Blending A Family
The Restoration Of Six Lives, Plus One
The day was filled with electricity as we ascended the steps and entered the sanctuary of the beautiful, old stone church. Our lives were about to embark on an adventure that would change each of us forever. We entered those walls as individual lives and emerged, a family held in God's hands.
This man had been my friend for half my life but I knew, as his wife, our relationship would begin anew. We were taking a tremendous chance on our faith in God, in one another, and our faith in the ability of our four children to cope with, and grow within, our mutual decision.
The six of us vowed that day to work and plan for the future together. Each child, all four having spoken vows within the wedding ceremony, took their part in the decision to become a family very seriously.
We all felt so fortunate to have found each other. We looked forward to sharing our lives and making certain our blended family was a union of success for all concerned.
As I continue to reminisce, I will try to explain some of the ways in which we discovered the success we all yearned for as we spoke our vows that day.
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Learning To Cope
A Time To Share
The story actually begins in March of 1988. An old friend, who was raising his two children alone, brought them from Florida to visit me and my two children in South Carolina, during Spring Break.
We decided to spend the week with his Aunt and Uncle in Atlanta, Georgia, giving the four children a special week of fun. His children had been through so much that year and we felt it would be good for all of us.
Taking Control Of Her Future
From Lynette's Point Of View
At the end of the week, we were busy washing clothes in preparation of their trip home the next day. After almost two hours of total quiet, which we did NOT investigate after a week with four children, they came to us. My friend's thirteen year old daughter, Lynette, was the spokesperson and this is what she said.
"We have been talking and we have decided we want to be a family. So, we want to know what you two are going to do about it." And she sat down. There were four sets of eyes pinned on us with longing etched across their faces.
Carefully, I began to explain that it was something her father and I had discussed as a slight possibility for future thought.... I didn't get any further. The children ran into the back yard, screaming and tossing each other about.
As I turned to my friend for assistance, I found him staring back with the grin of a Chesser cat, totally from ear to ear. He then said, "Well, are you going to marry me or not?"
During my lifetime, I had carefully planned each future step I took. As I looked back in that moment, I realized that, even with all my careful planning, life had continually thrown me curves. Marriage was a challenge, regardless of your plans. My children were happy for the first time in a long while and so were my friend and his children. I discovered I was, too. So, throwing caution to the wind, I said yes.
And, there you have it...the Hunt Zoo came to life.
Beginning Our Lives Together
With Common Goals As A Family
We were married on June 10, 1988, in Anderson, South Carolina. The weekend was spent packing up my house and beginning the trip to Florida. I was taking my children to a place I had never been to live in a house I had never seen. Working with trust in God and my blind faith in this man I had just married, we entered our future at a dead run. With four children in tow, you can't walk!
It has been twenty-three years since I stepped, willingly, with a little push, into the roll of step-mother to two teenagers, a gentle young man of almost sixteen and a thirteen year old, quite audacious, young lady.
Since I had two children of my own, a precocious, ten year old daughter and a mischievous son of seven, this did not seem to me, anything to fear.
As my new husband and I began our lives together, we were quick to realize that six had wed that day in June, rather than just two. Therefore, we knew we all had to pull together, equally, in every aspect, to meet our common goals as a family.
(There are only five in the photo because James, our oldest, is the "Man Behind The Camera.")
Working Together As A Family
No Matter The Task
Looking back on these memories, I recall a great deal of hard work on every family member's part. As a blended family, we shared our lives much the same as natural families do.
However, there was one difference. Our children were never expected to go back to being the children they once were, though they still needed our parental guidance.
My husband and I were not the only ones hurt by divorce nor the only ones changed by it. Each child was different from before, and their maturing, due to pain and loss, had to be taken into account.
Firm, Mutual Ground Rules
Respect, The Keyword
The path was laid with firm, mutual ground rules to follow. My husband established Friday night as Family Council Night.
All grievances, during the week, were written down and discussed openly at the meetings. This eliminated our being caught in the middle of simple squabbles. Our oldest was the Chairman and we sat in as equal observers.
Each opinion difference was ironed out, one by one, and every tear, adult and child alike, dried with love from the other five.
Respect was the key word in our relationship with one another, regardless of failures or successes.
Always A Handful, Yet So Much Fun
Dinner Time, As A Family
The children were a handful, of course, but also had so much fun together. Ten year old, Carlyn, was our prankster, always looking for a way to pull something on her younger brother, Chad, or her older sister, Lynette.
Dinner time was our family time when we all came together for the meal and to hear about each others day. There were some nights when the younger three could not control their fun and the giggles would get out of hand. When this happened, their father would send the perpetrators away from the table until they could compose themselves. This usually began with seven year old Chad's misconduct. Once he was reprimanded, his older sisters would make comments and start their giggling because Chad had gotten into trouble. They, too, would have to leave the table to compose themselves. Our oldest, James, at sixteen, was always able to retain control and remain at the table.
One by one, usually beginning with Chad, each child would return to the table in a better state. But poor little Carlyn was always the last to return. We would hear footsteps coming down the hall but about half way, there would be a new eruption of giggles. She would just do a U-turn and go back down the hall to try again. After three or four trips, she would finally manage to get back to the table still retaining her composure.
Years later, we were to find out that these incidents always started with James, our composed child. Unknown to us, he would allow his food to fall from his mouth back into his plate. Chad, sitting directly across from James, would be the only witness to the display, causing his fit of laughter and you know the rest. And, of course, Chad would never squeal on his big brother.
So, our James had a bit of tarnish on his supposed Halo.
The Framework Of Our Family
Everyone Had There Place To Belong
Another important factor was the framework of our family portrait. In its new form, our family was accepted and nurtured by all sides of the family tree. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins shared the lives of all four children as their own without question or segregation. No one was left to feel set apart or unnatural.
Our church family played a huge role in helping to teach and direct our children. They always stood behind my husband and me whenever we needed someone to lean on.
(photo: Agnes Drawdy Hunt, Bill's mother, better known as "Granny", or, fondly, "The First Sergeant.")
Hold God's Hand
The Rewards Are Endless
Most of all, our family has survived because, though we have made mistakes in our lives, we have not been afraid to hold God's hand along the way or been too proud to admit defeat and the need for His help.
The road leading to the present has had its share of bumps and bruises but so does any family. Raising a blended family is really no different than any other. If you love them with all your being, sacrifice for them, and respect their individual differences and decisions, the rewards are endless.
TILL DEATH DO US PART
by Eugenia S. Hunt
I take you woman, to be my wife,
To keep you near for all my life,
To stand with you in poverty, wealth,
To nurse in sickness, rejoice in health.
Our lives, forever, one from the start,
We'll walk together till death do us part.
On the day we wed, hopes were bright,
Each new day found pure delight,
Promises made in roseate glow,
Of new love, and learning to know.
We, truly one, dear heart, dear wife,
My need, my want, my treasure, my life!
The years, so precious in every way,
Since life began that wondrous day.
The years, they pass with quickened stride,
Renewed vows shall forever abide,
To follow always wherever we trod,
To live, as one, in the sight of God!
And Viewing The Future
The night the children proposed to us taught me about the insight of children, before it is clouded with adult responsibility, and how much we can learn from them.
As I look back to the day when we came together within the walls of the old stone church, I bask in the knowledge that we all made the right decision.
Lynette still celebrates our wedding day as, "the day we all got married," and is more than happy to take full credit for the decision!
Now, as a grandmother, my life is again a whirlwind of love and I will be caught up in the eye of the storm forever.
(photo: Mother's Day, May 1989)
Lynette's Wedding Day
As Life Comes Full Circle
The day had been glorious with a brilliant, blue sky over an ocean of shining emeralds. A perfect day for all the last minute details that go to prepare a wedding ceremony.
There were the usual problems, and a few unusual ones, such as, the missing mess balls of bird seed. They were eventually found, two hours prior to the wedding, in someone's freezer, placed there for safe keeping, frozen solid. Each resembled tiny, decorated golf balls. But these little inconveniences make wonderful stories for reminiscing.
At last, I stood in my designated position at the back of the sanctuary with microphone in hand. As the music began to play, I heard my own voice singing, "Sunrise, Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset, Swiftly flow the days...," but my mind was racing to remember those days and to hold onto them for one more moment.
The candles were lit and the lights lowered. My son took my arm and led me down the aisle as the music floated around me. The processional began and the attendants stepped into place. Then she appeared on the arm of her father, shining in satin and lace. As he gave her away, I could see his trembling.
I sat quietly in my seat, watching and praying that their happiness would always be a part of their lives for I had seen, first hand, the pain of losing that devotion. These two were beginning a voyage like no other they would ever encounter again.
Vows were exchanged and, again, I was on my feet, making my way to the front of the church on shaky legs. So many times I had sung those words, "Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be they name..." However, at that moment, they were more important to me than ever before. I felt the overwhelming need for every word to be precise with perfect comprehension.
Soon, we were all caught up in voices, faces, and laughter. The photographer was snapping pictures, the gift table was full, a beautiful cake was cut, and tiny mess balls of, now thawed, seeds were passed around. Their poor 'getaway car' resembled something out of "Steel Magnolias," and the excitement was explosive.
By this time, the night was late and we were all exhausted from the frenzy of activity and the late hour. The bride and groom were saying their goodbyes to all the remaining guests. As I turned at the sound of my name, the bride was coming towards me. She wrapped her arms around me and began to whisper in my ear.
When a child you never carried within your womb, whose diaper you never changed, or tiny hand you never held, who came to you an adolescent, wraps their arms around you and whispers, "I really love you, Mama! Thanks for everything," you feel a glow of acceptance, joy, and love born of its own unique accomplishment.
My step-daughter had just given me the best gift of all!
(After her marriage, at the age of 21, Lynette came to me and ask me to adopt her so that her children would legally be my grandchildren. I adopted her on November 15, 1996.)
Yours, Mine, and, Now, Ours
In March of 1988, the same month our four children proposed, a little girl was born in the state of New York to an addicted mother. Her name was Audrey Lyn.
She spent the first six years with this woman and her half siblings until the Department of Children and Families found her, placing her in foster care. There she was adopted and brought, by her new family, to Florida. This family abused her until she was eleven.
Again, the Department of Children and Families rescued her.
In January of 2000, she was placed in our foster home. At the age of thirteen, we officially made her a member of our family where she was accepted by each of us. We are now seven.
For those of you who haven't read Audrey's story: Child Of My Heart, Audrey's Story (Volumes One, Two, Three, Four and Five)
The Hunt Zoo
Where Is Everyone Now!!
As Bill and I move on into our retirement years, we look back with pride at the family we have shared. Our children have been quite successful in their lives thus far, creating a legacy for us, depicting success.
Our oldest, James, now a husband and father of two boys, a graduate from Florida State University, moved on to a job with the Jacksonville Police Department. Later, he worked with Homeland Security and now holds a position based out of Washington DC.
Next in line would be our Lynette. She finished her AA in Business with Brevard Community College and then married Marcus. They have two boys. Marcus graduated from Hyles Anderson Seminary in Indiana and they moved to Oregon where he has been the acting Youth Leader and Financial Manager at their church. He also works with an Architectural Firm. Lynette is a stay at home Mom.
My Carlyn finished the University of Central Florida, Cum Laude, and has been teaching sixth grade for over ten years. She and her husband, Bobby, have a six year old daughter.
Mr. Chad went to work for Florida Power and Light right out of high school and has owned his own home since the age of twenty-four. He is now working with AT&T and is married to Ashley. They have our granddog, Tucker.
Audrey, now 23, finished High School with a 4.0GPA and chose to go right to work. She is working in Business Management.
Bill is retired from twenty-five years with the Air Force and is contracted out of Patrick AFB to Ascension Island where he is the Chief Air Traffic Controller.
After many years as an Accountant and Credit Manager, I am finally free to stay home and enjoy some of the pleasures I missed along the way when I was working. I sing, both solo and choir, at our church, attend Bible Study weekly, go to Curves three days a week, play piano, write, sew, and enjoy my grandchildren and friends.
God has been so good to us. No, he hasn't always made the way easy. But through hardship, we become strong. And our family is strong, both as individuals and as a family. We look forward to the future and anticipate what is around the next bend with excitement!
(photo: At Cypress Gardens, April 2009, during a day spent with our family.)
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Who Is Mom To The Zoo
Born in the small town of Pendleton, South Carolina, in 1950, I was the oldest of two, five years my sister's senior. It was a wonderful place to grow up where the entire town raised its children. I was always surrounded by people who loved and looked out for me. I graduated from High School with the same people who were in my kindergarten class. At 58, my childhood friends are still my friends. I feel so fortunate to have known such a childhood.
After college, I worked at Clemson University until May 1972. At that time, I married and lived in Glyfada, 22 miles from Athens, Greece for two years...via USAF. We then moved to North Dakota for another two years before returning to South Carolina.
We divorced after 16 years and two children. I remarried two years later and moved to Florida in 1988 and together we have raised my husband's son and daughter and my son and daughter...one federal officer, one pastor's wife, one sixth grade school teacher, and the other, after working for Florida Power and Light since age 19, is now with AT&T. In 1996, I adopted my step daughter. We are blessed with four grandsons and one granddaughter.
In 1999, we became foster parents with the Children's Home Society and had a number of children under our roof in the next 5 years. In 2001, we adopted a 13 year old girl, whom we first met at the age of 11, and is now 21. I also have spent more time in a courtroom than I care to think about, fighting for the rights of the children in our care. In 2004, I turned in my license so that I could be a full time Mom to our special needs daughter and keep our infant granddaughter five days a week while her mother was teaching.
Bill, my husband, is a retired USAF Air Traffic Controller. He is now working out of the country, on Ascension Island, with Computer Science Raytheon, as their chief controller, contracted out of Patrick AFB, Florida. This enables him to continue to do the job he loves, air traffic, and aid the military. He flies in and out on furlough and I handle things here at home. I jokingly call myself a Single Married Woman.
Actually, I am a retired Accountant/Credit Manager, now a housewife, where I enjoy writing, singing, piano, and sewing. I have had numerous poems and short stories published and have sung in churches and for church organizations for years, as well as weddings, a couple of variety shows, and even at my daughter's, and later my son's, weddings, one of the hardest things I have EVER done. We are members of a Baptist church where I am a soloist and sing in the choir. I am also a member of the Women's Bible Study Group and work on the Mission's Committee.
And, last but not least, we have two singing dogs, Raven, a thirteen year old Skipperkee/Chow with bucked teeth and attitude and Whisper, a nine pound poodle, who thinks himself a Doberman.
My life has involved many changes and avenues that I would never have dreamed of and has given me challenges that I never thought I was equal to. But, I have found that God has a plan and, if you follow His lead, you can handle anything he puts in your hands. However, you have to first learn to listen to Him. No matter what we want from life, it must come in His time. He has given my husband and me more than we could have began to imagine back in high school and we have found that what we thought was so important for our futures back then was nothing to what we have done so far. At 58, I have learned from our foster children, to look forward to the future and the next challenge with enthusiasm and excitement. If they can trust and love us after what the world has dealt them, we can surely tackle whatever lies ahead with ease. Life is a series of learning experiences and I continue to find life to be both a challenge and a joy which grows with each passing year. I learn more and more about myself with each passing day!