Thursday, March 28, 2013

Flapper Flashback

     Ever since I was little, I have dreamed of being in a fashion show. While a few opportunities have presented themselves, none have worked out - until this weekend at least!
     This last weekend I was able to attend the Glamour and Glitz Historical Fashion Show for the Douglas County Historical Society. The fashion show is put on mostly to raise money to help the Douglas County Historical Society raise funds that can help preserve important history of Douglas County, but it also allows Sue McLain, owner of Yesterday's Lady in Beatrice, to show off the historical gowns she has collected over the years. It is also a great time to recognize one important and influential woman from the community for her work to strengthen our community.

     My role at the show this year was to model in the fashion show and I was so excited for this! After fittings Friday night, it was decided that I would model an original 1920's flapper dress and a ball gown from the 1940's. I have always had a bit of a fascination with the clothing of the 1920's so I was beyond excited to wear the flapper dress!
Getting my hair done!
Caitlyn - a fellow model!

    When I got there Saturday morning, I had quite a bit of time to hang out with the other models while we waited for hair and makeup. They were so fun to get to know and I was honored to meet them! It was also amazing to see the transformation that each girl went through, changing from a normal girl in 2013 to a fabulously dressed woman from history. The assistants really did a fabulous job taking us back in time by changing our hair and doing our makeup!

     Once we were all transformed, it was showtime! My excitement nearly bubbled over and I did what I could to get into character before taking the runway. I danced and walked my way across the runway and then walked through the audience as instructed. As I went through people seemed to nearly hold their breath and I heard several utter "beautiful" in low whispers. These spectators were amazingly kind as they told me how wonderful I looked and how I looked like I could have come straight from the 1920's! It really was a wonderful experience and I am so thankful to have received it!
    I am also thankful for Herb Thompson who took the photo's of the actual fashion show - they turned out beautifully!
    Finally, I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter! I am incredibly excited to have a weekend to spend some much needed time with my family! I hope you get to enjoy the Holiday too!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Smiling Saturday

     Twice this weekend I have been told that I should get married and settle down in Hastings. The suggestion is quite enticing because I love Hastings (and I can find my way around town fairly well)!
 Twirling Demonstration
 Craft Time
 Some girl Scouts came in to sell cookies
The Good Life!
     Saturday I was able to immerse myself in the Hastings community even more. I started my morning at the Children's Museum where we were able to do story time, a twirling demonstration, a craft, baton lessons, and play. I read The Princess and The Pig which I thought was really cute and the kids really seemed to enjoy. I then got to talk to the kids a little bit about my platform and show them some twirling (in a dress and heels)! While I really wanted to help with the craft, I ended up leading baton lessons during that time. It was awesome to be able to share my talent with the kids in Hastings because there are no studios out there and the kids wouldn't be able to learn much otherwise. It was also great because the kids caught on really fast! After these activities were over, I was able to play with some of the kids! We played school and firefighters, but we also checked out the birds that the museum houses! While the Omaha Children's Museum is great, I really enjoyed the Hastings Children's Museum; The museum is small enough to make parents comfortable, but big enough to keep kids busy for hours and it has so many valuable lessons tucked throughout. I personally loved the presence of occupational toys which allowed kids to explore possible jobs for their future including teaching, fighting fires, delivering mail, working in a grocery store, playing music, and many other options.
 Mya made a craft for me!
 Teaching baton!
 Playing School!
Angela's daughter, Helen, being crowned!
Angie's daughter, Morgan, being crowned!
    After a brief lunch with my directors and their daughters, I arrived at my next appearance 15 minutes before I was expected. I was scheduled to do a Meet-and-Greet and Autograph Signing at Russ's Supermarket (a sponsor of Kool-Aid Days) at 2. When I pulled into the parking lot at 1:45, I noticed there was a group of girl scouts out on the corner trying to sell girl scout cookies. Considering I was early, I pinned in my crown, went over and introduced myself, and asked if there was any chance I could try to help them get some more costumers. The girls were excited to offer me a sign and go over by the main street in town to try to pull in costumers. After a few minutes, I told the girls that I thought I might have another way to get some costumers for the girls and I asked them to wait while I ran to my car. I returned to the girls with several batons and twirled on the corner for them to try to help a little more. The girls loved it and I had a blast; it truly warms my heart to know how happy I made those girls by helping them and I hope they know how happy it made me to help! When I told the girls I had to go in for my appearance, they asked if I would autograph their signs, so I stood in the parking lot with them for about 10 more minutes, making sure they all got their signs autographed!
Perhaps my favorite part of the trip!
    Inside Russ's I was able to set up a table where I passed out Kool-Aid and signed autographs. Everyone was so friendly and people loved getting free Kool-Aid! It was a great way to meet some of the Hastings community that I otherwise might not have met and I was glad that I was able to support a Kool-Aid Days sponsor. I also provided that girl scout troop from the parking lot with autograph cards and Kool-Aid; I hope they enjoy receiving it at their next meeting.
 Ready to go!
With one of the employee's :)
    To round out a busy afternoon, I headed over to the Hastings Museum. The museum was hosting a spinners and weavers showcase where people were able to show off their skills and creativity - it was amazing! I've never seen either activity before and I was extremely thankful that the artists were willing to explain it to me! I even got to see some wool dyed by Kool-Aid!
Admiring some of the work!
    After seeing the spinners and weavers, Becky Tideman (the marketing director) was kind enough to show me around the Kool-Aid exhibit and take some photos as I went through. We were also accompanied by two little girls who were estatic to explore the museum with me; while we went through the Kool-Aid exhibit they insisted on grabbing my hand, pulling me to look at something and saying "Miss Kool-Aid, Miss Kool-Aid! Come look at this!" It was pretty stinkin' adorable!
    It was also exciting to go through the Kool-Aid Exhibit because I learned a lot about Edwin Perkins who was quite an impressive man! While many people know that Edwin Perkins invented Kool-Aid, not everyone knows that he also invented other things. He invented Nix-O-Tine, which aimed to help returning military stop smoking. He also invented a line of beauty products that women were able to sell door-to-door during the war to make money. His insistence on running a good business and building up his employees was particularly interesting. I learned that people called "jobbers" were assigned the task of convincing store owners to carry Kool-Aid in their stores and Edwin Perkins created a manual that would promote more success in these individuals attempts. He also provided letters for the company, insisted on keeping the price of Kool-Aid at five cents even as other prices rose, and went out of his way to provide single Kool-Aid servings to soldiers in their rations during the war despite limited resources. I guess I learned that we have quite an amazing and inspiring entrepreneur in Nebraska history and he does not get the attention he deserves!

    While at the museum, Becky was able to get some pictures as I marveled at some of the exhibits such as the polar bear, bison, and cats that are present in the museum. I also got to look at one very impressive exhibit though and that was the "Cranestorm - Wishes in Flight" exhibit. This exhibit features over 36,000 paper cranes, each of which represents a Nebraskan who is living with a disability due to brain injury. The project, presented in association with the Brain Injury Association of Nebraska, brings awareness for those with disabilities as they may not be able to do on their own.
A little blurry, but this was our emcee for the evening!
I was able to present a scholarship to Brittany Trausch - one of the girls I spoke to at St. Cecelia's!
    After the wonderful and inspiring visit to the museum, I had my last event for the entire trip. I went over to Hastings College where I had the opportunity to be a celebrity judge for the 3-point contest and the Slam Dunk contest. I was really nervous for this event. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a sports girl. Charged with judging each slam dunk on a 10 point-scale (and having to hold up my scores Olympics style) made me really nervous because to me a slam dunk is a slam dunk, either they make it or they don't. I quickly found out that a slam dunk is not simply a slam dunk, these shots can get pretty impressive! It ended up being really exciting to judge the contest. I could feel my heart racing in anticipation of each shot as I wondered what shot they would attempt and whether or not they would make it. Despite the fact that I obviously had no idea what I was looking for, I really enjoyed myself and it was a great way to end my whirlwind weekend in Hastings!
With the other judges
Slam Dunk Winner!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Frenzie!

     I've had some pretty exciting and busy weekends as Miss Kool-Aid Days, but today is the first whirlwind experience of events that has ever left me feeling like I just need to sit and digest for a little bit.
I am so excited to work with these ladies!
     The Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant has welcomed Angie Trausch and Angela Keiser to the team as they will be taking the pageant over next year. Today was my first chance to meet these ladies and we started our busy day at a local coffee shop where we were able to get to know each other and make a plan for our day.
     At about 9:45 we headed over to our first school visit for the day at Adams Central High School. I was able to talk to the junior and senior girls about the pageant, about my experiences in the pageant, and about my hearing loss. I found that many of the girls there had a negative view of the pageant. During my presentation I led the girls through the nitty-gritty facts of the competition, countered their misconceptions of what contestants are like, and shared my own story with the girls. I encouraged them to compete in the Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant in August and even had a student talk to me about getting involved!
    After all the pageant has done for me, I feel it is the least I can do to help it move forward and grow and also to help young girls realize the opportunities that are out there for them. If we truly want the Miss America System to grow, we need to not only convince girls to compete, but we also need to correct the misconceptions that people have about pageants; the best way to do that is to inform them.
Announcing my presence at Hastings High School!
     With one great school visit under my belt, the Angie's ushered me off to Hastings High School. While the school wasn't able to give me time to do a formal talk, they did allow us to set up a table where the three of us were able to inform girls about the pageant and get their information so we could get them involved. It was refreshing to see so many girls take an interest in the pageant and I really hope I can see them when I give up my crown in August!
That's me!
     After our visit to Hastings High, we left for our last visit to St. Cecelia High School. I was able to talk to the girls about the pageant itself, but I also made sure to emphasize the close relationships that I have formed with the other girls this year which has honestly been one of the most amazing aspects of my involvement. It is such a wonderful reminder that there is so much good in the world!
    My last event with the Angie's for the day was spending some time working on preparing my stuff for state. The ladies were so supportive and encouraging. While they gave me some things to fix and work on, they really made me feel even more like I can accomplish anything.
    I didn't think it would be possible to gain anymore absolutely wonderful and caring supporters, but I was proven wrong when I met the Angie's today. They truly are amazing women and I am so thankful to have them in my corner this year!
    After this crazy morning I was able to head over to The Children's Ark and meet Susan in the afternoon. While I had not been prepared to speak at the Ark, I was totally in my element at the center not only because I was able to work with kids, but also because I got to talk about my platform in a lot more detail! I was also able to talk about being a positive role model and I got to teach the kids some sign language (granted they taught me a little too - I am still learning!).
    While I loved recruiting people to the system that has helped me grow more confident and mature in the past year, teaching kids sign was perhaps my favorite part of the day. It is so important to be kind and accepting in our world, but it gets difficult when communication is broken down. Even if the kids can gain a little bit of exposure and increased acceptance of talking with their hands, I feel it will benefit them and any hearing impaired individual they may meet in life.
Whoopers and Hoopers!
     After a quick change, it was off to the Whoopers and Hoopers basketball tournament at Hastings College. The tournament is held annually and includes men and women, college age on up, competing from around the mid-west to be ranked the best team out of over 100 teams. While there, I was able to meet some of the players, including a group of men who drove 5.5 hours to get here from South Dakota!
 Selling tickets!
 Selling t-shirts!
With some of the South Dakota players!
    After all of this, I lost the pageant stuff and changed into sweats and I decided to head out to a local café for a bite to eat and a chance to use some WiFi. As I was ordering, I saw a young woman's head pop out from the back room. She looked at me and asked "Aren't you Miss Kool-Aid Days?" I guess what they say is true and I am getting a taste of what it is like to be Miss Nebraska - people recognize you even without the pageant stuff!
Dressed down and working in the café!

Saturday, March 9, 2013


     When I entered the Miss Kool-Aid Days competition, I had plans of working with the Hearing Loss Association of America and during interview I even had to admit that I had not yet researched the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing but that I planned to.
     Soon after winning my title I met with Pete Seiler and began working with the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing where I was able to connect with several other groups for hearing impaired individuals. It was only within the past few weeks when I was looking to connect with ENT doctors that I discovered the contact information for the local Hearing Loss Association of America.
     I sent an email to the vice-president and within a week we had arranged a meeting! So this past Thursday Diane Muelleman and I decided to meet at Panera to have lunch and discuss HLAA.
     I am incredibly thankful that Diane was willing to take some time and talk with me. While the current group mostly serves as a support group, Diane welcomed my desire to attend meetings, build the group up, and attempt to expand and work for hearing loss issues across the state, especially in the West. We discussed some important issues when it comes to hearing health and discussed some things to do that could benefit the hearing impaired people in our state.
     Diane also agreed to work with me as I advance in my work in relation to hearing loss and to help me make a difference when it comes to hearing loss in Nebraska!
     I am so excited to expand my work with my platform and to better enable myself to truly make a difference when it comes to hearing loss in our great state and I couldn't be more excited to do it with all of the wonderful individuals I have met by my side!

Family Fun Center XL

     Today was my first visit to Family Fun Center at it's brand new location. It is now called Family Fun Center XL; the fun really was "extra large" as the new title suggests, but it was more the company I got to enjoy than the actual games that really made it fun.
     After a week in which I felt unreasonably tired most days, it was great to be able to forget about any worries and responsibilities and just enjoy time having fun with great people!
     When we got to Family Fun Center, everyone pretty much spread out and had the opportunity to explore the facilities on their own with two hours of free game play. I spent a little time walking around and supervising as the kids played and got their own chance to relax without worries. A few weeks ago I met Jorge (the bowling pro) at another outing, well today I got the opportunity to meet and hang out with his brother - and he was the biggest sweetheart!
Ready for a round of mini-golf!

     We started out playing mini-golf. I would get really excited for him when he made a good shot and when he got his ball in the hole, clapping and cheering. I noticed about three holes into the game that he would look up at me with a huge smile on his face to see my reaction when he did something well! The afternoon continued in this way even as we moved on to arm wrestling, basketball, action games, racing, and even Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros - he would do something he was excited about, look at me or poke me, and smile  a big wide smile, it was perhaps one of the most heart-warming things possible!
Self Picture - tag team arm wrestling against the machine! :)

     To say the least, I was disappointed when it was time to go home, but I do feel fortunate that I was able to spend the afternoon with him and the rest of the students at this outing!
     I'm already looking forward to the next outing with these wonderful kids - they always make my day better and I hope I can do the same for them!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spread the Word to End the Word

Some of the athletes serving at the Breakfast of Champions!
      Last year doing the polar plunge sparked my interest in the Special Olympics. Shortly after the plunge I got to attend the Breakfast of Champions for the athletes and my interest furthered. The athletes competing in the Olympics are incredible - they often overcome serious obstacles in order to compete in multiple events! When I get the chance to attend the events, I am often in awe of the obstacles these athletes face and the laid back way they discuss their difficulties. I feel like I have made some friends through my work with the organization and I have become rather fond of them.
One of the athletes who plunged last year!
     It was only after those events last year that I learned about the Day of Awareness Campaign - better known as Spread the Word to End the Word. The campaign aims to stop use of the word "retard" or "retarded" which has become a slur in modern times.
     In support of the campaign, I will be wearing blue tomorrow and doing my part to spread the word - I hope to see many other people in blue trying to end the use of the slur and bring more respect to people with disabilities!
Read the New York Times Article about the campaign:

An American Girl at Heart

     When I was younger, I absolutely loved my American Girl Dolls - Samantha and Felicity! I remember going to the store numerous times and begging for new clothes or accessories and playing with friends who had the dolls. I only wish I had known about an American Girl Fashion Show at that time.
     This last Saturday I got to learn all about the American Girl Fashion Show and the Junior League of Omaha who runs it.
With some of the girls who got to model in the shows!
     The fashion show itself was an awesome experience! All together, the Junior League put on 8 fashion shows with approximately 40 girls in each show. Despite the large number of girls and the insanely busy weekend, the Junior League never let down and put on AMAZING shows all 8 times!
     They welcomed the girls before each show, allowed the girls to change into an American Girl outfit, had the girls get their hair done, and then they were able to go upstairs. Upstairs they received an American Girl Doll who was wearing an outfit that matched the one the model was wearing. The girls were to carry this doll as they modeled. After they got their dolls, they were able to practice their walks one more time before heading out to the big stage!
With the models before one of the shows!
     I started the day in the dressing room helping to do the models' hair. I was excited to see the transformation of the girls and it was a great time to get to know them! I even met one little girl who had done the show 10 times - the first time occurring when she was six months old!
Signing autographs in crayon :)
     The girls were excited to be pampered for the day and they really enjoyed having "queens" do their hair! I was joined by Ellie Lorenzen (Miss Nebraska USA) Jasmine Fuelberth (Miss Nebraska Teen USA) and one of the lovely volunteers, Maddie. After we finished working on hair, we were fortunate enough to spend some time just hanging out with the girls until they had their finale. It was incredibly fun dancing, signing autographs in crayon, and playing Down By The Banks until show time! The girls had so much energy and kept us on our toes - I loved it! We even had time to let them try on our crowns!
One of the girls trying on my crown :)
     During the lunch break, I was able to grab lunch with the girls. I truly feel blessed by the opportunity to make friends with more of my own sister queens this year, but also with queens from other pageant systems. I have competed against Ellie before in the Miss America system and I have absolutely loved reconnecting and catching up with her recently!
At the Winning Crown Boutique!
     It was also great meeting Jasmine and Maddie. Jasmine is an absolutely stunning 16 year old girl. Not only is she beautiful, but she is also kind and humble. I don't remember the last time I have heard someone use their manners so consistently. She also didn't make a big deal when we stopped into the dress shop or when the girls told her how beautiful she was. She was the image of grace and she seemed beyond her years. I wish Jasmine the best of luck at Miss USA Teen and in her future modeling and acting careers - I have no doubt she will go far!
Ellie, Maddie, Jasmine, and myself at the Winning Crown Boutique
     Maddie impressed me as well. Maddie is a fellow pageant girl who competed against Jasmine at the Miss Nebraska Teen USA pageant. Despite the competition, Maddie was kind, friendly, and bubbly the entire day and had no problem keeping the conversation going. It was fun hanging out with her and getting a teenage perspective on life again! I wish Maddie the best of luck in her future endeavors as well, I am sure she will accomplish some great things in the future!
     By the last show I was able to move out of the dressing room and up to the Choreography Room where the girls received their dolls and practiced their walks one last time. I thought the girls would be nervous before modeling, but they were all smiles, fun, and sass as they prepared to go on stage! I hope to channel some of their energy for my own "modeling" on the Miss Nebraska Stage this Summer!
Some of the girls with their dolls!
     I also wanted to spotlight the Junior League briefly. I didn't know much about the group before the fashion show Saturday, but I did learn about the group. The Junior League of Omaha is actually a group that I am very interested in joining. They are a group of women dedicated to serving the community - the very activity I have fallen in love with this year! While I love helping out the hearing impaired groups that I work with, I also love that my involvement in pageants allows me to help many different good causes throughout the community. The Junior League allows women to do just that - get involved helping out many good causes in the community!
     It is certainly something I will consider trying to join in the future and I would highly encourage other young women to get involved! - check out the website to learn more and to see how you can help!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Signing Dr. Seuss

      Every month, there is a Connect Saturday event in which a hearing impaired adult reads or signs a story to deaf and hard of hearing children. Ever since I joined with Hands and Voices, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to read at one of the Connect Saturday events that they coordinate. I finally got my chance Saturday morning!
     Considering that it was Dr. Seuss' birthday, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to read a Dr. Seuss book to the kids! So when I got to the Swanson library in Omaha, I asked one of the librarians if they had any Dr. Seuss books that they thought would be good to read to the kids. They brought me "If I Ran the Circus" which looked extremely cute.
      As I sat around chatting and catching up with the parents and other adult guests at the event, the sign interpreter began glancing at the book. I knew right away that I should have chosen a different book. Who really thinks reading a book with a bunch of made-up words is a good idea? Obviously, sign interpreters don't!
      My interpreter was exceptionally kind though, and we worked together to read through the book. After finishing, I asked if his hands were tired. His response - "no, but my brain is!" I am so extremely appreciative of his effort. Not only did he get a bit of a challenge in practicing his sign, but I was able to share the fun of Dr. Seuss with the kids and celebrate his birthday and the kids seemed to really enjoy it!
Who wouldn't be entertained seeing this story signed?!
My oh-so-wonderful interpreter!
     I was also able to talk to several of the adults in attendance at the event which is always nice. We were able to discuss many pressing issues for hearing impaired individuals. One topic that particularly struck me was the issue of mentors/role models. The interpreter told us of an experience he had with a deaf child who was convinced he was going to grow up and become hearing. Deaf children (and most children, in general) have no or limited experience with deaf adults. Children generally do not get to see hearing impaired individuals, and they never really get to see hearing impaired people who work in high up jobs or who have a lot of influence. We need to change this by bringing together hearing impaired kids and adults and allowing kids to see that there are successful hearing impaired adults making an impact in the world. I hope to be able to get involved working to change this!   

 The little boy wanted to be Abraham Lincoln and George Washington at the same time!
A new friend!

These two were super shy and the dad had to make them laugh to get a good picture :)
The little one did warm up to me when he got to see himself on my camera!