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Even a genius needs a liver

6 Oct

Photo by flickr user acaben. Creative Commons.

At the passing of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, people across the world are thinking about the gadgets and technology he created that changed our lives forever.

You know what else changes lives forever? Organ donation.

In March 2009, Steve Jobs received a liver transplant. He was lucky. First, because out of the 3,400 Californians waiting for a liver in 2009, he was one of the 671 who got one and not one of the 400 who died.

And second, because he was wealthy. He was able to travel and afford resources to increase his chances of finding a liver and recovering.

It deeply bothered Jobs that not everyone needing an organ had the same opportunities. So he talked to important people like Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger to help pass a law.

 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that will make California the first state in the nation to create a live donor registry for kidney transplants.

The bill also requires California drivers to decide whether they want to be organ donors when they renew their drivers’ licenses. According to one notable supporter, this second measure alone should double the number of organ transplants available in California. —Business Insider

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU  Slate Magazine for writing this story on how you can help the next Steve Jobs by becoming an organ donor. Because it is EXACTLY what I was thinking this morning when I heard that Jobs had died.

Who knows what genius can be preserved thanks to your selfless gift? The next Jobs could be one the 112,356 Americans currently waiting.

Floridians can register as an organ and tissue donor at donatelifeflorida.org. Check organdonor.gov to find out how to register in your state.

Side note: Coincidentally, in Mass on Sunday, the deacon used Steve Jobs as an example for the pro-life movement. Jobs’s young, unwed mother considered an abortion but decided to put her son up for adoption instead.

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Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

4 Oct

Original photo by Flickr user The Consortium. Manipulated by me.

From what I can tell, St. Francis was the original hippie.

The young Italian from the 12th century who founded three orders was all about peace, love, animals and the environment. Just look at his “Canticle of the Creatures:”

All praise be yours, My Lord,
through all that you have made.
And first my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day….

How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright and precious and fair.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air….

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten up the night….

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us…and produces various fruits
With colored flowers and herbs….

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.

He also used to talk to the animals, encouraging them to praise God.  There are stories of animals responding to St. Francis’s voice.

His love for all of God’s creation earned him the honor of patron saint of animals and ecology. In 1979, Pope John Paul II said, “St. Francis invited all creation—animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon— to give honor and praise to the Lord.”

People around the country (maybe world?) bring their pets to churches Franciscan monasteries for a special blessing today in honor of the patron saint of animals.

His inspired the famous plea for peace, The Prayer of St. Francis, written years after his death around World War I. This AmericanCatholic.org column examines when the prayer was written and reflects on how St. Francis exemplified each simple word.

The prayer led to this popular hymn. It’s been a favorite of mine for years. (I scoured YouTube for a version that sounded good and included lyrics)

This year’s feast day is particularly special to me as I get ready to start as a communications volunteer at the Franciscan Mission Service headquarters in Washington DC. The lay Catholic organization trains and sends missionaries to poor communities around the world.

I am looking forward to learning more about this groovy guy and his teachings over the next year.

Reflection on procrastination

3 Oct

I think I’ve finally defined the source of my troubles.

“Procrastination: When the task at hand is not as interesting as all the other things I could be doing.” – Bridget Higginbotham

Basically, I get distracted. I lose focus, my mind wanders. I don’t so much “put-off” as “take-on other things.”

I find that this is certainly the case when I work from home.  At my internships when I worked in an office, I was a storm of productivity. But at home, I see a little mess and I think, “I’ll mop the floors,  clean the bathrooms, straighten my desk, then work.” And there’s that kitchen full of food, beckoning me to munch and sip my way to being unproductive.

Technology is also a huge temptation when I’m working at home. I wouldn’t turn on  the television, play games on my phone or leisurely browse Facebook, Twitter or a plethora of other websites if I were in an office.

And then there’s the people: Banks, pharmacies, charities, etc. that make me go racing to answer the house phone. The friends who send random text messages. Family members walking, talking, cooking and watching television with earshot of my desk. The dog who expresses the need to go outside or have his belly rubbed.

But I’d say the biggest distraction I find when working at home is my own to-do list. I love lists and am constantly writing down craft projects to do, things to clean, necessities to buy and tasks to accomplish.

My unsuccessful attempt to schedule my time and tasks. Circa early August.schedule

Because I recently accepted a volunteer position and will be moving to Washington DC in a few weeks, my to-do lists have exploded. Yet the very projects and obligations I have to complete before I move  seem less intriguing than the packing and prepping for the next stage of my life.

I’m proud to say that today I did get several hours of work done on my freelance article. Granted, I wasted half the day before I could finally focus, but the writing I did eventually do was great. Hopefully tomorrow I can get even more work done, and the next day even more. It’s all about the discipline… and having a deadline certainly helps.

So what about you, my friends? How do you find yourself procrastinating and how do you handle it?

Hungry for “The Hunger Games”

1 Oct

It’s a fact of life: The book is always better than the movie.

This fact has been proven with “Harry Potter,” ‘Twilight, ” “The Help” and any other recently released book that has been turned into a Hollywood moneymaker.

Therefore you MUST read the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins before March 2012 when the first movie hits theaters.

I tore through all three books in September and loved them. The first book is my favorite because it can almost stand alone — almost. My advice : Have all three books in your possession before you start reading book one. I did not know it was a series so when I got to the cliff-hanger and saw “End of Book One” I about had a conniption.

Based on the fact that the font size is huge and the main character is sixteen/seventeen,  I’d say that the books were written with a younger audience in mind (I heard about them from my high school cousins this summer). But my college-graduate friends and I have all enjoyed them.  I even introduced my mom to the series, and then we fought over our library copy of “Mockingjay.” I am the victor because I finished the book first.

The books have been lauded by big names like Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer as well as made No. 1 on national bestsellers lists including USA Today’s, Wall Street Journal’s, New York Time’s and Publisher’s Weekly’s.  I don’t know how much more of an endorsement you need.

If you’ve never heard of the Hunger Games, I’d recommend reading this great article by CNN. Basically, think “1984” plus “Brave New World” plus “Lord of the Flies” (I think mixing “The Hunger Games” in with these classics would create a great teen lit lesson). There’s lots of violence, destruction and strategy mixed with a little bit of [innocent] romance and fashion set in a futuristic North America.

What makes the books so addictive is Collins’ ability to keep the reader turning the pages. There’s so much action and so many plot twists.  And Collins has the tendency to add a surprise in the LAST SENTENCE of the chapter, baiting the reader to start the next one. I actually had to start covering up the last paragraph of the chapter to keep myself from jumping ahead. I also would promise myself, “Ok, you can read  just one more chapter,” only to end up reading three….or five.

 

I am definitely hesitant to see how Hollywood treats the movies. I would prefer that they squished it all together into one film because the heroine’s inner-monologue that takes up much of the books will be lost anyway. Also, I was surprised to hear that the films were originally supposed to be low-budget when it’s obvious that they’ll require copious amounts of special effects.

Here’s the official movie trailer, though it doesn’t really reveal much about the plot:

There also lots of fake/fan-made trailers floating around YouTube than better explain the premise but are clearly lacking the real actors, sets, etc.

If you just see the movies, you’ll miss out on the fun of reading the books. PLUS you’ll have to wait almost a year and a half between movie releases to find out what happens next.  And trust me, that would be torture.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME…changes in the Mass texts?!

24 Sep

So this is what I read while in the waiting room during my mom’s colonoscopy this morning:

Understanding the revised Mass texts

By Paul Turner and Liturgy Training Publications

Starting November 27, the First Sunday of Advent and the first day of the new church year, some of the Mass readings will be different. Scholars have improved their translations and understandings of Latin texts, so they’ve created a revised English version of the Mass to match.

I was a little confused and upset when I first heard the news (this change has been years in the making), but this booklet explained the reason for most of the changes. I accept that they are appropriate, it will just take some time for me to move away from saying and hearing the same  words in Mass for the past 22 years.

Having attended Mass in French several times, I found some of the changes interesting. In English, the response to “May the Lord be with you,” has been, “And also with you.” But at French Mass we said, “Et avec votre esprit,” or literally, “And with your spirit” – which is exactly what we’re supposed to say with the new translation. Apparently some of the other langauges had already been using a more literal translation of the Latin (Most of which is, of course, is a translation from the Biblical texts. The Mass strings together many Bible verses and adds a few other elements to make one big prayer.)

If you’d like to learn about the revisions for yourself, http://www.revisedromanmissal.org/has free resources.

P.S. My mom’s colonoscopy went well. Finally no polyps or cancers, PTL!

 

 

Recession + young people = “Lost Generation”?

22 Sep

“Without work, young adults aren’t starting careers and lives in new cities, instead hanging out with their parents.”CBS News

That pretty much sums up my life right now.

With a headline of “Young becoming ‘lost generation’ amid recession,” the article tells how Americans in their 20s and 30s are facing the highest rates of unemployment since World War II. And those with a college degree doing odd jobs right now are going to have to fight with new graduates once the job market opens up.

Oh, and we have a 1 in 5 chance of living in poverty.

Awesome.

I can live with not starting a family, buying a house or moving across the country (all things young adults are doing drastically less, according to the article), but this not-having-a-job-and-staying-with-my-parents thing is getting old. After 17 years of homework, projects, exams and a TON of extra-curricular activities and leadership positions, I definitely needed a little downtime between finishing my education and entering the workforce.  But now two months has turned to five, and with my sister and many of my friends back at school, summer vacation is clearly over.

Is October really a week away?

I’m extremely blessed to have the support of my parents.  Without them I’d be hungry and homeless, without a car or cellphone. I am also lucky  to be one of those people with “odd jobs” (Thank you, thank you, Christie and St. Pauls!). I’m even using my journalism training  and experience to do some exciting freelance projects. But after having three internships and graduating with honors, I kind of expected to be doing a bit more with my life.

At Easter — a week before graduation — a family member asked me, “So what are you going to do if you can’t find a job?” I blinked at him, “Of course I’m going to find a job!” Oh, how silly of me.

From talking to some of my other unemployed friends, it’s the job search and application process that’s disheartening. After being rejected several times and ignored even more, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do it all over again. And again. And again.

It’s starting to mess with my head. “If only I had already applied to the service programs instead of waiting a year to build my portfolio.” “If only I had had the time to apply to jobs before graduation.” “If only I had known about those AWESOME internships that you have be a student to do, I would have done them last summer. Then I’d be set now.”

But I can’t change the past. I’ve got to work with what I’ve got. I suppose it’s a lesson in resilience, a test of strength.

I just hope I pass.

9/11: 10 years later

11 Sep
New York skyline with twin towers

Photo by Mike Gieson on Stock.XCHNG

September 11, 2001 started as a normal school day. Wearing khaki pants, a pink shirt, a wide-knit sweater (I guess it was cool in the early morning) and an Aquarius necklace (with incense!)  from Limited Too, I spent the bus ride chatting with a girl named Kay Ann. I told her how pink was my unlucky color, “Whenever I wear pink, bad stuff happens.” I think my evidence was the latest school fire drill.

I was sitting in seventh grade social studies when the middle school dean Mr. Peters came in and told our teacher that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. Mr. Johnson turned on the TV and flipped through the new stations. There’s a hotel in Orlando (now a Hilton Double Tree) that used to be known as the Radisson Twin Towers. So I was confused to see on the screen a skyscraper in New York City instead of the hotel I passed hundreds of times and even spent the night at once.

We watched as network news anchors tried to speculate what could have caused a plane accident on such a clear, beautiful day. Then another plane  plummeted into the second tower. Even a classroom of 12-year-olds know that it was too coincidental to be an accident.

At that point, there was no way we were going to get any work done, so we just watched the news. In my next class — newspaper, maybe English?–Mrs. Poor left the television on even though I think she probably wasn’t supposed to. I panicked a little when they announced that Flight 95 went down in Pennsylvania because one of my best friends had moved there in fifth grade. I whipped the laminated United States map out of my binder and tried to figure out if the accident was anywhere near her town.

I think my math teacher Mr. Dimond actually had the television off in his class.  I remember thinking, “How can he expect us to do algebra at a time like this?” But I would have honestly used any excuse to get out of math. I don’t really remember any other part of the school day.

That afternoon, I was called to the front office to go home early. The entire walk from my classroom I tried to figure out why.  My parents were safe in Orlando, no business trips or anything. I have family in New York and New England, were they in the city near the towers? My uncles travel a lot (there’s even a pilot in the family), were they on a plane? As soon as I saw my mom I burst out, “What’s going on? Is everything OK?” Some snobby woman scolded me, “How about, ‘Hi mom,’ ‘Glad to see you, mom,’ ‘Thanks for coming to pick me up, mom.'” Turns out my mom’s work told them to all go home so she decided to pick me and my sister up.

At home I turned on my boom box to try to listen to my top-40 radio station. But there was no music, just the same talk on all the stations. The television was the same way. And that’s where I was on September 11, 2001.

The terrorist attacks left a mark on the school year. The cover of my seventh grade yearbook is a dappled image of the Statue of Liberty in front of an American flag. An entire section of our creative arts magazine, “Flights of Fancy,” was dedicated to the event.  As a member of the publications staff, I helped type, edit and place the haikus, acrostics, free verse poems, short stories, letters to President Bush and Osama bin Laden, sketches and drawings my peers created in honor of the day. I had written  a poem from the perspective a firefighter who risked his life to save others.

Several lines of our dedication to the victims of September 11 stand out to me now. “On that day our world changed forever. There is no doubt we lost of our innocence and childhood.”

Looking back, I’d say that’s true.  Before 9/11, I would never have expected anyone to hijack a plane or try to blow up a building. Even though in school we had studied events such as the Holocaust, I never truly grasped that there was evil in the world. Sinister people with bombs intent on killing innocent people were the stuff of Hollywood, not real life.

For the first anniversary of 9/11, it was my duty as editor of “The Silver Talon” newspaper to write an editorial about the event.  In it I said, “..then a plane in the sky above will interrupt my thoughts and send a chill down my spine and twinge of pain in my heart. Until the plane is gone, I hold my breath.” 

Snapshot of my editorial in the middle school newspaper

Ten years later and I still catch myself holding my breath sometimes when I hear a low-flying plane. Just the commercials for the 9/11 specials airing this week have me choking back tears. I can’t even comprehend how the event has affected me.

Almost half of my life has been spent in a post-9/11 world. It shocks me to think that my younger cousins have known nothing else: heightened security at airports and important buildings, threats of Anthrax or other biological weapons, American soldier death tolls, buzzwords like “terrorism” and “weapons of mass destruction,” and a people united by love for a country but divided on what it should be doing. Any hopes of returning to the carefree, relaxed time of my childhood are dashed by another incident such as the 2004 bombings right before my cousins’ field trip to Madrid, and the 2005 bombings while my friend was vacationing in London.

Ten years later, I’m an adult and at times I’m just as confused and upset as when I was 12. I still can’t make sense of the slaughter of innocent people, but I hope I never will. Maybe I’m naive, but I still pray for a peaceful world, free from violence.

When I try to think of how life has changed over the past 10 years, I think the words penned in our magazine dedication in the months following the attacks still say it best, “We have gained an understanding of the character of others, a deeper appreciation for the people and places we love, and a stronger sense of hope for the future we will make.”