Sunday, July 14, 2013

Step Hatred

I have a blended family, which I write about frequently. I support step-parents, as I am married to a step-dad, and my children also have a great step-mom. I try to teach others through example, and by writing about what works for us. I tweet my articles, and I follow several step-moms and bio-moms who support blended families. On Friday night, a woman on twitter replied to a tweet about one of my articles. The link is below, and I also pasted to this blog.

The conversation:

Trish: Step-bashing is hurtful, and unfair. Link to Put An End to Negative Step-Talk on Big Blended Family.

Other Mom: "Bashing the Mom is also hurtful and unfair, yet Ive seen many do it."

Trish: I agree that it is not fair either, and two wrongs don't make a right. I am a bio mom, and I have seen this 1rst hand.

Big Blended Family: "We are talking about parents teaching kids to respect steps. Read the article!"

Other Mom: "I will stand up to steps who trash moms any day. Trish, are you a mom or a bio mom? Big Difference!"

Trish: Just because one person is hurtful, does not give the other person an excuse to be hurtful. If you read this article, you would know I was talking about children speaking negatively to step-parents. I am a mom, and working together with my daughters' step-mom is teaching my girls  to love and respect. She has never trashed me and I refuse to speak poorly of her.

Other Mom: "She doesn't trash you because she is probably a wonderful person. #twitterstepmoms that do are anything but..."

Trish: I don't think they badmouth because they are bad people. I think great people can react hurtfully, based on circumstances. The bottom line is if someone treats you poorly, you have a choice. I don't want my girls to learn that if someone hurts you, you hurt them back. It solves nothing. "If we all had an eye for an eye mentality, the whole world would be blind." We all make mistakes and say things we shouldn't. I feel that women should support each other. The step-mom in my life is my parenting partner, and I treat her with love and respect. Let's be pro-mom, whether step, adopted or bio. Let's work together to raise strong, happy, well-adjusted adults. My girls are learning to forgive. I will say a prayer for you. I hope that you find peace and forgiveness. A mom is a mom, step or otherwise.

Other Mom: "I beg to differ."

Trish: It is your right to disagree. My point is if no one is willing to bend and forgive, what will the world look like? I don't want my kids to live in a world like that.

Other Mom: "No, #twitterstepmoms badmouth because they are immature, selfish, and insecure. I don't have a step in my life. Happily married to my first and only hubs."

Trish: Good for you. Why do you follow step-moms if you have never experienced divorce or remarriage? You can't understand what step-moms and divorced moms go through, until you walk in their shoes. But you don't know any of this firsthand. You are not divorced, so you have no idea what any steps or divorced moms go through.

Other Mom: "I'm a product of divorce and I certainly know what divorced moms go through and I have a step and she and my dad bashed my mom. Guess who I don't want a relationship with now!"

Trish: Understandable. Not all steps are like her. I am not like that. I try to teach others how to co-parent. You responded to my tweet, on Friday, about a blog I wrote, yet you didn't read it. I'm sorry you were hurt as a child. But #twitterstepmoms didn't do that to you. I didn't do that to you. There are many great therapists out there who could help.

I heard later this weekend that this person stalks #twitterstepmoms on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there are many hateful people in the world. I don't feel they are bad people, but rather than choosing forgiveness, they choose to cling to their bitterness like a buoy in the water. Eventually, they are forced to let go of those feelings if they truly want to experience anything better or they die clinging to their bitterness. We all have a choice each time someone is hurtful to us. We can lash out at them or we can take the high road, and be an example. I choose the high road. I wish this woman nothing but healing and forgiveness. We can only control our OWN reactions.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Appreciate What You Have BEFORE It's Taken Away

I had an epiphany last night. We had a pretty good weekend, and we were all a bit sad it was almost over. My husband and I bickered at one another for the latter part of our Sunday. After tucking the girls in, crawling into bed, and putting my arms around my husband I realized something. Have you ever noticed when something really bad happens, you were actually happy with what you had, right before it occurred? Maybe before something bad happens, we don't always notice the good things right in front of us.

I used to notice this more often, working in the medical field. I watched people die every week, and watched the families collapse in grief. I no longer witness death in my profession. Somehow, I have gotten caught up in the to-do lists, and the nonstop chatter inside my head. Why was I snapping at my husband? How would I feel if I found out something horrible happened, and last night was my last with him? We don't always get a warning before we lose someone we love. Your last kiss to your child could have occurred yesterday, you are just unaware, at the moment.

My husband and I have recently been crabby with one another, and quick to snap at each other. While my husband and I held each other last night, many things went through my mind. One was of how giddy I was for most of our first year together. It took us months before we had our first fight. I also thought about all of the women out in the world, who had their husbands taken away too soon. I kept thinking that somewhere in the world, was a widow who would give anything to have just one more moment holding her husband. My thoughts drifted to my children. Somewhere in the world was a childless mother, sobbing into her child's pillow, wishing for one more hug. I thought about what a blessing our weekend had been, and I stopped the chatter in my head. I concentrated on the moment with my husband, relishing every second. I woke up with a smile, realizing if something were to happen to one of us today, there is no question that the other knows how loved they are. Don't waste time on too many chores. Put the mop down and read a story to your child. The dishes can wait. Take your husband's hand and dance in the living room. Chores and work will always be there waiting, your family may not be around as long as you anticipated.

Savor every moment.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

10 Ways to appreciate Step-Dads

Father's Day is a day to honor all of the dads in your life. I wanted to give step-dads the credit they deserve, but do not always receive. It takes a strong man to step into the lives of children that are
another man's biological children.

Ten ways to appreciate a Step-Dad for everything he does on a daily basis.

  1. Do not compare him to your children's biological father. They are different men, and it is not fair to compare them. Think of their step-dad as a "bonus" dad, and try to notice all of the ways he goes above and beyond.
  2. Make sure the children spend one on one time with him. Find something that can just be his to do with the children. My husband enjoys teaching my youngest to cook. They both enjoy it immensely, and it makes them both feel special.
  3. Do not make him the disciplinary parent. It is difficult enough to be a step-parent without making him the bad guy.
  4. Tell him often how important he is, and that you are grateful for all that he does.
  5. Try to keep the stories that involve bio-dad to a minimum. Focusing on what happened before he came along makes him feel insecure and like he is less important.
  6. Make sure to include him in all important decisions. Co-parenting is tough, and it is easy to leave one opinion out, which can lead to resentment.
  7. Understand that at times he can feel like it is him against the world. If he says something to the children that you disagree with, he suddenly feels like an outsider. Try to treat him like he is part of your family, at all times, even during disagreements.
  8. Have date nights with just the two of you. It is important for your marriage to be a united front, and this is much more effective when you take the time to build up your relationship.
  9. Ask him for his opinion. He has one, and it can often be overlooked.
  10. Make sure the children know how selfless, patient, and strong a step-dad has to be for his children.
Happy Fathers Day to all of the wonderful Stepfathers. Thank you for all you do.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sometimes Life can Slap you Awake

I've posted about my dad in the past, here is the link. He had a stroke seven years ago, and has many residual medical issues from the stroke. Two weeks ago, I received a call at work that he was in the emergency room, with difficulty breathing. He lives very close to the hospital where I worked as a tech in the emergency room for over six years, so when they called me, saying he was really sick and to hurry, I knew what that meant. Terrified he was dying, I closed out my computer, and rushed out of my office. One thing that is very important to my dad is that he not be resuscitated, if he coded. This is hard for me to accept, but I understand, as I feel the same way about if something were to happen to me. He is scared of becoming trapped inside his body, and of being completely reliant on others. He also worries about becoming a burden, which I argue about with him, but he does not waver. Since his stroke, I have had to help him with certain things, but he is still able to live alone and be somewhat self-reliant.

I was afraid they were intibating him, before I was able to get there, and I had been putting off his DNR paperwork. The doctor had said they needed to intibate him over the phone, but I wanted to talk to my dad first. I wanted to make sure it was what he wanted, but I also knew that if he was struggling for breath that I could not just watch him suffer.

I ran through the doors, and found someone who knew where he was. They were just about to take him to ICU, and they had already intubated him. He was sedated. I was too late. Tears pouring from my eyes, one of the nurses who I used to work with years ago embraced me. When I grabbed my dad's hand, she told him that it was no longer her holding his hand--that it was me. This statement brought more tears. She held my dad's hand until I could get there. She spoke to him gentle, and looked after him like he were her own flesh and blood. We went up to the ICU, and they forced me out of the room while they transferred him to their bed. I knew the drill--I had kicked family out to do the same, and had hated to see them over my shoulder watching every little move I made. At that moment, I understood how that felt. My mom and husband had not yet arrived, so I stood in the waiting room alone. When one of the doctors entered, I was quietly sobbing. I listened carefully to his words. They were worried about his lungs, and his heart, as not all of the tests had come back.

My mom and husband soon arrived at the hospital. My mom, who had been divorced from my father for over twenty years, came to the hospital to support me.

The next twenty-four hours were the worst. He was sedated, but toward the end of the day he was opening his eyes. He started squeezing my hand, and he tried to talk. My ex brought our daughters to the hospital to see my dad. They both spoke softly to him, and he blinked at them. I was worried about what was going through his head, and reminded him over and over what was happening. I kept thinking about what it would be like to wake up, completely helpless, restrained to a hospital bed. This thought terrified me.
The next morning, he was more lucid, and they finally took the tube out. The first words he said to me were, "what was that?"

He was diagnosed with CHF, and renal issues. He was in the ICU for four days, and then another floor for three more days. He is back home now, and on the days that the home health nurses do not check in on him, I stop by and check his vitals. I have also started helping him clean and now do his grocery shopping. Having a parent with declining health is one of the worst things to experience. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer.

I also have to say a special thank you to the nurse who held his hand, until I could. She greatly touched my heart, and reminds me what it means to be compassionate.

I don't know how much longer my father will be around, but this last scare has been a reminder of many things. I was reminded of how precious time is. I was reminded that at any moment, the rug can be pulled out from under your feet, leaving you falling into the unknown. We do not have complete control of circumstances or even over our own bodies. We have to trust in those we love to take care of us, and we have to have faith. I will make sure that my dad knows that I care. I will make sure that every time he sees me he knows that I don't consider him a burden. I was helpless once, and he cared for me. He did the best he could with what he knew in raising me. It is important to me that he knows I have forgiven him for whatever he thinks that he did wrong, and that I understand. I am a mom now, and I know that no parent is perfect. True unconditional love is letting all of the faults go, and loving the person in spite of their short-comings. I will spend every day making sure that all of my loved ones know how I feel about them. This was a huge reminder of how little control we really have.

Wedding photos by, Matt Spilker and Lyndsay Rupe, Spilker Portraits
The baby picture is of me.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When Your Husband Leaves

Someone I know has someone important in her life going through a divorce. This friend is watching the person she loves experience pain and loss. She feels helpless. This is for you, to share with her.

My divorce was amicable, but not at first. When he left, the sadness was like having thirty pounds of weight strapped to my back. It hurt to move, to breathe, to be. I looked forward to going to sleep, because I would dream we were still together. I hated waking up to reality. I still loved him and wanted to work on things, but he did not.

I examined myself through a microscope, analyzing everything I had ever said and done. What I didn't do or say. Whether or not I complained too much. I didn't look the same as I did when we met, and I wondered if he missed the girl I once was. I worried that I had spent too much energy on other things, not leaving enough for him. Everything that had transpired over twelve years replayed in my brain like an old film on a loop. I felt like a failure. I failed to keep my family together. I failed to keep my him interested in me. I failed to be the person he wanted me to be. I failed my children. I failed everyone.

After the initial three days I spent crying, I went through the motions of my day. I woke every morning and strapped on the weight of my pain. I carried it with me while I dropped my daughters off every morning, tears stinging my eyes as I drove away from them. I felt like I had doomed them to relive their parents' failed relationship. What would their lives look like? Would they be the berries tumbling around the cracks of a broken bowl, constantly searching for stability? They were unaware, at first, that their family was fractured. I lugged the pain to work, and flashed my best fake smile to the people I had to face. There is no other way to describe what it feels like to lose a marriage besides death.

I hardly ate. I dropped down to 111 pounds. When friends and family members would hug me, my bones dug into them. I tried...I just had no appetite. I had trouble falling asleep, and when I did sleep I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night. The memories, the what-ifs, and the guilt plagued me. For the first time in many years, it was just me. The days the kids went to their father's house were agony. I would find myself sitting on their beds, smelling their pillows, and begging God to take away my pain. It was so unbearably quiet. My heart ached to hear the steady breaths as they slept. I worried when they were with me, that I wasn't enough without him. I worried more when they weren't with me. It has been over three years, and I still miss them when they are gone. Now, I fill the quiet. I fill the silence with the things that I love to do.

In addition to not eating, I stopped writing--the very thing that normally offered solace repelled me. I stopped doing everything that reminded me of the man who left. I needed to distance myself from all of those things, but somehow I found my way back to my authentic self.

One day, instead of allowing myself to wallow in my pain, I grabbed my sketchbook and pencils. I sketched, I drew, and I painted, spending every spare moment the kids weren't home creating. I have always been an artist, I had just strayed for awhile. It was the perfect thing for me to do while watching mindless TV, something to concentrate on, something other than my ex and where I went wrong. Some of the pictures I drew were dark, like I had opened a vein and bled charcoal onto the page. Others were bright and colorful, full of hope. This was the first step I took back to myself. The next step was forgiveness. I had to let go of all of those unrealistic expectations I had held onto for years, of myself and of my ex-husband. Forgiveness takes time and lots of practice, but it starts with a choice.

I know when you are living in it, it's so heavy, it is suffocating. It feels like you have lost everything. You don't understand where you went wrong or what you did to deserve it. The truth is that things must come to an end when you are no longer growing in a relationship, whether a friendship or a marriage. You can either grow together, adapting along the way, and feeding one another with love and understanding or you grow apart. My relationship with my ex-husband had become toxic for both of us. Neither of us were growing together, and the end was inevitable. Death is necessary for rebirth. It's not easy, but it is worth what comes next, which is rebirth.

You will be okay, I promise.

The last photo from: Jessica Crosby

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is that your Ex Hiding in the Bushes?-Dating after Divorce


This week, my post on Her View From Home is about dating after divorce. I wanted to write a quick companion blog, because humor is so much a part of dating. I must add that none of these men met my children or were around them. I did not want to introduce anyone until I knew I was in a serious relationship.

When my husband and I first separated, I was talking to a male friend, quite often. We texted, sent Facebook messages, and occasionally spoke over the phone. I'm not sure how I would have gotten through those first two months without his friendship.There was dating potential with him, for the future, but unfortunately he was in a different relationship place. He was ready to date again, and I was still clinging to the false hope that my husband would come back. We never officially dated, just talked. One of the red flags between this male friend and I was that we bickered, and actually fought quite often. We were not even in a relationship and we were already fighting. One thing to remember is people show you who they are, it is up to you to believe them. He was a great guy, we were just not suited for one another. I think what finally sealed the deal for me was when he swore my ex-husband had driven past his house with a blond woman, laughing. I think an ex-husband intimidates some men, and I did not want to be with a man who was easily intimidated. Besides, my ex did not drive by his house.

The first man I dated turned out to be very similar to my ex, only he was timid. He would obsess over what my ex thought, and whether or not he knew about us. He was constantly looking behind us if we were out, watching for my ex-husband. Needless to say, that did not last.

The next guy (right before I met my husband, Bob) was a set-up from a friend. I really liked him, at first. He took me to a bookstore on our first date and bought me books. If you know me, the bookstore is my heaven! He was older than me, and he had never been married. We only went on a few dates, emailing and talking in between. I really liked him. He stopped calling me, out of the blue, and stopped responding to my emails. Weeks later, I received a strange email from him referencing a book I had lent him. He then shared that on the last night he had seen me, he thought he was followed home. He swore it was my ex-husband in a Tahoe with tinted windows. He said he could not date someone with an ex-husband. I was so glad that I had not introduced this man to my kids!

 A running joke with my friends after those encounters was pretending to spot my ex-husband in airplanes above us, hiding in bushes, ducking behind booths in restaurants, disguised as old ladies and children, etc. My ex-husband had better things to do than to stalk me. I think the idea of an ex-spouse makes some men uncomfortable. Perhaps they are unable to handle the idea of another man being permanently in your life (with children, your ex will never go away) or maybe they think you compare them to your ex. Maybe they worry that the ex is unstable and could hurt them in some way. This is my take on it anyway. Do you have any funny after-divorce dating stories?


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Co-Parenting-Sick Child

A few weeks ago, I received a call from the school nurse. My youngest daughter was vomiting in her office and she wanted someone to come and pick her up. I called Molly, my children's step-mom, and she had my ex-husband go pick her up from school. It was their day, so I remained at work, clacking away on my keyboard. I received a call from Molly. Cami had a temperature of over 103, she was still throwing up, and she was complaining that her throat hurt. Molly was asking what to do next and I could hear my baby crying, "I want my mommy."

A lump formed in my throat, and I immediately felt like a terrible mother. Working moms face one of the biggest challenges. We are expected to juggle our work and our family, without missing anything. You are expected to not miss a day at work by your employer, yet when you are not home with your sick child, the other mothers and teachers judge. Molly and I work together, regardless of who's day it happens to be.

When my daughter's fever kept rising, and she was crying for me, my heart broke. I wanted my baby. I wanted to take care of her, to hold an comfort her, to take her to the doctor, and to rub her back. I asked Molly if I were to leave work, if I could pick up my daughter. She said of course. I picked up my baby and took her to the doctor. I ended up staying home from work the next day. I took care of my daughter on both days, and neither day were my days, they were her dad's days. If we did not all get along as well as we do, they would have said no. I can't imagine what it would be like to hear your child cry over the phone, but not be allowed to come and get her.

We always try to work together in every way possible. This is one of the many examples of the benefits of co-parenting. Jeff and Molly understood why I wanted to take my daughter, even though it was not my day. My daughter was so happy that she had her mom all to herself while she was sick, I felt better being with her, and Molly was able to get back to work (she runs a business from home).