I had a thought this week: how different would my life be had I been born 100 years ago. Besides the different clothing, the lack of speedy automobiles, and the deficit of women’s rights, I really focused on the fact that I would be surrounded by family constantly. 100 years ago people generally didn’t move away from their hometowns. They stayed close to one another. They took local jobs, went to local schools, and built up a familiar community.
Now, however, getting out of the town you were born in is almost a given. We go away to college, we take a job that makes good money even if it means living in another country, we move often, community stays alive through facebook.
But this wasn’t the way I was raised. I grew up surrounded by family. My parents seemingly had no friends other than family members. My grandmother and my aunts and uncles all helped raise me. Second cousins were in abundance and there were lots of parties–but only family was present.
Even when my parents broke the mold and moved to a different (though neighboring) county, we still almost solely socialized with our family. I didn’t have huge birthday parties where all of my friends were invited; I had family birthday parties. And it was a great life. One that I’m forever thankful for.
But I really broke the mold when I went to college and moved 250 miles away. And didn’t come home for the summer. And didn’t visit often. And then my sister moved as well. And then my brother and mom and dad. We all came to the same town, but over time, my entire family has shifted a part. Some have come to live in my area, some have moved to San Francisco, and some have stayed in Los Angeles. We’re still a family, but we don’t see each other nearly as often as we used to.
I miss my family though I don’t miss where I grew up. I love my town, and I’ve found, in the absence of blood family, that I forged my own type of family–a type I consider as close as blood. And all of this was going through my head this week: a longing for my blood relatives and an appreciation for my new family.
Because in the end, family to me means the people I surround myself with who help me, encourage me, love me, and nourish my soul. I’ve had a week of support and love and nourishment from friends around me. To me they define what family is.
Family is the friendships that hold me up and tell me the whole truth, not sugar-coating anything that might hurt my feelings. Honesty. Loyalty. Telling me how to be a better person.
Family is my friend Melanie, whom I had coffee and a talk with this week.
I wish everyone could be friends with Melanie. She is wise and fun and most importantly, intuitive. She gave me some life advice and honed in on who I am as a woman. She, in the most friendly of ways, called me out for my lack of vulnerability. I left her house with a new understanding of who I am. And when I sent her an email and asked, “well, how do I be more vulnerable?” this was her beautiful response:
It means, if you leave me or don’t like me, I’m going to be really really hurt. It means, if you go away, a light will go off inside me. I just think it means, Here’s my heart, I’m offering it up. You hope the person will be careful, gentle, thoughtful. But really, you can’t help yourself. It’s worth the risk. Because that’s what it means to be alive–to love like that.
Wise, isn’t she? And a beautiful writer as well. I’m thankful for the honestly and insight Melanie provides. I’m thankful we’re in each other’s lives.
Family is my friend Jenny whom I also had the chance to hang out with this week. We met and took the kids for a little walk.
After the hike, we went back to Jenny’s house and played in the backyard and I had the opportunity to hear Jenny’s youngest say “mama” for the very first time! I love bearing witness to moment like that.
I love spending time with Jenny and her family and our kids get along so well, but damn do I just love Jenny. She’s funny and fun and wise and she listens to me, really listens to me. She’s had my back for years and she has never once judged me. I kind of consider her my sister, but I freaking love her so much that calling her my sister would be incestuous.
Family is my “rent a husband and dad,” Steve, a man whom I would never consider really dating, but who is the best man I’ve ever met. The woman who eventually marries Steve is one lucky girl. He’s kind and thoughtful and handsome and hardworking. His one flaw, I think, is his weird obsession with Disneyland.
Steve came over for dinner and in turn helped me with some stuff around the house. Mainly though, he played with Luke and Maddie and *gasp* kept Maddie in line. When she complained about eating chicken for dinner, he kindly scolded her. When she didn’t eat very much, he coaxed her into eating more. I honestly looked at him as if he’d performed magic. Steve is my family, he’s my man of the house, he teaches me how to be a good friend.
Family is my friend Megan and her husband Ryan. Maddie and Megan’s daughter are best friends, and Megan and Ryan help me out all the time. Like a ridiculous amount. Like I owe them a lifetime of babysitting. Megan picks up Maddie from school and watches her when I’m working. Megan takes Maddie to track practice. Even better, Megan and Ryan are cool. Super cool. I love how our friendship is so easy and uncomplicated. I love that I can count on them. I love that they have never made me feel badly about needing help. I’m so thankful they are in my life.
Update: Megan wants me to mention that though she is a reliable friend she’s also super hot and sexy and really crafty (the woman literally cried when tickets sold out to this years sock summit in Portland. Anyone who cries over not being able to attend classes about knitting socks is seriously crafty. As in this song). She also wants it to be known that she’s a really fun mom.
Family is my community learning group who not only enrich my mind when we meet, but encourage (force) me to ask out a man. Mainly, one member: Ginger.
I know I won’t ever adequately describe Ginger. She’s hilarious, but in a constant one-liner awesome way. She’s kind-hearted. She’s smart. She’s just, well, amazing. And let’s face it, she’s pushy (in a good and funny way). She found me a man to ask out. She talked me up to him. She convinced me he was normal, kind man. I agreed to ask him out.
And then I didn’t.
So when I walked into my collaborative group meeting last Thursday, she rushed me and told me this man was downstairs in his office and now would be a perfect time to ask him out.
So I did. I marched my butt down the stairs to his office and just asked him out. Well, what I really said was, “Hey, I’m Courtney. Ginger’s told me all about you. I’d like to ask you out, but I don’t want to put you on the spot, so I’ll just leave you my email address and if you’re interested shoot me an email. If not, no biggie.”
Oh Ginger, I’m glad you encouraged (forced) me to do this. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I completed my terrible homework assignment, and I made my therapist SO PROUD.
By the way, he emailed me that night.
Family is a community getting together to raise money. As I’ve written about before, my good friend Colleen has cancer–a rare cancer. With the cancer, she also has looming medical bills. Thus, friends and family got together and created a fundraiser to raise money to help pay for these bills. For $5 people could buy a ticket for enchiladas, as well as buy raffle tickets, bid on a silent auction, and a whole bunch of other events. This past Saturday was the day when everyone picked up the enchiladas they ordered. This was a feat–over 3,000 enchiladas had to be made.
And they were by a crew of friends who want to help and support Colleen and her family in any way they can. By the time I arrived, the enchiladas were all made by this amazing group of volunteers:
I was a runner, packaging up the enchiladas when people came to pick up. My job was easy. Actually, all our jobs were easy compared to Colleen’s battle against cancer. But to see all Colleen’s friend and family come together to support her brought tears to my eyes. I was honored to be part of this group.
Finally, family is me and my kids. We’re not a typical family. I’m a single mom with 2 kids. With different dads. 9 years apart. I know some people judge me for my decisions and make comments about my situation, but that’s their deal. Not mine. Cause my family is awesome in every way. I love the dynamics of my household.There is so much love in my little house that we could heal large portions of hate in the world (if only our care-bear powers worked!!!). So Sunday, Mother’s Day, is a day I really like to celebrate. I celebrate all the moms who have taught me how to be a better mom. I celebrate my own mom. I celebrate how much I love being a mother. Being a mom is never a job or a chore. It’s my universe, whole and complete.
Mother’s Day was great this year because I wanted it to be simple.
Kids jumping around and playing in bed early:
Meeting my wonderful friend Megan for a hike with her and her four sons:
Megan is a single mom as well, and I love spending part of my day with her. She’s such a happy and inspiring woman and her sons–MY GOD–are the kindest boys I’ve ever met. She needs to give lessons to parents about how to raise children to be so kind and thoughtful. I’m thankful for my friendship with Megan. She’s truly an inspiration.
The rest of my Mothers Day was spent finally planting flowers and vegetables. Maddie, Luke, and I had fun playing in the dirt and sprucing up our yard.
In the end, I guess family is what I make it. The people I choose to share my life with, to have around when I need a good ass-kicking, to pat me on the back when something good happens, and –most importantly–to love. I do miss my blood family, the days when every weekend was spent lounging with grandparents, and cousins, and aunts and uncles. But now it’s really just the same. My days are filled with friends, friends who are my family. I’m thankful for them, for their love, for the community we have built.