By: Amanda Sullivan-Samuel
I come from a large, blended family. My mom divorced my father when I was 3 and remarried my now stepfather when I was 5. He brought along two sons to add to the family which consisted of me and my two brothers. They were all older than me so you can imagine what that was like. Four older brothers and one younger sister. Wrestling moves were practiced on me, which included being thrown across the living room, bugs were tossed in my face and on my bed, and I may have even pretended to be the manager of their fake band as they lip synched to Aerosmith into a hockey stick wrapped in ties. (There is video proof of this.) All in all it was a great childhood and exceptionally fun with such a large family. But time moved on and little sister grew up to be a woman. My brothers all got married, starting families of their own, and I followed suit having a little boy and getting married. Granted, my first marriage was pretty awful and my brothers, being as protective as they are, didn’t approve. I fought it off as I knew you were to stand by your husband, and in the meantime, I lost myself as well as my family as they decided they didn’t want to be around the situation. Looking back, I absolutely understand their decision. I honestly didn’t want to be in this situation either but I stuck in it for as long as I could. I finally got the courage to leave the marriage and one of my first phone calls for help was to a brother that I hadn’t spoken to in nearly a year. His first words were “You’ll come here and stay with us.” Right then and there, I saw the power of family, that no matter what, you take care of each other. It doesn’t matter what the past held, it was the present time that was important.
We all started over again, as a new family, all back together again. We had family dinners once a month and each time, we went to a different family member’s home with them making the main course and the rest of us bringing side dishes. It was perfect. I don’t think you could have found a more ideal situation. It went on like this for months, however, as they say, all good things must come to an end.
Fast forward to today. Things in this family have changed. I have remarried and brought another precious little life into this world, more babies came in as well for my brothers and their wives, another separation for another brother, my parents are moving out of state, and half of my family won’t speak to the other half. Why you ask? You’re guess is as good as mine. See, when you come from a large family, opinions on life are different from one person to the next. A parenting style of one is completely against what another practices, politics and religion-don’t get me started on that one, and spouses clash with one another. Not everyone will always get along and that’s actually fine. I’ve learned that just because you are family, doesn’t mean you have to be friends. Some agree, some disagree. I do know that if the time came and one of us needed help the way I did before, we would always open our hearts and our homes to one another. It’s what families do. I’ve come to peace with this and realize that I won’t always make everyone happy. All I can do is take care of my husband and children the best that I can and love them unconditionally the way they do with me.
We just had a going away party for my parents this past Sunday at my home. I was nervous about how everyone would get along. I was shocked to see the amount of love and happiness filled the rooms with every single one of us under one roof again. I decided to do a chili bar, serving chili with all the fixings and different options such as baked potatoes, macaroni, and hot dogs for the chili to go on top of. It was very casual, nothing fancy that would cause us all to have to sit around the table and engage in conversations we may or may not want to have. Instead, we ate, we drank, and watched football like any other family would. The kids played outside and it was blessings to see them be so carefree, not knowing their parents don’t always get along. The night ended with everyone saying their goodbyes, not knowing when we would all be under the same roof again but at the very least we were able to send my parents off right and with the love that was once so familiar to us all when we were all younger.
1lb ground beef or ground turkey
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
3-4tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried minced onion
A few dashes of hot sauce, your choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown meat in large pan until done. Transfer to a large slowcooker. Combine all remaining ingredients into slow cooker and mix well. Cook on low 8 hours.
Serve your chili with toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, diced onions and diced tomatoes.
To make into a chili bar, serve chili alongside of baked potatoes, hot dogs, macaroni, corn bread, crackers, and corn chips.
Amanda Sullivan-Samuel is a rare native to Loudoun County, born and raised in Sterling Park, VA and currently resides in Leesburg, VA. She comes from a family of blue collar workers along with four older brothers, three of which are Loudoun County firefighters. She started off in the medical field as a massage therapist when she was 20 years old and continued for 13 years. She now works part time for a Physical Therapist as the Marketing Director while also raising two amazing children, Derik—born in 2007 and Delila—born in 2012. She was married in 2007, then divorced and has since remarried in 2012 to her husband, Benjamin who is currently active duty Navy.
Amanda’s hobbies include cooking, dancing, exercising, spending time with her family at the beach and doing mud runs throughout the area. Her husband is also a triathlete, competing in various Ironman triathlons around the country as she accompanies him as his “support crew!”