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Let me introduce you to my amazing sister, Nellie.

People say that we look alike. In fact, we seem to hear that every time we step out into public together. Personally, I love that. This sweet young thing is twenty-two, and I mean just, twenty-two. Being told that I might look even a bit like her is oh, so good for my fragile mid-thirties-mama-of-four self-esteem. Not only is this tender sweet young thing good looking, but she is also whip-smart, feminist-leaning, take-charge, caring, loving and pee-in-your-pants funny. When I grow up, I want to be more like her. Seriously.

This past weekend found me in Florida to help celebrate her latest life accomplishment. Nellie is a brand spankin’ new graduate of Ringling College of Art & Design‘s Digital Film Program. I could not be more proud of her. She is one of those rare people who discovered her calling at a young age and who has worked since then with singular focus and unrelenting drive to learn her craft. Watch out world, this bad-ass chick is going places! I envy her in so many ways. She is just now learning to spread her wings to their full width and potential – stretching out to take on the world. What an amazing sight to behold.

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity I am still trying to recover from. There was packing and cleaning and eating and graduating and family and a trip to the beach. I think Nellie had only been asleep for a few hours – there was just so much celebrating to be done – when I woke her and asked, “Beach?” With a stretch and a yawn, her response was, “Why not?” So it was that we made our way to nearby Siesta Key, with it’s silky smooth white sand and crystal clear blue water, at 7:30am the morning after her graduation.

This walk on the beach with my baby sister will be an experience I will forever treasure. As our bodies woke under the warmth of the sun we walked together. We talked some, we were quiet some and we laughed as only we can when we are with each other. We picked up shells, we splashed in the waves and we dozed in the sand. We breathed our way through a sun salutation or two. We noticed the birds and the fish and the people. It was funny and it was soulful. It was just us being us. It was perfect in every way.

Thank you, Nellie, for all that you are in my life. You are my sister and you are my friend. Thank you for laughing with me and for listening to me when I cry. Thank you for loving my babies and for being a part of my family. Thank you for getting angry at the same things I do and for your unsurpassed taste in movies. Thank you for every single late-night talk. Thank you for showing me what can be accomplished with determination and hard work and a sense of humor. Thank you for all that you are and for all that you will be. Congratulations on your success and thank you, thank you, thank you.

I should also mention that one of the great perks of having an art college graduate as your sister, is that when you hand her your big clunky camera and ask, “Could you take a few pictures?” the answer is almost always an enthusiastic, “Yes!” I rarely see any pictures of myself that I can stand, but my dear sister, of course, captured so many great images of me I had to choose just my favorites to share here. Thank you again, Nellie, for making this simple walk on the beach so special. I love you!

A special request – closeups of my dreads (three months old now!).