Seeing Progress


I’ve always loved this quote. Life has a way of bringing things together when I least expect it.

I’m currently having a moment. One of these days, I won’t allow my pride to get the best of me and I’ll be able to communicate that how I feel or responded isn’t as intense as it came off. Today is not that day though. But it brought me here so something good came from it. Woo hoo!

So about life. For a while, I’d found my stride. I was meditating, feeling myself on the job and in life generally. Then the move happened and my life got off balance. How off balance? Imagine watching a train approach one of those chasm kinda bridges and going off the rails RIGHT before the deep fall into the abyss. That’s how far. Meditating stopped. The confidence was replaced with some kinda weird doubt and cheese and bacon became life instead of salads and fruit. It feels like all that progress I’d made was obliterated in less than 45 days.

Life always has a way of showing you progress too. I may be in my pride, but I’m not in my feelings. And that, my friends, is hella progress. I can remember a time when I’d run from these feelings, but I understand that seeing a thing, leaning into it always, ALWAYS makes it easier to deal with the underlying feelings. And I understand that the things we try to avoid are really not that scary when you look them square in the eyes.

But it’s a Friday night and I have some Apothic so I’m going to cut this short, celebrate the beginning of the weekend and stare down some other scary things tomorrow morning. Happy weekend, people.

Coasting into 2017


Look. I’m not even going to front like a new year doesn’t shift my mind in some way. At least twice a year, I take inventory on me: January 1 and July 2.

So I’m coasting through 2016 wondering what I’m actually going to do different in three days. Working out probably ain’t one of them. Me and these pounds got history. I’m using ‘grown woman weight’ to justify them. I got a grown woman body. Done.

Changing my eating habits. Eh… maybe. I could eat less. I know it’s brainwashing from when I was little and was the only girl trying to keep up with my brother and two cousins at the buffet. I mean it worked then because I burned it off. Now, competing with The Hero led me to this great grown woman body. Into the maybe category.

Being petty. Sigh. But I tried (imagine reading that in an irritating Steve Urkel voice). It’s so hard. Why can’t Jesus or Jobu just zap me on the head and I’ll be nice? Why, lord, why?! I wish I could blame it on something, but it’s me wanting to control people. Not even situations, y’all. People. That never works well and I usually end up with RBF, imagining how many paychecks I’d have to save to buy a remote warehouse just for the occasional kidnap and torture. I’m kidding. Or am I…? I am. By the time I save that much I’d have to outsource the kidnapping and torturing. Where’s the fun in that? Right.

Even though my mind is dormant, some things are cooking. Despite being petty, I am learning to relax more and let some things roll over me like wind. The good kinda wind, not that polar vortex crap that makes you want to punch the air. I’m learning to breathe when I feel that old familiar feeling creeping down my back. Breathing works. It makes my brain tingle and tingling brain is good.

I miss crafting. My work space is basic. Like it’s so basic, that if I needed to repair an earring or necklace, I’d have to go get the supplies. Better example: it’s like wanting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich then realizing you threw all the peanut butter away because somebody convinced you adults don’t eat PB&J. Oh the regret! But, I can’t change what’s happened and I did enjoy the free space. Now it’s time to get back to creating and cooking stuff (see grown woman body above).

Know what else? Going places alone. I really enjoy my friends’ company, but sometimes the thrill of experiencing something alone, even briefly, is pretty fantastic. No pressure to interpret or be or do anything. Just enjoy the experience of being out and doing something new. More of that. And even more of old things like going to dinner or teenage fantasy movies alone.

Of course there are new things. Travel is one of them. Going to Vegas in January with a friend. That’s like two things at once. Know the last time I went on a girls’ trip? 2005. 2005! For the most part, there hasn’t been a person I wanted to go with and, well, traveling makes me nervous. The pressure of doing something when I probably want to enjoy staying in a hotel for at least a day always made me pause. And just about everyone I knew who traveled had or needed an itinerary. I mean I love a schedule, but can’t we just wing it? Anyway, thing of the past. Vegas was a big step and I figure if I’m going to start something, might as well start it with flair. And no pictures.

Slowing down is another. I’m pretty sure somewhere on this blog I talked about slowing down before. This is different. No. Really. It is. It dawned on me that I ASK people to tell me who they are and get upset when they aren’t who they say. I literally figured that out Monday, thanks to a conversation with The Hero. He’s a pure watcher. Not in a hurry to move one way or another until he SEES what’s happening. I’m about that watcher life.

I KNOW I talked about dulling my shine before. Yeah, that’s done. First of all, it’s getting a little too complex to remember who knows what about me. Blame it on getting older or managing way more information that I’m used to, but I just can’t anymore. I’m showing up with all my rough edges because I’m a human and I’m not perfect. And that means trimming the stragglers. You know the ones. You’re friends with one person, but they have a clique so you feel like you should be friends with the rest. Nope, nope, nope. I’m building my Sisterhood Hall of Fame in 2017.

Um, what else? Ohhh… being constantly connected. I need a 12-step program. I have a lot of free time and get bored because I eliminated the fun in my life, so I find myself stalking Facebook. I’m sure I’ve lost a lot of brain cells and gained some form of PTSD from all the terrible crap going on in the world that I’ve read and shared. I have to unplug and live IRL. I hope I just made that term up, but if I didn’t don’t tell me.

In a nutshell 2016 was a good year. I learned a lot about myself. This is MY life. Everything in it should exist because I allow it, not because it was given to or forced upon me. I’m teaching myself the same lessons I tried to teach The Kid about choices. Every choice has consequences and I have to own them. Know what I’m doing? Owning the choice to design a life that I will LOVE. Not love. LOVE.


Gratitude for the End of Life Experience



mommy graduation

I wrote this really deep post about how my mother was the greatest person ever to live. Then I deleted it. The words weren’t doing justice to what I’m feeling right now. Not. Even. Close.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate a new type of lesson: gratitude in the way Valerie J. White Hale Johnson touched everyone else. This is not about me. It’s about you (or them if you’re reading this and have no idea who I’m talking about).

My mother was amazing. Not in an angelic way, but in that flawed, I’m-trying-to-do-the-right-thing-but-I’m-human-too way. She messed up. Sometimes she owned it, sometimes not. It didn’t diminish her amazingness. She elevated how a lot of us experienced God. She made good food and hosted great dinner parties (and you know I likes my food!). She was pretty (um… of course she is. Where do you think I get my good looks?!). She was the glue that held us together when she was alive and the bond that pulls me back to my family when I get too far away.

For four years, she was a fantastic grandmother. The grandkids don’t remember her (that hurts my soul), but we do. She was the reason The Girl wasn’t left at the fire station. The reason my brother isn’t a deadbeat dad. The reason The Kid, as… trying as he can be, is able to have the freedom to make all the choices he’s made. Through us, she set some standards. Yeah, we maybe didn’t really get the lessons at the time and maybe botched them up in practice (read The Kid’s formative years), but without her guidance things would have been a lot worse.

So this Mother’s Day, I’m sharing my mother. Thank you to everyone who helped shape who she was. Thank you to everyone who tells me what impact she had on their lives or how they are glad they have known her. Thank you to my brother. In each of us lives the Mommy we know and love. She understood how we needed to be loved and I now understand that it was not even close to being the same. Thank you to my aunts. You’ve taught me about young Val with your stories. I can’t thank you enough. And thank you to everyone who shared her back with me. Your love for her makes my heart pour over with pride for being her daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Ma and Lauren.tif

The day The Girl was going to be left at the nearest fire station





Thanks, Ma

Val J

From the 1990s: Before The Kid was my roadie, it was just me and my mom.

Today marks the 13th year that my mother died of cancer and I don’t know how I feel.

Usually, I know exactly what’s going through my mind and heart when another year rolls around. Sometimes I feel anger, sometimes grief, sometimes happiness of the memories and sometimes just lost. But this year, I feel challenged, both good and bad.

See, I know she would want me to be doing better and it just occurred to me within the last week or so that I want to do better. I say how creative and smart I am, but I’ve never made myself push the limits on either my creativity or intelligence. Sometimes, it’s fear of not being understood and sometimes it’s plain orneryness. But I realized lately that this life of mine isn’t about anyone else but me. I am the director, actor and audience at all times. Sometimes, I just lose my way.

That’s it… today I feel as if I’ve lost my way. I lost the drive to push boundaries, to be daring, to find new thrills and reignite some old ones. I just stopped caring about a lot of things and in doing so, I’ve allowed a slight numbness to settle on me.

Which brings me back to what today is. My mom, Vivacious Val, enjoyed her life. I remember being a kid and all the things she and her friends would do, telling myself that when I grow up, I’m going to have dinner parties, go on group vacations, throw cool Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties (both where people get dressed up for the occasion). In all my adult years, I’ve done none of these things. My sense of adventure, instilled in me by my mother, is laying dormant.

While I will take my time to grieve my loss today, I will also take time to remember all the things I promised myself I would do when I grew up and start doing them. When it’s my time to go, I want to look back and not have any regrets.

Thank you, Mommy, for giving me flair, for your aliveness, for your talents and for all the times when you told me that I was bigger than what I saw when I couldn’t see it. I love you and I miss you. This life’s for us.

Joy Journal Countdown


In my Joy Journal post, I promised to find at least one great thing every day to count down before my birthday tomorrow. It was a good way to look at and appreciate the things that I overlook sometimes when I think life handed me case of lemons and I forgot all my lemon recipes. Here are a few of my favorites.

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To celebrate my birthday this year, The Hero and I are going on vacation. I’ll be gone for a week and will be back to my regular schedule on July 10. In the meantime, you can follow my randomness on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

B-day Countdown: The Joy Journal

Joy Journal

This was an idea that came to me. I don’t even remember what inspired me to do this, but I wanted to do something a little different this year as I countdown the last days of my 37th year.

The idea is to find one thing each day that makes me feel happy, grateful, overwhelmed with positivity or any other good thing that makes me want to smile uncontrollably.

Ideally, I’d love to do a picture every day, but I know me well enough to know that even if I took a picture each day, I probably wouldn’t print it, so… I’ll stick to whatever moves me.

Anyway, I intend to use the joy journal and any pics of my birthday celebration as reminders of one of the greatest years of my life to date.

I’m still trying to decide if I want it spiral bound or loose to put into a card box. I’ll post an update in July.

Joy Journal

Each card is dated for easy reference… in case I HAPPEN to miss a day.

Gratitude for a Busy Life


This week has been ridiculously busy for me. I started a new freelance writing gig, have the regular gig, am continuing research on and how to build a self-sustaining gig and have been taking classes to pull it all together. On top of that, The Kid is going to Prom this weekend. You’d think I was going because I’m more excited than a kid on Christmas morning. Needless to say, with all of that, plus the workouts, baking and crafting have been on hold while I adjust to a more hectic life.

Through all of the mental and physical running around though, I had a moment of complete gratitude. The Hero has been super supportive while I figure out how to manage the extra projects I’ve undertaken. Yesterday he ate boiled kale and leftover quinoa for dinner without saying a word. Don’t worry though. He’s also enjoyed a couple batches of chocolate chip cookies I baked out of guilt for neglecting to actually feed him a real meal in the last week.

My friends haven’t sent me guilt text messages or made comments about not calling. When I reach out for help and support, they are always there to do whatever they can to help me along. I love them too and miss them.

And then there are the kids. The Kid is, well, The Kid. He didn’t realize that we haven’t hung out in two (is it three?) weekends. All he knows is that I’ll be there for him Friday and that’s enough. The Girl is the same way. We had awesome quality time this weekend that I treasure because I know there will be a day when she’ll want to scratch my eyes out (and vice versa). God gave me some of the best kids ever. Smart, low-maintenance, and self-sufficient for the most part.

Hopefully, I’ll have everything back on track before Friday and you’ll get to try one of the new recipes I made prior to this explosion of activity, but didn’t photograph. In the meantime, thanks for all the support while I work through my new schedule.