Today, in Clark County, I experienced something new. I thought I had been in every situation possible until I did a program in an auditorium where they were giving flu shots on the stage behind me. It was my first school of 8 today(one of 28 this past week) and by far one that I know has prepared me for any interruption in my Miss America interview. So the sound system doesn’t work, naturally, and I begin my program without it…I don’t need it anyway…my voice projects, they’re quiet…ha…”Alright boys and girls, now, I want you to be really really quiet today because the microphone doesn’t work and I have some really important things to talk to you about…it is silent…as soon as I begin my first sentence I hear the deadliest most terrifying scream I have ever heard, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO …AHHHHHHH …NONONONO NONONOOOO!!” Of course it’s a little funny because it was so silent, they were so loud, etc. I felt bad for laughing a little, but I knew that they would soon recover and realize that it wasn’t that bad…I too recovered and went on…surely that was the last one, poor thing, they must be bad with shots. Not the case. I look over and there is a line of children looking like they are about to walk a plank. I am trying to talk to them about dreams and their future and they have this look on their faces like, “I DON’T EVEN HAVE A FUTURE, I AM GETTING A FLU SHOT!” This continues, as do I, and I get to the end and despite their dismay they were rather eager to ask questions. One little girl named Jocelyn, who I had met before her flu shot and had made it out alive, is among the hand raisers. I call her up and she meets the occasion…she slaps a smile on that tear stained face and saunters up. “Jocelyn, since you were so brave getting your shot I am going to let you wear my crown…” In that moment she knew that what she had been through was completely worth it, and I placed it on her head…”Jocelyn how does that crown feel on your head?”…”Sure feels better than that flu shot!!” She was right. It does.
27 schools, far from 27 dresses, I am tired of packing new dresses every single day, so I decided that my coat now counts as a new ensemble. I dress it differently with different scarves, gloves, shoes, until a little boy(while running his sweet dirty little recess palms across my white (fake) fur coat) tilts his head to the side and says, “Miss Kentucky, you look just like my cat.” No more fur. The schools, ranging from Bowling Green, to Grayson, to Berea, to Avalton, to Olive Hill, to Henderson, to places that I can’t even remember the names of, all reminded me that although I am tired, and beginning to get caught up in preparations, I can be nothing but joyful…because at least ten times a day, I see right past it. In moments when I still call on children who are too young to answer questions like, “What is your dream?”…When they say, “Alls my dreams is about MONSTERS!” There is nothing I can feel but joy. I forget that I don’t have all my dresses, I forget that I still weigh a few pounds over 100, I forget that last night I couldn’t quite remember every single detail of the 3,000 page health care bill, and I quickly remember that because of what I am doing I am finally prepared. Miss America is not one single bit about me, it’s about them…and in being so busy that I can’t think about myself I have realized that this is the place where it changes…the place where it all comes together. It’s funny how in the midst of my preparations for Miss America, and the self serving and vanity that could easily come along with it, I have in fact moved further and further from it…for I have no more reason to serve myself…and it is the best place to be.
I spoke of this place for the first time in my ‘going away’ speech at Miss Bowling Green this past weekend. Amidst the emotion from my (improvisational) Latin version of Ave Maria in a spotlight of ‘snow’, giving up my last local crown, and the complete exhaustion from being in probably 40 different cities over the past 8 or nine days with 16 hours of sleep max, something new came over me. It totally trumps feelings of doubt, confusion, or lack of sleep that tend to creep up at this point in time…and I can be nothing but joyful. BTW ‘going away’ speech is in quotations because you know that I am NOT going away…it should be called, the ‘i am letting someone else wear the crown and have my title for a year’ speech…or a ‘vacation’ speech.
I found myself almost slung out of a clown car in one of 3 parades(this one in Henderson, the others in Owenton, then Whitesburg Friday), for real…it was spinning so fast there was g force. I am being violently slung against one clown, then the other clown, the back to the other, and so on…I was deliriously tired, but quickly revived. The clowns are fake laughing and acting out almost flying out and being scared, I, like the children getting flu shots this morning, was screaming bloody murder and fearing for my life was ‘real’ scared.
I was named a Kentucky Colonel(again) this week, got another city key(Henderson), got to wear a santa beard(so that I would stop eating at a Christmas Party), did 2 tv spots that I still haven’t seen, schools, parades, drove, drove, drove, and so on. This week brought me from one side of the state to the other, several times, as well as from one side of the spectrum of emotion to the other, from exhaustion and worry, to confidence and faith. ‘It’ is here, finally, the feeling that I thought I would not have time to obtain. And it is nothing but a blessing…as is every day. As I said(or whoever was speaking for me) in my ‘going away’ speech…I wake up every morning and wonder why in the world I am the one who gets to reach out my hand…why in the world I am the one who was chosen to do this work…I may never know the answer to this question, but I continue to be guided by it…not for an answer anymore, but for proof of it. This is it.
PS…I dedicate this ‘blob’ to my friend Gerald Odom, whom I know is going to be the first one to read it, George Timothy Reed(who has made me laugh so hard this week I think I burst a lung), and Ann Blair’s boyfriend Giovanni, because you let us see that video of you acting out Hercules in Greek Sing.
PSS…Look at Kentucky Monthly! It’s out, as are the faces of my mom and sister(featured photos with me), and the quite obvious fact that they are much much prettier than me. I told you.
well sort of…a coal miner’s grand daughter counts. I never know what type of situation I will find myself in by the end of the day, so when I ended up several hundred feet underground at Riverview Coal Mines with a personalized glittered hard hat on, it was no surprise. Mining has been the livelihood of many members of my community and my family for years, and as I always say, you can’t turn your back on the people who made you who you are. So it is one of my many missions, to educate both myself and others on the good that coal mining brings. We always hear the bad, and like anything, there are things that needed to be addressed…and they were, and continue to be, in order to make mining cleaner. Heath, Ricky, my dad, a man named Cornbread, and I were in attendance underground. They gave me my very own personalized Miss Kentucky 2009 hard hat to keep. If Miss America doesn’t work out look for me underground. Although the mines are cleaner, I certainly was not. I looked like I had been down many a chimney, and of course my dad insisted on ‘running’ by Wal Mart. Noone will recognize me surely…pshhh…as soon as we walk in there are two little boys running at me full blast…”Miss Kentucky!!” They saw right past that coal dust and asked me to autograph their dad’s Wal-Mart receipt…this was my favorite autograph situation to date.
This event was among the 6,000 that I had this past week in my hometown. When I go home I am relentless…I have to be, I love to be. I participated in the largest Veteran parade in the state in Madisonville. I got to do an unscheduled autograph signing when someone fell off the top of the fire truck float in front of me and the parade halted momentarily…they were ok.
I did about 20 schools while I was at home. From Pride, to Madisonville, to Hopkinsville, to Earlington, to Dixon, to every other city in the West, then back to Morganfield…My Morganfield. It constantly takes me back to the moment where every single event from my life in that tiny town came together…to the moment where my dream came true, and in turn began a trend in my hometown among the young people to do the same. I went to St. Ann School until the 8th grade, then on to Union County High School(the only high school in the county). During my trip home I visited both my alma maters. At the high school I stood on the stage in the auditorium, holding the same ruby red slippers that I wore nine years ago on that same stage(playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). Everything comes together in a matter of seconds in moments like that. However, the moment where it really came together was when we got to St. Anns. As I walked into the parish hall, my reception was similar to a surprise party…or new years…or both. They’ve been counting down the days…they’ve been making signs…they’ve been on the brink of bursting at the seams of their uniforms…as have I. I’m not sure that there has ever been more support in one room. Although they are all in their uniforms(with the exception of the ones in the Mallory Ervin Miss Kentucky 2009 T Shirts) they are far from the same. There is an amazing sense of individuality still present at my old school, but a rare form of it, it’s mixed right in there with an underlying equality. Fifteen years ago, as a frizzy headed little shrimp tomboy, I took hold both of these things and ran with them. They are among the many gifts I was given that have powered my passions beyond those white walls. Those same walls now fence in ten of my boy cousins(whom I made come onto the stage with me and reenact the top five crowning moment). I can only do it to my them. The youngest of the 23, Paxton, a 1st grader there, thinks he is also my boyfriend. He wears a king crown at all time because he says that he is now the king of Kentucky…and he is.
The other schools this week were also filled with ‘moments’…a little boy raised his hand with tears in his eyes and said, “Miss Kentucky…when you sang, it sounded so beautiful, it made me cry.” Of course it moved me to tears, but I was quickly brought back to the real world when I was asked the dreaded, “Did you have to dye your hair blonde to win?” question. They keep me on my toes. Other notable events included mock interviews in Nashville(work outs, etc), a lunch at Cracker Barrel where I signed autographs for over an hour, a visit to the Earl C. Clements Job Corps(where I made some pretty awesome new friends who quickly warmed up to me and let me know that they’ve forever ‘got my back’ and that I have vocally made it, as they jumped to their feet in the middle of my song and began yelling ‘you did that!’…in case you didn’t know, that is the highest achievable compliment.) I also visited the WONDERFUL Home of the Innocents in Louisville for a day. You wouldn’t believe the extent of the services and facilities it offers to help better the lives of any child with a little bit of a harder way to go in life…wings for the medically disabled, autism programs, teen pregnancy centers, a place for children to live who are tossed around by the system or neglected in their own homes, among so many others. We should be so proud to have Mr. Gordon Brown and his team of the kindest men and women in the state doing what they do. It is our duty to help those with less or with nothing at all, The Home of the Innocents have made this not only their responsibility, but their joy. I can’t wait to go back.
I’m leaving things out, but my lazy eye has taken over and I am craving chocolate, so I must head to bed. But to you, thank you for reading. Thank you for your messages and encouragement. Thank you for your pride. And thank you for reminding me the reason why I have been put on this earth…every single day.
P.S…I do have three Christmas trees up at the moment…I am completely overwhelmed with ‘reasons for the season’ this year and Christmas is going to be intense…
P.S.S…Alden, I promise I will call you back very soon…
as I found myself in the mountains once again yesterday, I was quickly reminded that contrary to popular belief…my accent is not that strong. So I was in Clay County, home of Richie Farmer, at my first school, Paces Creek Elementary. I enter. “Hey Paces Creek Elementary!!!!”, “HIIII!”, “What is your mascot?!” They all scream in unison, “The BURS!!” I thought they said birds. “Oh, the birds, I’ve never heard of a school with the birds as their mascot, that’s cool.” I am interrupted. “NO! The BURRS!” I still think they’re saying the birds, so I continue, “Oh, well, I heard that but what kind of birds are you…flamingos, peacocks, penguins??” At this point they are frustrated and I am rambling off bird species like a rap song. At the top of their lungs they scream “THE BURSSS!!” Then one little Kindergarten boy in the front row says, “You know like, RRAAAWWWRRR!” “Oh…the BEARS!” Their mascot was the bears.
And then, for the best story ever. There is this red faced little girl(you must look at her in the pictures, she has on a yellow shirt) in the front row nodding her head, answering my questions aloud, and just really feeling my speech. So, you know the drill, question and answer time. Of course I call on her. “What is your question?”…”I like your dress I like your hair I like your face I like your crown…” she says. “Oh well thank you, you are just so nice. You know what boys and girls it really pays to be nice to people like she just was to me…and because I want to show you all that being nice is so important I am going to let Selena(Selana) wear my crown.” She is giddy with hysteria. I give her the microphone to hold while I pin it on her frizzy little head. However, I quickly see that this was a mistake as she boldly puts it up to her mouth and SCREAMS (pointing her little finger right at her little Kindergarten friend in the front row)…”See Paige…I TOLD YOU STOP SAYING CUSS WORDS!!!!” I lost it…completely. Finished off the Clay County school system with Paces Creek Elementary, Clay Co Middle School, Clay Co High School, and Manchester Elementary. The song requests included “Wagon Wheel”…twice…which I sang while they clapped along(way too fast, I was rapping “Wagon Wheel” by the second verse) and the Dora the Explorer theme song(among others). Refused requests included the songs, “I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It” and “Whisky River”. I had a great time in Clay County…in fact, I think I just might be in love with a few of the children in Clay County.
This week included another Nashville trip(mock interview where we now pretend that one fake judge is Rush Limbaugh). It also included a birthday dinner with my friends Joshie, Chuck, Monica, Robin, Gerald, Cheese Dip, and Guacomole. And a work out that did not work out because I can not say guacoNOle. Oh well. Then Jade and I made a mad dash back to Lexington to transform ourselves into a fairy and a cupcake(I should already have turned into one by now, but somehow have not).
So we race into the door and I begin hot gluing my costume onto my body…safety first has always been last in my book…I just don’t have time for that. But my homemade costume was almost better than the real thing. I loved it. I didn’t want to take it off…however…as Jade and I left Sarahbelle’s law school Halloween party the rain quickly did that for me…posterboard is not waterproof…but my house was close. I love Halloween. I kind of feel like Halloween is everyday for me this year though. When you’re 24 and wearing a crown and eyelashes, it counts as Halloween. By the way, my ‘piece of cake’ costume was far from a ‘piece of cake’ to maneuver in social situations…noone could come within 2 feet of me and the only dance I could do and look cool was the electric slide…because it is solo.
Kentucky Monthly asked my mom, sister, and I to be featured in and on their Christmas issue(coming soon). The shoot was at a winery called Elk Creek in Owenton, Ky, and is a hidden treasure in our state. We shot there all day(pictures, not clay pigeons, I have to clear that up because there is a hunting range on the premises). The place was beautiful, my mom and sister were beautiful(you see why I always say that I am so not the pretty one), and they were decorating for CHRISTMAS…which I feel slightly afraid to admit I have already done…to an extreme. I put up my tree, sorry. I know a lot of people aren’t down with putting a Christmas tree up in late October, but I just couldn’t wait. I will wait until next week to show you a picture to be more appropriate.
Also, part two of my Christmas card photoshoot took place today at Corman’s Marketplace(the BEST decorating store I have ever experienced). It was like being in a snowglobe(and I was the chubby little snowman in the middle of it…no maybe a gingerbread man…whatever). I just know that the delightful men who own it really had me shaken up(laughing) as they flitted throughout the store like little elves with glitter from their head to their toes. You must visit this store. However, you will walk out looking like a mermaid. I swear coughed today and I could see a hint of glitter in the air…but maybe that’s from the Christmas celebration going on in my living room…
Went to the UK game as well…with my brother Pikachu, and sister Tinkerbell. It was fun.
And now, as it is 3:00 in the morning, and I am going to get in trouble by both my father and Kim Canter tomorrow for being up this late when I have to wake up at 6 and drive to Louisville, so I must head to bed. However, there is a reason tonight that I am avoiding going to bed moreso than other nights…because I know I won’t be able to sleep. I am headed west tomorrow to do one of the things that I know will be a highlight of my year. I get to go back and speak at St. Ann and Union County High School, my schools. I know that this will be one of those moments where the madness of this job(still the most wonderful job) and the hustle and bustle ceases for a second as I walk into those gyms…to speak to those children…in the places that made me who I am. I can’t wait to feel that.
PS…Happy Halloween and Merry Christmas!! We will be skipping over Thanksgiving this year in the Ervin household so that I don’t look like a big fat turkey at Miss America…kidding…maybe.
PSS…I’m leaving you with a picture…a Halloween themed picture to remind the world that I was so not cool in middle school…
YEAH RIGHT…Whatever beanpole thought up that saying was NOT competing in Miss America. If they were they would have said, “have your cake and eat it too but feel really bad about it afterwards”. Way to lead all of us on thinking that this mess was true. As I found my birthday(and my mid twenties) quickly approaching I found myself in way too many cake situations. I knew I could have my cake, but could I eat it? As the domineering(but caring) eyes of my Miss Kentucky friends loomed over me as I blew my out my candles on Monday night I knew they were thinking the same thing…I could have thought of 24 reasons why I should not participate in cake at this point in my life and one big one why I should(and it rhymes with should, because it is good). Sorry. I’ll make up for it.
However, what I cannot make up for is my blog negligence. I am sorry. But due to the swine flu, I cannot keep my promise about the ‘kisses for cancer’ campaign for Luke’s fraternity(that I had promised I would participate in if I went longer than a week to do my blog). We will have to think of another punishment(or opportunity).
And another thing while I’m doing food confessions/questions I have a simple statement. Funsize…funsize is no longer fun or funny when you eat 13. I came to this realization alone, backstage in Louisville on Saturday where I was the emcee at the Miss Louisville/J-Town preliminary. I quickly went from performer to thief as I found myself stealing the funsize candy bars from my friends’ (the contestants) goody bags while they are onstage. But we’re all friends, so it doesn’t count as stealing, more like borrowing without returning. I used to think of myself as funsize, but it is no longer fun to have no space for weight to disperse. I performed FAME songs as well as my Miss America talent and Proud Mary(in a fringed dress that weighed as much as me before I ate the 13 candy bars). I love being Tina…something comes over me. When I start that monologue…”Ya Know, Every Now And Then…”I feel my soul come alive and for four minutes on that JTown stage I was Tina, sans the legs. I love emceeing these locals, and seeing other girls in my position just one year ago, eager to have a shot at the best opportunity in the world. And I still love emceeing even though Ean got to stand up there and tell stories and I got to direct people to where the restrooms were located on occasion. I got to talk about fun stuff too…and I got to see all my friends!
So to begin at the beginning…my severe bronchitis and I found ourselves in Ashland for dos days. I did nine schools, a preschool, a nursing home, and way too many restaurants. These kids were funny…I mean funny. They all brought their wind up cameras for photographs and when the teacher would forget to wind it up before taking the picture they would get so frustrated and embarrassed. “I’m glad it wasn’t wound up” I would say, “because now we get to stand here and be friends for longer.” They would smile that toothy grin. The nice people of Ashland, and the Miss Ashland pageant, had a wonderful reception for me at the tourist bureau…they present me with may things…including a ‘Welcome Miss Kentucky’ cake. We ate all around the actual phrase and they gave me the leftover chunk. I knew that it would not be a good decision to take the cake up to my hotel room so I gave it to the people at the front desk to offer to the guests. They must have set it out in the lobby, because when I came down that morning I had three of the nicest truck drivers ready to meet Miss Kentucky in the parking lot…”We saw the cake!” they exclaimed…I have three new best friends who showed me their living quarters on their trucks, and I decided that I need a semi during my reign…I feel that it would be a great investment and a great way to travel.
The next day in Ashland I did three schools in the morning, then I had a two hour break before my next pack. So, I’m sitting there and I look across the street and I see this huge nursing home…I knew I saw it for a reason…I should stop in…So I did…and oh my gosh it was the best thing I could have ever done with two hours. We forget about them. They are the kindest most appreciative group on this earth. So I walk in and ask the lady at the front if there was anyone that I could visit. The activity director just happened to be standing there and was just taken aback with surprise. “Well of course!”. So we went nonstop for two hours. From one room to the next, then into the great rooms for the performance segment of my visit. Ha. There was this nice man who could play the piano like no other, and I did a concert in that nursing home. I belted out Martina McBride and gospel songs…they would sing along…they would talk…they would roll their wheelchairs right up to the ends of my toes to listen. They reminded me once again of why I wanted this job so badly. I’m so glad I stopped. The nice activity director said that they were going to plan a Miss America activity in January. I know I will have a great group of fans watching in Ashland.
So nine schools…I’ll spare you…they were fantastic and all so great. So that was Monday thru Wednesday. Thursday I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off then ended up at the rehearsal for the Susan G Komen Runway for the Cure fashion show and auction. The next day was the event. I was the emcee…or ad-libber shall I say. I had a program book with some notes written it it and about three and a half hours to fill in…it was great practice for Miss America though, and great inspiration to stop eating cake(upon seeing the models). Each time one would grace the stage I would move further away from the runway. Breast cancer awareness and fundraising of any kind…you can count me in. I was glad to be a part of this pink explosion that turned out to be a GREAT event that I hope will continue here in Lexington. And my mom thought it was really funny to purchase a young man in the date auction for ‘her daughters’…funny…she was so embarrassed when he though he was for her…that’s what she gets. “No it’s for her…I’m married!!”
Kearney’s reception, then on to another emcee event, then on to another pack of schools. My birthday was on the 26th and I’ve been having a bit of trouble with the idea that I will be 24…nuts. So I go into Dairy Queen (for a salad) and I am waiting at the counter. I look down and make a comment to the cashier(whom I have already asked to describe how good the pumpkin pie blizzard is in detail), “Oh candles, my birthday is tomorrow and I’ll be…24.” “Oh”, she says, “Well there’s just the perfect amount of candles for you in that box then.”…”WHAT!?”…I said…”There are only 24 candles in this pack?!” My hair seemed to turn grey right in front of my eyes. At that moment I realized that I was on my way out. I will have to buy two packs of candles from now on. For the rest of my life the person handling my birthday cake situation can never say the phrase, “Oh, just pick a pack of candles!!…Now they have to pick up two!…That or buy those big awful numbers! That day was almost one of my first sad days as Miss Kentucky. However, my frown was turned upside down when my family came up for round one of birthday celebrations. Then all my Miss Ky crew attended my ‘real birthday dinner’ or ‘my last supper’ as Jamie referred to it on Monday. My friend, and fellow cupcake, Ashley Upton Gabbard had balloons, multiple hats, and a cake that triumphed over my elderly saddness…no matter how many candles were springing from that fondant I could have only been moved to happy tears. The Postels, Kim, Marcia, Jamie, Lisa, Mom, Luke, Tanner, Carson, The Uptons, The Gabbards, all of my friends were there to remind me that I really do adore 24.
My Christmas card photo shoot(part one) in Barbourville was short lived because of the rain, but Joetta and I will make up for it this week…get ready for that Christmas card! Then today I found myself 3 hours away in Greenup Kentucky, where I did four elementary schools and a middle school. Greenup moved on up my list of favorites as I ended up in a concert like experience singing a requested Miley Cyrus song with the elementary(who just happened to be decked out for rock star day) screamed along. Then at one school there was the nicest little boy who raised his hand and said, “Miss Kentucky, I just love the ribbon you’re wearing today.” As you will see in my pictures I was not wearing a ribbon today, but I thanked him so much for his compliment and for being so kind. “Are you always this kind to people?” “Why yes, I sure am!” he says in a jolly voice from his indian style position on the cafeteria floor. I was walking away and I glanced back to see if maybe he was just joking about the ribbon in my hair…and he wasn’t. I still haven’t figured it out. He was so sweet though. They all were. Then there was one school that I almost lost my composure at when I asked, “Ok boys and girls, who can tell me the word in this song that I am about to sing (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) that the song is all about…and the word that I am going to talk to you about today..it begins with a D…”…”DRUGS!!” two children yell at the same time. I got worried for a second until I remembered it was red ribbon week…All the schools were wonderful today and I have officially gone Green(up). Oh, and as I was leaving there was a sign on the side of the road that said, “Welcome to Greenup, Home of the 199? Miss Kentucky Tonya Virgin White” I teared up…then quickly realized that I could not tear up while driving in the mountains…it’s hard enough to stay on the road without blurred vision.
And I’m sorry for the delay, thank you for not giving up on me. I promise you that my Halloween costume will more than make up for any strife or impatience I have caused you. I still love this so much…every day…there is nothing more I could ever ask for than to give every second of every day…HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!
P.S. Thank you for all of your endless support and love during my preparations…and thank you for my birthday wishes.
P.S.S. Mr. Mike Fromm, I will miss you terribly. Thank you for giving the world your wonderful daughter Chelsea.
I rushed home from doing 7 schools in Rowan County on Wednesday to get lowlights after another round of honesty from my little friends brought me back to reality. I get this question a lot, but never this answer. “How old are you?” a first grade little boy asks. “How old do you think I am?” I continue on as I always do. “Um, eighty nine?”. “EIGHTY NINE!!??!!”. “Do I look eighty nine, why do you think I look eighty nine?” I realize that I probably should not have asked this outloud but it is too late…here it comes….”Because your hair is white.” Got lowlights that night and thus far have had no more confusion on that matter. But that lowlight night was a mere glimmer in the distance at that point in the day…the marathon day…the best day…I will get to that soon.
So, Monday, Nashville to work out with my little rat trainer Josh. Got to see my sister Jade and cousin Thea. I am also pretty sure that I ate a decoration on Jade’s counter. It was a pink cupcake(that I shouldn’t have been handling in the first place) that after a few bites I realized may have been either a candle or doll food. I wish all food that I tried to eat was fake. Dash on to Louisville where we entered into the secret back entrance of Heather French Henry’s design studio. It was dark…until she walked out into the abyss and lights it right up. Anyone who knows Heather knows what I’m talking about when I say she kind of glows. She took us up to her studio where we talked about Miss America, furs, and dresses.
Then I begin my own version of MIDNIGHT MADNESS as I arrived back to Lexington that night, pretty mad that it was already past midnight(I had to leave in about 4 hours for the next day). I began to gear up for the rowan county school district day(the one that I alluded to in the beginning). 7 schools…one day…no room to play(or so I thought). It was intense, but so am I, so it was fantastic. Tilden Hogge Elementary, McBrayer Elementary, Rowan County Senior High School, Rodburn Elementary, Clearfield Elementary, Rowan County Middle School, and The Morehead Youth Development Center) I feel like I’m singing the Johnny Cash ‘I’ve been everywhere’ song when I rattle off the schools I did that day. But, the superintendent has the prettiest most wonderful wife, Lucy, who has this drill down to a science. She picked me up, initially she was my driver, she quickly became my best friend. We went from one school to the next to the next to the next. I felt like the president. We would pull up to the back entrance. I would jump out and my little feet would hit the ground running. I hand over my ruby red slippers to the first teacher I see, then my cd to the next, all the while someone is briefing me as we power walk into the gym where the kids are on pins and needles…waiting. “Schools name?…Elementary, Middle, or High school?…School Mascot?…Demographic?…”…and…”Hello ____ Elementry_____, are you excited to be out of class?!?!” It happens in less than a minute. So clearly there are several funny occurrences when you come in contact with more than 3,000 whipper snappers. Favorites = at the high school a brave soul raises his hand and asks if I could please sing ‘Friends In Low Places”. “Well, ok…if you sing it with me.” He and his friends leap over their seats and join me onstage without hesitation. We begin the tune and they are amazingly in sync…was this event staged?…I then look over at the boy beside me and his shirt says ‘You Look Better With Me’…I think I was punked for a yearbook photo op. As I am leaving they ask for pictures, they then whip out their cell phones and begin sneakily looking for someone to take the picture. “Can you have cell phones in school now?” I accidently blurt out. All at the same time the teachers realize what is going on, as do I, and the student now has to explain himself. “Uhh, I use it as a calculator.” Smooth. Then on to the next school, the next, the next…So many great children, “How much longer will it take for me to get bigger?” “How tall is your dad?” “Why is the sky blue?”. THey kept the questions coming. I also signed a teacher’s bald head(Gov Beshear signed the other side) and got to see former Miss Kentucky Tonya Virgin-Smith, who is just as beautiful as the day she won…all before lunchtime.
Mid day we headed to the All Seasons restaurant (adorned with a Welcome Miss Kentucky sign). A group of us had lunch then as we were leaving two of the nicest men(who owned the restaurant/home goods/flower shop) came around the corner and handed me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers larger than most of the children I had seen that morning. They then hand me a homemade pumpkin roll…oh no…someone is going to have to roll me onstage in a wheel barrel if I keep experiencing the splendors of these hometown baked goods). They are euphoric.
Right back to the routine after lunch and before we knew it Ms. Lucy and I were coming down the homestretch and quickly approaching the final stop of the day at a juvenile detention center for teenage girls (the Morehead Youth Development Center). It’s really easy to inspire a group of starry eyed children, but I knew this group could be harder to win over. We made it through the security and there I was standing in front of them…Their apprehension and my reservation disappeared into thin air within 2 minutes. They were the best audience I’ve spoken to yet. These girls may have done some bad things in the past, but I can tell you that after spending two hours with them inside these gates, that I know they will do good things in their future. They are so good inside, they just need someone to remind them of that. I was honored to be that person. They had me singing every song under the sun(or rain on that day). “Sing Beyonce’!!”, “Sing Carrie Underwood!”, “Sing Amazing Grace!”. They sang along, they clapped, they laughed, I cried. I didn’t want to leave.
Thursday, back to Louisville where I spoke to two different groups at Thomas Jefferson Elementary where the school theme is ‘to learn like rockstars’. Maybe this explained their immediate requests for me to sing Mariah Carey, Beyonce'(again), and several artists that I had not heard of. They were rockstars.
Back to Lexington then right back to Louisville for the ‘Outrunning Autism’ event. A while back when I was at the capitol rallying for our autism insurance reform bill I met several people from autism organizations across the state(this is how I find myself at these great events). This time I volunteered my passion for the cause and was forced to drag along my disdain for physical fitness since it was a fundraising RUN…dang…I prefer bake sales and dinners, but for autism I will do anything. So, I was expecting a run. However, I was faced with a nature hike/marathon on speed. A man named Jim Ball(who has 2 grandchildren with autism) was running for 24 hours straight, so I thought I could at least join him for an hour…surely it won’t be that hard…wrong. At a few points in this ultra intense experience I felt that I was on a Japenese game show and my cousin Emily, a real runner, who was running behind me was in constant laughter was the mean American laughing at this crazy show. I too was laughing so hard at my situation that I nearly tripped over about 70 tree roots and walnuts and at one point a crazy squirrel(all while being slapped in the face by tree limbs, etc)…and all in the freezing rain. But like I said…anything for my favorite cause…and for these great people. Then on to the Hard Rock Cafe for a Susan B Komen benefit concert. Michele Branch, Safety Suit, and Better Than Ezra took the stage, and once again, the lead singer from Better Than Ezra took my heart. Long story short, one spring break at Sewanee we all rented this big home down south and went for the week. At the end of this week we found ourselves at a concert where Better Than Ezra was in the line up. We started off in the middle of the stands, however, I found my way to the front of the stage and quickly fell in love with the lead singer…he gave me his guitar pick…I was hoping he would not remember this situation and that I would refrain from reminding him, but I found myself right back at his mercy(look at my face in the picture at the top). He is the nicest man in the world. Noone is Better Than Ezra.
The next morning I roll(aka drive 3 hours) into the mountains for the annual Red, White, and Blue parade in Martin, Ky. Whoa. So, this town is in the middle of a flood renovation and is being completely uprooted(every single building) and moved to a higher point right next to it. It’s wild. The people there are so welcoming. I wanted to uproot some of their children and move them to Lexington with me.
Then to round off the weekend I spoke briefly at our local directors meeting on Sunday. All my friends (the local preliminary directors) were there. These people, their commitment to the Miss America system, and their selfless generosity to their winners each year is why I am able to write this blog. Thank you.
Now I have to get off this computer and drive to Ashland, Ky tonight…See ya latah alligatahs…
P.S. Go to www.greentwithtamara.com and get a huge laugh out of my spaz go green video clip…you can watch all the states…and you can VOTE!! Don’t judge my environmental knowledge from this clip…I was hungry.
P.S.S. Grandma and PaPa, thank you for finally breaking down and getting a laptop so that you can read my blog. Thank you for always being my biggest fans. I miss you every day and can’t wait to see you soon!
this number represents the number I finally received in the Miss America line up, as well as the number of strokes I had during the placement draw on Monday. So, in case any of you were wondering just how we get our numbers for Miss America, here is what you’ve been waiting for…So we all(all 53 contestants and our boards) sign into the online lottery and watch as the states are drawn. As I confidently sat down to my cursed Macbook I said aloud, “I just know I’m going to be in the first 5 states drawn.”…JINX…The first five pass, then the second, then the third, then the fourth, and so on. About an hour into this madness(and well into the 40’s) I am out on my balcony dejected, we’re not even watching anymore. We had tried everything…”Everyone cross your fingers!…say a prayer!…don’t look at the screen!…look at the screen!…” All to no avail. Then finally, I’m drawn. Limited choices left, but we decided that it was just meant to be. So, I’m number 5. I’ll do interview(with Rush Limbaugh btw, who is the first judge to be revealed) Monday morning, Onstage Question Tuesday, Swimsuit and Evening Gown Wednesday, and Talent Thursday. AHHH!
So, just when I thought that the questions couldn’t get any better, I head into the mountains. Amidst my schools this week I found myself in West Liberty Kentucky. My last school there was Ezel Elementary. I always enjoy schools like this one, it’s a smaller school(one that called the children to the cafeteria/gym by word of mouth rather than by intercom). As they file in the janitor and I are still trying to find a plug in that will work to play my song, so they see me as they’re filing in(I usually hide and make a big entrance). An argument takes place…”That’s her!”, “No it’s not, she’s our age.”, “No she is not, look at her hair!”, “How can you tell how old she is by her hair?”, “I just can!”…the argument ceases as I turn around and wave to them…they look as if they’ve seen a ghost. They all get settled. My talk is longer on this day. They really get me going. I like them so much that I took about 30 questions at the end, building up to the final ‘crown wearing’ questions. When I open up the floor I must prepare myself for anything. A seventh grader yells out, “You’re hot!” he is quickly silenced by his teacher who says, “Now that is not a question is it?”…”No it is not!”…he bravely exclaims. I thank my new friend who will probably be in trouble as soon as I leave and continue on. The final question is quickly approaching and I had my eye on this little boy with curly sitting indian style in the front row. He raises his hand for every question, but I knew he had a good one so I saved him for last. “Ok, now it’s time for the person who thinks they have the best question to raise their hand.”…they all raise their hands…but he is my guy. “You, in the blue shirt(they all look down at their shirts and sigh…all but him…he knows)”. He waddles up. “Now what is your name?” As he says his name into the microphone and it blares over the speakers and he realizes what he has gotten himself into…I could see his thoughts leave his mind…”What is your question?” He remembers, he is on a mission, he immediately begins…”WHY…does…”…(it’s loud, they laugh, he backs up a bit)…”Why do…”…(we’re all waiting, eyebrows raised, ears open)…”Why do…”…(he looks up at me)…”Why do snakes eat people?”…(he then lets out a huge sigh of relief). It’s off his chest. As the children and teachers laugh I too am about to burst into laughter, but then I look down at him. He is serious. He wants to know why snakes eat people and he is waiting for me to answer this question for him. “Oh…well…” I realize that I could be dealing with a phobia here so I must be careful. “Did you see that on TV?” I think he had a miniature flashback as he shakes his head yes…he is now looking at me like I’m the snake…I grab his chubby little hand. “It’s ok, because do you know what?” He now wants to talk into the microphone so he leans his little Kindergarten head down and speaks directly into it, “What?” “Everything you see on tv isn’t real…And guess what, when I was little(he’s looking at me like, um, you’re still little) I used to love snakes!” He then writes me off as crazy. I’ve first told him that things on tv aren’t real, and now I loved snakes. I had nothing to lose at this point so I went on…”Yep, and when I was 3 and 4 years old I used to run out into the yard and catch them and bring them into my house and let them go!!…And do you know what my mom would say?…Oh my gosh THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE HOUSE!” They all laugh at me now. Even him. His phobia left him right before my eyes. And this story is true by the way, so true. I did this. From the time I could walk I would catch snakes in our yard and drag my new friends into our house. My poor mother, it’s a wonder she had three more after me…Oh my gosh, and I almost forgot about this special little girl at another school who, when I asked for questions stands up, lifts her shirt up to reveal her insulin pump and yells out, “Miss Kentucky, I have diabetes and I don’t let it ruin my life!!” She almost got to have my crown.
The rest of the week involved a lot, including secret meetings about my Miss America wardrobe at my favorite dress shop Miss Priss…another trip to Miss Priss where I ran into my string bean sister queen Maria Montgomery(I can call her my sister queen because she is Miss Kentucky USA). She is fifteen feet tall and glows in the dark. She is perfect. I have no makeup on and just ran in through a rainstorm. This happens to be the day where every customer who comes in wants a picture. I was glad to see her as well as all of my best friends at the shop. Elizabeth, Nola, and Cara, I love you, even when you don’t have strawberry oreos.
Then for my favorite part of the week, my photo shoot with Jerame Stephens, a hidden treasure here in my new city. Right after I won he had offered to ‘shoot me’ at some point during my reign, so on this free morning of mine he ‘captured’ much more than my photos, but my friendship as well. It’s rare that a photographer can truly capture your spirit in their work…and my spirit is fast…he has mastered that.
Then Keeneland with Sarahbelle(Sarah Billiter). As soon as I got to the tailgate I heard her mutter under her breath to the griller, “Um, can I please have one more cheeseburger?” This is why we are friends. My first time at Keeneland will certainly not be my last. I ended up on the track unsure of my duties but sure that the blonde walking toward me was Charlize Theron. I am so cool with celebrities, “Oh my gosh you’re so pretty in person, I mean you’re so pretty in real life, I mean…” She thanked me…I thanked her…for some reason…cool. Middle school boys, I know just how you feel when you forget your questions.
And now I brace myself…here comes a new jam-packed week…one filled with more chubby little hands and a few more of the best days of my life…BYE!
P.S. Get well soon Natalie Canfield.
P.S.S. Yes, that is me with the snake in the picture at the top…circa 3 years old.
…tossing a coin is fairly tough under pressure. As I practiced this art on the sidelines of the UK/Florida game last weekend, I realized that this may in fact be one of those things that I’m just not that good at(which joins the list with trying to do a ‘cool wave’ to celebrities). We (myself, the refs, and the captains of both teams) were summoned to the center of the field…they walked and I ran(our stride ratio was about 16:1) through a cloud of firework fog into the circle. They hand me the coin(which if felt was the size of one of those free weights that you put on exercise machines) that I was to balance on my tiny red thumbnail and launch into the air…and somehow I did it! I also almost rammed heads with the captain of the Gators as we both dove our heads forward to see what side it landed on(which I kind of wish would have happened, then maybe Tim Tebow and I would have been roommates in the hospital). Kidding. Cats won, which means WE won! I love tossing coins now. We’re changing my talent to coin tossing at Miss America.
I have turned into quite the wildcat(uk wildcat) over the past couple months. I love the games. Now that I am sugar deprived(kind of) I find the concessions much more appealing. I take one bite of cotton candy and I turn into a six year old…wanting to rip the wildcat head off to reveal his identity, screaming for the wrong team because I’m just so excited, etc. The Alabama game this weekend was the same way, as I got extremely frustrated that I couldn’t seem to master the binoculars. Between my blind right eye and eyelashes there is just no hope. I got to hang out with some of my fellow Union Co. friends in their suite with a better little better view, so i didn’t even need those binoculars anyway…
And now, for an apology…not for breaking sweet eating promises to you(because those are automatically implied now) but for neglecting my blog duties for two weeks. There is no excuse. My mom and dad have begun a ‘WE WANT WEEKLY’ protest campaign if anyone wants to join…just kidding. I was waiting on coin toss pictures, that I still have not received…but that’s not an excuse. Sorry.
So, these last two weeks…Watterson Elementary, I must touch on this because I met the tiniest little boy with the longest little legs of all time(refer to photo) who was yet another reminder that height does not necessarily coincide with age, and that I am the luckiest person in the world as I held his little hands. I thought that he was old enough to come up and answer a question so I called him up…he jumps over the head of the child in front of him…dead give away that I was wrong. “Ok, what is your dream?”, no answer, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, he is thinking, hard. As I am now down on my hands and knees at eye level with him I begin to rephrase the question. Right in the middle of it he dives toward the microphone and yells “BIG!”. Smart. As he hops back to his seat I try and cushion his answer so they won’t laugh too hard, and so that I can turn it around so that the other children will gain some sort of knowledge from his example, but then look back at the little boy, who is gleaming with pride and so confident in his answer…i immediately stopped and we gave him another round of applause. I wish I could have packed him in my crown box and taken him home, but his legs would not have fit.
I carry on to Mount Sterling, where I did a radio show on WMST. Great show. I talked 650 miles per hour to this dynamic duo of a husband and wife(who were also blessed with the gift of gab) who later told me that they were considering naming their stray cat after me. It was an emotional day, I almost cried. Then on to the Whitaker Bank Women’s Only Luncheon, where I was the keynote speaker(information that I was not completely aware of until I glanced at an invitation an hour before). However, it turned out to be one of my favorite speaking engagements of my reign. To have the respect, attention, and admiration of the women who paved this road before me is something that I can’t describe. I cried, they cried, it was one of those rare moments where everything just connects. Afterwards I asked the staff at the country club if there was any chance there was a hidden camera in the room so that I cold get a tape of it…odd request coming from a Miss America contestant maybe…
Then on to New Castle Indiana to Jim and Joy Robbins, the king and queen of interview coaching. I sit on the couch, where numerous Miss Americas and their fellow competitors sat before me, but also, where another version of myself sat just two years ago. As I began preparing for Miss Kentucky I knew that I had all the will, love, and compassion for this job, but it was just so hard to express. Jim and Joy taught me how to finally show it, so they would finally see it.
Then Jamie Breeding(Miss Ky director) and I headed on to Nashville for two days of pageant prep. As soon as we rounded the corner and my former stomping grounds came into view I had to stomp out that small longing to be back…I have the best job in the world…what was that feeling?! I was put through the ringer again during a mock interview at my wonderful friend Gerald’s house. We also visited Kim Grayson at her home, where she introduced me to her new make up line and reintroduced me to the fact that I do in fact wear too much make up sometimes…but I love it! She sent me on my way with the right amount of makeup on for the daytime as well as a bag full of her products! Then for the best part…Joshie! My old trainer and best bud(even on those days when I was hungry and threw weighted excercise balls at his pretty little face and made his teeth bleed). I got to see my old gym friends at my old stomping grounds(the most literal version of stomping grounds ever since it really was a place where I stomped around angry about working out often). Other than my body fat measurements it was beyond fun.
Back to Lexington for a casino themed event at Keenland. Very fun. I married a 7 year old in a fake wedding. Then on to Shelbyville for an Autism Chili Cookoff…genius…the kids and the cook off. There was a little girl there who completely relieved me of my duties as she instructed me to not only give her my crown and banner, but also my chair at the autograph signing table. She then scribbled sharpies on my autograph pads and handed them out to passers by. She was so special. Later, when I was brushing her hair a little 3 year old boy named Mac came back to my table. “Mac, do you want another autograph?” I asked. He looks at me like I’m a crazy person and says, “Aren’t you going to brush my hair?”. “Well of course Mac, hop on up here.” As I was brushing his red hair his dad was laughing and yelling across the field, “What are you doing to my son?”. Mac then decides that I need to sign his dad a picture, I ask him his dad’s first name and he says Mac’s Dad. Mac’s Dad got an autograph. Small towns making a mark on our autism journey warms my soul more than the 15 different types of chili I sampled.
Then the weekend proceeds as I have a throwdown backstage with BOBBY FLAY. He is sassy, as am I(in a good way), so we really hit it off. He won the throwdown because he let me eat his ribs and homemade biscuits onstage. I introduced him then sat onstage with Richie Farmer and his family and my fellow Miss Ky sister and sampler Kaitlynne Dorothy. This was all at the first annual Kentucky Proud Incredible Food Show. It was spectacular. Food is SO much fun when you’re not supposed to eat it.
I went on to the Alabama game, where I got to see some of my old friends on the team, then on to Miss Lexington. I wasn’t prepared for the line, “and now let’s meet the contestants vying for the title of Miss Lexington, to compete for the title of Miss Kentucky 2010.” Ahhh, I wanted to grab the crown and run out, then I realized, I still have 10 months. I never want to stop, but I know that I need to give someone else this gift. I’ll be ok with it by then. I think.
I can’t even tell you how the people of this state make me feel every day. In the gas station, in the grocery store, in the teachers lounge, at a ballgame. They endlessly pour out their love and support all over me. They go on and on, thanking me for talking to their child, or taking on a cause that hadn’t been noticed, or stopping for a picture. I wish I could open up my mind at that moment so they could realize what they have given me…it’s far far more than what they think I’ve done. I’m the lucky one. I’ve been loved more than anyone deserves and that is why it has become my responsibility, joy, and lifelong vow to love back.
PS…If I ever miss over a week again I will do the ‘kisses for cancer’ fundraiser that my brother and his new fraternity seem to think I should do…haha…talk to you all in A WEEK!
and what a fine crop to be the queen of. I made my way back down to Union County this weekend for the annual Corn Festival in my hometown(in which ‘queen of our crop’ was the theme)…this time as the Grand Marshal! This weekends events began in Lexington at the POW/MIA ceremony at the VA Medical Center. They set me up at the registration table to sign autographs, but any person who knows a veteran knows that they don’t just want an autograph…they want a hug…no…an embrace! I gladly gave many. These are some of the greatest men and some of my greatest fans(and I am proud to call myself a fan of theirs as well). As I travel the state as Miss Kentucky I am free to take on any cause, pursue any dream, and set an example to children that they too can do the same…all because of these men. Thank you for my freedom. I also sang the National Anthem(one of two times I belted out the tune that day).
I then jetted off that slippery stage and rushed to the airport in the pouring down rain to catch a flight to Western Kentucky that Mr. Joe Craft so kindly invited me to crash on(ahh crash, wrong plane lingo, hop on?). We (we being Coach Calipari, Mr. Joe Craft, House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, Mr. Craft’s ‘sharp as a tack’ assistant Kelly, and I) made our journey from Lexington to Union County for the grand opening of the River View Coal Mine. Mr. Craft took on yet another business venture in the face of the coal industry controversy, to provide over 600 jobs and to continue to power our state and country. I am proud of this project and to be a part of making sure this industry is understood, by helping people to realize the good that the coal mining industry brings to our economy and the people of our state(we’re cleaning it up in the process to make it more environmentally friendly of course). I sang, Coach Cal spoke, Governor Beshear joked about only coming to see me again and then spoke. Several politicians, and of course my friend, Mr. Joe Craft made their way to the podium as well. Mr. Craft’s passions for providing opportunity and for giving back is contagious…I caught it. Coach Cal disappeared underground to tour the mines momentarily, upon emerging he said that he would share something with his wildcats that he heard from a miner down there…”we go down together, we come up together”. He nailed the hard working people of this industry perfectly. Then…for my favorite part…we all cut the huge blue ribbon with huge blue scissors…and no one cut off my ponytail! I was so proud to be a part of this event that will bring jobs to the good people of my county.
Slid out of that one then went on to my Alma Mater UCHS to drive my little brother Gabe(a freshman and homecoming candidate) in the ceremony. I helped with the crowning…a task that I still find emotional, even if I am putting a cardboard royal blue crown on a boy’s head in the middle of a football field. Something else funny that I experience nowadays, I’m just sitting there(in this case in the football stands) and I feel someone rubbing the back of my hair. I sit there for a second, thinking maybe someone was walking by and accidentally brushed it, but it continues. I turn around and there is a PACK of the cutest little girls(one whom has been stroking my hair) wearing t shirts with my name on them and little crowns. They are my favorite little things in the world.
Next morning…Corn Festival. I was the Grand Marshal of the parade(which is quite the event in our town). I’ve been on about every float in the parade at one time in my life, but never even close to the GM. I realize that I may not be made for parades as I try desperately to have conversations with onlookers from atop the convertible…they can’t hear me, I know this, but I just want to talk to them so badly that I do it anyways…maybe I’ll throw candy next time(no, I can’t be around candy). Then my mom and dad met me at the end and we raced to a local business for a costume change from formal to FRINGE! I wish I could wear complete fringed outfits all day every day…but I know I can’t. I sang, in my fringe, for an hour. It is quite surreal standing on that stage in my town(that was once only a flat bed truck) singing to those same people who have been listening to me since I was 6 years old. I did Tina Turner and Reba songs, along with my grandma and papa’s old favorites like ‘Blue’. I told stories and invited all the little girls in the crowd to come up and sing ‘Tim McGraw’ with me. And of course, as I was wrapping it up with ‘Famous In A Small Town’ I can’t help but cry…again…and I am so not a crier. There is just something special about that song and singing it at home. Oh my gosh I almost forgot! The Mayor of Morganfield(Mr. Jerry Freer) gave me the key to the city…the first he has given in his 11 years as mayor!! This was one of the greatest surprises and honors I have ever received.
Next day, back to Lexington. My mom had to drive me back while I slept in the car, revving up for my next event with Eddie Montgomery (from Montgomery Gentry) and his wife Tracy. This event benefited a camp called Horsin’ Around, for sick children with everything from cancer to diabetes. It was a bikerish theme. I am such a poser and of course tied a bandana around my crown before jumping on the Harleys and signing autographs for my new biker friends. It is a style that I think every Miss America contestant should practice at least once during their reign. It makes you so much cooler.
Sorry for the photographic overload, but there was just so much to show you!!
P.S. I love my mom and dad…thank you for carrying my 100 lb fringed costumes, making sure the microphone is turned all the way up, and loving every single song I have ever sang on that stage. I wouldn’t be here tonight writing this Miss Kentucky blog without your love.