Confessions of a Beauty Queen

Many people think that “Beauty Queens” are just brainless girls with pretty faces who happen to look good in a swimsuit. I want to tell you that this rumor is not true. Admittedly, some pageants exist in which the only thing that counts is your looks. But it takes a lot more than good looks and a nice body to take home the crowns in the more reputable pageants. I competed in the Miss America set of pageants, and I will tell you, it was tough.  First of all, the Miss America organization gives out over a million dollars annually in SCHOLARSHIPS. This means that they give money to deserving women that is applied toward their pursuit of higher education. They do not simply write checks to pretty girls and tell them they can go buy clothes, shoes, make-up, or other fleeting frivolities. Second, there are several areas of competition in which contestants are scored.

One of these categories is the interview which, in the Miss America Pageant, comprises 40% of your total score. In my experience, these are tough interviews during which you are grilled about several topics ranging from current events and political issues, to personal history and opinion. You have to be able to think on your feet, be very aware of the world around you and present your opinions in a way which is both poised and charming. Another heavily weighted portion of the competition is the talent category. Successful Miss America contestants have typically spent countless hours training in their particular area of performance. You cannot just decide one day “Hey, I am pretty, I think that I will try for Miss America”. If you are not already well rehearsed in a skill that you could use to compete for talent then you may have missed the boat. Now, let us not forget the swimsuit competition.

Though opinions on this topic vary, the fact is that pageant contestants have to wear a swim suit on stage. You may think it is degrading and demeaning but you still have to admit that this demonstrates their superior physical fitness. Such fitness is a feat that is getting more and more difficult to accomplish in a country in which obesity is occurring in epidemic proportions. Finally, one of the most prevalent fears amongst Americans is that of public speaking. It is tough to get on that stage, present yourself as a package to a set of judges and hope they like you, not to mention the hundreds of onlookers. Many people in this world could not do that. I think it is time that we stop degrading these women and labeling them as “brainless beauty queens” and start recognizing them for the talented and accomplished individuals that they are.

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Confessions of a Couponaholic

I'm what you might call a serious couponer. I'm not the kind of woman who subscribes to one issue of the Sunday paper, cuts out four or five or ten coupons, and tosses the rest. That's too easy for people like me. Instead, I get my coupons out of recycling bins. Once a week, I haul my kids to my in-laws, then head to the local recycling center with a huge crate to store my newly-found inserts. I'm agile, athletic, and fairly young, so it's usually not a problem for me to scramble into those big metal recycling bins (by the way, they are NOT dumpsters, there is almost nothing in them but newspapers!). I used to carry a flashlight, but it was too hard to work efficiently.

For Christmas, my husband bought me a flashlight that straps to my head, freeing up my hands and enabling me to dig, dig, dig for coupons. I look like a misplaced miner, and tend to scare the bejeebers out of folks who plan to drop off their papers. For some reason, people don't expect to find someone sitting inside a huge metal bin filled with newspapers. Consequently, I have been smacked in the head by thrown papers on multiple occasions, usually scaring the thrower more than me. My husband says this only contributes to my mental problems.

Once I have obtained my coupons, I need to be certain I can find them as needed. No sissy envelope or 3×5 card holder for me! No sir, I have a large filing cabinet dedicated to my coupons. When I come home from my "dives", I file each insert uncut. Usually, I get 20-30 of the same insert, which translates to 20 or 30 of each coupon. When I need the coupon, I open my Excel spreadsheet, where I have typed up each individual coupon and its location, find the desired coupon, and pull the file of inserts from my drawer. That's when I cut them out. Believe it or not, this saves me time – otherwise, I would be cutting and filing about 200-300 coupons each week, and run the risk of losing them.

People (usually my mom) often wonder why I go to such extremes for my coupons. It's simple – coupons can be a major money-saver if used properly. There are many coupons that, when combined with sales, net me free or dirt-cheap items. I frequently go to the grocery store, fill up two carts, and pay less than $ 25 for the whole thing. And I never buy just one. Instead, I buy thirty of the same item (or however many I have coupons for), almost guaranteeing that I never have to pay full price again. This is called stockpiling. Right now, I have about 70 pounds of white rice, another 50+ pounds of flavored rice (yellow rice, Uncle Ben's, Rice-a-roni), around 45 pounds of pasta in various shapes, 20 packs of Keebler Fudge Shoppe Cookies, 100 packs of Gerber baby …