How to Successfully Donate Plasma

Hi all! It’s your friend Kelsey here. I have a fear of needles. I also have a need for funds. As of late, the latter has won out over the former, so guess what freaky thing I’m doing? Donating plasma!

Donating plasma is pretty dystopian. You get hooked up to a machine in a room full of lots of other people hooked up to machines and they suck out your blood, spin it around some, and return the red cells to you while keeping the white cells. There are needles and the phlebotomists wear plastic face masks and you have to read the risk chart every time so that you really are aware there could be an air bubble or something and you could die.

But it’s also something that saves lives and helps you earn a little bit of money and, for me, is aiding in conquering a huge fear. I’ve donated plasma about ten times now, and here are the pro tips I’ve come up with:

First, drink at least a liter of water before you go, but stop drinking it by the time you walk through the door of the facility. Not only will that allow you a little bit of time to process the water and pee before you get hooked up while also keeping you properly hydrated, but it will prevent any problematic vital read-outs (I once took a sip from my insulated bottle right before having my temperature taken and the cold water prevented the thermometer from being able to read my stats). Having to pee badly while literally not being able to escape where you’re sitting is the worst feeling in the world.

Note: if you’re donating later in the day, definitely have more than a liter of water before you go in.

Second, find something properly distracting. I’ve brought a book, I’ve watched the shows playing silently on the TVs at the donation center, I’ve scrolled aimlessly through instagram, I’ve answered emails… the best distraction I found was watching a video on YouTube of somebody playing a peaceful video game. Either way, find something that appeals to you that will occupy your mind for at least 45 minutes.

Third, SQUEEZY BALL. Upon your first visit to a plasma donation center, they should hook you up with a little “new donor” package, which should include a squeezy ball, which is your new best friend. I forgot my squeezy ball once and pumping became SO MUCH HARDER and the whole process took much longer. You’ll be needing to make a bunch of fists. Bring that squeezy ball.

Fourth, when having your vitals taken, have the attendant prick a finger on the opposite hand of the arm you’ll be using. It sucks to have a sore left hand and then have to pump it while donating from your left arm because you’re just shoving your poor pricked fingertip into the squeezy ball over and over again.

Fifth, take care of yourself! Drink plenty of water and eat something good when you’re done. Try to avoid coffee and alcohol before you head into the center, and have lots of protein and calories before you donate.

Also, there really aren’t any long-term studies about what frequent plasma donation does to your body so… yolo?

Who knows how long I’ll be able to keep this up… but there are some tips for anybody interested in the process.

Advertisements

How to be More Body-Positive

IMG_8334

Hi! Here’s a photo of me with visible stomach rolls, armpit hair, dark circles, plasma donation bruises, discoloration, and acne scars! And now it’s here on the internet for your scrutiny!

(Intrusive thought break: wow, you’re *soooo* brave for posting that *eyeroll*)

All human beings are subject to judgment about their appearance based on arbitrary standards– we can call them evolutionary (I just want a thick lady to mate with!), social-media influenced (I have to have abs like him!), gender norms (women shouldn’t have armpit or leg hair!), or just being a jerk (short guys can’t be attractive!), but the fact of the matter is, we are INUNDATED with messages about how we aren’t enough or, more commonly, are much too much. People of all gender identities are faced with these impossible ideals to live up to, but as I identify as a woman, I’m going to speak to the specific struggles that women deal with in the body-image arena.

Did you know about bingo wings? Love handles? Hip dips? Thigh gaps? Turkey neck? Muffin top? Cottage cheese thighs? That awkward space between your titty and your armpit that kind of squishes out around your bra? Those are all “problem areas” on women. In fact, let’s add in the stomach, and the inner thighs, and the OUTER thighs, and the webbing between the big toe and the next, and the labia, and the ear cartilage… let’s face it, it’s ALL a problem area. Throw the whole lady out. Get me one with nary a hair or stretch mark, but with an ass that won’t quit!

It’s relentless. It’s everywhere. It’s nearly impossible to escape… and it’s in full view in the photo at the top of this post. So how did I come to be so chill with plastering my unflattering angles for the internet to see? I learned about the wonderful world of Body Positivity!

Body Positivity allows for all body types to be accepted and loved. The movement was started by fat feminists who wanted to radically change the way fat womxn were perceived in both the private and public spheres and has blossomed into a wider movement that purports to accept all bodies, regardless of gender, size, ethnicity and race, ability, and more. In summation: it’s the shit. Body Positivity says “I’ve got no TIME to sit here worrying about my hairy legs, my scars, my jiggling arms. I’ve got to save the world!”

Here are a few ways I have grown to (slowly) become more body-positive:

  1. Stop reading “women’s” magazines. These largely hate women and want to punish you for eating a cupcake alongside an article “Why I’m OK With Being a Size Six on My Wedding Day” (yes, that was a REAL article) alongside another article about how you should eat a donut off your boyfriend’s junk. Ok, this sounds like another blog post entirely. Carrying on.
  2. Find some movement that feels good. This seems counter-intuitive because exercise is so often marketed as a way of shrinking ourselves, but trust me. If you can hike or walk or lift weights or meditate or use your body in some way that makes you happy, you will view it as a vessel that helps you accomplish so much!
  3. Start complimenting others with non-appearance based comments. Has somebody written an amazing blog post ( šŸ˜‰ )? Is somebody really coming along with their French pronunciation? Does somebody have an amazing singing voice, or paints really well, or is applying themselves to learning math? Lift them up for those accomplishments!Ā Aside: I do still give appearance-based compliments, of course. I just really try not to make them be weight-focused.
  4. Fill your social media with a variety of people, not just those who look like you, not just those whose bodies are the product of literally being fitness professionals who spend six hours a day working out because they’re paid to have jutting obliques (the only people I followed when I first got on instagram). I highly recommend following: @jvn, @bodyposipanda, @shaneburcaw, @schultzzie, @fatgirl.hiking, @nubs416, @erinballcircus, and @mycoachrachel just to name a very, very few.
  5. Know that everybody is so worried about how THEY look that they’re really, really not noticing how YOU look.
  6. Ok, if people are noticing how YOU look… is that something you can change in the next 30 seconds? Is it something you WANT to change in the next 30 seconds? If the answer is no, all you can do is keep living your life, existing exactly as you are.

This was obviously a way-simplified list and I have so much more to go into… so I hope this doesn’t seem too reductive or pedantic. I’m just really freaking passionate about body positivity.

See you next time!

 

How to Master a Menstrual Cup

Hello and welcome to the “all” part of my “jack of all trades” slogan. Some things I know about are not as glamorous as aerial silks or good-ass scones. Some of my knowledge base is related to the wacky, weird, and wonderful things I’ve experienced in this human body throughout my life. One of those things is how to properly use a menstrual cup.

I know! I know! Menstruation is gross!

Except… it really isn’t. Sure, it’s not the least-gross thing in the world. It’s messy, comes with tears, stains, and bloating, and sometimes forces you to announce at large that your tampon has come loose or you need a heating pad because your uterus feels like it’s going to force its way out of your abdomen at any second. But the topic of menstruation shouldn’t be as taboo as it is, so here is my contribution to that idea.

Menstrual cups are wonderful; they save you money in the long run, are easy to insert and forget about like you don’t even have your period, and are much more environmental-friendly than any other menstrual solution (except, I suppose, free-bleeding). They’re also intimidating as hell. The moment you first hold one of the silicone funnels up to your eyes, you might run some quick calculations and conclude that there is absolutely no way that thing is fitting into one of your smallest places, that it will ever stay there, and that it will ever come back out again. I’m here to say that I’m wearing one right now and have worn one while doing aerial silks and acro yoga, swimming in the creek and the ocean, hiking volcanoes, and skydiving. Yes, that baby stayed suctioned through SKYDIVING!

If you’re somebody who menstruates and has a vagina, here are some tips to help you get more comfortable with the cup.

First, find the proper “squashing” pattern. That thing isn’t going up there without being condensed a little bit, and the box will guide you on how to fold it so you can oh-so-elegantly shove it into place. Different brands fold differently, but the key is to find the fold pattern that works for you without getting frustrated that the illustrations are misleading you. When I texted a friend lamenting the fact I couldn’t get my darn cup in to save my life, her advice was simply: “squash cup more.”

Second, don’t be afraid of a little lubrication! Some folks can get away with just using water to assist with cup insertion, while others need to use a little bit of personal lubricant to help things along. Nothing is as creepy as trying to put a dry-ass cup into a dry-ass canal. I find that it also helps to empty and reinsert the cup before cleanse yourself, so your natural lubrication will be present and help you along.

Third, changing the cup actually in the shower can be awesome, and HOT TIP! Dump that sucker before you wash anything else. To quote a movie title, there will be blood. Dumping out the cup first and reinserting before resuming your regular shower habits not only helps with the last tip, but also ensures that you’ll be sending more soap or scented things down the drain to follow the contents of the cup. Menstruation isn’t “nasty” but it’s not the best smell to have blood in your shower. Shampoo or soap will wash that scent right away.

Fourth, don’t forget to boil your cup in between menstrual cycles to keep it sanitized! Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds to stir a little pot of boiling water with nothing but a menstrual cup in it while your roommates/family gag in the background. But you can make lots of jokes in the vein of loudly calling “SOUP’S ON!”

Finally, it’s really hard to figure out the cup when you first try it. I know I sound like some hoity-toity expert but I, too, had my share of weeping on the edge of the bathtub, clutching the cursed cup, wondering why I couldn’t be the badass ecofeminist I know I am inside who could wear a cup no problem. When everything finally clicked, I also wept because I was so relieved. Now the cup and I are best friends. I assure you, you can get to that point! But if you don’t, that’s ok, too. Menstruation is a very personal matter and you just have to find what works for you.

Thank you for sticking with me through this taboo! Let’s shatter those perceptions! See you next time!

How to Make Good-Ass Scones

IMG_8144

I’ve made some truly awful scones in my day.

We’re talking so bitter you have to wonder if there’s chlorine in them. We’re talking piles of crumbs with no substance. We’re talking no amount of butter can save them.

And then, out of the ashes, these Earl Grey/rose/lavender/lilac/chamomile beasts that taste so good I want to cry. It is my mission in life now to help everybody enjoy these scones, so here we go!

I followed the excellent recipe from Flour-Covered Apron (original link here: https://flourcoveredapron.com/lavender-earl-grey-scones/) but made a few adjustments to make them more floral. So here’s what I did!

Instead of using three Earl Grey teabags as listed in the original recipe, I used about 2 tbsp of Earl Grey tea and one White Rose tea bag. The Earl Grey tea I have is a bit thick and crunchy, so using three full tablespoons would have made the scones a bit too textured (as it stands, my roommate was spitting out the crunchy tea, confused as to what was in the treat I handed her until I explained she was supposed to eat that part, too). Plus, I LOVE the taste of rose. So in it went.

The recipe calls for box-grated frozen butter. I used a cheese grater and it worked awesomely.

DON’T substitute baking soda for the requested baking powder. That’s going to turn those scones so bitter and they won’t rise as well. Don’t be a Kelsey.

When I was kneading the dough together, preparing to shape it into scones, I almost added more water because it was falling apart just like my life. But the original recipe is precise down to a T– after scraping every last drop of liquid from the bowls I used, I found the dough stuck together perfectly. So don’t toss your milky bowls into the sink before you empty them completely into the dough!

The recipe says it makes 8 scones, but I think a better bet would be making 10. A couple of mine were a little bit too big and didn’t cook evenly. They would have been better split into 2.

Finally, when preparing the glaze, I substituted a chamomile lavender tea bag for the second Earl Grey the recipe calls for, because I felt as though things were already Earl Grey enough. I’m happy I did that because the barest hint of chamomile really plays well with the rose and the other floral flavors!

I hope you make these good-ass scones for yourself and go visit the Flour Covered Apron blog because damn this was a good recipe.

See you next time!

 

How to Debate on the Internet

We’ve all had those days that start so lovely until we log into facebook and find two white dudes arguing about feminism with all the subtlety of some chimps banging on pots and pans, with nary a female perspective in sight. Or we, against our better judgment, click on the comments underneath an article about a historically Black church being targeted or a new anti-LGBTQIA law being passed and find more delicate, well-handled discourse (I of course am kidding forever and ever).

Why are people so into debating on the internet?

It’s true that social media has expanded our horizons in so many unfathomable ways and will probably only continue to do so as time marches on. Now, instead of calling up your cousin on your rotary phone or penning a letter to your best friend that will take months to arrive by carriage, you can tell some random guy from Jersey to suck your dick because he thinks windmills cause cancer! But it’s also true that everything is so much more IN OUR FACES than ever before. Even if you block news sites from your social media feeds, chances are, your friends are still going to share articles, or the site’s algorithm will do the nifty thing where it never shows you your grandmother’s tea recipes but it will show you that the one guy from your freshman year Chemistry class commented on a HuffPost article and said “feminism is for lezzies lol.” With so much exposure to so many comment sections and *controversial* ideas, it’s no wonder people get into the spirit of the debate.

So, if you’re going to do it, what’s the best way?

First, ask yourself: are you speaking for somebody else? Are you a white person trying to explain the pratfalls of wearing natural hair at work? Are you an able-bodied person ranting about wheelchair ramps? Are you a cisgender person chiming in about bathroom laws letting trans folks pee where they wish?

It’s not that you can’t have an opinion. But your opinion is going to be shaped by your limited scope and privilege. If your voice is taking up space in the comments that could be going to somebody who actually lives the issue you’re debating, maybe it’s time for you to stop responding. That said, don’t constantly call in an already-oppressed group to do all the heavy lifting for you. Maybe you could find some lovely links to drop!

Second, take a second before you post that comment. Are there words in there that you’d never say to someone to their face? Assume that there’s always the possibility of meeting that person in real life right after you’ve responded to them. Would you want someone to walk up to you and have them say “you just called me a rat f*cker and said my dog should die?” Talk about awkward (and hateful).

Third, know that not everybody (in fact, almost nobody) is going to change their mind after a debate on the internet. People really go in guns blazing to shoot off a few comments then, self-satisfied, leave it until the next one. All you can do is attempt to educate or defend the very fabric of good and evil (that’s all). Sometimes you just have to walk away from it.

Fourth, if that person you’re debating shows up in your inbox or threatens violence against you, absolutely block them/report them/tell the police/screenshot it and send them to hell. That’s taking it too far.

I hope these tips help you with your internet discussions. I’ll be over here, resisting reading the comments.

See you next time!

How to Not be an April Fool

Hello everyone, and congrats on surviving the absolute worst holiday, April Fool’s Day.

Ah, the dreaded day that rolls around every year that is somehow even grimmer than the day when everyone is allowed to pinch you without your consent, because you don’t know if you’re going to bite into mustard instead of frosting, pee on yourself because somebody saran-wrapped your toilet, congratulate somebody on an achievement that doesn’t exist, or find yourself “married” to somebody on facebook that you barely even tolerate. Plus, April’s not a great month– it can’t decide if it’s warm or cold, sneezy or snowy, and everybody’s doing finals and taxes. April Fool’s Day is just the toothpaste on the cake.

If you’re not a joy-sucking gremlin like me, you might enjoy April Fool’s Day. Merriment! Pranks! Tomfoolery! I suppose, if I let myself enjoy it, I could find some highlights of April Fool’s Day. However, I feel as though there are some guidelines one should follow:

  1. Don’t joke about pregnancy. I follow someone on instagram who made a joke yesterday about being twelve weeks pregnant but was really just bloated from a burrito at lunch. She was immediately called out for insensitivity from a woman who had struggled with miscarriages and infertility and had to take down her post. It makes sense– pregnancy and the complications surrounding it are a touchy subject, and I’ve never seen a fake pregnancy that actually made me laugh instead of cringe. Do the safe thing and avoid making light of something that lots of people find upsetting.
  2. Don’t destroy someone’s property!!! Some “pranksters” show up and egg someone’s house, smash someone’s phone, or pour uncleanable liquids all over someone’s bed. I don’t know about you, but that’s not very funny to me.
  3. Don’t traumatize (your) children. Some pranks on the internet involve lying to children and telling them they’re soon to be destitute, that someone has died, that they failed at school, etc, etc. Kids are impressionable. They’re bound to remember some joke about death or violence that’s played for laughs but really comes off too dark for their age.
  4. Don’t rope somebody in unless you think they’ll be comfortable with it! I’ve seen people post “in a relationship with X” on April Fool’s Day only to have lots of people comment “OH MY GOSH YAY” and then X feels creepy and like they can’t say they’re really not in a relationship with the original poster. If you and X are ready to hear from people excited that you’re finally getting it on, then go for it, I suppose. If not, maybe steer clear of that prank.
  5. I guess, this one is for me and me only– don’t be a sourpuss. Pranks and jokes can be fun (some say). It’s only one day of the year and you can tolerate somebody ribbing you or replacing your Ferrero Rocher with a brussels sprout (mmm). But if they try to pull this nonsense on any other day, you’re well within your rights to go get ’em.

Anyway, there are some of my thoughts about this undelightful day of glee. Thankfully we’ve got 364 more days before it comes around again.

See you next time!

On Identifying as an Attack Helicopter

bathroom sign

Let’s talk about the funniest people on the internet, thoseĀ clever comedians who show up on every post about gender to throw in their greatest line: “Well, I identify as an attack helicopter.” Cue confetti, job offers, marriage proposals, laughs and laughs and laughs.

What’s that you say? It’s actually not funny, nor is it intended to be funny as much as it is a misguided attempt to ridicule and misinterpret whoever is actually the subject of the post about gender?

Gender isĀ wild, y’all. We come out of the womb with (usually) one particular type of genitalia, and from there the course of our life is charted. Girl child? Cool, get her some pink toys that have to do with cooking and cleaning, then raise her to believe abuse is a compliment and pay her less, too. Boy child? Cool, get him a bicycle and something to start fires with, but make sure if he falls down you teach him not to cry, then shame him for attempting to sort out his mental health issues later in life. And what about the children who are born with a different configuration of genitalia? Well, decide whichever they seem closest to, then raise ’em up based on that.

So we see that the concept of gender is a little bit bananas. Gender seeps into almost every aspect of our lives, from the type of jobs we pursue to the type of relationships we engage in to even what kind of colors, beverages, or clothing we’reĀ allowed to like. But it’s 2019. Isn’t it about time we stopped letting this arbitrary construct rule us so thoroughly?

Thankfully, lots of folks are doing just that. Many pioneers in the gender movement are bravely coming forward and sharing their stories about transition, having more or less hair than is usually expected for someone with their chromosomes, how their relationships are shaped by their identity, how they deal in the workplace, and so on. There’s a movement towards the creation of many more gender-neutral bathrooms, and we’re starting to see our first trans politicians take office. As these people step forward, we get to learn more about them. And that’s when the attack helicopters take to the sky.

Here’s how it usually plays out: An article says “Sam Smith identifies as gender non-binary.” Sam Smith looks happy in the photo. The top comment: “Oh yeah? Well, I identify as an attack helicopter.”

I can almost guarantee you that person did not read the article, firstly because attack helicopters can’t read, and secondly because most people have such a knee-jerk reaction to issues relating to gender that they wouldn’t take the time to read about Sam Smith’s journey to that conclusion, but instead immediately fire off their airborne torpedoes. For some reason, gender pushes people’s buttons more than an attack helicopter pilot pushes the attack helicopter buttons. Anger and confusion flies through the air, much like an attack helicopter.

Let’s imagine for a second that you are that person who identifies as an attack helicopter. Let’s also imagine for a second that you know how to practice empathy, and that you are being serious and not facetious when you comment something like that. So you’re an attack helicopter for real, but you’re stuck in a human body. How much must every day feel so wrong and strange to you? You know you should be chopping through the air, but you’ve only got human arms, and they can’t fly. You know instead of eyes you should have large windows, but every time you look in the mirror, you only see those regular old corneas peeping back at you. You try to tell your parents that you feel so wrong, and they tell you that you were born human for a reason, and besides, they saw you come out and didn’t see any rotors, so obviously you’re a human. You try to tell your friends, but they sort of shrug and say that lots of other people have real problems, and that you look like a human anyway, so why not just get used to being one? You try to tell your significant other, but they say they’re not copter-sexual and they KNOW that you’re not one, or else they’d never be with you.

Do you, attack helicopter, kind of understand how difficult daily life must be for somebody who does not feel at home in their label as “man” or “woman?” How when Sam Smith comes out and asks to be referred to as gender-neutral, Sam Smith isn’t trying to make anybody else’s life more difficult, but instead ease just a little of the strain on Sam Smith’s life?

Maybe the next time you touch down on a post about somebody’s “different” gender expression, you’ll identify as an understanding ally.

See you next time!