Monday, October 26, 2015

To Whom It May Concern

Dear NaNoWriMo,
November is almost here and so are you. National Novel Writing Month. Writing a novel in one month. I attempted you last year, but after the first half of the month my energy and motivation dwindled to zero and I completely abandoned you. Time to redeem myself this year.

Of course I worry about adding one more plate to the lineup of plates I already have spinning. I’m a single mom with 2 kids, a full-time job, a boyfriend I want to spend time with, a need to exercise daily, a passion for the guitar that requires practice, and all the other unexpected life surprises that pop up, like flat tires and lingering sinus infections.

But I can’t sit here and make excuses for failing before I even start trying. It all boils down to creating time where I thought time didn’t exist, asking for help and accepting that some things just won’t get done. Restricting my social media check-ins throughout the day, taking my boyfriend up on his offers to cook and being okay with a messier than usual house will all create pockets of time for me to write. My schedule might need a little rearranging, but the time is there and waiting for me to use it wisely.

Plus, I’m kind of cheating. The novel I’m working on this year was already started last year, and I’ve noodled with it here and there since then. So technically I have a 3-chapter head start, which feels like a much smoother jump off than a completely blank page.

So please be kind to me, NaNoWriMo. You are both my muse and my nemesis. You gave me the gift of the beginning of my novel, but you also slapped me with the bitterness of failure. Let’s be friends this year.

See you in 6 days,
A Writer Hoping to Call Herself a Novelist

Dear Sinus Infection,
Please. Go. Away. And. Never. Come. Back. You are killing my productivity, and I have no time for you. (See above.)

My Eye Sockets

Dear Residents of My Apartment Complex,
You know that movie “Good Luck Chuck,” where Dane Cook becomes a relationship good luck charm because every time he breaks up with a woman she then meets the love of her life? Well, it seems I am the Good Luck Chuck of real estate. Over the weekend I helped with the move of my fourth friend to leave my apartment complex after finding a cool house. I will miss my across-the-hall neighbor and girls’ night out wine gal pal, and Gunner will miss his canine play dates.

So if you’re in search of your dream home just start hanging out with me, and I’ll be helping you move out in no time!

Good Luck Heather

Dear Halloween,
I’ve never claimed you as my favorite holiday, and I’m not one of those adults who goes crazy decorating my house or dressing up in anything more elaborate than a witch’s hat with black hair attached to it. But as I watch my kids grow up in the blink of eye, I realize that your special magic that I get to experience through the eyes of my children won’t last must longer. 

My 11-year-old son may be dressing up for you this year, but he refused to participate in the pumpkin carving, I practically have to chase him and hold him down to snap a picture of him, and worst of all, he had no desire to join in the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” It’s only a matter of time until he announces he’d rather stay home while I take his little sister out trick-or-treating.

Thankfully I have several more years of entertainment with my 8-year-old daughter. And she never fails to entertain. The same girl who wanted to change her name to Cannonball in preschool decided she wanted nothing to do with princesses or anything else that might be construed as remotely girly. Nope, this year Cannonball is dressing up as Captain America.

Happy Halloween!

Halloweeney Sweeney

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Middle School 2.0: 7 Tween Anxieties that Don't Age

Last month my son started middle school. I thought I'd be hyperventilating the first day he ventured out into the world of tweens, but I was surprisingly calm.  It wasn't until I went through a mock school day at the back-to-school night last week that everything I hated and feared about middle school the first time around came back to haunt me the second time around.

Check out my list of those fears in my latest over at the Huffington Post:

Middle School 2.0: 7 Tween Anxieties that Don't Age

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How a Divorce Bucket List Helped Me Move On

Do you have a bucket list of things you've always wanted to do?  Most of us do. Well, after my divorce, I got tired of talking about my bucket list and started checking things off. 

Head over to my latest at the Huffington Post and read about my bucket list.

How a Divorce Bucket List Helped Me Move On

(Yes, that's me skydiving. It was fabulous.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Red Years: Redefining Life After Divorce

After a breakup, it's hard to figure out how to redefine not only yourself, but all the external memory triggers that surround you. 

Click over to my latest at the Huffington Post and read about how I worked on redefining my life.

(Featured on the HuffPost Divorce home page as "Redefining My Life After Divorce, One Paint Can At A Time.")

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

50 One-Word Resolutions for Life After Divorce

Did you make a one-word New Year's resolution this year? Well, since New Year's, I've collected a list of 50 one-word resolutions. These resolutions apply not just to my 2015, but to my life as a single woman in general.

Want to read the whole list? Click on over to the Huffington Post and check it out. And let me know if there are any words I should add to my list!

Monday, February 9, 2015

When a Writer Tries to Date: ‘Are You Going to Write About This?’

It’s usually asked with a chuckle. It’s usually asked with a hint of cautious curiosity. It’s usually asked with the expectation of reassurance that private moments won’t go public. And it’s usually asked on all my first dates:

“Are you going to write about this?”

Depending on the date, a variety of answers come to mind.

“You seem like a nice guy, so I’ll give it a proper waiting period before I include this date in a blog post.”

“Heck yeah I am. I can’t believe you just said that!”

“Huh? What was that? (Big gulp of wine.) Sorry, I just wrote a blog post in my head. Is this over yet so I can go home and publish?”

But because I’m a single woman who’s attempting to shed her dating cynicism, I usually just chuckle back with a flirty smile and say, “Of course not.” I figure that’s enough to appease their fear, but nowhere near a promise that they’re safe from becoming an example of a bad date in the Huffington Post.

I realize it’s tough dating a writer. We pull material from any life event, and our interpretations can be brutal. But I can tell you it’s not easy on the flip side either, being a writer trying to date. 

As much as I dread the “Are you going to write about this?” question, there’s another inevitable one I dread more:

“What do you write about?”

This is intended to be a simple question followed by a simple answer. When it comes to blind date ice-breakers, this is pretty much a no-brainer when all you know about a woman's professions is she's a writer.

However, the answer is not simple.

On one hand, I could say my job is to write about military discounts. But as exciting as military discounts may be for military families, it’s not exactly glamorous. Military discounts don’t scream, “This chick is cool!”

On the other hand, I could say I have my own blog, I’m a regular contributor at the Huffington Post and I’ve written for the New York Times. That would definitely up my coolness factor. But then I’d have to admit I write about divorce, single motherhood, how much I hate dating -- subjects that probably guarantee no second date.

Being vague and saying I write about military life doesn't satisfy the question either because then my date thinks I'm a service member. Explaining that I'm not leads to talk of my ex, and the last person I want invading my date is my ex.

I’ve finally discovered the best bet is to mention my interview with Gary Sinise. We’re off topic in no time.

Then there’s the Google factor. One guy I went out with was from my running group (always nice when a guy asks you out after he’s seen you sweaty with no makeup), so unlike guys from online dating sites, he knew my full name.

“I read your Veterans Day article,” he said as we sipped coffee.

My first instinct was to be flattered that this very young Navy guy enjoyed my article. But my next instinct was panic. If he read my article, that means he Googled me. And if he Googled me, that means he knows I write about really personal stuff. He knows details about my emotional journey through divorce. He knows about quirks and insecurities. He knows I have a tattoo on my ass.

That’s pretty heavy stuff for a first date. Plus, it means our relationship is already lopsided. He knows way more about me than I know about him.

Finally, being a writer might actually be preventing me from even getting to the first date. After communicating with one guy on Match and then exchanging a few texts, he asked the question even my friends ask:

“Are you mentally editing my texts?”

Well, of course I am. I edit for a living. I can’t help it. It’s instinctual. But I’m more than willing to ignore poor grammar if it’s overshadowed by impressive content.

I don’t remember how I responded, but shortly after that, he apparently lost interest and stopped texting before the mere suggestion of a date.

One of my friends analyzed my online dating profile and said maybe I’m too intimidating. She suggested I dumb myself down, maybe neglect to mention I have a Masters degree.

But I don’t want to dumb myself down. I’m an intelligent woman with an advanced degree, an enviable career and cool personal successes. If a man find that intimidating instead of attractive, I don’t want to date him anyway.

So what’s a writer to do in the dating world?

After two attempts at Match and a never-ending stretch on eHarmony because they won’t let me close my account, I’ve decided to laugh it off. 

Out of curiosity, I joined Tinder without bothering to create a profile other than a single old photo. I text my guy bestie screenshots of all the crazy rejects that I can’t imagine would ever get a swipe right from even the craziest of women.

“I hope you’re laughing at these,” my friend said after a batch of Tinder pics that included a dude with a crab on his groin, multiple men wearing masks, an overweight man holding a jumbo jar of Nutella, a man wearing women’s clothes and a group of young men passing a joint.

I do laugh.

Then I take a moment to appreciate both my single status and the men who provide all this writing material.

Sorry guys, I AM going to write about it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Apartment Complex,
I want to apologize for being in such a hurry to abandon you for a house. I know I said I wanted a yard for my kids and my dog to play in, and I would love to be able to claim the title of “Home Owner” for the first time as a single woman, but after deciding it’s not the right time to move closer to my parents, I’m realizing I have it pretty good because of you.

You are the Melrose Place of Transitioners. I can sit on my deck that overlooks the pool and point out all my fellow divorcees who, like me, needed a place to go to put their lives back together. I can point out the newlyweds just starting out, the retirees who no longer want the hassle of maintaining a house, the military families who know they’re only in the area for a year. It seems almost everyone here is in transition. These are my people. And I’d be crazy to rush away from a home where Friday evenings can be spent drinking wine with a neighbor whose husband is deployed while our kids eat pizza, play with dolls and make zip lines for Lego figures, fun nights that end with a child swap so the boys sleep over at my place and the girls sleep at hers.

I do still want to be a home owner, and I’ll continue brainstorming with my realtor friends and going to open houses, but for now I think I’ll enjoy Melrose Place a little while longer. And the fact that I don’t have to mow a lawn.

Your Loyal Transitioner in Building 13

Dear Physical Therapist,
Please don’t go easy on me. Kick my ass! Yell at me! Rip my toe off with that stretch cord! Whatever it takes to get me running again, please do it.

My foot starting hurting about 8 months ago. I ignored the pain until I couldn’t. X-rays. A month in a clunky boot. An unsuccessful cortisone shot. An MRI. Two surgeons telling me I needed surgery. I was tired of the drama. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of surgery, but once I did, I wanted it over and done with ASAP.

So when I got the call that my cutting day was bumped up to right before the holidays because of a cancelation, I jumped on it, despite having less than a week to prepare for the aftermath of a foot surgery as a single mom.

The surgery was successful, but I’m impatient. I was working 2 days after the surgery. I quit the Percocet with more than half the pill bottle still full. I ditched the crutches after less than 2 weeks because they slowed me down. And I never forgot that my surgeon said he was running 8 weeks after he had the same surgery on both feet.

Today I am 8 weeks post-surgery. And I’m nowhere near running. Physical therapist, you’ve warned me if I push myself too much too soon, I’ll be back in surgery getting a metal rod in my big toe that will prevent me from running for the rest of my life. I keep that in mind as I wrap my dog’s leash around my toe and stretch, hoping the next time I see you, I’ll measure at more than a 20% backward bend.

You’ve also told me the St. Patrick’s Day 8k in March is too ambitious and I should shoot for the Final Mile race I’ve done with my kids the past 2 years. So I’m trying to focus less on how bummed I am that my running goals have shrunk so drastically and more on the fact that my first post-surgery run will be with my 2 favorite people on the planet.

Painfully yours,
An Impatient Patient

Dear Tae Kwon Do,
One or both of my children have tried soccer, t-ball, coach-pitch baseball, kid-pitch baseball, swimming, running, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, tennis, chess club, pottery club and science club. For one reason or another, none of these activities sparked a passion in my kids. 

But then you came along, Tae Kwon Do.

Getting them to their first class was filled with pep talks and bribery, but since their first bow to the mat, they haven’t looked back.  I don’t want to jinx it, but I think you’re going to be around for awhile.

Thank you,
A Proud Mom

Dear True Friends,
You know who you are. Some of you have been a constant in my life from the moment we met. Some of you are brand new. Others have resurfaced from my past. I want to thank you for reasons you hopefully already know.  You are the reason I am where I am. You are my support and strength. You are the glow behind my smile.


Dear Bucket List,
I’m done being all talk and no action when it comes to you. At the end of 2014, I dusted you off and tackled item #1 by starting to write my novel and quickly moved on to #2 by getting myself a guitar and enlisting my father’s services as my instructor.

But that’s just the beginning.

2015 is my year. Watch out…I’m coming to get ya.

Determined and Motivated

Monday, January 19, 2015

Top 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And as I look through my social media feeds, I'm inspired by the countless quotes spoken by this inspiring man.

His words have the ability to speak to anyone across a spectrum of just about any life circumstance. The following quotes are the ones that speak the most to me.

Here are my...

 Top 10 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes

10. “Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”

9.  “I have decided to stick to love...Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

8. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” 

7. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

6 “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” 

5. "It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent."

4. “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” 

3. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 

2. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

1. “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 

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