Allergy, Asmtha & Immunology vs. Farm Life

Farm residents with livestock, except poultry, have protection against allergy later in life

Michelle Lasley | Environmental Science & Resources 428, Professor Alan Yeakley

Abstract

There has been a worldwide increase in asthma and allergies over the last half century. Many studies link this to the Western lifestyle and increased standard of living. In addition, the rise of atopic diseases has been linked to the decline of infectious disease. Furthermore, several studies have linked the use of antibiotics in infancy and early childhood to prevalence of asthma, eczema, and allergy rhinitis. The post-industrial period saw changes in the development of allergies, increased risk of asthma and allergy rhinitis, or hay fever.

To discuss why these changes are happening, numerous European studies have linked less likelihood to experience allergies if children have parents who are farmers, and more specifically children who live on farms in the presence of animals. These children, who live on farms with animals, have decreased adult asthma, allergy rhinitis, and eczema. A New Zealand study found that this was null when children were on farms with poultry. This is important because pediatricians find asthma and allergies, during the late 1970s, to be difficult to treat. Farm environment for children protects against allergic rhinitis and asthma. Exposure to environmental mycobacteria and actinomycetes could be the explanation. If planners could incorporate these findings in urban designs, perhaps symptoms of allergies in children would decrease, increasing the quality of life for all.

Introduction

Society’s quick change from an agrarian society to an industrial society has had many unforeseen affects on the urban landscape, or in the urban ecology. One such unforeseen affect is in allergies. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there were few documented cases of hay fever, asthma and other allergies. Victims of allergies can tell you that allergies have a debilitating affect on the sufferer. Because allergies affect every facet of the sufferer’s life, allergy has a direct correlation to Quality of Life (QOL) issues and measurements. As QOL decreases, the potential to treat allergies gets harder.1 Treating allergies and the occurrence of allergies has startling costs to society. Additionally, allergy is so prevalent that new professions have arisen out from this increase and formation of allergy.

With such a wide ranging affect, it is helpful to know what is included in allergy. Recent papers include in allergies the following types: allergy rhinitis (hay fever), asthma (inflammation of the bronchial tubes), and atopic/eczema/dermatitis syndrome (AEDS) (skin rashes and conditions).2 Several studies over the past two decades indicate a strong correlation between protection against allergies in adulthood and exposure to farm animals, except poultry, as a child. This paper will show the debilitating affect allergy has on young people, a basic introduction on what happens in allergy sufferers; a discussion of the studies showing links between livestock and allergy protection; a discussion of the studies that show an adverse link, especially in regards to poultry; and finally a summary of what was shown with suggestions on where studies should next proceed.

Allergy – Symptoms & Basic History

For one hundred years now, modern science has known that synthetic antihistamine would protect an animal from induced anaphylaxis, meaning that for one hundred years we have known what allergies look like and a basic idea of how to control allergies. Then, about 65 years ago, immunoglobulin E (IgE) was discovered as the acting carrier of ragweed, and later other allergens, the main component whose sensitivity chooses who has allergies and who does not.3 It was learned that allergies occur when people have a hypersensitivity to triggers, and in this instance, ragweed. This sensitivity follows across the board from allergy rhinitis to asthma, and as Leffert describes asthma as an immunologic hypersensitivity, sometimes where emotional stress triggers and exacerbates symptoms. One of the key components of asthma is when antigens sensitize a child and then these antigens trigger an immunologic reaction, i.e. an asthma attack. Likewise, for allergy rhinitis, it would seem that exposure to allergens, the body developing a hypersensitivity to these allergens, and then triggers by the allergens force allergies in the sufferer, i.e. hay fever or sneezing attacks such as when a burst of pollen from sniffing a flower itches the sufferer’s nose.

Through the past 100 years, medicine has continued to study allergy, the causes of allergy, and how to treat allergy. Questionnaires have been issued, studies have been tallied, and the basic findings are that allergies are expensive to treat, can often confound the pediatrician in charge of care, and clearly makes the victim of allergy suffer sometimes year round. Some questions used to decide if someone suffers from allergy are found in Table 4.4 The questionnaires studied for this paper generally follow an if-then format. If the sufferer experiences this symptom, then continue here, if not, go to this place. It is important to differentiate between colds, flu, and actual allergy symptoms. All studies used had a 95% confidence index, suggesting strong credibility.

Livestock as an Allergy Protection

Beginning with studies in the mid-90s, several European scientists in Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK, and other places in Europe, have been curious about the connections to allergies comparing urban and rural children. In the early 19th Century, it was thought that urban children had fewer allergies than rural kids did because at the time, rural places were cleaner than urban places, making exposure to allergens higher in urban places, rather than rural. Modern studies have found the opposite to be true. Ironically, studies from the past twenty years, mostly in Europe, have shown that exposure to farm animals has a protective affect against allergens, especially in regards to allergy rhinitis, or hay fever. Bråbäck illustrates the relationship between occupations and habitat in his 2004 article in Clnical & Experimental Allergy.5 Data is taken from Swiss conscript data from 1952 on. Alhtough occurences of allergy increased for habitants from both rural and urban dwellings, urban people had a higher increase and the gap between urban and rural grew larger.

Braun-Fahrländer and colleagues found, in 1999, that farming as a parental occupation decreased the risk of children developing symptoms of allergies.6 This paper has been documented in many following, suggesting a leading insight into this allergy conundrum. Braun-Fahrländer and colleagues hypothesized that children growing up ion farms were less likely to be snesitied to common allergens and then that they wold suffer less from allergic disease. To carry out their study, Braun-Fahrländer and colleagues used the Swiss Study on Childhood Allergy and Respiratory Symptoms with Respect to Air pollution (SCARPOL), a data set used by most of the European studies examined. Methods were questionnaire at the school health services, a routine visit for the three ages groups studied, and blood samples for the older age groups. Of note in their findings was that farming familes had a lower socio-economic status; had more children; had more humitidy or visible mold in their home,;used traditional heating such as coal and wood; were more likely to keep furred pets, but the furred pets were less likely to be in the children’s bedroom; had mothers that were less lilkely to smoke; and had less hay fever, asthma, and eczema in their family history. From their findings, they discussed that the possiblity exists that the living in an agricultural enviroment could provide a model of primary prevention. If this proves to be true, then, these findings could be taken into the urban environment as preventive maitenance for alleryg sufferers.

Poultry – An Adverse Affect

Contrasting the European studies, a New Zealand study also looked at farms, children’s exposure to animals, and resistance to allergies as an adult.7 This study found that the children in the sample, their risk increased with exposure to farms. The most striking difference is the New Zealand study had more poultry, or in general poultry farms. The European studies did not, indicating that it is exposure to poultry that either increases or does nothing to the risk of being affected by allergy. Wickens, in Table 5 shows incidence where exposure to poultry nearly doubles the risk of hay fever compared to other triggers studied, such as cats and residence, the farm abode.8 Additionally, this study noted a higher incidence of allergy in regards to pigs and hayfever, farm abode in current allergic rhinitis, farm abode for asthma, and cats (inside or outside) regarding AEDS (skin problems).

The study discusses that all children living on farms had increased risk of all studied forms of allergy: hay fever, allergic rhinitis, asthma, wheezing, and eczema. Of the European studies examined, they concluded that living on farms with livestock had the protective affect against allergy later in life, but the published results did not pare down which animals were on the farms like this New Zealand study. On the other hand, the New Zealand study did not mention animals like cows (a European animal attributed to the protective affect), horses, goats, or other farm mammals besides pigs. Regardless, examining these causes in more detail and from a different vantage point, this study pushes further research to examine more fully which animals actually have the protective affect. If this is not done, one could believe that it maybe something in the air in European farms rather than the animals present.

As a rebuttal to the New Zealand study, Braun-Fahrländer points out that having contact with farm animals shows the substantial decrease in the development of hayfever and asthma comparing children living on farms and non-farming children.9 He introduces in this editorial the ALEX study (ALlergy and EndotoXin) where dust samples were obtained from enrolled children and tests were done to see the development of IgE sensitization. Although not well supported, it was this sensitization that farm animals protect against, a known cause of allergy. Subsequently, although growing up on a farm does not suppress the process of IgE sensitization it protects against it. Still, though, animals remain undefined, and the New Zealand study, of the obtained articles, is the only one that specifies which animals were tested against.

Conclusions

In this paper I showed the debilitating affect allergy has on young people, studies showing links between livestock and allergy protection; and studies that show an adverse link in that protection, especially in regards to poultry. Several European studies over the past two decades have shown that when children live on farms with livestock, this experience later in life acts as protection against allergies, allergies that are increasing in society. This is important because of the discomfort and adverse affects to Quality of Life, the costs of health care for the afflicted persons, and the cost of healthcare for the public. If we can pinpoint what causes allergies, what can keep allergies at bay, and lastly how to overcome allergies, we would live in very different places than we do now. To take these findings further would be to introduce them into the planning stage of urban centers. If these findings could be more pinpointed for policy gurus, then we could try to make our cities allergy free. This would allow us to cure or control allergy at a local level with less cost to the individual and public. The next question could be, “Besides livestock, which animals that protect against allergies could be introduced as part of the urban landscape?” We’ve seen that poultry does not, so does that mean we need more dogs? Should every household enjoy the company of a dog, further reducing the need for places such as the Human Society?

References

  • Asher, M.I., U. Keil, H.R. Anderson, et al. 1995. International study of asthma and allergies in childhood (ISAAC): rationale and methods. European Respiratory Journal. 8:483-491.
  • Bråbäck, L., A. Hjern, and F. Rasmussen. 2004. Trends in asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema among Swedish conscripts form farming and non-farming environments; a nationwide study over three decades. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 34:38-43.
  • Braun-Fahrländer, C. 2002. Do only European cattle protect from allergies? Allergy. 57:1094-1096.
  • Braun-Fahrländer, C., M. Gassner, L. Grize, et al. 1999. Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer’s children and their peers living in the same rural community. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 29:28-34.
  • Emanuel, M. B. 1999. Histamine and the antiallergic antihistamines: a history of their discovers. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 29(supplement 3):1?11.
  • Gerth van Wijk, R. 2002. Allergy: a global problem; Quality of life. Allergy. 57:1097-1110.
  • Kilpeläinen, M., E.O. Terho, H. Helenius, and M. Koskenvuo. 2000. Farm environment in childhood prevents the development of allergies. Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 30:201-208.
  • Leffert, Fred, M.D. 1978. Asthma: a modern perspective. Pediatrics. 62(6):1061-1069.
  • Wickens, K., J.M. Lane, P. Fitzharris, et al. 2002. Farm Residence and exposures and the risk of allergic diseases in New Zealand children. Allergy. 57-1171-1179.

Tables & Figures

Table 11

Association of physician-diagnosed asthma during lifetime with background factors in young Finnish adults. Adjustment performed by logistic regression model for all the other factors in the table and parental education.

Total N* Prevalence (%)* Crude OR* 95% CI P-value Adjusted CR† 95% CI P-Value
Place of Residene at Age 0-6 years
Rural non-farm 1,243 5.3 1.00 1.00
Farm 1,095 3.7 0.68 0.45-1.01 NS 0.70 0.46-1.06 NS
Urban 7,276 4.5 0.81 0.64-1.10 NS 0.81 0.61-1.07 NS
Day care outside the home at 0-2 years
No 9,324 4.5 1.00 1.00
Yes 1,127 5.1 1.14 0.86-1.52 NS 1.09 0.80-1.49 NS
Passive smoking at age 0-2 years
No 8,292 4.3 1.00 1.00
Yes 2,257 5.6 1.32 1.07-1.62 <0.01 1.30 1.03-1.64 <0.05
Gender
Male 4,142 5.1 1.00 1.00
Female 6,488 4.2 0.81 0.67-0.97 <0.05 0.72 0.59-0.88 <0.01
Parents’ asthma or atopy
No 6,258 2.9 1.00 1.00
Yes 4,299 6.39 2.46 2.04-2.97 <0.001 2.32 1.89-2.84 <0.001
Number of older siblings
0 5,672 4.9 1.00 1.00
1 3,597 4.3 0.88 0.72-1.08 NS 0.94 0.76-1.17 NS
2 920 4 0.82 0.58-1.16 NS 0.91 0.62-1.33 NS
3 256 3.5 0.71 0.36-1.40 NS 0.74 0.36-1.53 NS
?4 144 3.5 0.70 0.29-1.73 NS 0.90 0.36-2.25 NS

* Using all available information.

For subjects with complete data on all the background variables.

1 M. Kilpeläinen, E.O. Terho, H. Helenius, and M. Koskenvuo. “Farm environment in childhood prevents the development of allergies” in Clinical and Experimental Allergy. 2000. 30:201-208.

Table 21

Association of physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis and/or allergic conjunctivitis during lifetime with background factors in young Finnish adults. Adjustment performed by logistic regression model for all the other factors in the table and parental education.

Total N* Prevalence (%)* Crude OR* 95% CI P-value Adjusted CR† 95% CI P-Value
Place of Residene at Age 0-6 years
Rural non-farm 1,243 20.80 1.00 1.00
Farm 1,095 13.90 0.61 0.49-0.77 <0.001 0.63 0.50-0.79 <0.001
Urban 7,276 22.40 1.10 0.95-1.27 NS 1.08 0.92-1.26 NS
Day care outside the home at 0-2 years
No 9,324 20.50 1.00 1.00
Yes 1,127 25.20 1.30 1.13-1.51 <0.001 1.22 1.04-1.42 <0.05
Passive smoking at age 0-2 years
No 8,292 21.00 1.00 1.00
Yes 2,257 20.60 0.98 0.87-1.09 NS 1.03 0.91-1.17 NS
Gender
Male 4,142 21.90 1.00 1.00
Female 6,488 20.20 0.90 0.82-0.99 <0.05 0.82 0.74-0.91 <0.001
Parents’ asthma or atopy
No 6,258 15.40 1.00 1.00
Yes 4,299 28.90 2.23 2.03-2.45 <0.001 2.25 2.03-2.49 <0.001
Number of older siblings
0 5,672 22.30 1.00 1.00
1 3,597 19.50 0.85 0.76-0.94 <0.01 0.86 0.77-0.96 <0.01
2 920 20.40 0.89 0.75-1.06 NS 0.99 0.82-1.19 NS
3 256 19.80 0.86 0.63-1.17 0.99 0.71-1.37 NS
?4 144 9.00 0.35 0.20-0.61 <0.001 0.47 0.26-.84 <0.05

* Using all available information.

For subjects with complete data on all the background variables.

Table 32

Association of respiratory and allergic symptoms1 and allergic sensitization with farming as parental occupation.

Symptom prevalence accounting to parental occupation Association with farming as parental occupation
Total study population (n,%) Farming (n,%) Non-Farming (n,%) Crude OR (95%, CI) Adjusted3 OR (95%, CI)
Questionnaire (N = 1620)
Repated cough 594/36.7 103/33.6 491/37.4 0.85 (0.65-1.10) 0.90 (0.63-1.29)
Bronchitis 156/9.6 31/10.1 125/9.5 1.07 (0.71-1.62) 1.37 (0.77-2.40)
Wheez 135/8.3 16/5.2 119/9.1 0.55 (0.33-0.94) 0.77 (0.38-1.58)
Asthma (ever) 150/9.3 24/7.8 126/9.6 0.80 (0.51-1.26) 1.17 (0.64-2.13)
Sneezing during pollen season 125/7.7 8/2.6 117/8.9 0.27 (0.14-0.54) 0.34 (0.12-0.89)
Hay fever (ever) 197/12.2 22/7.2 175/13.3 0.50 (0.32-0.79) 0.89 (0.49-1.59)
Itchy skin rash (ever) 193/12.0 27/8.9 166/12.7 0.67 (0.41-1.02) 0.86 (0.49-1.50)
Eczema (ever) 305/18.8 48/15.6 257/19.6 0.76 (0.54-1.07) 1.15 (0.74-1.81)
Serological test2 (N=404)
Postive SX1 test (CAP-class?2) 139/34.4 16/18.6 123/38.7 0.33 (0.18-0.59) 0.31 (0.13-0.73)
Specific IgE’s to outdoor allergens (CAP class?2) 119/29.5 15/17.4 104/32.7 0.43 (0.24-0.78) 0.38 (0.16-0.87)
Specific IgE’s to indoor allergens (CAP class?2) 81/20.1 4/4.7 77/24.2 0.15 (0.06-0.38) 0.15 (0.04-0.57)

1 During the past 12 months if not otherwise specified.

2 318 serological tests were done in children from non-farming families, 86 in farmers’ children.

3 The logistic regression model included the following variables: age, sex, parental education, a family history of asthma, hay fever, eczema, number of siblings, maternal smoking, pet ownership, indoor humidity, study area, and heating fuels.

Table 43

SAMPLE – Core questionnaire rhinitis module for 13-14 year olds NOT INCLUDED

Table 54

Adjusted odds ratios for the association between various exposures and having hayfever ever, allergic rhinitis in the last 12 months, asthma ever, wheeze in the last 12 months, atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome (AEDS) ever, and skin prick test (SPT) positivity

n (293) Hayfever ever Current allergic rhinitis Asthma ever Current wheeze AEDS ever SPT positivity
First year of life
Farm abode 94 1.3 (0.4-3.9) 0.5 (0.2-1.2) 0.7 (0.3-1.8) 0.5 (0.2-1.4) 0.7 (0.3-1.8) 1.3 (0.5-3.6)
Regular poultry 36 1.8 (0.5-6.6) 2.0 (.07-5.9) 2.7 (0.9-7.7)* 2.1 (0.7-6.6) 3.7 (1.3-0.7)** 1.1 (0.4-3.5)
Regular pig 29 0.4 (0.1-1.9) 0.6 (0.2-2.0) 1.0 (0.3-3.3) 0.6 (0.2-2.3) 0.6 (0.2-1.8) 0.2 (0.1-0.9)**
Cats inside or outside 223 0.4 (0.1-1.0)** 1.4 (0.6-3.1) 1.4 (0.6-3.1) 1.0 (0.4-2.4) 0.4 (0.2-0.8)*** 0.6 (0.3-1.3)
Dogs inside or outside 185 0.5 (0.2-1.3) 0.7 (0.4-1.4) 0.4 (0.2-0.8)*** 0.6 (0.3-1.2)* 0.8 (0.4-1.5) 0.8 (0.4-1.6
Current exposures
Farm abode 95 1.3 (0.4-3.9) 2.7 (1.0-6.9)*** 2.0 (0.8-5.2) 1.9 (0.7-6.6) 1.7 (0.7-4.1) 0.8 (0.2-1.7)
Regular poultry 45 2.2 (0.7-7.0) 1.5 (0.6-3.8) 0.8 (0.3-2.0) 1.0 (0.4-2.6) 0.5 (0.2-1.2) 2.8 (1.0-6.9)**
Regular pig 22 2.8 (.6-12.2) 1.0 (0.3-3.6) 0.7 (0.2-2.3) 1.6 (0.4-5.9) 0.7 (0.2-2.2) 3.3 (0.9-11.8)*
Cats inside or outside 234 0.7 (0.3-1.9) 1.0 (0.5-2.2) 1.5 (0.7-3.3) 0.9 (0.4-2.1) 2.8 (1.3-6.1)*** 1.4 (0.6-3.3)
Dogs inside or outside 214 1.5 (0.5-4.0) 1.0 (0.5-2.2) 1.6 (0.8-3.5) 1.5 (0.7-3.4) 1.3 (0.6-2.7) 2.0 (0.9-4.3)
Geomean endotoxin 0.9 (0.6-1.2) 1.0 (0.8-1.3) 0.9-0.7-1.2) 1.2 (0.9-1.5) 1.0 (0.8-1.3) 1.0 (0.8-1.3)
Diet at < 2 years
Yoghurt once or more a week 225 0.3 (0.1-0.7)*** 0.3 (0.1-0.7)*** 1.1 (0.6-2.4) 1.1 (0.4-2.3) 0.6 (90.3-1.20) 0.8(0.4-1.7)
Unpasteurized milk ever 38 1.1 (0.2-5.0) 0.3 (0.1-1.1)* 0.7 (0.2-2.4) 0.6 (0.2-0.8) 0.2 9 (0.1-2.20**) 0.6 (0.2-1.9)
Pasteurized milk once or more a day 192 1.7 (0.7-4.6) 1.5 (0.7-3.3) 1.3 (0.6-2.7) 1.1 (0.5-2.5) 1.4 (0.7-3.00) 0.8 (0.4-1.7)
Cheese once or more a week 200 2.1 (0.8-5.6) 1.3 (0.6-2.8) 1.1 ()0.6-2.4) 1.4 (0.5-3.3) 1.3 (0.6-2.7) 0.7 (0.3-1.4)

* P = < 0.10

** P = < 0.05

*** P = < 0.01

Adjusted for all variables in table, plus gender, ethnicity, mother’s education level, family history of allergic disease, family size, antibiotic use in first year, mother’s smoking in the first year and currently, coal and wood fires in the fires year and currently, having a history of measles and whooping cough infection and current dairy food consumption.

Per unit increase in endotoxin per gram of dust.

Figures

Not Included

TV – Confessions of a New Mom

After Levi was born I began breastfeeding, and after the mothers paid their visit, I discovered that we actually got a reception on our cable-less TV. Soon, the lengthy breastfeeding sessions were supplemented with soap operas. I used to catch Days of our Lives in high school, back when Sami was so conniving it made you sick, and it seemed that she and Lucas should both be in jail, and the search for the real Roman was in full swing. I found that it was easy to get caught up, I remembered who all the characters were, and I just needed a few episodes to fill in the blanks. I must not have been breastfeeding correctly because Levi and I would sit there for an hour, and he was always hungry. Those first three to six months were a very frustrating time for all of us, Peter included. So, to pass these hour-long breast feedings sessions that occurred every two hours (that means an hour in between), I watched television. Soon, Peter purchased Rabbit Ears, and now we had channels 2-ABC, 5-PDX CW, 6-CBS, 8-NBC, 10-OBP, 12-FOX, 24-Trinity, 49-PDX49, and 54-ION/Infomercial. That’s NINE channels! I had the entire day lined up with morning news, local talk, Rachael & Martha, Passions, Days, and As the World Turns (a new soap I’d never experienced). As one can expect, I lost motivation, became overly enthralled with the TV, and sunk further into a cycle of Levi and TV. I’m not sure how I completed two classes, with As, Spring Term.

With the summer’s tragedy and frustrations, TV became less important. When we would be at the house, and during July and August it felt like we were home less than we were out, I stopped looking forward to these shows. My soap fix was fixed; I could care less about Katie and Jack. Game shows will always be there in some form. Local talk is being outsourced. The news is always repeating the same stuff, so there is no new news. In addition, primetime has the same script just a different name on the show.

Regardless of these realizations, I do have favorites. I admit two, but really, it’s four. Heroes and Desperate Housewives. The former has an intriguing plot while the latter is simply guilty pleasure. Who really lives like that? And, are they near Chicago, or did Illinois suddenly become coastal? But, I also enjoy Bones and House. I realized that I like the “smarter” shows. I enjoy the shows that have clues and mysteries to solve, however leading. I enjoy the shows where the nerd prevails and the underdog brings down The Man. I do not enjoy the mindless fluff. I do not enjoy the catty, gossipy shows that put people out there to make fools of themselves. I do not enjoy staged dramas pretending to be reality. I know what reality is, I’ve lived in dorms, I live life.

I also forget that I am not average, which is good. But, it’s surprising to learn that on Thursday, Survivor: China wins out at the 8 o’clock slot! It’s a broadcast version of The Real World with more stunts! Who watches these shows? And, by examining a ratings list, www.tvweek.com/ratings, it seems that many of the days highest are these reality shows, or shows that I simply don’t understand.

I recognize that TV is iconic and a symbol of the dumbing down of America, but to see it in full frontal view is, well, astonishing. It makes me mad. And, although I don’t foresee giving up Heroes or Bones, I am getting fed up. Why would we sit there, every night, minimum of two hours a night, or 14 hours a week, and watch this crap? Have books become so unpopular that we no longer remember what it was like to have an imagination? Are we so embroiled in our debt-ridden lives that the only release we have is to turn to gooey Jell-O on the couch? Why don’t we get mad? What would it take for us to stand up, turn off the TVs, and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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For Cristi

Simply, for Cristi.

Matty will be posting a blog today regarding my late sister, Cristi. It’s interesting how death affects us. In August, my family made a resolution to have a yearly Cristi Challenge to allow her memory to live on vividly in all of us. Cristi was a go-getter. She was ambitious, driven, passionate, and a humanitarian. She had her faults, some of which she was proud of, like her drinking. But, she didn’t smoke, anything. Drinking, it was her release. I don’t generally condone drinking because of what it did to my biological father, and historically, I’ve never enjoyed being around drunk people. They have bad breath. But, exceptions can be made, and for Cristi they had to be.

She generally had a take me as I am front. But, it was just a front. She craved acceptance for her choices, her life. And her last boyfriend, the one who killed her couldn’t let her be the flower she needed to be to bloom. One starving for acceptance, and another starving for control, a situation that turned lethal. I was shocked when it was said this qualified under Domestic Violence. A duh moment, if you will. How can Domestic Violence be a part of my family? How can something so cruel and viscous be in our lives every day now for the rest of our lives? I will probably always cry when I think of that, realize that.

Although, we’re not over it, we’re also beyond life’s not fair. You have to be, simply to move on. So, instead of What Would Jesus Do, or Who Wants Jack Daniels, it is now What Would Cristi Do? At least once a year. The goal is to do something you’ve always wanted, pondered about, or just challenges you in anyway. And, we’ll think of Cristi as our Coach looking over us, watching us, guiding us, leading the way. I think this has been the fire lit under my butt recently. Things that I can sometimes sweep under the rug, I am more convicted to say something. The creeping passive-aggressive deep within my soul is being squelched, and like when I was pregnant, my tolerance for intolerance is looming at an all-time low. Then, I think of Cristi, and what she would do.

Every day. Every day, I pass by her candle on the counter. Every day, I wonder where she is. Every day, I hope there is a heaven she can be in. Every day I hope her bad deeds did not outweigh her good. Every day I hope and try to take the good she did and incorporate it into mine. Maybe everyone can participate in their own version of a Cristi Challenge, and be the humanitarian she was.