Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dear God, please do things the way I want them to be done. Amen.

Kristi, you must've grown up in the 60's.  THIS, actually said to me yesterday in aqua aerobics class by a man that obviously has no clue.  Seems like the music I chose to remind my class of their glory days was a big ol' signal for him to start guessing my age.  No.  To start guessing that since HE is that old, I must be, too, since I played a song from that era.  Actually, Mister McNosy Pants, the song was an awesome disco and it was from 1978.  When I may or may not have even been born yet.  I'll never tell. 

Then the ladies around him in the pool started giving him the You have no idea what you've just done, do you, kind of talk.  Which he did not, apparently.  Because he came back for round 2 of Guess Your Instructor's Age.  He then placed me as a teenager in the 90's, his reasoning being that since HE was himself a teen in the 1960's and I don't quite look as old as him - YET - I must be a thousand years younger than he originally assumed.  Or he was just trying to get me to stop making them do a million jump squats in the pool to wash away his sins. 

I find that comments such as this one typically come from mean older ladies and/or confused older men.  I encounter my fair share of both.  Whatever.  But you can bet that right after class I headed straight to TJ MAXX to peruse the high quality, yet greatly discounted in price, anti-aging night creams.  Oh the troubles I have seen......

And before I forget to make this announcement.... to the nice lady at the Tom Thumb who helped me determine what on earth was hurting me in my brassiere region:  I thank you.  You are an angel.  Y'all, there was something in there that shouldn't have been.  I'm thinking a baby sized bee with an adult size stinger, but just a theory.  And don't even ask me how that would possibly occur.  But I tried and tried to reach it, to no end  - because it was way on the backside of the strap, not in the more intimate region or I would've been feeling around in there all by myself.... security cameras be damned.  I double pinky swear to practice my back reaching bra strap stretch from here on out, but for such a time and in such an emergency, I finally had to call for help.  Thank you to the lady in the dairy aisle who came to my aid and found that I indeed had a giant red mark of pain on my back, though no bug in sight.  What a weird trip just running in to buy milk and bread.  So ladies, in honor of bra discomfort everywhere, I declare this the summer of no bras while grocery shopping.  Or ever.  That's even better.  

Today I was going to tell you all about how Kids 1 and 2 missed the school bus and how Kid 2 blamed it on Kid 1 for being a slow poke and how he can't get ready on time.  And then I was going to tell you how Kid 2 then proceeded to get back at Kid 1 by walking the almost 4 miles to school.... while Kid 1 conveniently called his girlfriend.... who called her mom.... who then rolled up and gave Kid 1 a ride.  (That's so in case he ends up being her son in law one day, she can say she was fully invested in this relationship from the start.  Again, whatever.)

Then both Kids 1 and 2 ignored my texts pleading to know their safety status.  Teenagers are like strange aliens that crash landed on this earth and try to make everyone hate them so we will help them find their homeland and get them the heck out of here.

I was also going to tell you how Fireman Dave dropped me off in front of Old Navy to return a dress that I so wanted to fit me but it didn't.  And how when I stepped in front of the car he stepped on the gas and almost ran over me.  Was it intentional?  Involuntary?  Premeditated?  Maybe he was thinking about all the continuing education credits he needs to earn for work and how he could probably get in some good learning by saving his own wife in a pedestrian vs car accident.  Plus he would be saving on gas by letting me run my errand at the same time. Next time, though, I'll walk around the back of the car for sure. 

But I'm not going to tell you that story.  Instead I chose this: 

Friday night my friend and co worker lost her home in a fire.  Sunday an acquaintance of ours was found dead in his home.  Monday I was in talks with someone about all the relationships in our friend circles that have fallen apart recently;  marriages strained from the pressure of jobs and kids and everything else that pulls us away from that original hope we had when we said I do.

And on a friend scale of 1-10, 1 being, I barely know them - and 10 being I eat Christmas dinner at these people's houses, I would say that today I am about a 3 or 4.  I used to be way up higher on the scale.  Because these are the types of relationships that are strong when everyone's kids are friends and all involved in the same scout troops and sports teams, and our time was meshed together in an almost endless variety of ways.  Then the kids grow up and out and they grow their big kid interests and get their next stage friends, and we lose touch with the families that used to be so close.

But I still find myself invested in the goings on of all my people.  Because they're on the same road as I am.  Kids the same age, marriages about the same age.  Houses and jobs and interests all around the general area of interest - that being our kids and how to pay for them.  But it's a natural unraveling of relationships when based on those things.  That doesn't mean I care any less about the news of the weekend.  Maybe it makes me care even more, because I'm starting to see that the things that affect them can just as easily find me.

Y'all, I thought about it over and over again and I tried to figure out what I think about it all.  And I decided on this.  Because I know someone is going to ask me, or ask someone this.  Probably on Facebook and I'll cringe at the broad range of discussion that ensues.  

Where is God in the ugly particulars of life?  So for the record, let me address my thoughts on it.  

The short version .... He's right where we ask Him to be. 

The longer version .....  Somewhere, at some time, modern social media users, especially, started spreading the gospel of God's saving grace in the form of his protection and blessings if we just live right.  Or if we give enough.  Or believe enough.  Or pray enough.  Or whatever enough.    Somehow we got the get off easy idea that God's job is to protect us from the uglier parts of life.   

Y'all. No.  

Just no.  

The Bible is filled with stories of how Jesus calmed the raging storms and parted deep waters and even caught a few fish when even the professionals from Field and Stream couldn't.  But stories are only as good as their interpretation.  And sometimes we, especially me, can find ourselves in a desperate place called, Dear God, please do things the way I want them to be done, Amen.  

For the millionth time please let me remind you that I am not a Bible scholar.  Ask anyone that has ever seen me doze off in Sunday School.   Um, if you could even get me to go as an adult.....  But I know that stories in the Bible aren't there for us to see God's undeniable power and how he can use those powers of protection to keep us in his favor and shelter.  

Y'all, I wish that were the whole truth.  But that's a surface interpretation.  That's a feel good, all about me, ask and thou shall receive interpretation.  But really?  These stories are more about how storms have always been present, even when Jesus was actually somebody's neighbor.  And how storms will always be a part of life.  The Bible stories that we so like to call upon as promises of our favor in God's eyes?  They're really meant to show us more about God's undeniable power to lead us during times of trouble than his power to keep the trouble away.  

So where is God in the details of life?  He's in our response, in our reactions and in our reaching out to the ones who need to be comforted.  His love shows in that casserole that you cooked for someone, that gift card that you sent because you didn't know what else to do.  The hospital visit, the phone call, the quick text asking if there's anything they need.  Y'all, he's there every time you ask how you can step outside of yourself and give something to others.  

God is wherever we invite him in.  That's our choice.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I don't even know what to title this post......

Today Fireman Dave denied knowing me.  In public, to actual people.  I feel certain that he has done this exact thing on a more private level over our time together, but this time it was at a park, to some moms, including one I know.  Apparently at an official fire department function showing preschoolers and toddlers the fire engine and entertaining the ladies with his man in uniform charm....

So along comes a gal and asks him if he knows any firemen around there with a wife named Kristi.  WITH. A. WIFE. NAMED. KRISTI.  First clue, her name is Kristi, second clue, she is someone's wife, third clue, her husband is fireman.  He couldn't think of anyone.  Had this been a game show, he just lost a car and a trip to the Bahamas. 

So then he asked her if she knew this particular Kristi's last name.  By that time he has her all confused and checking facts on her phone to see if I've made up this whole being married to Fireman Dave thing..... but a faint memory from the past hits him all of a sudden, a memory from about 1999, the Fall maybe?   ..... possibly a wedding.  Oh yes, he thinks.  I sort of  remember  someone named Kristi, .....  but hello Kristi's cute friend and faithful blog reader who was probably still wearing her adorable tennis skirt,... How YOU doin?  Your smile and perky personality all but made me forget that I AM FIREMAN DAVE!

Then he called home to tell me about it because he knows that around these parts, I have eyes and ears everywhere.  And the best defense is a good offense, or something like that.  I forget.  Anyway, I'm sure everyone enjoyed the park party and the fire engine and all went home the better for it.  That's totally what counts, right? 

At that very time, though, I was at home washing dishes with an odd new hair color.  Which is actually two separate stories, altogether.  But in case you, also, don't remember or don't recognize me in the days to come, let me introduce myself.  Hi, I'm Kristi Walters and I write a blog and occasionally do some other things like parent some kids and try to keep them out of jail.  Totally kidding, y'all.  It's a joke.  

And the dish washing part of the story?  .... not a hobby of mine at all.  But the dishwasher has been broken for years months, weeks and when we tried to repair it we found out that it had nearly caught on fire.  That would actually be our second dishwasher fire in the history of this family, but I hate to brag. 

Here's an actual picture of me today working around the house while Fireman Dave was about town doing fireman things with young children and their cute moms. 

See how I totally finished all the chores then put on a cleavage baring top and served the kids some frozen foods on a tray?   

It has been one of those weeks that I have to ask myself why I do half the things I do.  I once again got emotionally tackled by Kid 1 over the now deleted post about him and his lady love.  I was spoken to by Kid 2 on at least two occasions as if he had just awakened me from my nursing home sleep as I sat dozing in my wheelchair and bathrobe in front of As The World Turns.  And I felt frustrated at the multiple signs of life moving on and the obvious changes that take place because of it.  Including, but not limited to my pants size, my inability to grow alluring eyelashes and I guess what really matters, the fact that I am running out of usable time and space to make a difference in these boys' lives.  

I was telling the boys that one of the reasons that I chose to stay home full time with them when they were little was the fact that children form so many important pieces of their personalities and mental and emotional functioning from birth to age three.  And I found myself wishing that I could speak to whoever decided that age three was the cut off age to determine if any of my kids will grow up to be serial killers and how I want to ask them to give me at least until they are of legal age to shut that parenting door.  

My sweet friend and neighbor was telling me this week about when she was raising her three kids, and how she always felt like they were never the ideal picture of three little birds sitting on a telephone line, all facing the same direction, all with eyes focused on the same goal.  Instead she said she always felt like she had at least one upside down and one facing backwards.  And I told her that that's kinda been my theory of motherhood all along... that one kid at a time tends to be the challenge, that in my experience anyway, they tend to stagger their episodic outbursts of rebellion and exploration so we can handle each event with the time and care that it needs.  Not always, though,....I have to say that in case the gods of children acting the fool are reading this post today.  

But I ran across a particular Bible verse this week, too.  And the more I thought about it, the more I think its a really good fit for this week as we inch toward Mothers Day.  

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  Philippians 1:6

Y'all, oh my gosh.  Is this a promise that we all need to hear today and everyday?  I say yes please and can you please make that a to go order?  Because I need this verse to stay with me every step of the way as I am navigating some pretty deep emotional waters these days.  Mostly my own emotionally charged waters, not the kids'.  I need this verse to pour itself into my heart so deeply that when I question all that I have been through up until this point, that I can be 100% sure that it was because it was an investment of good work, put there by Christ who sees exactly the end result.  

And as a parent?   I can see in these words that the good work that God began in me by placing me in the job of Mom to Kids 1, 2, and 3 - has never been without a plan.  And that the good work that he allowed me to begin will be faithfully completed in them until such time that we are through with this world.  

I think sometimes as moms we lose hope.  And then we lose faith.  And Y'all, that's all on top of how we've already lost all our energy and probably some chunks of hair along the way.  And then we're asked to sit at a restaurant table and be celebrated on a particular day in May, when all we really want is to be guaranteed that our work is good.... that our work is for our children's good. 

I love how certain verses find their way to me when I need them the most.  And what I hear this one saying to me right now ... is that its okay to just take it all in this coming Mothers Day weekend.  Sit back for a bit, and take note of the good work that God is doing with my mothering efforts. 
post script  - I actually don't love Mothers Day anymore than I love my birthday or any other occasion that draws attention toward me and my life's achievements.  But the day is coming, and I hope to at least get a good meal and someone to take out that trash in celebration thereof.  I'll let you know.  

post post script - the hair will be okay.  So everyone that looked at me oddly on Monday can rest assured that I ran by the Target on my way home and got a box of something wonderful and now I'm looking a whole lot more like myself.  And feeling like it too.  Yay for whoever dreamed up a box full of hair highlights for under $10 - complete with a nifty plastic cap.  I owe you one.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is it easier to push a sitting elephant up from behind or pull him up by his trunk?

May I quote some drama please?  

"Dallas is the unfortunate owner of two of the Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, according to a recently released study of FBI crime statistics.  Route 352 at Scyene Road broke Dallas into the Top 10 with a No. 9 showing.  Not far behind at No. 12, 2nd Avenue and Hatcher Street.

The study ranked the danger in a neighborhood by calculating the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents in a census tract. Dallas' top showing was bested only by crime-riddled corridors in Cincinnati, Miami, Kansas City, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Memphis and Chicago -- the latter of which had four neighborhoods represented in the Top 25."

And why on earth would I include a statistic like this on my little faith and family blog?  Because we all know I get my news from Facebook and this past week this little gem was all over the place reminding me of none other than..... Home Sweet Home.  

Y'all, I grew up right in the heart of Crime Statistic #9, at the intersections of Scyene Road and Jim Miller in Southeast Dallas.  The Grove, those of us who lived there would say, though there's always arguments for and against that depending on who's giving the answer.  
And yes, this week's particular set of crime statistics are a bit past my time in the neighborhood, but if we could step back a few years and look around, you may find similarities all the same.  

And a little disclaimer - I no longer live in the 75227, but did from birth through even much of my young adult years.  Longer than I ever intended, yes - for a variety of reasons.  Depression played a part.  Unemployment played a part.  Wanting to spend as much of her remaining time together - talking about my sister here - that definitely played a part.  Circumstance contributed.  But mostly a long list of pathetic family dynamics put me in a place I never thought I would be after getting away and getting an education.  

Is it easier to push a sitting elephant up from behind or pull him up by his trunk?  Excellent question, Kristi - and one so well spoken, I can hear you saying about now.  Y'all, I just tend to think that once a person is down, ain't a whole lot gonna get her back up without either a giant push or a big ol' pull - whichever direction is most effective.    My giant push was named Fireman Dave - and he has been a huge force in keeping me on a productive and loving path for most of my adult life.  

Y'all, the draw of the negative is huge.  And if you've never felt it, much less lived it, I hope you never have to.  But I hope some of the things I share here may help you recognize it in others and become the giant push for someone that needs you. 

I also think the fact that I was one of the ones who was able to leave for higher ground was in and of itself, a miracle of opportunity.  And had it not been for that window of time in between periods of chaos, I may have never ended up where I am today.  I'll tell you that story some day.  

So Neighborhood #9 - I thought it was beautiful back then.  And call me crazy, but I find myself driving home for a tour anytime I'm down that way.  I loved the big yards and the giant, tall white rock hills that made up the area.  My front yard was a pretty good slope, perfect for play time on icy days but dangerous for those of us with a tendency to fall down unexpectedly.  My back yard was mostly a tall, steep white rock hill, dotted with trees that made for a great speed deterrent as we would run down it toward the house.  I remember that we could watch the fireworks at Fair Park from my backyard.  And I had the sweetest soccer playing dog named Fluffy.  

All the houses were built in the 1940's and 50's.  Very classic, and if you were to drive down there today you would find the same houses, but with a Mexican flair.  I watched that neighborhood go from a racial mix of - no, racially segregated sections of white families, and sections of black families.  Then within those sections, subdivisions of streets housing the white families that owned their homes and had fathers who worked a manufacturing, trade or desk job, and moms that stayed home.  Other entire streets were always and forever rental duplexes made up of the unemployed, underemployed and other mysterious types.  We were taught not to go over there.  We also never used the park which was about two blocks away.  In the last years my family was there the entire area had become almost entirely Spanish speaking.  

Growing up there were lots of kids in the neighborhood,and I will be very vague in this writing as I know several who visit me on the blog.  Two doors down from me - those two boys have some pretty good criminal records that started right after our hide and seek and and trampoline jumping years.  Two friends lost a parent to violent crime.  And a couple of the others that I knew fairly well just lost their way. 

My best friend in middle school was sexually assaulted in the hallway during the school day while working her job as the Attendance Office helper.  The general rule of middle school in those days was not to go to the bathroom.  At all.  But if you did, don't go alone.  

The Dallas Police had a large presence on our middle school campus back in the day.  Before the days when all schools had their own School Resource Officers, our school had the race riot police there more times than I can count because of potential violence that had been threatened for after school.  Lord, Y'all.  I just wanted to get home to my homework and my after school TV specials.  

One day, I think I was in high school... I was home alone.  And out of nowhere the Dallas SWAT Team was running through my side yard, scaling the chain link fence and running up our back yard hill.  I never found out why.  I just made sure the burglar bars were locked and went back to my own thing.  How weird is that?  Not the SWAT team part - but the part where they give me a look of, We've got all this under control, through my bedroom window  - and I returned to doing sit ups or whatever.  I was totally obsessed with being skinny back in the day.  Man, had it just been a few years later I could've had a cameo on the Dallas SWAT TV show - I may have become a reality star.  

I also have a couple of really good drive by shooting stories  - targeting the house across the street, the same house that when I was in high school was home to a hard drinking motorcycle gang.  And did I mention that I was mauled by a dog when I was about 6 or 7?  Not bitten.  Mauled.  By a bull dog in a neighbor's yard, and finally in what my memory seems like a lifetime, rescued by a teenage boy who got the dog off me and threw it across the yard as an adult came running to get me.  

I guess the short version of life growing up would be to say that I came out of there with a messed up family, and more memories than I can possibly digest in a short period of time.  My primary reason for blogging, I think.  But the truest version of the story is that the story is too long to tell in a blog post.  And for every bad thing, there were twice as many good.  I think that's a fair ending to almost any story, actually. 

But even though I can tell story after story of the neighborhood, the house, the people in and around, I think it bothered the heck out of me this week to see it all ranked on a scale of bad to worse.  Was I surprised to find out that we only got to #9 on the list?  Or was I mad that people only see the bad stuff and didn't take into consideration so much wonderful that could've totally changed those crime reports?   

I don't know.  I know I've had dream after dream that either starts or ends at my childhood home.  Sometimes it looks like my house.  Sometimes it doesn't.  But I always recognize it by the feeling.  Sometimes I'm trying to get away, sometimes I'm so drawn to it and want with everything to get back to see what all the fuss was ever about.  

I'll tell you this though.  We can read every statistic out there to make decisions about areas and homes and schools and the like.  But none of those statistics can account for feeling.  There's no way to total the number of lessons learned over a period of time, lessons learned just by being in a particular time and space, and taking it all in.  And that, all by itself, makes a promise to me that we are not the people we came from.  We are not the place we came from. And we never have to be what any person or place says we have to be.  

I think we all turn out to be who we are because of a mix of chance, circumstance, and opportunity.  All of these things being in differing proportions for each of us.  Our choices make or break us.  I'm proof if there ever was any.  And don't forget a bucket load of grace.  I think that's the biggest piece of my story out of all of them.

And I don't want to forget to mention that factoring into our choices and circumstances are the people that we allow to influence us.  

I'm thankful every day for all the people who invested in me over the years.  Be that for a moment or a season.  I know who they are.  And if this post reaches you, I hope you know that you made a big difference in me.  

post script - Some of the people that influenced me?  I happen to still be mad at a few of them.  I can't lie about that part.  But without each and every one of them, where might I be?  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

I guess I just needed to eat my baked squash in silence today

A while ago  - maybe even a couple of years now  - when my back was hurt and I finally called it a day and laid in bed with an ice pack on my back  ... trying to decide if I wanted to live through the pain .....  ... All the lights came on and feet started running and I heard things hitting walls. Which turned out to be the boys running from a bug.

And they came in and told me all about it so I could then be afraid along with them.  And mostly I was thankful that the bug appeared when Kid 1 was home so he could be the man of the house instead of me.  But before we could move forward, I had him bring the flashlight into my room and check in and under my bed before we took even one more breath.  First things first and all that jazz. 

Story goes that the bug was on Kid 1's arm, then it flew and got lost somewhere under the bed.  So Kids 2 and 3 jumped into another bed on the other side of the room while Kid 1 went about the hunt - with the occasional report on the progress to me. 

And they know and everyone in the world knows that I would rather be dragged to my death behind a moving car than find a giant bug in our house.  Such a poor choice bringing me into any of it.  So I left them to it and I crawled under my covers with just enough room for a nose hole, and hid from all the fuss. 

And I woke the next morning to find all three kids crammed together on one side of their room, 2 in a twin bed and the other on the trundle squeezed as close as he could to his brothers.  And I wished I had a camera. 

Because truth is, they call each other idiots all day long, but when the bug came crawling, they totally found where they belong. 

Good stuff.  

I needed to be reminded of this story today for a couple of reasons.  First, the new spring and fast approaching summer means time for me to get Fireman Dave to go to extreme lengths to exterminate, spray, dust or do whatever to spare me from even the thought of bugs. 

But even more than that, I needed to be reminded that these boys love each other.  Because Y'all, no one would ever guess it.  On the way to church, on the way back from church, all during lunch,... I couldn't tell.  Sitting at the cafeteria where they insulted each other all the live long day?  I couldn't tell.  When they got back in the car after we ate and Kid 1 pulled down Kid 2's pants and Kid 2 fought like he was in a prison riot and I just sat there waiting to see if there would be blood involved?  I couldn't tell they love each other. 

The sport in season around the Walters house is called Roasting.  Roasting as in some premium insulting each other in every way imaginable.  Does Kid 3 really look like the old man substitute math teacher at the high school?  That's what I hear....

I think I could put up with it in small doses, but not in an all out tournament of insults.  Going for the gold and all.  Are there college scholarship opportunities to be found in the creative art of insults?  Fireman Dave says that's pretty much the go to past time at the station, too. 

But y'all.  Call me overly sensitive.  My family sure does.  But if I've said it once I've said it a million times,  words matter.  And the words that we use so pointedly to hurt others never go away.  They can't be erased with apologies.  And for some of us, they can't be forgotten in any length of time.   Because some of us have been to the Battle of Words and learned the hard way that we could never win.  So we learned to hide and cover our feelings with distractions and other loud noises, maybe a firmly planted smile and wanna be strong spirit, and mostly pretend not to hear.  But every word of it got in - past our minds and right into our hearts - words that taught us that we don't matter enough to deserve kindness. 

And it doesn't matter how long the walk is away from the source, the voice travels with me wherever I go.  And the voice becomes the voice of anyone who makes me doubt my worth, my value, my confidence.  This weekend, with just a quick comment about Easter and forgiveness and new beginnings, I heard so much more.  And I couldn't put a wall high enough around this sensitive soul to not take it to heart as a sadness. 

I guess I just needed to eat my baked squash in silence today.  Or in a front row seat in the Walters boys Roasting prize fight.  Because I didn't feel the joy of the Lord in my Easter.  Fireman Dave diagnosed me as having mood swings.  He is after all, an emergency medical professional.

But the good news is that Easter is more than just a Sunday when we get dressed up and go to church and hope for the promises of sunshine.  We're just starting the Easter season - Eastertide - which so very lucky for me, gives me a whole lot more time to locate my resurrection spirit. 

post script - here are a couple of weekend pictures.  I could, but I won't show you the family picture of us at the church flower cross, because I woke up with a case of Not Quite Myself Today....  In other words, what I look like when I don't sleep and I obviously ate something salty.  So though my heart didn't really swell all that much this Easter, my hands and face did.  Darn it all.  But here are the handsome Kids 1, 2 and 3 out front this morning at church.  

And here are Kids 2 and 3 falling asleep in early service because they didn't believe me when I said we would need to go to bed at a reasonable time last night.  Thank you Kid 1 for the stealth photography. Is that guy behind us asleep, too?

And here's some driveway basketball.  I loved sitting out there with them that night. 

Yes, down deep I know that our boys love love love each other with all that they are.  But I want them to be bigger than our culture that makes it nearly impossible for people to show genuine caring and expressions of love for each other.  I want them to talk, not only in the darkness of their room every night before bed, but out in the open  - about what family is and means and how they will always be the first line of defense for each other in this big ol' place.  I'm hoping that for them, as I could've used some of those things for myself.