06/21/2011 02:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

7 Steps to a Loving Family

My heart is spilling over with joy. I've just returned from our 11th Anderson Family Reunion in Los Gatos, California. My Pop started them in 1972 as the core of what he called Familizing. Great word, isn't it?

Perhaps to you this article will be a reminder of the reunions you've had, and I'll be "preaching to the choir" as the Brits say. I hope so. But too often families disconnect from one another because of painful squabbles and estrangements. People take sides, talking behind the backs of their own family members. A sister doesn't talk to a brother for years; a son doesn't speak to his father any more. Sometimes the source is an argument that goes too long without an apology. Others 'stick their nose in another family member's business'. Often it seems to be about money.

These days we get caught up in the cocoon of our own busy lives, taking care of our own family, getting the job done at work and just trying to stay afloat in a world that seems shakier every day. We want to reach out, pick up the phone, send a text -- but we don't. Weeks and months go by, and the sense of being part of our family dissolves. Birthday cards stop coming, and communication dies down. How do I know? Because every bit of this has happened in our family.

Nothing's worse than the loss of love and connection with our family. The silent heartache that robs us of one of life's joys. We respond with denial, ignoring the problem. Get busy and forget about it. What we too often don't do is let go, apologize and give up the feeling of being right. My lifelong friend Russell Bishop in a recent blog wrote about how being right blocks our success -- and how hard it is to put knowing you're right ahead of love.

Before I'd even unpacked yesterday, I downloaded my reunion photos and made a slide show - then sat back to drink in the experience. Photo after photo of loved ones, talking, laughing, and being together. Magically the background music defaulted to "You've Got a Friend in Me" by Randy Newman. The tune's message was perfect for every photo. My newest granddaughter Ruby with her Daddy, Tim talking with our niece's husband Mark, hostess Alexa with her new boyfriend Zach, my sister Janet and I sitting together sipping wine, my cousin Patrick laughing with his sister Jeanne. On and on came the images, as tears covered my face.

That's it! Familizing is about the deepest friendship ever. No matter how far apart we live, we know we are loved, no matter what. What wouldn't we do to keep that feeling alive? Nothing if we're wise enough to do what we know we need to do. Family is way more valuable than squabbles or holding tight to our grudges.

It's taken a lot of wisdom and courage to get our family this tight. As I said, this has not always been so. It took years, but it's true now. All squabbles are over. All estrangements are history.

I'm so grateful for every family member who let go,
remembered the love, stepped forward
to heal what needed to be healed, and
took care of the one they'd hurt.

Here's our photo from this year's reunion.


Our Anderson family started in 1910 with the marriage of my grandparents Leatha and Eugene. Their oldest son was my father Leo, and their daughter was my Aunt Dorothy. From our 2 grandparents our family has grown to over 90 members. We count the in-laws and the outlaws, as my sister's husband dubbed the spouses and partners.

What have we learned over the years?

  1. Keep in touch -- be the one who reaches out
  2. Stop keeping count of who connected last or whether you got a birthday card
  3. Assume everyone in your family loves you, even when it doesn't look like it
  4. Let go, work it out, apologize, speak from your heart to the one you've hurt
  5. Have reunions at least every 2 or 3 years
  6. Have the courage to say 'I love you'
  7. If you're in the oldest generation, take the lead, keep alive the stories of your parents and grandparents

I'd love to hear how you and your family are doing with your familizing. Either leave a comment here or email me at