Monday, April 26, 2010

Guiding Values

I’ve struggled to find my right path for a long time. I’m pretty good at recognizing paths that are laid out for us- first do x, then y, then you’ll get z.

I’m also pretty good at recognizing when something doesn’t feel right or when I don’t enjoy something I’m doing. The piece I’ve been missing is what I want to be doing.

It’s really tough to feel like you’re wandering around without a purpose. How do you know if you are on the right path?

With some help from Jamie, I now know how to recognize if I’m on the right path. She encouraged me to come up with a list of my 10 most important values and even helped get me started by giving me a nice long list of words that were coming to mind as she listened to me.

From there I whittled down the list, added, subtracted, and massaged until I came up with words that felt right. They are:


  1. Life


  2. Genuineness (or authenticity, as some would say)


  3. Ease


  4. Positive energy


  5. Comfort


  6. Creativity


  7. Connection


  8. Understanding


  9. Action


  10. Kindness




I’ve let these values sit with me for a month now, checking them from time to time, reminding myself what’s on the list, and paying attention to how I feel when I think about my values.

This list is my compass. I now use it as sort of an answer sheet to compare my daily activities. How many of my values are present in my work? Have I employed these values in my home and family? Which values do I feel are most lacking? Which ones are right on target?

Then the big question: can I make any adjustments in my life to better align with my values?

All of these years I’ve felt like I lacked direction because I couldn’t say with certainty what career trajectory to follow. Now I still can’t say I have a career trajectory, yet I have a path. Besides, careers are just a part of life, not all of it.

Now I have a direction because I’m moving toward my values. I’m moving toward kindness, comfort, connection, and understanding. I’m staying genuine to myself, creating my own positive energy, and enjoying life.

I’m walking in the dark with a flashlight, but I have a flashlight and it shows me just what I need to see right now.

What are your core values? Are you living them?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Friday - The Thriller Edition

I’ve been taking some time each Friday to reflect on what is making me happy. It’s great to focus on what is going right since we sometimes get bogged down in what is going wrong.

Some of the things making me happy this week are:


  • Thriller. That song came on while I was at the bookstore last night and I know I was smiling goofily because I was laughing in my head. That song always makes me laugh. I love the guy that talks at the end. “No mere mortal can resist, the evil of the thriller.” Indeed, this mere mortal can’t resist.


  • My stepson’s interest in a philanthropy book I was reading the other night. He asked what philanthropy meant, then went on to find a few ideas in the book of things he wanted to do.


  • Free-writing. I love to free-write. To just open my journal or my computer and write whatever comes to my mind no matter how absurd, minimal, or crazy it might be. I can simply conjecture, make observations, jump from topic to topic, or ramble. It’s freeing.


  • Strawberry shortcake. My mother-in-law made strawberry shortcake for dessert the other night. I love that dessert (it is one of my mom’s specialties), yet I hardly ever have it. More please.

What is making you happy this week? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Friday!

Happy Post - April 23, 2010

Happy Book BadgeIn honor of The Next Chapter's ongoing work in The Happy Book, I've been taking some time each Friday to reflect on what is making me happy. It's great to focus on what is going right since we sometimes get bogged down in what is going wrong.

Some of the things making me happy this week are:



  • Thriller. That song came on while I was at the bookstore last night and I know I was smiling goofily because I was laughing in my head. That song always makes me laugh. I love the guy that talks at the end. “No mere mortal can resist, the evil of the thriller.” Indeed, this mere mortal can’t resist.



  • My stepson’s interest in a philanthropy book I was reading the other night. He asked what philanthropy meant, then went on to find a few ideas in the book of things he wanted to do.



  • Free-writing. I love to free-write. To just open my journal or my computer and write whatever comes to my mind no matter how absurd, minimal, or crazy it might be. I can simply conjecture, make observations, jump from topic to topic, or ramble. It’s freeing.



  • Strawberry shortcake. My mother-in-law made strawberry shortcake for dessert the other night. I love that dessert (it is one of my mom’s specialties), yet I hardly ever have it. More please.




What is making you happy this week? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Too Young to Have a Kid So Big

I learned a big lesson about myself last week when it comes to taking things personally. I’ve spent my entire life being mistaken as younger than I am. I used to hate it when adults would say, “you’ll appreciate it someday.” As a kid, “someday” doesn’t exist. You just want to grow up now.

And now I am grown up. I’ll be 33 in just a few short weeks and I still get mistaken for being 10 years younger. I know, I know- what a great problem to have. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with the way I look and I’m sure I’ll continue to appreciate it “someday.”

The thing is I’m at a time in my life where I’m supposed to be somewhat of an authority. You know, look like I’ve been working for a while, act like a parent, etc. I think I’m good at my job and I do my best to be a good stepmom, but I see how some people look at me and I assume they are thinking, “she’s too young.”

As if to confirm my suspicions, a lot of people I’ve encountered lately have commented that I look too young to have a 12-year-old kid. I get stuck in this awkward, “um, thanks” while I try to explain (or not) that he’s my stepson or that I’m older than I look.

In fact, this just happened last week. My stepson and I had dentist appointments and while I was in the dentist’s chair, I heard the dental hygienist in my stepson’s room say, “his mom is right over there.”

Then the dentist came in to give me his assessment of my stepson’s teeth. The first thing he said to me was, “oh, you’re his mom? You don’t look old enough to have a son that big.”

My mind went to its usual place of “What? Are you accusing me of birthing a baby when I was in high school?” Of course, I didn’t say that. I went into my usual stuttering answer (which probably doesn’t help the whole authority figure thing).

Later when I relayed the story to my husband saying I never know how to respond in that situation, I broke out laughing. I couldn’t help it. All of a sudden when I was telling him about it, I realized I was blowing things way out of proportion. Those people are probably just trying to be nice. The appropriate response would be a simple “thank you!” That’s it. No apologies or explanations necessary.

My whole panic is really just my stuff getting in the way. And by “stuff” I mean insecurities. It really is time for me to let go of my stuff and accept these comments as compliments.

Wishcasting Wednesday: Daring

Wishcasting badgeIt is Wishcasting Wednesday, a wonderful day when we can cast our wishes out in the world and support everyone else's wishes with positive energy.

This week Jamie asks: “What do you wish to dare?”

I got such a rush when I read this question because it so perfectly aligned with a message I received loud and clear this morning.

As I made my way out of NY Penn Station this morning, I passed by a section of the station that is always plastered with giant ads for one company. These ads are adhered to the floor, wrapped around columns, and on the faces of the stairs that lead out of the station.

I've often seen ads for an airline or a mattress company. You can't help but notice them because of their large sizes and unusual placements.

Before I say why the ads struck me today, let me back up and say that I had a morning filled with thoughts about humanitarianism- serving the world and those in need. I'm not sure what to do with that just yet, but it's an idea that has suddenly been appearing to me from many angles over the last week, so I'm certain it's important.

I was thinking about that during my commute today and as I walked through the train station, I saw giant letters that said, "Dare to join forces with nature."

Dare to join forces.

Dare.

That message struck me because of how apropos of my own inner brain swirlings it was. As if that wasn't enough, now I see that Jamie is asking us what we wish to dare.

Me? I wish to dare to serve a greater good.

I'm not certain what form this takes just yet, but I am certain it is what I need to do right now in some way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Affirmations #4: Being Genuine

"Don't take it personally."

Oh, that affirmation last week was a good one. I realized how many things I take personally in my day-to-day life. (Hint: a lot!) One such story coming later this week. Stay tuned.

On a few occasions last week I was able to recognize where I was about to take something personally and was able to change my thought process to instead consider other possible meanings.

In other instances where I wasn't as lucky to catch myself in the act of taking things personally, I was able to reflect later on what happened and how I could respond in the future.

That's a big lesson, don't you think?

This week I feel like I need to focus on another aspect of myself:

I am genuine. My actions and behavior reflect my true self.

I've had something of an identity crisis for the last, oh, 30+ years. I am a people pleaser who has spent most of my life trying to keep (or make) other people happy.

What I'm learning is this: I need to be true to myself in order to best serve those around me. I can't help others effectively if I am trying to be something that doesn't fit.

So this week out with the people pleasing, in with authenticity! Only by fulfilling my core values can I help others fulfill theirs.

What will you focus on this week?

Being Genuine

Throughout my life I've wished I were like other people I knew. Sometimes I wanted to be that girl in school who knew how to dress cool, or the one who could find the symbolism in the book from English class.

Later I would want to be the one who could dance gracefully. Then I'd want to be those people who knew exactly what path to follow in college to get to their already selected ideal career.

In the work world I wanted to be the marketing manager I knew, followed by the professional corporate climber, followed by the geeky web guru, and then the online editor who knew how to talk to anyone and everyone and make an impressive job come out of those conversations.

In the blog world, I wanted to be a joy rebel like Brandi, a silly but smart business woman like Havi, an exuberant artist like Connie, or any of the other wonderful bloggesses I've encountered who have a topic and know how to rock it.

The thing is, I've learned that I never actually wanted to be any of these people. What I wanted was to be as genuine as they were. I wanted to know what my topic was and be as passionate about my own thing as they were about theirs.

I wanted to feel as secure in myself as all of them appeared to be. I wanted to say, "This is me! This is how I roll. Take it or leave it!"

Which is really hard to do when you haven't identified your Thing (with a capital T, because Things are big).

Over the past year or so, I've settled in to the notion of my own authenticity. I'm certain I've stifled my genuine self because of my insecurities and my people-pleasing tendencies.

I may not have determined a Thing that is my subject of choice, but here is what I know for sure. I know that I am passionate about getting the most out of life. I know that I am amazingly selfish in wanting to spend my time doing what I want, when I want, and I don't want to be constrained by "rules" about how I'm supposed to live.

I know I'm not perfect and I've made mistakes, big and small. I know that I want my goodness, not my mistakes (real or perceived) to define me.

And I know that above all else, I believe in kindness and I wish there were more of it in this world. I seek it out. I feed off of the good feelings that come from doing good deeds or hearing about others' good deeds.

I don't know yet where this all leads me, other than it leads me to live with my guiding values at my core. If I let myself go after life and kindness, everything will be as it is meant to be.

In case you missed it, Victoria wrote about Thing-finding on her blog last week. In it she says,

Finding your Thing is like walking at night with a flashlight. You can see only so far ahead of you. If you want to see farther away, you have to take at least one step forward. In other words, you’re going to have to step into something that interests you before you really know if it’s your Thing.



That was an aha! statement for me because that is what I am doing right now- walking at night with a flashlight. I can't see what is on the long road ahead or where it ends, but I can see what is around me right now (my core values) and I will keep stepping into the light.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Friday - Confetti, Comfy Living Spaces, and Other Magic

Ultimate Blog Party 2010
Happy Friday, everyone! I don't know about you, but it's been another busy week for me. Now that my stepson's baseball season has begun, we will be busy until the end of June. Spring baseball games sure are a great excuse to spend time outside, though!

Since it is Friday, I took a few minutes today to think about what is making me happy this week:

  • The glorious bloggesses I "met" this week in 5 Minutes for Mom's Ultimate Blog Party.  I now have some new reading to do in the blogosphere.  I appreciate those that dropped by this blog to toss a little confetti on this party.

  • The wood floor that my husband and I just finished laying in our living room last night. I’m so excited to start bringing furniture back in. I’m also ecstatic about the faux metal work we did on the step up into the kitchen.

  • Flowers! The trees along our street were in full bloom for Easter and I took that opportunity to play with my camera. This week the petals are beginning to flutter off like snow to make way for fresh, green leaves.

  • My new Converse sneakers. This is my very first pair of Converse and I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without them. I love them. Their comfy and sparkly and inspired my husband to nickname me Stardust. Lovely!

  • Bubbles! Blowing bubbles is whimsical. I took the bubble photo and it’s now my desktop image on my computer. Everytime I sit down to work, I feel like I’m looking at a crystal ball.

All in all, I found a lot of magic this week. How about you?

What is making you happy this week? Leave your happy list in the comments.




Happy Post - April 16, 2010

Happy Book BadgeIn honor of The Next Chapter's ongoing work in The Happy Book, I've been taking some time each Friday to reflect on what is making me happy. It's great to focus on what is going right since we sometimes get bogged down in what is going wrong.

Today, I'm including a collage of my happy. The things that are making me happy this week are:

collage-happy pics


  • The wood floor that my husband and I just finished laying in our living room last night. I'm so excited to start bringing furniture back in. I'm also ecstatic about the faux metal work we did on the step up into the kitchen.


  • Flowers!  The trees along our street were in full bloom for Easter and I took that opportunity to play with my camera.  This week the petals are beginning to flutter off like snow to make way for fresh, green leaves.


  • My new Converse sneakers.  This is my very first pair of Converse and I don't know how I've gone this long without them.  I love them.  Their comfy and sparkly and inspired my husband to nickname me Stardust.  Lovely!


  • Bubbles!  Blowing bubbles is whimsical.  I took the above photo and it's now my desktop image on  my computer.  Everytime I sit down to work, I feel like I'm looking at a crystal ball. 




All in all, I found a lot of magic this week. 

What is making you happy this week?

Update: Be sure to visit The Next Chapter's post to watch the puppy video. So adorable!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Advice for Stepmoms

Today on Working Mother I tackled the big question about what advice to give new or soon-to-be stepmoms. I wasn't entirely sure where the post was going until I was halfway through, but sometimes I know there is something important to say if only I take time to write.

Yes, that's how my muse and I roll.

Check it out here and then let me know what advice you would offer new stepmoms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Disengagement

Being a stepmom brings with it a number of challenges mainly because there are no clear cut job descriptions.

Take discipline for example. A biological mother would have built a bond with her baby from day one. By the time it comes to setting and enforcing rules, there is already a strong connection between mother and child. The child may not always want to adhere to bedtime and there may be escalating tones, but they know their mother loves them anyway. If they get upset, they tend to get over it quickly.

As a stepmom, that bond hasn’t been set so enforcing bedtime can turn into “my stepmom is so mean!”

There is a lot of talk in stepmom writings about disengaging. Disengaging basically means that as a stepparent, you might decide to fall back and leave the “parenting” to the biological parent(s).

I wonder how this method works for stepmoms whose stepchildren have two biological parents in the picture. My husband has full custody of his son, so there aren’t two parents already looking after my stepson. It’s just my husband and me (and my in-laws).

Since I am the woman of the house, I take on a lot of traditional motherly roles like cooking, laundry, and homework reminders.

Personally, I prefer for my husband to do the disciplining. But let’s be realistic. While he is a tremendous father, he is not the best mother. He doesn’t always notice things like bedtime slipping by.

The last thing I want to do is nag or be the mean stepmom with so many rules. I do, however, want to make sure my stepson gets the sleep he needs, minds his responsibilities, and uses good manners.

With him in the house full-time, those things are important to me. I’ve found to save my sanity, lately I have been releasing my hold on those things. I’ve been letting my husband police chores and make sure my stepson makes it to baseball practices. I help where needed, but I’ve stepped back a bit.

In all fairness, parenting is still fairly new to me. It doesn’t help that stepmotherhood is rife with unique challenges.

I guess my question is how realistic is disengagement when you are a full-time stepmom? I think I’m starting to find my right balance, but I’m frustrated with all the advice to leave “parenting” to mom and dad. What if mom isn’t around?

Does disengagement work for you stepmoms whose stepchildren split their time between your husband and their mother? Are there any other full-time stepmoms out there- how do you handle the parenting/disengagement balance?

Wishcasting Wednesday: Gentleness

Wishcasting badgeIt is Wishcasting Wednesday, a wonderful day when we can cast our wishes out in the world and support all everyone else's wishes with positive energy.

This week Jamie asks: “What do you wish to be gentle with?”

Instantly, I came up with two things.

My stepson - He is in that going-on-13 place where he is stuck between wanting to be a kid yet wanting to be big and strong. There are days when he is so loving and others when his attitude is less than delightful. I wish to be gentle with him as he figures out who he is in this world.

My living room - This week my husband and I are replacing the floor in our living room, which means Sunday we emptied the room and ripped up carpet, Monday night we set down the underlayment, and last night we started laying down wood planks.

During the process we have talked about what we want to do with the living room when it's time to bring everything back in and the answer is we want to be very selective about what comes back. We want the room to be free of clutter with plenty of room for positive, loving energy.

Now I'm sending happy, gentle, wish-fulfilling thoughts to the universe for everyone's wishes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blog Parties, Affirmations, and Dreams About Wednesday Martin?

My brain is swirling with a lot of things right now, so I apologize in advance for the somewhat random conglomeration of topics. Deep breaths, everyone. Here we go.

Ultimate Blog Party intro


Ultimate Blog Party 2010The lovely ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom are hosting the Ultimate Blog Party this week. It’s a party… on the web. No cups or confetti to clean up when it’s done, but perhaps I’ll find some kindred spirits.

By way of introduction, I’ll say that I’m not a biological mom. I am a full-time stepmom. What I mean by that is my husband has full custody of his son. Where other children of divorce often split their time between their mother’s and father’s homes, my stepson is with us all of the time.

I met my stepson when he was about to turn nine. I wasn’t there for his first laugh, first steps, or first words. I didn’t get to marvel with him while he learned about grass or trees or birds.

When I met my stepson he had already been on baseball and soccer teams. He knew how to read and multiply numbers. Meanwhile, I had to learn his favorite foods, what clothes he liked to wear, and which hair clippers the hairdresser should use when trimming.

He had to learn what to call me (Sherri is fine), but more importantly he had to learn that I wasn’t there to impede his relationship with his dad. That wasn’t something I could say and have him learn over night. It was something he had to grow comfortable with in his own time.

Becoming a stepfamily happens slowly over years. It isn’t simply living under the same roof or sharing a last name. It takes time to grow together and figure out how to respect one another.

My husband, my stepson, and I are still figuring it out. I married my husband a year and a half ago and my stepson is now nearing 13.

There are moments I treasure and moments I wonder what I got myself into. Overall, though, we’ve hit a rhythm with our lives and our schedules.

Best of all, there are plenty of hugs to go around.

Affirmations #3

Ever since The Stepmom’s Toolbox suggested a 30 day affirmation challenge, I’ve been inspired to set weekly affirmations on Mondays. Just a simple phrase that I can keep with me and breathe in to help me stay focused on what is important.

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been extra sensitive to criticism (and by criticism, I really mean perceived criticism). At home and at work I’ve struggled with this, so it seems time to focus on this:

Don’t take it personally.

If I detect a sour tone of voice or anger or frustration, I will do my best to understand that it was not aimed at me. When I feel strong I enough, I will go further by trying to decipher what might be the root cause of a bad mood.

This week, I will understand that it’s not about me.

Dream About Wednesday Martin

In other news, I had a dream last night in which I met Wednesday Martin. In my dream, my husband and I were in a grocery store and I saw Wednesday selecting some produce.

Just as I was about to tell my husband who it was, he took my hand, led me to her and said, “Hi Wednesday! How have you been? It’s been a while.” He introduced me to her and we talked about stepmotherhood and writing and blogging and life. (I know… that’s a lot of stuff!)

When we parted, I talked with my husband about how they met (they were old friends) and her role in studying stepfamilies (of which he was unaware until then).

I was so happy to have met her. Alas, when I awoke I realized that this was all in my imagination.

I’m not great at dream interpretation, so I don’t know what all this means, but it sounds like I should at least keep following Wednesday’s work.

In closing…

This should be an interesting week. How the heck are you?

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Happy Post - April 2, 2010

It's Friday! Hooray! Yippee! Another work week survived. It's also a great time to think about what went right this week.

Happy Book BadgeIn honor of The Next Chapter's ongoing work in The Happy Book, here are the things that are making me happy this week:



  • The sunny weather of today and yesterday. It feels like spring and the birds are chirping.


  • The rain earlier this week. It was dreary for a couple of days, but the rain seemed to wash off all the winter yuck and cleanse my yard, my driveway, and even my car.

  • The enthusiasm of little kids, namely a sweet little boy who I got to see this morning. He was excited about EVERYTHING, which made me smile uncontrollably.

  • Chocolate chunk cookies. Need I say more?




What is making you happy this week? Feel free to list your happy in the comments.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

107 Days and Counting: In-law Update

I thought it might be time for an in-law update. As you may or may not recall, my husband’s parents moved in to our guest room at the beginning of December due to an unfortunate circumstance.

The overly complicated politics involved in their ability to get a new home have been dragging on interminably, so the living arrangement that we all thought would surely be over by spring is still very much in place.

We are now 107 days in and here is what I know.

We had to throw out the mini-pickles that took up residence in our refrigerator early on. No one seemed to be eating them and the concept of tiny pickles in a pudding cup style container, in general, was a bit unsettling to me.

Despite arriving at our house with an entire case of Cheerios, it would appear my in-laws don’t actually eat Cheerios. In four months, we are down from the original 12 boxes to 11.

Burglars don’t knock, a fact we learned after my father-in-law arrived home after midnight a few times sans house key. My husband has an uncanny ability to awake, roll out of bed, grab a flashlight and a baseball bat, and be in the hallway in less than 5 seconds. Fortunately his ninja skills were not required.

It is difficult enough to coordinate three people’s schedules. It is so much more difficult to coordinate five people’s schedules.

The house feels like it’s in a constant state of disarray. I’m not by any means implying that my in-laws are messy people. But accommodating two more adults in one house means there is just plain more stuff.

For example, the stuff that used to be neatly stored in the guest room closet is heaped in the upstairs hallway, so that my in-laws could hang their clothes.

There is a cable running from my stepson’s room down the hall, balanced over top of the bathroom door frame and down the other side to reach into the guest room giving my in-laws their own TV.

There are reading glasses everywhere.

My stepson’s sink counter and cabinet underneath are filled with toiletries and hair styling tools that are not his.

And someone keeps oiling the non-stick skillet, though no one will admit to it. I keep finding it in the cupboard with beads of oil on it and then I have to wash it again before I can use it.

Which brings me to another thing I’ve learned about having house guests for an extended period of time: It means there are more people saying, “not me.” I have a whole new appreciation for the Not Me ghost in Family Circus comics. I think he’s moved into our home as well.

There are some good things, too.

I’m not the only girl in the house anymore, so I fair better in family votes.

My in-laws share in the cooking duties. On days when I commute to New York, not only have they cooked and fed my family, they have saved a plate for me in the oven. Rather than arriving home late at night and having to figure out what to make, I get to just sit down and eat. That feeling is priceless.

So, that’s what we’ve been up to. Wish them luck that my in-laws’ situation will be resolved soon. They really miss having their own space (not to mention all their stuff which is still in storage).