“WHY DO YOU WRITE CHRISTINE?”

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We were in the garage in that moment.

“WHY DO YOU WRITE CHRISTINE?”

There were a million questions behind that single one.

He wanted to know if it was worth it.

He was trying to understand.

“I write for many reasons”. That’s all I gave him in that moment.

 

My voice was taken many times.

This is a combination of experiences throughout my life. If you’ve read my stories, perhaps you will pick up on those times.

These will be my final words to my children.

My kids have experienced death from a young age. I know the questions that come from death. I’ve heard them a thousand times. It doesn’t frighten me. No. Rather, I reflect on how to answer questions my children may have later on. I have one child that will only read my writings upon my death. He acknowledged this. I hope I get to them all. I hope to lessen all their questions.

Sometimes I need to process.

It’s true. Sometimes I simply need to process shit. You may pick up on those times.

I live in a small town.

Small towns are often guarded people. They guard their hearts and their stories. Vulnerability is the opposite of stoicism. Call me crazy, but I still believe there is power in vulnerability.

I’m a psychologist in training.

                How can I expect others to process and own their stories if I cannot do the same? I’ll never throw myself upon a pedestal claiming to be the “all knowing” or the “savior”. I’ve known life too.

I have a story to tell.

                There are many sides to every story. This is my story. These are my experiences. This is my interpretation. This is what I learned.

Writing is therapeutic.

                It’s an outlet of mine. Need I say more?

Courage is contagious.

                I happen to believe that there is power in telling one’s story – when they are ready. I will be forever grateful for the contagious courage.

 

TBC…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. 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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She will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay…

23514763_10214453718834808_1116343915_o.jpgI never gave three days.

I decided then that I would figure out why she needed to talk to me – and honestly pregnancy was the last thing on my mind.

There was a reason she hadn’t come to me.

I remember the day she told me she lost her virginity. I remember she cried and told me she was sorry. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that was a hard confession for her. We had a long talk that day.

Looking ahead, I’m pretty sure this also would’ve been pretty difficult to tell me.

It was a Walmart bag in my camping book bag, inside the trunk of her car.

Do you know what was in that bag?

It was a dead giveaway.

Prenatal vitamins.

I was twenty-one when I gave birth to my first child. I had zero idea what I was doing or what I was in for.

I was also married at nineteen.

That’s a piece of it. She’s a teenager, unmarried, still has to finish her schooling.

It’s the unwed pregnant teenager that got me initially. Man, I grappled with this one. Initially, I felt shame.

We live in a small town where people love to talk. It’s part of the reason I left at nineteen.

Many talk and few listen. And vision is sometimes clouded by small towns.

About six months prior, my daughter returned from California. A place I never wanted her to go to. She grew up a lot in California. She experienced more than she ever should’ve and it hurt her more than she knew it would.

When she left, not many noticed. When she returned I heard various comments from people in the village, “Wow. Sadie is soo skinny”.

Unspoken suggestions or truly a concern for a young girl’s weight is yet to be determined.

They all come in different constructs of sentences, but the gist was the same.

Ya know the kicker? For years my daughter would debate me about abortion. We had multiple conversations about it. She had said from the get-go that she never wanted children. She also said that if she ever got pregnant she would get an abortion.

Perhaps it was the freedom of choice that she was ultimately debating with me. I’m not really sure.

That first week I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to run so badly. I needed space to figure out what I felt, what mattered, and how I would act. 

Maybe you wonder why this was so difficult for me.

I gave birth four times and had two mothers during that time in my life. Neither of them showed up for any birth.

In their defense, I never asked.

In my defense, neither did they.

Being a “good mom” was always on my list of things to do well. I question myself from time to time, but it’s mattered to me from the first day I found out I was pregnant.

So how do I do this?

It’s a rhetorical question.

She made a comment to me one night that I didn’t “like” her Facebook status when she posted a picture of the ultrasound.

I sat on her bed and gave her a hug.

“Sade, this is hard for me. I will support you and your decision, but you have to give me a little bit of time.”

I don’t know if she truly understood in that moment.

I told a few people initially. When I got the words, “Congratulations Grandma”.

I wanted to punch them.

I told my cohort and I got a lot of “babies are a blessing”.

I wanted to puke.

I wasn’t feeling celebratory. I wasn’t feeling blessed.

One friend had recently lost her daughter. Initially she said “Congratulations”, but she followed it up with “better than a funeral”.

That hit me – hard. Talk about perspective.

I went out the next day and bought two little onesies and a sleeper.

It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

A few weeks later, my daughter had a melt-down. She sat on her floor in her bathroom and sobbed.

“Mom, I’m not ready to be a mom. I don’t know how to be mom. I don’t know what I’m doing. Alex isn’t ready to be a dad. I’m so scared Mom”.

It’s hard to describe what that moment was like for me.

I hugged her and I reassured her. Hell, I have never met a mother yet that knew what they were doing from the get-go.

I told her she will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay.

That was hard, but that was needed. Maybe for both of us.

I helped her find a mid-wife. I went to her first appointment. I set her up with a program where she can ‘learn to earn’ baby necessities. And later on, I will be her birth coach when the time comes.

There’s another angle.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, it was baby #4. I wrote about it in Friendship, Strippers, and Rainbows…

Not many were happy about my pregnancy. I had just given birth to baby #3 prior. Life was difficult.

I stood alone. It was beyond challenging.

I never regretted my choice. Not once.

And later, others thanked me for standing alone. Had I not, Sadie would not be here and they would never have had a chance to love her.

I never want my daughter to feel that. I never want her to stand alone.

I don’t always agree with the choices she makes, but I will always believe in her. I will always love her. And I know she has great things to come.

 

© LifeasChristine, 2017. 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 never gave three days…

125806194609612954500101197_Life_PRETRAILERMy oldest son called me as I was on my way home. He was living in Vermont at the time.

“Mom, you need to have a conversation with her”.

“I am always having conversations with her”.

“Maybe just tell her that if there is something she is struggling with, she can come to you – no matter what.”

My first thought?

Doesn’t she already know that? After everything…doesn’t she know this?

My second thought – Drugs.

Oh bloody hell. Seriously??

I recently attended a funeral of a friend who lost their daughter from heroin addiction.

It was unimaginable from a parent perspective.

“Just tell me what is going on. I don’t want to play private detective. I hate playing detective”.

My son’s final words: “Mom, if she doesn’t tell you in three days, I’ll tell you. But ya gotta tell her what I said first”.

Turns out I played detective.

I never gave three days.

I searched her car instead, looking for clues.

I found nothing inside the car, but in the trunk, I found my camping book bag.

That’s odd.

I wondered why that is in her trunk.

I peeked inside and saw a Walmart bag. I never looked in the bag, but instead flung the book bag over my shoulder, closed the trunk, and headed in the house.

I set the book bag down on the kitchen floor, unloaded my school book bag, and my purse. I glanced over at the camping book bag.

I looked inside.

My heart sank.

A million dreams I had for her shattered in an instant.

I put the bag back down, grabbed a wine glass, and poured a glass.

I grabbed the Walmart bag out of the book bag and my glass of wine and headed to the couch.

I sat there for a minute just processing.

I slowly sipped my wine. I didn’t want this moment to be happening. I didn’t want to be processing this. I didn’t want her to hide this from me. I didn’t want any of this.

I slowly sipped my wine.

I searched for wisdom in that moment.

I took some long, deep breaths and I drank my wine slowly contemplating my words, processing my feelings, and trying to make sense of all of it.  

When I finished my glass of wine, I called her downstairs.

“How long have you been pregnant?”                                                          

“About six weeks”.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I thought you’d kick me out of the house.”

“Duh. Have I ever kicked anyone out yet?”

In her defense, I have kicked one out – not my own child.

“I’m sorry. I was scared Mom. I’m still processing.”

That was the first answer that made sense to me. I understood her in that moment.

From then it was a whirlwind of information being thrown at me.

I stopped her when she said “…emergency room last weekend…some word that started with ‘a’…a cyst…”

“What word that started with ‘a’?”

“I don’t remember”.

It was this moment that my stomach began to hurt. My baby is having a baby.

I explained to her what to say and why it was important.

She called the emergency room that she visited the weekend before.

After numerous transfers and three phone calls later I finally got on the phone with radiology.

“We cannot rule out ectopic pregnancy”.

It was the first thing I thought of when I heard “some word that started with an ‘a’”.

I admit, I silently prayed for an ectopic.

She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. None of us were ready.

I poured another glass of wine.

I called my best friend. She was an expert on ectopic pregnancies.

She walked me through what tests would be needed. She gave me all the info. She ended with, “You have to take her now”.

I had Sadie drive.

I called another friend, she asked me, “Mom, do you have to?”

I did.

I needed a person to ground me. I explained this and she understood.

My girlfriend met us at the hospital.

My husband met us when he got out of work at nearly 1:30 am.

Around 2 am, the staff came in and explained that it wasn’t ectopic, but the ultrasound from last weekend did not pick up a heartbeat.

More tests needed to be run.

I sat there thinking for hours that my 18 ½ year old daughter would either be having a D&C due to a baby with no heartbeat or an operation removing her fallopian tube because of an ectopic pregnancy.

I thought – Okay, this is will all be over shortly. It won’t be pretty, but it will be a lesson.

I was wrong.

Around 3 am, the nurse came in and told our small clan that they found the heartbeat, it was in utero, and she was about 12 weeks.

My heart sank and a million scared thoughts ran through my mind.

This was really happening. It didn’t matter if she or anyone else was ready. It was happening.

The second question I had asked her in the living room was, “What’s your game plan?”

“I’m having the baby Mom”

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace.

 

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My father made it through emergency neurosurgery that technically “saved his life”.  The surgery lasted about 4 ½ hours.

There have been times in my life where time seems to stand still. I can remember distinct words, smells, feelings, etc. This was one of those times.

The doctors placed him in a medically induced coma following the surgery. His body was in shock and storming. If you’ve never experienced a traumatic brain injury, you may be unfamiliar with storming. It’s basically where the brain can no longer regulate systems. Everything is off the charts – heart rate, blood pressure, etc. It’s intense to watch.

I will never forget the day I saw him cry while in the coma. I’m not sure there are words that can describe the pain and helplessness I felt that day.

After a few days, they reduced the sedation. His body wasn’t ready. He slipped into a coma on his own. On the 8th day, he opened his eyes.

I updated his friends and our family.

What I neglected to report was although his eyes opened, they didn’t align. It was in that moment that I again questioned whether I should have signed those papers for emergency surgery and instead said our goodbyes.

That moment scared me almost as much as the moment when I got the call and realized what was happening.

His right eye was looking all the way to the right – though it wasn’t “looking”.

His left eye was staring straight ahead – thought it wasn’t “staring”.

I began to wonder in that moment in the trauma ICU, if my father would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. It was the first time I had wondered that since the accident. To be honest, I hadn’t really considered that when I signed the papers.

I had imagined many things, but a vegetative state wasn’t one of them.

On the 9th day, his pupils aligned, though he still didn’t ‘see’ us.

While all this was occurring, there were other angles.

The first night, my little sister cried herself to sleep in our father’s bed. I knew I could not leave her alone. But also, I wanted to be close to her and close to Dad.

I never went home the first 7 days. I slept in my father’s bed and stayed close by my baby sister’s side.

I later told my father that I owed him a few bottles of wine. I drank all but the Chardonnay in his house. Considering the circumstances, I don’t think he cares.

Weeks after the accident, he made out of the trauma ICU. On Christmas day, we watched him walk with assistance from nurses. He amazed us when he again repeated this the following day.

And then, he regressed. He slid back to a minimally conscious state. It was then that I realized this was bigger than anything I have ever experienced.

Without a doubt, I was not ready to say goodbye to my father on the day that he fell from the 2nd or 3rd step of a step-ladder. I signed those papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions. But I wasn’t ready to tell him goodbye. I know this.

I also know that loss is hard.

About three weeks after the accident, I returned to my practicum site. I am a 3rd year doctoral student who happened to be almost done with the fall semester when the accident occurred, though my practicum, my clinical internship, was to keep going through the semester break. I couldn’t do it.

My supervisor asked me upon my return if I had ever experienced loss.

“I’ve had my share. In some ways, I am old before my time…”

It would’ve been easier if my father would’ve died that day. That may sound crass to many or it may be misinterpreted by those who simply don’t get it.

It would’ve been awful. It would’ve tore a piece of my heart out. But it would’ve been easier.

However, life happens. We roll with our choices. We roll with what life brings us.

And we do the best with what we have most of the time.

I’m at that place I never expected to be for at least another 20 years. You know that place where you are the daughter and making decisions for your father? Yeah, that place.

I’ve gotten the flak from some. Decisions aren’t understood. Updates aren’t appreciated because they look too “negative”. Assumptions and expectations happen.

And there are others who have given me grace. Those ones I can never repay. But some already know this. For it’s not about money or even repayment. It is simply grace…

 

© LifeasChristine, 2017. 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’m only human…

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I signed the papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions.

Will he make it?

Will he be in a coma?

Will I have to make a decision to pull the plug?

Will he ever be close to the same?

Will he be mad at me for signing the papers?

Will he have quality of life?

I remembered the night Dad woke me in the middle of the night. He never even said hello. He said, “Promise me something”. He asked me to promise him to never put him in a nursing home. He told me to take him into the woods with a gun. He told me he wants to be cremated. He told me to give his ashes to his best friend. He said Ed would know where to spread his ashes.

Come to find out, Ed isn’t really sure.

Since the morning my father fell off a ladder and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), that phone call from a few years ago has materialized in my head. I go over our words. I think about our beliefs. I consider our values. I get angry at the irony.

The emergency neurosurgery lasted about 4 ½ hours. I sat in the trauma ICU family waiting room holding my breath. I barely spoke to anyone.

I wanted to run. I wanted to run like hell. I wanted to run away from that hospital as far as I could. I wanted to run away from the day. I wanted to run away from the tragedy. I wanted to run more than anything.

I didn’t run. I knew I couldn’t yet.

We were allowed in to see him in the trauma ICU once he made it out of surgery. He was in a medically induced coma. He was on a ventilator. There were tubes coming out of his head draining blood. The left side of his skull was removed. I later learned they placed it under the skin in his stomach. This is a common procedure to keep the bone viable for later placement. His vitals were out of control. Constant flashing of a heart-rate beating too fast, blood pressure that fluctuated dangerously close to death… the list goes on. The beeping never stopped on that machine.

I wanted to throw that machine out into the hallway. I wanted to smash it. I wanted to scream at it.

STOP BEEPING!

STOP FLASHING!

God, I hated that machine.

One nurse told me to ignore the machine. I laughed at her.

I knew what those numbers meant.

I walked out of that ICU room one day when his systolic blood pressure hit 225. I looked at my little sister and said, “I’ve got to go”. I ran.

I ran to my car out in the parking lot.

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I can do this.

But truthfully, life didn’t care if I knew how to do it or not. It didn’t care if I wanted it. It was here and it was happening. I was in the middle of the biggest shit storm of my life. Yeah, that’s real. I’ve been through some challenges in my life previously, but nothing like this.

Can I be strong for my little sister? Our mom died 10 years ago. She needs me to be strong for her. She needs me to be strong for Dad.

Can I be strong for my brother? He lives out of state. There’s only so much he can do. He needs me to be strong for Dad.

Can I be strong for Dad? He needs me now. He needs me to fight for him. He needs me to believe in him. He needs me to push him.

He wants me to be strong.

I’m not even a fan of the word ‘strong’. “Oh, you’re so strong” – what the hell does that even mean?

And those people who…without batting an eye testifying  their own strength, “I am strong”…. Please, they drive me nuts.

I’ve appeased others and gave them those words when they needed the reassurance that I too was “strong”, but truthfully I am scared. I will keep going. I will do what needs to be done. I’ll probably make some mistakes along the way. I’ll probably break down. Hell, I already have.

I’m not strong. I’m not weak.

I’m only human.

I’m just me.. Christine…

© 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.

My dad does not fall off ladders…

trauma

I was finishing up my essays on my final exam. It was physiological psychology. I wasn’t a fan first time around, but considering I got a C+, which is failing in graduate school, I had to dig deep second go-round.

My cell phone kept ringing in my purse beside me. I thought it was one of my kids.

The phone vibrated over and over and over again.

I got annoyed. They all knew I was taking a final.

It was getting hard to concentrate. I rushed through the ending of my last essay.

I handed my exam to my professor and walked out the door.

There were two fellow students standing outside the classroom who had finished up prior to me. I stopped and chatted with them. We discussed answers we were uncertain about. Were we right? Were we wrong? Did we give the right information? Would we pass?

As we were chatting, a woman came up to the door looking at the room number. She held a pink slip of paper in her hand. She looked frantic.

“You can’t go in there. They are taking a final”

“I know, but I have to. I need to get a hold of a student. It’s an emergency”

“Who’s the student?”

“Christine…”

“That’s me”

“You need to call your husband right away. …there’s been an accident!”

I never even said thank you.

I turned around and ran down the hall. I pulled out my cell phone while I was running.

“Listen to me. You need to get to the hospital. It’s your dad. He had a bad accident. It’s very serious”

I ran.

I ran to my car.

I drove around the parking lot and parked at the building of the graduate department. I ran and banged on the door. It was locked. No one answered.

I ran back to my car. I made phone calls, but I don’t remember all that I called.

I turned off my car and sat there. It hit me. Shock. Disbelief. Numb. I went into autopilot.

I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process this.

Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me! My dad does not fall off ladders. This can’t be real. My dad is stoic. My dad is strong. My dad is self-sufficient. My dad does not fall off ladders.

 

He was only on the 2nd or 3rd step they told me later. He landed head first on a tile floor that he installed the week before or so. He never yelled out. He never put his hands up.

None of this made sense.

I continued to sit in my car, frozen and numb. Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me.

I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t think.

Finally, I put my head down on the steering wheel. I lost it.

I’m not sure how long I lost it for. I know it wasn’t long. I knew I didn’t have long. I had to pull it together. I had to drive to the hospital.

Oh my God – the hospital. I need to talk to the hospital.

I called my husband back.

“I need to talk to his nurse or doctor right away”

He was sent to a rural community hospital that was not equipped for traumatic brain injury. I needed to speak to them immediately.

He got someone on the phone.

“Why haven’t you mercy flighted him yet?”

“We can’t. The weather is too bad.”

“You’re sending him to Rochester right?”

“No, we can’t because we received reports of icy road conditions. We have to send him the other direction.”

“That is 10 minutes longer! How are you going to keep him alive on the way there??”

“We are sending a respiratory therapist in the ambulance with him. We will do everything we can Christine.”

I never even said goodbye. I never even thanked her.

I hung up the phone scared and pissed off.

I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. It was time. I had to go.

I drove slowly to the hospital. I knew he hadn’t left yet. This also pissed me off. What was taking them so long?

I waited in the ER waiting room forever. At least, it felt like forever. I watched every ambulance that arrived. Finally, I saw him.

He was wheeled in on a gurney. A woman was running alongside him, pumping oxygen with a hand-held device.

I ran to the emergency room staff.

“My dad is here. I need to see him”

“You have to wait. He needs to be assessed.”

I waited about a half an hour. It felt like 7 hours.

My husband and little sister arrived.

I ran to her. We lost it together.

This was too much. It was too much for him. It was too much for her. It was too much for me.

It was too much for all of us.

They called us back to a center nursing station. The neurosurgeon brought up his CT scans. The blood was everywhere, pooling in his brain. There were hematomas. There were fractures. There was a significant midline shift.

He turned around and looked at me.

“If your father is the type of person that is only going to be happy living a perfect life, now is the time to say goodbye to him…. Otherwise, I need to operate and I need to do it now or he will die….”

© 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

falling-down-and-getting-up

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.