If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come…

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If there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that life is gonna knock you down. And sometimes it will kick you while you’re there. 

It doesn’t care about your race, gender, educational level, or the amount of money in your bank account.

It doesn’t care if you come from a dysfunctional home or a “healthy” home. It doesn’t care if you have a support network or you’re all alone. It doesn’t care if you have protective factors or already present stressors. It doesn’t care if you have time for it or whether you’re prepared for it.

If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come.

I have been called upon many times throughout the last few years. A common theme in the questions I hear is ‘what did you do when life knocked you down?’ or ‘how did you get back up?’

The short answer… I figured it out.

The long answer…depends on what the knock felt like.

Part of my resolve is my personality. I am a fighter, but one word cannot describe me. I am also a seeker. I have sought answers, mentors, wisdom, a hand to hold, a comforting or encouraging word – but if I find none, or it’s not enough, I look within.

I’m a reflector. A muller. A dissector.

I know myself well, though I’m continuously learning more. I don’t think that’s a process that ever stops – nor should it.

I know that I’ve been knocked down hard throughout life. And yes, there were times that I contributed to that fall. I’m not too proud to own that.

I don’t like being knocked down, though does anyone? I doubt it.

I do enjoy the journey though… not necessarily the falls, but the walk and especially the rise. That initial feeling you get when you look back over your shoulder and think, “Holy crap. I did it!”.

 And I want to keep walking because if there is one thing I know for sure…this life truly is a gift and despite the challenges and falls, I’m gonna keep walking. There are some beautiful moments along the way.

I’ve never lost that.

Throughout all the times I’ve fallen, I have gotten up.

I didn’t always jump up. Trust me. There were times I resembled a newborn calf trying to get to their feet – all wobbly and shaky. Again…depends on how hard the knock was and what it felt like.

And I’ve used many different tools in assistance – I haven’t always been able to get up with the help of my own knees straightening.

There were outstretched hands along the way. There were encouraging words (in print and spoken). There were hugs. There were listening ears. There were even challenging words that motivated me (in print and spoken).

There were times that I felt all alone and had none of the above.  There were times that those things were not enough… those times were not about what I had, but about what I needed to understand about myself. Those times I looked within. I learned to know me better.

Maybe being knocked down is about learning who you are…learning to know yourself better. It’s not always easy, I’ll give anyone that, but I’d argue it’s worth it. There is an opportunity in every knock and every fall throughout life. Perhaps recognizing and embracing that opportunity is also a part of it.

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.

HAVE YOU NO COUTH? …

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“Hello?”

I was worn out; physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. It was a rough 6 months…hell it was a rough year.

“Christine, I just heard he died…Oh my God…Oh my God…” she wailed into the phone.

When I realized who it was, I wanted to scream,

“HAVE YOU NO COUTH? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

I wanted to unload on her. I wanted to put her in her place and tell her where to stick it. I wanted to tell her I never wanted to speak to her again.

I said none of that.

“Yes. He died.”

“How? What happened?” she asked through tears.

I gave her the blunt details as I thought about her last call to me a few months prior.

She had called me a few months prior, though I never did find out how she got a hold of my phone number. She was angry. He had hurt her and she wanted to get even. He left her; hooked up with one of her friends and went to Louisiana with her looking for work. I wondered if she was surprised, but I never asked. I knew she was hurting. She offered to help me. The irony of the situation was almost more than I could bare. I declined her “assistance”.

“It was quick Rachel. He didn’t suffer…” I went on to briefly explain what happened.

I gave her the facts. I knew she needed closure.

I hated being put in this position. I hated that she had called me. I hated that I had to be the one to tell her and that she didn’t think twice about calling me. I guess people only know what they know and to a degree, I knew where she was at and I tried to meet her there. It wasn’t easy I can assure you.

I took control of that conversation and ended it as soon as the details were covered. I was not interested in forming a comradery with her.

It was the 2nd phone call from her, but it wasn’t the last. She called me a few weeks later. She wanted to know about a necklace she had given him.

“Yes, I know what you’re referring to. It was given to me with his belongings after he died. He must have liked the necklace; he was wearing it when he died. His blood is on it.”

She gasped. I gave more than I should’ve and I knew it. I predicted her next words and I knew my response before I uttered them.

“Can I have it back?”

“No, I’m sorry, you cannot.”

She got angry with me. She told me she had his wetsuit and all his dive equipment. She threatened to sell it with justification of how much he ‘owed’ her.

“Rachel, you do whatever you need to do because in the end, we all do, don’t we? I’m not giving you the necklace and you can sell his equipment if it brings you a dollar and makes you feel better. That choice is yours.”

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.

Live a good life: An open letter to my oldest son…

An open letter to my oldest son Jonathon…

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You called me the other night and forewarned me, “Mom, this is deep, but important and I want an answer”.

I heard you out and finally responded, “I will get back to you on that”.

Roughly a half an hour after hanging up the phone with you, I received your text, “Don’t forget!”

Remember what you said?

Remember how you justified it?

A few months ago you said, “Why would God give me this mind if he knew I was gonna question. I’m probably not a good follower because I question too much. But didn’t He know I was gonna be like this?”

You know how I sometimes grab my phone and start typing in the middle of conversations? It’s usually because I’m making a note and quoting words that I hear because they hit me profoundly and I want to remember them. I want to think about them later, long after the moment has passed. I made note of that remark.

First off Jono, you don’t need justification for wondering about the things you wonder about.

One thing we definitely agree on is that it is curiosity serves as a catalyst for searching for knowledge, understanding, learning, and wisdom. The greatest of these is wisdom. I will leave it up to you to figure out the difference and why that is the most important.

I know that you have thought about death from a young age and all that it entails. I think most of your siblings have experienced this as well. As I believe that the majority of individuals who experience death of a loved one start to grapple with the concept… what it means to live, die, and all the stuff in between.

You never needed to justify your question to me. I know you well.

WHEN YOU DIE MOM, I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO LIVE OUR LIVES. AND IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IF WE ARE HONEST. AND HOPEFULLY YOU DIE BEFORE US, BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE WOULD BE TRAGIC FOR YOU AND AGAINST THE NATURE OF HOW THINGS SHOULD WORK. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO REMEMBER YOU. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU DEFINE A GOOD LIFE. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO CARRY ON WITHOUT YOU.

First off, Aaron knows this part, but maybe you should be aware as well. If given a choice, I want to be buried in the back yard. If the back yard doesn’t suffice due to obstacles – find me a field, close to a river bank, or babbling brook – someplace weeping willows thrive. Do not spend money on a cemetery plot – that’s just plain weird to me and I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery full of people I never knew.  Having experiences with funerals, NO ONE is to buy me a $7,000 casket. I don’t care how pretty it is. I want you all to gather together and build me a pine box. It will give you all a chance to laugh, grieve, and work together as a team processing through stuff together. What you do with it and how you all make it, is up to you guys. Flowers can be picked from a field. Plant a willow tree over me. Years later, when the willow is strong, hang a swing, build a tree house, or do both. Don’t forget the hammock.

I want music – all the music that drove you guys nuts while growing up that reminds you of me that you begged me “Not this again”.  Let it be, Roll me away, I need a hero (you will all laugh remembering me yelling ‘Wooo” at just the right moment), Tiny Dancer, Lose Yourself, Runaway Train, etc.

I want food. Lots of good food – no chicken!

And at the end, I want you to blow off fireworks (if available). There’s just something about fireworks that I have always loved. They remind me that I am alive. They bring awe to me. I want you guys to remember that you still are here and to see the beauty in the darkness. I really want fireworks – just make sure you warn the neighbors, in the event that one may be experiencing PTSD.

I want lots of stories, lots of laughter, lots of hugs (good hugs – not those crappy one-handed-so-called-hugs), sharing of memories from those you don’t know, and honest eulogies. God, do not put me on a pedestal. Be careful, because sometimes we do that when we lose those we love – I’ve not only done it, but have witnessed it occurring from others.

So how do I want you all to live your lives after I’m gone? The same way I want you to live your lives while I still breathe.

I want you to question things your taught, not defiantly, but critically thinking things through. Never feel stupid for asking what others say are silly questions. Ask whatever question you need in order to come to the answer you need. But, know that sometimes you can ask all the right questions, and there is no answer. There are some questions in life that you will never get answers to – or the answers that sit well with your heart. When that happens, learn to LET IT BE. There are just some things in life that we will never know answers to. Maybe it comes down to “I don’t know”. Maybe it comes down to faith. Maybe it comes down to acceptance. It may be a combination of factors, but regardless, you all have to be okay with unanswered questions, because they can and do happen throughout life.

Remember when you were little over at the house on Durfee? Remember when we were coloring? I told you when you color, you didn’t have to stay within the lines. You could color outside the lines and you could use any color you wanted, even if it didn’t make sense (i.e. pink elephants, blue flamingos). You were not limited. I want you to understand there is a time and place for coloring outside the lines. It was not a metaphor for going against all rules or lines set before you. It was a lesson that coloring was a time for flow. It was a place and time for you to lose yourself, while gaining yourself at the same time. It was art therapy and never, ever underestimate the value of it. Some do this by yoga, some by running, some by weight-lifting, some by hiking, some by boating, some by music, some by gardening, etc. The means differ, but the results are the same. There’s a mental balancing that occurs. Find your yoga… whatever that may be. You all will need this many times throughout life – life demands balance.

Evaluate your values. Every single one of them. Take an ethics class (you will struggle mentally, but it is so worth it)! This will help all of you really get to the nitty gritty and decipher the difference between ethics, moral, and values. Your values are things that not only I have taught you since you were little, but things that experiences taught you. Critically think and evaluate them. In order to stand for something, you need to understand why you’re standing. Also, remember your values can change or shift throughout life – they are not always set in stone.

When you find yourself selling out, remember your values, and back-track. It’s okay if you screw up, you are human and you are gonna falter, but recognize it, and remedy it – ASAP.

DON’T QUIT!

God, please don’t quit! Life can get very challenging, even down-right hard, do not quit. Get oxygen when you need it, but hang on and don’t you quit.

Understand what your meaning of success is. Personally, my meaning of success does not equate to society’s standard. I’m okay with that. You need to each figure out what success means to you and go for it. You do not need to defend it to others – just live your lives accordingly. Obviously, don’t be idiots with this and look for justification where there is none. Don’t hurt others for your own gratification, etc.

That brings me to the next thing… at the end of each of your lives, will you be able to say you learned through your mistakes? Will you be able to say I did better when I learned? Look up the poem “The Man in the Glass”. I gave it to someone once and it was one that made a big impact on me – around the time when I was where you are at – questioning my life and what it meant to live. At the end of every day, at the end of every mountain climb, at the end of our journeys, it all comes down to us. Every choice and decision we made – are we okay with our choices? If not, turn around, or side-step. Whatever you need to do… do it. Doesn’t matter if we had the perfect story or not, we create the ending…make it worthy!

Never strive for happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and go. Strive for content. You can have a shitty day and not find happiness in it. However, you can have a shitty day and still be content.

Be a shelter for your siblings, family, or friends that need it. Light the way and bring them home if they get lost. Do this for each other because it matters. This is written metaphorically, so you will need to read between the lines and apply it appropriately. Follow your heart when it comes to this.

Which reminds me… listen to your head, but follow your heart – with almost everything: Relationships, marriage, parenting, friendships, strangers, career, etc.

Say what you gotta say. Even if it doesn’t end the way you want it to. This isn’t a free pass for being hurtful or rude, but don’t let things fester. Throw it out on the table and go from there. Sometimes you will have great conversations, sometimes you may be misinterpreted, and sometimes it may end badly. Say the words on your heart – and Jonathon, don’t let alcohol consumption alone enable this for you. Work on that one. Being vulnerable is strength, not weakness.

About vulnerability…. It’s scary as hell – I get it. But those ‘perfect’ people who never show vulnerability… they are a freakin’ mess and as unreal as they come. Maybe you are particular with who you show vulnerability to – that’s okay… but don’t run from it. Denying it leads to a host of issues… In the quiet corners of ourselves, we are all vulnerable and it’s what makes us human. For the love of God, be human – don’t try to be a super hero or stoic!

In regards to stoicism, ask for help when you need it and it’s okay to cry. There will come a day when you need help with something – nobody is good at everything. Drop your defenses and just get help with what you need help with. And if you need to cry – CRY. Scream at the corn if you need to. Ball up in a corner and give yourself a hug if you need. Point is, don’t stay there – refer back to ‘don’t quit’ and go get assistance. Whether it’s assistance with getting a mortgage, having a baby and being scared out of your mind, marriage, a lousy job that you question if you made the right move, or a fight you had with someone, etc. – seek wisdom and guidance always. Never be too proud for this. And listen, mull it over…

Moderation. Everything in moderation. Enough said.

Find and understand faith. This I cannot spell out for you. It has to make sense to each of you or it’s moot.

Always give grace – especially when it’s hard. This is especially important for it has been grace that has sustained me when all else failed. I hope you all come to understand this concept for yourselves and recognize what it is and the value therein.

Forgive – even the unforgivable. This isn’t about them – it’s about you. It doesn’t matter if they ever admit to wrong doing or hurting you – forgive them anyways. There will come a day in each of your lives when you will be standing at a crossroads – forgive or not forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot and subject yourself to being hurt time and time again, but forgive those that do you wrong. Because honestly, you’re going to wrong others too – and we need forgiveness from others as well. If you don’t forgive, you will find bitterness growing in your hearts. We have spoken about bitter people in the past. They distance everyone from their lives because their bitterness takes over their hearts and lives – do NOT become bitter. Learn to forgive. If you don’t, you will grow old alone and… well, bitter. Miserable. Figure it out and forgive.

There are probably a million more things I could come up with Jonathon, but honestly it boils down to each of you. I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own choices (past a certain point in life) and we have to be okay with the choices we made. Not being okay with our choices – well, therein lies depression, anxiety, etc. And I’m not saying that you need to live perfectly without screwing up. My God, you’ve already screwed up – all of us have. The point is to learn as you go and make those lessons mean something. You know?

Live a good life.

You will each come to decide what a good life is and what it means to each of you.

And this answers your question.

I want each of you to live a good life.

What does that mean to you?

Figure that out.

You know the lessons I have taught you. You know what matters to me, but I am not you and you are not me.

We have to each come to this on our own.

It’s our own unique journey – this gift of life.

You only get one shot.

Make it a good one.

PS – I love you. And I’m proud of all of you. You all got this – this thing called life. You know what you need to do, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s challenging. Even when you have questions. I believe in all of you.

Love,

Mom

 

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.

 

 

 

 

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‘Gazoola Bird’ and ‘Hairball’ were used most often…

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My father once told me when I was young that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard those words. I remember the circumstances. I remember the feelings.

I never told him then what I thought about his words, though I had a lot of thoughts on that idea. After many years, my thoughts became clearer.

The men I have dated and/or chosen throughout my life were not all shining examples of what fathers would want their daughters to date or choose. Growing up, my father had many synonyms; though ‘Gazoola Bird’ and ‘Hairball’ were used most often. You see, my father didn’t swear when I was growing up, nor did he use vulgarities in his vocabulary. I heard him say the word ‘piss’ once when I was a teenager. Maybe it was a result of his chosen vocabulary that he used creativity to express his disdain, I’m not sure.

There were quite a few ‘Gazoola Birds’.

I often wondered if I saw what he did not. But there is another angle to it.

He is not so unlike most of them.

I wrote a story once about how I judge all other men on the value I hold of my father. And to some, this may seem… judgmental. Perhaps. I try very hard to remain without judgment, but truth be told, as a human being – I question if that is possible. Most human judgment lies in human error, a lack of understanding many angles. And we often criticize what we do not understand. Even I am guilty of this, but that is a story for another day.

I have heard the stories of his youth. I would not be surprised to learn that other fathers were leery of him dating their daughters when he was young.

I have heard the stories from others, I have been a witness to mistakes, and yet to me he remains a diamond in the rough. Some see this. Others do not. Perhaps it is what we choose to see.

I have known many diamonds in the rough. To see beyond a rough exterior and search a heart is not always easy, but I do find worth within.

I disagreed with his statement so many years ago.

I was looking for love in many places, but I don’t believe they were in all the wrong places. I was trying to understand what love was. Many touched my life and contributed to my learning and understanding of what it is and what it is not. I have chosen some that others considered unworthy. And yet, I wanted to understand why. What makes one more worthy than another? Who casts the ‘worthiness’? If I saw what another did not, did that make it untrue? Who among us can decide worthiness?

I went on my own journey to understand what love was. It’s not always been a pretty road, but it did give many lessons and a lot of understanding. And honestly, I don’t believe I am done understanding this. I believe love is a life-long lesson.

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.

There is no justification for rape – period!

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To all the women who have stood tall… You are NOT alone!

Life as Christine

When I was in naval boot camp, I was reprimanded for fraternization and given a lecture on sexual harassment. Perhaps she thought I didn’t know the meaning of this.

I remember she implied that it was women like me who allowed things like this to happen.

But honestly by age 19, I already knew what sexual harassment meant; I knew what it felt like.

And this was the ‘90’s; this is when it made it to the media. It became a really big deal. I understand now what their intentions were. Good intentions, but often the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I not only knew what it felt like to be sexually harassed, I also knew what it meant to be sexually violated. And, I knew what consent meant. I knew the difference at 19.

Around the age of 17, I had returned to New York to finish…

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But that nurse with insight…

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They had the helicopter ready and they were preparing our newborn for an emergency flight to Houston for open-heart surgery.

The nurse was with me wrapping up paperwork for the process.

Our baby was hooked up to all sorts of wires and blinking lights. They wouldn’t let me hold him.

I’m not sure how it happened, but that nurse caught insight and not a moment too late.

When women become pregnant they run a whole series of tests and blood-work around 20 weeks.

One of the things they check for is Group B strep.

Group B strep in newborns can cause serious complications, including death.

At 20 weeks I tested negative.

They never rechecked this and assumed it was his heart. His blood oxygen level kept dropping and he was getting sicker by the hour.

As the nurse was asking me questions, she jumped up and said she would be right back.

I’m not sure if she saved his life, but she definitely prevented an unnecessary open-heart surgery from occurring on a newborn.

They tested him for Group B Strep.

It was positive.

They called Houston. They cancelled the flight. They started antibiotics.

He had to stay about a week longer in the hospital. They allowed me to stay with him because we lived so far away.

I admit I wasn’t fond of the nurse that I had during my labor and delivery. And I admit, I was probably one of the worst first-time-labor & delivery-patients, but that nurse with insight… I will be eternally grateful to her. She did good.

 

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.

 

 

 

“You said I wasn’t going to feel it!!!!”

She drove like a bat out of hell.

It was the first time I had ever heard her swear.

Picture this petite lady, very put-together, full of class, suddenly taken over with road rage.

It was actually kind of funny.

I’m not sure, but I’d guess we arrived in record time.

They told me it was false labor, but because we lived so far away and my due date being so close they wanted to keep me.

They induced.

I was not exactly a ‘good’ patient.

I got into an argument with a male nurse.

“I really need to poop!”

“No, you don’t. That’s just the baby bearing down making you feel like you do. Sorry, you cannot get out of bed.”

“Oh really? How many babies have you had? Listen buddy, if you don’t let me get out of this bed and go to the bathroom, I’m going to poop right here on the bed.”

He brought me a bed pan.

At one point I got so fed up with my male nurse that I got out of bed and grabbed my suitcase. I told Eric I was leaving.

He told me I being irrational.

“You can’t just leave the hospital! You are in labor!!”

I was so frustrated and scared. I threw the suitcase down and started crying.

Around the time they moved me into this big operating room, cold and sterile, the new doctor with bedside manner of a porcupine informed me that he was going to give me an episiotomy.

I yelled, “Wait! What is that?”

“I’m going to make an incision.”

“What? An incision? Where?”

“I promise you won’t even feel it. I’ll give you a few locals first.”

People shouldn’t make promises they can’t keep.

I screamed so loud that a nurse came and shut all the doors because they heard my screams from down the hall.

You know what I screamed?

“You said I wasn’t going to feel it!!!!”

He lied.

He threatened me that he was going to stick some gigantic salad looking tongs inside of me if I didn’t push harder.

The baby’s head had crowned and I could not get that damn head out.

“You are NOT sticking those things in me! Can’t you see there is no room for those?”

“Well, you’ve got 5 minutes and if you don’t push that baby out, I’m using them”

21 hours it took from start to finish.

The minute he came out, they started working on him.

It was a commotion and none of it made sense to me.

They wheeled me back to a room while they tried to figure it out.

A short time later, a doctor came in.

“We are flying your baby to Houston.”

“WHAT? WHY?”

He talked forever and it was all blurry. All I remember is the statement, “Open-heart surgery”

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2016. 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.