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Not Being But Becoming

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“This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.” ~Martin Luther

The seasons. We’re lucky to live in a part of the world that is mild enough, but still gifts us with unabashed seasons. In the past two days, fall has erupted. In all its glory.

We got our first frost, trees are ablaze with color, and — the telltale sign — the college girls have their leggings and boots on. It is fall.Pic 6It is a re-reminder, to me, that we’re always and forever in flux. There is no firm “is,” there is only the becoming.

Our boys have finished their first season of football. I still cannot fathom that I allowed it; one year ago I’d have told you it would never happen (“Over my dead body will they ever play that sport.”), a decade ago I’d have said my Haitian babies are just fine being tiny (“They’re alive! That’s the glory! They survived a Haitian orphanage and will live to tell the tale! We’re gonna rock the Chess Club like nobody’s business!”), two decades ago I’d have given you a feminist diatribe against the machismo-heteronormative-disaster that is Sport (with a Marxist bent, of course, but still.), and in college- or high school… well, if truth be told, I’d have hugged my football-playing-boyfriend tight (yes, my college love was a football player, and yes I dated the captain of the high school football team), hoped for the best, and religiously refused to participate in anything-and-everything-Football. But there I was this football season, learning about the game, and making them their protein smoothies, and screaming in the stands “GO BULLDOGS” like the fierce Mother that I’ve become. In the end, it (football) was a good thing for us to do. And I’m glad we’re now on to basketball season.Pic 7“We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way.”Pic 1Every day I marvel at my gratefulness for it all. My heart is bursting for it. My whole self rests with gratitude. Each and every day. I am one of the lucky ones: I know joy daily, I am present in the pain. I am totally comfortable with the good and the bad all swirling together in each and every hour.

The students we live with, the students I teach, they are an abundant gift of youth and energy. They have no idea what is coming. And they’re working so hard at life. In those glimmers of moments when they allow themselves to be ok-with-the-becoming, it is a beautiful thing to witness. It is an honor to play a part.Pic 2“The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on.”

I see myself in it all. It “does not gleam and sparkle,” but it is becoming. When we allow ourselves to go deeper into it all, when we revel in the blazing color of it, when we note the sparkle in the raindrop on the umbrella, then we know we are fully living. Living not in the being, but in the becoming.Pcic 4“We are on the way.”Pic 5“It is the right road.”Pic 3{Thank you to the precious Tara Livesay for the quote.}

FaceTiming From Dallas

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“She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.” ~Margaret Culkin Banning

Braydon convinced me to FaceTime with the kids tonight. I hate FaceTime. I hate seeing myself on the screen, and I get distracted by it, and it makes me want to cringe. But the kids. They love it. They love seeing themselves on the screen, and they get distracted by it, and it makes them crazy. Which also drives me crazy. But, I knew he was right: phone calls are so old news, and FaceTime is the way of the world with our 2015 kiddos. So, there I was, FaceTiming from my Dallas hotel room with my bambinos.

Work trips are so crazy complicated.

I hate leaving them. I hate leaving Braydon alone to have to cover all the bases, holding down the fort at home (and, oh what a crazy fort it is!). It is so disruptive for me to leave. And I miss them. And the re-entry burn is so tough going back in. I know all that. But the time away — focused on serious work, getting real about real big stuff, space to think for myself, oh — and– time for such luxuries as room-service and long uninterrupted showers and sipping coffee alone and flights-dedicated-to-getting-work-done — really, really, really, it is such an amazing respite. Isn’t that crazy? That a hard-core work trip can feel like a break? Whattha?!

So, yeah. That’s the truth. And– and I miss them like crazy when I’m gone. And– I love getting away and remembering there’s a whole me that is totally apart from them.

This trip has been really productive. For me, for my work, and for my precious little family of five.

Tonight, during our FaceTime, the boys told me to “take a selfie!” They wanted to see all of me. As if FaceTime wasn’t enough?! Man, those two are pushing all the envelopes of their mama. But I did it. Cuz, if I can FaceTime for them, I can selfie for them. Which kinda shows how much I love ’em.

I fly home tomorrow. And it can’t come soon enough. But until then, I’ll enjoy this lovely hotel room, the Food Network, and the glass of Cabernet I’m sipping all by my glorious self at the end of a verrrrrrry loooooooong day of non-stop work-work-work-work-work.

selfie 1

Getting the Year Off the Ground

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School Kids

My Dear Readers,

You have been so loyal, for so many years, and here I am just a flaky blogger, inconsistent and not-blogging-daily. I’m so sorry folks. And I’m so grateful for your sticking with me. Thank you.

Have you ever noticed that all the real bloggers don’t have other big-careers totally separate from their blogging-careers? There’s a reason for that!– It is super hard to be a mom-of-three with a big-career AND try to blog in any consistent fashion. It’s getting harder as the years go by, and I’ll tell you why: the kids go to bed later and later! I used to use my down-time at night to reflect on the day and blog. But these days, by the time Kyle and Owen go to bed (9:30ish on a good day), and we’ve then cleaned up the house, done a couple loads of laundry, responded to a slew of email, wrapped up work for the day, and cleaned the kitty litter/emptied the dishwasher/sewn a stray button on a pair of pants/filled out the school forms du jour/prepped the crockpot for tomorrow/stain sticked something/cloroxed something and maybe-had-a-glass-of-wine-and-checked-in-with-each-other-on-how-the-day-was…. well…. by then… it is midnight or so, and I’m totally done for the day and none of my brain cells are functioning. Oh, did I mention? I’m also 43 years old. I just don’t have the bandwidth for creative blogging at midnight that I did in 2006 when we started this old blog (and when the boys were in bed at 7pm)!

So, here I am. It is what it is.

I’ve gone MIA in the blogosphere for the past 2 months as I’ve had to be at the helm of my family for getting our year off the ground. See that picture above? That’s not easy to accomplish. At all. Especially when my own year is also kicking into full gear, and Braydon is working at full tilt too. There is no effortless perfection here people. It is all effort all the time. Every angle is effort, and effort is coming from every angle. That’s real. It’s all good, and it’s all bad, and it’s what is happening here: effort. All. The. Time.

We do our best. And for the past few weeks, our best has meant me not blogging. Sorry about that.

Here’s the thing: I’ll continue to try. Some of you will stick with me — through thick and thin. Many of you have been doing that for a long time. Some of you for many years. And again: THANK YOU. And if it’s not your thing to hang on with us, that’s totally cool. I get it. That’s what’s awesome about the blog!— you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to! For those of you who want to, and who wish to be more closely connected even in the ‘thin’ of it, there are a couple things I can offer you:

  • I post often to Facebook. If you ‘friend’ me, I’ll approve your friend request. I’m on Facebook as Heather Johnson at
  • For a long time I’ve been wanting to start photo posting to Instagram. My August goal was to start posting a photo a day. I have been doing that (which may, in part, be why my blogging has declined in the past couple months). You can follow me on Instagram as heather_._johnson   at

I’m going to blog more, but I’ll be honest: it’s harder and harder all the time. So, I encourage you to go the Facebook and Instagram routes with me — because, well, because those things are just a lot less time consuming than blogging is (so I do them more, or at least I do them more consistently).

But blogging… well, blogging is the real deal. And I miss it when I’m not doing it. The reason I keep doing it is because: #1) blogging makes me saner [it’s a great outlet for me; I feel better when I’m blogging; it’s cathartic and a good mindful meditative process for me], and #2) so many of you tell me how much it means to you. I can’t really explain why this blog has connected so strongly with so many people, but I know that it has [because you tell me so], and that keeps me going — because I know it is meaningful and engaging for lots of people. Thank you for that. Thank you for reading!



P.S. I’m posting this from Dallas, TX where I’m attending a conference for work. The only way I finally got the chunk of time I needed for posting the photos from our August trip to NH was this lovely little hotel room all to myself with no distractions. See…. if I could just sequester myself in a hotel room more often, I’d get a lot more blogging done! 😉

NH Summer 2015. Precious and Fragile. (1 of 3)

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Yes, it really does look like this. It is so beautiful, it takes your breath away. Or, at least, it does mine. From the first morning I wake up there (first photo on this post), to the last sunset (last photo on this post), I am a bit breathless from the views, the sights, the colors, the landscape, the history.

Every day I’m there I’m thinking about Herman Engstrom — my great grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) — who built this little cottage with his own two hands. We have photo albums with pictures of the early days. I imagine that the lake water was just as crystal clear as it is now, but the cottage, the dock, the well, the outdoor fireplace — Herman had to build them. And in doing that, he gifted us with a precious and fragile family legacy.

That was this year’s theme for me: precious and fragile. I wonder if Herman had any idea that his great-great-grandchildren would be swimming in those same waters? That the cottage (the place, and the experience) would be passed down like this? I know he painted it red and white because of the family’s Swedish heritage. I wonder if he could have imagined Haitian-American boys waterskiing there? Coming all the way from Pennsylvania, with their mother, his great-granddaughter, a professor. It probably would have been unimaginable to him. We can’t imagine what will become five generations down the road.

I don’t think there has ever been a summer of my life I haven’t spent at least some time there. Some years (especially my college and graduate school years), a lot of time. Some years, a lot less. But it has been a constant in my life, and in the life of five generations of my family. Kyle, Owen, and Meera know no summer without a pilgrimage to “The Cottage.” (Links here to many years’ posts.) Braydon has come to understand this place as an integral part of his life too. It is such a gift.

But it isn’t a given. It isn’t ever to be taken for granted. It is precious, and it is fragile.

It — like anything valuable and intrinsically important — needs constant care and upkeep. It takes deep commitment.

It’s impossible to try to convey it, but this year — for me — these two dozen photos take the best stab at it. I’m sure Herman Engstram could not have imagined iPhones. But these were taken by me, with my iPhone, during my ten days at the family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. There is something about preciousness that makes me want to try to remember and solidify it — to try to make it less fragile than it is, or perhaps to try to create a keepsake knowing the reality of the fragility.

Life is so short, time is so fleeting, some things stay, but so much does not remain the same. There’s more to come, but these 24 were my best effort at capturing the gift we were given in this year’s annual visit to The Cottage.
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SUMMER 2015:

1 week of Basketball Camp x2 + Painting and Drawing Camp x1

1 week of Baseball Camp x2 + Mosaics Camp x1

5 Weeks at the Beach in the Lowcountry of South Carolina

1 Week of Summer Basketball League Championships & Start of Football

10 days at the family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire

3232 miles in the car, up and down the East Coast

And now, as of 4pm yesterday, we’re HOME!

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” ~Rumi

Blog Break

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I found this leaf on the grass last night as I sat watching K&O at football practice. It was my first palpable reminder of how quickly fall will come. “Fall” meaning fall semester/start of school/end-of-the-bliss-of-summer. “Fall” meaning 3 weeks from now. (Gulp.)

Hopefully by the last week of August I’ll be ready. Right now, I am not.

We leave tomorrow morning for our annual pilgrimage to my family’s summer cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee. I’ll be taking a blog break while I’m there. Upon my return I’ll finish off the “Food from the Beach House” posts (I have a lot to catch up on with that, and I promise I’ll get back to it).

A goal of mine for this coming year is to be back to regular blogging. Last year I lost the overwhelming-schedule-very-hard-to-make-time-for-blogging battle; this year, I am determined to fight that battle and win!

See you soon my lovely blog readers! In the meantime: soak up those last drops of summer while you can! xoxo~Heather

July 2015 in South Carolina. The End.

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Summer in SC

We drove 810 miles to get there. We spent five weeks in the southern sun. We got bleach blonde (2 of us), and a few shades darker (5 of us), and we learned — again — that home is wherever we are together. We kayaked with dolphins, we found 636 sharks teeth, and saw a whole bunch of sunsets. We caught blue crabs in our crab trap, mullet (and squid, and shrimp, and flounder) in our cast nets, and little sharks on our fishing poles. We learned to hold fiddler crabs, we saw baby Loggerhead turtles hatching, and got stung by a jellyfish (luckily only one of us, and only once; unluckily, it was Meera). Owen grew 3 inches and gained 15 pounds. Kyle grew 3 inches and lost 5 pounds. Meera produced a huge volume of art, built countless sandcastles, and found it to be wonderfully true that her parents wouldn’t force her to be separated for a month from her beloved cat Pearl. Dash played with a ghost crab, ran like a madman on the beach, and swam in the salt water. We all slept well at night. We ate pounds and pounds of shrimp caught in the waters we view from the beach house, we slept late almost every morning, and we explored new places together. We learned a lot. We read a lot. We laughed a lot. We fought, we cried, we yelled at each other, we lost our patience and found out — once again — that five weeks alone in a remote location with only five other people makes you really, really, bond with them, and get really, really aggravated with them. We disagreed over many things, large and small. But we all agreed that we’re five very, very annoying people who are deeply imperfect and seriously flawed. We climbed palmetto trees (O), learned a lot more history (K), mastered the front-flip-into-the-pool (M), and drank wine on the beach (H&B). We were salty and sandy and happy the vast majority of the time. We agreed it’s a great place to visit, but we’d never want to live there. And that we love to travel, and we really love our home. We learned a lot. (Meera said that what she learned the most is that, “We’re happy, funny, emotional, weird people.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! We made more memories than we could ever remember. We drove 17 hours back, and came back with a zip-loc bag full of sea shells, a lot of memories, and renewed energy for the year ahead. We arrived home so much richer and so much stronger than when we had left.

It did what it was meant to do. It took us away. And it brought us back. It was a journey into ourselves, and a pushing out of our horizons. It changed us. For the better.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~Mary Ritter Beard


The Long Drive Home

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that-awful-moment-when-you-realize-this-is-your-circus-and-those-are-your-monkeys-2c9ac17 hours in the car, from South Carolina to Pennsylvania. We’re a traveling circus, y’all! But I dang love this circus of mine. Never a dull moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.Going Home Pearl Going Home Newsworthy Nap Going Home Dash

Sea Kayaking with Dolphins II

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Kayak  dolphins(if you look at the top right of this photo you can see some dolphins. they’re super hard to capture with an iphone while sitting in a kayak floating on the open water!)

Last summer we did a sea kayaking adventure (with Eric from The Kayak Farm) that wound up being a Top Ten Life Experience and shot right to the top of our family’s list of Most Amazing Things We’ve Ever Done Together. It was awesome! So, this year, kayaking with Eric again was at the top of our Wish List for our time in South Carolina.

It was, once again this year, AMAZING.

Eric again did wonders for our family, giving us a private guided tour through the inlet between Fripp and Hunting Islands. He planned it perfectly — having us go at high tide this year (last year we went at low tide), giving us some new challenges (now that he knows us, he knows that our twinado 11-year-olds are capable of some pretty intense kayaking), and bringing us to a spot where he knows that a dolphin pod has been spending a lot of time this summer.

Highlight: At one point we were kayaking with the pod. We had dolphins swimming all around us. It seemed almost like they were putting on a show for us. I completely stopped paddling and just sat still amongst them for a while. As I sat in my kayak, on the water right in the middle of tons of dolphin activity, a mama and her baby swam right up to my kayak (literally! like, looking right up at me!), and then dove under, swam underneath my kayak, and popped up on the other side — blowing through their blow holes for me and flapping their tail fins. All within 10 feet of me (maybe 7 feet). IT WAS UNBELIEVABLY SPECTACULAR!!!

We kayaked through the maze-like marsh system, through and over the tall marsh grasses. Eric loves to point out the sea life and the incredible array of bird species and wildlife (he seems to know everything about all of it!), and answer Kyle’s 300.5 questions about everything sea-marsh-air-land.

We were on the water for 2.5 hours and every minute of it was a minute to savor and cherish.

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