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?  

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.   

Which in the words of the Lord, or maybe not,.... this is just sucky

 Things that irritate me.  My writing warm up....

People who go straight in a turn only lane.
People who are in a hurry.
People who honk.
Having a slow leak in my tire.
Trying to find pants that fit.
Not being able to find pants that fit.
When people let their kids do bad things.
Kids who do bad things.
Adults who do bad things.
Grumpy faces.
Running out of hot water.
Running out of anything. Especially dessert or money.
Skinny jeans.

This is totally just a list off the top of my head.  I reserve the right to amend or add at any time.  

I think I'm a bit delusional of late. Not in the way that I think I see visions of old boyfriends still crying over their heartache and such... but in such a way that I somehow thought life, especially mom life, would become easier the older the boys got.  .....  Like that time I could've sworn I saw a dog driving a car in the Chili's parking lot.  I'm still convinced it was a dog, but decided that maybe he was just keeping the drivers seat warm while waiting for his human to pick up his cheeseburger and curly fries. 

I have been hearing things today, however - in the kitchen ceiling.   I know it has something to do with the plumbing and in my professional opinion, no pipes should ever sound like this. 

The sound reminds me of this scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ricky and Ethel and Fred stop off at a roadside motel on their way to somewhere.....

Of course Fireman Dave is at the station for the next almost 100 hours, which for you non-firemen out there, is 4 shifts -  so if something bad happens, I might call you to bring over some buckets. 

But seriously, the battle never ends.  The boys are beating me down one wet towel tossed on the floor at a time.  And y'all, I thought I was parenting when they were little and I told them to not eat the sand out of the sand box.

Monday morning Kid 1 called all distraught and upset from school because he was sick and wanted to come home.  I actually flip flopped in my proper reaction to that because, well..... being sick actually made him call me.  But then I felt bad for wishing him ill for my selfish gain, and did what every respectable mom on her way to teach a class downtown would do.  I sent him to the school nurse.  Turns out he hadn't eaten breakfast, went by the Starbucks with a friend for an iced coffee - extra sugar and caffeine, please - and then went to his two hour football practice at school.  I would totally throw up after that, too.

It all turned out fine.  He recovered, and then I texted him my fitness professional's view of caffeine and its ill effects on the body ( including, but not limited to elevated heart rate and dehydration).  He never responded because the mom need had already passed.

And seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.... THIS just happened this very afternoon.  My texts to Kid 1 are in the yellow.... as you can see, the authoritative voice of reason and proud supporter of manners everywhere.

Thank you Kid 1 for treating me like an actual person.  For one sentence.  Have mercy.  I was just in the post office discussing this whole thing with the US Postal Service lady and something must be in our Dallas air because her daughter pulled a similar stunt today.  We both agreed that we don't get paid enough for this.  

Kid 2 is kind of my saving grace right now - as we sit peacefully and watch the drama play out between Rayna and Deacon and their non-stop love on Nashville.  I swear their love has been through alcoholism, a near death drunk driving incident and an illegitimate child. Really, is that still a thing or am I dating myself in my cultural references?  Who knows, but as far as Kid 2 goes, I know he's probably planning some big teen mutiny or fantastic voyage into the unknown to surprise me at any given time.  I'm on guard at all times. After all, I'm filling his head with all sorts of sin and nonsense while we sit on the couch waiting to see who the father of Juliette's baby is.  

And Kid 3 - here we are again;  which has taken up so much of my mind space lately.  I really had no idea that it had been almost two weeks since I wrote a blog post.  But today Facebook reminded me that hundreds of people haven't heard from me in a while......  Thank you Facebook.  I'm going to take that as a greeting card style gesture of affirmation and friendship.

Kid 3 - we're the same place we land at the end of each school year - with the question of, Will he pass or not?  And y'all, if you take away one sentence from this entire post today, let it be this one.  The whole school thing with Kid 3 simply breaks my heart.   We start each year with new hope that this combination of classes and teachers will work.  That if we try to place him in an advanced class where the class has more hands on opportunities to learn, rather than just desk sittin' style learning... that maybe he'll be able to stay focused well enough to learn better.  That if we surround him with kids that are more focused on their studies, that he might not only be more focused on his work, but be encouraged to try harder. 

In third grade, I remember Kid 3 feeling sad about how the kids at his group table treated him.  Want to know how they treated him?  Mean.  With a capital M.  He would come home telling us how kids that used to be his friends weren't as nice to him anymore because he wasn't quite in the same learning ball park as they were.  And how the kids at his table would get frustrated and just do the work as a group - minus Kid 3 - which left him to figure out the world on his own. 

So fast forward to 7th grade, where he gets much the same response from his classmates.  And teachers.  They just move on, too.  It's public school, they have to move on.  I get it.  I taught it.  I really, really get it.  But it still makes me sad for every kid who comes home and tells his parents that all the other kids are able to do this and that and how everyone else is just a lot smarter than he is. 

Kid 3 - one day I hope you read this.  And I hope you hear me telling you for the millionth time that you are smart.  That you are so creative and imaginative.  That I see that you are interested and that you really want to do what you need to do when your brain catches up with you. 

So y'all, today let me just try to tell you what Attention Deficit Disorder is like for a 13 year old boy.  No, it's not the generic I can't pay attention in class because I never learned to pay attention in class so give me some medicine to make me behave.  What it is, is a delayed response time as the brain waits to hear what has already been said moments before - all while the rest of the world has gone on to the next thing.  It's hearing so much noise around you that you can't distinguish what's important and what's not.  It's getting so far behind everyone else because you're still walking to the train station while everyone else already got on the train. 

And once they've left you?  They're not coming back.  Pretend school is a game of Monopoly.   The school year starts with everyone at GO on the first day.  And while most kids roll the learning dice and progress along their 7th grade game board, Kid 3 rolls the dice and has to think about what it means.  And while he thinks about what it means, the teacher has already told the class to roll the dice again.  And while the rest of the kids round the game board toward the finish line, Kid 3 is still, though eight months into the school year, still only a few steps from where he started.  But by now, he's built up eight months of frustration.  And eight months of mean words and discouragement from other students as well as the teachers.  So he stops trying.  He's stuck in Monopoly jail and embarrassed to ask for help because he knows it makes the other kids mad.  He's also learned that it makes the teachers mad.  Which in the words of the Lord, or maybe not, is just sucky. 

So we're back where we were at the end of 6th grade, and 5th, and 4th. 

And Fireman Dave and I are back wondering what on earth we're going to do this time.  I've actually made a creative suggestion to the school and am waiting on a response.  And y'all, I need the power of prayer in numbers on this one because I know for a fact that we're probably the first family in the school district to suggest an alternative education plan while still keeping our kid enrolled in his school.  I've found an online study program for kids just like Kid 3 - a program that will allow him to take his more difficult subjects online as a home school student - think math and science - while still benefiting from the school environment and the great teachers in the subjects he does well in. 

But as of now we're waiting to see if our request will be approved.  Y'all, I'm asking for you to pray God's power on Kid 3 and this darned school situation.  I'm asking you to reach out your praying hands and virtually lay them on this need of my sweet boy.  I also need you to look beyond what may sound like the crazy ramblings of a mother running on too little sleep and too much worry, and just be a friend to me right now please.  

Y'all, I'm the first one to tell you that prayer isn't magic. And I know that no amount of prayer can change God's mind about something he already has in the works.  But I know for a fact that God can change the hearts and minds of his people.  And I really need that to happen for Kid 3 this time around. 

Thank you and love to you this week.
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