It’s a privilege to have Cathy Semmes share her secrets to loving life with us today! We are thrilled to welcome this smart, strong, brilliant and beautiful lady to our blog today as we celebrate Women’s History Month!
Tell us about yourself:
I’ve been married to Bobby for almost 11 years. I have a 16-yr-old stepdaughter, Emma; and a 6-yr-old daughter, Elly. I graduated from Jonesboro-Hodge, ULM and Ole Miss in that order. I’m the PTO President at my daughter’s school and teach Girls in Action at McClendon Baptist Church.
What led you to become an attorney?
In high school, I told people I was going to law school, but my dreams centered more around careers in law enforcement. After an internship with the FBI, I went to law school strictly as a means to become an FBI agent. Bobby and I met just before my last semester of law school and we got married two weeks after graduation. Because he had a daughter, relocating like the FBI would require wasn’t an option. Still not interested in practicing law, I was hired as a juvenile probation officer and did that for a very short time before doing exactly what I’d never planned to do… practice law. I practiced for four years until Elly was born and then was hired as a law clerk for two district judges.
You have a loving blended family, what has been helpful for you to achieve this?
Blended families are hard. I think it’s one of those things that would be easy to sugarcoat, but in reality, it has taken a lot of prayer and perseverance. I have an incredible stepdaughter who was and is easy to love. It might be difficult to plan vacations and holiday gatherings or family photo shoots, but we have two smart and compassionate kids who love each other and get along for the most part. I think we just have to value our time together – whether it’s two of us or three of us or all four of us. There are days when half of our family is at the dance studio or birthday parties and the other half is at the ball field. There are other days when at least three different dinners happen, more than likely none of which I cooked, but honestly, just thinking about all of the craziness makes me smile.
How do you “do it all”?
I’m not sure I’m doing it all, but I firmly believe that we make time for our priorities. A Stephen Covey quote that I love says ”You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” I’m not getting any Super Lawyer nominations (yes, that’s a thing) during this season of my life. I’m not a Pinterest mom and don’t make it to the gym as often as I’d like, but I do the things that are most important to me.
If you had a dinner party attended by book characters and/or authors, who would be your top 5 guests?
Anne Shirley. I love her and Green Gables and Avonlea so much that I could stop there, but I won’t. Kay Scarpetta, Lindsey Boxer, Jodi Picoult and Beth Moore are also pretty incredible, and because I have a real inability to restrict guest lists, I have to add Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume to the list too. Just seeing all of these names together makes me seriously wish I could make this dinner party happen.
Who is your hero?
My Mom, Ellen Layfield. She passed away almost 9 years ago, following her courageous battle with colon cancer. Now that I am a mother, I am so much more appreciative of who she was. She loved Jesus and she believed in being His hands and feet on earth. She was a teacher for 30 years and loved every kid she taught like they were biologically hers. Her heart, her patience and compassion, grace and mercy, the level of selflessness – she was so much of who I want to be.
What are you learning in this season of life?
Lysa TerKeurst recently shared, “Whatever attitude we bring into a situation will be multiplied. If I want more joy IN my day, I have to bring more joy TO my day.” I am really working on intentional joy. It’s a choice, and it’s not always the easy choice, but my attitude is one of the few things in life I can control so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to be joyful.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Kay Warren’s “Choosing Joy”. My biggest take-away so far is this: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.” I also recently read “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult. It was a powerful read about challenging concerns of our times and I can’t recommend it enough. That book changed me (for the better) and I’m always grateful when a book does that.
What’s your favorite beauty product?
I laughed when I read this. I can’t even come up with one thing. A little bit of unspecified makeup and face wash does it. I’m pretty low maintenance in that regard, but I do love Chapstick.
What is your best advice for balancing/juggling job and family?
I am very thankful that I was able to change jobs when Elly was born. I think our dreams and goals evolve as we grow and change, and with motherhood came a definite shift of focus for me. I love working as a law clerk. It affords me more flexibility than practicing law would so I’m able to be more present for Elly and take part in her activities, which is what’s important to me right now. I have wonderful co-workers, who I call friends and consider myself lucky to have two awesome bosses, who value the importance of family and faith. If Elly is sick, no one questions my decision to be with her instead of at the office. Rarely do I feel like I’m juggling. Amazingly the pieces just seem to fall into place like a well-designed puzzle.
What cause or community initiative do you support? What do you love about it?
I wore more volunteer hats before Elly was born – with Life Choices, the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Program, West Monroe Dixie Youth, the Lions Club, and the American Cancer Society, and I still support all of those, but I’ve seen my focus evolve during the past six years. Now, my volunteerism is more focused on things that directly influence Elly so I tend to do more for fewer organizations. I’m PTO President at Elly’s school and it’s a role that is near and dear to my heart. I came from a family of school teachers and my love for education runs deep. I love being able to help support the teachers, staff and students where Elly spends so much of her time. Getting to know other parents and learn from them is also incredible. I feel like this year has definitely been one of growth as I’ve learned from those who have “been there, done that” and I’m excited about the remaining five years she has in elementary school. We attend McClendon Baptist Church, where most of our best friends are in our small group. We’re all raising kids together and learning from each other. I volunteer in different areas of the Children’s Ministry and consider it a privilege. Most days, I’m convinced that I’m the one being taught, that I’m likely learning more from the kids than they are learning from me.
Describe your perfect day?
For me, a perfect day would begin when I woke up on my own (without an alarm). I’d take my time getting out of bed and read a book (on my phone) and drink coffee (with sugar free peppermint mocha creamer) while I dried my hair. Believe it or not, even my perfect day would involve a little bit of time at work because I enjoy my job and the people there. Windy and sunny – 75 degrees. A little bit of time at the gym (where I’d read while on the treadmill) or a neighborhood run before picking Elly up from school. A perfect day would require dinner out with my loves because I don’t like to cook at all, and we’d finish the day watching something together as a family but be asleep by 10pm.
What has been your favorite part of motherhood?
I always say that Elly is my greatest blessing and my biggest challenge. It’s surreal how much we are capable of loving another human. Just watching her grow and learn and become her own person… It’s overwhelming. I don’t know if I can choose a favorite part. It’s been life-changing from the start. I remember looking at her when she was a few months old and thinking “This is why I was made.”
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your thoughts and tips with the Life Choices Community! Your commitment to motherhood and living your priorities encourage us to work hard and love passionately! Keep on #lovinglife!