Monday, January 9, 2017

I'M GUILTY!

With the new year upon us and with much reflection, I realized that I am guilty of holding a grudge.  There - I said it!  What I have learned is holding a grudge, feeding it, talking to it and reflecting on it hurts ME and not anyone else.  To eliminate the torture and anguish that is caused by holding grudges, it is truly best to just forgive.  Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes.  Yes it is easy to say that I will forgive but sometimes it is hard to put that into action.  I have also found that the most important person to forgive is myself.  

Melody Beattie says it best in her book, Codependent No More. "Forgiveness causes us to be comfortable with our circumstances and the changes we have endured, but we believe we have in some way benefitted from our loss or change even if we cannot fully understand how or why.  We have faith that all is well, and we have grown from our experience.... And we know it is only from this point that we can go forward.”  Forgiveness helps us to grow and learn from our experience.  I believe by forgiving we can grow in a positive way and become a better person. 

This also hit home in the movie Collateral Beauty.  The thing that impressed me the most is Will Smith plays a man who loses his daughter and is angry and unwilling to move forward because he is holding a grudge.  He notices all the negative things that come from his loss and refuses to see the beauty that surrounds him.  

I have been through my share of difficult times just like everybody else, but what helps me is to realize there are many things to be grateful for.  I want to reflect on all the positive things in my life, unload that heavy begrudging burden and shine.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I'M GOING TO GO AND GET A SHISH KABOB!

Our family goes to Disneyland about once a year.  It's fun but can be overwhelming, especially when my husband sends me and our six-year old daughter up Tarzan's tree house (and I'm scared of heights!)  I came down from the tree house and was so fed up, I said, "I'm going to go get a shish kabob!"

Let me rewind a bit.  I grew up an only child.  I was born when my parents were in their late thirties and I was the center of their universe.  As a girl, I envisioned growing up and having a large family.  my children would never fight and everyone would get along great.  I know that you feel like throwing up from all the sweetness, but I truly thought that this is how it would be.  When you don't have siblings and live the day-to-day realities of life in a big family, you fantasize how it would be.

Fast forward to today.  In our blended family we have so many different personalities it can get overwhelming at times.  However, I am navigating through them all and realizing that everyone in our family has something positive to contribute.  We don't all offer the same thing but we can benefit from each person.  Our different personalities help to make our family unique and very interesting.

Something else I have learned is to not have set expectations of how I think relationships should be.  By expecting them to be a certain way, I set myself up for failure.  Because of all the different personalities, and many of my family members have not been around me all of their life, our pattern of thinking is different from each other.  The experience of being in a blended family, especially after growing up as an only child has really opened my eyes and helped me to be more open minded to different perspectives.

One last thing I have realized in all of this is that I only have control of myself.  So all I really can do is be me and contribute what I have to offer.  And of course when things start to get a bit too much, I take a break and get a shish kabob!



Sunday, October 23, 2016

What I learned from my Divorce

I will admit I remember thinking years ago when someone was divorced that there must be something wrong with them; or what did they do to get in that place? Then all of a sudden there I was - DIVORCED! When I got divorced I couldn't muster up the energy to even say the word - Divorced.  Now, here I was sitting alongside all of these perfect families and mine was broken.  What could have possibly gone so wrong?

Well, it has been twelve years since I went through that time in my life and this is what I have learned:
  • I am only in control of my own actions.  I can't control how someone else acts and the choices they make.
  • I have a kind and loving Heavenly Father who ALWAYS and FOREVER will love me!
  • How could I have possibly grown if I hadn't gone through this trial? My life has been richly blessed with so many people.  I would have never known them if this had not happened to me.  
  • I have learned to be more empathetic.  
  • I have learned to be less judgemental of others, and to learn more about them and their story.  
  • I have learned that it isn't always my plan or what I think, but that God has a better plan for me.
  • Sometimes when you are married, you take it for granted.  Being married takes ALOT of hard work from both people.  There are some really high points and then some really low points, but by working through it with Gods help, it is possible.  
  • Always work on keeping your marriage alive.  Go on dates, forgive each other and ALWAYS, ALWAYS communicate.  
Believe it or not, there is life after divorce!  I did get remarried, but I didn't walk off into the sunset because life still constantly deals me challenges, but I also experience great joy too.  My life is so richly blessed by the many people and experiences I have had since my divorce.  I have come to realize that I wouldn't be the person I am today if hadn't experienced this difficult time in my life.





Monday, September 19, 2016

Are we the Cookie Cutter Stepfamily?

Recently in our stepmom meeting we discussed the different stages of a stepfamily.  It was a very interesting topic to me and I have spent some time reflecting on how I view our blended family.

In Dr. Patricia Papernow's article, "Patterns of Development in Stepfamilies", she discusses different stages that the stepfamily may encounter.  The Stepfamily Life cycle is broken down into Early, Middle and Late cycles.

The Early stages (1-2 yrs)

 Fantasy-we live happily ever after as a nuclear family.
 Immersion-facing realities, feelings of jealousy and confusion.
Awareness- A better understanding of the different relationships.

The Middle Stages (2-3 yrs)

Mobilization-upheaval and complaints shared.
Action-Finding boundaries, laying groundwork.

The Late Stages (5 yr mark)

Contact - stepfamily gets into a groove; relationships build.
Resolution- Endured prior stages, different opinion-not as threatening.

In our blended family, I don't feel like it is so cut and dried as it states above.  I have viewed our family in all the different stages and still after ten years, we still continue to be circulating through those different stages.  Unfortunately just because you meet a five year mark, everything doesn't always run smoothly.  It does help that some of the different personalities have gotten used to each other.  Since I am somewhat of a romantic, I think I have viewed our blended family more in the fantasy stage.  But I have come to realize that we are not a nuclear family.

Being in a blended family has been such a learning process for me and has been very difficult for me at times.  We are a bunch of different personalities that come together to have fun.  We share common interests such as Disneyland, holidays traditions and Costco (but don't tell anyone that I really love Costco:) and believe it or not those interests are what unite us as a blended bunch.




Friday, August 19, 2016

Effective ways to have good relationships with your stepkids

In the beginning of a blended family, relationships are non-existent.  It's kind of like climbing a new mountain.  You really don't know anything about each other and then all of sudden you are living together in a family setting under the same roof!  As grownups, you have a chance to date each other, fall in love and you choose to be together as a couple.  In most cases, the children did not choose YOU to be in their lives.  Initially, you are a "guest".  In the beginning, each child has a backpack of emotions before you even come into the relationship.  They make assumptions about who you are based on the experience they have had with previous people in that role.  When you are starting out in the role of a stepparent it is very important to realize it's not about you.  There are several ways that can help you in the beginning so you don't feel so overwhelmed.

1. Educate yourself.  Read books and find educational resources about divorce and blended families. 

2. Volunteer for a group of kids close to your stepkid's age.  By doing this you can separate normal child behavior with the emotions that your stepkids may be dealing with. 

3.  FIND SUPPORT!!!!  Find a stepfamily group or stepparent group.  There is nothing like contact with others who are in your same situation.  You are able to find solutions and feel like you are not alone. 

After time, relationships can begin to develop with your stepkids.  It takes being consistent and for them to build trust with you. I recently heard this wonderful story between a stepdad and stepdaughter.  The stepdaughter had lost her natural father so every day for a year and a half her stepdad bought her flowers or ice cream.  He would come home and just put it on the table and say this is for you.  Many days those items were thrown in the garbage.  He kept doing it and never gave up! He knew that she was hurting because of her recent loss.  One day after a year and a half, she took him up on his offer and went and got ice cream with him.   I admire his great unconditional love.  This is a great example of being consistent and persevering through a very difficult time in their relationship.

If you have several stepkids, you will have a different relationship with each one of them.  They have built history with their dad and sometimes even though it is hard for  you, you need to step back and support him in the relationship with his children.  Encourage them to have one on one time together.  Don't try to change them.  Accept them for who they are and they will be more open to accept you.  As much as you may want a relationship with them, don't force a relationship until they are ready to have one with you.  Most importantly, be a good role model and be a cheerleader to them by offering words of encouragement and support.

My relationship with my stepkids have ebbed and flowed through the years.  There are times I feel close to them and then not so close.  Once you have established a relationship with your stepkids, you can find ways to connect with them by supporting them in things they enjoy doing.  Also, it may be helpful to find out which languages of love (The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman) your stepkids speak.

There may be some very difficult times but be patient and persevere.  In the end, they may forget what was said or done but they will not forget how you made them feel.  After all, you're not in this just to hang on, but to have good and lasting relationships with them.




Tuesday, July 19, 2016

OH WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE SUMMERTIME?




I have to admit that the summertime is not easy going and relaxing for me.  In past years, being in a blended family has required a lot of strategic planning and coordinating and to be honest I dread it.    

This year two of my kids went to Maine to spend a period of time with their dad, stepmom and family.  At first I was sad and knew that I would miss them.  But after thinking about it for a while, I changed my perspective.  They have many people in their lives that help them to become better people.  We all have roles in their lives and the more experiences they have, the better people they will become.  Of course I have missed them while they were gone but I know that they love me and I have a place in their lives. They are growing up and soon enough will be leading their own lives.  So I am cherishing the time that I have with them and I know that God has a bigger plan for all of us, so I know I need to trust him.  

Likewise, being in a blended family I have many people who enrich my life.  This summer I had the opportunity to be there when my stepson proposed to his girlfriend.   I also have built stronger relationships with my stepkids and my daughter-in-law.  

Since teenagers don’t like a strategic planned schedule of swimming, going to the library, and crafting activities, my six year old still does.  So I have definitely taken advantage of every opportunity to enjoy her before she gets too old for stuff like that.  

This summer has been a growing experience for me and has taught me a lot about changing my perspective and trying to be more positive on how I view my situation.  I really don’t have control of many things, but I do have control of how I handle things and my attitude.  What I have learned is to just enjoy the moments I have with everyone.  


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What I learned this Mother's Day

Every year when May rolls around and I see Mother's Day on the calendar, I dread it.  The reason is because I am not sure what I should expect from my kids and my stepkids.  I know Mother's Day can be hard for many people.   I don't want to build myself up to be disappointed but sometimes I just am.

I sent messages to all my stepmom friends to get their take on it and their support.  After reflecting about it for a week before Mother's Day, I decided it was best to just be open-minded and not to have a lot of expectations.  I was pleasantly surprised on Mother's Day by the people that remembered me.  For example, my older stepkids remembered me by giving me a nice card and flowers.   The relationship I have established over the years with them is priceless to me.  I was remembered by several others who I wasn't actually their mother, but in some ways in their life, I was a mother figure to them.   I also got simple, nice notes from the kids in our home and the words that were said meant millions to me.  My husband remembered me and made me feel appreciated too.

I also feel like Mother's Day is a day to look outside myself and honor those ladies that have played a role of mother in my life.  I was able to honor my mom.  With age, I have come to appreciate my mom more and more.  When I was younger, I knew that she loved me.  She was involved in all of my activities and she took good care of me.  But just lately I have had some ah ha moments.  The moments when you reflect on your life and remember your mom saying, "you will understand when you get older".  Well, those times have come!  I see now the things from my childhood that she did with me are thread throughout my adult life.  I also see where I may have hurt her too.  It is interesting how age and trials do that to a person.  How you are finally able to relate and understand what your mom was saying all along.  I have learned from my mom to try to always be positive and grateful. My mom has not had the easiest life, but she puts a smile on her face and makes the best of it.  I hope to be that type of lady someday.

Then I have my mother-in law who has raised a man who is a kind, hardworking and a compassionate husband.  She is fun and very generous.  From the first time I meet her, she welcomed me and my children into her life. She is an awesome grandma to all of our children. I admire how she takes time to spend one on one time with each of her grandchildren. I have enjoyed developing a good relationship with her and I have learned so many valuable lessons from her.

My sweet daughter-in-law is a wonderful mom to our grandkids.  She is very involved in their lives. I love how she focuses on each of her children and what their interests are. She does the mothering thing 110% and it shows! She is teaching her boys to be honorable and respectable young men.

My kid's stepmom has taught them good things that I may not have thought about.  Because of the many influences in their lives, it has helped them to become well-rounded individuals.

Just as my life has been touched by many mother figures, our kids can also be mothered and learn wonderful things. There really is so much more to Mother's Day then just me.  There are all the people that impact our lives and our children's lives as well.