Category Archives: Sally’s Ramblings

Middle School Musings

I saw this on Facebook as I was writing this blog post about middle school.

middle school adviceI recently reunited with a guy I have not seen since 8th grade graduation. Thanks Facebook. Seeing him was great, he was a cool dude then, he is still a cool dude today. And by cool, I don’t mean wearing the ‘in’ clothes or following the latest Top 40 band. When I say ‘cool’ I mean a genuine, authentic, trustworthy, reliable, caring person.

I posted a picture of us on Facebook. Posting this picture brought a flurry of comments and private messages from our old classmates. This triggered an emotion in me that I can’t quite explain: a bit of sadness and nostalgia.

I have lived through middle school 4 times! Once myself, 3 times as a parent. None of those times were easy.

I was not in the popular clique, I was not sporty, I was not the smart kid, I was not the nerd, the slut, the pretty girl, the artist, the singer, or the musician, I was kind of the invisible kid. In fact, when I reunited with my friend Joe he said he barely remembered me, all he could remember was that I was quiet and nice.

I was dealing with things outside of the classroom that didn’t leave me much opportunity to even attempt to keep up with what the ‘cool kids’ were doing.  I had a few friends. I observed the others. Also, my family did not have much money during those years, the years when it was wear the right designer brand or you might as well not even exist years. Does IZOD, Jordache, Calvin Klein, Esprit, Guess, Sergio Valente, or Sassoon ring a bell? Well I didn’t have any of those clothes. I had the latest K-mart special or something my mom had hand-sewn for me (she was a great sewer, I have to say).

Being an outsider, I did a lot of observing. Being a late bloomer, I was also quite clueless (learned a lot from my friend Joe on things that were going on in the class that I had NO idea about).  Oh my! Parents if you have not had ‘The Talk’ with your kids yet and they are already in middle school, the time is now.

I observed the dynamics of the classroom. You know that movie Mean Girls? Well there was definitely some of that happening. Some of those girls were so mean to others. I saw the same things happen when my girls were in middle school. What is it with us girls? It is so sad.

This leaves me wondering what the ramifications are. Are the girls who did mean things even aware now just how hurtful some of their behavior was? Do they realize some things they do or don’t do on Facebook now can still trigger hurt feelings in the kids who were bullied and mistreated?  Did they apologize for their behavior? Do they feel shame? If you were the girl or boy picked on during middle school, would you want an apology now? Would the brat taking ownership for their hurtful behavior be helpful to you right now? Was I one of the mean girls and not even aware of it? I definitely wasn’t an angel.

Looking back, I realize I have struggled with some of the same issues throughout life. The invisibility thing… this whole book I am writing is motivated by me being tired of feeling like the invisible parent. Probably the reason I am so out and about online too… How did middle school affect you?

Told you I was a late bloomer… me and Joe about 30 years ago.

Sally and Joe

We all have big hearts

CartLoveIt is not just mommies who have big hearts, we all have big hearts. Sometimes when parents have their first baby they wonder if they could ever love anything more than they love that little bundle of joy. Then when baby number 2 comes a long they discover their heart grows and makes room to love 2 beings with the same amount of enthusiasm. You could have 10 kids and love them all. The human heart and our capability to love is amazing.

I think we don’t always realize this kind of love is not reserved just for parents loving children. It goes both ways. If you are in a blended family your child or children are capable of loving more than just 1 or 2 parents. If  a stepmom has entered the scene in to your child’s life, your child is capable of opening her heart and adding another mommy, just like you are capable of opening your heart and adding another child to the mix of people you love and call family.

This idea can be very threatening and is often what makes mother’s day a challenging day for children of blended families. Kids may feel that in order to prove their love for their mommy they have to not acknowledge their stepmom. This is hurtful to the stepmom and to the child.

Unfortunately, I have learned this lesson in hindsight. My kids grew up with 3 mothers, their biological mom (my partner), me and their stepom. The kid’s love all of us, just like we love all of them. I don’t love one kid more than an other. Maybe they don’t love one mom more than the other, maybe they do. But who are we to decide who the kids love most? Is it really a competition? I’ve got news for you, there is no prize at the end of parenting for being the best mom or stepmom.

Just because you adore your 15 year old does not mean you do not adore your 4 year old. It works the same with kids and stepparents vs. parents.

After much research for my book I’m beginning to believe that the relationship between a bio (or original) mom and a stepmom may be the hardest relationship out there to navigate. The silly thing is those 2 women love and care about the same exact people.

If you come from a blended family I challenge you this mother’s day to take a step back and try to make room for your kids to express their love to whoever has been blessed enough to find a space in their little (big) hearts.


Taking charge of myself

A few months ago I took on the insane project of writing a book. This is not an easy task. Being a writer is not romantic. It’s hard work.

I got stuck.

Instead of giving up, I hired a writing coach. She is awesome. She is also the author and photographer over here at the Mt. Tam 365 blog. My coach gave me some assignments to help get things flowing again. One of the assignments was to read Anne Lamott’s book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Following their instructions I have started to let my writing flow more by writing my “shitty first draft” what Anne Lamott calls your first draft. To write like no one is reading. That is what I have been doing and my writing has been flowing.

I’ve also been spending some time reflecting on why my writing has taken so long to flow, as in 41 years. I’ve always wanted to write but I never really put myself out there until I started this blog. Below is one of the reasons I never made it as a writer, take a close look at the certificate I was awarded from the UC Irvine Newspaper, the NewU.

When I was 20 years old I transferred from the local community college to UC Irvine to get my bachelors degree in Social Ecology. This was a big deal for me.

Instead of living in the dorms I found a super cool beach rental on Balboa Island which I shared with 3 other roommates. It was actually cheaper than living in a dorm. The problem was, 2 of my roommates were guys and within weeks of moving in I fell for one of them. ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with’ is the song that comes to mind when I think of this relationship. I’ll save that story for another day. What I found myself in at the age of 20 was a relationship on fast forward. We were already living together before our first date, so much for my young, carefree, college years.

Looking back this was not the best move for my own autonomy and self growth. Suddenly I was in a very grown up relationship. My thriving successful self started to disappear behind this new boyfriend. I became his support, you know the saying “behind every successful man is a great woman” well I was THAT woman. I kid you not, I won that award from UC Irvine’s official Newspaper as “the most tolerant NewU girlfriend” while he won awards for writing. You know what really sucks about this is I am the one who wanted to write for the newspaper!

When I was still feeling like I could conquer the world in the beginning days of UCI, I was the brave one who went up to the newspaper office all by myself and said I wanted to write a story. I wanted to be a journalist. The editor welcomed me and gave me my 1st assignment which was to write about the Greek sorority system at UCI. I was excited about my story. I came home and told new boyfriend. He immediately wanted to work for the newspaper too and we talked about how we could be journalist together. The next day I took him to the NewU office and introduced him to the editor. They hit it off. Boyfriend got assigned a story writing about the treatment of the gardeners at UCI. He spoke Spanish so he had an ‘in’ with the workers.

I am not sure what happened over the next few weeks but his story became bigger than life and mine felt meaningless and stupid. I started feeling inadequate next to him and decided there was only room for one journalist in our household and that would be him. I couldn’t compete. I just faded away and never wrote my story. I also never showed my face at the NewU office for awhile out of shame. I finally had to when boyfriend got offered a staff position there, I had to be brave and show my face and apologize to the editor for being such a flake. I was too embarrassed to explain what had happened and why I had not written the story. At this point I was also too ashamed to ask for another chance even though I so badly wanted to write for the paper and have my voice heard.

By the way, boyfriend’s story ran on the front page of the paper and went on to win awards. He got so in to his work at the NewU he ended up having to work late there on Friday nights. His old car broke down and did not run so he was depending on me and the bus system to get him around. The buses did not run late on Friday nights so I became his chauffeur. In usual Sally fashion I worked my life around his and put his needs first. He has gone on to write numerous features and articles for national magazines and last I checked has published two successful books.

I am not telling you this story to blame boyfriend for my lack of success. It’s more a realization that it is finally time to put myself first. This has been the biggest challenge for me in writing, finding time to write, putting my writing before everyone else’s needs is harder than the actual writing. I’m going to hang this certificate on the wall as a reminder to focus on myself and my writing because I really don’t need any more best supporting wife/girlfriend/stepmom/friend awards. I’m going for the Emmy in life!

I figured independence day was an appropriate day to write this post. Happy 4th!


Other Mothers

Mother’s Day is coming up. This is a tough one for me. Not as a daughter but as a mother. It is a day that I am reminded of how society often disregards the other mothers of the world. I am one of those other mothers.

The number 1 question every woman is asked is, “Do you have children?” You might think this is a simple yes or no answer; it is not. Many women “have” children but did not actually “have” them. It is a complicated question to answer. Some women struggle with how much of an answer to give, I know I did.

I raised 3 children. I changed their diapers, wiped their snotty noses, made their lunches, consoled their hurt feelings, drove the carpool, gave up my own dream of going to graduate school, stayed home from work with sick kids, lost my hair during their teenage years and many nights of sleep. I laughed, cried, enjoyed, loved and hated parenting. But, when someone asks me if I have children and I say yes, I feel like I am not telling the whole truth. I do have children, I have 3 but I did not birth these children, my partner did and we have raised them together with her ex-husband and his wife. If I tell people the whole story their response is often “oh, you are not the real mom.” Being labeled “not the real mom” made it so I was not allowed to ever complain about parenting or my kids because if I did other mothers would say, “it’s different when it is your kid, or you wouldn’t understand since they are not actually your kids”.

These comments from others often shut me down, hurt me and made me wonder if it was okay to say yes I have kids. These comments also isolated me from the “Mom’s club” I wanted and needed so badly to be in. The Mom’s club is any group of moms that becomes friends because of their kids, moms at the park, moms who have kids in the same class, etc. They hang out together while their kids are doing  activities and provide support to each other, share their trials and tribulations of raising kids and learn from each other. I felt so alone as a mother. I felt ashamed wondering what the other mothers thought of me. I was young, I was a lesbian and I was the cause for my partner’s (the real mother) divorce. Looking back now that my kids are young adults I realize those worries of what the other mothers thought of me were all created in my own head. I never even gave a chance to those other mothers to get to know me. The few that I did allow in throughout the parenting years are some of my best friends now.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my mommy years wondering if I was good enough and realized that the fact that I was raising someone else’s kids was BETTER than good enough. I was sacrificing and doing things for those little snotty nosed people that usually only a “real” mother would do. I should NOT have been ashamed, I should have been celebrated. But a mother’s job doesn’t usually come with a lot of praise, I understand this.

The more I have talked with women, the more I have learned that this feeling like an ”other mother” is a common feeling. Even the traditional type of mom often feels like she doesn’t fit in; she’s too young, too old, too fat, too poor, not cool enough, works, doesn’t work, whatever it is, she feels she doesn’t fit in and she isolates herself from the other mothers.

Being in my position, the other mom, not the “REAL” mom and not even the step-mom pretty much makes me the invisible mom when it comes to acknowledgement from society and community support.

I have an idea for a book I want to write about other mothers. I want to interview all the other mothers out there and share their stories. I imagine there are all sorts of women who could identify with being an other mother: lesbian moms, step-moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, divorced moms, single moms, teen moms, immigrant moms, aunts, grandmas and other relatives raising children that are not their own, moms whose husbands are in prison or the military, women who chose not to be moms or were not able to be and fathers who have  taken on the more traditional mommy role are all people whom I’d like to interview and hear their stories. I’m sure there other ‘other mother’s who I  have failed to mention here as well. I’ve been tossing this book idea around in my head for a while but now I’ve decided I am going to do it. If you are interested in sharing your story with me and being a part of this book please contact me to arrange for an interview.


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