Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Adventure of the Month

12 Hours of Christmas

Just like any other couple, my husband Jim and I have our own holiday traditions: Christmas Eve services, then dinner with the family, Christmas day for the two of us.  Last year I pondered how to keep our day together fresh, exciting and fun.  I decided to do the 12 Hours of Christmas. I prepared cards to be opened every hour, each with a small gift or activity to match.  It was so much fun that we decided to do it again this year, but instead of me planning all 12 activities, we’ll draw numbers.  We’ll each plan 6.  Repeats from last year are perfectly acceptable.  

You know the song.  Imagine it with these words: 

  • On the first hour of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a soak under a ponderosa pine tree (What better way to start Christmas day than in the hot tub?)
  • Second hour, two chocolate turtles (Breakfast dessert.)
  • Third hour, three French kisses (Time to smooch on this sweet day!)
  • Fourth hour, four calling birds (Get some exercise to burn off the chocolate turtles. Go for a walk and listen for birds.)
  • Fifth hour, five golden oldies (Make a playlist of favorite love songs.  Listen, reminisce and maybe even dance.)
  • Sixth hour, six bricks a laying (Work a jigsaw puzzle with bricks in the foreground.)
  • Seventh hour, seven fish a swimming (Wichita Salmon for dinner.)
  • Eighth hour, eight maids a milking (Buttermilk fudge for dessert.)
  • Ninth hour, nine ladies dancing.  (Plan a date for the future. Go online and buy tickets for a musical.)
  • Tenth hour, ten leopards leaping. (Watch one of the Planet Earth DVDs.)
  • Eleventh hour, eleven mochas piping. (Starbucks gift card.)
  • Twelfth hour, twelve words crossing. (Crossword puzzle fans can create a personal crossword puzzle ( with memories of the past year.)

This could be a fun activity for families, too.  Just replace French kisses with French toast. 

Quote of the Month

“An essential part of a happy, healthy life is being of service to others.” -- Susan Patton Thoele

Seeds of Hope

Last month we joined our friends, Coke and Edna Fallstead, for our version of a happy, healthy vacation in Costa Rica.  In Quepos, our time was filled with all the tropical adventures one would expect: zip lining in the rainforest canopy, feasting on native cuisine, and glimpsing tropical wildlife as we hiked through pristine primary forests.  Paddling through the mangroves, we experienced an unexpected delight when friendly white-faced monkeys come onto our kayaks to drink fresh water from the hands of our guide. 

We traveled north to Lake Arenal to revisit the bed and breakfast that Jim and I ran for two months in 2001 (see  for the story of that adventure).  It was like coming home, yet I still felt that sense of awe and wonder we had during our first visit.  

All of that made for an amazing vacation, but it gets even better. For me, the highlight of our trip was meeting Penny and Chris Williams, a couple living happy, healthy lives while being of service to others.  They own the timeshare next door to us at Villas Tranquilas in Quepos. Earlier this year, they left their luxury home and comfortable lives in San Diego to start a non-profit organization. Seeds of Hope is a “rehabilitation program for Costa Rican girls who have been victimized by sex trafficking or exploitation.”   

Penny and Chris invited Edna and me to visit their clubhouse and meet the girls in the program. Seven girls, ages 12 to 17, come to the clubhouse three times a week to learn English and to make the jewelry that supports the program. They also study the Bible, cooking, parenting, health, and vocational skills. Prior to Seeds of Hope, these girls had few options. Their mothers and grandmothers were prostitutes, and most of them had no idea who their fathers were.  Mothers sold their daughters into prostitution to help feed the family. Now, if the girls attend classes three times each week and turn their jewelry in on time, they get enough food to feed the entire family (from 5 to 8 people) and their electricity bill is paid for the month. 

The program has worked so well that younger girls in the neighborhood asked to be included, too.  They don’t make jewelry, but they learn English and study the Bible. The girls were as cute and playful as any typical 9 to 11 year old. It broke my heart to learn that 90% of the girls have been sexually molested by the time they are 6.  All of them are at high risk of becoming prostitutes to survive. 

In addition to the clubhouse, Seeds of Hope is opening a shelter for girls who are not safe in their own homes.  The shelter is in the final stages of preparation and licensing. It should be ready to accept girls by Christmas.  The shelter will be able to house up to 16 girls.

If their stories touch you as they touched me, you can support their program by buying jewelry made of abalone and river shells or making tax-deductible donations to their 501(c)3.  Go to If you are in the Colorado Springs area, I have some extras I can sell to you; I’ll even deliver. The earrings are $12.50 to $15, and bracelets are $10. If you are considering a monthly donation, think about friends who could join you to sponsor one girl for $125.  Donations of $10, $25, or $50 quickly add up to make a huge difference in the lives of these girls and their entire families.