Monday, December 21, 2009

Holidays: First year quiet moments

For the past several years, I have tried not to get too sucked into holiday "busy-ness." I keep my shopping to a minimum, say no to about half the party invitations I receive, don't pressure myself to cook elaborate meals...

This year, I have felt an extra strong need to simplify and just enjoy quiet moments in life. Those quiet moments are especially important with C. It is our first Christmas together as a married couple and that is incredibly important to me.

Everyone says that Christmas is for the children. Honestly, I disagree.

Sure, children get excited for Christmas lights, Santa and presents. It is sweet and nice to watch, but this time of year can also be nice for the grown-ups among us. Who says we can't enjoy this time of year after we have passed a certain young age?

As an adult, this season is about moving out of darkness and into light. (The Winter Solstice is today and the days will begin to get longer again - I love that.)

It is about celebrating the beauty and blessings in our lives. This year, I am celebrating my new marriage, my love for C. and the opportunities for growth this past year has brought me -- in addition to the constant blessings of my wonderful family and dear friends.

After Christmas is done, the year winds down and it is a time to welcome new beginnings. This past year has brought so much love into my life and so much change - some challenging and some exciting - and I can't wait for what the next year will bring.

I have been racking my brain trying to come up with new traditions that C. and I can share as a couple, but haven't come up with much.

However, we have shared a few very sweet moments that will help make this first holiday season together a wonderful memory. We decorated our self-cut Christmas tree alone together after Jonah* was asleep one night. It was almost meditative - the two of us quietly selecting and placing ornaments together during a quiet evening.

This past Saturday, we attended a Winter Solstice celebration downtown. It was a nice change of pace from the typical holiday events - eclectic world music and a relatively small group of people sharing the joy of the season. C. and I settled into a back corner of the room, which was illuminated by red and white Christmas lights. We drank dark beer and mead (honey wine, yum), held hands, snuggled,  enjoyed the excellent people-watching and listened to the music. It was a quiet moment for us to connect and just BE as individuals and as a couple.

I have tears in my eyes thinking about it. It was a simple and powerful moment that I will treasure.

So, I wish everyone a God Jul (good yule in Swedish), a Merry Christmas and a new year full of light, peace and new beginnings.

* name changed

Friday, December 11, 2009

Moms, dads ... and stepmoms

I have been doing a lot of reading on blended families, how to be a good stepmom, how to have a successful marriage in a blended family, etc. As with anything new in my life, I always turn to books and research for comfort and hope, as well as direction and tips.

I have been reading a few online message boards and blogs on the topic, as well. Something I read on a stepmom blog yesterday has really stuck in my craw...

(The blogger is also a nationally recognized author on the topic.)

She wrote something like, paraphrasing here, "the two women in a child's life (mom and stepmom) often become the two most nurturing forces." Adding, again paraphrasing, "women have a natural ability to nurture and often end up competing for top spot in a child's life."

Deep breath.

I have a few major problems with that assertion:

First, I am not competing for the mom-spot in my stepkids' lives. They have a mom whom they love and see on a regular basis. She is far from perfect, but she is -- and always will be -- mom. I really resent the idea that I would presume to fill her role, or that I would be "naturally" drawn to do so because I am the more nurturing sex.

Second, who says dads can't be nurturers? I think it is so insulting to dads to assume that they are the hands-off parents and leave the nurturing to the women in their lives. It shortchanges their ability (and desire) to be emotional and have deeply connected relationships in their lives.

(I have heard that PromiseKeepers actually tells men to be hands-off during children's younger years and that their job "kicks in" when the kids turn 13 and need help growing into adults. That idea is insulting both ways -- it implies that dads can't possibly nurture young children and moms can't possibly help teens become healthy adults. Grr.)

Back to dads as nurturers. C. is amazing with his kids. He handles bedtime and bath time. He does their laundry. He kisses their booboos and offers bear hugs during the scary parts in movies. He snuggles with them on the couch to watch TV. He colors with his daughter and plays cars with his son. He lets them wear their Halloween costumes when they want and encourages their healthy imaginations. He is constantly on the lookout for new books on parenting and taking care of a special needs child. This list could go on and on and on. He is an amazing dad. I would even argue that he is the most nurturing parent in their lives (but I am not a fly on the wall in mom's house - so don't know that for sure).

He didn't need me to swoop in and take care of the kids' emotional or physical needs. He knows how to do it and does it well.

(I would argue that he needs my emotional support and care as a wife much more than he needs my skills with children.)

As stepmom, and as the second adult in the house, I do support him and back him up. I do offer emotional support and physical care to the kids, but my role as a "parent-figure" comes after C. and the kids' mom. (Their stepdad is also a supporter and cheerleader in their lives.)

My role as stepmom is something unique. I don't see myself as a parent, but I do see myself as a responsible adult in their lives. I can offer extra support and care -- but that will never be a true substitute for what mom and dad can provide.

More on this later. Ruminating for now...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter fun

C. and I took a weekend trip to Grand Lake, Colo. for his birthday -- just the two of us. It was so relaxing and wonderful. We had a view of the mountains from our room, which was complete with a cozy fireplace and log furniture. Saturday was a very lazy day of napping, lounging and just walking around the little town.

I surprised C. with a massage appointment at the lodge, which he loved. He needed the relaxation time for sure, and it feels so good to give just the right present. :)

After the sun went down, we went outside for a dip in the hot tub. There is nothing like looking at the stars from a mountain lodge while soaking in a hot tub. The trip back inside in the 5-degree temps wasn't as fun, but it was such a Colorado moment.

That night, we went to the Community House in town and enjoyed a concert by a men's a cappella group. They were adorable -- senior men in their Christmas sweaters. They were pretty good, as well. It was such a small town Christmas experience.

After the show, we enjoyed an amazing dinner across the street at the local tavern. C. had duck stroganoff and I had lingonberry-sauced salmon (my Swedish side loves anything lingonberry) with a side of honey-roasted sweet potatoes. Yummy.

Most of the men's choir made its way to the same tavern and graced us with another impromptu concert there (ahh, memories of my high-school choir singing anywhere, any time).

Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast at one of the local cafes and then went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There's a pretty trail just outside town that winds its way past several waterfalls and lakes. We hiked about three or four miles along the river, but didn't quite make it to the first lake before it started to snow. It was only about 10 degrees, so we decided to head back before we got trapped in the storm.
I was really hoping to see a moose on our hike, but no dice. Still, hiking in the cold with nobody else around was invigorating. Colorado is a stunningly beautiful place and I am so thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the natural assets of my home state whenever I can.

Back to reality today, but I am so glad for the weekend diversion that refreshed both of our spirits so much.

Monday, November 30, 2009


I am just plain having a hard day. We received some more bad news yesterday in relation to the kids and their mom. (I worked very hard right then to restrain myself from adding a colorful adjective before the word "mom.")

I cried several times yesterday and this morning, and I do have to say that I am so thankful for the restorative power of tears. My sister always says she suspects that women's tears must be an outlet for some of our pent-up hormones. :) I think she might be right, because a good cry always makes me feel better.

This weekend of tears started when we watched "Marley & Me" Saturday night. (I had never seen it.) Being a dog lover, I always cry when the dog dies -- so, of course, I cried. Sure, the tears were about the movie dog, the four dogs I had growing up, the dog I have now (and the thought of someday saying goodbye to her)... but they were about more than that. They were about childhood memories and family dreams. I can't even begin to list the number of personal images brought to the surface by that movie.

Right now, I am in the process of creating a new family with C. and his kids, while trying to maintain the close connection I have with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nephews and other extended family. I am also holding fiercely to the dreams I have for what out future family will be.

As with everything in life, reality rarely matches the expectation or the preconceived image. Tears are nature's gift for grieving lost expectations. Tears allow you to release and hopefully let go, which is necessary for embracing life as it is rather than life as you dreamed it would be.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekends and traditions

C. and I had the most refreshing, relaxing weekend. We helped his mom move on Saturday, which wasn't the most fun -- but I am happy to see her getting settled into her new townhome after more than a year of house-selling/house-hunting stress. I think it will be a great community for her, and it will be so nice that she has her own space now.

After the move, we relaxed a bit at home and then went out to dinner at a pretty little cafe called Bliss. The food wasn't great, to be honest (their chocolate mousse was just barely beige -- not sure how they could even call it chocolate) -- but that didn't matter. We split a bottle of wine. We talked. We laughed at the cheesy band -- a "classic rock duo." We flirted. It was just so nice to get out of the house and enjoy a different venue (sans kids).

Sunday morning, we drove up to Evergreen and had a late breakfast at the One World Cafe. Spinach florentine crepes for me and a pork breakfast burrito for C. Delicious french press coffee. Yum. Again, the change of venue was just so nice.

We spent yesterday afternoon lazing around on the couch watching football and the "Next Iron Chef" finale (Chef Garces won - boo!).

I am at work today, and it is my only day in the office. Tomorrow, I will take Jonah* to the museum (he is off school all week) and we will be getting ready for the Thanksgiving celebration at C.'s sister's house on Thursday.

I am looking forward to celebrating with my new family, and I am looking forward to creating new holiday traditions with C., and with C. and the kids, this holiday season.

Love grows in moments like these.

* Name changed.

Monday, November 9, 2009


C. and I enjoyed our first kid-free weekend in more than month this past weekend, and it was wonderful. There's nothing like spending some quality one-on-one time together to remind you why you love your spouse.

We went out on a real dinner DATE Saturday night and then saw friends at the roller derby bout.

I even cooked a real meal last night, and we ate dinner in the dining room on our wedding china.

For those of you who have kids -- go on a date! I'm telling you, it works wonders. I know I am new to having kids around, but I already am a big believer that couples need time alone together, without the kids and without talk of the kids. The kids will be better for it, as well, because they get parents who feel refreshed and energetic and who are strong in their love for each other. I think that's the best gift you can give a child -- a warm, loving home environment and a good example of what healthy love looks like between adults.

So, some of the many little reasons for my big love for C.:

- He's funny. He keeps me laughing all the time.

- He can be really serious, as well - it's a good balance.
- He's a good friend. He makes time for his friends and truly cares about them.

- He has great taste -- in food, music, clothes, books...
- He believes in constant growth and learning in life.
- He's hot. ;)
- He is just a good, good man - and I am lucky to be his wife.

I am glowing today, and I am so thankful to have had such a great couple of days with my husband.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Music in the morning

As I was getting ready this morning, my 8-year-old stepson was blasting classical music from the CD player in his room. It reminded me of sleeping in too late as a teenager -- my dad would blast classical or opera to wake me up, and my mom would fling open my bedroom door and vacuum. :)

I'll take the classical from Jonah*. In a few years, I'm sure he'll be blasting hip hop or death metal.

*Names changed

Friday, October 30, 2009

Random little things

I can't seem to focus on one thing long enough to stick to one topic today, so here are some random things that have made me smile this week:

~ My dog racing and diving in the two feet of snow yesterday.

~ My hot chocolate "date" with my 8-year-old stepson yesterday after we played in the snow for an hour. We went to a restaurant, just the two of us, and split a cookie and drank cocoa. Snow day!

~ Two feet of snow before Halloween! Seriously.

~ Waking up next to the love of my life, C., every day.

~ Warm, fresh-baked cookies on my lunch break downtown today. Three for $1 on the honor system. Best business ever.

~ A belated wedding gift of three bottles of wine, a box of chocolates and a cookbook from my coworkers.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What if we get bored?

As a new stepmom, I am entering more fully the world of children's activities, cartoons, books and games. Up until now, I have watched from the sidelines as my sisters and friends chauffered their children to various activities, events and appointments -- all set to a soundtrack of Bob the Builder and Disney theme songs.

Sometimes, though, parents need activities that are just for them -- with no trace of princesses (don't even get me started), Spiderman or talking vegetables.

Friday night, my parents invited my sisters and me to a free Dixieland jazz show with the Queen City Jazz Band. When we were growing up, my folks took us to see this band at a variety of free concerts in the park, so there was some nostalgia attached to the event. I also have a personal love of all things jazz in nearly all its iterations.

I told C. I planned to go, and he and the kids were welcome to come, if they'd like. They did join us -- as did three out of four of my nephews.

On the drive down to the concert, Annie* (my stepdaughter) asked, "What if me and brother get bored?"

Hmm, what if the kids did get bored? Just what tragedy would ensue? Boredom -- is it the horror of all horrors to be avoided at any cost by parents everywhere?

The truth is, "boredom" allows a person's mind a free moment for creativity. I remember creating elaborate stories for myself as a child during many "boring" car trips (we didn't have car DVDs back then!), "boring" classical concerts and "boring" dinners at real restaurants (no ball pits, clown characters or free toys in the Merry Meal) with my parents.

Children do not need to be catered to and entertained every second of the day. Sadly, many parents give in (or give up?) and set up the portable DVD player during breakfast out at a cafe (what happened to food being the "event"?), or pop in a video game in the car on long road trips (doesn't anyone play the alphabet game anymore, or - gasp - look at the view?).

Parents have a bigger job than serving as personal social and event organizers for their children. They must help children learn about the world, learn how to think critically for themselves, discover how to create their own stories and grow into adults who enjoy life and all that it has to offer.

Life is about more than plugging in a machine for ready-made entertainment. Sometimes, a child is better served with little more than a pen and paper -- and a bored moment.

Friday night, my parents, sisters, C., five children and I lined up in two rows to listen to some good live music. Those five children listened, watched, pretended to drum along and practiced "conducting" the band. They also took advantage of boredom to doodle and write, and show their parents the results of their creativity.

They did beautifully. They had FUN (my 9-year-old nephew reported that the evening was "awesome!"). Their brains absorbed a little healthy music (which studies have shown aids brain development).

Oh, and their parents (and stepparents, in my case) were able to enjoy a little grown-up time. The singer had us all on our feet by the end, belting out "When the Saints Go Marching In." (Which elicited a few eye rolls from the younger set at how embarrassing their parents were acting - ha! I, for one, am not the least bit worried about being embarrassing.)

As I have said before, music feeds my soul. I needed that night out, and I am happy I was able to share it with my husband and stepkids.

Spongebob, Speed Racer, Cinderella and Dora - step aside. Tonight, we prefer to be "bored."

*Names changed

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My pup

As I alluded to in my last post, it has been an incredibly difficult week for us. I think I focus on "the little things" even more during hard times -- when the big things become overwhelming, the little things can save me.

This week, my adorable mixed breed dog (she's half Welsh Corgi, but dad was a stranger in the night) has been that little thing. I'll call her Missy*.

She came to me by way of the local shelter and a doggie foster mom when she was an 8-week-old ball of fluff. I had just bought my townhome and I wasn't 100 percent ready for a dog yet, but she was ready for me. My parents' friends' neighbor was the foster mom, and it was a lucky coincidence that my wanting a Corgi came up in conversation.

Her mom had been dropped off at the shelter pregnant. She gave birth to four sweet puppies while in foster care, and all five of them -- mom and pups -- were adopted into loving homes.

She came to me during a particularly lonely time in my life and she did wonders for my mood and outlook. It helped so much to have someone else to care for and consider -- it wasn't just me anymore.

Now, she is three years old and all grown up. Now, I have a husband and two stepkids to care for and consider, in addition to Missy and me. In many ways, she helped prepare my heart for that.

This week, she is also the one I can pull onto my lap when I need comfort. I can just hold her, cuddle with her and pet her (which, of course, she loves). She doesn't ask what's wrong, and she may or may not know that something is "up" in our house, but she offers that consolation anyway.

She is also my willing companion on the long walks I take to clear my head.

I had a terrible dream last night that she was hurt, and I think that is what prompted me to write this post. She is so special to me and I never want to see her hurt.

Thanks, Missy, for what you add to my life (as well as C. and the kids). You are an important and honored member of our family.

*Names changed

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It has been a really difficult couple of days (I don't really feel like talking about it here right now, but it relates to being a stepmom).

On days like these, I am reminded of what amazing women I have in my life. Today, I was able to call and talk to one of my best friends, as well as my sister. They are both strong, smart women and they are both moms. Their sympathetic ears and wisdom were exactly what I needed today.

So, I wanted to pause and say "thank you" to them and to all women who are good friends to each other. Female friendships are definitely unique and one of the greatest gifts in my life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Music - part 1

Music has always been and will always be a huge part of my life. I am a music lover and was once a singer (I still sing at home and in the car).

I know I will post many, many times about music and songs and the feelings and memories associated with them -- which is why this entry is titled "Music - part 1." I expect many more parts to follow.

I found this song online today, and I couldn't be more thrilled. C. and I first heard it on honeymoon. It was playing on the rental car radio as we drove all over the island of Maui. I listened and gazed out the window at the stunning and peaceful beauty of that place. I made a mental note to look it up when we got home, and I finally had the chance today to find it.

It is a beautiful (sad, but thankful) a cappella piece by Keali'i Reichel called "Wanting Memories." 

Memories, indeed. I will always have the memory of the pure love and joy I was feeling that day when I first heard the song. So in love with C., so in love with life and so ready for the next part of our journey that we had just begun together.

C., this one is for you. May we always have those Hawaiian memories and may we make new memories together every day. I love you.


Wanting Memories Lyrics


Monday, September 21, 2009

Yum, yum, yum

Part of my newlywed adventure has been sharing the company of two wonderful children -- my stepkids -- whom I'll call Jonah* (8) and Annie* (5).

I am not gonna lie. It has been an adjustment for sure. Not because they are bad kids -- they're great, actually -- but because I am new to sharing my house with anyone, let alone anyone smaller than four feet. (How, exactly, is it possible for so much volume and constant energy to emit from those two little bodies?)

Ok, so my dog is shorter than four feet, but she has been the easiest roommate on the planet. She and I still find sanity and comfort in each other amid the sometimes chaotic happenings of the new house.

Anyway, we are about two months in to our new marriage and new household, and I am starting to find my stride. The kids are with us every other weekend for three nights. It feels good to have a small victory now and then -- a moment that makes my heart swell with pride when I feel like I am truly part of the family now.

One of those occurred last night. I have been asking C. to let me do more of the cooking, because I have been needing to cook as an expression of myself in my new home (call it nesting).

I cooked for the four of us last night. It was just a simple casserole recipe with ground meat, canned tomatoes, corn, and onions topped with cornbread batter on top -- all baked in the oven. I was nervous that the kids wouldn't like it, but they gobbled it down. Annie even sat there saying, "yum, yum, yum, yum..." every few seconds. Jonah actually ATE the tomatoes. He never eats tomatoes.

A small victory for sure, but it is one of those hundreds of little things.

Last night's successful dinner -- combined with eliciting laughter from both kids AND C. as I read them a Buzz Lightyear story before bed -- helped create that warm glow I always imagined I would feel at the heart of family life. Something I dreamed of often as a single girl who lived alone.

With stepkids, a new marriage and much transition in life right now, it is so nice to stop and remember those glowing moments. I'd like to sit and savor this one for awhile.

*Names changed

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lifetime learning

One of the things that C. and I both enjoy is continued learning, whether from reading or taking classes.

Last night, we shared in a new learning experience together - a sauce-making class at a local cooking school. We learned all the basic "mother" sauces: homemade mayonnaise (a hundred times better than jarred), pesto, hollandaise, vinaigrette, bechamel, veloute, demi glace, beurre blanc and creme anglaise.

The class of 20 people was divided into groups of three. C. and I worked with another gal to make the vinaigrette and creme anglaise, which we helped demo for the rest of the class. Each team then did a demo of their sauce. At the end, we sat down to enjoy various dishes (chicken, beef, asparagus, salad, strawberries, mac n cheese) with the sauces.

It was such a fun class - something I have been wanting to do for a long time. Mostly, it was fun to share something new like that with C. We both enjoy cooking and I hope moments like these inspire us to cook together more.

I will need to practice these sauces, I know. They are all about getting the timing right, and that is my biggest challenge when cooking.

I'll let you know when we make a few of these at home successfully. Hopefully we will add our personal twists to the base sauces.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I doubt I will ever have the words to express my feelings about September 11.

The words of a father on NPR's Story Corps this morning took me directly back to that day. He lost both of his sons that day - both emergency responders in New York. His is just one of many stories of profound loss from that day and from all senseless, man-made tragedies.

Always remember.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Road trip

C. (my husband) and I took advantage of the long weekend to take a little road trip to southwestern Colorado for a music festival in Pagosa Springs.

There is nothing like an open expanse of road for bonding with your partner. Five hours together in the car makes room for good conversation and comfortable silences. Sometimes, just sharing the view together brings you closer together.

(Note: The drive on Hwy. 285 takes you through South Park.)

My most favorite memories of childhood are the times my parents, two sisters and I spent piled in the Caprice Classic, driving cross-country, singing along with the radio (or 8-track) and stopping to see America along the way. It is something I am thrilled to share with C.

This weekend, we ate good junk food (which, as we later discovered, my body can only handle in small doses; onion rings and half a bag of Fritos resulted in C. needing to pull over to the side of the road for me - sigh). We enjoyed some fresh air. We savored our time together.

Saturday, we were at the folk festival from about noon to 10 p.m. where we heard several great bands -- many with a bluegrass bent. Nothing beats an outdoor festival with the Colorado mountains in the background. Excellent scenery, good food, great music and unmatched people watching.

The evening closed with the
Subdudes, always enjoyable, but our favorite by far was Darrell Scott. He has a poet's heart and a bluesman's soul.

Back to work today, unfortunately, but I am so thankful for those little road trips away from it all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One sound of autumn

My husband was up and at 'em already this morning and I was groggily making our bed. (I am NOT a morning person.) Truthfully, I was dreading my day ahead a bit -- work and I are at a bit of an impasse.

Then, I heard the vaguely melancholy sound of Canada geese honking as they flew above our house. Something about that sound has a distinct autumnal feel. I instantly picture yellowing leaves against crisp, pinkish sunsets when I hear geese.

I am ashamed to say I don't know enough about geese and their migration patterns to tell you if they are coming to Colorado or going to some distant shore in the fall. All I know is their sound means fall is on the way.

They helped start off my day with a smile, and I wish them well on their journey between the two nests they call home.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A cup of coffee

A good cup of coffee has been one of my favorite little things since I was a senior in high school. We used to drive downtown to this funky coffee shop called Paris on the Platte and order a pitcher of Mexican coffee - heavy on the foam and cinnamon. Mmm, yum.

It wasn't just about the coffee, though - it never has been. Some of the best conversations of my angsty teenagehood happened over those pitchers of coffee (with the scent of Cloves cigarettes in the background -- I didn't smoke, but it was part of that cafe's signature atmosphere in the 90s).

There is just something about sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee (or tea, or milk, or whatever drink strikes your fancy). It forces you to slow down, wrap your hands around the cup, and meet the eyes of the person across the table.

For me coffee = conversation. Even when I have a cup of coffee alone, it slows me down long enough to have a "conversation" with myself. It gives me five or 10 minutes to recenter and reconnect.

Since I got married a little over a month ago, my husband and I have started a nice morning tradition. He wakes up first and starts a pot of coffee. He checks e-mail or goes outside while I am getting ready upstairs, but he comes in and sits down with me at the table when I come into the kitchen.

Then, silently or with simple conversation, we share a cup of coffee. It is now the favorite part of my day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


"Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life." - attributed to Confucius

My new husband quoted that line to me the other night as I was venting to him about the lack of motivation and satisfaction I am feeling in my job. My response? I don't know what I love.

However, that response is entirely untrue. Sure, I haven't found my "bliss" in the Joseph Campbell sense. I haven't found work that sustains creativity and challenges my wandering, curious mind on a consistent basis.

Yet, I do know what I love.

I love my husband. I love my parents, sisters, stepkids, nephews and friends. I love my dog. I love rain; and chocolate; and long walks; and growing my own vegetables. I love the sound of children's laughter. I love the smell of bread. Bottom line: I really do love life.

Life. It is a big word that encompasses so many thousands of little things. Work -- that thing we "do," whether or not we love to do it -- is but one of those little things.

This blog is an attempt to stop and acknowledge at least some of the little things that keep me going (which is likely to include little things that set my mind to wondering, so expect sidebars). Perhaps I will stop at 1,001, but perhaps I will find more.