One of the big changes after divorce, is organizing your daily meals. This can be a challenge for a number of reasons.
First of all, many divorced men have left relationships where their ex partner had done the vast majority of the cooking. Therefore, they may lack the confidence and perhaps even knowledge, on how to cook for themselves.
Secondly, for those who are confident in the kitchen, many find that cooking for one is quite a challenge compared to cooking for a couple or a family.
I myself found this harder than I expected for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons were unique to me , whilst others were universal.
I know my way around a kitchen, having worked as a qualified Chef for 10 years, admittedly though, it was over 20 years ago. During my time married, I also did most of the cooking and grocery shopping .
So it wasn't as though I lacked the know how. Another complication for me was the fact that I work shift work, consisting of 12 hour shifts both days and nights. The last thing anyone wants to do after a 12 hour shift at work is to cook dinner.
Many divorcees find that it is way simpler to buy take away, ready prepared meals or Uber Eats. Sure, I eat takeaway but it consists of only a small part of my diet.
So why is it harder to cook for only yourself than it is to cook for 2 or more? The answer is a complex one, psychological, physical and knowledge based.
Psycologically, no one wants to come home after work and have to cook a meal from scratch, regardless how how many you are cooking for. However, when cooking for only yourself, there is no one but your own self to talk you out of ordering Uber Eats and as such, takeaway food usually wins.
Without someone else with you it is all too easy to just say "I really cannot be bothered cooking, I will just buy something". My answer to this is to eliminate the need to cook from scratch. Plan ahead and have something ready that is quick and easy.
When referring to physical reasons not to cook, I don't mean being physically tired, as that is more a psychological reason. Instead I am referring to not having enough in your pantry or fridge to be able to make a meal. Again, plan ahead.
Knowledge based excuses basically mean a lack of cooking knowledge or no idea on what to do with what you have on hand. All excuses can be rectified with a bit of prior thought.
Obviously my years as a trained Chef come in handy at home, but not everyone has my knowledge or love of cooking. Non the less, this is still easily rectified.
A quick Google search will reveal a number of cooking schools, mostly aimed at those with little culinary know how. So I would suggest you enroll in such a course and gain some kitchen skills and know how.
I myself went to a cooking class last year that was specifically about making pasta. I had a great night, met some wonderful people (including singles) and honed my pasta making skills.
The class I attended, finished with us all sitting down to a communal table and enjoying a variety of shared platters of pasta, gnocchi and focaccia all made by us earlier and accompanied by a glass or two of wine.
If your not wanting to get out and about and attend a class or two, I would recommend the purchasing of some cook books for beginners. Whilst most of the cookbooks available today are targeted at so called "Foodies", there are still a great many books aimed at beginners.
Even some of the cookbooks aimed at children can be a great way to expand your cooking know how. You will just need to shop around and find one that suits you.
There are two great books for beginners that are available here in Western Australia. Both books have been around for a very long time, but offer simple and basic recipes.
The CWA Cookbook (Country Woman's Association) has been around for over 70 years and 17 editions. Whereas the Golden Wattle Cookbook, has had 27 editions since 1924. The Golden Wattle Cookbook was used in Western Australian schools to teach cooking and my own very dog eared copy I bought when I first moved out of home is still referred to today.
Last of all is the internet. The net is a wonderful source of recipes, for beginners and chefs alike. Search for a particular dish or search for recipes containing the ingredients you have on hand at that moment.
To alleviate physical excuses it just requires some forward planning. I do my grocery shopping once a week and upon leaving the supermarket, I will have a general plan in place for my meals for the upcoming week.
Whilst I come up with my menu plan while I shop, you may find it easier to devise your own menu plan before going shopping. I do not always fully adhere to this plan but it does mean that I am at least prepared.
If for instance, I decide to make a lasagne, I would make sure that I purchase everything that I need to make it. There is nothing quite as frustrating as making a recipe and discovering you forgot an ingredient. Try making a lasagne without cheese or pasta sheets.
Another piece of advice is to keep your pantry/fridge stocked with basic items as well as ingredients for a quick simple meal.
I know that in my pantry I have a few options to be able to make a basic quick meal. I for instance have a can of beans and some eggs in the fridge or I can quickly cook some pasta and heat up a jar of pasta sauce.
Meals such as these are not ideal as an everyday thing but can be a quick and hearty option to take away when needed. I will turn to my "emergency" meals in times when time has got away from me.
For example, I may have been out visiting friends all day and arrived home much later than I expected. I may have planned on cooking a meal that night and had the ingredients ready, however arriving home late and hungry, something quick and easy is the best option.
I know myself, after a long and physical day at work, the last thing I want to be doing is cooking my dinner, even though I enjoy cooking. It is for this reason that so many turn to the likes of Uber Eats.
Yet again my answer involves being prepared. On my weekends I precook meals that can easily be reheated in the microwave. Dishes such as curries are not only delicious but are easy to reheat.
Whilst I am quite happy to eat the same thing for a few days in a row, I understand those who prefer something different each day. The answer to this is to freeze your portioned meals. Then each night select a frozen meal and put it in your fridge to defrost ready for the next evening.
Not every meal needs to be something like a curry or a stew, pasta dishes also can be easily reheated, as can soups and even some Asian dishes.
Another approach involves components that are easy and quick to cook. Crumbed fish for instance involves simply placing on a tray in a heated oven to cook. Add your fish to your pre-bought soft tacos (or Bao) with some pre-purchased coleslaw and your done.
It really is a matter of planning your meals ahead and choosing things that are simple to get ready to eat.
Everyone should have a pantry containing basic staples. What goes into your basic staples is up to you and will depend on what you like to eat
Below is an idea of the sort of things I will always have in the pantry, fridge or freezer.
Like pantry staples there are items of equipment that I recommend you have .
Although it isn't really basic equipment, I use my electric pressure cooker a lot, both as a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker allows you to cook an 8 hour curry in about 30 minutes.
A pressure cooker is not inexpensive, but cheaper ones like my Ronson are available.
When buying meat, how you intend to cook it determines what grade of meat to get. Meat comes as either Primary or Secondary cuts. Never be afraid to ask for help and suggestions on what cut to buy.
A Primary cut is something like a nice steak. It comes from a muscle that does not overwork and is cooked quickly. Ideal for BBQ or cooking in a frying pan.
Whereas a Secondary cut like Gravy Beef or Lamb Shanks comes from a part of the animal that does a lot of moving, and as such requires a long slow cook. Such cuts should be cooked in a slow cooker, pressure cooker or perhaps slow roasted.
This is important to know as a Primary cut like a steak will become dry, pasty, cardboard like and unpleasant when slow cooked. Whereas the sinew and connective tissue in a secondary cut will become like a piece of rubber if barbequed as it requires time to break down.
Most of my cooking uses secondary cuts like gravy beef and beef cheeks as they are not only cheaper but when cooked slowly produce deliciously tender meals that can be reheated with ease.
The truth is that it is not that hard to cook for one, it just requires a little bit of planning and forethought. It will not take long to develop some culinary confidence if the kitchen is unfamiliar territory for you.
As an added bonus, if your wanting to start dating again. Many women find the ability to cook, an attractive feature in a man.
The advent and proliferation of smart phones has seen a huge change in the way we do every day things. A big part of that is the abundance of apps to assist us, or keep us entertained.
While the most popular apps are for Social Media and the streaming of music and TV, there are a great many apps that are genuinely handy. There is an abundance of apps acting as dictionaries and thesauruses and plenty of apps available to help converting units of measure at the press of a button.
There is however a myriad of apps that can provide assistance beyond what we would have at first thought feasible. I am going to mention 5 of the apps that I personally find very useful and handy to have ready access to.
Many of these apps are regional and so are relevant to where I live in Perth, Western Australia. If you find a particular app not relevant to your location, a simple search should find an app more suited doing the same thing in your area.
The DocuSign app allows you to sign paperwork you received by email and return it without having to print the document, sign it, scan it and then return it by email or snail mail. It is simple to use and also offers the opportunity for multiple people to sign if needed.
Of course when dealing with official documents, it is important to consider the security of your documents. Docusign is a well established Tech company which is about to list publicly.
In fact, as far back as 2012 it was reported that 90% of Fortune 500 companies were using it.
Even if you don't regularly sign documents, it can come in very handy when refinancing your mortgage or organizing insurance.
Photomath is a camera calculator. You just point your phone camera at the math problem and it gives you the answer and the detailed working out. No more typing in long and complicated equations into your calculator, just point and shoot.
It is very simple to use and is capable of doing advanced scientific calculations.
The Emergency + app is one that could literally be a life saver. Developed by the Emergency Services and the Australian Government, it offers a simple way to contact help in case of an emergency.
On opening the app you find a choice of 3 buttons which can instantly dial 000, State Emergency Services (SES) or the Police. It also provides you with a map with your current location and GPS coordinates so that you can relay that information to Emergency Services.
Another page offers a wider selection of emergency numbers from Health Direct to the Poisons Information Line.
The real beauty of this app is in it's simplicity. Even in a state of panic or shock you will have easy to use emergency numbers as well as your location details. I personally hope to never need to use it, but keep it on the front page of my phone just in case.
The National Public Toilet Map
Another initiative by the Australian Government. The National Public Toilet Map identifies more than 14 000 public accessible toilets throughout Australia.
Using your current location it can inform you of toilets nearby, also supplying information such as opening hours, parking and disability access. By entering in your intended location you can plan ahead, which can be vital for those caring for young children (i.e. Grandchildren) or those with IBS.
Again, a great app to have that you may never use, but will be forever grateful should you come to need it.
WAM Field Guide
The Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna is an informative data base of Fauna in WA and its surrounding waters and was developed by the Western Australian Museum .
It contains detailed information on the more common fauna species, including birds, fish , frogs, insects etc. The information includes photos, descriptions, a map showing distribution as well as details on their scarcity.
I have found it to be quite a useful guide when trying to identify a bird or animal that has caught my eye.
There are of course a great many other very handy apps that I am yet to discover, so feel free to let me know of other to add to my collection.
I can clearly remember the moment I received the news, that the life of my only child was about to be turned on its head. I was driving and had to pull over to the side of the road to process the phone call I had just received from my ex wife.
The news was a shock and I was struggling to grasp the concept that the life of my young teenager would never be the same again. They were in hospital and doctors had confirmed they were now a Type 1 Diabetic.
I can also recall, being informed that they were on the Autism Spectrum, just a few years before. On both occasions, there is a clear before and after moment in my head.
Both diagnoses came out of the blue and were a complete surprise. They also meant big upheavals for the parents and the unfortunate teen, including some big lifestyle changes.
However, the same cannot be said for the moment my daughter became my son. It was not a lack of comprehension of the gravity of the situation, that had left me without a defining moment.
The reason for a lack of a defining moment, was due to a combination of it being a gradual process, as well as simple parental intuition. In other words, I had been aware for a number of years that my daughter had been struggling with a number of issues relating to their identity.
Indeed the previous year, they had been seeking help from the Perth Gender Clinic at Princess Margaret Hospital. (For access to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Western Australia, a referral from your GP is required.)
It is important to note that my son made his decision(s) himself with the help of specialist. The specialists in no way pushed him regarding a time frame or a decision, instead, they helped guide and advice him to make an informed decision at his own pace.
At first his decision was one of continuing with the status quo, but as time went by he became aware that his assigned gender was indeed incorrect and a decision to be himself and identify as male became the only option.
Watching your only child, struggling with the concept of where and how they fit in, on top of all the usual teen angst is heartbreaking. His mental health was a real concern and this was compounded by several other issues beyond Gender Identity and Body Dismorphia.
So how then did I handle the idea that my only child was now my son and not my daughter? In many ways it was easier for me to handle, in part, because of the fact I do not get to see him anywhere near as often as I would like.
Much like his Diabetes diagnosis, I was not required to deal with it on a daily basis. The day to day changes were not an issue for me, except on the weekends that Danny stayed with me.
Initially, perhaps the hardest part was having Danny stay over less often for a while. Danny, my ex and myself had discussed this and we agreed that, for the sake of Danny's mental health it would be better for him to stay at home.
To understand this decision, you need to be aware that those on the Autism Spectrum, find change very distressing and tend to have their own "safe space" they can go to, when overwhelmed.
For Danny, this safe place was his bedroom at his Mothers home. So not being able to retreat to the safety of his bedroom would simply add to his stress level.
Understanding of your child's mental health needs, is key to both helping your child through this difficult time and simply good parenting. I still stayed in touch and would see Danny when I could.
This was made complicated by Danny living nearly an hour and a half away and the fact that I work shift work. However a caring and supportive parent does what they have to.
The reality was that no one was in any hurry to rush into things. The fact that my son is home schooled, meant that his timetable for coming out was his own.
I feel sure that just making the decision, must have been a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. The rest of the world could wait, for the time being the focus was on his own well being.
Of course the time would come to gradually let others know, starting with family members. But for now there was no need to rush.
At this point in time Danny is essentially no different to the person he was before. The only real change is his name and change of pronouns.
Danny has always had a non gender specific appearance and this remains the same today. His interests and passions are still exactly the same, as are his friends and his sense of humour.
So how have I as a Father dealt with this change? After all I have lost a daughter and gained a son.
The name change was hard, due in part to the fact that he had chosen a name that I wasn't exactly enamored with. However two things have helped me to accept his new name.
First of all has been time, I have simply got used to using his new name. I will on occasions, especially when tired, slip up, but for the most part Danny is Danny.
Secondly, is a realization that everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Danny is a sensible and mature teen and so I do not have the right to dictate who they are.
A parent's role is to guide their children to be capable of making reasoned decisions. I feel confident that Danny's choice of name is the right one for him and now have no issue with it whatsoever.
The use of pronouns was admittedly difficult. Pronouns are words such as He, She, They, Her and Him and every Transgender person will have their own preference as to which pronouns they prefer.
I found the use of new pronouns difficult at first, the first issue was knowing what pronouns to use, the second issue was to remember to use a different one to what I had been using for 14 years.
The next issue was trying not to draw attention to the changing pronouns. In the first few months the only people who knew were his immediate family.
His extended family, being his Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles as well as our greater circle of friends had not been told at that point. My response was to use gender non specific pronouns such as They instead of He or She.
Naturally when we did inform the rest of our family, the need to use gender non specific pronouns became no longer necessary. I then had to change to Danny's preferred gender specific pronouns.
To be honest I really haven't found the change of pronouns all that difficult. I think this is primarily because I am accepting and supportive of Danny.
For me the hardest part was not the the idea of the changing of gender, but the knowledge of the difficulty of the road ahead, that worried me. The Trans community can attest to the prejudice, the violence, the misunderstanding from the wider community.
It is natural for any loving parent to be concerned, knowing that the life ahead for their child will be a difficult one. I am very much aware that Danny does have the support and understanding of those around him.
The greater community is also far more accepting of LGBTIQ. Transgender celebrities such as Jordan Raskopoulos, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and former Australian Soldier Catherine McGregor have certainly helped with community acceptance.
I know that this has been the right thing for Danny. I am also aware that he will have to fight against prejudice and ignorance.
As a Father, of course that pains me greatly. However I have always been a proud supporter of LGBTIQ rights.
I for one am proud of Danny. For in him I see a wonderful young man who will grow into a prejudice free, citizen of the world. Whilst he himself may face discrimination, I know he will be accepting of others.
On a final note, I am one of few fathers who has had both a son and a daughter, yet only had one child.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.