Thursday, December 18, 2014

It is okay to not always be okay during the Holidays.

I have tried to write this post several times and it just never would come out the way I wanted it to in my head. So, I finally figured out that I had to quit fighting myself and just go with it. Things like this happen a lot. It is part of being a recovering people-pleaser. I know what I REALLY want to say - but first I have to shut down that inner voice that says, "Oh, you can't say that - someone will be offended." Or, "What if they don't understand or think they need to send me to a therapist?" Well, I can't control what others think, and for the record, I already have a counselor. So, there you go.
As I am finishing this post there are exactly six shopping days left before Christmas. Ready or not - and I am uncharacteristically ready this year - just had to share that - Christmas morning will dawn in a week's time. I love Christmas. I always have. I love all the good things about this season. In so many ways it really is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. I will be honest - I love presents. Go ahead, judge me, whatever. I love giving them more than receiving them - but receiving is nice, too. Go ahead, keep judging, just being honest here. I love celebrating with friends and family. And I love the chance to remember all that God has done and continues to do in my life. There is such a wonderful atmosphere of anticipation. And let's not forget the food. From Thanksgiving to New Year's the bar is raised considerably and family meals and desserts and snacks galore abound. I enjoy ALL of it. Just keep judging - you know you like it, too. There is special music and special movies and tv shows many of us look forward to. I love the traditions that we celebrate. There is just something magical about this time of year. 
But - yes, here comes the BUT....along with all the joy and wonderfulness is a deep darkness. We live with darkness in our world all year round - but this season seems to magnify it. I remember the first Christmas after my divorce. I naively thought that since it was my turn to spend Christmas with my girls that everything would be fine. We would enjoy Christmas just like we always had. And we tried - we really did. But I was in denial. Because nothing about our life was really the same. Yes - there was much we had that was good and wonderful and should be celebrated. We had each other. We had our health. We had cookies. But none of that undid the fact that we had experienced a significant heartbreak in our lives. It infiltrated everything we did and was especially pronounced during this season. We got about half-way through decorating the tree and decided to take a break - and somehow managed to never finish. Christmas that year and every year since has felt different and looked different. We lost something significant. And it sucked. 
The hardest thing was that other folks - even friends who had also experienced divorce - were unwilling to let us express our sadness. Most of us are uncomfortable getting a glimpse of someone else's pain.  I used to not be very good at letting others share their unhappiness. It is almost an unwritten rule at this time of year that you focus on the GOOD and the HAPPY and the JOLLY. "I am so sorry you are sad, but think about all the blessings you have." (Christian friends are especially good at throwing that one at you when times are tough.) "I know things are tough, but God will see you through." "Just pray. He will comfort you.""Just think of the wonderful gift God gave us in Jesus. That will outshine all the bad the world has thrown at you."
Uggggggg.

I know that these friends meant well, but their words were anything but comforting. They actually intensified my tendency to feel that I had somehow failed them and God and my family for not managing to soldier on as if nothing had happened even though my life was torn apart. And as this was early in my journey as a recovering-people pleaser it was even harder to shake off. 
I have said this before, but it bears repeating - focusing on the good in your life does NOT undo the bad that has happened. Nope, sorry, it doesn't. Life is full of contradictions. The truth is that most of us have just as much crappy stuff in our lives we have to deal with as good stuff.  There is a saying, "Either you deal with the sh$t in your life or it will deal with you." I am suspicious of friends who are almost manic about shouting out all the good things they have been blessed with. It looks a lot like denial to me. I am speaking from experience here, because I lived like that for decades. It is not healthy and will mess with your head like nobody's business. 
And for all you "think-positive until it kills you types" - Yes, I do think that it is important to look on the bright side. I am not trying to be Debbie Downer here. Rather I am advocating for finding a healthy balance in dealing with all that life throws at us - no matter what time of year it is.
Which brings me back to Christmas and the Holiday season. Folks my age will remember the movie Gremlins. Remember the scene where Phoebe Cates's character Kate tells us why she hates Christmas? I remember thinking, "Well, yeah, that would be awful to have your dad die like that, but surely you wouldn't really hate Christmas forever because of it, right?" I was a lot younger then and had not experienced much personal tragedy yet. Over time life has a way of bringing us lessons to learn whether we want them or not. In the 30 years since Gremlins came out I have had several lessons on why the Holidays are not everyone's favorite time of year. Obviously my divorce was a huge one. Then just this year alone we have added a few more tragedies and losses to life's list. My girls' Grandma G. lost her battle to cancer. Her absence this season leaves a huge gaping hole that nothing else can fill. A friend's daughter overdosed on medication just a few weeks ago. She survived, but their holidays are anything but normal as they struggle to cope and begin healing.  If you make any effort at all to look at the world around you - even right in your hometown - you will see folks struggling financially or facing devastating medical diagnosis or broken relationships or the loss of a loved one. All of these are difficult to face anytime of year, but even more so during Christmastime.
The best present I got that first post-divorce Christmas was a visit from a dear friend who didn't try to make me look on the bright side. We had talked on the phone earlier and I had expressed to her some of my sadness at how the joy of the season just wasn't showing up this year. When she came she hugged me which is always what I need. She also brought the girls and I a new Christmas decoration so that we could start building new memories and traditions together. Whether she realized it or not she gave me just what I needed - the opportunity to share that I was not okay and that is okay to acknowledge that. Just being able to say that and have someone hear it made the season seem a little brighter. 
I still love Christmas and I hope I always will. But there will always be that darkness that dwells right alongside the joy. I miss Grandma G. And this year my girls will spend Christmas with their dad. That will always be shaded with sadness even as I do what I can to make the best of a less than ideal situation. It can be tough not to let the bitterness take over. My new husband and I will be together. That helps make the sting of not having our kids with us a bit less sharp. But not having our kids with us at this time is something that we will never be okay with. Add that to my list of reasons why being divorced with kids will always suck. I have faith that 2014's Christmas will be a good Christmas - full of joy and seasoned with sadness. And that, too, is okay.

If you are struggling this season - know that you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay. And if you need someone who will let you say it out loud I will be honored to listen. 

'Til Next Time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taking the High Road - aka another reason why Divorce Sucks.

I wrote the following post many, many months ago - but then was afraid to hit the publish button. That happens more often than I care to admit. But then I recently read a quote on Facebook (can't remember who posted it.....maybe HuffPost Divorce?  It said, “If you have children, love your child more than you hate your ex." -Valerie Bertinelli. I have said that right from the beginning of my divorce, too! Justified! Can I get a high-five from someone? Anyone? Anyway, reading that reminded me of this - and I came back to re-read, and tweak just a bit and finally get up the nerve to hit the "Publish" button. I know that not everyone has the same experience in divorce. But in my humble opinion - this applies to MOST of us who are divorced with children.

So, for what it is worth - here were/are my thoughts on taking the High Road aka loving your kids more than hating your Ex.
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I am ranting today. Ranting because I have been hurt. And ranting because I have seen others hurt. And ranting because the world SHOULD be better than it is - except, you know, for PEOPLE. In this particular case I am ranting at people who choose nastiness and choose NOT to be kind and choose bitterness and think they are justified in doing so. I am ranting at people I have encountered who are divorced WITH children. I am not going to question the validity of whether or not anyone should or should not be divorced in the first place. (Naturally my own divorce was necessary and the best choice for all involved - in case you were wondering.) However - it really doesn't matter how or why you ended up divorced - it is where you are now. I am also focusing on those folks who made a conscious, intentional choice to bear children with the person who is the other parent. (Meaning you were not raped and a pregnancy followed.) If you had consensual sex with that person - it is your own fault that the other person is the other parent - got it? Or in some cases you have to accept that both of you signed the adoption papers and no one had a gun to your head. 
It has been hard in my little world lately because I keep running into many situations where parents won't choose to put their kids' needs before their own hurt feelings. Most of these situations involve parents who COULD choose not to bad mouth the other parent - but they do anyway. They COULD choose to involve the other parent more, but choose not to because the custody agreement lets them limit the time the other parent has with their child. It is so mean and selfish. Do these parents not see how these actions hurt their kids? It is bad enough to want to hurt another adult - that is really NOT okay. But is even worse to keep hurting your own children.

Now, I don't want anyone to think that I am writing this because I have all the answers and have IT all figured out. Oh, Dear Reader, my life is anything BUT an example of having IT all figured out. As I write this I must say that my ex-husband and I have come a LONG way in the three years we have been divorced. It has taken a lot of time and hurt and tears and frustration, but our kids are worth it. I was rather blind-sided when I found myself in the role of a single-divorced mother of three....two of whom still lived at home. I will be the first to admit that I have not handled everything as a divorced mother as gracefully as I could have. Because - as I say in the title - Divorce Sucks. My first marriage lasted TWENTY-THREE (23) YEARS. That is a long time for a relationship to break down. In the aftermath many people told me I had every right to be angry - which I was. I felt all the YUCK that comes with ending a marriage of 23-years....hurt, betrayal, loss, anger, bitterness (oh, the bitterness), failure, and more. (Have I mentioned it lasted 23-years? In hindsight it never should have, but I was not a quitter!) Part of me wanted to give in to all the voices that said I have every reason to embrace the bitterness and wallow in it. It was(IS) so very tempting some days. Truly. BUT - and for me this is huge BUT - my faith teaches me to love others (even ex-husbands). Yep - LOVE others. Period. And another BUT - and this is a also huge BUT - I have THREE (3) beautiful daughters. And they love their dad. As they SHOULD. He is their dad, has always been their dad and always will be their dad. They deserve to have a relationship with him - and as their mother who chose this man to be their father - it is my responsibility to make sure they have every chance to have the best relationship with their dad as is humanly possible. 
I will say right here and right now that there are days when having that responsibility SUCKS. 
One of the things that bothers me A LOT is how so many divorced parents make their kids suffer because their relationship with the other parent broke. If you got along you probably would not be divorced, right? But when do we actually have to start acting like grown-ups for our children? Because somewhere I missed the memo that said we only have to do the right thing if everything in our lives is perfect. If anyone has a copy of that I would love to see it. I was lucky.....I guess that is what you would call it....to have had friends who offered very good and very bad examples of how to co-parent after a divorce. The good ones gave me ideas on what I should do - and the bad ones have given me examples of what I don't want to do. I DO want what is best for my kids. That means that no matter how their dad behaves I have to do the right things. That means, more often than I like, that I have to suck it up and get along with their dad. That means that I have to choose my love for my kids OVER my animosity towards my ex-husband. That means that I have to accept that my girls need their dad. That means that no matter what a custody agreement says about when visitation is supposed to happen I need to remember that he is their father every minute of every hour of every day. 

  • I have worked in the legal field for over 16 years. Legal documents such as child custody agreements are a necessary evil in our society. I know all too well from personal experience that they are generally created at a time when people are at their most vulnerable and least rational. Many, many people I have encountered find themselves at a disadvantage in a legal situation and have no idea how to fight with little or no money for an attorney. The whole process is frustrating and extremely intimidating to say the least. These agreements are supposed to represent what is best for the children. More often than not they represent the best interests of whichever party had the upper hand in negotiations. The words on these pieces of paper also have to be lived out by real people with real feelings in the real world. No piece of paper signed by any judge can ever truly line out how that should happen in anyone's life.
No - I am NOT an attorney. These are my observations based on personal experience as a divorced parent and a friend of other divorced parents. I have the utmost respect for the law, but the best lawyers I know will be the first to tell you our system is imperfect. We just have to muddle through the best we can. I get frustrated with parents who will hide behind a custody agreement because it is easier than actually having to deal with the other parent. What is EASY for us as parents is RARELY what is BEST for our kids. Suck it up, Buttercup. Quit hiding behind a piece of paper and start doing the hard work of actually communicating with the other parent. 

Divorce is common enough that each and every one of us can probably come up with several examples of bitter divorces. What breaks my heart is how selfish we are. My custody situation is like many. Both their dad and I are full legal guardians while I have primary physical custody. It just means the girls live with me most of the time and he has assigned visitation. It is - like ALL such arrangements - AWFUL. Yep. It is not awful because it is inconvenient for me. It is awful because my kids have to split themselves between two people they love more than anyone else in this world. No matter how carefully it is lined out on paper it will NEVER be a happy situation to let my kids have Christmas with their dad because it is his turn this year. HOWEVER...and this is very, very, very important - I can and do try to the best of my ability NOT to punish my kids OR THEIR DAD because they are in this situation. It is not my kids fault their parents are idiots. And no matter how much I may want to blame their dad - every time, let me repeat, EVERY TIME I do blame him...it hurts my kids. And it is not okay for a mother to hurt her children. And having the power to hurt the father of her children is also not something ANY woman should ever be proud of. So, on those years when it is his turn to have them on Christmas I do my best to smile and embrace the joy of the Season and let them know that it is okay to be excited about celebrating Christmas - no matter whose house they may be in at the time. Some things are more important than my hurt feelings. My kids and the chance for them to learn to find joy with their dad is more important than my hurt feelings. 

Like so many families today mine is evolving after divorce. God saw fit to bring a wonderful man into my life. And....he, too, is a divorced parent. Now I have not only three daughters to love, but five. It is not easy. But it is worth it.  I know there is a reason I have been given a chance to view divorce from the other parent's side since Curtis came into my life. He has the role of "non-custodial" parent. That does not mean that his role is less important IN ANY WAY. Because of him I know that I have much greater empathy for my own girls' dad. And I am grateful for it because since I have seen the challenges Curtis faces with his divorce I have been lead to be much kinder when interacting with my own ex-husband. And every time I choose kindness when dealing with their dad it is BETTER FOR MY DAUGHTERS. 

'Til Next Time.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Life as I Never Expected It To Be

You know that "Plan" that your life is supposed to follow? Silly question. We all know it. It may differ slightly for each of us, but I think somewhere along the line we each discover a basic formula or path that we think life is supposed to follow. Let's start with graduating high school. The next logical step in my particular formula was to go to college. The following steps can vary in order, but the basic idea was to meet the Man of My Dreams. Get Married. Graduate college. Begin a satisfying career. Have kids. Raise those kids. Life would be happy and fulfilling. I would continue pursuing my career. The kids would graduate and begin their own journeys which included providing grandkids for me and the Man of My Dreams. And so on and so forth as we continue to live happily ever after.
But.......
Somewhere along the way my life did NOT follow The Plan. If I am willing to be honest it never did. I graduated and went to college. And I met a Great Guy. Maybe not quite the Man of My Dreams, but by that time I reasoned I was mature enough to know that said Man of My Dreams really was an unrealistic manifestation of my imagination. I got married. We both graduated college. Before I could blink we had a kid. And eventually two more. My Satisfying Career never got off the ground. I graduated with a degree in Secondary German Education, but never used it. Instead I chose various jobs because they allowed me the flexibility to be a Mom first. I kept trying to make my life fit the Plan it was supposed to follow - but it just didn't. There were moments of happiness, but a lot of darkness I could never have anticipated. Much of it was hard. And hard was NOT what I had ever thought my Plan would be. I reasoned that everyone had rough times and no one's life was ideal and you just made the best of what you had - right? Right?

Then finally came the moment when I realized that not only had my life NEVER truly followed the plan - it NEVER would. At 43-years-of-age after 23-years-of-marriage spent trying to follow The Plan I found myself a divorced-single-mother-of-three. Ever since then I have been exploring un-anticipated territory and learning to truly live each day as it comes.

Welcome to Life as I Never Expected It To Be.
For the first time in my life I was the ONLY adult in my immediate household. I filed as Head of Household on my income taxes. It was liberating and terrifying at the same time. I discovered that crying in the shower was therapeutic. So was standing in my backyard and screaming "F#CK YOU, World!" at the top of my lungs. Thankfully my neighbors chose not to complain to the authorities. I discovered what it meant to be a recovering people-pleaser. I yelled at God and tried to listen in prayer as I never had before. I learned new vocabulary that was never supposed to apply to my life. I had an EX-husband. I was an EX-wife. Filing for divorce meant I now had a Divorce Decree and Custody Agreement with my name on them. More new words came my way. Being a single-mom meant that my already high level of parenting guilt was now magnified. I learned about things like Child Support and Visitation and Co-parenting. These led to weekends ALL BY MYSELF. At first that alone time was spent crying on my couch. Finally in my desperation God lead me to find friends and soul mates who did not bat an eye when I invited myself to dinner or simply showed up at their doorstep. In addition to loving friends to sooth my lonely hours God sent in a few Saints who loved me with unexpected gifts to get me through tight financial difficulties and challenges that come with recovering from divorce and decades of financial misadventures.

Just what was my relationship status on social media with Life as I Never Expected It To Be? In the beginning I was not ready to advertise as "Single." And just what the heck did "It's Complicated" really mean? Eventually the inevitable happened and the idea of dating again became a reality. Actually it was thrust at me when I discovered my daughters setting up a profile for me on an internet dating service. Guess I did not have to wonder whether they were ready for Mom to start dating. Instead I was told, "Mom, you need to meet someone. And the sooner the better." Yeah - this was NOWHERE in the Plan. After making it clear that Internet Dating Was NOT something I was ready to deal with my girls agreed to wait to activate my online profile if I promised to be more open to dating "in the real world." Need I point out that I NEVER EXPECTED anything like this? It still floors me that the best source of dating advice for me at this time was my then 15-year-old daughter. All the adult friends I had were married. "Just go for it, Mom." "If he doesn't like you then HE'S the idiot." "Don't wear normal MOM clothes - here let me look in your closet. Ok, tomorrow we are taking you shopping." I never dated much in high school. It felt like such a foreign and different game being divorced with children. Then I did meet a guy I really liked and let myself fall a tad bit hard. BUT....yeah, well, in some ways dating HADN'T changed much since high school.
My girls picked me up, dusted me off, and after I firmly declared I was taking a break from dating I met My Guy. I didn't know he was going to be My Guy at the time. No - he was/is not the Man of My Dreams. Instead he seduces me my being the Man After My Own Heart by saying things like he really wants to get to know me. Me? Seriously he might be truly crazy. The amazing thing is - I think He means it. After being together for two years he has yet to run away screaming. No - really. And it is not because I haven't given him reason to. I have a tendency towards drama (Mother of three girls - occupational hazard.) My instincts when we met were to find the BOX (aka Plan) he fit into. I forgot he is part of my Life as I Never Expected It To Be. And I never expected to find a man who would not let go during my drama fits and still be there holding me when sanity returns.

Life as I Never Expected It To Be has continued to include getting married - for the SECOND time. This happens in one month's time. This just floors me. I never, never, never thought I would have a SECOND husband. Or be a SECOND wife. Or be a STEP-mom. Or have to deal with not only MY EX for parenting issues - but My Guy's EX as well. Life keeps redefining itself. The Plan has gone so far out the window that it might as well have never existed in the first place.

Life as I Never Expected It To Be has me in the uncomfortable but most authentic place I have ever been in my now 46-years-of-life. It continues to teach me to quit trying to fit myself and others in a pre-described plan. Live One Day at A Time - sometimes Even One minute at Time - because the Plan is a LIE, but life as I Never Expected It To Be is real and better than I ever dreamed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

That #icebucketchallenge #strikeoutALS campaign. Annoying - yes. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!



Just like everyone else I am tired of those #icebucketchallenge #strikeoutALS videos. But - I made one. And I challenged friends and family to do it, too.

And we donated to the ALS Associaton: Icebucket Challenge Donations

Why?

Because I have a teenager and because of this campaign that same 17 year old daughter was motivated to learn something about a fatal disease that most of had never even thought about. And then she did this:

video

Honestly before this I was skeptical and annoyed and tended to listen to the negative voices that said things like it is an irresponsible waste of water, folks really weren't donating, they were just encouraging their own narcissism, etc, etc, etc. Then I saw my kid's video. I was moved and impressed and not just because she is my kid.

I decided I needed to follow her example and get some real facts - and NOT from Social Media.

If you read this - I challenge you. Do what my daughter did and GET INFORMED.

As I get ready to click PUBLISH on this blog post the ALS Association website posted this article about donations from the campaign to date: Ice Bucket Donations Continue to Rise: $94.3 Million Since July 29

Think folks with ALS don't want your videos clogging up their Social Network feeds? Maybe. But here is one perspective: What An ALS Family REALLY Thinks About the Ice Bucket Challenge


Go ahead. Make a difference - no donations is too small. And if you are so inclined - make your own video and SHARE it.

We did.


video

Naturally we had to include our blooper real:

video


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Beauty in the Imperfections

My kitchen table is a model of imperfection. I got to thinking today that this is precisely one of the things I love the most about it.
I walked by it today and thought to myself - wow, it is unusually UN-cluttered. I should take a picture of that! Normally is has piles of mail, a laptop or two, a drinking glass or random plate left on it. It is the center of a busy kitchen that is used and abused by a busy family.
I almost changed my mind about using a close-up picture of my table. Upon close inspection I re-discovered stains from past nail-polishing sessions. This is a regular occurrence in a household of girls.

And then I noticed this beauty. This was MY fault when I left a wallflower fragrance holder on its side and it leaked. 

But, you know what? This table makes me incredibly happy. Yes, it is stained and scratched. That just means we don't have the pressure of maintaining a pristine beauty. Being a lead klutz this takes a ton of pressure off!! It is the spot where we join together for family meals. It is where homework happens and discussions take place and busy parents get work done and busy kids play and yes, do their nails. My Guy says that he doesn't mind the stains because they are reminders of his life with a houseful of girls. This is even more meaningful because his girls are not with us all of the time, but he has a reminder that they are still a part of his life. We could be upset that out table is marred - but we are not. I see a beautiful piece of furniture that serves my family well. We can add a leaf when there are more friends and family to squeeze around it. If more scratches or stains happen they will only add to the tales this table could tell. And it will only more fully represent the family it serves. 

Which reminds me - if you ever get the chance to stop by I would love to sit at my table and share a cup of coffee (Dr. Pepper for My  Guy) or beer or wine and visit. And don't worry about spilling or being a "perfect" guest. Just let my table be the proof that we will accept you just as you are - flaws and all.

'Til Next Time.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I am blessed - and No, I don't deserve it. (Or, Why Blending Families can suck and be Awesome all at the same time.)


Sometimes I can be incredibly self-centered. I am sure this is extremely difficult for many of you to understand. (Just a minute....I have to go lock my children in their rooms so they will stop laughing.)

Okay, where was I? Oh, right. I can be very selfish. I really don't want to be. We all know self-centered people and they are not fun, right? They are annoying and irritating and if they stay that way we eventually find excuses NOT to be around them if at all possible. That is not the kind of person I want to be. I try very hard to practice kindness and to really listen to others in my life so that I can be supportive of them. I like to think that MOST of the time I accomplish that.

But - to be honest there are days when I downright suck at it. And I realized that I had been going through one of those periods here rather recently. Let's see....where should I start explaining? It all starts with falling in love with a great guy. I don't talk about him often because I know it embarrasses him. I will just say, for the record, that I am truly head over heels about him and consider myself blessed beyond measure that he chooses to be a part of my life. Anyway - back to me confessing. Because we are "IN LOOOOVVVVEEE" (picture saying that in the most drawn-out, obnoxious manner you can imagine) we figured we want to be together forever - because that's what couples who are "IN LOOOOVVVVEEE" do, right?
Well, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds on paper. This will be the 2nd marriage for each of us. Can you say "EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE?" Oh, and we both have children. Five Girls and One Boy. (For the record - YES, we are insane.) I brought four into our mix (because, YES, my new son-in-law counts). He and my oldest daughter are now married and moving FAR-AWAY to Tennessee (sniff). (I am happy for them, really.) My two youngest daughters live with me full-time, but visit their father regularly. My Guy has two daughters who live with their mother and visit us regularly. Sometimes we have a house-FULL with four daughters, sometimes two daughters, and on a rare, blessed occasion we might end up with a weekend with just the two of us - alone with the cat and the dog and the bird, blinking at each other with debris swirling and starting to settle around us as if a tornado had just past. It can be chaotic to say the least.
The last year of blending and becoming a new kind of family has been wonderful. This is a true statement. Somehow, through the grace of God, we have children who actually LIKE each other and look forward to spending time together. And, another miracle from God, my step-daughters don't hate me. And my daughters feel the same about My Guy. If you have ever experienced other blended families then you know that this is truly an amazing situation to have. I loved my step-daughters first because I love their dad. And as we have had the chance to get to know each other better I love them more and more for who they are themselves. And, I feel pretty safe saying the same for how My Guy feels about his step-daughters. We have had some wonderful times together doing fun things as a family - sitting around the table at dinner just chatting, going to Winter Family Camp or going to the drive-in, or running the Color Run 5K together. I love that we have some special memories together already.

But - you knew there had to be a BUT coming - the last year of blending and becoming a new kind of family has sucked majorly. This is also a true statement. We both prided ourselves on being "realistic" in acknowledging that we were not The Brady Bunch. We both knew that there would be struggles and challenges and conflicts. But I don't think either of us expected it to be so HARD. I did mention that five out of six of our children are girls? And I am a girl. (In case you weren't sure.) That is a lot of females in one household which translates to a LOT of drama - especially when hormones are raging. Our kids bicker and argue and hurt each others feelings. My Guy and I parent A TAD differently. I think he is too strict. He thinks I am too permissive. We are both right. We merged two different households who were used to different foods and routines and holiday traditions. Not all of these adjustments were all contentious - but change is stressful, even when it is ultimately for the best.
We also have the special challenges that come with being divorced and having two ex-spouses who get thrown into the mix. There are good reasons that our first marriages ended. But, because we share children in common we do not have the option of simply pretending the Ex's don't exist. Communication is necessary, but very challenging and cooperation does not always happen and well, just take my word for it - it is STRESSFUL. I am happy to say that things SEEM to be easing in that department. I pray that it continues in that direction, because it is better for our girls when their parents aren't in constant conflict. At the very least, I am going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts because life just doesn't come with guarantees.
My Guy and I each work more than one job. It takes a lot to feed and house and clothe and support all of us, but we do the best we can. Since we had both been struggling to support our individual households for a few years as single-parents we both appreciate very much how nice it is simply not to have to do it all alone. And because we really do love each other we are both motivated very strongly to make it work out. I am more grateful for that than I can begin to express.
So, to get to the part where I kinda forgot that I am not in this alone and thus kinda forgot that I am not a self-centered biotch. I did mention that our life is sometimes HARD? Yeah. I kinda got focused on that part, which kinda lead me down a "Poor Kathy, things are so hard for her" path. My Guy and I were talking during one of our rare quiet moments and he simply mentioned that being a step-parent is tough sometimes. And it hit me like a two-by-four that I am NOT the only step-parent in my household. (I know - DUH.) And it jolted me out of my "my life is so hard" mind-set and put me back in the reality of OUR life is hard. But only sometimes. And My Guy was still there, putting up with all my self-centered whining and struggling right along with me. Why would he do that? Because we are "IN LOOOOVVVVEEE" - and that IS what people who love each other do for one another. And as hard as it gets sometimes - when it is good it is amazing. And ALL of it is better when we get to share it together.
I look back on how far we have come and it gives me strength to turn and be excited about all we have to look forward to - together.

Yeah, I really am pretty excited about that.

And, I am so blessed - and No, I don't deserve it. But I will keep trying to remember how grateful I am for it. And I will work on remembering that I am not alone and that I practice kindness and I will stock up on Dr. Pepper (because that is My Guy's favorite) so that I can use it for peace offerings when the needed arises.

'Til Next Time.

P.S. (I love you, Curtis...aka My Guy.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On letting myself enjoy being happy...because for a little while I wasn't so much.

Been feeling happy the past couple days. Not necessarily anything to commemorate....except that for the past couple of months life has also been challenging in a few corners of my life. I have always struggled finding a balance in knowing how much to share with others when life gets tough. Then I started to learn that life is pretty much ALWAYS tough for everyone. Sometimes to a greater or lesser degree, but none of us ever seems to be able to say that every arena of our lives is awesome all at the same time. When things are good personally - work can suck. Or when work is going great - then our kids can drive us crazy. And you know what? It's okay to be honest about that. I was just as guilty as so many others of thinking that admitting my struggles meant I was failing at life somehow. Gradually I started to notice that the people I connected the most with and was most drawn to were those who could be honest about their joys AND their challenges in life. It made them seem more approachable. And I decided that I wanted to learn to be like that. I love being able to lift someone up by being able to genuinely say "Me, too." Life is wonderful....but it is HARD. And admitting that does not mean you are failing. Admitting it is the first step to seeking support and learning ways to cope and to OVERCOME.

So, what happened to turn my smile into a frown? Well, my mother-in-law lost her battle to cancer. Divorce did not sever the relationship she had with me. She was the first grandparent my kids have lost and it hurt. Still does and always will even as the healing is in process. Because of what we were going through with her when she took a turn for the worse I reached out to a group of folks I knew who raise money for cancer but I was told it was too late in the season for me to join. That rejection stung more than I should have let it. I didn't realize that cancer was supposed to follow a schedule.But I learned that if I want to be a part of a group that is involved with cancer fundraising I want one that is more about supporting the people - and is less about keeping score.
And my attitude towards my church has been less than ideal. Mostly because of my bad attitude brought on by my reaction to some less than "charitable" behavior by folks there. I love my church and I love being a part of ministry there. Keeping a positive attitude has been harder than I anticipated, though, ever since I started working there. I knew that would be tough. It has been and continues to be a challenge to keep the big picture in mind. I forget that for a little while and let a few negative voices spend way too much time in my head. Time and prayer have started work their magic, though. Last Sunday was the first in several weeks that I got up and actually WANTED to attend. And then I had good night with a few kids in my Youth Group tonight which also meant I did not come home and cry. I won't apologize for admitting that. If you are the type who thinks those in leadership in ministry should not admit that serving God can be downright frustrating and heartbreaking then I will pray for you. (If it is a good day I will skip insulting you first....just to God - never to your face.) Because EVERYONE I know who works in ministry has felt like that at sometime or another. I love God - and I love people. It is just that people are much less lovable than God is - at least for me. Being a recovering people-pleaser makes this even more challenging.

In the midst of all this life just barrelled along as it always will. I still work 2+ plus jobs, mother my 2+ kids, continue to learn how best to love and partner with the new man in my life. We have His and Hers progeny on rotating schedules. The whole blended family adventure has been another source of stress - both good and bad. My oldest daughter got married and is moving half-way across the country - both good and not-so-good. I am proud of and happy for her...and I will miss having her closer.

Life is good and crazy and chaotic. I long for order and consistency.....even though I know it just ain't gonna happen. Another thing I have learned is to appreciate the moments of joy when they come. They won't last.....but thankfully neither do those filled with sorrow.

So, for the record, I am glad to report that today was a good day.

'Til Next Time.