Animal Rescue · Community Support

9.23.17 Wag N Tails Fundraiser

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!

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Bullying Prevention · Community Support · Road to Recovery

9.16.17 Suicide and Bullying Prevention

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.

Candid Conversations · Pageantry

9.16.17 Mrs. Colorado Clothing Swap therapy

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.

Community Support

9.12.17 Backpacks for Harvey; day 2

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.

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Community Support

9.11.17 Harvey Hurricane Relief; day 1

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.

Pageantry

Mrs. America; the aftermath

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.

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Mrs. America · Pageantry

Mrs. America; Finals

This is an honest story of what it was like to work towards Mrs. America for 12 years and lose.  No, it’s not an easy story to write but it’s an important one.  The truth is that losing is never easy, but 99% of the contestants have to go through it.  But the race is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and the people who train for years to run the Boston Marathon don’t feel like failure if they don’t cross the finish line first.  Getting there, running a race you can be proud of and crossing that finish line with your head high is an accomplishment.  One that takes a little perspective to appreciate, hence why this entry is two weeks post event.

I have competed in ten pageants (but over two dozen competitions and professional auditions) and have always been a semi-finalist, finalist or top 5.  I work very hard to compete well and have done very well in my career.  Mrs. America was my first experience in not placing or making finals.  It was my first time not hearing my name called.  My first time not advancing.  My first time not being able to compete in finals.   However, it was also my first time feeling totally centered.  My first competition week free of worry and nerves (mostly).  My first totally, 100% authentic performance.  I was me.  I competed well and left it all on the stage.  For the first time in my life I wouldn’t change anything (the critic in me would change one sentence in one interview question because I didn’t want to mention my Ms. title last year and side stepped the authentic truth, which I regret, but it was a handful of words and I’m not going to get that picky.   Starting now). Here is another truth; more than anything I have feared that I would finally get to Mrs. America and not even place.  That fear has plagued me for years, and worrying is praying for that you don’t wish to happen.  While I understand the power of intention, and mastered my own thoughts during my training, I realize that a near life-long fear runs deep and that one haunted me.  I knew the same hater who watched me compete last year, texting my husband nasty things, would see me lose this year and delight in it.  That got under my skin.  Correction; I let it get under my skin.  I let the opinion of sheep affect how I felt about my performance among lionesses.  Don’t worry, I let that go.  Quickly.

The women next to me on that stage were the highest caliber competitors I had ever met.  In any setting.  Smart, passionate, stunning and each more active in their platform than the next.  Each of these women deserved that title.  On stage you can only compare thigh size and modeling skills.  While not every contestant was at the same level in those aspects, I urge you not to dismiss them based on the brief snippet you saw on stage.  I talked with them.  Got to know them.  They blew me away time and again.  The truth is, there are a lot of women who deserved to be in the top 15.  Heck, you could’ve slapped the crown on any of them and had a great queen with an impressive year ahead.  Anytime I feel bad about myself for not placing, I remember Mrs. Maryland didn’t place.  Jamie is one of the most stunning women I have ever met.  I just liked to watch her talk.  She is so smart, and everything I hope to be when I grow up, which I now realize I still haven’t done yet.

I saw Mrs. America on tv in 2005 and decided that was who I wanted to me.  Not just win the crown, but be that woman.  I can list a dozen women off the top of my head that I was shocked didn’t make the top 15.  That’s pretty incredible.

So, here’s what it was like to lose at Mrs. America.

Finals day was amazing.  I got up and went for a run and cried as I completed my last mile.  It embodied all the training I had done to get here.  It was completion of a huge chapter of my life.  A truly beautiful experience.

The nerves were surging.  The adrenaline was coursing through my body.  It took all I had, all my training, to get back to the moment. By the time Audrey showed up to do my hair, I was back in the moment.  I was more centered than I’d ever been.  I felt like I was made of bricks.  Solid in every way.  I had cut the water weight and felt strong and lean.  We did my hair and chatted and I was sure I was ready.  Totally in the zone.

It’s important to note that I had already lost at this point.  It was done.  The decision on semi-finalists was made after prelims on Thursday.

I went and got my make up done and got to visit with two of my favorite humans, Kari and DJ.  I was totally at ease and felt incredible.  When my make up was done I looked in the mirror and I looked just like Barbie (a look I try to avoid, but I realized I was exactly the woman little Jessica hoped to someday be).  It was as though I was looking at myself with eyes from my childhood.  Like those old milk commercials where the little girl is looking in the mirror, drinking milk, and sees her older, glamorous self looking back.  It was a moment I will never forget.

Rehearsals were great.  Everything was just moving along effortlessly.  I got to see Nick and Will dressed up before I went it.  They looked great.  Everything was as it should be.

The show started with costume and it was perfect.  I didn’t stumble in my words and all went to plan.  Opening number was the parade of flags with our husbands and I got to introduce my husband as “The Will Froehlich”, a surprise that threw him as I hoped it would 🙂  We have a running joke about how I fell for him when he was a senior on our high school tv news show, and how I was a little star struck when we started dating because he was THE Will Froehlich!  When we got married, he gave me a key ring that said “Mrs. THE”).

Then came the first cut.  Top 15.  I knew by the third name I was out.  They called number 15, I literally felt myself shrug, and that was it.  It was over and I was okay.  My competition motto is “If I’m what they’re looking for, I’m unstoppable.  If I’m not, there’s nothing I can do”.  I wasn’t what they were looking for.  I look very different than the reigning Mrs. America, Mrs. World and outgoing Mrs. America.  Perhaps, they had an idea in their head of a tall brunette.  Perhaps the judge who didn’t like that my husband was a journalist never voted for me.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.  Different day, different judge, different outcome.  It is the nature of the beast.  I was truly okay.

Then the house lights came up and I saw my step-daughter crying.  The faces of my kids forced me to break the fourth wall, leave my pageant smile behind and begin frantically waving my hands in front of me mouthing “I’m okay.  I’m okay.”

I ran back stage and texted my husband to tell them I was okay.  Really.

We all put on our evening gowns and waited for the parade of gowns (as we ate whatever food we had tucked in our bags).  I didn’t bring any as this was a scenario I was completely unprepared for.  I knew I might lose, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get to compete.  The parade of gowns was, by far, the worst part of the entire experience.  We were told to run.  Not walk, move it.  I had never practiced walking fast in my gown.  One does not simply haul it in a fully beaded evening gown.  It wrapped around my feet, I had no poise, no elegance.  My one time walking across the stage at Mrs. America and it was a hot mess. That felt bad.  Not gonna lie, that was pretty awful.

Luckily, immediately after we were shuffled into the basement (not my favorite part, either) where there was chips and soda waiting for us (kinda my favorite part).  I wish I could say the rest of the pageant went quickly, but it seemed to go on for hours.  They kept shuffling us around and even asked us to pack up our stuff to get out of there as soon as the show ended.  The time between losing and leaving was rough.  Oh, and fire alarms were going off, that was hilarious.  Like the external sound reflected my internal discomfort.  The finalists ignored them and pushed forward like true professionals.

I got to be on-stage for crowning, and my friend Mekayla was announced the winner.  She is a genuine and kind person with lots of training and experience.  She is also Native American, which makes me very happy.  I truly hope she brings attention to the Native American community and their treatment in this country.  If anyone can, it’s this chick.  She is driven and beautiful, in all the ways that matter.  No one was surprised or upset she took the title.  She was just that good.  Perfectly well-suited to the role.  I know any of the women would have made a great queen, but Mekayla was flawless the whole way through.  Well done, my friend.  I’m really proud of you and can’t wait to visit you after Mrs. World.

And that was it.  It was over.  Twelve years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of training and preparing.  But here’s the kicker…I was okay.  The worst thing I thought could ever happen just happened, and I was okay.  The world didn’t end.  I didn’t feel any differently about my performance or myself, and I got to walk out to my loving family with my head held high.  This feeling would soon change, as recovery from loss is a roller coaster, but for that day, for that night, I was nothing but proud of myself and my performance.