oh no no no not the vista.

The beginning of this day was ridiculously difficult. Our house is so upside down. We've been lax, I admit it. The start of the school year was all kinds of extra busy around here.

There was a borderline menial amount of dishes in the sink this morning left over from yesterday. I started doing them pretty early on, but distraction after distraction hindered my progress....We have these gnats in our house. I don't know how they got here. They're not fruit flies, they're not regular flies. They're awful. They're pretty dormant during the day and then come out at night and hang around every possible light source. I don't know how to get rid of them yet. I don't even know what they are yet. Or how they got in our home and started multiplying. Well, I mean, I get the multiplying part.

Anyway, so I see a bunch of their carcasses all over the floor. So I have to sweep them up. The girls eat breakfast, Magnolia needs a bath. More dishes. Magnolia gets tired. I take her in for her nap. She doesn't go to sleep. THREE HOURS LATER, and there are still dishes! AHHHH! I was cussing in my head. [That's how I know I'm having a bad day....or just feeling completely overwhelmed even if the day isn't so bad.] All of life's ills could have been solved if I had a dishwasher! And a housekeeper! And if I didn't have a migraine, and I didn't think I was getting sick, but mostly a dishwasher. When I'm in this kind of funk, everything is multiplied times one million, and it all ends up coming down to me feeling that I am completely incapable. And I get all defensive and finger-pointy. My rational brain knows that I am [capable], my emotions, irrationality, lack of confidence, etc never fail to remind me that I'm not [capable].

I took a moment to check in on the blogs I read and came across this post by Regan at The Oklahomian. The main theme was "[t]his is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm starting over. I'm redoing myself." She also said "Life is about knowing who you are deep down inside and embracing that woman with a strength and grace that allows you to move mountains (even if that mountain is sometimes just tackling the dishes in the kitchen sink)."

Um, HELLO! I was determined to conquer that [cuss in my head] mountain of dishes in my kitchen sink. After a few interruptions and relapses, I did.

Today I needed to redo myself by the minute - every few minutes if I was lucky. And that's how it goes. It can be done. Every second of our lives is a new chance. I will allow myself to be that flip-floppy. For now. Because, dang, I have got to cut myself a break some times. We all do.

You know what? After I killed that pile of dishes, my day got better. I decided that I couldn't put another dirty dish in that sink, so we went to Taco Bell and ate bean burritos and rice. Cora loved it, she loves eating inside Taco Bell. I love her for it. After that, we went to Walgreen's to print some of the 800+ pictures off of Cora's camera. We ended up with 17. Half of them were from Chicago. I owed it to her. The memory has been full for a while now. She now has a clean slate. Ah, so refreshing. After Walgreen's we went to the library to pick up a whole slew of Fancy Nancy books we had on reserve. Fancy Nancy can perk anyone right up. Cora loves her. I'm glad Tracey introduced them.

For as completely horrendous as this day felt in the beginning, it ended up being pretty fabulous. Neck up check up: I get it. I went to my class this evening, learned some pretty helpful ideas, and got to ride home on the Vespa at night for the first time. It was beautiful. Everyone should have a convertible or a scooter [and a dishwasher] and take long drives/rides at night. [exhale.]

PS: I can't believe I forgot this...I've been singing the chorus to this song for the last week or so, and lo and behold, the song was playing at Taco Bell. What are the odds? I don't know, but they were in my favor. ;) [I love the scratching around 2:20.]

Cora's First Day of School [and the day before]

We decided to have a little back to school celebration the night before Cora's first day. She wanted to ride a boat, so we headed on down to Bricktown to take a ride on the canal.
After the boat ride, we had dinner at Bolero, a tapas restaurant in Lower Bricktown. It was delicious. Cora's favorite was the mushroom tapas, and Jake and I liked the artichoke and tomatillos tapas the best.

After Bolero, we walked along the canal to Peach Wave. We partook in some delightful dairy-free pineapple frozen yogurt complete with sprinkles.

We made our way home, the girls took a bath, and we got all tucked in for the big day.

Cora is in the afternoon class, so we [I] had plenty of time to think [fret] about everything. I spent the early morning at the DMV taking the written exam for my motorcycle lisence. It was a great distraction. When I got home, Magnolia was still sleeping, and Jake and Cora were making pancakes in the kitchen, as per her request.

She was ready by ten, school doesn't start until 12:15. On our way out, we took some pictures. Cora is not the biggest fan of pictures. The following are an equal representation of the lot. It doesn't matter, she's cute no matter what she's doing.

She'd just eaten an apple, hence the water on her dress. Don't worry, it was a million degrees outside. I'm pretty sure it dried by the time she got to the car. When we got to school, we made the walk through the parking lot. I held her hand [really tight].

We took a picture at the front entrance, on the red line that toes have to wait at for carpool. When we went inside, we saw two other kids in her class waiting. She made right up with Lillian, and according to her teacher, they were good friends for the rest of the day.

Things I'll never forget about this day:

- When I walked her up to the door of her classroom, her teacher said, "Can you say goodbye to your mommy now?" Cora stopped, squeezed my hand really tight, and looked up with hesitation. I smiled, and she smiled back, gave her head a nod, let go of my hand and made her way through the door.

- How heavy my chest was when we were walking back to our car without her.

- Watching her make her way through the doors at the end of the day. They have really specific rules for carpool, and they were learning each step. She had to wait in different spots for a few seconds, and when she finally came out the doors to the "car teacher" with her bag on her shoulder, she was so proud and confident. The car teacher opened the door, and she climbed in.

- We pull forward before buckling, and when I got out to buckle her in, I asked her a quick question about her day, and she said it was "great" and then her little chin quivered as she said "but I missed my mama at the end." I gave a big kiss and told her I would always come back.

- We were unwinding for a little while, just Cora and I. Jake had a rehearsal and Magnolia was taking a much needed nap. We were coloring the box that Grandma and Grandpa sent their back to school present in, and she said, "Mama, I love you now." I was glad.

- Cora picked a sock with a blue stripe and one with a yellow stripe, as well as her pink bow.

And finally, more random facts about the day.

When Cora went into her classroom, we went to a one hour orientation. We dropped Magnolia off with our friend Leslie. After we picked Magnolia up, Jake had to go print off some music at OCU, but I was STARVING! We went to Taco Mayo, and I got a bean burrito. After a failed attempt and music printing, Jake decided he was hungry, so we went to Samurai and had some sushi. I was being an emotional eater, no doubt. We picked Cora up, had the afore mentioned downtime, and then Cora and I made some beans and rice for dinner. And then...we dropped both girls off with Ashleigh and Andrew and Jack while we went to one more orientation/parent meeting. It was wonderful. Cora's teachers, Mrs. Laws and Mrs. McNeil talked about what our student's day is like, and they showed us some of the lessons they do with the children. It was mesmerizing. (The curriculum is Montessori based.) I LOVE CORA'S SCHOOL more every time I am there.

When that was done, I dropped Jake off at OCU for OCUreads. I visited with Ashleigh and Andrew for a while until Magnolia was officially at the end of her rope. We picked Jake up and went home. HOME! HOME! HOME! It was such a long, out of the ordinary day. I'm looking forward to next week when our routine starts to get into full swing. I am so happy my girl has a great place to learn and grow.


Even though thunderstorms have kept me up for the last two nights, I wasn't expecting them, and I love a good thunderstorm, and I wouldn't mind another one tonight.

One storm rolled through this morning. It was lovely. We sat on our front porch watching it. Oh, and my girls needed sweaters...because it was a bit chilly. WHAT!?! Yes. Surprise! A lovely morning in the middle of what is working up to be [one of] the hottest summer on record.

Mmm, I love surprises.

It was a super lazy day. No one took showers, I never put on a bra. We were in and out all day. Around 6, we were sitting in our driveway, I don't know why, and we decided to go for a bike ride. Cora was still in her pajamas, didn't have shoes on, but we grabbed our helmets, and we took off for the downtown post office to mail some forms for our scooter insurance.

I recently discovered the drive-thru [bike-thru] area of that post office thanks to Jake. I can't tell you how many times I've parked the car and hauled the kids inside to drop off some mail.

After the post office, we made our way to Myriad Gardens. This was, by far, the coolest surprise. It's been undergoing a major transformation, but we'd never actually gone onto the remade grounds until tonight. It is AWESOME! Like seriously so cool. Like what city am I in again cool. I am so excited that it is part of our downtown.

We rode home passed the OKC Memorial on our way home and stopped at the grocery store to get some essentials like soy milk and bread and bananas...and tortilla chips because they are a staple around here. People were surprised by the helmet I forgot I was wearing. I got asked if I rode my bike...[I just realized how funny this is]... and if I had something to put my groceries in for the ride home.

I walked out to the trailer, Jake, his bike, Josephine [my bike], Magnolia and a certain three-year-old named Cora who loves pancakes and decided that she wanted some for dinner. So, at 8:30, I was making pancakes, and I surprised her by putting some chocolate chips in a few of them.

I love my little family. I love going on adventures with them...and ending up right back on our cozy little corner of the city.

Enough is Enough

In the Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, Sue tells the story of one Autumn afternoon that she stopped to see her fourteen-year-old daughter, Ann, at the store where she worked. She entered the store and saw Ann kneeling on the floor of the toothpaste aisle stocking the bottom shelf unaware of two men approaching her.

"The men stopped, peering down on her. One man nudged the other. He said, 'Now that's how I like to see a woman -- on her knees.' The other man laughed. Standing in the next aisle, I froze. I watched the expression that crept into my daughter's eyes as she looked up. I watched her chin drop and her hair fall across her face. Seeing her kneel at these men's feet while they laughed at her subordinate posture pierced me through."

Today, on my way to OCU to do a bit more studying, I had to pass a man on a bike on a slim stretch of sidewalk in front of Pirates Alley Picture Frames on 23rd. He was clean cut, wearing a short-sleeved button up plaid shirt, shorts, and sunglasses. Totally normal. He stared at me as I passed and said "what are you doing" at the same time I began nodding a thank you for letting me pass. I went the few extra feet to push the button for the crossing signal and he said "You need to cover up your body more."

I looked at him, confused. That was the beginning of his rant about how I needed to wear more clothes because I was being indecent. I needed to be more modest. I should be arrested because of my indecency, as should all women who don't cover up enough. Women who dress as I was dressed are the reason why society is so bad. We tempt men and mess with their minds. All societal ills on the backs of women.

My light couldn't turn green fast enough. He continued on, never moving, but I could hear him going on and on until I was over a block away. When I was out of his sight, I called OCU security.

This man was, very obviously, the victim of mental illness, or really bad at recovering from a failed pick-up line. Either way, no matter how irrational he was nor how much that contributed to a very uncomfortable situation for me, the words flying out of his mouth were words I've heard so many times before in various places, mostly in terms of morality, modesty, purity, cleanliness, etc. in terms of women and how what they do, say, dress is responsible for the temptings of men. He wasn't saying anything new, he was just saying it without a filter.

This man had learned all of the things I've been taught for my whole life, but here's the thing: I just don't buy it. Not a word when it comes to who is responsible for what in terms of modesty and temptation. Obviously, nobody taught this man that he is in charge of his own thoughts and actions. Modesty is not what a person is wearing. Modesty is the attitude of the person, male or female. A topless woman in a remote village is no less modest than a woman wearing a burka.

I, BrieAnn Lund Johnson, an endowed mormon woman who always wears two pieces of undergarments [a top with sleeves, and bottoms that go down to my knees], am no more modest in my appearance than a woman wearing a tank top and shorts that don't make it past mid-thigh. What matters is the decency with which you present yourself. I don't want to deal with the superficiality of whether or not some skin shows when my daughters arms are raised, or if the tips of her fingertips go past the bottom of her shorts. I want to teach them how to be proud, and to carry themselves with dignity. They're not just a body, they're a mind, and a spirit, and too much emphasis is placed on the physical. I developed a horrible slouch in middle school and high school. Shirts were never long enough for my super long torso, and the only way to keep my midriff from showing was to slouch. I crumpled myself trying to conform to this very particular standard of physical modesty.

But this isn't just about modesty. What he said was not just about clothes. Just as I was his example of a harlot, he is my example of something going too far. We live in a country that boasts freedom, but women are still oppressed in the patriarchal system that so many societies continue to perpetuate. The exchange between him and I would never happen in reverse. And this was just a verbal exchange. This was a minor assertion of superiority over me. I am lucky.
Too many women are not.

My security was temporarily violated, my heart rate elevated. I recently heard the story of a woman in the DRC who was given two choices by a rebel: Rape or her husband would be killed. She chose rape, and the husband she saved in that choice left her because she was no longer "clean." Women whose bodies have been overpowered have not lost their sacredness. They are still "clean" and "pure" and "perfect" and "whole." And all of the other words we use that mean the opposite of less than. Our bodies are always sacred.

We live in a society where sexual violations are atrocities. [So long as the woman didn't get what was coming to her because of the way she was dressed, right?] There are too many things that happen to women and girls all over the world that we can hardly fathom, but encounters like the one I had today that lands so small on the scale that it's hardly a blip remind me that there is a long road ahead for all women. I live in a society where I have more power, even if my power is limited by outdated cultural norms. I have power to stand up and be a voice of equality for women around the world. Our bodies are our own. And we are more than just our bodies.

After a glimpse of self reflection, Sue Monk Kidd says:
"Those men with their blithe joke had no idea they had tapped a reservoir of pain and defiance in me. It was unstoppable now, by any earthly force. I walked toward them. 'I have something to say to you, and I want you to hear it,' I said. They stopped laughing. Ann looked up. 'This is my daughter,' I said, pointing to her, my finger shaking with anger. 'You may like to see her and other women on their knees, but we don't belong there. We don't belong there!'"
My finger is shaking in anger. These are my sisters. They are mine, and enough is enough.

PS: If you're wondering what I was wearing, that very thought defeats the purpose of what I've said, but to satisfy curiosity, I was wearing some bermuda shorts and a t-shirt.

Living Where I do.

I love my neighborhood for a lot of reasons:

We live one mile north of downtown OKC - It satisfies a portion of my urban loving self.
We live three blocks from a park - Not just a playground, a real live park on a whole city block complete with sand volleyball, a gazebo, and trees.
Our neighborhood has sidewalks! - Non-OKCers are probably like "big deal." This is huge in Oklahoma City. Like a huge rarity, and a huge perk.
Our neighborhood has gigantic trees, old houses, diverse residents.
There are even bike lanes...

Which leads me to today's highlighted "why I love where I live" reason: I went out and about twice today, and I rode my bike both times. I LOVE [super love] that this neighborhood affords me the chance to get places sans car because of its proximity to a majority of things I need. I'm not talking about a leisurely ride around the hood. Josephine [my bike] and I went to OCU, where I spent a few hours studying up on some things. After dinner tonight, I wanted to make some cookies, but I was out of canola oil. No problem. I pedaled to our neighborhood grocery store and got what I needed, plus some olives because they were on sale and Cora loves them. A few days ago, I rode to the downtown library. Pure bliss.

Now I just need to figure out who to contact at Chesapeake about building a bike lane up Western so I can get to Whole Foods without fearing for my life - at least a lane between 50th and 63rd as I can go through neighborhoods to get to 50th. [Most of OKC is not pedestrian/bike friendly. People and bikes out and about are like foreign language around here.]

A while ago, I was in a suburb just north of OKC, and I saw a billboard advertising a new housing development that said "[I can't remember the name of the neighborhood] isn't downtown, but neither is your family." I've been trying to figure out how to elaborate on this...I keep coming up empty. I suppose it comes down to a perpetuation of fear of people. At any rate, I love living where I do. I can't imagine anywhere else in the city feeling more like home. It suites me. It suites me very well.

Here is a link to a photo album containing images of the area of OKC we call home: Modern living. Really old houses.

This past week

Our beloved Staci-car was in the shop. I swallowed my pride and drove a mini-van (this particular one was classified as a midsized car) so my long legged three-year-old would have plenty of room.

I finally [FINALLY] got Jake in a bow tie. I'm sure this is something like what heaven feels like.

We ate about a million strawberries.

Jake traded in his old bike for a new [old] bike.

We bought a second vehicle. No joke. More to come on this decade long dream of mine.

I discovered a black widow in our garage. After a few days of goose bumps every time I walked in, and a restless night thinking about it, I took action. I killed that spider with my bare hands on the trigger of some spider spray.

And finally...It rained. It was a surprise. I love surprises.

PS: Cora is all set to start school in a few weeks. Hooray! [And a little sniffle too.]

Broccoli Soup

This was our lunch. It was good. It was easy. It's a million degrees outside, and this made the inside of our house hot for a while, but it was worth it.

2 T. non-hydrogenated margarine or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 smaller/medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Pinch of thyme (the dried kind)
1/2 t. salt
4 cups vegetable broth or seasoned water like I use
1 16 ounce package frozen broccoli

Melt butter and cook onions until translucent.
Add garlic, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute
Add potatoes, thyme, salt and broth/water
Simmer 10 minutes
Add broccoli
Cook 10 more minutes until potatoes are tender.

Puree in food processor in small batches all the soup is a smooth consistency.
Put it in a yellow bowl, if you have one.


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