Say it like you mean it

July 23, 2014

There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I’d have to say that hasn’t been the case for me.

Last week I got home from two glorious weeks in Hawaii…with my ex-boyfriend’s family. That might be a little weird to some people, but it’s not weird to me. From the time I met these people I loved them; right from the start they took me in. They’re Hawaiian and I’m part Ukrainian, so we come from big families with strong bonds where money is not the most important thing, love and being there for one another is. I mean, whose boyfriend’s mom lets you move in for a month AND makes you hot cinnamon rolls in the morning while you sleep in? HELLO. And that’s only about 0.007% of all the kind things she’s done for me over the past 15 years.

After it all shook out they made every effort to keep in touch with me, even when I wasn’t so good about it on my end. I was wounded and wrecked up and not sure how to handle it. Together we’d been through births, deaths, illnesses, moves, chicken enchiladas, job losses, job gains, numerous Ghirardelli brownie mixes, meltdowns, shit fits, and more backyard barbecues than any person could dream of. Now what? It bothered me a lot. I mean, WHAT ABOUT THE POTATO SALAD RECIPE? And every other thing we’d come to mean to each other.

Over time I realized I was mourning the loss of my place in their family. Understanding that kept me plowing back in to maintain the bond, even when it stung. And really, our individual relationships hadn’t been broken; they were just a little different. When I started dating Chris, they accepted him like I was their kid and he was the newcomer. It broke my heart in the best way possible.

Last week when we parted ways in Hawaii I cried walking onto the plane (and most of the way home), but they were good tears. Sad to say goodbye, but happy we’d had such a great time together again. I felt rich inside. ‘Ohana is a strong word and I feel so fortunate to understand it in my heart and my life in the deepest way. If you have Hawaiian friends, you know what I mean; if you don’t, I hope you meet some someday.

Mahalo nui loa (hope I got that right) to my Hawaiian family. I could never thank you enough.

*Ohana, the Hawaiian word for family, extends beyond core family to include both blood and informally-adopted kin.

North Shore


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  • Reply Jenn July 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    My husband’s family is like that as well. It’s very special and it certainly opened my eyes to another way of living. Where scores aren’t kept and love continues even when labels change. Your pictures are beautiful and so are you!

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:56 am

      Thank you, Jenn. I’m so glad you married into such a great family! Such a great experience.

  • Reply RosaLovesDC July 24, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Thanks for reading, Rosa. xo

  • Reply lena July 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    So beautiful. When a college boyfriend and I broke up, one of the things that upset me most was that he was likely to lose the relationships he’d formed with my family. It’s amazing that you still have these people in your life, and a testament to all of you.

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:54 am

      Thanks so much, Lena. It feels good that you can relate. Hope that ex-bf of yours was able to keep in touch, even just a little.

  • Reply Meg July 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Now that is love! It’s great when you can move past romantic relationships and still stay friends/family with their family. 🙂
    These photos are breathtaking, I want to go to Hawaii eventually

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

      You’ve gotta go at least once in your life. I hope you can make that happen!

  • Reply Courtney July 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I really, really loved reading this – it’s such a wonderful thing that you have those bonds and have always preserved them. Seriously, it’s wonderful!

    Courtney ~ Sartorial Sidelines

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:52 am

      I think so too! I’m glad you can see it shine through 🙂

  • Reply Claudz July 24, 2014 at 11:59 am

    What a lovely story, such special people. And stunning photos

    • Reply This Free Bird July 29, 2014 at 7:52 am

      They are truly the best. And thank you!

  • Reply Carey July 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    “It broke my heart in the best way possible.” — Just… just yes. Beautiful.


    • Reply This Free Bird July 24, 2014 at 5:25 am

      Thanks, C. Mean it with all my heart.

  • Reply Jen July 23, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    It can be so grounding and refreshing to spend time with people who have known you a really really long time.

    • Reply This Free Bird July 24, 2014 at 5:24 am

      Yep, preach it!

  • Reply Erika ~Tiptoe Butterfly~ July 23, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    how i LOVE to read this!

    • Reply This Free Bird July 24, 2014 at 5:23 am

      Hooray! Nothing like family 🙂

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