Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I am Less than Perfect

I don't live a perfect life, but I think I have a great life.  I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I am fairly certain that I continue to make mistakes (hard to believe I know).  I know that as my life goes on, there will continue to be bumps in the road, and there is nothing I can do to change that.  I realize however, that those are not the circumstances I will live by, it's how I deal with those moments that define my good life.

I am fortunate enough to be able to take some time off over the holidays.  There is a lady in my office, who doesn't find pleasure in other people's vacations or time off.  In fact, she loathes it, and doesn't hid how she feels.  If looks could kill, I would have been dead a hundred times over today, when I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving and long weekend. With that being said, I would like to thank her.  Her abhorrence to her job and my time off made me realize all that I am blessed with.

Like I said, my life is not perfect.  When my son was two, I was fired from my job.  I was a single parent with bills and no income.  I pounded the pavement to find a new job, took temporary work and whatever I could find to make ends meet.  God blessed me with a wonderful job with two awesome bosses.  He opened up a career for me with these two gentleman who I continue to work with 15 years later.  They are now like a part of my family.

I was blindsided in my previous marriage and left to feel worthless.  When life seemed as though it would end, God brought a wonderful, caring man into my life who treats me like a queen.  He also gave me the great honor and responsibility to help raise two additional children that I would never have had the pleasure to know and love otherwise.

My adult life started in debt and with barely two pennies to rub together.  I lived in a basement apartment with one small window.  I struggled day to day to make ends meet and depended on state assistance to purchase food.  My beautiful home is now a gift from God. I have windows all along the backside of my house to welcome in the sun each day.  He has blessed me with cupboards of food; more than we need.  I on't want for anything.

I do not have the most money in the world, nor does everything go right for me all the time, but I am blessed and thankful for all I have.  Thank you, my friend at work, you made me realize, that I am so thankful to have a job.  I am thankful for the team I work on.  I am thankful for my family and the home I live in.  I am thankful to have a car to drive and one to share. I am thankful for the clothes on my body and some hanging in the closet.  I am thankful that I am blessed to be a blessing to those around me.  When presented with blessings and cursings, life or death....I choose life.  (Deut 30:18-20)  I hope you will too!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You're Not Alone

This past Sunday we ran into a friend at church that we had seen, but hadn't really talked with for quite some time.  We caught up on different things, and as the conversation began to wind down, he mentioned that he was single again.  We had kind of wondered since we hadn't seen his wife with him recently, but didn't really know what the deal was....now we knew.

Our hearts sank when we heard the news.  It wasn't because we were big fans of his wife, but because we felt so bad for his loss. We could relate.  Not only have both Roger and I been through the heartache of divorce, but our friend had also been there once before too.  He proceeded to tell us a bit of the story and it just wasn't his choice.  We understood, we had been on the fighting end of our first marriages as well.  It stinks.  It's like swimming upstream; you go nowhere really fast and at some point you realize that a marriage takes two so you decide to cut your losses.  You are left with a feeling of defeat, failure and hopelessness.  You feel empty.

As our conversation continued, a friend (who we'll call Jim) of our friend approached him to say hello.  We introduced ourselves and Jim asked about ways to meet more people at church since he was new there.  Our friend, proceeded to mention a small divorce group that he was in and how much he was enjoying it.  To which Jim replied, "You're not alone."  The small phrase struck a cord with me.  It rang in my ears like a revelation from Heaven, or was that just the worship music in the background.  Either way, it was an excellent point.  You're not alone. 

I don't care if you are in a marriage, a single parent, a divorcee, in a step-family, whatever your situation, you're not alone.  I've been all of these things and I would bet that in your office, workplace, neighborhood, place of worship, and probably even your local post office, there is at least one other person who has been, or is, also one of these things.  So often when we are in the depths of live and in these situations, we feel as though we are the only ones who have ever experienced what we are going through.  We feel hopeless, lost, scared....alone, but we're not.  Don't let these feelings overtake who you are.  Find a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker who has walked this path and invite them for a cup of coffee, I guarantee the would love to be your ally.  Not only that, but you will probably help them too. 

Do you know someone who is in one of these situations?  Maybe you can approach them and see if they need an ear to listen, or maybe just a cup of coffee.  I am sure they would appreciate the kind offer, even if they decline.  At least they will know that they're not alone.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working for the Weekend

This week was fairly uneventful in our household. We entertained the usual routine of work and school. We had an evening event at school to celebrate the end of Christian's cross country season, but all in all nothing really outstanding happened.  It was just one day after the other leading up to the weekend.

Several years ago, the weekend would either have been the light at the end of the tunnel, or the worst time of the week.  It used to be the time I would have to spend with Christian, or send him away to spend time with his dad.  That probably sounds very negative, and I don't mean it that way, it was just how I viewed it at the time.  It was hard.  I never had to spend time away from my son before my separation and divorce and now someone was telling me I had to.  I didn't like it.  It was hard for Christian to get used to as well, but I knew it was important for him to go.

After Roger and I got married, that weekend dynamic changed even more.  Now, not only did we have Christian going to his dad's house every other weekend, but we had Alex and Adam who went to visit their mom once each weekend.  It took us all a while to get used to the arrangement. 

Many times it was hard for me when Alex and Adam were home, and Christian was off to his dad's.  I felt like he was missing out on all the fun we might be having even though he was doing his own thing with his dad.  I was often resentful that he wasn't here too.  Then one day, I stepped back and looked at the situation and told myself what a great opportunity this was.  It was a great opportunity to develop my relationships with Alex and Adam and spend quality time with them. It was a great opportunity to get stuff done for me - guilt free. What I mean by that is, since I had to share my son on weekends, I felt as though I shouldn't do anything for myself on the weekends I had Christian.  I needed to spend that time with him, and not waste it.  Doing anything else made me feel guilty.  I was able to take advantage of my weekends without Chrisitan to get "my stuff" done.

I think the same was true for Roger when Christian was here, and Alex and Adam were at their mom's.  It is hard to be excited to have your step-child (ren) around, but not your own biological children.  You feel like you are cheating on them.

I also noticed that when our kids returned from their time with the other parents, there was often discord in our house.  There were attitudes and anger.  There were smelly clothes and dirty bodies.  There was undone homework and disappointment.  Our kids needed time to decompress.  They needed a transition time from the other parent's house to our house.  They needed to grieve all over again over the loss of the other parent.  It was hard for us to deal with and hard for them to understand.   Once they all entered high school, they began to go to youth group Sunday nights.  It was the best thing that ever happened to them.  They fell into a routine of going from the other parent's home to church, from church to home...they had a transition period.  They could grieve with their friends and God and come home with a fresh perspective.

I had a friend ask me if I thought kids should have to go to the other parent's home if they didn't want to go.  I would love to say - NO!, but as we talked out the situation, we agreed that for young children, as long as there is nothing in that other environment that is harming the child (either physically or mentally) then they should go.  It is important for children to build that relationship with the other parent.  As our children have gotten older, however, we have allowed them to make that decision themselves.  Roger and I felt that by 16 years old they could choose their weekend destiny.  Our feeling was that they will have to make that decision by themselves at 18 years old anyway, so why not allow them that responsibility now.  That way, we can be here to help them by providing a sounding board, and then they will know how to handle the situation as an adult.  The assumption was always that the usual weekend routine was in place, but if something came up, or the kids voiced something differently, we listened to them while they worked through their decision.  We always tried to be impartial and understanding regardless of their decision.  Alex and Adam mostly chose to go to their mom's on the one day of the week, but it helped them to feel as though they could choose to spend time with a friend, or stay with us to go on a family visit.  Christian has chosen to stay home most weekends.  With the combination of work, friends, and comfort he goes to visit his dad only on occasion.

Regardless of our children's decisions for their weekend plans, we encourage a positive relationship between them and their other parent.  Weekends are not about Us vs. Them...it is about what is best for our children, and that is always our focus.  If you struggle with letting your child go for a weekend, rest assured that it will be OK. It is good for both of you. Then, set up some time to do some of the things you love and enjoy yourself!  You and your child will reunite with a renewed mind and fresh perspective to start your week off right.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I've Got Your Back

For all the times that I tease my husband about not listening to me, the fact is he is a very good listener and really hears what I say.  Most recently I have been lamenting about not hearing back from Alex when I email or text her. 

Alex has been away at college for 2 1/2 months now, and I am beginning to feel as though she is ignoring me.  I have helped raise her and been the primary mother figure in her life for the past 8 years and now I feel forgotten and unwanted.  Roger spends a few hours with her each Friday afternoon or evening for daddy/daughter time.  Since her mom works 5 minutes from her college, she picks her up from school every Thursday, takes her out to dinner and then drives her home.  I think the time Alex is spending with her parents is great but I've got nothing.  I have offered to take her to lunch or coffee, or whatever, at her convenience.  I haven't gotten a no...just no response at all.  Has she forgotten that I am her parent too?

This week on their daddy-daughter date, Roger talked to Alex about how her inaction affects others.  He mentioned how not responding to me at all is making me feel as though she is ignoring me.  I didn't ask Roger to talk to her about this, he just did.  He stood up for me...he's got my back.  I did finally get an email from Alex.  It was addressed to "hey guys", was kinda general, and no acceptance of my lunch or coffee invitation, but I guess something is better than nothing, right?  At least that is what I tell myself when I work out for only 15 minutes.  Maybe that is what Alex has told herself for years with her mom, and now that she has something with her, she isn't willing to connect with her step mother and risk losing what her mom is giving her.  I don't know if that is the case or not, but I can understand if it is.  I can understand because regardless of how Alex treats me, it doesn't affect how I feel about her.  I still love her and and love doesn't fail. Love doesn't envy or dishonor.  It isn't self-seeking nor does it keep a record of wrongdoings.  Love always hopes, protects, and trusts.  (see the full description here:  True Love)

I'm human, and far from perfect, so it can be easy for me to get caught up in what I am not getting.  My hope now, is to instead, focus on what I know and what is positive.  I know that at 18 years old I wanted little to do with my parents.  At 18, I focused on all that was important to Stacy, and nothing that was important to anyone else.  I was self consumed.....weren't we all? 

So then, what are the positives?  Alex gets to spend some quality time with each of her biological parents each week - she needs that.  Alex is learning about life, and choices and being independent.  I am blessed to be able spend quality time with both Adam and Christian. My relationship with Adam has completely flourished in the past couple of months, and I don't know if that would have happened with Alex at home. I look forward to the boys sharing with me every day, and the occasionally wrestling match is pretty fun too!  I am also blessed to have a pretty awesome husband, if you didn't realize that already.

Even though Roger's conversation my not have changed Alex's thinking or the choices she makes, it showed her that how I feel is important to him and it showed me that as well.  When you are in a step family, you need to know your spouse is on your side, and the kids (all of them) need to know that too.   Don't wait for your spouse to ask, show them that you've got their back.