Thursday 24 March 2022

Rusty's 5th adopt-versary

 Five years ago, on 24 March 2017, my life changed when Rusty came home with me. 

I still cannot get enough of just hanging out with my dog. 

Rusty was about 5 to 6 years old at the time (so 10 to 11 years now). She has been with me through four house moves and one provincial move. I had the pleasure of being with her all day, every day until July last year when I began working from the factory office. She spends most days with granny Liz and dogs Rosy and Bella. Sometimes I take her in to work because I just really miss being with her.

She started going to dog school just over a year ago. This amazing girl got 98% in her first 'exam' and is the oldest dog in the advanced class. She is super smart. She loves doing go-around the cones and is really good at going through hoops. She gets excited like a puppy when we do these. She is progressing with nosework. Rusty has amazing focus on me and she is excellent at down stays where she grins at me across the distance.

Almost every evening we hit the trails. She has spondylosis in her lower vertebra so we keep distance and difficulty within reason these days. She is incredible at recognising and leading on routes traversed only once even if from the other direction and weeks later. She loves being out. She also loves swimming and is a doggy paddle champ - she prefers to be in the water with me. She also loves being on my kayak.

Rusty is the July pin-up girl in the 2022 Border Collie Rescue calendar. I'll probably go April, May, June, July and then stay on July for the rest of the year.

Rusty is funny, sweet and smart. She loves hanging out with me as much as I love being with her. Rusty is my first dog ever - and did I get lucky with this one! 

I didn't rescue her; she rescued me and continues to be the light in my life.

Wednesday 16 March 2022

I nearly dropped like a stone

 I've been a bit behind on my blood donation schedule. The George blood donation centre is open on Wednesdays until late so I headed there after work to give a pint.

It usually takes longer to complete the questionaire, have the iron-level finger prick and then blood pressure taken than it does to fill a bag. My actual donation time is 4:30 to 6:00. Boom. Just like that.

Today was different.

Ahead of me was a newbie and she was sitting in the chair next to me. She did good. I was going to give her my 'Once-off donations don't count - you have to come back again and again' lecture, but I held back. Instead I sat back nice and comfy in the La-z-boy style chairs.

After a few minutes the nurse came to me, checked my details and got the bags ready. I had a feeling that she was the setup one and that another would do the actual jab. She then came back and did the jab, which was fine but the angle of the tube made the needle pull against the skin where it went into my arm. A bit uncomfortable. I figured I'd handle it for the next few minutes but while she was filling the little bag and vials (used for various tests) it got more uncomfortable. 

She then switched the tubes over from the one that fills the vials to the one that fills the big bag.

Nothing happened.

She checked the pipes, wiggled the connection. Nothing.

She then checked the needle, withdrawing it slightly. Blood started to flow again. I asked he to re-tape the tube at a better angle to relieve the niggle, which she did. While doing this the machine started to beep that the blood flow into the bag was too slow.

Me? Too slow? Never! 

Naughty blood drop guy in the WCBS donation campaign. The campaign is all about this guy skipping a work out, work meeting or homework to go off to donate blood.

There was another blockage. Thinking that the needle was now in too shallow, she moved it deeper into the vein (a super, fabulous vein) and the flow picked up again. And then it stopped. She adjusted it outwards more. It flowed and then stopped again.

She then called another nurse to come check this out.

She had asked me twice in this process - a period of probably no more than 2-3 minutes - whether I was Ok. And I had been.

But then, I suddenly started to feel queasy. That limbo between being ok and being unconscious when colours dim, sounds distort and you don't think so good.

The other nurse was almost with me and I told 'my' one, as she turned to move away, "I'm feeling really queasy".

I'm not sure how it all went down but in an instant there was a guy to my right giving me a piece of cotton wool with something smelly on it (smelling salts?) and he told me to sniff it. He (or someone else) told me to cough (a few times). And breathe. And in these 30-seconds the needle was out and a big fan was in front of me. I don't remember the fan being brought forward.

Did I hear someone say "You're back with us"? 

If I did pass out, I don't think it was for more than a second or two. 

It's a good thing that I was sitting in the comfy chair because if I was standing I would have dropped like a stone.

I've done a few over 60 donations over a period of almost 30 years* and this is my first experience of this happening to me at a blood donation. 

* My average is not two donations a year. I missed about eight years of donations with lots of travel and being regularly in malaria areas. At the age of 16, I did my first donation at my high school's mobile donor clinic, which visited us each term.

But, this is not the first time that this has happened to me overall.

In my postgrad years at university, I would volunteer for the physiology postgrad experiments. 

There was this one where I was to ride a stationary bike and they would draw blood at intervals as the intensity increased.

I was ready and on the bike. Someone put one of those butterfly needles into my left arm. This would allow them to attach vials to the tube to draw blood without disturbing me and without causing me any discomfort other than the initial needle prick to insert the needle. Easy.

I can't exactly remember but I recall helping the lady to tape down the tube. There was something not right and the taping had to be redone. Like today, I was intently focused on the task, watching what was going on and trying to assist using my right hand.

Whatever it was, the world went shades of grey and sounds got distorted like I was in a fishbowl. I told them that I wasn't feeling well. I got off the bike to sit on the floor. One of them suggested I sit on a nearby seat. I recall being helped off the ground and guided between two people. And then I wasn't. I came to in seconds, lying on my back on the floor, looking up and seeing panicked people running around. I spoke to them to tell them I was fine and a few minutes later I was really fine - walking and talking again. 

Needless to say, they didn't continue the experiment on me even though I was willing. The poor student was so shaken.

This is all so strange for me because even then I'd been a regular blood donor for at least six years. I'm another 20-odd years down the line. I've never had needle phobias, vaccinations are barely a beep on my radar, and I'm generally drawn to wounds, blood and any other medical issues. I'm the person they call at the factory if someone has an injury that needs cleaning and bandaging. I take out stitches from my pets, other people and myself. Squeamish, I am not.

That said, it does look like I have a trigger. Two similar situations around 24-years apart. The same reaction. So silly. I now know that I cannot assist other people to do medical things to me. Yes, that means that if if something happens to me in the middle of nowhere, I'm likely to pass out if I try to assist someone to stitch my wounds or take out my appendix. 

Thankfully, you're in luck if something happens to you. I'll be the first one on the scene to get a piece of the action.

Even though I barely made a 1/4 bag today, I can only make another donation in another 50-odd days. I've still got enough time to do 3-4 donations this year to maintain my regular donor status.

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Easily distracted boiled frog

 I am easy distracted. Despite having the ability to focus to the exclusion of surrounding conversation and voices, I find it really hard to focus on tasks that need a chunk of time to be spent on it, especially during the work day.

I completely own my inability to ignore emails and messages. I deal with customers who want (and require) information and attention - now. This compromises my ability to work on things that really need my focus. And then, when I do blot out distractions to focus on something critical for a few hours, I end up dropping the ball by getting far behind on replies and responses. 

Deal with 100 things and get behind on one. Or focus on one and get behind on 100? 

I'm not attaining a middle ground.

There are days when I get the flow, feeling like an octopus behind the controls of the Starship Enterprise. Others days I'm butterfingers. 

I used to be able to work late to complete each day's emails. Now I've made peace that I just can't get to everything everyday.

You can tell me a dozen ways to better manage my time. Prioritise, schedule, learn to say no, create segments in the day where you don't check emails and messages, routines, avoid multitasking... What it comes down to is just too many things to be done and only so much time. No amount of prioritising and scheduling can change this. There really is a limit.

In phases, I do catch up. I do get through items on my to do list. I do keep (most) of the balls in the air. Occasionally one drops.

It is amazing how we adapt and adjust over time. I would have been freaked out by my everyday a couple of years ago. Now, I just do the best that I can do and make peace with my failings.

Much like the boiled frog. The proverbial frog didn't get killed by the boiling water but rather by his inability to decide when to jump out. For me right now, the water is made hot by daily challenges. In theory, overcoming challenges should cool the water. For now, I'm still alive and some days, the temperature is quite tolerable.

This 'small business' meme has been doing the rounds on social media. It is so true. I'm pasting it below to read and remember when I need to. Running a small business is hard and taxing and exhausting.
"The unfortunate truth of owning and running a business.
Running a business is really hard but can be tons of fun! What they don’t tell you is that it can cause severe stress and anxiety, and drains you mentally to the point of depression, Covid certainly added to that!
People will talk about you, compare you to others, use you, they will view you as a service and not a person anymore. Some will expect discounts (its just a game to them) and people will value you and your hard work less than a big chain store.
Starting up and running a successful business puts incredible strain on personal lives. You need to be the director, the worker, the admin, the marketing team, the accountant, the cleaner.....
There’s a reason you don’t see many people succeed in small businesses after 5-10 years. If they are successful they are overwhelmed. It takes a toll. It’s exhausting. Especially the past couple of years when so much has been out of our control.
Here’s a small reminder that we are just normal people with hectic lives. Be kind, be patient, support small to medium sized businesses… and hopefully more of us will stick around!"

Monday 7 March 2022

Remembering step aerobics

 I heard a clip of a tune, Sandstorm by Darude, this evening and it triggered memories of step aerobics. This track was released globally in 2000 and it took the world and club scene by storm. 22 years later it is still a winner. (This is a super version played by a symphony orchestra)

I first hit a step aerobics class when I was 15 or 16. I spent much of my later teens and twenties addicted to the gym. Step aerobics, power pump, high-impact aerobics, yoga, super circuit, treadmill, and later spinning classes, were my fuel. Double aerobics classes after a 40-minute hard-and-fast treadmill session was my regular fix.

My gym had steps just like these.

Step aerobics is a winning exercise for feet, ankles, calves, quads, hammies and glutes. Brilliant too for balance, coordination and agility.

From around 1992 to 2007, I was in the gym almost 7-days-a-week gobbling up large doses of cardio. 

A highlight - certainly from the late 90s to mid-2000s - was an advanced step aerobics class with challenging combos. The first instructor to present a class that was as much mental stimulation (stacked choreography) as a physical delight was Belinda. As it happens, her boyfriend, a triathlete, was my teammate in my first adventure race - recruited through Belinda after I first learned of adventure racing. Over the xmas holidays when the gym was dead and our class numbers were low, Belinda would do even more complicated routines using two or more steps. I looked forward to these classes each year.

Around this time, another instructor began to emerge - Rory. His class was solid but didn't have the complexity of Belinda's class. Fast forward a few years and Belinda and Rory were seeing each other. Her influence on his classes took him up a few levels and for the next few years I rarely missed any of his weekly advanced step classes. 

Rory's classes were strong and well-constructed with new choreography each week. There were a number of regulars who attended his classes - and Belinda's before him. We were there to work. Hard. Rory's classes were very rewarding.

What I most appreciated about his classes was that he barely needed to speak. His cueing, timing and musicality were spot-on. His hand signals were clear. His movements strong and crisp. He worked hard up at the front and set a fine example.

He would build the choreography in blocks. Start building block one. Do one move, add the next, the next and the next to make one block. Then build the next block. Put block one and two together. Then build block three. Put one, two and three together. He would slow down complicated moves. Repeat a few times and then speed it up as he slotted it into the block. Build block four. Put blocks one, two, three and four together. Combining blocks. Step combo. 

For the last section of the class, Rory would play Sandstorm. We (the class) would completely focus on the routine. Not one word from him. The routine already learned and embedded. We would work the choreography putting all of the blocks together and just keep going and going and going until the song ran out.

Remembering the routine was the challenge. Getting through it without making mistakes was very satisfying. 

I miss step. 

I see there are some classes on YouTube. 

Gotta get me a step...