Celebrate your own version of Family.

This is the Holiday photo shoot I recently had with my dog, Churro, for our Holiday card this year.

This is the Holiday photo shoot I recently had with my dog, Churro, for our Holiday card this year.

When I was 16, I believed I’d be married by 25, kids by 30 with some kind of creative career wedged in between the cracks.

To be honest, much of what I thought about when I was 16 was how to get out of the small town I grew up in and find some people who thought like me. As much as I loved growing up with fresh produce and honey from a local apiary down the road, what I also grew up with is a mindset that nothing big or new or exciting or positive was possible.

Paella from our Sunday Suppers series that my friend Aubree and I began with a group of people.

Paella from our Sunday Suppers series that my friend Aubree and I began with a group of people.

Now, I find myself in Cleveland- only 6 hours from where I grew up. It feels a million miles away, yet it’s not. Within a 30 minute drive I can find myself back in that small town mentality- one stoplight towns with a Superwalmart where the local grocery store stood.

And the version of who I thought I’d be?

Well, I didn’t think I’d be ‘alone’ in the way I am today- single, no children, no close family around me. Sometimes, especially during the holidays, that can feel isolating to some. I know I’m not alone in my aloneness. My singleness. My estrangement from my own family of origin. How disconnected I feel from my place of birth.

It’s a strange feeling to be untethered from all you grew up with.

I’ve spent much of my life resentful of that. Why can’t my family be different? Why did I have to grow up in such a small-minded place where I felt totally out of place? Why do my parents not want a relationship with me?

Why me?

But what I’ve learned through years of crashing friends’ Thanksgiving dinners and forming my own traditions with stragglers like me is that so many of us struggle- even if we have a family to go to for Christmas morning.

My family has become so large because I’ve had to create it from the people I’ve met through the years. I now feel like I have family from India (Gauri) to Paris (Lindsay + the girls) to New York (Whitney) to Chicago (my actual brother and my friend Leslie) to Amsterdam (Claudy) and more.

When you open up your definition of family, it grows to be something more than you could have ever imagined.

Sure, I long for the warmth of parental love, of belonging to a very particular group, of family traditions and recipes and the easy conversations that come along with years and years of knowing each other. And, trust me, I tried desperately to engineer this into my family. I spent most of my teen and early adult energy trying singlehandedly to change my family into the one I wanted. And I all ever really managed to do was make people feel bad for being who they were.

At some point, it’s ok to accept that we’re not on the same page. What family and relationships mean to me is not what it means to my parents. But it is ok for me to want to build my version, and for them to have theirs.

Though I’ve never really said it out loud, and now even typing it I have a twinge of guilt and sadness, I can say that I don’t ever plan to be with my family of origin at the holidays. It doesn’t even cross my mind to plan to be together.

There’s something that saddens me to confront that truth.

The little girl inside me who tried for years to piece back together a broken family like a broken ceramic vase– with superglue and determination and the belief that it would look as good as it once had–is still there, ready to do the work.

But I tell her that the vase was meant to break. Nothing has to be put back together. Nothing, in fact, is broken. This is the life that I was meant to live.

One where I’m free to make my own traditions. Travel and see the world and observe so many types family traditions. One where Family and Friendships are so important to me. Where I’ve made such good friends that they feel like family.

There is nothing broken here.

There are so many traditions I began within my business and my life that express ‘family’. From our Sunday Suppers to morning coffee with Nolan to telling my vendors at The Flea that I love them to dropping into Dena’s house for Tuesday night dinner.

And that’s all because I got the family that I did. The life that I was meant to have.

At the holidays, I’m there with you if you feel alone. I’ve been there, too. I still fall back sometimes into the sadness of longing for belonging.

You’re not alone.



Stephanie Sheldon