Walk for Hope

On October 18th I’m walking with my best friend and my sister in Mutual Ground’s 7th annual Walk for Hope.  They are a local domestic abuse/sexual assault nonprofit that provides everything from shelter to counseling and everything in between.  We might have a few other ladies join our team as well!!

We are the Purple Ladies.  My best friend loves the move Grease (which I’ve never seen) and wanted us to be the Pink Ladies, but I changed it to Purple since that is the color for domestic violence awareness.  We fund raise until the 18th and then we participate in a 5 mile walk in Fabyan Forest Preserve.

I am so excited to do this, I love that I can do this event with other people and there is this massive community feel to the entire thing.  We are all working together to accomplish a common goal and then we can all enjoy a beautiful day together.

One of the teams is in remembrance of Kari, a 28-year-old woman who was killed by her boyfriend a few years ago.  Her mother is so active with Mutual Ground.  I don’t know how she does it.

I met another mother a while ago whose daughter was killed by her boyfriend.  She was 19.  I believe it happened about 6 years ago, but as she retold her story, talk about receiving that phone call that no parent want to get… she couldn’t help but start crying and it absolutely breaks your heart. I met her at a candle light vigil for domestic violence awareness.  After I went up to talk to her and I tried to say thank you for being strong, but I couldn’t even get out the words before I started to tear up.  I can’t imagine what she went through.  She smiled and gave me a hug.  I was supposed to be the one comforting her, not the other way around.

The fact that these two women can not only get up every morning but also speak out about what happened to their daughters is incredible.  They are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.

That is why I walk.  I walk for all of the women and men who are still in these relationships, I walk for every child who is afraid, I walk for those who are terrified to leave, for those who think they’re alone, I walk for those who have lost their lives to people who are supposed to love and cherish them for all time.  I walk to empower and give hope to those who have lost it.

If you are interested in donating to support Mutual Ground, please click the link here.  This is the link to my team’s page.  We just started it today and so far we have $70 in donations, which I am so happy about.  Every bit helps no matter how large or small.

If not, remember there are always ways you can get involved. Educate yourself about the problem.  What is it like in the area you’re in?  Participate in campaigns like the #voiceshavepower by Verizon.  Write a message and the Verizon Hope Line will donate $3 per message.  It can’t get much easier than that.

Every day, if you are in a loving relationship and that can be partner, friend or family, remember how blessed you are, how lucky you are.  You have support, caring, love and respect in your life and never take that for granted.

Thank you to anyone who chooses to donate.

♥ Meggie

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Equality at the Races

Yesterday I went to the drag races. Growing up, that was the sport we watched in our house, not football, not baseball, I was the little girl who grew up with cars.

I love everything about it, speed, power, noise, nitro, the complete excitement of watching the cars run, the competition. People don’t realize what really goes into drag races.  It’s so much more than just running a straight quarter mile.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things to deal with as a young girl and young woman is that it is a male sport so even attending the races, you will be faced with sexism.  To some (not all) a woman is meant to be in tiny shorts with a shirt that is about 5 sizes to small sitting atop a car to take pictures with or maybe hand you a free sample of something, maybe beer?  We are to be shouted at, we are to be gawked at.

I was so excited to start my time at the races. My idol, the first woman of drag racing, Shirley Muldowney was signing. She still has records that haven’t been beat. I’ve met her once before but any time you can meet your hero is amazing.

In line I was with my partner and an older man in front of us turned around, looked at me and said “I bet he (pointing at my partner) dragged you into this line and you don’t know you you’re going to see”. Then he laughed.  He wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, he was trying to start an innocent conversation.  He was older and typically older generations assume genders still fall into the stereotypes they grew up with.

I wasn’t angry, but I was frustrated. I smiled back and laughed saying “I was the one who dragged him to the races.  My dad taught my baby sister and I everything about drag racing. Mukdowney is my idol. You shouldn’t assume a woman doesn’t know what she’s taking about.”  Then I laughed, I wanted to correct his incorrect assumption, but I didn’t want to be mean about it.  I knew he really wasn’t trying to be hurtful, but it still did hurt.

The next experience was when I was looking at car products with my dad.  The salesman came up and stood next to me, saw me picking up products reading about them. Several minutes went by and he didn’t ask if he could help me at all. Once dad walked over to the stand I was next to, the sales man immediately asked him if he needed help and if he could be of any assistance. It goes without saying that women typically experience this lack of service when dealing with mechanic shops, car dealerships and other car related retail shops. Again, another frustrating moment, so I left. I told my partner I see how much I’m valued here, let’s go.

The final moment was leaving the drag races, walking though the parking lot at night.  Men were shouting things out windows, one guy was screaming how he wanted ‘boobs’.  As I walked by an R.V., a man knocked on the window. First, my partner looked up and I heard the man say “Not you, the girl” and then he said something unintelligible. That type of street harassment and cat calling is so hurtful to me. I hate it. I hate having to worry about what I’m wearing or the location in at.   It’s not like I have any particularly raunchy clothing or I’m dressed in something revealing, I’m not at all, but I still have to be careful.  I hate having to be near my partner or my father to avoid this harassment.  It makes me feel like nothing

I don’t think my partner really understand how hurtful those things are to me, or to most women. I don’t think a lot of men really understand how humiliating and upsetting these things are. I think some believe it’s innocent fun or a joke.

I know it shouldn’t affect me, I mean it’s a bunch of men and that shouldn’t bother me, it’s just words. Just like parents tell their children about bullies, let it go, their words can’t hurt you, but you know your child is still hurting.

What bothers me too is that, last year at the races I was walking with my mom and sister and a man shouted incredibly lewd things to me and no one said anything, they just looked. My mother though (in a mother’s fury) whipped around and said “She is young enough to be your daughter, you’re disgusting!”  That was very true, he looked twice my age (or more) and it felt good that someone said something.  I wasn’t alone.

This year I did find my voice though.  I refuse to remain silent when I’m treated like this and never again will my mouth stay shut, especially when the phrases directed at me are aggressive, lewd or disrespectful.  I always hope for the future to change, I think we all do, but it would be nice to live in a time where that hurtful behavior (the cat calling, not the first man) will be unacceptable and bystanders refuse to remain silent about that.

Also, I hope that maybe one day my partner will understand what it’s like to be a woman and to be accosted like that.  He does see a variety of behaviors as completely unacceptable and will stand by me and any decision I make, any reaction I have to a situation.  He will support me and that is always the best place to start, I just don’t think he always gets it, like my male friends, it kinda just goes over their head sometimes.

Have any of you ever been frustrated or hurt by street harassment or sexism?  Both men and women feel free to answer, this topic is definitely not limited to women.

♥ Meggie

Life Unaltered

I just returned from a trip up to nowhere Wisconsin, a place without air-conditioning, radios, T.V.s and locks on the doors. (Actually I lied, there is now a T.V. in the lodge, but honestly, who would use it?)  Days are spent on boats, fishing, riding bikes, running, soaking up the sun on the beautiful beach and being chased by vicious mosquito and monstrous flies.  It is one of my favorite places on Earth, at least that I’ve been to so far.

It’s a nice way to take a step back, back to what I experience growing up, no cell phones, no WiFi everywhere, no texting, no Facebook, nothing. absolutely nothing except outside and family.  I did take advantage of their newly acquired WiFi for one afternoon during a small rain storm.  I walked with my computer up to the lodge and took some time to get work done for a Sexual Assault Seminar I’m planning and to do some work for WAR Chest Boutique.  That’s how I justified entering the modern world for a few hours, because I was doing something positive!

I think we have to take a step back sometimes, detach ourselves from the phones and computers that are now permanently welded to our hands, even during sleep.  We spend so much time attempting to document all of our experiences via social media we often forget to actually embrace and enjoy the event itself.  Enjoy the hours on the boat, freeze that embrace by a loved one, lay in the sunshine and resist the urge to take pictures of your legs….don’t let the world fly by.

While this message is so often told to us, you’ll have to read it again!  Take a day, and drive to no reception.  Just take an adventure, an adventure to a new place, an adventure with a loved one and an adventure of life without technology.  We all got along fine without it before so try it again.  Get in touch with yourself and the world around you, experience it without the influence of anything at all.  If you can’t enjoy the world around with without being affected by something.  Whether it’ss technology or anything else, that is so heartbreaking.  It’s heartbreaking because the world is amazing, why not enjoy it as it is and enjoy people as they are?

I’ll step down from my soap box now.  The vacation itself was amazing, I loved every minute of it! It was so incredibly relaxing and the food there, oh my goodness the food…..it’s so amazing!  I could live off their pancakes. . . and really anything else they served!  On the way home we stopped at House on the Rock, which is just incredible.  The tour itself took 4 hours. . .and we walked quickly!! There is just so much to see.  I’ve been there 2 or 3 times before, but it is just as bizarrely enthralling each time you go!

We finally arrived home last Sunday.  I did some clean up, helped start the laundry and then went out again.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When I got to his place, he greeted me with this beautiful red rose and an amazing kiss (but let’s be honest, what kiss isn’t amazing from him?).

Happiness seems more and more present in my life.  First of all, I have found a new respect for myself and that’s where everything starts, your love for yourself is the most powerful love you will ever experience.  Also, at this point in my life, I’m going for what I want.  I love my volunteering so much and my family and friends are so incredibly supportive its ridiculous! lol They would do absolutely anything to help me.  Not only that, I’m happy I have a partner in my life who I can start sharing these things with, to an extent.  Maybe eventually, I can bring him in on more things I do.  I cannot wait for future adventures as well!!  I feel completely alive and this summer is going to be the summer of my dreams.

♥ Meggie

Going For It

As of late, I’ve been contemplating a second job, just to make a bit more money.  I already make over minimum wage, but with student loans and the fact I’m finished with college and still living at home looming over my head, some extra income would be nice.

Yesterday, one of the places I do some volunteer work for, WAR Chest Boutique, posted on Facebook there as a part time job offering.  I didn’t think about it, I didn’t ask anyone’s opinion, I simply updated my resume and sent it in!  The part time hours would work with my current work schedule and what better place to find a second job than a place I love being doing the work I love to do?

In my life, I’m very impulsive about certain things, I’ll act without thinking a lot of the time.  However, typically with jobs or finances or anything significant to my future, I think them through, ask people’s opinion, never making a quick decision.

Yesterday I just acted and it felt great!  It’s an empowering feeling to just go for something you want and try.  What’s the worst that can happen??  I don’t get the job and nothing changes in my life and I keep volunteering.  The best that could happen would be I get the job, which would be incredible!

Whatever happens I know I didn’t miss an opportunity and I tried.  I went for something and that is an accomplishment in itself.  Getting past those feelings of worry and self doubt.  It’s time I told myself I can do this!  I am so anxious/nervous/excited right now I can barely sit still.  I can’t wait to hear if I got the position! 🙂

I encourage everyone reading this today, try something out of your box.  Go after a dream, do something that will make you feel good even if you’re a bit nervous thinking about it.  Push yourself.  So many times we just go through life on autopilot, just doing our routine as the world flies by.  Take advantage of every opportunity that comes to you, it was put there for a reason.

Send any positive thoughts my way!  Hopefully by June, I’ll have a second job!

♥ Meggie

Saturday’s Inspiration

On Saturday I went to the Civilian First Responder Conference hosted by Women at Risk International. The entire conferences was about 1 of the 14 risk issues women face around the world that WAR works with.  That issue is human trafficking. They discussed what trafficking is, how to identify it and what you can do about it.  Now, I’ve heard all these stories and Becky the founder does not hold back.  She includes all the graphic details because that is what trafficking is.

The hardest part was hearing the story of Rhoda Kershaw.  She is a survivor who was trafficked by the Japanese Mafia.  She is a singer & has been gifted with a beautiful voice. Her story is on her website.  It was so hard listening to her even though I”ve heard this story a million times at the store.  She began to tear up while speaking and it honestly broke my heart.  I just wanted to run up on stage and wrap my arms around her.

What I love about WAR is the fact that they are a Christian based group, but Becky is so open and makes sure that they help anyone who needs it no matter race, religion, or sexual orientation.  Even during her speech she was talking about how the women are judged or thought of as less therefore the poor treatment of women is very accepted in many countries, so people just turn a blind eye.  Then she opened it up to the crowd, asking for another group who is mistreated and people turn a blind eye to crimes that affect them.  People said children & elderly, which she agreed to, but the she yelled homosexuals!   She said this is a group that is beaten, abused, violated and people turn a blind eye!  She told the crowd it doesn’t matter your opinion of their lifestyle, NO ONE deserves to be treated like that because we are all God’s creatures and deserved to be loved and respected.  Statements like this are why, even as a non-Christian, I support WAR because they act like how Christians should.  Instead of being judgmental or cruel, they  say it doesn’t matter!  We will love you, we will help you and we will take care of you if you need it no matter what.  She even made it clear that they don’t “beat the survivors over the head with the Bible”, that they have religious services, but none are forced, anyone who needs help is more than welcome to stay at the safe houses and will not be judged.

She then talked about sex, which shocked me!  I rarely hear such a devoted Christian speak so freely and openly about sex.  I know it is possible, my parents have always been very open about sex because they want my sister and I to be able to come to them about anything & never ever feel uncomfortable.  She told the group, don’t treat sex as something bad.  She said, sex is wonderful, sex is beautiful, God created sex!  Teach your children sexuality is not a bad thing, that it is a beautiful thing and that there are bad people in this world who make it something dirty and unclean and evil.  Be open with your children so they feel comfortable to come to you and talk to you.  Your home should be a safe place where your kids can come talk to you about anything and everything, be involved in their life, know their friends, their friend’s parents.  Being an involved parents is one of the greatest preventative tactics to keep your children from being trafficked.

95 people (including me) showed up, men and women, even some high school students.  I felt this wave of inspiration, hope, amazement.  I love seeing others get involved and fight for something.  It makes me feel so much less alone, like my single action WILL help because I know for sure that there are 94 other people out there doing the same thing!  So I’m not a single voice anymore.  Hearing Rhoda speak ignites a fire within anyone, her tears like gasoline, fueling this burning passion I have to keep women (and men) like her safe, to keep my family safe and to keep me safe.

For any information on Human Trafficking or Sexual/Physical abuse, you can always ask me questions.  I have resources for those just becoming interested, to explain how you can help and more.  You could always go to Women at Risk’s website which is linked above.

♥ Meggie

One Crazy Ride

My life has turned into a hyper-driver, roller coaster of busy activities!  Remember that group I have mentioned in previous blogs Love Letters to Yourself, well I have turned into a volunteer Marketing & PR director, and I absolutely love it!  I work on everything from event planning, I run most of the social media accounts (you can follow us on Twitter and Pinterest), I work with communicating with groups to look for potential partners, promotion, advertising, you name it I do it.

It is rough sometimes, I already have a full-time job and I still volunteer with Feral Fixers and WAR Chest Boutique.  I am very tired, but I am just having so much fun!  I’ve been up late making origami butterflies and heart invitations, I am on social media sites trying to get a larger following, I just work, work, work.

Why do I work this much?  First of all, anything I do with Love Letters is done because that is what I love to do.  I love volunteering and Jillie’s organization can be applied to so many causes I’m so passionate about, from abused women to just the every day girl who doesn’t realize the amazing person she is.

Second of all, Jillie is just incredible!  She is so wonderful to work with, we brain storm, she listens to my ideas and anything I suggest or if I need help or a break she is always there.  Between my office job and this one, I have found the 2 greatest employers in the world!

For everyone reading this, if you live in the Chicago area, please come join us or spread the word about our celebration of International Day of the Girl on October 11th at the Dupage River Park from 3:30-7:30.

I never expected to be working with a group like this.  I am on one crazy ride in life and am loving every single twist and turn of the road that I’m on.

♥ Meggie

 

Childhood

When I was a kid, I didn’t have much responsibility.  I had to get my school work done any maybe help with some chores, only if I was asked.  Most of it was spent playing around or doing fun things with my family.  I’d spend days just dreaming of my future.

Thinking back on it, I had a very small view of the world and just like any little kids does, I had some misconceptions.  For example, I wanted to be an exotic dancer after seeing Independence Day.  My parents never let me see the very first scene when she is actually dancing in the strip club, so when she told the President’s wife she was an exotic dancer, I assumed that was someone who performs dances from exotic countries.  I had no idea what it really was!

I also had a great-uncle who did quite a bit of time in Joliet Prison.  He was not a good man at all.  One year on our way to the drag races, we drove by the prison and Mom said as a joke, that’s where our uncle used to live when he was alive.  Being as young as I was, I assumed he lived in a mansion with a huge yard and towers.  So for a while, until I found out what that actually was, I aspired to grow up like my great-uncle.  I’m glad THAT never happened!

So looking back at my childhood there is a lot to laugh about.  I can laugh at fun memories with my family, vacations, holidays, school activities, I can laugh at my silly misconceptions about the world.  Of course we fought and we had our spats.  I started going through personal struggles in Middle School, which stopped in High School yet resurfaced in College, but I survived.  I no longer do any of the harmful things I used to.  I’ve had a great life, a safe life and a loving life.

But not everyone is lucky.  There are young men and women who live a life like Nydia, in the city, in areas plagued with violence.  The soundtrack to their lives is fill with sirens and gunshots.  She was able to stay away from that lifestyle though and stay focused on the positive in her life, however not everyone can do that.  I don’t even have room to list all of the children and young adults killed this year alone in Chicago, and this happens all over the country.

Then there are all of these articles about sex trafficking.  105 children have been saved in Operation Cross Country and over 150 pimps were arrested.  In another operation designed to target sexual predators, 61 children were rescued and of these “22 were 9 years old or younger, and four were under the age of 3” and 244 arrests were made. Then you read articles that talk about trafficking in the suburbs where the article starts off by talking about a 7-year-old girl who was trafficked by her grandfather, he was her pimp.

Compared to all of that, my childhood was so simple.  Until you start reading and educating yourself about problems in the world, whether it is cancer or poverty or disease or human trafficking, you really don’t know the full extent of it.  Find your cause and do something.  Being involved doesn’t mean hours and hours of your day spent on a cause, you can just collect the change from your couch and donate it or when you clean your closet off, drop your clothing somewhere instead of throwing it away.  As always, if you ever are interested in anything I do, you can always comment with questions, I’m also on Twitter (however I am still getting used to it!) @Meggiemae67.

Future events:

Love Letters to Yourself mural of self-love – Love Letters is a group designed to empower women and help them find self-love.  This will be in downtown Naperville and we’ll be out there Saturday September 7th asking people to write 1 thing they love about themselves on our mural!  Jillie, the founder, is also collecting love letters to put in her book that will be published, so feel free to send those in!  Also, if you want to send in a photo with a sign that says 1 thing you love about yourself, send it to my Twitter @Meggiemae67 or loveletterstoyourself@gmail.com

Traffick Free 5k – That is also September 7th in the morning.  Check out the link!

WAR Chest Boutique Naperville self-defense class – Again on September 7th, I won’t be at that one, but it still looks amazing!!

Bra Drive for Free the Girls – Ladies, you know you have to get rid of old bras that don’t quite fit anymore, but they are in such great condition you don’t want to throw them away, donate them to Free the Girls!  I’ll be collecting to bring them to Jeans and a Cute Top Shop, but you don’t have to be here to participate!  If you check out their website, there are drop-off locations everywhere including Canada and a mailing address!

Just think about ways you can get involved and one very important way is spreading the word about these cases and what is going on in the world. Of course I would LOVE if you could spread the word about some of these events, but whatever your cause is, always get involved!

♥ Meggie