A few weeks ago I shared with you one of Nancy Vogl’s beautiful stories, “I Love You Double,” from the book “Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul.”
After reading her “Chicken Soup” stories and visiting her web site (www.nancyvogl.com), I wanted to learn more about how Nancy kept it all together and kept going as a single parent (her kids are grown now), especially when times were tough.
Last week I had the opportunity to interview Nancy by phone. She was on the road promoting her new children’s book, “Am I a Color Too?”, which she co-wrote with her daughter, Heidi Cole.
“I became a single parent in 1983,” Nancy said, when she and her husband separated. At the time, she had a new baby, a four-year-old and a six-year-old. After the divorce, Nancy’s ex-husband was often late with child support payments. To supplement her young family’s income, Nancy took a part-time job selling real estate. “It was a long haul,” Nancy remembered.
Nancy recalled a time, in fact, when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse. “I was a young single Mom, I’d lost my babysitter, my ex was months behind in child support, and the real estate commissions were few and far between,” she said. Tired and discouraged, something led Nancy to sit down and make a list.
“I wrote down everything I loved and appreciated,” Nancy said. “I saw that I had so much to be grateful for. I realized that I didn’t have to say, ‘Oh, woe is me.’”
That little exercise turned Nancy’s perspective on life completely around. “It’s very freeing when you decide to stay focused on the positive,” she said.
That’s not to say that suddenly everything became perfect. “I went through many many bouts of depression,” Nancy told me. Raised in what she called a “dysfunctional family,” Nancy said that there are really two “Nancys”: the one who struggles, and the one who’s “inspired.”
“I realized that I was a strong, creative person, that I could find solutions,” she said.
So when times were hard, Nancy would remind herself, this too shall pass. She’d tell herself, I’ll find a way. “You have to have that belief in yourself, that hope. There will always be a way to do something; there’s always a solution to everything.
“You have to find that inner strength,” Nancy said. “We think we aren’t strong, but we are.”
But how and where do we find that strength? “By getting to the core of yourself – by loving yourself,” Nancy explained. She also finds support and solace in her church, describing herself as “extremely spiritual.”
I asked Nancy about the difficulties single parents face when our kids have problems and we don’t know what to do to help them; when we don’t know if the decision we ultimately make will be the “right” one.
“If you have faith, then you don’t need to know,” Nancy said. “The answers may be within you. Too often we let the outside world tell us how to proceed, when the answers are inside of us.”
Today Nancy believes that there’s no “good” or “bad”: it’s all perfection. How?
“Everything is always in divine order,” she explained. “The way we want it to be isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. I know that everything I’ve gone through has made me what I am today.”
So sometimes, if our kids are struggling, Nancy believes that we have to step back and let that happen. “We can’t protect them from everything,” she said. One of Nancy’s daughters went through a long, difficult period in her own life. “Today she feels that it was a blessing, that it made her stronger,” Nancy said.
Just three months ago, at the age of 53, Nancy remarried. Her new husband, David Strange, was a single father of six kids when the two met online at Match.com. “We have 10 kids between us and soon, we’ll have nine grandkids,” Nancy said.
Nearing the end of our conversation, Nancy summarized her optimistic outlook on life. “I suffered and struggled for a long time. But you can’t give up.
“It’s never too late to begin again, to see every day as a brand new start.”