We are in This Together

We are in This Together

Working for the School District, I feel pretty blessed to know so many of your children and so many of you. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified, not of the virus itself (although it’s pretty scary alone) but of what will happen throughout this time for all of us- the “ending” of this pandemic, if you will. A week ago, I wasn’t prepared, I mean I’m still not. I didn’t buy toilet paper even as a basic need – and now I can’t.

It makes me think of all the people that aren’t/weren’t able to address even their basic needs. The stores are empty, Amazon is sold out of everything I have tried to buy, we have been recommended to isolate; the virus is spreading. That’s all scary stuff. Please turn to all of the local resources available to you if you need them. If you need help locating services, reach out to me and I’ll connect you! There is no shame at all in asking for help at this time (or any time), and people WANT to help.

I’ve been a stay-at-home-mommy; I’ve even sometimes been a “teacher” to your children. I know that we all have some long days ahead of us, but I truly feel blessed to be at home right now with my children; to be their teacher (I was their first, after all), to be by their side when they’re scared (and happy, and sad, and even mad), and I’m thankful I have them by MY side when I am scared (and happy, and sad, and even mad). I hope that someday, when we are all able to look back at this, that is the part they remember; that their mom was home with them and that they are loved. Trust me when I say that I know that some of you can’t be home with your kiddos right now, and I’m thinking of you all. My husband is out working overtime every day and I know he’d rather be home with us, but hey – bills, right?

NONE of us know what to do – we are all a little scared. We are all going through tough times and none of us know what to expect. Some of you are small business owners and I know this is devastating and terrifying, but know that you are appreciated. Some of you work in healthcare and have no idea what to expect in these coming weeks with your jobs and your families, but know that you are so appreciated. Some of you are working in stores and gas stations, with massive amounts of panicking and emotional people, please know that you are appreciated. Law enforcement officers, EMTs, Firefighters you have some long days ahead – we so appreciate you. Teachers, I know you are sitting at home (or even in your classroom) scared for your students and their families, and doing everything you can to help them – even from afar; please know that you are so appreciated. Although I have clearly missed a profession or two, the point is – while we are (or on our way) all in isolation, we still are not in any of this alone. Lean on others, ask for guidance or vent – call me if you need something, call anyone – but don’t forget you’re not alone.

When you see me posting pictures of “homeschooling,” it’s not to make you feel inadequate or to boast, it’s to give you a starting place. If today isn’t your day, maybe tomorrow will be – or maybe it won’t and that’s ok, too! For me, I handle my emotions best by keeping busy and by helping others. I HAVE to have a schedule so that I feel as if I have SOME control over any of this. That’s my personality and it may not be yours. We may not be the same, but we are not alone. If you don’t “teach” a single thing to your kiddos over this “break” – they will be just fine, but my advice is to bond as much as you can because you FINALLY have the chance to do that. Play a game together, do a puzzle, draw a picture, watch your favorite movie together, listen to music, share a hug, bake a cake, make cards for a nursing home, read a book, take a walk; be present. Those are all pretty easy ways to connect to each other (and also easy ways to make new connections in growing brains, aka “learning”).

Major takeaway? We are all in this together, you are not alone. If there is something that you need – please, please reach out. Let us use this time to reconnect and unite (ironically, from afar) rather than divide and isolate (again, ironically from isolation).

Forever My Babies

Forever My Babies

Our baby is no longer a baby, and I’m not sure when it happened. The youngest of four, somehow time seemed to always stand still longer with her. She was three for an eternity and four for what seemed like forever, and now she’s five and in kindergarten and reading sight words and making new friends. Tonight, when I tucked her into bed – I saw her as a big girl and my heart broke just a little.

Part of accepting that she is getting older, is accepting that everyone in the family is also getting older. Her oldest sister is 20, with 21 just around the corner, and I just can’t bring myself to believe that is possible. As time is passing so quickly, are they each adequately prepared for life and the responsibilities that come with it? Am I prepared as a mom to accept that as each day passes, they need me a little less, even when I feel like each day, I need them a little more?

I recently read a quote that said, “I constantly go between wanting you to stay my little baby forever, and being excited about all of the amazing things you’ll do in this life,” and I can’t even “YES!” this thought enough. Unfortunately for our youngest, I think I had it in my mind that she was just always going to be the baby, and while she may be the baby of our four children, she’s definitely not a baby any longer.

I miss the days of staying at home, when my major task for the day was just holding my babies in my arms, singing them to sleep or tickling them awake. We have traded bedtime songs (mostly) for bedtime books and even though I tend to still tickle them awake, baby coos have been traded for frustrated morning grunts (although, I must admit that most mornings, I have two very cheerful little girls). While they continue to grow and change, my love grows for each of them; and while I miss so much the days that they were babies – I also look forward to who they’ll become.

Where will their passions lie? What will fill their hearts the most? Also, will they be able to maintain the confidence to do what they want, be who they are, truly live to their fullest potential? Will they be able to stay strong and stay true to themselves? Will they be able to love again after a broken heart? Will they be able to love themselves through the different stages of their lives?

I think part of the sadness in my children growing older, is knowing that our once simple times of playing and learning our ABCs is quickly replaced with much tougher learning experiences which, ultimately, will mold them into who they’re going to be as adults. Each new day writes a new page in their life’s story; each year a new chapter.

As they learn and grow, so do I. I’m always hoping that I’m doing this parenting thing right. Am I using the right moments to teach, and not missing anything too important? Will they look back and remember all of the love that surrounded them, or will they remember the times I yelled at them to put their shoes on? Will they remember how lucky they have been to experience so much in their little lives and pass that on to their children someday? Will they remember that they’re never, ever alone? The answers are unclear as I have no idea what the future will hold, but I can hold on to the hope that they’ll never forget that I always did my best, I always loved them with every ounce of my being, and regardless of the time that continues to fly by (at lightening speed) – they’ll ALWAYS be my babies.

Balance

Balance

Repost from 2015:

I visit the cemetery frequently with my two young girls. Although they don’t completely understand, they know that we are visiting their Nana, my mom, Carol McFeeters Thompson. We share laughs and stories with mom – sometimes even tears – hoping that she is able to hear them, knowing that either way she is there in our hearts.

My oldest daughter recently started preschool, leaving some special one-on-one time for my youngest and me. Last week, Collins and I brought donuts and juice for a picnic with mom. That morning, the clouds were dark with the threat of rain. We were already committed to our plans, and headed for the cemetery anyway. We laid out a quilt (made of my old souvenir t-shirts mom had saved from our travels together) under the oak tree that extends over mom’s grave as well as the graves of our Grandpa and Grammy. We listened as acorns dropped from the tree, making a thud as they hit the ground around us. We felt the breeze as it blew lightly across our faces and through our hair.  We noticed as the dark clouds faded to white and then separated so that the sun could shine directly on us. My mom may not have been there physically, but she was all around us. She had always encouraged others to see the beauty around them, and that is exactly what we did. Inspired by her life’s lessons, we sat and really took in our surroundings.

 

We have noticed an abundant number of ground squirrels throughout the cemetery. Kendall, my oldest daughter, has named them all “Buddy.” She is thrilled when she sees them, shrieking “Hi, Buddy!”, which inevitably causes them to jump back down into their holes – every time. While I cannot immediately identify the species of ground squirrel as my mom could, I can encourage Kendall that lowering her voice and standing still will allow her to enjoy “Buddy,” rather than scare him away. In return, we can watch him pop his head out of his hole, examining us as we examine him.

 

Collins and I were surrounded by ground squirrels during our visit, as Collins is significantly more quiet than Kendall. She’s just as full of energy though, and took off running through the cemetery. We visited the graves of some of Collins’s relatives and some of my very dear friends, cleaning them off along our way – realizing the unfortunate losses so many of us share.

 

As we returned to my mom’s grave, we saw a red-tailed hawk. I have always been impressed by their grace and beauty. Watching her soar freely through the now cloudless sky immediately reminded me of my mom, of course. In an article she once wrote, she said of the red-tailed hawk, “Designed for nearly effortless flight over open country, she sailed on the wind, gliding across the sky in little more than a moment without ever flapping her massive wings.  When she rose to clear the trees, the sun highlighted her distinctive russet tail against the bright turquoise sky  She disappeared from view, but her majesty lingered.” What a beautiful and impeccably perfect description of what Collins and I saw together, sharing those memories with my daughter as my mom once shared with me – and so many others. That’s when it occurred to me, our new found friend, the red-tailed hawk, was not only graceful to watch, but intuitive. While we were busy watching “Buddy”, so was she. “She wanted only to be left in peace to use her keen vision to watch for a hint of movement in the grass below that might signal a small rodent suitable for her dinner.”

 

Collins and I spent two hours in the cemetery that day. Heartbroken with the loss of my mother, it was initially difficult for me to find a suitable balance between new and old, the future and the past. Focussing on my surroundings, I have realized that balance is prevalent and necessary: predator and prey, life and death, past and present.  What I have discovered is that we can incorporate the past into our future, mixing new memories and experiences with old.

© 2015 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

The first day of school is here!

The first day of school is here!

I love my job. I had no idea how much I could possibly love a job, or that I would love so many children, families and fellow colleagues. I have children, too, and I know how hard it is to let them go and grow. I know that you’re worried about them, I know you’re scared for them, I know you want the best for them. I know when you drop them off at the door, you get in your car and cry. I know that some days, you do a “happy dance” because, man, you needed a break today. I know that you love your child with all your heart, trust me, it shows in how your child loves his/her friends or from how he pretend plays with a baby doll, or when he/she says “I miss my mommy/daddy/sister/grandma.” I know that you count down the minutes until you can see your baby again. I know, too, that some days 2 1/2 hours just isn’t enough time to get your house cleaned before it is time for you to pick up your kiddo. Before the end of the school year, I will know your child’s favorite color, favorite toy, favorite game. I will watch her beam with pride when she reaches her accomplishments, like writing her name or learning all of the colors, or making a new friend, or trying a new food. I will be there when he falls down, and I will help him up. I will hug her when she cries. I will chat with you on the phone and talk you through your fears. I will be there for your child, and I will be there for you. I am only with your child a fraction of the time you are, or his teacher is. Think about how well his teacher will know him. She is going to spend 6 1/2 hours (or 2 1/2 if he is in preschool) a day with him for the next 180 school days.

Your daughter cried on the way to school today, but so did mine. I had to drop mine off with her teacher and try not to cry myself. But here’s what I know about my daughter’s teacher AND your daughter’s teacher. She will take care of our daughters as if they were her own. She will love on them, and hug them, and make sure they eat, and get potty breaks and play. She will make sure our daughters play together and play nicely. She will help them through the hard and the bad and the sad times. She will smile with them and high five them through the good times. She will come to work early, she will stay late, she will work for free and spend her own money to make sure our kiddos have what they need to be the best versions of themselves. She will encourage them and teach them and guide them. She will love them, and they will love her. She will read to them, and maybe even teach them how to read. She will spark their imagination and encourage their creativity.

I think it was hard for me from an outside mom’s perspective to understand this. It was hard for me to believe for a second that anyone could take care of my child better than I could (or even the same). I promise you though, your child’s teacher will do the very best she can. Your child’s teacher loves children and she will love your child. I’m so proud to know so many amazing teachers, who literally give blood, sweat and tears to make sure that your child (and mine) is taken care of. I can say with certainty that your child’s teacher will lay awake at night thinking of new ways to teach, and she will lose sleep thinking of how she can help a student’s family that may be going through a tough time, she’ll lose sleep hoping that her students all went to bed with full tummies or with a kiss goodnight. She wants the best for him, just like you.

GBM Awareness Day

GBM Awareness Day

Four years ago tomorrow, my mom passed in her home, taking her very last breath surrounded by her husband, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters. I will never forget it, and I would never wish it upon another human being.

It was a tough year. I had just given birth to my second baby, naive that life was grand and I had never been happier. One month later, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) – a deadly brain tumor with a nearly non-existent survival rate.

The next 12 months would be riddled with tumor resections, radiation, chemotherapy, (multiple doctors, hospitals and nursing homes) and ultimately the infection that would end her life. It was also riddled with never-ending love, overwhelming emotion, and undeniable heartache.

I remember googling GBM as we sat in the waiting room, my mom alone in her hospital room, minutes after the diagnosis. We were all absorbing what we had just heard. I had never heard of GBM – there is no known cause, there is not currently a cure.

Thanks to information provided by the National Brain Tumor Society, I was better able to understand what was happening. Thanks also to their dedication to research, they proudly donate $0.83 cents of every dollar they receive. I knew that day I would one day partner with them. I couldn’t save my mom, but I could bring awareness, contribute to research, maybe I could help to save YOUR mom (or YOUR daughter or YOUR nana). In the last 3 years, our small town had housed the National Brain Tumor Society Nature Walk held annually at Weldon Springs State Park (where my mom spent countless hours, years, of her life giving to our community). We have raised over $36,609. We are currently working on year four of this event.

In the meantime, I have met many families affected by GBM, all of whom have helped me through this journey – hopefully I’ve been able to help some of them as well.

Today is the first ever National GBM Awareness Day. This is HUGE. July 17, 2019 – just one day short of four years since I lost my momma, is recognized to bring awareness solely to GBM. I am elated.

Please consider sharing information about GBM today – share our event, share our fundraising page, donate, post a picture of GBM facts, share this post. Whatever you can do today to help bring awareness – I know I’d appreciate it, but I know the world will benefit from it. Thank you, from our family (who is seriously missing a significant piece of our hearts) and for all of the families who deserve a cure ❤️

Our love is like…

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!