Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Lives Intertwine

Hey, thanks.
I have cadaver hamstring in my knee—an allograft. At first, I was really opposed to this idea because the thought of it kind of freaked me out. But at a later doctor appointment, my doctor explained the risk of using an allograft, which is much less than if I were to use an autograft—my own hamstring for my surgery. So, I began to try and settle with the thought.

As a journalist, I believe that everyone has a story, and I often wonder what a person's story is. I began to wonder who this person was and why they donated their body to science. How did they live their life? What did they love? What did they hate? Who cried when they passed on? I won't know the truth in this life. And I have to live with the thought of having another's body part in my knee, so I granted myself a little creative license in coming up with a story about this person (to whom I am grateful). In other words, it's highly romanticized. Consider yourself warned.

I'm not going to give a name to the donor. A name is special. I know that I am fighting Juliet on this one, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But people aren't roses.

No, this one was a pilot. At 34 years old he had traveled the world. He watched the ball drop in Times Square and smelt the salty ocean as he gazed at the Golden Gate Bridge. He photographed the ancient Egyptian pyramids and marveled at the beauty of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He walked on the Great Wall of China and roughed African safaris.

Having seen much of the world, he knew the state of the people, and he was determined to leave his mark on it.

Though he knew more of the world than most people, he still had dreams and desires. He was a great writer. Though often unsafe in his travels, he was most vulnerable when he put pen to paper. Writing set him free from this world. It was how he organized his thoughts on the beauties of life and the disappointments and hypocrisies of society. He was working on writing the great American novel—his transcripts to now forever remain unfinished and unpublished. 

He was engaged to be married to a beautiful, young elementary school teacher. This woman was strong physically, mentally, and emotionally. She had to be—especially when she lost him, her first love. This woman was everything to this young man. She was the first thought he had in the morning and the last before falling asleep. He wanted to create a safe world for her to continue to thrive in, and hopefully an environment that would be ideal for their children to come. And she was just as selfless as he was and desired to always make him feel welcome when he returned home.

She was by his side when he passed. The young man's family was there too. You can probably guess what kind of family this young man came from. He was raised to be a man in a world of cowards. When this young man was a little boy and was faced with the opportunity to tell the truth, his father taught him courage. When this young man was a pre teen, his older brother taught him about loyalty when the boy had a brush with a not-so-good group of "friends." When this young man was a teenager, his mother taught him to remain virtuous when faced with the dilemmas of growing up. When this young man became an adult and left home for the first time, his younger sister told him that to remain happy, he must remember to be grateful for everything he was and everything he had.

This young man left the world more courageous, more loyal, more virtuous, and more happy than some who is blessed with growing old. It was his decision to continue blessing people after he passed. He donated his body to help others in their time of need. A lifetime of good came down to one last act of good, and that one last act of good continues to bless the lives of strangers.

Strangers that hopefully will remember the state they were in before they received medical help. Strangers that hopefully will make a full recovery. And strangers that hopefully will always strive to make a positive impact on the world.


(*In case you didn't catch it, I wanted to clarify that this is a fiction story, but let's just say it's real, OK?)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Grateful

I have a lot to be grateful for. I am truly blessed.

I love my family. They are so amazing and are always there for me. I can count on them to comfort me, to laugh with me, and to accept me. Each member has special gifts and talents that add to the richness of our relationships. It's a beautiful thing.

I am grateful for all the experiences that have led me to where I am today—including the trials that test my most innate abilities. I'm grateful for the education I have and all the opportunities that came with it and the ones that are going to come because of it. I'm grateful that overall my health is good. I'm so happy that my knee surgery went well, and I am in recovery.

I'm grateful for good friends who enrich my life—those friends that truly know me and love me. They are the friends that know my quirks, and I know theirs. They are the friends I can laugh with about all our crazy memories. I'm grateful that no matter how far apart or how long we've been apart, we still let each other know that we care. And when we are reunited, we pick up right where we left off, like we've never been apart.

I know that all of these blessings would not be possible without my Father in Heaven. And for Him, I am grateful. I am grateful that He loves me. I am grateful that He consistently shows me He has a specific plan for me and is guiding me. His tender mercies are endless and perfectly tailored to my needs. It amazes me. I'm grateful that He sent His son to die for you and me. And I'm grateful that Christ was selfless and loving. He sacrificed His life to be obedient and to show His love for His Father and for His Father's children. Without that sacrifice, I would not be able to return into my Heavenly Father's presence.

I do my best to be this positive and grateful year round, but today, I am especially mindful of all I have been given.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Perspectives

I started 2011 feeling completely independent. I'm ending 2011 completely dependent. Life is funny that way.

Remember my post about dislocating my knee cap? Last Thursday, I had surgery to hopefully fix that. My surgeon performed a medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction, which will take about six weeks for initial recovery and six months for full recovery.

I was a little anxious during the days before the surgery, and my emotions went wacko. I guess underneath it all, I wanted to know that my sacrifices to get this surgery would be worth it. This desire was manifested in the little things when I got upset when situations didn't turn out the way I wanted. My desire and need to control knew it was facing a hiatus and overreacted. These were the last few days where I had some control over where I could go and what I could do. I knew that after surgery, I was going to be confined to the house and the doctor's office. But the night before surgery, I got a blessing from my dad and a good friend. For those that don't know what I mean by a "blessing," it's a special prayer for comfort and healing. I'm so grateful for that because it gave me a feeling of peace.

Next thing I know, I'm lying in Bed 4 in my blue hospital gown. I'm grateful that my mom was beside me up until they wheeled me away to the operating room. I remember being asked to slide from the gurney onto the operating table. I also remember looking up from the table and seeing several doctors pace the room, shouting off checklists. Kind of like I was watching a medical television show while drifting off to sleep, but this time, I was the guest star.

"OK, you can wake up now," was the next thing I remember. I was in the recovery room and everything was fuzzy. During the two and a half hours I was under the knife, I had an arthroscopy to map out the damage and to see if there was any scar tissue that needed to be removed. The rest of the procedure was open-knee surgery where my doctor took cadaver hamstring from "the freezer," drilled it into my knee cap and attached it to a different ligament in my inner-knee. I try not to think about it too much, because if I do, I get really grossed out.

I've spent the past several days in an electric chair with my leg elevated and iced. I've also been on Percocet, so please forgive any errors or incoherency in this post. It can be really painful to move my leg or get up, even without putting any pressure on it. When I try and get up, it feels like the inside of my knee is on fire and gravity is working extra hard to pull all those innards down.

Because of the pain and my restrictions, I've been relying on the selfless service of my surrounding family. I'm grateful for the company of my grandma and for her doing the things that she can to make sure I have what I need. I'm grateful for my grandpa making sure I am comfortable and bringing me treats from Trader Joe's. I'm grateful for my mom and her attention, which she gave selflessly as she sacrificed a few nights of good sleep to be by my side as I awoke every hour or two throughout the night. I'm grateful for my dad and his willingness to come to my aid and to play games with me to keep me entertained. I'm grateful for my sisters, who also play games with me, and whose presence is the highlight of my day. I'm also grateful for an aunt, uncle and cousin who wanted to come down and visit me, but unfortunately got sick.

I love you all. Your examples are wonderful and have helped give me a different perspective on service. To truly receive service, you have to set aside your ego and pride in order to see the love behind it. To give service is noble and worthy, to receive service is eye-opening and heart-warming.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Woman vs. Machine

Lauren Olivia Designs
Most of my courses in college required reading and writing. But this one time I took a class that required me to use a needle and thread in place of a pen and paper. Interesting. Basically, I took this beginning sewing class because I needed a filler class, and I thought I could pick up a new skill along the way. I knew it would be time consuming, and it was. But I'm not sure I realized how hard it would be. Or, maybe I knew how hard it would be but didn't realize how time consuming it would be. Not really sure, this was a while ago. Whatever, you get the point.

I felt like the dumb one in the class. I always had trouble with the tension on my sewing machine; I could never remember how to thread my bobbin, and it took hours for me to demonstrate I could somewhat complete all the hems, finishes and stitches required for our portfolios. It probably didn't help that I sat next to this girl who had been sewing for years.

Sewing became a class I started, well ... not liking. I just wanted the class to be over with. At the end of the semester, I ended up getting an A, but it was through a lot of hard work. Throughout the class, I made a pillowcase, pajama shorts, a shirt and a skirt. I love my skirt and I use the pajama shorts. I've used the pillowcase before but the shirt ... yeah. It's not as bad as the shirt Denise made Theo in The Cosby Show. Actually, it's not nearly as bad. The fabric and the buttons are super cute, it just wasn't the best execution. But sewing a blouse is HARD.

It's funny though, now I can honestly say that I love sewing. It's easier to like it when you're not under a time constraint and have actually learned to master your machine. Sure, it still can be frustrating, but it's so fun to take nothing and turn it into something.

I got my own sewing machine for Christmas last year. Since then, I have sewn quite a bit and am getting better. The only thing is fabric stores have become a weakness. If I can't find it in a store, I want to sew it. (I still am not brave enough to attempt another shirt). If I see a beautiful fabric, I find a pattern that it would work well with. Shoe-buying weakness, meet fabric store weakness.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs

As I was wrapping up the previous post, I found out Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, has died. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. You did amazing things. I am an Apple lover and am proud to say that I once lived in Cupertino. Your impact on the world is immeasurable.

I remember when my elementary school library got new Apple computers and we were all so amazed. Playing Oregon Trail on those computers was the best. So was trying to get the best score in the class on our typing quizzes. For my high school graduation gift, I got my first iPod and it has been a most trusted friend ever since.

My iPod has carried me through different music phases of my life. It has also been with me in every other way possible. I'm not one of those people that has trouble "unplugging" from technology, but listening to my iPod was the only thing that kept me sane during some 8-hour work days, long bus rides, airplane rides, car rides and solitary walks.

My love for Apple carried with me into my college years and was solidified when I began taking journalism classes. It was hard to get used to a Mac at first, but after a few days it stole my heart. I did many homework assignments and work projects on a trusty Mac. I used my personal PC laptop at home, only if I got kicked out of the Spori building on campus because it was nearing curfew. True stuff.

And now, I sit here writing this blog on my own MacBook Pro which was a college graduation gift from my parents. (Thanks, mom and dad!) The influence of Steve Jobs and Apple will live on, but the world will surely miss Mr. Jobs.


Good Happenings

Life is good. Life is beautiful. Life is a mystery.

It has been a rather good day for me.

It began with the rain. If you've ever seen Gilmore Girls, you'll know that Lorelai has a special relationship with snow. I am officially declaring a special relationship with rain. It is beautiful and magical and romantic.

The rain started last night. It was so relaxing to fall asleep to the sound of the rain, rather than trying to fight flashbacks of my knee injury. It rained again today—actually it poured. I had to document this magnificent moment, so I went out in my backyard and took some photos. I got soaked, and it was wonderful.

Also, this morning I met with the editor of The Orangevale View. I will be volunteering for the newspaper while I am home taking care of my knee. This is such a blessing for me because I am building my portfolio, strengthening my skills, contributing to my community and opening doors for future opportunities. Along with writing, I will be able to contribute photographs and InDesign knowledge. And because it is a volunteer position, I will have the flexibility to do what I need to take care of my knee, which is my first priority.

I am so excited for this opportunity, and I hope to do a lot of good things. My first assignment is tomorrow. I will be covering a Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast hosted by Senator Ted Gaines. I will also be writing a story on a local haunted house this Friday. For right now, I will let you guess whether it is a real haunted house or if it is a Halloween presentation. Either way, my knee brace WILL be worn. If I feel the impulse to run, I will be better equipped.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Dear Life, This is Going to be a Lot of Lemonade. Sincerely, Thanks for the Lemon Basket.

If Life has 1,000 lemons and gives Lauren three-fourths of the lemon crop, how many lemons does Lauren have?
    A) 100 lemons. Enough for Lauren to perfect her lemonade-making skills.
    B) 250 lemons. Enough for Lauren to make a lemonade stand.
    C) 500 lemons. Enough for Lauren to spare a couple hundred to throw at the car that cut her off.
    D) 750 lemons. Enough for Lauren to get really creative with making lemonade, lemon cake, lemon pie, lemon squares, lemon cookies and probably a few lemon chickens.
Any good lemon recipes, anyone?

I've worked hard my whole life. I've done all I can to make sure that I could make it in this world. Essentially, that means I needed a good job offer. As a post-grad, I was anxious to get out there and start working. A few great job leads came my way, and I had several interviews. Then it came. The validation that I had done everything right. Someone wanted me. All those physical, emotional, mental and social sacrifices I gave to further my education and experience paid off.

I accepted the job. I had a house lined up, was looking for a car, had reunions planned and visions of myself walking into the office in my dang-cute, new high heels and black dress. Then I found out that I needed knee surgery. It was going to be really tricky trying to mesh my anticipated recovery time with the job responsibilities.

(Cue the extra prayers, pro/con list, emotional breakdowns and parental advice.)

My answer came as if it was the only option. I had to give up the job. It wasn't a forceful, "You have to give this job up now. It's not for you." It was a voice that came into my heart and spoke to my mind in a gentle, peaceful, comforting tone that said, "Give up the job."

It was hard to do. It frustrates me that I have to put my completely independent life on hold for another block of time. But for some reason, this is what my Heavenly Father wants me to do. Why did I feel good about accepting the job offer when He was eventually going to tell me otherwise? Why did I even get the offer in the first place?

I don't know the answer to these questions and probably won't for a long time. In this economy, most people would call me crazy for turning down a good job offer because God told me.

I can understand that. The person I know myself to be would usually be freaking out with a stress level that would enable me to squeeze all 750 lemons dry in one hour. But for some reason, I'm not worried. I'm grateful that my knee will get taken care of. I can't give one-hundred percent to anything on a bad knee. And I'm still scared to do anything on it. So I'm trying to look at this as a blessing. But why does it have to happen in the exact time of my life when I'm trying to transition into becoming a fully-functioning adult?

Again, I don't know. But I'm grateful that I feel my Heavenly Father near me. His peace is comforting and is the only thing—aside from my family—that is keeping me sane. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Knee

I have dislocated my left kneecap four times—in four different states.

#1. California (2005): While building a sandcastle on a camping trip to Big Sur. First ambulance ride and trip to the ER.
#2. Idaho (2008): While going down the bunny hill on a snowboard. It slid right back in. No pain, just freaky. Didn't think much of it. I almost actually forgot about this one.
#3. Washington, D.C. (2011): While shopping in Urban Outfitters. Second ambulance ride and trip to the ER.
#4. Utah (2011): While going to sit down in my chair in my cubicle in the Church Office Building. Caught it with my hand, and it eventually popped itself back in.

(Which is the most embarrassing story? I'd vote for #3. It was definitely the most painful one. I know that physically I would not have been able to handle any more pain than I did that night. Dramatic? Let me know what you think next time you dislocate your knee cap. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I thought my knee was going to explode.)

The pain is excruciating. But once it's back in place, it's instant relief. Aside from the crutches, braces, bruises, scar tissue and swelling, it's left mental scars. I am terrified of it happening again. I have trouble falling asleep because I keep having flashbacks of the incidents. Throughout the whole day, I daydream about it happening again, and I start hyperventilating and freaking out. In fact, as I sit here and write this blog, I have to concentrate on my breathing.

The freak out moments get even worse when other people talk about their injuries. One of my colleagues told me that his daughter dislocated her kneecap as she was going down the stairs and she fell all the way down. Now, I am scared of going downstairs.

The anxiety eases up a bit when I wear my brace, but it's just so dang uncomfortable. I'm seeing an orthopedic surgeon in a week and a half. Even if the answer is surgery, I am so open to that idea because I can't stand walking around not knowing if and when it will happen next.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Decade Later, We Remember

Ten years have past since the events of September 11, 2001. I was 12. I was in seventh grade at Louis Pasteur Middle School. I remember the moment. The moment that my world froze, long enough for me to take in particular details about my surroundings. The first memory I have of that day is of my dad and I.

I walked into the family room and there he was. Just standing there watching the horrible events unfold on the news. I'm not sure what was said—if anything. But I could feel that something horrible was happening. We both just stood there. I don't know for how long, but long enough for my eyes to open up to the world. Long enough for me to realize that the world was bigger than my middle school life, bigger than my little city in Northern California. Something was happening that was much more important than the fact that I was wearing my favorite, sparkly, silver headband with my white uniform shirt. This little 12-year-old "sevie" was witnessing history.

The next thing I remember was my dad driving me to school. (Though, there may be some discrepancies in my account—my dad doesn't remember driving me to school that morning. He says he had to go in extra early for work.) It was over the radio that we learned that the first tower collapsed. The emotions of the radio newscaster were humbling.

School was different that day. The conversations of my peers no longer revolved around their rainbow toe socks or whatever else junior high schoolers worry about. Even at 12, we knew things had changed. School started with English and ended with PE. But really we just watched the news. I don't remember seeing some of my Muslim friends that day. In PE, Mrs. Postelnek had us sit on our little designated spots on the blacktop. She talked to us and tried to help us understand.

I think every child who could understand even a little of what was happening grew up that day. This was the first news event that I remember extensively paying attention to.

Here are a few excerpts from my journal on September 12, 2001:

"Yesterday was a horrible day! Thousands of people died."

"Everyone here in America is putting flags up. My mom and dad [both] bought one so I don't know what my dad is doing with the extra one."

"President Bush just got through a long vote for president and now this. I mean, it's like we are living through history. Many people are calling this Pearl Harbor II. All malls, movie theaters, roads to the dams, and many big places are closed."

"September 11, 2001 was a day that will be printed in history books and always be remembered."

"I don't think I will be getting on an airplane for a long time."

I had this doll named Molly, and I also had a lot of accessories for her. She was from the American Girl series. In my journal it also says that I pulled out her little flag and put it in my doll's hand. My 9 year old sister did the same for her Kirsten doll. My two youngest sisters were 4 and 5. They don't remember anything about that day.

For ten years I have watched over and over again the video footage of 9/11 and seen many still photos. Every time, my heart drops to my stomach. Every time, I am in awe. And every time, I feel paralyzed.

I will always remember that day. It's been ten years and I have grown into an adult. But whenever I think of that day, I will always feel like that 12-year-old girl in her favorite, sparkly, silver headband, who finally saw what the world was like. The girl who was scared and unsure of what would happen, but who had a great love for her country.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Unknown

The unknown is full of mystery and adventure. It can stir feelings of fear, failure, excitement, faith and hope. Christopher Columbus said, "You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore."

Well, Mr. Columbus, I haven't crossed any oceans lately. But I have done a great deal of moving forward into the unknown. This past year alone, I've come across many of my own storms and my own rainbows. With the way my life has been, I'm lucky if I can say where I will be and what I will be doing in one week's time. During the past twelve months, I have lived in Idaho, California, Washington, D.C. and Utah. That's a lot of packing and unpacking. That's a lot of time spent not wanting to commit to surrounding environments, knowing that in a short time I will most likely be leaving again.

But finally—gratefully—I think the waves in my ocean will shortly be settling down for awhile (but if I've really learned anything from 22 years of life, I will probably eat these words).

The unknown is a time for change. Am I the same person I was one year ago? No. And I am better for it. I have more confidence in myself and more faith in a great God than I ever thought I could have. Charting unknown territory requires one to push themselves further than they ever thought possible. It calls for courage. And soon you find you have more than you thought. It calls for faith. And soon your trust in God grows. It calls for strength. And soon you find your weaknesses becoming a fortifying power. It calls for humility. And soon you find yourself on your knees, bowing before the Lord—lower than you've ever before bowed. But then you rise, higher than ever, ready to take on the world.

The unknown is a scary thought. But that's all it is. Just a thought. God has a plan for you like He has a plan for me. His plan is solid if we make right choices. And with Him at my side, I'm willing to lose sight of the shore.