It’s all in the Journey!

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Los_Angeles_Skyline_telephoto

I can’t believe that in two days, I’ll be loading all of my worldly possessions on to a moving company truck and wrapping up this ‘adventurous journey’ I have had in LA. When I moved to the West Coast I had high hopes for what I would be able to accomplish here, but also no true expectations. After all, they don’t call this la la land for nothin’. ūüėȬ†

Since passing the torch last September, I have had an array of feelings ranging from relief to sadness to anger to contentment. In true Capricorn fashion, you never really know what you’re going to get. Ha! All of those feelings have stemmed from several different factors, but a majority of them from the unknown. Being here in LA was an opportunity to meet people and make connections; thrive. I thought being Miss America coupled with the forces of William Morris Endeavors, I would be headed for success in no time! I mean…I am headed for success. Just… via ¬†a different route.¬†

As I have mentioned before, one of the things I remain most grateful for here in the land of la la is my newfound relationship with God. This past Wednesday’s “Midweek” sermon (preached by Hank Fortener) at Mosaic was one I will never forget. I attend church alone (I like to) so that I can really immerse myself in the praise and worship, and this week I was thiiiiiiiiiiiis * * close to not going, but God pushed me out the door and with each word that rolled off of Hank’s tongue, I knew exactly why I was there.¬†

The sermon was based upon the verses John 4:1-38. My favorite passage is as follows:

7¬†When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her,¬†‚ÄúWill you give me a drink?‚Ä̬†8¬†(His disciples had gone into the town¬†to buy food.)

9¬†The Samaritan woman said to him, ‚ÄúYou are a Jew and I am a Samaritan¬†woman. How can you ask me for a drink?‚ÄĚ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10¬†Jesus answered her,¬†‚ÄúIf you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.‚ÄĚ

11¬†‚ÄúSir,‚ÄĚ the woman said, ‚Äúyou have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?¬†12¬†Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well¬†and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?‚ÄĚ

13¬†Jesus answered,¬†‚ÄúEveryone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,¬†14¬†but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.¬†Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of waterwelling up to eternal life.‚ÄĚ

15¬†The woman said to him, ‚ÄúSir, give me this water so that I won‚Äôt get thirsty¬†and have to keep coming here to draw water.‚ÄĚ

Jesus met this woman at the well because he knew it was the one place he would find her, day after day. Hank brought this passage to us because he is challenging us to be more persistent in asking God for the things we need in life, but to stop thinking so small. When she turns to him and says: 

You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?

Basically she is saying “Bah! Where is your bucket, dude?”¬†

Jesus isn’t thinking in buckets. He’s thinking in rivers and oceans.¬†

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of waterwelling up to eternal life.

So often we scoff at God after showing up to the well once or twice. I am as guilty as the next person in doing just that. How many times have you shown up once or twice and said to yourself “See, I knew God wasn’t listening!”

He is listening. But, we have to stop thinking in buckets when God is trying to send rivers and oceans of blessings our way. We have to keep going back to the well. 

To me, moving to Los Angeles was something I¬†had¬†to do. If you know me, I’m pretty good at setting my mind to something and making it happen (I don’t know where I got all of my never-ending courage from, but I’ll absolutely take it). LA was no different. I’m so happy that I made the decision to move and I am grateful for my time as Miss America because without it, I financially would have had a much different experience. However, New York is where my heart lies.¬†

I can’t wait to get back to school, have a routine, feel productive and be with my friends. As much as I have enjoyed¬†all¬†of the amazing travels I have had in the last ten months, I look forward to spending some much-need time in one place. I also know that I can capitalize on the relationships and resources I created for myself in New York as I continue on my journey in life and it doesn’t hurt to be moving in with my favorite person ever.¬†

I’m going back to my well.¬†

 

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-M

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Extreme Weight Loss, Brandi

Body Image, Extreme Weight Loss, Food, Kids Health, Miss America

Last night’s episode of Extreme Weight Loss¬†was about a woman, Brandi, who ultimately decided to give up on her dreams. Focusing heavily on her childhood desire to become Miss America¬†(who surprised her and did a great job), Brandi spoke about standing on stage at pageants, time after time, being told she ‘needed to lose weight,’ a sentence I’m all too familiar with. When Chris showed up at the Miss Atlanta Elite Pageant (which he misquoted as a Miss America Circuit Pageant, but we’ll forgive him) with his tried and true scale, Brandi weighed in at 329 lbs, approximately 175 lbs overweight. The entire episode of is riddled with psychological issues of self-esteem and confidence in herself.

Now, I know each ‘story’ on television is exaggerated, I can’t help but wonder if all of this started with what seemed like a simple pageant. I once was quoted as enjoying (as a guilty pleasure) Toddlers and Tiaras, but as my relationships with pageants, body-image and self-confidence has grown (in good and bad ways), I’m starting to think the real story will be those T&T girls in 20 years. It all seems like fun, games and good entertainment right now, but what will these girls be dealing with in 20 years? While I wasn’t reaaaaallly in child beauty pageants, I certainly have had my fair share. I was little Miss Lee County Fair Queen once or three times over the course of the years. The friends and family I grew up with were always involved in on-stage activities and pageants were no different. I got involved with Miss America at 13 and at 14 I was told (and I quote) “If you would have lost 10 pounds, you would have won.” ¬†For so many girls, myself included, every day is a battle of the body. It’s exhausting.¬†

Giving up my title as Miss Chattahoochee Valley's Outstanding Teen. I was 16.

Giving up my title as Miss Chattahoochee Valley’s Outstanding Teen. I was 16 and I “needed to lose 10 pounds.”

We often discuss the effects of the entertainment industry on young girls and their need to be thinner or more beautiful. Feeling inadequate is nothing new for most of us, and talking about Bulemia and Anorexia are common, but what about how those same feelings can be what leads to Obesity? I’m here to say I know exactly how Brandi feels. Even the most confident person believes what people say about them. “She’s fat” when she’s really¬†not¬†can do wonders on a young woman, in the same way telling someone who’s suffering from anorexia “You’re so skinny” can be detrimental to her progress. I can’t tell you how many times the thought ‘Well everyone already thinks i’m fat, anyway’ has popped in my head before ordering pasta instead of a salad. On the other end, the times i’ve heard a girl say, “I just wish I could have a few french fries” is alarming. Life is supposed to be able finding a balance that works for¬†you. Unfortunately, as a nation, it seems we are far too polarized.¬†

There’s a whole¬†ridiculous¬†group of people who say if you enter a pageant, you are opening yourself up to criticism in that arena. I’m going to respectfully disregard you right now, because that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.¬†

Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks and 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25% of girls with high self-esteem. Is this what we want to be doing to our society? We have got to do better, be better and live better for our next generation of girls (and guys). Can you imagine someone (a judge) telling your six or seven year old daughter that she needed to lose weight? If I were a mother, that person would give a swift kick in the ass face (that would hurt more). 

For the first time ever in my life, I discouraged a young woman (not too long ago) from competing in a pageant because she was consistently being told to lose weight. She. Was. Stunning. To me, walking away from that sounded like a much better option than a lifetime of self-doubt and feeling like she’s not good enough. Who knows, she could have ended up feeling just like Brandi. I don’t wish that on one single soul. I’m not saying pageants are bad, or they don’t stand for many wonderful things (including learning to live a healthy lifestyle). I’m just saying… being told that you’re fat sucks because words hurt and they stick with you forever.¬†Whether you are or are not. End of story. Choose them wisely.¬†

Because this is fun to read while you're on the road, traveling, giving, lonely... 2 votes or 69. It doesn't matter.

Because this is fun to read while you’re on the road, traveling, giving, lonely… 2 votes or 69. It doesn’t matter.

That being said, in order for us to live better, we have to make better choices. These past couple of days i’ve been working with a girl who is competing in local pageants in California. As we began to develop her personal platform, which encourages children to live healthy, I learned startling facts about our health as a nation, but especially the health of our children. 1 in 4 children in the United States will develop diabetes, but that number increases almost 30% for African, Asian and Latino Americans. 1 in 4. Cancer/Smoking/Automobiles Heart Disease is the number one killer in America and it’s only getting worse. I’ve watched¬†several¬†documentaries¬†in the past 48 hours and I am truly alarmed that we are not FIRED UP about our health, the FDA and the CRAP that is on the shelves and in our schools. I digress.¬†

Brandi had an incredible¬†transformation, but most people don’t end up on Extreme Weight Loss with a hot coach and an entire nation watching. Even then, the psychological issues she was facing didn’t disappear. Her relationship with food wasn’t broken. Most people are working, studying, parenting, tired and plagued by the machine that is marketing¬†in our country. I don’t know how many times we have to say,”enough is enough!” I am as guilty as the next person, but it doesn’t mean it’s all impossible to change.¬†

I am happy to have watched Brandi succeed, but I am sad that a childhood of pageantry and self-doubt lead to an adulthood of insecurity and pain. Those words…”she needs to lose weight” have been sitting on her shoulders since childhood. We have to do better.¬†

 

 

 

Where to begin? (Berlin)

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The last I shared with all of you I was in Copenhagen and about to embark on the journey that is “international travel.” I HAD SO MUCH FUN!! The best part about all of it was spending two weeks with my long-lost, best friend, but aside from that, we took in so many cool things in that short time-frame and I loved it. My waist line may not have, but whateves…

The day after my last blog, Ashley became deathly ill. She had a really high fever and was coming down with something intense. While that was not ideal for our upcoming adventures, I will say it did give me a solid look into the reality of their healthcare system. Ashley called the doctor, we walked down the street, they scanned her card. We were in and out of the office with a prescription¬†in less than 20 minutes. No lie. No paperwork. No waiting…. None of it. Ashley went to the pharmacy, got her antibiotics (or whatever) and we were good to go by the next day. BOOM! Aside from that, the¬†¬†rest of my visit in Copenhagen was an absolute blast. We had the chance to go to the wake-boarding competition called “Copenwaken,” do the boat tour I talked about, enjoy the end of Distortion and try some of Ash’s favorite restaurants before heading off to Germany. Oh wait. I forgot to mention that I got hit by a bus on that damned BIKE. I told you guys!!!! Luckily it was more comical and less scary, but still..I knew it was all a bad idea from the start. Of course… Ashley thought it was hysterical.

Berlin was crazy! We stayed on Raumerstabe Street, just a little North East of Berlin “proper” in a really cute, but very HOT studio apartment. I mean. Fire pit. The neighborhood was really nice and there were tons of restaurants and coffee shops nearby. We were really set on not wearing ourselves out with too much “touristy” stuff, so we mostly just spent time exploring with sight-seeing sprinkled in. We had a chance to go to Check Point Charlie and visit the museum as well as take a Segway tour around the city for some all-inclusive, ‘here it is’ sights. We’re really low maintenance…. this became clear early on. Both of us were like..”Cool. We saw it. Okay… Bye.” Haha I will say, though, that learning about the intense history in any city/country is so fascinating. Standing at the Berlin Wall it was hard not to imagine the hundreds of thousands of people who, in that very space, fought tooth and nail to find a way back to West Berlin. That same wall! That IIIII touched! We also met two recent Georgia grads at the wall when we offered to take a picture. We bonded over The South and Football, and (no kidding) then RAN IN TO THEM later that night at one of Berlin’s fun bar/clubs, Club der Visionare. As if the world didn’t already seem small, our new Georgia friends knew Miss Georgia 2013, Carly Mathis! Might I remind you I was in Germany.

From Berlin to Paris, we explored the city of lights with a casual schedule. Much of our time was filled with sight-seeing and Rose (Don’t judge me. It’s summer). We did everything from the Lourve (I die.) to the Arc…. Versailles to Notre Dame.The history in Europe is just so vast! Versailles was probably my favorite experience, even if we were packed in like sardines. Seeing extravagant¬†and ornate room after room was fascinating. We ate our way through Paris like the best of them, with our last meal culminating at Le Terrioir Parisien.

While that tiny recap I just gave you was nice, it certainly does not do my Europtrip any justice, but let’s face it…that was a while ago. So much is happening now it feels like I am on a roller coaster! When I got back, I had the chance to emcee the Miss Arizona Pageant and then attend the Miss California Pageant all before heading to New Orleans to Speak at the National Exchange Club Convention about Child Sexual Abuse. Being Miss America has afforded me so many opportunities to continue to travel and experience new things this year, and for that, I am so grateful.

When I traveled to the National Exchange Club this past week I realized it’s been since (nearly) September that I have really had a chance to stand up and speak about Child Sexual Abuse. For several reasons I have shied away from the topic of CSA since becoming a ‘forever’ in September, but it was really such a wonderful opportunity to share my family’s story and light a fire of passion with several Exchange Club Members who, otherwise, may not have thought twice about it. It didn’t hurt that being in NOLA gave me chance to eat some southern Creole food, see my girls Lauren and Candice, and experience a wonderful dinner in celebration of Lauren’s mom, Michelle, at my¬†favorite restaurant¬†ever¬†R’evolution.

In the midst of all of this travel and adventure I have been working diligently to tie up loose ends in LA and get things settled in New York. I’m excited to say that Claire and I have found our apartment and we can’t¬†wait to move in! Scheduling the movers, figuring out how to get my car back to Alabama, buying plane and train tickets, and even finding a new tenant in LA to take over my lease has just been one. giant. pain. I can’t say how much I am looking forward to the idea of just getting to New York and being¬†settled.¬†Well…settled and with all of my frannnnnnds!

In two days I’m off to Orlando to judge the National Princess Pageant and then I’m back to the West Coast once more to pack up and head out. By the time I’m back in New York and ready to get the ball rolling with school and work, it will be time for Miss America. It seems crazy that all of that hoopla was already almost a year ago. I ain’t mad. ūüėČ

Anyway! Sorry it’s been so long. Here’s some pictures I made public from Europe. Enjoy!

 

Mal