Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Card 2013


Looking back on 2013 we're filled with gratitude and humility for all we've experienced and all we've been given. Adam spent six months teaching and learning as Chief Resident and then began as an Attending Hospitalist at the Seattle VA hospital. He loves his work and the time it allows him to spend at home especially as we became homeowners this summer. This spring we spent many precious moments saying goodbye to Sheri's grandpa and were more grateful than ever for proximity to family in Canada and for our friends here in Seattle. Sweet and precocious three-year-old Anna brings us more love, joy and laughter than we could ever imagine. We absolutely can't get enough of her and her antics and are thrilled to be adding to our family this March!

We are full to bursting and grateful for you - your love, prayers and support. Please come visit!

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

Adam, Sheri, Anna & Baby Johnson

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

my hiatus

It's been a while. A long, long while. I first wrote this blog post over 2 months ago and I still haven't published it. Over 5 months of silence.

I guess you could say that I took a hiatus from blogging, just like real bloggers do. But that would imply a level of intention that is simply untrue. The truth is much less noble. I wasn't taking time to focus on myself, or my family, nor was I fasting from the internet. I hardly blog in the first place. I might write a lot, but I hit publish rarely. I didn't mean to stay silent so long. It just happened.

It happened because I'm pregnant - 26 weeks now and through the worst of it, finally. But it was a rough summer. A lost summer. July was spent sick, exhausted, miserable and packing. August was spent sick, more exhausted, miserable and not unpacking. I spent most days trying to figure out how to entertain Anna from bed, and just how much TV was OK for her to watch. I didn't do anything, and anything I did do was done in a daze. I don't remember a thing.

I wasn't violently ill like so many are, but somehow I was still in abject misery. Insomnia set in the very day I got pregnant and I have yet to make it through the night more than a handful of times. I didn't feel like a person of any description, and I certainly didn't feel anything like me. But WHATEVER, pregnancy is miserable - for all of us. I'm no exception.

But here's some advice. Don't be pregnant over cold and flu season. As soon as I started to feel a little better I caught three consecutive colds with just a couple days of health in between. Then a few weeks ago, the three of us came down with the flu. Ten days of fever, aches, pains, cough, stomach issues, headaches, etc. You name it, I had it. And now, FINALLY I am feeling healthy. Tired, but healthy. But it's been a long haul. I am so ready to be healthy again. Ready to be me again.

And it turns out I can't write when I'm not well, not myself. In "The Summer of the Great-Grandmother", Madeleine L'Engle talks about how she couldn't write when she was pregnant because all her creative energy was being used to create, well, a person. I'm not sure my excuse is quite so poetic but I'll take it. I would remind myself that surely I would feel like a person again one day and have some interest in actually living my life. Only then would I have interest in writing any of it down.

So here I am. Still tired, but feeling more or less like Sheri. Small victories, people.

I'm wanting to write down all the blog posts that I have written in my head over the past 5 months. I don't know if that will happen or not, but intention is a good place to start.

It sure is light years ahead of where I have been.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

the choices he made

(This was originally going to be up for Father's Day, but then I realized I had good reason to delay my post. My dad sold his business this week. I am so happy for him, and proud. Let's raise a virtual glass to Matrix Metal Machining. The end of an era, indeed.)

My dad is an entrepreneur, a small business owner. He is no stranger to hard work and sacrifice. But somewhere along the way he realized that the hours he spent building his business and the success that he earned could be taken from him in an instant. He chose to be married to his family, not his work.

And I can't thank him enough.

It would be unfair to suggest that his work was effortless and that there weren't copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears invested in his business. Nor am I suggesting that the road was easy, or that tremendous sacrifices weren't made by him, and mom, to provide for us. Tremendous sacrifices.

What I am saying, is that as his child, somehow I came through all that unscathed. Dad was always there when I needed him. He was his own boss, he set his priorities and his priorities set his hours.  The sacrifices made were not at my expense.

I can't tell you how many times I have called my dad at work over the years. And not one of those times, not even once, did he make me feel like a bother. Not when he was busy, not when he had clients sitting there, not even when I caught him at a really bad time. Not even once.

Growing up it felt like owning a small business meant having all the freedom to put your family first. Now I realize how far this is from the truth. Now I realize that this is true about my dad not because of what he does, but because of who he is and the choices he made. They must have been hard choices, impossible choices. But from where I sit, they were very good choices.

And I am grateful.

Thank you, dad.

And congratulations.

(since this post was about my dad, I didn't mention, but should have, that he was a co-owner of Matrix. Equal congrats to Mike as well. :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

all about her dada

We did a little keepsake questionnaire for Adam for Father's Day. I thought Anna's answers were too cute not to share.

By Anna, age 2 1/2

My dada's name is 'Dada'
He is 'big' feet tall
He weighs '6' pounds
He is '2' years old
His hair color is 'black'
His eyes are 'blue'
His favorite TV show is 'I don't know'
He likes to 'work'
His favorite food is 'cheerios'
His favorite drink is 'beer'
For fun he likes to go to the 'zoo with us'
I love it when my Dada 'bike'
My favorite thing about Dada is 'ride bike'
He makes me laugh when he 'gets me'
I love Dada 'cause I love Dada sooooo much!'

Happy Father's day, Adam!

Monday, June 3, 2013

do over, please

I'd like a do over on yesterday, please.

Let's just rewind and start again somewhere around 7:30 a.m. OK?

We'll get to church, you know, on time. And we will have been on the email list about the kinderchoir and know that it actually exists. We won't be told as we walk in the door that Anna is supposed to be singing... now.

And she'll do it. Our girl who spends most of her day singing will join her friends and teachers up front like she does almost every Sunday and sing with them. And my heart will burst with pride and joy just like the rest of the parents there. She won't scream, 'daddy!' and refuse to get off his lap, or at least he will sit up there with her and she will make it in the pictures like some of the shy-er children. This end of the year celebration will be joyful and meaningful and it will make me cry (in a non-frustrated and heartbroken way) and it will redeem all the Sunday's and sunday school's she had to miss this winter. These are the moments parents live for. What a milestone. I can't wait.

And then when we head downstairs she'll go play with her friends just like every other Sunday and she won't throw a fit. She definitely won't run upstairs and into the sanctuary to get her dad. She won't pee on him as he carries her downstairs and we definitely won't have to leave early - again.

We will also get to the Sunday School picnic on time and we won't have to wake her up from a much needed nap. There will be food she can eat and we will play all the games together. She will be her most cheerful, charming and adventurous self. These are the events that parents live for. It will be even more fun than last year. I can't wait.

And finally, when we get her to bed after a full and fulfilling day, she will go down easily and sleep soundly. She won't take over an hour to fall asleep. She won't make us get baby, or take baby back out of her room a dozen times. We won't close the door the wrong way, and if we do, she'll shrug it off, like a non-crazy person would. She definitely won't wake up and scream inconsolably from 1-2:30 a.m. requiring both parents to perform a miracle to get her back to sleep. She won't hit, throw or scream relentlessly. She won't even dream of it.

I can't wait. Yesterday is going to be amazing.

(full disclosure: she actually wasn't a total mess at the picnic. She was a little cranky and sleep deprived, but she gave it her best shot, all things considered).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

the fire in my bones

I don't want to retract yesterday's blog post- because it's honest, and I will never apologize for honesty. But honesty without context isn't always truth.

Here is the truth.

I am generally happy, joyful and content. Sure, there are days and moments when I get caught up in the monotony of my days, or frustrated with my temper tantrum throwing strong-willed toddler. Some days I'm overwhelmed, some days I'm busy, some days I'm grieving, most days I am a little bored. But I am fundamentally content, and relieved that it is spring.

This winter was hard, but it was not without hope.

But here is my problem: sometimes I get stuck at hope. Because I am hoping for something more and I'm just not sure exactly what that is. And so I never get much beyond hoping.

Every day I am grateful for the abundance of blessing in my life, and many days this gratitude translates into peace. But under it all, always, under it all, is restlessness.

It's this essay by Shauna Niequist - putting into words something I have been thinking about lately and striking a chord of truth deep within. It's the call to freedom and courage by Glennon Doyle Melton in Carry On, Warrior - that's resonating in the very depths of my being. It's the words said to me many years ago by a woman I greatly admire, that I have fire in my bones. And the words of my friend who caught me off guard completely when she called me an artist. It's all this and so much more, swirling around and around. Restlessness, longing, dreaming, hoping. Trying to figure out what it means, how to let the fire that is within, out.

And I think about this, incessantly. About who I really am, who I want to be, what I want to do. Who God created me to be. I have wonder-filled glimpses of my destiny, and then sit on the couch and watch Days of our Lives.

I allow melancholy to win.

So it's not that I'm sad and depressed and can't get the laundry done (although that happens, too). This is not that season.

This is a season that's filled with excitement as I feel my soul stir. And it's a season that is filled with frustration at feeling so stuck.

I had high hopes that after a circumstantially difficult winter that I would emerge renewed and refreshed this spring, ready to really live. 

And that is the source of my frustration and the context to yesterday's words.

I'm not making excuses, eating my words or changing my story, but I am amending them.

It's not so much that I've been slow to thaw. It's that I don't just want to be un-frozen. It's that I want to find a way to be on fire.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


In case you hadn't heard, we didn't have a great winter.

It was a winter filled with tears and rain and sickness and death and not a whole lot of sunshine. It was a rough season for our family. Surely spring would be better. Surely there would be happier times to come. Surely the sun would shine again. Surely my heart would stop aching.

And here we are, well into spring. We made it past the funeral and got our relaxing vacation and now we have much to look forward to in the coming months. We are firmly in a new season - a good season.

Yet the change in me is slow to come. I am not thawing as quickly as expected.

I am still sitting like a lump on the couch during Anna's naps wasting away precious hours, more tired and lethargic when she awakes than before. I am still up in the night worrying about the same things. I am still feeling guilty for all that is left undone. I am still only dreaming and definitely not acting. I'm still longing. I'm still aching.

This has nothing to do with winter.

This has everything to do with me.

So, now to move on.

And, now to do better.

Because to move on is to do better.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

my goodbye

(This is what I said at my Grandpa's memorial service. Some of it you have heard before, but all of it deserves to be repeated.)
Grandpa surprising his grandkids in the middle of the night with a serenade. Boxers and all.

Growing up, I always thought that I might be the luckiest kid in the world to have the grandparents that I did.

Now that I'm all grown up, I know that I am. That we are.

Grandpa was an amazing man, unlike any other, and each of you here are a testimony to that. You knew him as pastor, father, friend, uncle, brother, coach and mentor. But I would argue that the eight of us got him at his very best. He was our grandpa.

And he was the best.

Always larger than life, he brought, joy, laughter and fun wherever he went - which makes for a great Grandpa. He lit up every room that he was in, and in a family full of big personalities, Grandpa's light shone the brightest of all. After our wedding, our photographer told me that she had never taken so many pictures of someone's grandpa before, she was enamoured. I wasn't surprised. We all know that he was the star of that show. Every show.

He was there for all the major milestones, holidays and regular days in between. We lived together in White Rock; traveled together in Sweden and Norway. He was there for graduations, visits at camp, our weddings and our kids dedications. We watched countless hockey games and curling matches and had long talks at the table. There are memories at the farm in Manitoba, at the beach in White Rock and in the snow in Calgary. He was there when it mattered, and even when it didn't. He was there when we needed him, always praying, always a phone call away. In recent years, the talks were more poignant and the visits bittersweet as the years charged on while Grandma faded and Grandpa fought on, a gentler and tenderer version of himself. I watched history repeat itself as my daughter, Anna, fell madly in love with her great-grandpa.

And these last few hard and beautiful months, he let me stumble along beside him as he slowly made his way Home, gifting me with moments I wouldn't trade for anything - except even more of them.

Grandpa taught me that there is nothing more beautiful than the prairie sky, to love the crunch of snow under my feet and that every day is a glory day. He loved Jesus with every single fiber of his being. He showed me that means loving others, too.

I'm standing here now, trying to wrap my head around the fact that he's gone, trying valiantly to say goodbye and the truth is that I can't. I am simply unable to imagine my world without him. That's the kind of grandpa he was.

But then again, Grandpa was always so much larger than life. Thank you, God, for that.

I love you, Grandpa, always.

And, thanks.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Meditation

(when Adam's Grammy passed away she left behind copies of this meditation - one for each of her family members. I have it hanging on my wall and read it to Grandpa while he was in hospice. I'm grateful for these words.)

I am standing on the seashore -
A ship spreads her white sails in the
   morning breeze and starts for the
   blue ocean -
She is an object of beauty and I stand
   and watch her until at length she hangs
   like a speck of white cloud just where
   the sea and sky meet to mingle with
   each other.
Then someone at my side says, "There!
she's gone!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that's all. -
   She is just as large in mast and hull and
   spar as she was when she left my sight, and
   just as able to bear her load of living
   freight to the place of her destination.

Her diminished size is in me, - not in her.

And just at that moment when someone at
   my side says, "there, she's gone!" there
   are other eyes watching her coming and
   other voices take up the glad shout,
   "There she comes!".

And that is living, not Dying.

author unknown

Friday, April 5, 2013

harder, but better

I told Adam the other day that if I'm completely honest with myself I think it's harder this way. This prolonged goodbye.

It's better, absolutely, but it's harder, too.

We've been up there the last six weekends since Grandpa got sick. Many visits in the hospital and one beautiful day together at his home. We've had time. Time to make sure he knows how much we love him, how much he has impacted our lives, time to pass on messages from friends and family, time to pray together and time to cry. Time to say our goodbyes.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

But it is so hard.

It's heartwrenching to see my Grandpa, my hero, who was always so strong, so vital, so much larger than life, sick and weak - dying. It's hard to face his mortality, and it's impossible to wrap my mind around the impending loss.

It takes all my strength to walk away each Sunday thinking that it is probably the last time, to let go of his warm hand and walk out the door.

If I'm honest - it'd be easier to stay away. I'd rather run away from my emotions and not face them head on. Over and over and over again.

And while I'm being so honest - it'd be nice to have weekends at home again. We are tired. We are selfish. We want to stay home.

But I'm learning the practical application of a lesson whose theory I have long known. This is life - all of it, good and bad, hard and easy. Grandpa has brought more joy, laughter and love into my life than I can express. The very least I can do is to enter into the pain and the sorrow and the hard times with him. I don't only get the fun times. I don't have that right.

And here's the thing. This isn't for him anyway, not really. While I'd do anything in the world for him, he doesn't need us there. He knows we love him and he is certainly not wanting for visitors. We're the ones benefiting the most from these visits. These beautiful, heart-wrenching moments together.

I don't only get the fun times. And, I don't want to.

This is harder, but it is better.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


(I tried to write this post about just my grandpa, but Grandma kept sneaking in there. They are a pair, those two.)

If you know me you probably know how much I love my grandparents.

If you know my grandparents you love them, too.

When I was a kid I used to think I was the luckiest person in the world to have Albert and Anna as my grandparents. Now that I'm grown up, I know I am.

For 31 years they have blessed my life in more ways than I could name.They have poured into my life with their presence, their love and their prayers.

And now it's nearing time for my grandpa to go.

I am going to miss him so incredibly much. His presence is so large it is impossible to imagine the world without it.

If you've met Albert, you know him. He is indiscriminate with his blessing, his humour, his joy. People flock to Grandpa's charisma like moths to a flame then draw close for his warmth and light.

While visiting last week a man called to say that he was flying in from Manitoba between his own cancer treatments to visit with Grandpa because he claims that Grandpa and Grandma changed his life. They loved him and supported him, drew him close to Jesus, and he credits them with much. I had never heard this man's name before, but the crazy part is, I have heard this story. Many times.

Because this is what they spent their lives doing, blessing others through hospitality, friendship, grace, love, laughter, acceptance and their time. It's not a handful of people whom they loved and served, it's not just those of use who are lucky enough to be family. It's people all throughout the Canadian Covenant and its churches. It's neighbours. And friends. And friends of friends. And some friends kids - and their friends. And strangers, really.

And we are all so lucky.

Because like I said, if you met Albert, you know him. And if you know him, you love him.

I sure do.

(If you want to send a message to grandpa you can do so at

(I'd be lying if I said this will be my only post on Grandpa. I haven't even scratched the surface)

Sunday, February 17, 2013


The last two weeks have been, well, terrible.

She'd been sick with a cold(s) since Christmas, but that seemed normal. Then a stomach flu, which I got the next day, then the day after a double ear infection diagnosis. Ugh, what a week, right? Two or three days with slight improvement then back at the doctor with a fever of 105.4. A virus probably. Then back at the doctor, and again, and again. An allergy to amoxicillin, a head to toe case of hives that will last for a week or more, a blood test and a catheter. Back at the doctor. 5 times in 9 days. Still getting over this weird virus, and tugging at her ear again this morning.

I had a two part root canal in there too.

I mean, oy vey.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a rough go, and I am at the end of my rope. Tears come easily and my patience is worn quite thin. I'd be happy cuddling her and holding her to the end of time, but laying on the couch and watching Dora is getting a little old. And I miss my daughter. I miss my mobile daughter. I miss her laughter and smile. I miss her funny, active, busy self. I've had a miserable, rashy, whiny lump of a mess who won't get off my lap but won't be kissed or touched. I want her healthy, I want to know that she's OK. I want her back. I want me back.

She's napping today, one of the first real naps in weeks. And instead of watching the last Downton Abbey, I'm in my bedroom, burning a candle, listening to Joni Mitchell, writing thank yous and catching up on some things.

I can feel myself creeping back.

I guess this is what they call self-care.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

resolving, again.

Last year I made some not 'new year resolution' resolutions. I wanted to be more intentional with my life and make more room for the good and less room for the bad.

So how did I do?

more reading - B. I certainly read more, but still not nearly enough.
more writing - I get a D. I blogged less. oops.
more exercise - B. I did exercise more. And loved it.
reinvestment in lapsed friendships - eh, C+? Taking it one by one I guess.
less McDonalds - proud to give myself a B here.
baby free time - ehhhh, a D+...
something new - OK, I did join MOPS, and take classes with Anna. That's a start, right?
more DIY - A+ We built Anna a play kitchen, I painted an ottoman and made her a doll house. Not bad.
less selling myself short - sure.
less worrying, more hoping, more enjoying, more grace, more peace - I think I'll give myself an A for effort.

Circumstances were undoubtedly better this year, but I've dealt with them better too.

Last year I needed to work on some basic emotional care-taking and attend to some insidious thought patterns. While this work needs to continue, I also need to build on it. Take next steps. The list doesn't look that different from last year, but the emphasis has shifted. I've been able to put more shape to my hopes and dreams and now have to muster the courage to realize them.

drum roll please...

1. more writing. The thing is, I write all the time. In my head that is. In the shower, lying in bed, I'm always writing. I compose blog posts and chapters to books, and I fail to write them down because as much as writing has always been a part of my life, I don't identify as 'a writer' and am scared to admit that I am one, scared of the expectations that come with that. But writing makes me happy so for my own sake, I need to carve out the time to do just this, just for myself. I have some plans.
2. more reading - I am always happier when I'm reading more.
3. more exercise - renew gym membership. simple.
4. reinvest in lapsed friendships - my work here is not done.
5. eat better/easier - a little planning goes a long way.
6. baby free time - my plans here dovetail with item #1 and include hiring a Mother's Helper, or equivalent.
7. something new - I have a few things in the works, plus I AM going to finally start that book club.
8. less selling myself short - refer to #1
9. less excuses. Just do it. All of it. Any of it.
10. and still, less worrying, more hoping, more enjoying, more grace and more peace.

Mostly more enjoying. I am blessed with a fantastic life. I plan on soaking up every single glorious minute of it, and forgiving myself when I don't.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

This house that is my home

It's been over 13 years since I last lived at home, in this house.

I don't feel like I live here anymore, exactly. But then I hear the linen closet door creak the same creak it always has and suddenly I'm 12 again. A sudden glimpse of something in my childhood room or the smell when I walk inside the door brings me right back again. I know exactly what to expect when I sit on a certain chair or walk into a room. That intimate familiarity with a house, a connection so comforting, so grounding.

I feel it when I find the fresh flowers waiting in my room every time I come home. When dad changes after work and mom irons the sheets. It's knowing that the tylenol is in the 'waffle iron cupboard' and instinctively stepping over where the cracks on the driveway used to be. It's expecting to find Carmella - our long gone cat - to be around the corner, or hiding under my bed. It's still being scared of the basement after dark, and wondering why a piece of furniture isn't where it was 15 years ago.

It's the contentment that descends with my plane and the peace that settles deep in my bones as I walk up the front steps. This house contains my history, it's the place in which I became me. I belong to that house, and it belongs to me.

I can remember pretty much all of the so-called mundane details of my childhood, an 8 track movie played on demand. But when I'm at home there is a soundtrack. When I'm home my memories are in HD.

Now Anna is at home with me and the house becomes my past, but our present. I watch her play with my old toys, dressing her doll in my doll clothes. She plays on new playground equipment but in the same park. I  teach her to play pinball and grandpa shows her air hockey. She runs through the sprinkler in the summer and sleds on the same hill in the winter. I watch her treading a path up and down the stairs to the family room that I have walked thousands of times, grateful for this simple gift, this continuity. I witness her making her own memories, memories reflecting mine, but shiny and new.

I used to tell my parents that I wanted to buy this house from them when I grew up. Circumstances have changed but the sentiment remains. It's a reflection of how happy I have been here, how happy they have made me. In this house that is my home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Merry Christmas (card) 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

After a good six months of some formal Chief duties, a little research and plenty of moonlighting, Adam will be acting Chief Resident at the Seattle Veteran's hospital in January. We're hoping that the new year will also bring him an official job offer here in Seattle come July. Seattle has become our home in the last year and a half and you'd have to drag s kicking and screaming out of the Pacific Northwest. We are grateful every day for this beautiful city and the life we are building here - our church, our family, our friends. Sheri dreams about what is next while enjoying this gift of time at home with Anna who in all her two-ness keeps us busy, and guessing. She is sweet, affectionate, hilarious, defiant and completely crazy. We can only marvel in wonder at her.

Thanks for all your love, prayers and support. We are truly grateful for you.

Praying that peace, goodwill, with all abide this Holy Christmastide,

Adam, Sheri & Anna Johnson