it's been a hot minute, y'all

Dearest friends,.....  it's been a hot minute since I've written on this site.  And I can explain. ... Sounds like retro-me in college on one too many an occasion.   

And in my fully transparent, no secrets on this page, truth, ... y'all, I've been in bad way and there just aren't any nice words to say it.  I see that my last published blog post was seven months ago, but to me it feels like a lifetime.  I will say  -  short version - that a few months ago I hit probably an all time low on this new journey and had to admit to myself and others that I couldn't do it anymore; Months of unemployment, financial stress, broken cars, broken plumbing ..... and yep, broken hearts all trying to get along in a socially distanced way of life wasn't working for me ... so I called my doctor, told her those same words and she put me on a new anti-depressant medication that may or may not be helping.  But even a small chance is better than none; so I'm in.  

I've written a bit here and there during this time - mostly for my church blog, where, thank you Jesus, they welcome my outbursts of grief and despair.  And I feel a little nudge in my heart to start to put together some of my more honest words into a published journal for others that might be struggling, too.  

Y'all, I know that I've lost some, if not most of my regular readers here - some due to time, some due to differences in what that time has brought about in each of us.   I will miss them, but I welcome the new friends even more.   So leaving the excuses to that, here is something that was published last week on another site.  My words, different blog:

I'm hoping to one day write a really happy blog post. Tell the truth, have I ever written a really happy blog post? Maybe I should aim for hopeful cynicism and amusing yet manageable life lessons instead — temper my expectations and all that. But, y'all, today ain't gonna be the one.

Yesterday I held back tears as I taught my older adult class at the Y, because I just wasn't feeling my best and could already, in my all knowing, well experienced state, predict what was coming. Then I left the Y, cried through the Aldi, and then sat in my car and ate a bunch of chocolate-covered mini donuts to up the joy factor of my morning. But then, feeling like I was having a full-on heart incident, and in constant fear of dying and leaving my kids orphaned, I went to the urgent care clinic, got plugged into an EKG machine and was told that I have a textbook perfect, suitable-for-framing heart report. Turns out Kristi's heart isn't sick, just broken.
And this week I found out that my COBRA insurance price is going up even higher, that I paid a tree trimmer fella quite a large sum for him to just cash my check and not do the work — yes, lesson learned — and that I have a child that is just now starting to admit to his grief and is seeking care for depression. Y'all, I feel fully justified in my imaginary heart palpitations and Friday-afternoon urgent care visit. On a lighter note, does anyone remember the part of the show Hee Haw where the guy laid around drinking his moonshine out of a jug and sang, "Gloom, despair and agony on me?" I think he might've been a Walters.
Anyway, I think my sweet niece said it best when she commented to me about her daughter's progressive and degenerative illness — which will one day take the life of a not-yet out-of-her-teens, sweet young lady. She called what she feels every day as a tired and worried mom, "anticipatory grief." A term I actually had never heard, as I prefer to do my own grief counseling in my car with mini donuts. And because half of me is sweet and kind, but the other half is sort of edgy and impatient with people in general, I've chosen not to attend grief share groups. Maybe they work for some, but honestly I feel like sitting in a circle listening to other people's sad stories would just make what's already awful feel plus-sized awful. “Why cry alone when we can cry in a group followed by a snack and visitation time” isn't a big selling point to me. So I tend to speak to groups, yes, but here at the computer, writing what should be a diary entry, but then isn't.
I actually have some really decent days. Don't let my sad words make you think that I'm that way 24/7. I used to be, and I deserve a prize for giving it my all for such a long time, but these days, thanks mostly to modern medicine, I go about my business on a fairly even level. Lonely, but level. But y'all, tomorrow would be my wedding anniversary — and there's that crying, donut eating, anticipatory grief. (I googled that term, and I think, technically, it means the grief of anticipated death, not the anticipation of an upcoming grief trigger. But Dr. Google might be wrong.) Then the whole month of November isn't fun, and dreading the holidays when others are celebrating makes me even grumpier than normal. Ask my kids.
So, getting to today's God talk... Sometimes I think about the talks between myself and God as conversations between me and my very old, toupee wearing, World War 2 POW survivor neighbor. He and I would stand in the front yard talking, usually politics that I didn't ever understand — he thought I looked like Hillary Clinton, which was to him the highest praise, thank you very much — as I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and he wouldn't even get a bite. Then he'd watch me wiggling around scratching and tell me that he doesn't get bitten because he smells bad. And sometimes I think God is watching me hop around getting bitten by all the things and just keeps talking world events that have nothing to do with me. And especially ones I don't understand. I ask him a lot of whys; a lot of whats; and mostly a lot of whens. And I know I'm not the only one. I feel that one in my very soul.
Y'all, as my young EKG fella was hooking me up to the things yesterday to see if I was dying —um, let's remember that I wasn't — he told me about his fears for his young kids and questions about what kind of world he's brought them into. He's worried about school shootings for when they're old enough to start kindergarten; he's worried about policies and politics and what his kids will deal with; but mostly he's worried he can't protect them from any of it. Me, too, my new friend. I think we can all say a collective and big “what the hell?” to our current way of life.
I was asked if I discuss my teetering faith with my minister. "Does your minister know that you say these controversial things?" Oh, he knows. She knows. Everybody knows. Because I share my tears and fears with almost anyone who will listen. Maybe that's my new thing. My own version of grief sharing, sans donuts. (Seriously, maybe the only word I remember from high school French class.) It's no secret, and especially no shame, that I worry that I'll leave my young adult men in a world that's already traumatized them completely, and that I won't be here to protect them. I worry that I'll feel this sad all the time. I worry about provision and care and mostly the state of our hearts as we walk around in such a strange world right now. Maybe ... probably ... you do, too.


I was the attractive older woman in the relationship and totally good with it

birthday workout with someone I love

How to sum up weeks of crazy in a few short paragraphs:  well, .... with bullet points, of course. 

1.  I've been laid off work for the next indeterminate amount of time... Which means I really need to lay off the chocolate in the coming days. 

2.  Kid 1 was given 3 days notice to get to Mississippi, pack up his dorm room and move out.  Obviously before the world was scheduled to end by X o'clock on the third day.  Proud to report he made it and is unhappily and bored at home without the stimuli of college life to entertain him.  Pray for an adjustment for us all.  Seriously.

3. Kids 2 and 3 will be doing school work from school issued laptops that they received today.  Just like the food distribution that they drove through and got from the school yesterday, it's pretty much a scene from Contagion out there where the lunch ladies and school principals just throw the food and learning materials through an open window of your car as you drive by.  

4.  A couple of my kids - I forget which - were fussed at by a neighbor for trying to shoot squirrels with a pellet gun.  Y'all it's come to this.  They have no clue how to survive without constant entertainment and I hope I never have to live in a cave with them.  Refer back to number 1 where I discuss unemployment.  

5.  And today I did my Birthday workout.  My traditional workout where I have to do squats, pushups, lunges, .... all the things.... each in the amount of my million years of age.  Kid 2 joined me and he now wishes I were younger  - as that was really a whole lotta lunges.   

Which brings me to birthdays and life and all the stuff that I tend to think about more than I ever imagined.  Y'all, I'm pretty sure I didn't do my birthday workout last year.  Mainly because I was still a zombie and I can't even remember the month of March, much less a particular day of it from last year.  So being able to get out and involved in an active part of living is a giant step forward for me.  

And I've actually considered that I might have two different birthdates now.  The one in March, today, when I entered this life for the first time.  And the one pretty much each day where I have to choose to keep on living this life - and sometimes that decision is harder than others.  And thank you sweet Jesus, sometimes easier.  And everyone throw me a party because I think I have to make that particular decision fewer times and farther between now.  And I even felt a bit of an accomplishment to note that I've now lived 3 years longer than Fireman Dave got the chance to.  And if you do the math on that one... you know that I was the attractive older woman in the relationship and I was totally good with it.  

And this morning I woke to some pretty sweet birthday words from a 16 year old kid I know that gave my heart a leap and a jump of encouragement.  Thanks be to God for leaps no matter the size.  And for the courage to make and accept them.  

So, from my darling Kid 3....  words to live and love by for a bit longer - till I find my new purpose and place.  I'm open to suggestions and shared phone numbers of kind, fit and respectable companions.  ...

"Happy Birthday, Mama.  I know we do not spend as much time together as we used to but I still love you just as much.  I know it may seem like I write these notes to avoid getting a gift, but actually it just helps me say what I'm trying to say better.  Well I hope you enjoy your day as much as possible.  Love you. ❤"

And as I listened to a phone message from one of our ministers at church this afternoon, wishing me well, she told me how she saw a baby bird learn to fly this morning from his nest.  And how she hoped that I was able to find a small moment of joy like that in my day.  

I did.  

A man friend and a 12 pack of gatorade

a little throwback to way back when

As I sit here on a rainy Sunday afternoon and pore over the fascinating article titled, Pulmonary Function Decline in Firefighters and Non-Firefighters in South Korea, a lovely little read about all the crap that firefighters' bodies go through and people don't even know it..... I thought I would pop on in here and catch y'all up on some things.  

I guess #1 would be that I still read things, things and more things like, Pulmonary Function Decline in South Korean firefighters.... not because I want to actually know anything about any of it, but because I just have to.  I'm smack in the middle of Year Two of this battle for benefits and basically, all I have is me to wave the battle flag. The Workers Compensation insurance carrier for the City of Dallas has turned down my claim for death benefits regarding Fireman Dave.  And go figure, but the attorney that I relied on to help me file the appeal doesn't like or appreciate me very much as a person - but I'm really sweet down deep inside, I want to yell at him... but I think he blocked me and applied for a restraining order.  And in short, y'all, I need him every hour, sort of like the good ol' song talkin about Jesus - but in this case his name is Randy.  If y'all see Lawyer Randy out and about, put in a good word for me, please.  

And #2 would be to catch y'all up on some family things:  

We had to make the very difficult decision to put our beautiful dog, Rita, to sleep a few weeks ago.  And it hurt my heart more than most anything should because it seems like every little piece of what we used to be as a family just goes away so darn easily.  That sweet dog hair shedding girl sat with her Mama and listened to me cry a whole lot of late, and I sure miss my sweet friend.  

And there's this.... I backed into a construction vehicle while trying to get out of a parking lot - a retail spot where I had specifically gone to get the very best Valentine cards for all my little loves.  Which reinforces my entire theory on love these days -  It's such a dangerous business.  But I did send a sweet Valentine gift to my angel friend, Loyce, in Uganda, and got something for each of my sort of darling boys. Kid 1 has specifically asked for soap and toothpaste, which is a very untraditional Valentine, but there was that year I got new closet doors from Fireman Dave for the Day of Love and it was the best gift ever.  Love is love, I say and if Crest whitening toothpaste says it, I'm all about it.  

And announcement #3 I guess would be that I am the proud mom of Kid 2 who has been accepted into two different universities so far and waiting on possibly another.  But we are pretty much stuck on the what's next portion of that show.  He tends to be a lot like his daddy and feels so many things.  And he's  expressed concern over leaving me here alone, plus some other issues about going off to school - things that we're trying to work out.  If I could snap my fingers and make each of them about 4 years old again when they dressed up like Spiderman and wanted to marry me, I would totally consider it .... for about a minute, then let them grow up to be the men that God has planned all along for them to be.  So I remind Kid 2 that I got to be 18 years old and go off to college and all that jazz, and now it's his turn.  We're all a work in progress, it seems. 

I think losing a huge part of your security and confindence in how life is supposed to work at the early age of 17 makes what should be a mid level decision actually bigger than maybe it should be.  I get that.  My last 14 months have been all about heavy, dark decisions that I never wanted to make, but yet here I am ....  Still about the business of ridiculous and trying to figure out why.  Y'all, as Fireman Dave sits in Heaven probably in a recliner watching Sunday afternoon football, thank you very much.  

And time to brag about Kid 1 - my college baby - who made it onto the Southern Athletic Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll for his wonderful Grade Point Average his first semester while being a full time student athlete at Millsaps College.  That one can irritate the life out of me, then turn right around and charm me with stuff like this.  God made sure to put a healthy mix in him early on to make sure I wouldn't kill him.  

And Kid 3.  Oh dearest Kid 3, whom I adore with every breath I take.  And the one who is our lead in today's story....

Enter Stage Left ...  into the basketball gym at the high school, me and my "Friend Who is a Man."  From now on to be referred to as Man Friend.  And poor Man Friend who happens to be polite and kind and believes in opening doors for ladies and all the gentlemanly things, thought it best that he be the one to carry in the 12 pack of red Gatorade to the gym as it was Kid 3's required contribution to the concessions sales that day.  And Lord, had I known that a 12 pack of red Gatorade could and would cause such a stir, I would've just made a big ol' monetary contribution to the team and left it at that.  

So we walked in, got body searched by the coach with the hand help metal detector to make sure we weren't bringing in weapons of mass destruction  - as that could erupt into chaos should our team suffer a tough loss.  But turns out so can walking into your kid's basketball game as a recently widowed woman, followed by a man who is not my husband, carrying a 12 pack of red Gatorade.

And I had already made sure to tell Man Friend that he should sit no closer than 18 inches away from my person in the bleachers as not to incite gossip of any sort, as I am a respected member of this community - but I know for a fact that I got the reviewing stare from the boys' Biology teacher and a couple of others as they mentally recounted the sad walk of shame of Hester Prynne and her literary Scarlet Letter.  

And Kid 3 gave Man Friend the teen version stare of "Carry that 12 pack of red Gatorade for my mom again and I'll cut you"  ... and then later texted me with this,  

"Is bringing a random guy to my games going to be a regular thing now?"

To which I replied, "I think if I were to just pick up a random guy and bring him to your game, I would expect to be paid for that.  I am not in that profession." 

Y'all.  I've had to really pray about this.  These boys are my absolute top priority.  Have been and always will be.  And that means that they need and expect me to be here when they get home from school and games and whatever else.  They expect me to be in my mom place waiting for them no matter what, where or when.  But I've come to the sad acceptance that Fireman Dave is never coming back.  And talking to myself is sort of not fun.  And seriously, my day after day consists of going to work and coming to home to read about lung crap and firemen's arteries until I fall asleep.  

So I made the choice to say yes to Man Friend a few weeks ago when he asked me to dinner and to a movie and then to dinner again.  And I made the choice to step out of my comfort zone and out of my normal comfy sweatpants outfit and try to grow a little bit beyond where I've been stuck for a while.  I will say, however,  that I went to a late matinee movie on a school afternoon last week and I totally regretted not being here when Kid 3 got home from school.  And I had to give that one a lot of thought to make sure I keep my priority on raising these boys before and above anything else.  

I seriously never wanted to make these decisions.  I never wanted to read about lungs and arteries or know how to correctly decipher a death certificate.   But I never wanted to be sad and alone all the time, either.  Does that make me the East Dallas Hester Prynne with her Scarlet Letter?  I actually think David would be happy that I still make people stop and think about things.  

Y'all. Not. Equipped.

So I took Kid 3 to my hair salon to get a haircut.  Mistake #1 - as it actually has the word, SALON, in the name.  So he walked in, smelled the hair product overload and stormed out, waiting outside on the sidewalk till I basically threatened to Instagram that very tantrum to the nations right then and there.  So he gave up and trudged onward toward his doom.  Mistake #2 - I forgot that his football coach's wife works there.  So now he's afraid that his life as a tough as nails teenage athlete is over.   

And Kid 2 and I, along with my sister in law, went for a sail on White Rock Lake a couple of weeks ago.  The only boat on the water, might I add - and obviously for a very good reason.  Note that we are not technically or in any other way, good at, or even fully equipped to sail.  

And we had a great time, as the pictures reflect... accomplanied by Fireman Dave's very ecclectic Spotify playlist - but that was before we got stuck in the middle of the lake.  In the dark.  In the cold.  But the Christmas lights in the surrounding neighborhoods were quite nice - which was good as we enjoyed them for quite some time.  End of story... we ended up paddling back to the safety of the boat club where we all breathed a sigh of relief, but then had to deal with the aftermath of disappointment and the lessons that go with it.  Kids are complicated.  Just sayin. 

And I got my car stuck in the drive thru car wash because I know how to turn on the "auto hold" feature on my Hyundai... but I don't know how to turn in off.  Lots of help from the car wash staff who patiently reminded me to put the car in neutral approximately 1000 times, but not so patient support from the 5 cars behind me - waiting and smelling the yumminess of the Chick Fil A coming from nextdoor just tempting their senses right out onto the edge of Hangry Street.

And full disclosure, I pretty much said to hell with my Paleo lifestyle for an undisclosed amount of time and ate a bunch of animal crackers from the Aldi while binge watching a very scary show about a crazy online dating maniac that pretty much ensures that I will forever be on this life road alone. 

I also half choked on my chocolate calcium chew last week and was torn between fear of a slow and painful death on my beat up old kitchen tile floor, .... and all out rejoicing that I would make it to my heavenly home in time for me and Fireman Dave to have Date Day Wednesday.  I chose to drink water and live.  I wasn't dressed nearly well enough to die in that particular moment. 

But here it is... New Year 2020 ... and my declaration of truth is that I am at odds not only with myself, but with the Universe, and most  - if not just about all  - of the people in it.

And now it's the last week of Christmas break for my boys and why God thought I should or could be the last man standing to raise these three boys is beyond all comprehension.  Beyond all I can even come up with in my very detailed and dramatically bent imagination.  Because the plain and simple fact that I hear myself threatening to auction one or all of them off to the highest bidder - the milder side of my parental exhaustive state.... all the way to the echoes in my mind of words like strangle and bare hands.... secures in my belief the fact that I am not equipped for this job.  Y'all. Not. Equipped.

I write this today in response to a comment that a reader thought, assumed, that we are a perfect family.  Keep scrolling backward and forward, dear reader, as you will so quickly learn that I never even hinted at that filtered rendition of our conditions.  And sure ain't gonna start now.  

Kid 1 is in a time of learning and challenge.  Stuck between  being an adult but yet still being dependent on me.  That sort of makes for a back and forth of mixed communication and misunderstanding as we try to adjust to each other over this break.  I am happy to receive suggestions.  

Kid 2 is trying to decide what's next after high school and I totally - and I mean, TOTALLY, get it.  I remember being 18 and it mostly just involved baby oil and hot summer days.  At least that's all I remember, anyway.  The actual decisions of life never occurred to me... until much later.  So we're working on a plan that may or may not be any good at all.  Nothing like being the guinea pig for a mom trying to do things on her own for the first time in .... um, ever.  

And Kid 3 does indeed have a great haircut.  From my salon.  Maybe I'll force him to get highlights next time.  Just to keep him always humble and kind.  And forever guessing what I may or may not be capable of as a parent.  I don't actually know the answer to that, myself.   

I do know that the holidays were stupid.  I truly hope the low that I hit on Thanksgiving was indeed as low as it gets.  If you would like to, and if you believe that it has any sort of Heavenly mojo... you can pray that for me, please.  And you could share with me - here in the comments, or privately via text or email - how you've climbed up and over some of your worst moments.  

I'm starting year 2.  Year 2 of fighting for what is right for me and the boys.  Year 2 of trying to mark off each day while trying not to view it as part of my final countdown.  I can now say that I completed a full year of firsts and lasts missing my love.  And I didn't think I would ever be able to say that. 
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