Today is all about blended families…and the love that grows within. I have five sisters and a brother…add to that three stepsisters, and a stepbrother and you have a team of kids that filled a three bedroom, one bath house with crazy times, lots of laughter, and, of course, some fighting, but in the end…lots of love. I have lost two of my sisters, two of my stepsisters, and a stepbrother. I have nieces and nephews who fill the gap left behind, our love for them in our hearts forever.

I’ve talked about my children, Mike, Kristin, and Brook. Along with my grandchildren, Lindsay, Savannah, Jo, and Cameron…these seven people are simply the heart and soul of my existence…my blood. As much as I love them, there are others who have entered my heart…and stayed there. We have built memories, shared stories, and enjoyed adventures. I’ve already mentioned my stepsiblings…the others are my stepchildren. Two from a previous marriage, Jamie and Jesse…who, though they are no longer my stepchildren in the legal aspect, will always remain in my heart. When I married their dad, they were part of the package, and I’m blessed to have shared time with them, and to remain in contact with them today. Now, thanks to my wonderful husband, Dan, I am blessed with three more children, Shannon, Jessica, and Nathan (who we recently lost to suicide), and three more grandchildren, Ember, Phoenix, and baby Kaidence…life just kept getting better. I spent four years living in Colorado, and part of that time Shannon and Ember lived with us. Shannon and I quickly built our relationship, and Ember, daily, brought fun and adventure to our home. After they moved out, time was spent having them over for visits, sharing dinners, and the occasional escape for Shannon and me, as we left Ember in Grandpa’s care while we enjoyed time at the movies. In the summer, Nathan, and Jessica came for visits as their schedules allowed. Other times, Dan and I would travel to Ohio where Jessica and Nathan lived, or would meet them in Escanaba, Michigan for our winter hunt. While in Michigan, we spend time visiting other Vermote family members. I have two sister-in-laws, a brother-in-law, their spouses and families, along with cousins, an uncle and aunt. I also have a sister-in-law, her spouse and family in Wisconsin…so as we travel, my heart continues to be filled with stories, laughing till our sides ached, and making more memories.

I have also been blessed with my daughter-in-laws, Silver (Mike), Maureen (Jesse), and son-in-laws, Jason, (Kristin), and Brandon (Shannon)…they add an element of love as well. They are all wonderful people, filled with love for their children (step or not), and for my children as well. I have, at times I’m sure, been the “mother-in-law from”…well, we all know where that is…lol…when giving advice that wasn’t solicited, but hopefully the love I have for them is mutual. Then there are the parents of the children my children love…though some I never had a chance to meet due to their passing, others have welcomed me into their lives without hesitation.

However, the story doesn’t end quite yet…there are three other people that I’ve grown to care about…yes, even love, and they are the mothers of my stepchildren. Barb, (Jamie and Jesse’s mom), Janet, (Shannon’s mom) and Monica (Jessica and Nathan’s mom). Whether our connection is simply through Facebook, or the occasional family gathering, they are special because they are the mothers of my stepchildren. I’ve spent more time with Monica, most recently when Jessica and Monica (Nathan was there in spirit) came out to Washington and stayed with Dan and I for a few days before Christmas. I shared a few photos of our adventures in downtown Seattle, along with our Space Needle ride, and I look forward to their next visit. No matter how/where/when I spend time with one of these mothers, we share a bond as mothers, and I am grateful for their friendship.

As I look at all the people in my life, those who my blood runs through their veins, or those who came in via marriage(s), I recognize how lucky I am. If I ever wondered if my heart was big enough to love just one more person, my question was answered with a resounding yes. There are people that pass in the night, people that stay for a while before venturing off to new places…acquaintances that have touched our lives in many ways, at many times…then there are the people we have become connected to through another…my blood may not travel through their veins, our history may not be the same…but love has no boundaries, it can’t be contained…love is love, and I’m blessed to say my “family” is plentiful and rich with love.