What she will never know is that sentence tore me up and freed me all at once….

images

I’ve heard powerful phrases throughout my life.

People have said things to me throughout my life that have stuck in my mind and I’ve reflected; long after they have said them to me. It is who I am and what I do. I am a muller.

Someday, I’ll write them all down, but tonight one comes to the forefront of my mind:

“You have to find your own faith Christine, you can’t lean on mine.”

It’s hard to put that into words that one may understand, but I’ll try.

I never wanted to, nor did I try to, lean on her faith. I needed to know for myself. It was never enough for me to hear another’s experiences, stories, or faith. Faith is a very personal journey… it’s something that can sustain you when all else fails.

Faith is … the evidence of things unseen, unknown…most of the time beyond our comprehension- there isn’t always something to back up ‘FAITH’; because well, it is faith. Some do not get this, some will never get this and there will be some that understand. I get that.

She was lying in a hospital bed dying of a terminal disease when she told me that. She had tears in her eyes when she said it. She said it softly, without judgment or defense; she had come a long way and she learned a lot.

I grew up exposed to a lot of ‘religion’. Those that know me are yet to understand the depths of what I mean when I say this.

I grew up exposed to witchcraft, Catholicism, Protestantism, atheism, new age religion, etc. Family trying to find their way… searching for truth, love, and things that made sense. And yet, most of us aren’t that different… we search, we look for answers… some more subtly than others, but still the quest is there.

I’ve known a lot of angles that many do not understand.

Trying to find my way in the midst of a hurricane of theories and beliefs that were shoved down my throat and preached at me a million miles an hour was tough growing up – especially when it came down to putting their money where their mouths were. There were mistakes made, there were hearts broken, and there were empty promises. But there was also some growth and I see that; time and life has a way of doing that, if we allow it.

I don’t have all the answers and I still don’t trust the ‘preachers’ – you know the ones? They got all the answers, never have doubts, and got it all figured out… those ones I trust the least. I cannot help it, I’m skeptical of them. I wonder if they have known enough of life because real life causes doubt sometimes. Can we just be honest enough to say that? I can.

And yet, I know faith. I don’t have all the answers. I have doubts. I have questions. And yet, I know faith. Not everyone will believe what I believe, I am okay with that – are you? Faith is a personal journey. It’s not something you read. It’s not something you can always explain. It just is. We must find our own faith, we cannot lean on the faith of others.

What she will never know is that sentence tore me up and freed me all at once…..

© 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.

Louisiana needed them and they needed Louisiana…..

download (1)

There’s a part of my heart that will always live in Louisiana. I married and buried in Louisiana. I gave birth to three of my children there. Louisiana is a place that has had high peaks and low valleys. I’ve known a lot of life and learned many lessons in Louisiana.

After the funeral of my first husband (read The Day I Got The Call…), I returned to my apartment in New York with the children. I don’t remember exactly when I had made the decision to move back after his death, but I do remember feeling that it was much needed; for many hearts.

I was given advice. I was told ‘Don’t go’. I got ‘the looks’.

There was one that simply said, “Do what you need to do”.

Louisiana needed them and they needed Louisiana.

I made the decision to go back.

It wasn’t easy from a personal standpoint. Life was different now. I didn’t grieve according to standards that were set for me. I tried to appease. I made choices against my heart. I stumbled some.

But for the reasons I chose to go, I never regretted.

Louisiana needed them and they needed Louisiana.

© 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 ran many nights in Virginia, but on this night I ran the hardest…..

I was upstairs. I could hear them yelling. They were downstairs in the room directly under me.

They were fighting about me. He deliberately yelled louder; he wanted me to hear every word that seethed out of his mouth.

I knew the game he played; for he had been in my life for roughly 10 years.

When I was 15, I had moved from a small rural town where everyone knew your name to a big city in Virginia. I was at a crossroads in life, trying to find my way. I did not trust life. I did not trust people.

“Why don’t you talk to her?” my mother yelled.

At that moment, his voice rose even louder. The words burned into my memory long before they registered in my mind.

“Because if I see that little bitch, I will kill her!”

I did not think. I did not hesitate. I ran.

I bolted down the stairs as fast as my short legs would take me. The front door to the house was at the bottom of the stairs. I had one goal in mind: get the hell out of there as fast as possible.

I wasn’t fast enough.

To this day, I’m not sure how he made it to the bottom of the stairs that fast. He had to leave their bedroom, go through the hallway, through the dining room, and swing himself into the stairwell. All I had to do was bolt down the stairs and go straight out the door.

He stood between me and the bottom of the stairs. He stood between me and the front door. He stood there oozing hatred like a venomous snake waiting to strike. I saw it in his eyes and I felt it in his hands.

He grabbed me around the throat with both hands.

I did not think. I did not hesitate. I kicked.

I was two steps up from where he stood.

I kicked for everything that he brought into our lives.

I kicked to be free of him.

I kicked for survival.

I ran many nights in Virginia, but on this night I ran the hardest…..

© 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.

Friendship, Strippers, and Rainbows…….

rainbow-blue-sky

When I was 25 years-old, I lived in Southwest Louisiana. I had given birth to my third child a few short months before. 25 was a hard year.

At 25, a friend of mine called me in a desperate place. She was pregnant. She did not feel as though she was in a good place to keep the child and the timing of pregnancy ruled out other options.

You see, I grew up in a small town where vision is sometimes clouded and people love to talk. I knew this would be challenging for her. You could not give a baby up for adoption back in the ‘90’s without a lot of flak; especially in a small town.

Small towns haven’t changed much. They hold high expectations (theirs) and rarely see behind their own eyes. Then again, maybe it’s not the small towns.. Maybe it’s just people. Individuals. To a degree, people only know what they know.

I did what any friend would do. I offered her a place to stay.

I called adoption agencies. She flew across the country.  She moved in with us; myself, my husband and our three small children.

Around this time, my husband also brought home a stripper. She had one hell of a story. He told me she needed a place to live.  “She was dating a friend of his.” I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I opened my home to my pregnant friend and the young stripper with a bad story.

The young stripper with a bad story didn’t last long. I gave my husband an ultimatum.

Having someone take advantage of your heart, especially the one person who is supposed to have your back, hurts like hell.

I told the young stripper with a bad story to pack her bags. I drove her to her family’s house.

It was not close.

I helped her unload. I chatted with her parents. I gave her some words of wisdom as I made my way out the door.

I never heard from her again, but truly I hope that today she has left her bad story behind her. And why not? Her name was ‘Hope’.

I resumed life.

When the time came, I was the birthing coach for my friend. I met the adoptive parents she chose.  When it was finished, I drove her home.

When we returned from the hospital, I found myself in an emotional place. I remember crying. I shed a lot of tears.

I was pregnant – again.

Not a lot of people were happy about this.

I heard words. Some cried. One made unspoken suggestions.

You know what was toughest; out of all of it?

My husband and my friend sitting at the table with the telephone pages open to clinics.

I remember the raised voices. I remember the words.

I struggled hard with this one.

You ever had to put your money where your mouth is? You ever feel the odds stacked against you so hard? Everyone staring at you to see what your next move was going to be? Throw in a lot of opinions and a shitload of pressure. A place where you find yourself at an ethical crossroads; a moment that can define what you believe in. There are no do-overs. That about sums up where I was at that moment in time.

In an instant it poured over me…. I felt like I was drowning in the noise…

“I just don’t know what you’re going to do.”

“Nobody in their right mind has four children, except black people and those on welfare.”

“We are NOT having another baby”

I slammed the yellow pages shut. I threw the phone book.

I knew in that moment that my friendship was over. I also knew that my marriage was on its last thread.

“I am having this baby – with or without you!” I said a few more words that were required in that moment.

To be honest, I was scared shitless.

I drove to work the next morning feeling lost and alone. I couldn’t stop my tears.

It was raining that day and as I looked up from the road, I witnessed a rainbow; from end to end. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen rainbows before, but this was the first and only time that I’ve ever seen both ends of one. I remember the awe. I pulled my car over. I wiped my own tears and I took a deep breath. I knew in that moment that I was going to have a girl. I don’t know how to explain how I knew. Some feelings are difficult to put to words, but in that instant I knew. I also knew that I would make it through this.

Nine months later, I gave birth to my daughter…..

© 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 screamed at the corn….

il_340x270.519390451_q1uw

The phone rang in my kitchen. It was my dad.

“Christa died”

“Nooooooo” I sobbed, “she isn’t supposed to die!”

I lost it.

My heart felt like somebody ripped it out of my chest. It was more than I could handle.

I was 34 years-old when I got that call. Six years prior, was the Day I got the call… I was so weary of walking mountains. I didn’t want any more tragedy. I didn’t want to go to another funeral. I didn’t want to say another goodbye.

I hung up and ran out the back door of my kitchen. I ran straight to the corn field.

I screamed at the corn. I screamed at life. I screamed at death. I screamed at God.

Christa was my stepmom. She married my dad when I was 6 years-old. I called her “Christa”, but the reference of what I called her did not reflect the relationship; she was a mom to me.

We didn’t have a perfect relationship. When I was 15, I had a challenging time. It strained our relationship. My first marriage added to this strain. We didn’t always see eye to eye on things. But in all those years I never doubted that she loved me as her own. And I loved her as mine.

She had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met and her compassion for people surpassed my own understanding at times. She had an open-door policy and ‘stay as long as you’d like’ for anyone that ever needed a place to find refuge. She had a knack for all things in the kitchen and her cinnamon rolls were heaven-in-a-pan. At Christmas time, she baked dozens upon dozens of cookies and it was not uncommon for her to suggest we take some to an elderly person down the street, “Just to make their day a little brighter”. She was the type of woman that went the extra mile for many without asking anything in return. She had the heart of an angel and the will of a lion. Had it not been for her in my life, I cannot honestly say that I would’ve made it. She balanced out a lot of the negative things that I experienced in my childhood. In many ways, she was a light shining on dark times.

I remember the sky that morning. It was pink; many shades of pink.

Pink was her favorite color. I hated the irony. I screamed about that too.

Christa had been diagnosed several years earlier with Striatonigral Degeneration. It is now referred to as Multiple System Atrophy. It is a sporadic, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder. The average survival time for women is 7.3 years. Her survival time was roughly 9 years from the onset of symptoms.

Many people have no idea what that is or what it looks like.

She lost the ability to communicate. First with her voice.

We thought outside the box when she could no longer talk. She would blink.

Once for yes. Twice for no.

She lost the ability to walk. She lost the ability to move. She lost the ability to eat.

She never lost her mind. Eventually, she lost her life.

That is what Striatonigral Degeneration looks like.

I had a very hard time visiting her in the nursing home. She lived there the last seven years of her life. Nobody in their 40’s should ever live in a nursing home. But then again, I don’t believe anyone should ever live there. People go to nursing homes to die. No, I am not a fan of nursing homes.

I visited her very little the last year of her life. I didn’t expect her to die. And honestly, it was so difficult to see her there. I was a horrible nursing home visitor. No matter how many times I went there, I would cry. I once told her that I was a downer. She laughed.

My step-mom’s death plunged me off an emotional cliff. My grief ran very deep. I learned that when one loss occurs, it can bring to light all other losses; and at times that became a lot to handle.

But I also learned that life goes on. And I was blessed to have her in my life for the years that she was here. She is part of who I am today and for that I am thankful. I still miss her and would give anything to hug her just one more time or ya know, have one of those cinnamon rolls of hers. Happy Mother’s Day – fly high Christa!

 

© 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.