Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love the Light

love the light

“I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 19: A Paper Nativity Scene

Day 19: A simple paper manger made with my hands reminds me of the humble beginnings the most profound gift the world has ever received

Didier, a French artist, has a wonderful blog called "My Little House." And he posts all sorts of amazing Christian art and paper models for children (and others) to make. I fell in love with his art, the blog's name, and the generiousity of his spirit with these simple gifts.

Here's the Nativity Scene, along with the entire town of Bethlehem:


A paper model of Bethlehem, from Didier at "My Little House"
 I love this. I love paper, I love the simplicity of the town, and I love that an artist took the time to make and share these with the world. I can imagine as Zoom gets older that we might make this town, one week at a time, as we get closer to Christmas Eve. It would be such a great opportunity to talk about this story, read the Bible together, and learn about the history of Israel.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18: I am the 2nd Biggest Loser, It's Official

Day 18: 3 months of hard work pays off and my losing ways are recognized by more than just my scale at home

Back in September, several of my co-workers started a weight loss challenge. I had just realized that a change was needed as I had already hit my heaviest ever (non-pregnant) weight and I was slowly getting close to being as heavy as I had been when I was 9+ months pregnant. Yowzers.

Thank heavens for my calculating co-workers. My boss mentioned the challenge to me and that very day I went down to the accounting department (it had to be in accounting, who else would be the ones to figure out how to calculate percent loss?) and weighed my butt in.

Twelve weeks after that weigh in I was down 11 pounds from my first weigh in and at an official 8.14% lost. The biggest loser came in at about 10.54% lost. Impressive. Overall, since I started a few days ahead of the challenge, I've just hit my 10% loss mark, and I was more than pleased with coming in second place and winning the silver medal. Of weight loss.

I'm going to continue my weight loss ways into April of 2012, folks. I'm also part of  "That Weight Loss Challenge 2." My next goals are to get fit, possibly find a Bikram Yoga place near work, and lose another 5 to 10 pounds.


Here I am, at dinner after winning the big challenge. 2nd biggest loser

Your proud loser,
Paula

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 17: Gluten Free Peanut Butter Fudge and Peppermint Bark

Day 17: Cooking and baking goodies to share with friends and family

We're going to be having an open house tomorrow and so I have been baking! We're having gluten free peanut butter fudge, peppermint bark, and we'll have a cookie decorating station for everyone. I went with good old gluten-filled sugar cookies for those.

Here are the recipes and some photos of the goodies :)

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Fudge, adapted from All Recipes:
 Gluten Free Peanut Butter Fudge
Ingredients
    4 cups white sugar
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup butter
    1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
    12 ounces peanut butter
    2/3 cup Gluten Free Pantry all-purpose flour

Directions
    Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish, set aside.
    In a saucepan, combine sugar, milk, and butter. Bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the marshmallow creme and peanut butter. Gradually stir in the flour. Spread into the prepared pan, and let cool. Cut into 1 inch by 1 inch squares.

Peppermint Bark, adapted from My Judy the Foodie:
Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:
    8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate chips
    8 ounces high-quality white chocolate chips
    4 candy canes, crushed

Instructions:
    Lightly grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with waxed paper, smoothing out wrinkles; set aside.
    Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, following the directions on the package.
    Pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle half of the crushed peppermints over the chocolate layer. Refrigerate until completely hardened
    Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, following the directions on the package.
    Pour the white chocolate directly over the semisweet chocolate layer; spread evenly.
    Sprinkle the remaining crushed candy over the top and gently press in.
    Refrigerate until completely hardened. Remove from pan; break into small pieces to serve.

I can't wait for our open house :) I'll be sure to report back with photos!

Linked up to: Homemaker on a Dime, The DIY Show-off

Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16: The Love of a Father

Day 16: Seeing glimpses of Gods love for us in the acts of others

A couple of years ago, Father Rusty introduced me to the story of the Dick and Ricky Hoyt.  They are a father and son team who have competed in Ironman together. The thing is, Ricky Hoyt is disabled, and can not walk, nor swim, nor bike, nor run, so it is his father who makes it possible for them to compete together.

Here's an inspirational video about them:

And here is a story about them and how they trained for Ironman:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15: Homemade and Inexpensive Toys for a 1 Year Old

Day 15: Inspire creativity at home for young minds

 
I'm inspired today by Jenna's post over at That Wife about some of the toddler toys and activities she's created for her son. Many are things that are easy to piece together around your home, or to buy and make.

I think I'd like to make the fishing pole for Zoom, and possibly make 3 additional sets, one each for his twin cousins, and one for his Grandpa (who we call Duwa). Duwa loves to fish and gave each of the babies a "Grandpa's Little Fishing Buddy" hat when they were born. It would be fun to get him to play fishing with them over Christmas. I'm excited about this idea!!

Someone commented that they may make a kit of all the items she's suggested to give as a gift, and that seems like an awesome idea, too.

Jenna also asked about learning toys that we use at our house. We have a felt alphabet that my aunt made for me when I was born. Each pocket has a toy in it, and the toy matches the letter on the pocket. Letter A has a felt apple, Letter B has a boy, etc. After Zoom gets changed, we sing the ABCs (while I point to each letter) and then we pull out three toys (one at a time). This lets me say the letter, make it's sound, and then show him the toy. If we get out L for Lion, we make the lion sound, too. Now Zoom will point at the ABCs after he's changed and sing "AAahhh Baaaay" because he likes it so much!

Zoom's Room

We also have a lot of "musical" items in our house. Zoom is big on music and noises, and a pot and pan are some of his favorite toys. He plays the drum really well. For Christmas, we are getting the three littles some musical instruments, tiny egg shakers and a couple of musical rhythm sticks each. We all took "Music Together" classes and these instruments are inexpensive, yet easy for little hands to use, and were always a favorite in class!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 14: It's a Miracle, a quote from "Boston Johnny"

Day 14: Each of us has the potential to do great things

It's a miracle

"Boston" Johnny Rhode is a 66 year old contestant on Season 12 of The Biggest Loser. In one episode, near the end of the season, all of the contestants come back to run a marathon. Johnny completed a FULL marathon after losing 88 pounds, and barely being able to run/walk a single mile just seven months prior. You can see the before and after pictures on NBC's website.

As Johnny was running the marathon, he said "It's a miracle. It's in each of us, and all we have to do is dig it out." And with that I put my TiVo on pause and grabbed a pen. Johnny's quote really spoke to me because it's a truth that stretches far beyond weight loss. It's a truth that lies at the heart of all of our dreams, whether that be education, one's career, relationships, being a parent. There is a nugget of our potential in each of us, and all we have to do is dig it out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13: Free Owl Printable 2012 Calendar From My Owl Barn

Day 13: Cute calendar to keep and share



The blog My Owl Barn has an adorable Free Owl Printable 2012 calendar posted. You can choose from 45 different images to go with each month and customize it for yourself. What a lovely and generous free printable!! If you are creative, I'm sure you could print this on stock card and make a DIY gift for a friend.




Owl Lover 2012 Calendar

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 12: Christmas Gifts Under $30

Day 12: Shopping ideas from places and people I know and love


I have a few go-to places and shops that I love to check out when I'm looking for a great gift. Several are local to the San Francisco area. Two others are artists and artisans I like a lot :)

Kris Nations works in SF, and she's an ad agency lady who started her own business. I own a few of her pieces, and have been eyeing this one for a bit. At $29 for the necklace and $27 for the earrings, these are a really great deal on sale. If you are looking to spend a little more, check out her freaking drop dead cool dahlia necklace...
Kris Nations: Small Wildflower Necklace for $29

2. Jessica Swift Prints
Jessica is out of Atlanta, Georgia. She does some amazing art, and after having followed her blog for a few years, you find out she's also an extremely inspirational person. Her joy and positive outlook are infectious. I love this prints, which is priced at $18 each. She has a ton of others, along with calendars, coasters, and rain boots.
Jessica Swift's 'king of the mountain' print, $18
 3. Gama Go
Another SF original, Gama Go makes absolutely awesome shirts, home goods, and they are always a go to place for hilarious gifts. They have a whole section of gifts under $15 on their site.

Gama Go's Flavor Savers for $8.
4. Oaklandish
Oaklandish makes T-shirts that highlight East Bay pride. I grew up on that side of the bay and love the 925 and 510 area codes. Back in the day we all shared the 415, but oh well. Anyway, check out these shirts, which come in for $22 for little ones. I love this "Bird on Stump" shirt!
Oaklandish's "Bird on Stump" Toddler T for $22
5. Goat Milk Stuff soap
I ran into Goat Milk Stuff a few years ago on a blog, and tried it on a whim. Wow, I used to have very dry itchy skin and their Purity soap has made an amazing difference. Get this...I don't use anything else to clean my face. Just soap. They have a cool gift pack that comes in at $20. You get to pick the scents, too :)

Goat Milk Stuff's Gift Pack for $20
6. Fox and Moon Tea
Zo is an amazing person, she's super passionate about tea, and yet we met since we've both worked in ad agencies as project managers. Zo sources her own tea internationally, and she does a traveling tea room in addition to selling her tea at retail shops. On her site, she has a sampler set of 3 teas for $22. If you live in the area, she'll be at Renegade Craft Fair this weekend, too :)

Fox & Moon Tea Sampler for $22

So there are a "few of my favorite things." Do you have any favorite go-to gift sites or artists? Please share!

*I didn't receive any sort of compensation, samples, or other "payment" from these sites or artists. I just like their wares and wanted to share some gift ideas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Make a Free Infinity Scarf


Infinity Scarf

I remember first spying jersey knit infinity scarves on Etsy a couple of years ago. I liked the ones that had several different strands of fabric, long and loopy. After doing a little research on jersey knit cotton, you learn that it's the kind of fabric that doesn't require any hemming along the edges as it doesn't fray.

I finally decided to try making a scarf on my own. Here's how I did it.


How to Make an Infinity Scarf

1. Find a used black t-shirt (or color of your choice), look for one in a men's XL or XXL. Mine happened to be a programmer swag t-shirt from an Apple conference. I chose an XL, but I usually wear a woman's small, so if you wear a larger size, you may want to look for a bigger t-shirt.
- cut the shirt off below the armpits
2. Now you have just the "body" of the shirt, which is the portion armpit level and below. It should be a giant tube. The tube is where you will eventually be putting your head, this is your neck hole. You could actually stop here if you try it on and like how it looks.
3. Cut he body of the shirt in half again, cutting parallel with the bottom hem of the shirt. You'll be keeping the big "loop" which used to fit around a man's belly as your neck hole.
4. Cutting parallel once again to the hem (or the armpit line, if you're using the top half), cut several "fringes," but be careful not to cut all the way through the top. These cuts are separating portions of the scarf, so that the end look will be many individual "strandrs" of a scarf. You want to leave a large uncut portion at one end, which you will put behind your neck.

You can repeat steps 3 & 4 and make a quick stocking stuffer for a friend.

Go get your coat and get ready to head out! Now you have your free infinity scarf!
Scarf!

Linked to: Homemaker on a Dime, Tater Tots and Jello, Not Just a Housewife,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10: The Prayer of Saint Francis

Day 10: Make me a channel of Your peace

This is a video I made a couple of years ago, set to "The Prayer of Saint Francis," sung by Cecilia. It's one of my favorites. I needed to be reminded of this message as we approach Christmas. It's so easy to be caught up in all of the hurrying and doing, and easy to forget to be good to each other as we prepare for the holiday.





Friday, December 9, 2011

December 9: Helping Homeless Children, an Eye Opening Report from KQED's Dave Iverson

This morning on the way to work, I caught Dave Iverson's Forum on our NPR station. The topic of the show was San Francisco's homeless school children.

I've got to say, the show really opened my eyes. Please, go listen. There are more than 2,000 homeless school children in San Francisco. I can't even fathom the impact that homelessness has on children. Many of them are with their parents, living on the street or in a shelter. The challenge of getting to school every day means that many miss 2 or 3 days of school a week. They are often exhausted because they have trouble sleeping in shelters or without their own home and bed to sleep in. Because the classroom is safe and warm, the children often fall asleep at their desks. When these children say that they are tired and hungry, it's because they have not slept for days, and they may not have eaten that day.

According to Compass Family Services, "right now there are more homeless children in the United States than at any other time since the Great Depression."

Could you join me in taking a step to do something about this problem? Below are a few agencies that help children. Some accept money, need volunteers, or will accept a gently worn coat. These agencies are mostly local to the SF area, but you can find ones near you by looking up "homeless shelter" or "food bank" in Google.
Berkeley Food & Housing Project - provides services and food to the homeless in Berkeley
Compass Family Services - dedicated to helping the homeless in San Francisco
Homeless Youth Services in Oakland 
One Warm Coat -accepts donations of new or gently worn coats, there are drop off locations across the US
Ritter Center of Marin - Provides assistance to the homeless and working poor in Marin County
Second Harvest Food Bank - San Mateo and Santa Clara County food bank
Shelter Network - San Mateo county based homeless shelter.

Tomorrow we will be donating coats to One Warm Coat, which has a drop off point at "Breakfast with Santa." It feels like the least we can do before we sit down to a pancake breakfast and tell Santa what we want with a full belly.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8: Losing Weight, Regaining Myself

Day 8: Re-finding myself as I look at the reasons I'd gained weight


otherfamily_cropAbout three months ago to the day, my family celebrated little Zoom's first birthday. It was a lovely event. Family and friends came over for an elephant themed party. I owe you guys some photos of that party.

There is likely a reason I've haven't posted those photos. When I went back and looked at myself I was shocked.

At the time, I no longer fit into my clothes. In fact, I had gotten so heavy that I did not own a single pair of pants that fit me, and I'd moved on to wearing dresses because it was all that fit.

Now I see that I'd been eating because I was still upset and confused about the traumatic events that surrounded Zoom's birth. There was so little I could control over those 56 hours. I'd gone in to labor naturally, and then labored for 56 hours. The doctor quickly decided at about hour 54 that I would need a cesarean. When Zoom was born, he had respiratory issues and was in the hospital for six days. He did not come home with us. None of this was in a birth plan, anywhere, except in the back of my mind as the things that just couldn't happen, ever.

Every pregnant lady probably has one of those "in case" discussions with her partner, husband, coach. I'd told Sean one night "If for any reason they have to take the baby away from me in the delivery room, you follow the baby. I'm strong, I can be alone, I won't be as scared as the baby. You go with our baby and talk to him. He knows your voice and knows you will keep him safe." I get tears in my eyes now knowing that something I said as a "not a chance in the world this will happen" discussion is what ended up happening. Just before I went in to the operating room, I told my doctor that I could only do this if Sean was allowed to leave with the baby and my mom or sister was allowed to come in after he left with Zoom. And that is how it happened. My mom came in and stayed with me as Sean took our baby to the nursery.

A year later, food had become a way to control my environment. And based on the terrifying events of Zoom's birth, the world had become a scary, unpredictable place. Food was predictable. Feeling full was predictable and comforting. I was holding on to what I could to keep going.

Nearly 12 weeks later, I've lost 9.42% of my starting weight, meaning I've lost about 13 pounds. It may not seem like a lot based on "Biggest Loser" standards, but a 10% loss is good. It means nearly 2 pant sizes on me. I'm 4'10" tall.

For me, this weight loss has been a great deal more than losing 13 pounds. I'm regaining "Me." The parts of me that got lost somewhere on September 9, 2010 before Zoom was born, as the cesarean was becoming a reality. The parts of me that battle to re-believe that I am strong, that I am capable, that I am in control. The parts of me that are fierce, unstoppable, and excellent. The woman who excitedly stated to the front desk at Labor and Delivery "I'm here to have a baby," is re-awakening to all that it means to be alive. She is here, she is brave and she ready to take on the world.



weight loss challenge

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7: Launch Yourself on Every Wave

Day 7: Embrace the joy of jubilant moments



launch yourself on every wave

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." - Henry David Thoreau

As a child, I remember learning to body surf in San Diego with my family. There's a science to getting yourself in front of a wave, feeling it lift you, maybe paddling a little to get into the zone. And then riding it in, smiling, maybe cheering, but hoping Mom or Dad, or my sister would see that I had actually done it.

My sister and I would ride those waves all afternoon, with no regard for time or hunger or any other care. We were one with the ocean, with its rhythms, with the sole intent of catching a wave because it was so joyful. And part of the fun was being thrown, head over heals, being tossed about and feeling the full force of something bigger than one person could ever comprehend.

The photo above is of Chihuly glass, hand blown, ripples, like an ocean. I couldn't resist pairing it with Thoreau's quote about living in the present moment. I feel like when I'm really on task, doing something I love, I can recapture that feeling I had as a child body surfing. I can "launch myself on every wave," becoming invincible, tireless, and laughing and hugging people the whole time. Eternity and single moments intermingle when I do what I'm most passionate about.

Beyond the joy, there's another part to Thoreau's quote. There's an action. "Launch yourself" and "find your eternity" - he hasn't left it up to just experiencing joy, but instead, seems to be telling us that we must DO something to experience joy in life, and make a decision to engage with life, perhaps with some sort of abandon. We need to throw ourselves towards what brings us joy, and embrace it, get tangled up in it, perhaps be thrown head over heals by it, and certainly give ourselves up to it.

This season, my wish is for each of you to re-experience that immersive, goofy, all encompassing joy for your life. "Launch" yourself into this season, and find yourself bouyed, loved, entranced and entangled by Something much bigger than any one of us alone can ever comprehend.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December 6: Free Christmas Ornaments or Focusing on What's Important

Day 6: Finding new ways to make Christmas traditions special with a 1 year old

Zoom likes shiny things. He likes to grab them, to throw them, to put them in his mouth. I can't stop him, he's curious. I actually don't want to stop him, it's how he learns.

Enter the Christmas Tree. Instead of seeing the "problems" with having a tree, I'm challenging myself to create something beautiful, inexpensive, and very baby friendly. Today I made some Christmas ornaments, and I have some ideas on ways to make more soon :)

Here are today's ornaments, from artist Becca Kallem via Nicole Balch's post on Making it Lovely. I liked Nicole's joke about "put a bird on it" :) Anyway ... I printed out Becca's beautiful birds, and glued them on to a hanging file folder. I chose the folders because of their green background, I thought that if the non-bird side were to show, the green would blend in with the tree. I cut the birds out and we'll punch a hole and add some ribbon to them to tie them on the tree. Easy, and free :)

freebird_ornaments


Here are some other free ideas I found around the internet:





Monday, December 5, 2011

December 5: Two Quotes to Keep Close at Heart and thoughts on Star Bellied Sneeches

Day 5: Remembering to see the connectedness of our world

On our little bulletin board in the dining room, we keep some quotes.


Two quotes


The first one "We is a community, and they is a crowd," was something I found in New Orleans when I went there with my mom. The second quote is "It's the little things in life that touch our hearts the most" which is a thank you note from a friend. I like to keep them nearby, to remind me of what's important.

The community quote reminds of of the Star Bellied Sneeches. Did you ever read that book by Dr. Suess? Where the sneeches run in and out of the star belly machine, trying to fit in, trying to put on stars and take them off ... all in an attempt to be in the popular crowd? The irony of the story is that by the end, no sneech knew if it was popular to have a star on their belly or not. If the sneeches had seen themselves as one big family, a "we," they wouldn't have worried about who had a star, and who did not. Instead, the sneeches were very worried about being an outcast, about fitting in the wrong crowd, about being labeled a "they."

When we focus on similarities, and see the connectedness of each other, we don't waste time focusing on superficial things. When we can see the "we" in our surroundings, our world, we can focus on what is important and let the rest of the drama and nonsense fall away.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4: Being a Mother

Day 4: Thoughts on being present, living in the moment, and on being a mother

Today I spent most of my day with little Zoom. Sean had to work, so Zoom and I were on our own. I like the days that we have together, as I am a mom who works but wishes she could spend so much more time with her son. It's interesting to me that while Zoom has very little language, and is still so dependent, he and I seem to understand each other and delight in each other. I am grateful that he and I have such genuine fun together.

Our days are often simple. I'd hoped to get to the store before he napped, but we went out in the backyard instead. We played in our sandbox. We threw balls back and forth, then randomly started just laughing really hard. He put some rocks in his mouth. I kept telling him not to.

Then he had lunch, a nap, we went to the store, we cleaned his room. We watched the Winnie the Pooh Christmas special and he clapped when Christopher Robin saved the day. What amazed me about that is that this had been his first introduction to the Pooh world, but yet with no spoken language himself, he understood the joy of the animals all getting their presents.

As I thought about what I'd write for this day's challenge, I originally thought I had little to say since I "hadn't gotten much done" and it had been a "normal day." Yet, all day I'd been working on raising a little person. I got tons of things done. We put ornaments on a tree, we talked to the grandparents, I shared a million tiny moments with one of my favorite people on Earth. The challenge for me today is to see the greatness in the tiny things, to take stock in the quiet moments, in teaching, in loving, and in sharing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

December 3: Family Time

Day 3: Spending cherished time with family, shopping local

We started our day by waking up and going to Denny's. It's not always my favorite place, but I'm going to admit...I suggested we go there because I know Sean likes it there. And it's a good place to take Zoom because it's low key and they do a good job of getting the food out quickly. Sean had already agreed to go to a big warehouse sale with me, so I felt it was important to reciprocate that generous act with suggesting a breakfast place in the same altruistic spirit. I was impressed that Denny's currently has a "Toys for Tots" campaign going on.

We went shopping in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco at a warehouse sale. There were so many cool and talented artists, and the prices were beyond good. We had been to this sale once before, and it makes me feel good to buy from local people. This helps the economy, it encourages people to follow their dreams, and it allows those of us in the 99% to support other people who are working hard to make ends meet. And, you often get to meet the artists and find out a bit about them. My Christmas shopping is now nearly done :)

After Zoom took a nap, we went back out and met up with my sister and her family. When we got home, we put together our tree. Zoom likes the lights and liked seeing it being put together (it's fake). After the tree was up, we sat on the couch and watched a Christmas special together, all three of us. It was nice to have had a day together, and nice to spend some quiet time together after a fun day.




Christmas shopping and tree 082_r

Friday, December 2, 2011

December 2: Mock Interviews

Day 2: Grateful for employment and a career path I enjoy.

Today at work we had the opportunity to do a mock interview session with students from SJSU (San Jose State University). These students are part of a business club and came to our offices to learn more about credit unions. While we only spent an hour doing the mock interviews, it really took me back to the days before my first job.

The students were all confident, asked great questions, and were super respectful. That I am somehow nearly 20 years older than them is mind boggling to me. One person asked the question of how we got our first job out of college.

Well, right out of UCSB (UC Santa Barbara! Go Gauchos!) I kept in touch with my sorority sisters. A former roommate of mine pointed me to a company that was hiring, and she and I both got jobs at that company. Fast forward to last year and I got my current job through a contact I met way back at the first job out of college. Networking works. Never be shy about asking people if they know of openings, if they'd pass your resume along, and never be afraid to market yourself when you are looking for work.

This experience left me so grateful for my friends, and for finding my way to a career (Project Management) that I really love.


Here I am putting together some creative displays at work before a big party. This photo is by Gerard Lozano, photographer extraordinaire.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December 1: Giving Tree and Fistula Foundation

This year, for Advent, I'm going to do my own version of an Advent calendar. Each day,

I'll be posting something where I've challenged myself to DO SOMETHING to show my gratitude for my life. I want to move from the grace and beauty of Thanksgiving, and keep that going as we move into Christmas. With all of the greed that seemed to erupt around Black Friday, I'm going to do my best to focus on good deeds, acts of gratitude, and generosity.

For December 1, I have two items to share :) At work, we are having a challenge to see which department donates the most to a local "toys for tots" charity. In honor of little Zoom, I picked the names of two one year old boys and bought them each a gift.

My other act for the first day is something I'd like to become a new tradition. Instead of going shopping on Black Friday, I volunteered to work at the Fistula Foundation in San Jose. The Fistula Foundation has provided over 3,000 surgeries to women in poor countries who suffer from obstetric fistula. These fistulas occur when women do not receive appropriate medical care during child birth. If you want to learn more, here is a link to their site.

I donated my time and was put to work stuffing envelopes and putting together some of their Dignity Gifts (the blue flower scarf - you can see it to the right and can buy it here). I felt like I was doing important work, helping provide this group with a way to maximize the profits from their online store. It gave me time to think about my own experience with child birth. Even though that labor was 56 hours, I realize that I am a lucky one, I had health insurance, I had health care, I was in a hospital. As I worked stuffing envelopes, I faced a huge map of the world that showed the maternal mortality rates throughout the globe. There were no words for the gratitude that filled me, that humbled me, as I sat alone doing a simple task that day.

I left that day feeling grateful, for my own life, for doctors who saved my life, and who were able to save Zoom, too. It struck me that I was also grateful for the start of Advent, and the promise of a new baby so many years ago. A baby born without a hospital, without doctors, to a poor couple, and yet despite his humble beginnings, He was coming to to fulfill a special promise and save the world.