Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas card

The Lord has come,
Let Earth receive her King!

Merry Christmas from the Johnsons! Adam is finishing his last year of Internal Medicine residency at the U of W after an eventful year spent in Boise, Idaho. Anna Grace joined us last November and is the cutest, funniest, smartest, most-loved baby we have ever had! Adam starts as Chief Resident at the Seattle Veteran's Hospital in June, and so we look forward to at least another year and a half in beautiful Seattle. It feels more like home each day.

We are grateful for you, our family and friends. Thank you for your love, support and prayers throughout this last year. It has meant so much to us. Please keep them coming!

Praying that peace, goodwill with all abide this Holy Christmas tide,

The Johnsons

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dala horses and other party details

I was brainstorming about Anna's party with my friend Katie when we realized there was a slight problem with my vision. I was imagining pretty pastels, streamers, pinwheels, lemonade, Anna running around barefoot in the grass blowing bubbles with her blonde curls blowing in the wind. In other words, I was planning a summer party for a three year old. Oops. I blame Pinterest.

Once I realized that I was in fact planning an indoor December party for my not-so-blonde one year old I needed to, um, revise some of my vision.

 She's only one and I'm not that ambitious so I wanted to keep it simple, yet festive and fun. We found this dala horse garland from Etsy and took it from there.

Dala horse garland
This is the best picture we have of the banner Katie made and the wall-to-wall balloons on the balcony

We made a collage in the shape of a 1 with her weekly pictures
A close-up of the collage
Chalkboard runner

Predictions/Wishes for Anna and Anna trivia

the table

 Maybe one day I'll have a summer party to throw. Until then there is always Pinterest. For now I'm just grateful for Dala horses. :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We had a birthday party for Anna last week. One of those "who has a birthday party for their one year old with no other little kids/babies in attendance and makes all their adult friends watch their baby eat cake" parties. I think parties for one year olds are ridiculous. But I also think this one was necessary.

In our case we DID have family there. Adam's parents were in for the weekend to celebrate with us, which was very special (and helpful!). Otherwise the guest list was all friends - but they are more than that to us. They are the people who, alongside our blood relatives, have loved, cared and supported us this last year. These friends are our 'people'. The people who make this our home. These friends are our Seattle family.

So while I felt ridiculous, and a little embarrassed, having a  party for my one year old daughter, I did it because I wanted to celebrate her first year of life and I did it because I wanted to include those who are part of it. Anna was spoiled with a huge pile of presents, but the real gift was our apartment filled with people who love Anna and who love us. Even enough to come to a "birthday party for a one year old where you sit around with people you don't know and watch a baby eat cake and pretend you think it's cute" party. 

We are so blessed. Thank you, friends. We love you too.

All photos thanks to Neil Argyle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anna by the numbers

In one year Anna has
lived in:
2 states
3 cities
3 apartments
2 countries
8 states
slept in:
29 rooms
been on:
11 road trips
12 planes
3 boats
2 trains
been to:
5 ski hills
2 weddings
2 Thanksgiving dinners
1 county fair
1 concert
swam in:
5 pools
2 lakes
1 wading pool
1 hotspring
5 food allergies
2 teeth
2 haircuts
2 new cousins (3 total)
6 babysitters
hundreds of kisses
thousands of laughs
innumerable toothy grins, crinkly nose smiles and sly half smirks
many soul-piercing "Anna" stares
countless tears
2 hearts

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anna Grace

The name Anna shows up all over my family tree. It's timeless and beautiful, and a palindrome to boot (for Adam). I've loved the name for years and known that if I had a little girl that she would be named Anna.

When Anna was born we passed along to her the name of my mother and grandmother. In so doing we gave her more than a beautiful name - we gave her a legacy.

Our bold hope and prayer is that our Anna will inherit more from her grandmothers than her name.

Simply put, my grandmother is a saint. She is wise, filled with enduring patience, and a woman after God's own heart. I consider her presence in my life one of its greatest blessings. Her character is marked by integrity, selflessness and faith. In her nineties she is a shadow of her former self both physically and mentally, but her steely determination, steadfastness and servanthood can never be compromised and shall never, ever be forgotten.

My mother inherited her mother's name and her beautiful spirit. I can say with confidence that I know no one who matches her in both depth and readiness of compassion and tenderness of heart. She loves freely and openly and gives of herself fully to all in need. She has a generous, joyful, loving and infectious spirit. Like her mother, she is a prayer warrior and a pillar of faith. Her hospitality and generosity is the stuff of legends. She is a wonderful, beautiful woman.

Her middle name, Grace, eluded us for some time. But once it came to us we knew it was right. There is nothing more that we could wish for our daughter than for her to embody grace. To receive it, to give it and to live in it. Grace.

And so she was named Anna Grace.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Context is everything. Knowledge is power. A little information is a dangerous thing.

I could not agree more.

Receiving news without context, without explanation or interpretation can be unsettling. It can be terrifying. It can be dangerous.

I have learned that when your mother has cancer some context or simple elaboration can save you from spiraling into despair with every bit of otherwise benign news. When your child is diagnosed with food allergies some background and instructions can move you from feeling helpless and scared to empowered and prepared. When your baby is sick and cranky a little information can magically transform a life-threatening illness into something as innocent as teething.

 Lately, I feel as though I live in a vacuum. I want out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Foreigner (Sept 11 version)

I think everyone would agree that the United States is not the same country now as it was the day before September 11th, 2001. However, it is the only one I know. You see I was two weeks into my new life in the US when 9-11 happened.  

Like everyone, I will never forget where I was when the attacks happened. I phoned my friend to see if she wanted to go get breakfast before chapel and I remember her saying, "we're being bombed, our country is being bombed!" I had no idea what she was talking about but rushed to join her and her roommate to watch the footage. I saw it unfold, the second plane hitting, the towers falling. These images, that day, I will never forget.

United in horror and grief with my American friends, mourning together, processing together, we were one and the same. It didn't matter that I was a Canadian and this was not my country. Tragedy and loss are universal languages. So is fear.

In the days following the attack the patriotism was palpable. Americans responded to this attack on their country - their way of life. They rallied around their love of country, raised flags and shouted USA!  People came together in unprecedented ways and set aside their differences in the light of their collective grief. It was a beautiful and heartening thing to watch.

It was an interesting time to be a newcomer, a foreigner, an immigrant. I was both bonded to and separated from my American friends. The tragedy of September 11th crystalized the human bonds that transcend nationality and the patriotism that excludes.

I had just finished International Student Orientation when 9-11 happened. At the time I thought it was absurd, but I get it now.

What I watched with horror that day was an attack on the United States, not on 'my' country. I may have been in the US, but I wasn't an American. And ten years later the same holds true.

Yesterday I remembered and I mourned. September 11th was an American tragedy, just as it was a universal one. It changed everything: the country, the world, me. Foreigner though I am.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Of fleas and failure

We have fleas.

Yes, fleas. As in the jumping bugs that live on cats and dogs. As in fleas that bite. As in disgusting. In our apartment. We have fleas.

A week ago I picked a flea off my baby girl. Fleas?!? In MY apartment?! Where did they come from? How did this happen? (Answer: a stray cat gained entry into our building). I couldn't sleep, I wouldn't set Anna down, I didn't know what to do. I was absolutely paralyzed. I just wanted to flee (ha) to my sisters in Vancouver, but I was terrified that somehow I would infest her house too.

Our sense of urgency combined with the exterminators unavailability caused us to tackle the fleas ourselves. We spent hours dousing our entire apartment with (completely benign and safe to humans and pets) powder, moving furniture, sweeping, vacuuming, etc. It was a tremendous amount of work and it will take a couple weeks to fully, completely, eradicate every last one. Until then I spend an hour each morning cleaning our floors since Anna spends her days crawling over every last inch of them. And although there is nary a trace of fleas, I remain paranoid - and itchy.

Somehow these little critters have managed to make me feel like a failure. I feel so dirty, so helpless, so gross. I have failed as a mother, wife and house-keeper.

I am slowly gathering my wits together.

We are not dirty people. It is not our fault. Anna is not going to contract some awful disease. I am not a bad mother. It will be OK. I am not a failure. I must accept that this time I am simply a victim.

They are just fleas. They will not hurt us. But my pride - my pride is a different story.

In her words...

An update on my mom in her own words because I can't say it any better.

"Today is exactly the 6 week post-op mark for me! Tomorrow is 3 weeks since discharge. I know my INR, Warfarin dose, dates for follow-up surgeons' appointments and many more related issues by date and number. But one thing I'll never be able to quantify is the number of prayers offered on my behalf. But I can qualify it - God has done "abundantly more than I could ask or think." And - I can't thank Him - or all of you who prayed and supported me in so many wonderful ways - enough!
The surgery had the best possible outcome and now I've been recovering very well. In fact, so well that (in my words to a friend who inquired how I was): "either very well or very crazy." That referred to our decision to indulge a fond wish of mine to attend my nephew, Matt Josephson's, wedding in Atlanta, GA this weekend. We fly there Thursday then on Sunday head to Cape Cod gratefully accepting the invitation from Dean and Jill Lundgren to further recuperate at their wonderful vacation home.
The doctors may deal with tumours (via radio frequency ablation) on the remaining 40% of my liver later this fall but they have no concern regarding urgency. As they expected, I've had none of my preop symptoms recur.
In so many ways I've been encouraged and touched and taken care of. What a gift your friendship and support has been. The words thank-you don't even seem to convey as much as I wish but please accept them from me, from the bottom of my heart - which I believe is in the same place as before.

Love and blessings,

Monday, July 18, 2011


Our year in Boise is over. It was a great year, it was a horrible year, it marked our lives indelibly. We survived the adventure. We loved it. We are a little worse for the wear.

This last year has been turbulent and life-changing. It was lonely and painful. We moved to the most remote metropolitan area in the country where we knew no one, had a baby, and learned that my dear mom has incurable cancer.

This last year has been turbulent and life-changing. It was beautiful and joyous. We turned co-workers into friends, made sweet memories with visiting family, gave birth to our precious Anna, and fell in love with an underrated and beautiful state.

In one short year, we experienced incomparable joy, deep love, profound sadness and paralyzing grief. We moved to Boise tentative and excited. We had the whole adventure ahead of us; we were pregnant and hopeful. I look back and realize how different I was then; how carefree I was.

I am not the same person who moved to Boise a year ago. I left a lot of me behind.

But I've learned that if allowed the bad will indelibly taint the good, and this I will not allow. Nor will I cheat myself by glossing over the pain. So I grapple earnestly with all my mixed feelings, all the joy and sorrow, happiness and tears that this year brought. I can't make sense of it all, and I can't fix it. I simply strive to accept it for what it was: both bitter and sweet.

Shauna Niequist writes in her book, Bittersweet, " the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness."

And to this I say, Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011


We're back in Seattle. Our year in Boise is behind us. We moved for the 3rd time in 2 years into our 4th apartment in 3 states in our 5 years of marriage. Whew.

I feel like we still live in Boise and that we never did. In many ways we're picking up right where we left off. At the same time, I keep thinking that I'll turn the corner and be at our old place. It's a little odd. In my head we live in some hybrid Seattle/Boise/Chicago town as evidenced by what I typed when changing our address the other day:

908 Dexter St (not our real address)
Boise, ID

Yep. Disoriented.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red Fish Lake

We drove 8 hours roundtrip on Father's Day just to see some mountains.

All year we'd been planning on taking a trip up to Stanley to see the Sawtooth mountains, and we were running out of time. So, despite forecasted thundershowers, and a growing to-do list we decided around noon to make the trek.

We arrived in Stanley and realized that there wasn't all that much to do in a town of <500. We came for the views, but weren't sure where we were supposed to enjoy them from. The answer? Red Fish Lake.

It may be heaven, or perhaps it was just a dream, but I tell you this for sure: it was perfect. Words can't describe the idyllic scene, or more importantly the laid-back, heart-warming atmosphere. On paper it wasn't very different from a dozen other mountains lakes I've visited. But paper doesn't do magic justice.

Happy first Father's Day, Adam. I think it was a good one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This post is a long time coming. I've written and rewritten it in my head so many times, so many nights. I can't find the right words. There are no good words. Only the worst word: cancer.

My mom has cancer.

It's a rare, slow-moving and incurable cancer. Carcinoid. It originated in her 'mid-gut' and has since spread to her liver. The tumours make her violently ill with severe stomach cramps and vomitting. She has been to the Emergency Room a dozen times since the beginning of March. She will be having surgery to remove half her liver, a chunk of her intestines and who knows what else sometime in the next couple months. She has been told that they can never get all the cancer. She has been told that they have made more advances in treating these neuroendocrine cancers in the last three years than in the twenty before that. She has been told that she can reasonably expect 10 good years.

My mom has cancer.

We are still reeling. NOT. MY. MOM.

And we hope.

So we pray. We pray for a miracle of healing. We pray for a tremendously successful surgery. We pray for a cure. We pray for strength and peace and courage for her and for dad. We pray for many, many more years together. We pray for hope. We pray for peace. We pray for peace. We pray for peace.

My mom has cancer.

Please pray for healing.

Please pray for peace.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Where we're from

We must not look Idahoian. We are constantly being asked where we are from.

"Um," pause, "um, well..." pause.

We could just say Boise, but that is a lie. We could say that we just moved from Seattle for a year. Or could simply answer that we're from Chicago. But none of that feels right.

But I doubt that this is the answer people are looking for:

"Um, well, we are in Boise for the year but I'm from Canada and Adam's from Massachusetts, we spent 8 years in Chicago and moved from Seattle last year."

I'm guessing that's an over-explanation. But each time we're asked we find ourselves at a loss for an answer.

The truth is, I don't know where I'm from anymore and I don't know where home is either. 'Home', in the truest sense is still Calgary where I grew up and where my parents still live. But I haven't lived there for 12 years now. In many ways Chicago is also 'Home'. It's where we spent our college years and early 20's. It's where most of our mutual memories, friends and family are. Seattle? Soon Seattle will be 'home' again, but it's not where we're from, and it's not quite 'Home' yet. And Boise? Well we love Boise. It's a fine city. But 'Home' it most certainly is not. It may be where we live, but it's not where we're from.

I wish we could choose a city and go with it because I doubt anyone actually cares what we answer. But we never seem to be able to pick just one place. I don't particularly relish this transient phase of life and I look forward to feeling that I have a 'Home" again someday, but this is our journey and each stop along the way shapes our lives. We're 'from' ALL those cities, and all those places are 'home'. It might not be the answer that strangers are looking for when they are making small talk on chair lifts or at the mall, but too bad, they asked.

Where are we from?

"Um, well, I'm from Canada and Adam's from Massachusetts, we lived in Chicago for 8 years, are in Boise now and will be moving back to Seattle next year."

That's where we're from. Deal.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh Christmas tree

Adam and I are both what you could call nostalgic fools or sentimental saps. You only need to look as far as our Christmas tree to find evidence of this. If you can't be unapologetically nostalgic at Christmas, when can you?

So we adorn our tree with old school red and green bulbs like the ones we grew up with and every single ornament we have, including many that we have collected over the years as souvenirs from our travels. There is never any editing, no discretion. Everything makes the cut. Ours is never a pretty looking tree, but it is always full of meaning.
Here is some of what graced our tree this year:

From a hockey game we went to with my family 3 years ago (Flames won):

A souvenir from our first ballet, "The Nutcracker"

This one was a tag on one of Anna's presents:

Commemorating our time in Boise:

Anna's handprint:

This one of our wedding:

Jack as a kitten:

and finally, this one my mom dug out:

This year our varied ornaments, along with a improvised tree topper (at Adam's insistence) of a nativity scene his departed Grammy gave us years ago, transformed what was an otherwise perfectly beautiful tree into what you could call an eyesore. Or as we see it - our one of a kind, perfect, and properly sentimental tree. It might not be pretty, but it's beautiful to us.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Picture perfect

I had time before Anna was born. The nursery was ready, Jack was trained, the freezer was stocked with meals. I had time. So I cleaned my wedding rings, whitened my teeth, got my highlights done. There were going to be pictures, you know, pictures capturing the first moment when she is born and I'm holding her and am overwhelmed with emotion and the amazingness of it all. So I was ready for those pictures.

Except it didn't happen that way.

My contractions began at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, we got to the hospital around 10 p.m. and she was born at 10 a.m. Monday morning after a late epidural, hours on pitosin, plenty of vomitting from pain, a failed attempt at vacuuming, a near c-section, and over 4 hours of pushing. By the time she came out I was barely conscious, and my eyes kept rolling back in my head. I vaguely remember Adam saying "it's a girl, we have our little Anna, we have our Anna." I remember something being set on my chest momentarily before being taken away again. I remember hearing her cry and being told that she was healthy. I cried tears of relief and exhaustion when Adam brought her over and showed her to me, but it wasn't until later that I felt truly ready to hold her, look at her, enjoy her.

I certainly loved her from the beginning, but the feelings that they say you're supposed to have, the immediate joy, overwhelming emotion and connection, it was delayed for me. And this is hard to admit. The physical and emotional trauma took a toll that I didn't expect. It's not that I didn't think it would be incredibly painful, but that I did expect it to be incredibly and immediately joyful.

She's 12 weeks old now and I still replay it all, over and over again. I tell myself that I must be remembering it wrong. I keep taking the pieces and playing with them, trying to create the moment that I thought I would have. I try to convince myself that it was different than it was, that it was the way everyone said it would be. I imagine it the way I think it should have been: Anna covered in goo, Adam teary and relieved, and me - exhausted yet beaming, holding my precious baby girl with my gleaming white teeth, a sparkling diamond and those perfect highlights - of course.

We don't have those pictures. It didn't happen that way for us. And so I have some work to do. Not to whitewash the memories, but to accept them. Of course I wish it was different. I wish I held her right away and never let her go. I wish I could have shared the news with my family and friends myself rather than having Adam do it. I wish I was with it enough then so that I could fully recall and cherish every moment of those first precious hours and days.

Maybe it didn't end up the way I had envisioned, but the result is just the same: a healthy, precious and perfect baby girl whom I absolutely adore. I can't imagine my life without her and can barely remember what life was like before her. I love her so much my heart hurts.

So it wasn't picture perfect, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A long ago bet...

When my parents visited in October they brought along an old envelope my mom found in their desk drawer. On the outside in says in child's writing:

cannot be opened
until Sheri has
her first child

Oh boy. Never say the past can't come back to haunt you.

Dad says he remembers the bet well, and he kept the proof (typed on old printer paper with the holes on the sides - remember?):

"I really really really love babies. I have a bet with my dad for 25$ that when I have a baby I will let it sleep in my room and won't care when it wakes me up at any or many times when i'm asleep, I'l rock it to sleep, I'll think how lucky i am for bringing life to this world. I'll also never ever ask my parents to babysit at night. and that I'll never complain about my child cause I'll love it every minute of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, forever. my dad will erad this to me when I have my first child & by then I'll have enough money to pay this bet. My dad won't have to pay me 25$, so it's a one way bet but I know that I'll win it, cause I love babies."

Sheri Hendrickson


Sheri Hendrickson

I think I owe my dad $25.