Friday, December 26, 2014

Week 31: Heather

This is my sister Heather. I'm so lucky to have her as a sister. She, her husband Mike, and two girls live in Texas now, and I wish I could see them more!

I have so many great memories of growing up with Heather. She was truly very nice to me, even though I was most definitely the annoying little sister. We, with our sister Adrienne, had so many adventures on the ranch together. We'd go outside all day and play on the haystacks, or ride on the four-wheeler, play with the animals, and go exploring in our woods. We had so much fun together growing up. And when she was a teenager, I remember her driving me around and us listening to George Strait and Garth Brooks. She instilled a love of country music in me.

As adults, we have become even closer. When I moved to Tennessee, she was gracious enough to let me and Bubba (my cat) live with her and my niece Mikaila while her husband was deployed. Even though it was only a few months, that was a really great experience for me. We went to the movies together, went to the gym, watched TV and cooked for each other. I'll never forget my time living with her.

Heather has the best laugh. It's loud, like mine, and really heartfelt. It's infectious. She has also always been there for me, to give me advice or to just listen when I needed her to. She is a really good mother, more so than she gives herself credit for. She is a strong wife, being married to an awesome man who has been deployed for several years throughout their marriage. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. They really impress me with their commitment to each other and to their life. They have always been a great example to me of how to be married. She is so loyal to her family, and I know she'd do anything for any of us.

During the last few years, their family has been stationed in North Carolina, and recently back to Texas where we all grew up. I'm glad she's back in Texas with our family. I wish we were close enough to make weekend visits, but I know she's just a phone call (or skype call) away. I'm so glad that she is in my life, and that she's my sister. She's very special to me.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Week 30: Leanne

I don't really know how to start talking about my best friend of 14 years. So I'll start here: Leanne is a beauty, wouldn't you agree? But the thing is, she has no idea how beautiful she is. And she's even more lovely once you get to know her.

Leanne and I met in college when we were both attending the University of North Texas. For some stupid reason, we wasted a year and didn't become immediate friends while living in Bruce Hall. Seriously, teenage girls can be so weird. Fast forward to the one day we just decided to have a conversation... we instantly hit it off. I still remember how fun and interesting she was. I was totally intrigued by her, and so glad we were finally becoming friends. Soon after that we became roommates and would remain so until we graduated. When I look back, I can remember so clearly some of my favorite memories living with her. We would walk to class together, have early morning conversations about the night before (if I knew she was awake, I'd get up, no matter how early even if we didn't get much sleep the night before), go on spontaneous trips to the lake, go listen to our friend's bands play, have a weekly Zoolander night, and then there was the late night gate jumping to go swimming after hanging out with our friends at Lucky Lous. This girl and I had FUN in college.

After that, we moved to different cities, and we haven't gotten to see each other nearly enough. She went on to live in Florida, then Colorado, and finally Oregon. During that time period we went through one of the worst things a person can experience; we lost Jessica and our lives wouldn't ever be quite the same. After that, I visited as much as I could, and our friendship became even stronger.

Leanne is the person who probably knows me best in this world. Sometimes I think she knows me better than I know myself. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders and has always been here to support and comfort me. She's loved me at my best and loved me harder at my worst. She constantly reminds me that life is an adventure and that we should never take our days for granted. She motivates me to be a stronger, better person, even though she's always thought I was good enough the way I am. She respects our differences and understands that even though we might not always see things the same way, that doesn't have to come between us or weaken our friendship. Even the miles between us, even though they make it difficult to visit, are just miles, and she's always just a phone call away. She is fiercely loyal, and very intelligent. She loves her family and loves being in nature. She's also very creative, and I'm glad she's finally using her talent to make things. She also shares my love of two-stepping, and I can always count on her to go to the Broken Spoke when we're both in Austin at the same time.

She's one of the greatest people I know on this earth, and I am so lucky to call her my best friend and have so many great adventures with her. And I know we still have so many great adventures to come.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Week 29: Hailey

This is my sweet little angel faced niece Hailey. She just turned THIRTEEN. God bless us! She is her mother's daughter! She's silly, sweet, smart and artistic. She writes her own songs and loves to sing, and she's good at both of those things! She's also recently participated in a school musical, which takes way more courage than I've ever had! Hailey loves animals, too. This child has had more interesting pets than anyone else I know. She especially likes mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. In fact, when I moved out to the country in Tennessee, a puppy showed up on my doorstep, and the next thing I knew, she was calling her mom in Texas to find out if she could bring it home with her! She has a soft heart for animals, and it's just one of the things I love about her.
We also have a strong bond, because when she was little, often her and her sister Tristen would come spend the weekend or a week with me when I lived in Austin. We always had so much fun, and I miss being so close to them.
Hailey is growing up so fast, I wish I could slow down time. I also wish I could shorten the distance between me and her so that I could see her more often. I love this girl!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 28: Tristen

This is my oldest niece Tristen. I still remember the day she was born. I was so excited to be an Aunt at 15 years old. I was so proud! And I still am. When she was born, my sister Angie and brother-in-law Tim were still living in California. I didn't get to see them as much as we all wanted, but that didn't stop me from loving this girl with all my heart. It also gave me an excuse to go to California as much as possible!

It's hard for me to believe that Tristen is eighteen now.... she's turned out so awesome! She's a crazy talented artist (way more talented than I'll ever be!), and she's even rebuilding her first car with her dad. I know she's going to have a great life ahead of her, because, already, exciting things are happening. I'm so impressed by her, and her bravery in pursuing what she loves, her art. There is no doubt in my mind she will be successful, and I can't wait to see the way her life unfolds.

I'm so proud to be her Aunt.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Friday, July 25, 2014

Week 27: Tim

This is Tim. He's married to my sister Angie. The thing about Tim is he's not just a brother-in-law, he's my brother. He's been in my life since I was really young. Honestly, I can't even remember how far back we go. But it's way back. I can't imagine a better partner for my sister. He is wild. He is hilarious. He is goofy and ridiculously hyper at times. He's full of life and young at heart. But he's more than all that. He's a hard worker. He's fiercely loyal. He would do anything to give his wife and children a good life. He and my sister have built a business from the ground up and they are successful because they are great at what they do, but mostly, because they bust their butt to make it work. Tim is smart, and wise and knows how to take care of his family. He's also very loving, and very caring. And he's not just these things to his wife and children, this extends to the rest of us as well. He treats my mother very well. He treats me like the little sister he never had. He's close with my other sister and brother and we all get along so well because he is one of the family. We love him to pieces and feel so blessed that he's in our lives. And not just because he can fix our cars and make us a mean margarita. Because he's amazing!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Week 26: Angie

This is my sister Angie. Doesn't she have the best smile? I've always been so envious of her pretty smile. She's been such a great big sister to me. She's so loving, but also honest, and straight with me when she needs to be. She's supportive and caring. She's hilarious and fun. She's laid back yet has it together. She's a wonderful mom and wife that loves her family more than anything. She's smart and knows a lot about business. She knows how to throw a good party and how to be a gracious host. She's always taking care of others before taking care of herself. She loves animals, especially kittens. She gets excited like a child sometimes, and it's my favorite thing to hear that excitement in her voice. She laughs loud and isn't afraid to be herself. She isn't worried about what others think, and I really admire that about her.

I have so many great memories of her from when I was growing up. She would take me to the beach when I was a small child. When I was 8 she got married and moved to California. Naturally, I was devastated. But when I was in college, I started visiting her regularly, and we always had a great time. When I graduated from college, she moved back to Texas, and I was able to spend a lot more time with her and her husband and my nieces. That's when the real fun began! My nieces would come stay with me in Austin for the weekend or I would come to their house. We always have so much fun when we're together.

She's taken such good care of me over the years. She probably doesn't realize how much I rely on her (well maybe she does because I call her so much), but I have so much respect for her wisdom and advice. I like the way she lives her life, unapologetically... doing what she believes is best for her and her family. Not everyone has the courage to live that way. And I love her so much for this reason and so many more!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Week 25: Courtney

Meet Courtney. Or as I like to (still) call her- Mrs. Wellmann. The first time I knew of Mrs. Wellmann's existence was two years before she was my teacher, when I had Coach Wellmann as my history teacher in the 8th grade. I saw her picture on his desk and I remember thinking, "hm, she's pretty." Two years later, she ended up being my sophomore English teacher. I don't remember much about that class because, let's face it, that was awhile ago, but what I do remember is that I really enjoyed it, I made good grades, and I liked my teacher. The three specific memories I have are the following. First, that she played The Chair, by George Strait, for us to discuss as a class. Second, that she and Coach Wellmann said that if they could adopt me, they would (I was so flattered!). Thirdly, at the end of the year, she asked me to join the Journalism staff the next year. I don't know if I ever told her, but that was really special to me, because it really boosted my self esteem.

I took Journalism with Mrs. Wellmann the following two years. Those two years in that class were some of my favorite memories of High School. I learned so much about writing, got to compete in contests and even won some! She helped me find a talent I didn't even know I had as a teenager, and that's a really important time to discover talents. But it wasn't just the learning that I loved. I really loved how much she cared about all of us. It was a different type of class than the others. It was the fun class that I really looked forward to... where we could relax and be ourselves, yet due to the makeup of students, we all knew the expectations and met them. It was a great experience. And then there were the "late nights" that we worked on the newspaper. Oh my goodness. That's when the show Friends was on, and we'd go down to a classroom with a TV and watch it, then get back to work. We'd leave after 11 p.m. on those nights, and I lived far away from school, but she'd always ask me to call her when I got home to let her know I got there safe. That's what I'm talking about, she always let us know she cared. And that meant the world to me.

It's been 15 years since I graduated from High School. And during those 15 years, I've kept in touch with Mrs. Wellmann. I've watched as her life has changed and she has seen my life change. She's been there for me through some rough times and through some exciting times, even though she didn't have to be, because I was just a student, or even someone who used to be a student. But she never stopped caring and to this day, I believe, is one of my biggest cheerleaders. Mrs. Wellmann is someone who has impacted my life more than she can know, for a lot of reasons, but mostly because she is one of the reasons I am a teacher today. She is someone I looked up to as a student 15 years ago, and someone who I still look up to now. I admire who she is... she is funny, thoughtful, kind, sweet, giving, encouraging, intelligent, honest, hopeful, ambitious, and so many more things. I'm so thankful she is in my life.

Also, if you're reading this Mrs. Wellmann, I'm sure it's full of grammatical errors, and for that, I'm sorry!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Week 24: Kristyn

Now I introduce you to my little baby sister Kristyn. I refuse to let her grow up, which I'm sure is really annoying to her.

I'll never forget the night I found out about her existence. I was so excited. I was no longer going to be the baby. I was eleven. Then she was born premature and in the hospital for a time, and I distinctly remember not thinking twice about cutting all my fingernails short that I had worked so hard to grow out; I didn't want to hurt her when I put my hand in the incubator because sometimes she'd wrap her tiny hand around my pinky finger.

I always forced her to let me take photographs of her as she was growing up way faster than I would have liked. Oh the pictures I could show you... I thought I was such a good photographer. She was such a good sport.

The things you should know about this beautiful girl is that she's not just a beautiful girl. She is so much more than that. She's hilarious. She's really intelligent. She's fun and spontaneous. She's full of life and adventure. She's kind and giving. She's caring and would do anything for anyone she cares about. She's worked extremely hard to get where she is. She is inquisitive. She's hopeful. She's athletic. And she's loving. She's a lot more things, but you get the idea.

I love this little girl (because she'll always be a little girl to me) more than anything. I want to protect her and keep her out of harms way. I want to fix everything for her. I want her to never feel any pain. I want to lead her in the right direction at all times. Unfortunately I can't do all these things for her.... but I hope and pray that somehow, being her big sister has helped her in some way. Because she means everything to me!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Week 23: Judy

This is my stepmom, Judy. Doesn't she look lovely? Let me tell you a little bit about her. She's been in my life since before I can remember. As long as I have memories, she has been in them. I have a lot of great memories growing up with her. One of which being her letting me decorate birthday cakes, so she might actually be responsible for helping me discover my love of cake decorating!

One of the most obvious characteristics of Judy that comes to mind is that she loves to make others happy. She is a wonderful host, and is always ready to feed her family, friends and even strangers. She wants to see others be happy, and she wants to help them be happy, in any way that she can. She is extremely generous and loving, always putting others before herself. It's been obvious several times in my life, that even though I'm not her biological daughter, she loves me like I am, she treats me like I am, and she gives so much to me like I am.

Judy has faced a lot of hardships in her life, and has come through them as one of the strongest women I know. She has overcome obstacles and is extremely independent because of it. These things have taught her a lot of valuable lessons that she has shared with us, and we're grateful for her honesty and openness. Also, she's not afraid to speak her mind, and that is not something you always find in a woman, so it's something to be valued! It's helped me to realize it's okay to let my guard down, to be open and honest and speak up for how I feel and for what I believe in.

Lastly her faith is something that is very important to her. It shapes who she is and she constantly nurtures the relationship she has with God. I admire that about her, and it's taught me and helped me to do the same.

I'm really lucky to have her in my life, and I know my sisters and dad feel the same way.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Week 22: My Dad

This is my dad. You can call him Ralph. My dad is quite interesting, if I do say so myself. I imagine that all parents have this really cool, intriguing story of life before kids, and my dad is no different. He grew up on our ranch with his mom and dad, and I bet he spent a lot of time outside exploring, just like I did years later. He has told me all kinds of stories of his childhood, including how he started playing piano at our church in the country when he was only eight years old, or how he came inside shouting that there were little monkeys coming up to the house when there were some baby kittens walking toward him (he had recently been to the circus for the first time and gotten the kittens confused with the monkeys he saw). He got through school and was one of the smartest kids in his class, and then went on to college at Texas A&M and became a Fightin Texas Aggie. He was in the Corps of Cadets while at A&M and then went on to the Air Force after Graduation. He served in Vietnam and  thankfully, came back. Because of his time in the Air Force and then the Reserves, he got to travel all over the world. When he came back, he became an Civil Engineer and worked that job until he retired. But, I believe, what he really loved, was being a farmer and rancher. And this he did on nights and weekends.

The reason I give you all this background on my dad's education and work is because one of the most important things you should know about my father is that he's worked harder in his life than anyone I know. And he's done it all for his family. Even now, even though he's retired, he often says he works harder now than ever. And even though we don't acknowledge it enough, our whole family knows that everything he's done, was for us. That's something else you should know about my dad. He loves his family. He would do anything to help us. He has done so much for me over the years, there's no way I could ever repay his generosity.

So now I'll tell you how my dad has influenced my life. I'm a harder worker because he taught me how to finish a job. I do everything in my power to keep my word, because he taught me it's important to do what I say I'm going to do. I want to see the world because of the stories he's told me of the places he's been. I love to two step, because he taught me to dance in our living room when I was a kid. I know how to drive a tractor because he taught me how to rake hay. I know how to change a tire because he knew it was important that I learned. I know how to play (a little) piano because I watched him play growing up and was able to take lessons. I know how to shoot a gun because he taught me. I sing along to songs in the car because he never shushed me as a kid, even though I sang along to EVERY song in the car. I went to Germany at the age of 17 because he sent me. I know a little about gardening because he's taught me that too. I have an appreciation for the country, and for solitude, because of our ranch.

And here are some of my favorite memories growing up.... waking up to him practicing hymns on Sunday morning before church. Him cooking breakfast on Saturday mornings. When the cowboys would come and he'd let me watch them give all the calves their shots. Helping him plant his garden. When he bought me a basketball goal in middle school so I could practice while I was at his house because I made the basketball team at school. Riding out in the pasture to check on the cows. One time, in college, when he woke me up because he was leaving the house and he told me he was proud of me. When he would drive 6 hours, round trip, to come to mine and Adrienne's dance recital, and he'd always bring us flowers. Sitting out in the pasture, watching the sunset, waiting for him to come home from working on the tractor. Fishing in our ponds. Catching that BIG catfish when I was 8 years old. When he'd take us camping in the woods. And there are many, many more good memories.

As you can see, my dad is pretty special to me. I need to tell him that more often.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Week 21: Chris

This is my friend Chris. I met him and his wife Sharon a few years back and they have both become very dear to my heart. Chris is one of those guys that just when you think you know him, you discover he has five more layers to him that you knew nothing about. Somehow he can pull off being a successful musician, writer and visual artist all at the same time. He's extremely well read, and very intelligent. He can come off as quiet, but I think he's either listening with intention or deep in his own thoughts. He can also come off as wild, hence the portrait above. He's one of the most honest people I know, and has always been available for a conversation, no matter how silly or difficult the topic. Also, his faith is something I admire, and something I'm always learning from. I truly appreciate our friendship, and I'm so glad that he and Sharon are in my life.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Monday, May 26, 2014

Week 20: Milo

This kid slays me. And I don't use that phrase lightly. This is my youngest nephew Milo. He is Rhys' little brother. Just when I thought my heart couldn't possibly grow anymore, he was put into my arms. Milo is so special to me. He is silly- he's got the cutest laugh (and he's always making himself laugh!). He's energetic- he's always running laps around the house. He's curious- he's always wanting to see and do whatever his big brother is doing. He's mischievous- whenever he's about to do something he knows he shouldn't, he gets a look in his eyes, just long enough to warn you! He's affectionate- he loves to give hugs and kisses. He's smart- sometimes he'll say or do something that just blows me away. He's a momma's boy, and I know my sister loves that!

He is another one of the loves of my life, and again, I'm so glad I get to be his Aunt.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Week 19: Rhys

This little sweetheart is Rhys. He is one of my four nephews. I've been lucky enough to live near him and his little brother Milo since they were born. I could go on and on about all of my nieces and nephews, but I'll try to keep the entries about them to a length you'll actually read :).

I still remember the day Rhys was born. My sister Heather and I called in sick to work because we were so excited to go to the hospital, see his mom and dad, and hold him, we couldn't wait until the end of the day when we both got off work. I've never gotten to hold a niece or nephew the same day they were born, so this was special to me. That first summer, I spent a lot of time babysitting him, and that was really special to me too. We took naps on the couch together and my favorite thing was to give him kisses and snuggle him all day. It's still my favorite thing.... when he lets me!

I've gotten to watch him grow into a spunky, crazy, shy-at-times, intelligent, witty, quirky, charming, goofy, affectionate four year old who I absolutely adore. This little boy has changed my life and opened my eyes to a lot of things!! I'm so lucky to be his Aunt! He is one of the loves of my life, and my heart is so full because I get to love him.

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**

Week 18: Manley

This is my friend Manley. He is husband to Rebekka. The first time I met him he said, "Hi, my name is Manley," and I was like, "yah you are" because I'm a nerd like that. I'm sure he's heard that a million times, but I'm so grateful he decided he'd be my friend anyway.

Manley is so great. He has got to be one of the kindest people I know. I'm pretty sure he'd do just about anything for anyone, especially his wife, which is really sweet, and also I think that's how it should be. He's a licensed architect (yay Manley!!) and works for this awesome small firm in East Nashville. Every time I drive past a new place and see the Powell Architect sign in the window I think "Sweet! Another great place to hang out in East Nashville that Manley has a hand in!"

Even though I don't get to hang out with him and Rebekka near as much as I'd like to, I'm so proud to call Manley a friend. He's such a stand up guy.

**This is part of the 52 portrait series**

Monday, May 5, 2014

Week 17: Rebekka

This is my dear friend Rebekka. She is kind of out of control amazing. She's one of my favorite people, hands down, and I really, really love this girl. She's extremely gifted, creative and smart. She's figured out how to quit her day job and make it as an artist, with her latest adventure being spinning her own yarn. But it's not just all that.... there's so much more....

Rebekka is one of the kindest people I've met since I moved to Nashville. She has such a sweet and funny disposition. She's someone I want to spend time with because she is so interesting, I learn so much from her, and she's SO FUN. I bet she's a pretty cool wife too. (I'll introduce you to her husband next.)

And oh my goodness.... her laugh. Her laugh is the best laugh you've ever heard!

**This is part of the 52 portraits series**