Me = Excited.
Alright now, this is what happed in the beautifully blustery, often gray, snowy, and festive eleventh month of our modern calendar:
My first appearance of the month was in Chelsea, Michigan, at the Miss Washtenaw County local pageant. What a show! I love working with Katie, she is a riot, and she definitely left big shoes to fill. I was so excited that they let me dance in their evening gown production number - I love to dance (even though I forgot some turns) and it is just a party when Katie's personality pops out on stage. Great job to everyone and good luck this year to Ashlee, the new Miss Washtenaw!
From Washtenaw, I prepared for the Ebony Fasionfair. Talk about a thrill. First of all, our cherished Frederic of the Southwest Pageant invited my mother and me to the fashion show (hosted by the Deltas - thank you Judge Mayfield Austyn's Mom!!!!), and told me, "DON'T TELL YOUR MOTHER, WE WANT IT TO BE A SURPRISE!" Okay, Frederic I can keep a secret. "What should we wear?" "Dress, I mean dress, girl!!" So, of course, while I'm trying to ambiguously describe to my mother how to dress for a secret occasion, my mom said, "Well why not just a nice suit?"
"Mom, we are going to an Ebony fashion show, you can't just put on some suit!" My mother's eyes popped out of her head as she exclaimed, "A WHAT?!"
Oops. Well, hey, at least it was a surprise until the weekend before. We arrived at the college auditorium, and I was 'dressed, girl' in a beautiful white, silver, and lace Claire's Collection gown that Larry of Suzanne's in Farmington loaned me for that event. And, talk about fashion! Every time any one of the gorgeous black models walked out on stage, the audience gasped at not only their fantastic stage presence, but also the breathtaking clothes they presented. I mean, top of the line fashions from around the world - America, France, England, Germany, India, Japan, and more. It was just wonderful!
"Whaaat? Wow, how old are you?"
"Wow, you're so short, I thought you had to be much younger than that."
Insert long pause as I searched for words to express more humor than offense.
"Ha, my friend, you have been around those seven-foot tall models for too long! See, the rest of the world is down here..."
Well, the rest of my world is anyway. He laughed at my attempt to maintain my SHORT dignity, and I met the rest of the models that also made a point to mention how cute and SHORT I am - I think mostly cute because I am short! Ha-ha, I know. I had a wonderful time meeting them and they are all kind, approachable, and BEAUTIFUL! They go on tour for months at a time. They told me about their tour bus, how they all pitch in to contribute to the team, and they spend hours of work on choreography and timing. I was very impressed and inspired.
The next exciting step in my life was the MAO Lottery. YIKES. Here's a story for you: arrived at Polly's for the annual tradition, logged onto the site, and began to pick out my preferred slots. WOOSH (that's the sound of the strongest wind I have ever heard). WOOSH, it came again.
We watched the clock approach lottery time, and then it began. The first contestant to go, then the on deck, and the on deck on deck (or whatever that double deck is called). None of which are Michigan. I held my breath in anticipation as I waited to see Michigan show up on the screen. WOOSH. About 3/8 of the way through, I saw Michigan, GLORIOUS, MICHIGAN, appear in the double deck box. WOOOOOOSH!!!
There was an electrical brown-out. And, WOOPSIE, NO MORE INTERNET! Thank God, Michigan showed up before that huge gust of wind because the internet was no more for the rest of the evening. If it had been a second earlier, I never would have seen my state on the screen. With the passing of the cable connection, I gave a call to the national office and said, calmly, "MY INTERNET IS OUT AND I DON'T KNOW WHATS GOING ON AND I JUST SAW MICHIGAN UP THERE BUT THEN THE WIND CAME AND EVERYTHING STOPPED I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS CURRENT AND I DON'T KNOW IF I MISSED IT, PLEASE TELL ME I DIDN'T MISS IT!!!" After some laughing (I don't know what for), I was right on time, and picked number four. Why? Because I like it.
Okay the next weekend, I drove farther north than I have ever driven alone in my whole life...you're right, I've never had a car, so before this year, I never really drove myself anywhere...anyway, to Heart of Michigan I went. I was so excited because I realized it is pageant crunch time! There are only a few opens and sweeps left but so many deserving and eligible contestants - THE PRESSURE!!!!!
I had never seen an open before, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was so much like Miss Michigan; there were fun and loving friendships between contestants, bubbly and happy personalities to spare, tons of fantastic talents, gowns, interviews, and an enthusiastically supportive audience. It was tons of fun.
I was very excited to be able to emcee another pageant and especially to share the stage with Austyn. I hadn't seen her since Miss Michigan week, and I was so eager to see her. After her wild voyage back to Michigan and then up to Kalkaska, she came to the rehearsal and introduced me to Glen's, the neighborhood grocer. We then spent about an hour discussing sugar and sodium content in Slim Fasts then finally decided on, of course, none of the above.
The next day was just hectic as we prepared for the show. You would have thought we were competing with all of the rehearsals, make-up, script writing and rewriting and rewriting and adlibbing that we had to do! It was an absolute blast! Again, great job to everyone! And huge congrats to Angela Corsi, one of the coolest people you will ever meet, and our new Miss Heart!! OKAAY (that is supposed to sound like Lil' John, and Angela, that was for you :) )!
On the 17th, I went to North Farmington High School, where I was originally asked to be a guest for a television student's interview project. Then, this very intelligent, funny, cute, and outgoing student, Sarah Ring, emailed me and said that now the whole high school was involved, and I was asked to speak to a whole assembly! I was very excited and also very impressed with the professionalism of this young high school student.
Well, I had a blast. The students were very responsive, so much that the French class was there, and I was able to help them practice their comprehension. They asked great questions, and one student even came asking for advice. He explained how he is uninvited and unaccepted in his peer groups. This wonderful student is on exchange for one year from South America, and in his few months here has an unfriendly and insensitive view of Americans, especially in high school.
As I spoke with him, I assured him that even as an American I knew exactly how he felt, because many Americans cannot accept and appreciate difference. We are instead afraid of what is not normal. The student asked what he can do. How can he make people talk to him, look at him, listen to him? I told him not to give up hope, and I begged him to not let this first difficult experience taint his view of all Americans.
Some advice for American students that share time with exchange students:
- Show interest in the new student; they are only here for a short time, and you may learn more from him/her than he/she may learn from you.
- Interact with the student as you would your own friends; teach them American slang (not profanity!), let them listen to popular music, show them America sports, and invite them to see some popular television shows or movies...something the student would not learn in his/her English classroom.
- Ask to learn some of the international sutdents' native language, and what he/she likes to do in his/her spare time (we have more in common than you think).
- Remember that you represent your school, gender, age group, ethnicity, neighborhood, and nation; kindness can spawn lasting friendships and insensitivitey can cause dysfunction and segregation for generations.
- Get involved with your host family. Ask if they have any children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews your age for you to meet.
- Ask for a tour of the area; find museums, sports stadiums, malls, or anything else that is unique about the area where you will reside.
- Offer to cook a meal that is traditional in your culture.
- Approach fellow students and ask questions showing your interest in their music, magazines, sports, TV, and movies. Everyone loves to talk about themselves a little - it is a great way to instigate conversation.
I had a great time being in high school again. Everyone was friendly, and the energy was surrounding upcoming sports meets and games, musical competitions, and the opening of James and the Giant Peach. I hung out for a while, had lunch, visited the art room, and then made it back to the studio for the TV 10 Talk for Ten recording. I was so impressed with the communication technology skill of the students! The whole production was student-run, except the questions, this time, which were presented by the teacher himself.
North Farmington really treated me like something special, and I was more than honored to be there. I was inspired at the passion and creativity with the young people as well as their ambition to dream big and set high goals.
Let the holidays roll!!!
Who knew I could ice skate and that Joe and I would make an Olympic duo on the ice?
Ha, not me. For a special treat (as plain old Octavia), Joe and I went downtown to Campus Martius for the Detroit Tree-lighting Event. I was just thrilled to tears (almost) when I saw Detroit City, twinkle, shine, and dance with the holiday joy of bubbling throngs of people. I never knew Detroit could look so beautiful, safe, and happy. I was warmed with an image of its rich past and inspired with a vision of its prosperous future.
Everything sparkled, animated to the sound of a live big band playing Christmas favorites. There were horses pulling holly-adorned carriages for rides around the area. The new Hard Rock Café was roaring with business as people piled in for a great meal and even to escape the cold. Au bon Pain was frantically trying to keep up with the cold and thirsty masses aching for coffee, cider, or hot chocolate. The television stations surrounded the area trying to catch the most exciting and active view. The seasonal ice rink was packed to the brim with skaters of all colors, shapes, and sizes and decorated with an over two-hour-long line for entry and skate rentals. And the tree rose out of the square, atop a fountain, like a giant, glistening, red, green, and gold trophy of optimism for the city.
Joe and I found a small clearing in the crowd near the end of the skate line and under the Christmas tree. It was a magical moment as we sadly realized there was not enough time in the weekend to wait in that line and shamelessly began to dance in the Campus Martius square. As we imitated the best and most talented of ballroom dancers (even attempting some lifts and stunts; yeah, we are fearless), we glanced around after the first song and realized we had attracted a small audience and some video cameras. We continued to entertain the on-lookers, all because we love to dance, we were having a great time together, we weren't ready to stop, and we were not ashamed if people saw us looking like idiots. It was more fun than anything we could have planned that evening.
My next event was the Wyandotte Christmas Parade, my first holiday parade of the season!!! Wahoo! It was a deliciously mild temperature, so I was not too cold or too hot in my "winter parade costume." But forget all that, I was mostly excited because Gina was also a part of it, and we got to ride together with Sheila! I had no idea one year ago that I would return to the same parade as Miss Michigan and with my darling Wayne Co successor, Gina Valo.
AMERICA'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE! All I wanted for Christmas, I mean Thanksgiving, was to be in the big Detroit Parade. Praise the Lord, I was, and I have the frostbitten toes to prove it...
I called. I wrote. I faxed. I asked for special consideration because I grew up watching that parade as a child. I remember wishing to be a part of one of the dance teams, or some of the figure skaters, or the marching bands, or heck, even though I was six, I would find a way to make a float worthy of Detroit's parade. I wanted to be in the parade that helped make Detroit fun during the holidays...and this was my chance.
I asked about Hobnobble Gobble, and was pleasantly surprised when they said I could go! Talk about Hobnobble-ing. Anyone who is anyone in the area was at that function! It was amazing. The ticket was a little confusing- but intriguing- because it said, "attire is black tie, or distinguished clown ruffles...will be held at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Carnival games and toys are available...special guest Ryan Cabrera." Was I going to a carnival in a gown??
Yes. The most glamorous carnival you can imagine! Everyone was in black tie, and yes, distinguished clown ruffle. There were television personalities, musicians, dignitaries, political candidates, and anyone else on Michigan's list of who's who, all under three huge tents that could have passed for an exotic palace. There were balloon archways, red carpets, lights creating the most pleasing atmosphere I had ever seen; it was the perfect balance between adult cultured sophistication and childlike silliness - it was as if they made it according to my wildest dreams...or Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.
There really were carnival rides and games; they were in the last of the three tents. It took all of my self-control to not get on the tilt-a-whirl and the bumper cars. There were children everywhere; running, jumping, laughing, squealing with delight, collecting the free carnival toys, anxiously awaiting their turn on the rides...all while dressed like little Candyland royals.
The food was fantastic; chocolate fondue fountains, dinner buffet, champagne bar, and CANDY! The middle tent was the banquet hall with enough tables and food to fit and fill thousands. There was a dance floor in front of a huge stage where all of the musical guests performed.
In the first tent, that's where it got wild. There were video games everywhere! I mean the kinds of games where you pick a song, then dance, drum, or play air-guitar according to what the program instructs. Many of them were two-player games, which were just excellent for the children, and others were recorded so you could act like you were in your own music video! Sooooo fun! Of course, I had to try them out to make sure they were really as fun as they looked. And they were. Santa was there to take pictures, and of course I had to stop and tell him that I want the movie Home Alone and that dancing snowman from Hallmark for Christmas. :) I got to meet Ryan Cabrera, too. Cute, talented, everything I would have fallen for as a teen... okay, I won't lie... who isn't elated to meet a celebrity?
Then the big parade day...Turkey day. Sweet, snowy, beginning of the holiday season... I was so pumped! I found my float, Santa's Workshop, and then thought I was in the wrong place... Where was I supposed to go on that beautiful work of art? Ha-ha, well, someone clued me in to the little railing that implied the area on which someone stands. P.S. - it was freezing. P.S. - it was way colder by the river - it rivaled lake effect. P.S. - why didn't I realize how long the parade was?
Well, let me tell you, it was worth it. Being a part of one of Detroit's traditions is so rewarding and fulfilling; it warmed my soul even though my body was an ice cube. Being able to look into the crowds, make eye contact with as many people as I could, smiling, waving, singing carols, cruise by my favorite streets and sites, like the DIA and the Main Branch library, and really feel like I am giving something back to Detroit is such an amazing feeling.
That's what was going on in my spirit - meanwhile, by the end of the parade, my body only moved in three places: my shoulders, my hips, and my knees. Enough to get into a car, not enough to talk, walk normally, or take off my boots and gloves. Ha, talk about an experience. But hey, the feeling is finally starting to come back into my toes (Joe reassured me that it wasn't severe frostbite, so any day now, I would be able to feel my toes again...one week later...). It was worth it. Thanks, Detroit!
Finally, on the last day of November, I will be showing my gratitude to Krautheim Jewelers in Muskegon as they celebrate the opening of their new building. They are so generous and supportive to give me and every Miss Michigan her gold Michigan pendant. It is such an honor to wear that one-of-a- kind creation.
I will leave you with this from November:
- Stay warm; don't get frostbite.
- Be funny; dance as if no one is watching.
- Be loveable; show compassion for someone who seems unhappy or uncomfortable.
- Try to tell someone everyday that you appreciate them.
Coming in December: Hearth and Home, Berkley Parade, clothing drive, donations, and spending time with families in need through Detroit's charities, update on UNICEF project, and fundraising for Jamaica missions to City of Refuge Children's Home. Stay tuned!