I’m in a new season, one I have never been in before. It’s strange, and fun, and weird, and freeing. I didn’t make 2023 goals. I don’t have a list of things I have to complete. I don’t have a burning passion to accomplish anything. I am in such a different and new place that I’d be concerned that I’m depressed. But I’m not. I’m reflecting and learning. I’m leaning into a season of peace.
Why? Well, the easy answer is that I have my Ph.D. Why not? My body, soul, and spirit needed rest. But I have accomplished a lot of other big things in my life and I have never felt like this before. I really think, this is the first time I have ever allowed myself to stop and consider what is coming in the next season. I’m not rushing head long into it. I’m not looking for an escape from this one. I’m just acknowledging that fact that this is a time to enjoy where I am.
But this doesn’t come naturally to me. I have an amazing coach/counselor who helps me process life, work, and goals. We came up with a list of activities for me to focus on over the next few months while I embrace this season of reflection. Well, really, in my head, it is a season of restoration of my creativity while also storing up my energy for the next season, whatever that season will be.
So what are the activities?
Spending time with family and friends
Watching Kylie play sports
Enjoying the last few months of Lexi’s senior year
Doing fun things
Running without a pace goal
Going on walks with my friends
Eating yummy food without feeling guilty
Putting together puzzles
And maybe even writing something nontechnical
And how am I doing so far? Well, I hand painted around 30 Christmas cards. I painted quite a few new little paintings for friends for gifts. I run with my friends three or four days a week and my mileage is way behind theirs. (And it only bothers me every other day when I think about it. But it doesn’t bother me enough to start training with a goal in mind, so there is that.) And I got to cheer on Kylie while her volleyball team won a championship at a tournament this week.
So I think pretty good! Here are a few of my recent paintings. Clearly I like painting flowers.
Andrea McDonald has been a friend of mine for I guess almost 17 years. She’s one of those dynamos that conquers anything she decides to do. I chose her for a shoutout because she has an amazing photography business that she built from the ground up.. and then decided to start a side-gig as well!
So first I have to say, if you live within a couple of hours of Fort Worth/Dallas and need amazing photos, you should use Andrea. The pics that she has taken of my family are incredible. Her business is called Rooted in Love Photography. The url is rootedinlovephoto.com
These are of our family in 2016. Wow. I’m going to have to start saving for some new family pics. The investment is .Worth. it.
But these days I’m all about her hair product business! A few years ago, Andrea started using and promoting Monat hair products. I joined her facebook group and have watched her hair transform. Well, I last month, I decided that my hair had to have help. So I messaged Andrea and got started.
I can’t wait to see how amazing my hair is going to look in a year!
To answer your question. Yes, the products are expensive. But you only use a tiny bit at a time. And here is the biggest thing besides my hair looks SO MUCH BETTER… I don’t have to wash my hair all the time anymore. For the first time in my life, I can go 3 or 4 days between washings and even bigger, I don’t have to wash my hair after running! OMG. Not washing my hair and blow drying it and flat ironing it every morning is huge!
So there you have it. If you need photographs or great hair products, give Andrea a shout. Have a great week!
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.
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.
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 bodyand 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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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!
For the last few years I’ve been working hard on my professional goals and trying to advance my career in public education. I’ve done everything “by the book.” I’ve done the course work. I’ve passed the tests. I’ve done absolutely everything that I can do, even so far as having my research published in an educational administrative journal. And I’ve hit the wall over and over again.
Each time I’ve hit the wall, I’ve reevaluated. I’ve asked myself hard questions and I’ve learned important lessons.
But this weekend, after soul-searching after yet another difficult wall, I realized that I’m going after my goals in a traditional approach.. the accepted approach… the textbook approach.
And you know what?
The textbook approach has NEVER worked for me.
My dad has often laughingly said that I created my own degree plans in college and created my own jobs. And you know what? I have. Why? Because I had to in order to survive.
But during the last few years, with a good job and some, what I thought were attainable goals, I forgot that I don’t fit the box that others want. I gave absolutely everything I had to doing what was expected, traditional and allowed.
And I found that not only does that not work for me, I didn’t get the promotions that I worked so hard for. And I really want to give up.
But I’m not.
I didn’t learn to finally read fluently in fourth grade for nothing!
Traditional approaches to education didn’t work for me as a child. My path to reading and basic math was HARD and I have the elementary report cards to prove it. The four C’s I got in second grade on the second marking period were disappointing. Staying in at recess in third grade so that I could figure out math problems wasn’t fun. Having to read into a tape recorder at night and play it back and listen to myself read the words wasn’t easy. But I did it. And I learned to read and I passed my math classes.
Everyday I could have given up. But I didn’t. My brand of gifted (remembering pretty much every room I’ve ever been in, including the orientation of the bed compared the window for every room I’ve slept in for the last 40 years..) doesn’t make the standard list of gifted and talent attributes.
What I learned is that I have to fight for myself and be willing to take the path full of rocks. The path full of rocks is often lonely, its tough and you are destined to get scrapped up along the way. But it is worth it, because the view from the peak is incredible.
So that’s what I am going to do.
I’m setting out on my own path. It’s not a path of manicured grass with a pretty pond. It’s a path of rocks and I’m going to conquer it.
As an educator, it is important to remind myself that learning new things and mastering new skills isn’t always easy. I think educators and those in the business of education often found learning to be easy.. and so we forget that for some, learning is HARD.
So for the third time, I’ve selected the month of May to be my month of hard things… in the form of my Handstand Challenge.
Why? Because handstands are HARD. Because handstands force you out of your comfort zone and require not only that you trust your hands and shoulders to hold you up, but require you to balance and hold your core tight at the same time. In essence, handstands require physical effort and mental strength.
I also really enjoy watching my progress over the month. It fits my grit mindset of 20 times to learn it, 200 to master it. So over the course of a month, I’ve captured my learning process over 20 times (31 to be exact) and I’ve done more than 200 handstands because with every up there are 5 to 10 failures. By the end of the month, I haven’t mastered handstands, but I’ve made a lot of progress!
And interestingly, each year I start from a stronger place. Just like the educational foundation that we hope students have as they are given new content; my handstands are significantly better than last years handstands when you look at the data (date and photo). Even better, when you go back three years, the progress is quite impressive. In 2015, my day 1 handstand was up against the wall outside of my house. I remember clearly being scared that I would fall, that I would slip, that I would break something!
But even braced against the wall, I was so proud of the fact that I DID IT!
Moving to 2018, my day 1 handstand this year was in the middle of my living room with no wall to brace me, no helper to stabilize me and no pillow to catch me should I fall. The difference this time was that while I knew the handstand would be ugly, I knew I could do it. In fact, my Day 1-8 handstands are all pretty awesome in my opinion.. even though they only last a second or two!
Isn’t that what we want for our students? Yes, some learning and some processes are ugly, but students NEED to know that they can do hard things! Progress needs to be celebrated and efforts acknowledged.
When was the last time a student was asked to CHOOSE something outside of their comfort zone that would be hard and then given the tools to accomplish it? And I’m not talking about passing the STAAR (state mandated test) test.. but a student-driven academic goal.
So as I look out at my classroom and watch 150 students pass through my door each day, I tell them about my handstand challenge. I invite them to follow my progress on instagram.. not so that they can make fun of me.. some will no matter what… but so that they can see adults in their lives doing hard things.. things that aren’t in their comfort zone.. things that don’t come easy. Because maybe, just maybe, some of these students will remember my sad attempts at handstands when they are in the midst of their own handstand struggles in life and keep going.
Waiting is hard. We all know that. It’s especially difficult when the waiting is personal. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a chance to be an educational leader for twenty years. The reality is that I haven’t been waiting “that” long, it’s just hard when I know that I have so much to offer and my skills aren’t being utilized equal to my potential.
Nevertheless, I’ve been adding to my education and my resume. I may not be an administrator yet, but I’ve completed my Superintendency certificate.
I’ve also written another play and have a research article accepted for publication.
One of my friends recently posted a question on her social media feed that I have been pondering.. “How long do you knock on a door before you accept that it is closed?”
I have to say, I can’t help but wonder if the same applies to me. By no means am I going to give up my dream to be a leader. I don’t have to… I AM A LEADER. But the reality might be that being an educational leader might have me leading and serving in an area that I didn’t plan or expect.
And isn’t that the sum of life. So much of our life happens in the waiting. I can chose to be bitter about the fact that the “fast-track” to administration has never included me. Instead, I’m choosing to learn more, reinvent myself and ultimately, I will be a stronger leader.
How often do we choose to live in the land of the wishy washy choice so that we don’t have to go all in on something? I know that I do it. And I’m an “all in” personality.. Big time! But there are areas of my life that I need to be reminded to “go big or go home.”
Over the last two days, I had the privilege to work with a number of high school one act play casts from the surrounding area as they prepare for competition. During this time, I found myself repeating quite a few concepts over and over to each cast. One of those was to make concrete choices and get rid of the wishy washy decisions. It is early in their production cycle, so many of the notes I gave were quite useable (I hope!) as they have time to truly process what I said and then choose to use my thoughts or ignore them.
This got me thinking about decision making it in terms of real life. I personally love making a decision and then going headfirst into a new adventure. I know that scares some. It invigorates me! My problem typically isn’t starting, it’s finishing. Nevertheless, there are a number of areas in my life where I need to reevaluate my choices.
There have been times that I have chosen to go headfirst down a wishy washy path purposefully forsaking the definitive choice. Sadly, I see that and realize that the window for the definitive choice has passed me by in some areas. Knowing this, I desperately want to stop, and take the advice of business man, Brian Buffini:
“While there is a time to think about a solution, reflect on it and gather feedback from others, there comes a time when you have to forget about input from other people. Be confident in your choices, and stick by them.”
I’ve even attached a 1 minute clip of Buffini’s if you are interested. Warning: he says d*mn a few times in the short clip…