I am a Professional Member of the American Counseling Association, a terrific group.
I recently wrote a letter to the Editor in response to a published piece in Counseling Today, their publication, on marital infidelity.
The cover is above and my letter is below.


Tips From a Grateful Step-Mom

A few things I have learned about being a step mom

By M.S.

10 years ago I entered a relationship with a man who had 6 children. They ranged in age from 3 to 30. There were a few different ex-wives in the mix and all in all it was what some people would refer to as a “run for the hills” situation. But I love a good challenge…and more than that, I loved this man.

So, how on earth was a woman who had never been married nor ever had children going to successfully embrace such a non-pottery barn version of a family? Here are a few things I have learned from my experience in trying to make these 6 individuals love me.

1.    Don’t try to make them love you. They will spot it a mile away and not trust a word out of your mouth. In fact throw away all ideas that they will ever even like you. Basically, they are not there for you, YOU are there for THEM. Be ready to give you whole heart and soul with very little ROI…for a while.
2.    Give them the respect that they deserve. Whether they are 3 or 30, they did not ask for this situation. They do not owe it to anyone to be happy about this situation. Honor their feelings by not trying to change them. If you can hold the space for them to be pissed at your existence, without making it about you, that is the truest form of love you can bring.
3.    And more about it not being about you…You could be Mary Poppins, Carol Brady or Mother Theresa and you would still be the “evil step mom”. Jesus could come down and crown you God’s gift to these children and they would still rather dream of ‘The Parent Trap’. It is not about you. Once again, it is not about you (unless you are a bad person, then well, it is about you). You basically remind them that any chance of their parents re-uniting, and thus returning all things back into harmony is never going to happen.
4.    Do not ever, under any circumstances, ever, ever, ever speak ill of their mom. Not only is it like attacking Santa Clause, but for another reason. This woman, however heroic or lackluster of a parent she may be, created these little people (and big people). Even if you don’t love them right away, these kids may very well end up being the loves of your life. And if it weren’t for this woman, they would not be here. Sure, you can expect some major jealousy in the beginning. KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT until you can appreciate what she brought into the world.
5.    With the older kids, avoid jumping on the make-fun-of-dad-train too much. Basically, don’t ally. If you ally too much with their dad, they will feel excluded. If you over-ally with them, they will feel like you don’t love their dad enough. You cant win here. Switzerland-type of neutrality is key here to step parent involvement
6.    Then throw that all out the door and love your husband like you did your Duran Duran poster at age 12. THEN, love those kids as if they all came out of your womb. Do it simultaneously and don’t hold back. If you make it to the finals and actually sign on for the long haul, you are officially one part of the parenting equation. You are not a half-parent or a side parent. You are an equal governing member of the household and your love for them is just as important as their father’s or their mother’s.

I never birthed children of my own. And this was a very conscious decision. I’ve seen what a “new child” brings to existing step families. I’ve seen the tiny bit of extra love that is given to a “child of their own”. I’ve seen the rivalry, the slightest hurt and the teeniest wedge that was made by bringing in a “biological child” to the mix. I do not think I am immune to that. I’m sure there is a bond from creating a human in your belly for 9 months that I cannot even imagine. That’s ok. I love my step children with all my being and don’t want to know the difference. I have 6 amazing kids. Period.
It takes balls to be a step parent. It is not for the faint of heart. It took me a long time to develop the relationships that I have with my 6 kids. It was hard at times and I cried a lot. But in full disclosure, I have to tell you that I LOVE these people more than I could have ever expect. They taught me so much more than I could have ever taught them. They helped me grow up. They showed me how to love unconditionally. They helped me out of the bondage of self. I cannot imagine my life without them and they are truly the treasure that I did not expect from my marriage to their dad.



Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality. [David Bohm - Theoretical physicist (Berkeley lecture,1977)]


Being Thrifty Versus being a Thief

I went into a frozen yogurt shop with a friend about 5 years ago. The cost of a froyo was based on the cone selection. My girlfriend had mastered the art of piling up her froyo into the monster Eiffel Tower of desserts - as was her right as per the rules of the shop. Yet, I felt awkward about her brilliance and, dare I say, greediness, of her portion. It felt that the spirit of the customer cost was being taken advantage of. And, I just assume that the cost will ultimately be passed on to the general population, in raised fees next time I come in. Read Dave Ramsey's article below for a similar philosophy.
We’ll let you be the judge. Are the following 10 scenarios justified or just excuses?

1. Taking Extra Toiletries or Condiments

You’ve paid for your hotel room, so that means you’ve also paid for all the tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner you can grab off the maid’s cart. Same goes for fast food napkins and condiments. They want you to enjoy a month of free lather and tiny ketchups. Customer appreciation, anyone?

2. Using Wi-Fi or Cable Channels You Don’t Pay For

The rude neighbor who always hints that your grass needs mowing doesn’t password protect his Wi-Fi. Aw shucks. And your cable company forgot to turn off those extra channels when you unbundled last month. You’re just giving those stray signals a good home—you’re like the Humane Society for lost wavelengths.

3. Taking Advantage of the Return Policy

You’ve landed a job interview, and you need a new dress to impress. But you’d rather not pay to impress. After all, you might not even get the job. So why not use the department store’s return policy as your own personal lending library? You’ll wear lots of deodorant and even lint roll when you’re done. Good as new-ish.

4. Supplying Yourself with Work Supplies

The supply closet at work is a little like the wardrobe to Narnia: The yellow pads, sticky notes and stapler refills seemingly never end. So who’s going to notice if you stock your home office with an extra box of paper clips? Besides, Herb from accounting does it—and he goes to church.

5. Skipping the “Suggested Donation” Box

Free charity concert! Oh wait, there’s a suggested donation of $20? Are you obligated to pay, and if so, does it have to be the full amount? If musicians want to volunteer their time, surely that’s up to them. After all, the invite says “suggested” for a reason—they know not everyone will pay.

6. Using a Friend’s Paid Subscription

Everything from Consumer Reports to Angie’s List requires paid subscriptions to access their full websites. But your friend or family member already pays, so why not use their password to read or watch only what you need? After all, someone is paying for it. You’re just getting their money’s worth.

7. Sneaking Food From a Buffet

What if your all-you-can-eat outing doesn’t have to end? With the help of a few gallon-sized zipper bags and a massive handbag, you can get a few more meals out of your $17.99 tab. Why else would you buy a purse the size of a Buick?

8. Downloading Music/Movies/TV Shows Without Paying

If it was free on basic cable, why shouldn’t your favorite TV show be free forever? All those Hollywood directors, actors and studios have too many beach houses anyway. They don’t need your hard-earned money to survive. Besides, you wouldn’t buy it if you didn’t get it for free, so they’re not losing your money to begin with.

9. Overdoing Freebie Days

Free Ice Cream Day. Free Doughnut Day. Free Pancake Day. To capitalize on all the freebies out there, you’ve launched Google Maps and made a plan to hit up every location multiple times. If they want to offer you a free lunch, you’ll gladly take seconds . . . and thirds . . . and fourths.

10. Sitting Through Two or Three Movies

For the cost of a couple movie tickets, you could stream movies for two or three months! So you don’t mind “reusing” your movie pass and venturing into another theater once the credits roll. It’s not like you’re stealing. The seats would’ve just sat there, cold and bottom-less, if you hadn’t warmed them up.
We hope our humor isn’t lost on you. There’s a big difference between scoring a deal and being a tightwad. If you’re getting out of debt, go ahead and make some budget cuts, but don’t cut into the bottom line of someone else’s business (someone is paying for that ketchup you’re using!).
When you’re out of debt and living like no one else, you won’t even bat an eyelash at paying for extra shampoos or subscriptions. You may even decide to pay 10 times the suggested donation at that charity event or buy a whole pack of movie tickets for your family and friends! Forget about taking extras. Think about a future of giving extras. That’s when the real fun begins.


Sending you all beautiful wishes of peace and calm as we roll into the month of December.
I do my best to de-emphasize the drama of it all...the expectations, the over spending, the forced time with people we don't know well or particularly enjoy. We often say "yes" when we should say no. We over drink. Break routine. Remember, man is an animal that does well in routined behaviors. Folks that eat the same thing every day and go to bed at the same time live longer and are healthier. So, say NO when you instinctively want to spit out yes. Give one less gift. Eat one less cookie. Walk one extra block. Send one additional kind message to an old resentment that you are harboring. Let this holiday be a time of break and reflection. More quiet, less cowbell.

The Path To Addiction...A Cautionary Tale

Sam Quinones outlines the path of addiction from painkiller to heroin

“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”