How do you describe family? Do you only see blood? Do you share your life with those who have come into your life…and stayed? Have you been someone that opened your heart and home to another, then became their family? I have a large extensive family. My dad was number three of six and my mom was the oldest of six siblings. My grandma came from a large family and I was raised very close to all of them, so a lot of first, second and third cousins were around, over the years we have spread out and don’t see each other as much but I’m always excited to see them when we bump into each other. My immediate family is me and my two brothers, our mom and dad raised us to have a strong close relationship which is still true to this day. I married into a very large family. He was number five of seven and most were already married and he had a lot of nieces and nephews. It was a culture shock. They were a fun, crazy lot but I didn’t feel welcome at first, large Italian families you sort of need to go through hell and back with them to earn a spot at the table. I love ’em all to death and wouldn’t change a thing! I used to make the joke that once you spawned their child it was like being married to the mob… once you were in, you were in! In all fun, but seriously they have welcomed me and loved me even after divorce. There are a few I think the absolute world of, even named my firstborn after one. Lol.

When my kids got older and involved with extracurricular activities I was excited to see them flourish amongst their friends. I wanted to be the mom like my mom when I was a kid. Everyone came to the empty lot next to our house to play kickball, baseball, hide-n-seek, etc… my mom was there with the cheap sandwich cookies and juice, she even joined in on the games every now and then. My ex and I were on and off for many years, but I got lucky that he was a giant child and kids loved being around him. We were trusted by other parents… I think. LOL. He coached their softball and basketball teams, so there were kids around us a lot! I was okay with that because if they were with us or just me I knew they were safe. It was during some of these times I found out not all kids had it good at home. I knew then, very early, that if my girls brought someone into my home they were going to be treated as one of my own and loved, unconditionally. I had to learn to listen and accept who these kids were trying to be. In this state of my life there were things of the world I wasn’t ready to accept, but did my best to love ’em to pieces no matter what. I always say I have two biological daughters, my son came by way of stork; but about twenty others in total through my kids, working at the high schools and alternative schools. haha.

I also have friends that have been closer and know more about me than blood relatives. I have laughed and cried with them, shared family milestones and just celebrating life with them. DNA doesn’t determine family to me. If you are invested in someone enough to get to know all the flaws and quirks or you take the time to call and text in the middle of the day just to see if I am alive or to say “hey,” you’re my family! I have opened my home to a “stranger” that became like a sister to me. I miss her dearly as she passed away young from breast cancer. There I had to learn to trust my instincts. I swear to this day my youngest should have been her wild ass child. Those two were two peas in a pod. In our time together she found her soulmate, moved out had a family and flourished, but as I said…she was taken too soon.

I hold on tight and I know this. I just don’t want those I love to ever feel alone or unaccepted for who they truly need to be. I may not have the physical abilities to do things but the last time I checked the heart is a pretty strong organ and can hold a lot. I feel I have a large capacity in mine. I guess in retrospect to this post, how do you see yourself amongst your peers and bio family? I hope one of my purposes in life is to be a good listener and a shoulder for anyone who needs family.

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