For most of my life I could draw a clear line between family and friends. Family consisted of my parents, sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins. Friends were the people I met through college, jobs and social gatherings.
But my parents have passed away, as have most of my aunts and uncles. I live 1,000 miles from my sisters and their families. The cousins are scattered across the country.
Those people are all part of my life, of course, but the people I see every day or every week have become what my husband and I call our Texas family. They're close friends who share many life experiences, both of joy and sorrow, and at this time of year we share holidays as well.
Some years we've hosted a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for friends at our home. Other years we've been guests in someone else's home. We're grateful that our friends here have opened their homes and their hearts.
Among my close circle of friends we call ourselves the 10-pack, because there are 10 of us. In the five couples, no two people have the same profession. One of the couples has grown children, the rest are childless. Three are Texas natives, the rest are from different parts of the country. We met because we go to the same gym, but became friends because of our common interests and values.
On Saturday, four of the five women in the group -- the fifth had out-of-town family visiting -- got together for a massive cookie-baking effort. We made spritz cookies with a semi-cooperative cookie press, peppermint bark, rum balls, cranberry-orange cookies and roll-out sugar cookies. We had a great time doing it, and we all left with an assortment of sweets.
That night we all got dressed up and went out for our annual swanky dinner. We call it our family Christmas dinner.
We all have biological family elsewhere, but we can't help but smile when we talk about who's bringing what dish to Thanksgiving or Christmas and find new ways to add value to our friendship.