The People I Find: Cosplay & Superheros

When I read this story there were so many words I didn’t understand. This isn’t uncommon, however it wasn’t because they were “hard” words. They were words from a whole different culture, cosplay. I meet Jacob while I was running a summer camp. I was excited to have him as one of my counselors because he wasn’t your typical jock. I knew that throughout the summer he would be able to connect to so many kids who didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold for a teenage boy…and I was right! He was such a great role model the youth we worked with. I think it is so important to do what we love. Jacob does just that.


jacob4
My beginnings as a kid can pretty much be summed up through Brian Reagan’s iconic comedy bit on baseball. I played sports like most other little boys. I played out in right field… cause I sucked. I was the sort of kid who was more excited about snow cones at the end of the game and fitting an entire roll of Bubble-tape in my mouth than beating our opponents. I guess I just didn’t see the point. If we won, we got snow cones. If we lost, we still got snow cones. I can remember standing out in right field, watching some of these boys stand so intensely in the in-field, focused beyond measure. Then there was me, creating dialogue and soundtrack for the scene, trying to imagine what it would look like if little Johnny smashed the ball into outer space. It was usually during these zone-outs a rare pop-fly to the outfield would come down in my territory, and inevitably so, I would miss it completely. This routine was sort of standard across the seasonal sports. In Spring, it was soccer. (If we win, we get orange slices. If we loose, we still get orange slices.) In Winter, it was basketball. (If we won, we got Capri-sun. If we lost, we still got Capri-sun.) I don’t know when this trend began to wear off. I either got tired of the monotony or my parents were forced to place me in hiding for fear that the other mothers were calling for my execution for causing their all-star boy to be on the losing team this year. I do know this. Life after sports did exist. Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t “hate” on sports or consider them completely pointless. I just happened to have a different way of discovering self entertainment. When I wasn’t picking dandelions on the field I was creating. Luckily for me, this was a popular past time for many of the other boys, too. It started with trains, as a young boy. Every morning it was a new creation, wooden tracks woven between plastic ones, woven between a city of those little marble-run thingies. About this time, the Star Wars prequels hit theaters. Check out this picture. That is me, with my own hand-built pod racer. Pretty screen accurate if you ask me. Then there were the Legos. Oh the Legos. My collection was beyond incredible, and lucky for me, most of the other neighborhood boys were into Lego as well. We would plan specific days where we would bring our pieces to one pre-determined place and construct from sun-up to.. well, when our mothers demanded we come home for dinner. There were always phases in my life, some new fandom, movie, or genre that I was into.
jacobYou know, most people expect that these phases fade and give way into adulthood. Not so for me. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a superhero nut. More, specifically Marvel superheroes. I can’t pinpoint when this phase started, I know I was a huge fan before I left on my mission. I guess the point where it exploded was the day after I had returned home from my mission to England, where I went and saw the Avengers. Anyone who worked with me over the next two summers at the Especially for Youth program knew me as the “superhero guy,” participants included. I had a different belt buckle each day of the week with a different superhero emblem, and when I wasn’t in uniform, you could bet I was wearing some sort of geeky marvel shirt. I knew I was in the right romantic relationship when after meeting my wife’s parents for the first time, her father took me to his bookcase to show off his display of vintage superhero comics and his 1977 original Star Wars action figures. Lucky for me, my sweet wife buys into the whole obsession a bit herself with very little reluctance. I spent the whole summer of 2014 building metal Captain America Shields, 3D printing lightsabers, blasters and even Thor’s Hammer, and creating my “cosplay” Captain America costume for an event that was months away. We recently moved and renovated the spare room into an official man cave (shown towards the end of the blog), displaying comics, replica props and posters. This past week we attended Salt Lake Comic Con and geeked out for three whole days, taking photos with eager superhero loving kids, attending conferences discussing prop design and finding new things to add to “The Vault” (official name of the Amundsen man cave pending.)
jacob2Okay, so I’m a geek. You get that much. My skills on the athletic field are sorely lacking and I make up for that pitiful display by going far beyond what is considered healthy in my obsessions. Whats the point? First of all, let me point out this: Nerds and Geeks are completely different. Nerds are the guys who did your homework problems for you in high school and hyperventilated when looking at a naked computer with all its chips hanging out. A geek is someone who relishes in pop culture, specifically film, television, toys and gadgets. Growing up, geeks and nerds were both looked down upon, the butt of high schoolish jokes, and the last to be on the first few pages of the hallowed yearbook. Yet now, thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory and the enormous amount of comic based films opening, being geeky has almost become trendy. Just check it out on social media and tell me how long it takes you to find some blonde girl duck facing the camera with gigantic glasses, an Iron Man t-shirt and the cute hashtag #imsuchageek. I guarantee none of them could tell me the difference between Vibranium and Adamantium, what a DL-44 blaster is or the specific type of radiation that Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to that transformed him into The Incredible Hulk.  But when you strip away the big glasses, the movie obsessions, and the infinite amount of Tardis playtoys and more, what is at the heart of Geekdom? Storytelling and Imagination.
jacob3Think for a minute upon your childhood. Think about that time mom bought a new refrigerator, and the box it came in suddenly became a starship, a submarine, or in my case, a Star Wars Podracer. Think about the infinite amount of childhood drawings that used to adorn that refrigerator, from T-rexes to Power Rangers to princesses. Children really are the most creative creatures in the world. What happened then? What happened that made us put away those action figures, quit drawing those masterpieces and give up our imagination as if it had died and moved on? Were you told at one point that you were “too old to… such and such?” Did someone poke fun of the decorative doodles that ringed your 5th grade binder? Or did the stress of every day life come in and squeeze the imagination right out of you with thoughts of homework, dating, moneymaking and relationships? The point is, sadly at some point we loose a large portion of this magic. For me, the geeky side of life I hang onto keeps my imagination alive. Even as a 23-year-old, I can surround myself and my office with comic books, props, toys and images that give great inspiration to my creative side. They tell fantastical stories of ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities. The television and films we watch influence us to explore a world that to our knowledge doesn’t exist. Suddenly time travel is once again possible by walking into a rather ordinary blue box. Creatures that once only lived in our childhood imaginations now storm across the screen, pages and even material belongings of our life. Just this past weekend I stood in the Salt Palace Convention Center dressed as Captain America, talking to a press crew about the construction of my costume when I felt a small tug on my pant leg and looked down to see a miniature Captain America. He looked shyly up at me with his small plastic shield, timidly mumbling if he could take a picture with me, the “REAL” Captain America (I was honored.) That one experience made the entire convention a grand success. We live in a world that’s in desperate need of the fantastical and the exciting. As an artist and designer, Its my job to be creative. It’s my duty to bring imagination, storytelling and wonder into the fabric of what could possibly be our rather mundane lives. I do what I can to keep that inspiration alive and surround myself with the very best in storytelling, creativity and imagination. I’ve studied and practiced music, graphics, writing, magic, film-making and more, all fueled by the love of these great stories. This week, standing in a convention center with over 90,000 other geeks it was really brought to my mind that others need this to. So if you find yourself stuck in a rut, bored with your job or schooling, or struggling to see from the perspective of your creative child’s eyes, go be a geek. Go read JRR Tolkien’s masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy and find yourself journeying with the fellowship throughout its pages. Turn on Dr. Who and experience traveling through space and time with your very own British Doctor. Discover your super-powers in the pages of America’s Mythology: Comic Books. But most of all, become a kid again. Build a fort. Make a movie. Get out the Legos. Put on a costume. Be Creative.
I am a working graphic designer and love working on prop design in my spare time. If you’re a geek and want a prop built for your collection or you need some imaginative design work done contact me at jacob.amundsen@hotmail.com. Check out some of my artistic work here.

(C)LVB-2014

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The People I Find: Modeling

This week’s story is about Lexi! I have never met Lexi, she submitted her story through my homepage. She tells a wonderful story of following her passion and overcoming the obstacles in her way. Take a minute to read her story and share! Remember, I am always looking for people to share their stories…email me, and if you haven’t… Go and LIKE the People I Find!


leximOh goodness, I’m not exactly sure where to start with this story but here goes nothing. I discovered a passion within modeling about five years ago and it all began with a dream. Since I was 13 years old I’ve had the dream of being a model, but I figured that this dream could never become a reality. See, I was born premature and have scars from surgeries on my body, I knew this would prevent photographers from wanting to work with me. I also didn’t have the height aspect going for me, I am only 5’5 and the average model is at least 5’7. Therefore I gave up on my dream of wanting to be a model. But I gave up only to find out that at the age of 18 I would have the opportunity to make my dream of modeling become a reality. I went to a photoshoot with my best friend, she was pretty nervous so I tagged along and without even noticing it began to help her pose. The photographers Kevin and Katie of KHulett Photography asked if I had modeled before, I said “No, but I’ve always wanted to.” They set up a photoshoot with me and from that day forward I was absolutely in love with modeling. Not only did I discover that I could follow my dreams if I wanted to, but that I was actually good at modeling.

Now almost five years later I have gained so much knowledge and experience through modeling, it’s developed into a passion that I can improve on and grow within daily. I’ve worked with various photographers, makeup artists, designers and hair stylists and I have discovered that modeling is a form of art. I have learned to appreciate all photographers and models as artists, before I started modeling I never would’ve considered photography or modeling to be a form of art, but it totally is! It is such a beautiful form of art, not only can a photo portray 1,000 words and expressions but as a model you can also portray words and expressions. There is a different kind of beauty that comes from collaborating with a team; working together to create an image that not only speaks to those involved in creating it but also those who are viewing it. There are so many different elements that go into modeling. For example: willingness to take on adventure. As a model I’ve had to work in 110 degree weather, -15 degree weather, in water, hiking up random mountains and trails, etc. Numerous times I’ve had to work with people I had never met before and help them create their vision. Modeling is definitely not easy. For starters you have to be comfortable in your own skin; modeling has helped me to achieve that.

lexiiWhen you work with such well-known photographers there can be immense pressure to live up to their expectations. For instance there is an absolutely amazing photographer by the name of Jorden Keith. He isn’t just any photographer, he’s the type of photographer that is going to take the world on. He has had his work published in Vogue Italia multiple times and has worked with well-known models and celebrities such as Americas Next Top Model winner, Jourdan Miller and Zendaya. I had been dying to collaborate with him since the first time I laid eyes his work. By some strand of luck I was able to collaborate with Jorden and for me it was literally a dream come true. Although, before the photoshoot I was terrified, I kept thinking to myself ‘The girls he photographs are drop dead gorgeous,’ ‘ why would he want to collaborate with me?’ ‘What if he hates the photos he takes of me?’ ‘I want to impress him, and I have no clue how I’m going to pull it off.’ It isn’t just about standing somewhere and taking a pretty picture, it can be hard to obtain an image that the photographer is particularly looking for. For the first time I was intimidated to work with a photographer. It was a struggle, but I met Jorden and right off the bat I knew the shoot would go just fine, I got over my nerves and the shoot ended up being a huge milestone for me. Instead our collaboration being a dream I made it into a reality. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk in order to capture an image and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wasn’t willing to step out of my comfort zone, away from my self-doubts, I would have never discovered that I can in fact follow my dreams in order to model. It isn’t always that feeling of ‘being on cloud nine’ for me, since day one I have attempted to be signed with a modeling agency. One problem, usually a minimum height requirement of 5’7 is required to be signed and that’s not me. I did with time find an agency that signed me and I was over the moon happy. But it didn’t last long, sadly I realized they wanted me to act…..not to pursue my passion of modeling. So currently I am in between agencies and it has become a constant headache because frankly I just want to get out there and do something with the passion that I have. The industry of modeling is definitely cut throat as some would describe, you’ve either got it or you don’t, I just want to show what I’ve got.

There are so many feelings I have that are associated with my passion, sometimes I feel inadequate, but for the most part there is just sheer and utter bliss, there are moments of joy, pressure, and happiness. The feeling of receiving photos back from a photographer or even better seeing them find joy in the photos they’ve taken is a feeling that is indescribable and irreplaceable. Modeling can be tough but knowing I’ve collaborated with photographers and others to create a form of art, knowing that I’m doing something I am very passionate about, knowing that I am following my dreams and hopefully showing others that they too can follow their dreams as well make all of the struggles worth it. Something I strive to do through my story of becoming a model is share with everyone, men and women, that no matter what circumstances you may face, you can ALWAYS follow your dreams no matter what. I never thought that I could model and here I am living my dream.

To check out Lexi’s blog click HERE


(C)LVB2014

Photo’s are property of the photographer, not me!

The People I Find: 1 in a Million… Almost

I met Megan a few years ago and have been so impressed by her upbeat attitude. Megan and I worked at  EFY together, I really enjoyed working with her because she was down to earth and never let a problem get in the way of a person. She is literally a 1 in a million kind of girl! This week she shares her story of being diagnosed with a rare disease and how it has altered her life. Take a minute to read her story and share it. If you haven’t yet feel free to LIKE The People I Find Facebook Page for more stories!


hsIn March of 2007, towards the end of my sophomore year, just a few months after turning sixteen, I found myself running for a class officer position at my high school! I loved high school more than most and life had been going great! Even though life was going great I had an unspoken fear that something bad would happen in my life. I had seen close friends struggle with their home life and a few struggle with health problems. As I saw this in their life I became worried of trials that might creep up. I prayed for months that if a trial was going to affect my family that it would be something that happened to me and not one of my loved ones. I asked God to let it be something I could handle.

One day at school my knees started to ache, I didn’t worry too much about it, surely it was because I had been wearing new sandals and they just didn’t fit right, or maybe it was ‘growing pains’ my friends had mentioned they occasionally experienced. At the same time I started to lose my voice, I quickly wrote it off as a typical teenage politician who had been talking so much to friends and classmates with the election at school… but in the coming two or three weeks I found my conditioned worsened, the pain I had felt in my knees escalated and had spread to other joints. First my elbows then my wrists, then right down to my fingers and toes. It was at that point that it was clear to me and those around me that something was wrong. I struggled to get up off the floor from saying my prayers at night and I couldn’t extend my elbows enough to unload the dishwasher. There was also the itching hands and feet. I remember sitting in class and my hands would out of the blue begin to itch, super weird… I would then watch them in a matter of minutes turn incredibly red and begin to burn. Simple tasks that had just a few weeks prior been easy became harder for me to do and caused aches and pains throughout my body. This caused my parents to become very concerned and quickly scheduled an appointment with my Doctor…

Thus began the months of tests that would ensue. They did blood tests and declared the best they could do was try to determine what was wrong and then send me to specialist up at Primary Children’s Hospital. By the first part of June it was evident that we had a real problem, my joints would swell and stiffen up so much during the night that by morning I couldn’t even get out of bed. The joint pain was so severe I struggled throughout the day to do activities as simple as tie my own shoes, put on jeans or even lift my arms high enough to change out of my clothes. Not to mention my voice had become incredibly raspy and I was constantly getting reactions like ‘oh you must be sick’ or ‘did you lose your voice screaming at a game.’… I was falling apart. The specialists up at Primary Children’s were trying to pin point my illness and give me a diagnosis. Some of the possibilities they addressed included: lupus, diseases within the family of MS, as well as things like rheumatoid arthritis but still nothing seem to explain all my symptoms…and nothing explained my voice, that was just ‘weird’ they said. At that point my lack of voice was the least of their concerns. The biggest problem while waiting to arrive at a diagnosis was that they were unable to really treat the symptoms, problem or pain.

sanThroughout this process I had remained positive, after all I was grateful that this was something I felt I could handle and a trial I felt I could take on. I was able to trust in the doctors and most importantly my Heavenly Father that whatever was ahead I wouldn’t be facing alone. While we were waiting for test results the physicians told us to take our family vacation to San Francisco we had planned months in advance and to have a good time. That was one of my favorite trips we took as a family, but it was on the long car ride home back to Utah that fear and despairing thoughts began to get the best of me. I began to wonder how much time I had left on this earth, I worried I wouldn’t ever see my senior year, I was sixteen years old and I was dying. Surviving high school was going to be a much more literal task than I had anticipated. It seemed that all my life plans were now up in the air. I thought about how my life would be with this disease, I realized if getting out of bed was a daily struggle how would I ever be able to walk around a University campus or serve a mission, be an EFY counselor like I had watched my brother do, or get married and raise a family. I didn’t know if these dreams I had long had would be achievable in the coming years and I had to be okay with that. We returned home from that family trip and there was a diagnosis waiting for my family. I had something called autoimmune hepatitis of the liver, a rare liver disease that affects about 1 in 250,000 (about 4 in a million).

The liver specialist at Primary Children’s told me the way her and her team saw it was I had 3 options: go on steroids, have a liver transplant or die… and she wasn’t fond of plan b or c. So I was scheduled for a liver biopsy to determine how severely I had been affected and how much of the steroids I would need to begin to fight this disease within me. In that time I was surrounded by people who loved me, countless people from my extended family, community and our church had been praying. I went into have my liver biopsied and we awaited the results. Now I’m mindful that not everyone’s story ends the same way mine did, we all experience healing in different ways. Some healing takes place within us from enduring a disease, other healing occurs from having the burden of sickness taken from us. We received the call that the test results had come back and in that time my liver counts which had been previously high had decreased, we were told from experts in the field that they couldn’t explain it. It seemed that my results of this rare liver disease had not previously dealt with a case that ‘on its own seemed to turn itself around…’ it seemed that we were no longer dealing with a disease but instead a miracle. At first I was doing well enough that the doctors held off in giving me steroids and eventually within two years my liver counts and tests were normal. I still occasionally find symptoms surfacing whether it be joint pain once or twice a year after a strenuous day, but those symptom’s only seem to last long enough to serve as a reminder of the day-to-day struggles I faced 7 years ago.

The conclusion to the story of my ‘nasty raspy voice’, is a little different story from the liver. My lack of voice, or I guess more accurately the presence of a really hard to understand raspy voice I had, lasted for 4 1/2 years! From sophomore year of high school through sophomore year of college… which I mean who needs a voice during those prime identity forming years and when adult communication skills are being learned! Those closest to me were able to understand me… and by that I mean those who stood really close to me could usually make out what I was saying J. The doctors hadn’t really encountered anything quite like it so they said to just ride it out, they had done a surgical procedure scanning for things that could cause such a change but found nothing. I was on medication for a year, I even tried The Little Mermaid approach by getting my first kiss in that 4.5 year span… but nothing cured or even seemed to help. It was decided that it was linked to acid reflux. What we did discover was my voice would be altered by anything acidic I ate so anything that was citrus based or tomato based, even things like chocolate, mint, cinnamon, or too much oil would make my voice leave, which left me with a short list of things I could eat. I eliminated everything in my diet that would be a problem to simply eating rice chicken, peanut butter sandwiches potato chips, milk and water. On this diet for two weeks my voice did come back! Yet one stick of mint gum it was gone again and so I decided to just live with the raspy voice because 16-year-old me was not okay with going out on dates and being able to find nothing I could eat on the menu. Through that time not only was I not able to communicate clearly but often I couldn’t control the volume my voice would come out at when I did speak. People who were consistently around me got used to it and were very nice and understanding, people I just met often in attempt to make conversation said something about me being sick or that I sounded terrible and should be home in bed until my voice returned… I would often just smile and say ‘yeah this pesky cold’ instead of trying to explain what I had been through in the last years trying to get my voice to sound like a peppy 17-20 year old something I was. So often on days when speaking took too much energy I kept any non-essential thoughts to myself, and all my sarcastic or witty quips in. After all it’s terrifying to chance saying something ‘under your breath’ when you don’t know if it will come out at full volume or not at all, therefore all sarcastic comments had to be kept in. Which made for the commentary within my mind (what I thought was) hysterical but no one else around me could appreciate it. However, through this I discovered a lot about communication and about others, I had to fight to be heard whether it was putting forth enough energy to speak or speaking loud enough for others to hear me and so between that and my liver disease I discovered a great love and respect for the days we have to live and the words we choose to speak… and not to mention a deep appreciation for texting.

gradI have been so blessed to live out my dreams of not only surviving high school, but also attending and graduating college! Within the last year I have gotten strong enough to hike and run, I even passed a milestone of running five miles just for fun this year and even sang in public, These milestones and progress consistently remind me of the profound lessons I learned as a 16-year-old: Diseases are real, but so is God and because of that, so are miracles. How grateful I am for that knowledge. Whether they be a physical disease like a liver disease or a long-term squeaky voice ;), an emotional struggle, a spiritual temptation, a hard family situation or just a rough patch in life, they exist but so does healing and miracles, whether the struggle in your life is removed completely or simply you receive enough strength to make it through the day and endure the trial miracles are all around us.


(C)LVB2014

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The People I Find: Food Truck

This week’s post is on Karen Zimbelman and her Food Truck! I met Karen while I was preparing to be a missionary for the LDS church at the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah. She always had the biggest and brightest smile. She would come and visit us girls in our dorm and make us feel like we were number one. I have yet to try her calzones because I am so far away, but the pictures alone look heavenly. Many of my readers won’t be able to try these calzones any time soon, but her story is worth the read! My husband and I are always looking for Food Trucks because for some reason they have the best food and the best people. Here is the story of a determined woman, a woman who made her dreams come true and opened Mama Z’s Food Truck.

Food Truck 3My 82 year old mother in law called me last April. She hesitated a moment and then started the conversation: “I just got off the phone with Karen (my sister in law) and I told her you were starting a food truck. She said there was no way that could be true and I must of have dreamed it. I told her I was pretty certain but she insisted that it must have been a dream. So don’t laugh at me but I just wanted to see if I really did dream it… are you starting a food truck?”
I assured her that it was not a dream; we laughed, chatted a few more minutes and hung up. I seem to get that a lot these days. What’s a 50 year old wife, mother and grandmother doing driving a 2000 Cummings Diesel step van around Utah Valley? Selling calzones of course! I had always thought owning a food truck would be fun but only if you had something unique and tasty to sell, but at the time I had no ideas.
Fall 2013. After 32 wonderful years as a full time mother, my youngest daughter moved out to attend BYU and I found myself largely unemployed. My grandchildren were split between California and South Carolina with me somewhere in the middle. I was working part time in my home teaching Kindermusik to preschoolers, which I loved but I was often bored. I seem to have a need to have a project that I am passionately involved in but at this point I had redone the front and back yard and remodeled almost every part of our house. I was running out of projects. My husband teaches at BYU and while there was not a real NEED for me to make a lot of money I felt like I wanted to contribute more towards our retirement and future mission fund.
The week before Christmas 2013 as my husband and I were driving home from our married daughters house in the Sacramento area we were talking about our goals. It seemed that with all the taxes and other expenses of teaching Kindermusik I was only making about $6.00 an hour. Maybe I needed to find something else to do. It has always been an option to go back to school and get a masters degree and work as a family therapist but I wasn’t really excited about it. I didn’t know what to do.
Food Truck 1
A week later we were headed to Arizona to visit family there and thaw out a little bit. For 10 years we had brought our children with us but this year it was just the two of us. In years past my mother in law (and her husband) would come up from Green Valley, south of Tucson, for a day and we would meet at Marie Calendars for a few hours and then go to a nearby park. When she came up this time we decided to go to Marie Calendars for old times sake – only when we arrived, it had been bulldozed. Once we got over the shock we pulled out our phones and looked on Yelp! My husband found a place nearby that served Cornish Pasties and was very highly rated. Mark and I didn’t know what those were but my mother in law did and she said they were great so we ventured out. It was 5:30 on a Thursday night and the place was crowded. We each ordered a different kind of pasty. I choose marinated Portobello mushroom, Mark got a salmon and his mom got a fancy cheeseburger one. We all tried each others and they were awesome, this was it! I didn’t know much about pasties BUT I do know how to make calzones… and everyone loves calzones! After months of perfecting recipes and getting feedback from neighbors and friends Mama Z’s began to take shape. I have to admit that it took me a day or two to get the courage to drive the truck for the first time but now I’m pretty good at it. I often find myself  smiling as I drive down the road – I can’t believe it either.
food truck 4 Here is this week’s schedule!
THURSDAY (9/18/2014): We will be at the Provo Food Truck Round-Up from 4:00-9:00 pm located at The Start Up Building (560 S 100 W Provo)
FRIDAY (9/19/2014): Canyon Crest Carnival (4664 N Canyon Rd. Provo)! If your kids go to Canyon Crest, be sure to try us out while you are at the carnival supporting your school! We will be there from 5:00-7:30pm.


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(C)LVB-2014

The People I Find: Zipline

I almost forgot it was Wednesday with the long weekend! I have loved finding people to share their stories, it helps me get out of my comfort zone, and learn more about the people around me. There is power in a person’s story. This week’s post is written by Morgan. I met Morgan a few Summers ago while working EFY. She always had a sunny disposition that drew people to her. I was impressed with how she looked at life. As you read her story you will see!


 

The summer of 2010 was full of life-changing events; high school graduation, a senior trip, registering for classes at BYU, and falling off of a zip line, breaking seven vertebrae and my top right rib, cracking my sternum, and getting 11 staples in my head. It was one of those moments where my life flashed before my eyes and I can honestly say I had no idea what my future had in store in that moment I woke up from being knocked unconscious after flying up-and-over a 15-foot tall zip line.

I was at my friend’s cabin where a few of us were spending the weekend. Toward the end of our first day there, we decided to ride their recently finished zip line. I had ridden it one time before so I didn’t think much of it as I proceeded to climb the ladder to reach the seat of the zip line and brace myself for the short, exhilarating ride. I hit the end of the zip line harder than usual and the momentum caused me to lose my grip, fly off the seat, and do some sort of acrobatic back flip over the top of the zip line, landing on the ground headfirst, knocked unconscious.

I don’t remember much about what happened from when I got on the zip line to when I woke up with a profusely bleeding head, but my friends who watched the whole thing said that it looked pretty intense.

morganI woke up on the ground, totally confused. I knew where I was but I had no idea how I got there and how seriously hurt I was. One friend was at my side when I woke up while another one was on the phone calling 9-1-1. They explained to me what had happened and kept reassuring me that everything would be okay, but it was hard to believe them when I knew they had no more medical knowledge than I did, and I was freaking out. None of us had any idea how serious my injuries were, so it’s a miracle that I got up, walked to the car, and let my friends drive me down the bumpy private road to meet the ambulance. As I got out of the car, the paramedics were asking me all sorts of questions – none of which I remember, but apparently I answered them all correctly because they didn’t seem to think my injuries were very extensive based on my coherence. They strapped me down to a backboard, put me in a neck brace and got me into the ambulance (I felt like I was staring in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or something).

As we arrived at the hospital, I was in shock. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I was confused; it was like I was in the middle of a bad dream that wouldn’t end. The doctors proceeded to do CT scans to determine the extent of my injuries. While waiting for the results, they decided my head was bleeding badly enough that I must have had an extremely deep gash in my head and, sure enough, the gash was deep enough that they could see my skull. They shaved a small section of my hair around the gash, gave me a numbing shot, and stapled it shut with 11 staples. A shot into my head was never something I thought I would cross off my “never have I ever” list, but it makes for a great getting-to-know-you crowd pleaser now.

The results of the CT scan came back shortly, and as the doctor was explaining my injuries, he kept saying, “You are so lucky to be alive.” It was an extremely humbling experience that was only about to keep getting humbling as I learned all that could have gone wrong that didn’t. I was experiencing miracle after miracle, in every sense of the word.

The neurosurgeon met with us the next day, describing my Morgan 2course of treatment. I was immediately fitted for a brace that would become my best friend for the next three months. I’m ashamed to admit that my immediate thoughts weren’t “I’m so grateful I won’t have to have surgery” or “I’m lucky that in three months of wearing a brace I will be completely healed.” They were more like, “Three months? I can’t do this.” And “What about starting college in six weeks? What about my social life? Why did this have to happen?” I started crying for the first time since the accident occurred the night before. Ironic, isn’t it?

I stayed in the hospital for a total of four days, after which I was able to go home to begin the recovery process. I had to defer my schooling and start college one semester late in order to fully recover, but the things I learned in those three months taught me more than one semester of college ever could and I would not have had it any other way.

It was scary going home, not having doctors and nurses available 24/7 to check on me and I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable. It took some adjusting, but that adjusting brought a whole different perspective into my life. It changed the way I look at the world. It strengthened my relationship with my family, close friends, my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ. I realized that I needed to rely on these people more than I ever had before, and I learned to be grateful that I wasn’t paralyzed or killed. I learned to be grateful that I had such loving, supportive friends and family to turn to in my time of need. I learned to be grateful for life itself and the optimism and peace that come from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My attitude in that hospital bed was completely changed by the time the three months were up. While I still felt somewhat vulnerable, I began to realize that bad things can happen to anyone and, in turn, it is possible and likely that good things can come from those bad things. It all comes down to our attitude. My favorite quote quickly became “Think happy; be happy.” I learned that positive thoughts lead to a positive attitude, and that lesson has been so valuable.

It might sound pretentious, but I am so grateful for the blessing of falling off a zip line and breaking my back. I am grateful for all it taught me, how it strengthened me, and the perspective I gained through it all. God is good—always.

morgan 3


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The People I Find: Pray for Lexi

I am a news story junkie, but you all already knew that. It was at the end of February that pictures of Lexi’s accident began popping up on my news feed. The pictures on the Utah News Stations showed a beautiful young woman who had just had the worst night of her life. A few days after the accident I was asked to like her Facebook Page “Pray for Lexi.” I instantly liked the page and began reading through it, trying to get an idea of what happened. In that moment, I stopped what I was doing and said a prayer for Lexi, and the man who hit her. As posts continued to come to her page, I was one of many cheering her on from afar. Lexi is a role model when it comes to doing hard things. She has been such an inspiration for many, and has helped people restore their faith in God. No matter what religion or God you believe in this is a story for you. It is about people from around the world coming together, and showing their faith in a higher being and participating in miracle. I was very excited when she agreed to share her story on The People I Find!

Here is Her Story:

lexiMy accident happened on Wednesday night, February 26. I was like any other night, I was longboarding from my apartment to BYU campus. While I was longboarding I crossed this intersection and was hit dead on by a car. The paramedics arrived and found that I was not breathing at the scene and had to be resuscitated. I was also blessed because the paramedics were Mormon and I was given a priesthood blessing. The ambulance raced me to the Provo hospital. When my family arrived they were told that I had 0% of survival and had as much life as the chair right next to me. The doctors had already called the organ donors because they knew I would not survive the night. But my dad and brother hurried and gave me another priesthood blessing and my family went into a room and had a family prayer. The doctors then came in and said they would start stitching up my face because my chance of survival changed to 1%. My percentage started to increase and surviving was not impossible. I believe that my percentage continue to increase because of the priesthood blessings, the hundred of prayers said for me, and the fasting that was done for me. The doctors were shocked when I awoke from my coma, and they are still shocked at how well I am today and just can’t believe and so they know it is a miracle.

the driverI went through the worst pain for a couple of months in my recovery. It was incredibly hard. So you think it’d be easy to hate the person who hit me, and never forgive him. In reality, I actually felt bad for him. I felt bad for him because he probably didn’t think that we would ever forgive him and thought my life was ruined. I don’t think it was his fault or that he did this on purpose. He had no idea what was going to happen when he got in his car that night. He couldn’t have done this on purpose and so that is why I see this as an accident. He didn’t mean to hurt me in any way. Throughout my stay at the hospital, he came to visit me many times. He was a miraculous person. I admired him, and how kind he was. We became good friends from the accident, and it helped me see that bad things happen to us. People aren’t to blame for what we go through, they are only there to help us get through it.longboard

 

That is just a glimpse of the past few months of my life. I have been able to recover because so many people reached out and helped me in so many ways. I will never be able to thank the people enough who kept me in their prayers. So many people showed me compassion, and was reminded that the world is full of wonderful people. When I think of the accident, I think of it as a learning experience. I have learned to recognize and appreciate service from others and to rely on God more because He is our only way out of the hard things we go through in life. I was shown how important family was and saw my love for them increase daily. When I look at this experience, I only have feelings of gratitude. I see my longboarding accident as just a hard thing I had to go through, but a hard thing that has taught me more than anything else in my life.I believe we have hard times or trying times in our lives to be able to learn. My one piece of advice would be, learn to be grateful for the things you go through, if you do you will live a much happier life.


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The People I Find: Ewing’s Sarcoma Cancer

This week’s story is about a great man with a wonderful sense of humor. I first met Scotty during the summer of 2013 while working EFY, a summer camp for teens. He always kept me on his toes with his wit, attitude, and the kids he got. He had a way of uplifting those who were sad and allowed people to see the best in themselves. I always thought to myself, this kid will go far in life, he has the right attitude. It wasn’t until late into the summer when I heard Scotty’s story and learned about how was a survivor.

Here is His Unknown Story:

While attending Brigham Young University in the spring of 2008, I applied for and received a mission call from my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, to serve as a full-time missionary for two years. When I heard word of its arrival I immediately left campus, as well as any regard for my classes that day, with an excitement that is hard to explain. For many years I had looked forward to this day, wondering where in the world I would be for the next two years. Would I have to learn a new language? Will I be in a third world country and wash my clothes by hand? What if I go somewhere and have to eat bizarre food? Thoughts like these competed for my attention as I quickly made my way to the postal office where my letter awaited me. A few hours later, with my brother and his wife by my side, I read my mission call and was overwhelmed with pure joy.

“You are hereby called to labor in the Scotland, Edinburgh mission.”

Scotty going to Scotland seemed like the perfect idea in my mind, and I was thrilled at the prospect of serving in such a beautiful country. My departure date for the United Kingdom was June 5th. On May 30th, with passport and suitcases packed, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma cancer. Instead of serving a mission, I was assigned 14 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over the course of the next year.

The full experience seems surreal to me now six years later, as all those days in hospitals and doctor offices have fused together in my memory. Yet some memories are fresh still, to the point I can recall even the minutest details:

  • The day I learned I had cancer. A few weeks prior, I had a small mass removed from my back. With no symptoms of cancer, my family and doctor assumed there was nothing to be concerned about. The mass was sent for analysis and a week later I received a call stating that something wasn’t right with the mass, and that it was being sent to the Mayo Clinic for further inspection. Another week passed by and my family was called again, this time by a doctor in Tacoma, asking us to please come in immediately. My father is a Tacoma police officer and met my mother and me at the hospital in his patrol car. The doctor wasted no time in informing me of my condition. I remember every turn I made while driving home as my mother sat in the passenger seat weeping in near hysteria. I believed something was wrong when I received the first phone call, so I wasn’t completely surprised by the cancer news. When I arrived home my younger sister could tell by the look in my eyes that it was indeed cancer, and as she broke down and embraced me the reality of the situation still hadn’t set in, until I called my brother and said the words, “I’m not going to Scotland.” My tears were immediate.

Scotty B

  • My first day of chemotherapy. I had to be transferred from the cancer center I was at in Seattle to the University of Washington hospital to finish my treatment. Chemotherapy was more nauseating than I imagined, and after arriving in the parking garage at the university I found myself head deep in a garbage can thinking to myself, “Wow, day one and I’m already this sick.”
  • Losing my hair. Three days after my initial treatment, I was able to gently pull out clumps of my hair. Having scotty b losing hairfun with my hair, I approached my mother and said, “Want to see something cool?” She didn’t appreciate the gesture, go figure. The next day I shaved my head. My hair never grew back after chemotherapy. I love my bald head, but if I knew that day would be my last day with a full head of hair, I wouldn’t have made so many dumb bald jokes.
  • Receiving a blood transfusion. Somewhere towards the end of my treatments, my red blood cell count became dangerously low. Fearing that I may slip into a coma, my doctors ordered me to go receive blood. I was given four pints of blood, with each bag taking two hours. What I thought would be a quick fix turned into an all-day event. I didn’t realize how terrible I felt before until I finished the transfusion. Barely able to walk earlier in the day, as I strolled out of the hospital on my own I looked at my dad and made the comment, “Blood is amazing, absolutely amazing!”
  • My first emotional breakdown. Throughout that year I kept a great attitude about my trial and would force myself to smile and laugh, not wanting pity and attention from anyone. On rare occasions I would allow a breakdown and cry myself to sleep. The first time was in the hospital during one of my five-day stays. The weather was grey and it began to rain. As I lied in my bed and stared out the window I thought of the poem “The Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I let my walls down and wept for an hour.

As strange as it sounds, I am grateful for my time with cancer. I became a better person, and more fully aware of scotty b round twomy faults. Humility and optimism were my rewards for enduring, and I have benefited tremendously from them. A year after finishing my treatments, I was deemed healthy enough to serve a mission. Again I received a letter, but this time to somewhere unexpected. I roared a yell of laughter as I read my new assigned mission. Utah, Salt Lake City. The two years there as a missionary were amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

Life is hard, but I’m convinced the only way to live is with a positive mentality and a smile on your face. On days when I wasn’t particularly in the mood to be nice to my nurses or family members, I would tell myself, “Scotty, today you’ve seen small children going through chemotherapy. You’re 19 with a strong body, if those children can still laugh and smile while hooked up to machines, so can you!” I have a great life, and I am thankful for the rainy days that come my way. Because of them, the bright days are that much better.


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The People I Find: Woman Business Owner

Meet Chelsea, she is an educated, driven, balanced, and beautiful woman. I am sad to say that Chelsea and I have never met in person. I found her via her WifeStyle blog when I was religiously searching the internet about being a wife just weeks before my wedding. Her blog and personality captured my attention instantly! Her blog is a great one to follow. Take a minute to read her story about being a life partner and business partner.

Here is her unknown story:

unnamedAren’t identities funny? Isn’t it funny how some of us identify certain ways, while society forces other identities onto people? Each of these identities usually has some sort of generalization associated with them, typically both good and bad. I suppose that is part of being human. We need to compartmentalize things in order to understand them.

It’s been just about a year since I had a pretty large identity shift and I quit my social worker job and starting working full-time on the business I own with my husband. We own a speaking and training business helping people solve their communication struggles, with him doing a fair majority of the speaking while I run our business operations.

Yes, we know this increases our chance of divorce, based on other people’s outcome. Yes, we know it’s hard and challenging. Yes, we do have to pay for our own insurance. No, we don’t sit around making out all day in the office (that’s reserved for Thursdays).

My identity has shifted from social worker to entrepreneur. My identity of ‘woman’ has become ‘woman business owner’ and my identity of ‘wife’ has expanded to balance the relationship of life partner and business partner. To say it’s been an ‘adjustment’ would be a severe understatement and an understatement is the worst.

I could go on and on about many of the stereotypes society and outdated expectations relate to women and wives but instead I would like to focus on my newest identity of ‘woman business owner.’

One of the first things you have to do when opening your own business is to open a business banking account. We had been functioning as a side business for a while but realized it was time to jump all and open a corporation.

unnamed2My husband and I moseyed on down to our bank with our fancy new Federal Tax ID to meet with a small business specialist to open our bank account.

We get settled into the outdated brown chairs and the man we are working with is probably in his late 30s, wearing a fancy business suit. He asks my husband to fill out his portion of the application first. No worries, I can be patient and wait my turn. We all sit quietly while my husband fills out his paperwork.

Then he hands me a pen to fill out my part and the banker immediately starts asking my husband all about our finances, the structure of our business, what about our 401k, etc.

Thank goodness I married a supportive and outspoken man because he suddenly stopped the man and said “Why don’t we wait for my wife and business partner to complete her portion to answer these questions since she is the one with all the business information.”

I could have thrown that pen across the room and leaped into my husband’s arms for speaking to the fact that this man was assuming my husband had all the answers I must have been his secretary or something.

The banker simply said “Oh. Sure. Okay we can wait.”

After I finished my form, he said “So then should we put your wife as the main contact for this because I listed you so we’ll have to redo some of the paperwork.”

I could have kicked him in the head. Why on earth was he assuming that my husband was the go-to for all of this? Because of his identity of a man? Because he was taller than me? Why didn’t he bother to ask us instead of thinking my husband would take the lead on everything?

I took a deep breath and asked the banker, “Why did you decide to put my husband as the primary person instead of asking us whom it should be?”

That made him squirm a little but eventually he said, “That’s just what I usually do so I assumed it would be the same. Sorry.”

I wish I could tell you I launched into a rant about how ridiculous that is, how he should stop judging people based on certain identities and start valuing women the same he values men. I didn’t.

I realize this man wasn’t intentionally trying to tell me I was inferior to my husband or that he must have more knowledge than me because of his gender…but that is what he did. My newest identity of ‘woman business owner’ started shining through because she wouldn’t stand for it.

My reply was “Please reprint the paperwork and list me as the primary contact. Thanks.”

If and when you decide to get married, please make sure it’s to someone who creates a partnership with you. Someone that values your entire worth, sees you as an equal and knows full well that you can speak for yourself but also isn’t afraid to correct a wrong.

I feel quite thankful to have found this person early in life. As we head into our next adventures of being life partners as well as business partners, I know our identities will shift and morph and I’m glad I have someone who embraces all of mine.

Also, if you have any questions regarding our business operations, please direct them at me…the capable woman/wife/entrepreneur.


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Netflix-ing

rosie larsenNetflix keeps asking me “If I want to keep watching?” Is Netfilx insane? OF COURSE I DO! Right now I have a lot of time on my hands. Mr. Bird is busy in studying to become a podiatrist and is really enjoying it. Me on the other hand, I am trying to develop some new talents. I have started doing some crafts, design, reading, and let’s not forget Netflixing (don’t worry, I am working, but that goes by fast these days). I recently finished Lie to Me. It was a GREAT show until the third season. It was like someone had put a new producer in without having them ever seen an episode before. The first two season we gripping, I could not stop watching. I loved the idea, I studied body language in college and so this show was fascinating. It was a whole new level of crime solving. After finishing this show, Netflix recommended “The Killing.” I am half way through the 48 episodes of this Netflix original. I was a little weary of watching it, because of how provocative some of their other originals are (a Facebook friend let me know, that the first 3 seasons are AMC original, the rest is Netflix). So far it has been good enough to push “keep watching.” It’s appeal is its real life nature and the idea that it follows one crime day by day. Most crime shows present the crime and solve it within the episode. This show isn’t that way. Every episode is about the same murder that was shown in the first episode. It is definitely a creepy show, but worth the watch if you are into that kind of stuff!

 

 

The People I Find: Law School

Ever since Legally Blonde came out, I have wanted to be a lawyer. I love crime, not committing it, but learning about it to every extent. This week I am pleased to be sharing Bree’s story. Bree and I went to High School together. I remember her being a genius in school, I always looked up to her! Bree was always very outgoing and willing to be kind to others. I enjoyed reading her story, and seeing her passion and care for the people around her. She is going to make a great lawyer. I am pretty sure she will have my back, when I get my next perm, if you know what I mean 😉


 

This is Bree’s Unknown Story:

breeHello! My name is Bree and I am about to complete law school at the University of Michigan. When Clare suggested that I write something for her blog, I was honored. I love reading this blog and have found all of the stories written by others on here to be inspiring, genuine, and sometimes verrry funny! When Clare asked me to talk about law school, I wasn’t sure what I could share; I can’t write much detail about my clients and their problems without breaking their trust and confidentiality, but vague stories just aren’t as interesting. After some brainstorming, I realized that I often get questions about applying to law school. I’m always happy to weigh the pros and cons with students looking to apply, but you can find that same sort of thing all over the internet. So instead, I settled on showing you all an example of a law school personal statement. Below is the story I told in my personal essay. Also, if you are reading this blog and you have questions about law school, the application process, or the legal career, please feel free to send me your emails! I am so grateful for this opportunity and would be happy to share my experiences. My email is breannav@umich.edu.

The first time I visited the maximum-security prison, I remember clutching a Ziploc bag of quarters that jingled as my hands shook. Prisoners missed meals during visits, and guests were supposed to bring change to feed them from the vending machines. There were no make-up meals, even if guests couldn’t bring money. I thought about this while I walked towards the entrance, while also trying to feign enough confidence to go inside.

The waiting room looked like an airport terminal, and I paused for a moment to scan the visitors. Dressed-up preschoolers bounced on their grandmothers’ laps. Women smiled while inspecting their lipstick with compact mirrors. A man stood up, offering me his seat. The presence of ordinary people took me by surprise, and I felt my stomach release a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. My fear dissipated as I breathed, but shame soon replaced it.  With the stigma attached to prison, I hadn’t envisaged families. Perhaps I had assumed that criminals were too sinister to be humans; I didn’t expect to see actual men, with their families. I considered this, and recognized though my shame that the visitors and I were equal. I was one of them. I was visiting someone too.

I came to see my friend Kerry. Letters to and from him arrived after a delay, which intensified his feelings of isolation. I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel abandoned, especially near the holidays. We had worked together at a real estate company before his arrest; he was the man who taught me how to manage an office: how to stuff one more foreclosure file into a full cabinet without making my fingers bleed; how to calm desperate sellers who yelled into the phone because nobody made offers in the down market; how to motivate others and make them feel better during their hardest years.

Local media nicknamed this prison “The Gladiator School” after the ACLU filed a complaint alleging that guards promoted prisoner-on-prisoner violence. To conceal the assaults, the guards refused to provide medical care to the injured inmates. I spoke with an attorney representing one of the inmates, and he told me that the guards watched, laughing, as another prisoner beat his client for nine minutes. Through published security tapes, I confirmed the attorney’s story. I observed, stunned that the guards wouldn’t intervene, as a prisoner beat the client unconscious and then jumped on his head. As I watched, I attempted to process the level of abuse that some of these men had endured. The attorney’s client spent three days in a coma; he still suffers from severe brain damage.

In the visiting room, most of the inmates’ skin appeared so white it looked almost translucent under the fluorescent lights. One inmate in the corner of the room reached to grab the monopoly piece from the game at his table, pulling his jumpsuit back long enough for me to see the flesh on his arm. It appeared almost rotten, as if the skin could dissolve with water. I had never seen men with so little color. When I asked, Kerry told me that the guards wouldn’t allow them to go outside, which meant some of the prisoners hadn’t felt sunshine for months, maybe years.  Kerry — a black man — joked that at least he had no trouble keeping his tan indoors.

But they all looked thin, including Kerry. He might have been thin because of the HIV. His weight became dangerously low in prison, and the medical staff demanded that he receive a fourth meal. It still wasn’t enough. He told me that he wrapped the cheese of fourth meal in toilet paper and saved it under his pillow, so that he could eat when his hunger became unmanageable. But the guards searched his cell, found the cheese and confiscated it. I bought him a few candy bars from the vending machine before our time ran out, unsure of what else I could do.

What I saw that day has stuck with me. Of course I am not naive enough to believe in the dissolution of the prison system. I understand that prisons serve a critical purpose in our society, and I am often grateful that they exist. However, the behavior I witnessed dramatically changed my perspective on how prisons should operate. It humbled me to realize that men lived there and that families visited; this is something that seems obvious, but I think is often forgotten. These men may have been caged, but they were — are — still human. This fact has been seared into my mind by my first visit.

Witnessing the prisoner’s mistreatment not only disconcerted me, it also gave me energy. That energy has driven me to discover solutions and prompted me study law. With increasing prison populations, I expect that the conditions will remain similar to what I witnessed. I want to make certain that those who run the system account for the lives of these men.

 


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