Friday, October 30, 2009

Fairmont HOPE Domestic Violence Candlelight Ceremony

After speaking at the Supreme Court Child Abuse & Neglect training this summer, I was asked to speak and sing at the HOPE Candlelight Ceremony. HOPE is a domestic violence and sexual assault home in Fairmont, WV. The candlelight ceremony took place at Fairmont State University and was in remembrance of those who have suffered from either domestic violence or sexual assault.

I sang “With a Broken Wing” by Martina McBride and spoke for about 10 minutes concerning how my platform – Child Abuse & Neglect – was closely tied to domestic violence. Also talked about not letting one event or one life struggle define who you are going to be. After the speech a few individuals came up to me and said they really needed to hear that and I even recruited one volunteer for CASA. Great evening!

University of Charleston Homecoming

Saturday was spent at my old ‘stomping grounds.’ My college years were spent at the University of Charleston and the Homecoming Game was taking place on Saturday and they wanted one of the alumni to sing the National Anthem and visit with the attendees. I was selected [smile] so the afternoon was spent in the skybox watching the game, visiting with old friends, and autographing various different items. It felt so good to be ‘home’ and to promote the university that was so gracious to me!

Mary Kay Party & Fundraiser

During my years of competition in the Miss West Virginia Scholarship Organization, I always received a gift certificate to order Mary Kay Makeup. Alicia Fancher was the consultant and I guess you could say over the years we have created somewhat of a business friendship.

Early on in my year as Miss West Virginia I was asked by Alicia to do a fundraiser with Mary Kay. I was super stoked and we then worked from there to find a date that would work best for the both of us. By that time RDVIC – Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center – was going to be the benefiting non-profit organization.

Monday around 60 women were able to take part in Mary Kay makeovers as well as hear a little information about the RDVIC and the life of Miss WV. I was given the opportunity to speak for 30 minutes and honestly I feel it was one of my best speeches yet. I think there is something about being a woman and talking to women, but who doesn’t like to talk about makeup, life, obstacles, and relationships?

A few Miss WV girls were in attendance as well and it is always great to reunite – Megan Otte, Maggie Power, Cori Langdon, and Christine Feathers. It was a great evening spent laughing about old times, getting new makeup advice, and trying out some of the GREAT Mary Kay products.

If you are interested in purchasing and do not have a current representative, please contact Alicia Fancher at:

She will get your order out to you in 2-4 days or less!

Boone Co. Schools

Friday was spent in Boone Co. visiting both Sherman High School and the Junior High School. The high school presentation was awesome! The entire high school filled into the gymnasium and I was introduced by the Student Body President.

This was a fancy presentation and I almost felt under dressed. I had on a sequined top and jeans that matched it with rhinestone in the right areas, but the Student Body President had on a skirt, tights, heels and a cute top. They also had the Sherman High School podium for me to speak behind.

I only had to call the class down once but other than that, 99% of the students were very attentive and seemed interested. After the presentation, I was offered a job teaching at Sherman High School…but still not sure that is a position for me.

Sherman Junior High was FANTASTIC! They had all the kids file into the gym and then called me in. They were ecstatic and listened/participated so well. They were probably my favorite middle school so far because we did about a 35minute Q&A afterward.

There questions were interesting, but not as cute as the elementary questions…more adult like, which was great! My dad was able to attend both schools with me. So that was a nice surprise to the day and we were able to catch up.

(I am 2 over from the lady in the blue top, near the door)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nicholas Co. Schools

This week I have been in Nicholas Co. visiting various schools. Monday afternoon I had an encounter with “Zipper Mouth” – a 5 year old boy that loved to ask questions in the middle of the presentation that didn’t have anything to do with what we were talking about, But…he was very polite. He would raise his hand about every other minute or so and keep his hand up till he was called on. After the presentation was over and we took a school picture, I had to get one with “Zipper Mouth” because he was so adorable I would have taken him home!

The craziest questions I got this week were:

"Where is your limo? We saw a black car pull in, but if that is what you are driving then you really aren’t Miss WV!"

"How many times have you been divorced?"

"Did you brush your teeth this morning like I did?"

"Can I buy your crown from you? I have a lot of Halloween money saved up!"

You gotta love kids! I had a blast living in the Hampton Inn this week. It was a home away from home and the kids were always something to look forward to the next day.

(Zipper Mouth)

Martinsburg Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival

This was a production that I knew nothing about until being offered the chance to attend. This festival reminded me much of the Forest Festival, held in Elkins, WV. The first night's activity was the Queen’s Gala where the new queen and her court were honored. The queen, her maids, and the court are chosen simply off of their interview skills and knowledge of the festival.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet the outgoing queen, Megan and the new queen, Paige. Both girls represented the festival with class and poise and it was no wonder why they were chosen to reign as queen. Also during that evening I was able to meet the people I was seated around. The Barn’s owner – a prom, pageant and bridal shop in Inwood, WV – was seated to my left and we talked a great deal about how she got into the business and what kind of inventory her store offers. To the right of me was a really unique couple that I hope to remain in touch with for years to come – Ed & Mig Wilson. Candy Reid and her husband Kim were also there and as always, anytime with Candy is a hoot! But…..I think her husband up stood her this time because he was sporting 4 metal rods hanging out of both of his hands and upper arm and potholder-like covers. In August while working around the house, a ladder slipped out from under him and he broke both of his wrists. Candy said it had been a trip trying to keep everything accessible for him, but they were in their last week and the rods would soon be removed.

Friday hosted the Queen’s Coronation, and it reminded me some of the coronation I participated in when reigning as Miss Black Walnut Festival. Paige looked beautiful in her red ball gown and beamed once the crown was placed on her head.

Saturday was the Sports Breakfast which honored former basketball player Spud Webb, the parade and Queen’s Ball. There I was interviewed on the Martinsburg radio about my year as Miss WV and plans for Miss America. The parade was almost rained out, but many still stood along the route with their ponchos and umbrellas.

The Queen’s Ball featured Rick K and The All Nighters! Their name was appropriate for that occasion, seeing as how all the attendees stayed and danced till 2:00am. PS: On a side note – they are going to be the band at my wedding! Whenever that is…..

Raleigh Co. Schools

I had never really realized how big each county in WV is until I have to run from one school to the next. I experienced this in Lincoln County, but figured that was just Lincoln County. No, Raleigh is the same. I attended Liberty High School, Trap Hill Middle, and Fairdale Elementary. One day I wore my Jessica Simpson black booties with a bow, and during the Q&A, a boy asked me if he could wear my shoe. See photo....

Fairdale Elementary was my favorite among the three, simply because it was only the fifth grade. My mom summed it up well when she said “If I was ever going to teach, I would like to teach 5th grade because at that age they are old enough to have an adult conversation with, but aren’t know-it-alls yet.” Isn’t that true? This class was much like Ranger Elementary – so attentive, asked great questions, and participated. After I was done, I just wanted to stay and spend the rest of the day with those kids and teachers!

But….mom and I had TJ Maxx and Hobby Lobby on our minds and ‘how dare we miss a good deal!’ So we did a little damage at each location and met my dad and his friend, Judge Murensky of McDowell County, for dinner.

Elk River Church of the Nazarene & Ravenswood Church of the Nazarene

I was invited by Pastor Leadsom of the Elk River Church of the Nazarene to speak on behalf of adoption and foster parenting during the morning service. My mom was able to attend with me, and we always have a good time together. Whether working together, laughing together, we do have a unique mother-daughter bond.

That evening, I spoke at another church – Ravenswood Church of the Nazarene – on the same topic and was able to see my Aunt and Uncle that came to support me.

WV Black Walnut Festival

In 2005, I had the opportunity to reign as Miss Black Walnut Festival. Still to this day, that was my favorite festival to reign as queen over, partially because I have roots in Roane County, but the people there never cease to amaze me.

This year I rode in the parade and Kyle was able to be in attendance too. We were fortunate enough to have a two-person BMW convertible, but it proved a small problem when wondering what we were going to do with the wheelchair. We took the wheels off and placed them in the trunk, but that still left the body, which isn’t very foldable, to place somewhere. All the room was taken up with bodies and we decided we were just going to have to have him hold it on his lap while going through the parade. A younger dad who was driving his daughter in the parade saw our struggle and offered to place the wheelchair body in his truck bed. If you know me, I was to the “What are we going to do" stage. I felt so bad, but we couldn't just leave it at the beginning of the parade route. That nice gentleman eased our problems and then we were both able to get to know my driver.

After the parade concluded and we reassembled the wheelchair, I was greeted by an interesting fellow. He was from LA and was hosting a cross-country online radio show. He asked for an interview, and we chatted it up for 10 minutes or so. I had been raving to Kyle about the potatoes that were cooked with onions, peppers, and cheese. He agreed that if I worked out every day up until Saturday, I could take a ‘splurge’ and get the potatoes. Little did I know that he not only wanted the potatoes, he wanted a funnel cake, caramel apple, iced tea, ice cream, and a large bratwurst sandwich. Yes, we ate all of that and were sick after!

An old friend, Joey Fox, was there at the festival and he found us over at the refreshment tents – go figure. He was so inspired by Kyle before meeting him that while I had to go round up all of this ‘wanted food,’ they became best buds and chatted about MMA the whole time.

It was so good to be in my ‘old stomping grounds’ as well as see Joey and EAT!

Lincoln Co. Schools

Fortunately, Kyle was able to spend Friday attending the Lincoln County schools with me. We both had a ball! Lincoln County is probably one of the most friendly, giving and loving counties in the state of West Virginia.

We started out our morning at Ranger Elementary and the kids were so well behaved! They loved Kyle and right before he was introduced, we did a big “1, 2, 3, KYLE” yell – the kids loved that! After we both presented, the kids all came and gave us hugs and you could tell they were afraid to reach out, but when you latched your arms around them, they didn’t want to let go.

From there we were in a rush to get to Harts Middle. We were told by Jack Wiseman that this was a school that had the biggest heart, but most of the kids didn’t have the luxuries in life many of the students at other schools had. Jack was right! These were the best behaved students, most interested and attentive, they had great questions at the end….and we even got to eat lunch with the whole school.

After leaving, Kyle said “Schools like these are why I love coming here.” These kids had hearts as big as arms opened wide, and their future is great and only to be imagined.

WV Trio Conference & Ravenswood First Baptist Church

I stayed up most of the night before the Trio conference downloading videos for my one hour presentation. I wanted to make the presentation meaningful and my topic was how to help educators see signs of child abuse, get the child to talk to them, and create a relationship with that child. So by 4:00am I had the BEST presentation and I couldn’t wait to present at 9:00.

9:00 o’clock rolls around and my powerpoint and videos won’t show up on the screen. So after about 15 people fooling with it while I went ahead with the presentation, I had to wing the 60 minutes. It actually went much better than I had expected once they told me it wasn’t going to work. After, I was asked to take pictures with the various different educators and was invited to three upcoming events to speak.

That evening, I spoke to the Ravenswood First Baptist Church in my recruitment for foster and adoptive parents out of foster care. This was my first church and I was anxious but also apprehensive. After 45 minutes of speaking and video presentation, at the conclusion I was asked by five people – five that I didn’t think even were benefiting from the presentation – to obtain further information on how they could be involved. God is good, and from there I felt another nudge from God saying “This is what I called you for, Talia.”

Wellsburg Apple Festival

I had the BEST time at the Wellsburg Apple Festival. It was a long drive from Martinsburg to Wellsburg [4 hrs], but boy, was it worth it! Upon arrival, I was greeted by Ernie Jack who had arranged my attendance. We then perused the many different booths of the festival for an hour. We joked, but literally, you could go broke at this festival. They had everything from designer purses, breast cancer calendars, roasted peanuts, to jewelry and face painting. I purchased a LARGE black and silver broach, and Ernie insisted I have some of the peanut, almond and cashew sugar roasted peanuts.

From there the Queens and Princesses of the festival were "re-crowned" by me and we all went out to lunch to visit! I sat with the girls and they ranged in age from 3-16. We had the best time getting to know each other and the food wasn’t too bad either!

A high school friend of mine had come to see me at the festival. George Gerbo and I met at a Hi-Y function while in high school, clicked, and kept in touch throughout college. He lived about 30 minutes away and brought his family along with him. After lunch with the “queens,” George and I visited a few more booths before going to Wendy’s to meet his parents and sister for coffee. We sat in Wendy’s catching up for about an hour and then I had to go back to Wheeling to pick up the rest of the gang.

After reigning as the WV Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen – visiting many different fairs and festivals throughout my year - I would have to rate this festival as being one of the best and certainly full of fun!

Martinsburg V.A. Welcome Home Heroes

One time a year, the Martinsburg V.A. Hospital hosts a “Welcome Home Heroes” that encourages families of Veterans, who have given their life and time to serve our country and protect our freedom, to spend a free afternoon together eating, listening to live music, and creating new friends.

I was invited to sing the National Anthem and visit with the various vendors and attendees. Jackie Riggleman, Miss West Virginia’s Outstanding Teen, was also invited and we both enjoyed getting to spend a little more time together. Kyle Maynard, mom and a high school friend, Shery Shour also took in a day at the V. A. Hospital and as you guessed it…Kyle was a real hit.

He made friends fast with many of the older vets and clicked with a few organizers from the Wounded Vets program. For months now, Kyle has been working with and visiting Veteran’s hospitals, encouraging the wounded and amputee to look beyond their differences and accept themselves for who they are inside. He also has put the men through CrossFit workouts that will hopefully take place of some of their physical therapy.

That day is one that Kyle, myself and my family will never forget…seeing those who risked their lives for our freedom that we take for granted every day. After seeing men that were blind, limbs missing, and burned just so we don’t have to leave our ‘comfort zone of living,’ I will be forever grateful for their sacrifice and never take my everyday freedom, especially as a woman, for granted one more day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Berkley Co. Dancing with the Community Stars Fundraiser

Friday night, I had the privilege of being the emcee at the Berkeley County Dancing with the Community Stars Fundraiser - what a great night! I have always been jealous of those MAO contestants who come from Berkeley County, as they seem to have such great directors and financial help in their local scholarships, and I saw for myself what makes them such a huge success! The local board there had organized a fundraiser similar to Dancing with the Stars, and it was so much fun! We had seven pairs of contestants, including two of our own Miss America girls, Amber Miller and her father (who got roped into the dancing the night before when her partner got sick - kudos to him, for sure - they were so cute together!) as well as Maggie Power and her boyfriend who did an awesome job with "Fresh Prince of Belair." All the contestants were absolutely wonderful, and Michael T. Meyers (Magician) and Jennifer Barcinas-Miller, who did the cutest "magic" dance that the audience fell in love with.

Kyle and I got out there at the end and got our groove on! Cool to get to see my other Miss America sisters Ashley Breedon and Melissa Goodwin also - all you future Miss WV girls, get ready - June will be here before you know it!

My good friend from high school, Sherry Skeen Shour, drove down to spend the weekend from Maryland where she is stationed with the Air Force. It was so good to get to hang out with her a bit before she heads off to an assignment in Korea this spring.