Sustained Discipline

Made to Crave

I’m listening to the book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. The book is fantastic. The narration is TERRIBLE. Take it from me and the audible reviews, DO NOT buy the audible version. Just read the thing.

(I’m not sure how to even describe listening to this book. It’s not like a “kindergarten teacher is reading this book” as one reviewer stated.. I have friends that teach kinder and I’m not going to insult them like that!! But it is grating, condescending and all things bad. Just buy the actual book or get the digital copy.)

Ok, rant over. Get the book.

Why? Because the content is relevant to just about all of us. Now if you are making strong healthy choices everyday and have overcome all your issues, you can skip this book. But the rest of us need her down to earth, right smack in the middle of problems take on life.

I’m writing this post with 16 minutes of the book left. I’m that compelled to put my thoughts on “paper.” Lysa just talked about the concept of Sustained Discipline and this was a true light bulb moment for me.

So I wanted to share and document my thoughts.

Over the last few years I have gained back a lot of the weight that I lost in 2012. Some of the weight is in the form of muscle, but most of it is fat and poor choices. At first it was just a pound here and five pounds there. But the sum total is that instead of having “just a few” pounds to lose, I now need to lose about 25 pounds to get back to my goal weight. I don’t really expect to get back to that place and to be honest, I don’t really need to be that lean. That’s not my body shape. My body is naturally curvy and to get that lean requires a diligence and a fight that isn’t good for me. I do need to lose some body fat. I want my clothes to fit right. I’m tired of the waistband of my pants rolling down when I bend over. I’m tired of having to readjust my bra all of the time because of spillage! I’m tired of struggling into clothes that “should” fit.

But I’m not going to obsess over the scale. For one thing, my scale is inconsistent. One day it will say about what I think it should say. The next day it’s eight pounds heavier. Then the day after that, it says that I lost ten pounds. My emotions around my weight are roller coaster enough, I don’t need the scale to add to that!

What I am going to do is focus on SUSTAINED DISCIPLINE. This is an area that I am great and terrible at! Over the years I have learned that I am a rock star at being disciplined when it comes to working out. I was disciplined as a child/teen with practicing piano and preparing for rehearsals or contests. You could always count on me to log the hours and do the work. In fact, I won the trophy for logging practice minutes for piano every year for YEARS! And yes, that was a real trophy…

But I’m terrible at sustained discipline when it comes to food and personal growth habits. I’ve always said I’m a great starter, not a great finisher as if that was license to give up. I’d eat great for 3 days, but day 4 would be a bust. I’d do three weeks of a bible study and then just stop. I’d get out of the routine before a routine stuck and then move on.

So instead of focusing on the goal, the end result, the pants that I want to wear without it cutting off my love handles, I’m going to focus on areas that need my sustained discipline. While I have lots of growth areas, I’m going to focus on only two for the next three months.

  1. Drink my fruit/vegetable smoothie for breakfast and have a salad for lunch 5 days a week.
  2. Spend a minimum of ten minutes 5 days a week doing a bible study.

By giving myself two days of grace each week, I am hoping that instead of being down on myself for “slipping up,” I can motivate myself saying that’s one of the off days.

And will I lose weight simply by doing these two things? Not necessarily, but its a fantastic start!

James Clear in his book Atomic Habits talks about stacking habits by adding one new small habit to a habit that is already routine. Since I already have the workout habit down, I’m going to look at the morning schedule and see how to change the structure of my morning a little.

Each Day a Gift

If I can add even a five minute devotional time prior to workout, then that would be a smart place to start. Granted, my eyes struggle to focus at 4:40am on anything other than Emoji Blitz, but I’m hoping to start reading and working through Each Day A Gift before heading to the gym.

I’m a work in progress, we all are. I think it is so important for us to acknowledge that about ourselves. One thing I am really proud of is that I’ve started making the bed every morning. I know its a little thing that doesn’t seem to have any real significance, but it does! It makes me feel like the day is in order and that I can accomplish things.

And finally, I’m reading Beauty Begins by Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha. Making peace with my reflection is hard. It has always been hard and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. But I am doing my best to not pass on the burden of unattainable and unhealthy body image issues to my daughters. I want them to be healthy and at their physical best, whatever that is and however that looks.

Beauty Begins

I want that for myself.

Revisiting the 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family

It’s been a few years since I read The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family and with moving and unpacking, I found our rally board and realized that it desperately needed to be updated!

Our Rally Board from 2016

It was great to see that we accomplished the big idea that we set out to do in 2016 and for most part, we are still holding true to our Standard Objectives. Our Defining Objectives were accomplished for the most part with the completion of our rallying cry, so they were no longer relevant.

And with that big “to do list” checked off, I was pumped to get us updated and ready for the new year.

We decided that in 2020 we would focus on emotional and physical health. With me still recovering from hip surgery, a surgery on the horizon for one child and half a dozen new specialists for our other daughters, we needed to prioritize healing and wholeness.

I know, it seems weird that we would have to put this in writing given that all we have done over the last almost twenty years is do doctor visits, but this is different. When you live in the midst of doctors and sickness and struggles, these become normal and you just function within these very difficult parameters.

But this last year was TOUGH. Emotionally, physically, and financially. The doctor visits, physical therapy appointments, specialists, more specialists and countless hours in waiting rooms took their toll. In fact, I just looked it up, Aetna managed 115 different medical claims for our family. Add the Rheumatologist that doesn’t do insurance, the chiropractors, dentists, orthodontist, eye doctor, health screenings, tests and random health issues and we are at over 200 calendar entries for a family of 5.

Did you read that?
115 separate claims to manage plus all the other medical expenses not covered.

And we would call this a pretty healthy year. DANG.

So anyway, we talked about what we wanted our rallying cry for 2020 to be for our family and it had to be emotional and physical health. Instead of just surviving in the midst of this hard stuff, we need to be able to tackle it head on.

And we are .

Our “mission statement” is the same as when we created it years ago. We are a family that invests in each other and the community. We believe in learning, leading and living creativity everyday. We live in a small community but value our global connections. I love reading this and being reminded that we are still inherently the same family with the same mission, even in the midst of change.

But in order to focus on emotional and physical health as a family, we have to change our defining objectives. We have to be proactive in our approach to our days and our nights. We have to be willing to make some hard choices. Our defining objectives.. or the things that need to happen so that our rallying cry can be carried out are:

  • Regular Bedtimes
  • Healthy Meals
  • Outside Activities
  • Creativity
  • Limited Technology

These objectives are doable when we remember our goal. Yes, there are times when it seems like it would be way easier to just let Kylie, at ten years old, watch YouTube Kids for hours. But the tradeoff just isn’t worth it! She is at her best when she is outside and being creative. Technology is not her friend. The reality is that technology isn’t good for any of us.

And what are standard objectives? These are the regular ongoing responsibilities that you have in addition to your goal. Our standard objectives have stayed the same over the years for the most part, but we realized that we needed to add family adventures as an ongoing responsibility, not just something to do when it is convenient. It’s never convenient, but our family needs this fun time together!

So our standard objectives are:

  • Budget
  • Education
  • Faith
  • Fitness
  • Love
  • Family Adventures
  • Doug and Emily Time
  • Kindness

These are the guideposts that I measure all of the requests and opportunities against. I have to remind myself all the time, if the request/opportunity/commitment isn’t in line with our standard or defining objectives, then it isn’t in line with our family’s goal. And for this season, I need to say no.

And so I’m saying no, and having to go back and revisit some of my recent responses of Yes. It’s not easy, but my family’s emotional and physical health is more important.

With that, I’m telling you all.. if you haven’t read The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, you need to. There is no kickback for me to suggest it to you. It’s just that good of a book.

Watercolor Painting for Hip Surgery Recovery

I had hip surgery a little over a month ago. Not a replacement.. I’m not that old yet! But the recovery has still been slow and steady with lots and lots of time just laying down and sitting reclined.

After surgery, at home in the CPM machine.

During these very slow days, I found that I LOVE watercolor painting! I had previously watched a few tutorials by Let’s Make Art and had even purchased a few of the kits for my daughters, but I had never taken that time to play with watercolors myself. Well, since I had a lot of time on my hands, I decided to see what I could learn.

And I FELL IN LOVE. 🙂 As an art teacher, I dabble in a lot of things and know the basics of pretty much all of the medias. My knowledge is an inch deep and a mile wide as my goal is to introduce my students to as many different types and styles as possible. In the past, when asked about my favorite media, I have always said printmaking. This is where I am most comfortable and my foundation of experience is about a 1/2 mile deep. But, ask me today, and it’s watercolor. It might change tomorrow as I am truly one of those constantly learning, constantly exploring and constantly pushing back my boundaries kind of person. However, my current obsession is watercolor.

My first Let’s Make Art tutorials were chosen because of the easy outline and the free video explaining all of the steps. The iris video was so easy to follow. I made a couple as thank you cards for people that had sent meals after my surgery. That was fun to be able to give something back. I think I made 8 irises before moving on. I then tried out the cardinal.. and ended up painting probably 10 or more cardinals for friends!

And then came the trucks! Oh wow. So many people wanted the truck with the tree. I think I painted 20 of these! But what I loved was that I could take the information taught in one video and easily apply it to something totally different! For the truck, I found different trucks that I wanted to paint, so I took the instructions and adapted as I went. What was fun is that none looked the same, even when I painted the same truck over and over, each painting was just a little different!

And then it kind of snowballed. I painted eight Christmas Baby Yodas, six VW Bugs with presents and four longhorns.

A dozen flower options….

Five cat and dog paintings.

Two houses

A menagerie of farm animals

And a boat.

And that’s not all! As I finished the semester with my students after spending a couple of weeks at home, I challenged them to try a new art medium and to finish work! Its hard to complain to the teacher about having to finish 10 projects over four months when the teacher has painted more than 50 paintings in a month! 🙂

And because I have enjoyed painting so much, my husband bought me the real Let’s Make Art supplies for Christmas! Previously I was using the Prang pan watercolors that I have in my classroom for art 1 students. Not the best quality paints, but are clearly not bad. However, OH MY. The Dr. Ph. Martin’s paints, the good brushes and the butcher tray palette have rocked my world! I’ve always pushed for my advanced art students to have quality supplies, but I’ve just settled for the lower priced stuff for myself. No more!

Dang, just look at the comparison of colors! The cardinal on the left is with the pan watercolors and the cardinal on the right is with the Dr. Ph. Martin’s watercolors. Same paper.

What’s up next? Well.. I painted this sea turtle for Doug with my new paints and a few friends have asked for one as well, so I guess a few sea turtles. Then I’m on to an abstract landscape and couple of commission pieces.

I’ve loved painting and have truly enjoyed gifting so many pieces of my heart to people. So, I’m going to just keep on painting and learning and playing and creating.

And how is the hip? Well, physical therapy three times a week has me walking around the house without any crutches, so I’m making progress. My goal is to go back to school on Jan 6 without crutches….

And in case anyone is wondering, nope, there is no kickback for me in sharing my new found love of Let’s Make Art! But hey, Sarah Cray, if you want to send me some paints to play with…I’m here for you. 🙂

A Willingness to Learn

I just got home from spending a few days at our Texas art teacher conference. It’s always a great time of learning and connecting with new and old faces.

But this year, I was more aware of an interesting element that impacts our experience and the experience of those around us.

It’s our willingness to learn.

Going to a conference with other professionals in your field makes for interesting dynamics. No matter the content area or profession, every personality is on display. Over the years, I’ve kind of figured out my role within my art teacher profession.

I’m the learner. This means that I’m willing to put my lack of natural ability and my desire to learn on display! Sure it can be unsettling in the midst of a few thousand “real artists” but I’ve decided to embrace who I am and in the process be a bridge for others like me and the new teachers who are intimidated and struggling to find their own role within the group.

This learner role was in full force on Friday morning as I sat in the front row of a session on painting. It was a really good session and the presenter was very knowledgable and easy to follow. He had prepped well and had a great handout. So I just got to work and played with the amazing paints.

I worked quietly and listened to the people behind me. One older gentleman talked loudly about his amazing work and his latest art show and asked the presenter questions designed to elicit complements and awe. Another gentleman was self depreciating. Another felt like we all needed to hear about his students.

I just listened.

Down the row from me a woman started worrying about how messy her work was.

Another was worrying about the size of her fruit.

Another was asking for the original paint as her plate was too small and she had messed up and needed to start over.

I just listened and worked. I got paint on my hands. I used a lot of paper towels. My plate was lopsided and my peach didn’t look like a peach.. but I just kept quiet and kept going.

Then a young teacher behind me made the comment that I’ve learned to listen for. She said she was embarrassed about what she made as everyone else’s looked so much better.

I turned around and held up mine for her to see with my messy hands and all of my used paper towels. I told her that I used to feel exactly like her, that my first couple of years coming I always felt like an imposter.

Then one year I realized that it didn’t matter what others were making. No one else was looking at me waiting to call me out for my less-than peach. I told her that I realized that some people actually planned what they would be making before coming to the conference! That they were so worried about looking good that they predetermined what they would create.

The woman looked a little shocked, but an older teacher down the row from me just started nodding and added in that she was embarrassed about her mess and the quality of her work.

Interestingly, the loudmouth stopped promoting himself and looked over at the young teacher’s painting and complimented her work. And with a smile and look of relief, she finished her painting.

I finished mine as well; gathered up my supplies and headed out with my simple little painting, messy hands and a smile on my face.

Bark: Peace of Mind for Parents

A few months ago a friend of mine with a house full of teenagers told me about BARK, a monitoring tool for parents to help protect their children/teens from online threats and dangerous content.

I was like cool, I’m glad you have that.. but I watch what my kids are doing, I have a content filter on my wifi. I’m good. But we are a busy family and I wasn’t really monitoring their text messages, their emails or their usage. I said I did, and I have really great kids, so I wasn’t too concerned.

But I haven’t been a public school high school teacher for 20 years for nothing! I knew that we needed more protection. So I asked my friend how the Bark monitoring was going and she raved about it.

So I tried it. And the first week trial was a bust. Why? Becuase you have to actually download the software/app and link your kids accounts. And I just didn’t want to have to fight with my teenager about linking her apps and accounts to the Bark dashboard. It looked time consuming and frustrating. So I let that be my reason for not going through with the trial.

Time moved on and my network of teacher friends and social friends kept telling scary stories of their kids on social media and deleted texts. And with that, I was all on board again. My teenager needed a new phone and I just made that the requirement. As long as we are paying for your needs and wants, we will require Bark to protect you.

The initial set up took about 30 minutes for the teen and about 10 minutes for the tween as she doesn’t have the same volume of content.

The first time I got an email stating that a potential issue needed to be reviewed, I was like OH CRAP! (That was day 1.) But I clicked on the link and saw that it wasn’t a thing. My teen and her father had been having a discussion about violence in America and she had googled content. It was a great start! No real issue was at hand, but the conversation was started about me seeing potential threats.

A few days later I got an email about her friends not so nice words being used in text messages. This allowed her to tell her friends that I don’t see content UNLESS it has profanity or inappropriate content. And that I see it whether or not she deletes it.. so just don’t send it!

And what about the tween? Well, she has been flagged for potential bullying. It was her text to her sister!!

Not every conversation has been easy. Some reviews made me stop and question what is allowable on You Tube, for both girls!

So if you are concerned about the content that your children have access to or see, I would highly recommend BARK! We still have our content filtered using Circle and we extensively use the Apple Screen Time tools, but BARK has filled a hole that we didn’t realize wasn’t actually a pothole, but a pathway. We now have a gatekeeper to that pathway and I have peace of mind.

And yep, I love Bark so much that I am now an ambassador for Bark Across America!

The need for monotony

Over the last few months, I’ve been increasingly aware of my need for monotonous tech-free activities like watering the grass, pulling weeds or cleaning the pool. So much of life is run at full speed. It’s loud. It’s fast. It changes at seemingly warp-speed. We are in a constant state of hyper alert.

Cleaning the pool

In contrast, I spent much of my summer doing monotonous activities and could literally feel my body relax and reset in a way that I hadn’t noticed previously. There was something distinctly different about the way I viewed the world, the way I breathed and the way I thought about my body. Instead of being hyper-critical about all things, I stopped. I lived more in grace.

And yes, I know that I was in the blessed time of the year called a teacher’s summer break, but it was different. I wasn’t glued to the computer or phone screen. I wasn’t looking for constant entertainment. I was truly focusing on being present in the moment…. and those moments consisted of a lot of weed-pulling, grass-watering and pool-cleaning moments.

Fast forward to this past week of school and my students complaining about monotonous tasks. They are bored. They don’t know what to do. They want immediate gratification. And it hit me. We don’t know how to handle monotony. Life has changed so much that we don’t know what to do when we are asked to repeat the same activity or motion time and time again without expecting different results or being entertained. Even when we repeat the same game level, we handle it differently, so our brains are still on full alert!

This weekend while I watered the grass and pulled the weeds, I chose to not put in the earbuds and listen to the audible book. I chose not to listen to the latest songs on my play list. I chose to just work and listen to the natural sounds of my environment. And once again, I felt my body relax and reset. The monotony of watering the grass and pulling the weeds allowed my brain to rest and I processed the week.

And now, I’m looking forward to the week with a new since of purpose. I really want to offer monotony to my students! They won’t know what to do! No music? No technology? Nothing.. just a monotonous task? But dang, when was the last time 15-18 year old students were tasked with resetting their minds? When was the last time teenagers were asked to focus on repetition. That’s why they love calligraphy and weaving and melty beads! WOW!! My mind is kind of blown! They desperately need for their hands to be engaged in an activity that is slow and purposeful. Their bodies are craving the opportunity to reset.

So that’s what we are going to do later this week. I’m pumped about it. I’m sure they will love it as much I enjoyed boring tasks as a teenager too. 🙂 I’ll let you know how it goes.

Becoming Dust

The last few years have been full of soul searching, what ifs, why nots and personal growth. During this time I faced countless professional disappointments. Well, not countless, because believe me, I’ve counted them, sorted them, held them tightly, and cried many tears over each and everyone. During this time, I’ve also enjoyed many professional achievements. But those achievements I tended to discount as they were fun or creative or seemingly easy.

I missed the billboard signposts for my life. I missed the flashing warning signs along my path. I missed a lot as I tried to force my way into a career field that was traditional and appropriate. But guess what? I’m not traditional or appropriate. 🙂 I’m creative. I’m bossy. I’m incredibly organized and notice every detail. I get sidetracked by seemingly insignificant things like posters left on walls long past the advertised event or miss-spelled words or glaring grammatical errors. I’m creative 24/7 and truly believe with my entire being that every person that is breathing is and needs to be creative.

With all that said, you would think that I would have figured out that maybe my restrictive path might not be the best option for me. But I can also be really stubborn and goal driven and focused. So quitting before I reached the goal seemed like failure. And I couldn’t face that. I’m not a quitter.

And then I read Present over Perfect. Actually, I listened to it while walking and weeding the flowerbeds. And one day it hit me. That goal that I’d been struggling to reach so desperately… WASN’T MY GOAL! I let someone else’s goal become my goal. I let someone else tell me what they thought I should be and I believed it.

But no more. As Shauna Niequst states in her book, “What I’m finding is that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be, in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.” And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I know that I have to do something that allows me to be creative.

And then if that wasn’t enough for me to say, OK! I started listening to Lysa TerKeurst’s book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way Dang. The timing was God’s timing as I was finally in the right headspace to hear what I’ve known for years. I’m going to have to embrace the dust of disappointment so that I can be remade into something even better.

And as an artist, I totally get the imagery of clay on the pottery wheel. I realized after listening to TerKeurst talk about becoming dust and being remade and how on the wheel a potter doesn’t destroy what is being worked on because of frustration or because something was bad… the potter remakes the piece because he knows it can be better! I kept allowing myself to let the self-destructive thoughts take over and tell me that I wasn’t worthy. Instead of looking at each disappointment as an opportunity to evaluate the path and see where I needed to go next, I allowed the disappointments to become mental whips to remind me that I didn’t deserve the opportunities. I would dissect each interaction, each interview, each no and berate my soul time and time again.

Looking at the mosaics at the British Museum

But finally, I realized something. I am not a broken piece of pottery that has no value. I am a beautiful mosaic. Like the incredible mosaics that I saw in the British Museum, I am beautiful and unique and made up of thousands of colorful pieces. My broken dreams and goals are not trash. These broken pieces of my heart help create the incredibly beautiful me.

And the mosaic of my life isn’t even close to being complete. I’ve really just begun. I have new goals and dreams. And interestingly, just like clay that has been overworked and needs rest before being molded again, that where I find myself. And I can finally acknowledge that. And it’s not just okay, but necessary.

A Trip of a Lifetime

Over the first week of June, Doug and I went to London for our 20th Anniversary trip. It was amazing, wonderful and every sort of adjective that you can think of! We ate incredible food, we visited all of the tourist spots and we walked at least 60 miles.

Traveling with Doug is fun. We get along really well and rarely get cross with each other. After 20 years of marriage, we complement each other perfectly and I don’t take it for granted!

One of the best parts of the trip was our day trip to Grantham and Cambridge. When I was in college, I spent the fall semester of my junior year at Harlaxton College in Grantham, England. That semester taught me how to be a traveler, how to navigate through foreign countries and handle myself in places where English isn’t the primary language. That semester abroad gave me wings for my future.

I’ve always looked to the Fall of 1995 as a special time and I wondered if the reality of Harlaxton would live up to my memories. Well, on Saturday, June 8th I got to take Doug to see Harlaxton. And it was everything I remembered and more.

After spending the morning in Grantham we took a train to Cambridge and joined throngs of tourists walking the streets of Cambridge and gawking at the schools and churches. Cambridge is an incredible city. The highlight of the afternoon was going to Evensong in the Chapel at Kings College. As a couple, Doug and I have spent many, many hours inside churches, but we have never been able to experience something like this together! Even better, because we were quiet, reverent and patient when we entered, we got the absolute best seats!! We sat directly across the aisle from the choir and facing the officiating preacher. It was amazing! The image below is one from the internet as they don’t allow photographs inside the chapel.

Sitting next to Doug and reciting the Lord’s Prayer and participating in other liturgical aspects of the service with him was something that I will cherish always.

The entire trip was really a trip of a lifetime. We did so many incredibly amazing things.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here… Betsy, Greg and Chelsea with Euro Travel Coach made our trip happen. Months and months before the trip I started asking Betsy questions about how to make this trip the best possible trip. After consideration and thought, I went ahead and booked their Custom Itinerary Planning Plus. It was expensive, but OH SO WORTH IT! Euro Travel Coach asked questions, listened and then booked everything for us from the hotel to Wicked tickets to train tickets to numerous meal reservations. I did nothing! It was awesome. For a control freak like me, that was hard to let go, but dang, they took care of every detail of the trip. So if you are considering a vacation in Europe, you should totally check Euro Travel Coach out. (and NOPE, no kickbacks are coming to me for this advertisement!)

At the end of the day, I loved every moment of this trip. The almost 40 hour trip home because of mechanical problems on the airplane can’t even diminish my joy. Here is to hoping that we don’t have to go another 20 before going to see where Doug spent a semester of his college experience! I just hope the Euro Travel Coach has expanded to Brazil by then! 🙂

Pessimistically Hopeful

Pessimistically Hopeful.

That’s what I’m feeling today. About a lot of things, but maybe that is really the way I’m describing my life right now.

I’m pessimistically hopeful because there are potentially some good and great things on the horizon, but when you add the real dose of life experience to that hope, I’m pessimistically hopeful at best.

To start, I’m using these pictures of this spiny cactus to remind myself that sometimes life emerges from the unexpected and thought dead. You see, we bought this spiny cactus last summer at a farmer’s market and it lived in its plastic container for almost a year sitting on the edge of the flowerbed, not planted..it was forgotten although I walked by it at least once a day and regularly thought we should plant it.. but I didn’t. Through the winter and into the spring it looked dead. I figured the couple of hard freezes had gotten during the winter must have killed it.

Finally, a few weeks ago, Doug planted it in our front bed. It was listless and couldn’t remain upright without a support. Doug put the old decorative fence piece next to it and let it lean on it. A few of the sections fell off immediately and it looked sad. Dead.

But it wasn’t.

The rain, the sun and nutrients from the ground has brought it to life. The once sad looking plant is beautiful and healthy and bringing forth amazing flowers.

And so, I’m reminding myself that sometimes life does actually deliver on the potential and possibilities. I know that sounds incredibly jaded and sad. But dang, the last decade has had some really tough lessons and lingering issues were the answers were never given and the dreams and goals never reached.

But today, I’m enjoying the beauty of the flowers and praying for that same gift for Maddie’s feet.

Yesterday we met with a new doctor, Maddie’s 31st specialist. We were never actually suppossed to see him. It was an incredibly strange set of events that got us to this Neurologist over five hours away. He was kind, and interested. He was caring and deliberate. And more than anything, he listened, he looked and he took his time. In fact, the appointment was at 10am and he spent an hour talking with us and then asked if we could come back at 2pm for testing. We did and after another almost hour of working with Maddie he gave us hope.

Maddie has been wearing AFO braces on both feet for almost a year after spending much of the previous year wearing walking boots on one or both feet when one day her feet just stopped working.

She has had every test imaginable and all come back normal. There has been no explainable reason for her feet not working. But Dr. Martin yesterday said, there is ALWAYS a reason, we just have to find it.

And he might have.

So Maddie will start physical therapy and has a plan and a goal.

More than that, we left hopeful and not defeated. Over the last dozen years, we have left defeated, disheartened and discouraged time after time from specialists. We either left with no hope or were treated dismissively as Maddie is a “complicated case.”

But yesterday, we were treated with care and dignity.

And so, I’m pessimistically hopeful.

I pray with my entire being that just like the cactus that has flowers blooming despite everything, Maddie will return to college in the fall being able to regular shoes some of the time and will eventually be free from the AFO braces. I pray that her body will grow strong. I pray that she will continue to bloom, just like she always has, despite the struggles that are put in her path.

What I learned from having my students create a service project for Law Enforcement Week

When one of my friends, the wife of a law enforcement officer, asked if I would be interested in having my students create something for officers to help celebrate National Law Enforcement Officer week, I said sure.

I had no clue what to make and didn’t know how my students would react to me throwing another project at them this late in the school year, but I figured, why not. It’s art class.. we can punt. Hallelujah, we don’t have the dadgum STAAR test to so we can take a few days and work on a service project instead of curriculum.

So we did. I went and bought 8×10 canvas panels and washi tape and started cutting out the names of the officers with my vinyl cutter. I made a sample and showed my students what to do and we got to work.

And here is what I learned.

My student’s cared. A couple cared because they had dads and other family members serving the community as law enforcement officers. But in general my students cared because these officers had made an impact on their lives.

I heard stories that would make you stop and reevaluate everything you think you know about officers and teenagers. I heard stories of compassion in times of trouble, in times of grief and in times of stupidity. Students asked to specifically work on a number of the officers plaques because they had been to their house and had helped them during crisis.

I heard stories of faithfulness and sacrifice.

I watched my students blossom by taking 45 minutes out of their day for a week to focus on doing something nice for someone else. They questioned why we couldn’t do projects like this for all of our civil servants. They smiled more. They were more considerate.

In the end, my students made 80+ plaques for our local law enforcement officers. These signs aren’t perfect. In fact, some are not even close to “good.” But every sign was made with heart and every plaque was signed by a well meaning student with a personalized note.

When we handed off the plaques to the local police and sheriff’s department deputies it was with excitement and a little trepidation. What if they didn’t like them?!

But they did. 🙂

I have to say, the work was worth it. My students may not be the best at drawing 50 stars cleanly and evenly… but they have learned so much about being good citizens and that is worth all of the leaking paint pens and clogged white gel pens in the world!