Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lee Academy Elementary

I recently traveled to Dallas, Texas to meet up with two of the world’s greatest sister queens, Farabe and Elise. We attended the National Salute to Veterans Event at the Dallas VA hospital. There, I passed out cards that two elementary schools made for me to give to our soldiers. This past week, I was able to spend time with the students and pick up cards from Lee Academy Elementary School in Marianna, Arkansas, which is where I attended elementary back in the day. The kids were very excited that their cards are going all the way to Texas!

Me with Mrs. Kelly Jones, who made the day possible!

The fourth through sixth grade students at Lee Academy and their cards for the veterans.

Me with Ms. Lori Andrews’ preschool class.

I had a blast spending time with the classes. They worked so hard on all of the cards and I know the soldiers will be very happy to receive the gifts to brighten their spirits. The preschoolers were so adorable and told their moms, “A real princess came to see me today.” I visited the kindergarten for a little while and I’ll never forget this question a little girl asked me, “Are you the queen of everything?” What makes me the happiest is when the little girls say they are going to be a princess when they grow up too and they are learning that princesses are doing things to help others and they want to help others too.

I had so much fun with the little ones…they thought I was a real princess.

I can’t thank Mrs. Kelly Jones, the teachers, and students of Lee Academy Elementary enough for allowing me to spend time with the students and also for making the cards to show their appreciation to our nation’s veterans.

“Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Birthday Bucket List

I just turned another year older, although, I will forever stay 25 if anyone asks me how old I am. I’m 32 and sometimes I feel like I’m 82 by the end of the day. Birthdays are special to me and growing up I liked to have a month long celebration. I’m sure my mom was glad when April rolled around. These years, I feel lucky if I get a cake we are so busy. The boys, all 3 of them, were determined to make my day special this year. The boys thought it would be a good idea if I had my “party” at either play street museum, where they had their 4th birthday, or took me fishing.

Elise came into town the weekend before my birthday and we had lots of fun shopping! She pointed out that I have been 3 different ages since I won the Mrs. Texas International title. I was 30 when I was crowned, turned 31 the next day and because the state pageant was pushed back a month to April, add in another year older. It is still hard to believe that I’m on the path that I am on and I would have never seen myself wearing a crown when I turned 30. As a wife and mommy, I think it is so cool that we have the opportunity to continue to do things, not only for ourselves, but also for others outside of our family with the help of a crown.

This year, I am stealing the idea of a sweet and beautiful friend of mine to have a bucket list for my 32nd year of life. I need 32 things on my list. One for each year of my life. Things could include something as small as learning a certain recipe, to bigger things like a big trip with family or girlfriends. I need your help though coming up with a good list and would love for you to message me with some ideas. Nothing too crazy like eating bugs, though. That’s not happening. Lots of love, ladies!

Until the Mission is Complete,


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Person

Some of you may have read my blog about the legacy you will leave behind. If not, you can find it here. My grandmother was a very influential figure in my life helping to mold me into the wife and mother that I am today. However, there was another amazing female in my life that made me who I am and continues to push me to give my all in all that I do. She’s my mom.

My parents got divorced when I was in the 3rd grade. My mom was a single mother who never complained about having to play the role of a mother and father. She never once complained about not having any time for herself, she never did by the way unless you count the 5 minute drive to and from school to her work. She drove me to sports practices, dance practice, piano, girl scouts, dance competitions on the weekends and followed the bus in her own car on the way to games. She never missed anything, ever. She worked hard and sacrificed so that I could have more or so she could buy me whatever I wanted, even when I didn’t need it or deserve it.

On Wednesday nights and Sunday’s you will find my mom at church. Other weekday evenings when there is a special event going on. She is a godly woman that always tells me to pray before anything. I can always count on her to be praying for me, often times before I know I actually have a prayer request. She never sees the bad in people, only the good. She will give the shirt off her back, even if you don’t need it. She never meets a stranger and has a smile that lights up a room.

She’s my person. She has shown me how to be a mother, when I had no clue how to change a diaper before the boys were born. She has counseled me and loved me when I was less than deserving of being loved. She encourages me and pushes me to get or do whatever I want.

After 43 years of working for the same company, in my hometown of Dillon, South Carolina she will be retired on March 30th. She’s scared, but of course she prayed and prayed for God to show her the right decision. As I am writing this blog, we have 8 days left until she arrives in Texas. Eight days until we don’t have to squeeze everything in we want to see or do for her long weekend trip because she has to get back to work. She says she won’t be here permanently, but as of now she is here until mid-June. Then she still won’t get rid of us, because we will be headed for our summer spot in Myrtle Beach until August. We are ALL so excited, YES, even Justin.

I know I am lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with her and that not everyone has that with their mother. I pray that you all have a female in your life that you have looked up to and that has shaped you into the amazing woman that you are today.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Social Media

Now days our generation is open to a world of communication through social media. It gives us access to family and friends who we are not able to see as often as we would like. Social media is great for staying connected, but we do have to be careful on what we post. As a little girl I was taught, “Think before you speak,” but now, it’s more along the lines of, “Think before you post.” One post, can make or break a high school career, college career, and occupation. Especially, those of us who may be interested in becoming a part of Greek Life need to be cautious of what we post and/or are tagged in. A terrible part of social media is cyberbullying. Even through a screen, it still hurts. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not true to me. Words can cause some of the worst pain. Rise above putting people down, and instead share something uplifting.

Social media is great for sharing accomplishments, updates, important events, and fun times with family and friends. Remember, the judges are able to look at social media accounts with just one click! While preparing for Miss Teen International, I utilized the use of my social media accounts with every single appearance so the judges would know I was exactly who I said I was. One of my judges even came up to me after the pageant and told me she had been following all I had been doing since I won the state title. So trust me, they really do look! (Plus, all the appearances give you a lot to talk about in interview.)

Use social media in a positive, productive way! Show all of your friends and followers the good things you are doing and the many great things you have accomplished.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Monday, March 28, 2016

Life Lessons from Pageants

Since I can remember, pageants have been a part of my life. Although I did not start competing until I was 15, I remember watching pageants growing up. I was even a pageant girl for Halloween one year! From competing, to spectating, to judging, I've seen and experienced an embarrassing number of pageants! What is not embarrassing, however, is the life lessons I have been able to take away from pageantry.

- Be A Great Loser: Yes, that's what I said! I have lost more pageants than I have won. However, pageants have taught me how to graciously lose. I can tell you countless stories of girls who threw a fit when they weren't called as the winner, wrote a rant on social media, or approached the judges or director about how they felt the results were wrong. At the end of the day, they are only viewed as being a sore loser. Pageants can teach you how to handle disappointment appropriately. Learning how to congratulate the winner, will help you in other life situations when you have to keep your head held high even when you did not get the results that you wanted.

- Hard Work Pays Off: Whether you win or lose, pageants teach you how to work hard for a goal. All the preparation it takes to compete, is similar to the amount of hard work it takes to work for a goal in school, work or in a personal relationship. Setting goals and working hard to achieve them is an important life lesson that can be learned from pageants.

- External Excellence: Although it is more important to have internal beauty with character, we have to be honest and know that the very first impression is often made by how we present ourselves on the outside. Learning how to style myself based on my body type, knowing how to apply makeup and style hair, and learning how to carry a conversation, are all things that I have learned from pageants that have helped me in the life as well.

Only one lady will walk away with the crown and sash at a pageant, but there are so many other benefits from competing. The lessons you learn from pageants can help you the rest of your life!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Traditions

Easter is another one of our favorite holidays. In fact, Justin and I had our very first date over Easter weekend many years ago. I’ll never forget the sweet Easter basket he had tucked away in the back of his trunk to give me or the Easter egg hunt he planned. I’m still not sure how I got so lucky. Traditions are so important to us and we really look forward to carrying them out year after year.

I’m sure like most of you, we always have an Easter egg hunt with our kids. We aren’t big on candy in our house, so instead we fill the eggs with change. For the kids Easter basket, we always put new swimsuits and beach towels, sunglasses, sandals. We also include a few small toys and books. Once Easter is over, it means that summer is right around the corner so new pool and beach toys are added as well. Growing up, Easter dress shopping was always a big to do. Now, I look forward to coordinating our family Easter attire.

I found a cute list of family Easter traditions here . I am still not brave enough to start dyeing eggs yet with the kids, but when we do videoing it would be so cute to look back on. I know dyeing eggs won’t be a family tradition when the kids are in high school, so being able to look back on the fun and mess will bring back such fond memories. I am in charge of one of the boys’ Easter parties this year so I look forward to searching for crafts and cute Easter themed snacks on Pinterest. If you have any special family Easter traditions, please pass them along.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pageant Binder

Organization is a key component in pageantry. It takes tons of sticky notes, bags, hangers, train cases, suit cases, and emergency supplies to even reach the hotel room, but there are ways to be organized when your pageant is still months away. Before I competed in the state pageant I created a binder that held information of my platform, bio sheet, and any other helpful articles I found about volunteerism to study before interview. A great idea to help you with onstage question is to watch a video of your state pageant and copy every question they ask the delegates then transform it to fit your platform, write an answer, and save it in your binder to study as you prepare for the pageant. If you do not have a state pageant, think of any possible questions that could be asked about your platform and do the same.

I transformed my pageant binder into my Miss Teen International binder to keep me organized throughout my year.

My interview section gives me things to study before any news or radio interviews.

A helpful section to have in your binder is planning. Keep a planner with all of your appearances written down along with any other responsibilities and deadlines you may have with your title. This will help you not become overwhelmed as well as help you continue being a prompt and organized titleholder!

My planning portion helps me schedule appearances and helps me keep up with all I have done so far throughout this year.

In my fitness portion, I kept diets from my trainer, healthy recipes, and workouts. This kept me motivated. It is an easy way to help you stay on the right track and you can always have a healthy meal to cook right at your fingertips!

My fitness portion helps me stay in shape.

An extra way to complete your binder is a blog idea portion. If you are the next Miss Teen International, you will be required to blog twice a week, so it would be a great idea to start making it a habit. Sometimes it is hard to think of something to blog about, so with your blog section in your binder, anytime you hear or read something that will make a great blog, you can jot it down in your notes and never be stuck with nothing to write about. I actually kept a blog idea section in my College Composition binder this semester. My teacher had a wonderful way with words and showed the class inspirational videos, so I would flip to my blog idea section and write it down, then I knew what I would blog about that week!

With this portion I know I will never run out of topics to blog about!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Monday, March 21, 2016

Patience, Perseverance & Gratitude

It is hard to believe that my year as Miss International is already half-way over. The months are going by so fast, so I am really trying to soak up every moment. For my birthday, my parents had one of our amazing sponsors, Paula Preston, make a photo book of my week at the Miss International pageant. The pictures include everything from orientation to my crowning moment. Since this was my first time to see most of these pictures, tears filled my eyes as I remembered one of the best weeks of my life. 

Some may think that I waltzed in to the International system, won my state crown, and then won the International crown. Let me say, it was definitely not that easy. Looking at my beautiful photo book reminded me of the 12 years of hard work and perseverance it took to get to where I am today. What you may not know is I competed in another system for 10 years. Through success and failures, I worked really hard to win the top crown. It never came to be. When I aged out of that system, I felt that God had let me down. I had given so much energy and prayers into a dream that I had since I was a little girl. What I did not realize is that God had other plans for me. I was told about the International system many years before I actually competed. When it was brought to my attention again, I honestly did not even think about competing. Not because I did not support the pageant's mission, but for the fact that I feared I would put my heart into another pageant just to get crushed. After being in “pageant retirement” for a year, God revealed to me that I should compete in the Miss International system because they valued everything I stood for…family, community service, and woman empowerment. When I decided to compete, I gave it all to God. This is actually how I should have competed all those years before. This time I would pray “Lord, let Your will be done”. 

So when I won the Texas and International crowns, this was not just an exciting moment of adding more crowns and sashes to my collection. Those two moments were special in that God fulfilled a dream that I wanted for over a decade. However, He did it in His timing. So I write this blog with a heart full of gratitude. I continue to be grateful that God has trusted me with this opportunity. I am grateful that my family and friends have supported and encouraged me in this journey. I am also very thankful to Paula Preston for capturing all the photos of a week that I will remember for the rest of my life!

God Bless,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Listening Ear

Recently I had the opportunity to visit and volunteer at the headquarters of 22KILL. Some of you may remember my blog post about my honor ring. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can find it here to familiarize yourself with the organization. 22KILL has gained national recognition lately and their sales have increased due to this, so I was able to show up for a surprise visit. Luckily, I have become pretty good friends with their organization so they were happy to see me. I don’t know what it is, but the guys love to wear my crown. Who would think that tough military guys would want to wear a crown, but it’s always a hit!

During my visit, I spent time fulfilling orders for honor rings and other 22KILL gear like shirts. The most meaningful thing I did while I was there, was to be able to sit and talk to a few veterans about life and the difficulties they faced. Things like their deployments and then returning home to their families and how their life was going right now. Being married to a veteran I can wholeheartedly relate to most, if not all, of the things that were discussed.

Sitting, listening and really being invested in not only our veteran’s lives, but also the lives of those around us is so important. Being that listening ear can turn someone’s bad day into an okay day. It can save them from doing the unthinkable. At the very least, you can make them laugh with your crown. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Monday, March 14, 2016

Never Be Afraid to Fail!

The old saying and Kelly Clarkson song goes “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This past week, I had my last cheerleading tryout ever. After the tryouts were over, we all had to line up in our cars and wait for the results. The anticipation was so stressful, especially for the incoming seniors like myself who knew this was our last year. Finally, the sponsors came outside and as we drove by, they handed us an envelope with the list of names of the girls who had made the team. When I opened the envelope, I saw my name and was so excited, but then I saw that three of my closest friends had not made the team this year. I was devastated, as were all of the other seniors who made the team. It was even more heartbreaking for our dear friends and their moms. It was such a bittersweet moment. We were all happy for ourselves, but so disappointed for our friends and former teammates. We couldn’t imagine cheering our senior year without them.

As hard as it is to accept there are actually many benefits that come from failure and disappointment. I am sure that each of us can look back on some of our less successful moments and see how they made us stronger. Here are some of the many things we can learn from our own failures.

Responsibility – we have to be accountable for our own actions – successes and failures. Failures will cause us to have to deal with discomfort but it can also be a great motivator.

Coping Skills – When things don’t go our way it is only natural to feel sadness, anger, frustration, etc. These feelings are part of life, and we all have to learn to live with them. Experiencing failures will help us to develop important coping skills, which we will need time and time again in life.

Learn to Adapt – Life doesn’t always go as planned. In order to live a full life, we all need to learn how to change and adapt when things don’t go as we hoped. Making mistakes allows us to roll with the punches and adapt to the unexpected.

Learn Not to Fear Failure – If we think that the only thing that matters is not making mistakes or not succeeding we will be afraid to fail and may not try new things. It is people who have failed repeatedly who have changed the world and discovered new and better ways of doing things.

Life is full of disappointments and there is no chance we will get through life without experiencing some of them. As hard as it is to accept, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Once you get through a disappointment, make sure you learn from it and let it make you stronger!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m Possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Social Media Effect

I recently read an article that discussed the advantages and disadvantages of living in a social media world. We live in a society where the theory is if you did not post about it, it did not happen! The funny thing is, in order for you to even be reading this blog, you have to be on some form of social media! So it is definitely all around us. Although social media gives us the opportunity to connect with others, keep up with current trends, and share even the most intimate details of our lives, there is also a part of social media that can have negative effects if not used appropriately. Here are a few facts to be mindful of:

1. A recent study conducted in the United States showed that approximately 63% of Americans log on to Facebook daily. Of those individuals, 40% log on to Facebook multiple times a day. Now I will be the first to admit that if I have a free moment between work and appearances, I am likely to be checking Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn…shall I continue?! Staying connected is important, but do not let it take away from being present in the moment. I remember one time my cousins and I went to dinner, and we were all on social media posting about our dinner instead of actually being present at our dinner! Make sure to maintain balance in your life so that you do not let special moments pass you by.

2. Social media has a tendency to make us compare our lives to others. Now although you will see the occasional post about a tragedy in someone’s life, more times than not, people only post the amazing things that are going on in their lives. So if you are not having a good day, and you go on Instagram to find that one of you friends got a new house, another just got engaged, one is on vacation in Puerto Rico, and another just got a job promotion, of course this can toy with your self-esteem. But as a reminder from one of my previous blogs, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Celebrate your friends and the wonderful things going on in their lives, but do not compare your life to the partial story that you are seeing online.

3. Social media grants us the opportunity to voice our opinion that is different than any other form of communication. Although we have freedom of speech, I find it fascinating what people will say online that I highly doubt they would say to someone in person. There are a few celebrities that I follow on Instagram. It is actually entertaining for me to read what some people will write under the pictures that they post. First off, not many celebrities actually read what people are writing to or about them. Secondly, would those people really say those mean things if that high profile person were standing right in front of them? I doubt it. So although cyber bullying is a very real issue…one that deserves its own blog post…remember that many times people hide behind their computer screen to say things that they would never place their physical identity to.

I, like many others, am so glad to have many forms of being able to communicate with others. Social media is a phenomenon that has a huge impact on our generation. Although there are so many benefits, try to avoid some of the negative traps social media can have on your life.

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Interview Attire

Do you remember the days of the stuffy, boxy women’s business suit? The ones that did, for the most part, nothing for a ladies shape. I remember them all too well, because many years ago I indeed wore them for my interview portion of other pageants. I am so gladli that those days are gone, at least for now. We all know how different styles go in and out. Hopefully those are out forever.

These days, we can choose more flattering interview dresses, or suits if we choose to. Pieces that compliment us, our personality, our image and our platforms. Personal interview is the first time that the judges will see you in person. In my opinion you need to dress to impress, while also being mindful that you are on a job interview as well. I wanted to express my personality, before I ever even opened my mouth to say hello. I loved my interview dress because it did just that. I felt like it was just different enough to make me stand out, but was also able to show my own personal style.

When choosing your interview dress, be mindful that you will have your backs to the judges before you sit down. I really urge you to make sure that your dress is not too short or too tight. Remember, this is an interview. Also, wear the appropriate undergarments so that you don’t see any lines. Jewelry should also be kept to a minimum. You don’t want loud jewelry that will keep the judges mind and ears off of what you have to say. I always choose to do a nude, closed toe heel with my interview attire. I typically am always in white so nude matches best for an interview and also helps to elongate my legs.

Whatever style you choose for your interview dress, make sure you feel confident and beautiful in it.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Pageant Tip Tuesday: Interview

I always felt like the scariest part of competition was interview. Thinking, “What if I say something completely stupid?” “This is the majority of my score, If I mess up then I’m out.” “How should I sit?” Well, as I was looking through all of my notes, I realized that I was more prepared than I thought I was. Here are some helpful tips that helped me get through my interview.

1. Facial expressions: Look happy. When you introduce yourself, smile. If you are talking about something light hearted, smile. If you are asked a more serious question, be real and look the way you normally would if you were talking to your best friend about it. Try your best not to look nervous.

2. Be confident: This is YOUR platform that you created. No one knows it better than you.

3. Study: Research possible interview questions and create an answer to them. You could even have your parent sit down and ask you the questions. My mom always said, “I am your worst critic and I am going to tell you the truth.” Find statistics that go with your platform.

4. Composure: Walk in and to each table with nice posture, shake the judges’ hand confidently. Sit with one ankle behind the other, and your hands folded in your lap. Feel free to lightly talk with your hands occasionally.

5. Do what you say you do: leading up to the pageant do events and get involved with events promoting your platform. Judges love to see you are who you say you are!

6. Make-up: Choose to wear soft, natural make up. Nothing too distracting. This is the judges chance to see you on the inside, so try not to let them see what is only on the surface. 

7. Be you: It is totally okay to crack a couple of jokes in your interview. It helps lighten your nerves and shows that you are real. The judges are real people too and almost all of them have been on the other side of the table a time or two, so just talk to them.

8. Exit: When the timer ends, finish up what you are answering quickly. Tell them thank you for being here and shake their hand.

Never forget to be yourself and to have fun. Pageant interviews are a great learning experience for us teens. We are just one step closer to learning how to survive in the real world.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible.”- Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Monday, March 7, 2016

Never Allow What You Can’t Do Interfere With What You Can Do!

I love this quote by Lance Wubbels, as oftentimes there is a tendency to focus on the talents and characteristics that we do not have versus what we have been blessed with. It is easy to look at someone else’s abilities and wish you were like them instead of focusing on your own strengths.

I have always been an introvert. Although I enjoy being around others, it takes a lot of energy for me, as I get my energy through alone time. There would be times where I would be envious of extroverts and their ability to easily walk into a room and socialize with any person that they came across! Since that is something that does not come naturally to me, I always wished I could be more like those people. Now it is definitely alright to see something about yourself that you want to work on, but it is not ok for you to think any less of yourself and your worth. After going to more and more social engagements, and seeing extroverts excel in this area, I started to feel like I did not have anything to offer. I prayed about this thinking that God would change me to being an extrovert and that all my social interactions would be perfect. Would you know that He kept me exactly the same?! After 28 years, I am still the same introvert that I was when I was 5 years old. However, God did do two things. First, He has allowed me to become more comfortable over the years being in my own skin. Huge social gatherings do not intimidate me the way they used to. Secondly, He showed me how to use my strengths. My ability to easily communicate in small groups or one-one-one has helped me tremendously in my career as a therapist. I also tend to listen more than I speak. I have found this to be helpful at work and in my personal relationships. Had God listened to my requests, He would have changed something that makes me who I am. Nothing is wrong with being an introvert. We have strengths that extroverts do not have and vice versa.

I encourage you today to focus on what makes you unique and special. It is a wonderful attribute to be able to celebrate the strengths you see others have. But never allow someone else’s strengths keep you from celebrating your own. If we were meant to be exactly the same, God would have made us that way! Find what makes your special, and use it to make a difference everywhere you go!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Just Do YOU!

As females, I feel like we all have an unrealistic goal of pleasing everyone else. Sometimes, worrying about others more than ourselves. What will they think of my new hair cut? Will they think this outfit is too trendy? Will they like the meal I prepared for them? All questions of self-doubt. All questions that we need self-reassurance to.

When I was younger, think college days and shortly after, this is what I worried most about. Questions like will they like me for me were always over shadowed by the shallow questions like am I skinny enough? Am I good enough to be in that circle of friends? As I grew older and much wiser, I realized I really didn’t need to worry about what others thought about me. I was me and I was happy with my roles and the woman that I grew to be. I didn’t need reassurance from people that truly and honestly didn’t matter. Being me and being happy with me was far more important than making someone else happy.

Honestly, I wish I would have realized this critical life lesson when I was younger. It would have saved me from so much heartache, self-doubt and worry. What it would have done was allow me to focus on me and the life I wanted for myself instead of the life I thought I needed to have to make everyone else happy or make them believe I was happy. Being able to focus on me and what I want for not only my future, but also my family’s future, instead of what a random person thought was the best for us has been a weight lifted off my shoulders. I truly hope, especially for any young women reading this, that we can all focus on us and the dreams and aspirations we have instead of what we think will make everyone else happy.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Sunday, March 6, 2016


For many of my family and friends, and others as well, the holiday season is a time for giving. We all like to donate our time or money to various causes like Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, and the Soup Kitchen to name a few. I have noticed however, that when the holidays come and go many of us don’t pay as much attention to the less fortunate. I know that it is so hard to be compassionate all of the time. We are all so busy and stressed that we sometimes overlook those right in front of us who really need our help.

I decided to do a little research about what compassion really is. What I found is that if you are compassionate you feel other’s pain and struggles as though they are your own. If someone shows kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others, they’re showing compassion.

I didn’t realize it, but when I was very young I was already very compassionate. I always felt so sorry for people that I saw walking on the side of the road, or eating alone, or for the elderly. I saw a person in the Wal-Mart parking lot the other day who appeared to be homeless and was holding a sign that said “Will work for food.” This just broke my heart. My mom told me that you have to be very careful about helping these people because you have to be concerned for your own safety, they may be using the money for drugs, etc. It is so sad that you feel that you can’t trust everyone. Unfortunately, this is so true. When we are very young we are innocent and trust everyone. However, as we grow older, this innocence leaves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We have to learn how to say no and avoid potential danger but let’s try not to lose our compassion for helping others. It shouldn’t be just during the holidays but should be a part of our everyday life.

As teenagers, here are some ways we can incorporate being compassionate in our lives:

1. Volunteer – Make time to volunteer in your community. This will allow you to engage with people from a completely different social circle, learn time management, discover the importance of commitment, and can even lead to letters of reference when applying to college or places of employment.

2. Donate – Use some of what you earn to help others. If you don’t have money to donate, consider donating items or clothing that you are no longer using.

3. Thank a veteran for their service. I have lots of veterans in my family and it means so much to them to know that others appreciate their sacrifices. They always tell me they don’t serve to be recognized, but I know it means a lot to them when people take the time to say “Thank You”.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Benefits of Massages

If you know me well, you know that I secretly wish I could have a spa at my house! I love getting my nails done, hair styled, and regular facials and massages. It is not always easy to squeeze in some "me" time given my schedule, but I try to do the best I can knowing that pampering yourself is an important way to reward your body for the hard work we put it through!

1. Massages help reduce anxiety and depression! Massages help reduce the stress hormone cortisol that results in lowering your blood pressure. It can also increase your neurotransmitter levels of serotonin and dopamine which help combat depression.

2. Having trouble sleeping? Regular massages could be the trick! Studies show that massages have an affect on delta waves, which is needed for deep sleep.

3. Stay healthy! Researchers have found that people who get regular massages have an increase in white blood cells, which help your body fight off germs and diseases.

4. For the ladies... The last thing you may be thinking of when it's that time of the month is getting a massage. But did you know that massages can help with PMS symptoms like bloating, fatigue and mood swings? It's true!

5. Be productive! It is found that those who receive regular massages, tend to be more alert and productive when completing tasks. Sign me up!

6. Stay young! Massages can help keep your skin youthful by increasing blood flow back into lackluster skin and encouraging lymphatic drainage, which helps flush out toxins from the body so that you have more room for nutrients.

I definitely didn't need more reasons to go get a massage, but knowing the health benefits does encourage me to make it a more regular part of my health regimen!

Here's to a nice, relaxing, and healthy massage!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015