Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Christmas Spirit; What do YOU choose?

Christmas has been on my mind a lot recently. Since the end of October the stores have begun to line the shelves with red and green baubles and candies. Pictures of Santa smile down at customers as they wander through the back aisles of Target and Walmart. The Christmas dressed aisles brought a grumble from my sweetheart just before Halloween. He remembers all to vividly the pain and agony of the retail life, stocking shelves months in advance and being forced to listen to the most bouncy, cheerful, commercial Christmas music over and over again eight hours a night, five nights a week. I have a large amount of sympathy for his feelings of the commercial retail holiday spirit. I know there are a lot of others out there who feel the same way about the Holiday season for various reasons. It has become too commercial or too politically correct. Personally I don't share these feelings. I hum along cheerfully with the jingle of bells and the carols about snowmen and reindeer. I grow nostalgic and can't help but smile when I see an evergreen tree shining in the store with lights all twinkling. I have been in choir for many years and always have looked forward to singing Christmas music as early as possible because it brings me such joy.
Now I am certainly not calling those who grumble about the crazy unnecessary madness about the holidays Grinches or scrooges or anything negative. I can appreciate the desire to keep the Christmas season simple and close to Christian and moral values of giving and love. However there is absolutely no way in capitalist america that retailers will ever get their money grubbing claws out of Christmas. Cars will always go on sale. Phone retailers will always try to talk you into buying that "perfect" electronic leash for your loved ones, There will always be songs on the radio and jingles reminding you that you just might want to be the receiver of some spectacular toy. So here is my Christmas loving philosophy; take it or leave it as you will.
 The first question you must ask yourself is What does Christmas mean to you (or whatever you may or may not celebrate at this time of the year)? I am a devout Christian. The birth of Christ, my Lord, my Savior and my Redeemer brings tender and sacred feelings directly to my heart. Sure, I enjoy the Santa stuff, and the gift giving (and receiving), but the true meaning of Christmas, my very personal meaning of Christmas is why I REALLY love this time of the year. To me every smiley Santa Claus popcorn tin and twinkling Christmas tree is a personal reminder of why Christmas makes me happy. In my mind each roll of snowy wrapping paper and candy cane is a reminder of the gift of God's son. Everything I see becomes decorations for a grand celebration of his birth. So here is my challenge for you; the next time you feel overwhelmed by the big bold advertisements for the latest and greatest gadget you must have take a second to ask yourself why am I even celebrating at all?  Make an effort to put out of your mind that each store's merry trimmings are probably just about making money this quarter of the fiscal year and remind yourself of the things that are the most important to you. You'll probably find that they are well worth celebrating (although you will probably thank yourself later for walking AROUND the advertisement to a more frugal choice in holiday spending).  Re-frame this dazzling picture of worldly merriment in your mind and turn it into a dazzling spiritual celebration. Make every strand of tinsel and every bough of holly part of your personal celebration. Allow the spirit of Love or Family or giving or Christ to be the center of everything you see and hear. My sincere hope is that it will bring a smile to your face. You might even find yourself humming along to a silly song about a reindeer with a shiny nose.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


For all you writer's out there

I want to write a story
to change the world I see
but right now all that I can think is
"Boy am I hungry."

I want to write a story
perhaps about birds or trees
but if I don't get socks on now
my feet will likely freeze

I want to write a story
something that will impress
but if I don't get laundry done
I will have to stay undressed

I want to write a story
It will be wonderful and great
but this poem's all I got today
I guess it'll have to wait

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


The streetlights flew by in a blur as the car raced through the night towards the Hospital. We were expecting our very first lovely baby girl. My excitement was quickly turning to fear however because she wasn't supposed to be here until December, it was October. Pains in my abdomen had me curled up in as much of a little ball that my expanding belly and shoulder belt would allow. We entered the hospital through the emergency entrance and were quickly ushered to the maternity ward. The first thing that they did was strap a monitor to me and check to make sure she was okay. I heard the most beautiful sound in the world, the sound of her little heart beating at a rapid but normal pace. I felt tears of gratitude come to my eyes to know that despite my pain she was still with us. It turned out to be kidney stones; a frustrating and agonizing thing to deal with whether or not you are pregnant. I was able to receive the care I needed. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl just a couple months later. She is growing into a sweet, loving, fantastic girl.

A couple years after the kidney stone incident. We were again rushing a pregnant me to the Hospital in A LOT of pain. This time it was for appendicitis. After it was determined that an appendectomy was the best course of action, they began to inform me of what the next few hours would entail. I honestly don't remember much of that conversation. My mind was hazy from a morphine iv to keep the pain at bay. I do however remember quite clearly the feeling of panic when they told me that at 18 weeks pregnant my sweet baby was not yet viable, meaning that if anything happened to the baby they would not even try to rescue him/her. I loved that baby already. I had just begun to feel her tiny movements and could only vaguely imagine the pain of what it would be like to lose her at that moment. I also remember thinking it was probably a good thing I was drugged at the time because it subdued the vicious mama bear raging on the inside.  The surgery went according to plan and I woke up dazed and confused in a recovery room with strangers. When my foggy mind finally cleared enough to get a rational thought my first thought was for my baby. Once again my little ones heartbeat was checked, heard, and brought me instant relief. Several months later a second daughter was born, as gorgeous as the last. She is now a rambunctious two-year-old who smiles easily and laughs often.

On to baby three. Now I know what you are thinking, "what else could she possibly go through?" This time it was bronchitis. I entered the emergency room without even enough breath to tell them who I was or that I was pregnant. I was frightened not only for my own life, but for the lack of oxygen to my growing baby. I was also scared that they may have to pump me full of drugs that could harm my developing little one. We got through that one too, my baby and me. As they frantically tried to get my oxygen level up and my heart rate down an ultra sound showed us that the baby was doing just fine, with a strong and steady heartbeat. The doctors and nurses did their best to heal me, and I came out on top. However, this story does not have the same happy ending or perhaps I should say beginning yet. We are still happily awaiting number three, who seems healthy despite several of my health issues, and we are crossing our fingers for a healthy little man come next spring.

I am not telling these stories to say "oh poor little me". Yes, it IS crappy to have had to go through these things EVERY SINGLE TIME I have been pregnant, I am hoping there won't be too much more drama for my current pregnancy. I have optimism that future pregnancies won't be so rough (I mean you can only have your appendix removed so many times right?) I tell these stories to express my deep gratitude for my two and a half little ones. It is an amazing miracle to me that they are even here. I am so blessed, and I know it with all my heart. I have loved each and everyone of them the second that I knew they were on their way. It is an amazing, powerful love that I still don't fully understand. It's so big that there aren't words to convey it. I am grateful that God sent me here at this time. A time where I can receive the care I need to be a healthier mama; so I can deliver and enjoy these precious little ones,  and I am so blessed to come to earth in a time when technology gives a fearful mother-to-be a very precious gift, to be comforted by the sight and sound of those tiny unwavering heartbeats.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gratitude: The Empty Seat

Bus rides are interesting things. They can make, or break, a trip. It had been a fun week touring with the choir in Mexico. It was always good to go home though. On the bus we were enjoying each other's company, playing games and singing songs. A game of "name that tune" started gathering the attention of many on the bus. That was when I saw him.

If I had used one word to describe him it might have been geek. He had black plastic square glasses and unkempt hair. His khaki pants were wrinkled as was his shirt, although the shirt was also too big. He got into the game and I silently hoped he would not see the empty seat next to me. Of course he did. I sighed on the inside a little and told him that I want the aisle seat. So I stood and let him pass. The game died soon after that and the only sounds were of people talking quietly to one another.

"Hi," I said feeling just a little awkward "I'm Rachel"

"Chris." he replied with a smile. I did notice that he smiled very easily.

"So-" I trailed off not really sure what to talk about.

He raised his eyebrows at me "So, um do you like movies."

I relaxed a little. Movies were something I could talk about. I watch way to many movies.

"Yeah what kind do you like?"

"Well mostly science fiction." It was another point in his favor.

So we talked about movies; Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and several others. When that topic ran out we moved on to books and music as well. The conversation was nice and the bus ride went quickly.

We said goodbye as the slowed into the school parking lot. He moved back to where he had originally been sitting to get his stuff, and I didn't really think any more of the conversation with the geek.

As fate would have it we were soon assigned to sit next to each other in choir. It didn't leave a lot of time for talking, but he always gave me this half grin and a French greeting of which I could only make out bonjour to mean hello. I didn't understand the rest of it at the time because at the time I was not a big fan of french. Spanish in my mind was the most romantic language.

Just a few weeks later I found myself on another bus; same choir , same geeky boy. I didn't sit by him right away, but he caught my attention when he asked me to swing dance in the hallway while the jazz band played on stage. I laughed and had a great time. After that I did sit by him. We found more to talk about. We even held hands. By the end of the trip most of my girlfriends were swearing that we were made for each other and that we were destined to get married. I laughed. How could I really be in love with the geeky boy with the wrinkled clothes and the very sweet sideways smile?

We began spending all of our free time together. We went on a few dates. And soon I was asking God "Could I really be in love with this geeky boy with the sweet smile?"
We got engaged, and then six months later we were married. We had known each other for less than a year.

Now I would like to fast forward from that moment to six years later. Six years later I am even more in love with him. Six years later we have two and almost a half children and he is an AMAZING father. He is a loving man; an honorable man. So today, on this first day in November I am grateful beyond words for one empty seat and one geeky incredible boy who filled it.