feel free to add music and sing along

I have to admit that I have better days than others.  And sometimes I handle it well enough.  But sometimes I don't think what I do would even come close to handling it, or anything.   And yesterday was one of those "seen better days" sort of days where I decided to help the mood with a little personal pampering/beauty treatment.  Which sounds greatly relaxing... until you move on to paragraph #2....

I chose the DIY at home bikini wax kit at Target.  Because, of course.  And basically it turned out to be a most frightful disaster.  Things that I don't even remember touching are sticky, and the waxing instructions lied about every. single. thing.  And truth be told, my right inner thigh looks like it's been in a horrifiic, one thigh accident.  I only share this with you, because you, dear readers,  are my people, and this blog is built on tragedy, truth and the Walters' uncanny ability to get into all sorts of trouble.

And since I was asked recently to quit being so depressed and get back to the business of some good Kristi style story telling, .... what better tale to tell than a true life, one woman show set in my bathroom .....

Because I am nothing if not a lady, I will spare you the exacts, but imagine if you will that you left a big package of bubble gum out in your car in the 105 degree heat of our recent days.  Now go sit on it.  Then try to figure out how to remove the gum from your undercarriage without any help.  Please know that I have never in my life used the word undercarriage until today.  

And I think that had I still been able to use my free 911 hook up and call upon Fireman Dave to assist in said situation, he would've had, very possibly the best laugh I ever gave him in his too short a life.  Though I feel all romance from that point on would've come to a screeching halt and he would've never been able to look me in the eyes ever again.  We shall never know. 

Y'all, how hot wax ended up between my toes is the mystery of the whole thing.  And add in the cost of the destroyed bath mat, two towels, and my dignity  - and lesson learned about budget cuts and beauty.  The end.  And please let's never speak of this aloud.

I also this week made my second trip to the Waxahachie, Texas DMV to return Kid 3 for a second try at passing the eye portion of his learner's permit.  And praise Jesus, he did.  Now if he could just learn to drive.

Y'all, I just finished Season 2 of the Netflix original series, Ozark - short version:  money laundering family for a drug cartel meets backwoods ne'er do well clan in Missouri.  The back woods family has a kid named Three.  Y'all, his name is Three.  And I felt an immediate bond with them as I also have a Kid 3 as well as a 1 and a 2.  Yes, I number my kids, but mostly for the blog and to shield them from the public scrutiny of having a tell-all blogger as a mom. 

And earlier in the week the Walters went on a road trip to Jackson, Mississippi and it went a little something like this:  Feel free to add music and sing along.

We took 2 vehicles - my car and Kid 1's truck  There had been some debate of late about whether to let the kid take the truck to school -  and my executive decision went with yes.  Refer back to a prior post when I mentioned one kid acting the fool.  Now look at Kid 1 and do the math.  But y'all, despite the caring input and advice I receive from various sources, it all comes down to how life changed for us 9 months ago and the fact that I no longer have go-to reinforcements at the ready.  So when a two parent, two kid family handles something one way, it's not really the same as a one woman show vs 3 kids.  I would describe my mothering of late as sort of a Man vs Wild situation on many an occasion, and when that happens, I have learned to just let nature take its course and trust that what Fireman Dave and I already invested in these kids had already crossed them over the line from primitive animals to good humans.  Is it the correct mom move?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But we'll only actually know if and when we all make it out alive.

But anyway,  word on the Interstate is that Mom is pretty much a bad-ass Nascar driver and when Kid 3 and I were taking this fun picture in front of the Mississippi River, Kids 1 and 2 were still at a Cracker Barrel pit stop somewhere in Louisiana.  Why am I wearing camo in every picture when I'm not even a hunter?  There appears to be a consistent fashion theme.  

We all met up at the hotel where I totally budgeted the situation and only reserved one room so then all three boys fought over who had to share a bed with their mom.  It made me feel very loved and wanted rejected in a mom of three teen boys sort of way.  They also entertained me with stories of a fat, barefoot kid sitting on the toilet at a Wendy's.  Their words, not mine.  I would totally be more politically correct and refer to the child as unfortunately heavy set and then spend a lot of time wondering why he was barefoot and where was his mother. And I laughed like I haven't in a long time.  God bless them, every one.  

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that all 3 kids were sickly the entire trip and whoever stays in room 408 of the downtown Jackson Hilton better hope that the housekeepers actually disinfect.  I did get Kid 1 into an urgent care appointment the morning of dorm move in, as I could see his first week of football camp going up in flames with a feverish sinus infection.  Another crisis averted.

Football report time was 3-5 pm Monday at exactly at 2:45 pm when the truck was all loaded and headed toward campus, this happened:  

So we parked under the carport of a hotel till safe passage was available.  But it messed up my well planned hair that I had fully considered in the event I bumped into that charming, yet distant football coach.  Best laid plans and all.  Anyway, we got the kid all moved in.  The work on my part was to carry a few lighter things in from the car and then step out into the dorm hallway to watch my son take his first steps toward some real growth.  My theory being that I'm not the one living in that room, so I shouldn't be the one setting it up.  

Enter roommate and his parents - who told me how difficult it was to decide what to bring from their 5600 square foot home.  Y'all I held back my commentary on that one - as we all know that one Walters sleeps in the living room and another in the dining room of this old house.  We're not a proud people.  Just functional and hopefully on most occasions, nice.   Roomie's family chose a 50 inch TV, a fridge of his very own, an ergonomically correct desk chair, blender, Keurig coffee maker, XBox gaming system and enough food and supplies for him to live off the grid for 6 months.  Me?  I was totally like, Here's a 3-in-1 body wash, shampoo, dish soap combo.  Make it last, buddy.  

And see his desk chair that came with the room?  I'm really holding out hope that all of that is coffee stains.  But we covered it in a quilt attached with chip bag clips and made ourselves walk away.  

Kid 1 called that night about 10pm to tell me that his roommate's parents were still in the room and that he just wanted to take a shower and get settled.  My advice?  Do what you need to do, sweet angel,  then drop that towel. That'll make 'em leave.  Follow up:  the towel worked, visiting parents gone.  

And I think it all comes down to how we choose to parent our own kids.  I refuse to send a young adult  off to become a better adult then stand there and unpack his clothes for him.  I stopped changing his sheets at the beginning of the summer to get him ready for his own share of dorm chores.  He chose to sleep on the mattress pad the entire summer.  His choice and less laundry for me.  Win. Win.  

And I will share the actual words of wisdom that I gave to Kid 1 when he was crazy nervous on move in day and even before - but another time.  I think the biggest deal of it all was my other 2 boys when we got home.  I'll respect the privacy of  my conversations with those 2 darlings, but know that it is a continual healing process around here.  There is still an open wound that just seems to ache more on some days than others but God gives us the blessing of us not all losing our stuff at the same time.  

Y'all, loss tends to compound loss.  But we did it.  And we're looking forward to our next trip to see brother play football. 

It's definitely been a week.  

see if you can keep up

I actually thought about making this post into a big ol' game of Three Truths and a Lie... but sadly, none of these events are a lie... though I still lie in wait for that day. And time pretty much runs together for me anymore, so my timeline may or may not be 100% correct, but in the past days, week, weeks.... pick your favorite, the following things have occurred:

See if you can keep up:

1. One Kid acted the fool, tried his hand at dishonesty with this Mom and lost his form of transportation for approximately ever.  Plain English?  He messed up and crossed the wrong gal.  

2. My computer broke - though it likes to work fine for the computer repair place as well as the entire Geek Squad at Best Buy.  Hello new computer someday soon for me?  I say this as I sit at Kid 2's desk, using his gaming laptop and staring at a big poster of Spider Man.  

3. My dryer went crazy and may or may not have been a tremendous fire hazard for longer than it should've been.  

4. Got fired and re-hired as contract labor in the name of budget cuts.  Stupid budget cuts.  

5. Drove to an out of town DMV with Kid 3 to save time instead of waiting for 6 hours at the big city office like I did, me myself and I,  in March - only to have him fail the eye exam portion of the Learners Permit Test and now I get to get him to an eye doctor and return him to the DMV on another, hopefully better attitude day.  

6. And hooray!! I am getting a new roof.  My excitement in the prior sentence is totally fake as I actually had no idea that I even needed a new roof. Kind of like earlier in the year when I had to get an entirely new shower to keep me from falling through the decomposing floor of the existing one and into the underbelly of an old 1956 ranch style house.  I would totally rather have a vacation or a year's worth of beautiful hair highlights. 

And basically the last 8 months have shown me that not only can I not take care of the yard, the housekeeping, the laundry folding plus hold down a job and try to keep 3 teen boys fed and out of jail, I really need a person to just pop over on occasion and do a random safety check on the Walters.  I have a friend that believes that Fireman Dave can and will show himself to me in interesting ways - the smell of his cologne?  His flip flops appearing out of nowhere next to our bed this morning?  Yep - Weird.  But to that I simply say, if that man decides to make a surprise visit, he needs to stay long enough to mow the yard and fix the hot water heater that sounds like a bowling team in my hallway.

But for the Walters, this weekend is bringing a mix of emotions yet again as we take off to move Kid 1 into his college dorm in Mississippi.  And the way things have been going for said kid and I of late, I know and understand that it is truly God's plan that children grow up and fly away - so that the mom doesn't have to kill them.  But when that day comes, especially when it comes to a family that still feels the sting of loss and change, the going off to college experience gets mixed reviews.

We've done all the shopping, gotten the bedding and storage and all the things - thanks to a wonderful friend who contributed greatly to his dorm needs - you know who you are and it is not said enough how special you are to the Walters.  But what I've learned so far - as of this writing underneath my motivational Spider Man poster - y'all, I think we could prepare all the live long day, and still not be fully prepared for the the missing piece of Fireman Dave in this experience.  

I go back again and again to something a lady said to me shortly after we lost him - when she said she had no idea how I was even putting one foot in front of the other.  And I think at the time, and maybe even on occasion now, that I'm not 100% sure of that either.  But my answer to her was this - because I have 3 boys watching to see if their mom can put one foot in front of the other.  And more than anything - more than dorm supplies and any and all best laid plans that we try to make for ourselves - it all comes down to a giant leap of faith.  And today seeing that I am a bit on the tearful side of life, I am resting in what is left of mine.

And I am trusting that David and I poured into these kids enough of us to keep them within our gentle reach and out of the million other possibilities waiting for them out in the world.  And yet again, as my email sent me more years gone by Shutterfly photo memories this week, I found a few that made me remember exactly when and why I knew Fireman Dave would be the one I would spend my life with.  Take that, college boyfriend who probably became rich.  And it's old news that I already loved him - we were childhood friends, proverbial partners in crime from early on.... but I knew I loved the man he had become the day I saw him with his young niece who had gotten a little scrape, bump or bruise while playing outside.  And as I watched him kneel down to her eye level, kiss her little invisible to the eye wound, and wipe away a tear - my heart and mind knew right then what love looked like.  If you remember, I didn't have the best example of any of that set for me growing up, so when I went looking for love - and too many times to count -  and in all the wrong places ..... I didn't even understand what it was that I was looking for.  But suddenly I did.  And this week I saw some old pictures of the father that my husband was to our boys.

About a month ago at college orientation, I struggled a bit with watching the 2 parent families handling all the things together.  So I skipped out on a few of the meetings and sat in a rocking chair under a giant tree on a college campus in Mississippi and tried to pray my way out of ruining my mascara with an ugly cry.  And as I try to get through the next few days of another change, I just may need that chair and shade tree again.  And I just may need some reminders that I am strong enough to put one foot in front of the other.  I feel sure that God will provide some lessons for me on that subject.

2 deaths and an Abduction - a year of being a Walters

Obviously my last post set off some alarms around town.... causing worry, fear and texts to my children to hide the knives and/or any other sharp objects as their mom is on the brink of disaster.  To which I say, um, ... that is so yesterday's news.  I've been on the brink of lots of things these last months, and when I sit at my computer and use my dear, departed husband's death certificate as a mouse pad for all the crap I have to do each and every day,... the brink is pretty much the X on the map of my life about now. 

But I am here to state publicly, that though we Walters are typically a hot mess - and I mean that in every sense, as they boys will tell you that we now set the thermostat to a balmy 80 degrees in this here hot summer - not just so I can hear them yell, It's SOOOOOOOOO hot in here!!!!!!! - but so I can not worry about $400 electric bills till said time that I am able to stop worrying about $400 electric bills - that I have no intention of quitting this mom job before it is complete.  And an aside,... thank you God for the inventor of the ceiling fan, long, long ago who thought ahead to our sweaty summer and got right down to business. 

So on a more upbeat note than my last post discussing all things life and death and their ultimate value in the big scheme of Kristi Walters, I was asked to please share a few true to life tales, but for the love of God, lighten them up a bit.  And so I promised one particular reader that I would tell the tale of how I had to use the mens' room in a Taco Bell in tiny town Louisiana because whoever was in the one holer women's establishment had obviously moved in.  I could hear noises, and I knocked  - like a lot  - for whatever was going on in there to wrap it up on the double - but I finally had to give up and trust the cleanliness report of Kid 1 as he had already come and gone out of the men's and suggested I do the same and get on with life.  And y'all, that's pretty much the whole story of it - but if you know me, the emphasis is totally on the words Mens room and Taco Bell - which brings me full circle back to the major point in my lead up to it all.... that life has me constantly teetering on the brink of either disaster or adventure anymore.  Please someone tell me why. 

And this week I got a big ol' V shaped cleavage tattoo - where otherwise I actually have little to no cleavage - in my attempt to squeeze all the mom and kid fun out of every available day.  And sadly I feel women readers everywhere are now all a buzz about where they, too, can get a big V shaped cleavage tattoo like mine.  But y'all, it's really just a sunburn in the worst of places, along with a weird, boy short bikini line only on my left hip.  But fun is fun and it was one of my special days with my kiddos this week.  I think Kid 3 only went to the pool with us because he wanted to even out what he refers to as his farmer's tan that has him all stressed - but I'll take the love and attention in whatever form or for whatever reason. 

And one day we all went back out to Ham's Orchard and sat in some rocking chairs and did not much of anything else.  Was it forced fun week?  Very possibly.  And we tried to look cute doing it.  

Now on the more dramatic side, one day last week I got reports of Kid 2 being missing from work which in my mind meant nothing short of a mid-day kidnapping.  And the weird thing is that my mind was already blogging about our newest adventure and titling it something along the lines of "2 deaths and an Abduction - a year of being a Walters."  

Anyway, it started with Kid 1 getting an alarming text from a concerned, yet confused friend about Kid 2 not showing up for his job, and would he know where his brother may or may not be?  So after sleeping another hour or two, Kid 1 decided to become caring and alarmed and went searching for Kid 2 - whereupon he found brother's truck at his swimming pool of employment, but still a worried text from the friend saying he was missing.  Then Kid 1 called me and we collectively panicked, but chose to, one last time before alerting the authorities, check the lifeguard stand where Kid 2 was supposed to be yet reported to not be.... and yep.  There he was.  So we all breathed a sign of relief and then went to see the new Lion King movie.  I actually think Kid 3 slept through all of the drama and I feel lucky that it was not my life in danger and me dependent upon these children to save me.  

And y'all, Kid 1 is currently hitting the panic button about moving away to school in 2 weeks, and there's that.  And Kid 3 wants a tattoo to memorialize Fireman Dave, to which I can just feel David shaking the entire earth in a giant, resistent, please God NO... but yet, I am considering it.  Especially since Kid 3 has been the hardest to grieve our loss, and he feels that this will be something about his daddy that he can always have with him.  And the fact that I just this week got sort of a giant V shaped cleavage tattoo of my very own, who am I to say no?  So we are currently researching the possibilities and if it rains on the day we choose to do it, it may indeed by Fireman Dave crying about my parenting choices.  

And finally, I went on a non-date sort of date.  A really, really, really non-date sort of event as the gentleman in question is a retired fireman who will always see me as the wife of his dear friend, and who made sure to announce his non-agenda right in the middle of his invitation.  Yes, he used the words, no agenda.  To which I told him to get down on his knees that very minute and pray that someday, someone will actually have a Kristi agenda before I get too old to know what to do with it.  (A good and honorable one, of course.)  And I may or may not have told him my big fear of being the old widow lady who goes to the grocery store every.dang.day to buy a single can of soup - half to eat now, half for later.  Dear matchmaking Jesus, please take the wheel of love and someday find me the second best man in the world to love.  

Anyway, I made sure to tell him that I was gonna pretend that we were on a for real date so I could practice for the someday that I decide to do just such, and he pretty much said, Okay, Kristi, whatever, and we ate and talked and had a nice time. 

Maybe I'm hideous.  Or borderline offensive.  Or just married forever in the minds of people who saw our sweet family and made note that we were one of the unique ones.  But the hamburger was good, and the company even better.  And another week went by with 4 Walters still standing.

post script for those confused among us... the 2nd death in my proposed title belongs to my mom who died 4 months prior to Fireman Dave.  And I hope she is in Heaven fixing him that lemon pie that he likes and that I never figured out how to do.  

Don't make me come over there

This week after work and other tiring behaviors and after meeting with the Worker's Comp attorney and another DFD widow for mid-week lunch and supportive, yet depressing talk, I basically went the route of two steps forward, three steps back in my grief.  And y'all, a friend wrote a church blog post about his grief recovery and I managed to drag myself out of my crying heap to comment on it, as someone might who is traveling the same road -  though a few years later.  .... but the Gods of Facebook edited my comment.  Technically they hid my comment.... which to me is even worse because seriously, I could still see my lovely profile pic and my awesome distressed jeans, bad-ass boots combo outfit... but with the words, "this comment has been hidden" all the heck over it.  And yes, it may or may not have been a borderline sad/end of times comment about me waiting for my first class trip to Heaven once my kids are raised to responsible adulthood .... but when something like that is hidden, but something akin to hate speech but disguised as a political insult is allowed, I have to question even more than I already do - if some people got dropped on their heads as babies.      

And seeing that I need a new job anyway, I've decided to apply to Facebook  - to be the person who drives to the public offender's house and slaps them every time they say something stupid.  A forever career dream of mine, actually. 

And I actually think I long for the days when those of us going through tragedy did so in the privacy of no social media - not that I post pictures of myself being miserable, as I think that would discredit the image of poise and grace I have worked so hard to create..... says the delusional Kristi who tends to  forget that she's a messy eater and is more often than not, sweaty.  But on that note, allow me a few minutes to share with you some of the things that grieving people actually do not enjoy seeing, reading, hearing.....

1.  Pictures of dead people to prove your point - whether that be a scary point, a sad point, or just for shock value, moms who have lost children do not want to see a picture of a dead child to feel your passion for crazily not vaccinating your child.

2.  Meme after meme after meme of someone else's words trying to explain what the grief of losing a spouse feels like when you actually have your own spouse sitting next to you right now.  For the love of God.... Don't make me come over there.  Just stop it.

3.  Messages of encouragement that tell the desperate person to hang in there.  Especially with an exclamation point.  Because the reader of that message will then want to kill you.

4.  And finally, comparing your grief to mine - like they're both on sale at the store  - and thinking that telling me you understand how I feel because you were sad after your divorce.  Or, y'all, hold my purse, because this one's gonna make me dive right in - that you understand my grief because your dog died.  And don't get me wrong.  I adore my dog.  She's sweet and adorable and a good friend who acts like she's listening but is really thinking about the next time she can go outside and eat poop.  They are not the same. 

And might I suggest  - rather than trying to put into words something you don't, thank the Lord, quite yet understand - just send the grieving family a pizza.  Or offer your yard service for a weekend visit.  Something that seems so normal and insignificant to you just might be huge to the ones dealing with the weight of the world.  

And though I totally understand the idea that life goes on.  Though it feels for the widow that the rest of the world is on one of those fast moving conveyor belts at the airport on their way back to normal, and I'm the one walking alongside, slowly carrying about 10 tons of luggage and wishing for a ride to the other side.  Literally and otherwise.  One time I saw Oprah's boyfriend, Steadman, and his elderly mother on one of those airport carts and I wondered how he got to ride it since he's really only famous for being Oprah's fella.  One of life's questions to be pondered. Along with this one.... 

I spend a lot of time these days considering death.  And how that truly is the other side of the rainbow for us all, and how I think I've never been more comfortable with the idea than I am now.  

And considering so much about death makes me flip that same coin and question all that I thought I knew about living.  And though I had previously been convinced of my grand creation for the glory and good of my maker, I find myself now wondering - not so much if that little beginning detail is so much true, as it is useful.  Because knowing that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of my God makes me wonder if God's microwave oven just broke last night, too.  Plus another old car that he owns and hopes will last for 4 years of college.  And I find that when people tell me that little bumps in the road are just part of life - it's not so much that I disagree with them - as I have an ongoing list of life's little bumps of varying sizes that I have had to hurdle or dig under or through all by myself in the last 8 months.  It's that I now want to know why.  

I was, at one point, content with the general answer of glorifying God.  I'm sure you've heard the confident Kristi say it on the blog at one point or another.... But the Kristi of today, now sees that reasoning looking a whole lot like God having playtime at the Toys R Us. And y'all, we're the toys.  I want to be Barbie, if I get to choose, please.  Townhouse Barbie with the circular fireplace and modern lifestyle and well dressed Ken at her service.  

And I sit here today and question what it's all about.  A deeper answer than glory, please if you have one.  I thought after several decades I had finally understood my purpose here on Earth, that being to have and raise  a family altogether different than the one that raised me - where we all smelled like cigarettes and Budweiser and didn't really know it till all of a sudden we didn't anymore.  So I'm sort of stuck in the middle of thinking I knew a thing or two, understanding a middle aged person's age worth of life -   and not having a $#$% clue.  I'm also putting into practice some, but not all, of the profanity that was born in me as a child of crazy people.  But mostly silently, yet I worry that one day if my mind goes, that  I will spew ugliness, hate and racial slurs with the best of my ancestors.   

Which brings me to my final point today.  And I am firm in this belief, though I know it will make a few people uncomfortable.  I have always known that I did not want to live a tremendously long life.  I only wanted to live a life of fullness -  and once that quality was lacking, I have forever been positive of my decision to move it onward and upward.  Think Barbie Townhouse in the sky..... 

And because we shared that same philosophy, Fireman Dave and I drafted our Living Wills way back in our 20's - both of us confident that we had bigger and better plans than a low quality existence here.  But yet, knowing that about myself, and him, the first words out of my mouth on the evening of November 23, 2018 were, "Call 911."   But now I know that even something as widely accepted as CPR is simply a life prolonging measure that I'm just not sure I believe in.  And all the heavens are applauding as Fireman Dave just led a giant cheer that I finally recognized the error of my ways. 

Deep thoughts this weekend, yes.  Maybe it's because I had plenty o' time alone in the car, listening to some country legends and thinking entirely too much on my drive back from Mississippi this week.  But I got Kid 1 all registered for school and we toured the dorm he'll be moving into in exactly one month.  And ... little trivia fact...  if you were to visit Kid 1 at Millsaps College in Jackson, and take a left immediately outside the main entrance gate, walk half a mile to the adorably preserved Fondren neighborhood, you would find the setting of the book and movie, The Help.  I loved the book and thought it tons better than the movie, because turns out my imagination is always better than film.  

And here we are: me and my date for the evening.  I think he's sort of cute.   

One day I'll take a picture that doesn't look like I cut my hair off into a man do.  

How many lawyers does it take?

Sometimes lately when I sit down to write, I start out with high hopes of all the latest news and normal, but maybe not so fun things the Walters are up to.... but I end up depressing myself and everyone else in the world about subjects like death and loneliness and fear of being alone for the rest of my life.  Which I believe probably has a diagnosed syndrome name and I just don't know it... and has been a part of me as long as I can remember.  And since Fireman Dave isn't around to confirm or deny, you'll have to take my word for it that I put off and put off again and again the actual part of saying I do... for years.  Years.  Years that we lived together, laughed together, built a life together, but many without a silly piece of paper naming us husband and wife.  Because I was so afraid that if I said yes, and announced to the world that Kristi had something good happening, that something bad would happen.  That right there is a book in its entirety dealing with dysfunctional and abusive childhoods and the marks that we as parents leave on our kids - good and bad.  

But the end of the story is that I finally signed on the dotted line and we lived happily ever after, until we didn't.  38 years of friendship, 26 years of love, 19 years of a signed contract saying we were official in the eyes of the law.  And the Baptists.  

And the fact that my wonderful husband stuck by me and my baggage for so long without a written contract saying he had to, speaks volumes about the man I loved.  Note the past tense.  Today is one of those days that I can reference the past to describe my present.  There are other days that I just don't have words of any sort to say much of anything.  Thus the silence so much now on the blog.  

And I know that this isn't the happy, beach reading, fashion filled blog post that summer people look for and can read in a 2 minute sitting, but it is a post full of lessons being lived and learned every day as I try to make a path for myself all over again.

From the time I was old enough to have reasonably mature adult thoughts.... one of my constant companions was the idea of everything I ever enjoyed, loved, or needed going away from me.  And I think, looking back decades from where it started, all of it tells a pretty good story of a young person living out of a smallish space, with a smallish bag of life's emotional necessities, always ready to run to the nearest safe place.  And for me, that safe place was more often than not, Fireman Dave - from a very early age - who saw who and where I came from, and decided to buy into the  deal anyway.  

And for that I am forever thankful.  And forever mad at him for leaving me 7 months ago today on a perfectly good Friday night.  Sort of like that time I thought he ditched me on an anniversary trip out of town and at, of all things, a bluegrass festival - and I got desperate enough to make eyes at the banjo player in the event I needed a ride home.  Turns out Fireman Dave was one step ahead of me and making his way back to my assumed point of desertion -  with the car  - so I wouldn't have to walk all the way back to the hotel in the dark.  See why I loved him?  See why I'm so mad that he isn't doing all the nice things for me anymore?  I think I'm generally mad at life on that point - and I just fill in the blanks with my sweet husband's name - for emphasis and all.

And I think it's not so much that I'm a giant scaredy cat/crybaby - just that I'm about 30 years out of practice on most of the practicalities of life.  I'll admit that I'm sort of a scaredy cat and a giant baby when it comes to certain things - but on the other hand, take me back to my emotional and physical roots, meet me in a dark alley and provoke fear, and I have full confidence that I will take you out before you get the chance to explain that you only need to borrow a quarter for a cart at Aldi, please.

Anyway, as some of you may have noted on my public parent poll about driving Kid 1 to college, far, far away - I'm hoping for a clear sinuses day, blue skies, and no major events as we make that trek.  Because I have enough experience with both planned and unplanned Walters' events to know that .... most times we break things, sometimes we desperately need a tow truck, and sometimes one of us ends up dead.  And I think that it's not the actual driving portion of the upcoming college weekend that has me all worried - it's the fact that I. AM. IT.  in the parent department now.  And should something happen to me, well, that's more than I can stand the thought of right now for my kids.

But good things are happening because of lots of hard work, persistence and a promise that I have made to myself and my loves that Fireman Dave's sacrifice and commitment to his job, this family and this community will be recognized and honored for all that it was.  And we have been invited to be special guests at the upcoming Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on September 7, to recognize him, along with others who have given their lives in service.  So with that, a riddle:   How many lawyers does it take to get the Walters back up and running in a timely and satisfactory fashion?  Right now the answer is 2.  Soon the answer may change to 3, depending on my progress with the benefit issues with this lovely City we call home.  And I'm just gonna go ahead and plead with all I have left in me for you and all the people I love to get both your living and dead acts together - for the love of all things holy, please.  Save your surviving spouse the need for regular anti-aging treatments and a new found love of coupon shopping by just taking care of your business.  I know a few great lawyers who can get you up to speed in no time. 

And on that note.... should you need to know anything or everything about firefighter lung conditions and how those ugly words can turn into something even uglier, trust that I am your resident expert.  If you are a current medical or law student and need to miss an exam on any of these topics, I'm your gal.  You can thank me for my careful research and expertise with a gift of hair highlights to keep me as dazzling as my small talk at parties.   

And finally.... a few updates on this and that:

Y'all, this happened:

And I was totally good till Engine 55 pulled up and surprised us - in an amazing, thank you for being there for us, now I'm gonna have to go look in the mirror and check some stuff out sort of way. 

And here is a great day hanging out with Kid 3 a couple of weeks ago on a trip to Ham's Orchard and a little antique shopping on the way.  And no, I didn't cut my hair off.  This was about the time I decided to pull it all back since I kept getting barbeque sauce all up in it and mere seconds before my sandwich blew away.  Oh, the memories. 

And Kid 2 is on his magnificent journey to Europe for 10 days.  Y'all, as we speak - and I am proud of how hard he worked and saved to make this trip happen.  He, his daddy, and a little help from some friends sent this Kid on a growing up adventure of a lifetime. I wish I had a picture to show you, but turns out our phone plan is anti-Europe and I've had only sporadic contact with him these last days.  Imagine a cute blonde kid in front of a castle or two.  

And of course, for those of you who keep up with my darling friend, Loyce, yes, the answer is, I still love that girl and love on that girl.  She turned 14 in March and I loved being able to send her swimming for her very first time for her party.  She chose a green 2 piece swimming costume and had a day she will always remember.  And if you are reading this, my sweet yet secret friend who contributed to Loyce's fun - thank you for loving the Walters - the American ones and the African one.  Can't y'all see the resemblence?    

And I guess I will leave this today with a continued thank you for those of you who are still hanging with us on this new road.  When I look back over the last year and count the obstacles that life has thrown in my way, I have to question what it's all about.  And by it, I mean, IT.  Life.  In the last year I was reintroduced to my mom - with her mind totally gone and her body almost, I was given the opportunity to say some much needed things and hold her hand for the first time that I ever remember in my life.  Weeks after, I lost her again.  4 months later I lost the love of my life on what started out to be a really, really good day - and then turned into something I can't even yet accurately describe.  And in the last week I've sent a kid to Europe  - parentless, no less, and I understand he is having some digestive issues that he could use some help with from a mom stand in, please.  And hopefully the final life changing event, but I realize with no guarantees, I'm sending a kid off to college in about 6 weeks. 
So when a person asks me if I'm okay, I tell them that it really does depend on the day.  Then I think to myself how I actually prefer to spread out my tragedies a little more than what actually happened, and then move on to spend some time wondering the whole, Why me? thing.  And if you comment that it is because God has a plan and purpose for all of this, I will drive to your house and ....  Or maybe just forgive and ignore your ignorance and stay away from you and most other people even more than I normally do.  I'm as of yet undecided.  

And that's sort of where I am today.  Good, bad or in between.  Powerful, confused, weak and desperate.  Determined, discouraged, encouraged, exhausted.  But I remember on one of our first days home after Thanksgiving, telling the boys that we just have to find the tiniest little pieces of joy for now.  Tiny pieces to encourage to look for more later.  But it's in the realization that life as it is now won't change in any way other than the way I try to shape it, that gives me reason to keep up the battles that I have taken on for me and my kids.  I keep telling myself, in particular last week when the Dallas City Manager gave me the evil eye at a meeting, that for whatever reason, I got a fire lit in me for the purpose of change.  And not only for the Walters, but for that young Dallas Police officer's widow that I took with me to a recent City Council meeting.  And for all the other spouses that may not have the strength to stand up for what's right in the middle of her grief.  I'm doing it for her, too.  For now, anyway, until I find out that I'm no longer the person for the job.  But that's not today. 

she hath done what she could

I'm showing you these pics,  because you are my people.  These were taken as official photos for The Dallas Moms Blog and happened to be taken on my birthday a little bit ago.   And I felt the sting of loss on this day, especially.  Turning another double digit year older, and looking at the prospects for my future made me request beg to be the first in line at the photo shoot. Just so I could be the first to get out.   Get' er done is sort of my philosophy on most everything anymore.  And to keep it all honest, I kept the dark circles in place as they appeared on this day  - as a picture of what life is like for me now.  Aint no makeup in the world gonna cover that up.  

And on the topic of truth and confessions, today I thought I would address a few of the strangest comments or questions I've heard thus far, along the way....

Observation #1 ...thoughts about my body.  To which people feel free to comment upon and about at anytime, because - well, I'm not exactly sure why. 

My general guess is that my pre-grief body just didn't meet their hopes and expectations.  But my general answer to everyone on the topic is that no, I am not on the KETO diet.  I'm on the, I'm really sad, grief diet.  And that, obviously makes a few people giddy with delight -  and they all want to know what that particular eating plan consists of.  Then I stare blankly at them and wonder about their priorites.

So, ... BIG announcement to my critics everywhere:  I just ate a giant helping of chocolate covered almonds so I should be filling out nicely before we know it.

Observation #2, which gets me right in the heart every. single. time.....

Kristi, oh you're still going through that?   Or in other words,... I thought you were over that already.  Which leaves me without proper words, here or there.  But I do wonder if on some distant planet, where these very tough hearted and resilient people come from -  if the person they love the most dies in their arms without warning -  if they then just head on out to the all you can eat Post Death Buffet and drown their shock and horror in a big plate from the salad bar.  Then maybe go see a movie. 

Y'all, people are just crazy.  And some are just mean, whether they intend to be or not.   

And then, #3, the big one that I feel so very opinionated about.... What is it that I do all day?  What am I talking about when I say that I'm forever standing on the corner of busy and exhausted? 

So just for fun, I invite you to run my day to day marathon with me - with a few highlights and accomplishments thrown in randomly in case someone wants to applaud or take a nap in my honor.  This may be about a week's worth of energy and a whole lot of praying to get all of the following done and over so I can finally just sit down .... 

Most days I wake up between 5:30 and 6am to do house stuff like unload the dishwasher, put the wet clothes into the dryer, clean up the previous night's frat party that happened in my den as I slept;  get dressed for work, cook breakfast for me and the kids, blah blah blah, other random and assorted mom things.  Work for a crazy amount of hours doing sweaty, physical labor while being perky and nice to everyone in the world.  Come home, clean up the morning tornado that happened while I was at work and the boys were left unsupervised before school, fight crime and political corruption in the City.  Email lots of people about my plight, ask for help from friends and strangers, plead my case for change to the public.  Argue with the insurance company and City officials about all sorts of bad things, try to wrap up the Estate of my deceased mother, usually go to the  bank or email the lawyer about the Estate of Fireman Dave.  Meet with City Council reps, Mayoral candidates, news reporters and anyone else who will listen.  Promise to show up at next City Council meeting and cry in public.  Receive lots of registered mail from creditors wanting all sorts of stuff, and random people asking to buy my house.  Take a kid to urgent care for what posed as, but turned out to not be, a broken wrist from football practice.  Take a dog to the emergency doggie vet for what posed as, but turned out not to be, a broken hip.  But do this in the middle of the night.  Replace an entire shower, but not all by myself.  Replace a back door so the neighborhood ax murderer can't get in.  Buy a lot of groceries and panic at how much it cost.  Sell an old car.  Sell another old car.  Research and purchase a new car so we have one reliable vehicle in the family.  Learn to replace a battery on an old truck.  Clean up dog diarrhea and other horrible things.  Argue with a stupid person on Facebook in honor of Fireman Dave.  Work some more, apply for more survivor benefits to support my family, help a kid graduate high school and get into college, attend lots of mandatory Senior parent meetings. Hold a gigantic garage sale to raise money for a cause but then end up spending it on a new motor for our home air conditioner.  Hug a couple of sad kids, and remind them that we are still here and safe. 

So when I fall into bed at night or in the middle of the day because I just can't anymore, and I cry into the hanky that has been my constant companion for the last 5 months, it's because the world just seems like such a hard and scary place - all while trying to be brave and not having anyone to ask or share or even get an encouraging hug.  There's a reason that solitary confinement is used as punishment on top of punishment in prison.  I just think most people think I should be over all this by now.  Because they are.  

And more and more these days I find myself clearing the clutter and creating easy spaces in our home, not for me to stay, but to make it easier on others for when I'm gone.   And I do a lot of thinking and praying about purpose and energy and strength to keep up this pace all by myself.  And then I wait to hear back - trying to decide if any of this is worth it. 

Is my statement of faith worth it?  Is it even really a thing to me anymore?  God and I are in talks about just that.  Is my running around and trying to manage the every day worth the trouble?  Because y'all, I'm pretty sure I've lost the focus on what this life is all about.  But I'd like to hope that it's about more than what I'm living now.  But maybe it isn't - and it's exactly this type of living that's pointing me strongly toward the desire for a better place.  Loneliness will do that, too.  I can write a book on the business of loneliness.  Maybe I will, when I find time. 

But for now, I'll be about my business of supporting a family and raising some kids.  Oh, and changing the dirty politics of Dallas for the benefit of those who will suffer next.  I only ask for a giant statue in front of City Hall or maybe a plaque with the inscription that my sister in law showed me once on an old grave, She hath done what she could. 

* all typos are my own.  Thinking I need new glasses and an assistant. 

** note that I wrote an entire post with no curse words 

the one in which I take on a giant

Life lately... volume something. 

Lately I was pretty convinced that I was onto something a little more stable, a little more predictable, a little more not so sad.  Then I remembered that I'm just me, and not able to leap mountains and hurdle life's troubles like they're just some little ol' thing.  And I remembered that every time I think grief is a manageable task, it proves to me that it isn't.  

And y'all a few notes on that..... I've had so many people tell me that they understand how I feel because they've lost a parent or a sibling or a friend.  And to that I say, no.  Just no.  And then I tell them to see my own personal checklist.... all parents gone.  Siblings gone.  Best friend gone.  Husband gone.  ...  And that the loss of a spouse doesn't even resemble the loss of the others, as bad as they feel and trust me that I know,... they're just not the same magnitude and scale.  

What I mostly appreciate is when people tell me that they would never assume to understand how I feel since they haven't gone through the loss of their husband.  Those are appropriate and caring words for the grieving among us.  

I also stood back and listened the other day at work to a few gals chatting about their frustrating husbands, their husband's annoying habits, ...... all the girl talk between those that still have a husband to talk about.  So I tried not to listen.  Then I tried not to tell them to get down on their knees and thank God for the annoying thing their person did that day... as it can be all taken away from them in minutes.  For me it was about 10 minutes, actually.  10 minutes before I had just watched Fireman Dave play football with the boys, then he was gone. 

So please go love on your people.  Laugh at their silly, annoying things, and be thankful that you have a shared life to build a conversation upon.  Or don't, and then look back one day and wish you had.  

This past week was Spring Break and I sent the boys to Houston to spend time with their cousins.  And here is the crew.  (I actually spring breaked in Probate Court for those who are curious. But not the entire week.)  

Movies, bowling, basketball, and a trip to be together where good things happened was what this week was about.  The last time these kids were together, they all saw the tragedy that life can bring on in an instant.  And how life turns from front yard football games to saying goodbye - so this week I am thankful for my neice who took care of my share of the bunch, took them in, and gave them good memories of time together to outweigh all the rest.  This is probably where I should do some sort of social media hashtag thing and start a following of people I don't know commenting on my kids.  But no.  These days I just want to keep them all close and sheltered from the world.  For at least a bit longer anyway.  

And this:  

Kid 1 committed to play football for his first choice school, Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.  We had the wonderful opportunity to participate in National Signing Day and to sign his letter of intent to the school.  Lord help me as I deal with sending him off that far from home;  and help me not to check real estate listings in the metro Jackson area during  my times of weakness.  

Actually I didn't love Jackson when we went to visit, but I think it's because we took a wrong turn and ended up in a place that resembled one of those gang ridden areas you see in scary movies where there are drugs and violence and people in bandanas.  However, once we found our correct way, and I discovered that they indeed have a Whole Foods and some really nice boutique shopping, I totally got on board with it and looked at a couple of For Sale properties just out of curiousity.  For investment purposes only... but now that my options are wide open, ....  

Fireman Dave and I actually fell in love with Nashville, Tennessee and had been doing some future planning for our retirement years.  Will I have retirement years?  Are you there God?  It's me, Kristi.  ..... Please let me have retirement years full of peaceful places, nice people and a better attitude.  Amen.  

But getting to that point basically involves getting through a brick wall.  And here is the latest update on our situation.  

First, still no final death certificate which I think is some giant cosmic joke.  So no.  No life insurance proceeds at this time.  This better be worth it, Fireman Dave, just let me say.  

And regarding the final wages and the health insurance, a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to The City of Dallas, specifically the benefits department, and sent it to a few key people.  I soon received a phone call from the Assistant City Manager who invited me to meet with him to work out some, um... things.  As he said, I got his attention.  

So we met two weeks ago and I had the opportuntity to tell him, along with the Chief of Staff of the Big City Manager, or whatever his title is, plus two lawyers who tried to look at me with sad and caring eyes, but didn't fool me for a second ... how they have affected my family's life.  It will be four months next week and they have still not paid me my husband's final paycheck.  It will be four months that I have had to pay $1100 monthly premiums to remain on the COBRA health insurance since they removed me and the kids from their plan 7 days after Fireman Dave died.  And along with the President of our local Fire Union, and my dear and lovely friend, the Dallas Fire Chaplain, I was able to tell them that it is evident that this city does not care about their first responders and how each of our days has been affected by their decision to put the dollar value of an insurance plan over and above the life value of a near 20 year veteran firefighter.  

We are asking for a policy change to allow survivors of Active Duty Death the same benefits as those of Line of Duty Death.  The only difference in more cases than not, being location and timing of the death.  Had my husband been at the station or within 24 hours of his last shift when he passed, I would not be deaing with the issues that I am now.  

And honestly, I believe that the City called that meeting hoping to give me a bit of false assurance and mostly, really, to get me to be quiet.  But they obviously haven't read too much of my blog.  So I continue to send follow up emails to certain key officials regarding this policy change, and will soon move on to bigger and louder sources of spreading the word about how the City of Dallas treats their first responders.  I'm happy to be David to their Goliath... and fully realize that if this was a TV show or movie, I should be looking out for hired hit men to run me over with a van or take me out after step aerobics in the gym locker room.  Oh the drama that death, anger and sadness bring.  

But y'all this policy change is bigger than the Walters family.  The Dallas Fire Rescue recently had a forced retirement due to an illness, and to ensure continued health coverage for this fireman's family should he die, he had to sign his retirement papers right there in his hospital bed.  Can we all say the word, WRONG?  And there are countless other stories just like his and mine.  

Maybe I just happen to be the one willing to fight for it to change.  And on that note... I will be holding a garage sale very soon to support not only my efforts at change and/or paying my stupid health insurance premiums, but to raise awareness of how ridiculously expensive college tuition is for a part time fitness instructor and mom of three teen boys.  (And to answer the pressing question that I hear often, why don't I just find other insurance at a cheaper price?  Because if I quit now, the City will have no obligation to do anything.  So basically it's a contest of who's gonna blink first.  Who are you betting on?).  

And if you you have junk that is sitting around and you want to contribute to the Kristi campaign, let me know.  You can email me at kristi_walters@sbcglobal.net

More on my emotional state later... but short version:  after I marched strong on the City on a Monday, I melted down completely on a Tuesday, crying most of the day for any and every reason, and laid in bed and occasionally ate cookies.  Grief is a road, for sure.  It might be like that long historic Route 66 Highway tour that we took a scenic vacation to see not long ago.  Sights and sounds of the past, mixed in with long stretches of dry and deserted spaces, and no end in sight.  Thank goodness for interesting roadside stops along the way.  

one is indeed the loneliest number

2 weeks before my life changed

I grew up in a family that stood firm in our beliefs about used cars, shag carpet and the use of duct tape for various purposes.  And with that shortened version of my truth, today I walk back in time to a sampling of the many places my old cars left me stranded over the years.  More than I could ever begin to list in one blog post, but the highlights alone are a story worth telling. 

There was that time that I had to run across 6 lanes of South Buckner Blvd in the dead of night, wearing a leotard, leg warmers and carrying a bag full of cash from my part time job at the Big Town Mall ladies fitness gym.  Yes, I was supposed to be carrying the bag full of cash as I was trying to deposit it, but instead guarded it with my life as I dodged traffic, ran through a ditch and banged on the already closed and locked door of the KMart till the manager felt sorry for me and let me in.  It was probably the crying and the leotard that convinced him.

And there was that time in College Station, Texas, independent college girl though I was, when I got stranded in the left turn lane of one of the busiest intersections in town and gave up on just about everything and again dodged traffic and mean stares as I ran into the McDonalds across the street and collect called my dad. It wasn't a good conversation.

And another one of my biggest and all time etched into my brain memories, though certainly not even near the end of the list, was that time on the dive bar and cheap motel stretch of Samuell Blvd where, thank the good Lord, it was at least daylight.  I don't remember if I was wearing a leotard that time, but chances are good - and I found a pay phone outside a liquor store somewhere between the Lido XXX Theater and the Palm Motel - and again, collect called my dad at work.  And though on that particular day I looked nearly, if not exactly like a prostitute on her lunch break - just hangin at the Swif-T Beer and Wine - it was right then and there that I declared an end to the madness and soon after bought my very first brand new car.

And I felt like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind where she's already picked enough cotton to make her hands bleed, though thankfully not while wearing a leotard, and waves her fist in the air with before - its - time woman power and says something along the lines of... as God as my witness I will never drive a beat up old car again.

But I spoke too soon and found myself stranded in the drive through pharmacy line at the CVS with a dead battery last week.  I also can't turn off the heat, but we can save that one for another day.  And trust that it had already been a day above all days with the Uber driver forgetting to pick up Kid 3 for school and 6 hours at work with low blood sugar and no snack, and I sat in that drive through and cried some very desperate cries of frustration. You can ask anyone inside the CVS who could see me through that big glass pharmacy window, telling the pharmacist about that sad woman out the window who could probably use a sedative, on the double.  Anyway, a nice young mechanic came by and got the car started and led me off to an even nicer Islamic man at the car repair place who taught me all about his culture and his beliefs as we shared Hershey miniatures and I poured out my soul. Maybe I left a better person for the low, low cost of a $200 battery and a nervous breakdown, but really I still just feel the same.  

And it seems that every day of late for the Walters is a new moutain to climb.  And though this week, for the first time in almost 3 months, I actually had 2 days where I held conversations with people other than myself without being hysterical, and foolishly thought myself getting stronger,  I then remembered I wasn't.  

And it turns out to be totally true that one is indeed the loneliest number, in every sense.  I did, however, get a sweet offer from a crazy man to move in with me - since my husband is dead, and his rent just went up $30 a month at his apartment.  Then I remembered that I had been so long inside my safe and secure bubble that I forgot that I live in a world full of insanity and danger.  And for the curious, though I think it would be grand to share the cost of my high water and electric bills with someone, I politely declined his kind offer in such a way that made us both feel better about our time together.  Then I went home and text documented it to everyone and checked my door locks.

And y'all, just when I think I've got myself a little bit together it's like a big ol' explosion of emotion hits me again.  Like today.  And yesterday.  Thank you Travis County Medical Examiner for sending me right back to the starting line.

And the news is that Fireman Dave died of natural causes.  Causes that are making me so angry right about now that should he pop in to pay me an after-worldy visit, he should be sorely afraid.  Causes that may force me to, if given the opportunity right now as I speak, just kill him myself.  So people, listen as I begin this week's sermon:   Take care of your bodies.  Admit when you may not be feeling in tip top shape and then do something about it.  Something that does not involve ignoring the situation and denying the reality of the fact that you hold not only your own life in your hands, but that of everyone who loves you.  Now pass the offering plate and Amen. 

So today I feel more lost and lonely than ever, because the time that has passed has made the burden of alone even heavier.  I use the word alone as a noun because I firmly believe it to be not only a thing, but the person that I am right now, and a place not unlike hell on earth.  I thought time was supposed to heal, but obviously someone lied.  And y'all, lonely aches all over and makes me cry anywhere and everywhere including, but not limited to, driving down the road, shopping for groceries and putting gas in the car.  All things that I actually did today all while crying like a baby. There are so many witnesses.  

And to me, lonely feels like doing every single thing by myself, and even thinking and planning to do every single thing by myself.  Maybe for the rest of my life.  Chores, decisions, discipline.  Home management, doctor appointments, errands, household repairs, upkeep and paying for......  like - everything.  Family crises, dramatic teen outbursts, broken down cars.  Driving new places, learning where to park, learning how to shop for or fix or make things I never even thought about before.  Plus my usual load of cooking, cleaning, laundry, working my job and getting up like a farmer each day to find time to do it all.  Maybe if I subtracted out all the hours I spend crying, I might be a better time manager.

And lonely feels like me quietly hating it when someone else refers to their love, their significant other, their person, with fondness, affection, .... with knowledge that they even have a person to love.  And it feels like anger when I get messages from people who are made obviously uncomfortable by my unhappiness and work like heck trying to swing me over to the other side.   

I know more this week than I have in the last few months.  But I feel like I've been knocked down from my ledge of comfortable ignorance, where I had started to develop a sense of routine.  And I mostly just want to feel lost and confused again instead of lost and hopeless.  There is actually a difference, but I never knew that till now. 

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