Milestone Achieved.

A week ago today I became a Ph.D.

I’m still wrapping my head around this accomplishment.

Me wearing a PHinisheD shirt.

Most people only know and see the confident me. This is the curated me.

The reality is that confidence is hard-won and a learned behavior. Deep down, I’m still the insecure kid who struggled to read, made a C in art in 2nd grade, spent time in tutorials and “special” classes in 3rd-5th grade, and was basically told I was pretty, but dumb in 9th grade Algebra.

And today, I’m Dr. McLemore with a 4.0 in graduate school.

My dissertation examines the leadership style of Texas high school theatre directors and the impact their leadership style has on production success. It’s the first study of its kind.

The study proved what I already knew from lived experience… the leadership style of directors impacts productions. I have been privileged to work with some amazing directors over the years. Some of the directors were autocratic leaders, some were laissez-faire, and some were love first, and lead second. But my experience in theatre has shaped me.

In the next chapter of my life, I want to help directors understand how their leadership style impacts their productions. I’m still mulling over how this will translate into a job. The reality may be that it is just a side passion. But now that I know, how can I ignore it?

Making Progress and Making New Goals

Me sitting by my pool smiling at the camera

I’m the kind of person that
could drive you nuts.

I get that. I try to tame my crazy as much as possible for the outside world. 🙂 But I can’t help it. There are just so many things I need TO DO!

I have BIG Dreams and Big Plans. I am all kinds of EXTRA, and at 48, I’ve learned that if you don’t like my brand of extra, that is okay, move along.

But I’m not going to hide it anymore. And more than that, I will not apologize for it anymore.

What a relief. I’m permitting myself just to be me.

So anyway. With the work on my Ph.D. winding down and my brain working on what is next, I’ve been reflecting and considering the next steps. The next achievement. (This is when my amazing husband, Doug, starts sweating a little.)


But let me take a minute and explain something about creative achievers like myself. It isn’t necessarily about beating you; it’s about doing something challenging and proving that we can do it. It’s about paving the way, finding something new, mastering it, and then finding another thing and starting the process over. It can overwhelm people created to be more stable in their interests and pursuits.


So here I am, ready for the next challenge. I’m not sure what exactly that means for my career. Right now, I’m finishing the last chapter of my dissertation while the rest of it sits at Quality Control. Then my dissertation committee members 2 and 3 will require edits and additions. I’ll do those and then defend! Such exciting times.

I’m also working full time and teaching 6 hours this fall. That puts me at a 150% load (which Doug said was about right for me…).

All that to say, it’s time to start planning the next challenge. I think I’m ready to shift back into running goals. After the last few years of research and writing, I need a physical challenge to shake the dust off.

I downloaded a training plan for running a faster 1/2 marathon.

I start tomorrow.

And for you parents out there with Creative Achievers..

Give your kids something to accomplish. Make it hard, but make it attainable.

Here are some things that I have loved:

  • Legos and building sets.
  • Puzzles. Progressively harder with more pieces.
  • Rubik’s Cube. Teach them that it isn’t a mystery, but an algorithm to learn and use.
  • Physics challenges. Like building paper bridges and egg drops.
  • Physical challenges. Running, plank hold, burpees, swimming. Anything that is timed and an individual time/number to beat.

Why am I saying this now? Because if you don’t give us something to focus on, to fix, to figure out.. we will DRIVE you crazy. I get up at 4:30am to run, so that I can be worn out before I go to work. I know myself. But it has taken a lot of years to get to this point.

In the in-betweens and finding myself in the wildflowers

The In-Betweens

I’m sitting in the in-betweens. It’s not an easy place for me. I like strategy and goals and things to accomplish. The in-betweens is really hard. It’s an important place to sit and ponder, but by no means is it a comfortable place for me.

What is the in-betweens for me? It’s that messy middle where things seem to plod along like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed but isn’t outright defying you. This child makes a 5-minute process take 2 hours and everyone is in misery for it. Well, that’s my mental state right now. Life is the toddler and I’m in misery and just want to go to bed.

Why? Well…

I’m writing my dissertation for my Ph.D. Chapters 1-3 are complete and turned in. But I can’t move on to Chapter 4 until I get my data collected. I can’t do anything but wait.

I’m waiting for responses to my survey. If any of the world out there reads this and is a current or former Texas high school UIL One-Act play director, I DESPERATELY need your feedback.

Here is the link to the form.

Image of Consent and link
Image of Consent and link
Image of Consent and link
Image of Consent and link

Finding Myself in the Wildflowers

I have always loved wildflowers. I love the scrappy flowers that come up between cracks in the pavement. I love the flowers that bloom despite being forgotten. I love the thorny, prickly, rough around the-edges flowers that live in pastures and on the side of the road.

This is how I see myself. I’ve never been polished, nor do I expect to be so. I’ve always felt a little too this or too that or too something else. I realize that we all feel that way. I’m just willing to say it out loud.

Anyway, our team at work is doing a book study called “What I wish I knew before becoming an instructional designer” by Dr. Luke Hobson. As part of the study, we created our visual journey of how we arrived at the team. The artwork below is my representation. I wrote my story that went with it, but for the sake of this post, I’ll spare you. 🙂

Bottom line, I’m holding wildflowers that I have gathered along the way. Different flowers represent different points in my life. As do the clouds, water, and valley in the background.

So there you have it. I’m living and learning within the in-betweens.

I can’t wait to get those survey results in and move forward.

My focus for 2022

I miss blogging. I miss journalling my thoughts and getting feedback on them. But at this point in my life, it’s just not a realistic expectation for myself.

Maybe in June 2023. Why then? Because I am on track to graduate with my PhD in May of 2023. But I have to write my dissertation first!

So while I may want to blog, I’m taking that expectation off of my list this year. And it’s a relief.

But for those of you out in the online world interested, here is my vision/focus board for the year.

I can’t wait to report back.. at some point.. on the adventures.

Emily

Don’t Give Up On Yourself

Over the years, I’ve realized that one of my best traits is that I don’t give up. I don’t give up on others, and I don’t give up on myself. I don’t expect things to be easy or fast. Instead, I keep on at it. If slow and steady wins the race, then I will be right there in front of the pack when the finish line comes in sight.

Me in a bathing suit on the beach.

As the early days of June have already slipped by and my Facebook memories show me that I didn’t do my almost annual “this is where I am at” update, I figure it is time. Just so I can see next year where I was this year! So here it is.

I’m still a work in progress. I don’t expect to stop working on healthy eating choices, keeping active, and finding balance in life. I’m quite happy that I can say that I’m mentally and physically in a better place this June than last June.

From June 2020 to today, I logged just over 700 miles of activity. This is low for me, but I’m getting my sea legs back. I’ve learned over the last year and a half that I can’t run two days back to back anymore and that walking on non-running days still helps me mentally prepare for the day, so I need to just get out there and do it!

One of the things I am most proud of is that today, June 9, 2021 I ran 3.5 miles at a 10:48 pace. I have STRUGGLED to get back to under eleven minutes a mile. I like to beat myself up for not being able to run consistent ten minute miles anymore. I have to remind myself that I’m older, have had more than a handful of stress fractures in my left foot and have had left hip surgery. I am human. But giving myself grace has never been my strong suit.

Anyway.

My prayer for this next calendar year is to embrace where I am more freely.

I want to log 1000 miles of activity. I need to add cycling and rowing back into my workouts. I’m hopeful to be able to swim laps in the near future. I enjoy all types of activity. I just need to do them!

And as for food. It’s a constant battle. I gain and lose the same ten (or 20 pounds) over and over again. But I’m not giving up. I would rather fight the same pounds than give up and start a new fight. 🙂

The difference this June is that I don’t have a target weight. My goals have changed from a certain number on the scale to feeling comfortable in my skin. I want to eat well so that I feel well.

I also want to be able to wear the clothes that I own and like the way I look in them. That was a huge motivator for me back in January when I realized that I had allowed Dr. Pepper and fast food to once again begin the takeover of my closet and hips. No more.

Well.. the Dr. Pepper is a current battle. I went for a decade without one. Then in June of 2019, I had one and the addiction came back strong. I kept it at bay with a soda just here and there for months. Then it became a couple a week, and then it was like hell, we are living through a pandemic, just drink the Dr. Pepper if it makes you happy.

And so, now I’m back to having to reframe my mind about sodas again.

UGH.

Finally, if you weren’t around in 2012 when I decided that my health and state of mind had to be priorities, here is a glimpse into the last almost decade of Emily.

That is pretty motivating to me.

I can’t wait to see what June 2022 brings.

Do you frustrate, participate or initiate?

what type of person are you?

What type of person are you?
When change is needed, do you frustrate, participate or initiate?


Today as I was taking care of an issue that needed to be addressed, I had a realization that there are a ton of small things that I take care of daily just because they need to get done. Some things are mundane household things, some items are work-related, and some are quality of life issues.


But it hit me. I don’t think “most” people take the initiative to make changes.

And so I’ve been pondering. Why do I initiate changes when others find their place in participating in transition and others even in frustrating the process of change. I’m not throwing stones at those that hinder the process. I know that I need people to say. WAIT. Have you thought this through? Have you figured out if this will work? Do you know what the cost is?

I have to say that I often give a side-ways glance at the potential pitfalls, but I’m a gung-ho, let’s move ahead kind of person. You know, the kind of person that initiates things. 🙂

I’d be interested in knowing where your sweet spot is and why.

Parenting the Twice Exceptional: Finding our way in an autistic, gifted, and learning disabled world

Parenting is complicated no matter the ability, disability, or ‘normal.’ After almost 21 years of parenting, I feel like I can say that with some authority. But this post isn’t about how well we have done; this post is a little woe is me and a lot of brain dumping as I need a place to process, and there doesn’t seem to be much for parents in a world like mine. It’s sad because I know there have to be many parents raising children like my girls, but there are so few resources and no tangible help.

To begin, I have always known that my girls were on the spectrum. I taught public school for almost 25 years and taught every age, stage, and development level. It didn’t matter that the schools didn’t recognize their uniqueness. My husband, Doug, and I did, and we managed. The schools did recognize the girl’s giftedness, almost immediately, but would not acknowledge their disabilities. It wasn’t a surprise. The girls functioned at school and passed their classes, and seemed fine. In parent/teacher meetings, their unique abilities were always dismissed as “quirky” or some other cute descriptor.

And so we were always at an impasse. What we saw (and see) at home and what we knew to be true has been a different world than what was on display at school and what the teachers were trained to see. And let me be clear, I do not fault the teachers at all. Unless you are a special education teacher, you do not have autism and learning disabilities training beyond the “big ones” like Dyslexia. Even then, it is a crapshoot at best. But what has bugged me the absolute most over the last couple of decades is that since the educational system itself does not know what to do with twice-exceptional (2e or 2E) kids, they ignore their needs and pretend like there isn’t an educational obligation to reach these kids. 

But there is one. If the goal of education is that all students work at their ability, then ignoring the needs of twice-exceptional students is a failure. The safeguards for special education students are ignored for twice-exceptional kids; worse, twice-exceptional kids like mine can’t even get an authentic evaluation! Instead of offering evaluation and services, we have been told time after time that our girls didn’t need anything (since they passed the state grade level tests at the highest level..) and that we needed to adjust our expectations. We have literally had to threaten legal action to get 504 evaluations and meetings, even though we had documented medical expert advice.

So what do we do? 

We walk on a tightrope covered in eggshells buffeted by swirling winds. Okay, I’m dramatic. But dang, I am tired. Every day is different. As a medical mama for almost 21 years, I know that life. I learned early what Maddie’s medical signals were and knew how to fight, when to step in, why she was struggling, and where to take her for help. But understanding the world of autism and learning disabilities, autism and anxiety, autism and ADHD, autism and depression, to put it mildly, is different. One of the best blogs on 2E kids I’ve read discusses how twice-exceptional kids are developmentally asynchronous. This is the absolute truth. Asynchronous development means that intellectual development is at one place while the social-emotional level is at another place. The greater the disparity, the harder it is to find a balanced approach to life (and parenting)! 

My youngest daughter, Kylie who is eleven is a great example of this. In kindergarten she was tested for the gifted program. She scored one of the highest scores the district had seen for her age. But she refused to participate in any game, circle or classroom group activity whenever possible. She learned to read at some point before pre-k, (I don’t know when, has she always read?), has a memory in the 99th percentile, but she has a slow processing speed and a disability in math. From an educational standpoint, when I pushed to have her evaluated for autism, I was told that since she was passing all of her classes and wasn’t a discipline problem, there wasn’t a need. When I took the test results in and demanded that she have a 504 because the math homework load was causing nightly meltdowns, screaming fits and horrible evenings, the math teacher was shocked. She “seemed to be fine in class.”

And that is our greatest struggle.

Just because the world sees a child/teenager that seems to be fine, doesn’t mean that is the reality. What we have learned in the last couple of decades is that when kids like ours feel so deeply and process everything in such detail, that they have to have a chance for it to come out at night. And guess what? That means the parents get the junk. I am so thankful that we are a safe place for our girls to process life with, but I’m tired.

picture of my family

I’m not writing this for your sympathy or trying to sound like a martyr. Raising our girls is an amazing experience, a joy, and a privilege. But it is hard. And 95% of that hard is never seen.

So a glimpse into our world. 

Obsessions have included:

  • A three year fixation on the Fibonacci sequence, hand written in a notebook out to the quadrillions.. or maybe it was the septillions.
  • Reading and AR points, earning over 100 in a single six weeks (in 3rd grade!)
  • Building things out of hot glue and cardboard
  • Money. The counting, the saving, the considering, the wondering… on and on. But no real understanding of how money works.
  • Television series, movies made by the same actress, movies in the same genre

Refusals have included:

  • Will not attend anything without mom/dad/sisters there, will not stay at an event without said family, will not spend the night anywhere without said family
  • Took a zero on AR for a grading period because she didn’t want to test on a book that she had read 
  • Would not complete a project because it would come with a public award
  • Will not take a class that would enjoy because others might see/know
  • Will not participate in a group activity.. but refuses one on one lessons as well

Daily issues have included:

  • Autoimmune disease and autoinflammatory responses
  • Food sensitivity/allergies
  • Extreme, yet inconsistent, food aversions and limited meal options
  • Textures, noise and stimulation
  • Shredding paper
  • Not having an awareness of bodily needs such as being hungry or needing to use the restroom
  • Crippling anxiety

And these are the easy and simple things.

I don’t wish for my girls to be any different than they are. I love them, their quirks, their passions and their ideals. But along the way, if anyone could have welcomed us into this crazy twice exceptional.. okay THRICE exceptional world, it would have been nice. Autism Spectrum Disorder is not so unheard of these days, but most diagnosis information is based on how ASD presents in boys. Therefore, our twice (thrice) exceptional girls are rare!

Research articles should you be interested in reading more:

You saw me (and my day 3 art project)

This morning I read Psalm 139. It wasn’t the first time I’ve read it, but this morning it hit me differently than it had in the past. I won’t paste all of it here for you, but here is the link to The Passion Translation for anyone that might need a pick me up or feel compelled to read it.

But here is the portion that just STAYED IN MY HEAD today.. from verse 16.

You saw who you created me to be

before I became me!

When I read this, I just couldn’t help but think of all of my students, my family and my friends that have struggled with their identities. Whether it was simply a “personality crisis” or a larger identity issue.

I thought of my friends who have fought for space to be the person that they KNEW they were created to be. I thought of all of my students over the years who yearned for a safe place to be different.

To put it simply. I read this and I hurt for all of my LGBTQIA+ friends that didn’t feel like they were seen. That questioned why they were born. That questioned why they were here.

All I can say is that friend, GOD knew WHO you would be BEFORE he created you!

So for those that have questioned their value, their worth and their space, I am saying I am so sorry for the hurt that has been caused to you by church, by Christians and by religious people. Those words and that were spewed at you are NOT OF GOD.

Because God knew who you were going to be and created you, not in spite of who you are, but because of who you are. At least that’s my stance and this is my blog so I get to take it. 🙂

Anyway, this is what has been percolating in my head all day. Then one of my friends tagged in me in an art making video and it felt like a perfect thing to try today to continue on my #100dayproject goal.

And I tried it. With not great success, but I had fun. I’m going to keep working on it. My problem is that I have good quality watercolors and acrylics, not cheap craft paints. So tomorrow I’m going to go get the cheap paints and try again!

But here are my paintings for the day. I tried first with watercolors. I love the vibrancy of the liquid watercolors, but they pooled too much. Then, the acrylics were too think. So I put down some gel medium and that helped, but it left blank spots on the canvas.

The favorite pieces were the striped pieces created from the leftover pulled paint on the squeege.

But I have to say, my “Group Hug” painting is rather cool.

I can’t wait to try this again.

So whoever you are, reading this out in blog land… remember that BEFORE you were created, you were KNOWN and WANTED.

Release: Day 1 of my 100 Day Project

One of my friends shared with me about the #100dayproject over in social media land. I looked it up and thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to push myself to just play and create without big projects or big goals. The big goal will be to create for a few minutes a day for 100 days.

That in and of itself is a pretty ambitious goal!

Above pictured is my day 1.

I put RELEASE inside the center of half a flower flower because I need to be reminded that I have to let go if I’m going to grow. I find myself becoming more rigid and more controlled when life is uncertain. I expect too much from myself and others. So the hands open, ready to catch, but not clasping onto the lower remind me to keep open and be ready. I chose to put the green beams coming from the center of the piece so that I can focus on growth coming from good. And finally, I put the pink border on the piece because life doesn’t’ need to be predictable. Life needs color and fun and spontaneity.

Check back soon to see some of my creations.. and find me on social media and if you haven’t seen a post in a few days, call me out. I need the accountability.

Pecan Pie Memories

In 2004, a mutual fund company sent Doug a pecan pie for Christmas. I never liked pecan pie.. until this pie. My mother-in-law, Ruth, was staying with us as we had a new baby and she and I devoured the pie and then for months I made pies and we taste tested them to see if we could make one as good or better than the one that was sent.

Eventually, I did create an amazing pecan pie recipe and over the years, I would make the pie for her for special occasions. In fact, before she got to a place where she wasn’t physically able, she would gather, sort and crack pecans and then I would make the pies with the fresh pecans.

I bet we each gained twenty pounds due to those pies over the years.

We never did get another one of those pies. Until this year. Opening the box was bittersweet.

The pecan pie in the wooden box it is sent in.
A picture of the pecan pie.

Ruth died in the fall of 2019 and since I had hip surgery the week before Thanksgiving last year, the holidays passed without me making pecan pies. Opening the plastic on the pie was nostalgic. Ruth and I had a strained relationship at times… she could be difficult. But over the years we did things together and built traditions.

And so, I ate a piece of that pie in memory of Ruth.

And since I had already bought the ingredients and planned on doing so.. I made one too.

My pecan pie

And I’ll enjoy eating it too.

And then I’ll run, cause that is a lot of really bad calories. But man it tastes good. 🙂

Here is my recipe if anyone would like it.

Enjoy. And Happy Thanksgiving.