Tag Archives: life

Blended Life

Complications. Family. Same thing.

Blending 2 families. I shouldn’t have romanticized it. But I did.

I quickly went from dreams of happy family dinners to lying awake praying I, the wicked stepmother, would not be murdered in my sleep! The kids are good, really, we just had to get used to each other. That implies a lot of change, and kids don’t like change.

My second husband and I have 3 kids each. Yes many, many Brady Bunch jokes are made at our expense. Ha ha, fake laughter ensues…it is not like a fictional half hour sitcom, and no live in maid to clean up all our mess. Wouldn’t that be nice?

At times there have been silent meals at the dinner table, countless complaints about outings together, and endless moaning about the extra chores that come with a large household. Tensions high and relaxing became a thing of the past. A perfect recipe for stress and strain. It didn’t mean we had made a mistake, it just meant we needed more patience, more time and more unconditional love…a tonne more unconditional love.

We are not perfect, not in the past, not now, but we can get along now. We do talk at dinner and we can go away together with only the normal amounts of stress and organisation. There are no perfect steps to take to get to normal. Each family is different, heck each child is different. All I can offer is this – learn to respect, trust and love unconditionally .

Respect the relationships that exist, in fact, encourage them. Time between biological parent and child is important. They have lost part of their family so don’t add to the loss by insisting on everything changing. Respect their personal space, no matter how messy it gets! I’m not good at mess, it stresses me, so I just try not to look. Their room is their room. Basics for regular cleaning are asked for, but beyond that, if they can live in it, to quote a teenager “Whatever!”.

Our kids all had a parent die, a mum and a dad that cannot be replaced. EVER. We know that, we respect that and encourage talking about them. They are gone, but always and forever a very integral part of who we are. Best advice I can offer, don’t try and change that, be a big enough person to understand there are now 4 parents in the family.

Trust, this one took me awhile to figure out. When you birth babies you get to know each other from the ground up, the good, the bad and the ugly. Your kids know what to do, what not to do, and you teach them your values. The new kids do things how they have been trained, problem is it’s different, not wrong, just different. Motives shouldn’t be questioned, not washing a dish does not mean they hate you! It means they are a kid! I had to learn not to judge their attitudes. We all have them, those thoughts of “why should I” or “it’s not fair”. Not everything they do is a reaction to me, it may be, or it may be because they hate their new normal that they didn’t choose. Fair enough, they love their mum, and I’m new, I get it. I know my biological kids would never do anything wrong…cough, cough…of course they do. Each day offers me an education, learning to trust and hopefully one day be trusted back. 

Unconditional love loves flows out of decisions. I can’t wait to feel it. It flows out of respect and trust. It grows from the little things. Looking for moments is helpful, listen if they will tell you about their day, give help if it’s asked for, remember their traditions, find ways to laugh together etc. Then before you know it, you have a little bit of history together, then you have memories, then you have a medium to grow in. It takes a lot of praying that it will be OK, and then a lot of trusting God that He listened and it really will be OK. But the results are worth it. 

We still have a way to go, but we are OK and learning to love each other.

Respect. Trust. Love. We can’t go wrong.

SassyLanePhotography-542


Remember the Smiles

Sadness can alter your memory. It can trick you into believing the lie that suffering was all there was to living. It isn’t true. Amidst the suffering there was true life, the one were a joke was laughed at, a hand was held, or  “hey how are you” was shared. These small things in the everyday mattered, and still matter.

The end did not negate the years of holding his babies, of taking them to soccer, of kissing me goodnight, of the worst dad jokes possible or of just sitting together wherever we were…because the place didn’t matter.

Hope finds it hard to return if it has to fight through regret and guilt. They where the bookends that held me captive, torturing me with a continual reel to reel of all that was bad in the end days. The “what ifs” intertwining each chapter with nagging questions.

“What if I had prayed harder…”

“What if we had tried another doctor…”

“What if he had wanted to stay a bit more…”

“What if I had been more…”

Answer-less questions that feed guilt because they can’t be answered from the grave.  

Before the suffering I knew the answers. Yes he loved me and knew I loved him. Yes his kids were his greatest achievements and nothing could alter that. Yes he found joy in life, in nature, in his faith and those he loved.  They were unaltered memories. They didn’t have question marks.

I had added the question marks to the statements of his life. I had warped the looking-glass of my memory. I had forgotten the smiles and could only see his pain.

I needed to see hope again. To believe hope was possible. I remember falling to my knees on my bedroom floor, desperate to know that moving on was OK. Stuck between the holding on and the letting go. Only a decision away but uncertain if letting go would leave him behind.  I asked God to free my heart of the guilt and betrayal that pushed hope away. To let go of those unanswerable weights and open my life up to new possibilities…even if that was on my own.

I needed to understand that choosing to live was in fact what he had wanted, even though every pore oozed the contrary. I took small steps and made small decisions that supported hope until it became a habit. Grace filled the space guilt left behind and I was able to walk on. Hope grew into a new life because you can’t grow moving backwards.

Honouring those who have died doesn’t have to be sad, live the life they supported, be all you can be. Intertwine the best of them into who you are and go forward knowing they are always in your heart. Smiling …until you meet again.

my honey


Notes for my new husband…

Sometimes I get stuck and I forget.

I forget how special you are and how much I love being a part of us. Life gets busy and I get tired and it clouds my remembering. When it’s cloudy, a storm might just be around the corner. I don’t like storms. I don’t like hail, it hurts, it damages. I don’t like heavy rain, it floods, I might drown.

0ne day there was a storm.

I nearly drowned. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see sunshine, I couldn’t see through those clouds. I don’t like storms.  I lost a lot in that storm.  Not a house, not things, but I lost being a part of an us when the storm of cancer took my other half away. It destroyed me. Some things were lost forever; a father, a friend, a son, a brother, a husband. Gone.

Gone.

So, I don’t like storms, I get frightened. Frightened of the weather that might bring back the clouds. I can’t stop them, I can’t predict them, there’s no app for that. If I hear the hail I worry, if I feel the heavy rain I panic…what if it’s catastrophic? What if I am not enough? What if I can’t do it all? What if I don’t make it, don’t pray enough, don’t say the right thing … can’t save everyone?

I can’t breathe.

If I bury the worry, the panic, the fear so I can’t feel them, I can’t feel anything. It makes weathering the storms easier, but I can’t feel the sunshine. I don’t feel the warmth, the growth, the life. It stays dark. Really dark.

And that’s my choice. A really hard choice.

So sometimes I get stuck and I miss the important stuff. I miss the warmth in the touch of your hand or the life in your words “I love you”. I’m sorry I miss that. I know you will protect me if you can, I know you love me. Just remember that I still need to choose and if I seem stuck, look around for the clouds, I might be hiding. Just wait for me, I’ll try not to be too long.

I will come back into the sunshine.


A Wonderful Life

After cancer, after death, after a bottomless pit of grief, it really can be a wonderful life.

I have been silent for a while because my life has shifted again. This time for better. I laugh, I love, I work, I play and really truly live.

At 43 I thought my life was done, I knew I would continue to breathe in and out and keep moving through my existence, but I really thought that was it. My partner had died, my kids dad was gone, I was alone, scared, and sad.

So what caused the change?

For the first 8 months I was a train wreck. Pure and simple. It was just hard, I survived hour to hour, day to day. Then I had to face the reality, he wasn’t coming back, I really was in this alone. Kids grow up and move on, as they should, and in a few short years it would be me and the cat. So I had to ask myself the big questions, face the reality head on and get help.

The big questions were answerless. No answer to why my husband died of cancer and the rat bag down the road gets to live forever. No answer to what my life would look like now. No answer to why I felt picked on by God and why He decided to destroy my family. But I had to move forward regardless. Answers or not. I decided to let the questions go. To stop demanding “why” because it was draining me of life. That’s not what Paul would have wanted. I chose to step into a new world and trust that God knew my footsteps before I took them. And you know what? He did.

Beyond that I stopped shutting the world out and began once again to accept love and friendship around me. From my kids, family, friends, and a church family that demanded nothing of me but encouraged me endlessly to bask in grace and believe solidly that God who truly loved me offered new mercies daily. I believe my faith grew up a lot. Now I just know that I know He loves and cares for me. Despite circumstances. My reciprocation of that love is not always without doubt or fear, but it’s there.

I desperately needed comrades for the journey, and I usually needed them in the middle of the night. So I looked online for women, brave women, who had lost and had begun to live again. Their stories, their inspiration, and even their sadness helped me. I was done with pity, I needed real grit and real guts, these women had it.  I wasn’t alone in this; others survived this wreck, so maybe I could too. Some practical sites that helped in some very, very, very dark moments were as follows.

http://www.onefitwidow.com/

http://www.widowschristianplace.com/

http://www.secondfirsts.com/

https://anewseason.net/

Sometimes just reading helped, but through these sites I found new friends from all over the world and we pushed each other along. I am forever grateful.

There is one more reason for happiness, one more joy in my life that is new. I felt a whisper deep inside to keep my heart open and to believe that I could once more experience the greatest gift one person can give another… love. The odds weren’t good. Then 44, 3 kids, and a whole lot of complication to offer, I didn’t like my chances. But God doesn’t gamble, it was all there in His plan, a man that loves me and I love him. Not a secondary kind of love, not someone else’s leftovers, but a man I daydream about, can’t wait to be with and have to pinch myself sometimes to remember it’s all true. I feel adored, honoured, and embraced. I really thought those days were over, it is the greatest gift I could ever receive. He is wonderful and I love him deeply.

Of course I still have moments and ache because my kids lost a good dad, but I also know that goodness and life are true things and not just theoretical concepts. Life can turn around, hearts can heal and love can be felt again.

It really, truly is a wonderful life.


A New Pair of Shoes

new shoes

Girls like shoes. Girls like new shoes…and clothes and well you know everything!

I am a girl and I like them too, but I don’t like shopping. That’s a dilemma. You can’t get new if you don’t go out to get new. (Yes I know you can shop online but that doesn’t fit the analogy…just go with it).

Recently I have lost weight, no not from grief, that’s how I gained most of it, I ate my feelings. Over and over, there were a lot of feelings! I was frumpy, unfit and unhappy. I made a very conscious decision to change all that and am glad to say its’ working. So I have a pile of fat clothes and a dwindling amount of things that actually fit properly. But I hate shopping.

So I can stay in my fat clothes, or make the effort to get new ones.   I face a few of these dilemmas nowadays.   Buying new clothes is not a big dilemma. But what about my house, do I move house or stay, who am I alone, what church do I attend now, how do I parent alone?? All have been big questions for me, but they are all figured out the same way. By asking myself “what is the best thing in order to keep moving forward. “

The fact is I need a whole new wardrobe. My clothes had to change to a new size, a no-more-husband-size, its different now. But my shoes still fit, my feet didn’t get fat! So do I need new shoes too?

New clothes need new shoes to match. A new life needs a new attitude. The old things just don’t match anymore. It’s not the same. I cannot move forward holding onto the past. Is my husband only in my past, no! He will forever occupy a room in my heart; he will forever be my kids’ dad and if there is ever anyone new to love in my life they will need to accept that. But my life is different now. If I keep looking backwards I can’t see where I am going, I trip and I fall.

I need to look to happiness, to love, to life, to a future. I need new things that fit my new life. I need to step out of the house and back into the world.

I need new shoes to match the outfit.

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” Mat 9:17 (The Message)


Prickle Underfoot

I’ve had a setback.

But that’s just life I have decided. Rocky roads and prickly ground does not signal the end of happiness.

It was a hard week. I was really down, I felt let down by a friend, it accentuated my aloneness and it hurt. So I decided to take my mind of it with a girly pampering afternoon…but it didn’t work. While being girlied up one of my kids had an accident (reserving details because it’s not just my story), this couldn’t be happening.

On my way to the accident scene I switched into crazy-mumma-fix-it-get-everything-done mode and powered through the rest of the day which included hours at hospital and police reporting. By the time we got home I was exhausted. I tossed all night long and woke early for work and to juggle the next round of accident related needs.

I chose to ignore the fact that I didn’t yet have enough emotional resilience for all of this. That was a big mistake. 24 hours later my world became unstable. I felt flung back into the depths of grief, and it felt permanent. Like an old enemy had sprung up ready to shoot me down.

When asked I was “fine thanks” when help was offered I honestly didn’t know what to ask for. Except… I really just wanted a hug, but found it hard to ask for one!! Do you do that? Or is that just me?

Whilst going for a walk a couple of days later I trod on some prickles, and then some more prickles. They weren’t life threatening, but for that moment they took my breath away and for the next few steps I could still feel the pain. Of course I am fine now, no prickles can be felt. But it highlighted my previous couple of days. They had been the same. They took my breath away and I have had a little limp ever since, but I know I will recover.

Prickles are just part of life. A well-tended lawn may not seem to have any, but an unexpected prickle can still spike you when you least expect it. Grief is like that. Life is like that. All is well then a couple of prickles move your attention again to pain. But it’s not a permanent injury.

It’s just a prickle.

A few deep breaths the pain is gone, life can resume. I will keep reminding myself of that. Life will resume. My child is OK, I am OK.

It was just a prickle.


The Upside of Death

light in the dark

What is it about death that causes you to stand up and pay attention to life?

I used to be a very content home body. Happy being wife and mum, in fact, I felt it was my highest calling. I know I’m supposed to go on about how women can have it all these days, but for me, it was having it all. Oftentimes that calling was exhausting and time alone at home was a rare prize. But I loved it. Now I can hardly contain the need to get out and live.

I guess living becomes more deliberate, more on purpose; after all it is precious and finite. I know that now. I think the living helps the loss to shrink. It pushes grief out of the way, like light chasing away the shadows and illuminating a path to hope I was convinced I’d never see again. Not denial, I certainly know it happened, that empty space beside me screams it, I am fully aware of what I have lost.

I also feel a responsibility to show the kids life goes on, even after our darkest days. I’m it, the only parent left so I better be fit, healthy and living a full and happy life. I can do this, and so can they. Of course, realistically, I still have grief moments that interrupt the living, but they are part of the remembering and that’s OK, as long as the living is resumed.

Loving kids, family and friends have been crucial, I would not have made it on my own.  But I can see now that my faith has been a huge influence. Even when I blamed God and couldn’t understand how He was loving and just in letting Paul die, even then, I felt His hand in the small of my back nudging me on, willing me to live. A patient Gentlemen who never swore back at me, even in the coldness of my accusations. I am eternally grateful.

So I guess this is an upside of grief…that seems so wrong to write, but surely I deserve an upside, a silver lining, a rainbow after the storm?? Life is the upside.  A determined spotlight on living.

The contrast between life and death is massive, like the difference between light and dark. Once the light hits the darkness it just isn’t dark anymore.


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