I’ve known a lot of boys in my life. I’ve liked some, loved some, hated some, and been irritated by many. But you don’t know boys until you’ve lived with some.
Not just one – not just your dad. Dads are different – they can do all the boy things and you don’t notice because you’re a girl and it’s your world when you’re the kid.
I live in a house with three boys now, ages 10, 12, and 43. They are not like girls. And they have no interest in learning the ways of the girls. The big one has at least known enough girls to be adaptable, and my goal is for the younger two to learn to do the same.
I’ve raised a girl – seemed much easier to me. Critics will tell you otherwise, but they’re probably boys.
My goal as step-mom has evolved from wanting to be one of the boys to being one of the girls they get to learn about early. I no longer feel bad asking them to do “boy” things, in fact I delight in it. I no longer make apologies for wanting things to be clean, for curtains to be straightened out after rough-housing, for the certain reward for “hmmmm!s” and “ahhhhh!”s at the dinner table, and for the proper arrangement of throw pillows on every couch and bed in the house.
They will remember me when they meet girls that expect the same. They may not remember me fondly, but they will not be shocked or dismayed by this behavior – and for that ONE day, they will be thankful.
Boys are great, and I love these with everything in me – the big one more than anyone I’ve loved in my entire life. But I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t make a boy into a girl, and you shouldn’t want to.
The challenge said “A to Z”, doesn’t sound so hard to me.
Twenty-six days of blogging – I blog twenty-six times a day in my head. But maybe – maybe – that’s the challenge…ONLY twenty-six things to blog about.
I read the challenge, contemplated, and accepted.
Cocky. Sometimes I pretend I’m confident.
Acceptance means commitment. Acceptance means challenge. Acceptance means a schedule. Acceptance means I could fail.
I accepted a new job last week (haven’t told my boss yet). But I’ve committed. I’ve been challenged. I now have a schedule. And I could fail.
So just as I accepted this A-Z poetry/blog challenge, I accepted a job that will make me have to plan every day again, deal with something new every day again, and put a huge part of myself out there for judgment, scrutiny, and personal and professional evaluation every day again.
But that’s what I’ve missed. So here I am – Challenge Accepted.
“Contemplation, concentration, anticipation, revelation…”
Lines from a Coastal Bend B-side non-hit (not that any of our other songs have made it onto the FM dial, but still). A line our song-writer-leader-producer Tim wrote for me to sing. I’m quite proud of the final cut of the song, but the morose nature of his creation certainly isn’t a sing-along that’ll win over new fans at your local bar…
It came to mind just now as I’m trying to write a mission statement for my life – an assignment given to me by my boss after I shared (under duress) with her the fact that I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this job and that maybe I should go back the classroom.
Then, sitting next to Danette in writing group – who showed me a post about Coastal Bend (my band) – I couldn’t help but get stuck on these lyrics (just be glad these aren’t the ones I decided to tattoo on my hip in an earlier state of duress).
After reassuring me that I AM the right person for this job (…and other flattering things I’ll get into later), my boss asked me to do two things before making a decision – one of which was to write my own personal mission statement. She wants to see it when I’m done, and we’ll analyze whether it’s the mission statement of a teacher or that of a curriculum specialist.
I’ve written one draft already and deleted it because it was quite contrived to fit my current mood. I always seem to connect lyrics to songs to how I’m feeling – and then proceed to sing loudly so that all the land is on my page – so I feel like the place to actually, and honestly start, is with these lyrics. “Contemplation, concentration, anticipation, revelation” sums up what I love about people and teaching and my job and what I want to do and get better at and shout from the mountaintop.
Please ignore the fact that the name of the song I’m quoting is “Waste of Time”. The line from a Coastal Bend song that I DO have tattooed on me is “Let Me Show You How to Fly”…which would be much more appropriate for my Mission Statement 1.0.
I believe my earthly “job” is to inspire. Though my content skills may be surpassed by others, there is something about the transference of attitude, desire, and sound philosophy that intrigues me. It is the one element common to all of my jobs and hobbies that I think about night and day…How is what I am doing going to inspire others? It motivates me to push myself in ways that nothing else will. I haven’t mastered this art, but I long to more than any other professional goal.
Stay tuned. This will get better. Otherwise, I think it tells me I have a career in a commune somewhere where Becca teaches Yoga and I close the day with an inspirational quote worthy of Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.
Being a step-mom is weird. It’s nothing you can learn about from anybody else. And I hate the term “Step-Mom” for all the reasons one would expect – including the only two adjectives I’ve ever heard preceding it…evil and wicked. There are no (or if there are, I can’t think of them) popular examples of step-moms who are loved, appreciated, or revered. There’s even a show devoted to stepmothers who murder their families. As if.
I blame Disney.
For the first year playing this role, I felt like a new mom – The boys’ bio-mom was scarce at best…I was Mom #1, and unmarried, so without the “Step-Mother” label. It was great.
This past year, the ex-wife has re-emerged as Mom #1.5, and I have had to learn to play the role of Mom #1.5, and be introduced and known as Step-Mom. It’s much harder. They say “Step-mom” but it feels like “Step aside…we’ve got this”.
I started dating my dream guy when my daughter was 16. Small-child-parenting days were over. When she and I were on speaking terms, it was about jobs, colleges, ACTs, careers. My dream guy had eight and six year-old boys. It was never a decision – I never contemplated NOT being with him. I would have taken him von Trapp style if that’s how he showed up.
But any of you who have been here know that it’s nothing like raising the first, biological one. Older, wiser, less self-absorbed, and much MUCH more worried about screwing someone else’s kids up than your own.
So many things are different/harder with steps, boys, siblings.
Weekend before last, we had two events Friday night, two lacrosse practices, two lacrosse games, a birthday party, junior high solo and ensemble, and a high school musical on Saturday. Then another birthday party, team photos, a grown-up painting party, and Scouts on Sunday. I was joking with my hott husband (and the ex) that We Did It!…relieved that we hadn’t left any kids behind, hadn’t missed or forgotten anything (that we know of ;-/), and that was all with my parents and her sister in town. Then I realized that I did nothing of logistical value. I was merely the calendar keeper…I made sure everybody knew where everybody was supposed to be. My hot husband did all of the transporting or arranging of transportation for everything. He physically drove everyone everywhere they were supposed to be, and was the parent of record for both kids at each and every event. I felt like I needed to take my “WE Did It!” back and apologize for not pitching in.
I felt bad – until I remembered these seemingly small but critical things (to which few people give/get credit):
Everyone had home-cooked meals, the little athletes and big coach had chilled water bottles, the birthday friends had wrapped gifts, everyone sported clean uniforms and nicely pressed band gear, we had reserved seating at the musical, and everyone slept on clean sheets. I finally know what the home fires are and what it means to keep them burning.
Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who praises every little thing I do to contribute, but I’m sure there are many who don’t, and THAT makes me understand why second marriages run an even higher risk of divorce than firsts. I work harder raising your two kids than I did my own but I’ll never earn the endearing title that implies unconditional appreciation – “Just Plain Mom”.
It’s his turn to be the actor on the stage who everyone knows his name, and it’s my time to work backstage to make sure he has his props and sets and zipper up to deliver the thrills without a hitch. It’s a role I’ve not only made peace with but become fond of, and it’s a love language I didn’t even know I had until I became Step-Mom.
P.S. – As I’m writing this, I’m picturing my hott husband driving around in an eighteen-wheeler (which he does not), with dark glasses and Ronnie Milsap hair singing,
“She keeps the home fires burning, While I’m out earning a living in a world that’s known for its pouring rain…
She keeps the home fires burning, Ooh and it’s her warm loving that keeps me returning again and again.”
The Thanksgiving tradition for my family was set in stone, until us grandkids started getting married and having kids (and various renditions of those two things), which brings the inherent conflicts in schedules. This also means that there started to be years without the sausage balls (sacrilege!), and then there were years with no kids’ table – which meant I had to be an adult…which hopefully didn’t mean I had to do dishes. Yikes! Hurry and take a nap on Grandma’s bed until the after-meal chores were done! Nevertheless, holding to the “tradition” had become something unrecognizable and slightly less Thanksgivingy.
My hott husband was a Navy brat, and, with much of his family scattered around the planet, hasn’t spent any of his adult years living near the rest of his family. So holidays are simply opportunities to get away – ski, surf, camp, etc. The blended family that we are means our kids have other families who DO have traditions, so our take has been “pressure’s off…you don’t have to pick or split your Thanksgiving between family obligations…y’all go and have a good time with the ones who are tradition-oriented, and we’ll take advantage of the freedom to do/go wherever.” One condition is required of our doing/going wherever: Whataburger feast for Thanksgiving meal on two wheels. This new tradition began simply because, unlike most places, Whataburger is actually OPEN on Thanksgiving! Like most Texans, we love our Whataburger. We eat there maybe monthly throughout the year, but Thanksgiving at Whataburger means Whata-sizing, extra everything, soda, milkshake (chocolate…duh!), AND fried apple pie. We’re pretty sure we still come in WAY under the average American caloric intake.
Do my parents love this new tradition of ours? Doubt it. Do our kids care? Doubt it. Do we enjoy the opportunity to free ourselves of holiday obligations and chill in a camper, scooter parked outside at the ready? Absolutely. Do we spend a great deal of our time here expressing how thankful we are for this dream we get to live and the happiness we find in these simple things? You betcha.
We love our families, we adore our children, but we hope and pray that they know that our happiness together is a testament to the long legacies of families who appreciate the simpler things – we’re just taking out the pressure of cooking, traveling, tryptophan comas, while using our time to relax and recharge so that we can be thankful EVERY day for this crazy/busy/wonderful life we live the other 364 days of the year.
Our way is not for everyone, but it is for us, and we hope the legacy we leave our children is to take this time of year to do what makes you thankful, whether that is celebrating a centuries-old tradition, starting a brand new one, or just taking the opportunity to rest and relax. If you can’t be grateful everyday wherever you are, you’re probably not thankful at this time of year that is designated for giving thanks. When you’re living the dream (even if it’s your own dream), appointed days don’t seem so necessary.
Two weeks to go. Two weeks left in the 30s club. Two weeks to lose more than those pesky five pounds that I can lose for every important weekend (Halloween, concert, etc.) but that find their way back after a couple of days of Indian food, wings, pizza, and no (seriously, no) exercise. Two weeks to be where I want to be when I have to say that I’m 40.
Way back in my late 20s and early 30s, I ran the Austin half-marathon every year. Every year my M.O. was completely different. But one year, I created a playlist on a borrowed iPod. I made sure I had two hours and 35 minutes of music on it – because I knew I better not take longer than that. I alphabetized the playlist, and I estimated what song I should be hearing at each mile marker. Knowing my alphabet would be a skill that would help me figure out if I was ahead or behind my targeted finish time. I probably should have spent this valuable time actually training, but this was so much more fun. The coolest thing ever – that I could not have predicted – was that I ended up rounding the corner of the capital building with the finish line in sight as The Eagles encouraged me to take it to the limit one more time. Tears welling up in my eyes, arms and fists pounding as if I knew how to play the drums…Sing that intro in your head – yes, it was that beautiful.
I’ve scheduled my life out in little increments. I’ve set goals based on high school reunions, weddings, vacations, milestone birthdays – goals that included weight (usually based on pre-determined outfits), career changes, degrees earned…where I wanted to be at what point, and how to know if I was ahead of or behind the deadline (or the curve, now I see).
Now, with this little adventure I started with this blog, I’m looking around at my life as it is, and something just occurred to me. I was really down on myself last night because I haven’t been as hell-bent of a go-getter toward this self-employment thing as I am when I’m blogging more – which is usually when I’m unsettled about something – which is usually when change occurs. I thought to myself (and out loud to my hot husband), “I’ve had all this time to do more toward my goal, and now that I’m all happy with my job and stuff, I haven’t done anything.” (pout)
How pathetic am I? Complaining that my life is so great that I haven’t done anything to change it, and woe is me…I’m going to turn 40 with my life so great that I don’t want to change it…Waaahh!
I’m certainly not trying to brag (though I do have the best husband, kids, a house that I love to be in, a job that right now is my dream job, and wonderful family and friends, by the way), but I think I’ve been so caught up wanting to do something heroic and remarkable, that I’d lost sight of what the picture looks like right. now. It’s like finishing my half-marathon with Take it to the Limit, but thinking about how much cooler the Wonder Woman Theme Song would be. YOU’RE AHEAD OF THE SCHEDULE, WOMAN! Quichyer bitchin!
(Wonder Woman is 64.)
I’m not sure exactly how many steps forward I’ve made this week (a lot), and I’m even less sure how to quantify the steps backward I’ve made, but I’m hoping through all of the efforts and disasters that I’m at LEAST one step ahead of where I started.
Much like in football, it’s difficult to measure and celebrate your successes when other things – in completely different areas – have gone so, so wrong. Let’s start with the positives:
I’M PUBLISHING MY BOOK!!!! Hallelujah, Praise Jesus, I’m doing something with this story after 10 years. I don’t know why I have these blocks up in front of some of the things that mean the most to me, but it’s been like the birth of a baby after a long, long pregnancy (I guess). I “purchased” a publishing team with a great reputation, particularly with the subject matter that I’m touching.
I FINISHED THE CAMPER BATHROOM! Not nearly as gratifying as the book, but it sure makes going to the bathroom fun. For me. It’s probably a little girly for the three males in my house, but I think camping is pretty masculine itself, and I get dirty and smelly like boys, so at least my bathroom will be pretty 🙂 And I’m pretty much the only one who doesn’t pee on trees anyway.
MY PIANO LESSON SERVICES ARE ON CRAIGSLIST! Again, not really worthy of ALL CAPS, but I’m sticking with a theme here. I realize that if I pick up four or five more students with this I will be a little busier than I like, but I can’t quit my job until I have everything ready to go in other areas so I can just slip the job out from underneath and it’ll be like, “whoa, girl, you’ve got so much going on, you really had to quit that job thing.”
It’s much more difficult to acknowledge the negative things that have happened (duh). (1) I think I’ve lost two of the piano students that I had just started the summer. Their schedule was funky, and mine’s been too funky to be that flexible…They haven’t said they’ve quit, but I know the signs. (2) I’ve gained a solid three-four pounds. You may laugh, but if you’re laughing you’re probably not 5’2. And I know exactly why – I haven’t woken up early enough to do much exercise, and I’ve been eating more carbs than a carbivore…I blame the Astros and allergies. (3) There is dust on most of the surfaces in my house, there is [folded] laundry on everything with legs in my living room, and the dishes in the sink might be from more than just last night.
Those things may not sound bad to some people, I realize that. But these are three things that I obsess about. Yes, I obsess. Compared to my hot husband, I obsess about everything. But compared to most, I think I am among the “normal”. I obsess about people I feel like I’ve let down – one of the biggest drag-you-down feelings I can think of. I obsess about my weight – I’ve been overweight before, and I don’t care what doctors say about the number on the scale…one pound quickly turns to two which quickly turns to thirteen, and thirteen is to a short person what fifty is to the rest of you. I obsess about my house because, well, I like it clean and picked up and I don’t like it dirty and messy. They say that the organization of your house/office is an outward display of the state of your mind (chaos vs. structure). But while I know my mind is waaaaay more scattered and disorganized than most, I find peace and sanity in a clean, organized house. [Cue Jack Motley’s folksong “Who the Hell are ‘They’?]
After further review, I’ve realized that my body feels too tired and carbed out to show how freakin’ happy I am about the book, the camper bathroom, the piano ad, and my hot husband. But just so you know, I’m stoked. The call on the field has been confirmed.
I was born in the 70s, but I consider myself having “grown up” in the 80s. However, I’ve come to realize that growing up in the 80s in a small town is a lot like growing up in the 70s.
For a family who said they didn’t watch much tv, I remember a lot of tv shows. My dad’s lunch breaks in the summers taught me to love Andy Griffith and the Monkees, I loved Rob and Laura Petrie and Bob and Emily Hartley like they were family, and my primetime viewing consisted of Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, and the Barbara Mandrell Show.
But I watched all of those with my parents. The one show that I considered MINE was LIttle House on the Prairie. I thought Laura was the coolest kid ever, Mary was the prettiest, and I’m pretty sure Michael Landon was my first crush. I learned about mean feelings and how to deal with them thanks to Nellie Oleson. I thought it was amazing that a family of five could live in a one-room house and still like each other.
But now we have a camper. And I’d like to live in it. All five of us. And make dolls and tell stories and hear the kids’ tired breath as they sleep after a long day of hard work and hard play.
Our second trip out with the camper was the first trip out with kids (only two staying the whole time…eldest came for dinner.) My parents camped in the spot next to us – thank goodness because we’re still learning what to pack for these trips. Now the camper is parked [illegally] in our street because we booked a spot for this next weekend – just me and my hot husband this time.
I think it’s the yin and yang of things…I’ve definitely found myself seeking balance through this weird time. And I think I’ve unknowingly sought peace and simplicity in a way that eerily resembles the way I learned about it as a child…Ingalls-style.
Update on my Dreams in Development: no new piano students added, no orders for paintings, but I did finish Phase One of the camper reno, and I finished writing my book! And my hot husband has encouraged me to go all in and try to publish it fo’real instead of self-publishing or going to Kinko’s…he’s amazing. Now I just need a GoFundMe account or to rob a Starbucks. And I probably need to stop buying things. Like groceries.