Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On to the Next Chapter

It’s official. I’m all moved into my dorm room in Minneapolis. I woke up this morning and the craziest realization hit me; I woke up in Minnesota today, not North Dakota. Random, I know, but I guess you can say it’s finally hit me. I’m so excited to have started this new chapter in my life, and I’m so blessed to have such a solid support system helping guide me the entire way. Now that this North Dakota girl has gone Minnesota I thought I would use this blog to reflect over some of the things I’m going to miss most about living in Fargo.

For starters, I’m going to miss my family. It seems pretty quiet now without my brother’s voices around. I’m going to miss my dog, Makoti, greeting me every time I come home. I’m going to miss having my best friends five minutes away; the little Starbucks down the street where I always did my homework; and being able to drive out to the country at night and look at the stars. And while I’m super excited about all that I have ahead of me, part of me has taken on a deeper appreciation for everything I had back home; however I know in time I’ll quickly become acclimated.

Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.
~Karen Ravn

I’ve arrived at the threshold of so many opportunities. The door has been opened for me to follow my wildest dreams and I couldn’t be more excited. Everyone has told me that college is the greatest four years of your life. Here’s to my brand new chapter! J

Until next time,

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fargo/Moorhead Walk to Defeat ALS

This past weekend was the Fargo/Moorhead Walk to Defeat ALS walk and it was a wonderful turn out! I was on the planning committee for the walk, so my day started by waking up bright and early and picking up supplies. All of us volunteers were a little worried because it started raining pretty hard, but by the time walkers started arriving the sun started coming out. It turned out to be a beautiful walk day.

This walk is the walk my family participates in so I was so excited to see them! My sister queens Olivia and Ashley joined our team so it was so great to see them as well! My family got to listen to my speech I have been giving at the other walks in North Dakota that I have attended and they loved it! My mom gives me so much inspiration and drive along with everyone else that has ALS. There were around 389 walkers, and our goal was 300. We were so excited to see such a great turn out! The fund raising goal was 50,000 and we raised a little over 46,000. I am still determined to reach that goal and I know that we can do it! 

Erica Lemna
Miss North Dakota International 2012

Making a Difference When It Matters

Attending events, raising awareness, fundraising, getting involved…when do we step up? Is it only when there is a tragedy or circumstance that has hit us on a personal level? Well, last weekend I realized that my sister queen was helping organize an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) walk in Fargo and I wasn’t signed up to participate!! There are so many times we push things aside because it doesn’t affect us personally and we feel it is another person’s responsibility. I am guilty of this – and I want that to change.

It was quickly decided that not only did I want to support Erica and her mother, but the ALS organization as well. I had such a wonderful time. Chills covered my body from more reasons than just the cool weather. I got chills listening to Erica tell her personal story so passionately in front of the group of motivated supporters. I got chills staring at her mother in admiration, knowing that she has overcome significant odds in surviving the average expectancy of 2-5 years from the time of her ALS diagnosis. I got chills watching her high school sweetheart, and incredible husband, lovingly place the hair from her face behind her ear before pictures. I got chills thinking about the years she has survived to watch her children grow and be able to witness amazing accomplishments they have achieved. And I got chills thinking about how this devastating disease can strike anyone, at anytime.

I don’t want to wait on helping others until something strikes my life personally. I want to get involved now. Getting involved doesn’t mean that you have to be the president of the cause, maybe getting involved is just becoming more aware of an issue and understanding it better. Don’t underestimate how you can make a difference, get involved!

Ashley Voigt

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome Home Party!

                Last week was yet again great! It was my last week at home with my family before I headed back to Grand Forks to start school. My mom and grandma planned an open house at the Enderlin City Auditorium for my family and the community to come see all my pageant dresses, pictures, and speak with me about my year so far. My grandma and mom went above and beyond planning it and it was wonderful! We had three cakes (I love cake), mints, drinks, nuts, flowers galore, and my grandma bought crystal letters that spelt out my name. The plan was to have one cake and a couple balloons, so I couldn’t thank my grandma and mom enough for all that they did. It was a great night as people from the community came in to check out my dresses and talk with me.

                The very next day I spent the afternoon at our local nursing home where my mom lives. I used to work there as a CNA, and I knew the residents would love it if I came to visit. It was such a fun time! I gave out autograph cards, and I took pictures with a lot of the residents.  It was so rewarding watching all the residents’ faces light up when they saw me! It always reminds me of how rewarding of a career nursing is and I am happy that I will have my BSN in less than a year!

                I am now back in Grand Forks and settled into my apartment. I live with two amazing women that I met through my sorority and I couldn’t be happier to live with them! They are always there for me and that is what true best friends are. I know we are going to have a great year filled with a lot of wonderful memories. I start school on Tuesday and I can’t believe it is my last year. I hope that it doesn’t go by too fast and I can enjoy my last year at UND.

                I am sharing a couple quotes I found recently that I just love! It has made me really think about my future goals and what I will be doing next in my life!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’M POSSIBLE!”  –Audrey Hepburn
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: IT GOES ON.”  –Robert Frost

Love Always,
Miss North Dakota International
Erica Lemna





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Windy City:

Oh where to even begin! My trip to Chicago was a whirlwind of sightseeing, rehearsing, meeting the girls, rehearsing, changing outfits, and…you guessed it, rehearsing. And although rehearsals did seem to take up the majority of the week, the opening number routine to ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger’ is forever engrained in my brain. Aside from that, I had the opportunity to form so many great friendships with some truly amazing people. I would have to say the relationships I formed are what seem to stand out most when looking back on the entire experience. I may not have left Chicago as Miss Teen International, however I still came home a North Dakota state titleholder, and that in itself is something I am proud of.
The first night I arrived in Chicago I attended my sister queen, Ashley’s, finals night. It was so exciting watching all the Mrs.’s contestants on stage, and it got me super pumped for my competition. The night ended with Sarah Bazey receiving the 2012 Mrs. International title, followed by the coronation ball shortly afterwards. Watching all the contestants interact after their week it was obvious to see some true connections had been made.

The second day in Chicago was my free day! I spent it shopping and dining with my mom and my aunt Debbie. We had a fun time exploring the outdoor mall across from the hotel. The next day was the day of orientation. It was finally time for all the contestants to meet!  I was filled with anticipation as I walked into the room; however that feeling quickly dissipated as I started talking with some of the girls. They were all so nice! We received our schedule for the week and headed back to our rooms. 7:00 a.m. came bright and early as we boarded the bus for downtown Chicago. We visited the John Hancock Observatory followed by the Boys and Girls Club. Let me just say, the view from the 94th floor is like no other, you could see EVERYTHING. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Sightseeing was definitely fun; however I can’t even describe in words how rewarding our trip to the Boys and Girls Club was. We all wore our sashes and brought our autograph cards to hand out to the little girls. We helped them make crowns of their own and took lots of pictures. Needless to say there was a plethora of princesses occupying downtown Chicago that dayJ

The remainder of the week flew by! The countless hours of rehearsal paid off and everyone performed the opening number flawlessly. Caroline Crowley went home the 2012 Miss Teen International titleholder and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her! She will do amazing things this year. I recently shared on my Facebook that there are many things I took away from my time in Chicago, however a certain song really got to me. The theme for the week was ‘Legacy’ and about asking yourself what kind of mark you are making on the world. I encourage you to look up this song because it pretty much sums that all up. The song is called  ‘I Was Here’ by Lady Antebellum. My favorite lines from the song are, “I want to do something that matters, say something different, something that sets the whole world on its ear. I want to do something better, with the time I’ve been given. And I want to try, to touch a few hearts in this life. Leave nothing less, than something that says, I was here!” And like I said earlier, although I didn’t bring home the big crown, I come home to a crown just as powerful. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to make a difference in the world, an opportunity to leave my mark behind, and that will be my legacy.

Until next time,








A Week Full of Memories

It was Monday, July 16th when I arrived with my directors to Skokie, IL., feeling very calm, relaxed and thrilled to get the show on the road and participate in the Mrs. International pageant!  However, Tuesday morning I felt much different. As soon as I awoke I began questioning myself and the reason I was there. “What am I doing here? Am I right for this competition? What do I do!?” All of this seemed almost foreign to me. But thankfully, all of my concerns were put to ease the moment I began making connections with the other contestants. I realized at orientation that this was going to be a week of purpose, memories, prayer and an incredible amount of affirmation.  Nearly immediately, I was blessed to become friends with the other contestants while touring Chicago on a fairy, eating meals, and of course rehearsing for hours.

Time flew by, it was Thursday already and the private interviews were first on the judge’s list. As experienced at the state pageant, I was honored to be a part of a system that openly shares a strong faith.  I held hands with my director Allison while she gave a personal, encouraging prayer. This was followed by our interview group holding hands in the same manner while the national director Mary Richardson lead another meaningful prayer. God was with me and I walked in the interview room more excited than anything. I was excited to share the content of why I was there and the meaning behind my Mrs. North Dakota International crown. I discussed the sole purpose why I entered the state pageant in the first place, which was to educate others about the importance of teaching their children, empower parents to be involved in their child’s life through personal interaction and raise awareness about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

It felt like I blinked and it was already time to announce the Top 16. My heart was beating fast with anticipation, but I smiled to my family in the audience. I knew I gave everything 110%, from pouring out my heart and passion in the private interviews, dancing to the incredibly fun opening number, strutting my stuff in the fitness round in prelims, to the moment I shared with my handsome husband onstage for evening gown. I did not hear my name being called but watched as the amazing women who made Top 16 walked toward the front of the stage. What a phenomenal accomplishment and all were extremely deserving to move on to finals. I was proud to stand behind women who have such inspiring and personal stories, which motivated them to promote powerful platforms, and are already making a difference in the lives of so many nationally and internationally. A big congratulations to my roommate Mrs. Minnesota Sarah Bazey who was crowned as our Mrs. International 2012. I believe that the perfect Mrs. was chosen. She is the definition of strength, inspiration and beauty and I am looking forward to hearing about the many lives she will touch during her reign.

When looking back at the week, I can’t help but say that one of my favorite memories was sharing this experience with my family and close friends who were able to make it. They were the most positive supportive system anyone could ask for. Although they were there for me, their enthusiasm and support for others showed as they cheered on many of the contestants onstage, captured pictures with them and shared their love through many hugs and conversations. I felt that not only did the contestants get to know me, but I was so proud to show off my family and friends so others were able to see a glimpse of how blessed I am. Thank you so much for being there and thank you to all of you here at home who showed your support through texts, phone calls, letters, messages and genuine excitement. I am so blessed!

Although I did not walk away from last week as Mrs. International 2012, I left with invaluable memories, wonderful friends from around the world and experiences that I know I would have never gotten the chance to experience.  And along the way, I was able to bring more awareness and education to others about my organization, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. I can honestly say that this experience is going down in my history books as one of the most incredible times of my life. I have absolutely no regrets as I know that through everything I stayed true to all that I stand for and represented myself, my family, the state of North Dakota the best I knew how.

Forever yours as Mrs. North Dakota International 2012,
Ashley Voigt



Thursday, August 9, 2012

God has other plans for me!

I had a great time at nationals and I met some amazing young women I will be friends with for life! I had so much fun making appearances in Chicago at the Boys and Girls Club and Princess Ball. I got to see young children’s faces light up when they saw me and I hope that I inspired them to follow their dreams when they grow up. Rehearsals were fun and I had such a great time learning the opening number dance to “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson. Before I knew it I had my private interview and I was competing in preliminaries. I had a great time with both, and Saturday flew by and it was finals night. I called my mom about 30 minutes before I went on stage, and I had to fight back tears. I missed her so much and I was so sad she was not in Chicago to cheer me on; she told me no matter what happened that she would be proud of me and I knew she would. It was a bittersweet moment as I stood on the national stage waiting for my name to be called for the top ten and it never was. I can’t describe the feeling that I had as I walked off the stage. I not only was disappointed in myself for not reaching my goal, but I felt like I had let my family, friends, and state down.  I knew right away God has other plans for me and winning Miss International 2012 was not part of His plans, but it was still hard to take in.  As I walked out of the pageant after it was over, I met my family and my directors and I told them that I was not going to stop my plan of what I told the judges I would do if I won. I will continue lobbying at congress to pass bills for ALS research and programs, I will continue working with the National and Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota ALS Association to help out anywhere possible to raise awareness and money, and I will help kids whose parents are affected by ALS. I set out to do my platform not for a year during my reign as Miss North Dakota International but for the rest of my life.  I will be my mom’s voice and I will share her and my story throughout the nation.

There are so many people that I have to thank for helping me through my journey to nationals. My family and friends for being supportive, my parents and sponsors for helping me pay for everything, my trainer Paul Dyer for making me look my best, my coach Suzy Bootz for teaching me so many things, Sarah Moses for helping me pick amazing dresses so I’d look my best, Kayla Dykema and Janelle for making my hair look fabulous, and last but far from not least my directors Kathy Yohe and Allison Harmon. They are two of the most amazing people you will ever meet and I was so blessed for everything they did for me! I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them, but I do know I couldn’t have gone through nationals without them! THANK YOU EVERYONE!

My mom has given me so much advice, and so I am going to share some of the quotes she has given me with you that have helped me get through all my rough times including not making top ten:

“If one door slams in your face, trust God, keep your head up high, plow through, and two or three will open” –Mom (Kellie Lemna)

“God has three ways of answering things; He’ll say ‘yes’ and give you what you want. He’ll say ‘wait’ and give you something better. OR He’ll say ‘no’ and give you the best!”

Love Always,
Miss North Dakota International
Erica Lemna