Christmas

Luke 2:9-11

An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified,

but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.

Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.

This is what I’ve been looking forward to throughout this Christmas season. I’ve endured the greed of others on many levels, traffic that makes me crazy, the rushing around, the insanity at work, the non stop go go go, knowing that I would attend Christmas Eve Mass with my family. To listen to the Priest read these words from the Scripture, use them in his beautiful homily, and to sing, rejoice and imagine the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is my gift to myself and my true meaning of Christmas.

It is now Christmas morning. We’ve opened presents and enjoyed one of our favorite Christmas breakfasts. At this moment I feel discouraged. I am trying to get past the silence and disappointment that one of my children is displaying. Each kid got things they asked for plus things they didn’t. I spent equal amounts of money on them but did not indulge them. No Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type of gift this year. I made the mistake of telling this child I had one last thing for them in my car and gave it to them unwrapped. My husband made the mistake of wrapping the expensive item that the other child saved their money for and purchased themselves and saying it was from Santa when it really wasn’t. I think this disappointed child feels they haven’t gotten enough when in reality between my husband and I, our siblings and our parents, they have. My husband and I raised our children to be grateful for what they are given and to work for what they want so when they do get the Red Ryder Bee Bee Gun type gift, it is meaningful for them whether it was given to them or they purchased it themselves. We discourage greed. Yet sometimes this child never feels as if they never have enough and that makes me feel like I haven’t done enough as a parent to teach them.

So, I’ll carry on and relax for a few more hours before it’s time for me to shower and cook dinner. Hopefully this child will do a self check and change their attitude or it will be a long day.

I wish all of you peace, love and joy on this Christmas Day.

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Holiday Series Part 3: Music

The stage was decorated with poinsettia plants. The auditorium was dark. The band wore Santa hats. People who know this band and have kids who’ve played in this band look forward to this song each year. The audience sat quietly as the band prepared to play it’s final selection: Sleigh Ride. I’m listening to the video I filmed during the concert as I write this. I can’t help but to smile. My son was a member of this band during his junior and senior years of high school. My daughter is a freshman member of this band, this gifted and talented band.  I smile because I’m so proud of the preparation my daughter put into preparing for this concert and playing this song. She was delighted to have been given second trumpet music. One day, several weeks before the concert, she admitted to me that she lost her place in class while rehearsing this song and that when she made contact with the band director he knew she’d lost her place too. She didn’t like that feeling so she took the problem to her private music teacher. Together, they tackled it and she learned to play the piece with confidence, without difficulty and without getting lost. The following evening we attended the Guitar Concert at the high school and a few days after that I attended the Christmas concert at our church, where my daughter performs in the Youth Band.

Music by far puts me in the holiday spirit, especially music that my children are playing on their instruments.  I don’t need to hear it 24/7 but when it’s on the radio I do enjoy it. I prefer songs related to the birth of Jesus but I do have a few other favorites.

Here’s my list, in the order that I remember.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Sleigh Ride

Silver Bells- Motown Version

Ave Maria-don’t all Italians like this song?

Christmas Night

What Child is This

Away in a Manger

Silent Night-the Stevie Nicks version.

Little Drummer Boy-Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band version

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Happy Christmas- John Lennon

Joy to the World

Christmas Is the Time to Say I love You-Billy Squire

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Chipmunks Christmas

White Christmas- I’m from Buffalo, NY and I like snow on Christmas!

Christmas All Over Again-Tom Petty

O Come All Ye Faithful- ok I’ll admit it was the Brady Bunch season 1 Episode 12: The Voice of Christmas that got me into this song at a young age. Carol Brady had just miraculously recovered from Laryngitis to sing this song for her church on Christmas morning. Listen to the words though: O Come all ye faithful. Joyful and triumphant. O come ye. O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the King of Angels. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him. O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. I have no musical ability what so ever and I have to get really drunk to even consider singing Karaoke. This song however makes me just want to stand up and belt out a song during Christmas Eve Mass. So I sing and try not to kill the people in the pew in front of me with my off tune voice.

Here’s my least favorite song of all time: Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. This song agitates me so much it makes me want to throw myself out of a moving car.

That’s all that nurse has to say for now. Have a great week.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Nurses Do What They Do

Several years ago, the week before Christmas, I entered the nurses station at 0700 in the Emergency Department I worked in for morning report. As I did every morning, I scanned  the patient tracking screen to look at how many patients we had and if I recognized any familiar names. I spotted a patient who I’d taken care of multiple times and who I enjoyed taking care of. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to take care of him again. I asked the night shift nurse for report and looked forward to entering his room.

I quickly learned that my patient was not doing well. The doctors suspected that he was now in the terminal phase of his illness. Through the course of the eight hours I took care of him, even after I’d infused over three liters of IV fluid and transfused two units of packed red blood cells, I could not control his pain or keep his blood pressure stable enough to give pain medication and he was beginning to display signs of organ system failure. I spent hours in that room that day not only caring for him, but helping his wife accept what was happening.  After I transported him to intensive care and helped him get comfortable in his bed, I put my hand on his, got close to his face, looked him in the eyes and told him to take care. Our eyes were locked for several seconds. He said thank you and wished me well. He died twelve hours after I transported him to intensive care and I still relive looking into his eyes for the last time.

The holiday season isn’t an easy one for nurses. Not because we work long hours, sacrifice and miss our own holiday gatherings to care for others. Because we see how illness impacts people’s lives. To be present to watch patients and their families experience these things on the holidays leaves a long lasting effect on healthcare workers. Why?  Because we see the look of desperation in our patient’s eyes where we know they are wondering if this illness is going to pass, be chronic or even life threatening. We observe families trying to be brave for their sick loved ones when we know they are afraid. We hear the screams from the room where the cardiac arrest was just pronounced dead. We see the look of fear as our surgical patients are being wheeled to the operating room with all evidence of the human being they are having been stripped away from them and replaced by a hospital gown, colorful footies and a warm blanket. We walk through the surgical waiting area and see the blank stares of families as they wait for a surgeon to come out and tell them if their loved one has cancer. We try to do everything we can to cheer up our inpatients when they are stuck eating hospital turkey on Christmas day or can’t eat at all because they are too sick. We observe our Dementia patients roaming the halls of the long term care facilities and wonder what they were like before Dementia robbed them of their memory. We thank God profusely that our own loved ones are healthy and waiting for us to come home. Our shifts end and we go home, shower and try to shake it off. Deep down inside, over the years memories similar to the one I shared resurface for all of us.

The brightness and warmth of the summer sun replaces the darkness of December and the months fly by. Six months after my patient passed away, I’m at work one summer afternoon and I hear my name being called from across the ER. I turn around an realize it’s my patient’s wife. She quickly walks up the me, hugs me and tells me she’s doing fine. She’d just been the see a chaplain whom she was seeing monthly. She said she’d come down to the ER to specifically find me and tell me how she was doing and to say thank you. I was so moved by that I rushed right up to one of my good buddy coworkers to tell her. Her response was simple, powerful and true, “This is why we do what we do”.

 

When Pictures Speak 1000 Words

Yesterday, we drove to the county north of us where there are winding roads, rolling hills and miles of beautiful countryside. We ate a huge brunch a.k.a major chow down at Cracker Barrel and then we were off to chop down our Christmas tree.

My husband and I often walk behind the kids when we are places where a lot of walking is required. The kids walk fast and sometimes we don’t care to walk that fast. We aren’t in as much of a hurry as they are. This picture was taken by me as we were heading towards the entrance to pay for our tree and head home.To me it represents so much more than two kids dragging their Christmas tree down a hill, to tie up to the top of a car, get it into the house and onto the stand.

Them walking together symbolizes the bond they share as siblings. They are friends and they have each others backs. I have no idea what they were talking about when this picture was taken. I don’t want to know. I don’t have to know. My brother and I talked about plenty of things our parents never knew about and still do.

Typical of many long walks we take as a family, the faster they walked, the further they got away from us, illustrating their eventual flee from our nest and the hurry that they are in to do so. When my son was a little boy he’d say, “Mommy, I’m growing up fast”. Tell me about it. The years are flying by so quickly with these kids, my head is spinning. Each new life lesson they learn is a brick in the foundation of the young adults they are becoming.

When our kids were babies, instead of mourning over the phase of life they’d just grown out of, we’d focus on embracing the phase of their lives they’ve just entered. For our son, it’s college life, being supportive of him as he tackles new adult situations and chooses a major for his life’s work. For our daughter it’s all about high school; social groups, activities and earning academic achievements that is going to take her into college.

After I snapped the picture I told my husband that we won’t have many more occasions where all of us will be present to to things like this. He agreed. It is inevitable that some day the kids will come home for Christmas dinner and admire the tree that we’ve chopped down for them. For now though, they are in college and high school and I will spend the next few days reflecting on how perfect yesterday was.

Holiday Series Part 2: The Gators bring it in

Despite the cold winds and low temperatures, the streets were lined with a large crowd. Families and friends bundled up in coats, hats, scarves, mittens and blankets. People standing, sitting in chairs or even sitting on the ground, holding coffee or cocoa to keep warm. People of our community watching each group march by. Finally, Santa’s sleigh arrives and the crowd began to cheer. I didn’t come to see Santa though. The highlight of the parade for me was the last group to march down the street.

I spotted her immediately. The Santa hat was secured to her head, allowing her hair to flow down. Her clear blue eyes were focused forward. She looks so sharp in that navy blue uniform. Her lips were pressed to the mouthpiece of her trumpet. The trumpet, decorated with red and white tinsel was aimed high, demonstrating discipline and confidence. Last year my daughter refused to even go to this parade. She said she needed a break before it was her turn. I think she just didn’t want to walk in my son’s shadow.

Walk in my son’s shadow in this marching band, she has not done. This was his marching band for four years. Yes’s she’s marched with some of his remaining friends but this is her marching band now. This year, this marching band marched in five field show competitions and scored higher than they ever have. As the underdogs, they competed against twelve other bands for the state championship and came in second place putting the band, the band parents, and the band directors on a huge emotional high. The following week they went to Mid Atlantic Regional Championship and became the first band in our county to qualify for the final round. I’d say my daughter has blazed her own trail in this marching band. My son, the awesome big brother that he is, simply showed her the way to the field and stood on the sidelines to cheer her on and enjoy her triumph.

Each year, this parade is the final event of the marching band season. By this time, the band’s competition season has been finished for a few weeks. The kids enjoy decorating their instruments with cheer, playing holiday songs and letting their hair down for one final march of the year. This is the fifth consecutive year my husband and I have had a child march in this parade. For us, it hasn’t gotten old. Standing in a shopping center in the cold with my husband and our band parent friends waiting for our kids to round that corner to complete the parade after Santa passes by always makes me smile.