The Whole Fam Damily

I've found that it's difficult to come to new realizations or revelations without changing up your life a little bit.

Lucky for me, my life recently went from rivers and lakes to ocean and mountains, so the revelations have been a-flowin'.

I've mentioned this before, but the two sides of my family are completely different. My mom's side of the family is large, all in once place, and I see them all the time (or I did before I moved to LA). My dad's is small and scattered, and I only see them ("them" being my grandma, grandpa, uncle, and aunt) two times a year. Three, max. I've never given much thought to anyone else in my dad's family. I mean, I've always known others existed, and I've met one or two of them throughout my life, but to me they were just people I was randomly encountering, not family.

Freshman year of college, my friend Caitlin and I went to the OC (Orange County) for spring break. We were inspired by the show by the same name. We wanted to see Newport Beach and soak in the McMansions and sunshine. Keep in mind, it was March. We were completely unprepared. We didn't wear sunscreen, we didn't bring warm clothes, and we were too young to rent a car, so we halfheartedly tried to use public transportation and ended up trekking around the county on foot. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly the dream vacation we had planned (but I'll never forget it). Our one saving grace from naïveté and lifelong foot problems ended up being the Jackson family in Laguna Beach. They took us in for a day, showed us around town, and fed us food. We stayed fairly late into the night, talking and playing cards. It was an incredibly memorable experience, but I didn't talk to them again for another four and a half years. Then my parents and brother came into town for Thanksgiving, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology and my dad's foresight, we rounded out their trip with a little journey down to the good ol' beach of laguna.

The Laguna Jacksons consist of Skip, Amy, and their kids Amber, Spike, Charlie, and Victoria. When I met them in 2006, they were all still living at home, but now all of the kids except Victoria have graduated from high school and are scattered around the country. So Skip, Amy, and Victoria once again took me in, showed me around, and fed me good food. It was a lovely night.

By random chance, the tide was the lowest anyone in the Jackson family had ever seen it. This meant that while the tide pools of Laguna Beach are already a tourist attraction, we got the rare opportunity of seeing large expanses of coral and sea life that are usually covered by the ocean at all times. That, combined with the sun setting, made for a breathtaking experience.

Luckily, Amy had the sense to get some family photos taken while we were all together.

As the sun sank lower, we meandered along the shore, talking about our lives and discussing the difference between California and Minnesota.

My dad and Skip (the two cousins connecting us all) lagged behind the rest, updating each other on family members and sharing stories. I couldn't help but smile because they share such a family resemblance.

It was so wonderful to learn about Amy's life as a painter, surfer and interior designer, and to hear about Victoria's aspirations for college and her desire to get out of California and go east. It was a reminder to me that one girl's amazing paradise is another girl's hometown, and that all places are desirable if you allow them to be.

But to me, there is still nothing that can beat this:

Both Skip and Amy and Heidi and Holly (my other cousins located in LA - remember, the ones I forgot to take photos with?) let me know that I am always welcome in their homes and to never hesitate to call if I should need anything. We talked about how nice it was to rediscover long lost family, and I couldn't get over the fact that these people had been around my entire life, but it took a move halfway across the country to finally get the chance to know them better. The power of family really is amazing; it is a bond that ties people together regardless of whether they have known each other their whole lives or are just meeting for the first time. I'm so incredibly excited to get to know a whole new side of my family tree. Once again, California wins.

Oh, and hey look, before we headed down to the OC, we went to the Getty Center!

I couldn't think of a good way to fit these in, but it's an experience worth mentioning. Gorgeous architecture, great views of the ocean and the coast.

Thus ended Thanksgiving weekend. My parents and brother flew back to Minneapolis early Monday morning, and Toby and I resumed our normal work weeks. As I said good bye to my family, it finally sank in for the first time: LA is my home now. This wasn't just another family vacation. I had shown off all of the places I love to visit on a regular basis, because I live here. It was sad to see them off knowing that they were going back to my hometown and the house that I love, but it was also comforting to me that this place truly does feel like home, especially with so many newly rediscovered family members watching my back.

Happy day from the golden coast!

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