she hath done what she could

I'm showing you these pics,  because you are my people.  These were taken as official photos for The Dallas Moms Blog and happened to be taken on my birthday a little bit ago.   And I felt the sting of loss on this day, especially.  Turning another double digit year older, and looking at the prospects for my future made me request beg to be the first in line at the photo shoot. Just so I could be the first to get out.   Get' er done is sort of my philosophy on most everything anymore.  And to keep it all honest, I kept the dark circles in place as they appeared on this day  - as a picture of what life is like for me now.  Aint no makeup in the world gonna cover that up.  

And on the topic of truth and confessions, today I thought I would address a few of the strangest comments or questions I've heard thus far, along the way....

Observation #1 ...thoughts about my body.  To which people feel free to comment upon and about at anytime, because - well, I'm not exactly sure why. 

My general guess is that my pre-grief body just didn't meet their hopes and expectations.  But my general answer to everyone on the topic is that no, I am not on the KETO diet.  I'm on the, I'm really sad, grief diet.  And that, obviously makes a few people giddy with delight -  and they all want to know what that particular eating plan consists of.  Then I stare blankly at them and wonder about their priorites.

So, ... BIG announcement to my critics everywhere:  I just ate a giant helping of chocolate covered almonds so I should be filling out nicely before we know it.

Observation #2, which gets me right in the heart every. single. time.....

Kristi, oh you're still going through that?   Or in other words,... I thought you were over that already.  Which leaves me without proper words, here or there.  But I do wonder if on some distant planet, where these very tough hearted and resilient people come from -  if the person they love the most dies in their arms without warning -  if they then just head on out to the all you can eat Post Death Buffet and drown their shock and horror in a big plate from the salad bar.  Then maybe go see a movie. 

Y'all, people are just crazy.  And some are just mean, whether they intend to be or not.   

And then, #3, the big one that I feel so very opinionated about.... What is it that I do all day?  What am I talking about when I say that I'm forever standing on the corner of busy and exhausted? 

So just for fun, I invite you to run my day to day marathon with me - with a few highlights and accomplishments thrown in randomly in case someone wants to applaud or take a nap in my honor.  This may be about a week's worth of energy and a whole lot of praying to get all of the following done and over so I can finally just sit down .... 

Most days I wake up between 5:30 and 6am to do house stuff like unload the dishwasher, put the wet clothes into the dryer, clean up the previous night's frat party that happened in my den as I slept;  get dressed for work, cook breakfast for me and the kids, blah blah blah, other random and assorted mom things.  Work for a crazy amount of hours doing sweaty, physical labor while being perky and nice to everyone in the world.  Come home, clean up the morning tornado that happened while I was at work and the boys were left unsupervised before school, fight crime and political corruption in the City.  Email lots of people about my plight, ask for help from friends and strangers, plead my case for change to the public.  Argue with the insurance company and City officials about all sorts of bad things, try to wrap up the Estate of my deceased mother, usually go to the  bank or email the lawyer about the Estate of Fireman Dave.  Meet with City Council reps, Mayoral candidates, news reporters and anyone else who will listen.  Promise to show up at next City Council meeting and cry in public.  Receive lots of registered mail from creditors wanting all sorts of stuff, and random people asking to buy my house.  Take a kid to urgent care for what posed as, but turned out to not be, a broken wrist from football practice.  Take a dog to the emergency doggie vet for what posed as, but turned out not to be, a broken hip.  But do this in the middle of the night.  Replace an entire shower, but not all by myself.  Replace a back door so the neighborhood ax murderer can't get in.  Buy a lot of groceries and panic at how much it cost.  Sell an old car.  Sell another old car.  Research and purchase a new car so we have one reliable vehicle in the family.  Learn to replace a battery on an old truck.  Clean up dog diarrhea and other horrible things.  Argue with a stupid person on Facebook in honor of Fireman Dave.  Work some more, apply for more survivor benefits to support my family, help a kid graduate high school and get into college, attend lots of mandatory Senior parent meetings. Hold a gigantic garage sale to raise money for a cause but then end up spending it on a new motor for our home air conditioner.  Hug a couple of sad kids, and remind them that we are still here and safe. 

So when I fall into bed at night or in the middle of the day because I just can't anymore, and I cry into the hanky that has been my constant companion for the last 5 months, it's because the world just seems like such a hard and scary place - all while trying to be brave and not having anyone to ask or share or even get an encouraging hug.  There's a reason that solitary confinement is used as punishment on top of punishment in prison.  I just think most people think I should be over all this by now.  Because they are.  

And more and more these days I find myself clearing the clutter and creating easy spaces in our home, not for me to stay, but to make it easier on others for when I'm gone.   And I do a lot of thinking and praying about purpose and energy and strength to keep up this pace all by myself.  And then I wait to hear back - trying to decide if any of this is worth it. 

Is my statement of faith worth it?  Is it even really a thing to me anymore?  God and I are in talks about just that.  Is my running around and trying to manage the every day worth the trouble?  Because y'all, I'm pretty sure I've lost the focus on what this life is all about.  But I'd like to hope that it's about more than what I'm living now.  But maybe it isn't - and it's exactly this type of living that's pointing me strongly toward the desire for a better place.  Loneliness will do that, too.  I can write a book on the business of loneliness.  Maybe I will, when I find time. 

But for now, I'll be about my business of supporting a family and raising some kids.  Oh, and changing the dirty politics of Dallas for the benefit of those who will suffer next.  I only ask for a giant statue in front of City Hall or maybe a plaque with the inscription that my sister in law showed me once on an old grave, She hath done what she could. 

* all typos are my own.  Thinking I need new glasses and an assistant. 

** note that I wrote an entire post with no curse words 

the one in which I take on a giant

Life lately... volume something. 

Lately I was pretty convinced that I was onto something a little more stable, a little more predictable, a little more not so sad.  Then I remembered that I'm just me, and not able to leap mountains and hurdle life's troubles like they're just some little ol' thing.  And I remembered that every time I think grief is a manageable task, it proves to me that it isn't.  

And y'all a few notes on that..... I've had so many people tell me that they understand how I feel because they've lost a parent or a sibling or a friend.  And to that I say, no.  Just no.  And then I tell them to see my own personal checklist.... all parents gone.  Siblings gone.  Best friend gone.  Husband gone.  ...  And that the loss of a spouse doesn't even resemble the loss of the others, as bad as they feel and trust me that I know,... they're just not the same magnitude and scale.  

What I mostly appreciate is when people tell me that they would never assume to understand how I feel since they haven't gone through the loss of their husband.  Those are appropriate and caring words for the grieving among us.  

I also stood back and listened the other day at work to a few gals chatting about their frustrating husbands, their husband's annoying habits, ...... all the girl talk between those that still have a husband to talk about.  So I tried not to listen.  Then I tried not to tell them to get down on their knees and thank God for the annoying thing their person did that day... as it can be all taken away from them in minutes.  For me it was about 10 minutes, actually.  10 minutes before I had just watched Fireman Dave play football with the boys, then he was gone. 

So please go love on your people.  Laugh at their silly, annoying things, and be thankful that you have a shared life to build a conversation upon.  Or don't, and then look back one day and wish you had.  

This past week was Spring Break and I sent the boys to Houston to spend time with their cousins.  And here is the crew.  (I actually spring breaked in Probate Court for those who are curious. But not the entire week.)  

Movies, bowling, basketball, and a trip to be together where good things happened was what this week was about.  The last time these kids were together, they all saw the tragedy that life can bring on in an instant.  And how life turns from front yard football games to saying goodbye - so this week I am thankful for my neice who took care of my share of the bunch, took them in, and gave them good memories of time together to outweigh all the rest.  This is probably where I should do some sort of social media hashtag thing and start a following of people I don't know commenting on my kids.  But no.  These days I just want to keep them all close and sheltered from the world.  For at least a bit longer anyway.  

And this:  

Kid 1 committed to play football for his first choice school, Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.  We had the wonderful opportunity to participate in National Signing Day and to sign his letter of intent to the school.  Lord help me as I deal with sending him off that far from home;  and help me not to check real estate listings in the metro Jackson area during  my times of weakness.  

Actually I didn't love Jackson when we went to visit, but I think it's because we took a wrong turn and ended up in a place that resembled one of those gang ridden areas you see in scary movies where there are drugs and violence and people in bandanas.  However, once we found our correct way, and I discovered that they indeed have a Whole Foods and some really nice boutique shopping, I totally got on board with it and looked at a couple of For Sale properties just out of curiousity.  For investment purposes only... but now that my options are wide open, ....  

Fireman Dave and I actually fell in love with Nashville, Tennessee and had been doing some future planning for our retirement years.  Will I have retirement years?  Are you there God?  It's me, Kristi.  ..... Please let me have retirement years full of peaceful places, nice people and a better attitude.  Amen.  

But getting to that point basically involves getting through a brick wall.  And here is the latest update on our situation.  

First, still no final death certificate which I think is some giant cosmic joke.  So no.  No life insurance proceeds at this time.  This better be worth it, Fireman Dave, just let me say.  

And regarding the final wages and the health insurance, a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to The City of Dallas, specifically the benefits department, and sent it to a few key people.  I soon received a phone call from the Assistant City Manager who invited me to meet with him to work out some, um... things.  As he said, I got his attention.  

So we met two weeks ago and I had the opportuntity to tell him, along with the Chief of Staff of the Big City Manager, or whatever his title is, plus two lawyers who tried to look at me with sad and caring eyes, but didn't fool me for a second ... how they have affected my family's life.  It will be four months next week and they have still not paid me my husband's final paycheck.  It will be four months that I have had to pay $1100 monthly premiums to remain on the COBRA health insurance since they removed me and the kids from their plan 7 days after Fireman Dave died.  And along with the President of our local Fire Union, and my dear and lovely friend, the Dallas Fire Chaplain, I was able to tell them that it is evident that this city does not care about their first responders and how each of our days has been affected by their decision to put the dollar value of an insurance plan over and above the life value of a near 20 year veteran firefighter.  

We are asking for a policy change to allow survivors of Active Duty Death the same benefits as those of Line of Duty Death.  The only difference in more cases than not, being location and timing of the death.  Had my husband been at the station or within 24 hours of his last shift when he passed, I would not be deaing with the issues that I am now.  

And honestly, I believe that the City called that meeting hoping to give me a bit of false assurance and mostly, really, to get me to be quiet.  But they obviously haven't read too much of my blog.  So I continue to send follow up emails to certain key officials regarding this policy change, and will soon move on to bigger and louder sources of spreading the word about how the City of Dallas treats their first responders.  I'm happy to be David to their Goliath... and fully realize that if this was a TV show or movie, I should be looking out for hired hit men to run me over with a van or take me out after step aerobics in the gym locker room.  Oh the drama that death, anger and sadness bring.  

But y'all this policy change is bigger than the Walters family.  The Dallas Fire Rescue recently had a forced retirement due to an illness, and to ensure continued health coverage for this fireman's family should he die, he had to sign his retirement papers right there in his hospital bed.  Can we all say the word, WRONG?  And there are countless other stories just like his and mine.  

Maybe I just happen to be the one willing to fight for it to change.  And on that note... I will be holding a garage sale very soon to support not only my efforts at change and/or paying my stupid health insurance premiums, but to raise awareness of how ridiculously expensive college tuition is for a part time fitness instructor and mom of three teen boys.  (And to answer the pressing question that I hear often, why don't I just find other insurance at a cheaper price?  Because if I quit now, the City will have no obligation to do anything.  So basically it's a contest of who's gonna blink first.  Who are you betting on?).  

And if you you have junk that is sitting around and you want to contribute to the Kristi campaign, let me know.  You can email me at

More on my emotional state later... but short version:  after I marched strong on the City on a Monday, I melted down completely on a Tuesday, crying most of the day for any and every reason, and laid in bed and occasionally ate cookies.  Grief is a road, for sure.  It might be like that long historic Route 66 Highway tour that we took a scenic vacation to see not long ago.  Sights and sounds of the past, mixed in with long stretches of dry and deserted spaces, and no end in sight.  Thank goodness for interesting roadside stops along the way.  

one is indeed the loneliest number

2 weeks before my life changed

I grew up in a family that stood firm in our beliefs about used cars, shag carpet and the use of duct tape for various purposes.  And with that shortened version of my truth, today I walk back in time to a sampling of the many places my old cars left me stranded over the years.  More than I could ever begin to list in one blog post, but the highlights alone are a story worth telling. 

There was that time that I had to run across 6 lanes of South Buckner Blvd in the dead of night, wearing a leotard, leg warmers and carrying a bag full of cash from my part time job at the Big Town Mall ladies fitness gym.  Yes, I was supposed to be carrying the bag full of cash as I was trying to deposit it, but instead guarded it with my life as I dodged traffic, ran through a ditch and banged on the already closed and locked door of the KMart till the manager felt sorry for me and let me in.  It was probably the crying and the leotard that convinced him.

And there was that time in College Station, Texas, independent college girl though I was, when I got stranded in the left turn lane of one of the busiest intersections in town and gave up on just about everything and again dodged traffic and mean stares as I ran into the McDonalds across the street and collect called my dad. It wasn't a good conversation.

And another one of my biggest and all time etched into my brain memories, though certainly not even near the end of the list, was that time on the dive bar and cheap motel stretch of Samuell Blvd where, thank the good Lord, it was at least daylight.  I don't remember if I was wearing a leotard that time, but chances are good - and I found a pay phone outside a liquor store somewhere between the Lido XXX Theater and the Palm Motel - and again, collect called my dad at work.  And though on that particular day I looked nearly, if not exactly like a prostitute on her lunch break - just hangin at the Swif-T Beer and Wine - it was right then and there that I declared an end to the madness and soon after bought my very first brand new car.

And I felt like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind where she's already picked enough cotton to make her hands bleed, though thankfully not while wearing a leotard, and waves her fist in the air with before - its - time woman power and says something along the lines of... as God as my witness I will never drive a beat up old car again.

But I spoke too soon and found myself stranded in the drive through pharmacy line at the CVS with a dead battery last week.  I also can't turn off the heat, but we can save that one for another day.  And trust that it had already been a day above all days with the Uber driver forgetting to pick up Kid 3 for school and 6 hours at work with low blood sugar and no snack, and I sat in that drive through and cried some very desperate cries of frustration. You can ask anyone inside the CVS who could see me through that big glass pharmacy window, telling the pharmacist about that sad woman out the window who could probably use a sedative, on the double.  Anyway, a nice young mechanic came by and got the car started and led me off to an even nicer Islamic man at the car repair place who taught me all about his culture and his beliefs as we shared Hershey miniatures and I poured out my soul. Maybe I left a better person for the low, low cost of a $200 battery and a nervous breakdown, but really I still just feel the same.  

And it seems that every day of late for the Walters is a new moutain to climb.  And though this week, for the first time in almost 3 months, I actually had 2 days where I held conversations with people other than myself without being hysterical, and foolishly thought myself getting stronger,  I then remembered I wasn't.  

And it turns out to be totally true that one is indeed the loneliest number, in every sense.  I did, however, get a sweet offer from a crazy man to move in with me - since my husband is dead, and his rent just went up $30 a month at his apartment.  Then I remembered that I had been so long inside my safe and secure bubble that I forgot that I live in a world full of insanity and danger.  And for the curious, though I think it would be grand to share the cost of my high water and electric bills with someone, I politely declined his kind offer in such a way that made us both feel better about our time together.  Then I went home and text documented it to everyone and checked my door locks.

And y'all, just when I think I've got myself a little bit together it's like a big ol' explosion of emotion hits me again.  Like today.  And yesterday.  Thank you Travis County Medical Examiner for sending me right back to the starting line.

And the news is that Fireman Dave died of natural causes.  Causes that are making me so angry right about now that should he pop in to pay me an after-worldy visit, he should be sorely afraid.  Causes that may force me to, if given the opportunity right now as I speak, just kill him myself.  So people, listen as I begin this week's sermon:   Take care of your bodies.  Admit when you may not be feeling in tip top shape and then do something about it.  Something that does not involve ignoring the situation and denying the reality of the fact that you hold not only your own life in your hands, but that of everyone who loves you.  Now pass the offering plate and Amen. 

So today I feel more lost and lonely than ever, because the time that has passed has made the burden of alone even heavier.  I use the word alone as a noun because I firmly believe it to be not only a thing, but the person that I am right now, and a place not unlike hell on earth.  I thought time was supposed to heal, but obviously someone lied.  And y'all, lonely aches all over and makes me cry anywhere and everywhere including, but not limited to, driving down the road, shopping for groceries and putting gas in the car.  All things that I actually did today all while crying like a baby. There are so many witnesses.  

And to me, lonely feels like doing every single thing by myself, and even thinking and planning to do every single thing by myself.  Maybe for the rest of my life.  Chores, decisions, discipline.  Home management, doctor appointments, errands, household repairs, upkeep and paying for......  like - everything.  Family crises, dramatic teen outbursts, broken down cars.  Driving new places, learning where to park, learning how to shop for or fix or make things I never even thought about before.  Plus my usual load of cooking, cleaning, laundry, working my job and getting up like a farmer each day to find time to do it all.  Maybe if I subtracted out all the hours I spend crying, I might be a better time manager.

And lonely feels like me quietly hating it when someone else refers to their love, their significant other, their person, with fondness, affection, .... with knowledge that they even have a person to love.  And it feels like anger when I get messages from people who are made obviously uncomfortable by my unhappiness and work like heck trying to swing me over to the other side.   

I know more this week than I have in the last few months.  But I feel like I've been knocked down from my ledge of comfortable ignorance, where I had started to develop a sense of routine.  And I mostly just want to feel lost and confused again instead of lost and hopeless.  There is actually a difference, but I never knew that till now. 

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