Tag Archives: life journeys

The Johnstons and Too Much #Vacay

16 Jun

IMG_20170603_094828_608We were all excited to head out to the sunny and hot beach for a week of relaxation.

However, our first beach trip in two years reminded me of the Berenstain Bears book I read to Walter recently, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation, a book I’ve had since I was a little girl, where Papa Bear envisions this glorious vacation for his family out in the woods, bought from a magazine ad. It doesn’t go very well, as you can imagine, but Mama Bear patiently takes pictures and remembers to bring along the canned food so they can at least eat. This was us in Florida a week ago, except I was Papa Bear. At least at the end of the story they always look back at the memories in the photographs and laugh.

I had blocked off time we really didn’t have to spend a few days in between jobs at the in-laws beach house in Longboat Key, FL. I wanted a break from our calendars and the planning and execution of my ever-increasing to-do list.

Before we could leave we needed to get some minor yard work done (the house is on the market today and we’ve been terribly busy doing home fixits!). Of course after that it took me much longer to pack than I had anticipated, and the drive took us 10+ hours. It was a big day of travel, and not so different from the two Saturdays before that we spent driving to and from house-hunting and brewery-enjoying in Asheville with both boys, and one time with Dave’s parents too!

We finally arrived around midnight and unloaded the car. Put the boys to bed. Unpacked. Settled down with a craft beer of course. At this point I was sincerely looking forward to some time at the beach the next day.

We woke up in the morning to gray skies and light rain. Mimi had a cold, so we were told to stay away, but we played in the surf anyway with her around lunch. She and Pop had flown down in her plane on Friday, the day before we got there, because the weather was supposed to be bad all weekend. It was nice to get out to the beach, and Walter loved the ocean. Afterward he showed off his new swimming skills at their pool. It’s so great to watch him swim like a fish!

IMG_20170604_111015683Rex’s first time at the beach!

IMG_20170604_112636596In his clothes don’t care!

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One look at the ocean horizon is instantly soothing to the soul.

IMG_20170608_190049239Replicating a 1985 photo of David and his dad.

Later, after a delicious nap, I woke up to “hurry up it’s dinner time.” We were supposed to go to dinner with the builders of Mimi and Pop’s beach home renovation. I had been loathe to have any plans the whole week, as my stress tank was quite full, but we happily got ready and into the car. When we arrived we found that the others had chosen a table with two benches. For a nursing mom, it’s necessary to have back support when you’re feeding your child, which I am known to do at the dinner table. And the builder and his wife had a 2 month old too! The restaurant had a little couch area by the elevators, and Rex and I kept the wife and her baby company for a bit over there. I found out through chatting with her that her best friend lives in Asheville, with whom she often visits and loves it up there. It was a good chat, and I’ve found that many people I meet or know have friends living in Asheville. That’s a good sign I think!

IMG_20170604_185213406Walter ate half my fish; it was yum.

Mimi left the next day to take Granny (her mom) to Granny’s brother’s funeral in Texas. The weather forced them to cancel, since they were going to fly the small plane, and good thing too because Mimi came down with a high fever and had to go to the hospital. She was tested and diagnosed with double viral pneumonia.

My mom had arrived at this point with her sweet dog Tashi. We went out to the beach after the rain stopped that afternoon, and we were greeted and attacked by a cloud of bugs at the dunes. There were definitely mosquitoes (hello Zika!) and something else that had white wings and hurt when it bit, maybe a flying ant? Sand fleas? I almost poked my eye out swatting them off when we got to the beach, and Dave did a great job keeping them off of Rex.

We then proceeded to play in the surf and my mom and I took a long walk while Rex slept in my arms. This was a glorious memory from the trip.

On the way back, we ran through the dunes to try to avoid the bugs, and then ran all the way to the street, yet I still had to swat them off of my mom and Rex literally the entire 10 minute walk home. They were trying to get at my mom through her shirt!

I must have gotten at least 50 bites over my entire body, but mostly on my lower legs. I have a very bad reaction to bug bites; if I scratch them they become huge and swollen. Like soft-ball size at times. Once during the summer before my senior year in high school, I was similarly attacked on the beach at night in Naples, FL and ended up being taken to the hospital by the Jewish mom next door “three calls away from the President” because I was down there without my mom and this lady was worried about me after talking to me out on our balconies — top floor pool view; — a couple steroid pills later I was fine.

Oh lordy did my legs itch for several days, and I knew better now than to scratch them. I woke up at 3:30am one night with my whole body on fire, and the best way I have discovered over the years to stop the itching, at least for a few hours, is to turn the shower as hot as I can stand it, and scald my skin where the bites are. It makes me too hot and feel sick when I do that, but cortisone cream only works for a little itch every now and again.

The fun times kept on coming. I felt like I did a thousand loads of laundry — everything was either wet or had throw up or sand on it! — and we still ended up going home with a trash bag full of wet and dirty clothes to do. The dishwasher also ran every day. I happily emptied it except the one morning everyone was sleeping in, and Pop unloaded it for us!

IMG_20170607_074035_616Rexy turned 5 months old! I had forgotten his special sticker tie so we had to improvise. I also left my hair straightener at home, which clearly is the best indication of the condition of my frazzled mind when we left.

IMG_20170606_161625010Mommy/boy pile.

My mom used the leftover vegetables from homemade pizza night (a tradition started in Longboat Key in 2012 with my good high school friend and her husband, who are finally having their first baby girl any day now!) and grabbed some chicken and sausage from Publix to make one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever had. We think it’s because she “burned” the onions during meal prep. A fortuitous mistake!

IMG_20170605_085456167We had some time to kill inside during all the rain. Walter created this awesome found object piece. We also watched WALL.E a lot!

IMG_20170606_132720_311Walter using his art to show what the storms were like at the beach. He got caught in the rain at least twice.

The storms got so bad at one point that I was literally walking around like a chicken with my head cut off, wondering where to go with the children to hide from the storm. Every wall seemed to be made of glass! It seemed like night outside although it was only late morning, and David was in the salle de bains and my mom was doing a sitting in her room. While hearing things whip around the house, wondering if a tree would come crashing through the wall of windows facing the canal, Dave came out to tell us where we should go and that a tree had fallen on the house. It turned out to be only one giant limb of this huge tree, and it crushed the edge of the roof, the solar panel pool heater pipes, a large portion of the fence, including part on the neighbor’s property, and also their new landscaping. The rest of the rotten tree was still standing, so Dave was worried about that falling too. Some other big trees came down in the neighborhood in the 50mph winds.

IMG_20170607_120957_179Our bedroom window.

IMG_20170607_131125024_HDRWatching the tree guys go to work.

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While Dave did his insurance claim/crisis handling, I put the baby down for a nap and my mom and I went to get our nails done. I thoroughly enjoyed the pedicure especially — I could get foot massages every day!

That night we took our folks out to dinner at The Beach House in Bradenton, a good 20 minute drive — oh, my guilt over how much time we spend in the car is heavy these days! Instead of having cocktails near the ocean, and sitting and staring at the view we tried so hard to get to to enjoy, since it was sunny for once, we sat inside in the AC with a minimal view, because it was too windy. Walter played in the surf both before and after dinner, totally soaking himself, and my mom bought him an awesome long-sleeve shirt. I really should carry around an extra set of clothes for all of us, not just Rex, these days.

IMG_20170607_200148_283Glorious boy in his element.

We stayed up late to make homemade peach ice cream, which my friend had done recently at our house on Memorial Day with the strawberries she and her kids had hand-picked. Because my mom insists on buying only organic food when she can, and we had stopped at Lane Southern Orchards for fresh peaches on the way down, the ice cream was heavenly. A redemption for my bad and sad mood.

IMG_20170607_214347228Some seriously good ice cream.

 

The rest of the short time we had down there was spent either getting tossed by the most violent waves I’ve ever seen in the Gulf, or “steaming” and “boiling” (per Walter) under the fierce Florida sun. The last day, before we drove back home, we went for a walk on the beach. Luckily Dave had left our second sunscreen bottle out on the beach the day before, because the sun had definitely decided to scorch away the storm clouds, and we needed to reapply (which later I think gave the baby a rash on his face from rubbing against me or his dad).

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Dave went back with the baby fairly quickly because he was worried about Rex overheating, and we needed to finish prepping for our departure. Walter had on a bathing suit, and I walked out in my clothes to bob in the waves with him. For a minute I thought Walter had a terrible sunburn, but it was only the reflection of his bright red life jacket, thank goodness. He did, however, have Mimi’s cold. I treated him to a ginger ale on the ride back, which he cuddled with while he took a nap. The ride home thankfully didn’t seem as long as the way down. When we got home, our pups and kitty were happy to see us after having been taken care of so faithfully by my BFF Jason.

IMG_20170608_191238683Looking rough on the last day, LOL.

In the midst of giant upheaval in our lives, moving away from everything we know and love, this really wasn’t quite the break I wanted. But it was still beautiful time with family, no matter what the difficulties!

Cheers to crazy memories!

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Huuuuge News

26 May

This is one of my top five biggest announcements of all time:

We are moving to Asheville, NC in less than a month!

Woah. Just woah.

Some people move around a lot (or at least once!), but I have never lived anywhere but Atlanta, Georgia. Well, except when I was three — my first memories of life are out in the desert in Claremont, California. But everything else in my life has been right here in this metro area.

This is why my brain has been so frazzled lately. I am trying to live life to fullest, transition us up there in the next few weeks, and all while needing to keep the house clean and running after two tinys.

I thought we were done moving for a long time. We finally just got settled in the new house and were enjoying our suburban life as a family of four, when this opportunity came to us. It was literally only a couple weeks after I said to Dave and my mom, “I want to live somewhere besides Atlanta,” but I was thinking of something like Alaska or Canada. Thank goodness we’re only going to be three hours away by car, not six hours by plane. The Universe knew I didn’t really mean that far away.

I’m nervous, but also really excited.

IMG_20170520_221652_716Life will be like this all the time. #SierraNevadaBrewing

It now feels like moving to East Cobb was a baby step for this move. I was very happy to get where we are now, but it had its challenges. I was pregnant, feeling terrible, and spent a lot of time being lonely. Moving 30 minutes away at times felt like an entire state away. But I navigated (and cried) until I got to a place where the boys and I are happy and busy — almost too busy!

Besides uprooting the great life we have here and leaving our beautiful home and yard and all our friends and family, one of the things that makes me the most sad about leaving is the diversity of East Cobb. I have been very happy to be a part of a really diverse (and not just black and white too!) community over the last year. We are sometimes the only white people at an event, like story time at our local library. Asheville, unfortunately, is pretty white-washed. I know the mentality is open-minded there, but still. I like being in a melting pot of culture.

However, I feel in my soul that this is the right move for us right now. Dave is very excited about his new career path. We met our realtor — and so far our only friend in Asheville — through our current next door neighbor, who has been super great to us ever since we moved to Marietta. I’m a hippie at heart who cares more and more about the earth, and I love the artsy, green, sustainable, local culture up there. I’m looking forward to this next challenge and all the opportunities we’ll have. I’ll really miss where we are, but sometimes you just gotta take a leap!

 

The Universe’s Perfect and Ironic Timing

28 Aug

I’ve always wanted more than one child, and for two years we waited and wondered and worked to “make” that happen. You never know when the right egg and sperm will meet at the right time and it’ll all work out. It’s so hard when you’re going through it because month after month you never know when the end of the pain will be (though at first it’s not so painful, it’s just exciting). We would say to ourselves, “If only we knew how much time we had to wait, then we could relax about it” and it’s true. The not knowing when or if it’ll ever happen is very difficult to wrap your head around.

In retrospect, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. With Walter, we wanted a baby, and *poof* I got pregnant. I never took anything for granted, but it’s not the same type of appreciation when you have to struggle for something. Not being able to get pregnant when I wanted not only made me more thankful for #2 but also for every moment with W.

I suffered so badly during first trimester that I’m not sure I would have survived if Walter was any younger. He had to play on his own during the days I couldn’t get out of bed except to feed him. And, because he is older, he really understands what is happening, and that just makes it that much more precious to me that he can share in this joy with us. He was worried about me when I was so sick and that was sweet too.

And just because the universe likes to make me laugh with its unique sense of humor, I got everything that I wanted all at once. That might sound like it’s perfect, and it is great, but there is that whole “be careful what you wish for” saying for a reason. We tried to sell our house for two years. While that process is a little more cut and dry than baby-making, trying to do so at the end of a recession and recoup your money can be a little on the tough side.

But this time, it worked, and we were able to buy the house we wanted in the right neighborhood for the right price. We moved in a week after I found out I was pregnant, and I was feeling great. Dave even moved all the heavy boxes for me. All our dreams were coming true!

Then, the sickness hit. I sat around in a brand new house (to us) feeling worse than I’ve ever felt in my life. I felt so bad that I wondered why in the heck I had ever wanted another baby. My brain started changing from “this is my dream house” to “this house and its smells and everything about it makes me sick”. After working very hard to sell our house and immediately buying and moving in to another one, it was unbelievably upsetting and worrisome to Dave to have his wife talking to the realtor about selling. Again.

It got so bad I made us stay with my mom for a few weeks, which of course was confusing to W, who had been such a trooper throughout our long move. When Dave would go work on the house, he would send me pictures, and looking at them made me nauseous. I didn’t want to talk about the house or even see highway signs that said “Marietta”. I reinstalled Zillow and was looking at Midtown condos for sale. Our doctor said it was the first time he had heard of this pregnancy side effect.

As a friend of mine told me while we were discussing this, I needed to give myself a break and wait it out. Basically in one tiny period of my life I had been dealing with selling, buying, and renovating a house, and infertility, fertility treatments, and first trimester. It was a lot to handle.

Thankfully, it passed. We’re on the side of hope and excitement, waiting for little boy to get here and enjoying every kick. We’re doing puzzles on our dining room table and loving our yard and the public library, and it’s all good. It’s still going to take time to adjust and figure out this new area of Atlanta, but hey, that’s what life is. The journey.

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A beautiful, full double rainbow we saw on W’s birthday weekend.

 

Baby #2 is a sweet little brother for our W

26 Aug

After too many months of crying and waiting and testing and trying, there’s nothing but joy here to say we’re expecting another baby January 2017. Just after health insurance deductibles switch to the new year!

BABY JOHNSTON!_0035

Already looking pretty stinkin’ cute

We had our 20 week ultrasound this morning and everything looks great! He was moving around and even sucked his thumb while we were looking. Walter enjoyed watching the ultrasound tech take pictures for a few minutes, then spent the rest of the time asking when she’d be done and talking about his cinnamon roll breakfast.

W seems just as excited for his brother as we are. He says, “My baby will be here after Christmas, and I want to keep him forever.” I’ll remind him of that sentiment when little boy #2 is old enough to mess up his Lego and magnatile creations.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point, including a first trimester that was hellish to survive, but as I feel baby moving around in there, it’s just an incredible feeling that I’m so glad I get to experience again. This procreation stuff really is a miracle.

The Party

7 Mar

Last Sunday we went to an old friend’s wedding kick-off event. It was a small group of really cool people our age, hosted by a really cool group of adults our parents’ age that all live in Ansley Park. We hired a babysitter for the night, a very sweet girl who lives literally across the street from us. This was the second time Walter has had a paid babysitter (besides preschool), and I have to say, it makes me feel like a grown up. Even though I haven’t babysat since Walter was born, it is an weird feeling to pay someone to do what you used to do for money.

Being around lots of other happy couples (mostly other couples had been invited) made me terribly glad that David has loved me so long. 6 1/2 years so far. It is incredibly powerful to know that someone has chosen to love you through thick and thin, no matter what, and then live up to that challenge. He’s from the hill people of Scotland. He sticks around and puts up a fight.

My only other relationship that has lasted longer than with my husband — besides with my parents and siblings and a few school friends — is with my cell phone number. I’m pretty sure I could make a legal case if someone tried to take that number from me. You’ve been able to reach me at that number since I was 16 — when I got my first cell phone. Man was that thing a giant, and all it did was call and text. I miss that.

For a while we had a second phone line growing up. It ran into the guest bedroom and was somewhat my dad’s number, but we all used it. One night as we were eating dinner, we let the machine pick up, and we heard “Hello, hello, are you there?” in what we thought was my late grandmother’s voice. Caller ID: unknown number.

I was chatting with a new friend at the party, and he was talking about how he had known his girlfriend since they were ten, but they just recently started dating. But the best part for him was that since they had known each other for so long, they didn’t have to get past the “representative”. He said something like, “That’s the worst part of dating. For the first couple months you meet someone’s representative, and then you finally get to know them.” And while I instantaneously thought that was true, I also realized that I think that’s what I’ve been doing for myself lately. Getting rid of my own representative. It’s as if a filter is shedding, and I am becoming free.

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Polaroids rock. So does this group of awesomeness. These guys have been friends since they were Walter’s age. And they have great arm candy now too.

And speaking of people that are awesome, have I mentioned lately how much I love Walter? Every day is an brand new experience of love like I never thought it could be. He’s absolutely my favorite person in all the world.

Why I don’t ever have to make lemonade because it’s usually sitting right around the corner.

17 Jan

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I love this photo for many reasons, most of all for the awesome photo bomb by dude in the chair. This photograph was taken by a random but cool Facebook friend of mine who just appeared in this particular restaurant in real life (I’ve only seen him one other time in the five or six years I’ve known him). Also, this is a great group of guys. My husband has known them for forever (since preschool and beyond), and I really appreciate how fun they are to hang out with. A couple extra friends came to brunch and they turned out to be psychologists and graphic designers and UX-ers, and it was very inspiring to talk to them about what I already love to do and would like to pursue career-wise.

Last weekend was really incredible. Following a recent blog post of mine about some of the serious things in life, a lot of people in my life came out of the woodwork to talk to me. And speaking of woodwork, my husband and our friend Lloyd built a beautiful privacy screen on our back porch this past weekend. They finished literally as the rain started, so I haven’t had a chance to stain it yet! I’m glad the sun was out yesterday to dry the wood. It looks extremely magnificent even unfinished though!

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Lloyd and his wife, my dear friend Leslie, also invited us to Morningside’s Couples Group dinner on Friday night where Dave and I were the youngest people by 25 years (except Leslie who is my oldest brother’s age), yet we really enjoyed chatting with everyone there. And they like to play a simple game every January where everyone writes a resolution for his or her spouse, and then everyone else at the party has to guess who it is about. It was silly and fun. I was talking with a wizened photo editor in the kitchen and could hear all the laughter in the background. He was telling me what I should do better re: the Christmas card I designed for our church. The whole night seemed to be about life, purpose, career, and calling, yet in a very fun delivery. Even the prayer about our current world unrest before our delicious pot luck dinner was beautiful.

Fast forward to Sunday brunch with our friends at Stone Soup Kitchen next to Oakland Cemetary, and I feel like the world is showing me my new path. There are constant signs in this world if you simply want to notice them. I personally like to pick out the good signs, the signs that bring me to calm and peace and happiness and art and adventure too. Otherwise the downward spiral is not fun. I’ve seen behind that curtain and try to avoid it as best I can.

Stone Soup Kitchen is by far the best breakfast place I’ve ever eaten at. Every dish looked amazing and I wanted my stomach to be big enough to eat the menu. After our table got all their beautiful looking meals, I got my plate and it looked like it was going to be disappointing. But I was rewarded for my choice by then devouring the best plate of eggs I’ve ever had in my life. Our table was in the hidden back porch and the ambiance was the coolest I’ve enjoyed at an in-town restaurant yet. I want to go back there every weekend until we move to the burbs.

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The Dreaded Facebook Syndrome

7 Jan

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Lately I think I’ve been bitten by the evil Facebook bug. The one that tells you that everyone else has it so easy (even when you know that’s not true). If I were telling this to my mother she would tell me that I was having a little pity party for myself, and that is true. But it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it can be hard to look at the good tidbits of 150+ friends and then *gasp* compare them to my own life. And since I can barely handle my Facebook newsfeed, you can imagine the anxiety that The Daily Planet inspires in me. Evil is lurking around every corner these days, did you know that?

Dave and I have been trying to get pregnant again for the last 9 months. A lot of women have spoken up lately about how difficult it can be to be miscarry, and how they need to grieve. But what do you grieve when there never is a baby? How often are you allowed to feel grief? Every month? That gets exhausting and I don’t need to be depressed every single month. So then, is it only if you ever get pregnant and something goes wrong? Some months I don’t mind Aunt Flo but some months, the months that I have hope, that I think I am pregnant again, are the real killers.

Maybe every 9 months of negative tests and your monthly menses you can call that “the missing baby”.

I am so overjoyed when I see friends and family pregnant, but sometimes it feels like the universe is laughing at me. Over the last nine months I’ve had at least 30 friends either have a baby or announce a pregnancy. I know it’s just that time in my life when people are having babies, but sometimes I just want to say “Come on, really? Another one? What about me?”

And then the house. I’m sick of talking about selling our house and continuously working to improve it. To top it off, lots of friends have bought houses in the last year, and it seems to all work out for them so easily. They’re either renting when they buy, their condo sells in a weekend, or their jobs pay for their moves, and yet, for us, I don’t understand why we don’t have a hundred people on our front porch wanting to move in. Or at least one! Most real estate agents want to sell our house but not bring buyers by. They also want us to sell our house for so cheap that we’d be paying people (more) to take it off our hands, when the agents are the ones getting the easy profit. The economy isn’t that bad, folks. This is a great house. This shouldn’t be rocket science.

And to top it off, the thing I was spending most of my spare time on, being a deacon at our church, has turned into such a bad scenario for me, so draining and infuriating, that I no longer want to darken their doorstep. It would be difficult to go into detail and not write a novella, so let’s just say I tried being a very involved member and it’s just not working out anymore. I would say that I don’t even know what I believe anymore, but that’s not true. I think I know now better than I ever have before what I believe. And I love the people at our church dearly, but maybe Groucho Marx/Woody Allen are right: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

I’m trying not to lose hope here. I know someday soon that all the cards will fall in to place and I’ll be the person with all the great, happy stories… full belly loading the moving van… but some days, hope is simply hiding under a large, too-heavy-to-move rock. And I cry.

Being able to write this down and share this brings me closer to the constant knowledge that I have it good. Real good. I am amazed by our clean, running water. That we give away cell phones for free. Quick, cheap, and safe vaccinations. Choice. Freedom. My little boy.

Maybe there’s a line in the middle of all this, the line that signals peace.

A funny kind of day

29 Jan

This has been a strange kind of Tuesday. The kind where you wake up at 630am when the baby starts calling you and think, “I’ll go feed him and give him to David for the rest of the morning so I can sleep” and then you remember it’s Tuesday, not Saturday. The strange feeling of 70 degrees outside in late January when you don’t live on a tropical island, or even in south Florida.

And what about finding a wine cork in my vacuum when I was emptying it out this morning? I am sure I don’t know how it got in there. How did the vacuum even suck that thing up let alone do it quietly?

I did, however, remember to zip up my boots before going into the office so my (seriously) awesome coworker wouldn’t make fun of me. But she who wears sweatsuits to work aught not throw stones in glass houses!

Now baby and I are enjoying the weather while he squeals at the chirping birds. Are they confused too today, thinking it is spring?

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If you thought grocery shopping was boring, you were wrong

29 Jan

It was one of those days when you think you have everything under control, you’re accomplishing a lot, even when the baby didn’t let you sleep very much, until you get to the check out line at Kroger and the bag boy has helped you empty a week’s worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt and you’re almost done checking out and you realize you don’t have your wallet.

Yes, it is on your desk at home from when you bought the Living Social coupon for the BYOB painting adventure you’re going to do with some girlfriends on Friday night, a much needed girls’ night out.

But first you have to run to the car, put the baby in his car seat, drive home (Catbird carrier straps flapping out the driver’s side door as yes it is still attached to your waist), run up the stairs, thank God your wallet is actually still there and not stolen, drive back to the grocery store, get the disgruntled baby back in his carrier, hustle inside, grab your cart from its hidden location, almost knock over the Easter candy display by the registers, and then ask the nice people to do it all over again for you.

Luckily I like these kind of days. I would post a picture of the delicious meal we ate tonight but I didn’t have time to take one before Dave and I devoured it. Yes, mom, it was full of vegetables. Six different kinds, actually! I think that’s a personal record.