A Twelve Year Winter

A Twelve Year WinterImage

The Rose


Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless, aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

Its the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live

And the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,

In the spring, becomes a rose.


Writer(s): Amanda Mcbroom

Copyright: Third Story Music Inc., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.


I have always loved the song “The Rose” with its sad melody and haunting lyrics.  I sang it for a talent show when I was much younger, I found solace in it after a tough breakup, but until we adopted our son John I do not think I really had a grasp on the truth these simple words brought. 


When we adopted John and Christian in 2001 adding them to our family of four, my idealism was at an all time high.  We had struggles leading up to the adoption as anyone who has been through the process can attest to, but the day we saw our two sons for the first time is etched in the memory of my soul.  The dreams and desires of my heart for these two children was palpable.  The joy of knowing we were making a tangible difference in two lives as well as enriching our own families global perspective was intoxicating. 


Reality hit hard within weeks of their arrival to the USA.  John was diagnosed with Glaucoma, and every year seemed to get harder with him.  His anger at the world was focused directly on Scott and me.  His times of happiness were rare and short lived.  A river of tears, angry shouting matches with God, Scott, John, questioning my ability to parent, heart break for my son who has so much potential, so much to offer, so much life to live.  Sleepless nights praying for a miracle, praying for sanity, praying to get through the next hour.


Glimpses of hope, a wonderful Summer, an emotional break through, the volcano dormant for a bit.  Perfect in school and public, stubborn and fiercely independent, beautiful man-child with a world to conquer.  This roller coaster of hope, anger, heart break, frustration, helplessness, counseling, flashes of potential, and resentment, riding strapped in with a love that has not wavered but at times has remained only by the seatbelt of faith, friends, family and red wine.


Its been twelve plus years since the wonderful day we chose to grow our family.  John turned eighteen this past weekend.  He had a party with friends, his laughter and deep voice still sing in my heart.  He played his African drum that we brought home on the plane with him so many years ago.  The twelve year winter is over, the hopes and dreams lying dormant are budding into an award winning rose.  



“See Ya”

He hugs me with his large hard arms and chiseled body, “See Ya.” I hold on just a second more, smile and watch him walk away.  I go back to my car that is still running, with Gus my dog now sitting in the front where John was. My stomach has nervous butterflies as  I slide into the driver’s seat.  I take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of safety for him.  I pull out of the departures drop off and weave my way back into the traffic flow.

My head is full of contrasting thoughts warring within my mind.  What kind of mother are you to leave him at the door of the airport? He is legally blind, what if he misses his flight? What if he gets lost?  Are you really letting him travel across the country without even a cell phone? He has always wanted to be independent.  He is very capable and if he cant do this how will he go to college in a year?  It’s John, he is proud and strong and will ask if he needs help. He has all he needs and he will text me, no worries, no worries.  What the hell was I thinking? What if he gets kidnapped, or off at the wrong place or … be serious Kari he is a sixteen year old, black male, who looks like an ox and has forearms the size of your thigh and thighs the size of a small horse, let it go.

John is off to Baltimore to join about fifty other blind and legally blind students from across the country for a program sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). STEMX which is:

Science, technology, engineering, and math to the extreme!

The following is an excerpt from the web site:

“The “X” in the program’s title draws inspiration from the aerospace community, where historically programs and missions have utilized the letter as an abbreviation for exploration, and as a statement that the effort seeks new solutions and new discoveries that surpass previously assumed barriers to scientific advancement. In this same way, the NFB STEM-X program challenges the notion that blind people are unable to pursue STEM fields, or on a larger scale, are predestined to a life of social welfare and government dependence.

Students will choose from one of five focus disciplines (chemistry, computer science, engineering, robotics, and space science) in which to specialize during NFB STEM-X. Students will spend half of each of the four instructional days engaged in their focus discipline, learning alongside fellow high school students with blind and sighted STEM professionals as their guides. All five focus disciplines will work collaboratively throughout the program, capitalizing on each other’s specialization to innovate creative solutions to complex problems.

Outside of their work in their focus discipline, students will have the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that will provide them with authentic learning experiences in a wider variety of STEM disciplines. Evenings will be filled with activities that will help students develop their leadership skills and build their confidence while having fun and socializing with blind teens from across the country.”

This is an incredible culmination of twelve years of blood, sweat and tears for our family.  John has not been the poster child for adoption.  He has had a very difficult life and our journey with him has been far from easy.  His anger issues, post traumatic stress,  attachment disorder, stubbornness, on top of his vision issues are well documented, but his intelligence, sense of humor, determination, fearless attitude have made it possible for us to come to this point.

In choosing to apply for this opportunity he needed to admit he was legally blind, be willing to be with other blind students and acknowledge his need for help to make it happen. In a series of small miracles over the last five months everything fell into place.  In a rare moment of candid conversation before he left I heard words I never thought I would.  John called me “mom” for the first time in years and thanked me for all the work I had done to make this a possibility.

I drove over the mountains figuratively, and literally, with a renewed hope for our family and the world that is opening up to embrace our son John.

Same Time Next Year?


“Thanks for everything” I heard my daughter say as she hugged her grandparents. “Thanks for everything” Christian says as he finishes the fries from the value meal he bought after every game this season with money from his grandparents. “Thanks for everything” Isaac repeats as we walk my parents to the door tonight. “Thanks for everything” John echos from the hallway. I give them both huge hugs, not wanting to let go and whisper my thanks as I fight back the tears. “Thanks for everything.”

My parents have been living in Bend for two months during the basketball season. They have spoiled their grandchildren with time, fast food, rides all over the town, and been to every game they could possibly get to. They have eased the transition for me, as Scott started his job and is now gone Sunday night thru Friday. My mom has made countless dinners, made sure we had salad or other vegetables, edited papers, helped me with the girls I babysit and reminded me I am okay. They have both helped me with Kari’s Kitchen and supported me in a thousand ways I can not even name. “Thanks for everything.”

At times it feels like words are shallow. I often feel inadequate when it comes to expressing my gratitude. How do you find words to express the inner workings of your heart to another. My dad has driven countless miles back and forth between the high school and home. Every day he texted me and said “How can I help you today?” He has made sure my wine rack is full and a glass available whenever I need it. “Thanks for everything”

In a time where families are spread out across the country and others are torn apart with misunderstanding and anger, I count this time with them as a treasure more valuable than Gold. “Thanks for everything.”

Definition of EVERYTHING
a : all that exists

b : all that relates to the subject
: all that is important
: all sorts of other things —used to indicate related but unspecified events, facts, or conditions

This was my post on February 24, 2012. Today I say good-bye again to my parents after having been here for another basketball season. Everything is still true and with our son Isaac being a senior, and spending a full year away from my wonderful husband who is commuting to a job so he is only here on weekends, the time with them seemed even more poignant. Time moves on and I can only try to live in the moment and enjoy but sometimes its important to once again say “Thanks for Everything.”

Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Tonight is open house for my four high schoolers. It is a time where you are invited to follow your child’s schedule, hear expectations and meet the teachers. It is an important opportunity because it is often very difficult to have any personal interaction with your kids teachers as they get into Jr. and Sr. high school. The only problem with this system is if you have more than one or two children you must choose who you will meet and who you will not.

With 4 kids, 28 classes, 25 different teachers, and my husband out of town, this task becomes a bit overwhelming. I ask the kids who they really want me to meet and I get “no-one” from the boys and “as many as you can” from Jessie. I print the four schedules and map out my best plan. Some of the teachers I know from previous years, some are for electives that I am not concerned about, and so the narrowing process begins. In the end I can get to two of John’s teachers, two of Christian’s, one for Isaac and three for Jessie. There is one teacher for Isaac that I would really like to meet but will have to do it on another night.

Now I could just leave it at that, but I have learned the more you show interest and communication with your child’s teacher, especially in high school, where class sizes are edging towards 40 kids, your interest makes a difference! I then wrote the following email to all the teachers explaining my dilemma and letting them know of my interest and appreciation for what they do.

Good Morning!
My name is Kari Johnson, and if you are receiving this e-mail you have one of my four wonderful kids.  Isaac, John, Christian or Jessica.  My amazing husband, Scott, works is Eugene as a hospital chaplain.  He is gone during the week days, and I am a single mom for that time.  This leads me to tonight open house,  with four kids in seven classes, I clearly can not make it to meet all of you in person.  Our kids have the honor of being in 25 different and unique classrooms.   With Isaac a senior, and three others following close behind, I have had the chance to meet many of you on this list and feel so blessed by the time, effort, and expertise you bring to our children’s education.

If we have not yet met, I look forward to having that opportunity. Please know that if it is not tonight, it is not a reflection of my lack of interest or investment in my children, or you.  I volunteer in the Future Center, I have three-part time jobs, four high schoolers with sports and activities, and am very organized.  I am also just one person, and sometimes things slip through the cracks of the chaos I have chosen for my life.  Your communication with me through Parent Assist and e-mails are invaluable.  If there is any concern, a funny story, or frustration with any of my kids please do not hesitate to communicate with me via e-mail or phone: 541-948-1746.  My role is to support you in any way I can.

We are so thankful for Bend High, and for your contribution to making it such an awesome place for kids to be challenged both in education, and personal character to reach their full potential.  We are well aware that your job is the least appreciated, under valued, and under paid positions for the importance of what you are doing.  If our family can do anything to support you, make your life a bit easier, or just bring you your favorite cookie let us know. Thank you for your time, your dedication and your investment in our future.

love and laughter, Kari and Scott Johnson

No matter how old your kids are, no matter how many you have, your involvement in their education from pre-school through high school is imperative. These wonderful public servants give and give and give. If nothing else they give you a break for 6-8 hours a day so you can be a better parent when you do have time with your children. Communication is vital, and can be done in a way that everyone feels good about investing in your child. One email, supportive phone call or act of kindness will help so that no child slips through the cracks and your child gets the best possible education.

Day sixteen on my island, contemplative



The sun sets on day sixteen over the island. A lone seal swims as a sliver of the moon rises. The water is rougher than usual, but the sun set one of the most beautiful. Today is the first day I have been seriously annoyed and ready for a break from my kids. Isaac especially. That is a pretty good record for us. We have been living, working, and playing together for over two weeks and today is the first I have raised my voice in pure annoyance.

Isaac, who loves to push all of our buttons has been relatively calm and amiable. He has been a hard worker and fun to play cards, and other games with. Today he reached his limit at the same exact time I reached mine. This is not a good thing. Fireworks fly as we both express our isolation frustration.

The majority of the projects are done, my dad told me the house and property look the best they have since my grandparents were alive, and living here on the island. Jessie and I finished our four-year sea glass mosaic project, and the sun which had been hiding for a few days, came out again.

Time seems to be catching up with me and I am tired tonight. I think about turning 45 next week, and for the first time ever I have mixed emotions about my birthday. I will have finished my goal of blogging everyday for a year, and our oldest son will be a senior in high school. I will be halfway to 90. This must be Isaac’s fault because my brain is in a negative space and he has been ornery today. That is one of the good things about having kids, there is always someone to blame.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I will spending time away from my kids, going for my favorite hike with a special island friend who I connect with once a year. We will catch up on each others lives, laugh, and enjoy the best view of the whole island. Maybe from the top of the island I will gain perspective, and find a new goal. Tonight I will fall asleep to the lullaby of ferry boats and the promise of another day.

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Saturday Story Time: a love from the distance


Saturday Story Time:

I wandered through the gardens, meandering through the quilts and flowers. A quilt show of over two hundred quilts artistically placed throughout the Japanese Garden’s. I came by myself as the kids were not interested. I was happy to be alone, needed the space and the quiet. My mind was scattered and I was struggling to find my peace. I was in my favorite place, it was a beautiful day and I had even had my lemon tarts this morning. I sat down in the sun, on a bench in the garden,and searched my heart for the source of my discontent.

The answer came fast and sure like a splash of ice-cold water. I miss my husband. It has been two weeks without seeing him. Spotty Internet connections have made it difficult to Skype and texting is wonderful but not quite the same. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this year has been a testament to the truth of that. We have chosen a life that puts us away from each other for most weekdays. Scott spends his weekdays working in Eugene, so the kids and I can stay at our home in Bend. It has been a sacrifice for all of us, but certainly the hardest for him.

When I am at home, in my routine, and busy with the life we lead in sports, jobs, and the chaos of four teenagers it seems a bit easier to be away from Scott. It is never easy and we both hate it, but time goes by quickly during the week. Now being here on the island, with time and stress on the slow side, my heart feels his absence in new ways. There is so much I want to share with him, so many little moments when I look up to catch his eye and realize he is not there. I reach for him at night and get a moan of surprise from my daughter.

This island holds amazing memories for the two of us. Scott has fallen in love with it as much as me, and together we have explored the beaches, water ways, and hikes as a couple, a family of three, four and six. We bought our canoe, arrived by boat, ferry and hopefully someday by sea plane. It is here we have dreamed together, walked together, and swam in the cold waters with eagles soaring over our heads. The island is my true north but the compass is useless without the magnetic force, my husband.

Sometimes just naming the issue is comforting. I text Scott, let him know my heart is hurting for his presence and remind us both it is just one more week. I get up from the bench and once again engage fully with my island. It truly is a beautiful day and I am loved. What a blessed woman I am.






Day Eleven on my island, the roles we play.


Day Eleven on my island, the roles we play.

As I sit on the very clean deck tonight after dinner with the four kids, I hear the ferry blast three small honks. It means someone is in his way. It always makes me laugh because what vessel in their right mind would get in the way of a ferry. It’s like a tonka toy getting in the way of a real semi truck. Not smart!

It has been an interesting time as I observe how the three boys work together. It comes as no surprise that Isaac is the designated foreman. Any job that happens, is because he decided that it should. Isaac tells the other two what to do, how to do it, and will take over if he feels they are not doing it correctly(which of course is how he thinks it should be done.) Isaac has a brain that sees the problem, knows the most efficient way to fix it and has a hard time when others do not see it the same way.

Christian is the middle man. He works hard to make everyone happy. He admires Isaac but is annoyed with him at the same time. Isaac try’s to be a teacher but if you do not do it exactly as he says, he gets frustrated and wants to take over. He shows Christian what to do but in a way that is unintentionally demeaning. Christian tolerates Isaac very well, he knows he actually does have the best way to do it but to admit that makes Isaac too powerful so he purposefully does things a bit different. The power play between them is quite comical. Isaac dictates, shows how it should be done. Christian complies for a minute or two then spaces and does it his own way. Isaac then finishes the job, because he can not stand to have it done anyway but his.

John is definitely the grunt labor, and happy with his role. Tell him what to do, give him the heaviest load and he is pleased. He looks up to Isaac, counts on and trusts him to give him a task he can accomplish, and succeed at. John also adds the humor and intelligent conversation as he whistles while he works, asking the other two questions about the NBA and NFL and any other bits of information he wants to share from the pod casts he has been listening to. John has a great attitude, a strong body and a willingness to follow directions. Isaac loves working with him.

They are all so different, and they all have their positives and negatives. I have worked hard to stay out of it as much as possible. In some ways they each know their roles and play them very well. They do get quite a bit accomplished and I am so proud of them. At times, I can see Isaac tire of the in charge role, and he gets snippy with me when I question any of his choices. Christian escapes with his basketball workouts and his need to bug Jessica. John just rolls along, ignoring everyone else when he has has had enough, and retreating to his iPad and headphones.

All things considered they do amazingly well. We are a close family that works together, plays together, and for the most part get along. As they get older, and their relationships are defined less by being in the same household, and more by the relational ties that they have built, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. I am now off to the lighthouse to catch the sunset, and if I am lucky, whales.