Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Over Training, aaaah!!!

I started doing Bikram Yoga last Thursday, which is yoga performed in a room that is heated at 105 degrees. I did it Thursday and Friday following my regular morning workout. Then on Saturday I ran the football stadium bleachers at the local highschool. After that I ran a quick mile and went on to lift leg weights for a little over an hour. Unfortunately I didn't have much time to stretch because I had to get ready for Earth Hour. Then Sunday morning I ran thirteen miles on the treadmill at the gym and did yoga again later in the day. By Sunday night, my calves were so mad at me I couldn't move. Literally, COULD. NOT. MOVE. Monday morning came, I crawled my way to the gym to meet Toni for our morning workout, and was in so much pain I could hardly stand. She demanded I stretch it out, take a warm bath, and stay off my legs for awhile. Later Monday night I saw my cousin, who is a phenomenal massage therapist and the new owner of Six Essentials Therapy in Orland Park. She rubbed out my calves for over an hour, barely able to touch them. She said I was "ridiculous," and that I should definitely try to take some time off to let them recover.

And now sadly, its Tuesday morning and I still can't really move. I talked to Toni this morning and she thinks it may have been yoga that overdid it. It's odd that the stairs and running would have put me in this much pain, because I do that stuff almost every day. However, yoga was newly introduced to my body only last week. Its odd for me to think yoga did this to me, but then again, it is in a hot room allowing me to stretch and move much further than I normally can. Perhaps I pushed myself too far and didn't realize I had done it. Anywho, YIKES! My body!!!! I hope I don't gain too much weight taking a few days off. I'm so nervous! Friday I'll be fitted in my evening gown so it can be tailored for Miss USA!! I was hoping to be ready by then, but with the next few days stuck on the couch, I don't see that happening. 4 weeks and 4 days left until I leave! I better not over train again, huh? This is nuts!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Feels Like Home ...

Yesterday we recognized Earth Hour in Homer Glen -- my hometown. It was my first event to attend in Homer Glen with my title of Miss Illinois USA. As the crowd gathered to hear words from the mayor of Homer Glen, a state representative from Springfield, and Miss Illinois USA .. I was growing more and more excited with each additional face I recognized in the crowd. When the mayor introduced me, everyone clapped and smiled, and seeing those familiar faces in the audience excited to hear me speak gave me the GOOD kind of chills. It was awesome, and probably one of the better talks I've given thus far ... not because it was long and well developed, but because it was just ME. I didn't look down at the note cards I had prepared earlier in the week, I just talked from my heart. It was a conversation pulled out of nowhere with the information I had learned from reading about Earth Hour before arriving. My favorite part about the talk was that I was able to make the audience laugh. It was a truly wonderful feeling, and if I could make every crowd I ever talk to from here on forward laugh, I will feel like a successful person.

I never realized how much more comfortable I am doing public speaking or performing when there are people around me that I know. Some friends have told me they feel even more nervous when their family and friends are there, but it seems that I feel just the opposite. And this makes me happy to know that there will be many of my friends and family coming to watch me in Vegas. I hope if I do get the opportunity to compete among the top 15 contestants, that my fans in the audience will cheer me on making me feel comfortable and at home on that stage. Wouldn't that be just awesome?! Being in the top 15 at the Miss USA Pageant on stage in my swimsuit, hearing the voices cheering of the people who are there supporting me!? AAAHHH!!!! I hope so much that I get that opportunity!! I'm working so hard, I just have to believe I can do it, right?! 5 weeks until I leave. I'm soooo excited. :)

I'm a Crafty Lady

My mom and dad are in Mexico celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary right now. They're going to be a bit surprised when they get home to find that I've done a little remodeling :)

With only 5 weeks until I leave for the Miss USA Pageant, you can only imagine the vast amount of preparations that still need to happen. Well ... part of that includes organizing and styling my wardrobe for the two weeks I will spend rehearsing and making appearances with the other 50 delegates from May 3rd until May 15th. With my teeny tiny little "walk-in" closet looking more like it has been hit by a fashion tornado than the way it should ... I thought it best to install another closet rod to hang and organize my things. Ummm, but, not in my closet.

I chose one of my bedroom walls, went to Home Depot to get the supplies, found my dad's drill in the garage, and went to town. First I had to find a stud in the wall to mount my first bracket. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I finally discovered that studs are 4 feet apart behind my walls. Once I figured that out, it was a snap! I measured and drilled my three brackets along the wall, installed the silver 8-foot pole, and said "VIOLA!" Now I have a wonderful 8 foot spot to hang and organize my wardrobe for Vegas! Sooooo much easier and more efficient. And COOL that I figured out how to do it on my own. I'm a regular cratfyman. :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Oh man. I'm so excited about life today. Well, besides the fact that it was 70 degrees yesterday and today it's snowing ... but anyway ... life is GREAT! I leave for the Miss USA Pageant 6 weeks from tomorrow, I have taken my leave of absence from work so now I have time to truly focus, tonight I'm going to a really cool event with my parents in the city ... tomorrow and Monday I'm working downtown at the prom expo, Tuesday my mom and I are taking a quick trip out to the west coast, and then Thursday I get to completely absorb myself in yoga and workouts and eating well, planning my wardrobe, meeting with sponsors and sooo much more. I'm so PUMPED!!! Yaaayyy Life!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Truly Focused

I never stopped working out after being crowned Miss Illinois USA. However, I did let the healthy eating take a plunge for awhile. It was a much needed break over the holidays, and I don't regret it, per-say, but I do wish I was back at my "pageant" weight so I wouldn't be completely dreading the weeks to come. The stinky part is, what you eat contributes to about 80% of how your body looks, while working out, stress and rest make up the other 20%.

Anywho ... Toni and I have been working out like MAD. She's really been taking me to town in the weight room, and I've been kicking up the cardio like never before. It used to be that I'd run the same workout every day until I wanted to pull my hair out, but now I've learned that varying up my workouts produces MUCH better results. I've included stairs, inclines on the treadmill, track sprints, and even the pool. It's sooo great that this kind of cardio works, because it keeps me from getting bored too! However, with the busy-ness of various events that captivate my life, I can't keep up with the workouts as much as I would like. SOOOO, my mom had a revelation FOR me.

She said, "Ash, you can work for the rest of your life. You can only be at the Miss USA Pageant ONCE." She told me she doesn't want me to regret anything, and that by putting my full time job on a temporary hold, maybe I would be able to put 100% of my focus into this very important event in my life for the next 6 weeks until I leave. She's a smart lady, but boy was I nervous to talk to my boss. Talking to him could only result in two things ... either it would work out and I'd have an extra 50 hours in my week to focus on my goal and return to work on May 18th, or I would lose my job permanently. I had to take the chance. After all -- what adventurer doesn't take risks, right?!

It turns out, the people Robinson & Maites are even greater than I thought, and I always speak the world of them to begin with. They have been completely 100% understanding of this once in a lifetime opportunity and agree with my mom indefinitely. My boss has agreed to allow me to work remotely (from home) for the next 6 weeks leading up to my pageant, and to then take the to weeks while I'm in Vegas completely off from work. They have also said it is fine for me to return to work full time once the Miss USA pageant concludes, if I don't happen to move to NYC as the new Miss USA. They are absolutely wonderful, understanding people and I am so blessed to be surrounded by such a positive and supportive team. I want to give the world to them (aware that I owe them that much) when I return (if ... IF! I don't win!!!). But for now, I feel like 1000 pounds have been lifted from my shoulders because I have 6 weeks to focus on preparing for Miss USA. I can train harder at the gym, work on my walk, my interview, my wardrobe, and everything else I need to work on. And I can sleep. Sleep! It sounds slacker-ish, but it really is required to keep me sane!

I'm a very happy camper today. I just hope I reach my goal of making the top 15. Or better! Top 5! AH!! So excited!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Public Speaking ... Bust?

Saturday morning I went to an event at Lake Zurich High School where I was asked to speak at the community and business expo where about 300-500 people were expected to be in attendance. When I arrived there were many people, however, not all of them decided to attend my little lecture. In fact, there were only about 10 people there. Bummer!

I walked up to the stage after I was introduced and was handed the microphone. I spoke into it introducing myself and realized that I was now being heard all throughout the expo, but I was only actually speaking to about 10 people. This frightened me. It was strange to feel such nervousness come over me because I have spoken in front of groups of people more times than I can count. It was tying my shoes ... something I did all the time! But this was a first for me with a loud microphone in a big room with only 10 people actually there to listen.

I knew immediately that I should just put down the microphone and speak to the people straight from my mouth. With such a small group not only would it have been easier to communicate and ask questions, but it would have made me feel a hundred million times more comfortable. However, I let the "rules" get the best of me, and I continued talking over the loud mic. SHAME. ON. ME. I should have listened to my guts. In my opinion my talk completely lacked my spunky energy and was blah, lame, stupid. I was soooo bummed and disappointed with my performance and immediately after I finished I walked up to my boyfriend who had come to watch and said, "Well, I stunk up the room, lets get out of here before they start throwing tomatoes."

Adam (boyfriend) said that I did a fine job, and that I probably just thought it was a bust because its not the environment I was used to. Well ... OK. Think of it what you will, Adam ... but it stunk. However, I learned a lesson from this. I learned that you have to learn to adjust to the situation and know what is right for you. It would have been better for me to just trust my gut, put down the microphone, speak loudly and make certain with the audience that everyone could hear me. I should have asked the questions I planned to ask in order to engage the group, and I should have taken my time to speak the way I had intended to from the beginning. I let the chaos of the situation and the unfamiliarity take over my strengths as a speaker, and although I feel it was a miserable talk, I am glad to have had the experience with only a small group of 10 people instead of the 300 that were expected to show. That way, I learned, and hopefully I will have a better idea of what to do the next time something like that happens!!!

Yay! You live. You learn. You move on. I love life lessons, don't you?!

What Impresses Upon You?

I have attended multiple different events over the past two weeks, and have a few more to do before this week is up. During my "travels," if you will, I've been meeting a multitude of fascinating people, some of whom still stick out in my mind and some who I have already forgotten -- even those I know I probably met this morning. Whoops! But this made me wonder ... what grabs peoples' attentions to make a lasting impression??

I am leaving for the Miss USA Pageant in 47 days. That means I only have 47 days to prepare myself in soooo many aspects of my life, many of which no one but myself can help me with. However, this one I am turning to YOU for ... my wonderful readers. When I step off that airplane in Las Vegas, I will instantly become a sort of zoo animal for everyone there to watch and observe to try and get to know me -- they must determine if I will make a quality Miss USA. But there are going to be 50 other women there vying for the same prestigious title. SO WHAT DO I DO TO SET MYSELF APART?!?!

So if you will ... please think about it. What kinds of personalities or actions have left a lasting impression on you? Is it the people who are the most helpful? Is it the people who are overly happy and jolly? Is it someone who told you a great joke? Is it someone who dressed well? What is it? I feel that for me, the people who tend to stand out the most are those that show a genuine enthusiasm for life. Well, that, or the people who are crazy, lol! However, I do love to be around people who are living for the moment, have a curiosity that explodes from within them, and who can lighten up a room -- whether it be with her smile, her attitude or her actions. However, this is broad. I need to really pin it down and know what makes a LASTING impression. Any suggestions will do guys, so please comment back!

Truth be told, I am a terrible faker, and it's easy to read when someone is faking it -- especially me. In the end, I can only be myself, otherwise I'm going to flop ginormously and that won't be good for anything. However, its still an interesting topic to think about what kinds of people and/or personalities catch others' attentions. I can't wait to hear what some of you think!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Time in Chi-Town!

In spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring!

That is a clip from a poem called "A Lover and His Lass" by William Shakespeare. However, I discovered it from watching the original "Willy Wonka," many years ago during the scene where Gene Wilder is peddling his bike in the room with the Everlasting Gobstoppers. I don't know why his pretty little sing-song tune has always stuck with me, but I just love singing it as springtime approaches. I hope I haven't started singing too early ... because it certainly looks as though spring may have sprung in Chicago!!


This week has been such a busy one for me and it won't let up for a bit of time. I love love love all of the things I'm doing, but I feel a major desire for some rest! I was out of the state this past weekend, came home to prepare for our important out of town guest, hung out with him for the past few days which was so much fun I'm sad its over, I'm working all day today and tomorrow, attending a grand opening tonight for my cousin's new health center in Orland Park, Friday I have two important meetings after work that will consume the evening, Saturday I give two lectures to young prospective business students about goals, Saturday night I get to take care of two sets of client work, one being a video creation I know very little about so I get to teach myself things, woo hoo! Sunday (daylight savings time!) I get to work from 8am to 5pm at the Home and Housewares Show downtown, same thing Monday and Tuesday, back to work Wednesday through Friday, a super duper important event next Saturday, and then SUNDAY I will get to rest. I think. I hope. WOO! What a stretch and boy am I pooped. I pray I don't wear myself out and can still manage to get my workouts in among all of that craziness. Only 52 days until I leave. I'm so excited I can't even stand it!!!!!!

Spring weather keeps me pleasant. Chocolate would do a better job, but that's out of the picture for the next 10 weeks. Miss USA, ready or not, here I come!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Cleaning Comes Early

As a recent graduate from the University of Illinois, but a woman who is passionately entailed with the dream of becoming the next Miss USA, I have to admit … I still live with my parents. Some may see this as negative, but in fact … it’s marvelous. Actually, it’s so good that I don’t really want to leave! OK, that’s not true. I’m dying for my own place. But lets put the emphasis on how wonderful living at home is for now, and talk about my future aspirations later.

My fantastic mother keeps a very clean house, but over the past few days as we’ve been preparing for a few out of town guests to visit, we’ve been cleaning Danny-Tanner-style around here. I mean … I think I evened vacuumed the underside of rugs. My dad polished the knobs on the stove and dusted in the garage. My mom cleaned the laundry room so well that it looks like it could be a contender for the Good Housekeeping Magazine! I’m telling you – it’s been a cleaning madhouse around here. And for how clean our house usually is, I’m surprised at how much of an improvement this was!

Anyway … now that the house is in mint condition, I think my poor mother feels a little bit better. Tip for all the kids reading this: Making momma happy is a good thing. Take that for what it is and believe it with all your heart boys and girls. As the saying goes, “If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” Hate it break it to you folks, but it’s soooo true. And if your mom is anything like mine, then she must also be the most amazing woman in the world. My mom has jumped through hoops of blazing fire for me over the past few months. She will bend over backwards and twist inside out to help me, and I have no idea on the planet earth how I will ever in a hundred thousand million years repay her in the way she deserves. Do any of you ever feel that way? Finding a way to repay someone who has given her heart and soul to helping you? It’s a tough battle to find a solution, but I’m sure it can be done. Like the nice man who helped me with my suitcase proved, a small kind gesture can go a super long way!

I tried some new cardio workouts this week, which I will share with you soooooon! I’m officially at 55 days until I board the flight to Vegas so its mega crunch time. My magnificent trainer Toni gave me a new eating regimen to follow, and it looks like it’s going to be suuuuper tough, but I know I can do it. As my other trainer, Josh, put it … “You can do anything for 55 days!” And that’s exactly right!

Miss USA Pageant … here I come with my body in check, whether I like it or not!! Yahoo!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mr. Nice Guy

I had a bit of a rough week last week. Seriously, nothing seemed to be going right, everything was hitting at once, and by Thursday … I most definitely cracked. During work on Friday I was a zombie. I couldn’t focus on the jobs I had to finish and I couldn’t think about my day. All I wanted was to be at home or with a friend. It was terrible, but the worst part was – nothing was making it better! I tried thinking happy thoughts. I tried calling my mom to talk it out. I even tried *dun dun dun* eating chocolate!!! My number one no-no, but number one stress killer! Even that didn’t help. Sleep was the only thing I hadn’t tried, but the chairs in our office aren’t that comfortable.

Anyway …

Friday evening as my train was pulling into the 143rd street station where I stood waiting to exit, I waited contently, ready to get home so I could let out the tears in the privacy of my own bedroom. I didn’t wear the negativity on my face, but inside I felt like screaming. Just as the train doors were about to open, a nice older man noticed the heavy suitcase I had lugged with me to work that day. Kindly, he said, “Excuse me, I would be happy to lift that down off the train for you if you’d like.” It was a very nice and unnecessary gesture that came completely out of nowhere. However, that one kind gesture made me smile bigger and longer than I had smiled all the days that week. Just one kind act from a stranger brightened my spirits and made me remember all of the goodness around me. It helped to remind me that life really isn’t that bad when you look at the big picture. My petty little problems that had been ruining my week were not all that important, and in fact, there are people all over the place who are there for me – even strangers!! As I got off the train, I thanked him sincerely and smiled all the way to my car. ☺

My lesson to you is this – never undervalue someone. You don’t know what he or she has been through, or how he or she is feeling. Please do your part to bring a smile to others, because you never know the incredible impact it could have on them. It certainly did for me! It was effortless for that man to life my suitcase off the train, and I totally could have managed it myself. However, it was kind, and I appreciated it.

So thanks, Mr. Nice Guy. I wish I knew your name so I can tell you how you turned my dreary evening into a lovely one. Instead, I’ll pay it forward. How does that sound?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Miss USA Contestant Pictures Posted

Head shots of the 51 contestants vying for the title of Miss USA are up at www.missusa.com! Rate the girls and look for your favorites!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's 15 Degrees, Lets Jump Into Lake Michigan!

Saturday afternoon Lexi and I did something we never dreamed we would. We journeyed afar, trekking through mounds of cold, toe-numbing slush, mountains of white frosty snow, fearlessly battling the powerful Midwestern winds against our cheeks and the sub-zero temperatures, all while styling our teeny weeny bikinis.

OK well, it may not have gone juuuuust like that. But we did jump into Lake Michigan at the end of February. I guess if anything you could call us "nuts," instead of "adventurous!" :)

Helping to raise money for the Special Olympics, Lexi and I bared all as we entered the water. With a running start, we splashed the way up to our waists before losing all feeling in our bodies. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought since I couldn't feel anything! Aboooouuuuut ... 2 seconds later I was completely wet and was now being splashed by the other plungers. I decided to make a run straight to the heated tent to take my soaking, freezing shoes off! Sticking on some warmer (and dryer) boots, Lexi and I then posed for pictures on the beach. I think the worst part was not actually being in the icy water (yes, there was ice where we were), but standing next to it with the wind against us while we tried to smile in our swimsuits wondering "WHY AM I OUTSIDE IN FEBRUARY IN MY SWIMSUIT!?" Oh yes, for a good cause. That's right!

It was a wonderful experience, and with over 200 plungers in attendance I realized just how important the Special Olympics truly are and how much it means to people. I hope very much to be able to get involved more in this amazing cause ... but perhaps not in my swimsuit again until at least May 1st!