Month: November 2016

So angelic, right? Yeah, keep reading.

 

First things first, I have eaten cheesy hash brown potatoes (leftover from Thanksgiving) for breakfast every morning since last Thursday.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell you that, but I thought I should cop to it somewhere.

I feel better.

Moving on…

The holidays are officially in full swing over here in the Farmer household and I couldn’t be happier. What is it about holiday music and movies and decorations that brings such a feeling of utopia to so many people?  It’s almost like earth pumps out uppers into the hemisphere getting most of us high for the entire month of December.

Inhale, people. INHALE.

The downers are getting pumped out in January.

I’m ahead of the game on shopping and decorations and prep, in general, which is shocking.  We already have our crazy Christmas card photo shoot in the bag (one of my all-time favorites, I think) and yesterday, we attempted – and semi-succeeded in getting – a real family photo.

Ugh.

Why is it so hard to get a simple family photo?!  I’m not going to lie – it was a total pain in the ass to get even one good photo of all of us. Not to mention, it was nearly impossible to get all – no, just – four of us together long enough to get a photo.  I’m just going to throw it out there that family photos are hard, in general, to get coordinated.  Family photos, when you have a blended family, seem nearly impossible.

When my step-daughter, Hannah, was younger, we all had a more structured and set schedule of time, so it was easier to plan things like family photos and holidays and trips, etc.  Now that she is older – with dance and school activities and a social life – every week is often up in the air. And when we do have time with her, she’s often tired (man, teenagers sleep… a lot).  And, so, in the midst of the chaos that is co-parenting, I have been frustrated and irritated lately.  Not at Hannah, or her parents, or anyone.  Just at the situation itself.

I’ve talked before about the roller coaster that is step-parenting (here), and a friend just wrote to me this weekend saying that she goes back to that post often to remind herself she’s not alone.  Her message actually made me go back and read it, and I am actually glad I did.  I was especially grateful to be reminded of this part:

 

You can be told a a thousand different times by a thousand different people what a wonderful step-mom you are. And you can still feel sad and angry and like a giant, fat failure.

Because, you are HUMAN.

You do not sign a waiver to FEELINGS when you become a step-parent.

 

The above was a good reminder that we are all human.  I often say, “We are all in this together as much as we are all in this apart,” because this is such a complicated role.  I really encourage you step-mamas to lean on each other.  I promise you that no one is going to understand these experiences better than another step-parent.  Those angry, selfish little thoughts running through your head that you never say out loud?  We all have them. And they are ok.  It’s how you choose to process them and react to them that matters.  And when you bounce your thoughts off other step-parents, you are more likely to process them clearly, feel validation and handle them in a way that is healthy for everyone.

I think the biggest thing I have learned about step-parenting is this:

The minute you think you have one area of this role mastered, the theme park opens a whole new wing of obstacle courses. 

Once you realize the above – and accept it – things do get better.  BUT they will never be easy or perfect. So, cut yourself some slack. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.  And don’t ever stuff your feelings down below, because you are ashamed that they are not the right feelings.  Trust me, that will only build a volcano of resentment inside that will eventually erupt and hurt everyone.

As for that new wing in our theme park? We are currently entering the The Teenager Activity Phase Maze.  I highly recommend it if you enjoy sadism.

***

Aside from the complication of what felt like herding cats in order to schedule a family photo, can we talk about the chaos of trying to get a three year old ginger pterodactyl to smile?!

I totally had to look up the correct spelling of pterodactyl. I was not expecting that “p” to be there. 

Let me break down to you what ensued just to get that pained, posed smile where she looks like she’s enduring shock-therapy like a champ.  Because it was a living nightmare and I want you to suffer just reading it, so I feel less alone.

-Three year old is prepped all day that today is family photo day.
-Three year old seems cool with it all day.
-Three year old sits on a throne of lies.
-Three year old decides to be a dog for family photo.
-Request by parents is made to stop barking at the camera and panting.
-Giant sized meltdown ensues because three-year-old is forbidden to pose like a dog.
-Bribery is proposed by parents to end meltdown.
-Three year old refuses bribe.
-A threat to call Santa is made.
-Three year old calls bluff.
-A very heated phone conversation with Santa is overheard by three year old.
-Epic sized meltdown ensues (due to the above).
-A promise is made to call Santa back and secure three year old’s spot on Nice List IF three year old apologizes and participates in photo.
-Defeated apology is uttered by three year old.
-Three year old is suddenly giddy at reinstatement to Nice List.
-Several requests are made for three year old to “act normal” for just one photo.
-Parents give up and head to liquor cabinet.

I’m seriously exhausted from just writing that and reliving it in my memory.

I would like to raise my hand in solidarity to every parent out there trying to get a family photo. I would also like to raise my hand in solidarity to every photographer who has to try and get that one good shot of a family.  In this case, it was my poor husband – running back and forth to the tripod.  (He also had to endure me sitting next to him while he edited the photos. At one point, he actually asked me to bring him the bottle of scotch – the BOTTLE.)

So, there you have it.  I have officially broken every promise to myself I made before becoming a parent on things I would never do or say to my child.  Go ahead and judge away. We are all free to judge! In fact, I’m judging you for judging me.

So there.

I wish you all beautiful family photos capturing genuine beautiful smiles and love radiating from each tiny, happy face.

I also wish you a dancing unicorn who sneezes glitter and has four million dollars and unlimited gift cards to Starbucks in his saddle pocket.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

xo,

Jen

 

Photographic proof of our session:

its-ok-if-you-fall-down-and-lose-your-spark-4136020-2

It’s 11:30 pm and I have been sitting in the dark, staring at my open laptop – and the above quote – trying to figure out what it is I need to say.

I have been restless for a week.  Luckily, work has been extremely busy, so it has occupied much of my time – but in the few quiet moments I’ve had, I have sat in silence, my thoughts turning over and over in my head until I’m exhausted.

I have struggled with writing what I’m thinking, because I am aware that I have somewhat of an audience – be it little or large, it makes no difference when you know people are watching. And so I have grappled between being true to myself – or writing about what people want to read.

And then I remember…

I don’t owe anyone a damned thing.

I am not selling anything. I am not representing anything or anyone – other than myself.  This blog carries on from nearly ten blogs before it – when I had an audience of none – when I wrote for no other reason than wanting to write.

Recently, my sister-in-law said to me, after I followed up a post with some clarifications, “That is ridiculous. You don’t need to clarify anything. These are your own thoughts.”  And my response was, “Well, I would hate for anyone to think that I meant…” 

You know what?

You’ve got it!

Chuck it.

***

During my mom’s last visit, she brought out a stack of papers she found in an old desk of mine from high school.  Much of it was random musings of a teenager – overly-dramatic poems (which Brian and I had a good laugh reading through together), some school papers that included articles I wrote (they spelled my first name wrong in the byline), a start to a young adult book (that I only let my sister read, at the time, and she readily critiqued)…  and mixed in with all of it was a typed up letter I had written to the Voice of the People section of the local newspaper.

 

To whom it may concern:

I have a few things to say and I hope you find it important enough to put in your VOICE OF THE PEOPLE section in your newspaper.

I may be writing this a little late but I still think that what I want to say should be listened to.  It’s about the burning of the flag. Lots of people say that burning the flag is a horrid act. That the flag stands for freedom. A freedom in which men fought and died for. A freedom in which we worked so hard to get. The flag states our freedom to think and live as we please. A freedom to our own color, religion and our way of living. I agree the flag stands for all of this. I agree that the flag shouldn’t be used to get back at the government for something they are doing wrong. I don’t think the flag should be burned.  But isn’t every person who has a prejudice against anyone different than themselves also going against everything the flag stands for also? Every time a person curses another’s color, religion or sex, aren’t they also burning the flag?  Not physically so others can see them, but verbally when they hate those different from themselves.  So what is so different if people burn the flag through a match rather than through their mouths? I think that doing one is just as bad as the other. I think both actions are wrong.  So everyone out there who can say that they think that burning the flag is an outrage and wrong, but they themselves have gone against what the flag stands for, well, just think of the ways they’ve burnt it in one way or another.

Another thing, I am not some kind of ‘80s hippy who wants to go around and save the world. I’m just a fifteen year old kid who wants to be heard and not just seen.

J.B.

 

After reading this letter, I laughed at my then-15-year old self and set it aside. I had forgotten that I used to write letters every so often to the newspaper.  I never mailed one of them – but, as is the same case today, just getting my thoughts on paper was therapeutic.

However, a few days ago as I was sorting through my desk and I ran across the letter, I sat down and read it to myself again. And this time I felt a weight land heavily on my chest.

Make no mistake, I don’t think that letter was profound in any way. I certainly don’t think it had any kind of genius message.  But, I do want to know: why didn’t I mail it? 

I want to grab that 15 year old girl by the shoulders and scream, “MAIL IT!”  I want someone else to have grabbed that 15-year old and told her:

“Don’t be scared. Let them hear your voice. Act. If you believe in something, ACT.”  

Do not let the fear of how you may look sideline the truth of how you feel. 

So, here I am.  Decades later.  With little blue eyes watching now. And I am never going to make that mistake again.

I will say it and I will live it. And I am not going to keep quiet in order to appear gracious and neutral.

In our home, we don’t “tolerate” love – we embrace it.  
In our home, religious freedom is just that – freedom. For all religions.
In our home, your religious beliefs (or lack of them) do not define your humanity. Your actions define your humanity.
In our home, black lives matter.
In our home, we understand it is our responsibility to take care of this planet.
In our home, we understand and appreciate this country is made of a melting pot of immigrants, which include my great-grandparents and likely yours.
In our home, we don’t turn our backs on our suffering neighbors.
In our home, free thought is encouraged.
In our home, science is not just a theory.
In our home, women’s rights are human rights.
In our home, we don’t build walls.
In our home, we break down walls.

And another thing…

Peaceful protests aren’t the byproduct of giving kids participation trophies. They are the byproduct of the First Amendment.

Expressing sadness over a world turned upside down by election results doesn’t equate to “babies” not getting their way.  It equates to genuine sadness.

You don’t get to call yourself pro-life unless you are fighting for ALL lives.  (Perhaps click here for a better understanding.)

I don’t define all democrats by clusters of rioting in otherwise peaceful demonstrations, just as I don’t define all republicans by organized Ku Klux Klan “victory” parades celebrating the president-elect.

***

Listen, this is no longer about an election. I am not denying the president-elect won. He won. That part is over now. And, as I told Hannah tonight over dinner, Donald Trump is going to be our president and we have to respect that.  But I also told her that doesn’t mean we stop standing up for what we believe in or doing what is right.

I may be going to Washington in January to march – and if not there, the sister-march in St. Louis. (I would hope that everyone has read and realizes the Women’s March is not a protest against Trump – it is a march for women’s rights.)

If I do go, Ivy will not understand why right now.

But when she comes across a photo of it in a desk twenty years from now, she will know.  And I will have done more than mailing it in.

xo,

Jen

 

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