Celebrations

More than one day of thanks

There's a very good chance that your thinking is skewed on the side of non-gratitude. Especially as it relates to this topic of divorce-connected families.

Just like news, a car wreck on the side of the road or gossip, it's the drama, chaos and conflict that catches our eye and rivets our attention in our families.

Our brains are attuned to problems because we're attempting to learn more about either resolving them - or heading them off in the future. But if you're like me and most other humans, there's a good chance your life is mostly focused on problems.

The things yet to be done.

The things done poorly.

The things currently going wrong.

The stuff likely to go wrong.

It's like we're all walking around with not only one piano hanging over our heads by a string, but hundreds of them. How're they're being strung up and by whom, I do not know, but they're there.

And yet...

There are probably many more things going right in your life than there are going wrong.

You've just stopped seeing that.

You have a computer or a mobile phone. You can read. You are currently not under attack by incoming missiles. You are most likely inside, in a building protecting you from the elements. You have food in your cupboard.

However peaceful or not your relationships, you are still connected to people. They're there, which is a lot more than lonely people can say who rarely talk to anyone. Who haven't been touched or smiled at or interacted with in months, maybe even years.

Lest you start feeling yourself traveling down the path of glumness reading through that list, just think: if the opposite of any of those situations above were the case for you, you'd probably give almost anything to trade up to where you are now. Remember what it's like to have a problem so agonizing that you'd practically die to make it go away?

Where you are now is probably pretty damned good, now that you think about it, wouldn't you say?

Spend a second asking yourself:

Who loves you? Who do you love? What brings you joy? What about being yourself do you actually savor and appreciate? Where are your efforts making a difference in the world, even in the tiniest of ways? What have you forgiven recently? How have you changed for the better?

It's easiest to see in hindsight, but life is always continuing on as it is; a rambling, raucous, ever-widening, messy parade of both good and bad. We know it's true, because when we look backwards, we can see that both elements are always there. So why must we be so focused on what's going wrong - when the predictable, the reliable, the nurturing aspects of life and the ones we can count on are also ever present?

A happy day of thanks to you and those you love!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

Happy Mother's Day!

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Happy Mother's Day!

Thank for all you do for these little beings (and sometimes medium and big ones) who can be moody, uncooperative, whiny, over-sensitive and angry –- but also wonderfully innocent, vulnerable, warm, playful, all-accepting, and sweetly kind.

Our children need ALL of us!

They need as many adults to love them as possible and one of the most generous things we can ever do for THEM is to make room in their lives for others as well.

I hope it’s a day of recognition for you, but if not, please make sure to acknowledge yourself.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, feel appreciation for yourself, and soak up some loving kindness beamed inwards!

Parenting is a tough job, no matter who’s doing it. But our consistent and selfless efforts make all the difference in the world to the children that evoke our tender hearts….

Much love to all!

 

© 2011 Jennifer Newcomb Marine and Jenna Korf    All Rights Reserved

Thanksgiving Day Tango, Part 5

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So far, based on earlier posts in this series:

  1. it’s nowhere near about you to the extent you might think
  2. you’re going to be like a tree on a hill
  3. you have more power than you think you do
  4. and it's good to tend to the good.*

On this last day of Thanksgiving week here in the U.S, there's the post-holiday torpor hanging over the house. Maybe some of us had a great family day. Maybe some of us are just glad it's over.

I'd like to encourage you to try something simple to continue coping well with the holidays by keeping your gaze on the horizon. Not so much that you never glance down at where you're stepping, and trip -- but just enough to give you that nice, light feeling of optimism.

Look down at your feet for a moment.

Down there is where all your problems are, where all the things that aren't working live, in a circle around your feet. Even tilting your face down like this subtly changes your mood and sense of possibility.

See?

Now... raise your head, straighten your shoulders and look ahead of you, off in the distance a bit. Think of yourself moving into your life grounded and calm, implacable.

Think of yourself in your revised, awesome version of your story, where you meet adversity with grit and grace.

Take a deep breath, and think of yourself, aware of your blessings, appreciating and noticing the richness of your life.

When you start to feel sour-minded and overwhelmed, notice whether your gaze is up or down.

If it's down, then bring it up... and see what happens.

*You'll find part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 here.

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine      All Rights Reserved

Thanksgiving Day Tango Tips, Part 4

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One very easy way to increase your feelings of gratitude is to TAKE CARE OF YOUR BLESSINGS. So often, we take for granted the things that are working well and assume they will always be there. Kids that still reach out. A reliable partner. Your job. Your health. The place you live. Your car. Friends and family you never get to see. Peace in your country. Nature doing her thing year after year.

We're all blessed in so many ways.

The simple fact that you're reading this post on a computer already means you have more options than most people on the planet!

So tend to your blessings. Polish them. Feed them. Dote on them. Make time for them.

Make them shine....

This will actually make the things and people you cherish seem ten times bigger.

It's so easy to keep our constant focus on what we want, the things that aren't working. That seems to be our default mode, perhaps a remnant of an age-old survival mentality that no longer serves us well.

Look at all the luxuries you're already surrounded by, the bounty, the stability of all the things that DO work in your life -- and vow to yourself that you will give thanks for them every day, not just on this one.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful, bonding, delicious day, filled with love, laughter and eventual lounging.

(And a secret celebration for the blog: this makes our 200th post! The perfect day for an anniversary....)

You'll find part 1, part 2 and part 3 here.

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine        All Rights Reserved

Thanksgiving Day Tango Tips, Part 3

So far, it's not about you and you're going to be the peaceful, powerful presence in the room. It's also a good time to be reminded....

YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM.

That's right.

Even though you have your "story" about how all the things that have been done to you are so wrong and unfair -- and the way you KNOW THIS IN YOUR GUT is because of how upset these things make you feel -- that still doesn't actually mean you're a victim.

It all starts innocently enough.

You sit down on the metal edge of the parked Victim Merry Go Round because you're freaked out and you need to gather your wits. Something bad, something hurtful, something outrageous REALLY DID happen to you. You need a break!

But while you're sitting there, going over the story again and again, the merry go round starts moving.

And you stay on.

And you find yourself getting caught up in the vortex of movement; in this unhealthy loop of emotions that keeps feeding upon itself:

Story of injustice =

inflamed, wounded emotions =

anger (your attempt to regain a sense of dignity) =

vengeful fantasies (the ultimate tease!) ...

folllowed by more story in your head.

Next thing you know, you're so disoriented you can't get off the merry go round. And you feel really gross. Worse than ever.

Happens to the best of us.

But no matter what's going around you, the story you weave in your head is still up to you. And that's awesome news. Because you now have a ton of choices that you were blind to before.

So take control of the narrative back!

When you do, all the energy that was fueling your story turns instead into powerful, FORWARD MOMENTUM.

You know that feeling, right? Of living with purpose? Intention?Of open-ended possibilities?

Craft a different story for yourself. One of a wise, grounded, kick-ass heroine dealing with some harrowing challenges, just like in a movie, or a fairy tale. Where she triumphs, for the good of all.

What's a much more empowered version of YOUR current story?

Now how can you LIVE this?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

More tomorrow....

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

 

Success Story: Jesica and Mayra

What does it look like when the “bio-mom” and stepmom transform the ex-wife/stepmom relationship from hell? Here, we talk to two women who were formerly at war for years, but have suddenly made a breakthrough into a whole, new world of cooperation and promise. Mayra (the mom) and Jesica (the stepmom) from the D.C. area tell us their story....

What were some of the biggest problems you USED to have with each other?

Mayra: She was doing too much to try and be the "Mommy.” I felt that when I talked to the kids, they would paint a certain picture. They felt pressured to call her mom, because she would get mad if they didn’t.

Instead of approaching the situation in a calm manner, I would yell at my children’s father about her and instantly become aggressive. Another issue as well, as childish as this may sound, was I did not like it when my daughter kissed her on the lips. To me, that’s something only a biological parent should be doing. I hated the feeling I had when I saw that close connection with them, to be honest. I don’t think I was ready to accept that close affection they shared.

I also had issues with the fact that she would do little things to pester me, such as take my daughter’s hair out after I did it, because as the kids told me "She didn’t like it." Little things like that....

Jesica: For me, it was this person trying to tell me what I could and could no longer do with the kids, or alone with the kids, because I wasn’t their parent. Things that I was so used to doing prior to that were being taken away from me. Parental alienation was normal around the kids—it was like a tug of war. Who was going to win the kids over by buying them what they wanted or giving them what they needed? A big problem was them calling me Mommy, or me showing up for school events or doctor’s visits.

What made you think it might be possible for things to change for the better? Were there little things that caught your attention? Big things?

Mayra: I sat down with my children and asked them how they honestly felt about her. I told them I wouldn’t be mad or sad. I needed to know what they felt and that’s when my kids told me, "She’s nice to us, Mom—we like her and love her.” Prior to having that conversation, I felt that she was “making them” scared, to the point that they had no other choice but to like her!

To hear that come from my kids, in their own words, made me realize I needed to put all the crap away and deal with her, to work it out with her. But the biggest sign I saw was when we were all at the kids’ school due to a difficult issue. It was the way we were able to put it all aside, work well in the same room, and not have any conflict.

Jesica: I just want to say first that prior to now, we did have a period in which we got along. I had taken a six-month break from my husband (boyfriend at the time) and she and I started to talk, because I wanted to see the kids. After he and I got back together, we stopped talking. I guess she saw it as a betrayal or something.

This time around, what made me think it was possible was after my husband and I got married recently. (We’ve known each other for 6 years.) She allowed the kids to come to our wedding, which I thought she would try and sabotage, but she didn’t. Then for Easter, they got Easter baskets from our house and took them home, and she told my husband to thank me because they were nice. These were the little signs. Not very big ones, because soon after, it was back to the same old drama.

There was one big turning point and it was on a day in which there was a crisis in my six year-old stepdaughter's school. There was a bully we’d been having issues with almost all year long. I was around the corner when my husband called, so I picked him up, and we met with his ex-wife at the school. Although I'm sure in her head she was wondering why I had to be there, she actually picked up her cup of courage and asked me how I was doing. I was so shocked I said "What?!" and she said, "Come on, okay? I'm trying!" I turned beet red in shock.

From there, I knew there might be a possibility we could make this work. As long as it didn’t just last for that one day! They say sometimes tragedy can bring people together. I think here that statement rings true.

How did you reach out to the other woman? Were you scared? Was she (from what you could tell)?

Mayra: I reached out at the school. It was awkward being there and talking to their dad and completely ignoring her, so I sucked it up and genuinely asked her, “How’re you doing?” and from there the conversation flowed.. She was shocked at first, I could tell. She asked me, "What?" and I replied "Look, I’m trying....”

Jesica: Although she doesn't know it, I reached out by buying your book. I was scared as to how she would receive it. (In the beginning of the book, it talks about how both sides are jealous and sad and feel like we are in mourning. These were the things that I was sure she would find hard to admit to anyone or even herself!) So I had my husband pretend as though he was buying it for her as a Mother's Day gift, and he told her that he had bought me one too. I thought she would throw it away or toss it somewhere, but never actually read it.

I feel as though I’ve always been the one more willing to try and work things out, but I do think she was scared to speak to me. Maybe “scared” is the wrong word—let’s say nervous. She and I have a lot in common and our faces are pretty easy to read. She was beet red too when she asked me how I was doing. That is how I knew she was being sincere. Had it been a cold and careless question, she wouldn’t have looked nervous or been blushing when she spoke to me.

What do you think made her willing to meet you halfway?

Mayra: Being honest, I think that she was willing to meet me half way a long time ago. It was me who wasn’t willing to try.... I like to do things on my own time, not on anyone else’s. So I guess when I was finally willing to meet her halfway, she had been ready.

It seems that ever since that day, we’ve been on the same page and are trying to work with each other, not against each other. We’re willing to compromise some of our wants in order to move forward.... We stopped being selfish!

Jesica: Honestly, I think it's just been so long that we were both tired. Tired of hating each other and nit-picking at everything! It's exhausting! For the past several years, we’ve been doing it with a passion to the point that I found ways to bring her up everyday.

Even when the kids weren’t around, I thought of different things to bring up and I'm sure it was the same on her side. My husband got tired of it. I got tired of it. I got depressed about it. (I’ve never been to a doctor to confirm this, but I know I was.)

I got tired of seeing how the kids were changing in a negative way. I could tell that they were more sensitive, and less eager to keep going back and forth across the battle lines. I think she finally hit a point where she realized that what she was doing was not benefiting the kids either—and she was over it. When we first started our feud, I was 19-20, and she was 22-23. We’re older and more mature now. All in all, most of what made us change has to do with the kids.

Were there any mistakes you were making before that you're willing to admit that kept this from happening?

Jesica: Yes. I constantly threw it in her face that she was gone for a period of time and wasn’t consistently in their lives. What I said to her were truths, but I didn't have to throw them in her face. I constantly reminded her of why the kids loved me and what I did for them that she never did, or could never do because it was too late (for example, potty- training my stepdaughter). I told her that my house was my house and our rules are our rules. It could have been said in a better manner.

The kids would constantly tell us things like, “Mommy said _____,” and I would just say “Well, tell Mommy I don’t care,” or something of that nature. I should’ve just kept my comments to myself, or to my husband. I would do things that a mother would do, but I never consulted her about it, only with my husband.

Mayra: I can admit I let my anger and insecurity blind me from moving forward. I was scared that the kids would like her more than me. I learned that they love her and like her, but I am Mommy and will always be Mommy in their life and no one can take that special bond from me and my kids..... I have learned to share them instead of being selfish and possessive. One can never go wrong with so much love!

How are things between you now?

Mayra: Things are great and peaceful..... There is no more of "that Effin Bitch" flying around. And no anger.... It feels awesome to have an extra partner in our lives to help raise the kids.

Jesica: Things are great right now. The kids are constantly bringing up how we are getting along and how happy they are about it.

We actually spent time together for the first time this past Friday with the kids—she, my husband and I. We went and got my stepson's hair cut. She and I were there before he arrived. We were talking and laughing and we felt a little awkward, but it will get easier with time.

We’ve been texting and communicating as well. We haven’t just been brushing it off as if this is some easy task. She and I have talked a little about the kids, and how she and I feel about speaking with each other. It has been said that we need to make it work this time and make it last. We both agree no one is going anywhere and that the more love the kids get, the better.

She and I agreed that we need to talk things out and make things happen. We both even admitted that we feel happier now. I feel a huge weight off my shoulders and the anxiety is almost gone.

My only concerns now are that we try not to let small things get in the way and let our emotions run wild. I’m actually doing things with her in mind, so that I don’t offend her, and I can only say I’m hoping she’s doing the same. :-)

Are there any things that you're looking forward to more, now that you've begun to heal your relationship?

Mayra: I look forward to a lot of things. Trips at school, trips out of school and birthday parties and holidays together. Even time with her, hanging out as adults.... We were friends at one point and I’d like to gain that back.

Jesica: I am looking forward to sharing BIRTHDAYS! It used to be so sad when a birthday would fall on her day and we wouldn’t see them. I cannot wait to finally be able to have a birthday party for the kids and not worry about her being there, or vice-versa. We have yet to throw them a party because of it.

I look forward to maybe in the future taking field trips together and hanging out by ourselves, without the kids. (Yes I can see us getting there. Like I said before, she and I actually do have a lot of things in common.)

I also look forward to doing “future firsts” with the kids and not having the stress of them feeling like they have to choose who they talk to—or don’t. I’m looking forward to the kids being happy. The End!

One question for Mayra only....

In many ways, the power to create a cooperative mom/stepmom relationship lies with the mom, because she has so much authority as the mother of the children. In your opinion, why aren't more moms willing to make it work with the stepmoms? Mayra: I think that moms are not willing to work it out because they are afraid and feel like something is being taken away from them. I totally understand that, but ladies, remember: you are their MOM and will always be their MOM and sometimes... sharing is caring!

What advice would you give other moms or stepmoms who are having a hard time?

Mayra: Give it a chance, don’t close the door without trying first. Put aside your personal feelings and pay attention to what your kids want. Sometimes your own feelings will blind you.

Jesica: Part of me honestly thought that she really just was the biggest Bitch!! Your book helps. I can give advice, but every situation is different. Most women run on emotions and put up their walls, waiting for an attack. Mothers are very protective of their children and stepparents are just looking to love the children as well.

My advice is simple. Try not to purposely step on anyone's toes. Communicate. Maybe the other person doesn't know you want to get along. Maybe one or both adults think you are trying to take the kid(s) away from them. What ever the case may be, as hard as it might be: try.

You may even try several times without your attempts being acknowledged, but as long as you try, then there’s a chance. You don't have to be best friends, you don't even have to like each other. You do, however, have to work with each other if you want the kids to be happy.

Ultimately when you see how happy the kids are, you'll realize how much more happy you are. Trust me when I say that the stress and anger and frustration built up in you will go away and you will feel sooo much better—so much, it’s almost indescribable.

Thanks so much, Mayra and Jesica! And we’re happy for you too!

Happy Stepmother's Day!

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A happy day to all the stepmoms out there! Please know that all your efforts make a difference. All the time and taking care of the stepkids, all the things you remember to do (that others don't even seem to realize are on the list), all the ways in which you try to be flexible and patient and generous, even though sometimes it's the last thing you feel like doing -- know that it matters.

Without you, many kids wouldn't have the structure that they experience in their dad's house, the consistency, the nurturing little details that let them know someone is watching over and paying attention.

So from one mom to all of you, I acknowledge your sacrifices and strength. Our kids are the better for it and that will always mean a lot to me -- and many other moms out there, even if they don't always say it.

I know so many of you deeply love and cherish your stepkids. In the face of a potentially tricky stepmom/stepchildren relationship, you still try hard to do what's ultimately best for the kids.

May your day be filled with some validation, some relaxation and most of all, some FUN! Indulge yourself and take a break from the daily grind!

Big hugs to all of you.... :-)

 

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

The moms that take care of the babies

Last night, stepmom Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for Best Actress. I was thrilled, not only because she's just so damned likable and has lived here in Austin, but also because of what she said about the message behind her movie AND the important job that stepmoms around the world do every day--many times without acknowledgment or appreciation.

"...There are so many people to thank--not enough time--so I would to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and the children, no matter where they came from. Those moms and parents never get thanked...."

If only the mothers of stepchildren would realize what a gift they can give to their children by making it okay to love their stepmoms.

If only the mothers would acknowledge the hard work of the stepmoms in person. If only they would open their hearts to partnership with the other hands-on parents in their kids' lives....

And to all you stepmoms out there doing the hard stuff with the babies and the children, day in and day out, I salute you and all that you do for your family!

© 2010 Jennifer Newcomb Marine       All Rights Reserved

Happy Stepfamily Day!!

Happy Stepfamily Day to all the stepfamilies out there!

Bubbles Being in a stepfamily has its unique challenges, but there are also many opportunities to create new and lasting connections, new opportunities for love and support. Surprising little islands of closeness and intimacy, the chance to really see each other anew. Sure, I hear many stories about how hard it is, but I also hear lots of stories about how folks have made it work.

The wonderful thing about being human? Even if things are bad, they can change in an instant with words from the heart, with vulnerability, with emotional bravery.

So to all those folks out there who are trying, who are giving it their best, who keep hanging in there sometimes through hurt feelings and misunderstandings, I salute you!

Bubble_time And to those of you who have started to create a solid line of happy memories behind you that are building up, I salute you too!

If you're not in a stepfamily and are a single parent, you might also want to take a moment to reflect on how tricky it can be to a part of one of these family units, with various loyalties jockeying for position. We all want the best for our kids, don't we? We want them to live in an atmosphere of love and support and stability, so send the stepfamily in your life a little wish for peace and happiness, just for today!

Blue_balloons Here's a little song to share, even though it has nothing to do with families or the topic of this blog, called Micro Melodies. It's just one of my favorite songs in the whole world, from a wonderful band called The Album Leaf. I often write to their music and this song in particularly makes me insanely happy.

You know how you can hear and imagine reflections of human emotions and experiences in music? Perhaps there's a hint of life's challenges in these chords, which then always go back to a lighter, more joyful place, along with a certain quirkiness that appeals. (Remind me never to try to earn a living as a music critic!).

At any rate, enjoy! (and ignore the video part, which is a just a static picture of a city).

And enjoy the day!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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Evil stepmothers have feelings too (Globe and Mail)

Here's the Globe and Mail article by Sarah Hampson that's based on our interview from yesterday morning, it's called "Evil stepmothers have feelings too." She works fast! I think the piece accurately represents some of the struggles that stepmoms go through -- and also features thoughts on the issue by Wednesday Martin, author of "Stepmonster." What do y'all think? Anything missing? (I did respond to one of the commenters who thought we should have included more information about the father's role in all this.)

Check it out!

Will post a link to our KO-OP interview just as soon as I have one - it was fun to be in the studio with the big headphones on and super-springy mic stands.

The value of slowing down and reconnecting If you'd like to see the video of Slow Family Living's appearance on the Today Show, you can find it here. Carrie Contey did great!

Thanks for reading....

We did it!

  Wow! Yesterday was a whirlwind! We were flooded with emails, tons of hits, and the book soared to Number 2 on Amazon's Bestseller list in two categories: Divorce and Stepparenting!! It's still bouncing around from No. 1 to No. 9 in their Hot New Releases categories too. Very exciting!

This book has been five years in the making and the project almost fell apart twice, but it looks like our persistence paid off....

Thanks, everyone!

It's been a fun ride, and later on today Carol and I are being interviewed by The Washington Post. We thought it was going to happen yesterday and then it was postponed 'til today. I called Carol right before yesterday's time and we were both a bundle of nerves. Perhaps today we'll go ahead and each invest in our own personal package of Depends® so we'll be totally ready....

And poor Carol! She's right in the middle of teaching a 5-day painting workshop to 19 students at the Sedona Arts Center in New Mexico and was having to switch hats on pretty short notice, while her students waited for her. (She calls her students her "kids," which is hilarious, since almost all of them are older than her and she looks like she's 12....) Luckily today, she'll be done with class and we can just relax and have fun on the phone (hopefully!).

Here's hoping our book helps to ease conflict between families -- and create some new connections between moms and stepmoms!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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Our book is #1 on Amazon's Hot New Releases!

Woohoo! Our book is #1 in TWO different categories on Amazon: divorce and stepparenting!

This is so exciting we can barely stand it! The status is updated hourly, but it's been up there awhile now....

 

A special shout-out to all of Carol's readers who helped propel the book to the top of the charts (that's her with baby Jacob above). Over 700 of you came from her site alone today, based on her request to help us find someone for The Washington Post interview. That's love and devotion for you, but her art is totally worth it!

Our good friend Izzy Rose is up there in the Top Five too, with her book The Whole Package: My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom!

Thanks for your support!

© 2009 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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Good, bad, it's always changing...

Gratitude has been on my mind a lot lately this past week. Two Sundays ago, there was a large fire (1200 acres) out in the nearby town where David and Carol (my ex and the girls' stepmom) recently moved. It was only a few miles from their new house and we spent some harrowing moments on the phone while they were in the car, heading for the smoke, with me looking up news and maps and phone numbers for the sheriff's office.

It was only because the wind turned that the fire headed in the opposite direction. Phew!

Unfortunately, 28 other families weren't so lucky. They lost everything.

Gratitude...

and compassion for those who were suddenly surprised by life's varying whims...

 

I'm also blown away by what can happen when a community of women comes together, such as Ike-a-saurus.

What's Ike-a-saurus? I'm glad you asked!

A very talented writer in my longtime writers group, Kari Anne Roy (she writes rocking books on haiku AND science fiction for kids), is dealing with some harrowing situations herself. Her infant son, Baby Ike, is suffering from some pretty serious health problems that have stymied doctors, and he just had surgery a few weeks ago.

As if that weren't enough, everyone in her husband's department was recently laid off.She's handling everything with grace and good humor.

They're keeping COBRA for Ike's treatment, but we all know how medical costs go, even with insurance.

If you can help her husband, Steven Roy, find a job (tons of experience in high-tech), here's a link for more info. Or if you feel inspired to make a purchase or donation to help them out, they would be greatly appreciative.

Kari's been posting updates on Issac on her blog, Haiku of the Day, and this post made my heart jump to my throat:

We were only on the intermediate floor for minutes. I put him in the crib in the room and as soon as I put him down, his stats dropped, his heart rate dropped and he turned gray. He was crying and wheezing and there were so many people around the bed. They couldn't get his o2 levels above 60, even when they were bagging him. So they pushed the bed out of the room towards ICU. We ran down the hall and they told me they were going to have to intubate. The last thing I saw was his blue/gray body, covered in wires and people's hands, with the bagging mask over his face. I could still hear him crying. That's when they made me go to the waiting room.

Finally, some good news for their family: Ike is coming home! He still faces medical treatments and careful monitoring in the future, but for now, I'm sure they're thrilled to have their little one at home, close. Here's some homecoming haiku by Kari Anne:

Buckled into seat Riding home on a sunbeam? Cam'ra so hopeful

 

Yet one more thing to be grateful for, amidst all the upheaval and financial fear....

So what are you grateful for in your life? What bullets have you dodged? What's stable and consistent to the point of boring?

If things are bad, at least you know they'll always eventually get better.

And if they're good, be glad!

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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The No-Dollar Christmas

We’re doing something different this Christmas, inspired in part by a tight budget, but also but a desire to take our experience of Christmas into our own hands and out of the whole go-to-store/buy-gift/give-gift and get-gift formula. It’s an antidote to the state of the economy, but more than that, it’s a productive way to deal with our freaked out state of mind over the economy! Aside from spending money on a real tree for the corner of the living room and on ingredients for cookies for family, friends and neighbors - this will be the Christmas that we spend barely any money and still find ourselves soaking in a feeling of plenty and abundance. Here’s the deal. We’ll only be giving each other gifts that we:

  • make,
  • find,
  • or somehow already have.

It’s the perfect opportunity to take all this crap, er -- stuff that we already HAVE and turn it into something. For instance, why do I have TWO whole large plastic crates in my closet full of picture frames of every conceivable shape, size and color known to man? My prolific daughter can do something with the profusion of fantastic art she turns out on an hourly basis and fill up the frames. I can dredge up all those lovely pictures of the girls and fill up the frames.

OR we can tackle the stash of luxurious fabrics, all folded away on the family room shelves. Instead of waiting for the day when one of us finally turns into a seamstress impresario, we can just jump in now and see what our little brains come up with. Lavender pillows? Nifty, customized stowaways for art supplies? Decorated houses for the pet rats (they’re much cuter and cuddlier than they sound, believe me)?

And if we find something cool out there in the world or hanging in our closet or sitting on our bookshelves that seems like the perfect thing, great! Sure, maybe we’ve moved beyond the enormous collections of “crystals” the youngest one would find on the playground for me, but you know never know what you might find out there, right?

I love the idea of having to think a little harder to make things for each other that would fit perfectly. That would delight, surprise or amaze…. We have the same tasks when we’re out there in the Land of Shopping, but you’ve also got this little secret mental tally that’s getting racked up with each purchase, an unwanted shopping companion of anxiety. I like this idea so much better! So we’ve all taken up the challenge: how full can we make “under the tree” - while spending nothing, or close to it?

We already have a shitload of Christmas decorations up in the attic and this is a chance to cull through those things too, keeping only what we truly love.

I look forward to making our house feel warm, festive and alive with creativity. And what might we each open up on Christmas morning?!

What are your plans for Christmas?

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine     All Rights Reserved

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A glimpse into Carol's world...

And now, a shout-out to Carol, who's busy every day of the week in her studio and at her site Painting a Day, cranking out one masterpiece after another. I know such a statement will make her cringe, but truly, I am in awe of her talent, and discipline. She's taught me a lot about loosening up when it comes to creativity - letting things go as you make them, trusting and knowing that the well will replenish itself.

Check out a recent landscape:
Owees_Carol

And I just love how these pears seem to be glowing!Resolved_Carol

Here's a link to a very popular video of hers (scroll down to May 26, 2008) showing her technique in action. She has fans all over the world and will be teaching a workshop next week in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

She sells her paintings on eBay and does very well. I'm happy for her and proud of her too. Just thought people might enjoy learning more about the other half of our team.  : )

As the book goes along, we'll be probing the depths of our relationship to each other, looking for dirt. That's one of the best ways for people to understand the nature of this mother/stepmother beast, and also to see that there's a way out of the muck.  Should be interesting to pull up that old stuff up.  And it's also a testament to our friendship and the trust that we have in each other that we can!

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine      All Rights Reserved

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Our Logo, or... One Mission, Two Cups

Believe me, the irony of where I was and with whom was not lost on me. The last time I'd been here was about 17 yrs. ago when I was dating my ex-husband. Now, I was here with Carol, his wife, and their almost two year-old son, J.

We were on a mission: find a coffee cup that looked good next to one I'd found the day before at Goodwill - a lime-green number with golden-yellow insides. The object was to find something in another color, but complementary. Different, but not too different.

J. was armed with two sticks (he loves to carry things in pairs) and we headed into Breed and Co., a now chi-chi home decor and old-timey hardware store combo. Used to be, David (my ex-) and I would wander up there on a lazy Sunday morning after first heading to Texas French Bread, where we'd down an entire, pillow-sized loaf of fresh Walnut-Raisin Bread.

Inside Breed, we wandered through the maze of aisles, amongst pricey place settings and bursts of color and ornate, sometimes funky designs. Nothing seemed to work - the cups were the wrong color-family (too pastel, too florescent), the wrong size (too small, too big, too fat, too skinny) or... the wrong price (sorry, but $35 for one cup is like driving down the highway at high speeds and throwing bills out the window just for fun). We were Goldilocks embodied. Just as were about to leave, we spotted the blue cup. Mottled, speckly, a warm, deep blue; wide, cartoonish brim. We set it next to the green cup on a fiery orange-red placemat. Voila! Perfection!

We walked out of the store happy and excited. Carol would paint them that weekend.

She sends me the jpeg by email, with foreshadowing in her words: uhhh, this didn't go so well. I'm not thrilled.

I study the picture....

Disappointment. The cups seem sad and morose, the whole picture is much darker than I imagined....

Now what do I do????? I cringe as I think about how to convey my reaction to Carol. I don't want to step on any toes, hurt any feelings -- I know what it's like to create something out of thin air and then get a tepid response. Eeek! How to handle this?

I review the picture again and see what I actually *do* like about it. There are several things that I can genuinely point out, and I do.

She agrees with my feedback, even the "negative" stuff, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. We're on the same page! Whew!

That same day, she goes back to an antique store to buy a red pitcher that we're going halfsies on (we split the cost, she gets to paint the object, I get to keep it; it's a no-brainer) and spies the perfect cup. No, this time, the REAL perfect cup.... A saturated red, nice upstanding lines, I love it.

She tosses off another painting (how does she do this so easily) and THIS ONE I LOVE!

You'll see the end result above...

One more tricky situation successfully navigated. We get better and better at this all the time.

 

©Jennifer Newcomb Marine
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