Sunday, December 2, 2012

Share Your Gifts

It's Christmas Time! The season of giving (and getting ;)...And in his sermon last weekend, my pastor made a statement that had me reaching for my pen. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "...we all have spiritual gifts and some of you haven't unwrapped yours yet."

It got me thinking: What if someone doesn't know that they have a spiritual gift? Surely no one is gift-less...right? I have always thought that every individual (no matter how strange, rude, or reserved) has a gift that they can share with another or a quality worth admiring. But, sometimes those individuals need a little assistance in finding out what that gift is.

So, how do you go about unwrapping your gift (spiritual or otherwise)? Don't worry - I'll give you a spiritual and a secular option (you can use both if you like).

First, you ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to bless another individual, in whatever way that He sees fit. And then you watch the Lord go to work! (But, make sure you're ready, because sometimes the Lord gives you exactly what you ask for! See: Luke 11:9)

Another way - which is more hands on -  is to volunteer. As some of you may know, my personal platform is about volunteerism and community involvement. I have found that in times where I felt lost or alone, that getting out and giving of myself or joining a group of people who were doing good in the community, always helped to lift my spirits. When you volunteer you find yourself: you find what you are good at in a low-stress, high rewards environment (what more could you really ask for?). Now some of you may be wondering how do you become a volunteer.... Well, that's easy: You volunteer! What I mean is, you ask someone or an organization if they need help. Particularly during this time of year, organizations are looking for extra hands, and your hands might be just the pair that they need. Go to your church, a local school or not-for-profit, or find out what community events are going on near-by, contact the liaison and offer your services. I'd be willing to bet money that they would welcome you with open arms.

So, go ahead and take that next step. Unwrapping your (spiritual) gift isn't nearly as difficult as you thought it would be. I'll leave you with a quote from a very spiritually gifted man:

"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding Your Beauty

Sometime last weekend a friend of mine told me that I had "found my beauty." Now, quite honestly, at first I wasn't sure how to take the comment (though, knowing that everything this person says is in good taste, I had to take a moment to consider her words). We have all, for certain, heard of others finding themselves or maybe discovering their true talents...but finding their beauty?

My mother has been telling me for years (as a mother should) that I am beautiful. And, somewhere in college, I truly began to believe it. As the years have gone by my definition of beauty (isn't that a pageant question??) has evolved. It has encompassed the idea of feeling comfortable in your own skin; the idea that true beauty is not seen with the eye, but felt with the heart; and beauty to me, has been, making others feel beautiful as well. Tara Wheeler always said, "Beauty is as beauty does." But, most recently I have found another source of beauty: true joy.

Now, joy and happiness - to me - are not exactly the same; but, for the sake of this entry, I'll just say that joy is a deeper type of happiness that comes from within. My own joy, comes from the love of my Heavenly Father and knowing that no matter what trials and temptations I face, He is with me. If I have learned anything in the past year, it has been that there is always a way and that I must be patient, because things will happen when and how they are suppose to.

My move to Northern Virginia (NoVA) technically meant I could "start over," "reinvent myself" and no one here would know any better. But, I like me and realized that without my usual group of friends and acquaintances I would have to come to really love me. So I focused on feeding my needs: finding a church fed my spiritual needs; joining the gym for my physical and mental health; and, starting a account for my financial well-being. But then, why not be spontaneous (in a sense) and try something totally new? So, I joined the flag-football team at work (I shocked everyone at home because I have never played on a sports team in 23 years of living), I forced myself to prepare a few meals (I don't cook - see my 8/7/12 post, "Feeding My Inner-Fat Lady"), and I started buying things I liked - without wondering if someone else would approve of them. All together, the happiness I felt from being in control of my life and the sense of calm I got from knowing that ultimately God was really in control began to transform my outlook on life. And apparently, this new feeling is showing on the outside...

This past weekend was Hampton U's Homecoming and I thought long and hard about what I was going to wear that weekend; who I was going to see; and what I was going to do. But in the end, I could only "do me" (do what makes me feel good). After the weekend was over, one of my girls texted me, she told me she was "proud of me." Which caught me off guard. When I asked why, she said, "you just looked so fab and seemed so happy." I remember smiling, and thinking about it for a moment: "I am happy," I told her...

I guess I have found my beauty.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Closing Statement

During your 10-minute panel interview in the Miss Virginia/Miss America Organization you are given the last 30 seconds to finish answering the question you were given, or to conclude the interview with a closing statement. Rarely do I have predetermined remarks that I would like to make; but, today I will make an exception. My interview was not 10 minutes, but 11 months. And it wasn't an easy interview, but I couldn't have asked for a better one. The job of Miss Hampton-Newport News was fulfilling in every way.

I took the time in the week leading up to the 2013 Pageant to post on my Instagram (if you aren't familiar, it's much like Twitter, just with pictures, instead of words) some of my fondest memories and thoughts about my reign, and here they are for my readers:

Saturday I "pass on" the title of Miss Hampton-Newport News to the 2013 winner. I've had a great reign! ... This was my crowning moment - after trying for 3 years. I am so blessed.

This is, by far, my favorite picture of my past year. I was able to participate in the annual Hampton Holly Days parade in downtown Hampton & it was on tv!

My favorite appearance this past year: The International Children's Festival in downtown Hampton. Lots of cultural activities, smiling children, and food!

One of the best things about being a titleholder? The amazing young women & young girls you meet.

Another great part about being Miss HNN is randomly feeling like a celebrity, Julius is always ready with the camera.

Oh, boy, do I love community service! Get out there and make a difference. What is your legacy?

And the tears begin...Thank you to everyone for such a beautiful year. I get to crown Miss HNN 2013 tomorrow. Xoxo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Cyber-Version of Me

Fun Fact: When you search for my name (at least on iPhone's Safari search engine) it auto-populates as result #3!

I was reminded this past week of the influence of social media. It made me think that some people may not know you, but feel that they do because they see the cyber-version you. I think of my Facebook "friends" many of whom I have not met (we may share similar interests or affiliations, many are pageant girls from other systems in other states), my Twitter account is "open" access (@MissHNN2012), and even this blog is open for public viewing. Public...millions of people have the potential to see my thoughts (don't worry, I don't think even 100 people know this blog exists, but it's got potential right?). The point is: I have to be aware of the image that I am portraying of myself... no matter which outlet I choose to express myself in.

It came to my attention that a few of my co-workers had done some homework and searched for me on Google (I believe this occurred before I officially became an employee). All of the beautiful pictures that Julius has posted (dating back to 2008) are available for curious eyes -- even the swimsuit ones! Newspaper articles, community service programs, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Blogspot...all there. Now, I have always been careful not to post what some consider "too personal" of information or anything embarrassing of myself or others. When I was younger I considered if my mother would be pleased to find that I had posted this or that.

I have to say, aside from maybe an unflattering picture or two, I am quite pleased with my Google results. (Are you able to say the same?) My results show that I am beautiful - inside and out. You can see that I know how to have fun. I am portrayed as an involved member of my community and I don't shy away from a camera!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Why Are You So Angry?

I was talking with a co-worker today and realized that people get too angry and too worked up over things. I was once told that getting angry because of something another person says or does means that they have power over you.

I tend to see a lot of anger on the road (many of you know I don't stay still very long, so I'm often in the car, heading somewhere). This past weekend, for instance, some drivers in Waco, Texas failed to understand that the left lane is for passing - not for going the same MPH as the car next to you in the right-hand lane. This went on for a few miles as the number of anxious drivers behind both "slow" cars grew. Finally the driver on the right side edged up and we followers all weaved our way around them. As I glanced back in my review mirror, I saw a guy in a pick-up truck extend his arm out of his window and he proceeded to give the bird to the slow driver in the left lane. And, for some reason, that made me mad.

What was the point? Did he feel better about himself or the situation after retracting his arm back into his vehicle? Did he feel like his middle finger would somehow encourage the slow driver to speed up next time? Or was he looking to feel in control, as he hoped that the driver would see him and feel some type of way about his crude behavior?

Yes, I know that sometimes we have to express our anger/frustration/angst in physical ways to relieve stress, to feel a little bit better about the situation. But to what extent? I felt that the driver could have cussed to his passenger if he needed, or truly, just taken a deep breath. Because, quite frankly, wherever he was going I'm sure if he was already late, he was still going to be late; and, if he was on time, a few miles at the speed limit wasn't going to make that much of a difference.

In situations like these I try to put things in perspective. Say there's a slow driver, or someone who is riding their breaks...ever consider that they're new to the area, and aren't sure where to turn next? Haven't you been in that situation before? Or the driver who cut you off, maybe they misjudged the distance between your car and the next one? Or they were distracted and realized they needed to get over quickly? Oh, that's never been you? (Yeah, right.)

Take a moment. Breathe. Say a prayer for them to get to their destination safely. Take that control back.

I'll leave you with a challenge an old principal gave me: "Make it a great day, or not: the choice is yours."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Feeding My Inner-Fat Lady

I was kindly reminded by a friend that I had not blogged in a while. So, here is something new.

The title of my blog is called "My Journey." Many of you may have assumed the journey I speak of was that as Miss HNN or to Miss VA - but you would be mistaken. It is my journey into womanhood. And what a great journey it is! This is the journey of a young woman learning to be independent (in mind and in responsibility). I have been blessed by my parents because God has blessed them - I have never needed for anything. Some have even called me spoiled...and at this point in my life, looking back, I can't really argue; but, I can say that I was a good kid and deserved what I was given (and trust me, I didn't get everything I wanted). But, with being "spoiled" there have been some skills I have not acquired...

One skill that has eluded me (much to the disdain of a few of the men who have courted me in my time ;) is that I do not cook. Food is a topic that too frequently comes up in conversation 1) because I love it and 2) food is the way to my heart...oops, I meant to a man's heart! - anyways!! I want you to notice that I was careful to say that I do not cook, not that I can not cook: there is a fundamental difference. I was always sure that, if necessary, I could follow the instructions on a simple recipe and put together a meal. The "problem" was that I never needed to cook a meal. How is this possible in 23 years of living you ask? Quite simple, I assure you.

My father has a philosophy in life that you go no where hungry. If I was going to a friend's birthday party and I was instructed that food would be there, he was feeding me before I left the house. If we were going to a cookout, we were eating before we left the house. And I think there were even times we were going out to eat and he made sure we had something to nibble on before we left the house. (Mind you my father is what my mother fondly calls, "a snacker.") If my father was leaving the house in the morning to run errands he would leave a note to instruct me to have cereal or put some waffles in the toaster for breakfast, and then there would be instructions to heat up "this dish" is "said container" whenever I got hungry and he would be sure to be home before dinner. - I remember making jello one afternoon because my mother assured me it was very simple. My father, realizing there was an empty pot in the sink that he did not put there, almost had a mini heart-attack when he realized I had boiled water without him present...

When I got to college, life was easy. The cafe was open at certain hours every day and I made sure to plan my class schedule and social adventures around those times. I woke up early to go eat breakfast (by far, the most important meal of the day!). I dragged my roommate to lunch with me when I could. And cut nap time short, to get to the cafe for dinner. I play no games with my food.

The summer internships I had - one in NY and one in NOVA were God-sents. My time in NY I lived with my Grandmother - she knows I don't cook; so, breakfast and dinner were provided for me without fail (Love you, Grams!). Living in NOVA, Megan - the lady who has been so kind to let me live with her - also makes me dinner whenever she's home (and I can count on one hand the number of evenings she wasn't last summer). Oh, but this summer is different... because I'm on my journey!

I decided "enough with the excuses," it was time to get my act together! Sooner or later Megan will kick me out (LOL) and I am not about to live off pasta (anyone can cook pasta). God set up the scenario - he sent Megan out of the country on business for a week: leaving me to fend for myself! I have bought vegetables before, so that was no issue - but you should have seen me in the meat section trying to decide what cut of beef would make my inner fat-lady happy!!! (I went with thinly cut rib-eye, in case you were wondering.)

So, with a little help from mum (thank goodness for the telephone), a few random recipes online (,, I made the following meals....

Tacos - Brown the meat, cut up the veggies, & LOAD on the cheese!

Couscous (cooks in boiling water, I think it's better than rice), pan-seared chicken (called mum for that one), and pan-seared asparagus (takes longer to cook, if you like them soft, than I thought it would).

Baked potato (also takes forever to cook!), steamed broccoli, and fresh, cut tomato.

My favorite meal of the week: the leftover couscous, rib-eye (because it was thin it cooked faster than I thought, still good though), and brussel sprouts (put them in the oven, covered in olive oil, and garlic salt).

Leftovers: Boil an egg, cut up half an avocado, and throw in any leftover meat from dinner that you have = Great salad for lunch.

Extra ground beef (or any meat)? No tortillas left? Want more of a snack-feel? It's a taco salad!

See! I told you I could follow a simple recipe ;)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life's Defining Moments

I have been asked before to name a defining moment in my life; and, being the person that I am I find it difficult to rest on just one moment. This year for the Miss Virginia program book, I decided on "the moment I landed an internship with Goldman Sachs in NY." But, as I sit here and think back on my relatively short-lived life, I can say with complete honesty and conviction that this 23rd year of my life has truly been a defining moment and the best year of my life. (Can an entire year be a defining moment? lol) And, I know that if this year is the best so far that God is getting ready to blow my socks off in years to come.

I would say that this year of definition started summer internship (you can see that I am a scholar & business woman first!). I worked in McLean, VA for Freddie Mac and was blessed to live with Megan and her family for the three months that I spent working. Megan was not someone I had met before or knew much about. When I accepted the job offer I called my friend Betty (my first pageant director) and told her the good news; she told me right away that she would start calling around to see if she could help me find a place to stay. She called a friend, who called a friend and that's how I met Megan. Needless to say, the summer of 2011 was pretty awesome. I spent a good amount of time traveling and trying new things. My car batter died on me Memorial Day (thank goodness Donnie was there to keep me calm). I paid rent for the first time. And I watched the Miss VA pageant live that summer. I traveled to a National Park in West Virginia. I ate at a rotating sushi bar in Tyson's Corner and came to own my first Kate Spade bag. I went to NY to spend time with my Grams immediately following the internship and on my way home I got a call from Freddie Mac extending me a full-time position.

The next "big event" in my life took place on November 19, 2011 (I hope to never forget that date). That evening I was crowned Miss Hampton-Newport News 2012. That was certainly a defining moment - one in which a three-year long dream was coming true - I was finally going to compete on the Miss Virginia stage in Roanoke! This defining moment allows me to tell every little girl (or boy) to always go after what you want and not to let anyone or anything stand in your way. Imagine if had I given up on my dream after competing in over a dozen local preliminaries and walking away without a crown? Know what you want, know why you want it...

The following few months marked my last semester in graduate school - and I thought winning a local title was tough! There were days/weeks I wasn't sure that I would pass my finals or my classes. Things were rough, but I never gave up on myself; and, the constant support and encouragement from my family and friends kept me going. On May 13, 2012 I walked across the stage on Buckman Lawn and received my Masters of Business Administration degree from Hampton University. Talk about a proud moment! My family was there to look on as I became the first female in my family to earn a Master's degree.

I was living on Cloud 9 for the weeks following. School was done. Miss VA was in a matter of weeks. And I was still working part-time at JCPenney (the Greenbrier store graciously sponsored some of my appearance wardrobe/jewelry for the State pageant). And then, mere days before I am to leave for Miss Virginia, my car (whom I fondly refer to as "Frannie") catches on fire. Now some of you may laugh (as I had to, to stop myself from crying) but I was not a happy camper. The car overheated on the highway - thank goodness my friend Joe was with me - and with quick thinking from the both of us, the fire was put it out and we were both safe. We were able to have the car towed home and looked at by a mechanic. But now I was car-less and in a slight panic.

God worked things out, as he always does, and I was able to ride with two of my pageant sisters - Elissa Taylor and Shelby Smith - to Roanoke the following Sunday. The Miss Virginia Pageant... talk about a defining moment in a girl's life...was a BLAST. Being surrounded by 25 young women (whom Elizabeth Robinette and I decided were not underachievers ;) for 6 days was a blessing. Knowing that each of us impact our communities on a daily basis to bring about positivism and to encourage young people to be involved, healthy, and educated citizens gives me hope for our future generations.

My last defining moment (so far)...
We all know that I can't stay put for too long, right? As I told my judges in my private interview - if I didn't get a crown on my head on Saturday night... I was starting work on Monday morning in Northern VA (NOVA). Well, the Miss VA pageant week officially ended when I checkout of my hotel room around 10:30am on Sunday, July 1st (with no new crown). After having chicken and waffles at Thelma's in downtown Roanoke, mum, T, & I headed home. On the way (mind you at this point I am still not 100% sure how I am getting to NOVA to start my new job the next day), my father calls to tell me to pick up a rental at the airport so that I can drive up to NOVA no problem. I get the car, drive home, pack the rest of my belongings, and am on the road again within the hour. I arrived at my home away from home around 10pm that night. Set my alarm for 6:50am, took a shower, and went to sleep.

Monday, July 2nd. Though I vowed during pageant week that I had no desire to wear another pair of heels or see another makeup bag, I dutifully grabbed my newest pair of black pumps, put on my foundation, mascara, and a splash of blush after breakfast and headed out the door. I am now a working woman: a woman who has to figure out how to budget her money responsibly; how to balance her time between work and play. I am woman who will now start adding new things to her list of short- and long-term goals. I am excited by life and even more by the unknowns that come along with it.

Now the question is: What have I learned from my defining moment(s)?
- Life is short and sweet. Enjoy it. (I think about my frat brother who passed away in 2010... and the great legacy that he has given to many...Will others be able to say the same about you?)

- There is no sense in worrying. - It only causes headaches and wrinkles, and I don't want either!

- ALWAYS believe in your dreams and don't give up on them. (If you do, you will surely miss out on a blessing!)

- God is always in control. (Period.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

A confidence makeover...

There are some mornings that I wake up feeling renewed, energized, and like the princess that God has made me to be. Then there are mornings, like today, where I struggle: where I question my abilities and my dreams. After breakfast, I opened my devotional app on my phone (one of the very few I figured worth spending money on) and this bible verse greeted me:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. - 2 Corinthians 3:4 (NIV)

I smiled. Who am I to question God's abilities? For my abilities are only His abilities. I have not come this far on my own, and I can feel it in my bones that God has so much more for me! So, today may be a rough day - and just because I've seen this verse and feel a sense of calm now does not mean that the struggle is over. Because it is far from over...but, I will continue to remind myself of God's promise to give me competence and confidence, and to help me overcome feelings of inferiority, insecurity, and inadequacy.

I wanted to type this blog to be open and honest. To show you that we all struggle and no one's life - not even that of a titleholder - is always rosy red. It is the foundation of a person, what grounds them and gives them strength, that allows them to overcome obstacles and defeats. It is my foundation in Christ that gives me the courage and tenacity to keep moving towards my next goal.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two-Time Winner


If you can't tell -- I'm very excited about this most recently accomplishment of mine. Next to winning the title of Miss HNN, this might be one of the most difficult achievements I've made in recent years. There were days I wasn't sure I would be seeing this moment. The first four years of school were relatively easy, I studied (and had fun) and made it through with my Bachelor's degree - no problem. But, it seems that once my friends had graduated, and I was living back at home, and I won a title, and I was working part-time, again, that I just didn't feel as focused or motivated to get my butt into gear. My mother didn't coddle me - she pushed me, reminded me that I didn't get this far by slacking. My friends reminded me that I only had mere weeks separating school and the summer. I had to remind myself that I didn't come this far to slip and fall. So after 5 years, 10 (long) semesters, 166 credit hours (24 of which came from my International Baccalaureate diploma), I have graduated from Hampton University (Cum Laude) - twice.

Special thank you to my parents for helping me foot the bill for my undergraduate degree. To my sister for being my saving grace these past two semesters. To my girls who held me down - through drama, and boys, and crazy nights. To "my boys" and my brothers (Ow~Sweet) who always had my back with no judgement. To my professors who challenged me. To my family and friends who just offered encouragement and a belief that I could do anything I set my mind to do. - I thank you.

Phyllicia Whittingham, MBA

Blessed is the [wo]man who remains steadfast under trial, for when [s]he has stood the test [s]he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. - Jame 1:12 (ESV)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are you a Feminist?

A lady I know through pageants is currently studying for her Masters degree in the field of women's studies at a local university and she decided to present on the positive aspects of pageantry and how they can be advantageous to today's woman. I was surprised when this pageant friend asked if I would sit on a panel of other pageant queens to answer questions from students in her class; and, I graciously agreed. The questions centered around beauty, pageantry, and feminism. I enjoyed answering the questions and hearing the strength and quality of the answers from the young ladies who sat with me.

There were the students who were concerned about the family dynamics that pageantry created, asking: At what age did you start pageants? How involved is the father in the whole process? Why did you start competing? Some wanted to know how we fight stigmas, what obstacles we have come up against, and causes we support. One young lady stood up and was very honest with us. She shared that her hesitation about pageants comes from the idea that this one woman (this "Miss America") is suppose to be a representative for all of America's women. She stated that she didn't feel like she could see herself with a crown on her head. But one of the mothers of a panelist brought up a great point: if you can see yourself as a scholar, as someone who is involved in her community, as a successful individual, or a woman with her own unique sense of style then you embody Miss America. You embody the four points of the crown.

For me, however, there was another student who caught my eye. She had the tough questions ready and seemed to be attempting to glean the most from the answers the panel was giving. She wanted to know how we felt about the Miss Canada USA scandal and if we thought a transgender female should be allowed to compete. And then my favorite question of the evening: Are you a feminist? I had to admit to the room that I didn't know the true definition of the word (!) which caused an interesting shuffle in the room as the students were eager to enlighten me. I was told - in more or less words - that a feminist is someone who is against sexism, one who advocates for equal rights of women. After hearing the definition, I proudly declared that, "Yes, I am a feminist." I am a business student - so I am quite aware that there is a 23 point earnings gap between men and women and that women only make up 3%  of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. So, I am going to be strong and confident in the office and in all that I do. And I won't let anyone tell me I can't accomplish something, let alone a man.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Aries Baby!!!


Doesn’t sound much older than twenty-two. Doesn’t feel much older either – because that’s what I know you were going to ask! Wednesday I was blessed to turn another year older, and (in theory, at least) I am all the more wiser and smarter. And I have adopted the mantra “I am like a fine wine, I get better with age.”
Wednesday was a great day – not as full of excitement as the other birthdays I had celebrated during my undergraduate years at HU; but a great day nonetheless. I woke up (bright at early) and volunteered at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. Starting my birthday off with a service opportunity was the best thing I could have done. I felt even more blessed to live the life I have been given; I was able to be surrounded by several young ladies who have such big hearts and it truly set the tone for the day.

I went out to lunch with my father afterwards…we talked about dating (for him, mostly), school, graduation (let’s hope I make it there!), life beyond school, and – of course – the Miss Virginia pageant. He’s been rough on me over the years but at the end of the day, I know that he loves me and wants what is best for me (but, I won’t admit that he always knows what’s best for me). After lunch I came home and answered a few emails then headed across the water to go to class – yeah, who goes to an optional class session on her birthday? This kid.

Class was a little daunting as we have a HUGE project that’s due too soon and I’m afraid I don’t know/understand everything that it entails. One of my good friends left me balloons and a devotional entitled “Promises for Women from God’s Word” – I am looking forward to reading it soon.

After all that I will admit I was getting a little sleepy (it doesn’t help that I was up past two am the night before working on an assignment due Thursday because I knew I wasn’t going to do it Wednesday night)… But, I fought through the Zzz’s and made my way over to Tanya’s dorm to borrow some shoes – she gave me my b-day hug and we both silently knew we’d just celebrate my birthday Thursday with our Grey’s Anatomy-night. I made my way over to Cassi’s house, where I was greeted by Phong and Talley (two great guys from high school). After consulting Yelp and Google and some other app we decided not to go for Mexican but to try a place called Yard House in VaBeach. We were afraid the prices would be a bit much when we saw the suits & ties through the window but it worked out. The place was a tad chilly for my liking and a little noisy (but Yelp had prepared me for this); the food was good and the waitress was nice. I got a free peach cobbler with a candle.

We wrapped up the night with a Little Debbie-Butterfly bunt cake (Cassi made it). I won’t even lie – it was pretty darn good! We watched a little bit of The Big Bang Theory and then it was time to call it a night. All-in-all, I was a very happy birthday girl.

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes, hugs, gifts, cards, and love. *Muah!

I’m off to Roanoke for Workshop. Ttyl.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Lorax

This past Friday was one of the fullest days I have had in a very long time -- and I loved it!

I (like the girl I am) stayed out and partied with a few friends late into the morning on Thursday night/Friday morning. Well, when I was crawling into my bed (around 3am) I remembered something... I had volunteered myself to help out with Jump Rope for Heart at Tyler Elementary School in Hampton - mind you the event started at 8am. I groaned and set my alarm clock. Needless to say, I did not wake up with the alarm - but I made it to Tyler by 9am. I spent about an hour and a half with the students. "Coach," as they so fondly call the P.E. teacher, was a joy to be around. There were different stations for the kids to show off their talents (double-dutch, a trick station, and even an activity room). I liked dancing with the Wii Fit with the music teacher and I played basketball on the black-top -- I know what you're thinking... You played a sport? Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, which is why I did not allow photos to be taken during this phenomenon! I stopped by Ms. Washington's classroom to say hello to Hailey's old classmates and they miss her dearly.

I left from Tyler and headed straight to work (changing my jogging pants and running shoes for a gray skirt and black flats). The day went by rather quickly. The customers were nice; but, I was hungry and I just wanted to get home to make myself some lunch (all I ate that morning was a PB&J). Got off around 3 and headed home. I had a tuna sandwich for lunch - it was yummy. Then I left my house to go pick up Brigid. I think I barely gave her time to breath after she had gotten off the bus from school! We had a nice chat about school and the upcoming Miss VA pageant on our way to pick up my sister (my blood sister), Tanya, from HU. Then we were off to Hailey's house. Scooped up Hailey and headed to the AMC Theatre. I let Hailey choose our seats and she headed for the top of the stairs: she managed to find the "perfect view," she said! (And we were only a few minutes late for the previews - Tanya wanted to see those; Hailey, however, wanted them to hurry up and finish!) 

The Lorax was a good movie (I didn't really expect that I would enjoy it as much as I did). The funny thing was that I think my 20-year-old sister was delighted and humored by the jokes and fascinated by the cartoon characters as much as Hailey was. The movie focused on the environment and conserving what we have. However, there was an even bigger message - we can all make change happen. No matter how old or young you are; no matter how much money you have or don't have - as long as you have a good heart, you can make a difference.

The movie ended with this quote:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not. 

(I took the girls home - Haily, then Tanya, then Brigid. Spent some time talking to Mrs. Anne, then I drove home. After a really long day, I crawled into my bed and I slept really well that night!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Am I Good Enough?

Today I listened in on a conference call about raising awareness for the HIV/AIDS in the black community, but it was the closing remarks that have been resonating in my mind for the past few hours. A fellow Hamptonian is part of the pageant committee that hosted the call and in the middle of her closing statement I heard her say, "I wondered 'Am I good enough?'"

My mind instantly heard Kevin Costner's tribute to Whitney Houston, where he so eloquently describe a woman that he clearly loved and admired. He said, "The Whitney I knew, despite her success and worldwide fame, still wondered, ‘Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?’ It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end."

We all wonder - at some point in each of our blessed lives, are we good enough. Thinking back over my years, I have wondered that same thing when it comes to school, work, pageants, and, more recently, relationships. But my smallest successes in each of those areas of my life give me hope. They remind that I am good enough - and how do I know this? Because I say so and I won't accept anything less. I truly know that I am good enough because my Heavenly Father says so. And after His approval, I need no one else's.

For those of you who may still doubt if you're good enough. I will simply challenge you to: Know that you are beautiful (tell yourself this every day). Believe in your dreams (because if you don't who will?). And always look forward because you cannot change your past. But the future? That is in your hands.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Safe Sex

This post is both politically and personally motivated. Some may believe that this topic is inappropriate for me to comment on - but, I don't care. It's important that I talk about it (and that's what blogs are for right?).

I won't go on too much about how some politicians are overly concerned about the vagina of today's women or about this recent movement to force women to have an ultrasound before making the decision to have an abortion or not. Now, before I go much further I will preface this post by saying that I am a Christian woman. I do believe in the sanctity of life. I do not like abortions. And I do volunteer with a center that works to provide mothers-to-be with an alternative to abortion. But, I also believe that I have no right to force my beliefs onto others. I believe that people should consider their actions (and that includes the likely consequences) and be willing to live with the decision that they have made. With that being said...

Contraceptives are your friend. Use them. I don't care if Mr. So-and-So says it's "immoral" or if the church has decided it shouldn't be used. Get with the times, folks - young people are having sex at younger and younger ages every single year. Telling young people to wait until marriage is a great idea (I myself am on that path); but, abstinence-only education is a ridiculous notion. Sometimes telling a young person not to do something is just like telling them to do something...So? Arm them with the facts. I believe that schools (and parents) need to teach young people about sex: what it is; when it's appropriate; and, how to protect themselves (before, during, and after). Then young people need to use those contraceptives. Why do I say this? It's simple: we don't need children raising children. Education is empowering; but knowledge applied - that is real power.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Change for a Dollar Movie

Change For A Dollar Movie: (< click title to view movie) Is he asking for Change, or is he asking for CHANGE? Follow a man as he affects multiple peoples' lives with just one dollar, proving that it doesn't take much to be the change in someone's life. Written and directed by Sharon Wright.

In the end, this video reminded me that we are all merely visitors here on this Earth. We are borrowers of what many of us think we own. God has blessed us with tangibles and intangibles...we pass them along to others or hoard them and keep them for our own self-gratification. In this video, the homeless man gives selflessly to others and you see how many lives he was able to impact? Through it all you see that the man's kindness comes back to him (yay! for all you karma lovers); that kindness came back to him because the little boy realized it (his lucky penny) was not his to hold on to, but something to pass along. So, do not hoard up your gifts, your talents, your love, your time, or even your spare change...share them with others in hopes that their lives will be enriched (and maybe, just maybe, your own life will see a little blessing, as well).

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Super Bowl of Pageants

My big brother and I spoke shortly after the Miss America pageant and he laughed and told me that this was like my Super Bowl. I couldn't have agreed more! I was logged on to Twitter and Facebook "reporting" and reading others' comments about the events that were unfolding before me on the television screen. I won't use this entry to rant about the values of the Miss America ("Miss A") system and how I believe that every female should participate in at least one pageant in her lifetime...but I want to take this time to take a look at the questions that were posed to the top 5 finalists. Before I get to the questions, I have one other issue to address... Some people posted saying that "didn't get it" when it came to why Kris Jenner was appointed as a judge - what's there not to get? She's a celebrity, one whose opinion is important (to some extent) in the world of popular culture. Miss A wants to expand her brand - and I would be surprised if some little girl didn't tune in to the show just to see Kris; I think appointing her as a judge was no mistake at all.

Q: Should Miss A be able to declare her political views...
Miss Wisconsin didn't really answer this question (and I get it). 
A: I do believe that we are all entitled to our own opinions (which are generally formed from our life experiences and expectations) - so when put in a situation in which you may be asked to declare where you stand exactly, I simply believe you must be able to back up your stance. So, in a nutshell: yes, I think she should be able to declare her political views.

Q: What should be the extent of the government's involvement concerning obesity in children...
I loved Miss Oklahoma's answer! 
A: I firmly believe that so many problems start in the home; but, with the same token, good values and standards can be taught in the same place. It should be a parent's responsibility to provide for their children what is right and healthy.

Q: Is it right for those in the public eye to use their celebrity to promote their faith (i.e. T. Tebow)...
Miss Arizona nailed this one as well. 
A: I believe that those in the public's eye use their celebrity to promote less important things, like movies, sports drinks, clothes, and smell-goods; so, why not use that same status to promote your religion? But, I am also convicted in knowing that there's a difference when it comes to sharing your faith and shoving it down someone's throat. One thing I probably would not have considered (but Miss AZ was smart enough to comment on) is that we often not only represent ourselves but a bigger body: Tim Tebow represents the NFL and Miss A represents the entire country, so those in such positions must be extra mindful of the messages that they share.

Q: Do the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters have a point and what should be done about it?
I appreciated Miss New York's answer. 
A: I think the protesters have a point - there is a lopsidedness present in America when it comes to wealth, power, and influence. What should be done about it? Politicians need to be reminded that they are the voices of their constituents - they are public servants; they need to listen to what their people are telling them and act. The rules need to be changed on Capital Hill; the American people need to come first.

Q: Do reality shows like "Teen Mom" glorify teenage pregnancy...
Miss California confused me with her answer as she claimed to "support" those shows but agreed it did "glorify" teenage pregnancies, and she said something about feeding the "appetite" for reality programming...
A: My answer? No young woman who: 1) does not like drama 2) desires financial freedom 3) wants to fully enjoy college and/or "just be a teen" would desire to live the life of young girls like Chelsea or Jenelle... But heck! These girls have their nails done, hair died, and skin-tanned -- that's more than some of us without babies can say! So, sure there's a glorification - get pregnant, get a spot on a television show, get thousands of random people to watch you and talk about your drama. You become a mini-celebrity overnight, now who doesn't want that?