Something New After Twenty-Two Years…

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Today is the 22nd anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Congratulations to me?!

As the years turn into decades that I’ve been living with this disease, the urge to “celebrate” the anniversary has diminished quite a bit.  I still mark the day on the calendar; as does my mom.  Yesterday, when I asked Dennis, “Do you know what tomorrow is?  July 27th?”  He promptly responded, “Your diabetes anniversary.”  So, it’s marked in my little circle of family as a noteworthy day.

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Diabetes is a unique disease in the way it infiltrates your life, yet is nearly invisible to other people.  People with T1D have hundreds of decisions to make every day, from exercise and food to insulin doses and basal rates.  With so much of our health in our hands, there’s also a ton of guilt and emotional upheaval that accompanies this disease.  If my blood sugar is stable for a long period of time, I feel confident and happy.  When I get a “bad” blood sugar reading, either low or high, I question what I did wrong and have to shake off feelings of inadequacy and frustration.  Every blood sugar test (and I average about 10-12 per day) is an opportunity to feel up or down.

Lately I’ve been pretty excited about my blood sugar control, thanks to a new medication I just started.  It’s called Invokana and it’s actually a relatively new Type 2 drug.  My endocrinologist has started to prescribe it for a few of his T1D patients.  It’s a pretty amazing drug!  It works on the kidneys by blocking a receptor that tells the kidneys to release glucose into the bloodstream.  Apparently our kidneys are efficient at removing glucose from our food before it’s released into the blood. This blocker tells the kidneys not to release so much glucose and instead it gets eliminated with the patient’s urine; therefore there’s less glucose in the blood!

After starting the Invokana, I lowered the basal rate on my pump only a tiny fraction of a unit per hour.  The basal rate is the small amount of insulin the pump delivers all throughout the day.  This insulin covers the glucose that the liver releases into the blood, so this drug doesn’t impact that function of blood glucose.

The real difference has been in the amount of insulin I need for meals.  I was able to increase my insulin to carb ratio by about 30%.  So, instead of giving myself 1 unit of insulin for every 14-15 grams of carbohydrate, it’s now a 1:20 – 22 ratio.  But, even more exciting is how stable my blood sugar is after meals, in between meals, while exercising, and overnight… basically all the time!

This new medication has been very, very exciting.  Living with a chronic illness that demands attention frequently throughout the day, you come to rely on the medications and devices that provide you the information you need to make good decisions.  I love my glucose meter right now – it takes very little blood and looks like an iPod!  My insulin pump is great – so reliable and user friendly.  It may seem silly to be happy and excited about a new medication, but that’s life with diabetes.  There’s lots to be frustrated about, so when you find something that makes managing your blood sugar easier, it’s just awesome!

On my 22nd anniversary of living with diabetes, I’m so thankful to be living in a day and age where we have technology and drugs to help us live a full life.

“When Somebody Loves You”

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On our recent road trip to Northern California, we brought along several CDs to listen and sing along to in the car.  One of the discs was Alan Jackson’s second greatest hits album. We love Alan Jackson!  His voice has such great tone and his gospel album gets regular playtime in our car.

On the second day of the trip, while driving from the bay area to Humboldt, we listened to the greatest hits album.  Sienna was up with Gaga already, so it was just Dennis, Teo, Claira, and me in the car.  The 13th track: “When Somebody Loves You” played through and as it ended Mateo asked, “Can we hear that one again?”

“Sure,” I replied as I hit the back button on the stereo. When the song ended the second time Teo asked, “Again?”

“Okay. You like this song, don’t you?” I asked, smiling at him in the rearview mirror.  Teo smiled and nodded.

197This time, Teo started singing along with the chorus:

But when somebody loves you
There’s nothing you can’t do
When somebody loves you
It’s easy to get through
When somebody loves you
The way I love you

Oh my goodness, my heart!  Teo loves to sing and is constantly singing the songs he learns in preschool around the house.  He also sings along to several songs in the car. Twila Paris’s “Lamb of God” is a favorite.  But, this was extra precious in that he felt a connection to this particular song the first time he heard it. Then after two listens he was singing along.  Love.

For the rest of the trip, Teo frequently requested “the love song” as he called it. We must have played it over thirty times.  Once we picked up Sienna, she got into the trip theme song too.

The memory that stands out to me most was the four of us driving near the ranch with the windows rolled down and “When Somebody Loves You” turned up, all singing along.

My heart was full of joy.

I really like the idea of this being a theme song, not just for this trip, but for our family.  The lyrics speak of the strength that comes from knowing you’re loved.  I pray our children feel resilient because of the unconditional love their parents have for them.  And, as they grow, I want them to know how much their love strengthens our family.

Finding “Home” by Leaving Home

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I found myself being very reflective about life during our recent road trip to Northern California.  Maybe it was the long stretches of boring Interstate 5 that lead me to think about life.  But, I think the reason had more to do with the places we visited and being with my sweet husband and children.

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First of all, my college roommate and best buddy Michelle took us to our college, Saint Mary’s, for a music on the lawn event. Being back on campus was very cool and instantly took me back to that time in my life.  I’d had a serious boyfriend for most of my college years, so memories of him (who I haven’t spoken to since we broke up in 2003) came flooding back.  Particularly when I went into the beautiful chapel, where I’d spent a lot of time in tears during my senior year because of our relationship.  Teo shook me out of my spell as he ran around the church and exclaimed, “It’s so pretty, Mommy!”  After that, I was in the moment and caught up with a lot of old friends that I hadn’t seen in years.  As we were driving back to Michelle’s place that night, I said little prayers of gratitude that God had brought me to San Diego to meet Dennis.  He’s an exceptionally wonderful husband and I am thankful that my college boyfriend sparked my move to San Diego.  The entire direction of my life was shaped by my years at Saint Mary’s College.  Having Dennis and Teo at SMC with me made me feel like life had come full circle… if that makes sense.

019The next leg of our trip was driving up Highway 101 to Humboldt County.  I’ve driven this stretch of highway countless times in my life, particularly while in college when I went home to Eureka frequently.  The mountains and hillsides full of trees make me feel instantly at home.  I love the Richardson’s Grove area where the redwoods are inches off of the highway!  It’s all so precious and makes me feel connected to my childhood.

Once we arrived in Eureka, the memories become even thicker.  We tried to spot the house I grew up in from the highway, but the trees have grown in and we couldn’t find it.  But simply driving down Broadway (where Highway 101 cuts through Eureka) there were dozens of places with childhood memories – Pierson’s Building Center (oh, the Saturdays we spent in the nursery there as a family!), Harbor Lanes bowling alley, Adel’s…

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Later in the trip we visited my grandparents and their den has literally not changed in over twenty years.  It was so comforting to see the same furniture, pictures, and toys that were there when I was a child.  Sienna and Teo played with these little bears that I remember playing with when I was their age. Awesome!  We even took a quick trip by my childhood home, where I lived from the age of 2 until I left for college.  It’s been repainted and has different landscaping around the front yard.  We didn’t linger there long because I want to remember it the way it was when we lived there.

Hanging out with my sister, Sarah, brother-in-law, Casey and nephews was a great highlight of the trip!  Lane is almost 5 and Cody is 3, so they played beautifully with our kids. Sienna had spent the week before in Humboldt with Gaga, so she’d already become totally comfortable at Sarah and Casey’s house.  The first night we were in Humboldt, we left their house and Sienna ran back to give Aunt Sarah one more hug.  My heart melted to see my daughter and my sister sharing a bond, and one that was formed while I wasn’t even around.  It was poignant and sweet.

139Casey started to tell Dennis that we should move up to Humboldt.  During Leah’s baby shower, Casey and Dennis took the three boys on an adventure that included a drive in a dump truck!  So, then the thought was that Dennis could move up north, work for Casey’s company and drive a dump truck. I think Casey was only partially joking.  We played along and talked about what life would be like in Humboldt.  There was a tiny bit of me that started to seriously wonder if we’d like to live up there.  The main draw is family – having the cousins grow up together! – and the natural beauty of the area, which definitely had me under it’s spell.  Particularly at the ranch, where this conversation occurred.  It was fun to indulge this dream, and it continued to be on my mind for the next couple days.

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However, an interesting thing happened.  By the time we hit Marysville, the last leg of our trip, I was feeling deep gratitude for my husband, children, and our little life in San Diego.  Spending time away from home, away from the day to day, allowed me to focus on them.  Being in our hometowns surrounded us with the feeling of home and thankfulness for the countless blessings God has showered on us.  There are so many “conspiracies of accidents” (as Ronald Rolheiser calls them) that shaped our lives.  Being at my college and in my hometown made me consider the many other paths my life may have taken.

Somehow being away from home and visiting our childhood homes made me focus on what’s most important: my relationships with Dennis, Sienna, Teo, and our extended families.   Home, for us, is stretched out along this great big state.  When we approached Eureka, I thought, “I’m almost home” as I’m sure Dennis did when we pulled into Marysville.  Then, as a family we kept saying, “We’re almost home!” as we approached San Diego.

I suppose it would be cliché to end with the platitude: Home is where the heart is.  But, it’s very true.  The places we love become home principally because the people that we love are there.

The Wisdom of “Inside Out”

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headLast week we saw the Disney movie Inside Out.  It was awesome!  I laughed. I cried. I loved it.

Part way through the film, Dennis leaned into me and whispered, “This movie is your life.  It reminds me of what you went through.”

“I know!  If only this movie was out two years ago,” I replied.

Without giving the entire movie away, the story is about Riley, an 11 year-old girl, and her personified emotions: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness.  Each emotion is a character in Riley’s mind that dictates how she’s feeling.  They run Riley’s emotional life from Headquarters and store her memories, which are little marbles in Riley’s head. There’s a fair amount of sophisticated psychology behind the childlike interworking’s of Riley’s mind. It’s very clever.

inside_out___photo_time__by_miacat7-d8a4ifcThe drama of the movie comes when Riley’s family moves across the country and she tries to put on a happy face while all the core aspects of her personality are challenged by this major change.  Joy tries to convince the other emotions that Riley needs to “Think positive!” and be happy, rather than let Fear, Sadness, Anger, or Disgust run the controls.

The epiphany that Joy (and Riley) discover is the same lesson I learned over the past couple years: you have to let yourself feel the entire spectrum of your emotions.  You can’t truly feel joy if you don’t allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, fear, disgust, or any other emotion.  Once Riley lets herself cry and be sad, she felt the comfort and love of her parents.  That scene reminded me of the connection between sorrow and gratitude.  They are deeply intertwined; you can’t get rid of one without destroying the other.

joyAnother thing that struck me about this movie was how many of the emotions are considered “negative”.  Out of the five feelings, only Joy is acceptable in our day and age.  Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust are not considered pleasant emotions and therefore people spend a lot of time trying to avoid or minimize the time they spend feeling them.

When we returned home from our trip, I flipped though a couple pages of The Happiness Trap, just to see what insights grabbed me.  Sienna saw the book on the couch and read the title aloud, “The Happiness Trap?”

“Yep.  The lesson in this book is basically the same as Inside Out: You have to let yourself feel all of your emotions, instead of just trying to stay happy.  That’s the trap.” I told her.

She smiled and nodded, knowingly.

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Have you seen the movie yet?  What did you think??

Family Roadtrip!

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We just returned from a nine-day trip to visit family and friends in Northern California.  We’re sitting around the living room in our San Francisco Giants t-shirts (that we got at the Yuba City Target yesterday) watching the Giants game and enjoying being back home.  Our trip was fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating.

024The catalyst for this trip was a baby shower for my sister-in-law Leah on Sunday at my sister’s house up in Humboldt County.  We were able to fit in an overnight in Berkeley and a fun event at my alma mater, Saint Mary’s College, on Friday evening before heading up to Humboldt.  I helped my sister and mom pull together the food, decorations, and games for the shower.  It was so fun to celebrate Leah and her sweet baby girl!  I got to see a lot of extended family including my second cousin from Georgia who I hadn’t seen in over six years (Hi Lindsey!).

092After the shower we visited my Nana and grandparents and then spent two wonderful days at my dad’s cabin on our ranch.  It was wonderful family time!  Next we drove down to Dennis’s hometown of Marysville via the scenic Highway 20 through Lake County. So beautiful!  We endured some very hot weather while visiting Dennis’s best friend, mom, and lots of family for the 4th of July weekend.  A quick trip to quaint Nevada City, California was another highlight.

We capped off our trip with a packed Independence Day!  Two pool parties in pretty extreme heat followed by fireworks (some of which may have been illegal) out in the country with a huge group of Dennis’s extended family.  Teo was so exhausted he fell asleep on my lap while the fireworks were still exploding overhead!

064I’m so happy to report that I was totally mindful, present, and living in the moment during this trip.  I enjoyed conversation with family and friends, watched our kids play with their cousins and put on ridiculously fun performances, enjoyed the little traditions we’ve created over years of visiting our hometowns, gazed at beautiful sunsets, and felt such peace in the presence of all the gorgeous trees that make me feel deeply rooted in home.

I also felt a wonderful connection to my husband and children during this trip. The four of us (and our dog Claira who came along and was a great travel companion!) were constant during this busy trip.  We visited friends and family in several locations, but everywhere we went, Dennis, Sienna, and Teo were with me.  There’s something tremendously bonding about that experience.

076Also, I always feel so connected to Dennis when we visit the Marysville / Yuba City area.  It’s his hometown that I have come to know through years of visits.  Being there, I frequently meet people for the first time and introduce myself as “Dennis’s wife.”  I feel so honored to identify myself that way.

So, we’re home and my heart is very full.  There are several other blog post ideas bouncing around my mind. Hopefully I’ll get time to get them written out before the return to work and home responsibilities overtake my schedule!