Should the role of Stepmom come with a rule book?

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Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. The two fall in love, get married and start a family. If, however, you’re a woman of a certain age, the story may change. Tell me if you have heard this before. Man meets woman. Woman silently wishes her dating days are over. Man tells woman he has kids from a previous relationship. The couple, more mature and pragmatic, forges ahead, gets married and blends families. Simultaneously, the woman has two new titles after her name, wife and stepmother. Full of optimism and love, she embraces her new roles. But what happens when said stepmother is told,

Stay in your lane and play your position?

Perhaps naively, it never occurred to me that a stepmother’s biggest task would be to stay in the background, help when needed, but never be included in significant decision-making or disciplinary actions. I assumed that a martial partnership would also include a close-to-equal say in the lives of the children. I mean, there may not be a biological tie, but surely, a stepmother has to mean more than a babysitter or a teacher? As someone who dated a man with two young children, I often wondered what my role would be in their lives should the relationship advance to the next level? In the meantime, I battled internally with how much of a connection to build to the kids and their well beings. I was always aware that at any moment, the bonds we formed could be broken; the relationship could end or the biological mother could exert her veto power and exclude me from their lives. Surely, it would leave a considerable hole in my heart, and perhaps in theirs too. It wasn’t until last week when watching The Wendy Williams Show did I hear what might be the popular opinion of many biological mothers. Essentially Williams advised stepmothers to stand-down, not to make stepchildren her “everything” and always keep in mind that the kids are not hers. Although, I am no longer in that relationship, Williams’ words struck me. Would I have been expected to maintain a certain distance from the children? If I had married him, does staying in my lane mean remaining tight-lipped on important topics like their schooling? Certainly, a portion of my earnings would pay for their food, clothes, outings, and transportation. There would be holidays and birthdays shared together. Photos snapped to memorialize moments. Could I not consider us a family?

As more children are born outside of marriage and on the opposite end of the spectrum, divorce continues at the same rate, dating someone with children becomes a more probable scenario. What are the rules of engagement?

Can you cap the depth of your feelings simply because the offspring are not biologically your own? How do you silence your opinion and ideas on raising kids that in every way other than DNA are part of you? If becoming a stepmother means staying in your lane, maybe it’s time to park the car and walk.

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Eating New or Eating Ewwww? Trying New Foods – Week 1

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Eat what you want, what you don’t want don’t eat.” – My Mom

Photo Credit: CytoonThat was the advice straight from my mother’s mouth when I was a toddler and then repeated many more times until she realized her pearls of wisdom created one picky eater who refused to eat fruit, vegetable or any other foreign object placed on her plate. Now, some 30 plus years later, here I am. I insist on referring to myself as selective, but lets face it, I have never even tasted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (For those in shock, I urge you to accept this reality and trust that one day I will try it. Maybe). My mom, a straight shooter, typically had sound advice, but she missed the mark with this one.In the spirit of self-improvement, I challenged myself to expand my culinary horizons and try new foods. Now in my second week, I can share some feedback about my leap into eating what I DON’T want and staying away from the tried and true staple foods.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I shocked my system with in week one.
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Grapes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Parsley tea

I can feel your eyes judging me as you read. Now I’m sure this is all very basic for those of you with a normal upbringing, but for me, this is a big deal.

Of the 5 new food items, I can peacefully rock with three, the other two, (yeah I’m talking to you, oatmeal and yogurt), I cannot. Well, at least not yet.

SERIOUS QUESTION: Do people really like oatmeal?  In the three days I tried it, all attempts resulted in failure. Day one was an instant packet I popped in the microwave. One and a half bites later and I threw in the towel. Oatmeal 1, Me 0. Day two I decided to jazz it up based on people’s recommendations. This meant preparing it on the stove top and adding cinnamon. Two bites in and I was feeling better about it, so good, in fact, that I decided to toss in some apples. Abort! Abort! Couldn’t get down a single additional spoonful after that screw up.  Oatmeal 2, Me 0. Day three I abandoned all the bells and whistles and opted for a pragmatic approach.  I reasoned with myself. First, I went over the health benefits; good source of fiber, slow burning carb, yadda yadda. Next, I rationalized how silly it was that I, a grown adult, couldn’t finish a tiny bowl of oatmeal. I recalled all previous athletic accomplishments and academic achievements to psych myself up. The result? Oatmeal 3, Me 0. The taste and the texture are not for me. I imagined the experience to be more like Farina, a childhood favorite. It’s not.

Yogurt wasn’t nearly as bad. I opted for the French Vanilla variety from Yoplait; fewer calories, less processed sugars, etc. Once again I’m working without a point of reference, so without knowing what it’s supposed to taste like, it started out just fine. There was a slight hint of vanilla and then, wait what is that?  What the heck is that taste on the back-end?  My limited food vocabulary prevents me from even describing the taste, so I will simply label it, WEIRD. Is it rancid? (Checks expiration date: Nope, it’s fresh). Ultimately, I was able to endure just over half before my palate took over and shut me down. I still have hope that I can make this yogurt thing work, so I’ll consider this half a win.

My “Trying New Foods” score for Week One is 70%.

Catch up with me next week when I tackle zucchini, peanut butter, salmon, avocado and pumpkin seeds.

Until next time,
ASK MORE QUESTIONS

Can looking back clear the way forward?

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ImageI opened Microsoft Word intending to write a post asking, My Ex Contacted Me; Now What? Instead an old Word document popped up. It was a letter I began writing to him on April 28, 2013 during one of our breaks. You know these letters. They are the ones you write with no intention to send. They are attempts at catharsis and healing.  Here is a snippet:

I miss you every second of every day. Even when I am asleep, you’re in my dreams. I wish I could dream of us having a great day together just so I could feel that again.

Are you judging me yet? It’s embarrassingly shameful. They are the words of a young girl typed by a grown woman. They are fantastical thoughts. But more than that, they are a reminder of the relationship carousel that lasted more than two years. It’s funny how the Universe lays things in your path at the moment when you need them. Instead of weighing the pros and cons of replying to his call-outs, the quote above and the rest of the letter remind me of the constant anguish. Even in the happiest of times, there was an underlying anxiety asking if this time his promises of change would be realized. He was convincing and persuasive. He knew exactly how to deliver a line while simultaneously soothing doubts and halting further conversation. In retrospect, it was quite remarkable. As the recipient, it was emotional warfare. He was armed with tactics designed to misdirect conversations, distort my words, minimize my feelings, and when all else failed, retreat completely.  Retreat was his harshest weapon. Ignoring phone calls and texts; allowing days to pass with total radio silence. These periods were the harshest. Confusion morphed into anger. Anger contorted itself into hurt. Hurt transformed into worry. The cycle continued until he chose to end it. At that point, I was so emotionally spent that there was very little energy left to fight the good fight.

So, why did I propose today’s post to seek your advice about returning his calls when the answer is clear? Well, this is the most honest I can be. Who wants to devote years of their life to someone and come out on the other side of it wondering, was it all a lie? Intellectually, I am aware the answer is negligent to my future.  Yet there are days, like today, when I am haunted by that singular question. Luckily, tomorrow is a new day.

Until next time, ASK MORE QUESTIONS

What Kind of Book Will you Write?

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Cheers to prosperous start of 2014!

Why I will ignore your advice this New Year’s Eve

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With less than 48 hours (depending on your time zone) in 2013, the web is bursting at its virtual seams with articles, essays, stories and more on how to live your best life in 2014. There are motivational quotes on Twitter, positivity photos on Instagram, and I am sure a combination of both on Facebook walls everywhere. Here is the thing; I love quotes of all kind. I, too, double tap away on inspirational images and sayings, scripture passages, and fitness triumphs. There are plenty of days when I find myself rereading encouraging words to boost me up out of a funk or to persuade me to modify my thoughts as a means to modify my mood. However, as I turn the page on this calendar year, I do not want to read one more article on how I should feel in 2014.

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The bulk of this year is something I would happily send out into the void along with George Clooney in Gravity. If I had kept count (and I’m glad I did not) of the days I have cried, I am certain it is more than half of the entire year.  I would love to write that it was tears of joy, but assuming you have read previous posts, clearly the tears were of the sad variety. When much of the year has been spent enduring emotional hurt, it is not only unrealistic, but also quite simplistic, to think that said person can simply flip a switch once the clock strikes 12. If it were that easy, wouldn’t we have done it sooner? I will spend the next two days feeling whatever it is I feel at the exact moment I feel it. The past twelve months were rough. I do not want to spend more time wallowing in what was, but I do want to honor my feelings. Yes, there will be confetti dancing overhead, music playing loudly and glasses clinking to toast the start of 2014, but I will still feel the push-pull of what is versus what I had hoped to be.

The trajectory for ’13 was projected to go plenty differently than where I am now.  Unfortunately, broken plans and unrealized promises happened and here I am. The singular truth is that I cannot change past events. No amount of wishing, praying or hoping (all of which I have tried) will force circumstances to be other than this. My heart still hurts but admittedly, some days are better than others. As my eyes move from person to person at the stroke of midnight, I will wish he was beside me. Momentarily, I will close my eyes and imagine him there. The moment will pass and I’ll return to the here and now. I will embrace my friends, sip champagne and make that universal wish that the coming year is the best one yet.

Make New Year’s Eve and the upcoming year your own. Do what feels right to you and forget the rest.

See you on the flip side, and until then… ASK MORE QUESTIONS.

I came, I saw, I ran…

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A journey begins with a single step. Taking care of yourself is a holistic approach – equal care is required for the mind, body & soul.

The Week Ahead (aka my long walk back from a broken heart)

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Last week I promised to introduce a new weekly piece titled, The Week Ahead. The root of the idea is simple. I need to give myself SOMETHING ELSE to think about and stop looking backwards. The goal is forward progress and it’s impossible to do that if we are tethered to situations that no longer exist (past relationships, former jobs, lost friends/family, once-healthy savings accounts, foreclosed homes, or whatever is the thing keeping your mind and energy focused on everything except the present and future. http://www.flickr.com/photos/girolame/5032449047/in/photolist-8EGBLT-9E5NgN-8ooRS5-8SMrbV-8yRs8Z-8yRspk-hKq8Qi-7L9zwE-7F7JZk-a5b5zZ-988kNb-9E5KAE-7MBEbV-9E2UaZ-7F7K2F-7FbBZJ-7F7KdV-7FbBVL-bukMRo-7F7KwH-7FbCjs-9swg2U-8jA5mE-7FbC8y-hKqeS8-hKqnSN-7F7KmB-7MZpfZ-aidBjH-aidBbc-crJMfm-7Ekeey-9JvD6h-8suWSZ-8GWUQP-9ckWkm-9stgXg-7LnhgU-cRJUtJ-8H14Hb-8H12AS-9fFrko-8jA7W7-7Ek96o-7Ek7Bo-7QWiTw-ejzKUC-eju5bn-eju3Ut-ejzM2d-aUr9wD/lightbox/Let’s be clear, I am not trying to over-promise to you or to myself, which is why it’s the WEEK AHEAD and not the 30-60-90 or 120-day plan. We can all manage a week. Once we make it through this week, we can reevaluate and go for another 7-days. These weeks will become our mile markers.  The mile markers will soon add up and reveal how far we have progressed from where we are right now.

How will you support yourself this week? What goals or plans, big or small, are on the to-do list? 

Here is what I have lined up for myself:

  • Begin training for an upcoming 5K race.  In my previous post, When did I become that girl (& why I took myself off timeout) , I challenged myself to compete in my first Spartan race. Well, training begins this week. My program will consist of strength training and conditioning. Running is my nemesis, but these two apps are my keys to success.
  1. C25K – 5K Trainer – this free app is for new and novice runners and requires a 3-day per week commitment. Expect a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down with a mix of jogging/walking intervals to build up your stamina and condition your body to running. I used this for my first 5K in August and I highly recommend it, besides it’s FREE!
  2. MapMyRun – another free app designed for outdoor runs. Start this app before your jog and the built-in GPS will track your run by recording your pace, duration, distance and more. The upgraded version of the app will even suggest routes in your area.
  • Meal Prep! I love cooking, but the truth is, cooking solely for myself isn’t much fun. However, the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is in the food you consume. Check back later this week for a fun snapshot of my handiwork.
  • Volunteering at City Hall – there is a toy drive at the end of the week for children in the community. I will spend at least one evening this week assisting officials in wrapping presents, on behalf of Santa, of course.
  • Mani/pedi time – we don’t always have to be so deep with our actions, do we? Ladies or fellas, treat your hands and feet to the tiny miracle of a manicure or pedicure. Use the time to zone out, read a book or listen to that new Beyonce.

There it is… small actionable items to make this week better than last week. Share your ideas below.

As always, ASK MORE QUESTIONS and take care of you.