My place of gratitude

“People here are not going to pay that much for this.”

That’s exactly what you want to hear in your first year of a new adventure. I hadn’t even considered myself “in business” yet because truly I wasn’t. There was no name, no title, no wins, no invoices, no record, what could I point to that would lend credibility?! All I had to offer was my experience in this industry, my experience with this skill set and my work ethic. 

I have carried those words with me every day since. With each email, text message and phone call, I replay those words in my heart. Then I ask myself, what value am I adding to this young ladies life? Am I worth the price I am charging? 

I don’t ask these out of fear of failure to produce, I now have a record to support me and my rate. I replay these words as a touchstone, a reminder to never stop learning, to stay sharp and stay focused on what I am doing and why. Yes, the words still sting and on the really low days. I can feel the whispers of “that’s because SHE didn’t see you as that valuable, as worthy of that rate.” 

But isn’t that just like life and competition? One person, one panel of judges may not see the full value in your resume, may not feel you have put in enough sweat equity to warrant this title. Perhaps the one standing next to you edged you out by the smallest margin of effort. We will never know. But when those irritating, poisonous thoughts begin to wrap around your heart and erode your confidence, flatten your feet into the foundation that you were created in His image. Straighten your spine with the understanding of how much strength you have gained as you worked to this point. Narrow your gaze to the goals you have set for yourself. Use your voice and speak with authority on the hours you have spent in service to your community. 

Today may not be your day of victory but it is another day of opportunity. Today, I may not be the most coveted, sought-after, top-tier coach but I know my worth. I know what I bring to the table and who comes with me to speak truth and hope and love to the next generation. 

I am a coach, a consultant, a confidant and a champion of young women, future leaders, “dragon-slayers” as I have been known to call them.

You, queen, are an advocate, an encourager, an inspiration to those who went before and those who are coming after. Remind yourself daily so you can set about the good work ahead of you. 

Get up and get dressed, next generation is waiting for you to carve your path so they can begin. Let’s Go!

The OG Pageant Dad

This day, 14 years ago, I hugged my dad for the last time. No it wasnt this picture but this is how I will choose to remember him.

That painfully floral shirt because “when in miami” was his reason. Those arms that held me so tightly as I cried. I felt so very low due to exhaustion, effort, adrenaline from competition and, later we would learn, food poisoning. But he held me and told me how proud he was. I would never say he was “my biggest cheerleader” because my mama holds that title. But I can say with confidence he was my loudest cheerleader.

Fun fact: in the recording of my first prelim title, his boisterous tenor tone can be heard belting “there she is” in a silent room as my crown was pinned

I will never know if he was nervous for me on comp day. In my mind, he never knew what nervous was. He was eternally assured of his ability to make the show go on. In fact it was his confidence that kept me strong on the day pictured here. It was his confidence that literally carried me across the stage in evening gown competition the next day, as he escorted me on stage.

And it was his unwaivering faith that carried me on January 11, 2008. “Baby girl, if you believe the things I have taught you, then you know where I am going. So stop crying. Its ok. Im going home.”

He left the way he lived, confident that his show would go on just with heavenly robes in the presence of the Almighty.

I pray my children and my clients feel his confidence thru me. I pray they see his example in me. I pray I can impart the same resolve in each of them that will carry them thru any competition, any exam, any job, any challenge they face.

What makes you stand out in an interview?

It is no secret, I LOVE interviews. To make it even more strange, I love to be interviewed. The challenge of crafting the perfect answer and organizing my thoughts into eloquence is thrilling. 

In my head it’s the same energy and “ta-da” vibe as those book of world records kids who stack cups. It is exhilarating to watch! That’s what my brain does with answers in an interview. I’m not saying it’s sane, I’m just saying it’s fun! 

Pageant girls are really, really good at this. They can stack words into 30 second or 1 minute sound-bytes that will make your head explode. And being on their support team is one of my favorite jobs. 

Recently, I have been asked to help professionals prepare for interviews ranging from the federal government to private enterprise. A very, very different arena for sure, but the goal is the same; show them why you are the best for the job. 

In the federal government, at a certain level, there are a handful of candidates for a specific job posting. Usually the candidates have all worked together, this one training that one, that one nominating this one for an award and so on and so forth. But for the most part, the resumes are quite similar. I asked my client, what is it that makes you standout next to Judy and James and Joseph as the correct choice for this position?

 “I have excel and powerpoint?”


“I have a certification in…” such and such fancy titled training thing?

“Um, no”

“Ok, then I don’t know”

I’m guessing, unless you are a pageant girl, you probably don’t know either. Take a deep breath, put your note pad down, it’s not as complicated as you are making it seem. 

With all things being generally equal on the resumes, the only distinguishing factor is YOU. Your life, your experiences. I don’t mean that one seminar you went to that one time. I mean YOU! 

I have one client who uprooted her life in Alaska when she married a military guy. They had a little boy, then another. While stationed a continent away from her support system, with her husband deployed, she decided to go to work at the child development center so she could provide income for her family (no, we don’t pay our soldiers enough, but that’s for another essay) and still be with her babies. That grew into a nice position at the center which allowed her to finish her paralegal certification. When her family was moved again, because military, she was qualified to earn an excellent position in Washington DC due to her experience, her reputation for hard work and newly minted certification. Now years down the road, she has the flexibility to make her own schedule and work from home. She picks up her boys every day from school and has yet to miss a soccer game or golf match. 

This year, she prepared to interview for a fabulous and much-deserved promotion, I asked why she didn’t mention any of this in interview practice. This story is beautiful and passionate and personal.

“I didn’t think that mattered for the job…”

I blink in disbelief. 

Her story is beautiful and inspiring. But if you read her resume you would see only a monotone portrayal of qualifications. It’s the basic pencil outline of you.  It is the full YOU, the road you took to get here, the lessons you learned, the failures and successes, the way you speak of the “why” and “how…” that is what fills in the picture with brilliant color. 

So much focus is placed on resume building in school and early professional life. But does anyone actually give guidance on HOW TO SPEAK after you hand over that well-crafted resume?! (I mean, I do but that’s not really my point.)

The profound poet of my youth was spot on when he penned, “There is no one alive that’s you-er than you…” so speak on it!

I wish someone told me, chapter 1

School is important. I should probably start there. It teaches you obvious things like math and letters and how to (reluctantly) dissect a frog. It also teaches you intangible things such as how to mentally prepare for hard things, like dissecting a frog or algebra. But those are things you already know. Today I would like to begin a series of posts about the things that don’t show up in a text book but are vital to surviving adulthood. Listen, dear heart. Learn from the ignorance of my youth. Do better than I did, learn from those who went before you.

I did the normal tour of duty in high school. I entered Junior College two months after graduation, state college three years later then moved to out-of-state private college to fully round out my Tour de Education. So I have a bit more experience than most in this particular area. I speak from hard fought victories and spectacular defeats. Shall we begin?

In high school, nobody knows where they are going and the ones who tell you they do, have not lived enough life yet. I vividly remember my senior year, I was doing extra homeschool classes just to graduate because in my earlier years I just couldn’t be bothered with minor details like homework and attending class. But I put my head down (cried) and got the work done. It just didn’t seem right for the student council Vice President to not graduate with her class. But what about the day after graduation? What about college in the fall? NOT. A. CLUE.

The night after graduation I loaded two of my girlfriends into my car and took a road trip. The first stop was to my dad’s house. I left my two friends there the next day and drove over to my cousins wedding. I was a bridesmaid and not a very good one. BUT, she sat me down at a table with the Director of the Music Department at the local junior college, the Show Choir Director and Assistant Director. Thankfully, my cousin had (and still has) a stellar reputation resulting in me walking out of that wedding with a full ride scholarship. Boom. College decision made.

My degree was determined at birth, music courses thru my veins. And so it was written. I am eternally grateful that I agreed to wear a puffy pink dress for my cousins wedding (this was before I fully appreciated the more feminine things in life). I thank her regularly. My point is, you may have an idea where you want to go next or you may be sitting in a cap and gown ( or maybe in a pageant dress after giving up your last title…) not knowing what you are going to eat for dinner. THAT’S OK!

What is not ok is staying there. Google some stuff, visit some schools and get yourself enrolled somewhere. Junior College, Vocational School, Military…all are viable options. Just pick one and go. Your life is not poured in cement. If it doesn’t suit after the first year, try something else. I did not know this sort of fluidity was an option. Not because I had dictatorial parents, quite the opposite. I had wonderfully loving and encouraging parents. I just didn’t know I had options for my future. Let me tell you, bright-eyes, you have options. Your life is not predetermined. You have many talents, some haven’t even been uncovered yet. You graduated high school, thats step one of succeeding at this life thing! 

So deep take a deep breath. Take a good look around your life and start walking towards a goal. You can do this. You are not lost, a failure, unable or unworthy.