Ode to Blended Family Holidays

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, it was wonderful, it was stressful it was . . . in a word, family.

Family gatherings with all their differing perspectives and personalities are often difficult to manage, but throw in a history cluttered with divorce, remarriage and painful experiences and it’s difficult to keep a lid on the simmering stewpot of the past.

So why was it, I often wail to God, that I didn’t have the Norman Rockwell marriage? Why did you allow me to travel such rocky roads rutted with despair and discouragement?

I finally learned to move on and express gratitude for what I have now. Leave

My husband, the energizer bunny.

the hard lessons of the past in the past. Run the race of life with courage and confidence. It was me, not God, that chose the detours that led to those rocky places. It was God, however, who protected me there and led me out of the rocky places. Then He allowed me the grace to grow in knowledge and understanding along the way. Thankfully, I’ve now been married to a great guy for eleven years and counting.

The Pew Research Center specifies that in America, one in six kids lives in a blended family. One in six kids has experienced upheaval with role models, parenting styles, perhaps differing religions or living arrangements, the list goes on. It is a sad fact, and one that I hope will change. Marriages are meant to thrive and grow instead of ending in a courtroom with a stranger dictating who gets what.

Absolutely perfect nuclear family in “Father Knows Best”

I wish I’d had an enduring, wonderful marriage when raising my four kids. I wish I could’ve spared them the agony of change and rearranging the family unit. But it does no good to look back and dig around in the bottomless pit of ‘what if’. I’m learning a new way of looking at life with an excited and hopeful ‘what now’?

So on this day, as I ponder holidays and blended families and emotional potholes along the path, I choose to be grateful.

Grateful for the little spats that somehow manage to draw us closer and help us understand each other better. Grateful for my husband who cast a net of fun and frivolity over things in spite of my irritation with his methods. Grateful that my oldest daughter’s family and one son actually LIVE here now (yay) and I get to enjoy them all the time. I am also learning to be grateful (through a jaw-clenched faith) for the sad detours my kids take at different points in their lives before they finally dig in and figure it out. I know that God is in control of this too, and if I survived my detours on the path to contentment and wisdom, so will they.

I think there’s something to this ‘being thankful’ thing. After all, when does griping and complaining ever make us feel better? For me, it just makes things worse. But being thankful zips me back to emotional equilibrium in a heartbeat. I start looking up instead of down.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because in bold type and underlined it emphasizes the concept: Thank God in all things.  Even when the circumstances aren’t favorable. A thankful heart goes a long way to helping us stay on top of our circumstances instead of under them.

Especially for non-Norman Rockwell families like mine.

The Power of Two Letters

One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘no’. Two simple letters that pack a huge punch.

Be it an overloaded calendar, an unruly or inappropriate co-worker, a toxic relationship or activity, an adult child or friend that has over-extended his need for money; if we are still above ground and breathing we have a choice.

So…no.

No to those things that steal my time and joy. No to over-commitments that add nothing to my life or those precious ones around me. No to jobs that suck out my heart and soul and mind. No to conversations that give me a panic attack. No to lies that attack my mind and soul. No to immoral, profane and horror-filled shows that fill my nights with dread. No to dead ends, no matter how peer-pressured I feel to pursue them.

There are way too many ‘yes moments’ to live consumed with guilt because we didn’t say no to something.

So…yes.

Yes to thoughtful and mind-provoking discourse. Yes to relationships that encourage and lift up. Yes to shows that have a wholesome message and inspiring ending. Yes to a thought-life filled with positive and inspiring truths. Yes to people that need help and utilize it to make a positive change. Yes to church. Yes to a life filled with the wonder of the supernatural, living God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes to hope. Yes to life. Yes to joy. Yes, yes, yes!

Exercising the ‘no’ muscle is often painful, but the benefits can be endless and eternal.

Think about it.

Crimestalkers of the Lowcountry

On some kind of mission to validate my obsession with cop shows and crime thrillers, I jumped at the chance to attend an eight-week ‘Citizen’s Police Academy’ put on by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

I figured, yeah, I’d be one of about five people there.

When I got there at six on the dot, all seats were taken in a room that held about 40 people! The uniformed instructor noticed my wide-eyed hesitation and motioned me to the front. He pulled a chair out of thin air and shoved it at me. I sat.

The class lasts from 6-9 p.m. and there’s a break in between. During the breakbadge.jpg I noticed not one person under 50, and most were over 65. So far we’ve covered Civil Process, Environmental Crimes, Training & Firearms Simulator. Also Domestic Violence, Juvenile Services and Crime Scene Investigation . . . and everyone’s favorite grisly thrill: Forensics.

I just want you to know that personally, I felt a tingle when standing within four inches of actual bloody clothes from a local crime hanging in the Sheriff’s Office investigative forensics area in their nifty little blood-drying machine. Did you know a haze of superglue whooshed onto a surface will reveal perfect fingerprints? No? Did you know that DNA evidence takes up to six months to process, and if it’s a complex murder and a rush is put on it, six weeks is pretty standard?

Well, now you and I both know. The crime shows lie to us. Crimes are NOT wrapped up in a box and tied with a bow by the end of one hour. I was told ‘The First 48’ is an accurate depiction of what actually happens, so I’ve added that show to my list. It’s a wonder I can even sleep at night.

I’ve met investigators (one looks and acts just like Donnie Wahlberg, who plays Danny on Blue Bloods, honest to God) and Lieutenant Colonels and School Resource Officers, Deputy Sheriffs and Sergeants and more.  One of our instructors was Lieutenant Colonel Baxley, who commandeered the massive emergency effort for the most devastating hurricane to hit Hilton Head Island in fifty years – Hurricane Matthew. I wanted to hug him.

It’s made me wonder if I missed my calling. Visions of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ or ‘Law and Order’ or ‘Criminal Minds’ roll through my head, only I’m the investigator catching all the bad guys.

I’m still a little dazed by the senior citizen preoccupation with this class. What is it that draws people to this stuff like flies to honey? Is it the fascination with the psychopathy of the serial killer? Is it the fight for justice? Is it our deep, overriding desire to see wrongs in our own life fought for and corrected? Is it a hankering to figure out the mystery of a crime?

Well, okay, it’s probably because we are all retired, but still . . .

For me, I wanted to get scenes right in my books, but it’s become more than that. It’s filling some unsatiated desire of mine lurking in the background. It energizes me, empowers me. Is this weird?

One thing for sure, l feel privileged after listening to several of Beaufort County’s brightest and best teach a topic and spend time answering question after question. These men and women put their lives on the line every day, 24/7. I’m grateful they took time out of their hectic, stressful schedules to participate in the Citizen’s Academy.

Next week we learn about Professional Responsibility and Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events. (Insert wide-eyed emoji here.) And as a happy bonus, on Saturday we are all headed to Beaufort to the pistol range to get a tour, watch Special Ops in action and partake of some target practice.

Graduation is October 16, and Sheriff Tanner will present us with certificates. After graduation, we have the option to sign up for a ride-along with a patrol officer!

Be still my heart.