My mom: She makes sure that I know I'm loved. I've lived 1300-3500 miles from home since I was 18, but she has always made regular efforts to visit when she can, to call often, to help out so that I can visit home. Her grandkids know her way better than you'd expect considering the distance between them. She is always before me as an example of patience, hard work and generosity.
My dad: He taught me how to think--and, in many ways, what to think about--unintentional training that still shapes how I view and approach the world today. He is still that person (besides my husband) I engage most often when I want that kind of conversation, because his wealth of knowledge and depth of intelligence are kind of amazing. He helped mold my subversive humor (very much inherited from him), in helping me understand where it was appropriate and effective, and where it was simply prideful disrespect. Together with my mom, he made sure I had access to resources and opportunities that would open my eyes and round out my education, much more than what most kids in poor, rural Montana know in their childhood and teens.
My oldest sister, Christa: When she was working as a camp counselor at a rich kids' residential summer camp in the San Juan Islands (when I was 12ish), I wrote her regularly and sent packages now and then. She told me she'd remember that. Boy did she. When I was in college, she sent me a package almost monthly. She still sends packages for every holiday and birthday (now usually containing crafty creations dreamed up by her and her kiddos). She bridges the 1300 mile gap between me and my family with her thoughtfulness.
My older sister, Gwen: She is the big sister every kid wants. She's 5 1/2 years older than me, so was frequently my babysitter. She taught me to read. She taught me to work, organizing household chore lists and prizes for said chores getting done with her little brothers and sister. She never was embarrassed or annoyed to have me around--she let me tag along. And as we grew up, she let me grow up and become her equal in friendship. She is humble and thoughtful, and I am a better person for her having had her in my life.
My big brother, Eldon: His wildly weird sense of humor has always kept us all laughing and guessing. I know that there is a sweet heart somewhere under that restrained surface. When I was a freshmen in high school and he was a senior, I was going to prom on my own (not allowed to date yet, but in a school that size everyone goes to prom), and he showed up when I was getting ready and gave me a beautiful corsage. I assumed this was a parent-prompted-big-brother-thing. Until my mom asked where I got the beautiful corsage. Perhaps his girlfriend suggested he do it. Perhaps not. Either way, he picked it out and bought it.
My sister-in-law, Christina: How many in-laws could make you feel more at home in your own family? We've known each other since we were kids, and she is just awesome. She pays attention to people--she is masterful at putting people at ease. She is direct and hilarious, and is the best friend my husband has in my family. For all their vast differences, they are in many ways kindred spirits. She takes care of Eldon, and that probably deserves some kind of medal :)
My twin brother, Michael: I believe we arrived together because we are kindred spirits. In a family of passive aggressive and/or stoic edges, we were the emotional, sensitive, affectionate ones. He is playful, curious, inventive and creative. He is incredibly good with both kids and animals and is a wonderful father to his stepson and his two little girls. He is, at his core, one of the sweetest people I've known my whole life and he will always hold a special place in my heart. I'm excited to see him raise his little boy, who will be arriving by scheduled C-section a week from today.
More tomorrow. . . .