That may have been a 400 lb, 30 year old man on the field...

I sat through my 4th rainy high school football game of the season, watching Kid 1 play one of the last games of his Senior year.  It was Homecoming for our inner city Dallas high school, already the underdog right out of the gate in Friday night's game against a suburban football power house.  And as people slipped and slid down the steps of the bleachers on that miserable night at Forester Field in Dallas, I watched my son get plowed down on the field, time and again, by what looked to be a 400 lb, 30 year old man - and made a note to myself to inquire about birth certificates for the opposing team's players.  

The other team brought with them - obvious speed, talent, precision, and what looked like a full bus load of well practiced aggression - trash talking our boys all night long on the field.  They also brought the world's loudest band - and when they played through the entire half time show time allotment for both schools - with no regard for our Homecoming festivities and special performances - another mental note was made to check the UIL rules of behavior for band programs, especially in the category of rudeness and inconsideration.  But our adorably awesome band? ... Though they rarely got the opportunity to toot their own horns that night because of you know who..... stood at the ready to share their spirit if ever given the chance.  Go BAnd!

The suburbs ended the night by playing for half of eternity even after the game was over - loudly overtaking the coaches' post game huddle with the players, and most noticeably, over our school's game night tradition of player, staff and cheerleaders joining hands to sing their Alma Mater.  

But our school did what they do best, though the best for our boys on this Friday night
got them only as far as a 78 to 0 score in favor of the other team.  
But I'm calling a win for us on this one.... as it takes more strength and power to share
what you have plenty of with someone who has less, than it does to beat someone
who’s already down.  

In the parable of The Good Samaritan in the Bible, Jesus tells of a traveler, a Jew, who was beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road.  Pretty much everyone who passes him by takes notice, but keeps walking.... until a Samaritan - a people who didn't much get along with Jews (um, football rival teams on a Friday night?) - is the one who stops and helps the injured man.  The Samaritan takes him to a safe place, pays for his care, and even promises to come along a bit later to take care of any extra expenses that come up.  And y'all, I get all the warm feels just thinking about the degree of nice showing up there.  

And I think this is where the mom in me stops trying to talk football and starts to talk about what really matters - beyond the game and beyond the score, and about raising kids into good adults.  

I guess Friday night's score will forever be a sore spot for my Senior Varsity player, but as I try to remind him, eye rolls expected, ... Sweetheart, it's only a game.  

Because when my son comes home after school and tells me that he spent part of practice changing a flat tire for a parent at the school, or that the team has to be there late one day because they're helping a neighbor with a yard project, I know that his teachers and coaches are looking far beyond Friday night's game and right into the hearts of these young people.  When practice is paused until all players are on board with the required grades to play, the real lesson of team work is taught and learned.  When the coaches organize a team breakfast with their biggest rival team, in an effort to build healthy competition via friendship and common ground, I know that life lessons are being served up larger than Friday night's score.  Go Coaches!  

And when my son's coaches and teachers are invested not only in his contribution to the football program, or his future playing prospects, but his prospects as a contributing member of society, I know that he's in the hands of adults that have some of life's biggest questions figured out. .... Possible recipe being, take what you have to offer, use the heck out of it, and then share it with someone else.  Bring someone along with you and lift someone up behind you, and may the road to wherever be smoothly paved and well lit for your travels.  

I hope that happens for our giant beast of an opponent as well. Because one day all these kids will walk off that field and need to know how to live life without the Friday Night Lights deciding their priorities.  I think my own kid has had enough of a mixed curriculum in that area to stand a good chance.  

Friday's game was hard to watch.  It's always hard to see your kid get knocked around on the field or off.  But as a parent, I'm in the business of raising good people, and way too much of the time, y'all, it involves a few hard knocks.  And knowing that growing up involves strength training in humility, tolerance and grace, I'm proud to share that job with the amazing teachers at Bryan Adams High in Dallas ISD.    

And yes, those wonderful kids, coaches, cheerleaders and staff still joined hands on the sideline after the game - despite the noise of the other team, and stood together as the family that they have become over their years together.    

The giant may have won last Friday, but I think our kids are winning the game that really matters.  

nice people eating chocolate while acting like Jesus

Does Kristi ever blog anymore I hear my friends saying?  And the answer is yes, but only when I can write something that doesn't sound:

a) mean
b) meaner
c) meanest

Because, unfortunately,  that's sort of where some of my most recent weeks have taken me.  And I'm ready to get off this road and onto one filled with nice people, chocolate and Jesus.  And even better would be nice people eating chocolate while acting like Jesus.

But alas, I had the mean co-worker at the gym last week tell me that my voice is too loud and that, blah blah blah, .... I forget the rest.  To which I said, This voice that I use every day?...  the one that God gave me to use for his glory?  And then the ugly part of me thought of how I wanted to push her in the pool right then.  

Then there was Facebook talk of a crazy kid on the loose at one of the local schools, threatening to shoot everyone the following day, promptly at 2pm.  To which I say, Seriously, if you are organized enough to plan it out to the exact minute, you have a future in management or some sort of mathematical field, and you should straighten up and find your true calling.  

And of course I replied to more than one nervous mom, -  something along the lines of, Nothing will come of this, let the school handle it and do what they are trained to do well -   Because I wanted to come across as knowledgable and calm and experienced since we just had our own school shooting threat at the boys' school about two weeks ago.  But all my comments were were a tiny voice in the sea of others traveling down Mass Hysteria Lane.  And as it turns out, mostly just a big lie about what the whole inside of me is saying despite my best attempts at courage and faith.

And then we met with a college recruiter and admissions counselor for Kid 1 and got a mix of all excited and mostly nervous and I almost fainted when I heard the annual cost of private college tuition presented to me over a plate of grilled brussels sprouts and cute, school logo frosted cookies. 

And of course there was all the talk of politics and who is anti-this and that and possibly even anti-everything that isn't their exact picture of perfect - with the all time famous, Fireman Dave all up in it stirring the commentary pot with his own brand of open forum discussion.  And I just sit back and wonder if we'll ever get invited to anything fun anymore. Once again, waiting and watching for more nice people eating chocolate while acting like Jesus.

And I'll tell the honest truth here, by Friday night about 8pm, when Kid 1 said he wanted to drive an hour away to a movie, and Kid 3 wanted to go by himself to a high school football game and Kid 2 took off with a friend to a thing - I sat in the kitchen chair and met my match in tearful eyed worry.  Because despite all of these years that I spent praying to be the one who maturely let my kids grow up and out and away toward all that God wants them to be - I'm the one who fear takes hold of and is afraid for them to go into large crowds, public places, and any distance away that I can't step between them and a stray bullet.

And as happy as I was to do it, I spoke last week to a small crowd, following a well educated, prominent man in a highly appointed government position - and y'all, all I could hear when he spoke was a hate speech of his very own.  I heard him start the conversation about great strides made in the areas of acceptance and equality and opportunity - but then I heard it all end with names and photos of those against him in the climb toward the world being a kinder place.  And the list continued in such a way that it became, to me, a most wanted poster of all the people who did him wrong. And just gonna put this out there for thought....  Am I wrong in noticing that making memes of people who have been an obstacle in your fight for what is right according to the simple law of What would Jesus do?  is,  in and of itself, wrong?

And when it was my turn to speak, I got up in front of a group of people who stared at me blankly for a couple of minutes, as they tried to decide if it was okay to be less than serious and not overly distraught.  Is it okay to switch gears from frowny faced, focused concern  - to laughter and absolutely no deep meaning whatsoever? I seriously wanted to stop and just say, look people, if you wanna feel sad over something, you're all welcome to come take a look at my boys' bathroom.  And then for an encore, each of their rooms and my laundry room. 

And I stepped away from that microphone with mixed feelings on both how I did up there with my story - and how I did up there in the general sense of giving people 10 minutes of non-biased, non-political, non-agenda driven story telling.

And I spent that same afternoon doubting the place and importance of what I do here.  Because I don't cover newsy topics.  I don't solve a whole lot of problems.  And I don't try to pretend that I ever could or can.  I don't even give fashion advice or make anything crafty or handy or pretty.....  I pretty much just vacuum the floor about 3 times a week and try to raise decent children.  Then I tell whoever wants to hear about it that sometimes it's just way too hard to make it one more day. .....  But that on a good day, I get a little reminder to reset my Kristi meter and see this thing called life for the  beauty that it really is.  And I think I just have to find a happy place of acceptance for just being me.  The me that sat in the kitchen chair Friday night, using the word, overwhelmed a whole lot.

But then I woke Saturday morning to a Facetime visit with the cutest girl on the planet - and got to talk with her for about an hour - an hour of both of us trying to figure out what the other is saying, but at the same time, both of us staring at each other with big eyes of wonder in how we met and came to be such good friends.  I took her on a tour of the house, including each of the sleeping boys who managed to raise their teenage heads and wave to Uganda before crashing back into their own little worlds.  Except for Kid 3 who kept his head under his pillow and Loyce just saw a lump in the bed and took my word for it that he was in there.  She also enjoys seeing Rita the dog, so we had a little get together with them too.  

I walked her outside and inside and we talked about the places that she would show me if I ever get to visit her in Uganda.  She wants to go to a mall that she has seen on a road trip, but has never had the chance to visit.  Y'all, a 13 year old girl that has never been to a mall.  Part of me says Praise the Lord above for that fact, and the other part of me feels her first mall visit coming her way shortly.  Thanks be to God for my super friend who stands not only in my place for such occasions, but in the shoes of the good Lord, blessing these sweet kids with her endless love, energy and devotion. (and for sending a special delivery of sweets for my sweet and filling in for me from afar.) 

And Loyce got the biggest smile on her face when Fireman Dave walked behind me and waved to her on the camera.  She calls him Mr. David, and always asks about him and the boys in her letters. She may be the only person in the world who doesn't know his political leanings and probably wouldn't care one way or the other - which basically makes us just like twins. 

We ended our visit with a trip to my refrigerator door.  She knows the word, fridge, but doesn't have one. 

Here is a picture of her at her house.  The grass outbuilding part of the house is her kitchen, and pridefully says that she is the best cook in her family.

I told her that in America, we put important papers and pictures on the fridge door so we can see it every day.  And I I showed her that her picture has a special spot on our refrigerator door along with Kids 1-3, so we can keep her in our house and our hearts every day. 

She said a few sentences in her dominant language, Lugbara, and we laughed at what she said.  Something about the purpose of squirrels  - as we both agreed they are useless and the bane of both of our societies.  I can only imagine how frustrating it is to speak 3 languages - 2 very well, and 1 still in the learning stages, then be asked to converse and write in the least of them.  So it takes us a bit to get going.  And it takes some interpreting.  But she knows the words for love and joy and friendship.  And again she invited us to come see her.  Another one of the many tuggings that have been in my heart of late to do exactly that.  She does not know, however, that I get the leg cramps on even an hour long flight - and vertigo on those that are longer.  She also does not know or understand my innate fear of leaving the familiar, and of change and of adventure in general.  But she knows without a doubt that the Walters family is crazy in love with her and she has full confidence that love is good enough to get us there and for her to take me to that mall she wants to see. 

So here it is.  My reminder that the sweetest things in life just happen.  And the sweetest, happiest people around are the ones that are not worried about the things that I place as such obstacles in my every day.  For the love of all things, Loyce has a pit latrine and she smiles the brightest smile of any I have ever seen.  There's a lesson somewhere in there for me, I know.  And I know that our visit this weekend was one of those pre-ordained moments of greatness to re-set my view on the week. And maybe even the world.  

I'm not sure how to get over my worries about the boys venturing into their independence, with all its dangers and traps.  And I'm for sure not sure about how to let them go into it with their eyes still wide open, only expecting the good.  

Praying for our world to be filled with love, kindness, and nice people eating chocolate -  while acting like Jesus.

I wish for you pants with no holes

Hello and welcome to the rain forest which is Dallas.  It's a full on mosquito storm around here and I discovered in such a way in the bathroom stall at my son's football game this past Thursday, that even in the nicest of stadiums, in the richest of school districts - um, sure not talking about ours......  we're all equal in the eyes of God's creatures.  It became a total issue of self preservation in there.

Kid 3 had a game at Highland Park stadium Thursday night, and we knew going in that it would be a predictable disaster, but then the lightning struck and we all got sent out of the stands to take cover for 30 minutes... except for the fact that when there's another bolt, the 30 minutes re-start - endlessly.   So this went on for about an eternity when Fireman Dave and I decided it was time to go get something to eat since neither our school's coach nor the Highland Park coach wanted to be the first to cancel the game.  The boys ended up going back out maybe an hour and a half later and playing 2 quarters just to show that we could.  Indeed, it was the disaster we expected, but y'all, we did it on our terms.

Then we got a call from Kid 2 saying his car wouldn't start and was stranded on the corner of Where am I and I don't know what to do.  And I swear if we didn't get almost the same call from Kid 1 a bit later about his truck not starting.  I grew up with a dad that was King of the Used Car Purchase, and the  Walters family is obviously following in those royal footsteps. 

My dad liked to fix just about everything with duct tape, and if that didn't work, he had a good ol' boy named Grady that usually had a back alley part or two and would be willing to fix it for the price of cheap plus a case of beer.  I have yet to find a Grady of our own, but do, in fact, have duct tape at the ready for many a project.  I did learn a thing or two from my dad.

And here we are the following night, in the middle of the Friday Night Lights Monsoon where Kid 1 played Highland Park's Varsity team.  Again, another predictable disaster, but let me say that the character of our boys, our parents, our school administration shines in the face of a challenge.  Though I gave up after about the 4th lightning delay, and tired of sheltering in the hot sweat of Fireman Dave's truck, I called it quits and decided to follow the team on Twitter in the comfort and dry of my own home.  And again, neither coach would be the one to call off the war, so they boys finally came back out about 10pm to play a bit longer and prolong the ineveitbale.  But,.... y'all, this gives me public school parent goose bumps - every school principal and administrator stayed the entire time, waited out the storm, and stood there to support this team that started out as the underdog in every way in this battle.  The score board says we lost, but my heart says we won in what was really important.

And on the subject of school, I can't even believe that Kid 1 just purchased his cap and gown for graduation and is right in the middle of receiving his college acceptance letters.  More on that later, but there are already a few options, and it has been my constant prayer that he find what is right for him, without the influence of others in his decision.  Y'all, this is such a big issue right now, and my school of thought is this, I believe the boys need to find their own way before trying to share that way with anyone else. And as we say in church, Lord hear our prayer.  

And you just have to read this... that I just saw in our church email for the coming week.

Wilshire Talks, Sept. 30
Plan to stay for lunch and Wilshire Talks next Sunday, Sept. 30, with two Wilshire members telling their stories in a TED Talk format. Speakers will be Wally Brewster, former U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and Kristi Walters, mom, fitness instructor, blogger and humorist. Lunch is free. Wally made international news in 2013 when after unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate he became the first person in a same-sex marriage to represent the U.S. at the ambassadorial level in the Americas. His appointment was opposed by the Catholic Church and evangelical leaders. In his Sunday talk, Wally will explain how his own Christian faith sustained him in this challenge. Kristi is a regular blogger for Wilshire’s Facebook page, where she often writes about her husband, “Fireman Dave,” and their three boys and their journey through public education, family drama and lessons learned as a fitness instructor. Child care provided during the event with pre-registration.

Um, thank you for whoever tried to make me sound interesting in this ad.  But following up after someone who's gonna talk about something thoughtful and intellectually stimulating over a plate of lasagna has got me thinking about what on earth I actually do have to say.     Maybe something that will make everyone want to go home for a cozy Sunday nap,... but I appreciate the press.  And, yes I am honored to have been invited to share.  Really.  Wally's gonna be a tough act to follow, but can he tell an entire story about diarrhea like I can?  Only time will tell.  

Oh, and just for the fun of saying this happened... I sprung a hole in my work pants one day last week.  Leaving me to dig around in my bag of tricks to find an emergency pair.  Kind of like when  I used to pack a little ziploc bag for the boys with extra shorts and underwear when they were in pre-K, in case of a similar yet somehow so different pants problem, I had a pair of black and red dotted Nike tights as my only choice to wear with my clashing gray top and bright pink and purple shoes.  It looked like Hobo day at the Y that day, but I got paid so I have to be thankful for that.  And no crazy man attacked me over towels which is always a plus.  If you didn't hear that story, you can read all about it here.  

And last bit of news for this week - I invited my brother to come see Kid 1 play this past Friday night.  And I'm just going to say that I knew that this situation could end up as bad or worse than the game itself, but a feeling in me made me do the right thing.  He did show up, wandered around and found Kids 2 and 3 in their respective spots, and tried to make reasonable conversation.  We're all pretty sure he was drunk, but did a good job of holding it together for the first quarter of the game.  He did, however, tell Kid 2 how mad I make him and how he would like to kick me in the head.  Such love we share.   I've heard worse.  Much worse.  In fact, that pales in comparison to the one where he would like to cut off my head and put it on a stick.  Something about my head just gets this guy all riled up.  

Anyway, it was, for me anyway, an extension of the grace that I know full well that I receive each and every day from the God that doesn't have to even give me the time of day.  

So  I invited my brother to the game becuase I have been invited many a time to start again, even in the smallest of ways.  And I hope I continue to get those second and third and millionth chances.  Again, Lord hear our prayers.  

I will just say this... my brother is a challenge.  He is what happens when a parent stops being the parent and allows the kid to control the home.  He is what happens when the parent is so afraid of what the kid might do, that they let the kid do whatever he wants at the expense of the family.  And he is the perfect example of an adult who never learned the word no.  So now he is stuck in a place with a suitcase full of bad decisions, an empty house that he inherited,  with all its contents, and no one to share it with.  He's an adult who never learned to interact with other adults because he was far too long treated as a child.  And now that my mom is gone and his support system that had set the tone for his existence is gone, he's  lost and lonely and not sure how to move one step beyond where he is now.  

He loves to throw raging, curse filled tantrums my way - having learned that from the best of them, our mom.  But what he has found in me is a woman that has grown up and away from the position of being held prisoner to the abuse.  He finds in me a person that he can easily yell at because I was always the one easy to yell at.  But I learned so long ago that not giving it the attention that the abuser is hoping for, not getting involved, not yelling back, not encouraging the moment, makes his energies tired, lifeless, and all the more draining on his attempts.  And I have to remind him that I, too, learned from the best - our mom, as I put up with abuse for a lifetime, and had to figure out how to move beyond it.  

I think I'm still figuring it out - even as the mother of 3 almost grown kids of my own.  Sadly, I may always be the kid that was this or wasn't that in her eyes.  But the good thing is that I am now the adult that refuses to let that be acceptable.  So last week when my brother tried to fire off his best anger, I met it with an invitation to see my son play football.  And I met it with the disciplinary words of a mother telling a child that his behavior will not be tolerated, and to please try again. 

Teaching a grown man the difference between right and wrong is probably a bigger job than I have time for at this point, but to be a part of my life, he has to learn the rules.  

I would typically throw in a Bible verse or some sort of catchy lesson right in the here and now.  But I've come up dry on this one.  My prayer is for healing, for patience - which I heard we should never really pray for because God will certainly give you the practice you need to get it perfect - and for me to just be what I need to be for this family.  

And.... for you, I wish you such good things this week... pants with no holes and blessings beyond measure.  
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