My Number One Happiness Booster

We all have crappy days sometimes.  That's just life and if you're literally never in a bad mood then you're probably a robot so stay away from me, please and thank you.

But in general, I'm a pretty positive, optimistic person and I think most people in my life would agree with me about that.

Although I know pretty much nothing about the science behind the optimistic/pessimist thing or any of that, I do know that I have one practice in particular that makes a massive difference in my life and the way I view everything in it:

I celebrate the wins.  The tiniest bits of awesome are celebrated in my world.

I allow myself to get super excited about my favorite song playing on the radio or one small compliment from the lady at the grocery store or the very first sip of my favorite cup of coffee.

I take it the positive things around me and try my best to acknowledge and savor them.  For me, gratitude and celebration are a part of everyday life.

It may sound ridiculous to get so much joy out of something so tiny, but I challenge you to try it!  Take a look around, right this second, and acknowledge the awesomeness of this moment.

I'll go first: the sweatshirt I'm wearing is insanely comfortable, the playlist I have on right now is so soothing, and I know that I have an entirely full iced coffee waiting for me in the car.

All of these things, though simple, bring me joy!

I even have a hashtag - #bestlife - that I've used for YEARS to point out the little but amazing things in my life.  Seeing my friends and family members start to adopt and use it brings me a stupid amount of joy - spreading happiness brings MORE happiness!! <3

Take in your surroundings and see if you can notice and acknowledge what it is about your life that kicks major butt!  If you start to do this consistently, maybe you'll notice a more positive general outlook like I have!

What's stellar about your life?  What's amazing and awesome and brings you joy right this moment?

Name it. And you'll start noticing, more and more, how truly phenomenal life really is!


Hey friends!!

Wanted to let you know about something exciting in my world -- I'm now a writer for a site called WeddingBee - a website about weddings, love, and marriage!  I won't always share what I write over there, but I wanted to let you all know and post some links here in case anyone's interested in reading my stuff! :)

Here's what I've written so far:

Talking to Your Soon-to-Be Stepchild About the New Marriage

Should You Take Kids on the Honeymoon?

Transforming Wedding Dresses

How to Decide Whether to Invite Children to Your Wedding

5 Ways to Bond With a Soon-to-Be Stepchild While Wedding Planning

I'm super stoked to have been able to write some pieces over there and I'm extra stoked for you to read them!  Let me know what you think! :)

The Stepmom Club Series: Karina!

Happy Saturday, friends!

Today is an extra-special day for The Stepmom Club Series!

Karina, a stepmom of one (and soon-to-be mom of twins!) and I went to college together.  I'm sure you'll enjoy this beautiful, honest account of her stepmotherhood journey.  Finding someone else in your life who understands the stepmom world is a truly special thing, so I'm beyond excited to share Karina's story with you today!  She's an amazing woman and I'm grateful to know her.

(Would you like to be part of the project, too?  Fill out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

And without further ado, here is Karina's story...

 All professional photos were taken by Studio B Photography

-What is your name and general location?
Karina from the Midwest

-How many stepchildren do you have?  If you have biological children, feel free to let us know about them here, too!
I have one step daughter, Annabel, age 9. I am also currently pregnant with twins!

-Can you tell me a little bit of background about your stepparenting story?
I started dating Ben in the summer of 2013, and met his daughter, Annabel, about 4 months later. It was important to Ben (and to me) that Annabel not meet me until Ben and I were sure we were headed for something long term. At this point in my life I had gone on dates, or briefly dated, men with kids before, but had never been in a true stepparent role. So I was open to the idea, but also really didn’t know what I was getting into. As my therapist once said I was, “quite naive” at this time.

Ben has Annabel on the weekends so it was a little easier for me to gradually flow into her life than if he had her 24/7.

I’ve now known Annabel almost 4 years, and we have a great relationship. My step parenting journey has taught me so much about myself, raising children, and how to be a supportive partner. I am no longer as “naive” as I was before. Annabel was super involved in Ben & I’s wedding (she was my Jr. Bridesmaid). We even had a little section in the wedding where Annabel welcomed me into the family, which was really special. She is over the moon that we are expecting twins. When we told her she was going to be a big sister she literally teared up with joy!

-What does your stepchild call you?
She just calls me Karina. She has occasionally called me “Stepmother” since Ben and I got married last summer, but this is rare.

-How/When did you first meet your now stepchild(ren)?  Did you run into any difficulties bonding with them? (right away or just in general)
One of the first things Annabel ever said to me was, “My mother is the most important person in my life,” and I was like, “Well yeah, my mother is the most important person in my life too!”
Who can’t relate to loving their mother? I think she had to let me know where her loyalty was, and I let her know that was okay. After that things went smoothly the rest of the day. It helped that my main goal was to relate to her rather than start trying to be a parent right away. She also made bonding with her really easy. From day one she was very sweet and open to being my friend. I also think we got lucky in that we just happen to have compatible personalities.

-How do you and your partner handle discipline/rules within your family? (Is it 50/50?)  How do you and your partner make sure you are both respected by the child?
My husband does most of the disciplining. I will call her out if I think she is doing something inappropriate, but if she does anything beyond that I will get him. This is rare, as she is generally well behaved. Though I do think there are things she will do/say in front of me that she wouldn’t do in front of him because of possible repercussions.

Since Ben and I are officially married now she has started viewing me in a more parental role than before, which surprised me. Recently she asked for my permission to do something and I told her to ask her father and she said, “you’re my stepmom now, you need to make decisions for me too!” I was so blown away. I didn’t think titles like that really affected kids, but I think the commitment makes them feel secure in a way I didn’t expect.

-Do you participate in communication/relationship with your stepchild’s other biological parent? (Not your partner)  If so, how much and how do you maintain that relationship?
No. Ben does all the communication, and even that is pretty limited. Once I heard the term “parallel parenting” I totally got it. We each live parallel lives that only intersect through Annabel. I do feel like we would all definitely come together if Annabel was in any kind of crisis.

-How do you decide what things to do when you don’t have the child (when the child is with their other parent) and what things you want to wait to do until you have the child with you?
Since Annabel is only with us on weekends, we try to pack more memorable activities into those days than we might normally. Whether it is a little activity like making pancakes in the morning or some kind of bigger outing, we try to create fond memories on the days she is with us.

I sometimes think how totally different our lives would be if we had her full time as opposed to just weekends. I think there is a big difference between parenting on school nights vs. weekends. Not better or worse, just different.

-Hardest/Most Difficult stepmothering memory?
When I was first introduced to Annabel and started my stepparenting journey I had A LOT of anxiety. Even in the best of stepparenting scenarios you are giving up a part of your freedom for someone else’s. Of course, every relationship has compromise. Some people are forced to make changes due to a partner’s work schedule, etc. But it all becomes a lot more serious when the decisions you make affect a child and their development.

When I met Ben I had really been wanting to move back to the New England area, but I realized that dating him meant staying in the Midwest, very close to my hometown, because that was where Annabel lived.

I think the important thing for a stepparent (or anyone in any relationship, really) is to remain at the steering wheel of your own life. You aren’t an addition to someone else’s story, you are writing your own story and making your own family. Once I felt more in control of my future, my anxiety got a lot better.

-Best/Funniest stepmothering memory?
When Annabel chooses me as a confidant when she’s upset, or lets me in on an inside joke, or looks to see if I am laughing at the same thing she thinks is funny at a movie, those moments are the best. Realizing there is a child who is looking to me for guidance on how to be a human in the world is really exciting. Her and I really love to laugh together, so much so that we sometimes have to not talk while we are eating for fear we will choke on our food from laughter! I hope that our bond continues to stay strong as she gets older, and as the new children enter our lives.

-Any particular resources (books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, etc) that have helped you along in your stepmothering journey?
Uhm...Grady! And her blog. When I first started dating Ben I had no friends who had ever been in a stepparent role. I had seen some posts on Facebook that Grady (who I went to college with) was in a similar situation. Hearing her upbeat positive attitude helped me so much.

I also went to the library, found the step-parenting section, and skimmed a ton of books. Even books for dads starting to date again, or biological moms dealing with new girlfriends. It was interesting to read about all the different perspectives. There was a book called ‘A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom’ that I really loved. Kind of a dumb title, but it shared a variety of different women’s experiences. Reading about their experiences made it easier to put my own issues into perspective.

I do wish there were more resources for step girlfriends, or people just starting to date a man with kids, because by the time you decide to get married you usually have a system figured out.

-What advice would you give your former self if you could send a letter back in time?  Please write a short version of that letter here.
It’s going to be okay. You’re not dying. Just chill out for a second!
All the emotions you are experiencing may feel like you are having a breakdown, but you are going to be rebuilt into a much more solid, grounded, loving person. Keep being bold and practice letting go more.

-Do you ever get jealous that you aren’t the child’s biological parent?
No. I have always been happy with being Annabel’s step parent and never felt any pressure to be something more.
However, I have felt tons of weird jealousy in other areas of my life because of Annabel’s existence. I have always been jealous of the ex-girlfriends of any guy I have ever dated, so choosing to be with someone whose ex will always be a part of their life was a big pill for me to swallow. I was totally jealous that Ben had had all these firsts with someone else who wasn’t me. I was also strangely afraid that any kids we had wouldn’t be as “good” as Annabel, or wouldn’t be as smart/talented/pretty/etc.

It feels so trite and embarrassing to say this stuff now, because of course this is ridiculous! Our wedding was unique and totally about the love Ben and I had created together. Now that I am pregnant I am not sitting around waiting to compare my children, I love them all! Again, I think I had a lot of growing up to do, and still have a lot to learn. Jealousy is a feeling that is bound to come up in these delicate situations, but it only harms you and the people around you.

-Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to get into this relationship?
Yes, absolutely. Ben is such an amazing husband. Very grounded, very mature, very affectionate. All these traits make him a great father, too. When I was struggling with first becoming a stepparent my mom said, “Well, would you rather be dating an asshole who didn’t have kids?” And the answer of course was no.

Also, the fact that Annabel and I get along so well has made this much easier! Though I hope that even if I didn’t get along with his child I would have still chosen to stay with Ben, because how we feel about each other should be what matters at the end of the day.

-Tell us three interesting facts about you that DON’T have to do with stepmothering.  Also, please leave any blog or contact links below if you’d like that information to be featured here.

  1. I am a playwright and have had plays read and produced across the country.
  2. I have always been interested in natural healing practices. I am Reiki attuned and a certified yoga teacher, though I still have a lot to learn in this arena.
  3. I love to sing and wish I did it every day!

Find Karina on Instagram: @lady_karina_
(Her feed is gorgeous, by the way!)

Thank you again, Karina, for sharing with us today. I'm so grateful that you were willing to be a part!

Did you like reading Karina's interview?  Want to read more in this series?  Check them all out here!

(Don't forget that if you're interested in sharing your own stepmotherhood story just out this Google form and I'll get back to you with more information within 48 hours!)

Thanks my friends <3   See you Wednesday!

A Letter to Myself, Before Stepmotherhood.

Dear Grady,

Ohhhhh, get ready, girlfriend.

Get ready for the biggest change you've ever experienced in your life.

Get ready to be thrown into a deep, beautiful, complicated, difficult, wonderful, wild relationship with a person who can't even tie her shoes yet.

Oh, and by the way?  Get ready to teach her how.

Yes, your life is about to change - utterly and absolutely and permanately.

The logistical things, like what TV you can watch before 10pm and the fact that your home will now be covered in plastic figurines and broken crayons?  Well, that you know.  That you're prepared for.

But that's not the hard stuff, lady.

No matter how much information I pack into this letter, I can never prepare you for the feeling of helplessness on a hot summer night when all you can hear through the wall is a tiny voice, breathless through tears, crying to her dad about how much she misses her mother.

I can never prepare you for the conflicts that will arise - seemingly out of nowhere - about cookies or laundry or room-cleaning, that suddenly become about fear and belonging and lonliness.

I can never prepare you for the countless times when your well thought out plans will have to change on a dime because of sick days and dentist appointments and unexpected nightmares.

I can't prepare you for all that. I'm sorry, it's just not possible.

And, you know what?  That stuff is hard.  It's stupidly hard.  And it's harder still because 90% of the time, you're the one without a say in the matter.  And, probably even more relevant, you're the one without a concrete connection to everyone.  If an "odd man out" has to be chosen?  Well, get ready, my friend, because it's you.

But hang tight for a second, okay?  Because I'm not done.

It's true that I can't prepare you for how impossibly, incomprehensibly hard this is going to be sometimes, sure.

But there is so much more to it.

I can never prepare you for how it feels to be the one to teach a child something.  To tie their shoes or bake brownies or learn a musical.

I can never prepare you for how much you'll relish the simple days of spending time together.  How easy it will begin to feel after awhile.  How excited all of you will be to watch "your" show, or go on a walk, or take a road trip.

I can never prepare you for the late-night giggles when she should be sleeping, or the honor of being asked to chaperone a field trip, or how much damn pride you'll feel when you look at her drawings.

I can never prepare you for the insane amounts of love and joy you are going to experience with this person who was once a completely terrifying little stranger.

Stepmotherhood, for you, will encompass all of this and more.

It's scary.  It's awful.  It's amazing.

But you know what?  You've got this.

I promise.

Getting Out of Debt

I've talked about budgeting here a little bit, but I haven't really gone into the whole extent of it.

But you guys, Christopher and I are in the process of getting out of debt.

I mean, like, IN THE TRENCHES of this "Getting out of debt" thing and it's crazy and incredible and so so hard.  I swear, right now I eat, sleep, and breathe debt reduction.

We both do theatre, as you know, and every paycheck we get from doing a show immediately goes to paying down our debts.

We do almost nothing that costs money (unless it's been pre-budgeted, of course!) and we therefore basically have no lives.  A few weeks ago we went to see "Get Out" at the movie theatre (it was amazing, by the way) AND we bought popcorn, and I swear it was the most expensive activity we've done in months!

The point is... we are committed.  We are so freaking committed to getting ourselves completely out of consumer debt and I CANNOT WAIT until that is a reality for us.

But honestly?  Getting out of debt is fun for me now!  It's like a game!  It is now officially more fun for me to throw twenty bucks at credit card debt than it is for me to buy something with it.

I don't know what that says about me, but it is!

I'm writing about this because, well, I guess I'm just wondering if we're the only weird ones around here or if any of my friends are working on their debts too.  And if you are, PLEASE feel free to shoot a message my way.  I could nerd out about budgets and snowball methods and interest rates all day, seriously.

And I know that, right now, this whole journey kind of makes Chris and I the most boring people on the planet. But I know that, sooner rather than later, we will suddenly become some of the most interesting ones when we don't have to pay for any debts whatsoever!

And, MAN, I can't wait!

Well, now I'm off to make use of our trusty Netflix account... getting debt free sure is exciting! ;)