When the definitions of Self are no longer so clearly defined
and Empty space shows among the features,
you realize the beauty of incomplete-ness.

I liked this image and the possibilities it spoke about. It also had me realizing how often I had let others attempt to define me.

Recently, I have had to take on an even greater role as mother to my stepchildren. As this has unfolded, I have been met with open arms by so many caring, loving people who honor who I am and what I do with these children. Other mothers ask me to get together with them and “our kids”.

The other day I had to drop off my stepson at music camp, and another Mom was waiting there for me just to say “Hi”.

These may seem like small things, but they are not.

For years (7 to be exact) the story about me, among my stepkids and their Mom (when they were with her), was how horrible, mean, and terrible I was.

In some ways, I tried to keep myself hidden because of all the negative judgment that was rained upon me. There was a part of me, sadly, that thought they must be a little right. So I hid and allowed a small, small part of me to be defined by them.

I know this has happened to so many who have negative, abusive people in their lives. Logically, we may know what they say is not true, but there is a part of us that processes this information and wonders “Are they right?”

No more.

I move now into possibility, the empty spaces that have yet to be defined (by myself or others).

Is it True…or do you just NEED to Believe in It?


I would stake my life on you
If only my slippery mind could grasp and hold you.

When I watch my stepchildren, sometimes I am struck by the fantasy that this culture still wants to believe in – that divorce does not profoundly affect children, that children in divorce situations are “fine”, and that, as long as the divorce is “good”, the children are probably better off. None of this is true. Yet, we NEED to believe in these things. Otherwise, the pain of divorce is simply too great to bear. So we craft a narrative that children of divorce have no additional burdens than those children growing up in intact homes (Not that “intact” homes are always healthy environments- but that is another fantasy we NEED to believe.)

The legacy of divorce is significant for children. I am not saying it’s necessarily bad, but what is a problem is the fantasy that we create as a culture surrounding this issue and then insist the fantasy is real- not because of any facts, but simply because we so gosh-darn NEED it to be real. Because then our lives are easier.

We have other areas in our culture in which we craft and believe in a fantasy, again, not because there is any evidence, but rather we are not yet capable of confronting the alternative. I think a powerful example of this is our justice system. Many truly believe that the truth is always determined in court, that those in prison MUST have done something horrible, etc. Has the justice system gotten a lot of things correct- of course. Are some individuals in prison for a justified reason- of course. Yet, one can not look, even with a brief glance, a prison statistics and not think something may be awry when one considers the portion of prisoners who are young, Black males. But that is part of the fantasy, too, isn’t it? It must the young, Black male who is failing.

On a more global context, I have met people who believe in the fantasy that God loves us “more” because we are Americans. What? Why this fantasy? Because it plays into our self-image and we can not consider the alternative. If God loves us more as America, if we are “special” in His eyes, then whatever America does on the world stage is “fine” because God has chosen us. Obviously, this is not my view- but it has floored me to meet those that think this way.

We all have our fantasies. We need to make sure we do not confuse fantasy with truth. Just because you NEED to believe in something because it is easier to do so, or absolves you of guilt, or makes it so you don’t have to be responsible for anything, because everything is “fine” – does not mean everything you NEED to believe in is true.

Getting off the Altar Of Others and Setting Yourself Free

And there God is...

And there God is…

The Altar of Another

At certain times in our lives, we are likely to end up on the altar of another, as the symbolic sacrifice. This happens when another person is unable or unwilling to handle his or her own life, and looks for a scapegoat, or in this poem’s phrasing, the sacrificial lamb.

In my own world, the altar upon which I am most likely to be sacrificed upon is the altar of stepparenting. Only with time and experience am I realizing to do this to someone is not only wrong, but ineffective. I can not be the sacrificial offer of the failed marriage and the, at times, dysfunction of the children which resulted.

I am not meant to play such a role, nor are you. Whenever you find yourself in the situation of serving as scapegoat for another, climb down off that altar, and set yourself free. Your heart, spirit, and soul are too important to be relegated to such a role as sacrificial offer in the lives of others.

The altar I teeter,
Then totter upon,
Is one held dear
To almost all men.

To take my place
I held my beliefs,
cloaked my hopes, and
entered ceremony,

Upon these circumstances
Dressed in gold
I stood at the point
Of vision and vows

And allowed my self
To be relegated
To sacrificial offer
On the marriage with
Children altar

What God had made,
Man ended, and
Dues were to be paid.
Confused wanderings
In the desert commenced.

Delusional ravings
Along the parental spectrum
“They are not yours”
“Love them like your own”

What insanity,
What labyrinth
Lay in wait
For open hearts
And soaring souls

The parental axiom
“not our fault”
Tolling the bell of
The end, before it

They know not what
They do-
Innocent are they-
Awaiting the lamb
Upon the altar.

When You are all that Someone has in the Moment of Pain….

Come in, Come in

Come in, Come in

How many of us have sat with someone in pain, and prayed to take on their pain for them? The following was written after an afternoon discussion with my stepdaughter. She was in pain, again, partly due to life (child whose parents are divorced, being a pre-teen etc.) and partly due to her living with a narcissistic mother. I hate to always seem as if I am pointing the finger at this woman, mother of the child, but every child needs a champion, someone who understands the world they live in. And I see, and I witness, what is done to her, and you better believe I pray and tempt the fates, if only her pain could be mine.


In our afternoon-
separated by a half a room-
We are roped into a
slice of eternity.

In my imaginings,
I sense the wrappings
and coils of infinity.
The sensation- more binding
than reassuring.

And I do not know anything…
And my thoughts fail me…
And I wonder one too many ideas…

Do you need me to reach?
Or will movement induce
ripples for which you are ill-prepared?

Your pain weighs and grounds
us and I fear, oh, I fear,
that I may send it all toppling
down onto us.

I freeze- Medusa, in reverse-
my features set in stone-
in a pose I imagine to be
warm and welcoming.

We do not move closer,
we do not move further,
but the weaving begins.

Your pain, my solace; my former
pain, lending you a point of

I want to help but instead I pray-
reverently-although I know it is wrong
and Fate will refuse to bend and bow
to my sacrificial will.

I want to take on your pain- you
are so young, my sweet, little one-
much that you do not know –
here, I sit, mirroring you, so you
understand that you are seen and you are heard.

Even when you feel no one else notices.
For today, even having one, will be enough.
I hope to God it is enough.

Part of the poem certainly deals with being a stepparent to a child in pain due to a biological parent. How much do you help? What lines are there for you to cross or not cross? On days like this, I hope my being witness and support is enough for her or for anyone in pain, for that matter.

Pain of a Child

Woman and Child

Woman and Child

As many of your readers have pointed out when I write about my stepchildren and their narcissistic mother, how difficult this must all be in relation to my concern for my stepchildren’s well-being. Bless you for being aware to state such things. The effect narcissism has on us as adults is somewhat limited to what a child experiences when interacting with someone of this nature- especially, when the narcissist is the “Mother figure” (I write “Mother figure” as narcissists are not truly capable of fulfilling the role of “Mother”).

Below is a poem I wrote about my stepdaughter who is struggling with her sense of self, as her Mother has never been able to mirror her in an effective way. Children need us to mirror them. From the young games of peek-a-boo to meeting the development level of the child at every stage, when that mirror is not present, a child struggles to create a sense of self.

Add to this, the dynamic of stepmom and you see my stepdaughter’s and my pain. I can help her to a point, but the point ends when my stepdaughter feels to bond with me as “mother”, means disloyalty to her actual Mom. So, here we are- she struggling to find a mirror; me, doing the best I can, whispering “Please open your eyes and see how strong you are…”, all the while trying not to take any power from “Mommy”.

Daughter of the Narcissist

Without a mirror, you take.

With no reflecting surface,
You must build from nothing.

You use materials of imagination gathered from others.

You want me to see you,
You beg me to see.

I whisper, “Open your eyes…please, open
Your eyes”

But, you can not.

From your birth in time, you tried
And were told there was nothing to see.

And, now you are blind by choice,
Grasping hands upon my arm,
“Take me with you”.

I turn to walk away, distance is the friend.

I can no longer and I never could
Give you what you seek.

Every spirit, every soul must find the path of awakening.

A child, too young to be an adult, yes, you are.

Sorry my little one that the path you claim is not yours, truly is.

I will hold your hand and hope, I will, I will.

But to carry you now, my sweet younger one,
I can not; having never carried you in my womb.
My heart can not take you in the fantasy that persists.

The feet you plant on the ground are yours.
The mind that drives the movement is yours.
The voice that sings in each shower is yours.
The hands that craft your world are yours.

Now use them.

Please find that home within
Without the need for mirrors
Your value is within yourself. Amen.

Art and the Orphan Archetype

The orphan archetype is one commonly found in artists. It’s because we don’t quite fit in that we are able to fulfill our role of witness, observer, and transformer. If we were truly one with the family or tribe, we would never be brave enough to say what we do. We stand back with the view of the partially disengaged in order to do what we do best – transform life into art..

One place I feel particularly separated from the center is in my role as stepparent. A division always exists within this dynamic. Below is a poem I wrote about this feeling. It arose from when my husband called me from the bedroom to show me some pictures he had hung. These many pictures of his children, year after year, were right outside our bedroom door. There on the wall was a shrine to his children (read as, “not mine”), with no other images. I was so struck by the solidity of all the images, and how I had given up the dream of having my own children.

You don’t have to be stepparent to relate to feeling “cut out” of life in some way. It happens to all of us.

“Pictures on the Wall”
Silly grins of youth immortalized
Alluding to what they may become

All the while serving as shrine and reminder
to what I would not become-mother.

The shrine, in my mind, pulses with life.
It frightens me-
Growing, growing each year as if it
has no desire to stop consuming.

The shrine sits along the wall of bedroom openings
“Mine” on one side
“Theirs”, of course, on the other.

Shrine to his productive capabilities
Where am I?

They speak to me.
Squinty-eyed, they watch me.
While I stand aside,
and I can’t answer “Why”

The rectangular borders disturb me.
I want to dis-configure them. Take them out
of alignment.
I wonder if this would help them understand my
pain at a life that did not fit within the borders.

Rectangles are so solid, firm, and un-forgiving.
Oval frames would have been a better choice, I think.
Rectangles provide too much mass, weight, and posterity
for things that truly only lasted but one moment.

The moment was etched into eternity long ago.
The umbilical cord marked the line in the sand.
They were on their side and I was on mine.

Every shrine shall have its say. On the plaque,
I will scribe, “Here lies this shrine, telling only
half the story.”

I hope this poem is not to depressing of a take on stepparenting. I love being a stepparent, but it can make one feel left alone on the outside looking in. This is what I felt as I looked at those images of my sweet stepkids. We can lie to others, we may be able to lie to ourselves at time, but art always allows the orphan to tell his or her half of the story.