End of Year Chicken

Havi Brooks does this thing on her blog called the Friday Chicken, wherein every Friday she talks about the hard and the good aspects of her week. I think it’s a great exercise, so I thought I’d give it a try as an end of year review. Turns out she did the same thing in New Year’s: The Great 2009 Chicken. I was going to call it the Year End Chicken, but I think The Great 2009 Chicken has more flair. Anyhow, on with the list…

The Hard

This year started off with me still trying to move past a miscarriage from the end of 2008. This is probably the hardest thing I dealt with this year. I cried. A lot. I sunk into depression. I tried to focus on the good things, but it just didn’t help that I felt empty and lost.

Conception still hasn’t happened for us as of now, more than a year later, which makes things even harder. In October we started seeing an infertility specialist to check for any problems. All the tests have come up “everything is great/perfect/right where it should be.” Which leaves us where? So that’s hard.

Adjusting to stepmom life
Since my husband and I married in the summer of 2008, this is my first full year as a stepmom and dealing with all the feelings of overwhelm, fear, and jealousy that go with it. There are a lot of emotions that creep up when you become a stepmom. It can be disorienting. There were times I felt misunderstood and alone. I’m growing stronger at it, though.

In-laws moved in
My in-laws moved in with us temporarily. I feel bad listing this as a hard because it certainly must be harder on them having been displaced, but it’s a huge shift to go from a three person household to a five person household. There are four adults sharing a roof, not to mention parenting efforts of a 12 year old boy. Tensions can be high.

Financial stuff
My husband and I are both self-employed and while we were able to stay afloat, there were some months where things got really tight. Thank goodness we had savings. Depleting the savings, however, is not fun.

Oh, how I hate to admit there was bickering. Alas, there was. Between me and my husband, between me and my stepson, between my husband and my stepson. We are lessening that trend and I hope we continue to work things out without being so quick to take offense.

The Good

Learning about myself as a stepmom
Learning that my feelings of overwhelm, fear, and jealousy were perfectly normal among stepmoms. Yay! I’m not crazy. I’m not a horrible person. I’m completely fine. Thank you Wednesday Martin for writing Stepmonster (and thank you, Erin, for highly recommending it). That book has completely changed my perspective and given me lots of ideas for step-family health.

Unleashing my creative side
This summer I did three things to unleash my creativity. I took a photography class, I joined a bunch of other bloggers in wrecking a journal, and I took Deb Owen’s Creative Pathways class.

As a result of all three, I saw the world in a different way. I didn’t shy away from trying new things. The experience of letting myself go without worrying about creating something perfect was extraordinary.

New respect for summer
Not since my school days have I ever really looked forward to summer. Even in my school days, I was usually content to enter Fall. This year, however, I realized I have an excitement over summer and a sadness over its end. I’m not sure if that is due to this summer’s creative burst or simply the weather. I think I finally learned how to make the most of summer.

Launching Too Many Toasters
Too Many Toasters was an idea I started conceiving over the summer. I was afraid to rush in for fear of fizzling out on it. As time passed, I was more excited about it and finally decided to jump in after realizing I can do it on my terms. I don’t have to write every day even though “ideally” blogs should have frequent new posts. Who has time to read all that anyway?

Being invited to blog on Working Mother
As a by-product of launching Too Many Toasters, I was asked to blog about stepmotherhood on Working Mother. If I can help one person out there relax in her chair and think “so I’m not crazy and it’s not just me,” then I feel that it was worth it.

All in all it was a roller coaster of a year. I’m glad to have come out, perhaps better, on the other side.

Feel free to jump in with your own hard and good list in the comments. Here’s wishing for a 2010 improperly balanced with more good than hard!


Blogging About Stepfamily Life

Early this fall, I started thinking more about my life as a stepmom, more about my relationships with my own stepparents and step-siblings, and I realized I needed an outlet for those types of discussions.

It’s hard to admit, but sometimes I feel like I’m crazy. As in honest-to-goodness crazy. I get emotional, fearful, and have some really tough days. It wasn’t until I read Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do that I realized I wasn’t crazy. In fact, everything that I have felt and thought over the last few years as I’ve entered in to stepmotherhood are things other stepmoms go through. It was such a relief.

Since then, I approach things with more gentleness (to myself and my family). I do my best not to take offense at things where no offense was intended. I try to be helpful to my husband and my stepson and I also try to recognize my own needs and desires.

It’s things like this that made me think maybe other people out there have the same fears and worries. Maybe other people are scared they might be crazy, when really they are just fine. What if there is someone else out there who is a stepmom or is a grown-up stepchild and doesn’t know anyone else in similar circumstances? Who do they talk to?

For that reason I decided to start a new blog, separate from this one, dedicated to living a stepfamily life: Too Many Toasters.

I wasn’t going to mention it here. I was afraid people might think my new endeavor was weird or unnecessary. I worried people might think me weak or mean. Then I remembered how kind the people are who stop by this blog. How silly of me to be afraid of you! I’ve made some good friends here.

So I’m mentioning it.

If it’s not your thing, no worries. If you know someone who might get it, by all means, please send them a link. As of now, I am writing there on Tuesdays.


Christmas Photos

Before Christmas is a long lost memory, here are some of my favorite photographs from the holidays. May we hold tight to Christmas spirit all year long.

Christmas ornament

Josie under the Christmas tree

Twinkling Christmas tree

The Night Before Christmas ornament with stockings in background

Red jingle bells

Today I am an artist

I love this time of year because it fills me with a feeling that anything is possible.

For the past few days, I have been off work and I won’t be returning until after the New Year. I spent those first few days cooking and doing some last minute shopping in preparation for Christmas.

Today begins a week without work or holidays to prepare for. I’ve already begun to let loose and do whatever strikes my fancy, no matter how silly. This morning, that meant dusting off my vision journal and ripping up magazines for a little collage work.

I started by cutting out pictures that resonated with me to create a vision board. I’m still deciphering the message, but I see lots of soft rounded shapes and rich earth tones.

Then I morphed an idea from Keri Smith’s Living Out Loud. She talks about creating a finder by cutting a one-inch square out of a small piece of paper. By looking through the hole, you notice textures and details in the world around you, rather than only seeing the whole.

Since I was drawn to rounded shapes in my vision board, I chose to use a circular paper punch to cut through multiple pages in my magazines. I spread out the dots, chose my favorites, and glued them in my journal.

Today I am an artist. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.