Saturday, March 20, 2010

Musical Blogging

So it has been a year (and a day) since my last post. I figured it was time. You see, if blogs are just a forum for our thoughts, then there really isn't an excuse to go for a year without posting. Unless, of course, you are a thoughtless person. Which I hope I am not. Therefore this post.

I decided to try something new tonight. I dub it musical blogging. You see, I've noticed over the past few days that certain songs evoke clear images and feelings. I wanted to see what would happen if I just wrote whatever thoughts came into my mind while listening to such a song. I've always acknowledged the power that music has in our lives, but it has somehow become more defined this past week. It's not the first time that this has happened.

I always remember my mother talking to me about how much music lifts her up. I had never really experienced that (or at least paid attention to it) until my freshman year of college. I sang in the BYU Men's Chorus. It changed my life. I understood for the first time, the real power of music. As I look back now, it's clear that music has always been an influence in my life - I can remember some years of teenage angst...I seemed to listen to an awful lot of harder rock back then. I can also remember my wonderful senior year where I was immersed in so much good music through choir, church, and good friends. I don't find the correlation simply coincidental.

As anyone reading this can tell, this post has no clear direction. It's mostly just a meandering through my thoughts. Tonight I was able to go to a Men's Chorus concert and feel some of those wonderful feelings associated with their music and its messages. On a side (and somewhat related) note, I sat next to B Money. This morning, I had lunch with friend Becca at a Chinese restaurant. There was odd Chinese music playing there and although it didn't really do much for me personally, I recognize that it does for others. The universal nature of music impresses me, that's all.

Now, here's the musical blogging part. I'm currently listening to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's "Please Read the Letter."

I see an old car traveling down a long straight road. It's sunny, warm, summertime. There are cornfields on either side of the road. It all appears in the clarity of a home video from like the seventies. Or sixties. Ya know? You can see the individual frames flickering in and out really quickly. I see lots of childhood memories in this way. Like when I learned to ride a bike. I don't actually own the memory - it's manufactured from watching my own home videos. Except when I listen to this song it comes back in sixties/seventies form. Don't know why exactly. Oop, song's over. Guess that's it. Kinda anti-climactic. Sorry. Experiment over.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pete and I

I have a good friend named Pete. This post is really just a salute to him. He has taught me so many valuable lessons. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t worry. There really isn’t a point to worrying. It wastes time and energy and hardly ever brings about positive outcomes. Life is life. Life is going to happen, and you know what? When you try your best and recognize everyone else is doing the same – things have a way of working out. And if they go south…guess what? Migration happens. The ducks always come home.

2. Have fun. Life is meant to be enJOYed. Even the Lord has said so; “and men are that they might have joy.” This doesn’t mean that we devote all our efforts towards the seeking of pleasure. It means we learn to enjoy life as it happens. I have experienced happiness in so many different situations in life – it is almost always possible. It’s all about your mindset (hint: if you are applying lesson #1, it’s much easier to experience #2).

3. Happiness multiplies with company. One of my favorite things to do is curl up and read a book. Alone. It makes me happy. But when I reflect on the goodness of life, it’s not those times when I was alone that I cherish most. It’s the family reunions, the late night discussions with my best friends, and the crazy moments I’ve shared with so many others. Pete understands this well. He is defined by the others around him. Without them, life loses meaning. Working hard to build and maintain relationships will bring the joy talked about in #2 – no matter what the situation.

4. Time is relative. It’s a funny thing to me to watch people that are in a hurry. Why do they do the things they do? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Why speed around, get cranky when people are late, or sacrifice enjoyment for completion? Things work out. We only have time now – it won’t exist for the rest of eternity. So really, time is what you make of it. I’m not advocating inconsiderateness (showing up late for commitments and other things of that nature), I’m just saying that we can create our own time schedule for things – or just let it play out as it will. Pete knows the value in this. He decided long ago that he wanted to retain the exuberance of his youth, and has succeeded quite well.

So Pete, thanks for the life lessons. I salute you for defying the norm and challenging the ideals of society. That we all may be groundbreaking pioneers such as you is my hope.

Monday, February 23, 2009


What defines home? I mean what is it really? I’ve come to think of it more as a “what” than a “where.” I’m not like someone who grew up in a military home where they were moving to different states every year or anything like that, but I’ve moved around enough to consider myself somewhat as a nomad. When people ask me where I’m from I respond “Minnesota.” But I haven’t set foot in that state for nearly 4 years. And I only spent about a quarter of my life there. I spent more time in Illinois actually. But Illinois isn’t home for me. My parents live in Boston, so if I were ever “to go home,” it would be to Beantown. When I apply for jobs and list residencies for background checks, two of my last three are in California (the other being here in Utah). I feel at home when I’m out there, spending time with people that are as close to my as my blood relatives. And of course, Provo. As much as people dog this place, I love it. When I leave for extended periods of time, I long to be back. I love the environment – being surrounded by my friends and extended family. It’s a lot of fun. It feels like home when I get back to my small little house with my two best friends as roommates. So where is home? Minnesota, Massachusetts, California, and Utah. And Hawaii. Because who wouldn’t want to live there. So where doesn’t really do it much justice. Where isn’t home? I’ve loved everywhere I’ve lived. Why? Because of what’s there. What is home.

Home is family and friends. Everywhere I go, I have had some sort of family. Whether it was mom and dad and sisters or the best friends I could ask for; there has been a web of support and trust and love. This is the key component for my idea of home. There must be the unconditional love of a family. I’m grateful for the people in my life who help contribute to that. This is the easiest to explain and I could list hundreds of examples, but I think everyone knows what I mean so I’ll skip going into great detail here.

Home is natural beauty. God has done a pretty good job with the whole creation bit. Everywhere I’ve lived, there has been an abundance of this. In Minnesota there are beautiful forests and lakes. Places of solitude and peace where I can retreat. I love that. In California I could go and listen to the sound of the ocean for hours. It’s wonderful. And here in Utah, I’m not sure there’s anything quite like the grandeur of standing on the side of a mountain. These things move me in ways I can’t fully articulate. Wherever I go though, I need this connection with my Heavenly Father in order for me to truly feel “at home.”

Home is familiar. Don’t misunderstand this next part – I love new things. But I need repetition and familiarity. Not in a mundane way, but in a comfortable way. I like driving on the same roads, seeing the same landmarks, eating the same things, having a (flexible) routine. I like things like that. I don’t find it boring. It’s just a reflection of home. When I think of Minnesota I think of driving past Fish Lake and I-94. I remember getting an oreo shake at Potbelly’s. I remember looking out my window at the two large trees that overshadowed our backyard. In California I remember breakfast at Beach Break CafĂ© and taking the turns in the Pacanos’ neighborhood and the smell of the ocean as you turn onto the PCH from Tamarack. Here in Provo it’s the walk home from classes past Smart Cookie and J-dawgs. It’s the towering presence of Mt. Timpanogus whenever I face north. I have done all these things so many times they have become synonymous in my mind with each unique place.

So those are a few of my musing thoughts about home. Again I reaffirm that loving relationships are the foundation. I could never have home without that. If it were possible to live in an extremely ugly place that had no elements of familiarity, and I had loved ones with me, it would still be home. But without them, no matter how beautiful my familiar surroundings, I couldn’t feel that sense of home. Home is love. And I’ve been blessed with a mansion.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Mother's Influence

I think it’s something that a mother prays for often. Maybe always. I’m not a mother so I’ll probably never know. I’m writing this not to confirm that my own mother’s prayers have been answered in this regard but to attest to all future mothers the tremendous power of a righteous mother’s example. Sons notice.

Sons notice the way a mother cares. Maybe not always. Maybe not during young, formative, nor adolescent years. But eventually we do. I’ve been extremely blessed by my mother’s caring influence. And whether she knows it or not I noticed. I noticed the time she went out of her way to cook me breakfast when I was running a little late. I noticed how she tidied my room when I needed a clean place to ponder. I noticed how she cleaned my car before a big date. I noticed.

Sons appreciate the way a mother talks. There is no one here on earth whose advice I value more. I’m not exactly a talkative person. Growing up, as I matured into teenhood, I talked less and less to my mother about the problems that I had in my life. How did she respond to this shutting-out? She patiently waited and persistently made herself available as a listener. If she was under-used in my teenage years, perhaps now she is over-used. I appreciate how she challenges my thinking – she doesn’t just validate me. I appreciate her constant reliance on gospel principles and church leaders. As we discuss hard issues, she immediately asks “Well, what does the prophet have to say about it?” I know where my mother’s priorities lie and it comforts me.

Sons need the way a mother loves. Everything I’ve talked about can be thrown in this last category. Perhaps I am using this category to avoid a never-ending blog about the virtues of motherhood. If one thing has determined who I am, it is my mothers love. It is the reason I’m writing this post. My mother has been out here in Utah the past few weeks for the birth of her first granddaughter. I’ve never once doubted my mother’s love, but receiving it day after day in person as opposed to over the phone has caused me to reflect and ponder and marvel about it. Conversations we’ve had about life have changed me. And I feel to rejoice at the relationship we have. She has loved me with all her heart and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Never underestimate the influence you will have on your future children. Coming from a son who was changed (and is changed) again and again due to his mother’s actions – you make a difference.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For the Love of Learning

As the new semester of school starts to really pick up, I find myself thinking the same thing over and over.  How blessed I am to attend a university.  It is so fun to sit in a classroom and learn!  I'm excited everyday to go to lectures, read my textbooks, and test my knowledge.  How sweet is that?  Everyday I learn something new and useful.

I think a big reason for this newfound excitement is the relevance of my current studies.  For 15 years of my life I've been taking classes that teach important things such as math and english, but for the first time, I have classes that are teaching me things I will be using in my career!  It makes it so much more meaningful when you know the classes you're taking will be helping you for the rest of your life.  THAT will help you be excited about that.

However, even if my classes weren't so pertinent to my professional interests, the excitement would still remain.  Learning is probably the most fun thing I've been involved with my whole life.  If I could be a student at a university for the rest of my life, life would be grand.  I love to sit and listen as others who have aquired much greater knowledge than I, teach and tutor and help me understand their learning.  It's truly a unique experience.  I hope that all of us will have the chance to teach others what we are learning now.  I guess that is part of the point of this whole experience.  As BYU's motto states, "enter to learn, go forth to serve".  

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Family: flash forward

Obviously, the holidays are usually full of time spent with family.  This year was no different for the Johnson clan.  We spent hours and hours with our extended family, playing wally-ball, card/dice games, doing puzzles, eating, and reminiscing.  It was wonderful.  I love each member of our family and it's always such a blast.  Not having ever experienced anything but the fun of these gatherings, I hadn't really ever appreciated it.  This Christmas though, our cousin Sam told us all that one of the things she doesn't like about working over the break is you can see the families that SHOULDN'T get together.  What she meant was that certain families get together - only once a year - and they start fighting and pretty soon, somebody calls the police and she gets to deal with it (she's a police dispatcher).  Anyway, that made me pretty grateful - we've been having these get-togethers for as long as I can remember and I don't recall any fights.  Maybe a few squabbles among the children due to games gone awry or some prank played by a mischievous cousin, but never anything serious.

During a few of the nights we spent together this past week, much of the conversation was between my dad and his three younger brothers - affectionately (and creatively) known as "the brothers."  They would reminisce about this and that.  What their childhood friends were up to these days, what foolish act of youth they remembered committing and getting in trouble for, what happened the one time grandpa got mad at them, etc.  It gave me a "flash forward" moment where I imagined myself and my two sisters 25 years in the future, sitting around a fire talking about what WE did as children and seeing OUR children take such an interest in our past.  It was rather fascinating actually, the whole thing.  So those are my holiday thoughts.  Kind of random, but there you have it.  I'm so grateful for the family I've been blessed with and I look forward to starting my own and continuing the tradition of strong ties to the rest of the family.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

True Friend

I've often wondered what is meant by the description "true friend."  I think each of us can probably think of someone in our lives who we've felt has been a true friend to us.  It's just tonight I am kind of in awe of our Heavenly Father's plan.  How He provides for us in such an ingenious way.  We don't have any way of knowing what lies ahead, but in His infinite wisdom He places people in our lives who will stabilize us and compliment us.  I am grateful for these people.  I am grateful that God has blessed me with good friends.
I have a friend who is vastly different from me.  We don't see eye to eye on many subjects.  It is the most fulfilling friendship I've ever had.  He is in every possible way a "true friend."  Despite our differences our friendship only grows stronger.  I think the fundamental issue is that neither of us ever really want to change the other.  We care about the others happiness and often our discussions are to help one another see things more clearly and from a different viewpoint.
Anyway, I guess the point of this musing post is just for you to think a little deeper about the friends you have.  Be grateful for them.  Do what you can to reciprocate the influence they have on your life.  And realize that just as they probably don't realize the full effects they have on you, so also you never know what your caring example means to them.