Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mrs International Class of 2013


Last week was the culmination of 25 years of dreaming, 17 years of dedication to military families, 5 years of dedication to Gold Star Families and a year of preparation. I did not win the title of Mrs. International but I gained more in the journey than I can begin to express. I am honored to have represented military spouses, my family and my state on the national stage. I am exhausted, overwhelmed, humbled by the journey and ready to head home and ROCK the last 3 weeks of my reign as Mrs. California International. Thank you to each of you for your love and support. I can’t wait to share my photos and adventures from the week. It will take me a few days because I want to make sure that my week is properly documented as touching and amazing as it was.


My dream to become Mrs. International began in 2008 when I met an inspirational man and director, Eddie Peterson, who taught me that being myself and loving me was the way to get there. I was still mentally a victim of domestic violence, I was learning to be myself again with the support of my fantastic husband but I hadn't gotten there yet – on stage at Mrs. California 2008 was the first time I had admitted, in any public forum, that I had been abused which was a huge step. I didn't win or even place that year and I was perfectly alright with that because I made it through. I spent the next few years growing, learning and thriving at just being Shana. With the urging of a few surviving spouses I competed again for Mrs. California International because you only live once. Winning Mrs. California International 2013 in September 2012 meant I was finally living my dream as I began to prepare for my moment on the International stage. I could not have felt more confident or secure in my own skin as I prepared to be my best self and represent my home state with pride, poise and elegance.


I arrived in Chicago last Monday with my heart full of hope and my stomach full of butterflies I had no idea what to expect. You honestly never know if you will show up to a bunch of nasty catty women who are all about themselves or if they will be as sweet and gracious as they seem on Facebook; especially when you are dealing with 70 of the most accomplished and beautiful women in the world (This is inner and outer beauty!). I spent Tuesday with the beautiful and talented Kara, my makeup artist for the week, touring Chicago. We had such a good time visiting Navy Pier, a cute farmers market, Millennium Park and Wrigley Field before heading back to the hotel to prepare for Orientation.

When I walked into Orientation, thank you to Facebook many ladies “knew” each other, it already felt like a sisterhood. There were so many smiles, hugs and introductions I was overwhelmed but hopeful for an awesome week ahead. I was so excited to meet Amber, Mrs. Virginia and Tammy, Mrs. Colorado as both were 'sisters' via Facebook for quite some time. I also got to meet my wonderful roommate for the week Mrs. Rocky Mountains. As we each took our seats, I sat between the lovely Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Iowa then we began to listen to all that is expected during the week and of the new Mrs. International… then the contestant numbers were handed out. I silently prayed “PLEASE don’t be #1, please don't be #1, please....”. Well, the Lord was apparently hearing the 69 other louder voices asking the same room (I was not using my inner mom voice) and I was graced with being the first of 70 contestants. As petrified as that placement was I embraced it; if it was my destiny then my placement didn't matter. It did however lend me to being part of the A Group with the awesome Bernee at the helm.

My very sweet roommate!  I got lucky with this wonderful woman

I went to bed that night with a smile on my face as I was part of the Class of 2013 – it had finally sunk in! I was overjoyed to attend Tuesday’s day in Chicago as well as start rehearsals and get to know the other contestants.


More to come…

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thankful to my sponsors

As my trip to Mrs. International draws closer I want to again thank all of the wonderful sponsors that have gotten me prepared to compete.  From gowns to glam and photos to smiles each of these businesses has been instrumental in my year as Mrs. California.  If it were not for their support, along with my wonderful family and friends, I don't know where I would be.  
The crown is the destiny for only one woman but the journey has been given to all of us.  I have enjoyed the journey and am excited to see all that I have accomplished this year in support of the families of our fallen.  From raising more than $10,000 in our last fundraiser benefiting programs for Got Your Back, to obtaining gift bag donations for 20 surviving spouses and daughters attending Project Gratitude 4 and just sharing in simple laughter with the families over the course of my more than 30 appearances this year I am humbled by the love I have received.
Thank you to my sponsors, without your support this year wouldn't have been made possible:

Bryan K Osborn - My gown sponsor and amazing Chicago based gown designer.  I can not wait to grace the stage in my custom gown!

Avanti Printing - A full service commercial printing company located in Irvine, Orange County, California. From your short run Digital printing jobs to your larger run Offset printing jobs we have the quickest turnaround in Orange County.

Natalia Lopez - Houston, TX native Natalia is amazing at everything from cut to color.  Responsible for making Mrs. California picture perfect from the roots up.

 Austin Ryde - Make Up Artist (Mrs. California & Boot Campaign Photos)

Kara Knudsen - Crowning Moments Make Up Artist & Hair Stylist (Mrs. California headshots, Boot Campaign shoot and Mrs. International competition week)

GS Visual - Orange County based Graphic Designer (Ad page and Platform Page design)

The Bar Method Tustin - The Bar Method™ workout creates a uniquely lean, firm, sculpted body by combining the muscle-shaping principles of isometrics, the body-elongating practice of dance conditioning, the science of physical therapy and the intense pace of interval training into a powerful exercise format that quickly and safely reshapes and elongates muscles.

Gold Coast Veteran'sFoundation  - Our Mission is to help Veterans, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

Rachel Tinker - Burke Williams Spa - is the official esthetician to Mrs California International 2013.  Rachel is amazingly sweet and very professional; not to mention that Burke Williams is a wonderful place to unwind after a long day.

Some Like it Shot Photography - My official Mrs. California headshots were shot by this amazing husband and wife team.  If you are in Washington State and desire anything from official headshots to pinup or family shots give them a call!

Red,White & Blue Warriors Responsible for bringing the Wounded WarriorAmputee Softball Game to Orange County, CA.

JPW Freight Veteran Owned and Operated Business - a logistical service provider, with its focus on customer service, that is second to none.

Dr. Ilene Hatch Dedicated to helping couples fulfill their dream of achieving a family while providing patients with personalized care and attention.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Camp Hometown Heroes

One of the best parts to being on the Board of Got Your Back or volunteering with many national organizations and being part of the lives of so many surviving families is being able to provide opportunities for them to have fun!
About 8 weeks ago I met Neil through his organization CampHometown Heroes, he was looking for children affected by the combat related death of a loved one for his upcoming camp. A camp that is designed to be fun, designed to offer a normal camp experience to the children who attend. From my first conversation with Neil I knew that we were meant to work together. I took his information, the information on his camp and began to disseminate it to surviving families that I knew… word got around QUICK! Within 2 days 12 children had signed up and were going to be flying from all over our country to attend camp. To be part of the 62 inaugural campers at Camp Hometown Heroes Wisconsin summer camp experience.

Hometown Heroes is a volunteer led non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children, families, first responders and veterans in need through a "pay it forward" approach to volunteerism and giving. By creating opportunities for thousands of inspiring volunteers, Hometown Heroes not only benefits the recipients but also those who serve.
As the weeks got closer I saw mom’s get nervous, their babies attending camp in another state (even on the other side of the ocean) but there is a sense of pride in their fear.   I was honored that they trusted me enough to suggest this trip - I have always said that I love their children as my own.  Then the day came, each camper was headed to Wisconsin. I anxiously followed their flights through Facebook posts, then I spent the week following their camp experiences through their moms status updates and finally they were all back home. When I started reading the AAR (After Action Reviews) from the mothers and campers my heart was filled with happiness and warmth.

Being part of an organization is about the people that you can help; the small moments where one phone call brings about the happiness of 62 children. Next year I am sure the camp will be bigger, I also hope to be going as a counselor/volunteer with raise my goal of children attending by double. I am proud of the girls that attended, I am proud to watch their growth and look forward to seeing them all again soon.

Thank you to Camp Hometown Heroes for their generosity and support to the children that have lost a loved one during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and those that have been lost on our homefront. If you would like to see more photos or read what some of the campers and their parents had to say please visit their Facebook page at CampHometown Heroes

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2nd Annual Long Beach Meal on Wheels Rock for Vets

The Rock For Vets mission is to create a music educational / instructional program for Veterans and others at-risk.  We offer music group instruction classes, whether one can already play an instrument or sing, or even if they just have the desire to learn.  All while building career skills transferable to the music industry all in a supportive and educational environment.

I met Katherine from Rock for Vets in November at the USS Midway during a Veteran’s Day Community Service event.  I loved learning about their mission and how they are working to help our Veterans so when it came time for the Long Beach Meal on Wheels 2nd Annual Rock for Vets event I was very excited to participate.  I was also very excited that my husband and daughter would be able to attend the concert and event – both were overjoyed as the music was fantastic.

I spent the day working on community awareness for the Got Your Back Network and talking to attendee’s about the needs of the surviving families of our fallen.  I was able to talk to more than 100 people about who we are and what we do.  Sharing photos of past events and enlisting volunteers for future ones. 

Grateful to Katherine and Frank for their wonderful music therapy program and for including me in this exciting and rewarding event.  I look forward to the 3rd Annual Rock for Vets Show!
Being able to be Mrs. California and representing an organization that I believe so much in makes each appearance that much better. 

The Rock for Vets show included several food trucks
The Silent Auction included autographed memorabilia by Justin Bieber, Madonna and Journey!


I'm looking forward to delivering meals with the Long Beach program - they are doing wonderful things to assist our Veterans
The lovely Long Beach Scottish Rite Center

The Rock for Vets Guitar signed by every musical act in attendance