Daily Cup of Encouragement


Yes. You read the title correctly. But before you swear off my blog forever in disgust, read on to find out what I mean by the title.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I am preparing to share small tokens of love with my family. I usually make homemade cards for my kids with a corny poem and purchase my husband a small, sentimental gift. This year, I bought a copy of the first movie we ever watched together.  As I’m making my love list and checking it twice, my stepkids’ bio mom popped into my head. Maybe I should send her a card – an olive branch.  I’ve never met the woman, the only verbal exchanges have been me answering the phone and handing it to my stepdaughters. There was that one brief conversation where I congratulated her on the birth of her baby and she gave me the website to have my stepdaughters look at their “new sister” online (their reaction is a whole ‘nother blog)

So, I kept asking myself why am I thinking of her? Why would I ever consider sending her a card? Was it the egg rolls from last night? Humm!  Then it came to me. My stepdaughters are dying inside. I see that small death every day. They haven’t seen their bio mom in over four years by her own choice. They love me but they ache to see their mom. To know they are loved by their mom. To know that they are wanted by their mom.  While I do not agree with the choices their mom has made, I do not bad mouth her to the kids. But it is tearing me up inside to see the consequences of her abandonment on the girls. My 8 SD is not doing well. She has ADHD and a slew of other emotional disorders and every time she talks to her mom, her anxiety gets ramped up and with it so does her challenging behavior. Their mom does call on occasion. And with every call, with every time they hear her voice they are reminded that she is several states away with her new family and they are here, without her.

I’m digressing. Back to the card idea.  I am thinking of throwing on my coat and running to Hallmark to pick up a card – a peace offering – a I’ll take the first step to connect with you kind of thing in hopes you’ll connect positively with the girls.  But then reality hits — who sells cards for a stepmom to send to her stepkid’s bio mom who she’s never met.  So I was thinking of making her a card. I’m crafty and hey, I’ve got a Cricut here collecting dust.  Here are a few of my attempts:

Attempt 1:      

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You are so screwed up

I’m glad I’m not you.

While it expresses my sentiments, this one won’t give me much mileage on the road to connecting. (I give it points for being fun, easy, and therapeutic to think up)

Attempt 2:

On Valentine’s Day, I can’t help but think of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and how you have massacred your daughters’ hearts. You should thank me for being here to pick up the pieces and mend their broken spirits.

To violent. Not enough cheer.

Attempt 3:

What were you thinking leaving your ex-husband. He is the greatest person I have ever met in my life. He blesses me every second of every day just by being him. On second thought, thanks for messing up.  I have really benefited from your huge mistake.

Better suited for a thank you card.

Attempt 4:

I would like to offer you my friendship. I believe the girls will benefit from us getting along. I hope that we can work together to help the girls grow into the wonderful women we both know they are destined to become.  I’m available if you ever want to talk….

 

All kidding aside, I don’t know if I’ll send her a card or not but it has really been on my heart to connect with her lately. She has done some terrible things to my husband and the girls but her and I do not have a history. Am I the bridge to bring her and her daughters together?  Should I even try?  On this topic ladies, I would appreciate any and all advice and encouragement you can offer.

I have to admit, writing the card sentiments was fun. Post your card and sentiments to your stepkids’ bio mom here! It’s therapeutic and you never have to send them.

“The man who forgets to be grateful has fallen asleep in life.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

 

At first, this quote made me think that this guy never knew a stepmom. We might get stuck in ungrateful ruts but we certainly are not sleeping.  But then I took a step back and reevaluated his words.  Stevenson is dead on. When we stop being grateful for what we have and start dwelling on life’s negatives, then we are missing out on life.  We are sleeping through the good stuff.

 

As stepmoms, we have a tough load to bear. We deal with ex-spouses, stepkids, our own kids, our in-laws, our out-laws and our husband’s out-laws, busy schedules, and the list goes on. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking about how much we take on each day and how exhausted we may become.  But if we truly think about it, we all have much to be grateful for.  We just have to open our eyes, ears and hearts to see everything. And stop focusing on the negatives.

 

Do you put on your dark shades when you wake up in the morning or do you look at the day through thankful eyes? I want to sincerely encourage you to look for the light and the love in each situation and to banish anger and bitter thoughts from your mind.  I know some of you are in very challenging situations and I am not trying to minimize what you are going through. I am trying to give you a different perspective to help you manage through the day. Looking at the day’s events with a thankful heart can be difficult at times but an attitude of gratitude can change your perspective on life.

 

We can be the most positive wife, mom and stepmom we can be if we choose to be a grateful woman. We are the heart of our family and therefore our attitude is reflected in those around us, especially in our husband and children. And how great will it make our husbands and children feel, to consistently be a positive force in their lives. What a great gift to give your spouse, your children and yourself. I am a firm believer that the quality of our lives depends on the way we view our lives. That half-full/half-empty theory is really true.

 

And trust me when I say that I have to make a conscious decision everyday to look at my life with gratitude.  It doesn’t always come easy for me. My stepdaughters have not seen their BM in over 4 years and it is very painful for them. When I see their pain and listen to them cry and question, I have to choose to model positive behavior and encourage them to focus on the positives in their lives. I also have to look at the situation with their BM and say thank you for the opportunity to show another person grace because if I didn’t look at it that way, I would get angry. I have let my anger over that situation stew inside me in the past and I don’t want the root of bitterness to take hold of me which can happen when we allow our minds to focus on the negative. I have a choice and I choose to be thankful for what I do have and not focus on the negatives that their BM bears. Not an easy choice but a necessary one.

 

Will you choose to look at your life with an attitude of gratitude?  Will you focus on the good around you and seek to change, not dwell on, the negative forces in your life?  I offer this challenge to you – for the next 5 days, please choose to embrace each day with a positive attitude no matter what is thrown your way. Let me know how it goes. 

Could it be possible? Could I allow myself some me time… and not feel guilty? Oh, the thought of a place all to myself even for just a few minutes a week sounds heavenly. Just saying those three words – my personal sanctuary – brings a sense of renewal to my being. The idea of having my own space that is all mine and where I can be completely alone is incredible and I thought, unrealistic.

 

Last night, I listened to Peggy Nolan of thestepmomstoolbox.com and Erin of stepchicks.com interview author and fellow smom, Jacquelyn Fletcher.  It was a great discussion broadcasted via the internet and you can listen to it from their websites. They shared some great ideas for all stepmoms and newbies, in particular.

 

One idea that has really resonated with me is the idea of having a personal sanctuary that you can go to when you want to or need to recharge yourself. The idea has been on my mind ever since last night. I have given myself “time outs” in the past but the idea of a physical location in my home that is only for me is just plain awesome. I have secretly longed to have me time in the house where I could be alone, and undisturbed and recharge but I always felt it was selfish and the few times I did take time for myself, I felt so guilty.

 

BUT NOT ANYMORE!!!  I recognize I not only want that time, I need that time and my family needs for me to have that time to myself. I will be a better wife, mom and smom when I give myself permission to just be.  That space and time will recharge me and make me ready to face the daily chaos (that I love).

 

I’m all about thinking positive.  Being a stepmom is a blessing but the other reality of that role, as you other smoms know, is that being a stepmom is also challenging, frustrating and exhausting at times both physically and emotionally. We all have rough days. And that is okay. The key is to recognize them and take steps to fell better. I have a lot of positive strategies in my arsenal and now I have just added another – the personal sanctuary. 

 

I’m starting work on it tonight. With six kids, we are out of rooms to use so the location is the basement and the walls will be wardrobe boxes from the move but it will be my place. The kids don’t like going down to the basement but I think I’ll be able to overlook the spiders and cement walls when I’m all by myself. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

 

What about creating your own personal sanctuary?

This year I decided I wasn’t going to make any new year resolutions. Instead, I made a list of commitments for 2010.  Every year prior, I would resolve to loose a few pounds and get organized and I realized as I was making the same resolutions year after year, I wasn’t exactly sticking to “the plan.”

 

As everyone does, I look at each new year as a new beginning. A new start and a great time to enhance the things I like about myself and change the things I do not.

 

So I decided that using the word commitment instead of resolution makes it more firm and grounded. I am committed to these things I listed. I found when I started writing out the things I wanted to commit to doing this year, the list was long. But they are things that I want to do and I’m the type of person that once I commit to doing something, I do follow through. Thus, I am keeping my long list and posting it in my bathroom and home office where I can remind myself daily of the new commitments I have made to myself, my family and my friends.

 

Here’s my list of 2010 Commitments (in no particular order):

 

Putting the kids to bed will be more “efficient”.

 

Joke less with my mom. Find new ways to connect with her.

 

Arrange a sitter at least once a month for me and my husband to go out on a date.

 

Find creative ways to spend one on one time with my kids

 

Grow a community of smoms. Offer encouragement and gain encouragement from others.

 

Let go of the little things. Find the joy not happiness in life.

 

Make sure those I love, know I love them. Everyday.

 

Eat healthy. Forgive myself when I don’t.

 

Write to Bukuri monthly. (Our sponsor child of 4 years through World Vision)

 

Let God lead my life. Trust in Him for the big and small things. There is a reason for everything. Be okay when I don’t understand the whys of life.

daily cup challenge: Write down what you want to commit yourself to this year. Then stick to it. You can do it. I know you can!

The new year is fast approaching. A time when we all reflect on the past year and usually dwell on the mistakes we’ve made or the tough times we’ve been through. 

This year, I want to extend a challenge to you to reflect on the past year and think about what you’ve learned that you can apply to your future. What new insights have you gained?  What do you want to continue doing?  What do you want to do differently?  If you think about things that have been frustrating, I want you to focus on the reason for the frustration and brainstorm solutions. 

We are all human and therefore we all make mistakes and we all get frustrated. Think of your mistakes and/or frustrations as an opportunity to learn and to grow as a woman and as a smom and mom.  Our blended family dynamic automatically adds challenges that other families don’t have. So don’t expect to sail through any year without a few tears and scars but use those tears and scars to build a better tomorrow.

Remember – you are the heart of your blended family. Your love and devotion is reflected in your husband and children.

 

Daily Cup Challenge – think back over 2009 and how you can use the year’s tougher times to have a great 2010!  You can do it!  I know you can.

“He who hunts for flowers will find flowers; and he who loves weeds will find weeds.”

-          Henry Ward Beecher

 

I want to cement this quote in my brain to remind me what path to take each time the opportunity arises for me to choose whether to hunt flowers or weeds.  So often as smoms, we are faced with this choice of hunting flowers or weeds.  We can focus on the things that are challenging in our blended family and that usually leads us to feeling frustrated, tired and hopeless. Or we can choose to focus on the things that are blossoming in our blended families and feel uplifted, encouraged and loved.

 

I know that I went through a season where I felt weighed down by all the things that were hard. And the more I allowed my mind to harbor those thoughts, the worse I began to feel. And as I always try to give my family a sweet disposition, I realized that fixating on those things that are challenging was not allowing me to have a sweet disposition.  I then began to let go of the little things that I was allowing to bother me and think only of the things that were positive; my marriage, how the kids were getting along (most of the time), my friends and family.  What I realized once I started to only think of lovely things was that the annoying things didn’t seem so annoying anymore.

 

This isn’t to say that I don’t get upset. I do. My feelings still get hurt and my heart still aches whenever my kids or my husband is hurt. But what I’ve learned is to allow my self to be upset, work through the issue and then let it go. Just as you would throw away weeds after they’ve been picked, I am learning to throw away my negative feelings and leave them in the trash can. It is a learning process to do this but one that has already yielded a beautiful garden of hope.

 

The daily cup challenge: choose to hunt flowers today!!!

“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”  Proverbs 3:18 NLT

We all make mistakes, especially when it comes to parenting and step parenting.  Don’t dwell on a mistake that you feel you made.  Examine your heart and know that you are doing the best you can do right now. Forgive yourself and use the mistake as a teaching moment – an opportunity to gain wisdom and insight. Transform information gained into new found wisdom. 

You can apply this same technique to all the kids in your family. When one of your kids makes a poor choice, talk with them about what happened. Forgive them if it is related to you and use the conversation as a teaching opportunity.  This will help your child gain insight and make better choices in the future it AND it will draw you closer together.

“A good laugh is sunshine in a house.” - William Makepeace Thackeray.

Laughter is free and so good for you. When is the last time you laughed?  When is the last time you all laughed as a family?  Focus today on what makes you laugh and get your husband and kids to laugh.  You can all share silly jokes at dinner or watch a funny family flick tonight.  Sometimes the best medicine for a long day of juggling in your blended family is to curl up with your husband on the couch and pop in a hilarious comedy and just laugh together.   Make sure you laugh with your children and your husband. Your smile and giggles will brighten their day. Most importantly, don’t forget to laugh at yourself!

Share with us what works in your family? How do you drive those giggles out of the kids?  Do you find that more laughter equals more harmony in your home? Is laughter really the best medicine for you?

Let’s face it – we all need encouragement. As a smom, you know that keeping positive is vital to harmony in your home.  Recently, I heard a speaker who told of a story where she was standing in line at an Enterprise car rental at the airport with her kid.  They had been flying all day and everyone was worn out. While they were in line, her littlest one started to have a huge meltdown.  She picked him up and tried to console her son while watching her other kids. She admitted to feeling like a failure at that moment. She felt that all eyes were on her. Judging her and her kids.  Just then a lady walked by and said “Keep it up mom. You are doing a great job.” 

 

A perfect stranger encouraged this mom and made a difference in her spirit.  How many times do we see smoms and moms struggling in similar situations?  How many times do we call a friend only to hear she is having a difficult day?  These are opportunities to encourage. To lift up. To validate that your heart is were it should be and you are doing a great job. A few positive words can make such a difference in someone’s day. And by encouraging another, you’ll feel good about yourself.

 

As smoms, we need to give ourselves permission to have a bad day but we can’t make the mistake of dwelling in it.  I am going to tell you again and again – You are valued. You are loved. You are wonderful.  I want you to tell yourself that each and every day and I want you to share that news with other smoms and moms.

 

Don’t ever loose sight of the fact that you are doing a tough job – raising someone’s children. And don’t forget that the reason you became a smom is because you love your husband. Let that love be an encouragement to you each and every day.

My husband and I have found that humor can really carry us through some challenging times with the kids.  My husband is very witty and comes up with these clever ways to refer to things that only a blended family could relate to.

For example, one of my favorites is “detox day”.  Detox day refers to when your kids come back from the ex’s house (usually after being gone a few days or the weekend). I have nothing bad to say about my ex and this isn’t a slam on ex-spouses.  But let’s face it, typically there are different rules in each home and if the kids are at the other parent’s home and get less sleep, more sugar and less rules – they typically don’t come home ready to jump into the more rule oriented home that we run.

 

So, when my kids are dropped off and they all four storm in the house and my one son runs across the carpet in his muddy shoes while my other son announces that his sister hates him and my oldest runs right up to her room and the youngest just sits on the floor and cries because her dad gave her socks with holes – my husband and I look at each other and say “detox day” and smile.  We redefine our rules, give the kids a little extra grace detoxing, we lower our expectations a bit and we are thankful above all else that we are all together under one roof.

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