Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ms. Wheelchair America - 2nd Runner Up!!!

Tonight, I placed in the Top 5 in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant and received the honor of being chosen as 2nd Runner Up!! My good friend, Erika Bogan (Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina) was crowned the new Ms. Wheelchair America 2010! I am so proud of her!

Each woman deserved the honor, and I am so thankful for this fantastic experience. I have walked away with great memories, amazing friendships, and a new found sense of self due to this program. It will be one I will never forget.

The 4th Runner Up was Ms. Wheelchair Utah, 3rd Runner Up was Ms. Wheelchair Michigan, 2nd Runner Up was Ms. Wheelchair California (me), and 1st Runner Up was Ms. Wheelchair Washington.

Enjoy the pictures!!!

Top 5 (L-R): Ms. Washington, Ms. Michigan, Ms. Utah, Ms. California, and Ms. North Carolina

Me being announced that I received 2nd Runner Up and accepting my plaque and flowers. So happy!

Erika being announced as the next Ms. Wheelchair America!

Michelle Colvard, MWA 2009, and me and the newly crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2010, Erika Bogan!

Erika asked me to call her friends and family to share the good news with them. I was so excited to be able to share with them that she won Ms. Wheelchair America!

Angela Miller, Ms. Wheelchair DC, won Achievement Award. I was SO proud of her for receiving this honor!!

Interviews immediately afterwards with the documentary crew along with the local public radio stations. This is me with 3rd Runner Up, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan.

1st Runner Up, Ms. Wheelchair Washington, and me, 2nd Runner Up.

Me and my mom! She was so proud of me, and by the end of the week, she became a great photographer!! :)

Me with three of the judges!! What a hard job they had, but I was so thankful to spend this week with them as they learned more about me and my advocacy. I only wish I could have heard their story! :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ms. Wheelchair America - Day 6 - FINAL DAY!!!

The week has come to an end, and we're now down to the last day. What a week!! Today has been less stressful as they've basically given us the time needed to prepare for tonight. This morning, we had rehearsal for tonight on stage at 10am. Can you tell how tired I look?

After about an hour and a half, we finally got everyone in position of where they are supposed to be on stage.

Afterwards, I came up to the room and took a shower and then went down to the Paul Mitchell people to have them blow dry my hair and style it for me. Then, a quick bite to eat, and off to get dressed.

If I'm announced in the Top 5, I will then have to re-give my platform speech (this was news to me! Yikes!), and then will answer two questions from the judges - a light-hearted question and a serious question. Each of the 5 of us will have to go through this routine.

The judges will then go diliberate while there is entertainment going on and Michelle Colvard gives her outgoing speech as the current Ms. Wheelchair America. And then, the winner is announced!!

I'm fairly confident I'll be in the Top 5, but who knows. I wanted to update the blog now so you know what's been going on today and can be praying tonight. The next blog will be the answer to the question everyone's been asking.... "Who is the next Ms. Wheelchair America? Is it Alyson Roth?" We'll find out tonight!!

Thanks for your prayers!



Friday, August 28, 2009

Ms. Wheelchair America - Day 5

Today was the final day of judging interviews!! I can't believe the week is almost over. It's been such a busy but amazing week.

This morning, I got up and went to my first workshop... which was sponsored by Paul Mitchell! Had I known they were doing our hair and makeup, I wouldn't have fussed over doing it this morning. Shucks. So, I had them spruce up what I had already done, but will definitely be going down in the morning to have them doll me up for the evening wear.

After the workshop, a bunch of us hung out in the dining area just talking. I love these times, because it allows me to get to know the other contestants in a personal yet relaxed way. I got to talk further with Ms. Iowa, Angie Plager, Ms. Georgia, Kathleen Rice, Ms. Arkansas, Jacqueline Bettis, and Ms. Arizona, Jolene DeTiege. When talking to some of these girls, we found out that Ms. Massachusetts, Ashley Speicher, was taken away in an ambulance and to the ER for dehydration among other things. Some of the other girls had also been experiencing problems.

Interviews started late because some of the judges were late (and the medical issues some girls were having), so we had to bump our interview times to a later time than originally scheduled. Finally around 4pm, I went into my interview. Here are the questions. The answers are even more brief than normal because it's 2am here, and I'm so, so tired.

1. What would you change about America today?
I would want to eliminate the class system so that there wasn't "poor, middle class, and wealthy." I would want to create a balanced system of equality where everyone helped everyone else out if needed.

2. What is your best and worst quality?
Best is the joy I exude from deep within. Worst is my perfectionism.

3. If you had a friend or family member with a terminally ill disease and they asked you to help them die, would you?
No, and that is based on my morals and beliefs as a Christian. I would never assist anyone in trying to end their life but would instead try to find out why they wanted to do that. But, I would never agree to help them end their life.

4. If you were not selected to win Ms. Wheelchair America, who do you think should win?
Ms. Wheelchair NC, Erika Bogan.

5. Tell me about how you became disabled.
(Go see my website for this answer. I'm not typing it out.)

6. Are you registered to vote? If so, why? If not, why?
Yes, I've been registered to vote since I was 18. I feel it's extremely important to have a voice, otherwise nothing will get done if you don't put in how your say.

7. What would you change about this week if you could?
I would change the length of the days. Many girls have gotten sick, and we have not had an opportunity to get out of our wheelchairs and take care of personal care items that we needed to.

8. What magazine would you most like to be on the cover of?
People or Time magazine. Typically, there are Presidents or well known leaders in America on those covers. I would want to show the world that every day, average Americans like me and you are doing great things, too.

I felt 100% confident in all of my answers, because I answered straight from the heart and knew that I gave it my best shot. Whew! Only one thing left to do now, and that was my platform speech.

I didn't feel as prepared as I would have liked to going into it. I was third from the last, because this year they went in reverse alphabetical order by state. Susan Rotchy, a former Ms. Wheelchair CA (2007) was here with my state coordinator. Thank God, because she helped me with last minute advice that worked like a charm. I videotaped my speech, but I can't figure out how to upload it, so you'll have to wait on that one. But, here are some pictures of me with some of the gals from tonight! (And, the only one of me on stage is blurry. Sorry!)

Me and my mom!

Me and Susan Rotchy, Ms. Wheelchair 2007. So glad she was here!!

My state coordinator, Ruthee Goldkorn, me, and Susan Rotchy (Ms. Wheelchair CA 2007).

On stage, giving my speech!

I stayed within my 2 minute allowance, and as soon as I left the stage, I immediately began crying tears of joy. I was so happy with my speech. I didn't fumble, didn't stop, and didn't get nervous, but delivered it with poise, confidence, and enthusiasm. I was so proud of myself, that I couldn't help but cry and thank Jesus audibly!! To Him goes all the glory!

Tomorrow evening at 6pm, the Top 5 will be announced. I should know soon thereafter whether I made Top 5 but will then go immediately into live on-stage interview questions in front of the audience and judges. They will then go deliberate, and the winner will be announced somewhere around 8pm MST. That's what I'm guessing, but again, it may be earlier or later depending on what happens. If I win, I won't be able to get up to the hotel room to update my status or anything, so please be patient. I'll try my best to let people know, though, as soon as I find out!

Love you all, and thank you for walking this journey with me!



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ms. Wheelchair America - Day 4

First off, I'm exhausted. They definitely have done a fantastic job of keeping us busy, entertaining us, and feeding us!! I barely ate last night or today because I feel as if I'm going to burst, and the lack of sleep is catching up to me. My interview this morning was at 10:15am, and I set my alarm at 7am to make sure I wasn't late. Well, the alarm went off, and I went back to sleep. Thank goodness my brother called at 7:45am and re-woke both my mom and me up! We had to be at workshops starting at 9am, and I was still well on time, though. And got to the interview even earlier than scheduled so I didn't have the problem as yesterday. (Reminder: Click on each picture for a larger view.)

The judges are really nice. Seriously. Each are very easy to talk with, though I feel like I am repeating myself a lot with some of the questions they ask. But, at least they'll remember me (I hope). So, here are the questions I was asked with a brief description of the answer I gave in no particular order:

1. If you were to be selected as Ms. Wheelchair America, travel is something that will obviously be part of your job. How will traveling affect you, and are you ok with it?
I am definitely ok with travel! I have traveled both internationally and around the nation, so I am very comfortable with traveling. In fact, I love visiting new places!

2. How do you keep up with current events?
I think we live in a great age where the Internet is readily available for current things happening in our world today, and that is where I get a lot of my information regarding current events. Oftentimes, I'm pulling up CNN or World News Report to know what's happening on a moment's notice with what's going on in the world today.

3. What would say is the biggest problem in America today?
Right now, I would have to say the state of our economy. In fact, this morning I had a friend text me that he really needed to talk to me that he was depressed because it's almost certain that he will be losing his job this week. A recession is when it happens to someone else, but when it happens to you, it suddenly becomes a depression. I would say the economy is the first thing on everyone's mind.

4. How do you relieve stress?
The way I relax and relieve stress is through swimming. I try to swim at least four times a week. I know I'm keeping healthy by exercising. There is something about being underneath the water where you can't have a cell phone, no music, and you can just allow yourself to think and pray that is so calming. I am a Christian, so there is no way I could make it through the day without Jesus helping me through this journey.

5. Similar to the Genie in Aladdin who granted three wishes, what would you wish for if you had three wishes?
Funny that you mention that because my 1st Runner Up in Ms. Wheelchair CA actually works at Disneyland in the Aladdin show! She was the first person in a wheelchair to ever be in the cast. Recently, I went to watch her show, and the gentleman playing Aladdin was really cute. So, when they got to the scene where he was requesting his third wish from the Genie, I secretly wished it would be to meet me! (smile - and judges were laughing, too). But, my first wish would be that the economy would turn around and that there would be a more global balance of understanding. My second wish would be that I would meet my husband soon. He would be someone who was understood my disability but didn't "see" it. He would walk right alongside of me in advocating, yet not try to change who I am as a person. Third, my wish would be that we would find a cure for spinal cord injuries. When I first got hurt 9 years ago, I used to sit and literally wait around for that day to come, however I realized that I was missing out on life. I finally decided to stop looking in the rearview mirror and hoping for a better past I pushed forward towards the future. So, as much as I would wish there was a cure for spinal cord injuries, if that day doesn't come in my lifetime, I'm still going to live a great life.

6. If you could have dinner with any celebrity, who would it be with?
Wow, this gets really personal for me because a have a few friends who are celebrities since I live in the LA area. So, if I had to choose someone who I didn't know, I would choose Angelina Jolie. I would want to know how she balanced family life with her advocacy and philanthropic work as well as acting. She is someone whose brain I would like to pick at dinnertime. (Side note: One judge said, "Well, now you know she's not going to get married until everyone is allowed to get married?" And I said, "Yes, I know that. It's not something that I agree with, however I wouldn't shy away from stating my opinion if the subject came up with her, but I also wouldn't bash her for believing what she believes.")

7. Other than your mom, who do you admire most?
(I started tearing up immediately, which leads to me crying.) To answer you honestly, I would have to say that right now, I most admire Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina, Erika Bogan. As you know, she is in a wheelchair due to domestic violence, and I can relate to her in a small way as I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I don't think it is ever ok for something like that to happen. Her perseverance and strength is something I admire without a doubt.

8. Why do you think you should be the next Ms. Wheelchair America?
I believe I should be the next Ms. Wheelchair America because I am a positive role model to people of all abilities. As mentioned yesterday, I literally have dealt with all three pieces that I feel are important to healing: emotional, mental, and physical. I can relate to people on a personal level, and I love connecting with people. Also, I work in fundraising at my job, so I know how to raise money for the Ms. Wheelchair America program like the economy we are in now. Finally, I'm well connected in many communities and know a lot of important people who can connect me into their network of friends to help broaden the Ms. Wheelchair America program.

9. Who is Alyson Roth?
(Literally, there was a knock on the door as soon as they asked the question meaning my time was up, but I still threw something out there.) Whoa, this is like the cliff hanger to a movie! (all the judges laughed). I guess you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out more about who I am. But I would say quickly that I am an outgoing person who loves life.

I'm not sure that I'm as confident today as I was yesterday. Literally, there are so many great girls here who deserve to win, that I don't know where I stand among some of them in the eyes of the judges. I mean, I think I'm the best candidate, but that's not to say that someone else is more "qualified" for the job. I just don't know. So yes, I'm a little less sure of myself today than I was yesterday.

After my interview, I was immediately requested by this great family and their daughter to take a picture with her. She was very eager to meet me (we met in the elevevator briefly the night before) and found me the next day. So cute! Afterwards, I met up with the film crew and Erika Bogan, Ms. Wheelchair NC.

Tonight, we went downtown for a festival of music and dinner. Every Thursday evening in the summer, they shut down two streets for outdoor festivities. It was a blast! Here we are on our way to town. They even had the police stop traffic for us!

We first stopped at a great store who hosted us all for a reception. I got some great pictures!

Me with Michelle Colvard's (MWA) husband, Brian. He is such a fantastic man who loves Michelle so much. I hope to one day have a man as great as he is to her.

Like my head-dress? It is totally an authentic Indian warrior head-dress. So cool!

Finally, an interview with the public radio station.

I met so many great people, got my picture taken next to famous presidents, and signed some autographs.

But probably my most favorite thing was getting to tag a wall!!! Awhile back, the city got tired of people tagging buildings and putting graffiti all over the city. So, they dedicated a couple blocks for people to freely do this and called it "Art Ally." It was so awesome!

I found a guy with a can of spray paint and asked if I could borrow it to do my own tagging. I felt so naughty doing it, but it was such a rush for some reason! I loved it!!!

For dinner, a bunch of us headed down to a place called the "Firehouse." It used to actually be a firehouse back in the day, but they turned it into a bar/restaurant. Tonight, it had live reggae music. It was a blast dancing and listening to great music with everyone.

Me and Justin, one of the sweetest camera guys ever. I've totally seen a transformation in him this week, and I'm so proud of him!

It has been a complete honor for the city to host us in such an valiant way. It has truly made me feel so important and that people actually care. You know, when we're in our own communities in our respective states, it's easy to feel like the "lone ranger" among a crowd of able bodied people. But here, we are among people who "get it," who understand, and who have all made great strides in their own communities to break barriers. It definitely has been by far a week that has already exceeded and surpassed my expectations.

Pray for me tomorrow all day as it's the last opportunity I have to have one on one time with the judges, and then I deliver my platform speech on stage in front of everyone. I'm probably most nervous about tomorrow, because after tomorrow, decisions will be made for who's in the Top 5. I just want to be in the Top 5, so hopefully I've made a lasting impression on the judges.

Love you all, and thanks again for your support, words of encouragement this week, and love. You each mean so much to me, and I miss you all!