Personal Experience

My First Chicago Summer Will Last Longer Than My Tan

As you may or may not know, I started this personal blog to share personal experiences as I transitioned careers, moved from my hometown, and travelled around the world.  I unfortunately have done a very poor job at sharing my moments since I started my career at Naehas.  

Looking back at my first summer in Chicago, I cannot believe everything Spencer and I actually fit into a summer.  Although there was no travel "across the pond" this summer, it certainly was just as memorable. 

Downtown Chicago John Hancock

During college and post-college, Chicago was a city visited quite frequently.  I never really desired to live in Chicago, but when the opportunity arose with my career transition it was the open door to live in the windy city.  

Beach, Bike, and SUPping

The beach ‘season’ in Chicago officially ended September 4th.  However, the last two weekends in September have been dynamite for the beach-lovers of Chicago, like myself.  

North Avenue Beach Chicago Downtown

I could not get enough of Lake Michigan and the beach this summer.  I spent most of my time people watching and volleyball watching at North Ave Beach.  Sand, sun and SUPping are very addicting.  The lake and beach was the closest feeling of being on the beaches in Southern California, which is another addiction of mine. 

 

The best way to get to the beach was to bike.  The bike path along the lake is sprinkled with runners, bikers, and people wandering, but it was a great active way to get to the beach.  The first time I went to the beach by myself, I decided that I would just bring my bike with me on the beach instead of locking it up along the bike path. When I left the beach, I locked up my bike at Castaways to go to the bathroom.  When I returned to my bike and tried to unlock my u-lock, it would not unlock.  Sand snuck into my u-lock!  The key would turn, but the lock would not unlock.  After trying to pull and prod the lock for 10 minutes, I asked for assistance from the cops who always sit at the entrance of the beachfront.  During the next 20 minutes, my bike was like a magnet and accumulated a total of 8 cops and firemen who were all taking turns trying to unlock my lock.  A fireman, Aref, finally got the lock separated.  I learned my lesson and will just lock up my bike before getting my sand and sun on.

 

X Ambassadors concert at Northerly Island

You don't always have to be in the front row of a concert, but it certainly makes it more fun!  I had heard colleagues talk about the concert venue, Northerly Island, and decided I wanted to go.  Most people probably recognize X Ambassadors' most popular song, Renegades, but they certainly have other catchy tunes that are easy to nod your head to.  Monday, July 31st was extremely hot and humid.  Sam Harris's performance was 110% despite the heat and his all black, long-sleeved attire.  I don't think singing and dancing along to good music will ever get old. 

 

Tom Petty and Chris Stapleton at Wrigley

Another concert that Spencer and I went to was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Wrigley Field.  At the last minute, I decided that I wanted to go and it would be a great experience.  There is not a bad seat in Wrigley! (Except for the uncovered seats that evening when it poured down rain during the concert)  Although we were not in the front row, it was still fun to jam to Tom Petty classics.

 

 

Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park

When you live in the city, you tend to stay away from some of the 'touristy' sites like the 'bean' in Millennium Park or Navy Pier.  One evening, I wanted to go for a bike ride and ended up at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park during sunset.  On the hour, a melody of music plays for about 20 minutes as the fountain expands even higher into the sky.  With all the hustle and bustle of the city and tourists, sitting on the benches around the fountain was extremely peaceful as the sun set behind the skyline.  The city illuminated itself with it's bright lights.  It was like being in a whole new city.  If you have never seen the city change from light to darkness, I highly encourage spotting up on a bench at Buckingham Fountain.

 

Crossfit Games in Madison, Wisconsin

This year, the Crossfit Games announced that they were coming to Madison, Wisconsin.  Why not head up north to watch the fittest people on earth? Whether in Carson, California or Madison, Wisconsin, the Crossfit Games was something Spencer and I wanted to go to this year.  Not only did we get to spend time with our CFB family, we also found some of our new SouthLoop Crossfit friends in Madison. Although the Games were set up differently than in previous years, it was definitely worth the experience to see all the coliseum events at the Allegiant Energy Center.  Many Crossfit Games athletes and spectators flew into Chicago and then road tripped to Madison.  Tia Toomey hopped around Chicago prior to the Games, Jamie Greene visited SouthLoop Crossfit and 'EZ'  Muhammad drop in at Crossfit Bettendorf after his great performance at the Games.  Can't wait to see who swings by before and after the 2018 Crossfit Games!

 

Repp's Golf Memorial Outing

My golf clubs saw something beyond the back of my closet this year at the Annual Matt Repp Memorial Golf Outing.  Spencer and I had the best teammates! (And of course took advantage of getting another 'switch-a-roo' pick with the Hawkins)

 

Denver, Boulder and Breckenridge Colorado with Mike

Chicago is great, but there is little elevation!  So Spencer and I took a long weekend and flew up to the mountains to see Mike!  I cannot believe he has been in Colorado for over three years and we are finally getting out to visit him.  There is so much ‘fun’ in Colorado, I’m not sure how anyone gets any work done.  Thanks Mike for showing us a ‘high’ time!

Day 1

Day 2

 

Cubs Game

All you need is good company, the Wrigley bleachers and the perfect day for a perfect baseball game!

 

Charlie's 9th Birthday in the city

Charlie Rose celebrates her last single digit birthday in the Windy City. Next year she will be 10!

 

We Love Visitors

It’s always fun to be a tourist in the new city.  Thanks to all the summer visitors who helped us discover some of the best breweries, rooftops, restaurants and brunches in the city.  Come visit again soon!

A Judge's Perspective: 2017 Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant

As many of you know, at the end of 2016 I made some big life changes to prepare for a life-filled 2017.  My vow was to have more work-life balance.  I wanted the opportunity to say 'yes' to new and spontaneous experiences.

During this time period, I was approached to serve as a judge for the 2017 Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant.  This pageant is a qualifying preliminary for the Miss Illinois and Miss America Pageant.  I have never participated or have known any participants of this very exclusive world.  I was very puzzled on how I was qualified to serve as a judge for a competition that I knew nothing about.  I rarely remembered to catch a glimpse of the Miss America pageant on TV or social media.  With an open mind, I decided to learn more about this opportunity to gain a new experience into a totally different world.

Miss Macomb Scholarship Organization is a preliminary for the Miss Illinois and Miss America Pageants. 

Miss Macomb Scholarship Organization is a preliminary for the Miss Illinois and Miss America Pageants. 

 

THE ASK

Kristen Conrad, a former college professor at Western Illinois University, is the Miss Macomb Board Vice President.  I was fortunate to have her for a Fashion Merchandising course during my undergraduate studies and have kept in touch thanks to the power of social media.  She reached out with such passion and shared that they needed a novice judge for the panel.  There are many eligibility rules for serving as a judge for the Miss America Organization.  One of the rules is that the judge’s panel needs a novice judge, which is someone who has never judged a Miss America Preliminary.  That is where I come into this equation.

I was a student of both Kristen Conrad and her husband, Dr. Craig Conrad, during my undergraduate studies at Western Illinois University.  Kristen is the Miss Macomb Board Vice President.

I was a student of both Kristen Conrad and her husband, Dr. Craig Conrad, during my undergraduate studies at Western Illinois University.  Kristen is the Miss Macomb Board Vice President.

Prior to committing, I also spoke with Kathy Waters, President of the Miss Macomb Scholarship Organization and the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce.  Both ladies did a great job of peaking my interest in this experience.  

Kathy Waters, President of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce and Miss Macomb Scholarship Organization.

Kathy Waters, President of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce and Miss Macomb Scholarship Organization.

 

WHY JUDGE A PAGEANT?

- The Miss America Organization is NOT a beauty pageant.  This was emphasized quite frequently.  The Miss America Organization is the nations’ leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States.  In fact, the Miss Macomb Pageant provides one of the largest local preliminary scholarships in the Miss America system. 

- The Miss Macomb Pageant is a preliminary to the Miss Illinois and Miss America Pageants.

- The Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant is a not-for-profit organization run entirely by volunteers.

You had me at "Hello, we have free cookies". 

You had me at "Hello, we have free cookies". 

After speaking with Kathy I thought, “How many people can say they served as a judge that helped determine the next Miss America?”  Knowing that I wanted to live more new and spontaneous experiences in 2017, I committed to the 2017 Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant!

 

 

THE PREPARATION

In my opinion, there was not a lot of preparation for the judges.  Certainly the candidates had much more prep work to prepare for the big day.  Prior to the pageant, we had to read and sign an affidavit.  The affidavit went something like this:

You, your family, your cousin’s dog walker’s boyfriend cannot know the candidates, candidates parents, or candidates dog walker’s boyfriend’s sister.  Basically, I could not know any of the candidates or anyone they knew. 

Luckily not being a resident of Macomb or surrounding counties and having been graduated more than eight years ago, I was eligible to serve as a judge.  We were asked to review the candidates’ resumes and platform essays prior to the interviews. I enjoyed the professionalism of the resumes and platform essays that helped shape my first impression of the candidates prior to meeting them. 

Prepping my wardrobe for the day and evening events. 

Prepping my wardrobe for the day and evening events. 

 

THE JUDGES’ TIMELINE

The day was jammed packed with a judges’ orientation, candidate interviews, dinner with the Mayor, and the big on-stage pageant.  

As an adult, I typically arrive early to professional meetings and obligations.  The daytime events were all held at Macomb’s City Hall.  I was the first to arrive and was greeted by Kathy Waters.  She was bright eyed and bushy tailed (and possibly four cups of coffee deep).  I also met the Co-Executive Directors of the pageant, Marta Ewen and  Lana Markham.  I was not positive who they were initially when I met them.  However, these two ladies play a very important role in the continued success of the Miss Macomb Scholarship legacy.  

 

THE JUDGES PANEL

My fellow judges for the Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant.  From left to right: Erin O'Connor, Nancy Lee, Curt Barker, Me, Rauna Brown

My fellow judges for the Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant.  From left to right: Erin O'Connor, Nancy Lee, Curt Barker, Me, Rauna Brown

Judge #1

Nancy Lee is a certified judge.  Each judges’ panel requires one certified judge.  She is a dominant stakeholder in the pageant world with more than 25 years volunteering.  She is the Executive Director of the local Miss Blackhawk Valley Pageant held in East Moline. 

 

Judge #2

Erin O’Connor was a WIU alumnus, theatre major, 2009 Miss Macomb, and 2010 Miss Illinois.  My first impression of Erin was “this girl definitely has worn a crown in the past”.  She was very bubbly, poised, and charming to have on the judges panel. 

 

Judge #3

Curt Barker is the Chief of Police in Macomb.  He was also a novice judge having no connection to the pageant world. 

 

Judge #4

Rauna Brown is another staple in the pageant world.  She was proudly Miss Macomb back in 1974.  My first impression of Rauna was that she truly enjoys helping young females achieve great things through the Miss America mission of promoting scholastic achievement, healthy living, and community involvement.  

 

Judge #5

That’s me!

Judge #5: ME!  They saved the best for last. 

Judge #5: ME!  They saved the best for last. 

 

ORIENTATION

Kristen was absolutely correct that I would be given all the information needed in the judges’ orientation.  Meganne Trela, Director of Operations with Miss Illinois, led the orientation and was very thorough in her explanation of judges’ responsibilities.  I cannot go into depth in regards to these details or about the candidates.  However, I will share that if each preliminary pageant is ran as professional as the Miss Macomb preliminary than you certainly have gained my respect for pageants and the Miss America Organization.

 

IT’S NOT A BEAUTY PAGEANT

There was a lot of emphasis in orientation that Miss America is not a beauty pageant.  I would guess that if I randomly asked “What is the Miss America Pageant?” to people on the street, that 7 out of 10 people* would reference Miss America as a beauty pageant. *That is certainly my opinion and not an actual result of a study.

I would honestly say that I was 1 of the 7 people who would have initially referenced Miss America as a beauty pageant.  Watching Miss America on TV, all you see are beautiful women with great bodies strutting their stuff in bikinis and jaw dropping evening gowns.  Sometimes you question, “What is the big differentiator between pretty girl number one and pretty girl number two?”

Being open to this new experience allowed me to learn that there is so much more than beauty to be crowned Miss America.  Instead of hair, makeup, and the quality of the evening gown, it’s all about first impressions, confidence, poise, energy, charisma, intelligence, and personality.  Ultimately the big question is “Would I be proud having this candidate represent my community or my state as a role model and leader?”

There are certain requirements for candidates to participate in the Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant that mostly revolve around geographic residency.  The candidates may have competed before in a local county fair (which is a different pageant and judging system), may have competed in a different preliminary, or may have never competed before.  For this pageant, there were girls who fell into each of these categories. 

Kathy Waters, Me and Rauna at the Mayor's house. 

Kathy Waters, Me and Rauna at the Mayor's house. 

 

THE CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS

Again, I cannot share any details about this process.  The purpose of the interview is to learn as much about the candidate from her platform and achievements to her perspectives on current events.   In my opinion, the interview is one reason I would encourage someone to participate in a pageant.  For most people, public speaking and social skills do not come easily.  Most people would say they do not enjoy public speaking, interviewing, or being in front of an audience.  These girls are one step ahead prepping for the interviewing experience. 

The Miss candidates ready for their interviews! Photo Source:  Facebook

The Miss candidates ready for their interviews! Photo Source: Facebook

The Miss Outstanding Teen candidates at City Hall for their interviews.  Photo Source:  Facebook

The Miss Outstanding Teen candidates at City Hall for their interviews.  Photo Source: Facebook

 

THE MAYOR’S DINNER

It is tradition for Mayor Mike Inman and his wife to host the judges’ dinner prior to the pageant.  

Mayor Mike Inman and his wife, Melissa, hosted the judges' dinner at their home.

Mayor Mike Inman and his wife, Melissa, hosted the judges' dinner at their home.

Jaryn Franklin, 2016 Miss Illinois, also was in attendance and performing at the pageant that evening. I did not watch last year’s Miss America pageant, but Jaryn was one part of the top 10 candidates who performed their talent on the Miss America stage. Jaryn is a local Quad Citian from East Moline.

The stunning 2016 Miss Illinois, Jaryn Franklin.  

The stunning 2016 Miss Illinois, Jaryn Franklin.  

Thanks for hosting all of us Mayor Mike and Melissa.

Thanks for hosting all of us Mayor Mike and Melissa.

 

LET THE SHOW BEGIN

As judges, we all had to arrive together and were not allowed to have any contact with the audience, parents, or candidates.  This is taken very seriously, especially at the state and national level.  If I needed to go to the bathroom, the bathrooms first had to be cleared out before I could enter. 

 

We were escorted into the auditorium and sat right in front of the stage.  As judges, we are advised not to interact or converse with our fellow judges during the pageant because people might think there was colluding happening.  We were also not allowed to talk, laugh, applaud, or show any emotion while contestants were on stage. 

 

Two former Miss Macomb crown holders emceed the show.  The ladies and all the volunteers did a great job to support the candidates.  Everything you expected was included in the show including an opening number, fitness/swimsuit, talent, eveningwear, and on-stage question.  Scattered between these sections of the competition, the 2016 Miss Illinois, Miss Macomb, and Miss Macomb Outstanding Teen performed different vocal numbers. 

 

During the pageant, I had no idea how my fellow judges were scoring each candidate.  I was just as excited as the audience to hear the emcees announce the crowning of the 2017 Miss Macomb and Miss Macomb Outstanding Teen.  

 

Welcome 2017 Miss Macomb Outstanding Teen Emily Jones.  This was Emily’s first pageant.  

Congrats to the 2017 Miss Macomb Outstanding Teen, Emily Jones!  Photo Credit: C hristy Photography ,  Christy Bozard Heaton

Congrats to the 2017 Miss Macomb Outstanding Teen, Emily Jones!

Photo Credit: Christy Photography, Christy Bozard Heaton

Also, welcome 2017 Miss Macomb Angelique Niemann.  Angelique was the 2016 Miss Quincy and recently finished her reign.  She will be prepping for the Miss Illinois Pageant in June with hopes to wear the crown in the Miss America pageant in September. 

Congratulations to the 2017 Miss Macomb, Angelique Niemann!  Photo Credit: C hristy Photography ,  Christy Bozard Heaton

Congratulations to the 2017 Miss Macomb, Angelique Niemann!

Photo Credit: Christy Photography, Christy Bozard Heaton

 

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

In life, we all have passions.  What gets us out of bed?  What do we thrive on?  For some people, the answer is promoting and supporting young women’s educational growth through pageants and the Miss America Organization.

 

The Miss Macomb Scholarship Pageant was started almost 60 years ago by a passionate couple, Bob and Nancy Foote. They were Co-Executive Directors and it was very apparent that this was what got them up everyday.  In honor of Nancy, who passed away in March 2016, there was a tribute at the beginning of the pageant.  Although I did not know this couple, it was very apparent to see impact they had on hundreds of lives and how involved they were in the community.  In 2016, Bob passed on the Co-Executive Director responsibilities to Marta and Lana.  They had big shoes to fill and, in my opinion, I think they filled them with honor and poise.  

 

There are long-standing traditions with the Miss America Organization, which has been around since 1921.  Obviously there have also been modernizations based on the ever-changing world.  I look forward to seeing the Miss America Organization continue to modernize and continue to support women’s education and future leaders.

Post-pageant gathering with the new Miss Macomb representatives. 

Post-pageant gathering with the new Miss Macomb representatives. 

Overall, I am so thankful that Kristen reached out to me and thought highly about my abilities to sit on such an extinguished judges panel.  Timing is everything and I am so glad I was able to be open to new and spontaneous experiences.  Although I cannot judge another preliminary pageant for three years, I would happily do it again.  I know it certainly changed my perspective about the Miss America Organization and pageant world.  If you get anything from my experience, I hope it is that not all pageants are beauty pageants.  Pageants and the people involved make a very big impact in the future of our female leaders.  

 

Collect your moments and share them with me. 

I would love to hear about a new, spontaneous experience that you decided to do and how it impacted your life.  Comment below!

 

Until my next moment- 

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