This is the second in a series of behind-the-scenes blog posts regarding the book, The Single Dad Detour.

At the start of Chapter 3, I mention a friend named “Rick.” A fake name for the book, but a real friend nonetheless. Rick and I were buddies from my days living in Polk County, FL. We went to church together and performed together in several drama productions at our church where I served as the Director of Theater Arts. 

On page 36, I mention how upset he was that the courts were expecting him to pay way more child support than he did before the divorce. I too, recall feeling victimized when I looked at the standard of living my kids had before the divorce and the much higher standard expected from me after the split. It was ludicrous.

But with Rick, who was now single again, it took him to some low places of depression and bad choices. In the book, I mention his descent into drinking and dropping out of community. He lost visitation rights with his daughter, then stopped his child support completely. But here’s the behind the scenes part or “the rest of the story” for Rick.

Rick and I slowly lost contact because we didn’t see eye-to-eye about things anymore. Eventually, I heard he started using drugs and had a run-in with local law enforcement. Then something awful happened. I never found out if the drugs were related to this but one day the news came that Rick had been killed in a car accident.

What a sad end to Rick’s life. His 13-year-old now had no dad and the only legacy he left behind was that of a dead-beat drug-addict. I loved Rick, even after he cut many of us out of his life.1111

Rick’s life stands as a warning to single dads. Don’t allow bitterness to have a foothold. Whether it’s toward your ex-spouse, the courts, or even a child who refuses to see you. Take the high road. Cling to Jesus and cast all your burdens upon the Lord.

He cares for you. He is your refuge–your strong tower.   

The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce released in February 2015 and became a work that is being utilized internationally to help dads all over the world. This humbles me and I’m so grateful for what God continues to do through the book. 

 

 

 

 

As promised, this is the first in a series of behind-the-scenes blog posts regarding the book, The Single Dad Detour. 

The Single Dad Detour started out as a fictional work. The title was Heart of Stone and it was the story of a single dad, a correctional officer who discovers a plot for his murder during an impending prison break. I planned to use the story in hopes that single dads who read it would learn how to survive parenting alone, all while being entertained.

Dumb idea.

11111My attempt at fiction was not so much out of creativity but fear. Fear that a self-help book would not fly unless I had a Ph.D. or other educational credentials.

Of course, the novel kept hitting a brick wall because my motive was wrong. Anytime you try to sneak a lesson into a piece of entertainment, it’s going to show up in blinding neon lights. Ugh! 

At the advice of my literary friends and professionals, I set aside my novel and dove into the first few chapters of what was then titled Help, I Think I’m Lost: How to Navigate Fatherhood After Divorce.

Once I decided to be authentic, I gained confidence as an expert in the field of family issues and the manuscript flowed out of me like magic.

As each chapter was completed, I’d take it to my critique group to have it polished. I am auto-didactic, so I listened and learned and read and grew as a writer. I interviewed single dads and other parents, researched the topic and added several interactive elements to the book.

Finally, almost 10 years after starting the novel, my non-fiction manuscript was organized enough to pitch to agents and publishing houses.

The rest is history. The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce released in February 2015 and became a work that is being utilized internationally to help dads all over the world. This humbles me and I’m so grateful for what God continues to do through the book. 

The lesson here is obvious. Move with confidence in the topic God has called you to write about. Don’t be afraid of being a fraud. Don’t hide behind one genre because you’re afraid of another. Step out and be authentic and watch God use you. 

I’m not saying I’ll never dive into writing a novel again one day. When it’s time, I’ll know. Until then, I look forward to what he might do with my upcoming project, PreLaunching: How to Prepare Your Teen for Adulting in Today’s World.  Only time will tell. 

How about you? How long did it take you to finish your first manuscript? 

 

 

 

 

111111How does your morning start on Christmas Day?

As a parent, do you have plans or do you let the day carry you as it may? I’ve found I need to strike a balance between spontaneity and intentional planning. 

If you are a single parent, chances are you may have to share holidays with an ex-spouse. BLended families have even more adjustments. So being purposeful is important, especially if you only get Christmas with your kids half the day….or worse, every other year.

But strategy has its downsides and sometimes being less organized can be quite relaxing and fun.

I tend to lean more toward planned and intentional activities with my kids on and around Christmas. Rather than reading the Christmas story from scripture on the morning of, together we read verses from the birth of Christ in bite-sized portions throughout the month. This keeps our minds on Him continually.

Then on Christmas Day, I wake the kids to a favorite Christmas song and we dig into our stockings first. Afterward, we hand out presents and watch each person in turn, open their gifts.

But what about those parents who can’t have a perfectly planned morning? What about families who open gifts on Christmas Eve? Or those who have kids with special needs? Christmas isn’t the same for every family, nor does it have to be.

If you have limited time with the kids or you wake up to find Johnny has the flu, being flexible is the key. Don’t lose heart if your child isn’t patient enough to listen to the entire story of Mary and Joseph. If your ex shows up early and you’re not done opening gifts, learn to go with the flow. 

Each kid is different and each year is different. There are things out of our control and we must learn to trust God when our plans have to be altered.

In the end, God is bigger than any plans I might have and I’ve learned to trust him. Nothing catches him by surprise. He is bigger than any plans that go awry.

Relax, trust God and have fun.

Yes, we must be intentional about honoring Christ during this holiday. But whether or not Christmas ends up being about Jesus or the presents this year, I have to remind myself, the kids will remember most the atmosphere in the house.

So when things don’t go as planned, I can either emit peace or turmoil during this season. A peaceful spirit eventually makes room for Christ–but rigid control never welcomes Jesus into the mix.  222222

 

 

 

 

 

6I hate to see Advent Calendars in grocery stores that hold no meaning except to provide a countdown and a piece of candy for children. Often the calendar has no reference to Christ or anything remotely spiritual. It’s nothing more than a box of chocolate with cartoon characters on it.

Years ago I decided to buy an empty wooden Advent Calendar with little drawers that had numbers on them. Oh sure, when the kids were little some of them contained candy or tiny toys. But most were filled with scriptures to help them reflect and prepare for Christmas.5

As they began to get older, I had to get creative in finding ways to keep their attention so they continued looking forward to opening the calendar drawers each day. They are teens now and they still love doing the Advent because I change what’s in the drawers each year. They never know what they will find. It could be a scripture passage from the birth of Christ, some money, a riddle, a challenge to perform an act of kindness–who knows?

My goal is to create a sense of wonder, waiting, and reflection on the coming of Christ to Earth. But I don’t get uptight if that doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes it’s just plain old-fashioned fun. And that’s ok. I don’t want to get so hung up on making every day a serious, reverent lesson that it loses its joy for the kids. 

4Try to spark your own creative ideas. Here are some ways to change up your calendar and keep it interesting for older kids:

  1. Do the advent each day after dinner as a family. Make it an event for all. Not just one person opening the calendar door/drawer by themselves.
  2. Use higher quality chocolate. As people mature, cheap candy isn’t as appealing. Place it randomly, not every day.
  3. Every other day, only include a typed scripture from the Christmas story. Use full passages of several verses. The kids are older and can read more than they used to.  Ask them questions about what they read. Make it a family discussion. I prefer to put the passages in chronological order so that by Dec 25th they will have read the entire account from Luke or another gospel.
  4. If you include money as a surprise, don’t get crazy. $1 is sufficient. It’s not about the amount, it’s about sparking a conversation regarding the greatest gift of all.
  5. Type up the lyrics to a Christmas song but mix up the words. They must try to guess it.1
  6. Include a deep question in one day like “Imagine you are an angel hearing God’s plan to send Jesus to Earth for mankind. How would you feel?” OR “What kind of emotions do you think Mary’s parents felt when they first realized Mary was pregnant?”
  7. Write the word EMMANUEL on a piece of paper and challenge your teen to see how many words they can make from those letters in three minutes.
  8. Throw in a small gadget here and there (keychain, bookmark, nail polish, a Chick-fil-A coupon). Make sure it fits in the space so they can’t see it until they open the container or door for that day.
  9. Use your printer to print out tiny photos from significant memories from the past year. Ask your teen to share what that means to them and how they saw Christ in that event.

3Be creative and think outside the box. There are no hard-set rules. It’s not a time to strive to turn every day into an opportunity for rigid religious training. Nor is it a time to reflect on Santa and parties. It is an “Advent Calendar” after all. For us, a balanced time of spiritual reflection and fun is what works best. I found when I trust the Lord, he can turn any of those advent days into a God moment. Even a candy cane can spark a spiritual conversation. 

7

Trust God and have fun.2

NOTE: Today’s post was written by guest blogger and single mom, Alex Hall.
 
The holidays have arrived, and normally your kids would be delirious with excitement, chatting about the presents they hope to receive and upcoming holiday parties they plan to attend.
But this year is different. You’re recently single, and the holidays will never be the same again.
Whether due to a death or divorce, the entire family is still grieving. Suddenly everything seems uncertain and strange. How can you help your children move past the pain so they can fully embrace the holidays? Here are 4 easy tips to help.
 
Don’t Celebrate at Warp-Speed
You may think that since your kids are sad, you need to shower them with expensive gifts and go to every holiday event in your community. That’s not necessary or even helpful.
Instead of focusing on material things and constantly being on the go, take time to slow down. Your children will appreciate that you’re focused on their happiness.
They don’t need a mountain of gifts to realize you still love them. Be patient with your children, your family and yourself. Celebrating the holidays after a tragedy is confusing and tainted with sorrow. Keep things simple so you and your family can enjoy the holidays without getting overwhelmed.
 
Make New Traditions
For years, your family has celebrated the holidays with certain family traditions. To help with the grieving process, ask your children if they want to change some of the holiday traditions.
Maybe you can celebrate at a grandparent’s house, take the kids to a movie or stay in your pajamas all day. Do you always make a special breakfast? Go out to eat this year.
If your divorced and the ex-spouse has the kids for Thanksgiving Day, consider celebrating with the kids the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Your kids may eventually enjoy celebrating the same holiday twice.
 
Do Fun Holiday Activities
Find fun holiday activities your kids will enjoy. Watch classic holiday movies as you cuddle together in front of the fireplace. Make snow angels, go ice skating, or whip up some hot cocoa and homemade cookies.
These activities may seem simple, but your kids will enjoy spending quality time with you and it may help ease the blues of not having both parents present.
 
Volunteer
Sometimes you can deflect your own grief if you spend time helping others. This is also true for your children.
Try volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating in a toy drive or visiting a nursing home to spend time with elderly people who may be lonely during the holidays. Seeing the joy that giving brings will boost your children’s self-esteem and increase your own joy during the holiday season.
Celebrating the holidays after a death or divorce isn’t just painful for you–it’s painful for your children. This is the time to reassure them that they’re still safe and loved.
It’s a time to create new holiday traditions as well as learn to explore creative ways of celebrating cherished holidays. While these weeks may be bittersweet, if you focus on making the celebrations simple but heartfelt, you can help your children deal with their grief and embrace the delight of the holidays.
 
Now it’s your turn. What ways have you survived the holidays alone? Share your suggestions with us in the comments.
 
 
GUEST BIO: Alexis Hall is a single mom to three kids. She created SingleParent.info to provide support and advice for the many families out there with only one parent in the household. She works as an in-home health nurse. When she isn’t working or spending time with her kids, she enjoys running and hiking and is currently training for a triathlon.