Thursday, January 31, 2013

3 Months.

Dear Ryan,
You are THREE stinking months old! Growing up so fast, my little guy!

January 2013 has been a little strange for your Aunt Megan. There's a lot going on in my life. I was very sick for about three weeks- it made me tired, worn out, and even just a little sad. It took a while to feel 100% healthy. Thankfully, I feel good now. The worst part was that I barely got to see you this month. I didn't want to pass my germs into your little hands, so I stayed away. And I really missed you. I'll make up for it in February, I promise. When I did see you, my little Ryan, it made me feel so much better.

You're growing up. You're getting bigger, you're smiling more, making more noises, kicking your feet. It's a beautiful sight to watch you. I can hardly wait until you start to talk. I'd love to know what goes through your mind.

Once again I will remind you- we all love you so much. Your mommy went back to work for the first time since you were born yesterday, and I know it must have been hard for her to leave you. She loves spending her days with you. But you are in good hands, and we all pitch in to help...and spoil you a little bit.

I had a hard time coming up with "advice" for this letter, but then I came across some words written by my good friend Jena. And I wanted to share those words with you.

I've always been a person who wants to help others. But sometimes, in my life as a blind person, I'd see the problems around me, want to fix things for others, and think, "Oh but I can't drive this person here, sort these cans of food for the homeless, move around in an unfamiliar environment," etc., just fill in the blank. Often, I would feel like the best way for me to "help" would be to stay out of the way. I imagined that I had nothing to contribute to the betterment of this world. I was 100% totally and completely focused on the WRONG THINGS! This powerful message, again from Joyce Meyer, just gave me some perspective. "Don't let what you DON'T have stop you from giving what you DO have. Don't let what you CANNOT DO stop you from doing what you CAN do. Be a blessing." Over the last six weeks or so, my prayers have changed, and one of the things I say when I wake up is, "God, help me to be a blessing to people today, however You want to make that happen." I have seen remarkable things happen, just through the power of my words and my writing, even here on Facebook. So I share this, because I want you to remember that God made you unique, He made you exactly how He wants you to be. Even if you look at people who have more resources, more talents, more everything, know that you are a vital part of this world, and there are things here that only YOU can do, with the blend of talents, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that only YOU possess. You CAN do something, even if it isn't the "big thing" that you wish you could accomplish. Everyone can give a smile, or a kind word. Everyone can go out of their way to be courteous. And that one small act of kindness may be the thing that changes someone else's life. So give whatever you have to give, and be blessed!

I think Jena's words about sum it up, Ryan. She said it perfectly. Focus on the positive. Be kind to others. Those are the important things in life.

Sunday is your Baptism. I know you may not realize the value of this day until you are much older, but it is so special for our family to gather and celebrate you. Your baptism proclaims that you are loved by God, and that you belong to God, as a child and son. How cool is that? What's even cooler is that you are UNIQUE. You were given gifts and abilities that will allow you to make a difference in this world. I can't wait to watch as you discover these gifts, and use them.

I love you, Ryan!

Monday, January 28, 2013

St. Hugo

You know what I love about getting older? Appreciating things. Things like my elementary school.

I went to a Catholic school, St. Hugo, in the suburbs from Kindergarten to 8th grade. At the time, I wasn't happy. Sure I had friends, but my skin was itching to get out of there. I couldn't wait to get away from it all, break free from that bubble. I was sick of everything- the same classmates for so many years, the hot dogs that sometimes bounced, the girls who kicked me out of the popular group, and those darn plaid uniforms.

So now, 12 years after I graduated from there, it's a little strange for me to tell you all how much I adore that place. Somehow I got sucked into staying connected to the school. Probably has something to do with the fact that my mom teaches there. But besides that, it's the people. I babysat countless families from that school. I grew close to a lot of parents and kids and over the years I have watched kids grow up. The kids who are seniors in my youth group now were in kindergarten when I was in 8th grade. Now THAT, my friends, is crazy. Bananas. Now they are 17 and headed off to college in a few months. And I've watched, from afar, as they got to this point. I could not be more proud of them, and I know that they don't know this now, but that school helped them to get this far.

Now that I'm 25, I have learned how special that place was. That it was an HONOR to be going to school with the same kids for 9 years, because those kids were pretty cool. That I was taught faith and spirituality through books and classes and by example from our amazing teachers. That I was able to express my faith and go to church every single week. That I was prepped for high school through the tough classes. But most importantly, that I was given the opportunity to meet such amazing people through the years. That community is special. We care about one another, deeply, even the ones we haven't seen in years. It is evident to me in the way people greet each other, the way they go above and beyond to support someone in need. It's something that cannot be explained unless you are a part of it. That plaid uniform gave me such headaches as a kid...I hated wearing it. But now, I smile when I see the kids wearing it, and one day I hope to dress my kids in it as I drop them off at that school. I am a proud alumnae, and I never thought I could say that. I have recently realized that part of my duty as an alumnae is to continue supporting the school. I support my high school, why not my elementary school too? I can't give much, and I already give time by leading youth group, but I can spread the word, and show my support, and hope that others get involved as well. I want to help other alumnae see how lucky we were to be students there. To be part of that family.

I know this is kind of a random post, but I have just been thinking about all of the beautiful people that have come into my life through that Hugo connection, and I feel very blessed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

growing up

Lately my age has been a topic of discussion. Or perhaps, I have noticed my age more over these past few weeks. Particularly at work, but in other settings also. I get teased a lot because I'm a "baby". People call me "sweetie" or "honey" a lot. I got asked tonight if I knew the cartoon Tom and Jerry. It just seems to come up a lot, the fact that I'm so young. And I kind of have to laugh at that a little....because I don't feel that young anymore.

I train volunteers to visit hospice patients. That's my job. These volunteers come from all ages. Youngest is 17, oldest is 87. I have to alter my training depending on the group I am speaking with. With the younger ones I joke more, provide more education, prep them for what they will see in a nursing home and teach them how to talk to patients and what not to do. With the older ones I ask them for examples from their personal life, dissect the losses they have had, and talk about the differences between a hospice patient and a nursing home resident. I. love. training. It is, hands down, my favorite part of the job. Honestly sometimes it can be a little emotionally draining, because I spend four to five hours talking about hospice, but I get these amazing glimpses into our volunteers lives and feel really quite privileged to know them and to hear their stories, and it gives me a chance to figure out what kind of patient to match them with. It's the most interesting part of my job and I absolutely love it.

Getting back to my original opening paragraph here, when I train the 19/20 year old "kids" (and yes, I call them kids), I can't help but feel a little nostalgic. Let me just tell you that 19 year old Megan would have never set foot in a hospice office to volunteer. So in some ways I am proud of them for making such a mature decision, and maybe even a little envious at their enthusiasm and energy and intuition. When I was 19, I was a little bit of a mess. I lost who I was, what I believed in and was barely hanging on.

If 19 year old Megan could see the Megan now she wouldn't believe it. I am simply NOT the same person that I was back then. I can say that proudly, because I wasn't headed in the right direction then. And we all make mistakes when we are 19, so I don't need to dwell on them. Rather, I'd like to just say that God certainly has placed the right people in my life to put me back on the right path.  For the first time, maybe ever, I feel grown up. I still make plenty of mistakes and don't always get my to do list completed, but I feel stronger, more responsible, and more powerful. I don't really feel like "the baby" anymore, even though I am. I still have no idea what I want to be doing in life but I'm okay with that. I'm not having nervous breakdowns over it or making myself crazy over the things I cannot control. I am just living my life the best I can. And darn it, I'm going to be happy about it.

Growing up is weird. And that, my friends, is my closing statement for this random late night writing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Everyone else has an opinion, so here are mine.

There are two celebrities that seem to be getting a whole lot of hate over these past two weeks. And since everyone else has an opinion on them, I am going to give mine too. I realize I am only adding to our celebrity obsession by openly writing about this, but I've had these thoughts in my head all week and I just had to share them.

First up, Taylor Swift....
The girl breaks up with Harry Styles and we all know about it in seconds. Then the camera catches her making a bit of a stank face at the Golden Globes and suddenly she's the most hated artist in America. Let's chill out for a second. This is the girl who used to wear sundresses and cowboy boots and write songs about the teardrops on her guitar. But she's not really that girl anymore. At some point, she had to grow up. She's 23 now. She's going to do things we don't all agree with. The problem is that she is in the public eye, giving us the opportunity to rip those choices apart. I am totally, 100% in agreement that the girl needs to slow down. I personally think she has become obsessed with fame, and part of that fame means holding hands with another A lister. Do I think she's doing it for the songs? Sort of. But that's not really my business. I like her songs, so I guess that doesn't bother me to much. What upsets me more, I guess, is how much people just seem to HATE her. I don't get that. What, exactly, did she do to you? Because unless she personally insulted you, I really don't understand how you can be so mean about it. Taylor, keep doing your thang. Except, you know, maybe stay away from famous guys for a while. But if you don't that's your call, not mine,and I'm not going to hate you for it. And as far as that "look" at the Golden Globes goes, everyone should back off. The camera can catch us at any time. She's not going to write a song about Adele but she might write a song about how cruel we can be, picking apart celebrities for every single move they make.

And now...Manti Te'o
This one hits a little too close to home for many reasons. 1. My family are Notre Dame fanatics, and they love Manti. 2. I have dated online before and it is how I met my boyfriend. Except, you know, I've hung out with him in person...numerous times. BUT. I can see how people can fall in love online. I really can. When Derrick and I first started talking I picked apart his online profile, trying to figure out if he was the kind of guy I wanted to hang around. We talked online and via text for a solid week before we met. No phone calls. Just texts and emails. And although my story is much, much different than dear Manti, I kind of get it.

Another example from my own life are all my "American Idol friends". Some of my very best friends are from a little website called . We gathered there as Melinda fans, and we became friends. Now again, it's different, because I have met all of them, most of them I have met several times. But for the first six months or so that I was on the website, I didn't. I just talked to them online- via email, on message boards, and in chat rooms. They could have been fooling me that whole time and I would have had no idea. Luckily they weren't, and they are good, REAL people, but I became friends with them online way before I did in person.

That being said...I can see how this all happened. I don't think Manti was in on the hoax. I really don't. I think he fell for someone, very hard, online. He fell so hard that he didn't think twice about the no skype/no face to face meetings. I know that sounds crazy, I really do, but I also know that it happens all the time. I feel horrible for Manti. Most of the world is poking fun at him, and while I have laughed at a joke or two, I also cringe. Because if Manti were one of my friends, and this was happening to my friend, I wouldn't be angry at them or tear them apart. I would stand by them. So I can't be mad at Manti. Not that he and I are bff's, but I just can't. I feel horrible for him, actually. I imagine he is probably not sleeping well at night and that his days are anxiety filled. Some say he deserved it, that he lied. I don't agree.

I think we should all take the stance that my previously mentioned boyfriend took when he heard the news. "I'm just glad she didn't actually die". True. Maybe that's what we should be focusing on.  

While I'm on this rant, I also have to say that it perturbs me a little bit that Manti is getting most of the hate for this, instead of the dude who was pretending to be his girlfriend  There are Teo jokes everywhere you turn, and no one seems to be saying much about the other players in this little game. Just found that interesting...

I'm #teammanti here, folks. And I kind of want all the media hype to go away. Don't we have bigger problems in this world than figuring out a fake girlfriend situation? I'll admit when I first heard it I was shocked and a little intrigued, but now it's to the point where I'm ready to give it a rest.

The lesson in Manti's story? Don't trust people so easily. People will lie, for no good reason other than to get a sick pleasure out of it. If you get into an online relationship, and they don't want to skype or meet you, run. There's something wrong with that picture.

Just some Sunday night thoughts. Have a lovely week everybody!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

lent letters

First of all, potentially sad news. I may have to start a new blog and retire this one. I really don't want to, because I've been writing here since 2009 and was hoping to continue until I just couldn't write anymore. But over the past several weeks I have been receiving 10 pages of spam comments a day about Viagra. It's not exactly pleasant to sit there and delete all those pages. It doesn't take a ton of time, it's just annoying. I've asked Google for help, see if there is something they can do. If they can't, I may need to move hosts.

And now for something completely different. I wanted to talk about my Lent Letters project. I tend to get a lot of questions about it during Lent. It's about a month away and I've already started planning, so why not talk about it.

Some of my non catholic friends asked a very simple question: What is Lent? Well duh, that would help explain some things, eh? Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday marks Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion. So Lent is really a time for Christians to reflect, repent and pray in preparation for Easter. Some people give up something, a habit, object or behavior as an exercise in sacrifice, to represent what Jesus went through in the desert. What you choose to give up is based on your comfort level- for some it's drinking pop others it's fasting.

The whole point of Lent is to focus your mind and heart on Jesus rather than your usual indulgences. A couple of years ago, I decided that Lent shouldn't JUST be about sacrifice, but by living Jesus' example- and making a purpose to do so. That's where the Lent letter idea came from. I don't have a whole lot of time or money, but I have my words, and I can use them in a positive, loving way. Lent should be about bettering yourself. So I chose to better myself by letting the people in my life know just how much I appreciate them. I think it's vitally important to cherish the people in our life while we still have the chance, and pouring my heart out to them on paper is one way that I can do this.

I've been writing the letters for three years now, and each year the list of people has changed. That is primarily due to the fact that the people in my life have changed- some have left, but many more have entered. This year my list is full of 80 names. Who, exactly, is on that list? Family members- some of whom I don't speak to very often, I just want them to know how much I love them. I had never put a cousin on the list before this year. I am just not that super close with my cousins. But this year, I made a change and included quite a few of them. There are friends on the list- some I've known for years and years, others are new. There are a handful of Sisters of Mercy, the ones who have played a large role in my spirituality and in my becoming an associate. There are some people in my Church/community. I wanted to put my youth group seniors on the list this year, but I decided I would wait until the end of the school year when they are getting ready to go off to college. Also on the list are three former American Idol contestants, which sounds super crazy unless you have known me for a while and know my relationship with Melinda, Mandisa, and now Erika. There's a boy on the list who doesn't fit in the "friend" category because he's more than that. And finally, there are SEVENTEEN coworkers. I know, I was surprised myself. The greatest thing about the coworker letters is that, for the most part, I'll be able to hand deliver them and see the look on their face after they read it. I usually mail the letters, but it would be silly to do that for people I see every day. I'm excited about that part.

My goals for this project are to make sure that other people know how much they meant to me. I know that sound super duper cheesy and silly, but I love the people in my life and I think they should know it. Over the past few years I have really been touched by peoples reactions to the letters. I have only twice gotten an actual letter back- and one of those was from someone I barely knew- but that's not what I am asking for or what I want. I just want people to realize what they do for other people, and to keep doing it. It has helped me to become more grateful of the people around me.

Am I giving up something for Lent? Yes. I am giving up Facebook, Twitter, meat, going out to eat during the week. But my most important promise is these letters. It allows me to see God in my life, through the people I love the most.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Remembering Susan.

I know that I was meant to know Susan. She came into my life at a very critical time. And had we not shared a connection, she probably would have just been another Hugo parent to me, no one special. But instead, she was a role model.

I was wrapping up my year at Cristo Rey when my mom told me about Susan. She mentioned she was going through a divorce and that she was looking for work as an English teacher. Teaching at risk youth was a passion of hers, so she was checking out Cristo Rey as an option. I didn't know Susan, but my mom told me some pretty fabulous things about her, so I offered to hand deliver her resume and cover letter to our principal. Unfortunately that job didn't work out, but I maintained in contact with Susan.

Fast forward a few months. Susan got a job at a high school in Rochester. This time, I was the one looking for work. I had quit my job at Boys Hope Girls Hope and was desperate for work. Susan offered me a small babysitting gig. She had to leave her house pretty early in the morning, so she wanted me to come over and help get her kids ready for school and to be sure they got on the bus. I gladly took her up on it, and even though she thinks I was doing her this mega favor, it was actually her helping me. It got me up in the mornings. I got to see her every morning, and she always had that bright smile on her face. I learned that she too had done a year of service, through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. We could talk about that, openly. Most adults were somewhat hesitant of my volunteer experience, although they always told me it was admirable, I knew most of them could not understand why I did it. Susan understood. She and I had the same thought: we were servants of Jesus, and we were put on this earth to help other people to grow. We both loved teenagers, black coffee and the St. Hugo Community. She would leave each morning telling me thank you and to tell her kids she loved them. She did anything for those kids. She was so proud of them and of every accomplishment they had. She looked at them with these compassionate, loving eyes. I made a decision right then and there that when I became a mom, I was going to be like Susan.

When I got my job with Great Lakes Caring in April 2011 I had to stop going to the Jarrell house. It wasn't going to work out, I had to be out on the east side by 8 am. I felt horrible, but I also knew I had to move on. Susan was understanding. From then on she dropped the kids off at latchkey 15 minutes early so that she could still get to work on time. It was time for someone else to look after the three beautiful children every morning. I was a little sad, I liked those kids, and I loved seeing Susan every morning.

In the late summer months, I volunteered to serve as co leader of the youth group. Susan's oldest, her son, was now in high school and able to join the group. I got to see him, and to see Susan more often if she dropped him off or picked him up. We would always give each other very quick life updates, and I couldn't help but smile whenever I talked to her. The last time I ever saw her was early January. She was picking Nick up from youth group and I was walking outside to my car. She stopped the car and asked me how things were going, at work and with youth group. As she started to pull away she said "Just...thank you...for all that you do".

I never saw Susan again. I miss her terribly. I miss that smile and I miss her gentleness. I miss how important she made people feel, and how deeply and genuinely she cared about everyone. I hope that I can grow into the kind of woman that she was, because she was incredible. The sweetest person you've ever met.

One of the Sisters of Mercy asked me today, after allowing me to sob in her office, if I had been able to find any grace at all in this situation.

Yes. I have, although that is hard to believe. I have found that I am closer with my parents, a bit more protective of them and worried for them...but full of so much love for them and for all that they endure. I have gained the comfort and pride that my mom is one of the most loved people at St. Hugo. People were turning to her left and right when this tragedy struck, knowing how close she was to Susan and the kids. I have become more sensitive to tragedies like this, nearly falling to my knees when I hear a similar story. And, most of all, it has grown me closer to the students in my youth group. They carry so much pain and confusion on their shoulders, and whenever they walk in the room on Sunday nights I pray for each of them, pray that they are comforted, that they are happy, that they are safe. I have grieved with them, I know the losses they have felt. I'd do anything for those kids.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who has been there for me and who has been saying prayers for the family. I know tomorrow is going to be hard too. Last year I woke up on the 11th to my mom telling me the news. I won't ever forget that feeling even though I wish I could.

There is a very special person in my life these days, and this is what he said to me today. "Tomorrow will be hardest, but you will persevere and the pain will get better. All of the hurt and sorrow will be turned into motivation to embrace (your word for 2013) any challenges that come your way". Amen.

I miss you Susan. I know you are smiling down on all of us and bringing us through the pain.

Please join me in praying for Susan's Family:
Dear Lord, Wrap Your arms tightly around those three beautiful children. Help them to know that they are not alone, help them to see light when they close their eyes to sleep. Heal their hearts as they remember that awful night. Bring them happy memories, bring them strength and pour them with love. Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2013

one word

First of all- I had to take a day off of work today with no pay. That's how sick I am. I sent an email to my boss last night with my symptoms and said I didn't have enough pto and her response was "You come in tomorrow I'm driving you straight home. Stay in bed". Well, okay then. I've been hit with the flu. And not the tummy kind- but that kind where your whole head is so stuffed up you can't even turn it, you are shivering and then sweating, and you don't think you'll ever stop coughing. Mucinex, tea,   water, steam, and the neti pot have been my saving graces. I know a lot of people caught this nasty thing going around, and to you I say- I am so sorry. The last time I had a head flu this bad, it was during my MVC year. I stayed in bed for three straight days while Katie would come refill my juice cup, Nate would check my temperature and Dave would yell FEEL BETTER DONT DIE outside my door. After I finally recovered from that mess I found out Nate had gathered the other two and said "So listen, Megan might have the bird flu...". Ah, those were the days.

But yes. I took the day off today and I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I was pretty miserable. I rotated from my bed to the couch. setting timers on my phone to take my medicine. But I also spent some time thinking about 2013 (yes, again) and my goals. And then I read my friend Dean's blog and I was inspired by this whole One Word 365 revolution. So I checked out that site and was even more inspired and intrigued.

Then came the hard part. Picking a word. I actually have kind of done this for the past two years, just not formally. 2011 it was fearless, and 2012 it was conquer. But this time I'm picking one and sharing it with all of you. A million words went through my mind. Courage. Hope. Peace.

I wanted a word that combined action and persistence with calmness and listening. I had a hard time, but I finally settled on...


I am going to embrace myself, including my flaws. I am going to embrace those around me and support and encourage them. I am going to embrace change.  Embrace my passion. Embrace my life, embrace my health. Most of all I am going to embrace God's plan for me.

Embrace 2013.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

it's gonna be a happy new year

I've got high hopes for 2013. I'm not sure why, but suddenly I'm one of those pretty hopeful optimistic people who thinks that this year really is going to be amazing.

Statistically odd years are better for me. I was born in 87; graduated from high school in 2005; college in 2009; landed my first real job in 2011. It seems I hit milestones and major events on the odd years. So call me crazy (or call me, maybe) but I actually think 2013 has a lot in store for me. I guess we won't know until this time next year, right?

I know I've already done a reflection on 2012. You read about my favorite moments, tweets, movies, and songs. But what I haven't said, or really admitted to many people, is how much I've seen myself grow in a year. I am a different person than I was last year at this time. A completely different person at that.  I am stronger and I am bolder. I talked on a popular morning radio show for 4 minutes. Old Megan would have ran and hid from that opportunity, but I took it and nailed it. I've stood up for myself numerous times in situations where I normally would have held back and let someone else do the talking. I am really proud of myself for making a commitment to becoming an associate to the Sisters of Mercy. I volunteer for a cancer outreach center and volunteer to co-lead my youth group even though I barely ever have time for myself- I am much more fueled and energized by giving back to other people than I am by lounging around by myself. I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but in reflecting on the year I think it's super important to note how much you have grown.

That being said, bring on 2013.  I love a fresh slate, the idea of hope and possibility, looking forward to the future.I can't say I have anything terribly exciting happening that I am sure about, aside from the fact that one of my best friends is moving into my house in a month, but I can say I am going to do my damn best to be happy and to treat everyone around me with kindness, love, and compassion.

I love all of you with all my heart. I sincerely hope that 2013 is good to you.