Families come in all sizes and shapes. Families are not defined as they were in the 1950s, the Cleaver-version with a mom wearing heels and pearls waiting at home for dad to come home so she can bring him a cocktail, a pipe, and slippers while their 2.2 children anxiously await him coming back from the office. I’m thrilled the days of Ward and June, Wally, and The Beaver are over.
The world today has families of all sizes, shapes, and varieties. My husband and I (and our little dog too) make up a type of household commonly referred to as DINKs (Dual Income No Kids).
One of the most prevalent types of families today are Step Families and today is a special day to take the time to honor and celebrate living in or having a family close to you defined as a “Step Family.” It is an extraordinary kind of family that originates from loss, therefore, inherently, anyone living in such a family is managing, in some fashion or another, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways, how members adjust to and grieve that loss.
Whether stepfamilies come about as a result of the death of a parent or divorce, the resulting remarriage, even without kids, constitutes a different kind of relationship that needs care, time and consideration of all the emotional baggage and issues involved the loss. Even when the children in stepfamilies are adults, there are still sometimes issues of concern that arise.
I had two step-grandparents myself growing up, which was somewhat unusual in those days. I always considered it an honor to have three sets of grandparents instead of two. I treated them as if they were my actual grandparents and hoped they thought of me as their grandchild. That’s not to say that the boat my step family rode in was always in smooth waters, but we stayed on the boat and nobody ever drowned. There were occasional times of conflict to work through. There were rarely times when everybody was happy all of the time, but the resiliency of a stepfamily can be just as strong as a natural one-couple family.
Take time to today to celebrate your stepfamily, the half or step-people in your life. The following links are excellent resources to help guide families through the transitional periods involved with newly-forming stepfamilies. There are some great FAQs and clarification of some commonly held myths about stepfamilies.
We no longer have to fear the wicked step-mother who won’t let Cinderella go to the ball. Stepmothers are rarely that evil. Let’s try to think of them as the Lady dad found to love instead. It’s hard to hate someone your daddy loves.
I have a friend who has the misfortune or good luck (as you choose to look at it) of a birthday smack-dab on Christmas Day. I can’t think of a more inconvenient day in 365 days of the year for a birthday. The most ironic thing about it for my buddy is that he’s Jewish. So much for the onslaught of mega or multiple gifts on the day he celebrates another year of life. As someone with a birthday quite close to a holiday, I adore what he’s done about it. Instead of bemoaning his bad luck, he hosts a bonfire party for whoever has time to stop by on that day. I’ve attended twice, and it is a silly mix of Christians feeling a tad guilty about missing some Christmas party and Jews celebrating the one day of the year they get the world to themselves. I had a blast both times I attended!
I mention my friend with a Christmas birthday to highlight today’s topic: Holiday Birthdays. My birthday falls near July Fourth. It was extraordinarily frustrating as a child to have that birthday because school was out, I missed my friends and no matter how I tried to entice them into an exciting birthday pool party, they wouldn’t show up. People always have plans for July 4th, sometimes years in advance. It’s a day of traditions and hot dogs and people just don’t care about a silly kids’ birthday party.
A holiday birthday can take the wind, steal the thunder and just generally spoil a celebration of getting older and is one of the downfalls to having your birthday near or actually on a holiday. I can only imagine how weird a New Years or Valentine’s baby must feel in later life. If someone you know in life has such a birthday, make sure you wish them well and do it separately from the holiday. Make them feel as if it isn’t just an accident that they’re around. And if you’re blessed with such a birthday, do what my friend does. Embrace it! Make the most of it. For myself, I’ve had many, many fireworks evenings that I either said out loud or thought to myself that those colors in the sky were just for me. I’m happy to share my birthday with America. And on a positive note, my hubby never forgets my birthday!
Happy 4th of July! Happy Birthday to All Yankee Doodle Dandies!
Imagine yourself in a war against an aggressive enemy that will stop at nothing to kill you and won’t bat an eye when they do. You’re pinned down in a small space unable to move forward or backward, stuck in the mud. If you crawl out of your tiny space, barely larger than yourself, your head will be blown off. What do you do?
This is how my father explained war to me. This was the situation he faced, time and again, in his few years in the military. He faced absolutely determined Japanese enemy forces that would stop at nothing, including ending their own lives, to take out even one Allied or American soldier.
It was in these times of trouble that he prayed to his God and hoped for a friend. That friend often came in the form of a plane dropping a bomb or shooting at an enemy. Those planes had come off of a carrier that was floating in the Pacific, operated by seamen. That ship came from a port somewhere in the Pacific where Coast Guard personnel guarded the safety of the vessels. My father, himself, was part of an Army tank battalion that would often come in as backup support for a bunch of exhausted and tired Marines. When those guys saw those tanks roll in, they knew they could finally relax. Just the sight of those tanks would sometimes bring tears to the eyes of desperate Marines. In that war, World War II, the Armed Forces learned to work together to save the world, and they did. They were the greatest generation because they figured out one simple face: Together we are more than the sum of our parts.
I know there are families out there that descend from the personnel that saved my dad in his little hole on a squat island in the Pacific. Those personnel weren’t always Army but often were Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines. I want to thank those people for giving me life. If they hadn’t saved my dad, I wouldn’t be here today.
Today is a day when we celebrate the coming together of all the Armed Forces into one united front, to serve together in war, both hot and cold, and in peace. May we have more of the latter and less of the former. Either way, the Armed Forces stand as the United part in the United States of America. Happy Armed Forces Day, troops, and thanks to you and your families for everything you do for us!
I’d like to honor my mother today. She was a wonderful person and I miss her terribly. I’ve written about her before, so in her honor, I’d like to share some inspirational quotes about mothers and motherhood. I’ve always known it wasn’t something for me, so I genuinely admire those among us who can pull it off and make it seem like it’s an easy thing to do. Happy Mother’s Day!
“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” —George Washington
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” —Abraham Lincoln
“Most mothers are instinctive philosophers.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe
“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” —Jane Sellman
“A mother is the truest friend we have. When trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” —Washington Irving
“There is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood.” —M. Russell Ballard
“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes
“A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone elses.” —Princess Diana
“Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, … and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.”
“Becoming a mother makes you realize you can do almost anything one-handed.”
Make no mistake about it: Easter is my favorite holiday. It always has been and always will be. Not that Christmas isn’t a beautiful time of year when you are supposed to get warm fuzzies about eggnog and gift-giving, lovely lights and cheer. Easter has more oomph to me than Christmas. First of all, in my climate, it’s usually warmer. There is hope on the horizon, whereas there is nothing but darkness and cold at Christmas-time. Granted, there isn’t the level of gift-giving you see for Christmas. When I was a child, there weren’t that many substantive gifts around our tree for Christmas. There were gifts; however, they were usually cheap and more intended for sentiment than for a thrill.
Two things have always made Easter a special one for me. When I was growing up, Easter Sunday was a very busy day. We’d wake up well before the crack of dawn for what was called, in our church, a Sunrise service. Leading up to Easter was a big deal too. Every week my family attended a Wednesday night Lenten service, complete with a meal. For each week during the forty-day Lenten period, our church would all gather for dinner and have a different ethnic dinner. I specifically remember a borscht dinner, mainly because I had no desire to eat anything that had beets in it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked borscht. There was a special service on Palm Sunday where all the children were given a palm leaf to take home. My mother would make a bouquet of her children’s three palm leaves that took center stage at our Sunday dinner table.
On Maundy Thursday evening, the Thursday before Easter, there was a service at our church where all of the elders and our pastor would wash the congregation’s feet, everybody’s feet. My church took Easter week very seriously. Then on Good Friday we would go and listen to a sermon on the Seven Stages of the Cross, which was a very long service, complete with seven different special singers. When I grew older, I would participate in a community service that took all day long on Good Friday. The day has always had a particularly sentimental quality to it for me. The lead-up to Easter I think was almost as important as the day itself.
Getting back to the big day, for the Sunrise service, the teens and youth of my church would perform the entire service, from beginning to end. It was often a near disaster of a service as you can’t rely too heavily on teens to do things with gusto, but they made an effort. The hymns were always ones of hope and joy, of surprise and happiness in Christ’s resurrection. After the sunrise service, our entire congregation would join for a pancake breakfast, served by the men of the church. Women were not allowed in the kitchen. My father played a prominent role as one of the two main “pancake chefs”. It was one of the few things he could cook to perfection. He and his buddy, Harlan, who eventually walked me down the aisle at my wedding in my father’s absence, would stand in the hallway of the church behind a borrowed fry-top they’d rented from the local legion hall. They’d stand there flipping pancakes for several hours, the heroes of the day. The younger men of the church, working in the kitchen, would fry up bacon and sausage, make orange juice and pour milk, waiting tables throughout the dining hall. Children would run and laugh in a giant Easter egg hunt throughout the church building. We’d find little plastic eggs all over the place. There was a huge basket of candy for the child who found the most eggs.
The breakfast was followed by our “regular” Sunday school classes for children and our typical hour-long Sunday service. When the morning was complete and the last service was over, we had spent almost six hours at church and would go home exhausted. We’d take a nap for a couple of hours until I’d wake to find my parents had hidden real eggs either outside or in our home if it was too cold. We had an excellent evening dinner, probably ham or potatoes. We’d dig into a cake my mother had made in the shape of a bunny.
How could a child not be thrilled with memories like these? It was as good as Christmas, if not better. I always had a hand-made, brand new dress and often dainty white gloves and a hat.
What made the holiday special and what still warms my heart, however, is the deeper meaning of the holiday. The themes of the religious significance always strike a blow to my soul: loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness, sacrifice, fate and hope. If you don’t believe in these things, then I’m very sorry for you, and I do include you in my prayers, whether you want me to or not. I can’t understand a life where you don’t believe in things like the themes of Easter. What is life without hope? What is life without a deep understanding of sacrifice? I do believe in fate. I believe we all have a destiny, a chosen path. Without it, life would be meaningless. My prayer for you this Easter is that you find your fate, you realize that path in your life and embrace it. I love that Easter comes in the Springtime. It’s a time of hope, life and renewal. May the themes surrounding Easter speak to you in your life. Happy Spring! Christ Is Risen Indeed!