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.

There is a seat at my table for you

Watercolor Tree Painting

Over the last few months life has been shook up. It started with a rattle and then the quake began. If you had asked me back in December what 2020 would be like, I would have never guessed this. But the reality is that none of us would have foretold our spring to look like it did.

And for our family, while we have had some tough bouts, we have weathered the storms really well. I don’t say that lightly as I know there are so many out there who have lost family members and friends, who have lost livelihoods, who have lost faith.

I feel incredibly privileged that during these last few months I have been able to be at home with my family. We have been tucked away in our safe little boat while the storm has raged around us.

But being safe in our boat has not blinded us to the plight of others. If anything, we are more aware of those around us that don’t have any boat at all. And it’s because of that knowledge that I can’t just sit on the deck of my boat and tan myself and pretend that things are just going to get better.

As a teacher, I struggled through the spring trying to connect with students. So much of what I do as an art teacher on a daily basis is emotional. It’s connections. It’s face to face feedback and prodding and pushing students outside of their comfort zones. Many people think that teaching art is just lots of “fun” while we “just cut paper and color.” The reality is that much of what I do is forcing students to look at life from a different perspective. It’s challenging students to rethink everything they have been taught to believe about life and color and situations and draw/reflect on actual observation, not what they “think they see.”

Not having real interactions with students for the last 12 weeks of the spring semester left me feeling off and out of touch as I could see from the glimpse of their faces on zoom meetings that my students were struggling and hurting.

And these struggles and hurts didn’t just go away when they turned in their last assignment and called the school year over. Over the last few weeks I’ve seen students voice hurts and fears and frustrations. And I don’t have any platitudes. I don’t have any answers.

I’ve been listening.

I’ve been learning.

I’ve been loving.

That’s all I can do. As a teacher, I am struggling right now trying to figure out my place, my voice, and my role in not just the Black Lives Matter movement but the Pride movement as well. I live in a community that is staunchly conservative and quite vocally Republican. I am listening for words of affirmation, love and support for BLM and Pride, but the silence is deafening. And I am broken because of it.

So here is my promise to my students, my family, my community:

There is a seat at my table for you.
Not just any seat, but a reserved seat of honor with your name on the card.

There is seat at my table for you.
Whether you are privileged or under-privileged.
Whether you are white or a person of color.
Whether you are straight or LGBTQIA+.
Whether you are liberal or conservative.

No matter the label.
No matter how much space you take up physically, emotionally or mentally.
No matter if you bring a dish to share or come empty handed.

There is a place for you.

You are wanted.
You are valuable.
You are loved.


I know that in the past I have been too busy getting things done and focused on the next contest or goal. But I promise you this.

No more.

From this day forward, your heart, your peace, and your life are my priority.

With much love,

Emily

Here is a time lapse of the watercolor tree painting seen above. I was going to draw the tree, but I found this amazing cut file on Etsy and bought it as it was perfect. May you remember that we need all of the colors on the color wheel to fully enjoy life.

Time lapse tree stencil painting

My Manifesto in Response to Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle

This post is going to seem odd or a little “out there” if you haven’t read Untamed by Glennon Doyle or Fierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker.. but that’s okay. Maybe my real and raw manifesto might encourage you to go read these books!

First, let me say that these are my words inspired by these books, but I would have never put my thoughts in such a real and hardcore philosophy without each of these authors first showing the way. I journal and over the years in blog posts, I have spoken these truths in fits and spurts, but I’ve never felt challenged to uncage my thoughts, emotions and dreams in one complete essay.

Until Now.

Don’t you love my skirt and shoes from Velvet Twelve!

So while I don’t imagine that Glennon nor Jen will ever see this post (a girl can dream.. and if I’m throwing out dreams, can I add Rachel Hollis to this too….) I want to say how much their work inspires me. And not just the books that prompted this manifesto, but each of their bodies of work. And really, so many other women writers. Brene’ Brown, Lysa TerKeurst, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jamie Wright, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, Shauna Niequist and others. These ten women authors have helped me to find my voice in a world that seems to reward women for keeping quiet.

And yes, I know that some of you immediately laughed at the idea of me keeping quiet. I’m not loud, but I’ve always spoken up about injustice or have a compelling truth that needs to be said. It makes people uncomfortable, so I have learned to soften the words with smiles and deferential actions. To lessen who I am so that others aren’t offended or feel offensive.

Dang.

But no more. I have decided that I am worthy of acceptance and love. I have been created for a purpose and I believe after much soul searching that my role is that of a truth-teller. I am still learning how to speak truths in a more loving way, but I refuse to keep my personality and gifts caged because it makes others uncomfortable.

Okay, I’ve gone off on a tangent…. back to my manifesto…

But first… here are more pictures from my “modeling shoot” with my girls. Lexi and Kylie did their best to get me in decent poses… I’m a pretty pathetic model. But we laughed a lot. My skirt and shoes are animal print… because I am a CHEETAH and I refuse to be tamed. (Go read Glennon’s book…)

And finally… the manifesto.

I am like the wind. There are seasons where I am a gentle breeze, going along with life and just waiting for my chance to do my work. At other times, I am a gale force wind, blowing hard, juggling dozens of deadlines and furiously pushing others to do their part. I am wired this way. It may seem like I am all or nothing, but really it’s my core value of refusing to be stagnant and wanting to learn something new everyday that keeps me changing my speed and direction. With age, I am learning to find the balance in a gentle breeze and a turbulent wind. I am exactly enough the way God made me. The world needs my gentleness and my strength, my new ideas and my take charge attitude.

I am strong in my body and my fierce determination has given me the ability to run marathons, compete in triathlons and birth children. I have not been kind to my body. I have starved it. I’ve punished it with exercise. I have hated it. I have loathed the sight of my thighs since 6th grade. But I’m learning. My body is strong enough to blaze new trails, to climb mountains, to fight off failure, despair, and even worse, complacency.  I’m learning to love her. Slowly. I still don’t like a lot of her qualities,  but I’m learning that she is kind and faithful and worthy. Just as she is.

What I need are opportunities to use my strengths, my collaborative gifts and my voice of truth. I deserve goodness and to be treated fairly and without dismissiveness. I need the chance to see my dreams validated and my attention to detail honored. I need help learning how to advocate for myself in a way that doesn’t dismiss the ability of others. I need more connection with parents of children the same age of youngest daughter as she need friends and I need community.

What I want is to be needed and acknowledged. I dream of using my gift of organizing people and things on a larger scale than simply my home and classroom! I want to chose my yes and not feel stuck, stagnant, or forgotten. I want my voice of truth to be not just allowed, but a desired commodity.

I believe is that God is listening and I hope with all that is within me He has a purpose for the gifts that He has given me; and that this purpose has a path towards my dreams. I believe in spiritual curiosity and want to learn more about predestination and freewill. I believe in equality, that all lives matter.  But that the only way all lives matter, is if the freedom of those oppressed and targeted is fought for by those who take those freedoms for granted. I believe in creating safe spaces for teenagers to question everything about themselves, their identity, and their orientation.

I connect with others through service. I enjoy getting to know others while we serve side by side and hand in hand. I want to connect with honesty. I want to  ask difficult questions and learn from others authentic answers. I want to be offered that same space. I want to connect without drama, pretense, or expectations. I want to value my connection to others and know that others value me.

At the end of my life, I want to be able to point to countless moments of connection, service and creative thought. I want to finish my days knowing that I spent it all, and all that is left is a light breeze of remembrance.

A few good reads.. or listens..

Along with sewing filter pocket face masks, I’ve been listening to some amazing books on Audible during our Shelter-In-Place. I love reading. I am a reader. But, over the last few years, I’ve realized that I’m not reading as much as I wanted because I’m just TIRED at night and my eyes are getting old. So a couple of years ago I started listening to books while I worked in the yard, went on walks and did menial tasks around the house.

It’s amazing really. I don’t mind cleaning or folding laundry when listening to a book. These are mindless chores that are irritants normally, but when listening to a book, it’s perfect. I get a chore completed and I didn’t even realize I got it done!

So I wanted to share some of my “reads” from the last 6 weeks. These are in chronological order from most current.. not necessarily in order of favorite.

My current book: Fierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker. My sister and I were discussing this book today. Simultaneously we stated that it was like coming home.

Fierce Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker

I just finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle.. but let me say, if you are a southern christian woman.. no matter how liberal or radical you might “think” you are… you should probably read the books in order. Start with Carry On Warrior, then read Love Warrior and finish off with Untamed. I don’t think you should just drop into Untamed. Don’t get me wrong, Untamed is amazing. As my sister and I discussed today, we needed to read it. We needed to see the story unfold and be challenged. But unlike Jen’s coming home, Glennon is as my sister said.. a unicorn in the field across the way that we enjoy looking at and watching and learning from. Wow.. what a recommendation. It’s a good book. But it’s hard! The chapter on gay “choice” was transformational for me as a person, a mom and a teacher. I will be forever a better person because of the work that Doyle put into that chapter. And dang, the chapter on white privilege and race. wow. You just have to read it and wrestle.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
by Rachel Held Evans

This book was amazing! If you grew up southern fundamental christian and you have had “issues” with some of the stuff that has been spewed at you from church, THIS BOOK is amazing. It’s healing. It’s hope.

Accidental Saints
by Naida Bolz-Weber

I’m not sure what to say about this one. I guess it would be a warning to those who have issues with profanity. The spiritual journey in this is incredible and I loved the book.. but Nadia isn’t a southern belle….

The Very Worst Missionary
By Jamie Wright

Another really good book about the reality of living life as a follower of Jesus. Lots of profanity here too. But I can’t blame her. I would cuss too if experienced some of the things she had. oh. my.

Sacred Rest
by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

This one is good for those of us tired, depleted and struggling. Dr. Dalton-Smith walks us through the process of finding out what is stealing all of our energy and how we can replenish ourselves.

And if you have already read or listened to all of these, let me know. I’ll send you some of my other recent reads!

Filter Pocket Face Masks

A couple of weeks ago, with the world in seemingly chaos due to COVID-19, I started making Filter Pocket Face Masks for frontline, essential workers. My parents, children and husband quickly joined my efforts and we have made close to 300 and have provided hopefully at least a little protection for doctors, nurses, police officers, therapists, homeless center workers, childcare workers and countless others.

After the first 100, my mom changed up the original pattern that we were given to make it more streamlined and faster to produce. This helped a lot. Then over the last few days, I’ve tweaked the pattern into something that we can do faster and more efficiently.

I’m sharing what I have come up with here, for the simple purpose of sharing for anyone that wants to make masks. This pattern is much simpler than the one I was given when we started, so hopefully those of you out there that have a sewing machine but are scared to try, will try it out!

I’m not saying that the pattern that I have adapted will help filter any better than anything else out there. But I do know that at least the filter pocket allows for changing the filter papers for hopefully better filtration of particles. We have been using MERV 13 grade air conditioner filters, but with the new article out about the blue shop towels being even better, that would be a great alternative to the expensive air filters.

Finally, please don’t blast me with all kinds of data, expectations or instructions on how these could be better. If you know how to do a better job, DO IT. We are all in this together. We want people safe. So please, once again. Stay home if you are not an essential worker, and if you have to be out wear a mask!

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. 🙂