How many lawyers does it take?

Sometimes lately when I sit down to write, I start out with high hopes of all the latest news and normal, but maybe not so fun things the Walters are up to.... but I end up depressing myself and everyone else in the world about subjects like death and loneliness and fear of being alone for the rest of my life.  Which I believe probably has a diagnosed syndrome name and I just don't know it... and has been a part of me as long as I can remember.  And since Fireman Dave isn't around to confirm or deny, you'll have to take my word for it that I put off and put off again and again the actual part of saying I do... for years.  Years.  Years that we lived together, laughed together, built a life together, but many without a silly piece of paper naming us husband and wife.  Because I was so afraid that if I said yes, and announced to the world that Kristi had something good happening, that something bad would happen.  That right there is a book in its entirety dealing with dysfunctional and abusive childhoods and the marks that we as parents leave on our kids - good and bad.  

But the end of the story is that I finally signed on the dotted line and we lived happily ever after, until we didn't.  38 years of friendship, 26 years of love, 19 years of a signed contract saying we were official in the eyes of the law.  And the Baptists.  

And the fact that my wonderful husband stuck by me and my baggage for so long without a written contract saying he had to, speaks volumes about the man I loved.  Note the past tense.  Today is one of those days that I can reference the past to describe my present.  There are other days that I just don't have words of any sort to say much of anything.  Thus the silence so much now on the blog.  

And I know that this isn't the happy, beach reading, fashion filled blog post that summer people look for and can read in a 2 minute sitting, but it is a post full of lessons being lived and learned every day as I try to make a path for myself all over again.

From the time I was old enough to have reasonably mature adult thoughts.... one of my constant companions was the idea of everything I ever enjoyed, loved, or needed going away from me.  And I think, looking back decades from where it started, all of it tells a pretty good story of a young person living out of a smallish space, with a smallish bag of life's emotional necessities, always ready to run to the nearest safe place.  And for me, that safe place was more often than not, Fireman Dave - from a very early age - who saw who and where I came from, and decided to buy into the  deal anyway.  

And for that I am forever thankful.  And forever mad at him for leaving me 7 months ago today on a perfectly good Friday night.  Sort of like that time I thought he ditched me on an anniversary trip out of town and at, of all things, a bluegrass festival - and I got desperate enough to make eyes at the banjo player in the event I needed a ride home.  Turns out Fireman Dave was one step ahead of me and making his way back to my assumed point of desertion -  with the car  - so I wouldn't have to walk all the way back to the hotel in the dark.  See why I loved him?  See why I'm so mad that he isn't doing all the nice things for me anymore?  I think I'm generally mad at life on that point - and I just fill in the blanks with my sweet husband's name - for emphasis and all.

And I think it's not so much that I'm a giant scaredy cat/crybaby - just that I'm about 30 years out of practice on most of the practicalities of life.  I'll admit that I'm sort of a scaredy cat and a giant baby when it comes to certain things - but on the other hand, take me back to my emotional and physical roots, meet me in a dark alley and provoke fear, and I have full confidence that I will take you out before you get the chance to explain that you only need to borrow a quarter for a cart at Aldi, please.

Anyway, as some of you may have noted on my public parent poll about driving Kid 1 to college, far, far away - I'm hoping for a clear sinuses day, blue skies, and no major events as we make that trek.  Because I have enough experience with both planned and unplanned Walters' events to know that .... most times we break things, sometimes we desperately need a tow truck, and sometimes one of us ends up dead.  And I think that it's not the actual driving portion of the upcoming college weekend that has me all worried - it's the fact that I. AM. IT.  in the parent department now.  And should something happen to me, well, that's more than I can stand the thought of right now for my kids.

But good things are happening because of lots of hard work, persistence and a promise that I have made to myself and my loves that Fireman Dave's sacrifice and commitment to his job, this family and this community will be recognized and honored for all that it was.  And we have been invited to be special guests at the upcoming Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 7, to recognize him, along with others who have given their lives in service.  So with that, a riddle:   How many lawyers does it take to get the Walters back up and running in a timely and satisfactory fashion?  Right now the answer is 2.  Soon the answer may change to 3, depending on my progress with the benefit issues with this lovely City we call home.  And I'm just gonna go ahead and plead with all I have left in me for you and all the people I love to get both your living and dead acts together - for the love of all things holy, please.  Save your surviving spouse the need for regular anti-aging treatments and a new found love of coupon shopping by just taking care of your business.  I know a few great lawyers who can get you up to speed in no time. 

And on that note.... should you need to know anything or everything about firefighter lung conditions and how those ugly words can turn into something even uglier, trust that I am your resident expert.  If you are a current medical or law student and need to miss an exam on any of these topics, I'm your gal.  You can thank me for my careful research and expertise with a gift of hair highlights to keep me as dazzling as my small talk at parties.   

And finally.... a few updates on this and that:

Y'all, this happened:

And I was totally good till Engine 55 pulled up and surprised us - in an amazing, thank you for being there for us, now I'm gonna have to go look in the mirror and check some stuff out sort of way. 

And here is a great day hanging out with Kid 3 a couple of weeks ago on a trip to Ham's Orchard and a little antique shopping on the way.  And no, I didn't cut my hair off.  This was about the time I decided to pull it all back since I kept getting barbeque sauce all up in it and mere seconds before my sandwich blew away.  Oh, the memories. 

And Kid 2 is on his magnificent journey to Europe for 10 days.  Y'all, as we speak - and I am proud of how hard he worked and saved to make this trip happen.  He, his daddy, and a little help from some friends sent this Kid on a growing up adventure of a lifetime. I wish I had a picture to show you, but turns out our phone plan is anti-Europe and I've had only sporadic contact with him these last days.  Imagine a cute blonde kid in front of a castle or two.  

And of course, for those of you who keep up with my darling friend, Loyce, yes, the answer is, I still love that girl and love on that girl.  She turned 14 in March and I loved being able to send her swimming for her very first time for her party.  She chose a green 2 piece swimming costume and had a day she will always remember.  And if you are reading this, my sweet yet secret friend who contributed to Loyce's fun - thank you for loving the Walters - the American ones and the African one.  Can't y'all see the resemblence?    

And I guess I will leave this today with a continued thank you for those of you who are still hanging with us on this new road.  When I look back over the last year and count the obstacles that life has thrown in my way, I have to question what it's all about.  And by it, I mean, IT.  Life.  In the last year I was reintroduced to my mom - with her mind totally gone and her body almost, I was given the opportunity to say some much needed things and hold her hand for the first time that I ever remember in my life.  Weeks after, I lost her again.  4 months later I lost the love of my life on what started out to be a really, really good day - and then turned into something I can't even yet accurately describe.  And in the last week I've sent a kid to Europe  - parentless, no less, and I understand he is having some digestive issues that he could use some help with from a mom stand in, please.  And hopefully the final life changing event, but I realize with no guarantees, I'm sending a kid off to college in about 6 weeks. 
So when a person asks me if I'm okay, I tell them that it really does depend on the day.  Then I think to myself how I actually prefer to spread out my tragedies a little more than what actually happened, and then move on to spend some time wondering the whole, Why me? thing.  And if you comment that it is because God has a plan and purpose for all of this, I will drive to your house and ....  Or maybe just forgive and ignore your ignorance and stay away from you and most other people even more than I normally do.  I'm as of yet undecided.  

And that's sort of where I am today.  Good, bad or in between.  Powerful, confused, weak and desperate.  Determined, discouraged, encouraged, exhausted.  But I remember on one of our first days home after Thanksgiving, telling the boys that we just have to find the tiniest little pieces of joy for now.  Tiny pieces to encourage to look for more later.  But it's in the realization that life as it is now won't change in any way other than the way I try to shape it, that gives me reason to keep up the battles that I have taken on for me and my kids.  I keep telling myself, in particular last week when the Dallas City Manager gave me the evil eye at a meeting, that for whatever reason, I got a fire lit in me for the purpose of change.  And not only for the Walters, but for that young Dallas Police officer's widow that I took with me to a recent City Council meeting.  And for all the other spouses that may not have the strength to stand up for what's right in the middle of her grief.  I'm doing it for her, too.  For now, anyway, until I find out that I'm no longer the person for the job.  But that's not today. 

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.  

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