#Scholarship, and nonprofit full time volunteerism

 

If you have never heard my story of how my heart for volunteerism developed, I would love to share it with you sometime, maybe even over a cup of coffee; it’s one of my favorite stories to tell, and we all know how I love to talk.

But the point of this story is that I’ve been given the opportunity to do something that has been on my list of aspirations for years.

I have wanted to be an official part of a nonprofit organization, like on the board, not just an occasional volunteer; and I am a strong believer that when God placed a desire in our hearts, He will open the doors to fulfill the desires we just need to be willing to step forward to do our part.

In May, I received an email asking if any Charlotte area Kappa Delta alumnae would like to be part of an event called “Bre Fest.” It was going to be a fundraiser for the Breanna Ringersen Memorial Scholarship which is a 501(c)(3) established scholarship through Kappa Delta, that will ultimately go to an UNCC student.*

God and I wrestled with this decision for a few days. I had only been reinstated to Kappa Delta as an alumna in August. I knew I was transferring schools to teach in the fall. I was beginning an internship for graduate school. I am still battling this (seemingly never-ending) autoimmune disease. (I didn’t know about the upcoming engagement, but God did). But God whispered, “Will you regret it if you say no?” And I knew my answered, so I simply said, “Hey, I’m interested in serving on the committee.”

Now, let me briefly rewind, while trying to keep it brief. I volunteered with 16 nonprofit organizations while I was Miss Capital City 2017, and I set all of those up on my own. So I’ve handled communication to volunteer and then done the volunteerism aspect the day of the event.

I have never been involved in the minutia of the planning of a nonprofit event.

But at the risk of tooting my own horn. Teaching and Miss America have prepared me. and I am LOVING EVERY SECOND.

We’ve had one in person meeting. The rest of communication has been over email and phone- but this is coming together and I am stoked. We went and saw the space on Sunday and the visualization I have of this event now is even more real and exciting.

I have been able to use my communication and networking skills like never before. And it has helped me grow for the future I hope to have professionally, as well. I have sent more emails than I can count.

I am still speechless at the positive responses. I am overwhelmed with the gratitude for every donation. I am also endlessly grateful for the sisters who reached out to include me in this and the fact they’ve let me just run with it.

This is where I want to put in a little plug to the sponsors we’ve confirmed: Nothing But Noodles, the Southern Christmas Show, Howl at the Moon, DogTopia, Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, Pure Pizza, Opera Carolina, Tin Roof, The Comedy Zone, Zootastic Park, the Carolina Renaissance Festival, 704 Shop, Blumenthal Arts, CRIV Boutique, Smoothie King, Tin Roof, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Montford Misfits, Pizza Peel/Improper Pig/Flying Biscuit, Choplin’s, Hype Fitness, and AR Workshop Belmont.

Our in-kind sponsors are: Sunshine Beverages and Domino’s.

Our advertising sponsors are: Beasley Media Group and Orange Barrel Media.

Tickets go on sale to Bre Fest on September 1st. It’s going to be amazing. You should be there.

If you have a business, you should consider being a silent auction donor, monetary donor to the scholarship, or donor for supplies for the day of the event. As a 501(c)(3) any donations are tax-deductible and all sponsors will be promoted leading up to the event and on the day of the event.

The scholarship also stays in the Piedmont because it will go to an UNCC student.

And the last little tidbit of a plug, no matter what you donate, if you can, I promise nobody has ever donated to a great cause and said “Wow, I really regret donating to that philanthropy.”

I am so excited to share this with you guys, and I would love to have you be a part of this special day to honor Bre.

If you have any questions, let me know. Message me, text me, call me, whatever floats your boat! Here’s the link to the website with a little more of Bre’s story: https://brekdscholarship.wixsite.com/1897/donate

*Bre was a Kappa Delta sister at UNCC, who we unexpectedly lost in the fall of 2017. The scholarship was founded in her memory as Kappa Delta honors sisterhood forever and we believe that Bre truly pursued that which is honorable, beautiful, and highest.

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An Open Letter to the School Where I Began My Career

On Friday, May 11, 2018, I accepted an offer from Stuart W. Cramer High School to continue my career as a social studies educator. This means June 2018 will end my time with the school that I grew to love over the last five years of my life. It is the most bittersweet decision of my life thus far.

I fell in love with you, Hunter Huss, from the first time I set foot in the school as a college student. I had been to the school as a high school cheerleader, but from the first time I entered the school as an adult, I knew this is where I wanted to begin my teaching career. I started my time here while completing observations in the social studies department, during my junior year of college. Let me be honest, when I was first assigned my clinical observations here, I was terrified. The reputation you carried to the high school I attended was not one to be cherished. From the moment I began my time here, you opened my eyes to the fact you were not and are not what the community, especially other high schoolers, believe that you are. I told my parents after my first day of completed observations that I could not wait to return here and that I wanted to begin my teaching career here once I graduated.

During the spring semester of my senior year, I repeatedly sent emails to the principal and assistant principals, basically begging just to have a tour. When I was granted a tour, I was also interviewed on the spot by the administration. I was not told if they would even have an opening for me, but I prayed fervently that they would. I interviewed with other schools. I turned down the opportunity to work in the school I did my student teaching in during my senior year. I took a spot on a summer long mission trip. On my first day of actual work with this mission group, I received a phone call not only from Hunter Huss offering me a position but also a very nice school right across the South Carolina border. I then received two more interview requests based on my initial county interview and resume. I prayed nonstop for about 24 hours and talked to some very trusted individuals in my life to ask their Godly advice. On a Friday in May of 2015, I accepted my position with Hunter Huss.

Within weeks I was busy buying supplies for my classroom and began cleaning room C112 out from its previous owner. I began the steps to become a new teacher in Gaston County Schools. I spent time praying over the students that would step through the doorway of my classroom. One bulletin board still has not changed since the design I gave it in early August of 2015, because I was just so happy with the way it turned out. I put the letters on my door to spell “Miss Freeman” and beamed with pride as C112 became my own. C112, you have been home for three years, and when I clean you out in a few weeks, I guarantee you will see tears shed. You have been my retreat when I needed a few moments to breathe in hectic days. You have been the place where relationships have grown with my students. You have hosted meetings. You have seen me push my students. You have seen me cry tears of frustration when things weren’t going as well as I planned or when life’s hardships hit me at the end of the day. You have seen me laugh with my kids. You have seen me get riled up about politics and conspiracies and when I was encouraging them. You have also seen me work a lot of overtime….sweet second home of mine, we have shared many hours together. Thanks, C112, for being the safe place for me to grow as an educator and to learn about myself and my “babies.”

I have been part of the Husky (although yall would spell it Huskie and that will forever kill me slightly) Family officially for almost three years. (May 29 will mark the official day). Some members of this staff will remain a part of my life. Some of you, as life goes, will fade into my memory. But every one of you has made a mark on my life. We encourage our students to “make a mark” and you, Husky Family, surely have done so to each person who enters this building. There’s a saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” and this season has been pretty awesome for the most part. You have pushed me as an educator. You have given me resources and allowed me to share my own. Some of you, in all honesty, have tested my patience; some of you have deeply hurt my feelings. And some of you, wow, you have become family, absolutely, and forever. But each of you, I respect as my colleagues and as the people who are helping in raising the children that I think of as my own. Thank you for how you have helped me grow in the last 3-5 years.

I tell you, my sweet babies, that I don’t have biological children and so when you join my class you forever become one of mine, and there has never been anything truer. I have had over 400 children in my lifetime, and I reflect each year on the unique things you have brought into my life. My new students at this new school will not take your place, they will simply become my “babies” as well, but as a good “mom” I promise to still love you equally, just like if I was still here bringing in a new class of juniors. But before I go, I have a few words left for you all. You have tested me and have pushed me and have made me grow. And I hope you walk away from my classroom believing the same of me. I admire each of you. I love each and every one of you. Just like a mom can be tried by her children and still love them endlessly, some of you have been corrected by me more times than I can count, but that does not mean I don’t love as much as my straight-A-never-get-chastised-students. I have prayed for each of you even before you came into my classroom. I have prayed for you through the semester I have taught you. I know some of you believe the opposite, but everything I have done in this classroom has been to push you to be a better you. I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I want the best for each of you. I want you to be who you were created to be. I want you to be happy. I want you to realize each day that you woke up with a purpose and that you have what you need within you to reach the goals you have for yourself. I have been so privileged to watch you all grow in the time that I have had with you, and I cannot wait to see what stands ahead of you. Out of the talks I’ve given in my years, I want you all to remember a few things: stop watering dead plants, you did not wake up today to be mediocre, and you are so incredibly loved. Even though I’m heading a few minutes down the road, I will always be here for you when you need me. I will always love you as my own and support you to be the best you that you can be. I’ve most likely lost your interest by now, so I’ll stop.

To the Gaston County Community, I wish that I could show you the things that I love about Hunter Huss. My students are brilliant. When they set their mind to something, they are determined to achieve it. They are caring, they have big hearts ready to be loved and ready to give love. They are not the stories you tell about them or the reputation you have grown to believe is true. They are not a bunch of hoodlums who are held in by a barbed wire fence..that fence was to keep yall out and it’s been gone since I was in high school, update your knowledge of the city. They are children who are receiving an education in the oldest high school in Gaston County- which I would consider a privilege because I love my historic sites. They are not obnoxious, loud, disrespectful kids, they are young adults who are learning and growing, who yes may occasionally talk too much, but who are growing into the citizens who will one day give back to the community that they love- if you will allow them to do so. They are talented, in so many more ways than you could begin to imagine, and I hope you will allow them to show you the things they are passionate about.

I have loved this job. I have also been frustrated beyond compare. I think that may be the way life goes. You love what you do but sometimes you get frustrated. Sometimes you consider grabbing your bag and not coming back but the next morning you come back anyway to do what you were led to do to begin with. There have been times I have gone home with tears in my eyes. There have been days I have had to take off. There have been days when I said I was done, just to return the next day ready to give my best effort all over again. I have adored being able to say I work in the school from which both of my parents graduated. I have loved working in a building that has such significance for the Gaston County area. I have loved being able to brag about who my kids actually are as individuals and the narrative they are writing for themselves. I have loved being a part of this family. Huskies, I hope when I move my materials and work to another classroom to love a new set of kids, that you still allow me to be a part of this family. I will cherish you, I will cherish this experience, forever. I would love to still show up here and bother you all on work days. I would love to still support you guys. I would love to see baby pics, and wedding pics, and graduation pics (although my students better have graduation pics before anything else), and spend time with you over a cup of coffee, catching up on life. I would love to annoy you will conspiracies, rants, and my ever-ready “I’m livin the dream every day, how are you?”

Thank you for everything. I love you all more than words could say. 

“Freeman”

My 5th Recovery Birthday

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Self-Harm, Suicide

When I began this journey, I wasn’t sure that I would make it to this day. Today is my 5th “Recovery Birthday.” I have been clean from my addiction for 1826 days…5 whole years.

In college, I had an addiction. And before anybody passes out or starts whispering, let’s clarify. I know my southern baptists and super conservatives are already sweating. I was addicted to self harm. And on April 28, 2013, it came to a head and I thought I wanted to end my life. I thought after everything I’d been through I didn’t want, or deserve, to live.

I let a seemingly small incident be the straw that broke my back. I had health issues that felt like they would never be solved. I had been victim blamed for an assault I finally felt comfortable talking about. I had gone through a breakup that was really hard for me to deal with (though I praise the Father now I got out of that relationship when I did). I had seen multiple people I knew, one that I cared very much about, complete suicide. I had started drinking to feel better. I had been cutting to make my pain something I could see and control as a physical experience. I was acting recklessly. My PCP interpreted the actions and emotions I was exhibiting as something it wasn’t and began medicating me for an issue I didn’t actually have. My body didn’t react well to this medication; I gained weight (like 20+ pounds in a few months), the chemicals in my brain were being altered, the actual issue wasn’t being treated, I felt alone. I hated myself. I hated most of the people in my life for not realizing what I was dealing with. I hated God, if there was a God, I was seriously questioning his existence at the time and frequently screamed curses at the ceiling.

So. On Sunday April 28, 2013, you wouldn’t find me at church. You could have found me in the floor of a bathroom with a blade cutting my wrists. Then “Wonderwall” came on. If you know why this song matters to me, you know why I laid the blade down and paused. You know why it was significant that within moments my sister found me and called 911.

In a chair in the ER, God whispered to my heart. God shook me back to life. God held me. He said “Sweet child, I have been waiting for this moment, for you to allow me back in. I wish it wouldn’t have taken this long, but I promise you I will redeem this pain, I will use this test as a testimony, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Breathe. You are mine. You are Covered With Grace.” And he breathed life back into my weary, broken, thirsty soul.

He has not let me down on that whisper to my weary soul. Within 24 hours I returned to campus. I threw out my blades with supervision of an at-the-time friend (if you ever see this, friend, thank you). That same friend and another watched over me that night while I caught up on sleep and tried to prepare myself for finals. I passed my finals. I passed my semester classes. I moved home for the summer. I opened my Bible. I was covered in grace. We went to Disney. I started being thankful for being alive. I started trying different churches. We found our church home as a family. They welcomed me. They loved me. They heard my story and spoke the Word of Truth over my heart that God felt my pain and loved me and would indeed redeem this story.

God opened doors for me to serve. God opened doors for me to share my testimony. God set my soul on fire. God gave me new goals, new dreams, new callings. And as I obeyed, he opened the doors. He answered my desire to travel: he sent me on mission including to Africa and a pitstop in Paris. He answered my desire to serve: I was able to serve in homeless shelters, raise money for suicide prevention, he opened various opportunities to serve with so many nonprofits.  He let me be hired by the job that I wanted. He gave me the gift of being loved by some really awesome people that he knew would build me up and support me as I continued this journey.

My weakness became a place for Him to show His strength. I don’t think anymore that God “lets” bad things happen to us. I definitely know there is a God, if there wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I think the bad things that happen are a result of a fallen world around us, or they can be something we perceive as bad at the time that God is actually using to redirect us to the path of goodness He intended for us from the get go.

I don’t think God let me be assaulted, I don’t think God let me become depressed, I don’t think God took people I really loved away from me to hurt me, I don’t think God let me have an addiction to harming myself, I don’t think God let me try to numb my pain with self harm or alcohol or anything else I tried to fill those gaping holes with.

I do think God used each and every one of those painful experiences for good and let it shape me into the woman I am today. I do think God removed some very toxic people from my life after April 2013 and replaced them with people who were good for me and loved me. I do think God sent us to an amazing church that changed my perception of the body of Christ. I do think that God used the pain I had experienced to develop the empathy I have for others and the way I treat others, speak to others, and serve others. I do think that God used the brokenness to rebuild something even better. I do think that God drew me nearer to Him after I questioned him and tried to put myself as far away from Him as possible. I do think that God turned my story into my testimony. It was never without purpose, and I believe He has fulfilled the promises he speaks to each of us in Scripture during the rebuilding of my life in the past 5 years.

I want to end today with a few things. First I want to encourage you that no matter what you are dealing with right now, it is not without purpose. Even if you do not see the purpose now, or if you do not see it in this lifetime, it will not go without being redeemed if you are faithful to the Almighty who promises redemption and blessing to a thousand generations who serve Him. I promise you He will be the same today, tomorrow, and forever. I promise you that HE promises He will uphold you with his righteous right hand.

I realize this paragraph may sound a little like prosperity gospel or preachy or fake. I want to put a disclaimer here that nowhere does God say our lives will be perfect. The last 5 years have been far from perfect. There have been times where I have gotten dangerously close to relapse. There have been times I have questioned what I was going through….some current circumstances have even made me ask God why I can’t be done with the struggle. I have expressed that sometimes I think I’ve gone through enough that I don’t need to continue to struggle with health problems, or mean girls and boys, or fights with people I love, or a low income that sometimes makes me wonder how I’m going to pay the bills. But I have to remind myself and pray very fervently that previous pain has had purpose and current struggles will as well.

I also want to thank those of you who have taken this journey with me. God has worked to put some amazing supporters around me to love me as I continued to find myself and draw nearer to Him. No amount of words would accurately express the gratitude I have to the village who has surrounded me, loved me, encouraged me, spoken truth and life to me, and just been there for me.

So today, we celebrate 5 years. Here’s to another 50+! 

 

*The featured photo was taken about a week before my attempt.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I have been debating writing this words for weeks, months,….years.

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Nationally the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movements have become popular and extremely relevant, especially as many celebrities have been accused of being assailants. That includes one of my favorite actors.

A few months ago, a young woman in my life walked away from a conversation to which I was a witness,  when a young man said “Rape is not real, especially with men, like no man would say no to sex, and women probably don’t either.” … when she returned a short time later, I looked at her and said, “Me. Too” and she said “When?” I responded “16” and she said “I was 14.” and I knew it was time to write this, but I have still struggled to do it.

The “Universe/God/My own life interpretation” told me again that it was time when at the Sweeps Pageant in March I was asked why I thought women didn’t report sexual assault.

So, here we go.

I was 16 (2009). I knew him. It ruined me. I only told one person and swore them to never tell. It was 2012 before I spoke about it again.

I told my bible study group and one girl remarked “Wow, how badly did you sin for God to punish you like that?” Shortly after, I started counseling to deal with it. I learned a lot although my counselor wasn’t the best and projected a lot of her own circumstances and feelings on me. I completed my counseling round and planned to transfer schools; mainly because I changed my major but also a new beginning.

I tried to talk to people I trusted about the incident and was appalled at how many times I was asked what I was wearing, if I had led him to believe I wanted him to do that, if I had been with him before, and if I tried to make him stop. I was so severely disillusioned by the way people, especially “Christians,” treated me. It pushed me so far away from the church (If you know, or ever hear, my testimony, this is the first time I thought I wanted to be out of church and wasn’t sure about God.)

I watched a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” and Eva Mozes Kor changed my world. I emailed her and told her about my experience and she responded within hours about how forgiveness also shapes our experiences. I still have that email and read it from time to time.

In late 2012 and early 2013, things got really bad. In 2013, I found God for real for the first time. In 2013, I got saved. I found a new church who accepted my past and my story and the testimony from the test.

In 2015, I spoke to a club at the school I teach at, called “Feeling Beautiful” about what it looked like to be an adult who had been a victim of assault. But it isn’t something I frequently speak about. It was hard. The students there watched me cry as I choked out the words of my story. But I felt like I did what I needed to do.

I still don’t frequently speak about it. If it is brought up, not in my classroom of course, I’m willing to talk about it. But it still isn’t easy. I don’t know if it ever will be.

It’s been over 8 years. I have survived over 8 years. I became determined a long time ago to be a survivor and not solely a victim.

I determined to be the flower. I determined to grow despite the ways I had been crushed. I determined to not let his sinful actions define who I am. 

There are times I still cry about it. Sometimes I still have panic attacks. Sometimes I still have survivor guilt that someone I knew was killed by her assailant, and I wasn’t. I will never know the right words to say about it, or how to make someone feel better if it happens to them.

I still get really bitter. I still get really angry. I still feel like I missed the chance for justice. but I also have a hope that the ultimate justice will be paid out by God. I do feel like God accepts the anger and bitterness and also tries to soothe the pain that I still have.

But some days, I don’t think about it at all. I don’t want him and his actions to be what defines me. I don’t want other people to look at me and that be all that they see. But it does largely shape my political opinions, it does largely shape the way I empathize with people, it does largely shape the way I interpret a lot of what is said and done around me and in the public sphere. 

I’m not sure how to wrap this up.

I guess maybe I encourage you to not take part in rape culture. And let me side note my definition of rape culture: blaming a victim, asking what they wore, asking what they did to deserve it, asking about their sexual history and/or preferences, not believing them that they were assaulted. It is also raising our boys to believe that it’s okay to do something without consent or to coerce a woman into consent.

I encourage you to be empathetic and recognize others and the scars they carry.

“Why do women not report sexual assault?” Women and Men are sexually assaulted. Both have problems with reporting because they are afraid and embarrassed. Colleges have an issue with under-reporting sexual assault statistics hoping future students will still want to come to that school. Victim blaming and rape culture is too common in our culture. With movements like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp perhaps more women and men will feel comfortable coming forward as they see it happens to others; but until we allow victims to feel comfortable and not accused when telling their stories then there will continue to be a lack of reporting and pressing charges…until we allow them to become survivors and not just victims this will be cyclical in our society. And a little Sandra Bullock for you here…every culprit of sexual harassment or sexual assault should be charged, tried, convicted, and punished.

All my love,

L

You’ve always had the power

It has been my goal to be able to say “it is well with my soul.” At the end of my journey I want to hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.” But I have been tested recently. I’ve questioned if it was well with my soul and if I was doing well. One incident has reared its ugly head with discontentment over the last week and a half. So here I am to address the elephant in the room of “what went wrong” at the Sweeps pageant on March 17th.

I have laid awake. I have replayed every second of both pageants. I have been asked repeatedly “what went wrong?” I have a list of what I could have done differently, and I have a conclusion as to what happened.

Here’s what I could have done differently. 

I could have practiced my dance more.

I could have done mock interviews even though I felt prepared because I am opinionated and teach therefore talk for most of my week days.

I could have failed to mention my autoimmune disease in my interview.

I could have said that the invention I would want to change the world was world peace, or a cure to cancer, or no more bullying…instead I chose teleportation…because I mean, teleportation…how cool would that be?

I could have said the obstacles I overcame to compete was something simple, not a list of the ways I actually have struggled and fought and come back stronger in the last year.

I could have not made a face when I was asked what was the step to fixing the gender pay gap, but every part of the sarcastic side of me wanted to say “maybe, I don’t know, respect women and not treat them like inferior beings or possessions?”

I could have said the way to fix gun violence in schools was something like anti-bullying or mental health training, not to learn the difference between a gun ban and gun control and to arm more officers who want to protect teachers and students.

I could have come up with a better reason that my least favorite book was “the Sun Also Rises” other than I don’t find Hemingway to be an impressive writer. (but I don’t, and you asked)

I could have gone further into my explanation of rape culture and victim blaming in my OSQ and not gone Sandra Bullock at the end stating how men and women accused of sexual assault should be charged, go to trial, and be convicted…I just have a lot of feelings about the subject because I don’t think we should have to have a #metoo movement, I think I should have been comfortable telling someone, should have pressed charges, and he should be sitting in jail.

I could have spent a lot more money on my swimsuit instead of wearing one that I felt great in that came from target.

I could have not winced during my dance even though I felt like cutting my foot off since it was two times the size it should be from the autoimmune flare I was having.

I could have changed my dance to something more “pageanty” but I really loved the dance that had served me well for years and I hoped it shone through as I performed it.

I could have changed my gown instead of wearing the one that I fell in love with a year ago for fear that it made me look short.

I could have gone to my doctor earlier about my foot, but I had work to go to and students to teach.

I could have taken the pain medication he gave me at regular intervals instead of trying to feel like I was in control of my health.

I could have not prayed for months that if God intended a title for me that He let it be, but if He didn’t He would not open the door and would show me where He wanted me to go instead. I could have asked for my own will to be done over His, and I could have charged forward with my own plans instead of His that will far outweigh mine.

My conclusion:

I was myself. I wasn’t chosen. The judges chose other girls to be part of the Miss North Carolina class of 2018.

I read a devotion this morning, and at the risk of it being prosperity gospel, it told me that the plans God has for me are far more than I can imagine and I believe that. Doors are already opening that I could not have gone through if I had a title. My health needs more attention than I expected it to need at this point, and the opportunity to go back to Miss NC and promote my platform would have been awesome, but now I can decide what I do that will be best for my health and the plan He intends for me.

I don’t need a crown to be a servant. I was created with a servant’s heart and it will be used with a shiny hat or not. Someone told me this weekend exactly what my heart needed to hear to be encouraged: having a crown is not what made me a volunteer or a good volunteer, I had that already. I felt a little like Dorothy being told that what she needed was in her all along, she just had to use the power within her to get where she wanted to be. God built a really wonderful network for me in my time as Miss Capital City, and I know He will continue to use me for the purposes He intended even if it isn’t in the way I originally thought. He has more planned for me than I could begin to imagine and he says “Daughter, is that all you thought I could do? Don’t limit the power I have, child.”

Health Update & The Spoon Theory

When I started this blog a few months ago, I intended to (in part) keep track of my health; I was imagining things were moving towards healing and me feeling better. Unfortunately that has not been the case. You may have seen some posts on social media asking for prayers/good thoughts/good vibes as I’ve been dealing with some health issues, so I wanted to take a few minutes to update everyone as to what’s going on with me right now.

I started a medication that should have helped with both my fibromyalgia and my UCTD, in November. The medicine can take 2-6 months to take effect in the body. Within 3 months I felt like I was seeing a difference, and feeling better, but other symptoms had started. Unsure what was causing these symptoms, I was pulled off the Plaquinil in mid January and told to wait to take anything to treat either the fibro or UCTD until we had a full health picture.

December was when I really started to see the new symptoms causing problems. They were (and still are) affecting my life: work, physical fitness, weight, sleep patterns, ability to fulfill prior commitments. I won’t detail what was going on because it’s a little TMI. But, it was difficult to make it through work most days and I lost about 4 pounds in about 5 weeks- which to some of you sounds great, but for my frame is not normal or healthy. My PCP was not helpful and finally in late January when I saw my rheumatologist I received a referral to another specialist who could help with what I had going on. The GI has run a plethora of tests, none of which has come back conclusive to any one thing causing these ongoing symptoms; we were able to eliminate any cancer in my GI tract though, so at least there’s that. He has put me on two new medications and I’m waiting to follow up on those in April, although I’m not convinced they’ve made much of a difference. He did say he didn’t think the Plaquinil was the issue and allowed me to begin taking that again.

Coming on and off of Plaquinil has messed with my health and emotions quite a bit. I’m hoping it doesn’t take the 2-6 months to take effect because if so it’ll be April or June before I start feeling better. And if you guys don’t understand this when I hurt, then I don’t sleep, and when I don’t sleep, then I hurt more, and then I don’t sleep more, then I hurt more, etc, etc. It’s a really lovely cyclical form of torture.

On top of being unsure what all is going on with my body, I had a really bad flare on the 10th of this month. I let it go for a few days, before seeing my rheumy on the 16th. I woke up on the morning of the 10th and could not walk properly because my left foot was swollen and it hurt to put pressure on it. My assumption was that I had hurt it while working out or had slept on it wrong. I went to work the following week with it wrapped, in a walking boot left from high school, or both, trying to keep pressure off of it, hoping the swelling would go down. I convinced myself based on the area of the pain that I had a stress fracture or a bunion and started buying and using bunion pads and moleskins. When I saw my rheumatologist on Friday morning, he took a look at my foot, and gave me what may not have been great news, but did explain what was happening. I had a flare, which in some people can last weeks; I am used to flares in my back, neck, hips, knees, not my foot; but my foot was experiencing inflammation (seemingly from high levels of stress, and the switch ups on medications, and lots of tests that required prep before hand) and the joints were so inflamed it looked like my toe had slightly come out of the joint. So he pulled it over, stretched it, and gave me some medicines to help fight the inflammation and get the flare to go away… we aren’t quite there yet, and today is Tuesday….so it’s been a long few days.

Before leaving his office, he and my health coach felt the need to talk to me about my stress levels and what it was doing to my body. I was told I need to start operating under the spoon theory. This means each day when I wake up depending on how I feel I have between 5-7 spoons (some days I might have more but for now I need to operate under the assumption of so few spoons) and each activity that uses energy takes away a spoon that I can’t get back for the day. I am not allowed to borrow spoons from the previous day or the next day, not knowing how my body will feel and how many spoons I will receive the next morning when I wake up. Once my spoons are gone for the day, I am not allowed to use energy on other things, I’m done for the day. So I have to learn to prioritize. I have to learn to take care of my body. I have to learn that I cannot do all the things, all the time, for all the people.

Yesterday I tried the spoon theory for the first time. And it was really hard. I got up after not sleeping much the night before and felt like I maybe had 3 spoons, maybe more, but definitely not 7, 10, or 15. I decided to push through my day anyways, try to borrow some spoons I might not have used on Sunday, and maybe steal some from Tuesday. By about 1 pm I was done for the day. I was exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t think straight. But I had more to do. I had another class to teach, I had a class to attend, I had a meeting to play secretary at, I had tests to finish stapling and preparing for today’s test, I had emails to answer, a license renewal application to work on, a PD module to complete, a paper to write, a presentation to prepare, I needed to shower and dry my hair. So I kept borrowing spoons and hoped a quick yoga session would restore me at least one spoon…. Hint….I love yoga and it was great, but it was not enough to replenish my energy storage room of spoons. By the end of last night, I was miserable. I thankfully slept better last night than the night before and woke up feeling like I have a few more spoons today. But I know adjusting to limited amounts of spoons a day will not be easy for me. I am Type A and I want to do all the things for all the people, but I physically cannot at least for the time being.

So for now, I work on using my spoons wisely, I prioritize, and I stop when I can’t handle anymore. And for each person who has asked “what’s next” after Saturday did not end the way I expected, I don’t have the answer for you yet, right now I’m working on counting spoons….but I promise as soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you know, but I want to make sure it’s worthy of spoons before I do it.

Miss Capital City Farewell

I know many of my friends and family do not live in the Raleigh area and were unable to make it to the Miss Capital City/Miss Clayton/Miss Cleveland Pageant on Saturday evening. Therefore, I would like to share my farewell as Miss Capital City with you all here. 

Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017, spoke the truth to “Compete for yourself, but Serve for others.” As Miss Capital City I aimed to model my year after the verse Isaiah 6:8 “Here I am, Lord, send me.” My community service platform is “Volunteerism” because I wanted to do the most good, in the most places.

I stand before you tonight hoping you agree with me that my year has been marked by service to others. I served with 16 nonprofit organizations. That included raising $1100 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, collecting 754 pounds of food for Second Harvest Food Bank Metrolina, and donating over $600 of goods to Urban Ministry Center of Charlotte.

I want to spend my last moments giving thanks.

Mom, you’ve been my greatest supporter and my road trip warrior, thank you for being the biggest part of this journey.

Dad, thank you for walking alongside me at the suicide prevention walk two months after your quadruple bypass.

Alexandria and Cameron, thank you for being my sounding board for the year and for always making me laugh.

Grace Ann, you were the best roommate. Thank you for prayers and daily devotions. I am beyond lucky to call you friend.

Caleb, you have been there from day one of this journey, you have jumped into this adventure and have taken steps to get me in contact with nonprofits I wanted to work with. There are not enough words to express my gratitude, and there’s nobody that could’ve been better to have beside me on this journey.

My Miss NC sisters, your beauty and strengths are astonishing. You have built me up, you have prayed for me, you took care of me when I was sick. I love you all and I am thankful for your sisterhood. You filled my bucket, and I carry that with me everywhere I go.

The Wildes, I couldn’t have asked for a better Princess’ family. You guys have been there for everything. You have become family and friends, and I am beyond grateful. You went so far as to hold tarantulas and snakes with me as we worked with Eastern Exotics to preserve wildlife. You will forever be part of my family and I love you eternally.

The Miss North Carolina Organization:  Thank you for running this scholarship organization that women like me can compete, make friendships, and serve. Thank you for teaching us to “fill buckets” and to be a titleholder who gives back.

Kate Peacock and the Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship Committee, thank you for choosing me from all of the applications you read. I poured my heart into my application, using the vulnerability I often find difficult to show, and you honored me in a way that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

The Nonprofits and Service Events: (Carolinas Aviation Museum, Convoy of Hope, Urban Ministry Center Charlotte, Stop Soldier Suicide, Charlotte Geek Gala & Muggles Market, Queen City Harry Potter Alliance, Second Harvest Food Bank, American Foundation of Suicide Prevention Charlotte, Levine’s Children’s Hospital, Activate Good, Charlotte Special Olympics, Lucky’s Toys for Tokens, State Farm Neighborhood of Good, Warm Hands Project, Eastern Exotics Wildlife Preservation, Make a Wish, National History Day) : To each organization that opened their doors to me, thank you a million times over for allowing me to serve alongside you. You are the change I want to see in the world, and I am blessed to have been a part of your work.

My sister queens and committee:  Thank you for your help and friendship this year, I will forever be a Capital City girl.

My students and coworkers:  Thank you for donating cards to be distributed at nursing homes, asking about Miss North Carolina, donating to causes I was working with, and for celebrating with me when I brought home the Teaching Fellow Scholarship. You have taught me daily over the last three years what it means to serve. You are forever my Husky Family, and I am grateful you were all along for this ride.

The Kisers and the McCarleys: Thank you for letting me tell your story.

My Savior:  What You intend is good, and you chose to give me the gift of service this year. You opened doors that I could have never imagined possible. You created me with a servant’s heart, ready to be encouraged by serving others, and and giving my whole heart to those things I am passionate about. You gave me strength to work full time and serve on weekends. You gave me initiative, motivation, and confidence to contact each organization asking to serve alongside them, and then had them say “YES!” Thank you for letting me bloom as you planted me this year.

I am walking away from this year with my cup overflowing with blessings. In the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” George Washington sings a song entitled “One Last Time.” This has been my “one last time.” As I become a “forever queen” tonight and crown my successor, it is truly a bittersweet moment. I have been blessed beyond measure by my time as Miss Capital city. Thank you.