“Tis the season, again”

Having a  birthday close to Christmas makes both occasions rather messy for you and your family. As my friend ,whose birthday is on New Year’s Day, wrote, “You feel like you get cheated on your Christmas/birthday gifts.”  But  there are perks.

This is one of my favorite posts, probably because I had fun writing it. There’s no serious medical information in it, but I hope you will find inspiration to stop and think about the “reason for the season”.

Don’t  we celebrate more special events and holidays the last six weeks of the year than the rest of the year combined? It feels that way to me.  We have these three major holidays-

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve have become mini holidays too.

And when Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on the weekend, Friday or Monday will be a holiday for many people.

First we had Black Friday. Then they added Cyber Monday. Now we also have Giving Tuesday, which I think is the only one that really counts.

beautiful large Christmas tree
Christmas at the Chicago Museum of  Science and Industry, photo by Raymond Oglesby

Some people observe the special celebrations of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

In the United States, we observe December 7 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the day in 1941 the United States entered World War II.  That event changed our country forever, and created my generation, the post-war  Baby Boomers.

The USS Arizona Memorial
Pearl Harbor Memorial at the USS Arizona

On December 17 , 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made their  famous flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, ushering in the age of air travel, another historical turning point.

aircraft airplane antique classic
Photo by Inge Wallumrød on Pexels.com

The shortest day of the year occurs on December 21, the winter solstice and first day of winter in the northern hemisphere.

light snow on trees and ground
a snowy day in Oklahoma, captured by Dr Aletha

And  there are other special holidays and events observed too.

Besides holidays, other matters demand our time and attention during this season also.

College students face the end of a semester by studying for finals and finishing term papers and projects.

Renewal notices for subscriptions, licenses, and memberships show up in our mailboxes or inboxes.

Charities offer us one final opportunity to make  tax-deductible donations.

Patients call their doctor’s, dentist’s or optometrist’s office for that last chance to use medical insurance or flexible spending accounts before the new (and probably higher) deductible kicks in.

red gift boxes
Christmas birthdays can be messy too. (from a sermon series by my pastor Chris Dow, photo by Dr. Aletha )

And in the middle of all this, I celebrate my birthday.

Having a  birthday close to Christmas makes both occasions rather messy for you and your family. As my friend with a New Year’s Day birthday wrote, “You feel like you get cheated on your Christmas/birthday gifts.”  

But  there are perks.

Your neighbors remind you your birthday is coming by hanging lights on their houses and turning them on every evening. (My husband claims that’s not the real reason. He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus either.)

You can go to a holiday party and pretend it’s for you.

You can listen to Christmas music on your birthday without seeming weird.

Your husband may hire a limousine to drive you around town looking at holiday lights displays. (He really did-twice.)

at my birthday dinner with my family

Thank goodness, so far, no one else in my immediate family has chosen to be born or married this month. (Although I was delighted to learn  recently that two  distant cousins also have December birthdays.)

But the best part of any birthday is reflecting on your life, the successes and failures, the joys and sorrows, and remembering the people and events that brought you to where you are now.

Birth and death comprise this journey  we call Life. Long ago I recognized that we physicians do not ultimately “save lives” or “prevent death”, but we can sometimes impact the time and circumstances.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes chapter 3

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


This year I have  celebrated with friends who welcomed new babies into their families. I watched a friend face a disabling illness and death with the same faith, courage, enthusiasm, dignity and humor that he had lived life. I have mourned with his family and others who have lost loved ones this year.

Some people dread birthdays, but I believe  they are  a blessing; I am grateful for another year of life and hope to use whatever time I have left productively.  I agree with this quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes

“To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.

Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts and second human to step on the moon’s surface , trekked to the South Pole-at 86 years old.

A woman celebrating  her 103rd birthday made the news.  As always, she spent the day at a senior citizen center- as a volunteer!

In January, our country observes the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I doubt my birthday will ever be deemed a federal holiday, but I hope something I do in life will leave this world a little better.

A birthday creates a new beginning  and so does a new year.  Perhaps we can all use the New Year’s Day holiday  to remember, reflect, renew and recharge our hearts and minds for another season  of life.

Yes, ’tis the season-Merry Christmas, Happy New Year,

and happy birthday, whenever yours may be.

dessert with a lit candle in the middle
I hope your favorite restaurant gives you a complimentary dessert on your birthday.

exploring the HEART of health-and birthdays

Dr Aletha

In Oklahoma, a time to mourn and a time to dance

At 9:02 am April 19, 1995 the bomb exploded, destroying one side of the federal building, damaging several adjacent buildings, injuring 680 people and killing 168 people, including 19 children.

Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil; it remains the worst domestic terrorist attack.

An annual event, the Oklahoma Challenge Ballroom Dance competition draws dancers from Oklahoma, surrounding states and as far away as Toronto, Ontario. Many return every year to compete against dancers who have now become dance friends.

The competition occurs at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Nearby is the Bricktown historic district with trendy restaurants, hotels,clubs, shops and the Chesapeake Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.

Also not far away is the site of the biggest “challenge” the city and our state has ever faced- the 1995 domestic terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building. On a spring morning in April, a terrorist parked  a rental truck on the street in front of the building; the truck contained a  5000 pound bomb made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

A morning of terror

At 9:02 am April 19, 1995 the bomb exploded, destroying one side of the federal building, damaging several adjacent buildings, injuring 680 people and killing 168 people, including 19 children.

Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil; it remains the worst domestic terrorist attack.





A day of remembrance

On April 19, 2000 ,the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated ; the Museum opened a year later.  I have visited several times, and always come away having seen and learned something new. If you ever travel through Oklahoma, I recommend you put this on your must-see list. When you come,  here are some of the images you will see and experience. 

OKC memorial and federal building in the distance
the West Gate of the memorial looking northwest toward the new federal building
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum entrance
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum entrance
window at the museum
window from the museum overlooking outdoor memorial
Memorial pool and chairs
168 lighted chairs sit on the south lawn of the Memorial.
gold statue shaped like a chair
There is a gold chair for each person who died from the bombing that day.

A lifetime of honor

In the days ,weeks and months following the attack ,we learned all the details about the bombing- the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the survivors.

168 Oklahomans lost their lives there that day, including 19 children.

My husband and I visited the site after the wreckage was imploded and the site was fenced off. The fence became a makeshift memorial, as people left mementos of all kinds- dolls, stuffed animals, photos, pictures, flowers, crafts, flags, shirts, letters.  

We have visited again since the official memorial  and the museum were established on April 19, 2000. Sections of the fence were left intact, and people still leave mementos; others became part of the museum collection.

2016-03-07 12.05.50
2016-03-07 12.08.17
2016-03-07 12.12.19
2016-03-07 12.11.04

A long section of the original fence has been left intact, as well as parts of the original federal building wall.

sections of damaged wall
sections of damaged wall

Until 9/11, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on United States soil.

"We search for the Truth" written on a wall.
On the wall of the Journal Record Building which was also damaged by the blast; the museum now occupies part of it.

The perpetrators were caught and brought to justice. The driver of the truck was convicted, sentenced to death, and died by execution. The another remains in prison for life.

That day in Oklahoma City showed the best  in our state and our country as people, some with no training , risked their lives to help rescue people who were injured and trapped inside. Firefighters and police came from all over the United States to help. People donated food and first aid supplies.

children and adults visiting a wall decorated with handprints
Schools regularly bring students to visit the memorial and museum
colorful hand painted tiles from children
Tiles hand painted by children were sent to the city as a show of support and sympathy.
bright colored flowers along a wall
Pansies are popular in Oklahoma in the fall and spring.

I was proud to be an Oklahoman then and now, and still grieve for the lives we lost that day.

The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree, an American elm, survived the blast and is part of the Memorial.


statue of Christ with head bowed
statue of a grieving Christ, in the courtyard of a church across the street from the memorial


“We remember that moment that is framed forever by these twin gates. Our place of remembrance is filled with those symbols (ribbons, angels, flags) and also filled with love-the love of countless Americans whose ideas and support and contributions helped create this beautiful memorial.

On April 19 five years ago the flag of our nation was flying over the Murrah building. It is flying over our memorial today, and flies proudly in our hearts.

For those who perpetrated this act, we have one message:

In America you can speak and vote and complain, but there is no right to maim and bomb and kill…and if you think you’ll bring that flag down, there is your answer.

We are all Oklahomans today, and we are all Americans. May God continue to bless our beloved land. “

Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, April 19, 2000

quote from The Official Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing, published by Oklahoma Today Magazine 

remembering the HEART of health

Dr Aletha

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