My less than Insta-perfect life.

Ironic that my last post would be almost a year ago, and focus on actually finding happiness and allowing yourself to live in that place. I’d like to think that my hiatus from writing was due to taking that last year to focus on myself, grow and settle into this new person I’ve forged in my newest chapter of life, but honestly, it’s because I’ve been to dang busy to see straight. But in the crazy roller coaster of grad school, a professional job, cheer coaching, cat mom-ing, and being too involve in everything I commit to, I actually have been doing that work. And I’ve come to realize how much I love this insane, messy and extraordinarily happy life I’ve fallen into.

One of my new favorite hobbies is watching endless streams of Facebook videos. You know what I’m talking about: you click on a video of funny cats and pretty soon you’re plunging headfirst down the rabbit hole of cute babies, make-up tutorials, something about the Donald, and then back to funny animals. I am proud (read: secretly embarrassed) by the amount of time I’ve spent on this new hobby. Go me.

In my latest video binge, I came across this video about the truth behind Instagram videos. For those of you who aren’t going to click on it and watch it, it’s basically showing us how we work WAY too hard to make our lives seem perfect on social media. But, it’s the BuzzFeed version so it’s hilarious. 1. I laughed, because this is so true. 2. I cried, because I’m guilty of being this person. 3. I started thinking of all the times in the last week I thought, “I wish I could be as cool as that thing on Instagram.”

WHAT. Yes. I am a grown woman, comparing myself to tweens and celebrities, and their “perfect” lives on social media. No joke, when I sat down to write this at the coffee shop, I examined my table with coffee, purse, laptop and breakfast sandwich and thought, “Whoa, this is really cool looking. It’s like I have my crap together.” Almost Instagram worthy. Until I mentally slapped myself across the face and came back to reality.

I don’t take a lot of pictures. I never think of it. When I’m experiencing the most beautiful sunset or walking down the street at a bustling farmers market, the last thing I think of is taking a picture. Sometimes I hate that, because I’ve never going to be one of those people who can look back at photos and reminisce. Luckily, Matt is that person for us, so we’re semi-covered, if you count lots of pictures of beer as photo-documenting life’s beautiful moments.

But what this video really showed me was how ridiculous we sometimes are when comparing ourselves to others on social media. What we see online is about 5% of the very best parts of people’s lives, unless you’re one of those super-humans who makes a living being Instagram perfect. You go, Glenn Coco, seriously. I don’t have the time, energy or money to even attempt to be that person; nor do I want to.

As I was watching this video and sitting and looking at our tiny apartment, I realized just how fortunate I am to live in this messy, wonderful life. Matt and I give so much of ourselves to things we love that we are constantly running around all over the place. And when we aren’t, we’re home, spending time together in our really messy well-lived-in apartment. The only Instagram worth thing is our cat, which I’m sure you’re all tired of seeing by now (sorry, not sorry).

I just finished reading Present Over Perfect by Shawna Niequist, which I highly recommend (go buy it now), and it further solidified my new mindset. I love living in the mess. It’s terrifying, sometimes, being a strong type A personality, but it’s actually a beautiful thing. As a twenty-something, I have the awesome opportunity to live in the gap of what happened to get me here and what I’m creating for the future. I get to make massive decisions in the next 5 years: careers, relationships, houses, cars, whats for dinner each day of the week. Sure, the unknown will always shape what’s going on, but I have the control to make it into something awesome. How cool is that?

So my life isn’t Insta-perfect. It has it’s moments, especially when I hang out with my cat, but overall, it’s crazy. But I am so incredibly happy and fulfilled. Next time you’re scrolling and find that picture of sheer perfection and think, “Man, how cool would that be?”, just stop. It would be cool, but so is where you are right now. Live it and love it.

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When things go right.

Bad things happen in threes, or at least that’s what my family has always said. In the past six months, my life has been a reoccurring number of 3’s. After my third “bad” thing, I would automatically say, “WHEW! That’s 3. The end.” I’d eat a cookie and look to the heavens for the Good Luck Gods to start showering me with happiness. And then something not so great would happen, and I would start my count of 3 over again. And again… and again.

My boyfriend is ridiculously optimistic (I say ridiculously in the most loving way possible, it’s probably one of my favorite things about him). If I had a dollar for the number of times he’s said, “Can you just be happy?” I’d have a lot of money. At first, I was annoyed and would respond with the most exasperated, “I AM HAPPY.” Then, I realized I wasn’t. I spent so much time counting my bads, that I ignored my goods. I was so wrapped up in the job I didn’t like, the city I didn’t know, the people I wasn’t around, and the person I no longer was (or thought I was). I couldn’t assimilate to Denver and my current life because I wouldn’t let myself. I couldn’t see past my barriers, and I was stuck.

I came to this realization after I totaled my car last week. Nothing scares you quite like almost rolling your car in rush hour, except maybe actually rolling your car in rush hour. Luckily, I only did the prior, but my car limped away with pretty hefty damage (although totaling a 10 year old car with 200,000 miles isn’t hard). As I watched the tow truck take my baby away, I said to Matt, “Well, that’s our 3. Things have to look up now.” I barely got the words out before it dawned on me: I’m walking away from a pretty nasty crash, completely okay, and the other driver and his family were fine, too. Yet, I counted this as a negative.

I had planned to take a whole week off between jobs even before the accident. I wanted to use it as a time of rejuvenation, to catch my breath & reset (and to tan at the pool 20 yards from my front door). Instead, I sat and thought about the fact I didn’t have a car, or the means to buy a car. Or groceries. Or new adult work clothes. Or a new bedroom set. Or a bigger TV. Or a bottle of wine (really needed this last week). Priorities, right? About Friday, I think Matt was going to strangle me. He would come home from work and I would just lament about all the bad things that had happened to us, and all the money and things we didn’t have, and all the things we couldn’t do, and all the progress we had yet to make. I was miserable, and I was miserable to be around.

Thankfully, he didn’t strangle me (nor would he). But, just like always, I was challenged – become better. Live in the moment. Be happy.

I’m sick of counting bads and running my life by thinking about the negatives. Yeah, we’re kind of broke, and yeah, I bought my bedside tables from Amazon for $30 (thrifty…?). And yes, I will now have a car payment for the next bazillion years of my life.  But ya know what? I’m alive, and not injured. I go home to a beautiful apartment and Ollie the Bear. I have a plethora of people who care about me, and even if some of them are hundreds of miles away, there is a good handful that live within 15 minutes. I also live in an incredible city with limitless opportunity. I’m 22 and am working in my career field. I am breathing and healthy.

Things are going right, and they have been for a long time. If I hadn’t been so consumed in my negatives, I could have seen that a long time ago. Too often we find ourselves lost; we feel like our lives are running us, instead of the other way around. Now it’s my turn to challenge you: become better. Take control. Notice that things are going right. You’ll feel like a new person. Don’t count your threes.

An open letter to my racing mind.

Dear Brain –

What the actual heck is going on up there? Today is my day to relax, yet I’m running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off because you can’t seem to get your crap together. Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if you’re all there, err.. if I’m all there. I think it’s about time we get a handle on ourselves.

You see, we’re FINE. Transition and change are a part of life, and with the last year, its no wonder you’re spinning. Going from not being able to make plans ‘cuz pageant lyf to having to have your whole life figured out in 6 months, and living fun and fancy-free at college to being in a committed relationship with a cat, paycheck and bills. Big jump. BUT, you grey hunk of mass under my pretty blonde hair, you’ll be okay. You can handle it.

Remember how every semester about 3 weeks in, you’d hit the “Wall of Doom?” That moment when we’re walking to class, going through the list of assignments for the semester and you think, “There’s no way I’m coming out of this class alive.” Well, surprise. We’re alive, degree in hand. So, when our paycheck goes a bit shorter than expected and we have a list 10,000 things long that we need, we won’t die. We won’t starve. We probably won’t even be late on any payments. We’ll be fine. Chill.

There’s also this crazy thing call patience, that I think we should bring up. We are 22 years old (you might be 23, depending on when you started developing, I guess). We have our whole life to work, have a family, and work some more. Stop racing through things. Slow down. If things don’t go right the first time, start again and learn. You’re good at that learning thing, keep it up. Life takes time. We’ll be fine.

As for triggering this whole anxiety thing.. Yeah. Enough. Anxiety is a weird. One second I’m fine, the next I am NOT. And I know saying, “Stop it” isn’t exactly helpful. Sometimes I’d just like a break from the worrying, the trouble breathing, the laying in bed without sleeping. Ya know? So if we could start to get a handle on that, it’d be great.

Finally, can we please focus? I’ve had far to many “SQUIRREL” moments in the past little bit, in front of too many important people. They’re going to start thinking we’re insane. One thing at a time, one path, one track…

In all seriousness, you’re a pretty smart little organ. Graduating with honors, getting into grad school, juggling as much as you do. It’s impressive. And thanks for holding up during those semesters I took 22 real credits as a music major but actually did the work of 27 credits (sorry about that). If we could do that, the rest of life is smooth sailing.

Remember, we’re FINE. And will be fine, because good things come to good people who work long and work hard. Now, please, just chill so I can relax for once.

With love – B

 

Binge Watching: A 20-Something Cultural Phenomenon

Up until the last 5 years, “On Demand” was just this super cool thing that you had to pay an arm and a leg for. Sure, DVR was on the rise, and you could always video tape or record your shows if you were going to miss them (Yes, I remember VHS. That’s how I video taped the Rugrats Movie & The Santa Clause). But the ability to play 1000s of shows whenever/where ever you wanted, stop and start as needed, and even rewind TV, was not a thing. For those of you not yet in your twenties, I know its hard to fathom. Yes, it was the dark ages.

For real though, the convenience of On Demand things like Netflix is amazing. I can start an episode at work (yes, I can watch TV at work), and then pick it up right where I left off when I get home. My iBooks don’t even let me do that between devices when they sit next to each other. Its magic, and I’ve fallen under it’s spell.

Because of it’s ease, we’ve all fallen victim to binge-watching, or watching overwhelming amounts of the same show consecutively and probably finishing the series in a weekend. Its great, but also terrible. My mom used to talk about how when she was my age, Days of Our Lives was THE thing. Everyone would get together and watch it. One of her friends even told me that a group of students would gather in UNL’s union to watch the daily episode at noon. I remember lots of Days of Our Lives episodes in my childhood. Lunch was at noon, ‘cuz Days. A good day was when she wasn’t too busy and could actually watch the whole show. There was no pause, no rewind, and no recording (unless you VHS taped it, which sometimes happened).

Days of Our Lives is still on TV, and probably will be for forever. Sure, everyone’s died off, come back as a ghost, was reincarnated as someone else, or was lost forever on a deserted island and then somehow found their way back and is back on the show, but there’s a new episode everyday. And you can only watch one. per. day. (GASP). I know, Millennials, its scary.

Which brings me to the topic of this post (only 4 paragraphs in): binge watching. My generation will probably never know a show that you actually have to wait for. Because of this, there are very few shows that last several years, consistently. Sure, different seasons of Orange is the New Black come out 1-2 times a year, but its always in bursts, not weekly episodes. And let’s be honest, there are maybe 10 people in the world who actually wait the whole week for a new episode of Pretty Little Liars before illegally streaming it or waiting for the whole season to come out on Netflix to binge-watch it.

I really think its fair to say that binge-watching will define my generation (hello, instant gratification). For those of you unfamiliar with the act, binge watching is a lot like dating (because I have SO much experience with that. Not.) You go through stages, test the waters, and ultimately commit for several months (or a weekend) to something. Here are the stages of your binge watching life:

Meeting Through Mutual Friends

Maybe you’re adventurous and can take a leap of faith into a show that someone didn’t recommend, but 9/1o times, you’re going to choose something that you’ve heard other people like. You stalk its IMBD, look at the actors, and its overall rating (Hot or Not?). Finally, you give it a shot and watch the first episode. It’s okay, so you wait the 10 seconds for the next episode to automatically start playing.

The Like or Like-Like Stage

At this point, you’re really getting into this show. You aren’t really sure if this is the right one, or if you’re going to get a few episodes/seasons in and lose interest. Nonetheless, you plow forward into episode 5 and 6, and finally decide, YES. This is something I’m going to commit to.

Going Steady

You’re totally into this series. The characters begin being actual parts of your life, and you start thinking, “OMG Ezra is basically (enter friend’s name here).” Yes, that was a PLL reference. You cry when they cry, you fall into hysterics when someone is killed off (DARN YOU GREY’S ANATOMY), and you happy jump when your favorite couple finally gets back together. Honestly, the lives of fictional characters become more interesting than your own, leading you to care more about theirs. Admit it, we’ve all been there.

The Break Up

Unfortunately, some good things do come to an end (or at least the last season available on Netflix). When you watch the last episode, you’re completely entranced. You CAN’T miss a second, because it might be the last one you get. And then the credits roll, and a tear trickles down your face. In the next few days, you’re in a binge-watching hang over, and you realize you’ll never be able to replace McDreamy ever again (Grey’s Anatomy reference. And, actually, you can. Private Practice. You’re welcome). Try as you might, starting a new series is next to impossible. It’s okay, girl. Eat your ice cream and wallow.

Starting Over

After you’ve had enough of feeling like a miserable loon obsessed with fictional people and their lives, you head back to the Netflix menu and start searching. Kind of like online dating for TV shows. Don’t worry, there’s always other fish in the sea.

If you’ve never binged-watched something, stop what you’re doing, go get a Netflix subscription (best $9 of your life), and do it. There’s something special about losing an entire day, or weekend, to staring at a screen and obsessing over fake people. Honestly, it helps me escape the world for a bit and pretend I’m somewhere else. (My elders would say that’s what books are for, but I’m a millennial, so here’s me rebelling).

 

 

It’s Super Time!

The title of this blog has two purposes. 1. It reminds me of the time I got to watch my 6th grade science teacher dance around as Snoopy on stage singing about supper time in a musical (Hi Darrell!), 2. This blog is about cooking as a twenty-something.

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I love cooking. When I have an evening at home, an ample supply of grocery money and a nice glass of wine, I’ll whip you up a 4 course meal and probably dessert to boot. All of the stars in the galaxy have to align for those three things to happen simultaneously, so what that first sentence really should have said is, “Cooking is okay.” When I first moved in, I tried to be the ultimate homemaker. I would cook roasts and steaks and stir fry and pork chops with lots of vegetable sides and potatoes or pasta. My boyfriend probably was in heaven. Now, with work/cheer/gym/commute/meetings/side jobs, he’s lucky to get me home by 8:00pm, let alone cooking dinner.

Cooking is pretty essential to adulting; you now have a kitchen, income for more than mac-n-cheese (usually), and tastes for finer things. I tried to cook in the dinky college dorm kitchens after toting all of my cookware down 5 flights of stairs, but there are just somethings even that experience doesn’t teach you. Here are my Top 8 thoughts 20-somethings have about cooking:

1 – Not everything is cooked in the microwave?

No, children. While the microwaved served many and all purposes of preparing nourishment when we were in college, there is now a new, more important appliance. It’s called the stove (Ooooo , ahhhhh). Stoves come in many varieties: the expensive flat kind your mom has that is beautiful and cooks everything perfectly, the regular four removable-burner type that is notorious for allowing food to slip inside and then burns and smells like fire and is a pain to clean, or, the strangest of them all, the gas range. My boyfriend had a gas range when we first met, and I can’t even count how many things I burned on that thing. If you’re in that boat, throw away all knowledge of cooking and start learning backwards. I, however, am now blessed with the worst black, four removable-burner stove in the world. 1. You have to clean black every hour, 2. The nice silver liners under the burners now match the black stove, and 3. It constantly smokes because something fell under the burner. Life Goals = fancy flat stove that isn’t attached to the oven (insert actual name that I don’t know here ____).

2 – I’m going to marry my crock pot.

As if cooking on the stove wasn’t a million times better than microwaving everything, the cooking Gods created a device that you can turn on AND LEAVE! I discovered my crock pot after Christmas (for any pre-twenty-somethings, Christmas after college is when you get all of the gifts you swore you’d never ask for, but are now ridiculously excited for. Ex – a vacuum cleaner & crock pot). I can put a roast, some potatoes and carrots, and a can of broth in my crock pot, go to work, and come back 8 hours later with dinner ready. Gasp. Yes, friends, it is magic. I’m convinced I’m going to burn down the entire apartment complex one day, but until that day, I pledge to faithfully use my crock pot to alleviate any responsibility of me preparing dinner after work.

3 – Wait… I can’t just leave my dishes in the sink for mom to do?

No. I tried this and my boyfriend wasn’t to pumped about his new role as “Official Dishwasher.” I employ the Wash As You Go method: burning food while you obsessively wash any dish you’ve touched to eliminate doing dishes later. I’ve also tried the Leave Dishes For 4 Days method, and Shove Everything In The Dishwasher method. All three are not super popular in the Ludemann-Anthone household. I’ve been asked to reconsider my process, so I’m seeking suggestions.

4 – Setting a table is pretty, but really unrealistic.

I come from a family that had dinner at the table almost every night. We would have place settings, put prepared food in dishes to serve on the table, and all sit, without the TV, while we enjoyed dinner together. In adulthood, I wanted this to be a “thing” for my family. So, for the first few months, I would cook dinner, put it on our super cute 1970s Corelle Ware dishes, and we’d have family dinner. It was great & we both loved it (even Ollie the Bear who took up his nightly place on the chair next to me in between nibbles from his food bowl in the kitchen). It was straight out of the Saturday Evening Post. But then we’d settle in for dishes and have twice as many: cooking and serving. NOPE. Filling up plates at the counter is just fine before sitting down for our weekly “dinner” night. Traditional, meet functional.

5 – WHY DON’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS.

Building a full functioning kitchen is hard, especially when you’re coming from a dorm room where you used a bowl, a plate, a fork, a can opener and a water bottle. If I had a dollar for every time I’d be in the middle of cooking and realized I didn’t have the utensil I needed, I’d pay off my student debt (not joking this time). “Let’s have mashed potatoes tonight!” Cooks potatoes & realizes there is no potato masher or peeler… “Can I mash potatoes with a fork after I try to not cut my fingers off while peeling the potatoes with a massive knife?” (Disclaimer: We had baked potatoes that night.) “Lets have stir fry!”
Skillet overflows due to too much meat, rice, and vegetables. Cue smoke coming from my annoying removable burner stove. “Let’s have people over for dinner!” Looks at 1970s Corelle Ware dishes with scary horror movie, shower/knife scene music in head. We’re twenty-somethings, we’re going to have wedding registries, holidays, and better paying jobs in our future to get nice things. Enjoy the humor in crappy kitchen ware while you still can.

6 – High altitude baking is not a joke.

In addition to cooking, I like whipping up the occasional batch of brownies or a cake every once in awhile. Prior to moving to Denver, I was a darn good baker. Now, I’m lucky to make a brownie that isn’t flat as a pancake. High altitude instructions on boxes of baking mixes aren’t there for kicks and giggles, they actually mean something. SO, after numerous nasty looking cupcakes with holes in the center, I’m proud to say I finally figured it out. Extra flour, less water, folks, and you’ll be baking like a champ.

7 – Hard boiling an egg is hard.

While holey cupcakes were a close second, my ultimate kitchen fail was when I tried to hard boil an egg. Attempt 1: Boiled water & dropped in eggs. Cracked when it hit the bottom of the pot. Attempt 2: Put eggs in hot water & then boiled. Cracked. Attempt 3: Looked up directions to boil in microwave (old habit). Realized they can explode and stopped microwave after a huge pop. I ruined half a dozen eggs in 20 minutes. Still probably can’t do it.

8 – There’s utensil for everything.

I often find myself in the kitchen section of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, staring at the Great Wall of Utensils and wondering, “Why do I need any of this?” There’s a watermelon slicer, pineapple slicer, apple slicer, orange peeler, cheer de-pitter, peach cutter, avacado de-seeder, onion dicer, celery stalker, and grapefruit sectioner. Know what does all of those jobs in one easy-to-store utensil? A knife.

Cooking is process. I am proud to say that there has only been one meal we have thrown away after taking the first bite, and I think that’s a pretty good track record for 6 months in. Best of luck in the kitchen, twenty-somethings. Don’t burn down your house.

After the lights fade.

Happy “Miss State Season”, pageant fans, and welcome to the most important month of the year that is known to regular people as “June”. In the next 4 weeks, over half (probably 3/4 this weekend alone) of the upcoming Miss America class will be determined, including my home state of Nebraska and current state of Colorado. This brings back all sorts of nostalgia – “Remember when all I ate was chicken?”, “Remember when I became a mini-celebrity in my hometown for a week?”, “Remember when my name was called for top 5 and I felt like I was on top of the world?” Life as a has-been isn’t super fun at this time (hence why it’s taken me 3 weeks to write this). Do I wish I would have continued to compete during my last couple years of eligibility and not be where I am now? Not really. Do I miss the volunteers, the girls, the families and being a super-fit, beast-mode babe? Absolutely.

Its a weird sort of feeling. Knowing exactly how the girls competing are feeling this week (one word: hungry), but also knowing life away from the stage. During my time donning a crown, I was lucky enough to travel to the national level twice in the MAO system: once as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2011 and once as Miss Nebraska’s Sweetheart, last year. To say I met some of the nation’s brightest, most beautiful, talented, motivated, passionate, and successful women would be beating a dead horse. But I’ll do it any way. THEY’RE SO FLIPPING GREAT. I’m now able to stalk  watch as my pageant friends go on to take over their respective states. My Sweetheart roommate is the new Miss Maine (hey Marybeth heyyyy) and I know at least 1 person competing in each state. Its kind of cool to know that when I watch Miss A (Miss America, for the non-pageant-obsessed folk) in September, I’ll be watching my friends.

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You’re lookin’ at a future Miss A in that crowd ^

As I contently watched Miss USA from the comfort of my couch, in my jammies, while eating the traditional cheeseburger and cookie dough meal, it donned on me. For every 1 titleholder that gets to compete at Miss America/USA, there are probably 1,000 girls who could have done the job. They say there is a better chance of your son playing in the Super Bowl than your daughter competing on the Miss America stage. I’m just going to let you sit and think about the odds there. Okay, good to go? Yeah, its really rare. In the pageant world, its common to hear, “Different day, different judges, different outcome.” And that is completely true.

At a MAO (Miss America Organization, fyi) pageant you have approximately 20 total minutes to convince the judges you’re the best fit for the job. Ten minutes in interview. One to two minutes for evening gown. Two to three minutes for prelim onstage question. Less than 1 minute in swimsuit. Ninety seconds in talent. The judging panel is made up of 6 absolute strangers to you. Throw in some accidental run ins at pageant week appearances and the pre-pageant social media stalking they do before even meeting you, and there’s your 20 minutes (roughly). At times, I think that 20 is even a stretch, and its more like 15 minutes. That 20 minutes determines the outcome of your life for the next year. Sort of intimidating, right?

When I made the Top 5 at Miss Nebraska, we did this cute little stereotypical pageant girl huddle back stage. It was completely cliche, great, and one of the most vivid moments of my whole week. We had just finished answering our final on-stage question and were ushered off stage in the corner while they thanked everyone, had Miss Nebraska do her final walk, and then brought everyone out on stage. It was in that moment that I realized any of us could have easily done the job of Miss Nebraska, but each girl brought her own unique skill set to the table. Allison would have focused on veterans and bolstered our program by the support of a different generation that we don’t really focus on. Alyssa was going to focus on kids, in every aspect, but specifically within the Children’s Miracle Network. Steffani would have been a beacon for the arts and strengthened our ties in that area. LaRissa’s connection to St. Jude would have opened up even more connections to helping ill children through other venues besides CMN. My platform is service learning, and I’m a business woman; my plan was to strengthen our relationships with non-profits in the state to partner with our school visits for more volunteer work by contestants and students alike.

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Each one SO different, yet we all had the same passion in our hearts: make our system stronger and to serve our state. We all looked phenomenal, had amazing talents, and could handle any public speaking situation with poise and grace. They weren’t choosing which girl was better than the other, they were choosing which path was right for the organization in the opinion of those 6 people.

And man, did they choose right. Alyssa has been phenomenal, and I’m proud to call her one of my closet pageant friends. Over the many years we’ve known each other, we’ve become the type of friends who catch up in about 5 seconds for years of lost time. Its been a joy to watch her via social media (because Miss NE is about a million times too busy to just “hang out”). Congrats, Alyssa! I have a glass of wine waiting for you at my house.

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A lot has changed since 2009. We started dressing alike & I decided Spicy Brown wasn’t for me.

I left Miss Nebraska week in the most bizarre state of peacefulness I’ve ever experienced. I had spent my year as a local titleholder visiting 6 schools, speaking to over 3000 people, and performing at numerous events. I put way too many miles on my car, but the city of Hastings (which I represented) actually recognized my face. I lost 10% body fat, kicked an eating disorder in the pants, and was the voice of reason to many of my diet-hungry friends. I walked away with enough scholarship money to almost pay for my whole last year of college. AND I had a freakin’ blast during Miss Nebraska week, in my hometown, surrounded by people I loved. To top it off, I walked away with a community service award and 2nd runner up. I had done everything I set out to do, and more. It’s like checking off all your to-do list and sitting back on the couch and thinking, “Yep, my work here is done.”

And it is. My passions have lead me to other things: grad school, being a big kid (read: trying to be), mentoring a cheer squad. But that’s because when being Miss Nebraska was my passion, I gave it everything I had and left everything on the table. It wasn’t in God’s plan for me, and its important to trust in what he has in store. The most random things will pop into your life when you least expect it (like a strange man trying to con me out of tickets at NEBRASKAland Days), and it will change your life as you had it planned. But, if you trust, pray, and work hard, you’ll end up right where you’re suppose to be. My state of bliss after Miss NE has lasted almost a solid year (give or take a few bad spells), and that’s how I know this was the right decision.

So, to all you vying for your upcoming Miss State title, here’s my has-been knowledge: give it your best shot. Recognize that just because you aren’t chosen, doesn’t mean you weren’t “good enough.” Heck, there are more of us “unchosen ones” than titleholders, so join the party (we have cake, literally). Reflect on everything you’ve accomplished, and be proud. Don’t second guess, coulda-woulda-shoulda, or have regrets. HAVE FUN, DANG IT. And if your Little Sister wants to eat ice cream with you, eat ice cream (unless your lactose intolerant, then don’t eat the ice cream). Be proud of your Miss State titleholder, they have a really hard job, and its our job to support and love them.

Know your heart, and stay true to it. (If you didn’t read anything else in this whole blog except look at the pictures, at least read that, please.)

To the 1 in 1,000 who do get to continue the journey on to Miss A this year, thank you. Thank you for the hours you’re going to donate to your community and state. Thank you for being the 24/7 ambassador to strengthen and build MAO, even when you just want to go to the grocery store in sweats & no makeup. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through you on social media. But most of all, thank you for inspiring other young women to be you one day. The world is full of has-beens, but if we aspired to be in your shoes at one point in our lives, then that’s an awful lot of strong, powerful women.

Gym Lyf Strugglz

I went to the gym today (hold your applause, please).

That sentence right there should be enough to call today a success and go home. Sadly, my job doesn’t think the same way, so here I am, wearing heels after leg day at my standing desk. The gym and I have a love-hate relationship: I love looking & feeling great, I hate getting off of work and spending 1 more hour away from my cat-child, sweating and miserable. However, as with most things, sometimes you just gotta suck it up and deal with it.

During my crown wielding days, the gym and I were besties. Daily, if not twice daily, I was a sweaty monster, and I loved it. Looking back, its was probably the only safe way to manage the stress and anxiety I had in and out of pageant life (praise Jesus for my roommates for keeping me sane when I wasn’t in the gym). Boxing, throwing around weight, throwing around my own weight, and running until I couldn’t run any more were some of my favorites. Yeah, I was insane, but it was fantastic AND I needed to stand on stage in front of 500 people in a bikini, so there’s always that for motivation.

I used to look like this:1907540_10153363756944717_1347043052005932044_n

Credit to Lacey Decker at Tiger Coaching and Fitness and Steve Lucchino at MaxMuscle Omaha. I was a brick house  at Miss Nebraska 2015.

As most has-beens find out, that doesn’t last long after you retire. Food is great, and so is wine, and so is laying on your couch instead of running 7 miles and doing 100 sit-ups. Priorities. Could I have maintained this? Not exactly that, but close. Did I maintain that? No. I’m not even going to try to sugar coat it.

Now, I’m more at this level:

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And so commences the ritualistic search for the elusive “beach bod” that everyone starts about this time. Sure, getting back in shape is definitely a thing. But why is it that the majority of people never reach it? Because we should have started in January (or just not stopped in my case). But nevertheless, I tirelessly make my way to the gym everyday frequently. I sweat and lift heavy things. I watch the mindless news channels as I will myself to run one more half mile. I people watch the heck out of that gym. I also enjoy making funny jokes in my head that only I know about (they’re really great). Really, anything to take my mind off the pain my body is enduring for 1 hour.

I know there are many of you gym-goers doing the same right about now. Weddings, vacations, class reunions, graduations, you name it: we all have a reason to get fit. Mine is to be able to fit into all the clothes I bought last year that I’ve seemed to have outgrown (read: gained too much weight for) and to just feel like I used to. To keep you motivated and help you get through your daily gym grind, here are some of the things that go through my mind at my gym.

#1 – “Which treadmill is farthest away from any other human?”

 I don’t know about you, but my biggest gym pet peeve is when someone gets on the treadmill right next to me when all of them were completely open. Sir, I do not want to smell your sweat or have you smell mine or even be close enough to maybe have that issue occur. I’m not a competitive person, but this is one of the 4 times in life that I kick it into high gear and HAVE to run faster than that person. You’re running at 7.5? Yeah, I’ll run at 7.6, even if I pass out. Also, how awkward is it when you suddenly match pace with the random person beside you? It’s like the adult version of being “married” on the swings, and I do not want any part of it. AND don’t even get me started about my irrational fear of falling off the treadmill.

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#2 – “Why am I always late so I get put in front of the window at Zumba?”

Anyone who’s been to a fitness class knows that there are good spots and bad spots. Regulars have “their” spots, and those are normally good spots. However, if you’re late, you forfeit all rights to a good spot, even if you’re a founding father/mother of that class. (Please note this information as part of the “Fitness Class Etiquette Handbook”). Bad spots include places like the back corner where you can’t move adequately, the front row when you’d rather hide behind someone, or, my very favorite, the giant glass window that faces into the weights portion of the gym. Who would put a giant glass window facing into the most meat-head filled part of the gym? Beats me. But I don’t appreciate it. Especially when I’m shaking my hips and trying to get down-with-my-bad-self at Zumba. Ask my boyfriend, I LOVE Zumba and I take my weekly class very seriously. Seeing some sleazeball and his pal smirking and pointing at me while I shimmy is infuriating. Let me shimmy in peace, please! I’ve learned you can’t control the actions of others, only your reactions to them. Therefore, I show up 15 minutes early (and yes, mom, this is like the only thing I show up early to, let alone on time).

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#3 – “Oh look, that’s a sweat stain of my body on the floor. Gross.”

I used to be self conscious about how much I sweated, until I learned that the more fit you are, the more you sweat. If that statement is wrong, please let me live in blissful ignorance. Anyway, I’ve learned to embrace my sweaty gleam. Next time you feel like Niagara Falls has up and moved to your forehead, 1. check to make sure its not blood, and 2. flaunt that sweat. You earned it.

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#4 – “How can she look that good at the gym?”

You know exactly what I’m talking about. There is always that one person at the gym, who walks in, literally like she came out of Pintrist. Your hair is down and its not caked to your neck in sweat? You actually look good in a sweaty gym hat? You can wear a sports bra and yoga pants outside of your house?! It’s okay to stare a little bit, it really is like seeing a unicorn. I’m over here looking like a sweaty monster working my butt off, and she prances in, does some curls, gets the boys in a tizzy and then walks the treadmill for 20 minutes. Curse you genetics! BUT I’m a firm believer that everyone in the gym deserves a standing ovation for even being there. She probably deserves two for being there AND maintaining perfection. Three cheers to you.

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#5 – “Sir, making those noises will not help you lift that.”

“Meat-wagons,” as my boyfriend likes to refer to them, are a dime a dozen at our gym. These gym-goers partake in some of the following behaviors: getting “swoll,” overusing the terms “bro” and “brah,” using the terms “bro” and “brah” in the first place, slamming their weight down, grunting/moaning/yelling/sounding like an animal when lifting heavy weights, bragging about their reps, taking selfies in the gym mirror, or consuming unhealthy amounts of pre-workout probably laced with steroids. They commonly hog heavy weight lifting equipment and underestimate the strength of us common, small blonde women folk. Sometimes they prefer to wear jean shorts and cut off hoodies. However, as stated above, standing ovation to you fine humans. You made me realize Jersey Shore actually exists.

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#6 – “SilverSneakers participants have more grit than I do.”

Whether its swimming, Zumba Gold, walking on the treadmill or working with a personal trainers, the elderly gym-goers kick my butt. I’m so inspired by my 70 year old Zumba friend who comes every week and gets jiggy with it. I want to be her when I grow up.

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#7 – “Do I have to do abs?”

hate abs. I will do everything in my power to incorporate them in my workout in any way other than actually doing abs. The bad thing is that the “ab section” of my gym is right by the women’s locker room. I literally have to walk through it to leave. Guilt. Trip. But abs are good, and we should all do them frequently (do as I say, not as I do…).

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Alright, so gymming can be fairly entertaining. When we dig and look for the good in things, the bad really isn’t that bad. We’re working to better ourselves, in patience, in body, in health, in strength, in perseverance. Nothing worth anything comes easy, right? Don’t worry friends, together we can do this. Cheers to your night at the gym, maybe you’ll think back to my head thoughts and laugh a bit 🙂

“You don’t meet our qualifications”

Job searching has basically been the bane of my existence for the past seven months. When I wasn’t working on a term paper, working an internship, being involved on campus, or trying to enjoy my last semester a teensy bit, I was job searching feverishly. It takes time, diligence, attention to detail, time, coffee, patience, time and, oh yeah, time. I’m still getting “You aren’t qualified emails” from jobs I applied to in October, let alone the ones I applied to last week (which, by the way, is up to like 40. *eye roll*).

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While I would like to think my job search left me adorably exhausted, like this…

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This is probably a more accurate depiction of my feelings.

I knew that before I did anything to prepare to move to Denver, I had to have a job first. When renting agencies ask for your first born child on the first of every month, you kind of need a steady income. What I didn’t know was that Denver has one of the most competitive job markets in the nation (although I soon realized it). I thought that getting my Bachelor’s, working through school, and good, old fashioned hard work would be enough to catch everyone’s attention. Wrong. By the grace of God, I accepted a job two days before my last final (five days before I moved) and sealed my ticket to Denver living. Phew.

But, as most twenty-somethings find out, sometimes those first jobs just aren’t exactly what you wanted. The team I work with is great, but the role I play, meh. I hate how many times I’ve said, “It’s a paycheck.” That basically goes against everything I believe in when it comes to careers, but sometimes you gotta deal for a while (see: rent = first born child, above). Also, experience. The one word that crushes every recent grads’ hopes and dreams. However, I’m a strong believer in never settling with mediocre and making situations the best they can be. Hence, why I have once again sat my butt in front of the screen and started looking for opportunities. I’ve been met with many of the same frustrations I had seven months ago, and hear echoed in my recent graduate friends’ texts and Facebook posts.

So, to all you recent stage-walking, diploma/degree wielding, fancy-pants new graduates who just joined me in the world of adulting, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way:


1. Your degree doesn’t make you qualified…

Yes, getting your Bachelor’s is super important (read: almost essential), especially in certain fields. However, “entry-level” to some companies often means, “with 3-5 years of experience.” Makes sense, right? Totally. Working during college definitely gives you a leg up, but some companies don’t count internships/work studies/etc. as actual work experience. Or they’ll give you 1/2 year credit for 1 year worked (if you’re lucky). On the other hand, other companies LOVE recent grads because they can train them into a career. On the other other hand (surprise, I have 3 arms), if you have an internship with a company, it could turn right into a job. If you’re in the last two situations, *high five*. If you’re in the first few cases, join the club.

In the previous cases, take your sour “I couldn’t work and go to college at the same time! How the heck is this ‘entry-level’?! Wahhhh.” lemons and turn them into lemonade. Job qualifications aren’t always cement, meaning companies are sometimes willing to bend for the right candidate. Gaining experience and knowledge that is relatable to the workplace is really fairly easy (hello, soft skills), and if you’re one of us who had a work study/internship, you definitely learned something. Turn your skills into a marketing platform to make yourself “the one,” despite your lack of experience. Trainability, flexibility, and collaboration are a few top traits employers like to see. Don’t let the lack of 1-2 years of experience stand between you and a job your otherwise qualified for. The worse they can do is send an email saying, “Sorry, you’re not qualified.” And lets be honest, you can expect like 100 of those in your lifetime.

2. …but it is important

Yes, my $125,000 piece of paper is definitely coming in handy (this degree bought to you by the letter S for “scholarship”). But it’s not enough. In my field of Higher Education, to get the jobs I ultimately want 10 years down the road, I need my Masters and probably Doctorate (bye-bye, social life). Looking into jobs in other fields in Denver, a masters is standard. The Bachelor’s degree is the new High School diploma, sadly. As the daughter of a welder, I completely understand that a four-year college degree is not necessary for everyone. But, for all you twenty-somethings contemplating going back to school, the job world is much different than it was 20 years ago for our parents (obviously). An Associates, Bachelors, or even just a Certificate program makes you just that much more qualified and favorable to employers. Train within your area of interest – skilled workers look for a Votech, business folk go get your Bachelors, Brain surgeons, ha, you’ll never be out of school! Personal/professional development is a buzz word, and, honestly, its kind of cool to learn new things (this may or may not be influenced by my obsession with learning).

3. It really is who you know.

If I hadn’t decided to move 427 miles across the state and start completely over with zero connections and no networks, I probably would have gotten my first job based on who I knew. Networking is invaluable. Meet people, keep up appearances, send a “Oh, hi!” email – it will be worth it. Heck, even with my clean slate, I used my Nebraska network to meet my connections’ friends to help me get semi-established in Denver. The world is actually a very small place. LinkedIn is a good place for all us millennials to network while hiding behind a computer screen, but hand-shaking and face-to-face relationship building is where its at.

4. Don’t waste your time uploading your resume

Sometimes. The new thing in online applications is the “Upload Resume” or “Connect via LinkedIn” buttons. These beautiful little monsters have good intentions of converting your information into their online input system, but they end up screwing up ALL your information. In one application, I worked at Student Worker as a Firespring under the direction of Business Administration major. Not joking. Maybe try uploading your resume once, just for kicks and giggles, but then I suggest being like every other twenty-something and work smarter, not harder. Create a rockin’ resume, turn it into a PDF, and then copy/paste your work experience from your resume right into the online application. It will save you hours and cramped fingers. Also, if you didn’t learn it in college yet, you’ll want to hone your Ctrl+V and Ctrl+C skills. You’re welcome.

5. Your paperwork is the most important part

Thanks to the Miss America Organization, I have a fantastic interview. Heck, it should be, because interviewing was basically my job. However, in job searching, you don’t actually get to talk to the people who matter in the decision making process until your interview. That means your piece of paper has to look darn good. When lamenting about how terrible job searching is, I usually say, “If I could just sit down with them, they’d see that I’m a really great human, but I’m just a piece of paper.”

Here’s some tips I was told by our College 2 Career Center at Doane: Always have a header with your information & make it match on each document (cover letter, resume, references). Keep it short, sweet, and to the point, but elaborate enough for the reader to see how great you are. Two page resumes are not the end of the world, and are actually okay. Use something that will set your resume apart, like a color, but nothing too crazy (my heading is purple & my current employer remembers it to this day).

6. Don’t underestimate yourself.

Whether its negotiating a salary or settling for a job that you refer to as “just a paycheck,” don’t settle for less than you’re worth. Now, at the same time, don’t hold out until you’re screwed, but be smart. If you’re working in a job that you hate and you aren’t using your strongest skills, you aren’t doing yourself or your company any good. A job brings you satisfaction, growth, connections, and worth. I am 100% under the entitled, privileged and ungrateful millennial mindset of a job should fit your needs, not the other way around. I’ll make do with what I have, but, by golly, I’m keeping my eyes open! I won’t rest until I love my job and feel like I’m making a real difference in my work, even if that means a lower paycheck.

Same goes for your salary – here’s lookin’ at you, women. Do not low ball yourself. Shoot high. Negotiate. 1. It’s fun. 2. You probably will get almost what you want. I always hear that women shoot low and don’t negotiate, so I make a point of driving a hard bargain and sticking to my guns. One small crack in the glass ceiling, one giant leap in my paycheck.


 

Let’s get real: job searching is not fun. We all feel pretty worthless after about the fifth “You aren’t qualified” email, and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s with the few pennies you have left to your name after college sounds like a good investment. Believe me, I tried to drown my sorrows in a microwave cheeseburger after overnight job searching on an AmTrak train (on my list of life regrets). Remember the thing at the beginning about time and patience? Good things come to good people who work hard. If nothing else, you are persevering, overcoming disappointments, getting better at interviewing and resuming, and ultimately, becoming better. And isn’t that why we’re here?

Start of something new

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “I want to write a blog,” in the past year, I’d probably be able pay back my student loans. Okay, maybe not. But I’d take myself out to a nice lunch, at least. I like writing. I think I’m okay, and I always scored well (thanks, institutionalized education for making me value an A more than actual learning), but blog writing is a different animal. So, bear with me.

A good place to start is probably an introduction. I’m 22 and just finished up my undergrad in Business Administration at Doane College. I grew up in small-town North Platte, NE where you know all your neighbors and the traffic lights turn off at 12am (Yes, city dwellers, that really does happen). The only thing that beat that was moving to a town of 6,000 to attend college, and the street lights turned off at TEN (gasp). The simple life has a special place in my heart, though I always knew I was much better suited for a larger city.

I’m the only daughter (and child) of a welder and a preschool teacher, both from small-ish towns and fairly tight knit families in small towns. I was fortunate enough to grow up with two sets of  grandparents, several aunts and uncles, and lots of cousins in the same town. See a pattern here? We’re small town folk. I was taught that I could achieve anything I set my mind to, and the possibilities were endless. I was also coddled quite a bit, as only children are, and probably (read: definitely) was spoiled a little bit  lot. But, thanks to the “small town folk” mindset, you don’t let some special pats on the back go to your head. My father and grandfather instilled their sense of entrepreneurship in me from an early age, and my mother taught me to always put others first by self-lessly giving of herself to the community in many organizations. Even though I realized how lucky I was and valued it, I never truly appreciated what I had until I stepped into adulthood after finishing college.

After submitting my final paper (literally), I drove across the state of Nebraska, and settled into my new home of Denver, CO. And when I say “literally” I mean I got in the moving van and started the 48 hour super-move of 427 miles after physically handing my paper to my professor. It was fast, and I’m not so great with big changes. BUT, what’s life if you don’t over come your weaknesses? I settled into a beautiful 2-bedroom apartment with my lovely boyfriend and kitten, Ollie (the Bear). I started working at a local University, in a job that’s “good for my career,” and here we are. I’ll start my MA in Higher Education this fall at the University of Denver, as education-crazed intellectuals do, and coach cheer at Gateway High School. In my spare time, I’ll probably enjoy lots of wine and maybe a few good books by our pool.

Then comes the namesake of this blog, “Has-Been Beauty Queen.” This is funny because 1. Its true, and 2. I hate when people call what I did a beauty pageant. Gag. The Miss Nebraska Organization has been in my life since I was a baby. From being a Little Sister to actually competing on stage, it really did shape me into who I am. I was fortunate enough to serve the state as Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2011 and then again as Miss Kool Aid Days 2015. Yes, it is the most awesome title ever, thankyouverymuch. I also paid for a large portion of my education through their scholarships. However, after years of competing and finishing 2nd runner up to Miss NE this year, I did some soul searching and realized my passions now lay elsewhere (cough, grad school, cough). Transitioning out of pageantry is a weird, weird thing that only people who have actually gone through the experience truly understand. Why aren’t you amazed by me and asking for my autograph? Oh, yeah, I’m normal now. No hunk of metal and rhinestones pinned into my skull. Right. Because Miss NE was such a monumental part of my life, this blog would be amiss without mentioning it somewhere. More on that later.

Once you type it all out, I’m doing great. Job, apartment, food, working vehicle. But just like every other twenty-something, I feel like I’m not doing enough. Aren’t I suppose to be, like, in a corner office by now? I went to college. I paid lots of money for my piece of paper. Why am I not important! (That’s a joke, btw.) I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m realizing that more and more every day. I’m constantly working to improve, as I’m sure many of you are. The goal of this blog is to 1. Give me a writing outlet, 2. Entertain you more mature folk (my mom’s friends, hi!) with the thoughts of a twenty-something, and 3. Assure you that we’re all struggling and working on something, no matter your age. Heck, I may even try my hand at offering advice from my experiences (HA). As my dear boyfriend tells me daily, “Just become better.” Its become my new mantra, and I really admire him for putting up with me helping me become better everyday.

So, friends, lets become better. Until next time.