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ClearlyKristal: Life Interrupted

Editor’s Note:

My Dear Friends and Followers,

Finally. I’m here. I’m back. I know many of you have asked what’s going on with your blog? Why aren’t you posting?

I apologize for not posting in such a long time. Yes, I can give all the excuses of being too busy. It is true … I’ve been working a few paying part-time jobs. (Fact: Most blogs don’t pay zilch, unless you are one of the biggie bloggers, and charge for ads and lots of sponsored posts). ClearlyKristal has never been about making a ton of money. I can see my husband rolling his eyes, but this blog is truly an artistic outlet for sharing, healing and growth.

I’m also doing something super crazy in our world of cyber and social media: I’m focusing on being in the moment. Crazy, uh? This is especially important as our two little girls are growing at warp speed, my crows feet grow a little deeper, and those undeniable gray hairs appear.

We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Over the past few months, though, God has been at work with some exciting things. I attended the 2015 Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. I met some amazing folks, and witnessed the breath-taking beauty of the California redwoods. Here are some snapshots:

All smiles for an early morning walk.

All smiles for an early morning walk.

Besides the stunning beauty of the redwoods, and the blessed folks I had the honor to meet, including my mentor and instructor Judy Gordon Morrow (author of “The Listening Heart”), I am working on a Christian Devotional that I hope to publish in the near future. Stay tuned…

Grateful to connect with Author and Mentor Judy Gordon Morrow.

Grateful to connect with Author and Mentor Judy Gordon Morrow.

Speaking of other cool stuff happening, I was approached by Mutual of Omaha to participate in their sponsored campaign of life’s aha moments. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Mutual of Omaha travels the country in search of those people who have a valuable life-changing moment to share with others. It is meant to inspire, motivate and give hope to the hopeless.

The Aha Moment Recording Trailer.

The Aha Moment Recording Trailer.

I decided to share my challenges with a learning disability based on this post from last year: Hiding Behind X: My Story of Dyscalculia.

Without further ado, here’s my Mutual of Omaha Aha Moment (click on link):

http://www.ahamoment.com/search?utf8=✓&search%5Bq%5D=Kristal

Feel free to share with others who may need a boost to their day or life.

I plan to post more this summer–probably some excerpts from my memoir and devotional. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each of you for continuing to support my artistic endeavors.

I would encourage you to allow God to interrupt your life a little more, you’ll be amazed at what transpires, I promise. I’m living proof.

In Peace and Love,

Kristal

What’s your aha moment? Have one you’d like to share below? I’d love to hear!

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January Blog-a-Character: Dad

Editor’s Note: As part of my continuing effort to blog my memoir, I will be sharing a glimpse of a character/description that focuses on a person in my life each week during the month of January. I hope you enjoy this January character series…

I could sense someone was there. I could hear the heavy inhale and exhale. I opened my eyes just enough to see the dimly lit hallway. The smoke swirled and danced in the air. I could see his shadow at the doorway of my bedroom door. He leaned to the side of the doorway with one leg crossed over the other like a cowboy at the O.K. Corral.

Realizing it was not a dream, I recognized the figure as my dad.

Even at the age of 10, the scene was apropos for this misunderstood man.

My dad (back row) dressed in antiquated Western costume during a family trip to the Southwest during the 1980s. He looked right at home.

 

The man who was stuck in the wrong century. The man who couldn’t make sense of the complexities and darkness of the world. The man who yearned for simplicity in life, but found himself here in the 20th and 21st centuries.

He wanted nothing more than life on his own terms. His terms would have been living an isolated life on a prairie, or tucked away in the mountains. Of course, there would be occasional interludes with the opposite sex.

He would have used tin plates and cups over an open fire. His daily diet would consist of black tar-like coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes. Like a true hunter, the planning and catching of meals would be the highlight of the day. Unless, of course he found gold.

But my dad was not alone.

He had three children, a wife and mortgage payment living in the suburbs. He drowned his sorrows of life in liquid poison.

The pain behind the man can be seen by taking a glance back in time during the 1950s.

He had always been a quiet child. Living in a small town in Central California, he was known as a shy loner with streaks of rebel actor James Dean boiling in his blood. His strick German father would record my father’s every move in a small black book. Lining my father up against the wall like a Jewish prisoner, he would interrogate this frightened child in his thick guttural German language.

By age 10, he escaped in the pages of books, cigarettes and alcohol..

Read more about my Dad in these past posts:

My Dad, My Hero 

Hunter’s Dance

For Dad: We Are Not Alone

 

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Backing Out: A Parent’s Confession of ‘Helicopter Parenting’

You want to protect your kids from being hurt. Check each blind turn and corner.

Even though my eldest daughter is about to turn 10, in my own mind, she’s already driving a car. You’ve seen those TV commercials where babies or small children are driving cars, using a cell phone, or making a financial trade.

Yep, in my mind, she’s about to be handed the car keys.

Each time I back out of an especially tricky parking spot, I just can’t help but think that she’ll be doing the same dangerous maneuver someday. She’ll be plagued with blind spots – points where she won’t be able to see a speeding car or passerby.

37aI remember my dad instructing me in how to back out of my first parking spot.

“Go nice and slow, real slow, Kristal. Take your time,” he said in his deep voice. “Now, look through the window of the car next to you so that you can get a better view. Use the reflection,” he guided.

Continuing to back out slowly, I glanced in the side and rear view mirrors. Suddenly, I heard a honking horn from an oncoming car. I slammed on the brake and my head bounced off the headrest. I could feel my heart beat out of my chest and fingertips tingle.

“What did I say, Kristal?” my Dad scolded, while slapping his hands on his lap. “Look both ways again and again, go real slow and use the reflection and windows. Even though you can’t see, use what you have to make the best decision at the time. Okay, let’s try it again,” he said.

In the coming years, both my daughters will need to back out of parking spots alone with blind spots.

And, I’m petrified.

Helicopter Parenting
I had a conversation with a friend about the topic of helicopter parenting the other day. We pondered: Are we harming our children to a certain extent by being so involved?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term helicopter parenting it is a “parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters they hover overhead.”

Guilty as charged.

So how do I work on not being that overinvolved, overprotective parent? Instinctively, I want to fix and protect my sweet children from the harsh big bad world. What’s wrong with that?

Well, lots could be wrong with that.

Studies find that helicopter parenting may weaken your child’s ability to problem solve, creates a disconnect with natural consequences, fosters dependence rather than independence and so on…

Nearly 10 years ago when I became a parent for the first time, and was stressed and exhausted because my newborn would not sleep, my mom gave me some a simple, yet powerful piece of advice that I never forgot: “With five kids and three jobs, I just couldn’t get too involved in micromanaging you kids.”

I’m not saying, we shouldn’t not engage and communicate with our children. What I’m saying is that we (I) need to listen more and advise and fix less. (Hard swallow)

I know my girls will not only face blind spots, but they’ll be sideswiped more than once in life. The best I can do is to teach them to use those external and internal reflections to make decisions.

I just hope they hit the brakes in time.

How did your parents raise you when it comes to micro- or macro parenting? Do you have characteristics of being a helicopter parent with your own children?

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Fighting Collateral Divorce Damage

I remember the ugliness of it. The loneliness. The desperation. The loss. The pain.

She acted out to fill the hole now permanently left in her heart. She began to smoke and drink alcohol. Took pills. She snuck out her bedroom window at night to find anyone or anything to fill that void.images-1

Kim and I were neighborhood “friends,” but I tried to keep my distance. Even though her pain was spilling over, and I wanted to be there. I feared that she’d bring me down with her.

I had enough of my own problems.

As teen girls, we were neighbors for a short time. She was new to our junior high school. Her parents were “newly divorced.”

And there was the catch: Divorce.

Praying for Divorce

Even as a child, I prayed my parents would divorce. The fights at night could be unbearable at times. I would hide under my covers in the top bunk bed and pray they would just end it. “Why God? Please!” I would plead.

Divorce at the time seemed to be the better of two evils for my parents. And yet, my parents stuck it out for 44 years.

They didn’t give up on their marriage in the darkest of times.

And here was my lost, pained neighbor friend who was a casualty of divorce. The worst part of divorce is how it effects the children.

And why is divorce on my mind?

Divorce Rears Its Ugly Head, Again

“He told me it’s over. He doesn’t love me any more. I’m crushed…please pray.”

This is the message I received a few months ago from a good friend.

What’s the collateral divorce damage for her family? One little girl, one little boy, one dog, a parakeet, and a man and a woman who once loved each other…devastated.

Nearly 30 years later, I felt yet again the pain of another friend in the battle of this ugly thing called divorce. Rather than pulling away this time, I’m emotionally strong enough to support her in prayer and lending a listening ear.

My own husband and I are shocked by how many of our friends and neighbors are divorcing. They reach the 10, maybe 12-year mark, and then call it quits.

What happened?

Phil Donahue Sheds Some Light
There is no single answer. So long as people get married, there will be divorce.

Sadly, the previous 50 percent divorce rate is a distant, lingering memory. In California, divorce rates hover around 75 percent, and even higher in Orange County according to 2012 statistics.

In other words, a mere 25 percent have a chance at marriage in California.

I recall watching a “Phil Donahue Show” television segment that focused on divorce during the 1980s. In his trademarked closing message  the camera zoomed toward Donahue’s face. His blue eyes now serious behind the oversized spectacles, he reached into the rooms of viewers to share his painstaking insights about marriage and divorce. One line resonated with me as a teenager: “Marriage takes hard work by both partners.”

Regardless of whether I agree with Mr. Donahue’s political point of view was irrelevant. He knew these words all too well as a liberal divorced Catholic talk show host who was making a go in his second marriage. He had his own five “divorce-damaged kids” to prove it.

What’s Love Got to Do?
Now as a woman married for 13 years, I understand it takes a commitment to another person even when they are driving you crazy. It’s about patience and acceptance of each other’s flaws. Yes, it’s about love. But at the core, we wake up each day, hit the alarm and go about our day. Sometimes our marriages fall by the wayside because life gets in the way. We disconnect from one another. And before we know it, there is a stranger lying next to you. You are next to a person you once loved.

You wonder what happened. Life happened. You both let it get away. You let that love fly right out of your heart. I think Mr. Donahue had it right: It takes hard work to keep the sparks of marriage alive. To my knowledge, he has remained committed in his second marriage for the past 30 years.

After reading this post, I’d like to be all a rah-rah cheerleader and let’s stop this divorce rate in it tracks. I think the first step is admitting that we are broken, and we can’t do this thing called life alone and be happy. I would give anything to avoid the millions of troubled teenage Kim repeats, but I think the first step is admitting we are flawed, and we need to open up the conversation about divorce – it’s just not worth the collateral damage.

I leave you with video from Casting Crowns that speaks perfectly to the topic…”Broken Together.”

God bless.

 

 

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Breaking Free: A Story of Generational Freedom

Editor’s Note: I’ve taken a bit of a respite from writing on Clearly Kristal. Well, I’m back. I’m ready to write. To share in honesty and truth. As Writer Anne Lamott wrote in her book “Bird by Bird: “You string words together like beads to tell a smeonswingtory. You are desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started.”

So let’s get started…

“Well, do you want the place?” my mom asked.

I ran my hand along the kitchen counter and strolled towards the living room.

The internal dialogue and imagery in my head as an 18-year-old about to land her first place went something like this:

This place could be all mine! I envisioned the lights dimmed in the small living room. The music jumped, lights flashed, friends danced. The crowd was pumpin.

“So, what do you think, Kristal?” my mom prompted.

breakfree

Snapping out of my daydream, I whipped, “Uh, ya, I’ll take it.”

She nodded her head, and then pointed to the window, and offered to sew paisley patterned curtains to match my futon. As we walked around the old vacated house, I sensed my mom’s underlying sadness.

I then imagined her dialogue:

I’ve lost her. She’s moving out. My baby.

The Swimming Pool House
This first place, though, was no regular house. This house was full of deep family history. It was owned by my mother’s father (my grandfather), who moved his family to California from New Mexico around 1955.

My grandfather had kept the house as a rental property. Over the years, the house was split into two separate living spaces with a tenant in each space. The inside of the house was simple with its thick carmel brown shag carpet and pasty white walls. In the living room was a wall and floor heater that made a loud ticking sound when blazing. The tiny kitchen had an old broken down dishwasher, but was equipped with a highly used microwave. Next to the kitchen leading to an outdoor patio was a double decker washer and dryer. I think you could fit five pieces of clothing in it total.

The hallway that connected to the living room led to the first bedroom on the left with a tiny closet and a big window. Continuing down the hallway on the right was a bathroom with pink and black checkered tile that had a lingering musty smell.

The outside of the house was something special. My grandfather had painted it fluorescent green during the 1980s. Hence the name “the swimming pool house” fit perfectly. Even though the color was awful and neighbors detested it, my grandfather loved the color. He was never one to follow the rules, but made his own rules up in life. Which is all the more reason I too loved this swimming pool-colored house.

Moving West
My grandfather had moved his family west for a better life in the mid 1950s. His youngest son was born with severe mental and physical “handicaps.” In the small New Mexico town with at least a thirty-minute drive to the nearest hospital, my grandparents consulted with world-renowned specialists to assess their “handicap” son. Their son’s prognosis was bleak at best. At the time, California provided the best state care for special needs individuals.

Around age 14, my mother was uprooted from her little southwestern desert town for sunny, hopeful California. After a few years of living in California, her mother, who had always been a rather bitter, uptight woman, began experiencing terrible headaches. They soon learned she had a brain tumor.

My mother lost her mother to the Lord during brain surgery at age 17. My grandmother was only 36 years old. By age 18, my mother broke away to marry her high school sweetheart. She packed her own boxes of memories from this very house. It wasn’t until years later, my mother admitted that she felt guilty for leaving her widowed father alone.

But she needed to break free.

Generational Freedom
Now more than 30 years later, we walked the same rooms. “I can still smell my mom’s gardenia perfume,” she said, taking a breath as we entered the bedroom. I inspected the closet with its thick wooden sliding doors. I tried to busy my mind with where my roommate, and I would put our twin beds and matching black lacquer nightstands.

Just before starting my freshman year of college, I packed 18 years of memories into boxes and carted them five miles away to the swimming pool house.

Yet, underneath all the excitement, I felt a sense of abandonment of my family. As the eldest sister to my two younger sisters, I was the leader and organizer. I kept as much as I could “together” when my dad was checked out on a drinking binge, and my mother was doing her best to keep up family appearances while working multiple jobs.

Like my mom, I was ready to carve out the world and make it my own. I needed to break free.

Now as a mom, I’m several short years away from my first child wanting to break free. Sometimes when tucking my two girls in to bed in the darkness of their rooms, I hold a long, close-up gaze. I want to freeze that moment in time. I make a mental note to hold that moment close to my heart before the tour of rentals and packing of memories begins.

Because I know someday they’ll daydream about the day they break free.

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