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.

4th November Spotlight: Color Street

This is an unsolicited product review. I’m not getting anything in return for this post. I just want to support my friends Sara and Tametha who sell Color Street. I just love this product that much.

I haven’t had pretty nails in years. Lots and Lots of years. As a mom and teacher, there wasn’t time or money for a lot of years.. and then for the last twelve years I taught art..and spending money on pretty nails made no sense at all as they would last less than a day.

But with my new job came an opportunity to have pretty nails, and in perfect timing, one of my friends invited me to her Color Street party. I’d heard about these little gems before, but had never tried them. So when Sara told me about them, I thought hmm.. I’ll get them a try. And I fell in love!!

I absolutely love that there isn’t any dry time! I love that there are lots of choices and that they last for a couple of weeks. Even cooler, one package is between $11 and $14 and I can get between two and three manicures out of one package! And Kylie’s little fingers can get like 6! It’s pretty fun.

I liked them so much, I thought I’d host a party… but then another one of my friends Tametha, signed up to sell as well! So instead of having a party, I just buy from both friends.

So if you haven’t heard of Color Street, you should give them a try. It’s crazy. The strips are really nail polish.. just like 90% dry and you put them on like stickers and tada, you have painted nails. You can even mix and match the colors.

Today I put on “Night Terror” on my fingers, “Baton Rougey” on my toes and Kylie put on “Rustworthy” on her fingers.

We have a little stash and enjoy the variety, but my wish list is long! .

Aren’t these cute! Yep, these are on my wishlist. Oh and one more thing… Buy 3, Get 1 Free. Oh yes.

https://www.colorstreet.com/sassynailswithsaranicole

https://www.colorstreet.com/tambarke

3rd November Spotlight: Seint

Let me start by saying that I’ve tried lots of different brands of makeup. I’ve always been a cheapo when it comes to makeup, but when I turned 40 a few-ish years ago, I decided that it was time to be an adult and buy more than just drugstore makeup.

So I did.
And I’ve tried what feels like every brand.

I have SUPER sensitive dry skin, so much of what I’ve tried I’ve ended up sharing with my children.

I have friends that sell many types, styles and formularies. I’m not saying any of their brands are bad or inferior or anything like that… I’m just saying that I’ve found my brand of makeup. (I still use Young Living face cleaner and moisturizer though…) anyway.. If you need a recommendation for MaryKay, Beauty Counter, Young Living, and others, let me know and I’ll send you my squad links.

But for today, let me tell you about Seint. Until like last week it was called Maskara, but they rebranded themselves recently.

I’ve watched one of my friends sell Seint (https://purpleumbrella.seintofficial.com/en) for the last however long and thought it was interesting, but looked like a lot of work. Then one night I watched her facebook live… and yes my friends, that is why all of these direct sales women do facebook live videos.. and thought, I can do that.

So I got matched. How do you get matched?

Well, you take a picture of yourself with no makeup on in natural light and send it to your person. It wasn’t hard.

My person, Tara, sent me back this photo with a makeup template that includes where the colors go and the name of my matches for Contour, Highlight, Lip and Cheek, and Illuminator.

I have to say, looking at the image is a little intimidating for someone that isn’t into makeup!

After contemplating it for a few weeks, I finally purchased a few of the products. Well, enough to get a free compact. (Cause who doesn’t love FREE stuff.)

And I FELL IN LOVE.

It is so easy to use, forgiving and feels great.

And my face is happy.

So I ordered some for Lexi for her 16th birthday!

One of the things I like most about this product is the ease of use and the affordable price. Compared to many products that I’ve tried this is down right “cheap” and a little goes a long way.

And there you have it. If you are looking for a new product to try, give Tara a shout. The link is above, but I’ll post it here again. https://purpleumbrella.seintofficial.com/en She doesn’t know that I did this and there is no kickback to me. I just appreciate the products and want to support another mom.

November Spotlight: Women Run Businesses

I decided that for the month of November, I am going to spotlight some of the women in my life that run businesses or have “side gigs” that have made an impact on my life. Why? Because yesterday (10/31) as I was getting ready for the day I realized that most of the items that I use on a daily basis come from women run businesses and I want to support them!

The following November posts will NOT be paid ads. I’m not going to give them a shout out if I don’t use or have the product. I’m not even seeking the women out ahead of time and telling them that I’m doing this. However, if any of these awesome ladies have discount codes they want to share, I’ll post them.

So here we go. I think this will be fun!

The first shout out goes to my daughter Maddie and Young Living. When Maddie went to college, she took with her all of her health issues and struggles. Yes, duh. Of course she did. But instead of allowing chronic illness and a body that is at war everyday to define her experience; she thrived. Truly, against all odds, she was healthier away at college, living in a dorm that she had ever been. And I attribute a lot of it to her finding Young Living that first fall and signing up as a monthly member. In doing so, she made a commitment to her health and opened our world to the “Ditch and Switch” mindset. That first year we became “oily” and friend of a friend, Angela and her Essentially Sage Advice mentored our journey as I quickly became a member and fell in love with the all natural products.

My Top Pick: Thieves

If you haven’t ever tried Thieves, you are missing out. There is a lot of research about its cleansing abilities and you can look into that if interested. Some of the Thieves products I use are: the hand sanitizer, the hand soap, the fruit and veggie wash, the detergents, the cough drops, and the oil.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the mix of Clove, Orange and Thieves. Well, really, I love Thieves mixed with any citrus, but these 3 are my go to smell around the house for fall.

Bottom line.. Thieves makes everything better.

Young Living Diffuser with Clove, Thieves and Orange Oils

And there you have it. I never imaged that my house would be filled with oils and oily products. But we are all in over here. If you have any questions, let me know. I can get you in touch with Maddie or Angela. I have not regretted a single purchase and am committed to my Essential Rewards Membership as my family has benefitted from it beyond my wildest dreams.

Check back in a couple of days for my next November Spotlight.

Pessimistically Hopeful

Pessimistically Hopeful.

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he might have.

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

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

But yesterday, we were treated with care and dignity.

And so, I’m pessimistically hopeful.

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

Rebuking the Lie

I am 44 years old and I have lived most of my life thinking that I am fat. The reality is that I’m not. Yes, I need to lose 15 pounds. But I’m fit. I’m healthy. I’m strong. I’ve been these things most of my life.

But the reality and the mind are not necessarily friends.

This weekend while sitting and talking with one of my sisters, she told us the story of rebuking a lie about herself and her parenting that had taken hold in her head. Last fall an incredibly mean-spirited person called her some ugly names and said she was a bad mom. She is NOT a bad mom. She is an INCREDIBLE mom. She is so thoughtful and consistent in her parenting. Even though she is still early in the parenting journey, I listen and learn from her all the time. The reality is that the person who said ugly things about her, didn’t know her and knew nothing about her parenting.. but the seed was planted and she realized that she had to rebuke the lie and claim freedom and grace and strength in the fact that she is a GOOD mom.

I listened to the story and was outraged and ready to go fight this nameless person. I was so mad on my sister’s behalf.

Last night after we got home and I was getting ready for bed, I realized that I have been struggling for YEARS with a lie that took hold in my head and has paralyzed me. Everyday when I look in the mirror and consider my food choices, in the back of my mind a little voice has said, “what does it matter, you are just a fat a** anyway..”  I was shocked. I realized for the first time in probably 30 years what was happening to me.

So this morning, I decided to do some research and look for physical proof that I have been a fat a** all of my life.

Here is what I found. I was not fat.

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Out of 44 years, I have three years where I was overweight and one year where I was very heavy. During the 2010-2012 years I had a very sick child where I took her to the doctor over fifty times each of those years… and I had a baby in 2009.  In June 2012 I realized what was happening and took control of my health.

To anyone else, I would have called out that lie that they were saying about themselves. I would have preached grace.

But for myself, I believed the lie.

So today, I am rebuking the lie that I was told so many years ago. Oh the power I gave someone else’s words. The careless words of others have wounded me daily for years.

And no more.

I am not fat.

Today I am embracing freedom and grace.

Today I am claiming my mental and emotional health back.

Today I am standing on the promise that I am created in God’s perfect image and that I am STRONG. I am HEALTHY. I am FIT!

Today, I rebuke the lie that I have allowed define me for all of these years.

No more.

Momma wasn’t ready to go from Walking Boots to AFO braces

IMG_3463If you have been around here much, you know that my sweet daughter Maddie has faced 18 years of health struggles, mysterious symptoms and daily pain. Her strength and grace in the midst of chronic health problems simply amaze me.

The past year has been no different. In fact, if anything, she has been more resilient and more determined that her limitations would not hold back her dreams.

She graduated a month ago from high school, 23rd out of 216 in her class. She crossed the stage wearing walking boots on both feet because of a spontaneous bilateral foot drop.

Since that time she has been to three different specialists, has had nerve testing and has had body scans completed.. and there is no medical reason for her feet to not work. The only explanation is that this must be a side effect of her auto-immune disease. And because there is no nerve damage and no “reason” for this manifestation, there is no prognosis or timeline for recovery. Her first episode with a foot drop was back in November and it just affected one foot. This episode took out the other foot and set back the first foot that had been recovering. The only link.. she was in a flare of her kidney disease.

So here we are in Texas and it was 105 degrees today. Neither of her feet work to be able to walk without support and they aren’t getting better. The walking boots are bearable if you don’t have to wear them all the time, and if you know its just for a few weeks… but not if there is no end in sight.

Today we went to the Hanger Clinic and Maddie was fitted for AFO braces. This was real. And IT. HURT.  It hurt because we had to acknowledge that we don’t know when/if she will get better. Every night I tell her that maybe she will wake up tomorrow and her feet will work. But we have to make realistic decisions and choices.

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Maddie chose the Noodle AFO brace as we were able to take it home today. She can get custom ones later if we see that she will need them.  These braces are carbon fiber and will allow her to have more mobility.

She walked around in them and then we paid our portion of the bill.. Dang. These things are expensive…

The specialist that helped us was fantastic and she went to college at Texas Women’s were Maddie will start in the fall, so that was nice as she had first hand knowledge about the terrain that Maddie will walk.

From there we went to Fort Worth Running Company for shoes. I hated to go there as Maddie can’t run and has never been able to run. But I get my shoes fitted there and I knew that they would treat her with respect and courtesy.  And she was! Oh my! The salesman worked with Maddie and did a phenomenal job. When he finished I commented that he hadn’t expected something like this when he got to work today and his reply was that in his previous job he helped fit orthopedic footwear! What an incredible gift to us today. He had no idea the level of stress and heartache we were feeling.. instead he focused on Maddie and making sure that she felt stable and comfortable.

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As we left the store, I couldn’t help but notice her steps and her legs. I’m so thankful that she has these horrible braces. But I am so very mad that she has these horrible braces. I ache for her.

Maddie’s entire life has been about keeping her well and away from germs. I’m used to questions about her kidney disease, her immune system, her chronic pain. But I wasn’t prepared for mobility issues. None of us were, but I guess we should have been given that she has been in physical therapy on and off since she was 8.

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There you have it. This beautiful young woman is strong and is going to do incredible things one day. She is a bright and shining example of all that is good in this generation. Despite all the crap that life throws at her, she smiles, survives and loves others.

If nothing else, I am praying that the AFO braces in all of there “realness” will give the sense that Maddie’s struggles are real and long-term. Lots of people wear walking boots for a short period of time.. but no one wants AFO braces.  For someone that has lived with an invisible illness for 18 years, this is like turning a spotlight on her life.

And for all of you out there, I have one request.. PLEASE STOP asking her about her feet. Please help me cut off the random stranger in the parking lot that practically runs us down to ask what happened to her feet. Please help me stop workers (and even hospital workers!) from asking how she broke both feet. Please help me stop uncaring and uninformed people from asking callous questions and making hurtful comments. This experience has shown us that adults are significantly ruder than children and that the self-importance of people knows no bounds.

We leave for Disney World in just under a week. She will use a scooter as she has in the past…

I’m so glad she has the braces for the trip.

I’m so sad that she has the braces for the trip.

My heart was not ready to go from walking boots to AFO braces.

Graduation

Graduation has come and gone and with it, Maddie completed her high school journey. There were many times over the last twelve years that I wondered if we would make it to this point.. but we did.

Watching Maddie graduate was wonderful, yet like every other accomplishment in her life, it was not without a struggle. Maddie has been wearing two walking boots for about a month now and these boots, while worn for protection and the ability to walk “normally,” are not easy to navigate ramps and uneven ground in.

But Maddie does just that.

I am so proud of her. It’s hard to not get weepy when I consider her struggles and her accomplishments. Many would use the daily pains and hurts as excuses to not leave the house, but Maddie perseveres and refuses to give up.

Maddie’s educational journey is really just beginning. She wants to be a music therapist, so that means two degrees, an internship, and a board certification. I know that she is going to do incredible things and be a difference maker for children who face physical and/or cognitive struggles.

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So for those of us out there who get frustrated when life doesn’t meet our expectations, I ask you to remember those like Maddie who face daily struggles of chronic pain, chronic illness, rare diseases and complex and often undiagnosed problems.

Since Maddie can get up each day with a smile, a song in her heart and the desire to reach her goals, surely we can join her in that journey!

Educators Need To Do Hard Things

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!

handstand

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!

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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.

Yesterday you were a child, Today an adult..

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Photo by Derek Dodson

Maddie turned 18 this week. Of course I knew this was coming.. but I still wasn’t ready. We have been working on college scholarships and planning graduation events, but somewhere along the way I forgot that with graduation and college, my “little” girl was going to become an adult.

Unlike many parents, I’m not worried about Maddie being a responsible adult. Maddie has been responsible pretty much her entire life. And it’s not that I can’t let go.. I will and am..

But here is the deal.

For 18 years I have spent pretty much every breath that I have in me protecting Maddie’s health. I have spent thousands of hours in doctor’s offices, in waiting rooms and researching diseases and cures when the specialists didn’t even know what to do or how to treat her.

And then, starting at 12:01am on Maddie’s birthday, I started getting the emails.

“You have been unlinked to Maddie’s account”

“This email has been removed from the account”

“You have been removed from this account”

over

and

over.

I have been removed and unlinked from Maddie’s life.

There aren’t even words to describe how that feels. Maddie didn’t choose to unlink or remove me. An automated system that just the day before wouldn’t allow Maddie to make a single decision for herself now requires her to make all of the decisions and excludes me from even seeing her account!

It hurt.

But more than that, it scared me.

I wasn’t ready and I hadn’t downloaded all of Maddie’s files. I realize now that I should have been more proactive, but dang.. just living in the trenches is hard enough. Someone should have warned me! That automated system should have sent me an email 30 days prior saying that unless Maddie authorized it, I would be removed from her accounts.

For those of you out there that have never had the struggles that come with having a child with 13 different diagnosis codes and almost a dozen different specialists, I’m sure you think I’m overreacting. Just hang with me a moment…

This week along with Maddie’s birthday, she has had some ongoing and new health issues. She saw her primary doctor who did blood work and is working to get in to see two of her specialists next week. Both specialists will need to see the results of the blood work. None of these three doctors work together or are part of the same network. My job for the last 18 years is to be the manager and provide all of the paperwork and logistics for each of the various doctors. Now it’s Maddie’s responsibility. A responsibility that Maddie will take the lead on, but truly wasn’t ready to take on. As she said, when the doctor’s office calls with results from the blood work, she isn’t even going to know what they are talking about! And Maddie is an educated patient!

I can’t help but be a little terrified.

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