Thursday, November 28, 2013


One thing that I've said too many times this year and listened to too many people around me say is this:

It is what it is.

And it is. 

Life isn't always pretty.

Life isn't always fair.

Life isn't always easy.

Life isn't always fun.

As much as life can test us, as much as it can put us through, as hard as it is, as cruel as it is, it is always something else too. 

It is always beautiful.

Take a minute to look at the people around you today, to just watch them be.  Watch them laugh, watch them smile.  Give them your undivided attention.  Give them your time.  Give them your love. 

Forgive them.

Share stories and share memories.

Cherish every second that you are given. 

Be grateful.

Embrace the moment.

Time is fleeting, time is short, so make the best of what you have.

Life is what it is, and it is beautiful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This post first ran here last December.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad

Dear Dad,

I've been thinking about you a lot lately. It always seems like this time of year makes me think about you more than I ordinarily would. Your birthday, the holidays, the drama.

The garbage disposal that always stopped working when there was a house full of people, like clockwork, and how you'd have to put in the very expected emergency call to the plumber, a family friend, and how he'd always end up eating just a little bit and taking some more home with him.

There are times that I wondered if you did that on purpose, you know.

I know that his life wasn't easy, that he never had enough to make the ends meet. I know that he wasn't a great plumber, but he was lucky to have a friend who always needed him in a pinch, then sent him home with something more than money.

He was lucky to have you.

We all were.

I miss you, but you already knew that.

This year has been a tough one. I'm hoping that you and Mom are together now and that whatever hurts were in the past are gone. I hope that all the rest of it has dissipated now and that the good is left. I hope she's finally at peace now.

I hope.

I hope that I didn't let you down. I don't think I did. I don't think you would have ever asked me to do what I did, what I felt like I had to do. I think that you would have told me to walk away sooner than I did. I believe that to be true. I don't know, though, and that unknowing hurts.

The wondering.

I know that you wouldn't want us to feel like we failed you. Or her. Or anyone.

I try to push it away, really, I do.

This grief thing, it's hard. I see it now. I knew that you weren't in a good place when you lost your father. Your brother. Your mother. I understand it now. You spent so much time being the strong one, and I feel like you passed that on to me. I have to be strong because I just have to be. It's not worth discussing because there's nothing to talk about. It just is.

This week has been hard. It won't get easier. I know that.

I won't have the anxiety about waiting to catch you or Mom on the phone, of waiting for it to ring, of timing it right. I won't feel torn about where I should be anymore.

I'll just be.


I know that is all you ever wanted for me. To be fully present in my life, to live in the moment, to stop fussing over the past, to stop worrying about the future.

I'm here now, but without you.

And that's not fair.

Life never is. That lesson you tried so long to teach me, I've learned more now than ever.

When you came to visit us here, you spent so much time wandering around outside, staring at the sky, at the mountains. You told me that you hated that I moved away, but that you understood. You knew me so well, back then. Better than I even knew myself, I think.

Thank you for that.

Thank you for everything.

I'll be here this week, right where I should be. I'll be fully present and I won't feel any guilt anymore about where I'm not.

At some point, though, I'll talk a walk outside and stare at the sky, look towards the mountains, and say hello.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I love you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the hypocrite, knockout, faux hunting and bad customers edition

I'm not actually here right now, and I actually wrote this yesterday, so in the event that something happens in the world today that deserves mention, my bad. My oversight was actually due to too much planning ahead.

If you know me well, you know how out of character this is. I am generally a professional procrastinator.

Anyhow, off we go.

Elected Hypocrites
Let me preface what I am about to say about drug use with this: I generally object to the criminalization of it. Anyone who has dealt with drug use personally or professionally has some level of awareness of the fact that the vast majority of drug use is tied to other conditions, many of which are mental health conditions. Instead of offering adequate treatment to people, they are left to their own devices and turn to self-medication which often turns into addiction which can lead to criminal behavior in and of itself, away and apart from use and possession (which themselves aren't really crimes in my opinion, but I digress).

Anyhow, what IS pissing me off is this guy. Trey Radel.

The guy who favors drug testing for welfare recipients, but himself has a bit of a problem snorting the white stuff.

Hypocrisy at it's finest.

Apparently, he is now taking a leave of absence.

I hope that while he's on holiday he takes a good long look in the mirror.

Do as I say, not as I do doesn't work with kids, let alone with adults.

Mama said knock you out (but what she meant was assault and battery)
There appears to be this new trend now that involves sucker punching innocent people, sometimes it's racially motivated, sometimes it's just for the hell of it.

It's called the Knockout Game.

Which is insane. The perpetrators are usually teenagers, who usually think it's just funny and not that big of a deal. Except that life isn't a video game, real people are getting hurt for no reason other than cheap entertainment and kids are going to jail for something insanely stupid.

I don't want to climb back up on my soapbox about how this is all an outward symptom of a society greatly lacking in empathy, so I won't.

But seriously??? 

What the hell, world? What the hell?

The Cowardly Lion Hunter

“An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt!”

So, that happened.

I'm not a fan of hunting for sport anyway, BUT this makes me so sick that I can't even form words when I look at the picture.

I don't care that it's technically legal. I don't care that it's still somehow legal for her to bring this back to the United States as a trophy (and WHY is that still  legal??? Someone answer me that, please).

This isn't about people who hunt for food or sustenance or to make a living. This is about sick sport. This is about how you can't kill the apex predator of an ecosystem without it fucking up the entire food chain. I get really riled up about apex predator hunting...if you've been here a while, you already know this.

Nevermind the fact that there really isn't even any sport involved in killing a creature like this one because of all the reasons given in this link.

It is sick, and this woman should be ashamed of herself.

I'll Take a Burger With a Side of Asshole
At what point in our society did it become permissible to be a total jackhole at a restaurant, not because you didn't receive good service, but because you don't like who you received it from???

This bullshit has to stop.


Everyone in the food service industry works their asses off, and if you don't believe me, go put on an apron for a few hours and wait on the assholes. Oh, and also....they aren't even guaranteed minimum wage because of the wonder that is the restaurant industry - THEY DEPEND ON YOUR TIPS TO SURVIVE.

If you don't want to be served by a lesbian or a Muslim or a black woman or someone with tattoos and piercings or whatever else it is that your sheltered, biased ass doesn't like, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. Don't let them bring you food, wait on you hand and foot, then pontificate to them about whatever it is that you don't like about them.

Maybe in some alternate universe, there are restaurants with only your kind working there, you homophobic, intolerant, racist jerks...but they don't exist around here.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Gestational Diabetes - When Someone Else's Life is Depending on It Too

I have four children. I have dealt with gestational diabetes all four times, with it getting worse with each pregnancy. With my oldest, I wasn't diagnosed until my third trimester, then was able to control it with diet alone. He was admitted to the NICU for prematurity and never had issues with his blood sugar. With my second, I was diagnosed a few weeks earlier than the first time, but still able to control it with diet alone. She was also taken to the NICU as a precaution, but had no blood sugar complications.

Then I became pregnant for the third time. I developed hyperemesis and started having hypoglycemic episodes almost immediately. By that point, well acquainted with blood sugar monitoring, I started checking it at home from the beginning. About halfway through the pregnancy, I began taking oral medication which helped with the high sugar, but also caused more hypoglycemic episodes. That labor was traumatic and scary - after crashing from a reaction to something in my epidural and requiring two shots of epinephrine, my blood sugar tanked and then skyrocketed. At birth, she was hypoglycemic and needed formula supplementation for the first two days to stabilize her.

The fourth one was more like the third in terms of the blood sugar itself, but I was better equipped to deal with it than the time before. I was also on oral medication and intentionally avoided an epidural because of what had happened before. He was transitionally hypoglycemic, but required formula only a few times to stabilize.

All of my children were premature. None of them were large babies, they were all delivered vaginally. The most I gained with any single pregnancy was 24 pounds, but most were in the 15-18 range. 

I saw an endocrinologist once in all of that time. I refused dietary counseling after the first woman I saw condescended to me and talked to me like I was a child. She shamed me for coming into the pregnancy with some extra pounds, never bothering to ask why the timing worked out the way that it had. I wasn't about to explain the cancer or the miscarriage or the infertility to someone who didn't seem to think I could wrap my head around portion sizes.  

Help might have been nice. Instead I was shamed. Warned about all the things that could go wrong. Shamed some more. Told that I would need a c-section because the babies would be huge. I told her to just give me the monitor and I left.

I taught myself how to count carbs in a hurry. I knew it wasn't just my life depending on this. My blood sugar was always very tightly controlled. When it edged up, I called my OBGYN (who was smart enough to realize that I was smart enough to manage it) and we adjusted my dosages. I did struggle with fasting sugars, though, and for the last three pregnancies would get up in the middle of the night to eat and check myself.

Pregnant women need real resources to deal with this condition. Shaming them about being overweight and pregnant will not do anything to help them right now. Not long after I dealt with it for the first time, a friend of mine developed it as well. My very thin, very healthy, very athletic friend. Seriously, she's probably the most in shape person I have ever met in my life. And she still had to deal with it.

It doesn't just happen to the big girls. Honest.

Gestational diabetes has a genetic component to it, just like every other form of the disease does. It's fairly uncommon to have symptoms of GD, because the desired blood sugar range is smaller than with T2. Often the only way to catch it is with screening, and the mild form of it most often doesn't show up until the third trimester. For most women, it will disappear after birth (the placenta disrupts your body's use of hormones, including insulin), but approximately 50% of women who have it will develop Type 2 down the road, with those odds increasing with each GD pregnancy.

With 4 GD pregnancies and family history, I'm screwed.

There ARE real risks associated with this condition and I don't mean to diminish them, but I can tell you that scaring pregnant women isn't the way to go. 

My plea to those working in the fields of endocrinology, nutrition and obstetrics:

We don't need more shame, thank you very much. We're already terrified enough as it is. We're already beating ourselves up for having this. We're already worried about what might go wrong. We're already feeling bad. I promise. Don't make it worse. We want to be able to call you for help. Give us actual useful hints and tips about quick snacks, about restaurant menu items, about starchy vegetables and condiments and how they will affect our sugars. Tell us that we'll figure it out, that we'll get through this, that we'll learn to say nothankyou to all of the people in the world who try to feed pregnant women things we can no longer eat. Tell us that you will help us get through this, that we are a team and will do whatever it takes for a healthy baby. Tell us that this can be managed, and that it will be hard, but that we can do it.

With love and respect, the stories of other women who have dealt with this condition.

You mentioned the other day about having GD with your pregnancies. I was recently diagnosed and am having to learn that 1. We don't really have a diabetes friendly food supply. I literally find myself spending an hour or more at the store reading labels trying to find something that I "might" be able to eat. 2. You would think that with how common GD is (well diabetes period if we are being honest) that there would be more support from the medical community. My experience has been "this is where we want your numbers, so make it happen" and "well I'm sorry that having the numbers we need makes you feel out of it, you're just going to have to learn how to deal with that." I have honestly gotten more support and guidance from other moms than I have from with my dietician or OB.

If we are being honest I am finding that diabetes is in many ways like mental illness. To most people it is a big mystery and in many ways kind of taboo. We claim to be supportive and that we are working to make it easier to live with. The reality though is that we seem to just want to push medicine. I am one of those moms who won't even so much as take a Tylenol while I am pregnant because I don't want that to get to my baby. So how do you think it makes me feel that instead of getting any kind of guidance on how to make it work with my diet I am told "well we may just have to put you on a pill or do insulin shots"? I honestly think I have cried more in the last month than I have this whole pregnancy.
- Whitney Cauthen


When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I didn't realize how scary it could be. I managed it well, for the most part. Controlled it by strictly watching what I ate and when. 

There were a few times that if my family hadn't been around, I don't know what would have happened. We hadn't been to one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in a long while. I thought, I will skip lunch and snack, so I can eat a little more there. I remember sitting on the computer and suddenly it was like I had no control over my body. I tried to stand up and immediately fell back onto the chair. I was shaking uncontrollably and freaked out. I remember telling Anthony I didn't feel so good and him asking what I needed. He brought me half a pb sandwich and some of his Dr. Pepper. When I stopped shaking enough to test I was at 52. I don't know how low it got, but it scared me enough to get it into my thick skull how important it was to mind my diet very closely. 

The rest of my pregnancy went well, and when Lydia was born, she was 9 lbs, 10 oz. She is 9 years old now, and am borderline diabetic. I have blood sugar drops, not nearly as scary as the time I told you about. I am trying so hard to eat decent meals, because I never want to live with diabetes again. My mom has type 2. My grandma (her mother) died from complications of type 2 and cancer. A cousin, barely 45 died from complications uncontrolled type 1. Several more cousins have had gestational diabetes. This disease runs amok in my family and has caused all kinds of pain and suffering. I hope eventually there will be a cure. Thanks for bringing awareness to this horrible disease. Hopefully someone will be helped by the things they read in your blog. 
- Rebecca Osborne

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the chicken, turkey and is anyone really surprised edition

I tried, really I did. I tried not to rant too much during November. I tried to do whatever it took to avoid writing my TTPMOT pieces during this month.

Last week, I was super duper distracted by the piece I was writing about diabetes and my mother, so I wasn't really in the place to rant anyway...which was good.

This week?

Oh, it's on.

If Your Kid Is Wearing A Dead Chicken....
I really try hard not to judge other people. Like, I bend over backwards to do it, give them the benefit of the doubt for probably a lot longer than I should, try to assume the best about people. Honest. I do.

There is a line though.

And when you've seen some of the things I have seen - good parents hauled into CPS investigations for misunderstandings and a system of mandated reporting for even the most happenstance occurrences, where good parents are afraid to discipline their kids at all because of the legal system....then on the other hand you see cases of blatant abuse and neglect ignored by the system, courts turning kids back over to horrible parents, kids in foster care being abused by the very people who are supposed to be shielding them from abuse in the first place, it gets harder and harder not to judge.

Then when there is an epidemic of stories in the news about parents intentionally abusing their children in the name of discipline, claiming that they are just following the advice of a book written by people who advocate beatings, it becomes impossible not to judge.

When all you have to do is search the title of this book and most of the items returned are of cases of children taken from parents because of abuse, where children have died at the hands of their parents, where the few raving about how great the book is admit publicly that they've beat their children into submission, there is something very wrong. 

I won't name the book. I won't even name the writers. I won't. I won't talk about the specifics of the cases coming out in the last week, and I won't tell you about all the situations in the past where kids have been beaten in the name of discipline at the behest of this so-called parenting advice. It makes me physically ill.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with anger and rage issues is hard. Parenting an unstable child, a rebellious one, a violent hard. I know how hard it is because I am living it right now. I would never, ever, ever think to raise my hand at my child though. Never.

Thanksgiving Rantsgiving
I am shockingly not bothered by the early Christmas decorations this year, by the annoying commercials, by the music even. I'm not quite sure what the reason is.

I made this last year. I thought you might enjoy it.

What does bother me is the whole online debate about when shopping should start.

I've written before about the fact that I worked in retail in the past. I've shopped Black Friday in the past. I've stood in line for hours in the freezing cold to try and grab a good deal. I won't do it anymore.

I won't do it because the retailers are pushing and pushing and pushing the shopping to start earlier and earlier. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day off for everyone to spend with their families. If you work in retail, you don't get to ask for days off this time of year. You work, or you get fired. There is no stay home with your family option. I've lived it.

If you honestly think the shoppers are the ones who are pushing for the times to be moved up, you're wrong. It's the companies who want another shopping day before Christmas. Their bottom line means more to them than anything else, because that is how corporations work. They want a captive audience of people who need the cheap gifts to make Christmas happen, so they edge it up by a few hours every year, and they know it will work because they know that the only way you are buying that expensive gift is if you can get it for cheaper. They lure you in with cheap electronics, with $5 toasters, with exceptionally limited quantities of everything else in the ads.

Most major retailers are opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving night this year. Which means that the employees are being forced to be there even earlier.

There are some who argue that the employees don't mind because they want/need the overtime pay that working on a holiday brings...which may be true for many people, but the fact that it is true is even more indicative of a problem. People shouldn't depend on one day's pay to make a holiday happen, they should be paid enough that they don't need to work on holidays just to make ends meet.

Speaking of these giant companies not paying their employees enough, then forcing them to work....guess who is actually hosting a food drive for their own employees this year????

Yep. You guessed it. Walmart.

If that isn't possibly the single biggest argument that they do not pay a living wage to their employees, I don't know what else it would take for people to get it.

If You're Surprised....
Florida's favorite gun toting son is back in the news again. George Zimmerman was arrested again yesterday, this time for pointing a shotgun at his pregnant girlfriend.

Is anyone really surprised?

Good guy George....I wonder what his reason was this time.

I'm sure it's a good one. Wink, wink.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Type 2 Diabetes - Living With and Loving Those Who Have It ~ Stories of Family Members

My deepest and most sincere gratitude to those who were willing to share their stories with me. Diabetes is a complex disease as it is, but the fact that so many people have an emotional relationship with food makes it worse. Add in the fact that food is a necessity to survive, and it becomes more so. We have to eat. Having diabetes just makes every meal difficult. Every choice becomes important. Every indulgence dangerous. The food you need to survive could be the very thing that kills you. 

Some people can't accept the lifestyle changes that are part of this disease. Some pretend they don't have it, minimize it's impact in their lives, convince themselves that they will escape the complications that happen to other people.  

With love and respect, their stories.


My dad was diagnosed as diabetic at age 66. My mother had suspected for about 5 years that he was becoming diabetic. There were 2 problems in getting a proper diagnosis: He is extremely doctor-phobic, and he was getting close to retirement. Since mom prepares all of his meals due to his severe food allergies, she started trying to regulate his diet as much as possible. Also she made him cut down on sugary drinks and snacks. After he retired she finally got him to see a doctor.

She told the doctor all her observations and had to basically bully the doctor into doing a blood test because "I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about." Yeah Dad's blood sugar was in the 500s. Mom got a LOT more respect from the doctor at that point.

It took Dad about 3 years from diagnosis to be able to say "I'm diabetic." Mom did all the meter stuff, charted how well each different medication worked and consulted with the doctor until they found the right "mix". She still regulates his diet, hands him his meds on schedule, all that stuff.

Unfortunately, going that long undiagnosed had a very bad effect on Dad's eyesight, to the point that he can no longer drive and has trouble seeing large print. I'm sure there are other complications that they haven't shared with me.
- Joy


I'm not totally sure where to start. My step dad, Bill Boye, came into my life when I was 15 yrs old. Since I had a strained relationship with my real father, Bill immediately became my hero. He had already been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes for about 15 yrs at that point. He and my mom got engaged, he moved into our house, that's when diabetes really became a part of my life. Blood glucose meters on counters, watching carbs and sugar grams on packages, seeing the different attitudes with the different sugar levels. Bill always said "I don't drink alcohol because I'm diabetic" .. Yet he was the 1st in line for chocolate cake. Regardless of his illness Bill was my rock, he supported me thru so MANY things, defended me when I made mistakes, lifted me up higher for my accomplishments. He encouraged me to apply for a dispatcher position w/ SDPD, I did and got the job, he was soooo proud. He was my DAD. 

As the years went on, Bill continued to not mind his diet, his weight was never under control. He ate junk food in secret, his car was full of wrappers and trash that he tried to hide from the family. My mom would get so frustrated, all of us would. We'd lecture, cook him meals, make him walk with us.. But just like leading a horse to water ... You can't force someone to take care of themselves. When I was 25 my real father died, February of 2003, hardest month of my life, so many unresolved issues and I felt like he didn't know I loved him. Bill hugged me, told me he loved me & he knew my dad was my angel. Then Bill got sick, ended up having quadruple bypass, heart valve replacement surgery. I went to see him after surgery & he didn't know me.. It was devastation all over again. He did recover though, thank god. He was forced to stop being a patrol officer, a job that defined who he was, he went to a desk job, retiring within 2 yrs. Even after his surgery he didn't eat right, didn't exercise. His legs were so sore and his circulation so bad that he got his 1st gangrenous sore, it was disgusting and painful. It healed slightly, but never fully. 

He and my mom decided to move from sunny SoCal to the wilds of Idaho, well Cour D'Alene, for their retirement. Very far from all their SoCal family, but something they wanted to experience. During the brief 3 yrs they lived there Bill became totally insulin dependent, but just didn't want to take it, he would take his oral meds, just not injections. He then went into total renal failure, got another gangrenous sore on his leg, this one led to an amputation just above his left knee. He rehab'd, sorta, he refused to try the prosthetic leg, stopped showering regularly, refused to shave his face. He became VERY depressed.

My mom and he moved back to San Diego, she needed her family to support & help her. 

My mom injured herself lifting his wheelchair in and out of her SUV, I had to go over there and help any time he needed to go somewhere. Of course, I did it, but it was hard.. I was a single mom who worked at least 50 hrs a week, I lived 30 mins from their house. I was the only one who he allowed to take him for haircuts, I shaved his face on a regular basis. I put diabetic lotion on his hands. My mom became very depressed. As mothers and daughters will do we fought. I got really mad at her and she got really mad at me. That was the weekend of July 4th, 2009. Bill was facing an amputation, from gangrene on his right hand. I had yelled at my mom to go see a counselor and get on depression meds. She left, Bill and I were alone, I convinced him to let me clean up his haircut and shave his beard. We chatted about a SWAT incident that I had worked and he had seen on tv. We laughed, I left for work. My mom left for a weekend at her moms, about 75 miles away in Hemet,CA. That Monday, she called me, I almost hit ignore for the call, but answered. All she said was "baby I need you, Billy is being transported to the hospital from dialysis. It doesn't sound good." I made it the 30 miles to her house in 15 minutes. We drove to the hospital and learned he had died from a massive heart attack. He was only 65 yrs old. 

I still think of him daily, I just got married this past Sunday and dedicated a "memorial" table with pictures of Bill, my father Dave and my grandpa, John. My husband reminds me SO MUCH of Bill. He's a police officer, he smiles just like Bill, he'd give you the shirt off his back just like Bill.. He however takes care of his type 2 diabetes with diet. Yup.. I married a man with type 2, even living thru that nightmare, I know that some can own the disease.. Eric is one of those. 

- Amber Miller


My family has a history of diabetes. Two of my Aunts had it and had heart problems and strokes eventually. My older brother has recently been diagnosed with it and it's like he's given up. He won't walk anywhere, he rides a scooter. He's only 50. He won't come to family occasions anymore because he can't get the scooter up my 5 porch stairs. His legs are starting to swell probably due to inactivity and he's had a pacemaker put in. All in the past year. 

When they try to take him off his pain meds he throws a fit and won't take his other meds until he's back in the hospital again and gets more. He used to complain that no one would help him and then we finally got him some help and insurance and it seems like he's just gotten worse. He's getting to the point where he's getting does on his feet all the time and he could get nerve damage if the swelling continues. 

My younger sister also has diabetes and she has to use catheters to pee, she's only 40. She had to check her sugar at least twice a day and hers can go either way so she had to carry glucose tablets with her. 

Lately when I go to my Dr, she keeps checking my sugar, says it's fine, has ran blood tests that came back fine, but she still lectures me on diabetes. I find it very stressful and it's causing me to stress eat, lol. I actually want to avoid the Dr now cause I don't want the dumb diabetes lecture. I know about it. I see it everyday. I thought about switching Drs and decided that I was going to discuss it with her at my next appointment instead.
- Melissa


My husband has been having medical issues lately. His last lab test showed sugar in his urine. Having a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes, we knew what that meant. The doctor was not diagnosing it yet and wanted to do an A1c test. 

The A1C showed slight elevation but the doctor still was not confirming what was inevitable. Meanwhile, our daughter's Diabetic Alert Dog started catching blood sugars over 200 in my husband. With the dog being able to find the high blood sugars and reporting it to the doctor, my husband was able to be diagnosed much sooner and we could start taking care of it right away.
- Anonymous

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Damage Type 2 Diabetes Can Do ~ The story I haven't written before

Two years ago today, I kissed my mother, told her that I loved her, then sat in a waiting room alone and cried.

On that day, so very coincidentally on World Diabetes Awareness Day, her life was changing irreversibly. All of our lives changed that day.

They'd already changed so much in such a short period of time.

I thought I had lost her the month prior, though that time for a different reason.

On November 14, 2011, I told her I loved her, not knowing if it would be the last time.

The afternoon before, I had called a dear friend of mine who is a pastor. She came without asking any questions and sat with us as we bowed our heads, held hands, wished for guidance and peace.

She did just that. She brought us peace. I can never repay her for that kindness.

By then, the choice had been made. It had to be made or a certain ending would rapidly come. The word choice is a bit misleading when the only choice is to choose or die.

It was gangrene. There was no question anymore.  The tips of her toes had blackened, and the telltale signs were spreading upward too fast. We'd waited and hoped, she'd gone through several prior surgeries to try and save the blood vessels. Days when she was sedated in the ICU with gigantic metal wires in her femoral arteries trying to pump medications directly to the blocked arteries. None of it worked. We'd exhausted every other option.

Weeks had gone by like this. Trying to save the leg, her in excruciating pain when she was conscious enough to feel it, knocked out most of the rest of the time. I can't tell you how many hours I spent sitting in hospital chairs, waiting for her to wake up, hoping to catch the doctor, asking questions that never had the answers we wanted to hear.

Then it was time.

The surgeons were called.

For all the time spent waiting, we knew that time was rapidly speeding up. We had to do it now, or risk needing to go higher. The higher the amputation, the more disabling it would be, the harder the recovery, the more life altering.

It was all going to be hard no matter what.

It had already been hard.

My mother had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about two years before that day, though she didn't want to accept her diagnosis. In reality, she had probably been walking around with it for a long time before then. She lived in denial of it, refused to accept it. She didn't want to hear doctors say that smoking was especially dangerous with diabetes, that her clotting disorder put her at an exceptionally high risk for circulatory problems, that she could lose her legs, that any number of other things could she didn't. She willfully ignored it all, even though she had already had a DVT many years prior. We tried all we could think of to help her come to a place of acceptance. We all tried.

Every so often, she would try. A little. For a little while. Until it got hard.

It always got too hard.

She didn't want help. She didn't want anyone going to the doctor with her. She didn't want anyone helping her figure out what to eat. She didn't want anyone asking how her numbers were. She worked pretty hard to keep us in the dark about it all. She changed doctors frequently, she refused to let us talk to them. All we ever knew was what she wanted to tell us, except for when she was in the hospital and we'd find out the hard way.

After my father died, she spiraled downward very rapidly. Her diabetes, never well controlled, got worse in a hurry. She moved closer to us, but still refused to allow any involvement with her medical care. On a day that she had no choice but to ask for help, I took her to a podiatrist. The pulses in her feet were both weak. Severe peripheral artery disease. He was concerned, she just wanted it to get better. His face told me how serious it was, but she never saw it. She just wanted to go out to lunch.

She labored under the delusion that modern medicine could fix anything.

Not long after that, she ended up at the emergency room with a foot that kept changing colors. The blood supply was slowly being cut-off, and I watched as her foot slowly died a little more every day.

Once the first amputation was done, we lived in fear of the next. We knew the statistics, and they weren't good. An uncontrolled diabetic was far more likely to require a revision of the first amputation or to require amputation of another limb within a year. Only four months later she was being taken in a helicopter to another hospital where a vascular surgeon would try to save her remaining leg. Her life leg, they called it.

Her life leg.

They put her in a helicopter that morning because it was her only chance to live and everyone knew it. I stood in a parking lot alone as I watched her fly away, sobbing uncontrollably. The doctors at the hospital they took her to managed to save that leg, that time. She was in the hospital for weeks, a rehab facility for months.

I drove back and forth to that far away hospital almost every day, just to sit in a chair for hours again waiting for her to wake up, waiting to catch the doctor. I dropped everything else in my life, again, only to find out that she wanted to leave as soon as she was able. I couldn't stop her.

She decided to move back home, a thousand miles from here. She didn't want to stay in a facility, and I couldn't take care of her. Her needs were too many, our resources too few, she still refused to accept her condition, there was too much else to the story and I just couldn't do it. I couldn't. It had nothing to do with what I wanted to be able to do. I couldn't do it.

With the oldest a few weeks before she left.
She never forgave me.

She lost that leg almost exactly a year after the helicopter flight, in March of this year.

I had no clue it had even happened until weeks later when she threw a clot and had a pulmonary embolism. It scared her enough that she called me.  It took her two more days to tell me she lost the other leg. She didn't want me to know. I only knew what happened here because of physical proximity, because I could lay eyes on her, because when she was asleep at the hospital the nurses would talk to me.

Once she left, there was nothing I could do to try and help her. I couldn't even find her half the time. I called and called. I never knew if she was alive or dead. We checked obituaries habitually, reluctantly, just in case. When I could find her, sometimes she would talk to me. Sometimes she wouldn't. More than once, she forbade the nurses from talking to me on the phone.

I was a thousand miles away and no one would tell me anything. It never stopped me from trying.

She didn't want help. She never did. She wanted someone to tell her that she could eat whatever she wanted, that soda was safe, that smoking wouldn't hurt her. She wanted someone to tell her that it would all be okay, that it could be fixed, that she could be better. She wanted a magic cure. I couldn't tell her those things, I wouldn't tell her those things.

I couldn't enable her.

Choosing not to was the single hardest decision of my life, even if no one else ever understands that.

I wanted her to live.

It didn't matter what I wanted.

It never did.

My Mom died last month after gangrene set in again, this time in the remnants of both of her legs. She was offered, and refused surgery to revise the amputations. She didn't want to go through it again. I understood. They would have needed to take both legs at the hip.

She went onto hospice and was gone in a few short weeks.

It still doesn't seem real to write that.

It seems like some horrible nightmare, like things like this don't actually happen in real life, shouldn't actually happen in real life. No one should ever be subjected to the pain she was in. I know how awful it was when she was here, when it was only one leg. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must have been at the end, and I'll never know because I was here and she was there.

It doesn't feel like she is really gone.

It doesn't feel real because I've kissed her and told her I love her so many times before never knowing if it was the last time. I've said goodbye to her before, more than once.

This time it is real.

It seems stranger yet to be writing about any of this here. She didn't want people to know about any of her medical problems. She didn't want people to know about the diabetes or the amputations. As crazy as it sounds, I did my best to honor that. To protect her. I never wrote about any of it. I couldn't enable her, but I needed to protect her. I still am protecting her because I won't write about all the other chapters in this tale. Maybe someday....but today is not that day.

Even if no one believes it, I loved her.

God, I loved her.

Love wasn't enough.

I hadn't seen her in over a year when she died. I would have given anything for it to be different. It wasn't.

My mother taught me a great many lessons in her life, the last of which is this: if someone doesn't want help, there is nothing you can do to help them. Only they can help themselves.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed, if you choose.

These complications can be avoided entirely or delayed or reduced in magnitude.

If you don't control it, it will kill you.

I promise you it will. 

Maybe not this way, but somehow, it will kill you.

My Mom's diabetes was uncontrolled. Now she's gone, and there is nothing I can do except tell this story in the hope that someone out there who needs to read it will.

I miss you, Mom, and I love you.

I wish things were different. I wished it then, I wish it now, but wishing doesn't change anything.

She always struggled with this time of year as it held reminders of too many people she had lost. I struggle now too, and have one more day on the calendar to dread. I can't just be somber though because it's not how I work.

I have to do what I can to help others understand the devastation that can be done by this disease.

Check your sugars.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

What Parenthood Actually Is

This seemed like the logical follow-up to my last post about the realities of marriage. In the online universe, there is an abundance of writers who share their experiences, who proclaim the right way to do things, who offer judgment along with that so-called advice. Much like the marriage posts that seem to be all the rage, most of them hardly scratch the surface of what life is really like.

Instead, they sugarcoat, they oversimplify, they spin.

I don't sugarcoat anything. I don't bother trying to oversimplify because life is usually just too damned complicated. I don't spin things, at least not intentionally. I have my biases, sure...everyone does, but I do the best I can to present things clearly.

As with the marriage posts, I laugh heartily when a blogger who's oldest child is a toddler tries to tell the world that they are some kind of parenting expert. I've been a parent now for 12 1/2 years, though my journey with parenthood really began a while before then when I was pregnant with my first child. Even still, I won't for one second try and tell you that I know what I'm doing.

I will, however, tell you what I've learned.

- Parenthood is exhausting. Babies are physically draining. Sleep deprivation is rough. Having someone wholly dependent on your for survival 24 hours a day is hard. If you think that it gets easier, though, I have some news for you. It doesn't get easier, it just gets different. In many ways, it gets harder. You may not have as many physical demands placed on you as your kids get older, but they are gradually replaced with other needs. Parenthood is 3am trips to the ER and days of vomiting and being pooped on and eating cold food. We are all tired. Really freaking tired. Promise.

- You will make mistakes. We all do. Parenting really is something done by trial and error. None of us know what the hell we are doing. We do the best we can, we make choices based on the information we have, and sometimes we screw it up. Own those mistakes, don't wave them off as insignificant. Learn from them. If your mistake resulted in a child being disappointed for some reason, apologize to them. Saying you are sorry isn't a sign of weakness as a parent, it's quite the opposite because you'll be teaching them that everyone makes mistakes and that taking responsibility is more important than your ego.

- No one is an expert on your child and you know them better than anyone else does. You could read every parenting book on the market, talk to every child psychologist and get nowhere. None of them lives in your house, none of them has to deal with your family dynamics, none of them knows your past. You are the best equipped person in the world to be an expert on your child. Don't doubt that.

- Trust your instincts. Far too often, we ignore our intuition about other people, about illnesses, about relationship dynamics. If something feels wrong, pay attention to it. Even the most subtle things can and will set off your radar, and you need to listen. Don't rationalize everything, don't try and explain it all. If something feels off, it usually is.

- You can't choose who your children are friends with, who their enemies are, who they love or who they hate. Maybe you can do this when they are little, but once they are in the land of middle school, you quite literally have no control over this, nor should you. It gets complicated when you are friends (or enemies) of the parents of the other kids in their lives, but you have to respect that and let them choose who to associate with and who not to.

- A diagnosis doesn't define a child anymore than it defines an adult. Say you have depression or you want everyone to treat you differently because of it? Do you want to wear it like a label on your shirt pocket for the world to see? Of course not. Neither do your kids. It doesn't matter what they are contending with - it could be something physical, it could be a disability, it could be that they are on the spectrum somewhere, it could be that they have ADHD, it could be that they have mental health doesn't matter what it is. It is just a piece of who they are. Don't let them define themselves with it, don't let anyone limit them because of it - and to do that, it means that you can't either.

- It's your job to be their advocate. Sometimes you will have no choice but to fight for your child. Do it. Your most important job as a parent is to stand up for your kid. Fail to do that and nothing else will matter. Sometimes that means admitting things you don't want to admit. Too bad. Suck it up and do your job. You aren't protecting them by refusing to admit something is wrong.

- Every kid is different, what works for one won't work for another. You can't treat them the same because they are different people with different hopes, fears, dreams, ways of processing things. The mechanics of parenting don't look much different from one child to the next, but the application absolutely must. Don't compare your kids to each other or to other people. They are all unique and individual. To some degree, you are absolutely required to re-invent the wheel with each child.

- You have to be a safe place to land. This one is hard. REALLY HARD. Being the parent of two kids with ADHD who work tremendously hard to reign it in during school, I have to take the brunt of their explosions when the bell rings at the end of the day. They can let it out with me because I am the safe place. It hurts and it sucks and I hate it, but it is what it is. I am mom, I will love them even when they they take it out around me, with me, at me. It is very common for kids to act out more at home because they know you'll love them anyway. They can't do it at school because they'll be weird, made fun of, alienated by friends. At home, that can't happen. Or it shouldn't. This is the hard part. Letting them, helping them recognize when reactions are inappropriate, having them scream that they hate you and that you are ruining your life, and not flinching.

- Be present, be engaged and listen. We're all busy. Everyone is. Work, other family obligations, friends, hobbies, etc. There aren't enough hours in the day. Yada, yada, yada. I get it, really I do. But, you have to find time for the kids and you have to make it count. I'm not going to spin some tale about quality time. It's bullshit. Just don't be home and distracted, don't wave them off, don't nod and say uh-huh when they try to tell you what happened at school today because if you keep doing that, they will stop trying to talk to you. That's a promise. Make the most of the time you have. Be fully engaged. With littler kids, get down to their level, literally. With tweens and older kids, put the phone down and turn off the tv and just listen. It drives you nuts when they don't listen to you, have headphones on, are texting, right? Goes both ways.

- Boundaries are your job, testing them is theirs. It's your job to make the rules, and it's theirs to break them. To stretch the limits of the freedoms. To test the waters. To take a mile when you give an inch. They don't do it to make you mad, they do it because it is a completely normal and healthy part of growing up. Sometimes you have to trust them when they don't deserve it. Sometimes you've got to lengthen the leash when they don't give you a reason to. Let them be responsible. Let them make choices. Let them make mistakes. Just be there when they do.

- Letting go is the hardest part. Every step they take away from you is heartache. I won't lie about this one, I won't sugarcoat it at all. It's hard. But you absolutely have to let it happen. You worry more, yes, but that's part of life. Let them live. Let them go out with friends, let them go to dances, let them date, let them drive. Gah. (Told you this one sucks)

- What you say and do matters. If you are a do as I say but not as I do parent, I can just about guarantee failure. Your words have meaning, but your actions have much more...and they are watching even when you don't think they are. They remember everything. If you don't want them to lie, you can't do it. If you don't want them to be lazy, you can't be. If you don't want them to be irresponsible, you can't be. Insert any other things you don't want them to be, and repeat.

- Make fun of yourself. Be ridiculous. Teach them to make fun of themselves, that way no one else can. This is huge. Teach them to laugh at themselves. To not take life too seriously. If you can do this, you strip anyone else of the power of ever using this stuff against them. If they are quirky or weird or goofy or a klutz or short or tall or a spaz....teach them to LOVE that about themselves. Embrace your weird. Own it. Love it. Make it an asset.

- Embrace who they are and what they love, even if you don't understand it. Is your kid a gamer, a drama queen, an artist or musician? Do they want to code computers all day or play soccer 24 hours a day? Whatever they love, let them love it, even if you don't get it. Support the things they love, don't make fun of them because of it or steer them away.

- Teach them to be kind and giving. The world would be a much better place if there were fewer assholes in it. Teach them when they are very young to care about other people. Volunteer, donate time, energy and things. Help those who need help.

- Do not sacrifice who you are for them. Stay who you are, teach them to do the same. As with in the marriage post, don't give up the things you love because you have kids. If you love to run marathons or climb mountains, keep doing it. If you love to scrapbook, keep on keeping on (but seriously, hide the good scissors...don't ask). If you love music, keep going to shows. Share the things you love with them in whatever way you can, and keep doing them.

- We all hide in the bathroom sometimes. True story. We ALL want to run away sometimes. We all want to give up sometimes. We all are convinced we are completely ruining our kids lives sometimes. We all hide in the bathroom at times. I may be guilty of sneaking a beer in the basement at 9am once.

- If you think you're doing it right, you're missing something. This goes along with the last one. If you're totally convinced you are doing it right, I'm going to just assume that you're in denial, blissfully unaware of something huge or heavily medicated. We all have aspects of parenting that we kick ass at, sure...but none of us are doing everything perfectly. If you think you are....

- Apple trees are real. It is hard to admit sometimes that they are who they are because you are who you are. I have a couple kids with ADHD. Which makes sense given that I am their mother and their father is their father. That one was hard enough....having a kid with anxiety, depression and a penchant for eating disorders....WAY harder to accept. The power of genetics is pretty strong with this stuff, and it's hard to process when a child struggles the same way you have. Instead of seeing it in a negative light, think of it this way: you are far more equipped to understand and help them than anyone else is because of your shared conditions.

- Break your own rules sometimes. Let them stay up late watching bad movies and eating popcorn. Take mental health days from school and do something fun. Those "don't tell mom" commercials crack me up...not the hiding things from the other parent, but the whole idea of structured rule breaking. Live a little. Teach them to do it too.

- It's okay to complain. Just take time to savor the good times too. I'm not going to tell you that you have to adore your kids all the time. I'm not going to tell you that you are being selfish if you want a break. I'm not going to tell you to quit whining. I'm sure as hell not going to say you are ungrateful. Being a parent sucks ass quite frequently. In between the monotony and conflict, though, there are the moments worth engraving in your memory banks forever. Don't be so caught up in being tired and frustrated that you miss those moments.  Days last freaking forever, but the years fly by.

- There are other people who will be like parents to your children, be grateful for them. The teachers, the coaches, the aunts and uncles, the grandparents, the friends, the scout leaders, the volunteers at school. They love your kids. They can give you insight. They see things you don't. They can help you, they are already helping your children. Thank them.

If you have another lesson you've learned about parenting, please feel free to share it. Life is short, this shit is hard, and we'd all be better off if we helped one another get through it instead of judging.


Friday, November 8, 2013

What Marriage Actually Is

In the world of the internet, topics run in cycles. One week, everyone and their brother is writing about bullying, the next week it's gun control, then it's breastfeeding or yoga pant controversies. Right now, it seems that there are more stories about marriage being posted and spread around like wildfire.

I read most of them and shake my head.

I have actually laughed out loud at a few of them, particularly the ones written by newly married people who claim to have it all figured out.

I've been married over fifteen years now,  and have been with my husband for six additional ones before then. Even with all of that, I would never attempt to tell you that I have it figured out.

Here's what I have learned about marriage, most of it the hard way.

- You have to be flexible. Marriage is like any kind of relationship between two people in many ways. To be sustainable, you have to be flexible. Sometimes you need more, sometimes you give more, sometimes you take more, sometimes you are forced to do more. It's hardly ever equal in terms of the amount of effort expended or needed because life is never predictable. Get used to it. Over the long term, it should roughly balance out so that one person isn't always the giver, the other the taker. There has to be some balance, but it's really only possible in the long term. On any given day, the scale is probably going to be tipped one direction or the other. This is part of life. Get used to it.

- You can't keep score. If you've been giving more lately, it's probably because your partner needs more, not because they are just a selfish asshole. (unless, of course, they are a selfish asshole, which I will address later in this post) If you're worried about tallying up what you give, if you're keeping a mental tab open and waiting to cash it in, if you're building resentment against your partner, it's fairly safe to say that you aren't ever going to feel validated. Are you doing things for your spouse because you want cosmic credit for it, or are you doing them because you are supporting your partner? Ask yourself that question before you get pissed off at them.

- Be clear about your expectations. No one is a mind reader, and passive aggression is a tool for manipulating people, not a component of a healthy marriage. Whatever it is that you want or need, say it. Deliberately. Don't hint at it. Don't silently hope they'll figure it out. Don't beat around the bush. If you don't tell someone what you want or need, you don't get to be frustrated when they fail. It's not fair.

- Marriage isn't about you or them. It's about both of you AND this thing you have between you. It isn't about what you want or need all the time, just like it can't always be about the other person, and it can never just be about the marriage because that ignores the truth that a marriage is a legal construct between two people. Once you have kids, it's about them too. There is give and take in any relationship, there are compromises and sacrifices that need to be made for the benefit of the marriage or family unit. Everyone has to be willing to make those sacrifices. If there is a breakdown in communication, if one person suppresses issues, it will eventually effect everyone. For a marriage to survive, you have to be willing to think about the consequences of your choices, not just for you, but for them, and you must be willing to alter your behavior accordingly. You are different people with different philosophies, different approaches, different goals...they will not match up all the time.

- Fight fair. That not keeping score thing comes in here too. You will have disagreements. There will be conflicts. If you drag every shitty thing they have ever done from out of the closet, you're not fighting fair. If you drag other people (usually their immediate family) into it, you're not fighting fair. If you aren't being honest about what is really bothering you, you aren't fighting fair.

- Listen. I cannot stress this one enough. Put the phone down. Get off the computer. Turn off the television. Remove all the other distractions from your life and just listen to your spouse.  Hearing what someone is saying is not always the same as listening.

- Respect your individuality. If he likes to fish and you can't stomach the thought, tell him to go with a buddy or a brother. If you want to spend all day in the park taking pictures, but he wants to do something else, go without him. No couple shares all the same interests, and there is nothing wrong with having interests totally different than your partner. Do not give up the things you love. Don't force them to do it either. Do what you love, even if you need to do it alone. Stay passionate about your hobbies. Do not sacrifice who you are to be part of a couple. Likewise, don't sacrifice it to be a parent either. You may need to trim back or alter the way you engage in the things you love, but don't give it up. Stay true to yourself.

- Marriage is work. Hard, ugly, awful work. Sometimes it just plain sucks. There will be times, for sure, that divorce will seem like a better option. I've filled out those papers more than once, myself. When you first get married, most people do it for love and hope and the future and all things optimistic. It's idealistic, it's the stuff of dreams. If you're lucky, you can ride that high for a while. But know this truth - the high always ends. Always.

- When marriage gets hard is when it matters the most. I cannot stress this enough. Everyone can do the better, richer, in health times pretty easily. The worse, poorer, sicker times, not so much. Life is filled with worse, poorer, sicker, and how you weather those times will be far more indicative of whether your marriage will last. Crises have a way of bringing people together or pushing them apart. Remember that you didn't just sign on for the good stuff, you agreed to be there for each other even and especially when it's bad. I can tell you from experience, the sicker is probably the hardest, particularly if you are dealing with any kind of mental illness. Living though cancer was a piece of cake compared to dealing with depression, PTSD and anxiety in a marriage. You will find that what started out about love will evolve and that there will be many times in your marriage where love is wholly irrelevant. Marriage isn't about love...not in the long run. Love won't keep you together. There has to be more.

- Own your shit. Both of you. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes bad decisions. Everyone does things that hurt their partner, sometimes as an unintended consequence, sometimes on purpose. Everyone. You are not immune to this, nor is your spouse. This will happen, of that I will give you a 100% guarantee, no matter how totally blissfully happy and in love you may be right in this moment. It will happen. What you do afterwards matters more. Don't lie, don't cover things up, don't minimize it, don't deflect blame. Don't. Own your shit. Admit it when you screw up and hurt them. Apologize and mean it. Learn from your mistakes and don't do it again.

- Counseling won't work unless you do the work. Being habitual, showing up for appointments and going through the motions isn't enough. Unless you are committed to working on improving your marriage, nothing will change no matter how long you are in counseling. In fact, it'll probably get worse. I know from experience. Far more important than marriage counseling is individual therapy. The vast majority of problems within a marriage come from unresolved issues that one person has going on. Or that they both have. Fix yourself first. Until and unless you do that, marriage counseling is a complete waste of your time. We tried marriage counseling for a while. It was an abysmal failure. We both had other things to deal with individually, and are still working on that.

- Don't be a selfish asshole. We are all selfish at times, we are all assholes at times. It's part of life. If it becomes more than occasional, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what you're doing. Take a long, hard look in the mirror. Strip it down and get ugly with it. If you are even for a moment contemplating an affair, ask yourself why and be totally honest about it. If you're blaming your partner, I can promise that you are wrong. It is never the proper way to deal with unhappiness in a marriage. You will, unequivocally and without doubt, make everything worse. If you are an alcoholic or drug user, you are kidding yourself if you think it doesn't hurt anyone else. If you have depression or other mental health issues going on and don't seek help for them, you aren't just damaging yourself, you are hurting others. If you are rationalizing any of this stuff right now, stop it. This isn't just about you anymore. It's no one else's job to fix you, and even if they wanted to, they can't. Fix're the only one who can.

- Things change, people change. Whoever you are married to now isn't the person you married all those years ago. People evolve. They change. You change. Relationships must as well as a direct consequence.

- Remember why you married them. Sure, it's hell being married sometimes, but you did this for a reason, right? Woo your spouse, even when you can't stand them. Tell them you love them, even when you hate them - those two emotions are most definitely not mutually exclusive. Kiss each other goodnight, even when you've been screaming at one another for hours. At the end of the day, you chose this person for a reason. Try and remember that.

I leave you with this. I've seen things, you guys. My marriage is far from perfect, but it's closer now than it has been in a very long time.

My husband likes to steal my cell phone and change my ringtones when I'm not looking. When this song came out, he set this as his ringtone on my phone.

Because he knows just how perfectly this describes us.

He's not wrong.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Type 1 Diabetes - The Kids Were Old Enough to Know Something Was Wrong

Today I am sharing the stories from two T1 Moms, about how their children were diagnosed with diabetes. I opted to run them together because there were so many similarities in the stories.

The lessons to take away here are these: know the symptoms and understand that most of them are totally non-specific, when in doubt always always always just go to the doctor just in case it is something to worry about and never underestimate the ability of a child to tell you that something is wrong.

I love both of these ladies, and they have both been tremendously supportive to me and my son in the past year. With love and respect, their stories.

During the Christmas break of 2011, my son started to have issues with his stomach. Food started to not settle. Anything touching it, would come back up or hurt staying down. Should have been the first red flag. I didn't know. The month or so following that break, he spent either in his room sleeping or at school. He was 12, I thought he was either having a growth spurt or puberty was showing its ugly head. So, when he started losing weight because of the lack of desire for food and sleeping all the time, I blamed puberty. Second red flag. I didn't notice more thirst. I didn't notice more bathroom breaks.

February 6th, 2012. I got a phone call from the school nurse. She told me that she had a talk with my son. He had come to see her by way of the school psychologist. I found out he had gone to see the psychologist because he didn't feel well and he didn't think we (his parents) were listening to him. So he did something about it. And the psychologist took him to the nurse. Who in turn, called me at work. We talked about what was going on. I told her what I thought was going on. Puberty, and maybe a cold? I didn't know, so I agreed that he should be seen by his doctor. I got off the phone with the nurse from school and promptly called the doctor. That was a Monday. He got an appointment for Friday, February 10th.

I took him to the doctor. Told him all the things going on, and he ordered blood work and urinalysis. Now, my son is terrified of needles. Especially shots and draws from the arm. This was agonizing for him, damn near panic attack. We went back to the exam room. We waited. We joked. We laughed. Then the doctor came back in. He looked at my son. He looked at me. Then he said that my son was in something called Diabetic Ketoacidosis. And we needed to go directly to the Children's Hospital. Essentially his body was eating itself to keep going. My heart stopped. My brain exploded. My perfect baby. My 12 year old son HAS DIABETES.

He was in the hospital for a week. It took that long to bring his numbers down. And to educate him, as well as us. He learned what to do and when. He learned from endocrinologists. He learned from dietitians. He talked to pediatric psychologists. The Children's Hospital was AMAZING.

HE SAVED HIS OWN LIFE. HE did it. He talked to people until someone heard him. And for that I will forever be grateful.

Things don't always present with clear cut symptoms. Excessive drinking and peeing are classic indicators. But I didn't see them. I missed the other flags. I missed it all. I failed my son. My guilt over my part will never lessen. But my pride in my son? Never will diminish. He is amazing. He can calculate his ratios in his head, without a calculator. He still panics with a shot, or IV, or blood draw. BUT he does his testing on his fingers for his daily testing with no issue. Yes, he hits bottom from time to time. Yes, his numbers go all wonky when he's sick. BUT this is not the sum of him. He is NOT defined by his pancreas's inability to produce insulin.

- Anonymous

My daughter, Laura, turned 11 on February 11 2010. She played softball on 2 teams. The little league and a travel ball team. One Saturday in March she came to me carrying a laptop and crying. When I asked her what was wrong she showed me the web page on the laptop. It was web MD's symptoms of type 1 diabetes. 

She told me that she thought she had diabetes and she was scared. 

I read through the symptoms rationalizing each one for her. She drank a lot of water because she did softball practice/conditioning almost all year round. She went to the bathroom a lot because she drank so much water. Tiredness was also a result of softball. Her skin was breaking out because puberty. Don't worry, I told her. You are fine. 

The following Friday we were at softball practice and I had been noticing for a couple days that she looked taller or thinner. I asked a couple softball moms if they noticed the change in Laura. All the moms agreed she looked different. Laura was also white as a ghost. It was flu season, but I had gotten her the brand spanking new controversial swine flu vaccine a few months before because people were in a panic. Children were dying from that flu! So, I quickly ruled out the flu. 

While practicing it became obvious that there was something not right. She was slow and clumsy. She kept stopping to go to the water fountain in the gym. She was gasping for breath. The coach called a break and Laura came to get a bottle of water. She was shaking so bad that she spilled it down the front of her trying to drink it. The other moms and I looked at each other. One mom then told me Laura had been giving her food away at school. She hadn't eaten lunch all week. Immediately, I thought anorexia and I was scared. The coach's wife had a bag of peanut M&Ms and offered some to Laura. She ate a few, but said she didn't feel well. I decided we would leave practice early, and I told Laura that I wanted her to eat dinner. I would buy her whatever she wanted as long as she would eat. She chose peanut butter and banana sandwich with strawberries on the side. She ate half a sandwich and a few strawberries and went to bed. About 1 AM she woke me up because she had vomited. She was upset because she didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Of course I told her it was all right and got everything cleaned up. 

I knew for sure then that she had the flu, and had never been so thankful for my kid to have it. Saturday morning she woke up, ate a handful of dry cereal, and drank some ginger ale. She said her stomach felt better. I thought everything was A OK. About 20 minutes later she came to me shaking uncontrollably. She said "Mom, I'm shaking and I can't stop and I don't know why." I put her in the car and drove as fast as I could to the nearest hospital. 

By the time we got there, Laura's speech was slurred and she couldn't pick her feet up off the ground when she walked. The ER took her straight back, and instead of a nurse asking questions there was a doctor. I had to sign forms for spinal taps and blood work and god only knows what else. They hung an IV of fluids and drew tube after tube if blood. 20 minutes later, a nurse came in and said they had to stop the IV. I asked why and the nurse said that the doctor would be in shortly. 

When the doctor came in she told me my daughter's blood sugar was over 600. Her potassium was off, her blood pressure was high, her heart rate was too fast, she was in DKA. My daughter was dying right in front of my eyes. By this time she was in and out of consciousness. The hospital we went to did not have a peds endocrinologist so Laura had to be transported by ambulance to a children's hospital 2 hours away. 

We spent 5 days in pediatric ICU learning how to count carbs and give injections. It took those 5 days to clear the ketones out of my daughter's system and to get her potassium back to normal levels. It has been almost 4 years since her diagnosis. She is still deemed "uncontrolled" because her blood glucose levels swing from high to low to back again. 

A few years ago she would have been called a "brittle" diabetic. She has not let diabetes stop her. The day after she was released from PICU she went to softball practice. I will never get over the guilt of not believing her when she came to me with that laptop, but who would have believed a 11 year old could self diagnose Type 1 diabetes? Who wants to believe their child has an illness that can kill them without rhyme or reason? 

For the record, Laura had a physical in January for sports. She was given a clean bill of health. I recommend asking your pediatrician to do a simple finger stick if you suspect type 1. So many children die because they go undiagnosed. I would have lost my daughter if I had waited one more day. If you can't get your doctor to do a finger prick, go to Walmart and buy a blood glucose meter (Walmart has their own brand that is very inexpensive and the strips are as well) and do your own finger prick. Be proactive!! Be aware!! Don't let your child become a statistic like I almost did.

- Jerri Lynn

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spill The Milk

Yesterday, little boy dropped a full glass bottle of milk on the tile floor.

It shattered, and the spill radius of milk fairly sufficiently covered most of the kitchen and dining room.  It took a good long time to clean it up. The whole time his little feet were running back and forth to the laundry room to grab more towels.

Every so often, he'd stop and stare at me for a second, fidget with his hands behind his back and quietly ask me if I was mad.

I always told him no. Of course not.

Then I'd ask him in return to make sure that he didn't have any cuts on his feet and to stay back so he didn't step on the glass.

He was afraid he was in trouble.

I was afraid he was hurt.

As I sat on the floor in the middle of the afternoon using the light streaming in from the windows to make sure I got every tiny shard of glass, I remembered.

When I was a little girl, as Mini-Me is now, I tended to overreact about little things just like she does. I would spill milk, rarely, and the first few times I remember doing it I cried. Literally, I cried over spilled milk. 

One night at dinner, my Dad spilled his milk on purpose, just to make a point.

He waited and watched for my reaction. 

He didn't react at all. He just sat there. I was confused. I was probably about the age Mini-Me is now.

After a while of this bizarre silence, us sitting around a table pooled with milk, he shrugged his shoulders then got up and grabbed some towels. He asked me to help him clean it up.

Mom, on the other side of the table, held the plates up and wiped everything down with a wet dishcloth.

When it was all cleaned up, they both just said that sometimes life is messy. There's no point getting upset about little things like this, just clean it up. 

They didn't freak out. They didn't cry. They weren't angry. They just fixed it.

How much in life is like this? How many things do we spend time worrying about, being upset about, being angry about, but do nothing to fix them? How much energy do we waste on the things that don't deserve it, how many things can we just seek solutions to instead of over thinking?

Probably a lot more than we realize.

As I sat on the floor scavenging for the last pieces of glass under cabinets, it all came back, this lesson my parents taught me so long ago.

Sometimes life is messy. Don't worry about the small stuff. Just clean it up.

You never really appreciate how right they are in the moment, maybe not even for years or decades afterwards. These people, though, they had far more wisdom than we realized. Those lessons, whether we realized we learned them at the time or not, they're in there. Sometimes it just takes spilling the milk to remember.

Mom always said that if it wasn't going to matter ten years from now, then it shouldn't be a big deal now. There is a lot of truth in that, and it's something I try to remember as I parent my own children. Far too often we get caught up in the minutia of life, spend too much time worrying about the stuff that isn't worthy of so much attention.

I finished wiping the floor down, thanked my parents for the lessons they taught me, scooped up my little boy and went on with my day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the danger of the internet, which might become a lot more complicated soon

It's November, you guys.

So you know what that means. Half the people on Facebook will post whatever they are grateful for in the most saccharin way for the next few days, then run out of family members to mention and give up. A handful will make it to the end of the month. The rest of the people tend to just make sarcastic comments about whatever other people are grateful for. Some of us fall into all those categories.

Here's my philosophy...not that I think anyone cares.

I am doing it because I have to. November is a really hard month for me, and I need to look for the things in my life that I am grateful for right now, even if none of them are as simple or perfect as they seem. I try to make my posts real. I don't discount the struggles.

But, at the end of the day, my heart is filled with gratitude.

Sometimes it's for my children. Sometimes it's for my husband. Sometimes it's for vodka. Sometimes it's for ativan. Sometimes it's for therapy. Sometimes it's for my private groups on FB that save my sanity on a daily basis. Sometimes it's for the handful of people who don't ask me to explain myself, who just take me as I am and even if they don't understand, they love me anyway. Sometimes that gratitude is filled with hurt and pain. Sometimes it's filled with hope.

I can promise you one thing, if you're a friend of mine on Facebook, everything I write is real. My life is complicated, but I consider myself lucky to be where I am, even when it hurts. Feel free to roll your eyes at me if you must. If you haven't figured it out by now, you should know that I'm not explaining anything. Take me or leave me, but don't question my truth.

Incidentally, I've been deleted by a few people for that.

Incidentally, I'm fine with it.

Anyway, it's Tuesday. Let's go get angry.

The Asshole Response to an Asshole
I'm sure that by now you have heard about the young woman who dressed as a Boston Marathon runner for Halloween, complete with dirt and grime and blood and shrapnel. She's young, but not really young enough to pull the immaturity card. She was stupid enough to post the picture online, and it didn't take long for it to get all over the place.

I'm not telling you her name, posting a link or the picture on purpose.

I'm not doing it because the response of the people in the interwebs has been horrid. Like, worse than her costume choice.

She has received death threats. Her parents are being harassed. She lost her job.

She's stupid. She's impulsive and insensitive. She's lacking in the empathy department. She's all of those things.

But she doesn't deserve death threats, nor do her parents.  Should she have lost her job? I don't know. I guess it depends on what she does for a living. Some employers have rules about behavior outside the workplace, and I would venture a guess that this may have violated them...if she had a job with those restrictions. If she didn't, reality is that the vast majority of employers can fire you for any reason, and maybe they just couldn't handle the media attention, the phone calls. Maybe they are taking a hit in business because of her affiliation with them. I don't know, and I'm not going to find out.

I feel bad for her, but not that bad.

If we as a society want to preach about not bullying, about respecting other people, about all that stuff, then it can't be okay to harass someone just because they made a horribly bad choice. I'm sure she's learned her lesson. Sure, she shouldn't have done it in the first place and totally brought this on herself....but that doesn't give the internets a free pass to be an asshole.

The Internet is Free, Right? Not for long...
One of the most magnificent things about living in the times we live in is this thing right here. The internet. This virtual world that we can connect to from anywhere in the world, with a phone or a computer or a gaming system. All the knowledge in the world is at our fingertips. We can talk to people on the other side of the planet. We can learn and share things in a way that we never have been able to in history.

All we need is a connection.

Which we already pay for, for the most part. Unless you do all of your internet surfing in a public library, odds are you are paying for internet service in some form. You have a data plan on your phone, you pay for internet hookups at home and set up your own networks to connect your devices to.

It's not free to connect, but once you're on, the world is your oyster (unless you want to look at any of the subscription sites).

Enjoy it while it lasts.

The giant telecommunications companies are trying to figure out a way to squeeze more out of the internet than they are already squeezing from all the consumers of the world who pay for access. Until now, they didn't charge websites for levels of access, but because of a court ruling, that all might be changing. What this means is that they could demand that sites pay for levels of service. If you want your site to run fast, you have to pay more. If you want more pages supported, you have to pay more. If your traffic is so and so, you have to pay more.

Net neutrality as we know it may not exist much longer. 

The Reason I am a Mean Mom
My oldest son has wanted to play football for years. YEARS.

Most people we know have pushed me to sign him up for years. YEARS.

He is a big kid. He's always been a big kid. He would be an asset to a line, for sure.

He has never played football.

There are a few reasons. He had two consecutive years of hernia surgeries, then a few concussions that happened just because he isn't a graceful child. I told him for a while that if he could make it a year without a concussion or surgery, I would entertain the idea.

I encouraged him to go out for wrestling, using the guise (totally legitimate by the way) that wrestling would help him learn body control, to use his weight, to figure out his center of gravity, to give him core strength, to condition him....all of which would be useful on the line if he ever wanted to play football.

It's been a while, longer than a year, since his last concussion or surgery. He's still not on a field.

He's not on one because the game is a brutal one. It's violent. It seems to be getting more violent, even and especially at the highest levels. The NFL is under fire for the issue of traumatic head injuries, and recently settled with many former players, though the settlement stipulated that they don't have to admit any kind of liability for the injuries.   

A book just came out which goes even further into the issue, stating that the NFL has tried to hide to magnitude of the problem, even having reports published by the NFL League physician (who is not in the field of neurology or sports medicine, incidentally) stating that the concussions aren't as problematic as some say and that players can safely return to the field within days after a TBI. The PBS series Frontline has examined the issue in detail. 

All of this is well and good. The players in the NFL are adults, and should have some level of awareness of the dangers inherent in the sport, right?

They should, but their jobs are wholly dependent on putting butts in the seats, making the game exciting and raw, taking and throwing hard hits.

Kids, though, don't have the ability to reason through all the risks and benefits.

They want to play because their friends play, because their families want them to play, because they want to be like the guys playing on any given Sunday.

So they put on a bunch of pads and the latest and greatest helmets, and step on to a field, protected, we think by all that foam and plastic.

The problem is that the helmets don't help. A new study just came out saying that the protection they give isn't nearly enough.

This is why my son doesn't play football.

He'd be great at it, maybe, but protecting his brain is more important than a jersey.

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