New year, new me

It would be nice to say that 2023 began in a healthy, relaxing and peaceful way. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. My husband and I were affected by the nationwide airline flight cancellations, so we were “stuck” in the bay area for a week longer than we had planned. When we finally arrived home, it was New Year’s Eve and I ended up getting sick, so we had to cancel plans with our friends. Then just this past week, I experienced a hives episode where the welts were so itchy and enflamed that I had to take over the counter allergy medicine. Even with the medication, they didn’t subside till two days later. This is not how I imagined the new year would begin.

However….

There is good news to embrace! One of my main goals for this year was to start a completely different professional journey. While I enjoyed the last 15 years of my life teaching middle and high school students, I wanted to focus more on writing and teaching ESL for adults. I started applying for jobs earlier this month, and yesterday I accepted an ESL instructor role to teach online. While I am nervous about this new job, I know that this is a new chapter that will help me with my professional goals of teaching community college or post secondary education. As far as writing, I am back to posting blogs and I submitted an application to Kundiman. This will be my 3rd time applying, and I am expecting that it will be a no, but that doesn’t mean that I will give up. It’s no news that I’ve been having a hard time finding the joy in life. I spoke and wrote about this feeling of “emptiness” during the pandemic, which was the main reason why I started to blog regularly. The things I once found comfort in such as reading, writing, hiking, traveling, spending time with friends, didn’t have the same effect on me. But I haven’t given. It’s important to search for the joy- not search for the forlorn or sorrow.

Hello!

Hello, is anyone out there? I didn’t realize that the last time I wrote on my blog was almost 1.5 years ago. I apologize for my long absence; I did not intend to take this long of a break. I blame COVID (twice), a new job and a move. SO much has happened in the time that I have been away. And while I’d like to fill you all in, I think it’s best to just give you the 10 most recent highlights:

  1. We moved to Las Vegas
  2. I started a new job!
  3. I started a new hobby- macrame
  4. I read for Litquake- SF’s biggest literary festival
  5. My niece turned 4
  6. I wrote 25,000 words for nanowrimo
  7. I was gifted a Kindle (but I still buy actual books)
  8. I went on a cruise to the bahamas
  9. I attended my 25 year high school reunion
  10. I have perfected my recipe for vegan Shanghai lumpia!

Dear readers, please tell me what you have been up to? What important events or goals are you proud of?

I hope to hear from you.

Mabuhay,

Sheila

Girls Trip to Las Vegas

Well, we did it. A group of 40 year old gals, who have been friends for over two decades, made a voyage to Sin City (Las Vegas) for four days during the pandemic.We know this was a risky trip; the Delta variant has spread across the country and has become rampant in metropolitan places like Las Vegas. In fact, a week before the trip, we talked reconsidered going– analyzing the pros and cons of going on vacation during this time. In the end, we decided to move forward with our original plans, partly due to a financial investment we probably would never see again but also because it had been well over 1.5 years since we has seen each other, or even travelled together, and there was something about making a maiden voyage to the dessert that seemed alluring to our mental health. Days later we all packed our bags, boarded our separate flights and finally met at the time share. One after the other, with each arrival, we hugged, taking inventory of each other’s body, hair, face, realizing how much time had passed among us.

The trip was not your average one. We didn’t go to any clubs or pool parties. We didn’t attend any after hours or buffets. We tried to steer away from the usual party scene and stuck to our loose itinerary of lazy mornings, quick trips to get coffee, excursions in the water, and girl talk in the living room accompanied with Tito’s Vodka, fresh fruit and vegan oatmeal raisin cookies. With the exception of the kayaking trip, everything we did could have been easily been done at the comfort of our homes. We really didn’t need to be in Vegas to do any of the simple activities we participated it. But it was the idea of being together that you couldn’t put a price on.

I don’t know when we’ll be together again. Who knows if it’ll be next week, next month, next year? Maybe we’ll meet again in Las Vegas or maybe we’ll head to the ocean. What ever the destination, I’ll be thankful for the company. Even if it’s sitting in the living room of a fancy hotel and doing absolutely nothing but talking.

Vegan pancit canton

Growing up, my interest in cooking was marred by my mother. As a self- trained chef and baker, everything my mother cooked was naturally delicious. It was very difficult to cook anything under her shadow. Compared to her, my dishes came out under seasoned, under done, under cooked. And because my mom didn’t have recipes and relied on her instincts, I was very intimidated with cooking. 

It wasn’t until I discovered youtube that I became more comfortable with cooking. My confidence in the kitchen increased when I watched youtube shows like Laura Vitale, Panglasa Pinoy and Chef John. With video, I could easily follow along and replay if I was confused.

Tomorrow, I will be at my mom’s house for Easter and we all decided to bring a dish. When it comes to cooking Filipino dishes, my skills have been mediocre. To me, certain Filipino cooking requires an intermediate to advance level of cooking, where as I’m still performing at the beginner. By with faith and youtube, I attempted a Vegan Pancit Canton recipe and made it today. It will be the dish that I bring to my mother’s tomorrow. 

My husband, my taste tester, said it was delicious. I’ll say my mother’s reaction will be true testament. Stay tuned! 

March 2021

March tends to be a busy month for me, and this year was no different, regardless of the state still mostly in shelter in place. 

Some things to highlight:

March 12- I celebrated my 5 year wedding anniversary

March 13- we had a outside lunch for my father in law’s birthday

March 21- we went to Muir Woods to celebrate my sister’s birthday

March 27- we went to Golden Gate Park to celebrate my brother in law’s birthday

March 29- started spring break, my 13th spring break as an educator 

March 24- got my second COVID vaccine shot

March 7- ended my 4th class for my TESOL certificate (only 4 more classes to go)

March 15- submitted my applications for a professional and writing opportunities

March 6, 7, 14, 21, 29, 30 – Went hiking at different places

March 4-6: went to Sacramento to help my brother with his new home

Last March, in 2020, there so much uncertainty about what life would look like in the next few months, let alone an entire year later. But here we are, in 2021, living indoors and outdoors, savoring life in the smallest and greatest ways.

Valentine’s Weekend

My husband and I usually don’t participate in celebrating Valentine’s Day the traditional way. But we do like to keep up with our traditions, namely because it gives us something to look forward to the beginning of the year. Over the years, January has been a difficult month because a lot of people we love have passed away this time of the year. In February, we like to reflect on life and appreciate our blessings. On Valentine’s Day we honor our traditional love languages: we gift each other with food and things that we think will make us stronger- individually and together. This year I asked my hubby to join me on a hike, even though I know this is not the kind of activity he prefers. He often complains and makes excuses like his ankles hurt or that his fingers hurt. But this weekend, he joined me on a hike and what was more thoughtful was that he didn’t hesitate. He understands that my love language isn’t material things but offering support. In turn, I gifted my husband a pair of ipods. I know this is isn’t the most romantic gift, but I know my hubby is looking for motivation to jump rope consistently, and I know music helps him achieve this, so it was worth the investment.

After the hike, we drove to Oakland and picked up a combo meal from Vegan Mob.

I know this isn’t’ the typical way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe it is. What ever the case, happy Valentine’s Day, no matter if you celebrate it or how you celebrate it. Continue to do the things that are meaningful for you, every day.

Blogmas #25 // Merry Christmas

Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a peaceful and joyful holiday.

I cannot fathom the idea that I posted for 25 consecutive days. For a newbie like me, this accomplishment is quite the feet. Granted, some posts held more time and attention than others, but I still attempted and posted.

Congrats to everyone who participated in blogmas. And to all those who took the time to read, like and respond to my posts, thank you. I appreciate you.

The other day, I received a notification from WordPress that I received 1,000 likes and 150 followers. I don’t share this blog actively, so the idea of getting responses and support from people I’ve never met, warms and lights my heart, especially during this dark time.

Merry Christmas WordPress family.

Blogmas #23 // DIY Holiday nails

A few days ago I posted about my deep longing for long, healthy, decorative nails. I fantasize about painting long esquisite beautiful nails that reflect my personality. On Instagram, I scroll through pictures and admire the meticulous designs, colors, lines, shapes and details that go into nail art. Because I tend to have short nails, there’s less surface space for creativity. I had hoped that this Christmas, I could grow my nails long enough that I could get a manicure and perhaps some nail art. However, I live in California, and all the salons in my county are temporarily closed.

One thing I discovered while I scoured the internet is an alternative- Dashing Diva. This company makes artificial nails that you can easily apply to your reals nails. Now I know this is not a new concept, but I held a disdain for fake nails for many years due to their unnatural look. However, once I received my package and applied my nails today, I must admit that the easy application and believability made me reconsider.

Also fun…there’s so many styles to choose from! I ordered five packets, and it was so hard to choose. I decided on red because Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I wanted to be festive.

Although I didn’t get to grow my nails long this year or visit a nail salon to get nail art. But I was able to stay home, save some money and in less than 15 minutes, have a new set of gorgeous nails.

Blogmas #21 // Christmas Star

There are times during this pandemic that seem hopeless and despairing. Yet, there are moments, especially today when we experience the polar opposite. Today, my husband and I hiked our usual trail — Lime Ridge Trail Head in Concord, California. The hike takes us roughly 2 hours to complete, depending on how slow or fast we approach the incline. Today, we sped our pace because we anticipated when the sun would set.We wanted to be able to have enough light to traverse back to our car. Yet we needed it to be dark enough to see the Christmas Star.

The Christmas Star, or more appropriately the conjunction, took place tonight about an hour after the sun set. The conjunction is when Jupiter and Saturn appear closely aligned in the sky that it’ll look like a double planet. To me, they looked like they were kissing. The last time this happened took place in the Middle Ages. The next time this will happen will be 2080 and then again on 2400.

It’s amazing how when we’re in need of a good omen, especially when we are all experiencing a pandemic, all we have to do is look up at the sky and witness a celestial miracle. Years and decades from now, I can say that in my lifetime, I survived a pandemic but also watched as Jupiter and Saturn could been seen on the cold winter solstice night, seemingly with the naked eye. What a time to be alive!

Blogmas #20 // Christmas Aunt

About a month ago, when the Lifetime Channel kicked off their holiday movie schedule, I watched a movie called The Christmas Aunt starring Keigha Night Pullam (Ruby Huxtable from The Cosby Show). In the movie, Pullam plays a career driven woman but is suddenly called to fly to her mother’s house to help take care of her niece and nephew for a couple weeks. In the movie, what I found endearing, is that Pullam organizes a Christmas list for her niece and nephew to get them in the holiday spirit. Everyday when they wake up they open a card from their aunt who gives them their “Christmas Activity” for the day. It could be anything from building a gingerbread house, donating toys, hanging Christmas lights, baking cookies, going ice skating, and the list goes on and on.

I thought about what I would do with my niece. Although she’s only two years old, I imagine when she’s old enough, I’d like to implement my own version of The Christmas Aunt Holiday Activity List. Here are some things, I’d like to include.

  1. Every year, my niece and I take matching pictures next to the Christmas tree. I’d like to continue that tradition.
  2. Bake traditional Filipino cookies (lengua de gato)
  3. Make a tree ornament that symbolizes the theme of the year.
  4. Make a parol.
  5. Donate clothes or food.
  6. Buy a holiday outfit or accessory.
  7. Go to the snow and do a snow activity (build a snowman, sled, snowboard)
  8. make cards
  9. write a poem
  10. read passages from our favorite books from that year

What about you? What holiday activities would you like to do with your niece and nephew?

Christmas at the Grand Canyon // Blogmas #17

Most people tend to visit the majestic Grand Canyon during the summer- where the vast views are unobstructive by snow and rain. Yet, my family decided to visit during winter. The drawback was that many trails and activities were closed and cancelled due to the weather; however, we were able to visit one of the most renowned wonders of the world in such an intimate and unique way. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.

Lake Tahoe Christmas // Blogmas #19

Yesterday, I wrote about a trip my husband took to Iceland for Christmas. Today, I want to honor my family’s annual trip to the snow- Lake Tahoe.

We live in the Bay Area in California, so we tend to only experience the typical Cali weather, never snow. But if we drive north for about 3 hours, we see snow in South Lake Tahoe.

My mom’s birthday is in early December, so we’ve made it a tradition to drive to Lake Tahoe for a snowy Christmas.

Ironically, since we’ve gone, it seems like every year, we have family from the Philippines as our guests. Two years ago it was my uncle and aunt who had just moved from the Philippines for about 3 months. Last year, our guests was Mel’s cousin who was visiting from Pasig. To see our guests see and experience snow for the first time was definitely a memorable and lasting memory.

In the excitement, we ran out the rented house barely properly dressed just so we could get pictures of snow actually falling.

Iceland for Christmas // Blogmas # 15

A few years ago, for my husband’s birthday, we went to Iceland for two celebrations- his birthday and for Christmas. It was definitely a trip to remember. If you told 5 year old, 15 year old, 25 year old or even 35 year old me that one day I’d be able to visit Iceland, I would have told you – you’re kidding right? I never imagined an Island and Cali girl like myself would visit a country where the sun rises past noon and there’s only about 5 hours of sunlight during the winter. Not only that, but traveling to Iceland is a commitment. We had to fly to NYC then Iceland, roughly 10 hours of travel time. I don’t do well on planes, so this was especially difficult for me,

But once we arrived in Iceland, any qualms I had about the cold, dissipated. The warmth of the Icelandic culture, people and majestic beauty the country offered were utterly alluring.

I will definitely write a longer post that is dedicated to all the things we did. But for now enjoy this picture montage.

Christmas house in the Philippines// Blogmas #14

Yesterday, I posted about a vlog I discovered about a couple of foreigners who were celebrating Christmas in the Philippines. That post got me thinking about Christmases I spent in the Philippines. Thankfully, after my family moved from the Philippines to the United States, we visited as often as we could. My most recent visit was in 2016- for my wedding, but before that was 2014- for Christmas.

It was a wild memory! My parents had just built their house and the furniture that was supposed to be delivered hadn’t arrived yet. According to the shipping company, my parents’ delivery was still at the port. Because there was a backup, there would be no way for them to unload the container until next year. In the meantime, my husband and I were sleeping on an air mattress and the entire family ate in the “dirty kitchen” a term in the Philippines that described the outdoor or separate kitchen where most of the cooking occured because of the smoke and smell. As we approached Christmas Eve my mom was devastated because we were supposed to have a family party, but we had no furniture for the guests.

Then a Christmas miracle happened. As we were eating at a restaurant in Tagaytay, we received a call that the shipping container was on the way. It would arrive in a few hours– about 9:00 PM, on Christmas Eve.

We worked collectively to unload, unpack and move in the furniture for a 5 bedroom house. We unpacked and installed TVs, patio furniture, beds and dressers. I don’t know how we all pulled it off; it was definitely a group effort, and it will be a memory we’ll all share together.

Check out the video here.. the video moving part starts on 5:11

Blogmas #9 // Holiday Nails

Being a woman has its advantages. There’s so many ways for women to use accessories to reflect their personality. A bag, a jacket, a scarf, a piece of jewelry even the type of shoe laces one chooses to don, can stay so much about the individual. Is she sporty, romantic, studious, a gamer? One can just look at an article of clothing and have a glimpse into her inner being. But what they say is also true: we always want what we can’t have. This is true for me. Nails. Long nails.

I have always envied women or men who can grow long nails. Nails that are tough, hard, smooth, shiny, pink and ivory. I can never seem to get my nails to grow this way. I’ve even tried taking vitamins and rubbing oil on them to make them grow longer and stronger. To me long, healthy nails doesn’t equate feminity, they express a creative outlet.

I remember when I was younger, I looked in the Guinness Book of World Records and was enamored by the woman who held the record for the longest fingernails. They were so long that they no longer grew straight; they curved like the track of a roller coaster. My classmates thought it was hideous and unpractical. How does she eat, hold her fork of wipe her butt? None of that concerned me. I thought, wow, what a creative way to express your style.

During the holidays, I geek out to elaborate decorated nails. I don’t care if they’re long or short nails; I’m in glee with looking at the specificity and details that go into such a special form of creativity. I’m even more pleased when I see nails painted in a festive theme. This year one of my goals was to get my nails painted professionally with a holiday theme. But since the nail salons are closed, I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity. Maybe, if I’m brave enough, I can attempt to do it on my own.

Here are some of my inspirations…

Blogmas #8 // Unforgettable Christmas Gifts

Holiday retail in over $700 Billion industry. The average American “will spend nearly $1,050 on holiday gifts, goodies, and travel this year, the National Retail Federation estimates. This is up slightly from last year’s estimate of about $1,000.” Consumerism, especially during the holiday season, continues to rise, yet if I look back on the gifts I received in the past years, not to sound ungrateful, but most of them were given based on obligation, not meaning. A few years ago, my husband and I made the commitment to gift each other with experiences rather than products. So my advice, when it comes to gift giving, is to gift that special person with an experience they will remember forever. Here are some ideas:

  1. a picnic- if you need help arranging this contact Soiree by the Bay. They set up the entire picnic for you, just bring yourself and some food.
  • a class- why not encourage the creative in your life with a class to channel their creative impulse. My favorite places are sfworkshop and verolocal. They offer classes ranging from macrame, painting, cooking, soap, candle, wood working, etc. They even offer digital classes now!
  • cooking – while this falls under the category above, I decided to make this its own category because there’s so many options. Learn how to make sushi, homemade pasta, ramen, thai food, even from the comfort of your home, as many places are offering virtual classes. There are even cooking classes that will deliver the ingredients for you!
  • concert – more and more artists are offering virtual concerts. Justin Beiber is offering a NewYears Eve concert for $25 or free for Tmobile users. Celebs such as Monica and Brandy did a Versus stream on instagram and DJs are streaming on Twitch. Make it even more special by printing out homemade tickets, making concert food like popcorn and nachos and maybe even buy a shirt of the singer. It’ll feel like a real concert! Turn the lights off and flick those lighters!!!
  • virtual trip – pack a bag and go on a virtual trip. Make an itinerary of all the places. monuments you want to see and order cuisine from the place you’re visiting virtually. It you’re visiting Italy, order Italian food and wine. If you’re in Japan, order sushi, if you’re going to NYC, order pizza. Get all these things delivered at home!

Anyone of these experiences will surely be memorable. So before you buy that pair of socks, scarf or piece of jewelry, consider how excited your recipient will be when she/ he opens up your gift and considers the thoughtfulness and time you put to execute it. Remember success is in the details, and with a though-out experience, the details will surely resonate.

Which gift resonates with you?

Blogmas #7 // Best holiday scents

During this time of the year, the scents such as cinnamon, pine and pumpkin are pretty standard. Every where you go, a department store, a restaurant or even your house will provide familiar aromas reminiscent of the fall or seasonal vibes. Here is a list of my favorite scents for the holiday season:

  1. The “Holiday” candle by The Harlem Candle Company

Not only does candle offer a 80+ hour burn, but the story behind the scent is a tribute to Billy Holiday singing in clubs in Harlem in the 1930s. According to the website: “The Holiday candle is inspired by Billie’s favorite perfume, Emeraude, an aromatic green blend of fresh Winter spruce, pine needles, mint-infused eucalyptus, fir balsam and spicy cedarwood developing into a feminine heart of ethereal blue hyacinth. Strong and full-bodied, yet fragile and dreamy… just like Lady Day. Sets a beautiful mood for holiday time and all year round.” Yes, the candle is on the higher end of the price point, but you’ll feel good about supporting a Black Owned Business while lighting a candle that is not your ordinary and average holiday scent.

2) Almond Eggnog from Trader Joes

I’m lactose intolerant so nothing makes me feel more special than seeing beverage companies catering to me! I love Trader Joe’s for this very reason. They offer a plethora of non-diary drinks, but my favorite seasonal drink is the Almond Eggnog. According to a reviewer, the beverage is “tasty with a warm, comforting sweetness that does gently beckon to the winter months. It also has a very lightly creamy mouth feel.” I enjoy the lightness of this drink as it’s not overtly sweet and velvety like traditional milk. The finish is smooth and if you want it sweeter, you can add vanilla, sugar or cream. The drink is very versatile and definitely beckons season vibes. The smell has the traditional notes of cinnamon, nutmeg with a hint of pumpkin…all the comforting scents of the season.

3) Friendship Cake

Nothing boasts the Christmas season stronger than a sweet indulgence baking in the oven. The entire kitchen and house is suddenly engulfed by the aromas of caramelized apples, pecans and bread. Growing up in traditional household, our house usually smelled like a Filipino bakery during the holidays. I grew up eating puto, babinka, leche flan and turon. However one special cake that my mom made during the holiday season in Friendship cake. Anytime that I smell this sweet aroma, I’m harkened back to my nostalgic memories of my childhood. I will make a longer post about Friendship cake because it actually takes 50 days to make the cake! But you can enjoy some pictures for now…

Activating all my senses during the Christmas season definitely sparks the joy and the Christmas spirit. I love smelling pine, holding a warm plate of dessert and sipping a holiday beverage. But nothing warms my body and spirt more than taking in the comforting scents of the season. How about you? What do you like to smell this time of the year?

Blogmas #6 // How to celebrate a birthday in December during a pandemic

December birthdays are sometimes over shadowed, especially if the birthday is close to Christmas. My mom’s birthday in December 7th, weeks before Christmas, but over the years we have kept the tradition of going to the snow for her birthday to make her day feel more special. This year because of COVID, we weren’t able to take our annual trip, but we still made the most of the occasion. Hopefully these are tips that can help you with your December birthday.

  1. Make food or order food that is special for the celebrant

My mom loves fried chicken, so we ordered a bucket of chicken wings, legs and thighs from a local restaurant. You don’t need to have an expensive dinner to show your appreciation for someone. Knowing what they like, whether it’s a particular dessert, drink or appetizer from a restaurant, and having it as a part of the meal can make any person feel special, even it’s something as simple as a chicken wing. My mom loved it!

2. Meaningful gift

Also, a meaningful gift, often not very expensive, can go a long way. For my mom, my sister had the idea of creating a cook book filled with my mom’s recipes. We printed out a cover of what the cookbook would look like and arranged for us to cook with my mom every month to add a recipe to the cookbook. If your celebrant loves to garden maybe give them planting seeds or a framed picture of them in their garden. Or if the birthday person loves music, why not give them virtual music lessons or a dance lessons. If the person loves to read, make them a bookmark or make them a no-sew fleece blanket to wrap themselves up with when they’re reading.

3. Tradition

It may be difficult to get together for the holidays during a pandemic, so a zoom party might be your only option. Keeping traditions going, even virtually, maintains some normalcy and semblance during this time. I’d encourage you to try to incorporate your traditions in the virtual celebration. If you normally eat a cake, try having a cake delivered. If you open gifts, try mailing them or dropping them off. We normally have a cake, so I went out to a special bakery to get a very decadent cake for our dessert. Also, this could also be a time to create new traditions. One that I would like to try is for everyone can share one great memory with the birthday person this year.

Christmas at the mall// Blogmas #3

This evening I visited a mall for the first time in over a year. My purpose for the visit was to return some gifts I bought online- my preferred method of shopping these days, but I needed to make the returns in person due to sizing. The trip to the mall was actually very somber. On my way there, a former student notified me that she is moving to Las Vegas this weekend with her partner. She’s nearing 30 and moving to LV will allow her and her partner live comfortably. Right now she’s living with her mom and doesn’t want to further depend on her. Although I haven’t seen the student in over 8 years, her news of moving saddened me. We have kept in touch over the years and I even stopped by her prom and high school graduation. We celebrated her 18h birthday together and I visited her when she used to work at a club. One time she called me in desperate need of a ride, so picked her up in Vallejo to take her back to Pittsburg. Recently she invited me to her certification graduation, but I had to decline due to COVID. And I can’t forget about the time, years ago, we went to San Francisco and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. Then we went to Coach where I bought her a small purse as a graduation gift. She also visited me when I lived in Pittsburg then in Hercules. As I said, I haven’t seen her in over 8 years, but there was something comforting knowing she lived in Pittsburg- about 20 miles from where I currently live. Not knowing how to take the news, I told her that I would do a drive -by visit for her going away party on Saturday. I plan to stop by and visit from the safety of my car. I also offered to give her some of my stored furniture – like my dining table, chairs, bar stools and bar cart. It pains me to know that she is moving, but rather than dwell on it, at least I can help her.

While I was in line in the mall, I over heard the person in front of me say that this was his first visit to the mall in over a year. He said that it felt strange, wearing jeans as opposed to sweats, seeing people in person rather than on a screen and that he didn’t realize that baseball hats were two dollars more expensive. The sales person blamed it on COVID. “Business has been slow,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and bit his lower lip. “I understand” was the other man’s response as he adjusted his face mask. I stood there, feeling more forlorn as I thought about the news of my former student moving, possibly because of COVID and now these strangers in front of me were confessing how COVID had altered their lives- one afraid to be in public, the other afraid of losing his business.

It’s December 3rd. Usually a visit to the mall seems more joyous; you hear Christmas music, take pictures with Santa, have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate as you peruse sales for gift giving. But none of that occurred today. In fact, I think I may have experienced something better. The trip to the mall was a gentle reminder that people are making brave choices all around us- moving during a pandemic , stepping foot in public for the first time , making hard but necessary business decisions, or even me -accepting that a very special person in my life is moving away. It may not feel like the typical Christmas but there are certainly moments of joy and celebration if we look and listen hard enough.