“I’m Going to Make This Place Your Home”

There are moments in our lives that we know are going to be pivotal, but at the time seem minute. One of these moments for me occurred in June 2013, as my mom and I were making our way to University Heights for freshman orientation. Driving down Shaker, admiring how beautiful the area was, and trying to find a radio station in this unfamiliar territory, the song, “Home” by Phillip Phillips suddenly filled our car. At first I mumbled along under my breath, but when I really started to listen to the lyrics I was shocked at the relevancy of them.

“settle down, it’ll all be clear/ don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear / the trouble it might drag you down / if you get lost you can always be found / just know you’re not alone, cause I’m going to make this place your home.”

As we approached the front gates and the pit of nervousness in my stomach tripled in size, I thought about these words and the adventure I was about to embark on. Was this the right choice? Did I really belong here? Could I really be able to call this place my home?

Four years later and those lyrics still ring true in my head, now as a confirmation that God knew exactly what He was doing. One of the most beautiful aspects of John Carroll, prettier than a fresh, snow covered quad or a magnificent sunset sinking low behind St. Ignatius, are the people. The community that is woven within these shrub-lined walls is what makes Carroll a truly unique place. Think back over your time here. My hope for each and every one of you is that, in some way, you have found a home while at Carroll. Perhaps it was a physical space, whether it be a house on Warrensville or the basement of Campion; a place where you felt free to be yourself and live in community with others who accepted and celebrated the uniqueness of you.

Maybe your home was a fraternity or sorority; where you found a group of brothers and sisters united in letters; a community incomprehensible from the outside looking in and indescribable from the inside looking out.
Or, your home might be a club or an organization; the meetings you looked forward to every week and the work that never seemed like work because it brought you so much joy.

For some of you, your home was on the field or the court. You celebrated long awaited victories against Mount with your band of brothers and held each other up in times of crushing defeat. You wore your pride for our school on your chest, your helmet, your cleats, and carried the love of your home through every grueling practice, lifting session, and study tables.

Others found home through service. You might have made a home in Nicaragua, Honduras, Immokalee, Jamaica, Louisville, or Ecuador. Your home could be with those who lack one; the friendships you made on Friday nights spent visiting the homeless, always ending at St. Malachi’s. Perhaps your home is at the Juvenile Detention Center; on the court with the young men and women, talking, laughing, sharing life lessons and learning from one another.

Your home may be your major; your passion ignited through years of classes and homework. Whether it be the chemistry lab, the O’Malley atrium, or that hidden computer lab on the third floor of Boler than only business students seem to know about, your home is in the knowledge that you have obtained an education that will take your farther in life than you ever imagined.

Regardless of the home you have made here at Carroll, one thing remains true. You are not the individual you were when you first arrived. You have been transformed, enriched, gently pushed to your full potential. You are a man or woman for and with others. The beauty of a Jesuit education is that it is an education of the whole person; body, mind, and spirit. It is an education grounded in the ideal that we are of love, from love, and for love. A Jesuit education teaches so much more than just lessons in the classroom. It is the cura personalis; the recognition of the unique gifts and abilities each individual carries within them and the celebration of the differences that bring us together. A John Carroll education is more than just tests and quizzes. It is learning through service; it is a faith that does justice; it is a commitment to the betterment of society through the talents given to us by God. As you have developed your home at John Carroll, you have developed into the person you were called to be.

The success of any home lies in its foundation. Without a strong one, a home would crumble under pressure. The foundation laid at John Carroll is what has brought us here today. Beginning with St. Ignatius himself, each layer has been impacted by the members of the John Carroll community. Commencement is a time to thank and honor those who took part in building our foundation – our parents, professors, coaches, mentors, and friends. It is also a time to recognize the important distinction that, as members of the John Carroll community, the impact we have on the world around us adds to the foundation for future Blue Streaks.

Today, however, we have to leave these homes. We have said our goodbyes. We have packed up our rooms and turned in our keys. We have taken the time to walk around the quad just once more, to sit in St. Francis a little longer, and to soak in those last few rays of sun from our favorite Adirondack chair. John Carroll has given us all it could offer; lifelong lessons, the best of friends, a deeper understanding of our place in the world and the power to make positive change where ever we go.

When we leave John Carroll today, we are not actually leaving home. I’m sure most of you have heard the phrase “home is where the heart is.” A piece of our hearts will always be at Carroll, with our homes. We will proudly declare, “Go Streaks!” when we spy someone with JCU apparel on, and our hearts will skip a beat as our Reunion Weekend approaches. When you arrived at John Carroll for the first time, whether it was through the Belvoir Lot or the front gates, you entered into a community that will hold onto you forever, just as you hold onto the memories made here and the lessons learned. The foundation of your home will always be at John Carroll University and no matter where you end up in life or the person you become, we will always be Forever Carroll.

Congratulations Class of 2017 – let us go forth and set the world on fire.

Quest for the Curls: Part 2

I am in a rut. About a month and a half into my natural curl journey and I am experiencing the same feelings of frustration and distaste for my hair that I felt in the first two weeks. That old familiar feeling of being embarrassed about the frizziness of my mane is creeping back and I cannot help but stare longingly at  the smooth, sleek strands of my classmates as I sit in the classroom.

I suffered a slight setback during the middle of the month. I went home for Spring Break and had a few interviews to attend. Dressing up for an important interview means doing my hair as well and sadly, there were more days than not where my hair was scorched with some sort of hot tool. It was as if I was addict given another hit; by the end of the week I was craving that smooth, frizz-free feeling. I knew that I needed to get back to my experiment, but I did so begrudgingly. My hair felt frizzy, untamable, and out of control. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get back those loose curls I had obtained before the break began.

So, I decided to try something new. I took two hours to sit down and do my homework. I learned that my “curl type” is 2C, according to Naturally Curly. Com and I discovered the types of products worked best for my curls. I made my list, gave myself a budget, and set out on my experiment.

Unfortunately, the CVS closest to me does not have the most expansive hair care aisle, and I found myself very limited in my options. I decided to go with the L’Oreal Evercurl system; a shampoo, conditioner, and curl styling cream, all sulfate-free and deep hydrating.

I was super excited to wash my hair that night (we all know that feeling; just washing our hair is going to guarantee we feel better about ourselves) and told my friends I better have “goddess curls” after the money I spent on the products. I followed the steps exactly, including the styling cream, and went to sleep. In the morning, my hair was still slightly damp and definitely not as “goddess” like as I had hoped it would be. I chalked it up to my hair needing a few days to get used to the new products and vowed to continue using them.

The next day, I decided to shower in the morning, using all the products, and dry my hair with a diffuser. My hair definitely did not lack volume, although the curls were more wavy and less curly than I would have liked. I noticed that my ends seemed “crunchy” and weighed down by the styling cream. I got lots of comments on the length of my hair and the waves within it. I really like the shampoo and styling cream and felt my hair was not as “dried out” as it had seemed with the other products I was using. However, I was still disappointed in the lack of curliness to my hair and the weight my ends seemed to hold.

For the weekend, I decided I was going to wash my hair in the morning and let it air dry, without using the styling cream. I didn’t want to add any unnecessary product to my hair that would slow down the drying process and I didn’t want to make it heavier than it already was (although my hair is not thick, it is very long, which adds some weight). I was going to my boyfriend’s sister’s play that evening and, while seeing his family was usually an event I would make sure my hair was done up for, I decided they were going to have to embrace the natural WHATEVER my hair was to be that day. I showered, watched way too many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, painted my nails, and did my makeup while my hair air dried. It was nice to just let it do its own thing and not have to worry about fitting in time to attack it with product and heat tools.

One of the issues I often have with my hair is the front pieces. They are slightly layered, falling shorter than the rest of my hair, and usually just dry in a limp, not really curly or wavy just kind of hanging there, type of way. My mom has been telling me for years to twist and clip up that part of my hair while I’m doing my makeup to “give it some lift” and I finally decided to listen to her. Not only was it handy to have the front of my hair out of the way while I was doing my makeup, but it actually did provide a little more lift and structure to my usually limp section. I ended up throwing some styling cream into my hair right before walking out the door, just as a way to cut down on the frizz. I made sure to avoid the ends and only apply the cream to the middle of my hair and sparsely on the roots. My hair still wasn’t the curly spirally look I was hoping to achieve, but it definitely held a more defined shape than it had in the past.

I know that I am going to have to use heat on my hair in the upcoming week, as I have some business professional events to attend. My hope is that, as I continue to use the L’Oreal EverCurl system, my hair will begin to adjust to its “natural” shape. If not, I am going to have to find a different hair care system and see if it works better. The quest for the curls continues!

Lenten Lessons: Test More, Rest More, Accept More

Happy Lent! I know that might seem like a contradictory phrase, but I truly do look forward to the Lenten season every year. I feel it is a time to look deeply into our current lives, our relationships with God, and the sins we are committing. Recently, Christian and I were talking about the Lenten season. I asked him what he was giving up and he proceeded to tell me that he struggles with this time in the liturgical year. He feels that, if you want to give something up or work on your relationship with God, you should do it, regardless if it is Lent or not. I urged him to consider maybe committing to something rather than just “giving something up.” Yes, Lent is a time for us to reflect on our transgressions and consider the gravity of the decision Jesus made to give up his life in order to help us get to Heaven, However, the season could also be viewed as a time of commitment. Jesus COMMITTED to bringing us eternal life through his death. Therefore, committing to an act that will bring you closer to God in some way is just as powerful as giving something up.

This year, I am committing to three specific ideas; test more, rest more, and accept more. Test more refers to my diabetes care. I am not the best at remembering to check my blood sugar, and sometimes will go whole days only testing once or twice (don’t tell my endocrinologist. Or my mom.) I have trouble prioritizing my diabetes care because I view it as a burden. This is detrimental to my health, as well as my relationship with God. I know that there is a reason God have me this cross to bear six years ago. And I know that I need to continue to take the best care of my body and my diabetes in order to live the life God has planned for me. Therefore, I am committing myself to testing more regularly and taking an overall better interest in my diabetes.

Rest more is my second Lenten mission. I don’t necessarily mean take more naps, although that is never a bad idea! Rest more, to me, means taking more time to intentionally pause. Whether that is eating a meal in silence and taking the time to reflect (rather than scrolling through social media while I absentmindedly chow on my food like I usually do) or taking the time to put down the screens and just breathe at the end of the night, the purpose is to be purposefully still. I am usually going a million miles a minute and sometimes I just get burnt out. I need to make sure I am taking the time to rest and recharge and check in with myself every day. This is why I am committing to resting more this Lenten season.

Finally, my third mission is to accept more. I know  that I myself am guilty of judging someone before I know their full story. In today’s world, with social media allowing people to project different versions of themselves, it is easy to make snap judgments. I hate when I am the one that is judged and, knowing that I do that to others makes me feel terrible. Life is hard enough without us out there judging each other for the way we choose to live it. therefore, I am committing to accepting more and judging less.

I’ll be posting updates periodically on my Lenten mission and what I have experienced and learned from it. Happy Lent!

Quest for the Curls: Part 1

One of the many wise things my Grandma used to say to me was “we always envy the hair we don’t have.” She would say this after every comment I made comparing my fine strands to my cousin’s thick, gorgeous locks. She would mutter it with a small shake of her head after every time that same cousin dyed her hair a different color, masking the gorgeous strawberry blonde shade she had been blessed with. And she would say it whenever my mom got a new haircut, trying a look that was different than what she was accustomed to without sacrificing precious time meant for styling that could be spent doing much more important things.

My gram was right; I did envy the hair I didn’t have. From ages eight to 11, I slept in rag curlers every night, trying to shape my hair into the bouncy, luscious curls that I dreamed of. Beginning in middle school, I was introduced to the world of hot styling tools. GAME. OVER. I  was sold. I flat-ironed, begging my mom to spend hours helping me smooth and straighten the crimpy frizzy mane on my head. My mom bought me a set of hot rollers, which I would throw in when I woke up in the morning, and take out after I had eaten breakfast, washed up, and gotten everything but my uniform shirt on. Eventually, I acquired a curling iron and soon began to spend time curling my hair.

By the time I was a senior in college, I had it down to a science. If I woke up with dry hair (whether it was blown dry the night before or simply dry from sleeping), I could have my long hair curled in 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the amount of frizz I was working with. It was my morning habit. Wake up, plug in curling iron. Wash face and brush teeth while iron heated up. Divide hair into two sections. Curl bottom section. Put on makeup. Curl top section. Get dressed. Out the door.

The summer was always the worst when it came to my hair. We don’t have central AC in my house and, even if we did, drying my hair would result in me being so sweaty I would need another shower. When I was in high school and even my first few summers of college, it was okay to not do anything to my hair. I worked at summer camps, played tennis, and generally a bun or a braid and, if it was a super humid day, a baseball cap, were all I needed for an acceptable ‘do. This past summer, however, I was working full time in the largest office building in my city. The program I was  a part of was a step in to one of the largest companies in the state and it was understood that we needed to dress and act the part if we wanted to be back. I realized that this meant I was going to have to do my hair. Every. Single. Day.

I began seeking solutions to making my hair habits last longer. I learned how to blow out my hair to cut down on frizz. Dry shampoo became a staple and, one my worst days, I perfected the chignon as a way to mask my frizzy tresses. I would fry my hair Monday through Friday and then usually let it go as a “breather” on Saturdays and Sundays. It wasn’t ideal and I hated thinking about the damage I was doing, but I also didn’t think I had a choice.

It wasn’t until months later, in February, when I was perusing a Cosmo snapchat story that I came across an article titled “What You Would Never Know From Looking at My Full Head of Curls.” I was hooked. I read along as the author described the time and dedication it took to get her full head of luscious bouncy curls back after years of heat damage. After reading the article, I began to think. I thought about how, just like the author, I had been using heat on my head almost every single day since age 11. I thought about how, while I had never had the types of curls she did when she was little, I did have a lot of “body” to my hair, as my mom like to say and how I didn’t really know what my natural curls looked like anymore. What if I gave up the heat, for the most part? What would happen to my hair? Could I get curls similar to hers, or at least ones that looked more manageable?

I knew I would be entering the work world after graduation in May, and frying my hair every single day for the rest of my life sounded miserable. I needed to begin to experiment with my natural hair now, while I still have time and I am still at place where it is acceptable to wear the same outfit two days in a row because your Monday Wednesday Friday classmates don’t have to see you on Tuesday and Thursday.

So, I am embarking on a natural hair journey. This does not mean I am giving up my hot tools forever. Rather, I am going to choose to experiment with my natural hair more and uncover the style that lives within it. Using heat on my hair will be saved for “special occasions” like job interviews, fancy date nights, and holidays (because if I rocked my natural hair to Easter mass, I think I might be disowned). I am super nervous to see how this is going to go, but also very excited. I feel like I am going to discover a whole new part of me. I’ll post periodic updates and product reviews on here as I go. Here we go; on the quest to find my natural curls!

My Heart is Broken

My heart is broken and I don’t know how to fix it. It breaks for the refugees; for the people that are crying out for help, for love, for a safe place to lay their head and the chance to take a deep breath. It breaks for the mothers, who look at their babies, surrounded by so much hatred and terror, the babies who have fallen asleep night after night to the lullaby of gunfire, and wonder what they can possibly do for their children. It breaks for the fathers, who know that, for once, they cannot protect their families, as they vowed do to at all costs. My heart breaks for the children, for the ones who have grown accustomed to the violence, to the hatred, to the pain. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for the country I once felt so proud to call my own. It tears deeper and deeper with every headline, every breaking news alert, every executive order signed. My heart breaks as I realize that this is our fault; maybe not indirectly, but collectively, this is our doing. It breaks when I realize there are people who believe these actions are necessary and beneficial. It breaks for the people who are so blinded by their own ignorance that they fail to see the true destruction that has occurred. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for the people who seem to have so quickly forgotten how each and every one of us arrived in this land. It breaks for the ones who forget, at one time, a person carrying their blood was a refugee. It breaks that it is so easily forgotten how our ancestors fled religious persecution, famine, disease, genocide, and found solace in this land. It breaks at the thought that the “land of milk and honey” is now the land of racism and hatred. My heart breaks for those who believe “America is for Americans” while forgetting what being an American is truly about. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for the angels I met during my week in Immokalee, Florida. It breaks for the little ones who were so acutely aware of what this administration could do to them. It breaks for 8 year old Desani, who explained to me with such a matter of fact tone that, one day, her parents and brother could be taken from her, leaving her orphaned in the country they considered their safe haven. My heart breaks when I think of the mothers and fathers, their clothes stained by the pesticides, picking up their children after a long day of back-breaking work, all in the hopes of a bright future for the little ones. My heart breaks for those who have worked so hard, given up so much, and are still denied. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for the children of our country. For the ones who are taught hatred and discrimination. For the ones whose minds are being formed by the images they see on TV and hear their parents discuss. My heart breaks for the ones being taught bullying is okay when the person is of a certain skin color, certain religion, or certain ethnic background. My heart breaks at the thought of the world these children are growing up in. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for the native people. It breaks for the ones who have had so much taken from them; the ones who once called all of this land their own. It breaks at the thought of sacred ground being destroyed, of lives being upturned, of families no longer having claim to a land that has been theirs long before it was ours. My heart breaks for Standing Rock. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for my friends of color. For the ones who live in fear of the blue and red lights. It breaks for the people who keep “I can’t breathe.” at the forefront of their minds. It breaks for the people who feel unsafe, especially when approached by those who take the oath of protection. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for  the ones who wear the uniforms. It breaks for the ones who risked their lives to protect the ones they loved. It breaks for the ones who are missing holidays, missing brothers and sisters, and missing limbs, because they believed in the values of our nation. It breaks at the thought of how disappointed some of them must feel, how frustrated they must be. It breaks at the idea that our nation and its current ways have let down those who laid it all down for us. My heart breaks for the brothers in blue, the men in green, and all those serving us. My heart is broken.

My heart breaks for our future. It breaks for the world in which we live. It breaks for the ones who will come after us and the mess we have created for them. It breaks for those who will study the past and say “how did they let it get this bad? How did this come to be?” My heart breaks at the thought of leaving this world in such disrepair with no real reason other than, “we forgot how to love.” My heart is broken.

My heart is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.

The Pricks

I usually notice my fingertips first. Sometimes, it’s while I’m doing my makeup, with my hands only inches away from my eyeballs. Other times, I’ll be looking at my nails, trying to mentally calculate whether I have enough in my checking account to splurge on a manicure this month. I’ll be going along, doing my thing, and suddenly my eye is drawn to them. Like little drops of ink, or tiny freckles, they line my fingertips. When I finish washing the dishes and my hands are wet and prune-y, the marks are even more prominent. Clearly visible are the holes in my skin; holes made from pricks felt six, eight, sometimes ten times a day, depending on the numbers blinking on the screen.

If it’s not my fingertips, it’s my waist. When I am putting on my jeans in the morning, or changing into my pajamas at night, I’ll see them. The little red dots trace along my waistline, usually only millimeters away from one another. Sometimes they itch, other times they bleed, occasionally, they heal with no issue. They never fade though, nor will they, as long as I continue to pierce my skin and insert the patches.

Sometimes, I admire them. They serve as a tribute to how hard I have worked to manage this disease. They represent the countless times I took a few precious seconds to care for myself. They remind me of pain, of burning, stinging, of blood that gushes too fast, or blood that trickles too slow, no matter how hard the finger is squeezed. They represent the strength I have endured. They showcase the courage it has taken. They remind me of every time unwanted attention was sent my way, of those who squirm and squeal at the sight of the red droplet the ink dots produce, of the questions, the never-ending questions that I constantly field. The inquiries as to why I am wearing a beeper in 2016, what is making the odd whirling noise as the life-sustaining drug is pumped into my system in mere seconds, how I can live a life like this (that one is easy; I couldn’t. I physically wouldn’t be alive). The dots along my fingertips tell stories, like a scar or a cast on one’s limb. They tell of the time an unfortunate drop in blood sugar occurred during a high school Spanish final. They speak of the shakiness. The needing to leave class, the almost passing out in the hallway, the feeling of one thousand juice boxes still not being enough. They tell tales of the highs; the tests missed due to blood-filled sites and spiking sugars, the angry words snapped in a moment of fogginess and sugar induced frustration. The inkless dots remind me of nights spent up, too afraid to fall into slumber where the coma lurks. They remind me of blinking my eyes groggily in the middle of the night, to find my mother, half asleep and head a mess of wild curls, piercing my skin and waiting for the comfort of a good number to send us both back to a peaceful hibernation.

They are always there though, one more constant reminder of the battle I fight and the failed organ I carry within my body. I dread the day I have to explain them to my children. I pray that it will not be something they are familiar with. My greatest fear is that they too are one day plagued with the marks. I hope that someday, they fade, not completely though. I yearn for the day they are faint enough to not be noticed, yet I know they exist, as a gentle indication of the battle I won.

To Love a Diabetic

“C’mon babe, you need to test. Here, give me your finger. Oh, you’re low. Hang on let me get you a juice.” They say there are a million ways to say “I love you.” “Grab an umbrella.” “Here I made you some tea.” “You look exhausted, did you sleep well last night?” To me, “I love you” comes through in phrases like “you need to test your blood sugar.” “Did you take insulin for that yet?” “Want me to help you do your nighttime shot?” What may sound like mundane, or even nagging, questions to some are mutters of love and affection to me. To love a diabetic is to embrace their diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with my type 1 diabetes late for a kid – at age 16 – and therefore most of people in my life knew me both before and after my diagnosis. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I came to the upsetting and reality striking conclusion that everyone I met from here on out would only know me as a diabetic, not as the person I was before the shots and finger pricks.

When I first met my boyfriend, I was at a rough point in my diabetes care – trying to handle the pressures of school with the fluctuations of blood sugars and not allow one to get in the way of the other. It was like balancing on a high wire with your eyes shut; hard as hell and scary as can be. At first, I played off my diabetes like it was nothing. I concealed my pump, I tested my sugar in private, I dosed when no one was looking. It was that I didn’t want anyone to see me do it, it was more that I didn’t want that to be the only thing they saw about me. All that changed when I met Christian, however.

We had been dating maybe a week, in the very beginning when our relationship was just starting to blossom. After a long night of hanging out and working on homework together, I packed up my stuff to head back to my dorm room. As I was getting ready to leave, I felt it. The light-headed feeling. The confusing sensation that my hands were not attached to my arms and my legs were not attached to the rest of me. The cold sweats. The shaking hands. Christian looked at me, with his beautiful blue eyes full of concern, and said, “hey, are you okay?” I nervously laughed and said, “oh yeah it’s just my blood sugar; I think it’s low and I don’t have a juice on me.” He immediately grabbed my hand, slung my backpack over his shoulder, and said, “well c’mon. I’ll walk you back to your room and we’ll get it sorted out.” When we arrived in my single, I realized I was in fact VERY low (around 40) and one juice wasn’t going to cut it. I set my alarm for 15 minutes, guzzled a juice box, and told him I would be fine. “No. I’m staying until you’re safe enough to go to sleep.” He curled up in my armchair and assured me he would wake me when the timer went off. This continued until my blood sugar finally decided it was done with the games around 4am, at which point he unfurled himself from his position in the armchair, gave me a kiss on the forehead and left, assuring me that his ringer would be on and I was to call him if I needed anything.

Two years later and nothing has changed. He has taken on my diabetes with more strength and love than I could ever ask for. He truly wants to understand what is happening with my sugars, how we can fix them, and what he can do to support me. He knows the look I get when my sugar is high, and will gently prod me to test. He knows how to calculate my carbs and how much insulin I need to take. He keeps a stock of juice boxes in his room and can open one in three seconds, when my shaking hands are too weak. He stashes juice boxes in his car’s glove compartment and always has a bottle of water nearby in case of a thirst-inducing high. Most importantly, he is one of the only ones that truly knows my story. He knows the days when I’m miserable because of lack of sleep and high blood sugars. He knows how I fret about my A1C and obsess over whether or not to go back on the pump. He knows how to explain my diabetes, to friends, to his family, to random strangers that stare at me when I whip out a needle in the middle of a restaurant.

I know that he loves me. I know that my health is one of his biggest concerns and I know that he will do whatever it takes to make sure I am okay. I know that I can depend on him to help me in times of low blood sugars and highs. I know that, no matter what path I continue down in terms of my diabetes care, he will be there; holding my hand, with a juice box in his pocket.