Is that song really playing?

Blood Donation

I like to donate blood.  “Like” is probably a strong word.  I actually don’t like it.  I think it’s the right thing to do.  People benefit from a tiny sacrifice.  Maybe they benefit to the point of having their life saved.  Maybe not my blood.  But somebody’s blood.  So I feel the need to take advantage of the opportunity.

I’ve had good donations and bad ones.  With some time behind me, the good exceeds the bad but the bad ones, the experiences at least, still linger.  Occasionally, even as recently as late last year, the weirdness and light-headedness can spring up.  Room fills with diffused light.  Dry mouth.  Ceiling gently spins.  Sounds fade into the background.  “Sir?”  “Are you ok?”  “Sir?”  Maybe a chill…cold fingers.  Doesn’t feel good…not being in control, wondering:

Who’s gonna wear my breakfast?

Who’s going to be strapping me in, tipping me upside down and trying to revive me?

Is this the time I wake up in the back of an ambulance?

It’s embarrassing but, what are you going to do?  The benefits outweigh the risks as they say.  The good news is that of the possible outcomes, I’ve only ever experienced the Strap, Tilt and Slap.  I’ll take your Bend and Snap and raise you…  Even with that, there have been times where avoiding the barfarama was not a given.  If you’re wondering, I avoided it today!

But I digress….

Even though I feel this personal responsibility to participate, I’m still reluctant.  Every time.  I try to be aware of how I’m feeling.  Try to remain calm.   I try to ignore the poking and massaging.  Will they hit the vein the first time?  Will it be a two arm day?  Will she twist it in my arm, drilling for oil until there’s a flow?  Deepwater Horizon, anyone?  Ugh.  The blood.  It’s usually the nail in the coffin amid all the other discomfort.

Don’t look!

I tell myself every time.

You know what happens when you look.

Anxiety is powerful.  All the things you might do to manage it for yourself are influenced by things that are out of your control.  Like today.  Today was a good example of an unmanageable input.

The Nurse is massaging my arm.  She’s asking for a “second opinion”.

Really?  A second opinion?  How many times have you done this?, I want to ask.  Are you a hack?  Because if you’re a hack, Barfarama avoidance may be over and we may be faced with Barfageddon.

The “Second Opinion” tells her, “There’s a vein.  It’s small…but it’s there and then it kind of goes to the left…don’t second guess yourself.”

I stop listening.

Did she really just say that?  It goes to the left?  Is that a breach of privacy?  A breach of my Private Health Information? (Mental note to ask Jacinda about that…maybe I have a case and can quit my job.)

I digress again.

Who says that?  In front of Captain Queasy?  While he squeezes the stuffing, it’s really foam I guess, out of the stress ball.  Are you nuts lady?  Can I see some ID?  Are you authorized to do this sort of procedure?

She seems oddly relaxed, notes out loud that she always doubts herself.


She’s wiping the iodine.  Circles.  Around and around and around.  Does that hurt?  It feels like it hurts.  Around and around and around.  Enough already!

She’s prepping the “main line”.  The hack is about to plunge the foot long needle of death into my arm.

Small vein?

Oh, God.

“Just a little prick”, she says.

I giggle to myself unable to avoid the fact that I was once a middle-schooler that would find things like that funny.  I don’t anymore.  Goes without saying…

I try to think about other things.  Distraction!  That’s it!  There’s music on the radio.  Great idea.  A Distraction!  Zero in on that.  Ignore Dr. Frankenstein’s widow who is preparing to impale you.

Lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go…

Really?  This is no time for Eminem.

The sound from the radio fills my senses and I try to reach out and touch it, extending my ghostly fingers as far as they’ll go…back and forth they kick to the rhythm…straining…stretching.

I know that song though.  What is it?  I think I know who sings it….Lisa?  Lita?  No….  Leona!  Leona Lewis!  Simon Cowell found her I think.  Simon’s a hack.  He’s probably related to the Impaler.

I know this part.  Catch up to it…  How does it go?

The sword is thrust into my arm as the words filter into my ears…

But I don’t care what they say, I’m in love with you
They try to pull me away, but they don’t know the truth
My heart’s crippled by the vein that I keep on closing
You cut me open and I

Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding
I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding
Keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open

Fade to black….

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A Bambi Tale


Any parent will tell you that raising children has ups and downs and moments for which we can never be prepared, no matter how hard we try.  These lessons are ingrained in us early on and while we resist being surprised, innocence diffuses our ability to anticipate.  It’s part of what makes parenting fun, I think.  The world, viewed through the eyes and imagination of a child, is a wondrous place where things never really hurt you, there is fun to be had, and consequences are irrelevant.

It’s perhaps this last piece that gives us particular pause.  The instinct to protect is strong in a parent, and can drive reactions that, under “normal” circumstances, would never happen.  There is a heightened sense of awareness when anything seems awry with a child, and that awareness is a reflex, involuntary as a response and seemingly uncontrollable.  In the right situation, that response makes perfect sense.  We invest so much in our children, to groom them, to wean them, to help them grow and make morally defensible decisions and actions.  It’s a crapshoot, to be sure, but the commitment is always there.  Always lingering.  Just below the surface.  Waiting to respond.

During the holidays we took time with the kids, playing games, running around, watching movies, whatever the moment held.  On a particular day, we curled up together to watch Bambi.  Our oldest, Ryan (nearly 9), had seen it, though it had been some time and, to the best of our recollection, our youngest, Daniel (nearly 5), had not.  Disney made animated movies, and to a degree still does, that can enchant and enthrall and entertain like no other but there is almost always a message, some value to be drawn from the story, some reality to be shared in a digestible manner for the youngest among us.   In that respect, Bambi is among the most representative of Disney Magic.

My youngest sat with his mother, my oldest alone (too big to sit with Mom or Dad), and we allowed ourselves to be enveloped by the tale.  Our boys have rapid, ceaseless commentary on most everything, a trait borne from their mother no doubt, but are generally silent and motionless during movies.  The fact that they watch limited TV and never play video games accounts for this but we’ll give Walt Disney some due in this case as well!

Inevitably, the movie arrives at the point where Bambi is frantically searching for his mother, killed moments earlier “off-screen” by a rogue hunter.  I could feel Daniel’s growing agitation.  I could sense my wife gripping him tighter.  Holding him close.  Preparing to offer support in understanding the inferred trauma.  I wanted to get up, to go over and be a part of this learning moment.  To help this young boy understand what was happening on-screen.  It was an overwhelming rush.  My breaths grew rapid and shallow.  My heart was pulsing in my chest…no, OUT of my chest.  I could hear the voices in my head, “Get up!  You need to help her!  He won’t understand and will be upset!  Help her!  Help him!”

“Mother?!  Mother?!”, Bambi cried, “Where are you?!”

And then it happened, as it often does.  No warning.  No preparation.  No filter.  Daniel emerged from his mother’s death-grip, and bellowed at the screen from his very toes, “Your mother is dead!”

From the mouths of babes…sigh…

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The Kids are Alright

Team USA - 2013 World Junior Hockey Champions

(Photo credit: Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

If you follow hockey anywhere in the world, today was an important day.   Early this morning (ET) in Ufa, Russia, Team USA’s Under 20 Men’s Juniors beat the defending Champions from Sweden, 3 – 1, to win Gold.  Team USA played inspired hockey for the better part of two weeks, avenging a loss to Team Canada in round-robin play to advance to the Gold Medal game today.

The World Junior Hockey Championship is a tremendous event that kicks off each year on Boxing Day (December 26 for the uninitiated) culminating in a final, ten days or so later.  These young men, kids really, work their whole lives to achieve a level of excellence as “amateurs” in pursuit of professional glory.  But the opportunity to pull on their Country’s uniform in international play is a singular moment.  Many of them will actually play some form of professional hockey somewhere in the world but this tournament, this opportunity to compete like an Olympian, may only come once…two dozen boys, under 20 years of age, representing an entire nation, in a tournament held in Russia.  Against that backdrop, Team USA came together, like a family and in a way that it seems only a hockey team can, to reach the ultimate prize.

We are fans of the sport – fanatics is probably more appropriate – and we look forward to this event each year.  When you consider that greed has imperiled hockey at the NHL level so far this year (and a topic for another day), the anticipation was greater than ever.  That said, we are a house divided, me in particular, struggling when Team USA and Team Canada face off.  We missed seeing the annual game between the two nations on New Year’s Eve, when the tournament is hosted in North America, a tough tradition to maintain this year when the game was broadcast live at 4 AM ET!

For those who don’t follow the sport but who are mesmerized by Olympic competition, this event can feed your soul.  You appreciate that these kids are living a dream, for a single shot at glory, sporting their Country’s colors, hearing their anthem following each win and battling for each other and with each other to win Gold.  Only one team can win of course, so the disappointment of nine other groups of kids cannot be overlooked.  I love the sport, love the event, but I can’t avoid pulling against other teams…say what you want about the end of the Cold War but I NEVER want Russia to win…even at home.  I’m a Nationalist at heart, it’s why I wrestle with my allegiances when Canada plays the U.S.  I don’t apologize for it.  It’s part of what makes it fun.  You need a bad guy and Russia is it for me in International Hockey and always will be.

Setting that all aside, I watched the Gold Medalists this morning, shoulder-to-shoulder along the blue line, arms around each other, medals about their necks and bellowing the national anthem, woefully out of key and reassuring everyone that hockey was the right path.  Nobody collects a pay check for this tournament.  Nobody gets a lucrative contract extension for it.  It’s an awesome reminder of what sport is supposed to be about.

Purity.  Camaraderie.  Endurance.  Perseverance.  Excellence.  Victory.  Team.

As USA Olympic Head Coach Herb Brooks stated in his pre-game speech in 1980 at Lake Placid, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

I can’t wait until it all starts again, in Malmö, Sweden, in December.  We’ve got a title to defend!

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Get These Training Wheels Off….

Ok.  Deep breaths.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.

I always resisted writing, never really feeling like I had anything to say.  Give me something to write about and I can cobble it together.  It doesn’t usually sound right to my internal reader but others apparently see it differently.  Some are content, some are surprised, some are complimentary.  Mostly, I just want it to feel good to me…but that so rarely happens.

How to solve for that?  Force the effort.  Make it so you have a commitment, not just to yourself but to others.  If you have the ability to let yourself down, or put others ahead of you, maybe this is the vehicle to get around that.  So here it is…an attempt to make the mundane less so, to enhance the experiences life has to offer and to enrich my life and, hopefully, the lives of others.

I’m not worried about succeeding.  Not really.  Because success is measured in so many different ways, I don’t feel constrained in any way by “achieving”.  If I’m happy with what I’m doing, if those absolutely closest to me are happy too, there isn’t anything else more valuable to me.  So let’s get these training wheels off…

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