A Night in November, part 1

a night in november

I was 13 years old when my mom kicked me out of the house. It was a late November night in the fall of 1999. I was in the eighth grade – I had recently been voted president of the student council and head cheerleader. Kids at school used to call me goody two shoes and teacher’s pet. They also whispered rumors that I was a lesbian behind my back, because I wasn’t really interested in messing around with boys or talking about “doing it.” Just a few months earlier, I gave my life to Jesus at summer camp and was baptized in the lake. So how does someone like me, the straight-laced goody-goody that I was, get kicked out of her house? Let me tell you.

It was cold that night. Late November in Oklahoma is typically more of an extended fall rather than an early winter, and the days would rise into the 70s and sometimes 80s before nightfall. But it would drop into the 30s at night, and I felt the chill in the air from my bed in our 2-bedroom single-wide. My sister and I shared one of the rooms while mom and Ronnie – husband number 5, though he wasn’t her husband at the time – shared the room down the hall. Between our rooms was the only bathroom, the same bathroom where I found my mom passed out in the tub, holding a butcher knife and covered in her own blood just the year before.

The room my sister and I shared was small, barely enough space for a twin bed. We had a captain’s bed in there, with drawers underneath to store my sister’s and my things. On the floor next to the bed, we kept another twin mattress, where my sister slept – I got the real bed since I was older. Her mattress took up what remained of the floor space, so I had to crawl over her to get to the door. My captain’s bed was tall enough that the mattress was level with the windowsill, and I would often lie in my bed and stare out the window at the road that connected to our gravel driveway. This is what I was doing that November night when I saw a pair of headlights coming down the hill toward our trailer.

I immediately recognized those headlights as belonging to Ronnie’s old Ford F-150. Mom and Ronnie had gone out to the bar down the hill, The Buffalo Tavern, a small beer joint right next to a boat ramp on Keystone Lake, one of two bars our little town of Osage offered its residents for nightlife. Mom had moved us to Osage five years earlier, taking us away from Bartlesville, the city where I was born and where my dad still lived.

We moved to Osage because mom wanted to take us away from dad; Grandma lived there and she had a spare trailer next to hers on a small piece of property. Osage had once thrived thanks to oil – an Oklahoma boom town on the shores of Keystone Lake in the Osage Reservation. It was called Osage City, then – and the railroad, the cotton gin and the oil industry breathed life into it, as it was a division point on the MK&T Railway. I even heard once that there was a movie made in the 1930s about Osage that won several Oscars. I found that hard to believe, though, since by the time we moved there the town had been all but abandoned as a result of the construction of Keystone Lake and the railroad discontinuing service to the area.

In addition to the two bars, there was a post office and two churches – the First Baptist Church and the Little Lighthouse, a Pentecostal church where my great uncle pastored, my great aunt lead the singing, and my grandma taught the kids’ Sunday School class. Mom didn’t take us to church, though – we only went if Grandma made us during the frequent occasions she’d watch us when Mom was in jail or off on one of her “drug sprees,” as Grandma called them.

Though Osage didn’t offer much by way of entertainment, being a kid there wasn’t so bad. In the summers, we would ride our bikes all over town, often ending up at the lake to fish or camp. One year, it was so dry that the lake nearly disappeared, and we would walk out onto the dry lakebed and search for empty clamshells or arrowheads. When we were feeling particularly adventurous, we’d leave our bikes at the boat ramp and walk along the shore to where the abandoned railroad stretched out over the lake. We’d see who was brave enough to walk out on it, and whoever got the farthest before turning back was crowned the most courageous.

When we got thirsty, we’d pedal over to Nosy Rosie’s, an older lady who lived up the road from our trailer and sold soda cans from her kitchen window for a quarter each. We called her Nosy Rosie because she always asked a lot of questions as she performed her merchant duties. There is only one road in and out of Osage, and her house sits right alongside it as you enter the town. She saw all the comings and goings, and she kept a detailed mental record of everyone’s whereabouts. She also told outrageous stories, like how one time she was hit by a passing train traveling 850 miles an hour.  We all knew she was a little crazy, but her pop was cheap and what else did we have to do?

On this November night, Nosy Rosie was probably sitting at her window, watching that old Ford F-150 come up the hill from the direction of the Buffalo Tavern, making a note to ask us about it the next time we stopped for a drink. And though she didn’t know it, she’d never get a chance to satisfy her curiosity. However, I knew as soon as I saw the headlights that trouble was coming.

More to come…

Listen To Your Mother

A couple of weeks ago, my blogger friend/college classmate/Twitter pal Marisa retweeted a call for submissions for the OKC casting of the Listen To Your Mother Show. Her tweet piqued my interest so I clicked on the link to find out about what this show was all about as I had never heard of it. Basically, it’s a community-sponsored event where real women tell their authentic stories of motherhood – in all its “complexity, diversity and humor,” as their website says.

Since I have challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone with writing this year, I thought, why not submit something? And so I did, not expecting much to come of it but rather in an earnest pursuit of growth in my craft.

Welp. I got notified to audition. And lest you think I’ve been holding back on you on some kind of theatrical talent, let me clarify: the audition involved simply reading my piece. So, I drove the 2+ hours down to OKC on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning a few weeks ago to read through my 5-minute work on motherhood.

I think you can probably see where this is going. I got cast in the show!

Listen to your mother

I’m thrilled, delighted and overwhelmed to be a part of it. I’ve watched some of the videos from the past years’ shows, and the ladies with whom I’ll be sharing a stage are skillful writers and compelling storytellers.

You can find out all about the show and meet the rest of the cast over on the show’s website: http://listentoyourmothershow.com/oklahomacity/

Also, if you’re local to Oklahoma, won’t you consider joining us on April 30th for this unique event that gives a voice to motherhood? Tickets are available here: http://www.ticketstorm.com/event/listentoyourmothershow2017/oklahomacityzooeducationcenter/oklahomacity/19019/

I’m anxious with excitement to hear my fellow cast members’ motherhood stories and to share my own as well. Come be a part of it and join us in OKC in April for the Listen To Your Mother Show!

Unpopular Parenting Opinions

Unpopular Parenting Opinions

 

When you become a mom, you learn that everyone around you has strong feelings about every fine detail of your decision-making as a parent. It’s like once the test strip turns pink, friends and family suddenly feel the freedom to throw their two cents into about all sorts of things related to rearing a child, from feeding to discipline to proper medical care. Sometimes, these opinions are welcomed and advice is much needed. However, sometimes the opinions are just that – and should be treated as such.

Since becoming a mom over four years ago, I’ve developed some parenting opinions as well – and some of them could be controversial. Here are some of my unpopular parenting opinions:

  1. Kids are unlikeable human beings sometimes. Listen, I will always love my children, feed them, clothe them, wipe their stinky bottoms, tuck them into bed at night and smother them with kisses in the process. But sometimes, they’re rotten and bratty and I don’t like them – and I don’t apologize for feeling that way or admitting it, because guess what? Most humans can be pretty annoying at times, and my kids are no exception. If you’ve ever lived with a spouse, significant other, or roommate then you know this to be true.
  2. Over-the-top first birthday parties are excessive and unnecessary. Save that money and put it into a college fund. I may get some heat for this one, but that’s okay because if you have more than enough money to throw it down the drain on a hot air balloon photobooth setup for a one-year-old’s party – then we’re probably not friends and you’re not reading this opinion, anyway.
  3. Sleep training can be a sanity-saver. Our first slept like a champ upon leaving the womb, but our second really struggled. It wasn’t until we sleep trained him that any of us got any consistent rest throughout the night, and I couldn’t believe how long we waited to do it.
  4. One and done is a perfectly legitimate child-bearing decision. Though we have two children, I remember the pressure others put on us to have a second kid. Any time I expressed that I might be done at one child, I was met with looks of shock and dismay, “the horror!” I’m glad we have two now, but I have good friends who struggle justifying their one-and-done decision every day, as if they’re being mean to their kid for depriving them of a sibling. Pretty sure my oldest would say I’m the mean one for giving her a brother – sometimes.
  5. Watching TV is fine. I could guilt myself about this one, but that seems like a lot of emotional effort and since I carry enough baggage with me each day – why add to it? We do this together as a family most of the time, we still have dinners around the table and we turn off the screens to read and sing together each night, so I’m okay with our TV time. And you know what? Thanks to Little Einsteins, my kids know the meaning of fancy musical terms like adagio, allegro, presto and moderato but can’t wipe their own bottoms, so clearly my parenting opinions might need to be taken with a grain of salt. Or a few grains and a shot of tequila.

Ahem. Anyway.

As a mom with a penchant for sarcasm, it’s easy for me to develop strong feelings about myriad parenting things – these are just a few. What are some of your unpopular parenting opinions?

30 Things I’d Tell My 20-year-old Self, Part 3: embrace the life you have

30 things I'd tell my 20-year-old self: embrace the life you have

This post is part 3 of a 30-day long series of reflections on my life as I approach my 30th birthday. If you’d like to catch up and follow along, you can find part 1 here

Last month, John Piper tweeted the following:

Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.

High school and those first couple of years of college were rough, weren’t they? All the mother/daughter things. Mani/pedis with mom. Moms passing on how to do makeup or style hair. Rushing sororities based on mom’s legacy. Heck, even my favorite character/TV show at that time featured a strong mother/daughter relationship. I certainly grieved this absence in my life. I felt inferior to other girls my age so many times because I didn’t have that kind of mom.

I didn’t talk about that emptiness often. I preferred to put up a brave face. I’d wear my childhood like a sanctimonious badge of honor that somehow made me stronger, wiser, more resilient than other young people who didn’t have half the life experience I did at 20 years old. Yet, behind that bravado was an insecure young woman who desperately wanted to chat with my mom about boys, get our nails done together, go to the salon or to the movies.

So, to 20-year-old Rachel, I want to say: it’s okay to grieve over the loss of that life you hoped would be, but be real about the grief. Don’t hide behind your bravado, burying your insecurities in the dark. Bear them in the light and strip them of their power. Don’t dwell in that grief for too long, either.

Trust God, and embrace the life you’ve been given. It will make you a better wife and mother. When you fight with your husband, your past will help you understand how to make amends, apologize, admit when you’ve been wrong and seek reconciliation. When your children push you to the end of yourself, remembering your mom’s anger will help you find grace in the trenches of parenting. 

So, embrace the life you have. It’s far more than what you hoped would be. 

30 Things I'd Tell My 20-year Old Self | Coffee Stains Blog
30 Things I'm Tell My 20-year-old Self: embrace the life you have

Motherhood is more than I can handle

Motherhood is more than I can handle Coffee Stains Blog

God will not give you more than you can handle

There is a common phrase Christians repeat to one another in times of trial or difficulty. It is shared as a word of comfort or encouragement to press on. I’m sure you’ve heard it: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

The concept stems from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church when he tells them, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Whenever faced with a hard circumstance or an overwhelming situation, we can keep going knowing that we can handle it, because God won’t give us more than we handle. Well friends, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: it’s not true. Let me explain.

While this Scripture from 1 Corinthians does teach a wonderful principle that provides divine encouragement in our Christian walk, it does not promise that we will be able to handle all of life’s troubles. Take a look at something else Paul told the Corinthians, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced…we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

I want you to read those words again: so utterly burdened beyond our strength. Clearly, Paul had more than he could handle. This fact leads us to an important truth: our strength to endure, whether it be trials or temptations, does not come from ourselves – it comes from God. That’s exactly what Paul says next: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Paul then praises God for his deliverance.

Motherhood is more than we can handle

Today started like most days do around our house – the alarm rings at 5:30 a.m., followed soon after by the cries of a hungry toddler. Toast was made and milk was poured, and I sipped fresh coffee while trying to gain full consciousness before the busyness of the morning set in. After breakfast, my babies climbed into my lap for some morning snuggles and Magic School Bus, and I thought to myself (as I do most mornings), I wish I could stay here. I wish I didn’t have to work.

Soon, the flurry of getting dressed, brushing teeth, and rushing out the door had everyone on edge, and I began to lose my cool. As we were about to walk out the door, my daughter decided to antagonize her brother (as siblings do), and I lost it with her. There was yelling and crying, and I was left with the guilt of shame that comes from these moments.

This moment and others like it cause me to think, I can’t do this. I am a terrible mother. Why do I always end up yelling? I’m damaging them for life. There will be years of therapy tied to this single moment from her childhood. Maybe it’s just me, but I would guess that many of you have these moments, too (though maybe not as dramatic. I’m sure only one year of therapy will result from this episode.).

That is because we can’t do it, not in our own strength. Motherhood is more than you or I can handle. When we rely on ourselves for motherhood, we will remain doubtful, overwhelmed, frustrated, impatient, irritable, insecure and maybe even hopeless. But when we recognize that God is the source of our strength (Psalm 28:7), we are “more than conquerors” in Jesus (Romans 8:34), and that “everyone born of God overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4), we know we can have victory in this thing called motherhood.

God’s gracious promises give us the confidence that though motherhood is hard, anything that comes our way – sibling squabbles, potty accidents, strong-willed defiance, sleepless nights , seemingly endless whining – anything, we are capable, in God’s power, of overcoming. God has given you more than you can handle in motherhood, but he also gives you the victory in it. Are you trusting him for it today?

 

God will not give you more than you can handle. Except when he does.