I’m Not Stuck in a Small Town. I Chose It.

One of my former students recently shared an article and said something about being thankful to not be “stuck” in a small town. So this is my rebuttal, because let’s face it, I’m not exactly a quiet person. And bagging on my small town life? Now it’s personal.

What I want to say is this…

You’re kidding me right? You think we’re stuck? Oh, honey. Life is what you make it. I’m not stuck in a small town; I chose it.

Choosing to come back to our simple hometown life after college was, by far, the best decision we have ever made. And you know what? We’re not alone. So are you going to tell me that those who choose to leave and head to the bigger city are better than the thousands of us whom have chosen to raise our families in a small town?

When we came back, we began a family business that has contributed to our small town economy for over 10 years. We are business owners and we are as successful as we want to be. Do we have loads of cash? No. But we have a roof and food. We have enough.

So if you’re too good for this small town life, there’s a lot you’re too good for. Here’s a little list for you…

  1. You’re too good for the teachers who stayed in that small town you grew up in in order to help you further your education and go for your dreams.
  2. You’re too good for your own family. You know…those people who raised you, fed you, and picked you up every time you fell in that small town.
  3. You’re too good for the job your mother and/or father had, the job that provided for you to be able to get “unstuck.”
  4. You’re too good for the cooks who fed you, the librarian who provided enriching activities, the guidance counselor who led you, and the principal who disciplined you when you were showing your disrespectful attitude.
  5. You’re too good for the doctors who saw you through every sniffle and hospital stay.
  6. You’re too good for the nurses who comforted you and knew you by name when they saw you in the grocery store.
  7. You’re too good for the secretaries, teachers, and role models who made sure you were where you were supposed to be and not where you wanted to be.
  8. You’re too good for unlocked doors and friendly highway waves.
  9. You’re too good for cruising with your friends on country roads until all hours of the night.
  10. You’re too good for the fundraisers your hometown puts on for every person ever suffering from anything.
  11. You’re too good for playing until the street lights come on without fear.
  12. You’re too good for those people who run the swimming pool every summer and somehow manage to babysit half the town every day.
  13. You’re too good for the volunteer firefighters and EMTs who saved your friend or family member.
  14. You’re too good for raising your family with the help of 3,000 others.
  15. You’re too good for Friday night lights and prom parties, for your coaches and teammates, and for your memories.
  16. You’re too good for the mechanic who fixes your car, the vet who takes care of your dog, the convenience store clerk who knows you by name, and the pastor who prays for you.
  17. You’re too good for the radio stations you jammed out to while you dreamed of a different life.
  18. You’re too good for the safe and comfortable home you grew up in and for the volunteers who saw you through every youth event you were ever a part of.
  19. You’re too good for the farmers who grew the food you eat every day.
  20. You’re too good for me and all of your friends who want to raise their families in a small town.

So go for your dreams, but remember all these people are living their dreams, too. We chose small town life. It doesn’t mean we’re stuck; it means we chose differently than you. You’re not wrong for wanting to leave, but don’t assume we’re wrong for wanting to stay.

Life is what you make it.

~

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To 911 – “I Can’t Find My Son.”

A parent’s worst nightmare. And today, I believed it had happened to me.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Oh God! I can’t find my son. I can’t find him. He’s with another little boy. ASHER!!!”

“Okay, mam. It’s okay. Where are you?”

“I’m in Cozad. They were playing. Oh, please God. They were playing in the back yard and they’re gone. They’re gone! ASHER!!!”

“Okay. It’s okay. We’re going to help. Can you tell me your address?”

“Oh, God. I should have checked on them more. I’m not home. I’m driving around trying to…”

“It’s okay. I’m getting the police…”

“ASHER!!! WHERE ARE….OH GOD! I FOUND THEM!!! ASHER!!! I FOUND THEM!!! I’m sorry!

“Oh thank God. Okay. It’s okay mam. It’s okay. I’m so glad…”

“ASHER!!! Oh thank God!!! You get your ass in this car right now! You scared…”

I shifted my car and jumped out so fast that my van kept moving backward. Reverse. Not park. Try again. I jumped back in my moving vehicle and shifted up one more. Car stopped. I ran as fast as I could to my little boy and his friend, screaming every curse word that came to my mind, screaming at these beautiful boys covered in ditch water (where they had decided to escape for play time) that they scared us to death.

Truth be told. I did not handle today well.

Yes, we had a happy ending today. Yes, they are okay. But those 15 minutes of running around, driving around, and screaming at the top of our lungs for our six-year-old were undoubtedly the longest of my life.

I didn’t protect him. I should have checked on him more. I should have…

Every part of me truly believed someone had taken him, someone had harmed the innocent hairs on his head. Someone had my son.

The ditch. Am I looking for a body? What if he slipped and hit his head… He’s so little. We’ve talked about strangers. But would he do it? Would he get in a car with someone?

I tried to pray, but I believed so hard that someone had taken him, all I wanted to do was hurt whomever had him.

I’ll kill them. If someone hurts my baby. I’ll do it.

I can’t even believe my mind was capable of thinking this way. For 31 years of life, I have said I will act one way, I will do one thing, I will say these words, all if I were to experience what they experienced. I won’t judge someone. I could never hurt someone. I could never want another person to suffer no matter what they did.

And today, I learned the true reality of the terror of losing a child. I learned I had no control. I learned what my mind is capable, or incapable, of. 

The panic overtook everything in my body. I did not think clearly. I had never had so much energy in my life. It has now been over two hours since our terrifying 15 minutes, and I still can’t calm down. But what is baffling is I can’t believe what my brain thought, what my conversation with the 911 operator consisted of, and especially what I honestly believed to be true. I thought nothing good. Everything in my brain told me the worst case scenario. And now, I sit here trying to process it all.

The fear took over every logical thought in my mind. It dominated my thinking, my prayers, even my words. I was the crazy woman who the 911 operator couldn’t understand. I was the mother who believed I had lost my son.

So now I sit here and wonder, could I forgive someone who may hurt my child? Could I be the Christian I claim to be. Could I put my fears completely on God? Could I find good in losing my child? In that moment when I believed Asher was gone, I failed miserably.

I do not know if my mind is capable of forgiving someone who would hurt my child. I do not know how my world would keep turning if I lost my child. I do not know how I would react if I ever lose my child. I do not know…

None of us know. We do not know how we would feel, how we would react, what we would do, until we experience it ourselves. And even then, it’s not the same. I learned a terrifying lesson today. It was not a wanted lesson, but I understand why it happened. I needed to be humbled again. I needed to realize I am not strong enough without my God, without support.

Most importantly, I am not in control, even of my children’s destiny.

What many of us do have in common is our faith and the fact that many of us are parents. So now I know, all I can do is pray. I can pray for my ability to be a good mother, and to behave and act with grace using His truth. I can pray God will take my parenting anxieties. I can pray God will protect my boys and give me the strength to be everything they need.

So after my lesson today…

Heavenly Father,

I pray for the strength to look to You, to look to the good before ever choosing to first believe the evil. Today, I failed at this, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my fears immediately. I pray I have learned my lesson. I pray I can truly forgive as I say I will. I pray I will not judge another or believe I would know how I would react in any situation. I especially pray for your protection over my children. I pray for the opportunity for my children to outlive me. I pray for those whom have lost children, please give them peace, strength, and grace. Please surround them with people who will love them and fill them with Your truth. Please give us all the strength and peace to think of You first.

I’m not strong enough to be a parent without You. And today, I let my parenting fears overtake me.

In Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

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Advice to My Boys: 12 Non-Negotiables

Hello boys. This is your mother. A few things in the media have recently caught my attention, and as a mother and a teacher, I will tell you that I am absolutely disgusted by parenting anymore. I know what happens as a result of parents believing their children are perfect; I have seen it in my classroom. And I refuse to be the mother who ever allows this to happen.

So here is my news flash to you, you are not perfect. And when you mess up, I will back you up, but only to take your biscuits to jail if that’s what needs to be done.

When you were very young, screaming in a restaurant resulted in my hauling you to the bathroom to wash your mouth out with soap or standing outside with you in the heat for 30 minutes while you kicked and screamed. I’m not sorry. Because those people sitting with friends and family in the restaurant deserve to not listen to my child scream. When you smacked your brother, I smacked your butt. I’m not sorry. Feeling exactly how it feels when you hit him helps you grow empathy for others and learn to control your anger. When you slammed your door so many times that it broke the trim, I took your door until you learned how to count to ten rather than breaking my house. I’m not sorry. That lesson helped you learn respect for property. When you tore parts of the city’s snow fence from across the street to use as weapons, I stood behind the local policeman who caught you and we came up with a plan for how you would pay for the fence. I’m not sorry. And watching you about crap your pants as our extremely intimidating police officer walked toward you was payment enough for me…actually, it was freaking hilarious. Then I truly enjoyed watching you pick up trash in local city parks as more punishment to be sure you understood respect for property. Again, I’m not sorry.

I love being mom of boys, but the responsibility of raising respectful young men comes with a lot of pressure.

I love being mom of boys, but the responsibility of raising respectful young men comes with a lot of pressure.

I get it, you are exactly like your mother. We tend to be hot-headed and quick to react. But the best part is, being your mother and teaching you how to control that part of you has helped me learn to control that part of me. There is a lot of danger in any parent believing we are done learning. I know I’m messing up every day, but I’m trying my hardest to help you understand that we are all human. You will mess up. So will I. And we will back each other up because we are navigating this life together.

There is a lot of power in two words: acceptance and respect. Accept the fact that you are not perfect. You will make mistakes and you will fall on your face. I will ALWAYS be there to support you, but remember that my job is to help you LEARN. Respect the fact that I am older than you and I have done more than you can possibly imagine yet. That is why I will allow you to make mistakes and I will never pretend that I am perfect. But there is this whole other issue with respect that must be addressed, so I’m warning you now.

If you do not learn respect for yourself, for your friends and family, for property, and for strangers, you are in for an extremely sad life. But learn respect, and you will gain that respect from others. You will be a happy and contributing member of society who treats others with kindness and empathy; that is my prayer for you.

Our boys are 9 and 6 this year.

Our boys are 9 and 6 this year.

So here is my advice (a warning, perhaps) to you, my boys, as you are growing older. And it all has to do with how I plan to help you learn respect:

1. I repeated “NO MEANS NO” to you millions of times for a reason. It doesn’t only apply to me, it applies to every female you will ever come in contact with. If I hear you disrespected that, I will dress up like a fairy princess and show up at Homecoming or your work place to visit you.

2. If I hear that you were at all involved in any type of bullying, I will escort you to the home of the person whom was feeling victimized and personally ensure that you ARE SORRY and that you will NEVER make another human being feel less important than you again. This goes for standing and doing nothing while your friends are engaging in bullying; that is the same. You are just as much at fault.

3. Manners never become less important; in fact, it’s the opposite. When you are in my home, I expect you to say please and thank you and open doors. This becomes even more important when you are out of my home. One day, you will have a girlfriend. I want to see the sparkle in her eye when she sees that you naturally open doors for her without thinking. If you don’t, I will come out and do it for her to show her that I taught you better than that.

4. Girls are not “hot”, they are beautiful. Girls are breathtaking and are naturally self-conscious. You have watched me struggle with my own self-image for years. And you, my sweethearts, have helped me overcome it with your child-like innocence and your definition of beauty because you are looking at your mother, someone you know to love you unconditionally. Look at women like that; never lose that part of you that I love so dearly. Look at girls as the perfect beings they are. Tell her she is beautiful; don’t wait for her to ask for your approval.

5. Wait. Please, just wait. Do you want honesty? I tried to throw myself at your father when we began dating in high school because that is the only way I knew to get boys to like me. Know what he did? He said no to me; he told me he didn’t need that from me to show me he loves me. He saw my vulnerability, and he chose not to take advantage. Your daddy stole my heart that night. He hurt my pride (or what I thought to be pride at that point in my life), but he stole my heart, and he set the tone for our entire relationship. We didn’t wait before we found each other. But we learned from our mistakes and we waited for each other to be ready for that incredibly intimate part of life. Then, when daddy was ready, my self-worth had grown to the point where I understood I was worth the wait. So we waited more. We waited until our wedding night, and it was the best decision we ever made for our relationship. Please be like your daddy. Please. There is a reason God reserved that right for marriage, and I learned it first-hand.

Jeremy and I had been dating for a little over a month in this picture...I was 16 (junior in high school) and he was 18 (senior). :-)

This is your daddy and I about two hours before he told me no. I fell in love with him that night. I was 16 and he was 18. (February 2001)

6. When you make a mistake, own up. Attempting to cover your tracks only makes the situation worse. When you accept that you made a mistake and you genuinely apologize for it, learning and respect take place.

7. If you impregnate anyone, ever, know that you are now your own family. Do not ask me to raise your child for you. Do not ask me for the money to support your family. I will help you, but I will not be a man for you. At some point, we all need help. But at some point, we all have to learn how to ask for help without expecting it.

8. Nobody owes you anything…ever. Do good out of the goodness of your own heart and expect nothing in return. God will reward you in different ways. Do not expect that another person’s definition of doing good is the same as yours. Abide by the Golden Rule; one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

9. Pride is your biggest enemy. Your satisfaction should come in knowing that others love and respect you as a man of God, as a family man who puts his family’s needs before his own, and as a man who will always help someone in need. A man is not measured by his achievements. Give the glory to God. He is who made you who you are; follow Him and He will make your paths straight.

10. Understand that this life is not about you. This life is about doing good and sharing love with others. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you will learn to let the little things go, to love God above all else, and to love your family above all things society tends to hold important.

11. When you become a husband, remember two things:

 (a). Your relationship with your wife is most important of all, but still just behind your relationship with Christ. You are the example being set in your home. Love her. Never stop flirting. Go on dates. Do not be candid about your love for her in front of your children. And support her in every way.

(b). Your children will learn how to treat others by your example. So refer to all advice above. On these things, I am right.

12. Your relationship with God is the most important of all of these, and that is why it is last on my list…because I want it to be the first thing you remember when reading this. You know what we have been through as a family, because you have lived it. We have hope in Christ, and all glory goes to God. He is why we are still a family today. He makes us strong.

Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” is the first work by Jeremy and Bailey and is available for purchase in paperback from the authors directly or in eBook format on Amazon. Thank you for your support of our mission to help the world understand the reality of severe depression, suicide, and unseen illnesses.