Tuesday, March 28, 2017


I am particularly fond of English bulldogs because my grandparents have had three of them!  Their first two lived to 12-years-old and their current bulldog Sweetie (rescued from Underdog) just turned 6.  I don't know the name of this handsome gentleman but he sure is cute!

One appearance I especially enjoyed was the annual Underdog Rescue fundraiser this past fall. I helped sell dog treats to attendees and all of the money went right back to Underdog Rescue. This organization holds a special place in my heart because my grandparents adopted a beautiful 5-year-old English bulldog named Sweetie from Underdog! We are so thankful that our friend Megan Ehlert (a long-time Underdog volunteer and anti-puppy mill/rescue dog advocate) helped connect Sweetie with my grandparents. Sweetie was a former puppy mill breeder dog who was forced to have litter after litter of puppies. She was treated horribly there. Bulldogs have to give birth via C-section, and each time she gave birth, the cruel people who owned her stitched her up with fishing line of all things!  How awful! Can you even imagine?

My dad and my mom's best friend from college Kim with her dog Izzy enjoying the festivities

Selling dog treats to help raise money for Underdog Rescue! Super fun

All the money made at the fundraiser goes to help the Underdog Rescue to save and find homes for other dogs in need, with a special emphasis on rescuing puppy mill dogs. They had a wonderful silent auction with many donations and vendors. At the fundraiser, there were LOTS of pets. One of my favorites was a Pug who had her own car which was pretty much the cutest thing I had ever seen! At this incredible event, you can meet some of the dogs that are hoping for a home! My personal favorite was a Bloodhound puppy, he was very sweet. If you get a chance, I definitely recommend going to this one-of-a-kind event.  Special thanks to Megan Ehlert for connecting us with Underdog and for all that she does to raise awareness of the horrors of puppy mills!

Getting to meet Lexi the Pug was a highlight!  Lexi's owner takers her around to various events to help raise awareness about the importance of rescue.  She even has her own Facebook page (Lexi the Pug)...check it out!


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. www.KoriZwaagstra.com

"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.”