Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Greatest "Holiday" Gift You Can Give

Last year the Chicago Tribune asked for letters describing the greatest "holiday" gift we ever received. I am reposting this year the letter I sent in reply.

I would love to share with all of you the best holiday gift I have ever received. I received this gift as a child, and have cherished this gift for more than thirty years. This gift has given meaning to both my joys and my troubles. If this gift were to be lost or tarnished, I would be most desolate. The smallest child can use this gift. Actually, we could all learn from the smallest child how to best utilize this gift. I can share this gift with the whole world, as much of it as I possess, and never have less of it for myself. This gift is the gift of faith.
The holiday I celebrate is Christmas, so my faith is in Jesus Christ. It is His birthday I rejoice in. For me, He is the great gift this holiday season, and every holiday season, and each day in between every holiday. That God has given the gift of His own Son, in itself humbles me. I was not blessed with a child, but you could bet if I had been, I would not have wanted him to sacrifice his own material well being, his own comfort, his own life really, for the good of others. The Father God giving us His only begotten Son demonstrates the love He has for all mankind, the love we ought to try to give each other if we truly love Him. While we could never match His love, doing our best to love others for His sake is all the thanks we can offer for so perfect a gift.
I do believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I do believe that by emphasizing this belief more than the tangible aspects of Christmas, my parents gave me the greatest gift: belief in God. They took me to Mass, and nurtured my sense of wonder as I looked upon the crèche. They shared their belief in one greater than the highest official in the greatest of lands. No power on earth is greater than His. No love on earth is greater than His. It is His love that gives dignity to all people.
I know that there are other holidays celebrated this year by people who do not celebrate Christmas, or believe in it as I do. Hanukkah celebrates a great miracle done by the Creator to save His chosen people. Ramadan, which took place earlier this year, is a time of fasting and seeking God’s guidance. I must leave it to others to better explain these holidays, and suffice it to say that they too are about faith in God. I think the greatest gift to give others and oneself for the holidays is to remember the etymology of the word holiday. It comes from the words holy day. Sharing the holiness of our holy days is the greatest holiday gift any of us can offer anyone.

To all who read this, I wish Happy Holy Days. Merry Christmas. Much love to you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's All in How You Curl the Ribbon...

If you read my last two posts, you won't be surprised that I am not "feeling the funny" lately (except when I go macabre), but I had this in my head for a "Life is Funny" post before that all was happening.

I may or may not have mentioned that a week ago Saturday, I had an early Christmas Party at my house. I know. You'd think that with the way I emphasize advent, I'd be allergic to Christmas parties this early, an I have to admit that I have been a bit of a snob about that in the past. I am the one who will suggest to a prayer group or Church organization that we have our Christmas Party between December 27 and 30 or January 2 and 6 so that we keep advent and Christmas separate. I am also the one whose hand is ignored at meetings when the Christmas party is being discussed.

So anyway, I don't know why I decided on December 12. I recognized the hypocrisy of my choice, and brought it up to mom. She liked December 12 as well, and we went with it on gut instinct. I'm glad because I don't know when she will be home from the hospital.

No. That is not my life is Funny post. That is a little writing tool I use called digression. I just digressed big time.

The funny thing is that we were doing an ornament exchange (think grab bag with ornaments) and since I am the worst Christmas Wrapper (not to be confused with "Christmas Rapper".) I bought gift bags to put Mom's, Bob's, my Uncle's, and my ornaments in.

Then I find out that Bob needs a grab bag gift for work, and it states it should be wrapped beautifully. Between Bob and me, they'd be lucky to get it wrapped at all. So I bought wrapping paper and lots of ribbon, and started practicing on those for ornament boxes, figuring that I could put the wrapped box in the bag later anyway, but needed to experiment a little before wrapping the gift for Bob's grab bag. (For those of you wondering why I was doing this and not Bob, just assume Bob wasn't going to give a candy cane about the wrap prettily directions...)

Now, the funny part of this story is that I have been deficient at present wrapping my whole life. I've tried and tried, but could never get the packages to look like I wanted them to. But while experimenting with ornaments, I just wrapped, ribboned, and curled without any forethought, and they came out beautifully. Same with the grab bag gift.

I find it funny that the harder I tried, the more awful looking it was, but when I was laid back and laissefaire, it turned out great. I wonder how many other things in my life work out like that. Something to think about...

Come and join my friend Wendy in her "Life is Funny" blog carnival. Really. It encourages me to find the humor in my life every week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Longer Tired and Confused...

I want to thank everyone who sent emails and made comments on my post the other day encouraging me. Your prayers and encouragement have done much to lift me up.

My mom was taken to the hospital yesterday. Her most recent blood tests indicated a need for a blood transfusion. She looks good to my eyes now, but I have been given no indication as to when she will be coming home. Last night I slept the whole night through, and I took a nap after Church this morning. Mom is getting the care she needs at the hospital, and I am making sure I rest and take care of myself in the meantime.

Now that I am not exhausted, I see that I did the best I could, and that is all anyone can do. Thank you again, for your encouragement in helping me see that.

Blessings to you.

Love, Helen

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Not Perfect Daughter, and Why She is Tired and Confused

No twitter post today either. I have mostly been in lurker mode. If I tweeted or retweeted anything entertaining at all, I can't remember. It has been a tiring week. Besides the furnace problem I shared with you yesterday, I have a more serious issue than that I have been dealing with (which is also my explanation for my sparseness of posts lately).

If you read my profile, you know that I am a stay at home daughter. I take care of my mother. Taking care of mom has been a joy in many ways. I wish I had taken more care to describe those joys. Right now though, I am exhausted. I have been leaving incoherent comments all over the blogusphere this morning. I'm not even sure I am making sense right now.

My mom has a huge bump and black and blue mark on her hip because of too much blood thinner. I am not living in denial when I say it is not my fault. I don't want to say whom I blame right now. I am tired, and leaning toward being cruel and unfair.

Anyways, this bump is starting to open up. Yes, blood and whatever is seeping out, and I try to keep dry dressing on it constantly. No tape. I wasn't told not to use tape. She has been sensitive to tape in the past, and I am trying to make her feel better, not worse. (I know. That was an obvious point. See what I mean about being incoherent). Mom is in a lot of pain, and calls for me all day and all night. Sometimes all I can do is remove a dressing and fluff the pillow that keeps her from laying on her side. No, it doesn't help her, but she will call for me anyway, and I come.

I have tried to be the perfect daughter, and I fail in my own eyes every day. But I have seldom failed as miserably as I did last night.

Last night, after mom woke me up for the third time in two hours (it was one in the morning), she asks me what time it is. I tell her it is 1 am. She asks me why her phone says 2 am. I look and tell her it doesn't. She insists that it is actually 3 am and time for more pain medication. I tell her it is 1 am, not 3 am. She tells me to wake up Bob so he can verify that it is 3 am. I refused. He gets up to go to work at 5am. He will be getting up even earlier this morning because snow is predicted to fall overnight, and he will shovel out the driveway and the wheelchair ramp (in case of emergency..) before he leaves. I cannot bring myself to wake him up to back me up that it is the time I say it is. I'm exhausted and can't think straight anymore.

Suddenly mom is insisting that even if it is 1 am, she can have more pain meds. I tell her no. She asks me how much longer. I tell her I don't know, I can't think straight. I am confused because I just woke up and had an argument about what time it is. I can't give her any meds. if I myself am confused. She insists that since I'm confused, we need to wake Bob. Bob had no idea what time I gave her pain medication, or how often the doctor has said she can take it. He knew on Tuesday, but the dosage has changed three times since then. I wrote it down, but I need a moment to pull myself together before I can even remember where I left it. (Refrigerator. All meds. are listed on the fridge so that if she has to go to the hospital, I can grab and go). Suddenly I just start weeping. I just couldn't help it. Then I had a coughing fit and had to leave the room... I kept crying and coughing in the bathroom. When I finally pulled myself together, I remembered the fridge, but forgot how to do the Math. (Did I mention it was one in the morning, and I've been getting up hourly to bihourly (is that a word?) to fluff pillows for almost a week?) I told her about an hour, hoping that by then I'd remember how to subtract (or add? I'm still a little fuzzy headed..). She asked me to sit with her in the meantime, and I just couldn't do it. I feel so ashamed, but I just couldn't keep myself together. I needed to lay down and cry. My husband had woken up by then, but he knew he couldn't actually help and it would be two of us confused, so he waited for me and held me. I calmed down, was able to go back to fridge. I found that it was too early to give her pain meds. An hour from then would still be a little early, but not dangerously so, so I kept my word and gave her the pain killers.

After giving her the pain killers, she again asked that I sit with her all night. I feel like the world's worst daughter, but I didn't. I told her that I had to be alert enough to take care of her, and that wouldn't happen if I was sitting on a chair in her room all night. She didn't get any sleep. I didn't get much. More because she kept calling me during the night than from guilt. Not that I don't feel guilt, but I am too tired to let that even matter to me, you know?

I have spent the morning on the phone with the doctor, with the visiting nurse agency demanding a new nurse (ask Wendy why, she can tell you. I think.. Wendy, tell anyone who asks, okay? Me tired...). I have poured out my worries to God. I'm not really sure what He is doing with them right now, but I am too tired to question Him. I am too tired to hate myself for not doing a better job. I am just so tired...

I am sorry for the whining. I mentioned to some cyber friends that I might write this post, and they encouraged me to do so. If you by any chance landed on this blog because you are taking care of an elderly parent, or considering it, please don't let this one post discourage you. Taking care of my mom has been a rewarding experience for me. I wouldn't undo the decision my husband and I made three years ago when we decided I'd stay home and take care of her in our home. I wasn't blessed with children, but I imagine that you get some exhausting nights (for weeks, even months on end...) , yet you wouldn't undo your choices. It's tough, but worth it. Right now I am feeling the tough.

Oh, and please pray that my mom's butt heals quickly. I mean hip. Oh whatever, He knows what we mean, right?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Love Songs to My Furnace....

Well, as some of you know, I have been off the computer lately. Last week I was preparing for an ornament party. We all had a good time btw. Remind me to share my ham recipe with you all, it went over really well. Mom wasn't feeling that great, but she had a good time anyway. Then my furnace went on the fritz. Five visits from the repairman in one week.

Yesterday the repairman assured me (after telling me the day before that it had to be my fault, our vents had to be covered and we didn't realize it...not so...) that the problem is taken care of. I asked him one question.

"If the heat goes out tonight, do I call a vent cleaner, a new repairman, or an exorcist." He laughed. Sadly, I was not kidding...

Thankfully the heat is working today, so I don't need any of those options. I have been trying to be more encouraging to it by singing "Heat Miser" and "Hot, Hot, Hot" to it...

Come join my friend Wendy and post some craziness on her blog carnival, Life is Funny. She'll be glad.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Church, From a Friend's Perspective

My friend Bernadette wrote an amazing post on Church for today's One Word Blog Carnival: Church.

I started to write a post for today about Church, focusing on unity (or lack of) and love (or lack of) and stuff... I'll probably post it some other time. For now, I'd really like to direct my cyber friends to Bernadette's blog, where she says a lot of things I wish I did.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Clever Title Today...Ten Dollar Challenge

It was a dark and stormy night ... Okay, not really. It was a gloomy, snowy morning......

I had a lot of errands to do. One of them was to get some supplies at Walgreen's. It was a snowy and windy morning, so when I left, I wanted to make double sure that I brought my cart all the way back so that it wouldn't knock into a car. There are no cart carrels at Walgreen's, at least not the one by us. On my way back to the store with my cart, I pulled in the carts that were on my way there. I did not go out of my way to get the carts past my car because it was so horrible out, but it took no extra effort to bring back the ones that were on my way, and I figured that the people working inside the store should stay warm and dry for as long as they can. I figure that people working in stores during the Christmas season must find this season frustrating. They are busier than ever, the weather is sometimes bad, and people are in a hurry and preoccupied and not always as nice as they can be. I try to be extra pleasant and thoughtful to them in the hope that it may counteract some of the tension. We Christians insist that Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill, so it behooves us to share some, you know?

Still, since it was snowy, cold and windy, I did not want to go out of my way to get the other cart. I was not willing to experience a little more discomfort. Don't worry, I'm not hating on myself for that. What I want to get across is that it was uncomfortable weather, bad enough to make me not want to be out there an extra few seconds.

The clerk noticed me bringing in the carts, and thanked me. I got into my car to continue running errands. Up at the next stoplight was a man wearing what appeared to be a brown hoodie and jeans holding a cup asking for change. Billy Coffey had suggested the ten dollar challenge weeks ago, so I had my ten bucks easily within reach. I did not wait for any confirmation of the Spirit that this man was whom it was meant for....I just knew that the whole cart incident and not wanting an extra moment outside was meant to prepare my heart to give quickly to the man before the light changed and he needed to get out of traffic.

It was ten bucks. There was no life changing moment for either of us. I opened my car window, said "God bless you. I hope you have better circumstances in the coming year ", and placed the money in the cup. He said thank you. The light changed and he dashed to the side. I could see in my side mirror that he looked inside of the cup, and started heading to the gas station. I can't tell you whether he was thinking "Yaay! Coffee and a donut!" or "Stupid woman probably was confused and thought it was a dollar." It doesn't matter. The important thing is that for a few moments, he did not have to stay out in a snowstorm, and could get a coffee and a donut.

Yes. I know. They sell other types of refreshment at gas stations as well. Don't let the fact that I am young and cute fool you. I was NOT born yesterday. It is altogether possible he got himself some liquid refreshment that would make him feel warmer, but is not, coffee, tea, or cocoa. I'm okay with that. I'm not a tea totaler myself. I like a little whiskey and honey to soothe a sore throat or a chronic cough, and being outdoors collecting change on a day like that was bound to give him one or the other. I regret more that it is unlikely he would be having any honey to sweeten the bitter home remedy, if that was his choice. Which again, he may have been getting cocoa with marshmallows. I'll never know. I don't need to know, though I sort of hope he opted for a little sweetness...

In the spirit of Goodwill that we Christians sing about this time of year, how about checking out Billy Coffey's Ten Dollar Challenge by clicking here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Party, Pine, and Poetry

I love a good party. It doesn't really matter what kind. That's right, I even enjoy the Tupperware party. Pampered Chef? Sure, if you're demonstrating that lovely margarita recipe they have... Candles? Well, why would I let the fact that I am afraid of fire stop me from buying candles....Lighting them, never, but buying them, why not?

It was at a candle party where I decided to buy the vanilla scented candles and the pine scented candles. Who doesn't want their kitchen to smell of vanilla? And the pine candles would be perfect during Christmas. I have an artificial tree, and the pine scented candles would be a nice touch.

The saleslady was really nice, and suggested I take a deep whiff of that beautiful smell, just in case that one case of twelve wouldn't be enough. So I did...and at that moment, it came flooding back to me why I have an artificial tree: I'M ALLERGIC TO PINE!

Yeah....I decided not to get twelve pine scented candles after all. Good thing for me the lady was extra zealous and twelve candles weren't enough for her to sell to me.

All this reminds me of poem I wrote for you all last year. The purpose of this poem was to explain why I choose an artificial tree instead of a real one. I'm sure after you read it, you will agree that plastic is the best choice for me...

Owed to Allergies
(to be sung to the tune of jingle bells)

Allergies, Allergies
Pine trees make me sneeze
It’s not fun on Christmas day, when all you do is wheeze.

Allergies, allergies
Cause my throat to swell
Such a shame, since pine has a truly nice smell..

Dashing in the Chevy
To the apothecary
Hope I get there safe
It is starting to snow
Why did I buy the pine
I should’ve known it wouldn’t be fine
I can’t mow the lawn because I’m allergic to grass
Now I’m knocked flat on my…

Allergies, Allergies
Pine trees make me sneeze
It’s not fun on Christmas day, when all you do is wheeze.

Allergies, allergies
Cause my throat to swell
Such a shame, since pine has a truly nice smell..

I'm supposed to cook a meal
Tasty enough for a Goodhousekeeping Seal
But I have yet to start
I have yet to do my part
Because I started to sniff
No one has of yet gotten a whiff
Of my Christmas roast
I may have to serve toast
And of my culinary skills no longer boast

Allergies, Allergies
Pine trees make me sneeze
It’s not fun on Christmas day, when all you do is wheeze.

Allergies, allergies
Cause my throat to swell
Such a shame, since pine has a truly nice smell..

How about joining Wendy at her Life is Funny blog carnival? Maybe a little laughter can clear up those sinuses...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Today I am participating in the one word blog carnival, and the topic is grief. I don't suppose I need to tell any of you what grief is... We have all felt mourning for someone or something. Even a newborn baby cries for the loss of the comfort which once surrounded him in his mother's womb. To be born into this earthly life is to experience grief.

I am so glad we are tackling this topic in the beginning of Advent. The closer we get to Christmas, the deeper the bereaved feel their grief. When my daddy died, I thought that'd be the deepest grief I ever felt. But outside of hearing Blue Christmas or The Little Drummer Boy (our favorite Carol), I still found joy at Christmas. Then I thought that the deepest grief I'd ever feel was the grief I felt when I found out there was nothing that could be done about my infertility. I'd look at Mother Mary holding the Christ Child and pour out my heart asking why.... But the deepest grief I ever felt was the year two of my former students died.

In the month of May, about two years ago, a dear young woman who I once taught named Elizabeth passed away after a long battle with leukemia. I have mentioned her here before. I can still close my eyes and see her in her First Communion dress. If I listen to Leroy the Redneck Reindeer , I can picture her dancing for the Christmas Program when she was in eighth grade. She was a remarkable young woman, with dreams of making the World a better place.

Though I hoped and prayed for her recovery, her passing was not a shock. The shock came in October when a teacher friend called and told me a student I had taught the year before was killed in a car crash. Her whole family survived without a scratch, thank God, but Eve got tired during the long ride, and she took of her seat belt to stretch out and lie down in the back of the van. She was thrown from the van through the glass windshield. This faith filled child was dead before she reached the hospital.

That Advent was hard. I poured my soul out to God in prayer. "Lord, why take those children? How can their families know another "Merry Christmas"? These girls weren't even my family, and I find every carol I hear this year to be painful. I'd rather have my inner thighs scraped raw with a potato peeler than hear Have a Holly Jolly Christmas ever again! If I feel like this, how can their brothers, sisters, parents, ever stand to celebrate Christmas again? What do they have to celebrate? How bitter this holiday of "rejoicing" must taste to them!"

One Sunday, at Church, after having said that, or a prayer like that, often, I felt the answer from God deep within my heart. "Helen...They can rejoice because it is not the end. Their daughter, their sister, will be reunited with them once again. They can rejoice this Christmas in the birth of their daughter's, their sister's, Savior, as well as their own. No, they will not have a "holly jolly Christmas" for a long time, but they can have a peace filled one where they can feel gratitude that their loss is their daughter's, their sister's gain."

So then my prayer changed. I prayed that they would find peace that Christmas, and Rejoice in the birth of their daughter's, their sister's Savior. Each time I had to bear listening to "Holiday Music", I prayed that Elizabeth's and Eve's families would find comfort and joy in knowing their daughter, their sister, died under the protection of a Savior.

There are many people grieving out there this Christmas. Pray with me please that they can rejoice in the birth of their Savior, and that whoever they are grieving for also knew Jesus.

Revelation 21:3-4
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'"