Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cancer still, and ever will, sucks!!

I have so many words to say about my Mom's cancer being back. But since Mom reads my blog and I don't like it when other people use some of those words ... I will not post them here. Just know there are a lot of swears in my head. Big swears; mostly British.

Mom's cancer is back. And it is back hard. I have friends ask me a lot "What can I do to help?" I have answers to that question.

  • First and foremost I truly have faith in the power of prayer and positive thoughts. Mom can use all of the prayers and positive thoughts/vibes sent her way that she can get. (Her name, in lieu of Stephanie's Mom, is Gloria Johnson.) I do not care who or what you believe in as a Higher Power, I truly feel that we all believe in the same Higher Being, we just call that Being by different names. So if you believe in a Higher Power, please pray to whatever God you worship or believe in, for peace, strength, and comfort for my amazing Mom.
  • My siblings and I have set up a fundraising page to raise funds for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. We did this last year and raised $4500 to help find a cure. This sucktastic cancer has no cure presently. It has one of the lowest survival rates of all of the cancers (that is not the good kind of statistic.) Since she has a blood cancer she feels it all over. So if you have funds to do so, please visit OUR DONATION PAGE and give what you can. Being fully honest, your donations will not save my Mom's life, but the money will help in research to find a cure for future patients and will save many lives in the future. The sibs and I will be running in a marathon/half marathon later this year to help raise funds and awareness. 
  • Next, did you know that if you log on to smile.amazon.com Amazon will give a percentage of your sale to the charity of your choice? I shop on Amazon all of the time, by going through the Smile Amazon link instead the purchases I am already going to make will help to benefit this charity. I have it set up to link automatically to benefit Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Inc. I just had to buy a big ticket item for work so it literally cost me nothing to donate!! 
  • And my last suggestion on ways to help is to share this blog post or Facebook status updates that I might post so that your family and friends maybe can help too. I am not too proud to beg for help in finding a cure for Multiple Myeloma by raising money any way I can and still keep my morals and standards. 
The rest of this post might be long winded, but I want to truly express what it is like to watch someone I love so very much be taken down to the lowest of the lows because of cancer. Mom, you might just want to stop reading now. Just saying, I continue this post unfiltered and uncensored. (Though you will really like the pictures.)

Imagine doing something as simple as sneezing, but a sneeze no harder than any other sneeze will crack a rib because your bones are brittle because of the cancer. Imagine not being able to get out of bed to make it to the bathroom because the chemo you are on makes you so tired you physically cannot get out of bed. Imagine having a stem cell transplant that lands you in the same hospital bed for 3-4 weeks (if you are lucky) but that you are so sick you cannot remember 5 of those days ... at all. Then having to live the next 100 days isolated from family, friends, and neighbors because you have NO immune system. Imagine going from being active and vital at work to not being able to even make it to work in the time span of a week. Imagine having to live through this not once, not twice, but three times because of remission and recurrence.

Now imagine watching this happen to the person who gave you life and knowing there is nothing you can do to help alleviate her suffering. There is nothing you can do but cry as you watch your mother shrink before your eyes. My Mom used to be taller than I am by an inch or two. She now barely hits my shoulder. Cancer is the loneliest disease I know of. I can be surrounded by those I love, even my siblings, and feel completely alone because no one truly understands exactly how I feel watching Mom suffer like this. The same is true for my siblings, I cannot truly understand how they feel watching the exact same crappy cancer show I am watching. I pray every day begging God to  let my mother live as long as He can, while taking her pain away so she can enjoy what is left of her life, knowing that these two requests are in opposition of one another. Watching the Tony Awards and crying in a room full of people I do not know because two actresses are singing a song that Mom wants sung at her funeral, knowing that that day is not too far in the future. I am no longer living a life of "every day"; I am living a life of "lasts" with Mom. I never know from one day to the next if this is her last ... anything. When Mom was diagnosed in 2008 we planned for the lasts and prayed for the best. Now we are closer to the lasts and pray for more time. Now I am not saying that Mom is dying tomorrow, I am not saying next month, I am not even saying next year. With this cancer it is so unpredictable; and with the advancements in research new treatments are coming daily that could help her live many more. Every time she crosses something off her bucket list I cheer for her while secretly hoping that we do not get everything on her bucket list accomplished so she has something to fight for to keep her alive longer.

Feeling all of these feelings is hard, every day. And I never, ever, ever, want anyone else to have to watch someone they love as much as I love Mom suffer like this in their future. I would not wish this cancer on my worst enemy or anyone they love. So yes, I will do everything I can to raise funds for research for this cancer so that no one ever has to suffer the way my Mom is suffering. If you can help monetarily, great. We'll take your donations. If you can offer a prayer, we will take that too! Cancer sucks. Hard. Hard! 'Nuff said.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Once Upon a Wedding Shower

Fair warning ... uber photo overload ahead.

I have a friend ... we'll call her Kristen ... who recently got married. I like this friend Kristen. A lot. She has quickly wound her way into the deepest parts of my heart. I have another friend ... we'll call her Larissa ... who also recently got married. I like this friend Larissa. A lot. She also quickly wound her way into the deepest parts of my heart. Sadly, I was out of town for Larissa's wedding. She had a dinosaur at her wedding. Cool, right? A dinosaur. I digress. Well Kristen got married a month after Larissa did. The friends decided to throw Kristen a bridal shower. One thing you should know about Kristen is there are very few things she loves more than Disney. Anything Disney. We thought and thought of what we could do that would be worthy of Kristen's Disney love. We hit the Pinterest boards and came up with a Mad Hatter Tea Party. We had a nice lunch with a few beverages. We played a game, if I remember right, and then had a lip sync off. Kristen won. Honestly I am not sure how this all came together because Mel and I were in the car accident Thursday and this was on Saturday. My friends really are just about the best thing ever!! Behold: 

Miscellaneous tea cups from DI assembled into center pieces.
Old tea spoons and original Alice art work face cards.
These center pieces and cards looked so amazing thanks to Sparky and Selena.
It was halfway through the party before I found this little stowaway ...
I'd like to name him ... but he was not mine to name. 
Tea cups, tea pots, saucers, spoons, hot glue, and a little imagination. 
Canning jars and fancy straws served as our "tea cups".
We put some long tables together and waited for the guests to arrive. 
Mel made these super cute Drink Me bottles with colored water in pretty bottles. 

Tea sandwiches included pinwheels and cucumber sandwiches. Served on tea plates. 
Three beverages: Cucumber mint
Strawberry citrus
Berry lemon/limeade 
This cake was made by my other mother, inside was red velvet. Super cute, mighty tasty.
We also served cups of goodies including apples and peanut butter, carrots and ranch, strawberries and brown sugar.
These Mad Hatter boxes were the party favor to be filled with candy from the candy bar. 
Kristen's face upon seeing it all was pretty priceless.
Riss was such a good sport when Kristen called dibs on shower winner.
Sparky came up with the original idea, and Mel, despite being in a lot of post car accident pain, was brilliant at keeping me organized. 
This face. This face I love!
I do love this girl!

Thanks to Mel, Sparky, Selena, Tiffanie, Larissa, Michelle, and Casey this was one of the funnest showers in the history of showers. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's the Journey ... Not the Finish Line

November 17, 2013 is fast approaching. It is the date of the Las Vegas Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. My amazing brother Barry and my awesome sister Colleen and I have been training to run in it. Barry is running the full marathon, Colleen is running the half. I have been training for the half as well. I admit to not being as diligent as Barry or Colleen in my training, but I was rearing to go. And then this happened:

My friend Mel and I were hit from behind on October 10. (I do have to say, if you have to get in a car accident, do it with Mel! She is a rock star!) So Lola, my car, got a new bumper. Mel and I ... well we were a little worse off than Lola. Admission: I am angry.

Set aside the concussion, the ankles, the whiplash, the bruised ribs, and the torn rotator cuff/Labrums injury. Set aside the numerous phone calls and hours spent fighting with insurance. Set aside the sleepless nights because of pain. Set it all aside. I am angry because I cannot run the half marathon that I have been working so hard for. 

I posted this status update on facebook:

I have used facebook to help raise awareness and money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and my Las Vegas 1/2 marathon that is 4 weeks away. Sadly because of the car accident that was last week I am not going to be able to particiate in the race. ... I want to tell everyone who donated their time, yard sale items, and money how very grateful I am for all of it. I especially want to thank everyone who encouraged this fat girl to run and did not give up on me. It means the world. I will still be in Vegas cheering my team on and screaming my loudest for my siblings who have worked so hard for this. GO team Johnson!! GO MMRF Power Team. Cancer still sucks, and frankly car accidents do as well. Thanks again for everyone who has supported me! There will be another race. 

I felt like a failure posting that. I felt like I had let everyone down, including me. I felt like the world was ending and I was a disappointment to my family, my mother, and myself. I cried typing the facebook status. Not the "oh I am sad" cry but the "this is the ugliest cry in the world" cry. I wanted to ignore the 'likes' and comments for my update because I was sure they were going to make me feel worse as people expressed their disappointment in my failure. That they would make me feel like the failure I felt like. True story!

Nothing could have been further from the truth. I was overwhelmed with encouragement and love. One of the comments, from a lady I admire and respect, said: Remember that it's the journey, not the destination. Look what you've gained along the way. The last 13 miles matters not.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. I realize that the race and the medal are kind of like a grand prize. But it is not the finish line on November 17 that is the goal or the ultimate finish line I am working toward. 

My main goal in participating in this race was to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Myeloma cancer research. I've raised $1,500 so far on my page and my siblings and I are so close to collectively raising $4500. This cancer has turned our lives upside down and will one day take the life of my dear mother. Until that day (which is hope and pray is many years away) she lives in pretty constant pain because her bones are so fragile. There is currently no cure for Multiple Myeloma. So the funds we raise for a cure are vital. Will they save the life of my mother? Probably not, but they will one day have a cure for this cancer and our efforts will save the life of someone else's mother. It will save someone else the same heartache my siblings and I feel for our mother. When Mom was diagnosed the life expectancy of myeloma patients was 3-5 years. That was 6 years ago. The life expectancy now of myeloma patients is upwards of 10 years. That increase is due to people raising funds for research. That race is much more important than 13.1 miles in Las Vegas in 10 days. That is a race that has no finish line until there is a cure. 

My secondary goal was for me to lose weight and get healthy. I am not anywhere close to my goal weight, but if you told me 2 years ago and I would run ... and enjoy running a little ... I would have said you were on crack. I have not been able to run for a few weeks and I miss it. I miss feeling like my lungs were on fire and I just cannot go one more step. I miss the sweat after a 4 mile run. I miss the sore muscles post run. I miss the solitude of just being in my own world. I miss the exhilaration of knowing that this fat girl ran 4 miles. I love buying new pants because the old ones no longer fit. The race to lose weight is not over because I cannot run on November 17. That race has no finish line until I feel healthy.

There were other benefits that I had no clue would come with training for a race. I can never again say I cannot run. I can run. I can never again say I can't do hard things. I can. If my mom can fight like hell to beat cancer, not once, but twice in the last 5 years, then I can do hard things too. I have more self confidence and care less what others think of me in regard to how I look. Now I cannot say that I do not care at all what others' opinion of me is ... I do care ... but I care less than I did a year ago. 

The journey to this marathon as been incredible. I am still mad that I cannot participate in the run next week. I am mad that someone else's careless actions have robbed me of certain joys in life and made things much harder for a short time. But my journey has been amazing. And lucky for me there are more finish lines to look forward to. There are many more miles to run and a lot more money to raise for The MMRF. I am looking forward to continuing this journey. And finding a finish line of a half marathon one day. For now, I will slow down and heal from the accident. I will do what I can to continue to lose weight. I will enjoy spending time with my family in 10 days. I no longer feel like a failure because I can't participate. I have had a 2 year journey getting ready for a race and will just keep racing. Keep fighting. Keep working. Keep laughing. And keep loving. I am imperfect, and I am enough. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'll Be Here- Audra McDonald

I had the chance to go see Audra McDonald in concert last weekend. She just is amazing. One of my favorite songs that she sang was I'll Be Here from the show Ordinary Days. It is one of the most touching love songs I have heard in a long time. Since tomorrow is 9/11, I thought it was the perfect time to share this beautiful song. If the video does not work for whatever reason, the link is here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I was in training on Monday and the lady said something that is so true. After I made my snark remark, I thought long and hard about the truthfulness of what she said.

"Happiness and hugs can be infectious."

My thoughts ran the gamut on this topic. Often times we are the collective attitude of our surroundings. If I am in an environment of joy and laughter, I am typically in the mood to smile and make jokes. If I am in an environment of anger and yelling, I am more apt to join in that. I am not sure if everyone is like this, I am not everyone. At work I may be in a great mood when I walk in the door, but if someone else is in a crap mood the tone in our office tends to gravitate towards the crap, not the good.

My mood often plays off of those around me. If I am in an off mood and join a group of frivolity my mood generally lightens. Likewise if I am in a joyful mood and join a group of tension it does not take long for my mood to darken. Of course that is not always the truth, but a general generality.

I am cautious of the terms "She made me mad!" "He made me lose my temper." etc. No one can make me do anything. I always always have my agency. I choose to get mad. I choose to lose my temper. I choose to smile. I choose to laugh. I choose what I do. Of course others can have a profound impact on me and how I choose to react.

This training I was in was all about Development. Personal, child, and environmental development were all topics of conversation Monday night. Just because I am an adult does not mean I am done developing into who I will be; into who I am. I am always learning, growing, or regressing from my experiences. We had a big discussion about development on a curve. For example, some babies will walk before the average age for children to walk. Some children will learn to write much sooner than the average. Etc. It is not uncommon to develop a skill or attribute on the average, but it is also no uncommon for a skill to be developed much sooner, much later, or not at all. We all develop and grow at our own speed. We talked about mentors and how they can have a profound effect on us individually, possibly without ever intending to mentor us. I have a friend who is an emotional mentor for me. I know I can talk things out with her and work out emotional issues I might be having. She is not a trained professional, she is just someone who listens to me. I have a friend who is so patient and mentors me when I need help singing; she mentors that talent for me. I have a friend who is much younger than I am who is a spiritual giant and mentors me without ever intending to. Human beings never stop learning, developing, teaching, and mentoring. We can learn good AND bad habits throughout a lifetime.

After the class I was in my car waiting to get out of the parking lot and I saw something very interesting. Some people were letting other cars ahead in line, some would not let a car enter the cue. Usually after one person let in a car, the next one would do the same, then the next. Once one person did not let a car in, the next did not, etc. I also saw how the drivers reacted to this. There were some who would wave and acknowledge the kindness, others would not. After a person did not acknowledge the kindness, the next person was less likely to let another car it. Of course I am not a researcher and do not have absolute numbers of data on this, but in the few minutes it took to empty the lot I observed this little phenomenon.

Kindness begets kindness
Rudeness begets rudeness
Compassion begets compassion
Courage begets courage
Anger begets anger

It is the same concepts as "we are what we eat!" What kind of a world do I want to live in? Have you noticed that when someone attacks our country, as a general rule, we get more patriotic? But people also get angry. We want revenge. We must avenge those who were wronged. You hurt our people, we like our people, we will defend our people. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But then we calm down, we get back to our usual routine. We move on to the next emotion, the next cause.

Happiness and hugs are infectious. When I have a bad day all I need is a good hug from a great friend and it cures what ails me. A kiss from my niece or nephew (who rarely kisses) can turn my cold heart into a fire of love. I love that. Life is hard, there is no doubt. But I want to live in a world of happiness and hugs. I want to be able to spread that around as well. I think life and people are inherently good. I want to spread that goodness around and I want to feed off of it. Happiness is infectious!

(By the way my snark remark after she said 'happiness and hugs can be infectious' was "So is chlamydia.")

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's an Award, a major Award!

Alright my Foxy friend, I will play along. It is only fair, because I adore you. And because I love shiny things. I will be expecting a nice big Fragile box to carry this award around in. And really it was an honor just to be nominated!! Fox, this one is for you! 

This is not a real award; if it were I would totally deserve it ... I mean no one thinks I am as cools as I think I am.

The Fun Rules:
·       The nominee must link back to the blogger who nominated them.
·       The nominee must state 11 facts about themselves, and then answer the 11 questions provided for them by the person who nominated them.
·       The nominee must then nominate bloggers with less than 200 followers, who they think deserve the recognition, and pose 11 new questions for them to answer.

Random facts about me:
1.     I am named after a little girl Mom used to babysit. She had blonde curly hair. She died of spinal meningitis. I have no middle name.
2.     This is my 599th blog post, I dedicate it to Kristen.
3.     I think I am way funnier than I actually am. Do not get me wrong, I am funny stuff, but it takes a special person to get all of my humor.
4.     I can tie a cherry stem with my tongue; I can also open a Starburst wrapper with my tongue. I have many skills. #wwynnihs Sadly …
5.     I am an introvert in an extrovert’s body.
6.     I have one training class left and I will be a certified foster parent. I just have to wait to be licensed, and my house has to be licensed as well.
7.     I am a kosher Mormon because I am allergic to pork. I retain an unhealthy mix of Jewish/Mormon guilt over things I do not need to feel guilty for.
8.     My deepest ambition is to feel confidence in my singing ability and be cast in my dream musical roles.
9.     I do not like confrontation, but I usually do not back down from a fight.
10.  I am Mormon, as mentioned before, but I also am a Democrat with pretty liberal views. I support gay marriage for many reasons; mostly because I would not like people to take my rights away and it is not for me to judge, it is for me to love and respect.
11.  I was pretty methodical about answering this award for Foxy because 1) I did not want to disappoint her B) The questions were so great and LAST) it was a great way to avoid thinking about work.

Answers to Foxy’s questions:
1.     If money/success were no hindrance to you what would you be doing for a living? Why?
I would be a crossing guard. Sure the morning hours suck, but then you get most of the day, until you have to go back to work around 2:00. How great would that be?
2.     Is there a character from a movie/book you most relate to? Who is it?
I relate to the character of Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s classic ‘Persuasion’.  This is not because my family even remotely relates to her family members, rather I relate to the story of feeling overlooked sometimes in regard to love.
3.     If you turned your Ipod (or other music playing device) on right now what would be playing?
Right now it is the soundtrack from Bombshell. I am really in love with the song “Second Hand White Baby Grand.”
4.     What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Swearing. I have a potty mouth. I try to watch my mouth around those it would offend, but sometimes nothing feels as good as letting out a slew of cuss words.
5.     What would you today tell the you of ten years ago?
Great question!! My answer is twofold: Just get the hysterectomy now, you will get one anyway, why stay in pain for 10 more years? And start working out NOW to get in shape. Holy crap it is harder when you are older!
6.     Do you sing along to the radio? What's your favorite song to sing to?
I sing along with my iPod, rarely do I listen to the radio. I sing at the top of my lungs to almost everything as long as I am in a good mood. If I am in a pissy mood I do not sing.
7.     If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would be your first non-bill/debt paying purchase?
So after I pay off the debt I have, pay off my house, and the houses of my loved ones … then I would take my dearest friends on a trip to New York where the flight, shows, food, and hotel stay are on me. I would make them pay for their own souvenirs … because come on, I can’t be THAT generous. We would stay for a week and see a show a night. Right now what would we see? Good follow up question Foxy! I am thinking “I’ll Eat You At Last”,  “Lucky Guy”, “Once”, “Nice Work if You Can Get It”,  “Matilda”, “Wicked” (because I won the lottery and I can see it again!), “Newsies”, and well who knows about the last one. I might surprise myself and see “Book of Mormon.” Though I hear the book is better; I have read it, I love it! Who would be in this group of lucky ones to come with me? Oh crap I cannot answer that right now on the basis that it could incriminate me later.
8.     Favorite vacation spot?
If I could sit my fat butt down on a beach in Maui for the rest of my days I think I would be a very happy person. I loved my vaca to Hawaii!
9.     Describe your perfect day.
All I can think right now is that line from ‘Miss Congeniality’ where Cheryl Frasier says “I’d have to day April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.” My perfect day involves a full night’s sleep, waking up not to an alarm, my house is magically spotless, my Mom does not have cancer, I have people who love me and make me laugh more than should be allowed my law around me all day, I win a Tony for directing, and my people have their perfect day too. I do not think it is too much to ask!!
10.  What is one thing on your bucket list?
I want to visit all of the Presidential Libraries especially JFK’s.
11.  If you could be anyone else for a day who would you choose and why?
This is the question that kept me thinking. I had a pretty big list that included everyone famous from Sutton Foster to Bette Midler, from Michelle Obama to Mother Theresa, from President Reagan to Mikhail Baryshnikov. Meh, it would be fun, but honestly I would want to be whoever my Grandma Parker’s best friend was growing up so I could spend a day with her. She was an amazing adult and I wish I had known her when she was a youth.

People who also need to play this game … in my opinion … the nominees are in alphabetical order … envelope please …
(Sister you would be here but you have a shazload of followers, because you are a quilting rockstar ... and also because you are packing your house to move away from me.)

Answer and expound on these 11 “Would you rather  …” questions for you
1.     … have a personal trainer or a personal chef?
2.     … have unlimited money or infinite happiness?
3.     … travel back 200 years to meet your ancestry or travel 200 years in the future to meet your progeny?
4.     … have the superpower to fly or see through things?
5.     … travel through Europe for 2 weeks or stay home with no distractions for 2 weeks?
6.     … have a truly attractive spouse or a very rich spouse?
7.     … wear 80’s clothing or have 80’s hair for eternity?
8.     … have a heated debate on politics or religion?
9.     … spend the rest of your days in Disneyland or Hawaii?
10.  … read an adventure or romance novel?
11.  … live in a really hot or really cold climate?

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I got an email today from a friend with the story of a lady who got a HUGE tattoo of Donny Osmond on her shoulder. Long story short, it got my mind a working. I do not have any tattoos (unlike my mother who has like 8 of them ... all are nice small dots to map out radiation for cancer, but still she has tattoos.) When I was 18 I almost got a tattoo. It was going to be a small 4-leaf clover on my right ankle similar to this. My friends and I were going to get them in Wisconsin because in Illinois you had to be 21 to get them. We were meeting at the church parking lot and were going to carpool up. I was late getting to the church because I was buying shoes and they left without me (this was before the time of cell phones.) Hence I do not have a tattoo. Instead there was a single adult activity going on, I stayed to participate, one week later I was called to serve in the Relief Society Presidency. Happy coincidence? Nope. Best mistake I never made.

Now I am not saying that tattoos are bad. I am not saying that people who have them are bad. I am saying I am glad I did not follow through and make that choice for me. I do thank the stars that aligned that prevented me from getting one. In my life now, as a 37 year old, a 4-leaf clover does not really fit my personality, neither does pain, or germs.

It did make me think, though, today how fun it would be for me to play a little game. What if? The sky is almost the limit!

We can do this two ways: What if I were not LDS, did not have the believe system I do, and got myself a tattoo: what would it be and where?

OR If you, interwebs, were to get a tattoo what would it be and where?

There is only 1 rule to this game: Raunchy language is not encouraged. And GO!