Thursday, August 9, 2012


My parents were high school sweethearts, the kind of story you hear about often in 
small towns such as the one we live in.  They got married soon after graduation, saved 
their money and bought a little white house in the center of town.  Daddy went to work
 for a bread company and Mama stayed home and had a little baby Liv.  She cooked
 three meals a day, hung her laundry up on the line, and took care of her family with 
great pride.  Every afternoon, she and I would sit on the front porch and watch for his 
truck to pull up in the drive after a long day at work, a mama living out her dreams of 
being home with her little one.  A few years later, their love grew even more as my
 little brother made his arrival.  A family of four: the life she had always dreamed of.
But, their love story soon took a turn when my dad left us one day, breaking her heart 
and changing our lives forever.  My mama was only 22 years old, two babies, no 
college education, not enough money saved to support two children on her own.  The 
family she had taken such pride in was suddenly broken and she was left to pick up 
the pieces, alone.
My mother is not a real drown-in-your-sorrows kind of gal: she is tough and hard and 
knows how to get things done.  With the help of her family, she went to night school 
and worked two jobs to support us.  We made sacrifices and learned to live without 
certain luxuries.  She made ends meet even when the pieces grew shorter and 
shorter, teaching us to do the same.
And we survived.  I remember riding the school bus in elementary school one afternoon 
and being bullied by an older girl.  She called me "poor", taunting me in front of the
 other kids.  I went home that day, confused, asking my mother, "Is that true?  Are 
we poor?". Growing up, I had no idea that we were struggling in any way.  When I 
looked around at my life and my family, the big open fields my cousins and I rode our 
bikes through, the fishing holes and creatively constructed forts we built in the woods: I
 felt so rich.  My life was filled with love and curiosity and the great outdoors.  What had 
that girl meant, that I was poor?
And I let that mentality grow into my foundation.  My mother instilled values in me 
from day one, teaching me the importance of being self sufficient, hard working, 
and independent.  She would never let her little girl grow into the kind of woman 
who depended on a man for support.  Instead, I would have a quality education and the 
drive to be whomever I wanted to be.  I would have options and a back-up plan.  I 
would never be left alone, scared or afraid.  I would be able to survive.  The hurt she
 had suffered at the hands of the man she loved became the model in which she raised 
me: she would never let me be in the same situation she had found herself in.  I would 
have the capability to make me own money.
My mama eventually met and married my step-father, the man who would step in when 
my biological father could not.  My Pop took my brother and I in as though we were his 
own, loving us from the most sincere part of his heart and always putting our best 
interests before his own.  He was a smart man with a good job, a house he had built on 
his own and a few small luxuries.  Together, my parents pushed me through school to be 
the best that I could be, encouraging me to join the military, cheering me on through 
college.  My Pop shared the same views as my mama and wanted me to be independent.
  He wanted me to be strong.
Since Shawn's accident, I have been reflecting so much on my upbringing and how it 
has saved me through my most trying moments.  My father leaving us was not the 
greatest tragedy of my life, though it was devastating at the time.  That turn of 
events created a series of moments that led me to where I am today, prepared me for 
the day when I would have to pull up my own boot straps and make things happen.  
Because my mother had to fend for herself and her children, I am able to fend for mine.
I volunteered to work for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, extra income to put a
 little padding in our savings account.  As I drove home to my family that day, I felt 
an amazing sense of pride.  This is what my mother worked so hard to provide, this is 
the reason she pushed me to make good grades and get after school jobs, this is the
 example she set for me.  While my husband is down and unable to work, I have the ability
 to step up to the plate and provide for my family, I have the ability to survive.  Those 
long hours she put in studying and working and stretching herself thin: they were
 all preparing me for times in my life such as these.
I am a wife and a mother and I value those roles more than anything in the world.  But, 
when push comes to shove, I am also a survivor.  I can cook a good meal, maintain a
 clean home, and earn a decent living, all while invoking a strong sense of self.  I am a 
modern American woman, the product of a mother who refused to lie down and play the 
role of the victim.  I watched my mother make the most of life after her husband left
 her, witnessed her start completely over on her own.  It strengthened and inspired
 me, prepared me for life's toughest moments.  Shawn and I, our little family, we will 
be okay.  We will work hard and save money and get through this time.  I will go to work 
for as many hours as it takes to get the bills paid and the babies fed and we will be okay.  
My mama raised me right.  My mama raised a survivor.

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Deanna Fike said...

i hope your mama reads your blog. this is the kind of thing every mama wants to read from their grown child. :)

Carly Lockman said...

This is a fantastic essay!

When I hear about women opting not to go to college because they plan "to be a SAHM anyway," I cringe a little. I think you owe it to your children to be able to work if they need you. I agree that the role of SAHM is incredibly important, but when the sh** hits the fan, a mama needs to be able to provide.

Caitlin A. said...

This is beautiful! So infuriating when a father or mother walks away from their responsibilities, but how awesome when someone can step into their shoes and turn it all around (I'm talking both about your mom and your stepdad!). So happy that you were raised in a home so full of love :)

Sara said...

Thank you for sharing where your strength comes from. I really admire you. My mom worked hard but always maintained a victim role and it really didn't do many any favors. I really aspire to be more like you. :)

Brandi said...

This is so beautiful. Your mama should be (and I bet IS) very proud of you.

Randalin said...

You are so amazing and have so much to be proud of. This was such a beautiful post.

Vanessa said...

I second what Deanna said. Please share this with your mama. What an incredible woman, and to think that the foundation she gave you will be the same one you pass along to your girls. Such an incredible legacy!

Jessica said...

For the love of Louisiana, please write a book already! You are so talented and yes, make sure your mother reads this. :)

Ashley Chatman said...

Love this! I know your mom is so proud of you. Shawn and your girls couldn't be more blessed than having you take care of them.

Kara Motts said...

GoodNESS this is one amazing story. I love it when you share your heart like this. I am forever impressed with you and Matt and I talk about your family and what you have survived and THRIVED through. It's no small miracle Liv and you should be proud of yourself for your grace, servant heart and strength!!!

Anonymous said...

Probably my favorite blog post I've ever read. So inspiring

Olivia said...

Thank you!! You can't imagine how many times Shawn and I have talked about your journey as well, prayed for yall and wished you the best. It's amazing how much you can care about someone you've never actually met in person. You are amazing and Brighton is going to be one lucky little girl!

Olivia said...

Thank you! I feel the same way about them.

Olivia said...

I want to, someday. It's definitely a dream of mine. Thank you for your encouragement!!

Olivia said...

Thank you!! I strive everyday to be half as good a mom as she is!

Olivia said...

Thank you! I am proud of our family and this journey.

Olivia said...

Thank you! We are both pretty proud of each other:)

Olivia said...

I agree. I hope to be half as wonderful as she is in my girls' eyes.

Olivia said...

I agree completely. I admire the SAHM role so much but I also believe you should be prepared for life's most unexpected moments, like the one my family found ourselves in recently. I am so thankful for the ability to support my family!!

Olivia said...

Thank you! It was not always perfect but we made the most of our days. That's all any of us can do!

Olivia said...

Do you know that I feel the same about you? You are such an incredible woman and will be the most amazing mom. I hope that you know that!

Lucy The Valiant said...

Oh, wow, such strong and inspirational women! This was beautiful, friend.

Sara said...

Thank so much sweet friend.