I often joke that being the only child of divorced parents is a sweet gig. I received two times the birthday presents, two times the Christmas presents and an extra (step)mother. Of course, I had no one to blame my mischievous actions on, without siblings, and I was bored a lot of the time. Given that I spent a lot of time living in my father’s home, my stepmother got the brunt of my boredom most days. And I was lucky for that, indeed.
Neither of my biological parents are all that interested in reading, nor are they prone to writing. (Although, let it be said that my mother is an excellent writer when you can get her to do so.) I believe it was my stepmother that fostered my love for words. She would read books to me at night when I was in grade school. She would also use big fancy words frequently. Monkey see, monkey do… I would find myself trying to reproduce those words in a generalized context, which I’d like to think overtime I was somewhat successful at, given that I do have a blog following… Though I concede that despite her best efforts, I still cannot write a sentence without spell check, I have a vague context of proper grammar and I often miss the mark on my lexical attempts. (Jan will be quick to tell you that I once rushed into the house to tattle on her for calling me OBNACHO!!!) But, my stepmother sparked an interest that I consider to be one of my more favorite past times. (I just have to arm myself with the Google Chrome dictionary/thesaurus Extension, and a great spell checker from the lovely world of WordPress.) Jan taught me that there is a power to your words, and choosing them correctly and precisely can make an impact, while choosing them incorrectly can make an equally crippling impact. I have many friends that confide their most troubling problems to me, and I believe it’s because I like to listen and help them redefine the actual issues in a concise wording that allows them to begin looking for solutions. I believe this is a direct result of considering the precise meaning of the words I chose, and that ability comes via the guidance of my stepmother. This was a big step for me in the art of communication and understanding.
My stepmother also played lots of creative games which me which I went on to play with my own kids. She would line up stuffed animals for me, and teach me to chart as I was a nurse in the busiest stuffed animal hospital in lower Michigan. She’d wrap ace bandages around their “wounds”, allow me thermometers to take their temperatures, give me Popsicle sticks to check their swollen adenoids… Not surprisingly, I grew up to work in a field where I evaluate patients day in and day out. This play time was such a nice way to allow me to gain skills and interests that I needed to grow into my adult career one day. I couldn’t be more thankful for that!
Jan also encouraged my creativity in other ways. She made a most amazing Halloween costume for me, and as a hippie, I won a costume contest in grade school. What made this particular costume unique, (other than the fact that it rocked on the visual, with the long black wig, bandanna, bell bottomed jeans, tie dyed shirt and groovy peaceful protest sign..) is that she took the time to show me her POW/MIA bracelets, and educate me about the war that had shook the nation in those days. Everything Jan showed me was a learning experience. I try to incorporate a lot of learning into the fun I have with my own boys, and I definitely thank my stepmother for that also. I also try hard to rock out their Halloween costumes each year also. Hmmm….
I could go on for days about the many things that Jan has done for me. But, this blog is intended to be about my kids. And frankly, bringing my first child into the world was made much easier by my stepmother. I was terrified to tell the family that I was expecting, and some heart to hearts with Jan eased my mind, and helped turn what felt like a burden into a joy. Jan eagerly accepted the role of grandmother to my boys, which worked out great, since I’m not entirely sure they would’ve given her a choice. They have loved her equally since the moment they met her. They often fight for her attention and cuddles. I think that Jan is at her very best when she in the company of my children. It is obvious that she adores them, and they reward her with loving her back just as much. And as a mother, I cannot ask for a better gift than loving someone who loves my children as much as I do. I am very blessed.
Also on a side note, I need to send a big birthday wish to another amazing mother out there, my good roller derby friend, Monkey Shines… (please note the Monkey related text above, that was a shout out just for you.) Also, to my new friend, April, who recently requested that I make another blog post soon, I wish you the best as you are bringing your own son into the world today. How nice that you will become a mother on the day that I honor a mother of my own! And I have no doubt that your son sharing a birthday with my stepmother is a very meaningful coincidence.
So, Happy Birthday, Jan, and thank you for being such a strong influence and inspiration in my life. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed, and I fear that I don’t tell you often enough how much I appreciate and love you. Happy Birthday Monkey. I appreciate all the advice you give me. You exemplify all that a good mother should embody. And finally, welcome to the world, little Carter. I anticipate you will be here any moment. You are very lucky to have a mother that already loves you more than you’ll know….