Monday, June 21, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

MAN! it's hot! We hit 100 degrees this weekend, here in Western Arkansas, right on the Oklahoma border, in the wild, wild western town of Fort Smith, where "Hangin' Judge Parker" kept the law with a vicious posse of US Marshalls and gallows he kept busy all year long.

Speaking of hanging outlaws, what are your plans for your stepkids this summer? You know, hot weather just brings out the outlaw in bored kids. Just compare the attitudes of folks who live near the equator and those who live 'way up in Canada! When it's hot, tempers are more prone to flare.

So it's not unusual for stepfamilies to report more temper tantrums - from both the kids and the adults! A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to keep yourself from losing it this summer. But this post talks more about helping your kids to be less of a trial to you. (So, see, it's still about you!)

Here are a couple of things you can do to keep the tempers a little more under control. I'll offer mine here, and I hope you'll not be too selfish to offer your ideas with other stepfamilies (hint hint!).

First and most important is for you to keep your sense of humor and keep things in perspective. Go to bed every night and wake up every morning praying for an extra dose of patience to guide, rather than shove your kids and stepkids through the coming day. If you think praying for patience with your kids doesn't work, clearly you haven't tried it (and applied it)! That's all that got us through Jennifer's teen years!

Yes, Judge Parker hung (hanged?) hundreds of outlaws in his days on the bench. But that fearsome old man also exercised a lit of mercy and prayer for the criminals brought before him. He was known to give bad guys a second or even third chance to prove themselves too good for hangin'. And these were some cast iron hard cases! So you can allow yourself some kindness, too.

Next suggestion is to keep 'em busy. Bored kids are much more likely to dream up ways to torture you than are busy kids. You used to hear a lot, "idle hands are the devil's tools." And though we don't hear that said much anymore, it still rings true. If you're feeling stuck for fresh ideas, here are a couple of good web sources for you:
200+ Ideas for Summer Fun
Kids' Turn Central
Teen Jobs and Working Teens

And finally, it's always a great idea to use the summer daze to get your kids more involved in their faith. Take advantage of the many Vacation Bible School programs in your town. Besides giving you an entire morning (Praise God!) free of your little darlings, VBS can begin instilling in them a sense of respect for you and for your religion. AND churches usually stagger their VBS programs so they don't all fall on the same week, so you can often enroll your kiddos in more than one program for summer.

That's all my suggestions for now - I'm not going to do ALL your work for you! Now you pass is on by commenting with your own ideas, or even your own summer situations. Remember, we're a community. We can make our burden lighter if we share.

God bless y'all!


Bob Collins, STEPcoach

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers' Day

Happy Fathers' Day to all STEPdads. 
If you're feeling unappreciated or left out today - join the party! Me too. 
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that we have a super role model. Jesus' stepdad, Joseph, is often overlooked, too. He even risked death for his wife's son.

So, to all us Josephs - you deserve a great Fathers' Day, too! You are heroes!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summertime Suggestions

Summer days out of school always bring questions about how to keep kids occupied. Toss in the extra "challenges" of visiting stepkids and you can wind up with a scheduling horror show! Here are a couple of time-tested ideas - THEN I'd like for you to share your own suggestions to help out other steppers this Summer.

1) Keep to a schedule. Even though it's school-out time, your family still needs some rules. Don't let your kids fall into the trap of just laying around, waiting for school to start back. Give any kid a chance and he or she will end up wasting their vacation with boredom.

Chores have to be done all year round, right? So kids need to be held to their responsibilities all year round, too. Instead of weekly timetables (Monday: take out trash; Wednesday: gather laundry; etc), set hourly deadlines during Summer days (have trash out by 1:00 on Monday; have laundry gathered by 10:00 am on Wednesday; etc). This will help your young'uns to have a sense of structure in their days.

2) Try time-sharing with another parent. One week, take their kids on, say, at Tuesday afternoon. The next week they take your kids for an afternoon. Both parents get a free day; while you also get the "bonus" of extra kids one day. Why is this a bonus? As most parents have discovered, it's often easier to ride herd on a few extra kiddos. They tend to keep each other's attention distracted from you.

Plan a busy activity for your day with the gang. Take them to the park, the beach, the zoo, the kid-friendly museum, etc. You'll probably have a much easier day if you plan it right, even with the extra noses to wipe.

3) Take time for yourself! Use that free afternoon to pamper yourself. Don't just do your chores or pay bills. Get a massage. Take a nap. Visit your best friend. Read a book at the pool or beach.

Your family depends on you to keep yourself in good shape. You need time to yourself to do that. This is not selfish if you do it with a purpose. Focus on recharging your batteries or renewing your inner peace.

4) Now, what is YOUR Summer-time suggestion? Don't be selfish. Take a minute to reply with your own helpful hint for other stepparents this Summer.

God bless y'all!
Bob C. - STEPcoach

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mr. Cranky

There once was a man who was very unhappy. He worked at a coffee shop and he was unhappy about his job. He had to wait on customers and he was unhappy about dealing with so many people. His first wife had left him for another man and he was understandably unhappy about that. But he'd gotten re-married and he was unhappy about his new marriage. His new wife had brought along two teenaged children from her first marriage and he was very, very unhappy about his stepchildren.

He was quite unhappy.

One day at work, a customer got upset about how the unhappy man treated her when he took her order, so she told the manager that they should do something about that cranky man. Others heard the comment and they all began calling the unhappy man "Mr. Cranky." This, too, made him very unhappy. When he told his wife about the mean name his co-workers had given him, his stepchildren overheard and it wasn't long before they, too, began calling him Mr. Cranky. Soon the nickname seemed to attach itself to the unhappy man and everyone called him Mr. Cranky.

This made him even more unhappy.

The more unhappy Mr. Cranky became, the more things seemed to make him unhappy. He started to notice more and more unhappy things about his life. He drove an old car and he became very unhappy about not having a newer one. For the first time, Mr. Cranky realized that he lived in a hot, humid town and he was unhappy about being sticky all the time.

Unhappiness just seemed to grow in the pit of his stomach until it filled him up.

And it kept getting worse. The unhappier Mr. Cranky was about work, the customers, his car, and the weather, the crankier he was at home. His work days were miserable; when he got off work and walked outside into the hot, humid air he got cranky. Driving his old car home made him unhappy. So whenever he came home from work, he carried a load of unhappy into the house with him. This made his wife and stepchildren unhappy, too, so they argued and fussed more. Which made his wife more unhappy and she acted cranky whenever he came home.

His life, he confessed to his also unhappy dog, was just an unhappy mess.

Mr. Cranky collected enough complaints at work that his manager finally had to talk to him about it. His manager, a happy lady named Sharon, was more concerned about Mr. Cranky's unhappiness than about the complaints. So, one day she asked Mr. Cranky to come into her office where they could talk privately. Instead of fussing at him about his poor work performance - because Ms. Sharon just wasn't a fusser - she asked him about his life.

Mr. Cranky told her about his unhappiness with the customers, his car, the weather, and about his unhappy family life. Ms. Sharon knew about his divorce and how his wife had broken his heart, and as he talked about all the unhappiness in his life, she began to wonder if the divorce hadn't been the start of his downward slide into the unhappy state he was now in.

"Have you ever forgiven your first wife for leaving you?" Ms. Sharon asked her employee.
"I don't think I could do that," Mr. Cranky said, his eyes on the floor.
"I'm going to ask you to do something this afternoon," she said. "I want you to go to your ex-wife and tell her you forgive her for leaving you. Then you must come in tomorrow and tell me about it."
Mr. Cranky told his boss that he would try, but that it would be very hard.

But he did it.

His ex-wife was not very pleasant about the idea, but she agreed to talk to him for a few moments. Mr. Cranky squeezed his sweating hands into fists as he looked into the eyes of the woman who had betrayed his love, wrecked his world, and broken his heart. She stared back.

Mr. Cranky said, "I have been very unhappy since you left me for that other man. It seems like my entire life has gone rotten and bitter since you let me down so badly. But I am here today to forgive you for everything you did to me when you left. I want to let go of the anger and the disappointment and the unhappiness that have taken over my life. I don't know if I can forget everything, but I am making a commitment to do my very best to forgive you and move past what happened."

Although his ex-wife wasn't very helpful or encouraging (she didn't really say much at all), as Mr. Cranky drove home, he felt a little better about himself and his life. Thinking about what he'd just done, he didn't really notice the humid weather, and he had no time to dwell on his old car. When he got home, his unhappy dog slowly walked up the drive to meet his master. Mr. Cranky did a strange thing, something he hadn't done in a long time. He picked up a stick, waved it at his dog and tossed it across the yard. The dog ran after the stick and brought it back, with a noticeable spring in his step.

When Mr. Cranky walked through his front door, he noticed that his wife, who was talking to her children, didn't look up to greet him, and his stepchildren didn't say anything either. So, feeling a bit better about himself, Mr. Cranky said, "Hello my family. I'm so glad to see you. I have something to talk to you about." You'd have thought someone had dropped a whole set of cookware on a tile floor! They all stopped what they were doing and stared at him.

Mr. Cranky sat down and told his family that he had just forgiven his ex-wife for leaving him. Then he asked his wife and her children to forgive him for allowing his ex-wife to control his life. Because, he explained, by holding on to his anger and sense of betrayal against her for what she had done to him, he was putting that unhappiness in front of his love for his family, his job, and his whole outlook on life.

"What's more," he told them, "I am going to start putting you first in my life. I don't want us to be unhappy anymore. I love you and want to give you a happy home."

His wife smiled and said that it was about time, and hugged him tightly. His stepchildren weren't sure how to take this news, but they smiled and told him they were glad he felt better. His dog laid his head on his master's lap and smiled, too.

Next morning, when the now-happier man got to work, he went into his boss's office and told her all that had happened. He asked if he could please have a chance to start over at his job and to
try to be a better employee. Ms. Sharon was very pleased to say yes, and that she was looking forward to a new beginning.

The rest of that day the happy man had a wonderful time recreating himself in his job. He was glad to see old customers and to watch their faces as they saw the new man he was becoming. Ms. Sharon got more compliments on the happy man's new attitude than she ever got complaints about the old, cranky man. His fellow workers stopped calling him Mr. Cranky. And his day flew past happily.

When he got home, after playing catch with his happy dog, the happy man, his happy wife, and his less unhappy stepchildren enjoyed an evening together starting over.

And the unhappy man and his family lived happily ever after.

MORAL OF THE STORY

If you let anger and bitterness eat at your heart, you will be eaten up with unhappiness. YOU are the only one who chooses how happy or unhappy your life will be. Unfaithful spouses, less-than-ideal jobs, old cars, and cranky family members (or situations similar to those) are in everyone's life. YOU have the wonderful power to CHOOSE to live that life happily or unhappily. God had given each person the gift of Free Will, with which to choose our outlook, if not our life.

Begin your new life by forgiving anyone in your past who has hurt you. Take back your power over your life. Then apply that Power to all the other aspects of your life. YOU can take over your life and make it happier.

Jesus teaches in Luke 6:
"… love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great," and
"Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

STEPcoach Bob Collins

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