You've come a long way baby



A few updates....

Rita the dog had a terrible time of it last week when I put her outside for the day because she scares the housekeeper ....  the housekeeper that visits me two times a month because I learned a long time ago that I can't be all things to all people all the time.  Basically, we can't all look good - it's either me or the house, and I choose me. 

Did I ever mention how afraid Miss Rita is of the wind?  So afraid that she tried to climb the fence to escape the wind..... silly dog... and she tore out a claw on her foot.  The patio and back fence looked like a battle scene from a war movie, but all turned out okay because of Fireman Dave and his emergency medical dog skills.  He treated her and casted her all up in bandages and one of the boys' mismatched socks that come out of the dryer with every load.  Because y'all, what can the man not do?

And an update on my library project for my favorite little African village - Y'all, basically I'm on hold till I come up with a better plan.  Seems that I have no lack of ability to collect children's books, and I think that I could figure out a fund raising plan to get them shipped, but the receiving end is presenting a problem.  My friend, Vornita, would happily accept the books and be a joyful community librarian -  however, she has to have a manageable way to get the books from the post office or other shipping location, all the way back to the village.  And here's how she does it when only picking up pen pal letters and small packages - ride a motorcycle taxi - a boda boda - to the nearest, larger taxi stand where she gets on a 15 passenger van for a long ride into Kampala.  Shop, go to the post office, take care of millions of other things then ride the van back to catch another boda boda home - where she carries everything in her lap back to the village while trying to not fall off the bike. 

So herein lies our problem - I could ship tons of smallish boxes of books in order to be size appropriate and avoid insane Ugandan import taxes upon receipt, but be very inconsiderate of shipping costs to make that happen.  Or find a shipping organization to handle it for me in bulk, but then figure out how to hire a heavy lifter day laborer to get the books from point A to point B.  Geez.  I just want the kids to read some good books and have the fun of being able to have unlimited access to checking out and borrowing like my kids grew up doing.  So for now I'm giving it some better thought.  Maybe a collection for my friend to buy some books at the local market - few but decent offerings, often Christian teaching titles, paper back, think grocery and dollar store style books - and be content in knowing we did some sort of good.

I thought I had found the perfect solution in a charitable organization that organizes book drives for African communities and allows anyone who needs service hours to organize their own library to be shipped to a needy place.  Sounded perfect until I called them and they go to some awesome places, but not Uganda.  I'll keep trying.  And if you already donated books, trust that they will arrive to their destination one way or another. 

And more about Uganda..... yesterday I had the fun opportunity of video chatting my girl, Loyce.  I wish I could've live taped it and shown it to you, but seriously, it was all I could do to handle talking and aiming the camera at the same time.  My kids rank me in the oldish to slightly geriatric category in the technology department and sigh in clear disgust disappointment every time I yell for one of them to come turn on the TV for me.  Especially Kid 2, though he tries to hide his ever so frustrated feelings behind a thin veil of compassion and a hug, he thinks his mama is ready for the modern technology nursing home, constantly reminding me of how things are different these days.  I believe he actually used the words, "back in the 1900's," today at lunch.  Um, back in the 1900's I was cute and smart and somewhat talented with a side of amazing.  If they only knew. 

And my video chat with Loyce was fun even though I had to work hard to hear her sweet voice over the sounds of a million curious little villagers and a very loud rooster.  And we talked about what we might want to do if we were visiting each other - me in Uganda, her in Big D.  I think if I was with her today in her hometown of Bulonde village,  I would have her show me the sights - her water well up close and in person and then I'd find out a 13 year old girl is stronger than me when we tried to carry our 20 liter jerry cans full of water back to the house.  Then we'd hang out with her sisters and her mom and I'd tell her mama what a good job she is doing raising all these lovelies.  Then I'd probably get all sorts of embarrassed as I tried to help cook over a coal stove like she does every day and give up and invite her back to my place where we would order in Uber Eats Africa.  And if she was here, I would spoil her like nobody's business - in so many fun ways, but remembering that my ways are not hers, and that she is happy with her life the way it is.  I've had to learn that over time - that I can't change their way of life.  I can't fix the economy, and I can't assume that she misses things that she has never known.  I can only share her contentment and happiness at having what she needs while sprinkling her with a few surprises.   

Our talk was special to me, though much of what I said was lost in translation due to my not so subtle Texas twang.  Remember I told you that she speaks 2 exotic languages, and her third language, limited, yet very proper English?  Well she does.  And I speak Texan.   But we made it through just fine and had a sweet time of it.  I asked her if she likes to read her Bible and she says yes, a little, but mostly enjoys the part about when God created some things.  Yes ma'am that part is so good, but darling, it gets even better... 

So I asked her to learn Proverbs 31:25.  She is clothed in strength and dignity, she laughs without fear of the future.  Y'all, one thing I've learned about Loyce in our time together is that she is full to the top of kind and sweet and loving, but that she is meek of spirit in so many ways.  She looks to her best friend and her sisters for guidance and approval, and she waits to register her actions and responses based on what is expected.  I am praying for this young girl the gift of confidence, and I am working in each correspondence to teach her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  That she is completely clothed in the strength the dignity of the God that made her and loves her as his own. 

Then I asked her to write to me something that she would like for me to learn.  Seriously, no promises, but I can try for the sake of love and friendship.  I wish I could upload this video for you, but you can click HERE to see the follow up video I received a bit after our conversation.  This is Loyce reading and soaking into her already sweet heart, the promise of the verse we talked about yesterday. 

Before we ended our conversation, she got to meet Kid 3 and Rita the dog - 2 of my other favorite people.  And we ended with kisses blown from American all the way to Uganda and back.  Who knew blowing kisses was a world wide love language?  Turns out it is. 



And today this happened.  We went to the Arboretum after church and had all three of my sweet babies with me.  We were in the elevator to the parking garage with a tired mom of two little boys who thought they remembered which level the car was parked on.  They didn't, but I totally get it.  I'm forever trying to get into the wrong silver car in packed parking lots.  And the mom was apologetic and asking if Fireman Dave and I have kids..... so I gave her the Vanna White Wheel of Fortune hand sweep across my 3 handsomes standing quietly in the elevator with us - and she was, shall I say, shocked that the three grown "men" in the elevator were indeed our own version of littles. 

I've noticed that about moms of young kids - I remember doing it myself back when - that big kids seem SO BIG and SO GROWN UP, and SO FAR DOWN the ROAD.  Until day by day, they morph and change and become on the outside, as my friend Loyce would say, big people - but on the inside they remain very much your babies.  And yes, I still call each of mine, baby, and pumpkin head and anything and everything else that drips of love and affection.  I plan to keep it up till we're all too old to know each other anymore. 

A few random kids and I had to have some serious parent to son talks this last week.  And I'm talking the  no nonsense, hide your eyes from embarrassment if you want to, kinds of talks.  But the kinds of talks that I am committed to having with my boys to make sure I can deliver them safely to their Godly ordained life destinations.  Or something like that.  Really I just hope to deliver them safely to  adulthood with the ability to live both independently and responsibly, and I'll consider that a prize of this life. 

So we talked about sex and the consequences of.  About sex and the price thereof, and what all of those choices look like from the other side of the teenage years.  We talked about decisions regarding the crap content we fill up our minds with each day via music and TV and social media - and how all brain roads lead directly to the heart and have even bigger prices to pay on that end.  And in plain Kristi/Mom talk, if something you are listening to or viewing or reading or whatever the h-e-double hockey sticks you are doing - contains lyrics, words, or a  script that you can't read out loud in front of me, then it's probably something you shouldn't be dabbling in.  And yes, Kid 2... when that little voice is nagging you to text your mother and ask when she might be home from running Kid 3 to his friend's house so she won't have to listen the that foul language movie you chose on Netflix - then you can be assured that the little voice is pretty much your body's alarm system that something is totally messed up in this situation.  Danger, Will Robinson...... abort mission. 


then and now.....





But then things like this  roll around  - and I can look back at all that has happened and can still happen and call it good.  Much like God did with his own creation, but on a much smaller scale.  Here is a before and after picture at the Dallas Arboretum, almost 17 years ago with Kid 1 with me and Kid 2 on the way. 

Man, we were both babies back then,....  but as the old cigarette ads of my youth claimed, You've come a long way, baby.  Kids 1, 2 and 3, we all have.  Fireman Dave included, of course, but the sentence flowed much smoother written like this.... 

And finally, last weekend I actually had a really tough time of being me when the whole family had things to do and places to go  - except for me.  And then it rained and darn if the the lonely didn't show up -  and I just had a bit of a struggle like no other, and finally ended up starting a new Netflix show and letting the troubles of others replace those of my own.

Y'all know that about me, right?  I'm all good when everything's busy and loud and plans are swirling about... but leave me alone for too long and the dark side appears out of nowhere like that rare eclipse we had around here not too long ago.  But I muddled through, I hung out at the fire station and bothered the guys and ate their food, and basically moved one foot in front of the other till I got to a better Kristi place. 

I've had to learn that sometimes times like this happen, and that 9 times out of 10, these times pass on by to be replaced with something far more favorable and productive. 

All in all, I'm going to channel my inner God voice on it all and call it good. 

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
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