Extended Blessings

Children grow up, establish new lives, and if we’re really lucky they bring home new members to add to the family.

I have been doubly blessed with the addition of a son and a daughter-in-law.

I can’t say enough about them, and I’m sure they’d kill me for posting their photographs, but it’s my blog and I’m going to do it anyway.

Mr Dad over here is a warm and loving partner, and an excellent father. He is bright, accomplished, funny, athletic, and quite crafty. He also makes me feel very welcome any time I visit.

My daughter-in-law is spunky, smart, caring, and any time I get to spend with her is such a gift.

If you are counting, that is two out of five – so no doubt there are more additions to come.

I’m open. There is no limit on blessings is there?

(Featured image is a sample of Mr Dad’s woodworking skills.)

Blended Blessings

Marrying for the third time entailed blending families – not always an easy task. I had three; he had two – bookends to mine. Falling in love is one thing, but the chances that all parties will be enthused about the idea is another.

Ric’s oldest, a son, was already an adult when we met, and had his own life, so our choices really didn’t affect him. Same with my oldest daughter.

Ric and Erika

The three youngest ones, however, were still at home. We had differences in parenting styles. Being critical of each other was a quicksand pit we tried carefully to avoid, but it wasn’t always easy. Developing trust and respect, and a genuine fondness takes time. I’m pleased to say, we made it.

More than that, as a stepmother, I’ve gained a new role that enriches my life in many ways. While I refer to Erika as “our daughter”, our relationship falls outside the mother/daughter framework. She has a mother, and doesn’t need me in that role. Not sure what you’d call it – role model, friend, alternate source of support.

Whatever it is, I count it as another blessing.

Our gang

Third Time Lucky

I first married at nineteen, two years after I left home, and many years before I’d developed into the woman I would later be. We separated before our second wedding anniversary.

Certain I was fatally flawed, I jumped at the next opportunity that came along – a relationship that would produce my three children and span seventeen years.

In the end, he confirmed what I secretly believed: I was not loveable.

I would prove that to myself again and again with poor choices, until finally, in my forties, I admitted I had a problem. My picker was broken. I was choosing mates based on the wrong assumption.

What, I asked myself, would a relationship look like if I was loveable? I decided that it needed to start with myself. So I started courting me. I bought myself flowers, just because I deserved them. I took myself out to eat and focused on what I liked. I visualized what it would feel like to be loved and I set five goals to achieve before I would re-enter relationship:

  • To understand my needs
  • To be able to identify my wants
  • To establish healthy boundaries
  • To believe myself worthy of love
  • To be financially independent.

When I met Ric, I wasn’t ready. The fifth goal had not been reached. So, I told him: “I’m not ready for relationship right now. I am willing to hang out for a year, and then we can reassess.”

Golf buddies

He agreed, and exactly one year later, picked me up from work and took me out to dinner, ordering a bottle of wine to celebrate.

“Celebrate what?”

“It’s been a year; we can talk about us!”

Six months later, he asked me to marry him. I made him wait another eighteen months.

The thing about Ric is that I know that he loves me. He would do anything for me. He values my wants and needs, and my boundaries. He listens to my fears. He is my best friend.

Wedding Day

Third time has been a charm (he’d say for both of us). I am truly blessed.

RV-Able: Where It All Began

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a disease which affects all systems in the body and landed me in bed, barely able to complete the simplest of tasks.  Fast forward two years later, and my problem-solving husband is looking for a way to give me some life back.  This post from February 2016 explains:

RV Kidding?

One of the last things my ex-husband did before becoming an ex, was to show up with a used motor home, unexpectedly.  I won’t get into the details here, but suffice to say it was neither discussed in advance, nor a suitable vehicle for family outings.                                                     th-2(Okay, it wasn’t that bad…quite.)

So, when I met my current husband and he expressed a passion for travel, I said I was game as long as it didn’t involve an RV.  It has become an inside joke.  Every time I “act up” he threatens to get the RV.  We both laugh.

Then a week or so ago, he mentioned that if he won the lottery, he’d want to buy an RV and drive me across the country.

“Are you kidding?”  I asked cautiously.

“Just a thought.”

Then last night he kept calling out possible options:     th-3

“This one has a washer/dryer.”

“What, and be robbed of the whole laundromat experience?” My sorrowful attempt to get back to the joke.

“Or you can get sleep comfort beds.”

I would let it drop, but I know better.  This is the man who once told me he was going to get our tires changed and came back with a totally different car.  (Did I just see a pattern forming?)

“Too good of a deal to pass up,”  he told me.

Luckily, I liked the new car better.  Point is, I’ve learned that if he mentions something, he could very well be on his way to making it happen.

Today, he came home from work and before removing his coat, blurted out:  “There’s a motor home, the kind with the washer/ dryer, on sale just a few towns over.”

I really didn’t know what to say.  Apparently, he is serious.

“I just thought that if we had a vehicle with a built-in bed, I could drive you
around the country and you could lie down.”

Please appreciate that before I became ill, travel was a regular occurrence for us. Now it is just one obstacle after another to overcome, mainly that my system cannot tolerate sitting or standing for long enough to get us anywhere significant, and should we dare to override that challenge, I will be too done in to enjoy the destination.

Couple that with my husband’s compulsion to problem-solve and what do you get:  A motor home.                                          th

In the interest of compromise,  I suggested that perhaps renting one and trying it out would be more practical than purchasing one.

“Renting is so expensive!” he argued.

“More expensive than buying one, using it once, and then swallowing the depreciation value?”

With a gleam his eye, he responded:  “I could always put a sign on it reading:  Husband’s dog house.

Last time I checked, he’s googling travel routes for RVers.

I’ll keep you posted.

(Except, now you know that two years later, it is happening!)

Televised Sports and Tantrums

What is unresolved in childhood resurfaces in adult relationships; it rears its head with all the finesse and grace of a child throwing a tantrum.

I am guilty of such behaviour.

Movie nights with Mom happened once a week.  Dad would be at work, and Mom would make a big pot of buttered popcorn and a jug of lemonade, and we’d head downstairs to the rec room and huddle around the television to watch. Just us girls.

I don’t actually recall any of the movies, but I do remember that on these nights, if I was lucky, I would get to be the one sitting on my Mom’s lap while she stroked my back.  Popcorn and lemonade never tasted better than when accompanied by attention from Mom.  These were my happiest times.

And they never lasted.

We’d just get to the crucial point of the movie, when Dad would come home, kick us out of the recliner in front of the television and turn the channel to the hockey game, dismissing us from the room.

Mom would hush our objections – always something about Dad being King of the household – and we’d be sent off to bed, tucked in with our anger.

When my school choir joined with others across town to form a thousand voice chorus, my Dad didn’t come:  there was a game on.

When my sister’s drama club performed at a local theater, and the family went to support her, Dad was home watching baseball.

thHockey, baseball, football – one season spilled over into another, and the number of tv’s in the house multiplied, but Dad always had to watch the main set, and we had to be quiet.

The game is on translated to shut up, you are unimportant, don’t you dare disturb me.

I left home, married, had children of my own, and Dad would never come to visit, or if he did, it was only for a few minutes, because he had to get home.

“There’s a game on,” he’d say and wink at me, as if everything was perfectly fine, as if this was our inside joke.

I’d seethe, but I’d never say anything.  There was no point.  Who can compete with sports?

Then, just the other day, I was watching a show and Ric, who had been otherwise distracted, picked up the remote and flipped the channel to sports.

“Just for a minute,” he mumbled, settling in to watch the program.

I sat there in disbelief, and felt myself shrinking, and that inner child began to rage. I got up from my seat, moved to the kitchen, fumbled around dropping things, started to curse and then stormed into the bedroom closing the door behind me.

Ric followed asking what was wrong.

I was so choked up I could barely speak, but eventually the adult took hold again:

“I don’t like being dismissed for sports,” I managed.

I was talking to my Dad, of course.

“I’m sorry,” he said with genuine concern.  “I was looking for something.  You should have just told me.  I would have turned it back.”

I knew I’d overreacted, but there it is:  the unresolved issues of childhood rearing their heads.

For once, I just wanted to be more important than sports.

(Feature image: blogs.bu.edu)

 

 

Blessing Of Interracial Union

“What’s her name?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“What?  Why not?  Do I know her?”

“No, Mom.  If I tell you her name, you’ll ask too many questions that I’m not ready to answer yet.”

“Oh.”

“A son is sweetness and strength and mystery;”

Call it Mother’s intuition, but I could tell there was someone special in my son’s life.  He’d been dropping by less frequently, and seemed to be smiling more.  He’ll tell me when he’s ready, I told myself.

“Whoever she is, I’m happy for you.”

“…..knew the moment he first spoke the name Warsan he’d found love.”

We were cleaning the pool, and worked for a while in silence before he spoke again.

“She’s Somali.”

Not having anticipated the comment, I heard Serbian.  “So she has dark eyes and hair?” I guessed.

“Yeah, and skin!”

It took me a moment before I realized my mistake.  “Surely you didn’t think I’d be upset about her skin colour?”

“And she’s Muslim.”

“Jay, none of that matters if you love her.”

“Hold fast to one another in a world that will
challenge you, and know that I will be there
behind you, a rock to your storm….”

Three years later, to my delight, they married in a quiet, private ceremony.  Immediate family on both sides got together for a small celebration.

“I’m going to have a Somali gathering,” Warsan announced this summer.  “It is women only, and will involve lots of dancing, and noise.  Do you think you can come?”

“We’ll make it happen!”  I promised, looking forward to a new cultural experience.

WeddingGalsTen of us gathered the night before and were adorned with henna, then the day of, while I rested, the others set up the venue.  Thanks to Warsan, my daughters and I had the proper attire to fit in, and when we arrived and I introduced us, everyone laughed and said they knew who we were – our skin colour gave us away.

Soon the festivities were underway, and differences were forgotten, and a hundred guests came together to welcome the bride.  My breath caught at the sight of her and I felt myself tearing up.

“Warsan, truly good news, precious as the sunrise”

We feasted, and danced, and then the poetry segment of the evening began.  Warsan had asked me to write a poem for the occasion, a feat I had stressed over.  Googling buraanbur, as Warsan had suggested, I encountered a practice that combines poetry with rhythm and dance.

“I can’t do it!”  I said to my husband.

“Just do what you can,”  he reassured me.  “Write from your heart.”

So I apologized for my lack of Somali, fumbled with the mike, and delivered my message to introduce my son, and welcome his bride to our family.

“….a child I can love as my own
a woman our family embraces with open arms”

My efforts were received with tears and hugs, and for the rest of the night, women approached and introduced themselves.

“Everyone is asking me if Jay has a brother,” Warsan laughed.  “And they haven’t even met him yet.”

MarriedsThe groom arrived at the end of the evening, claimed his bride, danced, ate, and the night was over.

“What an amazing community of women,”  my daughters and I exclaimed on the ride home.  “You could really feel the strength of their bond, young and old alike.”

“You are part of the family now,” Warsan told us the next day.  “My aunties said we are not to let you disappear into the woodwork – you will be included in all our events now.”

I cannot express how deeply this has warmed me.  The simple union of two people has opened my life to new understanding, and community.  I am so grateful that I did not let fear and ignorance grip me, when my son first told me about the love of his life.

(Photos are from my personal collection.  To read the whole poem visit “A Wedding Blessing” )