Amazing Grace

grace.jpgAmazing Grace

Grace. My word for 2018.

Grace: simple elegance or refinement of movement.

Gracie was the nickname of my great, great grandmother Grace Gray, who then became Grace Gray Muzzy. I fell in love with the name Gracie Gray when I learned about her over the Holidays in 2012. I loved it so much that I named my beauty blog after her.  Despite not having time to work on the blog, and then of course getting sick, separated, then divorced I held onto the domain graciegray.com for years, hoping that one day I might be able to relaunch it.

It’s funny how things work out in life. While I eventually let go of the domain, I launched this blog and launched MHA during probably the most challenging times of my life. But the word Grace has always remained in the back of my mind.

To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark—

That is Faith.

CH Spurgeon

Heal: mind, body, skin is a slogan that embodies the MHA mission.  Healing is such a personal experience. I think faith is just as personal as healing is, which is likely why the two go hand in hand. In Alanon, they call it a higher power, which for me, was a way that I could understand it and where my journey finding my faith started.

I’m a big believer in fate. I’m a believer in everything happens for a reason.  And as much as I’ve questioned both of these I know I had to go through all of the darkness to get to this place of light.  I’m not going to preach God, the universe, Source, or whatever you want to call it. It’s personal and I respect all view points. I’m a spiritual person and take things from all religions & philosophies that speak to me.  In Alanon, they say “take what you like, leave the rest”, so I’ve applied that same concept to religion.  Otherwise, I’d fight it and look for things I don’t agree with on a logical sense.

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

Have you ever sat down and listened to the words of this song?  Admittedly I had to google wretch. Wretch: an unfortunate or unhappy person. I literally get chills every time I hear it.  If you know me, you know I love Elvis, so as I sit here writing this I’ve been listening to him sing this from Ultimate Gospel on repeat. It’s so beautiful and moves me to tears each time.  So many people are afraid of crying, but scientifically speaking crying gets your lymphatic system to move. This is critical for treating illness. You gotta feel to heal and so many people are afraid to feel things. You can’t force this on someone.  Just like you can’t force someone to heal. It doesn’t matter if its addiction, or a physical illness, it’s all connected and I believe the body is meant to heal itself. For me, I had to surrender all control, which if you know me, has not been easy, as I am very strong willed. This is why I wear reminders, like this bracelet from @myintent. It helps me surrender and have faith that God will protect me, that the Power of Good will protect me, and that whatever darkness and misery is put in my path it will eventually lead me to the light. And it has.

I once was lost, but now I’m found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Peace & Love

Megan

Amazing Grace, Elvis: Ultimate Gospel

https://youtu.be/6zAwh5M82jA

Allow me to reintroduce myself. In the Fat Suit (and sick).

Allow me to reintroduce myself. In the Fat Suit (and sick).

When I look back on my story, the first Lyme disease symptom, along with extreme fatigue, that was most evident was weight gain. To be clear, not everyone with Lyme gains weight. Although rare, some people don’t experience any weight fluctuations and/or some people lose weight, like a lot of weight. To the point where they look severely malnourished and anorexic. They can’t keep weight on no matter how hard they try. Now, I am aware that this is just as traumatic as gaining weight, but if I had the choice of gaining vs. losing, I will always choose losing. Perhaps it’s my own vanity, but I’d rather look like an emaciated model than the latter.

I could go on about how traumatizing this weight gain was. How I knew people thought I had “let myself go”, or perhaps this is why my marriage failed, or all the things people likely thought about me during this time, but I won’t. None of those were true and I refuse to give any sort of power to those ignorant assumptions. Did it suck to gain 60+ pounds right before my wedding? You bet. Was it difficult to get it off, at this age, with exercise limitations? Abso-f&*#-ing-lutey! But do I think it happened for a reason? As much as I protest this, yes, I believe that it did.

What infuriated me the most was somehow that weight gain, combined with my illness, put me in a position that I’d never been in, nor did I think I’d ever be in during my life. I call it the Fat Suit, much like the movie Shallow Hal, but from the viewpoint of Rosemary, GP’s character in the film. In the Fat Suit, I was shown a very ugly side of humanity. While I will never disclose names, because that’s not my style, the true colors of many were shown to me during this time. I often said: ‘there are a lot of women out there who hate me, or hated me”. It almost became comical, as this happened over and over again, mainly from women, but from men, too. I cannot believe the amount of disrespect I was given during this time. A time, when I should have been shown care, love, concern and empathy. Not ridiculed, judged, or looked down upon. The truth is, some people enjoyed seeing me like that. Sounds harsh, but I call it like it is, and they did. They enjoyed seeing me sick. They enjoyed seeing me in the Fat Suit. It likely made them feel superior and whatever jealousies, envies and/or hang ups they’d had with me glared at me smack dab in the face. To those people, shame on you, but know I also forgive you. That’s what empathy is, which is something I have always been, whether I’m thin and fit (thank you God, I got this back), or in the Fat Suit. I’m proud to be that person and will always remain kind, empathetic and compassionate. I will not allow the cruelty of this world turn me into a cold, bitter person. But with that said, I’m kind to myself first, so most of those people are either no longer in my life by (my) choice, or if they are its limited with serious boundaries.

Survival of the fittest is such an antiquated concept. We live in a world where people are sick, very sick and sadly, unless things start to change, our population is just going to get sicker. That being said, allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Megan Hopkins and I am someone who worked damn hard to achieve success and professional accolades. It took years of hard work to earn that title, so please explain to me how something like weight gain and/or illness diminishes that? I’m not speaking just for myself either. I’ve had this discussion with several other extremely successful individuals, both men and women, whom have also experienced this exact same thing after getting diagnosed with an illness. It legitimately baffles my mind that this stuff happens and until you go through it, you will likely not be able to understand what I’m referring to. This is why, with every fiber of my being, I am committed to trying to change how we treat those with illness and/or disabilities.

The future is Stigma Free. This is a big social media campaign right now. If you haven’t noticed it, now you will. This is largely what I love so much about social media and its power. Its provided us with a platform to unite globally with likeminded people in a way that’s never been done before. That power is beautiful. Quit judging. When you judge you are revealing a side of yourself that needs to be healed. It’s that simple, and so, so true. Heal yourself, love yourself and love your neighbor. It costs nothing to be kind. Absolutely nothing.

Namaste

Megan

To Have and to Hold

All you need is love. Just love. (and coffee)

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To have and to hold. I’ve thought a lot about those words since saying them myself. Watching one of my oldest friends say them to the man of her dreams, however, was when they really hit home.  Before I go into what those words mean to me and what I witnessed that day, I’d like to share with you how I met my beautiful friend Nicole (AKA Nikki).

Nikki and I met second semester, freshman year, at Arizona State University in a creative writing class.  We were paired up in groups and Nikki and I got to know one another as we both wrote about things meaningful to us from our childhood. That was the beginning of our 21 (gasp) year friendship.  This blog post, which has taken me far too long to complete, couldn’t be more fitting given how we met.

Nikki and I are both from the Midwest and while she left Arizona long before I did, we kept in touch. I would see her when I visited friends in Chicago and my sister and brother-in-law, who at the time were living in Evanston. This was long before Facebook, I think we had Myspace (again gasp), so the fact that we managed to keep in touch all those years is testament to our friendship.  When I got the opportunity to move to Chicago for work our relationship grew even closer.

Nikki and I have gone through so much of this life together. I can’t tell you how many memories I have of this darling woman, how many tears we’ve shed over break ups, heart aches, family matters, work stress and all the other things one goes through during their 20’s and into their 30’s. My Facebook photos are flooded with pictures of our wild nights tearing up the city as single women on the prowl.  Although she often got stuck in “the black hole”, the word many of my friends used to describe my first apartment in the city on Clark & Fullerton.  I’ve always been a homebody and love to entertain. Why go out if we’re having so much fun at my place, right?

When it came time for my own engagement my life would take me on a turn that separated the two of us for a while.  I’m so grateful for that, however, because I don’t think our friendship and my relationship with her husband would be as strong as it is today if that hadn’t happened. Its so cliche and everyone I think loathes the statement ‘everything happens for a reason’, but it really is true.  It takes time before you can look back and reflect on why things happen in life.

Nikki and Dan had an entirely different chapter before I moved back to Chicago and was introduced to him.  I’m a very intuitive person and I will tell you that I knew Dan was “Nikki’s person” the moment I met him. I loved him, his energy, his love and support of Nikki, for Nikki and everything about Nikki was so obvious in my eyes. They just “got’ one another and had a solid friendship, which is so important in a marriage. They have a lot of similar interests like golf, a passion for real estate, dining out (Nikki is a total foodie) and a shared love for their fur baby Wilson.

Milwaukee Bound

Soon after they got engaged it was time for them to move to Milwaukee. Ironically this became a theme, as many friends of mine left Chicago around a year after I moved back. Dan was given a major promotion (kudos to Dan) and before I knew it she was gone. I knew it was the right move for them, as our lives change so much after marriage. You kind of have to say good-bye to your single life. So off they went to start their new life together.

Dan and Nikki, in Nikki’s words: ‘weren’t super excited about any of the venues they saw in Chicago, nothing felt unique. We had just moved to Milwaukee and toured the Milwaukee Art Museum and were blown away with its beauty. They literally had one day left in the summer due to a cancellation from Northwestern Mutual that had the date saved for almost a year and forfeited their final deposit (yikes), so we felt like it was meant to be’. I say, AMEN to that!

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This by far goes down as one of my favorite weddings to date. Everything was exquisite and perfectly executed. This museum absolutely takes your breath away and seeing the space at night was a special treat.  If there is one thing Nikki knows how to do well that’s dance and I literally could not walk for days following this wedding. Maggie Speaks Band, from Chicago, did not disappoint, nor did the endless cocktails. I think I can speak for most people in that none of us wanted the night to end.

Much of the planning, well let’s be honest, pretty much ALL of the planning was done by this beautiful woman below, Nikki’s mom. Not only did she have one wedding to plan, but she had TWO, right after one another.  You heard me right, Nikki’s sister, Lindsay, was married in Chicago just weeks before Nikki’s wedding in Milwaukee. Nikki & Dan had their date picked out first, but it worked out well and was a summer their family will never forget. I still can’t believe she pulled both of these off. Its a lot of work, but she did it. I love this moment I captured between Nikki and her mom. It captures their relationship perfectly.

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As Nikki and Dan approach their one year anniversary I would like to remind them of the vows they shared with one another and what I witnessed that day, which was pure, genuine love. To have and to hold means (to me) to honor your commitment to one another and to your marriage, no matter what life throws at you. It means to hold one another above all else and to always have each other’s back.  You quickly realize that life isn’t “just about you” anymore the minute you say “I do” and no one tells you the first few years of marriage can actually be the hardest.  Never stop dating one another, never stop working on your “love”, showing your “love” and reminding each other exactly why you chose each other.  Never stop being best friends, having sex (LOTS OF IT) and having fun on this journey called life. I love you guys.  Cheers to many more years with the two of you!

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Be nice or leave

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Never in my life have I been more disgusted with humanity.

I woke up Monday morning like the rest of the world to the news about the Las Vegas massacre. It reminded me of how I felt waking up on 9/11. I find myself in tears while listening to the stories of the innocent victims; husbands holding their wives in their arms as they take their last breath, new born babies without their mothers, families broken up and lives forever changed because of hate. What happened in Vegas is deplorable.  I have no words and am in disbelief that this is the world we are living in today.

What ever happened to “love thy neighbor” or the “golden rule”? What ever happened to saying good morning as you pass someone on the street? What ever happened to saying thank you, what can I do to help, or I’m proud of you? In today’s world if you’re nice to someone they either think you’re flirting, weird, or something is wrong with you. What’s happened to integrity? What’s happened to loyalty and doing what’s right? What’s happened to loving each other and owning up to our mistakes? People would rather lie than be accountable. People would rather ghost someone (e.g. ignore an email and/or text) instead of being an adult and resolving an issue head on.  This has become the acceptable norm, but it is entirely unacceptable to me. Every day for the last year I have legitimately asked myself WTF is wrong with people? Monday morning was no different.

Stop selling out for your own personal gain. Stop choosing opportunity over loyalty. Stop hating on others to fill an empty void within yourself. Reach out to people. Ask how someone is doing. Ask that homeless person what they’re looking for in the dumpster. I recently did that and was surprised to learn he wasn’t looking for food or clothes. He was looking for electronics, DVDS, or things he could watch. He was kind enough to ask me if I needed help lifting the dumpster, as my hands were full and I had my dog.  That’s all it was, kindness from one human being to another. We are all in this together and no one person is better than the next. I’m a firm believer that you treat the janitor with the same respect that you treat the CEO. Life has many ups and downs and you never know when you’ll be at the bottom of the barrel. Be grateful for the ones that help you rise to the top, give credit where credit is due & pay it forward. In other words, stay humble, or life will do it for you. Trust me, it will. We live in this crazy world of social media, which (let’s be real) is all about self promotion & feeding narcissism. Humility is a thing of the past. 

I would rather sit and talk to that homeless person and have a real & honest conversation, as opposed to sitting down and talking about someone’s status, followers, or how much money they’re making. That doesn’t impress me. You know what impresses me? Kindness, loyalty, giving back impresses me. Gratitude and humility impress me and sadly those are all traits that very few possess these days. 

For those that have followers/status, please use your platform to do something good for the world. Don’t just give a portion of sales to a charity. That’s using something, like a tragedy, as a marketing ploy to sell more of your products and quite frankly, despicable. With all the natural disasters we’ve recently had I’ve seen more than I’d like of that on social media. Again, WTF is wrong with people? 

If you want to see change in the world, you have to be the change. Be that person.

Be nice or leave.

MH

live and let live

live and let live

📷 cred: Lana Voelker
cheers
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#yaaass

Hi y’all. First of all, per How to be Single, I am not from the south. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time with southerners over the last 10+ years, so while I’m a proud Yankee, let’s be real, y’all  just sounds better. The midwestern accent has to be the most unattractive accent. I also happen to be a sucker for just about any other accent, however anything Matthew McConaughey/Jude Law related gets me every time. Saying y’all just comes naturally for me & much easier to say. If you wanna make me laugh, talk about 💩. Wanna get in my 👖s…. have an accent. 😉(an expression parents & kids. relax!)

This post is going to be short and sweet. I don’t have it in me to go deep right now, nor would I want to hit you with anything heavy after my last post. I also spend so much of the week talking shop, that I’m kinda sick of it come the weekend, which is my set blogging time. Not to worry, there will be loads of that in the future. The purpose of this thing is more for left brain/right brain shit, anyway. If you follow me on social media (@clearly_megan) you will find that stuff. Parents, get your kids to teach you how to use Instagram if you want more beauty info. Facebook is for news (agreed Zach). Insta for branding. I refuse to jump on the Snapchat wagon right now and never been into Twitter, so that’s where you’ll find me.  I’m all out there, tho … good, bad, ugly etc. Someone recently told me that was a refreshing trait. I never thought of it like that, but he made a good point, so I’m sticking with it. 🤔

#Startsomewhere is a motto I’ve been using for a while.  I’ve become a big believer in mantras and tend to speak in hashtags for comedic relief.  I swear mantras work; at least they do for me. I firmly believe that if you train your mind to stay positive, the sky really can be the limit.  It certainly isn’t easy & doesn’t come naturally for me. But I’ve found that if you have nothing left to turn to, you have no choice other than to change your thinking.  One could call it survival.

I love everything about this boat (📷 Portsmouth, NH). While I’m absolutely terrified of the ocean, and prefer the unsalted Great Lakes (partial to Lake Mich), you will never have a hard time getting me on a boat. I would totally rock this lady, too. Please excuse the randomness of this post.😜   This is just where my head is today.

Peace

~MLH