“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you measure strength?

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STRENGTH.

There is power in that word, but without much of a definition. It’s subjective to interpretation, isn’t it?

How do you measure strength?

It’s an interesting concept…

How do others define it?

Physical strength may be among the easiest to measure, but even that is not black and white.

We’ve all said it, or at least probably most of us, at some point in our lives or another, haven’t we?

“I’m strong!”

Or perhaps we thought it.

Or perhaps you viewed another and deemed them strong.

Why?

What is it about them that makes you see strength?

What is it about yourself that makes you see strength?

Can you conceptualize it? Can you define it? Can you put it into words?

I went on a quest recently to understand this.

It originated because I heard:

“You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”

“I hope I can be strong like you.”

“You are so strong Christine.”

I heard this when I felt anything but strong. It made me mad to hear those words in the moment. I felt expectations were on me.  Expectations I didn’t want. Expectations I didn’t know if I could fulfill.

I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t want to be strong.

I know I can hear another’s story and measure what I view as strength. I can build on this strength with them. I can harness their strength. I can help empower, encourage, and promote growth.

But to put that into words, is tough.

Recently I started asking people: “How do you measure strength?”

These are some of the responses I received:

“…when life deals you the shittiest of hands and you’re still able to play the game.”

“…the ability to know what battles are worth fighting for. Sometimes it means fighting for what you want, while other times it means being strong enough to let something go.”

“…the strongest thing I ever did was forgive my sisters for what they did to me…they nearly ruined me…in fact they did ruin me. And I forgave them when they never asked for it…[that] was strength.”

“I think that strength is the ability to see the beauty in life regardless of the mountains we are climbing. I also believe that strength comes from the ability to view one’s own struggles in perspective of the struggles of others.”

“I think strength is being able to fight your battles, but knowing when to call for backup.”

“I would argue that strength is being able to view the mess of your own life in terms of feeling fortunate, rather than self-loathing.”

“Strength is the ability to be grateful when the mountain gets steep and we aren’t sure if we can make it over.”

“…knowing you’re going to lose the fight, but still standing up to your opponent and giving it your all.”

“…never giving up.”

“Strength is watching someone else do something, handle something, go through something, that you don’t know if you could do.”

“Genuineness.  If someone is honest and truthful that tells me they have a lot of strength because it takes strength to be vulnerable. I measure strength for one’s ability to be open and honest. Complete genuineness and vulnerability.”

“If people are able to work through tough times, do what needs to be done…”

“People that have endured hardships in their life and were able to get through it, making them a better person…going through bullshit and coming out of it with a positive outlook intact.”

Powerful isn’t it?

There are themes within.

Perseverance.

Endurance.

Forgiveness.

Wisdom.

Gratefulness.

Vulnerability.

What do you see?

I am hesitant to call myself strong. I know this. Seems the minute I do, life asks, “Oh yeah? What about now Christine?”

Life has a way of questioning our definition of strength. Or perhaps redefining or even refining our definition…

I’m still working through my own definition. I know for me, it is many of the things that others mention, but it is more. Truthfully, I think it grows with life experience, through hardship, through joys, through life….

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.

A piece of my heart got out of the car and told me goodbye at 4:54…

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The time was 4:54 as I backed out of the driveway. I will never forget the moments and days leading up to the time.

A piece of my heart got out of the car and told me goodbye at 4:54.

About a half an hour earlier, she had finished packing up the car. She had one suitcase and a duffel bag. She had multiple boxes that were to be shipped out later. She came and told me she was ready to go. As I got into the car, she said, “Mom, don’t cry” I never responded. I couldn’t.

As I pulled in the driveway where she wanted me to drop her off, I put the car in park and pulled out the plastic baggy I had stashed in my purse while she was loading the car.  I had kept that baggy in my jewelry box for many years. It contained the diamond earrings from her great-grandmother who had passed away many years ago. I leaned over and put them in her ears one by one, telling her always to check the backs to make sure they are tight, not to take them out unless she gets a second hole and move them there, and never, ever sell or lose them.

I then handed her $100 and said, “If you ever get into a bind, you call me.”

She responded, “I will call you anyways Mom”.

She reached across the seat towards me. I grabbed onto her and lost it.

This surreal moment was happening. She was leaving early in the morning on a plane out to L.A. She was flying across the country.  She was going to a place I did not agree with and staying with people I am unsure of. She was going against my wishes. She was leaving school. She was leaving everything behind her. I felt like she was walking into the lion’s den and it scared the shit out of me.

She too lost it and she cried, “Thank you Mom. Thank you for everything. I know you still believe in me and that’s the only thing that keeps me going. Just thank you Mom. I love you more than anything.”

My heart broke in a million pieces in that moment. I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to lock her up in her room. I wanted her to finish high school. I wanted my little girl back.

I did not scream at her. I held her tighter in that moment that I had her. I was the last to let go. I knew from the first day she told me what this was going to be and how it would play out.

She told me a few months ago that she was leaving home when she turned 18.

Originally, I told her over my dead body. I certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for her. But in my heart, I knew what she knew. She was going to leave and I couldn’t stop her. I had to let go. And I couldn’t burn the bridge with her, nor did I want to.

No, I absolutely do not agree with her choice in her life right now. Out of everyone, she knows this best, and she knows why. But she also knows that no matter what I will always believe in her. I will always love her. And I will always expect great things from her. I expect her to dig deep. I expect her to remember her roots and all the lessons I taught her. I expect her to make it. I expect her to ask for help if she needs it along the way.

And I also hope that she finds what she is desperately searching for. I had a million dreams for her, but perhaps those dreams were mine. I still don’t totally understand all why she needs to do this. Perhaps there is a part of her that needs to understand herself and what she’s made of. She told me she feels “stuck” here in this small town.  And honestly, there is a piece of me that understands that feeling. I too have felt that before at a time in my life.

I hope she learns herself as she needs to. I hope that God will keep his hand upon her. I hope that she will one day return, wiser, still thankful, and with growth.

I hope she receives grace along the way and can fully recognize and appreciate it.

And more than anything, I hope she gets what she needs when she needs it.

© 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.

“Don’t let go Christine.”

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It was a long day at the hospital. I was alone.

It felt like the weight became mine to bear and it felt heavier when I was by myself.

I hated being alone.

He didn’t know who I was. On so many levels, it made me feel more alone.

The nurse came in to change him.

I walked out of the room and down the hall.

I needed to find a place to rest. I needed oxygen – if for only 5 minutes.

I found a little room down the hall with the words “Consult Room” on the door.

I pushed the door open and found no one in there.

Honestly, I was grateful. I wasn’t up to pleasantries. I didn’t want to talk to random strangers. My life had just flipped upside down and inside out. I was holding on by a thread.

The peacefulness of a quiet room ended within a few minutes.

Three people walked in. It was a mother, father, and their adolescent son. One of them asked me if it was okay if they came in and sat. I knew what it meant to find a place when you needed a place, despite my wanting to not share the space.

“Yeah, that’s fine. I’m just waiting here.”

The last thing I wanted to do was make small-talk. Yet, it began…

I probably initiated, though I don’t actually remember.

They asked me who I was visiting. I explained the situation. I probably went into too much detail. I usually do.

I learned that their young daughter had a tumor. The surgery went well. They removed the tumor. They found it because they noticed a large growth that kept growing on the side of her neck. They were beyond grateful it wasn’t cancer. They were taking her home in the morning.

I remember being envious of that… “taking her home in the morning”.

I had been at the hospital long enough that I knew my way around and was often helping people with directions. The ladies in the lobby that checked ID’s, no longer needed to ask who I was there to see; they knew the name and the floor.

They asked me where I was from. I told them about an hour away.

I learned that they were from my neighboring county.

We chatted for about 20 minutes, until they could go in and see their daughter. She had just gotten out of surgery.

I sat there for a few minutes in silence when they left. I thought about the journey I was on. I thought about how quickly life can flip upside down. I wondered how their lives had been changed, if at all. I thought about stories like their’s, albeit different endings. I wish I had asked them if they realized the grace they received.

I returned to see my father.

Around 9 pm, visiting hours were over. He had been sleeping most of the time I was there. I quietly slipped out and took the elevator down to the lobby.

As I stepped out of the elevator, I ran into the three individuals I had chatted with in the consult room. They had left at the same exact time and took another elevator down. We walked into the hall at the same moment.

The father told me to hang in there. The mother came up to me and gave me a hug. She also said, “Don’t let go Christine.”

Sometimes we get what we need in life, not always what we want, but often what we need…

© 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.

 

 

 

Fight Dad! Fight!

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“How are you Christine?”

“You got about an hour?”

“(insert annoying laugh here) no, I don’t”

“Then you don’t care how I really am and you are asking how I am based on pleasantries. I know you’re a resident and you’re still learning. That’s okay. I too am learning, but in the future, don’t ever ask family members in a trauma ICU how they are if you aren’t really interested in hearing how they are!”

Yeah, I fussed at a Trauma ICU resident doctor. It wasn’t the first time I fussed at him.

He offered me papers to sign. They wanted to give my dad a PICC line. I made him go through the risks thoroughly and asked more questions than he wanted to answer. When he finished explaining the risks, I noticed he checked a box that was not for him to check.

I questioned him on this.

“Why did you check this box for me? Isn’t this my choice?”

“Well… uh.. yeah, but most people just check it and don’t really care.”

“First off, I’m not most people and you have no right to check that box. That box is for me to check and that is my decision, not yours!”

I was livid about that little check mark. I let him know this. I hope in his future career he becomes a little more aware of what is his right and what is not. I get it though, he’s still learning. I too am learning.

I let him keep that box checked, but not until I expressed all of my concerns on the matter. It was about principle.

Principles matter.

This was the same resident who told me that I need to be aware of what’s to come. He told me he wanted to prepare me for the inevitable.

“Your father will most likely have a trach for the rest of his life. He will have a feeding tube for the rest of his life. He will need to move to a skilled nursing facility and require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. His injuries are that severe. You will never have your father back”

I resisted the urge to punch him.

I resisted the urge to drop kick him.

But in that moment, I hated him.

I hated what he said. I hated what he represented. I hated him for his words. I hated all that he had given me up to this point.

He read the reports. He saw the injuries. He knew the odds. He was rehearsed in the literature.

But what he lacked was faith.

He was a typical medical resident in training with a head full of stats.

For the record, I hate stats. Always have and always will.

Mainly because the outliers are ignored or dropped.

I have a thing for outliers. There is hope in the outliers; though I suppose to be fair, it depends on the situation and what it is we are looking for.

Regardless, I hate stats and I have issues with those who place faith in stats alone.

Stats don’t tell the whole story.

Science and stats go hand in hand in many ways.

My dad was placed in a medically induced coma for a few days.

I was there every day. At every visiting hour. I had no idea what to talk about. He couldn’t talk back. I was scared out of my mind.

You know what I did?

I repeated myself most of the time.

“Ed plowed the driveway.”

“Ed said you owe him a dinner at Sporty’s because you stood him up”

“Remember that time I wanted to drive the lawnmower and I ran over the softball breaking a window?”

“Remember that time you drove to Virginia when I was in a bind?”

When I ran out of words, I read. I also told him if he didn’t like the book, he would need to wake up and tell me so…but until then, I was gonna keep reading.

I read the The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews. I skipped over any words of death.

I also told him that he better wake up or I was gonna play country music.

He hates country music.

“Jen’s here Dad”

“Tim’s here Dad”

“We love you. You got to hang on. You got to fight.”

It was in the Trauma ICU that I saw his tears.

The nurse said it was a body reflex.

I called bullshit.

I dried his tears.

Dad, I know it hurts. I know you’re scared. But it’s not over. It’s gonna suck, but you gotta fight. It’s not your time. Fight…. We got you and we will be here for you.

Fight Dad! Fight!

© 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.