Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We're Women

So lately, I've been thinking a lot about the roles of women. As I look at my own life, I realize I'm surrounded by strong women. I am a working mom so a lot of my friends are career ladies, and lots of them have chosen not to make work their focus.

I often wonder if there is a direct correlation in female empowerment and the astounding divorce rate in America. But then I think about how many women in generations before stayed in abusive, destructive relationships because they had no other choice and wonder if empowerment, education and careers are really such a bad thing... focus Ashley.

As a woman today, you'll likely wear many hats. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, Christ Follower, Friend... to name a few. My favorite stories in life are often of women who were knocked down and hit rock bottom, only to pick themselves up and make an impact. While there is a lot of mindless reading that fills my bookshelves (Yes the Twilight Saga is part of that), in my night stand there is a different sort of stack: Anne Lamott, my Bible, The Message... to name a few.. and every night after I tuck Cole away, if I'm feeling a little lost or discouraged by all of these roles or hats that have to be worn, I seek a cup of comfort in my not so mindless reading.

Tonight, I dug a little further back and dusted it off from my bookshelf: Iyanla VanZant was an author I discovered in college. When I googled her tonight, she's taken her message way beyond a series of books and I'm not sure how I feel about that... However, her story is a sad one: Abuse,teen pregnancy, more abuse, divorce, welfare... She applied for a series of grants and completed college and law school with three children in tow. She believes that the other parts of your life aren't going to flourish until your spiritual house is in order. Many people would consider her and Anne Lamott a little "new agey" but I'm of the mindset that until I meet my Maker on my day of judgement, I am not going to judge any one's walk with Christ while I'm here on Earth. I just want to learn from it? Back to Iyanla.. At the beginning of her book, "Yesterday I Cried" is a very moving poem. I read it aloud to myself when I'm really feeling blue.. Sometimes great writing is about sharing/introducing people to someone else's and while this blog is by no means great writing... This poem is:

Yesterday I cried.
I came home, went straight to my room, sat on the edge of my bed, kicked off my shoes, unhooked my bra and had myself a good cry.
I'm telling you,
I cried until my nose was running all over the silk blouse I got on sale.
I cried until my ears were hot.
I cried until my head was hurting so bad that I could hardly see the pile of soiled tissues lying on the floor at my feet.
I want you to understand, I had myself a really good cry yesterday.
Yesterday, I cried
for all the days I was too busy, or too tired or too mad to cry.
I cried for all the days and all the ways and all the times I had been dishonored, disrespected, and disconnected my Self from myself, only to have it reflected back to me in the ways others did to me the same things I had already done to myself.
I cried for all the things I had been given, only to have them stolen;
for all the things I had asked for that had yet to show up;
for all the things i had accomplished, only to give them away, to people in circumstances, which left me feeling empty, and battered and plain old used.
I cried because there really does come a time when the only thing left for you to do is cry.
Yesterday I cried.
Yesterday, I cried.
I cried because I hurt. I cried because I was hurt.
I cried because the hurt had no place to go except deeper in the pain that caused it in the first place, and when it gets there, the hurt wakes you up.
I cried because it was too late. I cried because it was time.
I cried because my soul knew that I didn't know that my soul knew everything I needed to know.
I cried a soulful cry yesterday and it felt so good.
It felt so very very bad.
In the midst of my crying, I felt my freedom coming,
Yesterday, I cried
...... with an agenda.

I'm at a really good place in my life and while that good place isn't where I want to be, I'm realizing that it never will be and to just embrace that I'm right here, right now for a specific reason. Strength, many times, comes from showing weakness. Some days, no matter how great life is going or what kind of "handle" you think you have on it..there is a cleansing that comes from a good cry and to all the men out there: you should try it.

My blog has been something I have been neglecting... but my journey isn't over. My career is in need of CPR. I'll always have some crazy mommy tales to tell, and wifely tales to tell soon.. so stay tuned. Holla!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Step W-h-a-t?

When you are a little girl and growing up and dreaming of the man you'll marry and what kind of house you'll have and how many kids you'll have and what you'll do for a living you never say "I want to be a step mom." *flash to Cinderella with her wicked step mother and equally wicked step sisters*

I've found it's something that just sort of happens to you. My Mom was a step mom. My Dad was married previously and my sister is ten years older than me. I watched my Mother struggle with step mother hood.. trying oh so hard to get it right. I'm not saying it's a bad fate, but talk about coming with some challenges- it absolutely does and it has remained my greatest concern for mine and MB's marriage. I could totally screw it up and live up to the Cinderella image...

Shortly after Marketing Boy and I became engaged, rather than ordering an ettiquette book on throwing a second simple wedding ceremony, I filled my cart with titles like " Stepcoupling" and "The Working Girl's Guide to being a Stepmom" I watched Stepmom with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon and sobbed. Never thought I would be a stepmom. I guess I thought I would get a divorce and it miraculously it wouldn't happen for me. Boy was I an idiot.

Close to 60% of American Families are what we affectionately call "Blended Families" and it certainly feels that way. Insert "his" and "hers" and the two of you into blender and press "blend" and that is very definitely how it can feel sometimes. No one is right or wrong- we're just all different.

We have sought a great deal of coaching on how to blend a family. We talk through issues with a professional and get suggestions or ideas about how to make our life in a blender a little more smooth. Then comes step 2 :Try to spend as much time together as a family unit as possible. This will make the transition after marriage a little easier. I'm learning, that there are good weekends with the kids and there are challenging weekends with the kids. Weekends where you think: I can totally do this- I'm a step mom super woman. Then there are those weekends where you feel like you've been through nuclear war and you have grown a wart on your nose and you suck and they hate you. These are the weekends where I happily bound into the office on Monday morning for a little solitude and peace that comes with a 9x9 cube.

Here is why I think it's harder for women to swallow this "step" craziness. Women are very often responsible for the nurturing of the kids. The setting the stage of the home life, the family dynamics, and really they (like it or not) are the center of the family unit on a lot of levels. It's so easy for me to nurture Cole: I know every wound, every hurt, every issue and I've been there from the beginning. I know what he needs before he even needs it. I don't have to learn: I know. With stepkids it constantly changes. You get to have an impact 25% of the time and with Marketing Boy and I, we know they aren't getting the most positive picture of us when they are with their Mom. I can never be prepared enough for the emotions that come to us every other weekend. So it's a constant experiment in trial and error. Trying to understand what's going on with them and learning to be the sounding board they need.

Step families get a bad rap. Nuclear families are best, but in my day to day life I hear a lot of really positive things about step families (if done right). There is a lot of influencing that can be done. It warms my heart when Abigail and Hudson share secrets and thoughts with me that they don't even share with their biological parents. Jay tucks Cole in most nights and "upside down on the bed" is the usual routine and he absolutely treats Cole as if he were his own.

There is the struggle of being the complete opposite of their mother in terms of parenting style and expectations. But what I'm learning, when I allow myself too, is God put me in their lives and them in mine for a very specific reason. While we're still figuring that out and there is craziness, chaos, and emotion.. There has been a lot of growth and strength that comes when two people press "blend" and trust each other enough to hold on for dear life.

Stepmom... My life suddenly hit fast forward and I've been thrown in the deep end with a six year old and eight year old. Luckily, their Dad is always willing to throw me a life raft.