The Blending Place Podcast

Praying for the Biological Mother // Jo Ann & Wayne Kalama

Episode 1

One of the first things we decided before we got married was that we would pray for his first wife – for her happiness and wellbeing. And we did that faithfully in our daily prayers. I think that helped soften our hearts and it brought the Savior’s love into our marriage.

– Jo Anne Kalama

Show Notes:

Jo Anne and Wayne Kalama have been blending their family for 28 years. Jo Anne didn’t ever have any biological children of her own though she had always dreamed of having 12 kids. She was an estate lawyer and Wayne worked for Disney. Now as empty nesters, they share about the impact that praying for Wayne’s former spouse had on their marriage and family.

3:41 – Afraid of Failing Again

6:39, 21:11 – Praying for the Previous Spouse

10:07 – Mothering, Smothering & Choosing Your Battles

12:35 – Gifts & Talents

15:04 – Extended Family Support

18:55 – One Definition of a Blended Family

23:56 – Look Ahead & Trusting

25:28 – About Temple Sealings

27:28 – Don’t Demand Love

28:02 – To the Children & Grandchildren

29:22 – Better With Current Spouse


Lindsey: I have known Joanne and Wayne Kalama for about three years. They are the kind of people who throw open their door and allow you into their home and into their lives. One thing to keep in mind is that the Kalamas have been doing this for a while. They are, empty nesters, retired and now have grandkids. As you settle in to listen to this podcast, keep in mind that they have had more time to work out the kinks and be able to figure out what worked best for their family.


There is no one cookie cutter situation that we can say, okay, this is how we do it. Start to finish. Because every person and every situation is so unique. The outcomes are going to look different and the journey is going to look different too.


But I know that you’re going to find value in this interview. And I look forward for you to be able to find those little treasures that you can pull out from it and apply to your own family.

Jo Ann: I lived in a ward in Azusa, California. Wayne went through a divorce and eventually came to stay with one of his sisters who lived in the Azusa ward.


And when he came, of course, he was hurting a great deal and he would sit on the back row at church. And I didn’t pay much attention because when I saw him, I thought he was very young. And at this time I was in my forties and I thought he was probably in his late twenties, early thirties. And so I didn’t pay any attention.


Those Hawaiians, they carry their age well.


Lindsey: Yes, they are very lucky.


Jo Anne: We started this family home evening group getting together with the over 30 singles in the ward. One Monday night, we were the only two that showed up. I had the refreshments and he had the lesson, so we had to show up.


As we ate refreshments, we started talking and I think we talked until about one o’clock in the morning and that’s what started, what was mostly a friendship for quite a while.


Eventually, one day I said to him, you know, I haven’t totally given up on getting married yet. And as long as you’re hanging around me all the time, nobody else is going to ask me out. So either we have to step up the game here or we have to call this off.


I had invited him to come to Arizona, to my parents for Thanksgiving. And so he said, And this surprised me: He said, okay, well, I have to think about this, but if I call you and say, I’m not coming to Thanksgiving, it’s over. If I’m coming to Thanksgiving, we’ll announce our engagement. We went to my parents for Thanksgiving and announced our engagement.


Wayne: As much as I was afraid, afraid of getting married of failing again I just couldn’t imagine myself being without her.


Lindsey: Wayne, how you were talking about the fear of failing again – What words of counsel would you share with others struggling with that too?


Wayne: I would pray and trust the promptings they received. I also had a wonderful Bishop who happened to be my brother-in-law. He was helpful as I pondered these things helping me recognize answers from Heavenly Father.


I owe him a lot and I am grateful for his input because we, we wouldn’t have what we have now if it wasn’t for his, his counsel or it may have been delayed, but our timing was right. Things all seem to fall into place when we made that decision.


Lindsey: How old were your kids at the time?


Wayne: Well, our oldest (a daughter) was 17 years old. We have three daughters and one son and our son was 15. Our next daughter was 12 and our youngest was about 9.


Lindsey: Some would say those are really hard ages at which to have another mother figure enter their lives.


In thinking about that, what were some of the struggles that came along?  Once you made the decision to get married and become a family? – Whether it was associated with age or all the changes that can come together because – Joanne, this was your first time being married. And you go from having lived a great, wonderful, fulfilling, single life to now being married to a man who had been married previously, which comes with all kinds of background, and difficulties  but then also becoming an instant mother figure. What were some of those struggles and how did you overcome them?


Jo Anne: That’s a good question. Well, it may have been a little easier because at least at the very beginning, the children were living with their mother. They weren’t living in our home. Although very shortly after we got married, Kyle our son came to live with us, and that was a struggle because he was struggling.


He and his dad were very close. Wayne was a scout master, and they’d gone on all these camping trips and they’d been surfing together. And, and I think it was hard for him, to feel like his dad left the home. One of the things we tried to do was think about what the children needed, not to the detriment of our relationship, but to work together, to help them get through this very difficult time for them.


Maybe this is a good time to mention, some of the things we did to try and make this family come together. One of the first things we decided before we got married was that we would pray for his first wife. At the time we married, she was still single and that we would pray for her happiness and her health.


And we did that faithfully in our daily prayers. And I think that helped soften our hearts and it brought the Savior’s love into our marriage. We determined that we would never knowingly pit the children, you know, put them in a tug of war between the two parents.


Some of the children accepted me fairly readily. And some really struggled. One in particular really felt like I had come between her mother and her father. Although they’d been separated for some time and it, it was pretty apparent that they weren’t going to get back together, but not to her. That was hard for her.


Lindsey: how did you approach that relationship?


Jo Anne: I don’t know. What did I do? Wayne?


Wayne: You were very good. You responded with kindness and you gave her time. And, after a while she, she began to trust Joanne. And so now  her relationship in Joanne, she will come to Joanne for questions about things, about everything from maybe personal questions, all the way to recipes.


And it’s, it’s really good to see, you know, she was the one who, who struggled, but, but it’s wonderful that that the kids can come to Joanne discuss some things.


Jo Anne: You know, maybe it’s important to state here we’ve been married 28 years.


And so these children we’re talking about are now late thirties, early forties have their own children. We have 11 grandchildren.


Wayne: It took, it took time. It, it does things like that do take time. And I think all these smallest like praying for my first wife


Lindsey: I don’t think is a small step, that can be really difficult.  If there are hard feelings or if there’s high conflict, I think that that can be a very difficult thing to, to pray for someone that you might even consider an enemy.


Wayne: I think the way I dealt with, with this was helpful in that seven habits book that Stephen Covey’s book he talks about improving one little step at a time, whenever you do something, if you can improve one step at a time, eventually this thing he called the circle of influence begins to grow.


Jo Anne: I have to give his first wife credit too, because some mothers that I encountered or know about, have done all they could to turn their children against the father.

Lindsey: Which is heartbreaking when that happens.


Jo Anne: a very sad situation and she did not do that. And so I have to give her credit for that. I started off making a few mistakes.


Lindsey: Don’t we all. More than a few.


Jo Anne: This was my first marriage. And I was 46 at the time. And I had always, I mean, I had intended to get married while I was in college. I was going to have 12 kids, you know, that was the life I had planned. And so I’d always wanted children. And so what did I do? I started to mother them, which maybe felt more like smothering to them.


I don’t know. I don’t know how they felt, but just to give you an example, how I learned to be better with the children. We were in our home. They started to say some words that in the home I grew up in were considered swear words. They were not allowed in my home. Most of the world didn’t consider them swear words. And they’re pretty common to hear around. I don’t want you to think these were bad swear words. These are just words that people use that my mother did not allow it. And so to my ears, it felt like they were swearing. And so a couple of few times I tried to correct them that did not go over well, then one day I heard their mother using those words and then it suddenly clicked in my mind that when I was correcting them for saying those things, I was correcting their mother in a way.


And I had to realize these are just my preferences and I have to let them go. It’s just words that were not allowed in my home. And I just bristled to them a little bit and I’ve just learned to let them go.


Lindsey: We need to be careful in the way that we may choose to correct or talk about certain behaviors that are acceptable or normal and the other home. Being able to let it go. I think that that is so key and something that for me, once I was able to start letting go of certain things and not have such a death grip, I feel like that’s one that helped things start improving in a lot of ways. Cause that can be hard. It can be a really difficult thing. 


Wayne: I think over a period of time, the kids felt comfortable with that. They felt better. They felt that she wouldn’t dominate their relationship. She didn’t do things like that. So as a result, that I think the kids saw.


Lindsey:I’m sure that unconditional love and being cautious about the battles you choose, being able to step back. So along those lines, Wayne, what are some of the gifts and talents and abilities that you see in Joanne that really helped with that transition period and continue on even now.


Wayne: She brought stability to my life and being alone for that period of time, I really needed that.


And then after we’re married, our home was that. And I really appreciate that. And as a result, we were comfortable, it felt comfortable. It would be to be at home. And the other thing was, was that she was always good to her word.


At that time in, in our lives, Joanne was working in Pasadena for a law firm and then a week or two weeks later, I was interviewed by Disney.  A lot of things began to fall into place. Joanne was able to take that and help me organize it into a more comfortable situation. I mean, I wasn’t trying to figure things out on my own. I was, we were all, we we’re both working together on this and she, the more organized of the two of us.


Lindsey: I think there really is something to be said about that partnership and togetherness and working towards that common goal.


Some of these gifts like organization, the gift of being able to be organized sometimes are overlooked. I look at so many of these step-mom’s who worry and wonder. What am I bringing to the table? And they feel completely overwhelmed. I know that I felt overwhelmed and sometimes that leads to feeling not enough or like the wrong person for the job, but I really have seen over and over again. That God knew this was going to happen. Right. And he, he planned and prepared and gave you those specific gifts in order to not only help Wayne, but also the kids. I think that there is such a beautiful story there that rather than getting lost in the overwhelm instead, celebrating those gifts and recognizing all that you have to offer to bless the family.


Wayne: You know, there was another thing too. I’d like to add here. Joanne’s family always had a family reunion and there were a lot of kids in there with her brothers and sisters there. A lot of young people about the same age as our kids.


Jo Anne: I had seven brothers and sisters.


Wayne: And, and her family. They’re very stable. They’re like the Waltons, but it was just kind of a wonderful thing to see. So every summer we went up to the family cabin and we did things together and Joanne’s family included the kids as part of that. So they’re really part of the solution my in-laws. Our children have built traditions because of that, around the cabin, around all that part of Utah. And, and they look forward to going up there for a long time. The kids felt included and, because of that, it just made it easy for me to become part of that. I so appreciate not just Jo Anne, but her family, her family was part of it too.


Lindsey: There is such power in extended family, family, and extended family. I was very blessed in that regard to watch as my parents and my siblings and nieces and nephews just embraced these new kids of mine and watch those relationships that have grown and developed into absolutely beautiful, strong, wonderful things. And I’m so grateful that they get that influence in their lives. 


Jo Anne: It really is such a gift. It is a big gift. And I think also my parents, the home I grew up in gave me a firm foundation confidence in myself, enough to be able to face this new and somewhat scary situation with a certain amount of self-confidence. And I feel for any step-mom who didn’t have that kind of an upbringing who feels insecure, that’s got to make it a whole lot harder.


Lindsey: then I guess maybe going on with that, maybe they don’t have the automatic support. Maybe there’s some pushback, maybe those relationships aren’t forming. Any thoughts or advice that you could offer?


Jo Anne: I’m not sure how I would’ve approached it. Had I not had that support.  Maybe look for other families in the ward that could be somewhat of an extended family. Some like grandparents. Yeah. I mean, there’s a, there are a couple of kids in our ward now here who call us grandma and grandpa.


I think it started because their interested in art. And so they started out day one when we moved in getting Wayne to draw Mickey mouse for them. And their grandparents live far away. And so they recently started calling us grandma and grandpa.


Lindsey: I love that.


Joanne: And I think maybe we could have found some people in the ward who would be willing to fill that role. I don’t know.


Lindsey: There’s a reason why we call it our word family, right? And maybe it will take a lot more, I don’t know, being more proactive in order to do that. And maybe even asking and vocalizing, Hey, we could use some extra support.


I would love to hear how you applied the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ to this blended family of yours. And in what ways it helped with that transition.


Jo Anne: I’ll take that first if you want.


Wayne: I have to ponder this.


Jo Anne: I was thinking that maybe as a background of what I’m going to say about this, I should explain. What our blended family looks like because we’re not a yours, mine and ours blended family, we are a yours blended family, because I was 46 when we got married.


So not surprisingly, we had no children of our own, and I didn’t bring any children to the marriage, but to us, our blended family included everybody important to the children. So that included their mother and her husband, their steps. And it also included their stepfather brought two children who are married and have spouses into, into this family.


And so we’ve always considered those, his children who are our children’s  step siblings as part of our blended family. And just to give you an example, as we mentioned, I was an estate planning attorney and their stepfather’s daughter-in-law went to law school and wanted to do estate planning.


So Wayne’s first wife called me and said, would you consider taking her into your firm to teach her? And I didn’t hesitate for a second because I thought this, this is a great opportunity. And so I said, yes. And so we orking together became good friends. And I consider her part of our family too. And her children maybe don’t have as much association with them as I have with our own but at larger family gatherings, you know, birthdays, especially grandchildren birthdays now, but even before when the kids were not married, you know, Special events, baptisms and all. We have a whole big family there. We consider them part of our family, Wayne and I.


Lindsey: Unbelievable that you were able to create that. So what I want to know is how did you get to that point?


Jo Anne: I’m not quite sure. How did we get to that point, Wayne?


Wayne: Part of it was, was the prayers.


Initially for Janet. And then it set a pattern for us to look at things in a different way, not be so hostile about what once was you know, stop worrying about that. I think we recognized that the negative impact that has, and so we tried, we tried our best to do that.  It’s brought peace to the family, to our family and our kids. A long time ago as our son was wrapping up his tour in the Marines and was coming back from the middle east. We were invited to sail with them between two friendly ports and he wanted to bring his stepdad.


And you know, the thought in my mind was if that makes him happy, why would I not want to want to have him come? And so we did both Cordell and I went, went to Hawaii together and we stayed with my sister and the next night we were on board and we had a a very wonderful time.


We’re all in this together. And, I, my feeling was why would I want to deny my kids, things that make them happy, good things. And this was a good thing. And I’m grateful we looked at things that way.


Jo Anne: I think forgiving, I think the teachings of the gospel to forgive and I think that helped us a lot because heaven knows we made many mistakes along the way.


Lindsey: Don’t we all, I, I think that is such a powerful lesson that it was.


It can start with something so small. Okay. I say small, but really that can be a really big thing to pray for the happiness and well-being of a former spouse. Especially if there, again, if there’s high conflict or a really difficult history, so maybe not so small, but the ability to pray for that person.


And maybe if our hearts don’t start out in the right place, but to just keep doing it. So I guess maybe along with that, then could you share how your testimony has increased your testimony of the savior through this process of blending?


Jo Anne: Wayne was very good about not being angry. He was like I said, broken and hurting, but he wasn’t angry. And I think anger drives away the spirit. I think we realized that as we followed the teachings of the savior, things went better. We always tried to be positive about where we could go in the future. Try not to look back at the past. And I mean, he of course grieved quite a bit. Yeah. But he’s really good about forgiving and of course he just loves his kids.


I think one thing I’ve learned is to trust the Lord. I knew he was grieving and he had tried to put the family back together and I knew that he wished he could. And so I just had to trust the Lord that it was okay because I just had this peaceful feeling as I prayed about it, that it would be all right.


I had learned a long time ago from experiences previously in my life where I just had to trust and move forward and it all worked out. And so I just trusted and moved forward and we’ve had a wonderful life together.


This is this probably isn’t an answer to your question, but it might be helpful to some stepmom. One of the questions that started coming into my mind and we started discussing somewhere down the road in our marriage was well Wayne and his first wife were sealed in the temple. The children were born in the covenant of that marriage, that seating was canceled. He now is sealed to me who are the children sealed to. And, you know, that was kind of a worry for me. And one day his brother-in-law our former Bishop that helped him decide to take this big step. At the time that we started asking this question was a sealer in the temple.


I asked him, you know, with this situation who are the children sealed to, and he looked at us for a minute, and he said, you’re asking the wrong question. He said, the question is, are you living up to your covenants because if you are living up to your covenants, you can trust the Lord that he will work things out in a way that blesses everybody, and everybody will be happy and you just don’t need to worry about it. Just be sure you’re keeping your covenants.


That answer when it distilled on my soul, so to speak brought a lot of peace. And I’ve never worried about it since.


Lindsey: I think that’s such good advice to just trust in the Lord, like you were saying now and earlier on in this interview to trust in the Lord, to be true to our covenants and to know that everything will work out. He’ll take care of us. I think that will bring a lot of peace to a lot of hearts. It’s a really good reminder. Sometimes we get so caught up in the messy details and we lose sight of the big picture.


What advice would you give to the struggling stepmom?


Jo Anne: One thing I learned right away is you don’t demand love from them. You serve them and you let it grow and it will grow.


Lindsey: And look at what it’s grown into.


Jo Anne: Yes. My grandchildren and the grandchildren are just grandchildren to me, you know. I, the older ones, I mean, the older ones understand the issue about the divorce, but the younger ones, don’t, I’m just grandma to them.


Lindsey: What would you like to say to your children and the grandchildren? This is an opportunity to speak to them directly.


 Jo Anne: I would want them to know that I love them. And then I am very grateful.


It’s hard. One I’m very grateful for the love they’ve given me. I mean, without, without Wayne and without them, I wouldn’t have this family of children and grandchildren.


And I think I would also want them to know that we were able to do this because we lived the gospel of Jesus Christ. The best we could. We weren’t perfect. We’re still not perfect at it, but we were trying our best to live the gospel. And I think that’s what made the blending possible. I think that’s what I would say to the children.


For struggling step-mom’s I’d also add, you know, pray for guidance and don’t be discouraged if you fail because you guess what? Biological mothers have days when they fail and feel discouraged.


Lindsey: That is such a good reminder. We pack on a lot of pressure don’t we?


Jo Anne: We do. And I would also say love and honor their father. And they’ll appreciate you for that. I think part of why they’ve accepted me is because they see how happy their dad is.


Lindsey: And so much of that isn’t just what you say, but it really is what they see. Wayne, what about you?


Wayne: Well, we’ve, heard the kids say you guys are so much better with your new spouses. You guys are happier and there’s more wonderful things happening in your life. They’re more at peace. The kids are more at peace, with what’s happening.


And, so I agree with Joanne, if nothing else pray, pray like crazy. That’s what I did. Because I’m not sure exactly how things like that work. Other than that, the Lord says that he will help us. And I sincerely believe that. I’m grateful for the gospel. I really don’t think I’d have been able to find my way if it wasn’t for the gospel, if it wasn’t for my partner and Joanne’s parents. I am so grateful for it in the 28 years that we’ve been married, we’ve done that. We’ve tried to do our best the Lord has really blessed us despite our weaknesses.


The Lord does answer prayers. He’s answered. And I’m sure he’s answered my ex-wife and her good husband. I’m sure he is answered their prayers and because of that, all of their kids, we see, as we look at them, all of them have been blessed. We see that in their lives and I’m grateful for that. I couldn’t have done it on my own. And I don’t think Joanne and I had capacity to do it on our own.


Jo Anne: I would agree with that.


Wayne: We had a lot of help.


Lindsey: I am so grateful for the both of you and for your examples, being able to hear from people who are further along on this journey it gives, it gives a lot of peace and comfort direction and, and really hope.


A lot of hope and maybe down the line, our families won’t necessarily look like yours does. And those hopes might not all be realized, but I think keeping our faith firmly planted in the Savior, being true to those covenants. Praying with all we have. Those were just really great reminders. And I’m so grateful for you both.


Thank you for your time and for offering to share your wisdom with us tonight.


Wayne & Jo Anne: Sure. Our pleasure.


Lindsey: I wanted to say thank you one more time to the Kalamas. They were my first interview ever for this podcast and we were both nervous and not sure what to expect, but I am so grateful that they were willing to put their faith in me and in this project and my vision and what I’m hoping to accomplish We are a part of a great work and it doesn’t come easily and it sure hasn’t come naturally for me, but we’re figuring it out and we’ll keep figuring it out together.

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