Thoughts for a new year…

I am not one to make resolutions, but I am one to reflect and ponder, especially over the course of months when the same dreams, strange coincidences and themes keep showing up in my daily life.  In the last several months, I have found myself bumping into, dancing around and looking back at the same several words and trains of thought.  Conversations and reflections that seemed to circle around a theme of belief and worthiness and inevitably individuality and connectedness.

I do believe.

I believe in optimism, good over bad, the importance of eating around a table with other people and driving in a car, taking routes that prolong the trip, just waiting for the conversation to happen.  I have faith.  Faith in the overall goodness dwelling in others, that magical and mysterious powers exist around me and that each of us has a role to play, big or small.

I believe in circles.  The circle of life.  The circle of love.  The circle of protection.  And if the same coincidences keep circling around you, it is important to pay attention.

Stepmother, my memoir, was published almost four months ago, to the day.  It has been a ride.  And it was, without a doubt, a highlight for me in 2016.  There have been euphoric highs and some nail peeling nervousness.  There has been the need to boldly put myself out there, where I didn’t want to go and some stepping back to deal with some sadness that percolated from the deep depths of history.

Looking back, deep in the history before this publication, was a circle.  Years ago, a small breeze gathered, slipping between the trees and under the cracks of the door, circling with quiet efficiency, finally catching all the right elements, developing into a twister.  A circle that wanted me to keep quiet, combusted with a circle to talk out loud.  Puff.  It declared.  But a simple breeze can change the direction of the route and so it has.  I am out.  Stepmom.  Mom.  Wife.

And me.

As some of you may know, I like to cook.  This passion ignited a real joy of reading cook books and diving into luscious stories about food and eating.  It was through this process that I came upon some of the best instructions for my role as a stepmom.  In a recipe for yogurt pancakes the author instructed the cook to mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  The recipe was proceeded with this caution:  blend, but don’t over mix or it will be tough.  And, just like that, an epiphany.  This was the direction that I was silently being asked follow as a stepmom.  “…If you could just blend in…don’t over mix.  Don’t stand out in the group.  Don’t make yourself seen too much.  Blur with the colors of the crowd…”

Believe it or not, I am a private person.  So, blending without over mixing came easily for me at times.

But, while it is nice to blend in sometimes, over time it can feel restrictive. Pushing yourself away from even yourself.  And there must come a day when you do not simply blend in.  Or you lose you.  You will not be able to find yourself in the crowd.

Last Fall, I attended a retreat with She Writes Press in Scottsdale, Arizona.  On the first day of the retreat we all participated in an exercise driven by the following questions.  What is your nature advocate?  What descriptive words describe this natural phenomenon?  Who is your real-life advocate?  A person dead or alive who is your personal and genuine cheerleader?  What words would this advocate choose to describe you?  Nouns?  Adjectives?  Verbs?  The culmination of this exercise?  Your personal vision statement.

Always the diligent participant, I followed each direction with quiet seriousness.  What came out surprised me and stuck with me.  It was the beginning of the coincidences and themes to follow over the next few months.

My answers?

My nature advocate was a tree.  A tree is resilient and persevering.  It can stand alone or be at peace in the mix of many.  A tree changes with the season.  Adjusts to the temperatures.

My real-life advocate was me.

My words to describe myself were unorthodox, sensitive, shy, and a good friend.  Worth the effort.

In the months to follow, when words like belief and worthiness kept surfacing to confront me, a realization that I have always held, but had let slip away, surfaced once again.  It is up to me.  To find happiness, to be loved, to be worthy.  It comes from within.  It is my “gut” feeling.  If I can’t bring my own happiness, love myself and believe in my own worthiness, no one else is going to either.

I am alone.  And that is okay.  It does not mean that I don’t have great companions and people upon whom I rely.  I do.  They make the days better and my life fuller.

I rely on me but I am connected.  Some months ago, I was posed the question that perhaps my “knight in shining armor” had not lived up to my expectations.  But what that accuser does not understand is that I ride my own horse.  I am my own knight in beautiful multi-colored armor.  I ride side by side with many along the way.  I am also comfortable riding in the back watching the others take the lead.  Then, every once in awhile, I say “giddy up” and gallop ahead, knowing it is my time to see the horizon first and in my own unique way.

“Yippee kai yay!”

Standing up straight.  Looking you in the eye.  This is me.

I am the tree that can persevere and can stand alone and is worth the effort.

book of nature with grass and tree

 

 

 

 

Thankful

My birthday is tomorrow.  Thanksgiving day.  In a year filled with so many positive and magical moments, I am struck by the consequence of this birth date falling on a day in which we remember the gifts we have received and to be thankful for all the rich and fulfilling goodness in our lives.

I am thankful to the those in my life I call family. Your actions in support of my effort to publish my memoir have been mighty.  Your generosity, strong hugs and unconditional love have kept me standing and persevering.  I am humbled by this strong circle of love and support.

I am thankful to my husband, my mate and my companion.  It had not occurred to me initially that in the same year that I published a book about my stepmom experience that I would also celebrate 25 years of marriage with this guy who asked me to walk with him on this road of family and motherhood.  It is a gift to say we still like each other, love one another and share in the excitement of looking forward to the adventures still to come our way.

I am thankful to the circle of those folks that I am lucky enough to call friends.  You pick up the phone, answer the text and raise the glass in love.  You listen.  You show up.  I am a better person by the fact you are all in my life.  Your beauty surrounds me daily.

I am thankful to the group of women that I have met through She Writes Press.  Their interest in sharing their knowledge and support has been a beautiful and lovely surprise.  A true gift.

I am thankful to all of you who have taken the time to read my book.  And I am thankful to those of you who have texted, emailed or written me to tell me your response to this story.  I am filled with immense gratitude for your kind words and supportive thoughts.

I am thankful that our daughter has had the opportunity to ask her 85-year-old Grandmother what it would have meant for her to see a woman as President.  The wisdom of many, many years.  And I am truly thankful that that same Grandmother has encouraged this daughter to be ready to support and fight for the rights of all people.

We have a family tradition of placing our rings through the lit candles on the birthday cake.  We then make a wish for that person as they blow.  That moment between rings being placed and the exhale of air to blow out the candles is a magical one.  A pause.  Of love, good wishes and above all, a sentiment of true thanks from all sides for being at that table to share in that one moment, all together.

I am thankful.

cake

 

 

Off we go…

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Pedal to the floor, today is the official publication day for Stepmother!

For my book, that means it is available in bookstores as well as online.

What it means for me is that I move from one side to the other.  Words in my head, to words out in the world. (seat belt locked, nerves are rattling!)

It’s a day for many thanks…to my husband, to my editor, Annie Tucker, to my publisher, Brooke Warner at She Writes Press and to Korina Garcia and Crystal Patriarche at BookSparks.  I feel so lucky to have such a great team traveling with me.

It’s also a day to send out gratitude and love to all three of the kids that supported this story.  That support has not come without bumps and there is not a day I don’t forget that fact.

So off you go, little book….see you on the other side.

Back to Knowledge Flight

Step Mom Shuffle

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen me at a wedding, I love to dance.

Along with the other guests, I smile, caught up in the love and watch with pleasure as the bride and groom take their first swirl around the dance floor together.  I patiently wait as the bride and her father extend the dancing ritual and loop around the same corners.  My foot might begin to silently tap if the traditional dances extend to the groom and the mother, the bride and her mother, and so on.

Perched like a hawk, I wait for the wave or the look from the dance floor leaders finally inviting the guests to join them on the floor.   Then, like a torpedo released from its chute, I fly out of my chair and find my spot.

At a recent family wedding, I found myself immersed in a line dance with many of the other guests.  We moved a few steps to the right and a few steps to the left.  We were instructed to simply kick it forward and then walk it off by ourselves.  The Cupid Shuffle.

This could also be called the step mom boogie.

I was not given the steps to this complicated dance move when I became a stepmom but I quickly found myself hustling to these new rhythms.

To the right was love.  To the left was allegiance.  When pulled both ways you kicked it forward until you finally found yourself alone and walking it off by yourself.

Love on the right looked like the eyes of the man you had married and the blurred colors of the eyes of his kids.  This stepmoms new blended family.   You, this new step mom, had married and embraced this whole group as one unit and tried to teach them your own moves.  You reached out with your private swing dance steps searching for their hands with all the love you had to twist, turn and fly with this new family.

The left was filled with many complicated and intricate dance steps that the step mom did not recognize.  Dancing on this side were the beautiful souls of your step kids caught in a web of loyalty to their mom and to their dad.  They might have supported this new marriage but did not yet understand how all these lines of allegiance were supposed to fit together smoothly without getting tangled or broken.  It looked a lot like a Maypole dance weaving in and out, up and over.

Too many times, these dance steps on the left and the right collided.  Smacked right in to each other or pulled to get out of the way.  All the emotions and hopes and frustrations sapping all the energy out of everyone.

At this point, the third instruction takes over.  You kick it out.  You jump and jive to the left and the right, trying to find the way to have it all merge together.  This step can be exhausting.  Overpowering.  Isolating and lonely.

So the inner instructor calls out the last move.  Walk it off by yourself.   Move along to your own private salsa or tango.  Gather your reserves and your breath because you know on the next beat you will be back in line shaking it to the right and shaking it to the left.  The step mom shuffle.

 

The sounds of music and the swish of good dancing move me and my inner spirit every time.  I love to jump.  I love to swing.  I love to toss my hair.  I love to open my sunroof in the winter time, heat turned on full blast, and sing to the heavens as I make my way home.  It is one of my personal self-care secrets.

As the months from my own wedding day have gained in number, I have found myself involved in the step mom dance on numerous occasions.  Often it is daily.  I am not going to lie.  This shuffle can be hard and complicated.  I have stumbled and fallen on numerous occasions.  There have been days when I wondered if I even wanted to attempt to try the steps again.  There were times when it simply did not feel natural or smooth.  I wondered if it ever would.   And step moms are not given the instructions.  You need to figure them out, a lot of times on your own.  But little by little, the directions become clearer and there are days when you swing your hips as smoothly as Elvis, in rhythm with all those you love making you want to dance for a long, long time.

I have not done much line dancing.  But on that special summer night, I found a certain happiness and joy as I aligned my steps with all these dancers at the wedding.  Some familiar.  Some not.  But there we all were.  Hearing the rhythm.  Not even having to hear the instructions after the first refrain.  Just moving as one.  Fifty shoes moving to the right and then to the left.  Smiling and whooping it up to kick it out together to the front.  And finally enjoying that moment in the sun, all by yourself, knowing you had done your best to make it right.

A beautiful step family boogie.

 

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Dreams, hopes and wishes.

My memoir, Stepmother,  is set to be released to the public eye in five short weeks.  I thought I would give you a sampler with pictures.

 

Wood dandelions

 

You close your eyes, gather your breath and blow.  A wish, a hope and a dream.

“…I gathered the three members of this new family on my old living room couch and the camera clicked.  As we recorded our first night, all as one, everything seemed sort of, maybe, possible.  And while I did not expect it to be easy….I did imagine a time when it would simply work.”

But early on, there were days that looked like this…

 

Tornado

She simmered.  He walked away.  She yelled.  He rolled his eyes.
Are you kidding me?!?
“You’re being ridiculous…just get over it.”
Resulting in many days when I wanted to do this…

woman and tornado

 

A dream, a hope and a wish.  I closed my eyes and gathered my breath.

 

 

Snakes and Stepmoms

“Better a serpent than a stepmother!” – Euripides

I encountered three snakes in one week recently. Two rattlers and one garter. I have not seen a snake in years. I do not live in a snake-infested area. Then three in one week. I must admit it made me check my superstitions. And my biblical references.

I will also confess that I have an illogical fear of snakes. They give me the heebie jeebies. I logically know if I don’t bug the snake, the snake is not going to bug me. But that being said, when I saw the rattler slither ever so gracefully under the porch, in short order I convinced myself that that snake (which was getting bigger with every second of thought) was going to wait until bedtime, find its way onto the deck, unlock the bedroom window, take down the screen and with quiet efficiency glide its way between my clean white sheets.

The logical and the illogical. How many times a day or a month do we struggle with these competing views?

Let’s take the label of stepmother for instance.

Logically, you know that when you meet one it means that the woman has married a man with kids. Illogically, I am going to take a wager that the story of Cinderella comes creeping into your thoughts too. That evil stepmother who locked the poor innocent girl in the attic.

Logically, you know she probably cares about those kids of said man she married. Illogically, you don’t believe that she could ever love them as much as her “own.”

Logically, you know she’s probably a normal, stressed out and flawed woman like the rest of us. Illogically, when you look up fiction books with a step mother in them you are presented with a lot of erotic fantasy options. She’s just plain naughty.

I have been asked why I wrote a memoir about my step mom experience. Part of it was to confront these logical and illogical notions. Better a snake than a step mom?! I have worn with the greatest amount of pride my step mom label and I have been forced to my knees by the weight of that same sticker. Logically, I became a step mom for all the right reasons. Illogically, it was a lot harder than I imagined it would be.

But while I may skip, dance and sometimes shout out a good ‘ole “motherfucker,” I do not slither.

So go to bed. Don’t worry about the snake. And let go of these step mom superstitions.

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Driving with Friends

driving with friends

My sister says God was in the back seat. My brother would lean toward Buddha. And this is what I picture when I think about it; God and Buddha and a few others gently burrowing in, polite and elbows ready, everyone is smiling and negotiating for a good comfy seat while we sail over the ravine, my colored blonde hair flowing with grace behind me.

We sailed through the air like Thelma and Louise.

My head slowly turned to the left.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

Like many things in life, “this” was unexpected. It was an accident. And just like that, your life takes a different turn. You face the new and unforeseen. Your path has changed, for the moment or more permanently.

And you pack along those items that have always been packed for the ride. Things like sibling love.

Sibling love. It is the foundation to so many of the events to follow in life – relationships with others, how we care for our kids, and how we care for our parents.

Did you and your siblings share? Did you learn to argue and negotiate? Could you rely on them? As you got older, were they there when you needed them? Did they answer the phone? Did you respect each other’s life choices? Even when you didn’t always understand or agree with them? Were your adult joint experiences strengthened or did they weaken your natural relationship with each other?

Siblings tend to follow you around in your life whether you choose to have them follow or not. My siblings and I don’t always get it right. We disagree. We shake our heads. We walk on our own. But we always circle back and try again. We have the foundation. I am lucky in that.

In this particular accident, I broke five ribs and suffered a collapsed lung. I have read descriptions of ribs in which they are described as a cage. I think of my ribs more like a nest. The nest that holds most of the important stuff. The vital body stuff alongside some of the other “important stuff” – the inner core – the love and the faith that circles and keeps you moving forward.

There was a huge bouquet of love that surrounded me on that afternoon as my nest was rattled around a bit. But I like the idea that I am driving along with the faith that my siblings carry along with their love for me. I like the idea that we are all in this car together.

This is one way I drive through this topsy-turvy life.