Are You A Step-Parent? Me Too. Lets Talk.

 

First things first, being a parent is tough. Hello and big love to all you parents out there! BUT, those of you who know what it’s like to be a step-parent, know that this special type of parenting requires super powers. I want to make sure I emphasize that being a step-parent is special, because it is, but I am going to be completely honest with you however, and tell you that in the 4 1/2 years I have been a step-parent, I have found things out about myself that I could have never known without becoming a step-parent. Not all these things I have discovered about myself have been positive. I have found out over the years that I have super powers, and they look like this:

Super sized patience ~ Lets face it, when raising any child our patience threshold is tested every day, sometimes every hour, or every minute. Learning to navigate the rocky road of nurturing and raising another human being, while also allowing them to become their own individual self is wrought with frustrations and headaches, and days where frankly, only a bottle of wine can smooth out the bumps in the road (okay, maybe that only applies to me…). This is just what parenting is all about. But when you are trying to help raise a step-child, all of this is amplified ten fold! Now, I am not really talking about the step-parenting where maybe you have raised the child since birth or a very small age and you are the only mom/dad the child knows. That is actually in a different category than what my experience is (one I know a lot about however, because although my “dad” is not my biological father, he raised me from a young age and is the only father I consider as my “dad”…)…..no, I am talking more the co-parenting type of being a step-parent, where you are a part of the parenting experience, but really must defer to the two “real” parents when major (or any) decisions are made, or how one allows a child to act. This is where I have earned my super powers in patience. What do you do when your step-child is raised in a manner that is completely different than what you believe in or how you choose to raise your own biological children? Let me stop right here though and use a disclaimer: I am not saying the other way of raising a child is wrong or right, or that how I personally choose to raise my own children is wrong or right…..just different. Okay, just want to make sure that is clear…moving on…..but when the two versions of parenting clash, learning to step back and not shout out my opinion every chance I get, has taught me a patience level that I am pretty sure is what those guru’s out there talk about when they say go to “the next level”. Boy, have I been there over and over!! Now, I don’t talk about this to complain…never. I talk about this because if you are a step-parent out there and you are feeling guilty for feeling so frustrated, I want you to know you are not alone, so give yourself a break ( I will give myself a break as well). I want you to know:

Girl, (or guy) I Hear Ya!! (boy do I!!)

Super sized love ~ Now that we got one of the negative sides of step-parenting out of the way, lets talk about the upside of this step-parent thing. I came into my 2nd marriage with 2 children of my own. One daughter, who was 12 years old at the time, and one son who was 9 years old at that time. I was pretty sure those were the only two kids I was meant to have….and then I met my current husband, and his daughter. She was only 3 years old at the time, and at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to go backwards and have the experience of having a small child again (you KNOW what I mean my fellow parent…), but I am so thankful I opened my heart up to the possibility, because I now know that my step-daughter was supposed to be my second daughter all along. The bond that one creates with a non-biological child (especially one that is not raised primarily in your own home), is interesting. The process of going from stranger to your step-child, to a loving protector and mother figure is beyond comprehension. I can’t tell you the moment I switched from polite concern for my step-daughter, to having genuine “mama bear” instincts, but the transformation happens, and I feel lucky I get the chance to have some sort of impact on this beautiful girl. She may not be raised with all of my parenting expertise, but she is being raised knowing she has all of my love. This new found super power love that she hopefully carries with her, whether she is at my home or her mom’s, is here to stay. It has made me a better person, and I hope she feels the same way.

Anyone? Girl, I Hear Ya?

Now, for all you fellow step-parents out there, know I salute you. I know the struggles that go along with that title, but I hope you also know the joy that goes along with that title as well. I sure do, and I wouldn’t change a thing..(okay, maybe that isn’t true, but let’s talk about that in another blog post….) 😉

Keep doing YOU! You make all the difference.

Kalee xoxo

 

 

 

Reservation For One

I used to be afraid to be alone. I used to feel sorry for people that I would see in a restaurant, or a movie theater, or any other public place, who were sitting alone (and don’t even get me started on thinking about people who traveled alone…CRAZY!!!)… It never occurred to me back then that maybe those people were making a conscious choice to be alone, because that was so far off from my need for having lots of people around me all the time. If only back then I knew how empowering, peaceful (and frankly, now required!), time spent alone can be.

My first experience with learning to be okay with time spent alone was when I was going through my divorce from my first husband in 2009. With all the emotional noise I was going through during that time, it was difficult for me to concentrate on my own thoughts. It was hard to navigate this new path with all the advice and concern I was getting from others. I knew I needed to sort some things out and take a good hard look at what my responsibility in this failed marriage actually was (it always takes two people to make AND break a marriage..), and as much as I was afraid to admit it, I needed to get away to figure this out on my own. I wasn’t experienced enough back then to understand it is possible to enjoy alone time no matter where I am (even at home), so I decided to take a big life leap and booked a trip for myself to Berlin, Germany. This is how I usually do things my friends….extreme or nothing (and now I was one of those crazy people who traveled ALONE)!!

I am not going to talk so much about the actual trip to Berlin because that is not really my point for this blog (although it was amazing and beautiful and I ate lots of great food and drank lots of good German beer!),  but want to talk more about how it felt to be alone during that time and how it still feels today…..it was and IS, the best thing I have ever done (do) for myself!

When you are alone, all the decisions are yours to make. When you are alone, you start to ask questions that only you can answer. When you are alone, you can clearly see through the fog all the what and why’s of life that are so easily avoided when you are constantly surrounded by others. When you are alone, you have to face some tough answers to those questions you are starting to now ask yourself. When you are alone, there is no one else to blame. When you are alone…..well, you have a big mirror being held in front of yourself and you begin to understand that it is truly you alone who are making the choices in your life, and you have to take responsibility for those choices. I know, who wants to admit that kind of thing??!! Believe me…my first thought when I started holding that mirror up was…. “shit”.

But once you start realizing the truth that we can only be as good to others as we are to ourselves, alone time switches from a luxury to a requirement! Time spent alone evaluating our life decisions and direction, opens you up to a self growth most of us don’t (I didn’t) even know we need! It is a time to replenish our dreams. A time to reflect on past choices and decide we don’t want to continue with them, or that we do. A time to let ourselves off the hook and embrace the idea that we are only human, and that includes making mistakes. Time alone is priceless.

Since that first solo trip back in 2009, I have spent many other solo vacations with myself, including going to London and Munich on my own. I have discovered that although I still enjoy spending the majority of my time with my family and friends, that I actually crave having experiences alone in life, and traveling alone is one of them (those solo travelers aren’t so crazy after all…. 😉 )….. I don’t do it often, but every now and then is just enough to keep my independent spark going. But, I also now know that I don’t have to travel to some far off location to enjoy alone time. I now choose to take a few minutes out of each day to get inside my own head and have a conversation. I make sure I am doing okay with how the day is unfolding….how my life is unfolding. I now understand that on any given day, I have the choice to change my life direction, and I now give myself permission to do so.

I also sometimes now go to the movies by myself, or even grab a glass of wine at a local bar by myself. After all, I have learned to kinda like the company.

How about you my friend? When was the last time you made a reservation for one? Maybe NOW is a good time.

Kalee xoxo

 

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This was me back in 2009 on that first solo trip. A selfie (before “selfies” were a thing) next to the Berlin Wall.

A Picture Hides 1000 Words

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They say a picture says a thousand words, but a picture can also hide a thousand words, especially in this crazy age of social media. I am here to tell you my friend, don’t be fooled by all things shiny and new. Yes, we all have good times, even GREAT times in our lives that we want to share with others (and usually this is ALL people care to share on their social media sites), but lets face it….we ALL have moments in life where things aren’t so shiny, experiences that bring pain or sadness, and sometimes, for some people, moments where they just don’t know if life is worth going on for (this may be you, or may be someone you have known, but please remember, life IS ALWAYS worth continuing!!)…… Yes, ALL of that (and more) can be hidden behind beautiful and happy pictures we display for the outside world.

It has taken me several days to write this post because with everything that I am, I don’t want to come off as defensive or attacking, but I need to say what I need to say. Please know my intention in writing this is not to upset anyone, but to just give my perspective on some things I see and hear as far as social media goes, and things I have personally experienced. Here goes…..

For the past almost 2 weeks my husband and I have been traveling. This is our passion. We spent our days driving up and down the California coast, and stopping at some of the most beautiful sites the USA has to offer (in my opinion). It was a time to re-connect, a time to experience new people, a time to just enjoy being with each other and the life we have created over the last 6 years together. This is what Erik and I do. Since we have met each other, we have traveled all over the world together, we have taken our 3 kids to many places in the world, and we look forward to continuing to be able to do this frequently in the future. This is how Erik and I have decided we want to live our lives. When we travel, I share pictures from all our beautiful locations, not to say “hey, look at me, don’t you wish you were here?”…but just the opposite. I enjoy sharing my personal moments and joys with my beloved friends and family because it somehow makes me feel connected to people I may or may not see on a regular basis. Sharing my experiences allows me to still be a part of their life, even when I am not physically there. You see, I am a people person. I love people. I love my friends. I love my family. A lot of my friends and family are not in the area where I live, so being able to share our lives via sites like Facebook, allows us to be included and caught up in one another’s lives, and I LOVE that about social media. I love to see how my friends from childhood are doing, how their kids are growing up, the places they go in life, all of it…it makes me happy. BUT, this is where it gets tricky. Behind all the happiness that people share (including me), there are stories not being shared. Experiences we wouldn’t put pictures up to share with anyone. Moments that were stopped in time by traumatic experiences and none of which can easily be deleted as simply as a Facebook post. This is real life, and this is where the illusion is shattered and questions are raised.

First, I have had conversations with people who say looking at Facebook (there are so many other sites, but because I am old and only really use FB regularly, this is the one I will focus on…what is Snapchat anyway??!!)……..that they feel bad about their own lives when they see what everyone else is doing. That “everyone else” seems to have figured out life’s secret to happiness and everything is perfect for them. This can lead to jealousy, resentment and an overwhelming sense of failure when it comes to looking at our own lives. COME ON!!! This is NOT REAL LIFE my friends!!! Although the great moments or locations, or experiences we all have actually do happen in our lives, this is not what makes up a person’s life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for ANYONE!! Do not be fooled! Do not let what you see on the outside of someone else’s life, challenge you in your own life, and make you feel somewhat less than. The only person who can make you feel that way is YOURSELF. You are allowing a one dimensional side of someone else determine that your life is not measuring up. Stop it!! Your life is anything and everything you want it to be. We all have choices. We all have things to overcome, but it is not impossible, and at any time in your life, changes can be made to create for yourself a new direction. I know, I have done it.

I made dramatic changes in my life back in 2009, not knowing really what direction I was going in. I wasn’t sure how anything would work out, but it didn’t matter. I took control of my life and took action to make things different. Even back then, I traveled. I went on a solo vacation (my first, but many have followed), where I went to Berlin, Germany. I gave myself permission to do things that moved my heart and soul. Travel is one of those things. Then I met Erik. My male counterpart when it comes to my feeling on travel. He has also enjoyed traveling since he was a young adult, and so when we decided to create our lives together, this was a central part of what we knew we wanted our lives to look like. We have made many changes and steps to allow this to happen.

We sold our “big” house 2 years ago. We got rid of a lot of excess “things” we just didn’t need anymore (not sure we ever really NEEDED any of it, but you know how that goes….)….we have made job choices that allow our travel to happen as frequently as we desire…BUT, it has not, and IS not always easy. Erik stepped out of the comfort of a financial assurance environment in the corporate world a year ago to start his own company. This allows him the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, but it is new and we don’t know how it is going to turn out, but we for sure won’t be sitting on the couch years from now saying to each other, “what if”?! Yes, thank goodness we have some resources that have been saved over the years that allow us to do this, but no resources last forever without replenishment. I have worked off and on over the years, sometimes with great success, and sometimes with none at all, and I have career goals in the making as I write this, but nothing is certain. Does it bring me anxiety sometimes? Absolutely! But, this is what I have chosen to do, so I will follow my passion and work towards the goals I have created. If Erik and I never would have sold our house, and downsized to less than half the square footage of what we were living in, our travel and work ambitions today would not be possible. Simply put, the house was just not as important to us both as travel. This is what WE want, and I know it is not what everyone else wants. So please know I am not saying having a big house is bad, or a wrong choice, I will never say that. It is just not what Erik and I feel is important to our life, and we all have to decide what we want our own lives to look like.

There are also moments in life where we may experience total despair and darkness. 2014 was one of those years for me. As much as I want to shout from the rooftops my experience in order to hopefully help someone else who may be going through the same thing, I can’t…at least not yet. It did not and does not affect just me, and I will always honor those in my life who matter the most, and only share when it is the right time (if that time ever comes). During that difficult time however, I alluded on my personal Facebook page to going through something extraordinary, but it will never have a picture attached. I also pride myself on being mostly a positive person, a glass half-full type of girl, so sharing negative news or bad experiences is not what I prefer to do. Lets face it, we have enough of that type of thing every where we look! This does not mean however that I am trying to portray a nothing but happy life. This is never and will never be the pretense I lead my life on. Does it mean everyone in my social media world gets to see everything and gets access to every part of my life? No. We all have to have our core inner circle of people who we get to share this side of ourselves with. It keeps us grounded. Keeps us aware of ourselves. I know you have those people my friend, and so do I. Cherish them. They matter the most.

I write all this in order to hopefully release you (myself) from any insecurities social media may be giving you. In the end, it just isn’t that important. It is a reality check in a not so real world sometimes. I am also not defending how I choose to live my life or how much I do or don’t put on Facebook, because I am comfortable with my life choices, but, I will say, when comments are made after looking at pictures I have posted like “Don’t you ever work”?…or “I want your life“….it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know people don’t mean it as offensive, but I think we all just need to be careful what we “wish” for. Because behind any one of our happy pictures, is a life shaped by the ebb and flow of good and bad experiences. ALL OF OUR LIVES. So when you look at that above picture of me, you may see a woman enjoying the sunshine on a California beach, and that is true, but what you don’t see are the moments of bad choices, past mistakes, insecurities, worry, and sadness. Those are also true. I wouldn’t change any of it though. All my many roads and experiences have made me who I am today, and have brought me to a place where I can write to you and hopefully give you permission to just be yourself. To know you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings. I want you to know:

Girl, I Hear Ya!! 

To those of you who don’t relate at all to any of the above…I applaud you. I want to be like you when I grow up. 😉

Be real. Be you. I, for one, think you are fabulous.

Kalee xoxo