surprise births - and surprise family reunions in my driveway

I had the nicest conversation with a woman yesterday. We talked about people we know in common, places we had lived, and for how long.  We talked about volunteering for our kids' school events and activities and why it makes a difference in their educations.  And we talked about our houses, and how she feels like she's been to mine before.

We talked about how her mother had an antique, red pie safe and I told her that I have one, too, in my kitchen.  It was my grandmother's, and it's filled with old dishes and things from my mom, grandmother and sister.  Some things so old and been with me or them for so long I forget its story.

And we talked about our kids.  She asked me again and again how old mine are, and funny thing is that she has grand kids that are about that same age.  And when I told her the names of my kids, she said she has grand kids  with those same names. Small world. 

And I asked her if she knows me.  She said she did - that my name is Kristi and that she just saw me standing in the driveway as she was driving by and decided to stop and visit.   She told me that she has a daughter named Kristi.   But she didn't know it was me.

I knew this day would come sooner or later.  I just didn't know it would be at 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon,  pulling into my driveway, and watching a car pull in right behind us.  Sort of pinning us in - in a weird sort of driveway robbery sort of way - except that most hardened criminals don't drive little Kia wagons and carry little old lady passengers and home health care nurses along with them.

But there was that very funny scene in the movie, Raising Arizona, where Hi Mc Dunnough robs a convenience store when he runs out of diapers for the  kidnapped baby that he gave to his wife as a present  - and using that as my guide, I figure that really, almost anything can happen. 

But we had a lovely time visiting in my driveway, - talking non stop and catching up for what seemed like maybe an hour.  She knew my former piano teacher, almost all my elementary school teachers, and she recognized Fireman Dave immediately as the preacher's son - because he obviously still looks 12 years old in her mind, and was just invited over to be friends with my brother but chose me instead.  And trust that there's a life long story that goes with that one... but y'all, another day, please.

I haven't seen my mom in six years, except for one short visit to the hospital after she called and left a message on my phone saying that she had been kidnapped and was being held hostage and that all of everything was pretty much bad news - and thank heavens for caller ID because I could tell that she was at the hospital and not tied to a chair in a dark basement-like place that I've seen way too many times over the years with Fireman Dave and Kids 1-3 and their love of action adventure/spy movies.  Think mostly James Bond with a side of Mission Impossible.

I actually first heard from/about my mom about a month ago when this happened.  Here's Kid 1 and his Nana. 

The details don't matter all that much, I suppose, but I wrote about it here in case you missed it.   It would be impolite to tell everyone how old my mom is, and trust that if I live this forever long and someone dares to even think it okay to share that info via blog, conversation over afternoon tea, or even in the quietest of whispers a million miles away from my ancient old ears, I will hunt them down and put all my years of athletic training into practice to show them that I am still capable of shutting them down.  And I'll probably show up again later to toilet paper their yard under the cover of darkness.  But anyway, she's not young anymore in mind or body.

But it wasn't long ago that she was one of the youngest grandmothers I've ever known... the kind that liked to get out and drive on the icy roads after an ice storm.  The kind that would drive all the way to Wherever and Back because there was a sale on bras and because of course, they have a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream way out that way, too.   The kind that would take care of my three littles and take them to Mc Donalds', the donut store, and all those picnics in the park.  Yes, they remember.

But her mind was going years ago, and that's sort of what started the whole family feud.  I think Person A got confused over what was real or not, then told Person B about it and Person B happens to be insane.  And not in the dementia diagnosis usage of that word.  I'm talking about the kind of insane that made angry, threatening phone calls to my house again and again. The kind that accused and pointed in all the wrong directions, all while under the influence of something other than healthy foods and Jesus, and broke a relationship that was already hanging on by a thread.

And know for a fact that if I had the power to influence or change any of it even way back when, I would've done it.  But my health and safety and that of my kids had to come first.  And if it meant that me keeping my distance all this time never allowed me to defend myself against what would, I'm sure in the court of all that daytime TV I watched as a young person, be deemed as slander and slight and malice and just plain ugliness - it meant that I had time to heal.  And I had time and space to raise my kids in the values that I see as right and true for our family.

And over these last 6 years, I have walked through not only regret, but through panic and anxiety and a full on emotional tight rope, dealing with things from my childhood that had the nerve to creep up on me even as an adult.  And if I could've separated Person A from Person B and put them in separate rooms and held an intervention for each of them, cleansing their minds of the wrong ideas and their hearts of all the weirdness that came with being part of my family, I would've called in that priest from the Exorcist, and a whole host of super heroes to fight all the bad and restore law and order.  

My superhero of choice?  Thor.  Or maybe just that adorable actor that plays him even if he shows up without his tight leather suit and only those bulging biceps of steel.  I happen to have seen every Thor movie with Kid 2 because he's totally into all things superhero and we both agree that Thor represents them well with his strength, powers and wit.  And I just happen to think he has beautiful blue eyes plus some other things.  Anyway, now I'm all confused and feel like watching The Avengers.

And y'all, I thought our reunion would be under far different circumstances, and end up shedding some light on things like my misery, low self esteem, and life long inner conflict.  The things of my youth.    I thought it would be talk of why - why did you say this?  Why did you say that?  And do that and that and that.... that made me feel like the most unloved kid on the planet. 

But I was wrong.  My lady in the car.... my mother .... listened to me as I told her about how my mom baked the best things ever, how she always had muffins or cookies or something freshly baked for us after school.  And how my kids loved when their Nana baked the same things for them.  And we talked about how my mom worked hard and how I knew how nice the house was going to be when I came in from school and it smelled like Pine Sol.  I love a good Pine Sol clean to this very day.   And we talked about how I learned to volunteer at my kids' schools and be a leader in organizations like PTA and booster clubs because I watched my mom do it all the time.  And how proud I was to be the kid in the class whose mom was the one hosting the Christmas parties, the Valentine parties,....

And she laughed and said how she had more fun than the kids at those parties and carnivals when she used to volunteer at her kids' school ... and I told her that I know her kids are proud of her.  And how they know how much she did for them.  Now granted, intermingled into our conversation she would occasionally trash talk her own daughter Kristi.... and I would think to myself, Good Lord THAT Kristi sounds pretty awful and I bet she's out robbing banks or convincing old people to hand over their wallets right about now....

But maybe one of the most important things we talked about is how hard raising kids can be.  And I told her that at the end of the day, more often than I would like to admit, I have to humble myself to my boys and ask if I can start again.  And I told her that so far anyway, they've always said yes.  Just like when we go to God, day in and day out, admitting again that we didn't get it all quite right this time either... and may I please start again?  Y'all, he always says yes.

It was all a bit confusing.  Talking to her like I was catching up with a neighbor that I hadn't seen in a long time.  And talking to her, trying to tell her that I turned out pretty good, considering.  And trying to get hints of if she thinks so or not.  I may not ever really know, but I'll just put that on the list of almost everything else I don't know.  Right now I'm at about chapter 201 of Things I Don't Understand About Life.

But honestly, I felt no anger.  I teared up a few times trying to get a point or two across, but I think I did okay, given what I had to work with.  I remember being terrified of giving birth to Kid 1 and praying with all that I had for God to sneak up and surprise me when it was time.  I often suggested the grocery check out line as an option.  And y'all, as proof that God listens, I did indeed get surprised over 5 weeks early with that particular birth story.  And I think he knows me well enough by now to know that I am indeed strong, but that I don't really and fully accept that as my only choice, opting far too often for fear, worry and self doubt.  So he stages surprise births  - and surprise family reunions in my driveway.

And he gives opportunities to heal that I have prayed for a million times and then strength to get back up and share that healing with others.  I ended our conversation hugging my new, old friend, and telling her how nice it was to chat, and that her visit brought me joy.

How I feel today about it all is a little teary eyed.  A little torn and a little confused about all that we talked about.  I guess really just a whole mix of sad and relieved and mad about all the time that I've lost with her.   I'm predicting a fair amount of crying in my future, actually.  But it's a step forward.  

post script - no.  my mom was not driving a car.  My brother was driving and my mom didn't get out of the car.  She doesn't walk much more than a shuffle step.  But put that to music and it could be something wonderful... is what I'm thinking.  She has actually been placed on hospice, but knowing the women in my family, I'm not yet convinced that will stick.  God only knows, right?  Anyway, the brother part of the story still has some repairs to be made, but he offered his apologies for his portion, as is in anything - we all have a piece of the pie to share.  

But my prayer is for full healing - of disappointment, of hurt, of betrayals and inconsideration.  And if last Wednesday was any indication of the power of Godly surprises, I'm a bit on the excited side to see how far this goodness can travel.   

a broken tooth, a kid in a banana suit, and our very own ant colony - an Easter story

pre-script.... Today is Easter Sunday, 2018 ...  This is a re-post of something I wrote 4 years ago, and funny how things are still so much the same.  Even the ants are back to spend Easter with us.  Anyway, loving the fact that time travels on, and yet every year, we get the opportunity to spend time thinking about probably the BEST DAY EVER - Easter.  And yes, I actually DID wear my BEST DAY EVER shirt to church on Easter Sunday.  With a long orange skirt and a bohemian attitude.  

y'all, it wouldn't be a holiday without a fire engine picture

So this week brought week 3 of my injured calf muscle.  Still wearing a compression bandage and really wishing I had bought it in black instead of white.  Much more attractive all around than a tight white tube sock.  And kid 3 hurt his knee in football practice and has some selective swelling and pain.  Mostly when he doesn't want to do something.  And I'm seeing a doctor visit in our future for that one.

And the broken tooth from basketball a year ago with kid 2?  It broke again.  So it hurts and he can't eat anything till we get back to the dentist for another repair or maybe an entirely new tooth.  Or whatever.  I'm kinda in a whatever kind of stage right now.  Need a new tooth? Whatever.  Wanna run off and join the circus?  Whatever.

And if you've been following our ant saga, .... dear Lord, we still have them.  And turns out they will travel miles for cake.  I saw one of them taking a crumb of pound cake up the drain pipe all the way on the other side of the house and darn if that's not their entire metropolis.  So Fireman Dave got up on the roof and did some things that'll hopefully do some things - about the ants. 

And  last night I was the mom on duty for a group of 8 kids at a giant neighborhood wide field day event - almost 900 kids involved - where every single kid dressed in orange.  Except for one in my group who wore a banana suit around most of the evening.  Which turned out to be a novel way to keep up with them. 

Hours of fun followed by a sleepover, an early morning football game, baseball practice and a baseball game.  And one kid is out of town on a scout trip making my load a little easier.

So when this afternoon rolled around and I felt a nap calling, I slept in my heavenly bed while the kids watched the ultra violent Transformers movie.  Because we're only 95% good parents around here.  The other 5% goes out the window when I'm sleepy.

But that's family.  Ours anyway.  And sadly, with all that's been going on.... my mind has not wandered toward Easter or holy week or much of anything else really.  Well, I did at one point think about what we might want to eat on Easter.  Probably some more of my pound cake because it's good enough to be  ant approved.  

But y'all it's time.  Time to put aside all the other and get my heart right where it needs to be this holy week.  And God knows, he really really knows, that my heart fluctuates with the wind. 

It's time to walk through the loneliness of my savior's rejection, the hours of doubt, questioning, and hurt -  and get to the point where I can realize just how big a gift I am given - every. single. dang. day. 

And as much as I like to think of God as a loving and merciful god, one all caring and providing of his love and grace even in my least moments, he's also very much a God of justice and of answers and collection of debt.  A God of wrath, for those who deserve it.  And I deserve it.  Because I never did anything not to deserve it.  

So thinking along those lines.... What if God made us answer for our shortcomings?  ... What if he were to pour out his wrath on mankind - in answer for each moment we have fallen short of his wish for us? 

Well... turns out, He did.  And THAT's where the gift was given.

On that day, on the cross, on the bruised and beaten body of Jesus.   Who took my place.  To make peace with all of history and my future so that I am fully able to receive the gift of his grace. 

I am truly thankful this week for the gift of feeling.  The power of memory.  The gift of realization and recognition of my shortcomings.  And most thankful to be welcomed into the arms of someone who has erased it all from view. 

And as I try to focus on the importance of the days ahead, and forget the day to day of being me, ... I'm trying to make thankfulness my goal.  Trying to remember the acceptance that was given to me, undeserved, yet poured out daily again and again.  Because of the season of Easter. 

And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

Ephesians 3:18

the higher the hair the closer to God?

So I threw the party of the season.  The party of the century.  The party of a lifetime this last weekend for my friend, Loyce, as she has  never known her birthday nor given it a thought about celebrating it.  Y'all, I asked about that, too.  I asked if I was disrupting the entire Ugandan cultural system by sending a full on birthday party complete with cute kids in a birthday parade.  The answer was no.  Apparently I did not rock their world in a negative way, but I think I definitely rocked it in a cake and balloons are crazy fun sort of way. 

It's party time!!!!  (this is a really fun link to the video that you may or may not be able to see, darn it all.  It links to the Facebook video of the birthday parade but not sure if I'm technologically savvy enough to actually make it work. But go ahead and imagine some cute African kids singing happy birthday, and carrying a giant cake down a red dirt road  while carrying balloons and dressed in their Sunday best.  I felt you smile all the way from here just thinking about it!)

Here's what I've learned about my Ugandan friends.  They are poor.  Not the kind of poor that I like to tell people that I am because I married a fireman.  When really I know I am one of the richest people in means and in spirit that walks this land, telling everyone that marrying a fireman limits my upward mobility is only sort of stretch of the American imagination, but really I just find it fun to say.  So there.  It's a fire wife joke.  Maybe you have to be one to get it.  

But anyway, my Ugandan friends are the kind of poor that if they have  the choice between putting food on the table and making or buying a birthday cake, food on the table wins, hands down every time.  If they have a choice between food on the table and school tuition and exorbitant fees and costs of uniforms that are required to attend - again, food on the table wins.  And y'all, really?  They just don't often have the choice.  So we have an entire population of people who can't read, write, or even spell their names.  Most don't celebrate birthdays because they just don't know when they were born.  They may know how old their kids are because they started counting at that time, but they may not know how old they are themselves.  

I happen to know when we think Loyce's birthday is because I had  my friend research it and found a list of birthdates in Loyce's family Bible.  It's still sort of a guess, though, because her mom lists her as born on March 23, 2005 and her sister born just 7 days earlier that same year.  Now THAT's either a totally different kind of twin we have there, or someone's confused.  And Lord bless the woman in labor for 7 days, right?  

And I love that Loyce and I almost share a birthday, and I told her a while back to expect great things coming her way.  In fact I told her that we would party together and make birthday ripples across the world with our celebrations.  I'm not at all sure that I made any of my own, but y'all, my girl sure did.

And a giant thanks to my friend, Vornita, who traveled the literal road less traveled on the back of a motorcycle with a cake in her lap to make it all happen.  If you ever had a question or doubt that women are changing this world, let me answer it for you right now.  Yes sir and yes ma'am.  Women are working together and joining forces and talents and planning all sorts of amazing-ness - then just hitting the big GO button and watching things happen.  Then of course we clean up the house and do some dishes and laundry, try to sleep a little, dream of what greatness can be accomplished the next day, and thank God for his generous dose of grace, mercy and she-muscles to carry onward and upward.  

I'm hoping that Loyce sees big things, fun things, and bright things beyond what she knew existed before.  I know I'm seeing all these things through my friendship with her. 

Now then.  For my own birthday we dropped Kid 1 off in College Station for a weekend to be a prospective Aggie, and then went on to Fredericksburg, Texas with the other kiddos and proceeded to enjoy some time off from work, school, baseball concessions and all the other things making us weary these days.  And my plan was to climb Enchanted Rock, my third climb, mostly for the experience, but probably just as much for the whole proof that I'm no less awesome than the day before my birthday.  I got to the top in 21 minutes, with one breather break because I thought I felt some panic coming my way and I totally have to get my act together before I lose it in that situation.  Panic alone is bad.  Panic on a mountain is a beast I don't want to ever face down.  But I was fine, and the view from the top of the rock, if you've never been before, is worth every panting step of the climb.  

And the time sitting up there, looking out at so much of God's beautiful creation is time well spent.  I find it a good reminder that I'm up close and personal to God all the time  - but just the like rule all Texas girls live and breathe by - the higher the hair, the closer to God - so goes that whole mountain top experience.  

It's also so much an eraser for everything else that's on my mind.  Looking down and seeing how small ALL the things are from up there has to be a good comparison to what God wants us to see each and every day.  That due date?  Not so big in God's eyes.  That prior commitment?  Not so grand in the big picture.  And that worry?  Y'all with a God's eye view from above, he's gotta see how it all works out.  

So I like to get up there and spend a while in prayer and ponderment.  Spell check just told me that's not a word, but life tells me that it is.  Ponderment of all the things that seem so crazy important, when nothing compares to the work that we are doing to invest in the ultimate outcome.  I've felt such a pull on my heart of late - the pull of doing more, but not of the mo' busy kind like my million trips to the TJ Maxx for cute workout outfits and summer dresses.  But of the worldly kind.  Of the Loyce kind.  Of the homeless student in DISD kind.  Of the spending time sitting around with Kid 2 catching up on This Is Us - quality time, where he talks and I am all ears.  

I've prayed for quite some time now for what's next.  Not sure I completely know yet, but I think I'm starting to better unravel the code.  I think selfishness is one of the biggest and darkest blinders we can wear, and y'all - my selfishness never seems to go out of style.  I can wear it with makeup or without.  I can wear it with heels or boots, pants, dresses, and 100% without limit.  I can even wear it proudly on my sleeve and call it success.  But can I just as easily wear a badge of courage that says I will stand up and serve the less fortunate?  Can I talk freely with others about the latest idea I have about starting a library in a small Ugandan village because reading has always been a huge part of my life?  Can I find my courage and commitment to ask for help and volunteers and donations to make some real things come from my ideas?  

I hope so.  

And today I am following up with you on some greatness that you already helped with.  And I am asking you to walk with me on an new journey.  That post I shared with you that published on The Dallas Moms Blog - the one asking you to show up for the good of the approximately 3,500 homeless students in  Dallas ISD?  Well -  trust that my readers showed up and showed off in the most spectacular of ways.  There are STILL boxes of Amazon deliveries being delivered from the shopping list I provided for the high school homeless drop in center, and that post has been shared on Facebook over 2000 times.  2000 times times how ever many friends you have equals a whole lot of WOW, y'all.  Just wow.  I have been in touch with the manager of homeless student services in Dallas ISD and plan to do a follow up to grow our efforts even larger.  

And now let me put this one out there.  My mind is skipping around with ideas on how to help a certain little village in Uganda.  Why this one?  Because I happen to have a friend there who is nothing short of amazing -  plus a little girl that I think the world of.  And the fact that there is so much need is blinding me to thoughts other than what I can do to help.  

My friend Vornita has opened a charter school in Bulonde Village, about 20 miles outside of Kampala.  She currently has 76 students enrolled, some have had their tuition paid by an American sponsor, most have not.  And stop whatever you're imagining right now about private schools..... when you think of a private school in Uganda, don't even start to compare it to the states.  Uganda has no public school system in place so any and every school must be started on its own.  There are regulations, but simply no funds to support them.  And these kids and their families have next to nothing.  There are three school terms per year, and for less than the cost of a family dinner at Chili's you can send a child to school for a term.  Yes, that's a big request for some kids you may never know or even see in person.  But you know who does?  God does.  And he has giant plans for each of them, starting first with learning to read so they can break the cycle of poverty.  

The next thing I am asking you to help with is my little library idea.  I'm talking a simple bookshelf in the corner of a classroom across the world to start with.  Shipping is cost prohibitive for large quantities of books, but buying even one book in Kampala can cost even more than a local Ugandan family makes in a year.   So I'm working on some details to get something good going on that works for everyone.  And what I've decided is this - even one book at a time, placed on a shelf, and then shared with a child can make a world of difference.  So today I am asking for new books, used books, paper back or whatever.  I am asking for donations for me to go to Half Price Books and purchase a few kid friendly titles to send with my next package to Africa.  This little light of mine is going to take a long time to bear fruit, but I know with all my heart that it can and will.  

Questions?  More details?  You know where to find me.  I hope you will.  

Y'all, thanks for reading.  Thank you for everything.  For stopping by, for contacting me when you haven't heard from me in a while.  

One year older, another year wiser, right?  Mmmmm...   We'll see about that.    

post script...  Did you miss a post?  Did you know that sometimes I don't share them on Facebook and you can only see them by following me by email or Bloglovin?  Here's one you might have missed and I'm super sad about that.  
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