The Thanksgiving festivities are over, my belly is full, and I am feeling really inspired. Christmas is just around the corner, which means there are so many things I look forward to this holiday season: Christmas shopping for family and friends, decorating my tree and house, working out to stay healthy both mentally and physically, and packing a few large pink suitcases for my second USO tour.
This year I have been selected as one of 12 DCC to travel on the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ 73rd USO tour, which will be my second tour, my second trip to South Korea, and my first time visiting Japan. While I am excited to travel overseas to visit with and perform for our troops, I’m also looking forward to returning just in time to cheer on the sidelines of the Cowboys’ Christmas Eve game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and then spending Christmas Day stuffing my face with delicious holiday goodies with my family.
The days leading up to the tour are going to be busy, busy, busy. Kelsi and Mia agree.
Kelsi has to pack up her college apartment and finish her last finals and projects for school before the holidays. “I am actually missing my graduation while on tour!” she says, although luckily she has 11 friends with whom to celebrate her big accomplishment overseas.
Like myself, Mia will be doing all of her holiday shopping before tour. “Our schedules before Christmas are crazy! We have rehearsals, Christmas events and a dress rehearsal before we leave. When we return, we have practice, a game and then Christmas. That leaves little room for shopping, but then again, that’s what makes it fun!”
I also get all of my Christmas shopping done before tour. If you can believe this, one of my favorite parts of gift shopping is the wrapping paper. I always do a theme when it comes to my tree, home decor, and giftwrapping. This year I am sticking to rustic, vintage, metal, leather, turquoise and stars. I found the cutest star ornaments in Gruene, Texas that will look perfect on my eclectic tree!
Packing for the tour is also very important. One thing I pack is a journal. It’s perfect for recording daily memories and stories. Sometimes, if I have a few extra minutes, I type them up on my laptop and send them to my friends, family and fans to keep them updated on my journey.
There are a few other things I must include in my suitcase: Chanel Chance eau Fraiche (it is light and fresh, filled with floral, zesty citrus and Patchouli, which keeps me smelling fresh and pretty throughout the day, especially with all of the traveling and dancing that we do); Colgate Wisps (they are great after the show when we immediately run back out on stage to mingle with and sign autographs for the soldiers who watched our performance); Evian Mineral Water Spray (its extremely refreshing); vitamins (probiotics and a daily vitamin); and Emergen-C (for a daily dose of Vitamin C and energy).
Besides obvious necessities, Mia cannot leave without more than enough pairs of white gloves and hand warming packets. “It is really cold in Korea and Japan this time of year and riding inside of Chinooks and Blackhawks can get pretty chilly. My hands get cold the fastest, so I want them to be warm when I shake the soldiers’ hands!”
Traveling overseas puts a lot of stress on your body, so it is very important that we all are H30. To many, H3O is a Hydronium ion, but to me, it is much more:
Happy: While we are away from our families we are thankful there are 12 of us who are like family, like sisters. We laugh, play games, tell jokes, share stories, make memories, and keep each other happy throughout the trip.
Healthy: It is important to be healthy both mentally and physically before and during tour. Our bodies go through a lot each day traveling to and from different bases and performing for the soldiers.
Hydrated: Water, water and more water. With all of the traveling and dancing we do, our bodies have to always be fully hydrated.
Optimistic: The soldiers are fighting for our freedom, and they are away from
their friends and family during the holidays. Our smiles and positive attitudes take their minds off of anything that is bothering them or causing them stress, so it is important that we always stay happy, healthy, hydrated and optimistic!
How do I stay positive? I love the quote by Douglas Pagels: “Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from Point A to Point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way.” Yes, things can get hectic and feel rushed, but through those times, it is important to find the joy in the small, almost hidden things along the way. This not only helps you relax, but it also makes the memories THAT much better.
For Mia, “The whole experience of being a part of our USO Tour is enough motivation to keep me going the whole trip. All of the people we meet makes me remember how blessed we all are to have heroes fighting to protect us. While we may be far from home, they are sacrificing much more, and I just feel so honored to be able to show my appreciation through my passion. I love the saying, ‘Smiles are contagious!’ and I try to apply that to all I do. And ‘Change the world one smile at a time.’”
The days leading up to our departure date, Dec. 13, are full of practices, dress rehearsals, packing, Christmas shopping, and so much more in order to be ready for our 10-day excursion.
Eating healthy and working out is another thing that is very important before a USO Tour (and always.) I eat fresh fruits, veggies, leafy greens and lean meats such as chicken and pork chops, whole grains, and I drink plenty of water and electrolytes. I also run each day and squeeze in a few sessions of weight training each week.
I feel so blessed that I have the opportunity to travel overseas and entertain our troops, boost morale and express my appreciation for the men and women who are away from those they love during the holidays. It was truly a life-changing experience last December on my first USO Tour, and I am looking forward to adding more stories and memories this year.
I will forever remember the soldiers I met on my first tour. I still remember bumping into a familiar face at one of the bases in South Korea last Christmas. Although I graduated high school a year early, I recognized a soldier who graduated in my Class of ’07 in the Rio Grande Valley. It’s funny how this world is so big, yet I used the common phrase, “What a small world!” when I bumped into him. It made me feel so good to give him a hug and thank him for protecting our great nation.