Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Shot JR Anyway??

Who would have thought that I would learn ANYTHING about family from JR Ewing? If you remember the 80’s show "Dallas", you would know that the Ewing Family was a far cry from a loving and gracious bunch. My younger brother called me awhile ago and asked me “Who shot JR, anyway?”. Needless to say, this led to a line of questioning to explain why he was asking me this in the first place. Turns out, he had been watching the show in reruns on cable and was trying to figure out who was related to who and what happened to this character etc..

What was interesting is that when I explained the various tangled relationships of the main characters, he was surprised. He mentioned, “Oh they don’t act like ½ sisters” or “Wait, you mean that’s not really their son”. Based on what he saw on screen if they were brothers, they were just brothers no matter who the dad was. If they adopted a son, then that child had all rights and privileges as the others and the parents did not allow for them to be treated any differently. In other words, it was hard based on behavior to see the different sides of the family tree. You were either in the family or out-there was no “in between.”

In real stepfamilies; you have to work 27 hours day to be consistent and careful to not show favoritism or disparity between the “two sides”. People are so quick to say…”Well its just one side now”. “You guys are one family”…blah, blah, blah… That is true in theory and even biblically, but the day to day practicalities are another story. If you treat his kids like you do your own then you appear hard or overbearing. If you don’t, your kids look at you like you’re crazy-like ‘I KNOW you aren’t gonna let them get away with that”. Your kids view you are changing, but in fact you are just stepping up and dealing with some character issues in them that you were too tired to deal with as a single parent. There is alot of tongue in cheek when dealing with the stepchildren (for me its more like bite tongue almost completely off). There are many battles I lose completely. There are some battles I don't even show up for, because I know the victor ahead of time. It's tough, and I am sure my husband could say the same. Before you know it, you have two sets of rules and they bend constantly depending on who it is applicable to.

You also have to manage disparity in your extended family. For example, this past Christmas my mom & dad, sisters, brothers etc..all knew that I wanted no favoritism shown between the kids. You give to them the same as you would mine even if that meant that everyone got less. They did that and blessed all of the kids equally. Some even chose to buy a family gift-for everyone. I am eternally grateful for their sensitivity to that. No, they didn’t buy each child their own Nintendo and a fur coat, but what they did give was across the board. Unity and accord is way more important to me than a nicer gift or an extra $100.00. It was a hard stand for me at first, but if I hadn’t, it would have left an open door for the spirit of discord and unfairness in the house. It also showed my extended family my commitment to see to it that the kids were viewed in the same manner and they followed likewise. So, the kids know that with Big Mommy or Auntie etc.., You are either in the family or out-there is no “in between.” It’s a small thing, but every chance my husband or I get to reiterate the oneness we are growing into, we try to take it. I said “growing” intentionally because for us it is a process.

The character JR once stated to his son that he wanted him to grow up and take over the company. The son knowing a bit about his dad’s ways asked him was he going to take the company from Uncle Bobby since he was sick and in the hospital now. JR quickly corrected him and told his son in essence that “Bobby is my brother and I love him. I would never take anything from him unfairly or take advantage of him when he’s sick. He’s family, you fight fair." In his twisted mindset, family meant something to JR. Even in his unending quest for Ewing Oil, he had an air of respect for family especially his relationship with his brother.

We aren't the "Ewings" (Praise God, because they are waaaay crazier than we are) but Family means something to us too. Every now and then that line will pop back up out of the sand trying to divide us, but instead of picking sides we seek for and get on God’s side and His way of doing things because there is no “in between.” I see glimpses of togetherness all the time. All is not lost. We're family, we fight, but we fight fair....well semi-fair....maybe, pseudo fair....ok, well we're working on it.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, it was Kristen, She shot JR.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Growing, Going, Gone....

Jayna turned 22 this week and will be headed back to Arizona and in less than a month Jay will be gone to Oklahoma for college. It seems like these kids should only be 14 and 11 ish but no...they are growing, going and before we know it, gone.

When I met my husband's kids 5-6 years ago they were only about a year away from the time their mom had suddenly passed. My husband was still grieving in a sense, and so were they. I have watched the kids grow and mature incredibly since that time. They are coming into their own now and are finally for the most part, no longer victims of something that happened to them but awesome victors of the life God has ordained. They are no longer defined just as the "kids who mom died". They are now part of a much bigger calling-The Superfamily". They will not forget their mom of course, but they will realize in time that there is more to them than what was loss. That was simply a precious seed for a bigger harvest and the world will begin to see what that former pain was able to produce. It has not been easy for them nor for those of us on the outside who had to learn how to patiently walk through this process with them. They are remarkable and I have enjoyed getting to know them and learning to love them but they are growing...soon they will be going...and then gone.

My side of the crew seems to have grown up with me. By 19 years old, I was already a mom and married. They too have been through alot. They have both their parents, but they have also suffered loss. The divorce and custody issues, The loss of stability, the loss of homes, cars, finances, changing schools continuously, loss of friends, The loss of most of their possessions in a fire, the loss of the availability of their mom. But they are no longer lumped into a box as " divorced children, single mom statistic". They've become much bigger and better than what people may have thought they would be. They are the other side of the bigger calling-"The Superfamily". They have made some mistakes, and some screwy adolescent choices, but they have this uncanny tenacity to survive and overcome. They work hard and play harder. When they laugh, its infectious, they are incredible. Before I married again, there was no one I wanted to be with more than them. But they too are growing, going...and soon will be gone.

It seems like I am running out of time. Did I give them everything I could? Do the girls know what type of undergarments to wear under fitted clothing? Will the boys remember to prefer a young ladies right a way when coming in a door? Will they all remember to clean the tub out after a shower? Will Jay learn how to get through an airport by himself? Will they eat balanced meals when I'm not around? Do they know the importance of putting God first? Will they fight fair? Will they put scripture memory verses and prayer requests on whiteboards for their kids? Will they put bleach in white clothes only? When traveling, will they take extra underwear? Will they know not to even consider dating/courting anyone you know off the top you should not marry. ...the list goes on and on and on...

I guess in all fairness, I get the same amount of time as everyone else-24 hours in a day. I am just appreciating the fact that I need to use what's left more wisely. But hey, there is light at the end of the tunnel... when I "hopefully" become a new grandmother years and years down the road...I'll get more time with them (I mean they HAVE to bring them over right?) and I'll also get a new set of "superkids" to teach to clean the tub out after a shower.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Like them that dream...

This week is an important, pivotal week for our family. Our church is culminating "dream season" on this Sunday with a special service and offering. The offering will be used to fulfill the necessities of the dreams of the church as a whole. More importantly each family/individual was asked to consider working on their own dreams. What is it that you are dreaming about doing, achieving, completing, starting, changing???

One of the things the Superfamily is "dreaming" about doing, is being the subject of our own reality TV show. So.....Sunday after church we sat at dinner and 'dreamed" aloud what it would be like. It was hilarious!! They were coming up with episodes such as "Tune in next week...Jayna Returns! (She's lives away for college, but was home this weekend for cedar point). They were thinking of the conversations that people who watched the show would have..."Like girl, did you see the Superfamily last night? It was so good, I think the Jerica's are about to snap!" They were imagining their fan clubs, their websites, their new my space pages, who would be the most popular, would they have to act like they were in a disagreement to keep the show interesting. They talked about being followed with cameras to work, to school, to church, to the mall and around the house. They dreamed up tours, interviews, wardrobes, everything you could think of. They laughed, they created, they dreamed.....

While they were talking about it, my husband and I sort of well...watched. Laughed and watched. They were so excited. You almost thought that whatever they said was a possibility. They were so vivid, detailed and complete in thought. They went from one "what if" scenario to another just to be sure all the bases were covered. We didn't walk away from the table new TV stars, but we had a hope that maybe one day, at the right time it could come to pass. Right now, its a dream, but after we talked about it, laughed about it, came up with ideas and angles, for it to become a manifested reality doesn't seem too far off.

I shared that to say that some of us have stopped dreaming. My husband and I didn't even "dream" about the things we wanted to accomplish, we just took pleasure in watching the kids excitement. They had no problem going over and above anything they had ever imagined. But my husband and I, and you too...have something that you have dreamed of doing, dreamed of having, dreamed of accomplishing but are afraid to talk about it or even think about it. The kids had no fear, nothing was too outlandish, far fetched or unbelievable. Learn from them, I know I did. Dream it up...write it out...laugh about it, hope about it, broadcast it, take small steps to see it come to pass. The sky is not the limit, the sky and beyond is the destination!

I have a picture of them from that "dream session"...I'll post it soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Merging Coke and Pepsi

Contrary to what most would like to believe compromise is not easy, nor is it simple. If it could be just as easy as getting cheese on one side of the pizza, we'd be in business. But sometimes, its all gotta be cheese and you're gonna need to like it and agree with it. The concept may be pretty cut and dry…give a little, bend a little, prefer the other person, blah, blah, blah.. BUT to actually put those things into action on a daily basis is not easy, its work. It’s hard, diligent, consistent work. If someone tells you and believes in all honesty that compromise is simple or easy, 8 ½ times out of 10 they are not a part of a stepfamily.

Those of us who are, understand fully that compromise is taken to new levels when you are in the process of merging two families. It’s like making Coca-Cola and Pespi one company. GASP at the thought? Well think about it…if you are merging two companies, you no longer need two presidents or Human Resources departments. Two marketing teams and two separate mailrooms aren’t necessary. The former processes of two systems cannot function efficiently as one company . As a matter of fact, using two systems in one "company" will bring about chaos and disorder. Either we are going to do things the way Pepsi did them or the way Coke did them or COMPROMISE. To do things totally the way that Coke did them would be dishonorable to Pepsi and their way of doing things. To do everything like Pepsi wants, would mean that you overlook the system that Coke has used successfully. If you are trying to develop a new soda, you can’t function and produce the same way you did as Coke or Pepsi.

Let’s say, Coke overruled, overlooked and disregarded all of Pepsi’s formula and systems. The new company, although it is now two companies merged together, would be nothing but Coke again. Pepsi and what it stood for would be lost in the shuffle and instead of the world getting an exciting new soda, we get just Coke again. Not that Coke is bad, but when you are expecting something new…you don’t just want a Coke. The same is true in families.

So in a stepfamily, you don’t need two people responsible for organizing something. You don’t need two ways of doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, handling the groceries or getting the cars serviced. Something has got to give. You hear phrases like “But we always do this, this way”, or “My family always does this on Christmas” and you aren’t sure how to navigate over the rocky waters of giving a little, getting a little. Its ‘one thing if it were just you and your spouse-most marriages face that just starting out. But then you add your children, and her children and your children’s mother’s family and your husband’s ex-wife’s family, you have the potential for a lot of disappointment. We even have the added situation where one of the previous spouses' is deceased. You can't even critique or hear a unbiased account about the way a former person handled processes to evaluate what would be best now, without stepping on a landmine of defenses and protection of the old adage "speaking ill of the dead". Compromise is so sticky and it bites...hard. But there is hope...if you can master three keys (none of which are very popular) it may help you manage compromise and keep the main thing, the main thing.

Compromise by Merriam's definition means to settle a dispute or disagreement by mutually accepting less than what was originally wanted or to accept a position because of the understanding that what was initially wanted is unattainable.

To settle. That’s the 1st key. You want the issue settled. What do you have to give to make that happen? Sometimes it’s just a little, like “your” side of the bed. Sometimes it’s a whole lot, like spending Christmas with your spouse’s family instead of your own. Sometimes you just have to stop talking. Yup, that means shut up. its harsh, and its meant to be. Not always, but sometimes you'll need to just zip it. Even if you know you're right. What the most important thing? Peace in your household or being able to put your pots and pans in the cabinet on the bottom right versus the upper left? Making your spouse happy and complete or having to prove to be right about everything.
Accepting is the 2nd key. It’s being able to just let go of some ideologies about what you thought married life would be like. You just suck up the fact that hey, what I initially thought I wanted is unattainable, at least right now. I envisioned and desired those things without enough relevant information. The compromise would be to settle and adjust. To stop putting your lofty expectations and dreams on the backs of other people. Have a little grace for the way things are, versus what you want them to be. Give a little, and maybe get a little. Strive for contentment at all costs. It’s more valuable than getting your way.
Understanding is the last key. It doesn't mean you will never see improvement or see things adjust again to what may make you happier. You might, and you have peace in the meantime. But you get other benefits, your children are watching. They will see what you give of yourself and your way of thinking in order to bring joy or contentment to your spouse. They will understand and prayerfully model later what it really means to love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Excitement is Mounting...

This weekend, we go on our annual trek to Cedar Point in Sandusky OH. The kids are besides themselves with excitement. Now the buzz is "what are we going to wear? Who's going to ride what? What are you taking on the bus? It's actually fun to watch them. You would think we were going on a 10 day Mediterranean Cruise. But that's what so neat about it. It doesn't take very much to make them happy. It also doesn't take much for them to have a good time. Anyone who was at our wedding reception could vouch for that. They still talk about it even a year later... All of them together at a dinner table will keep you laughing for hours. Really, they actually have a superhero contest as in; they make hypothetical pairings and very loudly debate over who would win between ex. Wolverine and the HULK. I think last we checked Magneto (X-Men) was the overall winner.

So anyway its off to Cedar Point . My husband's family (sister, nieces) is coming and so is my family(parents, siblings etc..). The kids have friends from school, the neighborhood and church coming. The memories we create on the bus ride alone will be things we cherish for years.

As a "Superfamily" (Our new politically correct term for stepfamily or blended, both of which in my opinion are not quite accurate), its important to build new memories TOGETHER. Both families come with their own sets of memories from their past family life. However, everyone involved is in a new family now and the importance of building a new past together (as I call it) cannot be taken for granted.

Do you, or your family have a bus load of painful memories? Start building your new past today. Make new memories, start new traditions. Get out of what you used to do with her and what he always did with you and look at what's best for this NEW family. What are their talents and abilities? Where can we go or what can we do as a family that will spark conversations and leave lasting impressions? For us it's Cedar Point, for you it may be a camping or fishing trip, a annual barbeque or a family scrapbook.

Its not likely that either former separate family will forget things they use to do or places they used to go. But now we have balance and all of the past memories don't have to be ones that include a tinge of pain or yearning over of a spouse, relationship or a parent that is no longer there. Now, even though we separately remember the old past, we can also laugh together at the thought of a match up between Iron Man and Cyclops.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What Lies Beneath

The Superfamily has new carpet in the living room, dining room and the stairs leading to the basement. It was a pretty easy selection process as far as color. The kids even helped. We stayed pretty neutral and decided that a little darker was better. So, we have a light caramel color shag with flecks of creamy beige kinda. Well, carpet isn't exciting but it was something I thought about that I wanted to share. My husband pulled the old carpet back one day to show me the floor (we just bought this house last year) and it was hideous. I was at least expecting a nice hard wood floor that just needed a little elbow grease. But no, it was planks of odd shaped wood that was grimy and could never be shown in public. I thought about that floor the other day when I saw the new carpet. The carpet was beautiful and fluffy and made the whole house smell new. Noone would guess "what lies beneath" .

When people see us as a family, they see the "fluffy new carpet". They remember the wedding and the fireworks and the beautiful dress. They see the kids getting along and my husband I still holding hands as we walk down the street. They wouldn't guess "what lies beneath". No, we aren't undercover monsters but if we weren't covered by prayer, hard work and forgiveness we would show up no better than that grimy wood floor. Don't take for granted the things and people you see that you may admire or even envy. There is something that covers them as well. Learn the whole story about them, and us for that matter so you aren't disappointed if your husband isn't like mine seems to be, or your children don't seem to be behaving like our crew. TRUST ME, everyday a piece of our virtual carpet comes up exposing what's beneath. Through patience and diligence, we work hard to keep the "S" on our chest. In principle, You can have what someone has, or do what they have done, if you are willing to do what they did to get there.

We aren't the Superfamily because we can fly or can leap tall buildings. We are the superfamily because we respect the fact that it takes over and above the norm to be a success at what we have been charged to do. It takes SUPER compassion, SUPER discipline, SUPER caring, SUPER "everything"to deal with and finally conquer "What Lies Beneath".