Why Do I Give Blood?

I chose to attempt to donate blood today. I was successful for the ninth time in my life. If you’ve read my former posts on donating, you know it isn’t easy for me. But you also know why I do it. And why I will continue to attempt to give blood for the rest of my life. But this post isn’t about the procedure behind a blood donation, it’s about the heart or the reasons for the donor.

After donating today, I went to school to teach. One of my co-workers saw my bandage and quickly commented that he couldn’t give blood because he was too afraid of needles. Another one chimed in that she didn’t like how long the process took from start to finish. And a third remarked that they didn’t understand why I chose to give up my free time to be stabbed with a needle, when I could give to charity in other ways.

Those were all valid feelings and I didn’t want to start a ruckus in front of the students, so I just politely said that I had my reasons and that it wasn’t really that bad. Then I turned and walked away. So now, hours later, after a full day at work followed by our end-of-the-year student showcase, I will type what I really wanted to say to those co-workers. Excuse me while I climb up on my soap box for a hot second.

I wanted to say that you can look away or watch or hold someone’s hand or scream or cry when they stick you, but that it also only pinches for a minute (for most people). I wanted to say that one hour of your life every two months is NOTHING compared to how much time our generation spends idly scrolling through social media. I wanted to say that you can have your phone and you can text your friends while you donate, or read a book, or call your mom, or play trivia crack, or check emails. I wanted to say that I give to charity in a number of different ways and that blood donation actually works out to be one of the shortest commitments of time, not to mention the flexibility of finding a donation center or blood drive that fits for your exact schedule.

But most importantly, I wanted to tell my co-workers who didn’t seem to understand, that I donate blood because IT SAVES LIVES. And yes, I CHOOSE to donate in spite of the apparent drawbacks. Why? Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of people across our country and the world who don’t get to choose. They don’t get to pick whether or not they want a blood transfusion after a car accident. They don’t get to use the excuse that they are scared of needles every time they need a donation to boost blood cells before a chemotherapy treatment. They don’t get to complain about the number of hours they will sit in chairs and get a strangers blood pumped into them. They don’t get to decide if their blood is drawn to rule out yet another possible cause to the disease that is crippling them. Simply put, I choose because they can’t.

To be clear, I don’t think I’m better than my co-workers because I choose to give and they don’t. And I don’t blame them for being scared or disinterested, in fact I actually envy them. Because it tells me that they have never had a loved one need the blood of a stranger. And they haven’t seen first-hand the positive difference it makes in the energy, spirit, and health of a person struggling with disease. When I think about their naivety, I also think about the fact that one day I might not have the choice either. But if that day ever comes, I’m going to thank God for every person like me who does choose to donate because they might just save my life.

For now, I just think about the things I should have said today. And while I wish I’d said more to convince them to join me next time I donate blood, I’m not sure my words would ever be enough. Instead, I remind myself of the old saying that “actions speak louder than words”. So maybe if I keep giving, and I keep showing up to work with bandages, and I keep answering their questions, then they’ll start to see how important blood donation really is. But even if my co-workers never donate blood, they sparked a fire in me that encouraged this post. So maybe because of them, one of you will find a blood drive and sign up. If you do, share your blood donation stories in the comments below!

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Saying Good-bye to my Partner in Crime

Almost exactly twelve years ago, I went to the Volkswagen dealer in Charlottesville, VA with my parents to “look at cars” for the second or third time. Much to my surprise, there was a 2003 silver VW Golf with my name on it! It was a manual transmission with a CD player, four doors, a sunroof, and a hatchback. All of my “requirements”. It had to stay at my parents through that school year (UVA policy) but once I got home that summer, Funshine and I were together all the time. I settled on Fnshine as the license plate/name of my car because growing up, Karebear had been a frequent nickname of mine. My favorite CareBear was Funshine, whose personality is described on wikia.com as  follows:

In the original series, Funshine always looks on the sunny side of life. Happy, perky, and ready to rise with each day, he’s equally ready and willing to help others, bear or child alike. Using his tummy symbol, he can light up the darkest night or shine a beacon for all to see. However, he has a tendency to be a practical jokester, which can sometimes land him in trouble.

Beginning with the early 2000’s franchise re-launch, Funshine was given a more outgoing, athletic personality, but still retains the overall fun-loving spirit of the original. This thrill-seeking bear lives to seize each day, whether through extreme sports or games, and can’t stand being cooped up for even a moment.

See why I always liked him? Of course, Funshine wasn’t available with the VA DMV so I deleted the “u” and settled on Fnshine… which has been mistaken for “Finish Line” or “F’n Shine” over the years, lol. I just counted and in the 152,000+ miles we have traveled together, Funshine and I have been to 32 of the 50 states including two cross-country trips. One in 2012 with my friend Paige to get me to California and one this past fall with my mom (for part of it) to get me to North Carolina. Funshine has been registered in three states (VA, CA, NC) and had “FNSHINE” in both VA and NC. Of course, California being the land of fun and sun, the plate was not available.

I won’t bore y’all with too many details of my adventures in Funshine, but suffice it to say that many of my friends have had many exciting, scary, interesting, shady, and amazing trips with us. I detailed last week the current contents of my car, but I also know that over the years I have transported tons and tons of items. Funshine has taken me (and my bike!) to numerous races, driven my teammates to gymnastics meets through college, and carried my life’s most precious possessions across the country (twice). I’ve ripped the undercarriage off on an off-roading trip, popped a tire and deployed the airbags in a pothole, torn open the oil pan in the desert, blown a speaker (or two?) blasting music a bit too loud, and done my fair share of scraping curbs and such. But I have never been in an actual accident in Funshine and I have tried to take good care of my precious car!

So why this post about Funshine? Because tomorrow I plan to take it for one more drive, this time to Carmax to sell. It is old and showing its age and probably wouldn’t make it back across the country without a new timing belt, which is an expensive repair to make when I have already been thinking about getting something a little bigger and newer. I’ll buy a replacement car once I get to California, but for now I am just sad about leaving Funshine behind. Crossing from North Carolina into Virginia earlier this week felt a little like driving an elderly person back to their hometown to quietly slip away from this earth. I know that Funshine will most likely be resold and/or junked for parts… but I’m trying not to think about that. For now, I invite you to enjoy a few pictures from the last twelve years and share any favorite Funshine stories y’all might have!

Brand new car!! 2003

Brand new car!! 2003

Definitely up to no good in college - 2006

Definitely up to no good in college – 2006

Snowpocalypse - 2010

Snowpocalypse – 2010

Snowpocalypse - 2010

Snowpocalypse – 2010

Leaving to drive to Cali with Paige - 2012

Leaving to drive to Cali with Paige – 2012

Gorilla taping the undercarriage back on - 2012

Gorilla taping the undercarriage back on – 2012

Being towed to replace the oil pan - 2014

Being towed to replace the oil pan – 2014

Driving back across county, here in Utah - 2014

Driving back across county, here in Utah – 2014

Fnshine with NC plates - 2015

Fnshine with NC plates – 2015

Final Feedback on February Fasts

I made it! And what’s funny is that I didn’t even realize it until this morning (March 2nd). I think that’s a good thing though, right? Since I obviously wasn’t counting the minutes until the clock turned from February 28th to March 1st. This challenge turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated overall. Again, I was basically hanging out at home in North Carolina with no friends which helped, but I was also doing a lot of running around town when it’s easy to give in to fast food and sugary treats for energy. Here’s my original post to remind you of my February fasting goals and my mid-month update to show my progress a few weeks ago.

So where am I going with each of these items? Let’s see!

Fizzy drinks – I am going to try my absolute best to keep these out of my diet. Between the sugar and caffeine, they do a number on me now that I’m not as used to them. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a good mixed drink here or there, but I want to set the standard to be less than one a week from here on out. We shall see!

French fries – Only the very best, most delicious fries will be had. Especially if they are sweet potato fries. And especially on special occasions. I want to continue to avoid fries as my “go to” side item in restaurants. The reality is that I can steal one or two from a neighbor and be good to go with fruit or a salad instead.

“Fourth meal” – I anticipate this to become a problem again… especially once I start work. Namely because I will go back to eating breakfast earlier in the day and lunch earlier, so I will want dinner earlier. I’m going to try to avoid this by scheduling a healthy snack in the afternoon to help push dinner back later. Most of my Cali friends wait until 7 or 8 to eat anyway, so this will allow me to wait for them without getting “hangry”. And if I’m eating dinner that late, then there isn’t much time for a “fourth meal” after that!

Frozen treats – Again, I just don’t need them and I don’t want to stock them in my house. I’m sure I’ll make a trip or two to the local froyo store, but I want to limit frozen treats to once or twice a month. I can pick other ways to get a bit of sweet at the end of the day. And if I do go, I am going to really try to stick to fruit bowls instead of chocolate bowls. What the heck does that mean? Basically that when I go to put toppings on my delicious frozen yogurt, I’m going to put fruits instead of candy. Not a huge difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Fast food – The reality is that I will need to eat out while on the road in the future, but I plan to avoid going to fast food in San Diego County. There is no reason to, especially when such great stores as Whole Foods and Jamba Juice exist. The food tastes better and is way better for me. Again, we shall see how that works out 🙂

Those of you curious about my health/fitness results will be interested to hear that while maintaining a similar weight to the middle of the month, I have lost another 2.5 inches off of my body! This is thanks in large part to my half marathon training picking back up and my Piyo workouts continuing to kick my butt. I’m excited to keep them up while adding in kickball and long, therapeutic walks with my girlfriends back in SD.

Thanks for reading about my health and nutrition progress and let me know what you’re trying to do to change your eating habits!

February Fasts Update

I just looked at the calendar and realized that we’re already over halfway through February! This month has been crazy busy so far. I’ve been spending a lot of time helping get the Edge Church ready for launch THIS SUNDAY! Oh, and I went to Big Sky, Montana for skiing with two of my best friends. I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about and then making the decision to move back to California. And I’m now frozen into my apartment by 2-3 inches of snow/sleet. Because this is North Carolina and they aren’t super used to the white stuff. But all this stuff isn’t what my post is really about tonight, it’s about my five fasts in February!

Let me first remind you what I chose to eliminate from my diet for this month: fizzy drinks, french fries, “fourth meal”, frozen treats, and fast food.

Fizzy drinks has been way easier than I thought! I did cave and have soda while in our box at the UVA vs. NCSU men’s basketball game. Mainly because I was tired and it was there and I was feeling spoiled. That night I didn’t sleep well AT ALL. I was totally wired. Note to self, caffeine makes my mind crazy. It’s all really dry in my apartment and I feel like I’m constantly thirsty, so not drinking soda has helped slightly with that. I will most likely continue to omit soda from my diet except for rare occasions.

French fries is not a problem when I eat at home, which I’ve been doing a lot of. French fries are a huge temptation when I’m eating out, especially because I really like ordering sandwiches which often come with fries. In Big Sky, I swapped my side of french fries for brussel sprouts and was disappointed in them. So I stole a few fries from the boys. But it was much better than having my whole plate full! I would love to say french fries will be gone forever, but I know that’s not the case. I will try to get a healthy side and just split fries with people in the future… because a half of serving is better than a full serving, right?

“Fourth meal” hasn’t been too bad… mainly because I’ve been delaying my meals and not having my Shakeology shake until about 10am after my Beachbody Piyo workout, so then lunch isn’t until 2pm or so, which means I wait until 7pm to eat dinner. There isn’t a ton of time after that to eat more. And I’ve already eaten most of the snacks in my house 😉 I’m trying to just drink a container of water instead to help fill my stomach. I’ve occasionally had a square of dark chocolate as a dessert to my dinner. But again, that’s way better than the foraging through the pantry I used to do! I plan to continue limiting late-night snacking because I know I sleep better when I haven’t just eaten!

Frozen treats again has been easy since I haven’t eaten out too much. The dark chocolate squares have quenched my sweet tooth and I just haven’t been craving cold milkshakes or ice cream since it’s been in the teens and 20s here recently. Brrr! There are also not delicious frozen yogurt shops on every corner like in California. I predict the frozen treats will be creeping back into my diet soon 😉 I know I do better when I don’t keep it in the house though, so I’ll continue to resist buying them for the house!

Finally, fast food. Again, I’ve been home alone most of the month and in an environment where I’m not being invited out to a ton of meals. But I have been running tons of errands throughout the days, which is when I’m always most tempted by fast food. I think I had fast food once on the way to Montana in the Chicago airport, which was to be expected. Again, I hope to continue this without too much problem while still in North Carolina!

So basically, I’m happy with how I’ve done so far and I feel good about finishing out the rest of the month. I am still trying to figure out how all of these will or won’t continue once I’m back in California. I will say that all of these diet adjustments, plus adding in healthier alternatives, and doing Beachbody six days a week with half marathon training… I feel great! I have also lost six pounds this calendar year and, more importantly, 2.5 inches from my body! Most of that was from my arms and waist, which have definitely become more toned from workouts and managing my food. I hope the next 11 days will help solidify my routines and remove the few cravings I still have.

On the spiritual front, I have been working through my weekly devotionals which had given me a greater focus on my life. I’ve worked through a lot of frustrations and mental blocks that have been building and I’ve dealt with some issues I’d been suppressing. I’ve felt really fulfilled working the launch the Edge Church and because I feel so great about my nutrition and fitness, I can use my time being positive and supportive of others! Overall, this has been a great month and I’m excited to see how the rest of it plays out 🙂

Big Life Decision…

Things I Know I Love:

  • Being outside. All the time.
  • Being active. If it’s with friends, that’s a huge bonus.
  • Being involved in incredible organizations that work with youth in need.
  • Being in nature. Especially out of sight of civilization.
  • Being able to find healthy food close-by in grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Being surrounded by a network of friends that love and support me.
  • Being present in the lives of those same friends and supporting them.
  • Being in a place that makes my heart happy.

In case you haven’t already guessed it… this post is my official announcement that I will be moving back to California!!

I will be the first to admit that the last four months have been a chaotic whirlwind. I moved out of my house in Encinitas, drive the Cali coast with my mom, went to Mexico, crashed at one of my best friends’ houses in Cardiff, drove to Colorado for Thanksgiving at my brother’s house, drove on to VA and stayed at my mom’s house, spent two weeks in Argentina (had an absolute blast, but got robbed), crashed at another best friends’ house in south central VA, flew to San Diego for New Years, moved into an apartment in Wake Forest, went on an incredible ski trip to Montana… Did I leave anything out, lol?

In the midst of all that, I spent a lot… A LOT… of time thinking about my life and where I am and where I want to go. And most importantly, what makes me happy. I left California thinking I had used up my time there.  That I needed to get back to “real life”. I was frustrated about the lack of a full-time job (even though I hadn’t done that much looking). I had been telling myself since I made the choice to move there in 2012, that if I couldn’t find the perfect job that I could always move and try somewhere else. The problem with that thinking was that I got sucked into tunnel vision a little bit. I knew I was frustrated with my housing arrangement (our third roommate left a bit to be desired). I knew I wanted a full-time job. I knew I needed a change. And I knew our lease was ending. I could feel things changing so I just took the opportunity to leave.

Since college, I have thought about living in the Raleigh-Durham triangle area, so I figured why not? It was closer to my family, closer to my East Coast friends, not too big of a city, in the south where country music thrives, and has a lot of opportunities in the education field. Sounded great! And in fact, there is little wrong with this area. I’ve already made friends, gotten involved in an amazing church, had interviews and potential job offers, found a place to live… Except it doesn’t make my heart swell every time I think about it. It doesn’t put a smile on my face anytime someone mentions it or the thought of it crosses my mind. It’s simply not San Diego.

The first specific sign of a problem with my decision to move was the fact that I turned the car around that night in November when I tried to leave. Then I continued to think about the people I was missing throughout December… so I went back for New Years’ Eve. But I could tell that it was more than just the people… that it was the place and the community and the life I had there. I worked hard to establish myself in San Diego, in non-profits, at church, with friends. For the first time, I felt like I was setting up my adult life. Even though it didn’t include the house and the career job and the stability of my life in Ashburn… it included things I really felt passionate about. And that was so much more important.

I guess the bottom line is that I can’t neglect the things I’m passionate about. I need to put myself back in the place that makes me happy. And I might as well do it now versus later, right? It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s crazy, it’s a bit chaotic… but it’s right. I can just feel it. I’m still working out the details about exactly when I’m moving, and how, and when… but I’m going! I’ve put in my 30-notice at my current place and I’m working on finalizing the rest. I should say that I am sad to move away from my East Coast family and friends again. But I have to trust them when they say that they just want me to be happy, because that’s what I want too! I also feel really, really good about actively choosing a place because I know what it entails and I WANT to be there, instead of just leaving a place because I know it isn’t right and I want to try something else new. I will never regret moving to North Carolina because it opened my eyes to where I really need to be… But California, I choose you and I can’t wait to see you again!!

Five February Fasts

As y’all know, I have really focused a lot recently on leading a healthier and happier life, both physically and mentally. A huge piece of that is nutrition. I mentioned in a post last month that I’ve started a Beachbody workout program and I’m rolling into another season of half marathon training as well. In order to fuel myself, I need to really buckle down on healthy eating. It’s easy for me to add fitness but it’s harder for me to alter my eating. Especially living alone, there is no one in the house holding me accountable… although there’s also no one in the house buying Oreos either 😉 But the temptations, especially of restaurants and fast food are right here and it’s on me to stop myself. I really, really want to work on this though. And I want to work on cooking healthy, delicious meals that make me WANT to just eat in, even with friends!

So I had already decided going into this year that in February I would really kick into high gear. I’d in theory be settling into life here on the East Coast and be ready to buckle down. So far I’ve just been doing a lot of research into clean eating and portion control and nutrition in general. But before I can really focus on adding tons of healthy stuff, I want to eliminate certain things for this month. I know realistically that I can’t (and don’t want to) eliminate some of these for the rest of my life, but I do want to force myself into healthier options by refraining from unhealthier ones. So for the month of February (which is the shortest month of the year, how convenient!) I will be fasting from the following five items:

– Fizzy drinks (aka soda)

– French fries (including sweet potato fries, sadly)

– “Fourth meal” (which really just means late night snacking after dinner)

– Frozen treats (aka milkshakes, ice cream, chocolate chunks, etc.)

– Fast food (which I’m defining as anything from a window or place that has a drive-thru)

Those of you that know me, know that I don’t frequent most of these things. And I’m certainly not eating out every day or drinking gallons of soda a week… but do I need them at all right now? I don’t think so, at least not for the short period of 28 days. These are some of my comfort foods and I default to them. I want to retrain my body to be satisfied with healthier snacks and “treats”. As a side note, I don’t love what soda does to my mind at night. Because my body isn’t used to caffeine, it keeps me up and gives me really weird dreams sometimes. I’m hoping that by removing these things, I can focus on the better choices I should be eating instead!

Another, smaller goal is to continue shaping my body and fueling it to help me perform to the best of my ability. I have a few athletic goals for this year and I’ve been really working on strength and flexibility as well as endurance. A less central thought is also that one of my best friends gets married six months from today (YAY!!) which gives me a great long-term goal for building tone and transforming to a healthier version of me! Again, my focus is not so much on physical appearance or the scale, but more on feeling healthy and being confident that what I’m putting in my body is actually good for it.

An additional piece of this fasting in February decision was added a few days ago when the couple leading our church posted about fasting and praying leading up to the big launch day. I’ve done a few “30-hour famine” weekends back in grade school, but I haven’t really applied nutrition to my spiritual life before. I’m excited to see what God can do this month while I eliminate some of these foods. And I look forward to praying and thinking about the health and strength of the church while focusing on the health and strength of myself! One of my biggest snacking times is in the evening while I’m winding down and boredom or fidgeting sneaks in. I’m going to try to take that time to stay on track with my devotionals and prayers, instead of heading to the kitchen for a snack. This spiritual part feels like something that’s been missing from my previous attempts at healthy eating and a fully transformed healthy lifestyle.

At this point it’s probably needless to say, but I’m REALLY looking forward to the next 28 days and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted throughout the month. And please, please, please help hold me accountable! Texts, emails, Facebook posts, cards, comments, anything… I can do it, but I can do it easier with each of you supporting me 🙂 And if any of you are on similar journeys, I’d love to hear about them as well so I can support you too!

Turn, Turn, Turn…

Today’s post is going to be a little different. I have been going through my computer files and organizing them (who is surprised?). Anyway, I came across this document and thought I’d share it with you all, in case it helps anyone to read it. So a few years back, my parents’ church put together a daily devotional with pages contributed by various members. They asked Dad to write one and what he wrote is below. My dad was a bit of a rebel growing up, especially as a preacher’s kid. And he wrote this a few years into his battle with bone cancer. I find it to be a nice reminder of the necessity of balance in life… and that every stage or phase we might be in, won’t last forever. Enjoy!

 

As a teenager of the late ‘60s, one of my favorite songs was Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds.  After learning the words of this song were taken from the Bible, I thought maybe this is one song my parents wouldn’t mind me listening to.  Through the electric guitar and drums the words resound with a timeless message of balance.

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

As I’ve aged this is still one of my favorite songs and the scripture it uses – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

Life goes through turns, some hard, others easy; but living each turn brings another, usually better.

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

Our world is filled with choices and sometimes we only choose the easy things.  This breaks the balance of the universe as it is through tough times one is made stronger with the following turn a softer one.

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

If one gets too far unbalanced with all the demands of life the enjoyment of simple living disappears.  It’s when we spread our time between all turns of life – family, work, friends, religion, ourselves – do we truly receive the peace of life balance.

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late!

It is the inner peace of God’s blessing that we must rely on to understand the turns and balances of life. When I struggle through tough times, I remember there were better times and again better times to come.  I carry my beliefs in God’s words:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Amen.

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