Day 3

July 17, 2013

So today I was actually able to sleep until my alarm went off… 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!!

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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.

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