mirror, mirror

The end of the year is always such a reflective time for me. What's most unique about this moment of reflection year-after-year is that the reflections are paralleled with a projection of what's to come. I reflect on how I've been leading my life thus far and then spend countless hours crafting my resolutions to better my life for the year ahead. I always find it so silly that I do this only at the start of the new year, but there is something so refreshing about a new start. There is also something so comforting about knowing your not alone ion your endeavor to resolve various elements of your life as this has become a cultural tradition of our generation. 

I've also done a lot of thinking and reflection on the simplicity of strengthening my own self awareness. One way I have found the ability to do this is through understating why I choose the keep the company that I keep. By understanding this I am better enabled to tune into what it is that I enjoy and how I can simply strive to be my ideal self by being the self that I myself would enjoy. 

This reminds me of the golden rule... "do unto others as you would have done unto you." But we also often forget to "do unto you as you would have done unto others." The resolutions are brewing and I am consistently more and more blissful about the marvelous company I've been blessed enough to keep and also efforts towards bettering the company that I give myself.

2012... I'm comin' for you.

sugar plums & spiced rums,


B's Top 10 Books... Baby it's cold outside...

…and whenever that’s the case all I want to do is crawl under my down comforter with a mug of tea and a good book in hand. I have the reading fever right now so I’m currently lost in the middle of Room, The Happiness Project, Other People’s Children & The Hunger Games. This splendid book hugging got me thinking about my favorite books. Some are favorites because they have simply entertained me, some have tipped my perspective on life, and some just put a nostalgic grin on my face when I hear the title. None-the-less I offer to you my top 10 list of favorite books (simple books, but significant to me)…

The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom): I remember reading this book years ago and feeling so enlightened about life. I am always making the effort to be conscious of my every interaction with people, no matter how grand or petit they are. No other book I have ever owned has been dog-eared, highlighted and tabbed as much.

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell): I first read this book in the 4th grade and picked it up again two summers ago. There is limited dialogue which I was surprised to be entertained by but I enjoyed it just as much as I had in 4th grade. This beautiful story was the perfect read for a warm summer’s night…. I refused to fall asleep until I had finished it.

Letter to my Daughter (Maya Angelou): My mom sent me this for Valentines Day two years ago and I couldn’t get to a cozy seat and fold the cover back fast enough. I absolutely LOVE this book (my favorite passage: Commencement). Maya Angelou’s words consistently warm a small place of my heart and have a direct impact on my daily actions and reflections.  

Helter Skelter (Vincent Bugliosi): I must confess, I am fascinated by fear. I love sharks, dark nights, and criminal minds. What better entertainment than 700+ pages of investigation from the Manson Murders? Helter Skelter doesn’t miss a beat- from the history of Charles Mansion’s upbringing to the prosecuting attorney’s lengthy case of evidence I was completely consumed.  

The Shack (William P. Young): My mom gave me this book a few years ago and said to me “It’s weird, but I know you’ll like it.” Sure enough it was the right kind of weird for me. As someone who identifies as faithful rather than religious I absolutely loved the spiritual insight in this book.  I felt so enlighten and intrigued, this is one book that I can honestly say changed my life at an internal capacity.

Tao Te Ching, The Book of the Way (Lao Tzu): I was enlightened by Taoism after I read The Tao of Pooh (Benjamin Hoff) and adopted quite the craving to learn more. While this is a quick read there is so much to learn from the simplicity of the scripts and the truth of the words. I often keep this within reach and pull it out when I’m looking for something to provoke thought or settle my mind.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee): While I haven’t read this since my freshman year of high school I’m still pleasantly haunted by the good soul of Atticus Finch and often find myself asking WWAD (What Would Atticus Do?)… I must reread this gem in the not-so-distant future.

The Four Agreements (don Miguel Ruiz): Yes it’s a “self-improvement” book but I love this it and what I have learned form it. I’ve blogged about it before (along with 28 Days to a More Magnetic Life another FAVORITE of mine) but could not let it miss the list. I love the agreements and how “tangible” they are and applicable to apply to your life.

Something Blue (Emily Giffin): Emily Giffin is my favorite author. Her writing is so relatable; I can easily connect with so many of the characters and experiences in all of her books. Something Blue has been my favorite yet. It’s the sequel to Something Borrowed and if you’ve read/seen Something Borrowed you must get Something Blue in your hands to find out what happens next. I also love the reminder that every person hosts the ability to grow and change through self realization and that there are always two sides to every story.

Mythology (Edith Hamilton): In high school we read Edith Hamilton’s version and in college I studied the generic text book but none-the-less I am a self classified Greek Mythology geek (I also have two Mythology Bowl championships from college to back up that proclamation as well).  I love the characters, the stories, the lessons, and everything else in between. I love pulling out these tales on a rainy day and relating them to my own adventures.

& I'd love to hear yours....

Blogging from bed…


& I'm Back Again

Phew. Life got a little bit crazy there for a moment... here's how it went down, according to my iPhone....

I spent some time in San Fransisco and all over the fine state of New Mexico...

...In New Mexico I spent time with my college sorority sisters, former students, and crowned the new Miss New Mexico USA (who is FABULOUS by the way...) and now I'm officially a retired pageant queen and humbled by my generous experiences. Nothing tops spending time with the people I most adore (*college friends, pageant friends, family, and my former preschoolers).

Good company in New Mexico.

Then I took a road trip to Denver with my Tulsa crew to spend Thanksgiving with my family (& gatos... purrrr). I loved seeing my family, touring the Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma and coming to know even further how blessed I am to have Mike, Ryan, and Maile in my life here in Oklahoma.

...and now here's life.

I thought I'd never unpack all of my luggage remnants and get my loft back in order... but sure enough I did and even decked the halls with some festive lights. Life feels controlled again.

I also thought I'd never get back to Happy Brittany... but I've had major withdrawals and forgot who I was without it. Well I'm back and fired up, I have lots of new posts just waiting to be published and I'm more equipped to make Happy Brittany a lifestyle rather than a hobby and I'm excited to hear from you all and share more & more adventures. Live to learn and learn to live.

 See you tomorrow gems...

Oh.... and I spent Sunday night in Tyler, TX.... but that's a tale for a future time. *wink


Page Turner

Do I believe that being Miss New Mexico USA was the greatest accomplishment I will ever have? No. Not at all. Many things within that bucket have indeed lead me to the great aspirations I now have. My year also afforded me the adventures to learn and grow in unpredictable ways. As I turn the page from one chapter to the next I recognize that this chapter still remains in the book. It’s even what makes the next chapter even more enticing and delicious. The pages left behind have been highlighted, quoted and dog eared, and they will be cherished and reference for the rest of my life. But to stop in the middle of the book would be a disservice to the author and creator.

As I embrace the next chapter I sit in much reflection of what’s to come, and how to enrich it and expand upon it. Of course I am nervous, that’s what a new chapter often presents, but with the nerves comes excitement. I look forward to what’s in store…

Happy Brittany has been a journey and a huge part of my life. I often hear “you are so positive and inspiring” and I think to myself it hasn’t always been like that and I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be. It took the courage of exposing my thoughts and making myself vulnerable along with truly owning the roles I had set forth for myself.. The blog makes me a better person, as silly as it may sound. I am very excited to grow and allow my blog to provoke said growth. It’s time for a new beginning…. not from scratch…. but derived from the lingering words of suspense and joy from the previous chapters.

turns page...

See you soon happy people.... with goodies in store...


Top 10 Moments as Miss New Mexico USA...

Today is my last day as Miss New Mexico USA.... I am honored to have been able to share this experience with you all.

Throughout my reign, what has resonated most have been the incredible people that I have shared my adventure with along the way.  These elements mixed with my own path of self-discovery have truly shaped my experience. I have spent hours trying to summarize this past year. While this year cannot be limited to only ten moments, I wanted to share these particular ten with you all to give you a picture of the lessons I have learned, the growth I have made and the people who were part of it.

So, without further adieu….

Brittany’s Top 10 Moments as Miss New Mexico USA 2011

  1. Introducing my new role to my students. Nothing could have been more rewarding. I sat in front of an a.m. classroom and a p.m. classroom, each filled with 19 pre-kindergarten students, eager for learning and loving, on October 25th and presented them with a shiny crown and sash that was just as much theirs as it was mine. Their eyes lit up, their hands clenched with excitement and their little voices let out sounds of pure joy. At that moment I knew this was an adventure we were on as a team; we were each others’ biggest fans. From there my connection to my students and their families was taken to a whole new level as I proudly presented tangible evidence to our class motto: If you work hard you can do anything you want.
  2. The winning moment. Years of focus on a goal that was so meaningful to me finally came down to one moment. My road to Miss New Mexico was filled with lessons about myself: I had to ask myself what I stood for. It fortuned me relationships that brought unconditional support through and through. It made me eager for an opportunity to share my voice and represent the state that I love with every part of who I am. The winning moment was more than 12.3 seconds. Instead, it was an opportunity for reflection and gratitude for all that had led me to those fast, few seconds and a celebration with the many people who had traveled on this path with me. 
  3. The road trip to Miss USA with my mom. Eight hours, one over packed CR-V, and the pursuit of our destination: Las Vegas along with the opportunity to represent the state of New Mexico at the 2011 Miss USA competition. We laughed. We cried. We listened to our favorite music, and we ate our favorite snacks (what do you mean “pageant diet?).  I said “goodbye” to New Mexico and “hello” to Las Vegas Nevada at 6:34 p.m. on June 3rd 2011. We checked into our hotel, ordered a great, big, cheese pizza, and proceeded to steam every article of clothing that had been crammed into the backseat of my SUV. I fell asleep dreaming about bright lights, sequins, and that simple black and white “New Mexico” sash that I would proudly represent. I awoke the next morning to find a whole rack of freshly steamed clothes; my tireless mother had kept steaming. I got ready, submitted my last piece of work to my school district as Ms. Toll, and I said goodbye to my beautiful mother. I navigated my way to the Planet Hollywood Resort, a place I would call home for nearly three weeks. With butterflies in my belly, peace in my heart, and my dreams at my fingertips I was ready to make it all a reality. This will forever remain one of my fondest memories of a road trip with my best friend, only a small glimpse into the support she has given my entire 25 years of life.
  4. Leading the “Cupid Shuffle” and “La Macarena” at the 2011 Inaugural Children’s Ball with Lexi, Miss New Mexico Teen USA, and the Honorable Susana Martinez. It was an honor to be invited to such a celebrated event by New Mexico’s first female governor. I learned that when newly elected Governor Martinez suddenly requests you on stage to help lead a line dance-- you do not hesitate, regardless of your poor coordination and mild stage fright. Lexi and I eagerly pranced to the stage and began dancing, laughing, and sharing an extraordinary moment. I am thankful to my sweet Miss New Mexico Teen USA, Lexi. First for not making fun of me for my legitimately terrible dance moves, but mostly to have shared this incredible moment with a beautiful girl whom I admire and adore on so many levels for her kind heart and limitless smile. This moment captivates the many incredible experiences we’ve had together this year and I am so fortunate to have had such a wonderful, selfless and caring young woman.
  5. The daytrip to Cloudcroft with my directors, Belia and Curtis. It was the holidays and when a fire devastated this quaint little mountain town, Belia & Curtis immediately felt the urge to do something. We saddled up and headed north to lend a hand to a community that I will forever consider a second home. We spent the whole evening talking with community members, running into old friends, and offering our support to rebuild the town in the spirit of the holidays. We were privileged to connect with the community in such a powerful way and we learned so much from the people there and their unconditional love for one anther. Additionally I realized that I have been so blessed to have been paired with such a wonderful set of directors not only once but twice. I’ve loved every moment that I have shared with these two individuals. Our trip to Cloudcroft represents only a small testament of their never-ending devotion to service and community. My year is indicative of their work as well-- all that they have inspired me to do and become. For that, I am eternally grateful.
  6. The day my students chose the color of my gown for Miss USA. It was very important for me to let my quirky little four and five-year-old students to play a significant role in my reign. When preparing a lesson for them on graphing, I decided to let them choose the color of my gown for Miss USA so that this experience was as shared as possible. I showed them a YouTube video of the gown segment at a previous Miss USA pageant and they could hardly hold in their excitement. “That’s gonna be you Ms. Toll?!” they asked giddily “Oh my gosh!” exclaimed Zachariah as he turned to Xavier. I was humbled, yet again, with the realization of who I was in the scope of their little lives. I laid out the entire classroom set of crayons and let each of them decide the color of my dress. They each colored in a square on the graph and then stood by in anticipation as the votes rolled in. With two-thirds of my students being boys, it made perfect sense that the majority of my students envisioned me in blue. And what do you know? That gown was the most beautiful gown in the history of gowns. I wore it with pride knowing that 38 of the most important individuals in my life invested their hearts into what they believed would make Ms. Toll shine like a star. Even in their absence I felt the love of each of them as I twirled and paraded on that glamorous stage one warm, June evening. I will never forget that feeling.
  7. The people. For lucky number seven I have no clever way to categorize this moment, or rather the countless moments, other than to say how grateful I am for the people in my life and the year that invited new people into my adventure. The endless phone calls, conversations, emails, flowers, hand-written letters, Facebook messages, Tweets and so forth are beautiful reminders of how blessed I am. Additionally, not much can rival an audience in which over 90 seats are occupied by some of the most amazing people you have ever known. You know who you are, you traveled from all over the country… from New York, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Texas to sit in that audience. You represented a variety of sub-groups; Zeta sisters, Teach For America co-workers, family, former pageant queens, college, high school, and even middle school friends and the list continues. You all came with a common link, to support a daughter/friend/sister/roommate/coworker/etc, and her ambitions. You are selfless, loving, brilliant, supportive, helpful, and amazing. I am the product of what your love has helped me become. This experience would not have been nearly what it was if it was not for you and the passion for love you each radiate.
  8. My Miss USA Send-Off party with a surprise guest. Preparation for Miss USA, given its prestige and impact, brings stress and exhaustion.  It felt like one hurdle after another: an evening gown that was too small, the balancing act of teaching my students, and the process of self-discovery (while ensuring I stayed healthy, and prepared to sport a swimsuit on national TV). The months of preparation were all put into perspective one mild May evening in my hometown of Las Cruces. Nearly 60 people gathered to share beautiful words of love and support as I approached one of the most unique adventures of my life. The room was filled with smiling faces: countless former Miss New Mexico USAs and Miss New Mexico Teen USAs, families, neighbors, friends, former judges, hair dressers and endless supporters. But the most humbling support of all? My high school principal, Bob Ogas. It was a night I will never forget. This intimate opportunity enabled me to not only express my gratitude, but also to discover that the true value of this opportunity was not found in the perfect dress or the right shade of highlights. I realized that it was found in the love of the ones I carried with me day after day… the ones who have always seen great things in me, even when I did not see them in myself—even in my awkward high school days. I love you all. You know who you are.
  9. Being featured on Gala Darling’s blog. It is no secret that Gala Darling (of galadarling.com) is one of my idols and has been for years. She is a symbol of “radical self-love” and everything I aspire to be as a confident and inspiring woman in today’s world. I could not believe that she invited me to do an interview on her blog. Did that really happen? I felt so comfortable and proud to be honest about myself and my experiences. I was humbled by the words she wrote along with the amount of people my voice was able to reach. The emails came pouring in, and they were incredibly warm and inspiring. My roommate and I would smile from ear to ear as I would read them out loud to her. One in particular continues to stay with me: a Navajo woman now living in Phoenix wrote me an email that radiated honesty, respect and bold reflection. She shared many feelings with me that enlightened my perspective on life and the power of my voice.
  10. Placing Top 16 at Miss USA and being named America’s Choice for the Miss USA title. There is something so humbling about millions of people believing in me and logging onto NBC.com and MissUniverse.com to cast their vote. Sometimes I am overwhelmed just imagining the amount of people who took the time to learn about me, invest in me, and support me. It was more than I could have even dreamed of as a way to sum up my experience at Miss USA. My voice made an impression that I never knew it could, my efforts were not unnoticed and my heart will forever hold endless amounts of love and gratitude. As I stood up there in the Top 16 line up, I knew I was not alone.  I felt the presence of everyone who had been on this journey with me: everyone who had sent an email, who had posted a link on Facebook, who had texted to others about why New Mexico deserved to be represented on that national stage. I loved the community that my placement reflected and the reminder of the many people I have been fortuned to connect with. As one of my teaching friends once said in a mass email she sent to her family back on the east coast: “One of my closest friends here, Miss Brittany Toll, is in the running for Miss USA. I realize that you may find it impossible to believe that I'm friends with a beauty queen. I still do too actually, but this woman is absolutely fabulous...”

I know it has been quite the adventure, because even as I review these top ten moments, I am reminded still of other great moments as well: floating in a hot air balloon, sponsoring an athlete and being by her side for her big race in the Special Olympics, being recognized at the 2011 legislative session as a notable community leader of Gallup, presenting awards at the GLTB annual awards banquet with my roommate Julia, receiving the honor of being wrapped in a traditional Navajo blanket at the Miss Navajo Teen pageant, experiencing my first photo shoot with Lexi, sharing my experiences on happybrittany.com, learning endless life-lessons from Belia, my trip to NYC (and seeing Gloria!), a weekend with Jill and Alina, the adventures at Miss USA with my favorite new beauty queens, being a bridesmaid in Jenna’s wedding, and connecting with the people of my beloved state and across the country. Whether it was as extravagant as meeting the governor or as sweet and simple as reading a Dr. Seuss book at a local elementary school, not one second of this year has been lost. Just as the night of Miss USA, I felt my students with me as I wore that blue gown, I will wear the love and experience I have shared with all of you as I go forward.


Brittany Toll
Miss New Mexico USA 2011


The Way You Start a Day


I do believe there is so much about a morning ritual that truly has such a lasting effect on your day & continued happiness.

Mornings when I eat a healthier breakfast I make healthier choices throughout the day. When I wake up early to engage in some form of physical activity I am more productive. When I treat myself to self reflection and "me" time I'm happier and introspective. Mornings that I spend interacting with someone I love I'm more communicative and approachable. Mornings that I start off reading a chapter out of a book or listing to calming music I am more peaceful and relaxed. Overall I much prefer days like these to the days when I'm rushing around to get ready for the day, devour a quick and meaningless meal, and racing out the door, which happens more often than I'm willing to acknowledge. I need to start giving mornings more credit. So many of us identify ourselves as "not morning people" but if we say that then we believe it and thus create a self-fulfilling prophecy that impacts our entire day, and days stack up to a life. I think of it like Jenga, you can't let the bottom get wonky right off the bat otherwise the game is practically over before it even begins. If we aren't "morning people" then how can we be "day people" or "afternoon people" or "night people?" 

I don't believe there is a rhyme or rhythm to the morning. There is no guide or manual that I'm aware of. It's just the time of the day when you show yourself that you know yourself. You know best what your body needs to feel good whether it's a particular meal, routine, ritual, or song... and if you don't then you ought to start listening.

What a great morning I had. I started off with a 30 minute run with my sweet friend Maile as we downloaded our lives together. Then nourished my body with a green smoothie and mug of green tea. I wrote a letter to my NYC pen pal/sorority sister Justine and now I'm blogging. I'm going to make a quick list of gratitude and smile to myself in my cozy loft. Brett Dennen is calmly playing the soundtrack to my events and I'm about to take a shower while I reflect on positive affirmations, then make my bed, and get to work. This is what my body needs, and I'll be thanking myself later.... even if it was so hard to roll out of bed at 5:45am.

It's going to be a good day.


Five Fall Trend Obsessions

I am so excited that fall is here. I always get excited to dust off my military coat and pull out my coziest sweaters but I've never been more excited about the fall beauty trends. I'm ready to retire my coral lipstick and turquoise nail polish and redefine my own sophistication in simple, yet bold, new ways. Here are 5 things I'm obsessed with at the moment...

Plum Lips (Oh la la vamp!)
Feeling bold? Try MAKE UP FOREVER #48 (satin blackcurrant) or more subtle #13 (pearly plum) I have both (#48 pictured above) and love them. I'm also on the hunt for a deep magenta and deep purple. This is my favorite trend of the season.

Fishtail Braid 
The messier the better I say. Check out this video to learn how, it's super easy and fast.

Vintage Wings
I'll admit- it took me over a year and a test-run on 12 different liners to get this right. The best advice is to keep practicing. This look can be so simple yet so glam and dramatic. It's definitely my go-to method these days as it only takes me about 2 minutes. My favorites liners: tokidoki Perfecto Liner, Still Stay All Day liner, Sephora Waterproof Smoky Cream Liner, & Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen.

Muted Nails with Sparkle
I love the slight subtle of sparkle on top of a muted shade. My favorite combo is Sephora by OPI Frankly I Don't Give A-Dam with Sephora by OPI Only Gold For Me top coat.

Chic Messy Bun
Skip the clean hair and pile your hair on the top of your head in a chic messy bun. Don't worry about the pieces that fall down or dangle, let the fall winds dance with them. 

Now go jump in a pile of leaves...


"pageant" 101: feel good, look good

Gasp! The swimsuit presentation...

Pageant Tip #2
Feel good, look good.

Whether it's a crown you seek, or the simple desire to love your body you must first start with the feeling your create within.  Before you begin you must first know yourself and how your body reacts to different foods and physical activities. What works for one person isn't going to work for everyone. Getting to your ideal place comes from understanding what your body needs and researching the various avenues that will take you there. Over the course of the year I took several different approaches towards getting myself  to where I wanted to be. Many of those approaches came from research and more research. Ultimately what I found most valuable was when I felt good, I looked good. The greatest lesson to learn is that in pageantry the swimsuit competition is won from the neck up. The way you "feel" in a swimsuit is written all over your face- whether you know it or not. There is no way out of this one folks, you have to feel good before you can look good. 

Another important piece that I always try to stress to people is pageants aren't all about fitness, that is only a minor component of the big picture. If you want to compete in a fitness competition then there are competitions for that, but pageants aren't it. It's a huge pet peeve of mine when someone asks a girl what she has been doing to prepare for a pageant and the first thing she says is "working out." That makes it sound as if we only care about image. There is so much more to be learned in preparation for the swimsuit competition, how to feel comfortable and confident, how to be healthy and sustain energy, how to know your body, how to treat your body, and how to embrace the body you've been given and work it!

Since I am a vegetarian I had to take my own approaches towards feeling good and being healthy. As a vegetarian it is very easy to just consume carbs to satisfy hunger- but what I ultimately found was that carbs just made me tired and lethargic and less feeling good and more feeling "yuck." I had to figure out what food was going to give me the right kind of energy that I needed to perpetuate my lifestyle and help me stay on track with my fitness goals. I did a lot of reading about raw foods, power foods, green smoothies & alternative protein consumption. Here are some of my favorite finds:

On top of making sure the food I was eating was nourishing my body I also researched plans for appropriate physical activity. During my pageant preparations I worked a full time job as a teacher, a part time job as an after-school enrichment teacher, and also held other various roles. It was not feasible for me to spend all of my time at the gym, nor was it even necessary. I needed to figure out how to maximize my time so that the activities I was engaging in were making me happy and also helping me gain strength and balance. I found that too much cardio for me caused me to shed a lot of weight- and I did not want to be "skinny." I learned to balance cardio with strength building exercises. I also was searching for ways to enjoy the time I spent working out. I tried P90x for a while and when I got bored I moved on. I tried Zumba and loved it so much, it made me feel great and taught me some fun dance moves. I also started working with a personal trainer, this way my strength building was appropriate for my goals and not to harsh. I also loved spending time with her and she taught me many valuable lessons and became one of my dearest friends. When I traveled to the coast I would run along the shore line, when I found a flight of stairs I would climb them and I would even do calf raises when I was out on the playground with my students. Physical activity was not a chore but always something I looked forward to. The best part about doing something physical is the way it makes you feel afterwards. Feel good, look good.

When it was time to prepare for Miss USA I recognized that as Miss USA you represent powerful, healthy, working women in this country. I wanted to make sure that I was nothing short of that. After the competition I found the most flattering compliments to be those that reflected my healthy body and confidence. The truth is, I did feel healthy and confident. I was taking vitamins, consuming plenty of antioxidants (green tea and berries), staying hydrated, keeping a food journal, and working myself just enough to feel strong and energized while having fun and enjoying my life. 


It's not about being skinny, or drastic about changing the way you look. It's about embracing yourself, loving yourself, knowing what your body needs and treating it the way it deserves to be treated. Your bodes does amazing things for you, it should be pampered no differently than your toy poodle or you high heel collection. Love yourself and enjoy the journey.

feel good, look good, enjoy the journey-



Reflections of the past 25 years and my next quarter of a century resolutions...

It's pretty easy to get caught up in a number. 25 years- it's a big deal to me. If things had gone according to the plans I'd made for myself when I was six I'd have at least two children by now, and a husband, maybe a Golden Retriever, and most likely a silver mini-van. But when I was six I couldn't have even dreamed in my wildest dreams about the amazing life that I was destined to experience. 

In 25 short years I was privileged to... survive a bee sting to my tongue, shy away at the opportunity to meet Doogie Howser, help raise my two younger brothers, speak at my middle school graduation, make lasting friendships in high school, be Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2005 and place top 10 at Miss Teen USA, become best friends with my mom, meet Yolanda King, be the president of my sorority Zeta Tau Alpha & speak at the 2008 National Convention, graduate with honors from New Mexico State University, get accepted into my only post-college job choice- Teach For America, teach 2 years of pre-k, ride in a hot air balloon, give a congratulatory speech to New Mexico's first female governor Susana Martinez at her Inaugural Children's Ball, be Miss New Mexico USA 2011 and place top 16 at Miss USA and be named "fan favorite," and join the Teach For America Oklahoma team as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development...

What I remember most about all of these things is the people I was so fortunate to have met along the way. The adventures wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful or memorable without these incredible people in my life. I realize now that 25 is not just a number but a trophy. I am so grateful for each year that I age because I know that it just means I will be blessed with the graces of more incredible people and more time with the incredible people I already have been blessed with. 

As I think about the first quarter of my life I know that as a newborn I did not plan for any of this... but as a 25 year old I am determined to make the next quarter just as magnificent as the first. Through this determination (and being the list maker that I am) I've found it most appropriate to establish a set of resolutions & goals...

  • Care less about age & remember that with age comes incredible people and fond memories that I'll never get tired of thinking about, laughing about, or talking about.
  •  Remember others' birthdays. A sweet home-made birthday card in the mail the other day from a high school friend that I haven't seen in years brightened my day in countless ways. It made me reflect on how valuable these relationships have been to my life and how many wonderful people I have come to know. I must get better at showing others how much they mean to me.
  • Further my education and attend graduate school on the east coast. My heart is set on Harvard's Graduate School of Education but that could change. Regardless, I'm committed to a life of learning.
  • Do what I want. I will do more of what I want and less of what I think I should do. This means I am learning to trust myself and my judgment and accept full responsibility for all outcomes with complete faith that all will turn out exactly as it should.
  • Show my body some love. I made the decision 3 years ago to stop eating meat- but that hasn't had the best effects on my eating habits in general. I will nurture my body with foods that make me feel great and give me the right kind of energy. I'll also give my body more endorphins by doing more "feel good" exercise.
  • Budget. I will take better care of my finances and create a practical budget to stick to. I want to live life as debt free as possible and spend less time thinking about those germ-ridden-bills known as "money" and their dominating effects.
  • Find my rocking chair partner without assertively looking. This is in no way an attempt for pity but simply a conscious effort to spend more thoughts in the moment rather than in an unlikely daydream. I trust that in time I'll know exactly who this is suppose to be.
  • Get to know my brothers better. They grew from 4 & 2 to 18 & 16 in the blink of an eye. As my brothers grow older with me I find more and more opportunities to relate to them. They are two very cool kids and I can't wait to get to know them even more over the next 25 years.
  • Embrace my imperfections. While striving to always improve I also want to embrace my flaws- something I have only just learned to do within the past few years. I'm learning to love myself for who I am and thus beginning to judge less and love others more as well.
  • Write down the stories... I have a very strong feeling that the next 25 years will be nothing short of spectacular, therefore I must commit to writing more about my experiences so that in old age I can reflect on the sweet memories.

 Happy Birthday,


"pageant" 101: never take yourself too seriously

Woah woah woah.... don't go assuming that this post is only for pageant goers. In fact, I hate societies depiction of the word "pageant." A pageant, by definition, is:
"a public entertainment consisting of a procession of people in elaborate, colorful costumes, or an outdoor performance of a historical scene."
... understood to me as how one carries and presents themselves to the world. We are all performing, whether we know it or not, or frankly like it or not. So why not take every opportunity to improve and reign like the queen you are?[!!!]

Pageant Tip #1
Never take yourself too seriously.

 When you subject yourself to judgment you're asking for just that, judgment. We all subject ourselves to judgment every day, the slight difference is pageant queens do it on a stage. In order to showcase yourself the best way that you can you must take it lightly and recognize that the judgment is not a reflection of you, it's a reflection of the judge mixed with how you are allowing yourself to be perceived by them. Phew- doesn't that feel better? Now let it all out. Prance around like the winner you are. Take feedback for what it is, learn from it, grow from it, and straight up discard it if you find no true value from it or alignment to who you know in your heart you are meant to be.

As a titleholder you must be approachable. How can you be approachable if you can't even approach and accept yourself? You must live your adventures with an intention of playfulness. It's how you give the most and get the most from even the most uncomfortable situations. Who doesn't love a girl who can laugh at her own flaws and recognizes them as areas of growth or quirks to who she is? By taking yourself too seriously you expect others to take you too seriously... which just means you're building an even higher pedestal to fall from ...because even the greatest fall, the only difference is that they know how to survive the impact.

So you win some you lose some. I had a hard realization last October. It was right before the Miss New Mexico USA pageant and I was practicing my interview with some pageant friends. I was taking myself & the goal I was working towards SO seriously. My friend could undeniably see that and he said to me "I had never seen that in you before Brittany, I was so surprised. You can't let this be 'do or die'. You just can't." That was a long ride home. The next morning I woke up from a sore slap in the face- thankfully. It's because of that push to realizing the abandonment of my true self that I was able to glide through my night at the Miss New Mexico USA pageant a few weeks later. As I sat backstage before the top 5 were about to be announced I thought to myself "It's ok, this isn't the end. Regardless of the outcome I'll still walk off the stage as Brittany Toll and I'll still be greeted the exact same way by the exact same incredible friends & family who came to support me." I tell you it was the strangest feeling in the whole world. I even asked myself "Wait? Don't I want this? Why am I willing to accept either outcome?" It was because I had finally realized that it wasn't "do or die" like my wise friend had said.

Not too long ago a newly acquired friend told me "I love that I can just poke fun at you and tell you how it is and you never get upset or take it personal." Now of course let me say this- you have to have your limits, if he was out-of-line then of course I would put my foot down, but everything we joke about is true. I have learned that the best way for me to live is to just accept myself for who I am, and learn to laugh at my unique quirks. It's much easier to laugh with the crowd then to go against them. I realized at that point that I had learned this skill from pageantry and didn't even know it. It was a vital skill for me to learn and it has provided me ease & joy through all of my experiences on & off the stage.

So, be it a sparkly new crown you seek, or simply a life of amusement, learn from your inner queen; it's never too serious. It's never "do or die." It's about you being you and taking the courage to embrace that. Have fun with yourself and prance your love around in your tallest heels on the biggest stage under the brightest spotlight. You will love yourself more & you will effortlessly allow others to feel the same way.

sparkles & love,

...stay tuned for more pageant tips and email, Tweet, comment, or snail mail me any thoughts about what you would like me to deep dive into a bit more. Cheers!


Fall Weekend

She spent her Saturday morning at the farmer's market & the thrift store...

At the farmer's market she found summer squash, cherry tomatoes, an Irish Cream latte, fresh basil, a potted Hindu Rope plant, two onions, and a jar of raw local honey...

Then it was off to the thrift store where she found a new set of shabby chic bowls, stemless blue glasses, a men's flannel shirt (perfect with leggings for the fall/winter), a soft pink chalice & a green glass chalice. Fabulous pieces to add to her cozy loft....

What will you make of your fall weekends?

basil, bargains & bliss,