Thursday, May 31, 2012

Time Trading

Fact: I am not rich.

I may not have a lot of money to spend, but just as I do with causes (like this one), I do have time to donate. Time is a valuable thing, isn't it?  We always want more of it.  We always wonder where it went.  We do what we can to make the most of it.  I'm sure you've heard the phrase "time is money," and after reading this article at Treehugger, I completely agree!

Have you heard of time trading?  According to the article, time trading is "a system of community barter where members exchange services based on a like-for-like exchange of their time."  Isn't that brilliant?  It's bloody brilliant!  (said with a British accent)  When you spend an hour helping or teaching someone else, you receive an hour.  You can spend that hour on any of the services provided by others in the program!

I love so much about this concept.  It builds community.  It enables everyone to learn something new.  It provides the opportunity to try a new activity without spending money.  It encourages people to help others.  It challenges people to step outside of his/her comfort zone.

A time trading "bank" called Time Trade Circle was started in Boston, and it has grown from 25 to over 800 "investors".  I think Houston needs one of these!  I'm sure I could earn hours by doing things I've been paid to do before: tutor students, help organize events, sing.  Some people just need extra hands around the house to cook or garden.  Hey!  I can't do that!  I'm good at following directions.  But the fun part is thinking about what I would spend my hours on.  Here are five lessons I would want to trade in my hours for.

PHOTOGRAPHY


I am not looking for a new career.  I'm just interested in taking better photos and learning about the art of it.  My entire childhood is documented on film, and I'd like to be able to do the same for my kid.  If those pictures happen to be super awesome (and somewhat artsy?), even better! 

SIGN LANGUAGE


I'm still interested in learning sign language.  I don't need to be an interpreter, but I'd love to be able to communicate on some level.  I can sign the alphabet and the words boy, girl, mom, dad, sing, name, more, apple, all done, love, and milk.  It's time to grow my vocabulary!

VOICE LESSONS


I took private voice lessons from 8 to 17, and I continued singing into college.  And now?  Zilch.  I miss it, and I'm afraid I'm starting to lose it.  High C visits rarely, and when it does, it's airy.  I want to get these cords working again. 

GARDENING & COMPOSTING


Technically, I'm a vegetarian, but I think the title is misleading.  It is true that I do not eat meat, but my focus is really on eliminating processed foods and whole foods -- real food.  That means we eat a lot of vegetables!  And guess what would save us a lot of time and money?  Having a big garden and a compost bin.  I've been wanting my own compost bin since last year, and it will be a wonderful day when I finally get to have one.

HAIRSTYLING


I'm not kidding.  I want a hairstyling lesson.  As in "will someone please teach me how to do my unruly hair".  Beauty bloggers like (the "Pinterest hair queen") Kate post so many easy-to-follow tutorials, but guess what?  They don't work for me.  My hair is about 50 times thicker and a million times frizzier.  Homegirl needs help.  I don't like resorting to my usual hair-down style, but if I try anything other than curling or straightening my hair, I usually spend 30+ minutes trying a new style before I fail, get all hot and frustrated, let my hair back down, and then walk out of the bathroom.  I would really love to learn how to do my hair so I look like a respectable adult, not an awkward teenager.

So who wants to start a time trading bank with me?  What would you trade your time for?

Photo Sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You Haven't Baked Until You've Made This

Mr. TBS did something amazing this weekend.  He decided he was going to try his hand at homemade German apple strudel!  He found a recipe at The Taste Space, and the fun began!  I took pictures, because I had never seen a dessert made on a table cloth, and the blogger in me said it was worth documenting.  Take a look!








Is that cool or what?!

This strudel is outside of our usual healthy eating, but it had to be done.  My husband is becoming one heck of a chef.  (I just need to make sure my waist line doesn't pay the price!)

While he was busy being Chef TBS, I made my strawberry lemonade.  (He always shows me up in the kitchen.  I accept that.)


I'm sure my MIL would be thrilled to know that my contribution to the strudel was securing the table cloth with clothes pins and peeling and cutting the apples.  *curtsy*  I'm such a stellar domestic goddess.

If you are a human being, and you eat food, 
you have to make this strudel!   

You can find the Taste Space recipe HERE.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Heart NOLA

I love extended holiday weekends!  It's the first work day of the week, and it's already Tuesday!  Yes, I could do this more often.  I would still include having four 10-hour work days and three-day weekends in my presidential platform.  Let's make it happen, people.

I have more pictures to show you, and as we all know, there's a simple analogy.

blogs : bloggers :: picture books : preschoolers

Am I right, or am I right?  Anyway, here are the pictures!


(clockwise from top left)
#1: Roaming the French Quarters was so much fun!  I love the architecture.
#2: The trolley!  I fell in love with the subway system when I lived in NYC, and trolleys are cute.  There, I said it.  I liked the trolleys, because they're cute.
#3: Oak Alley Plantation was one of my favorite parts of the trip!  The 1,200-acre estate was full of history, not to mention breathtaking views!
#4: With our tour guide.  She was great!


#5: My mother dear!
#6: We had to hit up Cafe Du Monde for beignets!  It's a Nawlins must!
#7: We had dinner at a small restaurant called Mia's Balcony near our B&B, and it was the best food I tasted in New Orleans!  The best!  We also had a great waitress named Lindsay (winner already) who was so charismatic and kind.  We had so much fun talking with her about the city, her career pursuits, and her Hollywood family connections.  It was a fun last night in New Orleans!  (The food in this picture is pizza, eggplant steak, gumbo, oysters, turtle soup, and shrimp pasta.  The drinks are water and margaritas!)
#8: The dream boat and I along the Mississippi River during a break from walking the French Quarters.


#9: The Parisian Courtyard Inn.  Our beautiful B&B in the Garden District was filled with antiques.  So charming!
#10: The entry way.
#11: The dining room.
#12: My family with hostess Annette (far left) and staff member Rosie (between my parents) on our last morning together.

I loved New Orleans!  I wasn't impressed at first, but the city really grew on me.  We did a city tour which gave a lot of information, but leisurely walking around the French Quarters gave me the best view of the city.  It may look a little run down, but I could really see how vibrant and dazzling it must have been when all the buildings and homes were new and fresh.  That's not to say that it isn't dazzling in a different way now.  New Orleans has a strong culture, and its flair erupts on every street.  Hurricane Katrina really wiped out the Ninth Ward, but the locals are hopeful that it will all be restored with time.

Mr. TBS and I started our drive from New Orleans to Houston around noon on Friday.  Within 30-40 minutes, we were completely unpacked, organized, and on the couch with the cats watching TV.  We like to get settled back in quickly!  Amelie and Boone have been total love bugs since we returned, probably because we disappeared for four days. 

I've been better about posting to Instagram, too, so follow me at SapphireLindsay!

Now it's your turn.  What did I miss here in the blogosphere?  Leave a comment with the link to your favorite/best post from the last ten days!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Happy Memorial Day!  Today called for cooking and swimming for Mr. TBS and me.  A lovely day at home, if you ask me!

The end of a vacation is bittersweet, because obviously, the vacation is over, but nothing feels quite as good as sleeping in your own bed.  I hope you're ready for photos, because I have a lot of them to share!  I don't want to overload you, so I'll share half of my vacation today and the other half tomorrow.


Just keeping things interesting for the tram tour photographer at Space Center Houston.  :-)


(clockwise from top left)
#1: The fabulous people I vacationed with -- my parents, Mr. TBS, my sister, and my BIL.
#2: Mission Control room
#3: My sister and I battling it out in the gift shop with light sabers.
#4: Oh, you know.  Just sharing some laughs with my astronaut friends.


#5: Teal shorts and leopard flats are typical attire for a farm, right?  Right.  Remember: I'm trying to balance my life as a modern hippie!  We took the family to the Sunshine Farm!  (This place is quickly becoming a weekend regular.)
#6: A glimpse into the TBS home!
#7: Of course, I had to share the glory of Hobby Lobby.  As my sister took off with a cart, my BIL said with a smile, "This is my worst nightmare!"
#8: Baby goat Daisy, who I mentioned before, is the only goat at the farm who is bottle-fed, because her mom is not there.  She was treating my thumb like her bottle! 


#9: At the drive-through Jungle Park which is right next to the Tabasco Factory.  It reminded me of Jurassic Park, sans dinosaurs... but not gators.  Yikes!
#10: My beautiful sister!
#11: The giant Tabasco bottle was an obvious photo op.  My dad and sister love this stuff.  Love.  Ironically, Mr. TBS and I do not eat spicy foods.  It takes two hot Cheetos to light my head on fire and send me into a coughing fit.
#12: My parents are so serious all the time.  Get a sense of humor, guys.  ;-)  Please notice the warning sign, and then look at picture #9 again.  Do you see a fence behind us?  I don't.  Minutes later on the drive, we saw three alligators, so Little Lindsay Lou Who did not get out of the car after that.

While I was gone, I posted a very personal letter to my younger self which spawned not only a wealth of support but a surprising amount of messages from others who relate to my experiences in one way or another.  Those beautiful messages made me wonder if I have something to offer by sharing my story.  Maybe so?

Enjoy the day off from work (for those of you in the states), and play safely!  Come back tomorrow for the second half of my vacation (+ some of Mr. TBS's delicious home cooking)!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Flaunt Your Cause Winner!

Happy Friday Eve from New Orleans!

It's a double-post kind of day, because Emily drew the winner of the Flaunt Your Cause link-up!  I'm sorry I don't have a more elaborate reveal, but I hope you'll forgive me since I'm writing while I'm on vacation!  I am so, so excited that 30 bloggers participated in the link-up!  Being that it was a one-time link-up and that each post took a lot of consideration and heartfelt thought, I think we had a fantastic turn-out!  THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who linked up with Emily and I, wrote such wonderful e-mails to me, left supportive comments to each other, and took the time to learn about all of the causes listed!


In this link-up, I read more about how the following causes/organizations affected you ladies:
  • Being a CASA {Court Appointed Special Advocate}
  • Down Syndrome advocacy in Australia
  • A missionary making her way to Africa
  • To Write Love on Her Arms
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Erin's Clothing Drive & "Shop My Closet" night
  • Wounded Warriors
  • Abortion prevention
  • Girl Scouts
  • Miles for Hope Brain Cancer walk
  • Love of Labs
  • 5 to Survive
  • Clare's work volunteering in Dominica
  • Rape is Never Justified
  • Bye Bye Beehive Mission
  • Gabriel's Angels
  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
  • Girls on the Run
  • Clean Water for the World
  • Shine
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Missionary work for imprisoned children in Africa
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • Locks of Love
  • Blessings in a Backpack
  • Spaying & Neutering Pets

Whew!  That's a lot!  THANK YOU for sharing!

I'm happy to announce that the winner of the $50 donation was Allie @ A Thousand Wonders who highlighted To Write Love On Her Arms!  Congratulations, Allie!


To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.

$50 will be donated to TWLOHA 
on behalf of all the bloggers who participated in 
#FlauntYourCause! 

I can't thank each of you enough for supporting a link-up like this one!  And a huge thank you to Emily who was the brain behind the whole concept and let me team up with her.  What a brilliant idea!  I love you and admire you so much!


Product Review: LUSH


About five weeks ago, I received those lovely LUSH goodies!  A lot of you requested reviews, so it's high time I deliver!

** Please note that I am not a vegan, but I am trying to clean up my lifestyle by making small changes here and there.  I love companies that do not test on animals, but I love products that do not use any animal by-products even more!  I'm not an extremist.  Cutting all leather, beeswax, dairy, feathers, and wool is a process.  I'm merely trying to prove to myself (and to who ever else cares to know) that it is possible to be good to the planet and still be an everyday gal.  A modern hippie, if you will. **

Trichomania Solid Shampoo
I bought this bar, because Bobbi recommended it.  I have "wild woman" hair despite what my flat iron will have you believe.  If Bobbi said it worked for her, I trusted her!  For starters, this bar smells divine!  Coconut bliss!  This bar is for dry, coarse, frizzy hair.  I get a nice lather in my hands, and then work it into my hair starting at the scalp.  This bar strips my hair of all excess oil (in a good way).  It's easy to work in and easy to rinse out.  I love this, and I will keep buying it.

Jungle Solid Conditioner
I had high hopes for this bar!  I read great reviews online, and the price was far cheaper than the Veganese Conditioner.  Since this was my first purchase, I didn't want to blow too much money, so I decided to give it a go.  Like the Trichomania bar, it's gets rid of all the excess oil in my hair, so I never get that smooth conditioner feeling.  It works really well, but here is why I've decided I cannot use solid conditioner: It takes 20 minutes to work it into my hair.  Way too long!  I lathered it in my hands repeatedly, and I rubbed it directly onto my head with success, albeit it labor- and time-intensive.  My hair is too thick, and I now know that I absolutely need a more liquid consistency to really work it into my hair.  After I use up the rest of this bar, I'm going to buy Veganese!  (Until then, I'm melting down the bar so I can skip the extra 20 minutes in the shower.)  I'm sure this product would work really well for anyone with average thickness and/or fine hair.

None of Your Beeswax Lip Balm
Like so many women have confessed, I have a lip balm and gloss collection. This potted balm smells light and delightful.  It has a matte finish, but it is moisturizing.  My husband appreciates that it doesn't "kiss off" like a gloss.  It does need to be reapplied more frequently (although not much), but I'm willing to do that since it's a vegan product. 

I was originally drawn to LUSH, because most of their products are vegan.  Then, I was happy to hear that so many loved the brand, including my favorite cosmetologist blogger, Jenna!  Now I like LUSH even more because of quality.  I will definitely be buying more LUSH!

Which LUSH products do you recommend I try next?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Birthday Wishes & Last Calls

Hi, friends!  Yes, I am still on vacation, but today is a special day for two reasons!

It's my blog BFF's birthday!  Happy birthday, EmilyI love you so much, and I hope you have a fantastic day!

Do you know what I think Em would love from all of her blogger friends?  I'm sure she would love to have all of you link up for Flaunt Your Cause.  Today is the last day of the link-up, and then we will choose the winner of the donation giveaway!  So get on with your bad self, and link up your posts!





Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where in the World is Lindsay?

Happy Tuesday!  Today is my own personal Fat Tuesday, because I'm on my way to New Orleans!  If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen that my family (sans little bro and his girlfriend) are in town!

Families who just stand there and try to look perfect are lame.  We are so much cooler than that!

We had a busy, busy weekend together here in Houston, and now we're road trippin' our pretty little behinds to NOLA for the rest of the week.   I can't wait to sink my teeth into a beignet, take in the sights, and soak in the jazz.  Oh, yes, the jazz!

I hope you're having a great week too!  Don't forget you have until tomorrow to link-up for Flaunt Your Cause before Emily and I draw the winner of the donation!  We've had more link-ups than I expected, and I've been so inspired by the causes of other bloggers. 

And I'd also like to say that I'm so thankful to all of you who sent me such nice comments and tweets about yesterday's post.  It was a tough one to write, and I know that there are some unanswered questions.  Maybe one day I'll have the courage to write more candidly about teenage death, eating disorders, and self-harm (mutilation <-- but I hate that word!).  However, today is not that day, and I'm going to live it up in New Orleans instead.  :-)

As my dad always tells me, MAKE IT A GREAT DAY!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dear Little Linz

What advice would you give your younger self?  Have you ever thought about it?  I've actually had some form of this concept assigned as a project a few times back in my school days.  Mrs. Gilmore had my freshman English class write a letter to our older selves.  We wrote about our friends, our goals, and our favorite activities.  She never read them, but she did ask us to write our home address on an envelope, because years later, she was going to mail them to us.

Sometime after graduation, I got a letter in the mail, and I remember the confusion I felt when I saw my name written in my own handwriting.  It wasn't until I started reading the letter that I remembered that assignment four years earlier.  I laughed at my juvenile writing and how everything in my letter revolved around singing, my best friends, and my then-boyfriend who I thought I was madly in love with.  (Oh, the hilarity!)

I felt almost refreshed remembering how purely good and simple I thought life was.

And then contorted inside, remembering how I learned that life wasn't.

And then relieved that I still turned out all right.  I thought to myself, There is so much I would have warned you about.  Little did I know, life would test me further in years to come.  And now there is so much more I would say to myself about ages 14 to 27.  I feel like I'm light years away from memories that only exist in the deepest part of me, but it wouldn't be a bad time to write a letter to my younger self, right?


Dear Linz,


I'm the older you.  Weird, right?  If I were you, I'd start walking away from me.  But don't.  I have some words to impart upon you.  Let me start off by saying that life is hard.  Words like that get thrown around a lot, but I am telling you quite seriously that life is hard.  However, for as hard as it can be, life is far more beautiful and fun.  Remember that.

Here are a few things I wish I knew at your age -- not for the sake of change but for the hope that you might recover faster from unexpected challenges, open your eyes, and accept certain things.  Here are a few things I'd like you to know now.
 
- Boys are silly, and they're not all like Pacey Witter from "Dawson's Creek," unfortunately.  However, you do meet a few good men later in life, and you marry one heck of a dream boat!
- It is a good thing that you care about getting straight A's.  If you ever feel uncool, I'll tell you now that good men want to marry intelligent, ambitious girls.   
- Keep singing, and practice often (and don't get lazy with sight reading).  
- If someone gossips about you, retaliate with kind words or silence.  Adding to the gossip never helps.  
- When your boyfriend dies, let yourself fall apart in front of those you love.  It's completely understandable.
- Let "thank you" be plentiful in your vocabulary.  
- When you feel like you're overwhelmed, step back and prioritize.
- Accept that you have a total soft spot for the underdog.  This doesn't change when you're older.
- Smile!  It's one of the best things you can share!  (And thank Dad & Mom for the braces.)
- When Mom is sick, tell her it scares you.  Again, sharing your heart with those you love will heal you much faster.
- Create your own opportunities.  Don't just wait for them.
- Not everything has to be perfectly planned.  Ease up.  You'll be fine.  I promise!
- When you feel like you're completely out of control, speak up instead of crying out for help by showing it on your body.
- Don't cut your hair short!  Skip this urge at ages 15 and 22.  Please.
- Keep surrounding yourself with kind, hilarious, quality people.  This is one of the best things you can do for yourself!
- Always work to improve yourself.
Your life is fantastic.  You have a blast.  You learn so much from the people around you.  You meet wonderful people.  You are afforded so many opportunities and experiences.  Your future husband is the biggest (and best) surprise of your life.  You'll learn that life really is so much simpler and beautiful than you think.  Just enjoy it!  
 
If you have any questions, don't bother asking, because unfortunately, this letter-writing thing is one-way.  Hey, I don't make the rules.  Be awesome at life, girl!
Love,
Big (although roughly the same size) Linz

 
Linking up with my blog sister, Jessica @ Lovely Little Things, for Smell The Roses

Friday, May 18, 2012

Returning to My Friday Roots

Happy Friday!  I've been absent from my regular High Five For Friday programming, because I had some exciting things happening the last two Fridays.  I did my Girl Behind The Blog vlog and was featured on Something Charming, Eight Six Eleven, and Momma's Me Time.  Whew!  Fun times!  But, baby, I'm back!

This past week has been a great one (despite feeling pretty icky Monday through Wednesday -- darn, Mother Nature)!  

ONE

Mr. TBS and I had serious antique shop & Hobby Lobby success.  I am so lucky to be married to a man who has good taste in decor.  Unfortunately, my two favorite pieces (stained glass window and antique mirror) aren't in this photo.  We are not leisure shoppers, so it's beneficial that he has an eagle's eye for good finds.  Antique shops and The Hobs for the win!
 
TWO
 
A little bit crushed but still delicious!
We received cookies from my MIL for our anniversary!  While Skyping with her on Mother's Day, she warned us that a package of cookies was coming our way.  This is a very exciting thing in my world.  Every Christmas, she sends us a fantastically large package of holiday treats and then we enjoy eating every last bit of them and gaining 20 pounds each.  I love when she sends us homemade cookies!  Lucky for me, I'm a girl who can drink hot cocoa year-round, and that's just what I had with my yummy almond cookies.  

(This is probably where I'm supposed to skip the part about how we recycled the packing box at the nearby high school, but then she told us a card with a check was taped to the box, so we rushed to the school, and I was in the cardboard recycling dumpster.  Our box was no longer there, as recycling came by the day before.  You haven't fully celebrated Mother's Day until you're standing in a recycling dumpster.) 

THREE

Jenna posted this gem to Twitter.  Where am I looking?  Why does J look bored?  Check out Em's sweet headset.

I spent an hour on Google Hangout with Em and Jenna over the weekend, and well, it's official.  They're awesome.  I had already Skyped with Emily a few times before, and Jenna is just as I hoped she would be in real conversation.  We discussed all the normal things like the middle finger, being real, faith, Catfish, and diplomacy.  See?  Normal.  ;-)  Girls, I need more sarcastic Saturdays in my life.  Chat again next month, yes?
 
FOUR

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I fell in love with the Sunshine Farm.  Mr. TBS surprised me with this outing, and I can't wait to go back!  But don't worry.  Em has already warned me that as soon as I stop shaving and making stuff from scratch on a farm, everyone is going to know I'm a raging hippie inside.  (However, I don't think I can give up shaving!)

FIVE
 
I hate to keep bringing Emily up in this post... wait, who am I kidding?  We all love Emily, and if you don't already, you need to get up close and personal with her in a blogging way immediately.  Anyway, we finally opened our Flaunt Your Cause link-up yesterday, and it has been so great to read the variety of causes that other bloggers are so passionate about!  We're keeping it open until next Wednesday, May 23, and then we're going to pick one of your entries at random and donate $50 to the charity you highlighted!  Keep those posts coming, friends!
 
SIX // HONORABLE MENTION


For all you bookworms out there, I highly recommend that you check out The Noisy Bookworm! Sarah is a brilliant writer and mega-intelligent friend of mine who is currently pursuing her PhD in Literature at WSU. She's witty and charming, not to mention honest in her reviews.  Check out The Noisy Bookworm!

 
And now, I bid you adieu as I run off into my weekend which I know is going to be amazing!  Enjoy yours, and I'll see again on Monday!

Linking up with Lauren @ From My Grey Desk

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flaunt Your Cause: Being a CASA

Surprise!  According to my time (CDT), it's still Wednesday, but it's officially Thursday on the east coast, so here we are!

The day to Flaunt Your Cause has finally arrived!  I'm so excited you're here, and Emily and I are so anxious to see what everyone has to share.  Brace yourself for some serious inspiration overload, people!

Before I share one of my causes, I have a few words to share with you.


"You can't live a perfect day without doing something 
for someone who will never be able to repay you."
-- John Wooden

I am so excited to share my experience as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)!  A long-term volunteer opportunity like this is very complex, but today, I want to give you the basics and share a bit about my experience.  It may be something you're interested in!


WHAT: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

A CASA is an adult who is assigned to a foster child in the juvenile dependency system.  It is the CASA's responsibility to objectively gather information from key players in the child's life (foster parents, teachers, relatives, biological parents, sport instructors, etc.) and advocate for the best permanent plan.

WHO: An adult with an open heart and time to dedicate to a foster child and juvenile court processes.
Due to the confidential nature of this volunteer work, a CASA must be responsible, thorough, compassionate, open-minded, diligent, and available to visit with the case child 2-4 times per month.  (That can be as little as 4 hours per month!)

WHERE: Anywhere in the United States!
You can search for the CASA program in your area HERE.

WHEN: Anytime.
Organizations that interview, screen, and train CASAs have information and training sessions throughout the year.  Similar to starting a job working with children, CASAs must pass a background check and be finger printed.  Due to the rotation of training sessions, I had four months from applying to starting training.

WHY: There are thousands of children in the system who really need the help of an advocate.  
We all remember how difficult those younger years were, but imagine being moved from home to home, school to school, never knowing if you'll be adopted or just age out of the system at 18.  Their situations are complex, and having an adult who can decipher all the moving parts and simply be a voice for them means that they know they are noticed, heard, and loved.

With my training buddy, Barbara, at CASA Graduation 2009

MY STORY (extremely abridged!):
Source
My first "big kid" volunteer job was working as an aide in a preschool for Autistic children when I was 16.  After that, every volunteer job I pursued was focused on children.  As I got older, I knew I wanted to be a CASA, but I was waiting until I knew I had the time and energy to dedicate to it.

I was a CASA with Voices For Children (VFC) in San Diego, CA, from November 2009 to October 2011.  I was assigned to a bright two-year-old who I will call Joy.  She was born to two very young parents who were not on speaking terms and in some trouble with the law.

During my time as her CASA, I came to know her foster parents (also her relatives), her aunts, her biological parents, her daycare provider, and her preschool teachers.  They enriched my life in unexpected ways and taught me more about who I want to be as a mother one day.  I was reminded how fortunate I was to have the childhood that I did, but I also learned that love thrives in all places, not just for "picture perfect" families.  Joy and I would talk about Elmo, her friends at school, cupcake parties, Tinkerbell, and her trips to SeaWorld. She excelled in preschool.  She loved to tell people: "You're beautiful."

Appearing in juvenile dependency court is less stressful than it sounds.  I attended three court hearings which required three court reports (all reviewed and approved by my VFC program supervisor).  Court hearings include only a small group, and it's all behind closed doors.  Due to her young age, Joy attended few hearings.

Being a CASA stirred new levels of emotions in me.  My heart broke for Joy when her father was fatally shot.  I was angry when her mom didn't show up for a scheduled visit.  I was frustrated when I sat in an important meeting listening to people discuss who should have custody of her and why.  I worried that I wouldn't be permitted to stay on her case until the end when I found out I was moving to Texas.  (Luckily, I did get to stay on the case for the remaining four months and checked in via phone!)  But it wasn't all negative, not even close.  I felt loved when Joy thanked me for things.  I felt successful when I overcame a few toddler melt-downs.  I felt infinitely proud when she was adopted by her relatives who now have full custody of her (and thank me for my hard work every single time I talk to them).

I was a busy CASA.  I worked a full-time job, did two musical productions, sang for a few other gigs, got married, maintained family and social life, and moved my married life to another state!  But it was all worth it.

For the sake of confidentiality, I cannot tell you names or show you pictures.  In fact, we never took pictures together.  I only have her school photos.  In two months, Joy will be five years old.  As she gets older and starts to understand how her life is "different" from her friends', I hope she will also understand how loved she is and that her past doesn't dictate her future.  And just like she tells me when we talk on the phone, I hope she knows that she is beautiful.

If you have any questions about my time as a CASA, please feel free to comment below or e-mail me at Lindsay@TrialBySapphire.com.
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