is free online: Butterflies are Free to Fly by Stephen Davis.  Here is the link:

I know a lot of you will not survive the holidays together-- after 15 years of handling divorces, I've seen the trends, and it is no secret that many of you are just trying to grin and bear it right now.  All I can say is that I'm sorry you are going through this right now, but you are not alone, and while the path ahead may not be easy, try to see this as an opportunity for a fresh start.  Hopefully, you too will soon become a free butterfly.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Good Things Do Come to Those That Wait

Growing up, the best part about the holidays was seeing how NYC got all decked out for the holidays with the gigantic tree at Rockefeller Center, the lights everywhere, and the store windows all beautifully decorated.  At home, it was always just me, with my mom and grandma.  That was my entire family, and my grandma's big tradition was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, which to be honest I hated.  I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to a bunch of gifts under the tree-- and I longed for a fire place with stockings, but of course that wasn't going to happen in our modest little apartment, with Santa always on a budget.  But I never gave up hope that one day I would have the kind of Christmas that I'd always dreamed of, if not for me, then for my own child.

And so it has been my whole life, I've always had to wait for things.  It took me 21 years to finally break my family's cycle and become the first college graduate.  Soon thereafter, I broke another record by finishing law school and getting married at age 25.  Then I had to wait another 5 long years to get to the place in my career where I felt secure enough to tackle motherhood while balancing that with the demands of work.  Finally, it is in the last 10 years that I've focused on righting all the wrongs from the past, and basically everything I did not get to have as a child, I've made up for with my own son.  Funny thing is that along the way an unexpected thing happened--that poor little 8 year old girl from Queens that longed for so much has come out to play with him.  Turns out, all this time she's been waiting-- waiting for the moment where she could finally have those experiences that so many others seemed to just take for granted, like family beach vacations, or Disney with the family or even just Christmas dinner surrounded with a big family.

This year in particular, my son seems to be far more aware of things than ever before, and the other day as we were baking more cookies for Santa, he asked me whether when I was a child I ever decorated my home the way we do now.  Of course, the answer was "no."  Then he asked about the gifts I got, and of course the answer was that I never got anywhere close to the gifts he gets.  Finally he said, "if you always just had dinner with your mom and grandma, then Christmas dinner would not really be any different from any other day."  Of course the answer to that was he was dead right.  With that, he lay his hand on top of mine and said, "I'm so sorry that Christmas was not very special for you, the way it is for me.  Now I understand why you make such a big deal about it."

There certainly is no doubt that I love Christmas as an adult, but perhaps the motivation hasn't always been so obvious.  The fact that I can provide my son with some beautiful traditions and experiences that I lacked at his age is a true gift that I cherish, and even more important now is that he is able to appreciate that not everyone is as fortunate.  My early experiences not only motivated me to excel, but they kept me humble.  I remain eternally grateful to all those that have helped me, and together we have all proven that good things do indeed come to those that wait.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Getting Engaged Over the Holidays?

Lots of people get engaged over the holidays, in fact I was one of those many, many years ago.  Just hours later, everyone started asking about the timeframe, location, what kinds of flowers, venue ideas, etc.  If there is one piece of advice I can give to those about to embark on this journey, it would be this: take your time, and do things your way.

It actually doesn't take long to plan the major logistics-- your party size will dictate the venue options, and your budget will really drive everything else.  Keep in mind that the average U.S. wedding costs about $22,000, although in places like NYC and DC this might barely cover the flower budget for some couples.   And this is why a lot of family dynamics will play into the whole planning process.

Now, as a matrimonial attorney the most interesting trend I've seen over the last 15 years is the tremendous rise in families insisting upon prenuptial agreements.  Let me be brutally honest, a lot of trust funds and family corporations now have written into their operating agreements that the beneficiary or shareholder must have a valid prenup in order to protect his/her interest in the family trust or corporation.  Not very romantic, but super smart-- just in case things go south, it's nice to know what's off limits vs. what's up for grabs.

So, before you start making all sorts of announcements and posting things on social media sites, you may want to have a little talk with your beloved about whether s/he is thinking about doing a prenup, and if so, you may want to find out sooner rather than later what the terms of that agreement will include-- some are fairly straightforward, but more and more we are seeing some very strict or rather harsh provisions.   I know most people like to postpone unpleasant conversations, but honestly this is not something you should leave to the last minute. The sooner you get these difficult discussions out of the way, the sooner you can focus on the more enjoyable tasks, like tastings and shopping for the perfect outfit.

Another thing I would suggest looking into is a marriage prep class.  There are some great non-secular weekend programs available that cover a lot of topics that you may not have really considered.  If you have not done so already, you really need to talk about your views on managing money, balancing careers and home life, the importance of family and your plans for building a life together.  Be candid about your needs and your deal-breakers-- and maybe try to come up with some rules of engagement when dealing with conflict.  It is bound to happen, we all get into arguments, but set up some ground rules, so this way you can prevent World War III from erupting.

Finally, don't skimp on the honeymoon.  The party only lasts one day, and let's face it you are way too busy running around and playing host to fully enjoy that moment.  On the other hand, the honeymoon is all about the couple-- the drama should be over, and this is your time together to relax and enjoy being Mr. & Mrs. Right for Each Other. 

Congrats to all those out there getting engaged this time of year-- truly this is a very special moment in your life that you should treasure!  Just take your time and be smart by laying the right foundation for your happily ever after.  


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Opposites May Attract, But They Don't Last

There are a lot of lessons that I've been trying to impart on my son over the last 10 years, and it is definitely nice to see now that the hard work over the past decade is in fact paying off, but just as interesting are the lessons he's gleaned unintentionally, simple through observation.  My favorite one that falls into this category is his comment the other day that the number one lesson he's learned about relationships is that "you shouldn't marry your opposite, it won't last."  So true, wish I'd realized this in grade school!

It is easy to see why opposites attract-- someone different is interesting, fun, and maybe sometimes a bit of a challenge.  It's exciting to see the world through their eyes-- you get a totally different perspective from them.  Also, for those of us that like to debate and/or test limits, the ability to do this with someone that does not think the same way you do is way cooler.  For quite some time these games can be a blast, trust me, I have tried this theory out a couple of times.  Yet in the end, the result has always been the same-- the very reasons I might first have been drawn to my opposite are the same causes for the demise of the relationship. 

Sadly, love does not conquer all.  For it to last, you need trust and respect, which fundamentally cannot exist with someone that doesn't share the same core values.  Don't underestimate the importance of how critical it is for you to be on the same page with your partner on major issues regarding what I consider the Big Six: (1) finances, (2) career, (3) family, (4) friends, (5) religion, and (6) sex.  If you don't trust or respect the way people handle the Big Six areas in their life, your love will simply not last.  

For years, I admit that I felt guilty for not modeling a happy, intact marriage for my son, who was 2 years old when I got divorced.  And perhaps as a result of that guilt, on a couple of occasions over the last several years I tried much harder than I should have to fit a square peg through a round hole, until I just couldn't deal anymore.  Ironically, this may be the best life lesson that a child from a divorced parent can learn: there is no point in being with someone if you aren't happy.  Rather than be miserable, it is actually an okay choice to be alone and hold out for that special someone who will love you like there is no tomorrow.     

So, in the last few weeks I've actually come to accept  that while I may not have modeled a happy marriage for my son, I have succeeded in modeling a happy independent life.   Over the past 8 years, he has seen first-hand the importance of having a good career, being fiscally responsible and making time for family and friends.  He also knows that even the best of us can make mistakes, and the key is simply not to let those setbacks drag you down. 

Now it's time for me to learn from my son's astute observation.  Perhaps the thrill-seeker that keeps getting lured by those unlike her should stick more to her own kind.  :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Use a SWOT Analysis- Even in Dating

In the corporate world, we use a SWOT analysis all the time, especially during annual retreats, to determine what are the firm's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  The point is to continue to play off our strengths while finding new opportunities to address the weaknesses and eliminate the threats.  This is an incredibly useful technique that helps companies figure out their competitive advantage, and the fact is more of us should apply this concept to dating.

To be perfectly candid, I did not understand much about the dating scene 8 years ago.  I went straight from college to living with my boyfriend, who later became my husband in law school.  After 12 years of being together, when we divorced in 2005, I was shocked to see how the dating landscape had changed, especially as a result of modern technology.  Luckily, I am a quick learner, and if I had to emphasize 3 key points, they would be this:

1. Pace yourself - you don't need to speed things up just because someone else has a different agenda.

2. Take breaks when you need to-- we all have moments that require us to focus on other things, and rational human beings will understand that work and kids have to come first.

3. Stay focused- don't let your emotions cloud your judgment.  You need to stay true to your wants and needs and stay clear of your deal-breakers.  Don't compromise those for anyone.

If someone actually makes it past the four month mark, and you find yourself getting serious, then you may want to start doing a SWOT analysis.  Do you play off each other's strengths and shore up each other's weaknesses?  What opportunities are there together?  And most importantly, what are the threats to this relationship, and can they be addressed?

In law school, I was taught to plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Funny thing is that this mentality has actually saved my life many times and served me incredibly well in dating.  Here's wishing you too will plan for the worst while hoping for the best!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Have You Been Naughty or Nice?

Less than 3 weeks to go before Christmas, and as we work on our holiday cards and gift ideas, we inevitably have to ask ourselves how generous we feel like being towards the cast of characters that are part of our world.  It's almost like an annual review of our status with family and friends, and here is where I love playing Ms. Claus and shedding the dead weight while rewarding those that have been good.

Being perfectly candid, 2013 started out a bit rough, particularly with the death of one of my greatest heroes-- my grandmother, who lived 97 very full years and is one of the most peaceful souls I've ever met here on Earth.  There were other hiccups along the way, which are not worth mentioning here, but suffice it to say that those who truly cared about me stepped up and rallied, and I will be eternally grateful to those that stood by me in a time of need and helped make the second half of 2013 a stellar experience.

As kids, we all learned that good behavior would be rewarded, whereas bad acts would be punished.  I say we should continue to live that way as adults.  Why put up a facade?  If you don't feel like buying someone a present, then don't.  If you can't afford to do what you'd like to do, just say that.  There should be no drama during the holidays-- those that love you will understand if times are tough, and really once you become an adult, it's all about spending time together-- the magical gifts are for the kids, and that's where we should focus our resources in my opinion.

During the holiday season, it is perfectly normal for all adults to reflect on the past, and think of what is yet to come in the new year.  My advice is to start the new year fresh-- without the bad baggage.  Don't harbor resentment towards those relationships that failed.  Those that are there for you in good times and in bad are in fact rare, that's what makes them so special.  Make those count, and with the rest, just envision yourself like Teflon-- don't let their b.s. stick to you.  People can only drag you down during the holidays if you let them-- so don't allow yourself to give them that kind of power.

In the end, I'm not leaving it to Santa, or any other powers that be, to figure out whether I've been naughty or nice.  I know I've been nice, despite ample opportunity to go to the dark side, and now it's just about rewarding those that helped me stay on track.  Here's hoping you will do the same!      

Friday, December 6, 2013

A True Miracle on 34th Street

Last week, after waiting four decades for this moment, I finally got to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade live this year seated right by the tv cameras-- a dream come true after freezing my butt off for years watching the parade while standing with the masses on the streets.  It was truly an amazing sight, but what really made this moment all the more special was that I was able to share this experience with my mother, a cancer survivor who had never been to the parade, and my son, who doesn't remember when we went years ago.  Together, it is something we can cherish for the rest of our lives, and with that we will always be reminded of the power of forgiveness.

Three years ago, when I decided to go in search of my dad, let's just say my mother was not supportive of this endeavor.  To be fair, even my closest friends were worried about this decision to  open up my deepest wound in my life.  Many could not understand why I was taking such a huge risk back in 2010, and while they worried about the possible trauma that I might suffer if grossly disappointed, I just focused on getting some answers for my son about our family history, although little did I realize at the time that I was the one who really needed the answers in order to find peace.

After various trips to Florida the last few years, I have a far better understanding of the characters involved, and many tears were shed as we all came to grasp the depth of how much was lost and would never be recovered.  However, everyone involved has stepped up to create some of the best family memories over the last 3 years helping that inner child in me that longed for so much to finally heal.

There is no dispute that I am not the same person I was three years ago, and the evidence is all there as the entire journey was captured digitally in my blog, on Facebook, and later in over 50 tv episodes where I have revealed bits and pieces of my story. While there remains a lot that I have not shared out of respect for other's privacy, I do believe it is important for others to understand that we all have family baggage that we carry, and at some point-- especially during the holidays-- we must try to find it in our hearts to forgive our makers for their mistakes, accept their character flaws, and just let the past go and enjoy whatever time we have left together.

It is not easy to let go, and as evidenced by my journey, it took me years to piece together my family puzzle.  Ironcially, I may never have done so if my own immediate family had not fallen apart when I got divorced 8 years ago, which proves that sometimes amazing things happen as a result of great tragedies.
As the floats went by us and the performers did their songs and dances, I have to admit my mind wandered a lot as I thought about all the litle miracles that have happened to make that moment possible.  At one point, I guess my mom's mind had been wandering also, and she turned to me and asked me how I could forgive my dad.  It was with great mercy that I simply said, "we cannot turn back the clock and undo things, so I've just learned to let the past go."

Families are complicated, but this year particularly they showed me just how much they can rally and be there in a time of need.  So if you have some unresolved issues with your loved ones, this holiday season, maybe you can try to create your own holiday miracle by making an effort to mend those ties.  Forgiveness is the best gift you can give not just to others, but to yourself.  I promise, it is far better than anything you can find under the tree wrapped with a pretty bow.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

5 Most Common Fears That Surface in Divorce

Tis the season for breakups, and every year I brace myself this time of year for some very difficult conversations about people's worst fears.  Whether it comes as a surprise, or is something that everyone could see was inevitable, the fact remains divorce is a difficult process-- not legally actually, but emotionally.  It is hard to untangle those ties that have kept you together all those years, and whenever I hear the stories, my only question is how did you last so long??? 

At first, I did not understand how people could live such unhappy lives for years before finally getting the courage to say enough is enough.  And yet, over the years, I have come to see that what I may view as a simple reorganization of a family structure, is for many a very painful experience they have been dreading for quite some time because it means facing their greatest fears.  Here are the top 5 fears I encounter most often:

1. The Scarlet Letter Syndrome.  Many are afraid of what people will think.  My response is who cares?  If you need to get out of a dysfunctional situation, most rational people will be supportive and understanding.  We are not living in the 1950's anymore.  Being divorced does not carry the same stigma that it had when we were kids.  Today over 40% of kids are being born out of wedlock, and blended families are an accepted part of our cultural norm. 

2. Fear of being alone.  This is a common one, and all I can say is that this is your choice.  If you choose to close yourself off from society, then yes this can truly become your reality, but if you don't want to be alone, then you will find a way to motivate yourself to get back out there.  Over 60% of once married people will remarry, so the odds are in your favor if that is what you want to do, and even if you don't-- that does not mean you are alone.  My friends and family have rallied each and every year the last 8 years since I got divorced, and even though I have specifically made it a choice not to remarry, that doesn't mean that I never will-- actually it's just that having options is a lot of fun.

3.   Fear of being poor.  I'm not going to lie, getting divorced and having to support two homes means that everyone is going to take a hit financially.  Here, it is all about learning to mitigate your damages.  You have to really strip unnecessary expenses and learn to live on a realistic budget.  You have to do your best to maximize your income and minimize your spending.  Friends and family may have to help you out, and I know this can be a very humbling experience, but then again isn't that what friends and family are there for-- to help in times of need?  Those that love you are going to want to help you get through this difficult time, and you should let them.  You can pay them back later, when they are the ones in need and you are in a better place. 

4. Fear of becoming irrelevant with your kids.  A lot of parents worry about being marginalized in their kids lives and missing out on major moments, and here is where I believe that where there is a will, there is a way.  If you want to be involved in your children's lives, our laws and the court system are actually set up to want to make that happen.  We promote joint custody, and we believe in all the research that shows that regular and frequent contact with both parents is what will help kids be happy and healthy. 

5. Fear of change.  This is the toughest of all in my opinion-- because if you have lost the ability to adapt, how can I help you understand that change is a normal part of life?  Whether you want things to change or not, they will.  Our babies will grow up, while our parents are getting old and will soon die.  Meanwhile, technology is accelerating the changes that are occuring not just at work, but in our personal lives, and the way we view the world is transforming right before our very eyes.  Case in point: it is not that long ago that we lived with segregation right here in the USA, and today we have our first black president-- seriously, I never thought I would see that in my lifetime!  So, to me this is a no brainer, change is constantly happening and you can either embrace it and learn to roll with it, or life is simply going to pass you by.

Divorce is scary, no doubt about it.  It is not at all what I wanted for myself, and yet I didn't just survive it- I actually learned to thrive.  It turns out I am much stronger that I ever gave myself credit for, and while searching for answers as to why things unraveled, I finally took the time to dig up some buried issues and deal with them.  This is a common experience among divorced individuals.

As for post-divorce dating, which initially seemed a bit daunting after years of being out of the game, it has actually not just turned out to be fun, but it's been an incredible experience that has taught me so much about how men think, while at the same time being the best ego-booster ever.  While passion is indeed one of the first things to die at the end of a marriage, it is also one of the first things to ramp up when your divorce is over.  There are plenty that will be happy to help you light that fire--especially if you are strong, confident and ready for some adventure!

So, if you are not in a good situation, don't let fear hold you back from making a change-- there is an amazing world out there full of interesting characters and opportunties.  Face your fears, conquer them, and set a new course for your life.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's Left on Your Bucket List?

I've never been big on New Year's Resolutions, but I've definitely been working on my bucket list ever since I graduated college and finally got my first full-time job.  This year, I say skip the stupid minor promises to yourself about eating better or trying to lose 10 pounds, and instead THINK BIG.  Let yourself dream about things you want to enjoy before it's too late.  Among the many great things to do in life that are not related to work or being a parent, here are some of my favorite PG-rated adventures, for those seeking a little inspiration:

1. Traveling Abroad
2. Horseback riding
3. Skiing
4. Fishing
5. Sailing
6. Playing Golf
7. Scuba Diving
8. Riding a Hot Air Balloon
9. Taking a helicopter tour over the volcanoes in Hawaii
10. Shooting a gun
11. Enjoying the great outdoors: hiking, biking, kayaking or canoeing
12. Flying trapeze
13. Touring NYC
14. Gambling in Vegas
15. Seeing the electrical parade and fireworks at Disney

As you can see, over the last 20 years, I have definitely made a serious effort at enjoying a lot of the things I was not able to do as a child.  Don't get me wrong, my mom truly did her best as a single parent with little means, and I will always be grateful for her sacrifices, as well as the generosity of those around us that helped me escape the reality I was born into and see that the world is in fact full of beauty. 

Sadly, I am now starting to see my GenX peers getting sick, and our parents are growing old and dying.  Life for us is getting increasingly more difficult--especially as we get older and take on more and more responsibilties.  Meanwhile, everywhere you look there are horrible stories of violence, unfathomable greed and severe acts of betrayal--  and as much as I want to try to address all these issues, every now and then, I also think it is critical to find an escape.

What is the point of working hard if you can't have some fun?  Whether you need to get away from all the madness or the drudgery of a banal existence, develop your own reward system and give yourself something to look forward to-- something major, like the kind of thing you will remember the rest of your life-- at least once.

GenXers- I love you, but so many of you seem to have forgotten the importance of play.  If I had to pick a NYE resolution, it would be to help you guys bring out that inner child more.  Before we get too old to climb mountains and sail the seven seas, let's have some fun and teach our kids that the world is full of wonders worth seeing.  To them, seeing is believing-- so help them believe. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Tuesday Ideas

Today, in honor of Giving Tuesday, I want to encourage everyone to think about either making a donation, or volunteering for a good cause in your area.  There are so many wonderful ways to give back to your community, and especially during the holidays, those of us that can, need to help those that are less fortunate.

Each month in 2013, I tried to feature on Making It Last at least one local non-profit in our area, but this month during the holiday season I will be highlighting three: (1) Mentoring Today; (2) DC Campaign Against Teen Pregnancy and (3) New Beginnings.  There are so many great causes out there, but the ones that go to my core are children, education, and healthy families.  Here are ones we highlighted in past episodes:

College Tracks, which is based in Betheseda, and helps kids through the college application process.

PEP, which is based in Kensington and provides parent education programs.

Manna, which is a food bank based in Gaithersburg, MD.

Living Classrooms, which has programs in both Baltimore and DC that teach kids that will not go on to college trade skills so they can earn a living.

Living in Pink, which is based in Bethesda and was founded by a breast cancer survivor to raise funds for cancer research.

Becky's Fund, which is based in DC and raises awareness to prevent domestic violence.

Junior Achievement, which is a nationwide organization that promotes financial literacy for kids in grades K-12.

Women's Bar Assoc. Foundation in both MD and DC is the charitable arm of the WBA, which gives scholarships to women that want to pursue a legal degree.

DC Lawyers for Youth, which seeks to reform the juvenile deliquency system and advocates for public policy changes that will distribute funds in a more efficient way.

Although I lacked the means to give to all these wonderful causes, I certainly gave as much as I could of my time and energy-- and not just with the shows.  For the last five years, I have guest lectured at my alma maters, and this year I was also able to connect with the Fresh Start students at Living Classrooms and teach for Junior Achievement at my son's school this spring.  After I was given the honor of speaking at the annual fundraiser for the Oliver Scholars Program in NY, I decided to donate 10% of the net proceeds from my children's book to them.   And now, just in time for the holidays, there is just one more thing I have left to do: go to prison.

Yes, that was not a typo, I am going to prison this month for the Storybook Project, which records incarcerated women reading to their children, so that their kids will be able to hear their mothers voices this holiday season. 

Hopefully, I have made my point-- there are plenty of worthy causes out there, and you don't have to have money, but at least give of your time.  There are so many out there that have so little.  That is how my life started out, and it is only through the generosity of so many that I became the woman I am today.  Since I can not pay it back, I have to pay it forward.  Please find it in your heart to do the same, at the very least one day a year, on Giving Tuesday.