Friday, September 26, 2014

Observations About City Life

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This summer my family made the 3,000 mile move across the country from Charleston, SC to Seattle, WA. I had no idea how much it would change me and the way I think about things, especially myself.

I now want to launch into a post about my self discovery. It is a good one, but I'll save it for later. Instead, I want to describe some of the things I've notice about living in the city. I am a country girl, but I have always wanted to live in the city. As most great things, the opportunity came when I least expected it. I really wanted to like living in the city, thankfully I was not disappointed.

Living in the city reminds me a lot of being on campus at college. Granted, though it was large, I went to a university out in the middle of nowhere. It was a city, but only a very teeny tiny one. However, there are a lot of similarities. For example, we use buses to get everywhere. When I was in college it was to commute from the parking lots to the classes. In the city, it is from my apartment (to the closet bus stop) to wherever it is I am going. Today I was thinking about all of this while sitting on the bus on the way to the library, which would otherwise be quite a long walk.

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I am also reminded of campus life because everyone, young and old, walk around the city with headphones in their ears. This happens everywhere in college, everyone goes about their day listening to their own soundtrack. It is quite the phenomenon if you think about it. Somehow listening to music makes you feel less alone while you navigate through the day. Any of the people with headphones in will still often acknowledge and talk to you so it isn't fully a means to alienate, it is simply the lifestyle. Everyone accepts it, most do it.

Everyone being so close to each other reminds me of college too. When I lived in the suburbs (so most of my life up to this point), you see people when you get to places. If you go to the library you see people there. If you go to the grocery store, you see people there. If you want to see a friend, you go to their house. My point is don't see people in between. You get in the car and you arrive at your destination. Yes, you see other cars, but not the people in the cars. In the city, there are people everywhere all the time. You see people as you walk, as you arrive and as you leave. People are just closer, they're everywhere, and it is completely normal to have others see you.

Everything is closer. After college, one of the things I always missed was the fact that you were closely surrounded by everything and everyone you needed. The store was close, the coffee shop was close and your friends were close. In the city, everything is close. The store is close (a convenient store is even closer). There are three coffee shops withing two blocks of my apartment (more as you travel closer to the heart of the city). The best part is that my friend is right next door. Even the library, that I complained was such a far walk is still only a mile and a half away.

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I love it. I am glad I do, I really wanted to love it. In fact, I fall more and more in love everyday. I love the weather, the people, the culture and the freedom. There is a beautiful freedom of being seen by others while being you. There is no need to hide because you are in plain sight, with everyone else being unique and themselves.

One thing that has really stood out to me this week is how living in the city makes you the background in many other people's stories. Everything is closer and you see more people. Well, those people also see you. As they go through their day, doing their routine with their own drama and purpose, they see you. You are an extra in their life. They see you walking on the road. They see you on the bus. They see you at the coffee shop. How often have you commented on people you see out and about - what they wear, how they act, where they are going? How many people have commented on you? I understand that this is a thought that could disturb some. However, it comforts me. It lets me know that I am here, I have a story, I have a purpose. I am okay with being an extra in someone else's life. After all, they are just trying to get through the day, same as me.

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Living in the city has given me more confidence in being myself. I am not afraid to choose. I am not afraid to be bold. I am learning to be brave. This is something that began before I moved, but I don't think I would have gotten where I am now without this move. This transition has made it all possible in a way that I can't describe.

It is still life. There are still good days and bad. There are still happy moments and lonely ones. I don't think those things ever change, no matter where you are. However, the city has brought me to life in a way I never expected. For that, I am forever thankful.

Have you ever experienced city life? What are your observations? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mesothelioma Awareness Day: September 26, 2014

September 26 is a very important day in the lives of many. It is the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day. That may not mean much to you, honestly, it didn't mean much to me until a brave and beautiful woman, Heather Von St. James, reached out to me to raise awareness for this rare, yet deadly disease.

Mesothelioma is a rare, but aggressive cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. What are asbestos? I'm glad you asked. Asbestos are naturally occurring fibrous minerals that were used for many years as an industrial insulation component. Even though asbestos is classified as a known human carcinogen, a substance or agent that tends to produce a cancer, it is still produced and used in America and throughout the world. It can still be found in many homes, schools, public facilities and commercial or industrial buildings.

I don't know about you, but that last fact is a little scary.

Photo Credit: ELSL Law, one representation of mesothelioma victims

Even over 30 years after the peak of its use, asbestos still remains the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States. It was greatly used throughout the 20th century in a wide variety of applications. Those who are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and machinists are especially at risk. Additionally, there is a risk of second hand asbestos exposure if you live with and handle the clothes of one who is regularly exposed.

Navy Veterans from WWII through Vietnam were also probably exposed to high concentrations of asbestos through the engine rooms, boiler rooms and even sleeping quarters of their ships and in the shipyard. This exposure to asbestos often develops into Mesothelioma.

The sneaky aspect of this form of cancer is that mesothelioma has a long-latency period. This means it commonly sits dormant in the body for approximately 20-50 years after the initial exposure. As a result, Mesothelioma is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 50-70, many years after the initial exposure to asbestos.

Over a long period of time, asbestos fibers slowly inflame the lung's internal tissue and disrupt organ function. Roughly 80% of mesothelioma cases occur within the lining of the lungs. However, there is also peritoneal mesothelioma which occurs in the abdominal lining and pericardial mesothelioma which occurs in the heart lining.

Photo credit: Mesothelioma Guide

This is a very serious disease that affects many thousands of people in the United States alone. This year approximately 10,000 Americans will die of asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Over 200,000 will be living with asbestos.

However, there is hope! Awareness is the key. The best way to avoid mesothelioma is to avoid asbestos completely, since it is its cause. Nonetheless, consulting with a physician at the first sign of symptoms or if you believe you are at risk can make the difference. Early diagnosis provides a greater range of treatments. Most mesothelioma cases are not diagnosed until the advanced stage giving the patient only on average 10 months to live; however, early diagnosis can quite literally save your life.

Heather Von St. James is a voice for Mesothelioma Awareness. In 2005 at age 36, she was diagnosed with Mesothelioma right after giving birth to her only daughter, Lily. She was only given 15 months to live. However, after a life-saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, she is not only alive, but thriving. After being one of the few to survive this fatal disease, she and her family have dedicated their lives to spreading awareness of Mesothelioma.

I am in awe of Heather's passion and eagerness to give a voice to the victims of asbestos exposure. I am very thankful to have this opportunity not only to learn about this grievous disease, but to spread awareness and hope for the future. There is no cure for Mesothelioma yet, but awareness is the key to advancements in treatment and hopefully a cure for future generations.

Learn more about Mesothelioma Awareness Day Campaign!
Learn more about Mesothelioma!
Learn more about Heather's Story!
Read more from Heather Von St. James!

In honor of #MesoAwarenessDay, I am giving my voice to victims.

{Wordless Wednesday} The Good Life

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

{Wordless Wednesday} Tree of Life

I painted this picture of the Tree of Life. For those who know Divergent, the inspiration came from "Amity: The Peaceful." I have always been fascinated with trees and so it all fits together for me. I'm not sure if it is finished yet, but I'm also not sure what to add. Nonetheless, I'm pretty excited about it.
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Power of Words: A Book Review of "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

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I read a lot of books about a lot of different things. Ideally, I would like to write reviews on all of them. However, most of the time I just start a new book instead. Books affect me in all kinds of ways. Sometimes, it is a quote that sticks out or an idea. Sometimes there is a character that I fall in love with over and over again. Sometimes it is simply the entertainment it offers. But then there are books that completely change you perspective. "The Book Thief" is one that will stay with me for a long time.

I remembered hearing about the hype of the book when it came out and then again when it received awards. I saw it go through the lists of best-sellers and just kept on reading other things. It wasn't until my Aunt told me about this particular book that I really even gave it a second glance. I'm glad I did.

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"The Book Thief" is set in Germany during the Nazi Reign. It begins with a little girl who sees death take her brother. This wouldn't be the last time she sees him. The narrator of this book, much to my great enjoyment, is none other than death himself. This perspective of WWII, from the eyes of death, is enough to easily make this book a favorite on it's own. He speaks with such eloquence and such heart. The imagery is breathtaking and the impact is heartbreaking.

The journey of Liesel as she goes about her days while surrounded by war, are full of ups and downs, victories and defeats. The one that connected to every moment...books. Words fuel the soul and no one was more passionate about them than Liesel. Going from the complete inability to read to reading to family and friends during raid night, she found power and comfort in words. They even saved her life, more than once.

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When everything around you falling apart, there is stability in books. I found this out in my move across the country. Even without Internet or furniture, there were still books. I have read so much lately because of that particular point. Whenever I feel unsure or alone I pick up a book, even new books are great friends for the soul. Even once things got settled and I became fore sure of myself again, books were still there encouraging me. Books have been a background in my entire life, much like the story of the book thief.

"The Book Thief" was a story that opened my eyes once again to the horrendous nature of the Nazi Regime and the dark truth of the loss faced during that time. Even among the darkness there are rays of light and reasons to laugh and of course, books to read. This book had me from the very beginning. I made a connection with the love of books and the power of the written word. It ranges from the most happy to the most devastating tragedy, but just as it was Liesel's life, in big and small ways it is all of our lives.

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As I began I mentioned that I like writing reviews, but for some reason I don't. Sometimes I don't know what to say or don't have much to add other than, "that was a good book." This book, "The Book Thief," held me in its grips long after I read the last sentence. This was a book that I could not carry on with my own life until I wrote down what the book made me feel, which was every emotion you can feel all between two covers of one book. This was a book that made me fall in love with reading all over again. This was a book that inspired me to write again. Not many books can accomplish that.

Yes, this is a book that will stay with me for a long time. There isn't much more to say other than everyone should read "The Book Thief." If for no other reason than to remember what being human is all about.