Finding My Peace

For years I thought that in order to share my passion for life, art and creative things I had to make everything “Good Enough”.. in other words.. Perfect. I knew that perfection wasn’t attainable, but I struggled to make things as perfect as possible. My head would not allow my heart’s creative efforts to flourish because I couldn’t move beyond the mindset that my work wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t talented enough. I just wasn’t…. enough.

Pink Peony Flower

But I realized that the only way my children, and my students for that matter, would learn to share their work, their passions, and enjoy creative pursuits would be to see me sharing my life and my creative effort as well.

So finally at age 45, I came to an understanding that while my personality type drives perfection and reward, I do not have to be defined by that. More, I determined to no longer live in that trap. I decided that I would rather have peace than perfection.

That’s why I started sharing my paintings last year. Do I think they are perfect, nope. Do I see every flaw, every mistake, every missed opportunity. YES. But I am choosing to move beyond the never ending quest for perfection and am instead enjoying the process.

Purple Flower

It’s hard. Every. Single. Time. There is something so incredibly personal about putting artwork out for public consumption. It’s weird. I’ve given speeches and preached sermons, presented at conferences and workshops, and have published articles about art and teaching, but none of those things feel as personal and defining as my music compositions, my playwriting, and my artwork.

And that is why the creative process is magical. When we go through the creative process, we leave something of ourselves in the work. In doing so, we have to come to a point where we say that just as we are, we are good enough. And that is hard. But when we come to that point, it is oh, so freeing.

And that is why I share my work. It’s my coming to terms with the fact that my work will never “be good enough.” After almost 25 years in education, and a lifetime in the arts, I have a firm grasp on the fact that I am not a natural talent. But I have so much drive and desire and a willingness to learn! And maybe that is the real lesson in the art.

I don’t have to be perfect, or a natural talent. In the grand scheme of life, most of us aren’t that slim percentage of natural talent. I just have to want to create, be willing to learn and more than that, be willing to fail as I find my wings. I know it’s trite. But you know, that’s kind of where I am these days. Letting go of the pursuit of perfection has allowed me to find my wings, my voice, and most importantly, my peace.

Global Competence

Global Competence is not a topic that I have spent much time pondering over the last 40 or so years.

Thankfully, I grew up in an environment where different cultures were embraced and often people who didn’t look like me or speak the same language as my family would come for meals or spend a few days in our home. As an adult, I’ve lived in a number of different places and have very much enjoyed learning about different groups of people. My sisters have adopted children from different cultures, countries, and backgrounds and our family is better for the differences. As our family has grown, so has our mosaic.

huichol string art

But as a teacher, I don’t know that I have done a very good job teaching with a global mindset. So much of what I had to do on a daily basis was to teach a set of skills. If the skill and culture collided, I used it. As an art teacher, I loved teaching about the Huichol Indians. As a theatre teacher, I love teaching about 6 forms of Japanese theatre. But I’m asking myself now, how can I do better?

Why now? Well, in my new job as an Instructional Designer for a Tarleton State University, I have had the opportunity to jump into my new environment and start learning! This past week I attended a virtual conference for Non-Land-Grant Agriculture and Renewable Resources Universities. (#NARRU) I didn’t have to, but I wanted to. My personality type is to read, ask, research and learn! So I attended and wow. I may not have had a clue about a lot of what they said, but what I did get, I’m ready to use.

The first day’s professional development portion was over inclusion. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think back on students that I have had over the last 20 years that desperately needed someone to advocate for them. I advocated for them the best that I knew how, and I’m proud of my efforts, but my heart aches for all of the missed opportunities.

Here are a few takeaways from Dr. Shannon Archibeque-Engle and Dr. Antomia Farrell

  • If we want to break barriers, and have real conversations, we need to have small targeted groups that encourage participation. No one wants to be the one person that talks. No one wants to be the one singled out. No one wants to be the “poster child. “
  • Inclusion happens with engagement, transparency and truth telling.
  • Dispel myths.
  • Recruitment isn’t the answer, retention is.

So, I’m taking these ideas and thinking of my personal life and our experience. I have to say, those four ideas hit home. But that was really just a start. The drumming in my head began as a soft tap and with day two of the conference, it became a loud thump.

Day 2 was about Global Learning.

Dr. Melanie Miller Foster taught about Global Learning and shared with us the Four Domains of Global Competence.

4 domains of global competence

As someone that is determined that her children will grow up to view the world as a large mosaic, full of needed colors and textures and patterns, I was intrigued by the four domains. While yes, I want my children to be travelers, I want them to be more than just takers. I want them to take action!

If future leaders, teachers and politicians have the chance to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment, recognize that their viewpoint is not the only perspective in the world, can communicate with people that are from different backgrounds, cultures and speak different languages, and then will to take action to better the world.. man, I want to be a part of that movement!

And so where do we start? Well, thankfully, Dr. Miller Foster gave a framework for that as well. We don’t have to send our children (or ourselves) across the world without preparation. She suggests a stair step approach.

  1. Awareness
  2. At Home
  3. Community
  4. Away (not local, but not out of the country)
  5. Abroad (across a border…)

Why is this important? Because only 42% of Americans have passports and of that 42% I wonder how many have used their passport for more than just tourism in well curated places? I’ve traveled some, have been to a number of different countries, and have experienced a semester in a study abroad program.. but I would count myself in the group that still need to focus on awareness and learn at home!

I live in a community that has layered diversity hidden in the whiteness. I so want to broaden my world and that of my children. So I’m going to start looking, and learning, and advocating for inclusive practices in my community. And then I’m going to start looking a little further out and increase my circle so that eventually my family will be ready to cross a border for more than an all-inclusive beach front vacay.

And that’s my prayer for all of us.

our incredible family mosaic

good things

It’s an interesting conundrum.. when life is good, it’s hard to sit down and write/blog about it. But when life is hard, it is soo very easy to let it pour out. Well, 2020 has been a weird year, for all of us, but for me personally it has been a really good year, and that makes it hard to write about as I know so many people are suffering.

But this is my diary to the world and so, let me catch you up on a few of the good things in our life.

My Family on Mother’s Day 2020
Doug and me on a rare night away from home.
  1. Doug’s company, McLemore Financial Group has held its own during this crazy time. Like all families that own businesses, the first few weeks of the pandemic along with the stock market volatility had us ready to panic. But Doug is really good at what he does and all has been well. I’d love to say more, but I haven’t a clue.. he does his thing and I just appreciate it immensely. 🙂

    One really cool things that he has done during this time is to transition to working from home a couple of days a week. It’s been good for all of us and he has been able to get out and walk more and find time to relax and write.

2. I heard God.

Photo of my feet on January 18th: quote says Walking in Faith Means continuing forward without a predetermined route. you have the destination in mind, just don't have a map.
Jan 18th

In January, I heard God. I know it’s weird. But I did, and I have spent the last 10 months relishing the voice of God in my life in a way that was altogether new and different.

I have always believed in God and would say that I have a strong faith. Over the years even when nothing seemed to work out, when life was beyond difficult and miracles were desperately needed yet nothing would happen, I still believed. Through it all, I believed that God was there and would show up.. in His time. Well, in January, God broke through and showed up mightily in our life. The miracles that God brought about were amazing and truly the “only God” kind. Since those early January days, I have walked in anticipation of what God will do each day and have asked God continually to fall fresh on me and to fill me with the His peace. I have had so much fun journaling and sharing personally with others about the presence of God.

3. Kylie and Lexi changed schools and both are THRIVING! Hallelujah. You know, it’s really hard to change things when you are so invested in something. Taking the girls out of the school district that we had been a part of for more than 20 years was difficult. SISD was great for Maddie. She had her group and it was a good fit. But it was never a good fit for Lexi and Kylie was starting to struggle within the system as well. So after years of discussion, in July, we finally decided that with the COVID closures and all of the uncertainty of the fall schedule, that this would be the right time.

Kylie and Lexi

And oh, how right we were. Kylie is going to a small private school in town (White Horse Christian Academy) and Lexi is attending an online high school (James Madison High School).The environments are polar opposites from each other, but exactly the right fit for each child. We knew the girls weren’t doing well the last couple of years in the previous school system, but watching Lexi come back to life is heartbreaking, and thrilling, at the same time. Both are being challenged academically, yet have more free time than before. Kylie’s comment was pretty blunt. She asked, after the first week at her new school, while having a late Friday morning breakfast since her school doesn’t have class on Fridays… “why is it that good schools have shorter days and more time off, and bad schools have longer days and have to go more days?” I didn’t have a child-friendly answer

4. I changed jobs!

My grinning headshot.

After years of hurt, disappointment and dead-ends, I came to terms with the fact that promotions and career opportunities outside of the art classroom were not going to be tied to the school district that I had served for so long. I prayed continuously about my desire to lead and organize. I asked God to remove my passion for planning and improvement beyond the classroom setting, if I wasn’t going to be given an opportunity to use my gifts.

It was a hurt that was bone deep.

Then, as July was coming to a close and the anxiety of being thrust into a face to face teaching scenario in the midst of the pandemic had our family scrambling and looking at family medical leave paperwork, God opened the most unexpected door.

Out of the blue, Tarleton State University was looking to hire Instructional Designers. It was a shock. The university had just faced a reorganization and had been forced to layoff employees due to COVID. Things were in a state of change, and yet, Instructional Designers were needed. I applied and was interviewed almost immediately. I was hired and was able to walk away from teaching high school the day before I was to return to the campus full-time. This was a miracle. And everyday I am grateful and thankful. The very gifts that made me “too much” in my old environment are now being used on a daily basis. Four years ago I prayed that God would change me. He didn’t. You see, I was told by the top administrator that in order to be a leader in the district, I had to be.. and I quote “more doe-eyed and to stop having good ideas.” But God made me with a personality that asks questions and a thirst for brainstorming and coming up with creative solutions. So while the path has been arduous to get here, I am so incredibly thankful. Every single day, over the last almost two months now, I have been challenged to ask the questions, to brainstorm for ways to do things and given the autonomy to fix the issues that I find. No longer am I made to feel like I am “too much.” After more than twenty years in education, I have finally found home.

And that’s the recap for the big stuff.

But what about Maddie? Maddie is doing great! She is thriving in college and learning to navigate the world of complicated medical issues and adulthood. Her resiliency is amazing and her strength inspiring.

But in case you think it’s all been easy…

In March, Kylie broke both arms in a tumble from trying to carry her bike down some concrete stairs… and Lexi spent January-March having kidney stones, surgery and stents and then shingles!

Thankfully, those days are behind us.

In the days ahead, I am hoping to blog again. Transitions are always hard, even great ones.

My goal for the next couple of months for myself is to start painting again. And this time, with no expectation, and a less critical eye.