December 8, 2009

Hey! Drama Queen. Stop Side-Stepping around and VOTE!!

I was a drama major at UVa (tonight, Nate on Gossip Girl gave a few nods to the drama girls, three cheers for boys with some sense) and I met some of the coolest people while I immersed myself in the daily life of a true artist. Some of my fondest memories are from being the Production Stage Manager of Arms and the Man with Jonathan Green. I mean, I'm not even going to lie. There were times where I may have accidentally (barely) peed in my pants. (Sorry, mom!) But y'all, while George Bernard Shaw is pretty brilliant he gets kind of lame the 3,453rd ime around. Nonetheless, Jonathan kept me attentive (erm, kind of) and giggling the whole way through. And, I bet if you spent any time around him you would tinkle, too.

Jonathan and me celebrating the passage of our Senior Seminar. We performed in prison(!).

Anyways, here's the deal. When we graduated from college Johnathan and a few others from our drama department scooted themselves out to Chicago and started a theater company. And look, y'all ... they're about to win a $25,000 grant from CHASE. But, they need you to vote for them ... so, I've pasted a bit more background and the link below. Please help 'em out. They deserve only good things, and you can help them achieve that! (Also, Scottie grew up just down the road from me. She and her twin sister were dear, dear friends with my roommate from last year Cary. It's a small, small world!)

My friend Scottie is an artistic associate, founding donor, and staff member of Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago, IL. Sideshow Theatre Company ("Familiar Stories. Unorthodox Methods. Perpetually curious.") is participating in the Chase Community Giving program. This is an incredible grant opportunity: Chase is awarding $25K to 100 small non-profits across the country, all based on the number of votes cast for each company on Facebook.

Just recently, Sideshow was in the top 100. But just barely. They've been working butts off over the past weeks on this project, and the results are showing. IT IS A TIGHT RACE, and even just a handful of votes could mean the difference between a huge grant and no grant at all. There are five days left to vote.

This grant would cover OVER HALF of Sideshow's current annual budget. And it is totally within our reach--they just need your help, now.

1. Vote for us! It takes literally 20 seconds and four clicks of a mouse, and you can do it here:
2. Encourage others to vote for us. Check out all those friends you have on Facebook. Five hundred? A thousand? Tell them about Sideshow. Get them as excited about this company as you are. Even just posting it as your Facebook status or Tweeting the link above could mean $25,000 for our little non-profit theatre.

Sideshow has a volunteer staff of eleven people. We're competing against other non-profits ten times our size. We need your help.

Everyone gets 20 votes, and you can only use one vote per company. If you have friends working for other non-profits, vote for them too.

If you want to know more about Sideshow or about the Chase Community Giving program, visit or email Scottie at

THANK YOU, so much, for your help and support of storefront theatre in Chicago. We couldn't do it--and wouldn't want to do it--with out you."

Do it! Do it! Do it!

December 3, 2009


So, like many New Yorkers around our state, I watched the NY State Senate vote live on the Marriage Equality Bill. I was watching history unfold, hopeful that I would be able to tell my children one day, "I remember when..."

But when they got down to the actual vote discrimination won 38-24.

I sat there with my jaw gaping.

It doesn't make sense to me. As one of the senators eloquently stated, I, and many others could try and defend or rationalize why we believe the right vote is yes ... but the better explanation is, how could you say no?

It doesn't make sense to me. How do we have the right to determine who has the right to be married and who does not? Most defend their opposition to this matter based on religious beliefs. Am I on glue or isn't there a separation of church and state?

It doesn't make sense to me. Don't homosexuals pay taxes just like you and me? And yet we can continue to deny them this right.

It doesn't make sense to me. How long ago was it that blacks were not lawfully recognized as human beings, much less allowed to be married?

It doesn't make sense to me. Our Pledge of Allegiance, first drafted in 1892 as one sentence, began consisting of the following words: "with liberty and justice for all." Are we remaining true to that? Or has this become something we haphazardly recite? Watch this video (it's really good ... thanks, Claire!):

It is not that I don't respect other people's opinions. I do, I really do. But how can we tell these homosexual couples no. Not all heterosexual couples are married under God, they simply go to City Hall to have their marriage legalized. Marriage, at its truest form, is a legal contract. It started out as a contract based on land, based on family wealth and positioning. And, alas, how many traditional marriages fail yearly? Some people are married 3 or 4 times. We won't even allow homosexuals the opportunity to be married once? Two of my dearest friends, Chip and Scott, have been partners nearly as long as I've been alive. And yet, they still don't enjoy the rights I will one day.

I'm going to allow my favorite founding father to sum up what this all really boils down to:

"I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling in religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government. It must rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority." Thomas Jefferson

If you feel so inclined (and I hope you do), please write our NY State legislators ... or even better, call them. Here is a website which lists their position as well as their contact information:

As a sidenote: When referencing marriage and religion I am not stating that it remains merely as a legal contract today. However, I was trying to prove a point. When I am married it will be a commitment made in front of God. And, my dad will probably have to trade some land so someone will take me. But that is neither here nor there.


December 1, 2009

Ketchup With Me. Er, Catch Up With Me.

Let's be honest, can you believe it's December? I can't. It's so weird. So, so weird. It's almost Christmas. It's almost 2010! I feel like it was yesterday we were all freaking out that our electricity was going to go out when the clock hit midnight in 2000. People literally stocked up on water and other essentials. Remember that? Looking back it seems kind of silly. But then, everyone was making ME freak out.


Let me just say my Thanksgiving was beyond stellar. Regardless of one heart skipping complication at the front end. When they announce in the air that there will be emergency vehicles waiting for your flight on the runway upon your landing because of malfunctions you contemplate what you've done over your lifetime. While mine has been full, there are still a lot of things I want to achieve. As an fyi, I'm not exaggerating, nor am I making a joke of the situation. It was scary and at the top of my list on Thanksgiving blessings were my safety, my life.

I had a stellar time in Virginia with Mike and Lisa. They can always put a smile on my face. As I mentioned before, I was the only child out of the five home for Thanksgiving. So on my birthday cake (as a public protest and over-emphasized statement) Mike had them write that I was the #1 child. Why would that even come to light you ask? Well, every year ... at Thanksgiving actually ... I rank the kids at the dinner table. It began when I was immature and has continued until I ... umm... perhaps I'm still a bit immature. I was never #1. I won't tell you who I had as number 5 either. But, the lines are skewed now. Huh, Natalie, Tracy, Shannon, and Bubby? Let's be honest. I may be weighing heavily on mom and dad's hearts now as I'm still in school, single, and visiting. But as Paul often reminds me, once Bubby and Laura get pregs I will drop several rungs. And fast. So please y'all, let me have my glory while it lasts.

The cake. The #1 is the nearly invisible pink candle.

On Thanksgiving I blessed the food, as I usually do when it's the immediate family, and in true form my dad's cell phone went off right in the middle of grace. Of course, right? At first I got a wee tad antsy (slash wanted to punch him between the eyes) and then I reminded myself, that's one of the quirks I love about my dad. His cell phone is always going off, he can read texts but can't text back (nor can he turn on a computer), and when he answers his phone on the interstate he always slows down by at least 10 mph. It's ridiculous. But so him. I'll let my mom be the one to scold him. He calls me "little Lisa" anyways.

Then early Friday I went to Chicago to see the Sigs, and most of the Bere clan. What a treat! Because most of my siblings were much older as I grew up, and the one who wasn't ignored my existence until I was 16, it's so nice to be around a family with so many cousins the same age that are so close. Though I'm on the peripheral they make me feel so welcome. What a birthday treat it was! The Ritz, fellowship, lots of food, shopping, wine, and more food. Oh and the newest addition to the clan, an adorable baby! A-dorable. AND icing on the cake ... I got to see Carly and Garrett. The newlyweds stayed in Chicago for Thanksgiving so they came to visit. Long overdue, but definitely fabulous!

Speaking of the brother who ignored my existence until age 16 (other than when he threw me off his bunk bed onto his hard wood floor) ... he and Laura sent me a really cute card. On the front it said "Happy-Glad-You-Were-Born-Day." On the inside Bryan referenced the irony of the card. I shall share ...

Before I was born my mom had Bryan all riled up about a sister. He was genuinely excited about having a baby sister being born. But then my mom had a minor freak-out that I might come out a boy (I was a gender surprise, if you will). So she told Bryan about all of the things he could do with a little brother ... he could play baseball, and soccer ... and ... So Bryan got JAZZED about being a big brother to a boy. FF a couple of days and my mom walked in the Turkey Walk, had a doctors appt the next day as a check up (I was supposed to be a mid-December baby) and they literally told her to walk across the street to the hospital and she had me 1.5 hours later. Apparently I wanted out. So, my sister Natalie brought Bryan to the hospital to introduce him to me. He brought a wrapped toy he picked out and everything. But when he realized I was a girl he blew his top. He refused to come in and meet me and proceeded to bang his head up against the white cinder block walls repeatedly. Get it? Happy-You-Were-Born-Day was actually Not-So-Happy-You-Came-Out-As-A-Girl-Day.

But, hey, the joke was funny. And thanks for the Starbucks card Bub and Laura! I used it today!

Whew, did you get all that?

Well, sorry if you didn't. I should probably go pay attention in class now. I probably haven't missed much but I can see Lisa shaking her finger at me.

And PS: It's World AIDS Day. I'm going to read at City Hall around 9pm. I'm going to blog about it tomorrow ... it was one of my favorite appearances last year. I bet it will be one of my better days this year.

Ok, ok. Paying attention NOW.

November 22, 2009

What a Weekend

So, the Crabbers made it to the second round of the playoffs in VA. They won the game. But, then again they didn't. Huge controversy down there in the 757. My dad is so proud of his team, as he should be ... check out the controversial overtime play and what happened.,0,6408042.story

But, while that was all going on ... Paul with help from Claire helped make my 24th birthday uber (with 2 dots over the u... something I'm incapable of doing on here) special. Because surprises aren't my cup of tea they made it a "mystery" birthday.

I met everyone at the secret restaurant, City Winery (perfection), and the gang had gathered. INCLUDING, Elizabeth Lyle who had just gotten in from her Harvard Business School interview (following her interview at Wharton, umm smarty pants!).

And then we went to two of my other favorite spots in town. It really was the best birthday I've had yet.

Tonight it my birthday date night with Paul, so I need to go clean myself up to head out.

Hope y'all had a great weekend!


November 20, 2009


Okay, so Noah Biorkman has had a resounding response of cards and gifts from around the world. But his family has asked that the cards stop. He is now bed bound and his family wants to concentrate on their last moments with him.

Mrs. Sig (Paul's mom) sent me this link:

Noah Biorkman, 5-Year-Old Dying Of Cancer, Celebrates Christmas Early

As I told her, it really is amazing to see how social/viral media can serve as such an impetus, but it's also refreshing to see the good at the heart of humanity.

Way to be amazing and rejoice in the season. As my mom says, (and probably every Christian mother around the world used to remind her children) it's the reason for the season. That's why she bakes a birthday cake for Jesus every Christmas and my whole family (my mom and dad - who that night are Nana and Papaw, all of my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews ... about 19 of us ... literally!) sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. It's true. It's not about Santa Claus. It's about the birth of Christ, an unbelievably amazing gift from God.

I'm so excited about this Christmas. Not only will I get to go home for an extended time this year (unlike my 4 days including traveling last year) Bryan and Laura get to come to Hampton for Laura's first Christmas with our family! Her first Happy Birthday singing to Jesus. We love you Laura ... and we're so happy you love us even though we're nutty!

November 19, 2009

Fashion for Action

2 Things I Love: Fashion and kicking AIDS in the face.

I love other things and people, too. But that is neither here nor there.

Anyways, tonight is the annual Fashion for Action event held by Housing Works. Housing Works is an incredibly rad organization based here in the city that has provided life-saving services such as housing, food, medical, HIV-prevention and job training to more than 20,000 homeless low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. They have thrift stores around the city as well as a bookstore, that provide the funding to support their work. What's awesome about this is that Housing Works employs many of the people they help get back on track ... I can't even begin to tell you all of the amazing things this organization has done. But I can tell you that it's the nation's largest grassroots AIDS service organization. That says a lot in itself.

Over 150 designers have donated over $1 million worth of merchandise to be sold in their thrift shops around the city ... and to kick it off they're having a VIP preview event as well as a kick-off party. Party? Did someone say PARTY?

Indeed. Indeed, they did!

Last year it was my first event with my partner in crime Kate Shindle. In my next post I'll show you the photos from last year to this year to show our growth. And this year mine will have a glass of champagne toasting to the OUSTING of AIDS. A stain on humanity which we are going to wipe clear.


November 18, 2009

I'm Obsessed.

I grew up with a mother who wore rhinestones to cut the grass. I also grew up being dressed by my mother in smocked dresses through 6th grade. And, alas, I grew up with a signature of bows and ribbons as large as my head in each of my yearbook photos. I was a peanut through middle school, so it wasn't too far fetched. Notice I didn't say it wasn't far fetched.

Anyways, before I left for college my mom took me to the fabric store to get a new supply of bows for my big trip to college. I had a plethora of striped, polka dotted, plain, and even themed bows.

So, when headbands and hair baubles got "big" or "trendy" <-- eek bad word ... I thought to myself how sweet that was. Because for me, they never went out of style. At Miss America I wore a LOT of headbands. Kate and I actually named them and plugged them into my excel chart describing the outfits I would wear to each event. My personal favorite was the "Cleopatra", Paul's was the "Deco". Unfortunately, a few people told me my headband during talent prelims made me look like I was going to play softball. Oddly, I don't think softball players also wear 4 lbs of makeup and a Stephen Yearick gown. Fortunately, the judges thought differently. And more importantly, I did, too. MOOO-ving on.

Yesterday as I was parousing my weekly email from Daily Candy (if you don't get it, you should ... to sign up) I came across a really cute headband company under the Locks and Loaded headline. Then I started thumbing through the New York Nat website and as I looked at her "About Me" I discovered the following:

Nat was a representative for the Miss America Organization and has competed for the title of Miss Michigan two times earning the Miss Michigan Swimsuit Award, the Kaye Lani-Rae Rafko Wilson Community Service Award, and the Miss America State Community Service Award. The MAO has taught her the importance of being a positive role model and has helped her gain valuable public speaking skills.

So I shot Nat an email (like the creepy stranger I am) and congratulated her from one Miss America sister to another on her overwhelming success. She's selling here in the city at Bendels and has been in every mag from Glamour to Seventeen. NEAT-O.

One of my favorites.


And, the coolest part? She emailed me back stat. And bizarrely enough, she had been at Miss New York the year I won.

Welp while you buy lots of festive hair pretties, I need to go do some work with some background music. Perhaps a choice of "It's a Small World" would be quite fitting.

November 12, 2009


And I'm not referring to the company. I'm referring to my inactive tear ducts. Most of y'all who know me are aware of the fact that I don't cry. I can want to cry, which for most people would mean they do, or I can laugh until I should be crying. But, nay, no tears. Even when I get seriously injured, ie break bones, I start to laugh. Hysterically. It's really weird and I don't know why I'm so emotionally stunted. But I promise, I'm not the Grinch ... and yes, I totally have a red heart.

Either way, today I had a single tear fall from my eye which can only mean an emotional tsunami. If you're reading this you probably read my previous blog as well. Well, yesterday I placed a gingerbread clad card in the mail to Noah sending him lots of love from New York City. Claire sent me a message this morning notifying me she had forwarded my email plea to Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008 (she's doing the logo, website, etc for Kirsten). Not completely random as Kirsten is from Michigan and so is little Noah. Kirsten responded with a note to Claire saying that she lives only 30 minutes away from him and this has been all over the news. The post office in South Lyon, MI has processed over 80,000 cards for Noah.

So, what I'm trying to say through foggy eyes is, if you sent a card ... thank you! You have helped make this a joyful and fulfilled Christmas for this little boy. If you haven't, you still have time. But get it in the mail fast. Let him know there are people around the entire country who are praying for him ... thinking of him ... sending positivity his way. Remind him of the hope, peace, and joy of the season.

November 8, 2009

Christmas Joy

So, I got the following email forwarded from a dear friend last night and I can't help but share it and ask that you join in. The story hits really close to home for me, and for my graduating high school class. Let's flood this little boys home with loads of Christmas cards. And after you mail the card, say a prayer for him and for his family. Then (just a suggestion) give your family and friends a hug and let them know how special they are to you.

Below is the email:

Tonight while I was at work, my co-worker Betty posted a note about a very special little boy.
His name is Noah and he is dying of cancer. This 5 year old little boy will not make it till Christmas and so his parents are celebrating early. When asked what he wanted for Christmas all he said he wanted were Christmas cards!
I couldn't help but think of how easily we all get swept up in the hoopla that is the holiday season and especially this year how many of us worry about money and providing expensive material things for each other. What a lesson we should learn from Noah. All he wants is love from people he will never meet. PLEASE!! Let's leave this little guy swimming in cards!!
Just today I was worrying about how I had to take gigs instead of visiting my family. I should be greatful I have a a gift to share, a job, and a father who i will see even if it isn't on Christmas day. Let's all take a moment to send a little bit of joy and celebrate the true meaning of LIFE, not just this season.


Noah Biorkman
1141 Fountain View Circle
South Lyon, MI 48178

Thank you!!

November 5, 2009

Keep the Faith

When I hopped on the subway Tuesday instead of finding a gaggle of Latin American accordian and guitar players I heard this 21 year old girl sing really important words. And she sang them really beautifully despite the chaos of the jolting train ...

I found her online so I could share! And, no, not another stalker moment for me ... she gave us slips of paper with some info on how to find her.

Turn it up loud, and let the words sink in ...

November 1, 2009

The Week In Review

This past week was a test of endurance. And indeed I've crossed the finish line.

While our trip to Virginia was wonderful the athletic endeavors we were cheering at proved to be sub-par. Well, sub-par for the teams we were cheering for. The Crabbers' game was broadcast nationally as a part of the National High School Rival ... I have the name totally incorrect, but I'm fairly confident you get the picture. My dad had me come down to the field and stand by him during his interview. When I say stand by him this is what happened: he caught my attention, I came down the stands, stood by him, they introduced him and said "well, Coach Smith says this is the first time he's ever done this so we'll let him take it from here." My dad then introduced me and proceeded to tell them I was the new offensive coordinator for the team. I have only felt more awkward once in my life and it was when we were on the reality show. I can't tell that story because it's too painful to re-hash. Either way we lost 17-0. The defense played really, really well. Offense, not so much. This week the local news station was covering the game and the three guys apparently told my pops they weren't interviewing him without me. My dad publicly announced my firing. Bahaha. Well, they say you win some and you lose some. That old adage was definitely adhered to in Virginia that weekend ... on many fronts.

Then ... I got to take Paul to Charlottesville! Unfortunately it was raining and Georgia Tech killed us. Fortunately the Lyle family was in town! My mom, Paul, and I all had dinner at Ten with the Lyle clan followed up with drinks at BANG! My favorite. Then off to the Virginian we went. It was such a fun night. And the rain finally ceased for the next day. Fall in Charlottesville really is absolutely gorgeous.

After an unholy amount of work due at the beginning of the week I was finally able to see straight on Thursday. Just in time to rejoice about the hate crime bill signed by President Obama. I'm amped about this step closer towards justice. Also, Paul and I carved a pumpkin to get into the holiday spirit and out of work mode ... even if just for a brief bit.

Paul hard at work.

I found a template online that I thought he would like and this is what we got ...

Then before we knew it Halloween was here! Friday night I dressed up like Falcon Heene, aka Balloon Boy. I must say the balloons were severely annoying approximately .5 seconds into the night, but the tennis shoes were super comfortable in comparison to the heels I wore last night as Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. And I must say, my date Chuck Bass looked quite handsome.

But, that's all I've got for you. Everything else I'm going to keep a secret.


Gossip Girl

October 23, 2009


Let's hope. The Crabs are taking over!

I-64 West, the main interstate through Hampton Roads, just closed because a truck overturned and spilled live crabs across the interstate.

Think I'm joking? See below.

October 21, 2009

That's My Dad, The COACH.

I had a t-shirt that said just that when I was about 4 years old. I remember it so distinctly, it had a little cheerleader, with a rainbow behind the big black bold lettering. I saved it and wore it for many years after I should have, but when it finally became a belly shirt Lisa decided it was time for it to hit the trash can. But when I went home this summer she pulled out the t-shirts she's going to have a big quilt made out of ... and I had it saved. I tell you I loved that shirt.

My dad is a high school football coach, and is in his 40th year (I believe) as the head coach at Hampton High School in Virginia. Before that he was an assistant coach for the same team for over 5 years. Yes indeed, he is old enough to have coached for that long. When some of you, and even some of your parents, were mere ideas. BUT, 16 years after he had been a head coach I was born on November 26th. Last night he told me he would never forget that day "in his whole entire life" (which if he hasn't forgotten this after his 68 year life, we're on a good roll, even though it's only been 23 years since I arrived... *I have no idea what that sentence means. But you get the idea). This was the conversation we had:

Me: "Who's coming home for Thanksgiving? Who's going to be eating with us?"
Dad: "Well, it looks like it will be me, you, your mother, Piper, and Star."
Me: "Well what are we doing this Thanksgiving other than being grateful?"
Dad: "have good company with Leigh-Taylor"
Me: "No"
Dad: "eat good"
Me "No"
Dad: "I don't what else is going on?"
Dad: "OH, Your birthday! ... I'll never forget that day" (wait for it) ...

"You looked like a little something that had been dipped down in a tub of lard."


After they bathed me and took me home for a little over 24 hours I attended my first Hampton High School football game. At four days old. We won the state championship 2 weeks later. My dad has garnered about 13 of those in his years at Hampton High School. And, he is also the winningest coach in Virginia High School Football History. And he is in the Top 5 winningest coaches in the US. But, you know what? While all of that stuff is pretty cool, I believe the coolest thing is the number of lives he has changed.

When I was getting ready for Miss America I tried to think back on why exactly I am the way I am. Why I feel compelled to help people I see suffering. Why I want to change our society so that our kids have a better future. And while my mom was an obvious influence on me by taking me to Meals on Wheels trips when I was a wee thing, and encouraging me to give back to the community in more overt ways I watched my dad from afar and looking back I realize he had a huge impact on my vision of our world. You see, my dad never drew the line at just being a coach. He has been a mentor, and often a father figure to those students that are playing for him. When you're working in a school similar to his you have the ability to keep kids off the street through sports. Talk about changing a life trajectory.

I so distinctly remember hanging around with my family on a lazy Sunday afternoon, it was definitely late December/early January ... the time of year that is AMAZING. Because you don't have school or work, but you also don't really want to go out and it's perfect because ... there are so many amazing college bowl games on. SO MANY. ALLL DAY. EVERY DAY. We were all sitting around when we heard our cabinets opening and closing, and at first we were so confused. Finally my dad walked into the kitchen to see what in the heck was going on and 4 of his football players had walked into our home, into our kitchen, and started making themselves plates from Christmas leftovers and cookies. They were and are a part of our family.

He's bought them contact lenses to see the black boards in class and they've joined us at our Thanksgiving table, and really, the list could last for pages. Football has been my dad's life and it's been an amazing thing to be a part of. I learned what it took to get a 1st down, pass interference, holding, delay of game, off-sides, that 11 men should be on the field, and what a 4 3 4 defense is pretty early on in my life. I also played field hockey in high school so I could garner the attention of my father with broken hands, bloody noses, and busted lips.

Either way, the Phoebus - Hampton game has been a big one for the last, eh, 12 years or so. Like there are thousands and thousands of people that go and some don't get in big (even with the extra bleachers they install just for the game). I haven't been home for a game since my third year of college. So I'm going down to see my pops bust a move on Phoebus and I absolutely cannot wait. It's going to be just like old times ... no dinner before games because my mom gets too nervous (she can't eat until well after or her tummy gets a littttle rumbly), so Paul and I will eat a hot dog and scream and scream and scream until the clock hits 0:00. And that's when I'll give my dad a big, proud hug.

(About the screaming part; my mom sits in the top of the stands so she can't hear what people in the stands say about my dad ... whenever something bad happens he's always the bad guy and good, he is the good guy... Lisa can't handle hearing bad things about her man so she sits above it ... Either way, she is always one row beneath the camera that records the film my dad watches every Sunday. She is so obnoxiously loud, my father has not been able to listen to the ball games with sound for 26 years. Twenty - six years.)

When I was a little girl I used to complain about going to the store with my dad because people would always stop him and say "COACH ..." and only goodness knew what they would say, but it always seemed to take us longer to get stuff done. Looking back I realize that's because my dad and I both have no sense of time, and I also remember giggling every time someone would walk away because this would be the exchange: "dad, who was that?" "darlin', I have no idea." ... What I'm trying to say is I was always Coach Smith's daughter. And for so long I wanted to break free from that and make my own name. But you know what? I am so proud and even moreso humbled to say:

"That's My Dad, The COACH!"


October 20, 2009

Music to the Ears

... literally.

Please listen to Warm Whispers by Missy Higgins if you want your souls to be soothed.

You can thank me later.

October 19, 2009

Peace, Love, and Equality. Or, Something Like That.

My mom came to visit me last Sunday for slightly over 24 hours. She rode up with her bff Linda and stopped by to say "hey!"

Before she came I asked if she would get me a couple packs of Red Bull since they're pretty over-priced here in the city (along with, basically, everything else). As the car pulled up, the trunk popped open, and the bags started falling out I immediately assumed they were all stuffed with my Fall/Winter sweaters and coats. But nay Nancy. Nay. Rather, one of the large bags had 3 12 packs of Red Bull. Yes, 36 Red Bulls. And, wanna know the scary part? Saturday I started to make a dent in the second pack. Scarier part? I drink coffee everyday, too.

Why is that a part of my blog you ask? Because I'm only writing this since I'm still wired from my midterm (coupled with a Red Bull) I had a couple of hours ago. So, I figured this was the perfect time to at least share some things I've been up to since I last checked in ...

As a first year at UVa I was lucky enough to have a 12 person discussion course with Julian Bond in his last year as a professor at the University. Julian Bond helped forge the trail for the Civil Rights Movement alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Two Saturdays ago, the evening before the National Equality March on Sunday October 11th, Julian Bond stepped forward and declared that this march was quite similar to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

And how true! Remembering what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw in the potential of our country then, we must also reflect on it now as a complete and utter parallel to our fight for the LGBT community so that they may also experience the same rights as you and me (or me and the person sitting next to me right now if you happen to be gay. this one's for you ;) ):

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and realize the true meaning of it's creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all mean are created equal.'"

"I have a dream that one day my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

** I look forward to the day where my (two) children will not judge others for who they love, rather, they will look for content of character.

"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

In 1958 an African American woman and Caucasian man were married in DC (because in their home state of Virginia, they couldn't be married because of the Racial Integrity Act). Police officers broke into their home in hopes to catch them having sex, which was also a crime, (the sexual relations) instead Mr. Loving pointed to their Marriage Certificate hanging on the wall. Coming to the realization they were married in another state they were arrested immediately and imprisoned for a year.

YOU GUYS, this was only 50 years ago! Anti - miscegenation laws not yet set into motion. How disgusted does this make you? I only hope we look back and feel the same about our treatment of homosexuals in 50 years.

Hold on ...

Climbing off my soap-box ...

On the heels of the Equality March I attended PFLAG's benefit dinner/auction. If you don't know much about PFLAG you should check out their organization here. They're awesome ... but the long and short of it is they represent the "parents and friends of lesbians and gays" but, really, they are friends (and parents) of the entire LGBT community. Claire helped put this gala together, and I have to say it was absolutely remarkable.

It just so happened that the event was held on the 11th year, to the day, since Matthew Shepard's murder. He was the 21 year old male who was taken from a bar, beaten until unrecognizable, and strung up and left to die on a fence post. Because he was gay. Because he was gay! Do you know what they said when they found him? Most people have heard that he was almost not found because he resembled a scarecrow. But when he was indeed found 18 hours later, they said that the only place on his face and body that was not covered in blood was the skin where his tear had fallen. Can you imagine? And this is all because of his sexuality.

I appreciated the momentum created by the PFLAG event; the money raised at the dinner will send representatives into schools to help counselors better understand how to work with those that are homosexuals, as well as speaking with the students to break the stigma of those that are gay. Really cool work going on here and around the country.

And there are people in my life, across the board, that may not agree with my opinions. They respect them, and understand my rationale. That is the environment conducive towards change ... one of respect.

October 9, 2009


In a previous post I alluded to the fact that I allow myself to be consumed by my workload. And, I've got to tell you the amount of work assigned at Parsons is unreal. When they told us during our orientation that we would get a minimal amount of sleep (ie: 4 hours) most nights, if any at all, they really weren't joking. Top that with my OCD tendencies, I keep my face in my books all day.

Integrating myself back into the college community as well as adjusting my mindset has been a slight hurdle. Yet my pitfall has been how I respond to the overwhelming pressures I receive both from the external as well as internally.

When I put my mind to something I put blinders on and I'm determined to achieve the goal. What I've realized is not only do I sacrifice a bit of my sanity, I sometimes lose my consideration of those surrounding me. Totally unacceptable.

I read the following passage this morning and I thought it should be shared; Ephesians 1: 1-2. "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

Essentially I like to be completely in control, I strongly dislike surprises, I really like structured schedules, etc. I am so focused on the destination that I forget to enjoy the journey. With that I become slightly impatient and brash. And, along the way, I begin to forget my purpose and God's purpose for me. While I will probably never really enjoy surprises, or completely un-tailored schedules, I want to continually strive to embrace the journey God has had planned for me for ages. And I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

October 7, 2009


This past weekend I hopped on a bus and headed down to our great nation's capitol to show AIDS what I really thought about it and it's incredibly idiotic mission.

My dear friend Elizabeth Lyle, a real gem, picked me up from the bus stop on Friday evening and we joined Chip and Scottie for some delicious dinner and an inordinate amount of insatiably delish chitter chatter. I had just posted my last blog so of course they wanted to know about that, and my mom, and Paul, and and and.... you get the point. We then ran over to Georgetown (metaphorically, clearly) to see the Hullabahoos. We missed their performance but went to their mixer. BAHAHA. Liz's little brother, who is not so little might I add, Guy is a Hullabahoo. We met some of their new guys and at some point in the evening the following occurred:

Guy: Charlie (aka: Charles-Robert) this is Liz, and Leigh-Taylor. They were Belles.
Charlie: What? Were?
Joe: They graduated in 2007.
Charlie: 2007?
[Leigh-Taylor and Liz giggle, and wince synonymously]
Guy: Yes.
Charlie: Wow. I'm talking to the old girls.


The next morning was an early one ... but anything to kick AIDS in the face. With the support of some Starbucks we were ready to walk. Shawn Decker, whom I've mentioned on a previous post, is on Team Supersnack with me and this year he received the Courage Award at the walk. He also dressed up in a most iconic way. We walked with Kristi Glakas, Kate Marie, Steve (Paul's brother. Paul slept through the entire event ... in NYC), Pisty, and Caressa Cameron.

That's Team Supersnack. That's "Shawn the Courageous" in the lemon suit. If you can't read it, it says "Life Gave me AIDS." the back says "So, I made LemonAIDS".
Love it.

The walking crew, with Steve behind the camera.

I'm so happy I have unapathetic friends. People who care about those that have been marginalized by such a stupid, stupid disease. Wanna help me kick AIDS in the face again this May? I'm definitely walking it here in NY and I'd love if you wanted too as well.

Umm, PS, I forgot to mention .... We raised, err, over $36,000. BOOOOO-YA, AIDS.

October 1, 2009

Starting the Month off Right

As a lot of y'all know, I was on the board for the Miss New York Organization so, specifically, I could help with preparation for the new Miss New York. But per usual within the pageant world people start to point fingers and accuse state organizations of "fixing" the pageant so their "chosen girl" (these words in quotations are some of my favorites on the message boards) wins. It really is quite an odd concept and I'm fairly sure it happens in some states across the country but I have to say ... not here in New York.

The board issued a "Code of Conduct" to battle these accusations and prove to the local boards that this behavior is not tolerated within this state organization. The only problem is, as a board member I wouldn't be allowed to fraternize with any of the gals I competed with. Or, that competed this year. Breakdown: choose between being on the board or maintaining friendships with, in reality, any potential competitor (ie: a girl in the city/state between the ages of 17 - 24).

When I was confronted with the option to remain on the board or to retain these friendships the choice seemed very clear to me. I will of course maintain the untouchable relationships on this board and offer myself in any capacity that they would all want/need. But, I believe in the value of these friendships I have developed - and those that will continue to grow. Today I had lunch with Miss Vermont, Ashley Wheeler and her new fiance Michael. Later today I received this text without having mentioned this situation: "I have learned a lot about friendship in the last year and just want you to know that I value your friendship like we have been friends for life. I think you're an amazing woman and I love you. PS: this is not a mass text." The beginning part was for serious ... the end was a twiddle of an inside joke.

So here it goes:

Dear message boards,

Rip me all you want. I couldn't really say this when I was Miss New York because my mom would have hunted me down (but now she has her pom-poms out). You can continue to call me ugly, overweight, dumb, whatever you'd like ...

But, if you have any self-respect and respect for others please do not question my integrity and that of my best friends. I'll spell it out for you a little bit better ... Claire Buffie didn't manipulate me into a friendship. I've gotten pretty good at being able to tell who is doing that. And her mom doesn't send me a monthly check (though, JoJo, I wouldn't send it back ... jk jk). And no, I didn't help her get ready for Miss NY interview. She did that on her own. But what she does give me is a daily rejuvenation. She can sit and just talk with me. About anything. We can also just sit and not say anything and still feel comfortable. She loves me for who I am, quirks and all. She is selfless beyond recognition. Claire Buffie will be standing at the front of the church when I get married.

Beyond the veil of pageantry I find real life to be ever so becoming.

With Much Respect,

Leigh-Taylor Smith

September 11, 2009

Homework ... AND AIDS, TOO.

Apparently with an accumulation of years OCD tendencies take on an exponential growth pattern. Frankly, I think I'm insane. It is only the second week of school and I'm allowing myself to be consumed by my work. But you know what's even weirder? I like it. Scratch that. I LOVE IT. I think this is why I was so overly happy when I was getting ready for Miss America. I was constructively using my energies, to better myself, to help out other people, and barely sleeping. I love the barely sleeping part, too. I feel like I can get so much more done in 19 hours than 12 (I mean, obviously. If I couldn't I would be impaired). I wonder if this will ever subside?

It's odd that I'm like this. My parents weren't the kind that pushed me into doing things I didn't enjoy. Nor did they demand straight A's. I can actually recall them consistently telling me to give it my best shot (this may or may not have been when I came home in tears in fourth grade because I had gotten the first non-100% since 1st grade on my weekly spelling test ... because my teacher thought I capitalized a "c" thus transforming some random word into a proper noun. My mom was so furious as I clearly understood what a proper noun was at that point ... and WENT TO THE TEACHER. True story.) Comparing yourself to others is a totally ill measurement of success though I'm sure you've figured that out aready. And it's true. I was never the smartest. Never the most athletic. Never the most talented. But you can bet I was working as hard as I could to improve.

So, what I'm trying to say is, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to make my parents proud. And I want to get better grades than my brother. Kidding, kidding. He's moving to Boston with Laura, and as soon as they begin having children my ranking in the child chain is going to PLUMMET.

And refocusing ... Last year I was a Star Walker, aka I raised $1,000+ for AIDS Walk NY. Though this year my incredibly embarrassing $25 donation amount hasn't changed, no matter the public pleas and emails I've sent. So you can imagine my horror when my mom told me my big sister, Tracy (she's a couple decades older, has two kids, and is WAY hotter than me), tried to donate money to me and Team Supersnack and she COULDN'T. --->

Left, my adorable niece Avery. Center, probably one of the coolest high-schoolers that exists ... my other niece McKenzie. Right, my sister Tracy. End of story.

If you've had the same problem in relation to donations, it was a result of my careless stupidity. You know how I talked about the spelling test? Well they never tested me on my incredibly complicated and uncommon last name ... thus I spelled it wrong on the official website. "SMIH". But the good news is ... IT'S FIXED! My team, Team Supersnack, is already one of the Top FIVE teams of AIDS Walk DC. But naturally we want to be number one. Help a sister, a brother, a mother out.


August 26, 2009

AIDS is the Antithesis of Cool

This past year I got to do a lot of really neat work alongside those fighting against AIDS and everything that comes with the disease, including but certainly not limited to; stigma, medical bills, loss of hope, etc.

Last November I visited an all-male support group within the walls of Arthur Kill State Penitentiary on Staten Island where we chatted. And I mean it. (Chelsea Lately would then extract my "fun fact" from my Miss America talent and made fun of me. Neat.) Looking back, I realize this night was a turning point in my life. Think about the scene like this: little white pageant winner marching into prison to talk about AIDS with a group of incredibly diverse imprisoned men. By the end of our conversation one of the men, Hector, who had been in prison for 25 years and presently suffering from AIDS, stood up and charged me with the responsibility of "being their voice". We broke down walls and somewhere in there they came to believe I had the capability, as well as the capacity, of sharing their stories and rectifying not only society's views of them as prisoners, but also as victims of AIDS. A month later I took a public AIDS test on World AIDS Day in conjunction with my belief that everyone needs to know their status.

Please stay with me. I promise I have even cooler things to talk to you about.

Before I was Miss New York I did some other things that have moved me to help this group we have marginalized within our communities. After my 2nd year of college I worked in South Africa teaching elementary, middle school, and high school students (as well as their families) about AIDS, and the lifelong affects. Upon reflection I realize that I gave these people the tools to literally save their lives. And let's get cheesy, their futures.

That kicked off my "kick AIDS in the face" frenzy. May 2008 I participated in AIDS Walk NY. Thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers participate in the walk, and I have to say, it's a truly remarkable experience. But, the coolest part for me was being able to walk, and raise money with an unbelievable group of young people. There were a little over 30 of us that made up Team Supersnack. The final result? $58,000 raised and one of the top 10 teams involved in the entire thing. I mean, literally Delta, MAC, and Kenneth Cole were some of the others in the ten. Rad, right?

Well, what's not rad is the fact that the AIDS epidemic is continuing to ravage the United States. The rate of infection in our nation's capital is on par with UGANDA. Not okay. Not okay. Not okay. (I'm still saying it in my head, but I'll spare you.)

SO, can you tell where I'm going with this?

I need your help. And so do lots of people around this country. I'm walking in AIDS Walk DC with Team Supersnack and I'd really like it if you helped out this cause. And if I could be a Star Walker again (I raised over $1,000 last time around which in turn earned me a paper crown ... case closed).

My donation page (Sorry, it won't link up! Best to Copy and Paste into your browser!) :

Also, I've been asked to go to our state's capital, Albany, on World AIDS Day to be the keynote speaker. Let's prove that I'm worthy of this invite, because believe me, I'm psyched to get a handle on this disease.

PS: Finally posted in honor of the late Senator Ted Kennedy whose compassion for those suffering from AIDS was clear and led to the Ryan White CARE Act which, essentially, provided federal funding to help assist those living with AIDS.

August 17, 2009

Peachy Keen

That's how I feel about life right now.

When things happen now, I think, "DANG! I should totally blog about that!" But then I realize that I would rather give a friend a hug. Or, let's be honest, have a glass of red wine and kick it with people I haven't been able to spend some q.t. (quality time, that is) with this year. And then next thing I know, I'm nearly a month behind. But, at least it isn't a month. Because, in reality, I think when people get that far off track with something they just let it be thinking it's harder to jump back on the train. Anyways, I want to let you know what I'm going to be doing with my life this year! No more of that ambiguous, fingers-crossed behind my back type thing.

Two Thursdays ago I was accepted into the Fashion Marketing program at Parsons (The New School) for Design here in Manhattan. I'd had that as my goal for a couple of months, but I wanted to tend to Miss NY things, wrap 'em up, and of course, being a slight procrastinator, apply on the last day of rolling applications. I had this gurgly feeling in my stomach that it might be like that awesome Teach For America email I got in 2K7 letting me know they didn't need my help on their "force". Or, whatever incredibly fierce term they use. When I say awesome, I'm not being sarcastic. It took me a while to realize it but in the long run my life has totally panned out as it should have. But, nay, this said "CONGRATULATIONS". At that point, without reading any further, I called my mom who got a little excited, but assured me she had faith in my abilities. FYI: that's what she said before the TFA email. But, I digress.

Anyhow, the news came at a perfect time. I had just settled back here in NYC after some time in VA and I was gearing up to head to Costa Rica with Paul's family. I actually sent my application acceptance letter via Costa Rican fax. My next blog will be about the trip. Here are some tid-bits to keep your eyes on the lookout: horses that go backwards, roads so awesomely gravel-ly they make your license plates hang by a single bolt, and zip-lining through canyons. All done with 7 of the coolest people around. What. A. Blast.

Which makes it easy for you to understand why I didn't want to peel myself out of bed this morning to go to ... SCHOOL! Not Parsons, though. New York Bartending School. I'm not kidding, y'all. I'm going to be a bartender here in NYC. Still think I'm kiddding? Come find me and my stained hands after pouring 8 hours of rails and martinis. Stained because we use fake juice and liquor (obviously, or we'd be wasting dollah dollah bills). It was so much fun. I'll keep you filled in on the week, too. Because goodness knows there will be mucho (see my Spanglish infiltrating after a week of immersion?) to share.

Until then, I hope your Mondays were as blessed as mine.

I'm a lucky girl and believe me, I'm super grateful.

PS: My mom's facebook status yesterday was, "Leigh-Taylor is home!!! hiphiphooray!!!!!". I'm considering going to Paris in the Spring to study for a semester (though Paul wants me to stay until July for an extra excuse to come out for the Tour, but again I digress) ... I was only gone a week. You do the math. Skype, anyone?

July 24, 2009

Bikinis. WAHHH!

While I've been home at our beach house accumulating rays (on the days the sunshine decides to participate in the fun) I've worn the same bathing suit every single time. I did it more-so as a precautionary against ridiculous amounts of tan lines. But now when I get in the shower I look like I'm wearing a white triangle top bathing suit. Out. Of. Control.

So, my dad, ever so wise said, "Leighhhh-Tayluhhh (for you, Trip), when was the last time you purchased yourself a new bathing suit?" So, I re-calculated and realized the last one (non pageant related) was a J Crew black and white bathing suit. The culprit of my perma-bikini tan. And then I kept thinking and realized that I indeed wore this swimsuit while on Spring Break in the Bahamas. My senior year of high school. WHAAAAAT?

So, after my yoga class, I bought a new one yesterday! Neat, right? Well, kind of. It gets less neat when you realize what people consider to be a reasonably sized bottom for a bikini. Of course everyone does some killer exercises to prepare for Miss America, but I really have continued to work out post- Miss America. (I'm not going to lie, I ate a lot of Crumbs cupcakes for a little while. But then I pulled myself up by my boot straps and got back to the gym and Bikram.) So when I took a gaggle of bathing suits into the dressing room at Everything But Water yesterday and emerged only twice, and being pleased only once, I realized there is something wack going on with bathing suits. And I'm not the only girl having problems with these Fitting Room stand-offs. Actually, I think most of us are.

We always talk about how models give our young girls a wrong impression of beauty, specifically in relation to body type. Dove has an ongoing campaign with plus-size models in their underpants to prove that stick-thin isn't particularly normal. But honestly, what in the world do swimsuit production companies think when they cut out these teeny pieces of fabric they think are going to cover anyone's rear-end but a toddler wearing a 6x? My body frame is small, but I do have what some people like to call "junk in the trunk" (weird.). I don't know how something like this is fixed (not my rear end, but this issue with teeny bikinis) but it definitely needs to be.

BUT, Betsey Johnson saved the say per usual. Wanna see? This is the one I got!

I'm excited. Partially because I have a weird obsession with polka dots ... hence the awesome (template) background I have. And my sheets.

Dad just busted in here and said "what time does Wonderboy get in today? You better get on the road!" So, being that I'm an obedient child, I have to go! Paul is coming today. And Laura and Bryan. I'm really excited. Like, I couldn't really sleep last night. Then I'm back to NYC on Tuesday co-hosting Tim Morehouse's 31st (HAHAHA ;) !!) birthday party. Here's the Invite:

See some of y'all there... !

And I'm off!

July 19, 2009

Caffeinated Disaster

Okay, so you know how in my last post I said life here was less enthralling? I'm not going to put my foot in my mouth, but I did experience something today that has never happened to me before. And I hope never happens again.

Anyone who knows me, even if just peripherally, is totally aware of the fact that I usually have a coffee cup in my hand. Or a Red Bull. Either way, I'm an addict. Though I'm not ashamed. It could be way worse, right? Like hard drugs or something. People say it's an expensive habit to have. And while they are correct, I do have my "cart boyfriend". He works the coffee cart in front of Gracious Home on 23rd and 6th. SO nice. And he's got nose problems, too. He can read me like a book. He knows when I need an extra caffeine boost and gives me a large. He knows I take non-fat milk and 2 Splendas. He's my cart boyfriend. Best part? My coffee costs a buck.

So while I'm in Virginia I'm making new friends at Starbucks but today I stopped by 7/Eleven for a Red Bull on my way to grab a canvas from Michael's. Anyways, I pulled a Red Bull out of one of the tall refrigerated stations lining the side wall. And before I knew it the whole rack of Red Bull was FLYING at me. You know when you pull out a drink and decide you want another brand there is a bit of resistance from the back part of the drink line when you put back in the unwanted drink? Well apparently I broke the plastic front off of the line of Red Bull and that resistance pushed every single can out at me at a speed which I could not control. So there I stood, approximately 12 busted sugar free Red Bull cans lining my feet and an audience of 4. The best part? I just stood there and stared trying to figure out how to fix this total faux-pas. Solution you ask? I jimmy-rigged the front plastic piece, stuck a few cans in there and then the rest went into random drink lines. I paid. I left. Moral of the story ... first pull your can up and then out, not straight out.

The scene looked very similar to this photo.

Anyways, things are still trucking along here in Virginia. Last night we (meaning my mom and dad, and a stray from next door ... seriously, but that's another story) went downtown to go to the block party. We parked in our church parking lot and I had my mom take a picture of my dad and I praying in front of Hampton Baptist. We saw lots of folks we know around Hampton and jammed out with the band playing, Excess Baggage.

I'll have more for you later. I'm still reeling from the disaster down the street. Classic. So classic.

July 16, 2009

I Mean, Just Wondering

I was thinking about what has happened in my life in the past three days that would suffice as any sense of legitimacy for you to read about it ... and be interested. And, to be honest, life outside of New York is slightly less enthralling. But I suppose that's part of the reason why I'm home. I mean, my current front yard is also synonymous with "beach", so I guess I can handle that. That's a pretty big difference from Delancey and Allen.

First things first ... I don't have to have sinoplasty! This = glorious news. I went to the ENT on Wednesday and my septum is only slightly deviated, meaning I could have sinoplasty to fix my sinuses but it isn't necessary (I like the "unnecessary" part). He did however say that he could saw off the calcium deposits I've acquired on the bridge of my nose, as well as straighten it out a bit. But y'all, that is rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty is the fancy medical word for a true nose job. Friends, not happening. SO I'm having a procedure done next week that will help out my nose bleeds (I've got some trifling-ly large blood vessels hanging out). Yada. Yada. Yada.

SO, I'm learning how to cook. And I've got to tell you how big of a deal this is. Here is a comment to give you a bit of an idea; the first night I donned the apron I was asked via Graham Bell's fancy creation if I burnt down the kitchen (answer: no). Please note that I wasn't asked if I burnt the food, or if it was edible. He asked if I burnt the kitchen down. Get. It. Outta. Here. Anyways, I've cooked for myself, my mom, and my pops for the last four consecutive evenings, and no one's gotten sick from the following:

Evening #2: Fried Chicken, Homemade Mac and Cheese, Fresh Green Beans
Evening #3: Meatloaf, Raspberry Vinegar Pasta (it's full of yummy vegetables)
Evening #4: Baked Chicken (a whole one ... including gizzard pulling-outage), Mashed Potatoes, Corn on the Cob

I'm rackin' up for the reportoire.

Next cool thing on the agenda: IT'S SHAWN DECKER'S 34th Birthday!!! Okay, y'all who don't know him, I'm just going to apologize. Not because I'm writing about him and you don't know him. But because you don't know him. You don't have the rad-ness he exudes in your life. Even if it's just on the peripheral. Shawn was diagnosed with HIV when he was 11 years old, which means he's been living with this stupid disease for 2/3 of his life. Scratch that. He's been kicking AIDS in the face for 2/3 of his life. Last year I joined the New York AIDS Walk team with he and others that have an intense disdain for one of the lamest diseases ever ... we raised $58,000 or so and now we're taking our case to the nation's capitol. Why? Because of the alarming infection rate in DC. It's on par with Uganda's infection rate. NOT OKAY. So, in honor of Shawn I'm going to finally get my act together and join the Supersnack team so on October 3rd we can take it to AIDS.

Oh, and hey, if anyone wants to send me back to South Africa for a summer or four to help families with AIDS. Or orphans with AIDS. I'm not averse to the idea.

July 13, 2009

Another One Bit The Dust

So, this weekend I headed off to the institution that imparted handfuls of knowledge upon me, and plenty of life experience; The University of Virginia. My mom was heading out to Charlottesville for the wedding of a gal I grew up with at Hampton Baptist. So, I decided to take advantage of the outing and met up with some of my favorite people at the University. Most who know me are very aware of how much I enjoy food, thus, when I go back to Charlottesville I view it as an opportunity to catch up on lost time with the food that helped shape me (literally) during my collegiate years. So I had the following: Bang, White Spot, Bodo's, and Arch's. And evening attendance at: The Virginian, Coupe's, and Buddhist. Don't be jealous, I'm scared to put on pants.

The next day we went to Miss DC to cheer on Kate Marie in her last evening of service. Let's just say ... We. Are. So. Happy. And I was really proud of her. AND we got to see Bubby and Laura which is always a baller moment.

Then Lisa so kindly peeled me out of bed this morning to hit the road around 545am so we would miss traffic heading out of DC. We then ran errands (lame, lame, I know ...)

While I'm in Hampton I'm also learning how to cook. Can you imagine? Tonight I had my first lesson and I'm able to do the following: steam crab legs, bake salmon, roast red potatoes, and grill some legit vegetables. Next on the list: fried chicken. A required staple for acceptance as a Southern woman. I've got the best teacher, though ... Colonel Sanders takes a backseat in comparison to what my mother can whip up. It's just universally known that Lisa is the JAM at cooking fried chicken.

But here's why I'm really home ... I'm getting a nose job. BAHAHA. Okay, kind of. Not the exterior. But I'm getting my sinuses "roto-rootered" in the words of Faith Ossmann. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow who will gage it's state of un-awesomeness since the most recent breakage. Then he'll tell me if he has to re-break it this time around. I'm keeping my eyes on the prize: Breathing. Less sinus headaches. AND, perhaps even less nosebleeds. Then Paul won't have to stick a vaseline coated q-tip up my nose anymore. All great things.

I'll keep you updated. This could be good. Like wearing sunglasses indoors because of two black eyes and a nose cast good.

PS: As I'm writing this my father just picked up the Cosmopolitan mag I picked up at the grocer today *because my sorority sister BRENNA MCGUIRE is jamming out on page 132!* and it says "125 Sex Moves" on the cover. He quips, "125 Sex Moves? Who do they have writing this? Hell, they're 8 behind! It's 133". And people wonder why I say everything that comes to mind.

July 8, 2009

Au Revoir Miss New York crown.

I'm not Miss New York anymore. Before you get all bleary eyed for me ... don't. Phenomenal year? Check. Did I almost lose my sanity? Check. Am I on the Miss New York board and prep team? Check. So, drop the tissues and read along.

I've just typed and deleted several times. Toeing the line made of eggshells. (I know, I felt like combining two old adages, play along, please).

I so enjoyed watching the ladies compete for my job, continually encouraging the girls to remember why they were there ... and suggesting that it should be their platforms because if it isn't the year will be long. Very long. Anyways, I loved being there and being a part of it. But when I was dragging my suitcase and hanging bag up the hill towards The Egg 30 minutes before the show started on Thursday night without a ride, I was gleaming that I would soon be able to have Paul carry my bags on vacay. BAHAHA. Kidding. I carry my own. I had to learn how to maximize the amount of luggage I could get up and down my FOURTH floor walk up. Though, my super Dave is pretty rad, when he sees me struggling he's throwing me AND the bags over his shoulder.

That Friday morning I drove to Manhattan dropped off a lot of clothes at my apartment, and then jetted to the airport to meet Paul who was flying in from Sweden, so we could then board a flight to go to my dear friend Carly's wedding in Richmond, VA. Run-on? Don't care. We. Had. A. Blast. What a gorgeous wedding it was! I got to see many of the beautiful Belles and other collegiate buds. But, the 6am flight departure to NYC came a weee-tad early. The 420am wake-up call ... even earlier. We hit the streets in our mini-cooper, thanks to zipcar, and arrived safely before the show.

Giving up my crown was pretty bittersweet. I have worked really hard to obtain this goal. But, on the flip side, I am ready to blaze a new trail for myself. This part of my life will not define me by any means. When I'm 40 I hope no one introduces me as former Miss New York, 3rd runner up to Miss America at a cocktail party. I hope I'm Leigh-Taylor Smith. And there to define myself in that time and space. Well, hopefully by 40 my last name will be different ... but you never know ...

Congratulations to Alyse Zwick, Miss New York 2009.

And, hey, congratulations to my Miss Arlington sister Caressa Cameron for snatching the title of Miss Virginia 2009. The last 3 out of 4 Miss Virginia's have been Miss Arlington. Wanna know who dropped the ball? ME!

On that note, next time I write ... (slash kind of this time) I'll be leading a normal life! Or, far from normal knowing me. But either way, stay tuned!

June 22, 2009

The Finale.

I'm probably not making this any easier on myself by prowling through the videos of the 2008 titleholders being crowned on and currently watching a dvd of Miss America. But at the same time, it's kind of like I'm being surrounded by the gals that are going through the same thing. So, here it goes ...

(I just stared at a blinking cursor for about 5 minutes.) Last year right about this time I was one of the lucky 52 ladies crowned a state representative in the Miss America Organization. But, it didn't just happen. I started competing in the Miss America Organization 4 years ago. I won some, and lost the big one. Twice. Perhaps losing isn't the best choice of words (sorry, mom!). Rather, I participated in complete self-improvement course, and took in a lot of scholarship dough being third runner up two years in a row at Miss Virginia. I pulled myself up by the boot straps and moved to a box, or er I mean a studio, in NYC.

I won Miss Brooklyn (which the Miss America girls thought was fairly hysterical based on stereotypes given to the big BK). And I got heat because I was actually from Manhattan "by way of Virginia". Then I won Miss New York. And man did the storm begin. "THE GIRL FROM VIRGINIA!" I've learned to take that in stride and I'm proud to say I have totally learned how to deal with criticism of all kinds. But, ps, it still isn't nice! Several people both here in NY and in Virginia (slash a LOT) have asked "do you secretly wish you were Miss Virginia?". My answer has not wavered one bit. No. God had totally different plans for me. I grew a lot in Virginia. But I blossomed here in New York. And there have been many, many people that have pushed me forward in this process. And I take pride in knowing I've given all of myself to this job. But this job is much bigger than me. It is not defined by power or prominence, but rather by people. So please allow me to give them a shout out ...

Tom Whitfield. You have played such an instrumental role in my journey towards allowing myself to feel comfortable in my own skin. What an unbelievable feeling it is. Just keep those coffee cups coming. ;)

Tim Morehouse. I'm so happy to be able to call you a friend. Not because of your status as a silver medal Olympic fencer, though that is cool, too. But because of your determination, insane work ethic, and consistent ideal of putting others before yourself. Thank you for taking me under your wing.

Tim on the left, Jason on the right. Both Olympians. Both fabulous.

Wendi Gruninger, phone calls, phone calls. Thank you for your love, friendship, and belief in me to do whatever I set my mind to.

Chip and Scottie, I love you both so much. Phone calls at midnight, break ups and new discoveries, y'all are always on the other line. You two will remain my big brothers far beyond pageantry. But, please, for Pete's sake, lock Abigail up. I kid. I kid.

Fake smiles don't look like any of us. But, okayyy. Maybe you two like good. xoxoxo

Pi Phis and Belles alike. WOOOOOHOOOO!! I love all of you from the bottom of my heart. Carly, Liz, and Allie: LALA4LYF.

Miss NY girls that have been with me each step of the way. You girls know who you are and I thank you for your support on this journey. But please know, you will be my friends far beyond Miss NY. XOXO

Ashley Wheeler. Thank you for always being on the other end of the line. I will never forget our New Year's Eve pep talk as I cabbed it uptown. Those memories will continue to accumulate. I just know it. I'm sending positive mental vibes and virtual hugs your way as you give up your crown this week.

Ellen Carrington. Although I'm really sad you said I've lost my Southern accent, I still love yours. Thank you for being genuinely interested in what is going on in my life. The good, the bad, the ugly. Give Grant a hug for me, and come visit SOON! (You too, Emily. Or you're dead meat!)

Kate Marie. Girl. Thank you for pitching Paul to me like some kind of product. But also, please thank your boss for the amount of time he allows you to be on gchat. Seriously. Those talks were a source of sustainability for me throughout my year. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But, I see you soon anyways. So, I'll give you a hug in person.

To the whole Miss NY board, each of you has played an immeasurable role in my success. I cannot begin to thank EACH of you enough. But, the program, my speech, and thank you letters will all be made public this week. Lots of love to each of you.

KATE. Holy crow. Read the program. And listen to my farewell. But, hey, basically, thanks for changing my life. And life trajectory.

My Paul. You're crazy for sticking around through all of this. But because you did, and for many, many other reasons I'm crazy for you. Thank you for always holding me accountable and being there for it all. Not just for the fun times at Miss America but everything in between. Because those are the moments that really matter. I am 110% sure I won the boyfriend lottery.

Sorry ladies, hands off. He's mine.

Bryan, Laura, Shannon, Tracy, and Natalie. I just started to tear up as I wrote this part. I hope each of you knows how much I look up to you. The examples you set in your daily lives has encouraged me to strive to better myself on a consistent basis. Bubby, I meant what I said in the Miss America program book.

Mom and Dad. Thank you for allowing me to dream the wildest of dreams, and to sincerely believe in them with me. I've never felt like there was anything I couldn't do and that is a direct reflection of how I was raised. I can't wait to spend a big chunk of July with you. Thank you for not giving me away when I was 4 and running around everywhere.

Mom and Pops.

Finally, everyone at Hampton Baptist, thank you for insuring that I knew who got me here. There are many people here that did. But we all know this is all part of a larger plan for my life. I thank each of you for allowing me to realize that someone much bigger than me is molding me into the woman I should, and will become.

PS: Some more but I'm pooped. Have a good day on your far side, P. :)

June 17, 2009


That's what I've called my big brother Bryan since I could talk. Apparently I had trouble pronouncing his name. I'm not sure though, I think my mom wanted me to call my brother by a cute nickname. You know how moms do that sometimes? Obviously by naming my first baby doll (stay with me here... let's put those phonetics to use...) OH-BA-DIE-YUH. I'm not even kidding. At that point my mom was probably more concerned I would soon be living in a padded white room, not that I would one day compete at Miss America.

Bub and me at my graduation shin-dig.

When Bubby and I were little we used to drive to my grandparent's house on Christmas morning everyyyy year. It was about a 7-8 hour drive and I would read the entire way (my mom called me a nerd at that dinner the other night with Paul, Steve, and Kate Marie. I was not amused.) and my brother used to play whatever hand-held electronic game playing thing had come out that year or before. When we would stop for gas my generous father would allow us one choice snack. Obviously we went for candy (as if our stockings hadn't been packed full that morning). It was like clock work. My brother would always ask me for a taste of mine. I would give. I would then ask for a taste of his. Denied. I got the point when I turned, uh, 13. But when I was 15 or 16 I assumed he had gotten over his Indian giving. No dice.

Anyways, we grew up and became friends. Actually, I adore him. And even cooler: his wife Laura. We all like to play, and Laura and I make up songs such as one titled "Home". We will give you a personal rendition if you catch us together.

This morning Bubby sent me a link: He thought I would find it "amusing". And I did, it is pretty amusing. But it's also clearly well thought through. Perhaps brimming on true intellectual capabilities. Although society is changing women still feel like they need a man to complete them. Or maybe they have to work overtime because they don't have one. To fill that "void" in their life. Or society's severe perspective on beauty. Cough, cough, rather perceived beauty.

This isn't all so different from how the year has been for us as state contestants. I know we aren't considered "celebrities" at their true definition. But, we do go through a lot of the scrutiny that they face. But we're also representative of real women, from the real world. Women who care about changing our communities for the better, that are focused on scholarship, that work towards physical fitness. But we're not perfect.

And neither are fairy tales.

Lawng Aylahnd.

Phonetics. They're weird. Was that acceptable?* Come to think of it, I wonder who qualifies to write the phonetic suggestions for words. And definitions. And synonyms.

Moving beyond my wandering mind right about ... now. I went to visit Big Al's Gym. They were the generous folks that gave the scholarship for the Miss New York Swimsuit Preliminary winners last year. So, I went for the membership drive on Monday night to hang out, sign some autographs, and cause some general calamity. But, nay, the calamity was not caused by me. It was actually caused by the insane children in their natural habitat. The play haven built by the likes of McDonalds. But cooler because of it's cleanliness. There was this one little rugrat that had just turned 2, just had stitches taken out of his face, and just ran around screaming. Throwing himself on the ground when he felt necessary and playing with all of the big kids. Physically. He was worthy of the term baller. And you know I don't just throw that word around like pennies. I also must point out, 10 minutes in there was worth a lifetime of birth control.

Anyways, I think the event was successful. I did a radio spot about the gym. Actually, the guys from the radio asked if I was into "freestyle". So I said, I respect people that can freestyle but I myself am pathetic. I was really confused when they started laughing in my face (though, not the first or last time that will happen to me). Apparently freestyle refers to 80's music. Am I the last one to be clued in on this?

Finally I met an awesome couple, and the woman makes jewelry. Her name is Aggy and she's Polish, and hysterical. She gave me a set of earrings, necklace, and bracelet of my choice. AND threw in an extra necklace because I had tried it on. They're beautiful! I'm going to rock 'em at Miss NY.

John Giglio accompanied me during my last two visits to Big Al's and I have the greatest time with him. He is hysterical. And through our 8 hours spent together over my two trips to Big Al's we realized we have the following in common: Bambi freaked us out (his mom took him back to the movie theater a second time because he was so hysterical the first go round, had him watch while Bambi's mom was still alive and ran him out before she was shot, hahahaha), clowns freaked me out/still freak him out, the entire concept of Willy Wonka freaked us out, and we both adore peanut butter. There were more but my tired brain is incapacitated from filling out these monotonous RJR reports.

*Yes, I realize that is not phonetically correct for the words Long and Island. I was pretending I had the accent. And if I did, that would be my attempt at phonetically creating the proper pronunciation.

June 16, 2009

Have you ever been to Corning, NY?

I have!

But, before I tell you all about my adventure to the glass blowing capitol of the world, I did something pretty fun before that too.

My mom came to visit! And on top of that, Kate Marie (Miss DC) came up to surprise her boyfriend Steve. Which means, I got to hang out with both of these rad women on Thursday. ALL DAY! That night we all went out to din, and Paul came too. So do you want to hear the funny thing about all of this? Well, I think it's funny. You may not. Steve and Paul are brothers. Not like, good guy friend brothers, but they share a mother and father type brothers. And about that I do not lie.

Anyways, I got up the next morning and started my journey to (Cary, my roommate, is currently singing broadway showtunes and commercial jingles at the top of his lungs in the shower. If some of these sentences do not make sense it is because I am halfway laughing. Internally.) Corning, NY. Or to be more accurate, the village of Painted Post. Soon after my arrival the Mayor of Painted Post, Sandy, Miss Finger Lakes, Lorna, and a CMN representative, Sarah, all picked me up and took me on a tour of Painted Post. We then headed off to an awesome family run restaurant where everyone seemed to know everyone. Then the Colonial Days pageant. Starting teeny, going to Miss. I love being on the other side of things. It means I can relax! But these girls were pretty awesome.

Just hanging out with the ladies at the Colonial Days Pageant.

But get this ... after I left the pageant I got to go to .... drum roll please .... WAL MART! I really like Wal Mart. Specifically their America's Choice sparkling Peach and Black Cherry Water. So I bought two cases FOR ONLY $2. That's how much my ATM charges me to take money out of my account. Cloud 9.

After a quick rest we headed to the Colonial Days Parade. On the contract it said that approximately 20,000 - 30,000 people head out to this parade. And not to think people were exaggerating, but y'all, this is a small town. An awesome man, Greg, drove me in a smokin' silver Mercedes convertible and as we turned the corner the contract was verified. At least 20,000 people there. As we passed the grand-stand I was definitely called out for not having shoes on. Kind of like the reverse of a "show me your shoes" parade.

I also visited a whiffle ball tournament that, by word, goes on day and night for 3 days. Lots of food, bats, and beer. I stopped by to say hey to all of the people participating. And one of the men admitted to having cut the article out of the paper that prefaced my visit to the village. In my bathing suit. In his wallet.

With that said, I hopped back in the car and began my trek back to Manhattan. Apparently I was speeding because I got pulled over for that. Un-luckily, I was also on my phone talking to Ken my business manager after my appearance. In true stealth form I quickly pulled out my crown and banner into the passenger seat of my car. Inconspicuous for the girl who only wears her crown and sash at pageants and parades. Unfortunately, Officer Jason Fletcher still gave me a ticket. Notice I made that a non-plural ticket. It was for the cell phone. Not my speed. (Thank the Lord.) I'm having it sent to Ken Nelson's home address. Kidding, kidding.

Back home it was for an early Sunday morning winding up paperwork and loose ends as Miss New York. It's insane this is almost over.

Wah wah wee wah.

PS: Lisa, I forgot to tell you about the ticket. Though I was not hiding it. Like that one time I hid something and you found out after Bryan and Dad and didn't think I loved you the most anymore. But I did. And I do. Promise.

I know my phone is ringing in five minutes.

June 10, 2009

While I'm At It ...

"Just about every other school in Virginia likes to bash UVA kids for being 'pretentious' and 'snobs.' In other words, they get called out for thinking they're better than everyone else. Well, if you went to the school in Virginia with the most stringent admissions requirements, best overall athletic program, most beautiful campus and coeds, most successful and famous alumni, the most storied social scene, was founded by Thomas Jefferson, and all that happened to be in what was voted the #1 city to live in America,'d think you were the too."

And no, I didn't write that. Actually, ESPN's review of college campuses did. It fills my heart with glee. Okay, okay, I am joking. Seriously. But we are also known to produce really proud alumni and I'm going to explain (at least partially) why ... and I'm going to venture to say it doesn't have much to do with what was recognized by ESPN. Though I did hear people were shaking it down with Katie Couric at Reunions last weekend ...

We have a place on Grounds (that's what we call our campus) at UVa called the Madison House. It's essentially a house where volunteer organizations can call "home base". I have been searching online for about 30 minutes for an image I saw from the Fall of my second year where the line to the Madison House stretched sooooo far. There were literally thousands of students in line wanting to volunteer. Everywhere I turned I had friends that were heading up organizations within the Mad House; I even got to meet some of their little sisters from Big Siblings. Dorfy anyone? (Sidenote: Dorfy was Carly Brown's wee one. She was not know to have the greatest manners ever, but she really was sweet. Until she came up to me and said "You're LT? GGGGurrlll. You look 14. How tall you be?". I wish, just wish I could voice record it for you).

That makes a University special.

But you know what else does? These girls.

Many a Pi Phi sister that showed up to Miss America. But that isn't even all of them!

These girls flew in from around the country to cheer me on, and obviously play in Vegas together, too. But how cool? But then I look back. And I'm not surprised. You see, the sense of community that is encouraged at the University of Virginia is, in my opinion, unparalleled. And I would specifically give a thumbs-up to Pi Phis. Every Belles concert there were a load of Pi Phis. And at the same end, I tried to go to any event scheduled to support my sisters.

Okay, by this point you're wondering why I'm talking about this? Please continue. Or continue to stare at my hot sorority sisters. Either one.

My mom, Kate Marie, and I grabbed dinner before our Beauties for Boobies event on Friday night and literally as soon as we walked over there (about 5 minutes before the event started) Shah BAM ... UVa awesomeness. Of course the dudes were there first. They weren't leting one minute of the grey goose open bar pass, understandably so. But you better believe the girls were there shortly after. It literally warmed my heart. They go above and beyond to not only support friends, but to support a good cause. So guys, thank you. And hey, you should think your friends for being awesome too. Sometimes it's just good to hear.

Know what I've realized throughout this crazy year? No matter how busy and non-communicative I have been with close friends from school, they're still around. And they still care. And believe me, we are going to play come July!

Did that make sense? I hope so. This blinking cursor may become my only visual for the next few days.

PS: I also think UVa is special for a couple of other reasons including, but not limited to: it's honor policy, the ideal of student self-governance ...