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.

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Friendships are Priceless

Friendships are Priceless

My mom always told me to surround myself with interesting people. People who could talk about “things” and not others. Quoting from a letter to me titled, “Advice to my Daughter,” my mother wrote: “In your entire life, the number of people you can trust with your heart and your deepest secrets can be counted on your fingers. No one person can satisfy all of your needs. Make lots of friends – different friends for different purposes.”

I do happen to have friends of all ages, from many walks of life. For example, I have my best girl friends, the girls I can call for anything and everything. I call each one for different reasons. Whether it be to share grief and/or happiness; to get or give an encouraging word or endless support; for help from them or help for them; pedicures, shopping and lunch – I can always count on the same group of girls repeatedly without fail.

I have guy friends, some of which have been my friends for over half of my life – our friendships have continuously evolved through each stage of our lives. I have a few I talk to regularly, and a few that I may not talk to often, but we always pick up right where we last left off. Of course, I cannot exclude my dad, fiancé, or my children from my closet circle of friends. Every one of my relationships are special and different.

Thinking of my friendships, I compiled – what I believe to be – a comprehensive list of what makes lasting friendships.

1. Give support freely. You don’t always have to support the situation, but you can alway support the person.

2. Make time for friends. Setting aside time for each other will only help to nurture a friendship.

3. Be honest, trustworthy and loyal. Don’t spread rumors and don’t let others talk about your friends, either.

4. Be respectful and always show appreciation.

5. Show up, keep promises, be dependable. Friends can always count on each other.

6. Apologize after a mistake and forgive. Don’t hold grudges.

7. Be selfless. Do favors, go above and beyond – even small gestures make a big difference. Be genuinely happy for your friends through their triumphs.

8. Listen. Actually listen and remember that you don’t always need to give advice. When you must give advice, it should be thoughtful.

9. Help friends through struggles and crises.

“Try to improve their life through your friendship” – Barry Cassidy

Friendship is a give and take. Good friendships take a lot of time and investment from both sides. “They” say good friends are hard to come by, I disagree. I think you have to be a good friend to have good friends – I aspire to be as good to my friends as they are to my family and me.

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

Anything Helps, Even a Smile

Anything Helps, Even a Smile

Lauren Johnson

We had just left Dairy Queen. I was feeling incredibly guilty because drive thru meals have increased as we have found ourselves always on the go. Coincidentally enough, my weight has also increased significantly – I am certain that the two are correlated. Regardless, we left the drive thru and pulled up to the lights to head South on the highway, me with a mouthful of BBQ Snack Melt, when I saw a man standing there with a cardboard sign. The sign read, “Anything helps, even a smile.”

It had been one of those incredibly windy days and the man was clearly doing everything he could just to hold on to his sign. I couldn’t help but think about how cold this man had to be, and before I knew it, we had changed course and headed back toward McDonalds to get the man with the sign something warm to eat.

Collins slept through this whole adventure, but Kendall was fully alert, curious as to why were at McDonalds when we had been on our way home just a couple of minutes before. I explained to her that we were taking the “man with a sign” something to eat, further explaining that he quite possibly hadn’t had anything to eat all day. She was very upset at the idea that his “tummy was rumbly,” and thought fondly of our mission to alleviate that issue for him.

I have to figure that if someone is asking for help, then they really need it. I would’ve came home and worried about this man all night had I not done at least something for him. To be honest, I’ve worried about that poor man since the second I saw him and his wellbeing has consumed my thoughts.

We took the “man with a sign” his two cheeseburger meal and some extra cash. As I handed it out the window to him, he nearly cried (and so did I). He said, “oh, bless you, bless you!”, before taking off across the street to his bike. It made me wonder how long that man had stood there hoping for something warm to eat. How many cars drove by him, a block away from a drive thru, ignoring his pleas for help. How many people went home and regretted not helping, and how many never gave it a second thought?

The entire drive home, Kendall was full of questions.
“Who was that man?” “Does he know how to eat?” “Why is he hungry?” “How did you know he was hungry?” “Where does he live?” But after I answered all of her questions, her wheels started turning from why we helped this man, to what else we could do. “We could invite him to our house?” “I could give him my candy!” “Can we buy him a bed?” “We could visit him so he has friends!”

We continued our discussion and I told her that sometimes in life, we experience hardships and although I’m not certain, the “man with a sign” may not have had anything other than the clothes on his back and his bicycle. I asked her how she would feel if all she had was a coat and a bicycle. She replied, “well mommy, that would make me sad!”

I hope Kendall can always look back on this day, and without using any judgement at all, follow her big heart to find a way to help others. I also hope that the “man with a sign” can look back on today and know that even though hundreds of people went on by, there will always be that one person who will help him when he needs it. Maybe someday he will be able to return the favor, I will bet that if he can – he will. Until then, we should all learn a very valuable lesson from this man and remember that anything helps, even a smile!

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
⁃ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

The Great Outdoors, cont.

The Great Outdoors, cont.

There is a smell here, one that can only be described as the northwoods of Minnesota. It smells fresh and crisp, a mixture of birch bark and juniper. I have traveled enough places to know that I’ve never smelled it anywhere else. It comes in waves while I am here and when it hits me, I can’t help but smile, knowing exactly where I am and what it means.

Our third day in Minnesota was our most eventful. Hearing a commotion early in the morning, Delilah, the 9 pound lodge dog, chased off a 350 pound black bear just 50 feet from our cabin. Unfortunately, we were not privileged enough to witness that spectacle, but I’m sure it was a sight to see.

After breakfast, we headed down to the lake where we spent most of our day. We swam in the lake, both Andrew and I taking a turn at jumping off the end of the dock. Kendall caught a small bass with her minnow net and a frog that she carried around with her until he had enough and jumped back into the water.

We had one of those cheap kiddie fishing poles so the girls could fish off of the dock. Somehow Kendall managed to break the line inside of the reel before we even had a chance to try it out. Heartbroken, we went to the lodge to see if we could purchase another one.

Due to the quality of those fishing poles, they are not stocked. However, the lodge owner, Joe, made Kendall her very own pole out of a stick, some fishing line, and a chartreuse fishing jig. Wouldn’t you know that we caught at least 50 fish off the end of the dock with that pole. None of them were big enough to supply us with dinner, but the girls were thrilled, giggling and squealing with delight each time there was a fish on the end of the “pole.”

Andrew and I each took a ride on a paddle board (side note: if you haven’t tried one of those, you should). Andrew took each of the girls on their own special ride with him, and each of us took a solo ride as well.

As I got out on the lake, I sat silent in a little cove filled with lily pads and their colorful blooms. I felt the breeze wrap around me, as if it were giving me a gentle hug. I was at peace, the landscape serene. That is why people come here, and if you don’t, or haven’t – you should.

We chatted with many families that come here annually, as mine once did. One couple has been coming here for 47 years, another for 60, and all have continued to bring their families, who now bring their families, who will hopefully some day bring their families, too. It is probably unnecessary to say that we already have reservations to come back next year as well.

On Wednesday nights, the guests from the lodge all come together for s’mores and to converse around the fire. We roasted toasted coconut marshmallows to put on cinnamon graham crackers with just the right amount of chocolate, and Kendall played with her newfound friend, Grace.

Thursday we went back to town and ate, again at the Chocolate Moose, saving room for their signature cake for dessert. We sat next to an older couple who played peek-a-boo with Collins, sharing memories of their family with ours. We shopped for souvenirs, remembering to grab a case of Dorothy Molter Rootbeer, made right in Ely (this has a fun, and “Google-able” back story).

Our lodge (The Northwind Lodge) offered a painting class “Into the Brush,” taught by Joe himself. Thankfully, Andrew surprised me by signing me up, and I enjoyed an afternoon of painting (one of my all time favorite things to do).

I was privy to participating in the very first class offered through this program. Eventually, Joe plans to expand “Into the Brush,” utilizing his resources and knowledge for a mixture of indoor and outdoor painting classes (with discounted cabin stays and guided trips through the wilderness), teaching techniques for painting landscapes.

Friday was our final day. We woke up early, visiting the lake one last time before our return next year, wishing we had just one more day. I remember when I was little, we would pack up all of our things and about the time we should be leaving, mom could be found on a rock in the woods, writing in her notebook. I could never figure out what she was doing, but now I understand, she just wasn’t ready to leave.

https://visitnorthwind.com

Showing Compassion

Showing Compassion

“Who makes mommy happy?”

“Me!”

“And who else?”

“Kendall!”

“That’s right! You two make mommy soooo happy.”

There isn’t a single day that goes by that we don’t have this exact conversation, and usually more than once. I hope my girls always know how much they are loved, even on those days when they feel completely alone or broken hearted, they are always loved so much.

I never questioned whether my mom loved me, not once. She told me often, but more importantly she taught me HOW to love. She taught me love, compassion, empathy and respect for others. She showed me how to be selfless and giving; beautiful on the inside. I try my very best to teach my girls these traits.

I read once that compassion is the antonym to bullying. Having compassion for others, taking the time to really understand them and remember that each individual is different – wouldn’t that prevent you from harboring hate? What if we gave everyone a chance before judging them, or picking on someone for being different from us? What if we just level the playing field? We are all in this for ourselves, but we are ultimately in this for each other; the greater good.

This week, at dance class, there was a little girl pushing the other little girls. Finally, her mom got up, took the little girl out of class and said to the rest of us, “I’m sorry, but my daughter is NOT going to be a bully.” When she took her out of class, she didn’t yell at her. Instead, she had her daughter, tears welling in her eyes, watch the rest of the class. She sat and calmly (along with her father, the little girl’s grandpa) and explained to the little girl why her behavior was inappropriate. I commend that mom, she taught that little girl not only that pushing/bullying is wrong, but she remedied it with compassion.

I read on Facebook this week that a friend of mine, one who recently lost her husband, was finally getting back out and trying new things solo. She joined trivia night and had something weekly that she could look forward to. She said that her team wouldn’t always have the answers, but they had a lot of fun playing together. That is, until another team consistently made fun of them, and now my friend has quit her team and seemingly lost confidence in herself.

According to the dictionary, a bully is “a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” Had they known my friend recently lost her husband or her story, would they have shown compassion? Why were they unable to show compassion regardless of her story? Why are we a nation full of bullies and bullying; a bunch of people who feel that they are entitled to treat people in any way other than just plain nice?

When I take these two stories and think about the impact compassion had, versus the impact that bullying has, it is clear to me that my job as a human being and as a mom, is to show as much compassion as I can. To do what is right, no matter how hard that is. To not turn the other way, when I know something is wrong but rather do the best I can to make things right. What impact do I want to have on my children and on this world? I want to live my life – everyday – knowing that I did what was right, or at the very least that I tried my very best.

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

⁃ Frederick Buechner

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

Our little Lovey Dovey

Our little Lovey Dovey

At an early three weeks along, we found out we were pregnant. At almost 9 weeks, we lost the baby – still unsure of why to this day. Devastated, the word “baby” tore my heart apart for months. I will never forget that day, or the emotions that surround it.

Four months later, unbeknownst to us, our “Rainbow Baby” was conceived. Careful to not share the news too early, we were elated when were able to announce to family that Kendall Nicole was due on April 8, 2012. A high risk pregnancy resulted in extra sonograms and fetal monitoring. During a bi-weekly routine visit, our doctor told me that our baby was coming two-and-a-half weeks early, “today!”

I headed for the hospital with an unknown journey ahead of me. Waking up on that Tuesday morning – the first day of Spring and my late Grammy’s birthday – I had no idea that day would forever be one of the very best days of my life.

In the last seven years, our little angel baby has given me so much joy; brought me to tears with pride; made me laugh until my cheeks hurt; taught me how to live, love and be a mommy; challenged me to new depths; encouraged me, pushed me, inspired me; seen me at my best and my worst; and loved me unconditionally, just as I have her.

She is loved by everyone who knows her, and she has yet to meet a stranger. She is outgoing and bubbly, full of everlasting energy. She’s beautiful and not just on the outside – she’s got a big heart made of solid gold, always wanting to help someone who needs it – sometimes even those who don’t. She’s funny – full of wit and spunk. She’s sensitive, her feelings get hurt a little easily and she wears her heart on her sleeve, but she’s resilient and doesn’t let it keep her down.

She’s smart, man is she smart. She doesn’t let anything slip by her. She observes, takes everything in, and then analyzes the information surprisingly accurately. She’s intuitive and inquisitive and she retains EVERYTHING.

She wants to be good, but knows the exact times she can get by with being “bad”. She’s dramatic, constantly keeping us on our toes. She’s a darn good big sister, and a proud little sister. She’s humble and giving, despite being a little spoiled.

She loves to play; she loves hugs (and sometimes kisses); she loves to be tickled; she likes to feel grown up, but likes to be “babied” sometimes, too; she is honest (except when she doesn’t know why her sister is crying); she loves to sing and dance and she does them both anytime and anywhere; she loves ice cream and pizza lunchables; she loves princesses, magic, and the colors pink and orange. She is unique, independent and exudes confidence. She never ceases to amaze me.

I often look at Kendall (and Collins) and wonder what I could have ever done in life to deserve someone so special to call my daughter(s) – I sure am one very lucky momma!

In honor of Collie’s birthday week, I would like to share an article that my mom wrote about Kendall. On Collie’s birthday, I will also share the one my mom penned about her. Birthdays are often emotional and difficult, but the opportunity to both share and read the words my mom has written, allow us to continue to live on through her legacy.

Vernal Princess

by

Carol McFeeters Thompson

Welcome to the world my beautiful granddaughter, born on the first day of spring. Your birth day was the vernal equinox, one of the great solar festivals marking the spring day when the sun crosses directly over the earth’s equator and day and night are about equal in length. Just as the dawn is a time of new light, the vernal equinox is a time of new life, of wild flowers, and budding leaves, and birdsong, when after a long winter we are assured that life will continue. What a special day to meet you for the first time!

I gaze at you as you sleep, your face so perfectly peaceful, innocent, and angelic, and my mind is awhirl with all of the wonders that I want to show you. I will share with you the magic of all of my favorite things and help you to find your own niche in the world.

We’ll lie on our backs in the sweet green grass and watch fluffy white cumulus clouds piling up on the horizon. We’ll run for the porch when we see the first jagged bolts of white-hot lightning threading across a purple sky in the distance, and count the seconds until the first crack of thunder. When the tempest has passed, we’ll don red rubber boots to stomp and splash in the mud puddles the storm left behind. We’ll marvel at the myriad colors of the rainbow and try to chase it to its source to find the fabled pot of gold.

We’ll watch for “little people” beneath the umbrellas of the may apples and hear their excited chatter in the gurgling of a stream. We’ll eat blackberries and strawberries and ice cream before dinner.

We’ll go down to the pond, find tracks in the mud and read the stories they chronicle. We’ll watch Canada geese lead rafts of fuzzy bronze goslings. We’ll listen to the spring frog chorus, catch tadpoles and toadpoles with homemade nets, and watch their miraculous transformations to frogs and toads. We’ll wonder at glittering dragonflies dancing above sun-spangled ripples.

The natural world is such a beautiful place!

We’ll catch the first swirling, twirling snowflakes of winter on our mittens, and eyelashes and feel them melt on our tongues. We’ll try to find two that are exactly alike as we marvel at their intricate six-pointed perfection. We’ll delight that each sparkles like diamonds in silvery moonlight.

I want to show you mountains and waterfalls, vast prairies, forests, and oceans, and capture your imagination with the lazy soaring of eagles on invisible air currents and the eerie tremolo of a loon echoing across a northern lake. We’ll share the fluttering of butterflies, the meanderings of ants, and we’ll fiddle for water striders that dimple the surface tension. We’ll twirl in a meadow filled with twinkling fireflies and try to converse with them with the beam of a flashlight.

We’ll gaze at the shimmering curtains of the aurora borealis across the great wash of the Milky Way; compare Betelgeuse the red star and Rigel the blue star, both part of the constellation Orion the Giant. I’ll tell you the myths and stories along a walk across the heavens. And we’ll make wishes on showers of stardust.

We’ll make castles of sand and twig boats to sail puddles, skip rocks on the lake, make an acorn cap whistle, and poke a fire with a stick.

Together, we’ll celebrate life and all Nature’s wonders. I’ll see the world through your eyes and you’ll see it through mine.

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