With Grace And Heart

E w cullene

Christmas 1992

When you marry a divorced man with children especially in 1972, you can generally feel pretty secure that interaction with his children will be limited to weekend visits and school vacations. At most, you might have to adapt your summer work schedule to accommodate a few consecutive weeks for a longer visit, but you never consider that a few years later and directly on the heels of giving birth to a child of your own, that your household and your heart will suddenly be asked to stretch open enough for a mixed up fourteen year old girl to make her home there.

Looking back now 35 years later, I am still in awe by the way my step-mother Cullene handled this major life change. Despite juggling multiple responsibilities including a six month old baby, a full time job and helping to care for assorted elderly relatives, she welcomed me into the home she had created with my father. If she had concerns about adding one more to the list of those who needed her, I never felt it as she made room for me with an amazing amount of compassion and grace.

She wouldn’t have known then how desperately I needed a place of refuge and how if my request to live with them had met with resistance, I would have headed for the streets which would have seemed safer than the home I was in. Their home was a direct contrast to my previous life and for the first time, I felt safe.

I like to tell people than most of what I know about hosting a party or event along with good manners and appropriate behavior I learned by observing Cullene during my teen years. What I don’t always say is that Cullene inspired me early on with her business style and her stories of smoky rooms filled with tough talking journalists who thought a woman’s only place on the news page was in the society section. Her tales of taking on editors or working her way up later in positions generally reserved for men made me see a larger world for myself. I didn’t know then what my life or work might look like later, but listening to her I was sure that I wanted to be like her pushing the barriers others might try to impose.

It would be a one sided view of this generous woman if I didn’t say that much of what I’ve learned about giving of myself has come from observing Cullene do for others. She is always at the ready with a healing word of support or assistance for people in need often to the point of denying herself. While I could never be as unselfish as she so often is with others, I do know that there have been many times when in doubt that I have considered what Cullene might do in a similar situation.

She has been a sweet fallback of love and support during times when I needed it most, generously offering what I was frequently too stubborn to accept.  I am enormously grateful my father made the wise decision he did when he asked her to be his wife 37 years ago and more importantly for me, that when the situation required it, she assumed the position of mother to a teenager with little experience other than a strong internal foundation supported by heart and grace.

Today is Cullene’s birthday and even though I sent a little something by mail, I wanted to say more to honor this day and her significance in my life.

Happy Happy Birthday Cullene…I hope it’s great one!

The photo above is my favorite picture of the two of us and I love how there is a little heart hanging over our heads.

18 thoughts on “With Grace And Heart

  1. Happy Birthday, Cullene! I can’t think of a more lovely birthday present than this expression of love – and I wouldn’t have noticed the heart if you hadn’t mentioned it in your post – how dear!! Your post is pulling a bunch of memories up for me – my heart is filled with gratitude for women in my life who’ve been there for me..thanks for this.

  2. I am nearly in tears from reading this. I am a step mother to two boys and I know how hard it is to be a step mom. I

    She sounds like a wonderful person and bless her – and you.

  3. Thank you for sharing a bit of her, on her special day. 🙂

    I am always moved by the grace that allows– even leads, some invisable way– such people to come into our lives. People like Cullene are too rare, and when we have them. we are lucky indeed.


  4. Wow, what a beautiful lady, inside and out. How much she has blessed and enhanced your life!

    It seems like maybe even your ability to see a bit from her perspective (i.e. the difficulty of taking on a stepdaughter to raise when having started a new family) probably comes at least partially from her too. And that she was a professional inspiration as well!

    So glad your dad met and married this wonderful woman, and that she is here to hear your heartfelt appreciation of her.

    Happy Birthday Cullene!

  5. From someone who was given the Step Father from Hell I am filled with joy for you.

    This is a lovely tribute to a fine and loving woman and well deserving of a mention on David at authorblogs Post of the Day.

  6. David McMahon sure does have excellent taste in his handing out of the POTD awards as this post is definitely first rate and well deserving of such a place!
    As a grandmother now to three step-grands and one of those three lives with her Dad and my daughter (and me, too), I can only hope that someday in the future, that one stepchild will stand back and view the relationship she had with my daughter and be able to form the same opinion of her stepmother as you have done here. I’m pretty sure she will NOT have those sentiments ever pertaining to me as our clashes, and they have been many, will probably always stay in her mind with me being the evil step-grandmother! Yes, I am rather pointed in my opinions as well as with the rules I had for my kids growing up and the things she has been allowed to get away with. But who knows, perhaps I was wrong in some of those things and perhaps eventually she will understand my reasoning too. It could happen.
    But as to her and my daughter -I do sincerely hope she realizes in time and recognizes my daughter’s effort for what they were intended to be -a haven for her to survive the teen years and all the angst that goes with them, in a way that kept her from being a total social outcast and yet still allowed her the freedom to make some choices that raised more than a few eyebrows in this household at the time too.
    It’s a fine line to walk when dealing with someone you want to love who is often, seemingly, hell bent on driving you in the opposite direction.
    Looks to me like your stepmother was able to do that quite nicely though. Here’s hoping she has a very, very happy birthday too!

  7. This really touches me. We’ve been the refuge for my partner’s son when his mother loses it. It hasn’t been easy for no one but if I had to turn back the hands of time I would have done the same thing over again. It is what family is all about . My partner and his children have become family.

  8. Wow! She sounds like an extraordinary woman and you are so lucky to have her in your life! Happy Birthday Cullene, from one birthday girl to another. I hope this year is filled with magic and love and many happy surprises!

  9. fabulous post! I love this. I had two stepmothers…the first one was a whacko. The second one was/is a valuable person in my life. Thanks for making me think about the contrast between those two.

Leave a Reply to brian miller Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s