Monday, February 28, 2011

Helping Hearts in America

I am so excited an honored to be featured on my school, the University of Maryland's, School of Arts and Humanities website! Read the article to learn more about my work with the American Heart Association (AHA), the reasons that I am passionate about promoting heart health, how winning the title Miss Teen International has helped me in my efforts to promote the AHA and heart health, and, finally, my tips for teens and young adults who want to promote a cause that they are passionate about. Happy Heart Month!

Juliana McKee

Sunday, February 27, 2011

DC Fashion Week Kick-Off Party & Fashion Show

I was privileged to be able to attend the DC Fashion Week Kick-Off Party & Fashion Show in the heart of DC! There was lots of mingling before the show started, & once it did there were cameras flashing everywhere! The girls were modeling statement jewelry, handbags that are handmade in Africa, and some fabulous evening gowns.

I was able to meet another pageant winner, lots of media, as well as some of the models from the show (one who I believe will join us as a Mrs. Contestant!).

It was a wonderful start to DC Fashion Week! I hope I’m able to attend more of the events this week too & see what new fashion trends we can expect for Spring & Summer!

Ashley Smith

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NCFA is Now Blogging!

The National Council For Adoption is extremely excited to announce the launch of Chuck Johnson's (NCFA President & CEO) NEW BLOG   His first post entitled, “My Own Adoption Story,” is Chuck’s touching account of his own personal connection to adoption.  Here is Chuck's story....

Welcome to our new blog! I hope this will prove to be another valuable resource for birthparents, individuals who were adopted, adoptive families, adoption allies and all those interested in learning more about adoption. I welcome your ideas for topics of future postings, questions, and other newsworthy items you think should be posted here.

When I sat down to think about what I’d write about first, I thought of nothing better than to share my own personal adoption story, which is one of the reasons that I’ve dedicated my professional life to helping children find families through adoption.

And so, here it is: My adoption story…

I was probably around 10 or 11 years old--I don’t remember my exact age. My parents called a family meeting, and my dad, uncharacteristically nervous and fumbling for words, said that he had to tell us something very important. We had no idea what he was about to say, and couldn’t imagine anything--except the very worst news--could account for his behavior.

The tension in the room quickly lifted as my dad announced that he and my aunt had been adopted at the age of two by our grandparents. My sister and I, who had both been expecting something terrible, breathed a sigh of relief.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “Why did you have to scare us half to death?”
Dad, who we affectionately called “Cappy," explained that he and his sister were abandoned as children, and later adopted by the Johnson family. My father spoke of his love for his parents (he was so devoted to them). He went on to explain two reasons for not telling us sooner: First, because he loved his adoptive family and knew that they loved him, and that his adoption made no difference in how they felt about one another; and second, because he was a little ashamed over his adoption. He went on to explain that my cousins knew about the adoption, so he wanted to tell us before we heard it from them. Although neither he nor his parents thought his adoption should make a difference, it remained an issue for some. As a child he had been taunted for it by other children, and occasionally by other members of the extended family as well.

My father and my aunt grew up in the late 1920s and 1930s, when many people were not sympathetic towards single mothers or their children. Adoption was often seen as a way of “covering” for the “shame” of an unplanned, out of wedlock birth. Although my father and aunt were born to a married couple and subsequently adopted by a well-respected married couple, at that time many people did not understand enough about adoption to approve of it.

Since then, much has changed in our attitudes about adoption, and I’d like to think that the National Council For Adoption has played a role in some of those positive changes. Today, many more people understand that birthparents make a difficult, loving, and often self-sacrificial choice in order to ensure a bright future for their children. The best interests of children are kept at the forefront of all adoption counseling and decision-making. My son, who was adopted at age two just like my father, takes genuine pride in his adoption. Whether at school or in the neighborhood, he has found countless opportunities to share his adoption story without reservation with friends and strangers alike.

My father passed away two years ago, and one memory of him stands out clearly in my mind (I believe it illustrates just how far we’ve come in the past 80 years): I took my then 79-year old father to hear Michael Reagan, who was adopted by the late President Ronald Reagan, share his own adoption story. After the speech, my dad darted to the front of the room and waited in line to talk with Michael Reagan. My dad introduced himself to Mr. Reagan by saying, “I’m adopted, just like you...!” I smiled quietly, content in knowing that my dad had reached a place where he could be proud of his adoption story. After all, he had watched for decades as I worked hard on behalf of orphans, and he had a grandson and granddaughter join our family through adoption. (Photo, above: Me, Michael Reagan, Dad)

This year, NCFA is celebrating 31 years of helping children find permanent and loving families, affirming birthparents in their adoption decisions, and providing resources to adoptive families. We’ve helped shape the current culture of adoption in the United States. Our work is not complete until every child in this world has a loving, permanent family of their own.

Adoption is not simply my personal vocation: it is the thread that ties my family together. For me, adoption is love.

I encourage you to add Chuck’s blog to your RSS feed so that you can receive updates when he posts a new blog. Happy reading from your friends at NCFA! Also... "like" NCFA on Facebook & follow us on Twitter!
Shannon Devine

Friday, February 25, 2011

Princess Closet Fundraiser

In an earlier blog, I talked about the Princess Closet & what a wonderful organization it is! In case you missed that post, I’ll refresh your memory. Princess Closet is an organization that the International Pageant system works with to help underprivileged girls get FREE dresses to wear to their prom! Isn’t that amazing? Last year there were 3 Dream Day Events where the girls get to shop for their dress and over 250 girls went home with the dress of their dreams!

With the Owner of Princess Closet

Putting on events such as those cost money of course, so I flew to Chicago to support the first Princess Closet Fundraiser. It was such a wonderful event for prom goers – there were dresses available at a discount, jewelry vendors, flowers vendors, and anything else a prom goer would need in order to make their prom night perfect!

All of the Models

There was also a fashion show of some of the dresses that were available for purchase, & I got to be a part of it! I wasn’t able to get there in the morning because I was at the Children’s Memorial Hospital, but the other models got to get their hair and makeup done up for the event! Among those other models were Miss Teen Illinois International Brandy Sitar, Miss Illinois International Aubry Bozzano, and a former Miss Illinois International 2009 Christine Boll.

It was so great to meet these wonderful ladies and to be a part of this event!

Remember to bring dresses to donate when you get to Chicago!

Ashley Smith

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Theta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Celebrates 20 Years!

Keeping Heart Healthy…

20th year Anniversary

Theta Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi

The Theta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi at Appalachian State University is celebrating 20 years on March 19th in Blowing Rock, NC.

There will be an auction to raise money for the Alpha Phi Heart Foundation, and everyone will be dressed in RED! For more information contact Casey Roberts 828-778-9735.

I am THRILLED about this opportunity to spend time with my sisters and raise money for the Heart Foundation. Heart disease remains the #1 killer! Together, we can change the statistics! Together, we can help save lives! Know your numbers, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and live a stress free life (believe me, it’s a challenge! I’m working on this list but I need encouragement daily)…that’s why it’s crucial to “MAKE IT YOUR MISSION, tell 5 women you want them to live”. Learn more at

Until next post, remain blessed & HEART healthy!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Children's Memorial Hospital

While I was in Chicago recently, I got to visit Children’s Memorial Hospital. The hospital had advertised my appearance with flyers around the building, so there were so many children that were excited to meet a “princess!” How lucky am I??

I met a few children under 10 who came down from their rooms for pictures & autographs, but the majority of my time spent at the hospital was with teenagers!

The Brown Family Life Center has a whole room dedicated to Teens & the activities Teens enjoy – they call it the Teen Lounge. There are cabinets filled with craft projects to work on, a whole bookshelf of board games, books, a foosball table, darts, and even a jukebox! There are also all 3 of the popular gaming system (PS3, Xbox, Wii) so the children can feel at home!

I sat & chatted with some of the children as they worked on decorating masks! They had the option of leaving it in the lounge to put on display or taking it back to their room with them. One of the girls (who was 13, LOVED glitter, & reminded me so much of myself!) made one of the masks for me, complete with a crown! We decided to leave it in the Lounge to be on display!

Of course pictures are not allowed, but I did request that I be able to take of picture of the wonderful masterpiece my new friend had made! I had such a wonderful time with these children, and our contact at the hospital said the Teen Lounge has never been so full! I am so excited to be able to return in July when I am in Chicago again!

Ashley Smith

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Take Heart

It’s February and everywhere you look you are surrounded by vibrant shades of RED! It’s American Heart Month! I hope you are all thinking about heart health and “know your numbers”! I wanted to share with you the impact the Alpha Phi Foundation makes on heart health…and on women’s lives every day!

Alpha Phi Foundation empowers women to be generous givers. Alpha Phi’s raise and award funds for programs that advance leadership development, encourage academic excellence, improve women’s HEART health, support our sisters in need, and educate about the value of philanthropy. I'm thankful for my chapter at Appalachian State University (Theta Nu...and we're celebrating 20 years of service in 2011)!

As an Alpha Phi, I’m incredibly proud of our Foundation and the many lives touched on an annual basis! It truly goes "hand in hand" with the International Pageant Systems National Alliance with GO RED. Both organizations share the same fight the #1 killer in women. Through the support of Alpha Phi chapters and individual donors, we are sharing our mission on an International basis! Sound familiar? Each year in July, 50+ women from across the globe compete for the title of Mrs. International to share their mission/cause on an International level and promote heart health through the partnership with Go Red For Women.

Below is an example of how gifts from Alpha Phi sisters made an impact during 2010:

(From the Alpha Phi blog)

- 66 merit-based scholarships totaling nearly $135,000 were awarded.

- 51 Forget Me Not grants totaling over $80,000 were given to sisters in need.

- $50,000 Heart to Heart Grant awarded to the Oregon Health and Sciences University Foundation to help fund a landmark study researching women’s heart attack symptoms, and a $25,000 Heart to Heart Grant awarded to the Greater Boston American Heart Association’s women’s heart health outreach.

- 150 collegiate women attended ELI and our 10 ELCs traveled across North America developing our leaders and making our chapters stronger, sponsored by your gifts.

Alpha Phi Foundation makes a difference in women’s lives every day of the year! I'm incredibly blessed to be a part of a legacy (Alpha Phi International and International Pageants, Inc.) that continues to empower women, provide leadership opportunities and build character for a lifetime!

Make it your mission to fight heart disease! Tell 5 women you love that you want them to LIVE!



Friday, February 18, 2011

Jump Rope for Heart

Healthy lifestyles can help prevent heart disease and stroke. Eating healthy, nutritious foods, being physically active, staying tobacco-free, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure and weight are all part of a healthy lifestyle. Jump Rope For Heart helps get this message across to students.

Jump Rope For Heart promotes the value of physical activity to elementary schoolchildren while showing them they can contribute to their community's welfare. This is a time when children can establish the foundation for movement skills. These are also the years when positive learning experiences can help establish a positive attitude and appreciation for participating in regular, daily physical activity for life.

Jump Rope For Heart (JRFH) is a national fundraising program sponsored jointly by AAHPERD and AHA. JRFH is a valuable program that promotes physical activity, heart healthy living, and community service to children. JRFH is targeted at students in elementary schools, but anyone can hold a program at their school, child care center, community center, or anywhere!

The elementary school years encompass a time when children should establish a strong foundation for movement skills. These are also the years when positive learning experiences can help establish a positive attitude and appreciation for participating in regular, daily physical activity for life. The best reason of all to join this event is that kids love it!

I remember raising money from family and friends in the weeks leading up to Jump Rope for Heart when I was in elementary school and then getting to be a part of the fun on that special day; wearing my colorful “Jump Rope for Heart” t-shirt, getting prizes from the AHA, dancing and cheering along with classmates, and, of course, jumping rope!

On Valentines Day I got to relive those fun memories at Laytonsville Elementary School’s Jump Rope for Heart event! The students were energized and excited to jump rope, as well as to try to beat their fundraising record of over $9,000, which they raised last year. It was a great time!!!

Click here to read about children whose lives have been changed and, in some cases, saved by the money raised through Jump Rope for Heart events around the country!

Juliana McKee

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winning on a Budget: Entry Fees

Pageants can be an expensive hobby. There’s no getting around that fact. The entry fee alone to some pageants is over $600! But I don’t think anyone should be kept from competing because they don’t have tens of thousands of dollars that they have heard is “required” in order to do well. Now, I would like to say that I’m offering to pay for everyone’s entry fee!! But no. What I can offer are my tips & tricks to winning on a budget. If this is something you want, you can definitely do it!

Preparing for a pageant while on a budget is not easy. There is a lot of research & networking involved, but having those skills are important to being a beauty queen anyway, so really it’s just more practice!

I’ll start at the very beginning – entry fee. There is no way to skimp on this part, ladies. It is what it is. It costs money to put on a pageant (more than you might think!), & I know from directing experience. But lucky for us, there are people out there who can & want to help us!

Who are these people?? Start with people who need to get their name out there: boutiques, make-up artists, hair & nail salons, gown shops, tanning salon. Then think about the people in your community who know you & that you frequent: doctor, dentist, gas station (worked for me!), grocery store, pharmacy, mechanic, insurance agent, attorneys, service clubs, local newspaper, car dealership, pool company, etc. Anywhere that you have been & paid money for someone else’s services are usually good bets. And lastly, ask your family & friends. Not everyone or every business will be able to give, & that’s okay! But remember that even $20 helps!

If you ask these businesses in person, you are more likely to get a “yes” than if you just send them a form letter. Before you go, make sure you know what you will be using this money for (they will ask!), what they will receive in return for their sponsorship, and why you are competing for this pageant. Wear your crown & banner if you have them, dress professionally, and head on out!

This should be done as soon as you decide you want to compete for this pageant. Businesses and family members may need time to get their finances in order so they can come up with a proper amount that they can afford.

Once you get an “I would love to!” make sure you send a thank you note or autograph card for them to put up at their place of business. Good luck!!

Ashley Smith

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and as a Spokesperson for the AHA, I have been very busy. I started Heart Month off by working with the Ross “Dress for Less” Stores to fundraise for the AHA. I manned a booth and solicited donations from shoppers, as well as informing them about the most common warning signs of heart disease and stroke.

I made Valentine’s Day cards for female cardiac patients with a campus organization– it was a lot of fun!

I worked behind the scenes to help prepare for the Crystal Couture fashion show and fundraiser for the AHA. Not to mention, I secured an internship with the American Heart Association office where I now volunteer weekly by going to the AHA Greater Washington Region headquarters and acting as the right hand to the Director of Marketing and Communications.

Also on my calendar for this month is a visit to a DC based elementary school, where I will help facilitate their Jump Rope for Heart event. This is a big national fundraiser that is carried out through the elementary schools across the country. I will also be speaking to the children about my story and healthy eating habits.

This week I will be doing a “Go Red” presentation for my sorority pledge class (more on this later). I have red dress pins for each of them and they are going to help me with some of my fundraising and AHA events!

As the month winds down, it will be culminating with a workshop for girls competing in pageants including all the Miss Teen DC and Miss DC International contestants. I plan to share with them my mission with the AHA and hopefully groom some of them as potential future volunteers! The following day I will be helping with a Zumba dance fundraiser to benefit the American Heart Association- I can’t wait!

I am also going to also be featured on my school website for Heart month- I’ll blog about this later as well!

Last but not least, I will be volunteering at the largest AHA fundraiser of the year- The Heart Ball! I hope to be a red dress model again this year- it was such fun last year!!!

Juliana McKee

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pageant Tip for Nationals #2 – Paperwork

Your paperwork is the Judge’s first impression of you. It must be impeccable. As far as the application goes, it must be neatly typed and have correct spelling and grammar. I would recommend having someone else double check it so that you have a second set of eyes on it. Make certain that what is listed on the paperwork is consistent and accurate information and, most importantly, true. Questions from the Judges for your interview will come directly from what is on the application and platform sheets. Know the information inside out- never embellish- the Judges will see through it.

The platform sheet is very important. It is a way to introduce you and your platform to the Judges. You want to stand out. I recommend using Susan Botek of Bowtech Designs for your paperwork. I was thrilled with the beautiful platform sheet she created for me. You will have to provide your own photo (professional one please) as well as the text. If you have additional photos of you in action working your platform, you can supply these to Susan as well. She is a wonderful graphic designer and artist. Make sure NOT TO laminate your paperwork or to attach ribbons, pins or bows.

Do not wait until the last minute. Susan is highly sought after and she books up early. She can also design a beautiful ad for the program book and wonderful autograph cards, but again, plan to get her everything by the beginning of May at the latest to lock in your spot. I must say for the professional job that she does, we were pleasantly surprised by the reasonableness of her services.

Susan Botek can be reached via email at or via phone at (419) 244-1811.

Juliana McKee

Monday, February 14, 2011

National Wear Red Day - My Personal Story Shared

Five years ago, I found myself sitting in the Heart Center waiting room at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC with my best friend's family & loved ones. Just sitting & waiting for the phone to ring! It was one of the scariest days of my life. Worry and anxiety cannot begin to describe how frightened and shocked I felt on that day, January 17, 2006.

Was this really happening? HOW? WHY? How in the world can my best friend, my college roommate, the person I've shared every fear, trial, many laughs and in the world can this be happening. She's too young and she's perfectly healthy!

I had to come to terms quickly with the fact and harsh reality that just because someone's heart is made of GOLD, doesn't keep it free from heart disease!

That day changed not only Brandi Hoffman's life forever but my own! Talk about a wake up call! Thank God she noticed the subtle changes in her body that didn't seem "quite right". If she would have continued life as usual, she could have been 1 in 3...

My hope is you hear my story today! Please take my message and take action! Make it your mission to fight heart disease in women, women like my best friend, Brandi Hoffman.

Heart disease kills a woman every minute BUT there's hope!!! WE CAN do something to stop this! 80% of cardiac events in women may be prevented!

Just imagine if we all make it our personal mission to Stop the #1 killer. The fact that 90% of women have one or more risk factor and research proves women who GO RED are more likely to make healthy choices in their lives on a daily basis... Listen to these facts about women who have changed their life by GOing RED....1/3 have lost weight, 6 of 10 have changed their diets, and 50% report they have increased their exercise routine.

Minutes are passing...heart disease continues to take the lives of our best friends, our mothers, our daughters...there is NO time to spare! Make it your mission today! Tell 5 women you want them to live!

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women age 20 and over and takes more lives than the next 5 causes of death combined, including all cancers!

5 years ago was a dark day, but today, my best friend, Brandi is happy, healthy and spends her time educating youth! She loves her job and her students adore her. Her heart is still made of GOLD...but today it's healthy and that's what matters most! You can possess all of the gold in the world but it can't buy you time and sadly, it can't bring back loved ones who have lost their lives to this deadly disease.

Together we can STOP the #1 killer.


Tell 5 women you love you want them to live and lead by example.

*REPRESENT-register for movement
*GO RED- wear pin in support
*SHARE- your story, your experience. Speak up nationwide for women's heart health
*VOLUNTEER-find your local affiliate
*GIVE: Make a donation
*CHANGE: your lifestyle go red heart checkup
* a voice!!! Tell 5 today!

Shannon Devine

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Carolina International Pageants

The 2011 Carolina International Pageants Workshop was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Charlotte, NC on Jan 30th and I am SO appreciative that Joy and her queens invited me to be a special guest for the day!

The day started off with SHOPPING!!! At 10am vendors filled the halls with jewelry, handbags, cakes, wardrobe and more! If you came away without shopping…you deserve an award!!

It was such a treat seeing my Carolina sister queens who I truly adore. I have known sweet Cynthia for many years and I must say our friendship has grown so much since July 2010! I love her dearly and she will go down in history as AN AMAZING Mrs. NC International who has WORKED her cause daily….

Cynthia is also THE BEST Mary Poppins EVER! If you live around the Charlotte area, please get a copy of Little Ones Magazine. Halle-Grace & Mary Poppins are featured inside. The article is simply SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!

From Little Ones Magazine

Mrs. SC Intl. is my dancing queen and I wouldn’t have made it through the week without her at Nationals! She had me laughing the entire time! She is a delight and her VOICE continues to speak loudly for children who otherwise would not have a voice. Her work with CASA is admirable! The Teen & Miss Queens seem like they have matured 10 years since accepting their titles a year ago. After winning the title of Mrs. International last July, I traveled home to work for a few days, then back to Chicago to see the crowning of Miss/Miss Teen International. I will never forget the Carolina girls. They made me so proud! Each one represented the Carolinas with impeccable style and charisma!

More about the workshop:

Joy Pfister, the amazing leader and coach behind the Carolina International Pageants is a CLASS act in every way! I met Joy in 2008 in Chicago and immediately fell in love with her laugh, her fast talking (haha), her level of professionalism, and above all, the LOVE she had for the International Pageant! After competing and making the Top Ten in 2008, she has taken her experience and love for an amazing program and helps not 1 but 6 women get to Chicago each summer! She’s superwoman!

During the workshop, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about the International Pageant System, *Q and A Session with the titleholders *Expo SHOPPING at the Expo *Fashion Show Presentation

*Opening number wardrobe and a sneak peak of what they will perform for the audience on pageant night, presented by official choreographer *Makeup Seminar by Dana L Cosmetics *Stage and Interview Coaching *Walking and Presentation * Platform Development *Sponsorships…and much, much more!!!

If you are interested in becoming a Carolina International Queen, please contact Joy today!

Shannon Devine 

Friday, February 11, 2011

TET (Vietnamese New Year) 2011

This year TET fell on my birthday, February 3rd. As many of you know, I was the event emcee for National Wear Red Day in NYC. My plans were to fly home from New York on Friday night, sleep in my cozy bed, then drive to Winston Salem to celebrate TET with my family! WELL, the airlines had another plan…DELAY! Thank goodness I had my wonderful friend (hair/make up artist) Julie along for the ride! We made the best of the situation and had the best “girl time” ever! I truly needed every second. Even though I arrived home at 4am, I was grateful for a safe flight, the time to charge my camera battery, catch a cap nap, and GO again.

This picture says so MUCH. Just to give you a little background. When the government issued our RFE back in July, 2008, it said in layman’s terms, “unless you find a birth mother, you are not adopting your daughter”. That was basically the same form letter 44 other families received whose children were languishing in an orphanage in Northern Vietnam along with HG. We fought the fight for months. The lady in the photo with me is Meredith Lodge (you can call her Mer). She is Lulu’s mom. Mer & I found one another on the internet via a “TQ Vietnam” group and the rest is history! We found other moms and formed the “hot hens” support group as well (complete with feather boas…).

Mer & I will always have a very special bond. I will never forget that August night in 2008. I was only running off of water and a prayer (seriously). I would sit in the bed every night with my laptop, sometimes hitting the refresh button 2 hundred times…praying for a 1-600 approval. I knew in my heart it wasn’t coming, but I’ve never been one to give up! SO, with that being said, I was making alternate plans. You’ve heard the saying, “Love knows NO borders” and nothing could hold me back any longer. I had made up my mind to GO…GO to Vietnam and adopt Halle-Grace via Vietnamese law and wait it out! We knew the longest time would be 2 years. I had to do what I had to do…I needed my daughter just as much as she needed me. What I didn’t know…Mer was doing the same thing. She messaged me that night and said, “I think I may go”, my reply must have knocked her computer in the floor in Connecticut when I replied, OH, I AM GOING. I am waiting on my VISA and will be in Vietnam by the end of August….now the rest is history! Halle-Grace was adopted on September 1st 2008 and Lulu was adopted on September 15th, 2008. We were roommates in Vietnam. The girls have a bond that they will probably never truly understand…

Halle-Grace & Lulu, celebrating Tet 2011!

Maggie Quigley painted faces for everyone. She’s such a talented young lady!

Mary Quigley taught a Vietnamese cooking class. Notice, I am taking photos and Jason is participating in the class!

For Vietnamese Americans, like Halle-Grace, Tet is like lots of celebrations all rolled into one! It lasts for three days and comes sometime between January 21 and February 19. This holiday has been celebrated by Vietnamese people for over 4,000 years, and for Vietnamese Americans it is a time to learn about family history and the history of Vietnam. People clean and paint their homes, making everything spotless and new.

Peach blossoms are one symbol of Tet. They serve as a reminder of the New Year and the coming of spring. Red is the color for Tet. New Year's wishes are written in black on red paper scrolls which are hung in the living room and over the front door. Paying back debts before Tet begins is customary. Arguments are avoided and mistakes forgiven. This signifies a new beginning.

Children receive gifts of money which come in small red envelopes. Other Tet gifts may be clothes. flowers and toys. A favorite New Year's food is the sticky rice cake called banh chung which must be cooked for at least eight hours. They are cooked shaped in a square pan because in ancient times the earth was thought to be square. Favorite foods are pickled radishes, peppers and other vegetables.

During Tet everyone visits family and friends. It is believed that the first visitor of the new year brings good luck or bad luck with them. To make sure their luck is good, the families often invite someone important or well liked to be their first visitor. Therefore, it's an honor to be asked to be the first visitor in someone’s home.

Like the Chinese, dragons are important to the Vietnamese people. They are often called the "Children of the Dragon." One legend says that dragons roam the earth during Tet. Another legend tells the story of a dragon and a fairy princess who fell in love. After they married the princess delivered 100 eggs which later became 100 children. The children were said to be as brave as the dragon and as kind and beautiful as the princess. According to this legend the 100 children grew up and became the ancestors of the Vietnamese people.  This was a special treat for everyone. The music was REALLY loud and HG froze though most of the 25 minute production, however, it was really neat…even when the dragon was spitting lettuce!!!

This blogger describes the Dragon/Lion Dance well.

HG found a stage and a mic stand; she was ready to sing along with the dragon dance!

Lulu is not very sure of this production…

Halle-Grace & Lulu Belle

The children participated in special arts & crafts.

The children had so much fun…and guess who found ANOTHER boyfriend?

Lulu Belle

This is beautiful Kate. She was also a TQ beauty! Her mom, Amanda, is a hot hen!

My friend Heidi (a member of the hot hens) with her angel Quynh!

Tet 2011 was an AMAZING celebration. If you notice, Halle-Grace did not want to wear her traditional Vietnamese dress. She’s 3 going on 13 with a mind of her own…and the fact that I had 2 hours of sleep, I didn’t press the issue!

Being Mrs. International is truly amazing. It has opened doors of endless opportunities and allows me to continue sharing my message of hope through the miracle of adoption every day. Tet 2011 was a homecoming/reunion for so many of the TQ families. It was so wonderful seeing you all and seeing your amazing miracles growing and thriving! I pray to see you all again next year!

Stay tuned…National Wear Red Day blog is coming. After the Tet Celebration, I had to repack and fly out to Orlando for my National Sales Meeting for work…so; I promise it’s coming soon.

Shannon Devine