THE BLOG
12/17/2014 12:49 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

Family Is Family

My family? They're incredible. Loving, caring, supportive. Thankfully this isn't an, "Except for in this, that, the other situation," post. This is a post straight up about how wonderful my family is. The reason for my current celebration is because one of my big brothers is home from China, where he's been teaching for more than a year.

A bit about my family. You'll often hear me (read me) talking about my brothers, my sisters, my in laws, my nieces, my nephews. Makes my family sound huge, right? What I call my family, though, likely differs from what you would call family. I have two parents -- they're still married. My mom bore two sons (and myself) to my father. My brothers are both married. My oldest brother and his wife had a baby a couple years ago.

With me so far? Good.

Here's where my family often gets confusing for folks.

I, often, talk about my other two brothers, I talk about my two sisters and their partners (my brothers-in-law), their kids -- three nephews, an additional niece. Ages range from one year to 16 (almost 17). I love celebrating these kids. I was there for the birth of the youngest. I carry around an audio file my sister sent me of the king giggling. Last year I took my youngest ginger nephew on his first train ride (the Polar Express in Portland, Maine, is an awesome little jaunt around part of the peninsula of Portland -- strongly recommend). I've been to any number of the lady ginger's sporting events. I do everything I can to support and encourage the middle ginger's horticultural and robotic endeavors. I call my sister's father "poppa." I call my sister's step-mother "ESM" (evil step mother -- my sister's name for her... in an ironic, totally not evil way).

There was a long time in my life when I called these folks my chosen family. Don't get me wrong. Yes, that is what they are. They're family that I made a conscious decision to call my family, but over the past six months I decided to cut out the "chosen." These men, women, and children are my family. Period.

There will be a lot of times I'll write about them. I won't not celebrate them. I won't not grouse about them (did you read me saying that three are teenagers?). I won't not jump with joy when any of my brothers, sisters, or in laws have successes and victories. I won't not curse when fates put upon them.

I won't not confuse the crap out of people when I shout about how this, that, or the other has happened to my family. I won't not hate having to explain that my hippo -- or half a hippo, my clan ginger, my tallest big brother, or my shortest big brother (sorry, K) aren't actually my siblings. We have no more genetic similarities than I have with the guy sitting next to me at the coffee shop. However, those I call my brothers and sisters call my parents Mom and Dad. The kids all call me Auntie Kate. My tallest big brother, crashing on the couch, calls Mom and Dad to let them know he's running late and won't be home for dinner. Doesn't matter that he's in his late 30s -- Mom and Dad raised us to communicate when our plans change so communicate we will.

I kind of understand why people are confused by my family, but on the other hand I am confused. There are people who marry people they've known for a week. Then they get divorced two days later. Then they get married again to another person. Then they get divorced. Then they get married to someone else. Then they have a child, then they get divorced. Then they get married, then they have a child, then they get divorced. Then... then... then. And you're going to sit in judgment of my definition of family? Yeah, no.

I love my family. I love my family beyond the ends of the Earth. I wouldn't trade any of them -- not even the brothers who've been treating me like the bratty kid sister for the past 30 years. But if I'm not allowed to judge or comment on your family structure or your family choices (not that it would even occur to me to do so) you're not allowed to judge or comment on mine.

Last thought: My family is my family. They're the reason I'm still here. No longer will I justify or explain it to you.