once i could see and now i am blind!

I have been in a complete writing funk. The reason for this dry spell is that I recently had corrective eye surgery. It hasn’t been all together successful and the truth is –

I CAN’T SEE!

I am not blind, but everything is a tad fuzzy – maybe more than a tad. More like a thick marine layer – Think seeing through a coat of Vaseline.

I could kick myself.

This decision to operate on my eyeball was prompted by vanity – and by an audition I went out on in May- I thought it was time to come out of semi-retirement – until – to my horror – I realized that I could no longer see dialogue on the pages.

I was already nervous – as it was my first audition in 4 years – and broke out in a clammy sweat as I asked the director if I could wear my reading glasses.

“No problem” He looked amused. Oh God, was it amusement? Or was it sympathy? Or maybe acknowledgement that I was soon for the glue factory!

But then, I realized that I could no longer see the casting assistant with whom I was reading – so I had to halt the audition – Sweat production increasing exponentially – to ask if I could rearrange the position of our chairs apropos the camera and move the woman I was reading with to sit closer to me, so I could see her in focus when I wore the damn glasses.

This was my first middle-aged moment as an actress.

I left feeling crushed – envisioning that all that was left for me were librarian and spectacled grandma roles!

I discovered I needed glasses 3 years ago, when I realized I couldn’t see my husband in focus when we engaged in intimate pillow talk. I would have to push him away so he wouldn’t look like a one-eyed Cyclops.

And when I had to ask him to read menus for me.

I mused ”Welcome to the Golden Years!” He laughed, “Who knew they would come so soon!” How true!

I had presbyopia – one of the joys of middle-age – perfect 20/20 vision except for anything up close. It seemed 20/20 was highly overrated. And it seemed that every 6 months my prescription went up at an alarming rate. Soon I could be wearing coke bottle glasses!

Then, as luck would have it, or not, I bumped into a friend who told me about this extraordinary procedure – Refractec – radio pulse frequency – different from laser – which miraculously coaxes the aging, flattening cornea to become round and youthful and boyant again.

“Really, it wasn’t painful? And no recovery time?” He assured me, it was a synch. A breeze. The best thing he’d ever done. He raved that he and his wife were the only ones in their age group who didn’t pull out glasses to read a menu. Wow, I was a believer!

So, off I went and signed up for the same procedure. I bounced onto the operating table and cheerily allowed the doctor to clamp my head  into a contraption that reminded me of the Silence of the Lambs. This should have been a warning sign!

My procedure wasn’t a breeze. In fact, it became a nightmare.  The following morning, I woke up, but could barely open my eye. The pain was excruciating. I clamped my palm over the offending eye as the slightest shard of light sent searing daggers through my brain. I dragged myself into the bathroom and saw that my eye was blood red– this couldn’t be normal. It looked seriously infected. Could the offending germ carriers have been 2 new kittens head butting me all night long?

My daughter India commented that she never thought she’d see her mother as a vampire – but she was right – I had to withdraw into complete darkness, curtains drawn, otherwise I would shriek in pain.

The doctor confirmed I had an infection. But once the infection subsided, my condition didn’t seem to improve. I still couldn’t focus. This generated a fair amount of panic as I realized that so much of my ability to focus mentally was linked with my ability to focus visually. Literally, I couldn’t think straight. It was maddening.

The bottom line is that my stubborn brain does not want to adjust to mono vision – which is what I elected to do to myself without fully understanding the ramifications – One eye, the dominant eye, is 20/20 and can see distance, and the other, the one I altered, can now only see up close. One’s brain is supposed to adjust to focus. But mine refuses to. So, the doctor gave me a contact lens to correct my vision back to the way it was originally. Which was a relief, as I could see again. But, now, I still can only read with my reading glasses.

Not only that, but I am one of those people who seems incapable of touching my eye, so I have not been able to put in or take out my contact lens. I have to drive all the way out to El Segundo each time I need to get it changed.

This ordeal has consumed the last 6 months of my life.

And the worst thing about it – I volunteered for this!

boyspeak to mantalk

My 9-year-old Maya was born with many gifts. One of them was the uncanny ability to understand the language of the opposite sex. I wasn’t born that way, and in fact, I still have difficulty interpreting what has now evolved from boyspeak into mantalk.

I discovered this talent when she was still in 1st grade, at the yearly school Jog-A-thon. The format of the race was the children had to run as many laps as possible in an hour. All the elementary children were lined up and Lewis, a cheeky blond boy in Maya’s class, leaned forward and yelled with a slight lisp, “I’m going to KILL you, MAYA!!” I was a little stunned by the murderous vernacular and wondered if my little race horse would whither out of the gate. But Maya wasn’t remotely phased.

Maya was standing right at the other end. She leaned her beautiful face out of the line up and threw her head back, shrieking with laughter. I was amazed to see a smile as big as the sun pasted across her face. Wow! She was tough! I would have melted into the tarmac with shame and mortification at that age at the idea of being called out by a boy!

Maya somehow already knew how to decipher boyspeak. Somehow she understood that – “I am going to kill you” equaled “I have my eye on you and I think you are really cool!”

Maya was the tiniest girl in her grade and perhaps even smaller than all of the kindergarteners. But what she lacked in stature she made up for in volume. Initially she hadn’t been interested in doing the race, so we had to provide a financial incentive – if we’d known about Lewis, we might have committed less per lap! We had decided to sponsor her for $10 a lap. I’d never seen her jog for very long, maybe the occasional lope amidst a lot of complaining. We thought that she would run 2-3 laps at the most -You’re probably wondering where our school spirit was that day and that’s a good question!

The gun fired – luckily not by Lewis, and off they went. Maya started out strong and just kept going. I was shocked. Maya ran and ran. First 10 laps, then 20, then 30. Her face was as red as molten lava, but she just wouldn’t quit. Even Grace, my 12 year-old, couldn’t keep up with her! Not only was I afraid Maya was going to pass out, but this was also more money than we had bargained on spending! We had now pledged over $300 to the school!

I watched my tiny Maya saunter past her pint-sized competitors, even though they towered over her. Lewis plodded by me, already a lap behind Maya, his shaggy shock of sweaty matted locks. I forgot myself and yelled, “Lewis! Maya’s beating you!! Ha! Ha!” Casper looked at me, eyes agog, ”Your heckling a 6-year old?” How low could I stoop?! Get a grip woman! I guess that streak of mommy tiger slipped out! Hey, he threatened my girl! Of course, he hadn’t in truth, it’s just that I didn’t speak his language!

By now, Maya had gathered quite a following by the high schoolers who were cheering her on. “Go, Short and Speedy!” they were chanting. I was getting concerned about the cost and I prompted Casper to ask her if she wanted to stop. We didn’t want to discourage but at the same time…! She huffed, “My body is telling me to stop, but my mind is telling me to go on, and I am going to listen to my mind!” We were stunned! Where did this spunk come from? Was it the need to outdo Lewis? I had never seen this side of my daughter!

Finally, the bell sounded. The hour was up. Maya had run 43 laps in an hour – the equivalent of 4 ½ miles. I couldn’t run 4 miles, let alone at 6 years old! She had won, she had beaten Lewis, she had beaten the entire elementary school – except for one 5 grader, 3 times her size. She instantly became a legend!

The next day, I received an urgent phone call from the nurse, I had to pick Maya up – apparently she was in a lot of pain. Her legs were so sore, she couldn’t walk! I rushed over to the school and was accosted by the nurse. “You have no idea how special your daughter is!” I tried to tell her that I did, in fact know how special she was, but she ignored me! She grabbed me by the arm, “It is VERY rare for such a young child to have so much determination. We expect she’ll be running the school by next year! “ She joked. “Do you know what she said to me when I asked her why she ran so hard?” I shook my head. “That she had never had a trophy before and she wanted one!”

WOW! All along, I thought she wanted to outdo a boy and I was so wrong. It had nothing to do with him. She wanted a trophy!

The school went and bought a special trophy for Maya, which we display in her bedroom, it is almost as tall as she is.

Every year I ask Maya if she wants to compete in the yearly Jog-A-Thon and she declines. Why? “Because I already won a trophy, I don’t need another one!

They no longer hold the race over a weekend, so I haven’t witnessed the race since then. But I just discovered that Maya in fact does participate each year. She doesn’t care about winning, but she runs nothing under 3 ½ miles each time – and each time, Lewis yells at her that he is going to beat her. He did beat her in 2 and 3rd, but this year she bested him again.

I called Lewis’ mom, because I was curious if she knew about their ongoing feud. She didn’t. This was their secret feud!  I joked that Maya was thinking of inviting Lewis over for her celebration party. I heard Lewis yell, “I’m going to bring a chainsaw!” Again, I was shocked by his offer! And so was his mother! “I don’t know what that means?! I stammered. Maya thought his response was hilarious. She roared with laughter. Maya’s lack of intimidation was giving me courage to answer back! I yelled into the phone, “Lewis, bring the chainsaw to cut the cake!” I was quite proud of myself!

After, we got off the phone. Maya goes, “Mom that was good, telling him to cut the cake, but what he meant was – and she gestured with her finger sliding across her tender little throat, making a dramatic, gasping sound. “Sore loser!” she jested. Oh! I get it, he was telling her that he was mad that she had won!

I am not allowed to say she has a crush on anyone. That’s not cool! (Even though Lewis gave her a skateboard with a giant pink heart on it for her birthday a few years ago!) And she no longer asks boys for play dates or calls them like she use to when she was younger. But I still love watching her relate to members of the opposite sex. She finds boys hilarious and most glorious, coolest species on the planet.

And because she appreciates members of the opposite sex so much, they have gone up in my esteem as well!  She knows how to interpret boys in a way that often escapes me with men.

The bottom line – she speaks their language. And now she is teaching me how to find the love between the lines!

Charlie Sheen – almost finding a perverse dignity in his train wreck

I immediately judged Charlie along with most of the world: He’s lost his mind, he’s clinically insane, he’s gone over to the dark side and he needs help! In fact, my masseuse suggested to a friend she and Charlie had in common that I could help him. “Erin, why did you do that?” “Because I really think you have the depth and insight to wake him up.” I thought about it. I did have some really good tools at my disposal, but I did not have a lot of confidence that I had the skill to help with what appeared to be full-blown psychosis. Well, I didn’t have to worry about finding a way to ‘fix’ him. Their mutual friend blew her off, ”Charlie thinks he’s fine, he doesn’t want anyone’s help.” We shook our heads. Misguided, drug-addicted fool! We wondered about his poor children who would never have a present father, his failed marriages, his career that was quickly emptying down the proverbial toilet bowl, what a waste.

A couple of days later, I was with a close friend of mine and she mentioned that she had just contacted Charlie to let him know that there was a clinic that could help him. I knew about Ibogaine treatment and I had a friend whose life was turned around by the process. Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance derived from plants that is offered to bottom of the barrel addicts for whom absolutely nothing else has worked. My friend Oran Canfield had been to countless rehabs and could not kick his heroin and crack habits. After he took Ibogaine, his compulsion never came back. Oren writes about his journey through the hell of addiction with both humor and depth in his compelling book, Long Past Stopping.

My friend showed me her texts and Charlie’s responses. It was chilling. “I have something that could help you, a short cut.”

“I don’t need your help, I don’t need anyone’s help. I’m fine. In fact, I’m great.” Then he went on a rant describing how he had an epiphany and had tasted the heart of the Prince of Darkness and he invited her to join him on his journey and that he loved her violently. “I have awakened! You have to believe me, this is about the light!” he wrote. His words sent a chill up my spine.

My friend texted him she couldn’t go with him, that it was too dangerous. She had her own run in with the dark side and the last thing she needed or wanted was to join him on his rollercoaster to hell!

But suddenly saw him in a different light, for a moment I suspended judgment. “He’s telling the truth! He’s right, this is about the light! He has made a choice and as sad as it seems to us, he has chosen to sacrifice himself to the dark side.” But ultimately, he is doing this in service of the light” I saw him as heroic in his misguided quest for redemption. He was having a love affair with the underbelly of our culture, with the Devil. He had tasted the heart of darkness. And, believe me, the heart of anything tastes like nectar. I saw him on a journey where his process of redeeming his own dark side was tied to a need to honor the dark side of life. It was through honoring all aspects of duality that he had found himself.

This does not let him off the hook for all his irresponsible and self-destructive behaviors but it allows me to see him in a larger context, in a context beyond conventional judgments and standards. It allowed me to see him a more noble light. His ‘goddesses’ are porn stars, strippers and he is placing them on an altar of respect. Everyone deserves that respect. In essence, he is raising up the outcasts of society. This is Charlie Sheen’s way of participating in the noble and holy act of redemption. Why it is deeply tragic is because of the amount of residual damage and loss and sacrifice that is involved. He has been paid millions of dollars to ‘sacrifice’ himself.

I flashed on the pagan kings of Britain, written about in the book The Mists Of Avalon, ‘the King Stags’ who fought ritual battles on behalf of their subjects. They were the willing sacrifice, so that the lives of their people would be spared. I see Charlie Sheen, in his most exalted, as a King Stag. He has chosen to go down taking with him as much darkness with him, so that we may be free to embrace more light. He believes he is providing a service to humanity.

I wish I could let him know that there was another way, a less violent way to love life. The path of light that I would invite him to follow would not sacrifice his children, his career, his health both mental and physical, or hold his life hostage.

We are all winners! (originally published for The Daily Word)

My father passed away last June, suffering severely from vascular dementia. His most frequent ‘mantra’ was “This has never happened before in the history of the world!” It wasn’t until after his death, that I fully understood the importance of his words.

This is an extraordinary, unprecedented time in human history – a time of transformation, when every single human being on the planet has the opportunity to align with their soul’s purpose and to claim their unique gift.

And why is that possible now? The answer is – because finally there is enough light anchored on the planet and, enough light beings linked, connected and working together.

We have reached the tipping point! We are past the point of no return!

Consider yourselves all winners!

What if what is happening on the planet has never happened before?

What if we have just succeeded where previous civilizations failed?
– Sacred texts in every culture attest to this.

What we are talking about is planetary awakening. Not just a select few; we are talking about EVERYONE!

I can feel it. I can feel the shift in my body, in my heart, in my mind.

It’s a knowing no longer based on a wing and a prayer. It is an intense, intrinsic, visceral knowing – with every cell and pore of my being –

I have found a way to reconnect to the light of my soul, and if I can do it, everyone must be doing it– My inner landscape likened a coastline after a devastating tsunami – or Humpty Dumpty after his great fall, when none of the king’s horses or the king’s men could put poor Humpty back together again!
I am now plugged into a wellspring that exceeds my limited, mortal capacity. What use to be a trickle, now feels like an expansive, tingling, benevolent river of energy flowing through my body, from head to toe.

The overflow from this wellspring has ignited a birthing – a birthing of my gift.

Each and every one of us came here carrying a unique piece of Creation. That piece, that particular ray, has an inexorable need to culminate through us and express itself in and through our bodies, as loving action.

This is our soul’s purpose.

Our ray of light, when refracted through our physical being, illuminates a unique perspective.

This is our gift.

All that is being asked of us is that we awaken this precious gift, nurture it, protect it, honor it, find a practice that facilitates embodying it on a daily basis, share it with each other, and with the world.

This is our job, our service, and our ministry.

Each one of us is a key and we have the ability to unlock each other’s mastery. It is a win/win process. We are all peers.

We are all here to shine, to emanate and to link to each other through our hearts, extending as a web of light and encircling our beautiful planet, like a shield of illuminated lifestreams.

For all of us who have incarnated at this moment in space and time, we are either the luckiest or the most blessed and honored souls in all of Creation, to deserve this incredible opportunity!

We all have front row VIP passes to the Universe’s most coveted event – the coming of age of the human race!

This the moment we get to emerge as radiant beings of light, celestial emissaries in human form; overflowing with love, for ourselves, for each other and for Source.

Everyone is invited to the party! And everyone gets to wear the crown!

I am bursting with joy and I am so grateful to be alive!

My almost royal wedding!

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (William is my 3rd cousin) is fast approaching and I am reminded of the day, 31 years ago, when I almost became William’s aunt and Princess Diana’s sister-in-law –

Flash back to the night of July 27, 1981 – right before the wedding of William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. I arrived at Buckingham Palace with my mother, H.R.H Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, to attend a ball in honor of the royal couple. I still remember my dress – It was a knee length, ruby-red taffeta dress, layered ruffles, with a bustier and gold and black swirls – Signature 80’s! Actually, the length was a point of contention, as my mother and I tugged down on the dress to ensure that my knees were covered – but then discovered, to our dismay, that the top became too risqué!

I had never seen such opulence in all my life – Buckingham Palace had been transformed into a royal fantasyland. We were handed a map upon arrival, presumably to prevent us from getting lost in the palatial labyrinth. There were 3 ballrooms, each playing a different style of music – jazz, classical and pop – so that every generation could shimmy to their preferred tempo. Most of the guests danced until the wee hours, and the buffet, which spanned the length of an entire stateroom, morphed from dinner into breakfast.

Every royal imaginable was in attendance. My mother had instructed me since i was little, that as the daughter of a princess, the protocol, according to my standing in the royal pecking order, was that I had only to curtsey to kings and queens – not to princes or princesses. The fewer the better! I hated curtseying and always felt as if I was going to lose my balance. The only royal I made sure to give a wide berth to was Princess Grace of Monaco – she had given me, Prince Andrew and her son, Prince Albert, a stern lecture earlier that night, at a pre-ball dinner held at Claridges’ Hotel, chastising us for our appalling manners – she had caught us throwing bread rolls at each other during dinner. Food fights were a bad habit amongst young members of the upper crust! I must admit that I had enlisted Prince Charles to throw giant Dublin prawns on another occasion!

Prince Charles is my mother’s 2nd cousin, and they maintain a close friendship. Just to give you an idea how convoluted royal lineages are – Charles’ great-grandfather, King George of Greece was my great-great grandfather. Queen Alexandra of England was my great-great-great aunt and Charles’ great-great grandmother. Charles’ father, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh was my grandmother, H.R.H Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark’s 1st cousin, and, King George VI’s (Charles’ grandfather) younger brother Georgie, the Duke of Kent (both brothers had the same name – confusing?!) was married to my grandmother’s sister, Princess Marina – are you still with me?!! but I had never met Lady Diana before.

Charles took me by the hand and brought me over to meet her. She was standing alone, in the corner of the ‘pop’ ballroom – Duran Duran was blaring over the sound system– probably a first for that room! I will always remember the giant disco ball spinning drunkenly from the middle of the ceiling, in lieu of a chandelier. The strobe lights magnified the iridescent shimmer of her clingy, sequined gown. She was statuesque and I had never seen any royal dress with that kind of slinky style! Diana and I shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, but she seemed nervous and distracted. Her eyes betrayed something that surprised me – this was not the look of a princess convinced her future held a fairytale ending.

Later that evening, I stepped out onto the balcony – the famous balcony that we always see the Queen waving from – with Prince Andrew – I neglected to mention that Prince Andrew had been courting me, filling my hotel room at Claridges’ with boxes of dozens of bouquets of long stemmed roses.

It was a beautiful night, and from our vantage point, we could see the hundreds of thousands of jubilant well-wishers, celebrating this historic event. Andrew gently took my hand in his and gazed into my eyes.

Why hadn’t I anticipated this? I don’t know, but he caught me completely by surprise. And whenever I’m nervous, or caught off guard, I resort to giggling and/or glib humor. I flipped his hand over and started reading his palm. I told him he had long life, a good heart, and absolutely no brains whatsoever. He laughed whole-heartedly, and undeterred, he proceeded to propose to me.

“Would you be interested in marrying me or would you prefer to be an actress?”

Without hesitation, I said to him, “quite honestly Andrew, I’d really rather prefer to be an actress.”

I was 18 years old at the time, 3 months younger than Diana to the day. I had just graduated from high school and had decided to defer for a year from Harvard University to pursue acting and modeling in NYC.

Prince Andrew didn’t seem too distraught by my refusal, in fact, he seemed to sympathize, and we danced on into the early morning. He continued to correspond with me after that, once sending me a letter written on toilet paper while he was stationed in The Falkland Islands. I have been asked, “why toilet paper?” And I guess the answer might have to do with where he was inspired to write to me from! (joke!) I felt sorry for anyone who had to use that paper for that which it was intended for – It looked more like parchment paper and was probably better suited for writing than wiping anyways!

Exactly a year later, I was in NYC pursuing my dream. My 2nd audition happened to be for the role of Princess Diana in the CBS TV movie, “The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana”. The producers weren’t aware of my relationship to the British royal family, but my look was similar and I had a great British accent. As unskilled and relatively untrained as I was, I miraculously gave a great audition, and I remember the precise moment that the reading came alive. I could see out of the corner of my eye, the producer and the casting director looking at each other with the expression of “we’ve found her.” I got a call almost immediately after the audition telling me that I had the offer. It was my first acting role and I was ecstatic.

However, the thrill of success dissipated, when my mother told me that she was extremely anxious that I would be ostracized by my royal cousins. I received a severe reprimand in the form of a letter, from the King of Greece, who felt that it was disrespectful for me to impersonate Diana. Panic set in. My mother kindly called Prince Charles and told him that I had been hired to play his wife. His gracious response was, “well, they are going to make the film anyway, at least she can bring dignity to the role.” I was so relieved. It was as close to a blessing as I could have hoped for.

Accepting this first role as an actress signaled a major crossroad in my life and closed the doors on palace life. And it would eventually strike me as ironic, that if I wasn’t going to be a princess, I would be impersonating one on screen! And more than once!

As I looked back at that moment over the years, I was always shocked that my response was so immediate. Granted, I knew how hard life in the royal fish bowl was – as did Andrew- which is why he gallantly gave me an out – but why didn’t I even take a minute to mull over his proposal?

As I am reliving this memory, it evokes all sorts of feelings that have lain dormant for years. I am feeling the broken part of my heart, the part that would never be able to love a prince because of the betrayal by another prince.

It wasn’t until recently that I put all the pieces together – and I really would prefer not to mention this at all – it would be so much easier and prettier. But it is pertinent. It took me years to uncover a deeper, darker explanation – I had been molested as a child by a royal prince. Of course I would react like that. The last thing in the world I would want – would be to marry a prince, after all, the belief embedded in my subconscious was that a prince = a perpetrator.

What shocked and saddened me, is how insidious childhood wounding is. Traumas we might not remember for years have the power to shape our adult lives without even realizing it.

It took my current husband to point out another reason I should not have married Andrew – we were 2nd cousins – even if it was once removed! A fact that escaped both me and cousin Andrew!

And truth be told, I did end up marrying a prince – one that came with a loincloth rather than a crown!

This evening was indelibly etched in my memory forever. Not only was it a historic event for 100’s of millions around the world, but for me personally, it held some rather extraordinary details which would be hard for anyone to forget.

The evolution of being a stepmother.

For me, being a parent was incredibly easy, whereas being a stepparent challenged me to grow in ways I didn’t anticipate. My stepchildren demanded that I ‘step’ up and become a better person.

The old adage about being a stepparent is, ”You have all the responsibility and none of the authority.” It was hard!

I could see why so many blended families failed. It was so easy to retreat to one’s respective battling camps –  ‘Me and my kids’ versus ‘Him and his kids’!

When I disciplined my biological daughter, I had and ease and a confidence in my parenting skills. We had established a precedent of unconditional love and within that safety net, we had room to play. We understood each other and she trusted that I had her best interest at heart.

When I disciplined my stepkids, there was always someone standing over my shoulder, questioning my motives, judging me, criticizing me. Including myself. Nothing came naturally.

If they ignored me, answered me back, or defied me, it hurt in way that I had never experienced with my own kids. I took it personally.

It was so easy to fall into the stereotypic role of evil stepmother.

Casper’s children called me “Mom” from the get go. I had many conversations with my husband about whether or not this was a good idea. It even became a point of discussion in therapy. I had been in their lives for 12 years and we had sole custody for the past 9 years.

Casper would say, “How can you tell them NOT to call you MOM?” He was right. That sounded awful. I was the day-to-day mom in their lives. Casper reminded me that I was the mom who cooked for them and drove them to school and bought them clothes and put them to bed and made them clean up their rooms and made them pick up dog poop.

I always referred to them as my stepchildren. In my mind, they had a mother, and I never wanted to be accused of usurping her position. I was a mother and I was sensitive to how it would feel if another woman stepped in and tried to take my place. I knew that it had upset her in the past and I tried to respect her wishes.

I didn’t want to admit it, but if I were to be completely honest with myself, this was my excuse and my justification. It kept me safe – safe from making her angry- but also – safe from opening my heart. The truth was that this mindset provided me with an emotional distance. Calling myself a stepparent allowed me to keep them at an arm’s length, a ‘step’ away.

Recently, 2 friends of mine, Michal and Jonathan, called me on my behavior. They both cringed when I used the term “my stepchildren”. Jonathan said, “Don’t call them that. I was a stepchild and I always felt a separation. I always felt like a second-class citizen, an outsider. Stop differentiating.” I tried to defend myself, “I don’t differentiate inside. It’s just that I don’t want to tread on their mother’s toes.” But I knew they were right. It sounded so hollow. I was better than that.

From that moment on, I made a decision to step up. They would all be my children. That was that.

It was no longer relevant that I was differentiating whose children were whose,  in order to honor their mother’s needs. I needed to honor their needs. She wasn’t in my life, she wasn’t even in their lives. They were in my life and they were my responsibility. Making them feel completely loved was my responsibility.

They needed a mother to claim them on a daily basis. I couldn’t stall another day, hoping that their biological mother would finally show up at our front door, with her arms wide open, ready to claim her children. They needed to know what it felt to be claimed right now, before it was too late. And, even if I were just a substitute, I would have to do.

So I posted a photograph of Grace and India on Facebook last week with the quotation, “My lovely girls.”

When I showed Grace the caption, I saw a smile spread across her lovely face. A smile that broadcast, “I belong!” And I knew that I had done the right thing.

This is what it means to be a mother. It means to respond to one children’s needs. My claiming them as my children does not mean that I am excluding their biological mother. It means that I am adding myself to a pool of mothers who are at their disposal.

I hope that one day, their birth mother will be able to look deep into her heart, and see that her children needed a mother who was there for her children on a daily basis, a mother who was willing to provide their daily basic needs.

In Cappy and Grace’s case, two mothers are better than one!

By always calling me “Mom”, Casper’s children opened their hearts to me and gave me an invitation to live by a philosophy of inclusion. They always knew what they needed from me and they patiently waited until I was ready to embrace them. My only regret is that it took me so many years to respond as lovingly.

© 2011