The Speak Foundation Conference

Speak Foundation Conference

July 26-27, 2013

Buckhead, Georgia

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9574″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2028″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”The Speak Foundation Banner”}}]]

What a fabulous weekend getting to know new people with a similar diagnosis.

I was invited by Kathryn Bryant, Speak Foundation Founder, to be a guest speaker during one of the sessions.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9575″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2029″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Presentation of disease.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9576″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2030″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Presenting on Muscular Dystrophy.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9577″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2031″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Presenting on the Jain Foundation.”}}]]

It’s still odd to me that I am a guest speaker at anything. I still think of myself as an average girl, raising a family, working, going to school, and just enjoying life.

The Speak Foundation was created as a way for other Muscular Dystrophy patients to connect with one another.

TSF (The Speak Foundation) Mission:

“The Speak Foundation is an organization that is dedicated to helping people of all ages overcome the challenges of muscular dystrophy and other physical health conditions. Our organization is full of volunteers who live daily with some of the greatest challenges and are also the most inspiring people we have ever met. We share how to overcome obstacles at our national conference each year. Because muscular dystrophy services are being reduced in many other areas, people with muscular dystrophy are in need of help and in great need of hope. There is no cure or treatment for this disease yet. Each year, TSF provides a free national conference to people who are overcoming the life challenge of muscular dystrophy or other serious physical health conditions.

In addition to our desire to connect the lives of individuals with muscular dystrophy or other health conditions, through events like our annual Speak Retreat and Conference, the Speak Foundation is a Christian organization that seeks to promote the charity and welfare of physically ill children who are poor or orphaned in our country and internationally. It is a part of the mission of the Speak Foundation to speak up for those who are unable to speak for themselves.”

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9578″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2032″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss, Jeremy, and Annabelle.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9579″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2033″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”title”:”Speak-06″,”alt”:””}}]]

This weekend’s conference is the first time some of these individuals have ever even met someone with a similar diagnosis. Everyone is in a different stage of illness (for lack of better word). It is wonderful to have an opportunity to share information about what works and doesn’t work with people who have actually been there already and experienced certain changes. Trust me when I say we do a lot of thinking outside the box to make everyday activities work for us.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9580″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2035″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”title”:”Speak-08″,”alt”:””}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9581″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2036″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”title”:”Speak-09″,”alt”:””}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9582″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2037″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”title”:”Speak-10″,”alt”:””}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9583″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2038″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”title”:”Speak-11″,”alt”:”Jean-Marie and Bliss”}}]]

My weakness has progressed much further than some, and not as much as others. There were several younger ladies who used a power chair for distance purposes only. They could still walk, just not very far. I remember those days. I almost felt like a ‘has been’ because I had already been there done that. Lol! I know that these girls still have so many more wonderful opportunities to experience. And I also know that if they have to start using the chair full-time that the wonderful opportunities don’t stop there!! I was pregnant and in my wheelchair full time. There are no limits to what you can do. You just have to be willing to do things a little differently, and different is GOOD!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9584″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-2039″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Speak group photo.”}}]]

I really look forward to this being a conference I attend every year. Thanks to The Speak Foundation, I now have more friends across the country. It was a pleasure to meet everyone and I look forward to staying in touch with them until next year.

Media Coverage of MWA

News Channel 12 was on hand to cover my airport homecoming. News reporter/anchor Erik Avanier was at the pageant in March when I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, so it was quite fitting that he was at the Chattanooga Airport to welcome me home after being Ms. Wheelchair America First Runner Up. Thanks so much to Erik and News Channel 12 for letting me know that Chattanooga cares. πŸ™‚

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9302″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-full wp-image-1980″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Jeremy and Bliss coming home.”}}]]

Watch the coverage here. News Channel 12 Homecoming

The Chattanooga Times Free Press also had an article in the paper on Monday.

Read more here. Chattanooga Times Free Press Article

There was also an article on The Chattanoogan.com website on Monday.

Read more here. The Chattanoogan.com Article

If there are any other articles that you have seen, please let me know. I would love to add them to the list.

I hope in the next few weeks there are several more in-depth news articles and interviews. It is important for others with disabilities to see that there is WAY more to life than their disability. I want to help show the 54 million Americas with disabilities that having a disability is NOTHING to be ashamed of. We can accomplish anything we put our minds to.

Bliss Welch Returns from the Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Pageant!

July 20, 2013, Knoxville, Tennessee

After a week of educational workshops, anxiety-provoking interviews, and of course, fun, Bliss Welch returns home to Tennessee as 1st Runner Up! If you have yet to hear of Bliss Welch, it is time to climb out from under your rock. While studying accounting at UT-Chattanooga, Bliss learned about the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee (America) organization and was encouraged by family and friends to compete in the upcoming pageant. Competition was stiff, but Bliss proved herself to be the best spokesperson for Tennesseans with disabilities. Upon winning the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013 this March, she grabbed up the reigns and slapped that pony! Bliss has visited several elementary classrooms to educate children on the importance of accepting individual differences, has begun her own campaign to spotlight other Tennesseans with disabilities, has presented her platform at the House of Representatives, has been on radio and television, and has even hosted her own Golf Tournament where she raised over $12,000.

On Saturday July 20th, Bliss of Harrison, TN was elevated to the top 5 of 27 contestants. After each of these five women answered final questions, the judges left to deliberate. When they returned, they named Jennifer Lynn Adams of Washington, Ms. Wheelchair America 2014. While Bliss did not bring the national title home, she says, β€œI know that regardless of the outcome, I was myself and always will be.” The Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee organization could not have been more proud of Bliss and all of the work she has done this year. She will continue to hold the title of Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2013 and complete the goals she has set for herself. Bliss will then pass her title on to another at the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee 2014 pageant. Since the establishment of the national organization in 1972, there has yet to be a Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee to win this title. Perhaps the first person to do so is reading this right now! For more information on how to get involved or to schedule an event with Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee (America), please visit www.mswheelchairtn.org.

###

PRESS-RELEASE: Bliss Welch Returns from the Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Pageant (MS Word)

PRESS-RELEASE: Bliss Welch Returns from the Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Pageant (PDF)

Organization Information:

Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee follows the guidelines set forth under the Ms. Wheelchair America (www.mswheelchairamerica.org) organization. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee holds a competition to select the most accomplished and articulate spokeswoman for persons with disabilities across the State of Tennessee. Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee is charged with a continuing effort to educate the public regarding the dignity, productiveness and basic values of people with disabilities.

Contact Information:

State Coordinator: Samantha Moreno

Ms. Wheelchair of Tennessee, Inc.

1217 Bentley Park Lane, Knoxville, TN 37922

865-441-6888

sam@mswheelchairtn.org

www.mswheelchairtn.org

MWA-Saturday

Day Six

July 20, 2013

What an incredible night!! What an incredible week!! What an incredible last four months!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9546″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1972″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss in her crowning ceremony gown.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9547″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1973″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss is ready for the crowning.”}}]]

Since most all of you already know how the evening turned out I will not wait to say…..

I am honored to be Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 First Runner Up!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9548″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1974″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”199″,”alt”:”Jeremy and Bliss”}}]]

Congratulations to Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Jenny Adams!!!!

I cannot wait to follow her year as Ms. Wheelchair America 2014. I have no doubt that she will touch the hearts of everyone she comes in contact with. I am excited to watch her live her dream. It will be an honor to have her visit our great state of Tennessee. Let’s plan something super special for her because she deserves it!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9549″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1975″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”199″,”alt”:”Jenny and Bliss”}}]]

I have to confess that I arrived on Monday with the hopes that I would make it to the top five. I knew there were going to be 26 other amazing women and there was a good chance I would not make the top five. Of course, I dreamed of taking the crown home because that would have been a first for Tennessee. I am sure each of the other girls had the same dream.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9550″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1976″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”199″,”alt”:”Top Five”}}]]

As the week progressed and I learned more and more about each girl, I began to wonder if I would even make the top 5. Each girl came with her own unique physical struggle that she had successfully triumphed and some girls had overcome even so much more than that.

I often wondered if even belonged in the same ranks as some of these girls. So accomplished, so strong, so independent, so determined to make the world a better place for those with disabilities. I was just a small town girl from Tennessee with the desire to sprinkle a little bliss around the country. My life didn’t tragically change in the blink of an eye. I don’t experience any chronic daily pain like some of the girls. I am just weak; no pain and no tragic loss.

I have said many times, I feel like I hit the lottery when it comes to having a disability. I now know what to expect in the future and I have time to prepare. My weakness is a slow gradual process that will continue as I age. I have time to adjust to these changes as they don’t happen over night. And I know there is a foundation that is solely searching day and night for a cure. I have no doubt they will find something in the very near future to help me. I have high hopes that my weakness will not progress much further due to the advancements in science. (Now back to the blog…..I got a little side-tracked.)

Each one of us will return home to continue representing our wonderful states. I am only 4 months into my year as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee. Y’all know what all I have done in those 4 months. I can’t imagine what the next 8 months will hold!!

I can honestly say that this has been one of the best weeks of my life. I would not change a moment of it. I know I’m a winner because I had the love and support of each one of you reading this blog. Y’all have been the best cheerleaders a girl could ask for.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9551″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1977″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”199″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss at her table display.”}}]]

Thank you so much.

MWA-Friday

Day 5

July 19, 2013

I was up earlier than normal this morning. At 5:30, the alarm was the last thing I wanted to hear!! I had a lot to accomplish today!! I still needed to meet all the other girls.

Our breakfast gift was an adorable boot glass, a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and a note explaining the history of how it came to be. Texas has been such an incredible host state and why wouldn’t they? Everything is bigger and better in Texas!! Many thanks to all the Texas peeps who have worked so hard to make this such a memorable experience. This southern girl really appreciates it.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9525″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1921″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Dr. Pepper.”}}]]

I had what I feel was my best (and also my last) round of judges interviews right after breakfast. I know that regardless of the outcome tomorrow night, I was myself and always will be.

We had four more sessions covering Advocacy and Communication, Public Relations, Disability Policy, and Legislative Advocacy. All of the sessions will help me be a better titleholder for Tennessee when I return home.

During lunch, I was pulled out to give an interview for a television show filmed here in Houston called Mirror, Mirror. I will post the details of when the show will air when I have them. It is televised but will also be found online.

After lunch, we attended a mini disability expo. It was nice to have one-on-one time to talk with the vendors and try out some of the equipment they brought. I was able to thank Todd Novack, the Houston Permobil rep again for providing me with a power chair to use during my week. He is an absolute sweetheart!! I met Annie Kennedy who is with the MDA. We have a mutual friend. I think the world just gets smaller every day!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9526″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1922″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss and Little Miss Texas.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9527″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1923″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Oklahoma, standing in a permobil.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9528″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1924″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss with Todd Novack.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9529″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1925″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma and Bliss”}}]]

I had to cut the expo short so I could make it to my hair appointment at 2:15. Volunteer hairdressers where brought in to fix our hair for both nights of the pageant. News Channel 2 interviewed me while I was getting my hair done. And it turned out quite fabulous.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9530″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1926″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. California getting her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9531″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1927″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Pennsylvania getting her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9532″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1928″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Illinois having her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9533″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1929″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Oklahoma getting her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9534″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1930″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss being interviewed while she gets her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9535″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1931″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss having her hair done.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9536″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1932″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss with Jeri Wasco.”}}]]

Annabelle was due to arrive soon with Mamaw (my grandmother) and Kathy (my mother-in-law) at any time so we headed to the room to wait on them. I couldn’t wait to see Annabelle!! It has been a long busy week without her, but she has always been in the front of my mind. There was a knock at the door and I thought for sure it was my baby. It wasn’t my baby but it was a delivery man with an absolutely beautiful bouquet of flowers for me!!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9537″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1933″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Flowers for Bliss.”}}]]

After the hype and excitement of the flowers died down, there was another knock on the door. This time I was for sure it was Annabelle…and it was…..with a surprise visitor!!!! My sister!! I was so excited she was able to make it!! She is the reason I am here today!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9538″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1934″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Annabelle”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9539″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1935″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss with her sister.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9540″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1936″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss\u0026#039; mother and sister.”}}]]

Now once all that excitement was over, it was time to get pageant ready. Mom and Michelle helped me get into my dress and shoes. Annabelle was on the hotel phone. She is too stinking cute!! We taught her to say room service. So she would pick up the phone and say, “Hello?? Room service?? Hello?” Lol!!!

Dress rehearsal was simple because of the wonderful volunteers and Angela’s planning. Everyone was giddy and ready to get the evening going.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9541″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1937″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss in her Speech dress.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9542″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1938″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Ms. Oklahoma and Michelle, Bliss\u0026#039; sister.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9543″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1939″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”199″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Michelle and Bliss.”}}]]

After dress rehearsal, we all headed up for dinner. I’m not sure any of us girls ate much. Our minds were elsewhere.

After dinner, it was show time!! There was some time to mingle and take pictures before the show started.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9544″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1940″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Annabelle with a \u0026quot;My Mommy is Bliss\u0026quot; sign.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9545″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1941″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss\u0026#039; mother and sister in front of her table display.”}}]]

It was time to line up. Thank goodness the platform speeches were given in reverse order. I got to get mine out of the way early!! Yay!!

Each and every girl did AMAZING!! We all gave a piece of our heart and soul to the audience. There aren’t many people that can do that. I hope everyone is proud of themselves because they should be!! I wish we could all go home Ms. Wheelchair America 2014!! Could you imagine 27 of us rolling around the country with our huge crowns?!?!

MWA-Thursday

Day Four

July 18, 2013

It’s Thursday already!! How can that be? It seems like we just got here. I was up bright and early again this morning. Can you guess what time?! That’s right, 6:30. I had a special visitor stop by and help me get ready this morning. My mommy. πŸ™‚

Yesterday was so jam pack, I forgot to tell you about my gift. It was a cute fiesta box with chips and salsa, mini maracas, and a festive necklace.

Today’s gift was a bag with a bluebonnet flower, a poem about the flower, and a yummy cupcake. I could totally get used to this whole gift at breakfast routine. πŸ˜‰

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9514″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1903″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Breakfast gift.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9515″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1904″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss posing outside her hotel room.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9516″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1905″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss, still smiling on Day 4.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9517″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1906″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss with Ms. Massachusetts. “}}]]

Today was a ‘laid back’ day for me because I didn’t have a judges interview session. We had morning workshops that covered leadership, SSI benefits and laws, disability education history, and how the ADA came to be. For those of you that don’t know, the ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was a civil rights act that was signed by George Bush on July 26, 1990. The ADA helps put individuals with disabilities on the ‘same playing field’ as able-bodied (AB’s) individuals.

Lex Frieden was our final speaker before lunch. Mr. Frieden was instrumental in making the ADA a reality. I’m still amazed at all the incredible people that God has placed in my path. Mr. Frieden’s story is one of great strength and determination. He encouraged us all to be better advocates for the greater good of those who will come after us. What an honor and a blessing to hear his story.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9518″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1907″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Lex Frieden.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9519″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1908″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”106″,”alt”:”Group photo.”}}]]

After lunch, we enjoyed a panel discussion with several key people in the disability community. We were all told to shine bright and stand up for what you believe in. The United States have come a long way but there are still MANY improvements to be made for individuals with disabilities.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9520″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1909″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”224″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss raising her hand with a question.”}}]]

Ms. Wheelchair America 2013, Mariah Kilbourne, shared her platform and pieces of her year of reign with us. I have no doubt she positively impacted the lives of thousands and thousands of people. What an honor it was to learn from Mariah.

Adaptive Zumba was next on the list. And let me tell you it was fun!! My physical therapist, Rebecca, will be glad to know I got some exercise in this week and that I wasn’t a complete slacker. Sadly, I realized that any coordination that I used to have is now officially gone. Oh well, at least we all had a good time.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9521″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1910″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Adaptive Zumba.”}}]]

There were just a few minutes left for a wardrobe change and then, it was back downstairs for the pajama party. Pizza, ice cream, games, and giggles were had by all.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9522″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1911″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss and Jeremy at the pajama party.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9523″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1912″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss, Ms. Iowa, and Ms. Kansas at the pajama party.”}}]]

I must admit that I am completely exhausted. I have to be up bright and early in the morning. My final judges interview will be around 9:00. And tomorrow night is the first night of the pageant, which means platform speeches!! Where has the week gone?? I haven’t had a chance to connect with all the girls yet. Looks like tomorrow will be a busy day of interviews, connecting with all the girls, and platforms!!

If you are interested in watching the pageant, please check out the info below. I would love to see pictures if you have a viewing party. πŸ™‚

Thanks for all your love, support, and prayers.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9524″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1913″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”224″,”alt”:”Ms. Wheelchair America 2014 Banner.”}}]]

Below is a link where you can watch the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant from your computer. Just click on the link at the times that each evening will start and it will be streaming on this website. There are no other instructions- this page will be dedicated to MWA and no login is required.

Friday, July 19th, 7:30pm

Saturday, July 20th, 7:00pm

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dnawebs

MWA-Wednesday

Day 3

July 17, 2013

So today I was actually able to sleep until my alarm went off…..at 6:30. Ugh!! Still not enough sleep. It must have something to do with this hotel. Lol.

Today was the first round of judges’ interviews. Surprisingly, I wasn’t at all nervous. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is that I will always be true to myself. I am a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of girl. I hope they like what they see!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9505″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1892″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss is ready for day 3.”}}]]

Just like the other 26 girls that are here competing for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America, I would LOVE to win so I can share my message and touch the lives of others. However, I realize that regardless of who wins, I still have another 8 months to share my message as Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee. And it doesn’t have to stop there. I will always be able to impact the lives of others, with or without a crown.

Breakfast started with Ms. Kansas and her husband and Ms. Virginia, her husband, and their adorable son. The men were all talking about things that they have done with their wives’ old wheelchairs. Mr. Kansas has souped up one of Angel’s old wheelchairs to go 13 mph. Wow!! Not to be outdone, Mr. Virginia told of the time when he jumped off their van using Brittney’s wheelchair batteries. That’s right folks, I said jumped a car off with a wheelchair battery. Jeremy is getting all kinds of ideas here.

The morning session started off with a workshop from Ann Eubanks. She gave a very interesting talk about leadership. I hope to hook up with her when I get back to Tennessee, she’s from Nashville so that shouldn’t be too hard to do.

The second morning session was by an ADA attorney from Birmingham, Alabama. He discussed the accessibility rights that we have as individuals with disabilities. Businesses that are not compliant with the ADA laws can be sued because of this. A person with a disability that sues a business because it is not compliant with the ADA does not receive any monetary compensation, instead modifications must be made to make it accessible for individuals with disabilities; therefore we receive access to the business. Which is all we wanted in the first place….to be treated as equals.

I was called out for my first session of judges interviews during the ADA talk. The first interview was five minutes in length and I think I did okay.

Shortly after my first interview, we broke for lunch. Jeremy and I had the honor of dining with Ms. Washington and her friend. It was wonderful to learn what all she is doing in her state. We both thoroughly enjoy our school visits. It really is about making a connection with children at a young age so they understand that people with disabilities are just like everyone else.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9506″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1893″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss in a rain poncho.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9507″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1894″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Jeremy kissing the top of Bliss\u0026#039; head.”}}]]

With no time to spare, we arrived back at the hotel for the afternoon sessions. Our first session was about our personal strengths. We had all taken an online test before we arrived and we discussed the results. My number one strength is the capacity to love and to be loved by others.

The second afternoon session was about women’s health. We covered all the things that we still have to think about in spite of our disabilities. We also discussed the accessibility issues that we have at our doctors offices. We were sharing all kinds of information that other people would have probably thought was too much information, but it’s always good to get someone else’s perspective on how they make their life work. This was the perfect opportunity for me to share with the other girls something that helps me stay independent. I use things called p-mates in the bathroom. These p-mates allow me to stand and pee, like a man. (I will share a more in-depth post about this later.)

During the third session, we discussed how to deliver our platform speeches. We broke into pairs and shared our platform speeches with each other. I was able to run through my speech twice. It”s very helpful to share it beforehand with others. I didn’t realize that I would have two judges interviews today. I was pulled out for my second interview during this session. This interview was 10 minutes in length and I feel like I really got to share a lot with the judges this time.

I went back for the fourth and final session after my interview. In this interview we covered how to be a good leader and what we could learn from other leaders. Everyone offered really good information.

It was up to the room to change for fiesta night. My mom and Mike had arrived by this point and my mom was able to come help me change into my next dress. We all headed over to the Mexican restaurant and had a wonderful dinner. Jeremy and I enjoyed dining with Ms. Oklahoma and her mother and Ms. Maryland and her sister. We all had a great time and learned more about each other.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9508″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1895″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss with Ms. Oklahoma and Ms. Maryland.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9509″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1896″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss and her mother.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9510″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1897″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss and Ms. Oklahoma.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9511″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1898″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss with her mother and Mike.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9512″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1899″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss with Ms. Alabama.”}}]]

What is so awesome about this week is that we all have our own stories to share. We all have unique perspectives on life. We all came to be wheelchair users through different circumstances in our lives. It is amazing to hear the stories of the other girls. Some lives changed progressively over time, some lives changed in the blink of an eye, and some lives were this way from the beginning.

I tell people all the time how fortunate I am because I’m just weak. I don’t hurt, I don’t have any other major complaints. I’m just weak. I feel like I have it really easy in comparison to what some of the other girls have gone through in their lifetimes.

Amazing women, truly amazing, inspirational women, who will make a huge impact on America. I am blessed and honored to get to know each and every one of them.

As Jeremy and I entered the hotel to go to bed, we ran into a gentleman on his way out. He looked at me and said, “Hey, I know you. You’re Ms. Tennessee.” I said, “Yes, I am.” We talked about how he was here in Houston on business from none other than Chattanooga, Tennessee. He told me that he had seen me on TV and in newspapers back home. How cool is that? What are the odds to run into someone from your hometown in the same hotel as you and to recognize you? He congratulated me and told me to bring the crown home to Tennessee. I would love nothing other. πŸ™‚

Please, don’t think I’m being rude as I have zero time to respond to any of the sweet comments you’re leaving for me. Please know that I’m reading each and every one of them and they mean the world to me. Thank you so much.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9513″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1900″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Jeremy and Bliss wearing fake mustaches.”}}]]

MWA-Tuesday

Day Two

July 16, 2013

I woke at 6:30, not because the alarm was going off, but because I had to pee. Ugh!! I was hoping for another thirty minutes of sleep. Oh well, once I’m out of the bed its just not worth it to get back in.

Jeremy and I dressed in our MWA t-shirts and headed downstairs for our first breakfast. My gift of the day (yes, we get daily gifts…how cool is that?!?) was a bandana with a pin and an ornament from the museum we would be visiting after breakfast. We chatted it up with Ms. Virginia and Ms. Pennsylvania. After scarfing down a quick bite, we hurried back upstairs for a potty break.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9494″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1879″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss, in her new MWA t-shirt.”}}]]

Everyone gathered in the lobby so we could all travel to the museum together. What a wonderful site we were parading through the streets of downtown Houston. We all chatted and laughed along the way.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9495″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1880″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Group photo.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9496″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1881″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Group photo.”}}]]

Once at the museum, all 27 of us posed for a group picture. And then, the companions joined in….you know Jeremy was loving that. Lol. And the all the volunteers. What a wonderful group!!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9497″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1882″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”MWA Group photo at the museum.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9498″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1883″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Titleholders and Companions”}}]]

We were given a scavenger hunt sheet for the museum. Even though it was only 3 floors, it would have taking days to look at everything. We all buzzed around looking for answers to our scavenger hunt questions.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9499″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1884″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss posing in front of the Welch Chemistry Hall.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9500″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1885″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss, waving.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9501″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1886″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Bliss and Jeremy”}}]]

Lunch was wonderful!! I wish we had the pasta salad and pimento cheese recipe they used!! For me, that’s saying a lot because I am a picky eater.

After lunch we adopted a pet dinosaur for Annabelle. I hope she likes it!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9502″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1887″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss posing with the baby dinosaur toy.”}}]]

I was able to talk to several girls during the museum fun. Ms. Alabama, Ms. Indiana, Ms. Kentucky, Ms. Mississippi, Ms. North Carolina, Ms. Ohio, Ms. Oklahoma, Ms. Texas, and Ms. Wisconsin were all a pleasure to get to know better. There are still so many girls I want to speak to before the week is over!!

We headed back to the hotel around 1:30 and made a brief stop by CVS for some Bliss chocolates for my table. We went up to the room for my candy dish and then headed back down to my table to add the Bliss chocolates.

We then went over to the Little Miss Texas tea party and signed autographs. Those girls were all absolutely adorable. And a few of them shared my love for the color pink. I had some more time to get acquainted with some of the other girls. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Ms. Louisiana, Ms. Michigan, Ms. New Jersey, Ms. Pennsylvania, and Ms. Wisconsin.

After the tea party, it was time to head back up to the room and get changed for Cowgirl Night. We all met back in the lobby and headed out for dinner all decked out in cowboy boots and hats. We finally all looked like we belonged in Houston.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9503″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1888″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss in her pink Cowgirl hat and boots.”}}]]

At dinner we all had a wonderful time talking with one another. We each have our own different stories but we are all able to relate to each other. It’s such a nice feeling to talk to someone who understands the same problems that I have. Tonight we all agreed on one thing… just how exhausted we are. Even though I was tired I really enjoyed spending the evening with Ms. Oklahoma, Ms. Ohio, and Ms. Maryland.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9504″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1889″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss and Jeremy.”}}]]

Jeremy and I left a little early because I really needed to get some rest and of course come back to the hotel room and blog about my day.

I hope you’re enjoying my journey as much as I am enjoying sharing it with you.

Day 3 brings the first round of judges interviews. Say a little prayer for me. Good night friends.

MWA-Monday

Day One

July 15, 2013

The alarm clock rang at 5:20. I was up and out of the bed before the second alarm went off at 5:30.

The Ms. Wheelchair America week is finally here! It feels like a life-time ago that I was sitting in my accounting night class at UTC looking up information for the Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee pageant. It’s so hard to believe that was just six short months ago!! The memories I have already made are incredible. I can’t imagine what wonderful things will come from this week.

Michael (my brother) came to pick Jeremy and I up around 6:30 and it was off the the Chattanooga airport!!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9479″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1862″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”In front of the Chattanooga airport.”}}]]

Check-in was a breeze and everyone was so nice!! This was going to be the first time in a long time that I have been without a power wheelchair. Permobil was gracious enough to have a loaner chair delivered to the hotel in Texas for me to use for my week at the MWA pageant. (It’s scary to fly with a power chair. It seems like every time we have flown with one, something always comes back broken.)

After we checked our bags, Jeremy walked off with out me. He finally turned around to notice I wasn’t beside him. He had forgotten that he was going to have to push me in the manual chair. (I think it might be a long day until I get my mobility back in a power chair.)

I went through the pat down with the TSA officers. They were both very sweet ladies and very interested in my MWTN sash. I told them where I was going and they wanted to know more!! I, of course, loved sharing all the details with them.

After successfully passing my pat down, we headed to our gate. Well, Jeremy had to come back for me again because he already forgot I couldn’t drive myself.

We talked with the airline personnel before loading the plane early. They too wanted to know more about my sash. It brings me such joy to share the purpose of the Ms. Wheelchair organization.

I had to transfer over to an aisle chair in order to safely get on the plane. The ladies were super sweet and made sure my knees didn’t get bumped.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9480″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1863″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Getting on the plane using the aisle chair.”}}]]

Once everyone was aboard the plane, the flight attendant made an announcement about my trip to Texas to compete in the MWA pageant. Too cool!! Everyone applauded and wished me well.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9481″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1864″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Jeremy and Bliss seated in the airplane.”}}]]

We switched planes in Dallas and had a short flight to Houston. There were two fabulous ladies who met us at baggage claim. They came bearing gifts of water and snacks and escorted us to our car. Debbie is on the Ms Wheelchair Texas board and drove us to the hotel. We chatted the entire way. She is a super nice gal.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9482″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1865″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss exiting the plane.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9483″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1866″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss in her seat on the plane.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9484″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1867″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss, with the Welcoming Committee at the Houston airport.”}}]]

Our room wasn’t ready and my wheelchair hadn’t been delivered when we arrived at the hotel. That was okay, we went upstairs to check in with Ms. Wheelchair America and set my table up. Everyone was so nice and friendly!! I just know this is going to be the most incredible week!

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9485″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1868″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss at the display table.”}}]]

Still waiting to get in our room, Jeremy and I decided to go across the street for some Mexican food. It was yummy and turns out, we will be eating there as a group on Wednesday.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9486″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1869″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Chips and salsa.”}}]]

When we got back to the hotel, our room was ready. We went upstairs and waited on Permobil to deliver my loaner chair. Todd got here around 5:00 (we are on central time now) and was such a great guy!! He wanted to make sure everything was perfect. He made several adjustments to make things more comfortable for me. Unfortunately, the seat isn’t quite deep enough so I am unable to do any standing transfers. Todd is going to check around for a chair that will fit me better. Keep your fingers crossed.

After that, we had only a few minutes to check out the state tables and chat with some of the girls. Then it was off to dinner. Jeremy and I dined with Ms. Ohio, Ms. Oklahoma, Ms. Texas, and Little Miss Texas. The table was full of chatter the entire time.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9487″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1870″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”First MWA dinner.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9488″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1871″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:””}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9489″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1872″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Little Miss Texas.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9490″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1873″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Patriotic place setting for Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee, Bliss Welch.”}}]]

After dinner it was off to orientation. We got seats on the front row. First, we had a guest speaker and then we played a get to know you game with our state pins. There were random facts provided by all of us on a sheet and we had to guess who went with each fact. I don’t think anyone finished but the game will be on going all week.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9491″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1874″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Jeremy and Bliss”}}]]

Next we learned lots of dos and donts for the week. And other information.

Then we all got our new sashes that were hand made by Shelly, Ms Wheelchair America president. She prayed for each of us as she worked on our sashes.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9492″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1875″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”300″,”height”:”225″,”alt”:”Shelly, passing out sashes.”}}]]

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”9493″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-1876″,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”style”:””,”width”:”225″,”height”:”300″,”alt”:”Bliss, speaking to the group.”}}]]

We had a few more items to go over and then it was off to our rooms at around 10:00 (remember it’s really 11:00 for me).

Not not sure this all flows but I can barely hold my eyes open. I promise more posts and pictures tomorrow.

Thanks for all the likes and comments on Facebook…I’m sorry i can’t respond to everyone.

‘Twas the Night Before Houston

‘Twas the night before Houston,

and all I could do was think about things still left to do.

The bags were packed and by the back door

In hopes of a speedy departure early in the morn.

I should have been nestled all snug in my bed,

With visions of the fun filled week ahead.

When suddenly I realized my list needed checking once more.

Away to the office I flew like a flash,

Tore open my MacBook and scrolled through the list at last.

The items on the note page began to appear,

And all I could think was, The deadline was near.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But items not crossed off and we were only eight hours from depart.

With a determined spirit, so eager and quick,

I knew in a moment it must all be done quick.

More rapid than the jet I would fly,

I began re-sighting my speech once more.

“Now Americans, now Americans,

I’m calling you all!

Come on, men! Come on, women! Come on, children, too!

To Houston to hear my Blissful spill!

Now hurry! Now hurry! And don’t delay!!”

As my mind wondered back to the task at hand,

I began crossing items off that long list that still loomed.

So back to the luggage I flew,

With an arm full of shoes and state pins, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I remembered the jewels,

That Rone Regency so graciously loaned.

As I dropped more clothing in my bag,

Down the hall came my husband with a bound.

He was dressed all in his Sunday best, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all pressed with the greatest of care,

A bundle of dresses he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a crazed shopper, just leaving the mall.

His eyes how they sparkled! His sweet smile was so merry!

He was such an good helper, like my very own packing fairy!

His cheerful spirit was amazing, like the best thing ever,

And his words of encouragement seemed to go on forever!

The list-now printed-I held tight in my hands,

And the words on the page were driving me mad.

I had to claim down, all would be well.

That much I knew, due to all my friends who were so swell.

After all I was Ms Wheelchair Tennessee,

And I knew the plan was to make my state proud!

A wink of my eye and a smile in the mirror,

Soon made me realize I had nothing to fear.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my room,

And filled all my luggage, with last minute loot.

And laid out my skirt and shirt,

And knew tomorrow would be here too soon.

I sprang to the bed and gave a great sigh,

And laid my head down on the pillows so high.

But I knew my eyes would not close until I had this last thought,

“Prayers to all and to all a safe flight!”