All we wanted was a family game night.
Electra obviously needs to brush up on the rules.
I think this is always going to be one of my favorite photos.
This was such a fun day. Cadence was about 3, and we’d spent a day out in the yard at the old house raking about a billion leaves. When Stevie busted out the leaf blower, Cadence thought it was too much fun to run away from his as he blew stray leaves into our piles. I grabbed my camera and caught gold.
I bought a large canvas for Stevie for his birthday, and it has been in his office ever since. After his office was rearranged (and the only photo-hanging wall was made into a giant whiteboard), he finally decided to bring the canvas home. For the last week or so, he has been cleaning and rearranging in the basement, and he told me he was going to hang this downstairs, to which I replied that he most certainly was not, and I promptly swiped the canvas and took it to my office.
Time to do a little decorating!
After my Aunt Jean passed away last year, my Uncle Harry decided to move back to Nebraska. He’s only been in town a few months, but he’s already making it home–throwing dinner parties, making fast friends and all of the local restaurants. My Grandpa Carl was a charmer, never knew a stranger. Throughout my childhood I lost count of the number of times my family would be out somewhere and Grandpa would run into some random person he knew from sometime somewhere, and they’d start joking and laughing as if they were lifelong friends who’d never spent a day apart.
Harry inherited his father’s charisma and exuberant zest for life. He’s fun and kindhearted and delightfully witty, and he’s just got this vibrant, positive energy that has a way of filling up a room.
One of the things my Uncle Harry loves to do the most is cook. He’s taking cooking classes here and there, but I think it’s more of his passion for food that has turned him into a regular amateur chef (though Uncle Harry’s every day cooking could outmatch at least half of the restaurants currently operating in Lincoln). And somehow, in the few short months since he rolled into town, he managed to talk the local restaurant Dino’s into making one of his favorite signature dishes–a gourmet pizza made with smoked salmon, goat cheese, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese–a pizza so good some of the staff did a taste test and started talking about how they’d like to get that pizza on the menu.
But the even crazier part was that tonight, Harry reserved us a couple tables, and had the Dino’s chefs make his recipe for us to have a family dinner together.
And damn, it was divine!
And as we wrapped up, H-man was getting restless so we grabbed one of Cadence’s markers and started practicing our letter tracing.
You know I could’t resist. #SSDGM
One of the interesting side effects of all the writing and the letter writing I’ve been doing the last few weeks is a clearer realization of just how easy it is to fall out of touch, how quickly time is passing. It hit me this week that Henry is just about the same age my youngest brothers Beau and Collin were when I reunited with my birthfamily and met them for the first time.
Blows my mind to think those little boys are in college now, that’s been more than 17 years since I stepped into their lives.
How things have changed! There have been a lot of twists and turns in the 17 years since, but the best part of the reunion has been building new relationships and watching my three different families slowly melt into one. I was having a conversation with some folks at work a few weeks ago, and they were intrigued by my very unique definition of “family,” as I explained that my family doesn’t just include my husband and kids and my closest biological and adoptive relatives, but all of the close friends and people in my life that I feel a deep, emotional, and somewhat inexplicable connection to. My family is the people I was born to, the people I was raised with, and all the people that I invest my time in and love deeply.
And it strikes me sometimes, as time keeps marching on, that I have been unimaginably blessed.
There was a time in my life when I avoided people, relationships of just about any kind. I’m an introvert by nature, but this was different. I didn’t trust people, and I was filled with so much self-loathing and self-doubt that I believed it was easier to just keep everyone at arm’s distance than to risk getting close and getting hurt.
During my years in therapy, one of the biggest challenges was for me to trust people, to let them in, because I had trouble matching up what other people saw in me with what I saw in myself. I had to spend a lot of time building up my own self-image, learn to love myself and let other people love me. One of the results was that I started to view relationships and human connection differently.
Letting people in. Trusting them. Connecting. Building relationships. Loving other humans. These things can be hard, but they are so worth it. They’re vital. They’re the reason we’re all bumping around on this blue-green planet in the first place. And the really beautiful thing that happens when you connect with other people is that just being in their presence, hearing their voices, spending an evening together sharing a meal sparks immeasurable joy.
Family is not bound by blood. Family is the people you choose to surround yourself with, the people you love and invest your time in. Stevie and I have loved ones spread all over the country–from New York to Arizona to Colorado and Washington state–and we do what we can to connect. We don’t do as much as we would like to, or have nearly enough time with all the people who mean the world to us. But sometimes there are moments like tonight, when we get a chance to spend an evening with some really beautiful souls. My home was full of love tonight, and my heart is too.