Thursday, April 15, 2010

Updates, Travels, and Taxes...

After a bit of a hiatus from the blogosphere, I am back, after what has been a very busy couple of months.

Just to catch up....

- In January, it was SO great to catch up with my Miss America sisters at the 2010 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. We happily welcomed Katie Stam into the 'former' club, and were all thrilled at Caressa Cameron's crowning as the new representative for the organization. She is a tremendous woman, with undeniable charm, wit, and intelligence. She also has vocal chops to rival Beyonce. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Caressa at the Miss Virginia pageant when she won, as I spent the week hosting each evening of competition. I can say that I knew she was prepared to do the 'job' from the time she won her state title.

- February was naturally hectic, as it was (and is every year) officially National Eating Disorders Awareness Month. Travels included...

A stop in Traverse City to host the Miss Heart of Michigan Pageant, and an opportunity to speak with a middle and high school youth group of girls on body image issues and eating disorders at a local church.

Another visit to Sean Hannity's show on Fox News in New York

University of Arizona in Tuscon, where I was able to meet and chat intimately with several local titleholders who will be competing for the title of Miss Arizona this summer. I spoke on campus, my appearance generously sponsored by Remuda Ranch and Sierra Tucson treatment centers. There was an EXCELLENT turnout; happily, many sororities came to the event, which was held at the University's brand new, eco-friendly Rec Center. Great start to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

From UA, I flew straight to Denver, Colorado, where I spoke at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I was able to lunch with an amazing group of high school young men and women who serve as Positive Body Image/Eating Disorders Advocates in a group called the Boulder Youth Body Alliance. They have this great campaign, posting anonymous 'post-its' wherever they go that have positive messages written on them... like "You are beautiful!" I love this sneaky campaign tactic. :) Another great turnout for the speaking engagement on campus, with MANY great questions. I love speaking at Universities, because students are usually excited about engaging the speaker and asking pertinent, tough questions.

From UC, I headed to Omaha, Nebraska, where I was able to do media and speak at a mini-conference for OMNI Behavioral Health Clinics of Omaha. They shoulder the burden of being the state's sole provider of comprehensive eating disorders treatment. I was also honored to receive a prestigious award for advocacy from OMNI, and felt it an incredible privilege to stand beside the other survivors who had shared their stories that day and declare freedom from the oppression of stigma and this illness. It was quite an emotional couple of days.

From Omaha, I zipped up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I hosted a fundraising event for my good friend Robyn Hussa's program called NORMAL in Schools; an educational 'musical' telling the story of a family's struggle with an eating disorder that Robyn and her group of actors perform live in schools. Along with these performances, NIS provides curriculum on nutrition and eating disorders for students, and after performances, they have a talk back with professionals so that students may ask questions. The fundraiser was held the most amazing OLD OLD OLD theatre, the Turner Hall Ballroom. I reminded me distinctly of the theatre in the film Moulin Rouge... and was from about that time period, the turn of the century. The floors creaked and were slanted with age and decay, the stage itself was raked, the windows stained-glass, and the sweeping oak staircases magnificent. It was most certainly one of the most eclectic and interesting venues I've seen. It was great to catch up with Robyn and many old friends in Milwaukee, and enough money was raised at the fundraiser to cover almost all the cost of the DVD program NIS is developing to make the musical and curriculum more easily distributable. Way to go NORMAL in Schools!

-In March I was able to speak to the contestants, parents and volunteers at the Miss Michigan contestant orientation the first weekend of the month.

I also made a visit to my close friend, Bridget Love's Fed-Up Girl after school program at University High in Los Angeles. What a great, educational program for young high school women! It was a fun day, and I truly adore that age of girls.

Of course, life can't be ALL work, so I popped home to Detroit to see family, and help out at my future sister-in-law's Bridal Shower (s). I am a bridesmaid for the very first time in my life, and I LOVE it! And I actually like the dress, too, which I know is half the battle of being part of the wedding party. But mostly, I'm just super excited to see my brother get married. The date is approaching soon, too... May 7th!

Also in March was another visit to Sean Hannity's show in New York... health care, health care, health care... how in the world am I supposed to talk about it intelligently, when most of the country, heck, most of Congress doesn't understand all of what is in that stupidly enormous piece of legislation? But talk about it, we did. Forgive me for not really loving Nancy Pelosi's assurance that as a people, we would learn what is in the bill, and see the benefits AFTER its passed. As an informed consumer, you only want to buy a product, or invest in something when you have adequate knowledge of what the product, service is going to do or provide. You don't spend the money and then say, "hope it works!" Anyway, we're stuck with it now. In my opinion, however, there no good that can be accomplished by complaining about what is past; one can only look, and move, forward. So what do we do from here? Vote. :)

That brings me pretty close to the present... I am happy to announce that April brought a change in location, for me, and a nice change in career goal and life situation. I am beyond excited to be going back to school at Emory Universtiy this summer, pursuing a degree in political science. After a great personal revelation, I decided that while I do love Los Angeles, and will miss my friends and church there, that it is simply not the place that God wants me to be. Additionally, after seeing what living the 'entertainment-lifestyle' is like, I see that it is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. While it works for many people, it just is no longer what I really want.

I realized this after one of my appearances on Hannity for Fox News. My Pastor's family wanted to tune-in to watch, as I had gotten very close with them and had baby-sat (that looks really funny written out... I didn't sit on their babies, I promise) their four precious children on a few occasions. I fell in LOVE with their little girls Sadie and Sophia. After returning from New York, Sarah, my pastor's wife told me how much they all enjoyed watching the show, and told me that Sophia had said to her, "Mommy, I want to be on a TV show like THAT someday!" That comment sums up my reasons for wanting to pursue something other than a life that would simply promote our celebrity-obsessed, overly-sexualized, female-demeaning culture. I want more girls, like Sophia, to look up to women in news, women working and doing good in the world, women using their voices to stand up for their opinions and beliefs. I want little girls like Sophia to see that women are more than just romantic heroines pining for love, or snappy, spoiled, and gossiping mean high school girls that never grow up. I want to continue to be a woman, in my life's work, who uses her ideas, her brain, and her experiences to inspire and change this world, and encourage others to authenticity, generosity, and good principles. I just don't feel that I could do that as easily, nor as effectively in entertainment. I want little girls to look up to strong, smart, motivated women. Not just actresses. That is why I decided to go back to school, and pursue something else. I could not feel more confident in my decision, or more excited about the prospects of the future.

About a week ago, I had the pleasure of returning to Sober Living By the Sea in Newport Beach, a campus, so-to-speak, of behavioral health treatment centers, that include residential facilities treating chemical dependency in men, women, and eating disorders. I had the pleasure of speaking at a press conference alongside U.S. Drug Czar for the Clinton Administration, General Barry McCaffrey, the CEO of CRC Health Group, Dr. Barry Carlin, and the head of the Women's Health Office for the State of California, Terri Thorfinnson. We got GREAT press coverage, and thereby much awareness in Orange County of Eating Disorders and the treatment options in their area. I love the team at CRC/SLBTS... and I love Newport Beach. :) I was able to have a whole Saturday off while there, and boy, did a massage do me good!

Perhaps the most exciting development, however, in the last few months, has been the deciding upon, and awarding, of our first two scholarships to applicants to the Kirsten Haglund Foundation. We have been fortunate enough to have two INCREDIBLE treatment centers, Timberline Knolls and Recovery Ranch, donate 30-day stays at their facilities, to the Foundation. With this generous gift came the opportunity for us to do what it is we set out to do; give hope to young women who are battling this disease. We have awarded our first two scholarships, and are pursuing another opportunity with a treatment center at present. More information on this to come. While I wish we had the resources to provide financial assistance to each and every individual that comes to us, I feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to give the opportunities that we have. There will be more to come; small, but triumphant, steps.

I will be heading to Timberline Knolls at the end of next week to speak and help open a new wing of their treatment facility that will allow for a greater number of available beds. From there, it is on to Washington D.C. to lobby with the Eating Disorders Coalition (ONLY 4 MORE DAYS TO REGISTER!!!). Looking forward to an amazing summer and a beautiful new life path. Hope you are feeling inspired to do the same.

Oh wait, it's Tax Day. I doubt anyone is feeling much 'inspired.'

Ok, so feel inspired on the 16th.



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