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  • Valerie Bryant

When Mama Bear Growls - TUFF Mama and Most Unlikely Decisions

As Lee Greenwood’s song goes (with a twist): "From Detroit down to Houston; from New York to SA". I know - Lee Greenwood used "LA", but that’s too far west. I'll explain. Last summer, after me and the "kids" boxed up and sold our College Station TX house, we ventured to Scranton PA where my husband Lee had landed a job - in the shadows of breath-taking Mount Poconos.

For the first time, my children understood why their northern-born mom never could regard a Texas tree as real. Now in the Poconos, we daily walked under Goliath-sized trees. I also cautiously rolled past unimaginable death-defying valley drops, and even got used to seeing beaver and otters as road kill - and caution signs along roadways that read, "Falling Deer"!

We did our best to find a place we could call home; however, we ran into problems with the real estate market. Maybe, because it's a high-cost world-famous tourist area, we couldn't find anything reasonably priced or well-maintained to rent within close proximity to Lee's job. The task was made more difficult since we had four pets, which severely limited our options. One option required Lee’s commute of more than an hour, through mountainous terrain and in real snow. It meant my doing yet another 3-4 year stretch of re-acclimating in a “strange” place, continuing function as a single-married parent whose spouse would hardly ever be home due to arduously lengthy commute.

Yes. We would live in the same house. Yes. The parenting load would continue to be primarily mine – just as it had been even in years prior to Lee’s move to South Dakota. Yes. I would be starting from ground zero once again, working to establish the family in unfamiliar territory

But . . . “NO!”

Since September six of us had been living in a tiny temporary 2-bedroom residence (go try that one on for size – that’s 3 adult-sized teens and 1 long-legged 11-year old). After a few months of hopeless searching, signs of agitation in the children were morphing into mild depression. For myself, when you have moved 23 times in 33 years of marriage (and the children a portion of that), you reach a point of relocation saturation, mixed with unexplainable exhaustion that cries desperately for an end to nomadic living. It’s just that something broke the camel’s back for each of us.

Maybe it was after my husband casually mentioned that his future down-the-proverbial-road sights might be set on other jobs in distant regions, (Oh, mercy! More moves?)

Maybe it was the fresh soreness in me and the children, having been forced to live an existence requiring us to hotel hop for months prior to arriving in Scranton,

Maybe it was the dreary Scranton-area housing market. In that region, available properties would not fluctuate much from what we had been seeing for months. It was basically, "what you see is what you get – today, tomorrow and forever". We were on our fourth realtor. All had echoed the same fact that if we wanted a decent place closer to the Scranton area near Lee’s job, we would have to buy and pay exorbitant taxes. Yet, we were not planning to call that area our forever home. Why then risk buying? (Hey! There is a reason they don’t show you more of the Scranton area at the intro of The Office. Lots of crowded living on inner city hillsides where your side yard is your neighbor’s front yard, but your back yard is a rock mountain or a cliff. It’s not all that way, but it’s not the wide-open spaces you might imagine.)

Maybe it was my own reality moments of the personal struggles I knew would await me there – yet again. I had done the moving tango numerous times before – no less than 23 times. Yet there was something about this move that pained me more than all the rest,

Maybe it was difficulties for which there is no room to mention in this post – all weighing upon me like a watered-down potato sack of bricks.

Maybe – Maybe – Maybe!

Consider this. A family reaches the end of “Maybe” when Mama Bear moans start transforming into growls because of weary despairing for herself – for her children – for the mounting family stressors and uncertainties. Decision was finally made after two long hard months:

The children and I would make our return to Texas where we would settle into familiar surroundings. I would then be able to establish our retirement home and shoot for that “happily ever after” elusive dream.

Some would define this decision as one to weaken the family. I do attest that weary souls simply know when enough is enough for any family. Still . . .

The “Stills”

Still, from my military background, I firsthand knew families that had faced separation due to a parent’s long-term or recurring calls to duty. In those cases, the best solution is often to anchor the family where they feel safest and closest to their support network, granting the mobile parent liberty to move about.

Another “Still” is that as parents, you have to make right hard mature adult decisions to take the more rugged, uncertain high road towards the betterment of the welfare of your children,

And one more “Still” is that both parents must fairly consider the plight of the other. There will be times when the needs/desires of one must supersede the needs/desires of the other. Ignoring such consideration produces dismay as well as resentment – neither of which are healthy emotions. As you have probably figured, it was me who stood center stage on the position to relocate from Pennsylvania. I am not ashamed to admit it; I would hope and pray that others of you can freely moan and growl in your relationships – and be rightly heard and regarded.

When this TUFF Mama grew weary of the nomadic shifts that ever defined her 33 years of marriage, her pleas to be heard turned to growls of misery. After years of supporting my husband’s career to his unparalleled successes, of carrying my babies and household figuratively on my back to free my husband to excel - even to the point of him gaining his doctorate, I felt a need to be relieved of living restarts and new-kid-on-the-block pressures. I needed an opportunity to breathe a little easier in familiar surroundings. Nevertheless, it would mean continuing to blossom more fully to grow where I feel the Lord calling. It’s what my husband had promised me years before. I was/am ready to continue stepping into that season of appropriate personal and family fulfillment.

With the dizzying unlikely decision made to return to Texas, we spent the next weeks taking in as many east coast sights as we could. The children and I relocated back to Texas (San Antonio - that's the "SA" I rewrote into Lee Greenwood's tune) in late November and are finally settling in – not even bothered by the many boxes still littering our house.

We have unknown stressors on this road ahead of us. Do pray for us as we continue forward. We’ve many a mountain to climb; however, we are home - and this time, it finally feels good.





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