I know much more than I say…

judgment

When my parents divorced, my mother was granted custody of my brother and I. Around the age of 13, I told her I was leaving. I needed out and I got out (read ‘He came to kill, steal and destroy..”). I packed all of my belongings and I left the blended family of 6 and went to live with my father and stepmother.

My father had remarried around the same time as my mother had; her name was Christa. I had a very strong attachment to her. She loved me like her own, but this is another story.

It was a completely different atmosphere. I felt like an only child at my father’s house; for they did not have any children at this point.

There was no swearing.

There was no abuse.

There were chocolate chip cookies and homemade bread.

There was a lot of religion.

In the beginning, this house felt like ‘love’.

I was no longer forced to wash dishes for three hours at a time; while they were inspected by Satan and thrown back into the water with force. I was no longer called names.

I felt loved.

I felt welcomed.

I felt noticed.

For a few years I was able to ‘just be a kid’.

Although I was expected to attend church with them on the Sundays’ that I was not visiting my moms’, I never felt like they tried to push their beliefs down my throat. Originally, it was my choice.

Over the years, many people have preached to me; many people have quoted the Bible to me. I always found this ironic because many do not understand that I probably know the Bible better than the ‘preachers’. To this day, I can still quote scripture as well as the quoters themselves. I know much more than I say…

I remember the church family. They were very welcoming. Everyone was so nice and ‘loving’. It made it easier to look past the strange things that I did not understand; the things I questioned within.

I craved love.

I wanted to be accepted.

They welcomed me with open arms, at first.

I remember I desperately wanted to be part of this love. It was unlike anything I had experienced before.

I considered attending the Christian school that was run by their church. I spoke to my dad and stepmom about this. I remember how happy my stepmom was.

Around this time, we also held prayer meetings in our home; every Wednesday night. There was church every Sunday and most Sundays, we attended Sunday night service as well. There was a lot of church. It was a non-denominational church. It was a ‘Full Gospel’ church. It was fundamentally Protestant, or Evangelical, or Pentecostal; I’m not exactly sure. There were some strange things that occurred. There were a lot of strange things that I had never seen and to this day, I still do not understand.

I made the choice to leave my small, public, rural school shortly after the start of 7th grade.

Things were a little different at Christian school from public school; as one could imagine.

Uniforms consisted of skirts or dresses for the girls. I never had an issue with this because I have always embraced my feminity.

There was chapel every morning prior to classes.

We were taught creationism; something that was not taught in public school.

I remember most of the students at this small private school. They were very welcoming. I made friends easily and quickly.

I remember how badly I desired to cheerlead. We only had one sport at our Christian school; soccer. I proposed a cheerleading team for the soccer team. My proposal was evaluated and approved with conditions; the skirts had to be the length of our knees. Modesty was not under negotiation; it was a requirement.

I chose to learn their beliefs.

I wanted to understand their faith. Their faith seemed so steadfast; so rock-like.

I will tell you that there were a lot of rules while living at my father’s house.

I was not allowed to do much. I was very over-protected.

Around the time I turned 15, there was a major shift.

I started wondering. I started questioning. My questions were not answered. My questioning was seen as rebellious. I was considered a ‘strong willed child’. I was told it was a spirit that needed to be broken. I do not agree with everything I was taught, but this is another story.

I was brought up Catholic for many years until Catholicism no longer served my parents beliefs or wants. I was baptized Catholic as a baby. I made my First Holy Communion and I was made to attend all of the classes.

When my father remarried, he adopted my stepmom’s faith. It was a complete 180 from Catholicism in many ways. Over the years, my mother no longer practiced Catholicism and searched other avenues.

I remember my stepmom talking to me about my mother’s beliefs. I remember my confusion and I remember wanting to understand it for myself.

I remember going to the library that was next door to my house. I remember obtaining books to try to understand why they thought my mom was practicing evil. I needed to understand what ‘evil’ meant and I wanted to understand it for myself; not just the explanations I was given.

This was very frowned upon. Questioners are watched very closely.

Rules shifted.

Gavels came down; hard. Lines were drawn.

Everything changed.

I remember I was no longer given choices. Once I said I believed in their faith, the rule bar was brought to an unrealistic expectation. The fundamentals of this religion are often forgotten by those that practice it; perhaps not for themselves, but when it comes to the judgment of others. Love is forgotten. Grace is forgotten.

I was not allowed to question. I was not allowed to listen to secular music. Getting caught listening to secular music meant consequences. Not singing in church meant consequences. Reading books about other religions meant consequences.

I became so confused. Suddenly it felt like everything was being forced on me.

I remember the confusion. I remember being taught about free will and yet there was no longer free will.

I remember my stepmom’s words. She was very angry with me.

“You think you can make it without God? (She laughed) Let me tell you something little girl! I was prettier than you, I was smarter than you, I was more popular than you and I did not make it without God.”

I remember I cried.

I no longer trusted this house.

I no longer trusted this love.

I no longer trusted this faith.

I had no idea what I believed in; I was so confused.

Religion took over at my father’s house.

I was in 9th grade at that Christian school. The ropes were pulled very tight. I tugged back. I was expelled from Christian school two weeks from the end of the school year, but this is another story.

The shit hit the fan. All the love I thought I had and known felt like a lie.

I was given a choice.

“You can stay here and be grounded for two weeks or you can go back and live with your mother.”

I was scared to return to my mom’s house. She had recently left New York State. She had moved to Virginia. She was still married to Satan. I was not a fan of Satan.

There was a lot at stake; I knew this. I cut my losses and told them I was moving.

I knew I was older. I thought I could handle Satan at this point in my life. I packed my bags and moved to Virginia, but this is another story…

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

College round 3- VICTORY!!

college

Anyone who has ever lost a job knows that it is a slight blow to one’s ego, one’s pride. In 2012, I was ‘restructured’ out of my job. Looking back I can honestly say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me; for it forced me to dig deep.

I worked as an administrative assistant for a local company. I can honestly say that I liked my work, but didn’t particularly care for the majority of the people or the cut-throat attitudes that were seen across the departments.

They claimed from the beginning that it was a family oriented workplace. I am quite sure that we held different ideals of what ‘family’ is.

They claimed that they were a ‘fair’ company. There were many rules; many rules that only certain individuals had to follow. The rules did not apply to everyone; only those that would not conform to their way of thinking.

I had a hard time playing their games.

It may appear that I come across as a scorned ‘restructured-out-of-a-job-employee’ but honestly, I am not.

I was actually advised by one higher-up to start documenting; to take videos and/or pictures.

Discrimination runs wild within that work place, although they claim the opposite.

I considered hiring an attorney as suggested by a supervisor, but after much consideration I chose my battles.

I knew I wanted more than that 9-5; I knew that deep down. I did not know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted more.

I remember the anxiety when I felt it coming. They tried to hide it. I remember all of the closed door meetings.

My intuition has been proved correct many times; a gift or a curse, I haven’t decided yet.

I remember talking to my friend; a coworker. I told her they were going to fire me. She thought I was over-reacting.

I wasn’t.

Apparently it is custom to let people go on Friday’s. I believe it was Tuesday or Wednesday. I walked into my supervisor’s supervisors’ office and I closed the door.

I took a risk in the event that my intuition was wrong.

I told him that I did not want to wait until Friday.

“I know you are going to let me go. I ask that you do it now. Give me that. Don’t make me walk the guillotine.”

Within an hour, I was in the HR office. They called it ‘restructuring’.

I called it saving face.

It is what it is.

The first few weeks that I was jobless, I went through the usual self-pity; woe is me. I believe this is par for the course, but there is a time limit on this; a time limit on self-pity before it throws you into despair. I knew this.

This obstacle became one of the best things that has ever happened to me because as I said earlier it forced me to reflect on myself.

I had a lengthy talk with my husband. He suggested I go back to college. I thought about statistics. I dreaded statistics.

He suggested I follow my heart and my dreams. He gave me the freedom to fly.

I enrolled in SUNY Empire Distance Learning and majored in Human Services. I was going to attempt to get my Bachelors of Science.

When I majored in Human Services, I never expected to learn so much about myself; this is honest. I was able to choose many of my own classes in this field and honestly, some of the classes were difficult from a personal standpoint: Grief & Loss, Human Development, Attachment, etc. I wanted to learn and understand the world around me and the people within it. What I didn’t expect was to learn about myself along the way; my life, my choices and everything in between.

I also procrastinated with Statistics. It was still a degree requirement that I could not avoid.

I hated that!!

I put off Stats until the final semester; the final semester that I took extra classes in order to finish early.

That semester my husband was in a bad car accident. It brought back a lot of fear of accidents (read ‘The Fork in the Road’). It was slightly challenging from an emotional standpoint.

Honestly, I was lost in Stats about the 2nd chapter in. I knew I needed help and yet, I didn’t want to ask for help.

There comes a point in life when you realize you have to ask for help. If you negate this than I would probably think you are in denial; for no one can do everything ‘well’ on their own.

I received an extension from my professor.

There were times when I cried out of sheer frustration. I knew I needed this class in order to graduate.

Maybe I should be completely honest….

My cousin is married to a previous Statistics professor. I spoke to him about doing the work for me and paying him.

I had a conversation with my oldest son in the kitchen one night about this after he heard my proposal.

He said, “Mom, I know you think you can’t do this, but you can. I know you can. And I know you. If you go down this path, you will never feel good about it. You need to dig deep and do it yourself. You can do it.”

I didn’t sleep well that night.

Deep down, I knew he was so right.

It was about integrity.

I wanted integrity.

I respect integrity.

I needed integrity.

I called my cousin the following day. I told her nevermind.

Come hell or high water I would figure out a way to do this; with integrity.

I called the college and got a tutor. The tutor didn’t work fast enough to meet my extension deadline. It was the only class needed to obtain my Bachelors.

There was a point when I got so frustrated that I considered just giving up. I remember sitting in my computer room and putting my head down on the desk and sobbing. I was so frustrated. I hated statistics more than anything. It was such a challenge.

I wanted a cheerleading team, but nobody understood how deep the statistics challenge ran with me.

We can have encouragers and cheerleaders throughout many times of our trials, but there comes a point when we have to stand up and do it for ourselves; this is honest and this is real. Perhaps not what we want to hear, but it is truth.

I knew that deep down; this one was up to me.

I needed to dig deep, very deep. I needed to get over my fear. I needed to overcome statistics and everything it represented in my life from birth.

A child of divorce…..

A child that grows up in an abusive home…

A child that is taught fear and condemnation of God….

A child that is molested…

A child that is raped…

A woman that married into abuse…

A widow of four small children….

A blended family….

The list goes on…

Statistics ticked me off. I hated stats! I wanted so badly to break away from the statistics.

I did not want to be in the negative.

I did not want my past to dictate my future.

I dug deep; very deep.

I stayed up late working on stats. I Googled how-to’s. I paid money for an online tutor because my SUNY Empire tutor could only meet with me once a week.

I needed to propel. I needed to climb out of being stuck. I found a quote that self-encouraged.

I needed this.

No one could do this for me; I knew this.

Deep down, I knew this.

There just comes a point in your life when it is all up to you. Where you can no longer stay stuck in the past unless you are willing to let it eat you up and throw you into a padded cell. I never wanted that; for I am a survivor.

I am a thriver.

I have had many times in my life when I realized this and yet statistics was such a challenge.

Many tears were shed for this class.

There came a point when my instructor told me that I had a ‘B’ without the final.

I remember thinking, “Holy Cow, a ‘B’, I can take that.”

And yet, I thought why not try to do the final project?

What if I kicked its ass?

What if I got an ‘A’ in the most challenging class of my life?

I dug deeper.

I completed the final project and the professor sent me a message.

“Your final grade is 91 or A-. Go drink your champagne. I am going to submit your grade.”

Climbing mountains throughout life is often challenging. But climbing personal mountains that other people cannot/do not understand is even bigger. It’s pretty cool when other people amaze you, but when you amaze yourself and you push yourself to succeed at something that runs deep, well that’s pretty damn awesome!

I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Human Services in the spring of this year (2014).

I faced every fear. I faced every laugh head on. I faced my own self-doubt.

I DID IT!!

I wanted encouragement. I needed encouragement. But at the end of the day, I had to do it myself.

It was all up to me; and to do it with integrity.

I DID IT!!

And you know what else I did?

I figured out what I wanted to do along the journey. Perhaps my life experiences were not all about me..

Perhaps it was to give me understanding or empathy to others.

I’m not sure.

I knew I wanted to keep going. Originally I wanted to go for my Masters in Social Work, but the more I looked into it, the more I knew I wanted a different avenue.

I love the idea of limitations.

Because honestly, who decides where the limitations are?

I love the idea of exceeding the impossible.

We all have our own interpretation of ‘impossible’.

Statistics was mine and it was very personal.

Some may understand this.

Some may not.

The thing is, you never know… you have to come to a place in your life where you have to evaluate your own limitations. You have to think who placed the limitations on you?

Yourself?

Others?

Society?

I graduated college this spring and I applied to graduate school, but this is another story…..

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

He came to steal, kill and destroy….

satan-300x221

I was taught religion early on. I learned about Satan. He came to steal, kill and destroy. I have heard many fire and brimstone sermons on Satan throughout my life. But honestly, I had a clear visual of what he looked like; I met him when I was young.

I lived in a yellow house when I was born. My father and grandfather built the yellow house. It was the first house that I lived in. I lived there about 5 years.  

I remember the creeks.

There was a creek next to my yellow house. My neighbors on the other side of the creek had 2 or 3 little girls my age. I played with them from time to time. I remember running over the little bridge to play with them.

There was another creek close to my house. It was on the way to Grandma and Papa’s house. I remember walking over to their house often.

There was a big rock on the edge of that creek. I remember sitting on that rock a lot when I was little. The rock was strong and did not budge. I remember sitting on my big rock and watching the peaceful water flow by me. 

When my parents separated, I lost the yellow house with the magical creeks.

My mother moved into an apartment.

My father moved into an apartment.

Separate apartments.

Life got very complicated when I lost my yellow house. I was very young and I was very confused.

My mom’s boyfriend moved in the apartment next door to hers. That was very difficult.

From the beginning,

I did not like him. He was well aware of this.

He did not like me either. I was well aware of this.

He was not a nice man. Although he pretended to be nice when my mom was around, but the minute she left, he was Satan.

My first memory of him was putting my brother and me on the school bus. I believe I was five.

I told him I hated him.

He swore all the time. He swore at me a lot. In the beginning, he only did this when my mother was not around. It took him a while before he did this in front of her.

I was a “stupid fucking little bitch with a big mouth” from the time I was 5; according to him.

I never knew what hate was until I met him. He was very good at hate. He was a teacher of hate.

It was early morning. My mom left for work. She chose him to put us on the school bus. He was in our apartment. He called me a stupid little bitch. I had never been called a stupid little bitch. I looked right at him and I was honest with him.

“I hate you!”

I remember he grabbed me. He said something about my mouth; like he was one to talk. He put soap in my little mouth. I remember I did not let him see me cry. I remember I wanted to rinse out my mouth. I knew the bus was coming. He refused to let me spit. I held the soapy spit in my mouth until the bus came. He stood there and made sure I got on the bus without spitting. I refused to cry. I would not let him have my tears. I got on the bus and spit on the bus floor; then I cried. It was the beginning of my hell.

I wish I could say that my mom noticed that he was Satan and she broke up with him, but she did not notice; she married him instead.

I hated that they forced me to call him ‘Dad’ once they were married. He was not a ‘Dad’ to anyone – ever.

We moved shortly after they were married. It was in the next town over from where I had lived.

I only have a few memories from the house in the next town over.

We had a dog. There was a basement with stairs leading up to the house. I remember when he kicked the dog. He kicked her like she was a football. She went flying down the basement stairs. She cried a long time. I cried too; as I hid in my closet.

By the time I made it to third grade, they had bought a house back in my home town. There are a lot of bad memories from this house.

He rarely worked so my mom worked three jobs at times just to scrape by. I rarely saw her. When she was home, she was tired. She was tired a lot. I remember desperately hoping she wouldn’t take a nap when she came home from work.

I wanted her to save me.

I wanted her to notice.

Maybe if she was home…

Maybe if she wasn’t tired…

Maybe then she would see who he really was; how he really was.

He didn’t have a lot of friends. I only remember one.

His one friend was just as evil as he was. I remember him visiting one day. I was about 12. I was just starting to go through puberty. I remember him laughing at me. I remember him laughing and telling me to parade around the table. They were talking about my body; my ‘mosquito bites’. I refused to walk around the table, but that didn’t stop either one of them from talking about my developing body.

From the time I was around 5 until the time I was around 13, I lived with this abuse. There was a lot of abuse; a lot of abuse that nobody noticed.

He was very good at hiding it and he was very good at not letting me have alone time with my mom. He was afraid I would tell on him. He was always threatening me about telling her. He made sure I never got an opportunity.

The thing is I know why he hated me. I pushed him. I dared him to try me. He knew this. I wanted nothing more than to get him out of our lives for good. I tried very hard, but he never crossed the line far enough with me. I never had enough ammunition to get rid of him. And honestly it wasn’t my choice. I finally realized this; this is when I left.

I couldn’t live with it anymore. I was getting older and I was getting bolder. If nobody was going to notice, then I would leave. I told my mom I wanted to go live with my dad; my real dad. I just could not live with the Crazy anymore.

It was very hard to tell her that I couldn’t live there anymore. I don’t think she understood just how crazy it was when she wasn’t home. Honestly, by the time I left, I don’t think I even tried to explain. I just wanted out. I wanted to run far, far away and never look back.

My last altercation with him was when I returned to my mom’s house at 15, but that is another story….

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I came home to New York for the final time; for a maybe.

wedding

I gave up believing in the perfect person years ago. It was a complex lesson, but it was a much needed lesson.

And at the end of this lesson, I understood what unconditional love really meant.

I came back to New York for a ‘maybe’.

This is my ‘maybe’ story.

According to text books, I should not have moved to Louisiana after the death of my first husband, Eric.

I don’t always choose to follow text books recommendations.

Sometimes I follow my heart. It is a path that not all understand.

We shared a lot of stories long distance. I spoke to him on the phone from time to time. We were good friends.

He knew Eric had died. He knew I had to leave.

I remember the day he called me and told me he was coming to visit me.

“I think I’m gonna come visit you.”

I laughed and said, “Okay, come on down. I will take you to New Orleans. It’s not that far.”

Honestly, when he told me he was coming down; I imagined he may actually come in about six months. It wasn’t like him to jump on a plane and come half way across the country to see a woman on a whim. He is a practical man; most of the time.

His next words surprised me. I remember being surprised.

He told me he would be coming down in a few days. I had no idea he had already purchased tickets. I was shocked, but I was excited.

I picked him up at the airport in New Orleans. We talked a lot. He worked on my bathroom. I remember him helping me install a new floor.

I had known Aaron all my life. I knew his story. We had graduated together years before; a whopping graduating class of 16.  We had some history; not much, but some.

I had seen him casually that fall of 2000.

Neither of us wanted commitment. Neither of us wanted much from each other. I was waiting for a miracle. I think he was too.

I remember the moment. It shocked me.

He tackled me; laughing. He hugged me and said, “How does Christine [insert his last name here] sound?”

It was a game changer.

I remember I got upset at first. I sat up. I told him that wasn’t something to joke about. An impromptu proposal wasn’t a joking matter; not at this point in my journey. There was a lot involved with that idea.

I asked him if he was serious.

He said “Maybe…..”

I remember taking him back to New Orleans to catch his flight back to New York. We spent a few days there. We had a lot of fun walking around that old city.

He constantly kept asking me what time it was.  He had his watch off. It was lying in the console of the car. We were driving around; wasting the last of our hours together.

Perhaps it was my learned obsession with clock watching, but I did the opposite that day.

I threw his watch out the window; on the streets of New Orleans.

Time stopped.

He laughed. He called me crazy and he held my hand.

His missed his flight that day.

We went back to my house. We tried to figure out what came next.

I remembered his ‘maybe’.

We had a long talk about the future. I was not comfortable moving my children halfway across the country for a ‘maybe’. It was a huge risk for a lot of people that were involved.

He told me that he couldn’t commit at that moment to forever. He told me he had come to Louisiana to know for sure. He wanted to take our relationship to the next level; we both agreed on this, but there was also honesty; and a maybe. I have always loved his honesty.

I sold my house to friends quickly. He helped me pack. We got a Ryder truck. Things came along easier and faster than either he or I anticipated, at first.

Within a few days, Aaron and I embarked on a cross country road trip with my four children.

I came home to New York for the final time; for a maybe.

There are a lot of memories from this road trip. There were bad storms.

I remember the tornados. We saw the funnel clouds form as we drove down that interstate.

He drove the Ryder truck. I followed him in my car.

I remember thinking I was nuts.

Who does this? Who drives across country with four children for a ‘maybe’ through tornadoes?

I did. So did he.

I called him on my cell at one point. The emergency broadcast system was on every single radio station. I couldn’t escape it. My fear was running rapid.  I begged him to stop.

I remember all of the cars under the overpasses. I remember the fear.

Things flew in the air. A huge chunk of wood hit the Ryder. We pulled over for a while.

We made it through that storm, but it wasn’t the only challenge.

We stopped at a gas station to fill up. I drove over one of those little holes where they put the gasoline in storage underground. It caught on my exhaust system. Almost six feet of pipe came off from the under-rear of my car. It is the only time I drove a Harley.

We made it to New York within a few days.

I wouldn’t classify it as easy. He doesn’t either.

He told me from the get-go. He told me he wasn’t sure. He told me he needed to know for sure. This is why I chose to give it a trial run; this is why I chose to come home for a ‘maybe’.

I understood his point of view. I had a lot of weight on my shoulders – we both knew this. It was a big decision; a huge commitment.

About a year later, he proposed.

We have been married over ten years now. It wasn’t perfect. It was challenging at times. We both made mistakes. We have had struggles. We separated twice.

The first time was when I lost Christa (She was my step-mother).  She died of a rare terminal disease. She was not supposed to die. I did not believe she would die.

Emotionally, I fell off a cliff with that loss. It threw me into a tailspin. I questioned every value I had, every value I had been taught. I questioned faith. I questioned life. I questioned myself.

We separated again mutually a few years later. We thought we were just too different.

It never worked though; our separations. There was a night that he had come over late at night; one of many. I remember the words.

“What are we doing?”

I really wanted to believe in him. I wanted him to be perfect. I wanted him to magically restore my belief in love.

I held a high bar. I set the bar too high honestly.

I was afraid of being hurt. All he wanted was to love me and be loved in return.

Truth is, there is no such thing as perfect. Even the most ‘perfect’ love hurts sometimes; I believe this. I realized that somewhere along the way. I took down the bar. I loved him. He loved me in return.

It hasn’t always been an easy road; for telling you that would be lying. But I can say that it has been all worth it. He is not perfect. Neither am I. But our love is imperfectly ‘perfect’.

Sometimes, “Maybe” is worth the risk…..

 

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

College; round two…..

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Quitting college and moving back to a small town is almost worse than not going to college at all. I was very aware of the talk. Boy, can small towns talk. This is a con of small town living.

I was surprised to learn that many of my classmates didn’t end up going to college after all. A few did. Some had returned shortly after leaving; as I did.

I wasn’t sure what to do when I returned. I became trained as a CNA. I got a job at a nursing home.

It was not my cup of tea.

I am thankful that we all have strengths in different areas; for this is not one of my strengths. I had no idea how much more I would grow to hate nursing homes through the course of my life, but that is a combination of other stories.

I saw a different part of life working there. This wasn’t my first job at a nursing home, but it was my first working directly with the patients. I think I was there about a year before I quit.

I quit soon after having to body bag an elderly woman that had died.

It took me a long time to make it back to college.

I wanted to go after I had gotten discharged from the military. My first husband initially laughed at my proposal. When he realized I was serious, he became very angry. He told me, “Over my dead body”.  It became a fight.

I wondered later on, through the years, what he was afraid of. I wondered why he was afraid of letting me fly. I resented him for trying to cage me.

Honestly, I didn’t fight too hard though. I had a full plate and I was well aware of that.

You see, life didn’t just stop when I quit college. Life became very full.

In that space between college attempt one and college attempt two, there had been a lot of life.

College wasn’t priority. Life became priority.

I made it back to college when my youngest started school.

I had made my last cross country trip back to New York a few years prior. I chose to come back for a ‘maybe’. This is another story.

I enrolled in my local community college part time; less than a week before the start of classes.

It was very humbling returning to college the second time. I baby-stepped.  I changed my major a few times. I tried to find my niche. I wanted to find my niche. I have always wanted to be a good mom; to have a good marriage. That took precedence in my life; the most valued. It is not all that I wanted though.

My final choice in majors was Human Services.

I attended a satellite campus of my local community college. I chose this avenue. I knew I was baby-stepping. I was comfortable with this choice.

While it is difficult to be the non-traditional, returning to college, adult student; I remember feeling relieved that I was not alone. There were others there. A few remain good friends of mine; even today.

It wasn’t always easy. There were some challenges along the way. There was a lot of pressure from society and some family to just ‘get it done’.

It wasn’t that easy.

I understand many do not get this philosophy. We all walk in our own shoes. This was my walk; my shoes.

Honestly, looking back it was an uphill battle trying to finish something I started twenty some years before.

There were some setbacks.

One of my mothers had died in this time; I had been blessed to have two. That was beyond a challenge; I had a strong attachment to her. I withdrew from all classes when she died. I returned the following semester.

My brother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in this time. After his surgery, he ended up contracting meningitis. He almost died from meningitis. I had made a few trips to Virginia to see him. I was so scared that it would be the last time.

My oldest child had a severe snowboarding accident. He had gone with the school ski club. I was not with him. We had gotten the call. It was serious. He had ruptured his spleen. They wanted to operate immediately. I had him transferred to a children’s hospital. He was in ICU for a while. He remained in the children’s hospital for a little over a week. It was beyond scary.

There were other challenges as well.

I remember the day one of my children broke down crying in the cafeteria because his elementary teacher mentioned his father.

I remember choosing to hold back one of my children in kindergarten because he needed extra time.

I remember the challenges of the blended family. There were a lot and it wasn’t always easy. I didn’t always know what to do and I made some mistakes.

Statistics was a major challenge. If you have been following along in my writing, you may have noticed mention of ‘statistics’.

I have been aware of statistics since a young age. I hated the statistics. I hated being placed in statistics. I hated seeing myself in those numbers. I hated when people brought up statistics. It was always in a negative manner. It was always a limitation. The layman never looks beyond statistics. I knew that my hatred of statistics ran deeper than the numbers.

Statistics was part of my degree requirement. I was not happy about that. I tried twice. The first time I attempted was the semester that one of my mothers had died. My stats professor had died too; of cancer. I withdrew that semester.

The second time I attempted I think it was online. I was confused and frustrated. I hated statistics. I withdrew again.

It took me about four years to get through a two year school. I never did get my Associates degree because I lacked statistics.

I put it on the back burner and did what everyone else does; I got a job….

 

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

College; round one……………

EUP_Sign

I went to college right after high school. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.

I remember my senior year I had a fascinating history teacher. He really engaged with us. He was unconventional. Most of us loved him. He sat on his desk one day and asked us where we were going; what we wanted in life. We all went around the room and engaged in this conversation.

I remember some of the other answers.

“I want to go to the Art Institute of Pennsylvania”

“I want to be a Marine Biologist”

My response to his question brought laughter that day.

I was honest and what I saw as success, didn’t necessarily fit with other views.

“I want to be a good mom. I want a successful marriage. I want to be happy.”

I had gotten a recommendation from my high school principal. Many didn’t like her; although, I respected her.

I remember the day she called me into her office and we talked about what I wanted to do after high school. I told her I was thinking about elementary education. She suggested her alma mater; Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. I remember telling her I would consider it.

I only remember visiting two colleges total.

I visited SUNY Fredonia with a friend of mine. I visited Edinboro University with my Dad, Stepmom and baby sister.

I don’t remember the visit to SUNY Fredonia, but I do remember the visit to Edinboro.

It really wasn’t that far away from where I grew up; only about 2 ½ hours away. I loved that campus from the moment I got there.

I remember some guys yelling out the window as we were all walking by. I think they yelled something like, “Don’t pick this one; it’s too much fun.” I remember Dad said, “Oh, great”.

I chose Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and majored in Elementary Education. I left for Pennsylvania the fall of ’91.

I loved some of the classes. I had a psychology class. I remember the professor was lecturing about illusions.

I remember thinking he was a quack; and yet, I was intrigued. I asked a lot of questions. I debated. I engaged.

I remember another class too. I remember learning about state testing. I remember I didn’t see eye to eye with that professor or the material.

Biology was first thing in the morning. It was a double whammy!

8 a.m. AND a science class.

Science bored me to death. Science reminded me of dirty toenails and dry conversation. No sense of humor with science. I wasn’t a fan of science at 19 years of age.

I loved the dorms; although I hated how little the rooms were.

The first day I got there, I had gone door to door and suggested we all meet each other. I remember the number of girls inside that hallway increased until we were all standing in the hall talking.

I remember my first roommate. I didn’t stay in the same room with her long because I asked for a room re-assignment. It is something that has always weighed heavy on my heart.

I wish I had given her a chance.

I wish I had not been uncomfortable with people that were different than me.

This is regret.

This is an ‘I wish I would’ve done something different’.

I didn’t dwell on it, but I tried to learn from it.

Acknowledging and understanding regrets in some ways symbolizes growth to me.

It breaks cycles. It breaks patterns. It breaks statistics.

It may not be the only way, but it is one way. A lesson too many learn, too late in life. And sadly, some never learn.

I wish I had given it a chance to room with her.

I will always wonder what it would have been like.

Did we have to look the same to get along? Did we have to dress the same?

I wish I had given her a chance.

I moved in with my new roommate shortly after arriving at Edinboro. Our room was two doors down and across the hall from my old roommate.

My new roommate was a lot of fun. She knew a lot of people at Edinboro.

She wanted me to go with her to the frat parties. I went a few times. After a few visits, the ‘brothers’ asked us to be their ‘little sisters’. There were a few girls on our floor that had begun the process.

There were a lot of parties at the frat house. I wasn’t really a fan.

The initiation scared me and honestly, I wasn’t willing to get that drunk. I knew there could be consequences that I wasn’t willing to let happen to me again.

I said no. She said yes.

She got very involved with that fraternity and she was gone a lot at night. I met a quiet, funny guy from the same floor, but different wing of our dorm. I don’t remember his name, but I remember his nickname; Ski. He loved to ski.

I hung out with him a lot while I was there at Edinboro.

I remember skipping class to play Tetris with him. I loved that game and it was so much more interesting than Biology in a lecture hall with 300 kids at 8 a.m. in the morning.

At one point our relationship seemed to become semi-serious; at least to him. He spoke of the future. I broke up with him.

Friends of ours got very upset with me for breaking up with him.

Around this time, it was mid-terms of the first semester. I had missed my Biology mid-term because I over-slept the first time. I had called the professor personally and asked for a re-take. He was gracious and offered me a re-take exam. I missed that one too.

There was a lot of freedom of choice at Edinboro. I didn’t always make good choices.

After I missed my make-up exam, I started to question if I wanted to be a teacher. I started to question if I wanted to be there.

I knew I didn’t want to call my Dad and tell him. He had laughed at me when I told him I wanted to go to college the first time. Calling him and telling him would make his laughter mean something. I avoided him instead.

I called my Mom. I told her I wanted to come there for a while until I figured it out.

Honestly, I don’t remember how I got from Pennsylvania to Virginia. I think my Mom may have picked me up.

I didn’t stay at Mom’s house too long. My Dad found out before I figured it out. It didn’t go over too well. He got very angry at me.

He had called my dorm room and asked my roommate to speak to me. The first few times he called, she lied for me and told him I wasn’t available. Eventually, he figured it out.

He called Mom. He found me. I remember questioning him why he was so angry when he had laughed when I told him I wanted to go to college.

“I’m not angry that you quit college. I’m angry that you didn’t tell me yourself.”

I had called a friend of mine back home in New York. I remember she sent her brother and one of our friends to pick me up in Virginia to bring me back to New York. There was no reason to avoid New York anymore; Dad was aware that I had quit. I stopped running. I knew I could go back to New York and figure it out.

Quitting college the first time is one of my regrets.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I remember the pressure. I hated the feeling of letting people down. I remember I thought of my Principle. I never saw her again. I was sad that I had let her down; she had really believed in me.

I felt like I had let a lot of people down, but mostly myself. I needed to figure out where I was going, what I wanted and who I was.

It took me a long time to make it back to college….

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

She looked like Punky Brewster…

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I often remember where I was in life by the number of children that I had at that present time. At the time when I had two children, I was young. I had gotten married at 19 and had my first child by 21. The second one came 16 months later.

At that time we had returned to Louisiana (two children and I), I had chosen to return to Eric. We had just been separated for 9 months; the longest up to that point.

Life felt good. Life felt normal. It was a very happy time in my life; in our lives.

We lived in a small two bedroom house located in New Iberia, Louisiana. It wasn’t much, but I liked it. It had a small front porch. It had an old, swinging door between the kitchen and the living room. It was in an old section of the city.

Although, I hated the railroad tracks behind the house. They were so close; and I had toddlers. I remember the day that a horrible smell came from the railroad tracks. Eric investigated. It was a cat. Someone had tied a cat to the railroad tracks. Eric had a weak stomach. I heard him gag. I heard him throw up. He untied the cat and buried it.

There were things that occurred there in that city that I didn’t always understand.

Our little house was behind another house. There was a house across from ours; also behind a house. It was slightly crowded.

Our neighbors across from us were a young couple. They were very young. I remember her son. He couldn’t walk. He crawled; I think with his elbows. He got yelled at a lot. I remember hearing them screaming at him. It always broke my heart.

They had a lot of friends over; often. One of those days that they had friends over, I met one.

She became a friend of mine. She had three children. I remember one day she asked me to babysit her daughter while she visited my neighbor.

We had a blast. She was about six years old.

She looked like Punky Brewster. She had a lively spirit. She was sometimes a little fire cracker.

She made us laugh. We grew to love Punky; Eric, I, and the boys.

We took her for ice cream. We watched Disney movies with the boys and her. She spent the night with us from time to time. She became an extension of our family. We grew to love that little girl.

I remember the night she had a nightmare. When she spent the night, she camped out in the living room; on the couch. My bedroom was off the living room. I heard her screaming. I ran to where she was.

“Run Momma, Run!!”

I will never forget those words.

I remember trying to wake her gently. I wanted to tell her that this time, it was only a dream. I had never seen anyone have nightmares; not like this. It took her a while to wake up. I gave her a hug and a drink. She went back to sleep.

I knew then that there was more to her story. I knew there was more to her Momma’s story. I didn’t judge. I opened my heart.

We didn’t stay in that little house too long. I soon became pregnant for the third time. We had to move to a bigger house. We moved to Jeanerette, Louisiana. She visited us there too. We stayed in Louisiana for baby #3 and baby #4. Soon after the youngest was born; our journey took us back to New York. We said goodbye to Punky and her Mom.

Years passed and life happened within those years.

Around the time she was 15, she went through a lot of struggles. I understood this.

Her mom called me one day. I remember she was crying. I remember her telling me she didn’t know what to do. I respected her honesty. I had no idea what to do either.

She had run away. She was at a hotel. She had a male companion with her.

Her mom asked, “What do I do?”

I thought of Punky.

I remember I told her to go get her.

There was a lot of chaos within that time frame of her life; or what appeared to be chaos.

Punky got kicked out of school. She was made to attend ‘alternative’ school. She hated that school. She hated the way that school made her feel. She never said this; this is only what I believe.

She attempted suicide. I remember that phone call.

That was a cry for help. I remember feeling that very strongly.

I didn’t know why she had been brought into my life. I didn’t know why our paths had crossed, but I loved that little girl.

Not many people understood this. They couldn’t see past the chaos.

The path of my life had many curves and forks in the road, since the last time I had seen Punky. At the time of her attempted suicide, I had returned to New York. I had been married, separated, widowed and remarried.

My current husband did not know Punky. He had strong reservations regarding my proposal. I understood his concerns. I have always loved his honesty.

He was not close-minded though. He voiced his concerns and his reservations, but at the close of our discussion he chose to give Punky a chance. I love that he sees the color that others miss; for not everything is black & white.

I called her mom; my friend. I suggested a change of scenery. I suggested a new school; where nobody knew her name.

A place I hoped would give her a chance.

Her mom agreed to give it a try. She loved her enough to let her come to New York. I can imagine how difficult that was for her.

I spoke to Punky on the phone. I remember asking her what was going on. I remember she broke down crying. I remember asking her if she would like to come visit us and stay with us for a while. A change of scenery. She said yes.

We bought her plane ticket from Louisiana to New York. I remember when I picked her up at the airport.

She had crazy hair.

She didn’t look like Punky.

She looked like she had known a lot of life; the not-so-good parts of life.

She ran to me in the airport that day. She gave me a huge hug.

I saw Punky.

She was more than wild hair, alternative school attendee, and suicide attempts. I quickly learned that not everyone would see past that.

After settling in, she school-shopped. In our district, the adolescents have a choice of high schools. We live in a rural area and our local high school had closed years before.

I gave her this choice. She needed this choice.

After choosing her school, I went to our local school to have her enrolled.

I have to admit that nothing bothers me more than educated idiots. Perhaps that is a little rough, but I’m not sure how else to word it.

It was a man in charge of the rural school. Not that I have anything against men running rural schools; just educated idiots.

I remember going to his office. He thought he held a lot of power. He tried to assert his power; his authority.

I tried being polite at first.

I tried to negotiate.

It finally came down to a battle of belief.

A battle of hope.

A battle of seeing the color.

I won that one, but not without standing up to him.

He didn’t want to let her in. He tried to fight me on this.

He asked a lot of questions; I was okay with that. He was very condescending; I was not okay with that. He saw the world through lenses of black & white. There was not much color in his view.

He called me a dreamer. He called me naïve. He told me I couldn’t save them all. He brought up the statistics.

I got very angry.

“I’m not trying to save them all!! I’m just trying to give her a chance. Who are you to say whether she gets that chance? If you fight me on this, I will hire an attorney. (I couldn’t afford an attorney, but I didn’t tell him this) I will fight you on this one!” I said one more thing as I stood up.

“And one more thing!! She is more than a statistic!! Her name is Brittany!!”

He didn’t really like me. I didn’t really care.

I walked out of that office very irritated and ready to fight for those that needed someone to fight for them. I became her pitch hitter. I went to bat for her.

He made it difficult. He told me he wanted custody papers before he would allow her to go to school. Our school has to pay for each child that attends high school. They have to pay tuition for each child from 9th grade to 12th grade. He didn’t feel that she was worth the tuition.

Getting custody papers would be an uphill battle. I knew this. She was a non-relative adolescent that was sole custody of her mother; who resided in Louisiana. I wasn’t sure how this would go over.

I remember making phone calls to get advice on this. I didn’t know if legally I needed this. I needed to know more.

In the end, I received temporary custody through means of a letter that her mother had written and had gotten signed by a notary. It was enough to get her enrolled.

A lot of people thought I was crazy. I didn’t care.

I did what I felt was right.

I heard a lot of sarcasm. I didn’t care.

I heard a lot of doubt. I didn’t care.

I had no idea what to do with her. I had no idea how to help. I just followed my heart most of the time. I hoped that I was planting seeds.

She wanted to dance. I paid for her to take dance classes.

She wanted to cheerlead. I drove her to practice and bought her cheer shoes.

I loved her like my own. I set rules for her. I tried to wipe the slate clean and make New York a fresh start. But, I also gave her some room to grow. I gave her room to learn.

She blossomed.

It wasn’t all peaches and cream. She drove me nuts sometimes. I’m being honest. I hated when she tried to hide things from me. I felt she could be honest. I couldn’t understand why she just couldn’t be honest. It hurt sometimes. I later learned that she didn’t want to disappoint me. That broke my heart. And yet, it told me that she loved me in return.

She stayed with our family about a year and a half. I remember when she left.

It was a very difficult time for me.

She was going back to Louisiana for a visit. I think it was Spring Break. She had brought a friend with her to see Louisiana for the first time.

Her friend returned. She did not.

She never called me. She ignored my phone calls. She had chosen to stay in Louisiana. It took her months before she finally called me to tell me.

I was sad, but I let her go.

I didn’t see her again for years.

She did a lot of growing up in those years. She saw a lot of life. She knew a lot of life.

Years later, when she was older, she called me again. This time she asked me for help.

Circumstances had changed. Life had changed. Our kids were all teenagers at this time. She had three small children now.

I hesitated for a while. I remember this. My husband hesitated too.

In the end, we chose to open our home to her again.

This confused some.

This made some angry.

I remember some said that I didn’t have any business taking care of her when I had my own children to care for.

Some looked at only the money factor.

Some looked at her past choices.

One laughed and asked if I thought I was Mother Theresa. I laughed and mulled.

I’m not Catholic, but she was a wise woman; Mother Theresa. She understood love; perhaps more than most of us.

Some of my family relationships became strained by this choice. I know this. I am sorry that this happened. This was never my intention.

But, I believed in this one. I believed in her. I saw something in her that often she didn’t see herself; that many did not see.

We held a family meeting before we moved forward. It was important that the children understood all that this would entail.

It would not be like last time. She was older now. With her, now came three small children; three small children that had already seen more in their short life than most. It wasn’t going to be easy. This I knew.

It was much more complicated; second time around. Second chances often are; aren’t they?

I have another story about her second time in New York, but I will save that for another day.

A few weeks ago, she sent me a message. “U saved my life”.

I remember thinking I wasn’t good enough to save her life. And yet, I wasn’t really trying to save her life; I didn’t know how. I just wanted to give her a chance.

There were times when I had no idea what to do or how to handle situations. There was a lot of complexity. I doubted myself a lot and my seed planting. But I also gave it everything I had. I let her go when she needed to go. I listened to her when she needed to talk. And I don’t know.. I just loved her; the best I could….

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.