Cherish the Crisis

Two years ago I jumped feet first into a college career. I’m so thankful my Aunt Bonnie encouraged me to pursue a continuing education. College has been a life preserver! Giving me a focus I never would have imagined I needed in this season of life.

My life plans and goals have become clearer as I’ve studied Graphic Design at Academy of Art University and now Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. One dream that has come to the forefront is to design for good. Though I plan to have a career as a designer, working for a way fab firm, I want to use the gifts and talents I have for a good cause and to have an affect on social change. (More on this later.)

Ten classes into my college career, I have some real talent and skills emerging that I never would have imagined. Did you know I can actually draw something more than a pitiful little stick man when I put a decent effort into it? But I still can’t draw a dog…go figure!

I enjoy the change and the growth that comes from a challenge. I never would be fully experiencing this artistic creative side of me, had my life not taken a dramatic turn. Crisis moments will become cherished moments if we embrace them for what they are.

Be sure to visit my online portfolio at Behance to see what I’m creating.

Discovering Chiari Malformation

I have been assigned 3 self reflection papers for a class this session. September is Chiari Awareness month and I wanted to share my reflections with my instructor with all of my readers. I hope this helps you to see the significance of my battle with Chiari Malformation. I was healed, at least for the time being, by guided hands…there are few who are as fortunate and blessed.

This particular class requires a great deal of effort and academics on my part and thus far I am earning a solid A in the class. This paper below, as well as the one mentioned in my writings received 100% grades. I don’t take any of this for granted as I know many still suffer the frustrations, without end, that I now face only when I’m exhausted.

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Almost 3 years ago I was thrust into the disorienting world of Chiari Malformation. Over the period of a few weeks, my neurologist had run a gamut of tests to determine the cause of my rapid neurological deterioration and non-stop headaches. My vocabulary was suddenly filled with acronyms–MS, CM, CAT, MRI, MRA, MRV, EMG, VNG, CDP, CSF, etc.– and an endless list of Latin based medical terms.

To say that I was overwhelmed would be to significantly understate my emotional state at the time. Each possible diagnosis researched on Google and WebMD escalated my anxiety beyond proportions of what any normal person could tolerate and remain in good health. To put it quite abruptly I was a literal basket case.

I doubt that I will easily forget the feeling I had when my Neurologist rattled off a few words that should have meant nothing to me. “Indeterminate cerebellar tonsillar ectopia measuread at approxiamately 5 mm…” This one short statement, documenting a discovery on a brain MRI, abruptly uttered with a matter of fact presentation, changed my life. For some reason the idea that I had tonsils in my brain caught my attention. I halted my doctor and asked for an explanation.

He quickly explained that I had a portion of my hindbrain herniating into my spine. As though that was no big deal, I was supposed to allow him to move on in telling me they still had not discovered the source of my ailments. I couldn’t get the significance of my brain not being where it ought to be out of my mind. I pressed for more information and he finally blurted out the words Chiari Malformation.

Thrust into the world of brain disorders and incurable diseases I researched and studied Chiari. I had to discover what made my enemy tick, where it was weak, and where it was strong. I learned this insidious condition destroys the lives of those it inflicts. It steals your intelligence, independence and strength leaving in its wake a fragment of the person who existed before it began the fierce onslaught of war.

This week when I received the email with the feedback from my decolonization paper, and later my grade, I realized the full significance of the healing I have experienced. Three years ago when I struggled to retain any new information and form clear thoughts I never dreamed that I would be in college, let alone doing so well.

I was challenged and overwhelmed by life last week, this week as well. I had to find a way to work fifty-five hours, at my old and new job, take care of my children and get through my schoolwork. I was not expecting to change jobs, and schools nearly simultaneously. Quite literally I wanted to cry many times.  My homework is being turned in later than I prefer but it is completed successfully. At the end of this week, although exhausted, I’m encouraged that I’m stronger and more focused than I realized. In my own small way I have conquered the enemy of Chiari Malformation.  

New Job

All of my friends know that I have been looking for a job within the graphic design field. I sent out about 30 résumés to design firms, printers and signage places. After the follow-up calls I have been added to outsourcing lists for 3 places, which should help me with my freelancing.

A certain someone’s choice to file bankruptcy last year, and my choice to avoid that at all costs, has left me with the mounting debt he chose to avoid. Clearly I need a regular income that pays more than my current old  job so I can get my head above water.

A couple weeks ago I interviewed for a job and was hired shortly after. A breakthrough…finally. It’s not in the design field but they use a significant amount of design in the workplace from posters, motivational banners, ads, informational design, and more. I’ve already put the word out that I would be interested in the in-house design as possible. Maybe this job, as a customer service rep (no, I’m NOT telemarketing) will be my foot into the door of a design opportunity that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise?

This past week I spent 40 hours training for this new position while working in the late afternoons at my old job. Plus I spent about 23 hours studying and working through classwork. By the end of the week I was completely spent. I get to do it again this week. I’m looking at it this way…now I can begin to catch up on my rent.  The bonus is that I have one more week with the babies I’ve cared for these past several months. I’ll miss them.

Another chapter in my life is opening and I’m thankful for the continued progress forward!

Critical Thought Paper

School is in full swing and I’m LOVING my new school, RMCAD. One of the first difficult assignments was to watch The Ghosts of Rwanda and write a paper answering some critical thought questions. I thought I would share my submission with you all in hopes that it will get you thinking, if you aren’t already, about how we can make a difference in critical times. 

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I am sickened by the fact that I don’t recall with greater detail the genocide in Rwanda. I am aware now that Tutsis were a persecuted minority for decades. And a devious plan to exterminate them hatched by Hutu extremists, in power since the country’s independence from Belgium in the 1960’s, ultimately succeeded in the murder of over 800,000 people.  

 

Based upon the colonial era where a great ethnic divide was created with the Belgian rule and the eugenics movement in Europe. Measuring skulls, height and skin color, led to a belief that the Tutsi’s had Caucasian ancestry, and were therefore racially superior to the Hutus. A doctrine of hate and fear pushed upon the Rwandan people succeeded in convincing them that the Tutsis were foreigners in the land, and in fact had enslaved and tortured the Hutus. 

The history of Tutsi torture upon the Hutus may well be fully accurate, however this backstory was not used for the good of the people. Where the Hutus could have come about this from a position of greater good, in walking the high road of forgiveness, vengeance inspired greater hostility and mounted an atrocity upon their fellow citizens. 

 

I have been asking myself how it is that, in 1994 I was so wrapped up in myself that I was not stunned into disbelief and moved to call for action on behalf of the people being executed in Rwanda. I still don’t have the answer. What I do know is that I am appalled that my government had a debate about the word ‘genocide’. It is unimaginable to me how lawmakers and bureaucrats were locked into “the legal definition” of a word as though the unspeakable acts in Rwanda were just verbiage.

 

On top of this the Belgians also chose to stay out of the conflict. The concern from Europeans and America was great enough to launch a military rescue operation, but that compassion extended only to those with the right citizenry. Somehow they managed to turn their backs on absolutely barbaric acts. How could they?

 

Some nineteen years later, I sit on the comfort of my living room couch shocked into action and I can speak boldly and point my finger and proclaim, “YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE!” But I must ask myself if I, in their positions, would have allowed the fears of overreaction in acknowledging the genocide in Rwanda to stop me in my tracks? I would hope that I would have taken a very demanding stance, sadly, I may too have responded in the same way.

 

I have been in the position of an expat living in a foreign country, with a high anti-American sentiment at times. When I lived in Uruguay I did so willingly. I was there to serve and minister to the people. In much the same way, and quite possibly greater, the Rwandan aid workers were there to help in some capacity. Though US government officials were there to serve the United States, over their time there they naturally developed relationships with the Rwandan people. During a particularly difficult Uruguayan presidential election there were fears over civil unrest should a certain party win. As a result I spent quite a bit of time in deep thought, asking myself hard questions over what I would do if Americans were to be evacuated. I can say that had something like this happened in Uruguay I determined to send my children to safety, and fight to stay in the country to help my friends and loved ones.

 

I was there because I wanted to make a difference in their lives for what I believed in. If I abandoned them in their greatest time of need all I had done to that point would have been for naught. I truly believe that the people who stayed behind and risked their lives to save Rwandan people did so because they so greatly valued human life it called them to action. That belief compelled them to stand against evil no matter the personal cost. I admire them greatly for their bravery and hope that I too would have a portion of their courage. 

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