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.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Won't Judge Your Marriage If You Won't Judge My Divorce.

Well, to begin with - I lied in the title. I will strive not to judge your marriage regardless of whether you hold up your end of the bargain or not. People judging other people harshly for any reason is just not a good thing.


Ever have themes that you seem to run across - over and over? Lately that theme for me has been articles and blogs and personal conversations on marriage. In particular marriages that have faced considerable challenges and yet, through some miracle or another, the couple managed to work through their issues and their marriage was saved. I have struggled with how to express my reaction to these stories without sounding bitter. Because I truly do celebrate when a couple is able to succeed. I do. Marriage is incredibly hard, but I also believe it is incredibly worth it. What I resent, though, is the underlying implication that if THESE couples can make it then EVERY marriage can succeed if only we (insert whatever successful couple did) enough.  I struggle not to get defensive, because my first marriage did NOT survive. It was not because I didn't try enough or love him enough or work hard enough or offer sex enough or clean the house enough or forgive enough or pray enough or do ANYTHING enough. I did all of that and more....for 23 years. When it finally ended it was devastating and to this day it hurts to admit that it really was the best thing that could have happened for me and my children.


I want my friends whose marriages are surviving and (hopefully) thriving to know that I truly do rejoice with them. I rejoice even though there is a little voice inside of me that wants to scream at them to be vigilant and be wary and not take each other for granted and don't get complacent and don't think that just because you have lasted for 20-plus years you can relax and not work at it. Because marriages do end and not just because of silly, ridiculous reasons and when they do it hurts and I don't want anyone else to go through what I have had to go through. 

I suppose what I am really struggling with is how do we find a way to show grace to each other in these situations? I don't like feeling judged and because of that I want to try very hard not to do that to others. It has been a long, hard lesson for me. For many years I was one of those voices who said, "If I can stay married in spite of everything that has happened then so should everyone else." As you can imagine, I have had to do some hard re-thinking on that. I don't want to take way from the success of others who have overcome hardships in their marriage. I really don't. What I wish for is some way for them to celebrate their success without implying that those of us who don't succeed just gave up too easily. Trust me - my own sense of failure is a big enough burden to carry without adding judgment from others.
  • Adding this because I keep hearing my friend who hates the word "sucks" telling me how people who use it have no vocabulary. At least it will prove I can use Google to find synonyms - if, like her, you don't like the word sucks feel free to substitute any of the following: Atrocious, Awful, Cheap, Crummy, Dreadful, Lousy, Poor, Rough, Sad, Unacceptable, Blah, Bummer, Diddly, Downer, Garbage, Gross, Imperfect, Inferior, Junky, Synthetic, Abominable, Amiss, Bad news, Beastly, Bottom out, Careless, Cheesy, Crappy, Cruddy, Defective, Deficient, Dissatisfactory, Erroneous, Fallacious, Faulty, God-awful, Grody, Grungy, Icky, Inadequate, Incorrect, Not good, Off, Raunchy, Slipshod. Stinking, Substandard, The pits, or Unsatisfactory.
  • Personally - I prefer sucks. It is rude and unsavory and yucky - just like divorce.
Divorce sucks. Period. As a single, divorced, mother of three I heartily agree that we are much too cavalier about divorce in our society. But I am not here to argue over which divorces should or should not have happened. Personal experience has brought me (kicking and screaming all the way) to have to admit that not EVERY marriage is destined to succeed. Because of what I have been through I know that once it has happened it does much more harm than good to focus on that failure. You see, I really do believe it is better to offer grace to each other. Rather than judge someone for the failure of ending up divorced I choose to offer kindness instead. We can't undo the past, but we can offer hope for the future. I hope to do my best to celebrate each other's successes - and offer support and comfort when heartbreak happens. Life is hard enough without judging each other. So, please stop. 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I {mostly} don't hate my church

Okay, I love my church. I love my church. I love my church. I will keep repeating this until I can say it and really mean it. {sigh} I often find myself having to the do the same thing with my children. When I say "my church" I am NOT talking about the physical building. I am talking about the people that make up the congregation that has been an incredibly important part of my life for over a decade. It is just that lately things have been a bit challenging for me there.

My church has one huge problem that is hard to ignore and impossible to fix and causes me heartache regularly - I did mention it has people in it, right?

This, of course, is ironic, because it is the people of my church that are my greatest source of joy and what keep me coming back each time. But there are days when I seriously question just what the heck I am doing choosing to be involved with this bunch. 

It is even worse since I also WORK at my church now. My instincts told me this would be the case. For years I joked that I never wanted to be employed at any church I attended because then I would end up hating it. I am not pulling any punches here, Folks. People can be AWFUL to each other. When you work at a church you get the privilege of working way too many hours for way too little money AND the added bonus of seeing just how truly nasty we can be too each other. I had caught glimpses of this over the years which is why I always said I never wanted to end up working for my church. Gotta say - God has a wicked sense of humor.


When I listen to friends talk about how they used to attend church, but don't anymore or how they keep looking for one but can't find one that fits them I totally relate. I do. There are some days when I have leave the building and seriously wonder what is the point? Why do I keep coming back? Am I just a glutton for punishment?


I have been a member of my current congregation for 12 years now. The last year I have also worked as the Youth Director. It has not always been an easy or pleasant ride. In that time we have seen pastors and other staff come and go. That is a common enough occurrence as we are United Methodists, but some staff changes have been rather unpleasant. And every single time a changeover happens it is accompanied by members leaving in protest. Sometimes other members have returned once a pastor they did not like finally was gone. Makes you wonder just what makes a church a church some days. 

We have also had knock-down, drag-out (fortunately mostly verbal) conflict over lost dishes and silverware, a huge building campaign to connect our two main buildings, adding a projector screen in the sanctuary, adding a contemporary worship service on Sunday mornings, how and what time during the year youth should be moved up from elementary programs to junior high programs, should teens be allowed to volunteer in other Sunday School classes when they have of their own to attend, how often communion should be served, whether people should be allowed to participate in different activities if they are official members or not, how the storage of items for different groups in the church should be handled, how political is it appropriate for the church to be in supporting or opposing issues, how low-cut is it acceptable for a women's shirt to be if she is serving communion, whether it is appropriate for a female pastor to wear a sleeveless shirt, whether our male pastors should preach in jeans (unless, of course, it is during Frontier Days). And on and on and on........
I realize as a member of the staff that I have a responsibility to the people in my church and I take that very seriously. I also know that I cannot nor will I EVER please everyone. That is tough, though, because I am a recovering people-pleaser. 

So, why do I do it? 


Did I mention God's wicked sense of humor? (I can just hear some folks I know cringing because I used the word 'wicked' in reference to God. Trust me, God can handle it.)


I listed a few of the serious and equally ridiculous conflicts my church has seen over my time there. I have an even longer list of acts of love and joy that have happened there. Over the years they have continually worked to serve God as best they knew how. They serve the poor, visit the sick, feed the hungry, pray for each other and the world. They have donated money and time and talent over and over again doing what they believe to be God's work. I can't even begin to list all the ways they strive to reach out and be God's Hands in the world. Do they always get it right? No. But they always keep trying.


On a personal level my church was there when my first husband deployed for over a year to Afghanistan. I had a pastor chase me down after the service one time when I was obviously having a hard day just to ask if there was anything he could do. He literally had to run because that was one of the days I just knew I couldn't face people and tried to skip out of the service early. I have been welcomed and hugged countless times. I love hugs so, so much.  My kids have been loved there. My church opened their arms even wider when my first marriage ended. They cried with me and prayed with me and for me and my girls. They hugged me and my kids even more which is always the best way to win me over. They have laughed with me at the joys of being a mom and held my hand at the heartbreak parenting brings as well. They have joined me in Sunday school and bible studies and helped me wrestle with my faith and walked alongside me in my journey to know God and try to figure out just what He wants from me. It was so comforting and encouraging to know that many of them have the same hopes, fears and questions. They have rejoiced with me as I somehow found the courage to accept love from another man and have begun the journey into a new relationship with all the challenges of ex-spouses and step-children and discovering just what becoming a "blended" family means.


I can't begin to sum up the love and support I have been shown over the last twelve years. These people truly are my family. Like any family we have fights and disagreements, but I am so very blessed that, at least for me, they have proven time and time again that love wins. 


My role at church is very much like my role as a mom. I am constantly convinced that I am screwing it up. Some people don't like to hear me say that. They want confidence, they want hard answers and a solid game plan - but they got me instead. I love this prayer: "Lord, this is what I desire. Please do it or something better! Amen." I pray it constantly when I am striving to figure out how to do what I need to do. In the meantime I will not stop being honest about my insecurity, because that is the only way I know how to overcome it. And I will not stop trying to do the best I can to serve God  because I love Him and I love His people.  It can be easy to forget that when times are tough and criticisms abound. I actually love my church all the more because they are all so very, very messed up - just like me. This is probably why most of the time I feel completely at home there. 



'Til Next Time.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ultimate Blog Party 2014 #UBP2014


Joining in on the fun....a little late, but there is still plenty to enjoy!! Click on the link about to read what all the hype is about!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Just Be Real

I read a post once....at the moment can't remember who it was or where I saw it.....anyway, the gist of the comment she made that stuck with me went like this, "I wrote a blog today that was fueled by anger....where all truly inspired posts come from."
It stuck with me because my first thought was, "That is soooo true. I am much more motivated to write when I am angry or righteously indignant about something than when life is happy." And then I had the uncomfortable thought that if anger and frustration were my greatest motivators to write there might be something wrong with me. I don't want to be a negative person and I don't want to be a writer who only gripes about life. But then I thought I also don't want to be falsely positive because frankly like is NOT always wonderful. And then I thought I should write more when I AM motivated even if it is negative. And then I thought, "But you don't want to just be a crabby B!&^ch all the time.
And then I thought, "This is making me tired. I should go have some coffee." And once again I talked myself out of writing something because I was worried about how others would start to view me.

This thought would not go away, though. So I finally let myself take some time to really work through it. I asked myself, "What posts do I like to read? Who do I resonate with? What grabs my attention and will get me to scroll past more than the first paragraph? Admittedly many are gripe posts...but more are positive. What stays with me the most are those that are genuine.

These tend to be stories that don't paint a completely negative picture and neither are they coated in sappy positivity. They might have a little of both but more than anything they are honest and real and blunt. That appeals to me. I want to be able to write like THAT. Because life is never all bad or all good. Sometimes it helps to air the complaints and quite often once I do I am able to laugh at it...or more likely am able to laugh at myself. Because another thing I am learning the longer I live is that life and the people in it are really rather ridiculous. And shouldn't we celebrate that?!
In my continued journey to teach myself how I want to write I hope I can keep this always in mind. Be real - even...no....ESPECIALLY when it is uncomfortable and scary and ridiculous.

'Till Next Time.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rambling about Failure


Well....I had set myself a goal of doing a post a day for the 46 days leading up to my 46 birthday last month. Typically I started off well.....but then fizzled out half-way through. I have been tempted to do the usual self-flagellation for not finishing what I set out to do. But I am trying to look instead at what I can do differently so that next time I CAN say I got 'er done. Evidently trying to post something every single day is not going to fit into my schedule. But I have this continuing personal quest to figure out just how I want this blog to work and just how I want to work this blog. Like the rest of my life this is still a work in progress! Something tells me that my nemesis word (DISCIPLINE) will figure into this whole equation.

But I don't want to hear that right now.

So, while procrastinating about how to get back into writing on this durned page I searched through images of "Failure" on Google. Here are some of what I found:


This is for my children.
Yes - there is always a catch.











This one is my favorite.

Obviously there were hundreds and hundreds more images talking about failure. It made me feel much better because I got the message I am not alone. Failing at achieving a simple blog-posting goal is NOT the end of the world. My life contains much bigger failures. The biggest was the failure of my first marriage. It lasted 23-years, but it really was over long before that. I can't even count the number of times I have experienced little daily failures such as losing my temper with my children or forgetting to add water to the coffee pot or leaving my cellphone at home. (Although - maybe that last one should be considered an accomplishment.) Failure is a part of life. It really is true that the most important part is what we do AFTER we fail - not whether we ever fail in the first place. Because if we are living life  - we are failing. But, God-willing, through those failures we are also learning and growing and improving. 

And now - to hit the publish button - and get busy moving on.