Things I Do Poorly

92. Ping-pong. On the whiteboard upstairs, I have a record not of how many wins I have but instead the highest point count I’ve achieved before Greg has beaten me. It’s fifteen points. The record is over four months old.
1. Relinquishing control. My control freak nature wants my fingers in all the pies at all the times.
35. Horror games. After Noah slyly got to me to agree to play Five Nights at Freddy’s in VR and I screamed more times than I’d like to admit, my housemate downstairs told me that she’d thought all the noise was from the kids outside.
15. Making rice. Turns out when you don’t eat a food regularly, you can’t cook it well.
80. Starting text conversations.
7. Playing the piano.
49. Losing graciously. My competitive nature propelled me to decency when I picked up field hockey my senior year of high school; it does not help me when I’m too invested in a game of Ticket to Ride.
73. Taxes.
34. Not being a show-off when I’ve figured out how to do something. See #1.
20. Doing tasks suboptimally. Why would I cook without listening to a podcast? If I’m just watching TV, why am I not also folding laundry?
6. Reviewing books. I make excuses about this, but it comes down to that I don’t care enough to do it well.

After Ross Gay

3. The stuffed frog I’ve hugged tight to my chest every night since 6th grade.
1034. Tomatoes growing by the side of a random building on the industrial side of Grand Rapids.
45. Michelle Obama saying “It is what it is.”
1. The wallpaper on my computer—always a picture of my mother.
250. Successfully praying for only other people during the “Prayers for Others” section of Common Prayer.
28. Cuddled up in a sleeping bag inside a pop-up trailer, reading with a headlight while the rain taps two feet above your head.
621. Churning, specifically when done by an ice cream machine making peanut butter dairy-free ice cream.
367. Spotting a spider on the porch and making a face on a video call only for Elizabeth to ask, “Is there a bug?”
205. Bread that rose overnight, baked in a warm oven, and sat out long enough to be cut into but short enough to still watch the steam billow.
22. The constant companions to my life, my Nizhonians whom I rope into any adventure I want to take.
98. Waving to neighbors on their front porch on lazy summer.
495. Wild raspberries from the community garden. Selecting the perfect cherry tomatoes from an urban farm.
174. The silence on a Sunday afternoon, curled up with a book.
907. Eating a perfectly poached egg.
830. Getting roasted by tenth graders because you are playing elevator music before class. Other tenth graders giving you music recommendations because once you’re a teacher, you’re always perpetually one step behind pop culture.
831. Saying “I’m not getting into the WAP discourse” when one of the kids brings it up during social hour. Watching one of your older colleagues pearl-clutch over the lyrics the next day. “Seventh graders are listening to this!” Yup.

Grief Triggers

26. CPR and AED training. “CPR can be the difference between life and death.” “Occasionally, someone experiencing cardiac arrest will have some long, slow gasps.”
105. Mentioning I have a loud laugh. Later on that night, I laid in bed, remembering how sometimes in my French class we would have to close the door because Mrs. Johnson’s laugh from around the corner was too often an interruptive member of the class.
50. My own face in the mirror.
3. Someone having moved the magnet to cover her face on the funeral card tacked on the fridge.
520. When someone on the other line says, “Is this Lori Johnson?” and I have to decide how curt I am feeling.
300. To Kill a Mockingbird. I wonder if her opinion of it would have shifted like mine has through #DisruptTexts.
294. Sixth graders. Mama Bear. Cubbies. Rooms with one full wall of windows. Lexington Christian Academy. Yearbooks.
636. Jason Reynolds. Man, she would have adored Stamped.
36. Bringing her up with new people and talking as if she’s alive. It distracts from the point to explain that the teacher who also moved from high school to middle school and loved it is dead.
554. “Lori Johnson also follows.” No, she doesn’t. She did follow. She’s dead and you just don’t know it, Twitter.

Concepts I Don’t Know Enough About

3. Suffering.
15. The intricacies of our government systems.
5. Grace.
12. How to actually teach as opposed to the theory of teaching.
9. Prison abolition.
7. How to support someone you love when they don’t want your support.
23. History: the big and the small.
4. Intense connection with the land you are living on, an understanding of the ecosystem that you are but one moving piece of.
1. Everything.


  1. Alex Westenbroek

    So poetic, but it also flows like a story. I especially love the nonlinear list. It mirrors the scattered way we process emotions. This was a delight to read.

    • Alex Johnson

      Thanks, Alex. I wasn’t sure how the scatteredness would communicate, but I’m glad it worked out effectively!

  2. Elaine

    Laughter, loud laughter…..a hole in the heart ❤️. Hugs, Alex, really enjoyed reading this…open and transparent.

    • Alex Johnson

      Thanks Elaine. Transparency is what I’m rooting for here 🙂

  3. Kyric Koning

    The section about “concepts I don’t know enough” is so true though (and some great references). The theory of something compared to the actual is always such a ripe subject.


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