The People I Find: Gaza

There is a lot going on around the world right now. Last week, I received a message from my friend in Jordan who said she had found someone who wanted to share their story. Armen shared her story a few weeks ago, and it gave great perspective on what it is like to live in the Middle East. She explained to me that she was going to the hospital regularly to donate blood for those affected in the Gaza conflicts right now. When Armen went last week she was pleased to meet a man who had crosses the border seeking refuge. He didn’t want his name used at all or where he was from, but he wanted to share his story.  Armen did me the favor of interviewing him and was able to record his story. I have left it the way it is, because I wanted the integrity of the story to shine through.
GazaHere is His Unknown Story:
When I asked the old man what was his normal life before this week of the Israeli government attack on Gaza ,he started laughing he told me there was never a normal life for us ,we are living, we are always fighting and trying to survive they close the borders all the time so we starve there is no food and no water. We die with each murdered son or daughter that we have ,you know I lived in 3 houses 2 of them got bombed  from the Israeli solders  for no reason just because they want to kick us out of our land and country.
It was 3:00 pm at night, I was sleeping with my family when I heard a loud knocking at the door, bangs in the middle of the night ,we woke up terrified and scared it was the Israeli soldiers asking for my 8 year old son they wanted to take him to military prison for throwing rocks at the soldiers he blind folded me and took him while we were trying  and bagging them to let him go ,my other son died in front of me with nothing in my hands to do to help him he is 13 year old was shoot by soldiers while throwing stones at them,when a person sees his child dying front of him they lose their humanity .
People in their house when they started bombing them ,they don’t care if you are a Muslim or a Christian ,a 100 year old or a 5 year old .
Is this a life? They should come see us they should come see how we are neglected ,over here we have no food ,no water ,no electricity we have nothing.
I feel very sad the people all over the world have closed their ears and eyes ,I feel very sad they deprived me from my sons and they wounded me ,why?
My only wish is for peace we are tired I’m tired ..
rockets-hit-gaza-city-dataHe shared with me these final words of a famous saying:
All your armies, all your fighters
All your tanks, and all your soldiers
Against a boy holding a stone
Standing there all alone
In his eyes I see the sunIn his smile I see the moon
And I wonder, I only wonder
Who is weak, and who is strong?
Who is right, and who is wrong?
And I wish, I only wish
That the truth has a tongue

(C)LVB-2014

Obama and Mormons

obamaI am in no way a political wiz. I should probably be more involved in what is going on in the world, but for me it has become to contentious of a subject. On Sunday, I attended Sunday School and the lesson was on “Good Leaders.” We began discussing good leaders throughout the church, from olden time prophets to modern-day prophets. The discussion then turned to good leaders outside of the church. Our teacher described a good leader with many characteristics. The first person that came to mind for me was obviously a fictional character, Dumbledore and by association Harry Potter. While that answer got a few chuckles, the next person mentioned created much controversy throughout the room… OBAMA.

I was shocked at the response from the class members. As class members started to nit-pick everything wrong about Obama and his actions, the teacher held his ground and kept reiterating that we were not in class to discuss how good our president is doing, and that our political beliefs are our own. There were many off-hand comments about Obama and his role as president. I won’t go into detail, but the room was full of people both for and against Obama. I tell you again, I am not a political wiz. I know maybe a fraction of what is going on around the world, but what I do know is that the Mormon church allows us to have our own political views.  On mormon.org the Church has a statement: “Principles compatible with the gospel are found in the platforms of all major political parties. While the Church does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties, members are urged to be full participants in political, governmental, and community affairs.” This statement reassured me that politics are important, and I should be better informed, and that I should be involved.

A few years ago I attended a summer camp called GIRLS STATE. It was an opportunity for me to spend a week with 100 girls from around Idaho and play “government.” Throughout the week, we recreated the government, we ran for offices, gave speeches, ran campaigns, and even passed laws. That week I ran for a position and didn’t get voted in. I had lost. At first I was upset. It took me a day or two to realize a lesson about leaders that I will never forget. Even if you don’t like your leader, you should show your support. This lesson has followed me through many things, student council, after school club, EFY, and even church callings. Sometimes I didn’t agree with my “leaders,” but what I had to remember was the importance of the bigger picture.

When it comes to Obama, I may not like everything he does. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but right now he represents our country and so I support him. I don’t know what he does all day, I don’t really know the behind the scenes of his life, but I do know that he has our country, America, in his hands. So I support him. I pray for him to make decisions that will better the country instead of rip him apart. I hope that he does well, because when he does well so does America. He is like any other human on this earth, he has agency and he will make mistakes just like you and me. He may or may not have been my choice, but my choice is to support America. number 12

(C)LVB-2014

 

It Just Never Gets Old

IPHONE JULY 2013 052On the long drive from Boise to Glendale I became very bored… As you can imagine, I did everything from counting my freckles, flossing my teeth, and having one on one conversations with myself in Albanian. At one point Mr. Bird and I got stopped on some long long road with a sign that said “Wait might be 30 minutes.” Instead of waiting patiently in our cars, Mr. Bird and I hopped out of our cars and grabbed our baseball mitts from the trunk. We played catch in the middle of the free-way. It’s okay, there was no on coming traffic. After this little slice of heaven, we headed back to our cars and we drove on. My boredom continued… As I looked around the car, I realized I had Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on cd. It was almost like I had found Tom Riddle’s diary. I decided to begin the journey of listening to one of my childhood favorites. As I turned up the volume, my boredom quickly dissipated, and I was sucked into the most life-like story ever written.

This is a book I have read or listened to over 12 times, and each time I have found something new. Here are my bullet points.

-The Vanishing Cabinet that Peeves Drops

The vanishing cabinet that Peeves drops over Filch’s office is broken, the cabinet is later placed in the room of requirement, where things are gone to be “lost.” This cabinet is later used when Malfoy tries to sneak in death eaters….

– Fred and George

Fred and George are much more appreciated and talked about in the books. I had forgotten how much time Harry really did spend with them and how much the twins cared about him.

– The Diary as a Horcrux

While listening this time I wonder why this particular Horcrux did not have the same effect as the locket in book 7. When Ginny throws the book down the toilet and Harry finds it, he doesn’t necessarily sense Voldemort like he does with other horcruxes.  When he began writing in the diary, he felt as if he knew Tom Riddle, but he didn’t receive a pain in his scar or an overpowering sense of darkness. Why is this? Is it because J.K didn’t know what a Horcrux would be just yet? Or was is because it was it something to do with it being the first horcrux… Questions Questions Questions…

I had more, but am having a complete brain freeze and can’t remember. Overall, it was surprisingly refreshing to listen to the book again! It’s the details that make me happy 🙂 I thought I would throw in a good ole #tbt to when my brother Max and I dressed up for one of the movie premiers!

 

(C)LVB2014

The People I Find: Filmmaking

This week’s post is on Elizabeth. We first met during our freshman year of college at Utah State University. Our apartments were right next to each other and we were both in the leadership house. Elizabeth was always on the go and ready for the next adventure. I was always envious of her endless amount of energy and her will to get things done. Today is her birthday, and so I wanted to tell her happy birthday and share her story. She is a great role model to many. Follow your dreams and your passions, and you will be happy!

Here is Her Unknown Story:

Clare asked me to write about being a movie extra and hopefully I can show you the good the bad and the extensive work of filmmaking!

I began acting in eighth grade. I took acting classes and got an Agent. For about five years I would go on auditions and work as an extra on any film I could. There are hundreds of websites and casting agencies that you can sign up with to become an extra.

HighschoolThe first film I worked on was High School Musical. The first day I worked on this film was miserable. (So my 8th grade self remembers) It was the middle of summer and everyone had to wear winter clothes and backpacks. We were shooting in the middle of the day under blazing sun with no shade in sight. One thing you learn early on while working on movies is that there is a lot of hurry up and wait. There is a lot of standing around doing nothing, especially as an extra. When they finally start filming, you have to do the same actions over and over for each take and shot. Lets be honest it can be boring and tedious. The best part is getting paid for doing almost nothing.

A few weeks after this experience while they were wrapping up filming I decided to work two more days. The first day was pretty easy. We were inside and all we had to do was dance and pretend we were having fun. I was pretty lucky on this day; an extended family member of mine was one of the choreographers for the film so while they were setting up all the extras they put me in a spot where I was the only one on-screen for a while. After a 12 hour day of listening to the same song I can still sing every word! I worked the following day and it was a night shoot. We showed up at 1pm and I literally sat in a tent and played solitaire while we were waiting for it to get dark. It finally got dark and we started shooting. We worked for maybe 3 hours and then got to go home. These are the better days, not a whole lot of work and a good amount of fun.

As an extra you get paid the same amount whether you work 3 hours or 12 hours. Once you hit 12 hours you get paid overtime so they try to never have you go over.

After High School Musical I worked on Everwood and Dadnapped. I also got a radio commercial. Commercials are great because you get paid for every time the commercial plays. For this one it took 20 minutes of recording and I was done working.

ElizibethAs it was time to go to College I decided to take a break and attend Utah State University. I got my Bachelors in Journalism and Communications with a minor in History. After I graduated I moved to Spain and then NYC. I then worked as an Event Production Manager and Designer for 5 years. After getting more involved in high-end weddings I struggled with my work and what I was doing. I felt there was more for me to do and more I could do for the world than help people spend money on parties.

After 5 years working in a job that I thought was my career I decided to leave and let go.

I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted to accomplish. I had a friend who had packed up her car and moved to California. I asked her about her experience and told her I was trying to figure out what to do, to find something that made me happy. She said “What does your heart of hearts tell you? Your very, almost childlike core? What do you want to lay on your deathbed and think “ yup, it was worth it.” Discover that and do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

What she told me was one of the most beautiful and most inspiring things I had ever heard. I immediately knew what I was supposed to do. It took me a few months and a lot of things to fall apart. Then everything came together. I was contacted by a few companies about jobs in Los Angeles. I drove to Los Angeles, interviewed with the companies and had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to move to Los Angeles. I drove back to Utah, packed up my car, and moved my whole life to California.

I did not get the jobs I had interviewed for but I hit the ground running. The first weekend I was in California I was lucky enough to work on a feature film. Then jobs kept rolling in. On every project I have worked on I meet incredible people who inspire me. I have met some great friends and great contacts and coworkers.

FilmThis life was meant for me! Everything is changing, everyday and every film is different. I can work hard and have fun. I love to look back and see my start in film to where I am now. I am so grateful that I have been able to be part of the film making process from start to end. Starting as an extra, and now designing and producing films. I am able to understand the hard, long hours everyone puts in. Every once in a while I will work as an extra still. I think it is fun and it keeps me grounded.

I recently was an extra on Greys Anatomy. I have been watching Greys since the beginning and it was so fun to see the set, to be a very small part of the great show that it is. In the episode I worked on I was playing a patient. Nothing is cooler or weirder than walking around a studio lot in a hospital gown with people around you in hospital gowns and fake blood everywhere. I worked for 16 hours and a lot of it was sitting around waiting. If you are ever an extra just know it can be boring and bring something to do in your down time.

I have really good days, really bad days, I have easy days and backbreaking days but what makes the bad days worth it is knowing that I have a purpose. I tell people all the time that I am poorer than I have ever been but I am happiest I have ever been! I would not have had the capability to pickup and move my whole life had I not had the support and love of my family and the knowledge that I know I am supposed to do more in my life.

You can check out the fan page of the Movie Elizabeth is work on now. Love.Meet.Hope

Don’t forget to like THE PEOPLE I FIND!

(C)LVB2014

4 Things About Arizona

I have been quite for a while so I apologize. I have been in the midst of a life change that included a lot of planning, packing, and driving. Mr. Bird and I packed up our 18 foot Budget truck and started the trek to Glendale Arizona. We were lucky to have family members help us pack up. On the drive to AZ, I realized how lucky we had been to be surrounded by our families. It will be sad to not be able to stop by my parent’s house and say hi to all of the kids, we will miss Sunday dinners with our families, and the cooler weather 🙂

There are a few things I have learned since moving to Arizona…

cactu1. Don’t touch the cacti…

Mr. Bird and I were stopped in Kingman city when a random man came up to us and said your tired is about to blog (on the rental truck dolly) so we had to take a time out while they worked with Budget and got the tires changed. While this was happening, Mr. Bird and I were glad to do a little exploring in the literal desert. I had found my first cactus it was a flat one and looked dead. Without thinking, I picked up the leaf and started to examine it. At first I had forgotten what covered the outer layer, but was quickly reminded. After giving a little “yelp” and dropping the cactus, and a lizard ran in front of me, I looked down to find my fingers covered in prick-lies. I learned the lesson of, even if it looks cool don’t touch it…

2. Everything Melts…

Mr. Bird and I thought that death was imminent with the heat surrounding our thick blooded bodies while moving. We got in the car and decided popsicles would be the only solution. We picked out the most delectable flavors including pina colda, mango, and banana. We put them in the backseat, and within the 5 minute drive home, they had melted. So apparently it’s a thing to take a cooler to the store.

3. Waterholic

I am not used to drinking water. I don’t really enjoy it. Prior to living in AZ, I would drink maybe a glass and a half a day. Now I feel like an addict, carrying one around just to keep cool. So if I am not sweating, then I am probably running to the bathroom.

4. Color

There is none. There is literally no colors here. At first I was wondering if I was stuck in The Giver… Arizona has three colors Brown, Tan, and Rust Red. This is something I will have to get used to!

We have been warmly welcomed by ward members and have already been to someone’s house for dinner, and another house for games! We have been invited to dinner again tomorrow night, I have been searching for the perfect housewarming cactus to leave.

 

The People I Find: Beard

Today’s post is about Devin. I met Devin last summer as he was wooing my sister. They were married in December and he has become family. There are three things that stick out to me when I think of Devin. His kindness, his laugh, and his beard. When I met Devin, I knew he was perfect for my sister because of his sense of humor and his beard. It takes a talented person to write an entertaining and well-thought out blog on a beard. He is a wonderful writer, he is an English teacher, so he has to be… Take a minute to read his story, on the surface it might be about his beard, but in the end I think it is much deeper.

Here is his Unknown Story:

BeardFaceI have one feature.

This is not entirely true, of course I have many features, as we all do, but I have just one feature that really matters, one feature that anyone really sees. It seems to me we rarely see the whole of people, but we see their features; we pass someone on the street, and we turn to a friend and say, “did you see that dude’s ears?” “did you see that girl’s legs?” “Did you see his arms?” “Did you see her hair?” Not all the features we see and point to are positive, of course, and I’m not oblivious that many of these observations and examples carry thinly veiled sexism and judgment. I also recognize that some of our features are created, like make up, and are designed to cover and hide other features.

I have one feature. I have a beard.

My beard grows quite long at times (not ZZ Top long, but long), and it can be the only thing people see. It is a talking point, not because I intended it to become one, but because people want to chat me about my beard. People seem to have a lot of questions. “Does it itch?” (No.) “How long have you had that?” (How long to grow this beard, or when did I first grow a beard?) “Is it hot?” (Yes.)

My beard does not change the way I walk, act, or dress, and yet the people I meet view the presence of the beard as an affirmation of a way of life, or a formal declaration of some kind. It’s not uncommon to have a stranger shake my hand and vocally express his (virtually always his, and not her) respect. The respect is not for the ability to grow the beard, but for the decision to dedicate my life to doing so, as though I had to obtain the power to grow and live with the beard by scaling a mountain and proving my worth. They treat me as one who has attained something noble that cannot be fully comprehended. It’s edelweiss for my face.

On a recent layover in the Denver airport, my wife and I had about fifteen minutes to make our connection. We weren’t full-on running, but we were doing a very dignified airport speed walk. In those ten minutes, on two separate occasions, two men, both twenty-somethings, stopped me to address the matter of my beard. The first we simply blew past, and I shouted my thanks as he shouted his respect. The second? He turned course and ran with us, despite the fact that his gate was in the opposite direction, and he snapped a selfie with me as we hustled along. He was so dedicated that I paused a moment to shake his hand. Please don’t get the impression that I condescended or deigned to address him; I really am grateful. It’s a boost to my self-esteem, and I can’t lie about enjoying it.

beard workingPart of the discussion about a thick, ever-present beard is that it is part of the individual’s identity, that it defines him. On a philosophical level, when I think about who I am at my core, I want to believe that I am not defined by having a beard, and that shaving it (as I sometimes do) does not change who I am. This is tricky, however, especially for me: my name, to nearly every friend and non-family acquaintance I have, is Beard.

Everyone calls me Beard. Virtually all of my friends call me Beard, men and women alike. Even former girlfriends called me Beard, and when we are around friends, my wife will sometimes call me Beard. I have a former student who calls me Professor Beard, and there are others like him. I even call myself Beard, in those moments when I am frustrated or otherwise crazy-talking, addressing myself in the third person. Many a time have I angrily restarted a project by mumbling the exasperated phrase, “pull it together, Beard.”

Oddly, I am not named after my beard, at least not intentionally. There was never a friend’s bro-like declaration that I am the one, true Beard, and that I would be known as such hereafter. The name came about from my niece when she was in those early stages of learning words. Imagine a scenario that takes many times with small children: we are trying to entice a youngster to be held by an unfamiliar adult, and we do so by pointing out the nice things about them; “Oh, isn’t she pretty, look at her pretty hair,” we say, hoping the child will notice the pretty hair, and NOT the fact that they are being held by person-not-their-mother. “Look at the shiny necklace” (child stares at necklace, mother gets a ten second break).

Everyone talked to my niece about my beard, both to pique her curiosity and to ease her tensions about the face that didn’t match the other faces. We would talk about how ticklish it was, and she would shiver when I ran it over her soft arm. The result? The single word that she associated with me was the word “beard.” When she heard my name, she would mumble, “beard.” The nearest adult would say, “yes, beard, good!” The association became stronger.

I moved home for a summer, ten years ago, and my niece was often at the house. When she would decide to come downstairs to see me, I could hear her sliding down the stairs, one by one, but I could also hear her repeating aloud: “beard… beard… beard…beard…” It was the word she knew for me, and my friends thought it was so hilarious they adopted it as my name.

So here I am, a man with a beard, known for having a beard, who goes by Beard. Can I really claim the beard doesn’t define me? I guess I can’t, not completely. I’ll say it doesn’t make me who I am, but I can’t honestly say it isn’t a big part of my identity. It’s certainly come to change the way I see myself.

Most of us do small, sometimes superficial things to change how we are viewed, and, likewise, change who we think we can be. We mask parts of ourselves and hide some of our features. Again, this is why makeup exists, or why we may wear certain glasses to make us look older, younger, or smarter. This beard became the one feature that I use to cover those other features, and without it, I can feel very adrift.

BearddI rarely shave my face if I’m not in a moment of existential crisis, and if I do shave under good conditions, a mental funk will often be the result. I did so recently, after growing my longest beard yet. I shaved, more or less as something to do, and soon found myself in a terrible dither: I had a job interview.

This shouldn’t have been a thing, necessarily, and the truth is that many people shave only because of job interviews. I had to decide what to do: should I go to the interview with only a half-month’s growth, and risk looking like I slept late for the last two weeks? Should I shave and feel like I am going to Halloween dressed as a job applicant?

The complexity of this situation is that I hate not having a beard. I hate how I feel (though not who I am) without it, and I suddenly become very paranoid about the parts of me that are left exposed. Remember that line from Catch Me if You Can? “Why do the Yankees always win? Because the other team can’t stop looking at the pinstripes.”

Stripped of my beard, I am suddenly laid open and exposed; what if people notice my blotchy skin? Will people think I’m too skinny and lanky? Will my teeth look bad when they aren’t partly obscured? My facial expressions can be perplexing (I’ve not needed them for sometime)- will I seem like a creeper?

Having self-confidence means we all secretly believe we are walking around with something irresistible, that je ne sais quoi that will clearly win out in our interactions with co-workers, friends, clients, family, and strangers. This is a good belief, and I think that without it we might all just grind to a stop. My secret fear, slowly developing over the last twelve-plus years, is that my (hoped for) intangible electricity, that unknown desirability that can oddly only be described in chopped French, is not an innate something, but the pinstripes, the distraction and window dressing that I hang on my face, and when the face is shaved, and the curtains are thrown open, the room and furniture will be found wanting.

mustacheFortunately, the moment of crisis passes, although it will return from time to time. In this case, I don’t shave for the interview (my wife reminds me that this man’s five o’clock shadow is really another man’s full beard – beards are all relative), and as soon as I sit down I slip into my comfort zone. I forget my stubbly face. I get the job.

This beard has really turned into a monster (a friendly monster). Started as a whim twelve years back, it has become the defining feature of my physical self. It has leached so thoroughly into my identity that it has literally changed my name, and somehow imbedded itself even further into my psyche. It has become the reason people approach me and the biggest discussion point in my students’ evaluations. People think it’s who I am, but it isn’t; it’s just a beard.

It’s my one feature.

 (C)LVB2014

Close to Home

Three-Dead-Logan-4We never know when a tragedy will hit. None of us were prepared for 9/11, the Boston Massacre, or Sandy Hook. Yesterday there was a tragedy that occurred in a place I used to call home, Logan, Utah. I didn’t know any of the victims, but I remember the places.  I went to one of my very first college dance parties at the building where the shootings took place. I can’t imagine the fear that passed through Mackenzie and Jonathan’s head’s prior to their murder. The public doesn’t know any of the back story from the “text messages” but what I am guessing is neither Mackenzie or Jonathan had any inclination that their lives would be cut short that night. What has been said about both is that they had bright futures ahead of them, there were going to go places. That all ended with a few gun shots. As I learned of who the shooter was and saw his picture, I saw a regular USU student, one I would talk to at a party, or sit next to at a class… Not a murderer. But, that is exactly what he became. In his suicide note he stated what he was about to do was “selfish.” I have no idea what he was going through or the challenges he faced. It has been stated that Jared and Mackenzie had had a romantic relationship, but she wanted to date other people.  From what I have heard he was a wonderful and trust worthy friend. He was patient and kind. My question is how does someone like that become a murderer? How does someone kick down the door and kill two innocent people and then seek a third? It is hard to comprehend and with-hold judgement because of the lives he took. Nothing if anything that Mackenzie or Jonathan had done to Jared was worth the punishment they received.

I am not claiming that I am an expert, and I have no idea what was really going on in the minds of those involved.When I was in Junior High I was selected to be a peer mediator. At the time it what a great honor because I got to skip some classes and be trained on how to help others solve conflict. I remember thinking how silly some of the examples that were given and how the people in the discussion couldn’t resolve the problem with their words. As I have grown into adulthood, I have realized how unrealistic and uncommon it is for people to “solve their problems” without violence, passive aggressiveness, or plain hate.  At Utah State I took Jennifer Peeples class “Communication and Conflict” and each class period was used to learn how to solve conflicts with communication. In our examples we found that many times there were misunderstandings because of someones perception, miscommunication, or lack of listening. As we slowed down the “conflict” it was easier to hear and understand both sides arguments and needs. When this happened it was more likely for a conflict to be resolved without a lot of lasting animosity. While studying Communication at Utah State, I learned the importance of it. It could be the determiner of a job you wanted, a potential partner to marry, or in this example, your life.

Again, I want to reiterate that I have no idea what really went on in this tragedy. I don’t know what the families of the victim’s or the shooter are feeling right now. What I do know is, it is time use our words. More and more weapons are becoming the brunt of the conversation. I don’t know if it is because the increase of violent media, the training the shooter had in the military, or a mental imbalance. What I do know is that each life has meaning and purpose. There is no reason to cut it short.

Think before you act. Use your words. Seek Help. You are not alone.

(C)LVB2014

The People I Find: Premature

The People I Find started back in February and the very first post was about Whitney. She shared her thoughts about being on bed rest, and how hard it was. I have followed her story of infertility and miscarriages on her blog, and always kept her family in my prayers. Whitney is a fighter, and it is one of the traits she passed on to her son Jude. I have had a lot of inquiries on how the mom and baby were doing, and so naturally I asked her to do a follow-up blog! This is an incredible story of a how  a mother, a nurse, and wife deals with a premature baby. Feel free to read this one and her last post and share! If you haven’t yet, go like THE PEOPLE I FIND Facebook Page for more stories.

Whitney: Part Two

whit 2Our sweet little Jude was born February 19, 2014 at 24 weeks and 6 days, exactly two weeks after my water broke. I remember that terrifying and beautiful day like it was yesterday.

Since I had no amniotic fluid to buffer against an infection, I developed Chorioamniotitis (an infection of the membranes and amnion). With this infection, the only way to cure it is to deliver the baby. Basically, my body was no longer the safest place for Jude and he would have a better chance at life on the outside.

I remember feeling sad and thinking this was happening all too fast. While I understood it was time, I couldn’t help but feel like I had been robbed. I hadn’t had a normal, full term pregnancy. I didn’t have stretch marks. And I sure wasn’t ready to give up my baby bump that was the product of thousands of prayers and a pharmacy worth of fertility drugs.

But I didn’t really have a choice and decided to try to enjoy the process of my son being born.

The nurses started medications to start labor and we waited. Slowly, I started to feel contractions and make progress. But after a few hours, Jude’s heart rate began to consistently drop during each contraction telling us he was having a hard time.

The reality of meeting my son made me giddy as the decision to have a c-section was made. The induction turned out to be too stressful for him and I wasn’t progressing fast enough.

The room started to spin with nurses and doctors to prepare me for surgery. Ben donned a bunny suit and cap to wear during the delivery and my epidural was dosed to the max on the way to the operating room.

I heard heavy doors being opened and the wheels on my bed squeak around corners. I felt the chilly temperature of the OR and heard packages of sterile tools being opened and plopped on trays.

The procedure started a few minutes later and I felt the uncomfortable tugging and stretching as my skin was opened. I lost my breath as hands plunged in my abdomen and freed Jude from the sac that held him. He was born seconds later.

whit judeI caught my first glimpse of Jude as he was taken to the resuscitation room where the NICU team was waiting. He was fighting, kicking, and trying to cry. And seeing him so strong made my heart soar. He looked even more beautiful than I had imagined.

Jude was taken to the NICU and stabilized over the next few hours. After I was cleaned up and comfortable, I was wheeled to the NICU to see him. This was technically the second time I saw him, but I was nervous for some reason.  As they wheeled my bed next to his isolette, I went into nurse mode, not ready to face that moment as a mom just yet. I sanitized my hands, donned gloves and slid my hands through the portholes to touch him.

His vital signs were good, lines had been placed in his umbilicus, the oscillator was helping him breath, and he seemed calm and stable. I tried to force the nurse in me out and look at Jude like his mom, but it was too hard. If I looked at him like a mom, I would see a tiny, helpless one-pound baby hooked to too many machines and wires and tubes coming and leaving every part of his body. If I looked at him like a nurse, I would see a 24 weeker who was a great size, had amazing blood pressure, and looked extremely stable.

As I looked at his tiny little face, my heart swelled with love and admiration for my little boy. I knew the next few months would be an incredible and frightening roller coaster, but it would be worth it.

Luckily, Jude had an extremely good course. His 103 days were full of manic highs and soul crushing lows, of course, but there were more good days than bad. I tried to find something about each day to enjoy or be thankful for. Sometimes it was hard; especially on the days when he had to have blood transfusions or had to be re-intubated or another needle poked into his tiny body.

whit 1Jude was a hero through the months and taught me so much. He showed me what real strength is. He reminded me of how incredible life is. He taught me to love my family more deeply. He let me cry…and cry…and cry some more. He allowed me to hold and hug him, his skin on mine, until it felt as if he were melting into my body again. He was poked, prodded, and cut open and remained happy. He had uncomfortable eye exams every single week. He gagged on tubes, yanked them out of his throat, and had them shoved back in. I watched him stop breathing and finally catch his breath. He was in my arms when his heart stopped beating and I made it beat again.

I saw one eye open, then the other, two weeks later. I watched his face develop from a one-pound fetus a gorgeous, chubby boy. I was there the day they removed the breathing tube from his throat and I heard his soft, weak cry for the first time. I was finally able to hold my boy for the first time, almost three weeks after his birth and I wept tears of joy. I saw him hit two pounds, then three, then four, five, six, and seven.

The day he was finally ready to come home was a dream.  I had fantasized about that day for months and seeing him in his car seat made my year. He has continued to be an inspiration and joy to all he meets and is the light of my life.

He is my little (now ten pound) miracle and is just the best thing that ever happened to me. I would do it all again tomorrow if it meant getting to cuddle this amazing little boy in my arms.
whits fam

(C)LVB-2014

The People I Find: Comedian

It is not every day you meet a comedian. Last fall I attended a social media seminar put on by the well-known Thubten at Hotel 43 in Boise. I asked Megan what she did and she told me her usual response and followed with a comedian. She started telling me about a festival she was putting on, at the time, I had no idea how BIG of a festival she was putting together. She is a wonderful woman who gives women a good reputation in the comedian business. Take a minute to read her unknown story!

MeganMegan Bryant

(Photo cred: Boise Pro Photo)

I travel a lot. As expected on most flights, there are those friendly conversational types who generally kick things off with “traveling for work, or…?” The short answer is always “yes.” My favorite part is what comes next. “What do you do?”

“I’m a Project Manager of FEMA grants for volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention initiatives,”

“…and I’m also a comedian.” Then there is the inevitable pause and 9 times out of 10 they jump right to the comedian part of my answer. It’s always fun trying to explain what it really means, in my case, to be a comedian. First and foremost I am an improviser. I’ve performed with and managed my own comedy troupe, Chicks n’ Giggles Improv, since December 2009. I go on to explain the format of our short-form improv shows that include scenes and gimmick games that are based on suggested topics from the audience and improvised right then and there. Like “Whose Line is it Anyway?”

This is usually followed with “tell me one of your jokes.” Now, I’m also an amateur stand-up comedian so I can let them know the difference and remind them that what I just explained with improv means there are no prepared jokes. It always amazes me the perception that most people have about comedy. I feel it’s a special duty of mine to help educate them about the different types of comedy acts that are out there.

I often consider the lifestyle of a comedian. And just as often I question how I can fit into that group of people. Comedians are intense. Especially in the world of stand-up comedians, where quite often the goal is to expose your flaws and hardships (or those of others you may observe) in a way that brings people together because they can relate! Aren’t we all a little messed up? Well, the answer is YES, but I struggle with writing my material sometimes because my juiciest and most tragic life experiences aren’t really something I want to blab about. I like to LOOK like I’ve got my life all figured out. I can’t show any signs of weakness! The stereotypical comedy scene includes a lot of drinking, smoking, drugs, staying up late, and sleeping until 3pm the next day. Besides staying up late sometimes, I don’t do any of those other things.

I’ve worked in corporate America since I was 16, am actively involved with church, networking in the community, I’ve been married for 13 years, and I have 2 young children. Going out to open mics and hanging out in bars and clubs isn’t exactly my comfort zone, nor does it work well with my big-girl responsibilities.

During the past few years I have been learning how to bring my worlds together. My professional background and excellent hygiene help me to book corporate events for comedy shows and approach people for sponsorships for my events. I know my strengths and I play to them. I know I’m not the funniest person you’ll ever hear but I’m persistent, energetic, and highly ambitious.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a special skill set that allows me to use comedy in many ways beyond the walls of a comedy club. I love to teach improv skills to youth groups and in corporate settings. Improv is my first passion. The simple rules of improvisation are uplifting and inspiring. When applied to your home and work life, these rules can provide a safe place to try new things, break through mental barriers, and get creative! As I’ve seen improv change my attitude and approach to problem solving in everyday life I’ve developed a desire to help others experience this same thing.

megan 2As an example, in early 2013 I created Hilarity for Charity to help raise money for local non-profits. Teaming up with organizations to put on a comedy show, coupled with a short educational presentation about their mission has proven to be a great success. Often times, charitable or non-profit groups are created to spread awareness about subject matters that aren’t easy to talk about. Cancer, child exploitation online, and an upcoming event focusing on suicide prevention are among the topics addressed. These comedy shows fill the room with laughter and build unity among the audience members, thus providing a platform for the sensitive subjects to be presented openly and comfortably. Laughter connects people and prepares them to be more receptive to important initiatives.

It comes naturally for me to get creative with ways to gather people together and get them laughing and feeling happy about life. Occasionally, I get a little too ambitious.

Enter, Idaho Laugh Fest.

I should start by making a confession. I did not WANT to put on a comedy festival. Not at first, anyway. I wanted there to BE a festival. I wanted to perform in a festival in my home town. I got tired of waiting and hoping one would happen. I went to a comedy festival in Wenatchee Washington in April 2012 and it was a fantastic community event. I realized then and there that if someone was going to put one on in Idaho, it may as well be me.

Some people thought I was crazy, and still do, but I had to give it a shot. I would rather try something awesome and fail spectacularly than float along in life quietly minding my own business. I’ve always believed you would go farther faster if you just start running and explore the path as you go. Putting on this festival was a lot like the time I decided to go for a run at night so no one would actually SEE me. Coincidentally, I also couldn’t see where I was going throughout the run, but I knew when it was over I’d feel good about myself. Earbuds in, power tunes blasting, sneakers laced, and I was off! Weaving around my neighborhood streets I tripped over a few things, got soaked by a sprinkler, and took a tree branch to the face. I learned some great lessons that night, including the fact that running at night is scary. More importantly, I didn’t die. I made it to my destination! I felt accomplished and now have this cherished memory.

Did I have a clear plan of how to put on a festival? Heck no. I had a vision in my mind of what I hoped it would look like on opening day and I just pieced it together from there.

For me, Idaho Laugh Fest is validation that you can take an idea and make it into a real thing. It was eye-opening, exciting, exhausting, and often an overwhelming process. Once it all came together I realized just how BIG it really was. From its inception I would regularly hear people say “wow, what an undertaking” accented by raised eyebrows and sounds of exasperation. I never thought of it that way. If I’d really considered how big of a project it was and how much work it would take I don’t know if I would have done it.

Putting on the festival was really no different from trying to make a career out of performing. It takes a ton of time and dedication. Most importantly it takes passion. I love to make people laugh and forget their cares even if it’s just for a few moments at a time. The physical benefits you feel when you are laughing and happy are so very satisfying to me. Having the drive to provide these good feelings for other people is what keeps me motivated.

So there we have it. A glimpse into the life of a overachieving wife, mom, Project Manager by day, comedian by night, Idahoan. Pretty glamorous.

Megan’s Blog

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Want to write for me? Email me at Vatc33@gmail.com

(C)LVB2014

Serving Life

serving lifeI have said it before and I will say it again I have a weird obsession with dysfunction and abnormalities. I enjoy being in cemeteries and thinking about those who have passed on, I enjoy sad stories with sad endings (don’t worry, I enjoy happy endings too), and I love learning about criminals. I can’t tell you why, it is just that way. Growing up I always wanted to going into crime fighting and solve  murders. I don’t know why you need schooling for that! I think I am qualified after watching every Law and Order SVU episode made, Emergency 911, Bones, Pysch, and Lie to Me (almost done) etc. As of late, Mr. Bird has begun his studying and will be studying for the next four years as he enters Podiatry school, for me that means a lot of empty time… I am one of those annoying people who gets bored watching someone study and asks them what they are doing every 5 minutes, ask them to look at something, or tell them a story. He hasn’t said anything, but I know it drives Mr. Bird nuts! So last night I decided to do something productive (okay at least I considered it to be), I watched a documentary called “Serving Life” on Netflix. The story follows four different inmates who have been charged with felonies and are serving life sentences. The crimes ranged from murder, drugs, sex crimes, cruelty to minors, and armed robbery. The warden (a mini hero of mine) decided to start a program within the prison to teach the inmates compassion, something that many of them had never learned. Inmates could apply to be volunteers in a Hospicedying program that assisted prisoners on their death beds. As I watched the show and learned more about the inmates, many of the crimes occurred because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had made that one decision to hang out with someone they shouldn’t. The inmates had forgotten the bigger picture. One of them had been tossed around homes in and out of foster care, he had never had anything stable in his life. He had been arrested multiple times, and was finally locked up for good. I can’t say what he was doing was good, wholesome, or even right! However, knowing that he wasn’t raised in a home with love and consistency he ended up doing the “usual,” what he was constantly surrounded by, made me sympathetic. It was his only view of survival, but it wasn’t right. Watching him take care of a dying patient was so touching, just because it proves people can change. Someone who was so messed up, spent his life in prison, sat next to a dying man and showed him true love and kindness. As I finished the documentary Mr. Bird walked in and I told him I just wanted to go befriend the prisoners who had changed their lives and showed true repentance. He started to laugh at my love for dysfunctional people and posed the question “what if it had been me they murdered?” It was true, I would have a hard time trying to forgive that person for killing my husband and best friend. It would rip my heart in two, but one of the things we have been sent to earth to do is to forgive all. It would be hard, but I would know I would have to do it.

Enough of my prison rants… Don’t worry I haven’t started writing inmates for The People I Find (yet)… If you have the time, I recommend it! It is a little bit different, so don’t watch it with your kids, but it will shed a different perspective!

(C)LVB 2014