While some stepparents are cropping their stepchildren out of photos; I re-created a photo to include mine.

The photograph below was taken on my 34th birthday and it has been a favorite of mine for many years. When you look at this photograph you see a mother, son and daughter. When I look at it I see protection, love and strength surrounding our little family of three.

THREE PEAS IN A POD

Sweetly tucked just under my wing, yet still standing on her own is my daughter Gracie. Her beauty has always taken my breath away and her independence has always tested my strength while educating me simultaneously. This girl differs from the rest. She is an original. I see a young girl who loved softball and had dreams of becoming a lawyer and attending Harvard.

On my back is my son Gage. Just look at his sweet face and how he’s proud to wrap both his arms around his momma, but is still held up by me. He loved his momma more than anything and his sissy was a close second. Baseball and basketball were life, and he had dreams of being in the MLB or NBA.

Then there is me, proudly standing on my own two feet. No matter how many times I fell down, I always got back up. I became well-versed in God’s redirection and going back to the drawing board, editing and revising my life until I became a better woman and mother. I see a woman falling in love with herself for the first time and making her children proud. This photo became my life’s mission statement a visual anthem that said together, we had everything we needed and could make it through anything.

It is crazy how much history and memories a single photo can hold. On this exact day my boyfriend was preparing a surprise birthday party for me at my home. We had started dated seven months before and he had a son from a previous marriage, Cole. Cole and Gage knew each other from school and introduced us because Cole’s dad was the boys baseball coach. I was in a stage to push everyone away and pull my children closer. I was fine with a boyfriend, but not marriage, and most definitely not another son.

His son. That is what Cole was, he was my boyfriend’s son. He was unique and unlike my children. I struggled to understand and connect with him. He wanted to be just like his dad and their bond was unlike anything I had ever witnessed between a father a son. There was no room for me. If we walked beside each other, Cole would come in between us. He liked me but he didn’t like me having any attention that could be his. It was difficult to navigate and I won’t lie and say I didn’t get frustrated, cry and want out.

After a year of dating, we moved in together. Things were still challenging, but I loved his father, so we committed to making it work. Cole desperately missed having a mother, and I wanted no part in that. If you read my post, No, you already have a mom, then you know the story already. He’d ask to call me mom, and I’d say no. Yet, I did all the things a mother would do for her child. We spent countless hours at the dining table doing homework, working with teachers, reminding him to brush his teeth, to change his underwear, doctor’s appointment’s and everyday mothering. He had everything he needed. I just left the loving part to his dad. I couldn’t bring myself to be his mom plus he had a “real” mom, and I had my “real” children too. It was us three plus them two and it didn’t equal five. It equaled three and two.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

One day by the grace of God, things changed, my heart softened and became protective of him. There was a moment when I could no longer sit by and watch as Cole was let down and hurt. I realized that the person letting him down was not the only one; I was letting him down too. He had not stopped asking to call me Mom, and it was clear he needed me to say, yes. Maybe, I needed to say yes too, so I did.

From that moment Cole became my son, my real son. He didn’t become my son when his father and I eventually married three years later. Or at a point when he was more pleasing or easier to love – he became my son in the middle of messiness and a storm. He became my son the day he chose me, the day he asked me to be his mom, and the day I chose him in return. God placed us together knowing that storms make trees take deeper roots and two trees intertwined were stronger than one.

For approximately six months I’ve looked at this old photo of my sweet babies and I, knowing and feeling that something was missing. Each time I would share it, I felt a twinge in my heart that something was missing. Then I realized the something missing, wasn’t a something, it was a someone.

In a world where stepparents are cropping/editing out or even just leaving their stepchildren out all together, I wanted to add in mine. Luckily I have a dear friend who helped me re-create the first photo with the addition of Cole. My heart (and possibly Cole’s) needed him in this photograph that reminded me occasionally of who I am today as a woman and mother because he is just as much a part of who’ve grown into and become over the years.

ALL MY BABIES IN ONE BEAUTIFUL PHOTO

This photo now shows all that it had before and so much more. It isn’t just the addition of another person; it showcases life. Real, down to the nitty-gritty life in all its glory and differences. It shows dedication, commitment and choosing each other – even on the difficult days. The days when people who have been blessed in not experiencing the blending of two families, will almost always misunderstand us. The days when I’m told I will never be his “real” mom because he has a biological mother already. The days he is told he is not my “real” son because I didn’t give him life. Those are the days we choose each other more and now we are very much mother and son.

When I look at this new picture, I still see my beautiful and independent daughter who now has made room for another brother and wants to be a Science & AG teacher instead of a lawyer. Gage is still on my back, still smaller than most and loves his momma and basketball, but now wants to be a Veterinarian. Right in the middle where he belongs is my other son, Cole. I see a handsome young man who loves with a very open, gracious and giving heart. I see someone who selflessly spent hours every day for at least a week if not longer making me a Christmas present that no other parent received. I see a boy who came into my life scared of losing his father to a woman he thought was trying to take his place when all I wanted to do was share it. And, who just wanted a normal family with a mother and father – like I did. Cole is who I needed to become a better woman and mother, and I like to think I am who he needed to help him become a better man.

Being a parent has zero to do with biology and 100% to do with love and choice. Sometimes that choice is not ours to make but Gods, and he reminds us that while it may not always be easy, it is always worth it and for our good. Three plus two now equals a family of five. A real family.

The three four-letter words blended families would benefit from never using again.

Words matter. I’m sure some of you think they don’t but respectfully I disagree. Just the same, names matter too. When a parent first learns they are expecting, they spend countless hours researching origins, meanings behind, and deciding on the perfect name. I’m curious if you have researched the origin of the word “step” in terms of a child or parent? Sure, mostly being called a stepparent, stepfamily or stepchild is harmless in the grand scheme of identifying family having gone through divorce and remarriage. But would you call the child you gained through marriage, orphan-daughter, orphan-son or call yourself father of an orphan or mother of an orphan? I doubt that you would. Unless you are a blended family, which treats each other like orphans. And, if so, that’s a whole other blog post.

The word “step” originates from the old English word – steopcild which means orphan. Not having parents and that is not the case with stepchildren as they belong to one spouse now remarried.

The word parent means: brings forth, offspring and relates to DNA. The act of parenting means: bringing up, caring for, promoting and supporting. There is a clear difference. One can be a parent in the word’s sense and not be a parent by definition of actions. The ones requiring clarification are the parents, not the children. And, when all are acting in the best interest of the child, why some refuse to acknowledge and celebrate even that another person cares for, loves, and supports their child just blows my mind. I’ve never understood it.

At first, the word “step” never occurred to bother me, the meaning or otherwise. In fact, when I first started writing about being a “step” mom, I playfully used the term in my title, “That’s Mrs. StepMom to you!” and I loved it. Being both a biological mother and now gaining a son through my husband, the way parents treated, spoke of and disregarded stepparents disgusted me. It still does to be honest. The only time I reference being a stepparent is when someone needs clarification or when writing on this topic.

Now when I hear it, I cringe. It is like cusswords for blended families. Step, mine, and your are all words that blended families should limit or not use entirely when speaking of/to a child. It discredits, disregards and makes it known they don’t belong to you or come from you. Why would that be necessary or even a desire? It surely is not a loving or kind desire. Let’s be real here for a moment, there are some families who fondly speak of each other with “step” and this is not for them. This is solely for the ones who can’t figure their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurities out. And who furthermore places those feelings onto their children who innately want to be loyal.

Saying “your child” does more harm than good. Using terms such as “my child” and “your child” are used to separate the child, parent, fault, and involvement. Why not just tell your spouse their kid sucks and yours is better? I mean, that is what your actions are doing and saying. Because when they are pleasing and doing something we are proud of, we wouldn’t say your child is smart, or your child played great in their game – that is how you talk about someone else’s child in another home, not someone in your own family and home.

When I speak of my sons, I speak of them as my sons, both of them. I do not address one as my husband’s son, or as my husband’s ex-wife’s son, or as my stepson – just my son. Our children call us both Mom and Dad, because we are both a Mom and a Dad. Children can have multiple parents without the need to differentiate. That need for differentiating comes from hidden insecurities in other parents and people unfamiliar with how blended families work. With the utmost respect and kindness for those who don’t understand blended families, it is not our job to make them more comfortable because they either don’t understand and cannot see themselves calling someone else aside from a biological parent, Mom or Dad.

The hidden or even visible insecurities that some parents have gives them this need for the world to know that they were the parent first. Let me tell you something – biological or otherwise, if you are a good mother/father, your title will never matter or require clarification. Being a biological parent doesn’t exalt authority over another parent except in cases of the law, and even then only if acting in the best interest of the child – when the parent can’t manage it on their own. The title or biology of a parent doesn’t make someone a parent anymore than standing in a garage makes them a car. And yes, I know that some judges and lawyers put ridiculous clauses in orders such as, – the child cannot call the stepmother, Mom. I’ve read these orders and they are ridiculous and assumptions lead me to two things. First, the mom was insecure and felt entitled to her role, and second, the child will resent one of these parents at some point.

I’m curious how many parents speak to their children and ask their feelings, opinions and desires about the other parents and really listen to their hearts. If a child wants to call someone else, Mom/Dad that is something that requires attention and consideration. A child desiring inclusion in something created by division of something which directly impacted them takes guts. It comes from a personal desire for connection and being part of a family, and that is beautiful.

We will never have a role superior to one-another because of marriage or biology. Countless times people have told us that a decision or action being made by us was the “main” parents’ place in our home. And, we smile and disregard it every time for two very good reasons: first, most often this advice comes from non-blended families and respectfully the will never understand, and second, we are the main parents in our home, as one united family.

I guess for me; I choose my son as my son. I choose him on the days he acts in such as way that screams he has other parents that raised him differently. I choose him on the days it takes the act of love and patience to love him. And I choose him on the days he acts just as I have raised him both good and bad. The moment he asked to call me Mom, I made a conscious decision to treat him as a mom would, as a mom to her own children would. The same goes for my husband and the way he loves, treats, supports and raises the two children he gained through our marriage – as his own; a daughter and a son. Not as orphans or steps – one united family acting in the best interest of raising our children with love and to love whoever they choose.

The Man That Stays.

Thank you.

The biggest disadvantage in my life has been loving temporary people, permanently. I’ve done this my entire life with not just loved ones but also romantic relationships and friendships. Friends excite me. There is this enjoyment I experience in meeting new people, hearing their stories and the connection that follows. You know that feeling when you really click with someone and you just want to experience everything with this new friend?! That is me. And, I come on way too strong. Every time. It’s like I stick a fork in a light socket – its explosive, bright and exciting – until all power is lost and I’m left alone sitting in the dark.

So, when I decided to try yet again with not just love, but marriage –  the majority of people thought (maybe still think) I was crazy. But as we continue our adventure in this life, our 7th year together, I’m pretty sure God provided me with a blessing of a man who carried a couple extra buckets.

The love of a lifetime is worth at least a million tries. I still believe this. Now, let me preface this with saying, no, I don’t think he loved me enough for the both of us or that I think someone has the capability of loving us back to normal. But what I am saying is that while I was learning what real love was and commitment meant, what it entailed, and the seriousness of my vows made to him – I also saw the person in myself that he was choosing to love each day.

This is a letter to my husband –

Broken women, run. We do, and often without notice or even our own knowledge. It is second nature to leave before being left. The thought of being valued, appreciated and wanted is unimaginable. And, the desire to find a man to love you when you are still learning to love yourself runs deep. We just want to be loved and accepted.

That is a whole heck-of a lot of baggage for one man. Yet you picked up each of my bags and built a home with me. You helped me unpack, sort and discard the items that I no longer needed to travel with – because my traveling days were over unless they included you. When my stubborn streaks and independence was full of “I don’t need you” and “I can do it all on my own” – you stepped back and let me do just that. And, patiently waited for me to come to terms with the beauty of wanting a partner and wanting the help – not needing it.

When my days crumble and go to crap and nothing makes sense, you let me collapse into your lap, sink my face into the side of your neck and cry, piss and moan or pout. When my hormones are out of whack and I am throwing a tantrum that makes a two-year-old jealous – you don’t engage. When my actions are full of quit and you see that I am preparing for you to do the same, you don’t. When my words and actions make zero sense or I am just flat out being a pain in the butt, you have no problem telling me to, “cut the crap!” And, then try kissing me. It is super weird, you are super weird  – but I love that.

If we argue – it’s quick. Mostly because my memory is shot – but still. If we disagree – we talk it out and then agree that I was right – okay, okay – mostly right. You laugh at my corny jokes and love that I get mushy over hallmark movies. You make goofy snap chat videos with me, and will retake pictures until my double chin doesn’t show. You watch the Real Housewives, and This is Us with me too – and possibly when I am not in the room. You let my daughter, now your daughter, paint your toes that one time, remember? Oh, and do you remember that time you dressed up as Olaf for Halloween? Yep, you are that man, that husband – that makes his wife happy. That matters you know, more than you realize.

You tell me I am beautiful without even looking at me – which at first bothered me because I thought beauty was visually pleasing. Until the day I was un-showered, hair thrown up in a messy bun, zero makeup – probably looking all kinds of unkempt – and you looked me in the eyes, pulled me close and told me, “I’m so in love with you and you are so beautiful.” It was then that it clicked, you see me differently. You see me with love.

You stepped in as a father, a coach, a friend and a support for my children. You’ve been reminded you are not their father, and then loved as being one. You’ve gifted me another son and afforded my heart the ability to stretch even bigger than I imagined it could. You showed me the beauty of understanding and meaning my vows. Love doesn’t always make sense. But it always makes a choice. It chooses to give the benefit of the doubt. It chooses to trust. It chooses to listen, care and hope. Most of all, love chooses to STAY. Sometimes, to be honest, I wonder if you were dropped on your head as a child, because that is the only explainable reason you could possibly love me as much as you do. Remind me to thank your parents next time I see them for possibly being inattentive.

You are the man that chose the remaining pieces let over. The scraps, if you will. It’s incredible the sustenance and substance you can find in what someone else discarded. I’ve learned commitment from you. I’ve learned unconditional love from you. I’ve learned what a real, godly and faith driven marriage is from you. And, I love you endlessly and want to say thank you for loving and choosing me everyday.

Quote with a sunset behind a view

A fresh (step)parent perspective.

Have you ever felt like blending your family isn’t possible? Or, that being a stepparent is too much work for you to take on alone? That failing is your new favorite pastime and honestly you are unsure what or who you are even fighting for? Do you question if you have what it takes to be a stepparent? If your answer to any of these are yes, then know there is hope. Being a stepparent has days, months and even years where you are and will be tested and pushed. But, when you’re able to see past the step, and only see the parent, those rough days become more and more manageable.

When my husband and I blended our family seven years ago, it was rough. We’d both been divorced more than once before. We both had children and very different parenting styles. (We still have different parenting styles) There were days I was angry, days I cried, days I wanted to give up and say “no this is not my problem or my job” and truthfully a good reason behind dating for so long, well that and our failed marriages.

Did I feel like a jerk and a failure on the days when I couldn’t hang with the super stepmoms? Sure. But you can’t base your days or family dynamics on other blended families or stepparents. It’s okay to not have it figured out, it’s the quitting that’s bad. You have to ask yourself why God has put you where you are and how you can be used for good. There is a purpose to his plan, and you are more than capable.

When Cole first came into the mix he was struggling in school, and as harsh as it sounds it was a huge cause of friction in our home. When you blend children who’s parents have different expectations or even the lack of, it can rock even the most sturdiest of ships. Gracie and Gage were expected to come home right after school, homework was done first, playing was second. Cole had his own idea of how it should be done, which was not at all. And, to be honest there were days, weeks and months that felt like the only person in the entire universe who cared about his education, was me, and it was exhausting. My husband and I fought, the school and I fought and Cole and I fought. It was awful.

School nights consisted of tears, frustration, too many erasers and both of us going to bed defeated. Cole did not have confidence in his work or himself. Sports were his priority, and schooling was mine. It didn’t take long before I saw things differently. One of the great blessings of being a stepparent is you see things from a different perspective from your spouse who is more intimately connected to situations with their child. You are a fresh view, and that’s a blessing. I could see Cole was capable of much more than he was letting on, I could see he knew more but something was holding him back AND, I could also see how at times he was working both the school and my husband.

Admitting that you need help or that your child needs help, is no easy feat for some. With that in mind, imagine how it felt for me trying to persuade my husband into understanding (his son), our son needed help. Ours, was not a word he heard, he only heard, his, help, and failing. It was as if I was telling him Cole was damaged and it was his fault. He was against it all. Cole’s hesitance at least made sense because kids can be awful to anyone who learns differently, and he knew that. But, after my incessant pleas, we eventually approached the school about getting him into an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Coming from a place where I wasn’t directly or personally connected to a false sense of ownership, I could see this was a need not a fault, and it was in his best interest and would help him. And, luckily the school agreed.

The days of missing assignments, lies about homework, bad report cards, all the times Cole would say “I don’t know”, “I’m confused” or “I’m just dumb” were enough for all three of us to want to give up and run in separate directions. There were days I would go to work and cry because I was so frustrated, and felt like it would never change or get better. But, it did change. IT GOT BETTER. SO MUCH BETTER. The school has been incredibly instrumental and supportive along the way.

Cole was now not only getting the help he needed, but it fed his confidence and made him see he was capable of more, he did know more and understood more. He just needed to be expected to try by us, and then taught how to do things in a new way at school until eventually it all clicked. He will be a freshman next year and has all A’s and B’s this year so far. He had all D’s and F’s…even in PE. That’s how I knew this little turkey was capable of much more!

My point to this is, it may not be school you’re struggling with, and it may not be homework that your crying at work about. But whatever it is, if it’s going to benefit your child/stepchild, don’t quit advocating for it, even if it is with your spouse. The day you committed to your spouse, you committed to being a parent who looks out for and fights for the best interest of your children as a whole. You may start off as a fresh stepparent with no idea of how to parent differently than you did before blending your families. But, being new and fresh is a hidden gift in itself. You are a fresh set of eyes, ears and a fresh heart even, which is necessary when your new family may come with broken or bruised ones.

When I talked to Cole’s teacher the morning of our annual meeting she said somethings to me I will never forget, “He had such great things to say about you. He talks about you a lot and even shared you’re writing a book, he’s very proud of you, so you should know you’re doing great!” Yes, my little kiddo who used to battle me on everything was PROUD OF ME! It did feel great to know that as he’s making me proud, I’m making him proud too! And, I’m (just) his (Step)mom “technically”… So don’t think that restricts you from wanting and being more or doing better for your kiddos.

Keep fighting and love until it’s natural, you’ll be glad you did!

– Jess

In this post we are talking about stepparents being called mom and loving children as your own

No, you already have a mom.

I still the remember the first time my stepson asked to call me mom, and I very curtly said no. The verbal playback from how I heard my response come out, the tone, the very evident feeling of repugnance behind it, and the visual of his reaction when he received my response – is a moment that I wish I could erase, for us both.

In the beginning we both felt like we were fighting for a place in his fathers life and neither of us were giving in. Imagine having your child ask if their friend can stay the night, then another night and another night – then moving in. Forever. During a single night sleepover, kids are endearing, quirky and fun even. If they misbehave or river-dance on your last nerve, you can breathe through it knowing they go home soon. But, when they never go home, because their home is now your home – that’s rough.

Listen, I know as you’re reading this you’re thinking I sound like an evil stepmom and let me tell you, I felt like an evil stepmom too! Additionally, I felt like I was being bullied, being a bully, being tested and testing, and failing miserably. Did I mention he was my son’s best friend? That I met my husband because they were best friends? I fell head over heels in love with a man, and gained a son – that I wasn’t head over heels in love with. At first.

If I am being honest with myself, I knew when he asked to call me mom, my answer was not coming from a kind and loving place. I knew I was coming from a “you already have a mom, and you are her responsibility, not mine” type of place. And, a place of “you are too much “work” for me.” Which translates to a child that they are not important enough to love. Because, would we not put in all the effort, every tireless hour, every bit of heart aching pain to help our biological children? Over and over again? So… essentially our own biological children deserve our unconditional love, but not a child who was not born from us? That’s awful. And, that was how I felt. At first.

One of the biggest misconceptions about being in a blended family is that you blend well. Think of an actual blender, the settings are: Blend/Stir, Shred/Beat, Grind/Puree, Mash/Chop, Liquefy/Whip, and Frappe/Mix. Those are some serious options just to blend something smoothly. I mean shoot, if I am making a margarita, I throw all the stuff in and press all the buttons praying they do the trick — and I’m quite certain that is exactly what I did in the beginning as a stepmom. And, with the lid off at least 50% of the time, because some days I wanted to make a mess, this uprooting in my life was a daily grind where I was being beat, shredded and liquefied to a point of tears. At first.

Babies and toddlers, they are one thing. They’re pliable, naive, and still young enough to create that sweet bond with. But at seven, their mannerisms and personality traits are primarily already set in place, and none are from you. You didn’t spend the past seven years teaching them how to walk, talk, count to 10, sing the alphabet, how to write their names and how to say I love you mommy. You weren’t able to share the values, morals, and lessons that you taught your own children either. Instead you inherited someone else’s values, morals and lessons all wrapped in a cute kiddo who you have to simply just accept because if you don’t you’re a horrible person. At first.

There was a day early on that made me very aware of the manipulation that could exist in the world of “I don’t want my dad to date you” (which was a super fun place to live, not at all). We were in the drive through at Carl’s Jr when my stepson saw an attractive girl taking our money at the window, and he says “my daddy calls her beautiful every time he talks to her “hi beautiful, thanks beautiful” every time” and he flashes this look and laughs. And, I laugh too (as I’m texting his dad asking who the girl at CJ is) through the moment and play it off. He just wanted me to leave, and he was too young to understand that by hurting me, he would hurt his father. But in that moment, none of get that – were all just fighting for scraps at the dinner table. He would flip flip though very rapidly, one minute he would try to break us apart, and the next he would want a hug and ask me if he could call me mom. Things I can now look back on and see very clearly. But then, I’ll be honest again, I didn’t have the type of heart that reminds itself this is a child, they do not mean it, it is their backstory causing this – in the moment. In the moment, I was mad, I was affected and I was annoyed. To me this kid was a disrespectful and needed discipline, at first.

A few months later, he asked to call me mom again, and this time we were not alone, it was in the car with his dad and both my children. Before I could respond, they both said “No she isn’t your mom.”, And, while his dad looked at me with that look of what do we say, when he heard how quickly my kids blew his son off – he was hurt too! It was a no win situation, and things were still choppy – but this time was little different, and I felt stuck. When a child asks to do something that another child in the same household does, it’s because they want to be the same, to be included, and to feel like part of the family. I was told once that if a child asks to call you mom or just does it on their own, and you have other children in the home, you are setting yourself up for failure by saying no – because you are then ostracizing your stepchild. Great! So basically I’ve been ostracizing him since the beginning, and now if I cave – my kids will be mad. Who do I please? Who is more important? Honest people will say their bio kids come first, goodhearted kind people will say it should be equal and so will your spouses. But that doesn’t always happen at first.

Just a side note about this, everything I’ve experienced as a stepmom, my husband has experienced as a stepdad too (my daughter who is 16 calls him dad now too actually). My two had their father involved at first – and he hated my husband for sheer fun. For me, it was a little easier in that my stepsons mom was really not in the picture. At that time her involvement and communication was minimal at best and she lived in another state. Basically, I was his mom, whether we liked it or not. His physicians, teachers and coaches all knew me as mom because none had ever met his “real” mom. So, as I am saying no, you can’t call me mom, they are telling him talk to your mom, and this poor kid is confused.

It was very clear my stepson was nothing like me, but there were definitely things about him that I started to love. He was and still is so great with little kids, he gets down on their level and is patient and kind with them. He loves to be with adults, and would prefer to hang with them then go outside and play. And, I learned very quickly (thank goodness) that he just craved love. He needed and wanted so much love – and here I was being an ass and saying no. Saying I have no room, no extra love to give, sorry not sorry. I couldn’t stop focusing on how much re-work I was having to do with him. Simple things like brushing his teeth, taking a shower, doing his homework, not lying (oh my goodness the lying!!!) his constant need to be glued to his dad at every moment – it was almost too much, almost every day. He was on an IEP in school because he needed help in most areas and my children were none of those things. They were good kids, easy kids. Because they were my kids. Looking back now I can see that while I did have really great kiddos, we let a lot slide because we don’t notice it the way you do with someone else’s child. And, that is what they are, someone else’s child – at first.

Around his first birthday with us as a family, I had a feeling he was going to again ask to call me mom. I knew this because his mom hadn’t called him in almost a year at this point. My husband asked me one thing when we first started dating, and that was to never contact her, that she had made her bed and to just let it go. Well, if you know the me from 7 years ago, letting anything go was a joke. So, one day after watching my stepson sit by the phone waiting for it to ring, I lost it and I broke that request. My insides were literally burning with fury, and the inability to understand and I wanted to know why she didn’t love him enough to call??? And, then I wanted to know why I care all of a sudden? Was it because I needed her to step up and be his mom so I didn’t have to, or was it because she was missing out on a phenomenal kid who just wanted her to love him? The real answer was a good mixture of both I suppose, at first.

I remember writing his mom, and I pissed her off (maybe you read the blog If I could have a word with you , which is all about that and technically my first love letter to my new son in a sense) and rightfully so because who was I coming in acting like I knew it all. But, after that talk, I took my children aside and had a talk with them. I asked them why they were so against him calling me mom, and I explained to them why I felt like the next time he asked, I wanted to not only say yes, but have them okay with it too. It was a great talk for all of us, and we walked away from that knowing that if he asked again, I would say yes, and things might be different, but nothing would change my being their mom.

I tell this story because not every stepparent/stepchild relationship is easy. There are times where both are wrong, both are hurt, both are guarded and both are selfish. Aside from writing about stepparent related stories and situations I don’t use the word step to describe him, he is just my son. His is not a stepbrother, he is just a brother – and even though his mom moved back here two years ago, I’m not his step mom, I’m just his mom. He hasn’t stopped calling me mom since, and I’ve worked my butt off to earn that title, and he has my love unconditionally and equally always. We still have our moments, he will be 14 in a week and I will tell you that back then, I never thought we’d make it here but there is something really special about resilient love – and God knew we both needed the other. We just didn’t realize it at first.  

This post talks about God, judgement of past, and being deserving of love.

The truth sets you free

It’s time to be real. To be honest. To lay it bare.

Fear. Shame. We all have it and shy away from anyone who may hurt us by exposing us. The people in our life can be split in half right down the middle by two types; those who love us anyway and those who love to hold us back.

When I sit and ponder my life and my purpose, I know it well within the deepest core of my soul – that I’m supposed to write. But, I also tell myself that I am disqualified, undeserving and a fraud. Someone will surely expose the events in my life that hold the most disappointment – and I will be publicly reminded of my worthlessness and be humiliated.

Each time I began to write the excitement floods in, maybe this will be the piece that hits someone, maybe this will be the one that goes viral. It ignites my soul and once the piece is done – it feels phenomenal. But fear still visits.

When we succumb to fear we give in and find other ways to sabotage ourselves by disguising our fear in a respectful manner. Posing it as something outside our control.

Korie Robertson’s advice to her children, shared by Sadie Robertson.

People read my words and tell me that it makes them feel good too. Shame reminds me that there are parts of my life I’m not prepared to share, and if I continue down this path, I must be prepared for battle. I let fear consume me like a kudzu vine, and kill the dream.

It is a harsh reality when you must own up to the fact that you are not courageous enough to be fearless. That in the face of challenge, adversity and judgment, I was a coward. Can we be real for a minute? Do you understand the amount of courage it would take to write my story? …for me to say to the world I’ve messed up and I am strong enough to stand proud regardless. About everything.

Do you understand that if I write my story, if I share my truth, the world will need to know my faults, my hardships, and my demons before they could understand my triumphs? Do you realize that in order to be accurate in my personal accounts, I would have to bare my weaknesses and give my enemies permission to use them against me?

To write my story, I’d have to go back to where I first got stuck. I’d have to tell you the why’s and how’s before the gratefulness of the now’s!

How many times I’ve been married and broke my vows. How many times I’ve been divorced. How I met a criminal who almost killed me. How I met a man who was kind and good, and I hurt him. How I cheated. How I lied. How I got fired. How I stole. How I almost loved a lost man so much that trying to save him, almost caused the loss of myself, and put my children in indirect danger.

How I have a daughter I did not raise, and that I fear I’ve failed. How I have a father that couldn’t and wouldn’t choose to love me, and a mother who’s addictions replaced her desire to want me. How to this very day there is a man who daily attempts to break me. I’d have to share about the time I was on assistance. The times we had no money & no food.

You’d learn that I have a brother who’s an addict, in and out of prison for the past 20 years. And, I’d have to tell you about the time I attempted suicide, and woke up angry at God that it didn’t work. And, how each and every one of these instances were the broken ground on which a more firm, stable and loving foundation was formed – and where I found Jesus met me each time.

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The answer Mack was given when he asks Papa why she brought him back to the Shack where Missy died.

Do you know how much power is in all this truth? And how much courage it took to even write these truths down? And, guess how much fear I feel having now released it? None.

Sharing my stories, will be painfully honest, and to be honest it will have to be dark at times, and I have to be willing to share these stories with people I love, people who’s respect I would want to keep, and whose judgment I am now ready for. Because their judgement has no bearing on me any longer.

I choose to share my truth with complete strangers who may attempt to tear me apart but won’t succeed. Because there is one person, the same person who built me for struggle, who built me to share my story, who gifted me the desire and ability to write out my inner most personal feelings in a way that enraptures people’s souls.

Today, for the first time in my life, I can say wholeheartedly that with God within me, and above me, that anything below can never break me. Because the truth is there is one person who knows my story, one person who loves me anyways and the only person who can justly judge me, and it’s not the person who sells the story, it was the person who co-wrote it beside me. God.

God didn’t answer my prayers to change my circumstances, because he needed me to be in those trenches, to be in the lions den to allow me to escape unscathed. And, the first step is facing the fear of those lions, facing the fear that they may bite, they may intimidate and they could easily devour me – but God protects me. My faith has to be stronger than my fear.

This is my story of a past that built me. A beautiful story mixed with that of a tattered reputation and an inspiring redemption. No one can tell my story for me, but me.

And, I AM READY.

This post and quote talks about feeling worthy, ditching the shame, acceptance and judgement of past choices.

Ditch the Shame.



So many people are stuck in this “show” life. They are always “on”, they always have it figured out and they are always “fine.” They are the quiet, strong type, but to me, strong is not quiet. Strong is loud. Strong is honest. Strength is raw and original. We are failing by setting the example or standard that silence is a sign of strength.

We need to get to a point where people quit hiding, where they quit trying to appear perfect and are okay wearing their heart on their sleeves, and their minds on their lips – to be vulnerable and invest in the people they want a return investment from.

Why should you always be the one to call, to text, to check in, why should you invest in someone who does not see the same value in you? We want that deep down non-judgmental connection, a real and honest friend, and that takes vulnerability and openness. Unfortunately, not many people are willing to be or do that. I think most people mean well but they waiver in making it a conscious decision and choice.

The saddest part is that we see you, as you are, not as you pretend to be. Your hiding translates as distrust, dishonesty, misrepresentation and a low level of value and worth to us as your friend. You’re inability and unwillingness to reach out, to lay yourself bare, freeing yourself of judgment and any worry of shame is not only holding you back, it’s impeding every one of your relationships.

No one wants to be friends with someone who pretends to have it all figured out. We all know that no one has it all figured out, so who are you trying to fool anyway?

Real. Honest. Open. That’s we want. We want your good days and bad days, not your false cover up stories and forced smiles. We want your tough days full of struggle and barely surviving, not your self proclaimed smooth sailing over calm waters.

Tell me the moment that built you. The exact moment you had nothing left to hide, where you had no choice but to ditch the shame that had suffocated you up to that point. Tell me the exact second you looked up from your lowest point, and felt the most unloved and unworthy, and let me love you anyway. Let someone love you because of that defining moment. That’s brave. That’s beautiful. That’s you.

We want to talk about your gains and losses, your failures, your heart break and how you fell flat on your face. Not how tough you are about hiding your failures, or how you have no fears and don’t need any help.

Life is rough. On those particularly rough days, life makes no sense. It is meant to be that way in order to mold us, develop us, process us and force us to grow. We need that. We can’t hide behind fear forever. The smile behind the tears will fade and lessen at some point. How can we expect to move mountains when our shoulders are formed by false strength?

It takes strength to say phrases like: “I’m not okay. I’m scared. I’m sad. I don’t have it figured out. I hurt. You hurt me. I’m disappointed in myself, or in you.” Be Strong.

It takes courage to say, “I messed up, I’m sorry. I don’t know how I feel or what I want.” It’s hard to say “I need you.” Be Brave.

I would much rather hear “you know what, I have had a horrible day and I’m gonna go home and take a bubble bath, or I’m gonna call my best friend or I’m gonna enjoy a glass of wine and try again tomorrow.” I’d rather hear that than “I’m fine” and knowing that you’re going to go home and cry alone and not process or release any of what’s bothering you in any type of a healthy environment.

We as human beings need interaction we need to be heard and to feel validated and vindicated and appreciated. We need love, it’s what feeds our souls. Why would you purposely want to deprive yourself of what we all need as individuals to grow and be happy?

Being positive doesn’t mean pretending everything is great. It means acknowledging that it isn’t, appreciating the lesson and knowing circumstances will improve. Don’t believe that sharing failure is a sign of weakness, because those afraid to fail are among the weakest. If your idea of acceptance is gained by pretending your life is perfect, you’ll have an endless battle with yourself. Only fools can look in the mirror and argue with the secrets staring back at them.

With all this said, I dare you. I dare you to have courage. I dare you to dust off and pull out that skeleton in your closet and share it. I dare you to admit a mistake, to share your past and tell someone you’re not perfect. I dare you to not fear shame, because once you release it to someone who accepts it, shame can no longer exist. I dare you to call someone and say, I need help, I’m not okay and I need to talk. I dare you to be honest with someone who hurt you, who let you down or disappointed you. I dare you to be vulnerable, to be strong and to be brave.

You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You are deserving and so greatly loved enough. I dare you to love yourself enough to be loved as a whole, all the tiny imperfect pieces that created you.

Five stepfamily myths – busted!

  bustedMyths:

∗Don’t be a Mom, be their friend
∗Don’t be the disciplinarian
∗Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave
∗It is easier without the other parents involvement.
∗You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.

Chances are, if you are a stepparent, you’ve had these said to you by either a successful stepparent whose life is perfect – and possibly lives in denial, a family member or worse; your own friends. Here are five common myths, and tips to prevail.

#1 Don’t be their Mom, be their friend.
It was about a few months in when a friend of my significant other muttered this very statement. It was followed up by “He already has aunts, grandma, and me, he doesn’t need anyone else.” Those words are as fresh in my mind as the day she spoke them. What I should have said was this: Last time I checked, his mother hasn’t been in his life for years. Furthermore, Aunts are aunts, Grandmas are grandma’s and you are a friend. Therefore, looks like the Mom position is currently vacant, so I am just going to go right ahead and slip into whatever role his father and I choose. Instead of course I sat there with the deer in the headlights stare, and a broken heart. This is solely a decision that is left up to the people who it effects, your spouse, your stepchild and yourself. 

#2 Don’t be the disciplinarian.
Okay, let me get this straight, what you are saying is that if the child misbehaves with me, I need to wait until his father comes home to rectify that? Or, if I see him misbehaving even when his father is home, I am supposed to run to his father and tattle that he is doing something wrong and make him deal with it? Whoa honey, no freaking way! Sorry, not happening, uh uh. NO.  Allow me to explain why in two reasons. First, respect is built by setting expectations and firm foundations, and allowing the go around or discipline to doled about by someone else, is less effective. That simply permits the child to be disrespectful and to misbehave until dad gets home. And, the second reason is, have you ever asked your husband to take the garbage out…. it can take days!! Discipline needs to be done in the moment, direct, and efficient for it to work.

#3 Stepchildren should be allowed to misbehave.
When venting to friends about the difficulties in blended families, and building a relationship with your stepchild you hear the difference in responses when the conversation of ill behaviors arise. When you are talking about your biological childs misbehavior to another parent the responses are “Oh yep they get bitchy when their periods are coming” Or, “Oh, I would have spanked her ass, and grounded her until she was 16!” But, not with stepchildren. Those responses are “Oh, she must be going through a lot. You need to love her through this phase.” Or, “Well consider how she feels, she’s angry, lost and confused, she just needs patience.” While, I can give the benefit of the doubt and show compassion like any other parent for a majority of situations – I am not an idiot! Sometimes, kids are little shits, and do bad things, and misbehave. ALL KIDS. They all need the same reaction and same treatment. No different. Same love, same discipline – same, same same.

#4 It is easier without the other parents involvement.
Really? For who? The child? Or, me? I used to believe this myth. I was wrong. My stepsons mother is not involved except maybe three times a year, by phone – if that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and all day my mind was overrun by thoughts like, will she call? Why didn’t she call? Who does that? Sure, I made sure to ask him about his first day, and I made sure to take those all important first day photographs, his father and I took care of the school clothes shopping and the school supplies, without one care or concern from her. She is not involved with him, but she and I are involved in that she lives permanently in my head, rent free. She lives as the fear I have that she will never call, or that she will call. That she will never come back for him, or that she will come back for him. That she will always be the one he wants, because he so badly wants her to want him. I worry she will let him down either way – and there will be nothing I can do to prevent that heartbreak.

#5 You will eventually grow to love them, and they will love you.
I’ve never been one to blow smoke up anyone’s skirt, mostly because I don’t smoke and I have no business up another woman’s skirt – but nonetheless this is not always the case. Sure there are some gloriously unified step families that just work. However, there are plenty of blended families who live to respect their parents choices, and live a life without a bond or love for their stepparent. In the same sense, there are stepparents that tolerated their stepchildren until they were old enough to live on their own. A stepparent/stepchild relationship can’t and shouldn’t be forced. If it happens naturally and effortlessly that is fantastic and makes life that much easier. But, don’t be surprised or feel doomed if it doesn’t happen for you right away, or at all. You can still foster a relationship with mutual care and respect.

Contrary to popular belief no one really has the answers on how to be the best stepparent. There are plenty of articles and advice from those that have lived it, and while those should be respected if only as a differing point of view, you don’t have to agree. You need to do what is best for you and your step-family. For me, I choose to be the mom, not the friend to all my children, step or otherwise. My significant other and I are the two leading adults in our home, we are partners in the responsibility for raising healthy, happy and well adjusted children who we chose to love, care and discipline regardless of the person or whose child is whose. Children and Stepchildren, are the same. Period. Maybe, one day the lack of involvement from the other parent will change, maybe it won’t – don’t allow that to limit your involvement. Love your stepchildren/stepparents as best as you can, if you have to fake it at first, do that. If its not there, respect them.

After all, we are all in this together.

Divorce & the StepMom

Have you ever awoke from a dream that was so intense and real that your heart breaks as you open your eyes?

I dreamt about him again, and its such a double edged sword because even though for the duration of the dream we’re together again, there is always the waking up that rips him away.

Divorce sucks, everyone knows that,  divorce with your children involved even worse, but nothing is worse than divorce with a stepchild.  Nothing.

Ethan was only one when he blessed my life. Having had a hysterectomy after my son, I always believed God wasn’t done with me as a mother, therefore he brought me Ethan. We had him in our home every other week for a week at a time, which is virtually unheard of at his age.

At first, it was hard to get used to, because my children were 5 and 7 at the time. Diapers, sippy cups and highchairs were a thing of the past. But, it took no time at all to fall in love with this blonde little sweetheart.

He always called me mom, because he copied my kids. It was hard because his mother hated it. It was something he chose and though I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to love it and to call him my son. Raising him was a joint responsibility in our home. In every definition and action I was his mother, and I loved him dearly, and still do.

Through battles in court, battles between my husband and his mother, I fought hard for this little kiddo. My love for him and my relationship with him, is what started my blog, and my parenting page. My children took to him instantly and we were a family.  And then after three years, we weren’t.  He was gone.

His dad left for another woman. He left while my kids were not at home, and while Ethan was with his mom. There was and has never been a goodbye on either end.  My children were left heartbroken by the dual loss of a stepfather and brother. And, I, well…I haven’t seen Ethan since. Except in photos here and there.

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That is probably why I still dream about him. In my dreams Ethan calls me mommy, and hugs me so tight as if to hold me over until our next date in our dreams. He caresses my face and tells me “I love you mommy” the way he used to do. This time I was so happy to see him that I was crying, and woke up feeling as though I was going to cry. My heart hurts, still, a year later.

It makes me hate his father, and the woman he left our family for. The woman who informed me it was better for Ethan and my children, to not see eachother or the man that was a father type in their life. She has no children of her own, how does she know? She made the rules and he followed them.

While I’m thankful my ex is gone, and even more delighted that they two now are eachothers karma;  I miss my son. I miss his laughter, his silliness, his sweet breathy voice and the way he loved me so. I miss him crawling into my lap, caressing my face and telling me stories about bullriding and hockey with his excited little boy voice. I miss him holding hands with his brother and sister and how excited he was to see them when he came home every week. I miss the 3 am tapping on my shoulder, saying “mommy can I snuggle you?”

Now, awake and emotional, I will go on about my day dealing with the loss of my son again. The sinking  feeling in my heart, that dull aching pain which will exist unbeknownst to anyone throughout the day. I’ll suffer quietly because noone understands it and everyone expects it to go away because its been over a year. But, guess what?  It hasn’t. 

It hides away until we meet again in our dreams.  I miss you Ethan, and love you always. 

Top Step-Parent Blog!

Top-10-Step-Parenting-Blogs-200We were, or I guess…I was nominated by someone, somewhere for my blog. It was entered into a Step-parenting contest with fifty…yes 50! other stepparents who share the same passion as I do. And…we ranked in at #5! How fantastic is that? And, how do you thank someone that you have no idea who they are? My best guess would be to continue doing what I have been for the past few years – and one day when my first book is published it can include this anonymous person who believed in me – because it has made a monumental difference.

Its hard to share the love of what you do with people who register writing and blogging as rather insignificant. “What is blogging? Who cares about that? Big deal! I have better things to do with my time” are all things I have heard people say – and while I let it affect me way down somewhere – those comments don’t matter to me today. You, the readers and followers, the stepparents, parents, friends and family are who matters. If we all went off of what the naysayers say – we would never follow our dreams. Besides, the fuel in my life has always been “those people” who didn’t think I could do it, because I love the moments like this…where I do.

So, for today I am going to relish in this small step towards the life impacting writing I hope to do in the many years to come – and to thank you for your continued involvement and support in my blogging.

Read the article here on all of the Top Ten:

http://voiceboks.com/top-10-step-parenting-blogs-of-2014/

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