Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Let's Get Acquainted!

Raise your hand if you're fairly new to these parts.

A lot of you should be raising your hand, because I realized that at least 150 of you stumbled across this blog in the last two months.  150 complete strangers!  That is incredible!  Thank you for coming aboard this pretty little tug boat of mine.  I hope you're enjoying the ride!  I feel so encouraged by your e-mails and comments, and I'm learning so much from you just by getting to know you a little at a time.  Thank you!  This blogging journey just gets better and better.

Since almost half of my readers are new and still getting acquainted, I invite you to hop over to my friend Mae's blog to read about an important piece of me.  You may remember her guest post two weeks ago about her journey of being an adoptive parents.  She's a fantastic woman!

If you've already read about this part of my volunteer work, well, what's another read going to hurt?  ;-)  Come and leave me some love, sugar pies.  Please visit me at Two Hoots and a Holler today!

Two Hoots & a Holler

Monday, July 30, 2012

Off The Beaten Path




 
We went off the beaten path this weekend, hiking trail not included.  I always know that weekends will include chores put off during the week, the farmers market, grocery shopping, a movie, nap or the pool, sleeping in, and going out to lunch.  It's what we do, and I enjoy it immensely, because it's so relaxing.  (I did not include exercise in that list, because I didn't do that this weekend.  I better read this post again.)

Mr. TBS mentioned on Friday night that he wanted to go to Hobby Lobby to buy paint supplies.  Have I ever mentioned that he paints?  Because he doesn't.  Without questioning his sudden urge to paint, I endorsed the trip by saying I needed something too (meaning want, not need, of course).  He had seen some tutorials online and thought, "I can do that!"

We hit up Hobby Lobby after lunch on Saturday and walked out two hours later, maybe more.  I didn't even make it through the sliding doors before a beautiful secretary desk caught my eye.  I want one so badly!  Once we finally made it through the entrance, it was over.  Autumn decorations were on display, and after walking each aisle, we saw that winter arrived at Hobby Lobby too!  Back To School sales aren't even over in other stores, but they were stocked for Christmas.  Crazy, I tell you. 

We  navigated our way to the regular, non-festive part of the store, and the hunt was on.  He attacked the paints, canvases, brushes, and kits.  I just wandered... down every single aisle.  I didn't know what I was looking for, but I was searching for it anyway.  I picked up and put down so many things, and ultimately, grabbed blank notecards.  I had ribbon, twine, stamps, and paper doilies at home, so I decided to make some cards.  Have I ever mentioned I'm totally into card making?  Because I'm not.  But whatever.  I love rubber stamps, so I wanted to put mine to good use.  (I can't walk by rubber stamps without looking at them.  Love them!)

If you know the size of Hobby Lobby and I'm telling you that I walked every aisle, you know that a lot of time had passed.  I returned to the painting section bearing the measly fruits of my labor (one pack of blank notecards and envelopes for $3.49), and he was still picking out supplies.  When this man has a decision to make, he does his research!  By the time we made it to the register, I was kind of exhausted by the amount of time we had spent there.  Is this what boyfriends and husbands of shopaholics feel like?  It must be.

Saturday night was spent painting and card making, and suddenly, it was 11:00pm.  We had fun with our separate projects!  It was unlike any other Saturday night we've had in this house.  It turns out Mr. TBS can paint so well that it just makes me want to say the F word and slap my own face.  Who the Hell just thinks, I want to paint, and busts out a gorgeous mountain landscape?!  I showed my mom on Skype, and she said, "WHAT?!  He did that?"  I'm telling you, this husband of mine has serious artistic ability.  I learned that he does paint, and I am into card making.

That was our Saturday night off the beaten path.  I'm no painter, but I was pleased with my cute little cards.  So take that, husband.

Lindsay, this is not a competition.

Except it kind of is.  And you're losing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cheers to the Freakin' Weekend

(Rhianna's voice is stuck in my head now too.  Sorry.)

It's Friday?  And it's the 27th of July?  When did this happen?  I just can't keep up, not that I mind that it's Friday already!  This week, my work life was very busy this week (which is a very good thing), and my personal life was all about friends. Here are highlights from my week:


ONE: Within 11 days, I visited my doctor, dentist, and optometrist.  Check, check, and check!  I am thankful for my clean bill of health.  Even better, I enjoyed the staff at each of those offices.  I actually received a handwritten Thank You card from my optometrist's office manager!  Talk about customer service.  She included snippets from our conversation as she helped me pick out my new glasses too.  The card was such a small gesture, but it made a big impression.  Welcome to a southern small town, Lindsay.  To all my friends back home in San Diego, going to a real doctor's office is so much better than Kaiser Freakin' Permanente!


TWO: My Monday Through Friday post was surprisingly popular, and I was excited that so many people said that they were going to post one of their own!  If you do, please send me the link to your post in a comment, by e-mail, or on Twitter.  I can't wait to catch a glimpse into your usual day-to-day.

Source

THREE: When my friend Anna shared her review of the iPhone app Red Stamp, I knew I had to have it, but the app isn't available for Android.  As always, it only took 2.68 seconds on Google to find Sincerely Ink which is the same thing.  And then, I found Postagram which was touted as "Instagram by mail".  Snap a photo on your smartphone, put it on a postcard, and your loved one can pop out the picture!  I used the app for the first time this week to send Joy's family a card.


FOUR: In case you missed it, I co-hosted 5ohWifey's The Girl Behind The Blog link-up this week, and I vlogged! 

FIVE: I don't photographic evidence, but I was all up in the "catch up with friends" game this week!
  • Mr. TBS and I Skyped with his best friend, his wife, and their one-year-old daughter.  BABY FEVER.
  • Michelle and I Skyped last weekend, and that spilled into texting.  My grad school buddy, my smart ass, and an all-around bitchen (as in the '70s version of "cool") smarty pants.
  • Emily has not only concluded her three-week stint as world traveler extraordinaire, but she is back in the states!  We only have a two-hour time difference now!  We had a Google Hangout with Jenna, and time flies too quickly with them.  We have too much fun just keepin' it real with each other!  
  •  I caught up with one of my best friends, Annie, and it was the best 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 4 seconds ever.  I love her red hair, her freckles, her laugh, and her guts.  Yup, I just love her.

What are you doing this weekend?  I think this weekend's adventures will include the farmers market, the library, Hobby Lobby, and date night (read: grocery shopping).  PARTY MONSTERS.


Linking up with Lauren for High Five For Friday!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Girl Behind The Blog #5: Begin, Accomplish, or Change

It's one of my favorite days of the blog month!  Welcome to round 5 of The Girl Behind The Blog!  

Ashley and I are crazy excited to watch your vlogs and learn more about the goals you've set for yourself.  I've always found that posting things to my blog holds me accountable.  Have you ever done that?  I feel an extra push to follow through once I put it out there publicly!

5ohwifey

If you need to grab the button or see the prompt again, click HERE.  Be sure to follow Ashley and me (the first two videos)!  Our blogs will be interlinked, so you only need to link your video on one of our blogs.  I love getting to hear the words of other bloggers in their own voices, and I can't wait to watch all of your vlogs!  On with the show!


NOTES:
 Ashley, thank you so much for inviting me to co-host this month!
** Thanks for sharing the FitBolt.com desktop app with me, Jennifer!
*** This link-up is how I met my Blog BFF, Emily, back in February.
**** In regards to exercise, I just want to be toned and fit.  If I happen to get ridiculous abs like Jess, I'm totally fine with that.
***** Big thanks to Michelle for encouraging me along my grad school journey.  I also extend a hearty "thank you" to her dad who works in the industry and answered my questions via e-mail!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday Through Friday

I carpool in this.


With this guy.


I wear this.


I work here.


In this office.


I eat this for lunch.  (And yes.  I eat this for lunch every single day!)


I walk through these halls.


And we always look forward to this at the end of the day.


With these sweeties.


Other than the last year, I've never had such a predictable work schedule (and I love it!).  It definitely makes my life easier, and for now, I'll take it!  What does your work/school day look like?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

If You Really Knew Me

I wanted to write this post as soon as I read Jenni's which led me to Kristin's.  As far as I can tell, Kristin was the first to write an "If You Really Knew Me" post (but please correct me if I'm wrong). It's a brilliant idea! --> UPDATE: Kristin informed me that she got the idea from Al!



If you really knew me, you'd know that...

+ I've been adding crushed pepper to a lot of my meals lately which is peculiar, because anything with a dash of spicy goodness lights my mouth on fire.  (It's pure culinary masochism.)

+ I speak profane words all too often (usually when joking around), but I've realized it mostly happens when I'm with my husband.  It must be love.

+ It is very common that I end up with multiple pairs of socks buried in our bed sheets by week's end.  I go to sleep with socks on, but they almost never stay on 'til morning.  When laundry day comes, I have to do a sock rescue search on my side of the bed.

+ I was never formally engaged.  There was no proposal.  Neither of us are bothered by that, and those who truly know us wouldn't be surprised.  We're completely happy, and we do life the way we want to!

+ I am left-handed.

+ I hate it when someone purposely scare me as a joke.  Standing around a corner and waiting to yell "boo" at me?  It isn't funny, and if I accidentally hit you in defense, it's really not funny (for you).  Consider yourself warned!

+ I am lactose intolerant.

+ I am Guamanian and Filipino.  Oddly, Filipinos don't believe I am Filipino, and Mexicans assume I am Mexican.  And when I lived in NYC, everyone thought I was Hawaiian.  (Close!)  I was told countless times that I looked "exotic" -- which made me think "dancer".  How's that for word association?  :-)

+ I believe that family is chosen as much as it is biological.  Relationships are more important than blood lines.  Family is created.

+ I always have a small bottle of stevia in my purse.

+ I really want to go to graduate school.  Michelle and I are embarking on the journey together (and holding each other accountable)!

+ Car rides are very soothing to me, and I can easily fall asleep if I'm in the passenger seat.

+ I do not believe in love at first sight, and I do not believe that there is only one true soul mate for each of us.

+ I told my parents I wanted to change my name to Lilli when I was 5 or 6, so I could share the name with the near-sighted feline tightrope artist on Dumbo's Circus.  Please tell me you've seen this classic Disney TV show circa 1985!

+ I wish I was a jazz singer.

+ Sunglasses are a permanent fixture on my head.  If I'm not wearing them over my eyes, they're on my head as a headband.  I'm a San Diego girl through and through, I guess.


What don't I know about you?

Oh, and happy Friday eve! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My 15 Minutes of Blog Fame

The day has come!  My 15 minutes of blog fame!  Minus approximately 11 minutes and actually being famous.  I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that I'm really stoked to announce that I'm Ashley's co-host for the next installment of The Girl Behind The Blog vlog series!  I've participated in every round so far, even when it meant recording a vlog at 10pm.  (Maybe it was my dedication that impressed her?  Ha.)

Ashley from 5ohWifey started this series back in February.  Trial By Sapphire was only a week old, but I figured I had nothing to lose!  I'm so glad I linked up back when I had all of 13 readers, because I met so many other women who have become real friends of mine.  Since the first link-up, I've been a big fan of Ashley, and it's been fun to watch her adventures with her growing baby girl unfold and to see the increasing popularity of The Girl Behind The Blog.  Ashley is an amazing woman, and I appreciate that she is always willing to listen to others and that she encourages them to express their opinions, whether they are the same as hers or not.  She writes honestly and with tact, not to mention a lot of humor!  Needless to say, I was stupefied by joy when she invited me to be her co-host this month!  So here I am!  This is, to me, my 15 minutes of blog fame as Ashley's co-host!


As soon as Ashley invited me to co-host, I knew what I wanted to pitch to her!  Lucky for me, she agreed, and well, I've been busting as the seams and trying to keep it a secret for weeks!  There are always things that I put on the back burner, because life gets busy or I forget.  Months will go by, and I think, "Ugh, I still need to do that." 

Raise your hand if you're in the same boat.  
*looking out into a sea of raised hands*  
Whew!  It's nice to see I'm not the only one.

Now is the time to share the small milestones, lifestyle changes, and monumental dreams that you've had on the back burner!  What better place to share those things than a supportive community?  Who knows what kind of good advice you may get from a reader or other blogger?  If nothing else, at least you'll have said it aloud, and possibly, gained a second wind to make it happen!  You can share something things like:

"I want to run a 10k."
"I will try one new recipe per week."
"I've been dreaming of starting my own business."
"I need to be mindful of time spent with my family vs. blogging and social media."
"I'm nervous about it, but I want to record a vlog."  Oh, hey!  Look at that!  Mission accomplished.

Next Wednesday, July 25 (one week from today), we invite YOU to let the blogging community in on a something you're hoping to begin, accomplish, or change.  And maybe make a few new friends!  All you have to do is follow both of our blogs, grab the button below to share on your blog, and post a short vlog answering the following questions.  You'll only have to link up on one of the host's blogs because our links will be interlinked.  We really hope you join us!  Spread the word, and let's get to know each other a little better!  Make your video your own, but please try to stick to these prompts and the time limit.


The Girl Behind The Blog: Begin, Accomplish, or Change
Time limit: 2-3 minutes long
Introduce yourself and your blog.
What is one thing you are hoping to begin, accomplish, or change?
Why is this goal important to you?
What are your plans to achieve this goal?


5ohwifey
<a href="http://www.5ohwifey.com/search/label/TGBTB" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1210.photobucket.com/albums/cc416/5ohwifey/Blog%20Tools/NEWtgbtb.jpg" alt="5ohwifey" width="200" height="200" /></a>


I hope to see all of your pretty faces in vlog form next Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Sweet Life Is

My fellow bloggers, have you been to a meet-up yet?  You need to attend your local meet-ups or start your own.  They are so fun, and I may be spoiled, because I think Houston has exceptionally wonderful bloggers.  I'm also really excited about the Houston Blogger Symposium in September (which I am considering an early birthday present to myself).  

For our last meet-up, Meg out her magic to work again and got us a private room at Sugarbaby's Cupcake Boutique for crazy cheap.  Oh, the perks of being a part of a big group of bloggers!  Bloggers and mini cupcakes?  It's a no-fail situation!




How stinkin' cute is this place?  I have to admit that my two of my cousins who make gourmet cupcakes have ruined me, because almost every other cupcake in the world will never live up to theirs, but Sugarbaby's was tasty.  The decor really sweetened the place up.  Of course, the company sealed the deal for me.  Houston has such fun and talented bloggers!  Believe it or not, we did play some ice breaker games, and I don't think any of us regretted it.  Meg put her high school theatre teacher skills to work on a bunch of 20- and 30-something ladies, and it worked like a charm.  That place had never heard so much laughter!

We had so much fun that only one person really took candid and group photos!  I still don't know everyone that well, so I wanted to focus more on talking with the others than taking obligatory blog photos -- and maybe I was too self-conscious to be the newbie blogger who kept asking to take pictures with people.  Maybe.




I have to say that one of the best parts of that afternoon was the car ride with Whitney and Cait.  We will a solid hour away from the city, so we carpooled together.  I had already hung out with Whitney before, but it was our first time ever meeting Cait!  The three of us hit it off instantly.  Whit and Cait happen to be alumnae of the same sorority.  Small world!  I loved having that more personal time with them.


 Another sweet surprise was the handmade fabric bookmarks that Lori made for all of us!  All 24 of us!   I added mine to my current read as soon as I got home.  I love it, and I love that it will fit books of all sizes.  Check out her shop and buy your own while you're there!  (Or if you have baby fever like me, check our her adorable baby onesie gift sets.  They are so precious!)


This photo is proof that I was actually at Sugarbaby's.  However, now it looks like I was the only one at the meet-up, but I promise that wasn't the case.

Or I just created this whole meet-up in my head and wrote a post about it.  Now you'll never know.  ;-)

Wait, Darby wrote about it, too, so now I don't look so crazy.  :-)  (P.S. Darby is an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at HBU.  If that's not an impressive title, I don't know what is.  Smarty pants.)

UPDATE: Michelle shared her photos today!  Here are two more photos!


With Alex, Cait, Whitney, and Bree


Thanks for another fun meet-up, H-town Bloggers!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Lesson in Patience and Love

I have a very special post for you today, my friends!  Prepare yourselves for one of the most inspiring and heartfelt posts you've read in awhile.  I read it three times (consecutively) when I received it, because it is just that wonderful.  Please read and enjoy!

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Hello, Trial by Sapphire readers! My name is Mary Susan, but I often go by my much easier nickname “Mae” or as my sister calls me, "Mae Mae."


I have a lifestyle blog over at Two Hoots & a Holler where I blog about everything from growing up on a farm to being married to a musician to my journey as an adoptive mother. When Lindsay asked me to write about my experience as an adoptive mom thus far, I was so excited! I’m very passionate about adoption and anytime someone’s willing to listen I’m ready to talk!  So here we go…

In 2010 my husband and I decided to start the adoption process (yes, it’s 2012, and our child is still not home yet but that’s a different story).  My husband and I had always wanted to adopt, so when we decided 7 years into marriage that we were ready to start a family, we chose to adopt first and have biological kids second.
   
So, in 2010, we began months and months of research.  Searching for answers to a million questions: What agency? Where should we adopt from?  International adoption or domestic adoption? If we have to be foster parents first, would my husband’s erratic work schedule allow for all of the meetings and the visitations with biological parents? What’s our age range? Will we be open to a child with special needs? What kinds of special needs? Boy or girl? Is a sibling set okay? If so, would we accept a sibling set of 2, 3, 4, or even more children? The list went on and on.  For a number of reasons, we chose to adopt from Ghana, we were open to a sibling set of 2, all children under the age of 6, and the gender didn’t matter.  We put in our application, finished our homestudy, completed our educational classes, and by April 2011 we were on a waiting list.

Then in the summer of 2011, our adoption coordinator gave all adoptive families access to photos from her 2 ½ week summer trip to Ghana. As I eagerly scanned through these photos, looking at the landscape, the beaches, the markets, I noticed a sweet, beautiful, baby girl… I didn’t know anything about her other than she was living in a part of an orphanage for children with special needs. As the months followed, I often thought about her, although I didn't know anything about her story.

Then, months later, in September, I woke up in the middle of the night, very restless.  I couldn’t sleep and finally decided to just get out of bed.  I wandered into the dark living room, sat on the couch, and turned on my laptop.  I very quickly landed on my coordinator’s blog (a blog I read often).  I was struck by one of her most recent posts titled “Baby O”.  In her post she described a little girl needing a family.  She was developmentally delayed. While it was suspected that she had Cerebral Palsy and Microcephaly her specific needs would remain largely unknown until an adoptive family brought her home to their American doctors.  According to her blog, this child was being called “Baby O” as she had no official name and O was the first letter of her orphanage.  She posted this picture of the baby’s body (full pics aren’t allowed on the internet until a child is through court) and I immediately recognized it as the body of the sweet girl I had seen in the pictures from her trip months before.

clip_image001
I quickly logged back into her photo account, searched through those 900 photos and found the pictures I had seen that summer of this little girl.  She was absolutely adorable and her eyes were stunning.

I felt a strong connection to this child. A very strong connection. I woke up my husband. He sat up, read the blog post, and looked at the pictures with me. What did this mean?  We hadn’t planned on adopting children with special needs, although we had found ourselves talking about special needs a lot in the weeks prior. From then on, we began discussing special needs more seriously, we began speaking with friends who had raised children with special needs, and we began praying about it… a lot.  We thought about this baby… we prayed for her… we gazed at her photos. We began calling her Abiella... (you can read why HERE.)

After a weeks of praying, researching, and begging God for discernment, we knew without a doubt we were to move forward. Filled with unspeakable peace, true desire and crazy excitement, we sent our coordinator an email asking, “Is Baby O still up for adoption?”  It was the weekend, we knew we may not get an answer for days, but sure enough, on a Sunday morning in the fall of 2011 at 1:30 am, we got a reply.  It began with, “Mary Susan, my heart just about leaped out of my chest! Yes, she’s still up for adoption!”  After reading more about her story and praying some more, we replied, “We’re so in love with this child. Let’s move forward.” And that’s what we did.  Two days later, we were filling out final paperwork and preparing to submit our dossier.

Although we knew we had to wait through months of court dates and paperwork before she could come home, we wanted to meet her as soon as possible! So 8 weeks after sending that email, we were on a plane to go meet our baby girl for the first time. You can read about that day HERE.  Here is a picture taken of us when we met for the first time:

Ghana 2 004
The meeting was overwhelming.  In just five minutes, she smiled at my husband and me half a dozen times. We couldn't take her from the orphanage, but everyday that week we took a taxi there, sat under a tree, and visited with Abiella. She was strong and beautiful and happy.

Ghana 2 007

Ghana 2 025
Eventually, we had to go home and say goodbye to our precious baby. We were told court might happen before Christmas and that she might even be home by February!  However, months came and months went and by the middle of May court still hadn’t happened.  I was devastated.  This waiting period was unbelievably hard.  The day I spotted “Mother’s Day” on my calendar I fell apart. I was determined to get away.  I needed to get out of town and have a change of scenery. So my husband planned a quick trip to the beach for Mother's Day weekend, and on our drive there, we got a phone call. Abiella had gone to court (yay), but the judge couldn’t  possibly “understand why an American couple would want to adopt a child with special needs.”  She was afraid we had been “misled.”  So, she did something quite unexpected, she ordered us to appear in court a few weeks later and tell her in person that we knew of Abiella’s needs. While this was an unanticipated development, I was THRILLED that I would get to see Abiella in just 2 weeks! We spent the next few days at the beach planning our short-notice trip to Africa and daydreaming about seeing Abiella again.


Two weeks later we boarded a plane to Ghana, spent three days with Abiella in our hotel room, stood in front of a judge, and became an official family of three!! Our time with Abiella was unbelievable and a true unexpected blessing.

abi smiling 2

daddy and daughter
mama and daughter
Today, we’re back at home without Abi... We're waiting on more paperwork… adoption decrees, birth certificates, visas, passports, 1-600s, etc.  Waiting is incredibly difficult, but as our friends say, we’re one day closer than we were yesterday.

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Throughout this waiting time I have found great comfort in reading other adoption blogs, connecting with mamas going through waiting purgatory, and working hard to prepare for when she comes home. 

If you made it to the end of this post then you’re a real trooper!  You can follow more of our journey over here.  I write about all sorts of things, but I keep all of the adoption posts labeled under the adoption tab on the left.  Blogging has been a blessing for me over the past year and I’d love to follow your journey too :)  So, come introduce yourself!!

Thanks for letting me share about my experience Lindsay!! You're the best!!

God Bless,
Mae

Two Hoots & a Holler

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Mae, thank you so much for sharing your story!  This is just the beginning of something amazing and special, and I'm honored that you chose to share some of it here!  You and your husband are wonderful!  I'll be anticipating your post about Abi's arrival!

Please visit Mae at Two Hoots and a Holler, and start following this amazing woman on Twitter too!