If you give a mom the afternoon off…

If you’ve ever read the children’s story, “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” then my afternoon will sort of make sense to you:

If you give a mom an afternoon free of activities, then she will find something to do with her time. If she has nothing to do, she will want to find something to clean. If she finds something to clean, she will need to pick a cleaner. The cleaner she chooses is concentrated so she’ll have to get an empty bottle out of the laundry room to mix it in. If she gets in the laundry room, she’ll see all of the beach bags hanging on the wall and decide that she doesn’t need any of them. She will throw them in a pile to get rid of. She will also find a rag which reminds her that she’s cleaning. She will mix her Tough and Tender in the empty bottle, grab the rag and clean the baseboards. Cleaning the baseboards will lead her to cleaning the walls (from top to bottom). While cleaning the walls, she will remember that she wants to sand and paint the door frame. She will search for the paint and then the paintbrush. As she shakes the paint, she notices the bathroom (which is attached to the kitchen). This will remind her that she wants new bathroom rugs. She will pick up her phone and search bathroom rugs. She will end up on Target’s website, searching for rugs when a shower curtain pops up. She will put a new shower curtain in her cart. This will remind her that she wants a new shelf for her bath towels, oh yes – AND new towels. She will continue adding things to her cart until she has a plan to redo the whole bathroom. She will head to Pinterest and look for inspirational ideas. She will screenshot photos and text them to her husband. He is still at work, so she will decide to wait to order anything new. Now, it’s almost bedtime and mommy has filled all of her free time. She will lay in bed tonight and continue to think of redoing the bathroom. Which will obviously lead her to thinking about redoing all of the floors…

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

A True Gift

As I read through my mom’s old columns, I feel close to her – as if we are having one more conversation. I can feel her passion – hear her voice, as she paints the perfect picture of her experiences.

July 18 marks the four year anniversary of her passing. Although it has been longer than that since I was last able to really hear her voice and benefit directly from her wisdom, I am truly blessed to have been left with years of her stories that I can share again and again with my children, myself, and the world.

I was thinking of mom (as I do often) and the gifts she has left in all of us. To name a few: I can feel her with every butterfly, rainbow, sunset and great blue heron; I am lucky to have retained the answers to so many natural questions from years of her teaching; I can visit the trees and flowers that she herself has planted, nurturing each one – sometimes from a seed, bulb or sapling.

How blessed I am as a daughter, and we are as a community, to be able to hold on to, and appreciate, these gifts for a lifetime. Additionally, we possess the ability to pass these gifts on through the generations, while also preserving her legacy and her life’s work.

Reading through an old column of hers recently, I found it too perfect under the circumstances not to re-share.

The Pawpaw Tree

by

Carol McFeeters Thompson

I can still see them sometimes, the two of them, on the lawn with a spade, quietly debating the merits of one location over another for planting the little tree. Settling on a spot beside the butterfly garden we had all worked on together, he dug the hole and loosened the soil at the bottom. She lovingly mixed in some nutrients, then placed the little tree he had grown from a seed in the center of the hole. He poured in half a bucket of water to settle the loose soil around the roots. She held the tree upright, studying it from multiple angles to make sure it was absolutely vertical, while he replaced the soil he had just removed, tamping it in place with his foot. The rest of the bucket of water was carefully poured around the base of the tree, eliminating potential air pockets. I watched them step back to admire their work, knowing that they had left a piece of themselves there on the lawn.

The tree they planted was a pawpaw. She was already gone when it flowered for the first time. The little tree was festooned with maroon flowers hanging below its sparse branches like bells one spring, just as the leaves were opening. When I expressed my excitement at the prospect of eating my first pawpaw, he cautioned me, “Pawpaws don’t pollinate themselves. It takes two trees.” There were no other pawpaw trees at Weldon Springs, although I had seen thickets of pawpaws in other mesic forests. They were mysteriously absent.

We talked at times about plants that were conspicuously absent at Weldon Springs: marsh marigolds that should have been in the marsh, bluebells that should have been in the bottomlands, pawpaws that should have been in the forest.

When he came to say goodbye, we both knew we would never see each other again. We talked for a few minutes standing next to the pawpaw tree I had watched them plant. “I left you a present,” he said softly.

“Really? What?”

“You’ll know it when you see it,” he promised. Then he was gone.

One spring day, as I walked down the trail through the marsh, I noticed a flash of bright yellow that had never been there before. Walking closer, I discovered a clump of marsh marigolds blooming. “That was the present,” I told myself with delight. “What a nice surprise.” I felt like he was back in the park again.

The next year, I discovered a clump of bluebells growing on a wooded hillside. Again, I approached them with delight and thought of him.

The following year, as I was leading a group of students on a hike around a portion of the lake, I spotted a handful of the familiar maroon flowers on two small saplings down in a draw. Pawpaws! Another present.

Last week, one of the children called me over to look at the pawpaw tree on the lawn. “What is this?” he asked.

There, sheltered by the large leaves on the outer edge of the bottom branch was a cluster of three lumpy oblong fruits suggesting bananas. The tree they had planted together was bearing fruit for the first time. I so wished they were there to see it; there would have been one fruit for each of us. I have been considering this week what a miracle the three pawpaws truly are.

Pollination is difficult for the pawpaw in nature. Evolving before bees, pawpaws rely on blowflies and carrion beetles for pollination. To attract them, the flower is meat colored, downward facing, and fetid – smelling like rotting meat. Pawpaw flowers are perfect – they have both male and female parts – but they are not self-pollinating. The female stigma matures and is no longer receptive when the male pollen is shed. In addition, each individual flower will only accept pollen from a tree that is genetically distinct. A pollinator must not only move from flower to flower but also from tree to tree.

In order for the tree on the lawn to be pollinated to produce its first fruit, the same fly that found one of the two saplings in the draw must have flown across the lake, left the forest, and landed on a flower of the tree on the lawn. The seeds of these resulting pawpaws, if propagated and planted on the lawn, would produce a tree genetically distinct from the other two, making pollination of all three more likely. That is something he would do if he were still here.

It has been many years since I walked through the park with my friend, “birding and botanizing,” but I can feel his presence sometimes along the trail.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Please, just look away

Of the two children born to me, I have one introvert and one extrovert. The oldest will greet a stranger with a hello and instantly become the best of friends; the youngest takes time to warm up to others – she has literally taken years to form some of the stable relationships she has now.

The oldest will try new foods and eat what’s on her plate; the youngest will eat applesauce and maybe a bowl of cereal – some days she “hates” both, leaving it difficult to satisfy her hunger on a daily basis. The oldest will maintain composure and knows the difference between “acting right” and “wrong”, leaving her meltdowns usually solely for me (her mother) at home and rarely ever throws a fit around others (except her dad); the youngest will have a meltdown anywhere, anytime, going from the happiest girl you’ve ever met to an unrecognizable human being in a matter of mere seconds.

My children are not alike, and it took me a long time to be able to mother them both separately without comparison. I’m now used to the fits/meltdowns of my youngest. I know when they’re beginning, I know the process, and I know when the end is near. She has had these fits since she was a baby, and I mean embarrassing, all-out apparent temper tantrums. Sometimes they would last hours and we would have several a day. Sometimes, they would be every day for a week; sometimes there would be a week between times. On top of a meltdown (which by the way HAS to fully end on its own – there is nothing at ALL that can be done to make it better from anyone else), she has severe OCD and many sensory issues.

 

Several doctors (including a neurologist) have cleared our daughter of the possibility of having any psychological or behavioral disorders. Additionally, I was certain she was autistic and was told she is not on the spectrum; she simply has an inability to self-soothe. Part of that is my fault. As a newborn baby, she and I (and the rest of our family, of course) were in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, etc. with my mom and I constantly held her – she was rarely ever put down. She has slept with us since the day we brought her home from the hospital, and I nursed her until she was 2 1/2. It brings (and has always brought) me comfort to know she is close to me, alternatively it does the same for her; but as a consequence, she could not function for a long time without being right beside me (usually on my left hip) – we have climbed mountains in her independence.

 

Currently, she is nearing five and it is up to her to overcome some of these issues and I can’t help her (I mean, that IS part of what has contributed to this in the first place). She has to be told no, and she has to accept what it means. She doesn’t throw a fit simply by being told no, but there are triggers to a meltdown and sometimes it is “no” and funny enough, sometimes even a “yes” answer will cause one – it depends on whether or not she is hungry, and whether or not she slept well (and enough) the night before.

From the outside, maybe it appears as though my daughter is a spoiled brat. Maybe it appears as though she needs a good spanking or a hug (depending on what type of parent YOU are). Maybe I should yell at her or make her leave the store. But, I still need the groceries or I still want to eat the dinner – whether we are experiencing a meltdown or not. Believe me when I tell you that it is has been incredibly exhausting at times. It has brought me to me knees in tears, as it instantly zapped every ounce of energy I had to face the day. It has made me furious. It has, at times, not affected me in the slightest because at this point, I know that it’s just part of it.

Here’s where the learning point comes in for everyone else. Maybe your child was like my oldest – eager to please and happy (mostly) about life. Maybe your child didn’t have fits, or maybe your child was excited to eat carrots and broccoli. My child is not like your child.

In her own ways, my youngest child is unique and amazing and so, so smart. She is beautiful and downright hilarious. She loves hugs and gives “smoochies” and thinks I’m incredible. She is excited and grateful and loves big. Also, she has fits.

How do her fits in public affect you? Well, they make you uncomfortable. You have to listen to MY child cry and you can’t do anything to make it stop and it seemingly goes onnnnn and onnnnn. Let me tell you that momma and daddy ears ring about 10 times louder while (what feels like) electricity jolts through our bodies. I promise you that if we could make it stop, we would.

 

Maybe you don’t know that my child was jumping with joy about Oreos (because mommy RARELY buys them) about 20 minutes prior, but when mommy gave her 3 (it was right before lunch, afterall) – she complained because she wanted to eat them out of the package (that pesky OCD kicked in again) and mommy said no because mommy had put them on a plate to eat in the car (my attempt at minimizing hundreds of chocolate crumbs from landing on my tan interior) – and that’s what started the fit. The fit that lasted all the way to town, on our way to have lunch with Papa. She didn’t get the Oreos. She didn’t get them because we don’t reward bad behavior AND the fit would’ve happened anyway. It wouldn’t have stopped because once it starts, it has to make its way to the end. On its own. I know that about my child, you don’t because you don’t know her.

The same fit lasted in the parking lot, up the stairs and to the outside door of the restaurant. She screamed, and jumped up and down, and cried. When she scraped her leg on the stairs (while jumping up and down) she yelled “you’re hurting me,” her immediate response to any pain she causes herself in a fit (again, I know this because I have experienced it- a lot). She continued to throw a fit while a customer inside (unbeknownst to me at the time) essentially told the waitress that I must be outside beating my child (which I assure you, I was not). The same customer who turned completely around in her chair to glare at me when I walked in with a crying child. The same customer who maintained eye contact while I took my daughter to the bathroom (despite me literally saying to her, “she’s having a fit, you can stop staring at me”), and continued to stare as we came out of the bathroom. That lady – doesn’t know my child (or me), and I sure wish she wouldn’t have passed judgement on a situation she knew nothing about. If she only knew how many times people have done something similar to my daughter (or me), and, that it hurts.

The customer didn’t know that because we took our daughter to a Jojo concert in Chicago the day before, she had slept in the car on the way home and therefore didn’t sleep well during the night. She was tired and that is the main ingredient for a full-blown fit. Instead, she passed judgement on her – and me as a mom.

When I hear a child scream in public, I look the other way. The last thing a parent needs is a look of disgust from a stranger on top of an already totally exhausting parenting experience. Thank you to the couple who sat next to us (and we later ran into at the grocery store as my girls were laughing and skipping while they raced to the shopping cart) and smiled at us, chatting between bites (of applesauce of course); and thank you to the waitress who brought both of the girls a surprise bowl of ice cream at the end of our lunch (as an apology for the very obvious and foul way the customer had reacted). The next time you see a screaming/crying/fit-throwing child (assuming the child is not in eminent danger), please, don’t try to help, don’t stare and do not judge. You have no idea what is going on, but just know that the child (AND his/her mom/dad/sister/brother/papa) is exhausted – please, just look away.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

To Live with Intention

How much better would life be for everyone if we held ourselves accountable for our actions, yet weren’t so quick to judge others? What if everyone talked about their problems; solved them – stood up for themselves, stood up for their children, stood up for others (and others’ children). Why are we so quick to blame others for our own issues? Why are we so quick to put someone else down to make ourselves look better? If you hold yourself accountable for your actions, you may save someone else from suffering, from severe anguish. Why are we intentionally hurting other people?

I recently had a situation where I felt it necessary to speak up for one of my children. I despise confrontation and literally avoid it when possible. This has often been misconstrued as a weakness, but I feel like I’m trying to be the bigger person by not arguing when not essential. I was shaking; I was anxious. I presented my situation respectfully while the other person became overly defensive. The whole time I wondered if I was out of line and I realized later that no, I was not. I’m allowed to speak up for myself (or in this particular case, my child). I’m allowed to be upset. I’m allowed to initiate conversation (respectfully). Would it have avoided an argument had I remained silent? Of course. But should I be able to express when I’m upset with someone (or about a situation) without judgement or confrontation? Yes. Yes, I should (and so should you).

I am an adult. There are so many qualities you develop as an adult; as you’re learning and growing; adapting and changing over the years. I thank some really amazing professors for encouraging my analytical thinking skills, but regardless, we {pretty much} all have an ability to analytically think about situations. One of my worst personal characteristics has always been that I often over-analyze which gives me severe anxiety. “Did that text come out right?,“ Did my comment get taken out of context?,” “Did I do that wrong?,” etc. I will be thinking of something long after someone else has forgotten about it. My dad calls it “dwelling.” I don’t dwell intentionally, it’s just part of my personality.

Accountability. Another thing we {should} develop as we age. I’m the first to say “I messed up, I’m sorry.” I don’t blame others for my own shortcomings, I own up to them. If I hurt your feelings, I’m CERTAIN it was unintentional and I probably missed the cue while I was overanalyzing something else I {or someone else} did. But, if you are willing to call me out on it, I’m willing to talk about it. Let’s fix this.

I’m a fixer. I want to “fix” everyone that hurts, every broken situation. Again, a quality that has its downsides. Maybe you posted on social media about your bad day. You go to bed and while you’re sleeping, I am probably laying in bed thinking about how I can help you. While helping others is a positive quality, it also causes me anxiety (I worry way too much).

Unfortunately, these qualities make for some confidence and self-esteem issues. I’ve struggled with these issues for years (and years). When I do something wrong, I forget all of the times I did something right. Dwelling. I am my own worst critic.

Being a parent changes these characteristics slightly. I speak up for my children {when I often don’t speak up for myself}. I know they need an advocate – I have even been known to speak up for your children (you might not ever even know about it). I teach my children to stand up for themselves (and others when necessary), but if they feel like they can’t, they know their mom or dad will help them. That’s our biggest job, afterall. Making sure they have what they need to grow – emotionally, physically and even spiritually.

None of this means that I’m discounting that other people try their hardest to be their best selves. Some people just fall short and that may not even be their fault (or intentional). But in our minds (and in our hearts), we KNOW when we are lying, judging, and/or being hateful – so why is it happening, and with such frequency? It is not at all difficult to say, “I was wrong” or “you are right!” – three little words, that’s all.

I just keep thinking how much easier life would be if we could coexist with intention; live life with intention. How many broken hearts we could avoid breaking in the first place, or help those whose hearts are broken already. Stand up when we know something is wrong, yet not be afraid to admit when we are wrong. We are all guilty of making mistakes, it’s how we respond to those mistakes that defines our character.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Happy Birthday, Maxwell Kent

Written almost three years ago, but still an appropriate homage to Max, a very special boy {excuse me, young man – 15 already?!} in my life!

I went to bed last Tuesday night, expecting the following day to go one way, only to wake up to a completely readjusted schedule. I had planned to take a loved one for a surgical procedure in the morning and then attend the semester’s first night of on-campus class that evening. Due to the snow, both events were canceled. Sometimes, life just has that remarkable way of working out. This change in schedule allowed for playing in the snow with the girls during the day, followed by the opportunity to be at home in the evening when Max arrived, to celebrate his twelfth birthday.

I have known Max for the majority of his life. I was present for his very first birthday, and have now spent the last six birthdays celebrating both the little boy he once was, and the young man he has more recently become.

Max has always been a very handsome boy, but his tender and loving heart is what sets him apart from the rest. I will never forget the first time I fell asleep with him cuddled up in my arms or how special I felt the first time he told me he loved me, giving me a beautiful hand drawn picture that I still have.

I imagine it must be difficult to have divorced parents. I know I have not always been the best at my step-mom role, but I have always tried hard and had the best intentions in mind. I’m thankful to both of Max’s parents for my opportunity to love, learn from, and grow with, their son. I remember my mom telling me on several occasions that there is not a manual that comes with new parents, teaching them how to successfully raise that particular child. Unfortunately, there is not a manual for step-parents, either (although there are a million people with a variety of opinions). Generally, you just do the best you can and hope that is good enough.

I have always been lucky to have Max, and his sister, Maci, in my life. We have done some incredible things together, making memories that I hope they will take with them into their adult lives.

We were all laughing the other day about our Wisconsin ski trip about six years ago. It was a complete disaster, from Max with an unstoppable nosebleed in the middle of the bunny hill to Maci flying down the same hill, somehow stopping gracefully at the bottom to catch herself on a picnic table that we were sure she was going to crash into.

More recently, we flew to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. We stayed right on the beach, went parasailing, and caught hundreds of live sand dollars. To highlight a few of my other favorite trips: We have canoed down Sugar Creek in Indiana, camped at Indiana beach, and stayed in St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play baseball. We have gone to concerts, taken the train to Chicago to the Shedd Aquarium – stopping to watch Frozen on Ice, and we spent a weekend for my last birthday in a cabin near Starved Rock. Closer to home, we have spent numerous times playing at Weldon Springs catching wooly worms, paddle-boating, going fishing, having cookouts, finding four-leaf clovers and watching the hummingbirds.

As a family, we have also stayed home and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company, spending quality time together doing nothing but just that. Our memories together are countless, and I know they will not remember them all, but I hope that at least one sticks out to each of them and they will forever hold it in a special place in their hearts.

So, to Max on his twelfth birthday:

Happy birthday, buddy. It has been a remarkable journey together so far. I have enjoyed watching you grow each year. I apologize for my shortcomings, but I have never had anything but love for you. I don’t say it enough, but I am very proud of you. You are the best big (and little) brother, you are a dedicated friend and athlete, you are an outstanding student and a loving son (and step-son). I hope this year brings you many new memories and experiences, but allows you to remember the old. Thank you for sharing your life with me, the good and the bad.

“I didn’t give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you.” – anonymous

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Today is the youngest you will ever be

“Well, I can cross THAT off my bucket list!” – 4-year-old Kendall as she finished her cherry Popsicle

You may already be familiar with bucket lists, and might even have one. For those of you who are not, a bucket list is a comprehensive collection of activities and/or achievements you would like to accomplish in your lifetime.

My mom always kept her bucket list current, constantly crossing off completed items and replacing them with new ones. One day, she handed me a canary yellow legal pad and pencil, and said “write your bucket list.” Put on the spot like that, I couldn’t come up with a full list on my own. She, Andrew and Maci helped me complete an entire page in a matter of minutes.

I found that list recently and really thought extensively about the irony of an unfinished bucket list. In fact, there was nothing on that particular list that I could cross off. I in no way feel like I’m not “living” and accomplishing things, but I want to make more of an effort to do some of the things specifically on my list.

This past weekend, we were able to cross off “Take the girls to Disney.” It was not a fully magical experience the entire time as there is a lot of waiting, walking and people; however, there were a lot of really happy and exciting moments and we created many memories we can always cherish. Ideally, we will go again when they are both older and spend more time than a long weekend, but if we never make it again – we have been there, we have done it, and we were together.

One of my favorite parts of trips like this one, is the unexpected. I may have been able to cross something off of my bucket list, but while constructing the list there is no way to prepare for the unknown. For example, Collins is very shy around strangers and sometimes even people she knows well. I did not expect her to get too excited about meeting princesses and riding rides. She really opened up on this trip. Ariel is her favorite Disney Princess and you could literally see the excitement in her eyes when she first saw her. She hugged Ariel three times, and later even sat on Merida’s lap! She was still a little shy at the end of the trip when she and Kendall met Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) in the airport, but she got close enough for a picture with him, too (I had to throw that in there, I was more excited for them than they were – meeting Ariel trumped meeting Shaq in their eyes, of course).

I was inspired by our trip to update my bucket list and found some interesting resources to do so. I still have my paper copy, right on top of my legal pad, but technology offers some interesting options for creating bucket lists as well. I created a “Bucket List” board on Pinterest, allowing me to add ideas as I come across them (especially since I rarely carry my legal pad with me).

Additionally, there are already prepared bucket lists available online. If you’re not really sure where to start in creating one, or you want to add to an existing one, this could be a helpful tool. I like the prepared lists for a more short-term approach. I searched for “Winter Bucket List” online, and found an abundance of fun, new ideas to do with our family.

Whether or not you actually have a bucket list written down, there are always goals you’re working towards and things you would like to do. Life is short (relatively speaking) and time is valuable. Now is as good a time as any, start crossing off your bucket list!

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Summer days

It’s 85 degrees today (which doesn’t sound too bad), but it’s a hot and humid Midwest heat so it feels like a solid 200 degrees. I get off of work early throughout the week now so that I can spend more time with my kiddos for the summer. Owning my own business has its perks; I can take the girls with me to work and I can customize my hours.

I never went to daycare when I was younger, and none of our children ever have either. My mom stayed at home with me and I feel like spending my days with her exclusively, benefitted me in countless ways. I was able to read and write by the age of four; I had plenty of one-on-one time with the smartest, most beautiful woman I knew (my biggest supporter – my greatest fan); and always had a best friend.

Having one income, my mom always did an amazing job of budgeting for special outings, but most of the time, she was creative and modest with our activities. I feel like a lot of that is lost in families today – it is no longer difficult to drive to a local pool or water park, museum or trampoline park. We don’t have to be creative as parents, someone else has already taken care of that for us.

I asked the girls (before we even left for work this morning), what should we do this afternoon? My youngest said “the museum,” my oldest said “the pool,” I said “fishing.” In the last couple of weeks, we have done the splash park twice; the local movie theater for a free morning showing of “Despicable Me 3,” our local library for Summer Reading Club and a mini-horse presentation; Lunchables and popsicles atop a blanket on the beach at a nearby lake; several special swimming days with my step-daughter, step-son and their mom; and an evening movie date to see “The Incredibles 2.” Yesterday, we played at the park located near our home. I realized, today, that we needed to be more creative with our afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, we have had an amazing couple of weeks, but we all needed something “different” today.

I decide that we can fill up the blow up kiddie pool on the backyard (man, I miss our full-size pool – algae took over last year while on vacation and we had to throw it away. Sigh.), mommy can get some sun, the girls can stay cool. I get in my swimsuit and head outside to get this pool party started, only to discover a hole in the side (it’s an inflatable pool, approximately 6’ in diameter). I head back inside to find the repair kit I recently tucked away in the junk drawer. I repair said hole. I search, extensively and thoroughly, for that handy air compressor pump my husband just purchased. It’s not in the garage, or the shed, or on the deck, or in the driveway, or under the deck, or in the back of my car. Defeatedly, I determine that the pool is NOT going to happen. What now?

*Cue a flashback to jumping through a sprinkler in my childhood backyard. *

I hook it up, wondering if the girls will even find it exciting in comparison, and watch in amazement as the girls instantly ran through the water, giggling and laughing uncontrollably at themselves and each other. Both of them hugging me with their cold, wet little bodies before running back through the water. I joined in, adding to the endless giggles, all of us running and jumping hand-in-hand across the yard.

These moments are the ones I live for, the ones that make every day worth getting up for. The giggles and the smiles, holding hands and a having a genuinely great time. I often consider how my mom felt staying home with me; I imagine those days were some of the best days of both of our lives. I’m extremely grateful to spend these summer days with all four of our kiddos as I desperately hold on to the present, fearing the future, and envying the past.

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Our love is like…

I saw this long-winded post circulating on Facebook, describing love as “not always being a fairy tale,” how it’s not always “breakfast in bed” – it’s also fighting with each other and excruciatingly difficult at times (and about a half a dozen other negative descriptions ending with some positive attributes as well). I wish I could find it again to quote it directly, however, I instantly dismissed it as I read it (and I read it many times as many people shared it over and over). I guess that’s where I got lucky, my love IS a fairy tale.

My now-husband approached me on a whim, on a hot summer day nine years ago. He told me he was head-over-heels in love with me. I always knew I loved him, too, but I had no idea how much love I could have for another human being. That day could easily be marked as one of the best days of my life – the beginning of adventures, children, marriage and unfaltering love.

Did we fight? Sometimes in the beginning, as we found our balance – but it never defined our relationship. Do we fight now? No. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time we argued about anything at all – it’s certainly been years. I can’t say whether fighting is a healthy part of relationships, maybe in some cases it is. But, I just can’t think of a single thing we would fight about. I despise confrontation, especially with my significant other – why would I want to fight with the person I love the most?

In losing my mother, I realized that the old cliché saying, “life is short,” is a mantra to live by. Why dwell on the petty, mundane day-to-day? I have a life to live, and so does my husband, and so do our children, and fighting with each other is not how I want to spend it – it’s not how I want any of us to remember our time together.

I admire my husband. He still opens doors for me; still tells me I’m beautiful (despite my recent weight gain that often leaves me feeling less-than-desirable); he still kisses me goodbye; he still sends me a daily “good morning” text. I still get butterflies every time I see him; I still think he’s the most handsome man in the world; I still wonder why he chose me, why I’m so lucky and possibly so undeserving of this man and his love for me.

I don’t remember a time we ever had breakfast in bed, but we have had room service bring us creme brûlée and carrot cake (our favorites); he still woos me from time-to-time with a surprise bacon, egg and cheese biscuit; he knows that a fountain Diet Pepsi is sometimes exactly what I need; he takes me to my favorite restaurant for special occasions and often “just because”; we have eaten pastries in Paris before a visit to the Eiffel Tower; we have toasted s’mores over too many fires to count (and he doesn’t even eat them).

The excruciatingly difficult times we have endured were not BECAUSE of each other, but rather standing beside each other, hand-in-hand. There has not been a single time that my husband has not shown love and compassion; held me close, as my protector and my true love; he has never given up on me. I can only hope that he thinks the same way of me, as I do of him – I truly believe us to be soulmates.

So, as we celebrate nine years together, I look back on a million good times – choosing always to focus on them. I cannot say a bad thing about this man, the one that I have chosen, the one that graciously chose me. I know, without a doubt, that I will always see our love as a real-life fairy tale. He will remain my Prince Charming for the rest of our days, and I sure hope there will be thousands more!

I am courageous

I Am Courageous

By Lauren Thompson

As it was featured on Facebook in the “You Are Courage Campaign” Page

Friday, July 25, 2014 was the start of the week that changed my life forever. My mother – my best friend, my biggest supporter, my strength, my light on every dark day – was transported to the local hospital exhibiting stroke-like symptoms. At only 58 years old, she was diagnosed the next day with a brain tumor. Four days later it was resected; three days after that, she was told she had a stage IV Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), with a projected life expectancy of 15 months with treatment, or 4 months without.

For the next 12 months, she endured 6 weeks of radiation, countless days of chemo therapy, and an additional resection. She was sick for weeks during, and after, chemo. She missed her last Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and both granddaughter’s birthdays (among other various birthdays, holidays and special occasions) due to her chemo schedule and hospital stays. Ironically, it was because of her family that she was fighting so hard. She was the best Nana two little girls could ever ask for and she loved our little girls more than life itself. Her biggest fear through it all was that her grandchildren wouldn’t remember her.

Growing up an only child, my stay-at-home mom and I shared a very special bond. Until recently, I was too naive to understand that not everyone is lucky enough to share the special bond that we had. In addition to being special to her family, she was also a notable lady in our small community, sharing her wealth of knowledge with children and adults for almost 30 years.

Carol Thompson passed away on July 18, 2015 – a week shy of her first hospitalization. It was a bittersweet day knowing that she was no longer suffering, while knowing I would never again feel her touch, hear her voice or smell her scent. I watched as the woman who witnessed my first breaths, took her last.

This year was my third Mother’s Day without my momma. I have experienced all of the various stages of grief. I have cried almost every single day, but I never let my grief keep me down. Instead, I decided to channel my energy into keeping my mother’s legacy alive.

I talk about Nana every day with my children, my family, my friends and the world. I know that no matter what, she is always embedded deeply into our hearts and forever in our thoughts and memories.

Being brave through my loss was something I would have never believed I could be, but I have done it. On the days I think I cannot go on without my sweet momma by my side, I remember that I can – and she would want me to. I have an amazing support network and have been blessed with astounding family and friends. I am courageous for my fiancé, I am courageous for my beautiful children, I am courageous for my father, I am courageous for my friends, I am courageous for me. Most of all, I am courageous because of, and for, my sweet momma.

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Jumping hurdles

She fell up the stairs and scraped her knee. It wasn’t her first fall and it won’t be her last. It was, however, her first fall in front of her friends. She was embarrassed and I was instantly brought to tears. I felt bad for her, knowing she was embarrassed.

We had an emotional morning. A lot of them are that way lately. Part of it is that she is tired, part of it is her gaining her independence. She will no longer wear any clothing I help to pick out, even if we picked it out together the night before. My little girl that is so loving and so big hearted has started using the word “hate”. She “hates” that shirt, she “hates” school, some days, she “hates” me. That one stung the most, of course. If only her little four-year-old heart knew what she was saying to me, she would know how badly it hurts.

But that’s it, she’s four. She is learning and absorbing her surroundings like a sponge. We don’t use the word “hate” at our house. Ever. In fact, there are very few things that I could even say I hate. I mean, I could say that I hate that Kendall uses the word “hate”, but I try to verbally express myself in other ways. I try to convince Kendall to communicate honestly, but without negative consequences. “You don’t hate the shirt, you would like a different one better.”

Use “princess words” my mom used to say. I have tried to explain the difference between being pretty on the inside, not just on the outside. I wish I could wave my magic wand and know that neither of my girls will ever experience the heartache of malevolence, but more so, I hope they are never the ones to provoke others with this pain. It will never be acceptable to be the “mean girl.”

So what do you do to stop this behavior? Do I spank her, promoting hitting as a viable option, or punishment, for expressing your feelings? Do I yell, so that she now thinks yelling is an acceptable way to express yourself? Do I give in, teaching that if you yell loud and long enough, you will eventually get your way? I don’t really know the right answer to this question I have had such difficulty grappling with.

What I do know is that as I empathetically felt the pang of Kendall’s fall, with all of her witnesses, I realized just how resilient she truly is. Her teacher put a Doc Mcstuffins bandaid on her knee, instantly making her war wound worth bragging about. She proudly showed her friends her knee, automatically limping when they didn’t show enough solicitude.

I learned from watching her today. As we experience an obstacle (such as that pesky stair step that jumps right in our way), overcoming it only makes us stronger. I will inevitably hit a plethora of roadblocks with the girls, but we love each other and undoubtedly, we will successfully conquer them all.

“If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.”

– Rob Liano

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com