Church started with Pink Floyd last Sunday. Technically it was Domino. With his iconic dreads and electric guitar, he sang, “On the Turning Away.” I saw it online, and I just happen to have a link. Next came Jeff Jones, he’s the senior pastor, and the current series is “Love Like Jesus.” Feel free to scroll on. I’m posting it believing someone might need to hear and will watch.
Jeff started out his sermon with some word associations: “If I said ______, you would say _____.” Eventually making it to his point. “If I said, ‘Christian,’ I don’t know what you would say, depending on what your experience is…”
I knew where Jeff was going. I knew what should go in the blank, but I’ll be honest, my first thought was not positive. Forgive me for going there. I know there are lots of good Christians, amazing humans who give generously of their time and resources and have an unbelievable level of grace for others. But I also know lots of people who won’t step foot into a church…who feel judged by Christians…who have had bad church experiences. Almost daily during my online scrolling and sometimes in overheard conversation, I hear and see Christians passing judgement. And I think—what would Jesus do? What would Jesus say? What would Jesus post?
Jeff continued, “…but I know what we should be able to say, what anybody in the world should be able to say whether they are Christian or not or believe anything about Jesus…the first thing they should think about when they think about ‘Christian’ is love…because that’s the one thing that Jesus said,…’Love like I love.’”
The weekend before last Ryan Leak kicked off the series. He’s a teaching pastor and a professional speaker. And the strange thing is—I saw him for the first time preaching at a church in Houston about a year ago, and then suddenly he’s popping up at my home church back in Dallas. Throughout the pandemic, Chase Oaks Church is my go to for Sunday mornings. I find extra inspiration and hope here. The sermons are archived on their website if needed, and you can fast forward through the music—or not.
Anyway, I go to church each Sunday for my weekly attitude adjustment. I am far from perfect. FAR. But I try. On the day of this U.S. Presidential election, I might not be perfect. Despite results, I’m sure I’ll need to be back in church by Sunday.
Jesus knows we’re all messed up. He offers forgiveness as a gift. And because He would, I’m sending love and peace your way—no matter who or where you are, no matter what you’ve done or what you believe. ❤️
I grew up blue
in a little red state
in a little red town.
with the red kids.
My blue parents
red parents down
That was great.
opinions and choices.
Votes were our voices.
We didn’t see
red or blue.
and what's true—
like a person's heart
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.
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—
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
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?
And I stand in prayer on the following promises from God:
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
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise…
3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me…
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. 7 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. 8 The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
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.
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.
9 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.
The Lord will fight for you [yes, YOU], you need only to be still.
“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?
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. 🙏🏻
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
For Remake Monday today, I think I’ll try to keep it simple and love and understand and remember that troubles will pass.
“And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time/’Till touch down brings me round again to find/I’m not the [wo]man they think I am at home/Oh no no no I’m a rocket [wo]man…”
Today, I hear Elton John’s “Rocketman” in my head. As I launch into a new semester, I know I’ll be spending a long, long time—not in outer space—but in that space between my ears. It’s weird. To think how often I feel a disconnect between the person I am outside of my head and the person I am inside my head, or even a difference between the person I am outside of my home and the person I am inside my home. All I know for sure is that I’m on a journey to be—my best me. That’s my goal. And each day I just try to be better than the person I was yesterday. So I’m a student, with a May 2021 graduation date, advancing confidently in the direction of my dreams, endeavoring to live the life I have imagined for myself, and meeting with a success unexpected in common hours. Thanks for the inspiration, Henry David.
Speaking of inspiration, did you know that Ray Bradbury’s 1950s short story “The Rocket Man” inspired the lyrics of Elton John’s 1970s song? Both are stories of an astronaut torn between his family and his mission into space. I just love how creativity sparks creativity. How a story can be re-made into a song, which can be re-made into another song. How a person’s story can morph from elements of doubt to faith, ingratitude to thankfulness, anxiety to peace, despair to hope, selfishness to generosity, ignorance to knowledge, weakness to strength, anger to kindness, grudges to forgiveness, sadness to joy, hate to love. Need I go on? Isn’t that amazing? How we can re-make it all!!
Speaking of re-makes, here’s a fun 2013 bluegrass cover by Iron Man with some pretty awesome banjo!
She felt everything deeply, this girl named Blue. She was a mystery to many, her best friends deep and true.
When her eyes shimmered in fury, to her private garden she withdrew. Honeysuckle hung thick on vines, in the bed daisies grew, on picket fences roses climbed, she breathed in gratitude.
Full on she faced the golden sun hung high in the azure sky. She said, “I feel you, Dear One, Be well. Love and peace unto you.”
This post brought to you by the capital letters T and Y, a big THANK YOU for my lovely friend Barbara @ https://altairtheatre.com. One day I will meet her in Barcelona for sangria and tapas and a tour of the Sagrada Familia, and travel to her home in the south of France, and visit her theatre, and dance on the stage, and breathe in gratitude for the deep sapphire blue of the Mediterranean Sea. I believe this, and so it is true. I’m completely humbled by her friendship and two gifts—the Mystery Blogger Award and the Original Outstanding Award. Hopefully, A Girl Named Blue answered her questions. I helped out a bit below.
• If you were a color, which one would you choose?
• What’s your favorite smell?
• Which movie character would you have liked to be? Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series. For books and cleverness, borderline genius, and of course, magic. If I were magic, my signature superpower would be healing.
• What do you do when you are angry?
• What is so mysterious about you? If I told you, it wouldn’t be a mystery.
• Do you like mysteries? Of course. Life is a mystery, and so are people, until they let you in.
Have you ever read a book that you loved so much? Except there is almost no way to adequately explain. Like if you tried, people might think there’s something wrong with your brain. For me, that’s Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.
Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away to escape his father’s house and an Oedipal prophecy and to search for his long-lost mother and sister. His name isn’t Kafka, by the way. He travels incognito.
Kafka’s story alternates with a man named Nakata. After a childhood accident, this sixtyish-year-old simpleton lives on a government subsidy and communicates with cats, literally.
Add in fish and leeches raining from the sky, Johnnie Walker—collector of cat souls, Colonel Sanders—a seedy pimp, and some graphic sex scenes, and well, that’s Kafka on the Shore. It’s a surreal story within a story within a story, laden with purposeful references to pop culture and literature, music and history. No one is who they seem. Most detail serves a metaphorical purpose. Jewels of wisdom abound.
In my eyes, the novel is a guide to life.
Both Kafka and Nakata have companions who appear out of nowhere to help. How many times have you felt an insurmountable problem, only to realize that there is someone willing to help you? I know I have, over and over, and our connections with others are vital to life. Our truest, most intimate connections have the power to transform us. We have the power to choose those connections, or we can live lonely, miserable, dysfunctional lives. It’s that simple.
There’s a message here about a “persistent, inward-moving spirit” (329). I think that means that we flourish though self-reflection, knowing ourselves, and confronting our own souls. Yes, you can lie to everyone around you, but you’re only lying to yourself. It’s so easy to spot the faults of others, but what about your own? As much as your friends can help you, ultimately you must rely on yourself and what’s inside you for courage and honesty, motivation and strength. If you can overcome your own fear, bias, and anger, you will be the strongest person in the world.
There’s another message about maintaining a “pliant, youthful sort of curiosity” (329). What do you like? What interests you? Are you open to new things, new people, new ideas? Kids are naturally more curious, naturally more accepting of differences, naturally willing to try new things. As we age, we become more stubborn and consequently more stuck in our ways, but a childlike curiosity keeps life interesting. Our first inclination might tell us, I would hate a book like that, by a Japanese author, where absurd things happen. But all the absurdity serves a purpose if you take some time to consider it. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.
In the end, I don’t think it spoils anything to say, Kafka’s metamorphosis is complete, and he has all the tools to bloom and grow. Life teaches us all about transformation when we keep our hearts and minds open. And I don’t know about you, but I’m happy that I’m not my past self.
I admit, this book might not be for everyone, but then again, maybe it is.
Shout out to my friend Barbara over at ALTAIR 5G Theatre for bestowing upon me the Penable Award. Barbara wanted to know, “What’s your trick to regaining confidence in your life?” And this is it: intimate connections, using what I have inside (my heart, my brain, and my guts), and the childlike curiosity to keep on going because amazing things are still ahead.
(P.S. Barbara, salty, except I do love my wine, and about that song, here you go…)