3 Single Mom Lessons from the Avengers

A few days ago, kiddo and I took in a matinee of The Avengers (check out my review). And we loved every minute of it! Watching it though left me feeling like a superhero and I noticed three things that could help single moms.

Avenger Lesson #1 – Know your worth. Each character had a specific and useful skill set. The Black Widow kicked butt. Hawk shot his bow and arrow with amazing accuracy. Hulk smashed. Dr. Banner calculated. Captain America was strong and tough with his shield. Thor knocked the wind out of his enemies. And Iron Man was techno savvy and inventive. Each superhero had their gifts and weren’t coy about being confident in themselves. Single moms, know that you ARE worthy and you are a blessing. Period.

Avenger Lesson #2 – Life is tough. The Avengers dealt with a tough situation. Being a single parent is tough. No doubt about it. Everyday will have its challenges and every day there will be something to deal with. This isn’t just a single parent issue, but life as it is. And know that while life is tough, you are tough also.

Avenger Lesson #3 – Get with your crew. The Avengers were brought together to fight a common enemy. Enemies that single parents can face are depression, isolation or loneliness.  You can fight back by having a support system in place. Build up your crew of people who back you up no matter what. I’ve got my team of fellow single moms (some not) and friends who love and cherish me. They remind me of how strong I really am and call me on my crap when I need it. They are my blindspot; that place in my life that I just can’t see because of my own hangups. The Avengers worked together to make things work and your crew can do the same for you.

I was reminded of these things throughout the course of the movie. It gave me such great energy and I was so inspired. Guess that’s why I’m going to get The Avengers on dvd as soon as it comes out. Hope these lessons help you single moms out there to remember your greatness!

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The Highs & Lows of Solo Parenting

Now that Mother’s Day is upon us, I’ve been thinking about my life as a single mom. For the most part, I’m happy. I’ve got a great kid who has been a blessing in my life, my education and a great home.

A couple of weeks ago, kiddo scored second honors (90 average)  at school for the first time ever. I cried, I was so happy and proud of him. Hugging him tightly I told him how much I love him and how proud I was. I also thought of all of the work it took to get him to earning second honors.

I thought of the hours of work to earn money for  tuition, uniforms, after-school. I also thought of the time and money spent on therapy, evaluations and finally medication to address his ADHD, which was severely hampering his ability to focus on his schoolwork. Even with very little support from family (who disagree with my parenting style/decisions), but great support from my friends, I kept going.

There have been many times I’ve wanted to quit, run away or stop the world from happening because things were so bad for me. And before my son, I did. I went from college to work to college to work and had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I had no direction and indeed not much love for myself.

And the voices of people who doubted me became my truth. Until kiddo showed up. I was a young mom, very naive and unprepared. And even though I was legally an adult, I was VERY immature. I’ll be the first to admit that. But, I learned. And learned and learned. I’m STILL learning. Every single day. I learned my own strength is very powerful. My love endless and boundless. And my son, precious.

One family member (an old-school person with old-school parenting ideas) told me that he wished I had kiddo later on in life. I was 22 when I found out I was pregnant. My reply: I’m glad I had kiddo when I did. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today.

Here I am without a full time job, bills to pay and a child to raise – and yet, I KNOW I will be just fine. Kiddo’s being taken care of, I’ve got the resources to pay my bills (haven’t fallen behind) and I’m happy. No, life isn’t perfect, but being a mom, and now a single mom for two years, I’m happy.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. And Happy Mother’s Day to me, because dammit! I deserve to give myself a huge pat on the back.

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Country Guy in the City

Last week, I had the chance to meet a true country gentleman in the form of Clint Black starring in Flicka: Country Pride now available on dvd. “I’m a bit under the weather, so please understand if I don’t shake hands. I don’t want anyone getting sick.” My city girl heart melted at the country gentleman’s kindness on the spot.

Appearing reserved, Black lit up when asked about his family. He shared his thoughts on parenting (one pre-teen), working (filming) and how to balance both.

When asked about his family, Black shared how he chose to work on this project as it allowed him to work not only with his wife, Lisa, but also with his daughter (first acting job). He explained that working with family is a unique challenge (especially with his daughter) because he couldn’t threaten to take away her candy if she didn’t listen. Sprinkled throughout his interview were several anecdotes about his family life. Black was candid about his parenting style and how he and his wife work to ensure that their daughter is safe and happy.

His biggest concern?  “Will other people’s views of my daughter change her view of herself?” Black wants his little girl have a sense of self that isn’t elevated by other peoples. He stated that she needed to be prepared not to change in a changeable world.

And just like us regular (and unfamous) parents, Black experiences parenting struggles. His biggest? It’s hard to say no. Black has a difficult time to stop his daughter’s pestering.

Black also shared some parenting tips:

1. Help Kids stay grounded. He and his wife make a team effort to help their daughter be a human being before getting an image. Teaching her responsibility and giving her a sense of normalcy despite Black’s celebrity.

2. Help kids adopt an accurate self-image. Black talks to his daughter about privileges and why they (as a family) get them. He’s also talked with her about being a nice adult.

3. Look to the past. Black shared how his parents’ example gave him a great example on parenting and how to say no.  For him, it is hard to stop the pestering. Black was reminded of his pestering days with his parents and shared how he often pestered his mother until she gave in. Laughing, he explained how she did it to shut him up. Black also shared how his father’s one-two “NO” punch that usually stopped pestering in its tracks (and how it doesn’t work well with his daughter).

And after sharing his NYC adventures with his daughter (and his parenting stories), Clint spoke of his newest movie Flicka: Country Pride. The film is about – zany mayor Toby helps out a teen in need as well as an injured cowboy who needs a place close to town for therapy and to stable his horse. Mr. Black  stated that the teen falls in love with Flicka and with Flicka’s help (and love) heals.

I just wanted to thank TheMoms for inviting me to meet and chat with Clint Black as well as Coffee Bean NY for hosting such an awesome event! Be sure to look for Flicka: Country Pride out on dvd at Walmart now.

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Earth Day Traditions & Tribute

Growing up in a low-income Latino household, Earth Day wasn’t something that was discussed. In fact, Earth Day started in 1970. But, in my 80’s home, my parents were more concerned about making sure that we had clothes to wear and enough to eat.

However, my parents (my mom especially) unknowingly passed on some great traditions that I now pass on to my own kiddo. Here’s our list of earth-friendly traditions. See if yours makes the list and add your own in the comments!

1. Hand-me-downs – My mom was the queen of hand-me-downs. As a middle child, she frequently received clothing from her older sisters. She was very annoyed at the time she said, but understood after having us. I remember a received a hand-me-down uniform for freshman year of high school. Today, I pass on this tradition by having kiddo help me sort clothes, books and toys to pass on to others in need.

2. Making the best of leftovers. My mom believed in not wasting anything, so she tended to cook extra food to last for the next meal. How did I know that I caught this bug, I realized a year ago that I was wasting food because I couldn’t cook for less than four people. Go figure! lol

3. Making items from scratch. My mom also showed me that making things at home was cheaper and tastier than buying it at the supermarket. She used to make sofrito the seasoning mix that is the base of many Puerto Rican recipes. Rather than buy it at the store, which was more expensive, Mom gathered all the ingredients and blended them in the food processor. She then froze it and thawed it out as needed. For months, Mom had ready-made sofrito to season all of her yummy meals. While I’m not much of a sofrito user, I have learned to make my own spaghetti sauce from simple ingredients. (Please note – the above recipe was the closest to my mom’s.)

4.Brewing coffee. Mom loved her Bustelo coffee (it’s my favorite coffee, too). We didn’t have a coffee maker growing up. So no filters to waste. She brewed her coffee by boiling it and then using a cloth strainer to separate the coffee grounds from the liquid. I’ve continued this tradition by brewing my own coffee. Not only to be earth-friendly, but also to keep her with me.

I’m sure if I think hard enough, I could add to this list. But, these four tricks are the ones I use the most. And these are the ones that keep her memory alive and help me miss her a little less. What are some earth-friendly traditions you’ve adopted in your household?

Happy Earth Day!

Traditions courtesy of Francisca Reyes (1942 – 2002).

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Job Search Challenge

I’ve been looking for a new job since early January. The job that I began in December was not a good fit so I quit. I was able to do this and manage well. But for someone who has been employed since adolescence, not having a job hasn’t been easy.

I’m used to being very busy. The first few weeks of unemployment found me practicing good self-care – sleeping well, eating well and catching up with my support network. (I’d lost all of these things while at that other job along with a few pounds.) I believe that good self-care allows people to work at their best. So I caught up with that.

Now that I’ve been out of work for three months, I have been keeping busy in other ways. I have been on interviews, sent out countless resumes, & even revamped my resume (several times) but haven’t landed the right job. But Heiddi, why not just take any job? I choose not to take any job because I’ve worked too hard for too long to take a step back.

Taking any job just to have one isn’t my thing. I worked my way from “any job” to a job working with children and families. Going to graduate school and earning a license was supposed to open up career options and  help move me forward in my career.

What I’ve found though is that most people don’t know what my license is. (I’m a Licensed Bilingual Mental Health Counselor, btw.) It is a very new license and has only been issued since the year 2000. Here is a definition from the NY Mental Health Association, which is an “advocacy organization representing the clinical counselors of New York State. Our continuing role is to protect and enhance the rights of counselors to practice our profession.”

The challenge for me has been the lack of awareness that the LMHC is the equivalent to an LCSW or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I wanted to share this to educate others about licensed Mental Health Counselors. I’m also trying to stay positive about my job search by sharing this information. And for the record, my dream job would be to work on an in-patient psyche unit for kids and teens in NYC.

For anyone looking for work, keep moving forward and don’t lose sight of your dreams. I’ve learned to think outside of the box when it comes to job seeking. I’ve also learned that I’m very blessed to have my support network of family and friends who love and care for me. So, while I haven’t yet landed my dream job, I do know that my support network rocks! And I’m so grateful.

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It’s my Momaversary

It has been 11 years since I’ve been a mom. I learned about this term a few years ago when a friend told me about it (Thanks pal!). She said that yes, while celebrating kiddo’s birthday is important – it is also important to celebrate the first day of motherhood.
I remember it so well. My water broke at 2:30pm on March 13th, got to the hospital at 3 and had kiddo at 4:36am on March 14th, 2001. And this after sitting at home for a week waiting for the butterball to show up. And he sure did! 8lbs, 7 oz of chunky monkey. The lead ob/gyn put him on my upper chesst and I was blown away at how heavy he was then.
Today, he is a healthy, nearly eye-to-eye with me, 5th grader who is smart, sweet and kind. – woke him early to sing Happy Birthday so he could blow out the candles on his ice cream sandwich. (Kiddo’s with his father from today til Friday evening so I had to party somehow.) After he got ready for school, I gave him his gifts – a telescope (science supergeek) and a new video game for his Wii console. My kid is awesome. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy being his mom, but he’s brought me so much joy. Kiddo helped me discover who I am and pushed me to be stronger than I ever thought I could. He has motivated me to follow my dreams so that he would have a role model. He has truly enriched my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better assignment (and gift) than to be his mother. So, happy birthday, kiddo (my love & joy) and happy momaversary to me!

Hurt so Good by “The Hurt Village”

On February 12th, I had the chance to see The Hurt Village at the Signature Theater through Playtime NYC. While my son had a blast, I was blown away by the raw power of this show. It was funny, poignant and emotional.

The Hurt Village takes place in the South, so while I couldn’t relate to some of the issues presented, I could relate to a few things – being a single mother and growing up in a low-income, inner city environment. My absolute favorite character was Big Mama who brought me to tears and to my knees with her performance. Tonya Pinkins was absolutely amazing in showing her strength and vulnerability as a working single mother just trying to stay afloat in the crumbling village around her. I cried because I knew where she was coming from not only as a child raised in this environment, but as a mother trying to show my child that the world is bigger than what we see everyday.

But, I don’t want to give it all away. You HAVE to see The Hurt Village. The show’s run had been extended through March 25th. So get your tickets and have the experience of a lifetime!

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Get glammed up with Mommyslinks!

Hello, divas. If you live in or will be visiting the NYC area on March 31st, come check out the “Glam-Me” event with Mommyslinks – THE social networking site for moms in the Tri-State area.

On March 31st, Mommyslinks is hosting its first annual Glam-Me event for divas in the city. You don’t need to be a mom to attend, you just need a ticket. Get a ticket; give a ticket. Bring your mom, your sisters, your pals and get some pampering. Plus, for the first 150 ticket-holders, there is a sweet swag bag available. Click here to buy your ticket and get glammed up!

An even bigger plus, I’ll be there to get glammed up and have a blast. Come join me and the Mommyslinks crew on the 31st! See you then!

The Gift of MLK

At an ice skating rink in the city, the gift of MLK’s work and dedication to equal rights for cannot be more evident than in the diversity of the skaters. Black, white, Latino – a beautiful rainbow of colors all bundled up in winter gear. Families, couples, adults and kids of all backgrounds just having fun.
I know that MLK wasn’t the only one who battled for all people. There were many more like him who challenged the traditional way of life to make it more inclusive. To allow all people equal footing for opportunities such as ice skating together.
To MLK and all of the people part of the early days of civil rights and those who continue to work for the benefit of people of all races, backgrounds and faiths – I thank you and salute you. Remember, that the gift of MLK is bigger than anything we could ever imagine. Because now we can skate freely, together and as one.
Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr and thank you.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry by Heiddi Zalamar.