Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Congratulations to Mrs. California International 2014

Friday night I arrived in Palm Desert for the 2014 Mrs. California International Pageant.  As soon as I arrived and unpacked I saw the beautiful Amy Gregorio, Mrs. International 2013 checking in.  I helped her to her room, and we decided to have a few moments of catching up and let me tell you that I am SO excited to watch her year as Mrs. International.  When you remove the crown/sash from this woman, she is as sweet and gracious as before.  Amy is a real person – she is a proud mom, wife and huge advocate for CASA.   It was such a pleasure to sit and talk marriage and children together – being moms is always a great ice breaker.  She also taught me a little more about CASA.

That evening we attended the Mrs. California orientation.   After meeting the contestants, each very sweet and excited, I had a few more ‘tearful moments’ and headed off to bed.  When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt calm and ready.  I went in and began to tape my farewell speech – thanking my amazing family brought me to tears.  Competing and being a titleholder is a family event, it’s an all or nothing on board type of a year.  I am so very very blessed!  Attending rehearsals was such a neat feeling - I teared up talking to every contestant as I remember being in their shoes last year, seeing their excitement and hope.    

Saturday night was my final walk as Mrs. California International 2013 – I was, admittedly, very overwhelmed with emotion.  Sharing a few moments with Grant before my final walk was precious.  He is the man that will continue walking by my side just as he always has.  He is my best friend. 

Before I knew it… it was time to present awards and crown the new Mrs. California International 2014.  With each award I could feel the tension grow until it was time. 

Congratulations to Stacy Ortiz-Davis Mrs. California International 2014.  She will do great things this year and is in great hands – I look forward to watching her.

I will say this in closing – as I left on Sunday and hugged each contestant I was reminded how much of an impact I have made over the past year, I have left a legacy that I can be proud of (I even had a sweet young girl tell me that she follows me on FaceBook).  I am grateful to each person I have met along my journey, grateful to Eddie Peterson for being who he is (I can never begin to articulate all he has given me without ever knowing), grateful to Dennis Cooke for a perfect farewell and grateful to the International Pageant organization for allowing hard working women to follow their dreams and promote their passions.

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Here I am... Mrs. Grant Smith

Saturday, August 10, 2013

For the last time ...

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi
When you are 8 years old you have your WHOLE life ahead of you to learn lessons but when you are Justin, you want your daddy to show you how to throw the perfect curveball or Kristen who wants her mommy to teach her how to put in a ponytail however Justin’s father Capt. Mark Stubenhoffer was killed in Iraq in 2004 and Kristen’s mother 1st Lt Florence Chou was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.  They are 2 of the more than 5000 children that lost a parent due to combat while serving our country.  As Mrs. California I have continued my life’s passion of supporting the families of our fallen during their journey.  Whether it’s been through my Outing with the Angels events, Financial Literacy Program or simply spending time together I have come to love and appreciate each family I have met.  Being a military wife has allowed me to be a part of the largest family in the world and family shouldn’t end with death – that is when we should become more strong and resolute in our support of each other.   
I have met some of my best friends along my journey to becoming Mrs. California International, there have been ups and downs and I am blessed beyond measure to have had this opportunity.

Just 11 months ago I was standing on stage hoping, praying and I’m quite sure not breathing as they announced the new Mrs. California;  As I heard my name I went numb and blank until I saw my husband walking towards me, as he hugged me all I could say was WE DID IT.  September 8, 2012 was the night my dream of representing my state at Mrs. International came true.  I am truly blessed to have worn this beautiful crown and carried the title of Mrs. California International, representing military families and honoring families of our fallen service members.  I have participated in events, run races and traveled more than 20,000 miles across this beautiful state and country to promote my platform of Supporting Families of our Fallen heroes through the Got Your Back Network, T.A.P.S and many other wonderful organizations.

This year has been nothing short of amazing.  I have had the honor of meeting the Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, coordinated events for children of our fallen heroes and raised much needed funds.  With over 50 events, my memories will always be plentiful but a few that will always be cherished are: Project Gratitude 4, Wreaths Across America, The Jonathan Jacques Champions of Life Torch Run, Snowball Express, Mule Days and the Military Spouse of the Year Summit where I was awarded the California Military Spouse of the Year. 

To my sponsors: Bryan K Osborn Collections, Avanti Printing, Some Like it Shot Photography, GS Visual, Natalia Lopez at The City Salon, Austin Ryde, Kara Knudson, Rachel Tinker at Burke Williams Salon, The Bar Method, Gold Coast Veteran’s Foundation, JPW Freight, and Red, White & Blue Warriors this year wouldn’t have been possible without your generous support.  I thank the wonderful people of this state and beyond that I have met and spoken with this year; I have witnessed true patriotism and generosity that I take with me as I open the next chapter of my life. 

To the families of our fallen: Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your family, you each inspire me every day to live life, to dream big and follow those dreams.  This year has been about each of you, your journey and how I have been able to be a part of it through events and life.  Today is not the end of that yet a step forward with new opportunity. 

Tiffany: I am honored to know you, who would have thought in those shared those moments before crowning that we would be sharing our year together.  YOU are an amazing woman and I love you for every moment of the last year. 
Jayne:  I have loved watching your senior year, your cheerleading tryouts and all that you have done.  The sky is the limit for you and I know you will reach it.

 I couldn’t have done it without the continual, unconditional love and support from my family. 
Mom, Dad, Krista, Travis, Renee and Grandma; for 25 years you have watched me dream - here I am, Mrs. California!  I hope that I have made you proud. 
Diana: my other mom, thank you for being there, listening to me, creating my wardrobe and loving me like a daughter. 
Krystina: my little bug, thank you for accompanying me to events and straightening my crown, reminding me to smile.  You are the reason I am who I am. 
Lastly, but with the utmost importance: My loving husband and best friend, Grant thank you for calming my nerves, loving me in a way I thought was only in fairytales, listening to my countless speeches, proof reading everything (more than once) and reminding me that I am just one person doing the best I can.  I love you more than words.

To Mrs. California International 2014, this year will be what you make of it, so make it count- remember to be humbled and to work hard, you do have the power to make a difference in the lives of others and serve a cause greater than yourself. I know I reached out to so many lives, because each of those lives touched mine more than they could imagine.  This has truly been the time of my life, a year I will remember fondly, and cherish always.  I cannot thank you all enough for making my year and dream of being Mrs. California International a reality. 
As I take my final walk as your reigning titleholder, I will always be Shana Smith, Mrs. California International 2013.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Heading to Palm Springs to crown your next Mrs. California International

While I should be getting ready to head to Palm Springs to crown Mrs. California International 2014 I am overcome with both emotion and love.  As I sit here thinking back over the last year, the families I have met and (hopefully) the impact that I have made in the lives of our Gold Star Families I have just 2 words: THANK YOU. As Mrs. California I have traveled more than 30,000 miles, visited 6 states and raised both money and awareness for the needs of our Gold Star Families... I have also made friends that will last a lifetime. Moments are what make life worth it.

Never did I think that I would have this opportunity, this wonderful journey to further our mission and the Got Your Back Network.  Becoming Mrs. California is a dream come true and I worked each day at being the best Shana and Mrs. California that I could be. 

This isn't the end - August 20 Outing with the Angels, September 11 Project Gratitude at Miss America and for all California People SEPTEMBER 26 is our fundraiser Martini's and Makeovers!

A few precious moments that will forever be with me:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mrs. International Prelims and Finals

After all of the exhaustion and excitement of Thursday I will admit to being a bit tired Friday morning… THANK GOODNESS for the wonders of Kara’s makeup making me look beautifully refreshed.

More and more and more rehearsal… AKA getting to know the other ladies.  I realized how much I absolutely love so many of them.  Mrs. AL has the brightest ray of sunshine and heart always, Mrs OH is FAR tougher than she lets on… Mrs. NW is another military wife that just PCS’d to South Carolina.  Yep, I love getting to know each other.

Preliminaries are scary… sorry no way around it but they are.  It feels like you are putting ALL of your eggs in one basket and then running through an obstacle course on the show WIPEOUT.  Once it started (and Mrs NC counted our steps in opening number) it just flew by.  Before I knew it I was headed to Taco Bell with my family and laughing.  Headed back to the room… and to bed NERVOUS.
My handsome husband and I after prelims

My wonderful mother in law (AKA rehearsal outfit maker extraordinaire!)

Krystina changed as fast as she could!  I love my daughter

Mrs. VA Amber and I before opening number

Army Wives (and her Active Duty Navy hotness) Fitness Rocks

Blondes have more fun! (L-R GA, MT, CA, East Coast, AL)

Group A!

BEAUTIFUL Mrs. CO and I after 5 years of praying to be here together
Mrs. Alaska, Rocky, and I.. another Army Wife!

My Bryan K Osburn Custom Gown


Looking back on the week Saturday was my FAVORITE day.  Saturday we got to give and hear our 30 second platform speeches.  It was the first time that we were able to hear the passion of our peers.  I learned so much about each woman, some speeches made me laugh, others cry and ALL made me think.  ANY one of us would be a great Mrs. International.  I knew from that moment, more than any before, the judges’ decision was hard.

As we got ready, practiced and began the opening number my heart was racing.  As they called the top 15 I was hopeful… then #15 and it … wasn’t me.  I hugged Mrs. VA, wished her luck and headed to the consolation area.  I felt defeated but know that it wasn’t my destiny.  Then the Top 10 was called… that’s when backstage got fun.  In each room we rallied around our sisters, got them dressed and sent them back out.  As competition was done we all headed back to stage to find out who our representative would be as the new Mrs. International 2014.
As the Top 5 were called I was elated to see that our new Mrs. International was Mrs. Illinois Amy Gregorio!  Amy and I had a wonderful conversation just before the pageant started about our children and explaining this pageant craziness to them, win or lose we are still winners.  Back to the dressing room, clean up our things and off to the Coronation Ball. 

When I met Grant, Krystina, my mother in law and Kara in the lobby I wasn’t sad.  I looked at the pride that each had and was perfectly happy with my placement, my family loved me regardless.  Grant and I headed to the Coronation Ball, danced, hung out (totally stress free) with other contestants and their husbands and just enjoyed the journey.
My reason

Mrs. KS, Mrs. VA and I being silly!


The man who has changed me immensley.  Eddie (Mrs. California Intl director) is one of the most inspirational men I have had the honor of meeting.

Top 5!


When I got home there was a huge let down, I have been preparing for this most of my life.  I am proud that I accomplished the goal I set, I am looking forward to the future for my family and our organization.  I am looking forward to the wonderful events coming up and to being Shana Smith, Mrs. California International just a little bit longer.

I am grateful for the 69 women I met, I am grateful for their stories and their struggles because they were the most wonderful and thoughtful women I could have ever asked to be around.  I look forward to watching the rest of their year and watching Amy represent married women with class and grace.