Thoughts of Christmas Harriette Barker

Joy to the World the Lord has Come

Free Stock Photo: Red poinsettia flowers

Christmas has always been a very special time of the year for me.  In the Caribbean certain sounds, sights, food, and events are associated with the joyful season.   One of our popular Christmas songs recall these sounds. There are the noises of Christmas.  It is not loud; more like a hum, or echo in the air. Everyone and everywhere seems to reverberate with this special Christmas sound – the shoppers, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, the stores, decorations, special smiles and exchanges of good cheer.  Everyone is joyful and happy.

Over the years, we tend to focus more on the material side of Christmas.  There is Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and daily sales.  Merchants estimate how much money they are going to make. Family and friends are disappointed at the gifts that they receive. So, amidst the frantic preparations that drain our energy and pockets, I want to share my thoughts of Christmas.


A Caribbean Christmas means the joy of reconnection. There are many Caribbean families living in other countries.  Each year many of them return home to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.  I enjoyed such a reconnection a few years ago, when many of our family members were together at Christmas in almost thirty years.  It was a wonderful experience.  Joy was overflowing.

Sadly, there are some families who are disconnected, losing touch over the years.  The Christmas spirit, can help us to resolve petty differences, and bring us closer together through shared memories, increasing faith and love.


andy at faith: The Purpose of Christmas ~ A Time for Reconciliation

Christmas is a time to open our hearts and allow the spirit of forgiveness to enter.  We should be forgiving of each other throughout the year, but at Christmas time there should be a greater focus.  Listening to the hymns and carols of Christmas we are reminded of the real purpose for Christ coming.

Many selfish and petty issues cause discord among families.  Unfortunately, these grievances can be heightened at Christmas time, sometimes resulting in fatal events.  Sadly, there are times when death separates us before we can be reconciled.  There is the grief of loss, and the despair of unforgiveness, that dampens our spirit.

There is a story of two armies having a cease-fire at Christmas time.  The soldiers exchanged chocolate, cookies, and cigarettes with each other.  Then they sang Silent Night.  For those brief moments in time war was forgotten and memories shared.

Reconciliation is an important part of our Christmas celebrations which should continue throughout the year.    There should be a greater emphasis on the spiritual than on the material.


Christmas is a time of rejoicing, of hope and love.    The story of Christ’s birth is filled with praise.  It begins with Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, the Shepherds, the angels, the Wise Men all giving thanks and praise for the good news.  This is a time to rid ourselves of the sadness and despair that often overwhelms our daily lives.   We should make a big effort to resist gloom and encourage hope, as this is the promise of Christmas.

The Carols, hymns, and songs of Christmas are bright and joyful.  They lift our spirits and implore us to open our hearts to the joy of the season.   We can rejoice because the angels’ song of “peace to his people on earth” is a promise that Jesus would unite all of us in love.  Praise and rejoicing should be the cornerstone of our celebrations as we join with family and friends to share the joy of Christmas.









 If ever there was a story of Christmas generosity to lift your spirits ...
Gift giving is an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. No one wants to be Scrooge.  We want that generous part of our nature to shine.  Sometimes we go overboard, placing ourselves in debt or becoming depressed when we are unable to live up to our own expectations. However, we should remember that the most generous gift was given to us.  God loves us and this was affirmed when he sent his Son to this earth.

The traditional giving of gifts at Christmas is an acknowledgment of the generous God who pardoned us and gave us a chance to receive everlasting life.  Although gifts are the outward expression of our love to others.  It should be remembered that a loving heartand kind deeds will last longer that the brightly wrapped packages.  This Christmas and throughout the year we need to share Christ’s love generously with our fellowmen.


Our hymn of meditation reminds us that when Christ was born he brought joy into the world. The savior that had been promised throughout the ages had finally appeared. The world had eagerly anticipated his coming. Now he is here, and things have changed. On that first Christmas, there was also a sound. It was echoed in Israel where the people had waited many years for their Savior to come.  One of our Christmas songs reminds us of the wonders of the season.  Yet for many it, it is marked by depression, loneliness, separation, grief, and despair.

This Christmas, we need to refocus.  Instead of the pointless, endless race of shopping, partying, eating and drinking, we should immerse ourselves in understanding the reason and meaning of Christmas.  By bringing the glorious message of Christ birth into our hearts and homes, we can renew and energize our faith and hope. Let this Christmas be a holy day, where we worship the new born King.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours – Harriette Barker



Positive Thinking and Aging-Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN

Free Stock Photo: An African-American woman looking out a window

Have you ever been accused of not thinking positively about a situation?  It hurt when someone says, “you are always thinking negatively.”  Your first reaction is to defend yourself and try to convince the person that you are positive in your outlook and approach.  As we age, remaining positive may become stressful.   Many years ago, as a young staff nurse working in a geriatric facility, one of my patients said to me, “growing older is a bitch.”  At that time bouncing with youth and fairy dreams, I could not relate to her sentiment.

Positive thinking (feel good approach) is promoted as being healthy for aging hearts.  It helps to reduce the risk of inflammation and heart disease.  It can also boost your self-esteem, increase your ability to make decisions, and improve personal relationships.  Focusing on the positive and minimizing negatives thoughts and attitudes add years to life, increases resiliency, decreases stress levels and gives you greater insight.

Positive thinking is a healthy behavior that can help add years to our lives. We are encouraged to let go of negativity.  To view the older years as opportunities and challenges, that keep us engaged and in touch with the world around us.

Positive thinking from a religious perspective was healthy, and necessary for spiritual development according to the late Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Rev. Dr. Robert Schuller.  Their ideas that focusing on the positive eliminated the negative, has been the hallmark of their books, sermons, and letters. Such thinking is very beneficial to older persons as they explore and enhance their spirituality.

However, there are some newer thoughts on positive thinking that reinforce the idea that positivity alone does not necessarily result in successful outcomes.  The Obama Presidential campaign touted the positive slogan of “Yes, we can.”  It was a message of optimism and hope that energized the nation and moved it forward.   Although his message was one of hope, in hindsight we can see the obstacles that presented every step of the way.

 Oettingen, a psychologist, agrees that positive thinking is a strategy that enables persons to take a positive approach on striving for goals.  However, she acknowledges that positive thinking alone does not eliminate obstacles that may get in the way.  Assessing these and developing a plan to overcome them in a realistic way is important if you want to achieve your goals.

 Oettingen, developed a four-step, wish, outcome, obstacles,  plan (WOOP). This strategy helps you  put your old dreams into action or develop new ones.  The steps to this program are:

Wish: Be specific

Outcome: Think about the results

Obstacles: Identify anything that may set you back

Plan:  determine where or when setbacks may occur and how to overcome them.


Facade: Dreaming


Free Stock Photo: A Golden Retriever fetching a tennis ball

It was a small house with a high green fence surrounding it.  As I passed this house daily, I tried to imagine the lives of the family  who lived in this cute house.  For sure they had two children a boy and a girl, and there was a fluffy little brown dog.  The children were not allowed to play outside of the fence but I could sense them running around with the dog chasing them.  I could not see the windows of the home because of the high fence, but somehow I knew that they were long lace curtains at the windows, blowing gently in the breeze.  Of course, there was a flower garden with roses, marigolds, hibiscus and bees  In this house, there was always soft music, laughter, kind words and gentle voices.  People cared about and supported each other. Everyone was happy, satisfied and peaceful.  There was no hunger, despair, depression, envy, jealousy or malice.   Only peace, joy, love and respect.  This house represented an ideal for our lives.  However, in reality, it is only a facade  that hides our fear, pain, and disappointments.



Black Boomers: No Magic to Weight Loss

Closeup of an older woman wearing a blue sports bra and watch : Free Stock Photo

One of my students presented me with a watch-like gadget.

“What is this?” I asked her

“It is to help you track your steps.  10,000 steps each day to keep you fit.”

A few days later my friend called me.  She was walking home from the train station trying to complete her targeted steps for that day.  Many persons are using technological devices to help lose weight and get into shape.  As I take my daily walk/jog, I see these fitness trackers on the arms and wrists of persons trying to get fit.  Some people swear that the gadgets help them in their goals to be fit.  I often questioned about those 10,000 steps.  It is like drinking eight glasses of water a day.  Good to do, but who is to say that more or less may not be just as effective.

A new study about weight loss and fitness trackers has indicated that technology alone does not aid in weight loss.  The two-year study compared standard behavioral weight loss interventions such as diet, exercise, tips, and counseling with the addition of fitness trackers.  The results indicated that adding a fitness device tracker did not make a significant difference.  It looks great wearing a tracker on your wrist or arm.  However, moderation and consistency in the diet are still the basics of weight loss goals.

Is there a place for technology such as fitness trackers in the battle of the bulge?  I believe that these devices can play an important role in helping persons to become motivated to achieve their goals.  However, this technology is not magic.  Those persons who are trying to lose weight must commit to healthy lifestyle changes that help to promote and sustain their weight management goals.


JAMA. 2016;316(11):1161-1171. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12858.

Black Boomers: Did you get your Flu Shot?


I hate taking needles.  You would not believe that as a nurse, I gave out my share of needles,  As a result of this fear, for many years I refused to take an annual flu shot.  I had received one many years ago that made me sick, so I did not bother to take any more.

The winter of 2014 changed my mind.  The Sunday after New Years’ Day, I was down with the flu.  It was rough.  I felt like I was going to die.  The pain in my body, the cough that hurt my chest, no energy, no interest in food.  It was terrible.  Last winter I screwed up my courage and took the shot.  I had mild flu-like symptoms, and a sore arm, for about two days.  Then in March of this year I came down with the flu, but it was not as severe as last year.

Since taking the shot four days ago might arm was sore for about two days, but I did not have any other flu symptoms.  I have also been boosting my body with supplements, so I am hoping that I will escape it this flu season.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the benefits of taking the flu shot and other vaccinations.  Some people believe that taking shots can do more harm than good. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended a flu shot for persons 65 years of age and over.  This age group is at the greatest risk of contracting a severe form of the flu with complications that may be life-threatening.

Two vaccines designed for the sixty-five plus age group are:

  • High dose –has been used since 2009. It is stronger and more effective than the regular dose.
  • Fluad – is a newer vaccine for the 2016-17 flu season. It is stronger than the high dose vaccine.


  • Both of these vaccines may initially cause mild side
  • Do not take the nasal spray form of the vaccine if you are sixty-five years of age and over.


Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Get your Flu shot
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Keep away from people who are sick
  • Get medical attention if you have flu symptoms.
  • Discuss the need for other vaccinations with your health care provider.








MAGIC MOMENTS!!. The boomer generation years span the period 1946- 1967.  These post-war years were challenging as the world recovered from the ravages of war.  The love songs of the fifties were poignant as they told us about roses,  lollipops, bobby socks, and stockings.  However, it was the explosion of love songs by black artists in the 60’s that reinforced all of our dreams of happy ever after.   These sweet songs heightened our emotions tugging at our heart strings until we were head over heels in love.

We were young and did not have money, but we believed that love was everything.  Looking back through the years we realized how naïve we were, yet those songs still appeal to our hearts today.  As we cha cha cha down memory lane let us reminisce on these songs and the magic they brought to our lives.  Which of these songs was your favorite?

1 The Glory of Love ( Otis Redding 1967)

I can still hear myself humming the tune as a teenager.  Did not have a clue what Otis was singing about but I loved the song.  Otis reminds us that tears, pain, frustration, and disappointment are part of the territory.  Love is going to hurt; it may shock us or knock us off of our feet.  But along the way there is glory, there is the joy of sharing our lives with someone who cares.

  1. That’s where it’s At – Sam Cooke 1964

Sam Cooke reminded us that hanging out in a quiet place with your baby, was better than swinging at a party.  Too noisy and crowded.  The intimacy of a quiet room where the lights were low and soft music played promoted an atmosphere of love, caring, and togetherness.

  1. My Girl – The Temptations (1964)

For the Temptations there was no one or nothing in this world who could take the place of a loved one.  Lack of fame, fortune, beauty does not matter.  Just being with that special one is enough.

  1. River Deep, Mountain High – Tina Turner (1966)

Tina insisted that love conquers all in spite of our difficulties and struggles.  No matter if our problems are as deep as the river, or as high as a mountain.  Love is a powerful force that makes us stronger and better with each challenge that we face.

  1. When a Man loves a Woman – Percy Sledge – (1966)

Percy reminds us of the reality of being in love.  We want to hold on to the good thing that we have found.  Unfortunately, sometimes that love is not returned.  Misery, hopelessness, and rejection take its place.  Although love hurt, there is a sweetness to the experience that makes us want to fall in love over and over again.

  1. At Last – Etta James (1961)

Finally, we meet that special person of our dreams.  The one who brings the magic to our lives.  Loneliness disappears.  Every day is a new beginning in which we experience a touch of heaven.

  1. I Was made to Love Her – Stevie Wonder ( 1967)

Stevie reminds us that even though people may disapprove, true love will last through the years if we appreciate each other.

  1. Stand by Me – Ben E. King (1962)

Standing by each other no matter the difficulty enables us to offer support, comfort, strength, and a shoulder to lean on.  His words tell us that crying is not an option because we are stronger and can face any challenges.

  1. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell(1967)

Marvin and Tammi declare that there are no barriers that can prevent them from getting to the one that they love.  High mountains, low valleys, floods, storms, seasons, or other distractions to get in their way.

  1. You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin (1967)

Aretha expresses the power of love to lift our spirits, renew our minds and help us to face another day.  Sharing our love with someone inspires us, gives us peace of mind, relieves our doubts and empowers us to be loving, kind women who can reciprocate love.


Are any of these your favorite song?  If not try to recall the one that moves you.   You may go to Utube and play it or Google the lyrics.  Turn the lights down, and the magic of the sixties is back.




Daily Prompt: Radical

via Daily Prompt: Radical

Radical is a term that is associated with extreme responses or negative behaviors. I believe that we can view it in a more positive light as change.  We were walking on a beach in St. Martin which had a naked section.  A young lady decided to take off her top and bare her breasts.  She had a double mastectomy.  When her friend questioned the wisdom of this action, she responded, “I am a radical.  Freedom is what I need.”