Operation Christmas Child.

Photo of Billy and Franklin Graham
Franklin and Billy Graham, in Cleveland Stadium
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight at Nomads we continued our annual tradition of participating in Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is organized and run by Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit Christian organization under the leadership of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

Each year hundreds of thousands (millions?) of shoe boxes are filled with simple gifts – toothbrushes, soap, wash clothes, toys, candy, pens and pencils, notes. These boxes are then shipped to locations around the world where they are distributed to impoverished children.

For many of these children this is a significant gift that meets real needs. No longer are they using a shared tree branch to brush their teeth – which can result in bleeding and communication of diseases – they now have their own tooth brush. Even the boxes (sometimes we send plastic) are usable for carrying water or any of a number of other tasks.

It is a very small way, but a tangible way to be part of something good and to demonstrate love to those in need…so I love Operation Christmas Child. I love the opportunity to get together with the teenagers and spend a few hours stuffing boxes full of gifts. It is a great privilege and blessing to us – not just to those whom we have the opportunity to bless.

My First Two Weeks (+/-) with the Zeo.

Thinking of the Poor:

Observing the shabbath closing havdalah ritual
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not a fancy person in most areas. I try to save my money and spend it on things I think are worthwhile and valuable. For example, sponsoring a Compassion child. So, what am I doing spending $200 on a glorified alarm clock – the Zeo? I’m glad you asked. Individuals whose hearts for the poor and neglected like John Sherk and Rob Timlin may be especially interested…and, I’ll let them decide whether my thinking is valid or if I need to be lovingly taken to the woodshed. 🙂

What About My Sleep?

Let me provide a three word summary of my history with sleep: it wasn’t nice. But, most of my history of sleep is non-relevant to today’s discussion, so let’s focus in on a few relevant points:

  1. I can’t go to sleep before midnight or I wake up 2-4 hours later and then can’t sleep for the rest of the night (which is a real drag when you have to work the next day).
  2. I get inexplicably and overwhelmingly exhausted throughout the day – and without structure – will fall asleep…and usually remain asleep for 1-3 hours.
  3. No matter how hard I try, I repeatedly fail at getting up early in the morning so that I can have the time I want to have to get ready for my day…I end up pushing the snooze button and sleeping in, then  hopping out the door in  mad rush.

Now, sleep is apparently important to our health. We don’t understand all the underlying magic – just that bad things like insanity and death happen if we don’t get it. It does all sorts of great things for restoring our health, cementing our memories, and so on. Perhaps God created sleep b/c He knew we’d be so bad at take Sabbath’s otherwise?

I Want a Zeo!

So…I’ve wanted a Zeo forever (okay, okay, maybe its been like two years?) and have held off and held off…but Charity (wonderful wife that she is) in an attempt to get me to actually bill my freelance network clients (I don’t mind the work…hate the billing) suggested that I use part of the revenues from my next few checks to purchase a Zeo (incentives…they work with kids, and apparently me…)…well, guess who only waited another month before billing? Yup, that’d be me!

The Zeo Arrives

I bought my Zeo and waited painstakingly for its arrival. Finally, it arrived. I opened the shipping box and inside, low and behold, was another box! But this was one fancy – you know, like Apple aesthetically pleasing fancy. Everything inside was all nicely wrapped and fancy. Its amazing how the packaging makes the product feel premier.

Using the Zeo: For Information

The first aspect of the zeo is its’ information aggregation and analysis. You wear a comfortable headband on your head while sleeping (yes, as awkward as that sounds…I had no trouble adjusting) and this wirelessly communicates information to your bedside zeo about your sleep patterns. In the morning you can see your overall ZQ (a “score” of how you slept), how often you awake, when you were in deep sleep / rem sleep / light sleep, and view all sorts of fancy charts and graphs. Zeo also offers guided coaching that helps you modify your habits to get better sleep.

I found this information very helpful b/c it provided me with an objective gauge of whether I got enough sleep the last night. I could see patterns forming where I wasn’t getting enough sleep for a few days, and then when I made the endeavor to get enough. I could also see and record the difference in my feelings / energy / etc…though I’ve barely taken advantage of most of these capabilities at this juncture.

Using the Zeo: Smart Awake

Honestly, the feature that has been killer for me thus far is the Smart Alarm. I tell the Zeo when I want to wake up and it wakes me up to 30 minutes before that time. Crazily enough, I usually feel better – even if I get 30 mins. less sleep, than if I’d slept right to the end. See, the Zeo tracks what stage of sleep I’m in and wakes me when I’m in light sleep rather than deep sleep – reducing my feelings of grogginess.

This has made a huge difference in my sleep habits. I’m now much better at getting out of bed on time. I’d estimate that I’m “gaining” 30 minutes to 1.5 hours each day due to the Smart Alarm feature. Granted, some of this may be placebo effects – time will tell.

Doing the Math

Now the question is – can we justify such an expense in light of the needs of the world? This is always a hard-pressing question upon my heart. For the past year or two I’ve taken a more dynamic approach to this question than I had previously (where the answer was almost always to sacrifice everything, whenever possible). I’ve begun to do little auto-magical (e.g. made up) calculations within my head to try and estimate the value of my time and how much money I am “saving” by “spending.”

For example, the Zeo cost me $200. Let us say my time is worth $10/hr.1I’d certainly hope its worth more…but I’m just being conservative. Lets take the conservative figure of time gained each day (30 minutes) and multiple that times a year (30 mins. x 365 days / 60 mins.) – 182.5 hours. Now, lets multiple this time gained by the amount my time is worth per hour (182.5 hrs. * $10/hr.) – $1,825.

Over a years time, I’m “gaining” $1,625 for an expense of $200. Granted, my time gained does not automatically translate into productivity…but to break even I’d only have to spend 20 of those 182.5 hours being “productive.”

The equations make sense to me, but do they to you? I use similar equations when deciding if I should purchase a video game, continue or cancel a subscription to Netflix or Grooveshark, and so on. My goal is optimal stewardship at minimal expenditure…but I think I’m trying to move beyond thinking of stewardship primarily in dollars to whole being…

Thus, while x might cost x amount, if it enables me to function x% better on an average day, I need to consider whether “indulging” will in the end “return” a value greater than the expenditure? e.g. How do we quantify the value of a honeymoon or romantic getaway for a husband and wife? Can we, should we, factor in the cost of a divorce down the road if the marriage is not indulgently cared for along the way?

This said, I think as Americans (including myself) we are grossly overspending. If we do adopt such a paradigm for measuring return vs. expenditure we must actually take the time to calculate the return, rather than using it as an excuse for gluttonous fulfillment of our pleasures.

Some Interesting Stats…I Don’t Know What They Mean…

I received a baseline report from Zeo on my sleep habits…I thought the findings where fascinating, though I’m not sure what they mean…here are the highlights:

  • I currently sleep an average of 6:01 hrs. each night, this is 1:19 hrs. less than the average for my peer age group.
  • Despite the significantly lower time spent asleep I show a significant front-runner status in both my REM and deep sleep.
    • In REM, I spend 1:49 hrs. while my peers spend 13 mins. less.
    • In deep sleep, I spend 1:50 hrs. while my peers spend 27 mins. less.
  • How is this possible that I get less sleep but more of the “quality” sleep? Its because most of my peers spend nearly twice the amount of time in light sleep (4:22 hrs.) as compared to me (2:23 hrs.).

In Case You Are Interested…

This is mainly if some sleep doctor happens to stumble across this post and is interested, here are a few other idiosyncrasies of my sleep habits:

  • I get very tired while driving or while in a car at all. Despite my hardest endeavors, if not driving, I almost always fall asleep on drives – oftentimes even relatively short ones (e.g. 30 mins.).
  • Exercise does not seem to significantly reduce my tiredness or help me push through it.
  • I get sleepy when I have been thinking a lot, this means I have a tendency to nap more on the weekends – b/c I tend to do a lot of reading/thinking.
  • While napping during the days I oftentimes prefer to sleep with as many lights on as possible…but when sleeping at night I am bothered by even the smallest of lights.

Some Pretty Awesome Deals from Amazon for eBooks.

Amazon is holding their “The Big Deal” which goes through February 2nd and offers up to 85% off over 600 books. When my brother told me about it, I was hesitant. I’m trying to pair down my library – but ebooks do take up less space than physical books…so maybe I’d take a peak.

I knew that if I did get any books I only wanted the best I knew I wanted to read. Everything else could wait – I’m really trying to only get the books I am going to read and read soon. So, here is my list…of those I bought as well of those I thought looked quite interesting (and actually, I left a huge number off my list, b/c I didn’t want to type all day).

I Bought It…

On Relationships