As part of a collaboration with Hallmark Signature, they asked me to use one of their holiday cards to honor someone who has made an extraordinary impact on my life this year.

It’s hard for me to write a heartfelt card to certain people in my life. Or maybe, it’s hard to pour your heart out period. But I’ve noticed in the past, that one person in particular doesn’t get as much sentiment as he should from me. That person is my Stepdad. I call him Sam. My kids call him Grandsam or sometimes just Sammy, because Grammy and Sammy rhymes and is fun to say. Often on my blog, I talk about my kids going to Grammy’s house or spending time with Grammy, while overlooking that Sammy is usually present as well. “It’s his house too, you know,” my mom sometimes tells me.

It’s not easy to develop a relationship with a step parent. Particularly one that came into your life during high school. I was fifteen when I met Sam for the first time. He was wearing white pants that I thought were ridiculously out of style. And when I came out of my room to meet him, he was holding and petting my little sister’s guinea pig, which I considered it to be a totally kiss ass move. Who the hell over 40 really wants to pick up and hold a guinea pig? A person trying to date the owner of the guinea pig’s mom, that’s who.

At the time, my mother was also dating another guy. He was good looking, had a very good looking son and drove a cool car. I told my mother she should focus on THAT GUY. Why? Because I was 15 and stupid. I made poor boy-related choices that would follow me through my twenties and I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

Regardless of my input, my mom chose Sam and THANK GOD. You see, as a more mature, older person who had her kids to think about, my mom knew that you don’t date the guy in the fast car, you settle down with the guy who holds your daughter’s guinea pig.

My sister chose Sam from the get-go, by the way. She was ten at the time and ten-year-olds apparently have way better instincts about potential stepdads than 15-year-olds.


Sam proposed to my mom on a family ski trip. He has two sons similar ages to me, Eric and David, and he told all of us before my mom had any idea. He got our permission, if you will. By that time, I was fully in Sam’s camp and was really excited about it. I was a freshman in college.

For the proposal, Sam waited until all six of us were sitting down together for dinner at the ski condo and then he popped the question in front of all of us. My mother was floored. And so happy.

I’ve always thought that the way Sam proposed to my mom said exactly everything you need to know about him. He was not just thinking of their marriage as taking a leap as a couple, he was thinking of the merging of two families. He knew marrying my mom meant an official relationship with me and my sister too. And that how my sister and I got along with his kids was important as well.

Now, it’s been over 25 years since Sam and his stepsons have been in my life. He’s not just my stepdad, he’s a grandparent to my kids. He’s one of two father-in-laws to my husband. And his kid’s kids are my kids’ cousins. Every holiday, when our family gathers in Grammy and Sammy’s house (the house where I grew up), my mother remarks about how happy she is to see that our family has grown so large. She came from a very small family and watching the table fill up and expand over the years on the holidays has been one of the greatest joys of her life.

This past weekend, my stepbrother and his family came to New York for the weekend. He is married to a lovely woman named Tammy and they have two kids who Mazzy and Harlow both adore named Hunter and Maia. Mazzy and Maia are the same age.


Even though they only see each other once or twice a year (not including facetime), they gravitate to each other like no time has passed. We are not blood relatives, but my children do not know the difference. We are family.


My mother and Sam arranged a day in the city for all of us to celebrate the holidays together. We went to see Santa at Macy’s, had a little Hanukah party at my sister’s apartment, took in a show and made the trek to Rockefeller Center to see the tree, the Christmas decorations and the skating rink.


The evening before, I wrote Sam a card. I picked a Hallmark Signature card with a smiling felt snowman on it because Sam always been such a lovable figure in my family.


Then I gave it to him with the girls.


I don’t want to go into the exact wording of the card because it’s a little personal (and schmaltzy) but it was a card that said thank you for being my Stepdad. Thank you for having a huge heart that has room for not just my mom, but me, my husband and my kids. Thank you for loving Mazzy and Harlow like they are your grandkids by blood. Thank you for treating my mom like gold. Thank you for having a hugely positive influence on my life, even though I don’t always know how to express it.

Thank you for holding the guinea pig.

Honor the special people in your life this holiday season with a truly special card. Click HERE to find a Hallmark Signature store near you.