Press On

Climbing to the mountaintop

The landscape of our life is full of mountains and valleys. We mature with every step we take along our journey and become wiser and stronger for it. We’re constantly improving and growing. When we stop doing that, our purpose here is complete.


When facing the valleys of life, it can be very seductive to just settle in and have a pity party. Many times people cave into the temptation and stay in that frame of mind for a while. They lie down and cry and keep crying until they’ve cried it out. For some, this can take years or even an entire lifetime.


I’ve found that while the mountains and valleys of life may shape us, they don’t have to personify us. Just because you’re in the valley, it doesn’t mean you have to set your focus there. Set your eyes on the mountaintop and just keep going. In fact, many times the greatest and cruelest milestones in life happen simultaneously. Some of the most poignant moments in my own life have come during times of strife and chaos. I think about the turmoil of my life several years ago when I was going through a divorce and my life, as I’d known it, was drastically changing. There were things happening with my children that were almost unbearable. Many times I wanted to just fall into the pit of self-pity, bitterness and despair. To be perfectly honest, the lure was incredibly strong and I did go there a time or two. I just didn’t stay there. I had a business to run and I quickly realized that nobody was going to do it for me. I had to press on. Failure wasn’t an option. When I look back at that time now, I realize that it was also a time of countless blessings. Amazing and beautiful changes were taking place. I’m now a much stronger and confident woman because of the strength it took to climb out of those valleys.


If we allow ourselves the luxury of getting stuck in a pity party, it takes our focus away from the amazing blessings we are receiving. Yes, there should be a time for grieving, but we can’t allow ourselves to settle there. If we do, we’ll never realize the blessings and changes that can take place. You can only see clearly into the valley once you have made your way out. Take a quick look back to adjust your perspective and then press on. You’ll see that from the mountaintop, the valley looks very small.


We get to choose where we set our eyes. What we continually focus on becomes magnified in our lives. Is it on the valley or the mountaintop? If we focus on the love, grace, mercy and blessings in life, we began to see them more clearly and the chaos and drama tends to diminish. It takes an effort to look for the good. Pain will fight to be recognized. But once you’re able to focus your eyes clearly on all that is right and good, your memories of the chaos will fade. Choose to remember the precious moments and stop dwelling on the bad. Look for what’s on that mountaintop and stop looking down into the valley. What your eyes are focused on is where your path will lead. Learn to appreciate and enjoy the journey. Feel joy with each step you are blessed with taking.


Time will keep passing. Your life will continue to go on. What are you doing with it? If you’re lying in the pit of despair, life will pass you by. Pick yourself up and start taking steps in the right direction. Recognize your blessings and be thankful.


“There are times when you can’t really see or even feel how sweet life can be. Hopefully its mountains will be higher than its valleys are deep. I know things that are broken can be fixed. Take the punch if you have to, hit the canvas and then get up again. Life is worth it.” ~ Queen Latifah

Marriage and Money

couple in bankruptcy

I remember it like yesterday. Sitting at home, taking care of our not-yet-two-year-old, when my now ex announced that we were facing foreclosure. The words did not compute initially, because I did not know how that was possible when he made six figures in the prior year. After all, I had the tax return and bill saying that we owed $20,000 for unpaid income taxes. Perhaps, that should have been my clue that something was bad in the water in Texas. Nevertheless, I was dealing with my own issues. I had just had a baby and I was recovering from a serious bout of post-partum depression. The last thing I thought I had to worry about as the happy, upper-middle class, stay-at-home mom, was that the person who was supposed to be bringing home the bacon was in fact not even throwing fake bacon bits to the mortgage company. It never crossed my mind that though the home loan was solely in my name, I should be covering my back in case I found out one day that the mortgage was so far behind that the only thing that could “save us” was to declare bankruptcy.

Being the good spouse that I was, I agreed that it was absolutely okay for me to file bankruptcy, by myself, so that I could save our home- and my ex’s image. Besides, as was said during this blindsiding conversation, my credit did not matter because I was not working. Notwithstanding the fact that I was an attorney and persons who employ attorneys carefully scrutinize credit reports for history of bad behavior. All that mattered was to save the home, sell my possessions while we kept his toys, and make sure nothing happened to the breadwinner’s good name. I wish I had known then what I know now.

As a former family law practitioner, I frequently encountered persons with similar issues. Many times, I was called upon to offer advice, and/or direction, on how to obtain critical information that protects the family, and its individual members, in financial matters other than divorce and child support. The following is a list is of the common financial issues couples encounter and need assistance addressing. This matter is particularly critical for stay-at-home moms and other married women who do not work outside the home.

1. Account Access

Do both parties have easy access to all information on all financial accounts (this includes banking, investment accounts, credit cards, mortgage or auto loans, etc.)?

In order to protect both parties in the case of a life altering event such as incapacity or death, both parties should have a copy of every page, of all documents relating to any financial account that is held in either spouse’s name. All documents includes:

  • The company’s name, address, and the account representative (if applicable)
  • A copy of the Original application
  • Any and all addenda to applications
  • Any and all communication from the company or person securing the debt
  • Any and all legal notices sent concerning the debt
  • Any and all financial statements regarding the debt

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Further, in addition to the two hard copies that you have, you may want to consider scanning the documents and saving them to a USB drive and sending them to your email address and the email address of a family member, friend and/or attorney in case something should happen to you and the information is needed.

2. Separate Bank Accounts

Do you and your spouse have separate bank accounts? If so, do you have a Pay-on-Death, Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, or other type of arrangement, that will facilitate your spouse being able to easily access the funds upon your incapacity or death?

If you and your spouse have separate accounts, in the event of death or incapacity, you will have neither quick nor easy access to the funds if you do not have something in place to give you legal access. Some of the options you may exercise:

  • Payable on Death (POD) Account. This survivor still has to go through the burden of obtaining a death certificate for the financial institution, however, it is quicker than having to go through the probate process in order to access needed money.
  • Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. This document gives your spouse the power to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity. The power may be as broad or as narrow as you choose.

3. Pay-on-Death Accounts

If you have any separate banking accounts with debit cards, have you exchanged pin numbers with your spouse in the case of a financial emergency? This is something that you may want to consider, because it comes in handy right after a death if- and only if- you have a Pay-on-Death clause on your account.

When you have separate accounts, obtaining a debit card and exchanging pin numbers with your spouse is the best choice in the case of your death or incapacity. When you have performed this action along with providing a POD and/or Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, it provides your spouse with the ability to limit the amount of contact with the financial institution holding the account and makes the process for receiving funds faster and less painful.

4. Undisclosed Accounts

Do you have any accounts (i.e. credit cards) of which your spouse has no knowledge? If so, do you live in a community property state? Did you include your spouse’s name on the application?

If you live in a community property state, you are responsible for your spouse’s debt- period. In the case of divorce, even if you did not know about the debt and the divorce decree holds only one spouse accountable for the debt, if the responsible party does not pay, you are responsible to pay the debt. The creditor is not bound by a divorce decree. Further, consider checking your credit report monthly to verify there are no accounts in your name to which you did not apply. If there are accounts, you have the right to ask the creditor to cancel the account. If the creditor will not cancel the account, even if your name is removed, you are still responsible for the debt.

5. Life Insurance

Do you have enough life insurance? The amount of insurance you have depends upon your estate planning goals, life style, and personal philosophy on passing along wealth. That being said, if insurance is one of your major estate planning tools, it is crucial that you obtain the correct amount.

When making life insurance decisions, it is important to do the following:

  • Calculate your debt. Please note that creditors CANNOT take money from a life insurance policy. Life insurance is a contractual agreement that occurs outside of probate. The money passes to the beneficiary outside of the probate process. If, however, you desire to have all your debts paid to ease any post-death creditor harassment your heirs may receive, you need to know the total amount.
  • How much money will it take for your spouse to maintain the current lifestyle while he/she adjusts to your loss of income?
  • How long do you want to give your spouse to adjust to your loss of income?
  • Do you have any children?
  • How old are your children?
  • Do you want to leave anything to your children?
  • How much do you want to leave to your children?
  • Do you want the insurance to cover college tuition costs? Do you have other accounts in place that are being used to cover college tuition?
  • What type of policy do you want? A whole life, term, convertible term, etc?
  • Have you talked to a financial planner and an attorney about life insurance and alternative methods of estate planning?

If you are a married, non-income earner, in the event of one of the “Four D’s”- your spouse’s death, disability, discharge from employment, or divorce- it is vital that you know your family’s current financial state. Moreover, if more security is desired to help defend your family in the case of a financial crisis, starting an income-producing activity may be a viable option.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom!


Mother and Daughter Hugging

Another Father’s Day will be here before you know it. Many people will be celebrating the day with their father or remembering those that have already passed. Fond memories from childhood will come to mind and bring smiles to their faces. I envy those that have had a loving father in their lives. That unique and loving bond between a father and child is so precious. I hope that those who are fortunate enough to experience that relationship appreciate every moment they have together and realize how blessed they are.


For me, Father’s Day is very awkward because while I do have a father that is still on this earth, he is not part of my life. My parents divorced when I was 5 years old. In the wake of this, my mom, sister and I moved from South Carolina to Texas. I still remember my grandparents picking us up in their car and riding all the way back to Texas nonstop. We initially stayed in 1 bedroom of my grandparents’ house. There was a double bed in the room that my mom and sister slept in. I was the smallest so I kind of migrated to whatever space was available. Sometimes it was on a pallet on the floor, the couch, the spare bed in my great-grandmothers room (she snored really loud), or even in the bathtub. It wasn’t a bad arrangement and I remember being happy. It took about a year before my mom was able to get an apartment where, again, we all shared a bedroom and I finally had a real bed to sleep in that I shared with my sister. It was great. It took growing up and having children of my own to understand the sacrifices and hardship that my mom went through to raise my sister and me on her own.


My dad had no involvement in our upbringing and paid no child support at all. He was an alcoholic and most likely didn’t keep a job long. I don’t remember a time that he called or sent cards or letters. He was just kind of gone. However, I remember hearing my sister crying about missing daddy. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps I was too young and hadn’t formed the bond that she had before we moved. I don’t even remember him being around much prior to that and I don’t have any good memories from my childhood about him. There are a few embarrassing and unpleasant memories but mostly it’s just a big blank.


After the birth of my first child, my aunt let me know that my father had maintained sobriety for a few years and would like to talk. I knew enough about 12 step programs that he wanted to make amends and I would not deny him that opportunity. Eventually, I went to South Carolina and we reunited. I had never really thought about him as “Daddy” so I didn’t know how to relate to him much less what to call him. I settled on calling him by his first name. I was in my 30’s and it was all quite awkward. He was a stranger to me but I wanted to find out if a relationship could grow since he was indeed my father.


For many years our interactions consisted of occasional phone calls and visits which left me emotionally exhausted. Christmas presents and birthday cards were exchanged. The weather, his health and news about various family members were all discussed but there was no palpable connection. You can try to pretend it’s there but eventually, you realize that the deep bond that is formed between parent and child is something that begins with the unconditional love a parent feels towards their child and grows through the ongoing presence they have in the life of that child during important life events. As a parent, I know and understand this. In fact, I have no doubt that the bond between a mother and child begins even before birth.


When I broke the news to my father about my impending divorce and financial stress, he was completely devoid of emotion. It was odd. He muttered something along the lines of oh, that’s too bad but it happens to a lot of people. Sadly, it was an opportunity to bond that passed by unnoticed by him. It was a time that he could have stepped up and acted like the father that he was. My disappointment in him was difficult to bear along with all of the other things that were falling apart in my life. I think at this point I finally realized that the “relationship” was a farce. When it came time to respond to the needs of his “child”, he had nothing to offer. I had to face the fact that this wasn’t healthy for me and let him go.

Mom & me

The person for me that deserves to be recognized on Father’s Day is my mom. She has always been the one and only parent in my life. She has filled the roles of both father and mother all of these years so for her, Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for always being there for me with love and support, and instinctively knowing when I needed it the most. I love you!

The Bachelor Who Cooks Cabbage

Man Cooking

Many of you know that I divorced a few years ago but you may not know that I have made the adjustment from being a country girl to being a city girl. You see, I previously lived on some acreage out in the country. It was a quiet place where you could hear the sounds of nature at night. I would hear the coyotes running or the owls screeching. Nature and its simplicity was all around.


My place was somewhat secluded. There was no one who would even hear me if I screamed my loudest. I know this because of the time that I was attacked on my front porch by yellow jackets. It was a nice spring morning and I was on a roll cleaning everything in sight and decided to sweep off the porch. What I wasn’t aware of was that I had disturbed a yellow jackets’ nest underneath a rocking chair. They came out with a vengeance and started flying all around me. A couple of them flew up my shorts and started doing what they do best, stinging me. Of course I started screaming and clothes started flying. It all ended with me bottomless with a few stings on my legs. My screams alerted no one. That’s the beauty of seclusion I guess. You can get attacked by wasps on your porch, throw off your clothes, and no one’s the wiser. In the city, this would have been a much more embarrassing situation!


But then I sold my little place and moved into the city.  I have experienced some interesting things in my little apartment. I’ve already told you about the neighbor on the phone in the hallway arguing with his ex wife. I can tell you that I’m so thankful that I have the ability to adjust easily. If not, I’m not sure how I would be able to deal with the guy who lives below me who is a constant test to my patience.


First of all, let me say that I moved into the non-smoking building in my apartment complex. He lives below me and is a smoker. I think he tries to NOT smoke in his apartment so instead, he sits outside in his garage, which neighbors mine, and puffs away. I get to walk through the cloud of smoke when I go beyond the garage. I have no idea why he would move into this building being a smoker. Perhaps he started after he moved in?  He also likes to think he is an accomplished musician and believe me, I’ve heard him sing and it’s painful, especially early on a Saturday morning. Then there was the time that I was tempted to call in hazmat. After contemplating, I  decided to call the apartment manager first about the strong smell of chlorine that was infiltrating my apartment burning my eyes and throat. Apparently, he had poured “a lot” (like a gallon) of bleach into a load of laundry. I’ll just say that I can’t imagine how strong the smell was in his apartment. I’m still wondering if there is was crime scene down there that he was trying to cover up.


But tonight I came home to the most noxious smell ever, cabbage! What single man actually cooks cabbage? Seriously? Single men barbecue! They cook steak and burgers. They don’t steam veggies like cabbage. Oh, what a lingering smell it was.


So what do you do in a case like this? Just in case he’s collecting bodies down there, I just try to remain cordial, smile and wave every time I see him. Who knows what’s going on! Now I’m wondering if he was using cabbage to try and cover the smell of that crime scene that must be getting really ripe about now.


Woman in a TreeI was recently asked to share my story of courage and the first thing that came to my mind was that my story isn’t that remarkable. It doesn’t seem to me that it’s much different than that of so many other people. I would like to say that when I was out there on that limb and hanging on for dear life, that my incredible FAITH led me there and comforted me. And it sounds great to say that I had courage in the face of difficulty. But in all honesty, I was pretty much pushed out on that limb and I was scared beyond belief. My life was turning upside down and I was just dealing with the blows as they came.


About 2 years ago my husband and I decided that we were going to get a divorce. We had been married 22 ½ years and had 2 beautiful children together but neither one of us was happy. I could play the blame game but I won’t. We were both at fault. I had just as much responsibility in the failure as he did. In fact, I was glad to put an end to the union. I knew that I DID deserve to be happy and had realized that for many reasons, happiness wasn’t going to happen staying in this marriage.


My 2 biggest fears were: how it was going to affect the kids, ages 16 (daughter) and 21 (son) at the time; and how it would affect me financially? There were many surprises in both areas.


So what did I do? How did I survive all of this? I can tell you that there were MANY tears. When I was crying my eyes out I didn’t feel courageous at all. But I just kept praying and doing the things that I knew how to do. With help from family and amazing friends, I started this on-line magazine for women. Many of the articles are my personal stories. Writing was, and still is, very therapeutic. It also gives me a way to talk with so many other women and hear their stories. I realize that mine is not so unusual and that my story of courage is common. Women are strong!


I have met with a few financial planners to try and get some advice on how I should proceed. When I tell them about my new -start-up business I can tell that some of them think I am crazy. But one asked me if I had a plan B. I looked him in the eyes and said NO, I don’t have a plan B. I will make plan A work. He looked at me and said “good, everyone that has a plan B never puts everything into plan A”.


So now I’m dating an amazing man, loving the simplicity of apartment life and building my business. God continues to put the right people in my path and I am blessed. I’m happier than I ever thought I could be. My ex-husband remarried 7 months after our divorce was final and moved to another city. We are currently not on speaking terms but it is my hope that someday we can both put aside all of our hurt and anger. My daughter has now graduated from high school and is in the process of trying to figure out where she wants to go from here. She is wise in many ways as a result of her experiences and is growing up to be a fine young lady. Our relationship is better than ever and she knows that I love her unconditionally. My son is now living on his own working full time and will be returning to college next semester. He has also learned much from all of this. We continue to be very close and he knows that my love for him has no limits. We have all grown as people and in our faith. We wouldn’t be who we are today if we hadn’t traveled the journey we’ve been on. Although it’s been tough, I have NO regrets!


You can call it courage but it really is just God doing his work on me. I’m being carried through this. I didn’t voluntarily go out on this limb but God has given me the strength and courage to hang on. I know that He has many incredible things waiting for me so I’m able to hold tightly to my faith in order to Let Go and Let God!