Category: Random

Giving Blood

So, today I gave blood on behalf of Edward Cullen! Let me explain…

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I have set a goal to perform one day of community service a month.  Luckily I found out that my apartment complex has a day of service a month as well.  This month they decided to do a blood drive.  As part of the promotion every donor had to pick a Twilight hero to donate their blood in behalf of.  As creepy as donating blood to a vampire might be it was actually kind of funny.  They even had the movie playing in the donation center.  Everyone knows I am not the most die-hard Twilight fan but I liked the first and second books and it was a creative idea for a blood drive.  I also thought the movie was campy and fun.

The actual giving blood part was a different story.  My veins are always tough to find. When I was 17 I had my appendix taken out and at the hospital the nurses tried and tried to insert my IV.  Eventually once the expert phlebotomist failed they had to insert the IV through my finger!  It is always tough and to be honest that is why I don’t give blood much.  In fact, I haven’t done it for years.  So today I walked over to the clubhouse and gave blood.  It was painful and it took both arms and 3 attempts to get things going but I did it.  It hurt and I am battered and bruised as a result.  I look like a drug user with pricks all over my arm!

Like I said, it hurt and was a sacrifice, but I feel it was worth it.  Hopefully my hard earned blood will go to help someone who really needs it. I challenge all of you that are able, to go out and do it!

Here is a website about the Twilight promotion. http://www.freewebs.com/twilights-bite/

Here are some interesting statistics about donating blood in the United States (some of them are a little obvious like there is no substitute for human blood- really!). I found them from the New Jersey/New York Red Cross website:

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BLOOD STATISTICS

Usage:

–4.5 million Americans benefit from life-saving blood transfusions each year.

–40,000 pints are transfused each day in the United States.

–New York Blood Center alone requires over 2,000 volunteer blood donations each day to meet the transfusion needs of patients in close to 200 New York and New Jersey hospitals.

–1 out of every 3 people will require a life-saving transfusion sometime during their lifetime.

–Someone in this country needs a life-saving transfusion every 3 seconds.

–Transfusion recipients include cancer patients, accident, burn and trauma victims, newborn babies, transplant patients, mothers delivering babies, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, etc.

–Each donation of blood can help save 3 lives following component (red cell, platelet, plasma) separation.

–Much of today’s sophisticated medical care ( transplants, heart surgeries, etc.) rely on blood transfusions.

–Car accident and trauma victims may need as many as 50 or more red cell transfusions.

–Severe burn victims may need as many as 20 platelet transfusions.

–Bone marrow transplants may require platelets from over 100 donors and red cells from over 20 people.

–Blood products are perishable.
* Donated red cells last only 42 days.
* Donated platelets last only 5 days.
* Plasma can be frozen for a year.

–The need for blood never takes a holiday.

Eligibility:

–Nearly everyone between the ages of 17 and 75, weighing a minimum of 110 pounds and in good health can donate blood. Donors over age 75 who are healthy and meet all other donor requirements simply require a doctor’s written permission note to donate.

–60% of Americans are eligible to donate blood; yet on average only 5% of Americans donate blood.

–In the New York/New Jersey community, less than 2% of eligible people donate blood.

–People can safely donate blood every 8 weeks.

–People can safely donate platelets every 3 days or up to 24 times a year.

–Of New York Blood Center’s approximate 450,000 donors, 8% self identify themselves as African-American, 11% self-identify themselves as Hispanic and 5% self identify themselves as Asian. But more donations from people of color are needed so New York Blood Center can better match its community’s richly diverse population and the need for “precise match” transfusions.

How Blood Works:

–Red cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

–Platelets act like band-aids to form clots and stop bleeding.

–Plasma is the liquid through which blood cells, proteins, enzymes, nutrients and hormones “swim”.

–White cells, also called “leukocytes”, are the body’s primary defense against infection.

–The average person has between 8 to 10 pints of blood in their body and can easily spare one for donation.

–After donating, blood volume is replaced, or regenerated, within 24 hours. Red cells need 4 to 8 weeks for complete replacement.

–There is no substitute for human blood.

Affluenza

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So, I heard a term today that just made me laugh out loud.  It is called affluenza.  This is not a joke.  It is an actual psychological diagnosable condition and to me it says a lot about how out of wack our society has gotten.  How can something so obvious be a cause for debate and study? It’s another one of those scientific endeavors that can be summed up in old colloquial sayings such as “Money doesn’t buy happiness”.  Listen to the wikipedia definition of affluenza and tell me if you don’t think it is crazy:

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (de Graaf [1])
affluenza, n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. (PBS [1])

This isn’t just overspending.  No it is a contagious socially transmitted condition of overload and debt! So now if we are in debt it isn’t our fault, merely the cause of a contagious condition we inherited- like strepp or AIDS. Watch out my friends!  Watch out for your children!  Affluenza may spread!

I certainly hope that Congress doesn’t hear about this condition or they might start claiming bouts of affluenza caused them to vote for the spending bill!

I hate to sound preachy on this blog but to me it is things like this that show how far off track our country has gotten from the religious foundations it was started with.  Affluenza wouldn’t happen if you had a society based on brotherhood (and sisterhood), charity, freedom, independence and faith.  It’s no accident that Jesus said ” It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

Now, I came from a family with a middle to high class lifestyle.  I certainly got everything I needed and most of the things I wanted. However, we never suffered from affluenza because my parents had us grounded in Christian values- focusing on service to others, the importance of family and the value of hard work. I could list lots of examples of how my parents demonstrated to me that money was not the purpose of life.  One example is how my father has always been an avid home teacher.  Home teaching is a program in our church of visiting fellow members and helping them in anyway possible.  Many good home teachers still do it out of obligations or duty- not my dad.  He loves it!  He loves getting to know and serving people and most of them become his life-long friends.  He’s even spoken at some of their funerals. For the record, my mother is also a diligent visiting teacher.

Another example is how both of my parents were always opening their home to friends.  For instance, we had a number of foreign exchange students and visitors while I grew up.  This enriched all of our lives and created great relationships all over the globe.  Another memory I have is of our friends always being welcome to eat with our family.  We had family meal every night.  Even when I was in high school and my parents had two little ones and I was busy with activities, I still remember eating together most nights.  Often one of my friends, or my brother’s friends would join us for dinner.  They were always welcomed as one of our family.  My parents weren’t perfect but in simple ways they taught me how to serve others and keep a heart free from greed.

As my sister and brother have gotten married they have also been good examples of reaching out to others and cultivating a non-materialistic home.  My brother is passionate about many causes and has allowed friends to stay at their home, sharing meals together.  My sister is great about giving of her time to other young mothers around her.  She was just telling me yesterday about a small act of service she had planned for two of her acquaintances.  She found out they were traveling with kids and decided to make them little kits to help the kids with the journey.  It is such little acts of service that keep each of us grounded in what matters.  Our country needs the same grounding.  We certainly don’t need an excuse for our excesses like an affluenza epidemic.

I served my mission in Indiana and while there I met one of the richest ladies I have ever known.  Her name is Sister Mary Turner.  She lived in a tough part of Indianapolis and had very little material possessions.  She actually lived off of social security and some welfare assistance from the church.  Because she loved the missionaries she had a strong desire to feed all of us every week (4 elders, 2 sisters) but she refused to use any assistance or welfare money to do this.  So to make a few extra dollars she started gathering soda pop cans and then turning them for cash. Eventually her neighborhood and our ward (congregation) joined in and everyone had a stash of cans to help Mary Turner feed the missionaries.  With the few dollars she got every week she would then go to Aldee’s (a discount store in the midwest) and buy whatever was on sale.  This usually led to some odd meal combinations including spaghetti and mashed potatoes or french fries and egg rolls.  After the meal she would usually have some type of food gift for us such as a gallon of milk or a half gallon of ice cream.

I will never forget this sacrifice made in my behalf.  She did not have to feed us.  There were others who would have gladly done so, but she wanted to give to a cause she loved.  The entire cycle of her money from creation, to spending, to giving was based on Christian values. It is a great example of charity and a wonderful way to live our lives- full of worry about how you can afford to help people, not how you can compete with the neighbors.  Mary Turner suffered from the opposite of affluenza- giveluenza! Something our country could use a lot more of and that our leaders could work to develop.

In my life I try to do at least one day of community service a month.  This has just started but already I have had some neat experiences including delivering cookies to the lonely and working at Festival of Trees for Primary Children Medical Center. Such endeavors have not only brought me happiness but hopefully helped others in my small way.  They also keep me grounded in what matters and in the community I love. I think we need to write a similar prescription for anyone suffering from affluenza- find someone to serve, look at a neigbor as a friend not an enemy, and help someone accomplish their dreams.   This is what makes life great not money!

59

Bowling Alone and the Great Good Place

goodplacescvrbowling-aloneIn my last post I mentioned how inspired I felt by Glenn Beck’s new 9/12 initiative.  Normally my posts are viewed by a handful of family and friends (15-35 visits a day). Both of the political posts I did caused huge upswings in visits- especially my last post.  I was shocked to have nearly 500 visits in the last 3 days! That post also had a record 11 comments.  It was great!

Clearly this discussion has touched a nerve with people and it caused me to wonder why?I asked the same question during the Democratic primaries- why was the country more interested in a community activist from Chicago than the slick experienced Clinton machine? I believe the election of President Obama, and to a smaller extent the initial response to the 9/12 project, shows the desire of the American people to connect with a cause- to be gathered together for a greater good.

This is an interesting trend because for years America appeared to be in the opposite direction.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s individulaism grew along with a new sense of self-suficiency.  Without a major war or conflict to gather citizens, group behavior declined- particularly political action.  Such involvement became more of a hobby, rather than a necessity.

These trends are demonstrated in two of my favorite non-fiction books:  The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.  They are both excellent reads with eye-opening ideas.

In the Great Good Place Oldenberg says that every human being needs three places: the home, work, and the third place.  The third place is the focus of the book because in it “neutral ground provides the place, and leveling sets the stage for the cardinal and sustaining activity of third places everywhere.  That activity is conversation.  Nothing more clearly indicates the third place than that the talk is good.”  Examples of third places include bars, pubs, coffee houses, bookstores, cafes, parks and even lobbies.  While these places may seem superficial and unnecessary, Oldenburg argues that they provide “precious and unique benefit” to those who frequent them including “the leveling primacy of conversation, certainty of meeting friends, looseness of structure, and eternal reign of the imp of fun all combine to set the stage for experiences unlikely to be found elsewhere.  These benefits also derive from the sociable and conversational skills cultivated and exercised within the third place”.  Basically the third place provides attendees an unpredictable and free environment of sharing that you just can’t get at work or in the home.

Having established the value of the third place Oldenburg goes on to explain their decline with the rise of suburbia.  Actually it’s not so much a decline, as it is a replacement with mediocre substitutes.  The carefully planned and placed Starbucks, Borders, and Chilis of the world attempt to create community but  feel pretty lame in comparison with their traditional counterparts.  I should know because I live in Utah- the home of chain everything.  Especially in Utah County, it is hard to find any unique restaurants or stores- and if they aren’t chains then they are rapidly becoming one.

The best community involvement  I seem to be able to do is sign up for a class at JoAnn Fabrics or look for a book club on Craigslist.  There is almost nowhere I can go by myself to just hangout.  The movies is the best I can come up with but still that’s kind of lame.  The problem of not having a third place is that you end up either alone or  surrounded by people who only think like you do. You never feel a real sense of belonging or sacrifice for the group.  Oldenburg says “The effect of the third place is to raise participants spirits and it is an effect that never totally fades.  Third place interaction is a matter of ‘making other people’s day’ even as they make one’s own in a situation where everyone gains.” As you interact together the patrons of the third place also get to see one another in a positive, happy light, instead of the grim view often found at work or are in other interactions together.  Think about it if you had shared a Coke with a new friend- would you feel as inclined blow up at them if they cut you off in traffic?  No.  We have lost both a sense of authentic community and an outlet for free expression in our country, and I think it has consequences. For one, President Obama’s election (for better or worse) was certainly helped by the underlying need for community activism that he successfully tapped into.

In Bowling Alone, a similar vein of thought is followed.  Instead of third places Putnam follows the registration numbers of civic organizations, clubs, and bowling leagues.  Groups such as the Lions Club, Masons, Elks Lodge, League of Women Voters, etc have all seen declining memberships  since the 50’s when they peaked.  Putnam says the old members didn’t drop out “but community organizations were no longer continuously revitalized as they had been in the pst, by freshets of new members”.  Even membership in the PTA has gone down every year since the 1960’s.  This may seem like a meaningless statistic but it has many ramifications.  For instance, the philanthropy encouraged by such organizations declines. “Altruism of all sorts is encouraged by social and community involvement.  Churchgoing and clubgoing, for example are among the strongest predictors of giving blood…To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends and neighbors are”.

The isolation that Putnam talks about has gotten so bad that most of us do not know our neighbors or have even introduced ourselves (myself included).  We click the garage door and then are shut away in our little world.  We then gather only with people that we have similar tastes with (which brings up another good book I just finished- The Big Sort by Bill Bishop but that’s for another entry).   Even on the internet we communicate in social networking sites such as Facebook only with like minded friends who we agree to come into our lives.  In the old civic organizations, clubs and churches a variety of people could participate and find common ground. In addition,  people that in previous generations would have been included in community discussion- even begrudgingly- are now left alone (unless they are able to find other nerds to hang out with!).  Instead of uniting our country, we keep dividing and dividing.  Its no wonder the politicians in Washington are so diametrically opposed to each other’s policy.  They have been living in a society where they are surrounded only by like-minded individuals and rarely have to branch out. When the founding father’s met they were able to find livable compromises within a diverse group of people.  Perhaps this was partly due to the spirit of community they had been raised in?  Perhaps if they had been isolated and only fed political dogma from one side, the compromises would not have happened and our country would not exist?

Who’s to know! Both authors have forced me to look at the world I live in differently.  Maybe it is because I have lived on the east coast, west coast, Midwest and in Utah, but I pride myself in being open minded.  In listening to every side of an argument and trying to find common ground.  This seems to be a lost art and part of the blame goes to the loss of the third place and the community spirit.  People like President Obama and Glenn Beck (to a smaller extent!) have tapped into this fundamental need and are allowing citizens to speak their peace- or at least giving them that feeling.  It is a shame such attempts at community activism are not more diverse in opinions and ideas but they are a step in the right direction.  Hopefully we will learn and find ways to expand our reach within the community.  I know the few attempts I’ve made have benefited my life.  I have a goal to do at least one act of community service a month.  Plus, I also look for ways to reach out to new friends.  I go to book clubs where I don’t know anyone, cake decorating classes, and even cruises!  I am better person because of such endeavors and I challenge each of you to do the same! Also, read those books.  I hope I explained their ideas in ways that make sense. They are great!

25 Things About Myself

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

I know these kind of things are lame but I actually like doing them.

1. I love to travel and if I had a ton of money I would vacation as much as possible.
2. I have 4 nieces and a step nephew who are the cutest ever.
3. The rest of my family dislikes tv but for some reason I love it. Favorite shows are How I Met Your Mother, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, The Simpsons, and 24.
4. I have whole sections of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s memorized. It is my favorite movie.
5. I have a collection of Madame Alexander dolls. I got my first when I was 8 or 9 and now have 13.
6. I am an NPR junkie and love Car Talk, Radio West, This American Life and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
7. I have a phobia of most animals and birds. I don’t like being licked, touched, pecked at or any of the other behaviors of animals. It’s weird but true.
8. There is nothing I love more than a Broadway musical. Les Mis is my favorite and it is the only show I have seen twice on Broadway. Amazing.
9. I sometimes do crazy things like go on a singles cruise to Mexico by myself. I like the challenge of it.
10. One of my favorite things is having a good conversation with an old, devoted friend. Best in person, but the phone is great too.
11. I love book clubs and even started going to one in September that I found out about on Craigslist. It’s been great.
12. Reading is another passion of mine. All types of books. Currently I am enjoying the Confessions of a Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella. They are surprisingly good.
13. My favorite names for a boy and a girl have always been Christian and Lili.
14. One of my goals in life is to someday live by the ocean. Hopefully Hawaii but I will take any ocean.
15. I went to college with my mom pregnant. My mom had the baby after my first summer term of BYU.
16. I love to swim. Give me a good pool and I am happy.
17. My current Hollywood crush is on Jeffrey Dean Morgan; although, Hugh Jackman always makes me dizzy.
18. I love politics and find it interesting to look at all sides of issues.
19. I hate mingling at a party. I seem to never know what to say.
20. I hate fake cheese
21. I have a birthmark on the top of my head that is bright red. I guess that’s another reason why I won’t ever shave my head!
22. I never went to prom in high school. My junior year I was actually on the planning committee but I got appendicitis and had to miss it. Senior year we had moved to California.
23. My current favorite food is greek yogurt with fruit and honey. I love it and I normally don’t like yogurt.
24.I love entertaining and enjoy the process of planning a menu and inviting friends.
25. I don’t like driving and honestly I am not very good at it.

So, that’s 25 things. 🙂

Simple Pleasures

President Joseph F. Smith said that seeking “to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.”

This is one of my favorite quotes because it reminds me that there is nobility in the small, simple acts of life.  There is a part of me that wants to be bold, brave and make an impact on the world.  I just have to remember that often that impact is felt by the simple and not the grand gestures.  The people that I most admire are the ones that lived quiet lives filled with love and service- grandparents, friends, parents etc.

I was thinking about some of the small activities that give me great joy.  I’d love for all of you to share some of your favorites as well.  These are in no particular order:

1. Reading a good book

2. Lazy conversations with friends and family- phone is great but in person even better.

3. A funny joke or story shared with a friend

4. Comics- Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert and Peanuts are my favorite

5. Hugs from my nieces/nephew and siblings.

6. Morning scriptures and prayer

7. The mountains when they are clear and beautiful/The Ocean

8. The satisfaction of completing a task or job

9. Dinner/lunch with friends

10. Watching a good movie

11. Book clubs

12. NPR- especially Car Talk, Wait Wait and This American Life

13. Holidays

14. The comfort and security of being around loved ones

15. Fresh cut flowers- lilis and orchids are my favorite

16. Great music of all kinds

17. Cooking for myself or others

18. Singing particularly with my voice lessons

19. Shopping and finding a bargain

20. Finding the perfect gift for a friend or family member

So, I could go on and on.  The point is that I have much in my life to be grateful for and many happy, simple things that I can focus on doing well each day.