Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Over the river and through the woods

For many years we've had Thanksgiving at Geri's house.  It's always wonderful.  We'll miss being there.  We will miss the little pilgrim place cards, Brian's deep fried turkey, the puzzle set up in the living room, the delicious food, the good company...

We've spent Thanksgiving at my grandma's a few times since we've been married, but this will be only the second time we'll spend Thanksgiving in Nevada.  We went there the first year we were married.

I am excited.

I know the food will be good.  I know I'll laugh a lot.  I know my sisters and I will hen peck Enoch because he's the only brother that will be there.  (Poor kid.)  I'm looking forward to it all.

Last year at this time, we thought we were stuck like glue in our lives.  I would have been shocked if someone had told me what was on our horizon because it was completely unexpected.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I can't help but look back with gratitude though.

I'm grateful for the people that helped us along our way.  I'm grateful for my dear friends that supported and sustained me and listened when we were making a heart wrenching decision.  I'm grateful for all the help Geri gave us, even though she didn't want to see us go.  I'm grateful for the job Adam now has that he enjoys.  It matters.  I'm grateful for the kind friends who have opened their circles and let our kids in.  I'm grateful for new opportunities for them, including but not limited to being the new person.  I think they'll be more aware of people on the outside of things now.  I hope we all will be.  I'm grateful for my family and the ways big and small they assist us.  I'm grateful for the wonderful gift their proximity is.

Sometimes I ache because I miss our old life so much.  I can't help but think that is a blessing too.  What a wonderful life we've had.  How sad it would be if you could move to another state and not be a little heartbroken.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Visiting teaching

Mormon women are assigned a few other women and are supposed to be their "visiting teachers."  The idea is to visit them at least once a month and get to know them and share a message with them.  It's a way we can take care of each other.

There have been times when I've been ambivalent about visiting teaching.  Sometimes the women that visited me brought destructive children or were inflexible about when they could come and I had to bend uncomfortably to accommodate them.  Sometimes visiting the women I've been assigned has been a hassle.  They may be flaky about keeping appointments or really don't want to make time for me to come.  It's not a perfect system; we're certainly not perfect women but mostly we are trying to get it right.

Maybe because I don't really have many friends here, visiting teaching has kind of risen in significance for me.

Sue, who happens to be Mrs. Shelton, Emma's English teacher, comes to visit me.  I instantly feel a kinship to English teachers because we like a lot of the same things.  Sue is also one of Emma's favorite teachers.  Even better, she challenges Emma.  Emma wrote a paper and her teacher read it and said it wasn't good enough.  (Sue confided she thought she'd lost a friend in Emma when she did that.)  Emma tried again though.  She rewrote the paper.  In the words of her English teacher, it was a "fantastic paper".  I love that she had the skills to get more out of Emma.  When someone blesses my children's lives, they're catapulted to my list of favorites.  When she comes to visit me, Sue and I talk about real and interesting things.  I like her.

I have a partner I was assigned to named Terri.  She is the most calming person I know.  She raised five children--pretty much on her own, is on her second marriage, and just seems unflappable.  She has a ready smile and a easy and gentle manner that puts me at ease. 

We have been assigned three women to visit.  One of them is a little quirky.  She has strong contradictory opinions.  When we left her house, I wondered why I felt so good.  I had been having a bad day and I felt positively restored.  I realized it was because she was very interested in me.  She asked me sincere questions and made me feel like I mattered.  Just who is taking care of who in this arrangement?

We also visit a young mother.  She has a two month old baby.  The young mother told us about the days the baby was in the NICU and the first days home that were awful.  We got it.  We remember those days that were sort of torture and you would have given all your possessions for a solid night's sleep.  We've made it to the other side and hopefully that is a comfort to the young mother.  We complimented her on her well cared for and alert baby.  "You obviously talk to him a lot," Terri said.

The young mother looked apologetic, "Yeah, I'm the only one here all day with him and I have to talk to someone."

We told her it was exactly what she should be doing.  I told her the baby would be smarter because of her time spent talking to him.  She smiled down at her son and held him close.

As we were leaving, Terri said, "You are doing a great job.  He is wonderful and you did that!"

The younger woman looked taken aback, then a big smile spread on her exhausted face.  "Thank you!" she said.

We also visit another woman.  She is a harried and worn mother too.  But on the other end of things.  Most of her children are raised and she has a few teenagers left in the nest.  She works full time at a very demanding job and she is tired.  We visited her Sunday after I had spoken in church about gratitude.  We talked about it and she told me that it reminded her of a journal she'd found recently.  In 2008, her family had been in a terrible car accident and she'd written about it.  To my surprise, she went and got the journal.  She handed it to me.  "I want you to read it," she said, "Then give it to Terri to read."

I was sort of stunned.  I don't know this lady very well, I've only visited her a couple of times.  I said OK though.

Yesterday I picked up the journal and couldn't put it down.  I was riveted.  She warned ahead of time that she wasn't much of a writer but she is.  In reading about the accident and their recovery, I learned an incredible amount.  I learned about how she feels about her family.  Her love and concern for them were palpable.  I learned about her deep faith; her conviction of knowing what mattered and that God loved her and her family.  I learned about her gratitude.  She outlined again and again all the myriad ways people were helping them and all of the little miracles that sustained them. 

My point in telling you all of this is that I have a new understanding.  We need each other.  We need people to lift our children and provide interesting ideas.  We need people to assure us and make us feel like we matter.  We need people who have been where we've been and can tell us it's going to be all right.  We need people to share their stories.  If everyone shared their stories, I can't imagine what new levels of compassion we could reach.  If we knew each other more, we couldn't help but love each other better.

So I'm glad I have a chance to be involved with visiting teaching.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Made of tough stuff

That's the Johnson girls.  Oral surgery does not slow them down.

Clarissa had her wisdom teeth out on Friday.  Meanwhile Carolina and Morgan played with Mark.  They played wild games with Nerf guns and zombie attacks until they knocked pictures off the wall and their cranky mom/aunt made them stop.  It was a pleasure to have them though.  They are sweet kids and wanted to know how they could help me make lunch.  Teach my children to ask how they can help make lunch?  That's what I would like.

Carolina and I spent a little time together assembling bracelets in a continuation of the project Desi and I worked on.  I'm bringing it all to Thanksgiving.  We'll all have matching bracelets.  Family solidarity.  Carolina outlined all the Christmas gifts she was planning to give people.  She doesn't mess around.

After surgery, Clarissa took a brief nap.  She was slightly groggy but pretty much her normal cheery self.  Emma was planning to go to a movie that night with some friends and invited Clarissa along.  Marianne wasn't convinced it was a good idea but part of my duty as an aunt--and it's a duty I take very seriously--is to undermine their mothers.  So I talked Marianne into it.

They went to Mockingjay and had a melodramatic, emotional time.  I love the teenage girls in my life... but I love not being a teenage girl.

Braeden had a date (still weird for me to say that...he's just a baby!) so I spent my evening with my two favorite Friday night dates, Adam and Mark.  We went to Big Hero 6 and loved it.  I love sitting between them at the movie theater.  I feel like a lucky girl.

Adam bought us a peppermint milkshake at Chick-fil-a after which may be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. 

Saturday was every introverts dream.  The house was quiet while teenagers slept in.  I wrapped Christmas presents and cleaned the school room.  I have a terrible habit of piling stuff up on Mark's desk.  In my defense it's because my desk is piled so high that what's a girl to do?  I need to pile somewhere...

We had to speak in church on Sunday so time was also spent on Saturday working on preparing our talks.  Clarissa had a paper to write so there was a person on a laptop everywhere you looked.  The house was quiet and peaceful and cozy and it was the kind of day that is restorative to my soul.

That evening Adam and I went car shopping again.  We took Braeden.  He loves to have his finger in pots like that and I wanted to put him in the backseat and see if he fit.  Adam got close to pulling the trigger on a car.

It had more features than he was interested in and so had a higher price than he was looking for.  There was a lot of negotiating and game playing.  The salesman kept trying to get me on his side and I endeavored for impartial facial expressions.  I thought neutral Swiss thoughts.  The salesman offered that Braeden could go watch TV and Braeden said, "No, this is fun."  He hung on every word of the negotiations and made cheeky comments and sent me looks that made me laugh. 

It is a frustrating process for me because I'm impatient at my core and ready to not be Braeden's chauffeur any longer.  I also want Adam to get just the car he wants, even if it means ordering one and waiting a few months.  Finally, I was impressed with Adam.  He is the definition of a tough customer.  I was sitting across the table from him and thinking yeah, his mind is razor sharp.  I married a smarty pants who can do a lot of math in his head.  He also can empty a situation of emotion and be very rational.  I can't.  At all.  So I always feel a certain degree of awe.

Impatience and admiration.  It's a confusing mixture.

(We ended up walking away but time will tell.  We may go back this week.)

In the meantime, there's this:

I walked out my bedroom door Sunday morning to this sight.  Every day the view first thing in the morning makes me happy.

Friday, November 21, 2014


This morning Adam had to get up at an unholy hour for work.  They were launching sites in Germany and the U.K. (which sounds like maybe he works in the space program...he doesn't).  What that meant for me was that I had to drive the kids to school.  In my pajamas.  Fingers crossed I don't get a flat tire at a time like that.

Braeden and Emma got out of the car.  He held her guitar while she gathered everything else, then balanced her while she put her shoe back on.  Emma said, "It's a rough morning."

Braeden said in his steadying way, "I got you."

As I was pulling away, a much shorter and younger looking boy approached my kids.  I've never met him so I know he's not one of Braeden's good friends, but he extended his hand to Braeden and looked up at him admiringly and Braeden was jaunty and friendly and my heart swelled.

Every time I see people reaching out (this time literally) to my kids and being kind and seeing my children happy and comfortable, I am filled with joy.  If you could have been here the first days of school, you would know why.

It was bad.

Yesterday Olivia and her family were in town too.  We all met up at the Museum of Natural Curiosity.  The kids and Edgar went inside (bless him) and Marianne and Olivia and I sat on a couch outside and visited.  Sitting on a couch between my sisters is a happy spot.  After, Mark and Ruben and I went to get Adam at work and then we met up for dinner along with Ammon and Melanee and company.

Mark and Ruben are a lot alike.  Olivia thinks it's because Ruben gets Mark's hand-me-down clothes. On the freeway they were shooting at cars with guns made out of their fingers.  They played a rousing game of who would win in a fight--they would name two random characters from movies.  They talked a lot.  And not necessarily to each other.  At one point Mark was telling Ruben about the events of September 11--because they'd been talking about Navy SEALs.  Ruben said, "Did I tell you what I want for my birthday?"

Mark went on with his tale and Ruben went on with his list and they were both happy.

I was dizzy.

Things are pretty good though.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Davis Convalescent Home for Oral Surgery

Well, this is fun.  Marianne thinks that I'm doing her a big favor and I won't tell her any differently because sure, I want her to think I'm a nice sister.

But this is fun.

Desi had her surgery yesterday morning.  She did remarkably well.  (The doctor predicted today may be worse.)  Yesterday afternoon she and I did crafts together.  She is very skilled with that sort of thing.  Also, she's a very busy teenager.  The high achiever apple did not fall far from her mother's tree.  At this stage of Desi's life, she doesn't have much time to sit at a table and string beads and chat.  I don't take the time either very often (and my own daughter holes up to write every free minute she can...she's at over 30,000 words and started November 3).  I loved being with Desi while our hands were busy.  I loved just talking to her and finding out more about her life.

She really is a stellar girl, which surprises exactly no one.

Our kids are enjoying this too.  Maybe too much.  When I picked them up from school (yes, I'm still doing that...if Adam would stop taking business trips, maybe we'd buy another car), Braeden said, "So is Zombie Jaw there?" (She got a bone implant.)

I said, "Braeden! You are not calling her that!"

"I know, I know," he said, "I'll be really nice until she's healed.  I'll wait until Thanksgiving."

When we got home Desi was asleep on the couch.  She woke up and smiled and said, "Hi Braeden!" Then she got up to give him a hug.

All bets were off.  She seemed fine to Braeden so the teasing commenced.

Also Deseret went with us to our Young Women meeting at church.  We assembled gifts bags and delivered them to a rest home.  The ladies there were hilarious and it made us all feel really good.  Then we made turkeys and acorns out of cookies and candies with the girls and listened to Michael BublĂ© Christmas songs.  For the first time I felt a more comfortable and friendly vibe from the girls that are in my charge now.

Maybe Desi's a good luck charm. 

I convinced Marianne to let Morgan and Carolina stay here tonight too.  Mark is over the moon for some time with cousins.

Occasionally I think moving was a big fat mistake.  Spending time with these people is not one of those times. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Things making me happy:

1) Our furnace is working!  We got a second opinion that resulted in a fix.  Maybe just for awhile because the thing is very temperamental but I. Will. Take. It.

2) Today is the first day of the Davis Convalescent Home for Oral Surgery.  That doesn't sound happy exactly but Marianne is staying with us because Desi is having jaw surgery and will recuperate here for a day or two and then Clarissa is having her wisdom teeth out.  Marianne will go home after that but Clarissa will stay on for a few days and eat soft foods.  I'm sorry the girls will be in pain but I'm looking forward to spending a little time with them.  And we're stocked:  applesauce, pudding, yogurt, soup...

3) Last night Emma and I went clothes shopping.  For her.  It still takes an incredible amount of energy and mental toughness on my part.  Emma and clothes and shopping and me.  There's a history there and not a very good one.  We found some good stuff though and we have a nice time together overall.

4) While we were driving, Emma's cousin Raelyn called her.  Rae attends the school in Marysville, WA where a tragic shooting happened last month.  Yesterday some of the Seattle Seahawks players went to the school and met with and encouraged and talked to the kids.  It was closed to the media, they weren't there for attention.  They were there because they care about the kids and that made me happy.  The Seahawks matter to those kids.  They've been through something horrific and it warms my heart that the Seahawks are there.  (I also liked that Emma was on the receiving end of Raelyn's excited phone call.)

5) Braeden and Mark emptied and loaded the dishwasher while we were gone, Braeden's idea.  Mark kept saying, "Why are we doing this?  Did Mom text and say we have to do this?"

Braeden said, "No, we're doing it to be nice."

When Braeden told me the story, I said, "There's the difference between an oldest child and a youngest child."

Braeden said, "Yeah, like Marianne."  (I have told my children about how annoying Marianne used to be when she wanted us to do the dishes to surprise my mom.  It's less annoying when it's my kids doing it to surprise me.  A lot less.)

6) Yesterday Mark and I were learning about gears for his science lesson.  It's a Lego curriculum which is perfect for Mark but the curriculum assumes the teacher knows about stuff like gears.  Mark was peppering me with questions I couldn't answer and I was thinking, I wish my dad were here.  He could explain this to Mark.

Then I remembered about My Dad 2.0 a.k.a. Ammon.  Adam may have known how to do it too but he was at a Jazz game.  He had to go for work--they took the Board of Directors.  I would make some cheeky comment about Adam having a rough life but the Jazz were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder.  They used to be the Seattle Supersonics and Adam hasn't even come close to forgiving the parties involved for stealing his basketball team. At least the Jazz won.

As for Mark and me, we went over to Ammon's in the evening and of course Ammon knew about gears.  They did gears and since Melanee was teaching a yoga class and we were there wrecking bedtime I told Cormac a story and sang Where is Thumbkin? four times in a row to Azure.

Who can resist, "Do 'Run Away' Again!"  Not me.

When we left, Mark said, "That was really fun!"

He may have meant the Legos and gears but I think I had more fun with the kids.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Too cold to rise or shout

Ammon and Melanee invited us to the BYU football game with them.  I haven't been to a football game there since I was a BYU student so I was looking forward to it.  (Also, since I've been married to Adam, I have a vague idea of how football works now as opposed to when I was 18 and didn't understand much of anything.)

Here's was the forecast for game night:

Which is extra exciting when your furnace doesn't work.

We bundled up warmly and Melanee and I pushed feet warmers on our reluctant and skeptical husbands.  It was a "blackout" game so we appropriately wore black.

Ammon took that picture.  No one can do the long armed selfie like Ammon.  The kid has long arms.

Not surprisingly, the game was sort of sparsely attended.

It was cold.

Seriously cold.

We cheered for our alma mater and as is the custom, stood and sang the BYU fight song every time they scored.  Melanee and I decided we looked a little like deranged seals slapping our mittens together as we clapped in time to the music, but hey, the BYU fight song, you have to.

We decided we could make it to half time and then we'd call it a night.  Shortly before the half, BYU was about to score, Melanee said, "I'm not standing for the fight song."  I told her I wasn't either.  It was not worth getting any colder.  BYU scored and Adam and Ammon valiantly stood up on either side of us.

They are stalwart, brave and true. (For the white and blue.)

We beat a hasty retreat to Ammon's Denali that has remote start which is such a bonus at times like that.  We headed to dinner and slowly peeled off layers as we slowly thawed.  We waited around for a table and on our way to being seated, I thought I saw our cousin David across the restaurant.  We hadn't seen him in over ten years, but I recognize people.  It's my super power.  I took another look and yes that was David with his brother Craig.

I explained to Ammon, who was mocking me in a very disrespectful way, that I'm a super recognizer.  (Little brothers!)

After we ordered, we traipsed across the restaurant and visited with our cousins.  They were shocked and surprised to see us especially when I told them I live here now.

We chatted a minute, trying to decide when we'd last seen each other and they gaped at the fact that I have a senior in high school--neither of them have children.  Then we talked a little about a memory our grandma gifted us with that will always be a bright spot in all of our collective childhoods.  Remember our Disneyland trips?  We laughed about Enoch and Craig and their cut throat and misguided competitiveness when we played Rook on the bus my grandma chartered for us each time.
It's fun to run into cousins.

And it's fun to hang out with Ammon and Melanee, even though Ammon doubts my super powers.


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