a little diary of what it feels like to be me right now, part 1

I started this post on a day, almost 2 months ago, at a time I obviously had a burst of courage or some other sort of adrenaline pumping reaction to our life change that made me feel like writing.  Then it apparently stopped, and I became my regular, borderline, hysterical self, all with grown out hair highlights and a dirty house.  

But it gives me hope to look back now and see that at least I tried - because as time has gone on, I've done very little of that - at least no more than what it has taken to get through the day to to day trudge through paperwork and account changes, and figuring out where the Walters family is in this new life.  

So I hope to get back here more often, as I write a little diary of what it feels like to be me right now.  The Firefighter's Widow.  

November 2018:  

"I had planned for my next blog post to be about one of our stops on our Thanksgiving vacation Tour de Texas by way of Mississippi .... the part about my severe allergic reaction to deep east Texas and how I scratched my own eyeball in the worst of ways as I slept last Monday night and impaired my vision and had to go to an emergency eye doctor appt in Little Town, and sat there with about 100 old people there to check on their cataracts.  I also thought I would share how my poor vision made me misjudge my step into the bathtub that very night and how I broke my toe.

But Fireman Dave showed me up, and told a story all his own last Friday night, November 23, 2018. I decided that a diary may be my best bet at trying to get these days into words.

Today I fixed the mailbox all by myself.  And today, Wednesday, November 28, Fireman Dave's body was escorted back to Dallas by his fire crew, friends, and 2 of our sons.  I guess that's as good a place as any to start this story.

Thursday, November 29, 2018 - today I go to the funeral home to view my husband for the first time after his death last Friday night.

And as I sit here and think back on a week ago today, I never thought or imagined that it would be the last night that I would ever lay down next to Fireman Dave.  I also never imagined that I would spend the next 5 days planning a funeral and worrying what our tomorrows are going to look like and how much money we owe and to whom.  I actually think a week ago tonight - we were out of town with relatives - that I left the family room of our shared rental house and headed to our bedroom because I didn't want to watch Thursday night football.  I still don't want to watch Thursday night football, though I hear it through my wall coming from Kids 1 and 2.

I think that whole concept of being a last time for everything is far too complex to even get started on, but I will say this - it's all true.  There really is a last time for everything and a person can just up and die on a pretty Friday night and I'm already getting really sad compiling my lists of lasts with Fireman Dave - the saddest part being that the list has just begun. 

What might the coming days and months be like?  I'm thinking nightmarish, but trying to put a spin on it - like maybe it will be so nightmarish that some Hollywood movie person will think it awful enough to make into a movie and pay me a bazillion dollars so I can afford college tuition for my kids.  And THAT, dear reader,  is a whole nother subject for a whole nother day.

And I will add that the visit to the funeral home ranked right up there with getting my foot run over by a truck while watching Old Yeller.  I cried in the first few minutes of seeing what I went there to see, but something - or rather, Someone - made me pull it together for Kid 1 who was with me and not handling the sight of his dad very well.  I will go ahead and add here that he and I decided that if we tilt our heads to the left just a bit - maybe 45 degrees, that we could picture the person we were visiting resembling Fireman Dave.  It was a stretch, but so are each of our days right now.  

And while we were there, Kid 1 put his daddy's wedding ring back on the finger of the man I married. Why was it off, you wonder?  Because last Friday  - the incident - Kid 1 picked his daddy clean of all jewels and valuables before the official people rolled him away from us on a stretcher.  The one and only time I will allow pick pocketing and petty theft from my boys."

And picking up with today, almost 2 months after that writing, I will tell you that I pretty much spend every day at this computer - just not the way I would wish.  I wish it were to write and encourage and use what I always thought was my gift.  But instead, I pay people, and I argue with people, and I mail things - a million things, and I unearth passwords and hidden debts, and I count the dollars and cents that it takes to raise a family of 3 teenage boys on my own.  

And for the curious out there - No.  There is still no cause of death.  Though I've heard many of your theories, trust that I was there when it happened, and even I do not know what happened to my husband. Some of you are very creative in your thinking, however, and you know that  I always appreciate a little flair for the dramatic in the routine of normal.  I will also tell you that my husband died in my arms, and in the presence of so many people who love him more than words can say.  And I will say that my boys and their young cousins saw some things that night that young eyes should never have to see.  If you want to pray for anything, pray for them to remember what is good, and for God's grace to allow them to forget the fear of that night.  That is a giant burden for a young person to carry for a lifetime.  

And addressing the other end of all that is curious  - because inquiring minds want to know our every last detail even though you pretend you don't  -   No.  There has not been a life insurance claim as there is no cause of death.  But the boys and I are not starving or freezing or looking for a spot in a shelter anytime soon - and that is a great sign of even greater things to come.  (I'm going with the "Field Of Dreams theory of, If I build it they will come..."  and choosing to look for rainbows in our %$## storm. Tell me if you see one.)  

And y'all, the hard truth is that there is very little help from the City of Dallas - aside from a handful of those that have stuck beside me through it all. Our city health insurance was terminated 7 days after the death of my husband, and I was given the option of continuation at more than double the cost we had paid days before.  And addressing specifically all my active duty fire  and police readers out there - if you think that your city, your employer will stick around to care for your survivors, please talk to me about that.  It is very eye opening what your loved ones will deal with when you are gone.  It may even make you want to return and haunt the city halls until such changes are made that will give some rest to the weary and some assuredness to the scared.  Fireman Dave will be happy to lead the haunt.  

And following that same path of direct anger and frustration, let me address the fire retirees out there who thought it a good thing to make a run on the pension system and take out all that was yours.  All that was yours, took away from all that was everyone else's.  Can I live on the pension payment we were given?  Maybe if I move the boys under a bridge downtown.  So one defunct pension system later, please let me put some faces on the ones paying for your boat, your sports car, your vacation home, and your security: 


I see these faces every day, and hold onto these boys with all I've got to assure them that I will do my best to take care of them.  So far that hasn't proven to be easy.  But with the thoughtful and generous gifts of friends, coworkers, and even some secret angels out there that I've never even met, we're still here and counting our days together as good.    

And honest to gosh truth, so far I'm more tired than I have ever been in my entire life. And giving serious thought to job possibilities and all the things I thought I would never have to think about again.  I guess God heard my secret plans and laughed.  Pretty sure there's a country song out there with that same sentiment.  

And to sum it all up, y'all, I'm sad.  About every last bit of it.  

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.

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