To My Dad, on Father’s Day

Dear Dad,

In honour of Father’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly share just how much you mean to me.  Although, I often express myself better in writing, I still struggle to find the words to describe just how special you are.

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Your gentle, easygoing nature makes people of all ages love to be around you.  You’re quiet when you need to be, wise when you need to be, and funny when you need to be.  You’re an intelligent man that I look up to very much.

As the years have passed, I have watched you work endlessly for your family and for this I am eternally grateful. You were a dedicated worker and easily gained the admiration and respect of your co-workers.  You volunteer for your community and those who know you, know they can count on you. No matter, what members of the family have needed you, you’ve pushed your own wants and needs aside to be there.  From helping Mike through the most difficult time in his life – to being there every step of the way for Grandma and Grandpa as they aged – to endless home renovations and car repairs – you are always, always there when someone needs a helping hand.  Please know that your family appreciates this very, very much and I hope that I will never take it for granted.

DSC07689Another thing I love about you, Dad, is how you have become one of the most amazing grandfathers I have ever seen. Children have always loved you – they flock to you for your child-at-heart, entertaining ways.  Whether it’s hunting monkeys, trips to the park, or playing game after game of Hello Kitty Trouble, my children and nieces know they can count on G-pa for hours of fun.  You go out of your way to make sure they have everything they could need or want, and for this, I thank you, not only on their behalf, but also on mine.  Watching you as a grandfather is both admirable and amazing.

Not only are you a wonderful grandfather, I have also been blessed to have you as my role model for what a good husband truly should be. Mom once told me that she knew you were the one because of the gentle, kind way you spoke to her from the very beginning.  I am so proud to say that you are still this way.  You have always been there for Mom, just like you have for the rest of us.  You have stayed committed and by her side through all the ups and downs, and this means the world to me.  Thank you for teaching me how a woman should be treated, for always respecting Mom, and for being the perfect role model in your role as a husband.

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But most of all, Dad, I want to thank you for being the world’s best Dad.  I don’t know how I got so lucky to be born to such amazing parents.  There really are no words for how much you and Mom mean to me and for how thankful for everything you guys have done for me and our family.

Not many women can say that there Dad is one of their best and most dearest friends, but I definitely can, and am proud to say it.  I know that whenever we spend time together, it will be enjoyable, and filled with laughter and precious memories.  Now that I am grown, there aren’t many people I’d rather spend time with, than you.  Whether it’s camping, taking trips, or just spending time with family, I love it when we are together and look forward to making many more memories with you.

Of course, one of my most special memories with you, happened a couple of years ago when you walked me down the aisle on my wedding day.  It was a moment I had dreamed of for years, and as the last-second emotions and jitters set in, I had you by my side to take my arm and steady me.  You were my rock that day, just like you always have been.  Because you were by my side, I was able to feel nothing but calmness and joy as I walked down that aisle.  I couldn’t have done it without you.

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So, today, and every day, I want you to know how much I respect, admire, and love you.  I am truly honoured to have such a wonderful, loving, and supportive man to call my Dad.

With all my love,

Kelly  xoxo

 

 

 

Celebrating My Grandparents’ Love

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I have never liked the part of traditional wedding vows that say “Until death do us part”.  I’ve never really understood or agreed with that idea ~ Does it mean that once one spouse dies, the couple no longer love each other?  Certainly not. I like to think that a couple’s true love lasts for all eternity.  It surely doesn’t stop at the moment of death.  Surely after one’s passing, the living spouse continues to love the other with his/her whole heart?   I am thinking about this more than usual today because today – June 14, 2015 – would have been my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary and my Grandfather’s 89th birthday.

Sadly, my Grandpa passed away a little over a month ago.  But that doesn’t mean the love shared between him and my Grandma for all of those years no longer goes on.  I would like to believe that their love will always exist.  There’s no “until death do us part” in their marriage.

Although Grandpa isn’t here for the occasion, I still feel like 65 years of marriage is an amazing thing that needs to be recognized, celebrated, and cherished.  So this post is in honour of my Grandma and Grandpa – Ron and Esther Palmateer – and their many years of love and marriage.

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One of my favourite memories of my Grandpa, I mentioned in my eulogy at his funeral last month.  At their 60th anniversary celebration, my Grandpa was asked about the secret to a successful marriage.  With his keen sense of humour, my Grandpa chuckled and answered, “She worked inside, I worked outside.  And every now and then we’d meet up for coffee.”  All of those who knew him, loved Grandpa for his wonderful sense of humour and he took every opportunity there was to make others laugh.

After Grandpa’s passing, Grandma mentioned to me about her and Grandpa “not making it” to their 65th wedding anniversary.  But, to me, when you make it a month shy of 65 years, you made it.  In this day and age, so many people give up on marriage.  They forget the vows they promised and the commitment they made, and they let the struggles and stresses of life split them apart.

But Grandma, you and Grandpa made it.  Through the ups and downs, the raising of eight children, the maintaining of a 700-acre farm and homestead, through health and sickness, the good times and bad – you made it.  Your love was strong, dedicated, and true from the day you got married -and as one of your many grandchildren, I am immensely proud of the family and commitment you and Grandpa built together.

Although you lost your beloved husband, dear Grandma, I want you to know that you made it.  You and Grandpa will forever have a life of trust, companionship, and love that lasts for all eternity.  I know today Grandpa is smiling down at his “little Esther” with love and longing in his heart.

So Grandma, while Grandpa may not be here in body with you today or the next, please remember that he is always with you.  He is by your side today, just like he was sixty-five years ago, and as he will be for all of your tomorrows.  Although he is gone physically, his spirit and his memory lies in the place you’ve always held him – your heart – where he shall forever remain.

And while you hold on to these memories please know how immensely blessed I am to have had wonderful grandparents like you and Grandpa.  Your commitment to one another and to your extended family is truly something I aspire to and hold so very dear.

With all my love,

Kelly xo

 

 

 

To Brandon & Mariah, with all my love

Like many little girls, when I was younger I loved to daydream about what my life would be like some day. Who will I marry?  Where will I live?  How many children will I have and what will their names be?  Like other type-A, highly organized people, I had my path set out before me: graduate university in my early twenties, get married by my mid-twenties, and start having babies

The kids and I at the pumpkin patch - 2013.

The kids and I at the pumpkin patch – 2013.

(probably 2-3) by my late twenties.  Now that I am older, I have learned that life certainly doesn’t always work out the way we plan.  But sometimes, the unexpected can be just as good, or dare I say, even better.

When I met my husband about eight years ago, I had never dated a guy with children before.  Many women were hesitant to do so, but never having had the experience, and having a particular love for children, I found the fact that Brad was a father endearing and sweet.  I eagerly accepted Brandon, 3, and Mariah, 7, and spent many of our first weekends together playing rounds of Disney Monopoly and other kids’ games.

Our family, early days.

Our family, early days.

For the first few years, being a “stepmom” was easy.  At the time, Brad only had the kids every second weekend.  I stepped back when it came to discipline and let Brad and his ex, Julie, take care of that.  I didn’t have the day-to-day responsibility of helping with homework (although I loved to help Mariah learn how to read), carting them around to various activities, and making sure their household chores were done.

But all that changed about three years into my relationship with Brad.  The kids’ mom had a career change and asked us if we were interested in splitting custody of the kids (we’d have them one week, she’d have them the next).  I was reluctant for such a sudden change, but Brad saw it as an opportunity for what he really wanted – far more time with his kids, and so we agreed.

Suddenly, our fun-filled weekends of games, play time, and activities, with the kids turned into a much larger responsibility.  I was no longer just the “fun” stepmom with an endless supply of craft ideas; I was now a real parent with rules, a hand in discipline, and my very own set of expectations.

Toronto trip

Toronto trip 2009

That first year, as a new “mom” was rough.  As all new parents know, having kids is a life-changing, huge sacrifice.  It seems like your whole world is turned upside down.  You no longer operate under your own schedule and your own priorities are never, ever first anymore.  I was the primary breadwinner at the time too, so that meant spending a lot of my hard-earned money on things the kids needed (until this point in my life, all my extra cash went to shopping for clothes and beauty products!)  Most parents have at least nine months (or longer while they plan pregnancies) to wrap their heads around this idea – for me, it was different.  It seemed, I was thrown into motherhood overnight – and to make things even tougher, I was raising someone else’s kids.

Camp Kipawa

Camp Kipawa

There was definitely a lengthy period of adjustment for both me and the kids as we got used to living and being with each other in an entirely new way.  I vividly remember the day we hit the breaking point.  The kids, as kids sometimes do, had been fighting non-stop and just generally acting miserable.  I was filled with resentment and feeling unappreciated for all the sacrifices I had made to have them living with us.  I was at my wit’s end and as tears of frustration streamed down my face, my husband (boyfriend at the time), looked at me and gently said, “You know, Kel, there are guys just like me out there with no kids, you could go and find one.”   While I perfectly respected and loved him for the option of “setting me free”, the thought of leaving him tore my heart into a hundred pieces.  It was in that moment, that I had a major, life-changing realization:  if I was going to love Brad and have a future with him, then I had to 100% accept his kids and love them and treat them as if they were my own.

From that day forward, that realization has helped me to become a better, more loving and accepting stepmom.  It’s a unique kind of love when you’re raising

Family game night

Family game night

kids that are not biologically yours.  I don’t have the inner, maternal “bond” that many mothers develop while their babies are still in the womb, but I do love these kids the same as if they had my own flesh and blood.  I have the same expectations for them and want to teach them all the things I would teach my own babies (although sometimes it’s easier said than done, considering they bounce back and forth between two, very different households). And while I never held them in my arms while rocking them to sleep, changed their diapers, or experienced many of their “firsts”, we do have a very special history together chalked full of precious memories.

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Dancing with Brandon

Don’t get me wrong – there are still days when it is extremely tough – especially now that one is a teenager and the other thinks he is a teenager.  I still have extremely high expectations of how I think they should behave but am learning that kids will be kids, and for some things at least, I have to let it go.  I am learning to deal with the fact that I have to do excessive, endless loads of laundry, that I’m practically a personal taxi service, and that no matter how many times I tell them, they will never remember not to leave their shoes in the middle of the entranceway beside the front door.

For Brandon and I particularly, it’s been a challenging road at times.  For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why he insisted so much on pushing my buttons, and why I just couldn’t control my temper with him.  So many times, I ended up screaming and yelling at him (and he back at me), and then crying my heart out with pure frustration and guilt.  After much work, and advice from our family counsellor, I am learning how to be a better stepmom to Brandon. One thing I have realized just recently is one of the reasons Brandon and I have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye: we are actually a lot alike.  We are both tirelessly stubborn and like to have things done our own way.  We like to control every situation and aren’t very good at listening to others when we are fired up about a topic.  But while this has its obvious challenges, I have to admit, there’s a small part of me that’s proud he’s a little bit like me.

I was honoured to have Mariah as one of my bridesmaids.

I was honoured to have Mariah as one of my bridesmaids.

It’s funny now when I look back at pictures of the kids from that time when Bradley and I first met.  They are so little in those pictures – the amount they’ve grown and have changed, absolutely floors me. Then it hits me ~ I have been around for half of Mariah’s life, and Brandon probably remembers very little about life without me.  It makes me immensely happy to realize this, immensely happy to know that I am truly a real part of their life, and them of mine.  Not only that, but it makes me incredibly proud – I think of how much

Canada's Wonderland

Canada’s Wonderland

Brandon has progressed on the ice, from a little Timbit, who couldn’t even stand on skates, to a kid who dreams of playing in the NHL.  I think of Mariah’s smile as she lights up the stage at her dance recitals and dances so beautifully it makes me cry.

It’s true, I may not haven given birth to these kids, and it may not be at all what I thought I wanted out of life, but now, looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  From two, adorable little faces who smiled shyly at me the first time we met, I have learned so much.  I have learned that it doesn’t take flesh and blood to be a parent.  I have learned that parenting is by far the most challenging job in the world.  I have learned that there will be ups and downs, and some days you will feel like you just can’t go on, but that other days, your heart will spill over with love and pride, for two small beings that you can’t imagine your life without.  And most of all, I have learned that they are mine – my son, my daughter, who I love very much and who forever will hold a very dear place in the depths of my heart.

 

 

My Mother – My Best Friend

In honour of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share this post that I wrote awhile back on International Women’s Day….

My beautiful Mama

My beautiful Mama

My Mom (who I affectionately call “Mama” at times) is not only an amazing mother but my truest and dearest friend.  There is no love quite like the love between my Mother and I.  I have no way of re-paying her for the years of unconditional love she has given me.  I don’t have enough words to thank her for everything she does for me and our entire family.  And I will never have enough words to truly express the love I feel for her, or the thousands of happy memories I have of our time together.  But I will definitely try.

Like her mother before her (another amazing woman, my Grandma Hayes!), my Mom is the true matriarch of our family.  It is because of her that are family gathers together at every holiday filling our stomachs with her delicious meals 100_6026until we are about to burst.  I have seen her plan, organize, cook, and prep for days to ensure that every last detail is perfect, not because she has someone to impress, but because it’s her way of showing how much she loves us.  I have seen my Mom work tirelessly at the same job for over 35-years to give her family everything they needed, wanted, or desired and even when she didn’t get recognition that she deserved, she continued to work hard simply because it was the right thing to do.  I have seen my Mom put her own time, schedule, priorities aside over and over again, to make sure others are happy, cared for, and loved.  It’s just what she does.  I just hope she knows how truly appreciated she is.

As mentioned earlier, I have years of memories with my Mama, but one that stands out in my mind, happened just a couple of years ago.  I was in the process of shopping for my bridal gown, and had had a disappointing first attempt at it.  Anxious to try on more gowns, I made a quick appointment at a shop here in Timmins, on a weekday night.  The plan was to bring my step-daughter Mariah and if I found anything I’d like, I’d bring my Mom back on another day.  So that is what we did – we shopped, I picked out some beautiful gowns, and the lovely sales lady eagerly stepped inside the dressing room to help me get into one of them. Then as she pulled back the curtain of the fitting room, so I could step out to show Mariah, there she was, her beautiful smile beaming from ear-to-ear: my Mama!  Overcome with happiness to have her there on such an important occasion, the tears flowed and my Mom enveloped me in one of her incredibly loving, perfect hugs. Later, my Mom told me she couldn’t just sit at home knowing I was trying on gowns somewhere else.  So she’d taken the next day off work, hopped in her car, and had driven 2-hours immediately after work to be with me!  Long story short, I didn’t find my gown that day, but the fact that my Mom knows when I need her and will do anything to be there for me, will always stand out as one my most favourite things about her.

My Mom & I on my wedding day.  She was there for me every step of the way.

My Mom & I on my wedding day. She was there for me every step of the way.

This memory of my Mom’s love is just one of thousands or more that will forever lie embedded in my heart.  And I know in the years to come, we will continue to make amazing memories and become even closer friends. She will be there for me no matter what comes my way, and knowing that is beyond reassuring.  I will get to watch her spoil and love her grandchildren, and feel so blessed that my kids get to call her “Grandma”.  I will cherish every moment, big or small, that we have together.  And most of all, I will aspire.  I will aspire to be a woman truly amazing as my Mama and her Mom before her.  I will work relentlessly, give of myself unconditionally, and more than anything, I will love fiercely.

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In Toronto – I was proud to have my Mom there to take part in my Bachelorette weekend! She was a real trooper!

Mama and me - circa 1981

Mama and me – circa 1981