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Monday, January 20, 2014

I've done it, too.

On a recent Sunday I got to ride with our oldest daughter to church.  She dropped me off and I walked in fancy and carefree to meet Mr. Wonderful who was there early practicing with the praise band.  When I next saw my step daughter, I could tell she was far from carefree with concealed tears and a tense expression.  "Can I talk to you," she said?

She shared how when she was parking for youth group, she turned into another vehicle.  She was scared, embarrassed and ashamed.  Oh, how I understood how that feels.  You see, I've done it, too.  And I was sure to let her know that! 

Very soon this young driver, fresh to her own vehicle was surrounded by a supportive tribe sharing their own experiences of bumps, fender benders and crashes.  At least five women gave hugs and told tales of erroneous distance judgement, leaping landmarks and parking blunders.  I watched our daughter's face relax with the knowledge that she isn't alone. 

What a gift and what a reminder!  We're never alone in our blunders.  It's not the first time someone has burnt dinner, forgotten a scheduled event, overlooked a child in need or skipped a key part of the directions.  I've done it, too.  Acknowledging my own shortcomings lifted the shame and isolation and the fact that so many others joined in added to the encouragement. 

Let's remember that and keep it up!  What can you admit to blundering lately?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Single Mother Syndrome

There are two great burdens I remember facing as a single mother.  Well, there are many - for all women - but the two that first come to mind are
  1. The overwhelming sense of responsibility for my time, energy and resources.
  2. The isolation of carrying that burden alone.
As a single mother I found the complete isolation, lack of safety net and partnership extremely disheartening. Knowing that it ALL falls to you: to earn the rent, provide the meals, prepare the meals, teach the manners, instill Godly values, education, social life, and on it goes. Parenting wasn’t made to be done alone and women whose spouses are providing income, home, healthcare, even input for decision making and family direction need to recognize the value of their partners.

There is a distinction between married women who have much-gone spouses and truly single ladies raising children.  I know it's hard, but when those ladies say they know what it feels like to be a single mom or say they feel like a single mom whilst rolling their eyes, I cringe a bit inside because I know they just don't get it.  I didn't know either until I walked that path. It's tough and isolating in a way others cannot imagine.  It takes incredible endurance to parent well under such pressures.

If you know a single mom (or dad) tell her she’s doing a great job, even if there are balls that get dropped. Compliment something specific her child(ren) do: manners? imagination? mad social skills? Slip her a gift card or better yet, invite her and her children over for a meal. Remind her children to notice what a great mother they have who builds her life around their needs and who is doing everything she knows to do to raise them well.

Then send her flowers anonymously just to let her know someone noticed she’s great.

I wish there were not single mothers, I wish there were Godly men to stand in the gap for each family that needs it. If you have that, even though he isn’t perfect, be sure to thank your man!  If you are a single mama, remember to take care of you each day so that you can be the best mom for those kiddos.  What is something luxurious you can do today?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Relationship Ideas

In keeping with the New Year goals/resolutions/decisions, I have some relationship ideas for those in my life.  I hate to call them goals, because how can people be a goal?  But I do have ideas that I want to implement. 

With my children
  • Less TV, even if that means more screentime elsewhere (I'm okay with that)
  • Look for ways to draw out their strengths
  • Say "Yes" whenever possible
  • Do something grand for a 10th birthday boy!
  • Help them connect with friends

Reaching out to others
  • Schedule something fun with friends monthly, this can be lunch or a movie or shopping!
  • Invite people to our home three times this year - intimidating for me since I still don't feel full ownership of this space.
  • Say hi to neighbors and invite the friends of my children over
  • Stay engaged at church and wherever opportunities arise to connect with others.

Toward my husband
  • Communicate love and commitment in HIS love language (Touch & Words).  I will do this by letting the laundry pile up a bit and spend time daily just holding him, sitting together, rubbing his feet, stroking his hair, whatever comforts him for a few minutes.  I will speak highly of him and thank him verbally for all the ways he improves my life.  I will train our children to honor the sacrifices and commitments he makes to our family. 
  • Plan a surprise - can't say too much!
  • Speak my needs so that he has the opportunity to clearly meet them!  Be real about what's going on inside.
  • Make sure he knows I find him wonderful and attractive and that I think  he's the best gift God ever gave me!
  • Leave notes/messages/cookies where he can find them.
  • Let him relax, enjoy his interests and coaching without guilt from me.

As a family
  • Continue family mealtimes for dinner - this means so much to our clan and is a touchpoint for our days.  We usually gather around the table 4 times per week and at a restaurant one other time. 
  • Take a family vacation with all seven of us!  Whew!  We're looking at early June...
  • Make connections to our extended family with FaceTime, cards, honoring birthdays and big events. 
  • Celebrate our lives together and individual successes.
  • Rest in the routines of our non-traditional schedules, accept what works for us and embrace being a unique family!
These ideas are quite unmeasureable, but thinking about them helps my focus throughout the daily grind of pick up and drop offs, bedtimes, homework, etc.  Do you make any relational goals or ideas or inspiration to motivate you throughout the year.  Please share!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Stopping and Starting...

Since we usually travel after Christmas, my New Year thoughts often get postponed until I can get home and regroup.  We drove home from visiting long-distance family on New Year's Day and hit the ground running back at work the next day, a birthday party and wedding over the weekend and then the great Polar Vortex that froze most of the county hit.  We just went back to school after the break and things finally seem like a bit of normal can be expected.

I tend to start things well, but the real challenge comes in being consistent, delayed gratification and perseverance.  I have set some short term goals and hope to kick-start a few habits but mostly I'm trying to think ahead to the end of 2014 and about how I would like some things in my life to be.

I want to make this home more my own, adding touches of d├ęcor, a dedicated desk space and general organization.

I would like to have more money in savings.

I plan to have the memory of several trips including a family vacation and college girls get-away.

I will continue working with my children to memorize Scripture and to establish good habits.

I will celebrate several big birthdays in an extra-special way!

With my awesome new Christmas gift (this MacBook Pro), I intend to write more and be more proactive about reaching out. 

Relationships are important to me and I'm going to be seeking connections with others this year along with deepening the bonds of our family.

What I'm still working out is the how for each of these goals.  I can get lost in the details, so beginning with end in mind is great motivation for me to continue the course!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Awkward Moments

Photo: Happy Birthday, Alex Robinson!
Our family sharing a birthday dinner!

Recently, my Mr. Wonderful and I hosted a birthday dinner for our oldest along with her mother and stepfather.  It's part of blended family life to occasionally spend time with the other parents of our children at school programs, special events and parties like this.  But usually, there is more of a group setting.  This time the four of us were the only grown-ups and put together a winter party of soups, chili, cupcakes and cokes for the teenage crowd.  Once dinner was done, the kids all headed downstairs to a pool table and it was just the four of us together in a place once familiar to my husband and his former wife.  It felt like a weird, double date. 

Truthfully, it wasn't too tough for me because I don't have any memories in that home or any history there other than last year's birthday party (we used this same grandparent's home for space and party flow).  My husband, however, has many memories of being there with his former wife, children and her parents - holidays, pets, weekly dinners and more are connected to that space. Both of his daughters were full of laughter and recalled shared memories with both mom and dad.  It was all rather chummy ... until it wasn't.  My husband slipped and called his first wife, "Honey."  Ahem.

We were all uncomfortable when it happened, and it was an accidental slip of the tongue, but still not fun.  I wanted to be all offended...but the truth is that for more than 20 years that's what she was to him and his brain is just hard-wired.  Once again I remembered how his faithfulness in his first marriage is evidence of how he will be faithful in this one.  I am the Second Mrs. Robinson, although my man sweetly says in his mind I am the first and only (He's a keeper).

Everyday I have to choose what perspective to have: Critical or accepting. Trusting or suspicious. Regret or thankfulness. Will I be satisfied with what God has given me today?  Or pout and be miserable because it's not the way I thought He should deliver me?  I'm choosing to be my best self and to believe the best in my husband.  Daily I know that he loves me, cares for me and is attracted to me.  I do not worry about whether he pines for his former wife or regrets his decision to marry me.  I am very secure in our commitment to each other.  I feel full freedom to share when something is bothering me and when I feel hurt or discomfort. 

When I spoke with my husband after the party, we were able to talk about it and I was thankful to be able to acknowledge that awkward moment, but not to accuse him or hold it against him.  The first wife called my husband to criticize and humiliate him for the lapse.  By insinuating it was anything but a mistake, she escalated the incident from a "whoops!" to one that needed to be considered regarding any future functions.  Of course none of us want to be put in that position again.

From my perspective, I felt like the first wife was frustrated that she had to deal with the ongoing consequences of her choices...and resents that anything negative results.  She want to control every situation and when she can't, removes herself.  It will be her daughters that lose since future interactions will now be limited and there will be less freedom for the girls to reminisce about the truth of their past.  The whole thing makes me sad, makes me laugh and reminds me that no family is perfect!

Please tell me my family isn't the only one with awkward family glitches?  Do share if you've been in that eye-rolling, gulp-inducing, head-shaking, "Is this happening" moment.  Thank you for helping me feel normal!  Perhaps we should all share awkward more awkward moments.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


The past year has been one of the most significant years of my life so far and it is the touchstone year for next season of my life.  My husband just thanked me for the best year of his life.  I have a husband...a dear one who communicates his love to me each day in ways I fully understand and feel.  We are so blessed.

I wonder what life will look like this year?  With so much change last year, I anticipate and hope for a year of settling and stability.  I hope for more of what we have with deepening relationships, strengthening bonds, greater knowledge and love for the Lord.  I will turn forty years old this year and it feels like the start of a new decade.

Our holiday season was a sweet time and family feelings were real and true.  Now begins the season of winter, challenging schedules, continual commitment to one another and the daily tasks necessary for family life and growth.  Raising children, teenagers and nurturing a young marriage are demanding tasks.  They are worth doing and investing ourselves into doing it all well.  I'm gearing up for the task!