Encountered Blessings


Valentine’s Day is a day to show love. This year as I started to think about the day my mind went straight to my stepmom sisters. A group of women who overflow with love and support for one another.

I wrote this Valentine for all the wonderful stepmoms out there to thank them for the love they show to one another. Whether it is on a blog, on Twitter, Facebook or in person… stepmom sisters are blessing each other.

A Valentine Poem for Stepmoms   stepmom love

You understand the journey and share your joys and sorrows

You never judge but listen and offer a loving word and hope for a better tomorrow

You love each other through the hard times

You share advice on how to achieve peace time

You make sure another stepmom never feels alone

You give love to another when it feels like there is none in their home

When a stepmom hasn’t been heard from in awhile

You reach out with a kind word, an offer to help, a gentle (virtual) smile

You validate one another’s joys and fears

You develop trust and gently tell one another what they really need to hear

You encourage

You inspire

You support

You are love

You are a gift!

You may not always have the best days but you will always be the best. On those days when you are down and feeling blue, please know your feelings are real and you are not alone. So many of us have shed the same tears and cried the same cries. We’ve wished for the same things and let go of the same dreams. Together we are stronger, smarter and wise.

You bless all those around you! Today on Valentine’s Day and everyday… please know you are love and you bring so much love to each other. Thanks for who you are and what you do.

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends.
~~~~~
Would you share how the stepmom community has positively impacted you?

Day 2: 30 Days in the StepMom Trenches

As a wife, ex-wife, mom and stepmom, I get tired and run down wearing all these different hats. Balancing all these roles are a blessing but also takes a lot of work. Sometimes by the end of the day,  I am wiped out and don’t have much left to give my husband. I recognize that is not fair to him. I love my husband beyond words and I made a promise when we married that I would intentionally nurture our relationship. 

But life happens and the job of stepmomhood can wear even the toughest woman down on days. With six kids and a busy schedule, I had to be honest with myself that I wasn’t doing the best job at “intentionally” communicating my love to my husband. As my husband’s birthday was approaching last month, I was thinking of ways to “spice things up” and ensure that I was keeping the romance alive.

Both my husband and I are romantics at heart and I’ve always put little love notes in his lunch and packed them for him on business trips but I wanted to go beyond that. I wanted to do something to surprise him!

I decided to go out of my “comfort zone” and pack some “sweat treats” in his lunch one day. I had picked up some “fun” coupons that had a scratch off center to reveal a sweet and romantic treat for my husband. Honestly, I had bought them a while ago but this was the first time I was going to use them. I had no idea what was under each scratch off, I just knew that it would give my husband something to think about at lunch besides work and give us both something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I was excited and nervous to pack it in his lunch the first day. I’m pretty conservative and these scratch off cards made me feel a bit naughty. I had written on the back with sharpie “redeem tonight for some fun!” and was carrying it down the steps in the AM to slip into his lunch that I was getting ready to pack.

As I walked into the kitchen that morning, I walked into the typical chaos of the morning. It was the morning fire drill of six kids getting ready for school. Three of the kids asked me to finish packing their lunches so they could try to find some things they needed for school. Deciding I would rather slap together a few pbj sandwiches and assemble some bags of pretzels over looking for matching socks (the bain of my existence) and gym uniforms, I gladly accepted. I put the coupon down.

The next 10 minutes were a blur and as I walked back into the kitchen from the bus stop I went to pack my husband’s lunch and put the coupon in it. But the coupon was not on the counter. Where was the coupon? I had put it down and set a stack of napkins on top so they wouldn’t see it. “Did I accidentally pack it in my kids lunch with the napkins? “Oh No,” I thought. “What if they find it in their lunch and scratch it off? Why do they all have to be such good readers?”

I scurried around lifting up piles of paper on the counters looking for it. No show. Different thoughts were running through my mind. “if one of the kids is going to get it, which one should I hope for? Do I go to the schools and ask to see each lunch box? How do I explain to the school secretaries that I need to examine my kids’ lunches?”

“Would I have to work through the guidance counselor?” He is a great guy but he’s also the same person who once referred to us as that “mixed up, I mean, mixed family.” “Oh, I have PTA tonight, if this story gets out I’ll be the talk of the meeting. I already get the stares…”  these are the thoughts that were racy through my mind.

Just then my husband wheels into the kitchen for his lunch and notices I’m a bit skittish. He can read me like a book and I fess up my surprise to him. He is a little shocked yet happy with what I was going to include. He then starts laughing and is thankful that I’m stressed out over losing the coupon and not over something one of his kids did. Only in a stepfamily.

We look together and I decide to put a new “coupon” in his lunch even though he knows about it.

He leaves for work and I continue to clean the kitchen and scour the house for that long lost love coupon. The phone rings and my thoughts race to the school but it is my husband. He asks “did you ever find the other coupon?” “No,” I reply. “Well, I couldn’t stand the suspense so I scratched off the one you gave me. Do you want to know what it says?” he asked.

“Do I?” I replied

“Lets just say it involves movies and role playing. Where did you buy these?” he asked.

“OMG. Well, hopefully if the kids get it they’ll think they can film made up commercials on my flip-cam. They love putting on silly plays and shows,” I thought to myself.

Needless to say that after I hung up with my husband, I did find the coupon. Thankfully, it did not go to school. Somehow I stuck it under our large calculator. Truly don’t remember doing that.

Lesson from this stepmom trench: It’s important to intentionally love your spouse. As stepmoms we need to nurture the flame in our marriage and do fun things for and with our husband. The key is to make sure you plan and don’t have any open lunch boxes and love notes in the same vicinity.

My challenge to you: Do something today that screams “I love you” to your spouse!

Enjoy!

Today, I  embark on a 30 day journey referred to as National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo (I can never pronounce it). I’ll be blogging once a day for the next 30 days. I have to credit Alissa from HaveStroller for my participation. Her friendship is the best thing to have come out of BlogHer10. It was my first blogging conference and I didn’t know a soul but met Alissa the first night and we’ve stayed in touch. She is a person of true character and integrity who has passion for helping others and one cute little dude at home. Alissa is not a stepmom but she grew up in a stepfamily and has been a source of inspiration for me.

Having said that, I love a good challenge and typically can’t turn one down so when Alissa threw this at me, I said yes without much research. I asked her if there is a particular theme or a topic we are supposed to write on each day. While the answer is no, Alissa is using her challenge as 30 days of Paying It Forward. Did I mention how much I respect her?  

So I thought I’m going to use mine as 30 days of sharing Stepfamily Shorts: stories and blessings from the land of stepmomhood. I’ll share personal stories of my life in the stepmom trenches.

I know that as a stepmom we draw strength in knowing we are not alone on our journey. For the next 30 days, I’ll be sharing personal stories about what is going on in my life. Some may make you laugh, others may make you cry and some may leave you with much to ponder. One will probably leave you itchy as I describe how Lice made us a close “nit” family. Yes, you read it right and there is no turning back now.

My true hope is that each story will help you feel connected. Connected to this crazy journey we are on together.

It can become so easy to dwell on some of the trials we face in our role yet I believe we all have good in our lives and focusing on those little blessings may help us realize that they aren’t so little after all. Finding the good in the not so good is important for keeping hope alive especially during any dark times we may go through.

Often our greatest treasures are those small, sweet tender moments in our lives. We can be in such a rush to reach the end goal line of a big, happy stepfamily that we miss the small victories that really create and contribute to our thriving blended family.

My hope is to slow life down the next 30 days. Focus on the blessings in each day and share those with you in hopes that you too can focus on the small things that bring you great joy. I would love for you to share along with me.

Hope you’ll join me by reading along and sharing your blessings too. Don’t forget to check out my friend Alissa’s blog and Jen from Hey’Yall who is also participating in NaBlogPoMo.

 

Last week, I had the fortune of spending five days in sunny San Diego. By myself. Yes, that could be a post in and of it self because I did not feel one ounce of guilt going to San Diego. This is not how I would have traveled four years ago. Back then, I would have had to pay extra for the second suitcase of guilt I would have checked with customer service for doing something without the kids.

Barb, Myself, Lisa, Debra at BlogHer11

So there I was in grown up clothes that were neatly pressed and crumb free at BlogHer11 which is an amazing conference for bloggers. Among the over 3,600 women in attendance I had the fortune of meeting up with women of whom I respect and admire for their contribution to the stepmom and co-parenting arena. When we actually met, I felt like I had known them for years from all the sharing we had done through our blogs, on Twitter, interviews on the StepMom Connection webshow and some phone conversations. These women are authentic and wonderful!

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Barb of Evil StepMom Speaks, Lisa of  HersHisandOurs, Deesha of CoParenting101, Diana of A Life Well Blended and Debrae who is going to be launching a blog soon (I’ll let you know when). I also met a non stepmom, Colleen of MommyAlwaysWins who was bravely checking out our stepblogger room of your own at Blogher.

Meeting these wonderful women was a true blessing and further fueled my passion for creating a strong community of positive thinking stepmoms. Each one of us has a different story. Each one of us is in a different stage of stepmothering. Each one of us cares deeply for all stepmothers and the children they love and care for.

In addition to these wonderful women, I met countless stepmoms who were attending the conference. Many of these women spoke with me at length about my site only to tell me in  a whisper at the end of the conversation “actually, I’m a stepmom too!”

Stepmoms are all around us but they don’t wear Tshirts shouting I am a stepmom (although I do know where you can get some:). Barb and I were talking about how often we talk with women only to have them “admit” at the end of our conversation that they are a stepmom and it’s usually in that same ol’ whisper.

I have found that the response I get when I tell someone what I do for a living and the type of blog I run, falls into one of three categories:

Mainly, I get Oohhhhh! Those long, drawn out oohhhhs usually come from non stepmoms whose children either have a stepmom that the woman doesn’t care for or they just have a stereotypical view of stepmoms. They are always polite and kind but I get the feeling that they think they are going to catch the “stepmom bug” from me.

Secondly, I get Ooh! In an excited way and they seem interested but don’t tell me that they are a stepmom til the end of the conversation and then they want to share their horror story and seek advice. These are typically newer stepmoms and/or stepmoms who are in the middle of a very tough stepfamily situation.

Thirdly, I get Wow! That’s great!. This response mainly comes from veteran stepmoms who indicate that they wish they would have had online support when they started out “15 years ago”. These women have stayed the course and they are all about the high fives and support.

So, why all the Oohs??? I think its because our culture still has a negative view of stepmoms. And because of that, many stepmoms don’t feel comfortable saying out loud what they are feeling inside. There seems to be a fear of judgement for some stepmoms. Its when they know for sure you will not judge them for their stepmom role that they open up, share and seek connection.

Meeting fellow stepbloggers was pure joy. We shared our personal stories and our missions for helping stepmoms. We talked about how we can support one another. We laughed and we cried. We connected. We created community in that stepblogger room of our own. There was no judgement. There was no competition. There was only community!

Deesha and Me at BlogHer11

I want the conversation that we all shared to be extended to all stepmoms. I want stepmoms to feel free to express their joys and their struggles without fear of judgement.

Lisa and I spoke about how we all want the stepmom community to be where the mom community now is which is a place where we can feel free to share our hearts without fear of being judged or fitting into the “evil stepmother” persona that Mr. Disney created decades ago.

On Tuesday, August 9th, Matt Lauer on The Today Show was covering a story about a man who was ordered to take down his blog about his “psycho ex-wife” as the couple was embittered in a custody battle. Matt made a comment to the effect that this judge must not look at blogs, because they are all about the negative and untruths.

Au contraire, mon frère Mr. Lauer. On the contrary, I am proud of the work that many stepmothers are doing to demystify the “wicked stepmom persona” and offer support through personal stories and encouragement. I just met some of those stepmoms in San Diego.

Stepmoms often live under the lens of false judgement of society. Our positive community is important because as stepmoms, we don’t judge each other. We listen, support and encourage one another. Personally, I may not agree with another stepmom’s choice but I will NEVER judge her character. There is no cookie cutter way to be anything in this life we live.

That’s one of the beautiful things about our community. Our stepmom community is about support not judgement.

What response do you get when tell someone you are a stepmom? Do you feel judged because of the role you play in your home? Have you benefited from the community of positive stepmothers that social media has allowed us to create? Have any of you thought about starting your own blog about the job of stepmotherhood? Please Share.

Last week, I tweeted that I was unplugging for a few days to spend time with my husband. What I didn’t mention is that he was taking me to Switzerland for a long weekend alone. The plan was for us to fly to Zurich and then I would fly home on Sunday, April 18th and he would take the train to Paris for work.

My first trip to Europe with my amazing husband and there is a volcano in Iceland!

It was scary being stranded there and not knowing when air travel would resume. The airport was taking it day by day in terms of whether they knew if air space would be open and closed. It was the not knowing that was so unsettling.

I sent out a request for prayers from friends near and far and also sent an email to our local radio station 95.5 The Fish.  They actually read my email on air and asked for prayers from listeners.

We were put on a flight the next day and the following is the email I sent them.  I will blog about our travels in the next few days and the many lessons I learned but for now I am hugging my kids tight and enjoying being on American soil.

Here goes my note:

Praise God, we are home from Switzerland! I am writing to thank you and your listeners with tears in my eyes. I literally felt the Lord’s peace the whole time we were trying to get out. Even though my heart ached to see my children I knew God would see us home. We are so blessed to have had so many people praying for our safe and timely return.

The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful and devoted husband. We were going to the airport everyday and yesterday we went again. Swiss airspace had opened for a short window yesterday am. We went to the airport hoping to get on but unfortunately the United plane was not there to take us home. One of the agents we had met was a mom and she so felt for me. United was putting all the people in line on standby to take an Air Canada flight home. But when I looked at my ticket she had actually given me a seat number – i was going home. My husband had pleaded with her that he wanted me home at the least and would sacrifice himself and stay if he could just get me home. I am humbled and in awe of his love for me.

I stood in line waiting, humbled by my husband’s love and God’s strength. I prayed in a mighty way that the Lord would take us home together. Then they announced my husband’s name over the speaker. He went to the desk and was given a seat number – we were going home together. We had the last seats on the plane. While on the flight the crew announced that they had reclosed some European airspace. We had gotten out in a small window. I know it was by God’s grace and mercy that we are home and by the love and prayers of our Grace Church in MH and our “fish family” in Cleveland.

Words can never express how I felt when I walked on American soil and what it felt like to kiss my children. I am truly humbled that you all prayed for us and cannot thank you enough.

Sending you all our love and thanks. You have helped bring a family back together. I will continue to pray for all the people who are yet to go home. God’s blessing to you all. He is our rock on which we stand!

In His Grip Forever, Heather and Andy

Hershey’s Chocolate. Just the word Hershey takes me back to my childhood. For me, the sweet memories of childhood are sprinkled with the great taste of Hershey Kisses.

I’ll never forget the time my parents took us to Hershey Park in Hershey,PA. It was the summer I left for college and I loved the time I got to spend with my family. It was our last true family vacation together. Every  time I see a Hershey Kiss I recall that wonderful time.

One way I pass that love on to my kids is to put a Hershey Kiss in their lunchbox on random occasions. A little token of my love while they are at school. A reminder that they are loved and that I cherish their sweetness and always will.

I want to thank Kristy Campell for giving me this wonderful opportunity to take part in this very worthwhile campaign from Hershey’s.  

Hershey’s Better Basket Blog Hop for charity is a way for bloggers to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. Hershey’s will donate $10 to Children’s Miracle Network for each post in the blog hop that contains a virtual Easter Basket.

To pay this generous offer from Hershey’s forward I am sending this Virtual Easter Basket to my new Twitter friends:   @3pugsandbaby, @kt_writes, @thejennypincher, @mayhemandmoxie, @TeamDuffTweets, @kellyburton, @HowToSimplify, @AmieKanen

In order to keep the Hershey’s Better Basket Blog Hop for Charity going, write a short post to Pay It Forward – and be sure to follow these simple rules:

* Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.


* Create a blog post of giving a virtual Easter Basket to another   blogger – you can give as many Virtual Baskets as you want.


* Link back to person who gave you an Easter Basket.


* Let each person you are giving a Virtual Easter Basket know you have given them a Basket.


* Leave your link at http://betterbasket.info/bloghop/ where you can also find the official rules of this #betterbasket blog hop and more information about Better Basket with Hershey’s.


* Hershey’s is donating $10 per each blog participating to the Better Basket Blog Hop to Children’s Miracle Network (up to total of $5,000 by blog posts written by April 4th, 2010).


* Please note that only one blog post by each blog url will count towards the donation.

So the question came up again on Friday, “mom why do you have a different last name than me?”  “Are you still my mom?” asked my six-year old daughter. With tears in my own eyes, I looked into her beautiful brown eyes filled with tears and said “always and forever” as I scooped her into my arms for a big bear hug.

 My 8 year-old stepdaughter who is going through a lot right now with the absence of her biological mother, told my little one that I wasn’t her mom anymore because I didn’t have the same last name. She told my little one that I was her (meaning my stepdaughter’s) real mom now because we both shared the same last name. Imagine the confusion and hurt in my little one’s heart.

The decision seemed so easy when my husband and I got married nearly 3 years ago. I didn’t’ even hesitate, of course I would take his name. I had never really considered a last name to ever really belong to a woman anyway. We are born with our father’s last name. We marry and take our husband’s last name. So for me, Heather is the name I most identify with. And it wasn’t that I didn’t think about how my kids would feel about me changing my name, it’s just that I knew I would always be their devoted mother to my dying day regardless of the last name I wore.  And I chose to change my last name out of respect for my new husband.  I didn’t want to bear my ex-spouse’s last name when I said “I do” to my husband.

I’ve gotten the name question before from my older kids. I explained to them why I made my choice and they seemed to understand. And when I go to their classroom and help out or if their friends come over and I’m called Mrs. B, I never correct them. I know who I am. I don’t need a last name to define me.

But getting the question from my little one with the look on her face really made my heart ache.  Even more than that, it hurt me to know that my SD said that to her.  To me that was malicious.  I know that she yearns for the return of an emotionally healthy bio mom and I know she is jealous of my children because of how often they see their dad. But no excuse for such cruel intentions.

So, I just held my little one and assured her over and over that I was her mom and I have always and will always love her. I whispered in her ear all the things I love about her. I asked her if she believed I was her mom. She hugged me so tight around the neck and said “Yes. Mommy I love you from the top of the sky to the bottom of the clouds plus 1,000.”  When she says that I know she loves me and I knew we were okay.

It still hurts to think we even had to have that conversation. But being in a stepfamily isn’t easy. Being in any family isn’t easy. I guess one of the lessons I continue to learn is to address issues head on and use them as teaching moments. I got to use that conversation to reinforce just how much I love my

daughter. I then had a similar conversation with my other kids to see how they were feeling. I hugged my kids a little more and a little tighter that day. Something good did come of it!

How did you handle “the name game” when you married? How do your kids feel?

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