Thursday, December 30, 2010


One of the most exciting things John and I did this year was receive tickets to go watch Transiberian Orchestra in Pennsylvania. John's brother, Joseph, got the tickets and treated us all to a spectacular show! It was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Some people made the mistake of thinking the show was over at intermission. The concert was a good three hours but my favorite part of the show actually came after intermission, when a good portion of the crowd thinned out and the music was the personal creation of TSO. We had a blast, and the band was excellent at working with the crowd and raising interest in each song. The lights were also amazing! I highly recommend this concert to anyone who likes rock music or even classical- you will be amazing at how great it sounds fused together!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh, Canada!

I recently had the awesome opportunity to travel to an international conference on Motherhood in Toronto, Canada! This was my first trip to Canada and also my first time experiencing Niagara Falls! Lucky enough, we actually visited the Falls on the last day it was open for the boats. This was also John's first time traveling to Niagara, and we're also planning another trip back!

One of the great things about this conference is that I got linked up with many other people in the field through this organization, and I have an upcoming book chapter to be published in Winter 2011 as a result of the connections made. We also got to go see Second City, a hilarious comedy show (which had come to my college, and, in fact, adopted a Randolph Macon girl into one of their tours because of her great sense of humor). The show was great and although the trip was short, it was a blast! There is so much to do there and I can definitely see why it's such a great honeymoon destination!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baltimore Comic COn

I have been extremely, extremely busy- to a level I have never personally experienced before. I am a full time graduate student and a full time employee- meaning I literally drive from maryland to virginia and back three days a week and use my weekends to catch up. In any case, I have several posts coming but only get to work on them in my rare free time. So the first overdue post is for the Baltimore Comic Con, which I attended in costume a few weeks ago. They had a costume contest and although I did not win, I had a great time attending and having pictures taken with many people attending the event. In fact, the costume contest was kind of a bust because it lasted over four hours and there were people who clearly had a lot of time and money to invest in their costumes!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A few quick updates

It's been so long since I've posted, but my new schedule is very hectic and the weekends of summer have been extremely full so far! The remainder of this month is no different.

-I've officially entered another dimension of time management, as I'm now working a full-time job on top of working on my PhD. My mother and I are working on a project to be presented at an international conference on motherhood in Canada this fall, I'm writing a chapter for upcoming book about motherhood advocacy organizations, and in general adjusting to life as a researcher/student/employee.

-I'm preparing for a whole new kind of contest at the end of August. When my boyfriend asked if we could attend the Baltimore Comic-Con, at first I was thinking this wouldn't be very fun for me. Until I decided to enter the costume contest (last year's winner received a $1,000 cash prize). Over the course of college due to my busy schedule, positive outlook, and many hats I wore, I earned the nickname wonder woman from many friends. After learning more about this famous female superhero, my boyfriend and I decided there was no one more perfect to go as. Wonder Woman is a curvy Amazon who carries a lasso of truth. She fit me perfectly! So John and I have spent weeks perfecting a costume and makeup for this event. I am sure people will want their picture taken with wonder woman, too! I even have the blue eyes to match!

-Finally, finally, finally, two very important things are happening in my life. I've waited so long for both and I can finally afford them! Years ago my eye doctor told me the only cure to my constant eye infections and now inability to wear contact lenses was Lasik. I'm having the procedure right before Comic Con and couldn't be more excited to have glasses-free vision.

And... I'm buying a car! I'll reveal that later, but for now I am still driving the trust 1984 Cavalier. I've decided that things built in the 80's are just made to last, because she's still going strong!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Miss Virginia 2010

This last month has been a complete whirlwind for me, involving a lot of stress, moving, new adventures, and some very exciting things on the horizon. I feel bad for not posting this sooner, but just over a week ago, one of my favorite pageant friends won Miss Virginia. I have to say, it's much, much harder to watch and support someone than it is to be in the pageant. I was cheering loudly for my friends Shannon Oliver and Katie Uze, and every time either one of them came on stage, I felt like vomiting. I crossed all fingers and toes that they would do their best. I am so proud of both of them- they each won a preliminary award and made the top five.

When they announced that Katie Uze was the new Miss Virginia, I shrieked for over twenty seconds and then called Katie's phone to leave her a crying voicemail of how proud of her I was. There are literally no words to describe how genuine, funny, and dedicated Katie is. She will be an incredible Miss Virginia and I'm so proud of her! Katie and Shannon have been two of my friends that I first met during Miss Virginia 2008 and we have stayed close and in support of one another ever since. Would you believe both Katie and Shannon drove over 4 hours to watch me compete at Miss Hill City? So, I figure it's time to return that favor and head out to Vegas to watch Katie compete for Miss America!

Congratulations to someone who really deserves it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rick Myers

I've been so busy that I didn't even realize it had been a month since I'd last posted. A few updates:

My friend Anna Reis is competing for the title of Miss Ohio this weekend and I'll be watching the webcast so catch up with how she's doing.

We've been through a terrible experience the past few days with our little dog. Luckily she has survived and will recover but it totally shook our worlds. Pets are great!

And now, on to share some photos from an excellent Virginia photographer! I met Rick right before the Miss Lynchburg pageant and he came to take pictures of the entire show. I was thrilled to get to work with him out in Nelson County at some of the best waterfalls I've ever seen! Rick is great for just about everything: he does roller-derby shots, too! If you're looking for new headshots, modeling photos, or a couples photo shoot, consider working with him! He's excellent, professional, funny, and produces gorgeous photos! We're having a hard time deciding which ones to blow up in our new home!

Check him out at

Friday, May 21, 2010

Elks Lodge

I haven't posted in a long time because 1) I have many secret projects going on and 2) I've just been busy! I have received my master's degree and in one week, my boyfriend and I will be in our new house in Maryland. We're so excited, but also just exhausted from the last few weeks we've had. John is in his last day of his second year of medical school today (meaning the worst part is now over) and this entire weekend we're showing our house to new renters, packing, and spending time together. I haven't spent time with him for about two weeks because we've been running all over the place, and we actually spent our anniversary last week in two different states.

I will post more about graduation later. Last night I was a special guest speaker at the Roanoke Elks Lodge Scholarship/Valedictorian night to talk about how my Elks scholarship helped jump-start my educational and career goals. Literally, six years ago I could not afford to go to college and without the national Elks scholarship, I would have been attending community college near home and it would have been a much more difficult road to where I am now. Thanks to the $6,000 scholarship I received from Elks, I was able to attend a private woman's college (with a $32,000 price tag per year) virtually free and with very little loan accumulation. It was my pleasure to speak to high school students on the verge of graduation about how I made it through and where I'm at now.

Coming up in June: I'm slated to judge two more pageants! I'm becoming a professional!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


John judging Miss Nelson County

Picking strawberries

Visiting Virginia Beach

Eating in Williamsburg

C0lonial Williamsburg
I've been a horrible blogger lately, because I've been too busy! But- some good news- I am graduating! I will have a master's degree next Saturday, and in the meantime I'm anticipating my mother arriving for a few days, I haven't seen her since January. My boyfriend and I have been incredibly busy, judging pageants and traveling everywhere, and we recently had a great photo shoot with a photographer I highly recommend! Soon I'll post those pictures and explain more, but here are some photos from our travels the past month!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Help me!!

I'm trying to start a program to provide free tap lessons to kids in areas that don't have access to arts programs. It's completely free to vote- and you can do it once every day! The top ten ideas get $5,000 from Pepsi. I really want to do this, please help me!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

GBT Conference

Last weekend I presented my research at my first conference, and it went extremely well! I also got the opportunity to speak with a woman who wrote one of the books I used as a primary resource. I am now working on a new undercover project related to this.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top 5 Tips for College Writers

Now that I am literally only a few weeks from graduating with my master's, I've also almost finished grading nearly 1,000 student writing assignments over the last four semesters. That said, a few key problems consistently emerge when students hand in writing and research papers. Hopefully this helps some people!

1. Cite. It is illegal if you don't cite your work. If you fail to include a bibliography and in text citations/footnotes, you are stealing someone else's work. This applies to data you took from a source as well as ideas that don't belong to you. If you're not putting your own ideas forward, you have to give credit. Your credit should be clear and easy to find if the grader wants to check up on your sources. And people WILL check. I recently graded a paper where a student took the liberty of using word for word phrases from their souce- without even giving credit. This is plagiarism!

2. Include the basics- page numbers, a title, your name, etc. This to me seems so obvious yet I write these words constantly on student papers! Do not give professors easy reasons to knock your grade down!

3. Start each paragraph with a sentence that tells me what you're going to do in that paragraph. Not only does it make reading easier, but sometimes professors in big classes don't have time to read your entire 12 page paper. Getting the main idea in that first sentence is crucial. It also makes you accountable throughout your writing to make sure that what you're saying makes sense.

4. Unless asked for your personal opinion, don't provide it. If asked to write about someone's perspective on a particular issue or law, the assignment doesn't ask you to critique it. Don't share your opinion unless that is clearly part of the assignment! It really detracts from your overall point and makes the paper seem completely unprofessional.

5. Dare yourself at the beginning of each paper to state what two or three things you want to accomplish in the paper. then, tailor your paper to making it readable (as if your reader knows nothing about the topic), informative, and clearly written. TA's and professors are generally very good writers- don't give away easy points!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

To tell... or not to tell

Over the last few months, I've really been thinking about the contemporary opinion of "pageants" and even those that call themselves "scholarship programs".

When asked why we do them, many people often answer about the self-improvement aspects of competing in pageants. And this is very true. Even if you only participate in them for personal growth and never want to win Miss (Whatever State), you will definitely gain something out of participating. Every girl goes in with different intentions and motivations behind her own participation.

Unfortunately, though, I have to believe that these programs only harm girls if they pop up on your resume. Many people debate about putting it on your resume. For some people, it works really well if you want to go into public relations or a journalism job- being Miss Whatever is a great marketing job and you're constantly putting yourself out there to further the program. At the end of the day, though, pursuing other types of careers with this on your resume just leaves a black mark.

I'll speak from personal experience. I chose not to compete my final year of eligibility in this pageant program and for various reasons. Looking back, it was a choice I am very glad I made. It's allowed me to focus so much more on school- and in the long run, that- and not my two-minute stint in an evening gown- will pay off more. I felt like I had gotten all I could out of the program. I had really pushed myself, and now it was time to move on to something else.

When it came time last fall to fill out my PhD applications, I didn't hesitate at all. I'd been in academia long enough to know that at some times, even being female counts against you. The last thing I needed on my resume was to list pageant experience- the perfect reason to give a committee an easy reason to say "no" to me. Graduate school/academia and pageants don't mix well. At times last year I felt like I lived in two separate worlds- one where looks, body type, and outfits were key, and another where your ability to connect theory to teaching to paper-writing was vital. There were essentially two Lauras. Although this kept me sane by not allowing me to become too involved in either one, I always felt the academy's general feeling about programs like modeling and beauty pageants. There is a stereotype that women can't do that and be smart at the same time. While this isn't true, I've found this belief to be rampant.

So when it came time to include the important resume in my application packet, my mom and boyfriend encouraged me to include some of my pageant information under the heading of community service. I really didn't want to- I felt it would lead to me being typecast immediately. I told them both I'd check with my advisors and go from there.

The overwhelming opinion (and this came from professors at both my alma mater and current school as well as researchers and people working in various policy positions) was not to include it- at all. I was told to delete anything immediately, and that including it could be an easy admissions denial.

On a personal level, this did surprise me a little bit. After all, I had put in literally hundreds of hours cris-crossing the state doing programs for girl scouts, domestic violence shelters, children's miracle network, etc. I had developed my own self-esteem program, spent afternoons at Blacksburg Middle School talking to teenage girls, and spoken to over 180 people in Rotary, Lion's, Kiwanis, and Optimist Clubs all over this corner of the state about my platform. And suddenly none of that counted?

I would certainly never take those experiences back-I worked hard for them and I am proud of what I did. But I just want people to know that it's not very realistic to consider that your pageant experience will help propel you into a career. In fact, this might be a reason why women no longer choose to compete in such big numbers. With reality shows galore and more educational opportunities opening up for women, why compete in something that's only going to hurt your chances in future schooling or careers?

I'm sure there are some people out there surprised by this- and maybe those working in acting or communications feel like listing that experience helped them secure a job. And that's great! But a warning to those considering different types of careers, where you'll be competing against many other qualified candidates- many people don't understand the significance or volume of work it takes to be a local titleholder. You don't want to have to educate them about what it is. I was told to leave it off- and that advice seemed to work! So be careful. Be proud about what you've done and go into the program knowing what you want out of it, but don't expect that listing this experience anywhere is going to help you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

VT Graduate Awards Banquet

Last night I was truly honored to be included in such a great group being recognized at Virginia Tech's Graduate Student Awards Banquet. As many probably know, a few weeks ago I found out I was the recipient of VT's Graduate Student Service Excellence Award, given to one graduate student who exemplifies service outside the classroom. We had a great dinner last night. My award was one of the last to be given, so I sat there through the ceremony just humbled by the other people there. These are the cream of the crop with regards to VT's graduate student population. Hundreds of published papers, book chapters, conference presentations, potential pharmaceutical developments, and years of work were talked about last night. It was an honor enough to be considered for this award but it was so special to be recognized for all the hours I put into working with young girls and domestic violence survivors. I received $1,000 and a beautiful plaque!

Needless to say, I was kind of stunned to be a part of this group! When they brought me up to receive my award, it was interesting to hear that they announced I'd begin work on my PhD in Public Administration and Policy this fall. I actually never told the committee this, despite my pending application at Tech, so I wasn't sure how they knew I'd even applied. I guess they were one step ahead of me, because I logged on later to find out I'd been accepted to the program, so I will OFFICIALLY be a PhD student in the fall! This is very exciting and has been the capstone of a wonderful week, in which my thesis was returned to me to prepare for a defense with minor edits in addition to everything!

Now, I have to get to editing that thesis and grading fifty 12-page research papers, but I also have plans this weekend to just relax and enjoy the payoff of some serious hard work! I'm also presenting my research at two conferences in April, so I've got a very busy schedule ahead of me, but I have spent two years at Tech leading up to this point and I've put in a lot of hard work! On May 15th, I will have a master's degree and will be moving on to the final part of my education, receiving a PhD! Those who knew me years ago know that attending college was a question until a few nights in April when I received generous assistance from my college, high school, and the National Elks Foundation. All those people who believed in me then inspired me to keep going and get the degrees I wanted. Don't give up!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Learning Channel... or not

When I was younger, I remember my aunt only allowing her kids to watch TLC- the learning channel- during mornings. Believe it or not, the channel had lots of cute shows appropriate for kids and a great appealer in What Not To Wear for adults.

Over the last few years, I’ve really watched TLC go down the tubes. Is it a reflection of general interest in the country? It’s not enough to have a reality channel and VH1/MTV full of ridiculous tv shows, now TLC has been taken over. I think it should be renamed “The Bizarre Factory”.

I really enjoyed Little People Big World (hey, a real family, with real problems, real kids-great!) and What Not to Wear (because style interventions and makeovers are just the American way!). Over time, my boyfriend even got into Cake Boss, although each show has some staged drama that threatens to ruin the day.

But lately, what is up with this channel? My DVR somehow recorded a show called Miss Turkey Trot and Drumsticks, where women were judged only on their legs to win the illustrious Miss Drumsticks. What am I learning here? Then came Toddlers and Tiaras. Crazy pageant mom with half-talented kids who’d rather be running around outside? Please apply!

Now it’s become home to what they make seem like a freak show. While it’s great that someone 3’11 is a doctor, why do we need a show about little chocolatiers? The Little Couple drives me up a wall, too! This little woman drags her husband on shopping trips every other episode despite his frustrated cries about how much he hates it. Don’t even get me started on her laugh, either. I haven’t tuned in to “Little Chocolatiers” because I literally have no interest. It makes these people out to be freak shows. Add into the mix “world’s tallest human” and “I didn’t know I was pregnant” and I feel like I bought a ticket to Barnum and Bailey.

Then TLC had Miss America on its broadcast. They staged a cheesy fake show where women competed in “challenges” (including sliding down a soaped up slip and slide- nothing says accomplished 24 year old like this) to win a gold sash. The girls who won gold sashes earned spots in the final pageant. I never really understood this- if the judges in a pageant didn’t like me, fine! But do I really want to reference winning an obstacle course as the clincher that sealed my fate in the top 15 at Miss America? No. Then TLC dumped Miss America (which I can’t really blame them for). I was honestly sick of them advertising Toddlers and Tiaras leading up to Miss America anyways.

And today was just the icing on the cake. I don’t mind watching reality shows as a chance to relax after a long day. Pondering at the bizarre happenings on Millionaire Matchmaker? Sure! Salivating at the cooked-up creations on Top Chef? I’ll be there. But watching Sarah Palin?

I mean, really? We’re talking about someone whose speaking skills rival Caitlin Upton of the famous “such, as the Iraq” and now we’re going to watch a show about her? I really don’t feel like this woman represents me at all, and I don’t want to know anymore about her. What better way to milk her fifteen minutes of fame, though? Has any other failed national candidate made such a name for themselves? Forget Al Gore- he only was part of a great movie about global warming. Yeah, I REALLY want to know more about “holier than thou” Sarah Palin and watch the great bastions of good behavior her children are. Someone to look up to- teen mom! Oh wait, isn’t that ALREADY a reality show?

Learning Channel, I’ll miss you. What’s even more sad is that apparently the interest is there from some people to watch this crap. I think our house is going to stick to National Geographic Channel. We might even LEARN something!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Junior Miss Weekend

The Virginia's Junior Miss Judging Panel
This weekend I had the honor of judging the Virginia's Junior Miss Program. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the people involved in this organization. I participated in Ohio's Junior Miss in 2004 and had a great time. I have a special scrapbook just for the week I spent in Mount Vernon, Ohio, preparing for the final program. It is easily my favorite "pageant-related" experience I have ever had.

America's Junior Miss is a program for high school seniors to win scholarships for college. AJM gets $50,000 at the national level, and many state programs award between 5-40,000 dollars to young women each year. You can only compete once, and one winner is chosen to spend two weeks in Mobile, Alabama, for America's Junior Miss. The girls compete in self-expression, talent, interview, scholastics, and a fitness routine (this weekends was a six minute routine with push-ups, sit ups, high kicks, and a personal routine for each girl- sorry, that beats twenty seconds in a swimsuit any day!).

I was on the panel with a very distinguished group of former junior misses- a doctor in family practice, a chiropractor, an Exxon Mobile manager, and a young woman graduating with honors from college this spring to go work as a journalist in DC. There is something about Junior Miss- the women go on to accomplish amazing things. The average GPA of this years class of Junior Miss? 3.97. Last year's Virginia's Junior Miss is working on research at MIT.

I discovered Junior Miss during the summer of 2003 while flipping channels and seeing some program on CMT where girls were kickboxing to win money for college. I later learned it was America's Junior Miss, and I started asking my mom for permission to participate right away. What resulted was a wonderful week I will always cherish.

I have never had such a good time behind the scenes (by the way, don't call Junior Miss a "pageant"- the program corrects anyone who calls it this. There are no crowns or sashes- simply medallions and scholarships) at a program like this. The women I judged with were fascinating. I talked to the doctor about getting through the last two years of medical school (which my own boyfriend will soon embark on), the chiropractor about alternative cures for several migraine headaches, the auditor and Exxon employee about the growing phenomenon that is Twilight, and even spoke with the chiropractor/dance teacher about teaching dance for free in underprivileged communities, which is my newest venture I'll be pursuing after my move to Maryland in June. What a great weekend!

The girls were beyond impressive. I cannot remember at 18 being so articulate or talented. The winner, Brina Gabryel, was only 16 years old but already accepted to a university's dance program for the fall. She won talent, fitness, and self-expression. I believe she won close to $4,000 this weekend alone, in addition to what she had previously won as Lynchburg's Junior Miss.

If there are any junior high school girls out there interested in earning money for college and having a great time, please consider participating in this program next year!

My boyfriend and I also made the most of the weekend with a few interesting stops, which I'll blog about later!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Excitedly announcing... my new project

For the past few months, I’ve had several people ask me if I’ll miss tap dancing. The first time, it just confused me, but after it happened a few times, I really wondered if people thought I just learned to tap dance for the purpose of pageants. Quite the opposite- I’ve been dancing as long as I’ve had energy to burn (since age 3) and I plan to continue doing it throughout my life.

Tap dancing is a family tradition for me- my grandmother and great uncle were great tap dancers and teachers. I treasure my collection of my grandmothers taps and carrying on something special to me and my family. I’ve always known I would continue with lessons and now teaching others.

The past few months, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a new project to start when I live in Maryland. I’m excited to partner with Madeline’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping inner city youth and their families by providing positive outlets for them. I’ll be helping out next year by teaching tap! I have wanted to do this for so long and was just looking for the perfect connection to work out this project, and this foundation is the perfect fit!

Here’s where I need everyone’s help: I’m applying for a series of grants including $5,000 from Pepsi to launch this off the ground. I’m also applying for another grant from an organization I received a scholarship from as a college freshman. $5,000 would really lift this project off the ground. I’ll use it to buy 2 portable ballet bars, music, and hopefully as many pairs of tap shoes (and other dance shoes to help the entire program) and money to give to special dancers to come teach for a week and inspire the kids. The kids can then just come to dance lessons and borrow shoes from my collection every week and not have to worry about the expense! Pepsi this year is giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away in grants, and the top ten grants requesting $5,000 will get the grant! I need people to vote. You can vote everyday by simply signing up through your email. My link will be available at the beginning of April.

Even if I don't win the grants, I will still go forward with this project, so I hope anyone interested helps me out! I have my fingers crossed that with your help, my idea can be in the top ten. We can really make a cool after school program come to life- and at completely no cost to these kids!

We all know that in these difficult times often comes the cutting of many arts programs. Last year the dance studio I practiced at after school was canceling their dance program due to funding. Many people who live in bigger cities can’t afford after school activities and they definitely can’t afford dance tuition, leotards, and shoes! So this is an easy way to vote and give as many kids as I can handle the chance to learn one of my favorite things! I’ll post links when it gets closer, I’m counting on everyone I know to help make this a reality!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

Lately I've been reminded a lot of my childhood in Ohio. There are a couple of reasons for this. It's spring break, so a lot of students are headed home or off on break. I will be finishing up my thesis here in Virginia. Also, my mom and brother recently went to a Styx, REO Speedwagon, and 38 special concert in Ohio. And finally, someone I went to high school with is on American Idol.

First things first. I'm almost done with my thesis. All my work has been completed- I just have to type the remaining half and edit. I'll be happy when I defend it and then my schedule clears up even more.

Second, I think appreciation of classic rock is something natural to where I live. We're close to Detroit, but Toledo's it's own city that loves classic rock. There are always great concerts there- I saw Eddie Money over summer and a few months ago my brother also saw Alice Cooper. Great artists are always coming through there. Maybe it's because I live more in a college area, but I grew up listening to classic rock. My favorite part of the drive home is when I'm on the Ohio turnpike about 90 minutes away and I pick up 94.5 XKR, the world's best classic rock station. So obviously I was jealous when I heard my mom was heading out to yet another concert with my brother, with rave reviews afterwards of Styx. I have to say, I miss being in that area. Classic rock is my music of choice and the artists just don't come through here. We have to go to Greensboro and keep our fingers crossed for Aerosmith. A lot of different music certainly comes through this area, but it's never anything John or I is particularly interested in.

And finally, I come from a middle of nowhere town in Ohio. You knew everyone you went to high school with by name. So it's pretty cool that Crystal Bowersox, a former Oak Harbor student herself, is not only on American Idol but an early favorite. I never tune into the show because it just doesn't capture me, but this year I have been tuning in to see how she's doing. So far, so good, but since I've never really watched the show, I'm not sure what a great measure of success is.

Okay, enough "fun writing". Back to mail-order brides.

Caressa's win

Other contestants "felt it" about Miss Virginia

Click here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Whew, busy!

So this weekend I crowned a new Miss Hill City and Miss Lynchburg. I've started a few blog entries but just haven't had time to update lately. My "spring break" (ie work on my thesis from home all week) is coming next week so maybe I'll have some down time for updates!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great news!

I just found out tonight that I won Virginia Tech's Graduate Student Service Excellence Award. I was having somewhat of a terrible day, because I've been sick all week. Combine that with writing my farewell speech for Miss Hill City and packing for that, I've been bummed out! I'm really going to miss hanging out with my committee and all the special work I did as Miss Hill City (which is part of the reason I won this award).

And just to show that this system is not just about competing, one of my nominators for this award was Stephanie Connelly, a fantastic contestant and fellow VT student.

I'll be recognized at an award ceremony with March and I am receiving $1,000 for this special honor! What a great turnaround to this day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm almost a "has-been"!

The weekend after this, I'll be giving up my second (and final) title in the Miss America program, Miss Hill City. Even though some people might think it's sad, it's exciting that another young woman is about to embark on a special year, one of the highlights being the Miss Virginia pageant in June.

Certainly it's been very special to be a part of Miss Virginia. Our reigning Miss Virginia just won Miss America and Virginia has a legacy of crowning talented, intelligent, gorgeous young women who make the most of the title and represent us well at Miss America. For now, I'm content to continue cheering on some of my favorite people I've met competing. Some people say it's not real for people "competing" against one another to get along well or form friendships, but go ahead and tell that to some of the girls I've gotten to know and love over the past two years. These women are incredible, and I wish them all the best of luck at Miss Virginia in June.

I'll blog again one more time before leaving next weekend to give up the title, but I wanted to take another opportunity to thank everyone for standing behind me during my quest to be Miss Virginia. It didn't happen for me, and that's okay. It wasn't in God's plan for me and I feel good about that. In the last several months, my true passions have become clear and I look forward to my future.

Whether I compete in any more pageants or not, I plan to move valiantly forward representing my platform (Breaking the Silence: Domestic Violence Awareness). I'm already incorporating it in my research (thesis and otherwise) and I know that my upcoming move to Maryland will present me with even more opportunities to remain involved in a new state with new people. I love interacting especially with kids and will continue to do that.

On that note, I have to be up early for a day-long Girl Scout event tomorrow, so I'm off!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why I love the Olympics

Every two years, I tune in to watch the world's finest athletes do their thing in front of millions of people, hoping to deliver the performance of a lifetime.

Now, I'm not interested in sports generally- I didn't even know who won the super bowl until I logged into Yahoo the next morning. But there's something about the Olympics that's different. The athletes seem more humble. Their skill seems incredible. And it's a rallying cry to support your favorite athletes. I have personal favorites for both the summer and winter olympics, making it fun to watch every two years. In the summer I cheer loudest for Phil Dalhausser, a 6'9 beach volleyball player called the "thin beast" who basically stands at the net and smacks the ball back over. In the winter, I watch my favorite athlete, Apolo Anton Ohno, speedskate.

There's something rhythmic and yoga-like about speedskating. The graceful movements, the split-second movement between skaters, and the avoidance of the inevitable crashes. Ohno has now become the most decorated winter olympian, and with good reason. What I love about Ohno is that he's always so down to earth. It's a refreshing change from the "I'm so amazing" football, basketball and baseball players of today who make FAR too much money and inevitably ruin their careers in my eyes with bad choices (Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods- role model, anyone?)

Last night's skating program added a new favorite to my category- Evan Lycasek. What graceful movements. Even in light of being slammed by the Russian skater who just edged him out after the short program, Evan remained calm.

More favorites? Shaun White. This kid is ridiculous. He's one of the few men I've ever seen able to rock curly red hair - and avoid the Carrot Top look- and he used a private half pipe to prepare for the olympics. You can bet his presentation is going to be incredible. On that note, I'm a little worn down of people ripping down these athletes. You could see the disappointment of the Russian coaches when two of their men took tumbles in pairs. Poor Lindsay Jacobellis took a spill during the snowboardcross just four years after she celebrated a little too early and lost the Gold. Snowboarding- and most sports- are hard. Athletes make mistakes just like anyone else.

I feel like I'll support these athletes whether they fall or fail because I expect more out of them morally. There's something redeeming about a Johnny Weir standing up for who he is or a Shawn Johnson being a genuine person. Why don't we expect this out of our non-olympic athletes? We're also willing to write it off in our politicians. So I say, cut them a break. These athletes are real people! And they're pretty impressive!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day

I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed Valentine's Day. My boyfriend went above and beyond- we went to the Greenbrier in West Virginia! This is a special place for us because he took me on a very sweet date there over the summer and I was blown away by how nice it was. So we traveled back there to bowl, enjoy chocolate, swim, and have a great dinner! It was a wonderful experience :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Miss Lynchburg

I wanted to reach out one more time and encourage any more possible contestants to compete for Miss Hill City and Lynchburg at the end of this month. I'm sure my farewell will be teary and I'll make another post to recap the last year later towards the pageant, but I cannot say enough positive things about this pageant. The crew is organized, and they were incredible helping me get ready for Miss Virginia. The whole committee will believe in you and do whatever they can to make you feel like the best version of you is headed to Roanoke.

If you are a potential contestant and have ANY questions about my year as Miss Hill City, please send an email to

Whoever wins this pageant has a great opportunity ahead of them and I will be happy to answer any questions if you're thinking about competing (several other girls have already reached out to ask questions, so please don't be afraid to email!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

College senior weighs in on Miss America... and other news

My google alerts have been flush lately with news articles about our new Miss America and the pageant in general. Here are a few favorites:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Miss Mountain Empire

Here are the results that we were able to write down:

Preteen ME: Gallienne Gilmer Hack
Lonesome Pine Preteen: Zoe Low

ME Teen: Anna Hubbard (talent)
LP Teen: Lauren Faulkner


Interview: Misti C.
Talent: Misti C.
EG: Misti C.
Community Service: Samantha McReynolds
SS: Nancy Nguyen
People's Choice: Brooke Saurbeer
Congeniality: Alisha Evans and Misti C.

4th: Alisha Evans
3rd: Nancy Nguyen
2nd: Samantha M.
1st: Brooke Saurbeer
Miss ME: Misti C

Here are a few pictures !

Friday, February 5, 2010

Miss ME

Tomorrow night five girls will be competing for the title of Miss Mountain Empire.

The weather was fine from about an hour away on in. It was TERRIBLE before that and I was grateful we were in a car that could handle the snow and driving with someone who used to live in Maine. If you're in this local area, please come out!

The contestants are:

Alishia Evans
Misti Caviness
Nancy Nguyen
Samantha McReyolds
Brooke Sourbeer

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Miss Mountain Empire!

John and I are leaving early Friday in the Hummer to try to beat the snow as much as possible. That way we have plenty of time to make it to Abingdon, and once I'm there, I'll just stay until Sunday morning!

The hotel is supposed to have free wireless so I'll post results and pictures once I get them. In the meantime, I'll be working on my thesis from Abingdon in my down time. Good luck to all the ladies competing, and thanks to the great sponsor of Quality Inn for the hotel room!

We are hoping to make a stop at the Harvest Table restaurant, where I visited on a college trip to learn about local and organic food. HT serves local and seasonal food from the area, and last time I was there, it was excellent!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meet your new Miss Virginia...

Chinah Helmandollar!

New Miss America

A huge congrats to Caressa Cameron, the new Miss America! I knew she would win.

We have no official word yet on the new Miss Virginia! I do know, however, that several runners-up have declined the position.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Can't believe I made this hole in one!

A few weekends ago, my boyfriend and I traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a weekend away. On Friday afternoon of the week before my school started, we were feeling the impending doom of class schedules and study time and John casually suggested we take a trip somewhere. I initially thought he wasn't serious.

We've visited a lot of areas near where we currently live, but we decided to expand our trip to up to four hours travel time. And guess what? Gatlinburg was right at four hours.

Let me tell you, the internet highly undersold this great destination. We weren't expecting much. We made a reservation at a cheap hotel ($57, again not expecting much), ordered tickets for Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, and woke up at 5Am on Saturday to travel.

We stopped on the way there in Abingdon, where I'll be next weekend hosting the Miss Mountain Empire Pageant, and then continued on.

Let me push Gatlinburg here as a great place to travel if you live in SW Virginia. First of all, we paid something like $50 each for museums, but that gave us an "aquarium plus four" (the aquarium itself is around $20 to do just that). But we went to a motion theater ride, ripley's believe it or not, a house of mirrors (which I successfully guided us out of), the aquarium and a mini-golf place (where I got four holes in one including the final "impossible shot", winning me a free game. Luck was on my side!)

If you love food, this is a great place to visit. We ate twice at the pancake pantry. I'm a simpleton so I stuck with buttermilk but John tried a few kinds and really loved it. Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede is Southern Cooking at its best. We also found a great little place called AppleBarn that had delicious apple butter!

As for shopping, they have a great outlet mall there. We got John a totally new wardrobe for $200 at Tommy Hilfiger. The associate remarked "It's like Wal-Mart in here" and it truly was.

The Dixie Stampede was one of John's favorite things and the show they put on was great. How they feed 1600 people twice a night, I have no idea, but we had great seats and service. Highly recommend this!

Now, for the best part. I consider myself an aquarium aficionado. I've been to many cities around the world and explored their aquariums, and up til now the best one in my memory has been Boston for their excellent sea jelly assortment. However, Ripley's was promised as the best in America and it did not disappoint! They have an AMAZING collection of deadly animals there, a huge octopus who came out and gave us a full show, and an incredible moving escalator under a HUGE tank, easily the biggest I've ever seen. Just standing on the moving walkway takes a good ten minutes... we stepped off a few times after sighting neat animals. The only thing they were missing was penguins, but this was definitely more of an underwater life place. However, it's worth it! Great family destination.

Another great museum was WonderWorks. It's like a giant play area. I spent about thirty minutes blowing bubbles.

There's also a great Thai restaurant there, we gorged on this trip!

I've included a few pictures from the trip. We're planning to go back in March or April once Dollywood opens. We had a blast!
After checking out last night's swimsuit and EG pictures, I'm adding New Mexico to my 15! OK is close.

Caressa looked gorgeous!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Miss America predictions 2

If Miss America were held this moment, my prediction would be:
Winner: Virginia
1st Runner up: Ohio
2nd Runner up: Puerto Rico
3rd Runner up: Dc
4th Runner up: Alabama

Spots 5-10
6/7: Tie with Louisiana and Georgia
8: Tennessee
9: Missouri
10: Arkansas

New Jersey, Indiana, California, Illinois, Utah

Miss Virginia wins talent!

Miss Virginia won preliminary talent last night, and that didn't affect my top spot placing in my predictions, but I did move around a few others.

Miss America: Caressa Cameron, Miss Virginia

Remaining top 5:

Alabama (this spot will probably be someone unexpected, like Iowa last year), Ohio, DC , Puerto Rico

Remaining Top Ten:






Remaining Top 15/On the Edge: New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, California

Non-finalist talent: Utah, Maine

I keep changing this around- I had PA in my top 5 but I didn't like her evening gown. I think DC is flying under the radar but will deliver a solid presentation. I'm torn- I want MS in the top ten but I'm not sure if she'll be in that tenth spot or not!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Entertainment Weekly

Have you read this article by Entertainment Weekly about Miss America? I am not too smart with technology but I used a file uploader on my personal website to be able to share it with you, since it was passed to me by email.


To check it out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bridal Gala

This weekend I was a model for Bride's House for a big bridal gala in Roanoke. It was definitely a lot bigger than I expected, and there was a huge variety in gowns. I strongly recommend to all pageant girls and brides-to-be that you visit Bride's House, because they have a great selection of all things formalwear!

And yes, I got to wear ballet flats because apparently 5'11 is the perfect height for bridal gowns, but not any taller!

PS: Make sure to tune in this weekend to Miss America

Monday, January 11, 2010


If you thought I'd drop off the face of the pageant planet just because I'm not competing, you're wrong! Several things coming up where I'm making "appearances" for the last few times as Miss Hill City or just to help out as Laura.

January 24th I'm modeling in the Bridal Gala for Bride's House at Hotel Roanoke, January 30th making a pit top in Lynchburg at a women's show before heading back home to watch Miss America, February 6th hosting Miss Mountain Empire, and February 27th I'll be back in Lynchburg to help with Miss Lynchburg/Hill City!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Good luck at Miss Chesterfield!

The following contestants are competing tonight for the title of Miss Chesterfield:

Christine Ching
Ashley Faucher
Charlotte Fraser
Kourtney Ginn
Caitlin Graham
Victoria Maiden
Christina Nichols
Christina Nicholson
Veronica Rohrmoser
Natalie Smith
Katie Turner
Taylor Witte

Hopefully many of my readers are attending to watch the hilarious, intelligent and giving Stephanie Connelly crown the next Miss Chesterfield!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Important News: Miss Lynchburg

The Miss Lynchurg/Hill City pageant has been rescheduled to February 27th, 2010. Please consider competing. The pageant will still be held in Lynchburg at the James River Conference Center. If enough contestants sign up, two titles will be awarded!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I started a blog for the first time when I spent the summer living in Boston. I thought it would help keeps friends and family updated about my activities. Over time, it became a way to chronicle my journey to the Miss Virginia pageant and the great deal of community service I did as part of that.

Now that I am officially retired from the pageant world of Miss Virginia, I can exercise a little more freedom in my opinions about things, particularly pageants. I've never "censored" myself, but I've been careful about what's been said because I keep track of all the visits and searches people make to find this blog. I've been writing creatively most of my life, whether it's fictional stories or just writing about life. In this new year, I'm excited about the opportunity to return to writing for my sake.

Despite the fact that my blog has mostly followed pageant happenings, I think there are many things about me that just never came up- or never seemed appropriate in this setting. For example, while in Boston I lived in a disgusting fraternity house right next to the river (tip: don't put your friends in charge of finding housing). I decided to eventually hide my blogs about the ridiculous happenings in this house because I thought people would take it the wrong way. But the fact is, all the girls competing are real people. You wouldn't want a Miss Virginia or Miss America who wasn't. But that experience is all part of what made me who I am.

Most people also don't know that last spring I embarked on a project to write a book about dating between men and women, following the encouragement of a college English professor to tell the tales of how men and women communicate.

Many people don't know that I'm working on a master's thesis about mail-order brides, exploring areas of research largely untouched by scholars.

So, in this new year, I'll be more about embracing who I am!

Thanks for reading,