Monday, June 28, 2010

Let It Grow: Garden Update #4

I think this is update #4....I might be wrong, though. Anyway, my garden is....hilarious. I had no idea that each zucchini plant leaf would get larger than my face. Or that when they say plants "spread" and "vine" out, they actually grow these arm things and grab stuff with them. My cucumbers are like monsters, trying to choke out my peppers. I think I planted nine plants in an area where one or two should be. I guess you live and learn! I am using tomato cages to try and pursuade them to grow UP instead of OUT. We'll see how that goes.

The corn is up and getting tall. Everything is growing so well in all the rain and heat we've been having. I haven't watered anything in weeks since we have daily storms here! I can't wait until they actually start growing fruits and veggies!

My grandparents celebrated 60 years together last week. We traveled to Anamosa to celebrate and I showed my grandma, the gardener, photos of my jungle. She did find it a bit humerous, but I was glad to see my plants at least look like hers do, just more squished :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There She Is....

Probably most people who read this blog know that I used to compete in the Miss America Organization. For four years, I worked on interview, talent, swimsuit, and evening gown (and even casualwear one year, so silly!!) to earn the title of Miss Iowa. Before you start laughing and give me the "pageant wave", you should know that after investing about $1,000 into my Miss Iowa preparations, I earned over $10,000 in those four years. Not a bad return on that investment! It was more fun than any college job I could have had, and I learned a lot of invaluable lessons that I have carried with me through life.

I bring up Miss Iowa because today is the first day of preliminary competition at the 2010 Miss Iowa competition. I certainly had a million highs and lows with this organization, but pageant week was always the biggest combination of fun and stress, confidence and self-doubt, poise and goofiness.

The first year I competed I was 19 I think, and came a little too close to winning it all. It took me 5 tries to win a local pageant to even get to Miss Iowa, and all I wanted to do was go have fun, experience the state competition with my best friend Diana, and hope to make the top ten cut. Little did I know, I would come in 2nd-runner up! As Diana, Nicole, and I stood there waiting to hear the results for the three of us, I started to panic. I was NOT ready to be Miss Iowa, take a year off of school, travel the state, and compete in Miss America! I had borrowed my whole wardrobe, for Pete's Sake! And due to a circumstance I can't really elaborate on, I knew for a fact that Diana was not going to win. So there I stood: if they called Nicole as 2nd-runner up, I had won. Thankfully, I was called next, and Diana and I had a blast celebrating our 1st- and 2nd-runner up victories as 19-year-old first-timers.

Year two, I won talent, yet only came in 4th-runner up. It was a little disappointing given the results last year, but I was still just glad to be there. After a trip to the final Miss America in Atlantic City, I got serious about winning. Year three, I was ready to win, but things didn't fall my way. Even though I unexpectedly won overall interview, I still only placed 3rd-runner up.

In 2006, I decided it would be my final attempt at winning Miss Iowa. I was graduating, I wanted to get married, and I had all the pieces for a successful run in the state competition. I was entering the pageant as the front-runner, and I knew it. Let me tell you, the pressure knowing the expectations everyone has for you were a bit overwhelming. I let it get to me and I cracked. Even though I had the most reputable board on my side, helping me in every way, I let them dictate too much of my journey that year. If I regret one thing most, it's that I didn't stand up for my ideas and decisions more that year. But I was convinced they knew more about how to win that I did.

That year, I did not win talent or interview. I placed 4th-runner up. It was by far my worst showing at the state pageant, but in a way it helped confirm my decision to walk away at the age of 22 when I had two years left to compete. Had I placed 1st-runner up, it would have been tempting to come back another year. This way, I was certain my pageant "career" was over.

I'm still not quite sure what happened that last year. I was more in shape, practiced, rehearsed, and ready than ever before. I answered my on-stage question perfectly while others struggled. I sang notes that would shatter a water glass. I spent money on my wardrobe. And yet I know I am much better off having not won Miss Iowa that year or any year. Contrary to what people think, it's expensive to be Miss Iowa. It's not like we live in Texas or Oklahoma here! Iowa isn't exactly pageant country. And the Miss Iowa board was going through some tumultuous times. Although my dream of competing for Miss America like I had watched so many young women do on TV as long as I can remember had ended, I really think if I had won it would have been the hardest year of my life.

I still follow pageants; it would be like Michael Jordan not watching basketball if I didn't! So I can't wait to hear who wins the title this weekend. I have my suspicions, but as you can see from above, you never can quite tell how the chips will fall!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Runnin', Runnin' and Runnin', Runnin'...

You would think without a job, I would have more time to write - sorry for the laziness. Although I'm not exactly out of a job anymore (more on that in a different post).

Anyway, probably a lot of you know that I used to compete in the Miss America Organization (more about that in another post, too!) When I was training for my fourth and final attempt at the crown, I ran...a lot. I am not a natural runner by any stretch of the imagination. I run weird, I don't know how to properly breath, I probably don't even use the correct muscles. But it was the best and fastest way for me to shed pounds and tone up, so I worked up to four miles a day toward the end.

Once Miss Iowa was over, I was kind of tired of running, so I stopped. Then I got pregnant. Then I never got around to losing the baby weight. My mom told me don't worry, it takes nine months to put it on, it takes just as long to get it off. But when Brady turned one and those pesky ten pounds lingered, I didn't think I could use him as the excuse anymore! So, I joined the gym and started running again.

Now that the weather is nice, I run outside. We have a loop around our house that is exactly one mile, with two monstrous hills. That loop kicked my butt right out of the gate, but today I am proud to report I ran an entire four mile circuit - something I haven't done in four years, and with those killer hills! I would have tried for a fifth mile, but I ran out of time (haha, RAN out of time. get it?!).

Last weekend, we went to Parkersburg for a visit to Joel's family on Memorial weekend. Although we didn't make it up there for the 5k run the town was holding, the path was still marked for several days. So Sunday morning, I got up at 7:30 (I don't think I've ever done a morning run!) and followed the arrows. It was the most enjoyable run I've ever had! Those hills back home really conditioned me to run more easily, it was fun not knowing where I was going or how much farther I had to run, and I got to see a lot of the town this way. In case you didn't know, Parkersburg was leveled by an F5 tornado two Memorial Day weekends ago, so it was nice to run through old and new parts of town and really take in how much has changed. It's still eerie to see all the nice, new houses, but no trees. There are huge, tall trees in the older part of town, but you can clearly see just by looking at the vacant skyline where the tornado ripped through town from the lack of trees. And of course, running past the barn where Joel's coach and family friend, Ed Thomas, was shot and killed last summer was a somber reminder to myself that I should only hope to affect one person the way that he has affected so many.

So to the point of this post: I said I wanted to do this last summer, but I never took the initiative to do it. So I figure writing it down for everyone to see should help hold me more accountable, right? Even though I am not a good runner, or very in shape at this point, my goal is to run a half marathon this Fall. I don't want to win, I want to finish. I want to accomplish something for me that I never thought I would ever be able to do. And I know the way I have been treating my body lately has not been healthy, either. God has given me this body as a gift, and it's my responsibility to take care of it. To continue neglecting it is, well, sinful I think. And that perspective has made all the difference. I just ate a brownie five minutes ago, so it's not like I am all healthy with everything, but my health is important, I'm not getting any younger, and this goal will never be easier to attain, so here I go! I'll try to update on my progress - and for you runners out there, if you have any tips, tricks, or advice to pass along, I am all ears!