One of the first team events I ever did with the Denver Nuggets Dancers was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, back in 2000! The alumni coordinators invited all the alumni back to participate again this year. I love these ladies. What a great group of women. I was so happy to meet up with them and wish them well on their race. However, I choose not to participate because I do not donate to Susan G. Komen. I believe our donation dollars have power and we need to put them behind organizations doing the most good. I do not feel the use of donations or the salary structure of the Susan G. Komen organization is a good use of my donation, and I feel that directing that money to better organizations can send a message that we demand better accountability.
Where ever you put your money, make sure it reflects your own ethics and goals. Each dollar is like a vote of confidence. We have the power to shape our society by where we choose to spend our consumer dollars.
A lifelong goal of mine is to create a “Cruelty Free” label for meat and animal products, so that our consumer dollars can change the marketplace towards a kinder, more humane process. I believe the only way to change an industry is through buying power and if we can create enough of a financial motivation for things to change, they will.
Be smart with your money, but no matter how I feel about this particular organization- I support the survivors and the families affected by breast cancer. You are all working for the good and I applaud you!
Along with Racing for Paws, I spent the day accepting donations of items and raising money and awareness for Longmont Humane Society. Any event with shelter animals is right up my alley, but this was a special one because I was helping my friend’s organization, Racing for Paws. My sweet sister queen, Jamie Klenin, along with her race car driving husband, started Racing for Paws to help rescue animals. She works so tirelessly to help, I was just thrilled to help in any way I could.
What was great about this shelter (besides the fact is has been remodeled and is just amazing), is how much they work to end breed discrimination. There are signs everywhere about how unreliable visual id is for identifying a dogs breed, especially bully breeds as those tend to describe common features rather than a lineage. As a bully breed advocate, I love seeing the science behind the message. They did experiments with visual id followed up by DNA testing, and bully breeds were by far the most inaccurate. Just remember, when adopting a dog, look for temperament and other personality factors that fit your family. Not simply head shape.
I also noticed there was a conference room at the shelter and now I am hoping to host my book fundraiser at a local humane society so that the funds go back to the cause I am promoting! That event will be coming in January. Stay tuned!
On a day I happened to be struggling myself, I was given the opportunity to help others suffering. The best way to help ourselves is to help others, and this event gave me a greater purpose and got me out of my own head. I met a woman named Connie who’s young daughter had committed suicide after relentless bullying from her peers. Heartbreaking to imagine this young life ended over the carelessness of others.
I gave a quick speech about reaching out to those in need, checking in on friends and sharing positive energy, but the real gift I received from the event was connecting with Connie. I will be joining her suicide and bullying prevention in Pueblo later this year and also speaking to her group of girls about body image and self esteem. She and her family are doing amazing work and I am so honored to be helping them. Her husband just so happens to run some ComiCons, as well, which made my Spidey Senses tingle! I see us having a long road ahead of us, but now I can offer them my support.
You just never know who you’re going to meet and how they will change your world completely.
Not an official appearance, but I got to meet some women who will be competing for Mrs. Colorado next year and even witness a friend of mine receive her city title sash!
The reason I am writing about this event is darker. I have suffered from depression since I was 16. Mostly it is situational (emotional reaction to life events) or nutritional (I have to avoid grains and limit sugar to stay even keel). After every competition, every woman, and I have yet to find an exception, binges. We eat the foods we couldn’t during training. It is darn near unavoidable. It’s practically required. However, when I eat my comfort foods (pizza and frozen yogurt, thank you for asking), they are usually at a time I am experiencing emotion stress as well. These combine to a double punch to the gut (pun unintended) and generally lead to some tough battles with anxiety and depression. I feel stuck in the mud. Getting myself to my scheduled events or even just out of the house can prove extremely difficult. While I am getting back on track, there are good days and bad. When I start feeling better, I schedule things. However, the good days aren’t always on the days for which I have planned outings. Those are the worst days because when I can’t get to class or have to bail on plans, I feel worse.
This day was one of those days. I was struggling. I did not think I would make this event. It was actually painful getting myself out of the house. But with encouragement from the Mrs. Colorado director, I forced myself to go. I sat and visited with old friends, made new ones and felt normal. Having a network of support is important for everyone, but it is vital for those of us who struggle with depression. The Mrs. Colorado family took me in and offered me support when I needed it. Many women talk about the friendships they make through competing being the best part of pageantry. This day, it was huge.
Several donations came in the form of supplies and empty backpacks. Plus, after seeing the devastation, we needed more. Valerie, Mrs. Colorado, and her parents took us shopping to purchase more supplies. We were exhausted and hilarity ensued. So many people donated money to help us purchase supplies, and even food for ourselves during the trip so we wouldn’t have to carry that burden while away from home. The generosity of people really makes me feel connected to humanity.
I was able to visit the poorest school in the district. The families who are already struggling. I spent many years as a single mother, and I know what that is like to be so close to not making it all the time that a financial set back of any kind can snowball into something overwhelming. I also know that parents who are struggling financially are probably also drained in every other way. The stress, the long hours, the burden we carry every day. It is really hard to also be everything our kids need. So when these families lose everything, starting over can feel even more overwhelming. Giving these kids the best of the backpacks, loaded with supplies, socks, treats and clean water, made me feel like we were delivering hope. That taking that pressure off will help the whole family. All parents will tell you that when your child is happy, everything seems easier.
This work was important. My crown lit up their faces and my hard work made things happen. I never would have been on that trip if it hadn’t been for Mrs. America. Competing in pageants helps you become the person you always wanted to be, even in ways you didn’t expect. I was so grateful to be there for those students and those families in a time of need. Turns out, I needed it, too.
I always saw myself as the Peace Corps type. Jetting around the world, helping. Turn out that is my sister. I am the have a child right after high school and stay in the same zip code for a decade type. Don’t get me wrong, being a single mom and professional dancer at age 19 is an adventure! But I have always longed to get my hands dirty in service of those in crisis around the country and even beyond our borders.
So here’s the thing; years ago I sat and waited for nine, long days to get in contact with my other sister during Katrina. I was terrified and helpless. As Irma headed for my father in Florida, I felt that dread setting in once again. It was a category 5 and we were preparing for him to lose his house and where to be safe from projectiles so he can swim in the surge. Serious stuff. I was going out of my mind.
Then I was given an opportunity to do something. To be of service to those affected by Harvey. To not have idle hands while we waited for Irma. Mrs. Colorado, Valerie Daly, organized a backpack and supply drive for the students of Goosecreek, Texas. She rallied sister queens from across the country and collected backpacks, school supplies, sanitary supplies and clothing items for over 3000 kids! #BackpacksforHarvey was a huge operation that involved a dozen trips to cargo to pick up deliveries of backpacks and supplies. Many came ready, many needed to be assembled. I loved rolling up my sleeves and getting to work!
After delivering our backpacks to schools, we were given tours of some neighborhoods that had been severely affected by Hurricane Harvey. People had already gutted the damaged materials and hauled them out to giant piles in the street. I cannot imagine how exhausting it must have been to haul wet wood and mattresses after getting through a storm of that magnitude. They have lost so much. I am so honored to help.
Where do pageant girls go after competition? To eat! All I wanted was pizza. Lots of pizza. I ate it with two hands and passed out with my eyelashes on.
The next morning was my first time on the roller coaster. My director came over to talk to us at breakfast and told me a lot of things about the competition I didn’t know, one of which was implying he did not see me as a contender for the title. It leveled me. Up until that moment I thought not placing was just one of those things, and that with a different panel on a different night it could have been mine. When he said that, I saw my lack of placement as reflective of my ability and became very aware of my supposed limitations. I was crushed and it took many days to get passed it.
I don’t know if that’s what he meant. What I do know is that there are probably a lot of people who don’t think I can win a national title. That doesn’t make any of them correct. It took some time to remember who I am and what I am capable of, but I did. I am still sad about the loss, but I’m back in the now and looking forward. Setting new goals.
In two weeks, I have gained almost 10 pounds. I am 5’3. However, this is just further confirmation that I am in control of how I look and feel. I may not like either right now, but it’s not a mystery as to what happened. I know where this weight came from. I special ordered it from Dominoes and Yogurtland. I am being open about this because I know many women struggle with their weight, their body image and healthy eating. I share my story’s ups and downs because to only share the victories would be based in vanity and pride. My blog is about leading and encouraging. How can anyone feel encouraged by me if they don’t see my struggles as well? So I put it out there. I put it all out there.
We all have our road blocks. We all have negative voices in our heads holding us back. We keep moving forward.