GUEST POST: I LOVE Beauty Pageants! by Natalie Hartford

Today, while I’m welcoming my newborn home and getting everyone settled in, my good friend Natalie Hartford agreed to come over to my blog digs and entertain you with her antics. She’s an urban redneck; a cross-breed of city girl and redneck. She loves high heels, bling, all things pink and sparkly along with ball caps, 4X4ing, camping, and drinkin’ beer. She often mistakes tacky for fahbulous! She’s also a writer just starting out in the adventure of novel writing and has been blogging for about a year and a half. She entertains me with posts such as women peeing standing up, Twisted Tuesday fun with stuff like sunglasses that rock my beer or a new trailer hitch stripper pole, and her Urban Word Wednesdays where she teaches us words like masturcising and vajazzle.

That’s right.  I said vajazzle.  And you liked it.  Admit it.

The blog floor’s all yours, Natalie!

oOo

Thanks so much for having me Myndi. Congrats on new baby girl’s arrival and I hope you are all doing wonderfully adjusting to the new bundle of pink joy! Don’t you worry about a thing over here chez the blog. I’ll take care of your peeps real good!

Ok. Let’s get to it. I have a confession to make.

I love beauty pageants.

There…I said it.

Each year I curl up on the couch with a bowl of hot popcorn and watch the Miss Universe pageant admiring the dresses and the glamour. I sit with my pad and pen tallying up my own scores while making bold predictions for who will win and who will place. Even hubby joins in on the fun (he is such a good sport).

I know there can be a lot of controversy surrounding “beauty” pageants but I love them. I respect those women. When you read their bios and see their accomplishments, you quickly realize that pageant women are some of the most incredibly talented, educated, and empowered women doing amazing things in communities around the world.

Unfortunately, growing up I was a notorious bad-ass with a reputation to uphold so I felt unable to take part in any of the small-town pageants we had. But I always watched from the side-lines with envy as the popular girls got to have all the fun.

After I got married the first time, I stumbled across the Mrs. Canada International pageant*, a pageant system for married women. Shut the front door!?!?! (*At the time I was involved in the Mrs. Canada International pageant system there was an actual pageant to determine the national titleholder. I am not sure what the format is now.)

As a platform pageant system, all participants were required to have a cause or issue they promoted within their community, such as breast cancer awareness. At the pageant, half of the overall score was based on a 20-minute interview that was centered on community involvement. The other half of the score was divided equally between an on-stage fitness (instead of the swimsuit) and an evening gown competition. The top ten then competed in an on-stage question, which was factored into the overall score to determine the winner. As well as many wonderful prizes, the winner was given the opportunity to promote her platform nationwide and compete in the Mrs. International pageant in the US.

I was SOLD. This was my chance to fulfill a secret lifelong dream to become a pageant queen. Fame, fortune and world domination (and world peace, of course…) to follow!

Because this Canadian pageant system was relatively new and small, participants became city title holders through a mail-in application. I won as my city title holder two years in a row and competed nationally both years. My platform for both years was “self-esteem: what you believe, you can achieve.”

The first year, I didn’t even place in the top ten. Boo!

I didn’t let it get me down. I was determined to win the big crown! The first year, I learned a lot and it motivated me to try again.

The second year, I placed first-runner up.

Wow, not bad, eh?! I was the person that if reigning Mrs. Canada wasn’t able to fulfill her duties, I’d get to step in. Don’t get too excited. In the end, it turned out it was a good thing I didn’t win. Half way through my reign that year, I lost my crown when I filed for divorce. Funny, they don’t like women in the midst of a divorce representing their married women’s pageant. Go figure.

So I didn’t win….not once, but twice…and I lost my crown…and I fell from pageant glory…and I was slightly humiliated over the whole thing.

But here’s what I did learn.

  • I learned that pageant women are some of the best, brightest, and most dedicated and determined women out there. They are doing phenomenal things in our communities for the love of giving back. I am still close friends with some of these incredible women today.
  • I learned that going after your dreams, at any age or stage in life, is worth it. No matter the cost, effort, or “is she crazy???” looks you get from family and friends.
  • I learned that self-esteem and self-confidence is something you can gain at any time in life; that you build it within yourself one step at a time by doing things that fill you with pride.
  • I learned how to rely on myself by stepping outside my comfort zone and doing something totally on my own (knowing most of my friends and family thought I was totally insane).
  • Speaking of friends and family thinking I went nutty, I learned how to care less about what others think; to stand on my own two feet and let the judgments of others fall to the ground.
  • I learned to tune out fears, insecurities and self doubts so that I could follow my own heart.

Pageantry gave me wings to fly after my dreams.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, these were steps that lead me closer to myself and further away from my marriage. These were vital lessons I needed to learn in order gain the inner strength to put a voice to my own needs and make tough decisions for the sake of my own happiness and self-esteem.

And hell…y’all KNOW I looked fantastic in a crown!

Thank you again for having me Myndi! It’s been fun! For anyone who wants more of me feel free to:

Visit me at: http://nataliehartford.com
Talk to me at: natalie@nataliehartford.com
Follow me on twitter at: @NatalieHartford

oOo

Thank you for swinging by my blog and sharing your experience with my readers, Natalie. To be honest, I love beauty pageants TOO so you aren’t alone!!

Natalie would like to know; what experiences in your life have built you up and made you stronger? When have you laughed in the face of conformity to do something totally outside your comfort zone?

LUCKY ME! LUCKY YOU! IT’S THE LUCKY 7 MEME!

Okay, so I was kind-of thinking this was the neatest thing evah. The Lucky 7 Meme gets passed around the writerly community, tagging folks and tasking them with posting pretty little excerpts from their WIP’s (‘work-in-progress’ for you non-writerly types). The first time I saw it I became giddy reading little tidbits of what my buddies were working on, and really hoped I’d get tagged. I wanted to play, too!

Then I got tagged. (Thanks, Jennifer L. Oliver! and Jessica O’Neal!)And promptly got stage fright.

Here are the rules. When I was reading them on other folk’s blogs, they seemed like no biggie to me.

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

So, I went to page 77. I counted down to line 7. I read through the next 7 paragraphs.

I frowned, gulped, and immediately wanted to cheat.

The rest of the evening was spent combing through the manuscript with my snarky little Writer Troll peering over my shoulder saying, “That’s total crap. You have a prologue – don’t count that page, and check page 78 instead.”

I did. Writer Troll smacked loudly on her cinnamon-flavored gum. “That’s total crap. Maybe just check page 76 and see what you find there.”

I did. Writer Troll chimed in, picking at her chipped manicure. “That’s total crap.”

So I decided to check Chapter 7. It’s the Lucky 7 Meme after all, right? Chapter 7 could sort of count. Writer Troll, trying on my favorite heels without asking: “Total crap.  Can I have these?  They look better on me anyway…”

Page 7? Writer Troll, yawning: “Crap.”

Chapter 42? Don’t have one, but Writer Troll had an opinion on that, too. “If you did have one, it’d be total crap on a shiny silver platter.”

So I turned off the computer and went to bed. “Guess what?” Writer Troll whispered softly as she pulled the blankets up under my chin. “It’ll still be total crap in the morning.”

I woke up to a lovely rainy morning. Writer Troll was snoring loudly in my favorite chair. Drool had crusted in the corner of her mouth and my dog was growling at her from the corner. Somehow the diffused morning light made everything so much clearer. Someone in the room was full of crap. But it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t my manuscript.

It’s Writer Troll. She’s full of crap.

After a hearty breakfast and a cold glass of milk I kicked her mouthy @$$ to the curb.

She’ll be back, of course, but for the moment I’m free of her. :)

So, here it is. An except from my WIP, SHRILUGH. Page 77, seven lines in, seven paragraphs for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

…Something about Bristol’s appearance caught Rein off guard. He’d not noticed his eye color before now – it had been too dark in the barn on the Fulbert property. But here it was easy to see they were blue. Disturbingly blue.

Rein swallowed hard, turning his eyes away. The variety of eye color in the human world was strange to him, and he found looking at humans, especially those with blue eyes, unnerving. It was…unnatural.

Rein glanced back up at the boy, who happened to look down right at that moment. Seeing that he was awake, and watching them, Bristol nudged Isaac and nodded in Rein’s direction. Rein wondered if Isaac had told the humans he dwelled with the truth about who and what he was.

“It’s just…a gut feeling,” Isaac finally answered the boy, eyeing Rein cautiously as he said it. His response answered Rein’s curiosity; the humans didn’t know, or else he’d have explained what he suspected Rein’s presence meant.

Bristol walked nearer to Rein, crouching over him, eyeing his bruised and bloodied face, oblivious to the fact that the man he examined had to force himself to meet his gaze.

“Isaac, you did this to him?” He looked up over his shoulder at Isaac with a shocked expression on his face.

“I was trying to get him to talk.”

Voila! There it is!

And now I task the following seven writers (ach, if I had my druthers, the list would be MUCH longer than seven…and if you’ve already been tagged – oops, sorry!) to kick their trolls in the arse and post tidbits of their own manuscripts on their blogs! Roll call!

Ginger Calem

Sherry Isaac

Kara Flathouse

Tameri Etherton

Natalie Hartford

Kecia Adams

Jess Witkins

PEOPLE THAT ROCK, or INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD

Three definitions, straight from the dictionary:

Inspiring: [A person or thing who/that fills someone] with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative.

Blogger: An individual or group of users who produce an ongoing narrative on a Web site.

Award: A prize or other mark of recognition given in honor of an achievement.

The very sweet, very cool, very talented pair of girls Debra Kristi and Angela Orlowski-Peart totally made my week last week by giving me this award – TWICE!!  *absolutely humbled*  They’re both inspiring women themselves, and I really, really, really hope you’ll stop by their blogs – I know you’ll love ‘em as much as I do.  Thanks, sweet girls!  Totally honored!

The best part about being given a blog award is that you get to pass it on.  Today I have the happy job of passing the love on to five bloggers that I find inspiring.  Finding those bloggers won’t be hard – I’ve met some amazing bloggers over the past few months.  It’s whittling the list down to five that’ll be the real task.

Lucky for you, I’m up to it.  Here they are, in no particular order.

Blogger #1: Jim LePage  Jim is a graphic/web designer in St. Paul, MN.  His work makes my breath catch in my throat, and his blogs offer a fresh perspective on an often dry and stale topic: The Bible.  Noteworthy posts: An Idiot’s Guide to Reading the Bible; Jesus Christ: Terrorist Killer?; Word: Crucifixion (Crucify Him!)

Blogger #2: Eli McCann – It Just Gets Stranger This blog is a crack-up, from start to finish.  His most recent post (as of me writing this, anyway) The First Eye, had me giggling my arse off because (1) anybody who has an older sibling understands the terror they can inflict on us little ones with made-up monsters so horrifying Stephen King would have a difficult time facing them head-on; (2) I, too, have seen a UFO-flashy-green-light-in-the-sky, only to be mocked and abandoned by the person who saw it with me; and (3) My swimming style can be described as panicked rock slowly sinking (yes, this is similar to my running style of drunk girl slowly being chased by no one).  Definitely a blogger worth checking out.

Blogger #3: Tameri Etherton – A Cup of Tea and Sorcery  I love Tameri’s blog.  Sometimes she cracks me up, like this.  Sometimes she shows me things like this that just take my breath away.  And I find it absolutely fascinating that she can navigate Disneyland without a map.

Blogger #4: Jenny Hansen – More Cowbell  Jenny’s the total package.  Sometimes she writes stuff like this that has me mopping up freshly-snorted-out-my-nose-orange-juice from my laptop.  Other times she writes stuff like this that has me shaking my head at her techno-genius.  Then she writes things like this that make me feel better about the bouts of mommy-noia (paranoia for mommies) that I often have.

Blogger #5:  Natalie Hartford – Be Yourself…Everyone Else is Taken  Natalie’s writes and advocates about things that literally shred my heart to bits when I read them, as well as things that have me rolling on the floor with laughter.  Don’t miss out on Natalie’s blog!

There’s my five.  They inspire me because they make me think.  They inspire me because they make me laugh.  Some of them inspire me because they’re my friends, and I hold them, their hurts, their hopes, and their dreams close to my heart.

I hope you dig this list, and that each of these bloggers become a regular stop in your reading!