happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 4 (FGK 95)

I finally have a year – 1960. So mom was about to turn 20 while on this adventure, and only 19 while she was on that ship. She lovingly gave my boy a trip to Iceland with his school when he was 17 (unfortunately mom died a couple of months before he took the trip, he wanted to badly to be able to tell her all about his adventures when he returned). I thought of mom and my grandparents often while the boy and I were texting across continents and time zones – I was very grateful for technology so that I knew he was safe and having a good time.

The Cochrane paper only printed excerpts of mom’s letters from her travels- I really hope that the whole story is in the letters in this box here. Of course, I’m sure that all the best stories didn’t even make it into the letters – but it’s fascinating to hear of her travels.

Sunday September 24th, 1960

We are all starting to are preparations to leave the boat – it seems as if we have been on here forever.

We had a masquerade ball last night. Gail, two others and I went as a French singing group. We didn’t win anything, but we had all sorts of fun parading around. The name of our group was les Quatre Barbes (The Four Beards). We made the hats and beards out of paper and borrowed striped t-shirts from some boys. we were a weird looking lot. There was singing afterwards and folk dancing. None of us in our cabin could get to sleep last night so we sat up all hours talking. As a result I didn’t get out bed until 3:30 this afternoon! I can imagine what Dad has to say to that!!

We must be nearing land as it is getting very misty out and we pass the occasional ship. One night when we were out in the middle of the ocean we passed a big liner at night. It made a magnificent sight with all its lights.

Later – We passed a lighthouse on Ireland a little while ago. This time tomorrow night we will be going across France in a bus on our way to Tours!!

We just got back from the mad pizza foray. It is so funny to see the Italian waiters rushing through the room with the trays high above their heads screaming in Italian while everyone is trying to grab the pizza. The tall Americans are very frustrating because they can reach the trays easier. Marshall would have it made. A darling little Italian officer who is one of my friends brought us a large pile so we missed all the crowd.

I almost know how to play bridge which will be a very bad habit. It’s really not so terribly different from whist except for the bidding and scoring which I find harrowing.

I had a letter from Mrs. Neilson when I got on the boat. It was so very nice to have a bon voyage card on board. Please tell her “Thank you” for me when you see her.

September 25th – We’re sailing up the channel now and due to land at Le Havre any hour. There is such an air of excitement on the ship when you walk around. After 10 days that land is going to be a thrilling sight.

It is very sad to leave all the good friends we have met while crossing. Sharing experiences with them made it all twice as much fun. I’ll try and write some from Tours.

Margie Copithorne.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France 3 (FGK 94)

My first thought was “If I’d found myself alone for the day in New York in my early 20s, the last thing I’d have done is gone to watch the UN.” But then I realized that I had found myself alone for the day in New York in my mid 20s and I spent the day at the Museum of Natural History – just a different sort of nerd I suppose.

September 22nd

We have been on the ship for a week and there are only 3 more days to go. I have my sea legs and am no longer sea sick but our cabin is a state of chaos.

They are holding a Model United Nations on board this afternoon but I went to sleep instead of going. It would have been fun to compare it to the one in New York —- which reminds me.

I haven’t told you about the first part of our trip yet. We had fabulous flying weather from Calgary to San Francisco. All the changing autumn colours over the mountains were low enough to see all the details. The customs men boarded the plane in Spokane for me, so I didn’t have to leave it once during the trip. It was interesting to see all the country we drove through by air, when we got near San Francisco I could also see the road by which we left.

The jet flight from San Francisco to New York was marvellous, it took us only 5 hours to cross the continent. There was no noise to speak of and no rough weather the entire way. We were up 29,000 feet.

Our boat was delayed by the hurricane (Donna) so we didn’t sail till 10 pm. The university rented part of a hotel and we were let loose in the city from 9am to 7pm. Five of us spent the morning touring lower New York in a bus. We went up to the United Nations building about 11:30 am and I was so fascinated I spent the rest of the day there. We made a fairly complete tour of the building and then attended a Security Council debate on the Congo. It was thrilling to sit there and see history being made. Gail and I got caught in the 5 o’clock rush when we were trying to get back to the hotel. They are really trying to kill off the pedestrians in that city. You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, even on the “walk” signs.

Getting on the boat was chaos. Everyone was screaming at everyone else in a different language. We almost died when we saw the ship. It’s just a little larger than the one we took to Nassau I’m sure. The rooms make that one look like a luxury liner. Nevertheless, we are having all sorts of fun on it since most of the people are students who don’t really care about things like that. We got a wonderful view of the New York Skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we were leaving the harbour. The next day and since then – we have seen only the waves and a few porpoises and birds.

By the way, I haven’t thanked you for my roses! They were just beautiful, and cheer up our little cabin no end. It was so exciting to get mail the next day, far out in the Atlantic.

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happiness

Mom’s Tour de France -2 (FGK 93)

I recall having a conversation with mom when I was an adult where she said something like “you have to remember, I’m essentially a paraplegic” and it completely threw me. Although I knew she’d lost use of her stomach, back, right leg, and most of her left leg muscles due to polio I was so used to seeing her marching around on those crutches it was easy to forget how fragile she was. I was fortunate enough to have taken a 3 day cruise several years ago (ironically to Nassau – which mom references), and navigating the movement of the ship and the small quarters of the cabin was challenging at times – I can’t imagine doing all of that on crutches like mom did. If she fell it was a big deal, she needed help to get back up and often medical assistance as well. It astounds me how brave she was, and how brave my grandparents were because it must have been incredibly frightening knowing their baby was travelling by ship to another part of the world.

We’ve jumped several years from the letters in the hospital, but still it’s amazing how relatively quickly mom went from the letter sent by Grandma asking her if she thought she’d be able to sit up in bed, or be able to learn to walk on her crutches, to letters being sent by mom on her way to Europe to study. No wonder Grandma wanted to let the community know how well mom was doing, they’d all spent years praying for her to get better. While it wasn’t perhaps the full recovery that they’d hoped for, mom was really living an extraordinary life.

Margie left Calgary on September 13, by plane to join her fellow students at San Francisco and fly by jet to New York to catch their boat to sail to France.

Ahoy there:

I am out on the deck sun-bathing and trying to keep my stomach in one place. Why, oh why didn’t I pack my sea-sick pills. We have finally hit upon a cure – always keep something in your stomach, this is very fattening, but it helps.

I wish you could see the “Asconia’ (our ship). I don’t know where they got the pictures for the folder “Burnett’s” gave me but it wasn’t this ship. Actually it has quite a history. It was sunk during the war and remained at the bottom of the ocean for ten years. An Italian company bought it – dragged it up, and fitted it out as a student ship.

There are six girls in my cabin, all going to Tours. The room is about the same size as the one we had in Nassau (very small) and we are all jammed in there with six months of luggage. We take turns dressing.

The crew is just charming. They are all very Italian and when they get excited their gestures and expressions are something to see. Their English is not so good and my Italian is worse so as a result our conversation consists of a little bit of each. The steward and maid for our room are very mischievous and love to play tricks on us. One day we came in and discovered a pair of pyjamas stuffed with a face on it posed to represent one of us when we are sick. They have a terrible time getting us out of bed in the morning as everyone wants to sleep until noon. Gail and I have a French lesson at 9:15 am so we at least have to get up for that. There is always something to do on the ship – language classes, discussion groups, folk singing and dancing, art and music groups, card games, etc, etc. There are students from all over Europe and America on board. I haven’t met very many French students yet, but we have some Swiss girls at our table who are lots of fun and very interesting.

Last night we went to a movie which wasn’t very good at all but the comments made during the show made it hilarious.

They serve a midnight snack of pizza so we decided to go and try it. We had six pieces each!! It was delicious but if we continue this way we won’t be able to waddle off the boat. The meals here are something to behold. I haven’t made it for breakfast yet, but there are a few who say it has everything. Lunch and dinner are both huge. There is always a big dish of hors d’oeuvres and pizza and spaghetti are a must. After all this plus a soup and a salad comes the main meal. Dessert is always some gooey confection which breaks your heart to turn down. Ormando, our waiter, takes great pride in the meals and is just crushed when we turn something down.

This morning in our French class I had to tel them all about Canada, en français. We try to talk French as much as possible in our cabin. I can understand the Americans when they speak French but I can’t understand the French.

Yesterday we attended a discussion on Algeria. There were some French and a Moroccan and Algerian speaking. Feelings really ran high and it turned out to be a very hot discussion. I gained a lot of insight into the problem by seeing how strongly they felt about it. There are so many nationalities abroad, we can get quite a variety of ideas. I’ve found out I’ve had many mistaken concepts of their countries, but on the other hand, they have some odd ideas about America too.

Gail is up learning Swedish. She is part Swedish, so she takes quite an interest in it. I was really lucky to get such a wonderful roommate. She’s the type of person who gets to know others easily and is always in a good mood. She’s always helping me and doing things for me. She’s going to be fun to travel with because she’s always full of energy and eager to see everything.

I’m sitting in the ballroom writing this, there are countless games of bridge going on with a piano at one end and a record player at the other. No one can really hear what the other people are saying.

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happiness

Everyone Has Television (FGK-47)

Last summer my girl decided she wanted to paint her bedroom. It is the “blue room” at Grandma’s – one of the original bedrooms in the house. I tried to explain to her what a nightmare it had been 25 years ago when my sister and I painted the living room, dining room, and hallway. A nightmare because walls had shifted and the amount of repair work was unbelievable, but also kind of fun because it was like uncovering a time capsule. There were several layers of wall paper, then different portions of the wall were painted. We could even see where one time Grandma had painted around the furniture resting against the wall in a panic because she was having people over. It was an experience, but one I’d be just as happy not to do again.

The girl uncovered at least 5 layers of wallpaper in her bedroom, a mystery door frame, as well as a window on the wall joining her room to my room (Grandma’s room), which made sense as it had once been the end of the house. After several months of work and buckets of frustration tears, she decided to wallpaper over the walls. There was no way we were ever going to get the walls in good enough shape to paint them with our level of expertise. But now the room looks fantastic. There really is something to be said for how fresh walls change a room.

This letter was a little over 3 years after mom got polio.

Cochrane, Alberta

Oct 24/1954

Dear Margie

We’ve sure had a busy week. The paper hanger was out and hung paper in six rooms. Some of it I like and some I’m rather disappointed in, but anyway they look nice and clean. Somehow papers don’t always look the same on the wall as they do in a small demonstration piece.

The school children had their field day on Friday. Brushy Ridge came and competed too to add a note of interest. They did very well too but when the final totals were taken our school was a few points ahead.

Our new refrigerator came on Friday. It holds a lot more food than our old one did, especially in the freezing compartment.

This week the men almost filled the barn loft with hay. Then the children came home and they had a wonderful time playing in it. They built tunnels and houses and played hide and seek for hours. Boy were they dirty and dusty when they came in. They sure needed a good bath and clean clothes.

The boys were getting to be good shots with their shot guns. They bring in ducks or chickens every week and today they had to break the ice in the lake ahead of the boat so they could get the ducks that were shot down over the water. I guess winter can’t be too far of as the ice is forming thicker all the time.

Hector McDowell, who built our barn, was back last week and built a nice sun porch on the front of the bunkhouse. It is 22’x8’. Someday I may use this place as a cook house so I won’t have quite so much work every summer.

We weaned our calves this week and there sure was a racket for 3 days with their eternal bawling. This is about the last of the fall work so we are just about caught up. I’m so glad so I feel like getting out and visiting folks once again.

Everyone around here seems to be getting television sets. We can’t and now we don’t have 110 volt power. I’ll bet you’ll enjoy seeing the one at your home when you get back. George says it sure is a nice one.

Well so long for now. Hope you are already improving

Lovingly yours

Aunt Gertie

PS Last night George and I went to see “Seven Wives for Seven Brothers”. It was quite comical and we really enjoyed it. I want to see “Brigadoon” when it comes too.

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happiness

To the Girls in Ward 234 (FGK-40)

Sometimes I forget how young these kids were in the hospital. I mean, when I imagine my mom, aunt, and uncle I often just imagine shrunken down versions of their adult selves, which is silly because childhood me was not just a shrunken down version of who I am.

It must have been weird to be one of the ones who was discharged and back in the real world while their friends on the ward were still going through daily routines involving the painful packs and stuck in the day to day reality of polio wondering how their bodies would recover.

Mom would be 80 now and as I read these letters I find myself wondering what happened to her friends from the hospital, how did their lives turn out? I hope they all found peace and fulfillment.

(Addressed to the Girls in Ward 234)

Calgary, Alberta

July 1953

Dear Girls,

How are you all? I’ve been meaning to write for a long time but never got around to it. Terribly busy you know! Ha!

Is Iserna (?) out of her cast yet? If she is I bet she’s really happy. How about Margie? Has she still got packs? I guess Lil and Isabel and Mary Ann are pretty nearly home. Is Annie still in bed or is she up at all?

I sure wish I could get up to see you kids but because I’m under 16 i have to follow the rules. However Miss Baxter is away so I’ll try and get up one of these days.

How did you kids like the parade? I didn’t see it – but I took in al the rides one nite. I thought the stage show was very poor but I guess most people liked it.

I hear from Helen quite often. We phone back and forth all the time.

When is Rose coming in? I bet you kids will really have fun this summer. I sure hope you get well soon and are all out for the fall.

Love and best wishes always

Laurie

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happiness

Speaking in Pig Latin (FGK-18)

When I was in elementary school there were several instances where either mom or dad sent in a note for the teacher. It became normal practice for little Melissa to get called up to the teacher’s desk so that I could read the note for my teacher, as I was the only one around who could read my parents’ handwriting. They both joked about how it was the downside of having gone to law school and taken so many notes, their handwriting suffered because of it.

I found a gem of a letter to share today. It’s one started by mom to her friend Rose. I don’t know who Rose is- anyone?? Anyway, I can confirm from this letter that the handwriting was not a bad habit picked up in law school, but was firmly established by the time mom was 13.

1820 Richmond Road

Calgary, Alberta

Nov. 21, 1953

Dear Rose

I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner but…

Thanks so much for all the magazines you sent me. We enjoyed them very much. I liked your letter too (what I could make out of it).

I have a strange feeling this is going to be a dumb letter so you’d better stop now and prepare yourself for it.

Honestly, if you knew all the things we did in here! Right now the whole ward is talking in Pig Latin and King Tuts it’s really fun. I’ve got so that whenever a nurse asks me a question I answer her in King Tuts then the whole ward starts it. The poor woman goes out feeling dizzy.

I wish you could see me now, I’m under a stack of comics we borrowed from the boys down at hall to give to the big boys for their checker game. We discovered we hadn’t read them so we are reading them now. We got the checker game anyway.

This letter made me laugh, I could see mom’s strong childhood spirit shining through in every word. It also made me think of when we lived in Quebec and the boy went to the all French school. He got so frustrated trying to learn French to keep up with his friends, that he spent recesses and lunch teaching his classmates English. I know this because I was called into the school and scolded for having such a rebellious son.

I’m familiar with Pig Latin, but don’t know about King Tuts. I’ll have to look that up.

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happiness

A Real Hay Day (FGK-17)

Today is Mother’s Day, so I decided to post a letter to my mom from her mom. I can hear not only Grandma’s voice, but her “mother voice” throughout this letter. It’s so full of love, and also carries the mother reminders (did you write the thank you letters?), and also includes how she’s got mom’s back and is so proud of how well she’s doing.

I also had a little laugh, because it does not seem as though family conversations about the Stampede have changed at all in 70 years – lots of grumbling about how it’s not so great this year and we’re just not going to bother with it, then we all go down and have the time of our lives. Same. Thing. Every. Year.

RR2 Calgary, Alberta

July 9th, 1953

Dearest Margie

Just thought I’d scratch you a few lines so that Sheila can post the letter form the Old Timers Hut at the Stampede tomorrow ‘cause I hear they stamp them with some special stamp from there and thought you would like to have it.

Sheila and Ann rode up to the school and the rocks this morning while I made cookies and weeded the flower garden. It sure was a beautiful morning an the newly cut grass smelt so good. The weather is staying perfect for the Stampede and that is a good thing because there is a terrific number of tourists in Calgary.

Did you write and thank Aunt Annie for that nice box of eats yet? Hope my cake didn’t make you sick.

Marshall is busy plowing up in the homestead with Bill, and Ken and Dad are building a hay slide in Grand Valley. They are going to camp over there for the three weeks it will take to put up that hay and Mary is going to cook for them so Sheila and I will really be alone here. I have been trying to coax Sheila to go to Banff with me to take a course at the art school but she is not interested. Marshall is just not interested in the Stampede this year and doesn’t want to go at all, we have tickets for Saturday night by may not use them.

Is Smokey ever glad to have Anne here – he’s just showing off all the time. I took a snap of Anne holding him in your room this morning but I doubt it will come out very well, it’s none too bright in there now that the leaves are on the trees.

Aunt Ruth phoned this morning to say she heard Aunt Agnes’ Mother had died so Claude and Harry are coming back from the coast right away, they motored over together. I haven’t been talking to Winnie for a long time, have you thanked her for the mice yet? I guess I should phone her one of these days.

Marsh said that Shirley Norman is in the hospital again. He said there were 24 men there, the barn is over a hundred feet long, and they didn’t get it finished. He and Richard worked together and he said Hazel really did have a field day – they served them a swell afternoon tea – ice cream etc.

I owe Margaret Rowland a letter for ages now, I guess I should be writing her instead of you but I sure get terribly lonesome for you these days, just pray and pray that you will soon be able to walk and then you can come home for holidays at least. We sure have lots to be thankful for though – you are progressing really fast for the length of time you’ve had treatments.

Well I guess it’s time I made afternoon tea for Marsh & Bill, Sheila & Anne want to take it out to them I think so I’d better get to work. I’ve cut out quite a few things from the paper for your scrap book. I’ll take them in on Sunday.

So long for now dear – will see you Sunday

Loads and loads of love

Mom xxxxxxxx

The fancy stamp they put on the letter at the Stampede Grounds. 3 cents to mail a letter!!
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Christening, pageant, banquet, and first steps (FGK-16)

I’ve found a beautiful letter from Auntie Gertie. You know, it’s funny how things evolve. I started this wanting to know more about mom and her life before me – stories were so rare about her life before and particularly during polio. But I’m finding that along with discovering more about who mom was, I’m really learning a lot about our community here in Jumping Pound, what rural life was like in the 1950s, and the power of love and faith. Somehow it seems fitting to me that I’ve found these letters and these memories while we are stuck at home because of Covid, and I couldn’t imagine writing this anywhere besides From Grandma’s Kitchen.

Cochrane, Alta

October 25, 1953

Dear Margie,

We’ve certainly thought about you often, especially since you were home at thanksgiving. I’ll bet you felt as if it was the best thanksgiving you ever had. Even the weather co-operated. Sorry we didn’t see you then, but perhaps next time you are home we’ll have a chance.

To-day we went to church again and it was a christening Sunday Service. Vernice Wearmouth had her baby christened and she had the hiccups so bad we all got the giggles. The babies were all good as gold and stayed right through the service.

Last Thursday I went to a pageant on the Growth of Christianity. It was held at Western High School. It was quite good, one scene had all real Japanese actors and I really enjoyed them. the girls were ready pretty. The play went back in history to the pilgrims who came over in the Mayflower and took us through scenes up to present times in such countries as Scotland, Holland, Africa, Japan, and ____?. The costumes were very interesting and added quite a lot to the story.

Last Wednesday George and I went to a banquet at the Nag-Hey(?) a rather picturesque restaurant built of pink logs. The main room has a huge fireplace at one and over which are hung crossed ski poles. On the walls are show shoes, skis, and other sports equipment such as fishing rods, etc. There are some beautiful pictures of Indians painted by Gerda Chiristofferson. the skin looks so real it makes you want to touch it. Back of the long guest table is a huge drawing of a bucking horse and various brands. At each side of this are old fashioned ox cart wheels. On the table is a church wagon illuminated inside by a green light. There are many curios about, stuffed animal heads, a snowy owl, a model Indian teepee etc. The one side of the room has very large windows that command a beautiful large scale scene of the mountains and the sunsets.

First of all we had cocktails or ginger ale as we preferred. Then we had a scrumptious chicken dinner. Later after a speech by Clarence and one by Edith Edge we had a sing song. Mrs Sam Scott played the piano. Then we had a dance. Everyone had lots of fun and it was sure fun to be out with friends again.

The W.A. had a fine Floral Tea a couple of weeks ago. Mrs. Whitburn lectured on how to arrange flowers and care for them. Later the bouquets were given to the holders of lucky tickets. Then we had a tea and ___ of home cooking. I sold tons of the lottery tickets. One was to Nellie Bapti and another was to Mrs. Barkley. Georgie Copithorne won a lovely bouquet of roses and mums. By the way my sweet peas stalks and holly hocks are still blooming. Every day I expect to seem them frozen down but so far they have survived.

Last Friday the school children had a very interesting sports day. They had standing and running broad jumps, high jumps, foot races, and relay races. Then they put on a first aid show, demonstrating various bandages. It’s as rather cleverly done. Each child went over a high jump and purposely fell. At a signal from Mr. O’Brien certain students ran forward and gaven the patient a certain kind of bandage or a firemans lift etc. Done that way in a natural setting the first aid was quite effective.

Mrs. Cornelius Buckley married Art Koher lately. This Wednesday Edith Sibblad is having a small shower for her inviting only her well known friends. It should prove a very interesting party too.

Patsy is 5 years old now. My sister Sibyl(?) had a birthday party for her in town. None of our children ever had a real birthday party with guests and presents before. They always had a birthday cake but that’s all, so you see Patty had a pleasant surprise on her birthday.

I made rather a pretty punch work cushion cover lately. The design is made by pink roses and is done on black velvet so it is quite effective. Punch work is fun to do and I enjoy it.

Well Margie it’s time to get supper again. Seems as if all I do is cook. Food disappears at an alarming rate around here.

We are all glad to know you are improving and putting on weight.

Love and best wishes to you form all of us

Aunt Gertie

Edna just phoned to tell me you got some new shoes and took several steps today. We are so thrilled. Do keep up the good work. We are really proud of your progress.

That last part may have made me tear up a bit. Gosh, Aunt Gertie was a wonderful woman.

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Cake with my mom

Today is my mom’s birthday – being home is still fresh enough that I am so grateful for the fact that we get to be here and celebrate these events with our loved ones. There’s still that weird hole in our celebrations where Dad is supposed to be, but we come together all the same.

We had a family supper that was enhanced with the presence of my niece and nephew. They have been life long friends with my kids and when the four of them get together it’s hilarious chaos. It made the party that much better listening to their strange brand of humour.

I have spent the day thinking about what my mom has given me over the years. She has always shown me constant love and support –  I grew up knowing unconditional love because of how my parents loved us. I knew that no matter what I did or how I behaved they loved me because of who I was. The older I get the more I understand what a rare gift that is. When times get tough, my mom is always one of the first people to come forward and offer to help – no matter what it takes. I have watched her dig deeper than I would have ever thought possible to help out her loved ones. It makes me want to give that same gift to my tribe. There is something magical about knowing that someone has your back all the time – forever – no matter what. She’s also funny as hell.

My happiness moment – gathered around the dinner table – laughing – loving – being together – celebrating my mom.

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Uncategorized

Birthday time 

Today we celebrated my Mom’s birthday. I won’t tell you the number but it was a big one. In the past 11 years we have only been with her for one other birthday celebration, so it was wonderful to get to actually be in person with her on her special day. 

My Mom has taught me so many lessons about life. She’s taught me how to love; fiercely and unconditionally. She’s shown us her love through all our trials and tribulations. She’s taught me to love even when that seems like a difficult thing to do.

She’s taught me about strength. She’s shown me that it’s possible to beat the odds time and time again. She’s a living example that just because people tell you  that something  can’t be done does not mean that has to become your own personal  truth. She’s shown me that you can have tragedies happen and you can still keep moving ahead and achieve greatness and happiness. 

She’s now also Nana and is playing a huge role in the lives of my kids. I always say it’s important to have grandparents because it gives the kids that buffer between generations. It warms my heart that my kids can run over to her place any time they want for a visit. 

I’m so thankful that she’s my mom. She’s my mentor and my friend as well and she’s shown me how to be a better person. 

My happiness moment today was being with her on her birthday. Lucky me!!

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