Hi everAJ1yone!  My family and I were in Egypt for only one year, 1982-83.  My father, Roger Johnson, was on a sabbatical from the University of Southern Mississippi at the Alexandria University.  I was entering 10th grade; my brother, Marlowe, was entering 8th grade; my sister, Meredith, was entering 1st grade; my mother, Sue Ellen, was dealing with moving her family from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to a VERY foreign country without knowing the language and not having any support from anyone.  This was a “here’s your apartment, you are on your own” kind of venture!…And we LOVED it!!  Ok, so not at first, but eventually. Of course there were many ups and downs through out the year but we now define our lives as the years before Egypt and after Egypt.  The year in Egypt being one of the top experiences.

What am I up to now?  That’s kind of a long story, but I’m guessing it is for most.  After returning to Mississippi, I graduated high school in 1985.  The return was difficult and lonely.  Returning to high school after leaving in middle school was the same as never returning at all.  Amazing how much can happen in one year of a teenager’s social life!  Luckily my year away made me stronger and more able to handle it.  It was also easier for me to just look the other way and go about my business.  I just wanted to graduate!  I attended one year at the University of Southern Mississippi just to ground myself, then moved to NYC to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology where I graduated a few years later with a bachelors in Marketing and dating my future husband.  Then after working a few years in marketing, the company I worked for closed and we were all laid off.  After another year and another job, I decided what I really wanted to do AJ2was teach.  I returned to school and eventually got my masters in Early Childhood Education. I have now been teaching for 20 years and love every minute of it.  In 2003 we lost my mother to breast cancer.  It was a long 12 year battle.  As it is for everyone in this situation, it was extremely difficult for us.  She was an a mazing person and loved by so many people around the world.  It took me several years to get over the anger, but in 2010 I decided to fight back and started raising money to help in cancer research and to assist in funding for preventative testing.  Every year since I walk 39 miles with the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and have raise, to date, over $15,000.  Currently, in work, I am doing exactly what I want to do…my dream job.  I am running a nature-based outdoor preschool on Long Island through an environmental organization, Seatuck Environmental Association.  We have been open for 3 years now.  It’s is the first of it’s kind on Long Island and I have never had so much fun!  I also run other early ed programs for the organization and have been for about 6 years.  It is exactly what I want to be doing.

AJ4Other than work, as mentioned, I met my husband shortly after moving to NY.  We have been together now  for 29 years.  In 2009 we adopted the most beautiful babyboy and our lives changed completely for the best!  We now live 2 miles from the Great South Bay with our complete family including two miniature schnauzers, a ball python, a yellow-eared slider turtle, and a few fish.  We like to spend our time on the beach and hiking.  My husband conducts research and collects data on seals and whales on LI.  We have been running a non-profit, Coastal Research & Education Society of Long Island, for about 20 years.  I joined the Schutz board as secretary, SASAF, in 2013 and it has been wonderful reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.  I’m looking forward to reading these columns and catching up with and meeting more Schutiztes…a group I an very proud to be a part of!