I wish for you pants with no holes

Hello and welcome to the rain forest which is Dallas.  It's a full on mosquito storm around here and I discovered in such a way in the bathroom stall at my son's football game this past Thursday, that even in the nicest of stadiums, in the richest of school districts - um, sure not talking about ours......  we're all equal in the eyes of God's creatures.  It became a total issue of self preservation in there.

Kid 3 had a game at Highland Park stadium Thursday night, and we knew going in that it would be a predictable disaster, but then the lightning struck and we all got sent out of the stands to take cover for 30 minutes... except for the fact that when there's another bolt, the 30 minutes re-start - endlessly.   So this went on for about an eternity when Fireman Dave and I decided it was time to go get something to eat since neither our school's coach nor the Highland Park coach wanted to be the first to cancel the game.  The boys ended up going back out maybe an hour and a half later and playing 2 quarters just to show that we could.  Indeed, it was the disaster we expected, but y'all, we did it on our terms.

Then we got a call from Kid 2 saying his car wouldn't start and was stranded on the corner of Where am I and I don't know what to do.  And I swear if we didn't get almost the same call from Kid 1 a bit later about his truck not starting.  I grew up with a dad that was King of the Used Car Purchase, and the  Walters family is obviously following in those royal footsteps. 

My dad liked to fix just about everything with duct tape, and if that didn't work, he had a good ol' boy named Grady that usually had a back alley part or two and would be willing to fix it for the price of cheap plus a case of beer.  I have yet to find a Grady of our own, but do, in fact, have duct tape at the ready for many a project.  I did learn a thing or two from my dad.

And here we are the following night, in the middle of the Friday Night Lights Monsoon where Kid 1 played Highland Park's Varsity team.  Again, another predictable disaster, but let me say that the character of our boys, our parents, our school administration shines in the face of a challenge.  Though I gave up after about the 4th lightning delay, and tired of sheltering in the hot sweat of Fireman Dave's truck, I called it quits and decided to follow the team on Twitter in the comfort and dry of my own home.  And again, neither coach would be the one to call off the war, so they boys finally came back out about 10pm to play a bit longer and prolong the ineveitbale.  But,.... y'all, this gives me public school parent goose bumps - every school principal and administrator stayed the entire time, waited out the storm, and stood there to support this team that started out as the underdog in every way in this battle.  The score board says we lost, but my heart says we won in what was really important.

And on the subject of school, I can't even believe that Kid 1 just purchased his cap and gown for graduation and is right in the middle of receiving his college acceptance letters.  More on that later, but there are already a few options, and it has been my constant prayer that he find what is right for him, without the influence of others in his decision.  Y'all, this is such a big issue right now, and my school of thought is this, I believe the boys need to find their own way before trying to share that way with anyone else. And as we say in church, Lord hear our prayer.  

And you just have to read this... that I just saw in our church email for the coming week.

Wilshire Talks, Sept. 30
Plan to stay for lunch and Wilshire Talks next Sunday, Sept. 30, with two Wilshire members telling their stories in a TED Talk format. Speakers will be Wally Brewster, former U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and Kristi Walters, mom, fitness instructor, blogger and humorist. Lunch is free. Wally made international news in 2013 when after unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate he became the first person in a same-sex marriage to represent the U.S. at the ambassadorial level in the Americas. His appointment was opposed by the Catholic Church and evangelical leaders. In his Sunday talk, Wally will explain how his own Christian faith sustained him in this challenge. Kristi is a regular blogger for Wilshire’s Facebook page, where she often writes about her husband, “Fireman Dave,” and their three boys and their journey through public education, family drama and lessons learned as a fitness instructor. Child care provided during the event with pre-registration.

Um, thank you for whoever tried to make me sound interesting in this ad.  But following up after someone who's gonna talk about something thoughtful and intellectually stimulating over a plate of lasagna has got me thinking about what on earth I actually do have to say.     Maybe something that will make everyone want to go home for a cozy Sunday nap,... but I appreciate the press.  And, yes I am honored to have been invited to share.  Really.  Wally's gonna be a tough act to follow, but can he tell an entire story about diarrhea like I can?  Only time will tell.  

Oh, and just for the fun of saying this happened... I sprung a hole in my work pants one day last week.  Leaving me to dig around in my bag of tricks to find an emergency pair.  Kind of like when  I used to pack a little ziploc bag for the boys with extra shorts and underwear when they were in pre-K, in case of a similar yet somehow so different pants problem, I had a pair of black and red dotted Nike tights as my only choice to wear with my clashing gray top and bright pink and purple shoes.  It looked like Hobo day at the Y that day, but I got paid so I have to be thankful for that.  And no crazy man attacked me over towels which is always a plus.  If you didn't hear that story, you can read all about it here.  

And last bit of news for this week - I invited my brother to come see Kid 1 play this past Friday night.  And I'm just going to say that I knew that this situation could end up as bad or worse than the game itself, but a feeling in me made me do the right thing.  He did show up, wandered around and found Kids 2 and 3 in their respective spots, and tried to make reasonable conversation.  We're all pretty sure he was drunk, but did a good job of holding it together for the first quarter of the game.  He did, however, tell Kid 2 how mad I make him and how he would like to kick me in the head.  Such love we share.   I've heard worse.  Much worse.  In fact, that pales in comparison to the one where he would like to cut off my head and put it on a stick.  Something about my head just gets this guy all riled up.  

Anyway, it was, for me anyway, an extension of the grace that I know full well that I receive each and every day from the God that doesn't have to even give me the time of day.  

So  I invited my brother to the game becuase I have been invited many a time to start again, even in the smallest of ways.  And I hope I continue to get those second and third and millionth chances.  Again, Lord hear our prayers.  

I will just say this... my brother is a challenge.  He is what happens when a parent stops being the parent and allows the kid to control the home.  He is what happens when the parent is so afraid of what the kid might do, that they let the kid do whatever he wants at the expense of the family.  And he is the perfect example of an adult who never learned the word no.  So now he is stuck in a place with a suitcase full of bad decisions, an empty house that he inherited,  with all its contents, and no one to share it with.  He's an adult who never learned to interact with other adults because he was far too long treated as a child.  And now that my mom is gone and his support system that had set the tone for his existence is gone, he's  lost and lonely and not sure how to move one step beyond where he is now.  

He loves to throw raging, curse filled tantrums my way - having learned that from the best of them, our mom.  But what he has found in me is a woman that has grown up and away from the position of being held prisoner to the abuse.  He finds in me a person that he can easily yell at because I was always the one easy to yell at.  But I learned so long ago that not giving it the attention that the abuser is hoping for, not getting involved, not yelling back, not encouraging the moment, makes his energies tired, lifeless, and all the more draining on his attempts.  And I have to remind him that I, too, learned from the best - our mom, as I put up with abuse for a lifetime, and had to figure out how to move beyond it.  

I think I'm still figuring it out - even as the mother of 3 almost grown kids of my own.  Sadly, I may always be the kid that was this or wasn't that in her eyes.  But the good thing is that I am now the adult that refuses to let that be acceptable.  So last week when my brother tried to fire off his best anger, I met it with an invitation to see my son play football.  And I met it with the disciplinary words of a mother telling a child that his behavior will not be tolerated, and to please try again. 

Teaching a grown man the difference between right and wrong is probably a bigger job than I have time for at this point, but to be a part of my life, he has to learn the rules.  

I would typically throw in a Bible verse or some sort of catchy lesson right in the here and now.  But I've come up dry on this one.  My prayer is for healing, for patience - which I heard we should never really pray for because God will certainly give you the practice you need to get it perfect - and for me to just be what I need to be for this family.  

And.... for you, I wish you such good things this week... pants with no holes and blessings beyond measure.  

A trip down frisk and walk lane

It was 1980 something and that's all I'll say to prevent calculations on my age and halt any questions about whether or not I ever wore parachute pants to any important functions.  But I will say without any hesitation that it was a simpler time.  Kids ran around all over the place, teenagers ran around all over the place, and as I think about it now, it's really a wonder that any of us made it out alive. 

I kinda had my crowd that I hung around with in what I like to call my "tan and go" days...... where my appointment with a lawn chair in the backyard was #1 on my summer time schedule, completing all beauty tasks at once.... savage tan, free hair highlights and what I like to think of now as plenty of Vitamin D all stocked up to prevent osteoporosis.  And somewhere between my relaxation time, friend time and the ability to eat an entire pizza and still wear a bikini... I met a fella that walked right into my summer and left me with one of the best stories I've ever told. 

But I think the most complicated piece of that summer puzzle was that, at the time, I wasn't really this guy's friend nearly as much as he was mine.  Dare I say, as much as he decided that he was to be mine, ... and mine forever?  It was like a daily Valentine of friendship, until he got sent off to a prison and all those collect calls from the pay phone in the common room were running up a bill for me and my parents. 

I met this young man when he was a lost and lonely, out of school, young adult, trying to find his way in the Big D by lying to me and others about his past.  He said he was an orphan and had been raised at the local children's home until the age of 18, when he was tossed out into adulthood and the relative insecurity of unemployment and poverty.  I do remember that he somehow had enough money for a truck  - as well as a truck load of booze just about every weekend, but at the age of high school ignorance, none of that made me question the reality of his tale.

We met through a mutual friend, and it was one of those, good girl hangs out with her boyfriend and all his guy friends all the live long day until about 4pm when she was due at her part time job, or out into the yard to work on her tan kinds of relationships.  Y'all, I was way busy living and loving, and not thinking a day ahead of the one I was in.  And this guy just jumped into our little circle as if he had been there all along, and with stories of a common bond that he liked to tell of him and me in such a loving way that made me wish they were all true.  Turns out either I was very forgetful, or he was very imaginative in his tales of our good times shared and friendship grown into a lifetime story of mutual admiration.  He remembered all the times I was nice to him and all the ways I had helped him, and basically remembered me as a younger stand in for the mother that he said he never had.  And I was obviously scatterbrained, forgetful, or just self absorbed in the way 18 year old girls can be.  But God gives us all grace and mercy so somehow I must've absorbed enough of it to share. 

Turns out he was homeless. I'm not sure I even knew that till way into time spent with him.  I guess I noticed that he spent a lot of time at my friend's house, and that he appeared and disappeared pretty often and not on any certain schedule.  But the eyes of young people tend to fog over at the thought of anything deeper than a few hours and some laughs.  I think I figured it out when none of us had seen him for a few days and an impromptu search party located him camped in his truck in the mall parking lot.

He sort of vanished about the time I left for college.  Maybe it was during or after his stint in the county jail where I was privileged to be listed as his family member and allowed to visit.  How did I deserve such an honor?  I'm not sure other than the fact that maybe God had run out of people to give it to at the time;  so he chose me.

Time went by and I was off learning how to be an adult on my own.  I had been living in an apartment in my little college town for a while when one day I got a surprise visitor.  My new old friend had tracked me down, and looking back now, I may or may not have been an accessory to something or other  - or maybe just a safe hideout.  I only remember going out to eat.   

But he left again, as quickly as he showed up - and I didn't hear from him for quite some time till I got a collect call from the whatever whatever unit of the Texas Penitentiary System.  I knew who it was before I accepted the charges, and opened an all new, yet final chapter of Me and My Convict.

He said that he  had been accused of something that wasn't true, that there was a young lady involved that he loved very much, and that a baby on the way was because of their luckiness in this life in finding each other.  It was a version of his story that made me happy for him,... though a different version of the story got him 35 years for aggravated sexual assault.  True or not?  I may never know, but he said he was going to name the baby after me.  Because that's what friends do.  Now there may or may not be a little Kristi, roaming her way through young adulthood searching for her namesake and wondering who the heck spelled Kristi with a K in the front and an I at the end and made it so she can't even get a can of Coke with her name on it.

And out of the sheer goodness of my heart, and feelings of guilt if I ignored the situation, I have walked myself right into both the Dallas County jail as well as a maximum security facility in the south of Texas.  The Max Security, as we regulars like to call it, was just a little road trip from my place of higher education - so it was really both a gesture of Christian love as well as a once in a lifetime learning experience. Kind of like when people travel to Africa and go on safari and say that it changed them forever?  A trip down frisk and walk lane will most certainly change a girl forever in much the same fashion.

I remember not knowing exactly what to wear to a prison visit, but think I chose something to make sure that I wouldn't blend in too much with the locals, and be accidentally mistaken for someone who came to stay the night.  Knowing me it was probably a dress and a smile, because, y'all, I was raised a healthy mixture of both right and wrong.

And I know it meant the world to him to know that I would make the drive to see him.  And you can fully trust that not only did I renew my friendship with you know who on that trip, but I made all new friends with the prison guards - so much so that they gave me a personal escort down that long and lonely hallway.  Maybe they do that for everyone.  Maybe just for the ones who look they're not quite sure of prison protocol and etiquette.  

It was a Saturday morning.  I arrived, checked in my necessaries, and waited in an almost all metal room for I wasn't sure what.  I wasn't entirely sure what made me decide to take that drive; but I did it and hoped for the best that I would make it safely home to watch Designing Women on TV later that night.

My friend took a while  to get to me.  I didn't know that they get to change into their good outfits for visit day.  Now I do.  And he looked good.  But mostly he looked happy.  And I guess I did, too.  I don't even remember what we talked about other than maybe him and me and some good ol' stories of things I probably just nodded yes to a whole lot.  But I knew even that day that visits like this couldn't be my forever routine  - and there came a time when I just stopped. Because it was time.

I still can't tell you why I almost cry when I remember our visits.  Maybe it's the idea of a life lost to crime - the crime of not being part of a family to guide you into adulthood in a good and proper way.  Maybe it's because I remember how much he wanted a friend, and how much he wanted me to be her.  He liked to tell people that I was his sister - like he was missing out on so much for so long, that when kind and fun finally met him, he took full hold and loved on it like nobody's business.

It's a story anyway.  It's a piece of who I used to be, and who I hope I still might be given the situation of someone in need.  My friend was maybe the loneliest person I ever knew, outside of myself.  He needed friends and family and discipline and routine and a place to feel safe and at home.  Give a young man a truck, no job and very little to look forward to, and you'll get back just as much in return. Maybe even with a few tall tales, and a newfound criminal tendency to go with them. 

I don't remember a single conversation with him about his faith or his choices, only conversations partly created from a faulty memory... or out of a need to have a connection with someone who would be a temporary parking spot for all his troubles.  I do remember plenty of lazy summer days spent with people still young enough to not worry about every last detail of a person's questionable character.  But mostly I remember being young enough to not be so quick to judge and say no before ever considering the possibility of a friendship.  At the time I never thought about how much a willingness to agree on a happy story that never actually took place could mean to a person who just needed a first line to a new chapter.  

I think about him every now and then, how he appeared out of nowhere with a made up past and a hopeful future of finding his place and his people.  I may never know the end of his story, other than what I find on Google that tells me his expected release date.  It looks like two consecutive, fairly long sentences.  

That young man had a lot of love to give, and I was lucky to be someone he chose to give it to.  I desperately needed that at the time, too.  I find it a forever mystery of how Lost and can meet Lonely, say hello and form a forever bond, -  sometimes working out better than others.  But for the lucky ones, we walk out of it together a little bit better than we started.     

Friends are good for that.

I wonder how the last 14 years have been, original post date September 2015

* author edit:  I wrote these words in 2015 and keep coming back to this post every year.  This year I had a particular reason, ... as I was contacted by a blog reader asking me specifically if I could help her son with a school project.  He needed to interview someone who remembered 9/11 - which made me feel like an old history professor or a grandma with a blanket in my lap telling stories of the old days.  But of course I said yes, and let the young man ask me questions.  I gave the same answers as I wrote about here in this post.  That will never change, I think. 
I've had a hard time writing this week.  Even thinking about WHAT to write kept me quiet.  

Because it seems that all the news going on of things far bigger than my dog eating our dinner the other night and the really cute sweater I just bought just shouted for me to be quiet.   

Hush.  And listen to what is being said around you, Kristi.  Listen to the sounds of the world that are bigger than you.  
And today I am sitting here quiet.  Waiting for the boys to get home from school.  Remembering,  like we all are, the events of this day 14 years ago.    
I can tell you all the details of where I was that morning... but it's not very exciting.  And not at all important in the big scheme of things.    
But I think like so many of us, the day made me scared.  And sad.  And as the day went on I got more scared.  And a lot more sad.  And the news kept showing the same scenes over and over all day till I couldn't stand it anymore and turned it all off and went to my parents' house.   My dad was still alive then.  For about 5 more months.  

And we pulled out the baby pool for little bitty Kid 1 to splash around in.  He was 15 months old.  And did I mention that I was also a rather large, pregnant woman awaiting the birth of Kid 2 any day?  And I think that's what scared the life out of me.  Thinking about their little lives and what kind of world they would grow up in.   
And I sat out on my parents' back patio and cried.  I cried because I was overloaded with bad news.  And I cried because I went to the bank earlier that day and everyone in there scared me and I ended up leaving without taking care of a darn thing.  And I cried because there were other moms like me.... but moms who would be raising kids on their own from then on.  And I cried looking at my little one splashing around in the pool and not knowing that there are mean people.    
And I was terrified of going home by myself that night because Fireman Dave was at the station.  Because the news had me convinced that evil was all around.   
My dad had gone to the hospital earlier that day as well.  He had been at work and had a hemorrhage in his eye that was a result of his illness.  And he looked terrible and felt even worse, but I think having a baby swimming in a little pool out on your patio just makes things feel a lot better.   
So we sat.  And we listened to the quietest quiet I think I've ever heard.  Because there were no airplanes flying.  And people everywhere, I think, were somewhere inside waiting for more news.  And I remember the amazing, gorgeous day it was here in Dallas.   

And I think what takes my breath away is how life goes on.  In every situation of loss or disappointment or hurt, life goes on all around - while yours seems to stand still for way too long.  Don't you hate that?  I just really do.   
But what I think has stayed with me the most, aside from the actual scenes of the day.... are the people left behind to grieve their losses.   And I say THEIR losses because it was news to most of us, but it was reality for others.  News that affected each one of our emotions, but a reality that became bigger than life for a whole lot of people.    
So I feel hurt for the people that still wake up on this day each year and remember what they were doing and how it all changed without even imagining that it could.   

And I think, truth be told, I feel a little selfish that I wait till this day each year to remember.  Because there are way too many people that remember it all every day - not just on an anniversary day.  
So I think far more important than what I was doing that day, and my own smallish perspective of events,  ... is to consider how the lives of those directly affected have moved forward.   
I wonder how the last 14 years have been.   
I think there's probably some good lessons on living in their stories.  

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