Life has a way of putting you where you need to be when you need to be there, even if you don’t yet know it…

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A lot of emotions were swirling within me that day. It was the day of Jennie’s senior prom.

Jennie is my baby sister. She is a miracle baby. When my father married Christa (my step-mom), they tried many years to have a baby; many, many years. They married when I was six. Jennie was born when I was 18.

As I left the prom and turned onto my road all the emotions came to a head. I pulled my car over and cried.

“This is not my role! This is not what I wanted! This is not fair! I’m not good enough for this! I will never be you!” I sobbed.

I have always wondered if there was more to moving back to New York than I was aware of. I had no idea that Christa would progressively get worse. I never imagined she would die. I never foresaw the tangled relationships that would pursue as a result of the loss.

I moved back to New York in the fall of 2001, the year Jen was 10 years old. I never imagined moving back to the small town where the vision is sometimes cloudy and the gossip runs rampant.

Life has a way of putting you where you need to be when you need to be there, even if you don’t yet know it.

There was a lot of instability in Jen’s life at that time. A lot of unknowns. From her perspective, I cannot imagine what that was like. Christa died when Jennie was about 16. It was the only semester her grades fell below an ‘A’.

For a while, I fell into a ‘mother’ role and truthfully, I was angry about that. I didn’t want to be her mother.

“This is not my role! This is not what I wanted! This is not fair! I’m not good enough for this! I will never be you!”

At that moment, a song from the funeral came on the radio. I suddenly got it.

My role in her life is to be a big sister. That’s it. I am going to make mistakes and probably give her shitty advice sometimes. We are going to disagree and sometimes fight. We aren’t always going to see eye to eye on things. In many ways, we see life differently, but I see her. I know her.

I drove home grateful that day. I was able to take her prom dress shopping. I was given the chance to follow her all around on prom day taking pictures. I walked out of the gym that day sad that Christa wasn’t there, but by the time I made it home, I was thankful that she had taught me how to hold the reins the best way I knew how – in my own shoes – as her sister.

© 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.

 

 

 

 

 

As a woman, as a daughter, I judge all other men by the value I hold of my father…

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Back in boot camp in the US Navy, I was in a basement of the barracks being physically reprimanded. Basically, I was put through some intense PT for roughly three hours.

None of that bothered me until the company commander got down on his knees and leaned his face two inches from mine while I was in the push-up position.

“Do you have Daddy issues Airman? Is that why you joined the Navy?”

Those questions were yelled two inches from my face as his spit sprayed. I was thoroughly disgusted with him.

My eyes met his and I firmly yelled back, “NO SIR!”

I was disgusted with his tactics and I was disgusted with his spit.

My dad has never been perfect, but he has always been real.

Around the time I was 13 years old I had a lot of questions.  We sat in the car in our driveway. I needed to know about his marriage to my mother. I had questions and I needed answers. I needed to know what happened, how he felt, and what he learned. I needed to know that none of it was for nothing.

As a child that endured a bitter divorce between two parents, this mattered to me.

He met me where I was. There were no fences. There were no walls.

My dad does not make himself emotionally vulnerable as a habit. I knew what I was asking was a lot for him. I remember being 13, asking what seemed like the impossible, and he came through. It was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. In that moment, I saw my dad as real. I also realized that he loved me enough to meet me where I was.

A boyfriend I had after high school broke my heart like few have. My dad showed up in my bedroom while I had a face full of tears and a shattered heart. This particular boyfriend held walls high above his heart, as if he were afraid to truly love. Not only did my dad refrain from calling him a Gazoola bird, but he promised me that one day I would meet someone who would love me as much as I loved them and there would be no walls. I will never forget that talk.

When I enlisted in the Navy despite him telling me not to sign any papers, I found myself in a strange predicament. I remember calling him miles from home all on my own. He advised me to not be naïve and see things as they were. I have a habit of giving one the benefit of the doubt. He sees things black and white. His advice that day prevented a disaster.

One of our most memorable talks, was around the time I was 30 years old. I drove to his house and told him we needed to talk. I needed to understand where he was at and the values he held. I needed to know if he believed in the things he had taught me. It’s hard to explain, but in many ways I had found myself at a crossroads dissecting every value I had, every value I was taught.

I asked some hard questions that day on the hill.

I remember one question I asked him.

He responded, “I don’t really know Christine”.

In that moment I saw my dad not as a father, but as a man, a human, a person just trying to figure out life as they went.

I understood then that he doesn’t have all the answers. I understood that he is merely a man. I understood that he learns as he grows. I understood that he never gives up.

It’s true what they say you know. It’s weird how that works.

As a woman, as a daughter, I judge all other men by the value I hold of my father.

© 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 used the wrong powder!

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Aaron and I had planned a camping trip for our family in the Thousand Islands in New York. We had found the perfect spot and everything was booked.

About a day before we were scheduled to leave, I received a phone call from my mother in Virginia. Her third husband was dying of cancer. I asked her if she wanted me to come. She said yes.

We held a family meeting and told the children of our change of plans.

We packed up and headed to Virginia in a hurry, though we weren’t quick enough.

He died a few hours before we arrived.

We visited with family. We attended the remembrance. We gave lots of hugs.

After a few days, Aaron and I decided we all needed a break.

DC was only a few hours away.

If you have ever spent time during the summer months in Virginia, you would find that humidity sucks. I found myself sweating in places that I didn’t know could sweat.

I asked my mom if she had any powder.

“I don’t use powder, but I have corn starch on the bathroom sink in a clear container.”

I doused my body with the white powder and off we went.

We parked by Arlington Cemetery and walked into the heart of the district. By the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial my skin was on fire.

I searched for a bathroom. What was going on with this corn starch?

I called my mom immediately. She needed to know that her corn starch had gone bad. This was serious.

As I was explaining my predicament she burst out in laughter. Perhaps the only laughter she had that entire week.

Apparently, she had TWO clear plastic containers full of white powder on her sink that day.

“You used the wrong powder! You used the baking soda!”

Lesson learned: Remember to always clarify the contents of unmarked clear containers filled with white powder AND have the ability to laugh at yourself.

 

© 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest peacefully Eric, everything is okay…

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Fifteen years ago, was the day I got the call.. Fifteen years goes by so fast.

There were some tough times. There were some challenges. And there were some pretty amazing moments.

Jonathon had a really challenging time in the beginning. It was really hard Eric.

When we moved in with Aaron, he was so afraid to love him. He fought the idea. I finally sat him down and asked him what was going on.

It would’ve broke your heart.

He told me that he was afraid that if he loved Aaron that you would think he didn’t love you anymore. I explained to that little boy that as we grow bigger, so do our hearts, and we can love many people. I also reassured him that you would always know how much he loved you and loving another would never diminish that.

The children were so young when you died. They all processed your death at different times.

Christian was at school in 2nd grade when it hit him. His teacher told him to be good because you were watching him. That was a really rough day. I went to the school, brought him home, and talked to him. I showed him pictures of you and let him get his feelings out.

Nicolas told me recently that he has never heard your voice. He was so young he cannot remember what you sounded like.

Everything hit Sadie when she was about 11. She desperately wanted to know you. I held back from telling her the whole story until a few years ago.

I don’t have secrets with them Eric. I have shared much with them; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Some of it was hard to talk about. Some was hard to own. I believe there is healing in honesty and I have strived hard to be honest with them. They deserve honesty. We all deserve that.

I remarried a few years after you died. He is a good man. He has walked this journey with all of us. You would like him. I think your mom and dad like him. You won’t believe this, but even my dad likes him.

Nanny told me once that your mom didn’t want to like him at first. He reminded her of you. He is what she thought you would become like one day.

Life has a way of rounding out if we let it.

They still wonder about you. They have questions. There are still days that are challenging. But overall, they have flourished. You would be really proud of them.

I told our story, much of it anyways; it was needed.  There’s still some fences, though I have tried to smash them down.

Aaron built me a fire years ago. I burned a lot of hurt that night.  In some weird way, he helped me understand you better. Maybe it was his love.

Fifteen years ago, I got the call. Fifteen years goes by so fast.

There are some tough times. There are some challenges. But there are some pretty amazing moments.

Rest peacefully Eric, everything is okay…

© 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In many ways, our son needed to scream at the corn…

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“YOU HATE ME!” he cried.

“No, I don’t hate you. I could never hate you son.”

“I WANT TO DIE AND BE WITH MY DADDY!”

This went on for what seemed like an eternity. In reality though, it merely went on longer than I knew how to handle. I knew what was at the core of this. I saw the bigger picture.

It was a little boy hurting. A little boy trying to make sense of something that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. He was learning one of the hardest lessons in life, long before he was ready. Though I wonder, are any of us ready to learn this, no matter when it occurs in life?

Death sucks.

I consider myself pretty lucky sometimes, despite the fact that I don’t really believe in luck.

Raising four toddlers, I have only had to deal with one temper tantrum. For all you parents out there, let that sink in. One temper tantrum among four lively toddlers – ever.

Eric’s death changed that in a lot of ways. Our return back to normal life, wasn’t so normal.

There were outbursts. There was screaming. There was crying.

“I want to run into the road and have a car hit me so I can be with my daddy!”

The first time I heard that from that little boy, my heart stopped.

I knew this had gone beyond what I knew what to do.

I made phone calls. I sought wise council.

He needed this.

I needed this.

We needed this.

Grief became bigger than a mother’s love.

The counselor’s name was Steve. He had a special way with grieving kids. He allowed them to process at their own pace. He encouraged art therapy.

Personally, I’m a big believer in art therapy. I have seen emotions expressed through art when the words cannot be found, and when emotions cannot yet be understood.

It’s a tool I have used throughout my children’s lives. I owe a lot to Counselor Steve for introducing this to me.

He helped me help my grieving child. But more importantly, he helped that child grieve.

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of his advice.

He recommended I let him scream it out.

“Let him scream at the top of his lungs. Let him rant for as long as he needs to.”

My eyebrows raised. I wondered if this guy had kids.

“The condition is that he has to stand in one place and cannot move until he’s finished.”

I thought, “This guy is nuts. What kind of advice is that?”

“And what exactly am I supposed to do while he’s having a rant, screaming at the top of his lungs?”

“You ignore him.”

“Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought. Though I may have said that out loud; knowing me, I probably did.

“How do I do that?” I asked.

“However you can. Read a magazine. Read a book. Pretend if you need to. Just ignore him until he gets it out.”

I hated that advice.

I hated it even more when I first tried it.

I had a magazine. Reading was a joke. He screamed at the top of his lungs while he stood under the window in our living room. I flipped through the pages pretending to be reading.

Within me, I was dying. I felt like a terrible mother. I wanted to go where he was and wrap my arms around him. I wanted to hug him and say, “I know son”.

I didn’t though.  I was desperate to help him.

This was killing me.

But you know what? It worked. I don’t remember how long it took, but a few weeks and it all ended. No more yelling. No more outbursts. No more telling me he wanted to get hit by a car so he could be with his daddy. No more “You hate me”.

A few years following the death of Eric, I finally understood what that was all about.

When I lost a mother, I ran out my kitchen door to the back field and screamed at the corn. In many ways, our son needed to scream at the corn…

© 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.

If you want to fight like a man, then shake hands like a man…

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“What are you doing? You’re just watching them. Stop them!” I yelled.

We were in the kitchen. I ran to the sliding glass door with my arms outstretched. I was about to referee BIG TIME!

He stopped me. He held his hand in front of me and said, “Christine, wait.”

I looked at him hard.

He spoke softly and knowingly, “Give’em a minute.”

I took a deep breath and waited.

Not too long after, he jumped up and swung open the door. He yelled their names. They stopped.

Two sons were in the backyard fighting. Kids fight, I get it, but this one was different. This was the first time fists flew. I wasn’t a fan.

When they got to the kitchen they knew they were in trouble. But neither they, nor I expected what came next.

“Tell your brother you’re sorry and shake hands”, he said.

They were ticked.

Lips pursed. Arms crossed. They refused to look at each other.

“I’m not kidding. You’re not leaving this table until you shake hands and say you’re sorry. If you want to fight like a man, then shake hands like a man.”

© 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.

Ducks don’t have to follow ducks…

yogi00_zoomYears ago my brother said something very profound to me.

“Ducks don’t have to follow ducks.”

I was familiar with the work of Lorenz. That one phrase hit me like a ton of bricks and it is still something I remind myself of and have often shared with others when they needed it.

When my mother married her second husband I gained two step-brothers and later a half-sister came along. Somewhere along the journey of their marriage I lost those step-brothers. They vanished without a trace as if they never existed.

I received a text from my mother yesterday that one of those step-brothers was at my grandmother’s house.

Lots of jokes, small talk, and games. It is how the family relates.

I met his wife and his child. I asked him what he did and where he lived. I kept my questions to a minimum as we played cards. This was challenging for me because I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask him. I wanted to ask him the memories he had. I wanted to ask him about his life growing up and what it was like, how his journey was from his eyes. I wanted to know where he disappeared to and if it ever bothered him. I wanted to ask about the good times he remembered, where his life had taken him, and what his road looked like. I had so many questions I wanted to ask, but instead I kept my questions to a minimum and observed.

As I got in my car and left I found myself smiling and thought about my brother’s words many years ago, “Ducks don’t have to follow ducks”. Here’s the thing, sometimes ducks should NOT follow ducks and when baby ducks learn this (often the hard way) and succeed on this I am always amazed and proud.

 

© 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.