Thursday, March 11, 2004

Family works hard at blending members

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Sharon and Marty Macke have been together for the past four years. They have a blended family including children from previous marriages as well as two of Sharon’s grandchildren living in their house in Deer Park. The kids are from left to right: Josh Macke, 18, Jacob Macke, 9, Natalie Carnes, 6, Blake Nickoson, 8, Tiffany Carnes, 13, and Derrick Carnes, 18.
(Photos by Steven M. Herppich/The
Cincinnati Enquirer)
The kids pictured as they have dinner are: (l-r) Blake Nickoson, 8, Tiffany Carnes, 13, Natalie Carnes, 6, and Jacob Macke, 9. The Mackes have dinner.
Everybody has a story worth telling. That's the theory, anyway. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed. Stories appear weekly.

You can't tell yet how it will turn out. But Marty and Sharon Macke have high hopes for their Deer Park home.

They're going to gut the kitchen, put up new drywall, install countertops, and get new appliances. Meanwhile, the living room is in the midst of a makeover as Marty strips decades of paint from the woodwork. Once it's stained, he'll start on the hardwood floors.

It's a work-in-progress, which also describes their family life.

One thing's certain: Marty, 42, and Sharon Macke, 45, are the glue that holds everything - and everyone - together.

Their blended family - Natalie, 6; Blake, 8; Jacob, 9; Tiffany, 13; Derrick and Joshua, both 18 - is a bit more blended than most. Challenges? You bet. "But we're together," Sharon says. "We love 'em all to death."

The story of how they came together begins with Sharon. She's an outgoing, loquacious woman who readily acknowledges making unwise choices early in life. "I just wanted to get married," she says, "and have babies."

Sharon did both. But when her marriage fell apart, she struggled as a single parent to raise three children. While Sharon was away at work, her oldest daughter became involved with a boy. She got pregnant at 15. And again two years later. Unwilling to obey her mother's rules, she moved out, taking her young children, Blake and Natalie, with her.

When it became apparent her daughter couldn't care for the children, Sharon sought and was granted legal custody, even though she had her own two children at home. That was five years ago.

About a year later, Sharon called Marty. Both had grown up in Deer Park. They'd known each other since grade school.

"We started going out," Marty says, "and that was it." They married two years later, in 2002.

Marty had been divorced twice. When his first marriage ended, he got custody of his three children, Joshua, Joe and Jenny; the latter two now are in their 20s and on their own. When his second marriage ended, he got custody of Jacob.

Household issues

As Marty and his two children, Sharon and her two children, and Sharon's two grandchildren all began living together under one roof, some issues had to be addressed, not the least of which was discipline.

"That was rough at first," Marty says. "I'm a disciplinarian."

The children knew Sharon to be more easygoing, so they often turned to her - the path of least resistance - when it came to pushing limits.

Sharon and Marty had to find a way to meet in the middle on the issue. Meanwhile, Marty had some spats with Derrick, and the two oldest boys didn't always mix well.

But in the last half year, family relations have improved greatly. "Everybody knows what they need to do," Marty says.

And instead of eight people going in eight different directions, common interests help keep the family together.

Marty, a mechanic for a Jeep dealership, maintains a fleet of two mini-motorcycles and a four-wheeler that the four youngest kids enjoy riding on local trails. In warm-weather months, the family's pop-up camper gets plenty of use, as does the above-ground pool in the back yard.

Bonding through sports

Sports, too, brings them together. Jacob and Blake play organized basketball, baseball and football, while Natalie is a cheerleader. Marty helps out at the boys' practices, and will be head coach of Blake's football team.

Sharon attends every game. She also insists that the whole family go to church.

"We stay busy," Marty says.

"I run constantly," says Sharon, who works part time for Skyline Chili.

Amid all the running, the couple hopes their children are learning some lessons about what it takes to be a family. Hard work, for one.

"I want them to be responsible adults when they get older," Marty says.

And Sharon doesn't want them to repeat the mistakes she once made.

You can't tell just yet how it will turn out. But Marty and Sharon Macke have high hopes.


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