Category Archives: Celebrations

Loads of Love

Who doesn’t think of love in February? Be it friends, family, or partners who spring to mind, there’s no escaping the ubiquitous theme of the month. In our family, it was also Brooks’ first birthday, a definite celebration of love for this little guy.

Time to get ready to party. Check out that look of love for his mama!

And for his big brother, Beckett–plenty of love to go around…

Beckett, Chelsea and Brooks 

I don’t know if Brooks loved his vegan cake, but he certainly seemed to enjoy it…

A few days after the party, I was with my friends Tom and Christy French.* Christy had invited me to come see the new Pathways Inpatient Care Center on Valentine’s Day. She would be playing a meticulously rebuilt and restored 1920 Steinway grand. This is the hospice organization that helped me care for David in his final weeks and then helped me begin to process my grief. I’m not sure what I would have done without them.

Christy plays weekly in the great room of the inpatient center for anyone who cares to listen, beautiful music that soothes the soul even when heard from down the hall. I’ve since learned that a number of my pianist friends also volunteer in this way. It’s a luminous, peaceful place, brimming with gorgeous art and overflowing with love–and sometimes with music. It was the perfect place to spend a bit of Valentine’s Day.

Then over to Chelsea and Brian’s to babysit and get my dose of love from Beckett and Brooks. I was a very good day. That morning, I had woken up to this…

Valentine’s Day Blooms

…at the height of perfection just that one day. It felt like a Valentine’s Day gift from beyond.

Wishing and praying for you loads of love, both to give and receive!

*The link on Tom and Christy’s names will take you to another post they’re in, as I usually do with my links, but it’s also the post with a link to the slideshow we showed at the Celebration of Life for David (including the little videos we showed only at the reception). Couldn’t resist watching it again and found myself smiling so much my cheeks hurt. Love does not end, thanks be to God!

Great Big Gratitude

David, May 2016, refusing to hold still for a photo!

There’s something about this photo–out of focus, but somehow capturing the joy of spending time with this big man, my beloved. He’s been gone nearly five years now, and I still thank God every day for him and all the memories we made together.

What we focus on matters. I feel the truth of that every day and highly recommend The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay. In his book he doesn’t shy away from  tough subjects, but manages to find delight every day in spite of disheartening, even maddening realities. Truly inspiring.

I was also thinking recently about a book I read nearly a decade ago, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. I remember being challenged–even in the midst of hard times–to start a gratitude list,  presumably with the goal of eventually reaching 1000, at which point gratitude might be almost automatic. One would hope, anyway. I’m afraid I began to stress out somewhere around 200, trying to think of new things, until one day I wrote, “#182–Realizing it’s okay to thank God more than once for the same thing.” Yeah. It took me a long time to come to that genius conclusion. I confess my list never made it past 200, but I still have the journal that holds it, and even that simple list inspires gratitude when I reread it.

I find old photos are excellent gratitude triggers. So in the spirit of thanks giving and Thanksgiving, I am forever grateful for . . .

. . . great big stunning vistas like this . . .

Rocky Mountain National Park (from the top) – July 2013

. . . for Paris and that perfect French blue . . .

Paris – May 2013

. . . for La Rochelle and the inexhaustible patience David displayed for my frequent photo stops . . .

La Rochelle with David patiently waiting, not quite out of frame – May 2013

. . . for sunsets like this . . .

Sunset on Panama City Beach – March 2015

. . . and this . . .

Key West – February 2015

. . . for fields of poppies on Île de Ré . . .

Photo by Pascale – June 2019

. . . and dear friends who would stop the car to let me jump out and get a photo pretty much whenever I wanted and who shared so much of France with us . . .

Pascale and Jacky in Bordeaux – May 2017

There are too many adventures to choose a link, so just check out the France category to find them all. Merci, Pascale et Jacky, pour tous!

I’m still grateful for this amazing tree . . .

The Never-Give-Up Tree – near Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

. . . that inspired me so much I wrote a poem in which it was featured.

As I continue to spend much of my days with Chelsea’s little ones, especially Brooks, I’m reminded of when our girls were small, and I feel great big gratitude for this pic of some of my favorite people . . .

One of our annual trips to the pumpkin farm — 1988

Praying for you: grace and peace and no trouble at all finding delight and reasons for gratitude every single day.



Welcome, Brooks!

Brooks – 10 February 2022 – Photo  credit:  Amber Hall

Brooks Ellis Johnson was born 2.02.2022 as predicted, weighing 8 lbs. 11.5 oz. and measuring 21 inches long. He was definitely making himself at home in the womb, but it was time to come out and meet the family, so with just a little medical encouragement, he did.

Brooks – 10 February 2022 – Photo credit: Amber Hall

Beckett suddenly looks so grown up!

Beckett and Brooks – 10 February 2022 – Photo credit: Amber Hall

Chelsea and Brian have a lot going on right now. In addition to wrangling an active toddler, while managing two full-time busy careers, as well as the round-the-clock care a newborn requires, they just sold their house and are in the middle of building another. Their realtor kindly gifted them with a newborn photo shoot with her niece: Amber Hall of Rustic and Roses Photography. All the best shots in this post are hers, not gonna lie!

Brooks – 10 February 2022 – Photo credit: Amber Hall

I was on call for Beckett duty, so I stayed over there from the 1st until they came home on the 3rd, and it was a blast. We colored and played with Play-Doh and read piles of books. There was a raging snowstorm and absolutely frigid temperatures, so we didn’t venture outside at all. Beckett got his energy out by jumping on beds and couches and into a foam pit full of pillows and by chasing the dogs around the house. I . . . supervised. My energy, I can assure you, was adequately utilized without jumping on anything at all.

I’ve started teaching Beckett a little French, so we made a few tiny videos. Here’s one where I asked him to say, “Bonjour, Natacha” to send to my French tutor and friend: He actually can pronounce it all better than that now, and we made one to send to Pascale, too, that at least had the “bonjour” part enunciated better. Still,  I adore this video so thought I’d share it with you.

Then when Chelsea sent us a funny, grumpy-face photo of Brooks, less than 24-hours old, we decided to do  our own photo shoot–quick snaps with my phone–of various Beckett expressions:

So, Brooks, welcome! Yes, life can get hard. Even the grumpiest expression may be warranted every now and then. But I promise, sometimes it’s super fun. Either way, you are loved already!


All The Best

Full disclosure: the final wedding tasks were NOT completed in a calm and efficient manner, but most were eventually completed and Brittany and Andy are now married! Woo-hoo! So many people made this possible, we’re just beginning to try to communicate the magnitude of our gratitude.

On this, David’s birthday, where we remember him and miss him as much as ever, let’s focus for a minute on this grand cause for celebration. The colors they (Brittany?) chose — tropical blues and flaming sunset colors — were absolutely stunning. Here are a few early preview shots from the photographer, Mark Ducharme. 

Brittany’s bouquet – Photo by Mark R Ducharme Photography
Brittany’s shoes with wedding bands – Photo by Mark R Ducharme Photography
The wedding party – Photo by Mark R Ducharme Photography
Beckett appreciating one of the bouquets – Photo by Rachel Hazenfield

All the creative touches they wanted happened.

Sunstones they found on the trip where they got engaged, to share with all – Photo by Mark R Ducharme

Beckett found a girlfriend, Baby Ruth (photos by her dad, Craig Burke):

There were challenges, of course, since this is real life. Brittany and I had a few laughs navigating the rugged stone steps in high heels:

Brittany and Sunny – Photo by Mark R Ducharme

And Brittany ended up in the E.R. the next day for a while, but that’s a story for another day. The entire thing was absolutely beautiful and celebratory.

Brittany, Andy and Bega – Photo by Mark R Ducharme

Please join me in wishing them all the very best!