I rushed home from doing 7 schools in Rowan County on Wednesday to get lowlights after another round of honesty from my little friends brought me back to reality. I get this question a lot, but never this answer. "How old are you?" a first grade little boy asks. "How old do you think I am?" I continue on as I always do. "Um, eighty nine?". "EIGHTY NINE!!??!!". "Do I look eighty nine, why do you think I look eighty nine?" I realize that I probably should not have asked this outloud but it is too late...here it comes...."Because your hair is white." Got lowlights that night and thus far have had no more confusion on that matter. But that lowlight night was a mere glimmer in the distance at that point in the day...the marathon day...the best day...I will get to that soon.
So, Monday, Nashville to work out with my little rat trainer Josh. Got to see my sister Jade and cousin Thea. I am also pretty sure that I ate a decoration on Jade's counter. It was a pink cupcake(that I shouldn't have been handling in the first place) that after a few bites I realized may have been either a candle or doll food. I wish all food that I tried to eat was fake. Dash on to Louisville where we entered into the secret back entrance of Heather French Henry's design studio. It was dark...until she walked out into the abyss and lights it right up. Anyone who knows Heather knows what I'm talking about when I say she kind of glows. She took us up to her studio where we talked about Miss America, furs, and dresses.
Then I begin my own version of MIDNIGHT MADNESS as I arrived back to Lexington that night, pretty mad that it was already past midnight(I had to leave in about 4 hours for the next day). I began to gear up for the rowan county school district day(the one that I alluded to in the beginning). 7 schools...one day...no room to play(or so I thought). It was intense, but so am I, so it was fantastic. Tilden Hogge Elementary, McBrayer Elementary, Rowan County Senior High School, Rodburn Elementary, Clearfield Elementary, Rowan County Middle School, and The Morehead Youth Development Center) I feel like I'm singing the Johnny Cash 'I've been everywhere' song when I rattle off the schools I did that day. But, the superintendent has the prettiest most wonderful wife, Lucy, who has this drill down to a science. She picked me up, initially she was my driver, she quickly became my best friend. We went from one school to the next to the next to the next. I felt like the president. We would pull up to the back entrance. I would jump out and my little feet would hit the ground running. I hand over my ruby red slippers to the first teacher I see, then my cd to the next, all the while someone is briefing me as we power walk into the gym where the kids are on pins and needles...waiting. "Schools name?...Elementary, Middle, or High school?...School Mascot?...Demographic?..."...and..."Hello ____ Elementry_____, are you excited to be out of class?!?!" It happens in less than a minute. So clearly there are several funny occurrences when you come in contact with more than 3,000 whipper snappers. Favorites = at the high school a brave soul raises his hand and asks if I could please sing 'Friends In Low Places". "Well, ok...if you sing it with me." He and his friends leap over their seats and join me onstage without hesitation. We begin the tune and they are amazingly in sync...was this event staged?...I then look over at the boy beside me and his shirt says 'You Look Better With Me'...I think I was punked for a yearbook photo op. As I am leaving they ask for pictures, they then whip out their cell phones and begin sneakily looking for someone to take the picture. "Can you have cell phones in school now?" I accidently blurt out. All at the same time the teachers realize what is going on, as do I, and the student now has to explain himself. "Uhh, I use it as a calculator." Smooth. Then on to the next school, the next, the next...So many great children, "How much longer will it take for me to get bigger?" "How tall is your dad?" "Why is the sky blue?". THey kept the questions coming. I also signed a teacher's bald head(Gov Beshear signed the other side) and got to see former Miss Kentucky Tonya Virgin-Smith, who is just as beautiful as the day she won...all before lunchtime.
Mid day we headed to the All Seasons restaurant (adorned with a Welcome Miss Kentucky sign). A group of us had lunch then as we were leaving two of the nicest men(who owned the restaurant/home goods/flower shop) came around the corner and handed me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers larger than most of the children I had seen that morning. They then hand me a homemade pumpkin roll...oh no...someone is going to have to roll me onstage in a wheel barrel if I keep experiencing the splendors of these hometown baked goods). They are euphoric.
Right back to the routine after lunch and before we knew it Ms. Lucy and I were coming down the homestretch and quickly approaching the final stop of the day at a juvenile detention center for teenage girls (the Morehead Youth Development Center). It's really easy to inspire a group of starry eyed children, but I knew this group could be harder to win over. We made it through the security and there I was standing in front of them...Their apprehension and my reservation disappeared into thin air within 2 minutes. They were the best audience I've spoken to yet. These girls may have done some bad things in the past, but I can tell you that after spending two hours with them inside these gates, that I know they will do good things in their future. They are so good inside, they just need someone to remind them of that. I was honored to be that person. They had me singing every song under the sun(or rain on that day). "Sing Beyonce'!!", "Sing Carrie Underwood!", "Sing Amazing Grace!". They sang along, they clapped, they laughed, I cried. I didn't want to leave.
Thursday, back to Louisville where I spoke to two different groups at Thomas Jefferson Elementary where the school theme is 'to learn like rockstars'. Maybe this explained their immediate requests for me to sing Mariah Carey, Beyonce'(again), and several artists that I had not heard of. They were rockstars.
Back to Lexington then right back to Louisville for the 'Outrunning Autism' event. A while back when I was at the capitol rallying for our autism insurance reform bill I met several people from autism organizations across the state(this is how I find myself at these great events). This time I volunteered my passion for the cause and was forced to drag along my disdain for physical fitness since it was a fundraising RUN...dang...I prefer bake sales and dinners, but for autism I will do anything. So, I was expecting a run. However, I was faced with a nature hike/marathon on speed. A man named Jim Ball(who has 2 grandchildren with autism) was running for 24 hours straight, so I thought I could at least join him for an hour...surely it won't be that hard...wrong. At a few points in this ultra intense experience I felt that I was on a Japenese game show and my cousin Emily, a real runner, who was running behind me was in constant laughter was the mean American laughing at this crazy show. I too was laughing so hard at my situation that I nearly tripped over about 70 tree roots and walnuts and at one point a crazy squirrel(all while being slapped in the face by tree limbs, etc)...and all in the freezing rain. But like I said...anything for my favorite cause...and for these great people. Then on to the Hard Rock Cafe for a Susan B Komen benefit concert. Michele Branch, Safety Suit, and Better Than Ezra took the stage, and once again, the lead singer from Better Than Ezra took my heart. Long story short, one spring break at Sewanee we all rented this big home down south and went for the week. At the end of this week we found ourselves at a concert where Better Than Ezra was in the line up. We started off in the middle of the stands, however, I found my way to the front of the stage and quickly fell in love with the lead singer...he gave me his guitar pick...I was hoping he would not remember this situation and that I would refrain from reminding him, but I found myself right back at his mercy(look at my face in the picture at the top). He is the nicest man in the world. Noone is Better Than Ezra.
The next morning I roll(aka drive 3 hours) into the mountains for the annual Red, White, and Blue parade in Martin, Ky. Whoa. So, this town is in the middle of a flood renovation and is being completely uprooted(every single building) and moved to a higher point right next to it. It's wild. The people there are so welcoming. I wanted to uproot some of their children and move them to Lexington with me.
Then to round off the weekend I spoke briefly at our local directors meeting on Sunday. All my friends (the local preliminary directors) were there. These people, their commitment to the Miss America system, and their selfless generosity to their winners each year is why I am able to write this blog. Thank you.
Now I have to get off this computer and drive to Ashland, Ky tonight...See ya latah alligatahs...
P.S. Go to www.greentwithtamara.com and get a huge laugh out of my spaz go green video clip...you can watch all the states...and you can VOTE!! Don't judge my environmental knowledge from this clip...I was hungry.
P.S.S. Grandma and PaPa, thank you for finally breaking down and getting a laptop so that you can read my blog. Thank you for always being my biggest fans. I miss you every day and can't wait to see you soon!