Miss Georgia on My Mind

This is one of the least “evergreen” posts I will ever write. I am writing in support of a particular candidate for Miss America 2015. Within 48 hours, she will either wear the crown or not. In the lead-up to tomorrow night’s contest, though, I want to share what it is about her that made me a fan, and that is the most evergreen characteristic of all.

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Tiara Cookies by Crave Eatery Bainbridge, GA

I am supporting Maggie Bridges, Miss Georgia, in her quest to become Miss America. (The pageant airs the night of September 14, 2014, on ABC, at 9 p.m. EST). Here’s why:

Seven years ago, Tenley (around 11 years old) and I were returning from New York City to Tallahassee. On the Atlanta to Tallahassee leg, I was in a single seat and Tenley was across the aisle from me, seated next to another passenger. I tend to withdraw into a shell (and often sleep) on planes; I half-noticed that Tenley was chatting the whole time but didn’t think much of it.

As we were departing the airport, Tenley explained that she had been sitting next to Maggie Bridges, who was returning, traveling solo, from a modeling assignment (I think Maggie was 16 or so at the time…). I don’t know the content of their conversation, but I think it touched on modeling, fashion (maybe pageants?), and shared interests. It was a conversation mutually enjoyable enough that they went on to become Facebook friends (they are also now both Alpha Delta Pi sisters which is pretty cool!). Once Maggie won the Miss Georgia title, Tenley reminded me of that conversation all those years ago, and I instantaneously knew I would be supporting the confident and friendly young woman who gave my child her undivided attention, friendliness, and expertise.

From a pageant perspective, Maggie has going for her (among other achievements):

Photo Credit: Matt Boyd Photography

Photo Credit: Matt Boyd Photography

Intellect (She is one of ten finalists for the Miss America STEM scholarship.)

The Ability to Mobilize Support (She was one of the top three fundraisers among the Miss America contestants for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH), the official charity of the Miss America Organization).

Talent (I had the opportunity to hear her sing at an event benefiting CMNH back in August and she sings beautifully).

Beauty (She would not have made it this far without that!)

I know the pageant system isn’t for everyone. I participated in a pageant in college (not affiliated with the Miss America system). Although it rapidly became apparent that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I still, to this day am happy I had an opportunity to be in a pageant. I won’t ever forget how hard it actually is to smile without your face running away off of your head for all of the quivering your lips are doing. How energizing and adrenaline-filled it is to participate in a situation where you have to bring your very best public self. As a parent, I have always been disappointed that I did not muster up the funds and resources for Tenley to participate in a pageant like she wanted to (maybe that can still happen).

The pageant system isn’t for everyone, but it certainly is a good fit for Maggie and she for it. Maggie would make an exemplary Miss America, and I would love to see her win the crown.

Although this post won’t be evergreen, Maggie’s qualities of generosity, humor, faith, and kindness will go on and on long past September 14, 2014. They’ll continue like the pine trees of the South Georgia community where she grew up … tall, timeless, and rooted “down to earth” as far as the eye can see.

Photo Credit: Brian Brown

Photo Credit: Brian Brown

A few footnotes…

The title of this post was inspired by the “Miss Georgia On My Mind” limited edition candle created by The Refinery in Bainbridge, GA. Proceeds benefited the Still Waters program for women as well as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Check out their website here (I don’t think they are still making Miss Georgia On My Mind but they have other pleasant-smelling (and cutely named, such as Bless Your Heart!) candles).

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I have become skittish about blog posts that sing the praises of public figures. My post lauding Oscar Pistorius didn’t have the happiest of outcomes, and my post featuring Jameis Winston frankly just makes me crabby every time I think of it. The third time will be the charm with this post!

Being a Floridian (and a Seminole!), I also want to extend best wishes to Miss Florida, Victoria Cowen. I know she has worked very hard to represent Florida well and to do a wonderful job at Miss America. Good luck to you also, Tori.

Lastly, I hope karma treats Elizabeth Fechtel very, very, very kindly. She was originally crowned Miss Florida and then a calculation error was discovered which led to the title being awarded to a different competitor. I personally have been bitter over life events much more trivial; her blog post after those events will always remain in my mind as among the classiest pieces of writing I have ever read. She’s tremendous.

Shoes designed by The Sash Company for Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri to wear in the "Show Us Your Shoes" parade -- perfect image for the "footnotes" section, right?!

Shoes designed by The Sash Company for Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri to wear in the “Show Us Your Shoes” parade — perfect image for the “footnotes” section, right?!

Epilogue – 9/15/14 – 12:19 a.m. Maggie was not selected as a finalist in the pageant. (Congratulations, Miss New York.). I stand behind every single word I have said in this post. Class and kindness will never go out of style; Maggie epitomizes those to me.

Epilogue Number Two – 9/23/14 – 2:10 p.m. Maggie discusses her experience at the pageant on her blog. You can read the post here.

Epilogue Number Three – Maggie participated in a Google Hangout with the other Miss America STEM scholarship winners. Each of them presented an image of intellect and humor I would be proud for my daughter (or son) to emulate. You can watch the Hangout here.

 

My Favorite 2012 Olympic Moments

I am sorry that the Olympics are ending tonight. They have stolen a few hours of sleep from me over the past couple of weeks – nights when I could not tear myself away even when I knew the results.

Here are a few Olympians who made an impression this year:

Nate Brannen

Nathan is a Canadian runner who lived here in Tallahassee for a while, and co-founded Capital City Runners. His second Olympics, running the 1500, did not end as he hoped. He fell in the semifinals, got his calf sliced up by another runner’s spikes, and came back to finish 12th out of 13th in that race. I am heartbroken that he did not have the finish he dreamed of but I am floored and awed by his class and valor in finishing the way he did. Someday when his daughter is old enough to understand, she will know she comes from persistent stock! (An interview with Nate is here and another writer’s perspective is expressed here.)

Photo Credit: Nate Brannen’s Facebook Page

 Oscar Pistorius

There was copious coverage of Oscar Pistorius, who ran the semifinals of the 400 meter race as a double amputee, on carbon fiber prostheses. When the winner of the semifinal race, Kirani James of Grenada, tapped Pistorius on the chest and traded bibs, I loved the moment (I also wondered how they got their numbers off so fast because I have never been able to get a race bib off without getting a safety pin stuck in the thing!!). I learned a lot from this article about Pistorius.  I also learned a bit of the backstory behind this image that has been viral on social media:

Ellie May Challis has a new fan (and so does Oscar Pistorius).

Beth Tweddle

At 27, Beth Tweddle won a bronze medal in the uneven bars, representing Great Britain. Her appearance was not something I had “caught” in the steady stream of spoilers throughout the day on social media. She has won a European Championship, a World Championship, and 4th at the Beijing Olympics. According to this article, she has had six broken ankles, three broken shoulders, and both cheekbones smashed (ouch).This was her last chance to represent Great Britain, and she did so in fine form! To be 27 and capable of competing in the Olympics is such a big deal, physically. When my daughter was a competitive gymnast, I saw young women with overuse injuries and other insults to their bodies that they will deal with forever. I have read of college gymnasts who have had hip replacements. I can only imagine the sacrifices Beth Tweddle has made to keep competing, a course that began when her parents enrolled her in gymnastics at the age of 9 to keep her quiet! Her hard work paid off.

Source: Bing Images

Muhammad Ali said, “he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” I salute these three Olympians who personified everything that is right about the Olympic spirit.