Monday, December 08, 2008

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deepWhere the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,’Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Back in 2005 I was on a committee to help plan a formal function for an army unit that I was in. As is customary with an important military event it begins with a benediction and the playing of the National anthem. During one of our meetings something came over me, we were discussing who would sing or play the anthem for our event. Suddenly my palms got all clammy, my throat became dry and I started to perspire. I was having an out of body experience; I watched as my hand went up, words started coming out of my mouth, but I wasn’t in control, I felt like a puppet on a string under the control of some cruel and evil marionette. What did I just do? I volunteered to sing the National Anthem in front of 200 plus people! But I’ve never sung the National Anthem; well of course I’ve belted it out with everyone else at sporting events or Army Parades, but never in my life have I sung it solo. So why did I just say that I would and could? In the end I performed without a hitch. I surprised myself; I did so well. Thus began an odyssey which continues to this day.

Why Sing the Anthem?

Everyone knows the singing the National Anthem is not easy. Many people don’t even know the words. The range with which the song is played in from high to low can stump even the best troubadour. But this song is more than just another song to me and probably most people who sing it on a regular basis.
Listen to the words and it tells of a moment in US history (September 1814) when the war with the British was being fought and of one man’s relief in seeing the US flag still flying after a vicious bombardment.

I’m a very proud America and when I do sing the Anthem I feel something special, something inside me; pride in this country with which we live. Pride as I stand facing the Stars and Stripes, remembering those who have served before me.

One of the 1st times I sang the anthem I had someone tell me that my rendition brought tears to their eyes, another told me they got chills they were so moved. I don’t take compliments easily; I am my own worst critic. But the more I heard the more I thought to myself WOW! Maybe I’ve got something here. Yes, I’ve got something, it’s called a gift, I have been given a gift from a higher power; the gift of a song and the ability to move people with that song I do not take that gift lightly.

Ultimate Performance –

I’ve sung the anthem on a fairly regular basis now for 5 years. At first I had to go out and find my own gigs, asking events leaders if they needed someone to sing the anthem at their Veterans Day ceremony, the start of the Eugene marathon, Chamber of commerce events. But now I seem to have made a name for myself and people call me to sing at their events. I don’t mind singing locally but I would not mind spreading my gift of song around like say at a Portland Trail Blazer game or something. I mean I’ve done MAC Court. But I guess I would have to say my ultimate anthem performance would have to be Autzen Stadium..a Duck Game; but alas this will probably never come to fruition as the anthem is never sung at Autzen, due to the sound delay. So until Autzen fixes its acoustic problems, I will have to settle for the Super Bowl.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall standBetween their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued landPraise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"TEN MINUTES!" cried the jumpmaster over the thunderous drone of the four Allison turboprop engines.
"Ten minutes, ten minutes, ten minutes!" the ninety aspiring jumpers called back, looks of trepidation on their faces. Of those ninety, the ten minute warning was only relevant to the thirty clustered closest to the rear of the Air Force C-130 cargo aircraft. The others would have to wait for the next pass over Friar Drop Zone in Fort Benning, Georgia. I was one of those thirty, roster number 306, and had already watched with a mixture of amazement and horror as the thirty before us had been fed, one at a time, out both jump doors into the waiting maw of the unknown.
We had prepared for this moment, for all of the previous two weeks. The United States Army would never ask one of its soldiers to perform any task, however mundane, without first providing a detailed block of instruction. During those first two weeks of Airborne school, we had been introduced to the T-10 parachute, been taught how properly to land, been told what to do in case of a mid-air entanglement or a water, power line, or tree landing, and been thoroughly indoctrinated into the history of the Airborne, from the first test platoon in 1940, to the Rangers' jump into a hailstorm of bullets over Panama in 1989.
Prepared, yes, but ready? Absolutely not. Who, could possibly become inured to plummeting one thousand two hundred fifty feet out of a moving aircraft, suspended only by a few square yards of thin nylon fabric. "What have we gotten ourselves into?"
"GET READY!" came the next command from the jumpmaster.
This was the moment of truth. True, I could quit the course. It was incredibly easy to do. I would merely need to get the attention of the closest jumpmaster and tell him I didn't want to jump. I would be moved forward in the aircraft, so as not to interfere with the other jumpers, and be told to stay there. But quitting is never really an option for me. Once I have made up my mind to do something, I will follow through.
"INBOARD PERSONNEL STAND UP!" called the jumpmaster.
I, threw my weight forward in a desperate attempt to shift myself into a more or less standing position.
We bounced and rolled as the plane bounced and rolled, trying to get the hook on the end of our static line around the anchor line cable. The static line, fifteen feet long, slender as a whip, bright yellow, and with a tensile strength of over six thousand pounds, by virtue of being connected to the aircraft via the anchor line cable.
The plane bucked, and finally, CLICK. The snap link closed, and I was tethered to the plane.
I again traced my static line down from the place where it met the anchor line cable. I then traced the static line of roster number 307 over his shoulder, while roster number 305 checked mine in exactly the same manner.
I traced the chin strap of my helmet from left to right. Then I inspected both my leg strap quick releases and my chest strap quick release. These three clips, all rated above two thousand pounds, kept my body firmly secured in the parachute harness during even the most violent opening shock. This done, I checked roster number 307's equipment. His, too, was in order.
"SOUND OFF FOR EQUIPMENT CHECK!" hands behind his ears in the familiar gesture.
"OK!" "OK!" "OK!" the jumpers called, one after the other. The cry went up the line until the last jumper yelled, "ALL OK JUMPMASTER!"
Centuries passed. The aircraft was now in its final approach to the drop zone. The jumpmaster waited for word from the pilot. We waited for word from the jumpmaster.
"ONE MINUTE!" An invisible signal had arrived from the cockpit.
I felt sweat slide down my face, although the air rushing in through the open jump doors was keeping the cabin cool. The jumpmaster leaned out of the door, checking for any potential hazards, and then leaned back in.
My heart skipped a beat just before pumping adrenaline through my system.
The first jumper in line handed off his static line to the jumpmaster, and pivoted to face the door. I could hear my heart over the deafening drone of the engines.
The first jumper disappeared. I shuffled forward until my eyes met those of the jumpmaster. I handed him my static line, pivoted, stepped, and was ripped out of the aircraft by the wash from the turboprops.
Elbows tucked into my side. Chin on my chest. Feet and knees tight together. I could hear the quiet snapping as my static line freed itself from the retaining bands, the clink of metal as my risers slowly deployed. "One thousand, two thousand!" I counted. More than four thousand and I would pull my reserve. "Three thousa-" I felt, more than heard, the loud WHUMP as my parachute filled with air, scattering my limbs every which way.
As I slowly floated down, my mind cleared and I entered an almost meditative state. I was able to see how truly amazing an experience this had been. I have jumped many times since then, but the fear will never come back. In its place will always be an excitement, a nervous anticipation. Nothing I have ever done before or since can compare with the feeling of complete weightlessness, both physically and mentally, that only comes with taking a leap of faith into an abyss of the unknown.

Monday, August 04, 2008

An EXCELLENT summer read. I love dogs! I often look at my English Bulldog Blanche and wonder, "what is she thinking"? My family has taken to lending Blanche a voice, on any given day one of us will be standing in the kitchen alone or as a whole, and start talking to Blanche, and she answers back (with the help of myself, Ian or Bob), some probably think we are quite strange. So I was intrigued last Sunday when I read in the newspaper about the The Art of Racing in the Rain and the fact that it's author would be in Eugene talking about and signing books. A book where the dog is the narrator, it's his book and his story. From the beginning it is a sad story especially if you love dogs, because we know what the outcome is, but what comes in the pages between the front and back cover is joy, happiness, excitement, elation and yes, sadness. I cried during the last three chapters. Ian and I were reading (sharing) the book at the same time, he finished a couple of days after I did, mind you we got the book on Monday and we were both through by Saturday; Ian's assessment of the ending was a little different from mine. Although I know there was happiness in the ending, I found it "sad". Ian said, "no, it wasn't a sad ending, it all worked out for everyone, even the dog". So Ian and I highly recommend this book.
Official Mrs. United States Photos to view all of the contestants go to -

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

After all the glitz and glamour.... after all was said and done, after I left the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas behind, after the judging was done, the queen had been crowned (congratulations Gariane), I kicked off my high heels, and washed off all the make-up; the family and I loaded up the truck and took off for a 36 hour decompression session at our ranch in Central Oregon. A no frills get-away, no electricity, no running water, if you want a bath just hop in the river, my hand-made hammock makes for great naps under the warm sun. It is just what I needed after my event filled week at the Mrs. united States Beauty Pageant.
ahhh, just Joelle - just chillin'

Ian gets the fire going for lunch

My hubby doing what he likes best when at WUG...working hard

Blanche "Belle Reve" DuBois loves WUG because she can run around from end to end with no leash on - aahhh freedom.

The loves of my life Bob, Blanche and Ian (not necessarily in that order)

Ian relaxes in the ultimate hammock, handmade with love by mom

Blanche cools off in the Little Deschuets

Friday, July 25, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS MRS. SOUTH CAROLINA!!!!! Top 12 were as follows -
NJ, MN, SC, NC, FL, NV, AL, MS, VA, TN, MO, WV - Top 5 were - SC, NC, MN, MS,VA
I'm sorry that I did not get better photos afterwards but if you've been there you know that is can be chaotic. They really did not want us to take pictures, just the official photographer and all a girl wants to do at that point is get out of her heels and gown and get to see her family. I had no problem with the top 5 or top 12 for that matter. They all spoke well, they looked great and had "rockin" bodies. Any of them would have made great representatives as Mrs. United States. I would write more but it is after midnight and I have a plane to catch in the morning....back to OREGON!!!! When I am less tired and can think clearer perhaps I will give my thoughts on competing "at-large" in a pageant. But right now sleep is number one on my mind...

The "I"s have it

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh how the faces lit up when the ladies saw their babies and or husbands during the day....

All Abut family -

The final rehearsal is in the BAG!!!! OK it's 4:33 PM PST, we actaully got done a little ahead of schedule today and I promised myself and my husband that I would come up to my room and take a nap and NOT get on my computer, but I feel it my civic duty to keep the pageant community updated on the activities here, so here are photos from our final rehearsal. What a blast it has been no matter what the outcome tonight I know that I have learned a lot and have grown so much by getting to know a wonderful bunch of women over the past week, thank-you all for your friendship. Good luck to everyone tonight!!!!

Balloons on stage for the swimwear beach scene
Great dancers we have for the opening number and swimwear compition.
Great buddies Mrs. Virginai and Mrs. Maryland
Mrs. Nebraska catches a few winks while waiting for our next direction.
Mrs. Hawaii, tired but smiling.
Our very own celebrities Mrs. Kansas (aka Kirsten Dunst and Mrs. West Virginia (aka Reba McEntire) Mrs. Lousiana is their biggest fan.
Mrs. Delaware performs major surgery on Mrs. Alaska's sweater, so that she does not have a "wardrobe malfunction".

Our MCs for the night are R.J. Peltyn (remember "belt" girls; and Lynette Chappell - very elegant.
Our flower girl for the preliminaries is tonights "Crown girl", McKenzie is a doll.
Someone will go home with this tonight....
Almost over and still smiling
Mrs. New Jersey and Mrs. Connecticut always camera ready.
The woman that made us all look so good up on stage during our opening number ISABEL was wonderful and funny. I think that most of the ladies will agree with me, she truly made the opening number easy. I usually stress out about getting the dance steps but with her help it almost felt like second nature. OK it also helped that I had Mrs. Georgia and Mrs. Illinois counting off the steps near me.

Mrs. Mississippi and Mrs. Massachusetts
Stephanie's pretend farewell
OK it's 4:45 - I've got to get a nap in. I've really enjoyed writing this and keeping folks up to date. Once again I will try to get photos on tonight as soon as possible. Of course pictures during the show are not allowed.

Draggin Behind!!!!! You have never seen so many tired folks in one place at one time, OK maybe you have if you've been a beauty pageant contestant. When we got our one hour lunch break I had to or sleep, food or sleep, food or sleep. I chose food over sleep in hopes that we will be let loose early enough this afternoon to catch a few zzzzz's before the big night. So this morning I was inspired by all of the different crown pins and that I had seen on the ladies Sashes so I began taking pictures of them. Here are just a few.....

Mrs. New Jersey

Mrs. North Carolina

Mrs. New York

Mrs. Puerto Rico

One of my favorites Mrs. Montana. She says it was a gift and came from Herrod's in London - beautiful

OH MY ACHING FEET!!!! Forget about sexy, forget about glamorous, cute, looking tall, looking slender, forget about all of that, I am not putting heels on for rehearsal today!!!! I rolled out of bed this morning only to roll right to the floor, I can hardly uncurl my toes. Once again I will fore go breakfast to spend just a few moments lounging in bed and watching the today show. I only wish that I had some Epsom salts to soak my tired tootsies in. Flip-flops here I come.