Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Eve Tips for Singles

Sue’s New Year’s Eve suggestions for singles are great. Here are some additional tips gathered from three single friends.

Kristi routinely turns down her girlfriends’ invitations to New Year’s Eve dinner in favor of her own quiet celebratory ritual. Way in advance, she schedules herself for a manicure, pedicure, facial, Shiatsu massage, and workout session with a personal trainer, followed by her regular Hatha yoga class. At the end of the day, Kristi feels self-indulgent and exhausted in a very satisfying way. She is rested, relaxed, and ready for good night’s sleep. She has a light dinner and a long soak in the tub, curls up with a book and a glass of wine, and before she knows it, she has to get up and get moving to get to her yoga instructor’s two- hour special New Year’s morning session for his diehard pupils, which is followed by a really great guilt-free vegan brunch.

When Monica first got divorced, she went for counseling and the advice she got was to be proactive and do what the opposite sex likes to do, so Monica joined the local ski club which is co-ed and largely made up of single men. Every New Year’s Eve, the ski club has an early pot luck dinner. The party breaks up no later than midnight, though most ski club members want to be in bed by 10 since the next morning at 4:30 a.m., they all have to be on a chartered bus with their gear, ready to spend New Year’s Day on the slopes.

Kathy always spends New Year’s Eve babysitting for her nieces and nephews. She has all five of them in her apartment for a giant pizza party and sleepover. They watch vintage horror movies after the littlest ones are tucked in to their sleeping bags. The next day, the kids’ parents drop by in mid-afternoon to retrieve them. As a reward, her grateful siblings chip in and send Kathy to a full-service spa the following weekend.

However you choose to spend your New Year's Eve, we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Divorced on New Year's Eve

For several years after my husband and I separated, the day I dreaded most was New Year's Eve. I feared parties because I imagined that the moment the ball dropped, everyone in the room would grab their beloved and start smooching while I stood awkwardly alone. But my anticipation was always worse than the night itself.

My ex moved out five years ago this December, and for that first New Year's Eve, my wonderful daughter -- then a college senior -- thoughtfully planned a party at our house so I wouldn't face the night alone. She spent all day making hors d'oeuvres, involving me in the preparations, and filled our home with her chatty, adorable friends to keep me company. I can't thank her enough, though I was too freaked out to express my gratitude at the time. I don't remember how I stumbled through the holiday during the next few years, but I'll never forget that the moment midnight struck, each of my kids invariably called me from wherever they were to wish me a Happy New Year and tell me they loved me. That went a very long way.

If you're recently separated or divorced and are fortunate enough to regard the holiday as just another night of the year, you'll survive it easily by settling in with a good book or DVD. But if you can't quite convince yourself that the night is ordinary, then make plans with a few single girlfriends. Invite them over for a pot-luck dinner and a viewing of "The First Wives Club" or the original black-and-white version of "The Women." Or go out with them to a movie or comedy club. Before you know it, you'll realize that the holiday is, in fact, just another night -- and that every new year of your life really does get happier.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blended Families at the Holidays

Step-families, or blended families are tricky business at holiday time because of rigid custody schedules, a new step-mother or step-father in the house, and many other potential land mine factors. For parents, flexibility and understanding are key, and knowing that most kids will take a good long while to warm up when meeting new step-parents or step-siblings will help ease any adult hurt feelings.

Whenever birthdays or holidays arrive, the best solution is to create a fair and guilt-free schedule for the kids – they can celebrate Thanksgiving at mom’s house and Christmas Eve at dad’s house and reverse it on other years. Mother’s Day, however, should always see the biological children with their own mother, and the same goes for Father’s day. It’s a good idea to have these important days written in to a court ordered custody schedule, or added if you haven’t done so already. The custody schedule can prevent drama if everything is spelled out, even down to the hour. Whether or not you like the schedule, it will be clear and enforceable and will relieve the kids of any guilt.

Tip for being a great step mom or great step dad: have your step kids call their biological moms and dads on all of the holidays when they are in your custody. And pick up the phone yourself and wish your step-child’s mother or father a Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day or Merry Christmas. It’s the right thing to do.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Divorce Wedding Etiquette: Remember Whose Wedding It Is

If you and your ex are still fuming at one another, there are bound to be glitches when you both have to share your daughter's or son's wedding day. Here are a few scenarios and suggestions:

"There is no way I will sit next to him".
That's fine. Nowhere is it written that divorced parents have to sit together.If they really can't stand each other, at the ceremony, the mother usually sits in the front row and the father in the row behind her. They can also be separated by seating them both in the front row with other relatives between them (like referees). At the reception, they can be seated at different tables,each with people they like.

What about the receiving line after the ceremony?
Do you have to tolerate your ex’s new spouse standing next to you? The receiving line format is up to bride and groom. Luckily, it is traditional that the only man in the receiving line is the groom, and this idea is the best bet for divorced parents.If both parents want to be in the receiving line but don't want to stand beside each other, then the line should go as follows: bride's mom, her new husband, groom's mom, groom's dad, bride’s dad, his new wife.

“I’m not going if he’s bringing her.”
You don’t want to threaten the kids or make them unhappy on their wedding day, but you truly can’t stand to be in the same room with your ex’s new wife since she's the one who broke up your family and threw your life into chaos. If you are adamant, chances are good that your son or daughter will bow to your wishes. The bridal couple has every right not to invite the "new better half". This is a day for family and if the kids are not close to their parent's new spouse and their inclusion will cause extra problems, then it's not worth it. Also if the bride’s father won't attend the wedding if he can't bring his wife/girlfriend, he has clearly made an unfortunate and rather stupid decision to bow out.

The main point is that the bride or groom lived through a lot of pain because of their parents’ divorce, so both parents should act like grownups, put aside their hostilities and narcissism, and try to do whatever is most important to the kids, even if that means dad has to leave his new wife at home or mom has to tolerate being in the same room with her.

Wedding Etiquette for Step-Parents

When a parent of the bride or groom is divorced and remarried, what is the proper wedding behavior for the step-parent? My friend Lisa attended the wedding of her husband's daughter from his first marriage. Lisa took a back seat, literally. At the ceremony, she sat in the back along with the wedding guests rather than with the relatives and bridal party. She remained invisible during the ceremony, didn't stand on the receiving line, and didn't stick her face into in any family photos. That seems appropriate and sensitive behavior for most families. But in a case of egregious behavior, the stepfather of a young bride gallantly chipped in $30,000 to help pay for her wedding. That sounds nice, but years earlier this man -- let's call him Dave -- had been the home wrecker who had an adulterous affair with the bride's mother, who was then married to Dave's best friend and business partner. So Dave was instrumental in breaking up the bride's family, his own family -- each with teenage kids -- plus the business and longtime friendship with the bride's father. Even though Dave married their mother and moved in with them, the bride and her sister never forgave him and never came to like him. But at the wedding, emboldened by his generous contribution, Dave stood up and made a toast, addressing the bride's father as well as his own ex-wife. "It's high time that we let bygones be bygones," he announced.

The bride was enraged and her wedding was ruined as far as she was concerned. She and her sister had resented Dave ever since he joined their family, and over the years that took a toll on his marriage to their mother. But this was the straw that broke the camel's back, and Dave and their mom broke up soon thereafter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Divorce Settlements for the Rest of Us

Celebrities and their spouses may be getting huge divorce windfalls, but the average Jane is in deep financial tapioca if she’s negotiating a divorce settlement these days.

Julia has been a mostly stay-at-home mom with a part-time job selling real estate for the past 20 years. She loves the real estate job because its flexibility has allowed her to chauffeur her three daughters to their activities, be a Girl Scout troupe leader and volunteer for the PTA. Rob, her soon-to-be ex, until recently a big-time investment strategist, always said he loved her job too because Julia was able to be home in time put a hot meal on the table for the family every night.

The unraveling started with Rob becoming fatally attracted to Marisa, his running partner, a 35 year old single tri-athlete with a killer body, a Harvard MBA and a trust fund. He became so ga-ga (or so cagey, depending on your view),that he cut back on his financial consulting business to train for marathons all over the world with Marisa.
Now that he has successfully depleted his income along with the family’s savings, Rob has filed for divorce. Julia’s income is no longer considered the family’s “second income”. Even though the real estate market is all but dead, and she hasn’t been able to sell a house in six months, Rob’s divorce attorney is claiming that Julia should be supporting herself, the kids and the house, plus paying Rob alimony. This normally would seem like an outrageous crock that any judge would throw out of court without hesitation. However, since Rob’s vastly depleted income is in financial services, the employment area known to be the worst off, Julia’s lawyer has warned her that she’ll be looking at a good deal if she walks away with half the house and the obligation to support herself and the kids. And if the judge doesn’t order her to pay Rob any alimony, she’s supposed to consider herself lucky!

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Recession? A Whopper Divorce Settlement

Madonna and Guy Ritchie worked out their divorce settlement. The pop star will pay her ex between $76 million and $92 million, according to her spokesman. The amount includes the value of their country home in western England as well as the couple's London pub, the Punchbowl.

"I'd assume it's one of the largest payouts ever in a divorce settlement," her spokesperson told the AP.

Even bigger than the 32 million POUNDS that Paul McCartney forked over to Heather Mills. And all that dough after Guy Ritchie stated repeatedly that he didn't want anything from Madonna because he was a successful film director in his own right. Guess he changed his mind.

A Marriage Made in Hell

Why is it that some of the world’s worst marriages last on and on like the Energizer Bunny?
Here’s one for example:

Posy and Jacques, her French husband, have been married now for 18 years. They met when Posy was researching an article on where to stay in the Bahamas for a travel magazine and Jacques was managing a four star resort and aggressively looking for a fifth star.
Moving to the city from an adjacent state,Posy had attended a two year college in New York. Three days into her first semester at age 18, she began a five year affair with a 60 year old married professor. When he dropped dead of a heart attack, her family actually celebrated. She bounced back quickly, and immediately took up with another married guy, the editor of a major travel magazine. By and by his wife discovered the tryst, and the editor offered Posy a long-term assignment in the Caribbean.
Not being one to waste any time, her first night in the Bahamas she sidled up to Jacques at the hotel bar and accepted his invitation to sleep with him in the manager’s suite. Jacques was a mere ten years older than she is, and single, not her usual fare, but he was French and handsome. Besides, she got to pocket the expense money from the magazine by staying with him. Three months later, they were married on the beach and he was well on his way to getting the Green Card he coveted. Her parents were relieved that he was younger than them and had never been married to anyone except their daughter. Which they knew because they paid to have a background check done on him.

Posy now works for an Asian luxury hotel chain and travels 40 weeks of the year, maintaining long term relationships with boyfriends in three different Asian cities. Jacques is CEO of a consulting business he set up a half dozen years ago in their suburban basement, attempting to place professional hotel managers at luxury resorts. So far he has had two or three interested clients, but no interest from the hotels. So, while he and Posy wait for his business to take off, he has started a small French language private tutoring institute in his home. He students are mostly the stay at home wives of wealthy Korean and Japanese businessmen. One of his students recently gave birth to a Eurasian child, a clone of Jacques, which despite the mother’s entreaties, Jacques insisted was not his. Her husband sent her and the baby packing back to her family in Korea. This was fine with Jacques, because his true love is the gorgeous young wife of a Japanese comic book publisher. But, he’s not leaving Posy, even for his true love. Hey, he has his Green Card, and no wife around most of the time to bother him. She makes hundreds of thousands a year and he never has to sleep with her. Did we mention that as she has aged she has begun to closely resemble Kermit the Frog?
Posy consulted with a big time divorce attorney to explore leaving no-job Jacques, but her parents went ballistic. They told her that since Jacques has zero income, she’d be paying him alimony forever if they split.
So the blissful marriage lives on. And you could definitely say this lovely couple deserves one another.

Divorce Survival Tips

This Friday, December 19th, we'll be on the Morning Show with Rachel and Jeff on WTIC-Fox in Hartford between 8 and 9 a.m. We'll touch on the following survival tips from STILL HOT.

1. It's not your fault if your husband left you for his 22-year-old yoga instructor.

(So don't believe his charges that you drove him away because you controlled the thermostat, smeared night cream on your face, and didn't let him floss in bed. His fling with the babe has everything to do with his fear of death and decrepitude.)

2. You'll learn that your girlfriends are either Betty's or Veronica's.

(You need to lean on them, but you'll quickly find out that some get an A and a few deserve an F. The A girlfriend runs into your ex and tells you just what you wanted to hear: that he's gotten bald and fat. But the F pal reports back that he's gotten really buff and his girlfriend looks like Cameron Diaz.)

3. Change your image from soccer-mom stodgy to single-mom sexy.

(By going shopping with your teenage daughter and letting her swap your frumpy sweats for tank tops and form-fitted skirts. And be sure to toss your white cotton granny panties.)

4. Those internet dating profiles can be a crock of cow dung.

(They're inflated, misstated and self-deluded, but with practice and our book, you'll learn to decode them. For instance, if he describes himself as "cuddly," he has a 50-inch waist. If he's been told he's "very handsome," it's by his mother. And never underestimate the power of Photoshop to erase bad teeth and multiple chins.)

5. Beware if the guy you're dating is totally bald, but there's a hairdryer and conditioner in his bathroom.

(Mr. Wrong comes in two varieties: the Player and the Loser. The player is described above; you might also find a lavender thong between his sheets or a lacey camisole in his closet. No matter what he says, they're not his mother's. The loser's idea of a long-term relationship is six weeks, and you have to kick four laundry bags out of the way to enter his apartment, where you'll find his extensive porn collection.)

6. You haven't moved on if you're obsessed with your ex and his new babe -- and whether hers are saline, silicone, or spectacular. (Totally silicone.)

(It's cathartic to indulge in spiteful fantasy, but you need to focus on rebuilding your own life and putting him and his young cupcake behind you. Even though, yes, hers are definitely fake and that's probably not her original nose.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Divorce: Two Lives Under One Roof

There are now a number of divorced couples who are living together, stuck leading totally separate lives under the same greatly depreciated roof. Because real estate sales are at a standstill, these couples can’t split the revenue from the sale of their jointly-owned house, move out, and move on.

Take Pete, aka “the soup guy,” for instance. Bette-Ann met Pete in her divorced singles discussion group. Although, she had pledged to herself not to date anyone in her group, he was nice, funny friendly and persistent, and she gave in. Pete’s idea of a fun date was to take a long walk together, then go grocery shopping and bring all the ingredients back to Bette-Ann’s house and cook up a fabulous pot of soup. Bette-Ann who had never had a man make a meal for her in her life, except that time when she was four and her mom gave birth to her younger sister and her dad made her peanut butter sandwiches, was enthralled. For the first 3 dates. Then it wore a little thin, and she let Pete know she wouldn’t mind going out for dinner and a movie. As a matter of fact, she’d go Dutch. She just wanted to get out of her house for a change. Not to mention that because he was doing the cooking, she always felt obligated to wash the dishes plus his soup pot, which was no break at all from her daily routine. So, Pete agreed to a movie and dinner date. Once. Then he resumed the soup routine.
Bette-Ann began to wonder why Pete never wanted to make soup at his place. So she asked, and here is what she learned: Pete and his ex had been divorced for three years, but they had a huge mortgage on their two bedroom condo and no buyers. Neither could afford to move out without the money from the sale of the condo. A year and a half after the divorce was final, Pete’s ex had finally invited her new boyfriend to move in. With his 160 pound Old English Mastiff. Which Pete was allergic to. Not to mention that the boyfriend has custody of six year old twins with ADD on alternate weekends.
Hearing this harrowing tale, Bette-Ann was terrified that one day Pete would appear at her doorstep with his soup pot and his suitcase and try to move in, so she dumped him. Since then she’s seen about 15 movies and hasn’t had one bowl of soup.

Divorce and the Recession

The recession appears to have a two-pronged effect on the divorce rate, forcing less-affluent couples to stay together while giving wealthier ones a reason to split.

Experts agree that when cash is tight, marital problems spike. In some cases, money is the cushion that supports the relationship, and when it disappears, couples are left with the bare bones of a not-so-happy union. Moreover, financial problems increase strife, stress and depression, all of which put a severe strain on marriages.

These factors could lead to a rise in the divorce rate. In addition, with the stock market tanking, wealthy business owners who are now poorer on paper see this as an opportune time to divide assets. Sumner Redstone filed for divorce when his 16 million Viacom shares were at $18.85, down from $39.40 six months ago, and his CBS shares had dropped about $288 million in value. His wife got millions less than she would have had he filed six months earlier.

But for people who are not wealthy, divorce is a luxury they cannot afford. The disastrous real-estate market is leaving many homeowners with no equity in their homes and turning what would normally be their biggest marital asset into a liability. Or at the very least, it's impossible to sell the marital home for enough money to finance two new households and monthly child support. Retirement accounts have plunged in value. People who have lost jobs have no choice but to stick with the spouse who can provide medical benefits. And people can’t get a credit card or personal loan to pay attorney fees because the lending market is so tight. As a result, some couples are choosing to live together as estranged roommates. And maybe, if they're lucky, they just might weather the storm.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Still Hot Interview in Hartford,CT

Still Hot fans in the Hartford area, we'll be in your neighborhood this week! Tune in to NBC 30 CT News Today at 11AM
On Thursday, December 11th!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dating: Fresh Direct = Fresh + Direct

Like many of us, after her divorce Liz found herself happily losing some excess pounds, but after a while she realized that she really wasn’t eating enough and that in fact she was hardly eating anything at all on the alternate weekends when her kids were with their dad.

This fall, after a year of bad eating habits, surviving whole weekends on coffee,a large candy bar and a bottle of wine, she pledged that she would cook for herself and for friends on those lonely childless weekends, so she signed up with Fresh Direct and placed an order heavy on the healthy food groups.

The delivery arrived on Friday evening just after she had kissed the kids goodbye. The young, handsome and very buff delivery guy easily carried her three heavy boxes up the four flights to her loft. Liz had fixed herself a cup of tea and thought it would be polite to offer him one as well. He was pleased to have an opportunity to warm up on a chilly autumn night and they chatted for a while.

Two weeks later when the same delivery guy brought her order, Liz had just started to pour herself a glass of wine. Again, she politely offered and again he accepted. Only this time, after they each had a second glass of wine and then somehow the bottle was empty, they found themselves making out on her couch.

Both feeling smitten, they spoke on the phone daily after that first make-out session. Two more weeks passed and this time they ended up in her bed. It must have been pretty good, because rather than wait for two more weeks, Liz placed her order to arrive 5 days later on Wednesday night when the kids were sleeping at their dad’s. This pattern continued. The Fresh Direct guy always came with flowers or perfume for Liz in addition to her grocery order, and she stopped tipping at his insistence.

Liz began to gain weight. She was cooking up a storm. Her kids began to gain weight, though they complained that she served them too many green vegetables. Her friends began to gain weight. She was having groceries delivered every time her kids were out of the house. And she felt that this kind of “dating” was exactly what she needed at the moment – satisfying and very low maintenance.

One day, though, Liz received a phone call from an irate woman, screaming and cursing death threats at her. Before she hung up, shaken, she realized that the Fresh Direct guy’s “fiancĂ©e” had become suspicious and found Liz’ number on his cell phone.

Liz cut off the Fresh Direct deliveries ASAP. She deleted the guy’s number from her cell and refused all of his calls. He showed up at her loft a couple of times with flowers and chocolates and even tried to bring her a free Thanksgiving turkey, but she refused to buzz him in.

She has taken off five pounds even in the midst of the holidays and the kids are happy to be back on pizza and Chinese take-out. Liz regrets only that she’ll probably never have such a convenient relationship again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Alimony, child-support, and the new girlfriend

Last night a friend told me about a woman who recently separated from her husband, a compulsive gambler. She immediately traded in that addiction for a new boyfriend who has a drinking problem. Even worse, she moved in with said man within six months of meeting him, and is now heavily advising him on his divorce litigation. Specifically, she is leaning on him to curtail the amount of alimony and child support that he'll pay to his ex-wife and kids. Yet this woman, who has kids of her own, could be in the very same position! In fact, my friend warned her, "How would you like it if your husband had a new girlfriend who did that to you?" If you're dating a separated guy, stay out of his divorce settlement!

By the way, here are a few additional money-saving tips:

1. If you're divorced, sell your old wedding dress on Craig's list, eBay, or through a consignment shop. (Assuming your daughter doesn't want the gown's doomed karma.)

2. Ditto for the wedding rings.

3. Cut down on the lattes -- they add up wallet- and calorie-wise.

4. Instead of buying a bottle of water every time you feel thirsty, save a few plastic bottles and refill them before you leave the house.

5. Don't get conned into buying fancy, expensive facial soaps. Remember, they're only on your skin for a few seconds. A bar of Basis soap, available at the drug store for less than $3, will do your complexion just fine.