My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evaluation Time: Holidays and New Year

Time to take a good look at yourself, your life, and your future. What? Didn't I tell you there would be a test at the end of the year? Well, here 'tis! Here are 16 life-enriching ideas to lead you into 2009.

Try to answer these as completely and honestly as you can. Might be hard to do on some of them! But, in oh, say August, you'll be glad you did when you have this to look back on.
After you've answered these (with your partner or alone) send them to us so I can share them with other families.

1) What did you do right
in dealing with the ex this Christmas season?
2) What
could you have done better in dealing with your kids' other parent?
[These are important to avoid conflicts and to build bridges in this vital relationship. Your kids need to know that Mom and Dad can work together, at least for them.]

3) In retrospect, did you over- or under- gift your kids?
4) How well did you help everyone enjoy the holidays?
5) What one thing do you really wish you had remembered to do for them?
[I'm talking here about blessing your family and guiding them to more joy.]

6) What was your "whiny" factor this year - from your partner's perspective?
7) Where were your priorities toward your mate's family?
8) How many times did you and your sweetheart laugh together the last five weeks?

[NOW is the time to begin PLANNING for next year.]

9) Think back on (or, if you're brave enough, list) your mistakes of this year; then visualize how to avoid those same faux pas next year.
10) How many dates will you commit to with your loved one in 2009? Schedule them: weekly, monthly, every Tuesday evening, lunch on Thursdays? PLAN!
) Sit down with your sweety and daydream 25 goals for 2009 - romance, marriage, (step)parenting, career, home, personal time, etc.

12) How would you like next Christmas to go with your ex? OK, now, what are five things you can do this year to make that more possible in November/December?
13) What two trigger words or trigger phrases will you determine to turn loos of this year?

14) What are six things you want to do with your kid(s) in 2009? When? Details!
15) What two qualities will you teach your kids this year? Patience? Forgiveness? Honesty? Joy?
And how can you demonstrate those qualities to them?
16) List four activities you can do with your stepkid(s) this next year, just you and them? Think of sharing activities that will help you build common memories and shared experiences with them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Movie Suggestion

If you're trying to find a holiday movie, but you've seen 'em all a hundred times, try one I saw for the first time last night - "Family Man" starring Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. OK, OK, most folks have probably already seen this Y2K movie, but I'm a bit behind on me cinema surfing! If you've seen it before, see it again. If you've not seen it - see it! [NOTE: this article contains "spoilers" that reveal the plot of the movie!]

And if you're feeling trapped by your family and your life - definitely see it! Cage plays an ultra successful Wall Street tycoon who, through a very "Wonderful Life" encounter, is allowed a glimpse of what life would have been like if he'd married his college sweetheart and followed the suburbia/family/mini van path. Cage and Leoni are - IMHO - utterly perfect in their portrayal of a confused, struggling, settled, happy married couple.

The story, though, is the thing that recommends this movie. Cage's character, Jack, is presented with an in-your-face comparison of two kinds of success: worldly and family. He falls into a marriage that is the envy of all their neighbors and friends, yet is the exact opposite of everything he's ever dreamed of. The focal point of the movie is how a perfect life can seem horrid if you aren't willing to see the perfection. Major points:

• Fidelity: Jack's best friend tells him, "A little flirtation is harmless but you're dealing with fire here. The fidelity bank and trust is a tough creditor. You make a deposit somewhere else, they close your account - FOREVER." Message: cheating is not some casual decision. It will change and ruin your life.

• Love is sexy: Just when Jack and his wife are about make love, she says, "Say it to me, Jack!" He blurts out something he thinks is sexy ("You're a bad girl, you make me hot.") but finds out later that what really turns his wife on is his telling her that he loves her. Nothing else makes her want him as much.

• Perfection is relevant: When given the opportunity to return to his wealthy, hedonistic, bachelor's paradise lifestyle, Jack comes to understand what's important: "I have kids! I'm going home!" And the overriding theme of the movie: "I choose us."

[NOTE: parental advisory: Rated PG-13 for married sensuality and some very strong language.]

Friday, December 19, 2008


Merry Christmas ev'rbody!

Meaning of the 12 Days of Christmas

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

During much of the british invasion and hostile occupation, Roman Catholics in Ireland were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Loyal church fathers during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

As you share the Christmas holidays with your (step)children, and as you sing this popular "secular" carol, you can remind your kids that Christmas originated as a holy-day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and His gifts to the world. The song also serves to remind us that these aren't the first days we Christians have faced persecution for believing in our God.

Here's an interpretation of the secret code words of this very special song:

- The "true Love" referred to is Jesus Christ ("God is Love")

-The partridge in a pear tree also was Jesus Christ - a dove (bird) hung on a tree (cross)

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments - doves, here, representing God's Word to mankind

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love - the "F" in French and Faith being a mnemonic to aid memory

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John - actually, this was originally four "coley" birds (or black birds) who have a loud voice which carries throughout the land

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament - the golden truths given by God to man

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation - laying = birth, or new life

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership and Mercy - another mnemonic: "S" for Seven Swans and Spirit

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes - young maidens were considered beautiful and blessings

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control - dancing represented joy of receiving the fruits

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments - members of the house of lords made most of the laws of the land

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples - pipers being part of an ensemble that delivered music to the world

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed - which was often learned in a chanting style, "drumming"

Merry CHRISTmas to you and your whole, wonderful family.

Love each other extra this next few weeks!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Stress Evaluation

So you think you are suffering from Christmas Stress? Check this out!
A stress test was invented by psychologist Thomas Holmes. His scale helps one measure the stress in life. He ascertained that a person's job could be awarded 35 stress points, getting married--50 points. Moving to a new city--25 points, etc. He also surmised that living through a typical Christmas Season could produce 14 stress points. At the end of the year, you were to add up all the points you had accumulated and if your score was more than 200, you were in danger of a nervous breakdown.
Bridget Kuhns, an enterprising young lady, took Holmes' scale and applied it to the Virgin Mary. Here were the results.
Pregnancy--40 points
Unplanned pregnancy--20 more points
Having to tell your parents that you were pregnant--(make up a number!)
Moving in with a relative for 3 months--25 points
Getting married--50 points
The family argument that must have happened when Joseph failed to make reservations in Bethlehem during the holiday season--35 points
Giving birth--39 points
Changes in eating and sleeping habits while traveling--31 points
And then there were all those guests during the Christmas season--angels, shepherds, etc.
Holmes reported that people get sick at 200 points.
Poor Mary! Her calculated stress level hits at least 424!!!!!
Get a grip! You don't know what stress is!!!!

Take Control This Season!

Feel it? The tension is ratcheting up as we near Christmas and the festive season of demands, expectations, custody swaps, conflicting schedules, and hopelessly gnarled traditions.

If you're feeling in-over-your-head, welcome to the stepfamily club! It doesn't mean you're a bad person or incompetent - it just means you're in a stepfamily. It's part of the process of growing into a real live family. This process, by the way, takes from FOUR to SEVEN YEARS.

You can survive and actually succeed if you'll keep a few vital points in mind:

1) YOU are in absolute control of yourself. No one can "make" you mad. They can annoy you, they can disrespect you, they can ignore you, but YOU decide how you will react. You also (with practice) can control how you feel about someone else's actions or attitude toward you.

2) You can only control yourself, so don't waste your time and energy (your life) fretting about how others act. Yes, you have a responsibility to raise your own biological children, but if you think you can control someone else's children you're in for a lot of frustration. That includes your neighbor's kids, the kids at the mall, those kids on TV ... or your spouse's kids.

3) Ask yourself whether your angry reaction will harm or protect a valued relationship. C-H-O-O-S-E how you react. In fact, try to act the way you want, rather than to RE-act based on others' words or deeds (or rolled eyes). If you just react to a provocation, you lose control of your life ... and give it to them.

4) BEWARE! Tomorrow will come around, and you will have to live with what you said and did today. Take a long viewpoint of your family relationships. Remember, you signed up for the long run ("till death do you part"!), so one bad day or week or season isn't the whole ball of wax. Someday the kids will be grown and you will have the honeymoon you dreamed of.

5) Stepparents who stick through tough times, who resist the urge to run away are HEROES! A hero is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty; NOT someone who sits in the barracks during easy times. A hero has to have endured hardships in order to be a hero. So, if your life if tough, and if you can keep going, you can hold you head high and know you are a hero.

6) Love is not an on/off proposition. If you love someone, you love them always. You may ease out of that "in love" mystic feeling, but love goes on forever.
Just because you've heard it before doesn't make it any less true:

Love (real love, the kind that can make a stepfamily survive and succeed):

  • is patient
  • is kind
  • does not envy
  • does not boast
  • is not proud
  • is not rude
  • is not self-seeking
  • is not easily angered
  • keeps no record of wrongs
  • does not delight in evil
  • rejoices with the truth
  • always protects
  • always trusts
  • always hopes
  • always perseveres

1Cor. 13:4-7

email me if any of this seems too hard or too confusing or if you need more help.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Rude Stepkids: What to Do

Just recently got a note from a stepmom saying she is giving up and divorcing her husband after the holidays. Said she just can't deal with all the pressure anymore. What pressure? Her young teen stepdaughter is rude and disrespectful to her and to her dad. Period. Rude stepkid. Divorce.


So much to say about this. But I'll just hit the highlights:

1) Running away is not an option. You might get a divorce, but you'll never get away from the failure and the fact that your partner's children scared you and you ran away in tears. You'll remember your failure the rest of your life.

2) You promised. "Til death do us part." If you break your promise you will be internally damaged in your spirit for ever.

3) Your own kids are watching (or your family, your friends, etc). They will judge you on whether you keep your promise. You will live with your new reputation always

4) Your mate trusted you when you made your solemn vow. You convinced him or her to trust you. You persuaded them that you were an honest, trustworthy person.

5) Rude stepkids are part of the landscape in stepfamilies. Everybody has 'em. If your stepkid is rude, it is just an indication she's breathing.

Stepparents: please keep in mind that your stepkids are victims of their parents' divorce. You are their lifeline to find hope again.
• If your stepkids are rude, it's because they've never been taught to be nice ... TEACH THEM yourself. Make a lasting memory for them.
If your stepkids are rude, it's because they've been through a DIVORCE! as KIDS! Show them how to recover with love.
If your stepkids are rude, it's because their parents are frightening them. Show them peace and comfort, even if they're rude to you.
If your stepkids are rude, it's just part of being in a stepfamily. Your job is to provide stability and reassurance to them, rude or not.

Don't give up. For your stepkids' sake; for your spouse's sake; for your own kids' sake; for your family's sake; for your reputation's sake; for your own sake. Don't quit and run away.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Quote fun ...

Some good quotes to share at family gatherings ... or to write on gift tags ... or in Christmas cards:

These first few are by Pope John Paul II:
• "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
• "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song." (I love that one!)
• "Love is never defeated, and I could add, the history of Ireland proves it."
• "Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it. " (Ha!)

And some various others to enjoy and share:
• "Be happy while you're living, For you're a long time dead." An Irish proverb
• "Be nice to your kids. They'll choose your nursing home." A frightened parent
• "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a large house." Proverbs 21:9
• "Be true to your work, your word, and your friend." Henry David Thoreau
• "Beauty without grace is the hook without the bait." Ralph Waldo Emerson
• "Make it idiot-proof and someone will make a better idiot." American proverb
• "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." Proverbs 17:1
• "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" Abraham Lincoln
• "A good conscience is a continual Christmas." Benjamin Franklin

Good Grief! "test" newsletter!

HA! I guess if you're here, you passed the "test!" Sorry about sending you a newsletter that said it was a test version - it wasn't - even though I forgot to change the subject line.

Just goes to show you - even I get all flustered sometimes during the holiday rush.

But, I promise you this: I am going to practice what I'm preaching to you. I'm going to re-focus on what's really important this season, which includes my sweetheart, Jo Donna, my family, my faith, and BEING NICE to as many folks as I can.

Bless y'all!

STEPcoach Bob

Holiday Theme for your Family:

I know, I know. Holidays can me horrors. Between ex-spouses' interference, and stepkids having to be shuttled back and forth from one mess to another, and your own family's expectations, AND your own standards of perfection, it's sometimes just too much!

And it seems like everyone has A Plan to make Christmas better: buy this, don't buy that, do this, don't do that ... yikes!

Well, let me make it all easier for you with one simple idea for this holiday season ... BE NICE! That's all. Just "be nice." Liberally coat all your activities, chores, communications, everything in a double coating of Nice.

• BE NICE: to your stepkids when they are cranky - they may be afraid of how holidays will go with two "families" to visit,
BE NICE: to your ex - they are probably afraid you'll "win" in the "kid loyalty wars" - help them make it fun for the kids,
BE NICE to your spouse's ex - teach them a thing or two about how mature adults should treat others (do unto others ...),
BE NICE to your parents - show them how well you turned out; how well you handle challenges; show off your gentle spirit,
BE NICE to your spouse (your honey, sweety, darling). Your goal: make them proud and relieved that they are married to you this year!

As a dear Twitter friend (Lissa Boles) said, "
Be Nice - it can build bridges , heal hearts (over time) and give the kids whole new kind of security."

After all, this is supposed to be a NICE holiday, a NICE time of the year. It's supposed to be NICE to get "loved ones" together, to share family time. If you're NICE, you win - every time! Jesus said to even be NICE to mean people in Luke 6:28. Paul said to "think on" NICE things in Philippians 4:8. Peter said to keep being NICE to others in 1 Peter 3:9.

Remember this month: it's not new, and it's not hard, just determine to BE NICE!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RESEARCHER Requests your Input ...

Hi Everyone,
My name is Sarah and I am part of a remarriage and am a stepmom to a teenager. I am also a PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. One of the areas I am interested in studying is remarriage and stepfamily relationships. I am currently conducting a study examining marriages on uncertainty, topic avoidance, satisfaction, and trust. I firmly believe these relationships are very important and understanding them is equally important. I am looking for people who are currently married and would be willing to complete an online survey. The survey takes about 10 minutes and is completely anonymous, there is no way for me to know where the participants reside or how they learned about the link. If you would be willing to complete the survey I would be really appreciative. If so just click on this link or copy and paste it in your browser:
Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions for me please contact me.
Sarah Dirks
Doctoral Student
Department of Communication Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0329
(402) 472-3348

What does "Love" look like?

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided an interesting picture of how we're loved. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage.

One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick.

When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings.

The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. Then the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body. The mother had remained steadfast. She had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.

"God will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)

Being loved this much should make a difference in your life. Remember the One who loves you. You are never alone. Never.

Show your STEPfamily Pride!