Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Family You Choose

You've probably heard it before. It’s the new slogan used by American Family Insurance and a slogan we can all relate to. We all have the family we’re born into and in which we have no choice. But then there are those we’ve chosen to have a part of our family – the family we choose.

But before I get to the family I choose, I have to talk about the one I didn’t. Of course, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I love them dearly, count on them endlessly. My mom and my niece are two of my best friends. I didn’t choose them, thankfully I didn’t have to, but I’m thankful for their presence in my life.

Realistically, there is some choosing when it comes to the family we had no choice in because we choose how much they are a part of our lives. And some of us may have family members we choose to have no connection with at all.

Then there’s the spouse, and this is probably the biggest decision any of us will make when it comes to family. And in choosing a spouse, you usually get other family members – the in-laws. For me, it included a step-son that I would proudly call a son and having been raised with all brothers, it also included a couple of sister-in-laws that I’d gladly call sister.

But I think what the theme really refers to is those people who aren’t always a daily part of your life, but people you know will be there when you need them – just like your family. These are the people who bend over backwards to lend a helping hand, whether its physical help or emotional support.

Family, both the chosen and not chosen, is about a support system and most of us have more than one support system.

My first experience with the “family you choose” came when I was sixteen and I helped a classmate with a problem after a prom dance. Helping this person turned into a friendship that has lasted twenty-five years. Even after that first meeting, if it hadn’t been for Keri’s outgoing personality, we would never have become such good friends. But she sought me out in school the next week and we’ve stuck together ever since. We’ve been through so much together. For me she is the sister I never had, she is family and I feel that I am a part of her family.

More recently the family circle has begun to expand to a group of ladies whose support is invaluable. While these ladies are fairly new to me, it’s amazing how quickly you connect with people when they share the same passion, when they understand, like no one can, what it means to complete a manuscript, to have a story run away with you, to fall in love with your characters, to get the request and the rejection. For a writer, even our characters become the family we choose for a short time, maybe some even stick with us forever.

The absence of any one person above could have easily changed the direction of my life. Some in major ways, others in small, but ultimately changed.

Tell me about the “family you choose”.