Friday, March 25, 2016

Thoughts on This Good Friday

Today is Good Friday.

I have always felt a little strange about calling this particular day "good." It was not a good day for the followers of Jesus Christ a little over 2000 years ago. It was a sad, horrible, terrible day. It was a day when they witnessed their friend, son, brother, rabbi, their Lord, brutally murdered for crimes He did not commit. He was killed in the most horrific way possible by people who hated him, their hate stemming from their own egos, their jealousy and their pride. If you've studied the Bible then you know these are the worst of sins; they are the same sins that got Lucifer, who was once the most beautiful angel in heaven, banished to hell for eternity.

It's been a rough week at my house. My daughter, who will be 20 years old next month - where did the time go? - has had the flu. It doesn't matter how old your children get, when they get really sick they want their mama. So I played nurse maid a bit this week. I took her to the doctor and the flu tests came back as positive for both Flu A and Flu B. (They tested her twice just to be sure the results were correct.) Now I don't know much about medicine, but I know that's a bad thing. My daughter and I are both supposed to sing at our Easter service Sunday, so we are trying to nurse her back to health while also trying to keep me from catching the bug. That's a pretty tough task when your child is not one who enjoys being quarantined. She is too social to sit in her room for a week, and therefore continues to roam all over the house, which sorta freaks out her germaphobic mother. I've been following her around with a can of Lysol for the past three days. Emily doesn't really understand that for a 20 year old to have the flu is a much different thing than for a person close to 50 to catch it. Any illness that keeps her down for a week would knock me and/or the hubby off our feet for twice that. It's the flu, and I respect it enough to avoid it.

Along with my home being a sick bay, I dealt with a situation this week that brought to mind the Book of James, one of my favorite books of the Bible, which in chapter 3 reminds us that the tongue is a very dangerous thing and controlling it is imperative for living right in the sight of God. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 15 that the words we say show what's in our hearts.

As a Christ follower, I am instructed to try my best to live as Jesus did and to emulate Him. As a sinner born to this earth I will never come close, but I am instructed, through God's help, to try. And this week, the vision that continues to run through my mind is Jesus being questioned prior to his crucifixion by Pilate, the Roman governor:

Mark 15: 3-5 NLT
 Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise.

Jesus was omniscient and thus knew he was about to be executed. He could have spoken in His defense. He could have proven Himself to be the Son of God right then and there with a miracle of some sort and Pilate, who was reluctant to sentence Him, might have let him go. Instead, Jesus remained silent.

Next to my desk at work I have the whole chapter of Romans 12 printed and taped to my wall. In it are two passages which have helped me this week:

Romans 12:14 NLT
Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them.
Romans 12:17 NLT
Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

And of course my most favorite verse has helped me, too:

Romans 8:28 NLT
For we know that in all things God works for the good for those who love the Lord and live according to His purpose. 

It's been a less than stellar week, but I've learned some things.
1. I cannot control other people. I can only control my own thoughts, attitudes and actions. I already knew this, but this week was a good reminder.
2. Sometimes it's just best to take the high road and keep my mouth shut.
3. I also cannot control the flu, but I can do my best to avoid it while still helping my daughter get well.

Good Friday was not a good day 2000 years ago. But in all the horrible brutality, God was giving us His greatest gift. In all the ugly darkness, He was creating the light of eternal life for all His children, for those who believe in Him and live according to His purpose. During His pain and suffering, Jesus spoke out, and asked the Father to please "forgive them, for they know not what they do."

I mourn every year on this day. I cry for the pain Jesus suffered, especially knowing that He died for my sins. And I am convicted when I remember that he was asking God to forgive all of us, even though we are the ones who put Him on the cross. I cannot imagine the pain or the agony He endured. I know that nothing I go through on this earth will ever come close to the pain Jesus suffered on that day. And still, He forgave them. He forgave me. Therefore, so must I forgive.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Few Choice Words

My daughter and I had a conversation not long ago that I can't seem to get out of my mind. It involved the origin of words and phrases. She asked a very good question:

"Mom, where did cuss words come from? I mean, who decided that a certain word was 'bad' and another word wasn't as 'bad'?"

I had never really thought about that before, so I did a little research... meaning, of course, I searched the internet. I found a really great article on the website about the origin of verbal obscenities which stated that several of the most popular swear words have been found in Anglo-Saxon texts that date back over a thousand years. And the ancient Romans "laid the groundwork for modern day f-bombs." Whoda thunk?! My understanding from the information I read is that the words basically evolved into being thought of as crude and distasteful. I suppose it may have happened the same way political correctness began. Words that were at one point not thought of as being offensive, over time, became offensive to certain groups of people.

This line of thinking led me to ponder about other phrases and their origins. Emi and Teddy and I all laughed together one night thinking of phrases used today that must have had completely different meanings once upon a time.

(Disclaimer... I'm about to use the word "ass" a few times. If that offends you, please stop reading. I'm not offended by the use of that word, because as my church friend, Michelle, told me one time when I accidentally embarrassed myself by saying "crap" in the choir room, "Oh, don't worry about it. 'Ass' is in the Bible.")

These were two of our favorites: "Please move your ass," and "Get your ass out of the way."

Now, I didn't look these up. I really didn't think it was necessary. I just got the mental image of two people on a dirt trail, one trying to pass by while the other, with a donkey, is at a complete stop and blocking the way for others to pass. Traffic of the pre-auto world! Which totally makes sense to me, seeing as that's pretty much when I would be most likely to utter these choice phrases.

What about other cuss words? I wonder when sh*# became a dirty word. I would imagine at first it was purely the name of part of the digestive process. Same thing with crap, though that's not thought of as a really bad one. The f-bomb is pretty self-explanatory, I think. But I wonder where the words actually came from - slang gone wrong? Or were they actual words that would've appeared in a thousand-year-old dictionary with no negative connotations? I'm sure there's a smart person somewhere that has the answers.

I wonder if he cusses, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

CHICAGO THE MUSICAL - That's a Wrap, Folks!

After the final performance of a theater play or musical show the cast and crew do something called a set strike. It’s exactly what it sounds like… you take the set apart, clean out the dressing rooms, backstage areas, etc., to make the theater look like it did before you started your show. When finished, it’s like you were never there. While there are no more traces of Chicago the Musical at Shreveport Little Theatre, the experience has left an indelible mark on my heart.  I can say with all honesty and openness that this experience has been the most challenging and most rewarding onstage experience of my life. I have spent a lot of time on the stage, so that’s really saying something.

It all started for me in December. I participated in the Christmas edition of the Broadway Belters, which is basically just a bunch of theatre people singing Broadway show tunes to raise money for the non-profit Shreveport Little Theatre (SLT). It was there that the summer musical announcement was made. SLT had gotten the rights to do Chicago the Musical, which is a pretty big deal. They had been soliciting the rights for years to no avail; only one theater per region per year is granted the rights since the musical is still being performed on Broadway. It is the longest running musical in Broadway history, now in its 19th year. It’s iconic. And from the minute I heard the announcement, I wanted to be a part of it. More than that, I wanted to play the role of Velma Kelly. Why? Several reasons, really. She’s snarky and sarcastic, she has a great character arc – goes from being the top dog to learning lessons of humility - and of course, because she opens the show by singing “All That Jazz.” That’s reason enough by itself, don’t ya think?

I wanted the role, and I set my sights on it. I knew I wasn’t in my best physical shape, due to age and a lot of hours in front of the television. I worked out some, sure, but hadn’t trained for anything in a while. So starting in February my treadmill and I got to be really good friends. Well, that’s not really accurate… I hate the stupid thing. But we spent a LOT of time together. I’d run for a few miles then lift weights. I was working out 4-5 days a week leading up to auditions which were April 11th and 13th.

I was more nervous about these auditions than I had ever been about any other auditions, probably because I wanted the part so badly. (I was so nervous, in fact, that at my doctor’s appointment the day of the call backs, my blood pressure was 170/105. The nurse looked at me really funny and then checked it again. It was the same. She contemplated sending me straight down to the emergency room until I explained that I was nervous about an audition and promised her I would settle down. They only let me leave after checking it about 20 minutes later and the numbers had gone down.)

The work paid off! I got the role. We didn’t start rehearsals until June 1, so to get a head start I went online and purchased the script. Along with my continued workouts, I memorized my lines and the music.  I was pretty much off book by the time rehearsals began, which was a good thing, since I knew the dancing part of the show would be my biggest challenge. Also, the director/choreographer mentioned to me that she planned to make me tap dance… which I had NEVER EVER EVER done before. So I bought some tap shoes, took one lesson from a professional and learned everything else I possibly could from YouTube videos. I would spend HOURS in my garage tapping on a piece of hardwood plywood my husband bought me from Lowe’s. It turned out to be great exercise and FUN! (Now that the show is over I’m hoping to find a tap class in the area for grown-ish people… I don’t want to take lessons with a bunch of 5 year olds in pink tutus. That would be a little awkward and embarrassing.)

Once rehearsals started everything just fell into place. I’ve never loved a cast more, or shared a stage with a group of people who worked so hard or got along so well. The entire cast and crew showed up to rehearsals early, stayed late, respected each other, and had fun. I fell in love with my co-leads and miss them already. And our love for each other and for the show made it fun for our audiences, too; we sold out every show but one. And we performed 15 shows in 3 weeks, July 15 through August 2, which is a really long run for community theater.


Playing the role of Roxie Hart was Jenny Warren. I have to admit I was a little intimidated by Jenny in the beginning because I knew she had a gazillion years of dance training on her resume. But as it turned out, once I got to know her we had loads of fun together, even when our characters were supposed to hate each other onstage. There were a few times when I really had to work hard to hold back laughter during shows. Jenny is a tremendous actress and one who is very giving of herself. She worked SO hard and was the perfect Roxie; there is no one I would have rather shared the spotlight with. She is also such a joy to be around – so very funny, smart and quick-witted.  Jenny moved to Seattle right after the show was over, which makes me sad. I hope she returns and we can share the stage again one day.

My buddy, Barbara Holmes, played the role of Matron Mama Morton. If you’ve never heard Barbara sing… holy Moses, you are missing out! That woman has the voice of an angel. Well, an angel with a really powerful, belty alto voice. She’s incredible. She also has the sweetest spirit… truly one of the nicest, kindest people you’ll ever meet. Barbara and I shared several scenes together and toward the end of the run, when we all became very comfortable in our roles, there were three or four times when I had to go hunt for her before our next scene. We laughed big over that. She’d be on the wrong side of the stage just watching the current scene, or backstage eating a snack… I’d find her and say “Well, are you going to join me onstage, or what?!” We would crack up laughing, and then step onto the stage and kill it.

John Bogan played the role of Billy Flynn. I had not met John prior to rehearsals, but he just happened to be the first cousin of my college roomie, Kim! So he felt like family almost immediately. It was fascinating to watch John’s character progression during rehearsals; he is such a gifted performer. He would bring a new facet to his role each day until finally, by the time we were in dress rehearsals, he tied it all together with “the look” of Billy Flynn. John’s forte is dialogue, and it was just delightful to watch him in action. He’s quick, knows how to use language to drive a scene, and his comedic timing is perfect. His Billy Flynn was larger than life, and absolutely brilliant.

Amos Hart was played by the incomparable Blake Powell. He. Was. PERFECT. Blake is an absolutely incredible character actor, and a joy to work with. He was very quiet in the beginning, so I didn’t really get to know him until we started dress rehearsals. I never shared a scene with Blake, but my scenes typically followed his, so I was able to watch him work from the side of the stage. His portrayal of Amos Hart was flawless. And he stole every single scene he was in. His attention to character detail – the way he moved, his facial expressions, his voice, EVERYTHING was impeccable. To top off his extraordinary talent, Blake is also a great, great guy. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get to know and work with Blake. I hope I can work with him again someday.

Adam Philley was the music director and Laura Beeman Nugent was the director/choreographer. These two people are not only incredibly talented, but they also made every minute of this experience fun. Laura’s vision for the show was genius; from the sets to the costumes, to the choreography – everything came together perfectly. Adam was not only a brilliant conductor (yes, we had a live orchestra!), but also very skilled at teaching the entertainers the score. He paid strict attention to detail, but also allowed us the creative freedom to make the songs our own.  I had never worked with either of them prior to this, but I would work with them again tomorrow if given the chance. They were always on the same page creatively; it was almost like they shared a brain. One thing that I appreciated so much about them as a team was how organized they were. They sent us a schedule a couple of weeks before rehearsals started that showed exactly what scenes and musical numbers we would be working on each day of the month leading up to dress rehearsals. They NEVER deviated from that schedule. If you were called on a certain day at a certain time, then you would work on that specific scene. For a person like me, who was commuting two hours round-trip for much of that time, it really meant a lot to me to know that there was a schedule and it would be followed. And they kept everyone accountable. There was never a time that something had to be pushed back because someone was late, or didn’t show up. It was KNOWN that if you didn’t show up, you’d be replaced. It didn’t matter if you played a lead role or were in the ensemble. As part of this team, we were all expected to respect each other’s time and that’s exactly what happened. And it made the experience unforgettable.  I’m so grateful to them both for choosing me to play Velma Kelly. It was a dream role, one that offered a huge challenge and an even greater reward.

I am so thankful to have been part of this production. I met many new friends, and I pray that one day I am able to work with them all again. Shout out to Shreveport Little Theatre for giving me such a wonderful opportunity. Until we meet again…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

They're Doing it Wrong

It's been quite a while since my last post. I could use excuses about being busy with various things, but the fact of the matter is I write so much for a living that when I get home I just typically don't feel like writing anything else. My brain gets tired!

Recently, however, I've read some things that have prompted me to share my thoughts. Please understand the following opinions are my own, and a direct reflection of my beliefs as a Christ-following Christian. (Using "Christ follower" and "Christian" together may seem redundant, but for the purpose of this post the meaning is exactly what I want to convey.)

Social media is a strange animal. I am the social media director at my place of business, so I am constantly monitoring not only the pages devoted to my business, but also the pages of our peer businesses, general news feeds, blogs and any other web-based networks that may have up-to-date information about the ever-changing world of social media. In doing this I am also bombarded with irrelevant advertorial messages and the thoughts of those who happen to frequent my own personal news feeds. It is there that I have seen vicious rants about religion as a whole, and Christianity in particular. As someone who loves my Lord, it is, of course, offensive to me as a Christian, just as it would offend me if someone spoke harmfully about my husband or my daughter or even about me. But it also saddens me, because most of what has been written is due to an ignorance regarding Christianity - the people hating on my Jesus have never even read the Bible, and certainly have never studied it - and their hatred of Christianity as a whole is based on the words and actions of people who claim to be Christians but are doing it all wrong.

It may come as a surprise to some, but there are people who call themselves Christians who don't have any idea what the Bible says or the message that Jesus delivered. They may go to church every Sunday, participate in the pot-lucks, go to Sunday school, sing in the choir, wear a cross around their necks, and still not have a clue. To them, "being a Christian" is no different than being a member of a bowling league... it's a place to go and socialize. This is sad, but it's the absolute truth.

And the worst of these people are giving Christians a bad name.

See, here's the thing: It's about love. If you spew hate, then you don't know the Gospel. If you think that you can buy your way to Heaven, or hurt, or kill, or lie, or step on other people to get there, then your idea of Christianity is all wrong. IF YOU HATE, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. Jesus taught, He preached, He spent time with sinners, He wept... but He did not hate. His message was one of love.

The group of people that Jesus gave the sternest warnings to were the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of His day. They wore only the finest clothes, expected the best seats in the house, saw themselves as better than others, followed all of the "legal" religious protocols... and yet, Jesus was constantly telling them they were doing it wrong. (For reference, read Matthew 23.)

When asked which of the commandments was the most important, Jesus said:
"You must love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." Matt 22: 37-40 NLT, also found in Mark 12:29-31

In the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in Matthew 5 with The Beatitudes, Jesus preached that "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the Children of God." (Matt 5:9) He said we shouldn't stay angry, and that we should reconcile ourselves with those we are feuding with. (Matt 5:24) He said we should love and pray for those who persecute us. (Matt 5:44) He said we should give to the needy, that we cannot serve both God and money, and that we should not condemn others. And He preached the Golden Rule. One of the most convicting lessons of this sermon for me is Matthew 6:14-15, which says that we must forgive others or we are in danger of not being forgiven ourselves.

In both Luke and John the story of Jesus clearing the temple can be found, which teaches us that religion is not to be used for profit and prestige. Jesus was not okay with people being exploited or harmed in the name of religion. We shouldn't be okay with it, either.

The Apostle Paul penned in his letter to the Galatians that when we are living a Christ-like life, we will display the "fruits of the Spirit," which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These qualities define who Jesus was, and if we are living a life that follows His teaching then we will display these qualities, as well. Even when trying to teach others in the faith, we should do it gently and with kindness, never with hatred and malice. If you call yourself a Christian and you spew hate, then you are doing it wrong.

The unfortunate part of the Christian church is that it is run by and filled with human beings, who are in their nature, imperfect. I am not perfect. I am a sinner. And I sit on the pew next to other sinners every Sunday. I mess up every day just like everybody else does, But I understand that if I love my Lord and ask for His forgiveness, and if necessary, the forgiveness of any person I may have hurt, then my Lord will forgive me. I understand that I am called to love others. Hate in my heart hurts no one but me in the end, and violence is hate in physical form. I understand that there are times when fighting is necessary, particularly when it's a battle between good and evil, and there is a lot of evil in the world today. But a battle due to pride or ego or the hate of something you don't understand is wrong. It's Just. Plain. Wrong.

So when I read the ranting opinions of someone who hates Christianity and denigrates those who follow its teachings, it saddens me tremendously. Typically, those who hate us don't really understand what we're about. They've only been exposed to or become the victims of the people who are doing it wrong.

I remind my daughter often to think of the consequences before making a decision or doing or saying something that could hurt her witness, and I try to do this myself. It's so important, because not only are we judged as individuals, we are also representing Jesus Christ. And we should never do anything to hurt or embarrass Him. We should always try our best, as imperfect human beings, to do it right.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Time Has Come... WAY too Fast

A friend of mine told me four years ago to brace myself because high school goes by "really fast." I blew it off, thinking there was no way four years could rush by quickly. I couldn't have been more wrong. Seeing this picture hurts me in a very deep part of my soul.

It's not that I don't want my daughter to grow up. I really am incredibly excited to see where life and God lead her. I know there are really big things in store for this young lady. I am so incredibly proud of her. If God had said to me, "Nea, choose any kid in the whole world to be yours, the one you spend the better part of your life raising, guiding, instructing, nurturing, loving," I would have chosen the one I have. Emily is a really good girl; she's smart (graduating with a 4.0 GPA!), funny, kind, compassionate and has a desire to follow Christ's lead. She's even contemplating going into the ministry and working with youth. Her teachers tell me she's one of their all-time favorite students, and parents have told me for years how polite and well-mannered she is. Seriously... this is a really good kid! And she will be a remarkable adult.

But that's the thing... she just turned 18. She's moving out of the house. I will not know where she is all the time, who she's spending time with, when she's on the road driving her car, what her homework situation is, what time she gets home each night. That bothers me, not because I don't trust her, but because my ability to protect her will soon become incredibly limited. She is outgrowing my sphere of influence and walking out of my arms of protection. Leaving the nest. And that HURTS.

While she begins learning how to be an adult - getting ready to start her first job, paying her first bills, registering for her classes, picking her major - I begin learning how to rely on God to take care of her. I already pray for her safety and protection (several times a day). Now comes the part where I have to replace action with faith. Faith in God to lead her in the right direction, and faith in the guidance and instruction I've given her all these years. It's like taking your heart out of your chest, putting it in a car and waving goodbye. She will take it with her everywhere she goes.

I love this group of kids. These are Emily's best friends. She got teary-eyed yesterday telling me how much she's going to miss seeing them every day. In the midst of "senioritis," it finally hit home for her how much things are about to change. Even though a few of them will go to LA Tech with Emily, she won't see them all the time. As high school ends, new lives begin, with each of them following paths that will take them to different places. They will all meet new people. They will all take different classes. They will move to different places, marry different people, do different things.

But they will take with them the wonderful memories of spending time with each other, playing pranks on their favorite teachers, working on projects together. Most of all they'll remember laughing. Their memories will bring smiles. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Better Late than Never

I have really not done a very good job of posting in the past 6 months or so. So to the three or four of you who actually check this blog, I'm really sorry! Nothing's been wrong, I've just been insanely busy with my job, which I LOVE, and church activities, and Emily activities, and all sorts of other things.

A lot has happened in the past few months. I'll try to make it quick.

So, this happened:

This is the digital version of the Delta Style Magazine out of Monroe, LA. I was picked by the readers to be one of the 2013 "Sweet 16 - Most Influential Women of the Delta." That was pretty cool! I don't really understand why or how I was chosen, but it was an honor and I'm grateful. (You can click on the picture above to read the text, or this link will take you to the actual page: . )

Then, this happened:

This is my precious child with one of her competition cheer team's state championship trophies! The Ruston High cheer squad really is incredible. They work their tails off - practice every day after school and on Saturday mornings to prepare for competitions.  A couple of weeks ago, we went with the team to Dallas for the NCA closed national competition, where they placed 2nd, missing the championship by .63 pt. The way the scores are tallied, the judges take the top 2 scores of the three phases of competition from each group and add those together to get the winner. Had they simply added the scores of all three phases for each team, Ruston would have won first place. So that was a bit of a bummer for the girls, especially the seniors. Emily is a senior AND cheer captain, so it was a rough trip home. BUT they have one more competition in Louisville in a couple of weeks in a different division (Dallas was "Game Time" and Louisville will be "Performance/ Non-Tumbling") so we are hopeful they will win that one. Fingers crossed and prayers for safety appreciated! Especially since we will all be on a charter bus in late February traveling round trip from LA to KY. Yikes!

Then Christmas happened, along with this:

Okay, this is actually a behind-the-scenes picture. My dad and younger brother, Morgan, were at the camera adjusting the focus and whatnot while the rest of us were freezing and waiting for them to push the button and run into frame. As is usually the case, my brother, Trey, (back row, second from right) started clowning around. But what's UNusual is that it's a rare occasion that we get his clowning on film. The final photo was great. But this was my favorite because it's so real and so "in the moment" and totally explains what happens at my dad's house when we celebrate Christmas. Trey's son, who is standing second from the left, even seems surprised by his antics. Fun was obviously had by all.

That's it for now! I'll write again... well, whenever I get around to it, I guess. ;)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Miss America Journey Part 2

Geez! I really didn't think it would take me this long to post the second half of this story, but time just got away from me and lots of stuff has happened.

Okay, so where was I? Yeah... right. I had just gotten to Atlantic City. Actually, my plane took me to Philly and I had to hitch a ride from there to AC because large airlines don't fly directly there. No worries, though. I got a ride with another Miss LA supporter and we arrived safely and without incident.

My roomie for the week was Christi Page Victor, Miss LA 1991. I was the one who placed the crown on her head. If you watch pageants, or did back then, you would remember her for her talent. She played and sang "Great Balls of Fire." It was very cool.

Anyway, here we are at the first night of the pageant.

The Miss America Pageant is actually a four day event. There are three preliminary nights, during which each state contestant performs a certain phase(s) of competition - onstage question, evening gown, swimsuit, talent - and then the final night is what you see on national television, when the top 15 are announced and compete. I coached our Miss Louisiana in talent this year, which is why I decided to attend. I only attended the preliminary competitions, and went home to watch the finals on television with my daughter. (During the broadcast, my precious child tweeted "Miss America is like Super Bowl Sunday at our house." Ha!)
I had a lot of free time during the day while there, which was fun. The weather was beautiful except for one night, which dampened our hair but not our spirits. Here are a few pictures from the week.
  This is the Atlantic City beach (obviously). What's neat about this picture is that last time I was there the beach might have been 10 feet in width. Basically there was NO beach. So this was a nice change, and had I known it ahead of time, I would've brought a swimsuit and enjoyed the sunshine for a day.

This is a fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Oh. My. STARS! This was divine. At this little corner pizza joint they would fry anything -- cinnamon rolls, Snickers, Oreos... you name it, they'd throw it in the grease. What made this particular plate of heaven so awesome involved a talent performance from the night before. Miss California performed a ballet to Swan Lake. So when they placed this in front of me, I immediately snapped a picture and sent this text to the Miss LA Pageant VP:

"Hey, you know how some people see Jesus in their mashed potatoes? Well, I just found Miss California in a fried Reese's!!!"

This is a few of the former Misses LA in attendance with our current Miss LA. From left to right, that's me, then Amanda Joseph May, Jaden Leach, Mette Boving Castor, and Christi Page Victor.

 With our current Miss LA, Jaden Leach.

As you can tell by my hair, this was the night it rained. The cool part about this picture is that I'm standing right next to the famous Miss America runway. It is 50+ feet long and looks like black glass. The dream of thousands of girls every year is to walk that runway; it was fun to see it again after 23 years.

This picture makes me giggle. With the return of Miss A to Atlantic City, a commemorative statue was created and placed just outside Convention Hall. Christi and I decided to have a little fun and "fight for the crown."

Our Miss Louisiana did not make the top 15, but she did win a non-finalist talent award, which means out of all the contestants who did not make the cut, she scored the highest number of points in talent. I can tell you, I'm certain she outscored several of those who DID make the top 15 in talent points, too, but she just didn't have the points from all phases of competition to get her into the semi-finals. Regardless, we were all proud of her, and she is doing a great job serving our state. She will crown the next Miss LA in June 2014.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Miss America Pageant, 23 years later...

In June 1990 this happened...

Even though I really don't like this picture (I look cross-eyed) I can still look at it with fond memories. My year as Miss Louisiana was one that really did help to shape who I am today, especially with regard to acquiring and/or sharpening the skills I have used for much of my adult life - public speaking, entertaining, diplomacy in difficult situations, communication skills (both verbal and written). I learned a lot about myself that year. Being a runner-up to Miss America was just icing on the cake.
I have been back to Miss America twice since competing, once in Las Vegas, and just last month to Atlantic City, where the pageant has returned after several years. Atlantic City was the birthplace of Miss A. In 1921 it was created as a swimsuit competition to draw tourists to the ocean-front destination. This is a photo of the first Miss America.
Her cape was an American flag and the crown was made to look like Lady Liberty. She was actually crowned in a swimsuit; this picture was taken later.
This year I coached Miss Louisiana for her talent competition. For that reason I thought it might be fun to return to Atlantic City to watch the preliminary competitions and be available for our state Miss in case she needed any last minute help or support. It was the first time I would return to Atlantic City after competing in the pageant myself.
In theory, it was a fun plan! Until I realized that I would have to fly. On an airplane. In the air. On an airplane. On an AIRPLANE!
It's a long story that involves two different, but very bad flights within months of each other. I'll spare you the details, but I can honestly say that I got down on my knees after the second flight, right there on the concrete in front of the pilot, after de-planing and thanked the Good Lord that He got me home in one piece.
So prior to this little journey, I did what any normal yellow-blooded human being would do... I called my doctor and requested a prescription for tranquilizers. That was actually a pretty funny call.
Me to the nurse: "Hi, this is Linnea Allen. I'm calling to request that the doc call in a prescription for me for Xanax. I have to fly... on airplanes... all day Monday and Friday of next week, which is more or less freaking me out. I am just hoping to get maybe two pills? One for each day of flying."
The nurse: "Does she normally prescribe that for you?"
Me: "Well, it's not often that I ask, but I can assure you she won't mind doing it. After being her patient for 11 years, she's very aware that I'm an anxiety-laden wimp. And I'm not a druggie or anything."
Nurse: "Okaaaaaayyyy...."
Me: "So, are we good? Can you guys call it in?"
Nurse: "I'll have to ask the doctor. Then I'll call you back."
Which she did less than thirty minutes later. All she said was that the script had been called in to my pharmacy. When I picked it up there were 10 pills in the bottle. Ha! Yes, it's clear that my doctor thinks I'm an even bigger wimp than I do.
Turns out I didn't have to take but one of the pills, because I sat next to a gentleman on the first plane who is an actual pilot. This guy gave me the best advice EVER. At one point during my flight from Shreveport to Atlanta we hit an air pocket, the plane dropped a little (I HATE that!) and he saw me grab my armrest.
So he said, "Don't like to fly, huh?"
Me (panicky and sarcastic): "Uh... how could you tell?"
Him: (Laughing, points to my white knuckles on the armrest.)
Me: Oh. Yeah. Don't like to fly. At all.
So he proceeds to tell me that he flies planes, and that another pilot gave him a piece of advice that helped to settle his nerves and his stomach when he was first learning to fly. So, of course, I'm all ears, waiting with rapt attention for this little nugget of information that was certain to alleviate all of my fears of flying. I leaned in, eyes wide open, and he says:
"Dead ass."
Me: "Wait.... what? I'm sorry... Did you just say DEAD ASS?!"
Mr. Pilot Guy: "Yes. Dead ass."
I wanted to punch him in his face. 
But then he said: "You know when planes hit turbulence or an air pocket and they bounce around or drop a few thousand feet?"
Me: "Yep."
Him: "Well, normally, people get light in their seat, pull their shoulders up, tense up their neck, suck in air..."
Then he sorta did this to show me:


And he continued: "But if you try to make your butt as heavy in the seat as you can, instead of drawing your weight up with your shoulders, your stomach will settle, you won't feel queasy, and you'll trick your body into believing you're not nervous."
I thought he was completely full of poop, but I was willing to try anything at this point. So as the plane continued to bounce around and began its descent into Atlanta, I made a consorted effort to try the Dead Ass Technique. It must have shown on my face (no face/ass jokes, please) because Mr. Pilot Guy looked at me and said:
"Is it working?"
I couldn't believe it, but it was! It really works! Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to share that I had an hour or so earlier taken half a Xanax. So it's possible that it was finally kicking in. BUT I continued the DAT (Dead Ass Technique) for my next flight to Philly and had the same awesome results. And I even braved the flights back home that Friday without any tranquilizers and the DAT still worked!
So I made it safely to Philly, hitched a ride from there to AC and began my week at the Miss America Pageant.
(To be continued...)
I will continue the story in my next post. But in the meantime, this is kinda cool. My stepmom, Staci, sent me a link that I received while sitting in the Atlanta airport awaiting my second flight. Check it out! Read about halfway down the page and you'll see a name you recognize!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Beginning of the End

Well, it's a bittersweet time at our house. Our children are growing up. Case in point:

This is my precious daughter and me at our very last Bearcat Madness, which is where the Ruston High football team and cheer groups introduce themselves to their adoring public on a Saturday morning just after the start of school and before football season. You see, this is my child's senior year.

It hurts me just to type it.

I forewarned her a couple of months ago that I would be crying through the entire school year. She will be on the field cheering, and I'll be in the stands watching her and crying like a toddler at naptime.

I'm incredibly happy for her, but as her mom, I can't help but think about all the "first times" as we go through the "last times." For example, she had her last first day of high school a couple of weeks ago. She cheered at her last jamboree last Friday. This is her last football season to cheer as a high school student. But while I witness all of these lasts, I remember all the firsts. I vividly remember her very first day of school as a kindergartener when she wouldn't let go of my legs and was crying her eyes out, saying, "Mommy, please don't go!" I still giggle when I think about her first time as a cheerleader in middle school, when she was so nervous she could hardly say her name out loud. I remember the first time she tied her shoes, after I showed her ONLY ONCE how to do it. I remember the first time she crawled, the first time she walked, the first time she drove (yikes!), the first time a boy picked her up for a date. People with grown children told me that "high school goes by so fast." In my limited understanding, I just thought, "how can four years go by that fast?" But I'm here to tell you, it really does.

I think I'm so sentimental because Emily is the only child I birthed, and she and I lived alone together - just the two of us - for eleven years. I've been there for everything. Every decision I made was based on her well-being, and I busted my rear-end to make sure she was taken care of, even when that meant working more than one job at a time, or making tremendous sacrifices. Now, to see the young woman she is becoming, it's all been worth it.

But this is it. It's the last time I make the rules, the last time I have a major stake in her decisions. I've told her for years that I try to throw her as much information as I can and hope some of it sticks. It makes me incredibly proud to hear other mothers, or teachers, or even principals tell me what a "wonderful young lady" Emily is. It shows me that at least some of what I've thrown out there has actually stuck. But that doesn't make it any easier to know that very soon I have to turn her loose to be a grown person with a schedule I don't know, to make decisions on her own, and spend time with people I've never met. She will no longer call me to let me know where she is and what time she'll be home. My eyes just welled up typing that line...

The point is it's the beginning of the end of her childhood. Just like any normal teenager, she says she can't wait to get out of high school, and all I can think is how I wish it would just slow down. But then again, I know that it's also the beginning of the beginning. And I do look forward to watching her accomplish things on her own without my help. To see where God takes her, and the wonderful things she will do in His name. I'm just incredibly grateful He allowed me to be this incredible kid's mom... even if it does mean I have to let her grow up.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Almost There!

As usual, I've been pretty busy. Between working, continuing renovations on our house, and a week of performances at this year's Miss LA Pageant, I haven't had a whole lot of time to write. I have, however, spent some time enjoying my backyard. The pool, the plants, the privacy... it has become my little oasis. I don't need to go anywhere for vacation, because I have everything I need literally in my own backyard!

We aren't completely finished with everything, but I'm so excited about all the changes, I figure now is as good a time as any to post a few pictures. We will start with the inside.

Kitchen before and after:



Hall bathroom before and after:

Here's the newly painted hall. (I never took a pre-paint picture.)

And here are a few touches to the master bath. It's my indoor refuge, decorated with a photo shower curtain and other photos I took myself. I also antiqued the white cabinets with brown and black glaze. I love how they turned out!

Now for the outside! Here is the backyard before...

And the shed before...

And the patio table before...

And here's everything now!

Gosh, I love it when a plan comes together! In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that my precious hubby is responsible for all of the beautiful plants you see in the yard. He has the greenest thumbs EVER!

More later!