Be nice to me…

… I gave blood today.

Have you ever given blood? When I first started giving, back in 2001, the Red Cross always handed out a sticker after you’d given. They said something along the lines of, “Be nice to me, I gave blood today” and oh my goodness… did I ever wear that thing proudly.

So proudly!

(Second in the amount of proud-ness only to my “I voted” American flag oval sticker. You know what I’m talking about.)

In the 13 intervening years, I’ve given a couple (a few? several?) gallons combined to the Red Cross, the US Armed Services Blood Program, and now the Blood Center of Wisconsin (BCW). I give regularly knowing that I’m a healthy young adult with a large blood volume (consequent to large body size) who’s not scared of needles, not prone to passing out, has no religious or other objections to blood donation, and doesn’t even get so much as a headache from it. (Plus, I really like Fritos and they almost always have Fritos afterward.) But more importantly, I hope that if ever I or a loved one ever ends up needing a blood transfusion someone else will have given. So while I can, I do. Especially given that there are many people who, for whatever reason, cannot.

I really cannot say enough good about the staff of the Blood Center of Wisconsin. Admittedly, I was bummed when I moved to Wisconsin and had to lose my “status” at the Red Cross, but I got my gallon t-shirt at BCW  a couple months ago and they’re always amazing. They call to remind me whenever I’m due to give, they come right to my work on a regular basis, it’s easy and quick, the staff are super friendly, they always congratulate me on my hemoglobin (thank you for recognizing that it’s not easy keeping it above 13!), and I’ve never, ever had a bad poke from a single BCW phlebotomist (knock on wood).

Also, Fritos.

Today was no exception regarding the awesome BCW staff. I chatted with the phlebotomist today about her sweet puppies and mine and by the time I was done (remember how I don’t have a ton of platelets? I fill the bag real quick– it’s awesome) I was pretty much good friends with Kathy and wanted to meet her sweet Gracie and Ivy (tox foy terriers) desperately. Then, while I was having my snack, I met a young MA (seriously– 19 years old, so young!) from orthopedics and we chatted over Fritos (I was not kidding, I really  love them), juice, and a BCW volunteer timing our 10 minute rest. She was so nice!

There were stickers afterward, of course, but they said something about being a hero and I couldn’t bring myself to take one. (Let alone wear it if I did.) I can donate, so I do. And while I hope that day never comes, if I ever need a transfusion, I hope very much that someone else would have donated for me. (Pure, unbridled selfishness.)

Had the stickers said, “Be nice to me, I gave blood today” things may have been different. Because I love that. Except I kind of feel like I had one on anyway. Because everyone was crazy nice to me today. And that’s when the sum total of many recent overly pleasant experiences struck me:

I have become my mother.

Sometimes I make my mom dance with me. It's awesome.
Sometimes I make my mom dance with me. It’s awesome.

Random segue, right? But hear me out.

Kathy, the phlebotomist, and I, are basically tight now. I know about her two sweet pups and the story of her previous pup being put to sleep when she turned 18 and got sick. I know how upset her rough-and-tumble, 72-year-old, tough guy husband was when that happened. She knows that I desperately want another dog and that I plan to guilt trip Seth for one upon reaching 2 years of infertility (heads up, babe!). I met one of the newest Marshfield Clinic employees and know now that she’s 19 years old, from the small town of Unity nearby (like small, guys, even compared to Marshfield, but it’s cool, she really likes small town living), that she graduated from high school early at 17 (me too!), and that she and I are both fans of Dr. Pathak from endocrinology.

Last week, I chatted with the lady at the pharmacy about the hand cream I was using and we discovered that we both love CeraVe– it’s amazing stuff! She was glad to know how much I like Vaniply for my hands though. She’ll consider it next winter.

In Phoenix, I chatted with a conference organizer when I checked in at the registration desk and found out that her brother-in-law is the football coach at Michigan Tech and next in line to take over as Athletic Director and don’t you just love the UP?

And I could go on.

This is my mom’s thing, though. People talk to my mom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to her, “How do you know that person?” and she responds, “I don’t.”

But, but, but… I’m an introvert. That’s not supposed to be something I do.

I’m confused.

My mom truly has a gift for connecting with people and I’ve always (always as an adult, of course) been impressed by that. She can talk to anyone about anything and it’s not even weird. Yes, as a child, it was embarrassing and I constantly had to get my ma-ommm-mmuh on to warn her that she was being overly familiar (like she cared), but something about it seeped in through the cracks. She took the genetic milieu she passed on to me and spiced it up with some wicked nurturing just in time for adulthood. In-ter-es-ante.

For the vast majority of my conscious life, my mom has worked with people who struggled in school. When I was really little, she taught adult ed to people working toward their high school diploma or GED. She worked nights then, something like 5 – 10 PM, and she often let me come with her to do dissections or other awesome things. Her students would come to our house. They played Carmen Sandiego with me… they took me trick-or-treating… they taught me the law of supply and demand as they understood it. None of these people were “like” us, but I didn’t know that. My mom was nice to them all; she truly cared about them all.

As I got older, my mom moved into elementary education. She taught then, and still teaches, in Willow Run, a notoriously tough district in the area. She is truly an incredible and gifted teacher, and she consciously chooses to put her time, energy, and considerable expertise into an underprivileged school district… not because she couldn’t go somewhere else, make more money, have more prestige, but because she loves those kids. She loves that community. And again, even though so many of those she serves have so little, they live lives so different from those in which my parents raised my sister, brother, and I, my mom has never looked down or spoken ill of anyone* as a result of their circumstance, their intelligence, their socioeconomic status. I have for my entire life been welcome into my mom’s classroom and, as an adult, she has invited be back to sub in her district, to do science experiments with her kids, to be Facebook friends with her fellow educators.

I think my mom and I would both agree that I’ve always (always, like since I was disturbingly young) been the more manipulative of the two of us. But while I was working to get out of a lie at the age of 4 (I liked to dress up like an old lady and invite my mom to make me some tea– tended to do the trick quite nicely), she always knew what she was doing– working the long con. And she wins.

But really, so do I. Good parenting, and all that. I’m glad I got to hear about Kathy’s dogs and the young MA’s childhood in Unity. And I bet they enjoyed talking about it and hearing about my own sweet pup and my time spent living in Washington, DC. Sharing is caring, and such. Because people are people, no matter what job they do or where they come from or where they’re going. My mom taught me that and apparently, it stuck.

My mom has always known what’s up, that life is better when you walk around acting like everyone is wearing a “Be kind, I gave blood today” sticker… except I think it’s safe to assume that Be Kind is enough. No blood donation necessary.

 

Do you see this woman?! How could you not want to chat with her?! HOW?! (Also, she digs the alligator, which is awesome.com.)
Do you see this happy and kind woman?! How could you not want to chat with her?! HOW?!
(Also, she digs the alligator just like the rest of the fam, which is awesome.com. Almost time for another Vonck family wedding! woot woot!)

*I’m not going to lie to you right now and I certainly don’t want you to get the impression that my mom’s a saint (because she sure-diddly-isn’t!), so I need you to know that this statement is true only because my mom’s a 100% equal opportunity complainer– rich kid, poor kid, he or she can be a “little s***” either way. (That’s my favorite one. Always made me laugh, especially considering that we’re not allowed, under any circumstance, to even say butt hole.)**

 

**My blog, I can say butt hole if I want.***

 

***Sorry, mumsy… won’t happen again. (Not even kidding, Seth, my 32-year-old husband, texts my mom to tattle should the banned phrase ever pass my lips.)

3 thoughts on “Be nice to me…

  1. Rachel, this is so nice. I know you have been fighting the metamorphosis for years. It is so much more fun to spend every day with friends than strangers. You have always been such a gift to me, I’m glad you are sharing yourself with others. Now, about your language, young lady…
    I love you!

  2. You indeed have a wonderful mother in Mrs. Vonch, she taught my kids and my grand kids. Love her very much. Jane Turner

  3. What a nice post! I’m glad that you are becoming your mother. She is a great role model for you guys and her kids at school.

Leave a Reply