Saturday, October 27, 2018

From the heart of a step momma

I had a conversation today, and I want to share some of it. I hope it helps anyone who may be walking a similar road. 

Step parenting.
It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. By far. Seeing my mom struggle with Alzheimer’s is hard, but my mom loves me. Unconditionally she loves me. So that aspect of our relationship and the memories we’ve made fills  in a lot of the painful areas and cushions them for me. 

Since I walked into the step mom role five years ago, I’ve faced CONSTANT opposition from several people. 
Hear me, I’m not the kind of person who needs approval. I just kind of do my thing and live my life, knowing I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. However, the constant opposition throughout John’s and my dating and marriage makes for about 8 years of it. And it isn’t people I have the luxury of distancing myself from. I have to see them and deal with them regularly. 
And I’ll admit, it’s taken it’s toll. I don’t think I always realize it, but it does. The sudden onset of my life altering anxiety came about a year after my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and we had to move her out of her house and put her dog to sleep. But it also came the same time Riley moved in full time with her mom, got pregnant, had a miscarriage, and we’ve all been dealing with the aftermath of that. 
I was in a conversation with a PRECIOUS new friend earlier today who text me to check on me. I found myself, as I so often do, trying to explain my relationship with Riley and where I stand in all that’s going on (because I haven’t seen Riley in months and every time someone asks about her I have no clue how to respond....and it’s hard.....and it’s not at all what I figured would be the situation so I’m just trying to roll with it and do the best I can.......) 
At one point I said to my friend, “I hope you don’t think I’m being cold about the situation,” she responded with, “it doesn’t matter what anyone who isn’t living it thinks.” 
Boom. That’s a truth bomb. 
And it reminded me. 
Years ago I promised myself I would learn to become free from trying to explain myself to others.  Easier said than done. But I’m working on it. Because truthfully it DOESN’T matter what anyone thinks.  I don’t need to be understood and I don’t have to explain myself. 
My relationship with Riley is a clear example of how life turns out sometimes. Sometimes you give love and plant seeds and try for a relationship with someone, and it doesn’t turn out anything like what you think it’s going to. But that doesn’t mean it’s wasted. Love is never wasted. Even if it hurts like hell. Love is never wasted.  

Here’s the bottom line. 
Riley was made to feel like she was forced to choose between me and other people in her life she loved. 
It isn’t a choice any child should have to make. 
The more people we have who love our kids and pour into them and give them the tools to become successful adults, the better. If you are a parent I beg you to remember that. It take a village. If you have someone who loves your child and teaches them things they should know, be grateful. Regardless of your personal feelings for that person. If you have people in your child’s life who have their best interests at heart, you’re fortunate. Broken families are hard. Blended families are hard. But if everyone is Invested in doing what’s best for the kids, it can be a beautiful thing. 

I hope this meets you where you are as a parent and encourages you. It isn’t easy. Parenting isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. Relationships aren’t easy. But nothing worthwhile is easy.

I love y’all. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Working mom

I had an interesting conversation with a mom whose daughter is in Ben’s gymnastics class. 
Sometimes public situations with strangers is excruciating for me. I’m a total introvert by nature and small talk with someone I don’t know is highly uncomfortable for me. It’s something I’m working on but I’m not sure I’ll ever be fully there. Anyway. 

After answering question after question about whether my kids did VBS this year; if they’ll be doing any activities during the school year; where my daughter was that morning (she was at her mom’s during this conversation; a surprised look was the response from the person with whom I was talking, who clearly didn’t know she was not mine biologically); how often Amelia is with her mom and with us; if Ben will be going to school this year; where he will be going; what my husband does for a living; if I want more kids (😡😡😡😡😡 I really hate that question); and a bunch of other questions, she asked me if I worked outside the home. Y’all, I HATE this question because I ALWAYS know where it’s going to lead. I answered that I’m a teacher and SURE ENOUGH she asked me, with a dumbfounded look, how I handle being a teacher, a mom, a step mom, and everything else. I tuned her out and just politely nodded while she told me how she struggles to keep up with everything she has to do, and how she can’t imagine adding a job outside the home to that. 

Ok. Fair enough. But here’s my latest zinger, ladies. I DON’T. I don’t handle it all. My house is usually in need of a good thorough cleaning.  I love cleanliness and order, but sometimes that’s the first thing to go to the back burner. There’s more than one night a week during the school year where I insist John pick up dinner from Chick fil a on his way home, and I keep frozen pizzas stocked for when I just can’t do anything after work. There’s usually one day a week at least where I come home from work, turn on a cartoon for Ben, and take a power nap. There are some days my biggest accomplishment is keeping myself and my kids alive. 

Listen, I won’t go into a big thing about how NOBODY asks my husband how he handles everything. It’s expected men will have a job outside the home. It’s expected that they’re capable of handling parenthood and a career. Women are held to different standards, and I’ll tell you’s usually other women who have those standards. I’ve actually never had a man ask me how I handle parenthood and a career. They just don’t. I think so many times men see women as more capable than women do. Isn’t that strange?? 

So listen. If you’re a man and you’re reading this, rock on. You’re doing a great job handling  everything you have to handle. Keep it up, and while you’re at it, support the women you know who are also working to do everything on their to do list. 
Ladies, can we start supporting each other more? 
I can’t tell you how many times, when I found out I was pregnant with Ben, other women would tell me “You know, they’re only young once. Are you sure going back to work is the best thing?”
I’m not even kidding. 
Look, I love being a momma. It fills up part of my heart I need filled. But y’all. I also love being a teacher. And I’ll tell you something. Having a career and not being a stay at home mom is the best version of me. It makes me a better mom for my kids. 
I have a ton of friends who stay home and homeschool and raise kids. I respect them and think they’re amazing. If you are one of them, keep up the good work. 
I have a ton of friends who have kids and a full time career. Awesome job, keep up the good work. 
I have friends who work from home and have successfully created a life for themselves in that environment. Awesome job, y’all. 

Our differences make the world go round. 
Ladies, something we need to work on is supporting each other and being each other’s biggest cheerleaders. The world is hard sometimes. We all have battles that are kicking our butts. During the last 15 years I’ve been through a divorce; dealt with realizing my mom is an Alzheimer’s victim; coming to the realization that my mom grew up in an abusive situation that was far worse than I ever imagined; and removed myself from a bulk of my immediate family because of dysfunction that was slowly destroying me. It’s been a heavy few years. But I did it. I did it while I worked and built a life and I did it while I was raising kids. So sometimes my house is dirty, sometimes my kids watch tv, and sometimes we eat fast food. 
Life is gave and take. 
Women, let’s stop demanding absolute perfection from ourselves and from other women. Let’s step back, lose ourselves in the moment, and do our best to survive....even if surviving is all that is on our list of accomplishments for that day. 

You are enough. You’re doing a great job. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The violin.

So I’ll just say upfront this blog is probably going to be all over the dang place. It’s one of those “I need to clear my head and this is how I’m going to do it” type things.

I was talking to my dear friend Julia earlier today about our kids and their violin lessons. 
It sparked a snowball of thoughts that I just feel like I need to put out there. 

I stated in my last blog that I feel pretty far away from the Lord right now. I know He is there. He’s always there. But it’s a dry period in my relationship with Him. I seem to be in a fog a lot of the time lately, and that goes for every relationship I have. Anyway, I also stated that looking back over the situation I talked about in my last blog, I could see His fingerprints all over the place. I will say His faithfulness is 100% evident in what I’m about to talk about as well.

I’m just going to say outright I absolutely hated the violin growing up. There wasn’t one thing about it I liked. If you know me at all you know I hate being the center of attention, so performing at all was completely sickening to me. I had a couple of teachers I loved, but there were also a few who made it absolutely miserable for me. 
My parents made me play and that’s why I did. Period. 

At some point it was decided I would be going to Baylor. I didn’t make that decision, but that’s how it was going to be. And because I was going, I would need a scholarship so music is what I was going to be studying. Again, not my choice but that’s how it was going to be. So I got a scholarship and went to study music. Little did I know how my life would change.

Y’all. Baylor was the best thing in the world for me. I remember leaving Amarillo and starting over all on my own. It was amazing. I suddenly had a violin teacher I absolutely loved. I was in a symphony that was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I met people who were just like me. I grew as a musician and as a person. That was NOT the path I would have chosen. But God knew. He knew. 

I think a lot of the reality of how awesome music is hit me after September 11, 2001. We had a Baylor Symphony concert shortly after that. We were playing Tchaikovsky’s 6th. If you’re familiar with that symphony, you know how emotionally wrenching the last movement is. It seemed perfect for the occasion. 
Our conductor (and one of my biggest musical heroes for the way he changed my life with his love and his guidance) got up at our dress rehearsal and said, “Take everything you felt that morning and pour it into this piece.”  And I did. And it healed a part of my soul. And I has power. As I got to perform more amazing music, I felt more confident. More beautiful. More human. More alive. More worthwhile. I got to play some of the most beautiful music in the world. It’s not something I take for granted. 

Now I teach. God KNEW all those years ago. He knew when my dysfunctional family was falling apart and I watched my mom slip further and further into her deep depression. He knew when my dad would go out of town for at least a week every month and mom would sleep the days away. He KNEW. He knew that someday I’d have kids of my own, and they would need to see me do better than that. He knew, although depression is something I’ve always struggled with, that music would be one of my biggest healers.
Music would lead me to the career I have now. It would lead me to some of my best friends; my mentors; my students whom I love like they’re my own kids. He took care of me when I didn’t even know it. Isn’t He amazing like that? 

I hope to God I will be the teacher who changes someone’s life like those Baylor professors did mine. When I was falling apart on the inside and had no idea how to ask for help, they knew and helped me anyway. They changed my life. 

In less than a month I’ll go back to work. It’ll be my sixth year at SJCA; my 15th year teaching music. I’ll see those little faces that brighten up my life now. They’ll walk into my classroom and forget about everything else for 45 minutes that day. We will laugh together, grow together, make music together, worship together. And maybe, just maybe, someday they’ll write a blog about a teacher who changed their life when she taught them to love music.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018


I’m sitting in my backyard, watching Ben and Amelia play in the sprinkler. They fill up my heart. 

Today is Riley’s 16th birthday. I’m going to go on a little journey with y’all back to about a year ago. My prayer is that it will encourage some of you like it did me. I used to blog all the time and I haven’t done it in years, but today felt like a good day to start back up. 

Last year Riley was still living with us 50% of the time, and for her birthday we sent her on a girls retreat with First Baptist. I remember her coming back home and being absolutely giddy. She had a wonderful week in Glorieta, and she was absolutely filled with joy. 
I will honestly say it was the last time I saw her truly happy. 

My dad had a stroke last year. It was a bad one. I really thought we were going to lose him.   He had a watchman on his heart, but somehow a clot formed outside the watchman. They gave him blood thinners and those made him bleed in his brain. Every cardiologist and neurologist at the hospital in Houston said they’d never seen anything like it. That’ll humble you quickly. I drove by myself to Houston to stay with him for a while, thinking it absolutely could easily be the last time I saw him.
The night I arrived, I went to the hospital and sat with him for a couple of hours. It was a long emotional day. 
John called me from home and told me Riley announced that day she wanted to move in full time with her mom. 
The last year has been devastating. 
Step parenting is something I’m not sure anything can prepare you for. I’ve learned a lot though, so I’m going to share some of the journey we’ve had. 
I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve grown so much in the last year. 
God is good like that. Even when we least deserve it, He showers us with His mercy and grace. Honestly I’ve felt far away from Him lately. I’m in a wilderness, you know what I mean? But looking back I see His fingerprints all over the map of my life. His provision, His protection, His faithfulness. Always. Even when I stray. It’s always there. 

Anyway, shortly after moving out of our house, Riley started dating a boy. She became pregnant several months ago and subsequently had a miscarriage. It was truly one of those situations where I have had that dichotomy of “I saw this coming” and “how could this happen.” 
It’s been emotional. It’s been hurtful. I’ve been angry, sad, furious, lonely, and every gamut of emotions I could have ever imagined. 
Here’s a little summary of some of the things I’ve learned and am still learning. Maybe some of them will ring true to you. 

I thought if I took my kids to church enough, had them in Christian school, and did extra things with them teaching them about things like purity they would certainly see the benefit and choose to live that way. I was wrong. And it was absolutely my pride making me think that. I wanted to feel at the end of the day like I’d come along and taught them so well they’d never want anything different. That’s me being totally honest. It was coming from a place of love and wanting what’s best for them, but it was also coming from a place of pride and control. God swiftly reminded me I am in control of nothing.

I thought if I could give enough and invest enough and simply be enough my kids and step kids would naturally be interested in returning that and strive to behave a certain way. God gradually reminded me that we all have free will and we all make choices that break His heart, myself included. 

I thought when all this unfolded that I’d failed miserably and, unfortunately, there were a few critics (who REALLY should have been some of our biggest support during that time) who had no problem making sure I knew I’d failed. God mercifully reminded me that He isn’t finished with any of this yet, and Satan is the accuser (Revelation 12:10). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Who’s voice am I listening to? All too often it’s the accuser. 

I’m still tempted often to think that this is it, Riley’s life is ruined, and she will perpetually live in a state of rebellion. God continues to remind me that His word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). 

Y’all, life is hard. Sometimes we lose. But my God counts every tear. He will continue to love., continue to forgive, continue to restore. His mercies are new every morning. 

I know so many of my friends are hurting. Sickness, loneliness, divorce, pain, death, depression and so many other things are plaguing so many of you who are reading this. I know because I’ve watched you walking through it. I want you to know you’re loved. God has a plan for you and a purpose He created for you to fulfill. Our broken world is full of pain and it’s just sad sometimes. But He overcame the world. 

I love you all and am always here if you need me. I hope this story will help someone remember how much you’re loved, how good God is, and how there’s always room for restoration when He is involved.