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Challenge: What Makes a Family?

Gloriously imperfect chaos and I would not change a single thing…

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I met the love of my life in a bar (it was the ‘80’s) in January 1980 when I was just 20-years old. Mike and I have been married for 33 years and we are blessed with five children who arrived in our lives in a myriad of ways. All of my children have taken up permanent residence in my heart and I am a better woman for it. I am an unofficial mom to many of our kids’ friends. We have always had an open door policy in our home. We offer a hot meal, a safe place and a judgment-free comfort zone. Our house is bustling and my husband swears that I thrive on chaos.

My family is and always will be my touchstone and my heart's blood. I have found that the human heart is elastic; it stretches every single time you love someone completely without reservation. I have often heard it said that family “isn’t about blood; it’s about who has your back.” I must be one of the luckiest people on this earth. Mike has suffered a series of major health challenges over the course of the past year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and the resultant surgery to remove the residual mass caused a stroke. My active, boisterous, loving, generous and exuberant man is now reliant on a wheelchair. We are now navigating our new normal and if it was not for our ragtag band of friends and family, I would have literally fallen to my knees in despair unable to cope with this latest curve-ball life has thrown in our path.

All of our children have stepped up to the plate (I need to stop with these baseball metaphors) to help me provide the nurturing home environment that Mike needs in order to recover. Friends stop by frequently. My mother, sisters and cousins have all provided invaluable support. Contractors, shopkeepers, priests, medical personnel, tradesmen, non-profit agencies have offered invaluable assistance as we make this transition. Everyone at my place of employment has been amazing. Words cannot express how much all of these wonderful people have enabled us to gather the strength we need to meet this latest challenge. Even with this life-altering circumstance, Mike and I are humbled at this outpouring of love and care from our tribe.

My definition of family boils down to this very basic fact. When everything in your life goes to hell in a hand-basket, you realize that those who remain standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the trenches in the depths-of-despair ARE your family. These individuals are like gold. You cannot put a price on this and it is truly humbling to be the beneficiary of their generosity. It is easy to be present for someone when things are going well. People’s true colors come through when times are bad. My family always has my back and I “value them; they are pearls of great price.” My family is gloriously imperfect and chaotic. I would not change a single thing!

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