Why The Breakdown of a Relationship is Like Renovating a House

single mum's survival guide logoI’m right in the middle of renovating at the moment and it strikes me how closely the process parallels the breakdown of a relationship. In my case, the renovation is currently focused on my kitchen. Several years ago, when my old kitchen was newly-decorated, I had high hopes for its longevity. It was clean and smart and fresh and I loved it. Admittedly, it didn’t have everything I wanted, so I had compromised on certain things but it made me happy and I was (as ever) optimistic about the future.

But then came the day when I realised that it had become a major problem. It was, quite literally, falling apart. Help came, as it so often does, from a familiar source and just when I needed it. My sister offered to buy my share of our family property in London, which would make possible – not only the kitchen renovation – but all sorts of other much-needed improvements.

My husband (always critical of my house because he is a dissatisfied soul and it has never been tidy enough or luxurious enough in his eyes) reluctantly agreed to help with the project. He listened politely whilst I enthused about colours and materials and how much better life would be once we’d made the changes. He even helped demolish half the cabinets and unload the new flat-pack furniture. But then he left, in the hope of finding a shinier, more aspirational property which was already perfect and would require no work and we were left with the chaos.

Luckily, the boys and I have always been a great team and so we got to work creating a new space for the three of us to enjoy and feel proud of. Clearing the rest of the room has been hard, heavy, back-breaking work and has required multiple trips to the tip to get rid of the old and make way for the new. The floor was the hardest. At first it seemed that the old tiles would be easy to chip away. But it was slow and painful work and all three of us suffered cuts and bruises. We uncovered lots of unexpected issues, including a gaping hole and places where what we thought was a solid foundation had been built on crumbling sand. It was time to enlist professional help to smooth out the floor and provide a clear, level base on which to build. But we can’t use it yet, because it takes time to dry.

Are we there yet? Not quite. There are more challenges to come and some days we’ve felt weak and discouraged. The contents of the kitchen seem to have spread all over the house; it’s slow and difficult to manoeuvre and it has made even the simplest of daily tasks exhausting.

My sons have been amazing, though, and we’ve had so many laughs working together on this project. We’ve nearly finished building all the new cabinets and next week it will all start to come together. All the blood, sweat and tears will eventually become a distant memory but the sense of pride and achievement will remain, as will the bond I have with my boys.

vivienne@thelifeyoudeserve.co.uk
www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com 
@SingleMumsGuide
The Single Mum's Survival Guide
Personal Breakthrough Coaching

 

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The Secret Recipe For Christmas Happiness

 

Xmas webinar slide 1 001Many families have their favourite recipes at Christmas, handed down from one generation to the next. I know that I was lucky with learning to cook and appreciate food because my mum was a stay-at-home mum who not only came from a proud line of Yorkshire women renowned for their culinary skills but had also done a Cordon Bleu cookery course when she was first married. Even today you could drop in to see my 86 year old mother and guarantee to be served a home made delicacy appropriate for the time of day. If it’s lunchtime it might be a mouthwatering roast with her home-grown vegetables and famous Yorkshire puddings or one of her East African curries. If it’s coffee or tea time it will be a melt-in-the-mouth Ginger Thin or during the Christmas period, a freshly-warmed mince pie. Many of us don’t have the time or the energy to bake these days – I know I often don’t. However, despite the potential sticky mess, it is well worth making the effort to cook with your children. You can involve them with age-appropriate tasks, from choosing the ingredients at the supermarket to preparing, mixing and decorating the finished result; it also pretty much guarantees that they will eat the finished result, which is a sneakily effective way of dealing with a child who is a fussy eater! Moreover, you are creating togetherness and fond memories and developing their skills and confidence.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible, as well as passing on a few treats just for you. I’ll be sending you a little something every day between now and Christmas.

mince piesToday’s gift is the recipe my mum and I always use to make mince pies at Christmas time. In my opinion they are far nicer than anything you could buy and well worth the effort and time spent in the kitchen. Children love to help assemble these and for a fussy eater you could substitute a spoonful of jam for the mincemeat filling.

INGREDIENTS

560 g mincemeat (the sweet variety with chopped fruit, sold in jars)

350 g plain flour

75 g lard

75 g margarine

a pinch of salt

For the top:

a small amount of milk

a small amount of granulated sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).

You will also need one (or two) trays of 6 cm pie tins, one fluted 7.5 cm pastry cutter and one 6 cm cutter.

Instructions

Make up the pastry by sifting the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in the fats (bring them to room temperature and then cut them into small cubes first, to make it easier to blend). The trick with pastry is not to overhandle it or get it too warm at this point, so mix it quickly with your fingertips by lifting the pieces of fat up high over the bowl with the flour (so you are letting plenty of air in) and rubbing it gently and lightly through your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Use a knife to begin with and then your hands, then add just enough cold water so that the ball of dough leaves the bowl clean but is not too sticky.

Leave the pastry to rest covered in clingfilm (Saran Wrap) in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, then roll half of it out so that it’s as thin as possible but not breaking and cut it into twenty four 7.5 cm rounds, gathering up the scraps and re-rolling.

Then do the same with the other half of the pastry, this time using the 6 cm cutter.

Now grease the pie tins lightly and line them with the larger rounds. Fill these with a good spoonful of mincemeat, but don’t overfill as they split in the oven. Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds of pastry with water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges.

Brush each one with milk and make three snips in the tops with a pair of scissors. Sprinkle with a small amount of sugar. Bake near the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown.

Cool on a wire tray and when the mince pies are cool, store them in a Tupperware or airtight tin. To serve: mince pies are best eaten when they’ve been warmed in the oven, either on their own or with cream or brandy butter.

If you would like my help and advice over the Christmas period, do visit my website www.thesinglemumssurvivalguide.com, where you can find a free audio on Coping with Christmas or sign up for a free one to one session with me.single mum's survival guide logo

A Nativity Nightmare?

single mum's survival guide logoA colleague was telling me about her niece’s Nativity play; apparently it was a little confusing because it was totally non-religious, so there was a Mary but no Baby Jesus! In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure it was called a Nativity play, but she couldn’t think how to describe it otherwise! However, the kids did brilliantly and acted and sang their little hearts out, so it was very heart-warming. I still have a photo of my eldest dressed in his costume as…a camel. He was about three and a half at the time and though I say so myself, the costume was a triumph of ingenuity. I’d cut up one of my Dad’s old dressing gowns and made him a hump and a tail and a pair of camel ears on a headband. In the photo, the headband has slipped too far down over his eyes but he is squinting manfully at the camera and putting on his cheeky grin.

They are far too old to be doing one now, but when it came to the annual school nativity play in their primary school I used to take a wad of tissues in my bag, as it always brought our family situation home to me in a very poignant way. Christmas and other holidays can sometimes present a problem; there are events, occasions and rituals that have a special significance or sentimental attachment for everyone and I have found at times like these that memories and emotions can still knock me sideways–even now. Even when you think that you’re all sorted and reconciled to the way your new life is these days, don’t beat yourself up or feel embarrassed if you occasionally find it’s all too much to cope with. You’re only human after all and you’ve been so brave and worked so hard to get to where you are now. However: not only do our kids have two homes, but they also have two Christmases and for children this can be quite a bonus! So there are always different ways of looking at it.

SMSG webinar pic 1If you’d like my help to sail through Christmas, I am offering a free hour’s Strategy Session via Skype or telephone. It might just give you the strength and the strategies to make it through the holidays in one piece and at peace with your situation. Click here to book your hour with me FREE SESSION.

You might also like to listen to my free audio, “Coping With Christmas”. Click here to gain access to your FREE AUDIO GUIDE.

Are You Feeling Less Than Festive This Christmas?

single mum's survival guide logoThe countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun. Whilst shopping one day (and walking past row upon row of Christmas “bargains”) I overheard a woman talking to her friend about trying to get into the festive spirit for her children’s sake; it was obviously proving to be a struggle, because she herself wasn’t feeling full of Christmas cheer. Remembering past years when life was a struggle and I wished that Christmas could either be cancelled altogether or at least put on hold, I really sympathised with her sentiments.

I know that many parents – single mums in particular- feel under tremendous pressure at this time of year. Will the tree be sparkly enough? Will the meal be delicious and served on time? Will everyone get on? Despite the budgetary cuts suffered by Father (and Mother) Christmas in recent times, will the stocking at the foot of the bed and all those gifts under the tree be amazing enough to satisfy this new generation of technology-hungry children? For a time that’s meant to be merry and full of goodwill, Christmas certainly comes at a price in more ways than one.

Whatever your thoughts, hopes and plans this Christmas, I’d like to help you to make it as stress-free as possible.

Click here to access your free audio guide to Coping With ChristmasSMSG webinar pic 1

Secretly Dreading Christmas?

lonely slide 001

It’s not quite December, yet already the customary Christmas madness is creeping in. Here in the UK it seems like every other advert on TV is showing happy families gathered around the Christmas table, tucking into a festive feast – or snuggled up and cosy around a Christmas tree, a small child squealing with delight at the perfect gift, whilst its proud parents hold hands and smile indulgently.

But what if you can’t see any chance of achieving that happy scene? Christmas can seem like an especially cruel way of reminding you that you and your little family don’t fit in to those idealised ideas. I still remember my first Christmas as a single mum and how very bleak that midwinter was for me. Despite the valiant attempts of my mum and dad and my two sisters to create some Christmas cheer, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that it was my baby’s very first Christmas and his father wasn’t there. I had no home of my own, very little money – even to buy presents – and the future looked anything but rosy. Then later on (and still to this day) came the challenge of Christmas without my children, as their dad claimed his turn.

If you are secretly dreading Christmas then please know you are not alone. Through my own 13 years’ experience and by talking to many other single mums, I’ve gathered together a treasure trove of tips and tricks to help you to not only survive Christmas this year but make it memorable for all the right reasons.

This audio recording will provide you with a host of encouraging tips and tricks for not only coping with Christmas as a single mum but making it memorable for all the right reasons.

Click here for your free audio guide

http://bit.ly/1lpKU5y

Finances – Keeping Your Head Above Water?

Single Mum's Survival Guide Illustration 5 001Are you dreading the next bill or bank statement that lands on your doormat? Are you drowning in debt or struggling just to make ends meet and provide your children with a roof over their heads?

Being broke makes you weak, vulnerable and miserable. It saps your energy and stops you from enjoying life’s little pleasures. It can be frustrating and deeply embarrassing; you feel ashamed to admit it in case it sounds like you are whining or begging for a handout, yet if you don’t come clean it can make you seem unfriendly, mean or lacking in generosity. When you are desperate for money your options are limited and you can make some very bad decisions when that desperation is your primary guide.

I know all this from bitter experience. Imagine that you have just reached the checkout at the supermarket. You’ve spent twice as long choosing your shopping because you are determined to root out the best bargains and the cheapest goods. You’ve already chosen, then discarded several items on the grounds that they represented a treat, rather than a basic necessity. Feeling proud of your thriftiness, you hand over your debit card, only to be told bluntly by the cashier that your card has been declined. And the other one. The woman in the queue behind you gives you a knowing look, which turns to irritation when you have to start taking items out of the trolley, to bring the bill down to an affordable level and the cashier calls her colleague (again very loudly) and asks him to replace the items because the customer wants them refunded! You flee the shop, cheeks burning with shame. And it’s not even the first time this has happened.

 

If this all sounds too familiar, I really want to help you to get out of the horrible hole you’ve found yourself in. You’re not alone! You can start by listening in to my free online webinar next Wednesday with Karen McGrath, a financial expert and pensions specialist who was once a single mum herself and now spends her time helping clients to take back control of their financial affairs.

Special Guest Karen McGrath

Special Guest Karen McGrath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Register here and I’ll send you your log-in details

 

Divorce Do’s and Don’ts – Straight From The Lawyer’s Mouth!

 In the old days lawyers- and particularly divorce lawyers – often had a bad reputation. Proof of this lies in the plethora of lawyer jokes…here’s one I found online just now: A man says to a lawyer “If I give you £500, will you answer two questions?” “Absolutely”, says the lawyer. “what was your second question?”

Although I’ve certainly met some of the old-style legal professionals (not too long ago I had a meeting with one of them regarding a possible collaboration and once she’d finished interrogating me I felt like I’d been in the dock and also in need of a stiff drink) the new face of the law is younger, fresher and far more friendly. Recent changes in the law have also ushered in an Age of Enlightenment in Family Law. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with someone who represents the future and who is helping to put collaborative law on the map. 

Gemma Hope picIn her excellent piece for my book, Gemma Hope gives fantastic advice on navigating the legal process. For my next seminar I’ll be catching up with her again to discover the current legal situation and discuss the Do’s and Don’ts of divorce and separation. Join us this coming Wednesday at 8 pm GMT – after all, knowledge is power and it’s time to get informed.

To register for the webinar, fill in the form below and I’ll send you the log-in details. If you can’t make it at 8pm on Wednesday, you can use the same link to listen to the replay.