I’m 40,000 feet in the air right now, on a cross-country flight to see one of my best friends marry her love. I couldn’t be happier. I’m on detroit’s favorite low-budget airline because it was the only nonstop flight that had times I could live with, and that means no wi-fi. So…I’m left with just my thoughts and candy crush to entertain me (those candies are NOT going to crush themselves). I’ve had a thought for a long time now – and that’s where all my blog posts start. Something that stews in my brain for a few weeks until I’ve had enough and have to get it out. 
This blog was started for me, and only me. I’ve been lucky that a few loving people read it, and I’m going to ask for feedback on this one – if anyone is still reading at this point…

I’m struggling with the idea of gratitude vs. bragging. My dad has always demanded humility of my sister and I. We could be proud of our accomplishments, and we knew he was proud of us…but he was clear that we didn’t need to brag to the world. He despised it. I get why, completely. There’s nothing more off-putting than someone who is constantly telling you how amazing their life is (which is most people’s Facebook — an extremely edited version of their lives, mine too). People brag about how amazing their kids, marriage, house, car, job, shoes, lives are. Its obnoxious. Especially when you are working really hard and struggling. I know. I’ve been both the bragger and the struggler. We all have, I suspect. 

So here’s the question: my focus is gratitude – which requires I focus my energy on looking for the things I’m grateful for. This mindset has truly transformed my life. I could make a laundry list of things I’m thankful for and reasons why – but it feels like bragging. 

The man – he’s the most compassionate person I have ever met. He treats me very well, and is an amazing dad to Those Johnson Girls. He’s incapable of saying the word “no” to them (which drives me insane)…and also to me (which is totally different and a strength rather than a flaw…double standards be damned). He works very hard and can literally fix anything I break (which is a real challenge). He takes his time to make decisions (but usually makes the right one the first time), whereas I just make decisions quickly – for better or worse. The man will literally give you the shirt off his back, weld your car back together and offer whatever he has, even if he’s just met you. 

Those Johnson Girls – what can I say here. I have always wanted to be a mom. I think I can check that box now. I have four completely different personalities that make me a better person (and make me laugh) on the daily. They aren’t perfect, they are real. They make mistakes, they certainly make messes, they make lots of noise, and I love the crazy mess. 

The Job: I love teaching. It’s my true passion and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve entertained the idea several times — but I can’t bring myself to seriously consider it. I love what I do, I love the people I work with, I love my district. 

The house: three years ago we moved from a small house with one bathroom to a slightly larger home with 2.5 bathrooms in a neighborhood that is perfect for little girls! I’m still thankful for every single square inch of space. I vividly remember the claustrophobic nightmare, the suffocating feeling that our walls were closing in – and the plastic toys appeared to be breeding at night. I’m thankful we can have two girls using a bathroom at once! I love our neighborhood “pack” of kids that roam from one yard to the next (they’re all attached) playing and being kids. I love giving out popsicles all day long to my little friends too!

The side gig: I know many of you don’t want to read this part – and I’ve purposely not included it in my blog thus far… but I can’t any longer. Before you roll your eyes (I did that too), just hear me out. I’m on an airplane right now going to a friend’s wedding across the country. This is something that I would never have been able to consider before this side gig. Without hesitation, when I got the invite – I booked the tickets for the man and I. Which brings me to my next “thing” I’m thankful for. 

My family & friends: My mom asks when she can watch my girls – for real. She comes every Tuesday during the school year. Most of the time when I need someone to watch them, I feel like I’m inconveniencing them (they require a great deal of energy and patience). But not yet, she says “I can’t wait. I love being with them”. For real. Is there a working mom alive that wouldn’t cry to hear that? My mother in law comes and watches my girls on Thursdays – and usually ends up doing all of our laundry (working moms cry again, right?), dishes, and cleans whatever she can get her hands on. She takes great care of Those Johnson Girls and almost always brings treats to eat and dinner. For real. My sister lives close to me and drove me to the airport this morning. “Bye bye bye” came on the radio and without any words exchanged, we started our performance with the dancing at 5:45am. I have friends and a sister who I could call anytime day or night and they’d be there for me in a flash.

What else could anyone ask for? My gratitude is unavoidable with this much amazing stuff around….but rereading that — it does sound like bragging!!!!! So, what’s better?? I’m really conflicted about all this. 

I’ve chosen to love my life. Exactly as it is. Does this mean I’m not humble? 

“The Answer Is Never To Love Less” : the story behind the life mantra. 

The sign.
It was a sign. No, really. It was an actual sign, well – a billboard technically. It was on eastbound I-69 between Lansing and Flint. The billboard simply read “The Answer is Never to Love Less”. It was December 19 of 2014, and I was already ugly crying my way home from my best friend’s house. I was on my way to a family Christmas Party / Birthday party for my Granny. I had stayed the night at my friend’s house, at her request. 

You see, her husband and high school sweetheart (which also made him another bff to both me and “the man”) fought addiction. He lost. 

I have a lot of ideas on how to fight the addiction cycle and how to stop the opioid epidemic, but that’s not at all what this post is about. 

I remember just two days before getting a phone call that changed my life. He had passed away. I remember tucking myself tightly into a ball with my back against the wall and just shaking. It couldn’t be real. But it was. Very very real. 

Having absolutely no idea what she was going through, I just reached out (sobbing) to her and reminded her I loved her and told her to tell me what she needed. When she told me she didn’t want to be alone that night, I hopped on the expressway as fast as I could. Even if I could provide a small distraction, that seemed like it would help. I definitely didn’t know what to say or do…but this is my best friend and I was certain I’d be forgiven if I happened to “say the wrong thing”. 

So on the way home the next day, this sign hit me like a Mack Truck. 

“The Answer is Never to Love Less”

It echoed so loudly in my head that I had to pull the mini-van over to the side of the road. 

This next part is RAW, and definitely not something I’m proud of…but this blog is about being honest and real and leaving my comfort zone. 

I had been listening to lies that society tells us about marriage for a few months leading up to this.  I had decided for myself that “the man” didn’t care for me, or even love me.  I judged him for everything. I assumed he had bad intentions with every interaction we had. All of them. You can imagine the drama I created out of nothing. For MONTHS.  Definitely not proud of this. 

But, when I saw that sign — I decided  I was the lucky one. He was still alive and right there. He had always been right there. Always. Waiting (as patiently as he could) for me to get over my damn self!  I have so much mad respect for “the man”. You have no idea. So, that day I decided this billboard would become my new life mantra. And I would do my best to love the shit out of everyone in my life. I have definitely failed many times — but this remains the goal for me in all of my relationships. It has changed my perspective on life, and also changed me more than I ever could have imagined. One billboard. 

Except (plot twist)…..there was never actually a billboard.  We drove back to Lansing the next day for the visitation and on the way back I was looking for the sign. I knew exactly where I was when I saw it. Except, it wasn’t there. There WAS a billboard – of a McDonalds coke that looked like it had been there for some time. But MY sign, didn’t exist. 

You can make of this what you will, but I know how I felt that day – and I know how dramatically my life has changed because of it. You may think I’m crazy now, and you’re probably right. But, I KNOW the answer to ANY PROBLEM is never to love less. It’s always to love more. Always. 

And I was lucky again, because “the man” is a great guy and my eyes were finally opened to that again. And I’m the luckiest wife in the world. Sorry, not sorry. It’s not mushy it’s fact. 

This guy. I have mad respect for this guy. Mad respect.
P is trying SO HARD to get that single pickle on the plate, but “the man” has got it under control!

Hug your spouse or significant other tight. Hold your kids tight, hold your friends tight. Love the people in your life MORE. 

As I sit here in my hotel room in Kansas City, while my husband is a single dad (with Those Johnson Girls) at home…I KNOW how amazingly lucky I am. I’m wishing I could hold them tight right now.  Instead, I’m afforded the luxury of attending the best professional development in the world, meeting new people, seeing my friends from all over the country, eating amazing BBQ and so many other opportunities. Because HE loves me. I have so much respect for this man. He has no idea how much. I plan to let him know more regularly. 
I challenge you : if you read this far, the next problem that frustrates you, try my solution. Try loving MORE when that’s the last thing you want to do. And then, call me and tell me what happened next.