Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wrinkle Blanket

As I look into her face, a face I have been looking into since I was born, I lose myself in her wrinkles.  Some fine and barely there, others etched in as deep as if carved there by a stone-cutter.  To her the wrinkles are sometimes valued; but mostly unwanted as they mark the passing of time and reality sets in that her youth might finally be gone. The wrinkles that cross her face are like blankets to me, something I can crawl into…cover myself with…. comfort myself in…memories and the people that created them.  Looking into the mirror I see my own wrinkles that are being fashioned.  Some around my eyes, some near my lips and my neckline is beginning to show the roadways created by age.  
I have heard her voice say, as she looks in a mirror, “I don’t even recognize myself sometimes”.  I tell her…and it is true, “I don’t even see them.”  When I look at her, generally, I see her from my own youthful eyes and memories.  I see her from the stories my dad told of seeing her around a corner as he decided if he was going to actually meet her and how taken he was by her beautiful auburn hair. I see her from the pictures of her youth; as beautiful as any Hollywood movie star and twice as glamorous. Picking me up from school, attending my concerts and plays.  I see her making dinners for family and standing by the sink cleaning the dishes after our big, loud family has gathered. I see her caring for us when we are sick.  I see her worried about how she will feed us but never turning anyone away from a meal in our home.  I see her arms open with a hug. Running after grandchildren, sitting in a chair in the corner crocheting Christmas stockings to hang by the fire.  I see her regret when she has said or done the wrong thing.  I see her too proud to say I’m sorry and I see her pride when she sees what we have accomplished.
I see her up late at night waiting for us to arrive home.  I see her when she worried about the choices we were making.  I see her folding laundry while my sister and I told her about our day. I see her when I would lay my head in her lap weeping over some sadness or some dumb boy and feel those hands caressing my head while she told me how amazing I was and that everything would be ok.
Now, as time rushes by and each day becomes more precious than the last, I see her as someone that needs me as much as I need her.  I trace those wrinkles and hope that I can trace them again tomorrow. I see those wrinkles and wonder if I will ever know the tale of each wrinkle or how it got there.  While to her each wrinkle proves she is old to me each wrinkle tells a story.  Each wrinkle holds a lesson.  If we could touch the wrinkle and go back in time we could see if they were created by laughter, tears, worry, fears or joy, pride, relief and happiness.  Now, facing my own aging battles, what I do know…what I am sure of…is that each wrinkle holds the love of a mother locked deep inside.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Write more...YELL less!

I have been trying to decide what direction to take this blog because mostly it is very random thoughts and experiences.  So, as it is aptly named, Life in a Blended Family, I have decided to stick with family. Go me!  Today, I read about the Orange Rhino Challenge (thank you, Margaret) found at:

I accept the challenge and will blog about my journey in the next year to not yell at my children...or husband.  I have been working a lot on this and seem to do it the best when I am going through a trial.  When faced with financial strains a few years ago I always felt I was very successful when I did not yell at the kids throughout the day because I knew I was overly stressed and none of it was their doing.  However, I do yell over silly things and mostly it is out of the blue.  I can tell because I can see it in their eyes...both the surprise and hurt especially if it is something that has happened before and I haven't yelled.  What I do know is that when I am yelling it is about me generally.  I am seeing behavior I don't like in myself, I am stressed, tired or mad at someone or something else.

I feel children have been entrusted to us by our Father in Heaven and I want to be the best I can be in this endeavor.  Honestly, I feel like I do a million things right and some things wrong but the wrong weigh on me heavily.  Sometimes it is only a passing comment about the way they are dressed or how they are wearing their hair that hurts them and sometimes it is more like yelling at them about a grade or breaking a rule.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in boundaries and personal responsibility and I believe children can and will learn these things as we exemplify them in our own lives.  However, I do not believe the best learning comes when I am yelling and/or beating a dead horse.

Even today as I began this challenge when I was talking to one of the kids I asked my teenager if it sounded like I was yelling and he said,  "no, but it did sound like you were angry".  So for me it goes beyond just yelling.  I am a passionate person and so when I am passionate about something it does come across very intensely.  Not only that I come from a family of 11 and I liked to be heard, loudly. So becoming "soft-spoken", needless to say, has been a long, arduous journey for me but it is a journey I continue to feel worth taking. 

And so it begins.  Goals I have during this journey to help me stay the course are:

1.  Exercise daily - I KNOW this helps me.  I am always a better and more patient person when I have worked out and sweated early in the morning.  For whatever reason it releases the endorphins I need to behave properly and the double bonus is it keeps me on track with my weight loss goals.

2.  Journal/Blog daily/weekly - Writing helps me get negative thoughts out of my mind when I put it on paper.  Also, when I am writing it is one of the few times my mind is quiet and I can receive the inspiration I am looking for about how to improve or solve a problem. 

3.  Pray/meditate daily - Call it what you will it is another time I can quiet my mind and free my thoughts to receive inspiration and extra strength to see me through my day.  It is also a chance to recognize and acknowledge the support I received and daily blessings at the end of my day.

4.  Gratitude journal daily - I have used these often throughout my life but I have one dedicated to my children...and husband this year and each night I will write 3 things about each of them that I saw them do throughout the day that reminds me of what awesome kids I know them to be.  Plus, I feel, it will help me to remember my commitment the next day.

So, how lucky for you, Monday will be blog day with updates about this journey.  Thanks for being my awesome support group and for loving me anyway! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Errands for Ethan

I have posted about this family before but to honor the one year anniversary of the death of their son they have started an "Errands for Ethan" campaign. It is designed just for you to do something kind or give an act of service on each March 26. Then post to share what you have done. Remember, "no one can do everything but everyone can do something"!

Here is a reminder of their story:

Errands for Ethan

by Cortney Shurtz on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 1:26pm ·

Dear Friends and Family,

A year ago on March 26th, which is next Monday, the world lost an incredible, loveable, lively, and beautiful little boy. He was born on September 4th 2003 to his loving parents Marcus and Kim. Ethan Ellsworth was the kind of boy every kid wanted as their friend, the type of player every team wanted on their side, and the type of angel Heavenly Father needed so quickly back at his side. He was an incredible young boy to say the very least and he is missed so very much by those who loved him and remember his lively and infallible spirit.

Ethan was the middle child between his brother Parker and sister Madilyn. He was also beyond excited to find out that his Mommy was expecting a little boy in whom he wanted to name Hawk. Please read Kim's blog on how his little brother's name evolved. Kim was six months pregnant when Ethan left this world. There is no doubt that a part of Ethan lives on in his amazingly sweet and loving little brother.

The passing of Ethan was completely unexpected. He was born with a condition known as AVM. Below you can find a link to more information. The AVM caused his brain to hemorrhage unexpectedly one night and he was rushed to the hospital for both a diagnosis, then emergency surgery to stop the horrific bleeding that was occurring. His parents would remain both faithful and hopeful for the next several days until the final reports came back that there was nothing they could do for our sweet Ethan. Marcus and Kim made the hardest and most painful decision that any parents should ever have to make. They took Ethan off of the machines, but not before donating almost every organ of Ethan's that was healthy and able to be used for other children. This is what Ethan was about. He lived to love and brighten others' lives and he would want nothing less than to see his organs being used for good. Ethan

This world is a better place because of Ethan Ellsworth. He touched the lives of everyone he came across on his short earthly journey. If it wasn't his amazing eyes or handsome appearance, it was his charming personality that won people over. Because of Ethan we are inspired to continue to live each day to the fullest (we all know he did this like the best of them!) and to help anyone and everyone that we meet along our earthly journey.

This March 26th and every one to follow will be declared ERRANDS FOR ETHAN Day. This is a day where we will perform random acts of kindness in his name. Whether it be buying someone's meal behind you in the fast food line, visiting a lonely neighbor or friend, baking goods and delivering them to those who need lifted, helping someone with yardwork, or just lending an ear or your heart to someone who is in need of love and acceptance in their life...we can all be a part of changing someone else's life for the better.

Ethan did this EVERY single day of his life. He was our hero and we thought that there is no better way to allow his legacy to live on than to perform errands of kindness and love on his anniversary date each year.

Please don't let these actions stop with you, instead let's help this become viral. This can be accomplished thanks to facebook and other social networks that connect us around the globe. Please forward this to all of your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. One seven year old's dream of a better future through unconditional love and kindness could in fact change our world. Do this for Ethan and help buoy his family with your incredible stories.

Kim invited me to share her blog with the world. She wants everyone to know and love Ethan as we did. This past month she has been recounting Ethan's last month on Earth and this week she will be sharing their last week with Ethan at the hospital. We encourage you to read the blog. It is truly inspiring and if her blog can help just one person on their personal journey of grief, it will have been worth her time each day to recount her memories and experiences.

We also ask that you share your experiences of ERRANDS FOR ETHAN, whether it be directly on Kim's blog or linked to this note. We want to hear the wonderful things that are being performed in his memory. Thank you for helping keep his memory alive and for doing such wonderful acts that any heavenly host would be proud of.

Ethan we LOVE you and will ALWAYS remember you!

Friday, March 2, 2012


I have to complain a smidge so I will make this blog short...I hope.  I get so frustrated when my kids act like they are afraid of me and can't tell me anything they need to tell me.  Example without names...last weekend we shopped for clothes.  After, we headed to a bookstore and then home.  Now, a week later I asked about the new clothes and why they hadn't been worn.  I was told...'Oh, I left them at the bookstore'.  Now, this child, I know would have wanted to wear the clothes right away so would have known they left them at the store, if not the same day during the one hour drive from the store than at least the first school day following this little shopping excursion.  Not only that someone had gone down the day before and picked up another item left at another place, the same hour drive away, the same child had left behind.  So, yesterday would have been a great opportunity to tell me that said items had been forgotten and both could have been retrieved.

Today I am told, 'Yes, I knew I had left them but was afraid to tell you'.  Why?!?  I don't beat or even hit my kids...I spanked a few times with Trev but found that to be ineffective so the worst to expect is loudness from me!  I have other kids and Rachel, for example, would have been hounding me daily until I found a way to get those clothes back not telling me she was afraid to tell me!

Anyway, the frustration is that I feel like a bad parent when this happens.  And with the children we adopted from foster care it happens a lot.  I understand, truly, why they would be nervous and continue to try to help them feel secure that they could not do anything that would:

1. Make me beat them
2. Make me not love them
3. Make me send them away

I don't like feeling like the bad has been a constant and unexpected trial since, as I may or may not have mentioned in other posts, I am cool.  I am fun, love to play games, love to hug and kiss my kids, spend time with them and be a mom.  Feeling like a failure, where kids are concerned, is hard for me.

One of the best things someone ever said to me after adopting these children is, instead of saying, they have lived here XX amount of time so should be acting like ZZ...I should say, they have only been here XX amount of time and look at how far we have come.  Seriously, that was an answer to prayer and works for me every time when they are fighting with each other and I can see the frustrations involved in trying to become "true" brothers and sisters.  I think it works in every situation, with all of my children, reminding me kids are only a certain age so it might be expected behavior.  But it is harder when it is about being afraid of me.

Truthfully, I would say it worked in this situation also, if I think about it because it has been almost 3 months since the last time I heard it from either of them. It used to be daily and then became weekly so it is getting better.   It doesn't hurt less but I will keep plodding along because I can now hug and kiss them whenever I want without them looking at me like I am a "chester".  I tickled one recently and they didn't look at me like I was abusing them...they actually laughed a full on natural laugh.  We snuggle together on the couch and at church and I get to rub their backs and play with their hair and they want me to.  I hear about the things they do at school and the great things they do in their sports games. I hear about dance and my daughter and I are in a play together.

So thanks for letting me let me remember we are getting there!  And while I may be scary to them, I am grateful that it is positively scary to me how much I love them even when I am frustrated!

PS...positive note...someone turned the bag into mall security so we will be able to get the clothes back, too!  (Happy face for honest people!!!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I was with a group of friends the other day and realized how similar we all were. We laughed at the same things, we liked the same things and we have similar goals. I have always thought that friends filled in my differences. You know what I mean...I am loud so they are quiet or I am a couch potato so they are runners, things like that. And, I would imagine, many do but I have discovered recently that my lifetime friends more or less "round me out" instead.

We all have many different types of friends as the saying goes...some people come into your life for a time...etc., etc. I have moved a lot so often friends have been left behind and I have found that these people were really more "acquaintances" than friends. Ones that I have been grateful for because they were part of my life in various locations or at certain times in my life and filled a need I may have had or a void. I hope, in return, I did the same for them and they were as grateful I was part of their lives as I was to have them in mine.

Others are friends that I don't see for awhile but then when I do it is as if no time has passed and we pick up right where we left off. Some of these friendships started in high school while others, for me, came after as I started to develop my own life independent of my family. I found friends at work but, as I would change the job or move because of the lack of convenience, I suppose, we would not see each other as often. But, if I am around the areas where these people live I will call them and try to connect and that is when I realize, or it seems, we could pick up right where we left off. I suppose these could also be considered lifetime friends but the lifetime friends I am writing about are the ones that I actually make the time and effort to maintain consistent contact with and they with me.

Because of this grand new technology, ie; Facebook, Skype, texting, etc., I am able keep in touch with all friends. I have found and have been found by many people that I haven't been in touch with for years. I am usually thrilled to find them and see how lives have turned out and how they are doing today. Unfortunately, I find much the same pattern I have created in life comes with the new technology. When I find an old friend, initially, I maintain pretty consistent contact with them but find, after time, myself slowly not responding or checking their "pages" as often. I don't mean for this to be the case, but, I do find it a consistent pattern.

Anyway...after that long I watch these friends moving through my life I discover that what I thought was our differences filling in parts I thought were missing in myself was that...instead our likenesses refine my rough edges and complete the person I am. I am grateful to these friends, their qualities, their spirits and energy. They lift me and build me and let me be who I am...without judgment but sometimes giving a gentle nudge (and by nudge I mean shove) back in the right direction if I divert too far off course. The let me make my mistakes and then let me cry on their shoulders when I realize I have made these mistakes. (They probably saw the end result long before I did but let me have life's lessons.)

These lifetime friends celebrate my successes and make me feel that I can accomplish anything. Gathering these friends takes a lifetime and how grateful I am they are in my life for all time!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Whose Turn is It?

I love games. I think they bring a family together. I love that we get out treats, that we gather, that we, generally, choose it together and everyone is involved. My children have heard more than once, "A family that plays games together, stays together." (Of course, I use that saying for nearly everything, "A family that ______________ (you fill the blank) together, stays together.) The key for me is doing it together.

We play board games, card games, car games, question games, and outside games. If we forget a game we make up a new game. I like that games usually lead to laughter, conversation, and togetherness. Don't get me wrong, I have been involved in many games where fighting ensues when someone is winning or losing and feelings get hurt or insecurities arise. Even that hasn't been a terrible thing because it allows us to teach the kids...ok, I mean me, how to be a good winner and successful loser. For the most part, though, we usually just laugh and have a good time.

Games have been especially important as we have added the adopted children. The games we play let us learn about each other in a non-threatening way. It allows them to share their stories as well as hear about our stories in an environment where they feel safe. And, it has been fun to hear them include themselves in our stories as time goes by and they begin to feel more and more connected with our family. One reason this is important is because there is such a large age gap between our oldest child and our youngest so we like to do things that will allow a relationship to grow between people that are not living in the home with us anymore. Side note: Skype has helped immensely with this, also. :)

Games also close a generation gap. I love to see the kids playing games with grandparents and hear the conversations that go on between them. Often, the younger kids are teaching their grandparents the new game and it is just fun to listen to them explain the rules and how the game works.

A few weekends ago, we went camping and put a new twist on "Hide and Seek". We call it "Hide and Scare". It was so fun. Instead of just hiding and waiting to be found, the kids hid in such a way that they could pop out and SCARE the seeker. It was so great to watch the seeker jump when it would be done just right and then the kids wanted to be the seeker. Usually they all want to hide and are sad when they are found first. This is another reason I love games...a slight twist makes a whole new game. We love sharing time with other families. Tonight, for instance, we challenged a friends family to kickball. My kids have been waiting all week to play with them. We can't wait to laugh, play a game and get to have some yummy treats at the end of the day.

I could also go on about the importance we have found that games make in logical thinking and the learning process during matching games and math games, for example, but that might take the fun out of the game so...shhhh! Games are not for everyone but they are for our family. We have found it a great way to spend our free time and bond with each other.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I Am Sorry

I am sorry! Three little words but some of the hardest words to say...out another person. At least when I watch my four children still at home, it appears that way. They can get along so well and play games, talk about their days, enjoy meals together and drive for hours without fighting. But, accidentally bump someone or step on a toe and it is an all out war about who was really to blame when all it would have taken was for the offender to say, "Oh, I stepped on your toe." "I am sorry!" and it would have been over.

I apologize all the time when I know I have done something wrong. I apologize to my husband, family, children, friends and co-workers. I apologize when I find out I have hurt someones feelings, when I may accidentally hurt someone physically, and maybe just when I have been snippy for no reason. I apologize when I am wrong and try to make amends. I am not perfect at this but I am just saying my kids have seen and heard me apologize so this should not be a new concept. And, I feel like it leads to healing and growth, generally speaking.

I am sorry says...hey, I recognize I have done something wrong or I have offended you and I want to make it better. It also says...I intend to not let something like this happen again. Again, I am not always perfect at this but who is? I mean, probably, I am going to bump into someone again or forget to hold a door or step on a toe. I will fight with my kids over something and find out I was wrong or yelled at the wrong child. I will make a mistake in my marriage and have to say I am sorry but the intention when I say I am sorry is I will really do my best to make sure this doesn't happen again.

Come to think of it maybe this is why it is so difficult for the "littles" to apologize. It is rough going, sometimes, for them to feel connected and when these little "accidents" happen it is taken by the other as a personal attack. We have come a long way in the last three years as far as connecting and time between the feeling that the others do not belong but during these fights you can see the old feelings and behaviors rise up to the surface. Maybe they have a hard time saying I am sorry because they haven't decided if it was an accident or if they really intended to inflict pain on their sibling.

The problem I have with not saying I am sorry is that the person that inflicted the pain, intentionally or accidentally, does not take responsibility for their action. They, instead, say things like, "Well, you should have moved your foot." or "Why were you standing so close to me?" Needless to say it is frustrating and sometimes feels so discouraging because it is such a simple phrase...I am sorry. Three little words that say so much...especially when you mean them.