Monday, March 13, 2017

"Fit for a queen" by Morgan Bredde

February 22 works exactly one year since embarking on my fitness journey. My entire life, weight has been in a mental struggle. When I was younger I had a distorted relationship with food and had to be watched closely to make sure that I ate some of my meals. By the time I was in fifth grade, I was taking my lunches to school and throwing them directly in the trash so as not to be ridiculed about my weight by classmates who enjoyed watching me uncomfortable during lunchtime. It was then that I learned that food would always be an enemy for me and that if I didn’t learn how to control it, I would never be free from it.     


Growing up with this mindset, food took on a few different roles. From sworn enemy, to reward, to faithful confidant. I knew that no matter what life had thrown at me that day, I could internalize it and either eat my way out of it—or not.


By the time I had reached college, I was a “normal” size 10. Not particularly fit, but as an excited freshman, it really didn't bother me much. My excitement to start school had swept my debilitating depression under a rug and I was more than happy to continue my “everything is fine” charade. Having battled endometriosis my entire latter adolescent life, I was constantly in pain and too exhausted to get through even the shortest of days due to my anemia. I was pumped so full of various drugs, and painkillers, and hormone adjustments that it was too hard to continue school as a full time student. My doctor mandated that my university change my status to an extreme part time student. I was taking about 4 classes a week at that point, and the realization that I was not going to graduate with my class was too much. This all came a few months after winning a national pageant (before life got too crazy), and the stress of meeting those obligations began to weigh heavily on me. I gained 40 pounds in 5 months. Coming home from Christmas break, I was pretty much unrecognizable. My entire face had shifted and my usual bubbly-self had been reduced to a constantly sleeping and miserable shell. That shell stayed on until I met my husband.


Once we were expecting our first, I got so incredibly sick that I was losing pounds within days. I dropped 23 pounds by the time I was induced. My entire pregnancy, everyone kept telling me the weight would just fall off in no time. I had ever been so excited! Free weight loss AND a baby?! But there's this terrifying monster that too many new mothers are not equipped with the tools and necessary support to battle. Postpartum Depression.* My depression had me eating without even realizing I was doing it. Within a week and a half, I had gained almost 13 pounds.


I could go on and on, but the point is that my relationship with food has been drastically influenced by the state of my stress. Preparing for Mrs. Minnesota and Mrs. International was a jumpstart for my health and allowed me to truly live out our partnership with the American Heart Association.



Winning fitness at the pageant was a huge surprise. While I knew I worked hard, that stage was filled with incredible women who had muscles that rivaled many bodybuilders and even more impressive- some of them were over twice my age. The realization that your version of “fit” and what is healthy for you might be different than the person next to you. This is what it means to be fit for a queen. When I was losing the weight, small successes seemed so much bigger and were celebrated and recognized no matter how small they were. Mrs. International doesn't have to be a 00, but she can be! She can be strong, healthy, and most importantly—happy. Fitness doesn't mean cutting out every good tasting treat out of your diet. Fitness doesn't mean wasting away at the gym for 5-6 hours a day. Fitness, I have learned is an ongoing journey. It's the will to do even one step more than you did the day before. It means you take the stairs instead of the elevator. It means you reach for water before you reach for your diet soda.


As you're preparing for the Fitness competition in just a couple months- remember to define your own version of Fitness when making your goals. You'll find you stop competing with those around you and start pushing yourself to be the best version of YOU you can be!


Now go get moving!



Making the minutes count,




PS- HUGE shoutout to Adam Spiker of Spiker Fitness. He is the reason I am strong, confident, and living my version of fit!


*Mrs. Texas International 2016 is an amazing advocate for helping bring awareness to Perinatal Mood Disorders.

"What to Wear for Mrs. Minnesota!" by Morgan Bredde

I can't believe I'm starting to write my blogs about pageant prep! We are officially entering the home stretch, and I cannot wait to see who takes home the crown.

 Getting ready for the pageant is definitely a lot of fun, but it's equally as stressful! Having these blogs as a resource I hope provides a little bit of relief! Remember, dressing the part is the first step!


Let's start with the first event. No, not check in—but the pre-pageant party! I stalked so many former titleholders because I simply couldn't figure out what to wear to an event like this. Luckily, I had Cheri Kennedy as my guide and we decided on an off the shoulder Cynthia Rowley dress. Her exact words were that I looked like a princess. If you know Cheri, you know that she's known as the Fairy Godmother of pageantry, so naturally, when she says you look like a princess- you go with it. I paired my dress with a gorgeous pair of open toed pumps that had a beaded chandelier-like embellishment on the heel. To this day they're one of my favorite shoes to wear. My husband of course matched me, per my request. Even down to his rhinestone shoes!

For pageant check-in, I wanted to make sure I arrived looking ready for the job. I wore a neon melon neoprene Ted Baker dress. The color bounced off of my skin and made me glow. Making sure I was appearing as confident as I wanted to feel in turn gave me more confidence.

For rehearsals (and don't feel like you need to do this, I'm just a LITTLE over the top), I changed into a bell sleeve crop top and a pleated crepe short. Paired with a floral pump, I was casual enough to move around, yet still ready for the many photos that Paula and Laura were taking! They are everywhere, so keep that in mind.

Interview was a risky choice. I opted for a dress rather than a suit, and because of my rapid weight loss, I bought my dress the night before. I wore a blood red Maggy London with simple taupe patent leather pumps. I wanted my judges to know that while I was the younger, I was strong! Red makes me feel powerful and confident and I made sure to choose my accessories accordingly.


For my onstage question, I again picked a Ted Baker dress. You really can't go wrong with his stuff! I had a very light mint dress with crystal embellishments delicately gracing my collarbones down to my shoulders. Again, feeling risky, this had a back cut out that allowed a rather straight dress to give me some “figure” back.

Fitness wear is easy as everyone is required to get the official International Pageants fitness wear from The Competitive Image! Should you win, you will wear the same thing at international finals in August. Remember your shoes must be white! No exceptions.

Lastly, gown was my favorite. If you haven't already visited Sarah Moses at The Pageant Shop, STOP reading this and give her a call. She truly dresses each individual with the crown in mind. I'm so lucky to have her as a friend and sponsor! A few months prior to the pageant, we had selected a beautiful green jersey knit gown with a peplum. It was fresh, a little edgy, and most importantly—forgiving. At the time, I was still a size 8/10 and wanted to have a dress that didn't make me feel uncomfortable. This gave me modesty and still looked beautiful. About 3 weeks before the pageant, we realized as my gown was falling off my body, that I would need a new one. There was no way alterations would be able to fix this. So hurriedly we returned to Sarah's and found one of the most beautiful gowns I have ever worn (until internationals of course!. We picked an amazing white Jovani gown with no embellishments, but a train that was out of this world. I got emotional trying it on for a couple reasons. 1) it fit! It was a size 6! I hadn't been that small since freshman year of high school! And 2) my husband had never seen me in a white gown. Not even on our wedding day. This felt as big as a wedding to me. Paired with the most amazing Stefanie Somers earrings, I was ready to add one last set of accessories—a crown and banner!

While it's the girl in the clothes and not the clothes on the girl—remember that Mrs. Minnesota is a JOB! Dress as if you're already the titleholder.


I can't wait to see how confident and beautiful you all look in just a few weeks!


Making the minutes count,



"RIP Handsome Sam" by Ava Ernst



I’ll be honest, I was really dreading writing this blog because it hurts my heart to think about it.  Our sweet rescue dog Sam, who we just got in December, passed away 8 days after being diagnosed with nasal cancer.  This type of cancer is very rare in dogs (only 1-2% of dogs get it) but it is deadly.  Sam was just 7 years old.   

On Super Bowl Sunday, Sam had a slight nose bleed (which is very uncommon for dogs). The next day, he had a dental cleaning so our vet decided to take an x-ray. The x-ray showed that there was something wrong but in order to tell exactly what it was, he needed a CT scan.  He was referred to specialty vet and the CT scan showed there was an aggressive malignant mass in Sam’s nose that was growing through the bone into his brain. We were told he only had about 3-5 months to live.  WHAT?!?  As you can imagine, we were totally heartbroken. This was so hard to wrap our heads around because we had JUST gotten him in December—just two months earlier!  He fit in with our family from the start and we had fallen in love with him.  My mom always said that he and our other basset hound Toots were like bookends.  I just couldn’t believe it.  We all felt so depressed.

Sam acted pretty normal for 2-3 days after his diagnosis but then one day it was like a switch went off.  Sam started pacing in our house like an animal in a zoo.  It’s all he would do—if he wasn’t pacing, he was sleeping because he’d exhausted himself from the constant pacing.  He had no emotion, wouldn’t look anyone in the eye, his tail never wagged, he kept getting stuck in corners, and it was like he wasn’t even “there.”  He started “listing” to one side, having accidents in the house, and couldn’t get up or down stairs without assistance.  It was just AWFUL to witness. 

After a week of this (and trying specialty medicine), my family and I made the difficult decision to put Sam down. In our house, we strongly believe in quality of life, not quantity.  We are lucky to have a family friend Dr. Sandra Soucheray who owns a mobile vet service (Dr. Soucheray’s At-Home Vet Service).  She came to our house with her assistant and Sam crossed the Rainbow Bridge at 3:00 on Feb. 23, 2017.  I was petting and hugging Sam as he left us.  It was as dignified of a death as we could hope for.  If you are ever in the unenviable position of having to put your pet down, I highly suggest having a mobile vet service come to your home.  We felt it was the greatest gift we could give to Sam, even though it broke our hearts to do it. 

Though I didn’t get much time with him, I wouldn’t change a thing and I would do it all over again even though there were many tears. My family and I are just happy that we could provide this sweet and loving boy a soft place to land in his final days.


I sincerely hope Sam’s story doesn’t deter anyone from adopting a shelter pet.  Some people have speculated that maybe this was the reason Sam was surrendered to the Humane Society.  In reality, it is HIGHLY unlikely that his former owners would have known about his condition because he appeared totally healthy so there would have been no reason to get a CT scan (besides the fact that CT scans are over $2,000).  Like I said, nasal cancer is extremely rare.  This was just a fluke thing.  We are thankful that we were able to give him a warm and loving home for his final days.

RIP Sam, you will be deeply missed!  “Love is deeper than sorrow.” 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Goals for 2017" by Kelly Brown

According to statistics, 95% of people that come into the new year with a resolution have already broken it by now. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. Nowadays, most people have a lack of interest to even create resolutions because year after year after year, they've told themselves that they know it will not work out in the long-run. I, myself, have also personally experienced this lack of interest and self-doubt. This year I have decided to can all of that in order to better myself so that I have more to give to others. My 2017 goals are in relation to my finances, my self-development, and my health.

I am determined to have enough finances to support myself and buy all of my own groceries, clothes, pay my own bills, as well as for any miscellaneous items. I have already begun working after months of unemployment to get a start on this extra cash-flow. I hope to be able to help out any friends and family, as well and give more treats and night-outs, on me! Time spent with those who mean the most, means the most to me.


This year I would like to build an instagram based on fitness and wellness by sharing my workout routines as well as diet plans. I want to reach out to people by being responsive and helping them with their fitness goals as well. I have started this in 2016, but it kind of fell off when I got distracted by smaller things. This year I plan on being more attentive to any potential audience that it may bring.

As for my health, I want to get back into meditating. I used to meditate for 10-20 minutes almost everyday, but completely stopped when school became busy. I know how beneficial it is to the mind, and everyday I want to get back into that routine and hopefully start doing it for 30 minutes! I also want to incorporate more cardio into my workouts so that I can have a healthier heart and a happier life!

Goals propel you forward, so this year, make a few! By making a list everyday and crossing things off, it's psychologically proven that it helps us as people feel better about ourselves and where we are going! 2017 will be another challenging, but great year!​

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Friday, January 20, 2017

"To a year of intense growth," By Kelly Brown


Thank you for the countless memories and endless changes that forced me to climb this ladder in life. This was a year full of surprises, to say the least. From winning my first pageant to attending my top university, 2016 challenged my beliefs, my consistency, and my strengths and weaknesses. This wild year proved that growth occurs when one gets out of their comfort zone.

Winning Miss Teen Minnesota International was a turning-point in my life. I grew up as a shy child, one who hid behind her mother’s leg when she was talking to a friend. I slowly built up more confidence in myself as I got older. High School, in my opinion, were some of the most difficult years for self-confidence. I was comfortable in my own skin at this point, but I wanted something that would push me further. Not only has competing fueled my realization of pushing myself, winning this title has also given back to others, too.

Along with winning my 2016 title, I also got accepted into the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, which was my top college choice! My life changed when I arrived here in August of 2016. Here I had my own place, my very own laundry and kitchen (yes, mom, I now am forced to do all my own chores-go me for growing up!) Here I learned a great sense of independence. I love the atmosphere as well as the great academics, basically all it has to offer.

The greatest highlight of my year was competing at nationals for the International system. Life-long friends were made here and in all honesty, I have never felt so much nerve in my life. That being said, I persevered and learned a ton about presenting myself comfortably. If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat.

 Thank you, 2016, for the ups and the downs, the blessings and the lessons, and of course, to the international system for letting me represent them. Let’s conquer another year! Cheers to 2017

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Thursday, January 12, 2017

" A town called Hoyt Lakes" by Sabrina Astar

Just a few short days before heading to Miss International I had the amazing opportunity to travel 3 and half hours north of the Twin Cities to a town called Hoyt Lakes. The town was celebrating their annual pageant for elementary age girls and high school girls to become Miss Hoyt Lakes for the upcoming school year. I have to give a huge shout out to my father for driving me to this appearance and for cheering on the young ladies while they were strutting their stuff on stage.


This appearance is one that the Miss Minnesota International pageant system partakes in each year so, as you can image, it was such an honor to be the one who continued the tradition. The entire town was just so kind to my father and I, they even offered us each one of the many steaks they had prepared for the festivities. Their hospitality and genuine kindness towards us is something that I will absolutely never forget.

While in Hoyt Lakes I was asked to emcee both of the pageants and announce the winner for each division. It was so unique to be able to talk with each of the girls before they went on stage and to give them just a few tips for how to make the most of the experience. Each and everyone of the young ladies was excited to be there and were truly happy with whatever the result was at the end of the day.


I just want to thank the entire community of Hoyt Lakes for so a fun experience and for letting me be a small part of their annual tradition. I cannot wait for next years winners to have the same opportunity.


WIth many blessings,

Your Miss Minnesota International 2016 Sabrina Astar

Monday, January 9, 2017

"My favorite Bible verse is Esther 4:14 "" by Sabrina Astar

There are 31,102 verses in the Bible. 23,145 in the Old Testament and 7,957 in the New Testament. So how can someone pick just one to be their absolute favorite? There are many factors that go into why you enjoy a verse so much. Maybe the content is highly prevalent in your life right now, maybe it's the verse that makes the most sense to you, or maybe you just pick the verse that you've heard most often. That is the beauty in picking your favorite verse, it is completely personal. 


I love asking people this question because there is always a story. The stories aren't always  extravagant and complex, but they are always real. Since this is one of my favorite questions to ask people I meet I thought I would share my own answer to hopefully inspire others to do the same. 

My favorite Bible verse is Esther 4:14 "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" This is the moment in the book of Esther that she realizes what her purpose  in life is to save the Jews. 


I just love this verse because it gives me that extra drive to try out things that kind of make me a little nervous because we truly don't know our purpose in life. This verse is such a beautiful reminder to always stay true to God and his plan, not our own. While we will make decisions for ourselves that stir us wrong, God is always pushing us towards our true purpose. 

Trust in His plan for you because that will be your most amazing adventure

Sabrina Astar
Miss Minnesota 2016

Sunday, January 8, 2017

" we don't just do it for the crown." by Sabrina Astar

“And your 2016 Miss Minnesota International is… Miss Hastings, Sabrina Astar!”

At the time I didn’t fully understand the impact that 20 minutes on stage could have on the next year of my life. The Miss Minnesota International pageant was the first pageant I had ever participated in, which means I literally started from the bottom of the pageant world and was thrown into the heart of it very quickly. For only being in this community for only a brief period I have experienced many judgements and assumptions about pageantry that are just, well, very false. I want to start off by saying that I feel continuously blessed each day to hold my title and am just here to explain what being a “pageant girl” is really like.

No, our mothers don't force us to participate in pageants.

Although some pageant ladies have been in the pageant community ever since they were kids (Toddlers in Tiaras style) many of us are relatively new to pageantry. My state pageant was the first pageant I had ever participated in and Miss MN USA, Bridget Jacobs, had only competed in two pageants before winning her title for example. To be frank, when I told my mother that I was going to compete in a pageant she said to me “ Okay, really?”  Both of my parents fully support me in everything I do, but they never would've thought pageantry was on my radar. Personally, I am happy that I didn’t grow up doing pageants.  I believe that it gave me the ability to show my individuality on stage, but if you were a Toddlers in Tiaras type of kid, go on with your bad self girl!

No, we do not sabotage one another.

I have never actually encountered a “mean pageant girl” in my life. This usually comes as a shock to people because of the way that media and movies represent pageantry as a catty activity full of narcissistic young attractive women. This is just not true. Many of my best friends are actually ladies that I have met through pageants whether that be my fellow competitors or women in other pageant systems. Pageant girls are women who want to see a change in the world for the better of humanity. Yes at times it does seem like we live in the pretend land of happiness, but it is because we are optimists who believe that all things are possible through working hard and continuing dedication to a cause. Really, what more could you want from young women?

No, we do not look amazing everyday.

I get asked all of the time if I have to look good and “done up” every time I go out in public. Really? I would honestly say that I do not dress up anymore than an average person on a daily basis. Yes, we do dress up when we are attending an appearance for our title simply because we have to look professional and presentable when standing in front of audiences. However, in my day-to-day life as a college student, I would say my outfits consist of leggings, a T-shirt, high top converse shoes and possibly, on a fancy day, I will be wearing stud earrings. Sorry about the let down, but you couldn’t pay me enough money to walk around in heels everyday. All pageant queens are real people too, so just remember that we like to have days where we don't wear makeup and walk around town in sweats just like everyone else.

And no, we don't just do it for the crown.

Pageants are all about growing self confidence and becoming a respected member in the community. Although all of us would love to have our name called as being the next title holder, we all have unique reasons for why we compete. Many women compete for fun.  Yes, just for fun. Others compete to gain self-reliance or to make friends. Personally I entered to have a goal to work towards and to be a voice for organizations that need more recognition. No matter the reason, no woman competes simply to win because at the end of the pageant only one woman gets the title and that person just might not be you.


Many of the women I have met through pageantry have become friends that will be with me for a lifetime. I think that the stereotype around pageantry is just not accurate in today’s society. I believe many of the women I have met are great role models for young women and I truly believe that being in pageants has helped those women become such impactful and strong women in our community. So basically, let's not judge a girl by her crown.

Sabrina Astar
Miss Minnesota 2016

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"A Year to Remember" By Morgan Bredde

2016 has definitely been a rollercoaster of a year for me and my family. We started off getting ready for the birth of our second son, Blayre. We were overjoyed to meet him and it was so much fun seeing Beau learn what it means to be a big brother and all the fun things and responsibilities that come with it. We were soon preparing full steam ahead for Mrs. Minnesota. With the help of Adam Spiker, I lost 50 pounds before my state pageant and gained so much confidence all the way to a full 70 pounds lost before Mrs. International. I started 2016 at a size 14 and am ending it as a 4/6. What a difference sticking to a goal can make when you have the right support system.


After the pageant, and placing 3rd runner up to Mrs. International, I began a new job working for MAC cosmetics at one of their highest-volume stores. I loved being able to transform the faces and lives of everyone I came in contact with. Makeup is a huge passion of mine and I was happy to keep busy with it during my year.


Working and making connections to my platform has been such a highlight, I have been able to travel across the country, speak to countless people, and share my heart with those who were willing to hear me. The partnership of Crescent Cove, Ladybug House, George Mark Children’s House, and Children’s Hospice International has meant more to me than the crown this year as I have been able to carry the stories of families who desperately wanted and needed to be heard. For that, I am extremely grateful.


My husband and I were looking forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary Christmas Eve, and after learning he landed a new job in Dallas and that we were expecting again—there was so much to look forward to in 2017. It was a heartbreaking shift in plans after learning my pregnancy was ectopic and that there was not going to be a third little running around our new home this summer. The past few weeks have been debilitating and tough, but I firmly believe that God answers prayers at the right time, so until then, we will enjoy our two answered prayers that call us “Momma and P”.


I am very grateful for the trials and lessons that 2016 has brought us. From old friendships ending, to new ones beginning and blessings in abundance along the way—we certainly have a lot to reflect on this year. I hope your new year brings in prosperity and joy, but also trials and lessons to learn and grow from. I can say that though this has been a tough few months, we have grown in ways that cannot be measured—so I choose to say thank you 2016, but bring on 2017! We are ready for you!



Making the minutes count,


Sunday, January 1, 2017

"1 in 50." by Morgan Bredde



A few weeks ago, I had just landed in Minneapolis after returning home from Fantasy Flight. After a particulary exhausting week, I was wondering if my fatigue could possibly stem from something else. As I have always known “something was up” in each of my pregnancies, this time was no different. It’s always such a surreal feeling seeing a pregnancy test come up positive. You instantly imagine a little life being born, all the possibilities and dreams you have for them, and of course sharing the news with your husband. I knew we were both entering a pretty stressful time as we were awaiting an interview for a dream job for him, so I wanted to wait until we knew what the outcome was for that. It was two weeks later that we got the call that Kim got the job, that I waited one more night for good measure before finally telling him. I was full of joy watching him light up as he read my “Due in August” shirt and I was so excited that the timing seemed to be perfect this time around. There’s a long standing joke between us that our children have their own time zone and stick to it regardless of anyone elses. Because of my history, I was able to get blood draws to monitor the pregnancy’s progression as it put my mind at ease. It wasn’t until a phone call the next morning that completely shattered the dream I had been living in for a few weeks. I had been experiencing quite a bit of pain, but as someone who lives with endometriosis, pain was nothing new for me. When the doctor said that my levels weren’t doubling appropriately and that if I had been having pain—I would need to go to the emergency room immediately. This call came not even 12 hours after I told Kim. Sparing the details of an incredibly heartbreaking and traumatic week, we learned that our baby was ectopic and our pregnancy was not viable.


After dreaming of the kind of world our baby would live in, I was thrown into a whole different world where words like “methotrexate”, and “IVF”, and “rupture” are frequently used. Nothing quite prepares you for news like this. Ironically, I lost a friend in college to an ectopic pregnancy, but never in a million years did I think I would have one too. Luckily, I had a few friends who knew of the pregnancy before this devastation who were so key into my sanity before our anniversary and the holidays. The unexpected replies of “I’ve had one too” brought my understanding of this to an entirely new level. In the United States, ectopic pregnancies happen 200,000 times a year. That’s it. While not incredibly common, everyone seems to know someone who has had, or has had an ectopic pregnancy themselves.


While these past two weeks have been awful, and I’ve broken down in devastation over every pregnancy announcement, or baby outfit I bought in excitement and stumble upon—I chose to write about this because of all the friends I have that have gone through this in secret. There has to be some recognition that this can happen to anyone at any time.  It’s sad, and uncomfortable, and sometimes I even feel embarrassed when I have to tell people that we’re no longer expecting. But I have to believe that though I prayed until my knuckles were white and cried myself dizzy, this was just not meant to be for my family at this time. This, something completely out of my control, was going to be a trial that would impact my life and every Christmas, anniversary, and pregnancy thereafter. I have to believe that I am going to be a stronger person on the other side of this. I just wish that someone reading this perhaps experiencing a broken heart for the first time, or yet again, understands that they are not alone. So many women are affected by this and it is still a loss, no matter how or when it occurred. Though I was so looking forward to holding them in my arms, I look even more forward to meeting them and spending the rest of time with them—and that has to be the blessing in this curse. Until then, how lucky I am to have two perfect little ones to spend my days with, I am so thankful for them more than ever. Though it’s incomparable, I think of my hospice families and how they must be feeling after losing their child. I can only imagine my pain multiplied on such an extreme scale. I think of them now, more than ever, and hold their pain in my heart—even if it’s just fractional.


Thank you for hearing my heart in this blog, I truly felt it needed to be read as much as I needed to write it for myself.


Making the minutes count,