Forced photos & Fulfilled Promises

This family photo was as forced as the smiles on our faces. Behind each of our smiles was exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, stress and the faith of the tiniest mustard seed.

This picture was taken as a reminder of our first year with steers and how we failed and took a hard hit. It was taken to be looked back on as the year that almost broke us – but didn’t. The year that taught us empathy and compassion for those who will encounter the same in years to come. We would look back at this photograph and celebrate, remembering this moment… and see there was more than five people in this photo.

We are not a family that comes from a background or even heavy support from a family in agriculture. And, financially we are your average american family that makes sure our kids have what they need, but not always much more. The decision to put our children into 4H and FFA was met with hesitation and if it weren’t for the option of a 4H or FFA loan it would have been impossible. So, when we learned early Wednesday morning that only 1 of our 3 steers made weight you can imagine our heartbreak.

Still though, I remained strong as my husband was angry and as Gracie and Cole were devastated. I told myself then that God had a plan, that “God doesn’t bankrupt a family for no reason.” And, I believed that. Bankrupt is a heavy term on such a small scale but to us this felt insurmountable. A mountain we would never be able to climb or move alone.

You can’t see in this photograph the heartbreak Gracie felt when the certified weigher called her back to see the numbers on the scale. The look on her face when he told her that her steer was 13lbs away from making weight and could not sell. There is no sign of the tears she cried feeling as though the past ten months and over five hundred hours of work was for nothing.

This photograph doesn’t show the same heartbreak for Cole who received the same news as Gracie, except he was only short by ten pounds. It doesn’t show that he worked mercilessly with a steer who weighed the least when we bought him and gained the most out of all three.

You can’t see behind Gage’s smile that he would have easily handed his steer over to his brother or sister because it’s been a rough and long ten months. Each showing or work day was exhausting. He had taken a physical beating from his steer dragging his 76lb body around the ring time and time again. And, he was done.

You can’t see the financial stress on mine or Matt’s face. The fights that followed not just during the project but once we learned only 1 of the 3 would be selling to earn a return on their hard work and dedication. Or that emotionally, I broke down the day before over what appeared to be about open-toed shoes but was really about so much more. You can’t see that I was not only upset at but also questioning God… all you see is a family smiling and moving forward.

I’ve been angry with God two times in my life and as quickly as I had remained strong for my family, I became weak and my husband became strong. We traded places. Anger and frustration took over as we had recently began tithing and making that a priority and it was proving to be difficult in general and then this happened. We do not waste our money, we work hard and try to live a giving and kind life. But here we were getting knocked down… again! What lesson was God teaching us and when would we finally catch a break?

Intermittently while being angry crosses would appear. I could easily see a cross in everything and a sense of peace would temporarily take over. Families around us stepped up and helped our children in a variety of ways to ensure we had items needed for fair, lessons in fitting, grooming etc. Things money could never have afforded, a pouring of such blessing that it overflowed what we needed or could hold. God’s promise of tithing, Malachi 3:10-11 isn’t an overpouring of just a financial blessing, it’s a blessing in all forms. In these bible verses God challenges his followers to trust him with a certain amount and in return promises to return blessings in unimaginable ways.

While my faith was hanging by a thread, behind the scenes God was wrapping it with leather and twine. As we stood and took this picture as a family of five – we smiled. You can’t see God in this picture, but he’s there. You can’t see the families, advisors and friends who loaned us equipment, property, time or energy but they’re in this photo too. You can’t see the community who stands behind and supports our youth in this photo, but they too are there. This is a photo of support and not of failure.

Within minutes of taking this photograph two men walked up and offered both our children who didn’t make weight an amount that more than covered the costs of their loans and also provided a cushion enough for next year’s project. These men were impressed with our children, their buyers letters, the way they presented themselves and their attitudes. And at the auction a local company bought Gage’s steer affording the same blessing and opportunity.

These men blessed our family. That local business blessed our family. And, we will never forget the moments that followed this photograph for all the years to come.

In My Father’s House


In my Father’s house,
There’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God,
Yes I am.

Hillsong Worship

His aunt’s hand stretched backwards from the row in front of us at church, handing him two old photographs. In one, there’s a boy maybe twelve or thirteen with a red button-up shirt who looks like our son Cole, sitting next to a little black and white dog, that ironically looks like our dog Luna as well. As my husband studied the young man in the photograph, I studied him. Waiting to see if there was a warmth in his eyes as they tracked back and forth over the photos and to our son, as he compared them. Was there any reaction to seeing a man we seldom talk about? And there was, but I could see it was met with hesitation.

As I searched his eyes and studied his facial expressions, the worship band played Hillsong Worships, I am who you say I am. As we’re singing along, my mind realizes his hesitation wasn’t just rooted in the fact of the man being his father, or that he had passed years ago. His hesitation came from not knowing where his place was now. And how that picture was probably more important to him than he would care to admit. Mindlessly, the lyrics slipped out until I read the verse on the screen above, “In – my – father’s -house – , there’s – a – place – for – me -” and my voice cut out under the heaviness of the words. I couldn’t finish. None of us had a place in our father’s house, not God, but our biological fathers.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me.

Over the years my focus had been on myself never having a place in my father’s house, and on my daughter, who didn’t have a place in her father’s house. My husband was raised by a wonderful man, who was technically his stepfather, but he accepted him as his own and treated him as such his whole life. He was his and is his father. It never crossed my mind that maybe he missed the lack of a relationship with his biological father. I had missed the fact that he too hadn’t felt as though he had a place with his own biological father, which explained more than I realized. But God’s plan was already in place; we just needed to trust and have faith.

I am chosen. Not forsaken. I am who You say I am.

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh. She would extend the invite, and we would accept. The last couple of years she would call out of the blue just to say hi and to tell him she loved him. And I would tell him he needed to spend more time with her, and he would agree, but it wouldn’t happen.

This past year that changed. What started with Christmas breakfast became a wedding, church, lunches, visits etc. It’s funny to look back now and see how smart she was in knowing that she planted the seed each Christmas starting with the breakfast, we just had to water it daily for it to grow. In January, there was a push in my heart and not a light one, it was more like a shove to get back into church, and to be closer with his family. Church was where his family was rooted, and where Grandma was every Sunday. When we would hug her and say good morning to her, I remember thinking she had the kindest eyes, and though I’ve never liked anyone touching my face, the way her hand cupped my cheek as she said good morning in return, is something I will treasure always.

Free at last, He has ransomed me. His grace runs deep.

The last time I saw her, she stopped my husband as he was walking out of her hospital room. She was asleep we had thought and suddenly we hear, “Matthew, don’t you leave me.” and it made us laugh for a minute. We had thought at first she was going to pull through, but it seemed as though we were wrong. While some other words were spoken in that room that night, that will remain in that room, but my husband received one of the grandest gifts he’ll ever receive. As he stood at her bedside she spoke to him and said, “Don’t forget me, I love you” and I don’t know that I will ever be able to recall that memory without crying, because I know he had thought of her so much over the years, but it was his hesitation that kept him away. It was one of the few times I had witnessed my usually strong as an oak husband, cry.

Grandma passed away a little over a week later, and although that was the last time I saw her, he visited her again which I know he is grateful for. Yesterday, we celebrated her life in the most beautiful way, through worship which was something I learned yesterday that she loved. Witnessing my husband up on stage with his cousins, all worshiping and singing praise together for both the joy of her living a loving life, and now dancing in heaven with Jesus was priceless. And, to know now that this writing piece that I have been working on for weeks, rooted around a song during worship and her, is all the more fitting.

I am who you say I am.

As we were about to leave her celebration of life, our son Cole, looked over at his great grandmother’s photograph and said he only – almost cried a couple times – and laughed, as he hugged me. He teased me for crying as he usually does because I cry all the time. When he asked what made me cry, I told him to look around, to see the surrounding family, the church we now belonged to and to remember it was all because of her, and that this was God’s plan all along. We just needed to water the seed from Christmas.

My husband is his grandmother’s grandson, his father’s son, his aunt’s nephew, and welcomed by the highest king whose love for him, found him and brought him home at the right time. While the push for me to return to the church, to be closer to his family is equally a blessing for me, it was all in God’s plan for my husband to find his place. The lyrics to “I am who you say I am” don’t just belong to a beautiful song of love, redemption and having a place with God, they also tell a story. A story of where a little boy’s grandmother reminded him of where his place was, how to get there again and that he was always loved and deserving.

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 custody and divorce. The hassle of shared parenting visitation and co-parenting with a narcissist.

Life on pause.

Imagine every other weekend, your life and family is put on hold, hindered and incomplete – that’s life with divorce and visitation.

It’s easily one of the most frustrating and difficult situations in divorced families with children where co-parenting is not an option. And, unless you live this life, chances are you don’t understand.

You won. You were awarded full custody and now you are in charge and everything just goes your way, right? Wrong! First, winning shouldn’t be a term in child custody, and neither should awarded. When my ex-husband took me to court for full custody – I was sickened with worry, stress, potential heartbreak and fear. Basically, I am expected to go into a court room, with a stranger whose sole purpose is to judge me, going against the only person in the world who gains a sick satisfaction out of manipulating, emotionally and mentally breaking me down and hates me for sport. And then, convince this judge in a limited time frame that not only am I a good mother, but that I am a better mother, than their father is a good father. That is essentially what is comes down to; who is the better parent for the children. And, one wins and one loses – but truthfully in our case, one wins and three lose, either way. There are a handful of days in my life that I can remember in vivid detail – and the day I “fought” for full custody is one of those days I still play back regularly.

While that day is not really the point of this post, I will just say a couple things that are relevant. The words “full custody awarded to the mother” echoing in the half empty courtroom were the loudest, emptiest, angriest and most relieving words I had heard up to that point. That morning I came prepared to fight for my life, for my children and I was not going to lose them. Thankfully for me, I didn’t lose them. But, their father did, and looking back now you can see that day was the beginning of the quit. The beginning of all the “I can’t make it’s”, the schedule conflicts, the manipulation tactics, reverse psychology and narcissism that I , we live with today. And, when someone else see’s it, or hears it, they say the same thing – “don’t let your children go there, stop the visits” and I have to explain that is not how it works.

There are a set of unspoken (but written) rules in divorce decrees that have a trailing visitation order. If you are the custodial parent you are expected to encourage and foster a relationship with the non-custodial parent and the children you share between you. This includes their family and friends as well. You are expected to not speak ill of the other parent, or withhold visitations out of pure distaste of the other parent. Sports, extracurricular activities, school events etc. are supposed to be avoided if at all possible during their weekend, and if they do land on the other parents “time” they are not required to take them – because it is their time. Their time, not your child’s time.

You learn to maneuver around the schedule and you do your best with what you get. There were a few civil standbys when the selfish stubbornness kept my children from attending games simply because their father didn’t feel like going in the beginning. Those days sucked for everyone but him, I’d ultimately have to leave without the children, the kids would miss their games/events and he would essentially win. The officers didn’t enjoy it either, they know the situation, they see it, but they can’t get involved and most don’t want to. It started with school events and games, and then slowly oozed into birthday parties, family events, holidays etc. The first time I had to tell my child they couldn’t attend something because it was important to spend this time with their father it was okay – but the more frequent they became – the harder it was. And, no because they shouldn’t want to spend time with their father – but because he refused to spend time with them doing the things they enjoyed.

Co-parenting with a narcissist is like being the tin man from the wizard of oz, having motion sickness, on the downward spiral of a roller coaster, with a loose harness, after eating ice cream and 5 corn dogs – doing the tango with a peg leg and an eye patch all the while sewing back together and re-stuffing down feathered pillows your dog chewed up and scattered throughout the back forty – it’s freaking difficult!!

Not everyone is able to join the elusive and all inclusive co-parenting club, no matter how hard they try or pray. And, people don’t register the impact this has on your families life. What looks to friends and family like a minor schedule change, is an asteroid headed for earth sure to destroy life as we know it. I always love when someone asks if I would like them to call dad and tell him he needs to bring them to an event – as if that would do anything?! He doesn’t care, plain and simple and there is nothing anyone can do to change that than God, and he isn’t a believer, so… ya!

So what does a parent do when you really have no control or say every other weekend? We don’t. We literally don’t do anything. We found that we stopped doing things. We stopped making plans. We stopped inviting people over, or going out as a family – because eow someone is gone. And, truthfully that hindered the weekends the kids were home to because we wanted to be with them, so we would not do anything, ever. Plus, everyone always asks “where are the kids? Why aren’t the kids here? They get out of everything” etc. And, sometimes I want to scream “No, they don’t get out of anything actually, they didn’t choose this life, we couldn’t fix our “issues” and now they are innocent bystanders who are paying the price! They are with their other parent who doesn’t give one shit about what they want or need, and they’re missing out on everything and we are here just trying to not focus on that fact, thank you very much.” But, just a much as people don’t understand, we can’t expect them too either.

They can’t just decide – there is a COURT ORDER that requires them to go. It is not a suggestion, it’s a requirement. The only way they are allowed to miss or skip a visit is if they get permission from that parent – or go back to court. Which makes our situation all the more complicated because my daughter did just that – she requested through the court to not be required to visit her father anymore when she was old enough. He will never tell this story because no one wants to say the part that makes themselves look bad – but he had to okay it – which he did. So, we have one child who is still court ordered and one who is permitted to not attend. Navigate that one…

As a parent, a normal parent, you want what is best for your children. It is your job to not only provide for them, but teach the importance of opportunity, achievement, dedication, commitment, work ethic all while loving, encouraging and supporting them. When you have one parent who is against every part of these – how are you supposed to make it work? We have our children in 4H, FFA, sports, etc. to teach them the importance of responsibility, the importance of teamwork and working hard for the things they want in life. But every other weekend – it’s a headache. And for my son, every Wednesday too.

My son was excited to sign up for Track, which he has never done, and to be honest I was slightly dreading it because track meets drag on all day. But, I was supportive because it was something new, something he was interested in and running keeps him active – so heck ya! go for it bud! Then Wednesday comes around and he is gloomy because his dad already questioned him last week if he was going to get his Wednesday visits back now that basketball was over – and he didn’t have the heart to tell his dad he signed up for track. So, now he stands in front of me at 6:30 am and has to choose – either track and telling his dad, or quitting track and going to his visits. Our family is serious about sticking to a commitment, once you start a sport and the fee is paid, you have to finish it out. But, I can’t force that in this situation, so I tell him my thoughts and that I support him in whatever he chooses.

On the car ride to work I am having a serious discussion with God and I get a text from my son saying he chose to give up track so he doesn’t upset his dad – and I am equal parts heartbroken and pissed. He asked if I was mad and for the first time I responded with he truth about his dad, “No, I am not mad at you for wanting to not upset your dad, I’m mad that your father has put you in the position where you care more about letting him down, then letting yourself down – and I can’t fix that and it breaks my heart for you.” And, that is the truth folks – we are stuck a lot of the time, and we aren’t supposed to say the other parent is bad, or wrong, but damn it – he is wrong and it is not fair. But as the repairer, I called his coach and explained the situation and we were able to come up with a plan for him to still practice 4 of the days and remain on the team, and make visits with dad.

That’s what we do I guess, we rearrange, we maneuver around and come up with other options to still afford them the normalcy of childhood, opportunities and a healthy life – even if we are the only ones doing it consistently. So, the next time you see a blended family jigsawing their way through life – maybe you’ll understand a little better that they are simply attempting to navigate a different normalcy.

What ever happened to…

Respecting our elders.
General kindness and courtesy.
Minding your own business.
Giving the benefit of the doubt.
The Golden Rule.
Not judging a book by its cover.
Owning and Rectifying our mistakes.
Getting to know someone ourselves.

Growing up it was expected that I lived by this list of expectations. If there wasn’t enough of something for everyone to go around, I’d go without. Whispering was rude. Inviting myself anywhere was never okay. Excluding someone intentionally was not acceptable. Gossiping was bad manners. I was raised with sayings like: “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” “Be kind to strangers, and to those who appear to have less than you. For those who appear to have less, their hearts have more.” And, my personal favorite “Pretty is as pretty does.”

While walking into work, I hurried past an elderly woman who was being helped by what I am guessing was her daughter to the door. Once to the door, I stopped and held the door for them. The look of surprise on her face in that moment was incredible. Here I was a young able bodied woman quickly passing her by. In her mind, I was just going to blow through that door and leave her in my dust, possibly like others had done before. But, I didn’t, and I never would. Her smile, and exasperated thank you, affected me in two ways – it made me feel good to have helped her and sad that her faith in humanity had shattered so greatly that this act of general kindness was abnormal. 

The simple rules we were raised by seem irrelevant and non-existent to many. Offering a helping hand is too much to ask to those whose hands are full of selfishness. Making time for our children, and our families, is too demanding on a schedule filled by personal appointments that reek of empty moments that will amount to nothing when the hands of time can’t be rewound.

It is as if we have all lost sight of what is most important. We’ve lost the desire to care, to show compassion, to go above and beyond for a friend in need – to allow room for our loved ones and friends to make mistakes. We have created such an uptight and demanding society full of worthless objects and sentiments void of any real volume or validity. 

Living in a small town people here think they know someone because they have heard about them. They chastise and make a mockery of those whose lives are not their own, and whose choices do not affect their lives. They volley conversations about personal matters and misfortunes as general topics for enjoyment. Making remarks such as “Oh did you hear about so and so?” “Oh here look at this picture, or mugshot, can you believe it?”   Why is this acceptable? Why are we blindly passing judgment? Who do we think we are?

We have become obsessed and consumed with not only finding out but revealing everyone’s skeletons hidden in their closet – that we forget our closet has a few of our own. Are we the mean girls and bullies from high school, hanging posters with peoples pictures and labeled mistakes for enjoyment? Why is the benefit of the doubt and the golden rule being tossed away in a gutter without any real remorse or understanding for what we truly are losing.

How many people do you know of, verses know? People whom you don’t like or associate with, solely because of what you’ve heard of them? Who is really missing out there, you or them? In my opinion – you are at a loss and they are at a gain. Personally, I would not want the company of a person who wishes me well, but not that well. Or a friend who would rather calculate my value beginning with my past. If today you are a kind to me, and a good friend to me – I care not what you did yesterday or a year ago. 

Life is about making a difference, sharing a voice, loving, caring, and raising our children to do the same. When someone falls, you help them up. You don’t stare, point and laugh. What is that teaching our children?

Our society cares more about the why, than the who. We share judgment before giving the benefit of the doubt. We condemn and chastise rather than commend and praise. Our conversations are overflowing with condescending overtones instead of respectful dialogue. For what? What do we benefit from this? A rise out of someone, a battle of wits and distorted temporary feeling of superiority? If that is what you want, go for it honey! But, I am not interested.

I say we, because I know I am not innocent. I too fall have fallen victim at times. However, I’ve made mistakes, I have, both on a small scale and a large scale. But, I will never choose to dislike someone because someone else does, or told me to. Others misfortunes will never be a gain in my eyes, and it is my choice to not pass judgment where compassion could prevail. I dare you to do the same, and to get to know someone for who they are to you – and not their past or their mistakes that were made yesterday or the ones they will make tomorrow.  Mistakes are made from trying and they provide a lesson learned, and an experience gained. 

Pride means nothing without humility. A little respect and compassion goes a long way.

 

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.