This is my family. (This photo was taken in 2006 at my grad school commencement at UC Irvine.)
I can't imagine my life without them. I'd be nothing without them. I'm lucky that I've grown up with such a solid family unit - I grew up spending lots of time with both my immediate family and my extended family, so I feel very fortunate that I've had so many people in my life to care about and who care about me.
My brother and I have always gotten along, and I'm glad for that, because I can't imagine being one of those people who never speaks to my brother. We're four years apart, and I think that gives us just enough distance to get along really well. We are there for each other. When I first got pregnant and my parents were *NOT* happy with me (understatement of the year), my brother was the family member who helped me stay strong. When he first got engaged and my parents were *NOT* happy with him, I did my best to support him. Sometimes "kids" understand each other better than "grown-ups" do, and so we've always had each other.
My mom is tiny, but she is strength. She holds a lot together even when things are rough. There is always some drama going on with her side of the family, between her siblings and my grandma, and my mom (who is the second eldest of the seven kids) is usually the sounding board, which means that she carries a lot of the weight. She has always been a working mother as far as I can remember, but we've never lacked for her attention because she still puts in more than 100% when she gets home at the end of the day.
My dad is the one I'm more like. My mom is cute and bubbly and chatty - my dad is not as much of a talker, but when he has something to say, he will say it. My dad is the one who first taught me how to play the guitar and who kind of instilled the "techiness" in me because he shows me how to fix my computer. He sometimes seems like he is all business, but he also has a very caring, nurturing side. He is awesome with kids - almost every single cousin I have on either side of the family ADORES my dad (as does Jolie, needless to say). He made us freshly squeezed orange juice when we were younger, and now that we're adults, he makes us espresso.
I haven't been the easiest kid to raise - yeah, I always got good grades and never talked back, always came to family events, but then I have been through a tumultuous relationship, changed my major from biochem to English, and then got pregnant out of wedlock. They're not the perfect family either. But at the end of the day, we love each other, and we're thankful for each other, and we'd rather spend time together than not. And I'm very lucky to have the family that I have. For better or for worse, I would not be who I am today without them.