She Flies With Her Own Wings

create yourself. your life. your world.

A heartfelt letter to the Miss Universe Organization and Toneata Morgan

I have been fortunate enough to compete in the Miss Oregon USA pageant the last three years.  In fact, I have competed in pageantry for the past decade.  I have met incredible women from all over the beautiful State of Oregon; women who are intelligent, compassionate, involved in their communities, charismatic, beautiful, and women who work hard to break pageant stereotypes and give pageantry a good name.  I spent seven years competing in the Miss America Organization (MAO) before switching over and competing the last three years in the Miss Universe Organization (MUO).  Maybe I was naive from my years in MAO.  Maybe I was naive because Oregon isn’t a ‘pageant state’.  Either way, I believed that the Miss Oregon USA pageant and the Miss Universe Organization was a just and honest pageant system who truly believed in empowering women to be confidently beautiful. I believed that every girl who had the courage to step foot on that stage had an equal opportunity of walking away with the crown.  Each year at check-in for the Miss Oregon USA pageant, contestants would sit in the audience and listen to David Van Maren (Pageants NW – NW Productions co-director) share the couple’s story; a story of coming from nothing to the land of opportunity.  David speaks of truth and honesty.  Maureen Francisco (Pageants NW – NW Productions co-director) assures us that Pageants NW has no influence over the judges.  And yet here we are, so many of us, feeling confused, disappointed, and angry because an opportunity was robbed from us by someone who is dishonest and untrustworthy.

I am not sour or bitter because I didn’t win.  I am frustrated because I, and every other contestant, spent thousands of dollars and invested so much time and energy to compete in a dishonest and unjust pageant.  This isn’t about what is and isn’t fair, this is about what is right and wrong.  As an organization that is supposed to provide opportunities for young women and help empower them, I have learned that MUO isn’t just a business, but it is a pyramid scheme. It is a scam.  They are not invested in the young women who compete, they are invested in making as much money possible from these young women.   

The Miss USA system requires contestants to reside in a state for a minimum of six months in order to be eligible to compete in the state pageant.  The Miss Oregon USA State Contract specifies that: “I NOW reside and HAVE resided in my State as my ‘permanent and primary residence’ (as defined below) for a period of at least six consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of the State PageantPermanent and primary residence’ means my true, fixed and permanent domicile which I intend to make my permanent home… I understand and agree that you have the right to reject information or documentation you feel has not been gathered or provided in good faith.”  

This is not the first time that residency has come into question within the Miss Universe Organization.  As an organization that should hope to be reputable and of integrity, why has this not been addressed yet?  Either get rid of residency requirements altogether, or hold true to the contract that state contestants physically reside in said-state for a minimum of six consecutive months prior to the competition.

 

 

Toneata, I only briefly got to know you over pageant weekend; you seem like a sweet girl.  I know you have a dream of competing on the Miss USA stage.  So did I, and just about every other girl competing this last weekend.  Again, I am not sour or bitter that I didn’t win, I am however frustrated that you felt it was ok to compete in a state that you don’t live in.  I am aware that you turned in two pieces of residency documentation, and that those documents were accepted by MUO.  But how could you turn in documents in good faith when you haven’t actually physically lived in Oregon for six months?  

Your online footprint clearly states and shows that you live in the Greater LA area and are currently a senior at Loyola Marymount University (LMU).  According to new.thepinetree.net in an article published less than a year ago, you grew up on Lake Tulloch, attending Copperopolis Elementary and Middle Schools in Angels Camp before moving to the Malibu area.  You also told thepinetree.net that “California is my home. It has the best climate, beautiful scenery, and offers unlimited opportunity for those who follow their dreams.  Where else can you go snowboarding and surfing in the same day? I would be honored to represent our state as Miss California USA 2017″.  You told one media source that you were “born and raised in Coquille”, but also told KATU2 news that you have lived in Oregon for just over a year. How can Oregon be your true, fixed, and permanent domicile when you grew up in California and are currently living, working and attending school in Southern California?

Maybe there is a flaw in the contract and within the system, but you took advantage of that loophole for personal gain.  Where is your integrity and honesty in that?  You graduate from LMU this May, if you wanted to compete in an easier state, why not actually move to Oregon then?  Spend six months living here, getting to know our beautiful state and familiarizing yourself with the community you claim to be a part of.  Understand the true meaning of being an Oregonian so that you can actually represent us on the Miss USA stage.  No one would have a problem with you winning under those circumstances.  

You are young, and I know the thought of winning and wearing that ‘sparkly hat’ is really appealing.  You probably weren’t thinking of us other contestants or whether or not you were morally and ethically abiding by the contract.  Getting to that Miss USA stage in a quicker and easier way had your focus.  So, I want you to know that because you had this me, now’ mentality, you robbed the opportunity of representing Oregon on the USA stage from many true Oregonians.  Only one girl gets to win Miss USA, the other contestants return to their home to finish serving their states.  

My hope is that you will learn from this mistake, do some self-reflecting and grow.  Use your social media to truly inspire young women and show off the State of Oregon rather than promoting your own agenda and showing off your body.  Spend some real time in our state; learn what it means to be an Oregonian.  Because that’s what Oregon deserves – more than it deserves a Miss USA.

 

 

Oh and Kristen Bradford, don’t think I forgot about you.  As a coach, you should be motivating your girls/clients to not only work hard and chase after their dreams, but to do so with some integrity and honesty.  Toneata isn’t the first girl you’ve helped cheat the system.  The lessons you teach them shouldn’t only apply to pageantry, but they should be skills that they are able to take with them throughout life.  Instead of showing the girls the easy way, why don’t you show them that hard work, dedication, and perseverance are they keys to getting anywhere in life.  Just because an organization allows this loophole doesn’t make it right or ok – stop encouraging young girls to risk their character for a short-term goal.

 

 

My  hope is that the Miss Universe Organization will either change their contract or start enforcing their rules.  Until it becomes an organization of character and integrity, I will no longer be supporting the Miss Universe Organization or the State pageants within it.  And remember girls, just because there is a loophole and a way to cheat the system, that doesn’t mean you need to compromise your character to achieve your dreams.  

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                 A disappointed contestant who believes in doing what is right,                                                                               Stephanie Matheson

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2017 | A Year of Intention and Balance

It’s that time of year again.  The time where people make resolutions to lose weight, save money, quit smoking, fall in love, get organized, etc. etc.  Which most of these resolutions last a few weeks, maybe a few months.  That’s not to bash resolutions.  I think having a fresh, new start is great. I think setting goals is really important!

A few years ago I chose to move from resolutions to goals… and even then, I didn’t accomplish every goal.  But it’s always nice to have something to work towards.

If you’re close with me, or you’ve been following my blog posts for awhile, you know that I’ve struggled a lot the last few years.  One of my friends referred to it as “passing through an amazing struggle”.  Which in a way made it sound beautiful.  I didn’t think 2016 could be worse than 2015, but it sure proved me wrong. 2016 sucked.  For many reasons.  And it’s been apparent that many other people have felt the same way.  I guess misery enjoys company.  But I am very determined to use these setbacks and struggles to make me a better person, to learn and grow, to become the best version of myself. img_5968

When you start to feel like things should have been better last year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living, you are wrapped in endless, boundless, grace. And things will get better. There’s more to you than yesterday. – Morgan Harper Nichols

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I’m not going to dwell on the past.  For this New Year I decided to pick a word (or two), that would be my mantra for 2017.  Word(s) to guide my choices and decisions; words to live by.  The two words I have chosen to live this next year by: intention and balance.  This year isn’t about achieving small goals, it’s about allowing myself to be the person I am so that I can reach my fullest potential.

Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.

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This year I will be intentional about how I spend my time.  From how much time I spend on social media, to the people I spend my time with, to the causes and events that I invest my time in, and where  spend my money.

Guard your time fiercely. Be generous with it, but be intentional about it. – David Duchemin

I love the power of social media: keeping in touch with old friends, connecting with new people, using it as a platform to advocate for causes I’m passionate about.  But it’s so easy to get consumed with it and before you know it hours can have passed by.  I want to have a balance of the time I spend on social media, and the time I spend connecting and keeping in touch with people in real life.

The people you surround yourself with say a lot about you and have a large affect on your life .  Everyone plays a role in your life, and some people just aren’t meant to be in your whole book.  They play a part in a few chapters, and you each serve a purpose in each others lives.  It’s important to be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers.  They challenge you, break you open, uplift and expand you. They don’t let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people.  These people are your tribe.  I want to be surrounded by people who build each other up.  People who create positivity.  I want to be around people who can be on a completely different path, or even the same path in life, and still be rooting for each other 100%.  People who cheer each other on in the pursuit of their dreams no matter how crazy they are.  Relationships where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and think the other deserves the world.  You should be picky about vibes: be picky about the energy you surround yourself with.  You owe yourself that much.

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I want to have a better work-life balance so that I can spend more time with the people in my life who truly matter.  So that I can strengthen those relationships, and be more open and available to new relationships.  I want to be there for birthdays, bbq’s, accomplishments, and life-changing moments.  It’s time to be intentional about my relationships and the people in my life.

Find balance in your life. Work hard, but don’t let work take over your life, you will lose yourself. Love, but love for the right reasons. Life is too short for anything mediocre. Know who you are and know that you are worthy of reaching your dreams and that it is never too late to start creating that life you have always dreamed of. Do not compare yourself to others, that’s just deadly. No two souls are the same. You are your own person, you are beautiful and you are unique. Put your trust in the universe. Let go of whatever is stealing your happiness; it’s hard but it’s worth it. Embrace change. Embrace life. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, and let go.

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If you know me, then you know that I’m constantly giving my time to causes and supporting charities and non-profits.  Which I absolutely love! But instead of giving little pieces of myself and spreading myself thin, I want to be intentional about who I give my time and energy to. I want to give more to areas where my passions really are. That means saying “no” more often, which is going to be difficult, but I need to remind myself that I need to make sure that when I say “yes”, I’m not actually saying “no” to myself or the things I’m most passionate about. Become more aware of what’s really worth your energy.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. – Stephen Covey

 

This year I will be intentional about taking care of myself: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  It’s not about dieting or working out just to lose weight to look thin.  It’s about eating food that nourishes my body and sustains me.  It’s about not only working out by lifting weights and running, but also by doing yoga and meditating; so that I’m not just strengthening myself physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

I want to have a balance with how I treat my body.  I don’t want to diet and workout for half the year, I want to be healthy and strong the whole year. I want to take care of my whole self.

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This year I will be intentional about how I spend my money.  I want to think of purchases as investments; is it going to add value to my life.  I have found that ‘stuff’ doesn’t make me happy.  As much as I enjoy some ‘retail therapy’, it’s just a temporary fix.  And then the pile of stuff causes me more stress.  I need to go through and donate so many things; I also want to be intentionally about what I choose to keep.  I think being more of a minimalist will bring more joy. I want to invest my money on experiences and adventures. Mini “Eat Pray Love” adventure, here I come!

Breaking off pieces of yourself to fit into places will not help you belong, it will only make you bleed.  Tearing yourself into half to fit in will not help you belong, it will only take your soul.  The only way you will ever belong is when you feel complete without anyone reassuring you that you are. You are valid.  Alone, or with company.  Do not let anything convince you otherwise. – Your Soul Is A River

This year is a year I’m going to be a bit more selfish.  That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be there for others, serve, or continue to give, because that wouldn’t be me.  But it is time that I start to take seriously the saying – “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It’s not even about being selfish, it’s about developing a higher level of self-love.  When you have self-love, you’re more open and capable of giving and receiving love.

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It takes a level of self love, of dedication and determination to live your greatest life. So look within.  Look at every area of your life and ask yourself these questions: Am I on course? Am I growing mentally, emotionally and spiritually? Anything that is blocking that, anything that is preventing you from living your greatest life, make the tough decision to let it go.

Love yourself… enough to take the actions required for your happiness… enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past… enough to set a high standard for relationships… enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner… enough to forgive yourself… enough to move on. – Steve Maraboli

Bye, byeee 2016. I won’t miss ya. Stayed up until midnight just to see you die.

2017, you don’t even have to do much to beat the last two  years, but regardless… I’m setting high expectations for you.

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1 year = 365 opportunities // This is the beginning of anything you want.

 

Trial & Error

When I was 15, and someone asked me where I was going to be in 10 years, my response was something along the lines of “Well, I’ll be 25 years old. I’ll be into my career, own my own home. I’ll likely be married and have a child or two”. That’s about where I thought I’d be at age 25 from the time I was 10 years old until the time I was probably 18 years old or so.

Last year, on my 25th birthday, I couldn’t help but laugh… I was single, unemployed, and living at home. If someone had told my 12 or 15 year-old self that that’s where I was going to be at 25, that 12 year-old girl would have laughed and said “Yeah right. Not me!”

I decided that 25 was going to be my year. Days before my 25th birthday I had accepted my dream internship at Mercy Corps and made plans to move to Portland. I was preparing to compete for Miss Oregon USA 2016, and things were looking up! This was going to be there year I started my career. It was going to be the year I found my place in a new city. It was going to be the year I found love. Things were finally coming together. 25 was going to be my year!

Well, I loved my dream internship. But I also learned how difficult it is to get a job at Mercy Corps. I came just short of Miss Oregon USA 2016. I spent months applying for jobs that I was over-qualified for and learning how difficult it was to get a job in general. I was relieved to finally get an interview, but then walked out of the interview knowing the job wasn’t for me. I accepted anyway, because it was a job.

My anxiety and depression danced and lingered around me. Taunting me with every move.

I didn’t find love. In fact, I broke someone’s heart. I also learned how difficult and awful dating in your mid-twenties can be.

I was given the opportunity to compete for Miss Oregon USA 2017 while still being 25; this was my chance to end 25 on a good note. To end 25 on the note I had hoped to start it. It was my second chance… but my second chance didn’t work out either. I failed. Again.

On a drive back up to Portland after a weekend at home, I was doing some serious soul-searching. I wasn’t happy with where I was or what I was doing. I found myself in roughly the same place I was a year before. The change of job, change of location… nothing seemed to help. Things weren’t going as planned. But really, when does life ever really go as planned?!

I made the last minute decision to apply for graduate school and pursue my Masters in Teaching. Something I had always wanted to do, but just didn’t think I’d be doing it for a few more years. It hasn’t been an easy road, and it’s not over yet. There have been days I wanted to quit. Days I just wanted to go home. Days I just wanted to be a kid again…

I have loved seeing my friends begin their careers. Buy a house. Get engaged, married, and start a family. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like their lives are coming together while I’m spinning in circles going nowhere. I’m a very independent, hard-headed, strong-willed woman; however, I do find myself getting more lonely, and there I days that I wish I didn’t come home to an empty house and crawl into an empty bed.

Reflecting on the last year, I did’t want to celebrate turning 26. I didn’t want to get my hopes up that this year was going to be different. Heck I wanted to skip it if at all possible. This last year has definitely been a year of trial and error. But with those trials have come a lot of lessons – a lot of stories and a lot of memories. I’ve gown up. Which I guess is part of the process of becoming an adult.

I’m grateful that my friends and family encouraged me to take the time to celebrate. To reflect. To breathe. To simply just be. Thank you for spending the weekend with me and showering me with love.

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Let me tell the tale of a girl who didn’t stop, who climbed up every mountain without a pause upon the top. She’d dance until each blade of grass was clothed in drops of dew, and the sun knew her by name but the silver moon did too. For a fear had settled in her bones; a fear of sitting still, that if you’re not moving forward it must mean you never will. So in time her dance got slower and she looked at all she’d seen, but found gaps inside the places that he’s never fully been, for she was a human doing human moving, human seeing, but she’d never taken time to simply be a human being.

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I’d be lying if I said 26 wasn’t off to a great start … I’ve made it this far in life without having to have surgery, and the year I can no longer be on my parents insurance, is the year I get to have not one, but two expensive surgeries. I got to spend ‘my day’ dealing with providers, surgical centers, talking insurance – in and out of network – and applying for OHP/OHA.  It was like the worlds way of saying Happy Birthday – welcome to being an adult! Here’s to 26. Cheers! As if I didn’t hate the thought of being cut into and having my bones broken enough, lets just add a fat bill to that.

But I like to keep in mind that things could always be worse. I’m a pretty fortunate person, even if sometimes I don’t feel like it. It’s all about perspective.

Maybe since this year isn’t off to a great start, it’ll end on a great note. Maybe this year will be MY year! You never know unless you try – so here’s to never giving up hope.

So, what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.

If I could summarize the lessons of 25, it would be this…

Don’t let this world make you bitter. Don’t let the actions of other people turn you cold on the inside. Certain things happen that hurt us. People come that leave. And most of all there are moments when you’re bound to fall. Don’t let those things make you unkind. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to be sad. We’re human. We break. We make mistakes. But don’t let pain and sadness run our lives. Wake up in the morning and do what you think is right. There are moments in your life where you feel like giving up and you can’t take it anymore. It’s ok. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. I know you’re weak. But the things that show your weak side are also the same ones that make you stronger in the long run. It’s all about taking whatever life throws at you and learning from it.

So to God, or the spirits, or Karma, or whatever is out there… I’m ready.

It’s been a year of change: some good, some bad, some hard, some unexpected, and some encouraging. So here’s to 26 – may you be the best year yet!

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Thank you to everyone for all of the love and birthday wishes! I’m feeling very blessed and fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life!.

This is one more piece of advice I have for you: don’t get impatient. Even if things are so tangled up you can’t do anything, don’t get desperate or blow a fuse and start yanking on one particular thread before it’s ready to come undone. You have to figure it’s going to be a long process and that you’ll work on things slowly, one at a time.

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Disclosure: Some of this may offend some people. But these are my feelings. This is my story…

 

“Your new Miss Oregon Teen USA is – Va…”

I dropped to the ground in tears. My heart was bursting with pride while simultaneously breaking. I had just witnessed my baby sister effortlessly win what I had been working so hard towards for the last eight years.

I was a mix of emotions. A disaster. My body didn’t know what it was feeling; it didn’t know how to process everything or express itself. I was smiling one minute and bursting into tears the next.

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I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want Vanessa to feel bad or guilty that she had won and I hadn’t. We were #TeamMathesonSisters, we were supposed to win (or lose) together. Although I knew it was possible for her to win and not me, I had never really thought about it. I know that my value doesn’t decrease based on someone else’s inability to see my worth – but that doesn’t make it sting any less. I’m good at losing, I lose a lot. But nothing could have prepared me for one of us winning and not the other. I had envisioned our crowning moment – the pictures that we would cherish forever. I had imagined all of the appearances and speaking engagements we would do as The Matheson Sisters. I could read the headlines… and just like that, the dream was gone. It was never going to happen.

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I had worked harder than ever. I had invested in this year: I had hired an interview coach, hired a walking and overall pageant coach. I had bought the gown of my dreams and made no excuses when it came to working out. Although a lot of girls work hard before competing, I would argue that I worked the hardest; I was getting up at 4:45am to go to the gym, followed by student teaching and then graduate classes of my own. My evenings were spent doing homework, walking practice, and prepping food for the next day. All to get up and do it all over again. I did all of this while still running a non-profit in Southern Oregon. I was working myself to the bone. I had sacrificed my social life, and put many other things on hold. Over the last year I had done a lot of self-reflecting and journaling on who I was, why I wanted to be Miss Oregon USA, what I brought to the table, and what I was going to accomplish during my reign. This was going to be my year. Our year. So after not making the Top 5 after being 1st RU last year, I was honestly embarrassed.

The next day at my sister’s photoshoot, the photographer told her and the newly crowned Miss Oregon USA to “lean in like sisters” … it was like pouring salt into a wound. I went back to work and school with a smile on my face.  I tried my best not to bring up the weekends’ events, and would just smile and say “my sister won Oregon Teen USA” when anyone asked. I cried myself to sleep nearly every night.  This couldn’t be happening. I was in disbelief – I didn’t want to accept it.  I wanted a redo button.

Over the last week I have been both happy and sad, excited and angry, proud and devastated, delighted and jealous.

The worst part about all of this though, wasn’t actually losing, it was the response (or lack thereof).  After competing in pageantry for eight years and having such a large pageant ‘family’, I was wondering if I had done something wrong. I reached out to a prior board member the week going into the pageant, and heard nothing back.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me.  As much as I tried to forget it, it was one of the only things I could think of going into interview. I’ve heard from very few of those people since competing. From years of feeling support from this community, I felt like I had been forgotten about. I had never felt more alone in my life, and living alone had nothing to do with it.

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Everywhere I looked, things were posted that said “We love you Vanessa Matheson”, “We’re so proud of you Vanessa Matheson”, “Congratulations Vanessa Matheson”… and all I kept wondering was how hard was it to say “We love you Stephanie and Vanessa, and are so proud of you both! Congratulations to Vanessa Matheson on being crowned Miss Oregon Teen USA”, or something along those lines. It didn’t seem like rocket science to me. I wanted everyone to be excited for my sister, but I felt like I no longer existed, as if I had fallen off the face of the earth. The angry and cynical part of me wanted to hold my middle finger nice and high to a lot of people. While my sister was responding to all sorts of messages and comments, I felt like the ugly step-sister as I cleaned around the house and prepared for the week ahead.  Why couldn’t people be excited for Vanessa while still acknowledging me and my feelings…

My uncle, who I disagree with on just about everything, managed to be one of the only people to acknowledge Vanessa and I both.

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My dad tried to comfort me by saying that maybe people just didn’t know what to say, maybe they didn’t know how I was feeling.  No one could possibly know how I was feeling. But I didn’t understand how difficult it was to say “thinking of you”, “love you”, “I don’t know how you’re feeling or what to say, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m here”.  Maybe I expect too much from others because I know that’s what I would have done for them.

I felt like an idiot for being so upset.  I know that I’m a very fortunate person, and I’ve seen some of the worst things that can happen around the world.  I shouldn’t be this upset about a pageant. But it was more than that … my feelings were valid, because they’re my feelings.  “If it matters to you, it’s not stupid”. It’s ok to be sad, angry, heartbroken, and jealous; the important thing is that we don’t unpack and live there. It’s taken me about a week to realize that I can be both happy and excited for my sister, all while being upset and disappointed for myself.

She was brave and strong and broken all at once.

I have had many great experiences from competing in pageantry over the years, and I have met some truly incredible women! However, this year was frustrating and difficult for more reasons than one. There was the stress of everything I had going on leading up to competing, foot pain (which now will require surgery on both feet), calf cramps, and a broken zipper on my gown that almost prevented me from competing in the finals (shoutout to Damian).  There was the bully – literally the most obnoxious, abrasive, and rude person I’ve ever met.  This girl literally had the nerve to come up to me and say, “I wish I could say I feel sorry for you, but I don’t”, among many other comments. It was discouraging to see what appeared to be a girl who’s mom bought and bribed her way, nearly make it to the top. This year has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

The cynic in me was feeling that hard work and dedication don’t pay off. That being a good person and doing the right thing doesn’t get you anywhere.

I spent the weekend reflecting and journaling – writing has always been therapeutic for me. What I realized is that this is the perfect time for me to practice what I preach (although I wish it wasn’t quite this way).  I promote courage and perseverance. I tell people that they are enough and worth it. I encourage others to take risks and pursue their dreams… People need to be encouraged. People need to be reminded of how wonderful they are. People need to be believed in – told that they are brave and smart, and capable of accomplishing all the dreams they dream and more. Remind each other of this. Now is the time I get to live by example. I get to walk my talk.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working.

I would like to take a minute to congratulate my friend, Liz Denny, our Miss Oregon USA 2017 – I can’t wait to watch your year unfold and cheer you on at Miss USA!

I would also like to thank a few people –

David & Maureen, and the Pageants NW Team; thank you for always believing in me and supporting me. Thank you for being there for me when I needed to cry. And thank you for empowering women in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho.

My family; thank you for your never ending love and support… for holding me when I cry, even though I’m 25 years old. Thank you for always being a phone call away, no matter the time of day or night. And thank you for everything you do – I would’t be where I am or who I am without you.

My friends and those of you who have been there; thank you for your words of encouragement, understanding, and patience with me through this crazy adventure.

And of course I want to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to my baby sis!! I am so so proud of you and I love you so very much!

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Some people have asked if I will be competing again this next year now that the age limit has changed, and to be honest, I’m not ready to make that decision. I’m not sure when I will be. It will take some time to continue to reflect and see what this next year has in store.

She was unstoppable. Not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.

I’m going to end with a quote by Teddy Roosevelt (although I don’t think pageantry was anywhere in his mind when he said this), that one of my dear friends sent to me –

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those col and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

My story isn’t over

Turning a quarter of a century years old. Moving to Portland. Getting the internship of my dreams. Being 1st Runner-Up at Miss Oregon USA. Leading a group of students to Macedonia. Traveling through Paris, Belgrade, and Amsterdam. Watching my little sister graduate from high school. Meeting new people and making new friends. Starting graduate school to become a teacher. 366 sunrises and sunsets.

These are all things that wouldn’t have happened, things that I wouldn’t have been able to experience, had this day last year ended differently. Although today isn’t my birthday, it is a day that I will celebrate life.

It’s a weird feeling – sitting in class, happy with where I am, excited about my future… and thinking back to how I felt only one year ago…when my story could have been over. I was ready to call it quits and throw in the towel. Now this isn’t to say that this past year has been easy and only filled with sunshine and rainbows. There were times where I’d lay on my bedroom floor, crying, feeling like I couldn’t breath. Times where I hated that those feelings were creeping back. Times where I had to talk myself into getting out of my car and going into work. Although my medication and seeing a therapist are helpful most of the time, the biggest difference over this past year has been being open about everything…

Having high functioning Clinical Depression means that others aren’t going to notice when I start to slip. Since getting help, it’s been easier to continue asking for help and letting people know when I’m not doing well. Being transparent about depression and anxiety has held me accountable. It’s allowed me to pick up the phone and call my mom or best friend and tell them I’m struggling, without feeling ashamed.

Tonight, I will go to sleep with joy in my heart and wonderful memories in my mind, rather than tears in my eyes and goodbye on my mind.

Here’s to living life to the fullest. Finding gratitude. And staying positive.

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To you, the one who’s struggling. The one who feels ashamed and embarrassed about the demons in your head: You’re not alone. You are needed. You are worthy. You are enough. It is ridiculous how enough you are.

The girl behind the mask – my first blog about anxiety and depression.

“Your scars build strength, and your past builds bridges” – BC Serna

Courage is when you’ve lost your way but you find your strength anyway
Courage is when you’re afraid
Courage is when it all seems grey
Courage is when you make a change and you keep on living anyway

Life requires guts. It requires bravery and courage… It requires vulnerability.

My story isn’t over, neither is yours;

#BeVocalSpeakUp | #BreakTheStigma

Things I’m leaving behind in 2015

This past year started off mediocre, included some of the most difficult times in my life, and ended on a high. It was a year of transition – a year of breaking so that I could be rebuilt and reborn into the woman I was always supposed to be.

2015 you challenged me. You hurt me. You made me cry. You defeated me… Almost.

I would be kidding if I said that 2015 didn’t leave me scarred. It was the hardest year of my life.. and yet also  the most rewarding.

I couldn’t have made it through a single second if it weren’t for so many of the people in my life; so 2015 is for all of you. Those who believed in me, who stood by me, and who told me everything would be ok. I can’t begin to explain how much I love and appreciate you all. You are my heroes – you saved me.

So although I’m taking all of you wonderful people with me and kicking this year off with a bang, there are plenty of things I’ve decided to leave behind in 2015…

  • Self-limiting beliefs 

With self-limiting beliefs comes little self-worth, insecurities, and self-doubt. I am my own worst critic, and sometimes that prevents me from celebrating myself and believing in myself. Who cares if dreams are unrealistic, they’re your dreams…believe in them. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how enough we are. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

  • Saying yes, when I want to say no

I love to say yes – I love being involved, taking on new opportunities and challenges, and helping out someone else. So although I’m still going to say yes a lot of the time, I’ve realized I need to ask myself if saying yes to someone/something else means saying no to myself. Being selfless is a trait I will always love about myself… but it’s time to start being a tiny bit more selfish.

  • Overusing the phrase ‘I’m sorry’

I am the queen of saying ‘I’m sorry’. I say sorry even when I shouldn’t be the one apologizing. I’m going to start thinking before I speak when it comes to saying I’m sorry. By choosing more carefully when I apologize, my ‘I’m sorry’s’ will hold more value and meaning.

  • Obsessing and overthinking

I used to spend so much time mulling over something that happened or something I wanted to say. So much that it would consume me to the point where I wouldn’t say what I wanted to say or I would make something a big deal in my head that didn’t really matter. So I’m just going to say what I mean and mean what I say, and not dwell on the past; I’ve got more important things to worry about.

  • Asking everyone for their opinions

I ask people for their opinions for two reasons: one being that I value the people who are close in my life, and two because I want to please those people. Now this isn’t to say that I no longer value those people’s opinions, because I do, but when I get so many different opinions, then I get even more conflicted because I can’t please everyone. So here’s to following my heart and doing what is best for me.

  • Explanations for my decisions

People aren’t always going to agree with your decisions. I’ve learned that a lot throughout my life. But I’ve also learned that I don’t need to give people an explanation for my decisions – I’m doing what is best for me, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be best for everyone else. I still might be wrong and make mistakes sometimes, and there might be people who think ‘I told you so’…but I’ll figure that out for myself.

  • Destructive relationships

If you constantly bring drama and/or negativity into my life, I’m sorry (actually I’m not), but you’re staying in the fond memories of what was 2015. There’s no need for people who bring you down and bring out the worst in you. They say you are who you surround yourself with, so I’m choosing my team wisely.

  • Toxic environments

I spent 5 months of this past year in a toxic environment. That was 5 months too many. Life is to short to be surrounded by drama, negativity, and anxiousness. If people and/or places aren’t adding to your life, they’re taking away from it. Later, ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • Being ‘busy’

We need to stop the glorification of busy. I don’t know how many times when I’m asked how I’m doing or when I ask someone else, the answer is always, “oh you know, just keeping busy”. That doesn’t answer the question. We can be busy doing the things we love, or busy doing things we hate. Don’t get me wrong I hate doing nothing, but it’s as if those who aren’t ‘busy’ aren’t doing enough with their lives. Well I’m now going to be busy doing the things I love – busy being outdoors and adventuring, busy being with friends and family. Taking time to live life will only inspire your work.

  • Jealousy

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “Comparison is the thief of joy” – he couldn’t have been more right. We always seem to want what others have. Whether that’s physical appearances, love, where we’re at with our jobs or in the world. We’re all on our own journeys, and we’re all uniquely ourselves. It’s time to start celebrating ourselves – treat yourself as you would a small child – with patience and love.

  • Grudges and guilt

I’ve realized that grudges are a waste of time. They steel your happiness and make it very difficult to live in the present. I used to think that by forgiving people, I was giving them their power back…but that’s not the case at all… by truly forgiving someone, you allow your soul to be at peace. It takes real strength to forgive someone, including yourself. A few months ago I let go of my grudges; grudges against people from my past and even guilt from my own past. I was finally at peace, which allowed me to be present and feel truly happy.

  • Staying up late

I can waste so much time staying up until the late hours of the night. Yet I find I’m most productive in the early hours of the morning; it feels like the rest of the world is still fast asleep and Im the only one who’s awake and everything feels like it isn’t really real. I forget about the problems because for that period of time it’s just me, the world, and the sunrise. In 2016 I want to see more sunrises – sunsets are easy, everyone see’s them. But sunrises require effort and hard-work.

  • Wastefullness

Wasting time. Wasting energy. Wasting emotions etc. But also now that I’m in a larger city, I’m going to make more of an effort to ‘help’ the planet. I’m going to take advantage of a walkable city and public transportation. I’m going to limit the amount of paper towels and plastic bottles that I use. I’m going to be intentional in all that I do.

  • Mindless spending 

It’s so easy nowadays to purchase little things here and there on our credit cards. I love shopping just as much as the next girl, and I’m a total foodie (Portland isn’t helping that); however I’ve realized that I want to look at my purchases as investments. Is it something I need? Is it going to benefit me long term? Is it going to help me grow and learn? Is it going to help me create memories with friends and loved ones? If the answers to those questions are no… then I’m going to transfer that money into my savings.

  • Student Loans

Living at home the past two years helped me take a big chunk out of my student loans. With the help of eliminating mindless spending, I’m planning to kiss those student loans goodbye. Debt free is going to feel oh so good! And free!!

  • Fear of the unknown

It’s ok to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave. I’m a firm believer that everything you want is on the other side of fear, and that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. The comfort zone can be dangerous. I was comfortable for that last two years. I would daydream about the things I wanted to do; wondering to myself ‘what if I end up hating it?’ ‘what if I fail’ etc. what if… what if… what if… Psychology says, always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is gong to help you grow.

  • Holy socks

Not holy socks as in the biblical ‘faith on your feet’…. but holy socks in the sense that so many of my socks literally have holes in them. I hate spending money on socks, there are so many other things I would rather purchase. I’m 25 though now, so it’s time to be a big girl and get some new socks.

Thanks to 2015, I’m stronger because I had to be. I’m smarter because of my mistakes, happier because of the sadness I’ve known, and now wiser because I’ve learned.

“I hope you can look back on it — the good times and the bad — and see how your experiences have shaped you. For the better. I hope you can see your moments of weakness as moments leading to an affirmation of your strength. I hope you can forgive yourself of the actions you regret, let them go, and find excitement and certainty in the person you are and who you are becoming. Most of all, I hope you can appreciate the journey that is life, and not get too caught up in worrying about the destination. Enjoy the now and all that it offers.” – Jessica McGraw

Well 2015, you’ve been a wild ride. Although this roller coaster is ending on a high, I’m more than ready to get off. So bring it on 2016 – I’m ready for you! This is going to be my year!!

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The girl behind the mask

 

I want to introduce you to two people: Sophia and Sydney… Two girls who grew up essentially the same, but when they got to high school things changed.

High school meant a whole new world of possibility for Sophia. She was a smart girl, an athlete, and eager to get involved. She became captain of her volleyball and basketball teams all while maintaining A’s and B’s. When she was 14 years old she helped her dad co-found an organization that would allow her and other students to travel to developing countries to build homes for people in need. Sophia got the travel bug and flew across the world by herself at the age of 17 to volunteer in a Rwandan Orphanage for a summer. She served as the Junior Class President, and then went on to be elected the ASB President for her high school. Sophia was also an officer for the National Honor Society, involved in other clubs, and volunteered in her community. She graduated with honors and then went on to the University of Oregon. There she continued to be heavily involved: she joined a sorority and was elected as the Philanthropy Chairman and then the New Member Educator, and she was also elected as an ASUO Senator. People saw her as someone who was constantly happy and positive. Sophia had it all together; she was the life of the party and always doing something to better herself and those around her. You could say Sophia was a bit of an overachiever, or a go-getter.

Sydney’s experience, although similar, was very different. When Sydney got to high school everything became very real for her, and the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations overwhelmed her. Although she got good grades and was an athlete, she felt like she was never good enough… that B should have been an A, and it didn’t matter if she scored 14 points because she should have scored 20. Sydney began to believe that no matter what she did, she would never be enough; that the world might be a better place without her. One night, when Sydney was just 15, she attempted to overdose on pills from her parent’s medical cabinet. As she was taking the pills, a few words, “you’re my hero” popped into her head, which a friend had said to her a few months before and that stopped her. She felt incredibly sick the next few days, and as time went by, things began to get better. When her senior year of high school rolled around, ‘it’ came back. Sydney struggled to get out of bed in the morning; she had lost her motivation and interest in things. Although she wasn’t suicidal, she was very depressed. She too went to the University of Oregon, where she really felt like a no-body, just a number. Her grades dropped, she spent a lot of time on her own, and seriously considered dropping out her freshman year. ‘It’ went away again, and she thought maybe it would go away for good this time. During the winter of her sophomore year ‘it’ came back again… one night she made a phone call at 2:00 in the morning because she was living alone and scared of herself, scared of what she might do. Again ‘it’ went away. Just like always though, it came back. The end of her junior year proved to be a real struggle. Reckless behavior joined the depression this time – alcohol was easily accessible and she also had a stash of prescription painkillers from a previous shoulder issue. Walking home from work at night she would think about stepping out in front of moving vehicles, and sometimes she would fill the bathtub and completely submerge her body, as she would think about drowning. This phase carried on over into the beginner of her senior year when it eventually faded.

Now if you haven’t figured it out yet, these two girls were the same person; On July 1st 2015, I was diagnosed with Clinical/Major Depression and Anxiety.

Back in May of this year, my depression came back. ‘It’ came back strong and probably worse than it ever had. It was always frustrating when ‘it’ came back, because each time I would beat it, I would think to myself ‘maybe this time is the last time’ … but it never was.

I didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want people to know. I liked what most people saw on the outside: it was who I wanted to be (and it still is who I am). The stigma that comes along with mental illness made me feel like people would think I was crazy and unstable. I didn’t feel normal. I didn’t want to take pills, and I didn’t want to have to see a therapist. I wanted so badly to beat it on my own. I wanted to be strong enough. I would try to focus on the positives, but that just made me angrier with myself and filled me with guilt. I had a great life, so how could I be this way? I wanted a reason, I wanted to be able to put my finger on something and say ‘There! That’s why I’m depressed’ … but I couldn’t.

Living with depression was like being stuck in a thick fog. Everything became a struggle. I lost interest in the things that once brought me so much joy. Everyday tasks became a challenge. I couldn’t get through the workday without breaking down. I remember looking for jobs and feeling completely unqualified for everything: waiting tables and/or serving coffee became tasks that I didn’t even think I could do. I felt absolutely helpless and completely hopeless.

I wanted off of the roller coaster that I had been on for 10 years, and the thought of another 10 years was unbearable. On June 30th, 2015 I made a goodbye video. I was over it. Done. Ready to check out.

Thankfully I had a friend who was willing to call our local behavioral health center and take me to the doctor. Going to the doctor was by far one of the hardest things I’ve done. And honestly I don’t think I could have or would have done it on my own… but I’m so glad I went. I can’t say thank you enough to that friend – you know who you are. I’m now on anti-depressants and see a therapist every couple weeks. I’ve gotten used to taking the pills, and I don’t mind it because they seem to really help. I actually love seeing my therapist, and look forward to my visits with her. I also make it more of a priority to get outdoors and be active – as those seem to help me too. My mind is now clear and I feel like I’m finally 100% myself.

The brain is a powerful organ. It has the power to take a smart, beautiful, accomplished and ambitious person and make them feel absolutely worthless… like they’re nothing. How can the woman who is sitting here writing this today, be the same girl that 4 months ago was sitting at the bottom of a shower, blood dripping from her wrist, biting her lip, and screaming through her teeth that she hated herself; hated her life.

Depression isn’t a mood – it isn’t something someone chooses to have, and it isn’t something we can just ‘snap’ out of. Suicide isn’t selfish … choosing not to talk about mental illness because it’s uncomfortable is selfish. People need to be able to talk about it, they need to feel like they can ask for help. (Now depression isn’t anyone’s fault – it’s not mine, it’s not because my parents weren’t loving enough growing up, or because I don’t have good friends – because that all couldn’t be further from the truth). This isn’t an easy story for me to share, but I hope that someone reading this might realize there is hope, that they’re not alone, they’re not crazy to think/feel this way, and that they can get help! No one is in this battle alone.

I think people need to be more open about their flaws and broken parts. Scars tell stories. Scars mean survival. Scars mean you showed up for the fight instead of running from it.

Life requires guts. It requires bravery and courage… It requires vulnerability.

It’s time that we bring mental illness to the table.

#BeVocalSpeakUp | #BreakTheStigma

Why being Healthy and Fit is a Lifestyle…and Why we Need to Stop Comparing our Bodies to those on the TV and in Magazines

It’s a Lifestyle

It’s no secret that body image has consumed the mind of many people: teens, girls, women, and even men.

There’s a lot of pressure to be ‘skinny’, ‘thin’, ‘fit’, whichever term you prefer. I never paid much attention to my body growing up. I was an athlete and played 3 sports year round. I was active, so I didn’t pay much attention to what I was eating, and it didn’t occur to me that I should be checking to see what my thighs, butt, and waist was doing.

After I graduated, I went to college and began competing in the Miss America Organization. Now before I even get to pageants, I want to talk about just being in college in general. I grew up in a small town and then went to the University of Oregon – where everyone runs. Literally. Well almost. As a college freshman I started to pay much more attention to my body, and since I wasn’t playing competitive sports anymore, I quickly learned that I couldn’t just eat whatever I want and continue to be healthy.

Then I entered pageant land, which many people criticize and say that the swimsuit portion is demeaning to women. It definitely made me look at my body more closely…after all, I was going to be walking across a stage in swimsuit, and heels, in front of an audience, being judged. That’s just uncomfortable and scary. My first few years I hated that portion of competition and walked self-consiously across stage, hoping to be off as soon as possible. I then attempted a few of those crazy, unrealistic diets/cleanses that some of the other girls were doing. I failed. I’m sorry but my body and brain just couldn’t function on 500 calories a day or only lemon water. As they shouldn’t. I’d make it through one day and then give up and stuff my face. I was so focused on being ‘skinny’ in a bikini, and would get so discouraged because I couldn’t do any of these diets. (For this very reason I understand why people don’t like the swimsuit portion). However, two years ago I decided/realized that it wasn’t about being ‘skinny’ it was about being healthy and ‘fit’; it was about being confident in my body. And it was a lot more than just walking across a stage in 30 seconds in a bikini.

I found some healthy recipes that I love. Eating healthy made me feel a lot better internally, and created some confidence just in that itself. I started to spend more time in the gym and took up running – it was about finding workouts that I enjoyed and mixing it up. From Zumba, to weight lifting, cycling, and to training for my first half marathon. I had to find things that worked for me, and that I also enjoyed. Which is going to be different for everyone, so it’s important to find what works for you.

It didn’t happen over night, and it wasn’t a ‘easy quick fix’. It really did become a lifestyle. The important thing about a lifestyle is that it’s something you can maintain. I couldn’t last 2 days on 500 calories, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be something I could maintain as a lifestyle.

I also found that it made me a lot happier, it made me a lot more confident – so I didn’t have to try to pretend to be confident for those 30 seconds. As an independent person, I found that being healthy and fit allowed me to do a lot more things on my own, it granted me freedom, gave me opportunities, and that is what ultimately creates confidence and is empowering.

Being healthy and fit means that I am able to carry my own luggage and lift things on my own without having to wait for someone else to do it for me.

Being healthy and fit allows me to hike that mountain, go for that long bike ride, or complete a half marathon.

Being healthy and fit has helped me meet more people; weather that’s at the gym, in a workout class, or at a race.

Being healthy and fit means that I’m less likely to get sick or injured. Which means less time at home or in the doctors office.

Being healthy and fit makes me a happier person. A good sweat session and release of endorphins helps me de-stress and puts me in a better mood.

Being healthy and fit has made the outdoors less scary. Nature is great and I no longer feel like I can’t take something on. Well maybe a bear.

Being healthy and fit makes me feel beautiful and confident, which makes me look beautiful and confident.

Stop Comparing

One thing I hate about watching Miss America/Miss USA is hearing people say “I just wish they had ‘normal’ bodies” or “that girl at least has an ‘average’ body”. This also applies to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and other similar events/shows. I’m sorry, but if they’re bodies were ‘normal’ or ‘average’, they wouldn’t be there. They’re training for an event, or it’s their job. They’re an exception.

We don’t watch a profession sporting event and say “I wish they played more like ‘normal’ people”. That’s why they’re in the WNBA/NBA/MLB/NFL etc. Because they’re better than ‘normal’ and ‘average’. This doesn’t mean that we didn’t have the potential to do the same, more often that not it’s because those people made it a priority, they worked harder than most to become better than ‘average’ and ‘normal’.

When I competed at Miss Oregon this past year, I was in the best shape of my life, and I likely won’t ever be quite that ‘thin’ and ‘fit’ again. That’s because I was training and preparing for an event, I was getting ready to compete. I didn’t want to have an ‘average’ body up on stage, I didn’t want to just look ‘normal’ – I wanted to be as physically fit as I could. I was working out 6-7 days a week, sometimes doing daily doubles, and I was eating a very clean, restricted diet. This isn’t something I’m going to maintain completely as a lifestyle (unless I were to be a VS Angle, because then it would be my job and I would be getting paid for it). Realistically I’m not going to have the time to workout that much anymore, and although I may still be eating healthy, I’m definitely not going to say no to the piece of cake anymore. But that’s something about living a healthy lifestyle…when I’m healthy and fit, I don’t have to feel guilty about eating the occasional piece of cake or having dessert.

While it’s important to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, it’s also important not to compare our bodies to those who are training and preparing for something, or whose job it is to be as physically fit as possible. Or even those in magazines. IMG_7349

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Choose to be healthy and fit – not because society tells us it’s important to be ‘skinny’, but for all of the other benefits!

2015 GOALS – not resolutions

It’s that time of year again when everyone starts to make resolutions – with the new year comes a new start. I’ve never been big on making resolutions, probably because they seem to only last for the first month or so. Let’s be real, it’s pretty easy to give up or even forget our New Years Resolutions; here are the most common resolutions people make…

Lose Weight
Volunteer More
Quit Smoking
Get a Better Job
Save Money
Get Fit
Take a Trip
Drink Less Alcohol
Etc.

The problem with resolutions, and what makes them so hard to stick with, is that they’re often times very vague. That’s the difference between resolutions and goals – goals are typically more specific.
2014 was a year of reflecting for me, and so I’m ready to hit the ground running in 2015! Which is why I decided to make a list of goals for 2015 – specific goals with deadlines, and most importantly, goals that are ATTAINABLE! I think that’s one of the most important things about resolutions and setting goals – are they possible? Can you achieve them? So here we go…

2015 Goals

    1. Workout 3-4 times a week
    I let myself fall behind when it comes to working out, especially since I was working out about 6 times a week last year, including some daily doubles. My schedule and job just don’t allow for that this year, but I know I can squeeze in 3-4 days a week!

    2. Write a blog post every other week
    Last year my resolution was to ‘blog more’…I’m not sure what I had in mind when I said ‘more’, but I didn’t do a very good job of that. I know I can fit in a blog post every other week!

    3. Take a photograph every day with my actual camera
    One of my other 2014 resolutions was to get ‘more into photography’…again, I pretty much failed at that until the past few months. So I’ve decided to jump on board with this Project 365 photography challenge and take a picture every day for a whole year!

    4. Drink 90 ounces of water a day
    I’ve always been really bad at drinking enough water :/ I don’t particularly ‘like’ water, unless it’s right after a workout, and so I’m often times dehydrated – which leads to my headaches, fatigue, and even weight gain. I have a ton of water-bottles…so I’m going to put them to use!

    5. Set aside one weekend every month for MYSELF
    Self-care and doing things for myself have never been a priority. I’ve learned over the years that self-care is incredibly important to health and happiness, and since there’s going to be many weeks where I can’t get a day to myself, I’ve decided to pick a weekend a month! So weather I spend that weekend sleeping and lounging in bed, or outdoors adventuring with friends, it’s MY weekend to do whatever I’d like with!

    6. Go to the Willamette Country Music Festival August 14-16th 2015
    I love country music! And I’ve been wanting to go to a country music festival for years, so it’s time to stop making excuses and actually go!

    7. Attend the Running Start Young Women in Politics Summit July 2015/spend a long weekend in Washington DC
    I’ve always had a great interest in politics, and I think it’s so great that more and more women are getting involved and being elected! I’ve also been saying for quite some time that I’m going to make it back out to DC and visit a friend…so it’s the perfect combination!

    6. Go to the Global Citizen Festival September 2015/spend a weekend in New York
    Everything about this festival just seems so great, and like something that is perfect for me. New York is a place that I’ve never been to, and I want to see new places (both abroad and here in my own country), so again, it’s a perfect combination!

    7. Move out (at least by my 25th birthday!)
    Living at home isn’t too bad, and I know I’m welcome, but I think it’s time for me to be on my own. I’m ready to have my ‘own’ place and feel like an actual ‘big girl/adult’. Thankfully I’m not in a rush, and will have time to patiently look until I find the right place – but, the search is on!

    8. Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders trip to Trinidad & Tobago March 2015
    Since taking over KBYWB, it’s been my goal and drive to get it back up and running! We haven’t done a build since 2012, and so I want to make sure one happens in 2015, and set a foundation for one to take place in 2016…and hopefully in years to come!

    9. Figure out my next step
    I want to figure out what my next step in life is. I’m happy with my job and where I am for the most part…but I’m ready for something more. Weather that next step is graduate school, moving to a new state, or working abroad, I’m ready to figure out what it is and begin working towards making that next step a reality!

    10. Take back control of my life
    For the past year and half, I feel as though I’ve been going through the motions and waiting for opportunities to arise. Although I think you should always keep an open mind to new opportunities, you can’t solely rely on them. I’m getting back into the drivers seat and taking the car off cruise control. It’s time to control my life and my future, and not let it control me!

    …oh and make some new mistakes! 😉

    There we have it- my goals for 2015. I’m going to work hard and do everything in my power to make these dreams and goals become reality, but I also know not to get too bent out of shape if some of them don’t happen… I’ll just move them on to 2016! 🙂

    2013 Was Practice
    2014 Was the Warm Up

    2015 Is Game Time

    Cheers to a New Year!

My $5 ‘tips’ for the Customers

I recently left my job as a waitress, and wanted to leave some tips for customers…

 

1 – Let the host/hostess know if you plan on staying awhile or if your group will be growing.

There’s nothing quite like being first off, and then getting a table that decides to camp out until closing, or a table who says there’s two, and then before you know it, your two top is now twenty people… Either of these are fine, just do your server the courtesy of letting them know ahead of time.  That way you can get a server who is going to be there late – servers want to serve you to the best of their ability, just communicate.

 

1.5 – On the other hand of #1, let them know if you’re in a hurry.

When a server knows you’re in a hurry, they’ll take your order right away and make sure not to give you too much ‘time and spare’, and they’ll also let the kitchen know to bump up your order.  When servers know you’re in a hurry, they can also bring you your ticket right away so you’re not waiting to cash out.  Remember…communication is key.

 

2 – If something is wrong with your food, or didn’t come out the way you were wanting, just let the server know…nicely.  

There’s no need for yelling or making the server feel awful…she/he didn’t cook your food and didn’t taste it on their way over to you.  Restaurants like happy customers, and servers will be more than happy to get whatever is wrong fixed for you.  This goes for drinks too.  Being rude and mean about it is not going to get you anywhere…and it’s definitely not going to get you top-notch service.

 

3 – Your server is a person too.

Yes, servers are there to wait on you…but they are NOT your servants! There’s a big difference.  Make eye contact when you’re talking to them, smile back, say please and thank you.  Treating your server with respect and being friendly will get you a long way!

 

4 – Leave a cash tip. And don’t leave a cheap tip. 

Servers get their credit card tips taxed directly out of their paychecks.  So even if you leave a big tip (which they’ll appreciate regardless), if it’s on a credit card, that’s just that much more that gets taxed and that makes their paycheck that much smaller.  If you’re planning to go out, just take out some cash to bring with you.  Plan on leaving at the minimum a 15% tip…and keep that in mind as you’re ordering and what you can afford.  You should really only leave the minimum 10% tip if your service wasn’t good.  Servers also have to tip-out the cooks, hosts, and expo’s. Keep in mind that servers make their living off of tips and they’re not all theirs – 15% cash tips!

 

5. Be AWARE of your surroundings.

I can’t stress this one enough.  It would seem like common sense, but I was always amazed with how oblivious people, especially adults, can be.  If the restaurant is slammed, be aware that it’s going to take longer for your server to get over to you, it’s going to take longer for your food to come out, and service isn’t going to be as perfect as it would be if things were slow.  Your server is likely running their ass off and probably somewhat stressed/overwhelmed, so yelling at them and being rude is not going to make the situation any better.  You’re not the only person in the restaurant with needs.  BE AWARE.

If the sign says “Please Wait to be Seated” then that means exactly that! Seating yourself and then getting mad when you don’t have a server is no ones fault except your own.  There’s a reason that sign is there…the host/hostess seats the customer, and then lets the server know where they are…this way your server can get to you in a timely manner. BE AWARE.

If there’s a sign in front of a door that reads “Section Closed”, that does not mean to move passed the sign and open the door.  That means that the section is full and there’s no room for you to sit.  Again, BE AWARE.

 

It shouldn’t be that complicated…just be aware of your surroundings and take those into consideration, communicate with your server/host, and be respectful at all times.  🙂