Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Life Changes--Answers to Your "Why Are You Moving Again?" Question

I've started this post at least a dozen times since May 2015. I always delete it after I type it. So if you are reading this one, I didn't hit delete.

I always delete out of fear. Fear that I've been too truthful, said too much, or even not enough. Fear that I'll embarrass myself and family. Fear that I'll hurt someone, unintentionally. Fear that you will know that I was hurt. That I still hurt.

In 2011, I was a stay at home mom. I had been home with the kids for six years, since I had Michael. I loved being at home. We bought 30 acres in our home county, where our parents live, and was making plans to build and move back.

Mikie and I argue about why I applied for a job. Honestly, it doesn't matter anymore.

I applied for a job. I found out two days before school started that I had gotten the job. I rushed around trying to pull resources and materials out of the attic, the basement, and my brain. I registered the kids for a new elementary school. They would be in fourth, second, first, and kindergarten in a new county and we would be out of zone.

For the next three weeks, I would drop them off at 7:10 when the door opened, Mollie in tears, because I was leaving her, in kindergarten.

Then it happened. I received a call from the principal during class one morning. "Mrs Johnson, I'm so sorry but we are overcrowded in one grade level. I've had to let every out of zone parent know that their child can't stay at our school." I was devastated.

Now, what was I going to do? I started running every scenario through my head and decided, in my head, I would just pack my belongings and go back to the house. This wasn't where God wanted me.

One of my principals came to me that afternoon and said, "Don't pack your bags yet. We are working on transferring all of your kids."

I had not even mentioned to anyone about quitting. She's a Mom, she knew what I was thinking.

Mikie worked with all the principals involved at both elementary schools to make it as painless as possible. Two days later, I dropped four kids off at the school they were attending. Later in the morning, Mikie went and picked them up. Not only were my kids upset, many of their new friends and teachers were also.

Mikie took them to their new school, they met the principals, their teachers, and the angels in the front office. To say that this was God's will is an understatement. God was all over this. The blessing that Hillcrest Elementary has been for us...I can't verbalize.

For the rest of the fall semester, I would open the door, the kids would pile out, Mollie would be crying uncontrollably, I would apologize to the principal, then I would drive the 15 minutes to my morning school.

At least once a week I would receive an email, text, Facebook message, about how helpful one of the kids was that day, how Mollie's crying and sitting on Mrs. Alicia's lap was getting shorter each day, how Mattie had caught up and wasn't behind anymore.

Then it happened...the adults cried. A few days after Christmas break, Mollie jumped out of the van, smile on her face, and yelled back, "I love you too Mom." She went straight to breakfast that day, and waved, smiled, and told Mrs. Alicia hi from outside the office.

The next school year, we worried we would be bumped for being out of zone. Every morning, the kids and I passed this old farmhouse with a for sale sign in the yard. Every morning, to prevent 25 minute travel squabbles we would pray.

One morning, Michael prayed for God to give him one of two things. He didn't care which. He prayed for a house in that school zone, so he would never have to worry about not being with his friends and teachers, or a brother, preferably his age through adoption or foster care.

I laughed a little nervous laugh inside and dropped everyone off. No one mentioned Michael's prayer that day. The next morning he repeated his prayer, but asked for that particular farm house, and for weeks after that he prayed. The kids and I never mentioned to Mikie about Michael's prayers.

One November Sunday after church, Mikie mentioned that if we could find a house zoned for Hillcrest he would consider moving.  After the kids and I picked our jaw up off the floor we drove him to Liberty Hill. Then we called the realtor.

Fast forward two and half years, remodels take awhile when the house was built in 1912 and you're planning on being there for at least 10 years. You gut it and basically start over.

Mikie spends his day at the Air National Guard base. He spent his every other waking moment at Liberty Hill putting his contractors license to work. This is the third house he has built for us to live in and I think the hardest on our relationship.

Then it happened, maybe the rumors I had heard were true. Maybe, I was just there holding a spot for someone else. The comments that were made, that I hadn't understood began to register in my mind. Maybe, my four kids did take too much of my after school time. Maybe, I really AM a great wife and great mother.

Intent letters were handed out but instead, I received a letter letting me know that I wasn't being rehired after my fourth year there. 

I keep fielding the questions, of why I'm no longer there, even a year later. Honestly, I don't know why I wasn't rehired. I wasn't given a reason. I'm not even sure whose decision it was or why I wasn't given the option to resign. Hearsay, and theories aside, it doesn't change where we are today, but it is the reason that our lives are changed.

I sat at Michael's honor's program fifteen minutes after I had been told I wasn't being rehired, trying to keep from crying. I didn't want him to know something was wrong. I kept playing the we've bought a house, we just lost a chunk of our monthly income, I haven't finished paying for summer school trips and camp yet, Mikie's going to deploy in a few months, how are we going to live scenario in my mind.

My heart ached. When they say the heartache of losing a job is like that of losing a loved one, I believe it.

After Michael's honor's program, one of his teachers came to me. She said she had the oddest conversation with Michael that morning. He had told her he wished we would adopt two boys, because we don't do odd numbers, and that I would quit work and stay home.

I couldn't tell her the truth. I just fought the tears and made myself laugh and went back to arguing with God.

On grade card day, we told their teachers. They were in shock and hurt for us. One teacher even went with his wife, to a principal and gave a character reference for me based solely on the behavior and leadership skills of my children. He told me that they, my kids, say alot about me and Mikie.

People, it's God's grace that made my children, who they are today. I am just a woman, a wife, a mom, a teacher, a volunteer, a Christian, doing the best I can to not be a failure. I've proven what a failure I am several times in the past year, by opening my mouth at the wrong time, and hurting others. By wallowing in my own self-pity, anger, and jealousy; by believing Satan's lies that I am not good enough. By having high unspoken expectations for others, and beating them down harder when they don't meet my expectations. By treating others, not how I want to be treated, but how I was treated.

I've apologized. It doesn't make the guilt any easier. It doesn't make being in the same room with them easier. It doesn't help my accountability or integrity in the eyes of those who were there. But all I can do is pray, that they forgive, that others realize sometimes you screw up, and I admit it, I screwed up. 

My kids and Mikie have seen me and lived with me when they should have thrown my stuff in the yard and kicked me out. It has made them stronger, more independent, and self-sufficient.

All summer and fall I applied for jobs, teaching jobs, bank teller jobs, grocery store jobs, I had two interviews, courtesy interviews I'm sure, but no hires. I subbed all fall semester.

We moved in August so the kids could stay in zone for school. 

Then I received a call, the day after Christmas break, from the principal who told me that first year, not to pack my bags yet. She is now in a different school system in a central office position. The same system I worked in when I decided to become a stay at home mom.

My old job was open again. My first   classroom was waiting on me to come back. I applied. I went back. Back to a faculty, many of whom I worked with before, back to music, choir, and drama. Back past the house, we still have for sale, that we moved out of in August, back every morning.

Mikie deployed the first week I worked. The kids were in another county. It was winter, basketball season, music festival prep time, it was hard. I was negligent. The house was/still is a disaster. I put up a front. The one some of you wear, the I make it look easy, but I really just want it to all be over front.

But then it happened something clicked, in my mind and in my heart. This is were God wants me. For this season in my life, this is where I am supposed to be.

Does it make it any easier? Heck, no!

Do I have it all together? Umm, no.

When you say, "I don't know how you do it." I don't know either.

When you offer help and I don't accept...I really do appreciate the offer. I just don't do well letting someone else take on my responsibilities, even if it's just picking my kid up at the house and driving the two blocks to school for basketball camp. I feel like I'm burdening you even if you offer to do it.

I'm a momma. Apparently, I'm supposed to have Momma Guilt for every decision I make in life. I'm torn. Two kids want to change schools, two don't. Two kids want to be at school with their church friends, two kids want to stay where they are, with school friends, and the opportunities they have coming up in the next school year.

I want everyone to be happy, to let them go to school where they want. I'm not sure that's going to happen. It won't be easy if it does. Two different school systems, two different school schedules.

But deep down, we all want to go home. We want to be closer to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We don't mind moving again, building again, changing schools again, if it's where God wants us. 

With that, we are selling both houses. I guess if this house sells first we will move back to the house we moved out of in August. If they both sell, we will move home, and drive to my school, and build a new house, and have horses, and sheep, and fainting goats, and friends over every weekend, from all the places we've lived.

I always thought it would have been cool if Mikie had been active duty and we had moved all over the world. The heartache is real, just moving 30 minutes away. I can't imagine how active duty feels.

I can't imagine what tomorrow holds, let alone the first week of August.

Will you pray for us, with us? Pray that I've not said too much. Pray that we go where God wants us. Pray for the two families that He is preparing to move into these two homes that Mikie has built with his own two hands. Pray for our school decisions for our kids. Pray for my students that I will be a light and make a difference in their lives. Pray for our friends here and there and the new ones we will make. Pray that no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what Satan throws in our way, that we always put God first, that we show His light, in our lives, in our words and actions, and how we treat others.

This is the Sunnydale House in White Pine. You can check out the posting here.

This is the Liberty Hill house. We haven't decided on a price for it yet.
We are offering a finders fee. You can find out more about it in this post Finders Fee-Help Us Sell Our House.

Disclaimer: I'm horrible at titles. So give me a break or a better title. And if I've offended you, I'm sorry.

Finders Fee--Help us sell our house!

As we wait on the Lord to settle us somewhere, we are planning to sell both the Sunnydale/White Pine house and the Liberty Hill/Morristown house.

There I said it.

We continue to pray for guidance and where He wants to plant us for the next stage in our lives. We would like to sell on our own.

Our family knows the Lord has blessed us with both houses. I know that I don't have to explain what we are planning to do with the money we would pay a realtor, but we want to bless some people as the Lord has blessed us, with them in our lives, through their love and care for our family and especially our children. 

This is a link to for more information on the White Pine house. 

We aren't quite ready to sell Liberty Hill, but are willing to work with a buyer on final touches, wall, door, and front porch colors, if someone comes along. 

With that being said, we are offering $1500 to the person who sends us a buyer. If the person who buys either house gives us your name as the referral we will give you $1500. 

Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

East Tennessee Summer Bucket List 2016

Every summer the kids and I make out a bucket list. We include free and cheap ideas. Some places and events to visit as well as around the house activities.

If you're local and interested in going with us, let me know, so I can give you the full details. You can click on any of the links for more information about the activity.

In no particular order, here is our Summer 2016 Bucket List.

  • Repack the new house and list it to sale. Yea, I know this one needs more details. They are coming soon. Our really fun bucket list items will only take place if this accomplished. Let's get to work!
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.
  • A wedding reception in Abingdon, Virginia along with some sight-seeing. 
  • Youth choir tour to Southern Ohio.
  • 4-H Camp 
  • National Beta Convention in New Orleans
  • Yearly dental and doctor visits.
  • Days at the pool

    Pioneer Camp
  • Pioneer Camp at Davy Crockett in Limestone is an exciting day of 1800's Appalachian Frontier Heritage. When we've attended this in the past the kids have made corn husk dolls, participated in archery, thrown a tomahawk, started a fire, wove a basket, spun yarn, and watched a musket being loaded and fired. There are other activities also, a campground, picnic area and a pool. We usually eat down by the riverside. Um, sorry, if that song gets stuck in your head.

  • While we may be a little old to ride at Safety City Knoxville we always manage to find some younger friends to accompany. The kids love hanging out with the younger kids and I enjoy the mom time. We like to go early, then eat lunch at the playground, and finish up with the Splash Pad Fountains at World's Fair Park.
  • The day we go to the Market Square Farmer's Market we are also going to the WDVX Blue Plate Special. A free concert at the Knoxville Visitor's Center.
  • I haven't been to the drive-in movie since I was in college. Those were the days. So one Friday or Saturday evening, we are filling the back of the truck with lawn chairs, sleeping bags, and pillows, and heading out for a triple feature at the Parkway Drive In located in Maryville. 
  • We hope to take a Ranger led night hike at Cades Cove. I can't find the link to the dates right now. As soon as I find them I will post it.
  • Mother Hen's Hatchery  is also on our bucket list, followed by a stop at Yoder's Country Market for a few pounds of Lucky Charm marshmallows, homemade bread, and a pie or two. Yea, it's not Paleo. A girl can have regrets can't she.

And when this picture is snapped, summer is over, our bucket list is complete. We go to Sonic the Sunday night before Gracie goes back to college. Man, they grow up fast, but that's a tale for another night.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let's Go to the Smoky Mountain Air Show

Let me start by saying this is in no way endorsed by the Smoky Mountain Air Show or the people who are involved. I have been asked several times recently for advice about attending the Smoky Mountain Air Show, April 16th and 17th at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Visiting Dad, many years ago.
Because my husband is a Chief on base, many think that we have information that hasn't been given to the public. Chief probably has information that he isn't sharing, but that's part of the job. Everything I know is from the air show website, Facebook page, or television.

I can steer you to the Smoky Mountain Air Show website where you can get more information about what you can and can't take in with you, who the performers are and what is on display, and how to purchase your parking pass and this link takes you to the purchase your parking pass page.

I can give you some advice that I've learned from past shows and what I as a Mom will be packing.

I purchased a parking pass in case we couldn't get on base with Chief and because it goes to a great cause, Honor Air Knoxville. I have also donated it to family. There are few parking passes left for each day. The parking passes cost $40.00, there may be some VIP spots available which are $75.00 and there are opportunities for photographers also.

As an Air National Guard family, this is a big deal for the kids and I. Yes, Chief sees excitement like this all the time on base and during deployments. The kids and I don't see it and it's a big deal.

The past few days, I've been putting together a list of things that we need to take with us, either that morning, or that Chief needs to take with him a few days before. I guess we do have a few special privileges. We can park on base, as long as we go to work with Chief. We can't get into the Air Show gate until everyone else does. We do however, receive a special wristband that allows us to go back to his office, or the car for lunch.

As far as my past experience with air shows. It's loud, the weather may or may not cooperate, it is East Tennessee after all, and there will be tons of people, lots of food, and even more excitement.

I do have a game plan for the Air Show. Chief will be working so it will be the kids and I each day. Although, we will be among many family, friends who become family, and our military family.

We will eat a good, filling breakfast. You aren't allowed to take food or coolers in, see the prohibited items list. You can however, pack a lunch and leave it in your car, then you could walk back out to eat. Or you can purchase food on site from a vendor.

I will be packing our lunches. We will go to the car and eat, possibly in Chief's office if we are allowed. If the kids want something from a food vendor they will be responsible for paying for it. Which leads me to spending.

2000 Air Show. Before I had a  digital camera. 
I very rarely buy souvenir t-shirts, but I know the kids are going to ask. They will take their own money for anything they may want to purchase during the air show. Yes, that's how we roll.

As far as what I'm actually taking with us.

Sunscreen, even if it's cloudy you will get burnt on the tarmac, it's concrete, and a large parking lot for planes. Every kid will have their own chapstick in their pocket. While I may carry their money in my bag, they carry all of their other items.

We are going to layer. It looks like it will be in the 50's when we head out. By Air Show time it will be near 70 degrees. Wear what you're comfortable in and wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking. We may also be in matching shirts, if they still fit. At the least we will be in similar colors. Hats or baseball caps and sunglasses are also a must.

You will need ear plugs for in your ears, as well as cordless headsets, think the kind you wear to mow the lawn. Or you can stick your fingers in your ears when you need too.

Lawn chairs. You may want to label them. I have to sit. There are lots of static displays, bands, a kids area, even the Clydesdale Horses from Budweiser to check out, but at some point during the day, my feet will give out. If you have a wagon to pull the kids and chairs in you can take it in.

Michael told me last night he plans to take his binoculars. Maggie's packing a book for down time, between performances. She reads and walks, so watch out.

Don't forget your camera. Large camera bags are prohibited so for those of us who like to carry the professional camera, lenses, and flashes we may have to lighten our load. Luckily, I can fit my camera and favorite lens in a bag that is the right size, but I'm not sure I can carry it all day. If I sit it down it may disappear, so I have a decision to make.

For those with children, ID them. I know it sounds crazy, they will be on a military base, with high security, but those little guys and gals can get excited looking up and not realize how far from Mom or Dad they have wandered. Although mine are nine to fourteen, they all will have some identifying info on them. The oldest three have military ids. I will still probably place a sticker in the bottom of their shoe, with their name and our cell phone numbers on them. Sometimes in a large crowd, when they were younger, I pinned a post it note or index card in their pocket with contact info. I've "lost" kids more than once in a crowd and the panic that sets in is not fun for me, or those around me.

Once on base, stake out a good spot to set up your chairs. Then look around and choose something large, like the KC-135, the big brown hangar, the port-a-potties or something that your kid is really interested in. Make that your meeting point if you get separated. Give them an opportunity to choose where to meet, but you have the final say. Everyone in your group needs to know where to meet if someone gets lost.

Several people have asked my thoughts on taking toddlers and babies. Chief never let me take the kids to events on base when they were younger than four. It wasn't that he didn't want to show them off, but he felt that it was too loud and usually too long.

Before you pack the diaper bag, think about the following:
Can your child nap with 100,000 people and loud noises when they get tired?
Can they nap in your lap or a lawn chair?
Can you and your attitude survive 8:00 AM-5:00 PM with kids?
Will you have help at the Air Show?

These are the big things I thought about. It's a long, tiring day. As much as the kids and I are looking forward to it, the length of our days wears me out thinking about it. I know most of you won't have to get up that early, but for kids it's going to be a long day, no matter what time you get up.

If you have other advice or even questions post them below.

I can't wait to see you at the Smoky Mountain Air Show this weekend. Just a final thought.

Be patient. Be prepared and have fun!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fave Photos

These are some of my favorite photos from the past few months. I've given credit to those that were taken by someone other than me. Enjoy!

Ian's Sr. Pic Session

Moving the chicken coop!

Christmas Card Pics--using the tripod and timer. 

Maggie took this one.
Our fabulous art teacher did my makeup for our Day of the Dead Celebration at school.

Mattie's bench won 2nd place in the state Jr. Beta Convention.
 This is her 3rd year  and she's placed 2nd every year. 

Mikie's promotion ceremony to Chief selfie. 

Our friend Gracie took this one.
Mikie's Chief promotion ceremony. 

Our friend Teresa took this one.

Faith's Sr Pic session.

Jr. Beta Induction Ceremony. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Welcome--I Can Do This Participants

If you're here from the Schoology assignment "I Can Do This," read through the blog posts below to find the answers to questions 1-6. Good luck, work hard, don't be lazy, and don't quit until you are finished and submitted your answers. Have fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's Official--House For Sale

It's official. The Sunnydale House is now for sale. You can find the listing here, on Zillow. It has been loved for 15 years. The first year by Mikie as he built it and then the last 14 years by all of us. It's just a little bit hard to pack up and move to a new place. We know that the family who moves in next will have as much fun in that house as we have.

It's a great place for...
Riding bikes in the street,
Running and Walking,
Making S'mores,
Snow sledding,
Raising animals,
Raising children,
Making memories.

I thought it only fitting to document some of our favorite times over the years. I wish I had access to all of my favorite pics but for now here are a few. Please don't judge the quality of these photos. Some are mine, some are the kids, some from friends, some are just when life happens, a few are by Wendy Ivens Photography.