Thursday, February 25, 2010

The final weeks of being Miss Finger Lakes

One cold, snowy night in January, as my boyfriend and I were enjoying an incredible dinner at Opus Restaurant and Loungue in Syracuse's downtown Armory Square, it dawned on me: Today marks the beginning of my last month as Miss Finger Lakes! It's been a long, incredible year, but all good things must come to an end. I wasn't giving up my title without a fight, though. I still had some time, so I decided to get myself as involved as I could possibly manage during this last month as Miss Finger Lakes.

On February 9th, I took a day off from classes to cruise out to Elmira, NY to tape an interview for their Community Focus program that airs on Sundays throughout the entire Southern Tier. I like to think of this as my "exit interview," my last chance to get my voice heard and to promote the upcoming pageant. I got to sit down with Staci-Lyn Honda for a full 12-minute interview and we talked about my platform, "Fighting Back Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault," the upcoming pageant and some of the funny, stereotypical perceptions of pageants. I had a great time, and it was good practice for the upcoming locals I will be competing in next month!

Later that night, I had the honor of attend the Father Daughter Valentine Ball to benefit the Golisano Children's Hospital, Syracuse's local Children's Miracle Network hospital. When I arrived, I was in absolute awe of what I saw: hundreds, at least 300, fathers and daughters talking, laughing, partying, and dancing the night away. There were about 30 items available in their silent auction, some going for as much as $250! There was a magician, who was the life of the party, and hundreds of gorgeous little girls dressed to impress. I had the opportunity to crown some of these little ladies "Father Daughter Valentine Ball" Princesses.... of course, every girl in attendance got a sash and crown, because every girl that night was truly a princess. I never got the final count on how much was raised that evening, but I know that the evening was a huge success, both for the patrons and for the Golisano Children's Hospital. I had a ball (excuse the pun) that night and I hope to attend next year as a 2010 titleholder!

Last Sunday, I was invited to sit down with Marcus from Juice and Java, a Syracuse University talk showed that airs on the CitrusTV network here. I got to meet one of the behind-the-scenes members of the crew, Hilary Levin, who was going to be competing in the Miss Finger Lakes pageant this Saturday but withdrew... because she won a local in New Jersey! I was excited to chat with her for a few minutes, and offer my help and support as she prepares for the Miss New Jersey state pageant. When I finally got down to the interview, Marcus made it a point to focus on my platform for the 4 minute-slot that we had. I was very grateful to be able to address some very serious issues that I experienced as a college student, so that the SU community would be aware of the seriousness of sexual assault and domestic violence. I hope that even after my reign ends, the message of my platform will be long-lasting.

When I thought all was said and done that Sunday, I received a phone call from one of the managers of the local IHOP: They would LOVE for me to come in on National Pancake Day to help out! You see, National Pancake Day is a national Children's Miracle Network fundraiser through IHOP, who is very big supporter and sponser of the Miss America Organization. I got to go in for a couple of hours and take names at the front desk (and thankfully, there were a LOT of names to be taken!), and walk aroudn the restaurant chatting up customers. One little girl, Giavonna, told me she wanted a crown like mine. I told her maybe she can win a crown one day, to which she replied "No, I want one right now!" Ahh, a woman after my own heart. This year, IHOP's goal was to raise $1.5 million dollars, so that their fundraising efforts on this day would total $5 million over 5 years. I'm sure the final count of how much was raised will be released soon, so keep your eyes open for that! Overall, it was a great day and I even got to take home a free short stack!

And so, thus ends my reign as Miss Finger Lakes. I have been put in charge of choreography for the entire pageant this Saturday, so I have been kept pretty busy, but it's still very bittersweet to know that the end is so close. I can't say enough how incredible this experience has been for me. I've changed so much since I heard my name called that night one year ago, and I am so excited to crown the new Miss Finger Lakes 2010 because I know, whoever she is, she will carry on the legacy that this organization has built. I hope to hear my name called again, for another title in the future, but I know in my heart that I will always be Miss Finger Lakes 2009.

On Sunday, I am going to post the text of my farewell speech on here, just for my personal records. Other than that, this will be my last post on this blog. Thank you for being faithful readers, and for following along on my journey.

All my Love, Lorna Rose, Miss Finger Lakes 2009

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where in the world is Miss Finger Lakes??

Alright, well, after weeks of trying to update this blog, pleading with and then threatening blogspot, praying to the good Lord and wishing on a shooting star, I finally got this to update! Thank you for your patience! It’s going to be a long one, because I’ve got a lot to catch up on.
First and foremost, I hope you all had absolutely amazing holidays, as I definitely did. I hope you all filled yourselves with delicious food, holiday treats and some good ol’ egg nog (none for me, thanks, but my boyfriend definitely had more than enough for both of us!) Thanksgiving was amazing for me, as I was able to spend it with Lucas and his family. Last year, when Lucas and I had just met and were still just friends, he invited me to spend Thanksgiving with him when I had expressed concern over where exactly I was going to be that day (because I wasn’t sure). I finally got to take him up on his offer, and it was incredible. The food was great, his family is so fun to spend time with, and of coursssse, the Cowboys beat the Raiders!! A great day was had by all, I’d say!

Two days after Thanksgiving I was due in Corning to take part in the Festival of Lights parade. It’s annual event that brings out the entire town. THOUSANDS of people line the streets of Corning with their hot cocoa, their scarves and their blankets, and watch the 50+ floats and displays that go by. I was blessed with an Iraq veteran for a driver and his bright yellow Corvette, and my crown was covered with tiny Christmas lights. My crown could have been lined with pure gold, though, and it wouldn’t have mattered much; I heard more of “Hey, awesome car!” than I did “Hey, Miss Finger Lakes!” It was so much fun, though, seeing the looks on the kids’ faces who came out to watch. All of our Colonial Days titleholders were in the parade, as well as our Finger Lakes titleholders, including Miss Finger Lakes’ Outstanding Teen Desiree, who is also Miss New York State Teen-Ager. I tell ya, that girl is going somewhere, fast! It was definitely an amazing Thanksgiving weekend. I got to see my dad, my half-siblings and all of my Finger Lakes family, and I couldn’t have asked for more.

As the semester came to a close, I was very intently focused on getting good grades. A year ago, at the end of my very first fall semester at Syracuse, I got my grades: Four A’s and one A-. I was so upset with myself, because I was .03 away from a perfect GPA, all because I did not do one homework assignment correctly (thank you, laziness) and I ignored the opportunity that the professor had given us to make it up. Well, let me tell you, this lit a fire under my butt quicker than a lighter in the dressing room backstage at Miss New York. The next semester, I got five A’s and that perfect 4.0 GPA that I knew I was capable and deserving of. So, you can only imagine how important it was to me to continue this pattern. I did not want, however, to forget about my duties as Miss Finger Lakes in the meantime. My year is just two months from being over as of December, and I wanted to do as much as possible before giving up my title. As fate would have it, I was contacted by the CMN rep at the Golisano Children’s Hospital here in Syracuse and I was invited to participate in the radiothon they were hosting. It would be held over the course of two days, and I was invited to come and take pledges. During my shift, we even ran a special: for every pledge that Miss Finger Lakes takes, the donor will receive an autographed photo! Over $108,000 was raised during the radiothon, all to the benefit of the new Upstate Cancer Center in the Golisano Children’s Hospital. It was an very successful effort, and I was so honored to be a part of it.

The rest of the month of December has been easy and relaxing. I finished the semester with yet another 4.0, GO ME!, and I have been thoroughly enjoying this past off of work. This year’s Christmas was probably one of my favorites ever. I got to spend a whole day with my dad, which was really nice because I hardly ever get to see him. When I do go home to Rochester to visit, I try to steal him from the nursing home for as long as possible. On Christmas Eve, I went to visit my half-siblings who live near Corning and gave them the best present ever: a puppy! Their parents said I could, so I got them a Blue Heeler puppy who they named, after hours of deliberation, Jake, because apparently they are on “Team Jacob.” There was a huge present-giving celebration between about 20 people, and then we headed down to Yonkers in the middle of the night to spend Christmas was Lucas’ family. It was wonderful, to say the very least. For New Year’s, we reserved a room in the Hotel Edison on 47th St, half a block away from Broadway. It sounds extravagant, I know, but we had to make it special; it was our one-year anniversary! His cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend came out with us, and we had a great time. There were SO many people, it was insane! Thank you and good job to all of the police officers who did their best to maintain order and keep things safe for everyone…. and thank you for blocking off 47th wayyy too early, so that I had to pay $40 for parking instead of the $11 that the hotel would have charged me!! I think the coolest part about the night was that we opened our hotel room window and were able to hear all of the concerts going on outside. Lucas and I shared our anniversary/new year’s kiss at midnight, and if 2010 is anything like 2009, I absolutely cannot wait :).

After about a week and a half in the city, we retreated to our cozy apartment in upstate NY to get a little bit more peace and quiet. Lucas has a big family, you see, and we realized how much we missed the solitude of our own place. With that, we packed up our stuff and headed back up to ‘Cuse to snuggle up in bed and watch the complete series of Everybody Loves Raymond on DVD until the real world comes banging on the door. The semester starts on Tuesday the 19th (the day after my 22nd birthday, which also happens to be Martin Luther King Day! Woo-hoo!!), as does my first day back to work… 7am shifts, I have not missed you. Well, I’m going to get back to relaxing now, but don’t worry, I’ll be back!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New day, new platform

So, this post carries with it a very heavy message, one that I hope you will take very seriously. As I mentioned in my first post today, this blog serves as not only a place fo rme to blog about my experiences as Miss Finger Lakes, but also to clear my head and unload. Well, I feel as if I have been on a very tumultuous emotional trip... time to empty the luggage.

Last weekend, I received a very scare text message: my best friend was considering ending her life. This is not the first time this has happened this year, or even since I have known her (8 and a half years). It was triggered (as it was this past summer) by her boyfriend breaking up with her. I know, however, that there is so much more that she has been dealing with since before we had even met. What kills me the most is that I know, at this point, there is nothing I can do to give her the help that she really needs to stop hurting so badly that something like a break-up would make her want to take her life. I know that when things like this happen in a person's life, it is up to them to want to seek help; friends can only be there for them along the way.

What I have been dealing with mentally and emotionally since this past weekend has been incredibly painful. I wish that I could just be there for her, and I wish that she would love herself enough to recognize that things just aren't right and that it is not enough to expect her friends to come running to her everytime she wants to die. I understand being there for a friend when they need you, but after so long of watching my friend make self-destructive situations and then berate me for "not being a good enough friend." It tore me apart to listen to her tell me that I'm not a good friend and I don't care about her, because if I did, I wouldn't be judging her, telling her shes needs help, and I would just be hugging her and letting her cry and loving her for who she is. The thing is, I love her so much as a sister to me. I cannot sit back and let her tell me what kind of friend I should be. I think that a real friend would be able to see a situation the way that a person who is in her position just can't, and try to guide them in the right direction. A real friend will recognize their own limitations in such a serious situation, and not try to be the "hero" or the "life saver." I want my friend to have the most wonderful in the world, but I cannot make that happen for her, only she can.

This situation has inspired me to re-structure my platform a bit. Don't worry, y'all, I will still be an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; that part of me will never change, and that passion for fighting will never die. I think that there are a lot of other young women who are suffering from a number of problems, and they deserve an advocate, too. That is why I am changing my platform to "Strong Minds and Hearts Make Strong Women," which will promote mental and emotional well-being in order to become the best and the strongest we can be. Those who know me, or who have read my blog, know that I have been through an awful lot, and I'm not the only one. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today, but having a really strong mind helped me to develop a strong heart, and I could not be a happier person despite the adversity. We will all go through out trials and tribulations, but being strong of mind and heart will see us through them.

But they will not get our biology homework done. Which is due in less than an hour. I must end here, but please take my words seriously and send a quick prayer to my friend so that she may feel empowered to seek the help that she needs. Thank you so much.

Coming out of hiding

So, it's been exactly two months since my last post... which is shameful, to be frank. I committed to this blog knowing that I should be updating it regularly, be it for the sake of my (2) readers or just to unload the nonsense in my head so it doens't get too heavy and detach itself completely from my neck and jsut roll to the floor. I'm almost at the point; my head has packed its bags and is on its way out. This is my attempt to get it screwed back on tightly, and to be a responsible blog-writer. I have some very important things to write about, so bear with me!

Last month I had the pleasure of being a part of the Homecoming Parade, as well as the pretigous Orange Circle Awards ceremony. The Orange Circle Awards were given to several members of the SU community for their outstanding achievements in and unwavering dedication to community service in and around Syracuse University. I was escorting my award recipient, Marilyn Tickner, as a "beneficiary" of her hard work. Marilyn worked tirelessly for the Syracuse Responds initiative, where volunteers spend countless hours cold-calling alumni and other possible donors in order to raise money to give out to students as a supplement to their financial aid packages. My financial aid advisor passed my name along to the people organizing this program, and I suddenly became the poster child for SU Responds. The funny thing is, I didn't receive any financial aid from it-- I wasn't even eligible! I honestly did not mind, as I receive more than enough financial aid. What mattered to me is that my story and experiences were enough to compel the alumni to donate money to this wonderful program. My boyfriend did receive something from SU Responds, though! Anyway, I was thrilled to have the chance to take part in this award ceremony and meet one of the volunteers who dedicated their time to raising money for the students here. I even got to walk the stage in my crown and sash! I didn't have much of a choice, as I was expected on the alumni float immediately after the ceremony for the homecoming parade. Meeting Marilyn was a pleasure and an honor, and I look forward to hopefully participating in more fundraising efforts for the students here.

Beauty queens live for two things: pageants and parades (well, 4 if you're in the MAO system; the third would be scholarship and the fourth would be community service!). The Homecoming parade was supposed to be exciting, with hundreds of SU football fans lining the streets in support of the home team. The trusty central New York weather, however, had other plans. It was downpouring during the parade, but luckily I was bundled up on a tented float. Unfortunately, that tent sort of masked my crown from the few on-lookers that we had, so most people that I was waving at didn't even realize who I was or why I was there! There was one frat house that figured me out; they started shouting some pretty.... morally questionable things. I didn't let it bother me, though, because I was having a great time chatting with the alumni on the float and hearing their stories about their days at SU. One of them, a particularly drunk but well-meaning man, started asking everyone for $20 so that I could compete against next year. It was very awkward, but I just laughed it off with everyone until he finally gave up and resorted to cheering and waving. I look forward to next year's parade; hopefully, I will be a titleholder once more and the sun will shine on us! Speaking of the sun, it sure was shining brightly the next day for the football game, which was played INSIDE the Carrier Dome. I guess the sun, like me on most weekends, decided to take it time getting out of bed that weekend.

Thank you for your patience I took a million years to updating. I have one more post coming, but I wanted to split them up into two posts because the next one is VERY important. Also, in the first week of December, I will be participating in a radiothon at the Golisano Children's Hospital (the CMN hospital of Syracuse) to raise money for kids with cancer! I am very excited about this, and I promise I will blog about it in a relatively speedy fashion :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

When she is crowned a titleholder in the Miss America Organization, it is that young lady's responsibility to promote important values like community service and empowerment. Each titleholder is required to not only have a personal platform, but also to promote the national platform of MAO, which is the Children's Miracle Network, whenever possible. Yesterday, I had the honor to tour the brand new Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital, which is the official CMN hospital of Syracuse and 17 surrounding counties.

I was awe-struck during my tour of this breathtaking facility. There are 71 private patient rooms, each equipped with HDTV's, PlayStations, private bathrooms with showers and pull-out beds for family members. There are 15 pediatric intensive care rooms, with a window in the wall so that a nurse may sit at the window outside the room, continue her work on a computer, and have constant eye contact with the patient. There are 12 rooms customized for patients with cancer and blood disorders. There are six rooms customized for epilepsy patients. The physical therapy rooms are equipped with ceiling tracks to better assist children who suffer from obesity. There is the multi-sensory room, which provides children a soothing and attention-engaging environment to ease their anxieties, as well as to help children with autism. There are classrooms equipped with books and computers, to allow for video and audio conferencing between the child and their school so they can keep up with their studies. There treatment rooms where particularly painful or uncomfortable procedures (shots, anyone? Ick!) are done, so that the children do not associate discomfort with their living space. Of course, there are six playrooms so that the childhoods of the patients are not stopped short by illness. There is the interfaith chapel, which provides a calm, intimate space for children and families to gather their thoughts and get some peace of mind. Rev. Louise has asked me to come back and appear for her half-hour children's group :) There is a performance space, for the children to watch various shows, movies, and musical groups. There are large family areas, with chairs, phones, showers, a microwave and fridge, as well as apartment rooms with double beds and laundry facilities for families who travel from afar and refuse to leave their loved one.There is a special TreeHouse elevator, which allows incoming patients to arrive right at their special part of the hospital without having to travel through the intimidating, scary regular ER. There is the TreeHouse Cafe which is home to Tim Horton's and Coldstone Creamery. The manager is planning on having Miss Finger Lakes come back and scoop ice cream for an ice cream social :)

I know that I have missed an awful lot of what I saw, but I didn't happen to take too many pictures. No amount of blogging, though, can do any justice; this facility is outstanding, a state-of-the-art care center for the children who will inevitably need it. What I most liked about this hospital is its level of attention paid to not only the future patients but also to the most important people in patients' lives. A hospital with apartments? This place is nicer than most hotels I've been in. I know from experience what it is like to sit in a hospital waiting area while someone you love is suffering just down the hall, and often times, you never know if your whole life is going to change in a matter of minutes.... it's incredibly scary, and having been in that position countless times over the past 12 years, I can say that this hospital is doing a wonderful job at foreseeing those difficult circumstances and preparing for them with facilities that are as comfortable as possible.

Imagine: A family has their child rushed via ambulence to the hospital. The patient is brought in through the TreeHouse entrance, straight up to warmly-decorated Children's Hospital to be examined, while the family waits in the family area, able to watch TV or surf the web to occupy their minds while they wait for the doctor. Say the doctor has some particularly bad news; the family is ushered into a private discussion room, so that the details can be discussed in an intimate setting. If the family does not really understand what this diagnosis means for them and their child, they may go to the education center, staffed with professional librarians and stocked with literature on a number of different conditions and diseases, so that they may gain some insight into what exactly their child is suffering from. The interfaith chapel will provide a space for them to gather their thoughts quietly, and maybe send a little prayer asking for guidance during this time. If the family has to stay with their child, there are pull-out beds in every room, and the hospital is more than happy to supply pillows and blankets. There are private shower facilities for the family in every room.

I can go on and on with this scenario, but I think you get the idea. This place is incredible, exactly what Syracuse and the 17 surrounding counties needs to ensure the safety and well-being of our children. No child is ever turned away, regardless of economic status. This is something that parents need to be aware of, because in these tough economic times, they need to know that their children need not suffer just because of lack of health insurance or finances.

As I was leaving, I was given a baby pine tree as a parting gift. I want to plant my pine tree in memory of Erin Maxwell at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School, the school that she was attending when she died a year ago. Who is Erin Maxwell, you ask? She was an 11 year old girl who lived in deplorable conditions about 30 minutes north of Syracuse University; Social Services had been to her home over 50 times, the school nurse gave her clean clothes everyday to wear instead of the cat urine-soaked clothes she came to school in (which will happen when you have over 70 cats in your home, overflowing with dead kittens in the freeze), and the school principal paid out of pocket everyday for her to eat lunch because her family refused to give her lunch money or accept the school's application for free lunch. She was found by her stepbrother, a grown man named Alan Jones, strangled by a rope in her room (which was locked on the outside and had chicken wire on the inside of the door). The autopsy showed asphyxiation as the leading cause of death, with sexual trauma as a contributing factor. As a human being, this type of situation is what disgusts me about the system currently in place. Because her parents were "exceeding minimum standards for care," she was not removed from the home. As a social work major, this is exactly the type of child, the life, that I want to save, and as Miss Finger Lakes, I would want her to be able to look at me and say "I want to be just like her." But that can never happen now, and we cannot as a society be ignorant to situations like this. Her parents were found guilty of all counts of neglect and face up to two years in jail (such justice, eh?) and her stepbrother is currently on trial for her murder. Hopefully, some justice will be brought so this little angel may rest in peace.

My experience at the Golisano Children's Hospital was amazing, and I encourage everyone to take a tour of the facility before it opens for business. This is a wonderful opportunity for the Syracuse community to ensure the healthfulness of the children in the area and surrounding areas. So go, grab an ice cream cone and a coffee, and see what this amazing facility has to offer. While you're at it silently thank Tom Golisano, the Children's Miracle Network, Upstate Medical University, and all others involved in making this a dream come true for the children of Syracuse.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Add to the resume: Master of Ceremonies

So, last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of being the MC/hostess at the Sweetheart/Little/Junior/Teen Miss Finger Lakes pageant. I thought I would be waltzing in there to a script and a microphone... but of course, it would not be so easy. I also learned that I am not so great at improvising entertainment on the spot!! It was so much fun though, and the little girls were all gorgeous and perfectly behaved angels.

My primary duty was to conduct the on-stage interviews. Because our teen pageant is held at the same time as the little girls' pageants, there was no talent or private interview; for each age division, it was simply evening gown and one or two on-stage questions, and then during the year leading up to the state pageant, the organization is going to work with our new teen to get her ready. There were no questions written for me to choose from, so I had to come up with some right on the spot. For the little girls, I kept it simple: what do you want to be when you grow up, what's your favorite color/tv show/food, etc. One of the little girls, Kanzas, scolded me because I forgot to ask her what she was going to be when she grows up! She wants to be a doctor and a hair dresser :)

When it came time for the teen division, I was very excited. Katrina, Miss Finger Lakes OT 2009, gave a beautiful farewell speech that made me almost cry (!!) and performed her HILARIOUS monologue for everyone. When I was interviewing the girls, I tried to remember that I was once in their position, so I wanted to keep the questions "answerable", which is now a word, but also deep enough so that the judges would be able to really determine in a short amount of time which contestant would make the best Miss Finger Lakes OT 2010. While the votes were being tallied, Katrina and I chatted on-stage to give the audience and the contestants an idea of what it is like to be Miss Finger Lakes OT. We talked about her year, the state pageant, and the expectations that we all have of her successor: good grades, dedication to community service and a healthy lifestyle! When all was said and done, I think they made a GREAT choice. Desiree Miller is our new Miss Finger Lakes OT, and she is one of most eloquent, well-mannered and sweet girls I have ever met. To top it off, her platform is focused on rape, which of course I approve of 100%. She is going to represent us beautifully, and I am going to do all that I can to ensure that she is totally prepared by next June!

So far, I have competed in a pageant, judged a pageant, and hosted a pageant. I'm not sure how much further my pageant repertoire can expand, but I'm certainly up for suggestions :)! It gives you a whole new perspective on the entire process each time you're involved in a new way, and my respect for those in pageant world just increases every time, and I know that Desiree's induction to the MAO family will provide for her similar experiences to grow as an individual and as a young woman.

Well, that's about it for now. Classes start in two weeks and I am INCREDIBLY excited.... I have a lot of plans for my crown and my banner this semester, and I am seriously itching to get going! TTFN, ta-ta for now!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pageant week: Miss New York 2009

Well, this post is only a few weeks overdue, but simply for the reason that I have been crazy-busy trying to settle back into real life... what with Independence Day and my best friend's 21st birthday going on, it's been tough to get myself in front of a computer long enough to update! Well, here I am.

I have to say, the Miss New York experience is quite an intense one. It is cheerleading competition, IMTA, the school musical and prom all rolled into one. Twelve hours a day in heels results in losing 3 pounds and a permenantly deformed spine... BUT, on the bright side, I can now spend an entire night in heels without flinching :) Beauty is pain, people. The choreography was amazing, thanks to Kent Parham, without whom I would have never known to put my hands on my waist instead of my hips ("Emphasize your small parts, not your wide parts!"), nor would I be able to french turn (although I still haven't got it down just right... but Miss Metropolitan helped tremendously with that!) I have to admit, all of the choreography made it a little intimidating during swimsuit and evening gown; I found myself more concerned with doing the steps right, lest I incur the wrath of Kent (juuust kidding! He's a big softy :)) I was very nervous, much more nervous than I had been at Finger Lakes... if only my director had told me BEFORE the friday night swimsuit prelims that at Miss Finger Lakes I had received the highest swimsuit score... that might have boosted me a little bit, but it's ok, there is no one to blame here for anything, because I still had a TON of fun.

Thursday night was also a very sad night, as we all know it was the night Michael Jackson passed away. We were all getting ready for prelims when we received the news; it put us all in a very somber mood. Rest In Peace, MJ.

On Thursday I was to do my on-stage question, which I believe went very well, and my talent. Now, there were only two monologues this year, myself and Lynn Tryon (Miss Mohawk Valley). Lynn was contestant four, and I was contestant seven. So, just imagine my face when, four seconds into Lynn's monologue, the body mic buzzed and went dead. Kent took one look at me and said, "What do you wanna do, you want a hand mic or a stand mic?" I said neither, for two reasons: Lynn did not have a mic, so I wanted to keep it fair and level the playing field, and also because I had not rehearsed it with any other mic and felt it might come off as far less natural than I wanted. Beside, we've all heard my talk; I'm the loudest person in the world, blame 11 years of cheerleading for that, and I knew I'd be able to project ok. They left the floor mics on for me, to give me a little supplemental feedback, and it turned out even better than during rehearsals! So all in all, it was not such a bad thing.

I did not win any preliminary awards this year, nor did I win the Miss America Academic Award... I was actually pretty bummed about that, considering that I had a 4.0 and could have really used the scholarship. However, even a 4.0 can't beat a Columbia grad! So, Melanie (Miss Southeast NY) certainly deserved it. I did win a contestant basket, though!! It was the Miss Outstanding Teen Buffalo basket, and I wanted it because there was a t-shirt with my favorite football player, Terrell Owens, on it along with his signature quote: "Getcha popcorn ready!" Can't wait for football season to start!!

The other events of the week were a lot of fun; touring the city with Henry Hudson before going to Angelo's Prime 677 (absolutely incredibly dining experience right in Albany), the tour of the Capitol building (including the room where absolutely nothing is getting done), a fashion show at Colonie Center Mall compliments of Eli Wedel and his genius designs for NVM9 clothing (, and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We were welcomed so warmly into Albany, it made for a very fun week.

The Miss New York Outstanding Teen show was on Saturday night, and my teen Katrina did an AMAZING job! Her monologue was hilarious and she looked beautiful in evening gown. We were also treated to a stunning performance by Alexandra Mazzuchelli, Miss NY OT 2008. One problem I did have with the production, though, was the song choice for evening gown... a Chris Brown song?? Really?! This man has beaten and assaulted his girlfriend, and his music should absolutely not be associated with an organization that is meant to instill confidence in young women and empower them, and choosing to incorporate music by him is, to me, turning a blind eye to what he has done. Other than that, the show was wonderful, and congrats to Kara Kowalski, our new Miss NY OT! I know you will make us all very proud in Florida next month!

Finally, as all good things must come to an end, the finals were upon us. I did not make top ten, which I was honestly a bit surprised about. Having had the highest scores in swimuit, evening gown, and interview at Miss Finger Lakes, I felt like a very strong contender for the title and job of Miss New York. However, as I have been told and as I now realize, the judging process is very subjective and it is all about what each particular sees in you and every other girl. I know that I did a good job, but that I probably could have done better. Should I have the chance to go back next year, I know exactly what to fix. The top ten then became top five, and I couldn't have selected a better top five (well, besides myself being there of course ;)!) My girl Inga won 1st runner-up and I am SOOO happy for her!! Alyse was crowned Miss New York 2009, and the weird thing is, the second I laid eyes on her back in March at the Miss Manhattan/Greater Gotham/Metropolitan sweeper pageant, I just knew she would be the biggest competition and the one to worry about! Sure enough, my psychic abilities were confirmed, and she was crowned. I think she is incredibly deserving of the title, and the job, and I look forward to working with her and rooting for her in the Miss America 2010 pageant!! Hopefully I will be able to do that right from Las Vegas :)

The Miss New York experience was not what I expected, but it was incredibly worthwhile. I do think that I would like to continue competing next year. I know that, if I do, I am going to switch up my talent. (On that note: can any willing victim--I mean, person teach me how to sing?? Let me know!) This organization is so full of opportunity, promise and integrity, and I don't think I will be quite ready to say goodbye for good after I pass on my title in February. There are few things greater than surrounding yourself with amazing, beautiful, intelligent and dedicated people, and the honor of being one of them is unmeasurable. Thank you, pageant ladies, for welcoming me into the Miss NY family and giving me an incredible first-time experience. I hope I get to see you all again next year! And, to those of you who have aged out of the system, I hope you take away from your years in the Miss NY family some unforgettable experiences and life lessons, and keep doing what you love to do and let nothing stop you. It has been such a pleasure getting to know everyone.

For now, I am still Miss Finger Lakes, so I still have a LOT of work to do! The Golisano Children's Hospital is opening this fall in Syracuse, and will become the official CMN hospital here. I am working with the CMN rep to make an appearance at the grand opening, hopefully with Alyse if she is not too super busy! Until then, I'm outta here! <3