Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 7, 2016: Tragedy in Dallas

I am usually pretty quiet when it comes to controversial topics simply because I don't like arguing with people. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe. That's fine. But, after the five police officers were murdered in Dallas, I feel as though I need to say something.

For the past two weeks I have been a mess of emotions- sad, confused, hurt- but, mostly angry. I am angry that things have gotten so out of hand. I am angry that people continue to punish police as a whole for the actions of those who are corrupt. I am angry that five innocent officers' lives were ended by someone who held nothing but hatred in their body. I am angry that those officers' children will now have to grow up without a father. I am angry that there are so many who have the audacity to say that those five men deserved it. I am angry that so many speak without truly checking their facts. I am angry that the actions of these people are making those who once loved being in law enforcement, begin to lose their love for the job. I am angry.

I will never understand how something so horrible could happen. How someone could hold so much hatred in their body for someone they've never even met. It just doesn't make sense to me. Michael Smith. Lorne Ahrens. Michael Krol. Patrick Zamarripa. Brent Thompson. None of these men deserved to lose their lives. They were all good men with wives, and children, and friends, and pets, and hobbies. They joined this career to protect and serve. To help make the world a little bit safer of a place, so the fact that their lives were ended so senselessly makes me sick. The pain and suffering that has been inflicted upon their friends and families is unbearable to think about. Whenever I see the faces of the children of these officers I can feel the knots begin to form in my stomach. I want to tell them how sorry I am for their loss, and how much my heart is breaking for them. I want them to know that their fathers will never be forgotten. That they will always be remembered as heroes, because that is exactly what they are.

My dad has been a police officer longer than I've been alive, and the thought of how easily that could have been him shakes me to my core. I have been aware of the growing tensions between citizens and law enforcement for awhile now, but this made it real. It showed me the pure hatred that some people possess for law enforcement, and made me realize just how dangerous my dad's job truly is. Every time he leaves for work now, I feel a little bit more anxious that he won't make it home the next morning. This is a risk that I have always known is there, but now it sits closer to the front of my mind at all times. Right now the world feels all twisted up, and although there is not much that I am sure of at the moment, there is one thing... I am sure that I will not let radicals scare me into being ashamed of my connection to law enforcement. I have always been and will always be proud of my dad for what he does. 

So, the next time you see a police officer please keep this in mind... That they have kids to drop off at school. That they have pets to take care of. That they have daddy-daughter dates to go on. That they have lectures to give to their teenagers. That they have bad dad jokes to tell. That they have their kids' graduations to attend. That they are human. To you they may just be the officer that pulled you over and wrote you a ticket, but trust me... They are so much more than just that to someone else.

-Melissa P. Cooper

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

So Many Exciting Things

As I reflect on everything that has happened over the past month I can't help but feel overjoyed with everything that has happened! As summer draws near, there have been a lot of changes, which I thought I would tell you about today.

No. 1: I TURNED TWENTY. On May 14th I celebrated my 7300 day of being alive, also refereed to as my twentieth birthday, with my family and it was perfect. I played endless games of go fish with my siblings, which may sound boring but I promise you it wasn't. In fact, at one point Zac LITERALLY jumped across the coffee table, yelling at Kaitlin for withholding the card that he needed to win. This then led to everyone cheating, and withholding cards, which was tons of fun (Kaitlin was the only one that got caught). We also ate tons of cake and ice cream (ice cream cake, to be more exact) as one does on their birthday. 

No. 2: I COMPLETED MY ASSOCIATE DEGREE. Yes, I have officially finished the requirements to obtain my very first college degree, and it was a bittersweet experience. On one hand I am excited to have my first real college level degree, but on the other hand I am sad to be leaving the school I have been going to for the past two years. Although I was less than thrilled when I first realized I was going to be attending the local junior college, I have grown to love it over the past two years. My first semester I tried my best to devalue everything about this school, simply because of the fact that it was a two year college (also referred to as 'grade 13' by everyone I went to high school with). But, after my first week of finals I realized that it very much WAS a real school. I was just as stressed and sleep deprived as kids who were paying triple as much to attend a fancy four year university. Once I got over the stigma that is placed on community colleges and the students who attend it (as well as the snooty comments which I heard from at least every 1 out 5 people, such as, "You do plan on attending a REAL school one day, right?"), I began to truly enjoy my time there. I had some amazing professors, made a few friends, and maintained a 3.8 GPA. All in all I would say it was a success, but now it is time to move on to a new school, which leads to my next exciting change...

No. 3: I HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED TO A NEW UNIVERSITY! I will be attending a four year university this upcoming fall, and I am so excited about it. Although it isn't what I would call my dream school, it is still a fantastic school, which is recognized for their programs to do with my majors (journalism and international studies). It also happens to be located only about half an hour from our new house, which is my next point.

No. 4: WE BUILT A HOUSE. I can't even begin to put into words how incredibly thankful I am that this actually happened. Not just because it means that I no longer have to share a room (no offense Kaitlin <3), but also because my parents deserve it so much! They are two of the most hardworking,
deserving people that I know, and I am so glad that this dream of theirs, which they once thought to be impossible, was able to come true. Today, we moved some of the first boxes into the house and it was so very exciting.

No. 5: I WENT TO MY FIRST MUSIC FESTIVAL. If you know me, you will know that I am not one to do anything even moderately adventurous; but, I have decided that this is my year of trying to change that. The first venture I decided to take was to a day long music festival called Edgefest, which my big brother convinced me to go to. He invited me to tag along with him and his friends for the weekend, which helped to make the entire festival experience a little less intimidating. When we first got to Toyota Stadium I was super nervous. Nothing can really prepare you for how massive the crowds or going to be, or the overwhelming smell of weed that is constantly lingering in the air; but, as the day went on I began to have more fun. Although I didn't dance like crazy, or join in on the crowd surfing, I was having fun. There were so many great bands, and even though my ears were ringing for a good two days afterwards, it was so worth it. After that I decided that I for sure wanted to go to another music festival, so I bought a ticket to ACL.

I can't wait to see what other exciting things 2016 has in store for me!

-Melissa P. Cooper

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Becoming a Bone Marrow Donor

When Kaitlin was diagnosed with leukemia, they ran a blood test on my brothers and I right away. They wanted to see if our blood type matched hers. If it did we would be able to not only donate blood for the many blood transfusions she had, but also donate bone marrow if she ever needed a bone marrow transplant. I may have been a mere eleven years old, but I was excited at the thought of matching Kaitlin. If I were to match her, I would no longer have to sit idly by while she was poked and prodded to no end. I felt as though if I were able to give her blood and bone marrow, I would be helping more than I was by just being there. A few days after they drew the blood, the results came back- None of us matched her. Ironically enough my little brother and I came back as EXACT matches. I was so upset. The dream of being able to be more than support was suddenly crushed, but it also got me thinking about all of the other siblings who were going through this same thing. All of the siblings who had hoped so much they would match, and then didn't. All of the families who were now having to rely on the generosity of strangers, to find a match for their daughter, son, maybe even parent. That's when I had an idea... Why not register on the national bone marrow registry?

At the time, I was too young to register since you have to be eighteen (and no even if you have a parent's consent you cannot register any earlier... trust me, I tried). So, I waited until I was old enough, and then registered on the national registry through an organization called Be the Match. Be the Match does so much wonderful work. Not only do they help to set up donors with patients, but they also provide support to the family of the patient, as well as raise money to go towards furthering medical research. Currently their registry has 12.5 million people on it, which seems like a lot, but seeing as approximately 318.9 million people live just here in the United States, I think it could be much higher. It doesn't take long to register as a donor- You can either find a local drive to go to, or have Be the Match send you a packet through the mail. All you have to do once you receive your packet/arrive at the local drive is swab the inside of your mouth with various q-tips, and then send them off to be tested. If you match someone, they will call you- Sometimes people go years before getting the call that they've been matched, and sometimes people go months. It all depends on if you match someone who is in need.

Also, I feel as though I should include this, so that you don't feel as though registering mean signing a Rumpelstiltskin-esque contract... If for any reason you decide that you no longer want to/are able to be on the registry, it is as easy as sending an email or making a phone call, to have your name removed. If you have any other questions about what all becoming a donor entails, head over to the Be the Match website. I can guarantee that you will find all of the answers to your questions there.

I hope that you really do consider joining. Like Dr. Seuss once said, "Unless someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." To you it may not seem like a big deal to register, but to that sibling who didn't match, or that parent who just wants to hear 'We've found a match,' so that they don't feel as through they are wasting anymore precious time waiting, or that patient who has spent weeks eagerly awaiting the day they receive what is most likely their best chance at seeing another birthday- it means SO MUCH. Don't doubt the impact that you as an individual can have on this world.

-Melissa P. Cooper

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Dallas, Texas

Even though I have grown up in suburbs that sit just an hours' drive outside of downtown Dallas, I have surprisingly not spent much time in Dallas. Every so often we'll go down there to see a concert at the American Airlines Center, or go to the Dallas Museum of Art, but we never spend large amounts of time down there exploring- so, when I had the opportunity to tag along with my mom to stay in a hotel that sits right in the center of downtown Dallas, the night before the Christmas parade (which you can read all about here) I was thrilled! I don't remember exactly how many stories up we were, I think we were sat on the tenth floor, but I do remember that we were high enough up that the cars and people looked the size of ants.

Our room had a balcony, which looked directly out to some of my favorite buildings in Dallas' famous skyline- Reunion Tower, the Green Building, and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. I have really only ever seen these buildings from far away when we're driving on the highway, so to suddenly be at eye level with them was crazy. They seemed even taller, that close up! I took a bunch of pictures that night, which I thought I would share with you now...

My mom and I

When I came back in from taking these pictures, my hands were absolutely frozen (despite wearing gloves) due to how cold the wind was, but it was definitely worth it. The view was breathtaking- I could have sat out on that balcony for hours.

-Melissa P. Cooper