I get that. I try to tame my crazy as much as possible for the outside world. 🙂 But I can’t help it. There are just so many things I need TO DO!
I have BIG Dreams and Big Plans. I am all kinds of EXTRA, and at 48, I’ve learned that if you don’t like my brand of extra, that is okay, move along.
But I’m not going to hide it anymore. And more than that, I will not apologize for it anymore.
What a relief. I’m permitting myself just to be me.
So anyway. With the work on my Ph.D. winding down and my brain working on what is next, I’ve been reflecting and considering the next steps. The next achievement. (This is when my amazing husband, Doug, starts sweating a little.)
But let me take a minute and explain something about creative achievers like myself. It isn’t necessarily about beating you; it’s about doing something challenging and proving that we can do it. It’s about paving the way, finding something new, mastering it, and then finding another thing and starting the process over. It can overwhelm people created to be more stable in their interests and pursuits.
So here I am, ready for the next challenge. I’m not sure what exactly that means for my career. Right now, I’m finishing the last chapter of my dissertation while the rest of it sits at Quality Control. Then my dissertation committee members 2 and 3 will require edits and additions. I’ll do those and then defend! Such exciting times.
I’m also working full time and teaching 6 hours this fall. That puts me at a 150% load (which Doug said was about right for me…).
All that to say, it’s time to start planning the next challenge. I think I’m ready to shift back into running goals. After the last few years of research and writing, I need a physical challenge to shake the dust off.
I downloaded a training plan for running a faster 1/2 marathon.
I start tomorrow.
And for you parents out there with Creative Achievers..
Give your kids something to accomplish. Make it hard, but make it attainable.
Here are some things that I have loved:
Legos and building sets.
Puzzles. Progressively harder with more pieces.
Rubik’s Cube. Teach them that it isn’t a mystery, but an algorithm to learn and use.
Physics challenges. Like building paper bridges and egg drops.
Physical challenges. Running, plank hold, burpees, swimming. Anything that is timed and an individual time/number to beat.
Why am I saying this now? Because if you don’t give us something to focus on, to fix, to figure out.. we will DRIVE you crazy. I get up at 4:30am to run, so that I can be worn out before I go to work. I know myself. But it has taken a lot of years to get to this point.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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! 🙂
A couple of weeks ago we took Maddie to college. It was truly the hardest thing I have ever done. Yes, she was ready. Yes, we knew it was coming. But still, it was harder than I imagined. Maybe because she is our first. Maybe because she has so many health challenges. But no matter, it was not easy.
Here she is at Texas Woman’s University. She moved in a day before the rest of the dorm because we had to thoroughly clean her room and we knew that with twenty floors of students moving in all at once, Maddie would not be able to navigate through the crowds nor have a place to park!
When we got upstairs to her room, there was a comedy of errors as the leadership was using her room for training (you know, since no one was moving in yet..) But they quickly cleared out and bonus for us, they now knew that she was there!
Maddie’s room is on the 4th floor and the view is incredible! I’m so thankful that she has big windows and looks out onto a green space and the chapel.
We cleaned and shopped and decorated her room. Every once in a while I’d just have to stop and take a deep breath. With every placement of a picture or decorative item, I knew we were one step closer to leaving.
Maddie requested that we not cry at the dorm. So, we went out for ice cream before we left. Smart? Maybe. Or Big mistake. I’m not sure.
We really did okay.. until Kylie realized that it was time to go. Watching your baby say goodbye to her sister. Dang. That was brutal.
And then Maddie had to turn and walk away in one direction and we turned and walked in the other direction to the car. I felt like my heart was being ripped out. No, I’m not being dramatic. It was that hard.
Doug drove home and I cried. I wanted to turn around and go back for her. But we didn’t.
Maddie is doing great and making friends. So far, her health is good. My prayer is that she gets truly settled in school and has bonded with her professors before her first relapse. Not seeing her everyday is hard. I can’t look at her face and see how her body is holding up. I can’t hold her hand or touch her shoulder. I’m not there to offer a piece of pumpkin bread or run get her a snack. It sucks.
And that is why sending my child off to college was equal parts pride and sorrow!
Disney World is a place of magic and wonder. Sure, it’s also incredibly expensive and crowded and hot… but those things just don’t seem to matter when you are standing in front of the castle at Magic Kingdom!
There is something so incredible about being at Disney World and the feeling of expectation and fun and hope. I don’t know if everyone feels it, but as a family that has lived in the world of doctor visits, special diets and treatments, diagnostic tests and rare diseases for the last 18 years, Disney World gives us a chance to live and love and laugh “just like everyone else.”
No, the problems that we face everyday don’t vanish on Disney time. But the problems just don’t seem so big or so hard. Instead of researching unknowns and sitting for hours in doctor’s offices, we research which restaurant to eat at and how to get the most out of “magic hours.”
So here are a few tips for families with special challenges from a seasoned Disney family! Truly… we just returned from Disney for the 5th time in 6 years.
We typically use a travel agent (Cowboy Way Travel) because they know us and know our needs. But Disney online and over the phone work great as well. I’ve just found that for our needs (two connecting rooms with ground floor access and a scooter), the travel agent can take care of everything and it works. And since we use a travel agent, we also purchase trip insurance. EVERY. TIME. It’s worth the cost.
Also, by planning early you can make the best use of the early reservations for meals and fast passes. We are talking making plans 180 days out for dining and 60 for rides/attractions!! I know the needs of my family and waiting till the last minute to plan a trip means that you miss out on the best times for rides and meals.
It’s not an adjoining room.. it’s a CONNECTING room!
Even as seasoned veterans, when we got to our rooms we found that we had rooms next door to each other, but not connecting! Uh Oh. This doesn’t work with an 8 year old! Disney defines adjoining as touching and adjacent as near by.. if you need the rooms to be able to open inside to each other, you need a CONNECTING room. Our rooms situation was easily remedied, but it’s an important distinction to keep in mind as at peak times you might not get a connecting room if you asked for an adjoining room!
When you run into an issue, SPEAK UP! Give Disney a chance to fix the problem.
One night when we ended up in a monsoon and the bus driver was horrible, we spoke up. Why? Because Disney cares and they work too hard for a bad experience to color the rest of the trip. Taking the time to talk calmly with the concierge allowed us to express our frustration and gave Disney the chance to make it a positive.
If you need the disability access, USE IT!
But, remember to take ALL of your family’s magic bands with you when you set up access at guest services. You only have to do this once each trip as the disability information is in the magic band. Also, once it is set up, any member of the party can “badge in” and request disability access to a ride/attraction. The key here is to manage your disability access as you can only have one outstanding at a time! The gift of disability access is that you don’t stand in line. It doesn’t make the wait go away, so plan accordingly! We know that we can’t wait in the heat/sun, so we go to shows while we wait for the next attraction.
And if you haven’t seen Festival of the Lion King, it is WORTH IT!
Plan down time.
One of the hardest things for me to do is “waste” daylight at Disney, but I’ve learned that in order for Maddie to function for the duration of a trip, she has to have down time. So while the big girls napped, Kylie lived it up at the pool and the playground. Port Orleans Resort has great pools and a fantastic playground. Side note: besides being more spread out, Port Orleans is great for families as the rooms are larger, the place quieter and the amenities spot on.
Expect to wait for a bus.
Hands down, the most UNmagical thing about Disney is waiting for the bus to transport you from park to park or park to resort. If you are in a wheelchair or scooter, the wait can be a while as they only take one or two chairs on each bus. Sometimes these waits are in the rain and sometimes these waits can be an hour (or longer!). Plan for at least a 40 minute wait and then be pleasantly surprised every time you arrive at your hub and find a bus on its way in!
Take your own ponchos and an extra pair of shoes!
In case you didn’t know.. it rains in Florida. Plan on getting rained on.
The ponchos at Disney are expensive and tear super easily. We purchase our own ponchos that are heavier plastic and bring them with us! Also, since Maddie uses a scooter, she gets a larger poncho that will fit over the scooter so that she can drive it and stay dryish.
Bring an extra pair of shoes.. or be like me and spend an hour sitting in the laundry room holding the door to the dryer closed with your back!
Find the accessible areas for watching the parades.
Parades are really cool to watch. Unless you are in a scooter/wheelchair. Find the accessible areas for watching the parades and take a seat on the curb. It was so fun to watch the girls watch the parade. We are big fans of the Fantasy Parade as it is at 3pm in the afternoon at Magic Kingdom and we can see that one. It just doesn’t matter how late of a start we get, we can’t make it to a firework or evening show as a family. When the sun goes down, my family fades fast.
Ask to speak to the chef.
If you have special dietary needs, Disney can’t be beat!
We really wanted to eat at Be Our Guest.. I mean really, who doesn’t want to eat at Belle’s Castle?! But the menu options were not great for Lexi and Maddie who can’t have the normal breakfast items! So we special ordered off the quick service menu and the chef came out and asked us a few questions and then like magic breakfasts for both girls appeared that were egg and milk free! And it’s not just this one restaurant, it’s all of the Disney restaurants!!
Make sure the other kids don’t get left out in the process.
With so much of what we do and who we are as a family focused on keeping Maddie well, our other girls get lost in the shuffle. Disney is a place for magic for them as we are able to devote special moments and memories for the girls by themselves.
Magic hours have become our special one-on-one times and are truly those magical memories that get us through some of the hard spots throughout the year.
Lexi and I stayed at Magic Kingdom until almost 2am one night!
And Kylie and I snuck away in the afternoon to Epcot one day and then Hollywood Studios one morning. Spending time with one child is so different than with the group!
I truly have so much more to say, but I’m thinking just this is overwhelming. So I’ll leave you with GO! Just Go for it. I know it’s expensive. But we spend SO MUCH MONEY on healthcare that we have to spend some on our emotional health and our family too.
I commented the other day to the girls and Doug that as we move into the next phase of our lives I don’t know that we will go to Disney as often. Lexi and Kylie were very quick to speak up and say that Yes, we will be back soon!
Through this process I was reminded that often in life we don’t have good instructions, we don’t have a real method and we don’t even know how things will end, but we have to just keep on moving forward.
And here is the finished quilt. It’s a good thing that I don’t have a son or a child with the initials JTC, or I’d be tempted to keep this masterpiece.
The backing fabric that we wanted to use initially was to stretchy and the front was so heavy due to the appliqués that I ended up using a set of microfiber sheets as the backing. The sheets are perfect…. super soft and cozy, but lightweight. The sheet material is the binding edge as well.
The entire project was so much harder and so much more work than I realized when I said I would do the project.. and I won’t ever do anything like this again.
But I’m incredibly proud of the work, imperfect as it is, and am thrilled to be able to ship this keepsake off.
The 2018 Maxwell Lakehouse Adventure was in my opinion the best of the 14 we have had so far! I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my children are old enough to just play and enjoy their cousins and I can sit and observe them and am not constantly doing the mom thing. With all of my free time, I took 413 pictures from 4pm Friday to 4pm Sunday…. that’s a lot of pictures! I can’t help it, my family is rather engaging.
Here is a glimpse of our weekend at Cedar Creek Lake.
Youngest child.. Jake at almost 5 months
One 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with a perfect backyard, fantastic lake access and deep water.
Our group picture is one of the highlights each year and this year with everyone wearing the shirts that Dad and I screenprinted made it even better!
The fishing was pretty bad. In fact, Kylie was the only one that caught a fish. But these “little middle” cousins are adorable!
Jumping off the dock was an absolute highlight. With really deep water at the end of the dock, everyone could run and jump, twist, flop and cannonball to exhaustion.
Kylie and Nora both love tattoos. Uncle Mike allowed them to put as many tattoos on his back as they wanted. I don’t think he planned on them using entire sheets all at once… including the trademark information!! They had a ball. I love to hear their sweet giggles.
Lexi and Dillon, our “middles” bought fireworks with their own money and gave us a great firework show! We didn’t grow up around fireworks so I was leery, but they were great and with uncles and adult cousins around to supervise it, I was thrilled for Lexi to share in this new experience.
Lots of corn hole was played along with some badminton and other games.
The house came with three kayaks. This was PERFECT!!
And then there was baby Jake. Oh my. That boy is the sweetest and happiest baby ever.
There was so much more, but I’ve already made this a very slow loading post I’m sure! But I’ll end with a few pictures from my favorite spot… the chairs in the yard. The breeze, the family, the view of the lake and my family. It was great. My dad and I very much enjoyed our time in these chairs just watching those we love play and laugh together.
So until next year, I’ll leave you with one more picture of lakehouse #14.. cause #15 is going to be EPIC. 🙂
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.
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.
My dad is a master screen printer. He has screened thousands upon thousands of paper/plastic/metal items over the years. We have screen printed flags and even blankets together. But he doesn’t screen print clothing items.
But we did this week. Last spring I was able to purchase a four color screen printing system for my classroom with an education grant. It is really cool and we used it with my students for one color jobs and have had great success. We are working our way up to the more advanced projects!
So for our 14th annual Maxwell Lakehouse trip, I asked Dad if he wanted to screenprint shirts for all 22 of us. Kylie and Dad came up with the design, I fine-tuned it and printed it, and we ordered tshirts. We made the screens and are increasing our skills with the emulsion process.
Finally we were ready to print. Kylie and Lexi had to come help. Given that I grew up screenprinting with Dad, no way were they not going to help us! Just getting the shirts ready to print was an undertaking given that our sizes start with a 6 month old and go up to an adult xl.
I took a time lapse video of our work. If you watch carefully you can see Kylie and Lexi screenprint a little themselves at the end! Lexi was the master at loading the shirts exactly right and Kylie pulled the shirts and set them on the drying rack.
We were doing fine.. actually we did great until about shirt number 17. At that point the fact that we were not putting the shirts under the flash dryer between colors became an issue. I knew it would be.. but I had hoped that we would make it to the end first. But no. Dad was so disappointed. I wasn’t. I guess twenty years of teaching public school has me thinking that getting 16 of the 22 done without too much of a mess is a win. Dad said we weren’t screenprinting, we were SCREAMPRINTING!
After we took stock of the shirts, we decided to run white on top of the blue. I LOVE the way it turned out! There are a couple of shirts that are not great, but overall, I consider this a successful project.
And next time, we will stop and figure out that blasted flash dryer so that we can print all the colors without ending up with “psychedelic” shirts!
I can’t wait to get our Maxwell Lakehouse family picture taken in a week or so.
I have so many thoughts swirling in my head.
So many things I want to say.
But I can’t… cause I’m struggling to process it really myself.
I’m really not trying to be one of those vague woe is me social media posts people.. You know..
But guys, let me just say…
Specialist #25 had no answers for Maddie’s bilateral foot drop. We stumped him. And he was supposed to BE THE ONE. She has no nerve damage and no neurological reason for her feet to have just stopped working. The doctor was nice and concerned, but he had no answers.
Guys, I was scared to death over this appointment. We were assured that we would get some answers today. But Maddie knew. She didn’t have her hopes up.
And why should she?
Her entire life has been No Answer. No Reason. No Explanation.
So we have been referred to Specialist #26 and hospital #7.
And yes, of course we are thankful that more of the incredibly scary diagnoses have been ruled out. But could we, maybe, someday get an answer?