Thursday, February 21, 2019

To the Friends From Before Now

An ode to the friends from before now.

They come in unexpectedly. 
Though desired, it’s questionable that such a kindredness could exist.
But once they arrive, life as you know it ceases to know any different.
A piece of you, that you never knew was missing, is now filled


Like piecing together broken pottery. There’s a unique beauty to its refurbished design.
The endless belly aches of laughter, synergistic perspectives, and connectivity without exertion, accumulate a wholeness that exempts even the dreariest of days.
Growth happens.
An inner shift of cosmic levels as the collective renovations continue.
Years, months, or in just days, a heart is imprinted with the powerful effects of kindredness.

But, just as life would have it... well, life happens.
Simply put... change happens.

Though the heart yearns against it, separation is on the horizon. 
It now meets the present.

Memories from before now replay like a broken record.
Recollections of laughter tweak a slight upturn of the mouth.
Reruns of past adventures haunt in the most longing of ways. 
And once again, connectivity from before now becomes a distant reach.

Dreams of kindredness begin again. 
Longing for that unexpectedly met desire persists.

But, to the heart of the matter.
To the friends from before now.
To those who have done all this and more.
Thank you.

~ Written in honour of my kindred friendship with T&A, right after the moment we said goodbye.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Why I love Valentine's Day!

Okay, let's be honest. I love being single!
There are many perks - time flexibility, the flirty aspect *wink*, and of course, doing your own thing.
But, at the same time, there are MANY perks to a relationship.
Enough said.
*wink, wink, wink*
So, when I say I love Valentine's Day, it's not because I'm disassociating from being single,
or that I favour the new crave, Galentine's Day (which is also cute).
Simply put, I love Valentine's Day because it's a day about love.
Cue Saint Valentine!
the sparkles, endless array of flowers, pink/red decor, and cutsy little chocolates definitely have their selling points too.

But in all seriousness, who doesn't like a day dedicated to love?
In the world we live in, where it feels like people are so desensitised from their own humanity.
Where strangers on the street become obstacles in another's day, rather than a connecting point with the potential for a great sense of depth.
A heart pumping with a life-giving bond between two individuals.
We are connected to each other deeper than we think!
I can GUARANTEE that if you were to take a moment to chat with the person next to you,
actually chat,
you would find you have more in common than not.

Valentine's Day.
A day dedicated to love!
Maybe you're cringing inside at the thought?
No worries.
Tomorrow is another day for your cringing self to continue!
But today,
just one day (but hopefully more),
let's dedicate it to love.
For inspiration outside the heavily weighted Hollywood spectrum of love - reality shows, overly passionate displays of affection, and Disney's happily-ever-after - here's a little insight...

Love never gives up (not just a feeling folks...).
Love cares more for others than for self (there's a sacrifice involved).
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have (be still lil' envy).
Love doesn't strut (aka peacocking... you know what I mean),
Love doesn't have a swelled head (leave some space for others Mr/Miss Ego).
Love doesn't force itself on others (enter Aretha with some R-E-S-P-E-C-Ting).
Love isn't always 'me first' (hello Mr/Miss Consideration).
Love doesn't fly off the hand (breathe in and breathe out...).
Love doesn't keep score of the sins of others (obvs...!).
Love doesn't revel when others grovel (oh the game of pride...).
Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth (never underestimate the power of understanding).
Love puts up with anything (loyalty is your friend, paired VERY closely with wisdom... let's not be too literal with this one).
Love always looks for the best (positivity, we can always use more).
Love never looks back (don't be living in that past, yo!),
but keeps going to the end (devotion... oh how we need you more than ever).
*This love description may or may not be referencing to your classic wedding scripture reading... 

This is the heart of love.
Along with one of my fav quotes,
"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate" (1 Corinthians 13:1). 

So, why do I love Valentine's Day?
It's a day to refocus on the things that matter.
To pause and embrace the beauty of life,
the beauty that is you!
The beauty that is us!

Take a moment.
Smell the endless array of flowers.
Look up from your phone to see the people and history around you.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Today is a day dedicated to love.
let's love!

*This has been a Kaila's Cheesy Post, brought to you by Love Inc.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Year of "Go!"

“So, how’s that New Year’s resolution treating you?”
Said… No one.
Let’s be serious, why ask a question we already know the answer to! The answer is more than likely left in the stockpile of forgotten toys and the homing of the Ghost of Resolution Past. 
But, thanks to my last post, The Magic Is Waiting…,
I’ve been held to a different standard.
Writing about the magical impact of New Year's Eve, and how the power of choosing rooted resolutions (versus surface level resolutions) effects whether or not they'll stick around. This definitely holds you in check to not being a hypocritical writer!
*she cringes at her own forgetfulness*

The Ghost of Resolution Past is about to haunt.
Thank you former self from December 2018 for the check-in.
I’m not a Scrooge, so I've gladly accepted the reminder. 
Though, deep, 
deep down, 
I am doing an epic 14-year-old-girl eye roll!

“What was your resolution?”, you ask.
It was one word.
One, now, deeply ironic word.
It came about after the reflections of the past years - 
2017 was The Year of Strife and 2018 was The Year of Faith.
But 2019 was going to be different.
I was ready for a year full of Nike ad moments - “Just do it!”
I was ready for a year full of “git’er done” slogans and inspiring adventures of conquering mentalities.
I was ready.
Or supposedly ready.
Then life happened.

Now, let’s examine that phrase, “Life happened.”
It’s like the golden excuse.
No explanation needed.
People just respond with, “Oh yeah!”, while nodding their head.
And then you move on with the conversation.
So, sticking with my Bridget Jones’ Diaries monologue, “life happened” translates loosely as…
“I forgot.”
So much for “The Magic Is Waiting…”

Well, all that has changed.
“Go!” is getting real and nothing says “Go!” like adding 5 more words to it (right…?).
These are the paths to which “Go!” will flourish!
Or at least in my opinion.
Sidenote - I may or may not be an overachiever...

A little taste into the diaries of Kaila H Johnson,

1st January, 2019
 “And so the year of “Go!’ begins! Courage to step out. Boldness to cast my dream vision and make the hard decisions. Fight to fight for what I want. Community to keep me accountable. Focus to keep me disciplined.”

It’s safe to say that if I had kept my focus, I may have kept the rest.
*she giggles with another eye roll*
Alas, the re-focusing MUST begin.  
Almost 6 weeks has past since that diary entry.
The 4 weeks of being sick in bed are over (putting the definition of my resolution to a whole different level Resolution's Past irony). The outstanding 2 weeks of humming and hawing are coming to a close. And, you know what? I’m bringing all you living in the Resolution's Past with me!
It’s time for the green light of “Go!” to emerge.
No more excuses. 
Are you ready?

Well, get ready.
Get set.


Friday, December 28, 2018

The Magic Is Waiting...

The New Year’s is one of those magical times of the year
where the days leading up to it are greatly anticipated. 
I always imagine that the moment the clock strikes midnight, 
it’s going to feel like my first time at Disneyland! 
I told my parents, 

“It is the most magical place in the world!” 

You are probably imagining a 8-year-old girl in a princess dress, 
dancing around, 
expressing such excitement. 
The truth is, 
I was a 21-year-old woman, 
on Skype, 
telling my parent’s in a high-pitched voice how excited I was visiting Disneyland in Paris for the first time! 
No shame, am I right?

The magic of the new year begins with the endless possibilities as we anticipate fresh starts.
Christmas days of family feuds and quirks, 
overdosing on food, 
and shamelessly watching the overwhelming amount of Netflix Christmas movies have all come to an end (well maybe not the family feuds and quirks), 
and goal-setting begins. 
Facebook is full of announcements - first Christmases, engagements, pregnancies, job opportunities, disappointment about the year prior and hope for the year to come. 
Invites are sent out and the year-end parties begin to overload your calendar! 
Sparkles seem to be the crave and regret over feasting settles in… 
as you try to fit into that Little Black Dress. 
And just like that, 
the Eve is upon us!

But, the new year is also like a diet. 
There’s a build up to the first day. 
Preparation is key! 
Money is invested in the days leading up to it. 
Goals are set. Measurements are made. And then it happens. 
The day arrives. 
We are ready. 
We celebrate. 
We conquer!
Then the day passes. Then another. Then, finally, the end of January arrives and somewhere along the way we forgot the preparations, goals, and measurements… even the sparkles! 
We forgot all the possibilities we anticipated. 
We loose the excitement.

Resolutions become a thing of the past. 
Our social calendars clear up (like our bank accounts) 
and the anticipated excitement fades into the horizon. 
What now?

I’m not sure if this is because I seem to always be living in places that are dreary and cold - 
Canada for 24 years, now London for the past 7 - 
but either way, complacency and a sense of unfulfillment takes it’s toll in those first few months of the year. 
I noticed this 3 years ago, after I’d forgotten all about my New Year’s Resolution - 
“Go for a run at least 3 times a week” - 
only 2 weeks into the year!? 

Why was it so hard for those magical times 
(or at least the excitement) 
to transfer into the new year? 
It was then that I decided it was time for a change. 
Resolutions seemed silly to me, but I really like the idea of starting fresh. 
How could starting fresh be magical? 
Running three times a week was definitely not magical!

So, my resolutions began a shift. 
I started taking mental notes of things I desired throughout the year. 
Not mundane things or physical improvements, 
but those things you think about in the privacy of your own thoughts. Like, 

“Why am I always late, even when I get up early?” or 
“Are pigeons friends?” or 
“Do dogs actually like wearing tutus?”

You get the picture. 
Those random thoughts you don’t dare say out loud, unless you don’t have a filter… 
then they come naturally!

One of the main ones that stood out as I went about my year of mental noting was that it seemed like I kept learning after-that-fact. 
I know this makes sense, you know, hindsight and all, 
but it was starting to irritate me. 
Still a newbie in a new culture (Canadian living in England), I felt like a fish out of water. 
I was tired of being reactive - adapting after-the-fact. 
I was tired of not making it through one day without saying something wrong 
(pants are not pants but underwear, and pudding is not pudding but dessert… confusing!?). 
It was time for a change. 
It was time to step up my game. 
It was time to take charge. 
It was time to be proactive!

New Year’s Day came and went, 
and magically, 
three months into the new year I was still actively working towards my “resolution” - 
to be proactive rather than reactive. 
Can I get an amen?! 
Ironically, this then impacted me running three times a week! 
Who would have thought if you planned your workout schedules (proactive), 
you are more likely to workout? 
Possibly every personal trainer, but you get the picture. 
When my resolution became about the root rather than the surface, 
the surface also was affected!

So, as the Eve of New Year’s rounds the corner, 
with parties being planned, 
outfits being picked, 
and sparkles being sought, 
I’m eagerly anticipating 2019. 
For me, it’s the year of “Go!” 
Do it! 
Get it done! 
Whether or not this is the year that launches the magical dreams I contemplate in my head, 
I’m viewing it as a launchpad for what the next year is going to be like. 
Imagine with me, if you will, our hopes becoming determination! 
Not just dreams, 
but tangible adventures. 
Imagine what a New Year’s launchpad that would be like. 
Just imagine!

The magic is waiting… are you ready? 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Story of Carol

Last week, my family celebrated the life of my grandma.
It's funny how time stands still when you loose a loved one.
Like this photo...
Her face. That smile. The joy.
It will forever be frozen in time.

taken with a 1986 Minolta 7000 film camera

I had the honour of giving my grandma's eulogy.
I wrote it on my 9-hour flight from England to Canada.
Tears, laughter and memorable emotions flooded my body as I wrote.
But, the truth is, this was more than a eulogy.
This was a story.
A story of heartache, family, faith and irony.
I share it with you now.
This is the story of Carol...

Through Her Eyes
Grandma’s Eulogy

Today is a day of many memories and emotions, but grandma would not want tears. Well... maybe one single tear of recognition. She’d also hate being talked about like this, while at the same time secretly enjoying the spotlight. You see, there was a bit of an irony to my grandma. Maybe that’s where I get my own irony? I too hate the spotlight, yet here I am. I too wouldn’t want people to cry. Actually, don't cry. Hold back those single tears of recognition, cause then I’ll cry and we Johnson’s are not pretty cryers.

My grandma was endearingly ironic. And we all loved her. This is a eulogy, a story if you will, celebrating a wife, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother. The irony of grandma kept life interesting, full of laughter, surprising moments of endearment, and endless memories permanently etched in time. This is the story of Carol Graham.

If my grandma had her own reality show, it would be something like stepford wives meets coupon cutters. She always seemed to have a stoic-like composure, even while giving gifts noticeably found at a garage sale. I remember one year, my sister Chelsea received a book about Pee-wee Herman (not sure grandma knew who this man was) and inside it said, “This book longs to Charlotte”. And then there were the clown dolls!? Yes, that’s right. For some reason, grandma had a weird obsession with porcelain dolls, who played songs, while there heads rotated around. This obsession was shared in the form of Christmas gifts. Chelsea and I had received the honour of these gifts at the age of 15 and 17, while our 10-year-old sister received a TV? Supposedly, grandma and grandpa divided the present-giving list that year. I’m sure you can guess who gave us ours! You see, she always liked to keep life interesting.

These past weeks, my mom has been sharing stories with me, introducing me to the woman I only knew as grandma, but who was so much more. Stories of the family all together - Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Dwayne, Aunty Heather and mom - exploring the world. The sweet popping sound of popcorn being made as they waited out the rain while camping in the mountains. Road trips to the coast. New Easter outfits - gloves, dresses, hats, galore. And after-school tea parties... with bone china, of course!

Then there was my grandma’s faith. Though there was recognition of God during her early years, she didn’t have a personal relationship with him until the 80’s. Grandpa followed suit, and they started attending a local church where they met Wilma and Bob, who became their close friends for life. I personally witnessed my grandma’s faith more and more as I grew older. Her composure about her faith remained steady and she didn’t shy away from being shocked at what she considered, unacceptable behaviour. Yet, with the ironic nature of my grandma, I’m 90% sure she had a grandma-like, risqué side. Let me explain... She was an avid letter writer. Many letters were full of hopes and prayers for me, including some more entertaining questions. One in particular, I received while at Bible College. Now, to set the stage for this, you must know grandma’s deep desire for all 5 of her granddaughters to be with a tall, dark and handsome man. So, she was beyond eager every time she wrote or we spoke on the phone to ask, “Is there anyone special?” I should also add, grandma was definitely not up to date with technology, let alone the current lingo. So, when I received this particular letter, I could not help but fall to the ground laughing.

The letter started with the usual happenings in grandma’s life - the weather, Wilma and Bob, her to do list for the day, etc. And then came the moment for her to check in with me. The letter proceeded to say... “How are you doing, Kaila? Or should I say, who...”. I’m not sure what she was meaning by the dot, dot, dot... I’m sure she’s up there laughing right now!

I remember the last time I spoke to my grandma. It was in September and it was different. Sticking to her composure-like ways, phone calls usually felt like you were on a timer. The questions were lined up, and before you could finish answering one, she’d ask the next one, and before you could finish answering the final question, she’d interrupt and say, “Well, I wont keep you!” But this phone call lasted over 30 minutes. She asked me lots of questions about what I was getting up to in London - the work I was doing with vulnerable women, the church I was involved in, the friendships I had, and, of course, if there was any potentials. I shared about how it had been hard during all the terrorist attacks last year, and how grateful I was for her prayers. That I missed family so much during it all, but I knew I was where I needed to be. Then, the mood in the conversation changed. She opened up and shared with me how lonely for her family she was too - for grandpa, for uncle Dwayne, for Aunty heather. How proud of my mom she was and how wonderful of a daughter she had and was being for her. But there was a longing, a deep longing to be home in heaven. I remember listening to her, and crying on the other end. She had been through so much in her life, burying family members, her husband, and two of her children. She was tired. She was ready.

The irony in this is that I actually thought my grandma was going to outlive us all! She was so composed all the time, I never really knew the pain she was dealing with, nor the loneliness in those last years without grandpa. But after that phone call, I knew... she was ready to go home.

On the 15th November 2018, at 5:15pm, grandma called mom. It was a peculiar time for her to call as it was right in the middle of dinner and earlier than usual. She called because she was happy! Chelsea and Quinn had visited that Monday with her great grandsons, and mom and dad were coming to visit soon. She was too excited to wait and call later! They talked bout how big Cullen is getting, how sweet the twins are, what a wonderful mom Chelsea is, and of course, “her lil Quinn”. They also talked about how they missed Hana, Sara and myself, being so far away. They made plans of what they were going to do together, and how she was looking forward to Chelsea and the boys visiting again on Saturday. They said I love you, and then grandma went to sleep. Happy.

What a way to go home. Peacefully and full of joy! She was ready.

This is the story of my grandma. A woman who brought quirky to Christmas, laughter to letters, love to hospitality, and a depth to care. Though irony had a way with bringing a bit of adventure to those around grandma, she consistently desired to know each person she met. In the days after grandma passed, people came by her room to tell my mom how her mom had advised and encouraged them in their life and relationship with God. Grandma cared deeply. She always checked in and she always made time.

One of the fabulous 5 granddaughters, Hana, couldn’t be here as she is recovering from pneumonia. As she said to me, “grandma would have been the first person to tell me to stay home and take care of myself.” Hana had something to share, that I believe beautifully suits this moment and summarises how we all feel. “Whether I was a kid or an adult, Grandma has always been a part of home for me. She was exactly who you would want to be your grandma. Someone to make tea, offer cookies, and always be ready for a good gossip. No matter what, Grandma always made me feel important... I’d like to think that she’s up in heaven, checking in on all of us from time to time because she’s still interested in our lives. I know that I’ll be ready to give her a report.”

We know grandma was ready, and now she’s at peace. As my mom said to me the day grandma passed away, “Just imagine how whole she is now”. Since this is a story of celebration, I leave you with this story. My 4-year-old nephew Cullen, Grandma’s great grandson and the owner of the nickname ‘Grandma GiGi’, has been trying to process grandma no longer being around. He asked his mom, Chelsea, this last week, 

“Mom, does God live in a house?”

She replied, “Yes He does. In heaven.”

To this he replied, “Grandma GiGi dead.”
Chelsea said, “Yes, she is, but she lives in His house.”
“And they will take care of each other?” He asked.
And his response, “Hm... okay!”

Leave it to childlike wonder to put things in perspective. And wouldn’t that

just be like grandma, not just enjoying heaven, but helping take care of it too! So, to the daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, grandma, and Grandma GiGi, we love you and you will be deeply missed.