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Holiday Party Mingle Etiquette 101- My Insights!

 

Holiday mingling

Photo source: rollingout.com

Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years are approaching. December is a busy month. There is so much on your plate. Holiday trimming, gift shopping, gifts wrapping, preparing your favorite seasonal meals and let’s not forget the numerous holiday parties that fill your calendar. This is the time to shine as a social-lite and take advantage of the opportunities to meet new acquaintances. To maximize your exposure and effect, I thought I would provide some tips to enhance your meet and greet game.

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Photo Source: thegrio.com

1) Find that perfect festive outfit. Wear holiday colors, shimmers and glitter. That will surely make you stand out in a crowd. Cheerful attire states that you are amicable to others. Make sure the outfit you choose is appropriate for the event you are attending and is flattering to your shape and build.

2) Have a positive attitude and an open-mind. Put your stresses behind and prepare to have good fun. Leave the attitudes and drama at home. Thoughts of work deadlines, bills, lack of romantic partners to exchange holiday gifts convolute your presence when out and about. You can’t have an open mind when you bring stress to the party.

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Photo source: essence.com

3) Smile, smile and smile. Be flirty. Keep the curled lips and pouts at home. Show those pearly whites you were blessed with. A smile goes a long way. Make eye contact and smile to any gent or lady you would like to meet. You will be surprised where that smile takes you.

4) Separate yourself from your friends and co-workers. Walk the room. No one likes to approach someone when there is an audience to witness them at their most vulnerable moment. They don’t want anyone to witness a possible awkward moment of rejection, loss of words, or their best Mack daddy/ mamma game out on display. Separating yourself and taking a break from your crew. Taking a lap around the venue eludes that you are confident, independent and possibly single.

5) Don’t wait for someone to make the first move. This is especially for the ladies. Men do not always have to approach you. Sometimes they need to feel comforted that you are open to meeting them. A smile on your face and direct eye contact works most of the time. But sometimes you need to have that ultimate ice-breaker. Bring up the holiday gala or party and how they got the invite, be versed in current events, and talk about the tasty hors de oeuvres’.  Let the person know you’re interested in what they are discussing by asking follow-up questions about the current topic. Keep the conversations afloat. Don’t let an opportunity to meet a potential great mate pass because you are too shy to open your mouth or unable to navigate the conversation.

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Oxytocin- It Never Fails- Why Women Suck at the “Friends with Benefits” Thing!

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This is for all the women out there….who think they can be successful in establishing a “Sex-Buddy relationship with a gent. The scope of this post  includes women who keep alive or seek sexual intimacy with their baby daddy’s, ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, friends, pursuits and men who are just not ready for any exclusive monogamous relationship.

The Agreement and Understanding:

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So here it goes… The gent is straight up and clear with his intentions and you decode his words accurately. You are aware of the restrictions, there are no pretenses given. You feel that you being the strong, independent woman you are, can handle and keep your emotions intact. “No Strings Attached” , “Let It Flow” ,”Whatever Happens Just Happens”.  He clearly states that he is not looking for anything serious, his focus is his career, buying a house, enjoying life with friends, traveling or anything else but developing a relationship with you. Maybe the person is a good friend where there is like-minded attraction but a relationship is not in either of your focus. This could be a future prospect that is eager in developing a relationship, but maybe you are not interested at this phase in your life in getting too serious and locked down, or vice versa where the gent is all about enjoying his manhood and not ready to put exclusivity on his sexual curiosity to one woman. Or the person is your kids father where the relationship did not work, but the parenting relationship continues and you both are comfortably with each other intimately. (Now that is another blog topic…which has been requested from my fellow followers). Regardless of the situation, a budding monogamous intimate relationship is not listed as an option.

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You agree with the terms of the arrangement. You have every intentions of  maintaining a friendship within the defined parameters. You are okay of not desiring more or if you secretly do, you bury those needs. You think to yourself: Why should you be deprived from sexual intimacy because your focuses in life are not currently in sync?…(especially if you experienced or heard the loving is good). You term your arrangement as a “friendship with benefits”, he is your sex buddy, your sexual fix from your baby daddy….whatever. You view the situation as ideal due to a variety of reasons. It could just be a temporary fix until you find the right person you are looking for in your life. Maybe you are too busy with your career to date and foster a budding relationship with anyone right now. Or secretly you think that maybe the gent will realize what great of a friend you are and will profess his unconditional love for you, or his focus will shift from his career to a long-term partner, hey what better place to look then at you right? You are there the “ride or die” homie chick fulfilling his needs. Who knows…it just works for you at this moment.

The Oxytocin Effect

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Oxytocin, the love hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland, plays an important role in sexual reproduction and intimacy. While the love hormone  are more widely dispersed before and after childbirth positively impacting maternal bonding from the cervix and through nipple stimulation in women, it also impacts women during sexual interaction, where a monogamous pair bond is also formed. As a woman who nursed two children, I can definitely identify with the maternal bonding effect of this hormone in both aspects.

The Catch-22

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During sexual intimacy, the hormone is released in the female’s brain and she forms a monogamous pair bond with her partner. Over time after repeated sexual occurrences that bond grows. This is where the dilemma occurs. The woman’s developed emotions and feelings begin to exceed her practicality. The realism view is impaired. So why the woman’s initial intentions are to keep the sex act occurrences separate from her heart and maintain a platonic friendship,  the sex and feelings begin to intertwine and she becomes attached romantically. Developed unconfined feelings are now expressed to her “Sex Buddy”. All of a sudden the gent is taken aback because the agreed upon “benefit arrangement”, is now backfiring.  The situation is the exact opposite of what he signed up for. It becomes what he was initially avoiding in the first place. The woman is now professing her wants of a monogamy relationship beyond their established friendship,  insecurities are shown, or jealousy appears. Or she herself becomes taken aback on how did her feelings get to this or that intimacy connection is developed, but there are some very important key aspects in her “Homie Lover Friend” that he lacks or characteristics she does not want in her future mate. Or she starts altering her focus from her career, hobbies and friends to wanting that monogamy connection feeling she attains through intimacy. This evolves when she knows deep down she is not ready to be the required woman a man would need in his life. That is not her focus, the reason she was okay with the “Homie Lover Friend” status to begin with.

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Us women are not chemically built like men in many ways, including satisfying our sexual desires. We definitely put our best effort forward in trying to be and do everything that a man can conquer. However, let’s face it ladies, in this area we are not equals. We may become more immune to our own feelings overtime, so the third or fourth blow of coping with developed feelings improves. But, the love hormone effect bites us every time. Screw you Oxytocin, right? It never fails. No matter how much in denial you are. Be real with yourself….don’t settle. Hold out until you are ready and/or find an ideal partner that wants to be more than “friends with benefits”. Or do you, but have the tissue boxes ready when conflicting views of each other wants arise, because the Oxytocin dispersed all over your heart.

Now I am not saying the male counterpart is immune to the hormone and feelings are not developed by them through intimacy. Men can and at times do become attached. But men are able to separate that attachment better and more often than women. They become attached to the sexual act itself and tend not to blend the  monogamy intimacy-like feelings of cuddling as easily as women. When they are ready to seek a monogamous relationship they do. If there are other priorities in life than an intimate relationship, they are not compromising or bending for that…just because of a sexual connection.

The “Friends with Benefits” concept can work, I am not slamming down the concept. However, more than likely, most of the time ends with unfulfilled wants and broken hearts. Given how we as women are more susceptible to the oxytocin hormone, many times us women are the sore losers.

Preparations for Holiday Cheer as a Happily Divorcee! Salute!

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December is my favorite month of the year. My inner child jumps out and starts to count down the 25 days to Christmas, embrace the festivities of Kwanzaa and listen to the stories of Hanukkah celebrations from my Jewish friends. I am just as eager for Santa Claus coming to town, holiday cookies, Christmas tree trimming, watching Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Santa Claus series movies on television as my sprouts. I am equally excited over the adult holiday party social gatherings.  Holiday parties are the best as everyone looks forward to the annual gatherings and is the time you can blame your excessive alcohol intake to the joys of giving.  I prepare myself to the many holiday work lunch feasts, after-hour holiday parties, gift exchanges, and most importantly paying gratitude to those who provide service and love to you year-round.

This is the first holiday season where my status will be single. I plan to embrace my singleness while festive in holiday spirit. No sense on dwelling in the past where I always had a date to share my holiday experiences. My electronic RSVP’s will be for just one. Any plus one’s will be reserved for one of my fellow single girlfriends.  It is time to maximize my exposure and what better time than the month of December.

Hello New York City! Introducing me, the fiery firecracker, independent, charismatic, hilarious super woman and mother of two.  Oh and by the way, I am single! And…I can’t tell you how long that status will be…..so get to know me now….as my window for meeting new people is narrowing as we speak. I will strut and exude holiday fumes of gingerbread, peppermint, and pine from my outer presence. As I plan to be fully decked in holiday essence.

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I will sip my spiked eggnog, hog out on the ham, wear my most sexy festive holiday outfit, dance to my favorite holiday classics like Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” and reserve special moments under the mistletoe for the fellas that are deemed worthy. Afterall I am a Happily Divorcee!

I will not let my spirits damper reflecting on past holiday traditions. It is time for new experiences and opportunities. Tis is the time to celebrate the ending of a challenging year, reflect on your blessings, cherish the wonderful people who remain in your life and look forward to new beginnings. Fill your pathway with Joy, Peace and Happiness as we enter into 2014.

I say Cheers! Salute! A La Votre! Saude! Salud! Tos! Prosit! to good times for all. Enjoy your holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Hanukkah! Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noel! Froliche Weihnachten! Feliz Natal! I look forward to sharing all of my holiday experiences with everyone this month….Stay Tuned!

AM Clarity: No New Friends?

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Thanksgiving weekend to myself. Sans sprouts, cherish “Me” time. Unlike my last free weekend, I decided to lay low, catch up on personal matters, cater to myself. I am a bit worn from the New York social scene. Embracing my singleness at late night affairs is not as appealing when my status was freshly minted. Tired of meeting “new friends”, share a text or two then on to meet more “new friends”. The stickiness of these friendships are typically short-lived.

Woke up to a beautiful morning. During my 3-mile run alongside the New York City skyline, I reflect on my connections with “new friends” that have stuck around a bit and “old friends”.  I realize that some “old friends” that I began to doubt, are true at heart with their love for me and have my best interests in mind. The “new friends” which have the benefit of virtue until proven shamed, I have let shine in their “newness”.  The ‘new friends” now provide reason for me to pause on their sincerity. The song from hip hop rapper Drake resonates in my head “No New Friends, No New Friends.”  Shouldn’t you be open to new friendships or just stay comfortable with what you know “old friendships”? I say Yes you should be open, but proceed with caution. It doesn’t matter if you just met them randomly or reconnected with someone from your former years, that you didn’t really know that well then. Still use caution….but accept their eagerness in wanting to get to know you. Afterall, opening yourself to new experiences including meeting new people allows you to further explore this beautiful world and all of the wonderful personalities within.

I also realize to not close my doors on  “old friends” despite past differences. If you were able to persevere through past struggles and you revealed  your “inner crazy chick” …and they are still genuine and down for you…these friends are keepers. Nourish that friendship. As now you both can reflect and laugh at past quarrels. My favorite song from Girl Scouts rings in my head “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver but the other is gold.” This morning that phrase has never been more truer in my personal life. If you are a genuine friend to others, the true friends whether “new” or “old”, will be down and support you when it matters. Of course there are moments that friends will test you, compromise their judgment and not always be as forthcoming as you hope. But if they have genuine care ...the sincerity of their friendship will eventually surface. Patience is a gift. Like children, sometimes it takes awhile before others realize that you have their best interest at heart.  Be tolerant and let new friendships develop and continue to nurture and expand old friendships. True friends will stand the test of time.

New Thanksgiving Traditions…Gobble! Gobble!

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As Thanksgiving approaches tomorrow, I reflect on who and what I am deeply thankful to and for.  So far 2013 has been a year of rapid changes, new beginnings and bittersweet endings. I am blessed, that through all the transition, I had friends, family and my own strength to persevere. I have remain grounded with sanity in check for the most part. I was able to channel my few inner crazy chick moments to positive ventures…such as the creation of this blog.

This year will be the first where the kids, my ex-husband and myself will not celebrate together.  I plan to make sure this Thanksgiving holiday will be just as memorable as others. Tomorrow the kids and I will have Thanksgiving in South Jersey with my family. I am saved from doing all the cooking this year, but plan on bringing a few of my specialty dishes. Following our return from the family feast, the kids will be traveling with their father to visit his family in Connecticut. In prior years, Black Friday we would begin the festive Christmas activities, visit Santa Claus at the Herald Square Macy’s, window shop and view the animated Christmas themed windows at the high-end department stores on 5th Avenue and take pictures with the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree as our backdrop.  This was typically followed with a drive to visit my ex’s family in Connecticut.

This weekend I will have to myself. I have not yet figured how I would spend those days to myself. However, I decided to establish a new tradition. Today on Thanksgiving Eve, the children and I will attend a Broadway musical. Both of my kids share my appreciation of Broadway plays. This idea came about as I was pondering on how I would spend the day, while working from home with the sprouts tearing the house apart.  I decided to splurge and get 3 Orchestra seat tickets to Annie. A treat to myself and to the kids.  I am elated.  I love Broadway plays and musicals, which was never shared by my ex-spouse. Between tonight’s play and tomorrow’s feast, I could not be more content of my new Thanksgiving tradition. I am blessed to have a supportive family and two wonderful kids whom I can share this holiday with. I plan to attend a Broadway play every year. If we decide to travel a given year, I may have to alter the tradition a bit. I cannot be more blessed this year. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Gobble! Gobble!

Babyface Converses with Deion Sanders Re: Dating Ex-Wife and Meeting Kids- My Insights! Your Thoughts?

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Photo source: http://www.thejasminebrand.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/25/babyface-deion-sanders-tracey-edmonds_n_4326701.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000038&ir=Black+Voices

I happen to read this article on the Huffington Post and watched the video clip which will be shown on Oprah Winfrey‘s television network OWN. The article discusses the man-to-man conversation between Babyface and Deion Sanders prior to meeting Babyface’s children. I thought this scenario depicted a positive, mature example of two men, the divorced father, Babyface and the love interest Deion Sanders of the divorced mother Tracey Edmonds getting together to discuss Deion’s interest in Tracey and to seek acceptance prior to being introduced to their children. I admired how the article depicted Babyface’s genuine love and wanting the best interest for Tracey, despite differences that resulted in the dissolution of their marriage. It also showcased Deion as being considerate of Babyface by seeking approval prior to meeting Tracey’s children.

My Insights

Now, as a Divorcee dating, I separate my dating life from my children. However, I have often wondered when is the best time to introduce your children to your dating partner. According to Steve Harvey’s book “Think Like A Man, Act Like A Woman,” Steve suggests to not wait too long. He states how you do not want to invest so much of your emotions and time with someone then six months later, realize that your love interest does not  like your children or the extended family is a bit of a handful to his liking.  His reasoning, is that you just wasted six months with someone who is not compatible with your family. A casual meeting at a public place such as a local play area like Chuck E. Cheese have been suggested from a variety of sources when initially introducing your children to your new beau. The person is just happenstance there, and the children are not aware that the gent is someone you are actively dating, as it could be just a co-worker. Thus, allowing the initial engagement with the children to be light. However, you don’t want a revolving door of men meeting your children. That is not healthy.

Deion’s approach in asking acceptance from the father prior to meeting the kids is something new to be considered. Why not wait until you are vested in the relationship for a while. An initial meeting with the love interest eases the co-parenting relationship you have with your ex. Maybe this approach will alleviate any potential tension between the two men in the future. If I become serious with someone new, I hope that my ex-husband would be as mature as Babyface when meeting the new significant person in my life. I also would like the woman in my ex’s life to be just as considerate to me, the mother. While I always imagined if I did become serious in dating someone, that a mature dialogue would eventually occur, I never thought of the idea that it could happen prior to meeting the children.

The scenario provides an example that two people can be divorced yet be amicable towards each other. There are no hidden agendas, but genuine care for each other’s well-being and happiness. Bitterness, animosity, and jealousy are non-existent. I applaud and admire Babyface and Deion for their mature approach. Given that Deion has a family of his own, he could emphasize with Babyface, as I am sure he is protective of his own children and would not want just anyone being brought into their lives.

Thoughts?

What are your thoughts? If divorced, would you attempt to foster an amicable relationship with your ex? Would you want someone introducing themselves to you first, prior to meeting your offspring?

Upper West Side Ex-Wife Could Lose Custody of Kids Due to a Post-Marital Abortion Decision- My Insights! Your Thoughts?

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Photo source: http://www.nypost.com

http://nypost.com/2013/11/25/she-could-lose-custody-over-an-abortion/

During my Monday morning read of the NY Post, I caught notice of this article.  Apparently, the divorced former housewife, Lisa Mehos is in a dirty custody battle with her ex-husband Manuel John Mehos, founder and CEO of Houston’s Green Bank. The ex-husband subpoenaed her medical records that include her recent abortion following a recent sexual encounter.  The tryst occurred outside of her home and not in the presence of her children. According to the article, the lady is a mother of two children from her previous marriage to a super rich banker. The couple have been divorced since 2011. She has nursed her children until almost the age of two and has been an ideal nurturing mother. However, the judge is ruling the pregnancy and termination as relevant due to her religious views in contrast to her husband’s atheist views. Citing that she imposes that her husband is not allowed to see her children on Easter, so this abortion now becomes play. Yet, the banker guy according to Lisa’s testimony tearfully confessed to cheating on her with dozens of prostitutes.

My Insights

What does it matter who she has affairs with after her marriage and whether or not it resulted in a pregnancy and termination? She just happened to be intimate with a person she knew for some time and a pregnancy happened. Her decision to terminate the pregnancy, should not matter. Abortion is legal in the United States, and she has a right of choice. Her decision did not endanger her children. Her mother was babysitting at the time of the sexual engagement, thus, the kids wellbeing was considered. Is Manuel the ex-husband a fit parent, given that he parades around with prostitutes? Do we throw stones at her because Yes, she just happened to marry someone who is affluent and following her divorce she had a few increasingly popular cosmetic procedures that any woman in their 30’s with some means would do. Especially after leaving  a stressful marriage. This is not a third-world country. Her decision to terminate should not matter, regardless of her previous choices.

This article had me reflect on my current situation as a Divorcee. No, I did not marry rich and I am a working mother. But, hey I am at the gym at least 4 times a week, I  get certain spa services done regularly. All of which have been a more common ritual post-divorce. So yes, I am constantly working on my 30-something year-old appearance too, now that my “status” is single.  I am social and dating. I keep my dating life personal and away from my ex-husband’s knowledge. It is none of his business. When I feel it should be considered his business, because maybe my “status” may change, then I will share because it will affect my children’s lives. Additionally, my kids are always in secure hands when I choose to be social. I wish my ex-husband would try to gain access to my medical records or anything that is personal to me. He didn’t have access to them when we were married, so why would he think he could access them now that we are unmarried? My decisions post my marriage should not matter as long as it does not compromise me from being the wonderful mother I am to my children.

What are your thoughts? Should a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy be considered in judging whether she is a fit mother? Does a woman’s dating lifestyle also be considered?

 

Reality vs. Fantasy: Dating Life As A Divorcee Contrast to Celebrity Life

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I must admit I was hoodwinked. I followed the celebrity fairy tales of successful second-chance relationships following a tumultuous divorce. I was fixated to the tabloids when Reese Witherspoon re-married Jim Toth. She had a second-change and had two children from her previous marriage with Ryan Philippe. Wow! It is possible. She was able to quickly find love again, re-marry and expand her brood, as she now has a third child. Demi Moore was able to snag a much younger Ashton Kutcher with much older kids. The true kicker was that Demi, Ashton, kids and ex-hubby Bruce Willis had the whole co-parenting thing down pack and were pictured vacationing together. Hmmm….. that is my ideal life. No egos, just maximizing family time for the kids sake. While the two are no longer together, each of them have moved on to other love interests. Impressive. Another success story was Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Jada accepted his son from his previous marriage and was able to manage an amicable relationship with Will’s ex-wife and accept his eldest son as one of her own. Jennifer Lopez, with twins also found a younger gent in which she seems happy with following her divorce from Mark Anthony.

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There are all of these examples in the media of divorced couples quickly rebounding and finding their happily ever after..whether it lasted or was short-lived, these stories provided me with inspiration. I can move on from my marriage, enter the dating arena and there will be a man who will just be so intrigued with all of my goodness….relationship status, kids aside, it would not make a difference. The gent would just love me, sweep me off my feet and be accepting of my family. The term “baggage” would not cross his mind.

After all, when  married and catching up with my “single” girlfriends….when we went out, it seemed my wedding ring was just a magnet for men. Prior to marriage, I always was in some kind of a relationship. So I also thought it would be easy. I never really had a problem meeting someone special. Still well below 40, I am bound to be remarried before I hit that milestone, right? Yeah, okay!

In contrast, now single….it has not been as easy as I initially thought. I do not have any problem meeting great guys. I am not huddled in my bedroom loathing why I am not meeting anyone. I am out at social events, work-related functions, exploring New York City, doing what I love. I have encounters with men. I meet smart, attractive, ambitious, independent, easygoing gentlemen. The gents I meet mutually feel the same about me. I don’t know who I am fooling! Well it is all about the appearance, right? However, one caveat, most of the men I meet are single with no attachments or their children primarily live with their kids mother.

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My experiences dating now divorced is that after establishing a connection with a great guy, there is dialogue through phone conversations, texts, social media, and a handful of meaningful dates. A genuine like between the two of us begins to develop. We are compatible in every way….yet we live in two different worlds. My motherly attributes intensifies the attraction they have for me….I become a stencil for what they would want for the mother of their future children. Despite how great of time we have when together, there is this barrier between us. My lifestyle away from these gents I meet are my children. Another factor, is that my children’s father is active in their lives…so yes there is occasional Baby Daddy drama that occurs. These are my situations that the men I meet are not yet ready or willing to make part of their situation.

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While my relationships with these gents I meet may not even develop to that stage where it should be a huge factor….this is a consideration that arises once the right questions are asked. Some gent’s initial excitement of meeting me wanes before we get to the first date, others are open to dating a divorcee…as the men’s short-term lenses of physical attractiveness do not factor the long-term considerations of seriously dating a divorcee at all.  But when the gent with the short-term peripheral view begins to develop genuine feelings, he gets a breath of reality that our lifestyles are too different. We live in two different worlds. He begins to think the adjustment from his current fly by the seat of his pants lifestyle to seriously dating a woman with kids is too grand for him at this moment. Despite his genuine feelings….and while the relationship has not gotten too serious….he falls back gradually. He begins to search for that great woman, that motherly portrait he created from my stencil in someone else. Hopefully, he will meet someone he is just as compatible with, but may not have that “baggage”. Maybe he will meet someone just as great as me. Why not? Isn’t there an abundance of attractive, independent, loving, easy-going, single women out there who have my uniqueness? Sure he will be alright. Or maybe not.

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When speaking to the divorced lady at the spa, she has been divorced for several years. She speaks to me about the struggles of dating, the energy it takes, her focus on getting her son through college and the dynamics of dating in Manhattan. My hopes slowly begin to dissipate. However, speaking to fellow divorced mothers while we stand aside at our kids extra curriculars, they speak of meeting someone. They have a spark in their eye as they discuss how they are now steady dating a great family guy for about six months. Another divorcee they tell me…a potential modern-day Brady Bunch. Hmmm…Where do you find this person, I ask. They mention the various online dating sites. How intricate the screening and selection process is on these sites. Hmmm….So in contrast of being out socially, I just need to huddle in my bed and surf the net for my potential mate? I have mix feelings of these dating sites. Maybe if my dating pattern doesn’t turn for the better, I might consider in 2014.

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While my dating reality has not yet ended with a successful conclusion, or as quickly as those publicized in the celebrity tabloids. I do not regret any date. I learn more about myself each time, what I do want and do not want from a potential mate. While dating is not my number one priority in life, I am still hopeful. The time I do allocate in meeting someone special allows me to explore new life experiences, understand people better and is not wasted. Who knows, maybe eventually my reality will become a fantasy to someone else.

Duke It Out! Screw A Lawyer

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One of the sole reasons why I wanted to start this blog was to aid those who are in an unhappy marriage or separated from their spouse but cannot really move forward with their lives because of the fear of “divorce” itself. The word “divorce” has so many negative connotations. Movies highlight the divorce process as stressful, differences are escalated and all reasoning is removed. Hollywood sensationalize the gold digger wife aiming to take more than half of his spouses earnings…and the husband transferring assets to the Cayman Islands to avoid paying part of his wealth towards his kids.

Many of my peers are surprised when they learn that I am divorced from my former spouse. They are shocked because 1) this is the first time hearing that I am no longer married, as they think to themselves what the heck happen, and 2) stunned that I chose to end my marriage and it is already completed. They often have follow-up questions on how was I able to end my divorce quickly. My marriage was not a drive-through marriage, there were kids and assets that were involved….and we were married for about three-quarters of a decade.

However, I wanted a quick-ending and researched how the drive-through marriages were dissolved before their one year anniversary. I was terrified of the divorce process. I was trying to justify ways of annulling my marriage even though our marriage did not qualify for an annulment. I heard the stories from my now divorced friends about how much money they spent on lawyers. Ewwwww! I did not want to waste any additional funds, his or mine on any lawyers. I am already thinking of how I am going to afford my lifestyle solo…so if possible I am avoiding the lawyer route.

I also did not want nor have the time to take off of work to go back and forth to court. That seemed like an arduous process. Why would I want some judge who doesn’t even know me nor my kids lifestyle to determine what I should rightfully deserve a month? I know my bills intricately, way more than a judge that is not hip to the current parents generation costs of raising kids. Shoot, just birthday parties alone are 20x more than they were for the 70s, 80s or 90s babies. The cost per kid for a birthday party in New York City almost equates to the cost per person at a moderate wedding in the MidWest. Yeah, that judge would not understand, nor my son who attends these fabulous birthday bashes and wonder why he is not having a birthday celebration this year. So yes, I had to take all of that into account too.

Plus, more importantly I did not like nor wanted my status to be classified as “Separated”.  I wanted that title to be as short-lived as possible. No pun attended for those that are “separated” and are comfortable with their status. But for me, I loathed that label…..I felt being “separated” meant that I was not 100% my own woman. I “technically” still belong to someone. Matter-of-fact everyone I would meet while I was going through the divorce process felt the same way. The status “separate” means to me that she is unhappy in her marriage and is taking a break but not necessarily taking the steps to dissolve the marriage and move on with her life. When I was dating, if a gent said he was separated, that is exactly what I thought of him and moved on. And as expected, when a man met me while “status” is separated, that is exactly what they thought of me and I should expect the same. So I thought lets just eliminate all of those ambiguities as quickly as possible. I want to press forward with my life.

I will admit while my divorce process to my friends appeared seamless….we had our spouts. Boy, did we! But our spouts were between us, not with a third-party involved….and the major battles were handled before I filed the divorce papers.

Last fall, I came to the absolute decision that the divorce would be imminent. My pondering thoughts from the Spring and Summer reached a conclusion. So what did I do, I went online and read about the divorce process. Figured which way I would be filing…hmmm…”unreconcilable differences”.  I thought that was the best category and the quickest way in New Jersey to end a marriage. There was no “separated” for a year requirement. Six months were required, and the man and wife could “technically” be under the same roof but sleep in separate dwellings. The six months began from the time you started the paperwork, not when you filed. Hmmmm. Sign me up!

I thought what can a lawyer do that I cannot do for myself? I went to business school, am a Certified Public Accountant, I know how to complete my tax returns…yeah, who needs a lawyer. I created an Excel spreadsheet and itemized every cost associated with my kids. The basketball clinic, daycare, school tuition, dance classes, summer camp, clothing, hair cuts, food and sitter cost. Then I itemized housing costs, rent, electricity, cable, mortgages and etc. I looked at what each of our contributions were to all of these costs. I looked at the housing costs that I pay monthly and the entire amount that I would end up paying, sans any contribution from him. Okay…that might be a bit of a stretch….but I paid this rent before on my own when we were living in two states. I think I can make this work. I then had a larger contribution towards the kids expenses….so I thought maybe this is where I could balance the difference. So I came with a monthly figure of the entire cost and did a clean and fair allocation. There it was all of the costs of living and supporting his kids right in front of him. The details were there….I thought to myself, I wish he would say something! Easy, rational clean break, right? Ha! Oh boy, he said something all right.

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Round 1: The battle begins. He says that while the expenses somewhat appeared accurate, (thought I embellished a bit), he also has to think about getting his own place and other additional expenses. Yeah, I guess I did not quite factor that in. But my expenses would be higher too. Hello! This is not going to be easy for both of us, I said. We are both incurring additional costs. I am not asking alimony…just child support. Of course, his rebuttal was he could technically ask for alimony too and claim full custody. Whoa!! Wasn’t expecting that. I thought this would be relatively easy. Isn’t it natural that the mother gets full custody, especially when the kids are younger? Plus, I am better organized and if I left the kids with him…didn’t even want to think of that notion. Anyway, he travels for his job…so that option does not exist.

So I look at the numbers again, I knock a few hundred off. He should be good with this. I begin to research the filing process and required forms. There are so many forms needed, good grief! On the New Jersey website…. the types of forms are cited but I don’t see where you can download them. At this time, I feel that I am on a roll….yeah I went this far, who needs a lawyer to hand me forms and charge me an exorbitant fee. Found a website http://www.divorcewriter.com, my Savior. Essentially, it was an online questionnaire that ask all of the essential questions to complete all of the divorce filing forms. The website itemize your assets, childcare costs, division of property, delegates which parent has the kids on holidays, and whether it is every holiday or alternating holidays. Wow! So much I have to answer… not sure I knew all of these answers yet. I manage to complete it all and pay the nominal fee. The forms were sent to my email and printed versions were sent Federal Express the next day. Ah yes! Just in time for me to give to my spouse by the end of the day.

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Round 2: I deliver the forms to him for review before we file with the court. Well, talk about amnesia! I think it was the initial shock, that I was not playing games and serious about the dissolution of our marriage. I think the whole entire time, he thought I was just blowing steam and providing empty threats. His first blank question was “What the heck is this?” Well a bit more graphic than that. Then after accepting what the forms were, the game of 100 questions began.  The amount he would pay, how the child support contribution percentage was calculated and what is all of this amount in the “Other” category that magically boosts the child support total. Hey there! The ending balance is the same as was noted on my spreadsheet I showed you a week or two ago. Do you Remember? The “Other” amount is for all of the additional expenses we choose for our kids that is not necessary a line item on the form. The assets were laid out, you keep what you brought into the marriage and I do the same. I stay where I am at or another place in my building, and you find a place. Simple enough. Then he comes with an idea. He wants to alter the percentage of his contribution based on the hours the kids spend with each of us. He suggests joint custody. Joint legal custody, sure, physical??? Okay buddy….let’s think about that. So every other week you want our kids to have a different house to live under? Oh, what about the times when you are out-of-town for a project? Hmmmm. You are more than welcome to come by in the morning to take the kids to school or come over for visits in the evening and stop by extracurricular activities when they are not with you. I am not keeping them away. I encourage that. We can adjust the percentage for the time you think you will spend with them, that is feasible…but joint custody now. No way! I am not invoking all of that change on my kids right now. When my son becomes older, we can discuss further but not at their age now.

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Revisions are again made, and let’s say they were made 3 or 4 more times afterwards. So I had DivorceWriter re-send revised papers at least a few more times. However, we did it amongst ourselves. We did not need a lawyer to come help us to decide. Yes there were threats and blows from each of us. Accusations of how I was not fair with my terms and he was going to have a lawyer to review and defend his behalf. I thought fine, do that but here are the itemize expenses. So now go pay thousands of dollars for them to review but still pay my agreed upon amount. He eventually caved in and a final agreement was made. Can I file these papers now? Sheesh!

Round 3: The battle of selecting a date to get the papers notarize. Finding an agreed upon time just to stop by a bank for a notary was a hassle in itself. Maybe he was avoiding it, who knows. But the dates were re-scheduled a few times. I was finally able to file the divorce papers in January 2013. This followed a few months of us duking it out.  I can now say my divorce is filed. I feel relaxed. I accomplished a milestone…and did it without the consult of lawyers. I share the filing information to my then husband. I guess this was another blow. He is thinking….Wow! This woman is serious! She is not joking! Twenty questions are asked again. How long is the process? How will the child support be handled? Will it be taking from my check? He begins to think my child support number is again too high. Really???? I have bitten the bullet and modified the numbers to now barely covering the costs to raise my kids. I am not compromising anymore. So I think if you have a problem, go ahead and bring on the lawyers, cause my foot is down. I make steps to move to another unit in my building, planning for space that can accommodate myself and the kids. He begins to look for a place to live nearby. The process is smooth, he begins to pay his designated amount before our court hearing. This agreed upon process is slowly but surely working. We duked it out and said screw the lawyers!

Any delays are now self-inflicted, delaying in serving the papers, getting notaries on subsequent papers that are required for divorce completion. This is expected, I am a novice, I don’t file divorce papers for a living…and I hope I don’t have to ever go through this again.  Finally, we receive a confirmed court date. Yes! The process is almost over. I share the news with my kids father ….Uh oh! He wants the date postponed. Now the uncertain decision of what school my son will attend in the fall is weighing largely on what he is agreeing to pay monthly. Here we go again! I have to re-do the math of all the costs that are entailed in raising our children….and how he actually received the discount “Super Dad” package. I explain to him how he can keep that title of “Super Dad” by acknowledging whatever difference in amounts could be used for other perks and necessities for the children…like a larger contribution in the college fund. Or don’t see it my way,  I am ready to duke it out some more. Let Round 4 begin!

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In the end there was no delay in our date and the duking out we did months before paid off. We both saved on lawyer fees and were able to come up with an agreement that was in the best interest of our kids. I do not have nightmares or grief of my divorce process. The decision and having a divorce, are stressful enough in itself. Divorce is an emotional undertaking. Why add more anxiety by going into further debt with lawyers when you can use that money towards your children’s future.  Duke it Out! Come to an Agreement! And Screw a Lawyer!

Co-Parenting Frustration #2

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Why is it that the mother and father may have similar occupations, similar status in their careers, similar pay…or the mother may favor slightly in all of those variables….that when it comes time for having to adjust your work schedules for the kids….the woman mostly always has to accomodate? Continue reading Co-Parenting Frustration #2