Thursday, May 29, 2008

From AP

Va. college gets $7M for Latin American painting

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — The first of four paintings auctioned by Virginia's Randolph College to raise money has sold for more than $7.2 million.

Rufino Tamayo's "Troubadour" was bought Wednesday night by an anonymous telephone bidder at Christie's Latin American art auction.

Christie's spokeswoman Sung-Hee Park says the price is a record for the Mexican painter, who died in 1991.

Opponents to selling the paintings got an injunction to block the sale in November. But they dropped the case to focus on a court challenge to the former women's school's 2006 decision to go coed.

Randolph officials had estimated that "Troubadour" could bring $2 million to $3 million. They hope to get $50 million for the four paintings.

The liberal arts college of about 700 students is 95 miles west of Richmond.

Top Chef

I'm not much of a tv fan (no time and there are better things to do!) but I am addicted to Bravo's show "Top Chef". Maybe it's because it's at least good to hear about gourmet food while you're on a pageant diet, but I also love seeing how these people creatively react to the challenges in the kitchen.

The show is great for keeping on while I'm cleaning the apartment, stretching, or folding laundry, and this season has me hooked! My favorite chef is Richard, whose great personality matches his outstanding cooking skills. I really hope he 'takes the cake' in the finale.

Last night cable was out on campus so I missed the one show that I watch each week, since Top Chef comes on Wednesdays at 10 PM.

I read online that three of my favorite chefs have made it into the finale- Richard, Stephanie, and Antonia. I think Lisa will get the boot first because she's been on the chopping block quite a bit and sometimes her good just isn't up to par. But I think there's a strong chance she'll be out first. If that happens, I'll be pleased with the results!

On that note, I have gracefully accepted that I am turning into my mother. If I can be half the woman and mother that she is I'll be lucky. It's something that slowly seems to trickle into your life... first I was majoring in politics, now I'm following in her footsteps going for my masters, I enjoy cooking, and now I'm hooked on a cooking show!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Checking in...

It has been a great weekend! I hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day!

I had such a busy weekend but I wouldn't have it any other way. Suffice it to say that Miss Virginia work is coming along swimmingly. Although we get a little done at a time, we have come a long way in the short period since I won. It really helps that my determination pushes me through the long days of shopping, trying on gowns, driving to the seamstress, exercising, etc. It's a LOT of work! It keeps me very busy and between running back and forth from one job to my other I get very tired. After work I usually have a variety of "pageant appointments."

Things have gotten so crazy that I had to color-code my wall calendar. I'm using purple for my pageant stuff and my calendar is covered in purple writing!

What makes this so much easier during the stressful or frustrating parts is that I am extremely determined. Having that drive to be Miss Virginia and to do my best during that week in Roanoke pushes me along when we encounter an obstacle. I am so grateful for the opportunity.

More details coming soon about how everything is coming. I also hope they let us know what the details are about the online voting for the "People's Choice".

Thanks to all of you who have donated your time, money, or letters/emails to support me especially during this time of insanity!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Laura's England List

I know I have several soon-to-be Readingites (I'll explain in a moment) reading this blog. Some have also contacted me via email and asked what tips I have for these future abroaders. Our college has had an affiliation with the University of Reading in England for over thirty years. Each year, 25-30 women have gone abroad and lived in college-owned houses while studying at the university. This is a great opportunity for study abroad and an experience I treasure greatly. I remember the summer before leaving I felt entirely overwhelmed! There was so much to remember. So here are some helpful tips I passed along to the girls. They would also be helpful for people considering a trip to Great Britain.

1. Follow deadlines. Do NOT delay working on your passport or visa, or else you could have problems getting into England.

2. Weigh your suitcase before you even get to the airport. Plan ahead if you think it will be overweight- the charges are annoying on the U.S. end and doubly expensive on the U.K. end.

3. Drink bottled water for at least a week when you arrive. Your stomach has A LOT to adjust to. I felt semi-sick to my stomach for about a month trying to adjust to new food combinations. Don't give your body foreign water just yet!

4. Be prepared for that sickness- there are few to zero preservatives in British food. While this is really healthy, it can get expensive (i.e. milk going bad in four-five days) and a change for your body to adjust to. I found, however, that it also made me feel healthier and helped facilitate weight loss!

5. Join the gym. Reading has a fantastic gym remodeled in 2006 by an Olympic gymnast. It is clean with convenient hours and wonderful machines. Avoid weekend evenings. Each machine has its own tv/radio hookup. Plus, you get reimbursed each time you go to the gym. It's a great way to get a daily break from your housemates while getting all the benefits of working out!

6. Remind your parents that suitcases or shipped boxes full of American treats are always appreciated and can never arrive too early. I was thrilled when my mom came for a visit with chili mix, stove top stuffing mix, and Kraft macaroni. You will never understand the value of such items until you get there.

7. Learn to cook. I learned to cook while there. The dining hall food there is ten times worse than our own campus- which is saying something. The portions are huge, the servings fatty, and the tastes questionable. I went there once. You get reimbursed for NOT eating in the dining hall. take that money and go to the grocery store- invest in chicken, beef, etc that you can freeze and cook for many meals. I cooked on Sundays and froze or refrigerated servings for most of the week.

8. Buy a sturdy umbrella- get them at TK Maxx (the British TJ Maxx) with the wooden handle and strong top. Trust me, you will need it.

9. On that note, invest in boots that go over your pants- even if they are not in style in the U.S. I bought these and had friends laugh before I went, but wore them nearly every day I had to trek on campus. It pours every single day. If you want to be soaked up to your knees, skip the boots. But trust me, they make life easier.

10. Bring earplugs, your own reading light, a music system/ipod, etc. It is really hard to focus in a house with 8-12 people.

11. bring a few formal dresses and pairs of heels- you will always find a use for them!

12. Look up crucial technologies when you get there. They sold really cheap 1GB memory cards.

13. Locate the fabulous used bookstores all over Reading. I miss these! Oxfam is great as well as the British Heart Foundation store. cheap prices and great rotating stock. Bring them back when you're done!

14. Pack study clothes. British washers are notoriously hard on fabrics. Flimsy shirts might not make it the whole year. Plus, you need layers.

15. locate your nearest Primark. This amazing discount store has all the basics you need-socks, underwear, extra towels, and cute clothing.

16. make friends with University of Reading students. This is a once in a lifetime experience and many of the students there are fascinating.

17. take advantage of the fact that your classes are pass/fail. Take something outside your comfort zone!

18. Look up Mobile World. I would not have survived the year (nor would my long-distance relationship have...) without my cell phone. The rates really weren't that bad, and I felt much safer traveling with a cell phone.

19. Make sure your laptop is in good shape. The power conversion can be rough on laptops. Or, like me, you might discover that your computer has peanuts inside (this is a long story.)

20. There are nettles all over the backyard. They don't sting that badly, but they can hurt and sting for about a day. My own experience with nettles is now my "most embarrassing moment" story, however! Watch out for them; don't jump into any strange patches.

21. Use the campus library. Coming from our small school, this huge library is an amazing resource that I truly miss. Make the most of it!

22. Exchange as much money as possible before you go. It can take up to six weeks for money to be transferred via check from dollar to pound. The pound is consistently kicking the dollar's behind, so I can't possibly explain to you the extent of the exchange rate. It will frustrate you greatly and you'll have to learn that the money you saved over the summer only goes half as far as it should. Find a job (check the malls- I sold jewelry on commission and made great money) and then you'll at least be earning in pounds. Keep in mind that British people don't tip in general- a waitress is lucky to get a pound at the end of a 50 pound dinner!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A brief update

I'm sorry to report that although the great news of my life has been that I am working hard to get to Miss Virginia, that same news has kept me from blogging with my usual regularity!

My time is pretty stretched these days, but I am looking forward to a few days off shortly and who knows, maybe I'll check in!

Work is going very well on both fronts, but it has certainly been a challenge working while meeting with all the pageant-related people!

Things are going great, though, I promise!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I've included a video from Youtube that is a commercial for Miss Ohio 2008.

I'm so excited that it seems like at least the preliminaries will be webcast, because I'll be able to cheer some ladies on from Virginia! This is a great group of girls and I can't wait to see who will become the next Miss Ohio!

Busy, busy busy

The last few weeks I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off- or maybe a beauty queen with her crown off?

I've been trying to balance my schedule and adjust to my new job (which I genuinely like.)

I've been helping a group on campus get settled in and showing them around. They have several people in their group that need assistance when moving across far areas, so I've been walking them around in addition to checking in. They've needed a lot including copies, blankets late at night, and me to deal with a potential security risk last night at about 10:30. I usually don't stay up very late because I'm a morning person, but I'm learning to stick it out a while longer when a group is on campus so I can make sure they all get to bed okay. It's like being a mother of sixty currently!

All I will say about Miss Virginia is that I am working extremely hard! There are some exciting changes in store for me on that stage and some wonderful gowns, but for now they will remain under wraps!

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A busy life...

I really haven't had time to post much on here lately. I've been moving and adjusting to my new job. Since being given the opportunity to compete for Miss Virginia, I am trying to make the most of it. Therefore, I seem to have appointments all over the place crammed into my extremely busy schedule! I am really looking forward to June, however. I think it's going to be a great week and I know that all this hard work will pay off when I feel proud of myself at the end of the week for accomplishing "the impossible."

The amount of things on my plate to complete for Miss Virginia and my own preparation is an awful lot, but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I am so grateful for it, and putting in whatever of myself that I have. I know that hard work pays off, and that is the philosophy that I live my life by. Approaching Miss Virginia is no different. I am so excited, albeit busy, and currently not much is going on besides work and preparing for Miss VA! So even though I don't have much time to blog, it works out well because there's nothing terribly exciting going on.

Being on campus was very strange at first. Our campus overflows with ghost stories and staying alone in my large dorm for a week was very scary. I have finally moved the majority of my belongings into an apartment elsewhere on campus (with other human beings in the building!) and I feel much safer and more comfortable, due to the air conditioning.

Tomorrow a very cool group is coming to campus and I need to be ready to help with whatever they need. The group focuses on social justice and voter issues in Virginia, and obviously this political connection is very exciting for me! The director and I hit it off immediately and he encouraged me to sit in on some of their sessions if I have time. It's exciting to see that political activists are making themselves known in this important election year! Part of their group will be canvassing, and although I don't think they are raising money like I did in a prior job, canvassing is a very challenging and draining experience. It's a necessary evil, though, and I'm excited to meet all these other college students who are probably political junkies like myself!

That's all for now!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm done!

One of the many respectful gestures the administration made to graduate it's last female class

Celebrating two very important accomplishments!

this was after my brother had "hooded" me and knocked my hat off!

With my closest friends, who I already miss dearly.

With my wonderful mother!
I'm happy to report that as of yesterday, I have my degree from Randolph-Macon Woman's College! Graduation was great; I have many thoughts for a post for tomorrow. The last week has been insanity running from one job to another, preparing for Miss Virginia, spending time with my family, starting a new job, saying goodbye to all my friends, and now- packing!

I have included a few pictures from graduation, but I owe a big "thank you" post and a post about how graduation actually went much later. I just need to begin packing so that I can move across campus on Friday!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A note to my closest friends..

At Casino Night from the top: Nada, Vanessa, Whitney, Audra, myself

Whitney and I out to dinner last fall
Vanessa and I, fall 2008

Senior Dinner Dance, with Melanie

It is so hard to believe that Sunday is graduation. I don't think it will set in until I see my next door neighbor (who has been my neighbor for three years of college!) moving her things into her families cars.

I keep trying to write letters to my closest friends and I just keep failing to express what I want to say. How do you thank four women who remained your closest friends and allies through three years at a woman's college, one year of turmoil with men on campus, a year abroad where we couldn't gather in someone's room and chat all night?

The women that are my closest friends were, by chance, placed on the same freshman dorm hall as myself. Nada was my roommate, Vanessa lived next door, Whitney lived across the hall, and Audra at the end of the hall. We instantly clicked and we have been great friends ever since. We come from very diverse backgrounds, which makes in-class learning at RMWC carry over to out of class learning.

While many friendships on campus change over the years, the five of us have remained extremely close no matter what obstacle. These were the girls who protested silently with me outside the administrative offices in 2005 when the University of Reading program was canceled. These are the girls that stood with me on the lawn during numerous fire drills. These are the girls who have sat through far more pageants than they should have just to support me.

As soon as I came back from Reading, I wondered if it would be difficult to go back to our friendship, but it was like I had never left. Nada had gotten me a wonderful room in a corner of the hall next to Vanessa and herself, and I feel so lucky that now all five of us are on the same side of one senior hall floor. I feel very blessed that my roommate from first year and I are the best of friends.

Two of us are remaining in Virginia, but the other three are returning to their home states to pursue other things. I have no doubt that we will remain close, but I am dreading those moments as I watch those friends pack things into their cars.

These women have sat outside main hall when the coed decision was announced, they have stayed up late with myself and others and we made "not for sale" signs for all the students after our artwork was taken to be sold at auction. They exemplify the benefits of a liberal arts education, and each one is every bit a Randolph Macon Woman.

I'm going to miss you all so much. Thank you for such an incredible four years of college. Coming here was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Miss America drinks Diet Rite?

I was surprised to see Kirsten Haglund, the new Miss America, in this ad. I wonder if she drinks it herself- Diet Rite is the only drink aside from water that I consumed during pageant season: it has no sodium, carbs, calories, or caffeine. So some would say, why drink it?

I have cut soda (you can tell I've adjusted to the south since I now consider it soda...) out of my diet entirely, but previously I craved the taste and it filled that need well. If you can, stay away from soda completely! But good to see that Miss America is supporting this somewhat healthier options (although they sweeten with Splenda, and I've heard mixed reports about that!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A few thoughts...

It feels like it has been so long since I wrote on here. The good news is that I took a break from blogging to enjoy all of the good things that were happening! In fact, it has been so overwhelming lately that I have to remind myself at least once a day that I can only accomplish one thing at a time. I have a lot on my plate, but I have the determination to make it through.

I am still so thrilled to even be competing for Miss Virginia. What a long but rewarding road it has been so far and I am enjoying every moment, even the times when it seems stressful and a little overwhelming. I know that I have the support of many special people and that makes this even more of a blessing!

I am graduating college on Sunday, and really excited about the next chapter of my life, although the experience is bittersweet. I am tremendously sad to see my friends all heading in different directions (although one is in Charlottesville and another in Maryland) because I have been part of an extremely close group of friends since my first year in college here. I have much more to say about those girls in another post. Graduation marks the beginning of “real life” although my plans still continue to be moving on as a “professional student”. I’m headed to VT for my masters (I just registered for classes yesterday) and headed to Miss Virginia. What wonderful things to be happening at the same time!

Speaking of Miss Virginia related work, I applaud all the other girls competing because I had no idea of the amount of paperwork that was involved. I somehow managed to complete it and I’m glad that part is finished. I think Miss Virginia week is going to be very exciting and a wonderful experience for me. I feel like I have so much to look forward to right now in my life, and I feel extremely blessed because of that.

I’m very excited to announce that I was recognized at our Academic and Leadership Awards. In February of 2007, I contacted the Guerrilla Girls (while I was in England) about coming to speak at my school. After over a year of hard work, involving massive campus publicity and fundraising, we held the program on March 26th. My efforts earned the award for the Best Focused-Audience Campus Social Event, and I am so proud that the GG’s were so popular.

I also attended a scholarship luncheon last week with a woman representing the VFIC. I am so grateful to the Virginia Federation for Independent Colleges, because they, along with Philip Morris, have funded the $10,000 scholarship I received as a sophomore. This wonderful scholarship is available to a limited number of Virginia college students who excel in the fields of business, science, and economics. This scholarship has allowed me to complete my undergraduate education and it was wonderful to speak with a woman who works for VFIC to express my gratitude. I also got to speak with my friend Stacey, who is attending GWU in the fall for her master’s and plans to make it her career implementing “Take Back the Night” across college campuses, which is really exciting.

I’m also thrilled to report that I’m continuing to live in Lynchburg over the summer. I was offered a wonderful on campus position and I’m really excited about that job.

So, all these things have kept me VERY busy and taken my time away from blogging. I’m also working on getting my official website up and going! I’m not sure I could ever write about how I feel about graduating properly; a thousand thoughts are filling my head but I don’t know if I can express them in the way I’d like to.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Since I'm so busy...

I've got a lot (of really wonderful things!) going on in my life right now and I don't have time to blog, so it seemed like a great opportunity to remind everyone that I am raising money for CMN!

Please donate, even if it's just $1! It all adds up!

Please click here to help me!