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 need 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.