You could say that I have a large family, but that would be kind of an understatement. Some people collect stamps; I collect relatives, and I couldn't be happier about it. If wonderful people were currency, I could buy Google or Microsoft, or bathe the dog every day in Dom Perignon. What I'm trying to say is that when it comes to family, I hit the jackpot. Like a slot machine that keeps gushing coins, these people keep enriching my life like crazy. And the kicker is, I didn't even know some of them a few years ago!
As 2013 draws to a close, I'm overwhelmed when I think about the sheer number of people I get to call "family." I've lost count. But I'm even more amazed that I somehow ended up with the cream of the crop. Yes, we have our struggles. We have our issues. It's been a very hard year for many of us, but it's also been a year of unprecedented joy in so many ways. Eight years ago I was grieving the disintegration of my nuclear family, and it seemed like my days of having a big extended family were over. Today, I have more family than I know what to do with, and they're all people I would choose to be friends with even if we weren't related. That's what you call redemption, folks. You don't get back what you lost... you get more.
A lot of people do a series of year-end gratitude status updates on Facebook; I'm gonna do it all here in one fell swoop—with photos. Alas, there are beloved members in my family that I either didn't get to see in 2013, or didn't have my camera with me when I did. And for that reason, they're not pictured here (Sorry Rebecca, Renee, Trevor, Chris, Virginia, Logan, Nathan, Nick, Casey, Ian. Get in front of my camera in 2014, will you? ) Here's to my family, pictured or not; thank you for giving me so much happiness, and so much to live for. The proof, as they say, is in the pictures (or at least that's what I say.) I am a very rich woman.
This was taken at Amy's sonogram. The sono tech told Haven the sex of the baby, and Haven told us!
And here she is: Storey Anna Rose Hauck. Born October 8, 2013. She is exquisite.
Beautiful family. Our son-in-law, Johnny, is such a wonderful daddy. He takes good care of his girls. All THREE of them. Funny thing: Johnny is one of five boys, so this whole girl thing was new to him. And he's adapted with flying colors.
While Amy was in the shower, I picked up my camera and pointed it at Storey. This was one of those times that I said, "Oh...not so much" on the wardrobe choice. The hat was huge, but of course I took a photo anyway. Someday she'll forgive me.
Sigh. Haven looks so much like her mother in this photo. She is joy personified: bubbly, wonderous, tender heart, yet life of the party. She'll be five years old in February and is the best big sister anyone could ask for. She's also an amazing help to her mama, always cheerful and willing to assist in any way that's helpful. She's going to be a leader for sure. When we went to a wedding that Amy and Johnny were in, Craig and I were sitting in the back with Haven and Storey. After the guys all walked in, Haven turned to the bridesmaids (who were lined up in the hallway) and said, loudly, "It's time girls."
My beautiful sister, Leslie with Amy (and Storey.) Leslie's had a landmark year working in small business services at Chase Bank. She was recently named the top producer in a three-state region. So proud of her. And yes, she's my older sister, but nobody believes me. Still, she is a wonderful big sister and I don't know what I'd do without her.
My sister (Aunt Laurie) and sweet brother-in-law (Uncle Don) came for a visit in November, and we headed straight for San Antonio. It was so wonderful to see them! Laurie and I didn't grow up together, but once we met in 2009 we knew we were cut from the same cloth. The parallels in our lives are uncanny and I love her to pieces.
My two oldest granddaughters, Piper (L) and Haven. They are definitely the stars of the show, but now they're gonna have to share the spotlight with Storey.
Since Piper started kindergarten this year we've been going through withdrawls. We used to have her every Thursday night and we miss it so much. But we're adjusting. I love this photo because it captures her beautiful little spirit. She is so kind and gentle and has the wackiest sense of humor. She's started making up jokes and then laughs herself silly at the punchlines! Free entertainment for us. Aunt Mina asked her, "What did the snail say when he went for a ride on the turtle's back?" Piper thought about it and said, "Hey! We're both slow!"
The Harris cousins at Amy's baby shower. From L to R: Natalie (my niece), Anna, Amy, Mandy and Katy Rose (my niece). I hadn't seen Natalie in so long, and it was so wonderful to visit with her. She's our little hippie girl who's livin' the dream, traveling around the country.
Proud, proud grandpa. Happy in every sense of the word. Storey's a lucky little nugget to have Happy for a grandpa. I am a lucky woman to be his Gia counterpart.
Here are the Hauck girls. I took about 100 photos and this is one of the only ones that's presentable. Some of them are pretty funny – Haven on Amy's hair; Storey wailing. Good stuff. Maybe I'll grab one and add it on as an outtake.
These girls love their aunt.
L to R: My sweet nephew Jeremy (Leslie's son), Piper, Colton (my great nephew -- Stephen's son) and Haven.
The Blues Brothers: Scott (Craig's brother) and Craig with our brilliant niece Katie, who graduated from college in May. I feel so lucky because the nieces and nephews I inherited by marriage really feel like mine. I connect with them all and couldn't be prouder of them. Oh, and Katie's almost six feet tall, like Amy and me.
Cousin Clark (our nephew, and Scott and Cee Cee's youngest.) Piper thought it was SO COOL that his name is Clark, as in "Clark Kent." We almost had her convinced that he's a superhero. (He kind of is, right?)
Piper with her gorgeous Tennessee cousins, Jennie (L) and Katie (our nieces, Craig's sister Trisha's girls.) I told them to get in the fountain and they didn't skip a beat. Beautiful Jennie is a hairdresser, as evidenced by the awesome hair. Piper attached herself to these two like glue. It was like having two cool older sisters.
Katie found the man of her dreams and is getting married to Darby in June 2014. We think he's pretty awesome.
Proud family of a brand new graduate. From L to R: David (our brother-in-law), Katie, Trisha (Craig's sister) and Jennie. Such a sweet family.
Beautiful aunt Cee Cee (Scott's wife) and Mama Lu (Craig's mom) were also on hand to celebrate. If I could've dreamt up the perfect mother-in-law for me, Mama Lu is it. Her middle name is "Fun."
This was taken in San Francisco in July of this year. From L to R: Kyra (my niece), Cameron (our youngest son), Anna (our youngest daughter), and Caitlin (my niece). Kyra and Caitlin are my brother John's kids, and though we only met about three years ago, I truly adore them. They are wonderful humans (and stunning, to boot.)
The Jenkins cousins! This was taken the day after Adam's wedding on the very ground where Craig and I got married. L to R: Clark, Jennie, Tyler, Brandon (our oldest son), Nathan (our middle son), Griff, Katie, Adam and Cameron (our baby.)
Griff (Our oldest nephew) and his gorgeous, badass wife Kristen (our niece) had twins this year, Wade and Alex. Props to Craig, who took this photo. I haven't met the twins yet, as I was in Nashville for a wedding when this was taken. They'd better get ready for Aunt Laura in 2014. There will be many pictures. (Below: Alex wants to know if she can get a witness!)
This was taken right before the Sikh portion of Adam and Venus' wedding. Adam is Scott and Cee Cee's second oldest, and Venus -- his wife -- is our stunning new niece! Get ready, because they're gonna take your breath away.
Here are Adam and Venus on their wedding day (March 16.) I can't even begin to explain how great it was to be at their wedding. These two are wonderful in every sense of the word. We first met Venus at our wedding in 2009, and instantly loved her. Everyone who's seen one of Venus' wedding photos exclaims, "Oh, wow. She is stunning." Yep. You did good, Adam!
Brandon and his beloved Mary (who will be our daughter-in-law in the not too distant future! Yay!)
This is Anna (my youngest daughter) with Carie (my brother John's oldest daughter.) I only met Carie a few years ago, and it seems like I've known her forever. She is one of the kindest, gentlest souls you'll ever meet, and she's as lovely as she is sweet. I think these two resemble each other.
Our baby. Cameron is the youngest of our six children, and he moved to San Jose, California about a year ago. This was an impromptu shot I took across the table during our visit in July. We simultaneously miss him, and are happy for him. He loves the west coast!
Anna Joy - our youngest daughter (one year older than Cameron.) Her sister, Mandy, got this shot at the wedding of some friends. I absolutely love this -- and her. She's one of the funniest, kindest, smartest, and most resilient souls you'll ever meet.
Anna and Jamie, her cousin (and my nephew.) This guy will restore your faith in humanity – he's that guy. Jamie is is in the army reserves, and is also about to embark on a fantastic new career path. Stay tuned; Jamie's gonna do great things.
Joel, my youngest nephew on the Harris side. He is a kid magnet... maybe because he's a kid at heart even though he just joined the United States Air Force. He's training to be an air traffic controller! So proud of him.
Craig and I spent a week in Montana with Craig's mom and brother. It was so wonderful -- both the surroundings and the company! What a great week we had. This was right before a sunset ride up the mountain. Think cool, crisp air and more beauty than your eyes can take in. Mama Lu was being a good sport after her sons guilted her in to taking this ride.
Brandon (our oldest son) and Mary, with Piper at the kite festival. I think Piper doesn't want Mary to get away.
I always thought I'd probably have at least one boy, but instead I got three truly amazing daughters. I wouldn't have it any other way. But I thought that was that -- no boys... until I met and married Craig. These three guys are teaching me what it's like to have sons (hint: I love it. And them.) L to R: Nathan, Craig, Cameron and Brandon.
Anna found her chops in 2013 and started writing songs and playing out. If you want to hear some of the original songs she recorded on her iPhone (!) click here. She's the bomb (in more ways than one. Bomb is her autocorrect name.)
Mandy, our middle daughter, found and bought a spectacular house in Austin this year. You have no idea what she went through to make this happen, and we are so incredibly proud of her. (Housing in Austin is scarce!) If you want something seen through, Mandy's your girl. We are toasting on her back porch, the day that she closed on the house.
L: Carie and her sweet daughters. (Not pictured - Brian, her studly husband.) R: Aunt Marilyn, my bio father's sister. She is such a delight and I am so glad to know her. Bet you don't have an aunt who's known as both the "Homemaker Baker" AND "Miss Muscle Beach." Don't believe me? Click here.
It's pretty rare to find a sister-in-law who instantly becomes one of your dearest friends. Cathie is my brother John's wife and one of the most amazing human beings on the planet. I've known her four years but I'm sure we were riding the same wavelength before that. I finally got to meet her sweet son (my nephew) Caleb this summer, and rumor has it that someday Caitlin's gonna get her ass out to Austin to see her aunt. Ready when you are, Cait!
My brother John owns the Smith Flat House in Placerville CA. They have a wine cellar, and Anna and I played a concert there in July. If you live anywhere near the area (about an hour from Sacramento) you need to pay Smith Flat a visit. The food is amazing.
John and Cathie paid us a visit in June, and this kind of typifies my older brother (one I've only known for four years): He effortlessly attracts the ladies. John is an incredibly generous soul; his heart is the size of North America. There will always be a whole lotta love for him in Texas.
My phenomenal cousin Tani. We would've been really good friends had we known each other growing up. She's one of those people you suspect you were BFF's with in another life. Pure sunshine.
Piper and her lovely parents (NOW you can see why Piper ended up looking the way she does. Mandy and Joseph are just flat out pretty. (Sorry Bruno.) We absolutely love spending time with these three. Side note: These two are such devoted parents. Joseph is one of the most dedicated fathers I've ever known, and Mandy is such an incredible mother. Piper's a lucky kid.
The next two photos are of my ex-husband's sisters, who remain my dear friends. This is Aunt Jane and her adorable daughter, Natalie. You can tell by looking at them that they're fantastic, right? They are.
This is Kath, who has been one of my closest friends for the last 30+ years. Katy Rose is her beautiful, sweet, talented daughter. Kath and I raised our kids together (largely over the phone, since we lived on opposite ends of the city!) Oh, if there were recordings of all those conversations!
Me and my love at Yosemite after a geat hike up Sentinal Dome. Craig is such a wonderful husband, grandfather, stepdad. He and I are well aware that we've been given an exceptional second family. Gratitude abounds.
This guy made me an aunt for the first time. I still remember taking him in my car when he was two years old, and being overwhelmed that his parents entrusted him to me. L to R: Stephen (my sister Leslie's oldest), his beautiful wife, Stephanie, and their son Colton. Colton is the poster child for sweetness. If you ever get the chance to meet him, you'll see what I mean.
And here is my family of origin. I got to see my beloved baby brother, Damon, a couple of months ago, but I didn't take photos (so this is all I have of him in the last year.) We miss he and his wonderful partner Mark so much, but they've moved to the big city where Damon is doing his dream in the art world and Mark is busy affecting change in Washington D. C. This photo was taken on Christmas Eve 2012. Billy, our dad (in black) is surrounded by the fam.You've seen all of the others earlier in this post, except for Damon, Billy and Michelle. Sweet Michelle keeps us laughing, and always has something great to contribute to the mix.