The gift of my blood

In January I decided to kick off 2017 by doing something I’d always been too afraid to do – donate my blood. The logical side of me knew that thousands of people regularly donate blood, that it’s incredibly important for so many people’s survival and health, that the chances of the donation process harming me were low to none… but I was still scared and squeamish with the thought. I don’t have a problem with needles – three tattoos and probably more to go proves that – but I never enjoyed getting blood drawn or getting vaccinations. The feeling of copious amounts of liquid entering or exiting my veins is not at all a pleasant one. And so previously in my life I’d told myself that there was no reason for me to do something, potentially the only thing, that made me so incredibly uncomfortable.

And that’s the reason I decided to do it. The last ten months or so were full of life changes and overall pretty rough for me – the end of a relationship, a cross-country move, a new job… I wanted to consciously challenge myself in this way, to prove to myself that I could do this thing I was afraid of, that I was stronger than that fear – that irrational fear.

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The American Red Cross was hosting a blood drive on January 4th, right within my office building. I signed up and researched what to expect and how to prepare. Hydration and big breakfasts were important, I learned. I regularly empty multiple quart-size water bottles throughout the day, so felt pretty good about my hydration situation, but attempted to increase even that in the days leading up to my donation. I ate more iron-rich foods, avoided caffeine, and finally downed a breakfast of two peanut butter sandwiches and a banana instead of one peanut butter sandwich and a banana.

The staff and volunteers were supportive when I told them it was my first time donating. I provided my information and the needle was inserted into my vein without incident. Apparently my blood runs slow and/or the newer staff member didn’t insert the needle as accurately as he could have, because after a few minutes he called over the resident expert – she fiddled with the needle in my arm until they were both satisfied the blood was gushing as needed.

As time passed and the blood drained from my body, I began feeling incredibly and uncomfortably warm. I started sweating, and as soon as I mentioned the boiling temperature, I was immediately surrounded by people placing ice cold cloths on my forehead and neck. I cooled down, but still was feeling a little faint and nauseous by the time I successfully filled my blood bag. The staff had me remain horizontal while they brought me juice. When I felt better I sat up, only to decide I had better lie down again for a bit longer.

Finally I felt well enough to progress to the recovery table, the table where blood donors sit and eat snacks before continuing their day. After five minutes, I felt faint and needed to rest my head in my lap – to which the staff responded by having me lie down. This cycle repeated itself, causing me to miss my team meeting. My boss came up to check on me once it was finished and I was finally allowed to return to my office with her accompaniment, the whole humiliating ordeal coming to an end. I felt much better – no longer dizzy, but still weak. She pretty bluntly told me I looked terrible and should take the rest of the afternoon off, to which I resisted at first, but finally agreed to.

Apparently, where I potentially went wrong was my morning workout… everything I read said not to exercise after you give because your body is weak and recovering. Nobody mentioned exercising before the donation! But a friend who makes a point to give regularly every eight weeks, a friend who also works out daily, says the only days he skips his workouts are the days when he gives blood. You CAN exercise before the donation, he told me, but “you’ll just feel like shit the rest of the day”. As I did.

I am still unsure if I’ll be giving blood again any time soon. But I am incredibly proud of myself for doing it.

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Look at that huge bag of blood! That’s me! I did that!

How To: Have the Best Birthday Ever, Every Year

For those of you who know me or follow my personal social media, you know that I love my birthday. I’m not sure when this started – maybe this love of my birthday was always there? But for me it’s a much more exciting point of rebirth and place of beginning than New Years, as a time of celebration for the past and excitement for what’s to come.

I remember seeing the movie 16 Candles for the first time and being so confused – yes, it was disappointing that her family forgot her birthday, but it’s not like she made any effort to remind them. You have to advocate for yourself in this world! If you want to have a fun birthday, you can’t wait around hoping that someone will plan it out for you – why would you even want to risk it? From an early age I worked on planning fun parties and dinners around my birthday. And in recent years, I’ve involved different groups of friends and family throughout the week to extend the festivities.

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Additionally, since the rise of the Internet, I’ve realized that a number of restaurants and client-focused organizations are equally excited to help you celebrate your birthday for the small price of signing up for their email list. This year, for example, Brueggers Bagels gifted me with a free bagel with cream cheese, Au Bon Pain fed me with a free sandwich, and Tavern in the Square presented me with a complimentary appetizer! I received a few desserts from other restaurants, but desserts really just aren’t my thing, even if they’re free. Other restaurants offer a free entree with the purchase of an entree, but as a currently single lady those deals aren’t quite as easy to take advantage of.

But anyway. I generally don’t like being the center of attention – I don’t need it, nor do I want it – but my birthday is the one time of the year where I feel comfortable saying ‘this is what I want to do. And I’d like you to do it with me’. And it’s as easy as that! I think of the things that make me happy, the things that I’d like to do even if I couldn’t get anyone to join me, and then present it more or less as ‘this is what I’m doing to celebrate my birthday, and it would be more fun if you were here, too’. This year, I did pub trivia, visited a new local brewery, grabbed a quick drink with friends after my barre night for the requisite double bar, and then hopped on a plane to LA to celebrate with my birthday-twin-brother and some friends on the west coast.

You don’t have to go quite as crazy during your special week, but I’d definitely recommend thinking hard about what makes you happy, about what you enjoy, and treating yourself to that. You deserve it! And I’m telling you, getting free shit in your inbox is the closest I’ve come to Santa Claus as an adult.

Katy Rants in September 2016

Here is where I start a new blog series, fondly (as of now) known as “Katy Rants”. This September 2016 edition of “Katy Rants” will talk about the things currently pet peeving me, and why. Maybe some of you feel the same!

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A really fun and relatively recent community-based use of the Internet are different social media groups related to giving away free stuff. It’s really a great way to get rid of clutter while ensuring you’re not wasting anything – that the things you once loved but no longer need are going to a good home. My home town has a “Curb Alert” Facebook page, and my new apartment in the city has a “No Buy” community page with a similar purpose. Both require approval to join, in an attempt to ensure that these groups really are communities sharing with each other, and not outsiders trying to mooch on free opportunities.

Overall, it’s pretty great – people post a lot of random stuff, like gently used clothes or toys or gardening tools, but then there are also some really beautiful pieces of furniture that people don’t have room for and don’t want to transport or worry about selling.

Here comes the pet peeve: when people insist on using this page to get small amounts of money for their used things. I’m all for getting money for your things, if that’s what you want – but that’s what Craigslist and EBay are for. It’s worse when the same people who are regularly snapping up the furniture and household items their neighbors are gifting freely are the ones trying to sell their broken table lamp for $20 on the same site. Are you kidding me? Do you have no sense of pride or shame or an understanding of social contract?

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Bullet Journaling

This is now where I add to the many, many posts living on the interwebs about bullet journaling.

 
A few months ago, one of my social media contacts started posting pictures of planner and journal pages. For a long time, I ignored them. Why should I be interested in other people’s dumb journals? Of all the Instagram pictures to spend time stalking… But eventually, deep in the bowels of Internet procrastination, the sixth-grader receiving her first homework planner and fastidiously keeping it neat and organized popped out from where she was hidden not-so-deeply inside of me. I was suddenly curious and started googling.

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Podcasts: 2015

It wasn’t that I discovered the existence of podcasts in 2015 – I don’t live under a rock. I did, however, include a number of new podcasts into my weekly rotation, and established said weekly rotation the same way many people look forward to television shows. I’ve realized listening to podcasts is a much more interesting way of incorporating physical activity into my day (great company on walks!), as well as spicing up car commutes.

Here are the newfound and long-loved within that weekly rotation. Most should be pretty familiar to my fellow podcast listeners out there.

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