Friday, December 20, 2013

The Right Age for Asking Questions Part 2

Just before Thanksgiving break I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Carr's second grade class at Trego Grade School.  I shared my story "The Secret of Saying Thanks" and then spent time talking with the class and having a q&a time.  I must retract my earlier decision that the right age for asking questions does not happen until about 5th grade.

This class had amazing, insightful questions.  They were not just telling personal stories.  They were asking well thought out questions about me and the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program.  I was even asked for the first time if I would be sad when Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2014 is crowned.  I have since been asked similar questions by adults, but it was a group of second grade students who first asked about life for me after the crowning ceremony in March.  I was able to tell them that I will forever be Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013 and I was excited to add another woman to the list of Ms. Wheelchair Kansas queens.  :)  And, my life of giving presentations and meeting amazing groups of Kansans will never come to an end.  In fact, I currently have appearances scheduled in April and May.  My story and the message I present does not stop being important when the new Ms. Wheelchair Kansas is crowned.  It really only means we get to add yet another voice to our sisterhood.  Thanks to Ms. Wheelchair America 2005, Juliette Rizzo for reminding me that I will forever be Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013.  After all, as Delta Burke said on Designing Women, "Once Miss Georgia, always Miss Georgia."

This class did an amazing job of listening and really staying focused on my presentation.  They did an excellent job stating what they are thankful for and even wrote in my gratitude journal.  I was thrilled to hear them thanking each other, teachers, classroom grandmas, etc. naturally as they went through their day.  If we all were as thankful as I witnessed these second graders being, this world would be a very different place.

Thankful thought for today:

The Second Grade Class at their Christmas Concert

Community Thanksgiving Service

What a privilege to be asked to speak at the Community Thanksgiving Service.  What an amazing opportunity to share my platform, "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude," with my local community.  It was held in the Catholic Church and they set up a screen and projector so I could use my PowerPoint.  I'm thankful for that because although I can give my presentation without them, it is way more fun for the audience if they can watch a PowerPoint outline and pictures.  :)  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to come together as a community and focus on Thanksgiving.  Now, let's be sure to do that year round, not just in November.

Following the service, we got together for cookies and a time to just talk.  I had a chance to talk to people one on one about Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and my year travelling the state.  I am thankful the church had made accommodations to allow wheelchairs to join in the fellowship.  The portable ramp was greatly appreciated.  Hopefully, all community religious activities will continue to be accessible to all.

Thankful thoughts for today:
Fleece lined tights
Smell of apple bread baking
Packing done!
Checking things off my list
Donut party at school

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them is the true measure of our thanksgiving."
                                                                                    W. T. Purkiser

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lions Club--Giving Back Part 2

This is my second opportunity to share with a Lions Club Chapter.
This time it was in Ransom.  While it wasn't to a room full of people I have known since childhood, it was still a room full of Lions.   It was still a room full of people who listened respectfully and with whom I had great dinner conversation before my presentation and a great q&a time afterward.  We had an amazing time of discussion with some very well thought out questions based on genuine, active listening of my presentation.  In fact, I was asked questions about scrapbooking and left wondering how they knew I was a scrapbooker.  It wasn't until I gave my presentation again and found myself mentioning a visit to the scrapbook store, that I realized I myself had told them I was a scrapbooker during my presentation.  I guess I should do a better job at listening to myself talk.  :)

This second Lions Club experience reemphasized the importance of Lions and their commitment to service and community.  They even voted to give a donation to help me take my message to even more places in Kansas.  I am thrilled to share my platform with as many Kansans as I can in as much of Kansas as the weather will allow during the next couple of months.  If you know of anywhere that could use a visit from Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013 and/or would like to hear my platform about "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude," please let me know.  There are still spaces in my calendar in January and February.  I'd love to come see you if we can make it work.
Thankful thoughts for today:
Getting a gift right
Christmas party excitement
Surprise Christmas activities
Jelly Telly

"What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it--would you be likely to give them another?  Life is the same way.  In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have."
                                                                                  Ralph Marston

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Part of the Wardrobe of a LeadHer

I am a co-coordinator of the LeadHer Local WaKeeney group.  This is an amazing group of women who get together twice a month to learn from the teaching of the month and then find a way to apply what they've learned.  During 2013, we have been learning about "The Wardrobe of a LeadHer" and the qualities we should be putting on daily.  November's quality happened to be Thankfulness which goes perfectly with my platform of "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude."  So, for the second meeting in November, I was the featured speaker and shared my PowerPoint presentation on "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude."  It was a privilege to get to share with these ladies and reinforce the topic of the month.  They have been such an amazing support throughout my journey as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.  In fact, two of them made the journey to Topeka for the crowning ceremony last March and all have supported me all year.

The mission of LeadHer is Growing Women God's Way: Spiritually, Physically, and Relationally.  It is through both LeadHer and Ms. Wheelchair Kansas that I have found myself growing in my leadership role and hope that I am touching the lives of the people that I meet.  In both groups, relationships are cementing and I have a group of women I will consider lifelong friends.  How fitting that in both groups the focus of November (and all year in MWKS) is about Thanksliving--not just feeling thankful but making it a daily part of your life.  I hope everyone I meet sees me living out this concept.  

 For more information about LeadHer you can check out their website at
I was privileged to have an article in their November newsletter.  You can access it at

Thankful thoughts for today:
Apple bread
Increased independence
You can find anything online

"So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible.  So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done."
                                                                            Marian Wright Edelman

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrating NW Kansas Culture

Another chance to see Governor Brownback and other Kansas celebrities in the town where I grew up (which just happens to be the Pheasant Capital of Kansas).  How could I pass up this opportunity?  I couldn't.  I knew I was going to a "banquet."  What I didn't know was just well put together and comfortable this would be.  I shouldn't have been surprised.

This was an amazing set up with lots of support.  There was a silent auction set up as well as a live auction after dinner.   Governor Brownback even got to show off his auction skills and auction off the first item.  I'm going to guess that not every Kansan can say they have been to an auction with the governor as auctioneer (for even one item).  It was a privilege to get to shake his hand again and get to introduce him to my husband, son, and parents this time (as well as my daughter again).  My picture was even on his Facebook page from that event.  

As a Northwest Kansas native, I was not at all surprised to see the welcome to the Governor, hunters, and other Kansas celebrities.  The speaker of the night talked about something that has always been a big part of the culture I grew up in and the culture of Kansas--knowing how to feed ourselves from the land around us if there wasn't a grocery store available.  When he talked about having freezers to store your harvest in, I had to chuckle a bit.  My husband and I had just talked about having enough room in the freezer if he harvested a deer this fall.  We decided I would need to cook one of the three turkeys in the freezer from that spring hunt (I happen to have three successful hunters in my house).  I am so proud to be part of a culture that still has an active hunting and farming component.

We had heard rumor that Miss Kansas was going to be at the banquet and were excited to meet her.  The thought of meeting Miss Kansas made this an event my daughter was excited to attend.  We were all disappointed to discover we had missed her.  She had been a part of the days activities but was unable to attend the banquet due to another appearance.   We would still love to meet her.  As Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, I would love the chance to talk with her and see if we could collaborate on anything.  It would be absolutely amazing if she could attend the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2014 Crowning Ceremony in March.  So, if you happen to know her, pass along my contact information.  Let's see if we can make this connection happen.

Thankful thoughts for today:
Pogo sticks
When a plan comes together

"To live a life of gratitude is to open our eyes to the countless ways in which we are supported by the world around us.  Such a life provides less space for our suffering because our attention is more balanced.  We are more often occupied with noticing what we are given, thanking those who have helped us, and repaying the world in some concrete way for what we are receiving."
                                                                          Gregg Krech

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Experiencing Winter Weather

I figured it was coming, but it is still a bit of a disappointment.  Winter weather caused me to have to cancel an event.  BOOOOO!!!  I was so looking forward to heading to Topeka last week for the Toys 4 Tots event.  I have donated items to Toys 4 Tots in the past, but have never had the opportunity to work alongside U.S. Marines to package donations.  This was something I was thrilled to do and especially as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.  When you are thankful, it seems impossible to keep your gratitude from spilling over and wanting to give back.  I am so thankful for the blessings in my life that I want to give back to others.  So, I was greatly disappointed that I had to cancel.  The good news is I'm sure the Marines didn't let a little weather stop them from giving back.  If you know of opportunities to give back in NW Kansas, please let me know.  I hope this is not a sign of my final quarter of my year as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.  I don't want weather to prevent me from attending any more events.

I guess time will tell.  This did cause me to realize just how little time I have left as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas.   Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2014 will be crowned on March 16.  So, if you would like to schedule an event to have me come as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas, please let me know immediately.  I do still have some room in my schedule in January and February.  I want to get to as much of the state and see as many people as I can in the next 3 months.

For those of you who don't quite understand why cold would keep me away from an event, here's an excerpt from  .If You're Not From the Prairie . . by David Bouchard.  "Still, you're not from the prairie, And yet you know cold . . .  You say you've been cold?  Of all those memories we share when we're old, None are more clear than that hard bitter cold.  You'll not find among us a soul who can say: 'I've conquered the wind on a cold winter's day.'  If you're not from the prairie, You don't know the cold, You've never been cold!"  If you've never checked out this book, please do so.  It sums up life on the prairie quite well.  :)

"None is more impoverished than the one without gratitude.  Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy."
                                                                     Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

Sharing a Secret Part 2

Since it was almost time for Thanksgiving break, it was time for me to share my secret again with a couple of classrooms.  I was invited back to preschool and Kindergarten, so the teachers must have enjoyed it last spring.  :)
Some of the students had heard my secret last year either in school or at the library.  But, they did an amazing job listening. This is the time of year that thankfulness gets a lot of discussion time in the classroom.  The kids got to share with me one thing they are thankful for.  They did an amazing job and really put some thought into their answers.  I will never outgrow my love of getting to share my secret with these students and who knows, maybe next time, I'll even have a new story to share as well.      

Thankful thoughts for today:
White, powdery snow
Christmas music
"While They Were Sleeping"by Casting Crowns

"The grateful mind is constantly fixed upon the best.  Therefore it tends to become the best.  It takes the form or character of the best, and will receive the best."
                                                                Wallace D. Wattles

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kansas Association for Youth

I was thrilled to be invited to speak at the Regional KAY Conference in Hill City.  I was an active member of my local KAY club while I was in High School.  I believe KAY can provide lots of important character building/leadership training.  I am so excited to be able to give back just a portion to an organization that impacted me so positively.

The website at: says this about the organization.  "The Kansas Association for Youth (KAY) is a character-building, leadership-training, service program directed by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. This nationally acclaimed organization provides students an opportunity to learn to assume their citizenship responsibilities and to enrich their personalities through well-organized programs, projects and parties. Programs educate, inspire and direct members into carefully planned service projects. These projects emphasize four areas of service - school, community, nation and world."  I was speaking to the leaders of tomorrow (and possibly even today).  What a responsibility.  I believe greatly in the importance of my message and hope I communicated it effectively.

I remember back in March at the beginning of my year as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013, I thought speaking 15-30 minutes was ideal.  Now, when told I had 20 minutes to fill, I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time.  :)  This year has definitely seen an increase in my passion about my platform and comfort discussing it.

These students received a condensed version of my platform speech so we would have time to put the lessons into practice.  When I spoke at the training for K-State Extension Officers in August, we discussed ways to add a kinesthetic portion to my presentation.  This was the first chance I had to try it out.

I had the students make two circles.  Each circle had a ball the students were tossing back and forth to each other.  They were working through the alphabet thinking of something they were thankful for that began with each letter of the alphabet.  Whoever caught the ball named something for the next letter in the alphabet.  They did an amazing job and even though some letters require a bit more thought or create a few more giggles, they were able to quickly complete this exercise.  We even had time for them to look at my presentation boards, ask a few questions, and write in my thankful journal.  This may not be the age for asking questions, but it seems to be the age for thought-provoking journal entries.

Thankful thoughts for today:
Fleece leggings
Hot chocolate
Book It
Kansas Association for Youth
Multiple forms of communication
Watching learning occur before my eyes

"There is always, always, always something to be thankful for"
                                                         Author Unknown

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Those Who Knew Me When . . .

Throughout this year, I've found myself gaining more confidence and feeling more comfortable every time I speak in front of a crowd.  It doesn't seem to bother me whether the audience is 2 or 200.  I find myself responding to the audience reaction and my favorite part is always the question/answer part at the end whether the audience is 2 or 200.  I love open discussion even when speaking to a larger group.

However, I find myself a bit nervous whenever I speak in front of a group of people I know.  Especially when it is a group of people who "knew me when."  Especially when it is my village (or my church family from childhood).  These are the people who watched me grow up from birth until it was time to move on into adulthood in a different location.  These are the people who heard my first attempts at public speaking.  (This time was slightly longer than the 3 1/2 minutes of my first speaking experience.)  These are the people I continue to see on occasion as I visit my childhood home.  These are the people who know me well enough to ask pointed questions.  It's a good thing they are kind and I am open to questions.  They were so attentive and asked important questions about the last 10 years of my life and the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program.  I am always thrilled when I get to talk about this amazing program and how I am privileged to spend my year as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013.  And, this time, I was prepared.  I could answer questions about how many appearances I'd made, different towns/cities I'd visited, and miles I have travelled.  Thank you Norton Lions Club for reminding me to make sure I always have that information at hand.

When I was done speaking up front, I had the privilege to speak to people as they exited the church and signed my gratitude journal.  I love hearing other people's stories as much or more than I love sharing my own.  Stories are an amazing way to share life lessons.  I'm always impressed by the stories I hear and thankful thoughts I get to read in my journal.  I treasure that journal and might just carry it with my everywhere I go for the rest of my life, not just the rest of this year.  :)

Thankful thoughts of the day:
The last warm day in the forecast
Exciting field trips
Christmas Decorations
Prepared and enthusiastic piano students

"There is a calmness to a life lived in Gratitude, a quiet joy."
                                  Ralph H. Blum

Friday, November 15, 2013

Swipe Out Hunger

I was so excited to get to spend an hour working with a great team of friends and my daughter packaging meals.  It's hard to explain how great this event is until you work it yourself.  Other team members were measuring rice, beans, and a cheese packet into the bag and then they would pass it to me.  My job on my side of the table was to weigh the bag and either add or remove rice until the bag was at the appropriate weight.  Then the bag would move on down the table to be sealed and then laid out until we had enough to fill a box.  Other team members would fill the box, seal it shut, and we would yell out the count.  Our team managed to fill 6 1/2 boxes during our shift.  What a great experience working together as a team to meet a common goal.

During our shift we were packaging meals for the Kansas Food Bank.  These meals will be used to feed hungry Kansans.  The second shift was packaging meals to be sent overseas to areas of need.  What an amazing experience to be a part of something so important.  This experience definitely increased my sense of gratitude for having food on my table every day.  My energy is not spent finding somewhere to get food.  My energy is spent on deciding which food to eat.  I am blessed.  May I never forget that.

To learn more about this event, check out

Before the event

Ready to package meals

Thanksgiving for today:
Rapt attention
Erasing items off a white board
Sharing stories

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.   The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude."
                                                                          Alfred North Whitehead

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Big Lakes Developmental Center

We got to head to Manhattan to the Big Lakes Developmental Center.  My time at the center began with my presentation to the case managers.  It was an amazing time spent giving my "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude" presentation and then getting to spend time talking with these incredible ladies.  They asked such wonderful, thoughtful questions specific to their work.  I knew that this platform would apply to all people of all ages, but I am constantly amazed by just how well it resonates with all the different groups I've had the privilege to meet with this year.  It is always my favorite time of every presentation when I get to sit and talk with the people in the room.  I love finding connections and getting to answer questions and learn as much from them as I hope they learn during their time with me.
With these ladies, we found an unexpected connection--many of them have Northwest Kansas roots.  :)

After the time spent talking with the case managers, I had the opportunity to tour the Center and meet some of the clients.  I had a chance to see several different areas and clients both working and eating lunch.  I even had the chance to speak to a woman working at her job as a janitor when I visited the bathroom.  We had a wonderful conversation about Ms. Wheelchair and my platform.  That just proves I should always be ready to share my heart no matter where I am.  You just never know where you will meet amazing people.  :)

Thankful thoughts for today:
Fresh ingredients
Meeting goals
Dr. Pepper
Cocoa Roast Almonds
Confirmation that I'm on the right track

"Make it a habit to tell people thank you.  To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.  Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you.  Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it."
                                                                            Ralph Marston

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Accessiblity for All

I had the opportunity to meet with the Trego County Ministerial Alliance and talk about accessibility needs in their churches and at community religious events.  What a great meeting format.  The members of the ministerial alliance get together and eat lunch at my favorite WaKeeney Restaurant--The Western Kansas Saloon.  The Saloon does not have a wheelchair accessible entrance, YET.  But, we have been talking about it, so we'll see what the future holds.  It is a great place to have a calm and respectful conversation about the needs of the community and opportunities in which the Ministerial Alliance plays a big role.

I had the chance to share about my platform and ways it can be shared in the community.  I also got to share about the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program and what it is all about.  We spent most of my time to share talking about accessibility needs in their churches and offering to be available to come to their various locations to discuss specifics.  I also had the opportunity to discuss the need for community religious events to take place in a location that is accessible to all.  We discussed Lenten breakfasts in particular and possible locations that could provide the greatest accessibility so all of the community can participate.  I did find out the local Catholic church was in the process of building an accessible fellowship hall and had the opportunity to say thank you.  The priest was not present at this meeting, but maybe the other members will pass the thanks along.

All in all, I'm excited to work with these Ministerial Alliance members to help make WaKeeney religious opportunities as accessible as possible to all.  I passed out my business cards and can't wait for them to get in contact with me in the future.

Thanksgiving for today:
Portable X-ray
New crock pot spaghetti recipe
Mighty bug hunter

"It isn't what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart."
                         Author Unknown

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lions Club--Giving Back

I was more nervous for this event than perhaps anything else I've done so far this year.  Why???  I was in a room full of people that knew me well--teachers, pastors, community members, and even some people I went to high school with.  This was my first presentation in my home town.  Now, I had read stories at story time at the library earlier this year, but reading stories to preschoolers did not cause the same case of nerves that speaking in front of a group of adults caused.  :)  These people knew me well enough to see right through any facade I would try to put up.

Because I knew this crowd, I wanted a chance to get to spend extra time talking and answering questions.  So, I gave them a shortened version of my presentation so we would have more time for q&a at the end.  This is always my favorite part of every presentation.  This time, the questions got a little more specific since they had previous knowledge of my life  before my time as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2013.  But, I always tell people they can ask whatever they want, so I guess I'm prepared for anything.  :)

I still had the amazing opportunity to tell a crowd--this time people I know--about the importance of "Maintaining an Attitude of Gratitude."  No matter what happens in life, you can always find a reason to be grateful.  I am constantly thankful that I get to share that message around Kansas with all kinds of amazing people.

Now, I'd like to think I don't ever put up a facade.  I try very hard to be real and an open book.  You can ask me anything you'd like.   But, I knew that even if I wanted to try to fake it, I couldn't with this crowd.  Not only are these people I've grown up with, they are Lions.  They make it a point to spend their time and money on community service.  I'm sure the Lions have touched my life in more ways than I can imagine, but here are a couple of the most recent.  The Scout House in WaKeeney was built by the Lions Club and a ramp was added to the building when I needed to get in to participate with my son.  Also, Lions Clubs across Kansas support KSDS and their training of guide, social, and service dogs.  This has definitely greatly impacted my life recently and I made sure to thank them for their support of that organization.  I am sure if you take a moment and look around your community, you will notice something supported by the Lions.  I challenge you to see what the Lions support and thank them for that.

"No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.  The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude."
                        Alfred North Whitehead

Thankful thoughts for today:
Write on/Wipe off Board
Watching kids learn important life lessons
Army of Volunteers
Paying it forward