Every time the nurse came to check on me, I asked when I would be able to get up and move so I could move my way to the nursery. Despite every muscle in my body telling me I was not ready, my heart had other plans. Luckily, it's advised to get moving as soon as physically possible to release some of the gas bubbles that accumulates in the body during surgery so I didn't have to wait too long. After a couple of hours, I was getting ready to see my baby.
I walked into the NICU and a nurse was feeding her. This was the first good look I got of her and she looked just like her big brothers. I asked if I could touch her and the nurse had a different idea: She told me I could hold her and feed her. So I did. And as I held her perfect little body, I silently apologized to her for having such a crazy mommy; for all the times she heard me cry and the pain I shared with her; I promised her I'd get better and do everything in my power to give her the most I could with what little I had, that I'd be a better mommy to her big brothers; and I thanked her for being a part of my life as I consider myself a person so undeserving of such incredible love.
I spent a couple of horrible days in the hospital so they could monitor my blood pressure but, at least, she was well enough to room in with me. While she seemed to cry almost nonstop and I was warned not to feed or hold her too much (Really? Can you really hold a newborn too much?) I had no intention of listening to such nonsense. I held her constantly. I held her as she fell asleep in my arms and refused to put her back down, allowing her to sleep on my chest as I drifted off to sleep, myself.
Finally, after more than three days in the hospital, I brought my baby girl home.
And we'll talk about that later. Until then, here's my princess getting ready to go home:
(to be continued)
In late 2012, we found out we were pregnant. It wasn't the best time for it. In fact, the timing couldn't get much worse. And for a number of highly personal reasons, we really didn't think it was remotely possible for me to be pregnant. But after I managed to wipe out an entire super-sized jar of pickles (the kind that one usually finds in a store or food concession stand or something similar), it was becoming rather obvious that, despite our insistence that we were absolutely, unequivocally, without a doubt done having children, another was on its way.
Similar to my previous pregnancy, we didn't find out we were pregnant until I was almost half-way through the 9 months. After a disastrous first appointment with a horrible doctor who, thankfully, had wonderful nurses who were most helpful in finding me another doctor and get my needed tests expedited, my husband and I headed to a private laboratory armed with an order for an ultrasound stamped "STAT".
We sat in the waiting room, anxious to get into the exam room and get that wand over my belly to make sure our baby was doing okay. Naturally, that was our first priority. But running a close second was finding out if our baby sported girl parts or boy parts.
If you don't already know, I had previously given birth to two boys from a man who already had a son. Now you can see why we were very interested in baby's gender.
Finally, my name was called. We met our tech who was a familiar stranger to me. While we had never met before, his wife was one of my favorite customers at a bar I had worked at many years ago. I let him know I knew his wife and congratulated him on the baby I knew they just had. As we became acquainted and I climbed onto the table assuming the position, I told him immediately that we wanted to know the gender and explained why.
As the picture came on the screen, I saw a perfect little baby who was not like my other two babies before and I don't mean gender-wise. When I had my ultrasound for my sons, neither was very shy. As soon as the wand hit my belly, there it was. My boys were spread-eagle, announcing to the world their gender. Baby number three, however, was shy.
As the tech took us through the paces, showing us baby's heart and other organs, spine, head, limbs and a cute little face showing us tongue, I saw nothing of baby's private parts. At one point our tech referred to baby as "she" though I didn't catch it. I figured he was just mimicking us and our hopeful insistence that this baby was a girl.
That was the only mistake our tech made that day. As the minutes dragged on, this tech knew exactly what he was doing, keeping us in suspense as long as possible.
And then he asked if we were ready. I could have strangled him.
As he waved the wand over the part where he knew baby's little parts were (because he already knew where they were having seen them and quickly passing over them so that we couldn't, purposely keeping the gender a surprise for as long as possible) he asked, "What do you think?"
A huge smile erupted on my face as it was more than obvious. "That's a girl," I said, moments before I turned away and cried profusely.
And it was. Finally, we were having our girl.
(to be continued)
Organized religion is generally a practice of spirituality with doctrine and ritual within a common belief system. Such doctrine and ritual serve a purpose, usually as a means of contemplation to understand the core of the religion and to answer questions about the path to that faith and a means of bringing its constituents together. Without doctrine and ritual, there is little reason for the followers of any religion to treat their faith system as a family or any like-minded group. Without doctrine or ritual, there simply is no religion. It is nothing more than general faith or spirituality that does not connect to a specific purpose, goal or family of followers.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Spirituality as a general belief in something -- anything -- beyond our mortal world that inspires a sense of morality is a good thing. But that's all it is. Spirituality. It is not religion. Thus, if you do not prescribe to the set of doctrine or ritual attached to a specific religion, you are not behaving in the manner dictated by that religion and, perhaps, under the notion of refusal, should not consider yourself a part of that religion.
This does not mean that we should not question. That's the most important part of contemplation of faith and vital to spiritual growth. Hence the purpose of doctrine in the first place. Doctrine exists to answer questions we ask about our faith. However difficult the answer is to understand, it exists somewhere, even as a guide or hint, often as a prayer or parable.
Religion as an organic entity also changes as the world and culture inevitably changes. Doctrine and ritual change as the needs of the people change. Intercourse for the single purpose of procreation, polygamy, young marriages and the use of concubines existed in a time of high mortality rates when religion needed followers and society needed a population to function. Many of these practices have been altered as the world has become increasingly over-populated.
There are, however, many religious practices that do not need to change as they continue to foster beliefs and practices that remain core to its religion. Many Christian faiths, such as Catholicism, hold the death of Christ as a sacrifice to his people to be a notion as important as the life Jesus led. Easter and the preceding Lenten season, as recognized by Christians, is one of two extremely significant events to the faith and exists to teach what Christians believe is one of the foundations of the faith: Sacrifice. From the first day to the very last, the Christian is tasked to think often about what it is like to sacrifice as he was taught to do by the Messiah's ultimate sacrifice with his life.
Without doctrine and religious text to back this up, the requirement of fasting during Lent is a rather simple notion to understand in light of what Easter is supposed to mean to those who recognize its religious significance. Asking a person to sacrifice a small extravagance is a pittance to what God asked of his only begotten son when Jesus sacrificed his life as a means of showing redemption and the immortality of the soul.
Yet as the season approaches, there is always a voice of dissension, not only from those critical of Christianity or religion as a whole, but even by those who consider themselves faithful. They may believe that a small sacrifice teaches them nothing or that they do not need to sacrifice, themselves, in order to understand the most important sacrifice made to the Christian faith. This is where faith-based contemplation comes in. These are things the individual must reconcile, themselves, often with the aid of those meant to usher the practitioner's faith. An outright rejection of the practice, however, does nothing to foster contemplation or appreciation of religious doctrine. Questions are good. Rejection, perhaps, is not as beneficial if one's goal is to understand or actually practice the faith.
More, many simply do not see the connection at all. There is a population within the church of those who call themselves Catholic, who've been Catholic all their lives, who have had access to the doctrine of the church all of their lives who have either never heard or found the answers to their query of the practice of fasting or have not been receptive to teachings that have answered such questions. Yet the answer has always been there. This becomes the duty as a vital means of examination: Find answers.
Then there is a population of those who do not see the connection who claim that no answer exists despite never having looked for the answers. As it has been said repeatedly in this article, the answer does exist. In Matthew 9:15, the bible says, "And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." There it is: A direct call by Jesus, himself, via the Bible in which followers are taught to believe was inspired by God, for his followers to fast when Jesus, the bridegroom, is taken away by his death memorialized by Easter.
And beyond both the confusion and outright refusal over the practice of fasting for Lent there is a significant population of both followers and those who object who have their own means of recognizing Lent. While this is the prerogative of people to do and it may seem harmless to foster positive action to replace ritual one does not understand, it does not promote the examination of Christianity or Catholicism by its followers. All it does is replace a notion that is clearly defined by purpose and recognition with one that is not connected to the religion, movement or observation in any way. These changes are very often positive. But such positive constructs don't need to replace a system that already exists with intent and purpose. Positive action does not need to replace. It can add. It can propel the driving force behind ritual and doctrine. It can become part of a new way of thinking that does not take away from the very core of the practice. Fast to appreciate Christ's sacrifice but also do something nice to appreciate the world around you. Fast to appreciate Christ's sacrifice but also sacrifice your time or resources to benefit your neighbor. Don't add to the confusion of the purpose of fasting for Lent by refusing to recognize that there is one. Don't question the desire of the faithful to continue to fast as a means of observing Lent.
If you do not wish to behave as a Christian, do not consider yourself Christian. If you do not understand why your Christian faith asks you to do certain things, look for answers, either through doctrine or the assistance of religious leaders whose very vocation is to assist you in finding answers. If you feel no compulsion to practice ritual that doctrine dictates even after the purpose is explained to you, do not participate. If you feel that you have personal goals beyond what ritual dictates, achieve those goals through means that do not involve changing doctrine to serve what you believe to be a better purpose. Keep in mind, always, what happened when Christianity, itself, set out to change the rituals of many cultures in which belief in Jesus did not previously exist. Ask yourself, seriously, if what you are doing is a brand of religious persecution, as well. Then ask yourself if, among all practices associated with any religion, fasting as a small sacrifice to recognize Jesus Christ's much more significant sacrifice is one that truly needs changing.
What of those details?
How about the fact that more than 20% of people on assistance are unemployable children who are not to blame for their families' financials struggles. But aren't they? Aren't they the reason many families are in debt? Children cost money, to their guardians and the overall economy. We already know we are over-populated. So why don't we give the government control over our reproductive rights? In essence, let's allow the government to tell us who can and cannot be parents. Yeah. Right.
So how do we give money only to children without allowing their parents to benefit from it? We'd need enough social workers to permanently live in the houses of welfare recipients to constantly monitor spending to ensure that the money is only being spent on the children and not the guardians.
If not that, let's yank these kids away from their homes and deadbeat families. That's an increase of children being declared wards of the state, sent to group homes or placed in the foster system. Our social workers can barely handle the amount of cases they have, now. So we'll need to hire a lot more workers and create a lot more group homes to house and care for the thousands upon thousands of children receiving welfare whose parents aren't working hard enough to deserve assistance.
You only need to be slightly intelligent to see that such a move would not only be a completely inappropriate, violation of human rights but it would end up costing the government and tax-payers infinitely more money that what is already being spent on welfare.
In short, we really can't do anything to ensure that children get the need they deserve while denying their guardians.
Now it's only natural that people want to have some control over how their money is spent. I get it. We should know how our money is spent.
Except we don't know. I literally cannot think of a single person I've talked to about taxes and welfare who has ever taken the time to look up how our taxes are spent despite the fact this information is READILY AVAILABLE.
For instance, residents of Guam who complain about their hard-earned and begrudgingly-paid taxes and how it's not fair that those tax dollars help families on assistance seem to have overlooked one tiny, albeit important fact. Get ready bitchers and complainers:
VERY LITTLE OF YOUR TAXES COLLECTED ON GUAM CONTRIBUTE TO GOVERNMENT-PROVIDED WELFARE ASSISTANT PROGRAMS.
What the federal government spends on actual disbursements to people seeking aid mostly comes from tax-payers in the 50 states. Consider it a give and take. They get to vote for president and have more of a presence in congress, the actual people whose voices factor in these matters. So they get to pay for welfare for the three measly US territories that are eligible for assistance who don't get a voice in anything concerning our federal government.
So maybe it doesn't matter where the assistance is coming from. Maybe you really don't care if it's YOUR money housing deadbeats and what matters here is the principle of receiving a handout. Maybe all you're really concerned about is that it's "not fair".
As adults, you really should have learned by now that life isn't fair.
Are you driving a car that someone else paid for while there are others who can't afford their own vehicles? That's not fair.
Are you living in a free house while many others pay hefty mortgages and actual rent? That's not fair.
I went to private school. No tax-payers' dollars paid for my education. My parents still paid taxes that contributed to public school infrastructure and personnel. That's not fair.
It's not fair that some people have parents and some don't. It's not fair that some people have families that have money to spare while others don't.
Anytime anyone other than yourself has paid, in any amount, for anything you've benefited from, YOU ARE RECEIVING A HANDOUT. And I could easily say that all the deadbeats living charmed lives with parents who can afford to help them don't deserve their handouts. But that's none of my business. But when the government pays for it with our taxes, it is our business, right?
Are you a government worker? Then I'm paying for your salary. If you want to determine howdeserving other people are for welfare assistance, we should also determine how vital your government position is and if we are wasting taxes paying for an employee who doesn't deserve a job.
Are you in the military? There are a lot of citizens that don't agree with how the military spends money. Maybe we should be given the ability to deny paying taxes for military expenditures that we don't agree with.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Go ahead and look up the breakdown of tax expenditures. You tell me if you agree with how that money is spent. Then compare the figures of other government expenses to how much is spent on welfare. Is welfare still your primary concern?
But here's the thing: You can take out everything I've previously said and consider only one factor. Just one bit of information that, by now, EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN ADULT WITH FULL MENTAL CAPABILITIES SHOULD ALREADY KNOW.
Check it out, Einstein. We are in a really, really, really bad RECESSION. It's being compared to war-time recession. It's being compared to THE GREAT DEPRESSION. Isn't that the reason so many of you are bitching about welfare assistance? Because our economy can't afford it?
Guess what. The government can't afford it because PEOPLE can't afford it. Not deadbeats. Not drug addicts. Not welfare junkies out to mooch off of the system (you know, the ones who can't mooch off of their families).
Some of the people who can't afford basic necessities in this screwed up economy are educated. Some of them, in fact, have advanced degrees. They didn't stop as undergraduates. They've worked longer and harder and spent their own money or owe thousands of dollars in school loans for multiple degrees that they were told would help secure them a future.
Some of the people who can't afford it have worked for many years. Some have worked most of those years in managerial positions where they once could afford a comfortable life in a decent home, provide for their families and even have savings. And when the economy turned sour, they lost everything, having to dip into their savings only to have that money run out.
Educated people. Capable employees with marketable skills and years of experience. Nurses, teachers, civil service employees. Billions of dollars of tax-payers' dollars are spent on defense and many of our own soldiers are receiving assistance.
Look around you. Lay-offs. Foreclosures. Repossessions. These are not isolated to deadbeats.
This is all the information you are not considering when you make broad-sweeping, blanket statements about a group of people that you have clearly not made any effort to understand.
When you missed the "life isn't fair" lesson, you apparently also missed the lesson about stereotypes.
Keep that in mind the next time you decide to make comments about something you obviously do not understand. Educate yourself and do your research. Don't mimic or parrot misinformation. Take control of your thoughts and actions by thinking things out for yourself. And if you decide to perpetuate prejudice and ignorance, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the things you say without backtracking with bogus excuses that begin with, "But I didn't mean..." or "I'm not talking about..." When you offend people with your prejudices, never, ever expect them to treat you with the understanding that you failed to exhibit yourself. Oblivious ignorance is no excuse. If you are ignorant, expect people to call you ignorant.
And that's the last thing you should have learned: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
My personal criteria were as follows:
1. Album should have been released sometime between 1993 and 1997. I generally think that any album that was still very popular during that time counts, even if they were released before 1993. But I stuck to "released" to make it easier to narrow down. Also, the individual songs on the albums could have been released previously as is the case with many soundtracks, greatest hits or other compilations.
2. I had to have been impressed with more than half of the songs on the album.
3. It doesn't have to be "my kind of music" as long as I think it's just a good album.
4. It has to immediately bring me back to high school.
5. Popularity or "number of hits" is the last and least important factor.
6. In picking my favorite song off of the albums, specifically those off of compilations, the song had to instantly remind me of that album.
In no particular order...
2pac - All Eyez on Me
Sublime - Self-titled
Soundgarden - Superunknown
*"Black Hole Sun" is my favorite video
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers)
Massive Attack - Blue Lines
Bjork - Post
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggystyle
White Zombie - Astro Creep: 2000 - Songs of Love, Destruction and other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head
Pantera - Far Beyond Driven
Tool - Undertow
Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
Bush - Sixteen Stone
The Wallflowers - Bringing Down the Horse
*"Bleeders" is actually my favorite song off of this album, now. But A: "One Headlight" was my favorite song off of this album back then and B: They don't have a decent YouTube of "Bleeders" anyway.
Nine Inch Nails - Downward Spiral
Singles - Soundtrack
Judgment Night - Soundtrack
Trainspotting - Soundtrack
The Crow - Soundtrack