I Grew Up Blue

I grew up blue
in a little red state
in a little red town.
I played 
with the red kids.
My blue parents 
didn’t put
red parents down
for believing
Differently.
That was great.
We respected
opinions and choices.
Votes were our voices.
We didn’t see
Color—
red or blue.
Only people,
and what's true—
like a person's heart 
and character.
Maybe—
we can agree—
You do you.
I’ll do me.


I realize that living well is an art which can be developed. Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, and assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can become even convivial comrades.

Maya Angelou

Hoping you’re having a really good day!

Last Sunday morning, my neighbor and I were walking toward each other in the street. He walked south. I walked north. I don’t know this neighbor, but I see him around. I know which house is his. I think I talked to him once before on the night of the hurricane three years ago when a group of my neighbors gathered right in front of my house to watch the water rise. That was a dark night. Literally. The streetlights had gone out, and the sky poured buckets. He said, “I’ve lived here since 1960. I’ve never seen anything like this.” I have some images seared in my memory from that night and one of him walking away, back to his house, shaking his head.

Last Sunday as we approached each other, I took my headphones off. Maybe I left an earbud in my right ear. Anyway, I didn’t exactly hear what he said. I just sort of felt like he said, “Have a good day!”

I slowed my pace to a stop, nodded at him, and said, “You have a good day.”

This man is eighty something I’m guessing. Because he has white hair and looks older than my dad, who doesn’t look eighty at all, however eighty looks. Age aside, the man said again, what I thought was, “Have a good day!”

I smiled, feeling awkward, and just repeated, “You have a good day!”

Then he laughed out loud, slowed his statement, and enunciated each word. “No. You have a good gait.”

Then I slapped my knee and laughed because no one had ever complimented my gait. “My daddy always told me to stand up straight,” I said. I never call my dad “Daddy,” but for whatever reason that’s what I said.

“He must have been military,” he said.

“No, just short.” I smiled at my own bad joke. This man was not much taller than me, and I’m 5′ 4″.

“I’m short, too,” he said.

I don’t know if you just had to be there, but I’m still tickled about the exchange. At the end of our conversation we officially wished each other a good day.

Later in the week, Friday, to be exact. I received an audio message via Instagram from my blogger friend Eliza who lives across the pond. She went out of her way to use her voice to say, “Hoping you’re having a really good day!” Again, I was tickled. By her beautiful British accent and just by the kindness. So much that I taught myself how to use my Instagram microphone and started wishing my friends and family really good days. And in this way, I entertained myself without making phone calls, and hopefully I brightened somebody else’s day.

Words have power.

What a Person Can Do with Two Feet

Back in July, Monday the 13th to be exact, I made a friend while walking in my neighborhood. I remember the date because the previous Friday I had a doctor’s appointment, and I saw an unfamiliar and frightening number on the scale. Though I had walked every day in April, I nursed an injury in May, and then June and July rolled around. Summers in Houston are a sweaty hot mess. My walking habit suffered leading up to my visit with Dr. Fong. On July 13th, I resolved to walk every day and make headway on my weight situation.

I don’t remember how the conversation started. She probably said something like, “Do you walk every day?” or “Is this your house?” That morning around 7:30, we stood sweating on the street near my driveway, and she asked me if I wanted to walk with her the following day. I swear, God places people in my life. I needed some accountability.

“Okay,” I said.

“6:30?” she said.

“Um, that’s a little early for me,” I said. I had just met this woman. Since I’m not currently working, I couldn’t remember the last time I had set my alarm.  

“6:40?” she said. “I have a five-year-old. I have to be back before my husband leaves for work.”

“Okay,” I said. “I will try. My name is Crystal.”

“My name is Rosa. See you tomorrow,” she said. From my house she walked north to her home at the opposite end of our street.

Rosa is my age, fiftyish. With a five-year-old. Her oldest is thirty-three. Another one, twenty-eight. Another, twenty-one. And a stepson eighteen. Can you imagine? She moved to Houston from Mexico, a child bride at seventeen. She knew NO English, and she had babies in this country with no other family except for her husband’s brother. For the next thirteen years, she did not learn the language, and her husband was a drunk and had a girlfriend in Mexico. Pregnant with her third child, Rosa realized she held the future in her own hands.

I’m not sure of all the details. Rosa and I have a slight language barrier. But this I know. She divorced him and chose to stand on her own two feet in the USA with no other family here. She sucked it up. She had to be strong for her kids, and the United States held opportunities. She took a job cleaning while her older kids Cesar and Jackie were in school, and she carried her baby Kimberly with her to work. Rosa attended classes to learn English, and she studied to become a citizen. She told me about driving round trip from Houston to Iowa and back in a car with her children and parents visiting from Mexico. Throughout the vacation, she listened to CD’s in English to help her prepare for the citizenship test. Her dad said, “Do you know what they’re saying?” He spoke in Spanish, of course.

And Rosa shook her head and said, “No.” The same word in either language. Rosa kept trying and kept taking classes, and her English improved. She supported herself and her kids with no help from anyone. Then, she passed her citizenship test. In English, of course. 

Eventually, Rosa remarried. Her husband has a successful painting business, and Rosa accounts for the money. She owns and leases a couple of condominiums. She makes home-made tortillas every week. Flour one day. Corn on another. She has lunch on the table for her husband at noon, and supper on the table by 6:30. Since I’ve known her, Rosa had some sort of electrical problem at her house, and she fixed it herself by Googling help. She takes an online upholstery class, online nutrition, and online cake decorating. And last week for Independence Day in Mexico, she cooked enchiladas and posole and shared with me and my family.

Meanwhile, I sit on my couch and read books and write words and let my husband cook for me. I know I’m spoiled and a little complacent. I’ve never had to work that hard in my life. Is this white privilege? You better believe—Rosa inspires me.

Since it’s dark now at 6:30 in the morning, Rosa and I have moved our walks to a beautiful little park with a walking path and lights. She picks me up in her Infinity QX something at 6:15, and we drive a short distance to walk and watch the sunrise. I failed to mention that we run some. If she can run, so can I. Even if I have never claimed to be a runner, I decided it’s not too late to give it a try. Like I said, she inspires me.

Sometimes Rosa’s daughter Kimberly comes along for the workout. Now Kimberly is a real-deal runner. Anyway, last Friday Kimberly was in the car, Rosa and I chatted, and Kimberly said, “I don’t know how you can understand what she is saying.”

I said, “I just understand about every fourth word and somehow get the gist of it.” I was exaggerating. Kimberly and I laughed.

Then she translated for her mother in Spanish, and we all laughed.

“Seriously,” I said. “I just listen and try to understand.”

And do you know what I understand most of all? Good energy.

Some of you might have noticed
I left out the Monday Re-Make.
I had an idea and scratched it—
“Jolene”
by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus.
I like the song and both versions,
but I never understood the woman
who fought so hard for her cheating husband.
I’ve officially concluded the Monday Re-Make Series.
Sometimes, life calls for a new song entirely.

Mindset Shift

Today I’m giving it all to God.

A few days ago, I read the words of my friend Collette. She writes about her sobriety of eighteen months and why past sobriety attempts failed. After spending decades of her life in an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, Collette experienced a mindset shift. She prayed to God to deliver her from temptation, and now she practices turning to God daily in gratitude and dependence. God performed a miracle for Collette—he removed her desire to have a drink.

Collette’s shift of mindset spoke to me in terms of navigating a path forward for my son Drew. I wasn’t exactly sure what that would mean for my life and thought perhaps a counselor might help me figure that out. But a few days later, I spoke to a local pastor who runs a Christ-centered recovery program. I told him all about Drew and our journey with schizophrenia. He said, “Crystal, God can work miracles.” And he told me all about their program.

I re-read Collette’s words, which led me to a few more of her words, and suddenly I realized what a mindset shift meant for me. Like Collette…

I need a miracle.
And I believe.
In a miracle—
for Drew.
Without doubt.
And with gratitude.
And with this faith—
there is hope.

Thank you, God, for renewed hope and peace in my heart. This is exactly where my blog started three years ago when a hurricane flooded my home and we rebuilt for ten months while living in a hotel. As we continue to rebuild our lives, please God, don’t let me forget the formula:

Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope

Crystal Byers

Today is a milestone on the blog, and I can’t think of any more appropriate words for my 150th post. For those of you praying for me in recent weeks, thank you with all I have. Do you see God at work?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And I stand in prayer on the following promises from God:

Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 138:1, 3, 6-8

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise…

When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me…

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

Mark 11:23-24

23 “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Psalm 139:13-18

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 91:9-16

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

1 Peter 2:24

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Samuel 2:26

And the boy Samuel [Drew] continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people.

Exodus 14:14

The Lord will fight for you [yes, YOU], you need only to be still. 

Armies, Fighting, and Being Still

The White Stripes released “Seven Nation Army” in 2003. Somewhere in that era at Christmastime, my English teacher friend Erin gave me a mixtape including liner notes in the compact disc jewel case. According to Erin, “Seven Nation Army is a song that makes you feel cooler just for listening.”
I love Haley Reinhart of Postmodern Jukebox since her days on American Idol back in 2011. She just celebrated her 30th birthday, and the comments on this video crack me up. Luke Klein says, “I watched this video and ended up in a gray suit and a fedora, smoking a cigarette in the rain in 1939. Pls help.”

“I’m gonna fight ‘em all / A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back.”

The White Stripes

I’ve heard the White Stripes in my head this past week, and their words convey my attitude. As I leave my house each day for my morning walk, my posture and stride seem to say, “Do not get in my way because I will kick your ass.” And that’s how I’ve been making my way through recent days. I carry this mixture of fury and hope, this “I will spit in your eye” mindset along with “God, please help me and most of all please help Drew.” My friends and prayers keep carrying me like a gondola up the mental health mountain I face.

Drew came by our house yesterday morning. The morning sun backlit his silhouette as he unlocked the front door and stood at the threshold. His long curly hair stood on end. A white boy’s afro. He said he was going to use the restroom.

“Did you sleep at the group home last night?” I said.

“No, no,” he said, shaking his head. He proceeded to the bathroom where I heard the flush and then into the garage where I heard the buzz of a variable speed drill. Alone in the house, I decided to write this post.

If you happened to read my post about prayers and friends carrying me last week, you know my son Drew was in the behavioral health hospital. Hospitalization #6. After ten long years of battling paranoid schizophrenia. Drew still has good days. When he left with HPD for the hospital, I found crystal meth in his room. How long have I been finding meth in his room? Has it been two years? Did I ever find meth three years ago when we lived in the La Quinta after the hurricane? How many times have I thrown meth in the trash? Where does he get his money to buy? Is he selling it? Does he have a medication efficacy issue? Is meth or schizophrenia the larger problem? These questions beat me down. Who knows?

Anyway, Drew spent five good days at the hospital. I have no idea what they did for him because he is thirty years old, and HIPAA laws protect his privacy. Drew reports that nothing happened, which could be true or false. The hospital doctor determined he was good to go. No further treatment necessary. The problem is Drew’s behavior leading up to the hospitalization proved dangerous to himself and/or others. Over the past three years, his delusions have progressively worsened along with his reactions to what he hears and believes. His dad and I are not willing to have him in our home at this time, partly because of a police report filed by our neighbors that in part led to his hospitalization. His psychiatrist is aware and unhelpful. Hospitalization #6 was unhelpful. Drew agreed to stay in a group home following his discharge.

By the way in Texas, group homes are not accredited in any way. If I wanted to open a group home for mentally ill patients and feed them and oversee their medication, I could—TOMORROW. IF. If you want to make some money, or at least have someone else pay your mortgage, move to Texas, open a group home, call psychiatric hospitals, and let them know you are open for business. From what I understand, it doesn’t take much more than that. Also, Texas ranks near the bottom of our fifty states for mental health expenditures per capita. Go figure. Should we move?

A Mr. Taylor drove Drew from the hospital to the God’s People group home where Drew called an Uber and returned home to pick up clothes and his car. His car that he had been using as his personal trash can. The same car I had removed trash from little by little—four full kitchen trash bags of McDonald’s trash, two uneaten apple pies and an empty sardine can, seemingly unending soda bottles and cans, empty American Spirit cigarette packs and cigarette butts everywhere—all kinds of empty cardboard box recycling—from a Ryobi Variable Speed Drill to a floor lamp, a Kobalt Retractable Hose Reel with Hose, a DeWalt Heavy-Duty Electric Wheeled Portable Compressor, and sex toys. Oh, and laundry, lots of dirty laundry. Some of which went straight to the trash. Some of which I’m airing now. Again I ask, where in the world is Drew getting this money? Have I been burying my head in the sand? All I know is that I have done the best I can. There is NO REASONING with mental illness, and NO ONE seems to want to help. Oh, unless, we happened to be millionaires. We MIGHT get some help that way. By the way if you Google God’s People in Houston, you won’t find anything. When I type the address into Google maps, I see the location of this group home in a one-story house in a residential neighborhood, likely three bedrooms and two baths.

So—after being released on Thursday, Drew didn’t spend Thursday or Friday night at the group home. However, he had been in contact with me by phone, and he was okay. He said, “I’m at a friend’s.”

“Are you planning to go back to the home?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. Drew is good at telling me what I want to hear. Like when I say, “Will you take a shower?” or “Will you take a trashbag and clean all of the trash out of your room?” I repeat the same question for his car. His response—always the same. Years and years of yesses. How are we supposed to help? By telling him he can no long live with us? By towing and selling his trashed out, torn up, paid for 2010 Honda Accord? I’m tired, and I’m trying to live my own best life despite challenges. How do you help someone who doesn’t want to help himself?

Mr. Taylor says he will let me know if Drew shows up, and for my own mental health I drive to the beach on Saturday. Drew makes a Saturday group home appearance—forty-eight hours after his hospital release. Mr. Taylor texts me about his arrival, and stupidly we pay a pro-rated fee for September housing. I say stupidly because Drew is at home when I return from the beach. He has eaten the leftover pizza, and I am thankful for his nourishment. We have a peaceful conversation about his aquarium and the fish he has recently purchased for his bedroom, and I am thankful for the calm. Drew says, “Their names are Patches and Duke and Catfishy.”

I say, “I named them Tom, Dick, and Harry.”

“Those are terrible names,” he says, and I am thankful for the laughs. Then, he leaves for the night.

Do you remember where this started?

Drew came by yesterday morning. The morning sun backlit his silhouette as he unlocked the front door and stood at the threshold. His long curly hair stood on end. A white boy’s afro. He said he was going to use the restroom.

“Did you sleep at the group home last night?” I said.

“No, no,” he said, shaking his head. He proceeded to the bathroom where I heard the flush and then into the garage where I heard the buzz of a variable speed drill. I would’ve thought the noise a buzz saw if I hadn’t found the cardboard box for the drill in his car. Alone in the house, husband out of town, I decided to write this post. Drew was gone within the hour.

Drew probably slept in his car last night. Possibly for the last four nights. If he’s lucky, he has a friend. Officially this means Drew is homeless. AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH MENTAL HEALTH IN THE GREAT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (and exactly why I want to kick somebody’s ass).

Mid-rage, I stumbled onto Perth Girl’s Saturday post. It begins, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Perth Girl wraps it up by saying, “Be still, my friend, be still. Let the Lord be your shield and your sword. Let Him be your rock and your shelter. Be still and surrender to Him, leave room for God to work, let Him fight for you.”

Then I went to church at Chase Oaks online, and the service ended with this song. Do I hear God’s voice?   

“Even when my eyes can’t see, I will trust the voice that speaks peace over me.”

And so, as I attempt to re-make my own Monday, to re-make my own week, my own life, today, I choose to let the Lord fight my battles, to be still and surrender, to let go and let God. Oh, and I do have one phone call to make—to a church that can potentially help me. That might not happen today. 🙏🏻

Happy Blogaversary to Me!

I woke to the 6:15 darkness and a sliver of silvery moon through my bedroom window. “I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” I thought, eyes on moon and hand reaching for the two black dogs by my side. “But a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life.”

I reached for my phone, two missed text messages, and a WordPress notification. After spending the day at the beach, I tucked myself in bed by nine. Hubs out of town. The house all to myself. Just me and my dogs. And peace and quiet.

The messages—well wishes from friends. 9:11. 9:15. I was out like a light.

The WordPress notification:

So three years ago, I started my blog. First post: That Time When I Met Harvey. Then The Houston Flood Museum published me as well. My mother always said, “Everything happens for a reason.” I never knew the reason until my house flooded and I moved into the La Quinta with my husband, son, and dog.

And the struggles make for some fascinating material. And my writing led me back to school. How cool! Happy Blogaversary to Me!

Friends and Prayers Like Gondolas

Telluride, CO, August 2020

In August the Rocky Mountains beckoned, or maybe it was my friend Cheri in Denver—Girls Trip 2020, Telluride, Colorado. Cheri has a Telluride connection, and she invited me and three other friends for a complimentary weekend at a posh three-bedroom condominium in the heart of the action. We grew up together in the Oklahoma panhandle. We’ve all known each other since fifth grade or before. I had never been to Telluride. AND we all rolled up to fifty within the past eight months or so. This was a celebration of empowered women and a new decade, the ultimate slumber party and the feat of forty-year friendships, hot tubs in the mountains and an offer I couldn’t refuse. COVID, shmovid.

The Telluride/Mountain Village Gondola carrying us up the mountain we face.

One Thursday, after sitting on my ass for 155 nearly-consecutive days with minimal human interaction since mid-March, I made my way to and through George Bush International all masked up and onto an airplane that touched down at Denver International. Denise from Dallas, my friend since age five, arrived ahead of me and waited with Cheri to pick me up. The three of us worked really hard to stay out of trouble before Starla, my friend since age seven, landed later that evening from California. On Friday morning, we three road-tripped into the Rockies and picked up Pamela, who flew from Austin to Montrose, sixty miles or so from our destination. Pamela has been my friend since age ten. Do I realize this is rare? Grown women, who grew up together, now staying connected, and still growing?

L-R. Cheri with dimples for days, Starla with stars in her eyes, and me mindful of this moment.

I’m sure I could tell some stories, but I would prefer to keep our secrets, just like I know they will keep mine. At the end of our time together, we shared photos and take-aways and one last hug. I can’t stop thinking about how the gondola carried us up and over the mountain, just like the best of friendships.

L-R. Denise, the badass blonde, and Pamela, my guru.

You see, when I returned home, the sky fell off my life, again. My son Drew, who lives with paranoid schizophrenia and dysfunctionally depends on his dad and me, returned to the hospital for the first time since 2015. An overdue hospitalization. His medication of the past five years, no longer effective. His doctor has been telling me for three years there’s nothing he can do. Me—after living through the 2017 hurricane, and in a hotel for ten months while rebuilding home, and starting a new job in 2017, another in 2018, and then a long-term sub job in 2019, and finally returning to school as a graduate student in 2020—well, I’ve stayed too fucking exhausted to look for a new doctor. Besides, Drew is an adult, and so he must agree to any changes. That’s the problem with seeking help for a person who doesn’t believe he has a problem. Meanwhile at home, Drew shouts at the voices he hears in his head most of the days of the month. His words. Terrible and angry. Racist and sexist. Filthy and threatening. His body odor vile. I don’t care to dive into further detail. All of this is an ongoing battle, Drew is now safe in the hospital, and of course, he wasn’t always this way. This brain disorder has transformed my son and stolen ten years of his life, and of course, I’m sad. In no way do I mean to imply schizophrenia is worse than cancer or Alzheimer’s or drug addiction or Lou Gehrig’s disease or any other infirmity leading to ultimate death. Wow. This post suddenly turned dark as tends to happen when I go down the path of what is wrong. Therefore, I focus on gratitude. Otherwise I may remain in fetal position for the rest of my days. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Cheers to women who uplift each other! Oh, and to age fifty. Happy Birthdays to us!

And so—I continue to count my blessings. When I don’t even care to put one foot in front of the next or speak a single word, I am so very thankful for the friends and family I have who carry me and for their prayers that lift me like a gondola up the mountain I continue to face.

“Who is set up for the tragedy of suffering? Nobody. The tragedy of the man not set up for tragedy—that is every man’s tragedy.”   

Philip Roth

And by the way, if you are the type who prays, please join me in believing Drew will understand there is better for him and that his dad and I are here to help and that we love him and that God will direct our steps and give us wisdom in dealing with this illness and that there will be a helpful, hopeful outcome to this hospitalization including a new doctor who believes along with me.

Amen. And thank you.

Simple [Hu]Man

Sometimes I feel that I write these posts as advice I wish I had given my kids. You see, I had my first baby at age nineteen and my second at barely twenty-two. Looking back, I was so young and dumb, and my mother’s guilt would tell you, “I wish I had parented better.”

Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda.

I don’t beat myself up over this anymore, but my former self was super hard on me. Now I let the past stay there, and I understand that all of my past lives have shaped me into my current self. I did the best I could at the time, I loved those babies hard, and I still love these adults fiercely.

I suppose all this draws me to the lyrics of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 “Simple Man.”

My mama told me when I was young
Said, sit beside me my only son [baby girl, too]
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it'll help you some sunny day…

Oh, take your time, don't live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You'll find a woman [or a man] and you'll find love
And don't forget that there is a someone up above [SO IMPORTANT!!!]

And be a simple kind of [hu]man 
And be something you'll love and understand

Allow me to introduce the lovely Sierra Eagleson. I think she’s twenty-four. I feel her stripped down strength and believe you’ll love and understand.

Photo by MIRTO KON on Pexels.com

For Remake Monday today, I think I’ll try to keep it simple and love and understand and remember that troubles will pass.