MAW MAW

This week was one of the most difficult weeks that I’ve had to experience thus far. On October 1st, I flew home unexpectedly to spend time with my family as my Maw Maw’s battle with dementia was coming to a close. I knew that I needed to be home with her, and my Paw Paw. And I spent as much time as I could by their sides. I heard stories from her younger brother, my Uncle Al, some that I had never heard before.  (One story was about how Uncle Al felt left out by some of his classmates. He asked his older sister, my Maw Maw, to take him and the other classmates that were left out to a pizza place and out bowling. She agreed, and advocated for them when the servers paid them no attention.) And while I was there, I found a box of notes that she wrote, including a letter that she started to write to all of us, but never finished.

My Maw Maw had the most beautiful handwriting, which was beautiful to see again, and she had the most impeccable memory. She knew so much about the lives of her grandchildren, from our birthdays to our best friends. Within the past 10 years, Maw Maw began to forget small details about us, like our ages, and then soon grew to forget our names and eventually forget us. Watching her memory fade was difficult, but watching her personality fade was even harder.

Dementia is a terrible disease, characterized with memory loss and a decline in language, cognitive skills, and problem solving. But with these drastic changes, also comes the loss of jokes, kindness, laughter, and the creation of new memories. As the years progressed, I missed hearing Maw Maw’s laugh, the happiness she had every Christmas helping Paw Paw get ready to become Santa Claus for her grandchildren, the times I sat with her next to the fireplace to keep warm. I missed her voice of reason and I missed her always making sure I was with a Diet Coke in hand. Maw Maw was there, but she wasn’t. And I missed her.

Some of my most fond memories of Maw Maw are from my childhood. I was her first granddaughter, and she was my Maw Maw for almost 27 years. I remember her teaching me proper hygiene (she always carried wet-ones), I remember her telling my cousin, Monika, to eat all of her food. I remember how much she loved chocolate and she always got me my favorite kind of cheese danish for breakfast when I spent the night. I had my own stuffed animal named Pinky, toothbrush in a ziplock baggie with my name on it, and pajamas in a drawer. I remember fighting over a blanket that she made my cousin, Daniel, and being the lucky grandchild to have a sleepover in her and Paw Paw’s room when we went to Hilton Head (because my family had too many kids for a standard hotel room).

Maw Maw was fierce. She was gentle. She was loving. She was always an advocate for everyone around her. She never let the cousins fight, and never was shy about telling us when we were wrong. She taught us humility, and she taught us selflessness. She welcomed everyone with open arms. She loved Louis Vuitton, Notre Dame, Hilton Head Island, all things chocolate, and her friends and family.

On Friday, October 4th, my Maw Maw passed away. She passed peacefully in her home, surrounded by family, with her husband by her side. She was 80 years old. Today was her funeral, and we celebrated her life as a family. Her children and grandchildren were all in attendance, standing by her husband of over 50 years. In the days following her passing, I stood by my Paw Paw as he ensured that each grandchild had a place at her funeral Mass and finalized the details of everything else. Some said readings, some read petitions, and some brought gifts to the altar. Paw Paw asked me to sing ‘Hail Mary, Gentle Woman’ following Communion, and while it almost brought me to tears, I was honored to sing it for her, as I did in her final days.

This afternoon, we celebrated Maw Maw’s life by gathering at a place we frequented as a family – The Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. See, my family doesn’t really cook. As a family, we spent Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Easter at the hotel for probably almost 20 years. When Maw Maw began to fade further, we went to a place that could accommodate her better, but we still never cooked family meals at home. After all, Maw Maw always said, “Kitchens are for restaurants, not for houses.”

Among the notes that I found in that box, I found her list of prayers. She prayed for each of us by name, every single day. She prayed for people that she met in the elevator, people she saw from afar, neighbors down the street. And when she first became sick, she told us we were going to have to take over her prayers. So I made a copy of her prayers, and I will carry them with me every day.

A few weeks before she passed, I had some time home and I knew that I wanted to spend time with Maw Maw and Paw Paw. On Sunday, September 22nd, I watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs with Maw Maw’s hand in mind. We shared a few chips and a Diet Coke. On Sunday, September 29th, I had the chance to FaceTime my mom who was with her. I told Maw Maw about where I was and how I was, and though she didn’t say much back, she was watching my face on the screen. Maw Maw told me that I was “so smiley”. Hearing that made me tear up, happy that she could recognize a smile on my face. And when I said “I love you”, she said it back. I am so grateful for those moments with her, and the 26 years of memories before that. And I’ll forever be holding her hand, looking to her for guidance.

I am so thankful that I had my Maw Maw. And I’ll carry her in my heart every day. Mother to 5, grandmother to 14. She was incredible. I love you so much, Maw Maw. And I know you’re never far away. ♥️

Rest In Peace, Maw Maw.
Mary Claire Antoinette Pike
November 3, 1938 – October 4, 2019

XO – MC

HOMEWARD BOUND-ISH

In my previous post, I mentioned that my mom recommended I look into a company based out of St. Louis. And though I didn’t find a position that I qualified for right away, I did the next morning. After cancelling my plans that day, redesigning my resume, creating a cover letter, and submitting before the day was over, I had applied for my dream job.

There weren’t many details about the interview process within the application. So if I were to even receive an interview, I didn’t know when that would happen. Even though it was the weekend, I was so excited about this potential job, that I checked my email the next morning (Sunday). And the next day. And the next day. Which happened to be Tuesday.

And that Tuesday morning, I received an email from the company requesting to schedule an initial interview with me. I was that much closer to my dream. I wanted to schedule my interview on the very next day, but I knew that I would be too eager, and I needed time to do additional research about the position and prepare for the interview.

The first interview went well. I had some help from friends finding a quiet, noise-free location away from work to take the phone call. The interview was fairly standard, filled with situational questions based on my past experience. I am grateful that I took the extra time to research and prepare, because I was able to anticipate questions while answering them confidently. By the end of the interview, I didn’t know if I was moving forward, but my interviewer made me aware that I would know if I moved to the next round of interviews or not, by the middle of the month.

Just as I checked my email every day after I submitted my resume, I checked my email every day waiting to hear hopefully good news. It only took a week to get the next email. I was invited to a second, in-person interview. I scheduled the interview for a Monday after a weekend I would be in St. Louis, though the company did offer to fly me to the interview. (WHAT?!)

I worked hard to prepare for this interview – more than I had ever prepared for an interview. I researched the company on Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and I discovered 20+ potential interview questions, with suggested answers. I adjusted the answers to fit my experience, and gained confidence as I answered the practice questions.

The day of the interview came, and I arrived about 30 minutes early (to the parking lot). I walked in at the recommended 15 minutes prior to the interview, and signed in at the security desk. Soon enough, I was interviewing for the position. This interview went similarly, fairly standard questions as they applied to the events industry, with the implication that situational answers were needed. It began with two managers within the operations team, followed by a separate meeting with the vice president. The first portion went well, though I was nervous, I felt that there was a smooth ebb and flow to the interview. The second half with the VP, was the most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever had, and I walked away feeling… okay.

I felt just about all of the feels throughout this interview process. Nervous, excited, happy, anxious. When I saw the original job posting, I had a feeling that this was just “meant to be”. Each time I saw an email, I had the same feeling. I couldn’t shake that feeling. The day before I found the job posting, I discovered that I wanted to travel and that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis sooner rather than later. And here was this job, that required travel 2/3 of the year, moving back to St. Louis, and let me continue to work in events. It almost felt too perfect.

Just as I did after the first interview, and on the advice of a kind family member, I sent my thank you cards to those who interviewed me during the second round, and waited patiently. (And checked my email multiple times a day.) I waited for almost TWO WEEKS. But it was worth the wait.

I got the job.

That feeling was real. It was meant to be. I was moving home. (Though I will be traveling throughout the world 250+ days out of the year.) I have my dream job. It’s happening. I’m homeward bound-ish.

XO – MC

DISCOVERY

This past February, I was in the process of interviewing for a job that would completely change my career path in hospitality. I was asked to interview for the position, which was a huge honor considering the field it was in and my lack of experience in said field. However exciting it sounded, I wasn’t sold on the potential of this new position. After all, I have been living and breathing hospitality for several years now, and I thought I had found what I was meant to do.

The interview process was extensive and I am grateful it was for a few reasons. It taught me about what I want looking into my personal and career-driven future. I hadn’t been seriously asked what I want my future to look like from someone outside of my current organization. Those who did ask, usually asked rhetorical questions or questions that had generic answers. I knew that eventually I wanted to move back home (to St. Louis) and have a family of my own one day, with maybe a job that at times, would allow me to work from home. But there was no real timeline, and there was no clear path of a career (even if it was in hospitality) that I wanted to follow.

This interview process taught me to rely on friends and family, and who to rely on, ensuring that the friends and family that I surrounded myself with would lead me to success. Making life-changing decisions is scary idea, and without support from those who surround you, you are making those decisions alone. So surrounding yourself with those who have strength and faith in you, is key to successful change. I believe that Matthew Kelly said it best,

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.”

This interview made me think about how my friends and family would fit into my life as I tackle the new job. And as I talked to friends and family, I discovered those who challenged me to become the best version of myself, and those who didn’t. Those who encouraged me to become the best version of myself supported me, but they knew how to ask me the tough questions.

And while I was being interviewed with questions from the potential new employer (and my friends), I also learned to ask the right questions for myself. As I mentioned before, I considered what my future would like, but I also learned to ask about where and what hours I would be working. This helped me discover what I wanted from my work/life balance, and my comfort in my office space.

This interview was a truly positive experience. Two months into the process, I was offered the position. I asked the company for the weekend to consider the offer, because as silly as it sounds, I didn’t “feel it” when I received the offer. After work that day, I went to get food with a friend who helped me weigh the pros and cons scribbled in crayon on the back of a placemat. We eventually determined that the cons outweighed the pros, not necessarily about the job or the company, but the results from accepting the job and how it lined up with my goals. I learned that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis. I learned that I wanted to travel, much like my family has/will have the chance to with my dad being in Europe. And I learned that I wasn’t ready to give up on hospitality.

That night, I talked to my mom who told me to research a company based out of St. Louis. I did, and I didn’t find anything that I qualified for related to hospitality. I felt very discouraged, because I was ready to grow in my career elsewhere, preferably taking a step towards moving home. The next morning, I had a weird instinct to check again. So I looked at LinkedIn. And I found something that I qualified for, that would allow for travel, and that would keep me in events. I immediately cancelled my plans for the day, redesigned my entire resume, created a cover letter in the same design, and submitted it all before the day was over. I took a chance on something that gave me “that feeling”, even after I just simply read the job description.

On Monday, I declined the offer to the other job. It was hard, but I thanked the company for their time and for teaching me a lot about myself. I had to follow “that feeling”. Ultimately, this interview taught me that though I wasn’t meant for a career in law, I was meant to stay in hospitality. I wouldn’t say I doubted my place in hospitality throughout this process, since hospitality is present in almost any industry, but I was unsure how it would fit in with my personal goals.

My biggest piece of advice after this experience is to take the interview. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought was possible, even if you don’t take the job.

XO – MC

FAYETTEVILLE FRIENDS IN THE FALL

Fayetteville, Arkansas is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the Ozark mountains. It is a tourist destination, home to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Live” (No. 3 in 2016, No. 5 in 2017, No. 5 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019). It’s also a place where I have met some of my best friends.

This fall, I didn’t just meet new friends, I gained a Fayetteville family, and I am so grateful. I experienced some of the most memorable fall experiences that happen in Northwest Arkansas, with friends I will treasure for the rest of my life. We ate funnel cake at the annual Washington County Fair, saw Luke Bryan at the Walmart Ampitheater, and spent time at Beaver Lake floating the day away. We ate ice cream smushed inside donuts at a place called Smudgies, went to a family-owned pumpkin patch and jumped on trampolines in onesies. We became superheroes on Halloween, hosted our own “friendsgiving”, and saw the Christmas lights turn on in the Fayetteville tradition of Lights of the Ozarks.

I’m not from Fayetteville originally, and it’s never really felt like my home because my family isn’t here. I think that home will always be St. Louis. But it feels a little less “not home” when I can create memories, celebrate holidays, listen to music, and see Christmas lights, with friends in a town that celebrate its own traditions. Fayetteville is also a town that celebrates its locals. It’s made such an impact on my past eight years, and I would love to share the traditions, local hot-spots, and my own favorites with you in the post dedicated to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

XO – MC