Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Complications of Parenting

No one wants to turn into their parents.  It's a common theme of childhood, especially when you are a kid who gets in trouble for something trivial and declare that you hate everything and everyone and will never treat your children that way. 

Not like I was ever the kind of kid who said that. 

Ahem. 

While some people say its inevitable that we will actually become our parents, I've found that it is just as likely that we swing to the other side of the pendulum and try to give our children as much of an opposite experience to ours as possible. 

And one is not better than the other. 

This past Monday, my 5-year-old son had a soccer practice and game.  My daughter stayed home with my husband, so I was able to relax a little without having to split my concentration between a kid on the field and a kid playing on the playground.  Without any distractions, I was much more aware of what was going on in my surroundings, namely, what other parents were doing. 

I try hard not to judge other parents.  You never know what someone else's family situation is, and being a parents is hard enough without having to hear from someone else what you are doing wrong. 

However, on this particular day, I witnessed a soccer player slam a gate on a team mate, and a mom who just watched it happen.  The other boy was upset and his mom calmed him down, but this first  mom said and did nothing.  Then she allowed her other son to push her younger son for slamming the gate.  No words. No actions.  More like this happened while I watched intrigued.  Finally, about halfway through practice, she had enough and decided she would take the boys home.  The younger boy cried, and the older boy immediately began talking back. 

Mom: We're leaving. 
Boy: No, we're not. 
Mom: Yes, we are. 
Boy: Let him stay! 
Mom: C'mon, we're leaving.
Boy: NO!  HE'S STAYING!
Mom: You need to be nicer to me. 
Boy: YOU'RE NOT MY BOSS.  DADDY'S THE BOSS OF YOU!
Mom: If you keep talking like this, you're going to be in trouble. 
Boy: NO, YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE!
Mom: I'm serious.  If you keep talking like this, you're going to be in trouble. 

And as they walked off, the boy kept yelling rudely at his mom. 

This is the norm of parenting.  I used to wonder why things like this happen.  Why parents spend a lot of time threatening and not a lot of time disciplining.  And I'm not excluding myself from this, either.   I  tend to lean towards grace and compassion instead of instant discipline.  Brandon leans towards tough love, and together, we mostly make it work.  But not everyone has a partner who can balance them out. 

Those of us who are parents right now were some the last generation that got told "no." Now, middle and high schoolers will come home from school complaining that their teacher told them, "No", and parents call up wondering why the teacher was so cruel to their baby. 

We were told no, and we decided not to be like our parents.  And thus, we let our kids get away with murder.  In our efforts to be better than our parents, in many ways, we have become worse. 

As the middle child, I've got issues.  And it's taken me years to discover that I need to give my parents some grace, too.  Just because I disagreed with some of the ways I was parented doesn't mean my parents ever meant anything bad for me.  Everything they ever did for me was out of love, even if I didn't like, agree, or understand.  And as parents now, everything we do for our kids is out of love too.  And guess what?  We've all kind of screwed up. 

Our kids are going to say the same things about us someday.  They'll say things like, "My mom used to let me do whatever I wanted, and I was a hellion."  Well, hellion is an under-used word and it probably won't be making a comeback anytime soon.  But you get the point. 

I've said  to myself for years now, that I will do what I think is best for my kids and eventually they'll grow up and say that while I did my best, they wished I had done things differently.  Something I do to parent my kids won't be right.  More than one something, to be sure.  I've said that to myself, but never had someone else say it to me until last week. 

My 7-year-old daughter has been in play therapy for about a year now.  She loves her play therapist.  She tells me she wants to go see her every week, and for the rest of her life.  Last week, we discussed Brooklyn's progress.  I commented on some transitions that are being made in our house, and some serious situations that my daughter is aware of.  I mentioned her maturity to be able to take all of it in, and her therapist hit me with something like a ton of bricks. 

She invites honesty and information because of her curiosity, but she's probably carrying a lot of things she shouldn't have to bear.  

So... my goal to be an open, honest parent who communicates freely with my kids is probably adding to my daughter's anxiety.  The one thing I didn't want to do. 

So now here I am, in full realization that I will fail my kids.  I will get judged by other parents for being too lenient.  My husband will get judged for being too harsh.  I will become my parents, which isn't that bad.  I will be different from my parents, which isn't bad either.  Parenting is much more complicated than I expected it to be. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Weird Thing Wednesday: Hair

Hair.

I don't like it.

Let me rephrase: I don't like it being places where it doesn't belong.

Places where hair belongs:

  1.  On your body.  
    1. But only a little bit.  
      1. Really, like a very small amount is acceptable. 
        1. VERY small.  

Places where hair doesn't belong:

  1. The toilet seat
  2. The floor
  3. The sink
  4. The counter tops
  5. The sheets
  6. Clean clothes
  7. Shoes 
  8. Blankets
  9. Food
  10. Cup holders
  11. Drinks 
  12. My cat's water bowl
  13. Anywhere that is not your body
To be frank, I don't even like much body hair.  I never dated anyone hairy.  Too many hairs look like pubic hairs, and I immediately gag at the sight of anything questionable where it is not meant to be. I grab a paper towel or a tissue and gently brush it away to the nearest trash receptacle as quickly as possible.  Get thee behind me, Satan.  Or, I rush to sweep it up while trying not to lose my lunch.  See, I tend to think about the worst case scenario, so my mind always reverts to Clarence Thomas and the pubic hair on the Coke can.  WHY? I was like FIVE when that happened.  It's like my fear of clowns: installed during childhood and impossible to remove as an adult.  

One of my biggest pet peeves is my cat rubbing against my legs after I've gotten out of the shower.  And he does it EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  I'm soaking wet, and in he strolls, meowing and begging for attention.  I flick all the remaining water I have on my hands onto him and it diverts him for a moment, but because cats are punks, he does what he wants, leaving behind a splotch of black cat hair stuck to my calf.  I have to remind myself that he does this out of love.  I am clean and unscented.  He is marking me because he loves me.  And because he's a punk.  

If I accidentally go a day without shaving my arm pits, I freak out.  Like, drive home and shave.  Or go to Target, buy a razor, shave in the bathroom. The feel of it makes me self-conscious. God forbid I forget on a day where I'm wearing a sleeveless top! Then the anxiety and immediacy of the situation goes up tenfold.   

I shave my legs in the winter.  For any guy reading this, I know this sounds like no big feat, but I assure you that you are wrong.  Most girls love winter because a)sweater weather, and b)pants all the time means no need to shave.  EXNAY on the upidstay.  I shall not be furry.  I can't be walking around like Chewbacca.  That stuff has got to go.  

And don't get me started on facial hair!  I have ONE hair follicle under my chin that loves to grow.  Just the one.  So, I go about my business and then happen to glance at myself in the mirror one day to see: POW! You've got a long, dark thread hanging from your chin. Fantastic.  I do not feel pretty.  

I keep a pair of tweezers in my makeup bag.  And one in my purse.  And one in my bathroom drawer.  And one in my car.  Because you never know when you are going to look down and realize, "Huh, I missed this one random spot while shaving", and have to painfully remove the hairs one by one.  Call it vanity, call it obsession, I call it cleanliness.  Which is next to Godliness.  Which is said no where in the Bible, so I'm not sure who first lied that one up.  

Whatever you call it, call it "Weird Thing Wednesday."  

I Googled "Gross Hair" and this is one of the photos that came up.
 I can't unsee this.  Now, neither can you.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Being a Coach's Wife

Being a coach's wife means having months of feeling like a single mom.

Being a coach's wife means going long periods of time without a meaningful conversation with my best friend.

Being a coach's wife means sharing in great joy and deep disappointment based on the team's success.

Being a coach's wife means simultaneously loving and hating your husband's job.

Being a coach's wife means struggling with the antithetical desires for the season to end as soon as possible and for the team to take state.

Being a coach's wife means assisting in fundraising.

Being a coach's wife means attending all home games.

Being a coach's wife means attending the close away games.

Being a coach's wife means letting your kids sleep with you because you are lonely.

Being a coach's wife means sleeping alone until he gets back from far away games at 1 AM.

Being a coach's wife means keeping to yourself at games because you don't know how friendly to be with the parents.

Being a coach's wife means practicing holding your tongue when the ump makes a bad call.

Being a coach's wife means being willing to fight someone who says something rude and negative about him.  Just kidding.  It means practicing holding your tongue in that situation, too.

Being a coach's wife means allowing the entire varsity team into your home for a massive Fortnite squads battle.  Twice.

Being a coach's wife means wearing a lot of Mustang gear.

Being a coach's wife sometimes means keeping the pitch count, because too many kids failed and there's no one on the bench to do it.

Being a coach's wife is awkward, lonely, and often unrewarding.

None of these things are hard and fast rules.  None are things I have to do. They all just come with the territory. You love your husband, so you prepare to help him, support him, and stand up for him.

My coach didn't ask me or expect me to do any of these things. But he's glad that I do.  And now that our season has come to an end for the year, I find myself finally giving in to how much I've missed him.  I cuddle a little closer, I hold him a little tighter, I stay up with him a little longer.  We've got lost time to make up for, after all.

Photo of Coach and his family last season.  Peyton's dirty 'stache is for sure the highlight of the picture.  


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Weird Thing Wednesday: Starbuck's

I'm instituting something I'd like to call, "Weird Thing Wednesday". My inspiration behind this? I have a number of quirks and oddities about me, and there's nothing better than making fun of yourself. Also, I enjoy alliteration.

Today's topic, in this maiden voyage of "Weird Thing Wednesday", is Starbuck's.

I confess, that this afternoon, I drank my first Starbuck's coffee. 

Yes, you read that right.  Before April 25th, 2018, Tracey Strother had never tasted Starbuck's coffee.

(Ironically, I just turned on Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and had totally forgotten that Dr. Evil had invested in Starbuck's. This movie was made in 1999.  When I was 13. Sidenote: I wonder Mike Myers had more fun as: Austin Powers or Dr. Evil.  They're so different, sometimes I forget that they were both played by the same guy.)

Focus back in now. 

But Tracey, you ask, how have you gone 32 years of life without drinking Starbuck's? 

-I'm allergic to milk
-It's expensive
-I don't like coffee
      *In fact, we didn't even own a coffee pot until a friend bought us one because he was tired of not having coffee when he came over. 
-I choose to buy other items from Starbuck's when I visit, like Passion Tea Lemonade (praise Jesus!) and cake pops (hallelujah)

I know what you will ask next.  "So then, what brought you to the dark side?"

-Free samples at Target
-Remembering the Jamocha Shake from Arby's
        *This was (is?  I don't know if they still serve it.  I don't even know if Arby's is still around.  Anyone?  Do they still have the meats?) the best milkshake ever, but it is also what aggressively  helped me discover my milk allergy.  This and DQ blizzards. Ooh, those were some bad times in the Dairy Queen bathroom in Edmonton.  But I digress. 

And the last questions of course, are "What did you drink and what do you think?"

-Vanilla Mocha Frappuccino

NO ONE TOLD ME ICED COFFEE WAS BASICALLY A CHOCOLATE COFFEE MILKSHAKE.  IT WAS FREAKING DELICIOUS. 

I'll suffer for it later, it's true.  But holy cow.  If I hadn't been so anti-trendiness in high school I could have been enjoying this for years.  And also weigh more than I weigh now.  And have severe digestive issues.  You know what?  Not worth it.  But it was way better than I expected. 

And yet, the glorious drink has one major flaw. 

It's nearly impossible to spell.  And for those that know what a grammar Nazi I tend to be, this is an unforgivable sin.  If I could bring myself to shorten words like a good millennial, I would just call it a "frap" and be done with it, but that makes me cringe.  It's not "presh" to shorten words that are not that long to begin with.  JUST STOP IT. 

I'm not about to pay $5 a day for something that will tear apart my insides, but I sure as heck will be looking out for more of those Target free samples.  And you can look out for another "Weird Thing Wednesday" next week. 







Monday, April 23, 2018

Paying it Forward

Last week, our preacher mentioned the film, "Pay it Forward" in his sermon  The film is based on the idea that, rather than paying back good that is done to you, we should be proactive in looking for good to do unto others.


Now, the premise is the film is great, but the execution is extremely depressing, because at the end of the film, (spoiler alert) the sweet little boy trying to make the world a better place by being kind gets stabbed and dies.  Doesn't really leave you with the warm, fuzzy feeling that you should actually pay kindness forward.  Instead, it ends on a note of negativity and cynicism. Why take a message of such positivity and crush it at the end with a violent death?   After all, not many of us think, "Hmm, I'd like to be nice to people until one of them kills me.  That seems like a decent plan."  The ending negates the point of the film, that we should always be looking for good to do to others.

Or does it?

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches that those who follow him will be persecuted.  He promises that if you are a Christian living the way we are called to live, you will be mocked.  People will think you are weird.  We aren't supposed to look like the world around us.  If we do, we are doing life wrong.  That doesn't mean we're guaranteed death for doing good to others, but it isn't out of the question either.

What's great is that Jesus doesn't teach that works will get you into Heaven. We can never do enough good things to earn it.  It is impossible.  No amount of paying it forward or back will ever be sufficient to gain our way on our own.

So why do good, then?  Take this same idea and flip it on its head. Because you are saved, be kind to others.  Because Jesus loves you, show that love to others. Because God's grace is enough, do good to others. Be patient.  Forgive.  Let go on resentments.  You don't do good to earn your way into God's heart; you're already there.  Feel the warmth and joy that comes from that knowledge and you won't be able to help but pay it forward to others.

Even if you aren't a Christian, or if your concept of God is a little different than what I've described, if you are a friend of Bill W., you still understand what I'm talking about.  Anyone who has undergone recovery for any number of hurts, habits, or hang-ups knows that there is a power greater than ourselves that helps us become the people we are made to be.  As you finish working the 12 steps, you see that the 12th step calls you to carry the message you have received to others.  Because you have received healing, you give your testimony to others so they can have an opportunity to have the same experiences you have had.

I recently saw the movie "Wonder". It's the story of a little boy who has a facial deformity, and his first year attending school.  One of the best lines comes from one of his classmates, who declares that, "when given the choice of being kind or being right, choose kind". All of this has been on my mind because, as many of you know, I've been in recovery for codependency, anger, and food addiction for over a year now.  Recovery isn't just for drugs and alcohol, folks.  I can't go back and change my past actions.  I am currently working on step 9 in my own recovery, which is where I make amends to those I've hurt in the past.  Some of those people will refuse to meet with me or hear what I have to say.  I know that.  So I will make my amends to an empty chair, or in a letter that will never get sent.  Some of those who I do meet with won't believe or forgive me for what I've done either.  I know that too. And still others I am struggling to decide if I owe an amends to or not, because I'm too prideful and know that even if I have a small part, I feel their blame is more.  It doesn't matter. I still do my part. Because it is better to be kind than to be right, and amends is a kindness that I owe them.

Then comes the hard part: moving on.  Because once I've made my amends, it's over.  I can't dwell on it anymore.  After all, if I can believe that God forgives me for my sins, who am I to hold on to them?

I don't think it is a coincidence that the day after I heard a sermon on paying it forward, I had an opportunity to.  I drove through Starbuck's to pick up a drink for a friend (seriously, I never go to Starbuck's, which is what makes this so cool).  As I got to the pick-up window, the girl said, "Here's your drink!  The car in front of you paid for your order."  I had a choice now: keep it going or be thankful that I didn't have to spend $5.  Pretty easy choice.  I paid for the car behind me.  The girl at the window smiled and said I was the 10th car to pay it forward.  I don't know how many cars experienced the kindness, but I left feeling giddy, hopeful for humanity.

Odds are, you won't be killed for being kind (poor Haley Joel Osment).  It's much more likely that you'll make someone smile, give them a bright spot in their day, or change their life by sharing honestly.  I've said more than once that Tracey Strother is a much better person than Tracey Allen ever was.  Tracey Allen did a lot of crappy stuff.  I can't go back and fix the mistakes I made in my youth, but I can move on knowing that I live with joy and kindness in my heart, and will live the rest of my life paying it forward to others.  I don't want anyone to live in darkness, depression, anger, fear, addiction, abuse, or pain. So, here I am, being honest and vulnerable in the hopes of helping someone else.

I'm just paying it forward.  And hoping not to get stabbed.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

Return of the Mack

You know, as I was writing my title, I realized that the last time I came back from a long hiatus from blogging, I named my first post after an Eminem song.  Now I'm going even more old school to;with  Mark Morrison.  Clearly, when I think about writing, I think about rap, hip hop, and R&B.  Interesting. 

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Patrick, called me.  We talked about a lot of things, including my daughter, Brooklyn's decision to be baptized recently.  Patrick is a mission-minded Christian with his eyes always on others and how to serve.  When he called me, he said that God wanted him to encourage me to go not give up on the passions of my childhood. 

No one has every really called me up to say, hey, I think God wants me to tell you something, but I certainly believe that it's possible.  Once, a few years ago, one of my students' mom's died. Not long after, I had a dream about her mom in a field of flowers, walking down a hill.  I had never met her mom.  I didn't know what she looked like. Still, in my dream, I knew this was her mom.  So, I told my student about this dream of mine.  Why not, right?  Long story short, she believed that I had actually seen her mother in my dream, and that this was God's way of telling her not to be sad, to believe that her mom was in a better place.  Point being, when it comes to people I know delivering messages they feel are from God, I'll buy it.  Weirder things have happened. 

As I listened to Patrick continue, he mentioned that he has a friend who works in the Christian film industry, and how he would love to get us together and talk.  I stumbled over my next words a bit, because his words sounded so foreign. Film?  Why was he talking about film?  Oh, right.  When he and I first met, I wanted to be a director. I had at one point planned to attend film school at USC.  After all, movies are my thing.  I married a guy who keeps track of how many movies we've watched together, when, where, and who with.  It serves as a history for our entire relationship. We just build a home theater in our new house. We own every Academy Award Best Picture.  We watched every single Disney animated classic in order, reviewing every one, before we left for a trip to Walt Disney World. We have over 800 movies and served as a makeshift rental service for friends and neighbors in college. Our little storefront apartment even had a name: B and T DVD.  It didn't cost anything to rent from us, but you had to write your name and what you took in our rental log, or else we'd never remember where our films went.  MOVIES ARE MY THING. 

Still, when Patrick talked about my childhood passions and film in the same breath, I realized how wrong it was.  I may have always had a love for movies, but the instant I thought about a childhood passion to continue pursuing, it wasn't film: it was writing. 

When I was in 4th grade, we had an assignment to write an autobiography.  It was to be truth up until 4th grade and then a prediction of what the rest of life would be like from there.  It was pretty clear where reality ended and fantasy began in my tale.  My fourth-grade self predicted that I would be an unmarried graduate of the University of Alabama with two adopted children.  I was going to be a successful children's author, then a 60-ish-year-old alternative radio DJ, then someone who went to jail for murder (but it was totally self-defense and my kids busted me out of jail and explained the misunderstanding to the judge, so it's all good). 

My childhood passion is writing.  It's still my passion.  But I see others who are better at it than me, and get discouraged.  I let life get to me, and I become depressed and stay silent.  I tell mini-stories on Facebook and people encourage me to write stories about my children, who bring hilarity into my life daily.  I listen, get writer's block, believe the lie that no one will want to read what I want.  Who will care?  Other times, I think about getting back into blogging and get scared.  What if I run out of stories?  What if I tell them all online and then want to write a book but there's nothing left to say? 

And yet, my childhood passion is writing.  And God is telling me not to give up on my childhood passion. 

So, it's the return of the mack.  With hopefully lots more to come.