About Carol

Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.

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I would like my blog to be a forum for my readers to share their stories and experiences and express their views and opinions about being a part of a blended family. I am working on a book tentatively titled:Blended Family Stories. It will be an in depth look at the real life challenges and joys of successful blended families. If you would like to be part of my research I'd love to hear from you.Take my Blended Family survey

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For advice or information, email carol@shwanda.com


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Seaweed Art Cards
  • Published on April 25, 2017

    Today marks our 11th wedding anniversary and as I reflect back on our marriage I am continually proud and amazed by all that we have accomplished. We have a beautiful home, all five of our children are launched into the world and are pursuing their dreams, which was our dream for them. It was a bumpy road at times and I often wondered, with all of the outside elements and influences that were working against us, how we were going to get past it and move on to live out our lives in peace and harmony, but we did and it’s AWESOME! We love our empty nester life, spending our weekends riding our bikes to the beach, driving up the coast to stroll shops in off the beaten path sleepy little beach towns, or staying at home tinkering in the yard or reading a book in silence with a glass of wine.  Keep this in mind, dear ones, as you navigate the rough waters of your own blended family relationships. I started this blog almost 10 years ago for those of you who are  in or about to enter into blended families to offer hope, wisdom, inspiration and solutions for the daily challenges you must face. I’m here to tell you it’s not easy, but it gets better so long as you stick together and don’t let anyone come between you. Namaste dear ones and best wishes to all of you.

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  • Published on October 11, 2012

    Yesterday I wrote about how I was coping about my pending empty nest. It’s hardly an empty house when you consider that I still have two kids living at home and most people I know with kids have only two to begin with, but you have to factor in my perspective. It was a whirlwind these past 6 years and Paul and I are still in amazement that we not only tackled the blended family challenge, but that we survived and flourished. This is a staggering accomplishment in light of the odds stacked against blended families. The divorce rate in first marriages is 50 percent and in second marriages it is close to 67 percent.

    I wish I could say that I had a magic formula for how to successfully blend five kids, four cats, three dogs, two fish and a bird, but I don’t. I just followed my instincts. I went with my gut. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Published on May 8, 2011

    Had a great day today. Very mellow. Started off by reading the Sunday paper that was chock full of articles about “Mom.” There was a very poignant story about single mothers, an article about an older mom blogger and even one about a mother/daughter bowling team. There was not, unfortunately, any mention of one of the largest segments of the motherhood population– stepmoms, the unsung heroines of the maternal world.  I was disappointed to say the least. I was feeling neglected until I opened my email and found this article sent to me by my cyber stepmom friend, Peggy Nolan of The Stepmom’s Toolbox. It was titled: “A Letter From Your Husband,” and it could have been written by my husband. Or yours. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

    P.S. Mary S. This one’s dedicated to you.

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  • Published on March 31, 2011

    The grueling college application process is finally coming to a close and I have to say from my perspective, and from Sophia’s, it was brutal, with emotions vacillating between the euphoric victories of acceptance and the crushing defeat of rejection. I keep telling Sophia that this is a pivotal point in her life, the first time when she will truly have to face life’s difficult decisions and the disappointments that often go with them. Finding out that you didn’t get into your “reach school,” as they say in college app parlance, is a lot harder to take than not getting that part in the class play. And it only gets worse.

    When Sophia started applying to schools back in November, I couldn’t help but recall my own experiences 30 years ago. Back then, it was a lot easier to get into college with less kids applying (because in those days you could still get earn a decent living without a college degree) and a lot more financial aid to do so. I applied to two colleges and got accepted to both. The schools I chose were “safe” schools, ones I was assured that I could get into. Some of my more academic friends applied to Ivy League schools and got accepted and I always wondered if I would have been accepted too had I applied as well. It is a feeling that has haunted me for years. The regret that I didn’t even try. So when Sophia told me about some of the hard-to-get-into schools she wanted to apply to, I told her, “Go for it.” Why not? She had hope. And it is that drive to attain loftier goals that sustains us. Having the courage to face rejection is a noble trait and because of that, Sophia will go far in this world. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

    Sophia got into three great schools that can all offer her an excellent education. She has narrowed her choice down to two, one in Portland and one in Philadelphia. Her dad is taking her to tour Lewis and Clark this weekend and I am taking her to my home town of Philly next weekend to visit Drexel University, and then she will decide. This is only the beginning. And she’s off to a great start.

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  • Published on March 20, 2011

    All five of my kids are looking for a job, whether it’s summer employment, babysitting or part-time work after school, they are all in the job market. Paul and I have been trying to guide them with advice on how to not only get a job, but how to do a good job.

    I, for one, have peformed just about every service industry task you can imagine. Waitressing mostly, but also hotel work, bar tending and retail sales. My kids are sick of hearing me tell this story, but I have done it all. And that makes me a seasoned expert on what it takes to get and keep a service industry job. And at the risk of annoying my children, I often take the opportunity to point out the shortcomings of the wait staff in most restaurants. (I’m sure to be discreet so as not to embarrass the server for my kids.) For instance, I might advise, “If you are serving soup, make sure the customer has a spoon.” Or, “Don’t ask the customer if they want desert if they are still eating their dinner. ”

    Today, while standing with Sophia at the deli counter in the grocery store, an opportunity presented itself that I consider a  “a job seeker’s teachable moment.” While we were waiting for our very efficient and gracious server to fill our cold cuts order, there was a gentleman next to me, about my age, who had ordered a sandwich. His server was a young woman, late teens probably, and appeared to be kind of a whiner. Here’s what happened.

    She gave him his sandwich and he decided to order another one, and get this, she got annoyed with him. She hissed, “I wish you would have told me sooner that you wanted two sandwiches, it would have been so much easier to have made them both at the same time.”

    I cringed. Surprisingly, the customer actually apologized and explained that he had just made up his mind to order a second sandwich. Unbelievable. I seized the moment and pulled Sophia aside and cautioned her, “Never, ever, ever, speak to a customer that way. If you do, and your supervisor hears you, it would be grounds for immediate dismissal.”

    To Sophia’s credit, I don’t think she needed to be told. I shudder at the thought of all the kids who don’t know any better.

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  • Published on March 3, 2011

    Yesterday, while I was having lunch alone in a cafe, there were three men sitting at the table next to me. It was close quarters, so I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. They were all young fathers with toddlers. One was expecting a second child soon and they all speculated how the older child, about 3, would adjust to having a younger sibling. The father announced proudly that he thought his son would adapt just fine. He announced, “He’s getting very independent. He’s almost potty trained.”

    As a mother of five teenagers, I chuckled to myself. All of those early milestones… holding a cup, feeding yourself, taking your own bath and doing your own algebra homework are all significant and worth remarking. Now if only they could get a job, pay off their student loans and take care of us in our old age. Now that would be an accomplish worth  celebrating. Those three fathers have no idea. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose, otherwise no one would procreate. All I can say is, “Good luck to them.”

  • Published on February 17, 2011

    Recently I had coffee with a friend of mine, Sara,  and I asked her to review some marketing material I has written for a new business I am forming. It is copy for the back of greeting cards I am creating for my seaweed art pressings. Sara is a business owner herself, and a very smart, creative person, whom I have often relied upon for advice and guidance, both personally and professionally. She’s the kind of person who always strives for the best. She is in many ways, an advanced achiever. I admire and respect her judgement and am grateful to have her as a friend. The copy in question was something I had been muling over for weeks. Paul, another person with high standards, had edited it too and thought it looked great. My dear friend, however, offered some more suggestions, a few tweaks here and there, and what we came up with I think is fantastic!

    I couldn’t help but feel lucky to have Sara in my life. This was not the first time she has come to my “creative” aid. When I married Paul, she came to my house a few days before the wedding to see what she could do to help. I had wanted to decorate the baskets the flower girls were going to carry and my effort would have consisted of attaching some bows and leaving it at that. Sara took over, adorning the baskets with color coordinated ribbons and dried flowers. Her version was so much better than anything I could have come up with. I still have the baskets, which are displayed prominently on a shelf in my art studio.

    Having friends like Sara are the best kind, because they elevate you to achieve more and inspire you to do your best. They raise the bar. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published on February 9, 2011

    For those of you not up to speed, there is a future rock star celebrity among us. His name is James Durbin and he makes his national television debut this evening on American Idol. He is one of the “rumored” top 40. We know James because he used to come to our house to jam with our ex-tenant Jonny Prynce (who moved to NYC last month). James is a great guy with a lot of talent. He has a fiance and a young baby and we all wish him much luck and success. He sure deserves it. As a mother, I also wish James to stay his grounded, wonderful self. I can’t help but wonder how his life is going to change. I just performed a Google search on his name and got the weirdest pop ups for “sexy pictures of James Durbin.” Oy. I just hope he is prepared for the onslaught of media attention he is sure to get. Good luck James.

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  • Published on January 4, 2011
    Shwanda Family Christmas 2010

    Shwanda Family Christmas 2010

    I know I’m kind of doing this backwards, talking about Christmas after I already wished you a Happy New Year, but I wanted to share with you the Shwanda version of the Hallmark family Christmas. This story has “after school” special written all over it.

    This past year Paul and I adopted a new holiday tradition by giving our kids money to buy each other presents so that they could experience the true joy of giving, but mostly so that we would not have to do it. It turned out to be a great idea and a huge success. The kids  gave a lot of thought to what they got each other and learned how to shop wisely and to budget their money. Read the rest of this entry »

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  • Published on December 8, 2010

    I had a conversation with a friend of mine yesterday that I found insightful and such great advice that I thought I would share with you.

    My friend was relating a story to me of an incident that happened one day when she was attending her daughter’s volley ball game. She told me she was angry at what she thought was an unfair call by the ref. So she started giving him the business, shouting and booing at him from the stands. A gentleman sitting next to her, another parent of a child on the team, stopped her and said, “What you are doing? What you are you getting yourself so worked up for? Your job is to watch the game and just smile and wave.”  His point was that we should let our kids take their lumps because that’s part of life and they are much more resilient than we think.

    She took this to heart and so did I. From now on, when life’s challenges, struggles and inequities  seem too overwhelming for me, I’m going take a deep breath, reflect, put things in perspective, and just smile and wave.

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