Silent Night

Silent Night

“Silent Night” has held a special place in my heart throughout the years. It has captivated the very essence of the meaning of Christmas.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season always seems to catch up with me. I become flustered and panicked to have everything perfect and ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Hearing the song puts me in a calm and peaceful state of mind instantaneously wherever I may be. It reminds me of my childhood listening to my father sing it in church. This was very special and spiritual for me.

I can vividly picture St. Anthony church in Cicero, Illinois transformed into a magical world of devotional celebration. The decorations were simple, yet elegant. Small golden lights outlined the statue alcoves. Red and white poinsettia were placed exactly where they should be. There were two large golden angels that hung below the domed fresco-ed ceiling in the middle of the church.

Attending Catholic school meant that we were a part of the midnight mass celebration. Handel’s Messiah played while each grade was in a precession around the aisles of the church. Altar boys and priests carried a statue of the baby Jesus to be placed at the foot of the altar in a meek and humble manger.

When the entire parish proceeded to accept communion, my father sang a solo, a Capella version of “Silent Night” in three different languages; Lithuanian, German and English. My heart lit up with joy to hear him. I was blessed, the entire church was blessed.

The church was quiet while he sang. The words were so clear and perfect for the whole world to hear. This was my family’s special gift to the parish and the new born baby Jesus. Maybe it is the melody, or maybe it’s the fact my dad boasted he sang the song better than Bing Crosby.

Christmas presents were a secondary thought when I was growing up. Midnight mass was high on the importance level for everyone I knew. Traditions were important, not material things. Whatever happened to the Holiest day on Earth?

When I hear “Silent Night,” I think back to the way things used to be. I cry a little because he hasn’t been around to sing for 25 years.

He would be happy to know that his granddaughter has an amazing voice just like him. My daughter has promised to sing the song for me if I promise I won’t cry.

I still haven’t been able to keep that promise, hopefully soon I can keep my emotions in tune. Maybe she’ll even learn the Lithuanian version, because she’s sang the song in German and English in choir’s past. Maybe someday she could meet him lost in the song.

Wishing all of you a Silent Night.


Silent Night

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Bing Crosby – Biography – Film Actor, Singer, Songwriter …


Geocaching: Modern Day Global Treasure Hunt

Geocaching: Modern Day Global Treasure Hunt

There is a not so new game in town and it includes being outside. Ever wonder why you might see a stranger in your neighborhood snooping around as if he or she are looking for something? It could very well be a person playing a modern day scavenger hunt called geocache. Geocache is a verb meaning to track down items as part of a game using a Global Positioning Device, GPS. This game started in 2000, when the government decided to release GPS satellite streams for private and commercial use. This global game of hide and seek is growing in popularity so much that the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has voted “geocache” as the new word for 2014.

There are over six million active members worldwide that participate with either GPS tracking devices or smart cell phones, and over 2,375,208 active geocaches. Caches are hidden and the coordinates are posted on the internet for others to follow and find the treasures. They can contain small trivial trinkets, log in documents and sometimes clues for the next cache nearby. This is a very sophisticated game and the rules are simple. Take something and leave something of the same value. An active participant also has the option to sign a log located within the cache, as well as document the find online. There are several versions of the downloadable application. Visit the website to decide which app is best suited for you.

There are rules to every game and with this game there are no exceptions. Active members have also adopted a “cache in, trash out” mantra. These avid outdoor gamers are often found with trash bags being dragged behind them. According to the gaming website, geocachers are often conducting activities in their own communities promoting a cleaner and safer environment for everyone to enjoy. The caches themselves are rated on a one through five difficulty scale. Chances are, the more difficult the rank the harder you will have to seek for the cache. This is a great way for ambitious outdoor enthusiasts to participate in a digital treasure hunt for an adventure that exists every time you take a walk.

Jim and Nicole Ryan of Littleton Colorado have been geocaching with their two boys, ages 9 and 12 for several years. Both parents agree that the game has peaked the boy’s interest to be outside more often and not in front of a video game.

Nicole decided to take this weekend game to a different level. She created a family vacation for the four of them to travel to Washington State and add to their geocoins for family prizes. The family went to six different state parks within two weeks. “We started geocaching when our son came home and told us of his friend who geocaches with his family every chance they get,” said Nicole. “We started on our very own block, there were two of them. Then we would keep our phones on to track caches on the way to the grocery store.”

“Jim wanted to start backpacking day trips in our area, so we went to Chatfield State Park not too far from our house. The boy’s loved it and couldn’t wait to go on the weekends,” said Nicole. “We had a difficult time trying to find one particular cache called the “pink flamingo,” it took us three weekends to find it. When we finally did, that inspired the boy’s to hide their own in the park.”

Depending on where you want to hide a cache, there might be some extra rules that need to be followed. According to Kris Wahlers of Chatfield state park, there are reasons for the rules. Wahlers said, “Due to the wide variety of people participating in geocaching, visitor safety and park preservation are the two main factors for producing the rules. Weapons, alcohol and drugs are the parks major concerns for safety; anyone can send GPS coordinates to find a dangerous cache located within our park.” Wahlers contends that if gamers follow the rules of the park, geocaching could be fun for everyone, including park staff.

At Chatfield State Park geocaching is allowed with restrictions and rules. There is a strict approval process for placing a cache in the State Park.

  • Fill out a Special Activities Agreement at no charge, with documentation of each cache to be placed.
  • Caches are randomly inspected by park staff to ensure safety and compliance. Absolutely no harmful or illegal substances are to be cached. No guns, knives, explosives, drugs or pornography are to be used when placing a cache.
  • Exact locations of the caches are to be provided with links to park management. Size and shape of container also need to be documented.
  • No digging to bury or manipulation of land will be permitted to hide any cache. The owner of the cache must inspect the surrounding area from time to time, to make sure no damage or manmade erosion is taking place. If there is any such damage, the cache must be moved or removed with park notification.
  • There are off limit areas for geocachers, such as dam structures, campgrounds, and group picnic areas. See your park for rules and regulations.

This game of outdoor activity is inviting people of all ages to participate in something as a community on a large global scale. The great thing about it is, it encourages people to be outdoors and off of the couch. It brings families closer together looking for treasure that someone else has hidden. Geocachers will tread lightly when it comes to land preservation and the hiding of caches. Wahlers has geocached within the park and has left two caches herself. She believes, “that illegal activity will always find a way to infiltrate something good. It is up to us to present the dangers as adults and proceed with caution with everything that we do. With any outdoor activity there is always a degree of caution; play Geocache safely and responsibly.”

Signing up for the free version is a great way to start to see if you are interested. It is amazing to see what could actually be hidden right out front of your door. There is a secret society of outdoor people leaving hidden treasures with clues for you to find. Geocache is a great new winning game for the outdoors, as well as a new winning word for Scrabble.

More information for your next outdoor adventure can be found at:

http://www.familycircle.comFamily TimeTravel

And for those of you wishing to submit an article about your new Geocache adventure visit:

Thanks for reading!


Forget the Republican majority: Women made history

Alma Adams will become the 100th woman in the 113th congress, voted in during a special election. Before Tuesday’s votes, there were 20 women senators and 79 Congresswomen. After a complete tally of votes the 100 number is likely to change with more woman elected to office.

Democrat Alma Adams serves North Carolina’s 12th district. Alma led the effort to increase minimum wage in North Carolina, earning her statewide recognition as a champion for the middle class.

This is a huge milestone for all women. Women need to become more active in politics and decide what is best for women. Men have decided far too long on what women should and shouldn’t do, have and shouldn’t have.

This is a strong issue that needs to come to the forefront of today’s society. Isn’t there a new formidable Gloria Steinem that will take up the challenge of the new women’s right of reproductive health care and other issues? What ever happened to her anyway?

We are the only ones that can give birth, reproductive health care should be a given right. Why does it have to be fought for?

Women still have to fight the corporate ceiling in the work place. Now the challenges are even greater with health care in the picture.

Discrimination against women is happening in every line of work. The gaming industry still cannot accept that women are just as equal in competition and software development.

Software engineer, Brianna Wu has been receiving death threats recently because of her involvement creating games with females as the main characters.

“Though many of us are equal in our skills and drive to the men, we are often not welcome. The gamers who still aren’t ready for us resort to online harassment to belittle, silence, and drive us away from their precious boys’ club.” said Elisa Melendez about being a girl gamer.

Women and girls, who enjoy the hobby, often log on to play with a male alter ego not to be harassed by male players. This happens everywhere. We just keep silent and sweep it under the rug.

With any luck Alma Adams just might inspire more women to join the battle of politics.

“As a mother, grandmother and teacher, I’m outraged by how Republicans in Congress keep ignoring the needs of our families. With your help, I’ll go to Congress and fight to stop them.”

– Alma Adams

Laura Bassett –

State of the Uterus

May 6, 2013

“State of the Uterus”

            Religious beliefs and restrictions are increasingly limiting women’s access to reproductive health care. Large corporations that are owned by anyone with a certain religious belief system are imposing their beliefs on women in order to save money on insurance premiums. This prevents women from fully making their own medical decisions for themselves. Women are expected to receive health care as a benefit, not refusals, restrictions or inaccurate information. Women should be able to access quality health care and make informed concise decisions about their own reproductive health care, after all, are our bodies not our own? Certain political parties and powerful religious organizations are making this difficult for women. Religious discrimination in the workplace harms a women’s health and her future fertility.

By refusing to cover contraception, employers are, in effect, imposing their religious beliefs on their female employees (Laurence). Not only are their rights compromised, their health could be in jeopardy as well. Catholic organizations are claiming that the laws that require them to provide contraceptive health care infringe on their religious beliefs. Religious freedom does not include the “freedom to discriminate against women,” The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide women with cost-free coverage for preventive care and routine screenings. The Obama administration wrote this provision to require coverage of sterilization and the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the US Food and Drug Administration; this also includes emergency contraception after a rape. Now that several religious institutions squawked at Obama’s (ACA), the president had to write in a clause in order to pass the (ACA), a sort of “safe harbor” for church affiliated hospitals, schools, and other religious employers (Laurence). In the JAMA journal Mr. Lawrence states that, “despite this compromise position, more than 35 lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which prohibits the federal government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion” unless it advances a compelling government interest and is the “least restrictive” means of achieving it. The lawsuits fall into 2 categories: those filed by religious and nonprofit groups that qualify for the temporary “safe harbor” and those filed by private for-profit employers with no religious affiliation.” These court cases will most likely be heard in the Supreme Court by 2014.

Both men and women attain employment for health benefits. The added benefit of contraception and reproductive services has no bearing on another’s religious preferences, nor does it impair the work production of a female employee. The Justice Department’s position in these cases is that the federal government has a “compelling” interest in mandating contraception coverage: to improve the health of women and children and to promote greater gender equity (Laurence). Women’s health needs are different from men’s, and many women may not be able to pay for contraception services. No such restriction is posed on men. Contraception coverage, moreover, enables some women to pursue their careers and serve productively in the workforce (Laurence). What is the reason for men wanting to take these rights away from women? A good point to argue would be that men are covered for vasectomies, what is the difference in contraceptive coverage, isn’t that a man’s right to reproductive freedom? Men decide every day whether or not they want to have children Women have had uphill battles for equality forever, and it looks like something new has been added to the political pot, reproductive rights.

Across the nation there is a reproductive justice movement on the rise. The reproductive justice movement places reproductive health and social justice within the human rights framework. These movements believe and support the right of an individual to have as many children as they want, raise the children they have, and plan their families through safe, legal access to abortion and contraception (Lapidus). They support reproductive freedom. Several nonprofit organizations such as; the American Nurses Association, Doctors for America, and the YWCA, have put their signature to a letter that was written representing millions of health care consumers, patients and providers, these organizations strongly supported the passage of the Affordable Care Act and are working to protect the Act from efforts to undermine or repeal it (New York Times). They asked President Obama to stand “sentry” against a more broad expansion of the issue from religious conservative groups. These non profits oppose this religious exemption, because it undermines the very principle of the Affordable Care Act, that all insurance plans must meet federal standards. Federal standards for the ACA are that employers are to provide women with cost free coverage for preventive care, screenings, and a full range of contraceptives (Laurence).

The First Amendment protects religious freedom, an individual’s right to practice or not practice any religion and an individual’s right to be free from religious coercion; this also includes the right to be free from a religion and does not include a right to impose one’s religion on another human being.  Yet hospitals and pharmacies that refuse to provide reproductive healthcare to women do impose their religion on others. Are women human beings, or are women political chattels for commerce trading? Catholic affiliated health care facilities are refusing women emergency care and refusing to tell them of alternative treatment, leaving the women misinformed and seeking additional out of pocket health care, or not seeking medical attention at all, leaving a women stranded in her own body without proper care due to a religious belief. In 1942 the Supreme Court declared the right to bear children a “fundamental right” (Feldt).  Reproductive rights allow men and women to make informed meaningful decisions about whether to become parents or not, free from intervention from the government. The United States Supreme Court has observed that “the ability of women to participate in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives (Lapidus). Reproductive freedom in other words is the cornerstone of women’s equality and the foundation for building healthy families (Feldt 198). Reproductive rights are to protect access to a full spectrum of reproductive health services, such as, sexual education, birth control, prenatal care, infertility clinics, abortion counseling and legitimate services. Contraception has only been readily available for about forty years (Feldt 199). In the first half of the twentieth century, involuntary sterilization was permitted by our government in thirty states; tens of thousands of people were sterilized against their will. The psychologically imbalanced, the poor, and people of color were affected the most. Women were still being sterilized as recently as the 1960’s without knowledge or consent (Feldt 200).

Women have been struggling with all forms of equality, the minute there is any progress, another issue is deemed necessary to argue before past issues can be resolved. In the preamble when it says all men are created equal, does that include the women who bore these men writing the constitution? If the United States Supreme Court mandates what rights we have and don’t have, why isn’t anyone following the law and getting away with it? Red tape and loopholes create new arguments for, let’s face it, profit. Republican representative Joe Walsh of Illinois insists that, “this debate isn’t about women, this isn’t about contraception, and this debate is about religious freedom.” This is total injustice for anyone to speak this way when all of the cards are on the table and the government has already spelled it out for everyone. We cannot be discriminated for believing, or non- believing in a religion. No one person has the right to do so to another according to laws of the United States. There have been only two law suits so far that were thrown out by the state of California in 2011; the judge dismissed the two cases because he found no relevance to religion and performance on the job. What a person believes is his own personal right and should not be imposed on company employees (Laurence).  Religions simply condition followers with fear and guilt, obey or else. Studies have shown that Catholic affiliated businesses are not only refusing treatment for women’s emergencies, they are also refusing to give them information about alternative procedures and medications, some hospitals don’t even refer other hospitals to go to, simply because they are told that it is not their problem (Feldt). Having attended Catholic school from kindergarten to my second year of high school, never, ever was any type of sexual education taught in the schools, only abstinence. We were told that any type of fornication without marriage would lead to damnation and a dysfunctional life. Some of these practices are in place today in some Catholic parishes (Feldt). When women are denied healthcare it can lead to harmful effects for the body and emotions.

What right do men have to impose such restrictions upon women? Women cannot help that they were born without a penis. The argument and treatment of this condition is simply a good ol’ boy mentality. Here are two quotes from former leaders of our government, “I am outraged that the abortion issue is viewed from a perspective of women – a femme-centric perspective that condones the self-indulgent conduct of the woman who was damn careless in the first place”. Dick Army, former U.S. House Majority Leader, (R-Texas.) “I will do everything in my power to restrict abortion.” George W. Bush (Feldt). Every time this issue is up for debate by our government, it seems to be that only a few women are selected to speak on the subject, and those women are randomly selected to make sure they say all the right things that the rightwing conservative men want to hear to help them prove their point. For these men to not even consider women’s reproductive rights is an outright crime. The comments that many white haired warlocks make puts us back to medieval times. We are not vessels for baby making. Women are as equally intelligent as the male species, I have to ask, why do we let these antiquated men decide what is best for us? Why do we not fight back on a greater scale? Why can’t we eliminate these men who put such idiocies into law? Margret Sanger fought for women’s freedom in 1914, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” – Margaret Sanger, (Feldt). It makes better sense to deal with factual evidence than it does sticking religion in the mix. Religion is just an excuse. Facts are that it only costs an insurance company to pay $360 a year for the “pill,” It costs them $20,000 for an unwanted pregnancy carried to term (Feldt). We have been fighting this issue for just about a century if not more. Reproductive rights and choice remains the most intense personal and heated debate that our country faces today. Men have imposed certain restrictions in our government to make life difficult for women, and now it is time to take a stand and take charge of our lives and our bodies. Men do not own us, nor should they tell us what we can and cannot do to, or with our bodies. Still the powers that be, are still telling us what we can and cannot do. There is something we can do.

Women are not second class citizens. Women are to be respected and treated equally, just as a man gets treated equally. Women should not be demeaned or humiliated when trying to obtain reproductive health care. Women can change the religious conservative perspective. Take a stand and be vocal, write letters to congressmen and representatives. Join an action group and attend local meetings. Don’t give up, commit to win, it might take a while, just like the right to vote, and status power in the workplace. We did it once we can do it again. Women need to remember that if we believe in a cause, action is necessary for change. Support without action gets us absolutely nowhere (Feldt).

How long will it take for women to have complete reproductive freedom? There can be no estimate of time for this debate. The political conservatives, along with the religious conservatives will be continuously and blatantly refusing to look and analyze the big picture. They have big money. They have big guns, and plenty of propagandist mumbo jumbo to drag this on for decades. My beliefs are that religion needs to stay out of this argument completely, according to the ACA outlines and the constitution of the United States; a woman should be treated equally according to law. My uterus does not interfere with my neighbors life, my uterus does not interfere with my classmate’s religion, or my performance on the job. It is my right to quality health care just as much as a man. If this continues many women will suffer the consequences of inadequate health care, as well as their offspring (without prenatal care). Religious discrimination towards women’s health care will most certainly harm their heath and their future. The reproductive movement needs a man to represent them, maybe then someone will listen. Together we should encourage all women, young and old to make a stand, before we become barefoot and pregnant again.





                                       Works Cited   

Feldt, Gloria. War on Choice: The Right Wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back. Westminster, MD: Bantam Books, 2004. Ebook.

Lapidus, Lenora Luthra, Namita Martin, Emily. Rights of Women. New York: New York University Press, 2009. Ebook.

Laurence, Gostin. Women’s Health, Contreception, and the Freedom of Religion. New York: JAMA, 21 November 2012.

New York Times. Growth of Catholic Hospitals May Limit Access to Reproductive Care. New York, 7 November 2013.…health/…growth-of-catholic-hospitals-may-limit-acce.






Welcome Home Sheldon Cooper

IMG_1488It was about four months to the day Phoebe left us. The vet confirmed Walter was lonely. We went searching for a puppy at local PetCo’s in the area. We knew that the right one would just speak to us; pun intended. We were wrong. The puppy we found was sound asleep in the front corner of the pen. We walked in circles around the last parking lot waiting for this little butter bean to wake up, he didn’t. We kept petting his tail in hopes it would wake him up; no such luck. Finally we asked if we could pick him up, he had one beautiful glass eye. When we picked him up he started to purr like a kitten and continued sleeping in our arms.  He perked up a little bit played with another puppy and came right back to us; we think for peace and quiet. He came home with us.

This cute little ten week old puppy came home with us and knew where everything was. The water, the food closet, even the back door. The puppy was so happy to see Walter. Walter was a bit standoffish; the puppy felt at home. Days went by and we had to name him. My family agreed that he was the smartest puppy we have ever encountered in our lives. He is part Catahoula and who knows. He made us laugh with his little noises, and amazed us with his outstanding mid air catches for being such a young puppy. Welcome home Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon has now been a part of our family for almost two years.

After a few weeks Sheldon seemed as if he knew something was wrong with Walter. I could not believe that this puppy actually respected Walters boundaries. This puppy was patient, calm and caring. Walter would be sitting by the window and Sheldon would bring a ball and drop it at his feet, as if to remind him that he was missing out on life.  Outside they found one thing in common that brought them together: SQUIRRELS! I was never so happy in my entire life. Walter actually taught Sheldon how to run the rodents up the trees. My heart was filled with joy, because the first time in a long time Walter had a purpose and I could actually see his little boy personality shine again. As Sheldon grew older, he and Walter have been side by side like brothers.

Walter now has a hard time with stairs, and Sheldon knows. He has a bit of arthritis in his joints, due to his love of food. Sheldon will continue to circle back to let Walter know it is OK to go up the stairs, constantly motivating him to move. At the dog park it is fun to watch the two of them together run without leashes. They don’t leave each others side.

What me and my entire family think is strange, is the fact that Sheldon’s characteristics are so eerily familiar to Phoebe’s. We were not expecting him to act like her; kind, caring, thoughtful and super protective. From the day we brought him home he was part of the family.

Please enjoy the photos of our Sheldon Cooper. Sometimes he resembles Dobby from Harry Potter.