The Longest

The Longest

This is a belated re-post from this past March. As usual, life has kept me busy and away. But here I am, trying again.

Usually, on their birthdays, I write the girls a love letter of sorts. This year, I have a lot swirling around me, and getting here, like always, hasn’t been an easy task. But, timing usually works itself out:

Dear M,

In a year from now, you will have existed out in the world a decade. I will no longer be able to write your age with a single digit. It will, for the next 10 years, be accompanied by a number 1. I think that makes being Nine special in a way. We get to savor it a little stronger because it has that bittersweet tang to it of being a last. Lasts are just new beginnings in disguise, but they also wake you up a little to pay attention. Paying attention is a wonderful gift. Your mama is paying extra attention this year… I don’t want to miss a thing.

So much has happened in the last 9 years. You grew too tall for me to carry. You read now. You write stories. One about our life. Like mom. We’ll post them soon. You make the most ridiculous jokes and they are belly-laugh funny. You stick up for yourself in ways I never would have done and I hope you are always that fierce. You are a caretaker more than I give you credit for. Although, you still have a hard time looking at things from other people’s perspectives. You take your responsibilities seriously for only living nine years and it makes me proud. You have a sense of dedication that lives inside you and pushes you. You have hobbies and interests. You still can climb walls– literally. Although you do it a lot less. Now you contort your body into back bends and kick your legs over or hang like a monkey from whatever you can pull yourself up onto. You are strong and muscular and more athletic than I ever could be. You are surrounding by some really wonderful people that you picked to be in your life. I am so glad you have great friends. Friends make life better. M, I don’t know how you see yourself, but know– You are strong, full of magic, and beautiful from the inside out.

Trust your judgement. It will fail you here and there, but you get better at being in the world each time you make a mistake. But you have a good, level head on your shoulders. You like your mischief and jokes, but you know how to keep yourself safe and when to ask for help. Those two things will frame the rest. Trust your gut– you know what is bad news, what is too far, and what is the right thing. Be true to it. Always.

Shortly after your birthday, you started a new schedule to spend time with Dad. You pretty much hate it and I feel awful that I didn’t really include you in the discussion. I make a lot of decisions for you and with this one I made things harder for you. I want you to know, I didn’t mean to make things harder. When Dad is healthy and doing well, you should pack the time in, Kid. I never know how long it will last. You are right though, it was a big change. I should have worked in time to adjust. So just know, I’m sorry. I’m here to help you through it and I’ll do better next time, peanut.

Third grade is almost over. I am excited for our summer. I have a lot of things I am hoping to cram in. Toes in the sand. Spray parks. Museums. Long, wooded walks with the dog and your slow-poke sisters. BBQs. Jumping into pools. And reading to you some favorite stories in the hammock. It is a big list, but I can’t wait to try our best to fill your summer with it. The years coming will have you with your friends more and me less… and I want all the time I can get, frankly.

When you were born, I thought I would never forget your weight or the hour of your birth. Those details though are lost in my brain– yet immortalized on paper and your birth certificate. I have not lost that feeling that something magical had just happened.


You were so small. Rose bud lips. Chunky wrists and thighs. Baby smell. The most favorites thing I have ever inhaled. You came in the middle of the mess, but it was so perfect. At the time, Miss M, I didn’t know where we were going, but I knew it was gonna be together. We would do it together and everything else would fall into place. I held you sleeping little body, your weight settled deeply into my arms, and I knew having you  was going to change my life is ways I couldn’t even comprehend. Which was crazy, kid, because I had no idea how to be a mother. I hadn’t done it before. So happy birthday to you, my first. You made me my favorite thing: a mom.

I have loved you the longest.



New and Nine.

New and Nine.

I have a few drafts sitting here about the start of school, visitation with M and her Dad, and the daily adventures in parenting R. But this one I managed to put together. Sticking to your guns as a person who rather smooth things over is tough. Yet, this seems the prudent, right, best thing this year:

Dear H,

Today is the last day you get to be 8 years old. Tomorrow you turn 9. I have an inkling this is gong to be a big year for you. Things you’ve been waiting for are close.

We are still living in the aftermath of this summer. Honestly, the build up kind of happened every time your mom traveled this year. She thinks it has to do with Dad’s behavior. He thinks it has to do with Mom’s. I think anxiety and unknowns can make people act in a way that lacks compassion. Your parents are still working out what a new world will look like going forward. It is a problem that needs to be resolved.

Last weekend, your mom reached out about your birthday party. Last minute, because of all the issues, she invited us to your home with some of your friends to watch a movie and eat pizza. I told her then, Dad and I would have to think about it. Logistics, obligations, and the current climate of everything had me thinking this was bad news.

A long time ago, your mom decided that having both parents there for big things was important. She is right. We all should be there to support you. And the events there is only one chance to attend– we come to, H. If we know about it, we come. School assemblies, awards, big things at church, your extracurricular activities, etc. Your birthday, while immeasurably special, isn’t a thing we all need to do together. We’ve figured out how to do that all your previous birthdays to keep the peace. Your Mom has determined that it is a thing we should do together and it is all you have known. Yet, the fact is, it is not actually a thing we need to all do together. You can celebrate with your Mom and her people. And with Dad and his people.I mean, honestly, I like going to your friends party honestly because I get a peek at who makes up the other half of your life. I enjoy that and I appreciate that your Mom includes us all. But this just is not the year we should be in the same room after a long day at your home, sweetheart.

This year is just different. Different does not mean sub-par or lacking love or any of the tiny boxes we shove uncertainty into. I honestly believe, in the long run, for your best interest, that Daddy, your sisters, and I should sit this party out. We shouldn’t be in your home right now. Your mom is having a party at someplace far from neutral in the middle of some big conflicts. Conflicts that will be worked out, but overlap on the day you end your eight rotation around the sun and begin your ninth. Which kind of, well, sucks.

It is important that Dad and Mom (and me) do what we individually think is the best thing for you. I think that you know having everyone there is important to Mom. And I think you don’t want to see her upset or sad. And I think that’s why your conversations about your birthday with her are different than the ones we had. I think we all occasionally do things to help save mom unpleasantness. You most definitely are a kid who likes to keep the boat holding other people’s emotions steady. You do it here. I’m sure that part of you exists at home as well. It is okay to rock the boat here and there. It takes a little courage. I know because that is what not attending this birthday party means. We are shaking the shit out of the boat. It is a little scary not knowing what will shake out of it.

This is what I hope will happen, H. That your Mom will realize that she can’t define every aspect of your best interest on her own terms. That being in the same room together where your mom has no respect to Dad’s boundaries, personal property or feelings is a bad idea after drop off Tuesday. We can’t show up for you the right way with Mom there right now. We can’t be genuine and ourselves. There is no neutral ground at your home.

This year, what we think is best for H, is that we push for something better and more defined. Nothing will change if Dad and Mom don’t work out some issues. Nothing will change if there aren’t natural consequences to the events of this summer. Dad and I being completely upset over you attending a graduate course with your Mom instead of here with us as we agreed to and planned for is a big deal. We don’t think it was what was best for you. And we did not have any say in the whole thing.

This year, you’ll have two parties. It’ll be different. Our choice to not come can be perceived many different ways. I promise you it is exactly like we talked about Sunday. We love you. But coming out after school on Friday and leaving late with your little sisters is a lot to ask. Being in the room with your Mom will so much unpleasantness and unfinished business is a lot to ask. And then her opening your Dad’s car door to finish a conversation, well, it just seems like it is too much for everyone to be expected to behave. It is in no ones best interest this year to show up to just prove we can. That seems unauthentic. That seems that sweeping everything under a rug. That seems like there is no fall out for your mom’s choices and we are just okay with what happened. Showing up the way always have… can’t happen. It is not the way it has always been. Change is coming.

Turning nine is abundantly special. We will celebrate your big day with Dad’s family and your sisters because turning nine is special. Because we love you. Because you deserve to have a special day. We hope you have a great weekend with Mom and your friends. You deserve the best.

So much love, sweet girl.

– The Unofficial Step-mom.

Bud & Roots

Bud & Roots

This one is just a re-post from my original blog:


Dear girls,

Here is the thing. A scary, but honest thing: I can not keep you safe from life. Life is a place where both good and bad things happen.

Everyday. Every single day. I worry about this. About which of the many bad things will happen to you.

Some will be a choice. You could cross the street without looking both ways. Drink too much and try to drive home. Overdose because you decided to try drugs and find you just can not stop. You may decide to take something that does not belong to you. Instead of trying and accepting you might fail– you could choose to cheat. You may love someone who, at the end of the day, is not right for you. You could choose to stay with them and live a half life. You could choose to leave them and start over. Each and every time you make a decision in life there will be consequences. Some of the best things in your life will come of it… and sadly, some of the worst.

Some will not be entirely in your control. There are natural disasters that could impact you… hurricane, tornado, flood. Some disease-I-won’t-be-able-to-pronounce might riddle your body. Your genetic make up might lead to a struggle with mental illness. Mauled by an animal. (Listen, shark attacks happen. We’ll watch Jaws together one day.) Sucked away in a rip tide. Honestly, I can keep going, but I think you get the point.

Sometimes you will be victimized. You’ll be an unfortunate part of someone else’s decisions. A victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Someone will demean you and call you a names. It might be posted on social media. You could be mugged. Kidnapped. Stabbed. Shot. Raped. Blown up.

You could get away from me for a split second and climb into a Gorilla enclosure at the zoo. You could go wading on vacation and be snatched away by an alligator. You could decide to go swimming without a grownup and drown alone in a pool. You could grow up on me and die in a club in Orlando dancing with your friends because someone decided it was a good place to have a mass shooting.

This list is endless girls. I can go on and on with pages of worrisome things. All because bad things can happen to good people. Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes life is terribly frightening and sad.

I, like all of us, worry every day about which of these things will find you in life. About this world I brought you into. Did I do a terrible thing by bringing you into such a volatile and ever changing place?

I sit with my friends and we ask: What do we do? How did we get here? How do we fix this?

I don’t know. There is inherent brokenness in this world. But when you don’t know the whole answer to something, the best thing to do it to start with what you do know:

  1. I will love you through all of it. Whether I’m around to see it or not– my love for you is infallible. You will not understand the depths of it until you become a parent.
  2. You have the power to make good choices. It is a mighty gift. Don’t neglect it.
  3. You don’t have to believe anyone else’s definition of your story. People will assign you adjectives (nice girl, total bitch, scatterbrain, lesbian, slut, pushover). You might be those things… but that’s not all of you. Don’t get hung up on labels. Just like you will change and grow through life– so will all the tiny boxes other people try to stick you in.
  4. Do your best. That will be different each time it is asked of you. You can’t do more than that.
  5. Solve one problem at a time. One minute at a time. Eventually enough solutions and time will pass and you’ll be out of the weeds.
  6. There is something bigger than us in life. Some call it God or Spirit. There are so many lives busy living in this world these days… it is hard to find it in the din. But there is something there. You will have to find the place where you feel it. It may be church, a mosque or a temple. It may be sitting in the trees. You might meditate and hear a voice that speaks to you. You might have the sight to see a world beyond this one.  Whatever we put out in the world, it builds on. Put out your very best, be the good, share your love, whisper it your deepest wish… and the universe will answer. Not always immediately or in the way you think… but it answers. When you realize it, you’ll be humbled and amazed.
  7. Human rights are universal. Some of us are still fighting for this very basic thing. But your gender, who you love, your skin color, where you find God… those are the things that make us interesting and diverse. Not what determines your legal rights or value as a person.
  8. You can disagree, you can have enemies, you can fight for things you believe in, but darlings, you have to afford the same privilege to those on the other side of the fence. Listening to those views that you oppose will result in either understanding or further conviction.
  9. Both good and bad things will happen in life. Each is an opportunity. Learn from it all.

These are the few things I think are true. If we start with the basics and keep moving forward, we’ll end up somewhere. Because I don’t know the answer to that question:

What do we do?

Are we too politically correct? Not enough? Do we need stricter gun laws? More gun education? How much value is there to “saying it it like it is”? Diplomacy? Getting back to nature? Limiting screen time? Examining the media? Revealing government corruption? How do I stop you from picking up a gun and deciding to shoot another human? How do I protect you from someone else who does that very thing?

I don’t know the answer girls. I’m working on it. Most of the moms I know are. You’re too little to know it, but I don’t lose myself in the movie theater anymore. I’m looking at the people we share that space with and where the exits are. I want you see the fireworks this 4th of July, but I’m scared to have you congregate in such a public, open place where everyone will be an easy target. I am sad and angry that you have shelter in place drills in your elementary school. That you hide beneath your teacher’s desk and barricade your classroom door. I see you watching the news with me in the morning… wondering why there are so many terrible things on it. I often find a way to answer your questions, but that one has me at a lost.

So, I’ll start with what I know. We can’t stop living. We can hope for the best. We can do what we can to make the world a safer, nicer, kinder place. We can love. We can hope. (It is worth saying hope twice.) We can be these these things the world needs. We can whisper these good things to the universe and see if we can heard above the din of everyday living.

Much love,





It is 3am in my small corner of the world. Not an hour I normally frequent, but tonight the four year old woke up and needed me to lay with her. My heavy heart and busy mind began to keep me awake.

I decided to succumb. Fighting my need to be in these spaces is never being true to my self. That is a thing I’m trying to do lately. Tending to my need to write it out. It is fresh and without the gift of retrospect. I know as time puts days, months and years between these days it will feel and look different.

I used to write Facebook notes which grew into a little blog where I write all sorts of things. Mostly processing my divorce and the toughness of parenting with my Ex. I also post some of our finer moments of being in the trenches of parenthood on my personal Facebook page. I keep being told to do something with all of these things.  I made this new space. I have been puttering with it.  I had a million ideas for posts about the mundane aspects of parenthood, blended families and raising kids in the current state of the world. I had things to re-post. Yet, this is going to be my first post.

Life always makes other plans.  I am going to follow this one. I usually end up in the direction I should have gone. This is brave in a new way. While I write without the anonymity of my friends and family reading this, I have a new social media friend: H’s mom. While she may never see this, she could. Her feelings and thoughts are a force. It is a complicated relationship by nature. Yet, I own this little piece about H and us. Change never came from simply being polite.

So here we go:

Dear H,

It is August. You are almost nine years old and the cusp of third grade.

Your father brought you dressed in a whole lot of pink, with short blonde locks, drinking apple juice out of a Styrofoam coffee cup to meet me one day at my job selling cell phone service. Your frame was different than my little, chunky solid M. Your dad made you laugh. You hung off his legs. You were perfect. He was pretty happy just spending time with you.

It took me a long time to get your Dad and the things he did on his visits. It was filled with a lot of activities simply to kill time. Doing whatever the things that needed to be done (i.e. fixing a car, running errands and treating you to pink frosted donuts on car rides). This was your thing.

I will be honest. I do not always understand this thing between you and your Dad. But I have come to respect it. It is the thing you guys do very happily together. Lounge, run errands, fix stuff and waste away hours with stops involving junk food. You guys do more, but this time alone is filled with this lazy, non-accounting-of-time moments. The only time you two speed up is when there actually is someplace to be. You are each other’s oasis of nothing-much-to-do.

Six years later from when your Dad and I started to date. We are still here. Doing this thing. There has been a lot of ups and downs. Learning curves. Concerns. Worry. Laughs. Milestones. Becoming a big sister. Twice. Tears. Band-aids. Miscommunication. Joy.  God, I hope it is always like this. The stormy days are hard, but they make us wiser. The good days are never underappreciated. We have struck a good balance in the time we do have.

I grew up in a modern family. I had a pretty good model to go by. I thought when I married M’s Dad that I would have that thing I never did growing up: A traditional family unit. A thought that gave me pause. I had no idea how that actually would work because I hadn’t lived in that kind of home. So, when M’s Dad and I divorced, I had an idea of what I wanted that life to be for your step-sister. That also didn’t pan out. Which is the only thing that makes me sad. Yet, life is so much better that my first marriage never worked out. I don’t know which mistakes you’ll make it life, but I hope they lead you somewhere good. Mistakes are sometimes the best things that can happen to you.

In our story, the thing I hope you remember from time to time is that I lived your life, H. I lived with my mom who was single and visited my Dad with his new wife and children. I understand a lot of the small things that come with being full time daughter with your mom, seeing your Dad part time, and having a step-mother. To this day, I think I gained far more than I could have ever lost. I’m so glad that my parents ended up apart. My life is unquestionably wonderful because of it. You guys have more love in your life because of it. My parents ending their marriage made something better. I hope one day when you are an adult, with your own family, you will feel the same. Your narrative, however, is turning out a little different than mine. As a former little girl and as a mother who has a child with an Ex– my heart hurts and pulls for you every day. Every. Damn. Day. You are there in my heart, my worry, my thoughts every day– for longer and more often than the three I get to see everyday.

We see each other the least. This unofficial step-mom gig is the pits honestly. I did not understand that part until I started to do it myself. This whole thing we are doing, well, it just is not about me. I chose to have the short stick with almost all things that happen with you because that is how this thing would have to work. I try to make the best of it. I will never get to know you the same way lots of time together allows. Which is okay. That’s our thing. My concerns sometimes just do not matter because you do not belong to me legally. The things I can do to help, solve and fix are limited in nature. It can be a hard thing to swallow. I am a fixer and a people smoother by nature. I hope you know that I have to live in this space, but it would never be my first choice. It just is the only one we have.

This summer just took a turn that was unfair to us all. To you, to Dad, to Mom, to your sisters and to me. I think we all made a mistake. Your mom is lovely person. Just not a lovely person to your Dad, darling. I don’t know what it is like to be 8 years old and hear the one sided conversations you are sitting witness too. Now, your Dad has his own side of this two way road, but I wonder what lens you’ll understand it all with. I promise though, Dad has his own side and feelings and thoughts about what happened. He, like me, can only do so much legally. It is, again, the pits.

I want you to know that going three weeks without seeing you is really hard on us all. And while a three hour drive to visit seems feasible… it is unreasonable for Dad to do it for a two hour visit and to pick you up for your weekends here. He wasn’t given a fair say. He reached out to mom, but they couldn’t agree of terms, H. Which is a whole lot of grown up speak for the fact… Dad can not do everything. He is back to smoking because this is eating him up inside. I know you must be hurting too. And Mom as well. But we all have to sit on these three weeks to see what shakes out at the end.

I had the whole end of summer planned. Beach trips, camp, and a few other things.  I was looking forward to a little bit of just having you for the everyday stuff.  Often, I wish there was a way I could do some of the boring things with you. Just like your mom does. And Dad does on his time. I would drive you to school. Pack you for camp. Do the homework. Bring you the dentist. Drive you to gymnastics. Run errands. It is a weird thing to covet. But those are things, as your Dad’s girlfriend, I just don’t get to do. Distance, your capable mom, your Dad and your sisters schedule keep me far from getting to do any of the everyday with you.

In fact, before this past weekend, the saddest thing in my summer was that THIS SUMMER I was finally get to do one boring thing. I was suppose to bring you to camp. I rearranged my whole Monday for it when your mom asked. And then, when you ended up going with mom on her work thing, I never had my shot. I had the grace to let if things not meant for me. But I want you to know that I did really want to do that with you, H. It’s a weird, little thing, but I would have really liked to drop you off and see your camp friends for a minute and meet your counselor… just to see you somewhere that was your life outside of my home. I would have loved to pack your lunch and check your camp bag. I would love to have us have time for all the ups and downs that come with parenting and being a kid. I am a talker. We don’t get to talk enough.

Much of my role with you is stepping aside, kid. Letting your parents have you. I get it. I do it with joy. But sometimes I wish it was a little different. Sometimes it pinches when I don’t expect it to. I think it is because my kids get to feel me say, “I love you,” in all those boring things I do. I am unable to give that to you. How will you know with certainty that you are as much my daughter as my flesh and blood? So here it is:

You are my kid. It will never be the same way your sisters are my kid. I will never spend enough time with you. I will never know you as well as I want to. I will never really get to understand half the things your mother tells me about you in the way I would like to. We may never really get that together while you are little. I will always worry when I discipline you if that was in the rule book for mixed families. I second guess our time together a million times over. I am still learning. But, I know, in the end, that we will be okay.  I love you. Like a helluva lot.

This is your home. You can come here whenever and as often as you like. We know you have things forty-five minutes away that make up your life. I promise we will do our best to have you be a part of them. However, there are more people in this house and everyone has to take turns. Even the house itself requires a turn. Dad needs to work to make sure we can afford to have this life. Each day in this house Dad and I have to pick who gets their turn doing what. It means your needs are equal with your siblings, Dads, mine, your things with mom, and our house. None of us get to do everything. It means you are the only kid who regularly gets time with just one parent on a weeknight. Your sisters don’t get your Dad exclusively for dinner alone. You are the only one he leaves work early for. He can’t do the same for your sisters because he has to make up the hours somewhere. That’s okay. We bring Grammy instead. We gave you a lot of people to love you and spend time with. We gave you sisters. You gained my whole family. Having to take turns is not an indication of how much we love you or what we want for you. It just is a reality of having siblings, parents who work, and a house to live in. I know that sometimes we all feel inequities sharply. I know your Mom sometimes feels like we do not do enough.  That is her job– to advocate for you from her heart. The truth thought is that everyone gains things and makes sacrifices for our home to work, H. That’s part of being in a community and a family. It is a part of life. I hope we model it enough so you can be well adjusted to the ebb and flow of life.

Our lives are built around having tools we needed to be better parents. A house that we can afford, a place to grow up in, family and friends to support us and make memories. We chose to keep the distance the same as it had been between us. Bridging it would have had us house poor and unsupported. Neither were things I found of benefit to you, your sisters, or Dad.  We gave up income the past fifteen months so I could stay home for a while with R. She needed more time with me. When I go back to work it won’t be my dream job most likely. You all need me around. It will be something that has the hours, benefits and pay that works. I chose to kind of stash my dreams for things that give your sisters a strong foundation. I gave them as much time as I could while having enough money to support us. I worked jobs that kept me home. And when I wasn’t, they were with family or close friends. We chose differently than Mom. Both ways of life are good. Neither are better than the other. They are just different. We have to make choices that we can live with. I just couldn’t live missing out on my kids being little. I can not get this time back. But, I can start my career when you guys need me less. For me, it seemed worth the wait.

As your unofficial step mom, I have very little say at the end of the day. Dad has more, but less than your mom. It means sometimes, even if when we want to share something with you, we cant always without mom’s approval.  Sometimes we get a yes. Sometimes not. But we never plan things without planning on having you. So when you miss things here, it isn’t because we wanted to leave you out. You are a part of this family. You are always here with us in spirit.

This blended family thing is pretty hard some days. No one gave us a road map with what things work and what will not. Your parents are winging it. At the end of it, when you are all grown up your views shift a little. You have more understanding for the complex ways choices play out to form your life.

I hope you are okay. That you have enough faith in us that you don’t doubt your worth, that you are loved or that you are ALWAYS wanted. That this is about Dad and Mom having to work things out for less conflict going forward. We will get there, I promise. It just was not meant to be this time. Your childhood is getting a little speckled, but sometimes life tests us. This year, with mom’s travel, we keep getting tested. The universe is looking or a different answer, but your Mom and Dad have to be the ones who figure out exactly what needs to be learned. Life tends to keep throwing the same lessons at us until we learn something we need to. This one seems like a sticking point and you, H, are kind of stuck in the middle while they figure it out. I tried to help, but I can’t make Mom see things she needs to. And I’m not sure where you Dad should stand his ground and where he should bend. There isn’t one right answer to give unfortunately.

At the end of this summer, as the seasons change, a few things remain certain: I love you. I miss you. These sentiments are shared by your father and your sisters. A asks for you often. She begs for you in fact. I hope everyday that you are doing well. We worry because we don’t really know what is filling your days while Mom is in class. I am sorry that it went this way. It wasn’t anyone’s first choice I promise. I’m not sure why things escalates the way they do. I carry you in my thoughts every day. I can not wait to talk. I’m sure something important will shake out of it all.

All my love,

The Unofficial Step Mom