Friday, September 23, 2016

Jenna's essay about WGI

                                     Jenna Ray
Sophomore Language Arts
Period 2A
Time stops when the show begins
My memoir is about a specific moment in a long and continuing story. The story begins with an invitation to a thing called colorguard, which I had never heard of before.  It grows as the years go by, and as I learn more, and pauses at a memorable event known as the Winter Guard Internationals, which is what my memoir focuses on. More specifically it focuses on a certain feeling of performing a show, where time seems to stop when the show begins.
Colorguard is known as a sport of the arts, and includes dancing, as well as spinning and tossing flags, rifles, sabres, and batons. I first discovered colorguard when I was in sixth grade and joined a guard for children under twelve known as the Hillsboro Minis. At the time I had no idea what color guard was, and had only joined because one of my friends was in it. The first day that I went to try it out I had no idea what I was doing, but as I learned more and more I began to like and enjoy color guard. When I was in seventh grade I joined the high school JV team. The year after that I made it onto the varsity team, which is when I started hearing about a thing called WGI, which stands for Winter Guard Internationals. I learned that the high school varsity team competes at WGI every three years, and that the last year they had gone had been the year I was in minis. This meant that this next year they would go again, and if I made the varsity team again, I would go with them.
I did make the varsity team, and right away we were focused on preparing for WGI. I still didn’t know much about what it was at first, but I learned that this year it was going to take place in Dayton Ohio, and that it was a big competition where guards from all over the united states, and even guards from different countries, would all come together to compete against one another. Having WGI as our ending goal rather than just normal championships really changed how our season played out. Nearly every rehearsal ended with a reminder that we had to hold ourselves to a high standard so that we could be the best guard we could be when we performed in Ohio. Practices were also a lot more intense, and we’d sometimes do run-throughs where we would start our show over again every time a mistake was made. During the first few practices it seemed like the time to leave would never come, but when the moment finally arrived, it felt like everything building up to it had gone by too fast. Our last part of preparation for WGI was packing for the trip, then after that we went to the airport, and onto the plane that would take us to our destination.
The first two days were spent getting ourselves situated and going to the different venues around us to watch other guards perform, as well as get a feel for the space we would have to perform in. The morning of the third day we were up early and off to the venue where we would present our own show. Everything leading up to our performance seemed to go by too quickly, and before long it was our time to take the floor. We hurried to set up all our equipment,  found our ways to our beginning poses, and then the music started. The next four minutes was a whirl of spinning and tossing, and music that seemed to barely compare to the sound of our own pounding hearts. All too soon it was over and we were rushing everything off the floor. I felt immersed in the strange feeling that comes after performing a show. It’s like you suddenly can’t remember much of what you just did, as if time had fast forwarded from going on the floor to getting off it, or instead like time had stopped at the beginning, and started again when you finish.
Every time I perform in colorguard I experience the feeling of time being warped, but my experience at WGI will be one of the most memorable out of many. Getting to perform at WGI represents a huge checkmark in my continuing colorguard journey. I hope to be able to go there again someday, to experience the excitement of being there and performing there, and inevitably the time-stopping feeling that comes with it.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Strange miracles (or that time I tried to donate a kidney)

In the summer of 2011 Katie found out that she could, after all, have a kidney transplant.  This was a huge exciting deal for their family and I was happy for them.  I'd always said that I wanted to give her one of my kidneys, so I talked to the transplant coordinator in Iowa City to find out what blood tests I'd need to have done.  This was tricky because typically patients interact with a lab *through* their doctor's office.  The doctors office handles the ordering and the billing and the lab just draws the blood.  Since this doctor's office was halfway across the United States it wouldn't have a relationship with any of my local labs.  The coordinator gave me a list of questions that I'd need to ask a lab, and I started my search in the fall.

I first called a lab near my home.  I explained to the person on the phone that I was trying to get some blood work done to see if I could donate a kidney.  She was not happy about answering my questions, and was less happy as the conversation progressed.  Finally, her voice raised and irritated, she asked me WHY WAS I ASKING THESE QUESTIONS???  I was practically in tears and reiterated that I was just trying to find out if I could donate my kidney to a friend, and then the conversation ended.  Strike 1.

I called the coordinator and told her about my experience.  She sighed and said that she would try to find a lab near me that would be able to work with me.  She also said that they would send me the right kit to have the blood work done.  Within a day or two they got me the address of another lab, this one about an hour away in RTP.  The next week I planned a day where I would have enough time available and I drove an hour to the lab.  I sat in line for a while and then it was my turn.  I took myself and my lab kit up to the window, explained the situation and that someone there had spoken with the transplant coordinator, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Their system had changed, they couldn't find the information on different blood test kits.  No one remembered who had spoken with the coordinator.  They just weren't sure.  I stood and waited some more.  And was thankful that at least they were pleasant to me!  In the end after 45 minutes someone came out and said that she was sorry, they weren't able to draw blood using that particular kit.  (The one needed by the transplant center.)  Strike 2.

On the way home I spoke with the coordinator again.  She was incredulous and promised that she'd find me a place that really would take my blood.  A couple of days later she called back and said that she'd found a place, and asked if I had ever heard of a "Dur-HAM" Regional Hospital.  [Of course I had, that's where Josh was born!]  I told her I'd get it done there, but when I looked at my calendar I could see that it would be at least a week before I had time to go.

That next Thursday morning Russ called me from work, told me I needed to sit down, and then said that he had been laid off.  In that moment our world was turned sideways and blood tests were the last thing on my mind.

As the dust settled from the layoff and I started thinking again that it was time to go and finally get this blood work, I had a conversation with Katie.  All along I had assumed that the timeline on the kidney transplant was the next spring or summer.  But she said no, they were trying to do it in early December.  This really shook me up.  I'd been thinking that if I was a match as a donor the (major) surgery would be 6 months away, but it was really 5 or 6 weeks away.  We had moved immediately from the news of the layoff into major "get the house ready to sell" mode, which was physically taxing.  (In fact the week Russ was laid off I had just started painting the kitchen cabinets, and that enormous job wasn't done until after the Christmas holidays.)  We were also facing the loss of our insurance in January, and Russ was deeply depressed after being laid off.  It was all very overwhelming to me anyway, and adding the possibility of almost immediate major surgery into that mix didn't seem feasible.  

While I was in the middle of that muddle, Katie got the news that her friend/neighbor Trisha's husband was a donor match and they made plans to go forward with the transplant in early December.  I was relieved that she was still going to be able to get a transplant even without me and my kidney.


As time passed, however, I started to see things a little differently.  When it had happened I was really traumatized by that first conversation with the lab, the one where I had been yelled at.  I was less traumatized but definitely inconvenienced by having driven an hour each way to stand for almost an hour waiting to find out that another lab couldn't draw my blood.


But, my mind started to ask, what if this was all part of the plan?  What if these experiences kept me from being identified at the beginning of the fall as a potential donor, kept plans from being made for early December that involved my kidney?  What if all along the Lord knew that I actually couldn't donate a kidney that December because I wasn't going to be in any kind of place (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, insurance-lly) to do it?  What if I was protected from a situation that wouldn't have ended up being ok?  What if Sean & Katie were protected from a situation that would have been enormously frustrating and disappointing?

I came to believe that these experiences that had been so frustrating were really important, delaying my efforts until I could see that no, I actually wasn't supposed to donate a kidney.  I had my own difficult thing to go through and experience, but it wasn't going to be learning to live with only one kidney.  

I also felt strongly in the next couple of years as my friendship with Sean & Katie changed in sad and painful ways, that it was a good thing she was walking around with someone else's kidney in her body.  I had enough grief about the friendship and I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if she had ended up with my kidney.  


As I thought about this experience from time to time over the next year or two I had another odd realization.  Katie's friendship with her friend Trisha had always been strange to me.  Katie talked a lot about how Trisha was dependent on her, how she didn't have any other friends in the neighborhood or the ward.  Trisha's husband had lost his job in Logan a few years before and had gotten a job at the University of Utah, which was a HUGE commute so Trisha was depressed because her husband was never home.  They had talked about moving but just loved living in Logan and so didn't move to be closer to his job.  I thought that was crazy--it was bad enough for me when we lived 45 minutes from Russ's job, I couldn't imagine a commute that was twice as bad and in snow for several months every year.  And then it was Trisha's husband who donated a kidney.  Oddly enough, within a year or two of the kidney surgery they moved down to Salt Lake somewhere to be closer to his job.  Now if that isn't a little miraculous, I don't know what is...

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The two year check up

Just a couple of weeks after we landed here it was time for my temple recommend to be renewed.  I had my interview with a member of the bishopric and then Russ told me that I could just come to the church on Thursday night and have my stake interview then.

On Thursday afternoon Jenna and I were out picking berries, and I was still new enough to the area that I couldn't figure out how to get from the berry farm to the church.  Which seems funny now--I can't imagine *not* knowing where to go.  But that afternoon as time was running short and I was not managing to find the church I was very frustrated.

I got to the church a little late and one member of the stake presidency, President Page, offered to stay and do my interview.  Now when Russ has a temple recommend interview it takes him about 5 minutes to answer the 10 questions.  With me it's almost never, well actually really never that way.  And it wasn't this time either.  Even though he had never seen or met me before President Page took the time to talk to me, to ask me how I was, and to listen to what I was saying.  I was an emotional mess (and a physical mess too, covered in berry juice!) and that was fine with him.  We talked about trials and how hard they are and it made me feel so reassured when he said that it was so hard for him to have a good attitude while in the middle of one.  That night I got my recommend signed, but perhaps more importantly I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.


Two summers later it was time for my recommend interview again.  This time I got to the church without getting lost.  This time I wasn't traumatized about moving anymore.  But this time I had a new concern, a new issue I was working through.  And once again President Page listened and talked with me about what I was going through.  I felt seen and heard and cared for.  I loved President Page.


A couple of weeks ago I got an email reminder that it was time to schedule a temple recommend interview again.  In so many ways it seems like the last two years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  The email made me think of that first Oregon interview 4 summers ago, and then of the second one two years ago.   I'm feeling at home here in Oregon now--so very happy to be able to go to North Carolina occasionally to visit, but I feel comfortable and at home here.  The issue that was bothering me two years ago isn't a problem anymore and I feel peace in my heart about it.  It feels sort of like an every two year check up, and I'm happy to say that this year I feel like I'm in a peaceful place.  Who knows--maybe I'll even have a 5 minute interview!