Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cambodian Orphans




If all goes well (there is still one MAJOR hurdle to overcome), I will be in Cambodia in just a few weeks. "Little" is visiting me in Virginia this week (more on how awesome that is later), and we have started to do a little research to get me ready for the trip.

If you haven't heard yet, I will be going to Cambodia for a 3 months internship, learning the more administrative, legal, and fundraising side of orphanages. I will be at 2 different orphanages during my time. (I believe one will be more rural, and the other in Phnom Penh, but I'm not positive.) One of the orphanages specifically provides care to children caught up in child trafficking.

Our research taught us the following information today-

Governmental lack of urgency condemns half a million Cambodians to life as orphans (Issues regarding the Hague Treaty ratification.)

Understanding intercountry adoption and what the Hague Treaty is all about.

258 orphanages in the country. 21 government run, 237 privately owned.


There are over 550,000 orphans in Cambodia. (The definition of orphan is different in Cambodia. Many children do still have one parent, or a family member living, but the child has been placed in an orphanage.)

In spite of this high number of orphans, there are only about 10,000 children in "institutions" (orphanages).

There are several conflicting statistics on how many of the orphans are HIV positive. Suffice it to say, many of the orphans are the children of prostitutes, and are HIV+.

There is currently a moratorium on intercountry adoptions. (Meaning children cannot leave Cambodia.) This is due to a lack of ratification of the Hague Treaty.


As excited and ready as I am for my trip, everything is completely dependent on a client paying me in full this week. If the client doesn't pay, my trip will likely be postponed indefinitely or completely called off. Will you think positive thoughts for me and pray everything goes smoothly? Thanks!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Matters of the Heart


Today was full of unexpected emotions- from the sincerely happiest of happy feelings to heartbreaking sadness.
My baby sister, Steph, got engaged today. (For all of you pretending to help me keep it a secret that we knew it was coming- yeah! We can stop that now!) I'm truly happy for her, and thrilled to gain a new brother in law. Our family has been needing some new blood for a while! Congratulations Steph and AJ!
And the sadness I felt came for a family I have never met. About six years ago I learned of the blog of a little girl fighting cancer. I followed her family's heroic efforts to battle cancer right up to the day she was declared cancer free! Not long after their family endured that, her mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. She fought a very valiant battle against that evil and awful disease. Last September she was placed on a ventilator, and full life support not long after that. Her mind and soul were completely intact, and sadly held captive by a failing body.
A few weeks ago she bravely announced her request to be removed from life support. She bore her testimony for all to read. (She lost the control of her body, but she did have the ability to move her eyes. She was able to "type" blog posts with her eyes. How amazing is that?!) She brought me to tears with her knowledge of God, Christ, and Heaven, and her desire to go there. She has incredible and moving faith!
It was at her request that she be removed from life support and released from her earthly cage today. My heart has been so full for this family that has endured so much. I have no doubts that there is a special place in Heaven for this wonderful woman who sacrificed so much for her family. My heart is both sad for the family who has lost their mother, and the husband who said goodbye to his wife, and yet my heart thrills for her. She is no longer held back by her earthly state. She is reunited with loved ones, and has a whole, healthy, and full body again. Heaven must have rejoiced so greatly at the return of such an amazing woman today!
My heart is full of joy, love, and heartbreak. I did not know I could feel so many emotions at once. As I lay down to sleep tonight, and stop to kneel in prayer, there will be a longer list than usual, and many extra declarations of gratitude for such a full life!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hair Questions

I love that I am getting so many questions about my hair!
Since the Brazilian Keratin Treatment  I have been crazy busy with family activities, a funeral, house hunting, and girls camp. I have to admit, that the vain side of me (who really isn't allowed to talk very much) is loving my hair. In the middle of the worst of the heat and humidity at girls camp, where my showers were short and fast, I never once thought about my hair. I could wash it quickly, and just move on. I even forgot to brush my hair one day after my shower, and just piled it up in a ponytail. 12 hours later when I found my brush and finally got around to brushing my hair (gotta love girls camp), it wasn't ratty, tangly, or even a mess. In fact, it looked kind of cute!
Today was one of the worst steam baths Virginia weather has to offer. Temperatures over 90 and massive, steamy, rainy down pours. In the past this would have meant having a frizzball on my head with curly q's for bangs. But today, thanks to the brazilian blowout, my hair stayed perfectly normal. I had to get up at the crack of dawn this morning to drive to DC. As usual I was running late, and just quickly washed my hair and blow dried it. I didn't use a hair brush, and just ran my fingers through it. In spite of putting no effort into my hair and the wretched humidity, I got 2 compliments from total strangers on my hair.
So do I recommend getting a Brazilian Blowout? You betcha!
Bring on 3 months just below the equator in Cambodia! My hair can take it!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Survived the Girls Camp Heat Wave of 2011


I'm back from the Great Girls Camp Heat Wave of 2011. We had a wonderful time. We saw insanely hot temperatures (105 degrees with 100% humidity anyone?!), loved our girls, stayed in tents, cooked over fires, and nearly melted, but we had a great time!

I could tell you 5,000 cute stories about how awesome our girls are, or just how hot the weather was, but I can't! I'm leaving in just a few minutes for the airport (4 hrs away) to pick up "Little!" And I am so excited I can't even sleep!! I've got a crazy fun trip planned for us, and I can't wait to grab her and hug her at the airport! It's going to be great!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hi and Goodbye



My week in a blurb- work, work, work, house hunt, almost moved, lake day, wake/viewing, funeral, family, prep and pack for camp, visit with family, look for more houses, pack for camp again, dog to the emergency hospital, and some other stuff I don't remember now.
In short, it has been a week!
Tomorrow morning I load up the car with gear and girls and take off for a week to girls camp. I loved girls camp when I was a teen, and I've loved it just as much getting to go back as a "grown up" leader. The blog will be appropriately neglected while I'm off in the woods.
Now for the "deep dive" into the week-
My great-aunt passed away on Tuesday. I had been a caregiver to her several times over the last few months. It was hard to say goodbye, but a joy to see her released from the pain. Her final days and hours reminded us of how close heaven really is to us.
Her funeral was just a big, fun, loud family reunion- just the way she would have liked it. It was fun to see so many cousins all at once.
One of the last things she said to me was, "When are you going to find a nice young man to marry?" I told her I was wondering the same thing myself. She promised me that she would keep her eye out for me. Let's see what kind of magic she can work from the other side!
In other events, I came very close to moving into my own place this week. We got as close as putting the first few boxes in the car, when I suddenly got the worst case of cold feet I've ever had. I backed out of it and haven't regretted it for a minute.
All of the above in their own special way lead to another major change in my near future. I've changed my Cambodia plans big time! I'm still going, but I've had to delay my trip a few weeks. More on that crazy development when the details are official.
Last but not least, my big fat doggy ate a bottle of pills this afternoon. As a result she's at the emergency vet's tonight, trying to bankrupt me. Hopefully, God willing, all will be well with her in the morning, and she can come home. I'm terrified she won't be better and I'll have to board her while I'm away at camp. I refuse to think about the worst case scenario!! Pray that the big fat doggy will puke up the pills and this nightmare can end!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brazilian Blowout Before and After


Here goes nothing!
The truth about my hair!
The truth is I have very wavy, almost curly, thick, and hard to manage hair. I have to spend way more time than is reasonable on my hair to only manage to make it look like I don't spend much time on my hair. It takes me a good  thirty minutes to blow dry my hair, using "silky serum," a round brush, and a paddle brush to make it almost, nearly lay down flat.
Leave it naturally curly you say?
I wish! Sadly it turns out more like a fluffyfrizzbobob, which is totally a real word.
Here's the proof-
Natural, air dried hair. 

Not so pretty.
But sometimes, maybe, after hours of scrunching, product, gently combing, and then more scrunching and product, I can get a few minutes of nice curls out of it.
What's worse, is what it looks like if I try to blow dry it without all the tools of the trade-
Have I mentioned I have more hair than a woolly mammoth? It's true, I do.

So when I started hearing about the virtues of a "brazilian blowout" or "brazilian keratin treatment" I became interested. My only regret? Not doing it a year ago when my cousin first told me about them!

A brazilian blowout is nothing like getting your hair straightened. It isn't some awful chemical treatment that straightens your hair. Instead, it is a massive protein infusion into your hair. It can be an extremely expensive procedure at a salon. Here in my fairly inexpensive small town it is about $250-$350 to have done.

I don't have that kind of money.

So I turned to the interwebz, YouTube, and then Amazon, to see if I could do this at home and save a lot of money. After a great deal of research, I found CoCo's Brazilian Hair Keratin Treatment Kit
 on both Amazon and YouTube. Before buying it I went to a local salon and asked if they thought it could be done at home. I found out that this is the brand they would have used and charged me roughly $350 to do (I get the most expensive price thanks to my extra long, thick, and copious amounts of hair). And they fully admitted it is easy to apply at home and even suggested I save the money and do it myself. The price online? (the product linked above and way below) $69!


So I did it. Well, really, my mother did it. 
The instructions implied it would take 2-3 hours to do. Maybe it was our novice, amateur status, or my ridiculous amount of hair, or just painstaking caution on my mother's part. But it took us closer to 4 hours to do. 
The process- 
1. Wash hair with special clarifying shampoo. (Does this stuff make a difference? Absolutely. My hair felt very different after using it. Not its usual texture at all.)
2. Dry hair to 80%. (Used blow dryer to do this, took a good 30 minutes in this humidity to dry.)
3. Apply keratin using little paint brush thingy. (Did not come with the kit. Purchased at Sally's for about $0.99.) This took us a full hour to do. 
Important note- many of the different "brazilian blowout" brands will have a horrific smell. Many will even say you need to ventilate well. One of the salons here in my town will even make sure no pregnant women will be in salon at same time, and will turn on fans it smells so bad. The Coco's brand smells like chocolate, and smelled good actually. I was quite hungry by the end. 
4. Blow dry hair out to about 90%. To save my life I couldn't get my hair actually dry with all that keratin in it! I tried blowing it out for a good 45 minutes before giving up and going to step 5.
5. With the hair dry but still laden down, use a 450 degree flat iron. (I checked my iron before we started and discovered mine only went up to 350, so I bought a $20 one (on sale from $69) at Sally's. I still saved money over paying a salon.) Flat iron hair, piece by tiny piece, about 10 times on each piece. Steam will come off hair the entire time. This step took us a good 2 hours. We were very tired by the end. 
My hair immediately after flat ironing it with the keratin in it. As you can see, it looked fine for going out in public.
6. Ta da! That's it! The end! 
7. Sort of. You actually now leave your hair just like that (in my case feeling a little bit like I had used way too much hair serum) for 48 hours before washing it. (Note to self- next time don't do this over the hottest 2 days of the summer.) Also,  no pinning hair up or using a rubber band during this time. It will leave a crease in your hair if you do!
8. From here on out use only sulfate free hair products (including shampoo and conditioner) to preserve the life of the blowout. 


So the big reveal! What does my hair look like now?
This is my hair after washing it (finally) today, and blow drying it without a hair brush. JUST my fingers! (full disclosure, I did run a brush over it once after drying it)




It took me about 5 minutes tops to dry it with the blow dryer. To make it look like this before would have taken me an hour of blowing it out with a round brush or paddle brush, plus another 30-45 mins with a flat iron. Seriously- 5 minutes. 
And it feels super silky and nice. I can't stop playing with my hair right now. I'm in love with it! It is bouncy, silky, flowy, and gorgeous (even if I do say so myself.). And it looks like this on a miserably hot and humid day. It is unbelievable!
Before and after pictures-
On the top, what my hair looks like hand blow dried before, on the left, my hair hand blow dried after. 
brazilian blow out before and after



























YOU CAN BUY IT ON AMAZON FOR $59 HERE. 
*updated May 17, 2017* I've now purchased this twice a year for 6 years. Still works. Still love it!*


Would I recommend this product to anyone? Absolutely!!

For those wondering how long this will last, the answer is still up in the air! In theory, according to the product, it will last 3-4 months! Considering my upcoming trips to Girls Camp and then Cambodia, I will just be happy if it lasts through the end of August. Anything beyond that will be icing on the cake. 
Tomorrow I will be going to the lake all day with the youth. I'm looking forward to seeing how well my hair holds up. Normally a beach or lake trip would mean having to put my hair in braids to keep it from becoming a tangled mess all day. (I do not come up out of the water looking like this!) I'll report back in and let you know what happens.


Truly all-natural me - just the way I prefer it! No makeup, no hair fuss, no nothing, just a bad tan line!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm not childless, I'm childfull. I'm not a mother, but I am maternal.

To all my single girlfriends, who know the pain of wanting to be a wife and mother, but life has not brought that path, I share with you this beautifully written article-
"The Truth About Childless Women" by Melanie Notkin on HuffingtonPost.com.
She puts into words feelings I often wish I could share!

Dog Days of Summer


I have been replaced as my dog's best friend by a monkey. She found the stuffed toy a few weeks ago and hasn't left it alone since. Including carrying it to my bed and getting caught snuggling with it (more than once).

In other news...
I had a great time at the singles conference in DC this weekend. Somehow I managed to only take one picture the whole weekend-

Can you read what the woman wrote on her fan? It says, "No Photo Authorizations Ever!" She had it written on 2 fans and kept them on either side of her face the whole time. I found this bizarre for a while, and then her identical twin sister came in, dressed exactly the same, sat next to her, and held her own warning signs up as well. I just regret not taking a picture of both of them together.

But back to the conference.
It was a lot of fun and very well-planned. There were around 5 or 6 girls for every guy. Great odds for the guys, not so much for the girls. But the singles program in the LDS Church is much more than a dating service (click the link for my Meridian Magazine column on that subject). It is meant to serve the spiritual needs of the singles as well. And for me that means the opportunity to be around other like-minded individuals who are in similar walks of life.

I loved being back around DC where it is normal to hear people talking about their upcoming moves to Baghdad and Jerusalem, a trip to China, or talking about a business trip to Egypt. And everybody has an interesting job. I miss such "normal" behavior!

I admit I did meet a few interesting guys. And I met a few TOO interesting guys, if you know what I mean. I met several lovely ladies for potential friendships as well.

All in all, a great weekend. I did bring home a little memoir of the trip as well- a yucky nasty cough. I lost my voice somewhere along the way as well. Let's hope I find it before I go off to Girls Camp next week!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's big "Brazilian Blow Out Reveal!"

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Up, up and away!


It all starts tomorrow.
I'm headed up to DC for a singles conference, that is coming at just the right time.
My social life in Roanoke is killing me. Or should I say the lack of a social life is killing me?
I am really looking forward to this weekend.
I'm really starting to realize now how singles in bigger cities with all of the nice amenities and services (like functioning singles programs, restaurants, and just other singles really) just don't know how great they have it, and why they don't take better advantage of things like conferences. (I really do get it- I used to be one of them.)
For me this is a big deal. It is my first time since February or March to get to hang out with other singles. You can't begin to imagine how excited I am to just be around other singles for a few hours, let alone two whole days.
It breaks my heart a little bit that 4 of the 6 friends in DC I contacted to see if they would be there all said no, they were going out of town. But I get it. This isn't a big deal for them. They get this sort of thing all the time.
But it is a life preserver for me!

After the singles conference I'll be coming home to hit the ground running. We've got-
Lake Day with the youth. (Water skis, boats, jet skis, and lots of fun shall be had!)
Vaccines for Cambodia.
Harry Potter time! (this requires watching all of the movies in rapid succession before going to the final premier)
Girls Camp for a week.
There will be less than 24 hours to recover from that before I take off for the highlight of the summer- LITTLE IS COMING!!
I can't wait! Kiddo is going to be here for 10 whole days! Just me and her! And I've got tons of crazies planned for us. (You can expect lots of pictures and stories I am sure!)
I put her back on the plane on Friday, I have secret plans for Saturday, sleep Sunday, and leave for Cambodia on Monday.
Crazy enough for you? No, don't worry. I've got more small things crammed in to the next 30 days as well.
Stay tuned for more.
In the meantime, I'm going to get some sleep tonight. It may be the last sleep I get for the next month!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness


Lately I have become increasingly interested in learning more about breast cancer prevention and awareness. My interest in learning more about breast cancer prevention came from a big scare back in January and February. I was in the midst of getting my PC physical, which included a breast exam, when the doctor became concerned about a lump, and ordered more tests. The lump turned out to be nothing more than simple cysts on each side, and nothing to worry about. But the doctor did take the opportunity to give me some scary facts. Because of family history and genes, my biological sister and I have an 85% higher chance of getting breast cancer. (Which is NOT the same as saying we have an 85% chance of getting it.)
The National Cancer Institute estimates that 13.4 percent of women born today (1 in 7) will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives. An estimated risk represents the average risk for all women in the United States as a group. This estimate does not indicate the risk for an individual woman because of individual differences in age, family history, reproductive history, race/ethnicity, and other factors.
Learning this scary statistic has lead me to making a few changes in hopes that I'm doing what can be done to prevent getting breast cancer. For instance, lower fat foods, increased exercise, and using any product that has the little pink ribbon on it, as compared to a similar product without it. I've even donated to a nonprofit helping to fund cancer research.
I recently discovered the Breast Cancer Site. Two awesome things happen on this site. One is that you can do daily and click the big button, and another sponsor donation is made to fund mammograms! The second thing is that you can shop on their site, and every time you make a purchase, another donation is made [by sponsors]! As someone who is self-employed, and therefore cannot afford health insurance, but really should be getting mammograms, this is a very important cause to me! (Did you know women under 40 cannot qualify for a free mammogram? In spite of my high risk, I can't get a free test for 4 more years!)
How easy is that? Click a button, someone else make a donation, you get the warm fuzzy, and help save lives.
So just to make it all that much easier for you to help save the world with just a click of a button, I've brought the button to you!


Click it (daily preferably), go to their site, and click the big CLICK HERE button!

And I just found out that my awesome friend Lindsey at the r house makes a really sweet necklace for cancer survivors!
FAITH COURAGE LOVE Necklace by therhouse http://t.co/LHdKTab



Isn't it just wonderful? 

Making a few changes


The big Peace Corps delay has given me the freedom to make a few changes in my day to day life that I wouldn't have made if I was leaving the country for 2 years in September. Conveniently the big delay also coincided with making some extra money. As a result I've found myself buying new clothes (which I hadn't done in about 18 months), getting new contacts (the PC encourages volunteers to wear glasses instead), investing in a new diet program (not really PC related, but more because I spent all of May in bed with pneumonia and gained a few pounds), and just spending money without worrying as much as before.
I'm still completely disappointed about the PC delay, but I did get news yesterday that my medical file is being reviewed finally! This was a huge surprise since the letter regarding the delay made it clear I wasn't going to get reviewed for several more months (putting me at risk of my medical file expiring, and having to do it all over again). Hopefully this is a good turn of events!
I've been buying new books and reading a lot lately too.
On my list-
















 (Debt Cures is awesome, by the way. I bought it a year ago, put the principles into practice, and in spite of being unemployed for the past year, I am now out of all debt, except my student loans. And I'm well on my way to knocking those out soon too!)









I'm reading a few others as well, like the People Code and No One Can Take Your Place. Are you noticing a lack of fiction on that list? Me too! If you have any great fiction recommendations, send them on over! And if you are a Nook user, add me as a friend!! Let's use "Lend Me!"

I have two more "changes" coming soon as well. (Where is that blog hater who likes to criticize me for claiming to be all humanitarian and vain at the same time? S/He is going to love this!) I'm getting my teeth whitened (thanks to the awesome CityDeals discount), and I'm seriously considering getting a Brazilian Blow Out. Never heard of it? Well, here's a video to explain it-


(Warning, watching these videos becomes addictive as you can't stop looking at the before and after pictures.)

Brazilian Blow Outs or Brazilian Keratin Treatments as they are also known, can be really expensive. The cheapest salon in my cheap town does them starting at $200 for short hair. I have long thick hair, so they quoted me $300! I may be spending a little more than usual right now, but I'm not that crazy. So I'm going to let my mom do it for me (and I will be doing her hair as well!)!! I found that you can buy one of the best brands fairly cheap (comparatively) on Amazon for $69. I'm buying this one (seriously- using the link I'm posting here), and we'll see what happens.













My need for a brazilian blow out extends a little beyond vanity and also into convenience. I'm about to go to Girls Camp for 5 days, and then to Cambodia for a month. The thought of trying to control my barely manageable hair at both events is depressing. No one, and I do mean no one, has ever seen my natural hair. First, I've been coloring it for 20 years, so there's that. Second, my hair isn't curly with cute curls. It is thick, super wavy, and there's way too much of it! It takes me a good 45 minutes to wash and dry my hair, let alone actually style it daily. Maybe I'll do some before and after pictures to show you what I'm up against!
(Here's another brazilian video, but with a blond girl with hair sort of like mine - http://youtu.be/2TNCYSkipwA).

So that's what's going on around here. I'm just making a few personal changes! Teeth, hair, personal improvements, dieting, etc. It feels good!

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