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Sam Dobson Writes: May 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Uphill Battle To Our First Home

After three months of stressing, nail-biting, and resisting the urge to rip out chunks of my hair, Blake and I have finally closed on our very first home. That wasn't a typo; it took three very long months as opposed to the typical thirty days. It has been quite the emotional roller-coaster; every time we felt ourselves flying high with joy, some sort of obstacle was there to yank us back down at blood-curdling speed. This journey hasn't been easy.

Word to the wise for prospective first time home buyers: if the house in question is being occupied by tenants, think twice before moving forward. As you may have guessed from my ominous warning, our house was occupied by tenants and despite being given a thirty day notice, it took over two months to get them out. A few weeks into escrow we discovered these were no ordinary tenants, they were federally subsidized tenants with more reasons to stay than leave. Any sane buyer would have seriously considered backing out, but we had already fell in love with what this house could be and would be once it was ours. 

Despite the tenants and the many hoops our lender made us jump through, we stuck it out. It still feels a little hard to believe that after all the stress and hassle we finally have our home. It was 100% worth it and even though I screamed, cried, and threw myself on the floor in a fit of rage like a two year old, I wouldn't change the experience. During the whole home-buying ordeal, I found myself envious of those who breeze through the whole process without a hitch. Sure, that would have made life a little easier but our struggles didn't change the outcome. We are first time homeowners in Southern Orange County. Woo-frickin-hoo!

With every piece of this process throwing unexpected curve balls at us, the experience has been like a three month long lesson in patience. On our expected date of close, we headed to our new home with paint supplies in hand, confident that nothing more could go wrong. Only seconds away from our new front door, the phone rang with more bad news. A mess up with the title delayed us yet another day. Feeling the frustration boiling up, one of Blake's aunts reminded us that things were not as crappy as they momentarily seemed. "You have your health and tomorrow you will have your home", she said and she was right.

The point of this little story is that not everything worth having comes easy. I know, that's a cliche quote that has sort of lost its meaning. But once you have to truly work for something you really want, when your blood, sweat, and tears are literally poured into a goal, that meaningless cliche takes on a new life. As I said, it was all worth it in the end. Had we backed out as we had been tempted to at times, we would have still suffered through most of these obstacles but without the payoff. The void would be filled with regret and an unshakable feeling of failure.

Of course, that's not what happened. Instead of quitting, we stuck it out and in the end we got our house. We owe a great deal of gratitude to our rock star real estate agents (one of whom is another one of Blake's aunts) and mortgage team for helping us push forward even when we thought about giving up, to my mother for helping to keep me sane every time I felt like I was loosing it, and to Blake's mom for taking us and our pack of dogs in. Now that we have done what seemed like the impossible, it's time to get to work. With some paint, new flooring, and a bit of TLC, our little condo will truly be our home.  If this isn't something to celebrate on Champagne Friday, I don't know what is. Cheers to making shit happen.

First Home
How else would we celebrate?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bride & Groom Gifts: A Wedding Day Essential

This past weekend my hubby and I attended a beautiful spring wedding. I had the honor of standing by my best friend's side while she married the man she loves. The bride looked fit for a magazine, the ceremony was lovely, and it was all topped off with nonstop dancing. It was a perfect wedding, down to every last detail and special moment. One of the best parts of being a bridesmaid was getting to see many of those little happy, loving moments that many guests don't get to see.

One of the sweetest wedding day moments leading up to "I do" is the bride and groom gift exchange. The "getting ready" part of the big day can be long and drawn out, especially when you can't or aren't supposed to communicate with your significant other. The bride and groom gift exchange is the perfect opportunity for the couple to show each other love and encouragement for that next big step. I love when couples say "no gifts" but both partners ignore the agreement. I got to watch my best friend gasp in surprise as she opened a beautiful gift from her groom, delivered by her new sister-in-law. Seeing her face light up as she gushed about how it was the perfect gift, it was an amazing moment,.

My friend's priceless wedding day moment reminded me of when I received my wedding day gift from Blake. It was one of my top three favorite moments from our wedding. After I put on my dress, a few of Blake's groomsmen brought me an interesting looking package. I was shocked when I ripped open the wrapping to find a vintage typewriter with a note from my groom. It was at that moment that all my nerves subsided. I realized that he knew me even better than I thought he did and I knew without a doubt that he was the right one.

Bride and Groom Gifts
Photo Cred: Mel & Tim Photography

My wedding gift to Blake wasn't as awesome but I thought it was still pretty heart-felt and creative. I started a sort of journal the day after he proposed. Every day I wrote down one reason why I wanted to marry him. By the time the big day arrived, I entrusted my niece to deliver a full journal with hundreds of reasons why I wanted to marry Blake. I included little mementos like movie stubs, airplane tickets from our trip to Costa Rica for another friend's wedding, and a champagne label from the night of our engagement. I thought it was a pretty unique gift.

Bride and Groom Gifts
Photo Cred: Mel & Tim Photography

It doesn't matter what you choose to give, as long as it comes from the heart. Be it diamonds or paper, your bride or groom will cherish the thoughtfulness. The gesture will ease nerves, fill them up with confidence, and serve as a tiny reminder (though hopefully an unneeded reminder) of why they are marrying you. Bottom line, don't skip this step, even if you aren't having a traditional wedding. Whether you are simply heading to the courthouse or having a destination wedding, exchange wedding day gifts with your future spouse before you say your vows. You won't regret it. 

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Animal Bloodmobile

The amazing thing about kindness and charity is that it comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Every time I hear about some new and innovative way that people are doing good in the world, I get excited and a little jealous. Why didn't I think of that? I stumbled upon yet another unique, great way to help dogs in need.

You know those mobile blood banks that visit college campuses and other public venues? Well, have you ever thought of a mobile dog blood bank? Neither did I, but low and behold, it exists! The Animal Bloodmobile, funded by University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, travels all over Philadelphia to collect the life-saving fluid. One of a kind, The Animal Bloodmobile is an essential asset in the fight to save animal lives after suffering trauma like being hit by a car or to assist in the fight against cancer or diseases.

Just as humans have to meet certain requirements before donating blood, so do dogs. To give blood, dogs must weigh at least 55 pounds, be younger than 8 years old, and have a certain type of blood. After donating, dogs get a treat for their charity and their human owners get a free bag of dog food. It's a neat way to get dog owners to aide in the recovery of dogs in need. Who would have thought? Wish I had. 

Click HERE to watch a short clip about The Animal Bloodmobile. 


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Favorite Banned Books

With the ups and downs of censorship over time, books have persevered although not completely unscathed. Many literary pieces that may have been regarded as controversial, defiant, or too radical have fallen victim to banishment at some point in time. With the luxury of "freedom of speech", we no longer come across this harsh punishment very often. In honor of the novels that have previously been branded profanity or burned at the stake, I want to acknowledge their strength. Here is a list of my favorite banned books. If you see an unfamiliar book cover, you should read it, after all, it was banned for a reason.

1.   The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

         Shortly after its publication in America in February 1885, many libraries banned Twain's novel 
         based on the opinion that it was obscene and had poor word choice. Now, Twain's famous         
         novel is taught in just about every high school English class and is one of the most well known novels 
         of all time.

2.   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

First banned in Ireland in 1932 for language and being anti-family and religion, Huxley's novel has suffered it's fair share of banishments. The book was banned in India in 1967 with accusations of pornography and there was an attempt to ban it in California in 1993 because the book contained too much negativity. Now, Huxley's novel is widely taught in schools, especially in college courses where great attention is paid to the novel's negative utopia and its affect on society.

3.   Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Published in 1939, Grapes of Wrath has been described as the most thoroughly discussed novel of the 20th century, due in part to controversy. Steinbeck's novel was banned, burned, and debated on national radio at the time of its publication. A vivid portrayal of a poor family during the Great Depression, the book has been criticized for vulgar language, inappropriate sexual references, and political propaganda.  Not only a widely taught novel, Grapes of Wrath went on to win a Pulitzer Price for fiction.

4.   Ulysses by James Joyce
A series published between 1914 to 1921, Joyce's epic novel gained negative attention when prosecuted for obscenity in the United States when a passage of the novel containing the main character masturbating was published in 1920. In 1933, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the novel was not pornographic and therefore, not obscene. The novel in its entirety was banned until the 1930s in the United Kingdom. While often regarded as a challenging read, Ulysses is often praised as an innovative and important piece of literature. Joyce fans around the world now celebrate Bloom's Day (named after Leopold Bloom, the novel's everyday hero) on June 16th.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Party Theme: Lip Sync Battle

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. My weekend consisted of a rescue event, some yoga, and funny videos on YouTube. As I stumbled through a plethora of cute animal videos and such, I came across some hilarious clips from Jimmy Fallon's new show. With some outgoing guests, Jimmy engages in a lip sync battle. What ensues is pretty hilarious, especially when you have petite, delicate, Emma Stone lip-sync rapping "All I Do Is Win" by DJ Khaled.

These epic battles gave me a great idea for a party theme. I have always been a shower singer and have sung my way through many long distance car rides. It's not very pretty, but it is fun. Naturally, karaoke always seems like a good idea to me. I've attempted one karaoke themed birthday party and have unsuccessfully tried to initiate song-singing fun on multiple occasions. It's all to no avail. Aside from one group performance by me and my besties, no one takes the stage.

Jimmy Fallon has graciously and unknowingly given me the solution to my problem. Instead of attempting another pitiful karaoke party where no one has the guts to get up and sing, I'll throw a lip sync battle instead. It's the perfect for solution for people who love to sing but rather not do so in public. You get to act like a rock star without hurting anyone's ears.

Send out invitations or an email invitation letting your guests in on the plan. Tell them to think long and hard about which song they will perform. Each guest will perform a section of a song (more than one song if the crowd is on the smaller side). Pick three guests who may not want to perform and make them judges. Provide the judges with scorecards and let the fun begin. Of course, drinks and appetizers are a must. If your guests show some apprehension or pre-party jitters, send them this video of Emma Roberts and Jimmy Fallon lip sync battling on The Tonight Show. If Emma can rock it, so can you.

I can't wait to throw a lip sync battle of my own. That's right girls, you have this to look forward to in your future!

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