Merry Christmas! What a year 2014 has been. I didn’t write a Christmas letter last year, so this year’s includes some relevant points from the tail end of 2013. Highlights include five employers, four homes, three provinces, several stressed out tendons, and one intense weekend retreat.
During the first week of January 2014 the tendons in my right hand and arm went on strike. I had been working as a housekeeper and banquet server for the Fredericton Inn since the end of September 2013 when my hours at KHJ (Bell Media) were capped at ten a week.
Housekeeping is an incredibly physically demanding job. Think 8 hours of squats and lifting weights five days a week where the only break is half an hour at lunch. The tendons in my right hand and wrist had been acting up since shortly after I started working for the Inn. The carpal tunnel brace I wore stopped carpal tunnel from developing, but didn’t protect me from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which affects the thumb and wrist tendons.
The morning I recognized the issue was serious I had been ignoring the pain for the first two hours of my shift because I couldn’t afford to take the day off. Then I couldn’t move any of my fingers or my thumb without excruciating pain which went all the way up my arm and I spilled beer all over the carpet because I tried to pick a half-empty bottle up. I left work early and spent the rest of the day in the emergency room; my friend Jessi took pity on me and relocated our plans to hang out after work to the Chalmers ER. She even brought food so I wouldn’t starve to death waiting to be seen.
I was initially given two weeks off work with instructions to ice my thumb and wrist for ten minutes every hour. Two weeks turned into four weeks which turned into six weeks off work, unable to do much of anything except read and watch Netflix. I averaged about one book every day and a half, and worked my way through four seasons of the new Dr. Who and three seasons of Downton Abbey.
I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends who were able to help me out during those six weeks. Jessi came over to my apartment and helped me cook at least once a week; Leo folded all my laundry for me a few times, helped feed me, and got me to leave the house even when I was grumpy and not very good company; Stephanie kept me company and drove me to doctor’s appointments; Gisèle made me laugh about how much pain I was in by sharing her experience with carpal tunnel pain and being her adorkable self.
Since it was eventually deemed a legitimate workplace injury I got paid for the time off, but not until about a month after I had gone back to work at the inn, now just in the capacity of a banquet server. Going from working 60 hours a week between four minimum or just above minimum wage jobs down to 10-25 hours a week in one just above minimum wage job is a pretty significant pay cut. After a couple of months of working part-time and hitting nothing but dead ends in my quest for full time work in Fredericton I faced reality: waiting tables wasn’t putting any food on mine, and it was time to move home.
Leo and I had started dating again the day before I hurt my hand. Initially when I decided to move back to Ontario we thought he would be coming with me. A few weeks before the move, he and I had a serious talk about the future and us and what we both wanted and needed for forever to work. We realized we’re the best of friends, but the things we wanted and needed weren’t necessarily compatible. So we broke up again; but this time it wasn’t a horrible traumatic thing. It was an appropriate ending to an amazing romantic relationship, and a good start to what I hope will be a lifelong friendship.
During the De Quervain’s saga I started a blog with Lauren, who many of you have met at Thanksgiving dinners over the last few years. Lauren and I met through Canadian Catholic Students Association events at university. As Anne Shirley said many times about Diana Barry, we found in each other a kindred spirit. We both contributed to LettersToThePope.org a few times a week until the summer. It’s mostly been Lauren keeping it going since then, because my life got hectic when I went back to Ontario.
I also had the chance to go to Halifax with my SERVE-brother Mike for an interview retreat weekend with NET Canada. NET is a travelling youth ministry team which puts on retreats and develops youth programs in Catholic Churches and schools across Canada. I made the decision to apply to NET in November 2013 while I was still reeling from Leo and I’s first break-up, not enjoying my work environment at KHJ and feeling utterly lost and without direction. At the time, I thought I wanted to do NET to share God’s love with teens across Canada. I recognize now I wanted to do NET to get away from all the things post-undergraduate degree life was throwing at me.
During the interview retreat weekend my one prayer was that wherever it was God wanted me to go in life, he would take away the fear of going there. As you know, my fourth year at STU was incredibly difficult. What I either didn’t realize or didn’t admit to myself was just how shaken my confidence in my ability to be a journalist was by the experience. When I went on the interview retreat weekend, I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to be a reporter anymore. I didn’t think I was good enough, and I didn’t want to be attacked that way again – something I was sure would happen if I was doing my job.
That weekend in Halifax was the first time in over a year the prospect of even applying for career-type jobs, journalism-related or otherwise hadn’t terrified me. NET sent me a very firm no in the mail about a month or so later. Hunter, a girl from PEI who I met that weekend was invited to go. She’s been at a parish in Swift Current, Saskatchewan since September and I’m happy to get the occasional letter update from the iNFUSE mission there.
My sister Kathleen flew out to Fredericton in May for the Victoria Day weekend. Joy and Renato took me to the airport to pick her up and we spent a day and a half seeing the sights and finishing up my packing for the move. Jessi spent my last night in Dunn’s Crossing with us and helped Kathleen and I load the U-Haul first thing in the morning on the Saturday. Dan stopped by to say goodbye before work and earned the “Help Meredith Every Time She Moves in Fredericton” achievement by carrying my TV down. Then everybody went to Cora’s for breakfast and a final goodbye hurrah.
Kathleen and I left Fredericton around 1pm AST and arrived at our hotel just outside Quebec City around 8pm EST. We had made a few stops on the way for gas, bathrooms and photos, and we took the U-Haul across the covered bridge in Hartland just because.
Sunday, I drove us from the hotel to Aunt Anne and Uncle Pat’s in Kingston. We spent the evening visiting with them and were taken on a lovely tour of downtown Kingston on a quest for gelato. Before we all turned in for the night we watched a movie with Claire and one of her friends.
Victoria Day we did the final leg from Kingston to Whitby. When we arrived at Mum and Dad’s, my brother, my sisters, and their significant others were all there to help unload. It was a lot faster than loading was, and I soon found myself installed in the upstairs north west corner bedroom, which belonged to Michael when I was in high school, and then to Maureen during my university years. The day after I unpacked my last box from Fredericton, Mum and Dad announced they were selling the house.
A few weeks after I got home, Chantal, a friend since high school recommended me for a job with Pilar’s Catering. Working a wedding season in the catering business truly is an experience like no other. I worked 12-18 hours just about every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday over the summer and picked up shifts during the week whenever I could. It was exhausting, but I liked my co-workers and I was happy to get to spend so much time out in the sun when I was at Bloomfield’s (a garden tent venue in Newcastle.) I spent a lot of my not-work days catching up on the sleep I didn’t get on the weekends, working on articles and book reviews for The Catholic Register and The Catholic Review of Books, opening rejection letters about jobs I had applied and interviewed for, hanging out with my siblings and of course spending time with Lauren since for the first time in four years of friendship we were living in the same province and close enough to visit.
I was also thrilled to get to attend my SERVE-sister Brittany and her husband Tim’s wedding over the Labour Day weekend in Hamilton. Watching the two of them say their vows and getting to spend the day with our SERVE-siblings Mike and Michelle was such a blessing. Meeting Brittany and Tim’s friends and family was also great, there were just so many good people there.
I wrote a column for Youth Speak News at The Catholic Register about post-grad employment and how sucky it is when you’re looking and not finding. The article was published online Friday September 19. Five days later I heard about three different jobs. One was for a paper in Huntsville, one was a contract with Faith Connections in Toronto, and the third was the job I’m in now.
Justin, a friend from school called me up out of the blue at 11pm on Sept. 24 and asked if I wanted to move to Alberta. There were two job openings at stations owned by the company he works for (Newcap Radio). “Anyways, I just thought I’d let you know. The deadline is Friday morning if you’re interested.”
I put in my application on the 26th and got a phone call that afternoon asking for an interview. I interviewed for the position by conference call on September 30th during a break from packing for my parents’ move the next day. Less than an hour after I hung up from the conference call I got a callback with the job offer.
I was asked to interview for the Faith Connections position in Toronto the day I flew to Alberta, but I didn’t go. I had prayed God would make it very clear where I was supposed to be. Less than a week from when I heard about the job at The Spur to when I was hired for it seemed like a pretty clear response to that. I still haven’t received a rejection letter from the newspaper in Huntsville.
I gave my notice to Pilar, helped my parent’s move house and didn’t bother unpacking much at the new place, just repacked and thinned out the stuff I was bringing with me to Alberta. My last two weekends in Ontario I spent dancing in Oshawa with Nick and Connor, two of my friends from Pilar’s.
Thanksgiving Monday my parents had a housewarming/going away party and I said my goodbyes to most of my Ontario family and friends. . I flew to Alberta October 20th and started work on the 23rd.
Now I live in a small studio apartment less than a kilometer from the radio station where I work in St. Paul. It’s a FM country station called 97.7 The Spur. I co-host the morning show with Dave and I report the news for this town of six thousand people and the surrounding area. I’m settling in well. I’ve made friends with a couple from Newfoundland and a few other people in their late twenties and early thirties. I’m in two choirs, one for church and one for fun and a group in Elk Point is trying to get me to join them too.
Work is going really well now that most of the technical issues from the first few weeks have been resolved. I have a few logoed shirts and a jacket for The Spur, and as of last week, my own business cards. (Sadly, I think I’m more excited about having business cards to hand out than I am about having 226 sq. feet of apartment to call my own.)
I’m really enjoying the work. The station manager Kevin has been an absolute dream in terms of helping me get settled in town and introducing me to people. Our receptionist Kris passes on every story tip she comes across in Elk Point. Dave and I get on well on air and he’s been really good with helping me learn the on-air-but-not-reading-news aspect of the job. I met the rest of the news team for our hub at the Newcap Christmas party a few weeks ago and they’re all great people.
I fit in St. Paul. It’s just me here, but that’s okay because this town is exactly my speed. As much as I love dancing, the city has never appealed to me as a lifestyle. Even at the end of my third year at STU when I interviewed for editor-in-chief at The Aquinian, they asked me where I saw myself in five years. I said I hoped to be working in the media in a small town, settling down and having a family. Two and a half years later I’m in a full-time permanent media position in a small town. I have no idea what God’s timeline is looking like for the other two items on that list, but I’m okay with that.
2014 was a huge year, so it took a huge letter to cover the big themes. Thank you all so much for your love, support, and prayers this year. I’m so blessed to have each of you as part of my life. I hope your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are full of happiness, and that you will all see the ways 2015 will be good to you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11