Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Invisible Mom...from my dear friend, Karen

My friend, Karen, has the honor of being mom to Jack, who happens to be 1 year old today!

Happy Birthday, Jack!!!

Karen sent me an email today and told me she was going to stay home and build a cathedral. She told me I'd understand what she meant after I read the rest of the email. I did... I cried... and I told her I was going to blog it.

Here goes:

The Invisible Mom
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible; 'The Invisible Mom.'

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, and she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their buiding was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women. Great Job, MOM!

Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know...I just did. The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

...the author is unknown.

Thank you for sending this, Karen! How fortunate is Jack to have you for his mom!

Monday, September 29, 2008

An absolutely beautiful day at the beach

Can you tell who this is?

Just try...

Ok, one of them is me ... holding the camera up to her eye ... well, MY eye ... and no, that's not a purse on my shoulder, it's my camera bag.

Well, hopefully this foot in the picture will give you a hint of who is with me.

Give up?

It's Rema. Yep, she called and was already at the beach with Ginger. I went and joined them. It was one of those rare days when it was very warm and no wind. Perfect day for the beach.
We had some company on the beach...
Well, Ginger was getting lonely and decided to check out the visitors...
She decided to get a little closer...
Ohh, geez! Well, that didn't work! Off he flew.
Ginger was feeling dejected after being shunned...so she went off in the water to play. Rema and I just walked and talked and I stopped every once in a while to take a photo ... or two.
Isn't the Pacific beautiful?It was shirt-sleeve weather. Actually, there were a few people there in their bathing suits SUNNING... ON OUR BEACH! That's unusual!

Check out this video... listen how loud the waves are: I don't know why I don't go the beach more. I think the only time I go is when Rema calls... so, thanks Rema, that was exactly what I needed!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Traveling with Lynne

This is my new pitcher... from Le Creuset.

You may wonder what in the world it has to do with the title of this post.

Well, it has everything to do with it. Yesterday, my friend, my sis, Lynne and I went to a People to People leaders meeting. This next summer, we'll be traveling together to England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Two summers ago, Lynne went with me to Australia...and we - along with Dustin - had a GRAND time!

Oh yeah, the pitcher.

Well, as we needed to take a little break in our 3 hour drive to the meeting, we stopped at a sweet grocery store. This pitcher was there - but didn't have a price tag. Lynne and I needed to take care of the "coffee in - coffee out" predicament, and then had to hit Starbucks for some more 'coffee in'. I didn't take the time to find out how much it was.

On the way home, I was all alone...Lynne had left me (after the meeting and after our sweep of an Eddie Bauer Outlet Mall shop!) for her husband, Bruce, and a trip to San Francisco for the Giant's game... so I stopped back in this sweet store and asked how much the pitcher was. They told me it was $19.99...and I know hardly anything from Le Creuset costs $19.99, much less a pitcher! So I bought it. I looked it up online when I got home - $34.95.

Well, thinking about all this - pitcher - leader's meeting - Lynne and I traveling together again --- led me to look back at some of my Australia photos.... of Lynne and I... and some of Dustin.
This was in Arnhem land... aboriginal land that is not open to the public. They let Lynne and I in. (Well, they also let in the other 2 leaders and our 32 high school students...)
This is on top of Ubirr Rock...a magnificent place where we watched the sunset, after looking at aboriginal rock art, and watching kangaroos/wallabies jumping all around the wetlands...
Here we were at Manyallulak, an aborigine site. We stayed here all day with the aborigines...
having our face painted...
This was when my iPod broke and Lynne shared her music with me. Plus...this was the first time I had ever heard The Waifs!
The 'Fat Ass Wombat' has no significance to Lynne and I.
The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Lynne and I with Dustin... who also will be traveling with us again!
The three of us had... an absolutely grand time... That's actually putting it mildly.
Here we are in Canberra...on top of the government building....

Here we are, most likely talking about what an awesome time we had together and how we'd love to do it again...

Go team...for 2009!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My gift from Sandi

Sandi is my newly retired friend... the first of my girlfriends to retire.

At first, Sandi was a bit unsure of what to do with all this extra time. She pulled out her sewing machine and started to make some things for some of her girlfriends. I am one of the very fortunate recipients of her 'idle hands'....which is what she's thinking of calling her 'company.' Last night we had 'paint class' at my house. Sandi brought this beautiful apron over to give to me.

I modeled... proudly modeled. I absolutely love it! I love the apron... but I love even more that it was made by a dear friend... a dear friend who I share a love of cooking with... and so much more!

Thank you, Sandi!

Monday, September 22, 2008

An "Old" fifty ... or a "Young" fifty?

Well, I'm not actually 50 years old... but close. I'm 54...as of August. Ok, so maybe it's not exactly close, but I'm just barely 54, so you might as well just think 53.

I started thinking about how some people can seem really old at a particular age, and others can seem so young at the same age.

This all started because of my new glasses...that I got last week. They're not brown, but more of a wine color...which has absolutely nothing to do with it...it's the style of the glasses I'm talking about. But speaking of wine...well, hold on a minute. I'll be right back. Mine are more like the top pair, but the color of the bottom pair.

My kids at school were impressed. "Wow, Mrs. Johnston, you got new glasses!" I asked them if they thought I was stylish! They did.Faith and her stylish teacher... (that's me!)

They also love my tennis shoes. Let me model:
My mom used to always say, "You're only as young as you feel." Um? Well, somedays I guess I must be 95 years old...and other days I feel a lot younger.

I remember when I was young, I'd go to visit Mimi. Mimi didn't seem old to me, but I don't remember her seeming young to me either. She was Mimi...and that was perfect. My dad's mom lived about an hour away. I called her Mam-maw. I loved her, but she seemed SO MUCH older to me than Mimi. I remember when Mimi would drive away, leaving me with Mam-maw, I'd be scared...scared that she would die while I was there and I wouldn't know what to do. I didn't know all Mam-maw's neighbors, but I did know Mimi's. Mimi and Mam-maw were probably close to the same age, but my perception of their age - their strength ... was so different.

Isn't it funny what you remember? Why does that stand out so clearly to me? I have wondered before if it affects the way I dress ... or act?

I'm definitely around 50... but I like to think I'm a young 50.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh boy...look what I got....FINALLY!

This was on the front porch...

and no, I didn't do any online shopping....

but I DID do some shopping back in JULY when I was in IRELAND... some in-the-store shopping...

(Just so you know, this is a 'recreation' of a real-event... this box is actually not sitting on my front porch, but is sitting on my counter... just so you know!)

I opened the box...
Oh boy... look what was inside...

another box... but not just any box... let me get a little closer for you incase you don't have your glasses on or contacts in...

Now those of you who know me well, know I'm not a person who does "fancy"... you wouldn't think I'd have Waterford Crystal... well, you're right. But being in Ireland, and going to the factory, watching it being made - I became fascinated. It absolutely IS beautiful... so I bought these:
Again, for those of US who have failing eyes, let me get a little closer:I love them... and those of you who know me also know I do enjoy a glass of vino. Thus, the perfect pairing!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Emily's new toy!

Meet the newest addition to the Johnston menagerie.

You're probably looking around for some sort of animal... or something with a food name (i.e. Biscuit, Pumpkin, Cookie, Smores... oh yeah, and Butters, the chicken) - well, your not going find it, unless maybe you're looking for something small like a bean -

No, no... this addition is named "Murano" ... and it's sleek... it's stylish ... and it's Emily's - not Gabe's. As you may be able to tell from this shot, the boy... well, he ... well, shoot, I don't know what he's trying to do. Maybe he wants the readers of the Johnston Chronicles to think it's his new car. Or maybe he wants to model the car instead of Emily. Oh well, doesn't make any difference.

I wanted Emily to stand next to HER car. The boy decided he needed to show her how to stand! Oh geez!Emily was trying to make him happy and act like she was taking his advice. He told her to bend her front knee just a bit. She did.The boy finally moved out of the way when I told him I had already taken the photo. As soon as he moved - SNAP - I got the photo I wanted.

Not wanting to hurt the boy's feelings, I told him to get back over by the Murano. He did.

The boy was happy when I told him I wanted them to pose for a FAMILY PORTRAIT with Murano.Sometimes, airtime on the Johnston Chronicles is a coveted thing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I love teaching. One of the many wonderful aspects of the job is all the great kids I meet...and get to know... and follow as they grow up.

Stephanie is a former "Room 8er." She's now grown and married and living in Nevada. She even has a blog that I love to read. Lindsey is another. Stephanie and Lindsey were in the same class and were friends, good friends. Lindsey is also all grown up and married with 2 adorable kids...and she lives in London. I also love to read her blog!These photos are of Stephanie and Lindsey's class. In this bottom photo, Stephanie is second from the left and Lindsey is on the far right. Here, they are in the 6th grade!

My sweet daughter-in-law, Emily, is a 6th grade teacher. This past week, I was in their area for meetings so I was able to visit her classroom on Thursday.
When I was getting ready to take the picture, I don't think Emily realized SHE was also going to be in the picture. "Smile, Emily!"Look at the art on the walls...

Her class was getting ready to go to the library. One of her students asked if they could sing for me. They did... and they sang "The Verb Song." It was SO cute! Room 8, my classroom, will now learn that song...along with the noun song, and the pronoun song...etc. Thank you, Emily!This picture below is an art project idea I think I'm going to steal! Isn't it pretty? It's pointillism... done with a Q-tip!
Friday, I headed down to Lindsey & Donnie's... and my first stop was Lindsey's classroom. She teaches 7th grade Social Studies. I've been in Lindsey's room before and was excited about going again. Lindsey told me she had stuff for me to do! Oh boy....Some people say teaching 7th grade is a job they wouldn't want. Not Lindsey. When she was getting her credential, she asked to be at the middle school even for her student teaching. I love to watch her interact and teach them. She greets each student at the door by name and shakes their hand. As you can see, some want more than a handshake!Lindsey played 'Roman Bingo' with the class. They have been learning Roman numerals and Roman prefixes. She made Bingo boards to use as a teaching tool. What a great idea!Teaching... I'm glad Lindsey and Emily love it too!