The Doctor Is In: Yvonne Kelly

29 01 2009

yvonneGuest blogger Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, founded The Step and Blended Family Institutein Tottenham, Ontario in Canada with her husband Rick. She is a certified Stepfamily coach and counselor. Her latest project is on Step Dating, which I’ll feature more of in later posts. A teleseminar and educational materials  on the topic will be available on her website soon. Yvonne acquired two stepdaughters when she married her husband Rick, and they later had three more children.

Beyond the Holidays

by Yvonne Kelly

Welcome to the New Year – 2009. For many of you I’m certain you found the holidays to be a time of stress (quite normal in stepfamilies I might add) and for others it was a time of rest and recuperation. I’m certain for some, you are still wondering “where is the R and R, after the holidays?” Regardless of what camp you find yourself in, it is time to pick up and move on into this NEW YEAR ahead of us. At The Step and Blended Family Institute, we want for all of you to experience this next 12 months ahead as a year of renewal and change. This doesn’t mean making 12 New Year’s Resolutions, one of which you might actually keep. It’s about deciding that if there is anything you want to learn more about, anything you need support around, or anything you can do to change things for the better, you take the steps to do it. And I will actively applaud you when you take the first step towards doing so. Small changes, efforts and taking initiative are the first steps to improving one’s own life and the world around us. Even when the circumstances around us seem less than adequate, or maybe even downright offensive, there is always at least one thing we have in our power to do, to make it better. Sometimes, that one thing might be simply accepting what it is that we’re facing instead of fighting against it, resisting what is really happening, and thereby increasing our frustration and immobilizing us from taking any action to improve things.

I would challenge each and every one of you to stop, think about just one thing that you could do, or one thing you could say to another person, that might actually bring some relief or resolution or peace to whatever situation you are currently experiencing. I know that for the majority of you visiting this site, you are doing so because you are trying to find the balance in what can be a very complex life as a stepfamily or blended family. I also know first-hand what many of you are experiencing as I am entering my own 15th year in our blended family. So when I say, stop, breathe and decide on even just one thing YOU can do to make a positive change in whatever situation you are dealing with right now, I can say that because I know it works and because it’s what I aim to expect of myself on a daily basis. The other reason that this is the most effective way of helping yourself in any situation, is because each one of us can choose to make changes for ourselves – we have that power; we don’t have that power over anyone else. However, when we do our part, take that first step, utter that first word or make that first gesture, so often we find that our very actions and gestures, positively influence the very individuals we had been hoping would change all along.

The families we live in are complex and constantly changing – there is just no arguing that fact. Most of us at some point, find ourselves facing challenges we had never expected in our lives with very little experience or the answers we feel we need to deal with these situations. But there are answers, there is support and there is a tremendous amount each of us has to offer when we adjust our mindset and start to look at what we can do (instead of what we can’t do) to make our relationships and situations better. That’s where it begins and when we can do that, it will be much easier to invite and engage with other people in improving any situation. So I invite each and every one of you reading this to: decide the things that are not to your liking, can improve. Decide there is a role you can play, and be the one to make the first offer or the first step. And believe that even the smallest forward movement is significant and will lend itself to the next positive movement and before you know it there will be momentum for important and lasting change.

So without having to make too many resolutions to yourself, make one decision – that this will be a better year than the previous one because you have the ability to make choices and to find things that can make it better, even one small step at a time. And if support is necessary for you in a given situation, ask for it, and if there are things you need to learn, then seek out that information.

 Do whatever it takes to move things forward and create the life you want because it certainly isn’t going to happen to any of us otherwise.


Interview with reMarriage Magazine Founder Paula Bisacre

22 01 2009

remarriage-master-logo-wwwI recently interviewed Paula Bisacre, the founder of the reMarriage magazine, an online resource for remarried families. Below is an excerpt from the interview. To read the entire thing, visit my other blog, Smackdown Your Inner Critic.

“I surround myself with positive, motivating people and resources. We recently had a conversation about how it sometimes feels like the work you have to do on yourself never ends. When you’re tired, how do you refresh your energy to continue your journey to self-actualization? I seek out positive support systems, e.g., people, books, and ideas. Transformation and changing old habits and attitudes is very hard work. It is good to find a person who is experiencing similar changes in his or her life so you can support and help each other through the times when you are tired. If you don’t know someone like this, take a walk, look at the stars, listen to music or a CD. Remember the big picture. And, I think about the words of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, “Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.” (source: Jack Canfield’s Key to Living the Law of Attraction)

The Doctor Is In: Susan Wisdom

21 01 2009

stepcoupling Susan Wisdom is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in working with stepcouples and their families.She lives in Portland, Oregon. She and her husband David have raised five children in a successful stepfamily. Her experiences in her stepfamily prompted her to earn her master’s degree in counseling from Lewis and Clark College.Since 1989, Wisdom has worked with stepcouples and stepfamilies in her private counseling practice. Her book Stepcoupling expresses her belief that the stepcouple is the heart of a healthy stepfamily.

Native American Legend: Lesson for Stepcouples
By Susan Wisdom, LPC


A grandfather and his grandson were talking one afternoon at their favorite spot by the stream. The boy was worried about something that had been bothering him. He turned to his grandfather, and asked “Grandfather, how come I’m happy and sweet sometimes and at other times I can be evil and mean? How can that be when I’m only one person?”

His wise grandfather thought about it and replied, “I believe we have two wolves fighting inside of us. One is sweet, compassionate, generous, and loving. The other one is mean, angry, and selfish.”

The grandson asked “How do you know which one will win?”

The grandfather said, “It’s simple: the one you feed.”

Indeed, stepcoupling can bring out the best and the worst in us. For some stepcouples, mistakes were made in choosing partners prematurely and for the wrong reasons. For others who struggle, it could be the result of sadness and losses carried over from our childhood experiences and disappointments from subsequent relationships. If unaddressed, these issues can have an unhealthy effect on all our important relationships. This can produce fuel for feeding that mean angry wolf inside.

A typical example:

I remember seeing a woman in my office who was six months into her new stepfamily. She had no children; he had one young daughter, whom she described as a good kid, sweet, eager to please. Nonetheless, when the stepdaughter visited every other weekend, my client would go into a tirade of anger and resentment.

In counseling she told me she was raised by an alcoholic mother. She felt she was NOT parented as a child. She remembers little about her childhood. However, when she fell in love and married a man who had a daughter, her anger and sadness from her past dramatically prevented her from having a caring relationship with her stepdaughter. She wanted nothing to do with her stepdaughter!

She was able to quickly recognize the problem and understand how her past drove her to act and feel the way she did. Fortunately, over time, she was able to develop a nice relationship with her stepdaughter based on nothing she experienced in her past. Her marriage was strong from the beginning. Her husband was patient and supportive. Together, as a stepcouple, they learned to NOT feed the bad wolf, but only the GOOD ONE.

Which wolf are you feeding inside?

Stepmoms Speak

21 01 2009
Sandy Williams is a mom, stepmom, and life coach who specializes in blended family issues. Find out more about her at  

It Was Them Against Me


By Sandy Williams

One day, long after my youngest stepson, Nick, had finished high school and was out of the house, I found out when it really became them against me.

Back in Nick’s junior year in high school, he came downstairs dressed in a suit and tie for school. When I asked him what in the world was going on with that, he told me that his shop class was having a photo taken for the yearbook. He went off to school, as did my other kids, and I really never thought about that morning again.

Several years later, my eldest daughter was driving my car with me as a passenger while she had her learner’s permit, and she got pulled over by a policeman for running a yellow light. He let her off with a warning, and as we drove toward home, I commented that I was really surprised Nick made it through his whole beginner driving experience without ever having received a traffic ticket.

That was when my daughter smirked and said: “Well, Mom, that’s not exactly true!” She went on to ask if I remembered the day Nick went to school in a suit and tie. She then revealed the true story about that day.

Nick had gotten a speeding ticket on the way home from school one day while driving his truck a little too fast. Trying to avoid punishment by parents as well as the law, he (with my daughters’/his stepsisters’ help) came up with the class photo story. Then he went to court instead of school that day, paid the fine for his ticket, came home at the usual time after school and I was none the wiser!

The fact that all of that deception went on, and that he had broken the law as well as having skipped school and gotten away with it, was amazing and shocking. But the strongest feeling that rose up in me was not anger; it was extreme satisfaction. After years of the big stepbrother being against my biological daughters, those same kids stuck together and turned against me! Hallelujah! My kids, biological and step, had bonded into regular siblings without me even knowing.

Stepmom: The Movie

21 01 2009

Even the trailer for this film makes my heart ache. Have you seen this film? If so, what did you think of it? If you haven’t, rent it! But make sure you have a glass of wine nearby or a hot bubble bath ready to go. I’ll put my review in the comments because I don’t want to ruin the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Stepfamily Letter Project Update

21 01 2009

Thanks to everyone who is making the Stepfamily Letter Project such a success! We’ve had 3,000 visitors in less than a week and the letters are pouring in. Please pass along the invitation to submit letters to your friends and family! We need more stepkids, dads, bio moms, stepgrandparents, etc. etc. etc. to write letters. And of course, if you would like to write a letter or a few, we’d love to include them on the site.

Do you want to be on television?

21 01 2009

When I first began writing A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom, there were hardly any resources out there for gals like us even though there are more than 15 million stepmothers in America. Some estimates even suggest that stepfamilies currently outnumber nuclear families in the United States. Popular culture is FINALLY sitting up and taking notice. Within the space of two days, two producers from two different film companies called me for help in finding stepmoms to be on new reality television shows. If you’re the outgoing type see the casting information for each show below. And if you do end up on television, I hope you’ll help show Americans in blended families how to choose peace over anger, love over pain. Best of luck if you decide to try out for the shows!

Instant Family Show

Established non-fiction production company is casting all over the country for an OUTGOING, FUN family to be featured in their own series. Think “Jon & Kate Plus Eight…” We are looking for women about to transition from fabulous and single to STEPPARENT. Are you about to become an instant family? Are you a bit overwhelmed about the idea? We’d like to hear your story! This is a positive, upbeat show that parents of all types (step or otherwise) can relate to! To find out more information about the company and what we’re looking for, please contact Ally at Please put “Instant Family!” in the subject line.


Show Spotlights the Emotional Struggles of Ex-Wives and New Wives Whose Ties to the Same Man Force them Together …For Better or Worse

What: CASTING for “STEP-WIVES” – new reality show from the producers of My Fair Wedding (WEtv); Dirty Jobs (Discovery); and Ghost Hunters (SCI FI). Show set to air on a major, Emmy-winning cable TV network known for its lifestyle reality programming, including shows about fashion, food, and upscale-living

Ex-wife. Stepmother. The words themselves are jarring. And they can make anybody take a deep breath, roll their eyes, and offer their condolences. Step-wives are the ex-wife and current wife of the same man – women who find themselves thrown together… for better or for worse.

Navigating step-waters can be a difficult, emotional ride for all involved. But this new show goes way beyond the stereotypes to explore the complex relationships that a woman experiences when her former spouse finds love again or when a new wife must deal with her husband’s ex.

Each episode of STEP-WIVES will chronicle the diverse and dynamic stories of step-wives, each of whose ties to each other will vary – whether it be through their children, a shared business between the exes, or the awkward proximity of the community they still share.

 SHARE YOUR COMPELLING STORY WITH US TODAY! Email with your name, location, phone number, a recent photo and a brief description of your step-wife relationship. For more information, call 818-728-8632.

S.M.A.C.K.s for Stepmoms: Give and receive validation.

13 01 2009

I love this short film. It’s worth watching the entire thing. And it will help you with this week’s stepmom challenge.

See more smackdowns at my other blog

Teleconference Call Reminder

13 01 2009

There’s still time to sign up for the teleconference call this Thursday, January 15.

Join me for a live one-hour teleconference call with Emily Bouchard, a stepmom of two, blended family coach, and the founder of on Thursday, January 15, 2009, at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST as we discuss the challenges and joys of stepmotherhood!

The call is free (except for your local long-distance charges). To participate, all you need to do is submit a question for me here. After you send a question, the instructions for how to get on the call will be emailed to you.

Stepfamily Letter Project

13 01 2009

Ladies: I’ve teamed up with Erin on a fun website called the Stepfamily Letter Project and we need your input! Here’s a description from the site:

In the Fall of 2008, Erin  wrote an open-ended letter to her stepdaughter on her blog. The letter was filled with things Erin wished she could say to her 12-year-old stepdaughter but didn’t. From future hopes and dreams to the intricacies of teenage angst, the letter was one stepmom’s heartfelt approach to communicate with her stepdaughter without actually “communicating.”  The letter went on to capture the attention of other stepmoms across the Internet. 

One of those stepmoms, Jacque, had heard of The Mother Letter Project, a compilation of letters that a husband has been collecting his for wife as a Christmas present. 

The letters, written for mothers, could be about anything so long as it was addressed to a mom. At the same time, Jacque popped open her computer to begin her annual holiday letter to her family. Each year Jacque, her husband, and her three stepkids write a letter to each other that describes the previous year’s ups and downs and hopes for the upcoming year. Then they read them out loud to each other. It’s a tradition that Jacque’s dad and stepmom started when Jacque was a teenage stepkid.

And so an idea was born. Why not create a site where blended families could write anonymous letters to a member of their family. Stepmoms, stepdads, stepkids, husbands, bio-moms, half-siblings — we wanted to create a place where blended families could write letters to the people in their families  — be it heartful and  joyful to angry or sad.

If you would like to add a letter to the Stepfamily Letter Project, there are a few steps to follow:

  1. Compose your letter. We’re taking all kinds of letters: Happy, sad, angry, sweet — it doesn’t matter. We only ask you don’t threaten any harm in your letter. We won’t publish those. 
  2. Send your letter. You can send your letter within the body of an e-mail, in a Word document, a text document or Google Doc.  All we ask is that you send it to We’ll try to publish the letters within 48 hours of receipt. 
  3. Include your name and e-mail. Obviously, because you’re e-mailing your letter, we’ll have your e-mail address. Please also include your first and last name somewhere in the email . We will not publish your name or e-mail address on the website; however, should we need to contact you for any reason, we’d rather not have to start out with “Hey you with the letter.” 
  4. Spread the word. If you know someone in a blended family who you think would want to participate, let them know about the site. We’re happy to answer any questions about the project. We’ve event created this fabulous button (175 pixels x 175 pixels for your web-savvy folks out there) that you can post on your own blog or website.


    5. Check back or subscribe. If you have an RSS feed reader or aggregator, sign up for an RSS feed for the site. This way, you’ll be alerted when we post a new letter.