kariskhaos


Shopping the Middle

imagesIt was a Tuesday night and Scott and I had just come from a local restaurant where we had enjoyed a happy hour special.  Just in case you did not get the significance of that statement let me repeat it to be clear.  My husband and I went out for happy hour during the week. It was not for a special occasion, not in-between running from one event to another, not because I had a meeting for a sport, school,volunteer, work, charity or committee of any kind.  We were at Costco to buy a land line phone.  As we are coming up the aisle we see a teacher, coach, parent and friend with his three little ones and his teacher, coach wife walking towards us.  She is pushing the flat bed cart, He is pushing the regular oversized Costco cart with two of his kids in the cart and one in the ‘front seat’.  The three kids are all eating slices of pizza with varying degrees of greasy mess and success.  They greet us with big smiles and “What are you doing here?” We laugh and say buying a phone and you know other unnecessary items.  His eyes get real big and he says “You are shopping the Middle! We avoid the Middle of Costco” He turned and looked at his wife and then laughed as his daughters cheese oozed off her slice of pizza dropping on her brothers lap.  “Someday we will shop the Middle too!”costco-is-the-perfect-example-of-why-the-minimum-wage-should-be-higher-1

I am still laughing at that revered look and comment. I, Kari Johnson am an empty nester and I get to shop the Middle!  We have downgraded our cable package and our internet usage.  We added a land line because we are “saving money” by bundling services so for the first time in many years we have a home phone.  We got rid of the land line to save money now we  got it back to save money.  I have not been grocery shopping in three weeks, if we go out to dinner and bring food home we actually get to eat it.  I put it in the fridge and low and behold the next day it is still there.  We bought a sleep number bed and it is fabulous.  We go to bed at 8:30 and nobody makes fun of us, needs a poster board or asks me to edit a paper at 10:00pm that is due the next day.  My family room has been transformed from an athletic shrine of four stellar athletes trophy’s, awards, uniforms, and varsity letters to a tribute to my love and obsession with Otters. My kitchen counter does not have water bottles, cups, shoe laces, mouth guards, or notes for me to sign from last  week.  I do not trip over the shoes, coats, or backpacks on my way to let the dog out in the night. I have not used the expressions “What do you live in a barn?” “You are gonna be late” or “Seriously??”IMG_8324

In my one month of experiencing life without kids in my home daily I have been questioned multiple times if I am really okay.  You seem to handle this so well, are you really celebrating and enjoying it? You were so involved at the school, in the sports, do you miss it? What do you do with all your time?  Are you bored? Have you been to any games or stopped by the school? These  questions are usually from parents still entrenched in the wonderful craziness of full-time at home mothering.  They ask with hope and a bit of incredulous disbelief that this will ever happen to them.  They are right.  I gave 100% to my kids, their school, sports, events, teachers and social life.  I was the first one to get there and the last to leave.  I screamed loud, passionately and was probably a bit over the top.  I honestly do not know how to do things any other way.  I juggled, organized, cooked for an army, took on way more than I should have, and loved every minute of it, well, not every minute. I was THAT mom so I understand the questions.

My answer is an unconditional, resounding, YES! I am loving it.  I do not miss the chaos and the crazy schedule.  I have not been back to a game, or even visited the school.  This is not because I do not care or don’t want to see people. I do like football but gosh sitting at home with a glass of wine and cuddling up with a book while my other friends are freezing, bundled, and screaming for the first down is pretty great. I absolutely loved being a part of it, I would do it again in a heart beat. Yet for me, the gift of life is in its many stages, and being able to embrace each stage and give myself 100% to the moment I am now living is truly a blessing.

That being said, I miss my kids.  I send Jessie a card every week.  I text and talk to them when they have time and sometimes when they don’t.  We just got back from a family weekend in Montana with Jessie, I have visited Isaac and Christian on separate weekends and will hopefully see John this Sunday when he has his first regatta with the novice crew team of Seattle University. IMG_8323 I wake up every day and on my way down my stairs I say good morning and touch each of my kids portraits and do the same in reverse when I go to bed at night. When I say my prayers at night I thank God for the honor of being their mom, that they survived being a Johnson kid and for the amazing husband and partner I get to enjoy these stages with.  It is different, but I really like shopping the Middle.



I Felt Nothing

Every child is unique and different, and every rite of passage a unique experience for the parent and the child. This past weekend Scott and I dropped our second child off at college. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November.

I felt nothing, which if you know me, is very unusual. I did not feel sad, I did not feel pulled, or torn for his youth, or wonder if he would be all-right. I left, and in a small part of my heart I felt relief. Mothers are not really supposed to feel this way, your child, whom you have raised in most cases since birth, and in my case since John was five, are supposed to feel torn, sad, like a part of them has moved on and though excited for them, there is this sense of loss- at least that is how I felt when I dropped off Isaac last year. With John it was a non emotional relief.

disc2 340The thirteen plus years that have led to this parting have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. The joy of expanding our family by adoption, the thrill of meeting John and Christian for the first time that April day in the slums of Liberia. The elation of coming off the plane to be greeted by 50 of our family and friends welcoming this new beginning for them and for us. The adjustment for all six of us as we settled in Bend. The devastation of finding out John had glaucoma, the hundreds of dr. appointments, surgeries, research, and grief as we realized the world we had dreamed of giving our son would be altered drastically.

John’s amazing determination, stubbornness, never quit, never compromise, never let them know you are different attitude was admirable, and in many ways a true miracle. He was legally blind, he rode a bike, played basketball, football, and learned in both braille and print. He is an intelligent, sarcastic, quiet, young man. To many he is a poster child for facing adversity. At home, with Scott and me it has been a different story.

They say the safest people will be treated the worst and that has been truer than true in our family. As Scott and I tried our best to raise these four beautiful children,(none of them, or us being perfect) was not easy. John’s betrayal of being given away by his birth mother, his frustration and denial at his lack of vision, his post traumatic stress, his attachment disorder created a very angry, sullen, volatile child. The best way I can describe it was living with a volcano, never quite knowing when and where it would erupt, but knowing it would.

Counselors, friends, pastors, family supported us and comforted me each time. The heartbreak of knowing you could not change the situation, I could not give John my eyes, and I could not break through his wall guarding his heart from further pain, was at times debilitating. The tears I have cried for him, and because of him would fill a small lake. Bitter tears, angry tears, helpless tears, tears of joy, elation and pride for his many accomplishments despite the odds.

Finally this Spring, tears of release, tears of grief for a relationship that will never be what I had dreamed, and tears of resignation. I came to the point where I had to let go and move on. John has never said “I love you,” never calls me mom, speaks mostly when spoken to and tries to live his life in our home like a guest. I let go of my search to find the answers by reading the right book, finding the right language to love him, the right advice to reach him, a new way to approach his heart. I let go of the need for my self esteem and value as a person and a mother to be defined by his actions, and indifference. I came to the freeing conclusion that I have done everything I could possibly do. John has been raised in a loving home, had opportunities many kids dream of, was graduating from high school with honors and his life long dream of being independent from Scott and me has come true.

It has been a very long road. John is a terrific young man with a bright future. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November. I left, and in a small part of my heart, I felt relief, and it was ok.

10409553_10204893905096258_2423681511721109781_n



A week, a lifetime, a future

It is Sunday, Isaac has been off work for two weeks, we leave for Cal Polly SLO in six days, and he says to me “Hey mom would you be able to get a dental cleaning appointment for me this week?  Oh and I need a hair cut.”  Really?  I manage to get him an appointment for the cleaning and the morning of his appointment he comes out of the bathroom after brushing his teeth and comments to me about how he thinks it is going to be a rough visit because his mouth is bleeding.  I casually smile and say well that’s how it usually is when you don’t floss, and then finally do it the day of your appointment. He looks at me with his typical sheepish grin, and then says the words a parent never wants to hear from their 18-year-old child who is leaving for college in a few days, “Its not from flossing mom, they are bleeding from me brushing them.  I kinda got out of the habit of brushing my teeth.”

I am totally mortified. I am speechless.  I have failed in a rudimentary way as a parent and mom. What exactly do you say to that? This boy is going to college?

It is now Thursday and his friend Troy is over to say goodbye.  Boys are really awkward with goodbyes.  A quick hug, a fist pump, a joke about being non-emotional and off he goes to get his haircut.  He packs the rental Saturday with the help of his dad.  Tetrus like engineering to fit all his stuff and still leave room for me, my sister and his lanky body to almost fit as we make our 12 hour car ride to San Luis Obispo.  A tearful goodbye from his dad and sister at 7:00am Sunday morning(the brothers said goodbye last night, no need to get up early) and our adventure to his future begins.IMG_0426

We arrive with no problems, find our hotel and talk about the morning move in.  I have all the paperwork, the parking permit printed and the do’s and don’ts memorized.  I am trying to talk to him about logistics, what time we want to get there, meeting his roommates etc.  Isaac calmly says to me “Mom, I want to sleep in till 11:00, I am going to be there 4 years, there is no rush.”  Really? what about your mom and her panic and need to get there and fix things and know that you are going to be okay, what if you need more things, or we forget something, what if there is an apocalypse and you never get to see your dorm room? Really? You will be able to sleep in on the day your new life of college and future as you know it begins?

Monday I am up early, my stomach hurts, I am a nervous wreck.  Isaac sleeps.  My sister and I get up, get dressed, and go to have breakfast so that I do not jump on my boy and wake him up because of my nerves.  I drink coffee, look at the beautiful view and pray for time to move faster and stop all at the same time.  I so wish my husband could be here.  He is coping about as well as I am but has to do his from a distance.  He loses his glasses and spends an hour looking for them before going to work late with his prescription sun glasses instead.

My sister tries to keep me occupied as the minutes creep by.  I breathe in, I breathe out.  I think of him when he was born, I think of his first steps and first words.  I groan as I think of the sarcastic, laid back, man-child he has become.  Can I get him up yet? We go back to the room at 10:00.  I jump on his bed and hold him tight.  Isaac asks what time it is, and when I tell him, he groans and growls at me.  I ignore him.  I look over and notice my bed has been made.  My sister and I look at each other oddly.  How did that happen? We ask Isaac.  He mumbles something about the maid coming in, not knowing he was still in bed.  She started on our bed and threw some pillows on him.  When she turned to get them, she realized Isaac was there, gave a quick start, apologized and left.  Only Isaac I think to myself.

It is now Tuesday afternoon, he is moved in, we have been to orientation, I have bought my Cal Poly Mom sticker and Isaac is off with his roommate and new friends getting their cards for the athletic center.  I want to take a nap because I am emotionally, and physically exhausted but I don’t think Isaac would appreciate his mom crawling up on his bunk and sleeping, instead I decide to write him my good-bye letter.  IMG_1258

Isaac,

You are off with Cole being a college boy as I sit in your dorm room.  You have tolerated very well my comings and goings, my nervous over reactions and my extra affection.  Thank you.

So often I have thought what I might want to say to you at this moment.  Flash backs of your childhood, your buck teeth, your high school years and your laid back, goofy smile.  I do not have any advice.  I do not have any real concerns about you here.  It is a perfect fit- you will do well, thrive.  Spread your long wing span and fly.

You know all the other stuff but maybe you need it in print to be able to look back at.

  1. You are Loved – No matter what – Change schools, change majors, change sexual orientation, change anything  knowing you are loved.
  2. We trust you – Make decisions, make mistakes, fall on your face and get back up.  We trust you.  You know how to make good choices, make them freely.
  3. I am ALWAYS your MOM – I will always worry a bit, I will ask too many questions, I will ‘baby’ you about food, rest, water, girls- it is just who I am, but I will try really hard to limit my vocal worry to when you are not with your college friends.
  4. Remember who you are and Whose you are – You Isaac are a child of God, beautifully and wonderfully made.  It matters not what you claim to believe right now, only that you know you are not an accident.  You are here for a purpose.  Find that purpose and live a life worthy of your uniqueness.
  5. Laugh every day – Find joy in the small things.  When it is hard and you are stressed out and life really sucks remember a corny joke your dad told.  Remember Gus and how he dances with you and will be so excited to see you.  Watch a stupid, crass, no redeeming value movie or an episode of Tosh.O. Laughter heals, laughter calms, laugh to survive

I will miss you, I do already.  There is a spot in my heart that is Isaac shaped.  It formed when you were conceived and will be with me till I die.  It has to adjust and change to not having a daily interaction with you, it will feel empty but it will adjust-it will not diminish, it will not be forgotten, it will be different.

I love you Isaac Scott Johnson, MOM

Its Friday, he has been sleeping in his dorm for three nights. I am home getting ready to go to two football games, help with a basketball fundraiser and work at the shop. I have heard from him in one word texts.  He likes his roommates.  He is brushing his teeth. It is enough.

250



“Its not because I am black, its because I am a Johnson”

It is early in December, The basketball season is just beginning for my son Christian. He is a sophomore and is on the varsity team. As with most teenage boys, common sense is often out weighed by immediate desire. Immediate desire for Christian is almost always focused around food and sports.

At the high school he attends juniors and seniors are allowed off campus for lunch, freshman and sophomores are not. Most of his friends are juniors and can drive. On game days I have allowed him to come home with his brother and a couple of friends for lunch. Now in Christian’s mind I have just given him permission to go off campus to have lunch, in my mind I am avoiding him getting in trouble, giving him a home-made lunch on game days, and getting a chance to hang with his friends.

A couple of days later I get an email from his basketball class teacher (who happens to be my daughter Jessica’s JV basketball coach) informing me CJ was a half hour late for class because he went off campus for lunch and was late getting back. This was not the first time this had happened but because he was so late she questioned him further and he admitted to golifetouch_20120930113701ing off campus. She was letting the administration,and his coaches know of his rule infraction.

I calmly (read unbelief, anger, incredulous, sympathy, frustration) wait for Christian to come home from school. I ask how his day was and if he wants to tell me anything. He looks up at me, reads my body language and shrugs, “No not really. Did I do something wrong?” I bring him to the computer and show him the e-mail. He again shrugs, this is clearly not a big deal to him. “Christian, do you realize that the you broke school rules, could get suspended from school, and get benched from playing a game?” Now I have his attention.

Christian than babbled about how everybody does it mom, and its a stupid rule and I was not that late, and she over reacted and exaggerated the time and how many times I have been late. “Christian did you or did you not go off campus for lunch? Head nod, “Were you late for class because you went off campus for lunch?” Head nod. “Did you break a school rule?” Now I get a tirade of how nobody follows that rule, if he had not been late no one would ever have noticed, Nobody cares, mom seriously no body cares. As my blood pressure rises with his lack of concern, I not so calmly say “Somebody cares Christian, because I got an email and now you will be hearing from the principal.”

The next day I get a call from the vice principal and a friend of our family. So I have Christian in my office… he will have a in school suspension, his coaches will be notified and if he goes off campus again he will be suspended from school for two days. He informs me that Christian is a good kid, they love having him at school, kids are kids and if he is going to get in trouble this was the best way to do it. He thanks me and my husband for our continued involvement in the school, and knows he will not have any more problems with Christian in the future.
Christian comes home from school not contrite, but still adamant that the rule is dumb and he was un fairly singled out. Scott and I have now had enough of his denial of wrong doing. We want him to own up and take responsibility, so I try a different tack. “Hey Christian, who did you go out with to lunch?” Jaylin, Steffan and JJ, I am informed. Two of which are juniors and another sophomore on the basketball team. Now where we live is not exactly ethnically diverse. We can count the black, mixed race and Asians on two hands. Jaylin and Steffan are half black and JJ is half Asian. Christian is African, not African-American but very dark black beautiful African. I say well it must be a racial issue Christian. I will go to the principal and claim racial profiling and then… Christian’s face is mortified, he stares at me in un-belief. “MOM, it is not because I am black that I got caught it is because I am a ‘Johnson’.”

All I could respond with was laughter. Gee Christian, so sorry that you’re a part of a family that is involved in your school, and surrounded by people who are watching out for you and care about you. It’s tough being a Johnson, but I am really glad you are.135



Managing Mondays: Rhythm

Managing Mondays: Rhythm

I slowly sip my coffee and revel in the mornings stillness. It is the first Monday of the first full week of school. My two sophomores, junior and senior are out the door. Gus, our golden retriever, has been fed and is curled at my feet. The day is going to be full, and a bit crazy as I juggle appointments for Jessie’s knee, Lila, and the cooking for my kick off of Kari’s Kitchen. I am looking forward to it.

The Summer was terrific and I enjoyed myself immensely, but I am so thankful that school is back in session, and a new rhythm is establishing itself. I can only go for so long without a structure or schedule. My kids need it and so do I. It feels good to have a plan and to be able to quantify accomplishments. The tension in our home the last two weeks before school starts is palpable. They are fighting for every last moment of freedom, video time, tv time, sleeping in and staying up late. I am at my wit’s end with the house, the mess, the laundry, the bickering, and the physical presence of large teenagers, three of which are smelly boys clogging up the air and space.

“Rhythm, a procedure marked by the regular recurrence of particular elements, phases, etc.” Good coffee, kids out the door, a chance to write, then tackle the day. Find your rhythm. Be willing to change the beat. Dance through your day!



Day nine on my island, Sweet Success

Day nine on my island, Sweet Success

Another sunny morning with ferry horns welcoming me to a new day. Today is the day I fix the sink. I get up, get dressed, and get back under the sink. I assess the damage and take stock of what needs to be done. I figure I have one more college try in me, and then I will truly give up. I go down to the bakery to get my coffee and some advice from my round table of wisdom. They enjoy my animated relay of the happenings thus far. They sympathize, offer a few suggestions and then ask where my home is, should they find someone who could help.

I tell them my address and they say oh you are in the Medcalf house. I smile and say no, I am a Medcalf. I am Jerry Medcalf’s granddaughter. Is that so eh? Well then good, you should be able to fix this, he could fix anything. There is laughter, and talk about my grandfather, my heart soars. One man comments about my grandpa’s pipe and how he was never without it. I smile as I recall the smell, and his presence seems larger than life. This is why I love the island. This is my history, this is where my grandfather was most alive, and most known.

I say my goodbyes with the promise of coming back to tell them what happens tomorrow. I head off to the hardware store. I explain my drama, I am shown what I need, told briefly how to do it, and sent on my way with the remark that they are here if I need them. I now have a pipe cutter, a new valve, a new hose, and the lingering smell of my grandfathers pipe to encourage me. I come home, change my clothes, get out the clean towels from yesterday’s flood and set to work.

The pipe is cut, the new hose on, the thread tape placed, but the new valve will not fit. I try a few different things, grab my sister who is now up and we once again head to the hardware store. The kind man makes some comment about my pipe cut not being straight, sells me some sand paper to sand the edges, and once again assures me that I can do this. With a small chuckle, and a we are here if you need us, off we go again. Now I do need to mention how beautiful I am looking right now, I have not had a shower in four days, I have been flooded on, banged up, dropped a tool on my forehead and probably a bit wild-eyed. I am sure he was hoping we would not be back.

I go back to the sink, climb under that damn cabinet and set to work. One flood later, a few more swear words, and I have triumphed. The sink is working. The hot and cold water are on to the house and the cabinet under the sink is dry. Could it be true? Did I Kari Johnson conquer the leak, and prevail under trying circumstances to come out the other end of the tunnel without the use of a plumber? My sister is very impressed, my kids not so much. I ask for recognition of my great accomplishment and get a very mild “great mom,” then Christian pulls through and says maybe you need a new business card with “Kari Plumber Johnson” on it. Maybe I do.

20120718-090822.jpg

20120718-090835.jpg



Day eight on my island, Triumph and Trouble

20120716-203935.jpg

Day eight on my island, Triumph and Trouble

We spent the weekend without water in the kitchen sink. The bolt would not budge for anyone or any thing. Isaac bless his heart, washed al lithe dishes in the bathtub last night. I got a wonderful night of sleep and woke up with renewed vigor to tackle our faucet issue. I enlisted my sister and daughter and we went down to the bakery to sweet talk the old men and see if they could help. I had already talked to them once and they had told me there was a man I needed to speak to who would have the correct tool. I fueled my self on coffee and a raspberry scone from the bakery and approached the table.

I used my best smile and asked once again for help. They all pointed to on man and I said what do I need to do t o get this tool. He smiled and said come to my house and get it. I of course squealed with delight and made the arrangements. I left the table, did a happy dance which made all the men laugh. I still did not have a name, but I had the directions to his home and I knew I was going to be able to fix the stupid faucet.

We went to his beautiful home with an incredible view looking back towards the main land. Their parents had built the home in the early fifties and now the fourth generation of family was enjoying the Island. He listened to my accounting of the faucet issue and gave me a tool we were both sure would work. I came back to our home eager to get this problem solved. The tool was exactly what I needed and after some maneuvering, pounding, swearing and faucet wreckage it was out. I came out of the cabinet under that sink and ran out to the back, screamed a roar of triumph, and did another happy dance.

I got out the new faucet placed it on the sink, dove gleefully under the sink cabinet and hooked the cold water and then the hot water to the new faucet, turned the valves and asked my sister to turn the faucet on. It worked beautifully. Unfortunately, I noticed a leak in the hot water hose. I turned the hot water off at the valve and nothing happened. I was getting doused with water and nothing I turned or tweaked did anything to stop the flow. I am laughing and swearing and calling for help. I send my sister and kids out of the house to find the main water shut off and the whole hose to the hot water breaks.

I now have a beautiful faucet, a very clean kitchen floor and sink cabinet, cold water to the house but no water to the kitchen sink and no hot water to the house. The plumber has yet to return my calls. I get out from the sink, change my clothes, start a load of towels and my wet clothes. I make myself a gin and tonic and call it a day. I do have a beautiful faucet, and a cold shower is better than no shower at all. Maybe tomorrow I will get the call, maybe not. No worries eh? It is island life.

20120716-204050.jpg

20120716-204034.jpg

20120716-204024.jpg