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Monday, April 19, 2021

Spring in My Step

 

I cannot help the feeling of hope that arrives with spring.  This year the sensation feels more intense after a particularly grueling winter, with many planned and unplanned setbacks.  We have made it through.  

Now I am ready to dig in and look forward.  Part of looking forward in our home is a garden.  So this weekend I'm adding more seeds and a few plants, but mostly doing the grunt work to get ready for the beauty later.  

Spring means looking ahead in treasuring the very moment I find myself today.  East Tennessee is beautiful in the fall, but our spring is just as colorful.  The wildflowers, blooming trees are stunning, but it all lasts just a moment.  

I'm reminded to live in this moment and recognize the gifts in my home, my family, my health.  So much of life is fleeting, but grasping to capture what we have just crushes the pleasure of it.  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Year Later

We took advantage of our time home together to a have a family photo session.

Our spring break is here and like so much of the world, we are remembering the start of our shut-down and jolting shift of life that began one year ago.  I feel a little crazy, because I wish I could go back and enjoy that period of life when we were all home again.  

I would stay home from work longer and spend more one-on-one time with each of my children.  I would paint several room in our home.  I would work plant more perennial flowers that would be blooming today.  I would truly organize my basement.  

I would spend more time sitting with our girls who now have homes of their own, but returned for extended time at our place.  I would make the drive to visit family, even though it might have been considered dangerous.  

Today life feels more intense, and there are more pressures.  Our young adult children have returned to the lives they have cultivated in towns far from home.  We now have three teens living at home and their independence is growing each day, it seems.  I miss the sense of togetherness that was forged when we were all bound to one another every moment by the restrictions of the initial quarantine.

I miss the slower pace that life demanded back then.  The last year has been full of  shocking changes.  The sweep cancellations of so many events and gatherings.  The rhythm of life is forever changed, I think.  The ability for mandates and imposed restrictions is now a precedent which will be enacted more and more, I fear.  

I have personally known some who succumbed to Covid.  We have faced the illness in our home.  I have grieved with close friends that lost a parent or grandparent.  It has been a heavy time.

That heaviness seems to be lightening somewhat and it is with hope and endurance that we all move forward.  We have a few road trips scheduled.  Our church is meeting regularly and the kids are back in school each day.  Life is altered, but more regular now.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

What Puts the "Extra" in Step Families

According to the Urban Dictionary:

over the top
excessive, dramatic behavior
way too much

I've said before that the first word that comes to mind when describing blended families is, "complicated."  Another word this generation uses to describe things is "Extra."  Extra can mean over-the-top or fussy.  It's a word rightly used to reveal the layers of involvement that others may have in your family, even people outside the home.  Blended family life with co-parents, exes and extended family all wanting a say means a very "extra" dynamic.

When the I feel like I have to ask permission from my ex, it naturally creates tension and resentment.  Exes definitely make things feel "Extra" and complicated.  When we need to communicate calendar commitments with my step daughter's mother, we may feel slighted or like we have less say-so.  These layers of involvement and extra communication wear us down over time.  It's easy for resentment to build.

Every decision that involves the kids requires an extra conversation.  Extracurriculars.  Orthodontics.  Travel plans.  Even birthday parties.

Are you the "extra" in your blended family?  As a step parent, we often want to be involved, but can complicate matters unnecessarily.  Ask yourself if your involvement is making things better or worse? If you're the step parent in a situation, the "extra" - must you share your opinion in a matter?  Are you creating more or less tension by expressing your view?  Communication is essential, of course and if it helps to share your opinion the do so.  But often I want to share where I have little influence an my thoughts aren't appreciated.  It might even make things more difficult for those I love. 

Yes, your family is "extra."  Accept that reality and do what you can to minimize conflict by communicating and sharing information, but don't insert yourself just to feel included.  Be a hero when you are the step parent by being supportive of decisions made, even if they aren't choices where you are included.  If the step family is thriving, it isn't happening on accident.

If you're feeling extra tired or overextended, remember that blending families takes time.  The longer you remain connected as a family, the more experiences you will have together.  There will be parenting fails and experiences where you learn.  Along the way you become a better spouse, parent and step parent!  And while it may not ever be perfect, time blending the family does become happier and more well-adjusted.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

Winter Work

 I have things I would like to accomplish, and know that there is work to do is making progress toward the goals. Yet I find myself avoiding and putting off the tasks needed to move forward.  Procrastination is the term, I think.

This week I intend to do some of the mental work by identifying what I would like and then prioritizing.  My tendency is to wait until there is demanding need, then tackle it and my desire is to be more proactive in the way I focus my effort.

Much of what calls is boring, quiet and isolated work: Improving my core strength.  Creating order in hidden spaces.  Saving for long-term goals.  Eliminating items which no longer serve our family.  Cleaning, repairing, preparing for upcoming events.  There is nothing glamorous or immediately rewarding in this work.  

Winter is much the same way.  Where I live, it is the season when my garden rests.  Work is happening tucked away from view.  The evidence is unseen, the toil unappreciated until a future time.  Often we want a sweeping rescue to solve the dilemmas in life and yet I have witnessed and experienced that daily, regular commitment makes more impact than the grand gesture.  

May I be committed to that.  Delayed gratification is such a difficult concept for me to embrace.  I want results and I want them now.  Sometimes winter is sparkly and crisp.  More often, winter is gray and gloomy with one day rolling into another and little seems to change.  The work happening in this season, though, is what makes spring explode with life and color.  The work is worth the effort.



Friday, December 18, 2020

Stocking Stuffers They Will Actually LOVE

 My job at Christmas is to be in charge of the stockings!  We always need to include some candy and cocoa, but here are several other ideas that have been a big hit.

Weather Gear - mittens or headbands

Hand Warmers

Playing Cards

Specialty Mugs - fill with favorite candy

Reusable straws

The best pens

Charging Cords (Can there ever be enough?)

Outlet extenders


Pampering Face or Shaving Kits

Cologne, Perfume or Body Spray

Travel Sized Games

Devotional Book to Start the New Year

Fishing Lures

Jewelry

Scrunchies

Wallet (add gift cards for extra squeals)

Kitchen Tools

Treat Coupons

Gift Cards

I have vowed not to include face masks this year - we have plenty!


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How to Replace Holiday Hooplah with Genuine Joy

Our family has been asked to quarantine due to Covid exposure.  It's been a lot of togetherness and a big change to our normal Christmas experience. There have been a lot of visits to be tested, protocols and general upheaval of our plans.

Winter break will be a longer break than usual.  Our Christmas is often filled with excess and activities but since much has been eliminated this year, it's a good time to consider what has become excess calendar clutter and what truly enhances our joy and our generosity.

Embrace the Empty. There are going to be open slots on my calendar and I don't want to fill them.  I want to linger with hot chocolate and read a book while my family is busy nearby.  Rest is high on my wish-list this year, for me and for my blended family.

Honor the Traditions. This isn't the year that I want to try a new recipe or venture into a new venue.  I want to participate where I can with those memories we most value like our church's Christmas Eve Service & Communion (socially distanced) and the Christmas lunch I share with Mr. Wonderful, at our traditional spot. I'm going to make the same Christmas cookies and I've got the gingerbread houses all ready to decorate.  I'm not looking for new decorations, I'm pulling out all the vintage mismatched gear that we use to make our home merry.

Release the Expectations.  I think this is a tough one for most of us.  Christmas has become this epic event for which we hope all year to connect with family, to satisfy wishes, to relish much togetherness.  For me, I find that my expectations don't always mesh with reality.  A fuller-than-usual home and a tighter-than-usual budget brings stress.  I'm allowing that to be real and planning to pull back when needed.  

Quit the Comparison.  My Christmas season and yours may look very different, and that is okay!  Let's each enjoy the day we have and make the best of our moments.  What we see in a social feed may or may not reflect what is actually happening throughout each day.  Post your proud moments, but remember that is all that others may be posting, too.

Enjoy my Savior.  Ultimately all those hopes that we often pin to Christmas are met when we open our hearts to Christ.  In Him I can find the peace, the satisfaction and the joy for which we are all so longing.  It's truly the greatest gift ever given.