As mentioned yesterday, what turned into a one-day post may turn into a three-day post.
Without going further in-depth about how Elsa and I seem to have a thing going on (Confused? Read yesterday’s post by clicking here), let’s break straight into the year that was 2014 for The Johnson Five.
The turn of the new year introduced us to a little soon-to-be princess phenomenon called Frozen. (I warned you yesterday that Frozen weaves in and out of my 2014 like Elsa’s braid.) Released in November 2013, the hit film about the relationship between two sisters – and a snowman that loves warm hugs – really hit fanatical status during winter break of that same year. We watched it on New Year’s, and even though I left the theater a little teary-eyed and wanting to build a snowman, I had no idea what it was going to do to my next few months – and really my entire year.
Most of Lukas’s basketball debut took place in January. Our month consisted of two practices and a Saturday game, and though we finished the season defeated – fancy for saying winless – the kids showed incredible improvement, even leading in our season finale, before dropping our postseason game by a point. I was very proud of how the kids improved, and actually felt like I was a decent coach.
As a father I was totally proud of Lukas in his first season. He led the team in scoring, shot well, and in the last game did his best to will his team to victory. I was impressed, and excited to see him both having fun to play, and having an interest in continuing to improve.
It’s all about the love right? I mean Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, all the best holidays are in February … snooze! Well when it came to the Super Bowl, I was feeling no love at all.
I was a Peyton Manning fan living in the heart of the Hawks Nest. What a fool! I stood by my man the entire time, and when Manning and the Broncos were destroyed by the Malcolm Smith-led Seahawks I was hurt. Like for real … hurt.
I called my post-Super Bowl blues my Black and Blue Monday. Sure I lost a bet that caused me to lose my hair (though it felt incredible, and didn’t look too bad), but for the second straight season Manning and his Broncos had caused me emotional pain.
I had enough. I was tired of investing so much in sports and not getting much in return, other than agony.
I decided to walk away from the NFL, paying no attention to the offseason (at least until the NFL draft rolled around).
I also vowed that no longer would I have Team 1A and Team 1B. Nope. I’m sorry Peyton it’s not you it’s … ah, who am I kidding? It’s all you buddy! Thanks to Manning I had been a Colts fan since 2004. Ten years I rooted for Indianapolis, and when the Colts faced Manning earlier in ’13, I found myself rooting for the Colts. I was all-in!
I don’t know if it was the whole KABOOM! thing, or because the Colts are in a cake division, but this year I didn’t stress or worry about watching Indianapolis play. They get smacked down on national television by the Steelers, Patriots, or Cowboys, fine! I turn off the TV and go do something else, rather than wallow in my defeat. I liked it. I felt great! Let’s see how I feel this Sunday when the postseason arrives.
Do I still love Manning? Yes, I always will. After all, you always remember your first, but I didn’t follow him much this year and if the Broncos are one-and-done, I’m going to be okay.
What else happened in February? So glad you asked!
I dislocated my ring finger. I had jammed my fingers hundreds of times, but when I swiped at the ball dreaming of a sweet steal, followed by an uncontested lay-up, and noticed that my knuckle resembled a tire iron (you know the ones that have a part that stick out…I don’t know), I knew something wasn’t right. Next day the doc popped it back into place, and six months later I was finally able to put on my wedding ring. Sorry ladies!
I spent Valentine’s Day with my brother from my Godmother (pictured right). I was at a Nationwide Insurance conference in San Diego, doing my best to ignite a sales fire under my buns (how’d that work out for you?), and when the conference ended at 1 p.m., and I had nine hours to kill, I decided to call the one dude I’ve been friends with since the day I excited my mom’s womb. We drove around for much too long. Had a beer, talked about life, and had a nice time. Actually was a nice Valentine’s Day. Thanks Chris!
I hosted the Sky Valley Community Awards Banquet. I told a lot of decent jokes, one horrible joke that seemed to ruin my performance, but overall I made the night fly by, not dragging on the evening and allowing members of the audience and community to be involved.
The first day of March brought the second anniversary of running my own little office. I also decided to take a much-needed break from social media. No, I wasn’t running from anyone, I just needed to rid myself of the distractions it caused me. I’m in an office by myself, it’s very easy to find myself surfing the Internet, and allowing one ESPN post to take me to three other posts. How’d that work out for you?
Levi turned three in March, and mirroring his laidback demeanor, we had a laidback birthday for him, with family only.
The not-that-little dude continues to amaze us. After two kids, you tend to take the third one, and the things he is learning, for granted. His vocab continues to bloom, and he does things that you forget most 3-year-olds aren’t quite doing yet. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s the size of a 4 or 5-year-old. Not so much Wreck-It Ralph anymore, we still will occasionally call him Tank, when he’s standing next to another 3-year-old or getting at it at the dinner table. He loves and looks up to both his brother and sister, often taking his brother’s LEGOs to build his own contraption, or taking his sister’s dolls clothes to put them on his own Star Wars figures or Ninja Turtles. We’re hoping it’s just a phase.
Oh, and I finally got to meet Mr. PopBlerd! in person, spending an afternoon walking the streets of Seattle.
The Star Wars expanded universe was imploded in April and a great disturbance was felt when millions of dorks cried out in terror. What?! We spent money thinking this stuff was canon and then Disney comes around and blows it up! Not cool, but kind of cool. All those books and bloodlines were making my head hurt.
I felt a similar disturbance when after weeks of trying to figure out what direction we wanted to take our office, and then deciding to take it over the mountains to Spokane, we were told HALT! Another Nationwide agent had decided to pull the trigger before us, just days before I was about to sign a lease. Things happen for a reason, but at the time we weren’t sure what our next step would be. We knew that Sultan probably wasn’t the long-term answer. It was a town of 4,000 with homes and residents outside of Nationwide’s market, plus we were seven miles from the biggest Nationwide agent on the West Coast. Meanwhile, the Spokane area had 600,000 people and communities that were popping up all over.
That’s when I threw my hands up and told God, “It’s all yours dude!” I had been a Christian since ’98 but for the first time in my life I was handing it all over to Christ. I was tired of trying to make decisions on my own. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t easy. I had no idea where He would lead us, but I didn’t care anymore. As I talked about yesterday, I worry too much, and for once, I no longer felt worried. I was relieved, and kind of excited to see where He would lead us.
Turns out he would lead us to a place known for its sweet onions and wineries – Walla Walla. At least that’s where my parents were hanging out at a dog show, and well we needed a drive to clear our minds.
Not like work “job” or G.O.B. Bluth, but Job, the book in the Bible about the dude that was tested by God, to prove Satan wrong, to prove that even the most faithful, in a time of distress, will not turn their back on Him. Job loved God so much that despite killing his livestock, employees, and family, and that despite tormenting him health-wise, Job was still going to be faithful to God. He never cursed God for the trials he was facing. It was probably the third hardest story I had read in the Bible (that whole Abraham sacrificing his son thing gets me every time, and let’s not forget the nails in the hands and feet that Jesus went through). In the end God rewards Job for his faithfulness.
How did I get from Walla Walla to Job?
Well I had found Job while doing a lesson for the Youth Group kids on the wisdom books. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. I had read the first three, but never Job. The story interested me. I put it on the back burner.
Then Lis and I watched The Tree of Life, a 2012 Academy Award nominated movie starring Brad Pitt. Though I didn’t necessarily love the movie, the first line of it was a quote from the book of Job that said, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth? … When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Another seed planted. Another seed ignored, as I still didn’t open the book of Job.
Oh yah, Walla Walla.
Somewhere between Ellensburg and Walla Walla your radio disappears and the only stations you have are either in Spanish or are sermons. Since we don’t speak Spanish (Lis is from Brazil folks), and the CD player was busted, we settled on sermons.
Two of the three sermons on that road between non-stop wheat fields were about … you guessed it, my buddy Job. Fine! I get it! I’ll listen!
What was I to think? Either he was going to kill off my family, or maybe I needed to realize that if I remain faithful through all the trials, he’ll provide. That though at times, like nixing the Spokane office, I need to not ask him “Why?” but just relax and realize, it’s not in His plan. It’s not easy to do, but I’m learning, and like everything else, it’s a work in progress – and kind of fun!
As May approached we still had no clue what we wanted to do with our office – and life. Lis and I had decided that we definitely wanted change. Things were caddywhompus in Johnsonville, I was feeling burnt out from … well, everything. We needed to shake things up, but how much?
Enter Hillsboro, Oregon. The area was booming and Nationwide wanted to be in that market. Personally, the housing market was good, schools were not the best, but still the Portland Trail Blazers were nearby, minor league baseball was down the street, and well, it was different. So, like we did a year prior when we visited Spokane, we took a trip to scout Hillsboro.
Other than no sales tax, the best Mexican restaurant we had ever eaten at, and the newer portion of town seemed nice, we didn’t get that good feeling that we had felt after visiting Spokane. It could’ve been that the kids were sick the entire drive down (I think we pulled over three times on the way down, just to clean up vomit, thus us renaming Hillsboro to Hills-BARF-o), or that nothing leaped out at us. Nothing wowed us. Why move our family, just for the sake of change, to a community we didn’t feel we wanted to raise our family in? So we put it in God’s hands and decided to sit on it for a bit.
I love sports. I love the beach. I love making sweet love to my wife, but nothing cured my stress and frustration like hamming it up with my brother-from-another-mother, the Big Dog, in front of dozens of people at Sultan’s annual lip sync contest.
I had asked, and was granted, permission to emcee the event, and after watching past hosts torture the audience with knock-knock jokes during dead time, I decided that Jerry and I would do something different. Not only would our back-and-forth banter that allowed us to entertain the masses at past community events help spice up this event, but we’d also add something different when the judges disappear for about 15 minutes and the emcees are left improvising.
Unrehearsed we would do our own impromptu back-and-forth version of the “Evolution of Dance.”
No more words … just video!
Of course, there’s always someone that plays topper, and that someone came in the size of a certain 5-year-old that has lip sync in her bloodlines.
As I struggled to get the band back together, Lia approached me about doing the lip sync herself. Solo. Just her, a giant stage, bright lights, and about a hundred people in attendance. I was nervous. She’s always been dramatic, hilarious, and loved being the center of attention, but this was usually in the confines of our home, or around the dinner table. After she decided to not perform in our church’s Christmas program months prior, I was skeptical that when the lights shined bright, she might buckle. Still, I’m her father and I will support her whether she rocks it or stands there in shell shock.
The song she chose? Duh! “Let It Go” from Frozen. I warned you in my prior post that this song and movie would weave in and out of my 2014.
Her dry run, from our living room “stage,” was incredible. As a veteran of lip syncing, I know that a lot of people – kids and adults – don’t always nail the most important part of lip syncing – the darn mouthing of the lyrics! She had that part down, better than most adults.
I’d like to take credit for her performance, sure I threw some ideas out to her, and she took some and left some, but overall it was all her.
Her lip sync performance, excuse me, her first-place, $50, winning performance, was amazing. It left me in tears. It left Jerry in tears. She didn’t buckle under the spotlight, in fact, she did the exact opposite, like a true entertainer she thrived. As a multi-winning lip sync champion, I know that certain people thrive when the crowd is having a fun time. Like her father, she thrived. And out of all the moments in 2014, this was one of my proudest. If I ever feel down and out, I watch this video and I’m all better again!
Me? Though my brothers held firm and denied my lip sync requests, and a chance at a repeat, and though Lis followed suit by turning down what would’ve been a fun (and winning) performance of “Love is an Open Door” – see our first-attempt, living room performance here – I couldn’t sit and do nothing. Yes, from Frozen, here are me and my dad’s puppet doing “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People.”
Oh, and in May Lis and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by doing the very “Life With Three Kids” thing of Red Robin with the kids. You can read my 11 Star Wars phrases that describe my marriage here.
Since May was a bit hectic, I’m throwing the RFL into June, since it did take place May 31 – June 1.
This year’s event was the 10th for Team Force, and unfortunately, likely our last. I had asked everyone, yes everyone, that had ever played a part in our nine years of Relaying to come out and support us one last time. Though turnout was good, it wasn’t what I had hoped for. Understandable, people grow up, and tired of our loud and obnoxious (but fun) bunch. Some lifelong members formed their own squad, a bit disappointing, considering the reason I got us all involved, but in the year of letting go, I was okay with it and ended up having the most relaxing event since Year One!
Of course, with that aforementioned brother-from-another-mother running the event for the third straight year – this time without me by his side – I knew that I’d be involved somehow.
First, I helped him with Opening Ceremony and … let’s just say, hoping to just kick it and relax before the event didn’t quite happen. Yes the walkie-talkie is on. No I can’t hear you over the surrounding noise.
Second, he asked Lis and I to speak at Opening Ceremony. It was Lis’ public speaking debut and she did great. You’ll find the speech here. Me … like I usually do I made a couple of stupid jokes, shared our story, cried, and cried some more.
As a team we did things differently. We parked our tent on the back of the track and you know what? It was relaxing! I walked and walked and walked, and was able to have conversations with those that did come out and support Team Force. As a team we put little focus on doing the activities but more on just hanging out together as a team.
Except when it came time for the lip sync. Team Force has long been the standard by which all other teams will be compared when it comes to the RFL Lip Sync competition. Since the event was introduced a few years back, we had won every event (technically we won in 2013, earning the judges vote, when another team earned the crowd vote). So in 2014 we looked to our ringer, and that 5-year-old girl that stole the hearts from the people in the Sultan High School cafeteria in May.
“Ladies and Johnsons” I give you yet another performance, this time in front of a few hundred people.
Once again the event was wonderful, with or without a full team, with or without being heavily involved. Jerry did a nice job in his finale, and it was nice to see him recognized for the volunteer work he does for the RFL. I’d like to think that I played a small part in him getting more involved, which makes me proud of what he’s accomplished.
And once again the event did what I love about the event. It allows my family and I to remember why every year we get up early, pack up our canopy, and hang out for 20-something hours – to celebrate Lis’ victory, to remember what she went through, and to continue to fight back against cancer.
Lis and I continued to struggle with what we wanted to do with our office. Hillsboro? Sultan? We weren’t receiving any signs from God, other than we continued to find a fondness for Eastern Washington.
Thanks to my best month EVER, and our tax refund, we decided to use some of our savings and take my first vacation in over five years. Maybe a vacation would clear our heads. Maybe it would allow me to come back rejuvenated and ready to attack the insurance world. We had set our sights on Brazil for Christmas 2014, but with plane tickets nearing ludicrous status (a spin off of Spaceballs ludicrous speed), we aimed for Plan B … Disneyland!
Our goal was to not let the kids know where we were headed until we had arrived at the gates, then SURPRISE!
We coaxed (okay, we didn’t need to do much coaxing) my parents into going with us, thus taking their motorhome down to save some cost on lodging.
We went from “getting gas” to “visiting Bob” (an acquaintance of my dad) to “a trip to Walmart” to eventually visiting family in Southern California. Which we did! It was nice to get reacquainted with my dad’s side of the family, spending an afternoon swimming in their pool, hanging out and then having dinner at our favorite pizza place, Felippi’s Pizza Grotto.
The following day we headed to Legoland, where Lukas was caught off-guard until the Lego figurines that guard the gate finally ratted us out.
Legoland was nice. Not as expansive as I thought (but expensive, make sure you use the Buy 1, Get 1 Free tickets from the free LEGO magazines), but Lukas loved it, and Lia made friends with my great aunt’s granddaughter (not sure how that relates to us, but that’s okay). Highlight: If you bring your own LEGO figure into the park, you can trade with Legoland employees that have figures dangling from their lanyards. It was quite fun, especially when Lukas found an Emmet figure. As he just put, “I started freaking out!” Indeed he did, but SCORE!
After Legoland we headed up north to a RV park near the Happiest Place on Earth. The fireworks didn’t totally give it a way but Lukas’ curious mind was wandering.
Unfortunately, on the day between Legoland and Disneyland news broke while I was on the can that my beloved Tony Gwynn had passed away at 54. The San Diego Padres have long been my favorite sports team. I became a fan on June 6, 1986, three years into Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career in which he spent 20 years with the Padres – just the Padres. The best hitter I ever witnessed, Gwynn was not only a class on the field, but also off of it. I’m lucky to say I have his autograph at least three times, and I still vividly remember two of those times. First when I bought his book titled Tony! and he cordially asked me my name, shook my hand, and put it in the book he signed for me. The second was at Spring Training in Yuma when a bunch of kids – myself included – mobbed him and he quickly said, “Single file line.” and we all obeyed him better than we had obeyed our own parents. He sat there, on an aluminum bench, an 8-time batting champ, signing all of our cards or baseballs for hours. A few years back I bought a vintage ’84 Gwynn jersey to show my love to Mr. Padre. His death hurt, the first of my “heroes” to pass away, but I’ll forever remember No. 19.
After a day of chilling at the park, we headed to Disneyland for a Magic Morning (that’s where you sneak into the park an hour before all the “regular” ticket holders). Were the kids surprised? Sure, but I think the Magic Morning was a bit too early, so excitement didn’t happen until later that morning.
I don’t know what it is but they call Disneyland the Happiest Place on Earth, and gosh darn it, it sure lights up my face! There’s something magical about the park. It could be memories of being a kid, the way it’s laid out, the rides, the nostalgia, I don’t know, but I love it!
While I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited … (What? I love my daughter, love to create memories for the ones I love, and met some crazy dads like myself in line) Lia was getting dolled up courtesy of my parents and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. What a treat! Okay, since you’re at Disneyland already, and have already shelled out a butt load of money, spend the extra cash and have your daughter treated like royalty at the boutique (or be grateful your parents volunteered to do that for you).
Lia picked out an Elsa dress (DUH!) and spent the morning having her hair, nails and make-up done. Afterwards she had her picture taken both with and without some of the Disney princesses. And since Disney rocks, they make sure that the princesses are treated like princesses the rest of the day. When she crossed over the parade route they said, “This way Princess.” When she got on a ride they carefully took her hand and helped her get on the ride. And when she approached Captain America for a picture he dropped to one knee, took her by the hand, and called her Princess. She blushed and still doesn’t like to talk about it.
I can go on and on about Disneyland and California Adventure, but I’m nearing 4,000 words so here are highlights both in writing and with photos.
Highlights: Lukas got to be a member of Jedi Academy. … Levi and Papi were nap buddies, leaving us all after dinner to go back to the motorhome and watch TV before dozing off. … Like mother, like daughter both Lis and Lia went down Splash Mountain twice, once with little Lia peeking over the edge of the log before dropping 53-feet. … An exhausted Mom and Dad taking an exhausted trio back to the RV on the final day of our three days allowing a little Kevy and Lisy time in the Magic Kingdom. Kind of romantic. … Dad’s face the last day at the park, and after Mom forced him to buy Lis a friggin’ Disneyland sweatshirt. … Cars Land = AMAZING! Radiator Springs Racers = TOTALLY AMAZING! … Visiting my other PopBlerd! buddy Garrett on the drive home. … The memories that we made that summer afternoon.
See you tomorrow for the rest of the year!