It's no secret we are a proud, blended family. That's what happens when you marry a man with a past. It doesn't always make for smooth sailing and our family is no different. We've had our shares of ups and downs over the past thirty plus years.
Despite differences, we've been fortunate to have many opportunities to share time together - and create a few joined memories along the way. We've always managed to conquer what gets in our way - even when it is our selves.
Mike's oldest son Rex was just a couple years younger than me. He and his wife Debbie have always been very dear friends. Always welcoming and open arms. We were thrilled when they had an opportunity to vacation in San Diego.
When we were preparing for a move to Caracas, Venezuela my dear in-laws created Christmas in October for our visit. They decorated the house (as did neighbors) and put up the tree. We had our big Christmas meal and exchanged gifts. This was the first long visit Mike had with three of his older children after they moved from California with their Mom in 1982.
When we were living in Venezuela, Michael and Renee graduated from their Christian College in Dallas, TX and were heading to Jamaica for mission work. For their graduation gift, we helped them with tickets to Jamaica by way of Venezuela, for a visit with our young family.
Renee returned to Venezuela the following year with her fiance Jerry. We were honored to help them with their wedding plans.
We even were fortunate to be able to travel to Jamaica to be a part of their wedding.
When we lived in Puerto Rico, Renee and husband Jerry came to visit for Christmas. They already had their oldest adopted son Mandela.
We were blessed to meet our new grandson Caleb after he was born in Dallas, TX.
Tonya, Danny and Caleb visited us in Wisconsin just before Thanksgiving. It was their first visit to see us.
We made another cross country trip to the Washington Coast. We drove through Colorado to pick up Danny and Tonya who joined us at Kalaloch as did Michael. We gathered to scatter the cremains of my in-laws at their favorite place on earth.
Renee and Jerry often returned to Wisconsin and spent time with us. Jerry is also from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - close to where we lived. They came for church visits every Fall. Tonya was able to meet Renee several times as well.
Thank goodness the girls traveled. Tonya came in 1999 to put her nursing skills to work after Mike's first back surgery. I'm not shy about admitting my weakness for these type of issues. Erin was right in their with Tonya helping with wounds. Renee and I shopped. hehe.
Years later the group grew considerable and we were able to get our Jamaican family to come to Wisconsin for Christmas. It was their first opportunity to play in snow and they took full advantage. Jerry and Renee joined us with Mandela, Alexander, Ricardo, Jourdan and Kalen.
For our move from Wisconsin to Idaho, Mike was already living in Boise. I was moving two vehicles, three teens, and two dogs cross country. What's a girl to do? Invite siblings for a Shaw version of the Griswald Family Vacation. Renee with Kalen and Jourdan joined us at the start. Along the way second daughter Tonya flew in with Caleb and Mikayla, rented a car, picked up Jerry after a church fundraiser, and joined in the caravan. We used walkie-talkies to communicate; used blank car windows to share window-chalk messages with our fellow Interstate travelers. We stopped along the way for every 'big ball of twine (and a few better known places) en route to Boise.
In Boise we met Mike, and were joined by his second oldest son Michael, who was now living in Montana. This is one of the first times we had six of Mike's seven children together for a photo. We have many group family photos of different combinations of kids, but never one with all seven together. Mike's oldest son Rex passed away in January, 2008. Proof you need to live every day to the most and let go of unimportant things that get in the way of happiness.
Sometimes blended families have a break down in communication. We missed out on several years together as a group. It happens. Fingers get pointed. Heated words get exchanged, doors close and fractions of the family remain. We were no different. We are just grateful for the relationships which remained.
In Spring Break of 2009 Renee and Tonya, her husband Danny and Jourdan, Kalen, Caleb and Mikayla came to Boise to try our hot springs and snow-covered slopes for a change of pace from Texas and Jamaica.
In 2011, Tonya and Danny joined us for a Christmas holiday.
Life has a way of taking on the 'rolling stone' effect. Weeks, then months slip by. Suddenly it's been a year or more and you haven't' seen one another for reasons of health or schedules or just day to day living.
Communication doesn't happen as easily nor as frequently as you hope. We aren't a normal family. Or maybe we are. Who's to say?
When your heart tells you to reach out or you have a desire to BE part of the family it's important to step outside of your comfort zone and follow your heart. Last year the lines of communication once closed, were opened. Baby steps. What's most important is knowing you have family to turn to when you have a need... knowing they've always been there for you... waiting for you.
This August fate brought Michael to Boise, and brought Mike home from his summer in the Fire Tower at the same time. You have to feel in your heart this reunion, after 8 years, was meant to be.
It was a very special first. The first time brother met his nephews as well as sister-in-laws and brother-in-law. After his introduction Mr. T whispered "Uncle Mikie looks like Papa" and was very interested in seeing his badge.
Mike with four of his children.
Michael and Mike
I still have this desire to one day see Mike with all of his living children together. I accept I have no control over others lives. I can't force things to occur until everyone feels the same way. I've prayed over this for more than thirty years and hope to one day see it to fruition.