Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bless You, G.K.

You gotta love those overweight, Catholic dudes who affirm motherhood even from the grave. I thank him and I quote:

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute."

-- G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Someday My Prince Will Come

Although I married well, I sometimes ponder the imperfection of the married state.

My heart yearns to be known.

My soul, sought out.

My hand, clasped gently and guided down from a rocky plain.

But so often, I get real life instead.

Like getting lost on the way to an old friend's house & fighting & screaming & visiting with a knot in my throat.

Someday my Prince will come.

Like staring at my house "to-do" list with a vengeance, forgetting I married my best friend because I loved him -- not because I needed someone to spackle my walls.

Someday my Prince will come

Real Life: Walking out the vows of Matrimony with the confidence God is dispensing graces to save souls, namely mine and my husband's , through its very state.

Someday my Prince will come

And while I deeply love my Pete and am certain of his love for me, Pete is not my Prince.

Someday my Prince will come

No, the longings of my heart will only be filled completely on that Distant Shore when I'll walk hand in hand with the Prince who chose thorns for a crown. The One who forsook Heaven to find me.

Someday my Prince will come

On That Day, I'll be wholly found. Till then, I'll love the companion God gave me -- thankful for his warmth, his often princely ways and, most of all, for the patience he offers this dreadfully imperfect princess.

Someday my Prince will come

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Who is the Spitting Image of the Distinguished Desmond Tutu (With the Exception of Being Really, Really, Really Small and Really, Really, Really White)?


My Baby

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ordinary Graces

So I was bummed cause I just found out I didn't win an essay contest which consisted of describing "the most important day of your life."

While I was sad that I didn't win, I was even more sad that I wouldn't have the chance to share the essay as I so enjoyed writing it; but then it hit me, that's what a blog is for. Here it is:

Ordinary Graces

By Sarah Johnson

The most important day of my life was last Tuesday. Or maybe it was Sunday. Okay, I don’t remember the exact day, but the moment is clear as glass.

I was smacking sunscreen on my four-year-old’s back. We were packing to go to the lake. My husband Pete, me and my three young boys. I was rushing. The kids were fussing. I was grabbing. Towels, hats, sunscreen, what else?... Moving quick before the baby cries. Throwing on my suit before the baby cries. Running from my house to the car with sippy cups and sand-encrusted toys. Moving moving moving before the baby cries. Water jugs. Animal crackers … what else, what else, what else?

“Do you know where my sunglasses are?” Pete asked without looking up from the paper.

I bristled big, scaly spikes up and down my back and was about to torch him with a breath of fire but then juice boxes came to mind. Are we out? I’ll go check …

It was sometime around there. Sometime between the scaly spikes and sandal strapping that I heard a voice.

A whisper. A breeze. An Angel. A Suggestion of Grace.

And in a snap, I made a decision -- a decision I’ve continued to make over and over again since that moment. A decision that made that day and every day I make this certain decision, the most important day of my life. Let me explain.

I was strapping on sandals in assembly line fashion. I remember wrestling with two pairs of soft, uncalloused feet when I made a choice that turned that ordinary lake day into something extremely more powerful: I decided to do all the packing, schlepping and sun screen slapping while still remaining pleasant – nope not just pleasant, down right happy. And Kind. And Thankful. And Courteous … even to my obtuse spouse. Delighted to my core – just tickled pink. Honored to be the one finding the lawn chairs and throwing them in the trunk. Privileged to gather plastic finery: the shovels, buckets and sifters.

Before you sound your Dingbat/Doormat siren, it gets worse.

I remember actually praying: “Thanks for this insane amount of work. May I have more? More details? More sand-encrusted toys? More sippy cups? A husband who’s even more oblivious to the frenetic drama unfolding in his living room: ‘Have you seen my fishing rod?’ ”

I know, I think I’ll make lasagna …

Stop there. It didn’t go that far. And before you dismiss me, let me explain and assure you that I did not cook dinner that night. We had takeout. My favorite Chinese wontons. My husband picked them up to surprise me (my good mood was contagious as moods typically are).

Wontons and no mess -- not a bad trade. Although, not in any way equal to presenting sunglasses, a fishing rod and three lake-equipped children quite the way Martha Stewart dusts, mixes, kneads and bakes French brioche – seamlessly, sans tantrum.

Chinese takeout, however, is not why I served my family so well that day. And it’s not why I served them with a smile.

Here’s the reason: At that moment of sunscreen smacking, the gentle voice I mentioned explained to me what it means for a mother of 3 small children to “embrace her life.”

I know “life embracement” is a bit of a popular, modern-day concept that I keep reading about on blogs and in articles like this one. Whether it be some fancy pants TV psychologist or a self-help columnist, I feel like I’ve been hearing the advice of “embrace your life” a lot lately. But what exactly does that mean?

Before I answer, I must first share a bit more about that summer day. Seeing it was truly the most important day of my life. Not only because I didn’t ruin it by throwing a fit but because the water sparkled.

The air was warm and dry. No bugs. Gus was two and loved to stomp sand castles. The bigger the better. A twelve-year-old girl had made one of triumph with ravines and valleys leading all the way down to the lake. He had it in his sights and took off before I could stop him. He was heading for the tower. I screamed his name but he wouldn’t stop.

He kicked sand on every well-oiled body in his warpath and hit a few lesser castles along the way. A trail of destruction. He was laughing as he closed in with a flying leap.

“Gussie!” I screamed as I managed to grab a foot, which pulled me down on the masterpiece as well.

The adolescent artist sobbed. I apologized profusely and offered soft serve. She refused.

I scooped up my kicking child and exclaimed a loud reprimand to appease the girl’s glaring mother but as I started back to our blanket I squeezed that small, shirtless wonder. Sure, I don’t want him ruining other kid’s fun so I didn’t let him see me smile. But oh I smiled.

Certainly, when I’m lying in my grave and I’m offered to do just one of them over, it would be that sunny day last summer. Let’s say it was July 14, 2007: I’ll call it The Perfect Ordinary Day at the Lake. My wedding day? Nah – too many pictures. Too much smiling. The days I gave birth? Nope. Too much screaming. Too many drugs. Graduation? Blah. That promotion? Blah. Blah. It’s all dust and smoke compared to watching my two little boys stomp and splash at the water’s edge.

I scooped up my sandy two-year-old that day like I decided to scoop up my life earlier that same afternoon over an application of SPF 45. [Here’s the part where I tell you what it means to “embrace your life”]

Obviously, different things to different people but on that blessed day the Angel of Goodness whispered my own personal answer to me in the breeze. She explained that life happens in the split seconds. Whether it be a look. Or an answer. A pat on the back or the withholding of one. She explained that the tone I’d use when replying as to the whereabouts of my obtuse husband’s sunglasses would set the tone for the day. For everyone. She told me to Choose Grace. To not be angry. To offer thanks.

I obeyed her and it sounded like this, “In your car, honey.”

The husband was pleased with his hefty task. Obtuse, I tell you. Obtuse.

But speaking of his obtuseness, Pete has a far more weighty load of perfection. He’s actually high quality. He wakes up every morning with our rooster baby to play at the crack of dawn while letting me sleep in. He makes a great living and basically worships the ground I walk on.

No, Pete is certainly not a splinter I need to remove on this back deck survey of my life. Actually, the wood here is supple. Sure it could be painted. There’s always room for improvement. But it’s splendid enough that I most certainly should stand on it every day, stomp my foot and scream at the neighbors: “Your grass is not greener!”

Splendid enough that I should daily do what the Angel of Goodness suggested while my greasy toddler wiggled and the room smelled like summer – Choose Grace. Embrace the Ordinary. Turn on a dime and face the moment with kindness.

Now I ask you, doesn’t a husband who picks up take out, plays with the baby at 5 a.m. and worships the ground I walk on deserve to sit out on the lake packing every once in a while? And don’t I even serve myself better by setting the tone for the day with a kind, rather than a snippy, answer given while applying generous amounts of sunscreen?

I think so.

So that’s just it. That’s the most important day of my life. It happened last summer but could have just as easily been yesterday as the lesson is still fresh. The sand, the lake, the babies and the sunscreen. My boys splashing in the sun while the baby slept on his daddy’s chest. An Angel of Goodness whispering in the breeze and the fact that when I’m quiet, I still hear her.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Poor Family:The Unicorn and The Happy Bunny

On a self abasing or braggadocios note (you decide), I had my triumphant debut as a writer, producer, and director of One Act Plays. The Unicorn and the Happy Bunny (performed above by my sister Mary and old time pal Kendra) was a barn burner. It was inspired by the ugly sweatshirts I compulsively buy at Thrift stores (note: Mary played Unicorn, hence the unicorn sweatshirt and Kendra was Happy Bunny, hence bunny shirt).

It really was a dream come true in the sense that I simply walked up to them in the kitchen, held up a bag containing costumes and scripts and asked "One Act Play?"

They complied winningly and my bug has been bit to create One Act Plays for all sorts of times and seasons -- not just for Holy Days (this one was performed after Christmas dinner), but ordinary days too. For example, I can't wait to be sitting one day in a laundromat. I'll be listlessly watching the washers wash and haplessly listening to the dryers dry when I'll strike up a conversation with the lady to my left with three simple words:

"One Act Play?"

I'll hand her a bag with scripts and costumes and voila, the masses (or at least just the guy who mops the floors) will throw quarters.

The only bad part about The Unicorn and the Happy Bunny was at the end when my mom met up with me in the kitchen and said: "I really hated your play."

But it wasn't so horribly bad as I told her that the Happy Bunny was based on her and Happy Bunny's are too practical for theater. She agreed.

Here's the play; I'm hoping Mary and Kendra are available for the screen version. Oh yeah, Kendra's brothers, Jason and Liam, played, respectively, the Narrator and the Blimp. They were fabulous.

The Unicorn and The Happy Bunny

Cast: Unicorn, Happy Bunny and Narrator

Setting: Gumdrop Cloud ; Happy Bunny is busy harvesting carrots

Narrator: It was an ordinary day on gumdrop cloud. Happy Bunny was busily harvesting carrots before the midwinter frost. The sun was high and a morning dove cooed a happy melody that sounded like the theme song for the 80’s hit show The Facts of Life; (motion to audience to join in) You know the words; sing with me now, “You take the good you take the bad you take them both and there you have the facts of life the facts of life; there’s a time you’ve got to go and show you’re growing now you know about the facts of life, the facts of life; when the world never seems to be living up to your dreams then suddenly you’re finding out the facts of life are all about you you –oo—ooh …. (fade song and spin off set)

Happy Bunny (sings & hops): I am harvesting my carrots!!! (make up tune) La di da da di la di da da do!! I am harvesting my carrots!!! I am harvesting my carrots!!!! (hop about) la di di di da la di da da da doo!!!!

Unicorn: [runs in making unicorn noises] Neigh, neigh, I’m a unicorn. I’m a unicorn. I’m a fussy, naughty unicorn and I’ll never help pick carrots! Never!! Never!! Ha! Ha! Ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha!!!”

Happy Bunny: [waving a carrot] Fine, unicorn. But harvesting carrots is not all hard work and if you won’t pull your share, I’ll happily, hoppily pull enough for us both cause I love carrots and I love you!

Unicorn: Oh, Happy Bunny. I love you too but I am sad because I am not good like you – I’m so unhelpful with the carrots; so unhelpful. Let’s hold hands and dance around in a circle until the stars shine brightly and all the sadness fades away…

Happy Bunny: Oh, lets! (they take hands)

Unicorn to Narrator: Would you like to join us, oh, tall, white guy?

Narrator: Sure!

(Unicorn, Narrator and Happy bunny hold hands, dance in a circle and sing The Facts of Life Theme song until they see a blimp coming toward them)

song: You take the good you take the bad you take them both and there you have the facts of life the facts of life There’s a time you’ve got to go and show you’re growing now you know about the facts of life the facts of life; when the world never seems to be living up to your dreams, them suddenly you’re finding out the facts of --

Unicorn: Look a blimp!

Narrator: Look a blimp!

Happy Bunny: It’s coming right toward us! It’s going to crash into our cloud, shake out all its gumdrops and we will be lost forever in a great sea of sky! Ahhh!

Unicorn: Not if you hop on my back and I take you to safety on the jelly bean island!!

Happy Bunny: Oh would you!!

Unicorn: I would!

(Happy Bunny holds on tightly to unicorn’s back and they fly away; waving goodbye)

Happy Bunny and Unicorn together (fading out as they go out of the room): Goodbye, white guy!! Goodbye Gumdrop Cloud; we’ll miss you!! So long!! Au Riva derci!! Asta Pasta!! Later gater!! In a while crocodile!!

(Unicorn comes back and runs back and forth in the room between gum drop cloud and jelly bean island)

Narrator: And in the face of impending troubles, Unicorn, while naughty and lazy about carrot picking, was victorious to save the day by flying every last happy bunny from gum drop cloud to jelly bean island. By the time she arrived on jelly bean island with the last safely, fettered bunny, she collapsed on a hammock of handshakes.

Unicorn and Happy Bunny act out while Narrator says following Iines: (Unicorn lays down on the floor and happy bunny comes out to fan her with her with a carrot stem; Unicorn wakes up and Happy Bunny places a crown on her head, a carrot in her hand and lifts her hand to the sky)

Narrator: Unicorn awoke many days later to the sound of swishing carrot stems waving in her honor as the happy bunnies hailed their new chief and sang their country’s anthem, which also coincidentally is the theme song to the 80’s hit show “The Facts of Life.” Everybody now:

You take the good you take the bad you take them both and there you have the facts of life the facts of life; there’s a time you’ve got to go and show you’re growing now you know about the facts of life the facts of life; when the world never seems to be living up to your dreams then suddenly you’re finding out the facts of life are all about you; you-oo-oo ….

All Bow

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January Predictions

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments: January Predictions. Enjoy!

[yikes -- link expired; so I've copied and pasted below for personal posterity]

January Predictions

By the time you read this little ditty, Christmas will have passed, New Year’s Eve is a day or two away and a Walmart flyer is about to arrive in the mail. Actually, it quite likely arrived today with this very copy of Blue Mountain Moments and is sitting on the counter right now beside your keys and your kid’s backpack. See it? Good. Now, pick it up and check to see if I’m right in my prediction as to its January hot-ticket items.

Those being:

  1. Treadmills
  2. Diet Aids (pills, shakes, whathaveyou’s) and
  3. Storage Bins

Am I right? Just suppose I am. But am I right because I’m a psychic or a secret heiress to the Walden empire? [Because, you see, as I write this essay it’s early in the month of December -- December 2nd to be precise. Most of my neighbors haven’t even decorated for the season yet. I have yet to shop. I haven’t even really thought about it yet – But wait – Give me a second … and I’ll easily get … into the maddening … the fattening … the splendidlydizzyingholidayfurryofitall that will leave me thicker around the waist and … thinner in the wallet.]

Like I said, I’m no psychic or secret heiress, I just know what’s in January’s Walmart flyer because treadmills, diet aids and storage bins are the same things that are in January’s Walmart flyer every year. And before I draw my bossy-pants, know-it-all conclusions about what these January sale items say about us in our post- holiday, consumer-stricken mélange, I mustn’t forget to ask you for a favor:

Would you mind picking up a few bins for me (stackable, please) if you get to the superstore first? I’ll have to pay you back sometime in April, though, cause its January and I’m sure to have maybe 3 lonely cents in my wallet – 3 cents, a paper clip and some really cold air.

-- By Sarah Johnson

Thursday, January 1, 2009


I need to remember
I love you like this

While you're freshly fallen,
heavy and clean

Blocking my sidewalk to Mass,
so I push a stroller
down the street

Quiet on the hills
Quiet in the valley
Quiet in my hand

I need to remember
I love you like this