Sunday, September 30, 2012

broke, but not broken

Raise your hand if you love weddings.

Hi, my name is Megan, and I have an addiction to weddings. I get all giddy when I talk about them, about my favorite parts of each wedding I've been too. I would go to a wedding every weekend if I could. They are so magical. So full of love.

This past weekend my friend Betsy got married to the love of her life Mike. It was a beautiful wedding, and a great time. To be honest I was a little nervous about going. I didn't know many people going, and I get shy and awkward in front of new people. But it turned out to be a great night. Betsy looked stunning, the weather was perfect, the food was delicious, and the company was a plus. I made so many new friends, I danced the entire night, and  laughed so hard it hurt with my best friend Sam. And, an extra special added plus, I was reunited with my sweet friend Dana. I haven't seen Dana since I was 19 years old. She was a senior at WMU when I was a freshmen, and she was one of my best friends and role models. I have a very special place in my heart for D Rog; I'll never forget what a good friend/big sister she was to me in college. She really made an impact on my life. Loved seeing her, hated saying goodbye again.

There were many hi-lights of the evening, but rather than list of all of them, I gotta say the coolest part is that they are all centered around the same thing: love. Love for Betsy and Mike, the love they have for each other, love for my best friend Sam and for Dana, love of music and dancing, love of making connections with people, love of laughing. I've got the biggest smile on my face just thinking of all the love that surrounded us yesterday and this morning as we shared breakfast and swapped stories of the evening.

I made the trek to Holland solo, so I had plenty of time by myself in the car to just sit and think. (well, and drive). I was a bit sleepier this morning, but on the way there I was totally in tune with my thoughts, my fears, ideas, frustrations. I have a lot going on in my life right now. A lot of worries, a lot of things bringing me down. And it frustrates me to the core that I am stuck here, that as hard as I try I'm still in the same place of general unhappiness and dissatisfaction. I know many of you are saying- then do something about it! I'm trying. But I'm not getting very far. I know I have to place my trust in my faith that everything is going to be okay, that life is unfolding as it should, but then the other side of me doesn't believe that, and freaks out about it. I have to find a happy medium. And I know all of this sounds a bit depressing and confusing, but simply, I am not really where I want to be. I want to be able to buy groceries without worrying that I'll overdraft my account. I want to be able to pay off all my debts and bills. I want to get paid justly for the amount of work that I do. I want to have more time. I want to be more motivated. I want guys to stop being jerks. I want dating to be easier. I want LIFE to be easier. I know, it doesn't work that way. I know, almost every other 20 something is feeling the same way. But that doesn't make it easier or less frustrating.

I'm sorry that I took a happy topic and suddenly turned it into Megan's monthly whine session, but I had to let that out. I know that I have friends and family who read this blog who care deeply for me and are praying for me, and for that I am most grateful. Things are going to get better. They have to. I have to make some changes in my life, many of which are pretty much beyond my control. So I will take a deep breath, work hard, pray, and let God lead me to where I need to be.

Have a good week.

Monday, September 24, 2012

retreat reflection

Tomorrow is Mercy Day, where we celebarate Catherine McAauley and the opening of her House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland. I love Mercy day! Time is on my side, because I attended a Mercy retreat this past weekend so Mercy is flowing through brain at high speed right now.

 I almost did not come on the associate retreat. With everything going on in my life, I wasn’t sure that I could add just one more thing to the agenda- I thought I needed a weekend to just be alone.
But something changed when I heard the news of the sweet Sister Mary Jo’s decline. Something inside of me said that I had to go on the retreat. So I registered and squeezed in at the very last moment. Now that the retreat is over, and I’ve had some time to process, I am so very grateful that I had the urge to go.
For the past several weeks, I have been struggling at work with my purpose, or my role. When I tell people I work at hospice, I get “the face”- you know the one- that sad, half smile, half cringe kind of face. And people usually say “you must have a huge heart”. I usually follow that question up with “Oh, I’m just the volunteer coordinator”. Although I enjoy my WORK, I have never thought of what I do as very important….until this weekend.

One of the associates, Bev, was giving a talk and spoke of some of the work Catherine was involved in. She said “Catherine was essentially running a hospice; and she taught people how to make the dying comfortable”. When she said that, my cheeks flushed and my heart pounded a bit. THAT’S WHAT I DO! I wanted to scream – it hit me at that moment, that I am not just recruiting volunteers or training volunteers- I am empowering them to be compassionate people, to care for those that are dying. Looking at it in that sense makes me feel so much better, and a bit more passionate about my work, and ready to go in and do it with a bit more grace.

The other thing I have been thinking about lately is: what exactly will my role be as an associate? What does that really MEAN for me? I don’t want to just show up for events once in a while, I want to really journey with the sisters and associates in Mercy. So this weekend I spent some time discerning that, and thinking about the things that I would like to see strengthened within our mercy community. Two things have continued to come to my mind: 1. A deeper connection between the high school and the sisters of mercy and 2. Alzheimer’s/dementia education at the McAauley center in Farmington hills. Both of these are things that I see as needs, things that I would like to see happen. Since they are consistently on my mind and heart, I am taking that as a bit of a sign/urge/prompt/call to take a lead on them and see where they take me.

I shared this in a large group discussion this morning; but during some reflection time it hit me, in a bit of an overwhelming way, how blessed I am to be a part of this community. Many of my friends and even family do not understand it, and to be honest sometimes it is quite exhausting to try to explain it. But it makes perfect, complete sense to me. Mercy is where I belong. Mercy is home. It has been since the moment I walked through that door on 11 mile and middlebelt as a 14 year old. I have such a deep, deep connection to Catherine McAauley and to the spirit of Mercy that there’s no way I can let it go, and pretend like it is a thing of the past. Because it is very, very present. And I embrace that with open arms. 

This weekend opened my eyes and my heart. I met people who sprinkled a bit of wisdom into my mind, I met people who touched my heart with their outpour of compassion, and I met people who made me laugh so hard my tummy hurt. The associates who led the retreat did a phenomenal job, and I am so glad to call them my friends and my community. 

I cannot wait until November 2nd to make my commitment to walk with the sisters and associates in mercy. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

cmon take a walk with me, take my hand

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted about the storm of stress that was about to hit?

Uh. It hit. hard.

No one likes to hear whining. So feel free to ignore this and move on with your life. But my goodness, am I stressed. Work is so busy that there have been mulitple days that I don't even sit at my desk for more than 10 minutes- I'm running around the office, scanning, going into meetings, going out in the field. I've trained 13 volunteers in the past three weeks. I am constantly working, even when I go home for the day- answering emails, returning phone calls, tweaking powerpoints or training exercises. I need to stop that. Then there's financial stress. I haven't been paid in a solid month because of my tonsillectomy. And yet, my bills are doubled because of my tonsillectomy. How is that fair? It's not. So I am just holding my breath until payday on Friday and praying for a bit of a miracle at the same time.

And then there's the people in my life who are struck by illness. I worry for them. My aunt and uncle, both sick, both struggling. My mentor, sister mary jo, who is getting weaker and smaller by the moment. I know that she is going to slip away soon (morbid as that may sound)...and I cannot really accept it yet. She is one of the greatest people I've ever known. I just wrote her a letter that I will be sending off tomorrow morning to her hospital room. I had to let her know how much she means to me.

So, in volunteer training, we get to a chapter on grief and loss. It's always interesting , depending on the group. I have the volunteers do a few exercises to get them comfortable in talking about the losses in their life. But then we shift gears, and we talk about the importance of taking care of yourself. I ask them "what is it you do to unwind, or de stress?"

But I've never really told a group my answer to that. There are actually several things I do, based on what exactly it is going on.

1. Write thank you cards. Yep. This is one of my favorite stress relievers, and usually my go to. It accomplishes two things: writing; and then pouring love and gratitude out to someone who probably needs to hear it. Seeing the smile on their face is an instant pick me up.
2. Music. There are days when I need to just sit in a corner, put my headphones on, and listen to the people who get me the most. It doesn't even really matter the genre. Sometimes I need a little Lil Wayne in my life, sometimes Britney Spears. Whatever works. (And you can read my most recent music reviews here and here
3. Cry. Don't you feel about 10 times better after a good, hard cry? I do.
4. Hot shower, polar bear pants, hoodie, curl up in a ball. The "polar bear" pants are these pj's I have that are super warm and comfy. In college it was a commonly known fact that if I had those on, with a hoodie, that I was having a really bad day. Funny, it's still true. Some days I just need to curl up in my polar bear pj's. Sometimes I have a giant glass of wine in my hand, too.
5. Talk. I used to be the silent type, and in many ways I still am, but more often than not now I need to just vent. I have found some really wonderfully beautiful people at work who put up with my rants and listen to me. Maggie/Carol, I'm looking at you two for today's daily rant session :)

I think that just about covers it. I need to get back in the habit of walking every night, because I know that will help me continue to bring a little peace to my mind. Plus, I'm going on a retreat this weekend to Ludington, MI and I'm super excited about it. Retreats are another stress reliever for me, a time to put away everything and just grow closer with God and myself. That's what this weekend will be for me.

Cheers to all of you, I am sending you positive vibes and hoping you are a little less stressed than I am. Things will calm down by November, but then I'll have a little niece/nephew to smother with love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

suicide prevention awareness!

First of all, high school seniors, would ya stop trying to find out Kairos secrets? I don't spill them. Seriously, almost all of my "google searches" to get to my blog for the past month have been these search terms: Kairos secrets; what happens on kairos; small groups on kairos; kairos retreat. And because I wrote a blog on Kairos for my a-z challenge, you wind up here. Go on Kairos and find out the beauty of it for yourself. And for you Kairos leaders, go to your campus minister for guidance, don't google it.

Now  back to your regularly scheduled programming. Today is Suicide Prevention Awareness Day. I think it's safe to say that everyone reading this knows someone who has committed or attempted suicide. It is a terrible tragedy, one that continues to be an issue in our society...and one that can be prevented. Suicide is a very real thing. But we don't talk about it enough- it's a hush hush topic, people are scared to reach out for help and people are even more afraid to acknowledge it and to do something about it.

I am very passionate about the fact that there is always hope. There's always another chance. Suicide is not the answer. But when I hear of a suicide, my first thought is- how awful for that person. How absolutely heartbreaking it is to know that they were so terrorized by fear, anger, hurt that they chose to end their own life. Some of us are lucky, we will never know that pain, never know what it is like to feel that hopeless. Others of us feel it, have felt t, will feel it. Maybe even feel it every day. Maybe there are days we have to force ourselves out of bed, or days we roll over and don't even try. But you have to try.

You have to get help. There are people out there who will help you. Don't push away the ones who will try. Let them. Tell them how you are feeling. Speak up. You do not have to fight this alone. You were put here for a reason and you've got to believe me when I tell you things are going to get better, and life can be beautiful if you give it a chance, if you try. It may take some searching, and every day may be a battle. But you can win.

And for the rest of the world, wondering how in the heck you can prevent suicide: use your words, and use them wisely. If you notice a change in a family member, friend, or coworker, don't ignore it. Ask the questions. Find out why they are so angry/sad/withdrawn lately. And if they admit to being suicidal, get help. Call the suicide hotline. Call the police. Call a doctor. Just do SOMETHING. Let people know that you care. Let them know you think they are worthy. Appreciate people. Don't give up on them. The worst thing you can do to someone fighting thoughts of suicide is to turn your back on them. That's when they give up- that's when they assume no one cares. But we should all care. Life is far too valuable to let it just slip away.

Obviously (I hope) I am super passionate about this cause. It hits close to home. I have felt that hopeless before. And all it took was one person to show me that if I held on just a little bit tighter, there would come a day that everything would be okay. That person was right, and I can sit here today and tell you that while it wasn't easy, I've made it, and I will continue to be  an advocate for others and for the beauty of life.

Perhaps this has not been the happiest of posts, but I hope it has touched someone reading it. Please join me in spreading awareness. Suicide CAN be prevented.

Much love.

Don't give in
And don't give up
Just let go
Just reach out
You're at your worst
But this is not the end
You are not what haunts you
You were made for so much more
Take one step, and then another
Have faith that you will recover
Don't give in
And don't give up
Just let go
Just reach out
there's so much livin left to do
there's so much waiting for you
you can be happy, you can be free
just let go
just reach out
don't give in
and don't give up
you don't have to live like this
wrapped up in sadness and fear
just say the words
And I'll take it from here
you don't know how much
you are loved
let yourself be loved
just give in to love
just give up the bottle
just let go of the weapon
and just reach out for a hand- megan carolin; september 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

happy 18th birthday, angel!

Dear Laurence;
I know we're supposed to be okay. We're supposed to be glad that you are not in pain. We are supposed to be in the acceptance phase. But today, on your 18th birthday, I'm not okay. You should be here. You should have never gotten cancer. It isn't fair. You should be running around with your soccer team, hanging out with your neighborhood friends and starting a new school year.

I think I got my angst out of the way. Sometimes I just want to stomp my feet and cry and yell that it's just not fair. Throw a temper tantrum. But deep down I know that isn't what you want, or how you would act. So I stop, take a deep breath, and feel you here with us. Your spirit lives on. People are still hearing your story and are still blown away by all that you did, the money you raised and the lives you touched. By your maturity and your grace. By your smile. I see that smile sometimes, you know. I see it in some of my patients, volunteers, coworkers, friends, and family. I know it's you, reminding me that you are still here. That you still care.

I think of you when I heard the words "spicy" "One" "Bono" "U2" "Make A Wish" and "Brain Cancer". I think of you the instant I hear any U2 song, when someone speaks of a story of someone who showed bravery during their cancer fight.

I am writing that book for you. I will admit I took a break. I felt frustrated, disappointed in myself and unworthy of writing about you- like I would never be able to do it justice or that I would not tell your story correctly. But then one of my facebook friends, out of the blue, posted this status:

 I woke up with this on my heart so strong!!! It's for you! so here it goes..... Those of you who KNOW you are supposed to be writing a book...WHAT IS THE HOLD UP?? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Everything does not have to be perfectly in line before you begin or finish writing. Just complete it and everything else will fall into place! Finish it already!!!!! love yall much :-) that is all!!!!

I am convinced I was meant to read that status. So I whipped out my paper, pen, laptop, and got back to work. I will finish it, I promise.

Hey, how do angels celebrate birthdays? Knowing you, I bet you celebrated by sprinkling a little extra love and hope on the world today. I felt it. I was near tears today because of stress, and a co worker called me into her office to have a chat. An hour later I walked out feeling uplifted, relieved, and stress free...because together we came up with this great plan on how to support our other co workers. I think you may have played a hand in that.

As I type this I am looking at a picture of us from Ft Walton Beach. You are probably 3, wearing a tie dye shirt with a shark on it and filling up a toy triuck with sand. I'm about 10, kneeling down to help you dig up the sand. The picture was caught mid conversation, and there you are with the smilie creeping acorss your face. I just loved every minute I had with you buddy. While I wish we had more, I cherish the ones we did have. If Heaven is what I think it is, then you have access to sand. Do me a favor and build a sandcastle, like we used to do.

I'm sorry I rambled and I'm sorry for my temper tantrum. I miss you, and I have you in my heart today and every day. Love you, happy birthday angel.

happy birthday, angel
I'm going to blow out 18 candles 
and make a wish
wish that you could be here
wish that you never went through
what no one should go through
you were the greatest gift
this world ever received
and the greatest angel
heaven will ever need
And I try to walk on
I try to be strong
But it still hurts
that you're gone

you were the greatest gift
this world ever received
and the greatest angel
heaven will ever need

PS:  our beautiful cousin Lynn is fighting breast cancer. I know you're on her side, giving her strength. keep the strength coming. I know she can beat this.