Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Curled up here with Christmas carols playing, cinnamon candles burning, and my newly-decorated mini eating disorders awareness Christmas tree beside me, I'm feeling quite ready for Christmas! If you have yet to decorate your Christmas tree this year, consider using a purple decor for eating disorders awareness, hanging purple ornaments and awareness ribbons, and making a big purple ribbon for the top!

The day after Thanksgiving, my family always jumps into preparing for Christmas, so on Black Friday, we're gathered at home amidst piles of boxes, covering the house with decorations. For us, there's quite a few traditions that have accumulated over the years: the first present under the tree is a gold box that contains the Christmas story - also the first present we take out on Christmas; the strange brown banner, from which no one knows where it came, is always hung at the landing of the stairs; the same figurines are always placed on the fireplace mantle; the wreath that we've had for as long as I can remember is hung on the front door; and the old "Holiday Mail" bag is hung on the door handle, waiting for this year's holiday mail to join letters and cards from many years past. While many of our family traditions are preserved, we also did some new things this year: my dad finally caved and bought a new tree skirt to replace the fuzzy white one with ten years of tinsel and pine needles embedded into it; having bought a new Christmas tree last year, we decorated two trees this year, I set up one in the living room with white and gold decor, and my younger brothers took over the one in the den, covering it in colorful ornaments and candy canes; never having been a "hang up the stockings" kind of family, I decided to pull out our stockings to hang above the fireplace this year, only to find seven beautiful red stockings with each name painted on the trim...and one plain white stocking with "Teesh" (my nickname) scribbled, crossed out, and then written again, in black permanent marker. I guess I missed that decorating day! Oh well, I hung them all nonetheless.

I also got to kick off the Christmas season in Gering with the annual Christmas parade on Friday, and then in Scottsbluff on Saturday! After forgetting gloves for the first one, I quickly learned my lesson and stayed nice and warm the second evening. On Sunday I headed to North Platte after church for the 2nd Annual Festival of Trees. If you're in the North Platte area and have not attended, be sure to make it next year! Various area businesses decorate and donate a Christmas tree to be auctioned off on Sunday afternoon. The trees were absolutely beautiful, and all 18 were so creative! I definitely got some good ideas for our trees next year, and had a great time auctioning the trees to raise money for Children's Miracle Network.

It was a great weekend to start the holidays, and there will be much more to come over the next month!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life itself is worth being thankful for; but how much more then, do we have to give thanks for? The lives we lead are truly incredible, and we have an unending list of things which we should always give thanks for. While I have always recognized this, this year Thanksgiving hit me especially hard as I realized how outstandingly blessed I am. If you're reading this right now, I am extremely thankful for YOU! Every day, I thank God for the people like you, who believe in me and support me in all that I do; I truly would not be here today without you.

My mom's birthday was on Thanksgiving this year, so we held a surprise birthday party for her on Wednesday. We held it at a fun pottery-painting place in Scottsbluff called Create Away. I painted an awareness ribbon shape purple and wrote "Accept Yourself...Accept Others" on it; I'll hang it in my office when it's done. My mom was completely surprised by the party and we had a great time with some of her close friends!

On Thanksgiving day, my whole family went to help with Thanksgiving in the Valley: a free Thanksgiving dinner for the needy in the valley. My younger sister Christine and I delivered meals to the homebound throughout Scottsbluff, and although it was very cold, the elderly people we delivered too were so appreciative of their Thanksgiving meal. Afterward, I headed home to start cooking up our meal! We had another family over, ate a great Thanksgiving dinner, (if I do say so myself - it was my first time doing it myself!) and played lots of games together throughout the evening. Just relaxing with friends and family not only reminded me of the most important things in life, but also why what I do is so important; I was reminded of the people who came to Thanksgiving in the Valley for food, the elderly who didn't have family around anymore, and the many youth across our state who do not have a loving family to take care of them. That's why I love what I do - I hope that through each small thing, I can make a difference in the lives of these people, and give them hope. I pray that throughout not only this year, but every year for the rest of my life, I will be striving to reach out to others and help them when they need it. I have been blessed in so many ways, and have so much to be thankful for! I don't know why this is, and I certainly don't deserve it; I only hope that I can make the most of the life I've been given and use it always to the glory of God.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miss Lincoln/Miss Star City!

Congratulations to Jessica States, our new Miss Lincoln, and Rachel Foehlinger, our new Miss Star City! Also a big congratulations to Meghan Thalken, our new Miss Lincoln Outstanding Teen!

I had the chance to co-emcee this pageant in Lincoln this weekend, and it was a fabulous show! There were so many incredible young ladies, and the competition was tough. This is the last local for the calendar year, but I hope to see many of these ladies competing in more locals in 2011! We're quickly gathering some amazing titleholders to compete at Miss Nebraska next year, so be sure to mark June 11th on your calendars, and come watch the competition in North Platte!

Operation Christmas Child

Over the past few weeks, I have been working extensively with Operation Christmas Child, an outreach of Samaritan's Purse International Relief. This past week was the National Collection Week, so the project has been wrapped up across the country, and thousands of gift-filled shoe boxes are currently being shipped to processing centers across the nation. After processing, they will be on their way to children in over one hundred countries around the world to spread Christmas joy and the message of Christ's love. What an incredible project, and a powerful way to touch the lives of million of children worldwide!

As collection week drew to a close, I had the opportunity to help out at the Omaha collection center at Benson Baptist Church on Saturday, the Bellevue relay center at First Baptist Church on Sunday, and then the Scottsbluff collection center at another First Baptist Church on Monday! It was absolutely amazing to see so many people across the state working together to make an incredible impact - and that's not only happening in Nebraska; every state in the country, plus many more countries worldwide participate in this project each year! If you have never been a part of Operation Christmas Child, check it out at and make sure you join the project next year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Time Sure Flies When You're Having Fun!

The middle of November is here, and with it, the first snow in Scottsbluff and Gering! The days, weeks, and months have been flying by, and this past week has been no exception! Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to the Scottsbluff Lions Club at their weekly lunch, and then had a radio interview on KNEB about Miss America and my upcoming fundraiser event here in Gering.

Something that was very exciting for me happened this past weekend: I had the chance to meet and work with Calvin Jones, the composer of "White Water Chopped Sticks," the piece I'm playing for Miss America! The best part is, this was not a one-time meeting, but we will continue to work on the piece until it is perfected for the competition. It was so incredible to meet someone who has been an idol of mine for years! Calvin is a phenomenal musician and I was so inspired by the things he showed me. We revised the edits I had made to the two-and-a-half minute song to cut it to the necessary ninety seconds, and added some fantastic flourishes and fancy details. I've got my work cut out for me for the next few weeks, but I can't wait to perform this amazing piece in Las Vegas!

This week I spent the majority of my time in the Omaha/Lincoln area, heading over on Monday for an event exhibition show at the Cornhusker Hotel. There were over thirty event-oriented businesses and conference centers represented from all over the state, and I got to meet many people while at the booth for Quality Inn and Suites North Platte. (A fantastic sponsor of the Miss Nebraska pageant as well!)

While there, I had an interview with Steve Altmaier on Kearney's KGFW radio station about Samaritan's Purse's Operation Christmas Child project, which I have had the pleasure of participating in for many years, and am now volunteering as a state promoter at the church and media level. On Thursday, I joined Omaha's Morning Blend show on KMTV Action 3 News for an interview about the program, which you can view at

Now, many people may not know this, but the crown I wear is not gold, and does not have real diamonds. *Gasp!* (My apologies to those whose hopes and dreams I have just crushed) But, many people may also not know that many years ago, an official Miss Nebraska crown was created by Sartor-Hamann Jewelers that is indeed, very precious. It is made of white gold, with the base lined with pearls, and many different kinds of beautiful jewels and diamonds creating colorful flowers. For years, the Miss Nebraska each year would keep this crown with her, in a safe in her car, and only be able to wear it on the most important occasions. Years ago, because of safety and security risks, it went back to Sartor-Hamann in Lincoln, where it is kept today. After learning of this, I had to go see it! Donald Hamann, who was the owner of the store at the time it was made, and still is now, graciously took a picture with me with it. What a beautiful creation, and interesting piece of history!

P.S. Have you noticed the new changes to this site? I just figured out how to create additional pages and features, (I'm a little technologically-slow, I know) so please feel free to check it out, and let your friends and family know about Also, be sure to frequent the "Get Involved" and "Upcoming Events" pages to stay up-to-date on all of the fun things you can be a part of! Thanks!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

So Many "Firsts" This Year!

First Impromptu Birthday Party Appearance

As I sat at my computer, sifting through the many emails that had gathered in my inbox over the week, my doorbell rang, and in came my friend and neighbor from across the street. She seemed panicked and breathlessly begged me to come over to her sister's birthday party, as she had just been chased over by fifteen screaming ten-year-old's who were demanding she fetch Miss Nebraska. I acquiesced to my tiny fans, donned my Cinderella Halloween costume and crown, and armed myself with photo cards and a Sharpie. We took pictures and I signed autographs for everyone, and then changed clothing and accompanied them to our local Zoo's Halloween "Spooktacular." We had so much fun, and all throughout the evening there were comments like "You're so could be Miss Anything! Miss Earth!" and when we found a huge line waiting at the Zoo: "We'll probably be able to go to the front of the line if we yell 'Miss Nebraska' loud enough!" and then the whispered statement from girl to girl: "Her real name is Teresa!" Nothing like an evening with some future Miss Nebraska's to keep you laughing and deeply encourage you! After all, they are what this is all about - inspiring the next generation to reach for what may currently seem impossible to them.

First Time Dressing Up for Halloween

On Saturday, I headed back to Chadron for the Miss Chadron/Northwest Outstanding Teen Pageant. I won Miss Northwest Outstanding Teen 2008, the very first year they started this program, so it's always so much fun to come back! This year, since the pageant was held on October 30th, the theme was Halloween, so everyone dressed up. I was Wonder Woman first, (not many people even recognized me with the dark hair!) and then changed into Cinderella after intermission. I co-emceed with Jon Marquez, who, after finding out I had never been, took me trick-or-treating for my first time... through the crowd! (There's another first) We got candy, gum, mints, little purse-sized shampoos, and even money! The whole pageant was so much fun, and the contestants did an outstanding job! A big congratulations to the new Miss Chadron Outstanding Teen Kaelia Nelson, and the new Miss Northwest Outstanding Teen Brooke Ludemann! These ladies will do an amazing job at the state pageant in June.

First Punkin' Chunkin'

On Sunday, I left Chadron for Petersburg, where they were having their annual Punkin' Chunkin'! This is a nationally sanctioned event where people built cannons to see who can shoot a pumpkin the furthest. The little town of Petersburg attracts thousands of people through this event, so I had a fantastic time watching the competition, presenting awards, and signing lots of autographs. Another first here: I signed several phones and ipods, as well as two stomachs! It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and the people there were so warm and welcoming. No wonder Petersburg has been voted the 32nd most family-friendly community in America!

On the way home, we stopped at the Kearney Archway, and I took a picture there to add to the tourism photo log!

Over-all, I had a fantastic Halloween weekend, and ended up logging quite a few "firsts!" Okay, I guess I have to share one last "first" I'm not quite so proud of: on the way home from Petersburg, my mom decided to drive and let me sleep a little bit. I woke up to her calling OnStar turn-by-turn directions, then looked out the window as we saw a sign for Julesburg, Colorado...not exactly "on the way home!" I decided to take over for her, and after correcting our little detour, we finally arrived home. Needless to say, we're using OnStar from now on!