Spotlight: Christine Gaither (Wildflowers)By Nancy Polanski (nap) on May 16, 2011
|Our Spotlight guest this week goes by the name Wildflowers. In her words, I sense sweetness and a joy in simple pleasures. In her eyes and her smile I see a healthy sense of humor. And woven through her life are threads of sadness, which have produced an inner strength and an attitude of gratitude. I think you'll like meeting Christine!|
Nancy: The way I do these interviews is like this. I ask my guests to type up a little bio on themselves so that I know what questions to ask. The first line of Christine's bio gave me a chuckle. She wants me to make her more exciting! So I should tell you that Christine is a tightrope walker in a circus, who raises rattlesnakes in her backyard and climbed Mount Everest last year. Twice. That would make her more exciting, but I don't think you would believe me. I prefer the real story that she shared with me anyway, so I think I'll stick with that. (Still, if you know anyone who has done those things, please forward me a name....)
Christine: I grew up in southern California with an older brother & two younger sisters during the days of bell bottoms, platform shoes and rock and roll! My mom was a homemaker and my father served in the Navy during the Korean War, and later had his own business installing and cleaning carpet. Mom got a driving license, went back to school and started working when I was around nine years old. Looking back, I wonder how I made it through those days and stayed so naive!
My mom comes to mind, I think she sheltered us kids, maybe because we lived with an alcoholic father; or maybe growing up in those conditions makes a child grow up too fast. I was always a responsible girl, never got into trouble, never missed school and made the honor roll. On weekends, I would put on my roller skates and go to the beach about a mile from the house. There is just something soothing about sitting on the beach, with the sun shining down on you and the wind blowing across your face. It was my solitude in those days, and today I still have yearnings especially when things are chaotic or stressful. As a teenager I never minded my own company…maybe even preferred it. Although I did make friends easily and got along with just about everyone! I was one of those girls that everyone came to, to listen to their problems, and I would always be there for them.
Some of my earliest memories are when we lived in Pacific Grove, California, which is right at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula along the coast. We had a small garden with veggies and intermingling flowers, which is where I could usually be found, covered in dirt with some in my hands and a mouthful to eat! I loved the way the dirt gritted on my teeth, what can I say? Nasturtiums were my favorite flower and I would bite the little spur and drink the nectar. There were always lots of insects like honeybees and butterflies in the garden. Ladybirds were all around too and were considered good luck if they landed on you. I welcome bugs into my garden, the beneficial ones!
The Monarch butterfly migrates to Pacific Grove every year around October 1st, I think, so it's also called Butterfly Town USA! There are thousands of them hanging in the trees. It's quite a sight. Cocoons can be found all over the place. In kindergarten, my mom dressed me in wings, leotards and antennae, and I marched in the annual Butterfly Parade.
Through the years, the outdoors was where I wanted to be. I spent many years with my roller skates attached to my feet. As I got older, I loved camping and hiking, or going to the beach. By age twelve, I was working during the summers so I could buy my own school clothes so I could be a little more stylish.
When I was thirteen, I was allowed to go up to Lone Pine to stay with my mom's relatives and babysit for an entire summer. That was a wonderful experience. I did a lot of hiking in the mountains, skiing on the lake, camping on the weekends. I would camp and sleep outside with just a sleeping bag! I remember waking up with scorpions crawling on the ground and not being bothered! Ugh! My cousin and I stayed in an add-on room, where every night I would have to pick the bugs out of my bed before I got in! Some of them were very strange looking so we would get out the bug book to look them up. The relatives grew squash and other veggies that weren't familiar to me. I really enjoyed eating new foods! They raised goats for milk which I really liked too. Sometimes we would go to my Aunt Edie's for supper and I would stuff myself. Everything was so delish! She made the best homemade bread. Once I tried to get a taste of everything in my mouth all at once. It was so full I couldn't chew!
My cousin and I would go on all day hikes with just a canteen of water. I remember the first time I could hear "nothing!" That was amazing, lying on top of a big rock, looking at the sky and the only sound was that of my own heartbeat!
After graduating high school I went to Italy with my girlfriend and her mother! We stayed with her relatives in Palermo, Sicily. They rented a house on the beach for the second week, in Mondello on the Mediterranean, and that was beautiful! Wonderful people, the Italians. They really do celebrate life. That was such a wonderful cultural experience; the family was so loving and close, something I wasn't used to... I didn't want to leave!!
Back home, I went to a local community college, majoring in Psychology, but that was short lived when I met a fellow. He was in the Navy and seven years older than I was. We married and headed to Texas where his family lived. I continued with college there for a short time before I became pregnant with my daughter, and later a son. My two children and Texas are the best things out of that relationship. Mostly just a blur now, are those memories of abuse. After I left him, I moved home to California with my two children. Six months later, he abducted the children from the front of my mom's house. It took me almost five years to find them and another three years to get them back. My son was twelve by then and my daughter was thirteen. I don't know how I got through those years, but somehow I made it. I kept my pain to myself and trudged along, like a zombie at times. Once I had a friend over to my home; it was obvious he was uncomfortable looking at the dead Christmas tree sitting in my living room, with presents underneath it, along with all of its needles.....I'm not really sure how many years it sat there. It was a wonderful reunion when my children were returned to me. They were happy to come home to their mom, but as you can imagine there were many challenges.
My daughter went on to have a beautiful son and later two more sons with a different father. All three of her sons are living with their fathers. I am so glad that it worked out that way. My oldest grandson is supposed to visit this summer and I am really hoping that happens!!! We are very close and I talk to him often. He's going to be eleven this September. My son just had his first child this February. It's a girl, my first granddaughter! I haven't gotten to see her yet but hope to very soon!
Nancy: Grandchildren seem to have a way of smoothing out the rough spots of life. I am glad to hear that they brighten yours. Yet pain was to surface in your life once again years later. Would you care to talk about it?
Christine: It was a life-changing experience when my daughter took her own life last year. She was 28 years young and the mother of three boys. In a way, I lost her twice! She was in a bad relationship and ended up taking an overdose of Tylenol. It damaged her liver which later caused all of her other organs to fail. I went to Houston and brought her home, a day I will never forget. During the six hour drive home, it began snowing. I saw a twinkle in her eyes as she looked out and saw the snow. She wished she could make a snowman. Looking back, I wish I had gone out and made one for her. I now realize what a fine line there is between life and death. It is still very sad but part of me fills with love when I think of her. I am so thankful to have loved someone so much, to feel the pain of losing them... I'm not sure if that makes sense?
Nancy: It makes sense to me, Christine. How are you doing now?
Christine: I probably have cried my share of tears. Sometimes I think that the only thing that kept me sane was believing that God wouldn't put anything in front of me that I couldn't handle! I don't want to sound like a victim or anything. I know my life story isn't all sunshine and lollipops, but I like to live for today, and I like to believe in people and find the good in them! That which you think about, so you shall become! So, I'm going to enjoy the calm of the present!
Christine: My soul mate didn't catch up with me until we were both in our forties. We met in Houston. After 14 years as an insurance adjuster, I was burnt out and became a bartender at a friend's ice house! It was lots of fun and people were drawn to me as much as I was to them. One day my soul mate walked through those doors...he had just returned from work overseas in Africa and wanted a good ol' barbeque sandwich. I remember he wanted sliced brisket with the jalepenos grilled and sauce on the side, and a Bud Light. My heart did a pitter patter...something that never happened before, even in high school!! And I remember thinking, why am I feeling like a school girl!? He had the most beautiful eyes. We became friends before a relationship started. Both of us were still wearing some "armor" from our past ~ something else that was very similar as his child was taken from him for many years. We have so much in common and share a love of good food, a good bottle of wine, the smell of fresh hay, riding on a nice sunny day and nature. But most importantly, he made me laugh. In no time, we knew we were meant to be together - and after comparing notes, we realized that we had probably crossed paths several times over the years! I call him Hubby but actually we have never gotten married on paper. We've been together 11 years now (yes that would make us in our fifties. Ha!).
Nancy: You said something about crossing paths over the years?
Christine: He also lived in California and was working very close to my mom's house and actually went to some of the same restaurants that I did. One of his favorites was a restaurant that my sister worked at! In Houston, at one point we lived on the same street and went to the same dance club.
Nancy: I see what you mean! It's no wonder you two feel like you are destined to be together!
Christine: After four long years of looking, we finally found "our perfect home." We are still amazed at how wonderful it is here! We were both ready to get out of the city and wanted to find a place in the country. We looked all over and finally narrowed it down to east TX. Hubby got one of those home design programs and began designing our dream house. I was looking up plants that I wanted to grow and learning about how to use nature and what plants were native to east Texas. Actually, looking up plants is how I ended up as a Cubits member!
And then it happened! We found the one!!! It was everything we wanted, even the way it sits in the middle of the forest of hardwood trees, with a long driveway that takes you from the road to the house! It was a beautiful house sitting right in the middle of twenty acres!
The first thing we did was buy patio furniture! We spent hours outside, ate all our meals outside, and just soaked it all in, pinching each other every now and then! In the evenings we would watch the deer file up to the pond for a drink...sometimes there were as many as nine of them with their fawns. They bedded down right across from the patio. If we shined a light, we could see all their eyes glowing, staring at us! Also at night, we could hear the hoot owls calling to each other, the frogs singing and the crickets and locust singing their familiar songs. We knew we were home! That was in July of 2008.
I forgot to mention the cottage garden. The cottage garden fence made the top of the to-do list... since the chickens showed up, I needed a place to plant my seedlings without them being scratched up by them hens! Hubby built me a cottage garden! He built a very nice sturdy fence and it looks so beautiful. He said he built it nice for me because he wants me to be happy. He's so sweet and I really do adore him!
Christine: Last year Hubby's family brought me chickens! I had talked about wanting chickens for years! I just love yard eggs! They are so much better than any you can get at the store! I am still without words at what a nice thing that was to do!! Each year we have a big "to do" with Hubby's family, and our friends from Sweden all show up! So there were campers and mobile homes all around... I just didn't notice the chicken coop on the trailer out back!! Hubby's nephew raised the chickens and made the coop for me! The morning after they all arrived, someone said they wanted to show me something and led me outside... everyone else knew!!! As soon as I saw it I was so happy that my knees got weak and I fell to the ground and tears of joy started to flow! I love those chickens and they are spoiled just like the rest of the animals around here!
We have three dogs that are pretty much our spoiled children and a cat named King Konky that rules us all. Actually, they are such a joy and make me smile just about every day! Our baby girl is in season as we speak! Her name is Anna, a German Shepherd. We also have our oldest, a male Shepherd named Bamsa, which is Danish for Teddy Bear. It suits him perfectly really; he is just a big 125lb. baby! Bamsa pretty much taught me when he was a puppy! He would wait for the correct commands! We also have the middle child, bless her heart. Her name is Poodgie, my Walmart special, she is very sweet and spends most of her time watching and chasing the squirrels. They are such joys and they make me smile every day!
Nancy: I have to ask you to tell me about Poodgie. Why is he your Walmart special?
Christine: Why is Poodgie my Walmart special? Well, one day while I was driving to Walmart, I was thinking how sad Bamsa seemed and how he would like a playmate. King Konky wasn't wanting to play with him much anymore and no wonder, Bamsa was getting huge! So as I was leaving the parking lot, I saw a sign that said "free puppies" and I took Poodgie, my Walmart special, home with me. Bamsa now had a little playmate.
King Konky is helping me type right now! I think he wants some attention!
Nancy: Okay, just a couple more questions. Is there anyone in your life that played a strong role in shaping you into the person you are today?
Christine: Two people who influenced me the most in my life are my mom, who is still living and working in California, and an old boss I had when I was an insurance adjuster.
Mom taught me morals and values and the importance of honesty and respect. Like the time she had me by the hand marching right back up to the store to return that balloon I stole!! I had to apologize for taking something without paying and give it back to the man behind the counter. He wasn't mad and said I could have the balloon but mom told him I would not learn anything that way. Another valuable lesson my mom taught me was to see the beauty inside of people. I passed that on to my children. I think it's important to live by the golden rule!
My old boss Bob was such a wise man and sort of a father figure. In the fourteen years that he was my boss, he was always there with good advice; sometimes when I didn't want it, which was usually when I needed it most! Bob was a very well read man and he used to say this quote from some author, though it may not be exact ... "Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear a word you are saying." I've used that one a few times! Sometimes we want to believe what people say, when our heart and head both know we need to look at a person's actions. He helped me realize that I cannot be mad at a person for being who they are, I can only be mad at myself for putting up with it.
Nancy: Tell me a few things that make you happy.
Christine: I sure have met many wonderful people here at Cubits! I'm one of Charley's fans... I think Charleen said his fan club is up to 52 members! If you don't know Charley, he's a big red mule. He takes us on cyber trips around the world... it's a fun group of people. I should add that I also belong to a group called "Sisters of the Heart," here at Cubits. We make quilts and stuffed animals for various charities. It's something I'm very much enjoying. Anyone interested is welcome to join.
Cooking is also one of the things I enjoy. I sometimes cook for a local hospice and I enjoy cooking for family and friends. Our home, being out in the country, has become somewhat of a "Bed & Breakfast" destination. I enjoy having company and will prepare a nice menu. If I could just take the time to measure everything while I'm cooking I could write that cookbook!
Our perfect home. Our life is simple and peaceful! I have so much gratitude for each day that I get to spend right here. I love growing herbs and now I will have room to put in all of them, not just the culinary ones but the medicinal ones too!
Next is to finish the property line fencing and maybe get a milk cow or goats! I would love to learn to make cheese. We would like to have the garden big enough that we won't need to buy produce from the grocer. We have fish in our pond and fresh eggs everyday! We hope to someday be able to live a homestead way of life. We are on our way!
Nancy: My thanks to Christine for allowing us to spend this time with her. I think the life that she is living is far more rewarding, albeit less exciting, than that of a circus performer, and I know she wouldn't be as happy living any other life than her own. She is right where she wants to be. I hope you'll leave her a greeting in the chat threads below. Christine is the owner of two cubits. Please visit her at Avenue C Block Party and Companion Planting & The Garden.
|biography, interview, Spotlight, Texas|
|I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.|
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Comments and discussion:
|Subject||Thread Starter||Last Reply||Replies|
|You live in Grace...||Aguane||Jun 20, 2011 4:31 PM||3|
|Christine - You're a ray of sunshine!||chelle||May 23, 2011 6:36 AM||4|
|Your attitude :)||Boopaints||May 21, 2011 11:51 AM||9|
|Great to hear about you!||skellogg||May 19, 2011 7:40 AM||1|
|Late...as usual...||Sharon||May 18, 2011 8:10 PM||3|
|Wowsiers!!!||Ridesredmule||May 18, 2011 7:13 PM||4|
|Love you...||JaeRae||May 16, 2011 5:01 PM||1|
|So nice to know more about you||Mindy03||May 16, 2011 10:44 AM||1|
|I knew you were special||kareoke||May 16, 2011 10:24 AM||4|
|Hi Christine!||Zanymuse||May 16, 2011 9:30 AM||4|
|Sadness and Joy||HappyJackMom||May 16, 2011 9:09 AM||1|
|Loved Your Story||CajuninKy||May 16, 2011 7:51 AM||4|