On Easy Street (or so it appears)

I turned twenty-nine last month. It feels like twenty-one was a mere week ago, but oh yeah… that was eight years ago. As I soon approach thirty, I’ve been thinking about a few things. About life, that is. Particularly the cards I’ve been dealt in this hand of life. And perhaps, to some, I’ve been dealt some bad cards.

I never lived anywhere longer than two years growing up. I was always–or, every two years or less–“the new girl.” Yet, there are people who live in the same house their entire lives, from the moment they’re brought home from the hospital until the day they leave for college. They grow up with the same people, same friends, and never have to worry about being “the new kid.”

I never was asked to a dance in high school. In fact, I had to ask someone to prom (which was barrels of fun, let me tell you) to avoid going stag (which, looking back, maybe wouldn’t have been the worst situation in the world). Yet, there are people who asked me how to ask my friends to dances in high school (you know, what is the biggest scene they could make in front of the whole school to surprise one of my girlfriends? Thanks, bud).

I never had a boyfriend until I went to college. And once I turned eighteen in college, oh how the tables turned for me. Quickly. Yet, most people were experienced daters or perhaps serial monogamists by the time they reached college.

I endured heartbreak, after heartbreak, after heartbreak in college. Perhaps it was my own fault most of the time, and perhaps I spent too much time juggling boys and not enough time juggling my classes/grades (yes Dad, I’m aware of it now), but regardless–I was heartbroken time, and time, and time again. Yet, there are people out there who have never had a broken heart. (If you’re one of those people, you dodged a serious bullet.)

My husband broke up with me after we had been dating just one year. We were apart for seven months. Fully, 100% apart and broken up. Then, we got back together after seven months of not even so much as speaking, and we’ve been together ever since. Yet, there are people who meet people they could possibly marry, and yet, they stay together, rather than break up. Imagine that!

It took me five years to get paid to do, full-time, what I’ve wanted to do since I was ten. Five years of working in the plus-size section at Nordstrom, five years of answering a phone at a financial company, five years of asking people, “Do you want refried or black beans with that?” for a living, one year of being unemployed during those five years, and five years of working for free or little pay (pennies, really) to do small freelance jobs on the side. Then there are people who are offered their dream jobs right out of college. Who didn’t graduate during the worst recession in modern history. (Yep, there’s that.)

It’s like those people who get pregnant without even “trying” while others try for years without ever conceiving.

Not that I would know anything about that. But, you know. People. It’s how it is.

I can’t compare my life with others, but lately, I just can’t help it. I can’t help but wonder, why do some people appear to have life on Easy Street, while the rest of us are jumping from tiny rock to tiny rock about to explode over a pit of lava? (Yes, I’m thinking of that scene in Aladdin.) Why do some of us work hard for that promotion that will never happen, while others appear to have a promotion handed to them without even trying?

And that’s where I’ve developed my theory. Perhaps this is me just trying to make myself feel better, or make excuses, or whatever you want to call it–but maybe the reason for all of this is that we, as humans, are only given what we can handle. That is, God doesn’t give us situations, circumstances, unemployment, dead-end jobs, heartbreak, whatever, because we can’t handle them, but He gives these things because we can handle them. Things He knows we can not only handle, but we can overcome. Not only can we overcome these things, but maybe we’ll be blessed for the endurance. So if there’s something we can’t handle, He won’t allow it to happen. But if it happens, that means we can handle it. And if we can handle it, that means we’re stronger in the end.

And maybe we’re better because of it.

 

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This Isn’t What I Planned to Write

I know I said I’d be back here writing over a month ago, and I had every intention of doing so. I planned on writing the answers to some “thought-provoking questions” as an outlet for myself, and anyone else who may have stumbled upon it. I planned on perhaps writing a review of a book I’m currently reading (and should be done with by now). I planned on writing about a recent episode of Dateline or 48 Hours.

I wasn’t planning on writing about another tragedy happening close to me. The third–or fourth if you count the DC Sniper attacks–I’ve been personally effected by since 2001. I’d hesitate to say it’s becoming a trend every few years, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m noticing a pattern.

Maybe it’s a pattern with me–wherever I am, these things follow. Or wherever I go, there’s some sort of anomaly that happens while I’m there. Or maybe I’ve been in some of the worst places in recent years of this country at the worst times. Or maybe God has slowly, over the last fifteen years, revealed to me His heart, His feelings, and His love for what He’s created. Everything and everyone He’s created.

Because let’s be honest: I was angry after 9/11. I was angry at bin Laden. I was angry at al Qaeda once I grasped what had happened to our country at just fourteen years old. I mean, the organization attempted to murder my own father that day. I had every right to be upset. I had every right to want bin Laden, and the rest of them, to suffer the way so many innocent people did on that day. I, like most Americans, was upset and stripped of my innocence when it comes to this world and the people in it.

I was angry at the DC Sniper just a year later. Living in his area of attacks, I was angry I wasn’t allowed to walk off the bus without being escorted by a policeman every morning. I was angry we couldn’t even pump gas without being covered by a tarp and feeling the need to always be moving because we had no idea if he was staring at us through the barrel of his sniper rifle.

I was angry with Cho after he murdered a friend of a friend, a former classmate, at Virginia Tech in 2007. I was angry that anyone could ever point a gun at that sweet girl (let alone the others also killed) with the intention of killing her. I was angry her life was cut so short when she could have been so much more in this world. I was angry he decided to go down, taking his own life, along with 30+ others for no sensible reason.

And today, I’m angry that there are people out there who are suffering. I’m angry that they’re suffering because their loved one is gone for, once again, a reason that doesn’t make sense to us. A reason that, perhaps, could have had a different outcome if maybe, just maybe, that person had not spent so much of his life suffering himself.

And I feel angry that whatever was going on in this man’s life, he chose to go out the way that he did. Once again, a miserable person has dragged down more than fifty people as a result of his own unhappiness, his own feelings, and his own agenda.

Right? Isn’t that what it comes down to? I look at this man and I see so much unhappiness, so much hatred, and so much darkness. And I have to wonder what brought this man to this point. What happens in a person’s life to make them want to evilly laugh as he killed innocent people begging for their lives in a bathroom? What was so awful within his heart and mind that he decided this was the way to go?

Seeing the response from this community over the last two days, I’ve realized something. And perhaps I’ll be chastised for saying this, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s sad to me that this is what it takes for a community to come together and define ourselves as “one” and to say and show we “love” one another. This is what it takes for us to pray for each other. So what were we doing before? Where was this love and unity prior to Sunday? Where were the prayers for all of those suffering before this attack–perhaps even those suffering who committed such acts? I wish it didn’t take the loss of fifty innocent lives in our community for us to take a step back, see the big picture, and love each other, accept each other, and encourage each other. I wish we did this anyway, without a tragedy catapulting us in this direction.

So after the dust settles and we find ourselves back in our usual routine, feeling whole again after that hollow, carved-out feeling disappears beneath our skin, may we remember what it felt like in these days to love, accept, and pray for one another. And maybe we will feel inclined to continue to love, accept, and pray for each other every day. Because we will never know how much someone could be suffering inside and could use some love, acceptance, and prayer from complete strangers.

“For what you intended for evil, God intended for good.” -Genesis 50:20

It’s Been Awhile

While talking with a coworker a few days ago about our personal blogs and recent (or, not-so-recent) writing endeavors, I realized it’s been nearly a year since I’ve written anything in this blog, which is unacceptable. Even then, it had been a while since I wrote anything before my last post, which was written more for cathartic purposes than anything else.

In any case, now that I’ve been confined to a strict budget (hashtag life goals happening, now), and am not supposed to be doing anything that costs money (saving, rather than spending, is our new motto—and I’ve never been a saver), it may be time for me to get back on the saddle and start writing again, since it’s free for me to write in here. What I am going to write about, I’m not entirely sure, but I’d love to start perhaps with these 365 Thought-Provoking Questions to Ask Yourself This Year. I’m not one to put myself out there much on the internet, but I figure, at this point, my readership is so slow with my lack of posting, why not put myself out there a bit and perhaps spark some more interested readers and gain some new perspectives?

And who knows, maybe I’ll throw in a few Dateline/48 Hours/true crime posts as well. Since, um, one of the accused parties in one of my posts actually found me post-jail release and wanted to talk about the “holes in my story” and “the truth.” (Never thought that would happen, but I guess I’m not surprised.)

Be the Match and Be the One to Save a Life!

imageI’ve recently deemed myself the “unofficial spokesperson” for Be The Match. If you’ve seen me in person within the last few months, or have even so much as texted me, you’ve probably heard my long-winded speech about becoming a bone marrow donor. Yes, I probably sound crazy trying to get people to donate the inside of their bones essentially, but by doing it, you can literally save the life of a leukemia or blood cancer patient. I’ve found, like myself, that before my family’s friend’s leukemia diagnosis, I had no idea that I was a prime and perfect candidate to become a bone marrow donor. Yes, me. The girl who has never so much as donated blood because she can’t (having lived in Europe…MOO!) is THE person they want to join the registry. All it takes is for someone to be willing.

What I’ve found, sadly, by giving my Be the Match speech to nearly anyone who will listen, is that people don’t want to be in pain. People don’t want to be inconvenienced in any sense of the word. People don’t want to give part of “their body” away to someone else. And I get it, I really do. But choosing to become a bone marrow donor is not about you. It’s not about how it will benefit you, because honestly, it won’t. It’s about someone else. Someone else whose very life depends on a transplant. Someone else who needs it so much more than I do, especially since my body will replenish the donated marrow within four to six weeks! It’s about saving that person’s life, and saving that person’s family from so much grief and heartache because they couldn’t find a donor.

So, I’ve decided to answer some questions I’ve received from people while trying to get them to sign up, because in this case, the more people know, the more I believe they will want to help. (Although sadly, I have not been able to successfully convince anyone except my husband to join the registry.)

What does it mean to “join” and become a donor? To join the registry means to have your DNA mapped to determine if you’re a match for someone in need. A “match” for a bone marrow donor is determined through your DNA (though I’m not sure of the specifics…a bunch of medical mumbo-jumbo I don’t understand, though it’s something to do with your ancestry) and they get your DNA by sending you a kit with four q-tips to swab the inside of your cheek. Then it is mailed back and it takes a few weeks for it to be mapped. Then, you’re in the system and when someone needs a transplant, their DNA is compared to all the DNA in the system to see if there is a match.

What are the qualifications to join? You need to be between the ages of 18-44 and in good health, and not more than 20% (I believe) overweight. Also, they ask you if you’ve ever had sex for money or had sex for drugs, so I know a lot of my friends are automatically excluded. Just kidding. The criteria are like that of donating blood, but probably not as specific. (That is just what I’ve heard from my husband who has donated blood in the past, where I have not) If you’re pregnant, you cannot physically give during that nine month period, but you can (and PLEASE) donate your umbilical cord blood to Be the Match.

Does it cost anything to join the registry? No. All of the costs are covered by Be the Match if you are between the ages of 18-44. If you’re over 44, it will cost you $100, but that is because after age 44, you’re not in the “prime” stage to donate.

What are the chances that I will be called to donate? According to bethematch.org, only one in 540 people on the registry will ever be called as a match to a recipient and asked to donate in their lifetime.

How much does it cost to actually donate if I am a match? Nothing. Most of the costs are covered by the recipient’s insurance.

Does it hurt to actually donate if I am a match? The whole “donating bone marrow really hurts” idea is actually a common misconception. There are two different ways to donate — one being similar to giving blood (taken from your stem cells) and the other is through an outpatient surgical procedure where it is typically removed from your hip bone. Sure, you’re going to feel a little pain afterward because you did have an incision into your body, but this isn’t going to be some long-term painful procedure. The type of donation depends on the needs of the patient.

If I am mapped, is my DNA used for any other purposes or available to anyone else? No, it is strictly used to be in the registry of donors. Your DNA will not be sold or used for research, or whatever concern you may have. It is perfectly safe and there is no risk of “DNA theft.” (This was never a thought in my head until a friend brought it up a few months ago, and it is a valid point.)

Any other questions? Visit bethematch.org and be convinced. It is not about helping yourself, it’s about saving another life! Be the Match and be the one to save a life.

Stepping Up to the Plate

Just a few weeks ago, I was told that a very dear family friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. His wife told my mom that the doctor said, “I’m not going to sugar-coat this for you: this is nasty.” I fell onto my bed in absolute disbelief. This man and his dear family was just at my wedding less than a year ago. We’ve known them for over 10 years now. (That’s a long time for a military family, believe me.) My parents call them our “twin” family since we are all so similar in personalities. His oldest daughter just had a baby earlier this year — her first. His youngest daughter is still in high school. And he has leukemia? It cannot be happening.

CANNOT.

I wanted to cry when I got the news, but all I could do was pray that God would heal him. Sure, the statistics for any kind of acute leukemia are never promising, but rather, grim. But I know that we believe and serve a God who is the ultimate Healer and Doctor and that He can rid him of this “nasty” sickness.

During the initial conversation with my mom, she said that the doctor had mentioned something about a bone marrow transplant after chemo. My naive-to-all-things-medical self didn’t know much, okay, anything about bone marrow transplants other than what I had seen on an early season of “Grey’s Anatomy.” (The extent of my medical knowledge; sad, I know.) In the episode, Izzy’s [surprise] daughter comes to the hospital with leukemia needing a bone marrow transplant and since she had no full siblings, evidently they were told a parent would be the next best donor. So, Izzy decides to donate her bone marrow to save her daughter’s life and it was, in a word, painful.

Even though that was the extent of my knowledge of bone marrow transplants, after thinking about it for a few hours, I told my husband that I would gladly donate to save our family friend if that’s what it came down to. I said that then, and I still say it now. How can I just sit here and say, “Well, good luck!” when I have plenty of bone marrow in my body?

On Tuesday, I got a text message right as I was parking my car at the gym. I glanced down and only saw the words, “will not survive” and I knew that whatever this message said was not going to be good. It was from the wife, saying that he has been moved to the “urgent” bone marrow transplant recipient list. Again, knowing nothing about how these transplants work, I asked her if she and the girls had swabbed to see if they were perhaps a match. She said they don’t swab people for specific people unless they are full siblings. Other than that, a wife or child has just as much chance to match as a total stranger. And he has no full siblings, only half.

My heart was racing so fast and I was in trance on the arc trainer, feeling the color drain from my face. I wanted to help so badly, but didn’t know how. A friend at the gym came over and said, “Are you okay? You look like you’re about to die.” I felt like I was going to die falling over off of the arc trainer. I tried to open up the site she sent me for more information about the donation process — bethematch.org — on my phone, but my eyes couldn’t focus and the site was limited. I raced home and immediately got on the computer to find out more information. All I knew was that I could not just sit back and let him die and I needed to at least try to do my part to help him.

It turns out that yes, you can get tested to see if you’re match for a specific person, but it will cost you. Anywhere from $195-$395 for a private test through “Kashi Laboratory.” I was willing to do it, to see if I was the match he needed. What’s a $195 to save someone’s life? It’s just money in the end. I knew that I had to talk to my husband first to see what he thought, because I couldn’t just start charging $195 when we don’t have that money to spend. He told me he’d support me in whatever I decided to do and that it was ultimately up to me. I figured I’d give myself a day to think about it, pray about it, and sleep on it and then decide. Time is not on our side here and I needed to make a decision quickly.

I didn’t want to join the national registry because that would mean I could be matched to a complete stranger. Sure, I’d gladly donate to someone I knew and loved, but a total stranger? That’s a little scary. So the private test seemed like the best option. All I want to do is donate to him if I can, that way I can save him, and I wouldn’t be put into a database of donors for the entire nation. I admitted from the beginning it sounded selfish, but, I felt like my feelings were valid.

But I just felt like God was telling me that I needed to stop thinking about myself and start thinking of others. This isn’t about me. Sometimes, it’s not all about what makes me happy, what makes me comfortable, and what will benefit me — it’s about someone else. I am perfectly healthy and able to donate and all that it takes is for me to be willing. That is all that it takes to save someone’s life, literally. All this time I had been praying so hard that a donor would come out of thin air and be a match for our friend, but really, what I was praying for was for someone else to step up to the plate because I certainly was not.

And that’s when I decided that if I expect others to step up and donate, then I absolutely need to be willing to donate myself. Even if it is for a total stranger that I could never meet, I need to do this to save them. There are thousands of other families just like our friends that are waiting, hoping, wishing that one donor would match to their loved one to save their life. It’s remarkable, really, because this type of transplant is so ‘easily’ done that it doesn’t take a dead person donating their organs to save another person. It takes an alive person to save an alive person and keep them alive! Praise God our medical advances have come this far that we know that this is all it takes. Most cancers cannot be solved by a simple transplant — we just have to wait and pray that the chemo will do its job and that our loved one will be healed. But this is different. It is more than hoping and praying, it is actually doing.

I pray that if I am not a match for our precious friend that I would be a match for someone else that is in his same situation. If my bone marrow can’t save his life, then maybe it can save someone else’s. What’s a few hours of pain from an incision on my end compared to saving someone from death? It is completely worth it. 

become a bone marrow donor today! @ bethematch.org