Reader Questions – Marriage Edition

In going through all of my reader questions, I realized that A LOT of people wanted to know more about my marriage or my philosophies on same. So I created a “category,” if you will, for this post, answering all of the questions you all had that relate to marriage.
Again, I did not write down the names of any of the askers, and I do apologize. But if your question was about marriage, directly or indirectly, it should be here.

1. How did you and your husband meet? We actually met about 10 years ago, in an emergency room. I had just given birth to my first child and I was tanning to even out my complexion (you know, stretch marks and all). But I had an allergic reaction to the bed or the product they used to clean it in between users, and I had to go to the ER to be treated for my rash. Jackie was the night nurse there at the time, and he treated me. We went about 8 years without any contact, but then reconnected when he started working on the floor of my office. The rest is history.
2. If you could give only one piece of marriage advice, what would it be? Listen. Don’t talk. Listen. You can get a lot more accomplished by opening your ears instead of your mouth. I’ve been married 3 times, and miscommunication was/is a common theme in all of them.
3. How tall is your husband? He towers over you! Haha! Jackie is 6’3”. I am 5’5”. That could be the reason for the towering.
4. Who said “I love you” first? I think I did. I’m not entirely sure. Jackie would probably disagree with me on this one.
5. Do you do anything that really annoys your husband? I’m sure I do a lot. He can pretty well handle what I dish out, though. I think our biggest issue is that we fight differently, so it usually gets worse before it gets better. But it does always get better.
6. What do you and your spouse fight about the most? It’s hard to say. We do bicker about kids, just because we have different parenting styles and philosophies. We complement each other in almost every way.
7. What do you typically do on “date night?” There are lots of times that we will go out to dinner and then shopping (usually the grocery store), and then there are times when we each buy a 6-pack and sit at home and watch football. We go to movies, too, though we haven’t done that in a while. He does work on the weekends that my kids are with their dad, so that he can be with the whole family when he is off. So a lot of our “dates” are just family days out, when we do something fun with the kids. Next scheduled “date” – the pumpkin patch!
8. My wife and I constantly fight about housework. How do you and your spouse divide chores? Jack and I both work, so we tackle the house as a team. We each have specific chores that we are in charge of – I do the laundry and Jackie does the kitchen. I vacuum and dust and he sweeps and mops. I do the majority of the cooking, and Jackie walks the dog more than I do. Granted, if I stayed at home, I would do more housework than Jackie, because I would consider that part of my job. I will say that if I specifically ask Jackie to do something, he does it without griping. I’m pretty lucky, I guess.
9. What’s the most romantic thing he’s ever done for you? The way Jackie proposed to me was pretty fantastic. We went out for my birthday, and to surprise me, he set it up so that my family could join us for lunch. He proposed to me there with our family present, and it was really sweet. He also used to bring me Oreos and M&Ms when he worked with me. And sometimes, out the blue, he’ll text me and tell me he wants to take “the most gorgeous woman out on a lunch date” and then ask what time he should pick me up. It’s not always the grand gestures that mean the most. Sometimes words of encouragement, little presents or compliments, or even cuddles make all the difference in the world.
10. What have you brought from your divorces that benefits your current marriage? I am a lot calmer and my filter has improved. Jackie would disagree but he didn’t know me back then. I was a horrible wife to my first husband. I was a fantastic wife to my second husband, but he was too narcissistic to see it. Jackie is great because he has accepted me for all of my bullshit and loves me anyway. There are a lot of things I’m still working on, but he’s been patient with me while I do.
11. Do you believe in the saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater?” I do not. People can change. I have been both the cheater and the cheatee, and they are both horrible roles to fill. Granted, I know people – and I’m related to people – who will always be cheaters. But it’s because they refuse to change. If someone sets his/her mind to it, they can cure themselves of the insecurities that make them attention-starved. I certainly have changed.
12. Who comes first, kids or spouses? I think if you do it right, there will never be a competition. My family comes first, and that includes Lexi, Jameson and Jackie. If push comes to shove, Jackie knows that my kids are always number one, but he knows that, and he appreciates that. I knew Jackie was the “one” when he acknowledged that he knew my kids were my first priority, and he even said, “They should be.” Word to the wise, though – don’t separate your love for your kids from your love for your spouse. If you do that, you’re setting each of them up to complete with the other for your attention.
Tomorrow – more questions answered!

XOXO!

Meg / cC

Advertisements

Reader Questions – Food Edition

Since I’ve spent the last couple of months doing the A to Z Challenge, I have severely neglected my messages.  I apologize. 

So today I thought I would answer some questions that you all have sent me.  There were so many questions, that I was able to categorize them into separate blogs, and this one will be all about food!  Sucks for me, because I skipped lunch today and I’m starving, but you’ll have your answers once and for all!

Note – I was in a rush of sorts while going through these messages, so forgive me, but I did not disclose the names of the askers.  If your specific question was food related, though, your answer will be in this post.

1.    How do you eat Oreos?  Whole, dunked in milk!  That’s provided I actually do eat Oreos, I love them, but so do my son and husband.  I probably haven’t eaten an Oreo in about 6 months.

2.    How do you take your coffee?  I put a substantial amount of French vanilla creamer in the bottom of my mug and then fill it about 2/3 of the way to the rim with coffee.  I do like my coffee a little darker (my husband has spoiled me) and I use creamer so that it’s quite sweet.  I have gotten out of the habit of using sugar.  Confession – I HATE powdered creamer and I won’t use it.  I’ll skip coffee altogether first.

3.    What are the best pizza toppings?  I am not terribly picky when it comes to pizza, but my favorite is pepperoni, mushrooms and banana peppers. 

4.    Do you have any meal prep tips?  Funny you should ask – I just started meal prepping at home, in an attempt to gain some control over my husband’s sugar levels.  This last week I made Chinese beef and broccoli over rice and chicken burrito bowls.  The only thing I can recommend is to make something that you won’t mind eating several days in a row.  I gave Jackie all of the meals, because I kind of prefer cold foods for lunch – fresh veggies, fruits, cheese, lunch meat and dipping sauces.  I’ll do another post soon with step-by-step meal prep instructions, once I figure out what I’m going to make next week!

5.    Are you brand loyal to condiments?  Depends on the condiment:

a.    Ketchup – I usually buy Hunt’s, because that’s the cheapest.  I like for my ketchup to be vinegary, and not sweet, if that makes sense.

b.    Mustard – I buy whatever is cheapest.  I only eat mustard with tuna, and I occasionally use it to make deviled eggs, so I really don’t care about the brand.

c.     Mayonnaise – Kraft and only Kraft.  In the South, there is a huge controversy about mayo, because everyone swears by Blue Plate, which is only available in this region.  But I don’t like Blue Plate.  It leaves a film on my teeth and it’s flavorless and slimy.  Kraft is the best mayo, and it’s all I buy.

d.    Salad dressing – Hidden Valley Ranch, every time.  Olive Garden Italian, though I have tried the Kraft Zesty Italian and it’s not terrible.  I also love Marzetti Supreme Caesar Dressing and it is delicious, but it’s like $4 a bottle.  I wish I had a good homemade steakhouse ranch recipe.  If you have one, shoot it my way!

e.    Pickles – I don’t eat pickles.  I put dill relish in tuna, but that’s it.  My husband just bought some pickle spears, and I think they’re just the Wal-Mart brand.  He’s not picky.

f.      Honey mustard – O’Charley’s is the best, but again, we don’t really use it, so we don’t keep it on-hand all the time.

g.    Tartar sauce – There’s a store in the South called Brookshire’s and I really like their tartar sauce because it’s not sweet.  I was my tartar sauce tart and tangy.

h.    BBQ Sauce – Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet and Spicy.  I’ve tried a couple of other brands but I always come back to SBR’s.  The perfect amount of spice, and just the right thickness.  It’s so delicious.

i.      Spaghetti sauce – I buy Hunt’s in the can, traditional “flavor.”  Yes, it’s the cheapest at about $1 a can, but it’s also my favorite.  We use 2 jars every spaghetti night, and it’s a big hit with my little ones.

j.      Salsa – I buy Wal-Mart’s medium heat chunky salsa.  I also like Tostino’s.  I want junky but mild salsa.

6.    Are there any foods you hate that everyone else loves?  I don’t know about “hate,” but I do not care for bacon.  I will eat it on a BLT occasionally, but if I never had it again, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings.  I also don’t like diet drinks or anything marked “fat free.”  I just prefer to eat/drink less of the full fat product.  I do not like lemon in my tea.  And I don’t like peanut butter cups, candy corn, red wine or beer, sweet potatoes or anything pumpkin flavored.

7.    Are there any foods you love that everyone else hates?  I absolutely love pickled bologna.  It’s nostalgic for me, as my Aunt Sharon use to buy me a big jar every time she came to visit me when I was little.  I have been known to eat tomatoes like apples.  And I could eat a salad a day and be happy.  And I put mayo in my black eyes peas and pinto beans – judge away – I don’t care.

8.    What do you order at:

a.    McDonald’s – It varies, but usually a Big Mac, large fries and a sweet tea.  I eat my fries first, and then I’m full, so I end up giving about 2/3 of my burger to Jackie.

b.    Burger King – If I absolutely have to eat there, I get a Whopper Junior.  But I HATE Burger King and I haven’t been to one in probably 4 years.

c.     Arby’s – I haven’t eaten this in a while either, but I usually get a Roast Beef with Cheddar and curly fries.  Lots of Arby’s sauce, but none of that Horsey sauce.  Yuck.

d.    Sonic – A New York dog, large tater tots and a cherry Dr. Pepper.

e.    Taco Bell – 2 soft taco supremes with mild sauce and a Mountain Dew.  I LOVE Taco Bell.

f.      Dairy Queen – I have actually never had their food.  I usually just get ice cream.  Butterfinger Blizzard.  Yes, yes, yes.

g.    Chic-fil-a – Chicken nuggets, 8 count, value size, with a Dr. Pepper and 5 ranch sauces.

h.    Wendy’s – A taco salad and sweet tea.

i.      Subway – Turkey and pepperjack on white, UNTOASTED, with mayo, lettuce, tomato, black olives and banana peppers.

9.    Given your choice, what would you eat for dinner tonight?  Hm.  Something grilled.  Probably one of Jack’s grilled ribeyes and a veggie skewer, but I just so happen to love grilled foods.

10.  What’s your favorite:

a.    Pizza chain?  Papa John’s.  By a mile.

b.    Burger place?  Red Robin.  Oh man, those are so good.

c.     Sandwich place?  Newk’s probably.  They have the BEST lunch foods.

d.    Bar chain?  I like the atmosphere of Buffalo Wild Wings, and I also like our local Texas Roadhouse and the way their tvs are set up.  But Longhorn has the best drinks.  Raspberry margarita on rocks?  I could get seriously drunk.

e.    Steakhouse?  Ohhhh…that’s a toss-up between Texas Roadhouse and Longhorn.  I love them both.

This post was actually a lot of fun!  Thank you, Guys, for all of your questions!  Stay tuned for more Q and A posts, where I’ll give parenting and marriage advice!

XOXO!

Meg / cC

 

A to Z Challenge, Dark Thoughts

“Have you ever lied to your husband? About what? Do you ever think that telling a lie is okay?” – Lydia I.

Lydia, this is an interesting question, and one I was almost afraid to answer, because my husband does read this blog. However, my mood today has sort of prompted a little guilt regarding dishonesty, and maybe this is the best way to approach my issues without freaking Jackie out.

I do not lie to my husband. My husband knows me better than anyone else, and in fact, he has accepted me for exactly who I am. He has not tried to change me or “better” me. Even with all of my drama and issues, I am enough for him, and I find a lot of comfort in that.

What I can say is that I don’t think my husband understands the severity of my anxiety or depression. I think I haven’t shown him how bad things are/can be, because I don’t want him to think I’m a nut job. Granted, I don’t show anyone how sad I am. But sometimes I feel like Jackie doesn’t know the “dark” me, because I try to spare him the hurt of what I go through almost every day. I am a sad, clinically depressed individual. I have been in therapy for more than half my life, and sometimes I feel as if that therapy hasn’t even made a dent in my real problem.

And honestly, the real problem is that I hate myself. It’s not an appearance thing or a regret thing or even a guilt thing – those are just symptoms. I’m talking about a deep, dark, almost profound hatred of myself. Everything about me.

On mornings that Jackie is home, I keep quiet, wandering around the house, getting ready for work. To Jackie, and to anyone else who might see this, I just look like your ordinary mother, going through her morning routine – bath, bra, hair, clothes, jewelry, car.

But in my mind, even if I’m having a conversation with Jackie or one of the kids, I’m repeating hateful things to myself. When I look in the mirror while I’m doing my hair, eyes so piercing that it may one day break the glass, I silently utter insults at my reflection.

What I do on lonely mornings and evenings, however, takes the cake. I figure that saying the thoughts out loud must mean more than just thinking them, and so I stare at that same mirror and say, “You’re nothing. You’re loved by no one. You’re a stupid, fat, disgusting middle-aged woman who has never and will never serve a purpose in this world. You’re a waste of space. You’re a terrible excuse for a human, an even worse mother and wife, and you don’t deserve to live.”

I do not cry myself to sleep on nights when Jackie and the kids are home, because again, I do not want to expose them to this sick side of me. But I am sure that our dog has seen more than his fair share of tears and heard more than his fair share of meltdowns.

Depression is not a weakness. It is an illness. It’s an illness that can be very well-hidden. On the outside, people probably think I’m doing okay. I smile and converse normally. I work and do my chores at home and stay somewhat productive. I may even have fun every once in a while. But that’s only who I want to be – not who I am.

Who I am is a very sick and sad person, who contemplates suicide on an almost daily basis. Who I am is a mother who just can’t get it together most days. Who I am is a 30-year-old nobody, who has never, and probably will never, find her place in this world. Who I am is a victim of my own thoughts, fears and anxiety. And no amount of therapy, medication, venting, journaling or even blogging has helped up to this point.

My therapist says that I should challenge those thoughts by saying nice things about me. But how can I do that when every bad thing I say about myself is 100% the truth? How can I accept myself, knowing all of the horrible things I’ve done? How can I appreciate the love that I get from Jackie and my kids, when I can’t even love myself? How can I forgive myself when there are about 6 million people who cannot forgive me? I am no better than they are. What do I have to do to learn to be okay with who I am, while also trying to better myself?

No, Lydia, I don’t think it’s okay to lie, ever. Even if the truth hurts, a lie will hurt worse. My Daddy always said, “Your lies will find you out,” and no lie I’ve ever told has ever ultimately helped me or anyone else.

Having said that, I am obviously a big hypocrite, on top of all of the other bad things, because I don’t think I’ve ever expressed the magnitude of this depression from which I suffer.

Jack may hate me for posting this. He may even realize that he can’t help me and decide there’s nothing in this for him anymore. Or maybe he’ll think he can fix this and put forth that effort. I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s never okay to be dishonest, no matter the cost.

XOXO.

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, Z is for Zeek

It would be hard to complete this series without mentioning my furbaby, Ezekial Maddox Butler.  He’s one of my best buds.

A few facts about Zeek:

  • He’s a full-blooded black Labrador Retriever;
  • He is about 3 years old;
  • He’s nearly 100 pounds; and
  • He was trained as a hunting dog before we adopted him about 20 months ago.

Zeek is very smart.  He knows how to sit, shake, fist bump, stay, lay down and bury and then find a bone/treat, though there are times he will accept a lecture in exchange for direct disobedience – like turning over the trash, chewing on a shoe or crowding your sitting/sleeping space.  A typical lab, he loves water (except at bath time).  He sheds like crazy and drools because he’s always hungry.

Zeek’s daily activities include morning and evening walks, sleeping, begging for food and then eating said food.

He demands attention as soon as I walk in the door from work, wagging and whipping his tail and jumping until I sit down and pet him and ask him about his day.  Then he spends the rest of the night winding around my legs, giving me the “feed me” eyes, and then impatiently waiting until bed time.  And at bedtime, he comes upstairs with me and jumps into bed, and then we talk until we’re both asleep.

He is an excellent addition to our family and we are happy to have him!

WE LOVE OUR PUPPY!

XOXO!

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, Y is for Yield my Advice

Another reader prompt –

“Using all of the letters of the alphabet, create a list of pieces of advice you would give your audience or friends.” – Jazmine A.

A.      Accept criticism with grace.  This is something I am SO good at, probably because I’ve spent the better part of 30 years being criticized by people who should (but don’t) love me.  You don’t have to blow up at someone every time you are rejected or questioned or put down.  Try grace.  No good can come of making a scene.
B.      Broaden your knowledge of auto repair.  Learn to change your oil, practice changing a flat tire, and perfect driving a stick.  You’ll benefit greatly in the long run.
C.      Create (and mark off) a bucket list.  I’m working on crossing some of mine off.  Most recently, I introduced my husband to my Gran, and that was a really special thing to me.
D.      Dress for your body size/type.  Ladies, it’s a dress, not a sausage casing.  My Daddy always said, “You can’t fit 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag.”  Dress professionally and conservatively.  And dress in a way that will prompt others to take you seriously.
E.       Expand your skill set with things that interest you.  Those things you enjoy that may seem trivial – current events, fashion, photography, DIY projects, baking – could earn you some cash in the long run.  I just started making wreaths, and at some point I’m hoping to benefit financially from that, by selling wreaths (which can be sold at upwards of $100 here in the South).
F.       “Fluff” your resume.  Everyone should know how to write a good resume.  This is something I am very passionate about, after writing mine, Jackie’s and Jackie’s son’s, and also after reviewing some resumes sent my way by those interested in working for my company.  I’m always surprised and appalled when I see the way some people, who call themselves professionals, format their resumes.  And the spelling errors, the run-on sentences (resumes shouldn’t contain sentences anyway), and the font are just plain ridiculous.  There are plenty of websites and other free resources that will help you master the art of resume writing.  And hell, if you are game, send it to me.  I’ll fix it for you!  lexiandjameson@gmail.com
G.      Get a pet.  It’s like therapy.  I highly recommend rescuing.  Our Zeek is one of my best buds.
H.      Hold onto your family.  Your spouse and children should ALWAYS be your number one priority.  Over work, over money, over Snapchat, over alcohol, even over church (I said church, not God).  When everything falls apart and your life is in shambles, those people will be there for you, no matter how much you’ve failed.  So keep them, and keep them close.
I.         Implement and maintain a budget.  This is difficult for even the wealthiest people, and even though my husband and I live on three incomes (I work full time and he works two jobs), we firmly believe that whatever you make is whatever it takes.  We probably do better than most citizens of Buttholetown, Louisiana, though it seems to me that every hardworking adult these days sort of lives paycheck to paycheck.  If you don’t, you are one of the lucky ones.  But you can still be smart by keeping a ledger of what bills are due and when, and you can stay on top of your finances with a little effort.
J.        Just say ‘no.’  Say no to things you don’t want to do, and remember that you don’t have to offer an explanation as to why you are saying no.  I struggle with this, especially when it comes to my siblings, because I so desperately want to be accepted and loved by them that I often say ‘yes’ to doing favors that I really don’t want to do.  Saying ‘no,’ while difficult at first, can be very liberating.
K.       Keep your circle small to eliminate drama.  Real life is not a popularity contest.
L.       Learn to cook.  Figure out how to make four or five things in your own kitchen.  It saves A LOT of money AND it’s healthier.
M.    Maintain your home and automobile.  It’s better to do little things every day than to wait until something seems almost impossible to fix.
N.      Never explode on social media.  Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat should be a hobby, not a way of life.  Don’t put all of your business out there.  It’s unsafe and also annoying.
O.      Offer advice only when asked.  There’s no need to give your two cents when a situation doesn’t involve you or doesn’t call for it.  Keep your mouth shut.
P.       Perfect your use of the English language.  NOTHING is more cringe-worthy, especially in a professional setting, than the misuse of ‘your’ and ‘you’re,’ ‘there,’ ‘their,’ and ‘they’re,’ and ‘to,’ ‘too,’ and ‘two.’  Learn to capitalize and punctuate correctly.  Shorthand texts will NOT get you the job.  I guarantee it.
Q.     Quit bad habits.  Over-eating, smoking, skipping doctors’ visits, etc.  Practice healthy living.
R.      Respect your elders.  It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong.  They’re older.
S.       Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’  You’re never too old to mind your manners.
T.       Trust your gut.  Your instinct will rarely lead you astray.
U.      Use your time wisely.  Make lists so that you don’t lose track of things you need to do.  It’s a good way to stay productive.
V.      Volunteer.  This is something I need to do more often, as well.  Find someone or an organization that needs your help, and offer it for free.  I babysit for free all the time.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.  But I’d also like to help out at our local animal shelter, or even feed babies at the hospital.  Someone else will benefit, but you’ll feel like a better person.
W.    Work smart, not hard.  This doesn’t necessarily mean to take shortcuts at every given opportunity.  But working in circles never benefitted anyone.  I would recommend the LEAN approach (it’s a productivity method that LabCorp implemented while I worked there).  There are plenty of resources out there if you’d like more information.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lean_manufacturing
X.       X-ray your motives.  Humans almost always subconsciously feed their own ego, and they only do things out of self-interest or self-benefit.  Make sure you keep a check on your motives.  Why are you losing weight?  Why are you buying the new car?  Why have you had 4 kids in 3 years?  It’s always important to think with your brain, not your ego.
Y.       Yesterday is not as important as today.  Let go of your past.  We are all capable of making good decisions, and you can start TODAY.
Z.       Zero in on specific, short-term goals.  For example, I’ve lost about 40 pounds.  But I didn’t start losing weight thinking, “I need to lose 40 pounds.”  I focused on 10 pounds at a time.  Accomplishing those smaller goals is much easier because you are gratified more quickly.  If it helps you, make a list of small goals and cross them off as you achieve them to motivate you to keep going.

The A to Z Challenge is almost over, and I am looking to start a new series of blogs.  Message or e-mail me with ideas, questions, suggestions, criticism, etc. 

XOXO!

Meg /cC

A to Z Challenge, X is for “X” Spouse – Tips for Successful Co-parenting

This post is also a reader question, but since I couldn’t think of anything else for the letter “X,” I got creative.

“I’ve been reading your posts for a couple of months now, and you’ve mentioned that your ex-husband and you have figured out how to become friends. I am recently separated and I found this both interesting and impossible. My future ex-husband and I are very hostile toward each other. Could you start an advice column full of tips for co-parenting? We have an 11 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. Thanks.”

Julietta R.

Interesting and impossible, Jul? I have to disagree, at least that co-parenting is impossible. Yes, it takes time, but it’s definitely doable, and necessary.

A backstory in case I haven’t told it before – Jordan and I started dating a few weeks before my 18th birthday. I had broken up with my high school sweetheart right before I moved to Jordan’s neck of the woods, and I was depressed and on the rebound. But I was also adorable with long highlighted caramel hair and curves in all the right places. I was also still a virgin, so of course, this appealed to Jordan, who was/is 7 years older than me.
Within 3 weeks, I’d lost my virginity. Within 6 months, I was engaged. Within 9 months, I was pregnant with Lexi. Within a year, we were married. Within 3 years, I was separated with 2 children, at 22 years of age.

So I was wildly immature, the mother of 2 and paying some attorney thousands and thousands of dollars to try to keep those kids. I was so angry at Jordan for fighting for custody that, for me, it was all about revenge. And he was so hurt that I’d left that he was fighting me equally hard. We couldn’t talk about anything. We had to go through our lawyers.

After we’d each paid those douchebag lawyers enough to put our kids through 4 years of college, we both lost. Neither of us got what we asked for, and instead, the judge awarded us joint custody. I am the domiciliary parent, which means the kids use my address, basically. We split custody a week at a time, sharing 50/50. No one was awarded child support, and we are each responsible for half of the kids’ expenses.

We’ve been at this for 8 years, and now we’ve become pros at co-parenting, at least in that we’ve found a way to make it work for our family.

And with that, I pass onto you a few tips for co-parenting.

Disclaimer – I am not an expert or a scholar in any subject, especially amicable divorces. I am only sharing what I have learned over the years, since my own divorce.

Disclaimer 2 – my children were very little when their dad and I separated.

Disclaimer 3 – please use these tips at your discretion and use wisdom. No one knows your situation better than you and your ex.

1. Get something in writing from the start. Create a list of rules and terms and custody stipulations that you and your ex can both live with. Sign it and get it notarized. If need be, get a mediator, but I would advise against Court. No one wins and your loss will be an expensive one.

This custody agreement is not meant to be concrete, but it can be used as a fall-back during those times you and your ex cannot get along. Note – Jordan and I have a written custody order on file at the courthouse, and it was signed by the Judge. We follow almost none of it now, but we used to, especially when those bitter feelings got in the way of our being able to agree on anything.

Examples:
a. The Order says we are to switch on Saturdays at noon. We switch on Friday evenings, because it’s easier with both of our schedules.
b. The Order says Jordan gets to claim both kids on his tax return. He has recently agreed to let me claim one, because I pay for one of the kids’ school tuitions.
c. The Order says we are supposed to switch every other holiday, but we have worked it out so that we each get to spend time with the kids on every holiday, by splitting up the day.

While bitterness and hostility are in the way of good common sense, the custody agreement can be used as a tool to get through hard times. It also creates a routine, and children need stability during a difficult time.

2. Be patient, fair and flexible. Treat the other parent in a “business-like” manner until everyone is used to the separation. Your ex is not your punching bag – that’s the beauty of divorce. You don’t have to care anymore. Communicate directly with your ex. Under no circumstances should you make a young child your messenger. And your child will appreciate your being the bigger person.

3. Make your child’s happiness your number one focus. Encourage your child’s relationship with your ex. Remember that a child cannot be “too loved” by “too many people.” Your child is not angry with your ex, and in fact, should never be made to feel guilty because he/she loves your ex. Your child will resent you if you try to use him/her as leverage or ammunition.

4. Try therapy. If your ex will not go, go alone. Therapy never hurt anyone, and seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. Going through this, you may feel like you have no one to talk to, and that’s when therapy is beneficial. Your child is not your confidant. Do not burden your child with adult problems. Talk to another adult. A professional one.

At the end of the day, divorce never killed anybody. The trick is to find a way to make divorce work for your family. Children are resilient and they will recover. It’s not the divorce that hurts the child. It’s the attitudes that come with it.

If I had to leave you with just one piece of advice, it would be this: Love your kids more than you hate your ex. That’s how you and your ex learn to become friends.

I hope this helps.

XOXO!

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, W is for Wicked Stepmother

On October 5, Jackie’s daughter will officially be an adult.  That means he will have two adult children and I will have two adult stepchildren.  For me, this has stirred up a lot of emotions that I don’t feel comfortable talking about to anyone but myself (hence, this blog post).

I turned 14 the summer I received a stepmother.  I knew who she was, but I didn’t know that she and my Daddy were in a serious relationship, so the fact that they had gotten married while I was in my mother’s custody, 1000 miles away, really hurt me on a level that I am not even sure I knew of until I became an adult.  At the age of 14, the “normal” I knew was destroyed and I was given an entire new set of issues to sort through – moving out of our home and into hers, having to share a room with my younger sister, losing out on time with Daddy and my Aunt Sharon (because we spent LOTS of time with her when Daddy was single), starting high school with new stepsiblings and also not having a mother myself, and I was heartbroken.

And because of that, my stepmother and I never had a good relationship.  She listened in on our phone calls when she was home, and when she wasn’t, she locked the phones in the pantry, along with whatever food was in the house.  She competed with us for Daddy’s attention, and she almost always won.  She put my sister and I on diets when we were teenagers, so that I developed an eating disorder at the age of 17.  She ruined my graduation night. 

Granted, she treated my sister and I very poorly, but in all fairness, we were not given the chance to become close, because the development of her relationship with Daddy was kept a secret until they “surprised” us by telling us they’d gotten married and a wedding ring was shoved in my face. 

However, after more than three straight years with my current therapist, I can say that I have forgiven my stepmother for what we went through.  While she probably did those awful things because she was jealous of Daddy’s relationship with his girls, it is also possible that she was doing the best she could do with the hand she was dealt as well.

And now that I’m a stepmother, I can say that it used to be the hardest job I’d ever had.  Harder than being a wife, harder than being a mother, and much harder than my actual full-time job. 

Mason and Cassie are grown now, like I said, and they do not need or really want a relationship with me.  I’m honestly no more to them than their dad’s current wife, a bother and the occasional checkbook.  They do not love me.  And for a while, that really hurt me, because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.

What I have figured out over time, though, is that I don’t have to do anything wrong.  The odds are against me regardless.  First of all, their mother HATES me, and she pushes that hate onto her kids.  She’s their mother, and they really aren’t old enough or independent enough to question what she says, so they just take her word for it – that I am a sorry excuse for a human being.  A fat, stupid skank who does not care about them at all (yes, she has literally said these things to her kids).  Secondly, they have their own lives and their own friends, and I’m not their “type.”  And finally, I could never and would never try to replace their actual mother, and even if she is a huge piece of shit, I’ll never be her, as children idolize their moms.

So I cannot win, no matter what I do.  I can spend hundreds of dollars, offer advice, cook and clean, reach out over and over, and I still lose.  So at this point, the question in my mind is, “Why bother?”

To me it’s no different than any other relationship.  If I try and try and try and get shit on over and over again, why should I continue to put myself out there to get hurt?  How is that fair to me?  And how is it fair to Mason and Cassie, who don’t want me around in the first place?

I used to think being a stepmother was a thankless job, and when I tried to keep track of all of the times I got hurt just for putting myself out there, a relationship with these people wasn’t worth it. 

But I don’t do it for them.  I don’t even do it for me.  I do it for their dad.  Jack has been hurt even more by his own kids, and yet somehow still seems to find forgiveness in his heart for each of them.  His big heart has been stomped on even more than mine, but they’re his kids, so he lets it go.

My job as a stepmother is not to develop my own relationship with Mason and Cassie.  It is not to replace their mother or become an “extra” mother.  It is not to demand their affection or attention at any cost.  It is not to stalk them on Facebook or Twitter or blow up their cell phones until they respond to me.  It is not to buy them things or take them to movies or feed them at restaurants.  It is not to hug them or kiss them or take them to the doctor when they’re sick.  It’s not to drive them around or fork over money whenever they say they want something. 

My job as a stepmother is to support Jackie’s relationship with his kids.  Period.  I love Mason and Cassie, not because they’re my kids, but because they’re related to someone I love very much.  Who cares if they hate me?  Who cares if they want nothing to do with me?  They’re grown.  That’s like beating a dead horse – what’s the point?  My support comes from behind the curtain, when I’m encouraging get-togethers, checking to see if Jack has talked to them lately, or letting Jack vent when he’s been hurt by them again.  Those are the things I wish my own stepmother had done for my Daddy.

And when you strip away all of the bullshit, being a stepmother isn’t a hard job at all.  Yes, it still hurts when they want nothing to do with me.  But it’s certainly not something new to me.  I can deal with it.  My focus is on loving MY family and being a good wife and mother.  And when I transfer that love from Jackie onto his kids, all that means is that I support Jackie in his quest to keep those lines of communication alive.

Today I would encourage all stepmothers to be themselves, even if that means you’re rejected by your stepchildren.  Focus on the good, and don’t beat yourselves up about the bad.  Love your spouse, because that means you’ll love his children by default.  At the end of the day, all you can do is try your best, and your best will always be good enough for those who REALLY care.

XOXO!

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, V is for Vacation!

This past weekend, my husband, kids and I went back to my old stomping grounds in Kentucky, where I was born and raised.  A couple of things before I continue:

  1. I hadn’t been on a vacation in 6 years, so this was a nice break;
  2. What better place to go when you finally get to take a vacation than somewhere filled with memories?  Lots of nostalgia this weekend; and
  3. Family will always be of upmost importance to me.

A few pictures from our weekend, captioned with the events we attended:

It was a really great trip.  We spent time with family, ate at some of my favorite restaurants, watched some football with all of the loudmouthed Smith crew, swam a little in the hotel pool, did quite a bit of shopping, went to the church wherein I was raised, ate some good food, and laughed with our Gran.  This trip encompassed everything I wanted in a vacation, and I realized that I need to visit home more often.  In fact, I promised my family that I would be back around New Year’s.

XOXO!

Meg / cC

A to Z Challenge, U is for Unique

A fellow mom blogger recently e-mailed me with the following:

“Cursed, I read your posts every day.  I love that you’re so honest about your struggles as a parent, as we all struggle, even if we don’t want to admit it.  I also appreciate your humor and perspective on motherhood.  What is it about your personality that makes you a unique mom/stepmom?  And how do you think those traits affect the flow of your family structure?” – Brynn H.

I thought this was a very sweet and interesting e-mail, as this concept of “uniqueness” is not one I had pondered before.  I wanted to use the letter “U” to define/explain what makes me a unique parent – whether that’s good or bad!

1.       I am a young mother.  I think there are advantages and disadvantages to having children when you’re young.  But it certainly plays a big part in how I raise my kids.  One, I have the energy and concern to remain hyper-involved in all aspects of my kids’ lives – from school work, to fashion trends, to time with friends, sports and extracurricular activities and even social media establishment.  Two, I realize that being a young mother likely means I will also be a young grandmother, and that is exciting.
2.       I am a divorced mother.  The kids’ dad and I are friends and we do co-parent very well (even though it took lots of work and compromise for the both of us).  I am also remarried, which has changed everyone’s lives, in a good way.  Being divorced and having to co-parent has made me more open-minded and communicative.  I am no longer selfish with my children.  I HAD to change to provide more stability and happiness for our family, and yes, that family still includes their dad.  Our family is much more intact because of that change.
3.       I am a working mother.  That means I must squeeze a full day’s work into only a few hours at nighttime, while also letting my kids know that they are always my first priority.  While it is a constant three-way tug-of-war, wherein I’m caught choosing between having fun with my kids, keeping our routine and also completing tasks, and it does make me much for conscious of my time.  Being a better time manager has helped me at work and at home.  I both revere and covet the lives of stay-at-home parents, because I would love to be able to spend more time with my kids.  But I am also very grateful for a paycheck.  And I think I appreciate time with my children even more, now that there isn’t much of it.
4.       I am an affectionate mother, but I am NOT a “silver spoon” mother.  My children are rotten in the ways of affection, and they have pretty much everything they want.  But my kids are also being taught the value of things, so that I’m not looking at “little rich kids” in ten years’ time.  I set that example by working hard, and I talking to them about the importance of hard work.  Yes, my kids will have jobs when they’re teenagers.  But no, they will not have college debt.  To me, it’s about prioritizing your kids’ lives for them, until they can do it themselves.
5.       I am a “memories not stuff” mother.  This ties into #4 but in a way that is beneficial for the kids and for me.  Both of my kids do have stuff, yes.  But they are not so overwhelmed with stuff that they forget what’s important, which is making memories.  We have silly traditions:
a.       Every Monday is spaghetti night.  And after we eat, we pile up in my bedroom to watch whatever movie they’ve picked out from our local library;
b.       We play Skip-Bo once a week;
c.       Jackie brushes Lexi’s hair every night after her bath;
d.       We greet each other at dinner with the exact question, “Sooo…how was everyone’s day?”
e.       I write notes on my kids’ lunch bags every day, to let them know that I love them and to encourage them to learn a lot at school;
f.        Jameson climbs into my lap every night for back scratches, kisses, hugs, handshakes and our silly song (which is one I made up when he was just a baby – it contains literally ONE lyric that simply says, “My name is Jameson and I’m a good boy forever”).
g.       We order pizza every other Thursday;
h.       On the Thursdays that Jackie returns to work, the kids sleep with me;
i.         I do not do a single chore until I have spoken to each member of my family (even the dog) to ask about their days and to get hugs and kisses from everybody;
j.         We do frequent “projects” and the kids LOVE it.  Last week, Lexi helped me make a wreath.  Soon, we will be spending a couple of hours every Saturday to make homemade ornaments for our Christmas tree this year.  Lexi is a pro at making slime, which we’ve done a few times.  And sometimes we even make homemade cards or draw pictures to hang on the fridge.
k.       We take LOTS of family pictures.
6.       I am an understanding and approachable mother.  It might be because my father was so heavy-handed with his girls, including me, or it might be because my kids are generally well-behaved, but I do not spank my kids hardly ever.  I try other tactics, most importantly talking to them, before I take more aggressive action.  I do not want my kids to be afraid of me.  I want them to feel like they can come to me with any problem they have, without worries of being judged by me or fears of disappointing me.  Moreover, I do not overload my kids with chores or expect unreachable accomplishments when it comes to school work.  All I ask is that they do their best.
7.       I am an organized mother.  My family have a very strict routine:
a.       6:30 – up and dressed for school and work;
b.       7:30 – kids to school, Mom to work;
c.       3:00 – Jack picks the kids up from school;
d.       3:30 – snacks, showers, their one daily chore;
e.       4:00 – homework;
f.        5:45 – Mom comes home;
g.       6:30 – dinner;
h.       7:30 – finish homework;
i.         8:00 – kids watch t.v., Mom does chores;
j.         8:30 – Mom picks out clothes for the next school/work day while kids are in their rooms, reading or watching t.v. and settling in for bed;
k.       9:00 – bed time.
Again, this works for MY family and my kids.  This routine is our go-by, and there is little variance during the week.
8.       I am an including mother.  There is very little that I do, very few conversations that I have, very few trips that I take or places that I go, where I cannot include my children.  In fact, our family often go on “dates.”  Weekends are the exception to the above routine.  We use our weekends with the kids as a time to do fun things with them.  A few examples:
a.       Dinner and a movie out;
b.       Picnic in the park;
c.       Homemade pizza and Redbox;
d.       Swimming;
e.       Shopping;
f.        Visiting a local festival or carnival; or
g.       Making a dessert and eating it together.
As said before, I am a memory-making mother, and these are some of the ways we execute those memories.
9.       I am a worrying mother.  Not even my husband knows how much I struggle with anxiety when it comes to raising my kids.  So many nights I lay awake in deep thought.  Did I pack them enough to eat for lunch?  Is Lexi prepared for that math test tomorrow?  Is Jameson’s hair clean?  What am I getting them for Christmas?  Did I budget for tuition this month?  I constantly question myself, wondering if I’m enough, worried that I’m not.  I cry over the things I’m not doing, and panic over the things I might not be doing correctly.  Having not been given good maternal role models myself, I am terrified that I am going to screw up my kids’ lives, and I don’t want to do that.  I am aware that my kids are resilient, like most kids.  They are also very forgiving.  I just want to set a good example for them, invest in them, remain present in their lives and show how much I care.  Then the anxiety kicks in and I’m back at square one.
10.   I am a blessed mother.  Even with all of those panicky and anxiety-filled emotions, I make sure to take time every day, despite the struggles and despite my mistakes, to appreciate what I do have.  Not very many people love me and I know that.  Hell, there aren’t even many people who like me.  I can’t count on my parents or siblings.  But I know that my husband, my kids, and our dog love me.  And no matter how many times I screw up, they always will.  There is a lot of comfort in knowing there are 3 people and 1 animal that will be home waiting for me when I pull into the driveway.  And it is also good to know that I am needed, wherein my mental condition/illness often equates need to love (“If you’re not useful, you are not worthy” type of thinking).  If I never crossed another thing off of my to-do list, if I stopped cooking full meals, if I stopped wearing make-up and shaved my head bald, if I never vacuumed or dusted again, if I didn’t buy another toy or dog treat or area rug, it wouldn’t matter, because those people will still love me regardless.  It’s not because of what I do, but it’s who I am, that matters to them.  I am Mommy.  I am likely the most ordinary, average person on the face of the planet, but I am also the luckiest.

In the end, there is no such thing as a perfect mom.  There are shitty moms and there are good moms.  And behind most great mothers are women who are terrified they’re screwing everything up.  But the simple act of worrying or trying makes you a good mom.  Nobody knows your family better than YOU.  As I’ve already said, I tell my kids every day that all I expect is their best.  I can think of a few moms, myself included, that should adapt this philosophy.  Nobody can or should expect more than your best.  It will always be enough.

XOXO!

Meg / cC