Friday, February 21, 2014

Ten on...Friday!

So...I really thought that I could get it together and have this post out on Tuesday, but that was obviously wishful thinking, as my week has taken a turn for the hectic side, as I'm assuming will be par for the course for the indefinite future! Here goes!

1. Last Thursday, Gina, Emily, Mom, and I went to a Tipsy Artist party in Enid for an early celebration of Mom's birthday. It was a little touch-and-go at first, as we arrived about ten minutes later than we planned, and the place was packed! We weren't able to find four seats next to each other, but we were able to find two sets of two seats relatively close to each other, so we settled for that. There were also some issues with the food situation at the event center, but we made the best of it and went on with life. Having never been to something like this, I had no idea of what to expect, but ended up having a great time! As you can see, all of our paintings turned out slightly different, but suit each of our unique personalities perfectly!

2. We had a great celebration for Mom's birthday on Sunday, even if her birthday was on Monday of this week. It was a great day, and we had great weather so that we didn't have to worry about all 5 big boys being cooped up all day! Gina and I made a couple pots of my crockpot lasagna, and it was a hit! Even better, we did all the work the night before so we didn't have lots of work to do on the day of! I have a great picture of Mom with all six boys with her cake, but, wouldn't you know, I haven't uploaded pictures and my camera is at home. Such is life, I'll have pictures of things on here one day!! Regardless, I am so blessed to be able to celebrate another year with my amazing mom and I'm glad that she had a great celebration!

3. "So, how are classes going, Amanda?" Usually, I am able to smile and give a pleasant outlook on my class situation and talk about how life is all sunny and grand and how I just adore my classes. (Disregard the run-on sentence there.) Not the case this semester. I'm over it, and my classes are hard! (Bear with me for a moment..) I'm learning about all kinds of ridiculous math that I am fairly certain I won't put into practice after I graduate, I rarely understand my homework, I feel like a total idiot in comparison with most of the people in my classes, and I spent inordinate amounts of my life in office hours just to understand said homework. I NEVER thought I'd say it, but I miss Calculus...and Differential Equations...and Linear Algebra...or any math class in which we explicitly learned mathematical operations. Okay, so maybe this is just the case for my Intro to Modern Algebra, Combinatorics, and History of Math courses, but still. Statistics is pretty anti-climactic, as I have already learned about everything we're learning now in my NOC Stat class. I like learning more about how to teach math in my Methods of Teaching class, also. So, not much great stuff from this end of my life, but there are more silver linings than I often realize. For example, all of my professors from my impossible math classes are incredibly nice guys who are very helpful when I go to them for help. They are all willing to assist me anytime I need anything, and usually do a pretty good job of doing so. I promise I'll make it! (If I could survive my monstrous Calc classes, I can do this! Just another challenge that I'll overcome! :) )

4. In saying how great my professors are, they're still human...and three of them decided to schedule tests yesterday. I know it isn't the case and I'm being dramatic, but it's like they met up and figured out the best way to cause me inordinate amounts of stress this week...hence me not getting a post up on Tuesday. I survived, as you can tell, and we'll see what happens!

5. One thing that has kept me anchored all week is the beautiful spring-like weather we have been having! It makes me happy to be able to leisurely walk between classes and not have to alter my route to go through buildings to avoid the polar-like temperatures! I also appreciate not having to wear umpteen layers of coats, scarves, and gloves just to walk across campus! I don't like my allergies that have flared up since our weather is being so bi-polar, but I'd rather have the sniffles and 60-degree weather than clear sinuses and weather in the single digits!

6. Another anchor for the week was the fact that Bill Nye gave a lecture here last night as part of our research week activities. I was really pumped up about it, but I may have given it a little too much hype. No, he didn't do any experiments, and they didn't play the Bill Nye theme song when he came on stage. Yes, he did wear a bow tie, which partially made up for this! I will preface this by saying that he is a fantastic public speaker, and he has an excellent presence. He is also really funny and really into sundials & coining his own words/expanding our vocabulary! (I.e. cerulescence-a bluish tinge, or plinth (a real word defining the base of a statue/monument/pillar)...good stuff!) I also loved hearing about his work on the Mars rover & as the chairman of the Planetary Society. I started to lose a bit of interest when his talk became political, and he began pontificating on how he thinks we should all vote/believe. I don't say this because I happen to disagree with some of his worldviews; I say this because I worry that he was taking advantage of his status to convince weak-minded college students who are ignorant of issues to take a certain stance without having the opportunity to see both sides of the issues he presented. Also, (don't berate me too much for this one...dare I even say it...) I think he's kinda overrated. Yep, I went there. I applaud him for introducing a generation of kids to the world of science and inspiring countless people to pursue careers in science & science-related fields and I respect him as a person, but I don't see how a guy with a Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering has any real authority to pontificate on the world of science or politics. I'll leave it at that.

7. There's a TEC reunion this weekend, and I'm more excited than you realize to get to be around my TEC friends again! I can't wait to catch up with everyone and have some fun after this crazy, test-filled week!

8. So, I've been wanting to start running again to work on my New Year's goal of running a 10K this year. I haven't been motivated to start on this and I think it's been because my iPod was out of commission. I'm happy to say that it is fixed thanks to a local repair shop that fixes iPods, and I didn't have to haggle with anyone at the Apple store who probably would've tried to convince me to buy a new iPod, while mine just needed a tiny repair and is perfect for me otherwise. The weather is great, my iPod is fixed, and I think it's high time to start running again! We'll see how it goes!

9. I've been playing on a couple of intramural teams so far this semester, and it's been lots of fun. I've stuck with women's basketball & bowling and it's been great! No huge bruises or anything, just lots of fun with great people! :)

10. Possibly the biggest news from my week is that my Bible study leader/friend, Heather recruited me to lead our Bible study this week while she was working on some other things. It was such an amazing experience for me, and I had a beautiful chance meeting with a freshman girl at church who was really needing a little bit of spiritual guidance who happened to join us for our study! It's amazing how the Holy Spirit leads us to the people who need us the most! Never underestimate the Holy Spirit; I promise that is how pretty much all of the great things that happen in life happen! :)

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!!! :)

Monday, February 10, 2014

On CHDs and The Purpose of Life

Heart Disease. This phrase is thrown around so frequently that it has become pretty commonplace in our medical vocabulary. So many Americans are frequently diagnosed with some form of it, but I often feel as though it is downplayed due to advances in modern medicine that make this disease livable, to some extent. I’ll admit, as an almost twenty-one-year-old, it isn't always something that I (or most people my age) think about on a regular basis, as we still have the tendency to feel invincible and feel like something like that could never have an impact on our lives. I sometimes catch myself falling into the mindset that because I am healthy and able-bodied now, that I’ll always be that way, just like everyone else in my life.

Just about the time when I start sliding down that slippery slope, I realize that a long, healthy life isn’t promised to anyone, and I feel guilty when I remember a story that is directly connected to my own life. As I have shared previously, I have an older sister named Michelle who passed away not long after her second birthday, due to complications from a surgery due to a congenital heart defect. (Here is the link to the full story in case you're interested..)

The cold, hard fact is that heart disease is not something that only occurs in adults. It cannot always be attributed to the typical causes. More often than we realize, many of those diagnosed with heart problems are some of our youngest people. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) affect about 1% (approximately 40,000) of all children born in the US. Furthermore, there are still about one million US adults who still suffer from the effects of CHDs.1 In fact, congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect among children and most go undetected for quite some time. Hearing these figures might not sound that earth-shattering, but when your family is affected by that 1%, it is just that. It is tough to consider that there are no real risk factors or ways to completely prevent this from happening. So often, mothers just like my mom did everything right, and they still had a child diagnosed with a CHD, which could be the harshest part of this reality.

I've thought about it for quite some time, and I've always ended up with more theological questions than scientific questions. I often wondered why it is that these children and their families are given such a big cross to bear. I wondered what the purpose of this suffering is, and, most of all, I wondered why God called some of those with CHDs to come home to Him so soon, especially Michelle. I’m not sure if or when I’ll figure out the answers to these questions.

Perhaps this happens to show us that we aren't really in control, even when we think we are, or to strengthen our faith in God’s plan. Perhaps it is to remind us of the fragility of our own lives and to remind us not to fall into the mindset of invincibility. Maybe, just maybe, it happens to remind us that our lives are too short to live without purpose. There is a reason God put us on this earth, and it is our duty to discern just what it is that He wants us to accomplish while we’re here.

While I can’t say with complete certainty what my overall purpose is, I do believe that part of my purpose is to live out the life Michelle couldn't and raise awareness for her cause.

Sometimes, it seems a bit daunting to say something as definitive as that, but I know that we are often called to do what we think we are incapable of doing. Since I’m not sure where to start, how to go about doing anything bigger, and am not quite capable of making something big happen just yet, this is my first step. I encourage everyone to wear red on February 14th for this cause, and tell at least one person why. If I can raise awareness of congenital heart defects in at least one person, then I have accomplished this part of my goal. It's not much, but it's a start!

If you would like more information, or know someone who has been affected by this and could use another resource, here are a couple of links to organizations that are dedicated to helping children and families of CHD patients. 
Image used from this Website

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Math Homework Madness (and Other Fun Stuff)

I am back and finally caught up enough for the moment to take some time to talk about what I've been up to lately! Technically, I could just say that I've been doing math homework and leave it at that, but honestly, where's the fun in that? Also, if I have to think about my math homework any more than I already do, then my head just might explode!!! So, what have I been up to?

Well, as you probably guessed, I made it back to class last Monday and I am feeling 100% better! Truth be told, I felt fine by Thursday, but was forced to be quarantined until Monday-ish. I thought that I was going to lose my sanity if I had to be cooped up in my trailer for one more day by myself, so you could imagine how great it was to go home on Friday! I'm pretty sure I spent an inordinate amount of my sick time calling/texting people so that I could have some form of human contact! Let's just hope that if I ever get married and have children that I don't have to be put on bed rest!!! I will lose my sanity if that day comes! Sadly, even when I went home, I still stayed cooped up, but the only difference was that I was working on homework the entire time instead of watching movies, doing dishes or something to keep my mind occupied! I had a few...okay a LOT, of freak-outs thanks to my homework, and I spent an inordinate amount of time feeling stressed to the max. There was one point when Mom forced me to go outside to check the mail just so I would quit stressing about homework!

Thankfully, I felt well enough and finished my Tamiflu regimen by last Sunday so I could meet up with my friend Janey, who was the saintly friend she is and emailed me every set of notes and recordings from pretty much all of my classes! Then, I decided since I was well enough to go to the library to meet with her, I was well enough to go to Sunday student Mass :) There was no relief quite like being back around people!! So far, the only thing that remains from my illness are some sinus issues (i.e. a runny nose and a nasty-sounding cough), which really isn't that big of a deal! I also carried around boxes of Kleenex with me for the better part of last week, and I can now say that I've gone through at least 2 square boxes, which is an accomplishment, of sorts, for me!

I'm pretty sure I spent the majority of my free time between classes in my professors' office hours getting help on all of my homework, but it was all good because I gained a little bit more clarity on everything that was confusing me, and I was able to finish my assignments! Now that I'm caught up, I don't plan on getting behind any time in the foreseeable future!! (I also didn't plan on getting the flu, so we'll see how that one goes!) In one of the office hour sessions, I managed to become part of a study group, which I hope will be helpful when it comes time for future assignments and test preparation!

Since I've last posted, both Wyatt and my old roomie, Carissa, celebrated birthdays!! Wyatt's birthday party was this past weekend, and Gina decided to have it at our local YMCA. This worked quite well for everyone, and the kids LOVED getting to swim in the dead of the winter! I wished that I would have taken some pictures, but I didn't. I did get a great picture of Mom snuggling with Jakub, but I don't have my camera with me at the moment, so that'll have to wait for another day! (He is growing so much and really starting to get his true Jake look, which is basically the same way Wyatt & Andy looked at that age..)

Wyatt's birthday party was just one part of my overall-awesome weekend I had! I could detail every little thing I did, but I'll just give a list for brevity's sake :)
-I went to daily Mass (on Friday), which is something that I've come to love to do!
-Our missionaries hosted a Junior/Senior night to give us an idea of what their organization is about and everything that goes into becoming a missionary.
-We finally had another Contra Dance, and we were able to get lots of church friends to join us for the first time :)
-I spent a lovely evening catching up with my dear friend, Haley (from PLC) and further encouraging her to take the plunge by joining me at OSU next year! (I think she's going to do it!!! Hooray!!)
-Haley and I went on an excursion through town that led us to stalk down Liz at her work (Haley & Liz used to be co-workers, fyi.) and catch up with her :)
-We met Liz's new puppy, Sadie, and got to see Joe and Vickie, which is always a treat!
-I got to sleep in for once on Sunday morning!
-I had a wonderful lunch with Mom & Dad before heading back to Stillwater for Mass :)
-Student Mass & a Super Bowl watch party!

Yes, I was quite busy this weekend, but I wouldn't have had it any other way! Lots of great times with amazing people :)

Even better, I know that there are lots of good times awaiting me in the coming weeks, as we will soon be celebrating Mom's birthday, and there will also be a get-together for everyone who went on the TEC retreat a few weeks ago! I'm excited to see all of my new TU friends again!!!

I thought that I'd be reprieved from my school duties today with a snow day, but no such luck. The roads were pretty nasty coming into town this morning, which made my commute quite stressful for me. Supposedly the roads are passable, but I was worried about tomorrow morning's commute. Thank goodness for my awesome friends, Anna & Rebecca, who are opening up their apartment to me tonight so that I don't have to brave the roads in the morning; they are the best!!!

On a last note, Mimi took a spill yesterday while she was in town getting a few things before the snow came in. She ended up breaking her femur and had surgery on it today. Mom just informed that everything came out alright, so I am feeling a bit better about it than I did last night. After she stabilizes and heals a bit more, she'll be going into physical therapy sessions, which I know will aid in her recovery! If you think about it, say a few prayers for this wonderful woman, that she will have a speedy recovery! It would mean the world to both her and all of us! Thanks so much!!

Have a great week, and stay warm, wherever you are!!