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Monday, January 16, 2017

What's Your Connection Cue?

Our home is a busy one and I'm sure that yours is, too.  Life is full and hectic, which makes it very easy for married couples to become task-oriented rather than relationship-focus.  I myself get fixated on too many details and schedules, when I would rather focus on connections that last.

Because of this, it's so very easy to fall into the tag-team pattern of running a household and parenting where I take care of one thing and Mr. Wonderful deals with another, so that we operate in parallel worlds.  It works for functionality, but the connection and personality gets starved from our relationship.  I've lived in a marriage like that before and I am vigilant against allowing that pattern to creep into our home.

So we have little rituals that remind us that we are more than the grown-ups responsible for the housework and maintenance of life.  We are two people madly in love a devoted to one another for life, not just someday when the to-do lists are done, but right now in the crazy and madness of all that requires our attention.  I want Mr. Wonderful to know he is my priority.  He is more important than dishes or laundry or bills or the best show I can find on tv.

So after the children are tucked into bed (and sometimes before they even get there when our schedule gets crazy), Mr. Wonderful and I site together on the couch and just let ourselves relax.  Often, I find myself giving him a little foot rub or neck massage.  I can feel him let go of the daily cares and the physical act of touching brings an intimate connection that is so satisfying.  In this brief interaction, often just ten minutes or so, we move from coworkers managing life into partners pursuing each other.  It signals loud and clear that while I must cook and clean, I choose to connect.

This has been the most obvious connection cue, but I notice there are others throughout the day.  That moment in the mornings where we pause during the mad-dash and embrace, kiss and move on to our individual schedules.  The quick call or text as we move through individual itineraries.  So much of life inevitably pulls a couple apart.  We must find a way to intentional draw closer to one another and remain connected.  There are many ways to do this and much freedom for creativity.  For us, it's a simple cuddle as we shift from corporate warrior and home manager into a couple who are simply satisfied in each others' company.  What is your connection cue? Me? I rub feet.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easing Into January

It is the season for yearly thoughts of looking forward and looking back.

I am grateful that we are able to slowly ramp back into our regular routine.  This continued week of a lax schedule reminds me of how much my children need unscheduled downtime.  I do believe this is more true for children who move between two homes.  There is added chaos and disruption to their lives and routines, so additional recovery and downtime is so helpful.  The extended winter break is a gift this year.

At one point, it was warm enough to be out with no jackets.
I've been back to my normal work schedule most of the week and the children have been home.  Mr. Wonderful has been in his home-office much of the week and my step daughters are home, too.  It's been a week of much-treasured togetherness.

Sometimes, the lack of routine, travel and extra-togetherness brings conflict, drama plus extra noise and hassle.  Thankfully, things have been different this year.  I've gotten to read and look over the aspirations I had for 2016.  New goals are rising in priority and lots of thinking about what is working and what is not.  I usually solidify my ambitions by the time my birthday rolls around in February.  There is always plenty of stopping and starting.

Mr. Wonderful received a new TV for Christmas - we are using it!
I hope that 2017 is already treating you well!  It's snowing just now and I foresee a weekend of additional togetherness and warm snuggles...and soup!  It's just that kind of day.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 

from our very imperfect family.  

Joy is available, even in difficulty.
God is good, even when we don't understand.
I will choose to trust Him when it seems impossible.
Love is so much better than bitterness.
Come quickly, Lord. Our weary world waits.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:11

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Second Marriage Christmas Perks

I'm still grateful to feel that second marriage is not second best and I'm so glad I risked trying again.  The holidays, especially Christmas, bring complicated feelings as we deal with memories with a previous partner, maintaining the traditions we value, sharing children with another home, and many other conflicting and complex feelings.

But, there is also a chance to connect in a meaningful way during this time of magnified emotions.  This week my children are spending time with their dad, with all the excitement of a new home and school letting out and I hate to miss it.  I really do.  So I have to acknowledge the grief that lives along with the joys in my life.  It's not my life, it really just is the way of living in our fallen world.  I have so, so much for which to be grateful that it would be selfish to dwell in the negatives.  Being sad and grateful at the same time is a real thing.

  • Create your own traditions - Just you and your spouse.  For us, that means attending Christmas Eve service together then driving around to see lights.  Christmas morning we will be unrushed as we head to church and then to the Apple Barn Restaurant.  I just know Mr. Wonderful will make me coffee and we will laugh together as we anticipate the return of all our children.

  • Make your spouse a priority - It's so easy for the children to steal all your attention at Christmastime.  Their schedules, their wish-list, their preferences get the spotlight.  Plan something for just your husband like a back rub or special dinner.  Ask him what he wants to do with your time alone together and just go with it, instead of having a 'better' plan.  Give him your undivided focus while you can because those kiddos and their lives will dominate the home again soon.

  • Let go of the ideal - There is an ache that will not go away, even when you are enjoying sweet moments of the season.  There is a longing for the dream that you once had prior to divorce.  But don't let your past steal the joy from your present.  Look for the bright spots at every opportunity.

  • Camaraderie with the Hurting - It's so easy to get wrapped up in my own life, I'm sure the same is true for you.  But my wounds make me so much more aware of the wounds others bear, both near and far.  I'm learning to treasure time to consider how I may help another and to pray for refugees, leaders, and those around me who are hurting.  Awareness is a huge gift.  Even when I share here, my eyes are opened to so many experiencing their own kind of imperfect Christmas.  There was a time I couldn't relate, but now I get to share my burden and help bear the pain of others.  This is a gift.

I love being married to Mr. Wonderful.  The times we share together often seem stolen and limited.  So this unhurried week of fun is a special treat!  Remember, second marriages don't have the same "honeymoon" period as newlyweds in a first marriage.  There are complications, children, exes and many other distractions.  So, when you have time without those stressors, embrace the gift!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Blues - When You Are Apart From Your Children at Christmas

When I tucked the children into bed last night, I knew it was the last time I would do so before Christmas, since they are spending this week with their dad.  It never stops feeling unnatural for them to have a home apart from me and I always feel sadness at the thought.  Their father and I work to co-parent fairly and their stepdad (Mr. Wonderful) is so kind to encourage them to have fun and enjoy their other home.  But having limited time is challenging on all of us and there are dark days in December.

So, I'm trying to remember the positives.  Afterall, I can think of countless mothers who have wished for a few hours of extra time to catch up, especially during the holidays.  I will be able to get the house in order.  Complete the wrapping of gifts.  Shop for our food and travel needs.  Enjoy quiet time with the Lord.  Spend special time with my husband. I'll work some extra hours and even try to catch up with friends.

When I make the list and see the things I can do, it helps me have a better attitude about what I will miss.  These are the painful and ongoing realities of divorce.  I will acknowledge the pain, the loss and then focus on the positives.  My children are healthy and privileged.  I will still see them everyday at school programs
and parties plus other Christmas plans.  We have already made sweet memories and enjoyed the traditions of baking cookies, gingerbread houses, silly games and more.  There is so much good, that to focus on what we miss is simply selfish.

Being without your children on Christmas morning seems almost unthinkable and most of my friends can't even imagine it.  I've come a long way from that first Christmas after divorce.  The longing has truly helped me to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and why we have it in the first place.  Holidays without my children are painful, and I used to believe that where there was pain, there was no joy.  I've learned to accept the joy and celebrate, even when things aren't perfect.

Christmas is less than one week away.  I feel better having acknowledged the grief but I'm choosing not to lose my joy.  Tonight I will watch my youngest in a Christmas performance - he's so proud to have a speaking part.  Tomorrow I'll go ice skating for a one-on-one with my son. There will be Christmas parties at school and on Christmas Eve the get to come home for a  few hours and we'll have homemade soup and hang our stockings.  We will enjoy one another while we look forward to Christmas Day when we gather together once again as a family.  I can't wait!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Modern Family Holiday Helps

From dealing with your ex to embracing new traditions, Christmas time brings out the wonderful and the woeful.  I hope that you find a way to cast your gaze on the goodness that abounds in this season and let go of the frustrations that drag you down.  The calendar can get a crazy and finances may turn into a fiasco.  Try to notice the many points of light and joy, even in the hectic times.  Capture some precious memories while running through the holiday paces.

It's okay if not every ornament makes it to your tree this year.  If you don't have time to put the lights outside, that's alright, I skipped it, too, but we really enjoyed a trip to the local light show.  I'm not sure when we might do our holiday baking, but we have enjoyed seasonal candy treats.  The memories are the moments more than the activities.  It not just one day that makes the season, the longing and shuffle are part the tradition.

So take pictures with the decor that makes it up this year.  Record the Christmas concert and holiday recitals.  Enjoy some extra fine dining or just store-bought dessert.  Whatever works is okay - you're doing a great job, Mom!  Most of all, remember the simple first Christmas and take peace in knowing that all our troubles are the reason Christ came.  Reach out to help someone, if you are able, and reach of and ask for help, if you need it.  I'm grateful to have been in both positions.

Holiday Tips for StepMoms

Holiday Survival Guide

Let Go of Expectations This Season

Blending Traditions and Schedules

From Me on The Blog:

Traditions in Our Blended Family

The Christmas Magic is YOU!
The Christmas Magic is Christ

Home Alone at Christmas

Holidays Without Your Children

It's Better This Year

He Came for this, He came for me

(reposted from 2015)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Today I threw out the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers.  I have managed to "not cook" for almost a week now, but my family is in silent (and not-so-silent) protest.  I did manage to pick up more milk yesterday, but a grocery run is in order.

We thoroughly enjoyed Thanksgiving with our family from Missouri and an international friend who had no place else to go.  He may have been a bit overwhelmed by the clan chaos, but I'm so glad he joined us.

I'm so very grateful for my family - flawed, blended, strained and all.  Now that our house is cleared out, I'm left with the memories which are the real treasures.  Often, we invest so much energy and anticipation preparing and working to make a day feel perfect, that it's easy to miss the actual event. Guard your heart and mind against that trend as you prepare for Christmas.  

After all the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving at my home, I can be left with a feeling of loss when my far-away family returns home.  We aren't planning to visit again over the holiday season.  Instead, I'm choosing the focus on the time we got to spend together, to be thankful they all made the long trip to visit and that we were all healthy around the table this year.

I often think negatively of "leftovers," and I certainly don't like the thought of being a leftover.  Still, what's left after the jubilant celebration is the stuff of real life: the one who helps take out all the accumulated trash, the one who helps with the umpteenth load of dishes, the ones to empty the same dishwasher day after day after day.  What's left is so, so valuable.