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Family … It Just Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All!

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Family – It just isn’t one-size-fits-all.  Families comes in different shapes, sizes, ages and … personalities …. like it or not.  We often refer to family as “our blood”, “folks”, “kinfolk” or “our people.”


I grew up in small town New Jersey in a close-knit Italian American family where everything was surrounded by family, lots of food … and more family and friends!  I have vivid memories of Thanksgiving at our “Nana’s” house after our high school football games against our arch rival “Summit” (a bigger town that almost every year whipped our butts). Christmas was at our house.  We would have our neighbors (who were close like family) over for “cocktail hour” followed afterwards by a big turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing with our aunts, uncles and cousins.   And I shall never forget our Easter celebrations at Auntie Leah’s and Uncle Bo’s house where we had such a fun, fun time hunting Easter eggs in their back yard.  It wasn’t too easy finding the “Golden Egg” (with a $5.00 bill taped to it) amongst what seemed liked miles and miles of Pachysandra (beautiful heavy ground cover of thick greenery). 




And lots of other family memories (a few not so fond ones, too) – laughing around a table, teenage parties at the house, coming home and my sister changed around our beds and furniture in our room yet again; my brothers fighting and then picking on me until I cried and cried.   I have fond memories of eating so much spaghetti and meatballs on Sunday afternoons that I practically stumbled to the couch afterwards to watch football with my dad.  It makes me think of my memories of Mom – her wonderful laughter and smile…  and how us kids used to play outdoors in all seasons.  I will never forget when our Dad was mad, and he gave us “the look” – which meant watch out.  (For a stroll through the Good O’ Days….


I thought EVERYONE had a close-knit family just Iike I did.  I mean, not “perfect,” but a family that lived together and loved each other.  Then I joined the Navy at 19 (still just a kid really) and was exposed to women and men of all different cultures, backgrounds, and many different levels of dysfunction. (I think we are all a little dysfunction in some way … but that is a whole different post for another day.)  I guess what I am trying to say is people have different upbringings … I learned that people truly have different kinds and types of “families”. 




My family is wonderful…. However, a few years ago I did feel like an “orphan” for a while after the death of my parents.  And then a couple years pass, and you learn life goes on (fortunately or unfortunately).   I have been blessed by a wonderful family – not just those who are related by blood, but by those people who were “grafted in” to our family tree!

Here are my beautiful girls… and my husband…. 





My sister – Carol, who is tenderhearted like my Mom – and there for me through thick and thin.




This is Maria.  She cared for our 95- year-old Aunt Irene before her passing and Maria still joins us for family gatherings and get-togethers.  We “adopted” her into our family, and now she is a part of us (like it or not)!





Say hi to Nicole.  She calls me her “fake aunt” and she is part of the family!  I will never forget how she lovingly put together a beautiful slide show of my parents and our family for my mom’s funeral service.  Nicole is now pregnant and expecting her first child… I can’t wait to be an adopted great-aunt!




And let’s not forget Beverly, who lives next door to my sister and brother-in-law, and who always shows up at just the right moment to chip in with whatever needs to be done at just the right time … at any given moment. 




And those people who are like family, act like family, and who are there for me…. supporting me in many ways (too many sweet women to name).  They are not part of my bloodline, but  I definitely consider them all “part of the family”.  As the years go by, and as I mature, I appreciate these women more and more.    


To many of us – our pets are our “family”.  I really never truly “bonded” with our dogs until I  became employed working from home.  So… they have truly become my “babies.”  Toby, our Dachshund, whom I call our “fat little man”, is just so easy going (but needy, too) and plugs along.  While Bella, our Chihuahua, on the other hand, is surely the rascal princess of the home!





If you don’t have any blood relatives as your family – I hope you have people (and maybe pets, too) in your lives who you can call your family – whether they are blood relatives or wonderful people who you have “grafted in” to your life.  And like any family, these people drive us nuts sometimes, yet we can’t imagine how lifeless it would be without them …or how boring life would be if families really were a one-size-fits-all type of thing!


What a blessing our “family” is – however you define your family, I hope you feel the same way. I am thankful for all my family members whether two-legged, four-legged, blood relation or kindred spirits.  I can’t imagine getting through life without my family!  




Hope to see you at the next family gathering!




~”Cousin” Clare


Clare is a 57-year-old fun loving Italian-American self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl” who believes, “Life ain’t easy street. Life is one of those crazy little city streets, complete with potholes that could swallow your car.” With one foot planted in fun and the other planted firmly in her Christian faith, Clare enjoys making people laugh while helping them navigate life’s “crazy little city streets”. Clare has raised two girls (now grown young adults) with her husband, Michial, Clare is ready to take on the challenges of making new friends through her blog, Life Ain’t Easy Street. With an aim to entertain while addressing topics important to women, Clare’s focus on the positive power of good stories, good friends, inspiring women, and strong faith will have you looking forward to reading the next post. Clare is a freelance writer who lives a real life in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

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  • Karen Dowd-Hansen says:

    Thanks, Clare, not only for the memories of New Providence (and freezing through those wonderful Thanksgiving games with Summit), but also for reminding us that even though we lose some of our family, we are never really alone.  “Family” means many things

    • Clare says:

      Thanks for sharing Karen – yes, it truly is very difficult to “lose” some of our “family” but we cherish the wonderful memories forever…. and develop and gain more “family” members – of all kinds – along the way, too!  🙂  🙂


  • Julie says:

    My closest cousin is actually my step-mother’s first husband’s sister’s adopted daughter…whew….   we learned long ago family can be more than blood! Love this post!

  • Donna Stone says:

    What a sweet post! We do all need some kind of ‘family’ to help us make it through life.

  • Susan says:

    I come from a huge California family, Clare. Your post brought such lovely memories of my own floating up into my morning. So nice. 🙂

  • Mary Collins says:

    Family is a beautiful thing. My family and I gather together each Sunday for dinner. I don’t know what I would do without them. Yours appears to be a large loving group. Such a blessing.

    • Clare says:

      Hey Mary – so glad you have “special” time with your family on Sundays.  That is wonderful!  we are a loving group…. some have gone off to be with the Lord but have gained some additions, too!  Blessings and thanks for stopping by!  Appreciate the support!

  • Your childhood sounds amazing!! I don’t have a family in a traditional sense of the word. But my family is my group of friends and we do many family things together and I love every second of it! This is a beautiful post, we should always remember to celebrate our families

    • Clare says:

      Aw thank you Angela!  Family is what we make of it – the important people in our lives!!!!   I am so delighted that you have a close circle of people in your life – it makes such a difference!  🙂


  • Kevin Osborne says:

    It was wonderful to read about the amazing Catanos, especially since I had the opportunity to be around them! If there was ever a family that made you feel like one of them, it was your family Clare!

  • This is lovely. Families do come in all shapes and sizes, don’t they? It looks like you are blessed with lots of love!

    • Clare says:

      We are blessed with lots of love, Adrienne!  Thanks so much for the comments and yes, family does come in all shapes and sizes!

  • Love this! You are so right about families coming in so many different forms. If only you could see my family at Christmas or other gatherings. There are exes that are still part of the family, ex-in-laws, step siblings, half siblings, and so many crossed lines and just stories of how God knits together a family that means so much more than just blood. Great post! Loved meeting your family. 🙂

    • Clare says:

      Thanks Jess – your “family” sounds so wonderful too – glad you have so many wonderful people around you in your life!  God does knit us all together!  🙂

  • This was a beautiful reflection. I love how you brought out so many different people in your life who are very dear (and pets). I grew up in Chester County, PA. We had a strong sense (my Philly relatives) of being Polish-American. I cherish that heritage. Thank for you a delightful read! Blessings!

  • I forgot to say that we have always lived away from family (my married life), and so the military, church, neighbors, and good friends, have always served as surrogate family. Very very few holidays were with real family.

    • Clare says:

      Thanks for both comments – its tough being away from family and in the military – I was active duty Navy  for four years and I met my husband many, many moons ago in Roosy Roads, Puerto Rico!  I am glad you had plenty of others surrounding you as your “family”!  Thanks for commenting!  🙂

  • It seems like you have a great big family 🙂 My family is close too, but I can’t wait to get some cute nieces 🙂

    • Clare says:

      Cute cute!  I don’t really have such a big “related” family these days – but lots of great people that are truly “family” to me!!!!!!  Thanks for your comments!  I appreciate your taking the time!!!!  🙂


  • Lexi says:

    I love this. I have a large blood family bu also so many people in my family are people who we have adopted into it. You are so right that there are many kinds of families.

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